Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sodexo Joins Wimpy

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We knew they were coming, well here's the first glimpse of what Sodexo's new 'Wimpy bar' style interview booths look like, but according to facebook and a lot of hard work by Andrew S. Hatton, the reaction has not been favourable:-  

OMG - we are going to talk about child protection issues in here, with a predator next door, or someone who would decide to do some vigilante action? Even just checking someones address? I would be embarrassed to talk, never mind a client. Confidentiality?

Sodexo have no interest in health and safety, confidentiality, or public protection. All that nonsense is far too expensive and would make a huge dent in their profit.

I really don't think these companies that have taken us over understand the type of people we deal with. This situation needs to be relooked at.

Or maybe Sodexo (and the government) don't believe they have the right to be treated with respect, and, therefore, don't actually care.

What immediately comes to mind is health and safety. As we know we deal with unpredictable behaviour from some of offenders we work with. How on earth could this be managed in this setting? The impact that could then have on others being interviewed in such close proximity doesn't bear thinking about. Unacceptable and intolerable.

I would love to see the research feeding into the engagement and health and safety policies for this 'American Diner' focus! Smacks of enabling concerned and informed Offender Managers to ask closed questions only, to ensure you spend as little a time as possible with Service Users!

Apparently Sodexo are solving the issue of conversations being overheard by applying for a music licence to drown out the chat from the booths.... 'Course thats going to work....NOT!

What about issues with gangs? All open and can be seen! Concerns about disclosure - imagine telling someone you are recalling or breaching them and their friends or family are sat in the next booth and over hear this.

I'm still in shock, no trust can be built up, that moment when you finally gain trust and get somewhere with them will be completely taken away. It will be nothing more than going through the motions with them. Everything probation stood for is being thrown away.

What about the male offenders who play up to the crowd and love an audience?! Taking them into a private room used to allow you to unpick that veneer.... Now they're gonna just play up to the audience in the waiting room! How do you calm them down with an audience?! This is dangerous.

How on earth can you have a private conversation about intimate and personal aspects of people's lives? Everything will be so superficial. Perhaps that's what they want? If you don't know about risk you can't be held responsible for risk?!

Welcome to Tory ideology. This is not about public protection, rehabilitation or staff welfare, it's about maximising profit for share holders at any cost. I wonder how many MP's or their friends and family are involved in these companies and waiting to reap the financial benefit? After 20 years involved in criminal justice I did not think things could get much worse, wrong.


Now, somewhat interestingly, the Probation Institute seems to be discovering its bark and it just so happens has very recently published the first of a series of position papers entitled 'Principles for office arrangements' and I quote (my highlighting):-

Principle No. 3:
In any office environment there must be private space for confidential and difficult conversations.

At the heart of engagement between probation and service users is the gaining of mutual respect to encourage the rehabilitative endeavour. This is not possible where arrangements are inadequate to deliver a secure and private space for such conversations. A current trend towards the use of pods with half height screens between them is inappropriate and cannot be condoned. Whilst the worker needs arrangements where they can be safe this has always been possible in conventional interview rooms and this should be the norm. Sufficient space must be available so that all such interviews can be conducted in the right therapeutic and safe environment. Workers are asking service users to be open and honest in their interactions this is simply not possible if their conversations can be overheard.

Principle No: 4:
Open plan arrangements must facilitate workers to develop good working practices with service users

Evidence suggests that open plan can cause stress and lower productivity, particularly for work that requires contemplation and thought. Noise, such as phones ringing or colleagues chatting, is a problem for concentration and distracts workers from tasks requiring concentration, complex processing and creative thinking. Few can work without interruption and many staff find it a major source of stress which is exacerbated when workload demands are high. Blueprints for change which may look convincing on paper are not worth the anticipated savings if not conducted with worker satisfaction in mind. Workers and service users should be consulted and their views taken on board when open plan arrangements are being introduced.

Principle No 5:
Open plan arrangements must ensure that there are no costs to the physical well being of their staff

Although introducing open-plan offices may appear cheaper in the short-term, providers must acknowledge the indirect costs to the wellbeing, performance and retention of staff. One piece of research reported that ‘people who work in open-plan offices are less healthy. They typically experience more headaches, fatigue and stress-related illness, and are at increased risk of infectious diseases’ (Kinman and Garfield, 2015) Probation’s productivity comes from its staff and such a finding should give rise for concern about introducing practices which would increase stress and dissatisfaction already experienced by the dislocation caused by the new spilt arrangements.


The PI is in favour of making the most of more modern arrangements for office accommodation but urges serious attention to the evidence base which challenges the conventional wisdom that open plan is the best and only solution. Staff understand the arrangements which enable them to work effectively and their views are crucial to the construction of workable arrangements. Service users can be unpredictable and care must be exercised to introduce arrangements which protect the security and well-being of staff, accessibility and inclusivity, adaptability, openness and interaction across workspaces as well as ecological sustainability.


  1. This is ludicrous on so many levels!

  2. And what about females about to disclose domestic violence for the first time? I have had a client being forced to make a phone call to her partner prior to interview and leave the call open on order for the partner to listen in (until I discovered what was happening). Open booths will allow partners and or their friends to listen in from waiting rooms and even if they cannot hear, there mere presence could make the client fear for their safety and therefore not disclose. Sime offenders can be very cunning. It's not just about employment and accommodation . It's about finding out what they actually get out of offending you can't do that over the phone. Treating green brags remotely will not prevent someof them progressing through to more serious offending. Many serial killers have started out with minor offending/ paraphillias etc etc

    1. AND we will never have a sure way of knowing how many - simple - TDA merchants - in times gone by - who initially resented being on Probation - but turned up any way and found some 'comfort' in a POs OWN office -

      at one time I had and Andrew's Liver Salts poster up and a map of a region in Scotland without a road going right across it - but it had a familiarity and notices about reading classes or other local events

      and the clients were taken seriously - as individuals who mattered -

      Just maybe one or two, began to realise they had value and so DID NOT go on to be killers or whatever, we never can tell what the positive benefits of well delivered social work are.

    2. Seen on Facebook: -

      " It burgers belief! "

  3. Fancy working for Working Links Wales CRC

    Wales Community Rehabilitation Company is keen to encourage volunteers and work placements.

    Open plan offices run by volunteers - whatever next!

    1. They'll love the idea of work placements - it'll help out "our people in Employability" who can shift their clients onto work experience in the CRCs!

      Open plan offices run by service users compelled to work as part of the Work Programme!

  4. We're doomed Capt Mannering!

  5. My old English tutor always said I'd end up flipping burgers at wimpey. I worked hard to prove him wrong but the truth always comes out in the end !!!.would you like to go large for an extra 70p?

    1. Don't go large - there doesn't look like there's a lot of space in those booths for those of us with expanding waistlines!

    2. Joking aside someone is going to get hurt. Low Risk doesn't mean NO risk. We've had to have people arrested outside the premises as they have been fighting in the reception area with old rivals, we've had chairs thrown, people stumbling in drunk as lords, mums and dads screaming at reception staff, children being brought in who are running around wild, etc. etc. We have the regulars who pop in for a Rant. We have ambulances called for them that have needed assistance, at the moment it's all self contained, and receptionists deal and take the chaos out of some situations, but I don't know how Clients and Probation Officers are going to be able to cope with an open style reception area. If an incident takes place it's going to be so hard to control and calm things down. Not trying to be negative, but I see it day in and day out working behind that security screen and the above isn't a one off, it happens too often for it not to have been considered when making these decisions.

  6. Is it 1 April? Or is Hatton a wizard with photoshop software?

    All that's missing are those biometric atm-type machines, or is that why there are gaps between the screens?

    Any organisation representing professional standards ought to be outraged at such stupidity but all we get from the PI is: "Service users can be unpredictable and care must be exercised to introduce arrangements which protect the security and well-being of staff, accessibility and inclusivity, adaptability, openness and interaction across workspaces as well as ecological sustainability."

    What a sad, sad end to the noble profession that was probation.


    It is back to the Home Office and bye bye MOJ sometime after May 2016, according to that nice Mrs May, The Police and Crime Commissioners will be in charge - so keep the Swings & Roundabouts handy, they will be used again - maybe???

    Some initial thoughts plus a write up of what Mrs May actually said from The Guardian Newspaper

    Are you keeping up?

    1. I wonder how she thinks the PCCs can be given powers relating to the delivery of probation services when they have been contracted out for 7-10 years by an entirely different Department of State? Or did she not get Grayling's memo in 2013?

    2. They'll inherit the Sec of State's Golden Shit (or is it 'share'?):

      "Up a bit, left a bit, down a bit, Ooops!"

      "And tonight's lucky winner is... Adam from Northamptonshire. You've managed to shoot yourself in the foot and go home with a free school, a CRC and a sackload of Serious Further Offences!"

    3. In Kent we are to pay extra council tax to support police. Get rid of the PPC's and we wouldn't need to. If their track record is anything to go by what hope have we got.

    4. For the glass-half-full folk, a move back to the Home Office would at least allow resumption of the Nightmare On Marsham Street acronym for NOMS. Always made me smile.


    Direct link for yous.

    1. Elected police and crime commissioners should be given the power to set up their own free schools to support “troubled children”, Theresa May has announced.

      The move will be part of a major expansion of the powers of police and crime commissioners into the areas of youth justice, probation and court services to be proposed after their second set of elections take place in May.

      The home secretary said that the next set of PCCs should “bring together the two great reforms of the last parliament – police reform and school reform” to set up or work with “alternative provision of free schools to support troubled children and prevent them falling into a life of crime”.

      May cited the example being pioneered by Adam Simmonds, the Northamptonshire police and crime commissioner, who is to open a 1,200-strong free school with a “crime specific curriculum” this September on the site of the county’s police headquarters at Wooton Hall.

      The Conservative politician told the Guardian that his free school was an “early intervention” initiative that would not just take “troubled children” but “young people on the cusp of crime or interested in joining the police”.

      Forensic science would be on the curriculum, which would also stress citizenship and volunteering, and have close links with the police and criminal justice system. It is already oversubscribed, with 800 applications to fill the first year group this September. The school, which is to take children aged four to 18, is part of Simmonds’ “taking a generation out of crime” initiative.

      In her speech to a London conference on Thursday, May admitted she feared she had “created a monster” by setting up the system of police and crime commissioners in 2012. She conceded there had been “incidents which had given PCCs a bad name”, including the “attack” on Monday by the Surrey PCC, Kevin Hurley, on his former chief constable and now director general of the National Crime Agency, Lynne Owens, despite his proposing pay rises for her over successive years.

    2. “These episodes have been disappointing and there’s no doubt that some of them have brought the office of PCC into disrepute,” May said, before insisting that there was now a political consensus that they were valuable and were here to stay.

      The home secretary has already announced that PCCs are to be given powers to take over fire and rescue services where a local case is made, but she told the conference she wanted to go further.

      “In the future I would like to see the PCC role expanded even further still. Together with the justice secretary, Michael Gove, I have been exploring what role PCCs could play in the wider criminal justice system,” she said.

      “So after the May elections, the government will set out further proposals for police and crime commissioners. Because, as a number of PCCs have argued, youth justice, probation and court services can have a significant impact on crime in their areas and there are real efficiencies to be had from better integration and information sharing.

      “We have yet to decide the full extent of these proposals and the form they will take but I am clear that there is significant opportunity here for PCCs to lead the same type of reform they have delivered in emergency services in the wider criminal justice system.”

      Commissioners suffered a crisis of legitimacy after the first set of elections in November 2012 attracted a turnout of only 15%. This year they will be held on the same day as local government and mayoral elections, which is expected to boost their turnout.

      May also said in her speech that the record of the PCCs had been mixed but they had proved they mattered, with the power to hire and fire chief constables and set local priorities.

      Sara Ogilvie, policy officer for human rights group Liberty, said: “If this wasn’t a speech by a senior government minister, you would think it was satire. Tasking police and crime commissioners to set up and run schools is a surefire way to estrange troubled children and fast-track them into the criminal justice system. Mixing police reform and school reform is a chilling distraction from the failure of the PCC project.”

    3. Democracy all round, then, as probation services and the modern version of borstal schools are handed on a plate to politically sponsored individuals who, at best, were shoe-horned into something like £65,000 a year PCC roles on the back of 30% of the votes from an average 15% turnout by the electorate. I'm not a statistician, but doesn't that effectively mean these quango's are being run by one person on the basis of getting the nod from just 5% of the electorate?

    4. Free Schools for - Troubled young people, those on the cusp of crime or interested in joining the police! A sure fire recipe for success! Yeah, right!

  9. and there's more ... thanks to Andrew, who has tweeted 3 photos to 'PROBATION OFFICER @TWITTER' you can not only see this delightful view of the decorative and cosy probation office,you can view them from every angle, and note a row of joined up plastic seats,(to stop them being hurled at you) up against the wall, conveniently placed for the eager clients to see and hear what is going on in the booths about a yard away! Pure inspiration from the designer, of this vision of the future!

    And then I think of my own private office of the 90's and 2000's, with the walls plastered with wise words, a few relevant funnies, and big bright posters of just about everything which could be used as a starting point to grab their attention and put them at ease, or make them forget their intention to tell me exactly what they thought of Probation. And it worked, most of the time.

  10. Somehow the fact of these booths in offices need to be raised in court prior to a defendant consenting to any sentence which involves probation intervention being imposed. Any defence solicitor could, I believe, raise the lack of guaranteed confidentiality for their client as being a legitimate reason for the lack of consent to such orders. I cannot imagine that magistrates would consider the booths to be acceptable. Maybe there will be some case law coming out of this?

    1. If my memory serves, the notion of a defendant needing to give consent to a sentence being imposed was eradicated some years ago.

      What I would ask the sentencers to consider was whether the information provided by a defendant was reliable, given the environs in which s/he was being interviewed; or if the defendant/client was only giving answers s/he felt able to provide knowing others would be able to hear - whether to protect themselves, talk themselves up or intimidate others within earshot.

      All those who led probation into this ludicrous cul-de-sac ought to be publicly humiliated, stripped of any responsibility and made to pay back their ill gotten gains. Its a fucking disgraceful state of affairs.

  11. This kind of environment is not just being used by Sodexo, in a certain CRC in the North East we have been seeing our clients now called 'participants' in church halls and community centres for some time, but we always had the offices for the clients who weren't suited for this setting or who needed confidentiality. Now the offices are closing, every 'participant' will be seen in a 'hub'. Some sessions take place when playgroups are in the next room, funerals are taking place in the church whilst we are in the adjoining hall. We can work from home with out laptops or in the regional centres were our less able colleagues won't have their specialist equipment, but generic furniture, one size fits all. The senior management group grows and all sit in one place, whilst our team ethos and support mechanisms becomes fragmented, some of the managers do their best, but some hide probably because they don't have any answers. Whilst I think the booths are appalling, we ask our clients to sit at tables two feet away from the next one. We give them tea and biscuits and hope we can still make a difference.

  12. I know that office. I work there. Let me tell you that the picture looks roomy. But it is not. To the left is seats and three feet away is reception. Poor staff on reception have no where to hide if someone kicks off. Well done sedexo.

    1. Well sedexo are a baguette company. What do they know. Oh yes plenty that is why our lives are on the line with booths.

  13. On the American Diner theme park thread...

    Homage to Pulp Fiction (1994)

    Honey Bunny: [with her boyfriend in the Sodexo "diner"] I love you, Pumpkin.
    Pumpkin: I love you, Honey Bunny.
    Pumpkin: [Standing up with a gun] All right, everybody be cool, this is a breach situation
    Honey Bunny: (standing on the table) Any of you fucking pricks move, and I'll execute every motherfucking last one of ya!
    Pumpkin: (pointing the gun at his Probation Officer) Now tell me again, am I going to get recalled or not?

    Other storylines are also available.

    1. I can hear this in the distance as I gaze at the picture above:

      "Sunday, Monday, Happy Days,
      Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days,
      Thursday, Friday, Happy Days,
      Saturday, what a day,
      Groovin' all week with you.

      These days are ours
      Happy and free. (Oh Happy Days)
      These days are ours
      Share them with me.(Oh Happy Days)

      Goodbye grey sky, hello blue,
      'cause nothing can hold me when I hold you.
      Feels so right it can't be wrong,
      Rockin' and rollin' all week long.

      These Happy Days are yours and mine (oh Happy Days) etc"

    2. Is the Fonz staff or a client?

  14. This is the first time I have posted on here, but I read this blog every day. Thank you for it Jim. It keeps me informed.

    However the situation is utterly mortifying and very very scary. Anonymous at 4 February: 20:10 has, I fear realistically recounted what we have to manage every day. I live abroad but spent 4 months last year working as an agency PO in a Sodding-exo CRC. I had not worked or lived in the area before but my colleagues were wonderful. My caseload was huge and mainly DV and with some very nasty risky cases. Most of those offenders came in from Court in high dudgeon at the very suggestion that they could have beaten their partner and the temerity of the partner to have brought them to Court. You know how it goes.... The partner lied in Court of course. However they had to be seen in a secure room because they posed a risk to staff. So what do we do now?

    My next position was in an NPS office in another impoverished area run by SEETEC which again, had wonderful colleagues but they were battling very badly with huge caseloads, a few went off sick with stress and I watched helplessly while one poor soul who was a very competent officer but not that experienced buckled under the stress of it all. I had an enormous caseload of extremely difficult cases nd I found it difficult at times. I well recalled that before the Omnishambles PO's probably had a caseload with perhaps a shoplifting case or a drink driver at the lower end and maybe a lifer at the highest end. At the NPS I had a caseload of extremely serious cases some of whom were so risky I found it difficult to sleep at night wondering how I could manage them and I am a very experienced PO. We had an SPO stretched geographically across two offices and she emotionally cut herself off from her staff in order to survive herself as she needed the job. More shocking was the fact that the one trainee in the office who could see what was going on around her qualifies in 2016 and was actively looking to get out of the job before she even started it and I could not blame her! I found it utterly soul destroying and it made me very angry that we were being deskilled and hit from every side and the job we all loved decimated and people were being made ill from it all. The worst of it was that offenders, Courts and Prisons and the Parole Board had unrealistic expectations of us. Even to the basest point of expecting us to attend Oral Hearings which we no longer can. Prison visits for pre-sentence reports are discouraged and dealing with some prisons to book a videolink is a nightmare. Once this debacle starts impacting on other services I hope that they will start backing us a bit more.

  15. Why are these piss poor practices continuing? Where are the Health and Safety Reps?

    Let us remember that Sodexo may be the owners buy they are employing Senior Managers who are ex-Probation. They are well aware of the dangers that the offenders pose to staff. Why are they allowing these outrages? Too keen to continue sucking up to their paymasters and lining these own pockets, me thinks.

    Where are the unions in all this. I recommend contracting the local HSE and invite them in. That would ruffle a few feathers.

    So concerned for my CRC colleagues. Watch your backs cos it looks like no one else is going to. Such a sorry state of affairs.

  16. I'm speechless anyone who has had to interview someone who has committed a dv offence knows how difficult it is to build a trusting relationship in a private space never mind in a place that resembles bleeding macdonalds! And given our predominately male judiciary allows clear section 47 injuries to be plea bargained to section 39, I would estimate 96% of dv cases are with crc read this link which proves my point