Emma Harrison - I was 'bullied' out of A4e

Thu, 25/10/2012 - 13:23 -- nick

Emma Harrison, the former head of A4e, gave her first lengthy television interview since leaving the company on last night's Channel 4 News.

Harrison, who was also previously the coalition government's families tsar, is still the largest shareholder in A4e, and rose to public notoriety by paying herself £8.6million from her 100% government-funded company.

In a sometimes hesitant, sometimes combative performance she accused interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy of bullying her, claimed that every figure given in the previous filmed report was wrong while claiming not to know the true figures, and stated that Channel 4 News had been "making up stories for a long long time now".

Channel 4 had obtained figures showing that fewer than 4% of A4e's Work Programme clients had got jobs, lower than the minimum contract requirements, and Guru-Murthy asked Harrison why she paid herself a recent £250,000 dividend despite this underperformance, a question she evaded.

Harrison did take the opportunity to apologise for the unhappiness of an A4e Work Programme client quoted in the piece, but accused him repeatedly of making an "improbable statement" when he claimed to have received only 15 minutes per month of face-to-face support from an adviser.

Harrison went on to make allegations of her own, including that six months previously Channel 4 News had reported on claimed fraud at A4e, and this was subsequently disproven. Accusing the programme of bias, she asked why "you've never reported on that".

She also claimed that Channel 4 News had asked her to appear "to talk about the impact of all this bullying, I was bullied out of a job that I've been doing for 25 years" rather than justifying A4e's Work Programme performance, although this was rejected on air by Guru-Murthy.

Offered a lifeline by the interviewer, who said that the Work Programme did not provide sufficient funding to meet its targets, Harrison was keen to reject this, stating that the Work Programme is the most successful programme we've ever run", despite the figures being analysed in Channel 4's factcheck blog and found to be well below minimum standards.

Further accusations made by Harrison included "because of the reporting you did my children were bullied", making a direct connection between Channel 4 and the bullying. This raises the unpleasant spectre of cruel bullies citing the Channel 4 report rather than any of the other negative newspaper and television coverage that dealt with the story at the time.

Offered a final chance to apologise for her and the company's conduct, she launched in to a rambling justification: "We were like caught in this political maelstrom, I was a useful face for the politics people to have a go at...they used me and my organisation...I bloody loved the work that I do".

At the end of this unusual encounter Guru-Murthy offered Harrison the chance to come back an justify Afe's performance figures, an offer that was not taken up.

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