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

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

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

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

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

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

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