Who are the real Benefit Scroungers?
At a time when we are told, ‘the country is bankrupt’, the government has found a way to give a massive handout to companies. This is workfare – forcing the unemployed to work for their benefits.
The government tries to divide us by pitting those in work against ‘scroungers’ who supposedly need to be forced into work. But it has recently emerged that the real scroungers are the private firms paid millions of pounds to deliver workfare, and A4E is first in line.
In mid January 2012 four A4E members of staff were arrested on allegations of fraud dated back to 2010 – for faking job placements at the expenses of the public purse. Faking placements is not new for private providers to the DWP such as Working Links, who had already been caught in fraud investigations. Yet A4E’s chief executive, Andrew Dutton, tried to convince the media that the fraud was an isolated case.
Isolated indeed! By the time Dutton delivered his speech new creative and more widespread abuses emerged. In February The Guardian revealed that A4E received public money to find unpaid work placements, while they obliged the unemployed to do unpaid work in their own offices! This abuse has taken place in a significant number of their offices across the country, not just a few ‘bad apples’.
And if A4E’s employees fake placements in the interest of their company, if A4E’s offices abuse the scheme to squeeze free labour from those put in their hands, what do we expect from their millionaire owner Emma Harrison, if not more abuse of public money, millionaire style?
In February 2012 it was revealed that Harrison received around £1.7m over two years from leasing out her own properties, including her family stately home, to… A4E! These payments were in addition to her £365,000 annual salary and the payment of an £8.6m shares dividend.
Fraud and Corruption
A4E has nothing to fear from the government – after all former government ministers like David Blunkett are on their payroll. Despite the revelations about fraud and abuse of public money, Emma Harrison was chosen as ‘family Czar’ by David Cameron and in February 2012 A4E was chosen as the preferred bidder for a £15m prisoner rehabilitation contract with the Skills Funding Agency.
The crisis has been a blessing for them. It was Emma Harrison who declared in December 2010 that she was delighted by the government cuts:
“The coalition government’s cuts are, in fact, fantastic!… Cutting benefits will put a stop to people making a profession out of being unemployed”.
In fact the one who made a profession out of the crisis and the attack on benefits was herself.
While A4E has been involved in £224m contracts, it has not created a single new job – it has only squandered money that could be spent to save public jobs and prevent redundancies. It has helped the government in their attack on wages and working conditions for those in work, by obliging unemployed people to replace jobs for no pay.
Cameron and his cronies say that we are all in this together. What they really mean is that they are all together, helping each other make even bigger fortunes. We are asked to stab each other for a crap job, to blame each other for the crisis, and to accuse each other of being scroungers.
They are the real scroungers – they make millions out of our misery and cheat and lie to do so. Let us join together to stop them.
Meet 11am, Friday 4th May, Clocktower, Brighton