Sunday, 21 November 2010

Another "interview"

The Mail online is the latest propaganda sheet to give free PR space to Emma Harrison and A4e. In a long piece today we get something described as an interview but which is merely a vehicle for Harrison to repeat the myths. You won't find anything about the lousy figures for FND. This is sycophancy. "This year, the company will help nearly 20,000 people into work. Her business plan, something she laughingly admits owes more to aspiration than number crunching, predicts a turnover of £500 million by 2014." But then we can see how A4e adapts (or, at least, adapts what it says) to the politics of the moment. "Harrison says she frequently spurns approaches from the City to float or sell the company. Instead, she has rekindled a plan to change the structure into a mutualised trust whereby she can give shares to the staff. In the longer term, she aims to give equity to the unemployed people that A4e helps."

When you've digested that idea, you might be a bit bemused by the statement that "Harrison is trying to persuade the Government to pay according to the long-term outcome for the unemployed rather than buying hours in the classroom or working on CVs, regardless of whether that is actually needed or achieves a result." Why did the interviewer, someone called Lisa Buckingham, not challenge that? Presumably because she didn't know anything about the subject; the ideal qualification for anyone interviewing Mrs Harrison. There's the latest mantra about "hidden jobs", the story that A4e can persuade employers to provide jobs they haven't realised they had. And she gives figures which are entirely at odds with those produced by the DWP. She says, "it costs an average of £1,700 to get someone back to work". Oh yes? But she's plugging this chilling idea of working with "families’ whole lives rather than just work." The interviewer says, "Such improvements include getting a job, ensuring that children go to school and encouraging charity work. Companies such as Harrison’s would be paid part of the overall savings."

To show that the paper isn't entirely uncritical there's the statement that, "Harrison hasn’t escaped controversy. There were fraud allegations against a few staff a couple of years ago and the role of David Blunkett, Sheffield MP, as an occasional adviser prompted criticism." That's it. While some of you may be hopping up and down with fury, most of the Mail's readers will nod approvingly at the final statement that " These families need an Emma."


  1. I have just read this article and I think she comes across as quite arrogant. I have worked for A4e in the past and have 2 shares in the company (are they still valid)? when the first scheme was introduced. She makes this scheme sound ground breaking but lots of companies do this already. In a former life I also worked for Tesco and have accrued a fair amount of shares which will be my nest egg for the future.

    What she says makes a lot of sense but she lives in a bubble and has no idea how her people on the ground floor struggle to find employment for the customers - training??? only if the budget allows for that and there is a guaranteed job at the end of it.

    Although I would not choose to live on benefits and I know some of the followers here do - but my life would not be crap - quote - and I am sure that most of the people on here also feel the same way.
    Sorry - she is arrogant, judgmental and in my view a bit of a fraud.

  2. These families 'need an emma'??- have they not already got enough problems to contend with?

    Ms Harrison obviously exists in a parallel universe- where a4e are successful(and there when people wobble!!)-where she actually came up with the idea of rear end funding the work programme(she seems to be forgetting that this funding change may well signal the end of A4e's massive profits-and it will certainly put a hole in her £500million turnover business plan)

    One thing we can be certain of-If a4e are as sucessful in Work programme as they were on fND and she gives everyone who gets a sustained job a share in A4e-she won't be giving out many shares!

    It is about time she was challenged by an interviewer who actaully knows something about welfare to work

  3. Read the Ofsted reports, look at the published DWP figures, then ask to see audited numbers from A4e. It shouldn't take more than five minutes to see that there is a world of difference between Ms Harrison's version and reality. It is far more likely that the real reason she hasn't floated A4e is the greater scrutiny and accountability that would be demanded by the shareholders.

    "We are also prepared to spend a lot on training [...]" - Hogwash - I ended up having to source and fund the courses that I wanted. All A4e could offer were basic numeracy & literacy courses (I suspect some A4e employees would gain more from those.).

    “You are with us for life – if you wobble, we are there” - Priceless. Having exited the FND programme, I asked for an appointment with my local A4e office, only to be told to (in so many words) to [...] off.

    It is about time Jeremy Paxman had opportunity to interview this woman. If his researchers did some basic background checks beforehand, we might get honest answers for a change.


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