A4e’s fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years

Fiona MacTaggart writes about the two years she's spent fighting against A4e and their shoddy practices; Now that it's all blown up, what's next?

 

Fiona MacTaggart MP (Labour, Slough) is a member of the public accounts select committee

In politics often you plug away at an issue with no-one noticing, and then it becomes big news.

Over the last two years I had reported A4e, which is contracted to provide services to unemployed people in my constituency, three times to the national auditor. When the police went into their Slough offices and arrested four former employees, the company hit the headlines.

It turned out that as well as asking clients to sign blank timesheets, officials of this company had claimed payment for jobs which had only lasted for one day.

A4e has become successful by cutting its costs, and often provides poor service to unemployed people. Some unemployed people have been happy to keep quiet; those who never wanted a job in the first place were content to attend “courses” where they read newspapers, or to pretend they had attended when they had not.

But the constituents who complained to me wanted to escape unemployment and often knew exactly what extra qualification they needed to get into work. The problem was, they could not afford it from job seekers allowance of £67.50 per week. Often the company implied it could help, but only offered courses which had little worth and no recognition.

Since I have been raising concerns, I have been approached by many people who feel let down by A4e.  Many of them were taken on by A4e itself into unpaid roles in the company, doing unsupervised work including training other unemployed people, working as a receptionist, filing records, and so on.  None of them have been employed into a paid role.

And that is an important issue which has not been addressed. These schemes can give people experience of work. But too often it is someone else’s work, and an unpaid worker substitutes for a paid worker. In many entry level jobs it has become very hard for people to work enough hours to qualify for tax credits and other help for the low paid.

Ironically companies like A4e are pursuing a policy which reduces the total number of jobs available, and although Jobcentre Plus guidelines suggest that work experience referrals should not be used to cover busy times, there are no clear guidelines to prevent wholesale job substitution.

Emma Harrison, the boss of A4e, took over £8million out of the company last year: all profits from our taxes. I think we have a right to insist that we get high standards of service in return.

See also:

The government’s got big plans for workfare – don’t expect them to back down easilyIzzy Koksal, February 27th 2012

Workfare versus compulsory work: When is it right and wrong to mandate labour?Richard Exell, February 24th 2012

The information you need to end workfareAlex Hern, February 22nd 2012

Chris Grayling should respond to criticism of workfare, not smear the criticsIzzy Koksal, February 21st 2012

Tesco’s unpaid labour shows the flaw at the heart of workfareAlex Hern, February 16th 2012

40 Responses to “A4e’s fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years”

  1. Socrates

    Even with their allegedly fraudulent behaviour their performance in getting people into work was/is woefully low – these are their own figures accidentally published on their website: http://workprogramme.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/a4e-performance.pdf

  2. Political Planet

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  3. Alex Braithwaite

    RT @leftfootfwd: A4e's fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years http://t.co/fYl6Wls2

  4. Vanessa

    A4e's fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years, writes @fionamacmp: http://t.co/8DFphJAR #workfare

  5. Patron Press - #P2

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  6. Yrotitna

    A4e's fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years, writes @fionamacmp: http://t.co/8DFphJAR #workfare

  7. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – A4e’s fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years http://t.co/pFNPpzPT

  8. Nick H.

    A4e's fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years, writes @fionamacmp: http://t.co/8DFphJAR #workfare

  9. ElaineSco

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  10. Jane Leach

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  11. Martin Steel

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  12. Look Left – A4e: Corruption, fraud and the £200m failure to help the unemployed | Left Foot Forward

    […] Left Foot Forward today, Fiona MacTaggart MP, a member of the public accounts committee, explained how A4e’s fall from grace “has been in the pipeline for two years”, their sickening failure […]

  13. Anonymous

    One might investigate the horrendous tales of misused sanctions on the net

    Additionally coercion to sign the employer data protection release document – the one they use to get paid.

  14. rewards for failure

    A4e have serious form.
    A4e authored 2008 report on their methods in Israel:
    (note how the customer journey on the last page circa 2008 is almost no different in substance to their one in use today )

    http://www.lfi.org.uk/files/LFI_Future%20of%20New%20Deal.pdf

    “Based on their success in the Jerusalem Mehalev pilot, A4e/Amin was awarded the Lights for Employment contract for all of Jerusalem, which they have now been operating since August 2007.”

    What Oxfam said of this “success”
    http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/TheLaborersVoice.pdf

    ” succeeded in its objective to reduce welfare spending by 35%. However, it argues that the
    money was saved at the expense of hundreds of participants who lost their benefits without finding an alternative source of income. ”

    Basic business model is spend no money, treat people like crap then as soon as people stop showing up put in a claim and cross your fingers they are actually working / DWP doesn’t do a fool proof check. If people starve or go on to commit crime that’s the taxpayers problem…

    Its a rain-maker scam on an industrial scale : If people don’t get jobs blame the economy and ask for more money. If they do take the credit (and ask for more money anyway)

  15. guest1

    Voluntary workers at A4e are allowed to pay travel money to the customers taking money out of the petty cash!! Don’t think it’s a good practice, moreover it is illigal. The customers are asked to come and sign the timesheets even after finishing the course!! All this is done with A4e managers’ authorisation. How does that relate to A4e company policy, I wonder?

  16. Ashley Iredale

    A4E are a wast of time and space they have not helped me once just caused me mores trouble i have had 4 complaints with them not one was delt with properly they are rubbish

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  19. Nick

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  20. BevR

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  21. BevR

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  24. Forgotten World's

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  27. Staffordshire UNISON

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  34. The document A4E doesn’t want you to see | Left Foot Forward

    […] • A4e’s fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years – Fiona MacTaggart MP, March 2nd 2012 […]

  35. New report reveals “devastating evidence of systemic fraud within A4e” | Left Foot Forward

    […] A4e’s fall from grace has been in the pipeline for two years 2 Mar […]

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