Thursday, 3 October 2013

Wishful Thinking

In trying to find something useful or new to say about this TR omnishambles, I've been glancing at a recent report published by the Centre for Social Justice entitled 'the new probation landscape'. It's basically a survey of voluntary and third sector organisations who are currently in the process of considering bids for parts of our work. 

There's no great surprises in it. Some are keen, some are scared stiff and some don't know what to think. We know the government feel that their involvement is essential though, as reported here on the Third Sector website:-

The government faces a crucial challenge in ensuring that charities can take part in delivering probation service reforms, according to Jeremy Wright, the prisons minister.
Speaking at an event on the rehabilitation of offenders organised by the think tank the Centre for Social Justice at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester yesterday, Wright said: "It's a crucial design challenge to ensure that small voluntary sector organisations can compete successfully in this landscape."
The Ministry of Justice last month announced that 399 third sector organisations were involved a bidding process to deliver the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which will replace probation trusts with private services responsible for providing probation services and reducing reoffending, who will be paid partly by results.
Wright said he anticipated that consortia of different organisations would come together to deliver services.
"When these consortia come together, we will have to be satisfied that the voluntary sector organisations aren't there as that wonderful phrase ‘bid candy’," he said. "We will ask some searching questions of everyone who puts their bids in to ensure that's not the case. It will be part of the way we judge the bids."
Wright said that there were concerns over whether the department used a "binary measurement" that paid out only if offenders committed no crimes, or a "frequency measurement", which paid out if offenders committed fewer crimes.
The voluntary sector favours the latter measurement because it makes it easier to work with more prolific offenders.
Wright said the MoJ might allow bidders themselves to specify in their bids both frequency and binary elements "that they think they can achieve".
I really like that last bit "that they think they can achieve". That's exactly what this whole bloody TR omnishambles is about, just wishful thinking. 
This is what wikipedia has to say about it :-
Wishful thinking is the formation of beliefs and making decisions according to what might be pleasing to imagine instead of by appealing to evidencerationality, or reality. Studies have consistently shown that holding all else equal, subjects will predict positive outcomes to be more likely than negative outcomes.
The entry goes on to describe the 'fantasy' cycle:-
“the fantasy cycle” ... a pattern that recurs in personal lives, in politics, in history – and in storytelling. When we embark on a course of action which is unconsciously driven by wishful thinking, all may seem to go well for a time, in what may be called the “dream stage”. But because this make-believe can never be reconciled with reality, it leads to a “frustration stage” as things start to go wrong, prompting a more determined effort to keep the fantasy in being. As reality presses in, it leads to a “nightmare stage” as everything goes wrong, culminating in an “explosion into reality”, when the fantasy finally falls apart....
I think it's fairly clear we've passed the dream stage and we are now well into the frustration stage. Here's what the Chair of Greater London Napo has to say on the subject of the on-going consultations:-
On 19th September 2013, MOJ instructed LPT to begin a 28 day consultation exercise (since extended to Monday 21st October 2013) with the recognised trade unions on proposals for staff transfer consequent on the TR programme. 

All ACOs have been asked to hold briefing meetings in their LDUs to which they should invite representatives of the recognised trade unions.  A few have notified me of the details of the meetings they intend to hold. 

However, time is short and our resources are limited.  Branch officers are endeavouring to attend as many meetings as possible but given that there are over 20 LDUs in LPT there is simply not enough days in the week. 

So, my advice to you is to ask questions, lots of questions.  Make a note of the questions you ask and send them to me so that I can raise them with the Senior Management Team. 

Nobody has any answers. The lack of information is making this consultation exercise a sham and is one of the reasons that Napo felt it had no alternative but to register a dispute. 

Ballot papers should be with you all within the week.
"Nobody has any answers" is a common refrain during this frustration stage as another letter from a Napo branch to their Trust Chair shows:-
The original questions in the letter of the 15th August remain unanswered and I invite you to revisit these. We appreciate the situation of TR has advanced whilst we have an outstanding failure to agree on certain issues. The 19th September (letter) formally required your side to consult properly, yet this remains an unachievable task whilst you ignore outstanding and related questions that need to be satisfactorily answered for our membership and National Collective bargaining Negotiators.
I've heard that the timetable is slipping inexorably and that there genuinely is no idea at MoJ how the new model will work post 31st March next year... NONE AT ALL...
It seems the nightmare stage might be nearer than we thought.


  1. Ref 399 agencies involved in bidding. When the invitations to register are issued, the timescales and desperation to secure funding forces many to register without any real insight or approach in mind. Once registered, there is no obligation to follow throigh. In short, agencies register and then wait and wonder as to whether or not they will actually bid. Most don't and the drop out rate can be massive. So 400 could be as little as a couple of dozen. Watch the circus unfold.

  2. This is what happens with poor legislation and rushed implementation. You get Work Programmesque debacles ( worse than doing nothing)

  3. 'David Cameron advisor Jonathon Luff quits to join payday lender Wonga as lobbyist-Independent 31/9/13'.

    The truth is that moral values are no longer on the agenda. It's not only distasteful to see charaties scratching around trying to get their noses in the trough, its quite sickening.
    Social values? Moral values? If they can't be sold theres no place for them in todays society.

  4. Gee Whizz, we shouldn’t forget its tough out there, folks.
    According to data from the official IPSA website for declared or recorded MPs expenses, at least £3.2M is paid in “salary” or other remuneration each year to those deemed to have a connection to an MP, e.g. spouse, partner, family member, etc.
    Annualised expenses data for the 2012/13 sitting of parliament shows that the totality of MPs recorded expenses was £97.6M.
    (Jim has already identified Mr Grayling’s £35K declaration in favour of Mrs Grayling).
    That averages out at something like £140K in expenses claims for each MP for 2012/13.
    MPs are additionally paid a salary which at basic rate is just shy of £66K.
    If they are fortunate enough to Chair a Select Committee they get an additional allowance of £14,600. If they are a member of a Select Committee they get an allowance which rises depending on how many years they have been a member, between £3k and £14,600 annually.
    Ministerial duties attract further enhancements: a Cabinet Minister gets an additional £80K; a Minister of State gets a further £41K; and a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State an extra £31K. The PM gets an additional £133K.
    Thus a Cabinet Minister would have been paid at least £300K, including recorded expenses. (It doesn’t specify if you hold two Ministerial positions whether you’re entitled to both salaries, e.g. Justice Minister & Lord Chancellor – that would be neat).
    This doesn’t take account of additional privileges, perks, etc that come with the role, e.g. flights, other travel, meals, memberships of clubs and organisations, access to prestige events, donations towards the cost of the constituency office (Grayling has declared two very generous donors in the recent past, one of £25K and another of about £70K).
    If any minister is unfortunate to (have to) leave office for any reason other than death, there is a severance scheme in place whereby they get approx 3 months of the ministerial salary to help them on their way. Thus a Cabinet Minister would trouser something like £20K for losing their job.
    And if you had ever been fortunate enough to have held the position of Prime Minister, so long as you’re not leader of the opposition you will be given around £115K each year to help you cope with your “special position in public life”. This would be in addition to any Lord’s entitlements for your attendances following your elevation to another place… and the rest of the £millions you might have accumulated on the way. Phew!!!! How do they cope?

  5. Inappropriate problem solving strategies... distorted thought patterns... lack of victim empathy...creating their own opportunities...for financial gain.

    1. Yes and don't forget all the research that highlights the fact that people with psychopathic personality traits are over-represented in the field of politics and public life.

  6. The Hare Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R) provides a range of personality aspects to be considered. The twenty traits assessed by the PCL-R score are:
    • glib and superficial charm
    • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
    • need for stimulation
    • pathological lying
    • cunning and manipulativeness
    • lack of remorse or guilt
    • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
    • callousness and lack of empathy
    • parasitic lifestyle
    • poor behavioral controls
    • sexual promiscuity
    • early behavior problems
    • lack of realistic long-term goals
    • impulsivity
    • irresponsibility
    • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
    • many short-term marital relationships
    • juvenile delinquency
    • revocation of conditional release
    • criminal versatility
    In addition - Narcissistic Personality Disorder is characterized by a long-standing pattern of grandiosity (either in fantasy or actual behavior), an overwhelming need for admiration, and usually a complete lack of empathy toward others. People with this disorder often believe they are of primary importance in everybody’s life or to anyone they meet… People with narcissistic personality disorder often display snobbish, disdainful, or patronizing attitudes. Diagnostic criteria include meeting 5 or more of the following:
    • Has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
    • Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
    • Believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
    • Requires excessive admiration
    • Has a very strong sense of entitlement, e.g., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
    • Is exploitative of others, e.g., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
    • Lacks empathy, e.g., is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
    • Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her
    • Regularly shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

    Are we getting close yet?