Monday, 12 March 2012

A4e: the bigger con

Police are continuing to investigate "welfare to work" outfit A4e over allegations that its staff falsified documents to meet targets for finding jobs for the unemployed. There is now speculation that the Department for Work and Pensions is about to suspend its contracts with the company.

In concentrating on the media allegations against A4e there is a danger of overlooking the wider scam the company is engaged in.  Even if A4e staff haven't been falsifying records, or senior executives were unaware of it, the company is still running a massive swindle.

A4e's "welfare to work" approach consists of dragooning unemployed people into overcrowded premises, delivering cod-psychological motivational speeches to them, forcing them into unpaid "work experience" and ignoring the fact that there are far more people out of work than there are jobs.  In many cases, it subcontracts work to one of dozens of competing local agencies, slicing off a large share of the money as profit and leaving them to fight over the scraps. Even it was finding jobs for unemployed people, that is work that should properly be done by DWP civil servants whose numbers have been cut by the last Labour and current Tory-Lib Dem governments at the same time they were awarding A4e multi-million pound contracts.

A4e and its founder Emma Harrison share one thing with benefit claimants: they depend for their entire income on public money.  Harrison has awarded herself close to £7 million in bonuses, charged luxury overseas trips to the company and lives in style at Thornbridge Hall, a country estate in Derbyshire.  She has been invited to Downing Street and to Buckingham Palce to receive a CBE. As the saying goes, steal a penny and you're a thief; steal a million and you're a lord.

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