This is why the profit motive has no place in our public services

The DWP isn’t just off the rails but careering down the embankment – Published on Left Foot Forward, by Mark Serwotka (general secretary of the PCS union), July 1, 2014.

… The problem is, the auditors note, three years in to the programme it is still underperforming, failing the very people it was set up to help and rewarding some very profitable private companies for these failures. It is worth repeating, it has been three years almost to the day since it was launched – surely it should be working by now.  

So what does the report say? Well, for the most recent cohort to complete the programme, ‘job outcomes’ – I assume they don’t just call them jobs because it doesn’t have to mean long term, sustainable employment – are not just below the government’s original forecasts or what the providers anticipated when they bid for the contracts, but still below the minimum performance levels expected. Three years in.

If you are sick or disabled the picture is even worse. Performance levels for people entitled to Employment and Support Allowance are appalling but that is not all. One of the most shocking revelations in this quietly damning report is that prime contractors – those that won the contracts and are either running schemes or sub-contracting them to others – have “reduced what they plan to spend on the hardest to help”.

Providers told the NAO they now plan to spend 54 per cent less than they originally budgeted for on helping the most vulnerable people.

This is exactly what we said would happen under a wholly privatised, payment by results, system.

And not only is this direct evidence that providers are cherrypicking the easiest to reach cases and neglecting the most vulnerable, the NAO says the Department for Work and Pensions has “limited ability to identify issues such as parking of harder-to-help participants”.

This renders ministers all but powerless to intervene in their flagship back to work scheme when it turns out the scheme is failing to achieve its objectives.

This is the market at work. This is why the profit motive has no place in our public services, particularly those public services where provision that does not discriminate or exclude is essential to ensure the most vulnerable people get the help they need.

There are ideologues who will say, “Yes, but if the companies fail they won’t be paid”. Wrong. The NAO says contractors fear for the viability of the work programme but say they still expect to make a profit from it … //

… (full text).

Related Links:

Other Links:

US GDP Drop & Shadow Banks, on Z audio, by Jack Rasmus, July 1, 2014;

Afghanistan: Pity the Children, on TruthDig, by Chris Hedges, June 30, 2014;

… and this:

Star Trek – The Next Generation: Banned Clip from ‘The High Ground, 1.04 min, uploaded by Howth Mauser, Dec 29, 2010.

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