Friday, 26 July 2013

Crisis? - What Crisis?

I'm led to believe that down at MoJ/NOMS HQ they are in crisis mode with upwards of 350 staff sweating away trying to make sure the impossible timetable on the Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles doesn't slip. Apparently Chris Grayling is cracking the whip in an unprecedented manner insisting that he meets his top team at least twice a week! The guy is rattled, and so he should be with yet more bad news to deal with.

As the Howard League points out out, private prisons are now the worst performing in the country according to the latest report issued by the Ministry of Justice. In particular two new establishments, HMP Oakwood run by G4S and HMP Thameside run by Serco are felt to be causing so much concern that each has been awarded the lowest possible ranking. So much for the private sector doing things better, and yet more reason why these two companies are now completely out of the running for any prime contractor probation contracts. No wonder it's crisis down at HQ!

Just to rub salt in the wound, as luck would have it the MoJ have just published another report    into the performance of all 35 publicly-run Probation Trusts with every one achieving either 'excellent' or 'good' status. Frances Crooke of the Howard League sums things up nicely I think:-

"There could not be a more damning indictment of the government's fanatical obsession with justice privatisation than its own performance figures. Last autumn, the Justice Secretary hailed G4S Oakwood as an example of what the private sector could achieve in prisons. We agree. The prison, ranked joint-bottom in the country, is wasting millions and creating ever more victims of crime.

The figures also show that the public sector probation service is turning lives around, protecting victims and keeping costs down. We have the best probation service in the world. So why is the government trying to destroy it by handing it over to private security firms? The Justice Secretary should immediately scrap his politically-motivated privatisation of probation."

The third report published by the MoJ concerns reoffending rates and it's yet more good news for publicly-run probation. As the PCA website states:-

The proven re-offending rate for those starting a court order (Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order) managed by Probation Trusts was 34.3%, down 3.6% since 2000. The average number of re-offences per re-offender was 3.22, down 16.7 per cent since 2000. 

In view of all this, a reasonably intelligent person would ask 'so why is the government breaking up probation and privatising it?' Using some classic client-style distorted reasoning, the Justice Minister Chris Grayling says it's because the reoffending rate for those released from prison having been given 12 months or less has gone up - the group that probation doesn't have anything to do with.

I'm sure at least part of the feverish activity down at MoJ/NOMS HQ is to do with making sure there are enough credible alternative bidders for the 21 prime contract packages, now that the two former 'dead certs' are on the naughty step. As we saw on Tuesday, Chris Grayling had a concerted go at schmoozing the voluntary and charity sector, and sure enough the forever self-serving Sir Stephen Bubb (did you know he's looking for a 'decent' publisher for his book on the history of charities?) pops up with this piece in the Guardian. 

Writing as the official cheer-leader for the sector's CEO's, he takes the opportunity for some special pleading and attempts to make the point that "the voluntary sector is not a cut-price alternative to state provision."  Altogether now, Oh yes they are! 

Lets take a look at a very large and well-known charity Turning Point and how they've been making themselves very competitive in readiness for some cut-price bidding in relation to probation privatisation. Last November they basically announced that the entire workforce of 2,300 would be sacked and immediately re-employed on worse terms and conditions. Why I hear you ask? Because they have to be competitive of course. As this Civil Society article
states:-

Only this year, the charity had reported an increase in income and the addition of 182 staff to its rota. In the financial year ended 31 March 2012 Turning Point income grew nearly 5 per cent to £79.3m - largely on the back of new contracts. The vast majority of its income comes from grants from local authorities or other agencies.

The charity said that other organisations it competes against for contracts have already made such changes, and that reducing costs is critical to protecting jobs and continuing its work with vulnerable people. Turning Point said it was seeking to protect as many jobs as possible and that the changes would 'move towards a market rate for employees, one that protects their base pay'. 

As Turning Point themselves make clear, other similar organisations have taken or will be taking similar action to make themselves 'leaner and meaner', but in this case it's worth noting that the Unite union have lodged 300 claims with Industrial Tribunals. 

Meanwhile, MoJ/NOMS HQ are desperately seeking volunteer Probation Trusts to 'road test' various aspects of the omnishambles during August. It's a sad fact of life, but I guess there will be keen takers of such options in order to either enhance their position when the time comes to divvy up posts, or be considered for burnished golden goodbyes. 

I notice that Napo in Devon and Cornwall seem to be the first to register a dispute with their Trust employers over the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. Judging by his recent tweets, Harry Fletcher would seem surprised that other's haven't as yet followed suit. In fact to be honest the former Napo Assistant General Secretary seems to be rather more bullish than the present union incumbents. 

On twitter he appears to be advocating as many questions as possible being thrown in the direction of employers and the MoJ, for example by challenging the separation of staff into high and low intensity teams. He asks does this raise issues of discrimination, particularly for PSO's? What consultation has there been? What about risk issues?         
  
In response to suggestions of evidence that some staff are being told that those who argue or cause trouble 'will be the first to go', Harry would appear to be firmly of the opinion that such behaviour would be excellent grounds to start grievance procedures for work place bullying either on an individual basis, or in groups. Go for it he says!

27 comments:

  1. Turning point say other charitable organisations have taken steps to become 'meaner and leaner'! I wonder if they specifically mean Catch 22 as both organisations are a big part of HMP doncasters PbR pilot.
    Its difficult to determine whos in bed with who at the moment. They're all gold digging. But I've just read on the net ' Serco launches pilot at HMP Doncaster to reduce-Turning point'. I'm left wondering how much of Turning Points funding comes from Serco? Or indeed are they just an extention of Serco. Maybe someone out there knows and will comment, but I'll do my own digging anyway.

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    1. Google " analysis serco and the sector - third sector ".
      Interesting reading by itself, but should provide you with some other links of interest. Good luck with your digging.

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  2. JIm,
    Best blog on the net keeping us up with what is going on. Thank you for the time and work you obviously spend in getting this together.

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    1. John,

      Thanks for that and for not being anonymous! It's increasingly the comments and contributions sent to me that's making it useful I think - so a pat on the back all round is in order.

      Cheers,

      Jim

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  3. Turning Point are not without a troubled history although I do not have a clear remembrance of the detail. I'll write what I remember, others may be able to add to it.

    I did a bit of internet research but got nowhere and only came up with a media friendly tidy precis of a history from their own website.

    In the earlyish 90s, whilst working in east Inner London, I had a prolific burglar client, with a major drug addiction to heroin - who seemed ripe for a residential drug rehabilitation condition in a probation order.

    He came before a judge at Snaresbrook CC who was willing to investigate. In the investigation I came into contact with a former senior employee/trustee of TR who had broken away in dispute at the direction the Turning Point Trustees were then taking(that is the bit I don't remember!)

    He had then become involved with a similar scheme, that had accommodation in or near Somerset - something to do with the old Wills cigarette company. Sadly after a lot of effort (about which I could write about how us probation officers can at times go to our physical limits to give some clients an opportunity - when we get encouragement from a Court) - the placement failed during the trial period on bail and a lengthy prison sentence resulted - I say failed as I always thought such experiences could be steps on a journey that lead towards an eventual rehabilitation.

    My own rehabilitation from addiction was like that - it took me 11 or 12 years attending 12 step meetings before, in a second the concept of surrender rather than resistance to addiction became understood by me, in a very personal (perhaps spiritual) way.

    That was a dyspraxic digression - the point was that TP and other charities can be really torn, about how they run themselves - as arms of some public agency, who fund specific projects - or perhaps with missionary zeal at the behest of their founders dependent on funds they raise publicly and subscriptions - or adjusting to the discerned needs of the client group they seek to serve, raising funds from whatever source they can (Considering the ethics of their constitution - so perhaps not state lottery funding for example) but always trying to serve their client group.

    Sadly too many charities seem to almost totally depend upon core funding from the state which makes them little more than an agent for the state.

    I have experience of this from the position of a once trustee of Quakers in Britain - before Quakers committed to the experimental stage of The Circles of Support and Accountability Project - in Thames Valley (one of the best in my 40 years since I first became involved with the CJS) we had some very careful discussions about accepting Government Funds - without which the project would have been difficult to finance - eventually the Government money was accepted but nonetheless the project was structured that if necessary - which fortunately it wasn't and Government Policy changed - Quakers would have been able to fund it from contingency money.

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    1. essexandrew,

      Thanks for sharing that and about Turning Point. I intend writing something shortly. Circles has been a big success, but as always with government money, you have to be careful. I hope they are sufficiently independent.

      Cheers,

      Jim

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    2. When you're dependent on funding you bow to your masters will or you don't get fed. Thats what a parent company depends on. You'll do this this way or you're out of business. I wonder how many Serco shareholders there are in Whitehall? Their interests are suprisingly vast on a global scale.

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  4. I have now found out I can Follow this blog and hopefully get notification of new posts via my Google Account hence my name has changed!.

    I am also essexandrew with Wordpress and @Andrew_S_Hatton on Twitter. I realise have pretty much given my identity away now despite previous concerns, ever since a number of former clients tracked me down to my home phone number, via the Telephone Directory.

    I always took care of my identity as much for my family's sake as mine, knowing of some, particularly, church workers, who were seriously harmed or killed by folk they had set out to help - I remember some professional dealings with one such bloke who was on remand at a prison I worked at in the late 90s - so I have always urged caution amongst all who work in any way with those are disaffected.

    Anyway - what I want to write about now is this comment above:-

    "Justice Minister Chris Grayling says it's because the reoffending rate for those released from prison having been given 12 months or less has gone up - the group that probation doesn't have anything to do with."

    Please correct me but I think SOME probation services do have something to do with SOME under 12 months sentenced prisoners apart from those under 21 years of age - who most Probation Services - I suspect - do have contact with.

    I could write more about the demise of what was known as VAC (Voluntary After-Care) work when I started in the 70s, but I think some persists with what are acronymically (is that a word?) termed "IOM" schemes, but hopefully someone will clarify - I think "IOM" stands for Intensive Offender Management?

    I am not sure how clients are selected for IOM and whether statutory orders are involved - I suppose I could research the internet - but hopefully someone will helpfully explain - please?

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    1. Tolkny,

      You are right of course, some Probation Trusts are involved with the under 12 month people, but it's not a statutory requirement and I think we have to try and keep the messages fairly simple on here. Again as you say, years ago we did the work voluntarily as and when requested.

      Thanks for commenting,

      Cheers,

      Jim

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    2. IOM stand for 'Integrated Offender Management'. It's mainly for persistent and prolific offenders (PPO's). What occurs (or should do) is that those who come out of prison with no statutory supervision are seen and dealt with by members of the IOM. They are also managed through their sentence, with some form of sentence plan.

      On release they are met/contacted and invited to work with relevant members or the IOM, be it housing, housing support, drugs, mental health or similar. The previous OM (and they normally stay within the IOM scheme whilst there are unstable/recovering) manages the rehabilitation in pretty much the same way you would for any offenders subject to statutory supervision.

      Of course the offenders need not comply (and from experience many do not), however, they are advised that this may reflect badly in any future Court reports. This might appear a little coercive, however, these are prolific criminals who have no compunction about creating victims, something we must take a zero tolerance stance with.

      Many work well, make positive changes and an exit strategy for them can be agreed on once the time is right. Some do not and it might just be a case of try and try again.

      At times it is a thankless task, however, I we did not do it who would?

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    3. IOM stands for Integrated Offender Management and is primarily led by the Police, but is a multi agency approach, in an effort to reduce/prevent aquisative crime. Well, that's what it is in W Yorks. Apologies for being anon. When I get chance Ill work out how not to be without accurately revealing to all who I am!

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    4. I think many ppo,s are in a way victims themselves. Zero tolerance is a concept that I don't agree with. It removes a basis to work with the individual, and instead imposes a static framework. No thinking outside the box with zero tolerance.

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    5. If one gets a Google or Wordpress Account, to name just two of several, it is possible to post with a nom de plume/pseudonym/"user name" such as I am now doing with 'Tolkny'

      https://accounts.google.com/SignUp?continue=https%3A%2F%2Faccounts.google.com%2FManageAccount

      http://wordpress.com/

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    6. I work in a ppo iom team and the concept of ppo's being victims is not one I recognise very often. Thats not to say that on occasion individuals don't get a raw deal from police. Also, there are always options for being creative and thinking outside the box with robust ppo management. I do it every day, in managing both relationships with offenders and the police.

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  5. In his blog today, six-figure-salaried Sir Bubb is defending high rates of pay for those at the top in voluntary organisations. He bangs on about efficiency and effectiveness which as we know translates into low pay and poor conditions for staff. (I note that Turning Point is now operating zero-hours contracts for some staff). Sir Bubb's ACEVO gets lots of taxpayer's money - £210,000 in 2011, increased to £425,000 last year. The average salary of the chief executives of the UK’s top-100 charities is £166,048, research by civilsociety.co.uk has shown. Some interesting titbits on Wikipedia charting Bubb's journey from his early days as a socialist to reaching the knightly view that criticisms of privatisation belong to the last century. All he has to do is read the lastest reports about the performance of private prisons or forensic science services, or the utilities, or translation services, or the Olympics... However, I cannot imagine he would be distracted by mere evidence in his noble pursuit of efficiency and effectiveness – whilst he gets paid a King's ransom. He seems to be a man who likes to go with the zeitgeist and that's why Anthony Barnett, of Open Democracy, has accused him of providing "charitable astroturfing for government policies"

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    1. netnipper,

      Thanks for not being anonymous and for picking up on Sir Stephen Bubb. In my view he's an absolute gift to satirists, and as the CEO of the union representing the bosses of outfits bidding for our work, I intend to give him as high a profile as possible! I love the quote too 'charitable astroturfing for government policies'. That's definitely going to get a mention in despatches.

      Keep it up,

      Cheers,

      Jim

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  6. I love this blog and the people who contribute, not only are the contributions, witty, wise and insightful, but the language - magical - see "charitable astroturfing for government policies" superb!

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    1. Thanks - much appreciated!

      Cheers,

      Jim

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  7. I also appreciate this blog and the sustained effort that goes into its production, as well as the informed comments of its readership. I cannot help contrasting the information and analysis we get here with what we get from the relevant trade unions. All those years of hearing how Napo punched above its weight actually meant from light flyweight to flyweight!

    I feel as though I am looking through the window of Animal Farm. Why on earth did the former leader of the TUC, paid a handsome salary and pension through the subscriptions of trade unionists, accept a knighthood? During a period when trade unions are weak, we get arise Sir Brendan. A life peerage would have been understandable as at least he could have banged his drum in the Lords.

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    1. Another good quote 'I feel as though I'm looking through the window of Animal Farm'.

      I share some of your concerns regarding Napo, but as the following comment says, a union is the sum of its members and that is difficult to argue with.

      However, seeing as we are involved in a fight to prevent the destruction of the job, profession and possibly union, I'm surprised that someone at Chivalry Road hasn't got the time or nous to be doing a daily blog to motivate the troops...........

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  8. I think that is harsh about Napo - which is as good as its members make it.

    It is years since I attended a Napo Meeting of any sort but I have been at many going back to 1974.

    At one time the quorum for a national meeting was, I think, at least 10% of membership, possibly higher.

    We got such a quorum easily at a one day meeting at Preston Guildhall, Lancashire (of all places) (easy for me, I then lived only about 30 miles away in Maghull) but folk came from all over England and Wales and probably Northern Ireland as well (they usually turned up to most national stuff).

    Sadly as a consequence of diminishing interest from members (Napo is a true one member one vote organisation - from top to bottom -apart from block votes at NEC) during my time as a full member up to 2003, the quorum was reduced again and again and yet still we could not hold quorate national meetings on a Thursday - the first day of the AGM - so Thursdays got dropped - less business for annual conference as a consequence.

    Any demise of Napo is entirely due to us ordinary members, we are responsible for the people voted into national office and on to national committees, so it is not right to blame the folk who work or gather at Chivalry Road.

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    1. Tolkny,

      Thanks for commenting, but see my reply above. We need a bit of leadership and some staff time spent bashing the keys on the internet - it can be done from anywhere and the union must have loads more info than me.

      Cheers,

      Jim

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  9. I do agree with that - Napo does not seem to have a coordinated approach to Social Media or even using their own Forum.


    As we know there have been major difficulties at Napo HQ for some while now, resulting in staff having internal issues to manage at probably the most demanding time ever, when now there is a need for new staff, especially in PR to get settled in.

    I am therefore very grateful to those who actually do the work for Napo, the majority of whom are also almost full time Probation/CAFCASS staff as well.

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  10. I feel comfortable being anonymous Jim. I wont change that. Sorry if 'anonymous' is a bit of an issue.

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    1. I think anon is fine - what matters most are the comments

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    2. Indeed it doesn't matter but it can get confusing that's all - how many different anonymous commentators are there? You know. Don't worry about it though as Tolkny says - he with at least three names lol - it's the comments that matter in the end!

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    3. Anonymous posting is fine as long as the trolls don't appear. But feeling unable to put your name to what you say might further indicate how people feel intimidated by their employers. Please try not to be. See The Wizard of Oz for a useful metaphor :-)

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