Who are Chris Grayling's spin doctor's trying to kid using language like 'coveted'? Seeing as there's only 21 prime contracts, I don't call 35 bidders demonstrating a huge amount of interest in the whole omnishambles and it will be interesting to see just how many of the 35 runners drop out of the race before the winning post is even in sight.
I notice that a keen contributor to this blog has had a stab at compiling a list of the likely suspects, using a number of public information sources, nouse and revisions submitted by other readers. It would indeed be helpful to try and flush the blighters out at an early stage so that we can closely scrutinise their track records, together with what ever relevant experience they intend bringing to the rehabilitation party.
Here's a first stab then at trying to compile a list of the 35 contenders for the 21 prime contracts. It's highly likely to be inaccurate and incomplete (I seem to have too many mutuals), so please feel free to suggest amendments, groupings, fancy trading names, etc etc:-
1. Working Links
6. Employment and Skills Group
9. Pertemps People Development Groups
10. Newcastle College
11. The Rehab Group
12. Prospect Services
21. Durham Tees Valley Mutual
22. Kent, Surrey Sussex A4E mutual
23. Shaw Trust
24. Geo/Delta York, Humberside, Lincolnshire mutual
25. Manchester Mutual
26. Innovo Lancashire, Cumbria, Manchester College Mutual
27. West Yorkshire, Prospects mutual
28. Leicestershire, Stonham mutual
29. West Mercia, Warkwickshire, Stonham mutual
30. Merseyside mutual
32. St Giles
37. CRI - Crime Reduction Initiative
This is what shadow justice minister Jenny Chapman MP has to say on the Left Foot Forward website when asking:-
Would you hand supervision of offenders to companies with no experience of providing probation services?
Supervision of the majority of offenders in the community will be handed over to companies with no experience of providing probation services, some of which are themselves currently subject to criminal investigation for fraud.
Probation reform needs to be piloted so that mistakes can be put right. But there has been no piloting, no evaluation and no effort to check if this actually works, how well it works, or how it could work better. Instead the justice secretary has given us a personal assurance that he just ‘believes’ this is the right way to go.
The first thing to say is that Napo advice is NOT to not return EoI letters. Last week, Napo advised to wait for further advice which was issued yesterday - to be found elsewhere. In essence, the advice is to return the letters but at the same time a). Register a grievance on the basis that you're being asked to engage with a process that is not agreed in the NNC and which doesn't provide you with sufficient information to make an informed decision. And then b). Return said letter with a covering note that says it's done under duress - that you don't agree or accept the process and reserve your right to return to the matter in other fora. This is a bit like agreeing to an unacceptable variation to contract because you want to retain your job, but making it clear that you don't really agree with it and may take further action is respect of its unreasonableness. For automatic assignees, the advice is similar, if you don't like it, ask the basis on which the assignment has been made, consider a grievance, write explaining that you do not agree with the process and consider an appeal on the grounds provided.
Let's be honest, this is all aimed at slowing the process down and hopefully de-railing it. This may cause friction between staff and their employers, but let us all remember that we are being forced into this position by somebody up there who is mis-using the power at his disposal. So remember at whose doorstep responsibility for all this grief lies.
UNISON has advised its members essentially to do b) but not a). Nothing wrong with having slightly different tactics. The direction of travel is the same. To oppose and seek to scupper the whacky TR plan.
It would seem that at the Napo NEC yesterday there was firm resolve to continue the fight. It isn't possible to report the discussions in detail since walls have ears and websites have eyes on them - some perhaps to be found in Petty France. There might not be fighting on the beaches, but there will be stiff resistance in the streets of London, including PF, and right across the land. And why not? Probation has a proud history stretching back over more than a century. It has quietly and effectively been rehabilitating generations of individuals who have, through their offending, excluded themselves from law abiding communities. We have engineered reintegration, reduced exclusion and reduced re-offending. TR threatens the continuity of this mission. As such it both poses a risk to public protection as well as the very existence of a high performing public service.
It is to be hoped that WingCo G might one day be successfully re-integrated into the community. Sometimes individuals present particularly entrenched patterns of anti-social behaviour. The thing about Probation is that it never gives up on individuals however heinous their offending.
Finally, I'm grateful for a reader pointing me in the direction of this cartoon that shows even the Americans are beginning to question what's happening.