We Own It

Public services for
people not profit

What's the problem with outsourcing companies?

Photo of 'Sick of Serco' protest

Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco are the four biggest outsourcing companies in the UK, receiving around £4 billion a year to run many of our public services. 

Our polling, carried out by Survation, shows that people don't trust them to do a good job:

  • Only 21% of the public trust outsourcing companies - the lowest level of trust compared to other organisations like the NHS (79%), the police (65%) and the armed forces (79%)
  • 64% distrust outsourcing companies
  • 69% of the public think Atos, Capita, G4S, Serco are motivated by maximising profit - while 38% think this should be important
  • 22% of the public think Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco are motivated by providing the best service to the public - while 80% think this should be important
  • Only 28% of people think it is appropriate for private companies to run prisons, and only 25% think it is appropriate for them to provide court services
  • 65% of the public would not feel comfortable using GP services provided by a private company like Atos, Capita, G4S or Serco​
  • Only 16% think there is adequate regulation of private companies running public services, compared to 59% who think more regulation is needed

 

We're campaigning for a Public Service Users Bill to give the people who use public services more say over what happens to them. This would make outsourcing companies more transparent and more accountable - and it would promote public ownership.

ATOS

​Atos is a French multinational information technology services company with 74,000 employees in more than 40 countries. Atos received £700 million for UK public sector contracts in 2012. Atos has lots of government contracts, including work for the NHS, the Home Office, the Welsh Government and the Ministry of Defence​.

The company is best known for its Work Capability Assessments, deciding whether benefits claimants are fit to work. There were many allegations of distress and deaths caused by its assessments. Around 40% of decisions made by Atos were overturned on appeal. The contract has now ended early. .

What words do people associate with ATOS?
What words do people associate with ATOS?

The wordcloud above shows the first words people think of when they hear the word 'Atos'. When asked to pick from a balanced list of words, the top five words the public associates with Atos are: incompetent, untrustworthy, heartless, unreliable and unaccountable.

CAPITA

Capita has 62,000 staff across the UK, Europe, South Africa and India. It received £1.1 billion from the UK public sector in 2012. Its contracts cover local and central government and services across education, transport, health and legal services. 

Last year, Capita was criticised for its work for the UK Border Agency (UKBA) as the company incorrectly informed people living legally in the UK that they had to leave the country. In April 2014, the government had to step in because Capita was failing to deal with a backlog of medical assessments for payments to sick and disabled people.

What words do people associate with Capita?
What words do people associate with Capita?

The wordcloud above shows the first words people think of when they hear the word 'Capita'. When asked to pick from a balanced list of words, the top five words the public associates with Capita are: expensive, self-interested, greedy, unaccountable, untrustworthy.

G4S

G4S is the world's largest security company, with more than 650,000 employees and operations in 125 countries. The company received £700 million for UK public sector contracts in 2012. ​G4S runs prisons, immigration detention centres, police services, schools, hospitals and welfare and public surveillance schemes.

G4S failed to provide the necessary security for the London 2012 Olympics; the government had to bring in the police and army to cover a shortfall of several thousands of staff. 

G4S is currently under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for defrauding the taxpayer. The company overcharged the government for tagging criminals who were later found to be dead or abroad. Our polling shows 77% of the public think that G4S should not be allowed to bid to run public services at the moment, and 59% think that G4S should never be allowed to run public services again. Despite this, the government is now allowing G4S to bid for contracts.

What words do people associate with G4S?
What words do people associate with G4S?

The wordcloud above shows the first words people think of when they hear the word 'G4S'. When asked to pick from a balanced list of words, the top five words the public associates with G4S are: unreliable, incompetent, untrustworthy, self-interested, greedy.

SERCO

Serco has more than 100,000 employees working in over 30 countries, with 60% of its business UK based. It is the UK's largest private supplier of public services; in 2012 it received £1.8 billion from public sector contracts. Serco has government contracts in defence work, transport, IT and business outsourcing, central and local government functions, health, education and welfare to work.​

The company has been accused of abuse at detention centres, slumlike conditions in its refugee housing and falsifying NHS records.

Serco is also currently under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for defrauding the taxpayer. The company overcharged the government for tagging criminals who were later found to be dead or abroad. Our polling shows 79% of the public think that Serco should not be allowed to bid to run public services at the moment, and 63% think that Serco should never be allowed to run public services again. Despite this, the government is now allowing Serco to bid for contracts.

What words do people associate with Serco?
What words do people associate with Serco?

The wordcloud above shows the first words people think of when they hear the word 'Serco'. When asked to pick from a balanced list of words, the top five words the public associates with Serco are: self-interested, unreliable, expensive, greedy and unaccountable.

Articles

'"Poison pill" privatisation contracts could cost £300m - £400m to cancel' (Guardian, September 2014)

'Violence at HMP Doncaster "four times greater" than other jails' (BBC News, August 2014)

'Pressure grows for Serco inquiry over Yarl's Wood sexual assault claim' (Guardian, May 2014)

'Why we're sick of Serco' (International Business Times, May 2014)

'Growing public anger against Serco at odds with government policy' (press release, May 2014)

'Tell us why you're sick of Serco' (blog, May 2014)

'Serco - too big to fail?' (blog, May 2014)