Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Clare Sambrook exposes the consequences of privatising services for vulnerable West Australians

Clare Sambrook is an award winning British journalist who has written this remarkable piece on the death of Mr Ward in the back of a G4S van in the Eastern Goldfields region of WA.  
Her article reveals the lethal consequences of contracting out to profit making companies, be they G4S or Serco,  public responsibility for vulnerable people, be it the care of prisoners, or for that matter vulnerable youth, children or adults. It does not matter whether it is G4S or Serco. There is no place for them in the care of people.
Ultimately there is little difference between Serco and G4S. The Barnett Government has awarded Serco the new contract to transport prisoners around WA (instead of G4S) and G4S staff will simply transfer across to Serco, the new contractor. This is despite widespread opposition and protest in WA against G4S's previous contract and Serco's new contract to run prisoner transport.

Clare Sambrook writes:
"Indeed the case of Mr Ward provides a shocking glimpse behind the corporate spin, exposing shakiness in the logic that has propelled the global boom in privatisation of core public services".
Clare Sambrook links Mr Ward's death to the profit seeking mantra of companies like G4S and Serco who see the death of a person in their care as simply a risk of doing business. Her report of a business briefing by G4S and its senior Executives in London is chilling.
"Thousands of miles away from scorchingly hot Kalgoorie, here in the UK G4S executives briefed financial analysts the other day. There was a slide show — “Core values: Customer Focus, Expertise . . . Integrity (We can always be trusted to do the right thing)”. Director David Taylor-Smith ran through the company’s UK business, £1.2 billion of it, £700 million with government — the UK Border Agency, the Ministry of Justice, the National Offender Management Service. (Only yesterday morning G4S corporate development director Peter Neden sat in committee room 6 at the Palace of Westminster, arguing the case for “reform” of the probation services.)

“We’re now bigger than the Scottish Prison Service and Northern Ireland Prison Service combined,” said Taylor-Smith. “So we’re starting to get proper scale now in the UK as a kind of a credible alternative to national bodies running prisons.”

There’d been major wins in providing “facilities management” for NHS hospitals: "we do 13 acute hospitals now. So that’s great.” 

About Welfare to Work (“when that’s clocked in next year that will be £130 million”), Taylor-Smith joked: “I’m just reminding those taxpayers, if there are British taxpayers in this room, £159 billion spent in this area of government.” G4S will be paid by results, managing subcontractors getting long term unemployed people back into work (or at any rate off the state’s books).

“We see this as providing significant additional growth opportunities,” said Taylor-Smith, confiding: “Two nights ago I was with [government ministers] Iain Duncan Smith, Oliver Letwin, Crispin Blunt and they’re talking now also applying this into the prisons programmes, into drug programmes and also benefit fraud.  (It pays to get friendly with G4S. Former Labour Home Secretary John Reid was trousering G4S fees of £50,000 a year even before he’d left Parliament. Now Lord Reid is a G4S director.)
The analysts asked about Australia. The year after Mr Ward’s death G4S lost its contract to run Australia’s refugee detention network and last month it lost the Western Australia court security and custodial contract as well (both pieces of business picked up by Serco).

Nick Buckles, who is paid £27,000-a-week, said of the Australian market: “We haven't had a good run recently on care and justice because of a major incident that happened about three years ago.”

But, looking on the bright side, he said: “there is only two or three major players, typically sometimes only two people bidding for care and justice. And with . . . our global expertise, in time we will become a winner in that market because there's a lot of outsourcing opportunities and not many competitors operating down there.”

No comments: