Whistleblower Claims Work Programme Provider Attempted To Collect Fee For No Work
Four people were yesterday arrested for fraud at welfare-to-work company A4e. Now a former employee talks to BuzzFeed.
Four people were yesterday charged with fraud at Work Programme provider A4e.
This comes on top of fraud nine arrests in September.
A4e chief executive Andrew Dutton said the company had "fully cooperated with police" in a statement on the company's website.
A4e is one of the main contractors on the Government's Work Programme, which is designed to help people off benefits and into work.
How can this go wrong? A former Work Programme participant wrote to David Blunkett, his local MP, to set out serious allegations about the company's internal workings.
I was asked to sign [forms by A4e]. One form is the Customer Consent Form, the second is the Work Programme Agreement and the third is the Employment Start Declaration. These are the forms that are used by the Work Programme Providers to validate participant's information to the DWP in order to receive their payment for "succeeding in finding sustainable employment".
According to the statement in the DWP Guidance, I am fully within my rights to refuse the use of these forms, as I did. The main reason for my refusal was that A4e did absolutely nothing to help me find any job, let alone my current one at the time in their own offices! Apart from being underhanded, it is also unethical for them to claim any taxpayer's money for something they didn't do.
By coincidence, the claimant later found temporary work in A4e's Sheffield head office in late 2012 and early 2013. He claims the company regularly claims credit for jobs they didn't find.
Contractually, once an individual has been referred to us by the Jobcentre Plus, they are obliged to remain on the programme for 104 weeks. For those who might find employment during this period, the benefit of being on the programme is that at any time their circumstances change, for example, when they might fall out of work, they are able to seek further support and training to help them find another job.
The staff are not well trained as advisors for the jobseeker. What I mean is that they are insufficiently trained to handle the job as an advisor or a consultant to the jobseekers who participate in the scheme. They only tick boxes and when they run courses, many of them are clueless on what to say or do not encourage the participants properly. They can be quite patronising. Communication between departments is horrendous, the department I worked in essentially updated the details so that the Work Programme advisors in a separate department can provide the service. Most of the time, they have no idea what is going between themselves and in many cases, some will say "I've never heard of you" even though the names of the staff who update appear on the system.
As part of the main office doubles as a call centre, we receive ALL A4e related calls, even if it's a man from Scotland or London calling to find his local branch; not trained on Geographic locations well. As many courses that used to be run by Job-Centres have been lapped up by A4e, many jobseekers call confused asking why they are attending a course at a company they never heard of; usual reply is "call your jobcentre as they put you on the course, we don't know you, we only deal with the logistics".
We invest a significant amount in our recruitment process, in our employees and in their training to ensure they offer the best service possible to our customers. We run a number of courses, designed to help Work Programme customers improve their chances of finding work. Since June 2011, more than 6,000 customers on the Work Programme have been supported to undertake qualifications through our Adult Skills Budget provision.
Customer Connect, based at our head office in Sheffield, is our national administration centre which works across all of our Work Programme contracts in the UK. The strength of this centrally-based team is that they can handle a variety of administrative duties, such as making the first contact with new customers, updating our computer systems and providing in-work support when a customer goes into employment. This means the regional offices can concentrate on providing a better service to their customers.Since Customer Connect is also open from 8am to 8pm five days a week and until 1pm Saturdays, it's very convenient for our customers because we can get in touch with them – and them with us - at a time that suits them.However, A4e delivers the Work Programme from over 100 offices across the UK and Work Programme participants can always call their local offices and speak to their dedicated employment adviser. The contact details of all our offices are available on our website.
Following a rocky start, the Work Programme's results have been improving recently.
Figures released in June revealed only one in 20 sick and disabled people have been found lasting jobs.
However, its performance for other groups has improved: 31.9% of under-25s were found work for at least six months, almost hitting the minimum target of 33%.