The 'efficiency savings' argument has more traction in the public sector as the money saved does at least reduce the public deficit, however Nick is disingenuous: he cannot (though we see it) refer to the monkey on his back – Sodexo's first duty to their shareholders: profits. Nick cannot be honest and say that Sodexo are not in this for the fun of it – they intend to make a profit and as one of the appointed hatcheteers Nick must pretend to share the pain that he is inflicting on behalf of his paymasters. He will be well-rewarded because in the private sector we know that you pay a few at the top well and screw the rest. Let the devil take the hindmost is what this is all about. Nick is a good functionary. And as machines are in the news: If Nick was a replicant he would be almost human... as he feels your pain!
The business case for cuts in staffing is terribly simple. The major costs for the CRCs are as follows, salaries, property, pensions, and IT. Salaries will take over 80% of total costs. So when you take out the 10% saving that the MoJ have built into the contract, subtract the 10% to 15% profit the CRC senior managers and shareholders expect that leaves you with finding 20% - 25% cuts in the budget.
In a budget of £20m per annum you need to find cuts of approximately £4m to £5m per annum. Saving money on property, pensions, and IT will not give you the level of savings you need. You therefore make the cuts in staffing with the most obvious targets being middle management and probation officers, expensive resources. You cut deep at first so you can recruit later if you need to fill gaps.
Your new recruits will have very different terms and conditions from current staff and you, the CRC would expect that in two years time you would change all the current terms and conditions. Current senior managers, who I have no sympathy for, will be used up very quickly as they have no understanding of being on the commercial end of JFDI. They have in my experience not survived.
Personally gutted at what is happening to hard working dedicated staff, sold down the river by inept senior managers who if, as a group, had fought this issue would have saved the probation service. The senior civil servants I spoke to where always surprised at how easy NAPO at the top level and CPO rolled over.
Aye, its a canny tactic. Threaten massive change, pay the requisite pieces of silver to the decision-makers (it's a good investment), scare everyone daft as the changes begin. Promise a pot of gold, a jackpot bonanza to those who want to bale out - then completely withdraw that offer, make 'em sweat, make 'em drool. The greed will overwhelm them and they'll accept far less than you initially offered - and think they've won!!
Don't forget, this is the workforce who've accepted no pay rise for six years, and only 3% in ten years. This is the workforce who voted to hand back annual leave and essential car user for cash-in-hand settlements. They're easy-peasy. Look how readily their leaders snapped your hand off for those cash incentives, how the glint of gold distracted them, how easily they were persuaded to hand over the service. Greed IS good.
Absolutely shocking. I feel angry. This was always so inevitable. The one contradiction I will never get my head around is this: profit making company/reduction in re-offending. Offending behaviour is now a market, and court system the means of bleeding them dry. The Trojan horse of PBR & £46 will fade into the mists of the past along with AWARD WINNING PUBLIC SERVICE.
So, the principles of consistency regarding rehabilitation & risk management are now re-written as every area seems to be proceeding with its own version of CRC. No wonder the resistance to client relocation was written into the ORA, i.e. "No, you can't relocate to Hounslow for a job with BAA because you can't complete your Order there. You have to stay here in Barnsley until next September. It's the law." How might that fare under the scrutiny of Human Rights legislation?
Look for the positives in TR? Your view of it will be shaped by how it has affected your thinking and impacted on your circumstances. TR has produced winners and losers. It was a victory for the neoliberal project of shrinking the state; it's a win for the private companies whose monopolistic grip over public services increases. It was a bonanza to all those so-called senior leaders in prisons and probation who jumped into the arms of the private sector having received offers they could not refuse and for those who took retirement, their pay-offs were lucrative and they are always on hand as consultants.
It was a win for fanaticism over reason: all voices of reason argued that splitting the service was a bad idea. In the midst of threats of compulsory redundancies, erosions in pay, and unions seemingly powerless to do what they are paid to do - protect and advance pay and conditions - it becomes difficult to see anything positive in TR.
Their PR bullshit doesn't work on probation staff. We are practiced in the recognition of oppressive and controlling behaviours. I suggest Sodexo proceed with caution.
You say probation staff are practised in the recognition of oppressive and controlling behaviours and we often hear how good probation staff are at challenging rationalisations that are used by some to justify/excuse criminal behaviour. The subtext is don't mess with such smart cookies. Ah, if only it was true, or if it is, then why has it proved so difficult to transfer and deploy these skills against TR and before that, to the erosion of terms and conditions and steady decline in salaries?
You hear stories about how passionate they are about their work and its values. And yet when it came to collectively standing and resisting TR, the ones who were truly passionate and challenging to the dismemberment of probation were in the minority. But this is raking over old coals and some voices think it's wrong to look back and play a blame game. We got rid of one myth about Napo punching above it's weight and we need to get rid of another one: in the absence of unity amongst a workforce, employers know they can do pretty much as they wish. It is easy peasy. If you want to be a great practitioner then in the current climate you have to be a committed trade unionist.
There are those who join unions for reasons of personal insurance and who think that the union exists independent of them. But as we see with the decline and fall of probation, unions wither without unity while the employers become more confident in their strides. When they see a workforce running away from a fight they know they are onto a winner. I hope there is resistance to compulsory redundancies, I hope if there is a call to support industrial action, this time the call is answered. If Sodexo and others are allowed to get their way without facing stiff resistance then all the talk about probation being challenging and so forth will be mythical talk. Save such talk for the Probation Institute as it will have no place in the real world of enfeebled probation, enfeebled through pay, and job insecurity.
No-one believes that there weren't imperfections in the Trusts and there has been poor practice in place for some time (PSOs working with sex offenders/DV perpetrators etc). Nevertheless, selling poor practice as a justification for the introduction of the amateur sector brings new meaning to the expression 'race to the bottom '. We are at serious risk of losing all credibility with sentencers, something to which the Prison management at NOMS has never given due consideration.
Unfortunately, probation, like social work, has always had a credibility gap with the public, often portrayed as too soft and lacking good old common-sense – that metaphysics of the barbarians who have been all too ready to blame probation when things go wrong. Instead of probation being promoted as the hallmark of a civilised society through its rehabilitative work, in recent years it was forced by politicians to tack to the right, to become obsessed with risk and show punitive teeth to those who most needed help, support and direction.
The majority of clients are themselves victims: of the care system, disadvantage, poverty and discrimination. But this truth has no traction in reactionary minds. TR is a race to the bottom. Probation staff, especially in CRCs, will see wages and benefits fall, but will clients be any worse off in the future than they are now?
Lets look at it from the offender and the victim perspective - what are the benefits to them of TR? I foresee some probationers never getting off the merry go round of 12 months total supervision (-tive), but as 'hard to help' clients they will probably be parked with little input (+itive). Chris Grayling promised accommodation on release from custody (+tive) but happening near me any time soon? - don't think so (-ative). Innovative ways of working were to be the hallmark (+tive) but in my area we are still mired in the old ways with several additional bureaucratic layers to boot (-tive).
The splitting away of the Court and removal of the court officer function from CRC PO's means court reports and updates for CRC clients are largely written by those who have never met the client, ever (-tive). Victims hope that justice is seen to be done and sentences properly 'served'. Reporting to probation has a punishment element in the loss of liberty for that time slot (+ive) but 'parked' clients and reporting kiosks reduce this element to farce (-tive). DV and victims of physical violence especially would like to know the perp will not hurt them or others again, however understaffing and the draining away of the skills base is resulting in designated programmes not being run at all within some Orders lifetime (happening as we speak) - (a MASSIVE -tive). So, overall TR good for the clients and/or victims. Nope sorry, dont think so...
Whilst I am no defender of these outsourcing shysters, I am of the firm opinion that the current sh*tstorm remains the fault of the MoJ and the birthday boy. The recklessly managed procurement process meant that information was poor, inadequate and a massive misrepresentation of reality. Sodexo have already admitted that they didn't know what they were getting themselves into and the chaos they are faced with is indicative of the poor preparation, lack of proper piloting and weak leadership from the ministry. The fact is Sodexo were never allowed to talk to the staff in the areas they were bidding for and the five star hotel they thought they were buying is a caravan in Skegness. Buyer beware. You have been compromised by more MoJ procurement fiascos.
The criminal damage done to the service, as predicted by many, has created a situation where risk assessments are being skewed leading to arguments across the divide. With eyes now firmly off the ball, the chances of further sonnex-like situations increase. TR is tearing down the previous infrastructure of public protection.
Time to play the blame game because it's far too late to do anything about changing it now. The top of the pyramid of fault is clearly firmly occupied by Cameron and Grayling. They'll be off soon to gold plated pastures new and good riddance. Grayling has single handedly destroyed the CJS across the board and will go down in infamy as the worst Lord Chancellor ever, and that's saying something as there have been a few bad ones.
Sitting immediately below them are Antonia Romero and Michael Spurr, their willing lackeys who can look forward to new years honours and a long and happy retirement. No doubt, when the books are written about how prisons, probation, the courts and legal aid were destroyed by this government they will employ the Nuremberg defence, they were only following orders. Below them are their army of willing civil servants, not one of whom had the courage to stand up and tell the people of this country that Grayling was playing fast and loose with public safety just to line his and his friends pockets with taxpayers cash. I bet he'll appear in the House of Lords with more than one lucrative non executive directorship before too long.
That's the politicians and their functionaries dealt with now let's move on to probation. Chief amongst the most responsible are the Trust Chiefs and Chairs along with gaggles of assistant chiefs and board members. With one notable and shining exception, the wonderful Joe Kuipers, the whole supine lot of them rolled over like the bunch of self-serving whimpering cowards they are. My board chair told me that if she publicly objected she'd be sacked and it was better to fight from within. Patronising bullshit then and patronising buckshot now. What if all of them had stood up to this madness and issued a back us or sack us manifesto? Could Grayling have sacked them all then? Well, yes he could but how would that have played politically and what message would it have given to the bidders?
Now, on to the unions. Unison's leadership should hang their heads in shame. After a huge majority for strike action in an indicative ballot they sat on their hands and did nothing to fight this. Presumably this was in the hope they'd hoover up members in the CRC's. Well tough luck chaps (and they are all chaps) cos the only people that'll be left in the CRC's will be recent psychology graduates on 20k a year who're only allowed to join employer-controlled staff associations. As for they're local leaders, what a shapeless bunch. They made excuses for their leaders and did little to exercise any influence in their 'democratic' (I use the word very loosely) structure.
Now for NAPO. The leadership reflect the membership, shapeless. They are more interested in preserving their precious professional integrity than preserving their jobs. Look how they walked into the Probation Institute. I bet Grayling pissed himself at that one. And finally, and this won't sit well with the blog readership, I blame every probation worker in England and Wales who failed miserably to fight for what they knew to be right. Who failed to take direct action at every opportunity. Who failed to take consistent persistent industrial action and who have ultimately let their communities, victims of crime and themselves down. Will the last person to leave the office please turn out the light. Xx