Friday, 10 May 2013

Omnishambles Update

Even though we all knew it was coming, it doesn't really lessen the shock. In just a few words all 35 Probation Trusts are consigned to history. All that trouble we were put through in order to obtain Trust status on the basis we could be innovative, flexible, responsive etc etc blah blah blah, only to find we can't compete for our own work and those of us left will be nationalised and end up as bloody civil servants taking orders from Whitehall.

Like many others I suspect, the shock and depression is now turning to anger at the way a profession and honourable 106 year-old public service is being treated. But it's no good looking to chief's. The situation couldn't be more clear from them, just weasel words. I notice the chief of Hertfordshire pretty much summed things up and was duly praised by Sarah Billiald, 'particularly for the last paragraph' which I quote here:-

"I won't deny there is much sadness and frustration within the probation community; it is a service that has existed for over a century and is held in international high regard, leading the way on best practice, However the austerity measures are demanding radical changes from all public services, and probation is no exception. The challenge will be to make sure best practice and experience is not lost and opportunities for improving are realised. Managing this scale of transformation at this speed is going to be highly challenging, but we are a responsible, positive skilled work-force and will do our very best, despite our misgivings about the approach, risks and affordability." 

No sign of anyone 'falling on their sword' any time yet in a magnificent gesture of defiance. We all know it's not really about austerity at all as this omnishambles will end up costing much more. It's about political dogma, pure and simple. It's about pushing more money into the hands of the giants like G4S and Serco, whatever that dreadful chap Sir Stephen Bubb may say in demanding that his voluntary sector get their noses in the trough too. 

 “This legislation is a welcome step forward. ACEVO has been closely engaged in the consultation process and it’s encouraging that the Government have listened to our concerns about the Work Programme- particularly reducing the size of contracts in the area that they cover as well as a divide on upfront payments and payments by results. With the work the sector already does with ex-offenders I’m confident that voluntary organisations will rise to the challenge of the ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’. But we will judge it by how many contracts are awarded to charities. We are fed up with being bid candy or supply chain fodder to the private sector. I want to see charities winning the prime contracts here. Nothing else will satisfy us.”

As his blog repeats "We know how it works. We invented and ran the probation service. We can do it again. Bring it on."  What an utter prat, but it brought a smile to my face to learn how irritated he finds the recent rise in the fortunes of Nigel Farage and UKIP. Bring that on I say!

As the details of what Chris Grayling is proposing sinks in, the true scale of this omnishambes in-the-making begins to become ever clearer. Mark Easton at the BBC pretty well summed-up the challenges and pitfalls for charities intending to bid for the work and whether Payment by Results will actually work at all. Remember many charities got their fingers seriously burnt having dabbled with PbR on the Work Programme. 

The prospects don't look promising when doubts are cast by people who know about this sort of thing, as highlighted here by an article on the Public Finance website:-

"Chris Grayling is in parliament today explaining his complex set of probation reforms to MPs. Never one to shirk a challenge, Grayling plans to:
  • Outsource the bulk of probation services, predominantly to private sector organisations
  • Extend services to those who have served prison sentences of under 12 months, who previously were not monitored post-release
  • Introduce a new contractual payment mechanism, which will aim to pay providers more when those they are supervising offending either less or not at all
  • Change the conditions of supervision for ex-offenders (ideas floated include compulsory cannabis testing and GPS tagging)
  • Significantly reduce the amount spent on probation services ; all while changing  the geographical basis on which these services are provided
Doing any one of these things would be difficult. Doing all of them makes this join the list of some of the most ambitious public service reforms currently being pursued – along with Universal Credit, NHS reform and schools reform. The Institute for Governments’ work shows that creating new ‘public service markets’ is difficult and rarely do government or new public service providers get things right first time."
Finally, yesterday's announcement got me pondering about the battle that lies ahead. This really is such an astounding recipe for disaster that the government must surely have a secret plan 'B' up their sleeve? You know, like way back in the days of the motorway building boom. Those canny civil servants at the Ministry of Transport always knew that driving a massive road through rolling open country-side would hardly prove universally popular.
The answer was to let all the protesters wear themselves out fighting the initial plan, and then concede defeat and just like magic produce plan 'B' - the one the Ministry wanted all along of course. Just something to ponder on as we prepare to fight plan 'A'.
Sign the No10 petition here. 


  1. Hi Jim. These truly are sad times. Yesterday we were told that we have 18 weeks before we get allocated as either 'reserved' or 'unreserved' staff. Apparently the selection process will be taken out of trusts hand and be on a nationally held set of criteria. 99% of PSO's will automatically go and PO's will be judged on the case load profile they hold at the time.

    1. Yes very sad indeed to be treated with utter disdain in this way.

      Thanks for commenting - I intend to keep this blog going for as long as I can and hope it might be a vehicle for people to share thoughts and information, both for support and trying to fight the bastards.

      Anonymous contributions are always welcome, or people can e-mail me confidentially. Remember guys - information is power.

  2. Good to hear you'll be keeping the blog going Jim, I've found it a great source of information and inspiration over the last two years.

  3. I’ve been reading this blog for over 14 months now, having decided after university that I would love a career in probation. Sadly it has proved nigh on impossible to even gain voluntary experience anywhere and because my degree is humanities based the door is firmly closed for good I believe. Keep up the good fight, as an observer I find it fascinating (but distressing) to see what is happening.

    1. Very sad to hear that, but in all honesty many of us would say that we've sadly seen the best of probation and now might not be the best time to be considering it as a career. Others would say the opposite of course - change brings opportunities and I would agree, especially for people who are clued-up and of course there will eventually still be a need for new recruits even to the rump Public Service. Just not sure about how training will be delivered in the omnishambolic future.

      Thanks for commenting and good luck for the future,


  4. When we have all been diced and sliced and hived off, blogs such as this will be the ONLY way to get the truth out of how Pbr and other 'initiatives' are failing as I suspect there will a cover up the likes of which we have yet to experience...perhaps the real petition should be one to stop justice ministers taking up jobs with those who covet our work

    1. Thanks for that and I do intend to try and keep the blog going as one way of sharing information.

  5. A panorama expose into the LPT UPW partnership would have been fruitfull I am sure, though too late now. I agreed with previous comments this blog is one of the only places to get the true picture.
    Sounds like staff being told different stories, we were told that the trust was in discussions with union with regards to staff placements and that would be aiming to ensure it is done fairly. However it is likely to be done in the quickest way possible without any avenues for challenges to avoid any hold ups. I wonder if the eisk has been considered that alot of the experienced staff jump ship leaving public sector with what's left.

    1. It's certainly not too late for an expose on the London UPW partnership - in fact I'd say the timing is just right - we just need to hear about what's going on - some information guys!

      Very interesting to hear that the impression being given by some Trusts that staff placements will be sorted locally and in negotiation with unions. More information needed I think - what's going on in other Trusts?

      Thanks for commenting and please stay in touch.



  6. excuse my spellings!!!