Friday, 30 April 2010

Even the Guardian!

When even the Guardian joins the fan club one despairs of journalism altogether. Today it carries a long piece by its economics reporter, Katie Allen, entitled "Recruitment boss feels the benefits of getting unemployed back to work" which is flawed from the start, describing A4e as an employment agency.
It is a long interview with Emma Harrison, reporting uncritically her ideas and attitudes. FND is described, and the reporter tentatively raises the possibility that it "encourages agencies to work with the most promising cases". Not so, says Harrison, who "insists A4e will work with anyone who turns up and takes part, and that there is no cherry-picking. Rather it is about leaving behind the old government contractors' culture of box ticking and instead focusing on securing the right job – one that will last." We learn of a great idea from A4e. "One of A4e's ways of rebuilding battered self-esteem is through a new project called People Helping People. It came about when a disgruntled, degree-qualified customer wrote to Harrison to complain he had been asked to help another with their CV. Harrison replied: "Isn't it wonderful you are able to help other people." Then she asked her staff to get participants to help each other based on their talents. "In the very act of doing something your self-worth is boosted. You don't need self-esteem classes. It's really simple and not fanciful philosophies."" [Fact: all providers have always used clients to help other clients, partly because it gives the better-qualified clients something to do, and partly because it helps to make up for staff shortages.]
The interview continues in the same unquestioning way. Harrison is "not political" and has worked with Conservative and Labour governments. [Does Allen know about David Blunkett's role with A4e?] The scope of A4e's ambition is accepted as sensible. "She wants to be allowed to help whole families, as the company does in Germany. Currently, getting one member a job can cut payouts – such as housing benefit – to the rest of the family, so there is less incentive to take that work. "When you have got intergenerational unemployment, the whole family unemployed and you are working with just one person, everything you do can be undermined by the family when they get home that night," explains Harrison." What "helping whole families" actually implies is not examined. Nor are the implications of Harrison's final ambition - "earlier help for the unemployed."
Ms Allen's interview has resulted in an article which is unworthy of a left-wing newspaper. She has failed to scrutinise the claims of her interviewee and written what is essentially a PR triumph for A4e.


  1. People helping people. PR and spin more like. When I attended A4e 7 years ago, I was asked to compile CV's for a few clients. This I was happy to do, not for A4e's sake, but to help out other clients with less IT knowledge, amongst other things, than myself. People helping people seems a crude way of placating educated, articulate clients?

  2. The journalist also failed to mention the entire fraud case!

  3. Anon, I'm sure she would have stipulated that some topics would be off limits before she agreed to the interview, unfortunately!


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