Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Small charities and big business

It is, according to A4e's Emma Harrison, "Small Charities Week", "a major celebration of the small charity sector and its huge impact on communities across the UK". You can listen to her talk about it on the MyA4e site or read about it on the ThirdSector website. The writer of that article, Anne-Marie Corvin, sees some irony in this, pointing out that "A4e, the private company Harrison founded in 1991, frequently competes with charities for government contracts. Two years ago Hull Citizen's Advice Bureau was left facing an uncertain future after A4e beat it to a contract to provide legal advice, and the Migrants Resource Centre accused A4e of 'gross exploitation of the voluntary sector' when the firm asked it to work as a partner without payment in 2008."
Meanwhile, there's the business of new contracts. More scrutiny of the Work Programme proposals has raised another disconcerting fact. According to Chris Ball, Chief Executive of TAEN: "The emphasis will be on sustainability of jobs; proportions of fees will be paid after one, two and three years in the job – an idea meant to encourage providers to work much more closely with the employers in which clients have been placed. There will be downsides for providers compelled to wait for their money however." It might also be seen as a "downside" for the client who faces up to three years of ties to the provider.
On Friday Michael Gove will fire the starting gun for the "free schools" race. We know that several private companies, including Serco, have arranged with parents' groups to run these new schools, ensuring that this is, in effect, the beginning of the privatisation of our education system. It is unlikely that we will get a list of which companies are running which schools.

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