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.