Friday, 28 August 2009

The legacy of Benefit Busters

Inevitably there was a great deal missing from last night's Benefit Busters programme.
We were told that A4e was contracted to occupy the clients for 30 hours per week. We were not told that this is meant to include a work placement. The original idea behind the contracts was that claimants would get experience of working and, possibly, be taken on by the employer permanently. Lots of A4e's clients are indeed out on placements, but few with private sector employers, who don't want the hassle. Most are hived off to the voluntary sector, and A4e pays the organisations small amounts to take them.
The pressures on space and the difficulty in usefully occupying clients results in people being sent out to roam the streets. Two former A4e clients in Hull complained to the local BBC office that they had been sent out to do quizzes, and that the whole "course" had been a waste of time.
Mark's job was intended to be permanent and so would have resulted in a job outcome payment for A4e. However, since he didn't stay in the job for 13 weeks, they would not have received the "rolled up weeks", the payments for the remaining weeks of the programme.
A4e were caught claiming agency jobs as permanent in Hull. We saw how these jobs are casual and so very unpopular with claimants; they also don't qualify as real jobs with the DWP, so the temptation to get the agency to tick the "permanent" box is very real.
A few months after this programme was filmed, an Ofsted inspection rated A4e's offices in the area only "satisfactory" and gave the figure for job outcomes as 18%.
A4e's PR people will know that this programme, together with last week's episode, are a disaster for the image of the company and its boss. But does it matter in the long run? The Conservatives are still reluctant to say that they would ditch FND, because it depends on the state of the contracts when they get into government. And for A4e the future lies abroad more than in Britain.


  1. I agree with your comment, Historian, that A4e's future lies abroad, they're finished in the UK.
    But I suspect like a punch drunk boxer, they don't know when to quit. And will continue to peddle the same old discredited rubbish about improving people's lives etc

  2. A4e will not be finished in the UK and we will soon see 'Baroness Harrison' UNLESS someone with the courage, and articulate skills of Historian lets David Cameron and Theresa may know what is going on. Theresa May chose not to address FND or the recent programmes at all at a Policy Exchange meeting last week. The contracts are not yet signed. The Conservatives should have this issue right at the top of their agenda at the forthcoming Party Conference. David Freud soon to be a Conservative Lord was the orchestrator of the FND when he was advisor to Tony Blair. The Conservatives will therefore take the flack when FND goes live and is the failure that it will inevitably be. Emma Harrison ruthless thirst for self publicity has not only disgraced her own company but the entire FND programme. The signatures are not yet on paper. The Conservatives MUST launch an enquirey before this happens. What would be wrong in giving Colleges of Further Education the money and the remit instead of A4 & Working Links. Do we believe that Harrison has no intention of taking her company public. She is simply in it for the money. The only way to stop her overseas expansion would be for the Conservative Party and indeed the Government to show them for what they are now so that they have no opportunity to claim success. Your blog is excellent but I wonder how many people at DWP/Government/opposition are aware of it. The new head of Job Centre Plus has got enough on his hands.does he or the Permanent Secretary at DWP need what will inevitably become damning publicity for what is an overstretched genuinely hard working department. Please tell me that your comments are being heard in the right places. Otherwise your excellent and factually correct blog satisfiies those who have genuine reason to dislike and fear A4e but will not will not hamper A4e future self serving success takifng advantage of the system & doing nothing to genuinely help the long term enemployed.

  3. Edward, thank you for that. I can't know who actually reads this (except A4e) but I do know that it's worth plugging away at this subject, as well as lobbying sympathetic MPs. You talk about A4e becoming a public rather than a private company - I doubt it. But the solution you propose - giving the remit to FE colleges - is actually the old New Deal, where people able to benefit from it got genuine skills training and work placements. Of course we should return to that. But the philosophy prevails that only profit motivates people, and the Conservatives are driven by the same ideas.

  4. I doubt a4e are far from finished, not with a shiny new 700million£ contract. If anything the Tories will be worse than NuLabour. Theresa May makes Purnell look like a pussy cat from what i've read and heard. It really is a race to the bottom.

  5. Social unrest and riots, like we had in the 80s, are on the cards if whoever wins the next election, goes too far. People will only take so much.


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