Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Working Links in the Spotlight

Thanks are due to the colleague who kindly forwarded the following:-  

Transformation and integration programme: briefing following union meetings

We are continuing to speak to the unions about our proposals as we look to transform our business and want to ensure all of our people receive this information at the same time. As you are aware, we need to make up to 40% efficiency savings. This will come from:

  • An integrated business model across Working Links that is efficient, scalable and adaptable to change, whilst ensuring we are not working in silos.
  • A proposed Target Operating Model which sees a split between face to face customer focused activity, and non-face to face activity and operational support services.
  • An estates strategy which supports the proposed Target Operating Model, as well as co-location to maximise efficiencies.
  • New ways of working – including new processes, automation, a drive for consistency and self-service.
  • New technology – including a new IT system, infrastructure and better data and analytics.
Our transformation and integration programme continues to put our service users and customers at its core, to ensure we create a sustainable value service, and delivering a safe service and protecting the public continues to be our top priority.

This is a complex change programme that will last over a year and we are sharing information with you, and the unions, at the earliest opportunity to ensure proper and meaningful consultation, but that this is why we won’t always have full details with regards to people.

Our proposals have been developed with people from across the entire business. We’ve reviewed all business processes, systems, estates and so on. We’ve completed surveys, workshops and focus groups to ensure those people that are experts are involved in shaping our future business.

We are now starting to develop our vision of the ‘to be’ and have further information on how this could impact people as we may need to consider operating with a reduced FTE across the CRCs. More detail on this will be shared with the unions this week and we are also looking at how we can reduce fixed-term and agency workers. YTD we have also seen a reduction in our employability workforce of 38%.

We still need to look further at our estates strategy, IT strategy and the wider HR picture in order to see how we reduce the gap between our operating model and affordability and will be continuing to consult with the unions in order to reach final numbers on our FTE requirements.

As this is such a complex programme we’re looking to implement our plans in a number of phases.

We propose that the first phase of implementation will focus on moving operational support services to Operational Hubs, as per our proposed Target Operating Model, such as administrative duties. The proposed locations for our Operational Hubs are:
  • Cardiff 
  • Swansea 
  • Plymouth 
  • Bristol 
  • Middlesbrough
  • North Wales and Scotland (smaller sub hubs) 
Our target is that phase 1 will be completed by mid-February 2015.

We have identified what activities we wish to move to an Operational Hub environment, without the need yet for the implementation of the new IT system with regards to operational support activity. This will be a transitional phase to take us in the direction of travel towards our ‘to be’ vision and we are working on a proposed rollout plan. This plan will ensure we support all of our people through this change. 

For phase one, we now have some views on how this will impact people. For administrative roles we need to consider operating with 146.7 FTE, which is a reduction of 62.5 FTE. This reduction number is to be / end stage and we propose no compulsory redundancies as part of phase 1. This reduction number is also based on our expectation that individuals will be willing to move locations. Shortly we will be opening up a Voluntary Redundancy scheme to administrators to accommodate those administrators who do not wish to move locations and to reduce the need for any compulsory redundancies in the longer-term within this group. Those people that are eligible will receive more information about the process this week. We will also be introducing a new role of Service Delivery Manager in each Operational Hub and will begin recruitment for this in the next week.

As we continue to develop our proposals, and consult with the unions, we will keep you updated.


JTU 30-15

Paul Hindson, Managing Director UK Justice, Working Links
(By Email)

21st December 2015

Dear Paul,

Napo and UNISON representatives met with yourself and representatives of the three CRC employers (DDC, Wales and BGSW) on Tuesday 15th December to discuss the way forwards in respect of consultations, negotiations and information giving in respect of the recent Working Links pronouncement across all three CRCs regarding staffing cuts.

We undertook to write to you outlining the information that we expected to receive at the outset of consultations in respect of potential redundancies. This we will do, but in the meantime we have been dismayed and indeed angered by the release, not 24 hours later, of a Senior Leaders Team Briefing which has been sent to all staff in DDC and BGSW. We do not believe it has been sent to staff in Wales, although we understand that senior and probably middle managers are aware of it – and may be sharing it with their admin. staff. This Briefing outlines Phase One of a programme in respect of administrative roles and we will return to the detail of this Briefing below.

Before doing that however, we would like to rehearse the conversation that we had on Tuesday regarding the dissemination of bad news just before Christmas. We thought we had agreed that this was not a sensible way forwards and yet here we are, less than 24 hours after our meeting with just such a message being sent out to administrative grades of staff who are now left with the uncertainty and anxiety about their future livelihoods over the Christmas period.

We are grateful for your attempts at clarification, received by email, but we still feel it necessary to write to you in respect of this communication to staff.

We would have to say that this is one of the most unhelpful, ill-timed and insensitive documents that we have had the displeasure of reading in many weeks.

Let us take you through it, section by section, with what we shall politely call our critical analysis.

The title: "Transformation and integration programme: briefing following Union meetings". I refer you to our opening comments above.

Efficiency savings - a series of bullet points. To put it bluntly, the efficiency savings are being found not through any of these bullet points but very simply by your plans (admittedly a worst case scenario) of shedding up to 584 FTE posts. In reality that could mean upwards of 600 staff losing their livelihoods.

" ...to ensure we create a sustainable value service ...etc" . It is difficult to envisage how any comparable service to your service users and customers is going to be provided at all with a workforce that is nearly halved. We remain to be convinced that this is in any way possible and quite clearly we will need serious discussions about manageable workloads, founded in an agreed workload measurement and management system. The figure contained in this paper of a reduction of 62.5 FTEs across all admin staff in the three CRCs, even added to losses anticipated in Corporate Support, must logically point to further losses across front line and managerial grades well in excess of 400 posts.

"Our proposals have been developed with people from across the entire business" & "YTD we have also seen a reduction in our employability workforce of 38%" These two observations give the lie to the fact that this programme of staffing reductions within the CRCs is not about the CRCs per se but more broadly about the business of Working Links as a wider entity. Whilst it is sad to learn that 38% of the employability workforce have also lost their livelihoods this year to date (which we assume is what the unhelpful abbreviation means), this has nothing to do with CRCs which are stand-alone companies - or at least it shouldn't have. The finances and the future of the CRCs are being linked inextricably with the finances and future of Working Links in a way that is neither acceptable nor appropriate. Cuts to CRCs with the consequent impact on public protection should not be made in order to assist what might be an ailing parent organisation. We clearly recall that in the preparatory work for TR, we were time and again re-assured by MoJ representatives that CRCs would remain independent entities/stand-alone companies. Here it is also worth observing that these companies must also be capable of maintaining their operational capacity in the event that ownership changes hands. These proposals do not lend themselves to such a scenario.

" ...focus on moving operational support services to Operational Hubs ...." Then a list of hubs including Middlesborough and Scotland. Really? Some operational support services are going to be located in Middlesborough and/or Scotland?

Target date for phase 1 to be completed is mid-February 2015 (!). One assumes this should be 2016 but even so, we would remind you of the Management of Change Protocol which incorporates a six week period of reflection. Thus, if any compulsory redundancies were on the cards, then this process would need to be triggered about now to meet a mid-February target. We appreciate you don't know if this is going to prove necessary yet but again, we have discussed the various stages of consultation required, and information required as a part of this process. Equally, as we discussed on Tuesday last, it is our view that to expect staff to make fundamental decisions about their own futures in the absence of any real information is unreasonable.

Identification of an Operational Hub environment as a transitional phase. We'd have to say that this paragraph didn't really make a whole lot of sense. We can make an observation here though. There is no reference whatsoever in this paper to assistance that might be given to staff to re-locate their workplace - assistance that is contractual under Section A of the NNC Handbook - and here it is worth making it absolutely clear that we would not accept that any such relocations were being made voluntarily. This rolls into the following paragraph. Here again you suggest that you "propose no compulsory redundancies as part of phase 1" That must surely be more of a hope than a proposal on your part given the scale of changes proposed in terms of work location. Indeed this final substantive paragraph goes on to muddy the waters in regard to the need for any compulsory redundancies in the longer-term.

A final point on this last substantive paragraph - at the same time as placing most admin staff at risk of losing their employment, or having to relocate their workplace, you announce that you are recruiting new Service Delivery Managers. This is unacceptable - at the very least, we would have expected this initiative, if progressed at all, to be ring-fenced to existing admin. staff - but no such assurance is given in this document.

Again we must emphasise that good communications should be both dated and they should make it clear where they have come from – i.e. who wrote/issued them.

So to sum up, admin staff in at least two CRCs are notified, two weeks before Christmas that their world is going to be turned upside down within less than two months and the EVR scheme is likely to be opened to these staff members the very week before Christmas. In our view the proposals for administrative staff are unworkable and should be subject to further consultation with the unions before being progressed in any shape or form. The briefing issued to staff last Wednesday should be withdrawn with an explanation (and an apology) that it was issued in error and that there will be further consultation over it.

Yours sincerely


Napo National Official   UNISON Regional Officer

c.c. John Wiseman
Liz Rijnenberg
Probation Joint Secretaries
Ian Poree
Napo/UNISON members in affected CRCs
Napo/UNISON local officials
Napo National Officers & Officials


  1. they don't NEED to make 40% efficiency savings, they CHOOSE to so they can make more PROFIT. End of.

  2. Yes and admin staff became ill with stress when they had this notification prior to Christmas which had knock on effects to other staff also. It's a complete mess. Hard to see how probation can work at all now. It's immoral to make profit out of tax payers money with a service that protects society and helps those in need who have committed crime.

  3. The briefing paper is businesslike and brusque, completely lacking in compassion (employees are referred to merely as Full Time Equivalent FTE posts)and therefore I think the impact will have been colossal on all the staff who received it, as it indicates the shape of things to come. I've done a rough check of some of the distances that colleagues will be expected to travel "based on (the) expectation that individuals will be willing to move locations}". From a point roughly top north east of Wales - the 'top' of the Working Links empire (as it were) it is 117 miles to Middlesbrough. From Bournemouth (southernmost point) its 269.6 miles. The nearest Hub for Dorset colleagues is either Bristol (76m from Bournemouth)or Plymouth (126). As neither fall within the county Dorset colleagues will be competing with more locally based colleagues for the places (should they even agree to relocate). Ditto colleagues in Somerset and Wiltshire with Cornwall (DDC). Far from being an 'offer' of voluntary redundancy, it seems to me more of an ultimatum - go or be expected to relocate, possibly many hundreds of miles.

    1. With no guarantee that after you've moved there will be a job long term, as that change is just first phase. I call that constructive dismissal.

    2. Check to see if you have legal cover with your home insurance. Could come in useful

    3. "From Bournemouth (southernmost point) its 269.6 miles."

      The southernmost point of the Working Links domain is not Bournemouth - there are several hundred thousand people who live further south than that - e.g. a quarter of a million in Plymouth alone! Middlesbrough is about 450 miles from Penzance (and don't get me started on the Scilly Isles).

      I say this not to be pedantic (though I accept some may feel it falls under category 3e from yesterday's post) but to point out that there are no proposed Hubs in Cornwall either, and affected staff in this part of the world are likely to have at least as much difficulty relocating to other centres, or finding alternative employment at a similar level, given the level of deprivation in the Duchy.

  4. It seems to me that those who refuse to pay union subscriptions are nonetheless benefiting from Union representation that seems likely to minimise loss and disruption at least for some probation workers.

  5. Are these Hubs for admin staff only or will all staff be based there? No mention of where offenders will report to and surely they are crucial to the enterprise? Where do Middlesborough and Scotland fit in to the 3 WL CRCs?

    1. Yes they are admin only plus some support service staff ie secretries to CEO. In my CRC area offenders still reporting to same office as they did pre-TR but it's no secret that management are looking around in the hope of sharing space with other services that compliment probation but funnily enough no takers or either the accommodation is not suitable. My area will be in the same boat as WL come mid-Jan. It seems all co-ordinated despite us being owned by different companies. The sooner we're all back together and public the better and I think it's only a matter of when not 'if'.

    2. Why are they all so intent on Hubs, can't they see they don't work efficiently, it's being proved now in other CRCs, Probation isn't the same as call centre mentally they seem to have. Our Offenders come to the local offices and can't see their Officers as they are all miles away, there may be a Duty but it is really annoying the hell of offenders who want to see THEIR PO. The scanning which are important documents are going into the big black hole of the HUB never to be seen again. Whereas before, everything was done in house. Offenders can't be bothered travelling to far away locations why should they. As for these courses, there may be a few that turn up, if there are any less that 3 then they don't run, which has happened on a few occassions. HOW can someone attend a course when they are at work, a hell of our offenders might have strayed off the straight and narrow but they still have full time jobs. Even late night openings don't fit into their shift patterns. It's a fail, fail situation.

  6. I think WL HQ is based in Middleborough.

  7. "What a shocker. Written by a GCSE business studies student. Laughable if consequences were not so serious." Twitter Dr Andrew Thorne.

  8. The unions would have more success frying snowballs than trying to appeal to the mythical conscience of Working Links who hit new lows in disingenuous newspeak and doublethink. You may as well as reason with daleks.

    The unions's response is strong on the emotional impact of these proposals on the workforce, with mention of bad news over Christmas and threatened livelihoods. But there is no sense what the unions can do in practical terms to change the course of events. If there is nothing they can do they should be clear about this to their members, who don't need any false hopes in addition to ruined expectations.

    The unions' refer to 'consultations' and 'negotiations'. Working Links must consult by law but they do not have to 'negotiate' anything. To consult in the context of restructuring simply means that A tells B what it's going to do and then does it. To negotiate means to bargain and reach an agreement and that requires bargaining strength which in the context of a company's right to restructure, the union's are powerless. And you can already see Working Links dictating the pace and releasing details in line with their agenda. Once again, it's the ugly face of capitalism.

    It seems to me there is nothing that can be done. Working Links are free to restructure and operate their chosen model of service delivery. It's also clear, like Sodexo, that they have no intention of honouring enhanced redundancy terms.

    1. Sadly I fear NetNipper is correct in that unless Unions use Industrial Action they are effectively collectively powerless.

      They can provide informed voice to parliament and media, ultimately parliament will be responsible for allowing a dangerously depleted probation "service" in England and Wales compared to what I belief is still publicly enabled and funded in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

    2. Unhelpful reply to nipper Andrew take it from someone who knows they do have to negotiate. Know your facts please before misdirecting readers.

    3. Not if they use the "restructure" card, which is exactly what they are doing. This lets them "consult" and implement, with no negotiation or agreement required.

    4. Thanks for explaining Anon at 19.00 - I am simply not sure, what is required by contracts as far as negotiations are concerned unless there are either redundancies or actual changes to existing employment contracts for workers for whom unions have negotiating rights.

      What I am sure is that a Union's best chance of being effective in the short term is by getting publicity, particularly in parliament as ultimately the Government is only answerable to members of Parliament, in both houses in addition to the Government's contractual obligations with employees and contract holders.

      I am sorry if i was inaccurate, I am not clear about the overall legal position, but believe the Unions are better able to intercede on behalf of their membership, the larger their membership is, particularly in proportional terms as far as the various employers is concerned, be they the CRCs or NPS

    5. Andrew a bit of ramble but you mean well. The big picture is too far off . 19:51 you must work for working links to spout that . I am nont going to quote you chapter and verse but the rules are simple enough to understand. They have to consult with a view to reaching an agreement. That includes negotiations and the negotiations are specific. Go read learn. If you do not know the facts of the process for the benefit of those at risk don't post misinformation.

    6. 20.28 You are wrong. But assuming you are right and the negotiations fail, what then? If Napo could not stop Sodexo on EVR where they actually had an agreement, what chance your 'negotiations'? A company can restructure and they only have a duty to consult.

    7. 20.28 You are wrong. But assuming you are right
      Clearly you don't know so stop showing your foolish. leave these matters to those that do .

    8. "What I am sure is that a Union's best chance of being effective in the short term is by getting publicity, particularly in parliament" - Andrew I think you are forgetting that vitually no-one outside of probation is interested in anything to do with offenders or those who work with them - in my view this has been the greatest weakness/flaw/inhibition right from the start of this whole omnishambles. I agree with the sentiment in general but fear it is not relevant to probation, more's the pity....Bobbyjoe

    9. 20:28 no I'm not from WL and sadly you're wrong about what WL can and can't do. If they were legally required to negotiate rather than inform then don't you think we'd be reading this above from both WL and Napo. I can't quote you legislation but I was, however, sitting in various probation trust management meetings in the run up to TR when this was all made very clear, with unions present. I've seen other private companies do the same, in fact we've partner agencies that have been through this before us. They say what they intend to do and then do it, simple as. "Restructure" is a free pass for the privateers/CRC's to do what they want after consulting but WITHOUT any actual negotiation. We have seen no "negotiation" from Sodexo and by the emails above we're not seeing it from Working Links either, and won't see it from those that follow.

    10. Your still wrong and appear to be even more stupid than when this thread started to enlighten others at least now go read and you might learn something.

    11. And people tend to mistake consulting with negotiating. When these companies grace us with a consultation period this is usually after they have decided/justified a course of action as a necessity, ie remodelling the organisation which usually means saving, cuts, redundancies and role changes. There is then little inclination or scope to change direction meaning that they certainly do not act on interior/exterior views unless it is financially and legally a better option which won't happen as their own legal and financial advisers have already given them the green light. They'll be happy to let you believe that consulting is or leads to negotiating which in turn will lead to staff/practice protection but it does not. I guess if it did then we'd still all have jobs down the mines!!

    12. Re 22.38 - BobbyJoe - of course I realise parliament is largely ignorant about probation and NOT interested apart from a few notable exceptions - Lord Ramsbotham comes to mind and Lord Beech from Newcastle who if memory is correct used to be Chair of Central Council of Probation Committees (I think) or its successor body then in the Commons there is John McDonnell who almost had a shouting match with Jeremy Wright - or whoever was the Government spokesperson at one point when he made it obvious he realises his constituents are in increased danger from TR.

      There probably are one or two others but in the main others seem more interested (understandably ) in Prisons - like Lord Harris who had his early death report cast aside as Parliament was recessing.

      My point was not that the majority of Parliamentarians care enough to do anything, but that their unique position gives them the opportunity to both hold the government to account and introduce legislation.

      What the elected members constituents demand of them is up to them.

      I knew it was pointless, really, to do anything with my MP - Priti Patel - from Witham - pro hanging Grayling acolyte - but I did lobby her before she was appointed to Cameron's 1st government - even she did not like it and effectively shooed me away - as I expected.

      Other MPs will not be quite as resilient as she, especially those who are not in safe seats, or will need to look for another seat, IF the boundary changes that have been promised AGAIN, actually come into effect.

      When I was an employee I got some good responses from my former MP - also a safe seat Tory - he seemed to respond in a human way and appreciated my persistence, I suspect.

      I wish more employees in Probation actually went to the trouble - I admit it is trouble (but then jobs are at stake) of confronting their MPs personally, ideally publicly, eventually change will be needed - if current practitioners are engaged with their own MPs at that point - it may just be possible - we get some positives, almost for the first time in a quarter of a century.

    13. Correction - I meant Lord Jeremy Beecham - I think I am mixing him up with another Labourite who was chair of the old Central Council of Probation Committees who came from the North East.

    14. Contracts can be terminated and re-started immediately with different terms and conditions. This has happened to partner agencies and the Unions could do nothing about it. Staff salaries dropped by 7k in some instances.

  9. I'm fully expecting the same to occur in my area and my response will be to submit my sick note, hopefully for three months. Employers need to learn that they are not the only ones who can be devious.

    Yeah, I might get made redundant, but would have both had some fully paid time off and a greater opportunity to look for a new job.

    I recommend those in the WL areas do similar!

    It might give them an idea of where the true power in a workforce lies!

  10. Same as ingeus. Everyone needs to get that these companies are threre to make a profit.

    1. And in so doing they will rip the skin off anyone else's back, will tell blatant lies, will steal anything that moves & will have NO remorse or shame. They don't give a flying fuck about anything but themselves & how pleased their shareholders are. Everything & everyone else is merely an obstacle to be overcome & removed. Sodexo were the largest global machine & the one least frightened to exercise their bullying tactics. Now the other CRCs have seen how its panned out okay - lose 35% staff, pocket 60% EVR monies, no penalty, no reputational damage, MoJ in their pocket - they all want to have a go.

    2. And that's why the unions' wholly impotent response to the Sodexo situation was so damaging, i.e. it allowed Sodexo off the hook & (if you will pardon an insensitive phrase) opened the flood gates. Precedent is now set.

  11. There is only one thing that can defeat them,and I am afraid it's not the Unions,it's the media.What needs to happen is for every CRC to fail in one way or another, and a couple of SFO's to wet the appetite of the press and then watch things happen.Or am I deluded to think anything can stop the rise of the corporate machines.

    1. There have been SFO but they have been kept out of the media

  12. Well offender supervision is in such a mess it could very well implode. I have never been behind with work before but right now I feel behind and unsure of what my job is. There are outstanding breaches which, if prosecuted could very well be lost because of the faffing around that's been done due to not wanting cases to 'fail'. Assessments behind due to useless IT deleting stuff and offenders asking why they are being used for profit. I have never felt so lost in my job.

    1. RAR days are a joke, its groups come what may, half arsed program material.