Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Benefit Busters - a preview

Tom Walker of the Socialist Worker has seen the first programme and previewed it on their website. Although he calls it an "uncritical documentary", his description suggests that the producers may be hinting at criticism at the end.
"As the show ends, Taylor is invited to tea at the 20-bedroom, £5 million mansion owned by A4e chair Emma Harrison. Taylor is asked if she thinks it is right that Harrison is making £100 a week out of each unemployed person on the course. 'At the end of the day,' she replies, 'a successful businessperson finds a market and exploits it.'" Quite.


  1. Actually... why are people going on about this? It is NOT criticism at A4e at all. It is promotion for A4e including all the numerous Press Releases being picked up by different sources - my inbox has been full of them *and* Emma rubbing peoples noses in it ("oh look im successful").

    TV programmes have to be neutral. Questions are worded strangely, it is all scripted and pre-planned, Emma knows the deal after all she was involved from day 1 in the preparation of this documentary.

    If I stood there spontaneously arriving unannounced to her mansion asking her questions she weren't expecting that goes deep in to the problems of A4e... she wouldn't keep her cool. I am sure of it.

    This is just a piece of publicity for A4e as they try to get in to America... nothing more, nothing less.

  2. People are "going on about this" because it will be what large numbers of people who have never yet heard of A4e use to judge them. No one said the programmes were criticism of A4e; that's the problem. I think you mean TV programmes DON'T have to be neutral; but many people have found that what was first seen as positive publicity has, in the end, not worked in their favour.

  3. I agree with Historian, the whole thing could have the opposite effect in the long-run and be a PR disaster. Straight-talking Ms Taylor may come across as bullying to some viewers, rather than trying to be motivational.

  4. Slightly edited comment from NewDealScandal:

    Disagree... There are a few exceptions to this saying... But all publicity is good publicity. For example: one model that was caught up in a drug scandal actually done better out of it. “Benefit claimants” is interchangeably associated with the phrase “benefit scroungers” (where most benefit claimants themselves wouldn’t agree to this statement). That is the general public’s growing opinion on their hard earned cash as taxpayers’ going to fund people who aren’t entitled to the benefit (where as the majority of Jobseekers and the majority of the 5.5 million of those claiming disability benefits are genuine). This is because the non-stop attack on these people from the Government, the adverts on benefit fraud and the government keep going on about “passive receivers” although it was outlawed in 1996 (13 years ago) where you can’t claim unless you are actively seeking work (some people are exempt) and failure to apply can result in up to 6 month benefit sanctions. Soo... any army style bollocking of these people is general welcomed by those who don’t have to do it because it signifies punishment in return for receiving benefits they are “not entitled” to and to persuade those not to live on benefits when in reality they are legally entitled to receive the benefit and are trying to secure employment. I would actually state that people would think worse about A4e should they have been very laid back than with the poor conditions. Of course, the place would probably be spotless and no inhumane conditions exist – the group is small and a different type of course than the 13 week New Deal which is overcrowded and under resourced. People seem to not understand the quoted response (which will make sure everyone concerned will watch the programme): “'At the end of the day,' she replies, 'a successful businessperson finds a market and exploits it.'” The word “exploit” in business doesn’t mean “defraud” or “abuse” etc. but simply “take advantage of”. How can you be successful in business if you do not take advantage of the market situation? When you run a business and are offered say £100 week you don’t turn round and say... “hmm, that seems pricey for the Government. Lets negotiate to £50”. Likewise, if you could claim double your benefit legally... you would go claim it rather than think you are drawing too much from the taxpayer. I agree that some PR stunts do backfire but Emma has money, A4e has a marketing department (how big? I don’t know) and they won’t be stupid to allow the television to make a documentary how they like. There will be an agreement and will be involved throughout the making of the programme. For example, only the last two days have the press reported about the single parents reaching fame – before that it has all been directed at A4e. They got first pickings for PR. I am sure ongoing publicity will occur after the programme is aired – in respects to A4e. For someone who has reported both about the documentary programme and their intentions to (finally) move in to the US market (yes they aim to exploit it) – I am unsure why you don’t see the link between the two.

  5. We can't know whether there is a direct link between these programmes and the US approach - timing would matter and the programmes were recorded some months ago - but in terms of the reaction to the first episode, I suspect that it will confirm existing beliefs, whatever they are.

  6. I've just read the BBC Radio Times review of the show. Since the first show is on this evening I won't spoilt it for everyone by saying too much about it except to say the review ended with the comment "And it makes for an hour of astonishing provocative television"


  8. I agree with the above comment by anonymous[20 aug 09]. A large part of the benefits system and A4E is a discrace. Taxpayers money would be much better spent on proper targeted courses. These could be shorter in length and start after say 2 months of claiming JSA (ideally immediately where appropriate and economically possible).

    People would be sent on the courses only after a specific need was identified and the provider had shown that they had the ability to meet that need in a cost effective and ethical way.

    [From first hand experience] people are told it is not a punishment and probably most staff members don't want it to be. But in reality it effectively is to a large extent (IMHO) and I think that people who work there must probably know in there hearts but they probably have little to no influence on the system.

    From what I have found out while attending, training is almost a joke.(as is forming useful contacts[less joke more not available]). While there I repeatedly asked for a list of training courses and/or useful business contacts but recieved no training list (after being told I would be given one (twice I think)). I was basically told there was no contact list, or not one they would give me. They seem to rely on clients (or exploitees as pherhaps they should be known) finding their own. There is nothing wrong with clients looking for contacts (networking) but A4E should also have a list they can share with clients.

    The limited good things I know about A4e.
    - they have computers and newspapers with jobs in.
    - they do offer standard CV, form filling and limited interview advise but doubt it is any better than any avarage business person or employer could give. I dont think there staff are specialists. Their staff seem to rely on sheets of paper rather than professional knowledge.

    - One possibly very good thing is their free basic english and maths teaching. I have no experience of this but if they outsource it it may be good. If internal Ok like above point I guess. You might be able to get this free elsewhere at better professional providers.

    Good luck all jobseekers (including me) but rely on yourself and your friends+family not A4e or the benefits system. Use benefits + A4e to get what you can but dont expect much.

    Kind Regards,


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