Wednesday, 19 June 2013

A4e gives its opinion

Some time back people told us here that they had encountered Jobcentre advisers in A4e offices, accessing their personal details alongside the A4e "advisers".  Now we know why.  And we know A4e's thinking on how they can get more fully involved with JCP's business.
A4e often submits written evidence to parliamentary committees; it's not clear whether that's by invitation or not.  The latest document was submitted to the Work and Pensions Select Committee earlier this month, and can be read here.  The committee is holding an inquiry into the role of JCP in "the reformed welfare system".    A4e's document stresses first how it has supported "tens of thousands of people into work" and worked closely with JCP.  Then it talks about how it has worked with JCP over a number of different schemes.  "A better functioning JCP," it says, "results in better services for A4e's customers."
That sounds innocuous enough; but it ignores the fact that it was the outsourcing of New Deal in 2006 which caused intense problems for JCP, including large-scale staff redundancies and a souring of relationships between JCP staff and the providers.  It also uses that totally misleading word, "customers".
There's a glitch in para 1.2, with a sentence repeated; rubbish proof-reading by somebody.  But paras 1.2 to 1.4 tell us that every claimant should have an initial assessment and those with the "biggest barriers to employment" should be put on the Work Programme immediately so that they can receive the "depth of tailored service" which A4e provides.  
The notion of "barriers" permeates this document, enabling them to play the government's tune of unemployment being the fault of the jobless.  Paras 2.0 to 2.2 detail how A4e wants JCP to be the "gateway" to the services provided by the private sector, and the need, as they see it, to integrate (or join up, in their terminology) with the services of "GP surgeries, housing associations and other local authority services".  In pursuit of this integration A4e has been locating JCP advisers in A4e offices and vice versa.  "This co-location has improved communications between our organisations", improved data sharing and reduced paperwork.  They are going to do more of it.
Finally, they want JCP to learn from A4e how to engage with employers, citing the company's links with the Co-operative Group in the North West.  "JCP should attempt a more strategic approach by working to ensure that they are helping claimants into growth industries while directing them away from occupational areas in decline. A ‘one size fits all’ approach limits effectiveness and as we know through delivering the Work Programme, it is vital that JCP has the capacity to strategically react to different employers, of different sizes, in different locations."  This will anger a lot of Jobcentre managers, who know the difficulties of getting claimants into any sort of job, and don't need advice from the likes of A4e.
We hear in this document some familiar ambitions from A4e, and some new ones.  They haven't directly said, "Outsource the jobcentres so that we can bid for the contracts", but the logic is inescapable.  In their scenario, what would be the point of JCP at all, except as a signing-on point, and with Universal Credit even that role can go.


  1. I commented on one of your posts a few months back about my experience with an A4e adviser in my local Jobcentre when i went to sign on.

    the a4e adviser was pouring all over my personal details, scrolling up and down the screen, sometimes tutting, hardly ever looking me in the eye. i questioned both her and my JCP adviser- a young lady who is always pleasant and polite- about the data protection implications and the A4e adviser quite literally laughed it off. The JCP adviser looked awkward and didn't respond.

    The purpose of the A4e agent being there, I was told, was to 'enhance the Universal Jobmatch experience'

    At that point I was applying for 20 - 30 jobs a week and had an inbox full of fraud seeker emails from the DWP thanking me for notifying them about dodgy jobs listed on the site- everything from pyramid schemes to commission only sales jobs to 419 scams asking for passport scans. I have since moved into full time work and it most definitely was without the help of Universal Jobmatch.

    Anyway, I digress. I told the A4e adviser I was doing quite well, at which point she said quite loudly, 'Well, if you're such a genius, why don't you have a job?'

    I was gobsmacked. The JCP adviser looked mortified.


    'Well,' the A4e advisor had such a smug face. 'If you're so brilliant at using this site, why are you in here claiming?'

    I couldn't provide a credible answer. To be fair, I could hardly speak. I was so taken aback it was all I could do to keep myself from launching into a furious rant.

    Then the game became clear. A4e were running a Universal Jobmatch skills sharpening course later in the week. Everybody that has been on the WP knows what came next.

    'Do I have to go?'

    'No, we can't force you.'

    'Will I be sanctioned if I don't go?'

    'That will be left up to a decision maker.'

    Etc. Etc. Etc. For about 15 minutes before I gave in.

    The course itself was useless. Despite being a Universal Jobmatch training course we didn't even go on the computers- it was all done on a whiteboard. If this is what the privatisation of public services looks like in the UK I pray for the future.

  2. Have I missed something over the past 2 years? The WP,including A4E have failed terribly carrying out a programme that A4E was paid as "Advisers" to help set up(the WP).Previous failures were not to be taken in to account when they bid on the WP,I take it this will also apply to any new contracts that they can get IDS\Hoban or the DWP to agree to.

    1. The One True Elg19 June 2013 at 11:32

      Unfortunately this is no longer about A4e's credibility, it's about politics.

      It is the Conservative view that private is always better than public, so if there must be public services then they should be out sourced as much as possible to private companies so they can deliver ''Efficiency'' and a ''Better service''. Of course, we know this rarely ever materialises.

      Labour's left wing legacy is still hanging over it, the 70's and successive electoral defeats show that being on the left doesn't win elections in this country anymore, a party must be centre ground. Labour can't defend the public sector without looking like they're playing to the Unions tune or that they're lurching to the socialist left, so privatisation is hugely important to their image as a centre ground party.

      This means privatisation will not end, regardless of the performance of the private companies who usually get involved. Only a scandal of truly epic proportions could reverse this tide. This means eventually the JCP will be divided up and contracted out to private companies and that does mean A4e, if they can PR their way out of the WP disaster and I'm sure they will with government support.

  3. this sounds positively dystopian.

  4. I wonder what the PCS union thinks about this new study by A4e.. Of course A4e glosses over that they have failed in every work programme, but lets forget the millions given to them, the people punished and suffered due to their actions..

  5. cant wait to see my adviser to tell them about my time on the wp

    had 1 20min induction meting 2 years ago n that was me done with it so cant wait for my exit report as it will all be done by fraud if 1 is sent to the jcp.

  6. New Deal, New Deal for Disabled People, Flexible New Deal, the Work Programme - now at last the need to FINALLY identify "customers" needs but will they listen and learn? Of course JCP ought to have stronger links to growth industries too. Makes a change from blaming benefit claimants.

  7. I've just rejected an anonymous comment which is a bit too explicit, and which covers ground we have frequently covered here. But I've kept it to quote from in future, if that's okay.


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