News has emerged that a sub-contractor of A4e has gone out of business, unable to keep going under the Work Programme. The Guardian has the story of the demise of Eco Actif, a social enterprise in the chain of providers under A4e. The boss of the company, Amanda Palmer-Roye, was a political supporter of the government, but found that the payment system for the WP was impossible to live with; the firm couldn't get finance from the banks, which regard the WP as too "high-risk" and, she said, "its association with A4e had been a matter of great concern to potential investors". Eco Actif had other contracts; a specialist programme subcontracting to A4e, G4S and CDG for support to ex-offenders, which had not come up with a single referral; and one of those European Social Fund contracts for workless families. But now they've gone into liquidation. All this is of interest in the light of the Merlin assessment for A4e. This is the DWP's arrangement for monitoring how the primes are treating their sub-contractors, and A4e had their inspection recently. They scored an overall 70%.
All the optimism from Grayling about the Work Programme seems curious in light of new estimates for the number of people being put on it. As the This is Money website puts it, "More than half a million potential recruits seem to have disappeared" from the scheme. For Labour, this is an opportunity to shout about "chaos", and warn that jobs would be lost in the W2W industry. It's very hard to give any credibility to Liam Byrne on this, when the WP is just an extension of Labour's own programmes. But the ERSA, the trade body for the industry, is also very annoyed about the staffing difficulties that the wrong estimates create.