Friday, 4 October 2013

Omnishambles Update 21

Lets start with the second offering from the breathlessly positive and upbeat advert by Saleha Wadee CEO of Laurus Development, 'the first mutual to spin out of the probation service' and featured on the Russell Webster website. Their website explains that the organisation began life as a training consortium formed by five probation trusts.

Billed as 'Developing a probation mutual : from theory to practice', regular readers will recall that part one featured the 'classic change curve'. 

Having decided on the legal structure, in part two Saleha goes on to explain:-

Developing a commercial approach means a mind-set change from looking at an allocated budget and deciding how to spend it, to going out into the world and winning business to create a budget in the first place. This turns the existing model on its head; in that we are anticipating what our potential clients need formulating a variety of solutions up front in anticipation of their requirements. The rest is about listening and bringing innovation to the co-design of services. 

One of our values is “acting with a sense of urgency” and this has been the main contributor to our development in the world of probation. Freed from institutional constraints we have reacted swiftly scaling up our ambition to become a national provider capable of attracting and securing business with both the retained public service and the new providers of adult offender services.

This strikes me as fitting perfectly with the whole TR omnishambles 'wishful thinking' ethos I discussed yesterday. The piece goes on:- 

Our new mind-set means freeing yourself of all limits in thinking through service offerings. 

Historically, we know that major outsourcing initiatives like this create casualties and it is easy to become becalmed waiting for other people to determine your future but, at Laurus, thanks to our management of the speed of the change curve, we are creating our own destinies and that feels much more positive and engaging!

If you are enthused by this and it sounds like your cup of tea, I notice Laurus are holding events in the coming weeks at locations including Preston, London, Birmingham, Bristol and York.

Of course the climate in which the 'new probation landscape' will have to operate in continues to change with the Tory Party making further concerted efforts of living up to its 'nasty party' reputation by announcing further benefit cuts for the under 25's if elected in 2015. 

This, added to Chris Grayling's continued efforts at unsettling the prison population by a total smoking ban and gleefully announcing his plan to return to the 'unfinished business' of automatic release, any bidders for probation work are going to have an ever-increasing uphill struggle to deliver lower reoffending rates. Remember, in the wishful thinking world of the TR omnishambles, if reoffending doesn't reduce, you don't make any money.

It was interesting to see that the Centre for Social Justice report I highlighted yesterday not only serves to discuss how jittery some voluntary and third sector bodies are about the financial risks involved, but some are also belatedly waking up to the ethical and reputational risks of working with clients compelled to attend on pain of breach or recall:- 

Almost two-thirds (64 per cent) of organisations believed being seen as independent was one of the top three critical reasons that made them effective at what they did, and 42 per cent for their clients choosing them and their services. Danny Kruger, CEO of Only Connect described to the CSJ why he felt this mattered:

‘Rehabilitation is built on trusted relationships between the client, professionals, and a 
wider supportive community. This means a minimum of coercion and a strong sense that 
the organisation is there to help the client, not simply to monitor and manage the risks 
he poses.’

What ever Sir Stephen Bubb may say, like it or not, such charities will effectively become arms of the State with a duty to enforce judicial punishments and court orders. For some it's all going to be a bit of a rude awakening to discover that significant numbers of clients are not going to be willing participants and in fact will have a propensity to kick-off big-style if they feel being compelled to undergo monitoring, supervision, and 'rehabilitation' is not fair.

For many the realisation that the refrain "I've done my time" will no longer wash will come as very unhappy news indeed and it will be interesting to see how the Payment by Result contractors deal with such unwilling and un-cooperative 'customers'.  

Finally, I notice that Professor Paul Senior, as co-editor of the British Journal of Community Justice, is very keen to encourage contributions on the subject of the probation changes (omnishambles) from both practitioners and clients:-             

Articles and thought pieces will be subject to peer review in the normal way but we do not want to discourage new writers, so a Thought Piece will not require the same level of referencing and academic rigour as an article. The editorial team can advise on the appropriateness of a contribution. We will not censor any well-argued thoughts either in favour of the TR proposals or against. We will though not publish anything which is written in a way which can be construed as libel or which does not follow the normal bounds of etiquette in writing for publications.

The challenge is to produce this by mid-November, though if you can get something in prior to that it will help us in production. Please send completed contributions to us by November 15th at the latest. We intend to publish this issue in open access as well as hard copy format so it can be circulating before Christmas.

The remit is simple:
If there are any areas of TR which has exercised you and you can write a full article or a more polemical piece including previous published blogs or you simply want to write a letter as a probation worker or voluntary sector worker to the Minister expressing how it feels to you as you experience it then now is the time to put pen to paper. We will consider anonymous publications in the letters section provided the name and contact is provided to the journal.

This is the biggest change in the history of the probation service and we want your thoughts now!


  1. Grayling today announces an end to automatic early release for prisoners sentenced for particular types of offences (the Guardian).
    They will he says have to go before the parole board.
    Will this move see prisoners serving their whole sentences and being released with no supervision?

    1. I laughed out loud when I heard this. Here we go again, reinventing the wheel and back to a practice that should never have been scrapped in the first place, except it was rather overtaken by the legislative meddling that gave us the now discredited IPP sentence. However, writing an informed parole report always required an in depth knowledge of the client and his/her progress as well as a good rapport fosters through prison visits/letters etc. Am wondering how this will be achieved in the new world order what with all the PO's working in the call centres.....

  2. You know it's bad for you, but the Laurus management-speak is amusing in a fatuous way - their mind-set, their sense of urgency, their management of the speed of change cycle. They have a quasi religious zeal, all that's missing is a few hallelujahs. Are you sure they are a probation mutual? They sound like the Moonies. I have recently been reading about a thug called Mao and Laurus-speak brought to mind Red Guards and fanaticism. I can't wait until Laurus impart the meaning of life, because they are so ahead of the curve they must have a map of the Great Beyond.

    How endearing that Only Connect envisage a 'minimum of coercion'. This is a straw argument. Probation has never been an advocate of coercion. If you want to describe implementing the sentence of the court as coercive then that's a matter for philosophy. In the present climate there is no hiding place from monitoring and managing risks. Any organisation that thinks it can get away with a light touch will, in consequence, put the public at risk. Probation work has never been about making friends with clients, but it has in it's best traditions been about helping clients to change their behaviour through the provision of support, encouragement and accessing practical resources. And the counterweight to this support has always been to be open and honest with those clients whose behaviour is thought to present risks and to let them know that while probation has a duty to help them it has an overriding duty to protect past and future victims from harm. These are the bedrocks on which strong professional and trusting relationships are built. Only Connect is a good name for a dating agency, but less apt, perhaps for a criminal justice agency, as it belies the skills required to maintain a professional distance whilst building trust and rapport with a client.

    1. That's why Lazarus - sorry Laurus - gives me the creeps! As you say, surely a religious sect?

      Only Connect a dating agency - it's obvious lol.

      Cheers Netnipper - I like your style!


    2. Leaked Laurus Mutual corporate song. You heard it first here.

    3. 'Shiny Happy People' R.E.M. - perfect lol

  3. Well said folks - trouble is those with real power are ignoring you/us!

    Some of us are either stupid or think we can survive TR and so are enabling it.

    I don't think there is much more that can be said TR will fail as it has been designed and there will be many casualties.

    One plus one really does only make two.

    'Offender's' or probation supervisees cannot be managed anymore than prisoners can be forcibly controlled without minimal conditions or massive staffing. Folks ONLY change when they realise making change is in their best interest. I am unlikely to change if the only motivator is punishment from an agent with whom I do not have a trusting relationship in which I feel worthwhile.

  4. Failing Grayling just does not know when to shut up.....I think it is, in part to do with vote catching, but his latest suggestion that all TACT (Terrorist Act Offenders) and Child Rapists should not be eligible for 50% reduction in time served, is another 'eye catching story'.. Due to changes in legislation a load of sexual offences against a child under 13 is classified as 'Rape' and his numbers regarding 600 new cases every year falling into these categories - reflects scaremongering. The majority will be caught out and labelled by the new legislation and there are currently no more than 100 TACT ofenders in custody and in the community...but why let the truth get in the way of an opportunity to make a fast buck.

    Oh and all these longer sentences can be paid for from exisiting budgets, as he has "some slack" in terms of HMP vacancies.....what a prick!

  5. Bubbs whinging in Civil Society today about the amendments to the lobbying bill.
    Worth a look if you're like me and get a lift when Bubbs distressed.


    Anyone think of a reason for keeping certain things in the public sector?

    1. Elmfield Training - looks like they might have been fiddling the figures in order to get government money - blimey who'd have thought it possible?

    2. TheUrbaneGorilla5 October 2013 at 07:45

      The latest scammers caught. Getting to be quite a few now. Enough for a group. If I was Laurus, which I'm not, (I am the Laurus, goo goo g'joob) I'd be ahead of the flock and going to market with a bespoke offending behaviour programme for reducing the risk posed by fraud like this. I'll need a name though - ETS - Enhanced Training Skills - perhaps, or R & R - Ripoffs & Rehabilitation maybe.

    3. The Elmfield story is reported in far more detail on line in
      'Fe Week'.

  7. Have you heard about the complaints against BBC new coverage of the Manchester rally to protest against spending cuts ahead of the Tory Party Conference? Reporter Norman Smith stated he was told to stop filming this - who told him ? The security company for the Tory Party Conference G4S. Suggest colleagues start to look at the coverage of the changes to Probation and why this is under reported and COMPLAIN to the news providers given the major impact this will have upon communities.

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