Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A Good Day!

Politics is as much about being lucky as anything else and things aren't looking too good for Justice Secretary Chris Grayling right now. Having decided that the official internal risk register concerning his 'rehabilitation revolution' was too damning to publish someone, somewhere, promptly decided to leak it instead to the Guardian. 

I don't know why Chris should be so surprised because I rather thought this government was keen on being 'open and transparent' and it looks like some official merely decided to give effect to such aspirations. Despite this, according to Harry Fletcher, a high level leak enquiry has been instigated, so yet another case for 'Knacker of the Yard' to investigate.

Of course the trouble with being 'open and transparent' is when it's all bad news and the reason for trying to keep things secret becomes only too clear. According to Alan Travis at the Guardian:-  

The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been warned by his most senior officials that plans to privatise 70% of the probation service lack support, are being pushed through on an aggressive timetable and potentially endanger public safety, leaked documents show.
They also warn that promised cost savings are unlikely to be achieved.
The official internal risk register for Grayling's "rehabilitation revolution", which he has so far refused to publish, warns that there is a more than 80% risk that his proposals will lead to "an unacceptable drop in operational performance" triggering "delivery failures and reputational damage".
The warnings are contained in a document marked "restricted policy", prepared for the Ministry of Justice board responsible for the rehabilitation programme. It also says there is a high risk of insufficient support within the probation service to push through the changes.
Among the concerns expressed by the authors of the risk register are the "considerable challenge" of closing down 2,000 separate computer packages and moving to a single shared services computer system.
The document also reveals that while many probation trusts are continuing to voice concerns about the proposals, nearly all are actively making preparations: "Our concerns focus on some trusts whose senior staff seem less able to make the transition themselves. Although these senior staff recognise their responsibility, as public servants, to manage the process of change, there is a difference between managing change and leading it."
The risk register uses traffic lights to describe the risks facing the programme, coding each risk factor as green, amber, red or black, but makes no assessment of the financial risk of not delivering the programme to the agreed timescale, quality or cost.
It appears that detailed Treasury approval for the proposals will only be secured after the framework bill reaches the statute book.
The senior MoJ officials rate the risk that a campaign against the proposals will delay or block them in parliament as a "code red". They reveal that the bill being debated in the House of Lords this week has deliberately been kept slim to "minimise the dependence of the reforms" on the passing of the legislation. Media messaging is also being used to "keep key elements of reform at the top of the agenda".
The register also makes clear there are anxieties at the highest level that not enough private sector and voluntary organisations will bid for the work (code red) and that once privatised the supervision programmes will be ineffective or fail to meet the required quality.
The highest rated concerns – code black – detailed in the document are:
• There is a more than 80% risk that an unacceptable drop in operational performance will lead to delivery failure and reputational damage. The report says the failures could be caused by industrial action, falling staff morale, staff departures or probation leadership disengaging.
• There is a 51% to 80% risk that insufficient support for the proposals by probation management and staff will lead to failure to implement the changes properly and on time.
• There is a 51% to 80% risk that cost savings will not be met.
 It's pretty damning stuff, but not at all surprising to those involved in trying to get their head around these daft and dangerous proposals. There must come a point when all sensible people realise that the hole they've been enthusiastically digging is in entirely the wrong place and going no where. 
A plan 'B' is urgently required and if Chris needed further encouragement, he need look no further than the spirited debate in the House of Lords yesterday that resulted in a government defeat on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill. As reported in the Daily Telegraph:- 
Peers dealt a blow to the new laws championed by Chris Grayling and raised doubts about the the "viability and affordability" of the Justice Secretary's strategy
The lords stopped the Offender Rehabilitation Bil in its tracks after a leaked Whitehall document suggested there is a high chance it would lead to an "unacceptable drop in performance" in the probation service.
They voted for an amendment proposed by Lord Ramsbotham, a former chief inspector of prisons, which will send the Bill back to the House of Commons for more debate and a vote.
Last night, Lord Ramsbotham called on ministers to withdraw the plans as they are too complex to be achieved safely in such an "aggressive timetable".
"There is a more than 80 per cent likelihood that an unacceptable drop in operational performance during the programme leads to delivery failures and reputational damage," he said, quoting from the leaked risk register.
His amendment was strongly opposed by Lord McNally, a justice minister, who said the risk assessment was "not a forecast of what is going to happen".
However, he was powerless to stop the amendment, which was supported by Labour, from throwing "a considerable spanner" in the Government's plans.
I think yesterday was a good day for probation and should give us all reason to feel that this is not yet 'a done deal'. It behoves all who care about this profession to create as much mischief as possible over the next critical few weeks in order to frustrate these government attempts to destroy a proud and successful public service.  

PS The Hansard transcript can be viewed here.

26 comments:

  1. Hopefully now good sense will prevail and Graylings plans will be seen to be unworkable and so abandoned. This may be premature but whatever happens I'm sure Jim Brown's blog has been influential in highlighting the issues to an ever increasing audience. It has also facilitated comment by Probation practitioners as well as the interested lay person. I hope the service and politicians of all colours are able to recognise your contribution toward averting what would have been disastrous outcome.

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    1. Very kind words - much appreciated!

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  2. One hand gives, the other takes away. No automatic pay rise now.

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    1. Indeed - and we are all branded now as 'vested interests'.

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  3. This is good news however people should be clear that there is still a danger from this mess. Failing grayling will still try to push this through. Spread the word, contact your mp, speak to colleagues, Sign the petition if you haven't done so.

    http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44403

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    1. It's true. There's a battle yet to be fought. As of this morning there's still only 2005 signatures on the petition. Need to get a move on. It really does matter.

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    2. I agree signing petitions is important, but it's clear this one is going to struggle. Much more important I think guys is sharing information about what is going on - ignoring the gagging order and comparing notes. Information is power and the internet provides a perfect platform.

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    3. Dont look for information from above filtering down. Those at the top ( in my experiance ), will be too busy sorting their personal futures out to remember to share tne info they could, and to cut throat to drop a bit your way on what they couldnt share.

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    4. I agree - so even more important that people on the front line share stuff - anonymously probably - it's a bit of a tradition on here!

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  4. The destruction of pay progression in the public services by a Tory Chancellor is yet further evidence, if needed, of right-wing hatred of the state. We worry about being tuped...pretty soon there will be no conditions of service to protect. The unions gave the employers an easy ride in recent years as increments were withheld or reduced. And now there will soon be history. As there will be few incentive to stay as a practitioner, everyone will want to be a manager. What's next? Zero hours contracts are all the rage!

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    1. Agreed - and I don't like being referred to as 'vested interest' especially by someone representing the vested interest known as Member of Parliament who vote on their own terms and conditions.

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  5. It's more likely that passive, apathetic staff have given the employers an easy ride. Unions are only as strong as their membership. Too many leave it to others to do their dirty work, yet are only too happy to reap any benefits.

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    1. Well in times past my union branch was not terribly inclusive and in fact quite intimidatory - all against policies and protocols obviously - but it turned lots off active participation, myself included. I always took action when required though, including striking.

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    2. I agree with your comments fully Iim. But now surely, in the light of the lords debate, is the time to strike while the iron is hot. And the staff who feel the private sector will secure them employment are probably right. But not at your usual hourly rate believe me. Get thinking....

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    3. You could well be right about a strike ballot - but people have to be prepared for a poor turnout and possibly a no vote. I don't think any employment in the private sector will be secure and as you imply on much worse terms and conditions - they got to save money AND make a profit.

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    4. George Osbourne has obviosly convinced Chris Grayling that both are achievably, just as long as you keep smiling. But it's all the little fish scratching about at the bottom of the tank that will do best.
      Outsourcing can be outsourced quite a long way

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  6. So the fault lies in membership, not in the leadership of the unions. I don't get much sense that austerity is reaching up into the elite of unions. I think of Sir Brendan Barber with his £110,000 payoff and his £60,000 yearly pension.

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    1. Always a worry when knighthoods and peerages are handed out - it does make you wonder doesn't it?

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  7. NAPO has form for selling out - see car allowances and that advice to 'sign your new contract overnight or you won't have one' - about 2002! This was not a universal call to put down one's arms, which makes it even more difficult to swallow - some areas fighting on, and winning, whilst others rolled over!

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    1. Yes, I remember it well! But it's all water under the bridge and we are where we are - up shit creek as it were.

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  8. There is a new(ish) broom at Napo and Ian Lawrence has been called to give evidence before a Select Committee of The House of Commons on Tuesday, so maybe privatision can be avoided for the time being, at any rate.

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/justice-committee/

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    1. So perhaps a stupid question - but will Ian still be gagged by the JR Court Judge when he appears before the House of Commons

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    2. That was on 2nd July 2013 but still available to see - I expect the minutes are accessible as well.

      http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=13482

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  9. HELP PLEASE JIM & OTHERS.

    Am trying to track down as much as is available from that Guardian Article about the 'risk register'

    Is there any more in the public domain than was in The Guardian on Monday 24 June 2013, or maybe The Guardian published it all?

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jun/24/probation-privatisation-warning-chris-grayling

    Thanks.

    Andrew Hatton

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    1. Andrew,

      I'm not aware there is anything else in the public domain. Why not contact the author Alan Travis at the Guardian?

      Jim

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  10. Thanks - a good idea. I probably won't though - I see it was quoted from in House of Lords Debate - I suspect one with initials HF was involved!

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