Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

A4E: The Beginning of the End?

with 17 comments

Is this the beginning of the end for A4E and millionaire Emma Harrison?

The Guardian’s Shiv Malik  Reports (from Here.):

The Department of Work and Pensions has terminated a contract with a back-to-work company some of whose employees are under police investigation for fraud.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, the DWP said that after its own investigation into the company, A4e, it had found no evidence of fraud but felt that it was “too risky” to allow the contract for organising mandatory work placements in the south-east region to continue.

A4e says it still operates 16 other contracts for several back-to-work schemes and that these will remain in place.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, the department found that in an investigation of A4e’s Windsor office – which is at the centre of a Thames Valley police investigation – 97% of payments to the company under the mandatory work activity (MWA) programme were correctly billed for and logged. “In the remaining 3% of cases,” the statement said, “DWP investigators were nevertheless satisfied that the anomalies were attributable to inadequate procedures rather than fraud.

“The audits for the work programme, the new enterprise allowance programme and mandatory work activity are now complete. They have found no evidence of fraud in any of these contracts.

“However, while the team found no evidence of fraud, it identified significant weaknesses in A4e’s internal controls on the mandatory work activity contract in the south-east.”

The DWP’s most severe criticism was about A4e’s supporting paperwork, which it described as “seriously inadequate”, and in a small number of cases it said claims were “erroneous”.

So, A4E can’t manage ‘paperwork’, and its “significant weakness” included “inadequate procedures”.

Readers of this Blog, and others from those caught up in the Work Programme Business, would say that there is a lot more to say on this account.

Labour’s Liam Byrne MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary,  said (Here):

“After 8 arrests at A4e the shambles in DWP contracts is now spreading.

“We demanded that the Government came clean about these contracts months ago.

“Now we hear they have been forced to cancel a contract vital to helping get people back to work just as Britain has hit a double dip recession made in Downing Street.

“The Government must now stop hiding performance information about the rest of its giant private sector contracts and publish so that Parliament can see whether public money is being well spent.”

Last night on television Margaret Hodge (Labour) of the Public Accounts Committee spoke of how she had received large numbers of complaints about A4E. Some were about “bad practice” others, we would say, sound like gross incompetence. We ourselves have had posts about bullying and systematic mismanagement.

Not to mention that the Work Programme is unable to fulfil its objectives: put hundreds of thousands of people into work, or offer genuine training.

The Guardian continues,

The most recent figures show that across the country 24,010 jobseekers have been referred by jobcentres to do MWA, which means they must work for four weeks unpaid for 30 hours a week. When the scheme was set up last year, numerous private companies and charities bid to organise the placements on behalf of Jobcentre Plus. Companies are paid an upfront fee for each month-long placement in a charity or business that they organise.

This is the worst kind of workfare.

It is obligatory unpaid work, with no normal employment rights. It has been used to fill the gaps left by government cuts. The only people getting anything out it are those, including charities, in the “unemployment business” – like A4E.

There is more:

The DWP added that the company, some of whose employees are under investigation for fraud relating to its other back-to-work contracts, was also not compliant with its own internal guidance.

“The process established prior to March fell significantly short of our expectations. As a result, the department has concluded that continuing with this contract presents too great a risk and we have terminated the mandatory work activity contract with A4e for the south-east,” it said.

The DWP said contingency plans were in place to keep placements going.

A4E brushed aside  the news, as well try they might,

In its own statement the company, whose former chair Emma Harrison recently resigned, said it welcomed he “positive findings” of the investigation and dismissed the MWA contract as “small”.

“A4e today welcomed the positive findings of the audits undertaken by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) into allegations of fraudulent activity. Both confirmed they identified no evidence of fraud, systemic, attempted or otherwise in relation to any audit completed of the contracts they hold with A4e,” the company said.

“Along with reviews by the Welsh and Northern Ireland assembly governments, this means that the majority of A4e’s business has been fully examined by external auditors – ensuring our customers and government funders can have full confidence in our organisation.”

A4e added that just five staff members were employed on the £1m contract and it made up just 0.5% of the company’s total revenues.

The chief executive, Andrew Dutton, said: “These findings demonstrate what I have always maintained to be true – that there is no place for fraud at A4e and make it clear that A4e has strong controls around its flagship contract, the work programme. Our immediate task is to further enhance our controls to cement our position as a trusted provider of frontline public services.

“As a company, I recognise that we haven’t got it right all of the time, but we are committed to taking responsibility for our mistakes and remedying them.

“No other provider has undergone such a thorough and forensic review of its contracts, and the positive outcome speaks for itself – this is huge reassurance for taxpayers and our customers.”

The company added: “Our administrative processes fell short of our own standards and those required by DWP, and to this end we have accepted that the MWA contract will be terminated.”

Two issues remain.

A4E is not alone in having ‘inadquate procedures’, not to mention being under suspicion of fraud.

And what of David Blunkett, the former Labour Minister, who as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, helped introduce this plague rat into the system?

He is still paid by A4E*

*Adviser on business development to A4e Ltd; global public service reform. (£30,001–£35,000 per financial year) This involves some travel. (Updated 18 April 2012)
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Written by Andrew Coates

May 16, 2012 at 10:15 am

17 Responses

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  1. You see they really are all in it together, in the business of looking after their own interests – this is almost corporate greed.

    Averil Wood

    May 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

  2. Unfortunately i have the feeling people will use this to allow a4e to bid for more and more contracts, screwing up more and more peoples lives, Grayling and IDS, cannot let a4e and the work programme fail, because these schemes have been sold over and over that its the unemployed persons fault they havent got a job. Because of the size of these contracts no matter what happens a4e will be “FOUND INNOCENT”. This contract they stopped was so small as to be nothing, they sacrificed a £1 million contract and got how many more millions. Hell, even Harrison her self made £800,000 from changing the payment day for tax.. not to mention the £8.6 Million she got. Just shows how corrupt the entire system is. They cant have said pure innocent a4e, there would be an outcry so sacrifice 5 people who will no doubt be used on other a4e schemes. so they had to create a blame.

    Eric Greenwood

    May 16, 2012 at 12:32 pm

  3. The National Audit Office has criticised the DWP’s investigation of A4e:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/may/16/dwp-fraud-welfare-work-companies

    JBS

    May 16, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    • Quite right too!

      The DWP has not seriously gone into the affair at all – dependent as they are on the good will of Ian Duncan Smith and other chancers.

      To get them to admit that A4E has committed systematic fraud they’d have had to have found somebody with a large sack labelled ‘swag’ coming out of their office and get the person to say “It’s a fair cop gov.”

      The same applies to all the other ‘investigations’.

      The Work Programme is the Apple of the Eye of the Government and they won’t admit it’s rotten easily.

      Andrew Coates

      May 16, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  4. Coalition forced to end A4E contract
    Tuesday 15 May 2012
    by Louise Nousratpour
    Printable page Printable
    Email Email

    The government terminated its contract with welfare-to-work company A4E today, hours after MPs warned that the controversial work programme was open to fraud.

    The public accounts committee said the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) had to be aware of possible fraud in the wake of allegations made about private firms involved in earlier welfare-to-work schemes, such as the claims faced by A4E.

    Boycott Workfare said it will be holding a “farewell party” outside Brixton A4E tomorrow with balloons, music, cake, fizzy pop and party hats.

    “The party will allow us to raise awareness about the fraudulent practices and bullying that these welfare-to-work providers engage in and to discuss with claimants their rights,” a spokesman said.

    “A4E is just one of a number of other companies, including Serco, G4S and Ingeus that are looking to make profit out of unemployed people.

    “While A4E are the only one’s currently being investigated for fraud, fraud is endemic in the entire welfare to work industry.”

    The committee also said the work programme may penalise people who are hardest to help into employment and called for companies to be subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

    Committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge said: “Fees will be paid to contractors based on outcomes and regardless of the service individuals receive.

    “Such an arrangement might tempt contractors to pass over those who are hardest to help into employment and cherry-pick those who need little support.”

    Under the DWP scheme – dubbed “workfare” by critics – private companies are paid thousands of pounds by the government for each unemployed person they put back to work.

    But Boycott Workfare activists have warned the scheme will not help solve the unemployment crisis and have accused the government of providing free labour to privateers.

    Morning Star http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/news/content/view/full/119054

    Morning Star

    May 16, 2012 at 3:01 pm

  5. Is this for real? The Government is testing the water by terminating a really small contract?!

    I hope many people can go to tomorrows A4e leaving party… and force the other contracts to be terminated.

    What is really sad and crappy is… A4e were consulted in a resolution to this nonsense… DWP all along refused to uncover systematic fraud… the solution was to take down the contract A4e cared less about in order to make a recovery and for the dumb public (that is the dumb portion of the public not all collectively) to think justice has been served.

    The only change of fate would be if the police investigation in Slough was actually not corrupt and resulted in full contract termination for A4e… after criminal prosecution. (will be years..IF) I can’t see that happening.

    What killed this off? The press. Their refusal to disclose the leaked report. Its like more of a snapshot opinion with the press reports from such documents – rather than evidence such as wikileaks disclosures. If this report had been public heads would have rolled and it would have been on par with other political scandals. I hope the bastards choke on their food.

    Work Programme

    May 16, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    • They may well be forced to do this because they know there are more fraud and mismanagement problems, across the Work Programme, in the pipeline.

      Private Eye this week highlights Working Links as another dodgy buisness.

      In general they reveal that “Overclaiming apepars rife among workfare contractors.” Over 10,000 false claism were made between 2010-11. The DWp has said that checks were nto carried out, “30% failing the check and around 10 percent ultimately invalidated.”

      “A thrid of claims by contractors are intiially questioned. Most are cleared up but the remaining 10 percent are false.”

      That’s without all the complaints about bullying, poor practice, not to mention other scams.

      Andrew Coates

      May 17, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      • Apparently fraud is bad practice and not an act of criminal wrong-doing.

        Work Programme

        May 18, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      • doesnt that depend on who the fraudster is, or possibly whose off spring the fraudster is ?

        Averil A Wood

        May 18, 2012 at 6:33 pm

      • No, not at all. It all depends if you have a Get out of Jail Free card. You either are given one politically or by royalty – or if you are rich you buy one.

        Work Programme

        May 19, 2012 at 9:05 am

  6. this appears to be the long awaited investigation the dwp are conducting into fraud.however serious questions remain.they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    pulling the plug will mean the collapse of the work programme,however confidence in this scheme is already seriously damaged and to its intention.a scoundrel always comes unstuck in the end.

    my experience is a quick bullying agressive atmosphere/attitude and tone.if someone walks they will be blamed for the failure,someone stays it becomes their failure to secure employment flipping the situation around.they haven’t done enough.the schemes failed.

    [quote]Tens of thousands of unemployed people made to work without pay

    jobcentre managers have the power to make unemployed people do a month’s work experience at charities, government offices or high-street chains if they feel claimants “fail to demonstrate the focus and discipline necessary to seek out, secure and retain employment opportunities”. If they do not take part, claimants have their benefits removed for 13 weeks. A second failure to take part means benefits are removed for six months[/quote]

    this practice needs careful monitoring to discrimination as many people with health problems and disabilities will have a claim against this policy also minorities.

    [quote]”Not every claimant referred to mandatory work activity starts on the scheme,” the department said. “This can be for a variety of reasons; for example, they may cease to claim jobseeker’s allowance before the start of their placement, their circumstances may change, or they may remain on jobseeker’s allowance and fail to start a placement.”[/quote]

    the reply here is key to their thinking.your to blame not them.

    ken

    May 16, 2012 at 6:15 pm

  7. Why does everyone in the UK think that the unemployed are properly looked after in stead of mistreated?

    janus777

    May 16, 2012 at 8:19 pm

  8. “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labour laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are [a] few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

    Dwight Eisenhower

    May 17, 2012 at 9:37 am

  9. “Some were about “bad practice” others, we would say, sound like gross incompetence. We ourselves have had posts about bullying and systematic mismanagement.”

    this is what i had,accused of turning up late when i didn’t,supposed to have been in days i wasn’t supposed to be in at all.waiting to start a session that was never going to begin.

    yet they made all the appointments on paper and they quickly backed down when confronted with what they had printed off.

    the one that struck me was “we” thought you weren’t coming. the person who said that was on the reception desk on the last of flexible new deal.
    and the bullying it looks as if all this is a more widespread problem.

    all they have done is assessed the risk of fraud and taken minimal action.playing down the underlying problems that have occoured

    http://www.itv.com/news/story/2012-05-15/government-ends-a4e-work-contract/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/05/15/government-accused-of-failure-welfare-to-work-a4e_n_1519432.html

    Margaret Hodge is all to aware of these happenings’,it has to stop.

    ken

    May 17, 2012 at 2:52 pm

  10. What is the best way to deal with the W2W zombies?

    http://www.funtouch.net/Actu-10844-Alive4Ever-Mini-est-mimi

    JBS

    May 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    • We were there in spirit,
      “Unemployed people and welfare rights campaigners partied outside A4e on Brixton high street this afternoon to give a late farewell to its former chairperson Emma Harrison who resigned after allegations of fraud at her company and to celebrate the cancellation of one of their contracts in the South East of England which the DWP deemed was ‘too risky’ for the company to continue with. 8 A4e staff are currently being investigated by the police for conspiracy to commit fraud and a parliamentary hearing next week will look into ‘fraud within welfare to work providers’. Our party was intended to send A4e, and all the other ‘welfare to work’ companies which include G4S and Serco, on their way. The party was also a chance to talk with claimants about their rights.

      Campaigners set up their party outside A4e with cake, rhubarb crumble, party hats, party blowers and horns, music, and Boycott Workfare leaflets which detailed claimants’ rights regarding workfare schemes. Campaigners sang ‘for they are jolly good fraudsters’ and gave speeches to Emma and A4e reflecting on the ‘something for nothing’ culture that is pervasive in the ‘welfare to work’ industry which takes millions of pounds of tax payers money for bullying unemployed people and forcing them onto workfare. ”

      More:
      http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=974

      Andrew Coates

      May 19, 2012 at 11:34 am

      • Wonderful, wonderful and thank you all for making the effort. I dont think Emma Harrison and her ilk have had nearly enough publicity for their shoddy treratment of people who often, through no fault of their own, found themselves classed as scroungers and in addition had to endure this exploitation of their situation. Let’s never forget that wholesale unemployment started with Thatcher, she destroyed our apprenticeship schemes and our manufacturing base, now this government blames us for skill shortages.

        Averil A Wood

        May 19, 2012 at 5:13 pm


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