Aintree jobseeker gets help from Labour MP Bill Esterson in expo

Bill Esterson and Philip Hammond

An Aintree jobseeker has turned to Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson to help him expose a welfare-to-work firm which he says is nothing more than a "Victorian workhouse scam".

Philip Hammond of Lincoln Drive in Aintree, slammed A4e which he said is "solely for financial gain, off the backs of vulnerable unemployed people".

A4e (Action for Employment) is a controversial training company which is contracted by the Department for Work and Pensions to work with unemployed people and train them to get back into employment.

But the company has become dogged by controversies with many people saying the company is not fit for purpose and the DWP has now announced an independent audit into its own relationship with A4 following allegations of fraud.

A4e chairman Emma Harrison was recently forced to step down as David Cameron's personal adviser on 'problem families' because of the fraud allegations.

Philip Hammond, who has been looking for work for 14 months, said the company consistently failed to help him find employment and persistently bullied people who they were supposed to help.

Philip said: "A4e is bullying people at a time when they need support. They run a campaign of intimidation and undermine any self confidence you may have in yourself.

"One example of this is how they are forcing people to sign a 50 page contract which gives A4e the right to monitor them, their finances, employment history, everything, for two years. People think that if they don't sign the contract, they are going to lose their money. But that's just not the case. People are signing their rights away to a private company when they don't have to. It's very wrong.

"Just because you are unemployed, it doesn't give anyone the right to take away your basic rights. People want to work, but they are being ground down and undermined by A4e. As a jobseeker, I am on £90 a fortnight. I don't intend to be on benefits any longer than I have to.

"I've been unemployed for 14 months. I'm 50 years old. It's getting harder for me to get back to work. But I am doing everything I can to get myself back into employment. I've had numerous jobs, from working for a bank to being self employed, I even worked for the war graves commission.

"I've told them I'd do anything to get back into work, but there's just nothing out there for me at the moment. But I am still trying."

Philip said there should be a full audit into the company.

He added: "A4e is letting people down at a time when they need help the most. People are scared of losing their money. Some are already in debt. A4e takes advantage of that. They are taking advantage of vulnerable people.

"A4e say they improve people's lives, but as far as I've seen, they make people's lives a misery.

"A4e is a big business run by a lot of well to do people who are well connected. Emma Harrison's friendship with David Cameron proves that. They are taking advantage of people to make a fast buck. A fast buck made on the backs of vulnerable people who need help.

"I just want A4e to be held to account."

Sefton Central Labour MP Bill Esterson said Philip's experience is not unique.

Bill said: "I have spoken to a number of constituents who have had similarly awful experiences with A4e.

"People are finding themselves out of work for no fault of their own and they are being treated like criminals by a company which should be helping them.

"The national news about A4e is that they are being investigated over allegations of fraud. But I think there is a much more urgent need for A4e to be investigated for how it conducts its business on behalf of the government.

"There needs to be a full investigation into how the company treats people who are referred to it and what number of people have been helped back into employment by A4e.

"This is something which I am taking up directly with the Prime Minister and I am calling for a full investigation into A4e's practices.

"I don't want any more of my constituents to have to go through what Philip has been through when all they want to do is find employment and get their lives back on track."

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