Thursday, 9 May 2019

A Bung for Third Sector

We can but hope that the days of the probation privateers are numbered, but in the meantime I notice that the Justice Secretary has had to direct the Permanent Secretary to cough-up some more cash in the wake of the Working Links collapse as a 'goodwill'  gesture:-

Sir Richard Heaton 
Permanent Secretary 
102 Petty France 
London SW1H 9AJ

8 May 2019

Dear Richard, 

Working Links 

Thank you for your letter of 8 May about the proposal to provide financial support to the Permitted Subcontractors who face losses following the collapse of Working Links and its Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). I am grateful for the scrutiny and advice that you and other officials in the Department have given me on this complex matter. 

I recognise the issues that this course of action causes for you as the Principal Accounting Officer and for the Chief Executive of HMPPS. However, as you set out in your letter to me, there are issues that weigh in my decision to an extent that you are not able to accommodate. 

In particular, I have listened carefully to the arguments put forward by these organisations that the Government has a moral ‘duty of care’ (though we do not, I accept, owe a legal duty of care) to make good these losses. In making that claim, these organisations stress the unique circumstances of this first-generation probation outsourcing, the comfort given by my predecessors about how the Government would steward this market, their status as ‘Permitted Subcontractors’ in our contract structure, and the extent to which these organisations were delivering frontline statutory services on behalf of Government. 

I intend to put in place a more stable and resilient probation system, which works effectively to protect the public and tackle reoffending. In that context, there is clearly value in maintaining a diverse and varied market of providers able to address the complex needs of individuals in the probation system. Organisations such as these will be key in the future market for probation services; if our failure to stand behind them results in their departure from the market, this could make it difficult for our reformed service to properly do its job from inception. 

Against this backdrop, I have concluded that in these particular circumstances, as they relate to the collapse of Working Links and their CRCs, it is reasonable for Government to protect Permitted Subcontractors from the losses they have incurred. I direct you to process these payments once the scale of their exposure is verified. 

You rightly draw to my attention the risks of repercussion from providing this support, specifically in acting outside of the Department’s Managing Public Money obligations, and potentially setting expectations that we would act in the same way if presented with a similar scenario in the future.

To mitigate this risk, you and I have agreed that we will remind Directors in other CRCs and their supply chain of the responsibilities set out in their contracts, and their duties to ensure appropriate financial controls and risk management approaches are in place within their organisations. 

I am absolutely clear that this is a unique response to a unique and specific set of circumstances. There should be no expectation that I would agree to replicate this approach in future.



  1. Utterly shameless!

  2. The Times today:-

    State may take back control of probation service

    David Gauke, the justice secretary, is preparing to renationalise probation after a partial privatisation by Chris Grayling that a watchdog branded “irredeemably flawed”.

    In March Dame Glenys Stacey, chief inspector of probation, said the system was “irredeemably flawed” and that the public would be safer if core supervision work were managed by the state.

    A final decision has yet to be made on moving the supervision of medium and low-risk offenders back into state hands but it is the option favoured by Mr Gauke. “It couldn’t be any worse that what has been going on,” one probation service source said.

    Under the proposals the supervision of tens of thousands of offenders will be taken over by the state-run probation service. Private sector companies will provide treatment programmes and other help to criminals.

    In 2014 Mr Grayling created 21 private sector firms to supervise medium and low-risk offenders, with the state run National Probation Service managing those deemed a high risk.

    1. Lesser of two evils? But at least HMPPS will have a field day. Just think, all those new staff members' details to lose, get wrong, delete... and all of the caseload systems to unravel, crash, lose data... and the many new senior civil servant posts that will need to be created to cope.... and the awards to be won for achieving transition... I can feel the thrill of anticipation coursing through the veins of HMPPS... More Power!!

    2. And more staff to subject to the draconian attendance management policy.

    3. And a not fit for purpose WMT - the list is endless

  3. So what about the losses incurred by Probation staff? EVR was removed by stealth & the £80m ModFund money intended for staff was pocketed by the CRC owners. What about MoJ's duty of care to uphold a nationally agreed position? Or Grayling's mutterings about not losing staff, not reducing the workforce, etc?

    Where's Napo?

    Still, £3bn & counting overspend for the emergency services' radio network ... probation staff are way down the list!

  4. Who gets the cash then more for seetec they are as bad if not worse than links as I hear just bit more stealthy. Lie on lie staff still abused more cash for rats.

  5. Across the board outsourcing public services has been a very damaging and very expensive abject failure.
    Allowing private corporations to control public services has really just been the same as putting a fox in the henhouse. They've stripped them bare without fear of liability or repercussion.
    Now more and more services are being brought back in house. It's cheaper to do so then outsource, and the provision of those services being insourced are much better.
    It's a long read, but it's an interesting article that shows just how much the tide has turned against outsourcing public services in the last couple of years.


    1. Thanks this is good news and when the overdue announcement comes shortly no doubt the privateers will be on notice. They will strip the bones clean then the lot of em sharks.


    1. No mention of probation again!

      The prime minister appears to have taken advantage of a comparative lull in politics to shuffle roles at the Ministry of Justice. Robert Buckland QC MP has been appointed as a minister of state with responsibility for prisons, replacing Rory Stewart MP.

  7. When will the staff be compensated for our financial losses? No pay increase for years, reneged on a deal that would ensure staff were paid progressively well. 17 years in the service and still not at the top of the scale!! FFS.