We reported back in April this year that Richmond upon Thames council had put its contract for supporting and training local voluntary organisations out to tender, and the winning bid had come from the Foundation for Social Improvement. Yes, the FSI, the creation of Emma Harrison, a registered charity with two other A4e directors on its board and based at A4e's Westminster offices. The leader of the opposition on Richmond council was kicking up a fuss about handing contracts to a "scandal-hit organisation" rather than to the local CVS which had been doing the job satisfactorily. 20 days later we learned from the Guardian that the contract was worth £85,000 and that the council had decided to pull out because of the potential risks. The author of the article, Patrick Butler, pointed out that the FSI had assets of only £90,000 in its latest accounts, and so it was odd that it had got the contract in the first place. Now we have an update from something called Your Local Guardian. The contract has been awarded to the Richmond CVS (Council for Voluntary Services) and the Richmond Adult Community College. The piece shows how a bad reputation can follow you around. "A4e was embroiled in scandal last month," it says, "when figures suggested it received £46m from the taxpayer last year, for its work on the Government's flagship Work Programme - despite finding long term jobs for less than 4% of its unemployed clients."
The FSI's accounts for the year ending March 2012 have not yet been received by the Charity Commission, but since 2008 it has received a total of £1,686,933, much of it from A4e, and spent a total of £1,691,561.
The government has come up with a "new" way of dealing with NEETs - those youngsters not in employment, education or training. The Telegraph calls it an "earn or learn" plan, while the Express, in typical style, headlines it "Go to work or lose benefits". It could involve "the creation of new-style 'traineeships' set up to prepare school leavers for jobs in relatively low-skilled industries." Does anyone smell a new contract here? Perhaps we should recall Labour's original New Deal scheme, back in the late 1990s, set up to training or work placements for NEETs. That expanded into the full New Deal which was outsourced by David Blunkett in 2006.