It certainly feels like open season on A4e at the moment, with the subject raised at Prime Minister's Questions and the papers coming up with more revelations. But as far as I'm concerned, my rules on publishing comments still stand. No gratuitous insults. No specific allegations which I have no way of verifying. Please take those to the newspapers. And no including your own email address!
It's really important now to focus on the real issues and not get caught up in irrelevancies. For instance, the Guardian ran a piece yesterday headlined, "A4e compelled jobseekers to work unpaid in its own offices". It turns out that this was under Flexible New Deal when the 4-week work placement was compulsory. Now, on the previous contracts it wasn't that unusual for providers to give people placements in their own offices, doing admin, perhaps. On FND, when the placement was compulsory, that was probably a mistake. But I submit that it's not massively important. In the same issue, Amelia Gentleman is cautious. She says that a number of A4e customers have come forward with complaints, but that much of what they complain about would be common to all the providers. But she gives two examples of people who felt that they had been badly treated by A4e.
Fiona Mactaggart MP, who raised the matter in Parliament, is now demanding an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office. The MailOnline reveals that there's a second police investigation going on. And they home in on the relationship between Harrison and government, exemplified by A4e's employment of Tory insider Jonty Oliff-Cooper, a fact which "emerged last night". The writers of this piece, Jason Groves and Sam Greenhill, obviously haven't been following this blog. The fact "emerged" for us a long time ago. They tread carefully when they mention David Blunkett's link with the company. As a minister he "advocated private involvement in welfare reform" and is now paid up to £30k a year by A4e, but "there is no suggestion of impropriety". That kind of half-baked reporting really doesn't help. We need journalists to do their homework, understand the history and the issues and focus on what matters. And that's how a single company, be it A4e or Capita or Serco or whoever, can make millions out of delivering public services badly. And how A4e got away with it for so long.
Last night Emma Harrison's Twitter account was frantically posting links to positive stories on A4eVoice. That won't be enough.