As many of you know, when the current government scrapped the Future Jobs Fund and replaced it with the new Work Programme, the one thing they didn’t get rid of was the prime-contracting model.
In fact they made it even worse by requiring prime contractors to have a turnover of at least £20m. It was no surprise therefore that only two out of the 18 successful bidders were from the third sector, and of course none at all were community groups.
So, in order to deliver the national effort to help millions of people into work, we now have large corporates in the driving seat, with little in the way of a track record but a great deal in the way of maximizing shareholder profit. As Locality’s new report Pushed to the Edge reveals, community groups with the real skills to do the work and with a real commitment to unemployed people – people they know, people who live in their neighbourhood – have been left out altogether, or at best have been fed a few scraps from the table
There is more of this to come. The government is planning to adopt a similar prime-contracting framework for a European funded programme to support families with multiple needs. There is a huge contradiction here at the heart of government: on the one hand all the rhetoric about localism and Big Society, but on the other hand, where the big money is concerned, the anti-localist privatising monopolising reality.
Last Friday, on a visit to Community Links in London’s East End, we raised this with Gareth Davies, the most senior official from the Cabinet Office responsible for the third sector. I will also be seeking a meeting with the Minister responsible for the Work Programme, and calling on the other national third sector bodies to rally together with us on this issue. Moreover I am hoping that Locality will be able to commission an authoritative analysis of the “Diseconomy of Scale”, to nail the lie that only large scale operations can create efficiencies, whereas we know from multiple experiences that localised, person-centred approaches on a human-scale are far less wasteful and far more likely to be effective in this field of work.
Thank you to everyone who has been sending us evidence on this topic in recent weeks. While it is heartbreaking to see so many community groups having to close down high quality and highly valued services, and while the vested interests in favour of prime-contracting are certainly powerful, I have no doubt that in the end this disastrous, costly, inefficient experiment will be discredited, and that it will be the voices of our movement which will bring that about.
Chief Executive of Locality