Child Poverty: The United Kingdom Experience

On April 1, medical journal Academic Pediatrics published a special supplement examining child poverty in the US, where one in five children live below the federal poverty level (FPL) and nearly half of children are classified as poor or near poor. The supplement brings together articles from paediatric researchers, child advocates, social scientists, economists, and … 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

Living in a Material World

Poverty is about money – or rather the lack of it. The reasons for, and results of, poverty can be many and myriad and, indeed, contestable, but the idea that the definition of poverty might be up for grabs is bizarre at best. Yet the decision by the UK government to move away from using … 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

Quality performance in refugee management???

The UK government will never accept an EU refugee quota. However, we have already seen how the public cry of horror at a drowning child can soften a political heart, and draw out a commitment to take more displaced people. This commitment includes targeting those with arguably the highest level of need, in camps closest … Continue reading

Against Fatalism

Can progressive policy be good politics? Last week the Centre for American Progress published a report, Creating Inclusive Prosperity, informally subtitled ‘Against Fatalism’. It is the culmination of a two-year long commission into the ‘defining issue of our generation’. That is that underwhelming growth, wage stagnation and increasing inequality is a toxic cocktail with profound … 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