An article on the website onrec.com describes A4e's launch of "The UK’s first ever social networking community to help reduce unemployment". "The site," says the article, "MyA4e Community, has been specifically designed for Flexible New Deal (FND) employees, with each having their own unique personal profile which converts into a copy of their CV and provides access to forums, messaging, available jobs plus news and events in their local area." A jobseeker from Hull describes the site as "very similar to Facebook." Now, I'm not disparaging this idea. I think it's a good use of technology, and it will be interesting to see how it works out in practice. Linking up a lot of unemployed people could have its drawbacks.
Meanwhile, an intriguing piece appeared on a Polish website (in English, I hasten to add!). A4e has welfare-to-work contracts in Poland. The piece is about using the private sector in social housing (I hate that term). One paragraph reads: "Michael Dembinski, the BPCC’s head of policy, mentioned PPP projects in the UK that linked social housing with training and resocialisation, delivered by private sector benefits-to-work companies such as Chamber members Reed in Partnership, Working Link [sic] or A4E. He described one such project in Glasgow, run by Reed in Partnership, where participation in a 20-week course leading to vocational qualifications in the construction sector was linked to the provision of social housing." Alarm bells started ringing. Does it mean that your tenancy is linked to undergoing training by private providers? Apparently not. The only link I can find is on a presentation by Reed in Partnership, delivered in March this year, which says "DCLG and DWP are working more closely together on the housing and worklessness agenda. Nine Flexible New Deal Phase 1 proposals with partnership working with housing associations as a key focus across all." I can't find any suggestions of taking this further. Maybe Reed and others have been over-egging things slightly. But it does remind one of A4e's ambition to have super-contracts from local authorities which would encompass most of the public services accessed by the disadvantaged. While neither Labour nor the Conservatives have indicated any appetite for this, it could well be that some cash-strapped authorities (especially after the May election) could find it attractive.