Sunday, 27 January 2013

The Work Programme: experience of different user groups

This is the title of a lengthy document produced by the Work and Pensions Committee.  It's an interesting read, although I admit to skimming after a while, because a lot of the submissions are very similar.  A variety of sub-contractors contribute, along with individuals and prime providers.  Since there's so much of it, I've chosen to pick out the bits about, or by, A4e.

Gill Marshall, A G & I (UK) Ltd: "Companies such as A4e/Ingeus are too large to effectively run the programme and have far too much control."  She recommends a model not very different from that which worked before outsourcing in 2006.  "It would be better if there were one centre (Centre of Training & Educational Excellence) in each county holding the funding, regulating and managing the training providers to ensure standards and performances are met."  She gets in a specific dig: "Anyone can claim that they are successful, A4e being a prime example!"
Anna Burke, Consultant Partner, Drop the tag: She was the boss of Eco-Actif, the sub-contractor to A4e which folded.  "We only received £210 of the average £400 attachment fee in Year One.  This double impact meant that we found it very difficult to provide the quality of service and adviser time that we were contracted for.  Indeed we felt it would be unethical to provide less.  The double layer of contractors also meant that it was taking an average of 10 weeks for invoices to be paid, which was disastrous for our cash flow. We were, however, under a great deal of pressure to ‘cream and park’.  At one point we were told (after a monitoring visit) that our advisers were ‘very good and experts in their field’.  We were then advised to redeploy them to other projects and employ more sales oriented staff who ‘would not care so much’."  She concludes that "There was very little in A4e’s approach that could be considered in any way innovative."
Milton Keynes Women and Work: They are very critical of A4e's behaviour.  "Milton Keynes Women & Work (charity No 1010038) established an agreement with the local A4e office to deliver various training packages. A4e did not adhere to the terms of the agreement e.g.  
a) They did not confirm numbers of attendees in time, did not give agreed notice times to cancel a course, did not give agreed notice period to cancel the crèche provision we had outsourced.  All of this had a negative financial effect on the
b) They did not pay their invoices for several months which also impacted on the charities cash-flow.  
c) They cancelled a course we had an agreement to provide for them and started delivering a course in-house based on the format and content we had devised.

There is a long submission from A4e itself.  Not surprisingly, it stresses how wonderful the company is and how well it is doing with the Work Programme.  They do, however, echo something which comes up in a number of submissions:
"One way the Work Programme could be enhanced further is by strengthening the use of differential payments.  The nine current payment groups for the Work Programme are still loosely based on the previous type of benefit recipient. A4e is a provider to Job Service Australia, which means that we also operate with the Australian model. The Australian system has over eighty different payment groups. Our experience is that this creates better incentives, and better reflects the true costs and difficulty of dealing with a very diverse group of customers."
Specialist charity sub-contractors often say the same thing.
A4e says: "We would support greater use of 'Day 1 entry' for some types of customer."  Ignoring the misuse of the word "customer", this is about wanting to get some people, like offenders, onto the programme as soon as they sign on.
They get in a plea for their "super-contract" idea.  They want "the DWP to lead a pan-government effort to create a common social outcomes procurement framework.  This should build on the work of the recent Social Justice Framework for measurement and the Cabinet Office’s Social Outcome Fund, to allow a single provider to pool budgets around an individual."  I think they're going to push this at every opportunity.  
It will interest their clients to know that A4e believes "It is vital customers have a voice in the service they receive. It is crucial both to ensuring quality service and to suggesting further improvements to the service model. Therefore having good mechanism of feedback and complaint is a very important part of the Work Programme’s black box."

There is a great deal in this whole document which should result in changes to the Work Programme.  The criticisms and recommendations are so similar that they surely can't be ignored.


  1. Of course they can be ignored many other reports have been ignored, It seems to me that a4e is pushing for more money, different streams of money, stream a covering til stream b works or doesnt and trickles down. And guess who a4e wants to be the single provider.

  2. I am an ordinary JSA claimant and I have been one of A4E’s Work Programme customers for over a year now.

    I have now read most of the written submissions to the W&P Cttee and I have also read the transcript of the oral evidence session on 19 December 2012:

    Until I read these documents, I had not been fully aware that the Work Programme is just as much of a chaotic camel of a scheme as I had suspected. (A camel is a horse designed by a committee, as they say!)

    To run the Work Programme scheme properly, so that it would provide a genuinely “personalised,” “tailored” “service” to each and every one of its customers, would cost at least £15 billion, I reckon, and it is money that would have to be invested in the customers up front.

    According to the transcript, creating the giant “one size fits all” Work Programme and then running it for 7 years (which, according to the propaganda, is likely to cost in the region of £5 billion) will be cheaper than continuing with the plethora of different schemes and providers that existed before they were replaced by the Work Programme.

    The outcome was always predictable and inevitable. The Work Programme doesn’t work, it has already wasted many millions of ££££ (all public money) everyone is fed up with it and it will be impossible to make it work properly within the currently projected budget for the thing.

  3. The problem with the Work Programme is that it does not in any meaningful way address the real problems of being unemployed. Aimless platitudes such as 'common social outcomes procurement framework' will NOT get the long-term back into work. What the unemployed require is direct, PRACTICAL help e.g. retraining, paid work experience placements, job interview guarantees etc. The Work Programme offers none of these.

  4. Something interesting You know emma harrison is a trustee of the Eden Project, well apparently the eden project is losing 70 jobs. Just as an Aside

  5. a4e's response to the Panorama show last night Its the usual it was an isolated incident here is a person we did help

  6. What the hell does 'common social outcomes procurement framework' mean? Is that even English? Like anyone who does not have an argument, you resort to empty management speak. As an ex-employee who was subject to bullying and persistent negativity (which led to visits to my GP who signed me off with work related stress), the claim that they respond to feedback is beyond laughable. Margaret Hodge is quite correct when she says the company has a culture of bullying which I can personally vouch for. Why do they have such a high turnover of staff if they are so great? I have since worked for another welfare to work provider and the difference in their attitude to both staff and unemployed is 100 times better (which says more for A4e I believe). Working for them literally affected my health. God knows what it must be like to be sent there.

    1. "What the hell does 'common social outcomes procurement framework' mean?"
      It means "Pass us all the money. We will decide what's best for everyone by looking in our black box. We won't be answerable to anyone. But we'll make oodles of profit for Emma."
      So that's alright then.

    2. I am a customer of A4E, going there is hell, they are bullies, no respect at all and no help, I come out thinking who am I. On one visit I was trying to hold a serious conversation as to what are you doing about helping me find a job. The Advisor make a stupid, silly comment, irrelevant to my coversation. I just smiled, because what I had said wasn't heard. Then Advisor remarked "WOW IT LAUGHED". To be referred to as "IT" is not very good customer services.

    3. Agreed,although not with A4E,I have constantly asked my provider "What help is available" and they always reply with a question,rather than answer the question.I understand that the onus is upon myself to find employment and they have adopted this as there mantra,but if this is the case what purpose do they serve? If you "Dare " ask this you(me) will be considered as not willing to engage with the programme..What is the programme?

  7. FYI: Radio 5 live are running a feature about the Work Programme this Sunday (3 Feb) at 11am, on their "5 Live Investigates" series. It focuses on claims that welfare to work advisers are telling their clients to become self-employed.

  8. I've told my WP provider that I've had enough of the WP, but as of yet, haven't heard anything back from them. I missed a couple of "appointments" late last year but haven't heard from the DWP, either, even though my "advisor" said I should get a letter from them soon. Maybe I'm just lucky that my "advisor" is "busy".

    When I told them that their jobsearch sessions were basically redundent (which they are) and asked for more help, they didn't want to know. If they're unable to offer more one to one help, they shouldn't offer to help at all. I've been forced to accept their brand of so called help for long enough.

  9. Are a4e just there to put sanctions on the unempoyed as a sneaky way of making it look like less people are on benefits?

  10. Does the advice to refuse to give your personal details at the initial interview still hold good?


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