What seems to have happened is that an induction in Bootle was a shambles, with no one knowing what to do with the clients but treating them like naughty children or criminals. The woman "was introduced to a placement work advisor who proceeded to talk to the group like a primary school teacher addressing a group of six year olds. We were told to 'shut up, sit down, don't speak, put your hands down, you can't ask questions and don't speak over me'. She then proceeded to bring in a team of health workers and told me in front of the group that I should have a chlamydia test, there and then." She said that the atmosphere was so confrontational that it was dangerous, and that the experience was humiliating for people who were already likely to be suffering from depression and lack of confidence. The MP says he getting a lot of similar complaints about A4e and wants an investigation into its practices.
There's always another side to a story like this so we have to be cautious. But how can a company alienate people so comprehensively on their first day? Lack of organisation is one thing; but staff attitudes towards clients are fundamental. And they come from management.
Another MP, Fiona Mactaggart, has been asking every department of government what contracts it has with A4e. The Department of Defence said, "None". But now they've issued a correction. "The Ministry of Defence has one contract with A4e. This is for the provision of a trial of early leaver services, to assist service personnel leaving the armed forces with their transition back into civilian life. The contract is for a period of 12 months, commencing February 2012, and has a nil value contract management fee." (Does that last bit mean that it's payment by results?)