With just seven days left to get responses in to the Ministry of Justice in relation to their plans for privatising the Probation Service, a lot of attention is turning to the method by which contractors will be paid. It's called Payment by Results and the government are absolutely beside themselves at the prospect it brings of 'reforming' public services.
In order to avoid any doubt 'reform' is a code term, a bit like 'handy size' when your favourite choc bar shrinks in size but costs the same, or 'new fares' when the bus company only puts the prices up. There are lots of examples of this mealy-mouthed public relations con-trick sort of language and for 'reform' read more for less. It's supposed to mean 'efficiencies' of course, but even kids aren't impressed by that kind of argument if pocket money stays static or reduces.
I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that the battle for the future of the Probation Service will hinge upon PbR and whether it has any chance of working. Now, as it happens, in our work with offenders we know that past behaviour is often an important indicator for future behaviour. Actually this is as good a rule of thumb for life generally. If you burnt your hand on a hot oven last time, the same will happen if you touch it next time.
Extending the analagy, PbR can hardly be said to have been a roaring success in the DWP's Work Programme. In fact according to this Guardian article, "it's a dangerous idiocy that makes staff tell lies." Written by Toby Lowe, visiting fellow at Newcastle University business school, it's utterly damning of PbR as experienced so far in public service:-