At the same time a Labour MP, Bill Esterson, has used his own website to call A4e "a Victorian workhouse scam". His constituent, 50-year-old Philip Hammond, has been with A4e for 14 months. He says: "A4e is bullying people at a time when they need support. They run a campaign of intimidation and undermine any self confidence you may have in yourself." He is particularly incensed by the 50-page contract people have to sign which gives A4e the right to monitor them for two years. He regards this as forcing people to sign away their human rights. The MP supports all this.
Okay, this is politics, and somewhat over the top. But an article in the Telegraph yesterday shows that the government is squirming about the whole subject of fraud in the W2W field. Margaret Hodge, chair of the PAC, is pursuing the fact that Cameron had announced that there had been 125 cases of "alleged wrongdoing". Only 11 of those related to A4e. She wants the details of the others disclosed, and a Tory MP has supported her. Chris Grayling has said that most of the 125 cases were not really fraud, but a few of them were down to "employee malpractice". The DWP is still deciding whether to publish the details. Meanwhile, reports the Telegraph, "the National Audit Office is conducting an internal inquiry into the DWP’s approach to investigating allegations of fraud across providers in the back-to-work sector. The findings of that inquiry will feed into a PAC evidence session on May 23."
It's against this background that A4e's new PR people are trying to rehabilitate the company's reputation. I suspect it won't be about planting more of the good news stories in the local press. George Bridges and his colleagues from Quiller Consultants are more likely to be lobbying politicians. Disclosures of wrongdoing by other companies are helpful.