Posts Tagged ‘Emma Harrison’

From 2011: Private Eye on Emma Harrison and the Failures of A4E

January 21, 2015

I’ve posted up a number of articles from Private Eye recently detailing the failings of one of the government’s welfare-to-work providers, A4E, and the massive salary nonetheless enjoyed by its boss, Emma Harrison. Here’s another article about this from Private Eye for the 2nd – 15th September 2011.

Welfare to Work
A4E, B for Balls

No sooner had the last Eye published details of the mediocre inspection reports of “benefit-busting” company A4E than David Cameron announced that A4E’s boss, Emma Harrison, was central to his “fight-back after the riots.”

Arguing that the disorder was caused by family breakdown, Cameron said he had “asked Emma Harrison to develop a plan to help get these families on track” and was now putting “rocket boosters” under the scheme.

Emma Harrison’s company needs more than rocket boosters to get airborne. Out of 12 A4E job-finding schemes inspected by Ofsted, only two were found to be “good”; the rest were merely “satisfactory”. By comparison, Ofsted finds around half of schools to be “good” or even “outstanding”. According to the inspectors, A4E hasn’t been mostly “good” since 2008.

The worse news is that Harrison’s A4E is particularly bad at dealing with unemployed people with more complex problems: auditors described A4E’s involvement in Pathways to Work, a scheme to get people from incapacity benefit into employment as “universally poor”.

The only good news is that Cameron was wildly overstating Harrison’s role. In his post-riot speech, the PM referred to plans to help 120,000 families. Harrison’s programme called “working Families Everywhere”, which she personally manages, aims at finding jobs for just 50 parents in Blackpool, Hull and Westminster.

While the scale was exaggerated by Cameron, Harrison’s company did win more business last month – five contracts to deliver the “New Enterprise Allowance” for the jobless. The old Enterprise Allowance in the 1980s allowed unemployed people to keep receiving benefits while they set up small businesses. The Conservatives were keen on the scheme because it spread the “enterprise culture”. Lots of the new businesses didn’t make it but lots did, including Superdry Clothing and Viz magazine.

The old Enterprise Allowance was run by civil servants on the Manpower Services Commission. The new one is being “delivered” by private “partners”. Many of them are local chambers of commerce, which makes some sense. But the qualifications of benefit-busting companies such as A4E, or fellow contract winner Avanta, are harder to grasp: they deal with employment rather than self-employment, and their performance to date, as measure by inspection reportsd, is pisspoor.

This puts some of the controversy surrounding the British education system into perspective. Despite the government’s desperation to privatise schools, and the continuing stories of failing schools that have to be taken into special measures or over by a private scholastic company, most of the schools Ofsted inspects are ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’. A4E, one of the government’s favoured outsourcing companies, by contrast, is responsible for poor service as judged by Ofsted’s inspectors.

The complaint that A4E cannot cope with the special requirements of the disabled has been blogged about many times, by Johnny Void, Mike, Jayne Linney, Glynis Millward and the DPAC people, to name only a few.

As for the replacement of the Enterprise Allowance, this seems to follow standard Tory malpractice. A reasonably effective scheme run by the state is privatised, and given to companies, who have absolutely no knowledge or experience of it. But it’s private, so obviously to those blinded by Hayekian hype, it has to be better.

It ain’t, and the failures continue. But as the Tories and private industry are making money out of it, they don’t care.

From 2012: Private Eye on the Work Programme’s Future Failure

January 20, 2015

In their issue for the 10th -23rd February 2012, Private Eye discussed a government report predicting that the work programme would fail, and put forward ways in which it could be bailed out. The article ran:

Welfare reform
Nice Work

The National Audit Office (NAO) report on the coalition’s £5bn Work Programme (under which private contractors are paid to get people off benefits and into work) predicts that the scheme will fail. But it also suggests how the firms who run it might be bailed out.

The programme, the brainchild of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, is meant to avoid the “limited success” and “disappointing … performance” of past initiative thanks to payment-by-results. Contractors fund the scheme up front (hence the dominance of well-capitalised private firms in the programme) and are only pa9id when their clients find and keep a job.

The NAO thinks there is a significant risk, however, that Duncan Smith’s target of 40 percent of the mainstream unemployed finding work under the scheme is “over optimistic”. History, it says, suggests 26 percent is a more realistic figure. Payment-by-results targets that are too optimistic mean that: “It is possible that one or more providers will get into serious financial difficulty during the term of the contract.”

If firms do start going bust Because they don’t reach targets, what are the options? Most, according to the NAO, involve some form of bail-out. “It is likely that providers will seek to recalibrate the prices and other contract conditions during the lifetime of the contracts,” it predicts. In other words, the big contractors will try to renegotiate easier deals. Though the NAO says the government must be “robust in its negotiations and maintain competitive tension between providers”, in the past the Department for Work and Pensions has helped by offering better terms and referring “more easy-to-help participants”.

The second option is to let a provider go bust and give its contract to another firm. But the department has a limited number to choose from and, as the NAO says, “the rates offered to the new provider will be subject to renegotiation”. Easier terms, in other words.

The last option is for the department to bring the work in-house; but with all its welfare-to-work eggs in the private contractor basked, it doesn’t have the machinery to do this.

Recession and rising unemployment make failure by a contractor even more likely; and the auditors warn that while the government “has plans for dealing with a single prime contractor failing, it has not developed plans for dealing with multiple providers failing within and across geographical areas.”

Whatever happens to the jobless, some people cannot lose, however. As the recent accounts of Work Programme contractor A4E show, the firm lived up to its slogan of “improving people’s lives” by giving outgoing chief executive Bob Martin a £1m exit bonus on top of his £300,000 salary.A4E boss Emma Harrison did even better. The firm increased dividend payments by 400 percent, paying £10m to shareholders in 2011. As she owns 85 percent of the shares, most of this went into her pocket.

Subsequent events have borne this article out. Johnny Void in particular has published numerous articles describing how the workfare schemes have comprehensively failed. Mr Void has shown that many firms have effectively falsified their successes by only taking on people, who could easily be found a job, precisely as predict in this article.
In fact, you are far more likely to get a job by simply looking for one yourself, than by going on workfare.

The article shows further that the NAO predicted all along that the scheme would fail, and the government would have to bail it out for it to stand a chance of working.

And the case of A4E and its bosses, Bob Martin and Emma Harrison follow numerous other case where the chiefs of firms that have massively failed in their hype, have awarded themselves massive bonuses and pay. Well, the trend was set with the banks, and where they led, other industries followed. Private industry flourishes, and only the taxpayer and the unemployed get exploited.