Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Jen Byrne of A4e yesterday gave evidence to the House of Commons Justice Select Committee on the role of the Probation Service. No details are available* yet of what was said, but A4e was one of seven organisations or individuals contributing evidence. Byrne is A4e's "Strategic Director for Justice" and was recently in the US looking at the way they do things there. She appears to have joined A4e straight from university, where her MSc dissertation was on "Levels of Self-Esteem and Motivation in Long-Term Unemployed Jobseekers". The criminal justice system is yet another area of our national life into which A4e, amoeba-like, is spreading.

* Here's the link to a video of the meeting.


  1. Apple computers do not support late versions of Silverlight, the plugin needed to view the video. What emerged, Historian?

  2. You can opt for another media player.
    They're talking about how payment by results works, that's all. A woman from the PSI mentioned the problems of "creaming".

  3. Thanks for the technical advice Historian. Much appreciated. However after five minutes of the video I had had enough!

  4. Welfare to Work placements serving the community sound so much like community service orders. The two types of contracts should dovetail together quite nicely and provide an increasingly lucrative revenue stream for Ms Harrison - Want your neighbourhood cleaned of graffiti and rubbish ? Just call your local Emma and she will get an army of "volunteers" round.

  5. So unemployed people being forced to work for benefits whilst gaining "fresh" work experience? Wow that sounds wrong huh? NO! Ask the majority of the hard working, tax paying civilians in "benefit sink" towns such as Rhyl.

    A programme of activity is much more beneficial to local towns than direct payments for idleness. I would like to see a premium paid out in the benefit package to bring the minimum wage to all who enter into a work programme (Although I would welcome it without).

    This isn't directed to genuine claimants of health benefits or newly redundant workers, but if you have been out of work 12 months and are capable of it, the general working public have had enough of paying your way! Get off your arse and work to improve your local community, its the least you can do for you fellow man for paying for your survival!

    1. The only job offers I get are attempted money laundering scams. If I were to take any of them up, I'd end up in legal trouble.

  6. You were being reasonable until your last sentence. How do insults advance an argument?

    Very, very few long-term unemployed would object to working for minimum wage, especially when the system is improved to ensure that they are not worse off. However, "work for your benefit" is resisted; if there's work which needs doing, pay people to do it. Otherwise, you put the unemployed in the same position as offenders.

    There are certainly some people who have no intention of working, as well as some who are unemployable. There were 40 years ago. But, despite the slurs of the Mail and the Express, they are a minority. Clearly you haven't been in the position of being unable to find work and suffering the vilification of press, government and individuals. Let's hope you never are.

  7. Dear Historian,

    I am saddened that you feel that "work for benefit" is resisted or even should be. I have been made redundant, lost jobs, and more recently have helped over 100 people directly find sustainable employment as part of both "Pathways to Work" and more recently "FND". I have helped people by using an open, and honest style and have genuinely improved the lives of these people.

    I accept that not all people who work in this sector are morally and ethically sound, and can cause huge amounts of damage to unfortunate service users. But to suggest whole organizations such as A4e are unethical and unfair is equally as bad as labeling all claimants as scroungers.

    Sadly I have had to conduct a huge amount of appointments from the "minority" you discuss. I can honestly confirm from direct experience this is a larger proportion of society than you will accept.

    Fact being nothing in life is free, and that should include benefits. As I earlier stated a reduced vouluntary hours scheme (10 hrs over 14 days) would meet then minimum wage criteria or if we build in the benefit support from housing and coouncil tax more hours surely would be covered?

  8. Historian, I wish you had a 'like' button as I concur wholeheartedly with your last post!! I absolutely hate the fact that all unemployed are tarred with the same brush.
    Keep up the good work with this blog, I find it enlightening and very interesting.

  9. I was appalled by that last callous remark by Anonymous. It seems to him/her that the longer long term unemployed are the scourge of the earth, the pits of society.

    Even the Government have had a certain belief in that under FND i sustainable work is the goal. I wonder if this is the case though under the new Work Programme.

    (I have just received a real boost, an interview in my chosen field, the first interview for practically three years. I have been clearly focussed on trying to find an outlet for my talent/skills and had I been sweeping the streets this opportunity would not have happened I feel)

  10. Anon, I too have experience of the industry, and I believe that if you add together the unemployable and the idle you still come to only about 20% of the total. And many of the idle have reasons for being so, such as having no marketable skills. Benefits are not "free". When you and I were unemployed we drew on the money we had paid in in NI, or at least that was the theory.
    I have not characterised A4e as unethical or unfair, as you put it. A4e, like other companies, works within a system which I deplore.

  11. How can you deplore a system where people are paid to help fellow members of society? What do you want from the government?

    As has been mentioned before bad advisors exist, but not all of them. Surely someone like myself, with over 100 customer outcomes (yes I work for A4e)is an advantage to any genuine Jobseeker?

    Again there are clearly sound reasons for unemployment, health, care concerns, homelessness etc. Being unskilled isnt one of them though, unskilled jobs exist and need filling.

    I agree "one size fits all is pointless" but it is down to the relationship of the client/advisor to tailor these programmes effectively.

    Simone I wish you all the best for your interview. I do not wish to come accross as uncaring, that is the total opposite to my personality.

    I have to be Anon sadly as posting during work hrs :(

  12. I'm going to call a halt to this because Anon is going to get into trouble! But I must just answer this: "How can you deplore a system where people are paid to help fellow members of society? What do you want from the government?"

    What I want from government is more or less what we had before the privatisation of New Deal in 2006. I want JCP to be able to contract, on a regional basis, with whoever can deliver genuine training and support. I want the flexibility and accountability that went with it. I don't want the scrabbling for profit by private companies at any cost.

    Many of us have worked in all sorts of areas where we are paid to help our fellows. Often it's in the public sector, often not. We get a great deal of satisfaction from that. When you've helped someone into work you are entitled to congratulate yourself on a job well done.

  13. Hi there,

    As an interested party,

    I would like to know the pro's of having training and support from JCP?

    It is a well know fact that companies such as A4e, Remploy et al are paid for finding customers sustainable work surely this means they are more motivated to finding them A: A job and B: One that is susatainable. There is myth that they will just try and throw someone into any employment, well thats pointless. You cant force someone to stay in a role and if they dont Remploy, A4e etc wont get paid. JCP offering genuine support? dont make me laugh, having been a claimant the support I got was laughable, I had to prove that I was applying for jobs by showing them adverts that I had applied for. The advisor didnt care? why? because it had no impact on her whether I got a job or not.

    With the currrent government we are going to see more and more public services go private and if anything private companies are even more accountable as we are obviously very much in the public eye (as websites like this display)

  14. I fundamentally disagree with some of your points:
    i) It is a myth that the profit motive is what drives people. If your JCP adviser didn't seem motivated it was because s/he had a huge caseload, very low pay and no other support to offer you. No "training" kicks in until you are handed over to the private sector. It is part of the right's ideology that private profit is the best incentive to efficiency, but no concrete evidence is ever produced.
    ii) The private companies get paid if you just start a job and leave after a single day. They get more if you stay there longer.
    iii) Accountability comes down to results, and even when the results are very poor this doesn't seem to impact on whether a company gets the next contract. This goes for all the major players, but at least with publicly quoted companies we can see their annual accounts.

    Does your "we" in the last sentence mean you work for A4e? Perhaps you are not aware of the history of welfare to work.

  15. i) I find it hard to accept that you can pass judgement on why my advisor was not motivated when seeing me. If it is the reasons you suggest then surely I would have been better off with a private organsisation "where the advisor didn't seem motivated it was because s/he had a huge caseload, very low pay and no other support to offer you."

    ii) You make a point however the structure is as follows and is due to change we get paid a 1/3 paid currently at 0 weeks, 1/3 at 13 weeks and further 1/3 at 26 weeks into the programme of work. In the new work programme there will be NO payment until someone has been in sustainable employment for one year!

    iii) Im sure we will see whether this statement is true or not when the results of the tenders for the work programme are announced.

    Caught me out with the Freudian slip, I do work in the W2W industry but am not a major player in the company (probably about as minor as they get) But I dont feel this is particulary relevant to the debate or to the answer of the original questions of what are the pro's of having JCP providing training and support.

  16. 1) Contorted logic here. The JCP adviser's role has been contracted out. All that's left to him / her is the minimal support until the private company takes over. In the past JCP held budgets on a regional basis and could contract with any organisation (including A4e) to deliver training, with contracts of varying length.
    2) I know about the structure. But you will know that the "purely on results" intention of the Work Programme has been compromised by agreement to "attachment fees".
    3) I doubt very much whether there will be any surprises in who gets the new contracts.

    Your argument boils down to whether training and support is better delivered by private companies or JCP. As I've pointed out, it was never delivered purely by JCP, and doesn't need to be. But since privatisation there has been almost no training, and support of varying, often very poor, quality. I'm sure you and your colleagues do the best job you can. But do acquaint yourself with the history and the arguments.

  17. I think that the majority of us who read this blog either have worked or do work for W2W organisations, however, that doesn't make us want to agree entirely with how the 'system' works or how the contracts are rolled out etc. We all know how the finances are worked out. as for the Work Programme I think also, there will be no surprises as to who gets awarded the contracts. Hopefully there will be some new vacancies coming up soon with these providers and then we can all apply and make the system so much better, and also get rid of the poor performing advisors and those with bigoted attitudes. Need I say more!!

  18. Mandatory Placements For Jobseekers

    Here we go again!

    When I was on ordinary New Deal three years ago, this was very much part of the scheme from the onset of joining. They did look for placements and ones related to my interests.

    However there is greater unemployment now and if A4e fails to find them for their clients, what makes The Job Centre think they can succeed?

    Additionally 30 hours placement plus looking for work really does amount to slave labour.

    Then thease heavy inhumane sanctions. Three months .....

    Stop Mr Grayling catergorising The Unemeployed as mass scum and treat people as individuals. Provide what the client needs to enable them to get back into work. Market Research perhaps?

    When I signed on on Friday, as I left I was asked in I wanted a health check up in the office there and then. A step forwardd/ More!

  19. I agree Simone. That said, not ALL placements are bad. Some do lead to a job at the end. Sadly, all too many follow the revolving door syndrome of expendable labour! And of course it puts those doing these jobs for a wage in a very vulnerable position!

    Just a quick heads up. Ch4 Dispatches have an episode on outsourcing companies tonight:

    "Dispatches - Britain's Secret Fat Cats

    Britain's Secret Fat Cats

    On the eve of a major report looking at public sector pay, `Dispatches' investigates whether the beneficiaries of the government's cuts are in fact private outsourcing companies. Financial journalist Ben Laurance looks at whether the coalition's keystone policy, the Big Society, may actually benefit big business, while the public and voluntary sectors feel the pinch of austerity Britain."

    Sounds interesting!

  20. As I stated above earlier I have just received a real boost, an interview in my chosen field, the first interview for practically three years.

    I was seen by two girls around half my age for a part time junior position Website Content Management for a prestigous beauty salon eshop. They were unable to print my CV so it was left to me to talk .....

    I felt very conscious of the age gap throughout the interview and I do not suppose I convinced them of any real desire to work for them

    Two days 10 until 6 with an hour for lunch. The pay £50 to £70 per day which had not been decided on yet.

    The only way for me really is to go self employed.

  21. Historian Channel 4 right now


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