Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Getting Involved

It's been suggested that I mention the Napo Lobby of Parliament being organised for 3rd September:-
Critical Lobby of Parliament – 3rd September
2pm – 3.30pm Houses of Parliament
Committee Rooms 11 & 14
This is a crucial time in the Parliamentary calendar for Napo and the timing of the lobby means that we can get a strong message to parliamentarians before they head off for their party conferences. In order to make a noise about the chaos in Probation however, we need as many members as possible to attend. We have had confirmation from a number of your MP’s so well done in getting in touch and asking them to attend. You will have an opportunity to meet your MP either during or after the event so please get in touch if you haven’t already. 
The lobby is focusing on voices from the frontline and a number of members have offered to speak at the lobby to tell their experiences of working in probation chaos. We are hopeful that members will offer contributions from the floor as well so there will be plenty of opportunity for you to have your say. Please let your Branch know if you are attending as we need to give an estimated figure to security in advance. Branches will be meeting at the Monument opposite Parliament at 12.30 with a view to joining the queue at 1pm.

I'm aware that as I write the People's March for the NHS is taking place having set off from Jarrow on the 16th August and arriving at Parliament on 6th September
The People's March is a perfect opportunity to build support for the NHS and to join up with amazing NHS campaigners across the country. Following the basic route of the 1936 Jarrow Crusade, the People's March for the NHS will head to Parliament. On route we aim to make the public aware of what the coalition government has been doing to our NHS and what has been happening to our hospitals and health services.
It's really hard to passively watch the rapid dismantling, privatisation and destruction of the NHS. First we had the Health & Social Care Act, then Section 75 and more recently Clause 119 of the Care Bill. The Government have legislated to open the NHS to the open market. We believe every penny saved in the NHS should go back into improving and developing our NHS. We dont want to see private companies operating in the NHS under the heading of 'efficiency' when we know they are accountable to their share holders, who are only interested in maximum profit before patient health care. Join us for a mile or two, or join us for ten or the full 300 miles, come to our rallies, just be part of the fightback.
As of yesterday it's reached Darlington and will cross into North Yorkshire later today arriving at Northallerton. There's a handy map here to follow progress or turn out and give support. 

I'm also aware that Thursday 11th September has been selected as a day of action around the country against benefit sanctions and workfare.

Finally, don't forget to cast your vote in the Napo elections for various posts - time is running out fast and well done if you managed to grab free tickets for the great new film about the miners strike 'Pride'. It looks brilliant and not to be missed especially if you enjoyed 'Brassed Off' and the 'Full Monty'. 

A still from the 2014 film Pride
UK gay and lesbian activists work to help miners during their lengthy strike of the National Union of Mineworkers in the summer of 1984.

Postscript: This review of the film by Owen Jones in the Guardian on Monday:-
I am not embarrassed to admit that I wept at this beautiful film, but I only realised why afterwards. The film manages to convey what solidarity is to an audience who have been taught to abhor it. Thatcherism was always about breaking down common bonds in favour of selfishness; of reducing us to individuals; of believing that we improve our own lot solely through our own efforts rather than by linking together with others. That solidarity was not entirely expunged from the national psyche was despite Thatcherism’s best efforts. This weekend, hundreds began marching from Jarrow to London in support of our NHS. In 2012, British electricians staged strikes and occupations against an attempt by multinational Balfour Beatty to slash their terms and conditions – and they won. By occupying tax-dodging businesses, UKUncut forced a national debate about tax avoidance. Solidarity still lives and breathes.
Breaking news concerning 'getting involved' :-

EPS Dads’ activist sets up camp on Chris Grayling's roof
Fathers 4 Justice campaigner unfurls banner on justice secretary Chris Grayling's roof
A Fathers 4 Justice campaigner set up camp and unfurled a banner on top of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s home last night. The protester, believed to be Martin Matthews of Great Bookham, climbed on to the roof in Ashtead with supplies at 9pm. He appears to be mooning in one of the blurry photographs of the stunt. Police are understood to be at the house this morning.
In a statement New Fathers 4 Justice said: “He has put up a banner which reads 'Mum and Dads United'. “He has set up camp on top of the roof and has enough supplies to last several days. This is another protest to highlight the injustice parents face in the present family court system.”
Mr Matthews climbed onto the roof of the Epsom and Ewell MP’s constituency office in Barnett Wood Lane, Ashtead, on Fathers’ Day in 2013 and in October, 2012.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Omnishambles Update 63

Apologies for the unimaginative titles for some of these blog posts, and for the age of some of this stuff,  but things are moving so fast and there's so much going on. First this bad news for Grayling from the Guardian a few weeks ago concerning legal aid:-
Top judge authorises court to cover legal aid in challenge to government
One of the most senior judges in England and Wales has thrown down a direct challenge to the government over legal aid by suggesting courts spend money in defiance of Ministry of Justice cuts to ensure justice is done.
Sir James Munby, the president of the family division of the high court, has ruled the court service should pay for lawyers if the Legal Aid Agency refuses to provide them. His judgement, which raises constitutional issues about who controls public money, follows a warning from divorce solicitors that the family court system is at breaking point because so many clients are no longer represented.
Munby's judgement covers three separate family cases where fathers, who wish to "play a role in the life of [their] child", have no lawyers to argue their case, while the mothers have been granted public funding to pay for legal representation.
In his concluding remarks on Q v Q, Munby decided: "If there is no other properly available public purse, the cost [of representation] will, in my judgement, have to be borne by Her Majesty's courts & tribunals service. "HMCTS will also have to pay the cost of providing the father with an interpreter in court. If the father is still unable to obtain representation, I will have to consider whether the cost of that should also be borne by HMCTS. That, however, is a matter for a future day."
He made similar recommendations in the other two cases, Re B and Re C, on the grounds that unless they are represented in the hearings, their rights to a fair trial under article 6, and private and family life under article 8 of the European convention of human rights would be put at risk.
Munby added: "There may be circumstances in which the court can properly direct that the cost of certain activities should be borne by HMCTS. "I emphasise that [the provision of interpreters and translators apart] this is an order of last resort. No order of this sort should be made except by or having first consulted a high court judge or a designated family judge ... The Ministry of Justice, the LAA and HMCTS may wish to consider the implications."
The Ministry of Justice said: "We are considering the judgement."Bill Waddington, chair of the Criminal Law Solicitors Association, said: "Today's decision shows that Grayling's tank is running on empty. When senior judges are overruling him in the family courts over his legal aid reforms it can only mean one thing: what little support his reforms had is well and truly tapped out."
Here's a legal blog that serves to remind us that there's still chaos in the criminal courts:-
Following on from my rant a few weeks ago, which went viral and was supported by people working in all areas of the criminal justice system and beyond, but was ignored by the Ministry of Justice, here is the next instalment.
It is 1am and I have just finished my 19 hour work day trying to triage criminal legal aid cases, but I do hope that the Lord Chancellor and Justice Minister are enjoying their, very long, summer recess, courtesy of the tax payer.
What is frightening is that the Ministry of Justice and other Government Departments are doing nothing to try and stem the blood loss of the criminal justice system as it gushes out from us caused by the ‘we are all in it together’ (unless we are on summer recess at a Portuguese villa or enjoying the hospitality of a Russian Oligarch on his yacht in the Mediterranean) austerity cuts. This all sounds very melodramatic, but I think it is my way of saying that I am moving towards hysteria, and not in a good way.
I have a suggestion for the Ministry of Justice and other Government departments to help them realise what is blindingly obvious to anyone who has ever set foot in a police station, court room or prison – although, I accept that it is a bit difficult to do that when you are whinging about the fact you had to resign from your constituency role as receiving only £28000 a year in expenses to cover a second home has made life intolerable. Ditch the forms and the time limits and concentrate on getting the Criminal Justice System back to a workable state.
Another helping from the website makes clear how, despite all the evidence from prison privatisations, Grayling is determined to get those contracts stitched up before year end:-
Grayling's privatisation system comes apart at the seams
At the best of times, the privatisation drive under Labour and the Tories delivered poor results. It is a false economy – encouraging private firms to hammer down costs just creates problems for the future as convicts are thrown back on the street without any real effort at rehabilitation. In many cases they are hardened by the abusive environment in which they have been kept. Soon enough, they commit a crime again and are thrown back into prison, at enormous taxpayer expense.
The profit motive simply does not suit a complex and expensive policy area like prison and rehabilitation. The 'customers' are by definition against participation. They often have the reading and numerical skills of a child, a host of mental health problems and a track record of offending. Rehabilitating them, in or out of prison, is not a cheap process. Firms either cut corners by reducing costs, hiring cheap and inexperienced staff and failing to invest in infrastructure – or they just cancel the contract, as A4e has done.
But these are not the best of times. They are awful. Staff numbers have dwindled under austerity cuts, but prisoner numbers continue to skyrocket as a tough-on-crime justice secretary stuffs ever more men and women into a system which long ago reached its limit. Every day brings more evidence of chaos in the prison system. It is a perfect storm of incompetence, foolhardiness and ignorance. And there is no sign anyone wishes to change course. Precisely the opposite:Grayling is currently trying to make the contracts on privatised probation so lengthy that Labour will not be able to reverse them if it comes to power. Instead of changing course, he is ensuring we will continue to experience this disaster long into the future.

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said:
"Doncaster has developed high quality training and resettlement programmes for short term offenders - which have been successful in cutting rates of reoffending. This is a significant achievement. But at the time of this inspection other aspects of performance in the prison had dropped below the standards we expect. Serco took immediate action in response to the inspection findings - strengthening the management team; prioritising safety and implementing a comprehensive improvement programme. I am confident that these actions have addressed the concerns identified by HMCIP but we will monitor progress closely to ensure the prison is able to deliver its regime safely and securely."
Wyn Jones, Serco’s director of custodial operations, said:
"Serco has a strong track record of prison management in the UK and abroad and we are proud of what has been achieved at HMP & YOI Doncaster over the past 20 years. However the prison has recently faced a number of significant challenges and has sometimes struggled to cope with some of these. We fully accept the recommendations that are made in this in this HMCIP report and we have already launched a major improvement programme. We are absolutely determined that Doncaster will once more become a prison of which everyone can be proud."
I meant to mention this in the Indie from a couple of weeks ago about David Cameron's Big Society:- 
Exclusive: David Cameron’s Big Society in tatters as charity watchdog launches investigation into claims of Government funding misuse
David Cameron’s flagship Big Society Network is being investigated by the Charity Commission over allegations that it misused government funding and made inappropriate payments to its directors – including a Tory donor.

The organisation, which was launched by the Prime Minister in 2010, was given at least £2.5 million of National Lottery funding and public-sector grants despite having no record of charitable activity. The Independent has learnt that it has now been wound up, having used much of the money on projects that came nowhere near delivering on their promised objectives. Two senior figures on government grant awarding bodies have also made allegations that they were pressured into handing over money to the Big Society Network despite severe reservations about the viability of the projects they were being asked to support.
Also in the Independent is this heartening example of how, despite everything, some people are determined to fight stereotyping:-
Carl Havern is a model Big Society citizen. He volunteers for three different causes every week and cares passionately about improving his community. He is also a recovering heroin addict on benefits, who has spent much of the past decade in prison.

Mr Havern is a member of a community group in Salford starting a quiet revolution against the prevailing stereotype of some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens. It has been meeting every Thursday since October, plotting ways to challenge the increasingly incendiary rhetoric about people on benefits. This month the group launched to the public in the hope that others who are fed up of being labelled as scroungers will follow suit.

“I hope this changes peoples’ outlook to those on benefits. We’re not all sat on our arse,” said Mr Haven, who spends most of his week volunteering with ex-offenders and people with mental health problems, when he’s not looking for work. “I think there is a minority that are milking it, but that’s the story that sells, so it’s the only one you hear about in newspapers and on television.”
Finally, a bit of fresh news from the Guardian that serves to remind us how brilliant government is at wasting our money, whilst telling us they are saving it:-
The taxpayer has been left to foot a £220m bill after a tribunal ruled that a government contract awarded to a US defence firm to deliver the e-borders programme was unlawfully terminated.
The contract to put in place an electronic system to check travellers leaving and entering Britain was ended by the government in July 2010 because the Home Office said it had no confidence in Raytheon, the company that won it in 2007 and which had fallen a year behind schedule on delivery.  
However, an arbitration tribunal has now awarded the Massachusetts-based company £49.98m in damages after it found that the processes by which the now-defunct UK Border Agency reached the decision to scrap the agreement were flawed. The Home Office must also pay Raytheon £9.6m for disputed contract-change notices, £126m for assets acquired through the contract between 2007 and 2010, and £38m in interest.
The e-borders programme, devised by the Labour government in 2003, was designed to vet travellers entering or leaving the country by checking their details against police, security and immigration watchlists. On Monday the government defended its decision to end the contract, saying the situation it inherited was "a mess", and announced that the National Audit Office would conduct a full review of e-borders from its inception.
A letter from the home secretary, Theresa May, to the Labour MP Keith Vaz, chair of the Commons home affairs select committee, said the Treasury would work with the Home Office to make sure that costs were met without any impact on frontline services. "We are looking carefully at the tribunal's detailed conclusions to see if there are any grounds for challenging the award," it said. "The government stands by the decision to end the e-borders contract with Raytheon. This decision was, and remains, the most appropriate action to address the well-documented issues with the delivery and management of the programme."
In a statement to the New York stock exchange, Raytheon said: "The tribunal's ruling confirms that [Raytheon] delivered substantial capabilities to the UK Home Office under the e-borders programme. Raytheon remains committed to partnering with the UK government on key defence, national security and commercial pursuits." 
Stop Press - BBC Radio 4 Today programme:-
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has admitted to the BBC that prisons in England and Wales face problems with violence, suicides and staff shortages.
But he maintained there was "not a crisis in our prisons", saying the government was meeting the challenges of a rising prison population. It comes as the Isis Young Offenders Institution in London is criticised by inspectors in an official report. High levels of violence were reported at the prison, often involving weapons.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling acknowledged this recent rise, but stated that prison violence "is at a lower level today than it was five years ago". He admitted to staff shortages in certain prisons and said there had been "far too many" suicides among inmates, but maintained the government was adapting to such issues. "We're meeting those challenges, we're recruiting more staff. I am absolutely clear there is not a crisis in our prisons," he said.
Chris Grayling's interview with Today is his first on the issue of prisons since a recent run of stories highlighting issues of overcrowding, violence and death in prisons, which have led to calls to improve the state of the system.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Omnishambles Update 62

Lets kick this off with a highly significant article in the European Journal of Probation by Mike Nellis that helps explain just where things are going. It's getting rave reviews and well worth taking the time to read the whole thing in full:-
Upgrading electronic monitoring, downgrading probation: Reconfiguring 'offender management' in England and Wales
England and Wales is currently privatizing most of its Probation Service and simultaneously planning to create the largest and most advanced electronic monitoring (EM) scheme in the world, using combined GPS tracking and radio frequency technology. Downgrading one, upgrading the other. 
Using a mix of published and unpublished sources, discussions with some key players in these developments, (and a ‘critical policy analysis’ perspective), this article begins by documenting the post-2010 development of GPS tracking, and the emergence of strong police support for its large-scale use. It notes the role of a right-wing think tank, Policy Exchange, in promoting the view that the GPS-based tracking of offenders’ movements is an intrinsically superior form of ‘electronic monitoring’ that should fully replace the discredited but still prevailing radio frequency EM, which can only restrict people to a single location. 
In the course of devising a third contract with commercial organizations to deliver EM, it transpired that the incumbent providers had been systematically overcharging the government for their services. Although a public scandal, and a series of official enquires – summarized here – resulted from this, the general momentum behind the outsourcing of penal interventions has not been slowed: the Conservative-led Coalition government is pursuing a relentlessly neoliberal agenda, driven far more by financial imperatives and technological preferences than anything that makes proper penal sense. 
The creation of a large, advanced GPS-based EM programme may not in fact work out in practice, but the government’s readiness to envision it shows where untrammelled neoliberalism points in respect of ‘offender management’ techniques. Although England and Wales have always been anomalous in their fully privatized delivery of EM, its preparedness to invest massively in GPS tracking and to simultaneously sacrifice the state-based Probation Service should serve to warn other European services of the penal challenges that neoliberalism may present them with.
Highlights from the conclusion:-
It is clear from the foregoing analysis of policy that recent developments in Probation and EM in England and Wales gained massive impetus from the technocratic, ethics-free, ‘better for less’ imperative of the Ministry of Justice’s all too aptly named Transforming Justice (and Transforming Rehabilitation) strategy. Both developments were latent in the previous New Labour government’s policies; indeed the Coalition tried initially to privatise probation by using old New Labour legislation, before being forced by critics to draft their own (Bardens et al., 2013). In respect of EM, Policy Exchange pushed the Coalition's strategy further than New Labour had envisioned, re-imagining EM as a nationwide upgrade to GPS tracking (which it hoped would eclipse the poor public public and media image that rf EM has acquired). None of this owed much to academic research on good penal practice or to nuanced understandings of penal philosophy and jurisprudence; their underpinning rationalities, in the first instance, were financial and technological, rather than penal.
It would once been unthinkable to terminate Probation as a public service, but Transforming Justice made it seriously thinkable. While Punishment and Reform (Ministry of Justice 2012) did not make it explicit, Probation's downgrading does seem to be strategically connected to the intended mass expansion of GPS tracking. It is certainly part of an ideological 'ground-clearing' that will potentially create space for a re-invented upgraded form of EM to be come a more commonplace, standard feature of offender management within a much more mixed economy of provision. Historically, in England and Wales, the Probation Service has been the cornerstone of community supervision: it long represented the person-centred ideal of offender supervision, and functioned (among other things) as a durable ethical touchstone against which the humanity and desirability of other penal interventions were measured. Its enforced demise means both the loss of a symbol, an institution and a practice against which stand-alone electronic surveillance had always been judged a dubious, lesser - and potentially regressive - measure.
The kind of penal transformation that has mattered most to liberal penal reformers, and to which a modest, imaginative use of probation-based EM might once have contributed, is no longer on offer, at least in England and Wales. Given the momentum that EM is gaining worldwide, partly on the back of neoliberal agendas, the difficulties of upholding traditional penal ideals should not be underestimated; without vigorous and informed contestation, it may well be probation rather than prison services that are shrunk by increased political investment in EM.                  
It looks like there's a hitch with the Welsh 'Titan' prison according to the NewsNorthWales website:-  
A LACK of clarity surrounding the construction of the Wrexham “super-prison” has been criticised.

For months the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has been saying work will begin on the huge Wrexham Industrial Estate jail “this summer”, but full planning permission is yet to be granted by Wrexham Council for the project. Despite a contractor being selected, no start date for the massive build has been publicised. The prison will pump million of pounds into the regional economy and provide hundreds of jobs. But an MoJ spokesman said yesterday there was no update on when construction would start on the prison, to be built on the former-Firestone factory site on the Industrial Estate.
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas said he was “surprised” work has not yet begun to build the prison considering the initial timescale given by the MoJ. He said: “I can’t understand why there hasn’t been any clear indication as to when building work will begin given the construction contract was announced in May. “They did say it was going to be summer but I am a bit surprised it hasn’t started yet. “I haven’t received any information from the MoJ but I will be making enquiries as to when construction will begin.”
Full planning permission is yet to be granted on the £212 million jail, while no decision has been taken as to whether it will be run privately or by the state. In May, it was revealed a £151 million contract to build the ‘super-prison’ had been awarded to Lend Lease, an international leader in property and infrastructure, who originate from Australia. About 600-700 workers are likely to be employed during the construction phase. In June, prisons minister Jeremy Wright said the prison is likely to avoid having a direct link with the town in its name. But he also refused to rule out the possibility of category B prisoners being housed in the prison despite initial plans to only house category C prisoners.
The prison is estimated to create about 1,000 jobs when operational and boost the regional economy by bringing in about £23m per year. It is hoped it will be built and be fully operational by September 2017.
Trouble is brewing with plans to close award-winning HMP Askham Grange as reported in the York Free Press:-
CONCERNS are building over the planned closure of a women's prison in York which has been given glowing reports by inspectors. 
Askham Grange open prison in Askham Richard is due to be closed by the Ministry of Justice so prisoners can serve sentences closer to home. However the decision is understood to be the subject of a judicial review after prisoners asked for it to remain open. The prison has a record of having among the lowest re-conviction rates in the country and is the only open prison with the facilities to allow mothers to stay with their young children. 
It has also now been announced that Askham Grange has also been awarded the highest possible rating in recent inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and by Ofsted. The inspections prove it makes "no sense" to close the prison which is an "asset to the justice system", the Prison Officers' Association (POA) said. A spokesperson said: 
"Following a recent HMIP inspection HMP Askham Grange has been awarded the highest possible rating in safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement. To reinforce their success HMP Askham Grange was awarded the highest possible rating by Ofsted. HMP Askham Grange is an asset to the justice system in terms of rehabilitation and clearly provides value for money for the taxpayer. If there is to be a Rehabilitation Revolution it makes no sense to continue with plans to close HMP Askham Grange." 
Earlier this year The Independent Monitoring Board described the decision to close the prison as "baffling". It warned that shutting Askham Grange open prison could lead to an increased risk of re-offending. 
A prison service spokesperson would not comment at what stage the judicial review is at, only saying "discussions are ongoing between both sides". They said: 
"The planned closure of the two open women’s prisons is currently subject to ongoing litigation, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time. We keep plans for our prison estate under constant review. We make sure we have the prisons we need in the most suitable locations and are able to deliver the most effective rehabilitation of all female prisoners. We will always have enough prison places for those sent to us by the courts and continue to meet the needs of female prisoners."
Here's the uplifting message from the Prison's Minister to all those in the 'country's first National Probation Service'. I'm sure we had one before, but we've been messed about that much it's difficult to remember:-
Minister’s message

It is a great honour to have been appointed Minister for Prison, Probation and Rehabilitation.

I know from my work as an MP the devastation offenders can cause for victims and for the communities they operate in, and how important it is for professionals to work with them to help change their behaviour.

I am the patron of a homeless charity in my constituency of South West Bedfordshire, and many of those who have been through the criminal justice system can end up without somewhere to live.

We are rightly here to protect society from these offenders by enforcing the punishments of the courts. We are also here to reduce reoffending and rehabilitate offenders and we do this by helping them change their lives. Those working in probation often deal with offenders when they can be at their lowest point and when many others have turned away from them. The role you have in protecting society and helping others is often over looked or misunderstood by wider public but make no mistake: it is a vital one.

I know that the recent Transforming Rehabilitation programme has been challenging for staff and it has created uncertainty. We know we are still working through some of the issues arising, as you would expect following a change of this scale, and we are grateful for your hard work in particular during the period of public ownership of the CRCs.

I do not underestimate the impact these changes have had on staff and I would like to thank you all for your work in bringing the reforms to this stage. 
I truly believe that the changes we are bringing in are for the right reasons. TR will allow us to reshape the way we deal with offenders. We can now introduce supervision for those sentenced to under 12 months, a group we know are most likely to reoffended. We can create a Through the Gate prison service which will enable offenders to finish their sentence as close to home as possible, with the same people working with them through their release.

Over the next few months, I am keen to see how you are shaping the country’s first National Probation Service and how the interaction between the NPS and CRCs is developing. I found my recent visits to probation offices in London and Wales and conversations with NPS and CRC staff there extremely instructive. I want to get out to the frontline as much as is possible, and to hear from as many of you as I can.

The probation service has always had a strong reputation and I look forward to working with you all to build on that and to being part of the overall criminal justice transformation.

Andrew Selous, Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation
Finally, some CRC's have clearly had second thoughts about funding 'free' membership of the Probation Institute:-

The Probation Institute is an independent not-for-profit organisation. It aims to become a recognised Centre of Excellence on probation practice, applying rigorous standards to the assessment of research and other evidence and its implications for the delivery of services that protect the public and rehabilitate offenders
Membership is voluntary and open to individual practitioners and corporate organisations concerned with the rehabilitation of offenders.

Membership is open to all staff working in the probation sector, regardless of grade, qualification and job type.

Benefits of early membership include: A discounted rate of £20 for standard membership and £5 for students (in 2015-2016 these fees are expected to be £40 and £10 respectively).

Any individuals wishing to join can do so by visiting the Probation Institute website

The CRC Executive have been approached by the Probation Institute to consider corporate membership. After a discussion, which took into account the decision taken by NOMs not to support corporate membership for the NPS, our use of public money and our desire for more information about the Probation Institute, it was decided corporate membership would not be pursued at this time.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

TR Week Eleven

A sobering piece from Mark Leftly in today's Independent on Sunday that graphically illustrates the human cost of the TR omnishambles. I note there was no comment from the MoJ:-
Chris Grayling is accused of 'murdering the probation service'

Colleagues and friends of a probation services officer who took her own life last month believe that government reforms to the service were a "contributing factor" to her death.

Sarah Kane, who became a probation services officer in 1999, died last month aged 49. Her self-written eulogy, read out at her funeral, accused the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, of having "murdered the probation service" through his much-criticised reforms.
In the eulogy, a copy of which has been seen by The Independent on Sunday, Ms Kane wrote: "A trouble-making Sarah would have delighted in calling Chris Grayling a murderer, he's certainly murdered the probation service. But hey, let's face it, Chrisso will continue safe and sound in his ivory tower breaking stuff that didn't need fixing beyond repair. Shame some of that stuff was the probation service now left reeling from his incompetent bumbling."
I feel so mean with clients. I was duty officer and somebody rang to ask if their boyfriend could report late so he could go & sign on or whatever, I agreed, she then went on to introduce herself as the victim and so began a 30min phone call - I was the duty officer so the shutters came down - I do not have the time to listen to this - I curtailed the conversation; another person phoned that day - his sister was in custody and the family was struggling to visit due to the cost - again it was not one of my cases and again I cut him short - I simply don't have time to listen to these problems. don't get me wrong, I'm sympathetic to these people but I just don't have the time to get involved.

This is the reality of the overworked CRC - no time to properly speak to people and having to pick and choose who gets your time and who doesn't. It's absolutely disgraceful.


Most nights after work I now meet a man (and some women) in the pub. It's the only way we get through the day!!!

Teesside only have two bidders; Sodexo and ARRC. Frying pan and fire spring to mind. I must say that some of the problems that my colleagues appear to be having are much worse than in Teesside (although that is bad enough). Whilst my caseload (and PSR's) are unmanageable, it's not by a great margin and I get to see my clients every week, albeit for 5 minutes in reception. 

I've stopped asking if they have any problems as I don't have the time to help them. Maybe this is the new way of working in the CRC, just signpost everyone to someone who can signpost them to another. Eventually they will just give up asking for help, offend, get locked up and Sodexo can get some more money from the Government who can deduct the £80 Victim Surcharge from their Discharge Grant. In cloud cuckoo land, they can then be met at the gates by old lags who will take them to their fully furnished home, the landlords willing to accept benefits and rent of £50 pw.

It's all sorted chaps, just relax. Does anyone know what happened to the concept of old lags meeting them at the gate? Please don't tell me that we were misled over this too :(


Does anybody know if/when we will be offered the EVR? I'm at an age where I'm more than willing to take the money and run. Fast!


I feel the same, at this stage I'm even prepared to take a reduction, really struggling to cope and its effecting my health. As far as I can see they are so short staffed that they probably won't offer it. It seems to me that its one of those things that Grayling probably used to divert the Unions attention which they put their all into instead of concentrating on TR and now they aren't even offering it. More game playing and lies which they seem to be winning.


All this and this is without the additional 50,000 serving under 12 months! If they were striving to push the probation Service into extinction-they are succeeding!


All this makes me wonder why they introduced TR, maybe they don't want such excellent staff, and will employ unqualified staff at a third of the cost. That's until they start looking at quality.


Prison management have long resented the fact that it takes a lot long to train a Probation Officer than a Prison Officer. Personally, I think that is like complaining that it takes lo get to train a vet than it does a zoo keeper.


It's very interesting to read how different this mess is depending where you are. I'm sat here in the North East, a long standing PO, now in a CRC, with 28 cases!! My colleagues, numerous of us, are in the same boat. Hey I'm enjoying a hard earned rest and doing lots of 1:1 work with my clients but I am fully aware that redundancy is the only future likely to be coming my way. 

My NPS colleagues locally are however in a different world. 70 -80 cases and PSR's, the most miserable bunch who are hanging on by fingernails and quite frankly, some ready to walk. I wouldn't work for the NPS here for a million quid! Perhaps some of them shouldn't have verbally lorded it over those of us in the CRC when the split came out. 

I really don't have any sympathy anymore. We've been split less than 3 months and people who had lunch together can barely speak civilly to each other so Mr Grayling's assertion that we would all be sat together, able to discuss and action risk escalations etc etc in seconds is, as we all knew, just ridiculous. Risk management is now second to process and staff self preservation. What a disgrace!


Telephone high risk cases once a fortnight. Are you having a giraffe? In National Standards it is supposed to be face to face contact weekly.


I heard today that there are 18 vacancies for NPS staff. I have met a lot of people today and things are beyond shambolic in Manchester, this must be the only place in the Country that has more agency staff than permanent. People and systems have been broken down, no one knows what they are doing. It's a disgrace to see what Grayling and the managers have done to our service. 

Rightly people are thinking why should we help out when we have been treated appallingly and it feels that no one is rushing to take these posts, and I don't blame them. CRC Officers are still holding all their NPS cases, and management are not even encouraging to transfer them. Its THE BIGGEST COCK UP EVER. Furthermore, the agency staff who are on XXX amount of pounds per hour and extortionate dinner allowances are not even suitably qualified/experienced to manage high risk cases. At this rate Manchester will be using up most of their next 5 years budget just to get them through these next few months. They will have to take some radical action to sort this terrible mess.


In my area, although not sure if it impacts on all NE area, newly qualified PO's are being put on 3 month contracts and will, in due course be offered some work, we think. It might however, involve a relocation to another area of the (NPS NE). You really couldn't make it up...what a complete mess. 


I work at Bolton. The situation is worse than meltdown. It is hell on earth. Colleagues are off sick cause of pressure to make TR work. It’s a nightmare. Never seen anything like it before. In a space of four months our office has changed so much. And yet we have managers walking round in absolute denial. Staff morale is non-existent. No one is listening.


I've also witnessed the risk escalation farce. It beggars belief in terms of time and resources. Who, with any sense what so ever, would think it's good risk management and public protection, to transfer a case, now believed to be at imminent risk of carrying out serious harm, to someone who has never met them and knows nothing about their behaviours? Again this was a transfer to a newly qualified officer. No disrespect but she wasn't keen either. Demoralising as a professional with over 20 years experience but hey, it wont be my SFO now. Sorry state of affairs.


The reality is that all this chaos, destruction, and mayhem has never been about public protection, risk management, reducing reconviction rates, or even extending services to those forgotten people that have only £46 in their pockets. It's ideology pure and simple, shedding state services as commodities to private industry. Everyone has been misled and lied to, to achieve this objective. Slight of hand and dishonesty has become the trademark of this government and even when they're caught out they're not taken to task over it.


I have also experienced the farce of risk escalation. It now takes all day to recall someone whose risk has escalated. That is if you can get a decision from the numerous managers it passes through. Noms was jumping up and down for the part B before it had even been transferred. The NPS officer then had to complete the part B on someone she did not have a clue about.


Due to lack of time available to NPS Court staff, our CRC was wrongly allocated a high risk case. This was noted by CRC, and NPS were advised and subsequently agreed their mistake. It still took over 2 weeks for the case to be taken back by NPS and this is without the escalation in risk process to contend with - this was a straight forward misallocation because the risk of harm had not been correctly noted in the first place. Mistakes are going to be made and the result is that members of the public will be seriously harmed as a result.


IN 30 years of working I have never encountered anything like the risk escalation tool. Really whoever designed this travesty of a process should be sacked. Mark my words, this will be implicated in SFOs very, very soon. The PI can sort of be followed, but then it all has to be uploaded onto deluis and I have never yet been on that and did not require assistance from IT Dept (soon to disappear). If CRC don't complete and upload correctly, NPS side can't be done and then if NPS side don't get it right CRC can't access it. It takes HOURS and is frustrating beyond belief. It is STUPID and NOT FIT FOR PURPOSE.


And this process would have previously taken.. oh, about ten minutes?!! Nothing is better than a joined up probation service. This is why I cant believe senior management rolled over so easily. This is all so much nonsense I still can't believe it. However I think it's mainly about quashing the probation officer qualification. This govt are very good at that - destroying professions and livelihoods. They think we should all be scraping in the dirt looking for crumbs while they fiddle expenses and drink champagne with our money. Absolutely criminal.


If the computers are not allowing us to work or slowing us down, why don't we revert to paper until the IT is sorted? Quickly NAPO could design a fast paper risk tool we could send each afternoon via recorded delivery and phone the next day to ensure it arrived. The IT is killing people at the moment. If NAPO backs this type of action we can speed up this crazy process and expose the NOMS bureaucracy for what it is. Most afternoons I sit at my frozen computer pulling my hair out.


NPS and CRC probation colleagues buckling under the strain of systemic failure. Awful to witness.

CRC colleague told me the CRC staff have been threatened with capability procedures if they fail to hit the "targets". Makes me sad :(


Just took a break from the madness. Had to do my second recall this month, an offender AWOL. In the past, prior to TR, I would have just jumped in my car and gone round to his known associates and dropped the hint that as long as Joe (or indeed Jane) Bloggs called into the office or telephoned, then we could smooth things out. Now with umpteen PSR's on the go, trying to get into prisons, trying to catch OS, responding to emails and the increase in both caseload and workload, this is no longer possible. And we wonder why the prisons are getting full!!!

I've done the same but with breaches - two for sure due to not being able to get out of the office and the offenders living at least an hours round trip away. 

Can't believe how much TR is costing. Service held together by agency staff. One in my office is on £900 per week!

We have 7 agency staff in my office alone. Including managers. Costing a fortune but I'm grateful they are keeping us afloat, just!

I'm interested in knowing how many of the under 12 month custodial cases will actually end up in the CRC. So far, since TR in our area, the RSR tool is sending all our most prolific (and therefore most likely to get a short prison sentence), to NPS. Unfortunately the Integrated Offender Management Teams with the best resources and skills to deal with these people are in the CRC. They've started twiddling their thumbs while their cases are hemorrhaging across to already hard pressed NPS officers.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Bidding extra

Following on from this mornings post about the MoJ fiddling with the bidding process and the recent news that A4E had pulled out of the London prison education contract, these comments seem extremely relevant:-

Now we have a lot of discussions with the Home Office regarding suitable addresses for bail for detainees. Many of the places proposed by the Home Office/UKBA are multi-occupancy hostels run by the usual suspect big companies ...and they have decided to pull out as they can't make enough money from this 'client group' doubt because there are no staff anywhere so there will be a significant amount of damage and loss.

Who would have thought it eh? I think the 'bidders' and those in Govt so closely linked to the bidders need to wake up to the reality that this chronically underfunded sector, criminal justice, is NEVER going to earn them an easy buck. As someone said above, it takes time, skill, patience, resilience to work in this area because there are so few happy endings, emotionally or financially. Fool's gold.

On the flip side it could be that he MoJ, being aware of the potential fallout should a bidder just walk away (as we have seen with A4E) are simply tightening their own belts so to speak. Unlike contracts to deliver services to those in Prison, if a bidder walks away mid contract then there will likely be major problems. Additionally, there are many Daily Mail readers who are somewhat caustic with their comments when offenders kill themselves; the same readers will be less so when, and I mean when, an offender in the community kills someone else!

It's not the savings that are an issue here, as this will go to the MoJ, it's the cost(s). Now ABC Company must put in a bid to run the CPA which should be lower than the MoJ currently do. From this bid they must then make a profit. Both are which are going to impact on their finances. Now I know there is much talk about redundancies etc, however, if they make you redundant I think I am right in saying that they cannot then offer your job (supervising offenders) to another, for less money. This leaves them open to civil action (which is expensive if done en-mass. Also, I very much doubt they can get rid of staff, at least not yet, as they will be taking on the U12 month cohort which is going to be a massive ball ache for all involved!!

Also, they will need qualified staff to train the new TPO's (yeah, good luck with that one) as cases in the NPS are highly unsuitable for them. They will probably charge the MoJ for this and will need to show that they are able to do it; laying off staff is not going to cut the mustard.

Factor into this whole sorry mess the fact, and it is a fact, that they have taken on hundreds of pissed off staff, who will blow the whistle on poor practice at the first opportunity. The same staff (if my area is anything to go by) which will do all it can to undermine whoever tales over the CPA.

In their ivory towers there will be lots of flow charts prepared by people who do not have the first idea of how to manage offenders, and will quickly learn that flow charts are useless, and what they need are capable OM's/OS's who can identify and react to the fluid nature of our offenders BEFORE they commit a crime. If we only have a 'process' to follow then this is not going to work!

As I have said before, there will be a lot of money lost, massive reputational damage and a heck of a lot of tears before the whole things reverts back to normal. In a strange way I'm looking forward to it, if only so it serves as a reminder to other Ministers who may have the same shitty idea as Grayling!

The subject of what happens when a contractor decides to pull out is covered extensively in this blog post on the LSE website, and although principally concerned with the health and social care sector, it's just as relevant to us. Interestingly, the author concludes by reference to a growing view that some things can't be privatised:-
But perhaps the most vital health and care debate is about what the popular philosopher Michael Sandel has termed the ‘moral limits’ of markets. In this context public services like health and social care are viewed as the manifestation of communal solidarity, expressing a sense of moral obligation that citizens feel for each other. They are something more than a contract put out to the market to secure ‘value for money’. The state is the vehicle for negotiating these obligations with citizens, for developing strategic thinking, coordinating inputs and serving as the ultimate source of legitimacy. This is the debate we need to be having, rising above dry and technical consultations on ‘service continuity’ and ‘commissioner requested services’ to think about what sort of society we want to live in.
This is a subject I talked about last May in a post entitled 'What Money Can't Buy'. Here's a clip:-
I think he could have had probation in mind when writing this book. He cites many more quite shocking examples of how market philosophy has been applied in all sorts of inappropriate and repugnant ways, such as trading life insurance policies on people with terminal illnesses, and companies like Walmart insuring for the possibility of customers dying on their premises. Every death provides a useful windfall apparently.
If you add to this examples of the perverse operation of markets, and apocryphal stories of buses not picking up passengers in order to keep to schedules, and trains cancelled instead of running late to avoid penalties, I think most people can see plenty of potential pitfalls in privatising probation. 
and an excellent review of Sandel's book can be found here. 

Finally, I notice that Mark Leftly in the Independent yesterday picks up on a theme he's written about previously, namely that the big boys are so big, we're effectively stuck with them, what ever happens:-
From running the Defence Academy in Wiltshire to housing asylum seekers in Liverpool, from training thousands of headteachers to cleaning our streets, Serco is as powerful as the government departments that are its major clients.
The company is one of the biggest players in the hidden state: the outsourcing industry that has received £87.7bn of government contracts since the Coalition came to power four years ago, according to the research firm IGS.
Postscript - Just noticed this about Serco pulling out of the UK Clinical Services market. Well done Andrew for spotting it on the Health Service Journal website and posting on the Napo Forum:-
Outsourcing giant Serco has announced plans to withdraw from the clinical health services market in the UK after making a multimillion pound loss on its NHS contracts. The move follows a review of the cost of delivering “improved service levels” and meeting the performance requirements of several existing contracts, the company said in a stock market statement.
“During the period, the group continued to monitor performance in the UK clinical health operations against which an onerous contract provision was made in the prior year and where the group’s intention is to withdraw from the UK clinical health market,” it said. “The group has revised upwards the estimate of the costs of running the contracts to term, resulting in an additional non-cash exceptional charge of £3.9m in the period (year ended 31 December 2013: £17.6m).”
Serco’s planned withdrawal could influence significantly how other private firms view the prospect of bidding for contracts involving patient facing services. It also follows months of speculation about the outsourcing giant’s clinical operation.

Bidding Special 2

As discussed in an earlier post, In the Public Interest, we know the MoJ have been tinkering with the bidding process, basically because they were horrified at the piss-poor scores that some of the bids were getting, but particularly those of the big boys. By contrast and not surprisingly perhaps, I'm led to believe that the smaller players and those like the Mutuals who are very familiar with the work, scored pretty well on the initial submissions. 

Clearly this state of affairs is not politically acceptable, so the decision was made late in the day to basically fiddle the process, insert an extra stage, but pretend it was always there from the beginning. Cunning eh? By hook or by crook, the big boys have got to be 'helped' in the bidding process, or goodness gracious me, the whole TR pack of cards might come tumbling down. Now lawyers take note. Those bidders who did well at the beginning, scored high and passed the thresholds, just might feel a tad aggrieved to discover the competition is getting some nods and winks.  

This is what the bidders have been told and I'm grateful to a disgruntled one of their number for the info. I've left out a couple of particularly tedious paragraphs and by the way, ITN stands for Invitation to Negotiate:-     
Transforming Rehabilitation Programme
Instructions for Further Round of Discussions
1. Introduction
As notified to Bidders on 30th July 2014, the Authority has carried out the initial evaluation of Offers and is moving to a further phase of discussions with all Bidders. This phase is being introduced in accordance with paragraph 4.8 of Volume 1 of the ITN. This phase will apply for all Lots and to all Bidders who submitted Offers. It is designed to provide Bidders with feedback on indicative scores which are below a score of D (acceptable) and updates for some assumptions and data. Following discussions, Bidders will be invited to re-submit any parts of their Offers which they wish to amend (whether or not relating to areas on which they have received feedback). The original Offers submitted, as amended by any re-submitted elements, will constitute the Offers at this stage and will then be evaluated in accordance with the evaluation methodology set out in the ITN.
2. Meetings
Bidders will be invited to two meetings per Bidder to be held between 13th and 29th August 2014. While the Authority would wish to accommodate the timing preferences for Bidders, the Authority is unable to guarantee that preferred days will be available due to the availability of subject matter experts. Bidders are invited to notify the Authority by 11th August 2014 of any dates that they are not able to attend meetings.
After conclusion of the meetings, Bidders will then have five working days to submit their updated Offers. Offers must be submitted to the Bidder's drop box address by no later than 5pm on 5th September 2014. Bidders are requested to submit a File Submission Checklist by the 3rd September 2014 summarising the files that will be submitted on the 5th September 2014. Further instructions confirming the requirements for submission of files will be issued separately. 
3. Agendas
The Authority will issue an agenda in advance of each Bidder meeting. The focus of the first meeting will be on the most serious issues identified by the Authority. The focus of the second meeting will be an update and further discussion on the issues raised in the first meeting and any other issues. 
4. Feedback
Bidders will be provided with feedback on the most serious issues identified to date by the Authority with each Offer the Bidders submitted. Further details of the feedback and when it will be provided will follow. 
Bidders should note that, for practical reasons, Bidders will not be provided with all scores. Bidders should also note that any scores that are provided will be indicative at this stage as they do not fully reflect the extent to which the Bidder's Service Delivery Solution may impact on that indicative score. For example, where a Bidder has outlined a commitment in the question response that is not committed to in the Service Delivery Solution, the absence of commitment from the Service Delivery Solution is not yet reflected in the indicative score. This means that in the evaluation, scores may reduce (or increase) to reflect the Service Delivery Solution (in addition of any changes to evaluation to take account of re-submitted elements of the Offer). Further details regarding re-submission of the Service Delivery Solution are set out below.
Bidders will not be provided with feedback on their financial responses, other than in the context of Evaluation Criteria LCF03 AND LCF05.
No information regarding positioning of Offers (including relative positioning to other Offers) will be given to Bidders at this stage. Bidders should also note that the Authority has not at this stage undertaken the Price per Quality Point calculation set out in Section 8 of Volume 2 of the ITN and has not applied the award decision process set out in Section 9 of Volume 2 of the ITN.
5. Resubmission
6. Updated data and contract documentation
7. Updated timing
It remains the Authority's intention to award contracts before the end of 2014. To minimise any negotiation required at Preferred Bidder Stage, we are requiring Bidders to update their responses to reflect the updated assumption that share sale (i.e. the Completion Date referred to in the ITN) will take place on 1st February 2015 rather than 1st November 2014.
It is anticipated that this update will primarily affect the financial and Mobilisation Transition and Transformation (MTT) proposals. Updated instructions and templates will be shortly issued to Bidders that reflect these updated timing assumptions.
8. Service Delivery Solutions (SDS)
Bidders are invited to review their SDS to ensure that it complies with the requirements set out in the ITN. To support this review the Authority has developed a checklist of issues that Bidders should consider and update or amend their SDS to reflect. The checklist will be issued to Bidders separately.
Bidders should note note that as part of the evaluation at this stage, the content of the SDS will be considered in accordance with the ITN rules and therefore any contradiction of the question responses or caveats regarding the required contractual commitments will be taken into account. In particular, Bidders should be careful that nothing in their SDS contradicts or caveats their response to LCF 1 to the draft Amended and Restricted Services Agreement including in particular, but not limited to, Schedule 7. Any such caveats or failure to provide the minimum required commitments may result in a score of F or G, if it were to materially undermine the response to the questions.
9. ITN
The terms of the ITN apply to the further round of discussions and to the process for resubmitting Offers. 
Now the MoJ are fully aware that some cynics might smell a rat in all this, but being good and loyal civil servants, they've thought of that possibility and have prepared another cunning plan, a script for any possible awkward questions. So here's the spin:-
Question : Are you having another round of discussions with bidders because the bids you received have been so poor? 
Answer : Absolutely not. The first part of the competition has given us real confidence with the evaluation of bidder submissions demonstrating both quality and innovation across the market. The next round of discussions with bidders will provide them with the opportunity to refine their bids prior to selection of Preferred Bidders. 
Question : What impact does this have on the overall competition timescale? 
Answer : We have always said we intend to award contracts by the end of the year and that remains the case. 
Question : The probation service is in chaos and now you are announcing yet another delay. Doesn't this demonstrate that these untested reforms are being rushed through to a wholly unrealistic timetable? 
Answer : Attempts to paint a picture of chaos within NPS and CRCs are simply inaccurate and do not reflect the experience of most probation staff. We have always been clear that these thorough plans will be rolled out in a controlled way that ensures public safety at every stage and that is exactly what we are doing. There is no delay to the competition and these essential reforms remain on track. 
Question : What are you going to do to improve the quality of the bids you have received? 
Answer : The next stage of discussion is a sensible step that will allow us to clarify any outstanding points that need addressing with bidders, who will also have the opportunity to refine aspects of their bid. This is not unusual in any major procurement process and is simply good practice.  
Question : When are you going to announce your preferred bidders? 
Answer : We expect to announce preferred bidders by late autumn. 
Question : Does it now look like you will not be able to award contracts for every CRC and that some will remain in public ownership?  
Answer : The first part of the competition has given us real confidence with the evaluation of bidder submissions demonstrating both quality and innovation across the market. We have a strong mix of bidders from a diverse range of partnerships. Private firms, charities experienced in tackling issues affecting offenders and small and large businesses have joined together to compete for the work that will help turn offenders' lives around. We will only award contracts where we have received bids that represent value for money, and have been assessed as being of high quality. We remain on course to award contracts by the end of this year.
I can only assume the author has a well-developed sense of ironic humour, especially having regard to the MoJ's track record with other contracts. They may be deluded enough to think everything's just dandy over at Petty France, but the new man at the Major Projects Authority seems to think rather differently, as reported on Civil Service World. When I say reported, you'll have to take my word for it because the link now reads 'no access'. This could be for no other reason than the FT seems to get very upset at people copying its work. Anyway, I grabbed it:-  
Probation outsourcing under threat
The Ministry of Justice’s probation outsourcing programme may be halted when the ministry has finished examining contractors’ bids, the head of the Major Projects Authority, John Manzoni, has signalled.   
The Financial Times reported on Sunday, 10 August, that Manzoni had “disclosed that a decision about whether to proceed with an ‘ambitious’ plan to outsource some probation services to the private and voluntary sectors would not be taken until the end of the summer.” Sources at the centre of government confirmed to CSW that no decision on whether to go ahead will be made until the end of the bid assessment process.
Manzoni’s of the word “ambitious” emphasises the risks involved in the outsourcing – risks exacerbated by the compressed timetable. Antonia Romeo, the MoJ’s director general for criminal justice, acknowledged to CSW in April that there is “a timing issue, because the government’s policy is to roll it out by 2015, so we can really start feeling the effects in reductions to reoffending.” And very senior officials have previously told CSW that the scheme is one of the highest-risk programmes currently underway in government.
Tania Bassett, spokeswoman for Napo - the trade union and professional association representing over 8000 members working in probation and family courts - said: “It has been clear to us from the start that the secretary of state's timetable for this privatisation programme is dangerously rushed and even his own advisers stated in the leaked risk register last year that it was an aggressive timetable.
"There have been a number of potential bidders pulling out of the programme due to the high financial risks, in particular the probation mutuals and the third sector, leaving a monopoly of large private sector companies being the only ones able to take such a risk on these contracts.
"This is a deeply flawed privatisation programme that should be halted as a matter of urgency so that the whole Transforming Rehabilitation programme can be reviewed before vast sums of tax payers money is gambled away of expensive contracts that are not fit for purpose or able to deliver.”
We'd do well to note just how keen government is on helping the big boys, especially as the end of a Parliament signals lots of opportunities for exiting politicians of every hue to get their noses in the trough and make smooth transitions to the Board Room. One thinks of the odious former Home Secretary John Reid for instance. This from the Independent:- 
Serco says Government is ‘keen to help us’ get through rough patch
The Government is back on side with Serco, just a year after the emergence of the multi-million pound offender tagging scandal, the outsourcer’s new chief executive Rupert Soames claimed yesterday, adding that ministers were “very, very keen to help us get through this”.

The scandal-struck company sank to a £7.3m pre-tax loss for the first half of the year, after a £106.1m profit for the first six months of 2013, as Serco paid for a massive clean-up operation after overcharging its biggest customer, the taxpayer, by tens of millions of pounds by claiming it had electronically tagged criminals who were actually dead or still in prison.
“This is a company that’s been badly traumatised by the events of last year. My job is to try to steady the ship,” said Rupert Soames, who was bought in from Aggreko to run Serco following the scandal. Yesterday he also appointed Angus Cockburn, his finance boss at the power provider, who is currently interim chief executive at Aggreko, to become his finance director at Serco.
“I can’t decide whether it’s like the Blues Brothers reforming or the Odd Couple coming back together,” said Mr Soames, who said the first three months in the job had been “on the busy side of absolutely bloody hectic”. Serco received a six-month ban on new government contracts last summer and repaid £70m to the Government for over-charging for tagging criminals.
Mr Soames, who is Winston Churchill’s grandson, said although “a reputation is in the eye of the beholder, my sense is that as far as the Government is concerned, they are keen to see us rehabilitated. The decision my chairman [Alastair Lyons] took last year to ’fess up, go for the absolute maximum co-operation and start a programme of corporate renewal has been vindicated. When I’ve been going round various government departments, I find them very, very keen to help us get through this.”
Serco was now running some government contracts at a loss, he said, including a £14m operating loss in the first-half on work providing housing for asylum seekers. “It’s costing us a humongous amount of money to deliver these obligations to the Government, because we mis-priced them.” Asked if the Government bartered too hard, Mr Soames said: “We offered the prices on our own free will. Now we’ve got to man up and deliver what we said we would. With several of the contracts that we won over the last three years, it’s turned out they’ve cost a lot more to run. The taxpayer is getting a spectacular deal at the expense of the shareholders of Serco.”
Mr Soames has launched a review of Serco’s contracts and strategy which is due to report alongside the full-year results next March. The company, which has issued three profit warnings since last November, said yesterday it was still on track for annual operating profits of at least £170m, provided no further problems were uncovered. Mr Soames added: “My suspicion is that folk are not going to be hanging out the bunting yet but they are going to be quite pleased to see that after a stage where every Serco announcement was a downgrade, we’ve maintained guidance.” Serco shares rose 1.6p to 330.5p yesterday.
Finally, some recent thoughts on bidding:-

Our CEO has revealed that November is the likely time and that this is because bidders have had to either re-do or tinker with their delivery models. My thoughts are that if, after all the months of prompting about what is required, that you still need to be spoonfed in order to submit a satisfactory model, then you are not capable of running a CRC or playgroup for that matter.

South Yorkshire CRC given a provisional date to sign contract with winning bidder for the 18th December and for that bidder to take over on the 1st February  

That's a big change from October as originally stated, good luck if they think they can be up and running by Feb!!

With the bollox that is going on now even December is a pipe dream.

If the information is correct that will be a wonderful Christmas present for the bidders! The last turkey in the shop.....

A little insight for potential bidders: if someone is low ROSH but high risk of re offending, the chances are that they will re offend. Change is a long process for many and not always measurable as a 'hard outcome'. It doesn't happen overnight. Probation staff understand this and have kept going, motivating, pushing and instilling hope. We understand that despite doing excellent work, people are complex and applying all the desistance theory in the world doesn't guarantee success. 

So bidders, buyer beware! If you thought ETE was an easy ride for profit (clearly not because all MOJ work is constrained by their lack of understanding) then think again....offender management is a minefield. Offenders are not quantifiable units on which you can predict profit and given that staff are so demoralised, the main resource available has already diminished...Elvis has left the building. Good luck bidders!

This is why PBR is going out of the window and the contracts will be on a fee per client basis.

A couple of other points are worth making in relation to this story. Firstly, although A4E clearly found it too much, delivering education in prisons is a relatively easy prospect. You don't have to develop the courses; the outcomes are very easy to define; and there are relatively few other factors to complicate delivery (although a Nasty Party-designed prison regime that prevents your clients from actually getting to your service is one of those). In addition, there's a huge wealth of alternative providers of education who could fill the gap. 

Contrast this with 'offender management', where the only 'simple' measure of success is massively dependent on other factors (not least of which being whether one of your key partners, the police, decide to change how they work and make decisions on whether or not to arrest someone), and where research shows that 'what works' with any one client is often very individualised. The Government's way around this is to get the people who actually know how to run this service to set the companies up, ready for the turkey Christmas sale - but of course this completely makes a mockery of the idea that the private sector is able to 'innovate' in this arena.

Secondly, the ongoing debacle that is A4E shows that the bigger a company is, the more concerned it will be about the reputational damage it may suffer, and the more it would be able to absorb the short-term financial cost of breaking its contract. This WILL happen with CRCs - the hassle won't be worth the money, and one or more of the big boys will walk away. If the Government were concerned about service delivery (as opposed to cost), they would be looking at smaller, more specialist providers who will be determined to deliver on the service because that's all they do. Such as mutuals made up of former Probation staff, for example. The very groups that are now picking their hats up out of the ring because the financial risk is too great to bear - plus they know how poisoned the TR chalice is.