Lets start this off with some extremely sobering news regarding Sodexo's partner in crime Nacro, as reported here on the Civil Society website:-
Nacro cuts staff numbers by more than 15 per cent for third successive year
Crime reduction charity Nacro cut 143 jobs last year and more than 600 in the last three years, according to annual accounts filed last month. Nacro’s accounts for the year to March 2014 show that staff numbers reduced by 16 per cent to 725, and that it spent £336,000 on redundancy payments. The charity did not say how much of the reduced headcount was due to redundancies.
In the previous year Nacro reduced headcount by 261 and spent £652,000 on redundancy payments. The year before that, it cut numbers by a further 202 and spent another £869,000 on redundancy payments. Accounts also show that the charity has a substantial deficit in unrestricted reserves. In its most recent accounts the charity also reported an £11.8m deficit, caused by a pension deficit of £12.3m.
The charity saw its income decrease very slightly to £47.3m – the fourth year in a row it has seen income fall. In total, Nacro’s income has fallen by around 24 per cent since 2011, when its income was just under £62m. Barry Aspland, director of finance and corporate services, said: “Nacro’s restructuring of its services and business model has resulted in the organisation stabilising its income at £47m in 2013 and 2014 – achieving a surplus of £735,000 in 2014 compared to a deficit in 2013 of £191,000.”
The charity is likely to see its fortunes improve after winning six contracts to run community rehabilitation companies in partnership with Sodexo, as part of the government’s reform of probation services in England and Wales. Nacro said it had recently appointed a new chief executive, carried out a governance review, and merged its housing arm into the core business. It said it had now developed a three-year business strategy to cover the period up to 2018, and was planning to work with more people, grow and diversify its income, and develop partnerships with like-minded organisations.Judging by this tale of woe, the grand plan foisted upon the charity by its previous Chief Executive can hardly be deemed to have been a resounding success and they were possibly well served by his departure to become the current 70% HMI for probation. I find the figures staggering and it must surely be a salutary lesson for other charities wishing to turn themselves into businesses in order to take on public sector work?
This is all so sad for a venerable oufit like Nacro, but a bit of digging in the archives brings up this from November 2010:-
The Dog that Doesn't BarkAs we all anticipate exactly what Ken Clarke's rehabilitation revolution will mean for the Probation Service, it got me thinking about the fact that we hardly ever hear much from NACRO these days. I must admit that I hadn't caught up with the fact that the seasoned campaigner Paul Cavadino is no longer running things. It turns out that he was replaced at the end of 2009 by Paul McDowell, a former prison governor at HMP Brixton. Rooting around on the internet led me to this very interesting article in the Guardian by Nick Cohen almost exactly a year ago. It seems he was also pondering on the near-silence from this once robust campaigning organisation on behalf of ex-offenders. Apparently he was told this was because 'of an internal re-organisation'. But as Nick Cohen explains, the truth might be a bit more worrying:-
"The charity's former allies have a blunter explanation. Harry Fletcher from the probation worker's union said Nacro has gone soft because it has become dependent on the state. Local and central government had funded its training programmes for prisoners for years, but now it was entangling itself further with the government it once criticised by forming a partnership with a private prison corporation to bid for contracts to run jails in London and Liverpool. It was straining credulity to imagine that it could argue for fewer people to go to prison when its new business model relies on the judiciary sending a steady stream of customers through the cell doors."I must admit I've never heard of 'Mosaic' but according to this, it looks like they are intent on getting a slice of the probation action and have climbed into bed with an old favourite of ours, Mitie.
Prince Charles' Mosaic signs deal to reintegrate prisoners into society
Prince Charles' mentoring charity, Mosaic, has joined a new partnership with FTSE 250 outsourcing company Mitie to support prisoners on the verge of release. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling witnessed the signing of the agreement which will provide ex-offenders with transferable skills, experience and mentorship, through a series of workshops and training programmes that ultimately lead to a work placement within Mitie.
Mosaic’s trained mentors meet prisoners aged 18-35 three to six months before release to establish a long-lasting relationship which continues into the community-integration phase. Mosaic MD Jonathan Freeman said: "The reoffending rate for short-term prisoners stands at around 60%, yet the likelihood of reoffending can be cut by up to 50% if an offender leaves prison with secured accommodation and employment."
The workshops, taking place at HMP Isis, will concentrate on activities that help people to improve skills and abilities in networking, presentation and communication and also to build up the participants’ confidence levels. The programme is overseen by the Mitie Foundation, Mitie’s charitable arm. It builds on the foundation’s Ready2Work scheme, an eight week on-the-job work experience programme that involves working with Mitie or its clients and partners, and has reported a success rate of getting more than 70% of candidates into employment.
Mitie chief executive Ruby McGregor-Smith said: "The Mitie Foundation is dedicated to creating opportunities for people of all backgrounds to join the world of work, by raising aspirations and unlocking people’s true potential. We are delighted to be able to support Mosaic’s efforts to help those who wish to turn their back on previous criminal activity to get back in to the workplace and make a positive contribution to society."We learn that :-
Founded by HRH The Prince of Wales, Mosaic inspires young people from deprived communities to realise their talents and potential. Mosaic’s mentoring programmes in schools and prisons are delivered by volunteers and lift the aspirations of young people and close the gap between those aspirations and their attainment.But I still find this all very surprising and quite depressing. I have a great deal of respect for Prince Charles and the extensive charitable endeavours undertaken by his numerous Trusts. He is normally assiduous in steering well clear of anything dodgy or political, but here we have HRH mentioned in the same sentence as Chris Grayling and Mitie in the context of TR. No matter it all looks to be 'charitable' work, unusually I think the Prince of Wales has either been ill-advised, or manipulated, or both on this occasion.
The London Evening News is reporting that the prison crisis is not abating:-
Pentonville Prison tensions 'at danger level' after staff cuts
Violence is rising at another London prison because of the “pernicious effects of reductions in funding”, a watchdog has warned ministers. A report by the independent monitoring board for Pentonville Prison states that a fall in the number of prison officers since last year has created “increasing anxiety about the safety both of staff and prisoners”.
The report says the problems have been exacerbated by the arrival in the jail of young adults with “violent tendencies and fierce gang loyalties”, as a result of changes in the way that offenders aged 18 to 20 are detained.
Announcing its findings — the latest official report to highlight worsening conditions in London’s prisons — the board said that a warning it delivered 12 months ago about the potentially damaging consequences of funding cuts had been “fully justified”.
Its report states: “Officers, under pressure to maintain a safe environment, are less attentive to individual prisoners and their problems, resulting in potentially dangerous levels of frustration and dissatisfaction, and fewer opportunities to develop options for resettlement and rehabilitation.”
The report found that the “typical prisoner” spends 15 hours a day locked in his cell, with some there for longer. It adds: “The loss of workshop activity .... makes a mockery of expressed government ambitions for prisoners to be working hours more akin to those worked in the community. Attendance at education has been variable.”
The board says that Pentonville —which opened in 1842 and holds about 1,300 prisoners — is in urgent need of investment “to bring it up to acceptable, modern, standards”. It follows a report by the independent monitoring board for Wormwood Scrubs, which said that the prison had a “dismal” year with increased tension and violence and five inmate deaths.Just look at this harrowing account of the Work Programme, as discussed in the Guardian. As Sally Lewis tweeted - 'TR based on the WP model', and of course many of our clients are on ESA and have to attend the Work Programme:-
Work Programme adviser: ‘Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feeling suicidal’
A scandalous picture of suffering, trauma and destitution is painted by a former Work Programme adviser who was tasked with getting claimants off the employment and support allowance (ESA) sickness benefit.
Speaking to the press for the first time since she quit the job last year, Anna Shaw (not her real name) says: “Some of my clients were homeless, and very many of them had had their money stopped and were literally starving and extremely stressed. Many had extreme mental health conditions, including paranoid schizophrenia, psychosis, bipolar disorder and autism. One guy [diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic and homeless] came to see me for the first appointment and mentioned that he had not eaten for five days. I offered him my lunch, thinking he would refuse it out of pride, and he fell upon it like a wild animal. I’ve not seen a human being eat like that before.”
Shaw can only speak out anonymously, because when she resigned, after just a few months in the job, her employer made her sign a confidentiality clause. She believed that the majority of her ESA caseload of about 100 clients were not well enough to have been on the government’s welfare-to-work Work Programme, but should instead have been signposted to charities that could support them with their multiple problems. “Almost every day one of my clients mentioned feelings of suicide to me,” she says. Shaw says she received no training in working with people with mental health issues or physical disabilities.
Shaw thinks many of her ESA claimants wanted to work, but the “fundamental issues” – their physical and mental disabilities, often coupled with situations such as homelessness or domestic abuse – were not dealt with. “Every person who came in needed specialist help on a whole range of things, and to be supported, not under imminent threat of losing their benefit the whole time.”
She believes many of her clients had been wrongly assessed as fit to work. “I had a woman with multiple sclerosis who had been domestically abused and was suffering from very severe depression and anxiety, and she had a degenerative condition and she was deemed fit for work,” she says. “I gave people advice under the radar about how to appeal ... but it was absolutely not in our remit to encourage people to appeal.”
Shaw says she was expected to enrol claimants on back-to-work courses. “It was very much ticking boxes. My managers were just obsessed with compliance with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). We would be penalised as an organisation if we didn’t sanction people who failed to show up… but with ESA they realised there was very little chance of getting these people into work. They were kind of parked.”
In the past year, sanctions for ESA claimants who fail to turn up for interviews with their job adviser have increased more than sevenfold. In each case, claimants lost at least one week of their benefit money, even if they said they were too ill to get to an appointment. “One minute we had to sanction and the next minute we were told absolutely not to sanction,” says Shaw. “I think this was in response to [hostile coverage to sanctions in] the press… so the advice was given that we weren’t sanctioning them but we weren’t to let them know we weren’t sanctioning them… so they would come for appointments.”
According to one of Shaw’s former colleagues who is still working for the organisation, sanctioning has intensified. “She said: ‘It’s got a lot worse since you left and now we’re having to sanction all the ESA claimants if they don’t turn up for appointments,’” says Shaw.What I don't understand is that outfits like Interserve, who are prime Work Programme contractors, must know all this and how bad the prognosis is, and yet intend to take on probation work? Surely they're not going to get paid twice for doing fuck all and just winding our clients up? Of course it might have been a very different kettle of fish had PbR been a big part of the TR omnishambles......
Finally, a couple of reminders from earlier in the year. First, former HMI for probation Liz Calderbank in the Guardian from January and with some prophetic words of warning:-
As I step down as inspector of probation, the same problems remain
The offender management model, developed and implemented in 2004, was set up with the laudable intention of providing a seamless approach to working with those in custody, with probation staff in the community liaising with their prison colleagues to identify and challenge maladaptive behaviour. But it has really failed to meet the expectations placed on it a decade ago.and a reminder of just how shit it all is, again in the Guardian from the summer:-
A parallel can be drawn between the offender management model, with its confused lines of accountability, and the arrangements now being set up in the community under Transforming Rehabilitation. That these same problems continue, after nearly ten years, to plague the delivery of rehabilitation work does not bode well.
Probation officer: 'I'm no longer allowed to sit with my colleagues'
As part of the reorganisation, I have been assigned to the National Probation Service and will be responsible for the supervision of high-risk offenders and preparing reports for court. We are now at the bottleneck of changes to the probation service, a process which has been nothing but rushed. Staff are being sent on emergency training programmes to understand how all the new processes will work. Simple tasks such as allocating a probation officer to a new case now takes double the amount of staff and time, thanks to the split between the NPS and CRCs. Duplication of work is becoming the norm. As a public sector body, we are not allowed to discuss cases with the private sector – which includes the CRCs we will be working alongside. Up until only a few days ago, these people were our colleagues who we would have been freely able to speak to about our cases and to seek advice.
The scale of these changes is massive. Even though I work on the inside, I hadn't truly comprehended them until recently. Small things such as new name badges and letterheads with new company logos, all the way to organisational policies, practice instructions, pay dates and office locations are all changing overnight. I am no longer allowed to sit in a room with my colleagues who have been allocated to the CRC.
No surprise, then, that the atmosphere in the probation service today is awful. I have worked for the service for more than a decade and I have never seen morale so low. Dedicated staff are leaving as they can't bear to watch as these ideological plans cause the service to fall to its knees.