Monday, 25 November 2013

Omnishambles Update 29

The graph that says it all. The official MoJ proof that probation works with the fifth consecutive quarter confirming a fall in reoffending by people being supervised:-   

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So why is the government pressing ahead with destroying a well-performing public service? We could do the same for the under 12 month custody people if Chris Grayling saw sense and abandoned his ideological stance. It puts into perspective the nonsense Max Chambers was trying to get away with on last Thursday's BBC2 Newsnight programme:-

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Professor Paul Senior tweeted what he thought about it:-

not sure this is anything to boast about. After all the spin was so off the mark you were clearly badly briefed.

Talking of twitter, I really do feel it's worth highlighting the nonsense that Debbie Ryan, Director of Rehabilitation and Resettlement at G4S has recently been engaging in:-

I would welcome all & any probation individuals to come to # and see for themselves. Anyone interested??

Rr u passionate about probation? Want to help shape the G4S TR bid? I am ready to listen. Would u attend workshop to share ur frontline exp?

If you want to contribute to the G4S bid. Have your say and shape the future - let me know. Happy to host workshops if enough interest???

Have had soo many tweets- emotions are high. Have your say and let's work together to make sure your experience shapes the future??

if you get involved you will know exactly what the future holds. You will help shape it. Take control.

Get involved in The G4S TR bid. Help shape the model? Want to hear what you would do??

I agree the spec is key. But you want us to be transparent so help us to make this work?

I know you are entrenched in this. It affects your lives and careers. My offer is for you to b able to input!

on going experience is essential to manage risk and protect the public. Tell us what YOU think works.

I see that the MoJ has had a stab at trying to explain exactly how partnership working is expected to work in the brave new TR omnishambles world of CRC's and NPS. I think it can best be described as a dog's breakfast, but according to the MoJ, it all sounds so simple and straightforward:-

This paper will be used to inform the partnership working aspect of the exit strategy for 
Probation Trusts and enable them to plan the allocation of resources for the statutory 
partnerships between the NPS and the CRC in the contract package area during the 
transition period once the Probation Trusts split in April 2014. This will enable providers to take on an existing structure within the CRCs and ensure providers are fully aware of their statutory partnerships and responsibilities once they begin to deliver services. However, once providers begin to deliver services we will seek to ensure that contracts retain the flexibility for these arrangements to be negotiated to reflect local variations and wider changes including new legislation, where appropriate. 

This paper does not cover non-statutory partnerships. Trusts are currently mapping these 
partnerships to ensure all local relationships are captured and to test the resourcing of 
partnership activity as part of their transition planning. We committed in the strategy 
document that providers will need to demonstrate how they will sustain and develop IOM 
arrangements in their area – a key non statutory partnership. 

We are also considering how best to ensure that all providers engage appropriately in 
those non-statutory partnership working arrangements which make an important contribution to protecting the public. 

Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, continues to prove what good value she is, and as reported here in the Independent, is due to try and lift the veil of secrecy that currently exists in relation to government contracts:-

A powerful group of MPs will today push top civil servants to agree to sweeping reforms of how Government contracts are run by the private sector following headline-grabbing failures at outsourcing giants Serco and G4S.

Margaret Hodge, the Public Accounts Committee chairman, wants to see financial information on all Government contracts revealed under what is known as open-book accounting. The former Labour minister is also demanding that the National Audit Office has full access to contractual and financial details of these deals, which should also be subject to greater public disclosure under Freedom of Information laws.

Stephen Kelly and Bill Crothers, chief operating officer and chief procurement officer respectively at the Cabinet Office, will face the committee this afternoon. They will be joined by top Ministry of Defence civil servants who could be questioned over the semi-privatisation of the £14bn agency that buys tanks and guns. Plans to let the private sector run such a sensitive part of national security have been widely criticised and the process is on the brink of collapse after one of only two bidders pulled out last week.

Meanwhile, as reported in yesterday's Sunday Times, Margaret hasn't given up on that other infamous example of the MoJ's contract drafting skills:-  

THE National Audit Office has launched a new investigation into the Ministry of Justice’s outsourcing of court interpreters, after nearly 10,000 complaints about the service offered by contractor Capita.

Judges, barristers and court officials are arguing that the £90m contract is delaying proceedings by up to a year and jeopardising cases, including those involving rape and murder.
They claim interpreters often do not turn up or are so bad they are dismissed. As a result, Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the public accounts committee (PAC), has started an investigation.


  1. Morning Jim, a minor point but the graph shows a slight rise in the re-offending rate - perhaps a better way of describing it would be that for the fifth consecutive quarter the figure was well below the expected rate.

    Debbie Ryan has taken a lot of flak on Twitter for her suggestions. And quite rightly so, in my opinion - she's doing nothing to dispel the impression that the G4S principle is "bid first, then work out how to do it". I just hope no-one is taking her up on this offer.

    1. Thanks - a good point and I wonder if the slight upward move is the effect of the impending omishambles on performance?

    2. Debbie Ryans tweets can be summed up in one line.
      "Bite this apple, throw your fig leaf away and leave the garden".
      But before being tempted by the call of come and join us at wonderful company entrenched in fraud and malpractice, its worth remembering that prior to G4S Debbie was at Working Links where only 18mths ago this was happening:-

      Beware! Don't bite any apples, dig in and do whats right.

      For the record it's not my intention to suggest Debbie was in any way involved with fraudulant behaviour or even poor behaviour at Working Links. I simply point out that both outsourcing companies Working Links and G4S have been involved in serious fraud alligations, both well documented in the press, and that Debbie has worked for both.

    3. Mr Hutchinson said he had encountered a “a multi-billion-pound scandal”, after working for two companies in the welfare-to-work industry.
      He claimed his work running the audit department was “regularly disrupted” by having to investigate “recurring incidents” of fraud and irregularities.
      This was not unprecedented. He had previously investigated suspected fraud in the welfare-to-work industry at Working Links, another company with millions of pounds of government contracts. In testimony to MPs, the auditor described a “common theme in relation to Department for Work and Pensions contracts”, not limited to A4e.
      Welfare-to-work companies are meant to get evidence they have found long-term jobs for unemployed people, in order to collect almost £2,000 per person in payment from the taxpayer.
      Mr Hutchinson alleged that a “usual” fraud was for staff to falsify the signatures of employers or job applicants to make false claims for money from the Department for Work and Pensions. He said a bonus system provided incentives that “drove” staff to make false claims without fear of much reprisal.
      “If their irregularity was discovered, they could resign from their job in the knowledge that no further action would probably be taken,” he said.

      Mr Hutchinson claimed that at his previous company, Working Links, the level of fraud escalated to “a farcical situation” but at the time he faced a “stonewall” from managers.
      By May 2008, Mr Hutchinson had compiled a list of 15 different frauds together in “excess of £250,000” relating to four different taxpayer-funded programmes. He presented the list of investigations to the risk committee of Working Links, warning that fraud in the organisation was “endemic”.
      A key claim was that “patterns” of fraudulent activity were geographically widespread, including continued cases of forged signatures of unemployed people or employers to claim cash for jobs that did not exist. He said in evidence to MPs that Working Links agreed with him that more could be done to tighten up its procedures but it refused to overhaul its bonus system or accept his claim that fraud was widespread.
      He has produced a note from the chief operating officer which objects to Mr Hutchinson’s description of a “prevailing culture” of fraud. The note says its PR team prepared “defensive briefs” to deal with the fallout if newspapers got wind of any fraud.
      After Mr Hutchinson was made redundant from Working Links, he joined A4e. He said he found “similarities to the fraud committed” at both companies. He discovered a quality and audit committee existed at the company, but claimed that minutes referred to wanting a “touchy feely” approach to the subject of risk. Mr Hutchinson also claimed to have been told the role of head of risk was renamed group assurance director, as Mrs Harrison did not like the word risk because of “negative connotations”.


    1. Oh yes I'd forgotten - here is Debbie spelling out her bright new future under TR for Russell Webster. Pretty convincing - not!


  3. Well, it looks Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is planning to forge ahead with his plans to privatise Probation work, or you would have thought he would have said with the prison's announcement.

    Jims Blog today asks, So why is the government pressing ahead with destroying a well-performing public service?

    I liked the starkness of Kate Smith’s question on twitter, where she asks, “Why is it OK for Serco & G4S to bid to run probation and not OK for them to run a prison?

    Or why the Probation is not failing, losing out to questionable corporations who don’t know right from wrong?

    I don’t know the answer to that, but I suspect it’s all about money and power, rather than victims and offending behaviour. Yesterday, I was reading a newspaper article, which spoke of a London hospital currently doing brain surgery, who have lost out to an American company who have been given the contract and who have also been donating money to Conservative party.

    Anyway, I was encouraged by Harry Fletcher’s tweet that an amendment, to ban firms under investigation for fraud being able to bid for Probation work, is to be tabled this week. And by your blog which says that, "A powerful group of MPs will today push top civil servants to agree to sweeping reforms of how Government contracts are run by the private sector following headline-grabbing failures at outsourcing giants Serco and G4S.

  4. David Hurst says: "I suspect it’s all about money and power, rather than victims and offending behaviour". Indeed. There is no point referring politicians to the excellent performance record of the Service as it is not being dismembered for failing. It is being dismantled for parts.


    1. Toby Eccles, development director at Social Finance, has warned MPs that the government’s rehabilitation reforms have an “inherent incumbency bias”, and that the process is happening too quickly to allow charities to take part.

      Eccles was speaking to the Justice Select Committee which is examining the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

      The government plans to contract probation services out of the public sector as part of its Transforming Rehabilitation programme. The scheme will see contracts split across 20 regions for England and one for Wales with responsibility for supervising and rehabilitating 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year.

      Some 700 organisations, including 399 voluntary sector organisations, are competing to take part in the scheme, which is due to start next April.

      However, speaking to the Justice Select Committee about the reforms, Eccles warned that they were big issues with charities’ access to finance, access to data and the structure of the model.

      “There is a danger that we will move from one monotone solution to another monotone solution,” he said, “and not a diverse sector with a good mix of private companies, social sector organisations and mutuals.

      “There are some attempts to create smaller schemes. But it still feels like the model favours those who have had lots of procurement with the Ministry of Justice before. There is an element of inherent incumbency bias in the model.”

      Eccles continued that there was a lot of uncertainty and financial constraints with the model: “It is still uncertain whether one can bid or not,” he said. “And to bid you have to demonstrate you have half a year's worth of money available. But you can’t raise this if you don’t know what you are doing. So you have to have this money already available, so you are creating another constraint in the market.”

    2. It is still uncertain whether one can bid or not,” he said. “And to bid you have to demonstrate you have half a year's worth of money available. But you can’t raise this if you don’t know what you are doing.

      Charities are already attracting reputational damage by getting involved with workfare.
      It's amazing though that you can tell the select committee that we're desperate to put a bid in, but we still don't know what we're doing.
      I'll tell you what you'll be doing. You'll be the kicking boy for the primes who in turn will be the kicking boys for government when it all implodes.


    1. For all the fine talk of encouraging charities, mutuals and smaller companies, lucrative chunks of the public sector too often end up in the same hands, which have the connections — aided by armies of expensive lawyers and lobbyists — to win the complex contracts despite previous problems. The Coalition pledged to open up the process — yet just 10 per cent of funds from public contracts go to small and medium-sized firms.

      A report by the National Audit Office found government officials totally out of their depth at controlling this oligopoly — an unsurprising conclusion after all those shocking banking failures, overblown procurement projects and billions wasted on private finance initiatives. The state is simply outgunned by private sector powerhouses — something evident also in the energy sector, with its six big suppliers and rising prices.

      For capitalism to work its magic it must be disruptive. Just look at the technology industry with all that constant innovation trying not to laugh at anti-capitalist blogs banged out on the latest laptop. But instead of unleashing this powerful force with the best regulators possible in the public sector, hesitant governments have evolved a cosy crony capitalism that protects the biggest players and their comfortable profit margins. Politicians struggle to see the difference between being pro-business and pro-market; the public loses out.

      The Serco case provides a warning when the state sits increasingly on private shoulders. Incredibly, it took civil servants five years to take action after the discovery of overcharging, showing the scale of Whitehall complacency when spending other people’s money. Meanwhile G4S and Atos, the French firm with a dire record on disability benefit testing, are given deals worth £2 billion a year when they do not have the decency to pay a penny back in corporation tax. So how about stripping tax avoiders of any public sector work as a first step in a fightback against crony capitalism?

    2. Jim, I'd love to see an exam question lifted from your post above:
      "Politicians struggle to see the difference between being pro-business and pro-market. Discuss with reference to the TR process currently being rolled out".

      We are told that it is a fair process, because everyone can, in theory, apply to compete in the market (so long as you can afford to carry 12 months costs up front and not mind if you lose it). But it all reminds me of the famous quotation from Anatole France, who said that "The law in its majestic equality forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread".

    3. "It is no accident that 'The Law' is an anagram of wealth". L. Murray 1987 .
      Do we know the figures on how much Serco, G4S, Capita or their proxy's, have donated to the Tory party ?

    4. Not sure of figures but when you can explain your failings in this manner theres a serious need to review outsourcing per se.

      Army recruitment is in crisis because “there are no wars on” – the fat cat boss in charge of enlisting troops claimed today.Capita chief Paul Pindar made the controversial remarks in the Commons after his firm’s failing bid to sign up thousands more troops was slammed by MPs.

    5. No wars on? Oh, I see. Silly me. And there's me going and believing the statement from the British Army website that "the British Army is actively engaged in operational duties across the globe. The work we do ranges from peacekeeping to providing humanitarian aid, from enforcing anti-terrorism measures to helping combat the international drugs trade. Recently we have seen our troops in action in Libya, Afghanistan..."

      Oh yes, one other small point. Didn't the troops who had just come back from active duty in Afghanistan have to forego leave under orders to bail out the useless herberts in G4S when they demonstrated that if you are aiming to organise the Olympics you shouldn't give the job to a bunch of crooks who couln't organise a p*ss up in a brewery? I mean, call me Mr Picky, but....

  7. DWP 'hiding back-to-work fraud from taxpayers', claims Margaret Hodge
    The Government has come under attack for refusing to publish details of more than 100 investigations into potential fraud in the back-to-work industry, claiming the cases are not in the “public interest”.

    Read more:


    1. That link by Anon at 17.55 is not working for me at the moment, will she or he please check it - thanks.

      Andrew Hatton

    2. apologies - not sure what happened earlier. Here's another attempt:

      When making risk assessments we use the past to inform future possibilities; so might we look to history to inform possible futures:

      People can and do fall from grace - maybe TR has its Achilles Heel too?

    3. further apologies - in a moment of madness & rare enthusiasm i thought I'd found a link to a fresh PAC report, but it seems its the same as previously posted, i.e. G4S, Serco, etc.

      Drat - hoist by my own petard!

    4. Thanks Anon at 21.24, 21.14, and 17.55.

      I had not seen that before though I don't have the stamina to go through it all right now - the chickens do seem to becoming home to roost for Transforming Rehabilitation - I hope they get home before a single member of staff is reassigned!

      AND it IS encouraging to be reminded that people in positions of great power do sometimes, walk away when they have been found out, though it seems more likely to happen as a consequence of private matters than for promulgating a policy that is publicly dangerous AND a waste of tax payers money.

      Andrew Hatton

  9. Napo says today that "the MoJ are rather unsportingly claiming that Napo and Unison are unable to enter local JNC disputes as there is no need for the MoJ to negotiate with Trade Unions on the imposed staff transfer assignment process.

    We will issue more advice tomorrow but this blatant attack on our rights to represent our members is desperate even by the MoJ's latest standards. It won't intimidate our members and it's simply likely to add fuel to the fire".

    Seems like a MoJ decision is - No time to negotiate. Just ram it through!

    1. Isn't about time judical review is considered?

  10. Ian Birrell: Which politician will dare dismantle crony capitalism?

    The state is dancing to the outsourcing tune of private sector behemoths with extensive connections

    Read more:

  11. Doncaster MP blasts prison privatisation plan: Don Valley MP Caroline Flint has described the ditched plan to ...

  12. Off topic but I found this an extremely interesting read, and perhaps far more near the mark then tounge in cheek.

    1. Grayling & co the snakes in suits representative of the something for nothing culture. Sheer hypocrisy.

    2. A snippet from the excellent piece referenced at 22:43 above:-

      The singular achievement of the present government has been to appoint new "overseers of the poor", although it forbears from using this term, which dates from the 16th century, when it designated the administrators and distributors of poor relief. These new overseers are far from the flinty and ignorant officials of the Old Poor Law, as they are – and not for the first time – commercial entities. The poor have often been eyed covetously by enterprise, as they represent an apparently enduring group in society, out of whom it must surely be possible, in one way or another, to make a profit, the word David Cameron has cleansed of any association with dirt – perhaps prematurely, as G4S and Serco demonstrated, when they charged the government for tagging prisoners who did not exist. Atos, tasked with the judgment of whether individuals are fit for employment, finds itself the inheritor of an ancient debate about the "deserving" and "undeserving".

      The fate of the most vulnerable people – in children's homes, prisons, care homes, rehabilitation centres, adult care homes and probation services – is increasingly in the hands of private providers, just as they were when known as orphans, felons, the lame and the halt, and the aged, who have "borne the heat and burthen of the day". This government's use of private companies – a policy re-affirmed last week by Francis Maude – in the improvement of pauper management has its antecedents in the 18th century, when the task was widely outsourced to willing providers. Far from being an "innovative" approach to poverty, the present government looks deep into a punitive past for inspiration.

    3. Another approach to those warm and fuzzy 'Victorian values'.

  13. Has anyone else noticed that when things aren't going his way, during TR debates in the commons, or after announcing a u-turn on privatising (or piratising it should be called), our Mr. Grayling goes strangely missing? Normally he can't keep out of the press wheather its TR, Legal Aid, prisons, Human Rights or even poor old Richard the thirds bones hes always there. But lately he appears to becoming pretty shy.
    Why? Because he's upset just about everybody you can think of, from the unemployed to the top legal eagles in the country, and the tide is begining to turn. He's on the run from every corner as his mis-information, sneaky political moves, and down right lies are being uncovered. I doubt very much if he's on many peoples christmas card list this year. He is, on every front on the back foot, and in my opinion heading for a huge fall from grace.
    But he can't hide for long- to many people looking for him now! Last week the public found him wanting on privatising prisons. Today the Laywers have found him being less then honest about legal aid cuts.

    I wonder who it will be that catches up with him next? Maybe his own ministers? He may not be liked very much, but he certainly is popular.