Wednesday, 3 December 2014


For those not immediately aware, BIONIC is the acronym that stands for 'Believe it or not I care' and is the naff and dated catchphrase of the American outfit destined to shortly run the CRC in London. A wag yesterday suggested it might stand for 'Believe it or not it's crap' which seems to fit perfectly with the omnishambles we find ourselves mired in. 

It might also be attached to Chris Grayling, whose arrogance, ignorance and contempt were plainly on show yesterday when he went before the Justice Affairs Committee. I thought this rather neatly summed things up:-
Chris Grayling, what a star! Winging it before the Justice Committee, submitting papers just hours before via email, telling them even he hasn't read the paperwork so they shouldn't complain about it to him, being argumentative, belligerent & supremely arrogant - even blaming the Committee for their poor choice of printer ink. Doncha just love him?
Pat Waterman had this to say:- 


The Wonderful World of Mr Grayling

When Mr Grayling first announced his plans, I promised members that wherever he was going to be I would try to be there too. So this morning David Raho and I went to a meeting of the Justice Select Committee where Mr Grayling, Mr Selous and Mr Spurr would be answering questions.

When we arrived Justice Minister Mr Selous was attempting to defend the MoJ’s failed policies in respect of the Prison Service. He was being assisted by NOMS CEO Michael Spurr The Justice Committee made it clear that the MoJ’s responses were far from satisfactory in that they had failed to predict the current crisis. I lost track of how many excuses were made but apparently the current crisis in our prisons is everybody else’s fault.

The committee had apparently asked Mr Grayling to attend three weeks earlier but something else had come up that was more important than answering questions about TR.

When Mr Grayling finally appeared he was immediately rebuked by the Committee Chair, Sir Alan Beith, for only supplying the paperwork that they had requested (which included Testgate Five) the previous evening. John McDonnell MP asked how they were supposed to have a meaningful discussion when they had not had a chance to read the papers.

It was noted that Mr Grayling may have had the papers in his possession since 27th November. He maintained that he had only just received the papers himself. Mr Spurr looked surprised as he no doubt had supplied them in good time.

Mr Grayling went on to say (despite a barrage of complaints from Justice Committee members that they had only just received the paperwork) that he would make the decision tomorrow whether or not to proceed to share sale.

If Mr Grayling is to be believed then he too had only just received vital paperwork that would presumably need several days to digest. Given the serious consequences of making a mistake maybe he ought to take advice before making the decision whether or not to proceed to share sale.

But Mr Grayling does not seem to need time to consider evidence before he makes a decision.

The Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith was not amused and declared that Mr Grayling’s behaviour, in respect of keeping the committee informed, was ‘not satisfactory’.

Mr Grayling stated that with regard to his TR plans ‘good progress had been made’. He praised probation staff for working hard to make his plans a reality

Mr Grayling was also anxious to tell the committee that there is no increased risk to the public as a result of TR because since 1st June there has been a decrease in the number of persons the probation service supervises.

You will, I am sure, be pleased to know that in the Justice Secretary’s view you have all had less work and there has been a decrease in the number of SFO’s. He also stated that in his view the real risk to the public was the 50,000 prisoners released who he claims have gone on to commit 11,000 violent crimes.

These figures were not challenged but we know to take most of what Mr Grayling says with an increasingly large pinch of salt. Mr Grayling also stated that there are 500 extra fully qualified PO’s. At this point MP’s had to be reminded to take it in turns to challenge the Justice Secretary.

Mr Spurr sprang to his assistance and explained to him, in front of the committee, that they were in the process of training new staff and that they had recruited a number of temporary staff in a desperate attempt to plug the gaps caused by experienced staff leaving at an unprecedented rate.

Mr Grayling clearly does not know the difference between probation service staff and frontline practitioners. ‘They’re all qualified to do risk assessments aren’t they?’ he said. Mr Spurr again did his best to try to rescue Mr Grayling from his own lack of knowledge.

Mr Grayling also claimed that regular meetings and consultations had taken place with the trade unions and that there had only been one single incidence of public safety being compromised..

The matter of “conflict of interest” was raised with regard to the Chief Inspector of Probation and his wife’s appointment as a Senior Manager in Sodexo. Mr Grayling said he had followed Cabinet Office guidelines and maintained he had only known about the potential conflict of interest two weeks ago. Justice Committee members appeared incredulous as they were told that Mr Grayling did not have involvement in the bidder selection process.

As I have said before, having been a Probation Officer for over thirty years, I know when someone is “making it up as they go along” and so it was with Mr Grayling this morning. In response to a question about the rising suicide rate in prisons he said he was “touching wood and keeping his fingers crossed” that there would not be any more.

Does this inspire confidence?

For those of you who would like to hear the meeting in full here is the YouTube link:

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair

This from the Guardian website:-
Justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has told MPs he will press ahead with a decision on Wednesday to privatise the probation service, despite renewed public safety concerns and before the outcome of a high court challenge next week.

Grayling admitted that a conflict of interest row surrounding the sell-off has become more acute after the wife of the chief inspector of probation was promoted last week to run the company that is to take over the largest number of probation contracts.

Grayling told the Commons justice select committee he accepted there was a conflict of interest involving Paul McDowell, the chief inspector of probation, and his wife, Janine, who was promoted 10 days ago to managing director of Sodexo Justice Services, which has preferred bidder status for six of the 21 probation contracts.

The conflict of interest places a question mark over Paul McDowell’s future as chief inspector, and Grayling is to address the issue before the sell-off takes place.

Grayling also said the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, who has proved a robust critic of prison conditions, would not automatically have his term extended next July but instead would have to re-apply for the post.

Under the £450m-a-year probation sell-off, the supervision of more than 200,000 low- and medium-risk offenders will be taken over by the private and voluntary sectors in 21 community rehabilitation companies. It is the most radical justice privatisation undertaken by the coalition government.

Grayling told the committee that his probation reforms were “firmly on track” and he would formally take the key decision on Wednesday to name the date for the sell-off early next year.
Arrogance, contempt, ignorance - all epithets that fit easily where Chris Grayling is concerned. There he was on Monday night, sat on the green leather front bench, contemptuously ignoring opposition speakers during the debate on restricting Judicial Review. Later the same night, he sends documents to the Judicial Affairs Committee, knowing full well there will be no time to read them before his appearance the following morning. To add insult to injury, he admits he hasn't bothered to read the stuff either.

Regular readers will be aware that this particularly slippery customer got away with misleading Parliament back in July when claiming that names were not picked out of a hat for the purposes of 'sifting' probation staff into either CRC's or NPS. The Summer Recess seems to have saved his bacon on this and all I can say is that Parliamentarians seem to have very short memories. It's not the first time he's been accused of misleading Parliament either.

It's interesting to see that the national media have at last picked up on the 'mackerel and dumplings' prison story we discussed last week and Eric Allison of the Guardian senses Grayling's interfering, incompetent hand in it all:-
Grayling’s response to an ‘unhappy prison’ has spectacularly backfired
A three-week trial at Blackfriars crown court has ended and 11 prisoners have been acquitted of mutiny and criminal damage. The charges followed an incident at HMP High Down, a category B prison in Surrey, in October 2013, when the men barricaded themselves in a cell and demanded to see the governor. After hours of negotiations, a riot team stormed the trashed cell and ended the protest.
On the mutiny charge, the jury undoubtedly returned the right verdict. It is a serious crime. These men were indicted with “engaging in conduct intended to further a common cause of overthrowing lawful authority” at the jail. Excuse me; the men barricaded themselves into one small cell, crammed like sardines. How would they overthrow the regime from there?
On the criminal damage charge, it seems a surprising verdict to acquit them – the jury was clearly in sympathy with the defendants. What is more shocking is that there was no word in the national press of this trial and the verdict. I was alerted to it by blogger Alex Cavendish who blogs at prisonuk blogspot and the comprehensive coverage in the local paper.
"Barricading up” is a common form of protest in jails. Cells are small and prisoners can easily use beds and other furniture to block access. In prison, I barricaded up twice. Both times, I was, correctly charged with disobeying a lawful order to remove the obstacles. On both occasions, I was dealt with by the prison governor and incurred sanctions. That route was open to the High Down governor, or he could have asked a district judge to come in and adjudicate. The judge could have given the men an extra 28 days inside.
But this matter was taken out of the governor’s hands. The decision to charge the men with mutiny was taken by the Crown Prosecution Service, but it it is hard to imagine that justice secretary Chris Grayling was not involved. Perhaps he thought jurors would have been appalled by prisoners defying authority and convict them. If so, he has scored a spectacular own goal.
The prisoners were complaining that the quality of their lives had reduced dramatically after High Down was chosen to pilot a policy “New ways of working” aimed to make prisons more “meaningful”. In effect, it was a cost-cutting exercise. Staff were cut and prisoners spent longer in their cells during the day. Prisoners’ association time was cut. Prisoners use the telephone during association and they would not have taken kindly to having this vital link to the outside world restricted. The punitive policy smacks of Grayling.

The governor of High Down, Ian Bickers, told the court the changes were “not of our making. They were forced on us. We were trying to implement the new policy, which was done wrong by headquarters,” he said.
Post-trial, former prisons minister and local MP, Crispin Blunt, said in view of the governor’s evidence the acquittal was unsurprising and he questioned why the prosecution was brought? The smart money says it was orchestrated by Grayling, this incompetent minister, who refuses to take advice from people with experience of the penal system. High Down is probably best known for running The Clink restaurant for staff and visitors which provides training for prisoners who may want to work in the catering industry after release. But earlier this year, a report by the Independent Monitoring Board at the prison said 2013 had been a “dreadful year” for the jail and the changes had produced “an unhappy prison”. Grayling didn’t listen, he never does.
Later today we are promised a Commons statement by this incompetent, arrogant and ignorant minister as to whether probation privatisation is deemed safe to proceed with, despite all the lies, misinformation and making stuff up as he goes along, like the 500 'extra' probation officers and caseloads having reduced by 20%.   


  1. Later today we are promised a Commons statement by this incompetent, arrogant and ignorant minister as to whether probation privatisation is deemed safe to proceed with, despite all the lies, misinformation and making stuff up as he goes along, like the 500 'extra' probation officers and caseloads having reduced by 20%.   

    And will it attract any media attention? No! Graylings deliberately choosen today to give a statement on the sell off because Osbournes autum statement will mean there will be hardley a mention of any other news for the next two days.
    He makes my skin crawl.

  2. The tosser is gonna announce sale. Wouldn't surprise me if he brought back share sale to day after JR hearing!!

  3. What an odious little wretch he is. In what other field of life could anyone be so spectacularly bad at their job, yet continue without any apparent fear of the consequences? Each day my contempt for him - and the rest of the Tories - grows to new heights.

  4. 'Bionic' also carries unfortunate overtones of human activity being replaced by technology... or maybe, given London's previous flirtation with biometric 'reporting kiosks' this is an early signal of their intentions?

  5. The more depressing bigger picture is that recent Governments have been able to get away with deliberately misleading Parliament. Cross bench Parliamentary committees are meant to provide scrutiny to Govt policies. It's a potentially dangerous road we are going down, and with a press that seems reluctant (complicit?) to fully investigate and cover these abuses in detail, it's likely to result in UK citizens being well and truly shafted to a greater degree than we have been to date.
    The anger of some of the disadvantaged we deal with, could be multiplied in a number of years time as the self serving policies of the powerful come increasingly into play.
    I am talking to those I supervise about why they don't vote and suggesting to them that Govt's will not make policies that help them unless they consider there's a political consequence in continuing to ignore their needs. The depressing aspect is that a number of those I speak with consider UKIP as a viable alternative, although hopefully if they take more interest in politics, it may help them to be more questioning of all political parties and recognising the spin/lies.

  6. Statement (or not) from Chris Grayling re decision to go ahead with part privatisation of Probation CRCs ?

    It is NOT listed on the Agenda for Parliament today - but then he said he will only make the decision today and then make a statement - I do not think it follows that it will necessarily be today that the statement is made - though it seems an attractive day for him if he wants to minimise publicity.

    Here is a link to the advance business agenda for The House of Commons: -

    Ministerial statements are due to be after Prime Minister's questions and to start around 12.30pm when the Chancellor's autumn statement is due already..

    In any event the Chamber of the House of Commons can be followed live here from about 11.30am: -

    1. I should imagine that it will be a written statement and probably tomorrow

  7. Which plonker came our with this pile of shite. BIONIC. What a load if crap.

  8. Off topic, but I think it may be of intetest. (Shouldn't the same questions and concerns relate to probation)?

  9. Garrulous

  10. "Under my plans, we have already begun encouraging better use of front-line professional skills and judgement with the introduction of less prescriptive National Standards for probation staff and light touch performance management. Now I propose to look again at the structure and organisation of the service, keeping the safety of the public uppermost in mind.
    The consultation:
     further extends the principles of competition, which have been applied successfully to the prison estate over recent years, to more of community-
    based offender management. The Offender Management Act 2007 set the
    basis of this policy and its implementation needs to be speeded up;
     explores how best to ensure that probation can lever in the expertise of the voluntary and private sectors. This builds on existing policies to pay
    community sentence providers by results;
     sees Probation Trusts in the future taking on a stronger role as
    commissioners of competed probation services, contracted to be responsible for driving better outcomes. It proposes to separate clearly the
    commissioners from the providers of competed services; and
     consults on different models for oversight of probation services, including the potential involvement of Police and Crime Commissioners and local authorities at a later stage. I believe in competing services as a means to raise the quality of public services. This can deliver innovation, better performance and value for money. Services should be funded by taxpayers, but delivered by whoever is best suited to do so.
    Under my plans, the public sector will continue to have a major and well-
    defined role – as the safety of the public is our priority. In keeping with the
    model of competition already applied elsewhere in the penal system, my plans envisage that responsibility for monitoring offenders who pose the highest risk, including the most serious and violent offenders, will remain the remit of the public sector. The proposals in the consultation suggest opening to the market the management of lower risk offenders. The public sector will also retain responsibility in the case of all offenders for taking certain public interest decisions including initially assessing levels of risk, resolving action where sentences are breached, and decisions on the recall of offenders to prison. Our proposals also exclude probation advice to court from competition. This advice is principally concerned with identification of the most appropriate sentences for offenders and prosecuting their breaches – which must remain reserved to the public sector.
    The aim of all this is to free up a traditional, old-fashioned system and
    introduce new ways of operating and delivering that will help drive a reduction in reoffending. We must do so without compromising public safety or destabilising performance. If we get this right, we will help end the era of command and control Whitehall public services. The prize is a more dynamic and effective Probation Service – one that keeps the best of the public sector, but that also benefits from the innovative thinking and flexibility of business and charities. The Government's goal is to reform sentences in the community and probation services so that they are able to both punish and reform offenders much more effectively. Community sentences are not an alternative to short prison sentences. They must be made more effective punishments in their own right, if they are to enjoy greater public confidence and reduce the chances of an offender committing new crimes against new victims. A modernised probation service, freed to focus relentlessly on the goal of reduced reoffending, will be able to unlock better ways of delivering those sentences."

    Kenneth Clarke
    Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice
    March 2012

  11. 2 million private sector jobs created during this Parliament said Cameron at PMQs. Created is not the word you would normally associate with the action of picking names out of a hat. My CRC private sector job was 'created' on 1 June and ceases 31 December on VR. I wonder what 'creative' process will mask the fact that people like me have been added to the unemployed figures?. We'll probably be considered 'willfully jobless' and therefore not counted.

  12. Can't link here but IL has posted another update of JR


    1. Thanks (from anon 17:22)

  14. Another one bites the dust. I have just been offered, and will accept, a post of Senior Social Work Practitioner at a local CMHT. This follows 14 years as a PO, most of which I have enjoyed. However, the past two years have been absolutely miserable, and I must safeguard my health. Here is to all of us, leaving or staying.

    1. Congratulations and good luck

    2. Thank you very much.


    In this one story The Guardian touches upon Nick Hardwick's situation (Gawd bless 'im), testgate-gate, access to delius (no, not Delia) and the dodginess surrounding the McDowells.

    Even Hestletine knew when to resign. I can't see the Old Money having any time for Grayling, nor Grayling having any respect for them.

  16. Hi 20.18 I'm 30+ years in, single parent, dependent child in higher education to support, CQSW + social work degree and thought about application to CMHT but would have meant £5k salary drop which I can't afford as am top of salary PO scale. What's the deal in CMHT if you don't mind me asking? I was told that I would have to do approved social worker training or what ever it's called these days and hence come in at a lower salary. Thanks

    1. too..same circumstances , time served and thinking similarly. Can't help thinking the plan is too get rid of people like us though, so in a way it does feel like letting them win.

  17. Hi 21:15, I am at the top of my salary scale as a PO too. I have been appointed as a Senior SW which starts at £35k+. In two years or so I will start to undertake AMPH training. With your incredible level of experience I would look for Senior SW jobs so you will be able to afford the move; totally get why you are cautious about financial implications, but do have a look around. Good luck. Ruth.

  18. I cant remember his exact words - I may have to listen to the darn thing again, but Grayling definitely alluded to PSOs being given opportunities to upgrade to POs. did anyone else catch that?

  19. The relationship between the HMIP inspector and the Director of Sodeco Justice Services has compromised the competition absolutely. He should not be fired. Sodexo should be disqualified from the bidding process.

  20. Thanks Ruth, really helpful info. All the best.

    1. Good luck to both of you
      Anon exSPO No 2

  21. Off topic, but heard today that NPS POs will be able to be directed to work anywhere in the "region" they work in, because we are now civil servants and therefore viewed as a mobile workforce. So, technically living in Northumberland and having spent the 25+ years working in Northumbria, I could be told that I am no longer needed where I am working and should report to an office in Humberside or Yorkshire on Monday. Am I just being told rubbish or what?

    1. No, you aren't being told rubbish. But in reality, civil service mobility requirements are rarely (if ever) enforced because they are expensive. If you are sent to Humberside and need to move house, the move would have to be at public expense. If you dont move, but have a longer journey to work, they would have to pay you excess fares allowance

  22. in theory we all (incl CRC) can be asked to work elsewhere within our region although I've never heard that happen in our line of work. I've heard many a time of people being 'permanently' directed to offices though

    1. My contract states my office location so I would expect to be paid for the extra mileage and also allow time for travelling.

    2. My contract also states my office location. I am currently being directed to cover another office location on one week in every four. I claim for mileage and car parking . . .can anyone confirm that I should be able to claim travelling time ?


    NPS is definately not a safer option.

    1. Not safer and an absolute nightmare. It is appalling. Records and assessments incorrect or simply awol. So called managers notable by their absence, increasingly away on jollies to Newbold Revel doing what ? they choose not to tell. The IT probably does suggest there are fewer cases, the system is a failure and the records are a complete mess. As the IT is clearly designed from the managerial and monitoring perspective first and practitioner use an afterthought, no doubt it was also designed in the first instance to be easily manipulated to provide their preferred statistics. Notice how the managers and senior admin get to go on the training ahead of everyone else, they never seem to come back with the knowledge of how to make it work for the practitioner.

    2. Hear Hear. I don't think "nightmare" covers it. Managers who couldn't give a rat's a**e about what practitioners are faced with, whose sole aim seems to be about themselves and how to climb the slippery pole. An IT system that is simply not fit for purpose and no thought about systems that are needed because the Trusts are no longer around. An tsunami oaf contradictory instructions etc etc. Oh God let me find a way out of here!

  24. Interesting that someone has now seen fit to publish a 'Register of staff interests' on HMI Probation webpage.

    See link from here:

  25. Transforming Rehabilitation: Recent Operational Progress

  26. How can Programmes staff function without dual access. They are delivering to both NPS and CRC offenders.