Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Situation Critical

Shocking news; a catering company can't run the Probation Service. A simple told you so doesn't quite cut it. (Seen on twitter)


Of course in this cynical political climate of ours, the timing is no accident with the MoJ mindful of the nation being in full Christmas mode. The story has only been picked up by Mark Leftly at the Independent and it seems Napo don't do press releases any more. But it's a very serious situation, particularly for colleagues in South Yorkshire as the pressure will be on to start some urgent creative accounting:-  

Fantastic, the truth is out. I'm sure there are many headless chickens running around this morning at South Yorks CRC, Sodexo HQ and the Ministry of Justice.

Between now and the audit in Feb 2016 Sodexo will be trying its best to fudge the statistics and hide the bad data. Probation staff in Sodexo areas will be inundated with instructions to change and amend records. They'll be told to get the 'missing' offenders in and given wording to add to case records of supervision sessions, and to backdate records, risk assessments and supervision plans. Where not already implemented, the Sodexo plans for redundancies, office moves, working out of the car, downgrading risk levels, telephone reporting and subcontracting supervision to outside agencies will be put on hold until Feb. The problem for Sodexo is that they've already showed their hand and probation staff will not lie and deceive to get them through the audit.

Now is more a time than ever to work our hours, keep to our contracted roles and to work in proportion to the resources, instructions and workload. Don't let management force you into working outside of this due to fear or goodwill. Don't try to fix the Sodexo shortcomings as when it's fixed it'll be back to redundancies. This is for staff in ALL Sodexo areas and ALL CRC's!


I don't think Sodexo will be able stop the South Yorks crash. They had envisaged that their new model of working would be running smoothly in October. The CRC hastily dismantled the old system of probation in preparation for their new operating model. Even a large catering company will not be able to cook the books for February.

But we know it's not just South Yorkshire. Even before job losses begin to kick-in elsewhere, just look what the new 'innovative' ways of working actually means:- 

So, the slow train crash quickly picking up speed, has the final destination buffers within sight. What happens until the station is wrecked is immaterial, unless the already half wrecked station is given attention anyway, then more. Offender managers have no regular updates on arrests, no court results, or even data on who has attended unpaid work. If any were sent, that might not arrive anyway, because nobody knows anyone's email addresses any more. It takes weeks to get a breach hearing listed at court, so why would you bother trying to finish your court order towards the end, if you knew there would be no enforcement possible? 

You couldn't do that offending behaviour programme either anyway, because none are running. And once you get your warning for not attending anything, it's way after your next appointment anyway, because no case administrators are left to send letters, and offender managers can't print and send letters themselves, or anything, of any ilk, because they have no recourse to printers. And nobody can anyway, because nobody has paid the franking machine bill, so no letters can be dispatched. And the wifi bill hasn't been paid either, so no offender managers can log on to their wifi geared laptops anyway, to check anything at all of what actually is going on, and if they do, they'll know Apple has been trying to contact them, and little else. And if they can, it takes an age anyway to go through the log in procedure, which takes longer than an average unpaid work shift would, anyway. And so, the whole world is not sort of, but totally Donald Ducked.

And why are we here? 

I wholeheartedly agree with both articles in all but one respect - the line in the final paragraph of the editorial which reads "Because the work of the probation service affects only a minority of the population, there is far less interest in what has happened to it."

This, to me, seems to be the key to the whole sorry debacle. The concept of TR was sold to the privateers on the basis that they were "providing services to offenders". Put like that, it seems a relatively simple concept: if you fix the problems in someones life, they stop offending, so all you need to do is find the right inputs. Companies like Sodexo, with no experience in the field, would look at this and think "Ok, there's room for economies of scale here - we just buy X amount of accommodation support, Y volume of ETE appointments and Z number of drug and alcohol treatment sessions, and spread them around. There's an organisation called the NPS that will tell us what is needed in each case - this seems pretty easy." During the TR process they were prevented from going into offices to speak to staff and management about what the work actually involved, so they had no idea about all the other aspects of work including safeguarding, multi-agency work and so on. So they come in with their Fordist production line principles and cut, cut, cut - with the results we see in South Yorkshire.

In reality, probation work should be seen as providing a service to the community, both directly in the sense that supporting someone who has committed an offence to make positive changes in his or her life should reduce the chances of further harm; and also in recognising that our clients are part of those communities themselves. As such probation work affects everyone, and this is why it should be restored to public control immediately.


  1. For over two years many probation practitioners across England & Wales have been warning about the risks associated with Grayling's attempt at leaving a legacy, namely the privatisation of up to 70% of the probation service. But Grayling, his advisers, his supporters & collaborators knew best - so much so that rather than sell the services off for a profit they rushed headlong into giving away the services; 21 newly defined areas for £1 a pop. Indeed they also handed the new CRC shareholders large scale publicly funded packages to sweeten the pill, with at least £80Millions to reduce overheads & pay off staff under a nationally agreed voluntary package that, to date, has only been honoured in a few, select circumstances.

    Imagine that - a high quality, high performing public service handed on a plate by the UK government to overseas-based profiteers who used UK charities as a Trojan Horse to ensure access to £Millions of public money & assets, and paid additional £Millions to make hundreds of professional staff in the uK unemployed.

    Scandal? What scandal?

  2. My money is on Northumbria being next!

    It's a bloody shambles here.

  3. I am a Responsible Officer working for a Probation Service Provider which is in desperate measures. My workload has increased by two thirds and my colleagues have decreased by over a third. Of those that remain, often, a third of those are taking sick leave, often I don't feel well myself, stressed and dismayed regularly. The new Information Technology Systems don't often work very well and when they do they are generally much more cumbersome than that which they replaced. Where once we had barely sufficient supervision and good administrative support we have negligible and barely sufficient. The Cavalry have not turned up in any great numbers. Do the maths someone and save us from this slow motion crash, please!

  4. Breaches not happening when they should, warning letters not recall, POs being verbally abused by offenders, no security in the building, morale at an all time low and staff queueing up for EVR before the cash runs out - it's all falling apart with Working Links

  5. Same with Sodexo in the North

  6. It's so sad to see colleagues in such difficulties.