Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (4th April 2012) said: “The government must call a halt to the possibility of employment finding group A4e landing a lucrative state contract while concerns over their behaviour in areas like Teesside remain uninvestigated.”
He said this after press revelations today that the Home Office is lining up A4e for another major government contract, despite the jobs agency being at the centre of fraud allegations. Ministers have made the firm – owned by David Cameron’s fallen “family champion” Emma Harrison – the preferred bidder to take over the helpline to advise people of their rights in discrimination cases via the Equalities and Human Rights Commission.
The privatisation of the Commission’s helpline was sought by the Home Office and the Government Equalities Office. It costs £2.1m a year to run, employs 85 staff in Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow, and handles 50,000 calls and 15,000 emails every year. Staff are trained to provide detailed advice on sensitive discrimination issues covering disability, gender, race and sexuality, and advise on mediation services.
Tom said “this is frightening news after more allegations have been made across the country – including here on Teesside – about the practices of this firm in the job placement industry, via contracts they had landed with the Department of Work and Pensions.”
“These included admissions by A4e that they had to withdraw from part of a £900,000 project with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council after an A4e employee forged signatures on official forms.”
“This new contract – if it is to be awarded – will put the company into one of the most sensitive areas of public life and public service. The thought of this company being awarded this multi-million pound contract after a BBC investigation revealed ‘a systemic pattern of duplicity at A4e across the country, including staff claiming for putting people into jobs which did not exist, jobs which did not qualify for payment and fabricating paperwork” and with no investigation staggers me. ”
“The Home Secretary, Theresa May, must act on this matter before Easter.”