Monday, 17 October 2016

News Roundup 5

Another good article in Private Eye I see reminding us that many of the contract winners were in fact 'second best' in order to give the illusion of a great deal of interest and to stop the big boys scooping the pool:-


I think most would agree that Dame Glenys Stacey has made an excellent start as HM Chief Inspector of Probation and I notice there is an invitation to provide comments on how her task might be assisted. Too good an opportunity to miss I'd have thought:-   

HMI Probation Stakeholder Survey 2016

As one of our stakeholders, your views are very important to us. Feedback on various aspects of our work, such as our reports and communications, will enable us to identify potential areas for development and improvement, thus maximising our effectiveness and impact.

The survey should only take 10-15 minutes to complete, and your responses are completely anonymous. There will be an opportunity to provide an email if you would like to be added to the distribution list for our 2017 stakeholder survey, but this information will not be used for any other purpose.

The survey will close on Friday 04 November 2016.

Many thanks for your input.


In order to try and counter much of the negative publicity that inevitably flows from poor inspection reports and with much of probation now being a commercial operation with companies effectively competing with each other for future business, I guess we can expect more of this sort of stuff in the propaganda war. This from Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC:- 


Thanks to the Through the Gate (TTG) service, provided by Shelter and the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC), John spent his first night out of HMP Risley in a bed rather than sleeping rough.

Shelter’s Lisa Snow established contact with John on the weeks leading up to his release. To ensure that the risk of future reoffending was minimised she worked closely with John’s probation officer, Case Manager Emily Curbishley, completing a detailed resettlement plan in order to understand his accommodation, financial and employment needs.

The assessment revealed that upon release John, who had been sentenced to three years for burglary, didn’t have access to stable accommodation. As a result Riverside Housing Association’s Gate Buddies scheme, together with the prison, provided support by helping to organise a suitable move-on address.

Numerous applications were made to find John accommodation before suitable housing in Manchester was found, but on the morning of John’s release plans had to be changed at the last minute, a challenge frequently faced by the TTG team. However, thanks to support from Gate Buddies, a bed was successfully secured for John at SASH, a sheltered housing initiative run by Riverside Housing.

Lisa said: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to secure accommodation for prisoners being released as many accommodation providers are losing their funding and our options are becoming more and more limited. It’s therefore imperative that Shelter and CGM CRC work as closely as possible. Shelter has established strong links with Gate Buddies and SASH and this case is a great example of effective joint working and communication between all of the organisations that worked to support John. We worked closely together, from first meeting John through to the day of his release. As a result we were able to best assess John’s needs and make an appropriate referral resulting in a very positive outcome.”

Emily said: “Securing accommodation for service users has a significant impact on reducing a person’s likelihood of re-offending. Having a stable base, with support, improves a person’s chances of engaging with relevant services such as attending appointments with medical services, benefits agencies and drug and alcohol teams. This can have a really positive effect on a person’s risk of re-conviction. Not only does Through the Gate support someone to make efforts to gain suitable accommodation it also supports good communication, as I was able to relay messages to John regarding his housing needs through my Shelter colleagues whilst he was still in prison. In this instance, Gate Buddies has provided invaluable support. One of their team met John, took him to his new address and helped him when he needed it most. Without these organisations working together it’s likely John’s first night out of prison would have either been spent sofa surfing or on the streets.”

Sarah Cooke Regional Contacts Manager said: “John’s case illustrates the innovative work we do with service users across the North West, in partnership with CGM CRC and other providers. TTG is only a year old, but we have already helped nearly nineteen thousand people. In the first quarter alone we have supported 2,815 people into accommodation. Housing is intrinsically linked to the risk of future reoffending and everyone deserves a home. We won’t stop until no one has to face bad housing or homelessness.”


I see from this tweet that Harry Fletcher is hard at work with his latest employers:-

"A dozen Questions drafted by Hfletcher and Tabled By Plaid on lamentable performance by CRCs go down this week in Commons" 


Finally, I'm afraid the blog is going to have to return to auto-pilot for another week as I'm away again and internet connection is going to be difficult. Please keep an eye out for any significant developments while I'm away and as always, share the information with us all here. Thanks.   


  1. Shelter says, 'TTG is only a year old, but we have already helped nearly nineteen thousand people. In the first quarter alone we have supported 2,815 people into accommodation'. I wonder what they mean by 'helped' 19,000 and 'supported' 2,815. Does helped mean they gave leaflets to 19,000 and does supported actually mean 'housed' or something less – a tent perhaps.

    1. Ask Interserve how many Shelter staff involved in TTG are located at HMP Liverpool
      Clue: More than 1 but less than 3!!!!!
      Serving a prison holding 1600+..........
      Its a total sham/scam

    2. Don't mock it. He may only be one but with Lisa and Emily on board he'll find flats for all 1600+ inmates before lunchtime. Perhaps will even have time for a bit of moonlighting housing a few poorly paid prison officers!!

    3. Excuse my manners... I meant to say 'he or she'.

    4. The answer was 2 !!!

  2. Probation Officer17 October 2016 at 08:06

    So John said he was homeless, Emma (did her job) made a referral and Shelter (funded to assist with housing) provided a bed.

    I expect "TTG is only a year old, but we have already helped nearly nineteen thousand people" means the other 18,999 homeless people (excepting John) got an empty resettlement plan and a leaflet.

    What the hell is a "probation officer, case manager"?

  3. Wow one person got a place at night shelter. Shelter's Regional Contacts Manager should prepare to now be made a Fellow of the Probation Institute!!

    1. It was impressive that after a detailed resettlement assessment, it was 'revealed' that he did not have access to stable accommodation. Shelter needs to start registering patents because establishing whether someone has accommodation on release is obviously more complicated than what the lay person may imagine.

      Yes, an extraordinary piece of casework by Shelter. It's humbling to be reminded that, when I moan about TR, in those places where the light don't much shine, work of the highest standard – always 'innovative' - is being performed. The story of John has a pre-Christmas quality – no tent for John under rainy Manchester skies, but Shelter in a storm due to the tireless efforts of TTG champions.

      The fact that the probation service have been finding housing for service users since time immemorial must not rain on Shelter's marketing parade. The fact that all these innovations can be found throughout the history of probation, means we must stifle our yawns at Shelter's innovative ways of working.

    2. pardon my ignorance, but I thought that TTG was brought into existence ONLY for those who were serving less than 12 months? This man got 3 yrs. Probation pre-TR HAD to move heaven and earth to find accom for longer term more serious offenders. Nowt new there.

      Once, due to a prison miscalculation, I had a high risk DV offender released unexpectedly, several days before planned, when there was supported accom waiting for him. I received a phone call on a Friday, 23/12 to say he was being released that afternoon! My manager, several other staff, and myself, dropped everything to try everywhere, made harder by his exclusion zone condition. All inns were full, until one grotty place offered one night, with the pre-arranged organisation moving a trustworthy (and delighted)resident into their independent accom,to enable my client to be moved into decent accom the following day, which was overseen by senior Probation managers. My manager and I then drove to the prison to pick him up, while the rest of the staff were leaving at 3pm for the Christmas break, with my female manager warning me not to say anything which could antagonise him, as she feared we would be harmed as she drove. Luckily he sat silent and sullen most of the way, after we had explained the situation.

      I got home around 9pm that night so Santa was late in wrapping his pressies, my manager missed a staff Christmas do (and for her a reunion) with her previous team; not happy bunnies but job done.

      By the way, isn't 19K in one part of Britain in one year not a bit pie in the sky? The figures sound impossibly exaggerated. That is a quarter of the whole prison population. Did they just go out and scatter leaflets to the 4 winds?

    3. All true, maybe Anon but sadly even though as a po until 2003 I helped many find somewhere to stay, if not live, up to when I retired in 2003, there were sadly times when all I could say when challenged by lots of folk who thought they knew what pbn should do in every situation, was that I am sorry, pbn is NOT an accommodation provider or agency and has no statutary duty to provide accommodation.

      Whereas in SOME circumstances LOCAL AUTHORITIES in England and Wales, at any rate, do have an absolute duty.

      I heard on a radio broadcast, that now EVERY housing authority has a 24 hour emergency support service to homeless people, via a phone number - I do not know how long that has been in place?

      Of course Grayling said his TR would change all that and every prisoner would be met at the gate and taken to accommodation on the day of release having previously had at least one pre re-release visit from a mentor at one of the 30 designated resettlement prisons.

      So presumably nowadays all that is left for probation folk is to issue a reporting appointment and get on with the detailed stuff of working at - shall we call it - emotional rehabilitation.

      It is against such standards that the media and parliament should be measuring the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Government of 2010-2015's probation reforms.

      It seems to me that few outside probation are truly bothered.

      I regret I cannot reference that radio programme it was over the weekend, if a reader can help, I thought on Radio 4 but I am not sure when = Shelter were mentioned.

    4. "I thought that TTG was brought into existence ONLY for those who were serving less than 12 months? This man got 3 yrs."

      Come, come, ml, now you're just being picky with the facts. What's wrong with simply swallowing the whole warm & fuzzy TTG fairy story and to hell with reality?

    5. re 1451 - yes,I agree - I'm just retired and old fashioned, with mellow memories - wish those fuzzy fairies could close their eyes, whisper an 'all ok' spell and wave their magic wands, and CG and the other baddies all disappear in a puff of smoke, or a huge bl..dy explosion - and we all live happily ever after..

      (I didn't type out that really naughty word in case I was moderated)

  4. Big WOW for Shelter - one person homed lol

    1. a PD1 received today from the prison had no release address on it - emailed them and the response was 'ring Shelter on 0300.... Rang shelter to be told 'its not our job to run round for offender info' agreed with her and the PD1 was sent back with 'unable to complete as insufficient information provided for address check despite a 2nd request'. Stuff em.

  5. First up, have a happy time away Jim, and thank you for your endless service.
    Now: housing. Maslow's hierarchy of needs. There are so many processes and so many contracts all held by organisations busy ticking boxes to meet their contracts. As ever, it comes down to commitment and a meaningful relationship with the client. My experience is that really great workers in agencies attached to the case bring expertise, but in the end are bringing it to the case, not the person. It's an effort of will and commitment to keep on in there with the person, and this is what we do. As in, not letting it go when the accommodation is got (tick box) but check your client is equipped to cope

    1. In my experience TTG and all it's contracted services have not helped anybody. Some used to be good projects/services but no more as the remit is now to seek maximum revenue for minimum effort.

  6. Credit to Emily and Lisa. Well all know housing is a big issue. After sex offenders and arsonists, burglars are probably the next hardest to house. However......this is one case out of many hundreds that must get released homeless. One swallow does not a summer make! For them to highlight they have got a house just further reinforces how lamentable the whole TTG scheme is.

    Lame :(


    1. .. and look how many former probation managers, senior managers and chief officers became consultants and bid writers for the big private companies in the run up to TR!! Shame on them all, not for earning a crust but for intentionallly and knowingly shafting us before, during and after they earned it.

    2. How management consultants are cashing in on austerity

      Since 2010, when the coalition embarked on austerity, one profession has turned cuts to the public sector into a business opportunity: management consultants.

      How did they get the gig? Are they doing essential work for beleaguered services or are they charlatans with a PowerPoint presentation?

      You might ask why Whitehall and councils can’t make these decisions for themselves, but the severity of the cuts has meant that the people who normally make the cuts have themselves been cut. An entire strata of bureaucracy has disappeared, and management consultants have filled the hole. They advise on decisions that will profoundly alter the shape of public services in Britain, and so how they make these judgments is crucially important.

      David Craig, a former management consultant with 30 years’ experience, explains that their aggressive business plan involves a problem-finding strategy.

      “What you’re looking for is something that gives a big emotional shock to the client. We want to take them to what we call the ‘valley of death’.”

      The “valley of death” is the apocalypse scenario, telling the troubled organisation that if they don’t do something huge and expensive to change quickly, it’s going to fail, fast.

      Very few organisations need a complete overhaul; they need sensible tweaks. But this, Craig says, doesn’t sound dramatic. That’s why you hear consultants refer continuously to “transformation programmes”.

      “Once we’ve taken them into the valley of death, it’s time for salvation. Now we go to the sunny uplands: it’s bad, it’s really bad, but working together we can save the situation. It’ll only cost you two or three million, or maybe you need to buy a computer system for another 50 million.”

      This strategy of finding things to fix once you’ve got your foot in the door is known in the trade as “land and expand”. “You start to uncover issues in an organisation and put them under pressure,” says John Bennett, a former management consultant to the public sector. But is this cynical or just good business?

      In Wales, PricewaterhouseCoopers rolled out a template called an “operating model assessment” across numerous councils, pocketing more than £5m. But this initial work, Bennett says, was to land bigger money with something called a “risk and reward” contract. Instead of accepting a fee upfront, the consultancy firm takes a percentage on any savings it can find. The more cuts that are made, the more money it takes.

      One council in south Wales entered into a “risk and reward” contract that reportedly netted PwC 16% profits on all cuts made.

      This might seem outrageous, but it’s a neat solution to a tricky situation. Councils accused of hiring expensive consultants can use a contract that avoids upfront money. And consultants have a stake in working hard to find new savings rather than rolling out a template.

      PwC says: “It is important that our work delivers a tangible return on taxpayers’ investment. Our fees are often – and increasingly – dependent on the performance of our services, whereby we are only paid in full if we deliver the full benefits agreed.”

      But is it morally right that management consultants are making a profit from cuts to public services? “I think it’s absolutely right that they should be rewarded for achieving what the public sector wants to achieve,” says Alan Leaman, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association.

      Anthony Hunt, the leader of another Welsh council, Torfaen, says that if the advice leads to some services being protected, then it’s a price worth paying. The danger comes when “strategic partnerships” with consultants create a dependency on consultants.

    3. Consultants have been at the heart of government since the late 60s. Under Harold Wilson’s technocratic revolution, the civil service wasn’t trusted to deliver radical reform. The then minister of technology, Tony Benn, believed outside experts were the only way to make change happen. And so the allure of the “expert” was cemented in the minds of politicians of all political persuasions, and parts of Whitehall’s civil service were sidelined.

      Some accountants and IT managers turned consultants, became outsourcing suppliers, running everything from prisons to road maintenance. They had figured out that actually running a contract worth billions was more lucrative than advising on who should run it, for mere millions.

      McKinsey & Company has advised and restructured everyone from the White House to General Motors since the 1920s. But it has also been entangled in Enron and John Major’s privatisation of Britain’s railways. Firms such as McKinsey have been at the heart of government for so long, they arguably now provide the continuity and in-house knowledge the civil service once did, so the question is: what’s the problem?

      The answer might be lack of transparency, which creates suspicion, even if it may be unfounded. There are good consultants out there, doing valuable work helping public services in critical condition stay alive. Their work is focused and necessary but here’s the key thing: they walk away when the job is done. It’s just the other kind we should worry about.

  8. TTG and TR is brilliant. It you spend less time moaning and more time doing your career may take off. Otherwise, go work for tescos if you're not happy. Just leave and do all us a favour.

    1. You might be surprised at how many have considered Tesco as an option given how great TR and sibling TTG are. Not as enbarassing as one consideration.

    2. ... and as Tesco pays for overtime it's also a better paid job!!

  9. Maybe Napo could think of joining too

    1. A total of 40 organisations and experts in children's social care have joined forces to oppose controversial plans to let councils apply to be exempted from their statutory duties.

      Provisions contained in the new Children and Social Work Bill, which is currently going through parliament, are intended to give councils the ability "to test different ways of working" within children's services by exempting them from "requirements imposed by children's social care legislation".

      Concerns have previously been raised that the bill poses a "huge threat" to the rights of vulnerable children and young people.

      Concerned that the legislation could result in children being exposed to "a postcode lottery of protection", 40 organisations and experts have joined forces to fight the plans.

      The group, calling itself Together for Children, has launched a website by the same name.

  10. Too many assumptions. Any Probation practitioner worth his or her salt places Probation values at the Centre of their practice. They've had to demonstrate this as part of VQ standards if followed VQ3 or VQ5 Awards.However, the new management brought in by CRC's have no understanding of traditional Probation values and are only concerned with meeting targets and financial restrictions.Very sad state of affairs and parallel worlds which are clashing on a daily basis. If you wish to see any integrity from management, wait until you see Peppa Pig and her family descending from up above.

  11. What hasn't ceased to appal me is the astounding dishonesty of the MOJ. They wanted to make TR a reality by hook or by crook, they lied and manipulated and pulled strings. No one dealing with these people would surely be able to trust or take seriously anything coming from those quarters. MOJ are a "lie machine". Is MOJ necessarily that different just because Chris Grayling has departed? Is it not still staffed by people who are happy to use all their cleverness in the employ of deceit if that is what is demanded of you? If you worked in the MOJ or in NOMS, would you not try to counteract this ethos of clever lying which seems to dominate there in some way? Don't we all have a degree of power in the way we choose to operate in our work roles? Is not each employee to some degree responsible ?

  12. New report out today - Troubled Families Unit has cost £Hundreds of Millions of public money but hasn't done diddly squat - no measurable impact whatsoever.

    1. From BBC website re-Troubled Families Unit (it could be about TR?):

      "Local authorities are paid up to £4,000 on a payment-by-results basis for turning around the hardest-to-help families.
      The government has previously heralded the success of the scheme, with ministers saying the lives of tens of thousands of families had been "turned around".
      It was later extended from 2015 for a further five years, to cover another 400,000 families at a further cost of £900m.
      'No consistent evidence'
      However, analysis by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) found no consistent, measurable evidence that the scheme had improved the lives of families it aimed to help.
      Using data from a quarter of the families that had taken part in the first stage of the programme, NIESR calculated that there were "a very small number of positive or negative results".
      "Across a wide range of outcomes, covering the key objectives of the Troubled Families Programme - employment, benefit receipt, school attendance, safeguarding and child welfare - we were unable to find consistent evidence that the programme had any significant or systematic impact," the report stated.
      Jonathan Portes, one of the authors of the report, wrote that the programme was a "perfect case study of how the manipulation and misrepresentation of statistics by civil servants and politicians led to bad policy making and the wasting of millions of pounds of taxpayers' money."

  13. The troubled families initiative and TR are both intended to achieve the same thing; to create the illusion that Government has 'done something' about an issue that is finding itself in the media. Once it has 'done something' it can sit back and bullshit it's way through to the next election without having to 'do something' to put right the problem in question whilst also being able to point at the something they did that is in it's early stages and is showing 'promising results'. Then, when it all fall apart, the Ministers responsible have all moved on and the new Ministers can 'do something' else. It is a great way of avoiding doing anything meaningful without being held to account.