First off, can I say that next time you take up what sounds like a brilliant suggestion from one of your young and enthusiastic team, such as a foray into 'social media' on Facebook with an offer to 'Ask Bob', you have something meaningful to say. To put it bluntly, this isn't a good enough answer to the considered and detailed questions highlighted in Wednesday's blog post:-
Bob: "Hi Denice, we don’t hold this information and we are afraid the questions should be directed to MoJ or to the CRCs involved. Should the Committee decide to inquire into this subject in the future it will no doubt take evidence on the impact on staff of the new arrangements. Thank you."I notice the author didn't give up though and got this further response from you:-
"Thank you for following up on this. The Committee is following developments in Transforming Rehabilitation very closely, having questioned MoJ’s Permanent Secretary on the issue and held an informal meeting with CRCs, Government officials and academics earlier this month. It has already received many suggestions that it pursue an inquiry into the subject; this will be given consideration as soon as possible, but cannot be addressed immediately as its work programme is already full with other urgent issues (including Prison reform and Implications of Brexit for the justice system)."So Bob, you don't think the crisis in probation is that urgent? Well, let me tell you that the shit is shortly to hit the fan in relation to MTCnovo, the dodgy American outfit that was awarded the contract to run the largest probation service by far, that of London, right on your doorstep.
News reaches me from last Friday's meeting of Napo London Branch that when the HMIP report is published:-
"They will get an absolute kicking, 'be slaughtered, likely to be one of the worst reports to date' - seems they are awaiting CRC Improvement Action Plan before publication - but threats to withdraw contract seem in the air - as a consequence front line staff are 'copping it' in terms of intense performance management crack down with a sense of demoralisation (defiance from some) palpable...50% OASys reports outstanding etc due to CRC inept handling - the cohort model will be replaced by a patch based approach (seems that the model of practice adopted was for Thames Valley & was introduced as a panic measure). Seems that 'lots of senior faces have been purged' in advance of report."
"London RISE* - financial meltdown backlog of reports, each costing 3k and a sense of impending collapse...Community Payback - disaster area! 66 Case Managers - now 18 staff for whole of London - derisory training - apparently a decision to make Orders 'concurrent' when pre-existing Order in force, one example of 'corrupt practices' - 'downtrodden' was how the heroic rep described colleagues.."Now Bob, in my humble submission, none of this is going to play well, coming as it does on top of the now very public knowledge of the crisis created in our prisons by Chris Grayling's disastrous policy decisions when Justice Minister. Of course he did a very similar job with TR and probation and I have to say your Committee has been extremely slow in recognising there's a very serious problem here too. Yes, you've given ministers and senior Civil Servants a grilling, but if I may say so, you've been extremely lax in failing to follow up on the soft soap and bollocks you've been told on a regular basis and routinely highlighted on this blog by astute commentators.
Can I suggest that under your watch the MoJ Contract Police have obviously been asleep at the wheel? Why didn't they give MTCnovo a good kicking before HMIP got in and discovered London was in such a mess? They're only up the road for goodness sake! An American company that knows nothing about probation with a former prison governor in charge was always likely to end in tears wasn't it?
We all know that the dreadful Coalition government made sure that the TR probation contracts contained a poison pill making cancellation prohibitively expensive, but CRC contractors such as MTCnovo are clearly not delivering, so surely the contracts need to be taken away on the grounds of non-compliance?
It's got to make sense because an effective probation service must form part of any plan for prison reform and the present system is completely broken. May I therefore be so bold as to suggest you heed the advice you have already been given, as indeed you freely admit, namely:-
"It has already received many suggestions that it pursue an inquiry into the subject; this will be given consideration as soon as possible."so jolly well get on with it, please, Bob!
*RISE was formed as a result of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme. We deliver specialist offender rehabilitation services in London as part of our contract with MTCnovo, which is a consortium of third, public and private sector companies that provide rehabilitation and offender management services across London and Thames Valley. We have also won contracts with a number of London Boroughs delivering programmes tailored to complex local needs.