Friday, 13 March 2015

Watching A4e - the highlights (1)

Since this blog will, I assume, soon be done with I thought I would reprise some of the highlights of its 7 years.
It started back in the summer of 2008.  I'd retired from a job which had brought me into contact with A4e, and I had the idea of starting a website to share what I knew and find others who were also interested.  And, to be honest, I wanted the experience of setting up a website.  I chose, at random, a free hosting site, which turned out to be a mistake.  At first it was very interesting.  It attracted views and followers and soon I had contacts from journalists and researchers.  There was growing interest in outsourcing in general and A4e in particular.  I had contacts, too, from employees of the company, comments on blog posts which I allowed.  That was another mistake.  One evening I switched on and found that my site had been "suspended" for what they called "defamation".  I had no way to contact the hosting company, which was American, and no way to argue my case.  Of course, it was A4e which had intervened, and I could only assume that it was the employees' comments which had provoked them.  Anonymous people had described the conditions they were working under and the way that clients had been treated.
I found that I could retrieve the content of the site and my list of email addresses of followers.  I emailed out to all of them (including a TV researcher) saying what had happened.  This had two effects.  I got an immediate reply from a chap in Edinburgh telling me to put the blog on Google blogger.  They weren't easily intimidated, he said.  I did that, the same night (though without the comments which I suspected had caused the trouble).  And other bloggers with a bigger audience than I had took up the story.  Very soon everyone with an interest in the subject knew that A4e had tried to close me down.
I learned a valuable lesson or two from this.  I have not since published allegations which I can't verify.  At times this has led to other bloggers charging me with being somehow an A4e "plant".  I have worked out what really matters.  And I have learned the value of cultivating contacts.

Do any of my loyal followers have their own highlights of the A4e story?


  1. It'll be sad to see this blog close. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, I think I was the first to comment all those years ago.

    A couple of my own highlights. One was the BBC R5L program 'Donal McIntyre Investigates' from about 2010. It was a triumph for me as I had a personal part to play in getting the program aired.

    It felt good to hear others confirm what you'd been banging your head against the wall and going blue in the mouth trying to explain in the first place.

    Listen here if you have not already listened:

    (It's in two parts)

    Another highlight of course was the car crash interview Emma Harrison gave to CH4 News a couple of years ago when she complained she was ''a useful face to have a go at''. Chrishnan Guru Murthy did not let her off the hook and she kept digging her self deeper and deeper.

    I can also add the numerous time I'd successfully gotten myself on BBC radio phone ins about schemes such as New Deal and the Work Prog.

    And of course who could forget Ch4's Benefit Busters that exposed the murky world of A4e introduced us to Hayley Taylor.

    Has the war been won? No! But a battle perhaps has been.

  2. I got those Jonty comments out there, i spoke to the bbc radio 4, and a few newspapers. I i even spoke to some australian journalists about the a4e work programme there..

  3. I got involved with A4e for the first time in 2011, when the JCP conscripted me to do the Work Programme with them, I had never heard of A4e before that.

    I soon realised that A4e had no idea about how a given customer of theirs might find a job. They simply had zero expertise to offer. However, I liked my A4e 'personal adviser,' Also, A4e were reimbursing my bus fares to go to see them once a month and they always chose days that coincided with signing on appointments at my local JCP office. Additionally, A4e's office locally is very close to a large Asda. Asda turned out to be cheap for stuff like tea & coffee, loo rolls etc, plus my bus-stop to get home again was right outside Asda. Altogether, A4e's involvement was convenient for me, I decided.

    Early in 2012, the on-line newspapers started describing a financial scandal involving, "Emma Harrison, the owner of A4e," I was intrigued, resolved to discover more and soon found Historian's excellent website. I was horrified by everything I read. Admitting to any involvement with A4e would clearly only damage my CV.

    Early in 2013, whilst I was still on the WP scheme, I suddenly became seriously ill, which involved 5 weeks in hozzy following an emergency admission etc. My A4e adviser and his local manager could not have shown me more kindness and concern, They discovered that I would need to claim ESA as soon as possible and did everything in their own power to facilitate that without frightening me.

    I concluded that A4e are useless about helping people to find work but that they couldn't be better if the medical chips suddenly go down against one of their WP customers.

    Finally, I see no reason for this blog to disappear even if A4e does so. There are loads of other employment-related issues for Historian to continue to describe, surely?

  4. I will be sad to see your blog go.There are plenty of related issues which need scrutiny.
    You are good at producing more light than heat and I would like to see the blog evolve.
    Plenty of murkiness about sanctions for example. Thanks for your efforts.

  5. I have to say when I found your blog, it was nice to know other people were out there who believed what I knew about the A4E service being absolutely useless. Sure it had some good points, especially if you were in one of the handful of good offices, but they had little to no actual use in helping people into work if they already knew how to switch a computer on.

    However I honestly hope this blog doesn't close, after all, it's one of the few out there that champions the side of the unemployed. This needs to be brought up again and again as very few others will. I'm employed now, but I'll never forget the degrading experience of JSA and the pointlessness of the work program.

    Mind you, the name would have to change ... maybe watching maximus?

  6. Sick of the Work Programme14 March 2015 at 02:45

    Perhaps you could do a blog called Watching whichever organisation it is that gets to take over the 'Welfare to Work' arm of A4e?

    1. I've been thinking that "Watching DWP" would be quite good as none of these other companies wipe their nose's without first getting a "black box" full of diagrams of how to do it. ;)

  7. I too would be sorry to see this blog close. It has been a source of useful information, a reminder that one is not alone and a useful way of occasionally venting one's frustrations with the W2W industry (and the politicians that support and feed it).
    I have few "highlights" of A4e and the WP, I'm afraid by its very nature my own experiences were mostly "lowlights"! Perhaps the ultimate lowlight being the mandatory day subjected to self styled Masters of Neuro Linguistic Programming. This was done without any prior warning or discussion - merely a mandatory demand to attend "Inspire" (ha!). I feel I got some revenge when I spoke to a journo of this experience and an article duly appeared in the FT - however I will never get that day back so it's time stolen from me by A4e.
    Another highlight was the making of a successful complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about A4e's use of the term "a social purpose company". I am sure that A4e believed my complaint would be rejected but it was upheld causing them a modicum of bad publicity,
    I also made a FOI request to the DWP which eventually forced A4e to disclose their records to me (without charge). This didn't happen until I complained to the OIC about incomplete disclosure from the DWP though. The message here is that if you want to see A4e's records on you the do it via a FOI request to the DWP rather than be fobbed off with a potential charge for applying direct to A4e.
    Thanks Historian for the blog.

    1. For FOI read SAR (Subject Access Request)

  8. I have to thank you,while I am still unemployed this Blog has been a lifeline,at times when just a kind word or a bit of enlightenment to a issue with WP/DWP/JCP/A4E have made me a much more informed person,which I have passed on to others.

    My most memorable experience with A4E? While assigned to the induction with the A4E rep,I questioned advance travel,thought he would blow a gasket,he said that there was no such thing as advanced travel money,it would be paid in arrears.luckily I had a printout of the contract,actually several and passed them around..Mayhem? Oh yes.

  9. Another highlight - or rather lowlight. I actually got to speak with former Labour Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform, Tony McNulty again on BBC R5L this time on a program hosted by Victoria Derbyshire.

    I told him in the 5 mins allowed just what my experiences were on his governments New Deal, such as the non-existent courses, poorly trained staff, lack of facilities, overcrowding, etc, etc. McNulty's pathetic response? ''I visit these places up and down the country and this is not my experience''. He said this no doubt with a straight face without realising that a visiting MP and govt. Minister will hardly be shown these companies in their true light.

  10. I started reading this blog when I was sent to A4e on the WP. To be honest I never had too many problems with them on a personal level but they did little to help me find work and in the end I was 'parked'.

    I have continued to read the blog as it now covers much more than the decline of A4e but also the failures of Tory policy re the unemployed. Perhaps you should start a new blog which covers this and the attacks on working-age benefits in general.

  11. I was with A4E for nearly twelve months until I found work last year (no thanks to them!). I really cannot believe a firm could be that bad but here we go:

    They came to me saying they had a client they were recruiting junior payroll clerks and accounts assistants for. I let them forward my CV and was told I had an interview with them in two weeks for an accounts assistant position. I turned up the day before the interview for my pre-interview training session.

    At the beginning they told me they needed a word afterwards but let me sit through it all afternoon. They also let me sit in the waiting area for 40 minutes afterwards until I asked the receptionist how long they were going to be. They apologised, saw me and explained the interview had been cancelled a week ago. Even worse they let me see the clients email which said they decided not to interview me over a misconception with my accounting qualification.

    So I was able to reply (with A4E monitoring the email of course) and put it right. I then waited a little annoyed at not being told earlier because I may have lost the chance at an interview. No problem, the client said they would interview me and rebooked it for a week later.

    So I get there and I really can not believe a firm could be this bad in the most literal meaning of the word. A4E had originally forwarded be for junior payroll clerk in error not an accounts assistant position. They had given me the job description, person specification and pre-interview training for accounts assistant. And I turned up to discover myself in an interview for junior payroll clerk which I knew nothing about and hadn't been prepared for. I explained it to the two women interviewing me and we spent a few minutes laughing at A4E. That place doesn't know its arse from its elbow and this is just the worst problem I encountered with them. There are several more!!!


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