But all publicity is good, and that seems to be the theory behind an otherwise pointless interview in the Guardian last week. The writer, Jane Dudman, asks, "Why does she think she attracts such attention? 'I'm a girl,' she says, self-deprecatingly." Hmm. There is more on the Harrison legend of her start in the business, and then: "She is clear that A4e is not a social enterprise. 'It's a social purpose company,' she says, firmly. And despite the fact that she now employs more than 3,000 people, Harrison says she is still very entrepreneurial. 'I love creative leadership,' she says. 'And what's different now is that I don't have to worry about whether the photocopier's working.' " Dudman doesn't choose to probe the extent of the profits, but she ends the piece with: "Harrison's company is already the largest private contractor for welfare to work services, but she's keen to take on more. She takes a fierce line on job searching, saying job opportunities do exist, even in the midst of the worst recession since the 1940s. 'That upsets me the most. It gives people a reason to give up. A4e is famous for finding the hidden jobs. I promise you they're out there.' As public spending cuts begin to bite seriously, Harrison's theory stands to come under severe test. Many of those presently employed in the sector will certainly be hoping she is right." Yes, Jane, and many of the unemployed will be wondering where those "hidden jobs" are.
Wednesday, 1 September 2010
Do you remember "Benefit Busters"? It was screened a year ago, but many of us recall at least the first two episodes, filmed in A4e offices. Now read Emma Harrison's account of how it was made, in an article she chose to post yesterday. Is this an attempt to expunge the memory of that second episode in Hull, where groups of clients were filmed doing useless, time-filling exercises; where one staff member spoke incredibly rudely to a client? Perhaps that was "gritty". Has she forgotten the interview where she was asked about the problem of benefits loss when people take casual jobs? She laughed, you remember, and said, "How should I know?" before promising to take it up with her friends in government. We all have embarrassing memories, but we don't publicise them a year on. "Benefit Busters" exposed what taxpayers' money was actually paying for with New Deal, but Harrison seems to believe that it was a triumph for her and for A4e.