Leaked figures are quickly forgotten as the media follow banking scandals. And the government maintains the line that the Work Programme will solve everything. ITV reported various groups which are concerned about growing levels of child poverty and even hunger. A government spokesman responded by talking about universal credit and said that: "Work is the best route out of poverty which is why the Work Programme will ensure that people will receive the personalised support they need." How comforting.
Other papers have carried stories about poverty. Patrick Butler in the Guardian reports plans to replace crisis loans with vouchers for Tesco or Sainsbury's. These could be limited to stop them being used for alcohol or tobacco. People who need to replace essential items like fridges will get chits redeemable only in accredited recycling stores. The Telegraph reports a speech by the chief operating officer at the DWP, Terry Moran. He would like to see photos of benefit cheats pinned to lamp posts, to name and shame them. He admitted that it wasn't likely to happen.
The Yorkshire Post has a story headed "Echoes of the 1930s". It's about Michael Hall, a 26-year-old from Leeds who stands at a road junction holding up a placard saying, "I'm looking for work." He worked up until 12 months ago, but has now had to move back in with his parents and lives on £60 pw JSA. This should be required reading for everyone at the DWP. But perhaps he's due to go on the WP and receive "personalised support".
There's some good news, again in the Guardian. The big five bus companies are planning a scheme to offer free or heavily discounted travel to NEETs. We know how important this could be to young people trying to find work; but sadly many of the people commenting on the article don't.
One more story, on A4e's own website. Three middle-aged men in Liverpool found work through a sub-contractor of A4e, Liverpool in Work, which is run by Liverpool City Council. Now, this is excellent news for the men concerned. For A4e it serves the two-fold purpose of reflecting well on A4e and showing the good relationship they have with their "partners". For the rest of us it begs the question, why are companies like A4e involved at all, taking their cut from the activities of sub-contractors? Some councils are carrying on their schemes alongside the WP, funding them themselves. Others have chosen to become sub-contractors of the primes. It would make much more sense to cut the primes out of the picture and put the money into local schemes.