They made their bed

The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) have just commenced buying the new Work and Health Programme. This will replace the existing Work Programme, which has run since the coalition government came to power. It will be the layer of services, contracted out mainly to private sector ‘welfare to work’ providers, that is intended to … Continue reading

Think of the children

When the state intervenes in the UK and takes a child into its care, it surely does so with all the best intentions. The intervention is instigated in response to and governed by strict rules on child welfare or ‘safeguarding’, made even tighter since the infamous, sad case of Baby Peter. It costs over £2.5 … Continue reading

Nine cheap warehouses

Michael Gove, Justice Secretary, has announced his intention to build nine new prisons. These will be much needed replacements for some of the old, crumbling prison estate. However, there are important questions to ask about financing and outsourcing. Lazy thinking on location must be challenged. Their long-term value will also depend on whether their purpose … Continue reading

Dos and Don’ts from Down Under

In the late nineties, as Blair and co were rolling out the New Deals and experimenting with contestability at the edges of Jobcentre Plus, the Australians were outsourcing their Commonwealth Employment Service in its entirety. The two countries have watched each other closely ever since. With roughly similar welfare systems, we keep looking to the … Continue reading

No worries mate! (As long as you don’t want to eat)

If people in the UK think the government aren’t tough enough on unemployed benefit claimants, they should look to Australia for ideas. But they should be very careful what they wish for. There is a virulent stream of political rhetoric in Australia, feeding and fed by public opinion, suggesting that benefit claimants are nothing but … Continue reading

Public open markets are private closed shops

Is a Social Serco possible? Challenging the public sector monopoly on some public services has the potential to deliver better social impact. However, the difficulty in opening a public sector market to competition from other sectors is that market making is an inherent feature of the private sector. Public and third sectors, apparently, are not … Continue reading

Misguided or misleading?

The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, rightly praises the achievements of the Peterborough and Doncaster pilots for their impact on reoffending rates. But is his suggestion that the national outsourcing of probation services will resemble these pilots worryingly misguided or purposefully misleading? http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/07/prisoners-reoffend-coalition-cycle-probation-service-support These two small pilot programmes have been working with offenders sentenced to less … Continue reading

The Serco smoke screen

We must be careful that the corporate failures of the big outsourcers in the UK, such as Serco and G4S, do not become a smoke screen behind which failures of the commissioners are forgotten. Media coverage this week of Serco’s failure to hold on to their £600m Docklands Light Railway (DLR) contract has focused on … Continue reading

Grayling’s secret revolution

Chris Grayling, the UK’s Secretary of State for Justice and “Tory attack dog”, is about to do what Thatcher and successive Prime Ministers (of all persuasions) were unable to achieve – throw the public sector open to total privatisation. Grayling’s so-called ‘rehabilitation revolution’ entails taking the existing probation service, currently sitting within relatively independent local … Continue reading

Competition killed the cat

Rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic On Friday 25th October, Serco announced that its Chief Executive, Chris Hyman, had fallen on his sword. Earlier that week, the CEO of G4S in the UK departed. A few weeks earlier, the CEO of Serco UK mysteriously disappeared. This is in order to provide the government (and particularly … Continue reading