28 June 2021

Outsourcing of Core Civil Service Work in DWP

PCS has a long standing principled opposition to the outsourcing of DWP and all civil service work. 

The long history of outsourcing in the civil service in general, and in DWP in particular, contains a litany of failures; from Carillion to A4E, to the creation of the UC and CMG computer systems. We believe that it is clear that better value and better service for customers would be delivered by our members working in DWP and elsewhere in the civil service.

The GEC will continue to argue for the in-housing work which has been contracted out and vigorously opposing further DWP work being passed out to the private sector.  We are clear that the vital public services PCS members provide should not be used for private sector profit.

UC Telephony

PCS met with the DWP to discuss their plans for the continuation of the outsourced contract for telephony services in Universal Credit for a further three years. DWP believe that the pandemic, and the additional work that it created, justified their decision for the short term tactical use of the private sector. By the department’s own admission the contract is now being extended because this is a long term demand increase, with 2,000,000 more customers and the contract gives DWP flexibility to respond should unemployment levels change, where a permanent resource would not.

DWP claim this is to ensure calls could be answered and that they would have otherwise been unable to handle the call volumes and keep on top of payments to claimants.  The Department further claims that by taking this action DWP staff would be able to concentrate on case work.

PCS disagrees with DWP’s position and believe that even were it true DWP cannot justify the long term privatisation of this work when it is clear that the work is, as they have said, genuinely long term.

PCS were disappointed to learn the decision to outsource the Universal Credit Strategic Telephony was a tactical decision made by DWP Executive Team rather than a decision imposed on them by Government. 

Serco involvement

Outsourcing giant Serco currently holds the UC telephony contract and the contract is currently out to tender for a further 3 years.

Serco is involved in the delivery of the Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) scheme and has been awarded contracts for the eye-wateringly costly Restart scheme that begins on Monday 28 June 2021. Serco is also a significant beneficiary of the Government’s privatised track and trace scheme.

Serco has a long and controversial history of involvement in delivering Government contracts

  • Serco faced claims in 2013 it overcharged the government for electronic tagging
  • It was later fined £19.2million in a settlement with Serious Fraud Office in 2019 
  • Serco also faced allegations of abuse at its immigration centre 
  • In 2018, Serco sparked fury after it emerged it planned to evict hundreds of asylum seekers from private accommodation in Glasgow without court orders

Restart

The Restart Scheme will begin on 28 June 2021, with referrals to providers starting from 12 July 2021.The Restart Scheme is part of the Government’s £3.7 billion pound Plan for Jobs which is supposed to address the massive problems that the labour market will face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. £2.9b has been allocated to the Restart Programme which will be run by Serco and a host of other companies familiar to PCS members in DWP, such as Maximus, G4S and Ingeus.

PCS believes that the staggering amounts of money that have been awarded to these contract holders cannot be justified. The history of similar schemes, such as the Work Programme, demonstrates failure to deliver results and a massive waste of taxpayer’s money. Whenever DWP staff have been given the chance they have delivered better outcomes for claimants and overwhelmingly better value for money for the public purse.

PCS will continue to campaign politically to bring this work into the Civil Service where it belongs. We will also use ongoing consultation with DWP and political pressure to ensure that that these organisations are held to account.

PCS would like to hear the experiences of members working with outsourced contracts by emailing leeds@pcs.org.uk.