Monday, 14 October 2013

Omnishambles Update 23

Lets kick this TR omnishambles compendium off with some remarkable wishful thinking from the out-going temporary HM Chief Inspector of Probation Liz Calderbank. She recently gave a speech to the Criminal Justice Conference and had this to say about her expectations of the probation brave new world:-  

So what does all of this mean for our new inspection process? We understand that 
the new providers will have greater flexibility in determining how rehabilitation will 
be achieved. We will be expecting them to be able to demonstrate that they have 
discharged this responsibility effectively and will be holding them accountable for the 
process. We are looking towards a period of transition while the new organisations 
are formed and are adjusting our inspection processes accordingly. Our inspections 
will continue in 2014 but be tailored to the new arrangements and will in the first instance be focused on the maintenance of effective practice as the changes are 

We will look at the work of both the National Probation Service and that of the new 
providers. And we will expect standards to be maintained and them both to 
demonstrate a process of continual improvement.

We will continue to maintain our focus on practice. We will not be inspecting 
compliance with the contract; we are not regulators. Our purpose is to assess 
whether work undertaken directly with people who offend is effective in reducing 
their likelihood of reoffending and protecting the public. 

You will recall that the Justice Affairs Committee declined to support the preferred candidate, Diana Fulbrook CEO of Wiltshire PT, last time round on the grounds of insufficient wide-ranging evidence, but interestingly have just approved the intended appointment of current CEO of Nacro Paul McDowell. A former prison governor, he has absolutely no probation experience at all, but the Justice Affairs Committee says:- 

We consider that Mr McDowell's background and breadth of experience make him highly suitable to take on the role of HM Chief Inspector of Probation. He has relevant experience both as a prison governor and as the chief executive officer of a crime reduction charity delivering a wide range of rehabilitative services, and has demonstrated determination and persistence in these roles.

His uninspiring oral evidence to the committee can be found here. Meanwhile a dickie bird tells me that the newly-appointed Director of the National Probation Service, Mike Maiden, former CEO of Staffordshire and West Midlands PT, will in all probability be standing down in March. Although I understand due to personal circumstances, it's yet another twist in the ongoing TR omnishambles. 

Readers might like to note that, as well as being a major influence on the design of our brave new world of probation at Noms/MoJ HQ, he was also closely associated with Mark Darby and pam, giving a joint seminar in Dec 2011 entitled 'Approaching the market as an ecosystem'. 

As the music plays on and one CEO leaves the stage, I hear that Sue Hall, current CEO of West Yorkshire PT, Chair of the Probation Chiefs Association and CEP Board member, is throwing her hat in the ring for a major position. I wonder if that now extends beyond a CRC to include the top job at NPS?

Although Serco remains bullish about their aspirations regarding probation contracts and their rehabilitation partnership with the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, the government continue to show signs of losing patience with them. It's reported here that they have only six weeks to demonstrate 'change and corporate renewal' or risk losing major contracts, and both Serco and G4S are in trouble over asylum seeker housing:-

Three contracts were at risk if Serco didn’t urgently change its corporate governance culture, government officials have said. The company could be stripped of its ₤285 million prisoner escort contract and the management of three prisons in South Yorkshire. Serco could also be barred from submitting a bid for the ₤800 million privatisation of the probation service.

Losing government contracts would be devastating for Serco, which generates about 25 percent of its ₤4.9 billion revenue from work for Whitehall. Deals with the wider public sector account for 45 percent of sales.
The outsourcer has appointed Lord Gold, a senior City lawyer, to carry out an independent review of its business practices. “Serco is fully committed to its programme of change and renewal and is taking the matter extremely seriously,” the company said in a statement.
Earlier this week Serco and G4S faced fresh criticism by the government, which accused them of providing “squalid” and “rundown” housing to asylum seekers. The two companies have won a ₤620 million contract to provide housing and transport for more than 20,000 asylum seekers last year. “We were alarmed to discover that thousands appear to be living in squalid rundown housing” as part of the contracts, Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, said in a report. “These companies must be held accountable and deliver a satisfactory level of service.”
There are increasing signs that the government are getting tough with private contractors generally and that the whole commissioning landscape is changing as this article about 'noses in the trough' explains:-

But according to reports circling today, new rules are about to kick in that will in fact allow just that to happen. Whitehall officials will be able to explicitly exclude suppliers from the bidding process for any “significant or persistent deficiencies” in previous contracts, so long as these led to some formal sanctions such as termination, or damages claims.
Combine that with the fact that the current Cabinet Office regime has shown a fondness for demanding that IT and services providers put their houses in better order when dealing with government and all the ingredients are there for some interesting/difficult conversations going forward.
There have recently been signs that the present government is ready to get tougher with its suppliers. Outsourcing firms G4S and Serco have both hit the headlines of late for allegations of fraud and overcharging on a Ministry of Justice Custodial Services contract.
Often these things are sorted out in the shadows, out of the public glare despite such cases involving public money. The Home Office is currently engaged in a behind closed doors dispute with US firm Raytheon following that firm’s dismissal from the e-Borders project, the subject this week of scathing criticism for its shortcomings.
Raytheon is suing the UK government for £500 million, a claim that is being heard in absolute secrecy at a private court for arbitration. The supplier’s case is that the brief changed during the lifetime of the programme. For its part, the Home Office says it sacked Raytheon because it had no confidence in the supplier to address problems with the system.

Finally, here is a sobering piece on the Void blogsite to remind charities thinking of bidding for our work of the reputational risks they face by getting involved in unpleasant stuff like compulsion and sanctioning:-

The YMCA, one of the UK’s leading advocates for workfare and benefit sanctions, have joined a campaign which demands that “no one should go hungry because they lose their job or become homeless because they get ill.

Homeless charity YMCA are featured on the list despite their involvement with mandatory work schemes.  YMCA have freely admitted to using forced volunteers on mandatory Government programmes to staff their shops at both a local and national level.  Claimants sent by Jobcentres to undertake this unpaid work could face having benefits stopped completely for up to three years if they refuse.  It seems that this campaign is quite happy to work with an organisation who will leave people to go hungry if they don’t attend their workfare placement in a YMCA charity shop.

There is no doubt that the image of the so called third sector has taken a battering over the last couple of years as grassroots campaigns have exposed the cosy relationship between charities, this Government and poverty pimps like A4e, G4S and Working Links.  Yet the inclusion of the YMCA in this project, along with the dogged refusal of the big disability charities to pull out of the sanctions regime completely, does not suggest that a radical change of heart has taken place.

Which begs the question who really benefits from this campaign?  Is it benefit claimants, disabled people and those condemned to poverty or forced work by benefit sanctions.  Or is it charities who hope a cheap website and some weasel words will help restore their reputation whilst behind the scenes it’s business as usual on the welfare reform gravy train.



    Maybe someone is begining to realise that 'there may be trouble ahead'.

  2. That raises some very interesting questions indeed. How many organisations interested in bidding for TR contracts will have to consider previous convictions of staff they employ?
    Neither would it be good form to say we rehabilitate them but we won't employ them.
    But then theres the use of 'old lags' as volunteers? You can volunteer, but we don't want you sitting around the big table with us?
    I need to think this one out a little more.

  3. Although no blame attached, and very little details are reported, this news article has just appeared.

    Given last weeks published report on HMP Oakwood I feel G4S may attract some considerable attention relating to this incident. One to watch maybe?

  4. You may have read this already Jim but in case you haven't....

    1. Thanks for that - Barnet seems to be at the vanguard of pushing the privatisation boundaries - will be using that in a forthcoming post.




    Mike Maiden resigns. Big news only after 2 months.

    1. I think I'm right in saying you read it here first - ok got the date wrong my a country mile!

      "Meanwhile a dickie bird tells me that the newly-appointed Director of the National Probation Service, Mike Maiden, former CEO of Staffordshire and West Midlands PT, will in all probability be standing down in March. Although I understand due to personal circumstances, it's yet another twist in the ongoing TR omnishambles."