And there's more publicity to come on 20 August when Channel 4 begins a series entitled "Benefit Busters". The first episode sounds like wonderful propaganda for A4e. "Hayley Taylor is a no-nonsense Yorkshire lass whose job is to persuade single mothers on benefits to go back to work. The company she works for, A4E, makes millions from helping to tackle the Government's target of getting 70 per cent of lone parents into paid work by 2010, and is the largest welfare reform company in the world. A4E is run by multimillionaire entrepreneur Emma Harrison, who believes her business is 'improving people's lives by getting them into work.' Until recently, the 700,000 lone parents receiving benefit didn't have to look for work until their youngest child was 16. Soon, they must either work, or be looking for work, once their youngest child is seven. At Doncaster A4E, Hayley runs a course called Elevate that aims to give lone parents the skills and confidence to enter the workplace and convince them they'll be better off doing so. Cameras follow her group of ten single mothers during their intensive six-week course to prepare them for work." Some of that must have come straight from A4e's handouts, and it certainly doesn't look as if the programme will be a hatchet job. A4e's own publication, Blueprint, says, "...one of our teams in Doncaster was in for a nice surprise – and more than just 15 minutes of fame – when a Channel 4 documentary maker chose the team to star in a film about the welfare system. Doncaster’s Elevate team was selected to appear in the documentary after Elevate Trainer, Hayley Taylor, made a great impression on the series producer. He felt that Hayley had the energy and passion to inspire her clients – all of whom are lone parents – to get back into work and training. You can read their fascinating story on page 12, and find out what it was really like to be in front of the camera for weeks on end." If you really want to read page 12, it's here. Can't wait.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Publicity - lots of it
We know that A4e's strategy is to feed PR thinly disguised as news stories to the press, but it's been confined to the regional and local papers - until today. The Times carries a story, "‘Loan shark threatened to break my legs if I didn’t pay £1,000’" describing how a Stoke on Trent man went to A4e for debt advice. They're called "a debt advice agency based in Stoke" - actually they have a contract to provide money advice to Stoke's council tenants. One wouldn't, perhaps, have expected The Times to print stuff fed to them by firms like A4e, but this reads so typically of their planted stories that, sadly, one has to believe it.