Wednesday 2 April 2014

Ingeus sold and WP extended

There's an interesting report in the Financial Times today about developments in the Work Programme.  Ingeus Deloitte, the company which originated in Australia, has been sold to an American company, Providence Service Corporation.  The Work Programme business, says the FT, is worth £150m a year to Ingeus, "which is understood to have won such a large share of the market by bidding more cheaply than rivals".  Despite the failure of the WP to help the vast majority of those referred to it, there are obviously profits to be made.  And Provident can simply take over Ingeus's activities by bidding for the offender rehabilitation contracts (and anything else on offer).
The other interesting point in the article is that the Work Programme contracts are due to end next year, but they are expected to be extended to 2016 "to avoid the general election".  (Labour has already said that they wouldn't renew the contracts if they get into power.)  By this stage the "attachment" payments should have ended; would we be told if they haven't?  The contracts didn't seem to be generating much profit for the providers, but Provident obviously thinks that the potential is there.  Richard Johnson, formerly of Serco, says that can only come from cutting costs, but it's hard to know how companies like A4e can cut costs any further.
It makes me wonder, again, whether A4e is in line for a buy-out.  Would Emma Harrison be prepared to sell her 85% stake in the company?


  1. Sick of the Work Programme2 April 2014 at 03:31

    I am wondering if A4e have recently reduced staff numbers, perhaps in preparation for the referral fee no longer being paid? Over the past few weeks or so there seems to have been a few familiar faces missing amongst staff at the A4e office I attend.

    What is particularly frustrating for me is that there seems to have been very little investment in the IT that the customers use, which is very poor considering that the vast majority of customers' time at A4e is spent on computers searching for jobs. As of April 8th, Microsoft is ending support for Windows XP, which will make computers using this system much more vulnerable, yet the A4e I attend still has XP running on the computers customers use for jobsearch. Any business worth its salt would not be continuing to use such a vulnerable and outdated system, so why is it acceptable for A4e to continue doing so? I am wondering whether there was any obligation in A4e's Work Programme contract for them to provide customers with up-to-date IT facilities and if not, why not?

    1. WindowsXP is being ended yes but Government systems will still have support from Microsoft allegedly beyond April - but frankly I don't see how this addresses your concern as definitely no update patches or security vulnerabilities will be made! Who cares its only client data anyway and dodgy UJM to-boot - or not to boot if you get my pun!

  2. I suppose it's not too surprising the WP contracts will span into a new parliament, and even a change of government. FND lasted into the early stages of this government after all.

    As for A4e being sold? I suppose if someone made Ms Harrison a generous offer she may decide to throw in the towel However, given A4e's toxic image who'd buy it?A period of rebranding and detoxing the company may be in order. But of course such an exercise will only be skin deep.

  3. It won't be too long before the WPPs realise that they can substantially cut their costs by using the free labour available from the WP itself.

    Don't laugh, it has happened before.

    When Employment Training existed, several providers were offering NVQ 3 and 4 in Training and Development. Sometimes the tutors and assessors running the training for these qualifications left the post or went off on long term sickness. What happened? The providers slipped (via promises of a future paid jobs) the very people on the courses into actually running the courses. In one case that I saw, a very capable person was left in charge of Level 3 TDA. This candidate was expected to do all the admin, interviews, deliver all training sessions, assess each course member formally (now she hadn't actually been awarded any parts of TDA Level 3 herself so wasn't a qualified assessor) prepare all teaching materials and in some cases pay for them herself, find and maintain work placements, the list goes on and on.

    Evidence of this appalling practice by some scheme providers (more than one doing it) surfaced, when it came to routine External Verification of the provider and the work submitted as internally verified as being to standard. The exam board took this very seriously and some providers weren't able to continue running the qualifications. Some continued to do so and after a brief bout of compliance and some auditing, went straight back to using those studying as free labour. The justification used and accepted by the then Training Agency, was "this is a valid placement for someone studying to be a qualified trainer"

    These days, the rules and audits are much reduced due to the prevalence of "guidelines" and the "black box approach". Advisers are rarely qualified or experienced and there is no real training, hence the reliance on poorly qualified and inexperienced staff to deliver the generally dreadful Induction, Jobsearch and CV workshops.

    I think we will see many of these WPs with claimants running them. The standard of competence and qualification of the people currently paid to be Advisers appears to be poor beyond description.

    Hey, maybe the WP might just be better with claimants running it?

    1. Sick of the Work Programme2 April 2014 at 09:51

      Whilst attending A4e jobsearch sessions, I have already provided help to people who speak English as a second language or have poor literacy or IT skills. I have also provided people with advice about benefits- I probably know more about how the system works than the A4e adviser does. However, there is no way that I would be happy to do this as a job in return for my JSA. If they want me to do this full time, then they can pay me for it.

    2. I reckon that Emma Harrison could probably be persuaded to sell A4e but only for a price that would suit Emma. In October 2012, on the Channel 4 News programme, on live TV, Emma told Krishnan Guru Murthy of Channel 4 that she had invested £50 million of her own money in the Work Programme, some of which she had raised via mortgaging Vulgarity Towers (her house) she said.

      It is possible to check the veracity of some of Emma’s claims by doing a Land Registry search on the house. That would certainly reveal the existence of any mortgages, their dates and the identities of borrower and lender but the amount borrowed has usually been redacted by the landowner’s solicitor. However, if anyone is interested, please just find the the official website for HM Land Registry and be prepared to fork out around £5 per document, I think it is. It is more expensive than a Companies House search but it is the same idea. I have not felt sufficiently curious to do it, especially not on an income of £70 a week in Benefits. That said, I do sometimes wonder about some of the extravagant claims I hear from people like Emma! I heard her bragging that she was a regular visitor to 10 Downing St and thought, “Front door or cat flap, m’dear?”

      I’m impressed that Therese Rein has flogged her own share in Ingeus Deloitte even if she hasn’t managed to sell Deloitte’s share as well. Very few businesswomen are shrewder than Therese Rein and I often wish that I shared her knack.

      Unlike our home-grown Emma, Ms Rein keeps her mouth shut and she does not claim any celebrity even though she could because she is married to Kevin Rudd, the recent ex-Prime Minister of Australia.

    3. I used to work for a WP provider who were a sub-contractor to a prime. It was extremely common to rely on "volunteers" from our caseload to run assisted job search sessions and man the reception, the Placement Officer would also then be able to count this as work placement for our figures.

  4. I've had a comment from someone called Brenda which is far too specific about names and places to publish. It's also very difficult to understand.
    Could she please have another look at it and try again.

  5. I think most of us that have been through the WP realised at a very early stage,that the WP never put the unemployed as a priority,the survival of the WP Providers was the main goal,the contracts were to blame for the lack of funding for Training,yet A4E was paid to help design these contracts and the Providers being "Experts" in delivering the programme apparently are not. We now have the same Providers delivering the Community Work Programme on another DWP contract..26 Weeks of monitoring the unemployed delivering work that benefits the Community,sounds like a winner for the Taxpayer..Wrong,the Providers will be paid £76.92 per Week £5.22 more than JSA to ensure that the unemployed comply or face sanctions,what work will actually be done? Look in the "Black Box" the guidelines are in their somewhere,very murky! If a person manages to actually find a Job the Provider will then be able to claim further outcome payments(WP payouts) As I stated this has nothing to do with helping the unemployed

  6. WP as others before it don't work due to the pressure for numbers, bums on seats that goes on. Having worked for one of these organisations I know it's more about keeping numbers up which completely frustrates the people working in these companies. If you don't you lose the contract. People working their never get the opportunity to do the jobs they are paid for which is helping and improving people's options in the work place.


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