Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Question to the Prime Minister

Well done to Fiona Mactaggart MP (sorry if that sounds patronising) for raising the subject of the A4e fraud case at Prime Minister's Questions today.  She linked it to the fraud in other outsourcing companies like Serco and G4S.  She got a vague non-answer, of course, but it was good that she raised it.  Nowhere in the media has it been reported at all, apart from in the Daily Mail.


  1. I heard it too. Cameron's response was pathetic. Pretty much saying that not all those who work in those companies can be labelled the same as the wrongdoers found guilty.

    Well duuuh!!

    That said, he is perfectly happy to allow his minions Smith, Osborne and McVey to allow this to happen to every legitimate jobseeker aided and abetted by rags such as the Daily Express, Daily Mail and the Sun.

    1. It is too bad that they will not give the majority of the unemployed the same latitude,but I still think that for every time that they were caught fiddling,how many times did it go undetected? or buried?

    2. In this instance, I think it likely that they got the lot. It was a smaller scheme than the WP or FND, and the outcome claims were probably paper-based. Once they'd found some fraudulent claims they trawled through the whole lot.

  2. Sick of the Work Programme5 February 2014 at 08:47

    I was glad that Fiona Mactaggart confronted Cameron about A4e (and other similar companies) in the Commons today. It really irritated me when Cameron defended them by claiming that the majority of staff 'work hard and do a good job.' Well, I can certainly say that, from my own experiences with A4e, I have not witnessed this. My recent experience of the Work Programme is that staff have started several jobsearch sessions late, yet if the 'customers' did that they would be sanctioned. Myself and other attendees did not receive an explanation or apology as to why. In the jobsearch sessions themselves, which is mostly what attending the Work Programme with A4e (and I assume other providers) consists of, we receive very little support from staff supervising the sessions. To irritate me even further, I recently received a letter informing me that, if I get a job, it does not matter that I have not given A4e permission to contact my employer, as they can get the details from the Jobcentre and will be contacting my employer regardless to claim their payments. So, they have made it very clear that they view the Work Programme not as a means with which to provide support to people who are out of work, but primarily as an opportunity to make money out of people when they find themselves jobs.

    1. If you get a job just sign off - you don't have to tell the JCP or anyone else where you will be working.

    2. Doesn't data protection cover you, can't you tell DWP or your employer NOT to disclose your NI no, whatever to TRY to prevent any outcome payments?

    3. It seems that the DWP has managed to exempt itself from the DPA.

    4. I had a look around regarding the DPA exemptions, and came across this:

      "Personal data may also be disclosed without contravening the Data Protection Act where the disclosure is required by law. For example, the Social Security Fraud Act 2001 requires education institutions to provide any information to authorised officers of the Department for Work and Pensions or local authorities which they require for the investigation of fraud against the state benefit system. Refusal to provide the information can lead to prosecution of the institution."


  3. Ex A4e Conscript6 February 2014 at 12:53

    Fiona MacTaggert was a damp squib.
    Glenda Jackson's point of order was far more interesting.
    Watch both here.
    Fiona at '44:45'
    Glenda at '01:03:00'. I love Glenda!

    1. I think you have the wrong link.

    2. Ex A4e Conscript6 February 2014 at 13:48

      It works for me when I copy and paste the address!

    3. Your timings certainly don't work for me.

    4. Ex A4e Conscript6 February 2014 at 14:17

      Timings are correct!
      Fiona at 44 minutes and 45 seconds, Glenda at 1 hour and 3 minutes, give or take a few seconds on both!

      Transcript of Glenda:

      Point of Order 12.36 pm

      Glenda Jackson (Hampstead and Kilburn) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker. [Interruption.]

      Mr Speaker: Order. I will take the hon. Lady’s point of order, but her voice deserves to be fully heard, so I shall pause for a moment.

      Glenda Jackson: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. This is a genuine request for information. On Monday, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions appeared in front of our Select Committee. Our questioning was, in the main, about the slowness of the roll-out of universal credit and what seems to be gross misspending of public money. In response to my highly respected colleague, the Chair of our Select Committee, the Secretary of State replied, in the first instance:

      “With respect, I do not have to tell the Committee everything that is happening in the Department”.

      Later, he said:

      “With respect, Chairman, I do not think this Committee can run the Department.”

      Both replies—no surprises there, Mr Speaker—were, in my opinion, as ill-mannered as they were ill-informed, because it is my understanding that the duty laid on a Select Committee by the House of Commons is to scrutinise the working of the relevant Department. I would therefore be grateful for your advice on to whom I should go or whether there is a relevant committee to whose attention I should draw my concerns, to clarify the situation and, I hope, impose on the Secretary of State the reality of his responsibilities.

      Mr Speaker: I am extremely grateful to the hon. Lady for that point of order. I accept that it is very much a request for information or clarification. I would make two points in response. First, her understanding of the function of a Select Committee is precisely correct—it is to scrutinise the work of the Department; not to run the Department but to hold to account those who do. That is certainly true. Secondly, however, I must say to the hon. Lady that the matter currently rests with the Committee, and it would not fall to me to say, still less to do, anything further beyond what I am saying to her now, unless the Committee were to report to the House a stated dissatisfaction. For now, however, she has lodged her point very clearly on the record, and I thank her for doing so.

  4. Although I have found the WP/A4E to be both offensive and useless, could some of the (anonymous) data be collated and presented in order to assist the longterm unemployed and the JCP? If the problem is a lack of trust by potential employers, or the growth of apprentice schemes or London booming at the expense of the regions,surely we have the right to know? WP has been ruinously expensive : is it clawback time?

    1. Interesting suggestion, and potentially yes, although much of the top level data collected (by DWP and ERSA) is unsurprising (it's harder to get jobs in areas where jobs are scarce; many people on JSA have serious and long-term physical and mental health problems etc) although it'll provide an evidence base of sorts.

      Thinking of things that would be interesting to see, there may be a loose correlation between performance and higher paying Primes - that seems worth investigating. It may also be interesting to see how sustainment varies, and if different types of interventions are more or less effective. Lastly, it may be worth looking at engagement & motivation, and if there are things that work there. All of these would require research though, rather than just looking at the data; the qualitative evaluation may pick some of this up.

      One thing that could be interesting is the impact of the two drug and alcohol pilots, particularly the one that involves a substantial additional sum at job outcome point. This should allow the claim that the Work Programme would work better if the differential payments more closely reflected barriers and needs to be tested.

      You raise an interesting point re. employers. Thinking back to previous Work & Pension Committee hearings, some seem somewhat unimpressed. Anecdotally, the reputation of individual Primes seems to be a factor in employer engagement. There's also the question of how effective WP providers are at engaging with different sorts of employers, e.g. by size and sector. I'm not really suggesting that WP providers are bad at this, but it's bound to vary and, as you say, is worth investigating.

      There's a further problem, blame for which can be largely laid at the feet of the Government: if you want employers to take (what some might perceive as) a risk on employing the long-term unemployed or people who have spent time on sickness or disability related benefits, telling the world that they're work shy scroungers probably isn't the best way to go about it.

      Finally, just a comment about cost and clawback. Whilst the overall cost looks substantial, it's still a pretty cheap programme in the scheme of these things (it was designed to be), and PbR means there's a pretty weak case for clawback.


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