Friday, 9 October 2015

How Purple Futures See Things

With news that the MoJ team responsible for the TR omnishambles might be in line for an award, I thought it might be enlightening for readers to get an insight into how things look from the point of view of one of the new CRC owners. Here's some snippets from the latest Purple Futures staff newsletter:-  

Purple Futures - Questions and Answers

Q. I'm a bit confused about the relationship between the CRC, Interserve and Purple Futures. Who do we work for?

It is a bit of a complicated arrangement. You are still employed by your CRC but you are now owned by a partnership - Purple Futures is the name of our partnership with our national partners. Interserve, 3SC, P3 and Shelter have formed a legal partnership which now owns the CRCs. The services will be delivered by the CRCs and partners. Interserve is the majority partner and is responsible for overall service delivery. The partners deliver key services under contract to the CRC. 

Interserve is the majority partner with 80% of the shares in the partnership.

CRCs arw now therefore part of the wider Interserve group. Increasingly you will see Interserve materials as projects are rolled out, for example, in the recent staff survey and in future policies.

How you describe who you work for will depend on who you are talking to. Working with offenders - they might recognise the name of the CRC. In liaising with partners at a national or regional level, it may be Purple Futures. In a business development context it might be more appropriate to say part of the Interserve's justice team. How you describe what you do is really down to you, your audience and what you feel comfortable with.

Q. These newsletters are a bit long - can't you shorten them?

We want to provide you with information about what is going on and how you can get involved should you wish. We do not currently have a way of sending information to everyone with short bulletin's and links to a single platform or intranet. This is something we hope to be able to do with the new ICT.

Q. Will there be a common set of corporate systems across the five CRCs?

An interim review of existing systems was carried out by the Corporate Services Review team led by Mel Gregory. We currently have a real mixture of accounting and HR and payroll systems for example. We have come to the conclusion that an interim finance solution is required e.g. Sage and a single accounting system. However there's no immediate benefit in consolidating all the HR systems yet as everyone is working and getting paid. In the future, it's anticipated that we will move to a common services platform with more self service i.e. everyone can do everything themselves online. This is likely to take some time and is part of the professional services centre (which was previously referred to as the operational support centre) work stream project.

Q. What is the staffing plan? Why do colleagues working for other providers know theirs?

Staffing models need to be underpinned by the right systems, processes and locations in order for us to deliver our services. The delay on the MoJs strategic partner gateway will affect out ability to fully implement the new operating model (Interchange) and new technology. So until we have all those things in place, the status quo continues.

Other providers have completely different models and it's not right to draw comparisons.

To reiterate, and as stated before, there will be no staff changes until next year. If you are on fixed term or agency contracts, that is a matter for you and your chief executives who are keeping levels under review - as they would in any event. We need the right people in the right places to continue delivering great performance.

Q. What's the latest on the estates strategy? Some leases are up in the next few months and we don't know where we will be working.

We need to ensure that we have a well planned, safe, effective and cost efficient interim estates strategy. We are working with the MoJ, the NPS and Interserve to ensure that happens. It's quite complex as there are lots of moving parts.

The current position is that we are awaiting agreement on the next steps with the MoJ. Until next steps are agreed with the MoJ, anything else is rumour.

The delay to the MoJ's strategic partner gateway has meant that we need to review the proposed interim estates strategy to fully assess the impact this delay might have on proposed moves and the costs surrounding this. The gateway allows us to plug our new case management system (CMS) into it. Our buildings need to have the right infrastructure and technology to be in place in order to use the new CMS. The delay impacts our estates strategy and that's why it's a bit complicated.

All the local proposals have been led by chief executives and their teams as it's really important to consider local issues.

The plan is to exit properties where it makes sense to do so e.g. where they are under-utilised or very expensive or not fit for purpose. We will retain properties that we want to keep. We may go into some interim properties as this is a long-term plan given we are here for the next 7-10 years. We may also extend leases on some properties off the back of the MoJ's delay to the strategic partner gateway.

Where there is an immediate or short term exit, there are some plans to move staff into other buildings where we have the right infrastructure. We are not aware of any plans to move staff on an ad hoc basis into partner buildings. There might be good reasons in the longer term but only when the right risk assessments are done and where the operating model is implemented in its new form. If you are aware of local plans to do this in the short term, please let us know.

Q. Are you centralising all admin support and removing all admin staff from shared buildings with officers?

Centralisation of admin covers a wide range of functions e.g. payroll, back office systems, processing of invoices and what would traditionally be thought of as corporate services back office activities. 

There is a move to centralise some aspects already. For example, on health and safety policy and reporting. Hampshire & Isle of Wight are leading as they have resources in place and now do the reporting for all five CRCs. Another example is that we had five company secretarial positions and arrangements are in place to reduce that to two.

When people leave we are taking the opportunity to rationalise. At some point there will be a professional services centre where we do things like document management, the 24 hour helpline that will be coming in and possibly IT hosting.

The role of case administrator is very different across locations. So we need to look at how the different teams operate and the dynamics that the case administrator provides. The case administrator can act as the oil in the machine and the brief can be wide or specialised depending on where you are. The job title doesn't always do the role justice. The roles of case administrators, POs, and PSOs will be looked at in the context of IT, document management, document imaging etc.

There are no plans to pull out case admin wholesale otherwise practice and service delivery would fall over. We want to help reduce admin burden and focus on the case management aspects.

Q. Will we be issued with new contracts?

No. Your terms and conditions are protected.

There are no plans but the new business model may mean some changes to roles and responsibilities. We are looking at job descriptions through one of the work streams. If there are any changes to job descriptions, normal consultation will apply. With regards to employment contracts, that will be a matter of choice for existing employees. 

Q. Can you confirm if there will be voluntary redundancies for PO and SPO grades and if so, in what timescale?

Compulsory redundancies are a last resort. We hope to be able to offer re-deployment and voluntary redundancies where appropriate. We will offer a voluntary scheme to staff in the event that posts become redundant. This scheme will of course be subject to consultation.

We are currently not filling corporate service roles as natural churn occurs. As we have five CRCs, we are successfully starting to share functions across CRCs. This is both reducing our overhead costs and promoting best practice.              


  1. "Natural churn" ?!? What a pleasant term.

    1. I thought "you are now owned by" was particularly nicely phrased as well.

    2. The newsletter is cleverly worded. It even contains six explicit potshots at the MoJ. My, they must feel confident with their "7-10 years" contract in the bank. Oh how the bubbly must have been flowing.

    3. With Yvonne Thomas also defecting from NOMS, Interserve were a shoe-in. Remember the team players?

      "Rob Kellett, Operations Director, joins from the National Offender Management Service where he has spent over 30 years in the management of large and complex prisons. He was also previously Head of Contracted Prisons.

      Steve Taylor, Director of Custody, has over 20 years’ experience in public and private custodial services, most recently at Forest Bank Prison. He has a particular interest in the development of stakeholder relationships to deliver reductions in reoffending.

      Simon Taylor, Commercial Director, joins from private-sector firm Sodexo, where he developed the management systems for PFI and prison contracts. He also negotiated the innovative PbR Social Impact Bond at Peterborough Prison.

      Interserve has also retained Trevor Williams, the former Director of Operations, Director of High Security and Head of Contracted Prisons for HMPS and subsequently NOMS, while Christine Lawrie, the former Chief Executive of the Probation Association, and Ben Emm, who was Chief Officer of Bedfordshire and Head of the National Probation Improvement Agency for probation, are responsible for community and strategy advice."

      The bubbly certainly WAS flowing as these ex-civil servants (many involved in designing this cash cow project) added to their gilt-edged pensions with massive paycheques guaranteed for "7 -10 years", all thanks to C S Grayling, Michael Spurr, smoke & mirrors... & the keys to the public purse.

      How they look after their own is beyond reproach.

  2. Another one here who will have a 'voluntary scheme' to deal with redundancies. These Q&A formats are patronisng and open to planted questions. But in the absence of proper collective bargaining you get this drip-drip commentary. Understandably the workforce is worried about changes ahead; in the meantime the workplace becomes a rumour mill spreading insecurity and anxiety. And management love it this way: nothing better than a cowed and disorganised workforce. Meanwhile, junior doctors, even on the basis of the mere threat of a ballot, have already got Hunt making concessions and giving guarantees. I know doctors are an inherently more powerful group than probation staff, but they know how to organise and stand together, something that has been lost in probation. Where you have unequal parties, there are no fair and just outcomes. Purple is the favoured colour of emperors.


    1. The first Conservative party conference debate on law and order I covered as a journalist was in Blackpool in 1981. It was the one at which Margaret Thatcher vigorously applauded a delegate from Crewe who called for Tory MPs to be deselected for voting against hanging, and at which a delegate who warned the Tories against flirting with racism was howled down by the audience.

      It was also the conference at which, in a moment that will never be forgotten by anyone who was present, Edwina Currie, in those days merely a publicity-crazed Birmingham councillor in search of a safe Tory seat, came to the rostrum, waved a set of handcuffs at home secretary William Whitelaw, aroused a bat’s squeak of desire in the watching Lord Gowrie, and said, to wild applause: “Let me make one thing clear. I’m not concerned about prisoners’ welfare. You know, perhaps I should be, but I’m not.”

      Now fast forward to Tuesday in Manchester. This was the Tory conference at which a British former career criminal (his words not mine) and now St Giles Trust case worker, Elroy Palmer, brought the audience to its feet after he described how education, mentoring and peer advisory work on the outside can rehabilitate prisoners and stop the revolving door that takes so many ex-offenders back inside. It was the one where James Timpson, chief executive of the shoe repair company, said that in his experience working with ex-offenders, they were more loyal, more honest and more collegiate than other employees.

      And it was the one at which the justice secretary Michael Gove, ignoring the usual conference targets like the European court of human rights, instead devoted almost his entire speech to a critique of the enduring preoccupation with imprisonment. Where Currie once scorned prisoners’ welfare, Gove focused on it. The prison system fails to rehabilitate and reform, he said. It inflicts “pointless enforced idleness”. Prisoners should not be forced to be “forever defined” by their mistakes. And best criminal justice policies, he said, were “good welfare, social work and child protection”. The failure of imprisonment was “the biggest failure of all” in the criminal justice system, he concluded. We have come a long way from Michael Howard’s 1993 boast that “prison works”.

      I can hear all the instant objections. It’s lipstick on a pig. It’s words not actions. There are no resources. No sentencing strategy either. Prison staff aren’t trained or numerous enough. Probation has been destroyed. Social work has been starved. Welfare support is a joke when cuts have gone deep and will go deeper. Gove is playing soft cop to Theresa May’s hard cop.

      Bits of all that are true (though there’s not much cooperation with May). And there is no disputing that the kind of approach that Gove outlined this week remains a world away from current realities. But it would simply be dishonest to pretend that this isn’t a change all the same. To state so boldly that prisons have failed makes this the most reformist speech by a senior Tory minister – and possibly by any minister – on penal policy for decades.

    2. I don’t recall Jack Straw talking like this, much less Howard, although admittedly Charles Clarke had his reformist moments. Most of the time, though, New Labour was always making bankrupt boasts about building more prison places and making life mean life, Howard-lite. Gordon Brown’s 2010 manifesto, written by Ed Miliband, promised 96,000 prison places by 2014. There would have been a lot of empty cells if that had come to pass.

      Gove’s penal thinking inhabits a completely different world. And I suspect it’s not just the thinking that is different. It is also the party. I daresay a brilliantly delivered hang ’em and flog ’em speech might still work in the David Cameron era, in spite of the fact that crime is steadily falling and the streets are mostly safe. After all, Cameron’s own ridiculous hang-up against prisoners voting is a vestige of the old thinking that lurks amid the new. But that standing ovation for Elroy Palmer is the thing to fix on. That tells me something has changed. Same old Tories? Nah.

      It is true, of course, that Gove’s reformist zeal has been fired as much by the Treasury-driven need to make big public spending cuts in the prisons budget. His justice budget is unprotected from the cuts, as the courts are already complaining so loudly. Some estimates put the annual cost to the public purse of a single prisoner at more than £60,000. So every thousand fewer prisoners in England and Wales is a saving of £60m, to say nothing of the savings in buildings and staff that would accompany a sustained prison depopulation programme. It isn’t long before you are talking large savings.

      We are also watching a British version of something that is happening in other jurisdictions too. The penny is dropping across the western world and beyond that prison doesn’t always work, that it feeds crime as well as punishing it, that it penalises the poor, the uneducated and the marginalised afresh, and places fresh burdens on drugs, mental health and housing services.

      It isn’t just Britain, with the largest prison population in western Europe, that is stumbling towards enlightenment. Even in the United States, where there are 2.2 million Americans in jail compared with about 93,000 Britons – there are the glimmerings of a very rare bipartisan recognition that bloated prisons often create rather than solve societal problems. Prison reform is even part of the new UN sustainable development goals adopted last month.

      Britain has never quite been a “carceral state”, as the American radical criminologist Marie Gottschalk has described the US, though it got quite close in the Michael Howard era. With the significant exceptions of child abuse and jihadi terrorism, which remain potent issues, Britain is also much less prone to a culture of fear than in the Thatcher era. Civil society, as the St Giles Trust and Timpsons can show, remains strong. So the obsession with waging war on crime and criminals, which has shaped so much of America’s love of incarceration, is thankfully less prominent.

      I’m not sure that Gove can stop the revolving door either. But he is right to try. It is a big social policy moment. Anyone with an ounce of reformist practicality or liberalism in them should be cheering him on, trying to help him succeed, and perhaps even reflecting on what all this may be saying about the 21st century Conservative party.

      Martin Kettle

    3. Thanks to anon@10:04, Mr Kettle & JB's blog, the following quote seems to put all in perspective:

      "We are also watching a British version of something that is happening in other jurisdictions too. The penny is dropping across the western world and beyond that prison doesn’t always work"

      Our prison-centric friends in the kingdom of NOMS have annexed probation from under our noses (which are, as ever, pushed to the grindstone) thereby ensuring their continued existence.

    4. Martin Kettle says we should all cheer Gove's reforming zeal and not worry about Cameron's hang-ups – giving the vote to prisoners would make him physically sick. Kettle thinks the Tories have changed. Had Graying been the one at the conference delivering a hardline speech, I doubt he would have been jeered. It will only take a few sensational pieces in the Daily Mail to dampen Gove's zeal. Keetle contrives to argue that this reforming stance says good things about the Tories in the 21st century. But what does Jeremy Hunt's comments (supported by Cameron) about cuts to tax credits sending cultural messages to the poor and how there can be no true self-respect if you need to receive a government subsidy. So, even the working poor are not the deserving poor where the Tories are concerned. To borrow a phrase, the Tories are genuine charlatans.

    5. Personally I think it would be quite entertaining to see Cameron being physically ill on national TV if prisoners of any description get the vote in this country

  4. Purple futures know what there doing. Trust!

  5. Purple Futures please sort the admin out and put them in centralised hub far away from us. They are of no help to OMs in our office and we do most of our own stuff. Wont miss them at all.

    1. ohhhhh you are all heart

  6. They clearly don't have proofreaders reading their missives though!

    1. Agreed, 18:31. Who needs grammar, spelling & punctuation when any old shit will do?

  7. 18.23 what office you from knob head? I'm sure you won't say as your be easily identified for the knob head that you are. If your going to criticise a role then get it right. Programs are useless in my area.

    1. Firstly it's programmes, secondly as a tutor I find that half the time it's inappropriate referrals from OM's. However, this is easily sorted with a bit of information (which tbh in my area OM's are generally OK with). Don't be part of the problem and moan from the sidelines.

  8. Anyone have any word on how IOM is going?

    1. I have three... "Down the pan". But my argument as to why & what the solution ought to be will identify me & cause me considerable grief. So three words is all you're getting.

    2. What area are you. There are 21 CPAs so you shouldn't get identified. Is IOM still going? Can it be scrapped? JIM?

    3. I would say it's not going well in our area. Since TR no clarity of purpose.

  9. Mel Gregory in charge of corporate services review. TRUST ?????