When a report comes out of the Centre for Social Justice, one can assume that it's with the approval of Iain Duncan Smith, who set up the outfit and has close links with its people. So its latest proposals could well be seen as the floating of something the government wants to do. "Break state monopoly of failing £1.4 billion job centres" is the heading of their press release.
It's an extraordinarily muddled analysis to support their wish to move to the Australian model, which uses lots of private and voluntary sector bodies (the code is "market-based") rather than a public sector jobcentre system. For Conservatives this is axiomatic, needing no justification. But the CSJ obviously has to come up with reasons. So what do they find is wrong with our current system?
Well, "Thousands of claimants lack an up-to-date CV". This preoccupation with CVs puzzles many unemployed people. Most of the jobs they apply for don't require a piece of paper headed "CV"; they want an application form completed, on paper or online.
Then there's the claim that "40 per cent of claimants who move off Jobseekers Allowance make another benefits claim within six months". Er .... yes. How many jobs today are temporary or even casual? How is this the fault of the Jobcentres? And how does this compare with the private sector Work Programme figures?
"JCP focusses far too much on arranging benefits for claimants instead of identifying the factors that are preventing them from getting work and staying in work." This is a ridiculous statement. When someone loses their job and signs on, the first role of the Jobcentre is to ensure that they get the benefits to which they are entitled. That doesn't always work properly; but I would far rather entrust that role to a civil servant than to the employee of a private company like, for instance, A4e. After that, they are supposed to help you back into work. In recent years, jobcentres have been starved of resources and money has been diverted to the private companies to deliver programmes like the Work Programme. So, does the CSJ want the money restored? Well, they admit that JCP staff are underpaid, and advocate "increased pay for effective advisers" i.e. performance-related pay based on getting people into sustained work - the private sector model.
There's more of the same in the report. But to pick holes in it is to miss the point. We are on the way to handing the unemployed to the private sector from the moment they sign on.