The marketisation and privatisation of welfare services over the years has led to huge concern. To date, such outsourcing has largely been associated with the public sector and, most notably, the NHS.
I have many concerns about the outsourcing of vital services to commercial, profit-making companies and, although it has typically been associated with companies taking over vast sections of the public sector, from personal experience my growing fear is that this is happening to organisations in the third sector too.
Charities often support some of the most vulnerable in society and have an expertise, developed through years of practice, that is incomparable with many profit-making companies. When profit-making companies are "parachuted" into communities they do not understand, with "flash-in-the-pan" and "copy-cat" projects, I question the true intentions of these organisations and fear their motives are merely financial. Should we be allowing these frims to profit from other people’s misfortune?
There are too many examples of companies making grave mistakes across the public sector that have both a human and a financial cost, because they are unqualified to do the work they have been tasked with, leaving vulnerable people at risk. Let’s not forget that a private limited company’s motivation is to make a profit, so it will do all it can to cut corners and save on budgets, which is utterly dangerous when dealing with people’s lives.
To demonstrate this danger I feel it is most appropriate to draw on our own personal experience as a charity that has been at the forefront of counter-terror for a decade, predominately through our Web Guardians™ programme, designed to build community resilience through the education and empowerment of women and mothers, preventing and tackling online extremism at the grass roots.
Over the years the Home Office Prevent department has increasingly seen fit to contract private companies to undertake vital, allegedly community-focused counter-terror work. As I have stated above, these companies are parachuted in with little to no expertise on the subject, bringing projects that have been copied from charities. The success of the Web Guardians™ programme can be attributed to the Jan Trust being a grass-roots organisation that truly cares about communities. I have little faith that this can be replicated in a short space of time by companies that are financially driven.
I am sure it would be hard to find anyone who does not believe that terrorism is a grave threat to our society, so finding effective community solutions to the issue is of the utmost importance. The model being pursued by Prevent is structurally unsound and does not allow for an effective preventive solution. Instead, people’s lives are placed at risk by those wanting to make money.
It is an absolute necessity that safeguarding services meet the needs of those they are designed to protect. If we continue to allow financially driven companies to do this work, we are playing with fire.
Sajda Mughal is chief executive of the Jan Trust