Monday, 26 August 2013

Still watching

I was taken to task recently for not writing about A4e on a blog devoted to A4e.  As I said at the time, there is no news about A4e.  But, when you think about it, that in itself is noteworthy.
I started the original website (which A4e got closed down) and then this blog because A4e had a very high profile, and I believed, drawing on my own experience, that the reality didn't match the hype.  And the reality needed to be out there.  Others obviously agreed.  But the tide of publicity rolled on, as did the number of contracts scooped up by the company.  Allegations of fraud had little impact, except to raise the profile even higher.  Emma Harrison revelled in all the publicity, basking in the glow of her own celebrity, collecting her CBE and being appointed adviser to government.  Her fall from grace came suddenly and unexpectedly, and the new bosses had to pick up the pieces.  That meant seeking as little publicity as possible, a strategy that was common sense as well as, surely, the advice of the PR person brought in to help, George Bridges of Quiller.
It worked for a while.  But then Harrison was lured back into the limelight by Channel 4 News, and gave that car crash of an interview.  Less spectacular, but of no help at all, was the behaviour of Jonty Olliff-Cooper, with his offensive tweets.  But the publicity dies down, and no one apparently cares any more.
But it's a different world out there for A4e.  The competition is much fiercer in those sectors they used to find most profitable.  The contracts aren't just handed to them any more.  Companies have come in from overseas, and the really big guns here - Serco, G4S, Capita - have spread their tentacles into what was once A4e's core business.  The smaller-scale stuff from local councils has dried up.  The last financial results available, as of March 2012, showed A4e in trouble.
So we carry on watching A4e, wondering if the company will even survive.


  1. I think the direction in which this blog has taken during the last two years only reflects the increased negative media scrutiny of benefits and it is only right that this blog challenges that.

    For example, we have today a story on the BBC website (front page) about a family with a terminal ill son who have been harrassed by the DWP over their benefit claim (on behalf of their son). The response by the DWP was unrepentent. Next on the hit list will be pensioners - after the elction, of course.

  2. I first came to this blog because it was about a4e and I already had my own problems with them. I'm glad you talked about the benefits system too, otherwise I'd be clueless of what to expect, my rights at a4e and lots of other info gathered. Though I've finished at a4e I will continue to read and I hope you'll carry on with the informative posts on benefits as well as a4e.
    Thank you for writing this blog!!

  3. A4E represented a lot that is wrong with the WP,they were first and foremost in exploiting these contracts,G4S, Serco and the rest just piled on the bandwagon.

    This site(in my opinion) is not just about A4E,but an oversight of the WP in general and the abuse of the benefits system,not by those that are claiming,but rather the Companies that have signed contracts but failed to deliver on so many levels.

  4. As one of A4E’s ex Work Programme customers, my impression is that some of A4E’s branches have been pulling their sox up and trying to become less amateurish during the 9 months or so since Emma Harrison made such a fool of herself and her company on Channel 4 News.

    However, my impression is also that the manager of my local A4E office has realized that the govt’s Work Programme scheme is incapable of working successfully in its current format. I suspect that he also realizes that the WP scheme has stitched up the providers just as much as the customers of it have been stitched up, ditto tax-payers.

    The currently active Directors of A4E are in a quandary, I reckon. Anyone can see that the intelligent thing to do with A4E would be to sell its various businesses, lock, stock & barrel, preferably as going concerns. However, A4E belongs to Emma Harrison. She owns nearly 87% of the shares in the parent company. If she won’t sell her shares then A4E cannot be sold.

    One would need to persuade Mrs Harrison that she wants to retire from ‘work’ and to put her feet up instead, I suspect. Meanwhile, A4E’s image also needs to be cleaned up and dropped below the horizon. So! No more TV or other media exposure for Mrs Harrison and I would have parted company with Jonty Olliff-Cooper much sooner than A4E’s Directors did so.

  5. As an occasional contributor (and one whose comments are sometimes not chosen for publication)I have only praise for this blog. The topics covered are relevant to the theme of "Watching A4e", and my goodness if ever there was a company that needed watching it's A4e!.
    Watching A4e means monitoring the environment in which they operate, which means the Work Programme and other aspects of government policy which impinge on the lives of so many citizens and customers of A4e.
    Incidentally I do not critcise Historian for the editing policy of this blog. He/she has every right to decide what is published (including excluding some of my more ascerbic comments). There are other sites which have become meaningless due to being monopolised by a few contributors with bees in the bonnet and little ability to express themselves. Thus far this trap has been successfully avoided here.
    Keep up the good work.

  6. I too am not a fan of a4e or other providers unless they are proper charities. A4e and any other company that have WP government contracts should be offering employment/training/support to unemployed people - don't they do this?

  7. I follow this blog even though I have had no direct dealings with A4e. Years ago my partner had his own brush with the nature of the benefits system to come when the Blair govt quietly experimented with introducing Capita as a tryout benefits admin firm in East London. I now live in an area that had it out-of-hours medical services handed over to Serco... with predictable results.
    We need blogs like this as the stripping of the welfare system expands further into the hands of private industries. My thanks too for watching not just A4e.

  8. A4e are as synonymous with the W2W sector overall (not to mention their crackpot schemes such as the WP) as Elvis and Little Richard are with 50's Rock 'n Roll or Ferrari and Porsche are with sports cars. Very hard to mention one without the other.

    A4e are on the back foot right now. Largely to do with most of us here being proven correct about the company and the W2W sector despite being attacked for daring to speak out. Also due to the inflated ego of the former chairwoman, Emma Harrison.

    A4e must not be seen in isolation though. Whilst they have a shocking and probably the worst reputation in their field, A4e is simply a cog in a much bigger machine. The stories emanating from A4e over the past 10-15 years under scheme's such as ND, FND and now the WP are similar to other horror stories from other similar providers. Thus in one sense, watching one is as good as watching them all as the W2W sector has a very poor level and record of service delivery. Another blog called watching Ingeus or G4s would probably have produced similar tales from their many clients. I suppose A4e is different in one sense in having an owner and chairwoman who liked the media limelight. This makes A4e recognisable to the average man and woman on the street.

    This blog and others serve a vital purpose. Although it must be said, this along with one other is the only one I read daily as there are too many argumentative individuals on others I could mention.

    Does A4e still need watching? You bet! But so do other similar companies that take and promise a lot but deliver very little if anything.

  9. Could it be that A4e is the Blackberry of privatisation? They were, not all that long ago, the flagship 'cutting edge' private sector firm conducting public sector work. Now, like Blackberry, they have not been able to adapt to the new marketplace. The place is now awash with private sector firms, from small to gigantic, offering services such as training, apprenticeships, road repairs, disability services, garbage collection, schools, etc. Having worked for A4e in a Kafkesque past life, you could see the writing on the wall back then. They just didn't know what they were. Are they are a training provider, do they offer a particular service, is their service in demand, do they specialise in anything?

    I think reports of the death of A4e are highly exaggerated but will they go the way of the once ubiquitous Blackberry phone?

  10. I find it really weird reading this. Been with A4e for a couple of months and they have been really good. It seems alot of the other people depise being there. I thought it would be useless but im signing off into full work on 13th Sept.

    1. Really pleased for you. Good luck with your job.


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