Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Mutuals in Trouble!

One of the government's key arguments for the TR probation privatisation omnishambles was that the bidding process would result in getting "the best in the business" and that staff groups would be encouraged to form 'mutuals' and bid for the work. 

Many of us were sceptical from the beginning, that it was all a cruel con trick to win support from the staff and just so much window-dressing, smoke and mirrors. Even if successful, they would merely be wolves in sheep's clothing having to make swingeing cuts in order to undercut all the big boys. 

Of all the mutuals that emerged, the one covering Kent Surrey and Sussex seemed to press all the right buttons for the government, especially as Sarah Billiald the CEO had previously been a civil servant and had worked in the No10 policy unit. Surely this one would win so that Grayling could say TR was a huge success? Err, no! I'm told Chalk Ventures, the consortium with A4E, pulled out on Monday. 


  1. language alert! true story from today....
    Client to PO "who'd fucking wanna buy fucking probation? "
    I am still laughing when I think about it......

    1. Maybe 'fucking idiots' was the reply you were looking for :)

    2. No one is buying probation - bidders are selling operating models to the MoJ. They get probation for free to implement their model. Costings include a profit element, which over the life of the contract and with a couple of CRC's in the bag will be tens of millions of pounds. Who's the fucking idiot?

  2. Surely the title should read Mutual in Trouble..after all this is only one of em. I suspect A4E will bid regardless and have probably got enough insight from the mutual that they no longer need their services anyway.

    Perhaps staff and the unions missed a trick with the mutuals. Surely if they had got on board in a big way and lobbied hard for them to be taken seriously we'd have much more control over the bidding process and eventual winners. I know from personal experience that the unions supported what the mutuals were trying to do privately and at the local level, but nationally came out against them (which is weird given NAPOs open support of the Probation Institute). Where the idea that the mutuals will be more cut-throat than the big-boys comes from I don't know. I'm pretty sure all of the mutuals required a big-boy partner to bid anyway (or else where were they going to get the capital from?) and I know who I'd rather own the CRC I work for- a mutual.

    Just because you man the lifeboats does not mean you approve the sinking of the ship. Or to put it another way - you're better off inside the tent pissing out than...well, you catch my drift.

  3. At the end of the day, for any of this to work financially, there will be cuts, whether it is a mutual or Johnny Outsource. If you talk to partners, there is plenty of evidence that the voluntary sector (which is what a mutual would be) can be as callous as any private company, if not more so. The flaw is in the whole model. Which side you are on is academic. Where TR is concerned, we all lose.

    1. Yeah but who would you rather be deciding how and where the cuts and efficiencies be made..A4E and their ilk, or seasoned probation professionals who understand how it all works? Better the devil you know.

    2. I certainly wouldn't regard mutuals as "seasoned probation professionals", in fact Amey, Sodexo et al all seem to have (on paper at least) "seasoned" ex-probation 'devils' on their books as consultants/advisors - and I wouldn't trust them to look after probation's interests as far as I could spit (Hill, Maiden, Flaxington, etc). In fact its probably their collusion and ambition that's ensured we're in the shit now.

  4. Think about the mutuals in terms of some being allowed through because Grayling needs the PR of this, but then being bought out/rescued by... errrr the primes....that is the issue with mutuals they could just be sitting ducks having done all the hard work and promised a bright new probation future, they are under capitalised and then get taken over by G4S, Serco,Sodexo et al..
    It is a real concern

  5. I think Mutuals run democratically from the bottom up by their staff, no managers, is a possible future for state run services. They could be in the public sector or outside of it, not for profit institutions run by the workers for the community. Something to think about when we have democratised NAPO


    1. In my area there was no consultation about a proposed mutual bid, no attempt to get frontline staff engaged with it, only mutterings about ethical walls and statements about how senior managers thought this was the best way forward. Unsurprisingly, when their efforts were shown up for the amateur hour stuff that this all was, it fell through. Just like TR itself, this was imposed with no support from within, in a ridiculously short timescale.

      If there'd been a couple of years to consider making a bid then I don't doubt that more staff would have got on board with the idea. But the TR project will fall apart because of Grayling's vanity.

  6. Thank goodness we're over the hump. Bloody stupid week so far. No Oasys for half of today - not that it really mattered, half my cases can be found by logging in as CRC, the other by the old trust, logging in and out over and over again.

    Spent a very long time trying to get a vulnerable woman into a refuge, the DV agency we work with apologised and although they did some emergency help today, advised me they cannot offer her a long term service as their funding has been ended. If no further funding is found, this only dedicated service in our area (where DV is a priority of the PCC); it will end on 31/08/14. They are not taking any new referrals. Social Services astounded that I could not give any information on her high risk of harm ex-partner. He's now NPS, I can't access his records.

    Backlog from ATOS meant they finally paid out £8,500+ to one of my very worrying chaotic drug users three weeks ago. They have less than £2000 left. Mainly spent on funding our whole town's Heroin use. Unfortunately we got an alert today telling us there is extra strong gear in the area at the moment. I feel at least an SFO coming on and more likely a death under supervision.

    In the midst of all this a bloke turned up for his first appointment, sat through his new 'Induction Group' before we realised he hadn't actually been sentenced yet. Another client allocated to our CRC because his OASys said he was medium risk of harm, SPO looked at FDR which says he's high risk. FDR's are being done on basic layer OASys. No information in them at all.

    Finally, did late duty. Client arrives and asks to see 'Peter', very confuse and explained we didn't had a Peter working here. Turned out we did. He was NPS staff seeing someone in our office and I had no idea he was there.

    I drink too much wine. This is why.

  7. The synergy , expertise and good will is now being lost. The good fit ( big society) and volunteers for a commercial organisation this is what the government wanted. This was on a road map to change to a partnership approach which is being changed to a totally commercial approach. It's not too late for the powers to be to reboot relationships with those who know! The outcome is the important thing not the timescale.

  8. No, the timescale is vital, it must stop NOW...


  10. I give up fighting this fight. You can't do it on your own & when your union i.e. NAPO haven't got a fucking clue but instead choose quietly to encouraging fellow colleagues to attend Probation Institute then you know things are beginning to stink. Staff & colleagues are fucking struggling. Everything is a fucking mess & managers pretending everything is fine & ok. Know body gives a shit any more about anyone. I've had enough.

  11. Government has imposed timescales . Government can change timescales Getting it right is the key thing.

  12. what timescales. Your mistaken big time if you think they going to stop this. They don't care.

  13. Still, at this time of great difficulty and distress its reassuring to see that we can depend on Ian Lawrence, the General Secretary of NAPO, to issue a message to members in his blog utterly devoid of any meaningful content. Empty, tokenistic claims of 'fighting hard' aside, the blog is largely given over to indicating that criticism of NAPO leadership is his main concern. Repeatedly *saying* NAPO is 'fighting' but doing NOTHING is meaningless. Quite simply, we would unit behind NAPOs leaders if their was any sign of their showing some kind of leadership and some kind of FIGHT.

    Simon Garden

  14. Where is the news of some developments this morning or was that someone trying to play a joke on us all.

  15. @Simon Garden

    Apologies for not posting yesterday, life got in the way.

    Coming to my plan of action, there are two fronts. One by 'us' on the front line, the other by Napo.

    It would be fair to say that TR is pretty much a busted flush, and it DEFINATELY will not take much more to topple it. What we need to do, and by we I mean us frontline staff, is to prepare a template letter spelling out EXACTLY what is going wrong with TR. If you are struggling to find a issue I suggest that you are either stupid or Chris Grayling (or my SPO). Armed with this letter of doom, we need to get into the internet and find out the addresses of ALL our local newspapers, ALL our magistrates Court, ALL our PCC's, ALL the local nes stations, ALL of the people who can expose this, and send them a copy.

    Obviously do it anomalously otherwise you're going to have a very fucking interesting conversation come Monday morning which I can see ending with you sitting in the toilet, crying and eating Haribos!!

    This means all of us. ALL of us!!! It will not work if only a few brave people take the time and effort to 'get this all over the newspapers like a fucking pissing puppy'. I want you all to take just 30 seconds to imagine what the news will be like on Tuesday!! I say Tuesday as I don't want US (yes, US) to post them until Monday. For the sake of this conversation I will refer to it as 'fucking shit hitting the fan day'. It will be a nightmare for Cameron and the Tories will be out of power until Daniel fucking Radcliff is advertising walk-in baths in the People Friend!!!

    Right, that's the first step!

    Second step, we need our Union reps, the vast majority I have the utmost respect for as they are the ones getting the shit on a daily basis and I ask everyone to lay off them. I would not do their job and as you are not it's fair to say neither would you!!

    Right, I need the Union reps to go back to Chivalry Road and 'advise' them that we are going on strike.

    I know we've been on strike before, achieving the grand sum of fuck all, however, this will be a different strike. As I said to Jim before, there's little point in parking our tanks on their lawn if we have fuck all to fire at them.

    This strike will be a all out strike. No banners, no picket lines, no slogans, no Grayling puppet, nothing. We leave at 5pm and don't come back until we get what we want. Again, I want you just to take five minutes before you reply to consider the impact this will have!!!

    I know going on strike has a financial cost to us, however, that's why we need the Unions to say to the MoJ that we have TWO requests:
    1. We get ALL of our backdated pay when we are out; the longer we're out the more you have to pay. Don't even come and ask what number two is until you've agreed to number one as a 'fuck right off' can be taken personally.
    2. TR is scrapped until rigorous trials have taken place. I'm against the notion that we do nothing to help the U12 months as we know that they do need help, and well thought out changes to Probation can let us extend this help TO THOSE WHO WANT IT. If you don't, fine. What we done need is a 'shoot first aim later' policy that appears to be the case at present. I return to the beginning of this paragraph in that number one needs to be met before number two is even discussed.

    Combine the fact that ALL of the newspapers are aware of the whole shitfest that is on going, and we as a profession have all went home, and I think we would be in a better position than we have ever been in our lives to argue and GET change.

    If you do not want to write letters, fine. Get on with things, grumble, be stressed, argue with your partner, miss lunch, work late, pretty much do all that most are doing now. Just don't fucking whine on to me.

    Become the change you want to see.
    We have until Sunday to get this right.
    Five days until 'fucking shit hitting the fan day'.

    1. Now that's a plan, why don't you write a letter on this blog so we can then all copy and paste it and send to all those you suggested. This way for all those that are exhausted by ndelius and have no energy will get involved rather than think where do we start. Perhaps we can all get involved in editing the letter that way you will get more support than relying on burnt out exhausted staff who want to fight but have their hands tied behind their backs. What do you think.

    2. And why don't I come round and wipe your arse while I'm at it?

      Don't you think I'm just as tired?
      Don't you think I have other things to do with my time?
      Don't you think my children have a right not to have a stressed out parent, one who cannot sleep at night.
      Don't you think that my health and well being is not as affected as everyone else's?

      No, because you don't think. It's all about other people doing it for you. I have an idea, why don't you just have a little re-read of you post and spot the glaring fucking hole in it.

      And then fuck off.

    3. Apologies for the above. It was childish and irresponsible, I'm just VERY tired after another long day at work.

    4. Here's a start:

      Here's a start:

      To Whom It May Concern:

      As you may be aware on 1st June 2014 the probation service was split in preparation for part privatisation later this year. Justification for this split was given by the Justice Secretary and MOJ to address the high reoffending figures of those serving a prison sentence of less than 12 months - a cohort for whom the probation service was not funded, or required, to work with. We now understand that the Prisons Minister was reported on Twitter last week as follows: 'new probation aftercare 4 people getting less than 1 year prison sentence won't come in soon'.

      Quite apart from destroying an award winning public service, the split has been imposed on an arbitrary basis, with no evidence that reoffending rates will be reduced. There are many other issues with the split including:

      High risk sex offenders being passed on to Probation Officers who are not used to working with such cases, and prior to any additional training being given, whilst Probation Officers with years of experience managing such cases are being prohibited from working with anyone on the Sex Offenders Register.

      Reports of offenders' addresses being lost from the national database across England and Wales.

      Increased bureaucracy to the extreme across the two services, which is having a negative impact on ability to quickly and effectively manage risk as well as a financial cost and duplication of work.

      ...insert example/s...

      Extremely poor information sharing across the two services leading to a reduction in the effectiveness of the service to protect the public ... insert more examples...

      Despite a national shortage of Qualified Probation Officers, those in the CRC are now being prohibited from writing pre-sentence reports or working with high risk cases whilst at the same time probation staff from outside England and Wales are being targeted for recruitment at a rate of up to almost double the current salary.

      More issues... Morale is low... staff are overworked... etc etc

      As an interested party, we are writing to you to let you know that you are likely to see mistake begin to happen and cracks appearing in what was until very recently an excellent public service. Ultimately there will be an increase in serious further offences etc etc. This could get worse on share sale because... insert examples of how bad it could get... (i.e. offenders with history of rape and violent robberies, mental health issues etc being 'supervised' by a charity with no probation training).

      This can be stopped now... we would ask your support in... insert what we want to happen... including the positives that voluntary and third sector can provide but in a more appropriate context that enables risk to be managed and victims and public protected.

      Yours Sincerely,

    5. Pretty similar to what I am writing at the moment. I think there is an inherant danger in using a 'template' as Ministers will just point to the fact that it appears to have originated from one person as opossed to many. I think that we each have our own examples which we can personalise, from the staff split, any office/caseload changes right through to the increase in time it takes to accomplish task (which appears to have doubled and don't even get me started on Officer diaries and uploading to Delius). If you are really stuck you could always cut and paste from this blog or ideally signpost those those are writing to, to this blog which I fell will lend more credibility to your claims.

      As Anon said, it is probably the most ideal time for us to pull together.

      I'm getting a little excited at the thought of reading the morning papers on Tuesday but that may just be the devil in me ;)

  16. The bolts of the wheel have been forcibly removed, just waiting for the wheel to come spinning off and crash, injuring and possibly killing someone. Blood all over Graylings hand as he holds the spanner

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    I cannot do this alone folks.


  18. Anonymous11 June 2014 21:39 - 'fucking shit hitting the fan day'. Brutal but you have a point. Agree we need full out action, but I don't sense this at the front line. Why because activism needs to be nurtured. NAPO's narrative you could argue has generally been weak without any real conviction of a fight.

  19. It is incredibly difficult to get all members in agreement on all issues at the same time. We all realise things are a mixed picture up and down the country. It is a mark of peoples anger given the strength of some of the posts that there is a feeling of lost direction.

    I sense as many of us do there are too many uncomfortable silences and still no declaration on a range of promised issues. We have to prod the NEC structure to develop a sense of urgency and dissatisfaction at the way things have gone. We have to break this incredible nonsense that NEC reps have a confidential dialogue within the NEC and do not report it to branch . This is incredible and I have never endorsed such a practice. Yet where are we to end up if this sort of thing continues ?

    I agree with anon 18:42 well said ! Yet just going a little further the government are after our pensions as a real financial bonus. I have written a few times on this and the intention is to reduce all public sector terms and the savings post salary cuts and more savings will come from superannuation contributions. Tory greed !

    The subject of this blog is the fantastic news as the bidders are pulling away now. They realise its too big a risk to private business or the immoral ineptitude to grow your bank accounts off the back of crime which we all want to keep in the public sector and remind this government crime is a social responsibility it comes with mature sensible policies to create a safe society and prevent crime which governments have to fund . This includes all the social needs of people who offend. In the south today the other news is what job does the existing CPO go back to down there ?

    It feels to me and many others now this longstanding and weakened gentle approach has already failed us. The split has happened so where is a clear message and emergency campaign calling for the reunification of probation ! Where is Harry he would have been all over that !

    The issue of leadership is a challenge and already a toxic issue the Chair role coveted as it was is looking like a dangerous place to be for anyone without a thick skin, enough appropriate skills required for the role and relevant experience and maturity.

    There are too many linkages to old camps and we deserve someone who is genuinely committed to the needs of the members which given the reading lately of the posts the upset is unbearable. For the time being I am sad to say we will have to endure !


  20. "The issue of leadership is a challenge and already a toxic issue the Chair role coveted as it was is looking like a dangerous place to be for anyone without a thick skin, enough appropriate skills required for the role and relevant experience and maturity. There are too many linkages to old camps and we deserve someone who is genuinely committed to the needs of members.." Not sure how many of us would know what was an " old camp". I don't want a Chair as was but someone who will be significantly more open and straight with members.

    1. Someone like Pat Waterman.

    2. Fair point I agree as I said no secrecy in the NEC reporting a change for the good transparency for all members. Old camps are easily identified the Napo forums have supporting statements !

    3. As a hard working NAPO rep I am sick and tired of the whole jockeying for position that is going on, it makes me sick to my stomach. Don't think it is not obvious because it is - the who and the what...

    4. With elections coming up, surely it's good to get a debate going so that members can make an informed choice? Lets hear what prospective candidates intend to do about the shit situation at Napo HQ. They also need to hear what members want.

  21. Oasys down till lunchtime today. Shedloads of emails 'stuck' in some kind of bottleneck in the ether yesterday. NDelius totally up its own portal since it was rolled out. My aren't we having fun?

    UK plc is broken. Passport office in meltdown, benefits system in chaos, public services in total disarray, energy companies fleecing the population, education system collapsing, justice system compromised.

    Apparently unemployment figures are down - probably due to thousands being sanctioned. Apparently the benefits revolution is "effective", i.e. an expensive fiasco as Atos are paid off (sacked) and £millions are due to be paid in compensation. Apparently the rehabilitation revolution is "on track" - but as this blog shows, that seems to be ministerial code for "totally fucked up".

    A case of mine was in court today. Not serious, but an offence during a period of supervision. I've worked with them for the last 3 years. Under Grayling's new regime I wasn't allowed to write their report. A nps colleague completed this task. They didn't know the case. There were some complications as a consequence of that limited knowledge. There were telephone discussions. The court became irritated by those complications and sentenced without the full picture - information I would have been able to provide had Grayling not interfered. The case got hammered with a lengthy custodial. Three years of intensive work with a damaged but bright young person scuppered by your cock-waving, dumb-ass political ambition. In my frustration and despair I sat and worked out I'd spent in the region of 160 hours working with this case - averaging just about an hour each and every week. During that time their offending had not stopped, but had certainly significantly reduced from monthly court appearances to once in the last 18 months. They will now spend some considerable time back amongst the past acquaintances they had courageously distanced themselves from.

    This is the consequence of your stupid TR agenda, CS Grayling, MP & cock.

  22. Is there any accurate list of the remaining bidders by area? We hear lots of rumors but little actual fact.

    1. If the letter to KSS staff is honest, it would follow that A4e have pulled out of all areas, surely?

  23. It's a real shame that Grayling and the MoJ haven't remotely honoured their early stated support for mutuals to be part of the programme. Coming from a position outside of the sector but having worked very closely with one of the potential mutuals for over a year, it's terrible to see a great group of staff that started out on a journey to setting up a focussed, staff-owned organisation with such enthusiasm see their hard work come to nothing. This isn't just about primes pulling out either; the MoJ have done everything they can / nothing at all to prevent / help mutuals work in this market.

    1. There is nothing to be gained by saying - right from the outset this seemed likely and some suggested engagement with mutuals NOW is as wasteful of energies as is engagement with Probation Institute NOW.

      The scheme is being foisted on the probation establishment NOT developed with them.

      Real cautionary advice came over a year ago from Richard Johnson - see also the discussion and check his other posts