Thursday, 9 February 2012

Exploiting the unemployed to line the pockets of big business

The following is take from the socialist issue 704

The introduction of the government's flagship welfare service the Work Programme has been criticised recently in a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The programme was rushed through in just 12 months starting in June 2011. Disgracefully the government paid £63 million in compensation to private companies to end New Labour's Flexible New Deal contracts early. Ten of these same companies also got the lucrative new contracts with the Work Programme. Providing support to those on benefit is big business and there are many multinationals trying to get their hands on the £5 billion budget.

The government propaganda concentrates on scapegoating individuals for not getting a job. Yet unemployment is at 2.65 million and the government's slashing of jobs and services in the public sector only makes it harder to find work.

The scramble for profits skews the way the private companies provide services. The NAO report acknowledges that providers cherry-pick the easier-to-place people into work and "park" individuals who face more barriers getting back into work.

This was highlighted by PCS-commissioned research in 2006 on third sector involvement in welfare provision. This government puts the emphasis and payment on results. It is not concerned with how providers achieve the targets, as long as they get people off benefit. Also, using the current economic crisis as an excuse, it is likely that the private sector providers will demand a relaxation of the targets they signed up to.

It is often difficult for the public to raise concerns with the quality of these companies' services. Many of them also have a bad track record in the treatment of their own employees, (see article below).

The NAO report recommends that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) monitors the contracts more robustly. And it highlights some of the problems caused by privatisation. PCS members working in the DWP have a proven track record in providing the best support to help claimants back into work. So the work should be brought back in-house by staffing up jobcentres to provide good quality, individualised support for those on benefit, rather than pouring public money into the coffers of big business.

PCS will continue to campaign for our alternative to the government's attacks on the welfare state, as well as opposing all cuts.

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