Sunday, 12 November 2017

Pick of the Week 30

I’m 30+ years in and now meet up with my friends who were made redundant or decided they’d had enough working for MTCnovo in London. Most are are so glad they got out and are either retired or working for decent employers they are not ashamed to say they are working for. I feel a lot of anger at the Tories that all these great colleagues no longer work in Probation and left in disgust and disappointment with a wealth of experience. They keep saying to me that I should leave because everyday I have to drag myself in to an office I now hate working in to work for a toxic company that cares about nothing but profit. Recently I worked out when I could retire. The fact is I want to leave as I can no longer think of any good reason why a sane person would waste their life working for such a bunch of cowboy profiteers unless you want to sell your soul.

*****
Dinosaurs still exist in many institutions, social services, the NHS, prisons, probation, local councils are just a few. The real value of the dinosaur however, is that they worked along the seams of society. They helped people sew the cuff to the sleeve, the sleeves to the jacket or the lapels to the collar. They had the ability to cross borders. Not very far, but enough to get a hook in. No one works along the seams anymore, they're not allowed to. Everything is compartmentalised, it's own little independent state. So people now just roll from one crisis ridden sector to another be it prisons, NHS, probation, housing or anywhere else. Society needs those that work along the seams. 


I'm minded that today the Tories, Labour and everyone else is coming together in Parliament, not because they have a sexual harassment crisis, not because they have an abuse of power crisis, they're just the components that make a 'Westminster' crisis. Maybe it's time they afforded the rest of us that courtesy. It's not a prison crisis. It's not an NHS crisis. It's not a housing crisis or any other compartmentalised crisis. IT'S A SOCIETY CRISIS. And I lay the fault at the feet of this Tory Government.

*****
I'm a PSO/CM dinosaur working within Interserve CGM and at the end of my tether. I really feel that I can't cope much longer after 19yrs service but because I've been used to a half decent salary, are now struggling to find any sort of equivalent that will maintain a roof over my head! So sick of the shit that gets constantly emailed from the powers that be with regards targets and working with integrity - this involves ensuring that we put everyone into groups with no mention of building effective relationships. CM's are also being made to run DV groups with 2 days training (not yet BBR) but with medium risk completing IRSC - no thought to victims me thinks! But hey why would they give a shit when they continue to tick boxes and reap the benefits thrown to them by this Government - including Interserves new contracts.

*****
...and so, London Inspection in boroughs are now complete. Inspectors on a two week rest until they move into Head Office for two weeks. Would love to be a fly on the wall. Still, senior management now have two weeks to prepare...or manipulate evidence, data. 

Amusing that during this period, us front line staff were denied any Annual Leave. Yet, our ACO commenced A/L the day after inspectors turned up at one of their boroughs/office. An office that has not had a SPO for approaching 10 weeks now. It’s ok though. We have had SPO oversight, for all of one 2 hour visit during that time. It all worked out well though. Lead inspector was allocated. A chance to off load just what we face, deal with, daily. Sadly not. Their 4 day stay lasted half a day. Inspection interviews conducted over the phone. Inspector hadn’t even looked at Delius, OASys prior to calls. Baffling.

It transpires that we have also been served eviction from our office. Not that CRC staff have been informed. That would be communicating important news to staff and showing some respect. NPS colleagues preparing to move location in January kindly shared this news. Why should we be informed anyway? We are just box tickers on the front line after all.

So, since the inspection ‘preparation’ commenced, we have been manager-less, no real support offered, left to it, while it seems being evicted from our place of work. Which is fine. We have a laptop. A wi-fi box. We can hold meetings in Costa I suppose. Never a boring day in CRC hey...?

*****
Today, sandwiched between my commutes, listening to radio news of corruption, greed and abuse by the powerful, a man who has NOTHING came to his probation appointment and returned the money we had given him up front for his bus fare, as someone had given him a lift. I felt like weeping.

*****
A never ending cycle of hopelessness. Service users NFA. You prepare letters for them to provide to your local housing service, detailing risk, their circumstance, requesting advice and support. They get turned away. Told to go back to Probation. Probation can refer you to another service. You complete the form. Refer. Reduce anxiety of Service User. Arrange an appointment for help. They attend. Service provider don’t. Buck then stops with you to manage and contain emotions, risk, anger. Still...there is always ‘Plan, Meet, Record’. Sad. Frustrating. What can we do?

*****
They gather with glasses of bubbles & exotic canapes, slapping each other on the back, laughing & joking, oh so pleased with themselves. It just proves that nothing will change. Where's the motivation? The excruciating irony is that probation work is underpinned by motivational change... so it's time to recognise that the usual suspects are nowhere near contemplation phase. They're very comfortable, secure & content in their world - reminiscent of the 'career criminals' on your caseloads: the recidivist 'professional' burglars who are financially secure, the DV perps who maintain control, the sex offenders who are in denial. They don't care about caseloads, probation staff or victims of crime. Invisible Lidington has done nothing since his appointment. Where's the outcry? I'd wager my offshore savings that the Napo GenSec was there...

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Actually there are also some decent people on that list such as Professors McNeill and Craissati and Mark Johnson whose organisation User Voice was royally shafted by MTCnovo along with the entire service user engagement initiative. So while there may be those who hitched their horse on Graylings wagon, there are also those who are very critical of TR and would like the government to take things in a different direction. What we should be doing is organising to attend such events so that the right questions are asked and the rational voices are supported.

*****
... but everyone knows what questions need to be asked; everyone knew where TR was taking us; and all those in positions to implement change are fully aware of the state of play. They just won't change anything because it doesn't suit them or their agenda. They aren't hungry, cold, homeless... and they're not prepared to risk their well-paid high-flying careers for the sake of a handful of pissed-off probation workers, or those convicted of criminal offences. That's why I believe nothing will change. The die is cast. It's been four years since the shafting exercise, nearly three and a half since CRCs were implemented, about three years since the contracts were awarded - what has changed for the better? Nothing.

People have been shouting from the rooftops, writing to MPs, writing to the media, this blog has been constant, even HMI Probation has politely had a word,... Nothing! The JSC have asked for evidence to inform their review. I doubt many of those most deeply affected by the whole TR shitstorm will submit anything either because they know nothing about it or because they dare not risk their jobs. 

Sorry to be so negative but recent events have made it plain to me that unless you're 'in their club' they regard you & your life with utter contempt and just do whatever suits them - Priti Patel; Boris Johnson; Brexshit; Trump; May; sexual predators; the Paradise Papers; its an endless stream of 'us & them' - we can but you can't; we have and you don't have.

*****
The Parole Board plays an important role in the CJS, especially in relation to IPPs. IPP was a cruel sentence, a political disaster, and in many cases imposed by different interpretation of sentencing guidelines. It's now defunct, and rightly so in my opinion. However, the narrative is always about releasing IPPs from custody, dealing with the backlog. But shouldn't there be more? It's not enough to talk about getting people out of custody, people need to be taken out if the Criminal Justice System itself.

Making someone once released subject to a life long licence is just keeping them part of the CJS, at risk of recall and subject to whatever changes may occur within the CJS during that licence period that the individual has no control over, but may be impacted adversely by. There is no point, or justification, for imposing a universal period of licence on those released from an IPP sentence. Just the vast array of offences that have attracted an IPP sentence, and the huge differences in tariffs imposed demonstrates how much difference there is within the IPP population. The focus needs to be more orientated on getting people to exit the CJS, not just exiting custody.

I don't see why the licence period for IPPs can't be correlated more to tariff, and become more reflective of the individual, than an all inclusive universal licence based solely on a defunct and highly political sentencing guideline. Everyone needs to think bigger, moving people out of custody is just a step in the right direction but moving people out of the CJS altogether should be the real goal.

*****
The madness of LondonCRC. A ‘low’ risk first time offender allocated to an experienced PO. A ‘medium’ risk - but high profile offender (media known for previous manslaughter) allocated to a inexperienced PSO. I have no words.

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The 'nub of it' is the fact that TR is based on the premise that substantial profit can be squeezed out of trying to assist people to make positive changes to their lives; or put another way, cashing in on others' misfortune and misery.

*****
Lest we forget... The 'nub of it' might also be that a politically-driven ideology was imposed upon a public service with indecent haste, filling opportunists' pockets with eye-watering sums of public money & ending the careers of hundreds of skilled, experienced professionals. Yes, we have to find a way forward. No, we should not let those responsible for the TR debacle off the hook.

*****
MTCnovo are spending £1m plus a week trying to fix IT. Staff have the IT helpline on speed dial often relying on their personal phones to communicate. At their HQ in Elephant & Castle MTCnovo they have cleared away desks and installed huge shelves where dead and dying IT equipment is displayed in the middle of a desperate operation to try to address the huge headache of keeping some equipment functioning. The fact managers are occasionally inconvenienced seems to mean they are prioritised whereas those who might lose their job due to missed deadlines have to wait. If you work at one of the so called ‘stranded sites’ you are done for. The attrition rates are enormous.

The other day they were sending out literally thousands of letters to reinstruct UPW clients that should have been doing their sentence with staff posted at the door to act as lookouts for the inspectorate.

*****
Inspections are good. Reports that publish the performance of CRCs are good. But they can just become an endless stream of inspections and bad reports if there's no sanction for failure to improve. How many inspections have produced dismal reports across the prison estate over the last few years? Prisons just get worse.

The heads of these private companies should have to operate similar to the way they dictate their clients have to. Behave the way you're supposed to, comply with the conditions imposed on you, or face penalty. I'm not a fan of that approach, but if it's the model used on their clients or service users, then it should be a model that the service providers were also subjected to.

*****
"However, magistrates have no contact with community rehabilitation companies." Most of those who appear before the magistrates will almost certainly end up being supervised by CRCs, whether by community sentence or on licence from a short custodial sentence. It's shocking that there's no contact, interchange or dialogue between the sentencer and the agencies responsible for community rehabilitation activities and supervision.

*****
Yes still the inspector mentions more money for CRC - NO NO NO NO NO that means more profit for private companies. They will not move away from targets by simple metrics achievements on the cheap Call centres appalling. Stop that nonsense please. It is time to phase out the CRC as a miserable example of what not to do ever again.

*****
Having been an Offender Manager for over 15 years and throughout this time, I have continued to write PSRs. If I could avoid using both NDelius and Oasys and instead use applications that were fit for purpose, streamlined and efficient and avoided the constant need to duplicate duplicate duplicate, I could reverse the 80/20 in the time I spend completing computer related tasks and then allow me to intercede with the offenders I am asked to manage and perhaps build a relationship with them that will facilitate them engendering long term behavioural change. As it is, I have no time to see offenders and NPS IT takes virtually all my time. It’s shameful.

As for PSRs, staff are not allowed to do a thorough interview and assessment, let alone write a detailed report that will inform fully, risk management and rehabilitation objectives. Gone is the professionally recognised document, replaced by a document that serves very little effective purpose.

As staff, we do what our employer tells us to do, in a way they tell us to do it, using tools they provide. Clearly, those in charge need to be removed and allow effective practitioners to design a Service that is fit for the 21st century. Until this happens, Government and Probation NPS decision makers, and likely CRCs will continue to frustrate the purposes of both organisations, which is to protect the public and allow for effective relationships to be formed to bring about change for those we supervise.

*****
Somewhere I have seen an invitation from the chief inspector to contribute to consultation on planned changes to inspection. I want to contribute; I haven't quite formulated my thoughts yet: my observation is this: The CRCs are motivated entirely by profit, and the NPS entirely by ticking inspection boxes. HMIP are doing a good job exposing the deficiencies of the CRC's. Less so in the NPS, and this is because NPS is driven entirely by a mission to get good inspections. HMIP are in a comfort zone where a) the absolutely dire situation in CRCs is plain to see and evidence b) there is an inadvertent collusion between NPS and HMIP where one rewards the other at the expense of all the stuff that is hard to measure. Targets and Inspections should be a yardstick of health, informing the business, not The Business.

Inspectors and managers make frequent reference to "engagement", the crucial importance of "supervisory relationships" etc. But it is hard to measure and quantify...so, a useful weathervane or yardstick would be to record the proportion of time spent in face-to face contact between staff and their clients. I think it might be a - very healthy - source of discomfort to both management and practitioners to have a look at this.

*****
"aspects of the model have become unaffordable due to lower than anticipated caseloads." I still struggle with this, and it was something that struck me as being odd when probation provision was first talked about in the context of private sector delivery. Surely the success of a private company is measured by its growth? Taking a contract to reduce reoffending must mean that profits is dependent on shrinkage. If CRCs had originally had the numbers they thought they would, hit the ground running from day one with a perfect model of delivery, and were successful at reducing reoffending, then they're always going to have less and less numbers coming through the door. I really don't understand how a private company primarily concerned with profit can find itself anywhere else but in trouble, when the objective of the contract is to shrink its own markets. I really don't get it.

*****
"Beyond improving the performance of both prisons and probation services, we are co-operating more effectively with important bodies that have contact with offenders." Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Prisons are dangerously understaffed, probation has been wrecked while health, housing & social services are on their knees. How & why do they tell such blatant lies? Why does the 'star-studded turnout' collude? How & why do they get away with it, remain in office & continue to be paid from public funds?

*****
FAO David 'Invisible' Lidington. Hmmm, let us think rationally about this Dave. To summarise:

1. Your predecessor in a Tory-led coalition imposed the ill-thought out TR project.
2. Your Tory colleagues gave overseas private companies a massive wedge of UK public funds specifically for the purpose of making UK employees redundant.
3. The overseas private companies kept the money, with your Government's blessing, and made the promised swingeing cuts to staff - but didn't pass on the full amounts due. Your Government's agents, i.e. NOMS, felt that was acceptable practice.
4. Shortly afterwards the overseas private companies cried "Foul!" when they weren't getting the returns they had gambled on & you gave them even more UK public money to keep them sweet.
5. Hundreds of staff were made unemployed, the service to those on Probation or Licence is collapsing, morale & professional standards have plummeted, CRCs are manipulating statistics...
6... and you have the brass neck to stand before "a star-studded turnout" to claim you are "improving the performance".

You, sir, are an offensive parasite feeding off the public purse. Not yet in the league of Boris Johnson, Chris Grayling, Priti Patel, Michael Gove or David Davis - but certainly on a par with Elizabeth Truss.

*****
I was working in a Gold medal service before Grayling, Clegg et al wrecked it on the back of an untested ideology.... but now I am instructed to hand over lots more public cash in the form of the Rate Card which my manager sees as 'vitally important' to the work of the NPS...at £2,500 a throw just for a start on a programme with little support once they get on one which is likely to be run by a PSO with a days training using (No offence to PSO's it's not you it's the system)....managers are now managing by absolute fear...fear of upsetting the hierarchy - fear of saying 'this is shit'...it's worse than Lions being led by donkeys...it's turkeys voting for Christmas..it's no surprise that all the great maverick managers of yesteryear are now just memories in the probation collective consciousness (apologies if you are one of those increasingly rare breeds and more power to you)..

*****
At those kind of rates the NPS would be better served by taking programme intervention back in-house. Quality and Programme Integrity could then be maintained. Choice in the market place for so called Criminal Justice Services is not much of a choice when it's a choice between Crappy Basic, Crappy Standard Plus or Crappy Deluxe.

*****
The releases of IPPs is up to 46%, up from 28% five years ago. Although Liddington praises the forensic skills of those doing the releasing, it's not 'forensics' but 'justice' that has powered this increase. And it just goes to show how risk assessments are more about politics than science or human rights.

*****
Working Links are now selling RAR packages to NPS. What a joke! A solitary PSO delivering courses from crappy premises in breach of health and safety standards. Programmes teams being told to 'prioritise NPS offenders'.Why? Because it pays! CRC OM's struggling with caseloads between 55 to 100 and desperate for any help they can get but no chance as priority is NPS. What a fucking joke! NPS would be better off approaching CRC staff to work for them and do the job in-house from suitable premises. Let's face it, they are desperate to get out of the shit house that Working Links have reduced them to.


*****
Everyone knows that this post-release supervision is empty of content. As Liddington was obliged to admit, through-the-gate is not performing as expected – another inspired 'revolving door' for those who are most disadvantaged, who must be punished with fines, etc, if they fail to comply with a largely non-existent service. Just as those who fail to comply are punished, so the probation service is blamed and told it must make a better fist of TTG – which has never risen above the status of a £46-in-your-pocket soundbite. Now the courts are in on the charade, fining a homeless and mentally-ill man, as though he had been given every opportunity to mend his ways. The system gets cruder by the day.

12 comments:

  1. MTC Novo is refusing its front line staff diaries for 2018 because they want us to enter all our appointments on electronic diaries. Another step taken towards nonsense land. If I hadn't already handed in my notice this would make me want to do so. They will turn my soul to stone.

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    1. Bloody ridiculous penny pinching! Milk the cow novo, working slinks et al are all a bunch of penny pinching con men selling their snake oil to MOJ who are happy to sit back and watch Rome burn.

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    2. great idea, i mean, it's not like IT ever lets us down - 100% reliable and mega fast - no freezing no siree!!

      btw it is 100% guaranteed 20 jobs have been lost at Fareham (Interserve) we've had the email from Ian Mulholland himself, let's see what the redundancy package will look like.

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  2. A lot of organisations stopped using and giving out paper diaries years ago.Such a step should be accompanied by giving staff portable devices at the same time,but sadly the Probation Service has never seemed to get that necessity.When I moved from Probation to a local authority the by-words were "agile working" which meant giving you an ipad and iphone. Had lots of downsides but lots of advantages.It was about knowing when to turn the things off.

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    1. Penny pinching maybe. But more seriously electronic diaries that anyone can access is abbouyt others having access to the disposal of your time at work. This is about control and scrutiny to the nth degree and about removing any self determination of staff in the way we handle the time we are given to juggle the impossible workload we have. It is also about lack of trust in staff's ability to judge the best way of managing time. And this from people who don't have much idea about what is really involved in what we do. And in addition the phones we have by which presumably we would be accessing this on line electronic diary are so user unfriendly with their long and complicated passwords requiring changing all the time and their minuscule buttons I always miss.

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  3. It always seems to be about cost cutting, affordability, getting more for less.
    It's only the big corporations and their investors that that is true for. They give less, and take more.
    The paradise papers shine a light on that showing how wealth is protected and poverty exploited.
    Who would have thought the Queen would be a shareholder in Bright House?
    Privatisation is a rip off where commodities are concerned, trains, utilities, property management.
    But the privatisation of agencies delivering human services is just plain explanation of those that have little or no voice in the society they live in.
    The ropes at breaking point between those pulling to take what they can, and those pulling to keep what they need to survive.
    It can't go on for much longer, or we'll have a total break down of social structure.
    I'm amazed by these figures quoted on the BBC, and they don't cover what could be lost in tax avoidance either.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41954581

    'Getafix

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    1. Privatised companies have paid more than £37bn in dividends to shareholders since 2010 according to Labour. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell says in a speech that money could have been invested in public services. Labour says it would renationalise some services, but critics say privatised firms are more efficient.

      One of the firms, National Grid, said it had invested £14bn in infrastructure since 2007, as well as paying shareholders £10bn since 2010.
      The research, carried out by Labour in conjunction with the House of Commons Library, found BT (formerly the state-owned British Telecom) has paid out around £6.3bn in dividends since 2010.
      The owner of British Gas, Centrica, paid out £5.2bn.

      Speaking at a conference in Lincoln, Mr McDonnell will renew Labour's pledge to renationalise companies, including water and electricity providers and the railways. He will say: "These figures show what could have gone into investment in these public services in order to expand and improve them or keep their charges down. "The last seven years of austerity has seen working families suffer from stagnant wages not being able to keep up with prices of items like energy bills, and underfunded public services - yet billions has gone into the hands of shareholders," he will add.

      Analysis

      We've no idea what giant public limited companies such as Centrica (British Gas), BT or even British Airways might look like if they had remained in public hands. Advocates of privatisation say that giant utilities are nearly always more efficient when run by experts in their field and driven by a profit motive than when controlled by civil servants.

      Critics of selling off the 'state silver' though, say that chasing earnings leads to greed, ill-advised choices and is certainly not in the public interest. Furthermore the state benefitted handsomely when the above companies (and plenty of others) were floated off in the first place - money that was used to build schools, roads and hospitals.

      Labour says £37bn has been paid out in dividends by privatised firms. Interestingly, that's considerably less than what taxpayers paid to bail out one very private bank in 2008: RBS.

      A spokeswoman for National Grid said electricity transmission costs were 30% lower since privatisation and that the company had a near-perfect reliability rating on its electricity network. She added that the energy infrastructure provider had invested £14bn in its gas and electricity infrastructure in the last 10 years. The BBC has approached Centrica and BT for comment.

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    2. So Big Electric has reduced costs, allegedly, by 30%. As we know from private prisons, costs are driven down at the expense of the workforce, same with services that have been privatised. And we all know why capitalists close factories in the West and relocate to poorer countries with weaker legislation. We could also cuts costs if we outsourced the House of Commons to, say, India.

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  4. This little snippet about Serco sums it up very well. Serco themselves with huge earnings from government contracts funded by the taxpayer and named in the Paradise Papers think that those that have the least should be the ones that give something back.

    Multinational outsourcing giant Serco has asked inmates at one of its private prisons to donate money for national poverty week, a move critics have labelled “tone deaf”.

    Serco, which posted a global £82.1m ($139m) profit in 2016, is hosting a movie night at Acacia prison in Western Australia, as its sole contribution to national poverty week next week.

    Inmates are asked to make a gold coin donation to participate, because “it is important for people who have committed crimes against society to have the opportunity to give something back”.

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  5. £37bn paid to shareholders in privatised companies since 2010.
    The public sector during the same period subjected to a freeze on pay and redundancies.
    Austerity is a scam.
    Wonder what the difference would be if the amount (saved) from the public sector by freezing pay was compared to the money paid to privateer shareholders?

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  6. Just listened to Paradise Papers being discussed & dissected on BBCR4 FileonFour. Its amazing to hear the convoluted efforts & legal possibilities available to those wanting to reduce their tax commitments & keep financial benefits for themselves.

    No doubt in my mind that the TR owners are members of the Paradise Papers club. It seems that straining public money through government contracts is a popular means of ending up with lots of legally clean lolly in your bank account.

    Meanwhile, Gove (on Marr Show today) has exacerbated the Johnson gaffe and given the Iranian Imperialists further reason to be suspicious Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Why would he do that?

    The UK government is very, very sick at the moment.

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    1. Was about to say something similar about Gove and Bo-Jo but you beat me to it! If I did such a crap job I would expect to get the sack, but up in the dizzy political hights we expect these bumbling air-heads to carry on bumbling through life and leaving a mess behind them. It would be funny if they weren't doing so much real harm. I cannot believe that anyone would actually vote for these morons unless they were getting something out of it. Seems the old boys club with Eton ties will stick together whatever in order to preserve their social order. We are just the serfs reaching out for a crust. Time to overthrow them.

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