Friday, 28 February 2014

Latest From Napo 14

Here's the latest e-mail sent this morning to all Napo members:-

Dear All
 
Grievances and Appeals
Technically, you should not use a grievance as part of a political campaign because it relates to an individual’s experience at work.  However, if lots of people do this en masse and it creates a stir, then it’s an extremely useful by-product.  That’s what we achieved and it drew attention to the fact that lots of people were unhappy.  The BBC ran with this as a national story.  If any bidder was rubbing their hands together and thinking “Mmmm, Probation, what a lovely compliant workforce” we have given them cause to think again.  We will continue to apply industrial pressure and members, on an individual basis, can play a big part in this.  Centrally we don’t have the resources to cover all 35 branches with individual support and so the leadership and support from branch executives to members has made, and is making, all of this possible.  Sticking your head above the parapet can make us feel wary at work and it takes courage.  What you’ve shown is that when loads of people do this together we achieve strength and confidence- the very essence of a trade union.


The Bidders
The profit-obsessed are frightened by two things: strong union membership and a “lively” staff group.  Any whiff of unquestioning compliance or lack of unionism has the privateer salivating uncontrollably.  If that just made you shudder- don’t let it happen.  Keep recruiting into Napo and watch out for further industrial action announcements.   The bidders are getting very suspicious of the MoJ’s antics.  There are vast and complex rules relating to the competition process but the essential ingredient is simple: the MoJ wants to sell “probation”.  The bidders want to know what they are buying but the MoJ doesn’t know what they are selling.  Here’s a simplified version of the “high level” talks:


MoJ: “Would you like to buy a CRC?”
Bidder: “I’m interested.  Can you give me a bit more information?”
MoJ: “Like what?”
Bidder: “Can I make a profit?”
MoJ: “Yes, definitely! We have a PbR mechanism but we can’t quite work it out.”
Bidder: “Oh.  Will we have to supervise the under 12 months?  It sounds quite expensive.”
MoJ: “Not sure because it’s not law yet.  They’ll all have £46 on release though!”
Bidder: “Ok. Erm, what about the staff?
MoJ: “What about them?”
Bidder: “Will we have freedom to massively cut numbers and slash wages?”
MoJ: “Well, there’s quite long continuous service and other binding agreements with the unions and they sometimes get a bit shirty…..”
Bidders: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you….”
 
And so on.  Even the civil servants walk around shaking their heads in disbelief at the madness of it.  The staff split has been a horrendous experience but the fight isn’t over by a long way. 


Compliance
You will be asked to undertake all sorts of tasks to assist the government with its insane timetable- they can’t do it without you.  We are still working to contracted hours (not an exact science in our business) and maintaining service delivery (with a staff shortage) in a massive organisational change will not happen if all members just keep to their jobs.  Temps are being induced with massive payments, people are being offered overtime for stationary audits, courts are only kept running through sessional reports.  Literally everything is hanging by a thread and it won’t take much more stress for it to collapse.  After the split, we are still all in the public sector and, until the sell-off, life will be hard but the service can still be rescued.  As the shadow operations crank into gear there will be massive risks to service delivery which could be unknown to us at present.  If you cannot allocate cases or court reports, if people are being constantly “loaned” from NPS to CRC and back again because of the ludicrous staff split, if it takes you additional hours to undertake simple tasks, if partnership work suffers you must let us know because this is exactly what MPs are waiting for.  They need the evidence to hold the minister to account.


CRC or NPS?
To laugh is real gallows humour but many trusts are now undertaking a secondary expression of interest exercise.  Why?  Because people are in the wrong places!  How surprising.  The staff split was never fit for purpose and never agreed, partly because it would cause this amount of chaos.  Senior managers are also tearing their hair out.  Although the secondary EoI is an attempt to prevent staff being overburdened, it just highlights why this whole sorry thing shouldn’t be happening in the first place.  In the early days some were saying that the NPS was a ‘superior’ organisation, we now hear that the thought of micro management by NOMS is driving people into the CRC.  Rock and a hard place indeed. 
 
Meanwhile we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Birmingham next week
   
 
Tom Rendon               Ian Lawrence
National Chair             General Secretary

Thursday, 27 February 2014

What Do We Do Now?

Two views from yesterday that admirably illustrate the mess we're in:-

Would there be less individual pain if there had been more collective solidarity? Probation workers were terribly weak and na├»ve in failing to appreciate the threat. There were leadership failures but there was also a disturbing amount of apathy. More surprising of workers who one would suppose would have an above average awareness of political realities. Clearly not. Given what individuals now know about TR, would they have acted differently if the clock could be turned back? Many individuals in probation worked hard to oppose the dismantling of probation over many years – attending meetings, marching, lobbying, leafleting and striking – but more did nothing. This would be a good time to hold a strike ballot. Yes, I know Napo have signed up to the framework agreement, but they were at pains to tell us they never signed up to the assignment process – the process which is causing a lot of the pain. Those POs assigned to the CRCs have precarious futures.
 
If there is pain out there, there is also anger. What better time to capitalise on this and call a ballot over the damn assignment process. I suspect not as union jobs at Chivalry Road are safe, they have a seat on the Probation Institute and they have probably already calculated what membership base they need to maintain their status quo. This is an opportune time to do something radical. Don't just say we do not like the assignment process and leave individual members to their fate – say this assignment process is fundamentally unfair, and warrants a call to members for solidarity and collective action.


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Hate to state the obvious but there just isn't the stomach for strike action. As regular readers/contributors to this forum we are sensing a more militant tone. Unfortunately it is a relatively small group of regular named bloggers, combined with what I guess is also a limited number of "anonymous" colleagues that make up the majority of the content of our daily debate. In my office only two of us regularly discuss this site and I can tell from reading our area "talking wall" that the hottest topic in recent weeks was the seemingly devastating announcement that those allocated to the NPS would be paid at the end of the month (in arrears) as opposed to the current arrangement of the middle of the month! People generally seem resigned to their fate.

I am equally convinced that neither NAPO or Unison have the bollocks to call for strike action . . lets be honest, they were almost embarrassed/apologetic in instigating the one day . . .errr two day . . .errr two x half day strike last year. By all accounts some areas are just getting on with it, identifying high ROH cases in readiness for the split. Colleagues allocated to CRC are far from envious of their NPS colleagues, instead discussing the merits of not having to churn out robotic PSRs on a daily basis. I note that some regular contributors to the 'PO Twiitter' site are commenting that they won their appeal against being sifted to CRC, but then opted for CRC as a preferred option.

Another observation which doesn't seem to have generated much discussion is the proliferation of senior management posts. I thought anyone at SPO level and above were seriously concerned that they would be joining the ranks of the unemployed . . as far as I can see there are going to be two distinct organisations with double the number of managerial roles!

For every one of us that will stick to our guns and only perform the tasks commensurate with our job description there will be others ready to go the extra mile in the hope of fast - track to management. We are a disjointed bunch made weaker by ineffective unions. When we eventually find out who the successful bidders are for the CRCs, what happens if only one 'mutual' is chosen? e.g. if the Manchester area Mutual prevails does that mean that all the other Mutual bids were somehow inferior . . will we ever get to know the sifting criteria?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

The Pain

I want to start off with an observation and a request. It's quite clear from where I sit that colleagues in all positions in every Probation Trust are getting more and more distressed as the full consequences of TR sink in. We know many are not coping well and are either off on sick leave, or rapidly approaching that point. 

Discussion on here of late has been spirited to say the least, but sometimes not that considerate of some people's position and feelings. Can I ask that before posting any comment, you first take a moment to consider how it would make you feel if directed at yourself and the boot was on the other foot? Some people are hurting a great deal so watch out for them and lets look after each other. I think this from last night neatly sums things up:-

I think what is happening on here is not trolling but people's fears coming through. The lack of real information coming out of what things will look like for every grade whether NPS or CRC will no doubt be wearing everyone down, causing enormous amounts of distress about what the future will hold etc. It is like we are all stuck on hold and it is the feelings of a total lack of control in our lives that is contributing to the fear. If people are turning on each other on here or in the offices, then we are no better than the government. Where are the values that we hold as Probation staff? It may be that in times of blind panic, people are forgetting them as self-preservation kicks in but don't forget who you are and what you stand for if you are considering turning on a colleague just because they were randomly assigned to one organisation or another.

To be perfectly frank, anyone in a position of authority reading some of the agonising and distraught comments left on here, and I mean Chief Officers and Board Chairs, should examine their conscience about the effect this is all having on their workforce now. Whether they are staying in some capacity or other as part of the evolving TR omnishambles, retiring or otherwise riding off into the sunset, what does it take to come out and bloody well say something about what is happening to your staff now?

Having said this I note that the one exception remains Joe Kuipers, Chair of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust who has picked-up on the typically insensitive language used by the predators currently circling us:- 

Embedded image permalink

In his most recent blog post he writes:-

"On the 3SC Website, in their TR update of 23 February, under the MoJ banner and logo suggesting full MoJ support, we see the following, as part of a briefing to VCSE parties interested in playing a role in the new TR landscape, and I quote: 

"How are you going to get your piece of the pie? (Securing your contract?)

You will need a strong USP and fully costed delivery model in order to secure a place in any of the supply chains that will be formed to deliver these services. You may be fortunate to have a relationship with a prime bidder already, if not in criminal justice then perhaps in the welfare to work market. Otherwise you will need to follow the media and sector news. The MoJ are currently facilitating these links for the voluntary sector in CPA events."

Now, to be fair this was just a small element of the advice given, but it is a very telling bit of terminology, a bit like the Justice Secretary's views about the senior and junior partners in the new arrangements (as he reflected in Danny Shaw's recent R4 programme, File on Four). So, our work, which I acknowledge (and always have done) is not perfect, has been reduced to a bit of competitive pie, actually an accurate description as it is carved and sliced and diced for a recipe that may not taste too good."


Joe also goes on to give some insight into the agonies being played out in every Trust as appeals begin to be heard:-

TEARS

"The reality for staff going through the assignment process has been painfully brought home to me when chairing appeal hearings. In our trust we are handling these in-house, although external consultancy was offered to assist (there is no way that we would devolve such a responsibility). I won't go into detail, but the pain for the officer involved in one such appeal nearly brought tears to my eyes - the officer presented the case with dignity, professionalism and was unsurprisingly upset through the process. So, this pie that others are talking about comes down to excellent colleagues such as this feeling torn apart, carved, sliced and diced. I know I have asked staff to try to work together in the future, but I can see just what a huge ask that is."

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Previous Highlights

The blog on Sunday generated a huge amount of discussion and comment on a number of important issues. Indeed so much so, I've decided to pick a few out in order to fill today's blank page. Thanks everyone.

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I think pretty much anyone not directly affected, or who doesn't think they're directly affected, will be rofl-ing. The giggling will stop when the reality of this TR omnishambles hits home with clients and communities alike.

More recalls, linked and protracted benefit sanctions, no access to a supervising officer, back to court for no clear reason, serious further offences, deaths, huge debts for court appearances and/or jail fees, increased criminal activity to compensate, increased numbers who feel excluded, entrenched criminal 'underclass' - with territorial gang warfare developing as people protect themselves - ghettoisation of families already socially isolated on 'benefit street', a call for arming the police as violence increases (water cannon, firearms), CRC and NPS in meltdown as they (1) publicly blame each other over case decisions & (2) haemorrhage staff from the gaping wound that is the TR omnishambles.

Having a giggle? Having a laugh? Not for long.


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Small top senior management team of 3 from Northumbria Trust meeting senior executives from Sodexo this week at a location unknown. This meeting not made public yet. Apparently Sodexo senior executives have already been taken by senior managers from Northumbria to meet service user council a few weeks ago. I'm lead to believe the SUC reps were not impressed by what Sodexo had to say. Need a good investigative journalist to get stuck into this TR and the behind closed doors deals being done to the detriment of probation staff especially in CRCs

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On the subject of Mutual alliances . . .at our last area staff conference, W.Yorks were informed that we were joining forces with Northumbria (I think!) to make a bid for the CRC. We had a pre-recorded audio - visual presentation from their CEO (or similar) extolling the virtues of both areas and how we would make a fine team. Clearly discussions were well down the line; time, effort, resources and finance must have have been utilised. It was a rallying call to get the troops on board and get behind this TR thing that was going to happen whether we liked it or not.

Then, almost as quickly as it was announced, it was no more! No real explanation, just that it was no longer happening. Once again I ask why? What did Northumbria know that W.Yorks didn't, or vice - versa. Did someone at the lofty heights of management get a call on the bat-phone . . .something along the lines of "it was all going so well for you untill you fell into bed with the wrong people!" Someone out there knows the answer . Come on people blow the whistle. No CEO works in isolation, they all send letters/e- mails, they all have personal secretaries. Tell us who communicates directly with MOJ. Senior management do not commit time and effort to a project and then pull it at the last minute unless someone else is pulling the strings.


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Having worked with various companies when the work programme was first rolled out I know a bit about the way it works in the private sector regarding government contracts. It's not a case that many failed early on, they were simply starved and abused by the big players. It was made so impossible to operate, you either closed up leaving a vacancy in the market for the big boys to step into, or you were absorbed in full by the big boys into their operation and did things their way.

For example:- CRCs will require need to use for some clients a drug support agency. That agency will be paid x amount per person referred. But once the private companies are familiar with the processes they'll employ a couple of drug workers on a shite rate of pay to deal with those needing referral. It leaves the drug agency little option but to shut down through lack of referrals or (as the big boys are now holding all the cards) amalgamate and become an extension of the prime company.


So please be careful. I respect your opinion and your decisions but I can't express enough how shockingly cut throat, unethical and disturbing this type of outsourcing really is. Being familiar with good working practices and having an ethical and social conscience, I would argue, makes you even more vulnerable.


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Was it Frank Curran who gave the advice to Dorset, Devon & Cornwall senior managers to give The Shaw Trust all the information they needed to put together a bid as a prime, without getting any agreement to form a mutual in writing, enabling them to be dropped sharpish? If it was, I really wouldn't bother going to that conference.

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I think many are confusing the 7 years terms and conditions protection and redundancy. Yes, t's and c's are safe for 7 years but obviously that is only if you're in a job. According to documents sent to those in unison in my team it also highlights that there will be no redundancies for 6 months. Basically, after 6 months they can get rid of who they want - terms and conds mean jack all then.This happened in HMP Northumberland- please don't think that this isn't a real risk. It will be written into contracts regarding redundancies but I imagine this will be a common feature of any takeover bid with any company.

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Any PO's who are in CRC's will be the first to go post sale. The fact is that you are not needed as you will only be doing a job that a 'cheaper' PSO can do. They in turn will be replaced by cheaper staff once the like of Sodexo etc get to grips with things. Mention was previously made of HMP Northumberland where, post sale, the first thing they did was lay off 200 of the 500+ staff; nearly half. Yeah, the prison is probably shit now but that is not and never has been the main driver behind the actions of private companies.

Face it, we've all been shafted by both the MoJ and our own Trusts. Now be a good sheep, get back to work tomorrow, do not question anything and just do as you are told.

Oh, and enjoy your TR training...it's likely to be your last!


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If this is the point that we recognise there is no role for POs in the CRCs (as suggested above) are we being made redundant NOW? I think there is a real possibility we should be taking legal advice NOW. I suggest:
1. all unionised colleagues write to their branch chairs requesting that they take legal advice on their position on this basis immediately.
2. submit FOI requests asking for the CRC PO job description now. If it can't be produced it does not exist.
3. There is a generous redundancy package available that THEY think is just for senior managers well really if we have in effect been made redundant NOW, let's have it for all the CRC POs whose roles have disappeared.


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Exactly! what on earth will PO's be doing in CRC's, I cannot see any role for them. They have been sold down the river. As anon15:04 says is there any chance for class action?Someone on twitter pointed out that The Ministry of Justice is planning to pay private companies to make them redundant. Bidders will, based on the data provided on current staffing levels on each CPA, include in their bids for Year 1 the number of redundancies they plan to make and the costs of these redundancies.

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Also, from what I have been reading up on it will be important for all POs sifted into CRC to put in a grievance about this change of role and responsibilities and constructive dismissal then when it comes to a tribunal, if our grievances are ignored the tribunal can take this into account and order additional compensation. I am going to give the union a set amount of time to respond and then begin making my own enquiries (although why should we be having to do this when part of a union is beyond me!).

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I feel a bit thick for asking this, but as TR rumbles on I seem to be getting more confused daily. But... If a CRC think an offender should be breached, they hand the file to the NPS to effect breach procedures, (is that right)?
But does the person in the NPS who receives the file and request for breach have to act automatically on that request or do they have the autonomy to return the paperwork to the CRC with 'no action taken' because they feel breach is unwarranted at this stage?
Sorry if that's a stupid question.

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Not a stupid question at all but rather an accurate description of the procedure. Our area have had the briefing. CRC staff pass breach details to NPS. If NPS staff disagree with the breach they can make the ultimate decision not to proceed with it. First of all this is insulting to CRC staff who don't forget are also qualified, experienced probation staff who are quite capable of making sound decisions. Secondly, I would like to see the brave member of NPS turning down a breach as they will be leaving themselves wide open come SFO investigation. 

This leads me to another point. NPS staff will shoulder the majority of the burden and responsibility for individuals who they will have no personal knowledge of. As we progressed through the briefing I think NPS staff were getting a little uneasy, shifting in seats and nervous coughs - the buck stops well and truly with NPS.

So, lets get on to resettlement - CRC staff can still manage these cases but NPS will prepare all reports. When it comes to an oral hearing both NPS report author and CRC staff member will attend - fabulous idea. Why send one officer when you can have two. Oh , sorry , I forgot NPS staff are the cream of the crop and of course CRC staff will need their expert guidance *twist of the head with attitude and pout*

Lets just say anyone standing outside of the room during our briefing would think we had a top billing standup comedian on the team meeting agenda with the amount of laughter. Don't get me started on the RISK ESCALATION FORM. my god, what a joke.

It really is quite scary to think of what 'they've' come up with. I can imagine 'them' all sitting in that there London, highfiving each other. Actually, I feel really embarrassed for whoever wrote these new procedures thinking they've done a good job. Aww, I'm sorry to tell you that you have completely fucked up. The fact that more than one of Graylings minions will have got their heads together to come up with this shit is even worse.

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At the moment sentencers in West Yorks can use Supervision and Programme requirements instead of PSA Activity requirements, and often choose to do so. But what happens when these disappear under the new Act? The only alternative will be custody. 

True, this new Activity model is unpopular, but nobody has to follow the way WY is doing it. PSA is not the same as an Activity Requirement, it's just one way of working an Activity Requirement. I'm sure other Trusts (sorry CRC contractors) will make a better job of it and devise something better than PSA to use in their areas.

But, what happens when each CRC are operating different practices and models? The NPS will be working to a different model again, so any cases being passed between CRC and NPS will be very confused, and each CRC will be working differently to each other, so any sideways transfers again will get confused. I really don't get this CRC/ NPS split - it makes no sense, at all. Are NPS supposed to devise their own version of PSA, and if so would this be national?

PSA in West Yorkshire is a confused muddle. What will it be like when each area has it's own different muddle?


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If, as I indicated in earlier posts, Post Sentence Assessment / Generic Activity Requirements are the future in all CRC / NPS areas then we may have to enlist the help of the Judiciary and the Magistrates. I can tell you from direct experience that Magistrates in West Yorks loathe the practice. Whereas they used to take pride and show interest in sentencing an offender to a specific activity / programme, they are now pretty much left to pronounce rather sheepishly (cos they don't really understand it) . . . "we are not sending you to custody today, instead we are giving you a 12 month Community Order with a 30 day Activity Requirement" . . .look of confusion all round as if to say "is that it ?". Because that kind of generic sentencing lacks any detail, magistrates are now latching on to the fact that all CO's have to contain a punitive element and before long the 'punitive' sanction will have more credence than the 'rehabilitative' element.

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I thought CRCs were staffed by probation SPO, PO and PSO staff. If they send a breach to NPS, and if I've read blog correctly, CRC staff will be just as experienced, competent and able to decide on breaches. If that is overturned by NPS staff that its not warranted at this point, on what grounds would the decision be made? Would NPS staff seek to interview the service user themselves because they question the judgement of the CRC staff. I can see that causing a massive amount of professional friction and duplication of effort. NPS staff would need to provide evidence/ information to CRC staff, which I guess would put the nose out of CRC staff.

I could imagine that any opportunity that a CRC member of staff get to have one back on NPS staff would follow... Very very divisive, what an absolutely mad situation. At moment probation serves the public well, is joined up, and effective. Being replaced by systems aimed at serving share holders, us divisive, fragmented and untested. Whistle blowers get ready, journalists get ready, there is going to be plenty of negative stuff coming from probation. I hope no matters which leads to a child(ren) or person(s) being seriously hurt or killed due to this idiotic TR experiment occurs.

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Grayling was at the BBC and maybe experienced a successful TQM exercise which was used at the BBC using the DRIVER approach:

* define the project
* review the business baseline
* identify opportunities
* verify opportunities
* evaluate & plan implementation
* review and report

The review highlighted that many of the ways of doing business had simply grown up and turned into traditions... The opportunities to improve were clear. Reduced staffing, modified work practices and a general focus by managers on the bottom line... it was recognised that for these changes to have any durability or long lasting impact upon the business it was vitally important that everyone in the business understood the part they had to play in turning it around... this approach was suggested as a template for application in the public sector.

What is missed out above, and what Grayling etc have also missed out, are the fundamentals of what TQM is. It is NOT a top-down imposition at a rate of knots for the sake of political expediency, it is an inclusive, collaborative process that requires careful design and implementation.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Bidders - 5 Reasons To Say No!

I don't know what other people think, but if the comments on this blog over the last few days are anything to go by, there has been a definite mood change as more and more probation staff at last wake up to the stark realities of this TR omnishambles.

I've been genuinely shocked by the degree of ignorance and complacency, despite a thorough airing of the issues over many months, about what is in store for staff transferring to both NPS and CRC. It really has to be a case of 'better late than never' but trying to stop this whole sorry mess now is quite an uphill struggle. Realistically the only way is to seriously put the wind up as many potential bidders as possible, so in that vein and to kick things off, here are some reasons to give the whole thing a miss and it's specifically directed at the likes of Sodexo, Capita and Interserve.

1.You will be employing an army of subversives

You probably don't know much about probation staff, particularly probation officers and probation services officers, but they are a canny, tenacious and principled bunch and make no mistake, they're angry! Just a casual glance through the comments section of this blog or the Napo Forum pages should suffice in obtaining the picture. 

Apparently Grayling has instructed or 'imposed' on probation trusts an 8 week 'practice' of TR operating procedures from 1st April 2014. I'm sure a strategy of non co operation could be devised by someone in the know in probation. Apparently the stuff sent out by MOJ/NOMS is laughable, compromises public safety, duplicated processes, hinders joined up communication and working and undermines service users involvement etc etc. NAPO should insist that this 'practice run' should follow the TR operating procedures to the letter, immediate split working, transfer of cases between NPS and CRC, admin split, use of new forms etc. 

If probation staff/trusts try to mitigate the obvious flaws in TR operating model then it's not a real and valid practice, and is a pointless exercise, unless cynically Grayling is not bothered about the 8 week 'practice period' it's just so he can say that he has done it. Use this blog, napo blog, tweeter and Facebook to highlight and shame any trust which is seeking to tinker with the practice period to make it look good (WHISTLE BLOW SO EVERYONE CAN HEAR IN THE PRESS). When the going gets tough, the tough get going - Grayling not playing by Queensbury rules so fight fire with fire.

They are not going to roll-over and meekly go along with this shit. By the time they reach your employ, they will largely be bereft of their former probation ideology and ethos because they know full well they will fall victim to the first restructuring that comes along. They will not be assisting with smoothing out any teething troubles, will work rigidly to job descriptions and be more than willing to whistle blow at the first opportunity.

Back to Dan Shaw's File on 4 programme and we have a fairly clear picture from the non-answer by Phil Andrew (Working Links):

Shaw - will you keep the probation staff in place, the experience that they bring?

Andrew - the aim that we have is to pretty much take the organisation on as it is and then look at it over a period of a year or so. If we're bringing in probation in a particular region, into a national company, there are synergies to be had there, particularly from a back office perspective...

Shaw - ... that means cutting staff doesn't it?

Andrew - ... that means cutting costs, doing things more effectively... 

Shaw - ... which inevitably means fewer staff?

Andrew - ... it may mean fewer staff, at the end of the day our focus is to make a social difference by reducing reoffending we create savings for the taxpayer and if we make a small return, and it will be a very small return on top of that, then that's entirely appropriate, but its not our primary objective.


So there's a bidder with a clear one year shelf-life for probation staff.

Richard Johnson (ex-Serco Welfare to Work) spoke of the "winner's curse", where the contract winner has offered to do the job at the lowest price, then has to cut corners to achieve results - and in working with offenders that will put the public at significant risk. 
The obvious corner to cut at this stage must surely be the expensive PO grade staff in the CRC?

2. You know zilch about the work

Because this will undoubtedly be a new venture for you, you will have to rely initially on the expertise of highly experienced probation staff. Some will be enormously flattered at the offer of promotion, increased salary and a company car but, as we all know, within two years they will all be dispensed with when they've imparted all their vast knowledge and experience. You will then be left with an increasingly in-house-recruited and trained workforce and you will think that will be sufficient to service the contract effectively. You will be disabused of this notion in short order because this work is highly complex, clients are not widgets and the MoJ have devised a bureaucratic nightmare. 
   
3. It will seriously damage your reputation

Your company's reputation is important to you and your shareholders, but it will take a severe bashing the first time one of the low or medium risk people you are supervising goes out and murders one or two people with an axe. You will have to hope that they have been seen regularly and that the computer record is up to date. You will have to be prepared to explain to an angry press, public and Minister why you didn't know they collected axes for a hobby and 'didn't like people looking at them funny'.

When you've culled most of the expensive probation staff and replaced them with the low-paid and poorly trained, you will have to explain why they've been found to be sleeping with clients and searching the computer database for their mates. None of this will look good on the front page of the Daily Mail and you will not be particularly assisted by the changes to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act:-

'It will remain the case that fuller disclosure of cautions and convictions will continue to apply to a range of sensitive occupations and activities' 

- but NOT THE CRCS! Take a look at the Target Operating Model and it's clear that, unlike in Probation now, CRC applicants will be covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act! Better still, with the changes announced to the act now being introduced an applicant will be legally entitled to conceal a conviction for an offence attracting a community order just 1 year after the order expires. Looks like Grayling wants to be certain that there's a wider pool of 'old lags' for the CRCs to call on, never mind the risk they could pose to vulnerable clients!

                    
4. It won't work

Clients are not widgets and cannot be processed as such. There isn't a day that goes by that doesn't see the government making the process of rehabilitation that much more difficult for probation clients. Many have serious health problems, but Atos assessments pronounce them fit for work. A lot lead chaotic lives due to mental health issues or drug and alcohol dependency and often miss appointments. They get sanctioned by Job Centre Plus and have no money. They become homeless quickly due to rent arrears brought on by the bedroom tax or any number of other new taxes being dreamt up by Chris Grayling.

Imprisonment will no longer be a way of starting afresh with a clean slate because there will be that £600 bill to pay towards the cost of the court hearing and only the much-lauded £46 with which to make a down payment. 

Anyone convicted of a crime will be required to pay a charge of up to £600 under Government plans to force offenders to contribute towards the cost of running the country’s courts. Convicted criminals will be forced to pay the levy, even if they plead guilty to the offence, the Justice Secretary will announce this week.

Chris Grayling hopes the proposals will raise up to £80 million per year to cover a portion of the cost of running criminal trials in England and Wales. Currently, offenders are not charged for the cost of administering their case when they are convicted of a crime. In some cases, judges can require criminals to pay fines, and compensation to victims, as well as to make a contribution towards the costs of the prosecution lawyers in the case.


They are not going to be happy bunnies, the under 12 month people, because they've been round the system a few times and are used to coming out with no interference from authority. They are going to kick-off big style at 12 month supervision, drug testing and having to wear a tag. They are not just going to be belligerent, they will not co-operate, will have to be breached and some will undoubtedly be threatening and violent towards staff they don't know and who they find out work for a private company. This from the Financial Times:-

Persistent death threats against staff who decide whether sick and disabled people are eligible for benefits have forced the private company employing them to seek an early exit from a £500m government contract. With opposition Labour MPs also stepping up criticism, Atos Healthcare said the political environment had become untenable and that it was no longer fair to employees to leave them vulnerable to attack.

“It is becoming incredibly difficult for our staff; it’s pretty unpleasant,” people close to the company said. About 163 incidents of the public assaulting or abusing staff were recorded each month last year, Atos said. At protests outside 45 Atos offices this week, names of individual doctors were chanted, while many of the 2,000 staff employed to carry out the work had received death threats both in person or on Facebook and Twitter, as well as bullying at the company’s assessment centres. Examples on Facebook include: “murdering scumbags . . . won’t be smiling when we come to hang you bastards”. Another says: “Know anyone who works for Atos? Kill them.”

5. You won't make any money

The whole point about bidding for this poisoned chalice is to make money. You can't because you won't be able to deliver on the Payment by Results element and the Fee For Service will depend on cutting costs. Not for you will be all this bollocks about 'co-locating' with NPS and having to pay those ridiculously high MoJ rents, but that just increases the bureaucratic nightmare you have to cope with in connection with the NPS interface. The MoJ computer systems are shite - ask any probation officer - and there will be costs associated in developing your own. 

The MoJ's own risk register puts TR in the highest category of failure. Their track record on contracting for court interpreters, court administration, IT delivery, electronic tagging, Unpaid Work, etc has been a disaster. What makes you think TR will be a success?     

You have to ask yourself - is all this really worth the hassle?

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Post Sentence Assessment - The Verdict

Here's some of the best comments from yesterday on West Yorkshire's award-winning flagship innovation 'Post Sentence Assessment'

"As Chief Executive of the DTV Probation Trust, Russell [Bruce] is charged with running a business". There's the rub. Nowt about working with clients. Its about a profitable business model with people as widgets to be processed in as cost-effective means as possible. Won't be long before we have the introduction of Japanese industrial 'just-in-time' techniques, CRC sponsorship by Toyota in Derbyshire? By Nissan in the Teesside? By Honda in Wiltshire? Court to Induction to Activity to Completion.

Efficient use of public funds is not criminal, but using that as a means to effect de-humanisation of the client group is. Informing people about ways in which they can improve their lives and behaviour and reduce the impact upon others is invaluable, but it will not be achieved by simply processing groups of 'assets'.

My caseload is not a collection of credit notes waiting to be cashed in. It is primarily a collection of variously damaged, disenfranchised, disturbed and dysfunctional men and women who have never been listened to, never been shown any respect, never had more than ten minutes with another person without being abused physically, emotionally, or verbally. The fact that they self-medicate with (variously and/or collectively) adrenalin, alcohol, opiates, amphetamine, benzodiazepines, legal highs should not come as a surprise.

Most of them don't like me because I am part of the system. Many don't want to talk to me because they don't trust me. Some have been in our system for almost ten years (due to back-to-back Orders), others are just starting a lengthy relationship, and yet others are taking what will be their first and only glancing blow with our service. This in addition to those with lifetime requirements of contact.


This is the joy of my caseload, and my professional experience is richer as a result. I am not an accountant. I am not an administrator. I am not a production operative. I am a Probation Officer. As of very soon I will no longer be employed as such. I am sad, I am angry and I fear for the impact upon everyone.

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I'm friendly with a PSO who now works in West Yorkshire. She says that Post Sentence Assessment is used by some practitioners to good effect (especially where other agencies are involved but this requires good knowledge of local resources) and in principle it was a good idea. She says it is a mess though because the expectation is that most offenders do a group to cover their days. The groups are untested, they invite 20 or so to the first group (this is 20 people who may not have been seen for many weeks or even months because of waiting lists so are not motivated) in the hope that some might turn up, and the groups complete with only a small handful still attending. As a result most finish their orders without attending many times and without any meaningful intervention as staff are told not to see people while they are waiting for groups, and the orders are very difficult to breach. Word has quickly got out that people just need to be a bit difficult - eg have GP appointments, sick notes for depression, or claim that if they don't attend JobCetre they will get sanctioned - to avoid groups, appointments and breach.

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Of course, all the evidence suggests 1-1 - face to face working/therapeutic relationships are the most helpful and productive means by which to encourage, achieve and sustain change.................which is why all these tin pot projects are doomed, Capt Mainwaring!

They rely heavily on group work, and whilst I have always been a supporter of group work, it has always been as an add on, not the be all and end all. This way of working, lacks any need to build relationships or to get inside the head and lives of clients, because 'someone else delivers it and it's a template, it has no soul'. It could be delivered by a volunteer, a private company, an 'old lag' a charity, or other organisation....of which we know very little - about their motivation, their ethical base or in some causes their legitimacy. The 'OM' - PO or PSO becomes an administrator, nothing else. Just as with the introduction of conducting key milestones in the lives of prisoners, by video links, phone conferences and through 3rd parties, bollocks, all of it.

I was always excited by the term end to end management, i.e. you wrote the report, and saw out whatever the court imposed, offering continuity and knowledge and hopefully, the trust which began to emerge at the Report stage. Also, because it trumpets the relationships we form with people, it supports the idea that a single person, appropriately trained and qualified, yes those dirty words, can have a significant, neigh humongous impact on a client. TR, like PSA and similar plots, dispense with this in favour of sound bites, without any substance. TR is doing a fine job, assisted by Trusts who say nothing, in transforming our clients into commodities........and the results will be disastrous for clients and painful for those of us, who continue to try to derail TR, but whose voices are largely ignored.


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I'm prepared to accept that there are a range of motivations for bringing in approaches like PSA. Among these, though probably unspoken, will be the possibility for earning reputation, and money. Along with this I think there is a genuine desire to improve the standard of practice of some staff (and maybe rein in those who went native some time ago) - but this very quickly slipped into standardisation and levelling down skills, not enabling practitioners. In my trust the roll-out of SEEDS came with desistance fanfares and dewy-eyed treatises about the importance of individual skill, but the counter-revolutionary tanks of "you do this work with everyone, all the time, or you'll answer to us" have now rolled in. Any good intentions have just fattened up the goose for the privatisation Christmas.

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Your all making the assumption that 'Activity Requirement' = accredited programme ! Oh no it doesn't . . .it means x no.of days of "meaningful activity". . this can be any old shite delivered by absolutely anyone, it is the model for CRC. Please don't get me started on 'Action For Change' !. . . non - accredited piffle delivered to any size groups where s.u.'s (yes I'm brainwashed) can all have different offences; be of different ages; different sex and be serving a community sentence or be on Licence. Get this, the content can be made up as you go along . . .would you believe a trip to the local theatre was deemed a days 'meaningfull activity' . . I kid you not.

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Current programmes open to and offered by probation services are not under question as they stand. They're delivered and foucused on effecting change to offending behaviour and helping to change lives for the better. The concern being raised is when the private sector have responsibility and access to these tools, where the focus changes from changing lives and assisting people, to profit margins and shareholder dividends.

Probation is no longer going to be a service, it's an industry. The private sector will take everything they can and gear it towards profit. That is it's primary focus. Social values, public safety, clients development will all come a very distant second to happy shareholders.


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This is utter bloody madness. Staff are overheads and clients are collateral, the bottom line ie profit is king. Let's hear it for the Tories and Lib Dems!!!

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Post Sentence Assessment - Trojan Horse?

Yet again this blog throws up a fascinating discussion, this time on the West Yorkshire initiative called 'Post Sentence Assessment'. I first heard about this in 2012 and started to write about it, but it ended up languishing in a long-forgotten corner of the laptop, until today that is. This is what I was going to say about it back then:-

I was recently alerted to some discussion on the NAPO forum pages concerning an interesting sentencing initiative 'Post Sentence Assessment' up there in West Yorkshire. I'm told that the recent NAPO conference in York was treated to a workshop by their Director of Operations Mark Siddall who made a fleeting appearance at the tail end and thus was sadly unable to take a more active part in proceedings.

It seems that during a somewhat pedestrian powerpoint presentation he was nevertheless able to offer some fascinating insights into how he took on both the senior judges of Leeds and Bradford in a 'he who dares wins' encounter over dinner. Referring to 'eye watering' exchanges with the judges, he apparently quoted 'chapter and verse' when they suggested that what was being proposed might not be legal. If true, a particularly risky strategy at the best of times I would have thought. He reported that both the Ministry of Justice and NOMS had concerns also, but the scheme has been running since January and of course if it delivers as promised, shall we say it does nicely accord with government policy, whether it's strictly legal or not. 

Well of course things have moved on considerably and clearly West Yorkshire felt they'd struck gold because I'm told they tried to sell their brilliant idea to other bemused Trusts, but with no success. By the way, even though Mark Siddall seems to be very happy taking all the credit for the wheeze, I'm also told that it wasn't his brainwave at all, but rather that of Sarah Jarvis who left for pastures new over the Pennines shortly afterwards.

Interestingly, another source tells me that when Jeremy Wright paid a visit to West Yorkshire he latched onto PSA straight away and could immediately see how it could be a key part of the TR omnishambles. So, well done West Yorks!

Anyway, I'm not going to say much more on a subject I know little about and will let the comment thread from yesterday take up the story:-

I'd just like to make a mention of what someone put as a comment on yesterday's blog. It is regarding West Yorkshire's Post Sentence Assessment. What I understand there is that instead of having a year's Supervision Requirement, say, they are proposing something like a 20 day Specified Activity Requirement and expecting offenders to attend 20 times within the 12 months of the Community Order. 

The problem I have heard, loud and clear, is that most of these Orders are ended without the Days actually being completed. Indeed many Orders have very few 'Days' completed because people don't get on programmes or groups and aren't seen when they are on waiting lists, or just aren't suitable for working in groups, or don't turn up. An FOI request would be interesting to help clarify the evidence, but I hear that senior managers have as much as admitted this and blamed front line staff. 


The problem for any privateers if working this way would be if they then tried to close the case on NDelius at the 12 month mark and took payment, they would be open to claims of fraud in the same way that Serco are now on tagging contracts. In fact, I think the way that PSA is structured makes this almost inevitable. If West Yorkshire's way becomes a cornerstone of TR through the creation of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements the future is perilous for private companies. Much better for them to have Supervision and Programme Requirements.


In my mind, any such contracted PSA system in private hands would lead to high levels of media scrutiny, reputational damage and possible criminal investigation. Let's face it, we can't currently end 200 hours of UPW when only 130 had been completed. To claim the 200 hours would be fraud, so the future of contracts looks very troubled indeed if government and companies go down this route.


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But if WY aren't completing Orders, shouldn't we know how much or how many are being completed? This would give a baseline of what existing staff can provide and give contractors an idea of how much performance they would need to add to meet their contracts? Am I missing something here? Sounds like an FOI request to me.

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You need to read up on the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement in the Offender Rehabilitation Bill. In effect this signals the end of court imposed specified activities, giving all the discretion to the CRC provider to determine the programme of supervision. 

A successful completion will be getting to the end of the order, not completing the actual number of days which are simply set as a maximum. This does not affect unpaid work or treatment requirements. This is supposed to free up the new providers to do what works for rehabilitation.


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The WY PSA model, was I think, an early attempt to shape CRC work. Community Orders for whatever period may have 15 activity days, 30, 50 or 60. Nothing in between. It is true that Supervision as a Requirement, is not actively sought in the majority of cases, generally reserved for Sexual Offenders and DV cases; who continue to get fairly long periods on a Community Order, coupled with interventions such as NSOG (60) or Building Better Relationships (50) both High Activity Requirements, or Safer Relationships (30).

The low/med risk cases complete their activity days, based on Post Sentence Assessment and may include; 8 x OB groupwork sessions (Action for Change) 2 x Victim Awareness Module, 6 x ETE sessions, 10 x sessions with a drug/alcohol support group/intervention, or Hate Crime Module, Drink Driving Group etc etc. I'm sure you get the idea. Once the sessions/activity days are complete you can terminate the case - it is done, as there is no supervision activity to continue for the full 12 months. SSSO, Curfews, AC's and UPW can stand alone.

There are however serious administration issues associated with the PSA which WY are trying to get sorted. The original idea was to reduce the number of 1-1 supervision orders, that is for sure. However, to monitor the system, you need to record, contacts etc under the right line in NDelius and this is easier said than done. You need a procedure, that everyone buys into and fully understands; and it assumes other partner organisations etc will give you information re: attendance etc.
 


A major problem of PSA, from my perspective is that there are not enough activities running in order to get clients through their court orders, quickly, whilst motivation remains high and if there is no supervision, you lose people. Long, very long waiting lists for Sex Offender Treatment, for instance means that more of what would be group work or interventions work, is having to be done by OM's and in my view being put onto 'pathways' to treatment, which are driven by numbers, as opposed to the appropriateness of the clients passage into treatment. For example, rather than do a core programme, OM's do the initial 4 sessions and the men, as they are men, are fast tracked into Better Lives, or Relapse Prevention, whatever you want to call it. 

It is/was a brave attempt to focus attention, provide a wide variety of interventions and to retain the respect of the judiciary, but just because they have done away with National Standards in favour of professional judgement and desistence, the staff resources to run programmes, groups etc are just not there. 

WYT are getting tough on staff, printing off charts to demonstrate failings in recording etc which may reflect badly on PSA, but in reality, the performance charts are artificial, as the monitoring system makes no allowances for things we cannot actually achieve, with the best will in the world and so all it does is demoralise staff.

Now if you fling all this into the mix of Crams to delius, new templates for everything, r-oasys, all of which are still throwing up all kinds of glitches, and TR on top....I am surprised WY staff have battled on, or maybe we are just ahead of the game, and things can hardly get any worse.


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You put in a lot of detail in there, and I kind of followed it (some of it), and thanks for trying to explain it. But doesn't all the evidence suggest that it is one to one work and relationships that makes the difference? Not groups, activities and blunt interventions? That is my experience and I think it's the message of desistance research. Sounds like you are trying to get square pegs in round holes...that surely is a very expensive route to failure. Maybe a Freedom of Information request might prove or disprove that?.

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Sounds reminiscent of a work fare type scenario whereby a schedule of tasks was presented to the claimant by the PbR agency to facilitate eligibility for benefits. The catch? It was never achievable. Not meeting the criteria led to sanction, whereas anyone claiming to have completed all the tasks was sanctioned (& in some cases referred for prosecution) for fraud. The financial benefit to the agency was its success in detecting fraudulent claims, a prized criteria worth more than being successful with the client.

The wiles of the cash hungry are beyond our wildest imaginations. And even holier-than-thou MPs like Blunkett take the shilling.

Maybe we pay a retainer to our most innovative clients in return for ideas as to how to maximise profit in the shark infested world of dodgy business?


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I started the thread re WYPT and 'PSA'. I am guessing that anon at 20:57 is currently employed by the same Trust . .too much inside information to be an outsider. My aim was not to educate re 'Activity Requirements' . . you'll all get that soon enough! but more to highlight the extent to which senior management has colluded with MOJ in the whole process of TR.

Vast resources, both staff and finance, have been pumped into making sure PSA is up and running. Alongside this similar resources have been used to make a 'Mutual' bid for the CRC. 'PSA' had been in the planning for months before roll out and needed the authority from Judges in the WY area. Similarly specialist 'low risk' teams were created and PSO's were recruited on temporary contracts specifically to manage low risk service - users.

 
I sat in a briefing with Mark Siddall (ops director) as far back as Jan 2012 when he was actively promoting PSA / Activity Req's as the future . . .we would be experts in delivery....we should be careful as to whom we shared our knowledge . . .we would be needed to deliver the model to other areas . . .and yes . . .we would be able to sell our expertise.

 
I'm now getting to my point! How did he know all this so long ago? Given that this whole thing was his baby, recognition at Buck Palace etc; why, just when he could bathe in all its glory, does he decide to take early retirement? Why did Sue Hall accept a senior position with CRC only to pull out days later ?


Something doesn't add up. People know more than they are telling. Please will at least one CEO or the like, spill the beans. It will inevitably "come out in the wash" but timing could be crucial.


Just to finish . . .all this gratis TR preparation work in W. Yorks was done with the full knowledge of both NAPO and Unison. I was sat next to my Union rep in the very briefing I refer to above!


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I read about WYPT with interest but can't help feeling you should be looking to Durham and Teesside Trust for the forerunner for the CRC model. All offenders complete the 10 session (but could take up to 16 with reviews) Citizenship Programme with the OM either PO or PSO grade dependent on ROH. They then pass onto a CSS officer (not Tier 4, MAPPA, CP or DV cases) who is a PSO grade and can hold 100 cases, there are examples of this. Supervision can then include using bulk reporting centres staffed by volunteers (yes truly).

I bet the MOJ have watched this model with interest. I hear practitioners were very concerned about the Citizenship Programme but it was imposed with a very tight fist by the exec team. No-one gets to know their offenders they are simply processed and then move on. When their Chief Exec also became Cumbria's Chief he tried to impose this model on them but as he was less influential there - not having appointed the exec team himself - it did not happen. This model has been running in Durham for three years so there is a lot of data on it available.