Welfare to Work

A4e and the week that was…

A4e and the week that was...

If a week is a long time in politics then the last 9 days have been an age…
A4e and Emma Harrison have had the full weight of the media thrust on them.

Earlier this week yesMinister threw down the gauntlet to the sector to stand alongside A4e against this incesant media barrage.

Our main concern today is for the staff at A4e (Emma – can look after herself), who will be leaving work today wondering what the papers and the broadcast press will have in store for them over the weekend and on Monday.

In the light of the unprecedented onslaught from the media and Margaret Hodge we felt that it was important that the sector as a whole show support for a fellow organisation that is being pilloried.

Quite rightly, we all want to see irregularities and wrong doing rooted out but there is a feeling that this is not only partisan politics but that it is personal.

Let the police do their job and allow the good staff at A4e to do theirs.

Its good to see that DWP and Ministers have kept their nerve … so far….


  1. Just what I was thinking earlier this week too. Where is the rest of the industry? Experience suggests that where one goes others will follow so maybe everyone is off trying to lock their own skeletons in a closet before rising to defend one of their own. Anyone coming out now in support of Emma or A4e will be a bit too little and a bit too late. I do think the other “heads” in the industry should be hanging their own heads in shame for their silence this week and hope to God they never need someone to rally to their cause when they’re being hung out to dry.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I am actually quite impressed with IDS and CG and the stance they have taken this week, and I too hope they keep their nerve. I feel extremely sorry for Emma and can only imagine how utterly devastating this must be for her.

    It really is a sad week for the industry and an even sadder one for everyone involved in this fiasco.

    • I hope the day never comes when we feel sorry for individuals that take 8 million bonuses on the back of the tax payers and at the reputation of other hard working Training Providers who make a modest living in this most worthwhile business
      The devastation comes to those who work hard and long offering a quality service and then hear of companies who get favours from government and are given over sized contracts – A4e contract and all others with contracts over £1 million of Tax payers money should be split into managable size chunks and given to reputable local ompanies, allowing all the innocent A4e staff to continue in their work. Remove MCL and allow small businesses to grow.

      • So are you saying that anyone who has a certain amount of money doesn’t deserve any sympathy when everything they’ve spent their life working for is falling apart in front of them? Maybe no company should have a large contract to deliver government business, but they do. If you don’t like the system that’s one thing but does that make it okay to destroy someone’s life, whether they’re paid minimum wage or £1 million a month.

        I’m not a huge A4e fan, but they legitimately bid for, won and delivered government contracts – it’s the government’s fault if they haven’t held A4e and every other provider to account for quality of delivery and financial audit. At the time the fraud happened A4e dealt with it quickly and had KPMG or someone in to do a full audit. That wouldn’t have been cheap but they did it.

        Why is Emma’s pain worth any less sympathy than the administrator in A4e’s Manchester office? Take away the money and she’s still a person with hopes, dreams, worries, problems. This whole saga shows the worst of human nature.

    • Totally agree…..

  2. The whole business around A4e is ghastly. But in reality they are merely a symptom of a cynical misuse of statistics, budgetting, counting outputs and public funding that all politicians seem to engage in. There is a wilful ignorance, at best, on the part of politicians (and I suppose civil servants must condone and collude in this) as to the real cost of making a difference in people’s lives, especially in terms of finding jobs. Companies like A4E take the money on a payment by results basis, which means that the quantifiable outputs become more important than the service to the people. They collude in allowing govt ministers and officers to go on deceiving themselves (and us, if they can) that you can do this stuff ‘en masse’ – you can’t, as the current crisis shows. You cannot deal with people as products. Not even the colleges, who have been equally guilty of cynical manipulation of the output figures, can do this. If you really want to effect change, it takes time. And care. And real knowledge and expertise. Hundreds of small organisations who really know the territory, who really understand the sectors they specialise in or the unemployed people they work with, have been put out of business (or of this aspect of their business) because their integrity prevents them from subscribing to the unreasonable numbers of outputs that are demanded. So now it simply is not good enough to have an enquiry into what happened at A4e. Govt has only itself to blame – if you leave £8m lying in the road, you really shouldn’t complain if someone takes it. More importantly, the enquiry should really be looking at the genuine cost of helping unemployed people into work, from unemployed graduates to long term, generational unemployed. The answers will be uncomfortable; it will require a rethink on the part of Govt as to the expertise and investment of time that is necessary to effect change for individuals; and it will challenge them to prove that they have not, in fact, been wasting public money – the reality is that a bigger spend would have provided disproportionately better (and more reliable) results in the long run.

    Looking on the bright side, however, the solution should make this Govt rejoice, rejoice – here is a classic example of how the whole service would benefit exponentially by being part of “The Big Society” in its best sense, with small local companies, characterised by real hard headed expertise coupled with great values, being commissioned to provide customised support that produces genuinely meaningful results for both the individual and society. We all should grab this chance to make a real difference in policy, understanding and, yes, results!

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