I am always delighted to see Private Eye keeping on the case, so I approve of the piece in the latest issue. They say that "A4e has found a new way to make money from the government's struggling Work Programme: claim bonuses for people who already have jobs." Let's be clear, it has always been the case, from the old New Deal onwards, that providers could claim job outcomes when people already had an interview lined up before starting the programme. It wasn't uncommon for someone to turn up on Monday saying that they had an interview later that day. Great, the provider would say, just sign this form and phone us to let us know how you got on. As long as the form was signed, the client had started the programme, and the outcome could be claimed. If the client got a job before starting the programme, then they signed off. What the Private Eye item claims is that A4e (and, presumably, other providers) are getting people onto the WP when they already have a job lined up but haven't yet started it. That allows A4e to claim the attachment fee and the outcome payment. The DWP thinks that's fine, as long as the client hasn't already started work. But why would anyone want to attach themselves to A4e if they have a job in the pipeline? Well, the Public Accounts Committee was given evidence that the company was offering £50 vouchers to the clients. A4e denied this; and indeed, it may well be that the £50 was just the standard "bonus" offered to clients to help get the outcome form signed. They're not denying, however, that they offer sums to cover clothing, travel expenses etc. So it seems worthwhile to the client; and is hugely worthwhile to A4e.
You may remember the bizarre situation of the Cabinet Office giving a contract to A4e to "explore the application of payment by results and social finance to troubled families." Who better to offer dispassionate advice on the subject? Well, they've now come up with their report. I wonder if anyone is still interested.
Just a word to people who want to leave comments. I've been getting a spate of comments which I can't publish because they name particular offices and even people. Edit those out, please.