Company that gets people off benefits under investigation for fraud

Allegations of fraud are surrounding an organisation that helps people get off welfare and get back to work.

A police enquiry has been conducted into the organisation A4e after complaints of poor performance were reported.

After the fraud allegations came about the company suspended three of its employees and the government has been called on to suspend any contracts that it has with the potentially fraudulent organisation.

Margaret Hodge, an MP for the Labour Party, initiated a parliamentary question about whether the contract with A4e should be suspended until the matter is cleared up. The Department of Work and Pensions asked the police to raid the offices of the company last Monday.

A spokesperson from Thames Valley police has said, “The offices of the company, which are located in Slough, were visited by officers after allegations of fraud were referred to us. The Department of Work and Pensions asked us to investigate the matter and at this stage we are unable to offer any further comment.”

The company has issued a statement which reads, “This is an issue that occurred over two years ago and was related to several former employees of the company. As soon as the allegations were made we launched a full investigation and suspended the members of staff. Those who were involved and were not suspended had already left the company.”

There is relatively little information available right now about the nature of the fraud but it seems that the company might have been taking significant payments for conducting job hunts that only lasted for a single day.

The Labour MP for Slough, Fiona Mactaggart has commented, “I have repeatedly asked the National Audit Office to investigate poor standards of work and the fraud allegations that have been made towards A4e. This company are providing a public service and because they are doing this they should have a certain amount of integrity. I am not certain that the office of the company in Slough is maintaining these standards.”

Ms Mactaggart also commented that she was disappointed that the new government renewed the contract with the company despite the allegations of poor practice. She continued, “The nature of the complaints was incredibly serious and it is completely remarkable to me that the Department somehow saw it fit to renew the company’s contract.”

The founder of the company, Emma Harrison, received dividends worth £8 million last year and this has led to intensified scrutiny of the company. The company only makes its money from government contracts and therefore all of the money paid out in dividends, which was valued at around £180 million, comes from the taxpayers pocket.

Ms Harrison has become increasingly known in the process of getting people off benefits and back to work after being involved in a television show two years ago. In December 2010 David Cameron appointed Harrison as the family tsar, which meant she was offering advice to the government and how to get people back into work.

This is not the first time that the company has been subject to an investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions. Back in 2008 an investigation was launched into the company’s Hull office after sources told the Observer newspaper that the signatures of employers were being forged onto certain documents. Those who were involved in the allegations were either fired, or resigned.