Thursday, 29 May 2014

Not accountable to anybody

A curious story popped up in my Google alerts the other day, from the Rotherham Business News website.  It reported on the new "Help to Work" programme, then went on to the fact that Rotherham Council had discussed a review into the Work Programme as it operated locally, with Serco and A4e.  The report was particularly concerned about sanctions.  Both companies were invited to take part in the review, in person or in writing, but declined, "with A4e taking the view – based on advice from their Department for Work and Pensions account manager - that it would be inappropriate to respond to the panel's questions."  I'm not entirely sure what a DWP account manager is.  But clearly A4e don't see themselves as accountable to anyone.
The DWP has shied away from investigating another provider, Seetec.  Private Eye broke the story some time ago.  Two whistle-blowers had reported fraud around Seetec's Work Choice contract.  The DWP has now "investigated" and exonerated the company.  But it didn't interview the whistle-blowers, and claimed that it had all the evidence needed in their emails - which contained no detail, just a short summary.  The Eye says that Margaret Hodge is on the case.
It's staggering that the value of outsourcing contracts has risen by 168% in the first quarter of 2014.  It's gone to £2.1bn.  In local government it's up by 60%.  And more than half the contracts are first-time outsourcing deals.  The government wants more.  Private Eye also reported in the latest issue on a meeting held by Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, with bosses from G4S, Serco, Capita and Atos, to discuss "how to develop the government's commercial reforms".  Apparently they discussed "greater openness and trust between government and its suppliers".  But of course, you can't have openness when commercial firms are involved, unless you change the law.  And businesses are lobbying hard to avoid that.
There was an excellent, if chilling, article by Polly Toynbee in the Guardian last week.  Read it and weep.  Even if the Tories are rejected at the next election it will be too late to undo their sell-off of our public services.


  1. Regarding DWP account Manager. This is from the DWP's Provider Guidance Chapter 3 pdf I found while doing a Google search:

    Account Manager
    The Account Manager’s (AM) role is to work with you on a strategic level. All providers are allocated an AM including those who have been successful on the Framework for the Provision of Employment Related Support Services (ERSS).
    The AMs function is designed to be flexible and responsive to the market place.
    AMs will:

    work with you at a very senior level and act as a point of contact;

    assist you in achieving your agreed performance target by advising you on the delivery of agreed improvement plans;

    help you manage risks and issues, removing duplication and activity that adds no value; and

    work strategically with you to ensure you have the infrastructure and required levels of support to effectively deliver DWP Welfare to Work contracts.
    AMs will take the lead with key suppliers, developing long term strategic partnerships to maximise performance, quality and value for money. The Account Management Team have responsibility for all senior interactions and will facilitate strategic review meetings.

    1. Ah, so this is someone employed by the DWP, not A4e. Which makes it even worse in a way, since it's the DWP telling them they're not answerable to a local council.

  2. Considering A4e was such a publicity 'tart' up until a couple of years ago, it's telling is it not how they now along with Serco declined to take part in a review.

    It seems that such companies love the right sort of publicity, i.e. when it chimes with the simplistic public view of welfare. However, when anyone dares to put them on the spot with potentially awkward questions, they either fight like a cornered rat (as Emma Harrison did on Ch4 News) or they hide away in the shadows.

    As Historian says, these companies do not appear accountable to anyone, least of all the electorate and taxpayer. Who indeed prop these companies up financially without fully understanding what they do and without ever having a say in whether they want their services or not.

    1. Gissajob (aka Bakatcha)29 May 2014 at 07:55

      Which is why I posted the following comment on the Rotherham article:
      So both A4e and Serco "turned down the opportunity to provide evidence". Neither organisation (especially A4e) is renowned for a "shrinking violet" approach to publicity which leaves me wondering what exactly it is that they don't want publicised.

  3. It looks like they are taking a page out of the IDS play book,nothing to see here,all is fine and blame those dammed unemployed....Captain Quige? The Caine Mutiny?

  4. 'These companies do not appear accountable to anyone, least of all the electorate and taxpayer.'

    I think one of the reasons for growing British apathy toward 'the state' is that we do not feel we have any control over the increasing pace of privatisation and 'sub-contracting'. The privatisation of the Royal Mail is a good example. It had no public support and was forced thorough by an unelected government.

    The Tories are destroying the welfare state and replacing it with a corporate fascist state which will be MORE expensive and, as you say, accountable to no one.

    We see this happening but really what can you do?

    There will be a tipping point but the Tories will keep pushing until that point is reached and it is difficult to see where that point lies. For example, we have accepted the introduction of the Workplace Pension (in effect, a pension tax), so who is to say we won't accept an extra-Social Insurance Tax to pay for medical insurance.

    I think it is inevitable that the Welfare State will be sold off or sub-contracted. Where the tipping point may lie is BEYOND this point i.e. when the true cost of sub-contracting is shown through the increasing cost in pounds and pence and in human terms through a decrease in quality of service.

    This may only lead to a change in government - which may happen at the next election when if Labour wins I expect them to scrap the Work Programme and Universal Credit.

    BUT depending on what policies Labour introduce and their success it may lead to a total reversal and the re-invention of the Welfare State, possibly by a truly left-wing or radical government.

    It is worth remembering the Britain is yet to have a fundamental social and economic revolution, similar to the French and Russian.

    It will happen one day.

  5. Why would Labour scrap the wp when the best they could muster up was New Deal!?!
    Some responses on here are mere fairy tales paying homage to your diluted socialism which you like to bleat on about!
    If Labour win the next election the wp will remain: I predict the rules, regulations will change-the payments system and the actual job starts targets will change to reduce government expenditure!
    To the contrary don't forget Tony Blair changed the face of Labour with his Democratic Socialism which has very Pro Conservative Pragmatic policies supporting its very core! I would not be surprised if they took the next step and closed JCP and replaced them with Welfare to Work providers

    1. I'm being indulgent with rude comments this morning, but don't push it!
      The original New Deal was a scheme which actually worked. It was wrecked from 2006, with outsourcing gone mad. The current Labour lot are not Blairite, and I'm pretty confident that in government they would not do as you state. But the Tories certainly will.


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