Take the aim of getting people off sickness benefits. We all know that a problem stems from the fact that sickness benefit has always been higher than unemployment benefit. We all know that there are many people claiming these benefits who could work. So what do you do? Well, this government employs a private company, Atos, to assess whether claimants are genuinely unable to work, and pays it £3.1bn. Both the company and the government deny that there are any targets, although it's hard to see how there could not be. For a summary of just how wrong this can go, see the Independent's article. But when you want to do another exercise in reassessing disability allowances, you hire the same company. What could possibly go wrong?
Or take the fact that large numbers of young people are not in education, employment or training. It's entirely reasonable that they should be given something useful to do. It might be reasonable to look back at what Gordon Brown did as Chancellor in the early days of the last government. "New Deal" started as a scheme to help NEETs. Some might see it as sensible to create jobs. But this government has decided to make young people do 3 months unpaid work or lose their benefits. Again, this could be seen as reasonable. Another article in the Independent describes the scheme, which sounds familiar to anyone who remembers New Deal. But this scheme will put people into placements with "charities and social enterprises". It assumes that there are enough of such organisations ready to take them (there aren't). And it will certainly be organised by a private company, for profit.
The payment by results model seemed a great idea to a government obsessed with profit. Take off all the restraints and inspections, tell companies they can do what they like, and they will pull out all the stops. Well, no. An interesting piece on the Guardian's website by Su Maddock claims that innovation in the Work programme can only come through local commissioning, not through prime contractors and financial incentives. Again, anybody who remembers New Deal, before David Blunkett privatised it, will recognise this model. (For those who don't remember, the Jobcentre Plus regional offices held the budgets and contracted with a variety of organisations, including very local ones.)
This government continues to confuse the reasonable with the ideological.