I didn't want to let this story about A4e from last week on Channel 4 news pass without comment. As we all know A4e, run by the Prime Minister's former muti-millionaire friend Emma Harrison, is the governments largest provider of the Work Programme. Designed to get the long term unemployed off benefits and into work, the idea is that success, as measured by 13 weeks employment, is rewarded by considerable payments to the Contractor.
In dealing with this challenging group, many of whom are former or current clients of the Probation Service, it should come as no surprise that it would prove so difficult a task, especially in a period of economic decline, that resort should be made to 'massaging' the figures. In a sense this was always going to be the outcome if payment was going to be on a 'payment by results' basis because many of these people are almost unemployable without some considerable, and very expensive assistance.
Since A4e was 'rumbled' in relation to cooking the books, I think it's reasonable to assume that practices have changed and hence Channel 4 has managed to glean that only 3.5% of clients have met the 13 week criteria for substantial payments to be made. This is nowhere near the governments minimum target of 5.5%, but is probably an accurate reflection of the huge task involved, rather than the former misguided and falsley optimistic hyperbole.
So what is to be done about this embarrassing situation? My guess is that A4e will simply be tempted to give up on chasing the ever-elusive higher payments, adjust their staffing levels and simply carry on accepting the basic £300 per head which they receive for every one of the 115,000 referrals from the DWP. In effect there will be every incentive to do very little in the face of a seemingly impossible situation. The only trouble with this is that it raises the very obvious question that £300 of taxpayers money per head could be saved if they wern't referred at all and something else was tried.