At the stakeholder event I attended earlier in the year, the ex probation officer from Crime Reduction Initiative who was sat at my round table put it rather more bluntly - "ex probation staff would be got rid of as quickly as possible." Dreadful as it sounds and a view that will upset the sensibilities of many, as one commentator to this blog asked yesterday, "what does it take for people to wake up to what's happening and stop sleepwalking towards oblivion?"
Napo have just conducted an election for a new General Secretary and the turnout was a derisory 20%. Conversations on twitter indicate that significant numbers of staff have their heads buried firmly in the sand, whilst others appear to have accepted that it's all a 'done deal' and nothing can be done. Some are leaving and joining other unions and some, mindful of other criminal justice union activities, are demanding to know when there is to be a ballot on industrial action?
The discussion forum has at last generated some activity and there has been much comment concerning TUPE arrangements, together with a belief in the sanctity of national terms and conditions, and hence negotiations. Staff are urged not to be tempted to enter into any local discussions, whilst others point to the alacrity with which many Trusts have already enthusiastically built up a track record on a whole range of policy changes embracing travel, working conditions and sickness management.
Despite warm words in certain quarters, there is widespread disarray in the ranks of both union and management. Ian Lawrence, the new Napo General Secretary has got to get a grip and quickly, but he also needs support from the membership. He needs some indication that people really have grasped what this is all about. It's not a 'Rehabilitation Revolution' at all, that's just so much smoke and mirrors, spin doctor's sophistry or bollocks even to try and cover the fact that it's actually a wholesale decommissioning exercise - effectively the outsourcing of redundancies.
If you're still not sure what it's really all about, here we have an article written by John Hannan of the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Action and following on from that highlighted yesterday by Richard Johnson of Buying Quality Performance. I quote selectively from this excellent GMCVA analysis, again from the point of view of organisation's considering whether to bid or not for parts of our work. The whole article is well worth reading, suggesting as it does that many voluntary organisations might wish to consider not getting involved at all.
"The market for the delivery of public services has certainly become more competitive with more expected for less and often contracts being aggregated in order to reduce administrative costs. But there is a fundamental change in addition to this. In many cases the purpose of commissioning has itself altered.
As the market for public services grew over the last decade many voluntary organisations were able to engage in the delivery of services based on their quality and the impact they generated. As new spending emerged, organisations competed more on the basis of outcomes achieved than absolute costs.
This is less the case now. We are seeing fewer instances where contract specifications seek to generate increased quality but more often seek to squeeze costs out of the system or transfer risk. Last year I wrote about “toxic opportunities” and the increasing number of short-term contracts from the public sector that contained high decommissioning costs. In the forthcoming government spending review we are likely to see the biggest squeeze on public spending in the post-war period with both the 2015 and 2020 General Elections likely to be portrayed as austerity elections. Some short term contracts with significant TUPE liabilities might better be described as an outsourcing of redundancy than an outsourcing of delivery as many of those services are unlikely to last. Recent work from NLGN suggests by 2018 public sector bodies will have 50% of the purchasing power they have now.
And then we come to the latest large scale “payment by results” scheme which will really throw sharp definition on this fundamental change – the Transforming Rehabilitation programme which will outsource probation services.
From my own conversations with potential prime contractors and informed reports elsewhere we are likely to see outsourcing of these services linked to cuts of approximately 30% of costs.There may be opportunities for voluntary organisations to play a role in delivering services in this area but this isn’t a contract to drive innovation – it’s a decommissioning contract. Any successful prime will have to strip costs from out of the system and push efficiency. Primes will be paid in arrears and may have a significant up front capital cost as they cover redundancy payments and re-organise the existing estate and delivery systems. They will contract out but will seek competitive prices with a real squeeze on costs and an element of shared risk."
Guys, it really is time to wake up, stop sleepwalking and get active!