The following memo from the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice to the Minister has come into my possession and I thought it I would share it with readers:-
You asked me to brief you on progress with the Transforming Rehabilitation Implementation Programme prior to the Summer Recess and your impending sojourn abroad.
I'm happy to report that basically things are proceeding well and as you instructed, they were not to be stalled by the recent House of Lords amendment to the draft Bill.
As you are aware, there are one or two problems still to be ironed out, particularly in relation to the previously identified commissioning 'capacity deficit' within the department. However, I'm pleased to tell you that the Cabinet Office have sportingly agreed to the temporary secondment of some of their best people and I'm assured they will be able to sort things out in short order. Apparently they are extremely experienced, having worked previously on the West Coast Mainline contracts and the new NHS telephone call centre project.
In terms of possible interested bidders, it's a shame that G4S and Serco would seem to be out of the frame now, but your suggestion that a 'short, sharp shock' might help concentrate minds and ensure we get some keen bids is paying dividends already. My contracting people tell me that with the SFO referral now public knowledge, potential bidders are 'as keen as mustard' in wanting to delve into the really small print in the draft contracts.
The voluntary sector capacity building programme is nicely on target and over an extremely convivial dinner the other night, the Chief Executive of ACEVO assured me that there were 'loads' of his charity members more than ready to forget the 'unpleasantness' from the Work Programme and basically 'give it another go'. It would seem that what they don't know about dealing with offenders, they more than make up for with an enthusiastic approach to the challenge!
There are mutterings however about the possible shortage of 'Old Lags'. The voluntary sector are particularly keen to respond positively to your encouraging words on the use of such volunteers, but it might be that we have to revisit the idea of an extension to the Early Release scheme for the over 50's in order to ensure there are enough to go round. I have a working party looking at the possible implications.
I'm told things are progressing nicely on the IT front and all glitches on the nDelius national roll out have been fixed. I'm assured the user feedback is extremely positive, a situation similar to that with OASys R which is proving to be significantly better than the original version. It's true there are one or two issues with integrating all the IT systems, the migration of data, secure access for third parties, capacity, adaptive technology, user interfaces, etc etc, but I'm assured this is all perfectly normal for a government project of this complexity and the independent consultants say 'it can definitely be fixed'.
I think we are winning the public relations battle, especially now that the gagging order on senior management has taken effect. One might be tempted to say there's hardly been a 'tweet' out of them and in any case they're currently focused on the recruitment process for senior positions at NPS and the NewCo's.
It's true to say that some information is leaking out, mostly it seems from ASPT, but we are doing our best to try and discourage this. As you are aware, one or two academics are still insisting that we 'come up with some evidence', but the long summer break is fast approaching and we confidently expect things to fall silent very soon.
As you oft repeat, fortunately for us the public still have no real idea what probation is all about and therefore the BBC hardly gives the subject a mention at all. Napo doesn't seem to have got its act together yet and probation staff generally are reported to be 'largely apathetic and resigned to change'.
Regarding the blog you mentioned, the Media Relations Team inform me that 'it appears to be written by a grumpy old fart who's lost the plot and hasn't got a clue about what he's writing about'. Apparently it has a very low profile and only gets about 1,000 hits a day. I'm assured it's nothing to worry about.
So, basically the programme is nicely on track and I can assure you that everything is in very capable hands. I sincerely hope this puts your mind at rest and that you can now enjoy a very well-earned holiday.
I remain, Sir, your obedient servant,
PS I'm told that morale in the department 'has never been higher'.