Friday, 26 February 2010
Pathways - why it's not working
When delivering a public service such as helping the unemployed to find work there will be some crucial differences between public servants and private contractors. These differences are highlighted in a report on Pathways to Work, which looks at the "impact of outcome-based contracting". Pathways is a programme to help people with health or disability problems. The report, done by the Policy Studies Institute for the DWP, says that the programme is failing for a number of reasons. The Jobcentre Plus website says: "The help is tailored specifically for each person taking part in the programme." But instead what's happening is "creaming and parking". Inevitably, if you pay by results, i.e. job outcomes, contractors will cream off the clients most likely to get jobs and park the ones who have little motivation or who have serious problems. The economic situation has meant serious financial problems for the contractors. "As providers were not meeting their performance targets and service fees were not sufficient to cover running costs, it was widely reported that prime and partner delivery organisations were experiencing financial strain as a result of the contractual agreements." It has also meant that the prime contractors are leaving it to their sub-contractors to deal with those clients with specialist needs. "Service innovation on the part of prime providers was largely focused on reducing operational costs and achieving performance efficiencies." The conclusions of the report are polite but pretty damning. But they don't include the scrapping of these contracts and returning the service to people who are resourced over the long term and are motivated by the desire to do a good job and deliver a service to the public.