The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) condemned yesterday’s announcement that Labour will slash a further 12,000 jobs and close an additional 200 offices in the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
The union also accused the government of ‘pursuing a dogmatic policy of privatisation’ of the welfare state, as Work and Pensions Secretary Purnell confirmed plans to implement the Freud report in full.
Purnell announced a new ‘commissioning strategy’ at a London conference yesterday, whereby private firms will be paid up to £50,000 a head to get 1.9m people off benefit, as recommended by private banker David Freud.
Purnell said: ‘For the (private and voluntary) providers the rewards will be high, with longer contracts and a growing market, but in return I will set high expectations with payment on results.
‘I want to see solutions which focus on every single individual, not just the ones who are motivated to work.
‘Increasingly providers will be rewarded when someone has been in work for at least six months in the first instance, rising potentially to 18 months further down the line.’
Purnell said last week that the long-term unemployed claiming jobseekers allowance will have to undertake a minimum of four-weeks full-time work-related activity or lose their benefits from next year as part of the Flexible New Deal (FND).
Meanwhile, with 30,000 jobs already gone and over 600 offices closed in the DWP, the PCS expressed its ‘deep concern’ at the impact that further cuts will have on service delivery.
Services to some of the most disadvantaged in society have already suffered as a result of job cuts and office closures, with access to benefits and job seeking help, restricted and increasing waiting times for benefits resulting in food parcels being handed out in some parts of the UK.
The union warned that the welfare state was in danger of being run in the interests of shareholders rather than the people it was set up to help.
The PCS said it will be raising yesterday’s announcement in talks with the Cabinet Office aimed at reaching a negotiated outcome to its national dispute over jobs, services and privatisation.
PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: ‘These plans for job cuts and privatisation are purely about crude cost-cutting and will do nothing to improve service delivery to some of the most disadvantaged in society.
‘The government, by planning to privatise large chunks of the welfare system, are effectively turning their back on vulnerable members of the public as well as its own public sector workforce, who have consistently outperformed private companies in delivering the lowest unemployment in a generation.’
TUC General Secretary, Brendan Barber, said: ‘The key to securing sustained employment is personalised, flexible welfare support.
‘But there is no evidence to show that the private sector is better at delivering this than the public sector. The government’s wholesale farming out of welfare contracts to private companies looks more like a thinly disguised cost-cutting exercise.’