On Thursday, the website Ipswich Unemployment Action provided a link to an internal A4e document (pdf), that appeared to indicate poor performance on behalf of the embattled welfare-to work company, which has won more than £200million in contracts with the department of work and pensions.
It featured this table:
The top of the document reads:
“This dashboard allows you to view the general health and performance of an office at a glance – however it is a guideline, not the full picture, leaving other factors that must be considered. All data is displayed on a ‘cohort’ basis – as this dashboard is a measure of our performance to customers and our operational practices.”
It is dated throughout 03/01/2012, and the table is headed as ‘Contract to date’. The current work programme contracts were awarded 1st April 2011.
The way the work programme operates is shown in Figure 1 below, from a Department for Work and Pensions document (page 5, pdf). The contracted company is given a fee on taking on an unemployed client. They receive a second fee when that person stays in a job for 26 weeks, and further weekly payments up to a year for every week that person stays in that job.
Further complicating the work programme is that the government contracts the work to companies like A4e, who then sub-contract it to smaller companies – except in some cases, A4e acts as a subcontractor and not contractor.
The table shows individual results for each of A4e’s partner organisations, of which it is unclear whether they are contractors or subcontractors, that we have blacked out in case we breach commercial confidentiality, with totals at the bottom for the overall programme.
What the table appears to show is that the job entry rate, i.e. the proportion of individuals A4e is responsible for at some level, manages to find a job for, is 8.4 per cent overall and 9.7 per cent if ‘specialists’ – those partners dealing with difficult cases – are excluded.
Meanwhile, the percentage of those who secure a job managing to hold on to that job for 26 weeks, appears to be denoted by the Outcome/Potential Outcome collumn, which has a total of 1.9%, including and excluding difficult cases. If this is the right reading of the table, then it represents a dramatic undershooting of the Department for Work and Pensions’ own targets.
As can be seen from this National Audit Office report (pdf) published in January 2012, the DWP expects 36 per cent of those referred to companies such as A4e to be secured a job for at least 26 weeks (page 4), and 28 per cent of those not on the Work programme to reach this milestone on their own (page 22).
To clarify these issues, we sent an email to A4e on Thursday as follows:
“Thanks so much for your time before. Please find the attached document, which was made public on the Ipswich Unemployed Action website earlier today.
“Can I confirm that it records the success rates for A4e at different stages of the work programme, as well as for individual partners?
“Can I confirm whether in the relationship between A4e and the partner, who is the contractor and who is the sub-contractor?
“Can I confirm that 8.9 per cent of those on this programme have received a job?
“Can I confirm that the collumn (Outcome) / (Potential Outcomes) refers to those is (numbers of those who have been in continuous employment for 26 weeks since they began their job)/ ( numbers for whom 26 weeks has passed since they began their job)?
“Can I confirm what date the contract started as referred to ‘contract to date’ at the top of each page?
“We would carry any comment from A4e.
“Please let me know what time you can get this to me as we will run in the morning.
They responded thus:
“The data was drawn from a test website which is confidential and protected. It is a snapshot in time, and is already out of date. It reflects performance of our partners and not that of A4e.
“It does not in any way provide a fair assessment of Work Programme delivery or success, and to imply otherwise would be highly misleading. It was obtained from a password protected, secure site, in breach of confidentiality.”
“I have copied in our legal representative, Mark Stephens, from Finers Stephens Innocent, who will respond further on this point should you have any further questions. We won’t hesitate to take the strongest legal action should you publish this data or make any of the inferences set out.
We emailed back asking exactly on what grounds, with reference to which points of law, they would take legal action on our publishing this document, but to no response. In the absence of any response, and with A4e refusing to answer our questions, we leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions.
• Look Left – A4e: Corruption, fraud and the £200m failure to help the unemployed – Shamik Das, March 2nd 2012
• A4e’s fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years – Fiona MacTaggart MP, March 2nd 2012
• The government’s got big plans for workfare – don’t expect them to back down easily– Izzy Koksal, February 27th 2012
• The information you need to end workfare – Alex Hern, February 22nd 2012
• Chris Grayling should respond to criticism of workfare, not smear the critics – Izzy Koksal, February 21st 2012