From: Geoffrey Turner
Helping the long-term unemployed to find properly paid work is to be welcomed, but are private companies a good use of public funds? Unfortunately, the article in the Telegraph (August 25) was little more than another public relations exercise, rather than a critical journalistic piece.
The campaign was also said to have won “broad … cross party support”. Indeed, New Labour was and still is enthusiastic about shifting public funds into private profits, from employment projects to privatisation of the NHS.
The only areas that the main parties are interested in bringing into the public sector has been the enormous debts incurred by their friends in the City.
“Professional intervention had not made a blind bit of difference” for one family, says Emma Harrison. The answer appears to be making DWP staff redundant and employing an army of unpaid amateurs. So what is the track record of private companies compared to the public sector in finding jobs for the unemployed? The current scheme may have a new label, but “workfare” run by private companies has been around for some time. The Flexible New Deal set up under New Labour has been scrapped under the Tories. Chris Grayling said: (Nov 2010) “I cancelled the Flexible New Deal because it was clear it wasn’t designed to meet the needs of people looking for work, but today’s figures show it is even worse than I thought.”
But were not A4e involved in FND, and were there not similar articles on the wonders of FND in 2009? Reports on these activities two years ago suggested that the private companies showed only indifferent results. Certainly there has been an expansion of “workfare”, or forcing unemployed into unpaid voluntary work with the threat of withdrawal of benefits. Sometimes this displaces paid work and is a convenient way of forcing wages down.
It was gratifying to hear that two government ministers and a Tory MP are going to spend some of their time as volunteers on the scheme. It is a pity that the same people are simultaneously taking a sledgehammer to all our public services and driving up unemployment by economic policies based on shifting wealth from the less well-off to the rich.