Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Biting the Hand that Feeds You

It's supposedly the season of goodwill and Christmas cards have started arriving at blog HQ and more often than not they are charity cards. Shelter is of course a well-known charity, highly respected and with a long history, but just like Nacro they're getting into bed with the privateers and hoping to make money out of the probation sell-off. 

Just as Nacro sold out on its historical campaigning work when it started bidding for government contracts some time ago, I don't know about you, but I can't recall hearing Shelter shouting too loudly about homelessness and government policy in recent times either? You can hardly bite the hand that feeds you, can you?

As we rapidly approach the signing of probation contracts, I think it's time to take a closer look at Shelter who of course have secured a number of contracts with their business partners Interserve, trading as Purple Futures. Shelter seem surprisingly coy though about this exciting new business opportunity and a search of their website reveals no mention of moving into probation work.

A google search however reveals a very familiar story that should serve to sound alarm bells in a number of quarters. This from Inside Housing:-
Staff at homelessness charity Shelter have voted for strike action following changes to pay.
In a ballot that ended last Thursday, members of the Unite union voted 69.2% in favour of action following changes that would affect the salaries of Shelter’s new advice and support workers. Unite last week said they were balloting 330 of its members.
Inside Housing understands that the provisional dates for strike action are just before Christmas. Under the pay changes salaries for new staff members working in the charity’s advice support section will be reduced and based on ‘market median’.
Shelter says it currently pays advice and support workers ‘well above the salary for similar roles elsewhere’. It maintains that funding cuts and increased competition for donors mean it cannot sustain such salaries. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: ‘This leaves us with a simple but painful choice: keep the higher pay levels, cut our services and make some roles redundant, or maintain the number of people we help and reduce salaries for new staff. ‘We always strive to be the best employer we can be, but in this instance we feel we have to put our ability to help those who need it first.’
Shelter’s latest financial accounts show Mr Robb’s salary increased from £110,000-£120,000 to £120,001-£130,000 between 2012/13 and 2013/2014. The charity posted an operating deficit of £2.3m in 2013/14 (2012/13: £5.2m), however the organisation says this is planned, due to increased spending on fundraising activities. However, Shelter is carrying out a review of its charity shops, after its retail arm posted a loss due to ‘difficult trading conditions and stock supply’.
This on the uniteforoursociety website:-   
Shelter has built its reputation as the foremost housing charity in the country on the quality of the service we offer and our expertise. We're writing to tell you why we, Shelter's union, have decided to ballot for strike action, because we think that our hard-won reputation is under threat.
The cuts to frontline pay already implemented for new service staff - and threatened for existing staff - equate to up to £5000 a year. They are only being implemented for our lowest paid, frontline service staff: those who see and advise our clients every day. This will have an inevitable impact on the quality of the service that Shelter offers.
The arguments for this substantial cut to our frontline workers’ pay
do not stand up to scrutiny.
It is argued that our donors would want their donations to be spent in the most economic way. Yet many of our donors and supporters will believe that cutting pay for staff is a false economy. They believe in the quality service that we offer. That’s why they support Shelter.
It is argued that Shelter must cut pay so that we are not undercut when competing for contracts. Yet our ability to offer an excellent service is our strongest competitive advantage. And pay changes are being implemented across the board, including for posts funded through voluntary income.
It is argued that we will still be able to recruit people at the new levels of pay proposed. Our concern is not that we will be able to recruit at all, but that we will not be able to recruit and retain the colleagues we need to continue to deliver an excellent service. Colleagues have already reported to us difficulties in recruiting staff on the new pay scales.
It is argued that we must pay the median wage because we pay more than others. Other organisations do not have the reputation for quality we have. Cut-rate pay will lead to a cut-rate organisation.
We do not take our decision to ballot for strike action lightly. For many of us this would be our first industrial action. But we are prepared to do whatever we must to ensure are able to continue to run exemplary services and campaigns.
Yours Sincerely,
Shelter Trade Union Stewards 
Shelter have got form. This from 2008 on the Permanent Revolution website:-
Homelessness charity Shelter union shop's ballot for industrial action ended last Thursday. Their dispute arises directly from the government's policy of commissioning out public services to the "Third" or voluntary sector – Shelter management say they have to cut staff wages and conditions in order to win government contracts for projects previously provided by public sector workers.They got a 65.8 per cent turn out for the ballot, and a 76 per cent vote for industrial action -- so they will be taking a series of strike days over the next few weeks.
The whole business of privatisation and charities has got to be debated as we head towards the election in May next year, not least because of what the Tories are planning. This on the CivilSociety website:-
Minister outlines plans for massive transfer of services to voluntary sector
The new minister for civil society wants to see “billions of pounds” more public services delivered by charities and social enterprises over the next few years and plans to embark on a massive new capacity-building programme to enable it to happen.

In an interview with Civil Society News on Friday, Rob Wilson laid out his proposals for a wholesale outsourcing of services to the sector, and hinted that a new £100m fund that he mentioned in his Giving Tuesday speech last week would contribute to getting charities ready to take on more service delivery.

He said his two main priorities in the near-term were to expand the range of public services that can be provided by civil society groups, and to help get them to the stage where they can take on more delivery.
“I think that the days of believing that the government is the best deliverers of public services are more or less gone,” Wilson said. “People who are closer to the coalface and who understand their communities are much better at delivering services than governments run from Whitehall and to some extent even governments run from their county hall.

“So my belief is that we need to push much faster this whole idea about commissioning out services that can be delivered by charities and social enterprises. Over the next five years we need to see a massive transfer of funds from the centre of government out to localities, communities and regions and that means we need to do a lot of thinking about how we smooth out and make easier the commissioning process, and make government departments understand better how they can commission out more services. “We need to make organisations more aware of how they can get those contracts and how they can bid for those contracts, and we need to support much more capacity-building in the sector so that these contracts aren’t seen as beyond the capacity of those organisations.

He said he plans to construct a support system comprising finance and other mechanisms so that whatever stage of the development cycle a sector organisation is, there will be something available to help it scale up.

"So at the very bottom it might be some sort of social incubator fund, or it may be you need to plug into what we previously called an investment and contract-readiness fund. It may be you need something to help you get the first step on the ladder with funding so we’re going to announce something around that in the not-too-distant future. And then we’ll obviously have Big Society Capital that is working through intermediaries.
“Three-quarters of organisations don’t need or want it, they get their funding where they get their funding, but for those that want to grow, to get involved in government contracts, who want to grow their social enterprises, this a route they might want to take and the idea is that these things will all be in place so they can get finance and support.”
Pressed about the difficulty that voluntary groups face when trying to compete for contracts with large private sector conglomerates like Serco or Capita, Wilson said it was still very early days for voluntary sector public service provision. “The number of big contracts we’ve been putting out has been quite small in number. They are big contracts but there have not been that many of them – the first big one was the Work Programme and we learnt a lot of lessons from the way we did that.

“Transforming Rehabilitation is a lot better than the Work Programme was and although the sector didn’t win outright itself any big contracts, 35 in total of the supporting organisations out of 50 were voluntary sector. And again we will have learnt lessons from that and it is my view that we can put a focus on that over the next six to 12 months and really put a rocket under it.”
It occurs to me that I'm going to be much more careful in relation to which charities I support from now on and I'll make a start on where I get the Christmas cards from. It's such a crying shame to say such things, but some charities are just turning into businesses and arms of the State to boot. That reminds me. I must see what Sir Stephen Bubb has been saying of late..... 



  2. I couldn't agree more Jim, having been a supporter of Shelter for many years I am truly shocked to read how they are treating their workforce - or perhaps I should say, practitioners, as It appears that their Directors get handsomely rewarded.
    I feel very uneasy about the role of charities in the demise of public sector probation for several reasons:
    1. they have willingly engaged with the government and large multi national businesses for financial reward on the premise this will further their charitable aims. In fact they are being used cynically to destroy the probation service for the ultimate purpose of increasing shareholder value of the large multi national companies involved. They are there to meet minimal targets so these large businesses get paid under TR and need to recognise that most of the publicly generated funding will flow out of this country eg Sodexo is a French company.
    2. If they have priced their services so low that they are required to reduce the level of remuneration they previously deemed necessary to pay their front line staff, purely so they can gain Government contracts, they are in effect asking their staff to subside the multinationals they are in business with.
    3. They run the very real risk of losing public support by their actions and I will be watching them closely to see how they justify their actions. I will report any concerns to both the Charities Commissioner and my MP. I will scrutinise their annual accounts.
    4. Finally, it is the morality of their actions in allowing themselves to be both politicised and commercialised in their future operations in the probation world. They are on dangerous ground and may, in their pursuit of income have negated their identity as a charity.
    We need to monitor them closely......and we will!

    1. Since when was a charity allowed to be a sub division of a multi national business?

    2. Gwalia Wales cut some salaries by 6k a yr. Nothing the union could do about it. Sign or resign

  3. Just been catching up with recent events via your blog as it is the only place to get all the info. A message to my colleagues: it is time to realise that our years of hard work, dedicated loyalty and personal sacrifice have meant nothing, time to see the role as a PO as just a job with little in the way of future prospects, job satisfaction or acceptable financial renumeration. On that basis don't put your selves out any longer, just go through the motions as we as individuals are not responsible for trying to keep up our previous excellent work. The failures that will without doubt follow, lie firmly at the door of the MOJ.

  4. The cutting of salaries is becoming a trend in the voluntary sector as are zero hours contracts. The bosses on £100k and rising, while the front-line is urged to examine their consciences and choose between pay cuts, reductions in services and redundancies. The only thing that can ever stop this daylight robbery is industrial action and I note that it was effective in getting St Mungo's to climbdown (to prevent a 10-day strike) after they, too, tried to impose £5,000 pay cuts. £5000 seems to be the norm and it won't, I guess, be long before we hear about them in CRCs. If such slashing cuts rain down on probation staff I hope it comes as a surprise to no-one. Napo needs deep roots at branch level so members are prepared when the bells tolls for thee. And whilst I do believe the fight against the imposition of TR is over, the fight to protect conditions of service is about to begin. I do not think 'continuity of service' will be a trusty shield, as goalposts get moved in 'management restructures'. Nor do we want to see two-tier workforces becoming established. Had the staff at St Mungo's rolled over they would have been robbed, but they stood together. Amazing what a bit of solidarity can achieve. And they did it without a probation institute – sorry it just sticks in my craw!

  5. This from another Blog: -

    " Anonymous10 December 2014 at 16:21

    Just heard that if no increase in probation institute sign up it could fold- there's another reason not to join graylings PI "

  6. Graylings Probation Institute? No Thanks, not even now they are giving registration away for free.....Individual practitioners rebelling...

  7. It's a no-win situation for the likes of Shelter, though. They very probably have no interest in taking on probation work, but they do want to keep the several contracts they have with NOMS to provide housing support and advice to prisoners. This is core Shelter work and they are pretty good at it, but all of those contracts are being terminated by TR and, if Shelter want to continue to reach prisoners with their advice services, they have no choice but to do it through the prison resettlement element of the TR contracts.

    1. They do have a choice and have exercised it!
      Shelter are reducing staff salaries and planning to meet whatever targets their partner multi nationals set for them, forget helping prisoners think more of creating shareholder is shameful

    2. So they should give up their existing successful service, take a significant reduction in income and make people redundant (and possibly reduce their remaining staffs' pay)? Excellent choice. I'm glad you're not in charge of Shelter. As a charity, they are stuck between a rock and a hard place - sustain their income and their viability or give up and shrink. As I say, not an easy choice in the real world.

    3. Shelter: It was once a charity - it was funded by donations, it spoke eloquently on the plight of homelessness. Like Nacro it went on the government payroll, it acquired a business model and a highly-paid CEO. It's a damn business – let it live in the real world. Let it fail if it cannot pay its staff a living wage. Or is the real world one of low pay, a race to the bottom and a business model subsidised by tax credits for its workers – not its CEO mind, he's OK. The 'real world' argument is another neoliberal fiction that justifies poverty. In the real world the banks should have failed, but they were bailed out with billions that are still screwing the living standards of the rest of us who are living in fantasy land presumably.

    4. I repeat what I said at 17:34 Shelter has made its choice and I for one, will never ever support it again. I agree with Netnipper "it was once a charity and spoke eloquently on the plight of the homeless" . Shame on Shelter for selling out.

    5. Nacro never survived just on donations (or even mainly on donations - its voluntary income has never been more than about 5% of its total income). Shelter has never existed just on donations (donations have never been more than about 50% of its income). Charities have been providing services to government and local authorities for decades. If they didn't, most of them would simply cease to exist. You might call that selling out, Shelter and Nacro would say that it is ensuring that they meet their charitable objects.

      And the real world should not mean zero hours contracts and reduced pay. But the real world does mean charities facing a hard choice between TR and potentially not being financially viable and having to lay staff off. As I say, not an easy choice for trustees

    6. There is a moral imperative for charities to behave as such, simple enough....there is also a legal requirement to maintain their charitable status and in this case the means simply does not justify the ends I'm afraid. The argument you put forward of survival at all costs is shameful.

    7. Why is it shameful? Charities are under a legal obligation to pursue their objects and to stay financially viable. Would it be a less shameful and more morally defensible option for them just to become insolvent, wind themselves up and sack all of their staff? What an odd moral imperative that would be.

    8. Anon 2010. Because it is shameful. Because it is giving in to bullying and co operating with the system, shameful behavior and consequences that caused and founded the need for the charity in the first instance. Because 'they' have twisted, manipulated, PR / spun people into believing the deceit and that there is no alternative. If charities had stood firm to their beliefs and morals another solution would have had to be found. Greed and self aggrandizement manipulated on an increasingly grand scale. CEO's, managers, consultants et al all happily taking the cash,prancing and relishing their conceived status and power whilst presenting it is their skills and abilities that achieve the 'outcomes'. Happily content to pay people they like to call ' frontline' , ( a term used as a pretence of respect and to create a distance they use to salve or avoid any sense of conscience ), staff as little as possible, whilst bullying, threatening and considering themselves to have the right to enact 'discipline' . Yes it would be less shameful.Yes it would be morally defensible.

    9. Anon @ 18.35: Nacro started out in the 1920's and Shelter in the 60's. You assert that Shelter's voluntary donations have never been more than than either 5% 0r 50%. This from Wikipedia, 2011 figures.

      Voluntary donations 51%
      Statutory grants 21%
      Shelter shops 16%
      Legal advice contracts 11%
      Training courses 3%

      But the point you overlook is that these charities have steadily become increasing dependent on statutory support. They have not historically relied on government funding. And, with TR their corporate ambitions are in danger of over-shadowing their charitable identity. Their moral compass is not what it once was. They are aping any other profit-driven enterprise.

  8. Private Eye 1381 page 10 Sodexo again.....
    Kate Steadman, Sodexo's head of public sector development was until 2010 an advisor to .....can you guess??
    Yes, Chris Grayling
    Also apparently HMIP himself, Paul McDowell, reports weekly to Grayling and guess what??
    He says there are no issues apparently...
    That must be good news for Janine McDowell his wife, deputy managing director of yup, Sodexo Justice Services
    whoop whoop!!

  9. while clearing out for Christmas, I found a Mail cutting, 4/2/13 headed ; I smacked my children when they were bad, says Justice Secretary. As I cannot find a ref to it on the net, I will precis the half page article.

    'Mr G said he was chastised as a child and that his own children, now 20 and 16 (in 2013) were disciplined in the same way by him and his wife.'

    'He promised to defend the rights of parents to discipline their offspring physically'.

    'Known for his disciplinarian views, Mr G said that if his children were naughty, they would know that they faced a smack from their father'. ( Is this not premeditated psychological domestic violence?)

    'You chastise children when they are bad, as my parents did me. I'm not opposed to smacking. It is to be used occasionally. Sometimes it sends a message.'

    He did not want to see corporal punishment in schools -'I don't hanker for the days when children were severely beaten at school.'

    The rest of the article was about the opinions of others, including politicians, who were mostly cautiously against it.

    So, does he justify physical punishment in youth custody and secure units, because he, and his children, were treated the same way ...(and it never did me any harm..)?

    He seems to like the use of the word 'bad'. Perhaps he is a damaged child, having grown up believing he must be a bad person, and trying to normalise it by punishing other 'bad' children.

    Or is he just a ba......d?

    1. Poor Matthew and Laura. Can't be nice to have a father who smacks you.

    2. I have read the comment and the reply. why do I get a sense of sarcasm? perhaps chris's right hand man or woman keeping a check, maybe even mrs g, doing a shift?

  10. Bloody Grayling, is he immune from conflict of interests ? Just when is his bubble going to burst? Just when is McDowell going to go?

  11. I've posted before about being cautious of Shelter. They may be a charity but a very corporately driven one, with a weak HR department, a frightening management system and a host of employment tribunal issues. My mate works for them in a capacity similar to an ACE/ACO and she gets paid .... £32,000 for the pleasure. Be prepared for imminent cuts in salary for CRC operational workers.

    1. Agreed. I work in a prison and the Shelter staff are really helpful but their management are awful. They are all frightened of 'the big boss' who has publicly chastised them in front of others. I also question their ethics. Their campaigns and ethos behind those are not matched with the same ethics in terms of how they treat their staff. They are target driven and how they meet those targets is questionable. I'm not in a Purple Futures area but when I heard about the contracts I was more worried about Shelter's involvement than that of Interserve.

  12. Well, my Christmas Appeal letter from Shelter has gone straight into the bin and I will be donating elsewhere this year. For Shelter to increase its CEO's salary and yet wanting to reduce frontline staff by £5,000 just makes me sick.

  13. How are people getting on with getting rid of years worth of data both paper and electronic? How many are filling out the destruction forms when deleting information?

    Preparation for share sale is being done recklessly and I imagine illegally. Where do we report this to?

    1. I'm not sure what you mean, could you clarify?


    2. Don't worry - just dump, delete & job done. Someone will cover for you. No-one wants to put their corporate hand up & say "we screwed up".

      Not so long ago (pre-2014, but post-2006 - a time when I was allowed to write reports) one of my "very worrying" ex-clients re-appeared having committed a very serious offence, I referred to relevant and significant background papers which couldn't otherwise be located, but were in a old file I had kept back - and after that file was taken from me I was subsequently disciplined ("failure to follow policy & procedure") for retaining paperwork which should have been shredded or otherwise destroyed per the "new" Trust guidelines. No-one else involved previously had kept their paperwork - which led to further discomfort (for me) as the Judge asked NHS, social services and another partnership agency why they didn't have any record of their past involvement this person. That went very quiet very quickly. The case was reallocated to another PO and the records were made 'sensitive' (limited access only).

      So please don't worry about deleting - you're doing the bidding of your paymasters. Keep a copy of the instruction, policy or direction - if, as or when you're asked in the future, just produce that copy.

      Me? Oh, I'm just happy flipping burgers these days.

    3. Anon 20:24 CRCs are being told to get rid of any information they have that should go to NPS i.e. old files, old paperwork etc. Anything that has a trust logo or should belong to NPS. Apparently there are legal implications if not done properly and I can tell you now, the deadlines are so tight, I don't see how it can be done properly.

    4. Anon 20:35 I have no doubt someone would cover, there is already talk of denying all knowledge paperwork ever existed. Thing is, if someone reports it now whilst it's happening, perhaps share sale will have to be put off for a little while. So where would someone report it to?

    5. Perhaps one might compose a letter containing such concerns to the MoJ, with copies to The Independent, The Guardian, the Public Accounts & Justice Committees, Russell Brand, Ian Lawrence, MD of Sodexo & HMI Probation?

      Don't forget to include your name, rank & National Insurance number.

      I have also failed to find the "sarcasm" font.

    6. Is there a proper place to report such issues?

    7. well, that looks like the end of all my detailed records, which I had on file as well as on screen. Some high risk cases had numerous old files, one case (sibling sex offender) had 6 files, separated into personal data, pt C's, forms, PSR's, letters, CP reports, MAPPA, for ONE current Order!. As I had worked on cases in the mid 90's, which had dead files going back to the early 80's, there was nothing like a good rummage to really get to know a person.

      It's a sad, sad time.

    8. Going off on a tangent about old records, as an old records admin, I used to field requests from out of area and the request always was for the last PSR and little else. Got me wondering how many times an author wrote 'would like treatment and has a job offer dependent on sentence handed down'?. Because, with a little digging, I imagine it would show up the same aspirations are proffered time and again for the same cases. With the split between NPS and uncle Tom Cobley and all, who knows what horrors will not see the light of day.

  14. Jim - there seems to be much confusion about contracts, pay, holidays and more for new Probation Graduate Diploma Trainees and some of it is showing up via their Facebook page.

    I do not understand it, but know I tried to post some warnings there months ago, and had a few spats with some involved who did not think a retired probation officer should express any opinions on an MOJ monitored website open to the general public!

    Anyway, I wonder if you have a better understanding than I or some other contributor here does because they seem to still be advertising and the unwary are likely to come unstuck.

    Will you consider writing about it in a Blog some day or perhaps getting someone with direct knowledge - a trainee or maybe a training supervisor to write a guest blog as a public service to forewarn?

    This is just an example, readers will find more if the scroll around their Facebook website:-

  15. there always seems to be one member of staff who seems to be paid the same as you but who float around with little to do? well today I looked at their oasys and now know why. Suffice to say seeing as their oasys are getting signed off and are half as detailed as mine has made me decide to start making cutbacks of my own. It's made me feel so much less stressed - may even have a lunch break tomorrow.

    1. Oh how that resonates with me. Don't allow them to dictate your professionalism

  16. it all seems to be kicking off in regards to Grayling's bill to stop pesky left wing groups having the temerity to challenge the Government via Judicial Review, seems like he's apologised for misleading the house in regards to the Bill (politics website as a good article on it) there are even perish the thought, accusations that he has lied (cue gasps) It even sounds like this Bill may be sunk.


    2. Here's the Opinion from Law Gazette:

      "Lord chancellor misled parliament. Doesn’t he understand his own bill?

      Some people do not agree with Chris Grayling’s plans for judicial review. Others do – though I have yet to meet many in the legal profession, and what supporters there are tend to be limited to 300-odd MPs in the House of Commons.

      Last week they shuffled through the voting chamber to reject Lords amendments to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill covering judicial review.

      It now turns out that MPs were misled by the lord chancellor before they took their vote. Whatever stance you take on the reforms themselves, the gravity of this mistake cannot be overstated.

      Chris Grayling has written to one of the two Conservative MPs who rebelled on the vote to explain that he made a mistake during the debate. Grayling had said that a key clause to restrict granting permission for JR was offset by the bill allowing leeway to judges in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

      In the letter, Grayling admitted no such exceptional circumstances provision exists in this clause. This goes beyond a simple oversight. It was a crucial error which was used to win favour for a controversial bill. The vote was won on false pretences.

      The response from peers in the House of Lords was indignant bordering on furious.

      Conservative peer Lord Deben (John Gummer) said Grayling's mistake was ‘damaging’. He echoed the view of many colleagues when he said the matter had to return to the Commons as MPs had been misled. ‘We have to give the other house an opportunity to reverse the decision that it made when it was not in full possession of the facts,’ said Deben.

      Curiously, peers kept saying the lord chancellor had apologised – but on the basis of his letter, there was nothing of the sort.

      Chris Grayling has had a pretty wretched year, losing three judicial reviews and facing protests from lawyers over his ongoing cuts programme.

      But this is the lowest point by far. It would appear that Grayling does not understand his own bill.

      Either way, there was no choice but to send it back to the Commons. Let’s hope that more than a handful of MPs turn up for the next debate - barely 20 turned up to actually hear Grayling’s error - as we will need to scrutinise every word next time.

      John Hyde is Gazette deputy news editor"

  17. Just been wanderin down Memory Lane & bumped into this Jim Brown post which quotes The Telegraph in Jan 2013:

    "Mr Grayling was accused by the probation union Napo of displaying an ideological hostility to the public sector. Yet his approach is reassuringly pragmatic: he is promoting this policy because he thinks it will work. The aim is to harness the expertise and efficiency of the private sector to overcome the barriers to rehabilitation. It is on the Left, wedded to delivery solely by the public sector even when it fails abjectly, that the ideologues are to be found. Mr Grayling has produced the sort of imaginative thinking needed to bring about the public service reforms taxpayers are entitled to expect. He also showed that uncompromisingly Tory policies can emerge despite the constraints of Coalition deal-making – Cabinet colleagues should take note.”"

    Presumably misleading The House falls into the category of "imaginative thinking" ?

  18. According to Wales CRC newsletter contract signing with Working Links is on 19 Dec. Merry Christmas all!