Exclusive news! Top firms miss out on huge DWP contract

What is the most significant UK Government contract to be let this year? Something in defence?  Some big IT development? No.

It is probably the Department of Work and Pensions  (DWP) 'framework' contract for "the provision of employment related support services".   This defines the short list of  firms from which providers of welfare to work services (including the new flagship 'Work Programme') will be chosen over the next  four years.

The value of the work to be delivered under this framework? It is far from clear, but based on current spend in this sector, it could well be at least £5 BILLION.  That's right; £5 billion.  And it is significant in other ways too.  The success of the Coalition Government's ambitious welfare reform plans will rest heavily on the shoulders of these firms who will be expected to motivate and re-skill millions of unemployed people - and find them jobs.  If these providers fail to deliver, it will be a major factor in the next UK election.

DWP announced on Friday the 31 successful firms spread across 11 regional 'lots' who have been successful.  Here is the full list.  But being curious about who didn't make it, and by looking back at the list DWP published some time ago of firms bidding, we have been able to establish that some very big names didn't make it onto any of the 'lots'.

Those include Accenture, Babcock, CapGemini, Interserve, and Vertex; all major suppliers to the public sector in other areas.

Now these aren't traditional providers in this area (unlike organisations such as the Shaw Trust, Remploy or A4E).  But interestingly that hasn't stopped other new suppliers; Serco have already broken into this market very successfully, and now Atos, Deloitte (partnering with Ingeus, originally an Australian welfare to work provider)  and Balfour Beatty (teaming up with Remploy) have also won places on multiple 'lots' in this new list.

It is obviously impossible to know why some of these big names didn't make it; no doubt post mortems are going on as we speak.  Partnering with established specialists seems to have been a pretty good strategy; perhaps that is something that could have been used more . But it does show that, whatever Private Eye might sometimes suggest, Accenture, Cap Gemini and others don't automatically succeed in every Government bid they submit; public procurement is pretty fair and unimpressed by the 'brand name' in the vast majority of cases.

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