The next time anyone interviews Emma Harrison there are three questions I would like them to ask her:
- Has A4e bid for the contracts the DWP is putting out, to use European Social Fund money to pay private companies to run the same scheme that you're promoting? Are you trying to pre-empt these contracts by getting your scheme up and running first?
- You have argued in the past for "super-contracts" in which a private company would run all the services in a local authority area. Is this scheme a step on the way to that?
- Given your company's record of missing targets by some distance in previous welfare-to-work contracts, why do you believe you will be any more successful with this?
There's a report out today by the Social Market Foundation, claiming that the Work Programme is at risk of financial collapse. They use the performance of the providers in Flexible New Deal to forecast that the DWP's expectations for the WP are over-optimistic. If the providers can't meet the minimum targets they will lose the contracts. They seem to be arguing for a better deal for the providers. But in an interview on the Today programme this morning Chris Grayling claimed that the WP was different from FND because providers have much greater freedom "to do what works". (This is disingenuous. They had the freedom under FND, and indeed under New Deal, to pay for such things as skills training.) Grayling said that the providers knew what they were doing when they bid for the contracts, and that there will be no re-negotiation. One interesting point was his statement that the minimum performance standard must be greater than the "dead weight" figure, those who would be expected to get jobs without any input from contractors.