Thursday, 20 September 2012

It's called chutzpah

Or brazen cheek.  I suppose I should thank him for the plug, but I was startled to see this:

This followed another:

Mr Cooper told us that he was answering questions on @happytoansweranyqs but I can't find how to gather these together.

There's a politician who's taking a lot of abuse today because he's apologised for the wrong thing; not for breaking a pledge but for making it in the first place.  Mr Cooper is in danger of similarly misplaced contrition.  Saying that you're going to "learn from our critics" is easy, but meaningless unless it's acted on.  It's just PR.

The party conferences are coming up.  A4e, like lots of other companies, has always had a presence at these gatherings, lobbying the politicians.  I wonder if they will be there this year.


  1. If I were a dragon on Dragon's Den and A4e was doing a pitch,I would be asking ?

    What elements of what A4e does for the client could not be replicated by anyone else with a bit of common sense ?

    Have they some sort of protected intellectual property hidden within their advice ?

    What is the added value they provide to the Jobseeking process ?

  2. It's called "Takin' the pi$$" is what it is.

    But it was only to be expected, in all honesty - especially as you chose not to publish my reasonable non-litigious comments (As well as many others I'm guessing?) Which, if you had, would've denied jaunty the option of asking people to pay heed to the comment trail & made him appear even more ridiculous as he did when replying on that thread - if he had done with the comment(s) published.

    I don't know why you're so reserved. They can't touch you for publishing THE TRUTH, no matter how much they threaten you. Just like parking fines - if you contest them, you usually win.

    Instead, imo, by witholding comment(s) you've more or less given him the ammunition to fire at you. You were warned.

    1. I'm trying to be fair, but you're pushing it. We've had this conversation. There were plenty of appropriate responses to J O-C, but your idea of "reasonable" and "non-litigious" is not necessarily mine. Leave it there.

  3. Learning from critics is all very well ONLY IF you are prepared to meet and address the concerns of said critics.

    Okay, some criticism can be unnecessary, spiteful and personal. However, when looking at A4e and the W2W sector as a whole, it is clear that lot the criticism is too damn similar to be merely coincidental.

    If Olliff - Cooper REALLY wished to engage with critics, one thing he could / should have done is find out why A4e has such bad press. Not just recently, but LONG before he started in his current role at the firm.

    Sure, he (Olliff - Cooper) may well suggest the reason that clients attack is A4e because they do not wish to attend their offices and engage with the Work Program. However, there have been investigative radio and TV news items on A4e and the W2W sector that vindicates much if not most client's criticism.

    So what does Ollif - Cooper really want to learn?

    Why A4e's clients feel the way they do about his employer and how he can take steps to put things right?

    Or how to sidestep criticism and gloss over glaring problems with spin, platitudes and jargon?

    The ball is most definitely in Jonty's court!

  4. This just becomes more surreal by the minute!
    If Mr. Oliffe-Cooper were serious about listening to and acting upon criticism then he could do worse than look back at the entries on this site to see what the critics have to say. If that is not enough then there are plenty of other sites with more material. On a more personal note he might try to get A4e to abide by their own complaints policy - I have been waiting a month now for a reply to a written complaint (or at least an acknowledgment) -which is supposed to be acted upon within five working days.
    As far as I can see neither Mr. Oliffe-Cooper nor anyone else within the senior ranks of A4e has any intention of improving anyone's lives except their own. They are in it for the money - pure and simple. The PR smokescreen is there just to disguise their naked greed and incompetence.
    Full marks for the PR though.

  5. Key points to note....

    Firstly, jaunty says he's "hit a brick wall". What are we to make of that? That everyone's not been listening to him, and how "unfair" that is?

    Or is it that he's too tired to go through each & every one of the oft-repeated criticisms from his "customers".

    Secondly, with his final response on the other thread, he said words to the effect of that it was 'too big a job (sniggers) for him to go through each & every individual complaint, and he'll be developing a new page on A4e's site specifically for this purpose.

    Which, no doubt, will be censored "to the max" in a fashion that'd put kim-jong-il's propagandist regime to shame.

    Well jaunty, it'd be unfair to expect you to address each individual case on this blog. We know you've *AHEM* "work to do". However, you didn't address one single issue raised - not one. And it was exactly what the critics on here expected.

    We already know what the "solutions" from A4e will consist of. We know what A4e's answers on that webpage (Should it ever come about anyway) will be.

    Well allow me this. A4e's "spin" is an affront, even to the intelligence of an amoeba. As A4e's mouthpiece, you ought to be thoroughly embarrassed by the laughable attempt you've made. How you, or any of your fellow management/boardroom staff could look the taxpayer in the eye, while collecting your salary, is beyond me.

  6. Hi Historian,

    I absolutely agree with you that what counts is action taken, not words. That is why we are keen to meet you, hear what you are concerned about, and work out together what we do about it.

    Twitter is just one part of that approach. If you are interested in seeing the questions that have been coming up, the hash tag is #happytoansweranyqs. It is all public.

    I try to reply to everyone. It does sometimes take a while when I get a lot in a short space of time, but I do get there. If you or anyone else reading this site wants to ask a question, do drop me a line. We would really like to hear from you.

    So far most people are interested in understanding how the work programme payments work, how we avoid 'deadweight cost', how the DWP treats data, how much A4e spends on policy, how the sanctioning process works, and our ownership structure.

    If you look back through the hashtag, you will see I have answered all of those in some detail. We are logging the themes of issues that come up, and are in the process of working out how we can best act on them.

    So it is not PR. We are interested in understanding where issues are arising and doing something about them. I hope that you will take up my offer of coming to explain to us what you think needs improving.



    1. This is the last bit of space you're going to get from me. You refuse to answer any of the points put to you so there's no point.
      Interestingly, your happy hashtag brings up only two tweets and the message that older results are unavailable. I wonder why. But the two conversations that are there show how you actually answer questions. Someone asking about skills training is told that "we do a massive load of training" and "We specialise in the qualifications needed to get into employment." That will raise the hackles of a lot of your clients, I'm sure.
      You've had the opportunity to respond to criticism on here and you haven't done it.

    2. Well I googled #happytoansweranyqs and a lot of inane comments emerged. Twitter is not the place to answer such important questions. Jonty Oliff-Cooper had an opportunity here and sadly blew it from our perspective. Well he has to fall in line, doesn't he ......

    3. "So far most people are interested in understanding how the work programme payments work, how we avoid 'deadweight cost', how the DWP treats data, how much A4e spends on policy, how the sanctioning process works, and our ownership structure. "

      ...err no! People are interested first and foremost why A4e and its ilk can still be in business and taking a big slice of public funding despite its very poor performance figures.

      "So it is not PR. We are interested in understanding where issues are arising and doing something about them. I hope that you will take up my offer of coming to explain to us what you think needs improving."

      By now, I'd have thought it was bleeding obvious as to just what needs improving at A4e. Did Olliff-Cooper not read the replies to his posts on this very blog? Or elsewhere for that matter? Does he not see what serious issues clients, former clients and even staff have with his employer?

      When was the last time Jonty asked an A4e client if they were truly happy with the level of service, support and resources they recieve(d) courtesy of A4e?

  7. One way to avoid hitting any 'brick walls' when reaching out to critics of A4e might be to explain why the former Chairman, Emma Harrison, was paid an £8.6 million shares dividend in 2011 - in addition to her large salary?

    One might also care to explain that although this single year's payment came from the taxpayer, why was it paid despite A4e delivering poor results in the Welfare to Work sector and failing to meet minimum government targets of performance?

    Perhaps this is an excellent example of a 'social purpose' organisation failing to meet its (low) targets thus having a big, negative, social impact - large profits for private individuals derived from poor delivery.

    Over to you, Jonty Oliff-Cooper.

  8. Jonty Olliff-Cooper is a wannabe Tory MP, it seems from the Tweets by @jontyoc

    I have been waiting for several days for Jonty to deal with the comments that I have posted for him on this Watching A4E blog. I suspect that neither Jonty or A4E have the skill to deal with them adequately or, indeed, at all.

    So, Jonty, I will make it simpler for you. Why is A4E useless with Work Programme customers who already have professional skills and qualifications together with solid work-experience in their professional fields?

  9. Well today some MP's are asking G4S to return their management fee of £57 Million,after being unable to deliver security at the Olympics..That would be a good start,but lets look at A4E and the rest of the WP, that over and over have not delivered.Results are shrouded in mystery and have been delayed time and again and when finally some results are released they are not all that clear.The WP is supposed to provide the unemployed with resources to enable them to find sustainable employment,what are these resources? another mystery hidden in the "Black Box Method" The last time I was subjected to such a slick sales pitch was in Spain and they tried to sell me a Timeshare holiday,this programme has no substance.On the A4E website they list all the countries that they operate in,once again the figures do not add up.All WP providers that miss targets should be held accountable and have a clawback provision.

  10. Still at the spiel with the: "We specialise in the qualifications needed to get into employment @A11_Seeing_Eye, so skill level is not the factor."

    And the:" We do a massive load of training, esp apprenticeships @A11_Seeing_Eye. i was just in a class this morning actually."

    You are most definitely in need of training, jaunty. Learn anything at the class? More to the point, did you take any notice of the patronising/condescending TRIPE served up at great expense to the taxpayer?

    Jesus wept. You're kidding NOBODY, if you believe things like that pass for a definitive answer.


    Jaunty, in his latest post, has inadvertently given his consent (In the same way his company has surreptitiously gained consent to collect & share my data) by saying we can drop him a line. That's consent in anyone's book.

    Therefore I respectfully ask you to publish his email address, as I've PLENTY of lines to drop him. I'm not on twitter, and I believe there's a limit as to how many characters are allowed per "tweet". If not, then can I send you my email address (not published) for you to send it to me privately?

    1. I have no idea what his email address is. He posts on here like you do, just using his real name. The bit in brackets just seems to mean that he's registered with Blogger. I agree that Twitter is not a great means of conducting a conversation, so it's a pity that he doesn't set up a proper forum. However, I don't intend to let him use this blog any further.

    2. Ah, my bad!

      Not being "computer savvy" I mistakenly thought that he'd included his email address.

      However, an open challenge for "his nibs", should he decide to be true to his word.

      If he's still bothering to read this (And have the courtesy to be taking notice) then I'll gladly meet him at my local a4e office to discuss my complaints further....On the proviso(s) I'm allowed to record the meeting IN FULL, with no reservations for me to publish said meeting IN FULL[*] (I'll get a friend to post it on youtube) with no questions deflected with the DWP "commercial sensitivity" default answer, and every question answered candidly.

      I will happily leave my contact details, with Historian, if he does the same.

  11. Jonty. Here is an open request. You said you welcome questions and are prepared to answer each one. Please can we have your email address? Substitute the "@" with "at" and Google won't index it. Let's see if you ate a man of your word!

  12. I could join in this twitter debate and poke numerous holes in his position, the nature of his PR and why it doesn't work but what would be the point? He's there to make it look like A4e listens, to make it seem like they want solutions to the problems in the program. But as far as I can tell he hasn't once outlined what he thinks the problems are. Actually he spends the entire time insisting there isn't a problem. He cites examples of people they've helped that could be made up for all we know because there's no specifics. There's no explanation of how A4e helped those people and hence, no justification for the fee they'll take from the tax payer visible to us.

    This is why this PR doesn't work in the face of an already sceptical audience. People who dislike the program generally have a reason and if you don't refute that reason then you achieve nothing. All he's done is reinforce the current narrative, A4e is a non-caring for profit organisation that skims off dead weight claimants (Those who would've gotten work with or without a work programme) for it's bottom line. Simply stating people who went to the programme found work is something we already know Jonty. What concerns us is you did absolutely nothing to help them and will claim the fee regardless and that judging by the governments figures both past and present, you seem to have a negative impact on the number of people who get work.

    On another note, I see the Cabinet Office has implemented a Black List on outsourcing for high risk suppliers, allowing government to take into account past performances. I hope this is a move to a more generally accountable outsourcing process. In the mean-time, I wonder what A4e's chances of being on this black list are when the 5 year Work Programme cycle ends.

  13. What is in A4e's Black Box that makes them so valuable , I have been with them for a year as a participant on th WP, I have yet to see what is worth the sign on fee the taxpayer stumps up each time A4e gets a referral ?

    Anyone could setup a company like this, a few Internet connected computers and a printer and a few customer care people to process the participants. What is unique about what A4e does ? Can anyone tell me?

  14. I asked whether A4e would be at the party conferences. I gather that Mr Olliff-Cooper was at the Liberal Democrat conference. In a professional or personal capacity, or both?


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