Friday, 22 June 2012

It's not fair

A4e have a page on their website headed "The Facts Behind the Coverage" and they've recently updated it.  It's a valiant attempt to deal with what they see as misinformation, and some of it, we would have to concede, is justified.  Some of it, however, is open to debate.

They talk about their performance.  They have "outperformed the market average on meeting performance targets" on previous programmes.  Yes, but they nowhere near met those targets. The fact that nobody else did either doesn't help much.  As for the Work Programme, they are "operating in line with our expectations".  But we don't know what those expectations are.  On value for money they say, "For every £1 spent by the Government on our Work Programme services, we deliver back £1.95 in revenue to the taxpayer."  It's very difficult to see how they justify that statement, especially as they point to the payment by results model and say "we don’t get paid if we don’t succeed".  They actually get paid £400 for every starter, regardless of outcome.
Turning to the fraud allegations, they point out the "positive findings" of the investigation by the DWP and the SFA.  This is something which the public are not allowed to know about.  All those many people who put in FoI requests to see the results of this investigation were told that there were excellent reasons for refusing.  In talking about the Public Accounts Committee meeting in May they say that there were 6 whistle blowers.  They reiterate that "the majority of allegations made by Mr Hutchinson are unfounded and untrue", which is convenient since he's the only one who has been identified.  And I don't think they are taking him to court.  What about the other 5?  Were they lying too?

A4e, like all the providers, are keen to focus on the Work Programme and put the past behind them.  The WP has raised major issues about how clients (I refuse to call them "customers", as if they had purchasing options) are treated, but the black box model, and lack of inspection, mean that the companies are not held to account for this.  It's all hanging on the numbers - and we're not allowed to know about them yet.


  1. Perhaps it's worth mentioning that a claims made by a company on its website can be complained about to the Advertising Standards Authority (via their website). So if anyone thinks that there are false claims or claims that aren't substantiated by facts or even information presented as fact that are incapable of substantion, then the answer is to complain to the ASA.
    The site is here:
    There is a link at the bottom of the page which takes you to the page where you can log your complaint.
    It is possible to log a complaint and not have your personal details passed on to A4e.
    I think it's still worth complaining even if others have already made a sinmilar complaint. The more the merrier.
    Legal, Decent, Honest, Truthful - sums up a4e don't you think?

  2. On 1 May 2012 Michael Wish made an FOI request to the DWP via e-mail asking them to provide him with copies of “forms/documents your partner Action for Employment (A4E) asks people to sign as part of any welfare to work scheme A4E provide to them in the Liverpool/Aintree/South Sefton area.” On 20 June 2012 the DWP Adelphi Freedom-of-Request responded, sending him a number of documents, including A4e’s Work Programme Agreement and their Customer Consent Form. Both the WP Agreement and Consent Forms contain the following:

    ‘I agree to my personal details, including CV's, being shared, in hard copy or electronic format, with Jobcentre Plus, the Department of Work & Pensions, the European Social Fund and legitimate organisations or employers.

    I understand that my personal details may be used for the following purposes: -
    1. To improve my employability
    2. Collation of Management Information
    3. Evaluation of the programme including statistical analysis (during and after)’

    The Customer Consent Form goes on to state that the customer may withhold consent without this affecting his/her entitlement to benefits or future participation in the Work Programme. However, the WP Agreement does not provide for an opt-out of this kind. It appears to me that if you refuse to sign the Customer Consent Form (which you’re perfectly entitled to do) but sign the WP Agreement you are effectively negating your refusal and giving them permission to share your data. Or am I missing something?

    Michael Wish’s FOI request:

    A4e’s Customer Consent Form (HTML):

    A4e’s Work Programme Agreement (HTML):

    1. This is the very reason people need to read everything they are given before signing paperwork.

      I did not sign A4e's induction checklist because it also gave them permission to share my personal infomation. This form does not have the statement that it is optional! Most people will just tick the boxes that they have been shown the fire exits/what to do in an emergency etc and just sign it without reading the small print.

      A very underhand way of getting peoples permission to share their personal infomation.

    2. Until the Work Programme I didn't have much sympathy for people going on about this sharing personal information, because it only involved the JCP and the provider. Now it can involve other parties like potential employers, so it matters more.

  3. The "My Work Programme Agreement" is pretty much the same worthless bunch of statements from their previous NfD agreement. It requires the client to agree to an unspecified "Employment Plan" and any/all activities specified within. Then there is the statement [that we will] "Treat you as we would wish to be treated ourselves" - Presumably, when the "adviser" is rude, insulting, and/or threatening, the attitude can be reciprocated by the client ?

  4. "The level of benefits generated varies with provider performance. The Department has calculated in the business case that for the Department’s central performance assumption – 36 per cent job outcomes – that the Programme will generate £1.95 of social benefits for every £1.00 spent"

    "As soon as you get into the sort of levels you have seen on previous programmes and above, you are at value for money, on the first line up after that-the brownish line-of £1.45 for every £1 you have invested. The green line is £1.95 for every £1 you have invested and the line at the top, the bidder’s provider, is £3.15 for every £1 you have invested. It clearly matters what level of performance you get in order to be able to answer the question what the value for money is."

    By making this statement this month A4E are stating they are on track to smash previous programme performance and hit 36% outcomes. While much less than the performance they forecast for themselves in their bid documents, this is still good news.

    Obviously if they had internal figures showing their performance was not on track to meet 36% this would be a falsehood and require investigation by the ASA.


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