The Daily Mail is currently undertaking the second brilliant piece of investigative journalism (credit where it is due) this month. This time their investigative journalism is about the Prime Minister, David Cameron's former Back to Work" Tsar, Emma Harrison. Ms Harrison resigned from being a government advisor yesterday.
Harrison's company A4e is currently being investigated by the police for alleged fraud. A4e is an acronym which stands for "Action For Employment"
A4e is taking part in the Conservative government "Workfare" plan, where unemployed Job Seekers Allowance claimants (JSA) are made to work for around 30 hours per week for nothing, other than what the taxpayer pays them £53 per week JSA and if the claimant refuses, then their JSA is stopped for anything up to 6 months.
When the Tories assumed power they stopped the "welfare to work" programme that the previous Labour government had been running and implemented their own "Workfare" programme.
Here I will attempt to ask the questions that probably the Daily mail Cannot ask:
1)...For every person A4e finds a "work experience" placement for they get paid £2000 from the government. How many times did A4e get paid for one single person sent under the Tories "workfare" programme?
2)...When A4e places an unemployed person on work experience somewhere, do they then charge that company or employer a fee for finding them an "employee"? If so, how much did they charge other companies or employers for sending them a person to carry out work in their establishments?
3)...A4e could refer placements back to the Job Centre and advise that the job seeker's allowance be "sanctioned" if the job seeker failed to complete a placement contract for any reason. If A4e was paid by employers for finding placements to carry out work, were A4e paid on how many hours their placement worked or where they paid a lump sum per placement? Was this fee wavered if the applicant failed to complete their placement?
4)...Does either (or both) A4e and future recipient of free labour pay National Insurance Contributions for their employee?
5)...When A4e has put unemployed people to work as cleaners in their own offices, did they pay NI contributions? Did they claim tax rebates of any kind against that employee?
6)...Since it has now emerged that the company A4e has even directly employed those sent by the Job Centre as cleaners etc, are these people down in the company's books as paid or unpaid labour?
7)...How many times has A4e charged the government £400 (in addition to the £2000 they are paid for finding each client a work placement) for someone said to have been found a work placement, when neither client or company existed? Allegations have been made about A4e staff being asked forge signatures on blank time sheets, signifying that work was carried out when it wasn't. Stories of people sent by Job Centres being kept in rooms and moved around for hourse, sometimes whole days and never being told what is happening. Did Emma Harrison ever sign off any of these time sheets? Time sheets that were signed blank, filled in later as if the person had been at their placement all week, even when they hadn't?
8)...Has A4e ever pressurised JSA claimants from doing truly genuine and useful voluntary work within their communities in order to get them working for their clients so they (A4e) can be paid by the government?
9)...Has A4e ever forced people with totally unsuitable skills to grovel to companies asking for a particular skill base to take them on? I have heard of reports of people being forced to do this in A4e offices.
10)..Has A4e ever found it difficult to get someone onto a work placement in a company because of a discrepancy in skills, so has instead employed the job seeker in their own company as a filing clerk or cleaner?
11)...While Harrison was working as David Cameron's "Family Tsar" she had a pivotal role in deciding which company was awarded lucrative government contracts, did she ever award and rubber stamp her own company, A4e, as the recipient of multi million pound government contracts?
12)...At least two separate multi million pound contracts (one worth at least £15 million) has been awarded to A4e by the Tory government (under the preferred bidder scheme) through a quango called the "Skills Funding Agency", despite A4e being under investigation for fraud. Who was responsible for awarding those contracts? One contract is thought to be for helping to get prisoners back to work, and the other helping to get problem families back to work.
13)...Another multi million pound contract said to conflict directly with Harrison's former role as David Cameron's advisor on families, has been awarded to A4e which involves getting around 120,000 families with complex needs back to work. David Cameron who has described his friend Emma Harrison as an "inspiration", must have known this, why didn't he act, why did he allow this very obvious conflict of interests to occur? Why is this contract still being honoured by the Tory government despite the conflict of interests and police fraud investigation
14).How much has A4e already been paid with regard to the 120,000 families mentioned above? Do they get paid for taking them on their books? Do they get paid when they find any placements for these people? how many other agencies like nurseries and Sure Start centres are involved?
Thought must also now be given to the way Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Duncan-Smith and Grayling have been deliberately running a campaign to discredit the former Labour government, attacking them over their welfare bill, anyone would be forgiven for thinking that the previous Labour government hadn't been doing anything to get people back into work, we now discover the truth is very different. We also now see that the Tory led coalition has been exposed as deliberately misleading the British public into believing something which they knew to be completely fabricated. How many other occasions as our Prime Minister, David Cameron been lying to us? (For example: "No top down reorganisation of the NHS"?- Complete and utter deliberate Lie. All the Royal Colleges support the government's reforms - complete and utter deliberate lie.)
15).Why did the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) pay A4e a severance fee of £63 million when they stopped one contract which the company had with the previous Labour government and immediately replaced it with another of contract of their own? Did A4e apply for this fee as severance of this contract and on whose authority at the DWP did the Tory government pay A4e this massive amount of "contract severance" money, when it looks to be completely unnecessary and why did A4e accept this money?
Also I thought this Tory led coalition government were going to be burning all the quangos on a "bonfire of quangos" (at least that is what they promised - yet another complete and utter deliberate lie) or does this only apply to the quangos that Labour employed leaving the Tories to enter into nice cosy lucrative arrangements to employ their own people in their own quangos?
The Tory led coalition government has encouraged the breakdown and division of our society by encouraging people to look down upon those who are unemployed, disabled, sick and vulnerable, the vast majority of who are absolutely 100% genuine. All this from the government who have called people feckless, work shy, lazy, idle, scroungers, fraudsters etc., yet it is not these people that are bleeding the country dry it turns out to be the government along with their Tory doning and Tory supporting mates.
The Serious fraud Office has been asked to investigate A4e contracts, let's hope they also investigate just what has been going on inside the auspices of this Tory government as well and that they report openly and transparently on it and are not prevented from doing so, although I am not holding my breath. (Cameron promised us "open and transparent government - another complete and utter deliberate lie, Cameron and Lansley are currently refusing to publish NHS reforms Risk Register despite being ordered to do so by Information Commissioner).
Yet astonishingly the Government's Cabinet Office has confirmed that despite the police investigations for fraud into this company, A4e, will not be banned for bidding for any other government contracts. This is one of the very issues that could involve the NHS reforms, that NHS campaigners trying to get the government to "Drop the Bill," are most afraid of, yet the government will do nothing to stop this. if they will not act here, they will also be powerless to act when futures situations similar to this appear after the NHS Health and Social Care Bill becomes law. Yet more deliberate lies and obfuscation from the Conservative government.
With companies like A4e being paid £2000 for each client they place in a work experience and a further £400 for each time sheet they produced, imagined this multiplied by tens of thousands around the country and it is not hard to see why Emma Harrison is a multimillionaire! Especially in some cases A4e was actually being paid at least £2400 per week by the government to give work experience to someone that was cleaning out its own company's offices and all the person on wok experience was getting was £53 per week from the government. How many other companies like A4e are there in the government's employ and how much is this costing the taxpayer?
"A former Tory official who worked in David Cameron’s inner circle and was an aide to his policy adviser Steve Hilton is now a director of scandal-hit A4e, it emerged last night.In an example of ‘revolving door politics’, Jonty Olliff-Cooper joined A4e armed with top-drawer Conservative Party contacts.Critics said it was evidence of the cosy relationship between the Government and A4e, which holds Whitehall contracts worth tens of millions of pounds.At Mr Cameron’s Policy Unit, Mr Olliff-Cooper was Tory guru Steve Hilton’s close aide for a year from 2008 to 2009.The party came to power in 2010 and months later Mr Oliff-Cooper moved into the private sector with A4e." Read full article here at Daily Mail
The most A4e can expect to get for any one person they help into work can manage to keep on a placement for longer is £13,000, they get monthly "sustainment fees" of around £1,200 per person. Equally as puzzling is why the Tory led coalition's fees for finding placements for 18 to 25 year olds is lower, considering the problems we as a nation has with younger work force out of work.
A4e started to expand in 2009, under the Labour government welfare to work programme, but has actively flourished during the last 20 months under the Tory government. This very interesting article in the Guardian can be found here.
I don't quite know what the public are supposed to make of David Cameron, within the space of two weeks he has made two key note speeches, one attacking the greed of banks and large corporations and the other informing us all that the attacks on businesses and banks has gone too far - I wonder if he had his "friend" Emma Harrison in mind when he said this?
It never ceases to amaze me how this Tory led government can manage to introduce car crashes to their policies time and time and time again.
What is becoming clear that this government are totally incompetent and totally incapable of running this country from the economy through to defence, policing, welfare and the NHS. This government is an unmitigated catastrophic disaster waiting to happen any day now.
Something has to give somewhere and it is not those who are in genuine need and on benefits because they find themselves in a downward spiral of this government's making through their insane austerity measures that need exposing, the vast majority are doing nothing wrong, it is those in government who are responsible for awarding these multimillion pound government contracts to their friends and families that truly need exposing and if that pulls our pathologically lying prime minister into the mire, then so-be-it!
Footnote: Emma Harrison looks disturbingly like Carol Vauderman, let's hope she is forced to take up an unpaid work placement as a Carol Vauderman lookalike with a dodgy theatrical company supplied by a dodgy work placement company on her release from prison. (After the government has taken back all the money it has been defrauded out of , she may need the £53 per week JSA - although I seriously doubt it)