Crikey. NAPO conference upcoming, the fight for Probation in a dark hour, and you can see the tumbleweed blowing through this blog, NAPO's homepages too. Jeez. What to do? I am still up for doing whatever it is.
Anyway, in such circumstances we can always resort to kicking Serco, as here in the Independent:-
Overcharging by outsourcing giant Serco costs NHS millions
Outsourcing giant Serco is embroiled in a fresh misuse of public funds scandal after a company it set up overcharged NHS hospitals millions of pounds, The Independent can reveal.
Internal documents leaked to Corporate Watch indicate Britain’s biggest pathology services provider, which was established by Serco in partnership with Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospitals, overcharged the NHS for diagnostic tests.
The venture - first called GSTS and now trading under the name Viapath - has also been dogged by allegations of cost-cutting and clinical failings. Internal documents show increasing concern amongst senior consultants who claimed that staff cuts and a lack of investment since privatisation left some laboratories close to disaster. In internal emails clinicians said the company had an “inherent inability… to understand that you cannot cut corners and put cost saving above quality.” The trust and Viapath say the problems have now been resolved. But this only happened after the intervention of senior medical staff and changes to the structure of the joint venture that reduced Serco’s role.
A 2013 internal audit by the trust into three of the 15 laboratories run by Viapath found its invoicing and billing systems were “unreliable” and contained “material inaccuracies”, amounting to an overcharge of £283,561 over a sample three month period. The auditors found invoices included double-counting of tests charged to the hospitals, with both samples and patients included in bills, and that the Trust had been “indirectly providing a free pathology service” to other NHS bodies by being billed for outside work done. They estimated this could represent approximately £1 million in 2012 alone.
The full scale of the over-charging is not known because a full audit has never been conducted.It's sobering to be reminded that the crime figures appear to be largely a work of fiction, as discussed here in the Daily Mail:-
Why crime is really UP 50%: Upbeat official figures ignore slew of offences, from card fraud to murder
Millions of card fraud cases are left out of official figures, making a ‘mockery’ of Government figures that crime is falling, it was claimed yesterday.
Damning research shows up to 3.8million bank and credit card frauds are left out of the Crime Survey for England and Wales, distorting the true scale of offending. If they were included, the number of annual offences would rise by 50 per cent, from the record low of 7.3million to 11million a year. It means seven people are defrauded every minute.
For the annual survey, the Office for National Statistics conducts face-to-face interviews with 40,000 people to glean their experiences of crime. But as well as many frauds, it excludes murder and manslaughter because the victim is dead, figures about rape and other sex offences which are calculated differently due to their sensitive nature, and crimes such as drug possession that are considered victimless.
The ONS was criticised last night after it revealed the 3.8million frauds were not in its survey. Card frauds alone were said to be worth £450million last year. It was accused of failing to follow new trends as criminals turn to online fraud and other cyber crimes – such as credit card fraud, bogus online auctions and online dating scams – that often carry softer punishments.
But ONS statisticians said it was difficult to be confident about the scale of plastic card fraud because victims often do not report it, or it is counted twice or more by different bodies such as banks and insurers. The estimate of the scale of card and banking fraud, which would make it the second biggest area of crime after theft, was slipped out last month.
Professor Marion FitzGerald, a criminologist at the University of Kent, said: ‘Ministers were readily persuaded that the Crime Survey represented a gold standard for measuring crime when it started to show a continuous fall from the time Labour took office in 1997. Yet here we have an admission from its own results that crime is 50 per cent higher than the figure it claims.’I don't know about anyone else, but the shocking news emerging from Rotherham concerning sexual exploitation of children makes me want to hear what Probation has to say about it. Even though many hundreds of referrals must have been made by probation officers to SSD over the time frame involved, and the Probation Service is a statutory agency involved with every Safeguarding Children Board, I've not heard a peep from anyone. As an agency, does Probation come out of all this squeeky clean? This from the Guardian:-
Blatant failures of political and police leadership contributed to the sexual exploitation of 1,400 children in Rotherham over a 16-year period, according to an uncompromising report published in the aftermath of allegations of gang rape and trafficking in the South Yorkshire town.
Written by Prof Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work, the investigation concluded that the council knew as far back as 2005 of sexual exploitation being committed on a wide scale by mostly Asian men, yet failed to act.
This is the fourth report clearly identifying the problem of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Rotherham. The first, commissioned by the Home Office back in 2002, contained "severe criticisms" of the police and local council for their indifference to what was happening under their noses. But instead of tackling the issue, senior police and council officers claimed the data in the report had been "fabricated or exaggerated", and subjected the report's author to "personal hostility," leading to "suspicions of collusion and cover up", said Jay.
Council and other officials sometimes thought youth workers were exaggerating the exploitation problem. Sometimes they were afraid of being accused of racism if they talked openly about the perpetrators in the town mostly being Pakistani taxi drivers.
Roger Stone, Rotherham's Labour council leader since 2003, said that he had stepped down with immediate effect following the publication of the Jay inquiry. "I believe it is only right that I, as leader, take responsibility on behalf of the council for the historic failings that are described so clearly in the report and it is my intention to do so," he said.
Jahangir Akhtar, the former deputy leader of the council, is accused in the report of naivety and potentially "ignoring a politically inconvenient truth" by insisting there was not a deep-rooted problem of Pakistani-heritage perpetrators targeting young white girls. Police told the inquiry that some influential Pakistani councillors in Rotherham acted as barriers to communication on grooming issues.
On a number of occasions, victims of sexual abuse were criminalised – arrested for being drunk – while their abusers continued to act with impunity. Vital evidence was ignored, Jay said, with police apparently trying to manipulate their figures for child sexual exploitation by removing from their monitoring process girls who were pregnant or had given birth, plus all looked after children in care.
Jay concluded that from 1997-2013, Rotherham's most vulnerable girls, some as young as 11, were raped by large numbers of men. Others were trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated, with some children doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight if they told anyone what had happened.
No case involving Rotherham men came to court until November 2010 when five "sexual predators" were convicted of grooming three girls, two aged 13 and one 15, all under children's social care supervision, before using them for sex. In the past 12 months, 15 people have been prosecuted or charged with child sexual exploitation offences in Rotherham.Meanwhile this story amply demonstrates the dangers of speaking up and daring to contradict Chris Grayling's assertion that there is no crisis in the prison system:-
Prison officer facing action for speaking out about Lewes Prison
A serving prison officer is being investigated by her bosses for speaking out about conditions inside Lewes Prison. Kim Lennon, 47, from Lewes, revealed problems with overcrowding and staff shortages to The Argus earlier this month. Four days later she received a letter from the prison governor Nigel Foote telling her he had ordered an investigation due to allegations she had “failed to meet the required standards of behaviour expected of staff”. He has asked investigators to look into allegations Ms Lennon “has potentially discredited the Prison Service by disclosing official information”.
Ms Lennon, currently signed off work sick due to stress, said she does not regret speaking out. She said: “I have told the truth. If I get fired for that I think that would be unjust. “The staff are behind me but a lot have not been brave enough to speak out. “I am a good officer and I am sick to death of the way prisoners and staff have been treated.
Ms Lennon, who has worked at Lewes for ten years, told The Argus staff were demoralised, overworked, up to 20 were off sick and drugs use was “rife” inside the male-only prison. “I will defend my job because I love my job, but at the moment I am taking it one day at a time.” She spoke to The Argus on the same day that chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick revealed a rapid rise in prisoner suicide rates were due to overcrowding and staff shortages. A Prison Service spokesman said: “It would be inappropriate to comment during an ongoing disciplinary process."Finally, we know there is effectively an MoJ news clampdown on anything going on in prison at the moment, so we have to resort to reports such as this from interested parties:-
I followed an ambulance into work today. During 1st movement to work a prisoner was stabbed in the head. The talk is that the police are treating it as Attempted Murder. Too early to say what actually happened because the prison is reluctant to share any information with staff. There are so few staff actually able to supervise movement this will always be a potential flash point. A Parole Board Panel was in today so they too know that there was an incident.