I attended this meeting on the Freud Review and Welfare Reform organised by the PCS. There was discussion about Job Centre Plus being contracted out. Charities will be promoting their own self interest and concerns were raised about faith-based organisations especially highlighting issues around equal opportunities and opting out.
The organisation TUDA (Trade Union Disability Alliance) rightly described the Freud Review as ignorant, ill informed, retrograde and the importance of the government to ask disabled people what their own needs are and not some banker called David Freud (who oversaw the privatisation of Railtrack... don't you just have faith in the man??!!) I am sure the world of banking could do with a review orchestrated by welfare rights activists....
New Labour is fixated with penalising claimants but the same can't be said with employers for discriminating against disabled people. Even organising a case under the DDA (Disability Discrimination Act) is incredibly hard and access to legal aid is difficult.
Also the whole political strategy of Freud joins up neo-liberalism, marketisation and compulsion. What kind of service will claimants receive from private companies? Contractors will be paid by results and the incentive will to pack as many into the job market. Nothing about the quality of the employment offered.
Mark Serwotka spoke about the far reaching consequences the Freud Review and the overall attacks on welfare. There has been no public debate or discussion about privatisation public services. Instead of improving service delivery New Labour will be cutting 40,000 jobs from the DWP. It is all about opening up the market.
One of New Labour's newest principles are diversifying the chain of supply and outsourcing even if that means de-skilling, pushing down terms and conditions, and redundancies. The public sector, with resources and financial commitment are better at delivering services than the private sector.
Nowhere in the Freud Review is there a mention of benefits and tax credits or any discussion about minimum income standards. With greater income inequality the rich are getting richer the poor getting even more stigmatised.
The trade association Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) has been campaigning for Britain to adopt the Australian system of contracting its employment services. And their shareholders do very nicely out of this carve up. The conclusions drawn from today's meeting show that the Freud Review will create more discrimination, fear, misery, poverty, job insecurity and stigmatisation.
The biggest problem (and I had a few) I had with the meeting was that opposition to the Review was muted and the most vociferous criticisms came from disability rights activists. It is all well and good to continue to have these "discussions" but surely we need to back this up with activism?
Even in the blurb from the PCS they use the word "stakeholder" which kinda alarmed me. And why the hell was Terry Rooney MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Parliamentary Select Committee chairing this meeting as he thinks the Freud Review is a good financial step in the right direction of getting people back into the workplace....
I was pleased to see John McDonnell at the meeting as well.