Saturday, 31 August 2013

Omnishambles Update 17

Well we now know that Serco is in yet more trouble, this time concerning the Prisoner Escort and Custodial Services contract and evidence that staff have been fiddling the data. Chris Grayling huffed and puffed again about Serco possibly not getting any more government contracts, but that's just so much hot air, not least because the company are a vital part of the Nation's defence, for example the Fylingdales Ballistic Missile Early Warning Station. Just look at what other bits of the military they run here. The news didn't impress the stock market though, with their shares falling 17% on Thursday. 

Possibly of more immediate relevance to us in probation is the news that Serco are in trouble with their Unpaid Work contract in London. As soon as the contract commenced they made 200 staff redundant, but Chris Grayling has continued to praise the fact that they are cheaper and cite the London contract as grounds for dismantling the whole probation service. But it turns out that Serco are in chaos and finding it impossible to keep accurate and timely records of UPW hours undertaken, of course a core task in being able to confidently supervise court orders.

Cheeky Serco are requesting assistance from staff at London Probation Trust to help them update the Delius record system, which has led to London Napo and Unison issuing the following statement:-  

It has come to the attention of the unions that LPT are asking staff to carry out overtime on a voluntary basis in order to assist SERCO in clearing their backlog of CP DELIUS contact entries that should have been cleared by them by the 30/08 in accordance with their Business continuity plan.   

The unions are advising members not to volunteer to do this work for SERCO at this time for the following reasons: 

- SERCO have chosen to prioritise profit over service delivery and the unions do not consider that SERCO should now be afforded the facility to call upon LPT staff to assist them to fulfil their contract obligations, ie., different rates of pay for what is exactly the same work- during unsociable hours- which should in any case attract a premium payment at market rates, and this situation is not acceptable. 

The situation regarding the contract variations that each Trust Board are being asked to consider rumbles on. The key matter involves each Trust agreeing to the MoJ request to reduce the contract notice period. Joe Kuipers, Chair of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, has written further on the subject and in particular raises a number of key questions that each Trust Board might wish to consider:-

  • Will the Board have a formal minuted Board meeting to consider the contract variations?
  • Will this meeting be an open or closed session?
  • Will the CEO (a Board member) and the Board Chair (or other Board members) sign a declaration that their considerations are unfettered by any potential conflicts of interest (that, for example, the CEO has an interest in applying for posts in either the NPS or CRC or a Board Chair aspires to become part of a future governance structure)?
  • Will the Board have specialist contract legal advice available to assist the discussions?
  • Will the Board have specialist HR advice available to understand if any of the contract variations have implications for the Board as the employer?


  1. Joe Kuipers poses some telling questions for other Trust chairs and their cohorts. Reminds me of a whodunit country house murder mystery. Answers to the questions would help us to know where the suspects were when public probation was taken out. In this case it won't be a crazed loner, more likely a joint enterprise, a contract killing of sorts.

  2. Well done to Joe Kuipers - someone with some backbone and integrity - sadly, I am sure he is a lone voice, but a mighty one at that. As netnipper states, the answers to these questions are crucial and to my mind should shed some light on the veracity with which the trusts are fulfilling their duties and responsibilities, not only to the Government but the public and employees.

  3. Whatever your political leanings, and personal thoughts on Syria, the U turns being comprehensively demonstrated by the British Government and the USA allow me to feel a small amount of optimism for Foxy's (AKA Citizen Smith) old saying, "power to the people". Heads of state should not have the authority to make executive decisions, when the lives of so many are at stake....on a smaller but nonetheless devastating and emotive scale, Mr Grayling............take heed!!

  4. Having a client at HMP Oakwood claiming difficulties accessing health service facilities, I've been looking at the web to see if I could determine wheather or not this is an isolated incident or indicitive of maybe a wider failing within the system at Oakwood.
    I am aware of the recent report regarding Oakwood which is a G4S run private prison, that didn't paint it in a particulary good light.
    Chris Grayling has stated that Oakwood is the prison that will show the rest of the prison estate "how to run a prison cheaply".
    But profit before all else surely not?
    Of 1600 inmates there is only the oppertunity for 400 to work.
    I am also satisfied my client is not the exception to poor and overstreached health care facilities.
    However, between April last and January this year, HMP Oakwood call in paramedics to take people to hospital or treat them on sight no lesser then 117 times.
    Now I'm confused over this because my first thought is that what ever bid G4S tendered would have included a fee of some kind for the medical care of inmates?
    If thats the case, and G4S have called in paramedics 117 times in 9 months, does that mean that they have been using public services to provide medical services that G4S should be providing and infact are also being paid to deliver that service? Surely if a doctor had to be called in out of hours the prison would be required to pay the costs?

    1. I maybe wrong but I think for several years now prison medical services have been the responsibility of the local NHS provider not the Prison Service.

      This was an issue on the horizon when I was a seconded probation officer at a London Prison until 2002. The concern was that prisoners did not get equivalently good health care as other NHS patients with a resolution being to make the NHS directly responsible for prison health care.

      It may not have happened but if it has and presumably POs working in prisons now will know better than I, then it presumably up to the NHS how they provide care which maybe for paramedics to respond to incidents.

      Andrew Hatton

  5. I also understand that Peterborough transfers out anyone who needs a psychiatric report. Of course they can do it cheaper if they don't do it properly.

    1. Obvious non on Graylings pilot PbR scheme at Peterborough have psychiatric issues?

  6. Anon at 16.12 makes a good point - perhaps the local NHS Trust needs to be contacted and questions asked? I will look up who the local MP is and correspond!!

    1. Maybe they've claimed the escort fees for staff to the hospital too?
      Anywhere there's a buck eh?

  7. You tube:

    'Serco and the private companies running your country-truth loader'.

    Would you really even consider giving them any more public money?