Friday, 23 March 2012

The future of A4e depends .....

All the newspapers have reported the revelations from the BBC yesterday.  The coverage ranges from the Daily Mail's usual strident reporting, complete with graphics, to the more sober account in the Telegraph, which quotes an A4e spkesperson: "While this investigation uncovered a number of areas where procedures may have been lacking, the final audit and further investigation determined that five claims were irregular and related to one former employee.  This was reported to the DWP Risk Assurance Division, which confirmed that the action taken by A4e fully met their own audit requirements and that they considered the matter satisfactorily resolved.  A4e repaid the value of these three claims in full, which totalled less than £5,000.”  
The Yorkshire Post has the full quote from the DWP: "A 2009 A4e internal audit and risk document, relating to programmes contracted by the previous government, has today been passed to the department.  The Work and Pensions Select Committee was made aware of this audit at the time and the department later received assurances from A4e that it had not uncovered any major issues."  [my italics]
Paul Mason picked up this point on Newsnight tonight.  He said the DWP is now certain that it never received the report.  Yet weeks ago it asked for all the relevant information.  The report was made public in October 2009.  (I'm not sure what he meant by this.  Presumably it wasn't this leaked draft which was made public.)  So what did the DWP get, Mason asked.  
A4e says that they reported to the DWP the results of a final audit and further investigations.  The DWP says they only got the document yesterday. So was the version of the original audit report which was given to the DWP devoid of all the damning findings and warnings?  Did it amount to a cover-up? 
Mason ended by saying that the future of A4e depends on what was actually submitted in 2009.


  1. I think this is how the "October 2009" issue works: If you look at the evidence for the 2010 Work and Pensions Committee report into "Contracted Employment Programmes" , A4e told this Committee about the firm's audit of their "twenty highest performing recruiters" in 2009, as part of their memo to the MP's who were investigating fraud in Contracted Employment Programmes - it is in para 3.5 of A4e's memo, here

    This was in the wake of the Hull Fraud. If you read that committee report, and A4e Exec Rob Murdoch's evidence to the committee, it is quite clear that A4e knew they had a serious problem (as per the recent Private Eye article on this), with Murdoch saying things like "In relation to perverse incentives, we need to take some criticism” because “ individual bonuses linked performance which may be a background to the fraud that was perpetrated.” However, it seems very possible that the draft audit A4e recieved was very damning, but somehow was either not given to the DWP, or was substantially changed before it went to the DWP


  2. Forgive me Historian if you have already seen this Press Release on the a4e website posted yesterday - :A4e Internal Control Development – A Chronology of activity we have undertaken: -

    I'm not sure what to make of it,

    1. I did see it - pretty opaque. I'm not even sure what a "localised desktop administration centre" is. But they're saying that after 2009 (mostly after their scary audit) they've put in a whole lot of systems to make sure everything is done properly.

  3. After the Newsnight programmme, I had a look at the ERSA website. It would seem that the cracks in the Work Programme scheme are becoming obvious to those involved with providing the Work Programme:

    Somebody called Maeve McGolrick of an organisation called Community Links seems to want to garner support for changing the Work Programme scheme completely. The phrase that I noticed particularly says:

    "We also suggest that the payment a provider gets should be based on the level of support a person needs, not the benefit they are currently claiming."

    Mmmm. It seems to me that Ms McGoldrick is suggesting that the Government should write an open cheque to the Work Programme providers, promising to pay unlimited amounts of money per WP "client" according to how much "help" the WP provider deems that the client might need, it appears.

    I can understand why Ms McGoldrick suggests this. It would help to prevent the problem of "parkiing" some of the clients. However, if the real problem is that the relevant WP provider simply does not have the skill to help the relevant client then Ms McGoldrick's suggestion is nothing more than giving the WP providers a licence to print money, it seems to me.

    I am sure that Ms McGoldrick's suggestion will receive universal support from the WP providers. It will be interesting to see how Grayling reacts, I think.

  4. Never mind how 'perfect' the systems are now. That is irrelevant.

    The integrity of the company has been called into question too many times to even recall - it's that bad.

    All of these issues will be thoroughly investigated and at the very least I sense we are viewing the unravelling of a thoroughly disreputable organisation.

    I have not in my time (forty years) seen any one company get as bad press as A4e.

    The (alleged) bullying culture needs also to be examined.

    However overall it's a moot point. Because the performance figures leaked show quite frankly awful performance (although I agree other WP providers may be similar) and that in itself, along with the acquired reputation, means an end to A4e.

    My advise to the staff? Jump from the sinking ship fast. Sooner or later it will sink.

  5. This may be interesting Thu 29 Mar 2012 20:00 BBC Radio 4 The Report investigates the government's welfare-to-work scheme. Why are some of the organisations in charge of delivering the plans saying that the Work Programme is unworkable?

    Shortly after the £5 billion Work Programme was put into place last year, The Report highlighted concerns about whether the scheme could succeed where other plans had failed in helping the long-term unemployed find jobs, through the use of charities and for-profit companies.

    Hannah Barnes revisits the story and finds that despite the fact the scheme has been running for less than a year, some charities and voluntary organisations are already pulling out. They cite a lack of referrals from prime contractors - the handful of mostly private companies the government contracted with under the Work Programme - and the difficulty of helping the most difficult cases.

    With the bulk of payments under the scheme linked to keeping people in jobs over the long term, some charities have struggled with cash flow problems that have threatened to put them out of business.

    A National Audit Office report suggested that the government had been being overly optimistic in its estimates of the number of people who will be helped into work over the course of the Work Programme's five-year contracts. Hannah revisits some of the unemployed people currently on the scheme who spoke to The Report to in September. Six months on, have any of them found jobs?

    With warning signs piling up, The Report asks why the coalition government is still pressing forward with the Work Programme.

    1. Thanks a lot for that Anonymouse! Will make a date toi listen to this one!

    2. I wish to Whinge and I hope that historian will allow me to do so on here.

      I am a JSA claimant who is also an A4E client on the Work Programme Scheme. When al the fuss about A4E began a few weeks ago, following the PAC's criticisms of A4E and the media's fuss about A4E as well, I have been making myself ill with all the worry and uncertainty about the whole thing. It has been manifesting itself in a series of minor ailments, none of them life-threatening but all of them enough to make me feel thoroughly unwell, which is highly unusual for me. It is depressing to be hit by a cold and cough (weeks ago) which refuse to clear up, followed by a tooth abscess which have left two top front teeth loose, followed by conjunctivitis in both eyes - which is not only very painful but also very debilitating. I feel sure that the fuss about A4E is the cause of all these ailments.

      I was only referred to A4E six months ago and, normally, I am disgustingly healthy.

      Since then, my A4E "advisor" has admitted that he is unable to help me. He recognises that I have qualifications and highly-skilled work experience coming out of my ears, whereas A4E is really only geared up to help the people who cannot put a coherent CV together by themselves etc.

      I am 55, so first the A4E advisor tried to "park" me on an organisation who claimed to specialise in helping people aged over 50. They ceased trading the week before I was due to have my first appointment with them.

      Last week, the A4E guy came up with a new idea. Another of A4E's subcontractors, Ixion, specialises in helping university graduates, so he said. He said that someone from Ixion would phone me.

      I came home and studied the Ixion website. That does not say anything about graduates but it goes on at length about helping "young people." At my age, I am no longer a young person!

      So I e-mailed Ixion with a copy of my CV, which they will find alarming if they are able to read a CV adequately. I pointed out that I am not prepared to "dumb myself down" in order to find menial work because, personally, I find it impossible to lie to an employer for long and also it is inherently dishonest not to tell a prospective employer the truth from Day One. I told Ixion to get someone senior to phone me but the silence from them has been deafening so far.

      What is the point of this Work Programme if even A4E admit that they cannot help some of their clients?

    3. The Anonymouse

      Thanks for the news about the the radio programme. I will make sure to listen to it.

      Meanwhile, please read the document below:

      At least one WP provider is already saying that the WP Scheme does not work. She suggests that the solution is for the Government to chuck unlimited amounts of money at the WP providers. She does not attempt to address the question that maybe a lack of skill by the WP providers is the real problem?

      Will Ministers accede to the demand for more money with no guarantee of success?

    4. I sympathise. I also have skills, qualifications, and many years of work experience. Every two weeks I have to attend at my work programme provider’s premises to carry out jobsearch. Occasionally I have to talk to a consultant who wants to know what I have been doing to find work, and who then tells me that I’m doing all the right things and I should simply carry on. The provider has classed me as job ready, and there’s nothing further they can do to help. Of course, it would be much more convenient for me if I could do what I normally do and search for jobs using my home computer and telephone, but no, I have to remain attached to a provider.

      If I manage to gain sustainable employment the work programme provider will want to say they had a hand in this. They will want my help to supply them with an outcome so that they can claim payment from government. Just who is the provider here, and who the needy client?

  6. You may ask how do i know.. Well this is the 2nd time i will have been interviewed by this programme.. it should be on the podcast for it, they have the past one i was in. Been 6 months since the last report they did..All i can say is i hope they listen..

  7. It looks the tensions between the "Primes" like A4e and the smaller subcontractors - mostly charities and "social enterprises" (whatever they are) is bubbling up - I've no doubt the "Primes" do cheat the subcontractors, but personally would prefer it if the scheme was brought back in house and run by the jobcentres. Any bailout - and I think there will be one - will go to the Primes, after the first one goes bust or walks away from the scheme. One sign of tension between A4e and "social enterprises" in this story that Claire Dove of training org. Blackburne House Group "almost decked" Emma Harrison


    1. "in this story that Claire Dove of training org. Blackburne House Group "almost decked" Emma Harrison"

      Not that I am an overly violent chap, but this would certainly be a 'roll up, roll up' event surely!

      Any bailout - if one does indeed happen - should really make the national blood boil! It did with the banks after all!!

      A bailout would only serve to show just how desperate Cameron, Duncan Smith and Greyling are to save thier cherished WP.

  8. Usual load of dodgy anecdotes and wishful thinking I see, but some are starting to recognise the WP is the real problem. Progress of a sort I suppose.

    1. Not sure what you mean. People have ALWAYS seen the WP as part of the problem as indeed they did with the ND and FND.

      What we have had over thae past decade is W2W providers implimenting bad policies badly!

  9. Rubber Band, I cannot tell you now what i understand is to be said on the radio show, but am sure it will have a few interesting things mentioned.

    They said no bail out, if they fail they fail.. they stated that several times.

  10. The Anonymouse

    Sounds worth a listen. I note you say:
    "With the bulk of payments under the scheme linked to keeping people in jobs over the long term, some charities have struggled with cash flow problems that have threatened to put them out of business."

    I imagine then the prime contractors are in a worse state then surely?

    1. I must admit I thought the same thing,until I was assigned to Jobfit in partnership with the council,
      council workers,facilities,no business rates and a big percentage of the referral fee for merely sending "clients" there way, what risk? Zero.

  11. you guys are unbelievable! A4e found me jobs on 2 seperate occasions. ok, they were only temp positions lasting a couple of weeks but the point is they found me work as they did with others i know.

    i agree. some mostly those on this slanderous site do want A4e to go bust. then what? will you lot be prepared to support them and thier families? no, i thought not!!!!
    yes, a4e have made mistakes. but they do try esp with those willing to help themselves. they are passionate about what they do.

    1. I've published this so that we can see that the last sentence gives the game away.

  12. no idea what you mean by giving the game awayy! you have nothing better to do than slander the good work of others. shame on you!!!!! shame on magerate hodge mp. i will do my best to get this wicked hate blog taken down!!!!!

    bet you will not publish this comment!

    1. There is nothing slanderous on this site. Unless you consider reporting what the mainstream media are saying about A4e to be slanderous?

      In which case, you may wish to take your complaint to The Daily Mail, The Independent, BBC et al.

  13. I'm passionate about football but I can't play it to save my life, if only Manchester City would throw millions of pounds at me to passionately play for them...

  14. Rubber Band, that was a taken from the The report story. Listen to the story, thats all i can say..I really wish i could say more but cant..

    Ok AnonymousMar 28, 2012 07:13 AM. First how can it be slander when I have documentation, evidence of a4e breaking the contract rules. I have experiences from THREE different schemes with a4e. To support them and their families.. As if allowing fraud, bullying, to occur to protect the staff of a For Profit company. The phrase they are passionate about what they do.. is taken nearly verbatim from the a4e publicity. How come i have stories both i have personally seen, showing bad practice, in a4e. and I let the job centre know.

    Isnt it strange that a4e has just hired a new PR firm, to hide the true facts, A) some people in a4e are fraudsters, as has been shown by the police. (the ones arrested), B) they are ineffective, as has been shown by the public accounts committee, C) that emma harrison has paid her self nearly £9 Million to her own bank account, when point A and B are facts.

  15. Hang on a minute The Anonymouse. You are in danger of undoing your good points here. Let's examine this:

    A) some people in a4e are fraudsters, as has been shown by the police. (the ones arrested),

    Well as reported to DWP and the police by A4e. Slightly different I'd venture?

    B) they are ineffective, as has been shown by the public accounts committee

    No more so than anyone else. That's without taking into account whether or not the WP objectives and targets are remotely achievable in a recession.

    Since nobody met or came near their targets, a bit of a point stretch and if that isn't what you meant, you'll have to say what specifically the PAC "showed".

    C) that emma harrison has paid her self nearly £9 Million to her own bank account, when point A and B are facts.

    Her company - her risk - her money. You might not like that, but that's business. And point A and B aren't in fact, facts. They seem to be your interpretation to show A4e in the worst light. Not slander, but maybe just a tad over zealous? You don't make a good case better by trying too hard.

    1. You imply that because A4e did no worse than most other contractors they cannot be blamed for failing to meet targets. This is nonsense. In order to get the contracts they guaranteed an outcome figure. No one is innocent because other people are guilty too. And your last point - "Her company - her risk - her money" would be true in normal business, but not in this sort of contract. There was no risk of losing money under ND or FND, just a risk of not making quite as much as you'd hoped.


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