Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/587/7526
The Socialist 7 July 2009 |
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Private companies caught in jobcentre scam
The recent media coverage of the fraud of the private sector companies who are being paid to provide help to the long-term unemployed comes as no surprise to PCS union members working in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Katrine Williams, PCS DWP group vice president, personal capacity
Our members always outperform the private sector companies that have been given lucrative contracts to do work for the DWP.
Previously the private sector has been shown to "cherry pick" the unemployed people who are easier to place in work and "park" those who have more barriers to finding work, to hit their targets.
These companies are driven by maximising their profits rather than helping people who are out of work. This New Labour government is absolutely committed to privatising the public sector, which destroys services in all sectors.
One of the companies named in the media is A4e. Negative publicity is nothing new for this company. Last year there were reports in the Manchester Evening News of "jobseekers treated like cattle" as they were crammed into classrooms with a lack of facilities.
These reports have been echoed in interviews with unemployed workers in Newport and Sheffield who have been very dissatisfied with the support they receive from A4e. Many unemployed people have not complained formally as they worry their benefits could be at risk if they did so.
The latest contracts awarded to the private sector have put more emphasis on "paying for results" than previously. Some of the payment is withheld until the person is placed into a full time job. However, whatever the demands put on the private sector companies, they will skew their results and efforts to meet them.
A4e have numerous advocates, including David Blunkett who they pay up to £30,000 a year as a private consultant. Blunkett was the DWP secretary of state until late 2005 and is absolutely wedded to the promotion of the private sector taking on the core work of PCS members. He also went to South Africa to promote this company with businesses and politicians there. A4e have been awarded further new contracts to deliver the DWP Flexible New Deal and a lot of work for local authorities as well.
A4e has extensive interests in various countries, including Israel, where they have been involved in the Wisconsin plan. There are echoes of this government's welfare reform agenda in the attacks that have been taking place against Palestinian workers claiming state benefits. There, unemployed, sick and disabled workers are required to spend 30-40 hours per week in placement centres. Many have children but they need to remain in the centres. At one point 4,000 children were left unsupervised.
Any non-cooperation with the plan or refusal of work can lead to 1-2 months cut in benefits. All the targets set are for cutting the welfare benefit spending, regardless of why someone stops claiming benefit - so the private companies involved focus on putting pressure on claimants to stop receiving benefit rather than finding people jobs.
All companies who have been found defrauding the system should be prosecuted, have their contracts cancelled and should certainly not be awarded further lucrative contracts.
PCS members in the DWP are working flat out to provide support to the public in this recession. We are best placed to provide a quality, individually tailored service. Extra resources would be best spent on improving our public services rather than funding large profits for the private sector that consistently delivers lower quality services.