Thursday, 27 August 2009

Benefit Busters, episode 2

Before the A4e-bashing starts, let's get something clear. What we saw tonight was the creation of the government. Gordon Brown's New Deal was transformed into this ridiculous 13-week "course" with the aim, supposedly, of encouraging the private sector to get the results they were being paid for. So blame, first of all, the government.
And something else needs to be said. The programme gave the impression that poor benighted Hull was dependent on A4e for getting its high unemployment rate down. It isn't. A4e has a subcontractor in the city, the local FE college, which has as many clients as A4e. (The figure of 700 clients was quoted - I think that means the total for A4e itself and the college.) And there are a number of local initiatives, not least by the local council.
Having said that, I'm amazed that A4e agreed to this. The clients shown were not representative. Where were the men and women with a good work record and qualifications? But those who were picked out did enable the point to be made. These contracts are a waste of time and money. People sat around doing nothing; as Mark said, "The idea is to bore you into getting work." Mark got a job and was thrilled - but a few weeks later he was made redundant. That meant he was angrier than ever. Sherrelle, a brave young woman, got a job which lasted 4 weeks. Natalie, a recruiter from the (Primetime?) agency tried, largely without success, to get people to go for agency work at Greencore, a large local cake factory. But the clients knew that this was casual work and avoided it. Dane, a young man who could be seen as a stereotypical layabout, went for the induction, having been assured that the work was full time, but turned it down when he realised it was temporary with no guaranteed hours. Not enough explanation was given for this problem; but we learned that when Mark lost his job it took 3 weeks to get his benefits reinstated.
And all this was put to Emma Harrison. Did she cringe when she saw it? The narrator put it to her that, with the signing of the lucrative new contracts (FND), is recession good for business? She conceded that because there were more people they were more difficult to help. Then we got the PR phrases. The ultimate aim is to transform people's lives. A4e is different because they come at it from a different angle. It's "gutting" to let an individual down. After we saw Mark having to sign on again and Dane refusing casual work, Emma is asked about A4e's pushing people towards temporary jobs or zero-hour contracts. She says that it undermines people's confidence, and will talk about it more at government level (!) There is an uncomfortable silence. When the narrator asks again, she laughs and says she isn't a genius and has no answer, but will think about it.
I don't think this was the programme A4e had in mind.


  1. Yes, you're quite right. A4e may be parasites but the govt is the all too willing host!

    First, I will take away a couple of positives from tonights episode. Firstly, the Hull office shown looks cleaner than the one in Leeds I attended (though the Leeds building was rather small and old). Secondly, they had more computers available for clients.

    That said, there did appaer to be very crowded conditions. Most clients seened to be sat around doing nothing but reading papers, Yellow Pages and doing 'team building' exercises. What was telling was the A4e staff member who had a go at Mark for leaving early. He told him to be more disciplined and and do wht others were doing, namely jobsearching. The camera then focusses on a couple of chaps reading the Daily Star (which seeemed to be the favourite reading material). Snce when has the Daily Star been a good source of local vacancies?

    It seems very sad that A4e could only offer temprorary positions for their clients. However, what also struck me was the fact that I saw no training going on at A4e. A4e seems to be simply an attendance centre and low end employment agency.

  2. Emma Harrison represents a lot of what is wrong with this society. Money-sucking, dishonest people who unsuccessfully try to cover up their true natures with cliches and lip service. In her 'blog' on the A4E site, Emma minimises those who don't 'fit' in with the A4E program, pointing instead to the many who 'take all the help we have to offer and end up with jobs' (to paraphrase). The implication is clear: Emma and her minions are always right and their help always wise and appropriate. If someone does not get a job after contact with A4E, A4E are of course blameless. And if they get a job that lasts two weeks and causes the 'client' more stress than it 'empowers' them, well let's just brush that under the carpet because it's the statistics that really count isn't it?. The Government is crazy to give the likes of A4E huge sums of money for their dubious services.

  3. Advocatus Diaboli28 August 2009 at 01:57

    It all makes sense if you look on Britain as a colony and the government as the colony's imperial administration and the Emma Harrison's of this world as District Commissioners-cum-Eichmanns, sorting out the damn natives.

    A4e works as a device for getting people out of bed in the morning then taking people through an absurd pantomime of a work day - a day without work or pay. This gets a few people onto the bottom rung of employment; temp, part-time and short-term work for Mr Bent Squad.

    Come back Ivan Illych all is forgiven.

  4. My god that was horrible viewing. It was obvious that Mark was going to come a cropper.

    I agree with the comments made. This is just a cattle farm that ferments more trouble than it even tries to address. Why are we not investing in people in this society and not these awful companies (a4e ain't the only one!)? No wonder people end up as racists, drinks or violent (not that I condone any of these things). There is literally no future!

  5. I felt for Mark Pilkington, he made the effort to get out of A4E, you could see what a difference it made to him to have a job and a paypacket even it was just to buy his wife a takeaway. It stated that a4e were paid £100 to be referred by the jobcentre, then no doubt they were paid again when he got the landscaping job. I felt disgusted when his hours were reduced and he was back where he started. It makes me angry when you hopes are built up only to come back down again with a bump. These are peoples lives we are talking about here. I have written about benefit busters on my own blog. ta ta

  6. why was this pulled from 4od?


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