Friday, 18 March 2016

Britain in 2016

"Ashamed to be part of CJS, ashamed to be part of CRC, ashamed to be member of a trade union that is failing its members, ashamed that we are allowing the Tories to destroy democracy and destroy the most vulnerable."
I thought it might be an appropiate moment to give some examples of the developing social and political context that increasingly-beleagured probation staff are being expected to work within under TR:-

Open letter from quadriplegic to Osborne: how is taking £120 a month from me going to get me back to work?

This open letter to George Osborne was posted on Facebook. Please feel free to share:

I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I am so downright disgusted I feel the need to say something. Please feel free to share this post, in the vain hope that somebody who can make a difference might get to see it.

Dear Mr Osborne,

I am intrigued by your methods and incentives to get disabled people back to work.
I have been a quadriplegic for the last 13 years of my life. Let me give you a brief description of what this entails. I have to employ a team of four carers as there is practically nothing I can do for myself. A few of these things I can’t do include going to the toilet as I need someone to stimulate my bowels digitally, holding and having any kind of sexual relationship with my wife, playing with or indulging in any physical activity with my two sons, getting out of bed or going to bed without the aid of carers, dressing myself, picking up anything as my hands do not work, feeding myself, drinking by myself, scratching any itches on my face which is the only part of my body that I have any sensation.

I am writing this using a speech recognition program as I cannot use a computer keyboard properly. If you have any sense at all you will realise that I am wheelchair-bound and to be quite honest the list of what I can’t do is so endless that there’s not much point in me continuing to expand any further. Suffice to say that all I am really capable of is seeing (through glasses that have to be put on and removed for me) hearing (using hearing aids that have to be inserted and removed for me) swallowing food (which has to be fed to me by someone else) and that’s about it. Can you explain to me and the myriad others that find themselves in my position, sometimes worse, how decreasing my disability benefit by £120 a month is an incentive for me to get back to work. Perhaps you could outline for me what sort of work people in my condition would be capable of?

Yours truly,
Someone speaking on behalf of the severely disabled.


This from the Independent:- 

One in ten local councils are criminalising homeless people with new rules

One in ten local councils are using powers created to prevent anti-social behaviour to criminalise homelessness, new figures show. Freedom of information requests to local authorities by the website found that 36 local authorities were targeting rough sleepers with Public Space Protection Orders. PSPOs are local regulations which can be used by councillors to ban anything with a “detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.

In 36 of 78 cases the orders are being used to make activities common amongst homeless people illegal, an analysis by the website shows. There are 375 local authorities in England and Wales. Anyone found in breach of a PSPO has to pay a £100 penalty fine and can face a criminal record and £1,000 if they fail to pay – as a person lacking a home or reliable income might. The power to introduce PSPOs was created by the Coalition Goverment with the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.

Hackney Borough Council in north London scrapped plans for a similar PSPO after a backlash against the plans. “It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling,” petitioner Zahira Patel wrote last summer during the row.
“People should not be punished for the 'crime' of not having a roof over their head - there is nothing inherently 'anti social' or criminal about rough sleeping.”

Housing and homelessness charities including Crisis warned that any move to ban rough sleeping would be “counterproductive”. The Local Government Association, which represents councils, has previously defended PSPOs. “PSPOs can be used to address anti-social activities in public spaces which are having a detrimental effect on the quality of life of local people,” a spokesperson for the organisation said last year. 

“Anti-social behaviour offences, such as aggressive begging, public drinking or the sale of legal highs, are far from “bizarre”. For victims and communities affected, they are serious issues and councils are keen to protect them from offenders who can make the lives of those they target a misery. Crime and anti-social behaviour by its very nature varies from place to place and that is why different councils are responding in a variety of ways.”


Also from the Independent:-

Benefit sanctions against people with mental health problems up by 600 per cent

The number of benefit sanctions imposed on people with mental health problems has increased by over 600 per cent over the last four years, Department for Work and Pensions statistics show. A joint analysis of the figures by the Independent and the mental health charity Mind found that 19,259 people with such conditions had their benefits stopped under sanction in 2014-15 compared to just 2,507 in 2011-12 – a 668 per cent rise.

The finding comes weeks after ministers rejected a call to investigate whether such sanctions – which involve stopping a person’s disability benefit income for weeks at a time to enforce compliance – are damaging to mental health. 
The ramping up of the policy goes against the advice of mental health charities, who have previously warned that its aggressive approach worsens mental health problems and makes it harder for people to return to work. 

Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, said the dramatic rise was “alarming” and that the Government was refusing to listen to criticism of the sanctions’ impact.

“Stopping somebody’s benefits, or threatening to stop them, is completely the wrong approach to help people with mental health problems find work – it’s actually counterproductive. Pressurising someone to engage in often inappropriate activities under the threat of losing their benefit causes a huge deal of additional anxiety, often making people more unwell and less able to work,” he told theIndependent.

“In continually refusing to listen to calls for a review of the use of sanctions, the Government is not only undermining its ambition to help a million more disabled people into work, but is also failing its duty of care for the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people with mental health problems.”

Mr Pollard suggested that the Government take a more positive and personally-tailored approach to employment support for people with mental health issues.

“At the moment, fewer than one in ten people with mental health problems are successfully being supported into work through the Work Programme, the Government’s flagship welfare-to-work scheme, but tailored programmes have much higher success rates,” he said. “Instead of constantly treating people with suspicion, we need a system that makes an effort to understand their skills, ambitions, and the real barriers they face in getting and staying in a job.”

Research by the charity reported in the Independent earlier this year found that 83 per cent of people on the Government’s Work Programme because of their mental health problems believed the scheme had made those problems worse. 76 per cent of the same group also said the scheme, which is enforced by sanctions, had made them actually less able to work than before they were allocated to it.

Earlier this month disabilities minister Priti Patel rejected a call from SNP MP Callum McCraig to launch an official departmental investigation into whether the sanctions were injurious to mental health. She said any analysis would be flawed, telling MPs: “There are many factors affecting an individual’s mental health. To assess the effect of sanctions in isolation of all other factors would be misleading.”

She also claimed that there was “no evidence” to suggest that claimants with mental health problems were being sanctioned more than anyone else.


From Researching Reform website:-

Troubled Families Programme Is A Scam That “Coerces” Families To Engage.

A frontline social worker involved with The Troubled Families Programme has branded the project a scam, which has dishonestly based its success off the back of other agencies’ hard work and coerces families to engage, providing a constant revenue stream that benefits local government.

We are not surprised by this development. Back in 2012 we expressed our concern, along with others, about the criteria being used to ‘detect’ or label Troubled Families. We didn’t, and don’t, care much for the term itself either, but what was so astonishing was that the government was prepared to identify families in distress using what can only be described as irrational criteria. In its initial phase, social work professionals would need to ‘tick off’ at least five of the seven criteria present. In 2016, this checklist appears to have shrunk (the whistleblowing social worker in the piece above tells us that there are now six elements to the check list, and only two elements now need to be identified before you’re officially In Trouble).

The social worker makes several observations about the Programme:

  • There appears to be no qualitative evidence that the Troubled Families programme is actually responsible for ‘turning around’ the families it comes into contact with.
  • Many families are assessed based on information which is between one to four years old. Most have therefore resolved their issues with the help of other organisations or through their own accord.
  • As a result, those involved in the Project’s management are just mapping this progress and not actually contributing to outcomes, at all.
  • Much of the basis for the ‘independent evaluation’ of the Troubled Families programme is done on cases which have been labelled high risk. This means they will be dealt with by a ‘flagship’ Troubled Families team, which has a smaller case load and so able to meet with the family a number of times a week. This practice is therefore financially unsustainable if applied to the programme at large, but it is used as the basis for evaluation of the entire programme.
  • The programme is also being used to fill the hole created by cuts in local government funding. Refusal to engage in the programme is therefore not accepted by Troubled Families process managers, so staff use ‘creative’ tactics to make up the numbers. This has led to the coercion and harassment of families, who are being subjected to a ‘hard sell’.
All of this has created a culture of unethical practices which sees staff dishonestly reclassifying cases so they ‘fit’ into the programme. These are hugely concerning sentiments and ones which we should take seriously. Will an independent body investigate the claims?


Finally this from the BBC website:-

'A quarter of a million' UK students now using sugar daddies, according to app

A leading sugar daddy app says it now has almost a quarter of a million UK students on its books. Seeking Arrangement claims it's seen a 40% growth in the last year in young women joining. The figures are based on email address sign-ups, so some accounts could be people with multiple accounts, while the term students includes part-time workers and trainees. What's not clear either is how many of the users are "active" and go on dates.

Official figures released last month suggested a rise in crimes linked to dating apps and are also leading to an increase in the rates of sexually transmitted infections, according to doctors. Last year a study found that more than a fifth of students had thought about being involved in the sex industry. One in 20 students who took part said they'd worked either in glamour modelling, web-cam modelling, stripping or prostitution.

Seeking Arrangement says it aims to hooks up wealthy men with younger women. It claims the most new sign-ups have come from the University of Portsmouth and the University of Kent. The app makers say they believe the high cost of university fees and accommodation in the UK is making students look at new ways of making cash while studying. There is evidence that suggests fewer students are working while in full-time education.

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) says its figures suggest 29% of 16 to 24-year-olds were working in 2015. That's a 7% fall from 10 years earlier. In November Newsbeat spoke with 20-year-old Clover Pittilla, from Bournemouth, who uses the site.

"It wasn't for chavy people, there is a certain standard they have to meet," she said. "They are somewhere in life materially where they want to be and they just want to have fun now." When the subject of sex came up she told us people are very open in the sugar daddy dating scene. "Sometimes, sometimes [there is an expectation of sex]. But they are usually quite forward with that. "They usually say it straight away. If that's what they want then that is what they want. "But if that is not what I want, that is not what I am going to do.

"But if they are attractive or whatever and you wouldn't mind, then why not." Despite these figures on the amount of students using sugar daddy apps, some of the comments, at the time, about Newsbeat's interview with Clover still suggested it was similar to prostitution.

Student Clover believes that's unfair. "If you go on the internet, you see what people really think of it. "Some think it is like prostitution but it really isn't. You don't have to do anything you don't want to do." The types of people signing up to sugar dating services do not seem to fall into a certain wealth or social class. Seeking Arrangement claims 56% of university Sugar Babies come from middle and upper-middle class families. 


  1. But MoJ are keen to ensure everything is okay according to this written answer from 15 March:

    Prisoners' Release: Employment -
    "To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to ensure that more prisoners obtain employment on release."

    A Answered by: Andrew Selous on: 15 March 2016 -
    "Supporting offenders into meaningful employment is a vital aspect of the Government’s approach to rehabilitation. We already work with a wide range of employers in prison through One3One Solutions and engagement by Prison Governors. And we want Governors to do more so we are putting the tools to drive this change in the hands of those at the frontline who best know what works. We are keen to increase the number of employers who can provide valuable vocational work for offenders while in prison and who are able to offer them support in preparation for release and employment opportunities following their release. I regularly meet businesses across the country including at 2 successful roadshows at HMP Sudbury and HMP/YOI Drake hall. New businesses are now coming on board as a consequence. The Employers Forum for Reducing Reoffending brings together employers willing to employ offenders and we are working with the Department for Work and Pensions to increase the involvement of more businesses. The Prime Minister has announced changes to recruitment practises across the civil service to ensure that people are considered on their merits and not on their criminal conviction and we want to encourage more employers to do the same."

    1. One3one??

      Sarah McKnight Chief Executive of ONE3ONE Solutions:

      “ONE3ONE Solutions provides a wide range of products and services that can be tailored to meet the needs of your business. With more than a hundred prisons across England and Wales we provide excellent geographic reach, potential for increased production capacity and operational flexibility at competitive prices. Working with ONE3ONE can benefit your business, so come talk to us to explore further."

    2. From The Independent 2012: "The Department of Justice has rebranded the old Prison Industries Unit as a new body called One3one Solutions and wants to increase prison revenues to £130m a year by 2021. One3one, which is named after the number of prisons in the UK estate, is offering interested companies the chance of "utilising a workforce of motivated prisoners" who, it claims, are looking to "build outstanding business relationships with you".

      Prisoners are not paid the minimum wage, and labour contracts seen by the investigative website Exaro News show companies are typically paying prisons the equivalent of around £2 an hour for prisoners' labour.

      Most convicts are paid much less, with the prisons taking a variable amount of their salary. At this wage level, the unions say, companies may choose to outsource jobs to prisons which might otherwise go to the law-abiding unemployed. There are also concerns that as the numbers employed in prisons increase, the emphasis will be less on training and development and more on using "cheap labour" to subsidise the prison estate."

    3. More on Judy's namesake (remember Judy?) from the Pertemps website for EFFRR:

      "Sarah McKnight, Head of Employment, NOMS

      Sarah McKnight has worked across Government on policy and operations for in excess of twelve years and is currently the Head of Employment in NOMS with responsibility for the EFFRR links to NOMS.

      Her role includes responsibility for day one mandation, finance benefit and debt policy, housing and homeliness policy and the wider interface with DWP.

      Sarah has worked on the implementation of ONE3ONE Solutions (prison industries), the design of the MoJ Payment by Results policy and pilot programme and the Breaking the Cycle Green Paper, with her vast experience crossing many departments including Ofsted and a range of roles within DWP."

      I'd like to know a bit more about the "homeliness policy" - perhaps its a NOMS initiative for NOMS staff, a bit like their "cosy relationships" policy?

  2. The country and the 90% who don't have the wealth-going to the dogs!

  3. And the money put forward for homelessness (which the govt has created) will go to a private company to set up some sort of workhouse. Create the market, then siphon off hard working tax payers money into the pockets of those purporting to 'solve' the (artificially created) problem. Organised crime.

    1. George Osborne has announced a £115m package towards dealing with homelessness, including an extra £5m for a social impact bond, as part of today’s Budget, but charities say more action is needed.

      Today’s budget included the news that the government will invest £100m in “low-cost ‘second stage’ accommodation for rough sleepers leaving hostel accommodation and domestic abuse victims and their families moving on from refuges”.

      It said that this will create 2,000 places and free up hostels for those in “acute need”.

      The government will also invest £10m over two years to “scale up innovative ways to prevent and reduce rough sleeping” building on the No Second Night Out initiative.

      It has doubled the amount of funding for the rough sleeping social impact bond, which was announced at the Autumn Statement, from £5m to £10m. It says this will “drive innovative ways of tackling entrenched rough sleeping, including the Housing First approach”.

    2. I can't be the only one heartily sick of the constant repetition of "innovative" and "innovation" coming out of Whitehall.

      We don't need "innovative" new ways of doing things, we need the old ways, which we know work, to be funded properly. And for this bunch of old Etonian bastards to be kicked out of office and made to suffer, badly.

  4. Jim
    Probation in the news. funny how we get a high profile when things go wrong...

    1. The Mail takes its usual measured approach:

      "The report into the probation service's blunders has not been made public, but details of it were reported by BBC News."

      Never understood how or why a probation officer is held responsible for their client's offending. Its a ludicrous view to hold but one that was inevitable once the politicians, letterheads and signs proclaimed that probation were a law enforcement & public protection agency as opposed to rehabilitation specialists.

    2. From the BBC:-

      Triple killer Joanne Dennehy was under the supervision of probation workers when she murdered three men, the BBC can reveal. Dennehy, 33, from Peterborough, is serving life for the murders of three men in 2013.

      A report highlights "deficiencies" by the probation service, but says there is "no evidence that these contributed directly" to the deaths. Christina Lee, widow of victim Kevin Lee, criticised the failings.

      "We have been left numb by the failings identified... and it has left us wondering whether my husband would still be alive today had they done their job properly," she said.

      Dennehy had been given a community order of 12 months for assault and being in control of a dangerous dog. She was supervised by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Probation service, but she missed appointments with probation officers after going to Lincolnshire.

      The restricted report, seen by the BBC, says a "more experienced offender manager" should have been appointed to deal with the "complexities" of the case. It says there was no contact with Dennehy when she was in prison which was a "missed opportunity".

      The probation service risk appraisal of Dennehy was that she had the "potential to cause serious harm" but was unlikely to do so "unless there was a significant change in circumstances". The report said the probation service should have looked into this further. It recommends the probation services undertake greater "risk of harm" analysis of cases and that there is additional training for probation officers.

      Dennehy murdered Lukasz Slaboszewski, 31, Kevin Lee, 48, and John Chapman, 56, in March 2013 before dumping their bodies. She went on the run and subsequently stabbed dog walkers Robin Bereza, 64, and 56-year-old John Rogers in Hereford.

      The Probation Service has yet to comment.

  5. Daily Mail:-

    Triple murderer Joanna Dennehy was on probation at the time she killed three men and dumped their bodies in the countryside, it emerged today. An official report states that the case of the 33-year-old was handled by officers who were insufficiently inexperienced to deal with its 'complexities'.

    The widow of one of Dennehy's victims said she had been left 'numb' by the revelation and questioned whether her husband could still be alive if not for the probation service's failings.

    Dennehy killed her lover and two other men then threw their bodies in a ditch with the help of an apprentice during a frenzied crime spree in March 2013. A report has now revealed that the murderer was being supervised by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough probation service at the time.

    She had previously been given a 12-month community order after being convicted of assault and owning a dangerous dog.
    The report into the probation service's blunders has not been made public since it was compiled two years ago, but details of it were reported today by BBC News. The investigation concluded that a 'more experienced offender manager' should have handled Dennehy's probation because it was so complicated. It pointed to a number of 'deficiencies' in the case, but said that they did not contribute directly to her killing spree.

    An assessment of Dennehy found that she had the 'potential to cause serious harm' but was unlikely to do so.
    Christina Lee, whose husband Kevin Lee was one of the killer's victims, today spoke of her anger at the report's findings. 'We have been left numb by the failings identified,' she told the BBC. 'It has left us wondering whether my husband would still be alive today had they done their job properly.'

    It emerged a few days ago that Dennehy is currently suing the prison service because solitary confinement makes her 'tearful and upset'.

    A spokesman for the Probation Service said: 'Our sympathies are with the families’ of the victims following these abhorrent crimes. Public protection is our priority and in the very rare case of serious further offending a review is carried out to identify any areas for improvement. Recommendations from this review were taken on board at the time and action was taken to improve the management of cases going forward.'

    1. The Mail article ends with references to Dennehy's use of alcohol & illicit substances and involvement with psychiatric services:

      "She was diagnosed with a personality disorder, psychopathic, anti-social and emotional instability disorders and an obsessive compulsive disorder."

      I hate this blame game shit. Why pick on probation? What about substance misuse teams? Mental health? Police? Prison? Dennehy's was clearly a complicated case to manage but probation services are not, and never have been, drug treatment centres, psychiatric units or covert monitoring teams. Did no-one else have eyes, ears or any view about Dennehy's presentation? The victims' families, now victims themselves as a consequence of Dennehy's criminal acts of violence, are being encouraged to focus their anger at a single agency which had limited powers under the terms of a 12 month Community Order.

      There's a much bigger picture of constructive institutional failure that needs addressed including years and years of massive cuts in funding for essential public services.

      This is but one example of the false economy of the ideology of privatisation. And it is tragic.

    2. There is a lot more to the Joanne Dennehy case than is to be gleaned from a muddled BBC report as becomes apparent from a Wikipedia article.

      I suspect this may have been the issue a BBC journalist wanted to tell me about when she asked for my phone number a few days ago, without giving any reason - I did not give it and asked for info whilst complaining about my past dissatisfaction with her responses to me. I have had nothing to do with the Wiki article - as apparently only one of three English women serving a full life sentence tariff, she is a rather unusual prisoner.

  6. It's a pity the media isn't so quick to report the TR shambles.


    1. It seems the austerity policy has become too much even for Iam Drunken-Shit. Too many bad dreams keeping him awake?

  8. Heard a wonderful assessment of government's cuts on R4PM this afternoon, when the mother of a young man with severe disability asked how MPs could justify taking money off those with limited resources & disabilities as an incentive to work, as compared to their own argument that they and other wealthy types needed additional pay to incentivise them to work. It was a beautifully simple argument.