Monday, 27 February 2012


Inevitably the publicity has died down.  Liam Byrne has sought to revive it - he's Labour's shadow Work and Pensions Secretary - by claiming that Cameron and the government knew about the fraud investigations at least 10 days before Emma Harrison was appointed, in a blaze of publicity, as Cameron's "families champion".  The Independent reports this, along with Margaret Hodge's plans to submit a dossier of whistle-blowers' allegations to the DWP.  They get a statement out of the DWP:  "We have been clear that if there is any evidence of systematic fraud at A4E... we will terminate existing contracts. We welcome A4E's decision to have a full independent audit. These cases all relate to previous back-to-work schemes. None of these apply to the Work Programme."  So define "systematic".  But Liam Byrne is on sticky ground rather than the moral high ground, and he knows it.  A4e's rise and rise was down to his government.
The Telegraph has the same story, but it also reports A4e's response to the "claims that its staff stole vouchers intended to help the unemployed buy clothes to prepare for job interviews."  A4e says that it's the company which buys these vouchers.  "'It’s our profit margin that is affected by buying them, not the taxpayer.' He said that A4e was not aware of the alleged thefts and had any such action come to light a “robust” internal investigation would have been carried out."  This is a remarkable example of not getting the point. 
If you didn't read newspapers or the internet, and depended entirely on the BBC for your knowledge of what was going on, you'd still be largely ignorant of the A4e story.  The Mail drew attention to this reticence on the part of the BBC, which ignored the growing chorus in the press following the meeting of the Public Accounts Committee and didn't mention the company until the news broke that four employees had been arrested.  Since then the coverage has been minimal.  They have had to report Harrison's resignation as "families champion" and then as chair of A4e, but with hardly any background.  The Daily Politics, which had Harrison as their guest of the day only a few days before, seems to have taken a vow of silence on the subject.  Newsnight mentioned it, but with a tinge of sympathy for Harrison and little background.  So why has the BBC been so reluctant to report this?  One of our correspondents suggests that it's because Chris Grayling used to work for the BBC.  How very cynical!  It's been obvious for the last few years that while Emma Harrison popped up on all sorts of BBC programmes, from The Moral Maze to Masterchef, there was a remarkable ignorance in the Corporation about her company.  We need some sort of explanation.


  1. Y'know what, I don't know who is worse. New Labour for allowing W2W providers like A4e to grow fat on public contracts such as New Deal, Flex New Deal and Pathways or the Tories who may blame New Labour BUT who ignored the warning signs in front of them in 50 ft high flashing red neon lights!!!

    I have called for A4e to be investigated before. They are conducting an independent internal investigation.

    This would go considerably further. A full public enquiry needs to be set up with current Tory and former Labour employment ministers as well as the owners of the W2W providers called to give evidence.

    They all need to explain why the W2W industry is littered with dodgyness, ineptitude and failure. And why successive govts allowed them to get away with it at the taxpayers’ expense. This is not just about A4e.

    We do indeed need some sort of explanation.

  2. This is just what I think, and especially all at the expense of the taxpayers. I also agree wih you new labour are to blame as well as the tories, I get shocked at how much new labour are to blame for, eg, selling off housing stocke, etc, I am just a mum and the more I read the more Ilearn. So thank you for blogging.

  3. 'It’s our profit margin that is affected by buying them, not the taxpayer.'

    Ermm.... who funds you?

    What a strange statement from a dubious company.

  4. Sadly, large companies like A4e have managed to gain prime contracts over smaller, more personal companies where the best interests of the clients are put ahead of profits. Ok, so every company has to make a profit to stay in business but there does come a point where people looking for help and support are no longer looked upon as individuals but as one small part of a sausage factory set-up. Yes, it is harder work for any government to keep an eye on hundreds of small companies who are delivering the contracts BUT to hand it all over to huge multi-national organisations usually means that the profit becomes all that matters. I have worked for a couple of small, independent training providers who have had small Welsh Government contracts and our success rate in training, delivery of qualifications and progression into employment has been second to none. Sadly my first company was sold as WG wanted only to work with large organisations and the Board knew there was no way we could function without public contracts. I ran a sub-contract for A4e while working for this company and it really was the most shocking, eye-opening experience imaginable. Time-sheet and job success fraud was rife, every single process was disorganised and unprofessional and most of the staff that I 'worked' with just didn't have a clue. On visiting the A4e centres I couldn't tell who were staff and who were was a dreadful experience, one which I never wish to repeat again!


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