Sunday, 21 January 2018

Pick of the Week 39

Powerful stuff! Well done to the anonymous PO who put in this submission. I do feel for them on a personal level and can relate to much of their experiences. I hope that after their period of grieving they are able to put their talents and experience to good use. There is life after CRC or NPS for that matter and additional opportunities for this individual given that they are also a qualified social worker. YOS for example. It is just so incredibly wrong that it has come to this and I hope that exposing the truth will make a difference.

Well said. I spent 38 years in the Probation Service, starting in what was then Community Service and leaving in August 2014 when I had been an SPO for 10 years. I decided to get another job as I did not want to work for the French caterers who had predictably got the contract and EVR would only go to a few. The cost was huge, both emotionally and financial but I felt I had to take some control after some many attempts to just make me, along with my colleagues, pawns on the chess board.

I do not envy that SPO in the London CRC having to impose the rubbish that is coming from the centre. A crisis or phone call will rapidly derail the 30 min rule. It is all designed to stop offering a service to the client and the public at large. The destruction of the Probation Service will be examined by business graduates in years to come as an example of how not to do things.

That's a pretty good submission. As well as the obvious anger it reads with honesty and passion. There can be no doubt that the state destroyed a valuable public service, and in doing so screwed over both those that work in it, and those that use its services.

Took the money and ran what about staying and making the stand with the few against the corrupt and power?

What are you talking about?! Very judgemental comment. It is virtually impossible to stay in many CRC's if you disagree with the corruption and speak out. You would end up being disciplined or sacked for misconduct and would struggle to work again. Better to leave and work for a reputable service.

For the record I only took the salary I was owed. Some of us did not get any of the spoils- out of principle, in my case.

Not really those who scurried for anything else taking their Voluntary severance made it easy for the employer. It then in turn weakened everyone else who was left but hey who cares as long as number 1 is ok right. Sympathy for the voluntary leavers is a waste save it for the sufferers stuck in CRCs and the incredible aggressive NPS. Many stated on here make them sack you then EVR would apply but too many back watchers scurrying for what was left. No I do not care for the cowardly and lack of solidarity. You wrong about getting the sack that is what the leavers were too afraid to argue about their jobs.

Okay, we've rehearsed that approach many times on here. I still disagree. Do you apply that thinking to those who felt they could not or would not work for a privatised company and who, after exhausting all avenues to remain in the public sector, chose to leave? Were they "cowardly?" 
How about those who were suffering from ill health (incl stress, depression) as a direct consequence of the bullying, lies & game-playing by the privateers? Were they "back watchers scurrying for what was left?"

The people directly responsible for the hell probation staff & service users are having to endure are NOT your ex-colleagues. Responsibility sits squarely on the shoulders of Grayling, Spurr & those who enabled TR & split the Service - including the privateers, collaborators & the financiers who wet their pants at the thought of easy money through yet another Government contract "with an average value of £20 million to £25 million over the 10-year duration", and the ex-Chiefs who prepared the ground for privatisation then left everyone in the shit whilst they took off with handsome payouts of up to more than ten times the size of any severance payment.

The unions also have to take some responsibility for the weak & bizarrely worded NNC agreement that allowed the privateers a gaping loophole through which they drove their voluntary severance limousine. The trajectory of NOMS has always been away from Probation, more so under the Tories e.g. there isn't an explict ministerial role for Probation post-Gyimah. Rory Stewart describes himself as Minister for Prisons, even though Probation is one of his responsibilities alongside prisons.

Post TR and the new order is agency worker lead. I am very conflicted about this (I am not an agency worker) It would be interesting to get some more views about this. I can see there are positives and negatives for the agency staff but what about CRC? Is it really a good idea to staff teams with people on short contracts who are doing compressed hours and travelling long distances, who never really get to know service users or their patch because they move on within 6 months so no real investment. Probably tick all the boxes re targets but what about service users?

The NHS have a big problem with agency staff too. Not because they don't do good work, but they cost more, and moving frequently to different placements can't imbue any great sense of belonging or create a sense of commitment to any one place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's not just Carillion is it? Whilst this is a disaster and I am sorry for all those concerned - service users, workers, supply lines etc, what I want to know is what will the government do about the process of privatisation full stop? Who monitors the performance of these private companies? Does anyone remember the process of contract compliance introduced by Labour-controlled local authorities in the 80s? It worked brilliantly then. We need it now!

The Carillion collapse is huge, and will have a domino effect globally for some time to come. It's devastating for thousands of employees who've rinsed their credit cards and bank accounts to pay for Christmas and are expecting their first pay cheque of the year at the end of the month. But I would argue that it's even bigger than what we saw being discussed on the TV all day yesterday, and the government know it. It's considered disastrous enough to hold a COBRA meeting last night.

It's not just the big departments of government that have contracts with Carillion, it should be remembered that many local councils also have contracts with Carillion also. Birmingham for example use Carillion to manage their Christmas light displays. The collapse of Carillion saw all the other big outsourcing companies making gains on the stock market yesterday. With Carillion gone competition is reduced, and the likelihood of G4s, Interserve, Serco etc getting outsourced contracts has increased. 

There must be investigations, and serious ones too. There should also be an investigation into Graylings activities. He's already been summoned to the Public Accounts Committee over Virgin and Stagecoach, and questions were raised yesterday about why he gave Carillion huge contracts knowing they had just issued their 3rd profit warning, and announced they were about to default on their debts. Grayling was well aware of Carillions woes, and far from trying to assist them, he took the opportunity to exploit the situation.

Carillion needed contracts to convince their lenders there was money in the pipeline. Grayling knew they'd agree to any terms just so long as they could get a contract of any sort to take back to creditors. So I'd like to see just what terms and conditions Carillion had to agree to to get the HS2 contract? Grayling just wouldn't have missed the opportunity to exploit them. Shitbags like Grayling, in the end, are always found wanting. I hope this time it's his time.

I think the above has hit a nail squarely on the head when he highlights the likely MO of Grayling doing deals. Bully, chancer, spiv - but always with someone else's money. JSC & PAC ought to be forensically combing the indecently rushed CRC contracts for his trademark hidden clauses which were probably never formally approved, just added 'on instinct', e.g. the termination penalties to effectively prevent the contracts being undone should the election have had a different outcome.

The claim of being misled on TR contracts has already been called. It needs to be picked up and examined. If the Rt Honourable Minister is not screaming for a public apology for such an accusation then perhaps there's a bit of truth in it.

On the one hand government spokesman saying that taxpayers will not pick up the cost of this. On the other hand all privateers who took over CRCs were given additional millions of pounds out of public purse to prop them up. What exactly did they do with this money? I see no evidence of it being spent on staff or service users. I suspect it all went to shareholders. It's our money!

I don't know if Carillion will be a watershed, but it will cast a long shadow over the use of the private sector conglomerates delivering public services. We know private companies make excessive use of 'commercial confidentiality' until they have to go begging for bailouts. The bubble that private is best has now been burst and when the CRCs are questioned by the JSC they won't quite have the mystique they previously enjoyed. Maybe the political ground is shifting towards more public sector provision, because it carries less risk to the public finances. Whatever, I don't think it will be business as usual...

Just my personal opinion, but I think some of the others will have already sent their begging letters, pointing out the tight profit margins they operate under, the continual struggle they face to pay creditors, it's challenging times for the outsourcing industry as the sad demise of Carillion demonstrates, we need a few more bob just to make sure we're running a stable ship. Thankyou very much Mr. Minister.

Bankrupted Carillion = broken Tory policies of financing public services through privatised dealings. Therefore CRC time to go as the public sector should and will demand its safety and support services back. Which by the way are cheaper better more efficient and effective watch words CRCs use but clearly don't deliver as these get in the way of the wheel barrows of cash they are syphoning out the back door.

The MoJ have serious questions to answer about their contracts with Carillion after Sam Gymah told parliament twice last year that Carillion were not performing as they should be with prison maintenance contracts. Still paid them millions though.

Just met up with an old PO friend who told me about the farcical CRC operations in her area, so farcical we laughed despairingly. Some more humour then from the military:

'CarillionAmey want to reassure all military personnel that there will be no impact on services to your housing following the collapse of parent company 'Carillion.' 'CarillionAmey will still be late for every task, providing a shoddy standard of work using substandard materials whilst charging the sort of rate that private defence contractors expect in Iraq and Afghanistan.'

The trouble is this humour reflects a truth. For example, the basic premise of an outsourced payroll company is focused expertise that makes the correct payments, on time, to the right people. When it repeatedly does not happen they deserve at the very least some jokes at their expense. Problem is I still haven't found the humour in my depleted bank balance as yet.

My prediction - Spurr ain't going to show tomorrow. He'll bring a note (from his mum or the Archbishop or Jesus) & retire gracefully to a place of untouchable safety before the voluminous pile of shit he's been nurturing finally hits the fan which is about to be plugged in & switched to turbo-boost. Heaton, Permanent Sec & skilled senior serpent, will undoubtedly direct everyone to the door where they can find the empty desks of HMPPS operational staff & whichever Justice Minister signed off on it.

For example, Working Links fell into the same trap as Carillion by overstretching, becoming insolvent and were bought up by a German asset-stripping fund, Aurelius. When such a scenario was raised by PAC chair it was made explicit by Spurr, Romeo & Brennan that NO CRC could sell on a contract - or be sold - without permission of the SoS (golden shareholder) and the MoJ. Who approved the hush-hush sale to Aurelius? Where is the public money going? Dino & co have been thwarted in their attempts to follow the money, so perhaps PAC could enlighten us?

So does this mean Working Links have been illegally acquired by Aurelius? I have read Dino's Parliamentary submission recently which raises this issue in some depth. There has been no explanation or transparency from the MoJ how the asset strippers Aurelias came to own the Working Links company and MoJ contracts to deliver justice services. Has this been processed covertly? We are aware of the catalogue of scandalous, corrupt cabinet ministers being removed recently, so nothing would surprise me. Will uncovering the truth be down to the diligent and tenacious pursuit of it, by individuals such as the likes of Dino et all. How long will the MoJ remain silent while dirty deeds prevail? Aurelias and it's like will leave when the carcass is dry but no doubt they take staff the pensions to pay Directors bonuses.

Question is.....Carillion were allowed to bid for TR contracts, what would happen now if they'd have got one? What have the MoJ got planned if one of the privateers running probation services goes tits up? Or they just want to pull out? What's the plan?

Surely any decent journalist worth their salt can follow the snail trail from employment to justice and now transport and find a common denominator. Yes it is Tory ideology that is now unravelling but chief ideologue who has left fingerprints all over this lies with one man. I understand that backbench Tories nickname him Macavity the mystery cat..... nowhere to be seen.

1. Excellent contribution from hostel worker
2. Interserve shares dropped by 15% this morning, but a slight rally to 9% drop just now...
3. Additional info from Carillion suggests this collapse had been long anticipated & Carillion were effectively trying to play chicken with govt over rescue package.
4. Its been suggested Grayling gave contracts to Carillion as part of this game of chance. Wonder if that was linked to Carillion's generous funding for May's leadership bid? Or the GE?

Again it's heartbreaking to hear dedicated staff speak of being betrayed by organisations we've worked years for - working in hostels you are the first point of contact for the high risk offenders who reside there as our guest speaker stated, especially at weekends when there are no other services available. Apart from the abhorrent way hostel staff have been treated I feel for the residents of those hostels who due to their offences will be required to remain till their PO states otherwise - what effective work will be completed in order to attempt to reduce someones risk in the community if the staff they employ have no skills no expertise and are paid in washers!! - will this have a knock on effect to prison releases if the Parole Board have no faith in where an offender is to be released to?!

Approved premises are already under strain, they are getting by on use of many many sessional workers and a small core of permanent and dedicated workers. The situation is far from ideal. I would caution the Government against facilitating further Private predation and profit in Approved Premises on the basis that the system is already strained. I also predict a flight of experience and professionalism if this were to happen which inevitably will lead to grave consequences. The outsourcing revolution has gone too far and as we are witnessing the costs of putting the house back in order is both complex and costly.

I read with interest in today's Independent an article relating to Carillions collapse, but focusing on the not very often spoke about the "Social Value Act." I'm sure the privatised probation services flies in the face of that act as many local services that used to interact with probation no longer do.

Enabling Environments certification is just an income generator for the Royal College of Psychiatrists - sold to Probation by snake oil sales folk. Numerous staff hours spent by staff compiling 'scrapbooks' of 'evidence' and information noticeboards to show the EE assessors.

Another missed opportunity by the opposition to hold the government to account during PMQ’s over this fiasco. I like Corbyn the person, but he’s no leader. Missed too many open goals. You want him in your team but not playing up front. The country’s journalists are the one acting as the opposition at present. This sort of thing should be rattling the government. But they are not bothered.

I think the Parole Board have to some degree already lost faith in AP's. As a PO at a recent oral hearing I was given quite a bit of grief for recommending an AP asking what they could do for the prisoner? I was at a loss really. The rot set in when they took away the Programmes and groups which used to be a feature of an AP. I recall a time when you had a menu of activities you could pick for your case. Long gone. For many years AP's have just been holding pens where the only thing monitored is sleeping patterns.The SU gets up, goes out and then comes back for curfew. I say this as someone who does relief. It's not the staffs fault, they are very dedicated. It's the ideology of cost cutting weasels in Government.

AND THERE YOU HAVE IT. At timecode 15:01:25, Spurr describes the 'new idea' that isn't yet working and for which HMPPS are giving away taxpayer money hand-over-fist. It was...

" give responsibility to an organisation that works with these people in custody, and once they've left custody, who can marshall support from other services, who could work innovatively with those other service groups in order to support these individuals, and that was one of the main aims of the reform programme..." I can't type what I want to say next...

When talking about Warboys' case Caroline Flint proves she hasn't a single firing neuron, despite her new glasses - but Spurr can't articulate what the situation is either. I doubt anyone would be able to make any sense of their unhappy exchange. AND THEN the Chair starts saying that HMPPS should provide the CRCs with enough money to get their ICT up & running!

Let's be clear - the privateers bid to run the contracts because it was a licence to print money. All they had to prove was that they had £Hundreds-of-Millions of financial backing - but NOT cash in their hand (see Carillion). They paid £1 for each CRC they bought, they inherited all of the CRC assets, they were given £80M to pay off staff in order to cut their overheads (although they pocketed most of it for themselves), then they were given even more £M's because they were crying about reduced throughput. Surely they should sort out their OWN ICT ffs!?

Excellent challenge to Spurr by Shabana Mahmood about the alleged 'unforeseen' issues; Spurr's clearly irritated - almost angry - reaction is (I paraphrase): "OK, so we got it a bit wrong, but we didn't project the volumes for the bidders AND the figures were there in the databank for the bidders to see and they didn't get it right either! So we're not to blame. They are!" In my head: You got it so very badly wrong, dickhead. That's why you're handing out new contracts and more cash.

Spurr - "blah, blah, complexity, blah, volatility, blah, first generation contract, blah, complexities, volume changes, blah..."Shabana Mahmood: "So, Mr Heaton, Mr Spurr - is this even the right kind of model that we should be considering for this kind of service given that when it goes wrong...and it does go wrong, often..."

Flint has now started to fire those neurons & gets stuck into Spurr...Spurr (by now, riled as fuck): "The Doncaster pilot & the Peterboro pilot were different mechanisms completely, they didn't involve the statutory requirement for the under 12 month group, um, the decision was taken to go to scale on addressing the group of under 12 month offenders and the way to do that was to use the community model rather than the prison model, and that's why we proceeded with the TR reforms"

Multi-disciplinary IOM's have been effectively dismantled by TR; but now, suddenly, the CRCs are being financially disadvantaged in the metrics by the anomaly of persistent & prolific offenders - "something we'll have to address when we adjust the contracts!"

Under a CarilIion shadow, I thought Heaton and Spurr had a decent enough grilling by the PAC. There was a defining moment when Spurr - in light of all the claims about the innovations that the private companies would bring to probation – was asked to name just three innovations that have marked the rehabilitation revolution. He waffled in response, citing partnership working, mentoring and other commonsense practices that were core probation practices pre-TR. It was plain to all present that there has been no innovation – unless you include cost-cutting, office closures and degraded working arrangements in open-plan settings and dodgy venues.


Interserve has signed a £12 million contract with the Ministry of Justice to run six employment workshops at HMP Berwyn, a large new prison in Wrexham for five years. Okay, so what are people going to get if they spend £200,000 a month to run employment workshops in one prison? Sounds like it must be state-of-the-art rocket science staffed by University Professors. Shall we assume 24 staff? HMPPS have already told PAC that staffing costs are the majority of rehabilitation services' fixed costs - let's assume 70%, so the 24 staff will be costing £5,000+ a month each - with about £60,000 a month for other costs. Not a bad set-up they must have at HMP Berwyn OR......a shitload of taxpayer money is disappearing into shareholder & execs pockets.

Michael Spurr says that the £342 million paid additionally to the CRC's is windfall money simply being ploughed back into the contract. This is not even being "economic with the truth" as it is downright dishonest. If the CRC's are looking at such vast shortfalls on expected profits, as they themselves have admitted, how can there be a windfall of millions of pounds? 

There has been no cost savings as the MoJ had to pay out millions for not getting the computer systems ready to "talk to" the CRC systems on time and money has been wasted on associated projects such as monitoring the contracts (fat lot of good that is doing) and on attempting to make some headway (none so far) on Through the Gate. Spurr, like Grayling and others are not strangers to the truth - they have never even been introduced! How do we get rid of such meddlesome "priests"?

Back in 2011/12 there was quite a focus on mutuals, and some funding for schemes were made available. Unfortunately, the neolibral desire to detach the state from anything public won through and the way to achieve that aim was to instead to focus on wholesale privatisation. I think the appetite for mutuals maybe returning now.

Just another distraction. Mutuals may have been viable as an alternative to Trusts, but now they've sampled the 'power of power' the concept will be corrupted by the greed of egocentric vultures who have shown how willing they are to sell out their staff for handsome reward. I certainly agree the Trusts were the ideological precursor to TR, creating 42 discrete fiefdoms with 42 'chiefs' to seduce, divide & rule. For the most part they played right into the hands of the ideologues - and yes, the ideology came before Grayling & even before the coalition govt. It was a Blue Labour initiative tee'd up by the legislation snuck in by the arrogant closet capitalists in 2006/7; the very same legislation that Grayling seized upon to impose TR.

Yes that is the honest summing up of where all this started and goes back to. Often gets lost in the even more awful implementations that followed. Absolutely why many people have realised the neoliberal so-called left agenda was in fact a wolf in sheep's clothing, and why it must stop, sooner rather than later. That is why we need a proper Labour left wing, and the party needs to defeat the dangerous Torys, (and the right of the left!) There lies some hope in the sort of values many of us want for a more human and tolerant society - which includes management of offenders, and effective rehabilitation strategies - because carry on like we are and it'll end up with the everyone death penalty, and people having their hands chopped off for shoplifting. But then we all get what we for.

Leading up to the last election Michael Gove said that the public were fed up of experts and armchair philosophers. Well, this is a good example of that sort of rubbish. The Titanic of Probation is sinking and these two are worrying about what the orchestra is playing! What have either of these two characters contributed to the fight to preserve any sort of service? What ability do they have to influence the political agenda on Probation? What do they think they can achieve by posting this sort of stuff on Facebook? Honestly! Please grow up.

I know it's "on probation blog" but, is probation really in any worse a state then the NHS, prisons, schools, social care, manufacturing or retail? Probation is one part of a very broken society and economic system. Understandably everyone focuses on the parts that affect them the most. But capitalism doesn't work for 95% of the population because they haven't any capital. At least not enough capital to compete on a fair plying field.

Are mutuals the answer? They're certainly better then the profit first corporations that are swallowing everything up, and not just for probation but across the social spectrum. But the real answer is the election of a government with a social ethos. People and profit can live side by side quite happily if it's not an exploitative relationship. Society functions best when the people that belong to it have some stake in it, so mutuals and cooperatives are a step in the right direction, but we need a leap. We need a change of government.

Raho and Rogers the Rolls Royce of the union voice? A lot of reading which is really a view on the ideology without much else. Boring as it was the highlight for me was the old blue eyes brown eyes socially constructed and artificially adopted by NPS we are the new elite, my manager confirmed this. Why are we so confident, because we are the remaining public service. The rest CRC sold off as not so important. It's a poor indication the trade Union senior management engage in these musings. They should be busy in real challenges and defence of the memberships who pay their salaries. 

There should be no defence to setting public services into mutual our work going is where they are opening the door to all comers not professional PO. It illustrates further the wrong direction from this pair. They have an accord the pathway they walk is more of the same error because they agree alternative models should be state funded than wholly public sector ownership. This is enough of a reason not to support these two washed ups trying to ride two horses. Why, what sales pitch is being hawked here? The calamitous departure from national collective bargaining was orchestrated by Rolls and Royce as a pair weakening local and national structures. They have damaged the standing of the Union they are supposed to strengthen. What is going here? It is well known National collective bargaining was our unifying force. Where does this stuff come from anyway? Should it not be on behalf of NAPO and published on the NAPO site?

Funny, I never saw the probation trusts as progressive or especially devolved as they were all too busy aping each other to show who was the leanest by cutting away as many conditions of service as possible - always with the assurance they were protecting jobs. So not a role model in my view.

Raho and Rogers were not in anyway responsible for the end of national collective bargaining, that was never sustainable after the split. Napo did well prior to the split to get the Probation Trusts around the table and even then there were some who would rather not have been there. They observed what had already happened and anticipated the direction of travel, rather than covering this up or minimising this as some might have done. The NPS were the first to walk away and when the owners started to walk, the only option was to negotiate local collective bargaining with the CRCs and national with the NPS. Remember NPS and CRC employers found it a waste of time and served notice to quit. 

NAPO did not have the strength and the MoJ did not have the political will (Spurr?) to sustain it. Do you seriously think that the MoJ would have given two hoots if Napo had threatened industrial action over this? Do you think the public would have given a toss about it? The MoJ knew that the bids included job cuts and other nasty surprises and that is why they were and are top secret. Do you seriously think that Grayling or Spurr would have gone out of their way to empower unions to force private companies into any sort of legally binding agreement to bargain with them collectively if they weren't forced to? To think otherwise would be naive. 

Napo is fortunate that at least some of those involved are awake and know when a battle is lost. Had membership been increasing dramatically and there was a grass roots groundswell of probation staff demanding that the employers go back to the table, then perhaps one or two of them might have thought twice, but what you find with the probation employers is that they all loathe each other almost as much as they loathe probation staff and finding innovative ways to stick it to us is the only thing they have in common.

In the media, reports about conditions at Liverpool prison focus on drones, drugs, squalor and various aspects of prisoners' safety – a third of prisoners reported feeling unsafe at the time of the inspection. The report puts some focus on prisoner-staff relations – it found that almost a half of prisoners feel victimised by staff. This includes verbal abuse and assaults by staff. There's also evidence of unofficial punishments being meted out by staff who have a tendency to wear balaclavas when unwarranted by the situation at hand.

Saturday, 20 January 2018


A week review in LondonCRC:

A quiet day. No new directives issued. A real sense of staff morale and motivation at an all time low, following on from last weeks grenade of new ways of working. An eerie silence around desks. Phones not ringing. Service Users not attending. The hum of the printer working overtime, warning letters galore. MTCNovo, London CRC - this is success, right? Closure of local offices, cramming in CRC Teams under one roof. It’s not about service user engagement anymore, is it?

No laptop connection. RAS key for mi-fi also down. A full working day lost. Calls made to IT. Issue logged at 9.30am. Finally resolved and able to log in and see the build up of emails at 4.12pm. Raised with management the knock on effect this will have in my week. ‘Unless you have no access on your laptop for three consecutive days, it is not classed as an acceptable reason for any performance failures’. 4.25pm, deep breath. Laptop shut down. Speechless at how managements attitude has changed so drastically. A display of complete disdain for the regular barriers put in our way. Home time.

Supervision day. I used to look forward to supervision. A chance to reflect. Receive constructive feedback - both positive and negative - on my practice. An opportunity to discuss a case (or cases) of particular concern. A time to consider opportunities for personal development and training needs. Now, a form is completed prior to meeting with your SPO. A form to document targets - Standing Agenda, SPO with OM 121. After battling though 9 sections with numerous sub headings incorporated, a small box asks, How’s it going?

Late night reporting. Good to see 4/5 attend for their appointments. I was forgetting what it was like to step in a room with a service user. To engage and try to support positive change. Interesting to observe numerous colleagues. Well into a 12 hour day. Not a single word spoken for over an hour. Just the sound of keyboards. It seems, even with management long gone from the office, the fear remains. Targets must be met. We are but robots.

Quiet day. Breaches to be completed. Hearing colleagues now discuss how they are fearful of being placed on PIP. Laptops being taken home so some can work through the night to try and keep on top of their ever increasing caseloads. Also, interesting to hear colleagues talk of the current LondonCRC Overtime project running on Saturdays. Over 800 cases with no assessment in orders. OASys assessments now being completed without any knowledge of the case or service user. Those partaking in this are given 2 hours to complete a full assessment. Expectation is to complete 3 full OASys assessments.

I assume this is all part of the ‘focus on quality’ management keep talking about?


Off Piste With the NHS

I can be a bit slow sometimes, but I think I've just woken up to the fact that the NHS is seriously under threat. Yes of course I've been aware of increases in 'contracting out' by the likes of the dreadful Richard Branson and his shit Virgin brand (and he's gone back to selling the bloody Daily Mail on East Coast Main Line), and he even sues the NHS when he doesn't win, but until yesterday, I'd never heard of Accountable Care Organisations. Go on, be honest, had you?

I'd even been vaguely aware that the amazing Stephen Hawking was taking the dreadful health secretary Jeremy Hunt to court, but I'm ashamed to say I hadn't clocked why exactly. I was surprised and disappointed when he suceeded in arguing the toss with Theresa May in order not only to keep his job, but expand it with responsibility for social care, but only now am I beginning to realise why. 

The Tories have a plan, a cunning plan and according to this comment seen on Facebook, the argy bargy with the junior doctors last year over a '7 day-a-week NHS' was a deliberate smokescreen for something much more sinister, Accountable Care Organisations. 
"It’s a mess. This has been a while coming and done by extreme stealth - conspiracy theories abound, not least that the junior docs strike was engineered to deflect from this. It’s privatisation by the back door and completely against the founding ethos of the NHS. We have one of the most efficient and inclusive health services in the world, even with all its problems, and it’s envied... instead, we will see a poor relation of the US model, with large tracts of the population unable (read “ineligible”) to receive care. And since yesterday, social care is going the same way."Image may contain: text
So, what's going on? This Guardian article from November last year makes me feel a little better regarding my ignorance:-   

These little-known opaque bodies could run health services. Are they legal?

Unless you work in the NHS itself, or inhabit the health policy bubble of academics, thinktanks and staff groups, chances are the phrase “accountable care organisations” means little. If so, you would be forgiven for not knowing that ACOs, their acronym in NHS speak, and their close relation “accountable care systems”, are – in Simon Stevens’s view at least – the best way to save the health service from the otherwise unsquarable circle of rising demand and constrained funding.

Under NHS England’s plans, ACOs are supposed to bring together providers and commissioners of health and social care services who will then assume joint responsibility for the health of an entire area’s population. So far, eight areas have signed up to become ACOs although they are still only in nascent and shadow form. Stevens expects them to “deliver fast-track improvements”, such as fewer emergency hospitalisations and better care in people’s homes. Yet despite the scale of the change such a move envisages, so far ACOs have remained firmly under the radar, with minimal media coverage or public debate.

All that may be about to change, however. Two separate groups of NHS campaigners are taking legal action to challenge the legality of ACOs. One application for judicial review has been brought by Leigh Day, London-based lawyers with a track record of challenging NHS official decision-making, on behalf of 999 Call for the NHS, a grassroots NHS group.

999 Call claims that ACOs are “unlawful under current NHS legislation … because the new ACO contract does not link payment to the number of patients treated and/or the complexity of the medical treatment provided, as required by the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, but is based on a fixed budget for an area’s population.”

Those behind the other legal challenge include Allyson Pollock, a professor of public health at Newcastle University, BMA council member and long-time critic of PFI, NHS privatisation and reorganisations of the NHS in England. “We are seeking a judicial review to stop Jeremy Hunt and NHS England from introducing new commercial, non-NHS bodies to run health and social services without proper public consultation and without full parliamentary scrutiny,” she says.

ACOs are informal arrangements, which have no basis in law, yet are being lined up to be given extensive authority including, potentially, power over combined budgets for an area of billions of pounds. So, depending on how the court cases progress, each legal action presents a risk to NHS England and the Stevens modernisation project upon which his legacy and, much more importantly, the very future of the health service, depends. Why? Because everyone in the senior ranks of the NHS knows that, without new legislation to formalise their so-far informal role, ACOs could turn out to be a legal house of cards that one challenge could bring tumbling down.

But the lawsuits also offer the possibility that NHS England will at last be forced to explain and defend in public – and, crucially, prove the legal basis of – its plans.

Now is the time for health bosses to spell out exactly how ACOs are supposed to radically transform the NHS. They must make the case for why the loss of local services is worth it in pursuit of the bigger prize of better care and lower cost through more services outside hospitals, and fewer, regional centres offering specialist care.

That mission, involving unprecedented integration of health and social care, has widespread backing – notably from the government, which has fully embraced “the Stevens plan” as its health policy. But are ACOs, the chosen vehicles for delivering that, entirely legal? We may soon find out.


This from the north-east sounds eminently sensible and forward-thinking. But many of us know that the NHS cannot be in safe hands if they are Tory, can they?  

Northumberland Accountable Care Organisation
The vanguard and the people it serves

The collective vision of health and social care partners in Northumberland is to create a system which consistently delivers the highest quality of care and a seamless patient experience for people living across the county.

This vision is supported by plans to develop a single accountable care organisation: this is an overarching organisation that sits above a joined up health and social care system made up of a number of different providers, from health services to the local council. The aim is to help teams across different organisations to work more effectively together, with the same shared goals.

The Northumberland Accountable Care Organisation partners are:
Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group
Northumberland County Council
North East Ambulance Service
Mental health services
Local GPs
Local patients
Health and Wellbeing Board

The NHS organisations jointly serve a population of more than 320,000 people across Northumberland – one of the largest and most rural areas of England.

What is changing?

Urgent and emergency care has already been transformed, with the opening of the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in June 2015. This new hospital, the first purpose-built of its kind in England, provides specialist consultant-led care, seven days a week, for all serious emergencies. Urgent care centres for walk-in patients with less serious problems are now available 24/7 at general hospital sites.

Development is now focused on improving access to GP advice during the normal working week and exploring the potential for new networks of GP practices to work together to offer extended access, based on patient need, across the county.

To support this, new locality based multi-disciplinary teams are piloting new ways of working to proactively look after patients who are most vulnerable, as close to home as possible. This includes an acute home visiting service using pharmacists and the wider community nursing team to support GPs in managing home visit requests as well as working with colleagues from mental health and other specialists to proactively support people with long term health problems to stay healthy and well.

Key benefits

  • Improved outcomes for seriously ill patients requiring emergency hospital care
  • Increase same day access to GP advice and reduce out-of-hours activity
  • Reduce reliance on emergency care and hospital admissions
  • Create more time for GPs to plan and care for those with long term or complex needs
  • Supports the future efficiency and financial stability of the health and social care system as a whole

A bit of digging around on the internet quickly unearthed the following article from March 2016 on the Open Democracy website. It's far too long to republish in it's entirety, but well worth reading in full. To be honest it's shocking, not least as a demonstration of how blissfully ignorant I have been regarding something so important, but also how well-earned that 'nasty party' monika is and that was self-imposed by Theresa May on her party in an unguarded moment of honesty. 

'Accountable Care' - the American import that's the last thing England's NHS needs

A note from the editor: "It’s been a busy few weeks in transatlantic healthcare. Over here, Jeremy Hunt has imposed a junior doctor contract that’s likely to see doctors leave in droves, if he can force it through.

Meanwhile across the pond, would-be presidential candidates Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been slugging it out over healthcare in the democratic primaries. The left-wing Sanders’ calls for a ‘single payer’ system – more like our NHS – have highlighted just how far President Obama's healthcare reform fell short of providing an equitable healthcare system, thanks to ferocious lobbying by US health corporations.

And one man has played an interesting role in both situations.

NHS England boss Simon Stevens came out in full support of Hunt’s decision to impose the junior doctors' contract, to the dismay of many. His intervention has prompted some to look again at what else Stevens - recently dubbed ‘the fourth most powerful man in Britain’ – might have up his sleeve, or rather, have hidden in plain sight in the poorly understood ‘Five Year Plan’.

What’s known to surprisingly few is that before Cameron recruited him to run England’s NHS, Simon Stevens was a senior vice-president at US mega-firm UnitedHealth, with special responsibilities for lobbying both to water down ObamaCare, and to push for health to be included in the controversial TTIP transnational ‘trade’ deal.

In a series of linked articles, we explore NHS boss Simon Stevens’ plans for England’s NHS – and how we can make sense of them in the light of his US roles.

In this first article, we look at Stevens’ ‘big idea’ both at UnitedHealth and in his NHS 5 Year Plan - ‘new models of care’ – and show how these are market-based models that closely correlate to Accountable Care Organisations in the US."

‘Accountable Care Organisations’ – do they actually save any money?

In April last year various members of the Kings Fund published an article (in the BMJ) offering their usual cautious endorsement of market-based developments for the NHS. In this case it was for the new care models outlined in the Five Year Forward View, and in particular for those models – the Primary and Acute Care Systems (PACS) and Multispecialty Community Providers (MCPs) - which most closely correlate with emergent Accountable Care Organisations in the US.

As the article points out, the Forward View “explicitly acknowledges that primary and acute care systems are analogous to ACOs”, and, with health secretary Jeremy Hunt arguing that NHS reforms will lead to the development of ACO-like organisations in England, the Kings Fund authors ask what the NHS can learn from the experience in the US. But what they fail to mention, is that ACOs appear to be part of an overall strategy to frustrate the introduction of national health insurance in the US, and quite possibly to destroy it in England.

Unpacking the meaning of ACO development in both England and the US is rather problematic, especially given the technocratic tenor of debate, and the sheer complexity of US healthcare. In fact commentators have by and large refused to accredit US healthcare with the term ‘system’ owing to its fragmented nature, with a host of relationships between insurers, providers, employers, state and other federal sources, and individual consumers. Payment systems and organisational formats are similarly byzantine, and the picture is further compromised by armies of uninsured and underinsured.

However ACOs have been put forward as means of addressing at least some aspects of organisational fragmentation, soaring costs, and low quality outcomes. Initially developed to improve performance in the federally run Medicare programmes, the ACO concept has since expanded significantly and is now regarded as a cornerstone of the US healthcare reform agenda.

The basic concept of an ACO is that a group of healthcare firms agrees to take responsibility for providing care for a given population for a defined period of time under a contractual arrangement with a commissioner. ACO’s use a variety of market-based mechanisms to lower costs whilst achieving a set of pre-agreed quality outcomes. This is mainly accomplished by ‘aligning incentives’ between providers and commissioners, or in other words, sharing any budget savings between hospitals, doctors and the commissioning Medicare programme itself. For those ACOs contracting with private insurers any savings will be shared between the two organisations.

A close correlation exists between the scale of provider integration, the extent of risk assumption and the payment mechanisms used. ACOs may, for example, be given ‘bundled’ payments that cover all the care for a particular medical condition or treatment over a specified timeframe, Or they can get ‘capitated’ or ‘global’ payments, which are fixed payment to providers for all or most of the care that their patients may require over a contract period, such as a year, adjusted for severity of illness, and regardless of how many services are offered. The size of an ACO will on the whole dictate which payment option will be adopted: larger ones will have the scale and financial capability of adopting capitated payments which, although they mean offering more or less comprehensive care, involve greater financial reward.

Several different types of ACO exist. Stephen Shortell, one of the authors of the Kings Fund article and a key advocate of the ACO concept, identifies at least five, though the main ones are, pace the Forward View, the integrated delivery system, and multi-specialty group practices. Integrated delivery systems - essentially the Kaiser Permanente model - typically own hospitals and other facilities and also have at least one salaried multi-specialty group practice (generalists working alongside specialists in a primary care setting) and also own a health insurance plan. Multi-speciality group practices on the other hand may own a local hospital, or have strong affiliations with one, and may have contracts with several health insurers in their area.

Or at least that’s the theory. But even in their short time span ACOs have encountered several problems, according to the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law (August 2015), and while some projects are novel evidence suggests that efficiency and qualitative gains have been negligible.

Far from saving money the various Medicare ACO programmes have seen increased costs, largely through the use of shared saving bonuses and subsidies for providers. None of the projected $320 million savings were achieved between 2011-2014 – in fact the ACO programme actually COST Medicare an additional $3 million, according to a Kaiser Health Foundation report. The report also highlights how only a small (and shrinking) percentage of the ACOs really ‘share risk’ with Medicare – the vast majority, 334 out of 353, are eligible for bonuses but face no penalties for losses.

Similarly the incentives to create ACOs have led to greater consolidation of providers and to hospitals buying up physician practices, both of which lead to raised overall spending. Such consolidation has also raised concern that regionally dominant ACOs will use their market power to drive up costs with the likely encroachment of anti-trust laws.

‘Managed care’ – not managed in patient interests

Of perhaps more concern, especially for the NHS, is the extent to which ACOs, far from being transformative, are simply a faddish rebranding of existing for-profit structures – effectively, just Health Maintenance Organisations in drag - as commentators like Theo Marmor and Kip Sullivan have suggested. The question is far from semantic as HMOs are often seen as the most objectionable aspect of the US ‘system’, and certainly a primary cause of repeated clamour for reform.

HMOs can be considered as the key institutional expression of what’s known as ‘managed care’, deemed a corporate compromise between insurers and large employers to contain costs whilst also ensuring profits and disciplining the workforce.

Essentially HMOs act as financial intermediaries between customers and providers, collecting payments from the former and arranging their care with the latter. They do however come in various guises, distinguished primarily by the degree of integration between healthcare insurers – the financial intermediaries - and service delivery from hospitals and physicians, and using instruments such as capitated budgets, pre-authorisation and strict utilisation reviews to manage expenditure.

As leading critics of the model, Drs Himmelstein and Woolhandler, point out however the history of HMOs isn’t exactly edifying, and includes routine denial of patients’ access to medically necessary treatment, fighting claims, screening out the sick, paying exorbitant CEO salaries, and undertaking systemic fraud. And all while offering what is effectively low rent medical care with considerable hidden costs in the forms of top-ups and deductibles.

Whilst HMOs are primarily dominated by large corporate insurers, ACOs are put forward as being led by providers – and by friendly local healthcare providers, at that. Advocates of this argument, such as Ezekiel Emanuel, a key architect of Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), went so far as to say that ACOs would soon make the big health insurance companies redundant.

However within a year of the ACA consultants Booz & Co (now part of PwC) reported that “virtually every major payor (insurer) is either involved in, planning, or seriously considering ACOs. Many health plans are actively helping providers, especially integrated systems and primary care physician (PCP) groups, to form ACOs… some of these projects are more ambitious, while others are simple re-brandings of existing constructs”.

Like Shortell, Booz describe differing ACOs and how the insurance industry – companies like Aetna, UnitedHealth, Humana and Blue Cross - are taking a leading role in developing the model. Such activities include offering shared savings to clinicians, to analysing data and assessing how risky patients are before they’re accepted as eligible for that ACO’s plan. They also offer ACOs disease management programmes and an already established customer base. By 2013 UnitedHealth, for example, were able to report that accountable care currently accounts for more than $20 billion of the company’s reimbursements to providers, and the insurer says it expects that number to more than double to $50 billion by 2017 as it contracts with additional ACOs.


Friday, 19 January 2018

Latest From Napo 171

Here we have the latest blog post from the Napo General Secretary:-

PAC asks Spurr and Heaton: where’s the money gone?

Our comms team are in the process of carefully analysing this week’s oral evidence session of the Committee for Public Accounts (PAC). Here the cross-party committee gave Michael Spurr and MoJ Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton a torrid time as they called them to account following the report from the National Audit Office into the funding arrangements for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies on the back of the £27m ‘bail out’ this year and the further £277m guarantee for the duration of the contracts.

Unfortunately the announcement below means I have to cut this posting short but I intend to publish a PAC ‘blog special’ early next week once I have also had a chance to view the proceedings. Suffice to say that some of the responses to the searching questions from the PAC range somewhere between robust, unbelievable and embarrassing but you can see for yourself here.


Burnley Probation Office closed due to Asbestos on Premises

I have just heard from Sonia Crozier that following an inspection by the MoJ, a decision has been made to immediately close the NPS Burnley Probation Office due to the presence of Asbestos on the premises.

I have advised the Napo Branch of this news and to offer such support as is necessary to members who will quite understandably be very concerned about this development.

I understand that urgent arrangements will be made to arrange health checks for staff and that contingency plans will be put in place to cover service provision going forward while a search for alternative accommodation commences.

It would be appreciated if any Napo members who have immediate issues that they feel should be addressed would contact their local Branch Rep who will if necessary liaise with Napo HQ.

Lies damn lies or actually just the wrong set of statistics?

It’s not been the best of weeks for the MoJ Mandarins what with the PAC grilling, HMP Nottingham in special measures and, unless I have got it wrong, a set of statistics on reoffending figures that look to be well out of date.

The publication timetable, suggests that we should have been seeing the interim reoffending figures for the measured cohort Jan17 to Mar17 and the one year reoffending figures for the measured cohort between the periods of Jan 16 to Mar16. Those published on Wednesday appear to cover the period for 2015.

Confusion reigns, but why should we be surprised?

SSCL back in the frame again

Just after being assured that the Shared Services division (who are responsible for ensuring that people actually receive the payments they are entitled to) we see evidence that despite the litany of Kafkaesque blunders that were exposed last summer, there are still systemic problems around their inability to determine the difference between contractual provisions and their capacity to make up rules and change contracts without consultation in ways that cannot be correct.

Dean Rogers has had cause to raise a number of issues yet again with SSCL high command who ought really to look very hard at themselves in light of previous failures and the way they have let down their hard working staff who are desperately trying to operate a clearly flawed system.

The latest farce is around the interpretation that sick pay entitlements for NPS staff are related solely to their length of service as civil servants. This is absolute nonsense and as far as we are concerned is in direct contravention of the provisions of the National Transfer Agreement and its protections for those staff who transferred into the NPS under its terms.

More news on the response from Pay and Reward will follow once it is available. Impacted members should meanwhile challenge the interpretation and retain all correspondence and exchanges and consult with their Branch rep who will if necessary liaise with Napo HQ.

More news soon.


A little late, but better that than never, thanks to the reader for forwarding the latest news concerning the Working Links CRCs:- 

CRC News

For Napo members working in the Working Links CRCs: Dorset, Devon & Cornwall CRC; Wales CRC and Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset & Wiltshire


The long running dispute between the probation unions and Aurelius/Working Links enters its 22nd month. Members’ meetings have been taking place across the Napo South West and Western Branches with more scheduled, and I also look forward to my visits to Swansea and Cardiff over the next week. 

Why we are in dispute 
Despite the continuing attempts by ACAS to intercede in this dispute, the parties remain a considerable distance apart over a number of unresolved issues. 

This dispute has been brought about by: 

  • The employer’s savage cuts programme; which has resulted in the loss of more than 50% of jobs across the 3 CRCs while the operational model is still unfit for purpose.
  • A failure to consult with the unions in accordance with national protocols especially over the terms and mechanism of the abysmally handled EVR scheme. 
  • Failure to engage properly over workloads and employee wellbeing using well established policies that will benefit the staff and the employer. 
  • Failure to engage and explain the operational model that we predicted would result in serious deficiencies in service delivery.

Following the last set of talks brokered by ACAS in the summer, it became clear that there was little appetite amongst senior management to engage properly with the unions. This followed an impasse over a proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Unpaid Work Services which it had been hoped would result in a settlement on this important issue, giving both sides some confidence that we could make progress on other areas of the dispute.

Instead, the response to our request for details on the recovery plan bearing in mind highly critical HMI Probation reports was unacceptable and totally disrespectful of staff. 

You deserve a decent pay rise! 
The astonishing revelation that Working Links/Aurelius have been paid additional funding by the MoJ of £4.2 million for this financial year (part of a four year package reportedly worth £277 million to shore up the 21 CRCs in England and Wales) has caused understandable anger among many members who are struggling to pay their bills. 

In light of this we are demanding that a ‘no strings’ meeting take place with the employer to discuss the scope for a pay award that recognises the huge efforts of staff to keep the Working Links CRCs afloat. This is in the face of successive reports from Dame Glenys Stacey highlighting operational failings around standards of supervision, and ‘Through the Gate’ support which have also attracted some highly negative media coverage. 

We want meaningful dialogue and transparency 
Let me be clear, the unions would rather not be in this dispute and would much prefer regular dialogue in an atmosphere where the views of members and their commitment to assisting clients are treated with the respect that they deserve. 

Unfortunately this will require a change in approach from an employer who seems to think that trade union members are irrelevant, instead of understanding that staff can offer valuable solutions to the chaos that is all too typical of the Working Links operation. 

Napo pressing your case in Parliament 
You may have seen from my previous reports and weekly blog posts that the details of this settlement were not brought before Parliament. I have brought this to the attention of the Justice Select Committee who are investigating the dreadful TR programme, and to the Public Accounts Committee, where I have also highlighted the fact that this employer is amongst those with the worst track record on effective interventions and public safety considerations as recently evidenced in the BBC Panorama programme to which I contributed. 

I am also in regular contact with the Labour Party leadership on their future plans for Probation 

Indicative ballots - your chance to direct the dispute 
We need to get a better understanding of what our loyal Napo members think about the situation I have described, and your willingness to move to the next stage of this long running and unnecessary dispute. Napo and Unison are therefore planning to hold a series of consultative ballots for our members across the three Working Links CRCs. More details of these will follow soon. 

We need union members to make a clear statement in these ballots by voting ‘Yes’ to the relevant questions. 

Meanwhile, I am speaking at the following meetings in Wales: Swansea 1:00 on 17th January; Cardiff 1:00 Wednesday 24th January and in Plymouth on 22nd January. I look forward to seeing as many of our members there as possible and maybe you can encourage non-member colleagues to come too as they will be very welcome. 

Please contact your local Napo CRC reps to find out more about the dispute and upcoming meetings as these are arranged. Wales CRC: Pen Gwilliam, Ian Jones, Migden-Sue Roberts and Lisa Robinson BGSW CRC: Ceris Handley DDC CRC: Dino Peros and Denice James You can also contact me in total confidence at or on my twitter account: @ilawrenceL 

Regards Ian Lawrence 

Napo members standing together in UNITY in defence of your jobs, fair pay and safer communities.

Are Mutuals The Answer?

Seen on Facebook this from David Raho:-

Important not to see Carillion as some kind of exception that made critical mistakes. All corporations of this type are doing similar things. Very interesting to see mainstream media rallying around to support the activities and idea of multinational corporations as public service providers as if their annual bonuses depended on supporting them no matter what. The purpose of a corporation is to make profit.

I have no real problem with carefully outsourcing some services when this is to a not for profit organisation or a mutual that invests any surplus it might have back into itself in order to expand and to provide even better services. I have never supported the idea of profiting from the CJS in the form of shares and dividends as this leads to the creation of perverse incentives and the distortion of service delivery to meet targets rather than to benefit society.

When I joined Probation we were I think 80% Home Office 20% Local Authority and could plug in to all the benefits of both as local government officers. This was for many a very pleasant arrangement with both local and national oversight and accountability. We should not forget that the the Probation Trust organisations were progressive devolved government organisations with good potential despite Year on Year budget cuts and that the wisdom of reorganising Probation into pseudo public sector and contracted out or outsourced to private organisations (one staff mutual) was actually not only a step back but was anti-progressive and anti-innovation.

It is worth seriously thinking that if the bulk of Probation had been mutualised ie owned by and run by probation staff then things might be a lot better for everyone and we would have a lot more positive news rather than failure and job cuts. Perhaps there would be some interest in mutualising the lot. During TR there were bid attempts from mutuals but they were disadvantaged…/more-mutual-news.h…

The vast sums of money in guarantees and legal hurdles meant that many were compelled to hitch their waggon to bigger players who then called the shots. Russell Webster did some sterling work looking at mutuals

Unfortunately as predicted by some this has not worked out entirely well and for some proved to be extremely costly. The reckless gamble made by Grayling who apparently envisioned that the TR shakedown and sell off would bring in a diverse range of providers of Probation Services and that new players would bring new thinking, vision, opportunities and innovative approaches to bear on intractable problems that would excite and motivate staff and partners alike has not been realised and some say this was never the intention and that it was purely a smoke and mirrors ploy to ensure parliamentary acquiescence and pacify and divide opposition whilst manoeuvring the companies they wanted into running those services they want them to.…/policy-and-…/article/1319599

So what I am saying is there are other options other than on the one hand a Stalinist type centrally controlled NPS model (incidentally the very antithesis of the Tory ideal and therefore existing on borrowed time under the present administration) or on the other hand a loosely governed privatised free for all with largely clueless gung ho providers ruthlessly pursuing profit over everything else and who know they have the government over a barrel with a high level of confidence that they will be bailed out of their for profit schemes fail. Hence the fuss about Carillion because the government did not bail them out sending shockwaves through the privateer exec class flush with their Xmas bonuses who were no doubt relishing another year of tax payer fleecing in collusion with their friends in government.

Trusts and mutuals can and do work very well if the government of the day chooses to provide the environment to support them. The idea that the government would actually favour quality over cost cutting and privateering sounds pretty radical.

So I think we need to start looking forward towards next steps and start envisioning not how others think the Probation service should be like and how it should be run but what we think it should look like and how it should be run. Part of this is to divest ourselves of the negative baggage of TR and combat the damage and ugliness it has caused to us and our professional reputation and status.

Most probation staff value the skills and experience of their colleagues equally whatever organisation they were assigned to and so it is particularly galling for me to hear and witness that there is now an unwritten artificial hierarchy and division of probation staff that has been imposed and allowed to develop, encouraged aided and abetted by certain spin doctors who are not our friends, that peddles the myth that one staff group of equally experienced, capable and identically trained probation staff are now not as good or of a lower class than the other just because of who their employers are and what responsibilities happen to be assigned to them. 

It is disappointing that intelligent grown up persons apparently believe this tribal myth of superiority and are buying into the baseless belief of brown eyes good blue eyes bad or vice versa ( that runs counter to decades of established probation values and is a terribly divisive betrayal of all that is decent in the probation profession and what it stands for. Stop helping to peddle this divisive nonsense now and think instead of the positive ways we can unify and rebuild or profession together.

The involvement of multinational corporations in probation has damaged our reputation because of their way of doing things not ours.…/jeremy-corbyn-video-carillio…


Dean Rogers I don't want to scaremonger but the parallels between Carillion and Interserve are very worrying. A really interesting piece David A Raho. I agree we need to start the debate about what future options are now. Nationalisation is a slogan but in practice the MoJ is dysfunctional. Some of us in Napo have been looking at options for a while and we're pushing the debate hard over the coming months. For me, the key pillars must be common national standards; two way public accountability; and removal of cancerous profit motives. Increasingly mutualisation looks like an idea who's time has come but there needs to be safer, fairer commissioning model that facilitate 2 way accountability without insurmountable bureaucracy or cost. There also needs to be support for those wanting to explore this as making mutualisation work isn't easy either...but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Very good piece and I like your ideas! Don’t think it would tempt me to return to permanent work - I enjoy my current autonomy - but for the future of a service I committed to for many years and want to see it succeed - I would support any moves to help this happen!


I feel torn between a rock and a hard place. Since privatisation I've wanted all CRCs to fail and go bankrupt but seeing how shit roles down hill I'm worried if this did happen the CEOs would be fine and it would be the worker ants losing their income. Can such a mess ever be turned around?

Dean Rogers You're right to see there are no easy answers. There are alternative models and it is unlikely that all or most of the current owners will pitch up to renew their contracts so the State will probably have to look at a different model. Napo and others are already exploring options and promoting the debate with politicians, academics, etc (e.g. we are holding an event in the Welsh Assembly on this next month) and looking to include Members, victims and those with lived experience as ideas develop. It is important though that we hang all this on how important probation is and have a balanced, honest but positive message about how rewarding it can still be - if everyone thinks it's a basket case they'll never listen us.

But I bet the chief executives have got nice houses and good pensions out of it and so the general public suffer because the offenders aren’t getting there needs met, because over workers under staff and loss of mo jo. (Spirit). But those at the top are all right, so who cares. Sad times.

I just pray the pension pots haven't been dipped in to!!

Dean Rogers LGPS is secure. Only employer to significantly miss contributions since the split is the NPS...Napo spotted in and were on it quickly. New starters in the CRC are not in guaranteed schemes so less expensive for the employer and little incentive to skip payments. Carillion had contracts with very expensive historical schemes that were not being monitored by unions.

Yet another fuck up, that the taxpayer has to foot the bill...privatisation again not working despite the sweeteners at the bidding process....

Work is being taken from the NPS to give to the CRC's it's a crock of shit

David A Raho Many CRCs have carried out radical staffing cuts, office closures, and have high attrition rates of experienced staff at all grades. In certain cases CRCs are in the process of replacing POs with less expensive PSOs etc As a result in most cases they have effectively reduced their capacity to take on any new work and are struggling to do the work they have. What we would not want to see is for currently understaffed NPS community teams to be simply TUPE’d across to the CRC (the clue is in the title) companies and for remaining NPS staff (such as those working in prisons) to be absorbed into HMPPS in the process. The NPS was disappeared before and could easily be disappeared again. HMCTS would simply absorb current NPS court staff. These would be relatively easy solutions that the government could implement fairly rapidly. It is perhaps more strategically productive for our purposes to focus the debate on solutions that will bring us together. Spurr will wish to do his political masters bidding.

A diabolical combination - Spurr's disinformation and Grayling's kiss-of-death incompetence are the curse of Probation. Spurr's lack of principle is stupefying.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

CRCs Get a Windfall Not a Bung

The Guardian has been quick to report on yesterday's Public Accounts Committee hearing:- 

Private probation firms face huge losses despite £342m 'bailout'

Private probation companies responsible for supervising more than 200,000 offenders in England and Wales face total losses of more than £100m, even after a £342m “bailout” by the Ministry of Justice, MPs have been told.

Ministry of Justice officials acknowledged on Wednesday that 14 of the 21 community rehabilitation companies were expected to make losses ranging from £2.3m to £43m by 2021-22, partly due to a sharp fall in the number of offenders being sentenced to community punishments.

Details of the state of the part-privatisation of the probation service – introduced by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary in 2015 – were revealed during a Commons public accounts committee session. MoJ officials declined to comment on whether outsourcing was “an appropriate model” for probation services when pressed by Labour MPs, saying that it was a political question.

During the hearing, Richard Heaton, the MoJ’s permanent secretary, sought to reassure MPs that maintenance contracts for 50 public sector prisons that have been held by the failed outsourcing company Carillion would continue uninterrupted, with state prison staff ready to fill any gaps. Senior MoJ officials even suggested that repairs and maintenance at some jails could improve as a result of a more direct management relationship.

However, they refused to speculate on the position of a second major outsourcing company, Interserve, which is the largest probation provider, with five companies supervising 40,000 offenders in Manchester, Liverpool, Humberside and Hampshire. They said that they had an “open book relationship” with the company, with access to their internal figures, as well as external auditors taking an interest.

Michael Spurr, the chief executive of Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service, told MPs that the future of the private probation companies would be clearer after talks at the end of this month when new figures on reoffending rates were published.

The income of companies is split between fixed-fee payments for supervising offenders on community punishments, and payments-by-results for rehabilitation work with offenders, including 40,000 short-term prisoners upon release. It is possible the companies could receive extra payments-by-results of between £32m and £128m up until 2021-22 for cutting reoffending rates.

Spurr said talks would be held with the companies and then ministers on what further steps might be taken depending on the reoffending data. A National Audit Office report said initial figures showed that the number of further offences committed was actually rising, which could affect the future income of the companies.

Spurr confirmed to MPs that talks were also being held about whether the probation companies could be given extra work. He refused to accept that the MoJ had been engaged in a “bailout” of the private probation companies, saying the £342m in additional fees and projected payments up until 2021-22 amounted to “windfall savings that had been put back into the contract”.


An article in the Independent raises an interesting point regarding the collapse of Carillion:- 

Carillion's Government contracts could have been stopped by a single law. Why wasn't it used?

There’s a law that forces the Government to consider the social consequences of giving contracts to big companies like Carillion. 

In Oxfordshire, firefighters are on standby to deliver school meals now Carillion, propped up for months by government contracts, has gone bust. I wonder if many of those Oxfordshire families had heard of Carillion until they read in the paper on Monday that firefighters, already overstretched in their duties fighting fires and saving lives, might be needed to deliver food to their children.

It’s not just school lunches. A road-building project in Leeds has been thrown into doubt, a bypass in Lincolnshire may need a new contractor to finish works, academies sponsored by a Carillion trust will have to get a new name. At least 25 local councils had contracts with Carillion, including catering and cleaning, major engineering, library management and road gritting. We need wonder no more how one company could properly provide so many specialist services. It couldn’t.

These contracts made Carillion bosses rich: Richard Howson, the former chief executive, took home £1.5m in 2016. But they also made Carillion “too big to fail”. While hedge funds were raking in £18m as Carillion shares slumped after a profit warning in July, the Government continued to award the company contracts, including High Speed Two, worth £1.3 billion.

Carillion is part of what is known as “the shadow state”: a group of large companies secretively awarded Government contracts to run Britain’s public services. There are others. G4S will be remembered for its failures in the run up to the 2012 Olympics; Serco is the stock market’s best bet to mop up the contracts lost by Carillion.

What if, instead of awarding those contracts to another faceless FTSE 100 company, councils employed local businesses to do the work? It would boost jobs and training, nourishing communities, rather than leaving them vulnerable to market forces outside their control. Five years ago, this kind of thinking was the basis for the Public Services (Social Value) Act. Since it came into force in January 2013, public bodies are required to consider the social value of the contracts they award.

One-third of local councils have since used the Act. This amounts to £25bn of public spending being shaped by social values, out of total public spending of £268bn, according to Social Enterprise UK. In Preston, local councillors used the Act as the basis to redirect contracts, from printing services for the police to food for council buildings, towards local businesses. In Plymouth, the local council used the Act to employ CATERed, a co-operative company jointly owned by the council and 67 local schools, to provide school meals.

The Act gives smaller, local businesses a natural advantage. Bidders must prove that how they do business positively impacts the local social and economic value of their area, incentivising good practice and rewarding companies that support communities.

But many of the groups that use it say that it does not go far enough. Public bodies have only to consider social value rather than to embed it in their criteria for awarding contracts. And they only have to do so above a threshold set by the EU, which has increased to over £600,000 for services tendered by the central government, ruling out many smaller contracts.

A review of the Act, called for in January 2017, lost momentum after the snap election. But a review is now essential to give the public sector more confidence to use social value when deciding on how to award contracts – not least because after Brexit, the UK will have to redefine how it wants to run procurement for public services.

The Social Value Act is not a catch-all solution to the shadow state. It will take a change of culture in the Government to stop awarding the same handful of companies lucrative contracts with the understanding that they deliver profits for shareholders over the short term. But it is certainly a good place to start.


Finally, as a result of a parliamentary question from Richard Burgon MP we learn how much HMPPS has paid out over the last 12 months in hotel and travel for prison officers having to be shuttled around the country due to disturbances and staffing shortages:-

Total £2,409,893.31 involving 8129 hotel bookings and 6699 rail tickets costing £247,838.95.