Incendiary Procurement

Whatever the enquiry finds, it is without doubt that Grenfell Tower went up like a dry stick because its refurbishment was procured at least in part on the basis of price. If the same fire had started in one of the gleaming new blocks in London’s docklands, it would not have spread. The people buying … Continue reading

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

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

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

The Politics of Ivy

“They have learned nothing – literally nothing” David Cameron David Cameron’s criticism of Labour captures the broader frustration of many listening to the political parties play benefit bingo over the last few weeks. Shirkers – check; something for nothing – check; hard-working – check; tough – check; work that pays – check. Think you’ve heard … Continue reading

Risky business

The following piece appeared in The Guardian on 22nd May 2013. It is banging a drum we have been beating on here repeatedly. The underspend on the Work Programme (as noted in the Select Committee’s newly published report) is a stark example of a key point we are trying to make about the relationship between … Continue reading

Selling tomorrow

In her last post, Jane talked about how an exclusive focus on cost in the reform of public services is to the detriment of the value of those services. Far from delivering ‘value for money’, a blinkered focus on short-term ‘savings’, and consequent loss of value, may ultimately drive up long-term cost. In the last … Continue reading

Endemic ‘creaming and parking’ on the Work Programme

(A version of the following piece first appeared on Guardian Comment on the 20th February 2013. In response to a recent research report, the piece returns to themes we have covered before regarding fundamental design flaws in the Work Programme contracts and procurement.) The Third Sector Research Council (TSRC), part-funded by the Cabinet Office, have … Continue reading

Black box or empty box?

In an attempt to move away from central prescription of service design, the Work Programme adopted a ‘black box’ approach. However, a misunderstanding of this concept erodes service quality and looks likely to exacerbate an outcome gap between disadvantaged groups. Immediate transparent and nuanced performance reporting may ameliorate this, along with negotiation of minimum quality … Continue reading

Parking by place

Concerns about creaming and parking in welfare-to-work programmes are not new and have resurfaced in the last month or so, particularly in relation to clients with specific disadvantages and how well they are being served by Work Programme providers. Richard has recently written about this topic. In this context it is important to consider the … Continue reading