A4e was at all the party conferences this year, as usual. They don't record what interest they drummed up amongst the Lib Dems or Labour, but describe on their website the "event" they hosted in Manchester for the Tories. They've had to amend the story in the last couple of days - it was "former minister" Mark Hoban who led the praise for 6 A4e "customers" (I do hate that word) who have found jobs through the WP. Apparently 40 people turned up. Now, as I've always said, I'm happy for anybody who gets work, with or without the help of A4e. But it seems slightly over-optimistic for A4e to be lobbying just at the point when they've lost market share for getting poor results.
There was a little-noticed piece on the BBC website yesterday about the poor quality of prison education. Ofsted has been very critical about current standards, and it's pointed out that prison education and training is outsourced to private companies. No companies are named, but A4e has several contracts.
BBC Radio 4's "The Report" programme last night looked at the state of Universal Credit. There was nothing which hadn't already been in the press, but the programme pulled it all together to show how the project went off the rails. Around £200m has been completely wasted, there are no effective financial controls, and there is no chance that it will come in "on time and on budget", as IDS insists it will. UC is being rolled out to 6 more jobcentres, but it's still limited to new claims by single people with no dependants, on JSA only and with no complications. It was pointed out that you can't do a change of circumstances, or even sign off, online. You have to phone an 0845 number, at your own expense. The whole thing is supposed to be completed by 2017, but as the reporter said, whether IDS would still be in post by then is doubtful.
That dismal excuse for a newspaper, the Express, gleefully reported a survey which purports to show that a majority of people think that benefits claimants "should find a job or work harder". Surprisingly, a lot of the comments under the article are not supportive of the Express's stance. For the actual figures, read a better article on a website here. But all such polls are suspect. We don't know the sample size, but we do know that sampling methods tend to exclude the poorest people, and that would certainly skew the results here. Of course, the government is jubilant, and Labour is flummoxed about how to respond.