A4e "welcomes" the new contracts to be issued by Chris Grayling for "offender rehabilitation", or so they say on their website. These contracts will privatise a chunk of the work of the Probation Service, and they're set to be on a Payment by Results basis. PbR is not a model the outsourcing companies like; but it seems to be the only game in town at the moment. The Work Programme hasn't been a good advertisement for it, and Mark Hoban (more about him later) has reiterated that the worst-performing providers will be penalised by losing "up to 5%" of their new referrals. It's hard to see that as a punishment. The providers have complained that they have too many referrals and not enough money to do anything useful with them. Hoban is talking tough, saying that he's willing to see providers go out of business if they can't deliver on the contracts they signed. But if any of the big companies, including A4e, went bust it would cause big problems, as the remaining providers would be expected to pick up the business.
The Telegraph reports that Mark Hoban has been one of the biggest beneficiaries of the MPs' second homes scam. He sold his London flat, funded partly through the MPs' expenses system, in November with a profit of £144,000. He's only been asked to repay £11,332, because that's all that's due since the new system kicked in. The article, somewhat tongue in cheek, ends by describing Hoban as the minister "at the forefront of trying to get more people off benefits and into work". It really does point up the hypocrisy of politicians who milk the system while vilifying the poorest.
Two more articles I'll simply recommend without comment. The first is in the Guardian: "Recession is a good time to exploit cheap labour, says Cameron aide". The second, also in the Guardian, is by Nick Cohen: "Lies, damned lies and Iain Duncan Smith".
Finally, a demonstration of how the right-wing press works hand in glove with the government, this time to denigrate the BBC. The Express has splashed an account of a book which purports to show left-wing bias in the Beeb.