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?