Thursday, 5 December 2013

Evolution not Revolution?

Like Harry Fletcher, I think we were all surprised to hear from Chris Grayling yesterday that we are not in the middle of a revolution, but rather a few 'evolutionary' changes. Harry says the minister used the term 5 times during his session in front of the Justice Affairs Committee. He also appeared to be indicating that timetables were slipping:-

Justice Minister, Chris Grayling, was called to give evidence by the Justice Select Committee today, 4th December, on his ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’ and plans to privatise up to 70% of the probation service. Surprisingly he stated on five occasions that his transformation agenda was all about ‘evolution’ not ‘revolution’. I am unaware of him using this term before.
On several occasions he said the timetable was not set in stone and that all cases did not have to be reallocated and assessed by 1 April 2014.  Again I am unaware of this being said before. The Minister added that 2014 would be used to test and monitor the new shadow arrangements. He also said that next year would be the opportunity to ensure that the transfer to the private sector would be carried out smoothly.
Grayling was quizzed in some detail by MPs John McDonnell, Elfyn Llwyd and Jeremy Corbyn about the consequences of his failure to publish the risk register. In response to questions about the risks contained in the register he said that the government never published them and that the risks had changed over the last five months. He was then pressed to say how they had changed and whether they had escalated or decreased but he declined to give details. He also refused to give the names of the 35 companies and consortia who are the MoJ preferred bidders for probation work.
 It was also evident from the Minister’s answers that the original timetable had slipped and handover to the private sector is now set for December 2014. Grayling was asked many other questions including what would happen if consortia members split or fell out. The answer appears to be mediation or retendering. He was asked what would happen if there was insufficient market interest in some areas? He seemed to say that if that happened then the NPS would do it. He insisted that the whole exercise was about quality not cost.
When asked about comparisons with the failures of the Work Programme and Payment by Results Grayling was insistent that the Probation Change Programme was much less complex and would be easier to administer.
He was asked whether the split between public and private would be 30/70, or would it be nearer 50/50? He answered that there were differences between the financial and the people split and that this was still being worked on. 
Finally when pressed by Elfyn Llwyd he said he had no knowledge of why relationships broke down in the employer/union interchange in late November. Elfyn Llwyd challenged the Minister on this saying his officials had changed the rules on continuity of service should a transferred employee undertake a new role, but Grayling denied that this was the case. He was further pressed by Elfyn Llwyd as to whether he would meet with the unions personally and said that the Ministry’s door was open.
Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence picks up on this latter point in his most recent blog:-
Here is what I had written into the minutes of the TR Consultation Forum the day after that fateful NNC meeting: 

"As members of the Programme Team and TRCF will be aware, Napo, Unison and GMB* yesterday (20/11/13) registered a failure to agree following a meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) in London last night. The unions will now be approaching The Advisory and Conciliation Service (ACAS) for assistance. 

Napo wishes to formally complain at what we believe was a cynical attempt to de-stabilise the NNC negotiating process yesterday, and to make it clear that we found the contribution from the Secretary of State's representative to be extremely unhelpful and indeed unnecessary. This intervention follows the previous act of bad faith last week where contradictory documentation was distributed to Trusts outwith the NNC negotiating machinery. It is also Napo's view that to compound this situation by presenting the employers and unions with a series of eleventh-hour and highly detrimental pre-conditions, which reneged on previously agreed assurances, was a total disgrace. 

These actions prevented any discussion on the substantive material and have severely jeopardised the prospect of the NNC parties reaching an agreement on a comprehensive Staff Transfer Agreement, and Napo has no hesitation in laying the responsibility for this situation firmly at the door of the Secretary of State. As you may be aware, Napo has instructed our Branches to prepare to register local JNC disputes in the event that the Moj version of a staff assignment process is implemented by Trusts. Napo's National Executive Committee meets next week to consider the situation and to receive reports about the next steps in the Union's current Industrial Action Campaign." 
(*GMB clarified that they had reserved their position on a failure to agree) 

The key point is that even if Grayling did not agree that his department was at fault for the breakdown in talks he cannot reasonably claim before his peers that he was unaware of why the situation had occurred. 
Meanwhile, as 'those letters' continue arriving, this is the reality of a bit of 'evolutionary' change for highly professional staff up and down the land:-
"My letter arrived yesterday - Durham Tees Valley PT - and I haven't slept. I have a busy day tomorrow (well actually, today) and will be expected to perform as usual. Whatever happens from here on in, the MOJ has lost the heart and mind of a dedicated PO. I am hard working and just get on with whatever is asked of me but NO MORE. Something in me has died and that will directly translate to my work. I will deliver what is required and no more. Do not underestimate the future cost of this because performance has always been delivered on the unpaid extra work we do so freely. I will never do that again for an employer who treats me with such a lack of respect."
"My worst time is when I wake before the alarm and lie there not wanting to get up:at work it feels increasingly as if we are running 2 parallel lives especially in run-up to Xmas with a veneer of good mood, office decorations and parties alongside increasing worry about Probation and personal future, disillusion and fatigue. I'm not giving up on protesting the folly and risks of TR just recognising the impact of this struggle whilst still trying to do the job and hold things together at home for family."
"I have followed your blog for some time as this omnishambles progresses and unfolds at alarming speed.  It has kept me (almost)  sane and up to date on the national picture as no other website has, and I wholeheartedly thank you for that.  I take comfort from the comments of all the other professionals in this impossible and, quite frankly, frightening situation.
Amid the ridiculous, preposterous, and seemingly unstoppable plans of the MoJ, I have been doing my best as usual to ‘go the extra mile’ for my Service Users, because that is why I came into the make a difference!

Today I was informed by my Line Manager that there is to be an audit on NDelusional entries as well as quality of CPJD’s.  However he himself had admitted that NDelusional is not fit for purpose. I am exhausted by it all........stressed, anxious, depressed, disrespected, deskilled and disillusioned. How can it be ‘business as usual’? My energy reserves are so depleted that I will expend them where they are most needed...with my offenders.The rest..........meeting cash linked targets etc etc can go and get lost. Demoralised is rather an understatement at this time and I turn my eyes upwards in the hope of help there."


  1. Storms, of the weather type, all around us; an autumn statement likely to leave us all exasperated, and a level of unprecedented demoralisation within my professional lifetime. The impact of the statement for me nearly 54, probably moving the retirement goal posts just a little further away, than they were yesterday. My 19 year old son suggested I look on the bright side, he'll probably have 50 years off working life, during which to repay the £27,000 he;'s borrowed to pay for his University Education; Oh the naivety of youth, wish I had some and I would not be sharing the same feelings expressed by contributors in today's post.

    I was trying to think of a film analogy for what this feels like, but why spoil a good film...instead, the 'letter inviting expressions of interest' seem so very much like entering the lions den, without any information, or knowledge as to whether the lions are in there and how long it's been since they last ate. As for CG - liar, dangerous and contemptuous individual, bereft of any intelligence or human dignity....shame on him!

  2. where's my parachute5 December 2013 at 10:31

    The timetable has been slipping since day one and December probably won't be the big bang date at all. But in the meantime the service will be ruined beyond repair, even if anyone at Westminster was remotely interested in doing so.
    I am having to think about how my little bit of probation will look in a few months time and it is wholly disheartening. Our work relies on reserves of hope and optimism and if I can't feel that for the service, what chance is there for my clients.
    I still believe in "advise, assist and befriend"and believe this can work with public protection too. But over the years we've been shafted by legislation and interference beyond imagining. This omnishambles just puts the cap on it.
    Unfortunately those senior managers who have signed up to lead us through the mess that is the future become tainted by their acquiescence.

  3. Another success story in Graylings new world of rehabilitation?

    1. Budget cuts at HMP Liverpool are putting staff and prisoners in danger, an independent report warns.Government-ordered redundancies now mean there is just one prison officer for every 30 inmates at the Walton jail.

      A report released yesterday by the prison’s Independent Monitoring Board – but compiled before the ratio increased from 1:26 this summer – warned that the low staff numbers could “seriously compromise” the ability of staff to deal with “unrest”.

      The ECHO was today told by one unnamed staff member that workers were “increasingly fearful for their safety” and that the 1,400-capacity prison was becoming “more violent”.

      The source said: “We are pushed to the limits now because there are so few of us.

      “If there are a couple of people off sick, you really feel it. It is an intimidating place to work at the best of times.”

      The Prison Officers Association told of a sharp increase in staff and prisoner-on-prisoner attacks at jails working to a 1:30 ratio benchmark.

      Spokesman Glyn Travers said: “Liverpool is much like elsewhere in the country, staff are stretched to the limit and there is a real risk to safety and criminal damage.

      “Prisons are volatile and dangerous environments in which to work and the levels of violence are at totally unacceptable levels.

      “There has definitely been a spike over the past six months and the common factor is budget cuts.”

      The IMB report was compiled earlier in the year but only released this week.

      It tells how concerns raised over staffing in the 2010 and 2011 annual reports had been brushed off by the government.

      The report states: “Governor Illingsworth and his management team have had to implement substantial financial cuts which have resulted in the loss of further operational staff.

      “Despite an improvement in the constantly above average levels of sick leave, the board is of the opinion that this places further strains on the capability of the prison.

      “Board members, when performing their duties on the wings, have noted with considerable concern, the low ratio between prison officers and prisoners.”

      The IMB report also said improvements were needed to tackle the scourge of drugs and investment was required to improve the condition of the cells in the prison.

  4. Can't access this story, paywall, does anyone have access or know what its about?

    Observation - Privatisation of theProbation Service DeHavilland (press release) (subscription) - 4 hours agoDeclares that the Petitioners oppose the Government's plan to abolish the Probation Service in its current form and to privatise up to 70% of work currently undertaken by it. The Petitioners believe that those convicted by a Criminal Court should be supervised ...

  5. Off topic but I find this article of interest.
    1. Because its another failing by government to meet time scale after shouting for so long that everything was fine with no problems.
    2. The I.T. is whats being blamed representing more considerable (and costly) problems with outsourcing.
    3. The need to make sure its right and the model needs to be 'tested' before its rolled out. The need for evidence and testing before implementation seems to be a new concept in Whitehall over the past few weeks.

    1. The work and pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, has used the cover of the autumn statement to announce that he is to miss his deadline of getting all existing and new benefit claimants on to universal credit (UC) by 2017.

      He has also confirmed he is having to entirely rework the IT system at substantial cost because the original IT failed to meet the needs of claimants.

      In a political humiliation for Duncan Smith, the minister has had to admit that at least 700,000 claimants will not be on UC by the end of 2017.

      The reforms have been billed as one of the biggest changes to the welfare state since its inception, but have been bedevilled by repeated IT failure and delays, as well as a reluctance by ministers to admit the postponements.

      Given the failure by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to meet previous deadlines, this new timetable is bound to be viewed with scepticism.

      The scale of the setback suggests a new government may have to take a cool look at whether the scheme should go ahead. There has been a bitter blame game within the department and across Whitehall.

      DWP officials were not able to give a cost for introducing new IT, but said the issue was likely to be discussed when Duncan Smith appears in front of the work and pensions select committee next Monday.

      They said the existing IT was not able to help claimants properly once they had made their initial online claim and their circumstances changed.

      The new benefit, which brings together six benefits and tax credits into one, started with a small pilot in the Greater Manchester area, but has only looked at the simplest claims of single people making a claim for jobseeker's allowance for the first time.

      The DWP said: "As announced in July, the department has been working in conjunction with the Government Digital Services to explore an enhanced IT system for universal credit that uses the latest in technological advances. Today ministers confirm that this system has proved viable and the department will further develop this work with a view to rolling it out once testing is complete."

  6. 'Finally when pressed by Elfyn Llwyd he said he had no knowledge of why relationships broke down in the employer/union interchange in late November'.
    Says it all really. This Govt will be responsible for ushering in a cataclysmic restructuring of the way probation is delivered and the Minister responsible not keeping his finger on the pulse as to what is actually happening? So much for those wonderful 'business principles' that we're all supposed to bow down to and worship as the gods of the future Brave New World. By their own standards Chris Grayling should be sacked immediately for incompetence.

  7. From a different perspective, I find it hard to understand why a government, unpopular and behind in the polls, are allowing Grayling to run around with a box of political fireworks unchecked. With his refusal to publish the risks involved with TR and his insistance to forge ahead with an untested system with no evidence base which he intends to trust to untrained companies whos only consistancy is repeditive failure to deliver, the potential for one of those fireworks to explode is massive. The fallout maybe something that scuppers whatever small chance the Tories have of success in the next election. Maybe its time that the party paid a little more attention to Graylings playground activities and there may even be a pat on the back for someone at the MoJ if they should bring it to the PMs attention.

  8. How sweet... received a letter via email from grayling today - in effect the insensitive, unfeeling SoB told me not to worry my pretty little head about my "day job" as it was in the greater interest that TR wins through, and in any event his chums have been appointed to lead us into the promised land of opportunity, innovation & shiny things. Oh yes, and it was NAPO's fault that the VR option was removed, so there!

    Still no letters here, but maybe its because the Royal Mail got sold off to a load of fat cats? Or maybe there's no place for me in the land of cuckoo?

  9. On the same day that the auto-assignment letters were received, we got a request for volunteers to be photographed with clients for the new CRC publicity materials. You couldn't make it up!

    1. I wonder how some people can sleep at night, they clearly feel no shame in colluding with TR and betraying their colleagues. And we once worked as a big team, all supporting each other.........

  10. Anon 18:58 thats terrible. Do they really think people will be yes sir, three bags full sir.

  11. If TR is MP Grayling’s idea of Evolution, I wouldn’t want to experience his idea of Revolution!

    Just more Govt propaganda, I reckon!

    Here's a bit more from David Cameron, "I want to, if I'm elected to take the whole country with me. I don't want to leave anyone behind. The test of a good society is you look after the elderly, the frail, the vulnerable, the poorest in our society. And that test is even more important in difficult times, when difficult decisions have to be taken, than it is in better times (2 May 2010).

    I had a good meeting today with my manager due to personal stress, and speed and impact of TR programme. Went through a personal risk assessment, after getting bogged down earlier in the week, and felt understood and better afterwards.

    I'm heartened too, by somebodies words, "There's still everything to play for".

  12. Am always interested vaguaries of language used by political mandarins/spin merchants - could be a scene straight out of 'the thick of it' discussion about the use of Evolution as opposed to Revolution when being cross examined by the select committee. Out of interest dictionary meanings ' Evolution:- the gradual development of something.' 'Revolution:- a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favour of a new system' - yes 'Evolution' is easier to defend when the questioning gets tricky. Seriously no words.Struggling to articulate the frustration/fury. I think our colleague from DTV who you cite in your blog beautifully articulates everything Im feeling, witnessing, hearing on a daily basis - this whole situation is beyond comprehension. Cannot get my head round the fact that Probation is being destroyed especially in view of the fact that its' success is down to millions of hours of free public service 'goodwill' which will disappear in a puff of smoke when the fatcats get their hands on it - we can all sit back and smile 'told you so' but inside still crying at the sheer absurdity and blatant destruction of a successful 'public service' ! one which should be being applauded not destroyed

  13. Spotted this today, don't know much about it I confess, but it does seem to be just one of the reasons why Grayling should leave things he doesn't understand alone.

  14. I think we can all see now that the rich are pathological they will do anything to get the next buck. They will destroy the Probation Service , they will destroy the earth. We are dealing with "Mad Men" who dont give a damn about the harm they do. They will crash the world again and either be bailed out or go live on their private islands and let the "Little People" deal with their mess and chaos. This is the struggle in which we are are involved

  15. Some brief facts that may be co-terminus with Grayling's Theory of Evolution (aka TR) in our local office:

    1. sick leave has doubled
    2.morale has plummeted
    3. some staff are so frightened of CRCs that they are effectively bullying managers to allocate them high risk cases because they believe it guarantees them NPS status (not healthy, but hey, who cares anymore?)
    4. some staff are so disillusioned by MoJ/Trust behaviours that they are applying for ANY jobs they think they have a chance of getting
    5. many other staff are so despondent that they are (wholly uncharacteristically) detached from office dynamics and disinterested in colleagues
    6. some staff believe the hype and are distraught that they are not deemed "good enough" for the NPS; nothing seems to ease their angst and they are becoming increasingly depressed
    7. I've simply returned to old patterns of behaviour (something my career as a PO seemed to ameliorate) and I just fucking hate everything again.

    1. In addition to the above - it would be unfair to miss out those staff who have decided to share more than they really ought with colleagues; as the undercover yet lightly toasted cereal will testify.

    2. Thanks - both videos - another has been found now -

      Andrew Hatton

  16. Can I just say Luton in answer to the question posted tonight on the NAPO forum - I have forgotten my log-in details for that forum-and yes we are determined

  17. First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist.
    Then they came for the trade-unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade-unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Jew.
    Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me.
    Rev Martin Niemoller

  18. So, a letter from CG endeavouring to sound knowleageable about probation matters and our "day job". But take heart from this, I think. He is clearly worried about something. Perhaps the fact that the 'little people' in Probation are roaring may have something to do with it. 'Drive down' reoffending? 'Real-world solutions'. Not only is this meaningless bollocks. He is wrong. He is wrong. He is wrong.

  19. Well, well, well, who'd have thought it - its just those pesky Unions rejecting the generous proposals from the MoJ that are making life difficult for the staff. And here's me thinking it was your ill thought out scheme, being implemented at break neck speed that was the problem, Chris. Thanks for the metaphorical 'pat on the head', I feel better already...........not

  20. As outraged husband of an outraged Probation Officer ...

    From Revolution to Evolution

    Silly me, sorry for the confusion,
    I thought it was the rehabilitation revolution
    but it’s the rehab. evolution
    which is less circumlocution
    than downright dilution
    of original institution.
    Was this verbal substitution
    mere elegance of elocution or
    indicative of dilution
    due to difficulties of execution
    or some other diminution
    of this persecution of probation?
    (Or premonition of irresolution?)
    Or is Grayling’s hitherto incaution
    in this exsolution of the nation’s Probation
    seeking our absolution
    for malexecution
    and reckless incaution
    in this hasty prosecution
    of Service dissolution?
    Oh, the moral destitution
    of this non-solution
    through blatant prostitution
    for which we will accept no substitution of
    G-4-S for N-0-M-S!

    Up the counterrevolution!
    And while we will not press for electrocution
    (being committed to possibility of rehabilitation)
    we will not allow this allocution
    or contemplate ministerial ablution
    for imminution of prior resolution.

    Please accept this small contribution
    to your interlocution
    as my redargution
    of Grayling’s revolution evolution
    … evolution revolution …
    self-volution (colloq. ‘underwear in a tangle’).