Thursday, 12 June 2014

Omnishambles Update 51

First off, here's that email sent yesterday to all staff in Kent, Surrey and Sussex with news of the failed bid, together with an explanation:-

Dear all

It is with great sadness that we write to inform you of Chalk Ventures' decision to withdraw from the Transforming Rehabilitation competition. This is not a decision that we have taken lightly, and we have tried very hard to find a way to continue but all three joint venture partners (Co:here, A4e and Bridges Ventures) were in complete agreement and informed the Ministry of Justice on Monday (9th June) of our decision.

The Chalk Ventures consortium is an incredibly strong partnership, with all three parties bringing different skills and playing different roles, but all three were in agreement that the contract contained some commercial and operational terms which, for us, were too difficult to bear. We have been working with the Ministry of Justice to try to overcome these via dialogue, but unfortunately were unable to resolve them in the time available. 

We had, with your help, co-produced a robust solution that was locally tailored and financially viable (with significant financial investment from A4e and Bridges Ventures) and we still passionately believe we could deliver these services. However, unfortunately this is not possible for us on the current contract terms, and so the only real option to maintain our integrity was to withdraw from the competition. A4e had already taken the decision not to bid in any CPA in its own right, including in Kent, Surrey & Sussex, in order to focus its efforts on the Chalk partnership and in recognition that the ‘joint bid’ was better than a ‘sole bid’ could be. This means that neither Chalk nor A4e are in the competition for the Kent Surrey & Sussex CRC.

We know how disappointed you will be with this news, the Chalk Board and whole bid team are devastated. We felt strongly that you should know as soon as possible given your overwhelming support to date including the vast majority of you voting in favour of the mutual back in October 2013. I personally feel that, although it was an incredibly difficult decision to take, it is the right one.

Sarah Billiald, on behalf of the Co:here bid team and Chalk Board (Co:here, A4e and Bridges Ventures)

Here's an excerpt from the latest blog by Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary, and some interesting news regarding the wall of silence being demanded by MoJ/Noms HQ - a sure sign things are going seriously awry when any institution orders silence:-

Criticism inevitable

In a struggle like the TR campaign it’s entirely understandable that our member’s frustrations come through, especially given the unprecedented attack on your profession and the chaos which is not of Napo’s making. But its frustration which now, as I am increasingly convinced, is being fuelled by a deliberate disinformation campaign by the opposition. The orders from on high to new CRC and NPS Chiefs to not divulge information, whether it be the truth about the state of the IT systems, the actual numbers of outstanding vacancies, or the names of the remaining bidders for a CRC as a number of them start to drop away, is an absolute disgrace and an insult also to the several hundred of our members who have turned to the inbox to help us to raise the questions by giving us a picture of the reality. Graylings people are quite simply denying that the shambles you are facing is a problem, and that anyway it will all soon just pass over.

I notice from the latest blog by Joe Kuipers, Chair of ASPT until final windup, that he's encountered the paranoia and new wall of secrecy prevailing at the MoJ as well. Whatever happened to that much lauded coalition promise of 'open' government? This is what he says:-


I have resisted the urge to blog but I read others with interest and a certain amount of dismay. I feel for staff who are finding the going tough, but then I do know I get to see the contributions of those who either feel most aggrieved or in most pain. There is little, if anything, I can do and I know when to stop trying - at least for now - we just have to watch and see how TR unravels or not.

That said, and looking to the future, I have been trying to get the contact details of the CRC CEOs and NPS divisional directors, for no other reason than to alert them to the NoOffence awards, which I thought might be of interest to them to nominate their staff. As readers may know I am on the advisory board of NoOffence. I even approached one CRC CEO who advised that s/he did not know them - I was not sure whether to believe this.

So, what I thought would be a simple request turned into a Kafkaesque event, as the reply to my question shows:

"Thanks for your e-mail.

As with Probation Trusts, our standard practice is not to release contact details for CRC/NPS Chiefs. The reasons for this are practical - we keep the contact lists regularly updated and if we shared a list with you it would quickly become outdated. Furthermore we need to ensure communications to CRC/NPS Chiefs are streamlined and issued through our standard, agreed process to help prevent Chiefs receiving too many communications.

However if you would like to send out something to Chiefs we are happy to help, please send us your request and we'll work to get it issued through standard NOMS communication channels."
Now, as a kind soul I have refrained from naming the NOMS official who sent this, but it comes from the Briefing and Casework team in the MoJ. I draw attention to the factual inaccuracy, namely that until 31 May all contact details for Trusts, their CEOs and Board Chairs were freely and openly available, as were Board meeting minutes. 

Finally, I see Grayling's TR omnishambles has made it into Private Eye again:-


Postscript - Forgot to mention, due to massive demand, those 'novelty' mugs are back on sale through ebay - just search 'probation novelty mug'. Well done Warks Napo!  

C.R.C Collapsing Rehabilitation Company Novelty Coffee Mug 


  1. I am an ex po, gone quite some years now (though still a long way from retirement age). That gives me a certain perspective on all this. What I mean is that I have a view informed by professional training and experience, but I am not constantly rubbing the dust of the collapsing service out of my eyes all the time as seems to be the lot of so many others whose cries for help are emanating from this blog with such plaintive clarity. That perspective enables me, along with so many others, to see not only that this TR nonsense is unravelling, as surely it must, but that it is unravelling at a speed far greater than even us professionals of all grades who are informed and have sound professional judgement had anticipated.

    This is bad news for Grayling with a Cabinet reshuffle pending this month (maybe even next week?) But far more importantly than that minor matter of a here today gone tomorrow political wannabe is the seeming inevitability of the consequences for the public. The utter tragedy is that the Sonnex case a few years ago in London showed in terrible technicolour what serious consequences can flow out of a single systems failure in relation to risk assessment and the management of dangerousness. And now we have that dysfunctional dynamic not merely allowed again, but actually systematised. Back then it was a rogue episode; now it has been given structural significance.

    My earnest plea to all my probation colleagues is to watch your backs, people. When an SFO occurs, it is the offender's responsibility; but that lesson has never been learned by the Mandarins who allocate blame. Go very carefully, people. Go very carefully indeed...

    1. A nicely crafted piece my friend especially "And now we have that dysfunctional dynamic not merely allowed again, but actually systematised." I have a feeling it will feature in a forthcoming blog post.

    2. Thank you Jim-you kindly reposted my piece on the day TR went live, comparing my experience of the service of the 70's and 80's with the shambolic politicised posturing of the present MoJ model... Every so often I feel that things reach a pitch where I need to make a comment, albeit from the sidelines whilst others on the pitch keep up the fight.

    3. I think if Grayling goes we need to ensure that our letters are sent to the local newspapers of whichever constituant the new SoS lives in. Nothing like a baptism of fire to get someones attention!! They can reverse things without losing face, pinning the blame squarely on Grayling!!

      In my letter Inhave referred to the sifting process as 'being akin but not as insightful to Hogwarts Sorting Hat'.

  2. I watched the MoJ webchat, today. Weasel words. 'Thst is not my understanding'. 'I am told...'. Transparent to those who unpick deceit for a career. Utterly transparent.

    1. Watched some of the web chat but closed it afte 15 mins, utterly depressing and the only reason for it ad far as I could see was that they would be able to say ' senior staff have communicated with front line staff", of course to communicate you have to listen, no listening evident on the comments...

  3. I hear tell that 9 - 20 Juneis the "window" for volunteers to pitch for EVR. I found this earlier, but wonder what napo has to say (nowt to date as far as I can tell):

    "The Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010 forecast significant budget cuts, the knock-on effect being the loss of more than half a million jobs in the next five years. Given this environment, employers need to be aware of the potential pitfalls of the voluntary redundancy process and know how to take steps to avoid them.

    Q When is a volunteer not a volunteer?

    Sometimes the possibility of voluntary redundancy may be raised by an employee, or volunteers may be sought by an employer, long before any formal redundancy process takes place, and before the employer decides that it needs to dismiss particular categories or numbers of staff. An application for voluntary redundancy that is accepted in this context could be a resignation on the part of the employee or a true mutual agreement to terminate the contract; in other words, not a dismissal.

    On the other hand, if volunteers are requested as part of a redundancy process, those who agree to go are likely to be treated in law as dismissals. As a result, statutory obligations are relevant, for example relating to consultation, statutory redundancy payments and notice periods, if applicable.

    Q What steps should employers include in a voluntary redundancy process?

    Employers should make it clear when inviting volunteers that they reserve the right not to accept all applications. If the employer is obliged to accept applications, voluntary redundancy can result in the significant loss of skills and experience.
    Don’t ignore consultation. Collective consultation is required when 20 or more employees at one workplace are at risk of being made redundant within 90 days. Volunteers will usually count in the numbers of proposed dismissals. Individual consultation must always be carried out with affected employees, even where the decision appears obvious or when collective consultation is also taking place. Volunteering can usually be built into this part of the process.
    Those whose applications for release are not agreed should be told why and reassured that they are being retained for positive reasons.
    The employer should usually hold a meeting with volunteers to tie up loose ends and to discuss whether or not the employee will be required to work his or her notice period."

    1. Credit to Personnel Today for the article

  4. So if i ask for VR, do not get it and somebody else who did not ask gets made redundant, would they have grounds for Unfair Dismisall or whatever?

    1. No is the short answer, assuming the sifting (selection) process is fair and the criteria is pretty much guided by some case law and legislation.

  5. Is this the same A4E that was committing widespread fraud?

    So we have criminals potentially looking after criminals. The Trust really need to examine their own morals if they wanted to get into bed with them!!!

    Still, I bet 'lessons were learned' and 'there was no evidence that those at management level were involved'. All we need in their response was 'hard working taxpayers' and we would have had a full house in 'Bullshit Bingo'.

    1. Judged by the company you keep!

      I would feel the need to take a good shower after having anything to do with A4E. The collapse of the bid was probably a blessing in disguise. I'm just not sure what the Directors were thinking of when they formed a mutual, if indeed they WERE thinking!

    2. My sentiments exactly.

  6. Upon hearing the news of the Kent Mutual withdrawing I for one did not receive this with great sadness, it was a disgrace in the first place that the CEO and her cronies were willing to jump on the privatisation of the Probation Service, exploit the naivety of staff and futile hope for a mutual that would some how save them from the ruthlessness of a private industry looking to make money out of a criminal justice agency. I am however thankful to have learned the reasons for withdrawing appeared to be on ethical grounds although we cannot be certain of this, lets face it you are hardly likely to hear that Chalk Ventures pulled out sadly because we just couldn't make enough money and the contracts may have been written by some barking lunatic as they are not viable for any business seeking to make profit. We are advised this only leaves one bidder in the running so not much of a competitive process rather a steal they may be thinking. Any further delay now in share sale is bound to impact on service delivery, staff are leaving all over the place, senior management doing their utmost to retain an as is in the belief the private company will want to make sweeping changes leaving business barely ticking over and resources directed at trying to put sticky tape over the crap. Risks are going up by the day, it definitely isn't business as usual.


    1. An armed robber serving a life sentence is the latest criminal to go on the run from an open prison.

      David Blood, who police said may pose a threat to the public, absconded from Ford prison in West Sussex, between 8.30am and 1pm on Thursday.

      It is thought to be the second time he has absconded from an open prison after going missing from HMP Sudbury in Derbyshire in April 2012. He was not found for almost three months.

      The 48-year-old was jailed for life at Stafford crown court in 2003 after he was convicted of robbing a post office in Sutton Coldfield, west Midlands, with a number of other men in December 2000.

      "Because of Blood's record, we have to consider that he could pose a threat to the public," said PC Stephen Reed. "I would urge anyone that sees him to contact us on 999 rather than approaching him."

      Blood is described as 6ft 1in tall (1.85m), of small build with brown eyes and cropped black hair. He is known to have links to Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

      A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The justice secretary has been clear that keeping the public safe is our priority and has already ordered major changes to tighten up temporary release processes and open-prison eligibility.

      "Absconds have reached record lows under this government – down 80% over the last 10 years – but each and every incident is taken seriously, with the police contacted as a matter of urgency.

      "Open prisons and temporary licence are an important tool in rehabilitating long-term offenders but not at the expense of public safety."

      It is the latest in a spate of recent instances of inmates absconding from open prisons.

      In the most high-profile case, Michael Wheatley, a violent armed robber known as Skullcracker, carried out a raid on a building society when he disappeared after being let out of the Standford Hill prison in Kent last month.

      He was later jailed for life.

    2. The Evening Standard reports tonight that an open prison has admitted to 90 inmates on the run, how many more are there that have been kept quiet and now being disclosed?