Posts Tagged ‘Northgate Information Solutions’

From 2013: Private Eye on Acquisition of Social Fund by Computer Company Owned US Private Equity Firm

April 16, 2014

This is from the Eye’s edition for 22nd March – 4th April 2013:

When welfare reform minister Lord Freud handed the Social Fund – which gives emergency cash to benefit claimants – over to local councils, he brushed aside criticism and said councils could create “the kind of localist welfare provision they deem to be appropriate and necessary for their areas”.

But many are now contracting out their emergency cash help for the desperately poor to a computer firm owned by US billionaires.

The £178m Social Fund, previously run from job centres, gives small grants and loans to cover benefit claimants’ emergency expenses – to replace furniture after a house fire, say. Despite Freud’s claim that his plan would break bureaucratic centralism, Nottingham recently gave its £10.4m “welfare assistance scheme” contract to computer firm Northgate Information Solutions.

Northgate, which is set to win more such work for other councils (the Welsh Assembly has also hired it to manage its regional version of the scheme), has many contracts running IT, payroll and community charge work for local authorities. But it has little experience of face-to-face work with the poor and desperate. The company does provide profits, however, for the fabulously rich: it is owned by US private equity giant KKR, which run by Henry Kravis and George Roberts, the 84th and 100th richest American billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.

The Eye asked Northgate about its qualifications for welfare work. It stressed that it was “working in partnership with Family Fund, the UK’s largest grant-giving charity”, and pointed to its welfare work on the “Blue Badge Improvement Service” to improve disabled parking badges. So that’s all right then.

This is part of the general Tory policy of cutting welfare and state services, and transferring them to private, largely foreign-owned contractors, like Atos. When questioned recently on the BBC’s documentary programme, Panorama, about the rise of food banks due to the Coalition’s austerity programme, one Tory MP declared that this hadn’t occurred, because the Social Fund was still available, despite the fact that the Tories had just closed it down on a national level. And this article shows that some of the local councils are transferring it to private companies. Again, this follows Tory policies of welfare cuts to the poor, and state support for business and the rich. And the reorganisation and cuts to welfare benefits are increasing poverty, to the point that hunger and starvation is returning to Britain. But as long as the fat cats in the boardroom are happy and profiting, the Tories will continue with their attack on the working and lower middle classes.