Thursday, 18 July 2013

Profit Before People Exposed

Today’s report (18 July 2013) in the Independent Revealed: The great outsourcing scandal as firms ‘cut corners’ to cream profits off public is to many people no news at all. But while most sources for this story are anonymous (Ask Ed Snowden how governments treat whistle blowers) what they say is proof that giving business to profit making companies automatically changes the focal point of the business.

Let’s take the outsourcing of the much hated Work Programme (UK). While all companies admitted to creaming the easy jobbers off the top and ‘parking’ the hard ones, at least one director admitted it was the only way to make a profit.

At the other end, the Institute for Government (IfG) who compiled the report, said that ‘Too often the focus of the Government is on getting the deal out of the door and not thinking about how it will work in the long run’.

Yep, that’s short term politics for you. But also it is this ideology that as much business as possible should be in private hands. Whilst the merit of the idea is that the increase in business and jobs would create revenue for the treasury, the point of the job itself is completely lost in the deal, plus the encouragement of exponential growth has been a major contributory factor to the debt global debt crisis.

The Work Programme is supposed to give tailored support to the long term unemployed, many of whom are long term unemployed for reasons of health, education, age etc; in other words not the 24 - 36 six months unemployed age group. We can see from the results above that the purpose for the Work Programme has failed before the ink was dry on the contract. The government will only spend money on results and the private companies will find the path of least resistance to obtain that profit; it is human nature.

Serco and G4S are companies geared primarily to building contracts that will alleviate governments of taxpayers money. Both have Work Programme contracts.

David Cameron, Prime Minister for the UK and Conservative leader, speaks of ‘The Big Society’. The Independent reports that Government was encouraging the voluntary sector to get involved in delivering services. Well he would, wouldn’t he? After all, the voluntary sector is unpaid.

The Institute for Government report highlighted what many people already knew, especially those hard working people at the sharp end of Job Centre Plus. When I was there myself, at the point the Labour Government started to farm out bits of Work Programmes to private enterprise, we declared then that any private company would simply cherry pick the best jobseekers and ignore the rest. We were right to think that and we will continue to be right until the Government abandons the Work Programme via profit making companies.

The Institute for Government were therefore wrong to recommend that Government punish poor performers by imposing penalties. They were right to suggest terminating the contract but not in favour of another profit making organisation.

Work Programmes should be handled by ‘Not For Profit’ (NFP) organisations, so that the focus remains the task of placing the hard to place people into work. But long term unemployment is a long term issue that cannot be fixed by short term politics. If the Government really want to help long term unemployed back to work, they must first reform the recruitment process in order to stop discrimination against those with disability, criminal records, huge gaps in employment and so on. There also needs to be a study on why candidates are not selected for interview (I already know why, having done it myself but like everything else, there has to be a proper study). 

With unemployment globally being possibly the highest it has ever been, now is a good time to study and identify the discrimination systemic in every system and the unconscious prejudice endemic within the recruitment process. Without ensuring that there is indeed a level playing field to employment, all the Work Programmes in the world will not achieve what the Government wishes to happen.

Profit before people is the modern disease. Whenever money is involved the makers of it lose sight of the reason it is there - people. At least that is they lose sight of the people who don’t matter - non share holders - until no one has any money, the economy collapses the business starts to fold and suddenly those same people do matter but you already killed them.

It seems that somehow we have to place a firewall between big corporations, powerful lobby groups and politicians; the same way we need to separate the high street bank from the casino banks (and in my opinion we should abolish casino banks). People must matter before profit, and perhaps if predictions of the collapse of the dollar and the euro are in anyway inevitable (around 2015) we may yet get the opportunity to stop the disease before it destroys us all.

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