Monday, 17 November 2014

Omnishambles Update 78

Just wanted to say thinking of you all out there as we approach another week in the unfolding chaos we attempt to work in. I tell myself I got through Friday I might be able to get through tomorrow. Positive self talk and all of that but it is becoming increasingly harder to motivate myself and to be honest I am struggling with it all. To see my colleagues worn down to the point where they look ill. We no longer laugh - we barely talk - just how sad is this - morale is on the floor. I used to love my job - really I did - now I feel like a robot - linked in to the idiot box that sits on my desk. There you go - maybe - just maybe I can do tomorrow - let's see.

I don't know how I got through last week and have just been physically sick at the thought of this week and the workload that awaits me. I too loved my job but at the moment I would walk away without a backward glance if I had the opportunity. This is what they have brought us to and need to be held to account for it in some real way.

Getting ready, reluctantly, for my two hour commute into the office. As with above, it's not much fun once there and the increasing anxiety is evident as I get closer to arriving. After the wanton destruction perpetrated by Grayling & co, why am I doing this to myself? I suppose I'm waiting for the outcome of the JR. Fingers crossed Mr Ouseley isn't swayed by the Government's lies and spin so that the TR bullshit can be put on hold & looked at dispassionately by a level-headed person of reason.

Another week indeed and the nightmare omnishambles rumbles on. Lets kick this roundup off with some classic cobblers from the hapless junior justice minister Andrew Selous. Many thanks to the reader who wrote to their MP with concerns over TR and for forwarding the minister's reply to said MP:- 
Dear Stephen,
Thank you for your letter of 17 October, passing the concerns of you and your constituents about our reforms to the Probation Service.
Whilst I recognise that this has been a time of change for probation staff and I am grateful for their hard work in implementing these reforms,I see no grounds for halting these reforms. We are taking a staged, measured approach to implementation and are using all of the period up to the point that contracts are let to stabilise and embed the new structures. Furthermore we continue to engage with probation staff who have, and continue to be involved in the development. testing and delivery of these reforms at each stage. While some have concerns, it is also worth noting that many probation officers have been engaging positively with our reforms and see the positive opportunities these changes will bring for offenders and society as a whole.
Furthermore, it is inaccurate to state that transition has not been a success and that the NPS and CRC are struggling with the new system. Thorough, externally assured business and systems readiness testing was conducted to review key activities that had to be completed prior to transition to the new structures on 1 June. On the basis of evidence from the testing we remain satisfied that the business was ready to make the transition. Furthermore, the cutover period progressed well and we successfully completed the migration of staff, property and ICT to schedule. We worked with Probation Trusts to ensure that transition was managed in a way that enabled operational staff to continue to deliver on the ground in a safe and effective manner and are continuing to support staff as they work to embed the new structures.

With regard to your constituents' concerns about the competition, as you may be aware on 29 October, following a rigorous evaluation and moderation process, we announced he preferred bidders for each of the 21 Contract Package Areas. I would like to reassure you that there was strong competition in all regions, with over 80 bids received and an average of 4 bids for each area. Eight Preferred Bidders have been selected. In 20 of the 21 areas a mutual or VCSE is involved in the Tier 1 bid or as a strategic partner, and 7 of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) will be run with the involvement of a probation staff mutual. All selected bidders have included VCSE organisations in their proposed supply chains and 75% of the 300 subcontractors named in the Preferred Bidders' bids are VCSE or mutual organisations. All bidders have experience working with offenders or across the Criminal Justice System.

As well as the lead provider bids, almost 1000 organisations have registered to play a part in the wider supply chain, including more than 700 listed as VCSE organisations. These organisations will bring a wide range of skills and experience which will help to improve rehabilitation provision. It is our assessment that these Preferred Bidders have the ability to run CRCs and contribute to building a probation system which combines the best of the public, private and voluntary sectors, and produces more effective and more efficient services for all - reforming offenders, delivering value for the taxpayer and protecting victims and communities.

With regard to your points about staff morale, we recognise that this is a very important issue and we have sought to engage probation staff in the reforms at every stage. Probation Trusts, as the employers of probation staff until 1 June, and subsequently the NPS and CRCs, have worked hard to ensure their workforce was effectively engaged and provided them with as much information and reassurance as possible throughout. The Ministry of Justice also worked closely with the probation staff to support them through the transition and is continuing to provide support to staff in both the NPS and CRCs. Probation staff are also routinely provided with professional supervision, combined with access to confidential counselling on request.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to probation staff for their hard work to implement these reforms and I enclose a copy of this letter for you to share with your constituents, should you wish to do so.
Yours ever, 
Andrew Selous.
As trailed by the MoJ, later today we will see what kind of rabbit they produce out of the proverbial hat:-
Pre-announcing intention to publish Management Information for Probation, 1 June – 30 September England & Wales

Up until 31 May 2014, offenders in the community were managed by Probation Trusts. Under the new probation arrangements, active from 1 June 2014, offenders in the community are managed by the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

This ad-hoc management information release presents the suite of management information used by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the Ministry of Justice to monitor performance in probation during the transition period since the new probation arrangements became active on 1st June 2014.

What is being published, and why?
The management information is being released to support the Judicial Review of the changes to Probation under the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. As such, this management information release is a one-off ad-hoc release, and is not representative of how future probation performance information will be published. Regular publications of probation data will be made, but not necessarily limited to, or covering all areas covered in this release.

The management information in this release covers a number of areas, namely:

1 – Background & Executive Summary 
2 – Public Protection 
3 – Staffing 
4 – Performance 
5 – Risk of Serious Recidivism (RSR) assessment and Case Allocation

These data are presented at national level to examine performance across the probation system, with distinctions made between the NPS and CRCs where appropriate. Comparisons to historic information have also been made where appropriate. This ad hoc management information release will be published on Monday 17 November 2014.
Contributors have been looking at Working Links:-

Did some googling about Working Links, seems they are fairly cosy with Policy Exchange. They commissioned a paper from them on electronic monitoring a couple of years ago. Friggin marvelous.

And of course Phil Andrews W Links Chief Exec, was recruited from Sedoxo last year.

Yup, and I forgot to mention one of Working Links private owners (Manpower) is said to be a funder to Iain Duncan Smiths' Centre for Social Justice.

Am I the only one beginning to think CRCs could be lined up to merge with some work programme functions? I can see them trying to have us administer benefit sanctions for breach in future.

I think that will be the case. And you will see social security claimants on the same groups as service users. Employed and criminal as one.

Nothing new under the sun. It wasn't so long ago that benefit sanctions as penalty for breaching community punishment was piloted in a couple of probation areas. Purple Sprouting Brocolli, Winking Loops, Interrail, Subutexo and all the other preferential Chums will have no qualms at linking up with anyone or anything if it means more dosh.

You think we work with people? Not a chance post-sale. CRCs will be working with packages of convenience, widgets, data packets, units of profit. Mental health, childcare, gender, ethnicity, religious denomination - Pah!! They're just aspects of inconvenience that will damage profit. Crims, the unemployed, the unloved & the unwanted, the unwell & the unlucky - they can't or won't make money themselves, so put 'em in a big box and find a way to monetise them.

A logical extension of what is heavily implied already in the public domain: benefit claimants are criminals and vice versa.

That report:-
Future of Corrections: Exploring the use of electronic monitoring.
A Policy Exchange report, sponsored by Working Links

GPS and tagging technology are advancing rapidly, and promise to bring further innovation and improvement to managing and monitoring offenders as they re-enter the community.

With such major opportunities to use technology to improve probation and rehabilitation services across the UK, Working Links recently supported Policy Exchange in conducting a review of the current system of tagging, and to identify how tagging and emerging technologies can be used more effectively to keep track of offenders and to help the Coalition achieve its goal of stabilising the prison population by 2015.
The Independent has an article by Charlie Gilmour who served four months in prison for violent disorder in 2011 following the student protests against austerity:-
Mr Grayling, how do you account for these prison suicides?
Not long ago I asked a governor from one of Britain's largest prisons what she thought of her boss, Chris Grayling, Justice minister since September 2012, under whom the prison system has experienced the most severe crisis for at least 25 years. She grimaced and shook her head. Sometimes silence says more than words. The way Grayling seems to go missing when the issue of prison suicide crops up speaks volumes about him. "There is," he insisted in an interview on the subject, "not a crisis in our prisons."

One might have expected him to make an appearance – or at least be quoted – on Friday's Today programme on Radio 4, in which Lord Harris, the Labour peer charged by the Government with investigating the reasons behind the 50 per cent rise in prison suicides since 2011-12, presented some of his preliminary findings. A fear of pre-empting that review's findings is surely not a good enough excuse.

Deborah Coles, the co-director of Inquest, a charity that helps those left bereft by deaths in custody, expressed frustration at Grayling's absence. "All these people charged with the inspection and monitoring of prisons are warning ministers that there is a crisis," she said, "ministers' indifference to this issue is really concerning … I'm surprised that he [Grayling] isn't here to address these issues."
Lord Harris clearly felt he should have been there, too. His initial findings – that too many people are being sent to prisons which lack the resources needed to facilitate effective rehabilitation – point the finger of blame pretty squarely at the coalition government. Its counterintuitive policies, which have cut the prison service to the bone then loaded it to breaking point, have brought us to this crisis. "But where was the minister to respond?" read a post, cattily re-tweeted by Lord Harris shortly after the programme aired.
The man, as they say in the legal profession – and incidentally, Grayling is the first Lord Chancellor in 440 years to have no background in law – has form. Back in late July, on the day his own department published damning figures showing that the rate of suicide in prisons had gone up by 69 per cent in a year, Grayling chose to deliver a speech on the pressing issue of party funding. This set off a much-publicised mud-slinging competition with Labour – which looked like a smokescreen.
Then, when Newsnight covered the scandal, the long-suffering chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, Michael Spurr, was grilled by Kirsty Wark instead – which is a bit like sending a litter-picker to be taken to task for the state of the country's landfills. For a man whose job, to a certain degree, involves holding people to account, Grayling himself seems to feel remarkably little obligation to face similar levels of scrutiny.

In August Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said it was "not credible" for the Government to deny a link between pressures on the prison system and the surge in the number of self-inflicted deaths, though that still seems to be its position. But evidently we'll have to carry on guessing how Grayling explains the rise in suicides. (Hardwick, incidentally, is reportedly unlikely to have his contract renewed next year.)
Perhaps the bashfulness is because Grayling has so much to answer for. Since the coalition government came to power, 18 prisons have been closed down, but the prison population continues to rise. In some of the worst cases, cells intended for one are being crammed with as many as three men – shut in together for as much as 23 hours a day.
According to reliable prison sources, conditions are so filthy that some inmates have resorted to greasing their bed legs in an attempt to stop cockroaches climbing on to them at night. The presence of rats is well documented, and anecdotal evidence suggests some prisoners have built special covers to stop rodents crawling out from the plumbing and infesting their cells.

Not that the rats would find much worth eating. At HMP New Hall, inmates found it so hard to choke down their dinner that they joked they were being fed the horsemeat products that supermarkets had been forced to take off the shelves. When the Ministry of Justice's Independent Monitoring Board investigated, it found the meat – "consisting mainly of fat and gristle" – to be "inedible".
Through petty rule changes, Grayling has made sure that prisoners have been deprived of their own choice of books, and that female prisoners can no longer be sent underwear. In scenes that call to mind Officer Healy's paranoid, homophobic rants about "lesbian conspiracies" in hit US prison drama Orange Is the New Black, he called for individuals in same sex relationships to be banned from sharing cells, while at the same time blocking an investigation by the Howard League for Penal Reform into sexual abuse inside prisons. It is little wonder that David Cameron is so reluctant to give prisoners the vote – and that suicides in prison are now running at an average of six a month.
Until Grayling is willing to take responsibility for his actions, the situation will only get worse. The tragic irony of the situation is that our prison system is infinitely more violent than the majority of people who end up inside it. Unlike Grayling, most prisoners are a hazard only to themselves. The ongoing suicide crisis is sad proof of both of these claims.
As Lord Harris observes, prison is massively over-used. The mental health problems and drug addictions that afflict so many inmates would be better dealt with by the social services, with prison itself saved for the most serious cases. Sadly, nobody will be sending Grayling to prison for his policies. But with more than 100 deaths on his watch in the past two years alone, perhaps in another, more just world, there's an over-crowded cell with his name on it.
The former CEO of the London Probation Service makes it clear what he feels about the current HM Chief Inspector of Probation in a letter to the Guardian:- 
Paul McDowell’s position as the chief inspector of probation is unsustainable (Grayling pledge over probation conflict of interest fears). His inspectorate is charged with assessing the performance of Sodexo in its new role of supervising thousands of offenders. He may send in inspectors other than himself to assess the performance of his wife’s company, but the final report on Sodexo is the chief inspector’s, just as when Nick Hardwick reports on a prison inspection. He cannot escape the charge of personal interest, whatever the outcome of a Sodexo inspection.
Grayling needs to be squeaky-clean at the outset of these fundamental changes in managing offenders; letting McDowell remain in post looks like an early own goal of his own making. 
John Harding
Finally, it looks like Serco could be in more trouble:-
Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre contractor facing fresh allegations

THE government's spending watchdog is looking into claims over the way a private provider has run a detention centre. Allegations that contractor Serco 'inflated certain figures and failed to carry out mental health assessments' at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre have been passed to the National Audit Office (NAO), it has been revealed. The government contractor has been running the facility near Clapham since 2007.
A spokesman for the NAO told BoS preliminary discussions with the claimants were underway but that the decision to launch a full investigation was 'a long way off'. He added: "As the parliamentary spending watchdog we receive lots of allegations all the time. We now have to work out whether there is any validity to the claims. We are a long way off that."
Last December, Serco had to repay the Ministry of Justice more than £68m after it was found to have charged the taxpayer for tagging non-
existent and dead offenders. Last month, this newspaper reported charity Women for Refugee Women's call for the closure of the centre - which holds around 400 detainees - following the inquest of Christine Case.
The 40-year-old Jamaican woman had been held at the 
centre for 10 days when she died of a sudden blockage to her lungs. Senior Coroner Tom Osborne concluded she died of natural causes. Alan Stannard, Serco's account director for Home Office work, told The Independent: "The NAO has not approached Serco about Yarl's Wood, but we would, as always, fully cooperate with any request from them. "Yarl's Wood is regularly subject to scrutiny by a variety of independent bodies, including the Care Quality Commission, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and the Independent Monitoring Board."


  1. Manpower was used to recruit borderforce officers earlier in the year. They were paid 500 pounds for each interview (there was a lot of interviews) and made a huge shambles of it. This government hell bent on austerity wastes a lot of our money for its own ends, but we're all in it together.


    1. People who are convicted of criminal damage or common assault committed under the influence of alcohol could be forced to wear a “sobriety bracelet” for four months, as an alternative to going to prison.

      David Cameron has announced that the Conservatives will give judges the power to use alcohol abstinence orders if the party is returned to government next year.

      Instead of going to prison, offenders will then be forced to wear an electronic tag, which tests sweat for alcohol, for up to 120 days. The tag is fitted around the ankle and automatically samples the wearer’s perspiration every 30 minutes. Information is transmitted to a base station, where the data is downloaded and checked by officials.

      Offender who fail to keep off alcohol could be hit with a fine or, ultimately, a custodial sentence.

      US courts already use the bracelets. The actor Lindsay Lohan was famously ordered to wear one after missing a probation hearing following a conviction for drink-driving.

      The abstinence orders are already being trialled in London, Cheshire and Northamptonshire after being proposed by Cameron in 2012, but the Tories will pledge in their election manifesto to use them across England and Wales. The first one was handed out at Sutton magistrates court in August to an offender convicted of using abusive language and provoking unlawful violence.

    2. Really? I'm a Probation Officer in Northamptonshire and am not aware of any trial of abstinence orders.


    1. Troubled outsourcing giant Serco has revealed that Alastair Lyons intends to step down once a new chairman has been appointed.

      The news comes a week after the Hook-based company issued a profit warning and announced plans for a rights issue to raise up to £550m.

      Group chief executive Rupert Soames said "nobody could have worked harder or done more to get us to the point where we can now concentrate on building a solid future for Serco".

      Lyons added while his colleagues have asked him not to resign, it has been his intention to step down once a new strategy and direction for the business were in place.

      He plans to leave the group in the first half of 2015.

      Lyons said: "Since the events of last year I have sought to stabilise Serco with strong new management and non-executive directors; a much improved relationship with the UK Government; and clarity as to our strategic direction.

      "The contract and balance sheet review, the reassessment of the group's future prospects, and the creation of the right capital structure are all necessary steps in putting Serco back onto an even keel and giving our new management team the basis for taking the company forward again.

      "The initial findings of the strategy and balance sheet review point to strategic and operational mis-steps at Serco for which, as chairman of the board since 2010, I take ultimate responsibility. It is also the right thing for Serco to select a new chairman, to take the helm for the future."

  4. Nice one 'agent orange' and also Ian, for re-tweeting. - a beautiful homage to those 'underdogs' who fought the good fight. I love Christy Moore and 'Viva La Quinte Brigada' says it all - I have it playing as I write this, with tears in my eyes. 'Passion is the pledge that made them fight'.

    NO PASARAN - BROTHERHOOD AGAINST THE FASCIST CLAN! ADELANTE! - inspirational words to stoke up the spirits this week.- We will not let them get past - Let's go!!!!

    Thank you NAPO and all those who have stood up to be counted.

    1. an addendum to my comment at 9 58 - we all quite rightly have criticised CG and his clan, but let us also give praise to Nick Hardwick, a man of integrity, who has stood up to the 'fascist clan' by simply being honest in his role as prison inspector, in the knowledge that he is almost certainly sacrificing his job.

      Such a pity, we could do with him there for a long time, and we need another Nick Hardwick to do the same for Probation!.

  5. Much was said some months ago on this blog about Ernst and Young and the advisory role they played to the government regarding TR contracts.
    We shouldn't forget then that Ernst and Young in the form of Capgemini are the major private shareholders of Working links.

    In 2000, Cap Gemini acquired Ernst & Young Consulting. It simultaneously integrated Gemini Consulting to form Cap Gemini Ernst & Young.[13]

    Given the relationship between Working Links and Sedoxo (not to mention the HMPIs relationship with both), it must have always been a foregone conclusion that both companies would do very well with the sale of probation.

  6. In the interests of accuracy.

    Capgemini and Ernst and Young are entirely separate companies. Capgemini acquired EY Consulting, but not the whole of EY, which remains a separate firm. So there are no links between EY and Capgemeini and EY are not shareholders in Working Links.

    Also, there is no relationship between Sodexo and Working Links, unless you mean that the chief executive of the latter used to work for the former. The operative phrase here is "used to work"...

    1. Thank you for your clarifiction.
      I am puzzled a little, and maybe you could expand a little.
      If the MoJ used EY for consultancy purposes, then surely it would have been EY consulting that they used?
      And as you say, EY consulting amalgamated with Capgemini who are significant shareholders in Working Links?

    2. Capgemini bought only part of EY (EY Consulting). The rest of EY remains one of the big four consulting accountancy firms. So there is no ongoing link between EY and Capgemini and when the MoJ engage EY, they are engaging EY, not Capgemini.

      To use an analogy, imagine Asda bought 20 branches of Tesco. Those branches become branches of Asda, but the remains branches of Tesco are still Tesco

  7. John Harding's letter in The Guardian is what I would have expected a man of his stature to say. He was Chief when I was a PO in Hampshire, and represents the best traditions of management that remained in touch with practitioner perspective. Typical of that view is the desire to express direct evidential arguments unsullied by ulterior motives and backed by clear reasoned argument.