Monday, 15 January 2018

Probation the London Way

Every now and then this blog gets a contribution from a reader and it takes your breath away - it gets your immediate attention and you know it requires action. 

It's quite apparent something serious is going on in London CRC according to contributions over the weekend. Remember, this is the CRC that suffered a damning inspection and have only just recently waved-off the inspectors from a follow-up visit. According to their evidence to the Justice Committee, this is the CRC that thinks "The principles of TR are sound." and has suggested that they ought to take over the NPS:- 

When will someone listen? When will someone actually be honest? When will someone just say enough is enough? MTCNovo. LondonCRC. My employers. You are embarrassing. You are a disgrace. You are putting the public at risk. You are tearing apart an important, valuable service. You are making numerous, weekly, daily, disgusting decisions.

1. Delivered from SPO’s - service users who attend outside of an appointment are not to be seen. There must be boundaries. MTCNovo, guess what? We work with chaotic and vulnerable adults. Yes, boundaries are needed. Qualified, experienced Probation Officers (not offender managers!) are capable of assessing boundaries but also engagement and compassion. That service user who had now travelled over 5 miles, out of borough to meet their Probation Officer may need some engagement. They may have an urgent reason for attendance. We may be able to support and prevent. Now, they will be sent packing.

2. Delius entries, a new directive, must be completed within 30 minutes of an appointment. What takes precedence? An entry on Delius or that urgent email you have received? Or that phone call advising of a serious issue with a service user which requires our attention? Those who have created and launched this new directive - Plan, Meet, Record - shameful. It’s pointless and pathetic. Just a way to further intimidate staff and manage by fear. Our entries will be spot checked. We will be held accountable if they are not achieved in an acceptable timeframe (30-45mins). We are a service trying to protect the public and support positive change. We are not, with all due respect, we are not working on a Supermarket checkout.

3. No more weekly appointments. Seeing a service user who required that level of engagement, gone. Why? So it allows staff to be allocated a higher caseload while in the minds of MTCNovo, being defensible. Prior to Christmas, a top caseload in LondonCRC was 55. A number plucked out of mid air. Not taking into any account the person. The mentality health concerns. The entrenched drug user. The reoccurring pattern of offending behaviour. Now? Not even a full month into the year - 69 cases is ‘manageable’.

4. The current manner to deliver any changes, is by fear. I have now lost count on how many times a sentence started with ‘if you have a serious further offence...’. Us?! I have been involved in 5 cases where an SFO has been committed. Nothing to do with me. We may make some errors. We may fail to pick up on something which may trigger a concern. We do not commit SFO’s. we do not encourage or support a case we manage to commit a serious offence. Yet it’s the golden line now. Management by fear. You will be spot checked.

Check away. Asses our quality. But you, MTCNovo, you London CRC, you senior managers - you - are responsible for putting the public and service users at risk. Through your inability to support staff. Your inability to train staff. Your inability to understand what staff face, daily. Your inability to have any morals.

Service Users in need of engagement, support, a chance - bottom of the pile. Staff with experience, passion, knowledge - ignored. Under valued. Newly appointed senior managers with no backbone to actually try to effect any change in how the service is being shredded. I have to laugh. Otherwise I would sob. Uncontrollably. Time to switch off. An eventful, busy, lonely week lays ahead.


  1. BBC website 7.22am

    Construction giant Carillion is to take steps to go into liquidation, threatening thousands of jobs. The move came after discussions between Carillion, its lenders and the government failed to reach a deal to save the company.

    However, the government will provide funding to maintain the public services run by Carillion. The firm is involved in major projects like the HS2 high-speed rail line, as well as managing schools and prisons.

    Carillion is the UK's second largest construction company and has 43,000 staff worldwide - 20,000 in the UK. It is not clear yet how those staff will be affected. Some of Carillion's contracts will be taken on by other firms and some could be renationalised, according to BBC business editor Simon Jack.

    1. The penny is dropping with the Tories. The Tory chair of the public accounts committee says,

      "This really shakes public confidence in the ability of the private sector to deliver public services and infrastructure."

      "There needs to be a change in the mindset of many of many of these companies... if you're actually doing a very substantial amount of business at taxpayers expense for the taxpayer, you've got to treat yourself much more as a brand of the public service not as a private company just there to enrich the shareholders and the directors."

      "Ironically, Whitehall tends to do contracts with companies that it always does contracts with, because that's the safe thing to do - that's the perception. A great many small and medium-sized companies feel excluded."

      It's the same old story of privatising the profits
      and nationalising the risks. The Carillion administrators will answer to the business secretary which effectively means nationalisation and the taxpayer footing the bill.

    2. Meg Hillier is a Labour CoOp MP isn't she?

    3. Amongst all the questions that will be raised about Carillion and their relationship with the government and public services, I hope corporate confidentiality is high on the list.
      If you're paid to deliver public services then the public deserve transparency.


    4. Truth is the first victim of privatisation.

    5. I meant Bernard Jenkin - public administration - not accounts - committee.

  2. Carillion tried to bid on probation work. Questions have to be asked if any of the crcs are in the same position.

    1. "Interserve shares dive 50% as it warns on profits
      Outsourcing group hit by economic uncertainty and weak government spending"

      Financial Times September 14, 2017

  3. 8.11 this is what I have suspected for a long time now. Don't forget that working links were bought up by a bigger company Aurelius because they were in dire financial difficulty..and this was allowed by MOJ and they tried to suppress the details.

  4. Agreed. In the vein of Carillion, public funds & venal Tories, the failing CRCs are a far more pressing issue with wider implications than the Warboys distraction. Gauke has a tough gig ahead of him, courtesy Grayling.

  5. Gauke does have a tough gig ahead but I don't think he knows this, just as the rest of his predecessors have not known. They all seem oblivious to the issues or decide to take on one issue in isolation from al the others, only to drop it when something else comes along. They seem to me like small children. Or else they just don't care. Their focus is elsewhere. Something else mattes more to them, their own power perhaps? That is why throwing all the reasoned arguments and logic at them, all the proof that things are going pearshaped under their management and rule has not so far been enough to sway any of them. Stick your head in the sand and it will all go away. And, so far, it has. Why? How? What else needs to happen to change their thick sculls and hides? Is Gauke any different? Would he have gotten where he is today if he were? Their own power and image is everything to that lot. We do need reasoned arguments, but we need something else in addition and fast.

  6. The perils of government attempting to 'rescue' businesses are many. I've cheated & used Wiki for this summary:

    "The Westland affair in 1985–86 was an episode in which the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her Defence Minister Michael Heseltine went public over a cabinet dispute with questions raised about integrity and which senior politician was not telling the truth.

    The argument was over the future of Westland Helicopters, Britain's last helicopter manufacturer, which was to be the subject of a rescue bid. While the Defence Secretary Heseltine favoured a European solution, integrating Westland with a consortium including British Aerospace (BAe), Italian (Agusta) and French companies, the Prime Minister and the Trade and Industry Secretary Leon Brittan, whilst ostensibly maintaining a neutral stance, wanted to see Westland merge with Sikorsky, an American company."

    1. An historical list of privatised companies courtesy of Thatcher & co:

      British Petroleum October 1979
      British Aerospace February 1981
      Cable & Wireless October 1981
      Amersham International February 1982
      National Freight Corporation February 1982
      Britoil November 1982
      Associated British Ports February 1983
      Enterprise Oil July 1984
      Jaguar August 1984
      British Telecommunications December 1984
      British Shipbuilders 1985 onwards
      British Gas December 1986
      British Airways February 1987
      Rolls-Royce May 1987
      BAA July 1987
      British Steel December 1988
      Water December 1989
      Electricity 1990

      and what the government sold off in 2015:

      January: Constructionline – £35m. The government sold the Constructionline business to Capita. This database contains details of more than 23,000 companies in the construction sector and provides a verified list of suppliers who have passed industry checks.

      February: Greencoat UK Wind – £51.2m. The government sold its entire shareholding in this fund, which was set up to encourage investment in UK wind farms.

      March 2015: Eurostar – £757.1m. The government sold its entire 40% stake in Eurostar to a consortium comprising a Canadian pension fund and Hermes Infrastructure .MPs on the House of Commons public accounts committee recently criticised this sale for being significantly less” than the £3bn poured into the business by taxpayers and “further evidence” of assets being undervalued.

      June: Royal Mail – £1.3bn. The government’s remaining 30% stake in Royal Mail was sold off in two stages in 2015. The first sell-off, in June, raised £750m. A further £591m was raised in October.

      August: Royal Bank of Scotland – £2.1bn. A 5.4% stake in RBS was sold off in August. This reduced the government’s overall stake in the bank from 78.3% to 72.9%. The sale proceeds were a third below the price the government originally paid, representing a loss of more than £1bn.

      November: Northern Rock mortgage assets – £13bn. The government sold these assets to US private equity group Cerberus. The Government has now sold off more than 85% of Northern Rock, which it nationalised in 2008.

      December: Lloyds – at least £9.1bn. A total of 11.2bn government shares in Lloyds were sold between 17 December 2014 and 3 December 2015. They were sold at an average price of more than 81p per share, raising more than £9bn. According to the latest figures, the Treasury still owns approximately 6.6 bn ordinary shares in Lloyds.

      So 2015's garage sale alone raised £26bn, of which at least £10bn has been promised to the CRCs between 2015 & 2025, and £3.3bn has recently been gifted to Virgin & Stagecoach.


    3. A lengthy read from August last year.

    4. I saw an interesting interview with Heseltine on BBC TV the other day - He explained his departure from Thatcher's Government because he was not allowed to speak without approval not directly because he was over-ruled on Westland.

      I was working in Liverpool during the riots of 81 and 82(which were not prominent in national media like in 81) I have the impression he did have real influence there though I had moved on by late 82 - but did go back for The Garden Festival in 84 when I was involved in a Family Court case that was reserved to a Judge on Circuit and although it was an Essex case the final sitting was in the then new court building in Liverpool.

  7. Back to London CRC, they are reckless with their staff. They seem to want to throw everything at them, all at once. Is this to see who or how many they can get rid of through sheer threatening behaviour, bullying? There may still be staff left after that first shaking of the tree who MTC Novo don't want to keep. These will need to be ousted by slightly more convoluted and time consuming methods such as performance testing/capability, sickness procedures, disciplinary procedures. But hey, if these are applied forcefully, employing all the usual methods of undermining the subjects and disregarding proper procedure, then this project should not take too long. An MTC Novo-wide coordinated effort across the board should ensure that the already barely functionimg local union branch will not be able to provide the necessary individualised assistance required to save the day for any of their members. Easy peasy. And then what after that?

    1. After that you get Sodexo. Their 2015 clearances have left an ominous silence, save for a temporary whimper about Wimpy-style booths. The Message? Brutalising your workforce gets results, as does riding roughshod over any namby-pamby workplace legislation. MTCNovo are just getting started...

  8. Back to the fundamentals:

    ‘All employers have a legal responsibility under the Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) and Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) to ensure the health safety and welfare at work of their employees. This includes minimising the risk of stress related illness or injury to employees.
    The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 2004 developed the Management Standards. These Standards represent a set of conditions that, if present, reflect a high level of health, wellbeing and organisational performance.
    Although the Standards contain no laws, Enforcing Authorities have the power to act against employers who do not take steps to reach the Management Standards.
    The Management Standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and wellbeing, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. In other words, the six Management Standards aim to address the primary sources of stress at work. These are:

    Demands - workload, work patterns, work environment and training.

    Control - how much say the individual has in the way they do their work.

    Support - the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues. This can also include their work life balance.

    Relationships - promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.

    Role - whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

    Change - how organisational change, large or small, is managed and communicated within the organisation.
    Employers have a duty to ensure that risks arising from work activity are properly controlled.

    The Management Standards approach helps employers work with their employees and representatives to undertake a risk assessment for stress.
    The Health and Safety Executive expects organisations to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for stress, and to take action to tackle any problems identified by that risk assessment.’

  9. Wonder if Justice is the new naughty step? It would help explain Gauke's arrival (telegraph, dec'17):

    "Benefit fraud has reached record levels after it rose by £200 million in the space of a year, the Department of Work and Pensions has admitted.

    Fraud swallowed up almost £2.1 billion of the department’s total budget of £174 billion – the equivalent of £40 million per week.

    It means that the DWP now loses almost twice as much money to fraud as the entire budget of the Foreign Office, which is £1.1 billion per year. MPs said David Gauke, the Work and Pensions Secretary, now had “questions to answer” over why the figures have gone up despite repeated assurances that they would be brought under control.

    Figures released by the DWP show that in 2016/17 the total amount of money lost to “overpayments” – which counts both fraud and errors by staff – stood at £3.6 billion, up £300 million from the previous year.

    The new Universal Credit system was also targeted by fraudsters, with £50 million lost. Another £40 million was lost to errors by staff and claimants."

    Hence the return of McVey to DWP?

    I imagine most of the £3.6bn fraud is collected by organised crime. From anecdotes I hear I suspect some of my caseload have several NI numbers and claim in several names. That's not something you can arrange very easily...

    MPs salaries & expenses cost the taxpayer about £160M a year (its hard to find a definitive figure).

    MPs are estimated to earn around a further £7M from part-time jobs (paper rounds, gardening, car washing) outside of their parliamentary duties.

    There was no outcry when this government paid the CRCs to make Probation Service staff redundant, and even less of a noise when the CRCs simply pocketed that money for themselves.

    Its heartbreaking to read the post of Bionic. Hang on in there, someone might be listening!

    1. Don't know how anyone can defraud the DWP in my experience they don't pay anyone without a long struggle

    2. It's all privatised and no scrutiny.
      Fill your boots, blame the great unwashed, and get paid handsomely aswell.

  10. Please please please let Interserve follow Carillion.....

    1. it could happen, they are certainly strapped for cash and another layer of middle managers due to be culled (UPW). Beginning of the end I feel - we're not making a profit and Interserve should hand the keys back.

    2. Oh yes please save us from our pain and suffering !!!!!

  11. Astonshing to hear Lidington on Sky News express sadness at the impact of Carillion's demise upon "the Board". I'm assumng he meant the accountants & chancers who not only mismanaged the company but who paid themselves lottery jackpot salaries & bonuses AND changed the company's constitution in 2016 to make clawing back the cash bonuses to senior execs almost impossible?

    Unless he got confused & meant the Parole Board?

  12. I see Carillion executives changed their rules to prevent the clawing back of their bonuses in preparation for this collapse. I wonder what rules Interserve has?

  13. Auditors gave Carillions financial status the thumbs up less the a year ago.
    So much shit is going to fly from all this its going to be impossible to avoid it.

    1. KPMG is under mounting pressure this evening to account for its role in the collapse of Carillion, after it gave the company’s financial statements its seal of approval only 10 months ago.

      The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) today signalled it was preparing to comb the wreckage of the outsourcer for audit failings.

      The accounting watchdog said it had not launched a formal investigation but as the political storm surrounding Carillion intensified it highlighted its power to “investigate the circumstances relating to the audit of Carillion as well as the actions of the relevant accounting professionals”.

      Officials seeking access to documents were making contact with receivers and the special managers drafted in from KPMG rival PwC to manage the liquidation of Carillion.

      The FRC said: “We have been actively monitoring this situation for some time in close consultation with other relevant regulatory bodies.

      “We are obliged to follow due process and will make a further statement on this matter shortly.”

      A formal investigation by the accounting watchdog would run alongside an ongoing probe by stock market regulators at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

      The FCA opened a file on Carillion at the beginning of this year on the timeliness and content of update it gave to investors in the run up to and including a disastrous profit warning last July. City analysts speculated that the stock market may have been misled by the company’s revenue recognition policies.

      The FRC would focus on the role of KPMG, which has audited and signed off on Carillion’s accounts every year since its inception in 1999 and has garnered a total of £29.4m in fees.

      In Carillion’s last annual report the company described KPMG’s work as “a high quality and a very effective service” The company’s audit committee, in discussion with KPMG, concluded that judgments on revenue and margin recognition had been “reasonable”. The accountancy firm also approved Carillion’s viability statement, certifying it as strong enough to survive for at least three years.

      The company’s stunning stock market meltdown, when it admitted it had overestimated revenues, cash and assets, came just three months later and its ultimate collapse this morning a mere 320 days.

      KPMG said that its audits for Carillion had been conducted “appropriately and responsibly”. It added that its accountants had been involved in uncovering the shortfalls in company finances last summer.

      A spokesman said: “We recognise that it is important that regulators acting in the public interest review high profile cases and will of course cooperate fully with any enquiries that the FRC or other regulatory agencies may make.”

    2. Carillion joins a list of KPMG audits under investigation by the FRC.

      The regulator is also poring over financial statements by the Co-operative Bank prior to its near collapse. KPMG’s role at Rolls-Royce, where it signed off accounts during a period of massive international corruption, is also under scrutiny. Quindell, the former darling of AIM that imploded amid fraud allegations, was also a client of the accountancy giant.

      The FRC’s investigations have attracted criticism as slow and toothless, however.

      Its decade-long examination of KPMG’s work for HBOS prior to its financial crisis disaster concluded last year without sanction, for instance. MPs on the Treasury Select Committee complained that the FRC only investigated under political pressure.

      Investors have also attacked the regulator as being too close to the Big Four accountants it is supposed to police, dependent on them for staff and funding.

      Calamities such as Carillion have fuelled calls for the FRC to be scrapped and replaced with a more robust and independent watchdog.

    3. Meanwhile kpmg's chums at PwC have got the administration job to wind up Carillion. Win, win, win, win, win - if you're a bean counter.

    4. From AccountancyAge:

      "What happens now?
      The Official Receiver has been appointed as liquidator of Carillion, while Michael John Andrew Jervis, David James Kelly, David Christian Chubb, Peter Dickens, David Matthew Hammond and Russell Downs of PwC have been appointed as special managers.

      PwC said that there was “no prospect of any return to shareholders” given the liquidation appointments.

      Green said that the government would provide “the necessary funding required by the Official Receiver to maintain the public services carried on by Carillion staff, subcontractors and suppliers.

      Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington said that the government would deliver all public sector services following the insolvency. He said that the government had been “closely monitoring” events since the company issued its first profit warning last July and that the government had been “hopeful” that a solution could be found while “putting robust contingency plans in place to prepare for every eventuality”.

      Lidington assured Carillion employees and those already receiving pensions that they would continue to receive payment – the company employs 20,000 people across the UK"

  14. Feedback published by New Philanthropy on the TR competitive tendering procedure.

    "Problems with the TR competition

    The round table participants identified four broad criticisms of the TR competition process:

    - They found the process very chaotic and confused, with questions unresolved, deadlines and key aspects changing right up to the later stages of the competition. The final details of both the PCG and the payment mechanism were only available at a late stage in the process.

    - The process was felt to be much more complex than it needed to be. Bidders needed to get to grips with vast amounts of documentation and detail.

    - The MOJ did not appear to have the capacity to run or support an effective tendering process. Bidders who passed the PQQ stage received around four days of support from officials, but our participants estimated they needed three or four times that to resolve all issues and questions they had. The calibre and experience of officials supporting the bidders was described as ‘inconsistent’; some did not seem to understand their own processes and participants cited examples of contradictory information being given by different officials.

    - The specification offered limited scope to describe the quality of bidders’ proposed approaches. More generally, our participants concluded that considerations around quality, vision, and innovation were largely irrelevant to the final decision of whom to commission."

  15. Bionic - I think your posts have, perhaps by happy accident, been timed to perfection. The scrutiny of privatised outsourcing can no longer be as lacklustre as before. Well done, courageous one.