The government has abandoned its plans to allow local authorities to award child protection services to private companies. The Department for Education’s (DfE) plans would have handed the safeguarding of many of the most vulnerable children in society to the likes of G4S, Serco and Atos, and it is a victory for common sense that they have been forced to back down.
Councils will still be able to outsource these services to charities and social enterprises if they so wish, but private firms will be barred from bidding the process. The DfE’s draft regulations that would have enabled councils to outsource childrens’ social services drew criticism from all angles. Leading social policy experts and child protection professionals expressed considerable concern at exposing children to the fickleness and failings of outsourcing giants, whilst We Own It, Social Enterprise UK, Compass and trade unions also condemned the plans to allow private companies to profit from the care of vulnerable children.they have also ditched the plan to sell off HM Land Registry as reported here in the Money Mail:-
Controversial plans to privatise the Land Registry have been scrapped by the Government after a revolt by civil servants.
The sell-off had been expected to raise at least £1.2 billion for the Treasury, but an announcement in January that the move was being considered triggered a 48-hour strike by furious employees last month.
A source said the ‘staff issues’ had been a major stumbling point. Another problem was that the privatisation would have been ‘just too complicated’. The source said: ‘It would have involved new legislation.’It's worth noting that an effective staff revolt and strike was involved, but of course it's also about timing. This close to the General Election, Business Secretary Vince Cable and the Lib Dems suddenly want to put some blue water between themselves and the Tories. Sadly, the timing was wrong for probation.
But the march of privatisation continues, largely by stealth, in the NHS and orchestrated by GP's who now hold the purse strings by virtue of their dominance on Clinical Commissioning Groups and as reported here in the Guardian:-
Cancer care in the NHS could be privatised for the first time in the health service's biggest ever outsourcing of services worth over £1.2bn. A host of private healthcare firms have already expressed interest in securing a £689m, 10-year contract to provide cancer care at four NHS GP-led clinical commissioning group areas in Staffordshire.
The four CCGs involved, which care for 767,000 patients, are also seeking bidders for a separate £535m contract to provide end-of-life care. Together the contracts are worth £1.22bn, much more than the previous record high of £500m, secured by Richard Branson's Virgin Care for providing various health services in Surrey.
Virgin, Care UK, Ramsay Health and other private firms, many of which have increased their role in providing NHS care amid an expansion of competition driven by the coalition's NHS shake-up, have attended briefings run by the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, which is advising the four CCGs on the cancer contract.It pains me to say this, but doctors have always been suspect since effectively holding the post-war Labour Government to ransom and demanding they be allowed to be private contractors, rather than employees, upon establishment of the NHS. Sadly, despite what most people might believe about our treasured NHS, creeping privatisation was assured as soon as private contractor GP's were put in charge of CCG's.
The really appalling thing is that many MP's and Peers had vested interests in private health care companies when they voted on the legislation, and many GP's have connections to the same companies. No wonder this country comes 14th, just above Barbados and Hong Kong, on world perceptions of corruption in public services.
I see that the National Audit Office have been hard at work looking into the fiasco Chris Grayling left behind at the DWP:-
After a poor start, the performance of the Work Programme is at similar levels to previous programmes but is less than original forecast. The Department has struggled to improve outcomes for harder-to-help groups. The Programme has the potential to offer value for money if it can achieve the higher rates of performance the Department now expects.It's a pretty damning analysis as reported here in the Guardian and serves to indicate the sort of thing that will be in store with the TR omnishambles:-
The Work Programme is also not working as the Department intended in the way it rewards contractors for performance. Flaws in contracts and performance measures have led to unnecessary and avoidable costs. The Department may have paid contractors £11 million in the period to March 2014 for performance they may not have actually achieved and could overpay contractors £25 million over the remainder of the Programme unless it changes its approach. The Department has recognised where it has needed to make changes to contracts. It has been actively negotiating with contractors to make improvements but it is not yet clear how much the Department will need to compensate contractors for changes.
Welfare-to-work providers will receive undeserved bonuses of up to £25m even though they have failed to hit government targets for placing people in to long term jobs, official auditors have found.
The National Audit Office has discovered that flaws in work programme contracts meant that the Department for Work and Pensions is obliged to make incentive payments to even the worst performing providers. In a report released today, auditors also say the success rates of contractors has fallen. Around nine in every 10 claimants of employment and support allowance, who include many people with illnesses and disabilities, are failing to maintain a job.
The report is the latest damning assessment of Iain Duncan Smith's £2.8 billion programme which has been beset with problems since its inception in 2011.Talking of the Work Programme, I want to raise an issue that's been bothering me for some time, that concerning the creation of shit jobs. It's a phenomenon many of our clients are already familiar with, but of course with increasing privatisation and the 'reform' of public services, it's something that many more of us will probably be experiencing personally over the coming years of 'austerity'.
The amount paid out in bonuses from the public purse is likely to be around £31 million in 2014-15, whereas a measure of performance more dependent on results would have triggered payments of just £6 million, according to the report. "Flawed contractual performance measures mean the department will have to make incentive payments to even the worst performing contractors," the report said.
Take this example, recently brought to my attention. A woman found employment by a Work Programme provider with a community care company. She typically 'starts' work making domiciliary visits at 7.45am and 'finishes' at 9.45pm, but these times are meaningless to her employer because she only gets paid for 8 hours, ie only the time she actually attends to people in their home. She is not paid for her travelling time, by bus if necessary, and waiting time between addresses and appointments, and the cost is not reimbursed either.
She is paid the minimum wage and had to 'contribute' £40 towards her enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check. After 6 months, no wonder she feels utterly drained and worn out and ready to chuck it in, and who would blame her, despite the risk of getting a benefit sanction.
But it's not just the shit jobs on barely minimum wages and zero-hour terms, it's the bullshit PR spin some of these employers put on it all. The employer in this instance is a 'social enterprise' in the North East called Casa 'Care and Share Associates' and their polished upbeat website 'putting people before profit' informs us thus:-
Care and Share Associates is a social enterprise which develops franchise companies in which the workforce are the owners. Employees are able to participate in the decisions that affect their working lives. In our experience, this produces a higher level of commitment to the organisation and to the quality of the services that we deliver, because every employee is supported to achieve their personal and professional best.
Our family of companies already delivers services in Knowsley, Leeds, Halifax, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Manchester.
As a social enterprise, our purpose is not to maximise profit. Our main commitment is to the communities we serve. This commitment means creating better jobs, supporting our employees’ professional development and offering a high quality, flexible service to those individuals who rely on us for their care needs.
High quality care and support is all about the workforce. What we have done is to find a way to tap into people's natural creativity and commitment, by giving them a stake in their business. CASA's approach to workforce planning is therefore about more than recruiting and training staff, it also means defining a positive workplace culture.
In developing innovative services we recognise that social care providers are now required to offer a range of support options beyond the traditional boundaries of residential, day and home care. As levels of demand for care and support continue to increase, CASA is determined to look ahead to new models of provision which will achieve cost savings whilst ensuring choice, control and dignity for individuals who use services. We have recently invested in additional capacity in quality management so that we can ensure a consistent approach to quality and outcomes across the whole group.
Our longer term strategic vision is to continue to expand and make a real difference in the social care sector.All sounds pretty good doesn't it? In fact not unlike that favourite of the educated middle classes and Tory party the John Lewis Partnership. The trouble is they've 'outsourced' all their cleaning to facilities management companies employing people on minimum wages. The cynical failure to abide by the JLP principles laid down by the Founder has attracted the attention of several online campaigning groups with petitions attracting 50,000 signatures, as reported here in Marketing:-
John Lewis is facing mounting pressure to pay its cleaners the living wage, as a petition lobbying the board burst through 50,000 signatures. The Change.org petition is asking John Lewis to pay its cleaners a living wage of £8.80 in London and £7.65 in the rest of the UK, and points out 650 companies including Nationwide and Tate & Lyle have already committed to the London Living Wage Foundation.
John Lewis and Waitrose staff are part of a partnership whereby they all receive an equal percentage bonus depending on how profitable the company is each year.
This year staff received a 14% bonus, but the cleaners do not receive the living wage and missed out on the bonus because they are contractors.
Last year the Living Wage Foundation pointed out the 3,000 cleaning staff missed out on a share of the £200m bonus pot. The change.org petition points out that John Lewis has contracted out its cleaning services despite positioning the brand as one that is committed to treating its suppliers, customers and partners with fairness.Finally, I'll end on this good news for Frances Crook and the Howard League in their battle for Judicial Review of certain aspects of Grayling's Legal Aid cuts:-
It added: "Given John Lewis’s impressive profit levels, it is very troubling that it refuses to show moral leadership and pay its cleaners the living wage."
The Court of Appeal has today (Tuesday 1 July 2014) notified the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service of its decision to allow an appeal of the High Court’s decision to refuse the charities permission to judicially review the Lord Chancellors’ savage cuts to legal aid for prisoners. The original challenge was dismissed by the High Court on 17 March 2014, on the basis that the claim was not arguable. The Court of Appeal has granted the appeal on the basis that there are sufficient prospects of success.
The challenges concern the decision to cut most aspects of prison law from legal aid funding, leaving even young and mentally ill prisoners without legal protection and, in some cases, facing parole board reviews alone.Postscript It's been pointed out to me that this youtube clip of Glenda Jackson MP savaging Iain Duncan Smith in the Commons the other day would fit rather well with today's post:-