Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Reflections on those accounts

It's very telling that no one in the media has shown the slightest interest in A4e's latest accounts.  How different from the furore nearly three years ago which brought down Emma Harrison and very nearly destroyed the company.
How have they done it?  They've scraped their way back to profit, just, from a dire situation, and they've done it by not trying to compete with the big boys.  The chairman talked about "discipline".  They've put in realistic bids for contracts but withdrawn when they could see that they were going to be undercut by companies which could afford to lose money initially and then get the contract changed to allow them a profit.  It's not a game A4e wants to play any more.  And they've pulled out of foreign parts (except for Australia), presumably because it was costing too much to keep up that international presence.  From a company with limitless ambition they've become a medium-sized outfit looking to make a living.
I suppose we should be pleased.  But there's no comfort in the fact that a few huge companies now run the bulk of our public services and behave as if there are no risks or consequences of failure.

Meanwhile, there was an interesting story on the Disability News Service website last month.  A former A4e employee, Chris Loder, took the company to a tribunal claiming constructive dismissal.  He alleged that he had been forced to work with vulnerable ESA clients, some with mental health problems, when he had no experience in this area and was given no training.  A former colleague, supporting him, described the policy as "incredibly dangerous".  The article prints a long statement from A4e refuting the claims.  The tribunal's verdict is due this month.

And speaking of verdicts, there still isn't one in the Slough fraud case, being heard in Reading.  Before the holidays it was reported on the courts' website that the jury was out, but today there's no further news.

Do you remember A4e's Hayley Taylor and her 5 minutes of fame as the "Fairy Jobmother"?  It seemed the company might have another star in the offing.  ITV have a programme starting this Thursday called Bring Back Borstal, and A4e were publicising the fact that one of their managers, a woman connected with their prison education contracts, was going to be on it.  That link has now disappeared, so I've no idea what's happening.


  1. It does seem that they (A4E) are avoiding the spotlight,but they are still creeping around the charity that I volunteer at,rather than approach the head office? they are going direct to the outlets/shops and approaching the managers asking if they would help out the unemployed gain experience in retail,no mention of it being MWA,when questioned it is like trying to get an answer from IDS regarding statistics,now all requests are routed through head office and must be vetted and the client interviewed
    before being considered (at a cost to A4E) and must be voluntary....A4E is no longer interested.

    1. Sick of the Work Programme7 January 2015 at 02:29

      Well, if your charity does get anyone referred to it by A4e, I hope you find out for certain whether that individual has really volunteered or whether they have in fact been mandated to 'volunteer' by A4e. If I were the manager of one of your charity's shops, I would not want anything to do with an organisation which was being so evasive.

    2. The charity run resource centre I volunteer at in Leeds has been approached by A4e, BEST (now owned by Interserve I believe) and Working Links in the past.

      People were sent to us via these providers. Of course no payment was ever offered despite the clients being taken off the hands of A4e et al. I soon put the staff straight about the policies of these providers.

  2. With regard to Chris Loder, I've heard that the DWP have recently decided to do away with specialist "Work coaches" who might actually know something about dealing with sick/disabled Benefits claimants. Presumably A4e might argue that they were only anticipating and thereby following the DWP's recent example?

    Of course the whole thing stinks, morally. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury deals with bad smells in the UK, I believe?

  3. Sick of the Work Programme8 January 2015 at 07:31

    On the subject of the A4e employment tribunal, it is interesting to note that news about it appears in this fortnight's edition of Private Eye magazine:


  4. Just a quickie. File on Four (BBC R4), 20.00 on the 20th Jan 2015. Looking at the ludicrous and punitive issue of benefit sanctions.

    "Benefit sanctions are supposed to be part of a system helping people back to work. But critics say they penalise the vulnerable and are among the reasons for the growing use of food banks. So how fair is the Government's system of withholding state payments for those who don't comply with welfare rules? Allan Urry hears from whistleblowers who allege some JobCentrePlus staff are setting claimants up to fail in order to meet internal performance targets. Why did a recovering amputee lose his benefits because he didn't answer the phone?"

    Courtesy of the BBC.


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