Tuesday 14 July 2009

A4e - a company that makes its money from government contracts

In 2008 I set up a website to keep watch on the Sheffield-based company A4e. On 14 July 2009 they got it banned as "defamatory". To them, the truth is too uncomfortable. But truth is not so easily suppressed.

A4e is one company among many which has made huge profits from the contracting out of public services. Some, like Capita, have concentrated on "back-office" services which involve systems more than people. A4e, however, has made its money from contracts which deal directly with people - the poorest people in the country. That's not how they put it, of course. They are "improving people's lives". That claim must be examined. They say that they're about "public service reform". You can read all this rubbish on their own website. The Labour government has continued the work that the Conservatives began of outsourcing public services, enabling them to sack civil servants and "reduce the size of the state". This has brought no benefit to the public, and it has transferred taxpayers' money, in vast quantities, into private hands. In A4e's case, this means the hands of one person, who has become a very wealthy woman. Money intended to provide services to the those most in need goes instead into the bank account of Emma Harrison. This is now considered normal. We challenge that.

Emma Harrison is the Chairman and founder of the company. The Executive Chairman isMark Lovell - "An entrepreneur and business leader focused on high growth business strategy in public service markets, Mark has led the strategy for the growth of A4e Ltd from start up to a £100m business over the last 16 years." - so says A4e's website. Bob Martin is the Group CEO; he was recruited from Capita, the largest company benefitting from government contracts. Rob Murdoch is responsible for managing the competitive tendering and business development arm of the business. He has worked in the education and training sectors, as well as the finance and equity markets, and recently went to Istanbul to push A4e's business. The Sales Director is Rod Newey. He went from running a business to running the Merseyside TEC. He headed A4e's Business Link involvement, and now leads the push into the international market.

A4e's staff, certainly at the lower levels, are paid poorly in comparison to public sector workers. Many are temporary staff or on short term contracts, are minimally qualified. This is inevitable but goes some way to explaining the poor service which many clients experience.

2009 brought plenty of bad publicity for A4e with a Radio 5 Live piece on its welfare-to-work programmes, then an Observer article on fraud investigations and a Channel 4 news piece which backed up the charges.

From The Telegraph 9 September 2008 "The latest register of members' interests shows that the former home secretary's incomings over the past year or so were boosted by a £30,000-a-year salary from a Sheffield-based international training and support services company called A4e. This is supplemented by the £50,000 he receives each year from the Sun newspaper, £30,000 from a Texas-based security company called Entrudler he had with Kimberly Quinn, the former publisher of The Spectator. Blunkett, 61, the MP for Sheffield Brightside, has garnered some useful headlines for his new employers A4e with the Star newspaper in his constituency reporting in January: "A4e's free legal line wins Blunkett's approval". That was shortly before Blunkett took a job with the company."

This came as no surprise to anyone who had followed A4e's fortunes from the early days, and who suspected that there was a friend in high places who was instrumental in securing all those contracts. But it does raise questions about how an MP can be employed by a company which has government contracts.


  1. If, a company wants to provide proper job training, as a public service as has been touted, then how can there be vast profits for running them. I personally beleive if there is an agency is there to help society, then there should be a minimum of profit, the rest plowed back to help others.

  2. A4e's reaction to the facts on your website is very telling. If none of it is true what are they afriad of? they know full well that the criticisms of them are valid, which is obviously why they object. A4e is a scam, and the unemployed are made a scapegoat for failed Government policies and a failing Capitalist system.

  3. exactly, apparently the australian press is pushing for a proper investigation, had some contact with them. But why say a site is defamatory, when all we have done is state our experiences.. if there is problems then shouldnt they be applauding such sites.

    Companies that get money from government need to be held accountable, and without site like this, and the defunct site, we wont be able to push for a change, to help the unemployed, rather than ignoring our experiences


  5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WiMCiLdFq4






  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. I've edited Anonymous's post a bit, just so we don't get into hurling insults, however justified:
    "I wrote to A4e to get access to data they have on me; got a letter from them today. They want me to pay them £10!!!!!!! They know I am on the dole, why would they want £10 from me? All the money that they have asking someone on the dole that only gets £120 every 2 weeks. I also wrote to the job centre to see the data on me from my time at A4e, my complaint etc.,etc., Now they have been only too helpful, got letter from them to comfirm who I was; thery never asked me for any money!! SHAME ON YOU A4E."

  8. It is because the DPA'98 allows "Data Controllers" to charge that fee for holding YOUR details. There isn't much you can do but pay it if you want to continue with your request. I would suggest sticking pressure on the Jobcentre to contact them to stick pressure on a4e to waiver the £10 fee.

  9. I saw the program tonight first time.

    It looked to me like A4E were making it up as they went along as far as helping people is concerned.

    I accept that long term unemployed have to want to help themselves from within but the ratio of successes to failures of A4E doesn't look good to me. e.g. for every 1 success how many failures are there? probably many hundreds of thousands.

    I'd like to see A4E targetted on longevity of placements and unemployed people's satisfaction of A4E methods (training and mentoring).

    I came across this site as I felt suspicous of A4E and wanted to understand more about why public money was being wasted like this.

    I feel we would have been better off taking the money and paying the unemployed to improve the local areas and country and to give some money to businesses in tax advantages of taking on long term unemployed.

    Seems to me we're just going to create fat cats from tax payers money. I also say cats because some could say that the grin one some faces tonight was one of the cat that had the cream. I especially love the moments of looking deep and caring and sincere. It was those things that made me suspicous enough to stay up late and search the web because my gut told me something's wrong here.

    Well done for flagging it and let's hope that others see the reality.

  10. http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/JobPrograms/

  11. It seems like Starbucks, A4e is popping up on every street corner. If that doesn't make you the taxpayer wince then surely seeing Emma Harrison mug on TV more frequently will. Clearly Emma is moving away from 'Improving Peoples Lives' to 'Look at me, Look at me, I'm a D-List Celebrity wannabe' by undertaking programs that seem more staged and fake than the provisions her company runs.

    The only person that enjoys seeing or hearing Emma is herself and as for advice and supporting the unemployed maybe she should focus her taxpayers personal wealth by paying someone to actually run A4e instead of herself and actually focus on supporting those that need it. Can she not afford the services of a good PR agent because all she seems to do is damage even more any shred of image A4e has... Emma if you are reading this 'You are not Richard Branson' you seem to be only able to communicate at one level ... and by shoving your 'face for radio' self in front of a camera representing a business that rapes the tax payer all you seem to highlight is how out of touch you really are with those you are trying to get into work.

    I've been through an A4e office and thankfully compared to the job centre I came from they actually did help me get a job....for a whole week. I was then threatened with my benefits being stopped if I didn't return to it. Well had they actually spent some time with me they would have realised that offering me a coffee and saying hello doesn't actually support me once im employed. Clearly I was just a statistic against the target for that office and I do hope the money you made by placing me bought you something nice!?!

  12. Having suffered one of there 13 week jokes, sorry courses, what they dont tell you about is there monumental failure rate, more than 80%. The vast majority of these placements they push you on dont result in the client being offered a payed job at the end and just add to the unemployment problem as theres just a constant stream of free labour for the companys who run the placements. Why employ a man to do the job when a4e will send them two people they dont haveto pay a penny for?
    This company has made millions over the years, yes years its been running, claiming money from the European Monetary Fund, claiming to provide a successfull service when in reality they provide a service thats not fit for purpose.
    Most people that find themselves out of work would welcome support and training to help them regian employment, but speaking from first hand experience, these clowns are not the answer.

  13. I wondered if anyone had carried out research about how A4e ran the contract it won from Hull CAB, i.e. did it provide as good a service? what happened to the former employees/volunteers of the CAB?

  14. I was out of work due to a fanatical problem Yes I had a job but because i worked I could not get any help when a building company tried to rip me off so I had no option but to pack in work and get legal aid to get my money back. I won in the end. Thanks.
    I wrote to the local DWP to complain about the lack of help I received when they wanted me to go for an interview I was offered £20 pounds to buy shoes pants and a shirt. And told I would have to Go to AS.#A to shop.
    I was told that my benefit would be stopped if I did not comply with their orders. It cost me another £50 which i had to lend from friend to get my pants altered and a pair of shoes as I am only 4ft tall and have small arms (so no long sleeves shirts will fit me) and have a foot size 4.5 so am not able to buy “off the shelf” after I found a job i was hounded to complete paperwork so they could claim money for doing nothing to help me find work. It is a public disgrace that nobody wants to clean up. I have now been sent back to them and I have today listened to an “advisor” telling a client to go and have a wash in a room full of other people. Well if that is how you deliver a program full of respect for others then well done A4E


Keep it clean, please. No abusive comments will be approved, so don't indulge in insults. If you wish to contact me, post a comment beginning with "not for publication".