Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Grayling Losing the Plot

Apparently Chris Grayling is said to be 'pleased' with the bids the MoJ have received for the 70% of probation's work being privatised, but many of us know rather different. His performance in the Commons yesterday tends to confirm he's putting a brave face on things and getting tetchy, as observed by this in the Guardian:-
Last month a computer finally passed the Turing test and was identified as human. On Tuesday the justice secretary passed the Grayling test and was identified as a computer. The spin doctor in charge of Chris Grayling's medication at the moment needs to urgently lower his dose before his public appearances. In the Commons, he is a man who can make a monotone sound lively.
"We are on track to establish the network of resettlement prisons later this year to coincide with the commencement of the mentoring and supervision of under-12-month offenders," he said unblinkingly in his deathless, punctuation-free delivery. Not that these provisions applied to Grayling, as he has been murdering the English language for decades.
Jenny Chapman, Labour, suggested that as the justice department had lost thousands of files, staff couldn't access information and charities had pulled out, it might be a good idea to delay the reforms to the probation service. Grayling was most put out. We are already unintentionally doing our best to delay the programme, he snapped. "That is entirely consistent with what the honourable lady is asking for; it is what we are doing." The Tory benches looked startled at this and there were mutterings the justice secretary needed more, not less, medication.
While Grayling was talking the shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, leaned forward, grabbed a book from the despatch box and started browsing. When your opponent is relying on the small print of parliamentary procedure to save him from nodding off, you know it's time to cut your losses and Grayling sat down to allow his junior minister, Jeremy Wright, to reassure everyone that any prisoners who escaped on to a roof would not be given sun lotion as they had been last week. "From now on," he declared, "They can stay up there until they die from multiple melanomas."
This wasn't nearly good enough for Khan. He is so terrified of Labour looking weak on matters of law and order, he'd happily advocate public executions and machine gun towers on every street corner. "The wrong sort of offenders are being sent to the wrong sort of prison," he barked. "Today, the media are reporting that two men – one a killer, the other serving an indeterminate sentence – have absconded from Spring Hill prison." Unused to finding himself painted as a pinko pussio, Grayling blustered, "The proportion of offenders who are sent to open prisons and who subsequently abscond is 20% of what it was when Labour was in power a decade ago." So, count yourself lucky there aren't five times as many killers on the loose, pal.
Grayling is clearly a bully who doesn't like it when he doesn't get his own way. Although a cloak of secrecy has descended upon the MoJ and their scrutiny of the bids, we can hypothesize that not only is there a distinct absence of the much-hyped mutuals and third-sector Tier One bidders, the 'big boys' will clearly be out to shaft the inexperienced MoJ negotiators and will have stuck two fingers up to all that 'payment by results' nonsense. 

They know only too clearly (because they read this blog) that Chris Grayling has put himself nicely between a rock and a hard place in refusing to listen to rational argument about proceeding unsafely with TR and that he needs them, the big bad boys, to deliver and get him out of the hole he's dug for himself, but it will be at a price!

We should remind ourselves of what the Independent said in this article last week about this "most troubled outsourcing deal ever proposed":- 
Preferred bidders to run the CRCs will be selected later this year, but preparations have been hit by an IT failure this month – with thousands of offenders' case files lost, frozen or wiped.
The Independent can reveal the GMB, Unison and the probation officers' union, Napo, are pondering a judicial review. They argue such a vital service should not be driven by profit and there should have been pilot schemes to test the idea.
They have just sent a third and probably final "pre-protocol letter" through lawyer Slater & Gordon, which states: "For the avoidance of doubt, we consider it would be unlawful for the MoJ to identify preferred bidders for the sale of probation services until the safety of the new scheme has been properly tested. If necessary our client is minded to take legal action to prevent it from doing so."
These, though, are far from the only issues hindering one of the most troubled outsourcing deals ever proposed.
Although not-for-profit organisations are in the race for the CRCs, the bidding experience of the private contractors makes them overwhelming favourites to win the contracts.
Their records are under fire from unions and the Labour Party; Sodexo, for example, the world's 20th biggest employer, is bidding for around half the contracts. It was reported earlier this week that concerns have been raised over the French group's suitability for probation deals, due to problems with a contract managing Northumberland prison – there was a riot in March when more than 50 inmates took over an entire wing.
Sodexo is also in the running for the Northumbria package of work, which means it could end up running both probation services and the jail there. Industry insiders are concerned similar situations could crop up across the country, opening up prospects of conflicts of interest and effective monopolies.
A Justice minister says there are "safeguards and protections" but admits no discussions have taken place.
Elsewhere, Capita is the favourite for the lucrative London contract, but the MoJ fined the FTSE 100 group nearly £54,000 from January 2012 to March 2014 for failing to supply interpreters on a language services deal. The Geo Group and Amey are chasing a number of CRCs but, working together, they have been fined £645,000 in performance penalties on three prison escort and custody contracts.
The CRC contracts will typically last 10 years. In April, the shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan wrote to the MoJ's permanent secretary, Ursula Brennan, demanding assurances that the contracts contain "suitable break clauses or other opportunities for them to be terminated" by a future government "without the taxpayer being faced with huge financial penalties".
In a recent reply, Dame Ursula said that the final terms were still "subject to negotiation", but hinted strongly that triggering any break clauses would prove hugely expensive.
"Standard procurement practice confirms that seeking to provide for voluntary termination at little or no cost to the department would drive significant risk pricing from bidders," she stated. "I believe the voluntary termination clauses we propose will represent a reasonable and balanced position for the MoJ."
Mr Khan is furious: "I don't want the next Labour government lumbered with £8bn-worth of failing contracts we're unable to end without the taxpayer being even more ripped off."


  1. I think it's worse then a rock and a hard place for Grayling, he has no bargining power at all. He has no real choice but to agree to what the private companies want or his train crash explodes. He's a bully with his back firmly against the wall.
    Neither will he be best pleased at the reports published today in regard to overpayments and manipulated outcomes from contractors delivering the work programme. Lets not any of us forget that that was his baby heralded at the time as a 'welfare revolution',( sounds a bit familiar that).
    But todays disclosures can only bring more unwelcomed scrutiny to the goverments public service outsourcing contracts, and he has a pile of TR ones on his desk as I write. He deserves all the discomfort he must feel. It's his own self inflicted destruction.

    If anyone is interested in reading the gist of the work programme revelations this piece in the Gardian gives a reasonable summery.

    1. Welfare-to-work providers will receive undeserved bonuses of up to £25m even though they have failed to hit government targets for placing people in to long term jobs, official auditors have found.

      The National Audit Office has discovered that flaws in work programme contracts meant that the Department for Work and Pensions is obliged to make incentive payments to even the worst performing providers.

      In a report released today, auditors also say the success rates of contractors has fallen. Around nine in every 10 claimants of employment and support allowance, who include many people with illnesses and disabilities, are failing to maintain a job.

      The report is the latest damning assessment of Iain Duncan Smith's £2.8 billion programme which has been beset with problems since its inception in 2011.

      The amount paid out in bonuses from the public purse is likely to be around £31 million in 2014-15, whereas a measure of performance more dependent on results would have triggered payments of just £6 million, according to the report.

      "Flawed contractual performance measures mean the department will have to make incentive payments to even the worst performing contractors," the report said.

      Auditors said that the way the contracts were drawn up also made it more expensive to sack under-performing providers. When the Department for Work and Pensions decided it wanted to drop the Newcastle College Group, it was unable to argue it had breached its contract by failing to meet minimum performance levels and instead had to use a voluntary break clause to negotiate the termination costs.

      Despite claims by ministers that the work programme would be an improvement on previous schemes, auditors found that the actual performance levels were very similar.

      Performance for the harder-to-help groups was also below expectations with only 11% of claimants of employment and support allowance (ESA) – paid to those with disability or long-term illness – finding work compared to a forecast of 22%, according to the report. The contractors' own estimates showed they were now planning to spend 54% less on the harder-to-help groups than they were when they originally submitted their bids, auditors said.

      Margaret Hodge, the chair of the public accounts committee which oversees the work of the NAO, expressed anger at the failure of the DWP to help those who needed it the most.

      "The work programme is absolutely critical to getting people, especially some of the most vulnerable in society, into work and helping to keep them there in the longer term," she said.

      Unusually, the report was not signed off by the DWP prior to publication on the grounds that it did not reflect its view of "the relevant facts".

      The department said that no incentive payments had been made so far, and that any future payments would be included in ongoing contract negotiations.

      "The work programme is helping more people than any previous employment programme and has already helped half a million people start a job and 300,000 into lasting work," a DWP spokesman said.

      The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), representing work programme providers, insisted the scheme was working well.

      "It's quite an achievement that performance is the same level as predecessor programmes despite there being less cash in the scheme," said ERSA chief executive Kirsty McHugh.

  2. Grayling is a menace to mankind! He needs to be stopped at the next cabinet reshuffle. Grayling to the dogs I say.

  3. What a great response this is from the Gardian article flagged up above.

    "It's quite an achievement that performance is the same level as predecessor programmes despite there being less cash in the scheme," said ERSA chief executive Kirsty McHugh.

    It translates to me as almost "what the f*** did you think you were getting?).
    But there also seems a tone in that comment that reflects the power and comfortable possition that the private contractors now enjoy.
    I wonder how long before we hear similar quotes regarding TR contracts?
    It is after all an easy concept to grasp, if you buy something for less, what you actually get infact, is less.

  4. Graylings TR plans places a considerable requirement on the embracement of what the voluntary sector can provide to'wards the delivery process.
    However, I'm not sure if he's twigged yet, but the voluntary sector are withdrawing from anything to do with government contracts en-mass. He would do well to read this snippet.

    1. The voluntary sector has been "enslaved" by working with government and private companies to deliver public services, and the government’s big society agenda has been a sham, according to the pressure group the National Coalition for Independent Action.

      The NCIA published two reports yesterday on the contracting out of public services and how this has affected the voluntary sector.

      Outsourcing and the Voluntary Sector, written by Laird Ryan, explores the motivations, progress and impact of the coalition government’s drive to privatise public services, and how this has affected the voluntary sector in England. It cites research published in March 2013 by Outsource magazine that showed public sector contracting in the UK accounted for 80 per cent of all public service outsourcing in Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2009.

      The Devil That Has Come Amongst Us: The Impact of Commissioning and Procurement Practices, by Andy Benson, a co-convenor of the NCIA, examines "the procurement and commissioning regimes through which this progressive enslavement of voluntary groups has been achieved".

      The reports say that voluntary groups running public services have their priorities decided by business people or council officials with less knowledge of the issue than the charities themeselves. This means that the charities then work to serve the needs of these groups rather than their beneficiaries.

      They also say there is self-censorship by voluntary groups that are fearful of losing contracts. According to the second report, one voluntary group that challenged a council's policy on domestic violence was told: "Do you want funding for next year? Then I suggest you shut up."

      This tight competition for funding means charities use up resources competing with each other and are now less likely to collaborate and work together, the reports say.

      Benson’s report concludes by saying that charities should step away from working with the private sector. "Disengagement from the private sector will, for most voluntary services groups, be a vital step towards reasserting their independence and their place in the ‘ungoverned space’ of civil society," it says.

      At the publication of his report, Benson said: "The big society is a sham. This government's policies have stifled and weakened the voluntary sector."

      He said that privatisation and outsourcing had seen "voluntary groups allowed in only as a junior partner to profit-hungry corporations. Markets may be good for selling coffee, but they are not the right way to meet the needs of local communities and vulnerable people."

    2. I don't have a great deal of sympathy for charities who find themselves in this situation: it's been plain since 2010 - and before - that the Big Society was a sham and all about getting public services on the cheap. Charity bosses who didn't realise this were obviously too keen to be schmoozed by the Government to pay proper attention.

    3. I fully agree annon 17:34.
      It's taken them a long time to learn their lesson, and many have incured considerable reputational damage through their involvement with the welfare to work programme.
      Those quick quids can turn out to be quite expensive.

    4. "I don't have a great deal of sympathy for charities who find themselves in this situation"

      Perhaps if you dug a little deeper you would have more sympathy. Many VCS organisations were at one point entirely resourced via grant funding from local and national Govt. sources. During the noughties the move away from grant funding models towards contracting services left charities little option but to either compete with the privates (and invariably lose) or team up with them as sub-contractors. Their other option was to go bust (and many of them have).

      The idea that these organisations were chasing a quick buck is, on the whole, a nonsense and your views are a perfect example of how this and the last governments policies have turned natural allies (public and vcs sector) against one another.

  5. Don't worry Mr Khan there problems that will stack up for the winning companies, will become a public relations nightmare. That's why changes to the press laws need to be watched closely.


    1. So wheres Tessa Webb gone?

    2. She has resigned- personal reasons she has shared with staff. She will be missed

    3. Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BeNCH CRC) has appointed Neil Moloney (left) as its new Chief Executive.

      Neil joins from West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company, where he was Director of Operations, and takes over from Tessa Webb.

      Originally from Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, Neil studied Sociology at Birmingham University and worked as a residential officer in a voluntary Hostel.

      After seven years at the Hostel, he returned to Birmingham University in 1993 to take up Probation studies.

      On qualifying as a Probation Officer, he joined Warwickshire Probation Service in 1995 and then West Yorkshire Probation in 2001 where he held a number of senior posts including Assistant Chief Officer in Bradford and Head of Leeds Probation.

      When West Yorkshire Probation Trust was dissolved on 31 May 2014, Neil became Director of Operations for West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company.

      As the new Chief Executive of newly formed BeNCH CRC, Neil is responsible for delivering services that reduce reoffending and protect the public across the four counties of Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire.


    1. Mr Grayling said such a move would see a return to the "bad old days of soft justice" whereby offenders were given a "slap on the wrist" instead of being sent to jail.

      His remarks came after Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said Labour would consider extending the current youth justice regime for under-18s to all those under 21in a bid to cut reoffending.

      The change would see more young adults given community orders, including intensive monitoring, mandatory work and curfews instead of short jail sentences.

      Under the proposals, the Youth Justice Board would replace the work of the probation service for that age group, with the goal of preventing potential offenders from turning to crime and intensively helping those who have been caught.

      Locally run youth offending teams would take on the additional responsibility of 18-to-20-year-olds, although this age group would not be eligible to go into young offenders' institutions.

      But Mr Grayling hit out at the plans, insisting that offenders need to be properly punished.

      "Last time around Labour managed to let thousands of criminals who should have been in prison out early, gave a slap on the wrist caution to thousands more who should have been properly punished, and rewarded offenders in jail Sky TV," he said.

      "Today's suggestion by Labour's justice spokesperson Sadiq Khan looks like they just want to drag us back to the bad old days of soft justice.

      "We want tougher sentences and better rehabilitation. "They want lighter sentences and have no idea what to do on rehabilitation. Their plans would leave dangerous young offenders walking our streets."

      Mr Khan outlined the idea in a speech today/yesterday (Wed) to the Reform thinktank.

      "If we can re-create even a fraction of the success of the youth justice system, we'd cut crime, cut prison numbers and save the taxpayer money," he said.

      "This is a sensible step, building on what works, extending it to a decent chunk of the most prolific offenders.

      "And, what's more, working with another important group of first-time and repeat offenders.

      Official figures show that the number of cautions issued peaked under Labour. In 2007, 362,000 cautions were issued, twice the current level.

      Mr Grayling, who was also speaking at the crime, justice and safer communities conference, said that tough punishments were needed to slash reoffending rates.

      He said that some offenders "turn up in our criminal justice system having racked up scores, if not hundreds, of offences."

      "These are the people who have been committing crimes for 30, 40, 50 years," he said.
      "People at the top end who have 400, 500 convictions and cautions on their record.

      "In the last year alone, there were nearly 170, 000 offenders convicted of an offence who already had more than 10 previous convictions.

      "That's the reality of what we mean by the depressing cycle of offence, sentence, re-offence, punishment, release, and then just committing a crime all over again."

  8. More news of staff haemorraging today - one NPS & one CRC ( both POs) have baled for bigger salaries and less hassle. One said: "... Probation used to be easy money but its started to get hard now. If I have to work hard I may as well get paid properly."

    I'm not sad to see that person go, but it will be tough. That's nine staff (po & pso) in six months, with not a single replacement.

    1. looked on NOMS jobs today and saw PO grade officers required for NPS - Liverpool and Tees Valley.....CRC can only apply as a secondment! How does that work then ????Shafted bet

    2. I'm not certain, but I feel that may not be legal.

  9. "Probation used to be easy money but its started to get hard now. If I have to work hard I may as well get paid properly."

    mmmmm I agree - sounds like good riddance to me.....

  10. Want to hear something funny - the most helpful people I've come across in past week are the serco community payback team. Used to think there wasn't many of them but they now have better staffing levels that crc and they're really helping us out with Delius and sorting out our cases. That's not their job but they realise what a mess we are in.
    How did we get screwed over more than the private sector staff before we even work for private sector?

    1. This might also bring a little smile.

    2. Prisoners at HMP Drake Hall in Staffordshire are planning a "commando day" in protest over restriction of the amount of underwear they are allowed in their cells.

      An order put in place by Justice Minister Chris Grayling in November cracked down on jail privileges and stated that both males and female inmates are only allowed 14 pairs of knickers or pants.

      Female prisoners, of which there are around 4,000 in the UK, are allowed to keep seven bras.

      But, unimpressed with the new rules, female inmates at Drake Hall are planning to strip off to wander around their cellblock in the nude.

      The ringleader, who asked not to be named, said the new Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) rules meant that if clothes wear out they have to rely on prison-issue knickers, bras, bedding and shoes - which are in short supply – because they are no longer allowed to receive parcels from outside.

      They are currently allowed three pairs of shoes, nine pairs of trousers/skirts, 15 tops, one duvet, two pillows, one sheet and two pillow cases.

      In a letter to prison magazine Inside Time, she said that inmates planned to rename the 315-capacity jail "HMP Commando".

      She said: "Can anyone tell me how much extra the prison service has had to pay for prison clothing, footwear, underwear and bedding since the new policies were implemented?

      "And how are prison workshops managing to increase production of these items to meet the higher demand?

      "Or are prisons simply telling inmates to go without as stocks have been used up? We should have a 'day of protest' where we all walk around naked!"

      Another prisoner said: "There should be some dignity in prison, and that does not include some screw counting how many pairs of knickers you own.

      "If prisoners had been allowed to keep all their old underwear and clothes there would not be a problem, but prison workshops are not keeping up with demand for new items of clothing and bedding, so people are genuinely running short."

      The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) are believed to be keeping an eye on the situation but have yet to receive intelligence on the alleged protest.

    3. Grayling's maths lesson # 73:

      More prisoners = more productivity = more knickers

  11. sign on whiteboard in a prison today ( NOT privately run) "anyone interested in shifts this weekend please contact coms" so, no shortage of staff then....daren't say where as this is BLOG now being monitored by NPS.....

  12. I am aware our area NPS - ACO (Assistant Chief Officer) had been doing the rounds, supposedly to show support for staff. I am so glad I was on leave, I hear the individual made a series of unhelpful and in my opinion, inappropriate comments in response to real concerns being raised by staff....things like, now is a good time to make a mistake, as nobody will be held accountable...for me, this is a dereliction of duty. This senior manager, all managers should be offering helpful advice, sharing information in order to generate some stability. An insincere 'don't worry, do what you can' attitude, is not what staff need and it is, quite frankly insulting to think staff want to hear such clap trap. I would appreciate it if the ACO just earned their your inflated salary, did something constructive to manage the chaos, and challenge the MoJ. It is shameful.

    1. ACOs are good at that - swanning around thinking they are Gods - and some of them have a tendency to also be quiet insulting to staff!! only a matter of time before Grievances start taking place. They seem to be immune to the staff issues of recent - and are only interested in targets. Well some of them. All hypocrites the lot of them.

  13. No, what they should be offering is LEADERSHIP ! IMO it is in very very short supply at the moment, if I hear the words "I wish we could tell you but we don't know either" I will scream...

    1. Its strange without anyone knowing from Grayling to our managers they are all still doing a better job than us in getting all this crap passed and at some speed it would seem. Grayling must be proud of himself without any knowledge of the work we do, he has single handily FUCKED UP THE PROBATION SERVICE. With all that has been highlighted in this blog and recently in the media of his failings not a single person has been able to stop him, there must be something that is allowing him to carry on with this path of destruction. I would love to know what this "something" is.

    2. Surely he's got 'power' - that's what it is.

    3. What gives Grayling power - obvious maybe, though perhaps rarely thought about in any detail, is the UK system of governance.

      It can be changed and needs to be changed.

  14. Serco staff also have dual access to delius so they have nps access plus crc access to whole of london. Why are they getting special treatment and none of the rest of us?

    1. isnt that always the way!!! blame higher management for not pulling out their thumbs in order to assist the staff.

    2. I don;t think this is what is happening, I have experienced some fine leadership and support from my manager; I do think the issues lie with those above - they do not know what they are doing and instead of relying on their knowledge of staff, the depth of our integrity, passion and commitment, they give us sound bites in the hope that it appeases's a shite management style and so easy the first resort - racing to the bottom, striving for mediocrity - just doesn't sit well with those of us at the coalface. Let's not make excuses, it is what it is and it demands active leadership which carries a degree of hope and reconciliation.

      Endless e-mails doing the rounds, passed manager to manager - down the line wthtout any explanation, personally I don't have time to be reading endless and quite complicated techy e-mails about firefox, pheonix, shared services etc and I look around my office and everyone feels the same...should all 10 of us, individually spend up to 2 hours a day reading, making sense of and digesting this stuff, or is there a better way? Simples - it's called active leadership and managing the omnishambles; seems a serious lack of compassion and understanding around - I am more than used to detecting this in our delightful clientele, but I don't expect it from the leadership.

  15. I have been analysing offender data this week and have spent the last three days wrestling with nDelius and eOASys. I spoke to two IT people locally who are tearing their hair out because these news systems are poorly designed and do not talk to each other in the way the previous systems did. In sshoort, they said that the introduction ofnDelius has, in effrct, bombed them back into the IT stone age.

    Worse still, I have just ffound out that two of my colleagues, both highly competent and one a Bbutler Trust award winner, are leaving to take up new jobs outside of Probation. Mneither wants to leave but each fears for the service and its professionalism. Tragic waste of decades of experience and traininng.

    1. Very sad and worrying news. Thanks for sharing - we need to hear this stuff guys!



    2. Part of the problem is that the Min of J insisted on using IE 6 as the browser-so I am told by those more IT competent than me. Hence slow, clunky to use etc. because life outside has moved onto IE 11. E Oasys does not like me at the moment and I have to have a new password each time I use it. This way is madness.........................sure it is not personal

  16. My guess is that Grayling plans to privatise the job of Offender Supervisor in prisons. As it is they are run off their feet and more often than not their role as senior officers working on the wings comes first. They are supposed to share their dual role equally but the split is 90% senior officer with OASys and contact with clients 10%. It's designed failure similar to what's happening in the NHS. I think the role of Probation in prisons will be supervising the Offender Supervisors; supervising people off the street on zero hours contracts,an impossible job at current staffing levels. Lambs to the slaughter.

  17. As I left school in the mid 1970's, here is an an updated maths problem:

    "If it takes one legally unqualified and socially uninformed politician 12 months to dig a hole deep enough to lose an entire Criminal Justice System, how long will it take a British electorate to tip him into the hole, wash their hands and pop down the pub for a quick pint muttering 'good riddance' "

    Nb: assume for this calculation that you can find a pub that doesn't contain Nigel Farage enjoying one of his ubiquitous beer swilling photo-opportunities...)

    Use ink only, via a nib if possible. You may use dividers (but not on each other)...