Let's go back to an extraordinary week just over 3 years ago. In January 2012 the Telegraph looked at A4e's published accounts for the year to March 2011 and reported two facts, in separate sentences. Emma Harrison owned 85% of the shares; and the company had paid out £11m in dividends. I reached for my calculator and did the sums; £8.6m for Harrison. With her salary as Chair it came to a pay-out of £9.5m. I dashed off a blog post. Re-reading that, I didn't write the startling headline I thought I did. But it was enough. A writer for Private Eye who reads the blog saw the post and checked the figures (this isn't guesswork - he confirmed it). His deadline for copy for the magazine was close, and he went with what became the killer fact - Harrison had paid herself £8.6m out of public funds. It was early in February and the timing was excellent. The Public Accounts Committee was about to grill people from the welfare-to-work industry, including A4e. We know that members of the committee read the Eye (and I believe at least one follows this blog). So that was the stick with which to beat the hapless chap from A4e - £8.6m.
What was the reaction in the media? At first, they were not very interested. The Guardian covered it, in sober fashion, as did the Telegraph. And then, nothing. It was all very disappointing. What more did they want? But then the Daily Mail decided to wade in, all guns blazing. Let's be clear, I am not a fan of the Mail. Just the opposite. But this time they had done their research and decided to trash Emma Harrison, comprehensively. The article was devastating, tearing into her lifestyle, her history and her company. It was horribly personal. And they didn't stop there; there were several more articles through what must have been a dreadful week for Harrison. The BBC stayed silent on the matter and one could only wonder if there was some sort of political censorship going on. At last, after several days, Paul Mason was allowed to make a brief report on Newsnight.
It all made Harrison's position untenable. She announced that she had resigned from her role as the government's "family champion"; and 24 hours later came the news that she was standing down as Chair of A4e.
Harrison has no-one to blame but her self. She effectively built a business on a foundation of quick sand. It was bound to end horribly (from and A4e / Harrison perspective).ReplyDelete
I and others contributing to this blog and elsewhere feel vindicated with regards our postings and general warnings regarding A4e and the wider W2W sector. They say you can't beat experience. And it was the very experiences of A4e's clients, much of it heartfelt and at times heart-breaking that the media needed to take notice of much sooner.
I remember being called an embellisher, a whinger and of course envious of Emma Harrison's 'success' by people on various forums. Even when confronting them with the harsh facts about the company - including links to this blog! I was even told I had a ''bee in my bonnet about A4e'' by a rather ineffective JCP adviser. I wonder what these individuals will say right now?
P.S. Regarding the Daily Mail, one is reminded that a even broken watch is shows the correct time twice a day!
I want to know more about the sell off. I wonder when we're going to find out who A4e is being sold to and what the consequences of that will be?!ReplyDelete
I've no idea about the first question; these things take time, and as I said the result of the election could have a bearing on the value of the company. On the second point, the consequences will be simply that A4e will disappear, subsumed into one or more other companies.Delete
I have stopped volunteering at a local charity,it will remain un-named for now as it is only one shop that uses MWA,mostly because the manager is more or less lazy and has run off a lot of volunteers,as a charity that accepts A4E conscripts(I was one) I convinced them to stop,but they restarted a month ago resulting in 2 people being sanctioned,I actually felt sick,they asked for more "Volunteers" but A4E is unable to provide them at this point(?) good news but I wonder why?ReplyDelete
Even if it is just one shop using workfare, the charity deserves to be named if they are one of the charities which put out an official statement saying that they are not taking part in the schemes. This happened where Sue Ryder was concerned last week- someone said they had been sent on workfare (along with several others) to a Sue Ryder shop. Sue Ryder head office then said they needed to know which shop it was, as they were committed to NOT taking part in workfare schemes. After the person emailed them the details, Sue Ryder said on Twitter that they were now signing up to the Keep Volunteering Voluntary scheme. So, if anyone is still on a mandatory work placement in a Sue Ryder shop, you should not be there and head office would be very interested to know the name of the shop.Delete
I have contacted the head office and they stated that they were unaware,they then came back with the reply "The Manager interviews them and makes sure they are willing" I pointed out that willing or not they are under the threat of being sanctioned,I then pointed out that A4E are paid £600+ per placement,but are reluctant to pay expenses to (?) claimant/victim..they will get back to me on this and also about KVVDelete
Sounds dodgy to me. As if someone mandated to do a placement there by A4e is going to say in an interview that they don't really want to do it! The manager would of course feed that back to A4e, who would then see to it that the person was sanctioned for being unwilling to participate in a mandatory placement. Let us know what transpires.Delete
Although I had already been conscripted to A4e for the Work Programme scheme, I had never heard of Emma Harrison before I began to see the Wail's articles about her early in 2012. I wondered what on earth was going on but it is now possible to delve easily and cheaply via the internet.ReplyDelete
Not necessarily for comment:ReplyDelete
Have those found guilty been sentenced yet? If so what did they get?
30th of MarchDelete
Those found guilty were sentenced today after 2 further days in court. Six out of the ten convicted received immediate prison time ranging from 18 months to 40 months. The other four received a suspended prison sentence, community service and court costs. The judge seemed a bit harsh today, possibly to make examples of them.ReplyDelete