Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Omnishambles Update 20

Regular readers might recall that a week or two back there was a documentary on BBC1 about the work of the Integrated Offender Management team in Leeds, but mysteriously with no mention of probation, a key player of course in IOM partnerships. We were told that MoJ/NOMS issued instructions that probation involvement was not to be mentioned - can't have the public knowing what we get up to that's useful now can we?

Well, following a Freedom of Information request by a keen Napo member, we have the following answer from Michael Smith at MoJ/NOMS HQ:-

Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). 
I can confirm that the department holds information that you have asked for, and I am 
pleased to provide this to you. 

No directive was issued by the Ministry of Justice to staff at West Yorkshire Probation 
Trust in relation to the Channel 4 series ‘Burgled’. 

The Secretary of State’s contract with the Probation Trusts advises that all national 
media handling and queries should be referred to the MoJ Press Office. In line with 
this, the makers of the programme discussed the involvement of West Yorkshire 
Probation Trust with MoJ Press Office who, after consulting relevant officials in the 
department, decided it was not something they wanted to contribute to at that time.

I wonder if West Yorkshire Probation Trust might wish to comment in the light of this response?

During my rest last week Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence announced that the union had formally registered a dispute with the MoJ over the shambolic TR 'consultations' now taking place and that there would be a further ballot of members in relation to taking industrial action:-

In a statement made to the Transforming Rehabilitation Consultative Forum on behalf of Napo, Ian indicated that the view of the union was that the current 28 day consultation process was ‘littered with confusion at best’ and at worst represented a ‘meaningless shambles.’ He added that the release of a letter by Ian Poree of the MoJ on 19th September to Probation Trusts, together with material that had not been the subject of discussion through the National Negotiating Council (NNC) had compromised the negotiating process. The statement also set out a number of key issues where agreement had either not been reached or where discussions had not yet started, especially over assurances on future terms and conditions, the availability of redundancy terms and assurances about membership of the Local Government Pension scheme for existing and new starters. 

Risk to Public Safety

Crucially, the statement also highlighted the refusal of the Justice Secretary to release the MoJ Risk Register, despite a request by Napo National Chair Tom Rendon under the Freedom of Information Act, and the view of Napo that the Transforming Rehabilitation plans represented an inherent danger to Public safety.

In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, Napo indicated that notice would be served imminently on the Secretary of State informing him of the Unions intention to ballot it’s members for Industrial Action and action short of a strike.

By the way, don't forget the Napo Lobby of Parliament next week, 9th October.

Before heading off to Canada for a well-earned break, our regular informant from the inside Joe Kuipers posted two further blogs, firstly on the 'consultations' and secondly the 'Target Operating Model' for the whole omnishambles and are both worth reading in full. I quote from Joe's latter piece:-

TOM, the Target Operating Model, was published by the MoJ last week. It sets out how the future is intended to look for probation, a word that is clearly to be lost. My first thoughts were, if only we had had it so good - so much flexibility for the CRCs, such opportunities for blame shifting, and still so much to be worked out behind the descriptions of how it should all work.
And yesterday we were advised that Trusts may get as little as 10 weeks notice of actual termination, this a generous extension from the 4 that was the original 'offer'. This is to come to us as a mandatory contract variation, and I can but hope that all Trusts consider this carefully before signing. 

Another good friend of probation, Professor Paul Senior, was able to publish a blistering critique of the whole TR business on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website and entitled 'Risky and fundamentally misguided':-

Qualified and trained expertise is not cheap. And remember that cost cuts are at the heart of these changes. How much will private companies be prepared to invest in high quality training and education to continue to deliver the graduate profession which probation officers have under current arrangements? The importance of the putative Probation Institute to guide training requirements cannot be underestimated here. 

Who will case manage the offenders so that 'sequenced, holistic' approaches can be achieved. Risk assessment and sentence planning done by the National Probation Service, then cases transferred to the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) who may choose not to use case managers as they are costly in more than an administrative role. Co-ordinating provision cannot be achieved by slick software packages alone despite what the salespeople would contend. It needs professional judgement and engagement and co-production of plans with the service user themselves. Even if there was an army of peer mentors waiting – though I applaud the intention we know there are simply not enough people out there – should volunteers without training really do this difficult task professional task of supervision? I don't think so.

Of course Sir Stephen Bubb had something to say about TR:-

And on that cross party theme it was good to see support for the new plans for a rehabilitation revolution launched last week. Stuart (NCVO) and I were able to meet key officials last week to discuss the last details of the announcement. We both felt much progress has been made in understanding the special circumstances of charities and social enterprises in bidding for contracts. Much has been learnt from the Work Programme about PBR and sector tendering. And credit to Chris Grayling and his MoJ officials for the time they have spent listening to our views and our input. It has been more than the traditional "consultation”; we have been involved in the design. Now before I get carried away we have yet to see how the tenders will go and whether we get the private sector cleaning up again; a point I made at a roundtable we held down in Brighton today!

Finally I'm grateful to a reader for pointing me in the direction of this recent article by John Tizard on the Public Finance website. Having a local authority political and third sector background, it's interesting to see what doubts he has:-

For the continuity of the service in the short and long term those staff in the probation and rehabilitation services involved in developing mutuals and bidding should be able to engage actively with their colleagues across the wider service. Artificial separation makes little sense and could be damaging in the short and longer terms.
My worry is that getting the above outcomes will require some pretty innovative and sophisticated procurement that:
•    is driven by the spirit and requirements of the Public Services (Social Value) Act with clear social impact targets for the new services
•    does not require bidders to have massive bank balances or assets to underpin their bids
•    sets the size of contracts appropriately
•    enables new entities such as staff mutuals and co-operatives, and voluntary and social sector organisations, to receive support to build their capacity to bid in ways that avoid ‘state aid’ challenges

•    requires prime contractors contractually to treat their supply chain and partner providers fairly (and well beyond the ‘Merlin Standards’) and to manage risk in a manner that does not seek to transfer it to small organisations that cannot bear it – with both incentives and penalties that would bite
•    gives mutuals and co-operatives, and voluntary and social sector providers, comfort on pension liabilities
•    encourages innovation and offender responsive services and which is not solely based on price and/or driving costs out of the system
•    positively responds to new models for delivery bodies such as co-operatives that have community, staff and user involvement and ownership
•    enables providers to act outside the constraints of the existing orthodoxy and provides sufficient finance to enable creative approaches
•    creates the right relations between the public probation service and new providers so as to prevent gaming and to ensure effective collaboration that is in the interests of society and offenders
•    requires providers to play a collaborative role in the localities and with others from the public, social, community and business sectors – with the premise that probation and rehabilitation should be part of a wider holistic place- based approach to building community well-being

•    ensures accountability of all providers to local communities, including victims; and requires them to participate in local authority public scrutiny
•    makes all providers from all sectors act transparently with independently audited accounts and performance data; the publication of such data including profits in a timely fashion; and required to act in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act
Has the government got that level of sophistication or even the will to seek these outcomes? 

The MoJ’s approach to this procurement will be a test of the government’s intent and genuine commitment to voluntary, social, mutual and co-operative organisations delivering public services in partnership with the public sector. It will demonstrate whether, in spite of warm words and rhetoric, the real agenda is to transfer these and other public services to large business providers with as little regulation and protection for the social sector as it can get away with.
On the future of the probation service, the government itself is on probation.


  1. Some interesting (bubbshit) comments made in the Wakefield Express by Jeremey Wright on 27/9/13 in response to possible strike action.

    As an aside, G4S and serco are rumoured to be claiming that they can't be held responsible for over charging the government for tagging offenders that were actually dead as the offenders in question had already been passed fit by ATHOS!

  2. Extract from Wakefield Express Article:-

    "Napo members have only taken strike action twice in the union’s 101-year history.

    Ian Lawrence, Napo’s general secretary, said: “It’s not something our members take lightly but they feel that these proposals will have such an impact on public safety that they have no choice but to take a firm stand on this issue on behalf of the communities they serve.

    “The government showing that it does not care about the jobs and livelihoods of my members and their high-quality professional skills is bad enough, but not caring about community safety is a downright disgrace.”

    But Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said the changes would improve the probation service.

    He said: “More than 600,000 offences were committed last year by those who had broken the law before, despite spending £4bn a year on prisons and probation.

    “The public deserves better and we are committed to introducing our important reforms, which were widely consulted on. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our reforms move forwards.

    “The National Offender Management Service has well established contingency arrangements to deal with any potential industrial action.”


    1. Just what might these contingency plans be? Call in the Army?

    2. Same as the Fire Service I guess - non-union members, management and possibly volunteers.

    3. Horses***. They do nothing.

  3. Urgent Call for Papers on Transforming Rehabilitation

    " Such is the gravity and rush to change encapsulated in the Government's Transforming Rehabilitation proposals that the British Journal of Community Justice has decided that the next issue will be entirely dedicated to comments on Transforming Rehabilitation. The BJCJ was launched over ten years ago and one of its key themes has always been to interrogate positive practices in probation and community justice and what is currently labelled 'offender management'. The journal believes that Community Justice should be built on a coordinated approach to tackling crime problems, pooling local resources and working alongside service users in the co-production of positive changes. We are not convinced that TR will be able to maintain this agenda and indeed much of the positive progressive practices of the last decade - IOM, MAPPA, SEEDS, Good Lives, Women's Centres, desistance approaches and many, many more could be lost or undermined. Maybe you disagree and you are looking forward to the changes so please contribute too.

    We need your thoughts NOW. We intend to publish the next issue of the BJCJ during December. We would welcome contributions"


  4. This article may interest you Jim.

    REUTERS. Kate Kelland, predicting violence in psychopaths is 'no more then chance'.

    1. Also of interest.

      THIRD SECTOR. Prison minister, involving charities in probation reforms is 'a crucial challenge'.

    2. Thanks very much for flagging these articles up - a great help!