Monday, 30 September 2013

Why it Won't Work

As I write this, we are almost clear of the party political conference season with just the Tories to go. We've had the grubby deal stitched up between them and the Lib Dems, whereby in the middle of swingeing benefit cuts for the poor, the relatively well-off middle classes get free primary school lunches and tax rebates if they're married and both spouses are paying tax.

At a time of supposed austerity, it's surely an obscenity to be handing out such sums of taxpayers money as election 'sweeteners', especially where it isn't needed. This is seriously being proposed during a period of unprecedented welfare 'reform' that see the disabled committing suicide, claimants setting fire to dole offices, the low-paid increasingly queueing at food banks and people becoming ill with fear and worry.

At least Labour say they intend to abolish the Bedroom Tax if elected, but even they seem to have taken leave of their senses for promising to legislate away energy price rises for 20 months. It's madness and merely a ham-fisted attempt at buying votes.

I mention all this because the whole TR omnishambles hasn't got a cat in hell's chance of working simply because the government have ensured that the climate for encouraging rehabilitation has never been worse. Every one of the so-called welfare reforms that have been introduced impinges significantly on the very group that Chris Grayling feels will be encouraged to remain offending-free by a myriad of contractors incentivised by Payment by Results.

The government seem incapable of realising that the task is being made ever more impossible as a direct result of their ever more punitive policy decisions. Just look at what Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has in mind as a vote winner on top of the Bedroom Tax - a regime of punishment cynically called 'Help to Work' being introduced as part of his 'welfare war':-

In his speech to the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, the Chancellor will unveil the full requirements of a £300m-a-year Help to Work programme starting next April. It will impose the most stringent conditions ever on the long-term unemployed as Mr Osborne pledges to end the option of “signing on as usual”. Instead, 200,000 people a year who have claimed jobseeker’s allowance for three years will lose benefits unless they take up one of three options after two years on the Work Programme:

Thirty hours a week for six months of community work such as making meals for the elderly, cleaning up litter and graffiti or charity work, plus 10 hours of “job search activity”.

Daily attendance at a jobcentre  to search for work instead of a  brief interview once a fortnight.

A mandatory intensive regime for claimants with underlying problems such as mental health, drug addiction or illiteracy.

People who refuse to take part will lose four weeks’ worth of benefit for their first breach of the rules and three months’ worth for a second offence.

It would seem that the Tories have decided that reverting to being the 'nasty' party might actually be a vote winner. I attended the AGM of a housing association recently and was told by their chief executive that the Tories say their Bedroom Tax is their most popular policy, so we have a clear indication of what's coming, and it's not pretty. The tone and language is already becoming alarming. Here we have Michael Gove saying it's people's own fault for having to resort to food banks as a result of poor budgeting and Eric Pickles telling an angry sexual abuse victim to 'adjust her medication'.  

As the experience from the Work Programme shows, no matter how much you offer in the way of financial incentives, if jobs aren't there and people are pretty much unemployable for a variety of reasons, fiddling the figures and cooking the books is what actually happens, and please note it's the staff on the front line who end up in court. 

Incredibly the government carries on believing that PbR is the answer, despite all the evidence to the contrary. In classic head in the sand denial mode, their answer is to punish the 'under-performing' providers and reward the others with more work. It all strikes me as reminiscent of the surreal world of doublespeak we now seem to inhabit where failing schools get less money, sick people are thrown off benefit as a way of ensuring 'they're not condemned to a life on benefit' and the unemployed are punished for not getting a job.  

The government seem to genuinely believe that contractors will be able to do the impossible, find people employment, accommodation, drug treatment, provide benefit and debt advice, counselling, health care and a hundred and one other things, all on less than the budget being spent at the moment, but with the increased numbers from the under 12 month custody people, and at the same time as squeezing benefits and imposing a punitive regime of tagging, drug testing and 'supervision'. 

Any organisation thinking of bidding for probation work ought to be fully aware that despite all the rhetoric and spin, every government policy from now till the next General Election will be designed to make the task of Transforming Rehabilitation as difficult as possible, and that's why it's an omnishambles of truly epic proportions in the making.                          


  1. Good to have you back Jim.
    The Void is a good site to follow this week and provides good informative links worth noting.
    With regard to the idea of unpaid work? Well maybe people will opt for shoplifting now instead of food banks, you get better grub, and if you're caught? Well you'll be doing community service for being unemployed anyway so what the hell!
    It's also worth noting that those unemployed forced to do unpaid work will find themselves working alongside those sentenced to do so by the courts. Unpaid work is a sentence given by the courts to those who break the law. Do you think unemployment will become a criminal offence?
    Visiting the job centre every day will also require an increase in staff and time to process the extra numbers attending. More money down the drain. But how much of the cost of this will be met by the government and how much will be expected to be met by the greedy contractors?
    It is clear that this government are not concerned with ecconomic recovery. Instead they use the platform of ecconomic recovery to opperate an agenda of 'social cleansing'. There is no place in a tory world for those that are sick or poor. It is after all those that have brought the country to the brink of ecconomic ruin and not the policies or failings of government.
    Those bidding for TR contracts beware. You will become the 'alternative government' with responsibility for those the government no longer want. The sick, the old and infirm, the unemployed, and the criminaly orientated. Those bidding should also remember that the large companies already involved with government contracts are facing criminal charges themselves. The government are so desperate to continue their process of 'social cleansing' they are prepared to sell them more of their unwanted even if they are fiddling their books, lieing and cheating, and have a global reputation for human rights abuses.
    Charity and voluntry sector, you should approach with extreme caution too. I overheard a conversation recently where someones supervisor was explaining to their client that as part of their supervision they would be required to work with a voulentry mentor. The client refused, 'not a hope in hell' they told the supervisor. The supervisor replied that they really had no choice in the matter, to which brought the reply,
    "I'll just say he touched me up then and he'll be proper f***** wont he"?
    Personally I wouldn't touch TR at any cost.

    1. Scalagouse,

      Thanks for that - plenty to think about there, including the master stroke of making unemployment an offence - as you say, it looks they're getting the punishment of UPW anyway! And I love the comment from the client.....



  2. Chris Grayling is reported in todays Daily Telegraph as speaking out in favour of fracking. Why the justice minister speaks on this issue with so much happening within the CJS requiring his attention I'm not really sure. But it does seem that for any of the governments contraversial policies, welfare reforms, privatisation of probation ect, now even fracking Grayling is pushed out front to face the crowd on the subject.
    Is it because he's just hard faced and hard skinned? Or does his outspoken support for fracking at this time give a clue to where we may find Mr Grayling in a shortly to be announced reshuffle?
    Theres a joke somewhere there to be made about getting energy from wind, but I wont make it..

  3. Jim,

    Normal service resumed!...good to have you back- TR trundles on...CG due to address World Congress of Probation on TR on the 9 th October ( day of parliamentary rally) at C Hall...looking at the programme with so many accomplished speakers holding forth on global best have to have some f***king audacity ! Intrigued to discover who ( seems front line speakers priced out!) from the serried ranks of Snr PS bods in the audience will break cover & lob the first brickbats...

    Incidentally noted that Paul McDowell - current CEO Nacro is now preferred candidate for position of the Chief Inspector of Probation!! ...he will be ' grilled ' by the JSC in due course.. maybe they can remind him of his touching confidence in the PS when he stated;

    Nacro warns that it will take a sustained effort to open up the probation service and bring in new players who will concentrate on outcomes as opposed to inputs and processes.

    Let battle commence.



  4. Attacking the poor and those on unemployment benefits seems to chime with the great British public according to opinion polls and this is why the Tories are doing it. It's classic right-wing politics. As we see, today it grabs headlines. It shows the spiteful side of politics, a side that always becomes more visible when elections get closer and parties jockey for position in the opinion polls. The poor, the unemployed and immigration are the usual cannon fodder. Finally, at last, Labour has committed itself to repealing the bedroom tax which helps though must not lose perspective as their former leader's clarion call for British jobs for British workers was no different to the cheap populism that the Tories practice.

    We all know that the only means by which the probation budget will be cut will be by reducing staff costs, through redundancies and reduced pay and benefits for remaining staff. Under TR terms and conditions, including pensions, will fall. There is going to be a ballot for industrial action, though I cannot understand why it's only Napo that is balloting. What is the point of unions working together if they can't be shoulder to shoulder at such a critical time? There is now a key opportunity for Napo members at least to show the strength of their feelings. As far as I see it, it is in the naked self-interest of every single member to vote in support of action. To vote against is effectively saying, reduce my wage, protection and pension – because that is exactly what will happen if members refuse to put up a fight for their livelihoods.

  5. 'John Tizard Public Finance, government on probation'.

    1. Also an interesting article here:
      HUFFPOST,Innocent victims of crime deserve better than out of touch secetary of state gor justice.