media & legal strategies
confidential hotline 0845 528 0706

Arrests At 'Back To Work Tsar' Offices

Daily Mail Newspaper - February 2012

We were contacted by a whistleblower who was keen to shed light on of what had been happening at the offices of Back to Work Tsar Emma Harrison.

Mrs Harrison's company A4e had received millions of pounds of Government money but their was an allegation that some of the funds may have been obtained fraudulently. 

The story ran on the front of the Daily Mail newspaper and the whistleblower retained their anonymity.

Scroll down to read the full story.

Four people have been arrested in the fraud investigation surrounding David Cameron's 'back to work' tsar Emma Harrison.

Officers carried out dawn raids on the homes of former staff of her employment agency A4e, which receives tens of millions every year in Government contracts.

The two men and two women were questioned on suspicion of cheating taxpayers. The revelation about last month's arrests marks a major escalation in the crisis over A4e, which is paid by  the Government to help the long-term unemployed find jobs, and prompted fresh calls for the suspension of  its contracts.The company has insisted that police activity had been confined to searches of its offices.
But last night, as a whistleblower made claims contradicting the company's assertion that the problem involves only a 'very small number of individuals', it also emerged:Advisers say they were placed under relentless pressure to say they had found the unemployed jobs;
They say they were paid £50 bounties each time they placed someone in work – but A4e received nearly £2,000;
Despite the police investigation, A4e could be in line for a share of £126million of new Government contracts.

The Prime Minister appointed 48-year-old Mrs Harrison in 2010 after she boasted she could get problem families into work, but he may be regretting bringing her into the fold after she paid herself £8.6million, mainly taxpayers' cash, last year.

MPs said earlier this month that her company, which generates the vast majority of its £180million turnover from the taxpayer, had missed many of its targets for putting the long-term jobless into work.

The fraud allegations are understood to concern taxpayers' money being claimed for finding unemployed people a job, even if the work lasts just a few days.

Last Friday, detectives from Thames Valley Police visited the company's offices in Slough, Berkshire. The company played down the visit as little more than a 'chat over tea' to discuss the fraud probe.

However no mention was made of the arrests which, the Mail discovered yesterday, had already taken place on January 18 in the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire areas.

A4e has insisted in a statement that the fraud allegations are an isolated case of 'four former A4e front-line staff who are alleged to have falsely claimed that customers had been placed into employment'.

But yesterday an A4e whistleblower told the Daily Mail workers were being made 'scapegoats'.

'They are putting the whole blame on the workers. But the pressure from managers was relentless,' said the source, who no longer works at the company.

Front-line staff were responsible for helping jobseekers find work, the source said. If they were successful they filled out a form declaring a 'job outcome' which earned staff a £50 bonus. But the company could claim up to £1,900 in success fees from the Government.

Under the rules in place at the time, this money was meant to be paid only after the person had been employed for at least 13 weeks.

The whistleblower claimed: 'At no stage was I ever told about this requirement or asked to check if people had been working for 13 weeks.

'We would put in the paperwork to our managers as soon as someone had got a job, the very same day if possible.'

Margaret Hodge, chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said: 'There is a growing number of concerns which mean that the only common-sense thing would be for the Government to suspend its contracts.'Despite the police investigation, A4e could be in line for a share of £126million of payment-by-results contracts to help more than 50,000 16 and 17-year-olds to 'earn or learn'.The Cabinet Office said the firm would still be able to pitch for contracts to help the young jobless under a scheme launched yesterday by Nick Clegg. A spokesman for the Deputy Prime Minister said: 'It's an open tender process.'

Yesterday a police spokesman confirmed: 'Thames Valley Police officers visited the offices of A4e in Slough on Friday, February 17, as part of an allegation of fraud.

'As part of the investigation, four people, two women aged 28 and 49, and two men, aged 35 and 41, were arrested on suspicion of fraud on January 18. They have all been released on police bail until mid-March.'

Last night A4e strenuously rejected the whistleblower's claims. Andrew Dutton, the firm's CEO, said: 'I will not sit by and let these accusations discredit the hard work that our staff do to support thousands of people into work.

'A4e has zero tolerance towards fraud, and any instance of fraudulent or otherwise illegal activity is completely unacceptable. We take our responsibility very seriously, and we are committed to using taxpayers' money effectively and efficiently to deliver the best services to the public.'

Read more: