Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Contracts and figures

News that A4e didn't win a contract, but it raises more concerns about the whole privatisation project.  There has been talk for some time of privatising the Probation Service, but one of the first steps comes in London, where a contract has been awarded for supervising people doing community service as a punishment.  The contract went to Serco - one of the three huge companies (with G4S and Capita) which run more and more of our public services.  The two failed bidders were Sodexo and A4e.  All three companies teamed up with a Probation Trust or something similar to tender for the work.  In A4e's case the partner was Mitie.  I hadn't heard of them, but a bit of googling reveals that Mitie and A4e joined forces in January 2011 to form what they called com:pact specifically to bid for community payback contracts.  They already run the MITIE Enterprise Centre, doing skills training at Hollesley Bay Prison and YOI in Suffolk.  So it looks like the Probation Service is being privatised bit by bit, and A4e will get its share of the cake.

A few snippets of news.  The first, in the Telegraph, tells us that the numbers of paupers' funerals are increasing as more applications for funeral grants are being turned down.  The grant only covers less than half the cost of a funeral, but with more impoverished people claiming it and being turned down councils are having to bury more people at their own cost.  The poor are stripped of their dignity even in death.

Then there's Iain Duncan Smith's proud boast that the benefits cap is already "encouraging" people into work.  There's a straightforward account in the Independent.  Note the wonderfully round numbers.  Of the people who would be affected by the cap, 1,700 have found work and 5,000 have "indicated they would like to receive support to get back into employment".  The cap hasn't yet come into force, yet IDS would have us believe that the prospect is already persuading loads of people to get a job (and, of course, there are lots of jobs available).  Channel 4 News' Factcheck blog was sceptical.  They ascertained that 58,000 people were told in may that their benefits would be capped at £26,000 a year.  The Jobcentres have tracked those and report that just under 3% of them have gone into work and another 9% have asked for help to get work.  But as Factcheck points out, there is nothing to prove that one follows from the other.  There are no figures for the numbers who would have got work anyway.  So IDS is making it up - again.

A third piece of news which has been mangled by the right-wing press for their own purposes is a suggestion that the Human Rights Act should cover "socio-economic rights".  Here's the Daily Mail's interpretation; the Express used the word "spongers" in its headline.  What it boils down to is that there would be a guaranteed minimum income.  That's hardly new.  It used to be called the "personal allowance", and it was what you got as "income support" if you had no other income.  It didn't include things like housing benefit.  Governments eroded that and eventually ditched it.  It started with changing emergency grants into loans.  Then asylum seekers got less than everyone else.  And now the concept has been abandoned altogether.  There is a real debate to be had on these proposals.  But don't hold your breath.


  1. Bit of humour, Serco G4S Ect Ect,starting to sound like that company in the movie RoboCop..lol

    1. That is what I've been thinking since I saw this: http://tinyurl.com/c5ysrcc - Just like the cops having OCP on their badges!

      A4e, G4S... (OCP)... They're all the same. Those in power should have learnt by now that outsourcing important public sector roles to for-profit companies does not work.

  2. You mean OCP (Omni Consumer Products) A great line is where the Senior Vice President says "Good Business is where you find it"!

    On a more serious note, looking at the DM article highlighted above, the people in the article are actually MODELS, and not actual jobseekers at all! However, they were made to look like the archetypal 'scrounger', sitting down and knocking back cheap lager and smoking!

  3. Gawd, historian! Please don't put ideas into A4E's head! The last thing the bereaved need is to have A4E interfering with the funeral of their loved one.

    The modern, politically-correct, term for a "pauper's funeral" is that they are now called "contract funerals," I believe. I've been to one and I was very impressed. The Funeral Directors were a privately-owned firm of FDs, based locally, and I thought they did an excellent job. I don't think the deceased (a friend of mine) would have wanted any more of a fuss than was made.

    However, if you get a company like A4E involved with funerals, the only thing you can look forward to is an incompetent, disorganised mess which will upset all the chief mourners dreadfully for the rest of their lives, so please don't give A4E any ideas about this!

  4. Here's one they did win. http://olass.skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/olassprocurement/
    There was (is) a 3-month extension as the non-A4E contracts start on 1st August. Presumably time for any adverse publicity to die down. Apart from anything else, it removes tutors being TUPE'd to A4E from the Teachers pension scheme - so another win for the government. Instead of fighting the teacher's unions over the new pension plans, they remove teachers from the pension a handful at a time...

    1. I seem to remember that A4e had to set up a separate pension scheme. But those who have to go onto it don't cease to be part of the teachers' scheme. They just get less at the end. So presumably A4e's plan has to make up the difference. I could be wrong.

  5. A propos of nothing much really - except possibly your mention of Channel 4.
    It strikes me that more and more I rely on the minor channels (4 & 5) for a realistic insight into what is going on (c/f your reference to C4's factcheck). It seems to me that the BBC has really become the organ of the State and is not to be relied upon to give a complete and unprejudiced picture.
    An enormous shame.

  6. I expect that A4E, G4S, Serco etc will all be given slices of the Probation Service in the same way that all other hitherto *public* services have either already been outsourced and privatised or they soon will be.

    IDS is lying when he claims that large numbers of people have found jobs because of the forthcoming caps on Benefits. Then again, he lied on his own CV just over a decade ago, trying to make out that he has impressive academic qualifications when in fact he has no academic qualifications to speak of. He would have misled the British public even back then except that Newsnight caught him out and exposed his dishonesty:


    The proposal to introduce a British Human Rights Act will not get off the ground. There is no need for specifically British legislation about Human Rights for as long as the UK remains within the EU.

    In recent weeks IDS has tried to introduce the idea of redefining “poverty.” That is a different issue. IDS’ re-definition of what poverty is would produce, as if by magic, the political conclusion that nobody in the UK lives in poverty. His critics have fought back. They insist that if one changes the United Nations’ current definition of poverty (a percentage of median income) then it must be replaced with the concept of a minimum standard of living. IDS knows that he cannot win an argument on this basis so he seems to have kicked his own idea into the long grass. He will content himself with a much blunter, cruder instrument instead – which is to do away with State Benefits in so far as that proves to be possible politically.


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