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Charities fight for scraps from private sector work contracts

7 December 2010

Leading charities boasting a turnover of £688 million have banded together to try to do deals with private sector companies such as A4E, Serco and Avanta, who are on the DWP shortlist to win contracts for compulsory back-to-work schemes for claimants.

The recently announced list of companies who will go through to the final stage of bidding includes Atos, the company responsible for carrying out IB, ESA and DLA medicals on behalf of the DWP. 

Many people will find it astonishing that the same company will be able to make money out of, for example, assessing someone as being eligible for the work-related activity group of ESA and then make more money out of imposing compulsory work-related activities upon them and finding them work.

Equally shocking to some will be the decision to place G4S (formerly Group 4 Securicor) on the shortlist. 

Ministers recently announced that they would not be renewing G4S’s contract to deport illegal immigrants.  The government were keen to stress that this was in no way connected to the death of an asylum seeker at the hands of three G4S employees transporting him out of the country on a plane.  The three employees are currently on bail.  (More about G4S from the Independent)

Unlike the multinationals, the voluntary sector fared particularly badly in the bidding process.  Shaw Trust, by far the biggest back to work charity, has been shortlisted for just one of the 11 regions: Wales.  This compares with the seven regions that companies like A4E, Atos and G4S have all achieved.

However, many charities are hoping to become sub-contractors to the private sector and make what money they can that way. 

A group of charities have even banded together as a consortium called ‘Disability Works UK’ and are now energetically marketing themselves to the multinationals.  They boast that they have a ‘turnover value of  ‘£688 million’ and a cash surplus of £16 million.

They go on to say that they are ‘Nine of the largest and most experienced disability support organisations’ and that ‘Together we have the capacity, specialist expertise and track record to deliver large-scale subcontracts for Work Programme Prime Providers.’

The charities in the consortium include:

  • Mind
  • Action for Blind People
  • Scope
  • Mencap
  • United Response
  • Leonard Cheshire Disability

Many more major charities are believed to be making private, solitary approaches to shortlisted companies.

We asked Mind, who have been vigorously campaigning against some of the worst aspects of ESA, whether they would be prepared to participate in the sanctioning of claimants’ benefits and whether they would be prepared to work for companies such as Atos and G4S. 

We are still waiting for a response.

Meanwhile, many of our members, will undoubtedly feel that the charities multimillions would be better used campaigning against the dismantling of disabled claimants’ benefits and the increasing introduction of compulsory activities and sanctions, rather than seeking to profit from them.