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Sharks & Jets
Employment, Issue 1533
Chancellor Rishi Sunak promises his new Job Entry Targeted Support (JETS) scheme will be “dedicated to supporting those left jobless due to Covid-19” and “ensure that nobody is left without hope”. But the unemployed shouldn’t get their hopes up: JETS entails giving the bulk of the scheme’s £238m to contractors whose previous public-sector outsourcing forays failed.

rishi-sunak.jpg JETS will be run by Ingeus and Seetec, names familiar from the disastrous privatisation of probation. They are joined by Maximus, the US outsourcer best known in the UK for controversial disability testing, Reed in Partnership, the public-sector outsourcing arm of the recruitment agency, and employment charity the Shaw Trust.

Rising unemployment
Via “light-touch, personalised support”, the scheme will offer coaches to help the jobless with CV writing, job search and “re-building confidence and self-efficacy”. But the main reason for rising unemployment will not be a lack of jobseeking skills, but a lack of jobs; and a “light touch” approach can’t turn that around.

Many of the contractors have been involved in the Work and Health Programme (WHP) for jobless disabled people and the long-term unemployed, which has been running since 2017. Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that 140,000 people have been on the scheme, but the proportion of participants with “job outcomes” after six months is between 2 and 7 percent. After 12 months, that climbs to just 10 to 20 percent finding jobs. The DWP told the Eye: “We are looking to harness the experience and expertise of these providers” to make JETS take off.

Huge payments went to contractors
The WHP deals with hard-to-place groups, so achievement rates may be expected to be low; but in the era of Covid, the jobs market may be about to become difficult for all the newly unemployed.

Most of the contractors on JETS also worked on the Tories’ previous flagship scheme for the unemployed, the Work Programme, which ran from 2011 to 2017. It was described by the Commons public accounts committee as “very poor”. Huge payments went to contractors, but the number of people who found work fell below government estimates for employment had the scheme not run at all. It was also criticised for making incentive payments to contractors despite poor performance. Contracts suggest the JETS scheme will get round this by paying contractors on a guaranteed “cost plus 5 percent surplus” basis. So even though it is of limited help to the unemployed, it will certainly help the balance sheets of Ingeus, Maximus and co.

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