Thursday, 23 February 2012

It's not open season

It certainly feels like open season on A4e at the moment, with the subject raised at Prime Minister's Questions and the papers coming up with more revelations.  But as far as I'm concerned, my rules on publishing comments still stand.  No gratuitous insults.  No specific allegations which I have no way of verifying.  Please take those to the newspapers.  And no including your own email address!
It's really important now to focus on the real issues and not get caught up in irrelevancies.  For instance, the Guardian ran a piece yesterday headlined, "A4e compelled jobseekers to work unpaid in its own offices".  It turns out that this was under Flexible New Deal when the 4-week work placement was compulsory.  Now, on the previous contracts it wasn't that unusual for providers to give people placements in their own offices, doing admin, perhaps.  On FND, when the placement was compulsory, that was probably a mistake.  But I submit that it's not massively important.  In the same issue, Amelia Gentleman is cautious.  She says that a number of A4e customers have come forward with complaints, but that much of what they complain about would be common to all the providers.  But she gives two examples of people who felt that they had been badly treated by A4e.
Fiona Mactaggart MP, who raised the matter in Parliament, is now demanding an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.  The MailOnline reveals that there's a second police investigation going on.  And they home in on the relationship between Harrison and government, exemplified by A4e's employment of Tory insider Jonty Oliff-Cooper, a fact which "emerged last night".  The writers of this piece, Jason Groves and Sam Greenhill, obviously haven't been following this blog.  The fact "emerged" for us a long time ago.  They tread carefully when they mention David Blunkett's link with the company.  As a minister he "advocated private involvement in welfare reform" and is now paid up to £30k a year by A4e, but "there is no suggestion of impropriety".  That kind of half-baked reporting really doesn't help.  We need journalists to do their homework, understand the history and the issues and focus on what matters.  And that's how a single company, be it A4e or Capita or Serco or whoever, can make millions out of delivering public services badly.  And how A4e got away with it for so long.
Last night Emma Harrison's Twitter account was frantically posting links to positive stories on A4eVoice.  That won't be enough.


  1. I have a sense that A4e's response is tantamount to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Too little too late.

  2. There's a grey, wrinkled thing in the corner trumpetting softly to itself and we're all ignoring it. A4E, Ingeus et al are NOT there to find work for anyone whatever their contracts or they themselves state. They are designed to 'support' the unemployed into employment. My branch of A4E has told me time and again that they are not there to broker jobs for me but to provide assistance in my job search. This, apparently, means provision of stationery, postage, computer facilities and provision of local newspapers. As I am not a school leaver being told how to look for work is unnecessary, I need someone to bat on my behalf with a company who may be reluctant to employ an older worker or a long term unemployed worker, a company where I have the skills and experience but not the piece of paper. A4E have consistently told me this is not their job. What are these work-programme companies for then? If they are not finding/providing permanent work placements surely we don't need them? Money for old rope anyone?

  3. I am in the dubiously unique position of having attended both A4e and Ingues.

    I found the staff at Ingues humane, decent, respectful and comfortable to deal with. I felt they genuinely were trying to assist me.

    On the other hand A4e have done nothing but threaten me with benefit sanctions, humiliate me and pressure me into applying for completely irrelevant jobs that I would have no hope in winning. I fear even attending - and many I know feel the same way.

    The difference is like night and day. So whilst I am not a great supporter of the Work programme I am a supporter of treating people with dignity.

    A4e completely fail in that regard.

  4. To top it all A4e have now been awarded with the OLASS contracts for Prison Education in London/Surrey and the East of England.

  5. In all of these stories so far they keep refering to Thornbridge Hall and yet non so far have mentioned her second home in London.


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