THE founder of Yorkshire-based welfare-to-work firm A4e has claimed she was “bullied” out of her job in a Westminster “maelstrom” as she rejected claims that it was missing targets for a Government work scheme.
Emma Harrison, one of the region’s highest profile entrepreneurs who quit as chairman of A4e in February amid fraud investigations into the firm, said she had been a “useful face for the politics people to have a go at”.
And she complained that her children had also faced bullying as a result.
She hit out as she was grilled last night by Channel 4 News about figures it said suggested Sheffield-based A4e had found jobs lasting at least six months for fewer than four per cent of people referred under the work programme.
That would be below the 5.5 per cent minimum demanded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) for private firms involved in the payment-by-results arrangement.
Ms Harrison, who remains A4e’s biggest shareholder, repeatedly said the information was “wrong” but that she was not able to supply the correct figures. Official statistics on the performance of the programme are due to be released by the DWP later this year.
A4e came under fire for paying £11 million in dividends last year, 87 per cent to Ms Harrison, despite all its £160m-£180m UK turnover resulting from Government welfare contracts.
Amid pressure for it to be suspended from Government work pending fraud investigations, she quit first as an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron and then as head of the firm.
“I was bullied out of a job that I had been doing for 25 years,” she said. “My staff have been bullied. And do you know what’s worse? Because of the reporting you did my children have been bullied.”
“Bullying entrepreneurs like me, someone like me who has invested tens of millions and employed thousands of people, it’s not good for the UK.”