Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Bidders Take Note

Continuing in my role of trying to provide a useful service during this epic omnishambles unfolding around us, I've put together some recent contributions that bidders might find of interest. There's always time to pull out and never-let-it-be-said you were not adequately informed and indeed warned beforehand.

For those who didn't tune in to BBC Radio 5 Live investigates on Sunday morning, you missed a particularly confident and strong speaker putting forward a view on TR from a perspective we don't hear much from, that of the client. I'm sorry but I don't recall the contributors name, but the guy from User Voice impressed me and I know as a charity they are very keen to encourage user involvement by clients of the probation service. 

Whilst this was progressing well with probation trusts prior to abolition, it will be interesting to see what happens under the auspices of the privateers because as most of us know, clients are just as unhappy with what's going on as we are. Which brings me to these powerful contributions from yesterday:-

I'm a client, I'm always (heroin addiction for over 35 years) going to be a client. I'm always going to be your 12 months and under cohort. I'm not thick, my problem is addiction. But being sold on the private market makes me sick to my stomach.

If you want to make money by buying me, then I'll bide my time, give you every opportunity to do something wrong, and I'm screaming at the top of my voice how you're abusing me. I don't care what it is, if you're buying me for profit then I'll seek any recourse I can to take money from you for failing me, and any charity involved in 'buying me' will be highlighted in any media outlet that will listen.


You think buying people is alright to make profit? I promise you that personally, I'll make more money from you than you make from me. Any bad press or reputational damage that comes as a consequence of that is your business. If your commodity is human beings, you deserve everything that comes your way!


I've been involved in the CJS from about the time the sex pistols first made headlines. Then the probation services doors was open, even if unofficially I don't know, but there was always someone willing to help when you knocked the door. Probation had their finger on the pulse, and had a link with every other agency in the local community that provided support. There was always help, and not because some target needed meeting.

Then all the probation services got squeezed into factory's of criminal justice where access became non existent unless you were referred by the courts. Probation services were taken away from the coal face of the communities, and prevented from functioning in a fashion that served the community best.


Now I'm not going to get help unless there's a buck in it for someone. So, that's ok! It's the way it is. My involvement with supervision is pretty much the same as my involvement with ASDA, I go when I have to, and do what I have to do. It's not going to help me. But if I'm being sold, and some multi national can make money from my sorry heroin addicted arse, then it's fair game to take every opportunity I can to make money from them.

 
Their not there to help me through any sense of social conscience are they? As soon as I'm unprofitable I'm on my own. And the charitable organisations that once assisted for nothing else but a desire to help those unfortunate people in life, are now governed by targets and finance. Well fuck the lot of them - they'll get their just deserts in the end.


I posted above. The real hardcore reality of TR is that you're changing a service that gives a lot for nothing in return, to one that gives nothing and expects a lot in return. Values are exchanged for value. But that's a Tory fundamental I guess.

Another interesting point was raised yesterday:-

One of the hidden issues linked to TR is the shafting of VCS existing provision in prisons. This will inevitably be reduced or eroded as CRC's bring in their own providers. Loss of localism and diversity.

******
That is certainly true, and there is a lack of understanding among the Primes. They seem to think that these services were offered within the budget that TR is taking over. But of course they weren't. These projects were funded by other partnerships and finance streams, that will most likely now dry up. If the Primes want these projects to continue they will have to find additional money for them. Of course, they won't do that and many of the projects will be surrendered. I am sure the Primes have not made allowances for this in their budgets. 

The Primes will also not have realised the colossal expense that is ahead of them within the core business of Probation. They will inherit a now chaotic service that is much more expensive and dysfunctional than it was twelve months ago, and that is before they even think about the Under 12 months cases that will overwhelm caseloads even if they decide to do virtually nothing with them (which is likely).

There is a reason that government have backed off from giving responsibility for the U12m cases to Probation, because they realised how expensive it would be. Again, the Primes simply haven't understood this, because they don't understand Probation. They will do well to have a good long look at the contracts during this period of preferred bidder status. It will be their last chance to realise what they would be getting themselves involved in.


Talking of the money, someone's been doing a bit of analysis:-

I have been looking at the contract values provided at the initial stage of the process and there are two figures - the low end figure (minimum) and high end figure(maximum)that MoJ will pay to the providers. The low end figure is £406m per annum, the max £496m per annum.

Presuming the contracts were secured on the lowest cost to MoJ, the percentages of the key players are as follows;
Sodexo - 21.36% of contract value
ARCC - 3.10%
Purple Futures - 22.15%
Ingeus - 13.45%
Work Links - 14.09%
Geo - 2.86%
MTC Novo - 17.27%
Seetec 5.72%

Whether you use the max or min the percentages should be the roughly the same!

What does this tell us? Well for one, none of the providers have exceeded the 25% of total contract value. MTC Novo - despite getting only two CRCs have in fact achieved 17% of the market, the reason is that London is 14% of the total contract value itself, and this puts them in the top 5 providers who have 88% of the market together - ARCC, GEO, SEETEC are minor players and will ultimately be swallowed up by the others.

 
These figures also put to bed the argument that there was a large number of potential providers when in fact the opposite is true. This is a national competition with no regard for local requirements and aside from minor players, a vast majority of services will be provided by multi nationals. This information is based on the published contract values in February and the nature of such competitions would presume some level of discount for multiple areas, therefore the potential is there for the big players to have offered less than the contract value too.

Then there is the matter of profit - one provider has alluded to a 10% margin over the period of the contract (about £65million in one case). That figure will also be variable according to the various caveats that are attached to the contract. What could the probation services in a publicly owned service do with such a figure? How much would that impact on the outcomes of our clientele? 


Every year you will see the annual accounts for the 4 major companies and see a profit made by squeezing the services you are trying to provide and even the Working Links business will have an "excess" as a not for profit organisation. In the secretive world of Grayling and MoJ we are unlikely to see the real cost of the selling of probation services, but we can already see the direction of travel.


And another contributor notes a change in the political climate:- 

I hear the Lib Dems have decided to progressively withdraw support from the Tories and it has started today with the resignation of Norman Baker from the Home Office. They have realised they will massively lose at next election if they do not start to assert themselves, so this is a great time to approach Lib Dem MPs. It is just a pity Simon Hughes appears to be such a lap dog for Chris Grayling, but now really is the time to push them apart. If the government folds contracts have not been signed.....Watch this space, this story should gain traction...

As if all this wasn't enough, there's been quite a panic going on apparently down at the MoJ about the Risk of Serious Recidivism (RSR) process and the ensuing chaos and complete absence of consistent and uniform practice! But more of that another time folks....

32 comments:

  1. How about the Lib Dems now withdraw their support for TR. Now that they are trying to pretend to be seen to be different to the Tories.

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  2. A new topic, but one for the elders or those fleeing the chaos. Anyone tried to get a pension out of Manchester Fund? You may be in for a surprise. They send emails out about dealing with the volume of enquiries etc & that is that. My request of late September still not replied to & a colleague feeling she is likely to retire shortly with no income. Get a projection. Forget it!! Same 'volume of enquiry' emails from shared services HR.This is now quite sickening & speaks volumes for this shattered service that once was functional.

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    1. Blimey not heard that before! There really doesn't seem to be any part of this that's working right.....

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  3. I should however make you aware that they are currently managing a higher than usual volume of queries and as such are working through all queries in date order and will provide you with an update as soon as possible.

    Kind regards
     
    Diane
    Diane Lane  
    Strategy & Planning Team Leader
    Commercial Function
    MOJ Shared Services 

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    1. Thanks Diane!

      I think you have the honour of being the very first MoJ official to have openly responded to this blog. Much appreciated, but I hope you don't get into trouble.

      Cheers,

      Jim

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  4. The AP manager in my area has been trying to put me on the relief duty rota since July and, despite his sending my forms to Shared Services, they had never heard of me or had any record of my NI number when I chased it up. I was airbrushed out of existence after I left. I was then told that I have to go for vetting in HMP Eastwood Park. I never heard anything again until I chased it up and now I apparently have to go for vetting in HMP Bristol. I still have not received any further forms I have to fill in, apparently, and have lost all hope of ever getting any work, despite the manager desperately needing staff.

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  5. I have just typed in 'how to be a probation officer', and amongst the wealth of agency adverts there is a wonderful heading 'how to be a probation officer (with pictures)- wikihow'! That's ok - we don't need to be literate any more!!!!!

    To be fair - it seems to be aimed at the American market, despite an ad for Leeds Uni, but they pull no punches on how complex the job is - but I love the cartoon pics!

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  6. as a more recent reader of probation Blog, I apologise if you have already highlighted a very good article I found on Guardian Public Leaders Network on 2/6/14 headed ' Probation Officer - I'm no longer allowed to sit with my colleagues' - it says it all, and that was one day after the change over.

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    1. ML - could we have the link please? Thanks.

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    2. Would this be acceptable to write as a PO?
      I should however make you aware that I am currently managing a higher than usual volume of reports and as such I am working through all requests in date order and will provide you with a report as soon as possible.

      So why are Probation Officers and other employees being given this gobbly gook by MoJ Shared Services???

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    3. Anon 5/11/14 10:38 - excellent response - deserving of an answer from the MOJ.

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    4. the reply will be along the lines of...do as I say not as I do .

      One rule for them and one for us mere mortals.

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  7. http://www.24dash.com/news/housing/2014-11-05-Prince-Charles-Mosaic-signs-deal-to-reintegrate-prisoners-into-society

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  8. Hi Jim - the probation officer one was just what I typed - 'how to be a probation officer - wikihow' and likewise the 'Guardian public Leaders Network- Probation Officer -I'm not allowed to sit with my colleagues.' I find that when I start searching, spesh around guardian- one site leads to another - and another, and sometimes I lose my way back and forget where I read something! So I wrote that down!

    You're doing a grand job!

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    1. http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/jun/02/probation-service-reorganisation-morale-staff-low

      http://www.theguardian.com/public-leaders-network/2014/jan/09/decade-problems-prisons-probation-offenders

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  9. Now as they check their sums is a good time for 'Preferred Bidders' to check Richard Johnson, outsourcing blogger's write up - Spend to Offend.

    His views must be considered worth examining because he gave oral evidence to and was questioned by The House of Commons Justice Select Committee quite some time ago - I expect minutes can still be located along with a video version, but here is that blog which I have remembered: -

    http://buyingqp.com/2013/06/17/spend-to-offend-the-outsourcing-of-probation/

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    1. If we're doing sums then this might be of interest.

      http://www.civilsociety.co.uk/finance/news/content/18517/nacro_cuts_staff_numbers_by_more_than_15_per_cent_for_third_successive_year#.VFoQCrsRf5Y

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  10. advice to bidders: if you sign these contracts you inherit a large number of your workforce with a very bitter taste In their mouths and with no incentive to make your profit agenda work. If I were you, I would have my VR offer letters ready to go from day one and let those of us with a conscience, social values and no desire to assist you to make immoral profits off our backs and our tax etc, get out and move on to something meaningful and worthwhile. Working for you is most definitely not either.

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    1. I hope you're right about inheriting a bitter workforce. Looking at overall levels of activism in the workforce in resisting TR, I wonder about high levels of docility and apathy. We know outsourcing primarily reduces costs by reducing workforces, lowering wages and pensions and reducing allowances. And we can reasonably expect these elements will make up the lion's share of the 30% cut to budgets. Once these private companies and outfits like NACRO take the reins, there will be an unholy race to the bottom. Wages at the top will be fine and so you can understand the senior managers seeing pots of gold for themselves, far more than they could have hoped-for in the public sector. But those below will carry all the losses. There will be more probation staff needing state benefits to get by, as the state subsidises low incomes, as the companies, with their first duty to their shareholders, pursue their profits. All this was foreseeable and yet rank and file staff showed a readiness to cross picket lines and lacked even the motivation to vote in ballots. And overnight probation work will become profit-driven. Sure, there will be high-minded pronouncements about what the companies stand for and how they are committed to rehabilitation, but the bottom line will be about making money as there is no other rationale for their involvement, because the shareholders must come first. And if it seems they can't make their expected profits or their brands suffer reputational damage, they will walk away, just like ATOS.

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    2. And I for one have not heard much said about will happen if a large prime does walk away from a contract.
      What structure has the MoJ developed to ensure consistant supervision of offenders, and the protection of the public if a prime buys out of a contract early?

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    3. Well,since the Secretary of State has seen fit to guarantee their contracts for 10 years ( so I understand) I sincerely hope that he has sought a similar guarantee from them too. Anyone know the answer to this? Seems to me this is all give and no take.....
      Can you imagine the cost to the public purse if these contracts fail .....

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    4. 7 years I think

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    5. When they were interviewed by the public accounts committee ages ago there was suggestion that with agreement of MOJ the successful bidders would be able to 'sell' their contracts on to other companies i.e. G4S and Serco. Don't be surprised when they do.

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  11. Hi, I have just been contacted by a radio programme maker who is looking at the use of polygraphs on sex offenders on a story this week. He says, 'we are trying to speak to a service user who has undertaken the test or a former sex offender who would give us his thoughts on the idea.' If anyone would be willing to speak anonymously for the radio programme, please contact me on joanna840@googlemail.com

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    1. Should we be seeking to source those who have been polygraphed for a radio programme which may have nothing to do with the objective of countering the fragmentation of probation work? Invariably the media agenda with sex offenders is to generalise and sensationalise. Cui bono?

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    2. Take care with this - we must continue to maintain our duty of care to those we work with. I have concerns that this crosses a line. No matter how badly our employer has treated us we must maintain our standards.

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  12. I take your point and should have elaborated but didn't want to say too much about the radio programme as I was asked not to. It will not sensationalise or generalise and it will be a considered look at the government's ideas about polygraphs for sex offenders. The journalist is an investigative journalist and has interviewed me for File on Four and was also involved in the radio programme on Five Live on Sunday, two excellent programmes about TR. Sorry to confuse and it is connected to Probation. What does cui bono mean?

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    1. Northamptonshire Probation Trust were part of the pilot for this. It was quite useful in some circumstances to be honest.

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    2. Perhaps this relates to the number of applicable cases that have been processed illegally ?

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  13. 2 Merseyside POs leaving - 1 CRC and 1 NPS plus 1 CRC PO gone off on long term sick leave. Lots of cases to reallocate (110 in CRC) giving managers a real headache. Christmas is also coming and so offices are going to be on skeleton staff again leaving officers frazzled.

    Bidders run for the hills.

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  14. I understand from management that after the split initially NPS was only able to comply with the RSR/CAS process in 20% of cases and even though they've had 4 months to get this right and have doubled the time allowed for case allocation by the end of October they were still only able to achieve a successful manage 61%. Given that most PTRS had targets set at 90% this is abysmal. No wonder they're panicking! I noticed yesterday someone mentioned the poor practice by G4S. When they had the tagging contract and were challenged about closing enforcement actions they frequently blamed Probation for not letting them know what action had been taken. I had to investigate these for my Trust and found in only about 15% of the cases where they'd notified us of a breach of curfew we had not let them know what action we'd taken. The rest were down to G4S and included where the Order was managed by the YOT, another Trust, they'd missplete the email address and best of all where they'd taken the email address out of the NAPO directory and sent an email to "firstname.surname@Trust.probation.gsi.gov.uk" [sic]. I heard recently of a case who had emailed Interserve Finance Dept. purporting to be from a subcontractor asking them to make future payment for the work to a new account. No points for guessing who's account that was! In all they paid the sum of £132,000 into his account! Best of all they didn't even notice. It was only when the bank queried the payment that the Theft was picked up. Doesn't say much for their Corporate Governance or risk assessments!

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