Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Following Orders

Chris Grayling duly turned up for his speech to the voluntary sector at the Centre for Social Justice and judging from tweets emanating from some of the excited throng, he's managed to convince some of them that things will be different this time round. He assured them that this was definitely not going to be a Work Programme Mark 2. He will be making sure that the small guys don't get eaten alive by the big guys and spat out whole when they've served their purpose as bid candy. Wake up guys!

In many respects he's between a rock and a hard place having thoroughly pissed off G4S and Serco and with much of the voluntary sector still with painful memories from  the Work Programme. There was a faintly desperate air to this speech because in reality he desperately needs the VCS to step forward like lambs to slaughter, or the whole damned stupid plan collapses. Just like any ponzi scam, you continually need new punters willing to be convinced about the chances of rewards.

For those interested you can watch his whole nauseating performance here, especially how he really values our work, that's why he's setting up a brand new National Probation Service. He said he needed the sharp management skills that only the private sector could provide, but he didn't want the same big players bidding for contracts within the 21 Contract Package Areas. You can see what Ian Lawrence of Napo thought of it here.

Meanwhile the bad news for Grayling just keeps piling up. His old department the DWP have at long last faced up to the inevitable and admitted that Atos is a disaster in relation to the work capability assessments and they are to be phased out in favour of other contractors. Lord Justice Moses has labelled his legal aid reforms as a 'joke' and even the Crown Prosecution Service have turned on him saying the changes will 'undermine fundamental principles of justice'. There are also strong rumours that the PbR payment method for drug projects is failing and will be abandoned.    

So, when's a really good time to start re-organising a huge organisation like the Probation Service in England and Wales? Answer : just as the schools break-up and lots and lots of staff head off on well-earned leave.

As I mentioned the other day, all Trusts have been instructed by MoJ HQ to prepare full and accurate 'as is' templates by 5pm on August 9th. In addition, every PO and PSO is being instructed to ensure that all client information on nDelius is accurate and correctly recorded as soon as possible. Apparently there is no way of accurately cross referencing all registrations from the centre and particular attention must be paid to MAPPA registrations. All SPO's and Case Administrators must be involved in this process asap and for instance in the case of London, must be completed before August 2nd. As CEO Heather Munro explains:- 

All Trusts are now required to complete the "as is" information. This is a detailed template accounting for all our caseload information but also details of contracts, IT, premises, assets etc. This is a normal part of a competition process and something we had experience of for the CP competition. We want to make sure that the caseload data is accurate to properly reflect the resources needed to manage London's work. Making sure our caseload data is accurate should be a part of normal business though I appreciate we are doing a refresh to make absolutely sure that the data is correct. LDU ACOs should be doing all they can to support staff in completing the data. 

The task is not going to be easy, not just because huge numbers of staff will now be on leave, but also because some Trusts are experiencing significant losses of staff as they 'jump ship' rather than wait to be pissed about by an intransigent and arrogant Justice Minister. The Service nationally is sadly leaching key experienced staff at an alarming rate and it will present Trusts with an even bigger headache as they do their best to comply with MoJ orders. Oh, and there's the small matter that some Trusts have only just migrated to nDelius and the staff are, how shall we put this, finding it's shite. 

In London I understand that authority has been given to bring in additional administrative staff so as to support the task, it is regarded as so imperative. I seem to remember it was a 'black' on that risk assessment we haven't been allowed to see. It would be tragic, utterly tragic if circumstances beyond anyone's control prevented these deadlines from being met due to, like it being the holiday season!   


  1. Its not going to be a work programme mark 2 is an open admission of that programmes failure. Its hardly an inspiring sales pitch announcing that yous last project (one very very similar to this one) was a crock of shite.
    Making sure the little guys aren't squeezed out by the bigger bidders? How far is this going to be spread?
    Wonder if anyones considered product continuity? Nightmare!

  2. As Grayling was addressing his remarks to a conference composed of the voluntary sector, it is no surprise that he wanted to reassure and assuage fears that the decommissioning of probation was not going to be a repeat of the work programme for charities, many of whom folded as they could not provide a viable service.

    But let's assume a thousand flowers bloom under TR, bringing a range of creative solutions to the challenges presented by crime and reoffending. I don't think for one moment it will happen. As happens with all privatisations there will inexorably be a concentration of big providers who will eventually monopolise.

    And even if flowers bloomed, what difference would it make if you were employed by G4S or a third sector provider, such as a social enterprise with charitable status like Turning Point? On first impressions you may prefer the latter as it would not be tainted with rapacious free enterprise, with the privateers. But from a worker's perspective it would probably make no difference to your wages or terms and conditions. I say this having seen what is taking place at Turning Point who tore up staff contracts:

    “Three hundred staff at the social care charity Turning Point have claimed unfair dismissal as part of a long-running dispute over new terms and conditions.
    The charity began moves last November to sack its entire 2,600-strong workforce and re-employ them on new contracts in a bid to reduce costs. The trade union Unite said that staff were dismissed and then re-employed in March on lower salaries and poorer terms and conditions. It said some had lost up to £6,000 a year from their wages.
    Unite has now made a claim of unfair dismissal to an employment tribunal on behalf of 300 staff.” (

    And why did Turning Point act drastically? So they can compete with the competitive bidding process in the charity sector!

    So I suggest, from a decent wage perspective, it will be immaterial who provides future probation services – whether public, private or third sector. They will all be 'cheap and cheerful' services in any event. It is no wonder staff are jumping from a sinking ship. It is surely the intelligent thing to do.

    1. Thanks for mentioning Turning Point - I had no idea this is what they've been up to - a very bad omen of what is to come, but sadly not that surprising eh?



  3. Unrelated, but a curious thought just popped to mind.
    If shares are available for purchase in the companies bidding for contracts, then presumably theres notting stopping an offender becoming a share holder if they so wish to do so?
    That would be a very odd situation.

    1. Offenders or most offenders anyway are very unlikely to become a shareholder in any company.
      However, in principle that rather strange possibillity does exsist.

  4. "some Trusts have only just migrated to nDelius and the staff are, how shall we put this, finding it's shite"

    I really could not agree more.

    I cannot shake the feeling that our Chief's could have done a lot more to stop this. We often challenge offenders who give excuses such as 'everyone was doing it' and 'if I did not [comply] then I would have felt stupid' but yet our Chiefs appear to have blindly went along with things, knowing fine well the consequences of their actions.

    It only took a few of them to band together and speak out, highlighting the obvious dangers of this proposal, the very dangers that the Government tried very hard to hide!!

    Rosa Parks would be spinning in her grave!

  5. The argument that Chiefs should have done (and do) more remains a significant one and the question should be asked why have they not acted to defend the service they profess to support whole the answer that they see this as a way of exerting total economic control over the remnants of what remains and secretly hoping that when the dust settles they'll be the last ones standing....NAPO should consider challenging the Chiefs to take a more active role in the resistance or equally be transparent in their support of TR.....the grade currently under the most pressure seems to be SPOs given the information that they're receiving about job quote Chris Spivey.....just saying

    1. The deafening silence and near utter compliance by the Chief's is an extremely depressing aspect of this whole sorry saga. I can't think of another professional group who have been so spectacularly supine.