Friday, 10 December 2010

Family champions - the coverage

We have idle media populated by journalists who don't bother to do any research. That is confirmed by the scant coverage of the news today of Emma Harrison's new role.

The BBC carried the interview with her very early in the morning. The interviewer could have asked, "Why do you think you'll be successful with this when A4e's record is so bad?" But no. The BBC's news website has only two sentences on the subject as part of its report of David Cameron's speech.

The Express does only slightly better. Describing Harrison as an entrepreneur, it reports Cameron as saying, "What works is focused, personalised support - someone the family trusts coming into their home to help them improve their lives step-by-step, month-by-month."

The Telegraph's take is that "Mr Cameron announced that he had appointed a new families “tsar” in a drive to help households in crisis escape unemployment and poverty. Emma Harrison, the entrepreneur and chairman of A4e (Action for Employment), will support hundreds of families in a pilot scheme to help them find work."

The best coverage so far is on the Children & Young People Now website. They report that the government intends the scheme to be piloted in 6 to 10 local authority areas, still to be announced, which will get extra cash to run it. The site expands the quote from Cameron: "Harrison understands how to help families improve their lives "step-by-step, month-by-month". She refuses to believe some people are lost causes and has a proven track record of turning lives around," he said. "Her approach is the complete opposite of the impersonal, one-size-fits-all approach that has failed so many families – which is why I have asked her to come on board to help us." (This is the obvious point at which to say, "Really? Are you sure?", but of course no one does.) They report Harrison as saying, "I have more than twenty years experience helping the long-term unemployed get back into the workplace and all the evidence shows that by providing focused, one-to-one support we will start to help troubled families." (What evidence, Emma? A4e's results?) They then say that the Department of Education emphasised that Harrison's involvement in the trials is "on a purely personal basis. No payment or benefit of any type will accrue to her or to any organisations she is involved with."
Hmm, "no benefit of any type" except oodles of publicity and first crack at the eventual contracts, perhaps.

When will journalists start to do their homework?


  1. Would I trust this Ms Harrison ?
    Based on what I've seen of her activities to date, the answer would have to be a resounding NO.

    Does her company do any assesments and tailor the provisions to suit the needs of individual clients ?

    No. Basic numeracy, literacy, and inane "motivation" courses appear to be the only activities offered across the country.

    Will there be any independent monitoring and complaints resolution mechanisms put in place ?

  2. "We have idle media populated by journalists who don't bother to do any research. That is confirmed by the scant coverage of the news today of Emma Harrison's new role."

    Seems to be true unfortunately. I heard Emma Harrison interviewed on the BBC recently and she was gushing out a prepared speil. The interviewer did try a couple of times to point out that she wasn't answering the question but EH just bulldozed on and on.

    The recent Guardian blogarticle linked to a tv interview and she did the same-ignored the question posed to her and spouted a load of rubbish which could have been picked apart by a determined and well informed interviewer.

    Maybe they're all in this together. The Guardian article revealed that she founded and chairs a charity which sponsors the Guardian Charity Awards.
    I assume that sponsorship is financial?

  3. "The one size fits all approach doesn't work" - Ironic though that this approach made EH a very rich women indeed! For someone who is "passionate" about "improving peoples lives" she certainly believed in the 30 hours a week classroom based programmes for many many years and now has taken a complete "U" turn on this. Complete hypocracy! The results speak for themselves that are published on the DWP website. A4e & Ms Harrison are no better than any of the other organisations out there delivering welfare to work programmes. Seems EH is a publicity junkie who does it so well and has no shame flaunting herself on our screens and has a complete short term memory of past poor organisational performance!

  4. Before anyone makes personal judgements about A4e's classroom based "activities", it is worth reading the Ofsted reports - The few reports that have been made public via make interesting reading. A4e constantly score low to poor performance and are critised for failing to engage participants and sloppy recording practices. It also reflects badly on Ofsted that very few of A4e premises across the country have been examined over the years.

  5. On the Ofsted inspections - the majority of A4e's rate "satisfactory", which is third below outstanding and good.

  6. I watched an interview with Emma and she said she does not want a service that has an authority figure helping families. She seemed to suggest a principle of the scheme was meeting and working with people from their homes. Now working from a families home will require their permission, so if any family refuses to let the 'Champion' into their home what will then happen?

  7. At the moment it's a pilot scheme, so no compulsion. They are actively looking for families to take part, so that should skew the results! I can't see it ever being compulsory as it is now; the aim for A4e, I think, is that it becomes part of the Work Programme, in which case lack of co-operation could get you into difficulties.

  8. Off subject, but I was forced on a new deal placement Nov 1 which I declined which has resulted in my JSA being stopped.

    I'll sign back on in February.

    What I don't understand is how can new deal placements be legal? They are forcing people against their will to work for less than the minimum wage, surely this contravenes several UK and european laws!

    Also take into account the psychological damage it causes to the hapless souls subjected to this abuse.

    In this compensation culture society, surely there are grounds to take these people to the cleaners...

  9. We've been through this before. A placement isn't classed as work, it's training or work experience, so it doesn't come under minimum pay legislation. I think "abuse" is a bit OTT.
    I've said many times that if there's work to be done then people should be paid to do it, and some employers are using work placements to take advantage of free labour. But is does work for some people. You're not going to win this one, Pete.

  10. Re: Pete's comments. Historian is absolutely correct, but one question how long have you been unemployed. Work experience is a fantastic way of adding something up to date on your CV and also in my experience I have found that many employers look on this favourably when considering an applicant for a vacancy, they would rather employ someone who is motivated and willing to do 'something' to enhance their chances. However, as Historian says we have to be aware of employers using free labour.

  11. Ruthy, I wouldn't lower myself, new deal is degrading, I know through bitter experience, I'd sooner go to jail than partake in any degrading new deal scheme.

    That way I get free food and heating!

    Sorry to disagree, but I don't accept it's legality, and I know a decent lawyer could tear this system to shreds.

    Perhaps you are the sort of person who accepts their lot in life, but I'm not!

    PS why was last nights comment removed?

    I'm starting to question the motives of this site...

  12. Pete, your comment wasn't "removed", it simply wasn't published, because you are repeating something which has been gone over many times. I suspect you are the same person who has brought up the argument before. If you do indeed want to go to jail rather than go on a scheme, I'll be interested to hear how you get on.

  13. Yes this 'argument' as you call it was brought up on the 'TV and being ill' thread back in July.

    Maybe you and ruthy should read it again and understand the dire situation ND has put me in.

    If you believe this is all legal and above board then show me evidence, show me the loophole in article 4 of the european convention of human rights that makes this acceptable.

  14. Okay, Pete, what has happened between July and now? Plenty of advice was offered then, but now all we're hearing from you is that New Deal is degrading etc. Again, I'm closing this discussion.

  15. Internships and training are specifically excluded from minimum wage legislation. However, successful legal action has been taken by an intern who was a member of BECTU and other unions are now campaigning against what they see as the misuse of internships. See Private Eye 1277 page 28 for details. Whether the concern about interships spreads to concern about possible misuse of trainees is yet to be seen, but if someone believes they are doing a job rather than being trained then they may wish to take further advice


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