'Don't help your children find a job,' says social mobility tsar James Caan - the man who employed his own daughters

Entrepreneur and former Dragons' Den star said parents should allow their children at least a year to try to find work unaided
  • @cahalmilmo

At first blush, they were precisely the words of wisdom that any government would want from its new social mobility tsar - a broadside against the evils of Britain's entrenched nepotism and a call for upwardly-mobile parents to “let the child stand on his own two feet”.

The only problem for James Caan, the entrepreneur and Dragons' Den judge, was that in urging parents to resist the urge to give their offspring a nudge or two up the career ladder he omitted to mention that his own two daughters had themselves got jobs at firms he ran or in which he had an interest.

In a toe-curling sortie into the public realm which opens him up to criticism of preaching that others should do as he says rather than as he does, Mr Caan confirmed that his daughters - Jemma and Hanah - are involved in his businesses but underlined that they had gone through a “rigorous recruitment process”.

Hanah Caan, who is on the board of her father's charitable foundation as well as working for his investment company, has written repeatedly on Twitter about her role as an adviser to the Start Up Loans company, a  Government-backed initiative of which Mr Caan is chairman.

Under a description of herself as “sort of like Maggie Thatcher meets Paris Hilton”, she has tweeted about meeting the Queen and visiting Downing Street. Following one visit, she wrote: “Just another meeting at No. 10 #dayinthelife #bestjob #startuploans”.

The row threatens to undermine the launch this week by Mr Caan, who was recruited by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, of an initiative aimed at persuading Britain's leading companies to take on more people from lower income backgrounds.

In an attempt to set the tone for his meritocratic vision, Mr Caan, a self-made millionaire who was born in Pakistan, told The Daily Telegraph that parents should hold off seeking work placements for their offspring and allow them to find their own way in life for at least a year.

He also criticised a recent auction held by Westminster School of internships at blue chip companies, saying it reinforced bastions of privilege such as the professions where privately-educated graduates dominate.

Mr Caan said: “You are trying to develop your child too; you don't want them to feel as though they don't have to make the effort.”

Mr Caan's private equity house, Hamilton Bradshaw, employed Hanah as an adviser after she left university in 2009 and a year later she became a trustee at the James Caan Foundation, which tackles poverty in rural Pakistan.

Her elder sister, Jemma, is currently working for a specialist recruitment company in which Mr Caan has invested.

But the entrepreneur, who has previously stated that friends and family members seeking work experience at his companies must apply through the relevant human resources department, underlined that both his daughters had had to prove their abilities through open application processes.

In a statement, he said: “I absolutely believe that parents should encourage their children to explore their own opportunities and define themselves in their own right. The fact is that parents will always have the innate feeling to help their children into jobs. I'm no different.”