Sunday, 5 August 2012

The big profits society

You wouldn't want G4S running it.  You certainly wouldn't want A4e running it.  How about Serco?  One of David Cameron's "big society" ideas is for a National Citizen Service for youngsters over 16.  Naturally someone has to make money by running it, and, according to the Observer, is in line to win 8 of the 19 contracts currently up for tender.  As with the Work Programme, charities are involved to deliver it, but many charities are complaining that they are being forced out of existence in favour of the big private companies.  The government doesn't care about that.  Indeed, it isn't capable of comprehending that there could be a problem.
The Guardian gave a platform to Martyn Hart of the National Outsourcing Association to explain why outsourcing is "here to stay".  He insists that, "Outsourcing is far from privatisation – done properly, the client remains in control at all times. The client's purchasing a service, over a long period of time: as paying customer, they are perfectly entitled to specify exactly what they want. But a key facet of outsourcing is the shared bearing of risk: the partners are in it together. Not just financially, but also in terms of reputation. If things go wrong, both brands are weakened and, in the case of the supplier, future custom is jeopardised."
Now, I understand the difference between outsourcing and the kind of privatisation he's talking about.  But it's a distinction which becomes less and less relevant when the private companies are large enough to call the shots on these contracts.  We saw it with the Work Programme; the contracts were not what the government had originally intended because the only companies large enough to bid wouldn't play unless they got their way, over attachment fees, lack of inspection and so on.  Cameron's National Citizen Service will have been designed in conjunction with Serco and others.  And the blurring of boundaries between government and these companies - ex ministers on the boards, friends in the boardrooms - works against the idea of partners sharing risk.  The only risk is to the taxpayer.  We effectively have privatisation of government.
Something else leaps out from Hart's article.  The "partners" in outsourcing do not include the people for whom the services are supposedly designed.  This is business.


  1. Sorry to say this,but these companies seem to accomplish little or nothing,I recently asked my WP adviser what his job was?He very candidly stated "I am not sure" according to the mission statement at no time was it stated what his actual job was,it implied that seeing that the companies goals were met and that they complied with all the legal guidelines in order to meet the conditions of there contract.What there actual goals were was not stated, a very blurry outline that talked about delivery methods and supply lines using the "Black Box" method,I must be in another world,as I have reread this time and again and still do not understand what the mission is.

    1. My WP adviser's title is 'Job Life Coach'.


  2. Maybe somebody should start mass producing Pentobarbital. An overdose results in a victim falling into a deep sleep, then a coma then death within 30 minutes. It is painless, clean and quick.

    If society doesn't want us then please, just let us go in peace and be done with it.

  3. This is blatantly just more money for the friends of Callmedave and the nasty party. They seem so confident now that they barely try to conceal their true motives:
    1. Transfer of huge anounts of public money to the private sector supporters of the nasty ones.
    2. Promises of jobs (or should I say overpaid sinecures) on the board for themselves when they eventually get kicked out.

    It seems we can protest all we like but there is nothing that we can do to stop this madness.

  4. Having two masters is never a good thing but on reading the providers guidelines on the Work Programme A4e has have exactly this. Jobcentre Plus and The European Social Fund . Both create a very complex set of conditions for payments to A4e. That is why when you see your adviser they are more interested in documentating into their computer systems than they are listening to you first then analysing your needs. Any original A4e mission is being lost in the process. It is a case where the process is more important than the needs of their participanting client.
    There are no safeguards in place if the participating client does not hit the mandated requirements of the programme. He or She can be reported for failure directly to the DWP and have sanctions applied to their benefits. With A4e being involved the process of appealing any sanction is made difficult due to the relationship between the Jobcentre Plus contract and A4e and A4e's ability to report to DWP directly. The participating client has to deal with a very odd triangle of differing agency. This can take a long time as each has differing time to reply to appeals or complaints. A4e is reluctant to give advice or help or communicate directly with whoever on your behalf. The participating client could starve while they find out how they can appeal and appeal. Each agency passes the buck to each other.
    Sanctions of 26 weeks can require the participating client to re-engage with the work programme for 4 weeks before benefits are restored. What are they to live on meantime one wonders?

    This government is hell bent on punishing people without proper safeguarding. A4e's safeguarding policy is not worth the paper it is written on.

  5. If you google the guidance for Work Programme providers it gives a very good insight to what is going on. It is a very complex document and its flowcharts are enlightening. Worth reading. The current document was updated last month. I would like to know what A4e's original defining service actually consisted of as I think this Work Programme has distorted that considerably. There are many regulations and proceedural processes one could argue damages peoples human rights by adding excessive stress to what is an already stressful situation of being unemployed. If it was the Governments intention to try and simulate some kind of working conditions to help the long term unemployed back into work then they have a duty of care which I believe they have failed to provide.

    Further reading of this document is required but there is a section or two regarding 'mandated' activities and that it is up to the provider to decide what activities are giving this status. A4e sofar has 'mandated' ALL activities which mean failure to carry out that activity then A4e can refer you for sanction. Is A4e overusing this feature of the programme ?

  6. I know very few youngsters aged 16 & 17. I do know two brothers who are about that age. I would guess that they would probably be eligible for the new National Citizen Service once it reaches our geographical area. They are not "inner city" children who need to get out into the countryside but from what I have read about the NCS scheme, I think they would probably enjoy doing it *provided that* the scheme is delivered with the utmost care & attention. It seems to consist of a week doing what is, essentially, an Outward Bound type of activity, followed by doing an [unspecified type of] voluntary service within the local community.

    If the scheme is delivered as cheaply as possible then it will also be delivered badly and no doubt there will be further claims similar to those when CP UK Ltd told a bunch of young people to spend the night under London Bridge recently. The 16 & 17 year olds would be more vulnerable in this sort of situation because they are significantly younger than the London Bridge group were.

    1. If they're doing an outward bound type course they will HAVE to have qualified instructors etc because of the H&S requirements. It also sounds very similar to the DofE ( my daughter will be starting this soon with her school), which interestingly is a charity, and has plenty of experience in doing this kind of thing so why aren't they given the option to run it?

    2. Hi Polly,
      I did DofE when I was a kid - it was really good. They would have been given the option to run it - but chosen not to bid (there's been open tenders for the last two years).

      I think the reason they didn't bid is that they would struggle with this though as they don't actually run their own programmes. Most DofE programmes are delivered by schools or other organisations. DofE tend to just provide the guidelines and stamp off on the award. Getting them to do it is a bit like asking the DVLA to manage your town's buses.

      The organisations who deliver the National Citizen Service at the moment are largely charities with a history of delivering outdoor and community youthwork - like The Challenge Network ( They're less well known but they've got more experience with delivering their programmes.

  7. Why do the same jobs appear on jobcenter plus website often months later? and this is common not any isolated case.


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