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 need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?