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A4e loses workfare contract + Goodbye Emma Harrison = Boycott Workfare party at A4e

Media Release

Unemployed people and welfare rights campaigners will hold a leaving party for ‘welfare to work’ provider A4e and its former chairperson Emma Harrison on Thursday 17th May [1]. The leaving party follows a DWP statement on Wednesday [2] which announced that an A4e contract for delivering workfare in the South East has been cancelled due to inadequate documentation, erroneous claims and non-compliance with guidance. Yet, the cancellation of this one contract may well be the tip of the iceberg for fraud at A4e – the National Audit Office released a report today which was highly critical of the DWP’s fraud investigation noting that it failed to collect key documents [3].

The DWP statement concludes just one of several ongoing investigations into the company whose success has depended on government contracts worth £200 million a year. In February, Emma Harrison resigned as David Cameron’s “Families Champion” and as chairperson of A4e, walking away with an £8.6 million dividend [4]. The National Audit Office report suggested at least £773,000 has been lost to fraud in contracted employment programmes since 2006. Earlier this week an eighth A4e employee was arrested in an ongoing police investigation into conspiracy to commit fraud [5]. Next week, the House of Commons Public Account Committee will discuss ‘fraud within welfare to work providers’ [6].

Boycott Workfare’s leaving party, complete with balloons, bunting, music, and rhubarb crumble, will celebrate the demise of a company which has bullied unemployed people and forced them onto workfare whilst diverting taxpayers’ money directly to Emma Harrison. Campaigners will also use the party to talk with claimants at A4e about their welfare rights. This is part of a wider campaign against workfare that has seen protestors up and down the country target high street stores that use workfare. Numerous stores have since pulled out and the government have been forced into retreat over their workfare schemes. [7]

Liz Wyatt, a member of Boycott Workfare, has said:

“Until recently A4e was the flagship for government plans to turn welfare into a business. Now that a range of inquiries are shedding light on the shady world of workfare, it is increasingly clear that the the entire “welfare to work industry” is not fit for purpose.

The leaving party at A4e bids farewell to its Mandatory Work Activity contract and Emma Harrison. We will continue to celebrate as the reality of the “welfare to work industry” is exposed and the companies profiting from workfare flounder. Unemployed people are being completely let down by these companies and the taxpayer is being ripped off.”

Notes to editor

Boycott Workfare Media Liaison 07840 381195

[1] Boycott Workfare is a UK-wide campaign to end forced unpaid work for people who receive welfare. Workfare profits the rich by providing free labour, whilst threatening the poor by taking away welfare rights if people refuse to work without a living wage. We are a grassroots campaign, formed in 2010 by people with experience of workfare and those concerned about its impact. We expose and take action against companies and organisations profiting from workfare; encourage organisations to pledge to boycott it; and actively inform people of their rights. We are not affiliated to any political party and are open to all who share our aims. More info: http://bworkfare.mayfirst.org/

[2] A statement from Chris Grayling informed the public “…we have terminated the Mandatory Work Activity contract with A4e for the South East.” http://www.dwp.gov.uk/newsroom/press-releases/2012/may-2012/dwp049-12.shtml

[3] National Audit Office report can be found here http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/1213/fraud_in_employment_programmes.aspx

[4] Emma Harrison resigns http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/feb/24/emma-harrison-quits-chairman-a4e

[5] BBC News article detailing the arrest of an 8th A4e employee http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-berkshire-18066490

[6] The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee ‘Fraud within welfare to work providers’ takes place on 22nd May http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/

[7] A recent FoI response revealed that some sanctions on three of the five workfare schemes have been temporarily suspended
http://bworkfare.mayfirst.org/?p=912

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