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

Insights from Within

In this special guest blog, we hear from Bill Wells in response to Richard’s recent piece on changing the way children’s services are commissioned. Bill Wells worked in DWP, BIS, and its labour market predecessors, for over 35 years. As a labour market economist he has a national and international reputation. During this time he had … 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

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

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

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

Spend to offend (the outsourcing of probation)

The Ministry of Justice has set out the proposed payment mechanism for the forthcoming “rehabilitation programme” contracts (http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/rehab-prog/payment-mechanism.pdf). The mechanism appears to be a relatively straightforward and robust funding model. However, despite the rhetoric about a “rehabilitation revolution” (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/12-months-supervision-for-all-prisoners-on-release), this is the outsourcing of probation, pure and simple. It has the potential to deliver more … 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