Thursday, 23 February 2012

A4e boss Emma Harrison to step down from government role


Emma Harrison, David Cameron's "families tsar", is to stand aside from the role in the wake of revelations that former employees of her firm A4e are subject to police investigations over alleged frauds. She has written to the prime minister saying she believes she should stand aside. Number 10 had been signalling for more than 48 hours that it was extremely concerned by the allegations and would ask her to stand aside from the role. "I have asked to step aside from my voluntary role as Family Champion as I do not want the current media environment to distract from the very important work with troubled families," she said. "I remain passionate about helping troubled families and I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute in an area where I have been active for many years." Her role has always seemed more titular than real with the bulk of the efforts on troubled families now being taken over by Louise Casey at the communities department. Harrison's A4e volunteered details of two investigations as it tried to counter claims that it was involved in "systemic" abuse of taxpayer-funded contracts. The government has said the bulk of the inquiries covered problems with the previous government's back-to-work programmes. The Department for Work and Pensions revealed it had launched nine fraud investigations into the firm in recent years. The prime minister appointed Harrison in 2010 to help get 120,000 "problem families" into work. A4e earned £180m from state contracts last year, when Harrison paid herself a dividend of £8.6m, despite the firm's failure to meet government targets on finding jobs for the unemployed.