Thursday, 24 October 2013

Omnishambles Update 24

In this weird surreal world we currently professionally inhabit called the Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles, where policy is continually being made up on the back of envelopes, suddenly we have a new buzz word: 'co-location'. 

How to split up the vast probation estate of buildings in order to accommodate the needs of two separate organisations, the CRC's and NPS, has been taxing those bright young things down at MoJ/Noms HQ for some time. But they've come up with a cunning plan:-

 E-mail re updated position on Estates – 3.10.13

“We have no plans for the estate to change as a direct result of transition.  The NPS and CRCs will operate from the buildings currently used by Trusts.

Where a building services a function that only exists in the CRC (eg a Community Payback unit) or NPS (eg an Approved Premise) it will be operated by that organisation.  Where a building services a function that will exist in both the NPS and CRC (eg an Offender Management unit) both organisations will co-locate within that building.  The relative allocation of space will be determined and the cost of the building charged accordingly.

There may be some exceptions to this where the estate within a specific area is sufficient to allow for some functions to be relocated providing buildings wholly occupied by either NPS or CRC (eg headquarters).  Such relocations will be limited.  A full list of any such relocation will be provided following further feasibility analysis.

This approach will mean that most staff will continue to work from the same building on transfer to the NPS or CRC.

It will be for the NPS and CRC to determine their future estates strategy and consult on any proposed changes.”

But apart from common sense, there seems to be something else driving this particular policy development and it comes from a reported exchange between a delegate and Michael Spurr after his speech at the Llandudno NAPO AGM:-

After the speech, I was talking to someone in the corridor and Michael Spurr passed me and I said to him, 'publish the risk register' and he came over to talk. He is a complete concrete thinker and I got nowhere, but when I asked him about the risk moving from medium to high, he said that not many clients move from one officer to another. When I pointed out that that's because PO's now hold cases for medium and high, he admitted that the movable nature of risk was something they had to work on, and he was hoping that most CRC's and NPS would be in the same office! When I asked him about computer systems, he said that the CRC's would have to use OASys or develop their own. When I pointed out that the CRC and NPS need the same system if they are going to work together, he said not to worry, CRC's wouldn't adopt a new system because it would be more expensive. 

In their latest blog about the TR omnishambles the CEO of West Mercia picks up on something else I hadn't appreciated:-

Where once there was to be no straddling across the National Probation Service (NPS)/Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) landscape we now have a Director of Probation Designate, who will have overview of both. A very welcome development, but why the insistence that this should not/could not happen for so long?

So joining up at the top, and now with the change to property strategy, joining up on the ground, co-location seems to be a good thing and certainly in the rural vastness of West Mercia will allow locations that would have become unviable on their own to continue.

I detect a softening on the date by which cases have to be re-allocated according to the split, with the acceptance of spillage gaining ground. This poses all sorts of concerns about whose standards and procedures are to be applied in the early weeks of the CRC, but pragmatism seems to offer a better route forward than immediate, total and universal separation on the first of April. Perhaps I only hallucinated (dreamed, seems the wrong word) that such a crude separation was ever an option, but I am sure that it was the received wisdom of only a few weeks ago.

An oversight at the top, pragmatic coming together on the ground, verily all that seems wrong with the service now is the failure of management in the middle, perhaps I can now see why the Secretary of State told the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) that what we needed was an infusion of sharp private sector management.

Thanks to the latest blog from Joe Kuipers, we know which top jobs in CRC's have been dished out and the closing date for expressions of interest for the remainin is today apparently:-

We also now know who the CRC leads will be for 10 of the new CRCs, as matched current CEOs. They are from West Yorkshire; Staffordshire and West Midlands; Northumbria; Essex; Durham and Cleveland; Norfolk and Suffolk; South Yorkshire; Merseyside; Thames Valley; and, Cheshire and Greater Manchester. I am ware that some CEOs were advised that CEOs of 'merging trusts' in CPAs of more than one Trust could not be matched, but this does not quite seem to fit what has occurred in one case? The new appointees take up their posts formally on 1 April 2014, but with expectations to be involved in preparatory work. This links to observations above about their roles and responsibilities in and for the transition planning. The remaining 11 CRC leadership roles are now open for 'expressions of interest' (applications?) with a closing date of 24 October.

Joe makes a sad observation regarding the top probation job having been recently filled by Colin Allars and the likely new HMI:-

Mike's place has (been) taken by the 'appointment' of Colin Allars, and Colin's place by another HM Prison appointee. This looks like a full house for HM Prison service in designing the future of probation, with some second tier probation input.
I had the great privilege of working with Sir Graham Smith when he was HM Chief Inspector of Probation (another job seemingly destined for an ex HM Prison governor). Whilst Sir Graham was the Chief Inspector the issue of closer ties between the prison and probation services was already in the air and his avowed view was that were that to take place it would mark the end of the probation service he loved and worked so hard to develop.

Regular readers will be aware that I wrote recently about the 'reception' that was held at MoJ/Noms HQ in order to thank the transformation team for all their hard work in breaking up a world class public service. A Freedom of Information request has been submitted, but I'm grateful to a reader for pointing out the following which might help explain:-

"Recognition and Reward (R&R)
A new system of recognising exceptional commitment and performance was introduced as part of the Pay and Grading review in 2007. The ‘Celebrating your Success’ scheme introduced a range of methods for managers to access the department’s Recognition and Reward budget in order to acknowledge performance and loyalty. These methods included: 
 Special bonuses of £100 or more 
 Small bonuses of less than £100 
 Small gifts 
 Team celebrations 
 A loyalty award payable to staff who have served 25 years in the Civil Service. 
Payments under this scheme were available only to staff who have opted in to the Deal, although team awards could be made to all members of a team regardless of their individual options decision.

The Recognition and Reward scheme was refreshed in 2010 with the introduction of a centralised provider of “Recognition Vouchers” to replace existing arrangements for vouchers/small gifts"

Another very interesting snippet from a reader concerns money:-

Lots of Tweeting about the lack of "consultation" on where staff want to go , but main point is dickie bird saying that Trusts are showing massive budget UNDERSPENDS already (its only October!) and TREASURY is taking back since Trust not allowed to spend - This is money for LOCAL communities not for central government spending on receptions by the ministers...Its an insult to think that gold star Trusts are performing so well and spending less,
Does anyone else hear the same?

Before I forget, I really think I ought to mention that World Congress of Probation that was held in London recently. At Llandudno and through other personal exchanges, I heard that amazingly it was the organisers who wished to airbrush out the little local embarrassing detail of the UK government dismantling the probation service here in England and Wales.

Several highly respected academics had papers declined on the basis they were 'too political' and it was the organisers who insisted that Chris Grayling would not take questions. Thankfully Professor Paul Senior was able to confirm that he managed to raise the subject in his session, much to the astonishment of the international delegates. Shame on the organisers! 

Finally, here's some news about Payment by Results, the wonder mechanism by which the TR omnishambles will be delivered. The government have ditched the idea in relation to Early Years:-

A trial of payment by results in early years has been quietly dropped by the government after it did not work.
Elizabeth Truss, the education minister, told members of the Education Select Committee last week that the £3m trial, which 27 local authorities had taken part in, had ended and the scheme wouldn’t be rolled out as originally hoped.
Under questioning, the minister confirmed that the government was now ditching the idea of payment by results for children’s centres, sure start centres and other early years settings for the "time being".
Another MP Bill Esterson asked: “The evidence that has come back shows it does not work; the results of the trial mean you are not going to do it?” Truss replied: “Yes.”


  1. I recall Michael Spurr actually mentioning during his AGM appearance that TR would not necessarily mean staff being physically separated, they would carry on alongside each other in their existing offices, thus preserving working relationships and perhaps assuaging fears, and undermining public protection concerns, about managing changes in the risk status of clients. So colocation preserves something of a status quo in service delivery. Maybe it will almost look as though nothing on the ground has really changed. It will be fascinating to see what impact it really has on staff relationships when there are two paymasters, different conditions of service, and two cultures – private and public – will the default be cooperation or competition? I presume it will result in two logos at the entrance to each workplace. Of course, colocation is commonplace in the business world: thinking of food halls where you can go to Burger King or KFC and airports share facilities between different airlines. But these workers are not joined at the hip, they are not co-working, whereas the assumption underpinning probation colocation is that it will preserve co-working. I wonder if it will? Even within the wonderful world of departmentalised public probation they were plenty of rubbing points between different agendas, so it seems likely that having two corporate identities will make it harder to achieve common purposes and shared understandings in practice. And all this just to satisfy the vanity of the ideological pure.

    Some have said that Michael Spurr was to be thanked for having the courage or whatever to address the AGM, given an anticipated frosty reception. I don't think he showed any courage – he was just doing his job – being a mouthpiece for his ministerial bosses. I think he deserved applause for keeping a straight face when he spoke about minister's concerns for rehabilitation and his assertions that they were acting from the best of motives. In Spurr's compass the direction being taken in TR was morally equivalent to any other direction. You can apply the same thinking to the bedroom tax or any other unpopular policy. As he reminded the AGM they are the elected and democratic power in the country and he simply bends his will to theirs. He follows orders and he found nothing in what he was being asked to do in respect of TR that compromised his conscience. Basically Spurr was upholding the dictum that might is right – and that does not require courage, it needs only complicity.

    1. Netnipper,

      Yes you may be right about Spurr talking about co-location during his speech and I didn't notice, what with all the animated contributions from the audience. But I'm fairly sure it's a new idea because it removes a bit more flexibility from the CRC bidders.

      In the end this is all about cutting costs and it might well be that a potential bidder already has premises to put staff in, co-locating with other bits of their business. They will not want to haggle over the rent for premises that they don't want or need.

      I think the after speech comment about OASys and CRC's is very revealing because all my information says private contractors will not want to have anything to do with such a crap system as OASys. Michael Spurr is just indulging in wishful thinking, just like this whole project of course.



    2. "...upholding the dictum that might is right – and that does not require courage, it needs only complicity." I recall there have been dilemmas about complicity in the past:

      "The Rome Statute was agreed upon in 1998 as the foundation document of the International Criminal Court...

      1. The fact that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been committed by a person pursuant to an order of a Government or of a superior, whether military or civilian, shall not relieve that person of criminal responsibility unless:

      (a) The person was under a legal obligation to obey orders of the Government or the superior in question;
      (b) The person did not know that the order was unlawful; and
      (c) The order was not manifestly unlawful."

      However - Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to an order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him".


  2. From Twitter: -


    @AsksLizzie @yorkhull Thanks.Have secured Commons debate nxt Wed on Govt's dangerous plans. Contact your MPs & get them to support probation

    Andrew Hatton

  3. Jim, Has probation another bite of the cherry?
    A HOC debate on Wednesday 30th October , perhaps there will be opportunity for NAPO and Harry Fletcher to mobilise MPs and ask those searching questions.
    As you have been pivotal (congrats on exceeding 400k page views) informing so many on the "omnishambles"perhaps you might use the time up to Wednesday to focus the arguments onto the key issues, that will (hopefully) be raised?

    1. Thanks for that - viewing figures seem to be ticking over at about 1,800 a day so something is happening out there!

      Yes with the debate fixed for next Wednesday in the Commons, now is the time to let our MP's know we want some action from them - so write, text, visit or phone!

  4. Guardian reporting McNally has a plan for Women's resettlement prisons.

    Andrew Hatton