Monday, 22 August 2011

Questions and doubts

The papers are mostly cynical this morning about Emma Harrison's scheme, going with the "gimmick" line. The Yorkshire Post reports this but is slightly confused, saying that the initiative "will be" piloted in Hull, Blackpool and Westminster (it's already up an running in at least two of those areas). They have a quote from Harrison: “The thought scares a lot of politicians [who are asked to take part] because they don’t know how to do it but I have said ‘I’ll show you once and for all how this is done’. And they are very enthusiastic.” But the headline on the article is "Middle class in Hull urged to ‘adopt’ a jobless family". The only person from the Hull City Council they could find to comment was the deputy leader of the Lib Dems, who "cautiously" welcomed the initiative.

The next time anyone interviews Emma Harrison there are three questions I would like them to ask her:
  1. Has A4e bid for the contracts the DWP is putting out, to use European Social Fund money to pay private companies to run the same scheme that you're promoting? Are you trying to pre-empt these contracts by getting your scheme up and running first?
  2. You have argued in the past for "super-contracts" in which a private company would run all the services in a local authority area. Is this scheme a step on the way to that?
  3. Given your company's record of missing targets by some distance in previous welfare-to-work contracts, why do you believe you will be any more successful with this?
There's a report out today by the Social Market Foundation, claiming that the Work Programme is at risk of financial collapse. They use the performance of the providers in Flexible New Deal to forecast that the DWP's expectations for the WP are over-optimistic. If the providers can't meet the minimum targets they will lose the contracts. They seem to be arguing for a better deal for the providers. But in an interview on the Today programme this morning Chris Grayling claimed that the WP was different from FND because providers have much greater freedom "to do what works". (This is disingenuous. They had the freedom under FND, and indeed under New Deal, to pay for such things as skills training.) Grayling said that the providers knew what they were doing when they bid for the contracts, and that there will be no re-negotiation. One interesting point was his statement that the minimum performance standard must be greater than the "dead weight" figure, those who would be expected to get jobs without any input from contractors.


  1. I've just read the report in the Yorkshire Post and although the scheme might well work for a few individuals the numbers will be so small as to be negligible. However, for those few individuals, if they are indeed intergrated into the world of work it will be truly life enhancing.

  2. "Middle class in Hull urged to ‘adopt’ a jobless family". Sounds more like a Python sketch.

    Even if suitable middle class families were to come forward. Would they have the necessary skills, expertise and time to help a jobless family - which may well have complex and multiple barriers to overcome?

  3. I think the question is more how they would be received by these families. Harrison painted a picture of helpless families just waiting for someone to come and tell them what to do. I doubt it's quite like that on the estates of Hull or anywhere else.

  4. Sounds more like the Harry Enfield sketch with the 'pet' geordie in the home of a rich suburban family.

    I doubt the WP is in danger of collapsing. There's (unfortunately) no way the government will let that happen unless they really are stupid. Behind the scenes deals will be made to safeguard these contracts.

    Either that or claimants will bear the brunt.


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