The Telegraph has an interview with Andrew Dutton, A4e's CEO. It gives him the opportunity for some PR for the company but leaves unanswered the really important questions.
On Monday, says the article "a group of MPs is due to question DWP ministers on their handling of fraud allegations across the welfare-to-work industry, not just at A4e, suggesting the problem runs deeper than one firm." Dutton wants to repair A4e's reputation and is keen to stress that "the issues we’ve faced are genuinely market issues – there’s been 126 investigations into the whole market. We’re not alone.” The estimated cost of all the fraud is £773,000 but A4e accounts for only 9% of that. "The silver lining, Dutton says, is that A4e now has a competitive advantage. 'My business has been completely audited. The other organisations can’t say that,' he says." Part of the PR operation is to invite MPs and "opinion formers" into A4e's local offices.
Reading thus far, one begins to wonder whether the writer of the article, Louisa Peacock, is ever going to challenge Dutton on the real issues. "A4e obtained jobs for 310,000 people last year," she says, "and it clearly wants to promote the figure, although Dutton does not say how many of those are still in work." Note the phrasing. Not "310,000 people got jobs". The credit is all A4e's. Some way after that we read, "Still, a damning report from the spending watchdog last week showed up to £1bn of taxpayers’ money was being spent on finding jobs for people who would have found work without help." Peacock doesn't use this to challenge Dutton's earlier statement (nor does she pick up on the nonsense in that sentence). Perhaps she only did the research afterwards. Towards the end she says, "As far as is possible, it is business as usual for A4e."
It's all very helpful for Dutton and the company he runs. But it leaves out of consideration the other allegations against A4e, about the way it treats its clients. Business as usual indeed.
PS. This article was put on the Telegraph's website at about 6.00 pm on Saturday. By 11.45 pm it had been shortened and retitled "A4e seeks details on 'secret' frauds". Interesting.