Last week a set of data was broadcast round the internet. It seemed to show some performance stats for a whole lot of A4e's "partners" on the Work Programme. I had a look, decided it was very difficult to interpret and not very relevant anyway. But now Left Foot Forward have got hold of it and have asked A4e about it. The interpretation Left Foot Forward puts on it is that fewer than 10% of clients have found jobs, and fewer than 2% have held on to the job for 26 weeks. A4e says that the data "was drawn from a test website which is confidential and protected" and "was obtained from a password-protected secure site", so it's not clear how it got out. A4e threatens legal action "should you publish this data or make any of the inferences set out." Left Foot Forward couldn't get any further clarification of what law A4e intended to use. I remain dubious about the value of these figures.
It's timely that Richard Johnson, who used to be head of welfare-to-work for Serco, has written about the need for absolute openness in the WP performance figures. He talks about the PAC's questions about money being creamed off by providers. "One provider, in particular, appeared to be behaving like the fattest of cats, pouring many millions of dividend cream into her own bowl." And he wants an independent regulator. It's an interesting read, even though I don't agree with his conclusions.