Thursday, 30 October 2014

Everything must go

The government is in a desperate hurry to sell off whatever it can of the remaining shreds of the public sector.  Yesterday it announced the winning bidders for the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts, that hugely dangerous outsourcing of probation services.  As we can see from the Guardian's report on this, two companies get more than half the business.  Sodexo gets six areas, Interserve five; of the rest of the 21 areas, Working Links gets three and Ingeus two.  All have signed up charities to do the work.  Between them they will handle more than half of the probation service work, with supposedly medium and low risk offenders.  Their profits will be on a payment by results basis, albeit under a more complicated system than that of the Work Programme.  G4S and Serco had to withdraw their bids because they are still under investigation for fraud.  A4e, we understand, also withdrew from the process.
It's bad enough that such we have to watch this vital work flogged off for private profit.  Worse is the fact that the companies' profits have been insured against a new government pulling the plug on these contracts.  They are guaranteed their expected profits for 10 years!  So it would be ruinously expensive to cancel them.

We also heard yesterday of the company replacing Atos in the WCA contracts.  It's Maximus, an American company with as dreadful a record in the US as G4S and Serco have here.  For details, look at this piece on the Disability News Service site.  We can't know the financial arrangements that brought Maximus into this, but we should.

We learn from the Guardian that the government is pressing ahead with another disturbing outsourcing scheme; that of child protection services, currently the responsibility of local councils.  A lot of people are not aware that private companies already run children's homes, looking after the most vulnerable children for profit.  Now the government wants to take child protection out of the councils' hands altogether.  It might be thought that, given the stream of news recently of councils' failings in this area, it couldn't be any worse.  But councils are accountable for what they do.  Private companies just want to make a profit.

You will have read today that the government has considered cutting ESA to only pennies above JSA level.  It denies that it's actually going to do it, and the cries of protest will probably stop it this side of an election.


  1. Could this be why Cameron at almost every PMQ's states more private sector jobs than ever have been created? Not hard to do if one includes public sector jobs outsourced to private concerns.

    Regarding the poor record of these outsourcing firms. I do wonder if the ministers signing these contracts ever peruse user reviews of the good and services THEY use? Would they purchase of product or service from a firm which has a poor record? I bet they wouldn't. And yet they expect and indeed force the public to do very much this!

    With 10 year contracts sewn up tighter than a ducks back passage, these companies are laughing themselves all the way to the bank! These contracts and the poor service that will inevitably go with them will roll over into the next government. Thus it makes next to no difference if Milliband replaces Cameron. We can expect the level of service to be the same. Accountability and responsibility seem to be dirty words in modern Britsh politics!

  2. FWIW, I think that a Tory-only new government probably would slash ESA because Osborne is determined to “save” £12bn in Welfare costs somehow, somewhere. .

    Contrary to Mike Penning’s boasts that termination of the WCA contract with Atos would not cost the taxpayer a dime, the taxpayer has actually forked out at least £10 million in order to buy or lease a load of second-hand computers from Atos. In govt-speak, these used computers called “the LiMa hardware.”

    It is widely reported that Maximus will receive around £500 million for rescuing the WCA contract – and thereby ministerial faces - at the last minute:

    As far as I can gather, most new ESA claimants who suffer from mental health problems are being shoved into the WRAG on the wholly specious “ground” that they’ll definitely recover from their mental illnesses pretty soon. Their own doctors might not agree but the govt is not interested in the professional opinion of the treating doctor. The defective LiMa computer system used for WCAs offers a much more reliable means of saving money.

    Slashing ESA will soon dispose of the 600.000 backlog, too.

    I am disgusted by and contemptuous of such utter depravity from the so-called “political elite.” Which feature of depravity is elite, by the way?

  3. The ESA paper sounds like kite-flying to me. Not policy as such, but relatively harmless to let it out and see what the response is. I'd be very surprised if it wasn't actually being considered, given that Osborne has targeted social security for more cuts and IDS is busily loading on costs elsewhere (although in fairness at a comparatively low level compared to the cuts wishes for).

    The attacks planned by both parties on young people are largely cosmetic and won't save much, there's no point in going after JSA as it's too small, pensioners are sacred and cutting HB/LHA further would result in tremendous levels of homelessness and disruption. Having spent 4 years trying (and to an extent succeeding - e.g. to persuade the public that most people on ESA are swinging the lead anyway, it probably feels like a relatively easy target - although if my back of an envelope calculations are right, it would still leave around £9bn to come from elsewhere.

    As for Maximus and the WCA, in addition to hardware and the LiMA software, I'd assume (have little contact with the WCA world) that many or close to all Atos staff will need to be either rehired or TUPEd over. Establishing the infrastructure to do things from scratch would take a prohibitive amount of time.

    1. Your last para is right. From the Independent: "Professor Michael O’Donnell, the former medical director of Atos, now plays a senior role in the American company Maximus, which has won a £500m Government contract to decide whether disabled people are able to return to work. His previous company walked away from the contract, which was supposed to end in 2015."

    2. I really do mean many, not just their clinical director or other senior staff. They need to get this up quickly, which they can best do by employing the people who did it for Atos (plus it'd be difficult to get rid of them in any case).

      In fact, confirmed here that most Atos staff will TUPE across: Interesting that

  4. Meanwhile, IDS has been distracted by putting him in change of ensuring that all new govt policy must pass a “Family Test” in future:

    Iain won’t notice that Gideon has kidnapped the Welfare Reform baby as long as there are some new rattles in Iain’s own pram.

    1. I wonder what exactly a "family" is? For example: A divorced person, living alone, with adult children (and even grandchildren) could be considered part of a family By some definitions the majority of people are part of a family. Anyway I would have thought that all policy should be for the good of the greatest number.
      I think IDS has been sent away to "look after the bees" whilst Gideon gets on with the grown up job of decimating the Welfare State.

  5. Please view for further information

    A4E were bidding on probation but won no contracts very much out of favour with the government now,

  6. I believe they withdrew from the process.

  7. off topic (sorry!).
    Interesting petition asking for IDS to stop lying here:

    1. Absolutely no point whatever, I'm afraid.

    2. I know.....but it made me feel better!


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