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%
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....