The decision by the Rudd Government to pursue privatisation of employment services in the middle of the emerging financial and employment crisis is ripping the guts out of our best not-for-profit service providers right at the time we need them most, said the Greens.
After asking questions in the Senate last week Senator Rachel Siewert has been inundated by phone calls, emails and anonymous tip-offs from major service providers and their staff.
"At the moment these services are fearful of speaking out because any adverse comment could put other services and government contracts at risk, but it is very clear that they are distressed by this turn of events," said Senator Siewert today.
"With unemployment rising sharply and the threat of a recession breathing down our necks, we should be looking to these services to step up their good works in our time of need - not pursuing some bizarre experiment of privatising services through offshore providers."
"Not-for-profit providers, some of whom are the welfare arms of our major churches, offer wrap around services which match up employment assistance with other kinds of support - and then plough any profits made by their enterprises back into the community through other support services," said Senator Siewert.
"Many of the smaller not-for-profit services specialise in delivering services in some of the most difficult areas, build strong links into affected communities and have dedicated staff who are prepared to go the extra yards beyond their job description to deliver meaningful outcomes."
"Privatised employment services cannot hope to meet this level of service - the only way they can compete in this service 'market' is either by cherry-picking the easiest clients or by cutting corners to boost throughput at the expense of those in need."
"Where tax-payers dollars are the only source of income for employment services and other welfare-based ventures, the profit motive is entirely inappropriate."
"While we have been told that 25% of the evaluation of these tenders is meant to be based on experience, many of the organisations now being cut out are 4 and 5 star rated providers."
"In comparison we've been informed that many of the new private providers grabbing up these contracts do not have on the ground experience in Australia and are relying on nominal partnerships with existing service providers to meet these criteria - with no contractual certainty the partner will in fact be delivering these services."
"One participant at one of these sessions described these partnerships as a kind of corporate welfare 'speed dating' where the parties knew little about the actual track records, capacities and ways of working of their counterparts."
"This is no way to provide a social safety net at a time of economic crisis," concluded Senator Siewert.
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