Grayling is introducing a payment by results scheme for new probation contracts, similar to the one he helped launch on the Work Programme back when he was the bungling Employment Minister. The Work Programme so far has been an unmitigated disaster as private sector poverty pimps have sat back and let the cash roll in from start fees, cherry picked the easiest to help and forced them into workfare, and largely abandoned everyone else.
Astonishingly it is likely to be many of the very same companies who have screwed up the Work Programme who will be let loose on probation services. G4S, the company most famous for the death at their hands of Jimmy Mubenga, and the bodged Olympic Security fiasco, are certain to be on the list of those bidding for contracts. A4e, the workfare company who have faced a string of fraud allegations, have also long been eying up probation services, presumably on the basis that they know a thing or two about crime themselves.
One of the key measures private companies are likely to be paid out on is whether they are able to stop people re-offending and ending up back inside. This will mean that from the board levels down to the front line staff – who will no doubt be working to strict targets – it will be in the financial interests of the companies to cover up any further crimes probation workers may suspect have been committed.
Will a G4S worker really help the police with their inquiries, as grassing probation officers often do, if it means they won’t hit their targets that month? G4S’ experience of getting away with crime could prove invaluable in keeping those ‘outcome’ payments flowing into their grubby pockets.
Experienced crooks like A4e and G4S giving people tips on how to stay out of jail for what will be trivial offences in many cases may turn out to be no bad thing. But the potential for abuse is terrifying. Grayling is said to favour the ‘black box’ approach to commissioning services. This means all he cares about is the price, as under these kinds of contracts companies involved are given free reign to do whatever they choose to try and hit their targets. Just like the Work Programme, these companies could be given unprecedented powers over people’s lives with barely any scrutiny.
According to The Guardian, the public sector will not be allowed to bid for the draconian new contracts which will cover 70% of the work carried out by probation services. Social Workers should take note, this won’t end with probation staff.
It seems that Chris Grayling is intent on exporting the shambles he left behind at the DWP into the Ministry of Justice. Like some malevolent jumped-up imp, he seems to think he’s being tough by prancing around scattering chaos wherever he treads. In truth he’s far more Norman Wisdom – without the wit or talent- then he ever will be Norman Tebbit.
And when it all comes crashing down compulsive liar Grayling will no doubt slink off somewhere else in Government, turning his back on the shambles he’s created and claiming “it wasn’t me guv”.
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