Unemployed people and welfare rights campaigners are holding a 'leaving party' today (17 May) for a discredited provider of 'welfare to work'. The government have terminated a contract for the controversial firm A4e following widespread campaigning and accusations of fraud.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stated yesterday that the A4e contract for delivering workfare in the south-east of England has been cancelled due to inadequate documentation, erroneous claims and non-compliance with guidance.
The cancellation of this one contract may well be the tip of the iceberg for fraud at A4e. The National Audit Office (NAO) released a report yesterday which was highly critical of the DWP’s fraud investigation noting that it failed to collect key documents.
The DWP statement concludes just one of several ongoing investigations into the company whose success has depended on government contracts worth £200 million a year.
In February, Emma Harrison resigned as David Cameron’s 'Families Champion' and as chairperson of A4e, walking away with an £8.6 million dividend.
The NAO report suggested at least £773,000 has been lost to fraud in contracted employment programmes since 2006. Earlier this week, an eighth A4e employee was arrested in an ongoing police investigation into conspiracy to commit fraud. Next week, the House of Commons Public Account Committee will discuss “fraud within welfare to work providers”.
“Until recently A4e was the flagship for government plans to turn welfare into a business,” said Liz Wyatt, a member of Boycott Workfare.
She added, “Now that a range of inquiries are shedding light on the shady world of workfare, it is increasingly clear that the the entire 'welfare to work industry' is not fit for purpose”.
The party will be complete with balloons, bunting, music and rhubarb crumble. Boycott Workfare say it will celebrate “the demise of a company which has bullied unemployed people and forced them onto workfare whilst diverting taxpayers’ money directly to Emma Harrison”.
Campaigners will also use the party to talk with claimants at A4e about their welfare rights. This is part of a wider campaign against workfare that has seen protestors up and down the country target high street stores that use workfare.
In a sign of the level of public opposition to unpaid labour, numerous stores have since pulled out and the government have been forced into retreat over their workfare schemes.
Liz Wyatt, said, “We will continue to celebrate as the reality of the 'welfare to work industry' is exposed and the companies profiting from workfare flounder. Unemployed people are being completely let down by these companies and the taxpayer is being ripped off.”