It's very telling that no one in the media has shown the slightest interest in A4e's latest accounts. How different from the furore nearly three years ago which brought down Emma Harrison and very nearly destroyed the company.
How have they done it? They've scraped their way back to profit, just, from a dire situation, and they've done it by not trying to compete with the big boys. The chairman talked about "discipline". They've put in realistic bids for contracts but withdrawn when they could see that they were going to be undercut by companies which could afford to lose money initially and then get the contract changed to allow them a profit. It's not a game A4e wants to play any more. And they've pulled out of foreign parts (except for Australia), presumably because it was costing too much to keep up that international presence. From a company with limitless ambition they've become a medium-sized outfit looking to make a living.
I suppose we should be pleased. But there's no comfort in the fact that a few huge companies now run the bulk of our public services and behave as if there are no risks or consequences of failure.
Meanwhile, there was an interesting story on the Disability News Service website last month. A former A4e employee, Chris Loder, took the company to a tribunal claiming constructive dismissal. He alleged that he had been forced to work with vulnerable ESA clients, some with mental health problems, when he had no experience in this area and was given no training. A former colleague, supporting him, described the policy as "incredibly dangerous". The article prints a long statement from A4e refuting the claims. The tribunal's verdict is due this month.
And speaking of verdicts, there still isn't one in the Slough fraud case, being heard in Reading. Before the holidays it was reported on the courts' website that the jury was out, but today there's no further news.
Do you remember A4e's Hayley Taylor and her 5 minutes of fame as the "Fairy Jobmother"? It seemed the company might have another star in the offing. ITV have a programme starting this Thursday called Bring Back Borstal, and A4e were publicising the fact that one of their managers, a woman connected with their prison education contracts, was going to be on it. That link has now disappeared, so I've no idea what's happening.