I always find it's good to kick off a post by kicking G4S. I'm grateful to the commentator who pointed me in the direction of the embarrassing position the BBC finds itself in by seemingly being about to enter into a large security contract with said company. As this piece on the brilliantly named blogsite 'STOP G4S' outlines, a whole host of the rich and famous are on the case, but we await the Beeb's decision with interest.
The 'STOP G4S' site is well worth a good root around and I love their style in having produced a wonderful spoof chairman's letter which was handed out to shareholders at the AGM in June. It begins:-
"This has been something of a roller coaster year for us. The publicity we gained from our Olympics failure may have been mostly negative. But it's important we remember that G4S is now a household brand and that our business model of zero-hours contracts, limited communication and maximal outsourcing is now widely understood."
My recent mention of concerns over our sacred NHS finds yet more news of contractors pulling out of the disastrous 111 telephone service that replaced the former NHS Direct one. Apparently, the reason given is 'financial unsustainability' or in laymans terms shit money, a situation with an increasingly familiar ring to it. Coincidentally, my attention has been drawn to this piece on the Guerilla Policy website and a disturbing new book NHS SOS just published.
Also on the Guerilla Policy website is this fascinating post written by founder Michael Harris on the subject of 'shadow politics' and an explanation of 'how outsourcing and privatisation have got their teeth into public services'. Definitely worth reading in full, here's just a couple of tasters:-
One of the smoke and mirrors twists common in the shadow politics is the nationalisation of private failure, and the privatisation of public success – witness the public bailing out the banks, and the privatisation of the income-generating Royal Mail. To wit: if companies like G4S can’t be trusted to do their job with competence and integrity, it must ultimately be the fault of the state – so further undermining the legitimacy of the latter to the ultimate benefit of the former.
So – a policy no-one voted for, which the political class itself acknowledges lacks evidence, doesn’t work in practice and which raises significant issues of public accountability, but which carries on regardless, propelled by private interests, lobbying and donations. It’s the shadow politics in action.
With ever more people finding themselves working for dodgy employers, from Monday it's not going to be as easy to go to an Industrial Tribunal because fees have been introduced by the government in order to discourage vexatious claims. An utterly cynical move by government, I notice that at least one trade union, Unite, intend to pay the upfront fees on behalf of members.
We don't often hear what clients or former clients feel about things, but this powerful piece
'Making Good : The Comodification of Offenders' by Raymond Lunn is quite a damning indictment that should make very sobering reading both by prospective bidders for probation contracts, and Chris Grayling himself. Read it in full, but here's a taster:-
Over the last few years I’ve been engaging, some things have changed in terms of looking at the rehabilitation of offenders, the crock of shit the government call ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ is now a main stay in terms of the present governments agenda. I don’t feel the opposition are thinking of anything much different either. The ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ agenda and changes are all about opening up the the public services dedicated to protection of the public and reform of offenders to private and charitable ‘enterprise’. This is a red flag if ever there was one! It petrifies the life out of me that people who might be as naive as I was will be taken in, mentors and volunteers to assist some enterprise in their creation of a business in the guise of ‘doing good’. Even though we ex-offenders have important knowledge in terms of experiences and qualified more than any ‘professional’ to understand why we desisted, we are not considered as equals in terms of knowledge and expertise. They want it, they want to use it, they even want to sell it. But not as an equal in terms of being considered valuable enough to pay for.
I’ve never wanted to mentor, I’ve always being about challenging policy, the inequalities and discrimination faced by those who wish to integrate and ‘make good’ – the problem is and my warning to any would-be ex-offender who wants to make good is to be careful, be wise, value yourself, your knowledge and your narrative. Don’t let anyone make you think you owe them or society. You’ve paid your debt, you owe jack shit, other than yourself. Make good, but on your terms. Check out why they want you, what is their history, I advise anyone getting involved with any organisation, especially if new to check out who the directors of the enterprise are, what do their financial reports say. Some of the ‘enterprises’ will scream and say ‘We’re not for profit’ – you don’t have to be, check the wage structure and shareholder dividends. Look for independent reviews by people who worked there or were service users. Don’t follow the crowd, the ‘in’ crowd. Some, if not all great services are often the quietest, they just get on with it, rather than odiously celebrating their ‘good news’ on social media and ignore the probing and relevant questions!
Finally, here's a wonderful article in The Sun about a TripAdvisor-style website for prisons. One respondent describes HMP Wormwood Scrubs thus:-
"The view from the room was poor and obscured by iron bars. Facilities were rudimentary to say the least - no television, mini bar or ensuite facilities. Due to overbooking I was forced to share with a rather charmless individual by the name of 'Mike the Hatchet' who was keen to know why my stay was so short. I sought out the shower facilities in the morning and had to queue and was then told 'not to bend down for the soap' by a surly member of staff.
When I went to check out I was interviewed by a panel of three people who asked a lot of strange questions. For some reason my departure was met with unruliness by the other guests who banged their mugs against the iron bars and shouted obscenities. The only plus point was that after checkout I discovered that reception had forgotten to charge me for my stay."