While we wait for the new team at the DWP (which includes Steve Webb, a Lib Dem MP who is regarded as on the left of the party) to come up with the new system, people have been debating the likely intentions of Iain Duncan Smith. He is known to favour increasing the financial incentives to work and simplifying the benefits system.
Meanwhile, remember the sycophantic Guardian interview with Emma Harrison which we reported? They followed it with a comment piece by an experienced worker in the sector; and now the paper has published a response by Karen Ings, an unemployed woman who was made redundant after 12 years working in publishing. She criticises the attitude of Jobcentre Plus; but is most scathing about A4e. "Dealing with A4e made me feel like Alice in Wonderland. Their glossy full-colour brochure promises positive thinking and cool break-out spaces; in reality, it is a chaotic, greyish office in Archway where no one seems to have a clue what's going on." She describes her experience: "My A4e coaches seemed nice enough. But the basic equation went like this: I would recount to them my efforts to find a job, and when I found a job, A4e would be financially rewarded for achieving a positive outcome (the agency is paid partly on results). Beyond recommending their own special website, they provided no practical assistance or training. I was offered vouchers towards new clothing for interviews (and was once told: "You are definitely going to get this job, no question, I know it, I can feel it – high five! And when you get the job, we will send you for a Gucci makeover!") but on further investigation it turned out that I was not eligible for this genuinely useful help, as I was in stage four. It was unclear to me what A4e was being paid for."
It is probably a vain hope, but perhaps the new DWP regime will take account of the experience of clients like Ings.