Right, I'm back. Sorry about the hiatus. What has been going on in my absence?
On the A4e front, very little. There is no news about the fraud trial, which surely should have finished by now. But FE Week reports that the £17m London prison education (OLASS) contract, which A4e gave 3 months notice of handing back in August, will continue in A4e's hands until the new year, because the Skills Funding Agency can't find any college willing to take it on. This seems to back up A4e's claim that the contract was no longer viable. The prison system is in such a mess that prisoners are being shifted around too often to make education possible.
On the wider subject of "welfare", I don't need to detail the antics of Iain Duncan Smith. He was on Radio 4's Today programme on Tuesday, setting out the new timetable for Universal Credit. Mishal Hussein, who interviewed him, raised the obvious points about missed targets and wasted money. Now for IDS, that is not how the BBC should behave. The interviewer should just listen respectfully to whatever fantasies he chooses to spout. I feared for Hussein at the time. And sure enough, the next day IDS was reported to have lodged a complaint about her being "negative". At the same time the National Audit Office warned that any further delays in UC would be hugely costly. It said that there were no contingency plans to deal with delays.
There's a report in the Independent today about single parents being wrongly threatened with sanctions, or having those sanctions imposed. I was struck by the blatant lie in the DWP's response: "Sanctions are a necessary part of the benefits system but they are only used as a last resort for a tiny minority who don’t follow the rules and hardship payments are available if people need them.” This is utterly dishonest propaganda. But then, if the man at the top of the department is a fantasist it's going to permeate the whole organisation.