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.