An outgoing Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) minister just revealed the extent to which a notorious private outsourcing firm has its claws in the welfare state. It’s to the tune of over £150m.
The DWP: outsourcing heaven
On 5 July, Labour MP David Drew asked the DWP’s secretary of state Esther McVey:
how many current contracts her Department has with Serco; and what the (a) value, (b) start date and (c) end date of each of those contracts is.
The DWP outsources many parts of its operations; not least the controversial Work Capability Assessments. These are run by companies like Maximus, with others like Capita running assessments for Personal Independence Payments (PIP).
But as former parliamentary under-secretary at the DWP Kit Malthouse revealed, outsourcing giant Serco also has its fingers in the department’s pie. His answer to Drew’s question showed that the DWP is paying out over £150m to Serco for various contracts:
The largest ones are for Serco to deliver the Work Programme in two Contract Package Areas (CPAs): South Yorkshire (CPA17) and parts of the West Midlands (CPA15). It’s a service to support people into work, with Serco being ‘paid by results’. But if its performance elsewhere is anything to go by, the government ‘paying it by results’ shouldn’t (in theory) work out well.
A problematic history
Serco has a problematic reputation. As The Canary previously reported, it has public sector contracts in countless areas of everyday life, from refuse collections to parking enforcement. Serco is probably best known for running the notorious Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre, where one woman died and others went on hunger strike due to the appalling conditions.
Also, as The Canary‘s Frea Lockley noted, Serco was investigated by the Serious Fraud Office for overcharging the government for the electronic tagging of offenders. The government accused Serco of tagging prisoners who were dead, abroad, or still in prison.
A match made in heaven
Social media was expressing its frustration and anger at Serco’s relationship with the DWP long before Malthouse’s statement – going back as far as 2012:
Be afraid, be very afraid. Serco have been hired by the DWP to target those on sickness benefit… http://t.co/tVueT6sq
— Tory Fibs (@ToryFibs) April 3, 2012
— Mr Ethical (@nw_nicholas) January 23, 2018
NOBODY GAVE @DWP PERMISSION TO SHARE PEOPLE'S X-DIRECTORY PHONE NUMBERS AND DATA WITH SERCO – RE #SMI (Support For Mortgage Interest) benefit becoming loan now did they?!! @LabourDWP pic.twitter.com/uNOfsvDeFf
— BENEFITS NEWS (@BENEFITS_NEWS) March 5, 2018
If you want an example of one of the most controversial government departments working hand in hand with one of the most controversial outsourcers – look no further than the DWP and Serco. A match made in heaven?
– Join The Canary so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support
The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.
The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.
So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.