Friday, 24 February 2012

Money for nothing

So Emma Harrison has resigned. For those of you who don't know, Emma Harrison was the woman appointed by our Prime Minister, David Cameron as "families tsar". That is, she was specifically put in Government in December 2010 to work with the estimated 120 000 families who the government regards as "problem families". These are families who have more than one generation who are what is termed welfare dependent - that is, not working.

That has nothing to do with why she has resigned. She is the head of a company called A4e. A4e are one of the companies who run Iain Duncan Smith's Work Programme. They run the Work Programme in five regions in the UK. They are also a Work Programme subcontractor in five other regions.

They are currently being investigated for fraud. Their head office in Slough has been raided by the police. In recent years they have been investigated by the DWP nine times.

Their work, providing the Work Programme has been called into question by many people, not just the jobless who are working with them. Fiona Mactaggart MP whose constituency Slough is where the head office for A4e is, has said due to the allegations of malpractice A4e are "not fit to receive a government contract". Margaret Hodge MP who is the chair of the public accounts committee has spoken of aspects of A4e's record on welfare-to-work as "abysmal". Ms Hodge goes on to describe A4e's habit of subcontracting, that it "seems like a scam,".

Emma Harrison hasn't done too badly out of the Work Programme. She paid herself a dividend of £8.6 million last year. She lives in Thornbridge Hall. This is a grade II listed mansion set in 100 acres of land. Margaret Hodge says of the dividend: "It's a rip off. Emma Harrison lives entirely on public contracts. She's got a load of contracts with the DWP."