Friday, September 21, 2007

Coming soon - for-profit social services?

Jody Paterson takes the first look at a big change in social services in B.C.
All programs to help people with disabilities find jobs and get off income assistance are now to be provided by Arizona-based Providence Service Corp., an American company with that runs for-profit operations providing governments with everything from child protection to probation services to reform schools.
It's a good business niche, the company notes, citing stats to encourage investors - more than 40 million Americans now living in poverty; almost five million adults released every year on parole; two million children needing protective care.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who is Watching the Watchers ?

So does this mean that the US government - through the 'Patriot Act' - gets to see all of Providence Service Corps. collected information on B.C. citizens ?

Will YOU be harassed by the US government because you needed child protection, probation services or went to a reform school etc. ?

What safe guards have the BC Liberals built in to the contract to protect Canadians ?

Anonymous said...

The social service industry has long been dominated by the public sector unions such as the BCGEU; the question you should be asking is not about the provider but rather about the results. That is what is most important.

Anonymous said...

If it is about results this would not be an issue as the non profits do an incredible job.If you want to look at the effects of privitisation for profits look at the abysmal record of the meal and cleaning contracts,the garbage delivery reversal in the city of North Van,the BC Ferry and BCR rail fiascos, the road maintenance issues with many of the private contractors. This is not about results folks, this is about ideology.I say let's look at results if that is where your bottom line is, and if you really want to look at it with an open mind you will see for yourself this is about what is good for investors, not people with disablities.This government has not changed it's colours, only it's ability to promote itself as middle of the road.

Anonymous said...

Privatization may have an ideological basis, but it gets traction due to the utter incompetence of public sector managers and the intransigence of public sector unions. Services are provided inefficiently and ineffectively thanks to this combination, and rather than solve the real issues, the public sector turns to private contractors. A fine example of this is the outsourcing of hospital cleaning services: it wasn't good before privatization, and is worse now. The source of the problems is the same - a lack of standards and performance metrics ensure that the job is done properly. The only upside to private contractors is that on the remote chance that managers demonstrate some competence and attempt to implement standards, they may be able to do it without being stonewalled by a self-serving union.

Dawn Steele said...

For-profit agencies already deliver many social services - e.g. residential care in community living, etc, and have done so for many years.

In Vancouver at least, the for-profits have for the most part not been able to come close to competing with either the level of service or the value provided per dollar by large, accredited and yes - often unionized! - non-profits. Well-run non-profits can provide significant extra value on the dollar because they raise funds via their own charitable and business arms to subsidise often miserly Ministry funding levels.

So even some of the non-profits are engaged in for-profit activities, the only difference being the end goal is to enhance service levels, not shareholder profits. Without the need to divert funds towards shareholder profits, non-profits (whether union or non-union) can direct all available resources towards providing quality services using professional, motivated staff.

Not all non-profits are run as well, which is where accreditation comes in -- and frankly, given the scarcity of funding, if they're not running a tight ship, they deserve to be challenged.

At the end of the day, any Minister who has to answer to the public and who can look at the options objectively, minus any ideological bias, is capable of making the right choices.

Anonymous said...

The stonewalling that takes place in privitisation is the reluctance to do the job and the motivation to cut costs by short cutting what needs to be done. Ask a hospital staff what has to take place when a spill happens in a hospital with for profit services and you will see inefficiency at it's best but self serving cost cutting at its best.The anti anti union sentiment behind the ideology of privitisation is that profits are made on the backs of workers who work close to minimum wage with little benefits.No wonder unions are a threat to the rich getting richer.

Gazetteer said...

Ms. Steele--

Thanks for your reasoned and well-informed comments (as usual).

The one thing I wonder about, given the centralization we have already seen with this government, particularly on issues such as these, is if any Minister actually gets to make any of the choices/decisions.

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Dawn Steele said...

Right, Gazeteer, which is why transparency and choice/use of performance measures are key. If it's a repeat of the welfare experiments, where the only measure of success is how much you've reduced the number of people receiving welfare or disability benefits, then of course there is enormous potential for abuse. We -- and the media -- must demand better performance measures than that and then hold government and contractors accountable for providing credible, timely and transparent performance measurement/reporting.

Gazetteer said...

Thanks Ms. Steele.

Any examples in the social services sphere where this has occurred recently?

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