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

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

The value of nothing

Chris Grayling has described many of his reforms in both employment and justice as “delivering value for money for the taxpayer”. It is difficult, however, to find evidence of the consideration of ‘value’ in recent and planned changes. Instead, as discussions about public services become increasingly polarised, cost and value are conflated. The nuance of … 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

Failing without accountability

In the US a significant proportion of charter schools are delivering weaker than expected performance, with little consequence for the contract holders. On Monday (19th March) Chris Grayling, the UK Minister for Employment, faced the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Select Committee and underlined his commitment to culling failing Work Programme providers and transferring … Continue reading

Painting rocks or work experience?

In the midst of the battle over work experience between the supposed Trotskyites and the Minister for Employment, the voice of one person is being drowned out. It is often the case in an employment services system that is essentially paternalistic and disempowering. In ignoring that voice, we miss the real answer to the problem. … Continue reading