Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Prison contract delays - and Oxford

There's a rather confusing piece in the Guardian today headlined "A4e prison contracts delayed by anti-fraud checks".  It's confusing because it's not news.  The contracts for prison education which were due to start in August were delayed for three months because the Skills Funding Agency wanted extra fraud checks, following all the accusations earlier this year.  The checks didn't find any fraud, and the new contracts will start on 1 November.

An interesting campaign has been going on in Oxfordshire, where David Cameron has his constituency.  The Oxford Mail teamed up with A4e on a "We want to work" campaign, trying to get 12 of their clients into work.  (The article which launched the campaign was written by one Emma Harrison, but presumably not that one.)  Another article on the same day listed the twelve and showcased two of them.  And yet another article is a straightforward advert for A4e.  We're told (ungrammatically) that "Last year, A4e helped 30,126 people into work in the UK, 10,695 people gain a qualification and worked with 13,523 employers."

The following day things became a little less clear.  There's advice on "gaining an edge" from a woman who runs a free job club in Oxford as well as advice on CVs from an A4e adviser.  By Friday local MPs are brought in to say how wonderful the campaign is, and two more jobseekers are showcased.  One has been through an A4e "All about care" course.  And by Saturday there is good news.  One of the 12, who hadn't yet been featured, has got a job.  Another has an interview with an employer who read his profile in the paper.  Another, not apparently one of the 12, has got a job after 6 months out of work.

I am truly delighted for all those who find work.  But something is worth thinking about.  An A4e business leader says, "We are hoping that this is just the start of employers contacting us."  This is a campaign by the local paper to publicise people on A4e's books, and it's that exposure which has had some success.  Nothing wrong with that.  But it will be A4e which gets the outcome payments.  There are other parts of the country where local councils have co-ordinated efforts with the local press and, possibly, WP providers, to find jobs for the unemployed.  Who gets the reward then?


  1. Yes and the campaign goes on; in today's edition:
    I'm guessing the MPs rushing to praise A4e are Tories.
    I suspect J. O-C may have had a few words with his high end Tory connections and stage managed this. Expect more of the same if your local paper is right wing biased.
    Interesting to note the high aspirations of the jobseekers - cleaning, warehouse work and caring. Nothing wrong with that per se but does show the level at which A4e tend to operate and surely not really too difficult to place in a min wage zero hours job in one of the most prosperous parts of the country?
    This really is money musical chairs for A4e and the others. They create no jobs. They re-cycle the pool of unemployed and get paid handsomely every time the music stops.

  2. Hate banging the same drum,but the figures are confusing A4E claimed that they "put" somebody in work every 5 minutes or 288 per day or 28800 every 100 days,yes I know are they talking 8 hour days, 5 or 7 days per week.As with most figures coming out of the WP/DWP they can be manipulated depending what factors they decide to use,the argument being that it is in constant flux only holds up for so long,JCP should know how many have signed off and not on training,DWP should know how many outcomes have been paid out,the WP providers should be able on a daily basis to provide figures on who has started work,this would a given in most business arrangements,Mc Donald's can tell you almost hourly what an individual restaurant has sold,needs to order and the cost of wages,so the idea that all these "Experts" running the WP/DWP are unable to come up with any figures in over a year make you wonder if it is deliberate.

    1. Hi Mkmky
      Well now a complaint was made to the ASA about the 7 minute claim. A4e tried to justify on the basis of a 37.5 hour working week. It turned out they were unable or unwilling to produce any evidence for their claim and so they voluntarily dropped it from their site (if they hadn't done so then they would have had another embarraqssing ASA adjudication to counter with a PR charm offensive).
      It seems they are now talking specific figures. I have no idea whether they can justify these (you might like to ask the ASA!). Beware though - there seems to be some sort of delineation between "advertising" and "PR". The ASA can rule on the former but the latter is ultra vires. Don't ask me what the difference is - I have no idea!
      As for the actual stats. These must exist. It is not possible in this day and age for organisations of the size of A4e, let alone the whole W2W industry and the DWP, to operate without comprehensive and up to the minutes stats.
      Now the stats may be complicated and capable of multiple intepretations - but they are "out there somewhere"
      The logical conclusion as to the delay in any meaningful publication is that the figures are horrific and indicate gross failure of the whole WP.

  3. Jessica House in Wandsworth has been let to A4E,this in it's self is fine,but seeing as the other tenants are the local JCP and also the DWP, though I am sure this is legal and above board,it reminds me of Enron Corp,where the accountants and compliance officers worked in the same building and were caught turning a blind eye in Enron's favour,i am not saying this would happen,but you never know.


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