In which I fulminate about carpet-bagging …

*** UPDATE ***

Things have got very strange with this story. Ms Harrison has visited the comments thread and left a comment. Patrick Butler has responded. Here’s his reply –

For the record, as writer of the blog, I’d like to draw attention to Emma Harrison’s post in this thread, in which she denies making the comments attributed to her in the press release issued by Hillgrove PR:

I did not have any knowledge of this press release. I did not ask for it, write it or approve it. My views are wholly and utterly misrepresented and from what I can determine were written by someone from Hillgrove that I have never met with, or spoken to. The blog writer by his own admission was suspicious that these were not my sentiments but he did not bother to check with me. Ummmmmm.

Emma Harrison.

Anyone who wants to know what I really think and what I do to try and make sure the UK welfare reforms makes things better for people then look at my blogs via ( I did write them !! )

To clarify, yes, I was sufficiently shocked by the comments made in the press release to call up the PR firm to check that it wasn’t a hoax. They confirmed it wasn’t. Indeed they told me: “It’s what Emma said.”

Hillgrove’s website lists A4E among its clients here:

Emma Harrison’s relationship with her PR company, and by what protocols they are authorised to issue press releases on her behalf is her business, but to imply that I’ve been somehow been careless here is, frankly, a bit of a cheap shot.

Patrick Butler

Setting aside the scrambling defence being offered on this PR gaffe the comments thread makes for some disturbing reading from current and former A4e clients and employees.

Here’s the text of my original post.


I’m not easily shocked these days but my eyes goggled yesterday when I read the latest post on Patrick Butler’s cuts blog. It reported some comments from Emma Harrison from a company called A4E. The company is a great success story having been started by Ms Harrison in the early 1990s to help Sheffield’s redundant steelworkers back into work. Since then the company has grown to have a turnover of £190 million employing 3,400 people. A4e claims to have helped a million people into work and, according to the company’s fact sheet, is now the largest supplier of all sorts of things to the government.

In other words the company’s existence and success depends upon a flow of benefit claimants or the employed across its threshold.

That might explain some of the extraordinary language used by Ms Harrison in a news release picked up in the cuts blog. Here’s the quote that really caught my eye,

“The coalition government’s cuts are, in fact, fantastic!”

Fantastic? For whom? Well clearly for A4e. But also for all of us on the frontline apparently. Part of Ms Harrison’s schtick is ‘tough love’. So I suppose those of us that have been or are about to be fired should feel particularly cherished.

Carpet-bagging is not a term that’s used a lot these days which is a shame because it expresses exactly some of the things I have begun to see in the world of job hunting and redundancy which I now inhabit. Carpet-baggers arrived in the devastated southern states immediately after the end of the American Civil War looking to profit off the back of the economic hardship and misery defeat had brought.

I have been contacted by all sorts of organisations offering to help me in my job search (for a fee) or to involve me in all sorts of schemes that will enrich me (after a modest investment from me). My point is that there are already carpet-baggers galore out there looking to make a buck from my misfortune. So it comes hard to read that a leading provider of help to people in my situation thinks what is happening is ‘fantastic’.

With absolutely no hint of malice I fervently hope all those organisations looking to provide help (at a price) run out of the raw material – people like me – on which their business models depend.

Now that would be fantastic.


About redundantpublicservant

A redundant UK public servant looking for work, sharing his experiences and providing a space for others to do the same.
This entry was posted in carpet bagging, job hunting and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to In which I fulminate about carpet-bagging …

  1. Mean Mr Mustard says:


    Thanks for the brief history lesson on ‘carpetbagging’ – I didn’t know the origin. I usually subscribe to the CANOE theory. (Campaign Attributing Naval Origins to Everything, eg – Brass Monkeys!)

    Anyway, to the serious point. Agree 100% with you about such exploitative lowlife consultants and contractors. However, the millionairess in question here, Ms Emma Harrison, rapidly backtracked in the comments thread on that article – disowning what was directly attributed to her, by desperately claiming they were the product of her overzealous PR subcontractor. Last I read, (88 comments in) Patrick Butler stood by his story, as he suspected a hoax, and had already checked with the PR agency – who indeed confirmed ‘that’s what Emma said’…

    Some of the more general observations about the ethics surrounding the outsourced New Deal within the comments were interesting. Seems it’s a complete crock.

  2. Mean Mr Mustard says:


    Sorry, it’s me again… Further reading of the comments indicate that the delightful bubbly and ever so positive Emma didn’t actually start the firm, but was recruited (obviously on objective competency based criteria) into Daddy’s modest recruiting agency business. Then it seems that one D Blunkett, a Sheffield resident, may have had something to do with assiting their contract bid in which they went nationwide. He’s apparently still associated with their ongoing success, even now.

    Beware RPS – should you have the misfortune to be compulsorily referred for corrective career realignment to this outfit, under threat of benefit sanction, it appears that they do operate most efficiently on a lowest common denominator principle – and so may put you into a basic literacy class. Protestations of “But I’ve read Thomas Hardy, and James Joyce too!” won’t cut any ice…

    • Dear Mean Mr Mustard,

      In those circumstances I think I’d keep very quiet about my reading habits. Don’t know if you’re familiar with Educating Rita? There’s a great line where Rita is reading Of Human Bondage as she does her shift in the hair salon. One of her clients asks her what she is reading and when Rita tells her she says, ‘My husband’s got books like that.’
      ‘Somerset Maugham?’
      Still makes me chortle.

  3. SCH says:

    Oh, deep joy. Is this what I have to look forward to, after 19 years of education and 22 years of working life? Being shown how to use a copy of the Yellow Pages and lectured on how to fill in a job application form for McDonald’s? While some person with no manners, common sense or spine makes money from my infinite misery? Please, someone, shoot me now.

    • Dear SCH,

      I don’t think we are allowed to shoot people willy-nilly or at least not without a detailed risk assessment first. Although the coalition does plan to reduce such ridiculous red tap so shooting public servants won;t require such a lot of form filling.

      Chin up,


  4. Poor Henry Joy says:

    I posted on the comments board on this piece. Having worked in the field, I can assure readers that A4E are truly appalling.

    I pity anyone who has to use them. Given developments in my own agency, it could be me in a few months…

    • Dear Poor Henry Joy,

      I was really surprised by the intensity of the comments on Patrick Butler’s Guardian piece. But I have never worked directly with them so can’t really comment.

      Unusual to let an absence of knowledge hold me back but there it is …

      Thank you for visiting the blog and taking time to comment.


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