Thursday, 16 February 2012

Moving on?

The fuss dies down, the media spotlight moves away from A4e, and nothing has changed.  It's time to remind myself, and my readers, why this matters.

Successive governments decided that the delivery of public services would be more efficient if it was motivated by private profit.  A few outsourcing businesses such as Capita and Serco grew fat, making big profits for their bosses and shareholders.  The last Labour government applied the same logic to welfare-to-work efforts.  In 2006 the role of Jobcentre Plus was downgraded and people were sackedOne company, A4e, did so well from the privatisation that other players couldn't understand how they'd done it.  However, those New Deal contracts were so badly designed that results were half of what had been promised; projected outcomes of 50% came in at 25%.  Still, the contractors made a profit, and A4e widened its business, scooping up contracts in a wide range of public services, all of them dealing with the most disadvantaged people.  On the back of its success in Britain, it secured contracts abroad.  

Flexible New Deal delivered even poorer outcomes than its predecessor, but profits were still good.  And through all this, A4e behaved in a very different way from its rivals.  Who could name the boss of any other outsourcing company?  But Emma Harrison was the very public face of A4e, hungry for publicity and advising governments.  There was bad publicity, certainly.  Yet none of it lasted.  TV producers wanted to go after the company, but had decided that the only way to do such reports was with whistle-blowers and / or secret filming, so it was left to radio producers to keep up the pressure.  Harrison seemed fire-proof, however, and the incoming coalition government decided that she was the person to rescue the country from its burden of workless families.

The government was unable to rid itself of the delusion that profit was the best incentive.  The Work Programme has been designed to reward only "success".  It was never considered that a better way was to beef up Jobcentre Plus.  There was outrage when the amount of money which Harrison personally had made from contracts last year was publicised, especially when it was linked to a distinct lack of success.  Of course, the other outsourcing companies had made similar profits, but none of them had the same public profile as Harrison and A4e.  All that money could have gone to creating jobs or shaping a better service to the unemployed.

I regularly get comments from readers which I can't publish.  They tell stories of experiences with A4e which I can't verify.  But they add to the picture of a company which needs continuing scrutiny.  


  1. We collectively need to be a very hungry dog with a juicy bone with this issue. We should not let go!

    As an example, I was listening to the R5L debate on unemployment yesterday. A Tory MP Sam Gyimah mentioned the WP when asked what his govt was doing to tackle the issue. I think he said that out of a target of 36%, the WP had achieved a target of 23%. Now not only is this STILL missing the already low target, notch both those figures up by 3 or 4% and what do you have? A 40% target and a 26% achievement rate predicted by the Nat Audit Office a couple of weeks ago which were disputed by Chris Grayling as premature! This is the sort of spin and contradiction that needs to be far more openly challenged.

    The pressure on A4e et al also needs to be kept up more so than before. For example, if the general public are now saying that RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland) is now pretty much in the public sector (considering it is 84% govt / taxpayer owned), its boss, Stephen Hester should not be getting a whopping bonus of nearly £1m. Under massive public pressure he did eventually forgo this bonus. However, are A4e any different? As Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee said, they (A4e) make just about all their money from the taxpayer. Therefore, the huge dividends Ms Harrison is Awarded from A4e need to go on public record and be judged accordingly.

    The pressure on the A4e, other W2W providers, the WP, the DWP and the govt needs to be kept up and indeed ramped up more than ever before.

    I intend to do my bit, that's for sure!

    1. That 26% for the WP is a nonsense. A few days ago A4e in Liverpool admitted that it was running at 14%. It probably varies wildly round the country. Beware of the spin!

    2. I agree. It's just that many supporting daft schemes such as the WP do not know the facts and will spout any nonsense even if it is contradictary.

      That said, a even a 40% target is not THAT high is it? It's obvious govt already knows low % figures are going to be the norm. It would not surprise me if some areas achieve under 10%!

  2. I cannot believe that people can be so crass and blinkered as to EXPECT providers such as A4e to achieve 40% outcomes!!!

    Let's get real - most of the clients referred to WP are LTU (Long term unemployed) having been out of work for over 18 months. Given the economic climate and the fact that they are in direct competition with newly graduated, school leavers - not to mention recently unemployed with good work records, what do you think is realistic?

    This is the 2nd time I have commented on this subject and I suppose it will not be published as I do not agree that schemes such as WP are futile.

    I am NOT a tory or hard liner against the unemployed, but I am sick of people not telling it as it is! Many people are simply better off on benefits and will not take just any job - even if it means that they get on the employment ladder.

    1. What you forget is that the contractors themselves promised 40% outcomes in order to get the contracts. Some even bid well below what the government expected in order to get them. So they were "crass and blinkered" ones, perhaps?

  3. I have done my bit.. Being interviewed on bbc radio about it. being mentioned on the bbc news page. I think the unemployed do need to go tell people what its like. 6 degrees of separation and all that. Talk to anyone, everyone about it. If you know someone in the press tell them, tell them to pass it on to a higher up if they can.

    We need to spread the word.

  4. Well said historian. the gullible will always easily fooled though.

  5. Take any job? it seems alot of jobs nowadays are with out even the minimum wage. and even a job with the minimum wage is hardly enough to cover the ever increasing cost of living, and get on the employment ladder? with graduates working in mcdonalds is that getting on the employment ladder?

  6. Even A4greed's employees seem to be getting the message! This from the Indus Delta site (read before it's censored by the fascist site moderator):
    Submitted by Disgruntled A4e... on Thu, 16/02/2012 - 10:52pm.
    I work for A4e in the East Midlands and could not believe my eyes when I saw the obscene amount that Emma Harrison was paying herself.

    Considering the amount of presure that the management are putting on everyone to get unrealistic targets because we apparently have no money (!!)its nice to know that those extra hours we all put in, the extra miles we go to achieve our results are all for a good cause.

    Despite what a lot of people seem to think there are some really good, talented people working all kinds of hours to help their customers who struggle to get paid what they are worth.

    I know I am not alone here when I say that I will be getting myself out of this company at the first opportunity. They have already bullied, harrassed and forced enough people out of the door while pursuing extremely unachievable targets.

    The management need to have a long hard look at themselves and stop destroying the very people who helped them to achieve their lofty status. Very disappointed in Andrew Dutton for defending the undefendable, I wonder what his share of the 11M was eh>

  7. In the video from the parliamentary tv. He pays a4e for the chance to buy shares, if and when emma harrison gives her shares up..


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