"More joined up services"; "link broader support services together"; "must become better integrated"; these are phrases from Mark Lovell's latest contribution to "Addressing the wider impact of debt", an article on Debt Management Today. He is pursuing A4e's goal of super-contracts, whereby the company would be the gateway to all services for the impoverished. "Access to these 'holistic' services," he writes, "should be through a unified, personalised view of the customer." He quotes a survey they did three years ago among their debt advice customers which produced results, which are blindingly obvious, about the personal implications of debt, and uses these to support the thesis.
It must be stressed again that any such bundling of services under one private company should be resisted strongly. People in trouble need access to impartial, expert help and advice, provided by the public sector or by not-for-profit organisations. They need to be able to find alternative sources of help if necessary, not be at the mercy of one person from a private company, and they need to be sure that no one has any financial stake in their fate.
In pursuit of the same goal Emma Harrison has got the Times interested in her Working Families Everywhere efforts. The paper will be following the "stories" of three long-term unemployed people she is mentoring. Now, the Times online is behind a paywall, and I have no intention of buying copies just to read this guff, so I'd be interested if anyone does see it.
I know that there are lots of people, organisations and websites out there which are (justifiably) very exercised about welfare-to-work. I wish some of them would look beyond this to the wider picture.