It's tedious to have to do it, but I need to respond to a Guardian interview with A4e's Jonty Olliff-Cooper. Part of it concerns his previously stated view that "the lines drawn between the public, private and voluntary sectors are becoming meaningless". Many of the comments under the article make the obvious distinction; profit. But there's more to it than that. During the life of the last government many charities were drawn into getting all their funding by competing with the private sector for government contracts. You could argue that that puts them onto the same footing as the likes of A4e. But they are still charities, having to put any profits back into the organisation rather than paying out dividends to shareholders. Of course, it's in A4e's interests to blur the boundaries. Cooper says, "If you're a business that wants to make social value everything you do, then we get into this really anxious territory. I want to understand why that is, and how we can change it." Well, where to start?
You can't imagine any of the other outsourcing companies talking in these terms. So why is A4e trying to rebrand itself as something other than a profit-making business? That is, perhaps, obvious. But it won't wash.
He wants more money for the Work Programme. I don't need to spell out the objections to that, other than to say that many clients report that absolutely no money is being spent on them. The article says: "He certainly has solutions at hand: more exposure for organisations such as A4e, describing why they're important and should be valued; government flexibility to take on contracts across a range of sectors to create a joined-up support system." On the first point, be careful what you wish for. The exposure suffered by outsourcing companies this year has not exactly been favourable; the more the public understand it, the more they resent it. On the second point, this is A4e clinging to the ambition of the "super-contract". Not even this government is going to go down that route.
The last paragraph of the article is blether with a startling obscenity - though it apparently isn't startling in Jonty's world.