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!