Magazine article Public Finance

Outsourced Contractors to Face Star Ratings System

Magazine article Public Finance

Outsourced Contractors to Face Star Ratings System

Article excerpt

Private contractors providing welfare services could be subjected to a ratings system similar to that used for councils and NHS trusts, under government plans to tackle unemployment and poverty.

Public Finance has discovered that the team behind one of the City Strategy Pathfinder projects in London, which will trial personalised jobseekers services, plans to rate contractors. This is to ensure they meet targets for getting unemployed people into long-term work.

The West London CSP will base its system on a framework being developed by the government's Jobcentre Plus agency and the Learning and Skills Council, which suggests that the initiative could be extended nationwide.

Louise Woodford, programme director at the London Development Agency, which is overseeing CSPs in the capital, told PP. 'We're looking at a performance rating for [welfare] providers in west London, which will build on the tools being developed by Jobcentre Plus and the LSC.

'We will look at bringing in other agencies so that we get a common, comparable rating for all agencies involved. The idea is that we can understand who is performing well and who isn't'

Asked if the system would be similar to the Audit Commission's star ratings regime for councils, Woodford added: 'That's exactly what it could look like.'

Alongside the introduction of ratings for private care homes next spring, to be overseen by the Commission for Social Care Inspection, this would be the first attempt to grade private and voluntary sector providers delivering outsourced public services.

It could also placate some opponents of welfare privatisation by making contractors' performances public. Critics claim that government plans to use private and voluntary sector bodies could turn jobseeker, advisory and training services into a box-ticking exercise that fails to prioritise sustainable employment. They fear that contractors would cherry-pick the easiest groups to employ.

The LDA has oversight of two London CSPs: West London Working and East & Southeast London. The west London project includes a board of local employers, such as the British Airports Authority and KPMG, advising six local councils and their partners on the skills needed to sustain work locally. …

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