Saturday, 14 February 2015

Bits and Pieces 2

It's Saturday morning and I've got nothing prepared. As was said yesterday, we're still hurting and in such circumstances it's hard to be focused. 

I'm still absorbing the discussion that was generated yesterday about what the hell we do to shake Napo out of its denial of a problem at the top. It's just all so sad and in the absence of any effective leadership, my only suggestion is that the NEC will have to get a grip and start some very old-fashioned plotting. It strikes me that the time for pussy-footing around has gone and it's only a row that will flush out the issues, crystallise who exactly is in charge and initiate the process of self-examination and renewal.

Ok, having got that out of the way, what next? Searching back through unpublished stuff, in desperation I've decided today is the day to resurrect a slot for all the stuff that doesn't seem to fit neatly into any particular category. It's old news, but probably worth mentioning, and who knows, it might get more up-to-the-minute towards the end:-   

On the theme of politics, it's interesting to note that Labour have highlighted the scandalous loss of nearly a million voters off the Electoral Roll this year. Because of changes to the registration process, colleges and universities no longer undertake 'block' registrations on behalf of students, so guess what? They've slipped off registers with the government sarcastically responding that 'it's really easy to register online.' It probably is, but the default position is that they won't, and guess what? Students are probably more likely to vote Labour than Conservative. This on the BBC News website. 

This is a bit old now, but I really can't let the Hinchingbrooke Hospital story go without comment, not least because it serves to illustrate an obvious fact of life, namely that any public service that is privatised must deliver a profit, or the contract gets handed back. And it's worth noting that Circle Partnership started out as a supposedly 'employee-owned' company.

Although not quite the same as the NHS situation, once the probation TR privateers start to lose money and get bad inspection reports, the contract will effectively become worthless and will similarly be surrendered. This in the Independent:-

"The first private company to be put in charge of an NHS hospital has announced plans to withdraw from its contract, hours before inspectors recommended the hospital be placed in special measures because of “inadequate” care.

Circle Holdings plc said its contract to run the Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire was “no longer sustainable”, citing 10 per cent funding cuts, “unprecedented increases in accident and emergency attendances” and a lack of care services in the area for people leaving hospital."

It's not been good news recently for the private sector generally with the announcement that the government have got fed up with the outfit running the decommissioning of the Sellafield nuclear site and have effectively sacked them:-

"It had been on the cards for a while but now it is official. The scale of the problems within the Sellafield nuclear waste clean up operation has led to the contract being ripped up and existing providers Nuclear Management Partners (NMP) being relieved of their duties. The NMP consortium, comprising of the UK’s Amec, France’s Areva and America’s URS, has had their 17 year contract ended after just 6 years.

Over that short period both the National Audit Office (NAO) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) have been damning in their criticism of NMP’s failings. So much so that it had been a real surprise when the 2014 break clause in the NMP contract was not triggered having been awarded a five year extension in 2013 despite an already significant catalogue of failings."

It's interesting to see that not all Liberal Democrats think supporting TR was a good idea:-

"There are many problems with this reorganisation. Prisoners do not stay neatly in one category of risk – if they move from medium to high risk, they will now need to be transferred across two different probation organisations. The majority of the offenders that I see as a magistrate have complex problems that underlie their offending – most often a combination of mental health and substance abuse. The work needed to rehabilitate these offenders is not trivial and I am concerned that with projected caseloads, the CRCs will only be able to deliver superficial interventions. The companies running the new CRCs include the likes of major services organisations Sodexo and Interserve who will of course be looking to maximise profits. Will they be prepared to do the long term, two steps forward, one step back work that rehabilitating drug addicts requires?

The response I’ve had when I’ve raised these concerns is that ‘payment by results’ will ensure that the CRCs reduce re-offending. However there is as yet no evidence that this approach works – the Work Programme has had poor results with ‘harder to help’ long term unemployed.

Depressingly the prison population is 85,280 almost the same as it was in May 2010, despite a fall in crime. There has been a lot of good policy work around Crime presented at recent Lib Dem Conferences but probation and rehabilitation is the one area where a new approach is needed."

And what's this? More dissent on the ConservativeHome website of all places:-

 Grayling’s reforms to legal aid are damaging and unfair

"The Secretary of State is drastically cutting the number of solicitors available through legal aid, with the Law Society Gazette saying two-thirds of firms who currently offer the service will be able to do so no longer. In their place, a limited number of contracts will be issued to firms under the term “Duty Provider Work”, with solicitors facing an average fee cut of up to 17.5 per cent. Never fear, though, providers of legal aid services would be allowed to take on an unlimited amount of “Own Client Work” – where each individual has to pay thousands of pounds for representation.

Deliberately understating it, these changes will bring chaos to the justice system. It means that, as the Shadow Secretary of State Sadiq Khan has rightly pointed out, miscarriages of justice would flourish. Without representation, someone who has committed no crime and faces an unscrupulous charge has the odds firmly stacked up against them."

We all know there's a crisis in our prisons, so it should be of the gravest concern that Chris Grayling is clearly trying to cover things up by denying access to journalists. This from the Guardian:-

UK prisons won’t let journalists in – what do they have to hide?

Since the beginning of 2013, I have also been making repeated requests to the Ministry of Justice for permission to visit prisons. The requests have been considered, discussed and then refused.

In May 2014, after a year of refusals, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger offered to help and wrote to the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, to support the request. They met, discussed the issue and organised a separate meeting with Michael Spurr, the most senior civil servant handling prisons, where the issue was discussed some more. Spurr said he thought this kind of reporting was beneficial and could see no problem with it. We submitted new requests which were discussed again with MoJ officials. After eight months of negotiations, the final response was an email last week that concluded: “Unfortunately we are not in a position to take your request forward at the moment.”

Of course we also know Grayling is refusing to cooperate with research by the Howard League into sex in prison and turned down all requests for access to prisoners. Yet another damning article about prisons can be found in the Spectator here. 

Finally, this from Facebook shows how there's not much new under the sun:-


...To replace these arrangements with an untried, untested system which no-one in the Probation Service wants and which duplicates existing provision cannot be cost effective and does not make sense. The reasons offered for the changes simply do not stand up to close scrutiny."

This sounds gruesomely familiar but was written almost exactly 20 years ago (22.02.95) and was a response to Michael Howard scrapping social work training for probation officers. He did this despite receiving 482 representations against versus only 11 in favour. I found this yesterday in a library (by accident) so thought I would share it with you.


  1. The Moral of the story of the CCETSW 1995 Press Release - "He who pays the piper calls the tune" - when exactly was CCETSW wound up I wonder?

    Do not expect any criticism of Gov policy by the Probation Institute any involved in a CRC etc.

    Expect more guff like this from Yvonne Thomas a top ex NOMS CRC boss via Twitter: -

    " Yvonne Thomas @YvonneThomas9 · 11h 11 hours ago

    @Andrew_S_Hatton @YvonneThomas9 asked what page? Turning quickly learning and listening. Humbled by dedication of probation colleagues. "

  2. The more things change, the more they stay the same . . . .

  3. @08:59

    Unless you're fat or have an addiction! Then your money will change, reducing to around zero per week. I hate to start Godwins Law on the internet but didn't somebody in Germany already try this in the 40's?

    Words cannot even begin to described how much I hate the Tories for being evil bastards.

    Not THE best start to my Saturday morning watching this on Sky News and trying VERY hard not to throw my cereal at the TV!!!!!!!!!!

    1. David Cameron has commissioned a health adviser to review whether people with obesity, alcohol or drug problems should have benefits cut if they refuse treatment to make them fit for work.

      About 100,000 people with such long-term, yet treatable, conditions are claiming sickness benefits.

      Prof Dame Carol Black will consider whether the welfare system fails to encourage them to get treatment.

      The PM said it was unfair for workers to fund those who refuse such help.

      "Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment," Mr Cameron said.

      "In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed, but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.

      "It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work."

      "In particular, I have asked her to consider whether people should face the threat of a reduction in benefits if they refuse to engage with a recommended treatment plan.

      "It is vital that people who would benefit from treatment get the medical help they need."

      Currently there is no requirement for people with such health problems to undertake treatment.

      About 60% of the 2.5 million people claiming sickness benefits have been doing so for more than five years.

      Dame Carol said: "I am deeply interested in trying to overcome the challenges these types of benefit claimants pose.

      "These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society."

    2. No coincidence, I am sure, that the Tories prefer the weekend news agenda to be about obese and addicted benefit claimants rather than HSBC tax evasion. The former costs the 'hard-working' taxpayer a pittance while the latter puts two fingers up to the hard-working taxpayer.

      Regarding the Probation Institute, its membership has been boosted by the CRCs corporately funding the first year's membership. It would appear that individuals were not consulted as to whether they wished their names and possibly other personal information, to be added to the PI database. This processing of 'personal data' by the CRCs, without the consent of individuals, may be in breach of the Data Protection Act. Now, given national Napo's sphinx-like stance on the PI, I can't see it seeking clarification on behalf of members, but maybe a local branch in an affected area, may wish to ask their CRC what personal information they passed on to the PI and confirm, by specific reference to the relevant principle of the act, that such data processing was compliant with the DPA

    3. Spot on as usual Netnipper - was just luxuriating in the bath thinking 'damn - should have held off posting and link Cameron's attempt at news management by switching asap from tax fraud to benefit scrounger' - oh well can't do it all!

      On the second point - this is potentially serious and as you say, we need some urgent questions raising and an FOI request I think.

    4. Any applications would be under the DPA, not the FOI. I am not sure if the CRCs will be accountable to freedom of information requests if they are not considered to be 'public bodies' but all organisations, whether public or private, are expected to comply with the data protection act.

    5. Oh yes I forgot already - private companies of course now.....

    6. I am in a CRC and have NOT given permission for my name to be placed on the PI register or agreed to become a member. If I find out this is the case, I will be seeking legal advise regarding this.

  4. At the risk of sounding fattest, they could start by capping Eric Pickles BSA*

    *Biscuit Seeking Allowance

    Nearly a cereal bowl through the TV moment for me too.

  5. A Tory MP, and asylum seeker and a 'hard working taxpayer' are all sitting having a cup of tea. There is a plate in front of them with five biscuits on it. The Tory MP takes four biscuits and say's to the hard working taxpayer...'be careful, that asylum seeker is going to eat your biscuit'.

  6. Anonymous 9.27. You have summed it up perfectly.

  7. Can someone please let me know what the expectations are now when seeing clients. I am aware that some will be seen for a few minutes but is this what is expected. Being in the Nps I am aware that some of my colleagues have had the hello goodbye attitude rather than actually working with clients. Without that interaction I cannot see how reoffending will be reduced although I do not dismiss their own personal choices of wanting to make positive lifestyle changes.

    1. I work in the CRC and would make the following observation. I do very little 1:1 written exercises with clients. Some offenders I have quite lengthy chats with always surrounding their offending & motivation etc. Some clients should not be on probation in the first place and I do just have a quick 5mins with these - including those that are coming up towards the end of their order or licence. We have to use our time sparingly and as effectively as possible and aim it at those who need it. There has been no direction 'from above' about how we deal with clients it is up to us as case managers. I always look at pre-convictions aswell to see how likely someone is to re-offend - if their history is sparse then again i'll not spend too much time with them but obviously enough to address their offending behaviour and to link them in with agencies if required..

  8. Replies
    1. Summarising the apparent approach in our area, taking into account the expected caseloads, they'll come to the reporting centres, have their barcodes read and then be sent on their merry way, taking their issues with them. At this stage the extra income from reducing re-offending is miniscule and will not rise to a level which affects the profits until year 3-4. By that time the contracts will have been handed back, profits will have been gained by a few at the expense of the many and HSBC will do their best to make sure not a penny of tax is paid.

      This might sound bitter...but it does not stop it from being the truth!

  9. To anon 10.05 you could point out to colleagues the research on what links to reduced reoffending highlighted in this article which includes significance of length of Probation meetings with clients

  10. Media reports in the UK have been relatively silent. Other media offer:

    "…details of the Swiss private-banking unit of HSBC's 30,000 accounts holding £78bn (€105bn, $119bn) were hacked in 2007 by its IT expert, HervĂ© Falciani, who fled with them to France, identities of the bank account holders… [he] revealed HSBC helped 8,844 wealthy Britons avoid millions of pounds in tax... One such client was Richard Caring, owner of celebrity hangout The Ivy restaurant in London… Phil Collins, the drummer and lead vocalist for rock group Genesis, was one of super-rich clients HSBC helped to avoid tax using secret 'black' accounts… British actress Joan Collins, who was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to charity, was another client... it is now known celebrities including rock star David Bowie – a Swiss national – held secret accounts… Australian supermodel Elle Macpherson, who was connected to seven separate HSBC Swiss client accounts. the four that remained open until 2008 contained almost £8.1m… Formula One Italian businessman Flavio Briatore is also connected to 38 bank accounts that held as much as £50m between 2006 and 2007… Christian Slater, the American-born actor who starred in Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, and motorcyclist Valentino Rossi, were also named for banking huge sums in Switzerland… King Mohammed VI of Morocco, dozens of members of the Saudi royal family and Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain… The Indian Express, one of the media outlets given access to the HSBC documents, said the bank "profited from doing business with arms dealers who channelled mortar bombs to child soldiers in Africa, bag-men for Third World dictators, traffickers in blood diamonds and other international outlaws"… a "blood diamond" smuggler, Emmanuel Shallop, even though he was already being investigated over tax evasion... Other depositors include fugitives like diamond dealers Mozes Victor Konig and Kenneth Lee Akselrod, whose names appear on the wanted list run by Interpol, the international police agency… Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad… Russian oligarch Gennady Timchenko, an associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin… former Egyptian trade minister, Rachid Mohamed Rachid is listed as having power of attorney over an account worth $31m."

    And us dummies bought their albums, bought tickets to see them, watched their movies AND bailed out the fucking banks!!!



    The Metropolitan police has been warned it risks breaching the European convention on human rights by refusing to police a second planned protest in central London next month.

    For the past seven years campaigners have marked International Women’s Day by marching through the UK capital in an event that has always been stewarded by the police. But this year the organisers of the Million Women Rise (MWR) rally say they have, in effect, been asked to pay for the right to protest.

    The Met told them that if they want to go ahead with the march on 7 March, they would need to employ their own private security firm and formulate a road closure plan. Such measures would cost at least £10,000, MWR says.

    The force has issued a similar ultimatum to the Campaign Against Climate Change, which plans to demonstrate in the area on the same day.

    The Met commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, faces questions in parliament and the London assembly about whether his force is trying to block peaceful protest.

    Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert, a member of the Commons home affairs select committee, said: “The Met need to assure us that what they are doing doesn’t effectively block peaceful protest by groups that do not have large cash resources. It cannot be right for the Met police to effectively be able to veto peaceful protests. I think it would be very helpful for the committee to ask the commissioner of the Met police to explain what he is doing to ensure that peaceful protest is still allowed.”

  13. I wonder what a survey such as this would show if carried out accross the probation service?
    And just a thought. But why isn't there one being done. Maybe something NAPO could instigate? Just a thought.

  14. Having received the structure of my CRC area for 2016/17 there are many questions to be answered but to use the term from an earlier blog its looking like a "bleak future" for all involved.

    1. Can you post the details? We are still waiting in BGSW for the operating model.

  15. Just been browsing through the Jay and Casey reports into the Rotherham affair. No mention at all of probation or MAPPA, despite what seems to have been pretty diverse OCG activity. I know probation is notorious for having a low profile but this seem surprising. Any thoughts on this?

    1. Many of the perpetrators had no pre cons so no role for probation and it would have been police role or the local authority to refer perpetrators into MAPPA as police managed MAPPA. However the whole point is that no-one recognised or managed such risks that's the point of the reports....

    2. I still find it extraordinary that nothing was on probation radar - have we really retreated that far from the communities we work in? Everyone in probation was just as blind as other agencies....?

    3. Or perhaps because Casey has never been pro-probation? Remember this from 2010?

      "09 November 2010
      MPs on the Justice Select Committee will today question the new Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses, Louise Casey, about the work of her office and concerns she has raised about the probation service.

      Justice Committee - The role of the Probation Service
      The Committee will be asking her:

      How her role can add value to existing voices of victims' charities?
      How Ministry of Justice cuts and Government’s proposals for sentencing and rehabilitation will impact on victims and witnesses?
      Whether her views on the value of community sentences have changed since taking up her role?
      The session will take place in Committee Room 8 at 10.30am".

      Dreadful woman who rode - and significantly contributed to - the wave of anti-probation feeling.

    4. And from The Guardian in 2005:

      "Ms Casey, 40, has risen quickly inside the government machine, accumulating loyal supporters from within the heart of the New Labour project. Mr Blair is one of those who believes in her ability to deliver results and admires the way she challenges established hierarchies. For someone who has a reputation for frankness, relatively few early biographical details are available. The Home Office, within which her 30-strong unit is based, confirmed that her current grade was that of senior civil servant, entitling her to a salary somewhere between £75,000 and £159,000...
      "There have been some unprofessional comments," said Harry Fletcher, from the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo), referring to her enthusiasm for Asbos. "She seems to be defending every Asbo ever made. We are concerned that the original purpose of the legislation has been exceeded." Napo is one of 30 organisations, including Liberty and the Howard League for Penal Reform, that has banded together to form "Asbo Concern". "Her (Casey's) outburst [at an after-dinner speech to senior police] this summer seemed to be wholly unacceptable behaviour. I would have thought it was a breach of the civil service code. Now she has been promoted. It's extraordinary.""

    5. And now she's got her grubby mitts on a high profile inquiry. I haven't read the report but can imagine she enjoyed her role, seeing as blaming others has been her stock-trade for many years, e.g asbo's, troubled families, victims. I agree with sentiment above - "dreadful woman".

    6. same here, remembering her complete lack of understanding re probation and VLO's roles re victims some years past "DREADFUL WOMAN" indeed.

    7. Here's the gist of BBC report on her after dinner speech referred to above:

      "Louise Casey, 38, head of the Home Office anti-social behaviour unit, made the remarks in an after-dinner speech, which was secretly recorded by a guest.

      She also poked fun at Home Secretary Charles Clarke in the speech to chief constables and senior civil servants.

      A Downing Street spokesman said Tony Blair retained full confidence in her.

      Speaking in Stratford-upon-Avon, Ms Casey told her audience: "I suppose you can't binge drink anymore because lots of people have said you can't do it. I don't know who bloody made that up, it's nonsense."

      On the tape, obtained by BBC News, she said some ministers might perform better if they "turn up in the morning pissed".

      "Doing things sober is no way to get things done," she added."

      Obviously La Casey has a perfectly balanced mind, just right for addressing child abuse issues.

    8. Oh yes - Louise Casey - dreadful. Had a pop at her a few times, just punch her monika into the search facility on the right.


  17. HSBC is one of the big banks admitting to laundering Mexican drug cartel money. Why is this not mentioned in our news? The whole thing is a grubby cover up by an elite with blood on their hands. An elite who tell us "we are all in it together" and that they have "a long-term economic plan". Yes one for them and another for the rest of us.


    1. Off topic have you heard anything from your enhanced redundancy application papa? With reference to earlier blog threads