Friday, 29 April 2011

Conscious Capitalism

The voracious appetite for publicity that is characteristic of A4e and Emma Harrison sometimes appears ridiculous. But it does have an effect. They convince not only themselves but others who accept it all without question. Take, for instance, an article on the Huffington Post. The author, American Margaret Heffernan, came to the UK. "Our trip focused on companies that are good for people, the planet and profits. This is also variously called Conscious Capitalism or social entrepreneurship". And guess what she found? Her nine examples include Jamie Oliver's 15, Divine chocolate and, yes, A4e, which is, she says, "working with insane dedication to prove that everyone is employable if you take enough time and give enough attention. The unbelievable energy of A4E employees also testifies to how much difference a sense of purpose can make. You don't have to pay a fortune to get great performance from your people." Heffernan cites these companies as examples of greed being "supplanted by purpose". Which proves that the propaganda works.
But it's lost on the people in Edinburgh who are having a struggle with A4e. A group called Edinburgh Claimants supports people who have serious problems with officialdom. They have won the right to provide a representative to accompany claimants in interviews at the Jobcentre, with Atos, the local council, and even at two of the welfare-to-work providers in the area, Ingeus and JHP. But A4e won't co-operate. They refuse to have representatives there and sanction people if they try to insist. You can read the full story on Why? What do they want to hide? The Edinburgh group think that it's a matter of human rights, and I'm inclined to agree. I'm following this story with interest. Perhaps A4e are only practising "conscious capitalism".


  1. As always, there are two sides to a story - Ms Heffernan has obviously only ever looked at A4e publicity "stories" and ignored (if indeed she has even bothered to read) countless reports from the people on the receiving end of the "insane dedication".

    The ECAP reports document the ugly side of A4e activities which are unfortunately not limited to Edinburgh. South of the border, managers and staff systematically denigrate, bully, and threaten clients. I also have examples of falsified sanction forms as well as lies being told by A4e to DWP and my local MP. [Evidence can be supplied on request].

    Many modern mobile phones have a record facility built in (with or without video) - If A4e won't allow an independent representative to be present then record the meetings (covertly if need be).

  2. Paul, I don't like publishing allegations like this without evidence, so I'd be glad if you could supply some. I'd also make the point that "denigrate, bully and threaten" can sometimes be perceptions that are not justified. You may be right - I don't know. I do sense that the climate is getting more antagonistic as sanctions - removal of someone's income - becomes more common in line with DWP policy.

  3. In reference to Heffernan's analysis "...You don't have to pay a fortune to get great performance from your people"

    - It is only going to get worse. As it stands A4E are made up of employment coaches, placement officers, advisors, personal trainers, administration staff and branch management. Each section carries out their role supposedly for the greater good of the customer. Whether they do a good job or not is open to debate.

    With the imminent arrival of the new work program most of these roles are being removed. The problem however is that the Advisors are now going to be expected to take ALL of the above roles on within one single job spec on top of the job they already do! So where an Advisor was once upon a time an Advisor, they now have to also look after winning employment contracts with outside businesses and placing their customers in sustainable roles. I am wondering how exactly A4E expect their Advisors to continue advising whilst juggling another 3 core areas of the business. The customer will ultimately be effected.

    If Heffernan thinks A4E advisors are currently overworked and underpaid I suggest she drop into one of A4E's offices in 6 months time and note the utter chaos. It is going to collapse!

    I find it ironic that in an attempt to turn their company into a machine that places customers into sustainable employment (24 months plus), A4E have created completely unsustainable employment for their own staff

  4. I like this blog. I count myself as one of A4e's many victims. I am delighted to find other people with the same views and experiences as myself.

  5. The following comment was left anonymously. I have taken out the identification of the place involved.

    "I have attended the A4e offices in **** almost every two weeks for the past year. I have been out of work now for three years after 20+ years in **** financial services. I was, like many if not all people, referred there by my local Job Centre Plus office. My initial thoughts after meeting my advisor were positive. These certainly did not last. My advisor was very disorganised, often double booked meetings only for me to find out when I attended my supposedly scheduled meeting. This happened on numerous occasions. I was also asked to have a talk with another advisor who looks at and advises on CVs. She told me to lie on my CV and said it was common practice and got her the job she was doing. I later spoke with an employability coach (at least I think that was the title) who was full of big ideas and blatantly promised to help me by contacting her 'contacts' in the financial marketplace in ****. Over a period of 8 weeks she did nothing to help despite my chasing her. The only phone call I received was a suggestion for a particular role she was looking at. She had clearly not read the job profile and only did so during the call. It had no relevance to what I was looking for. My original advisor left to pursue another career and I was re-assigned to someone else. At no point during any meetings with my advisors had they suggested different markets or areas where I could look for work. All they did was listen to what I had done over the previous two weeks, and wrote a report which I was instructed to sign to keep their records up to date. As a whole, I have experienced no benefit in attending any of my sessions at A4e, and from speaking to others who attend at the same time I am not alone. They are not overworked, as they always seem to find time to stop and chat to each other. I understood from my last advisor that I am supposed to sign a closure form for my time there and complete a survey of my experience. I have yet to do this as my advisor had just gone home sick when I last attended two weeks ago and has not bothered to call to reschedule. If I am required to grade the service I have received, it will be LOW! My experience has taught me that A4e is simply going through the motions rather than doing what it said it would."

  6. To anonymous above take a look at what the FSA and MAS are now doing, whilst RDR is putting Financial advisers out to grass if they do not increase their qualifications by 2013.
    The aim of the FSA is to Put all IFA's out of Business.


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