Monday, 24 November 2014

Omnishambles Update 80

For this roundup, lets return to that very troubled area Cheshire Greater Manchester and some excerpts from the chief's blog:-

Dear Everyone
As you are aware, I had my first meeting with our Preferred Bidder, Purple Futures, on Wednesday. I met with Yvonne Thomas, Managing Director and Robin Derrett, Head of Business Change Group from Interserve Justice, in the company of Patrick Connelly, the Senior Contract Manager for our CRC. We are not able to discuss anything that is commercially sensitive at this stage but did have a really positive initial conversation. Yvonne and Robin understand the disappointment experienced by staff that the mutual bid was unsuccessful but recognised the wealth of experience that the involvement of staff in a mutual bid has brought to CGM CRC. They are very keen to meet up with both senior leaders and staff, to ‘test out’ elements of innovation within their bid and to provide a full induction to all staff about Purple Futures and Interserve.

At a meeting with the Senior Leadership Team next Friday, Purple Futures will outline (at a high level – no detail as yet) their operating model. They will also introduce their Mobilisation, Transition and Transformation (MTT) Team for Cheshire and Greater Manchester. This is the team, made up of both corporate and operational staff, who will work with us to implement the new model. Once the contract is signed, we will be able to have full discussions with Interserve Justice and the other organisations that make up the Purple Futures partnership, regarding the detail of their plans for CGM CRC over the next seven years. I anticipate that the detailed conversations will take place from the New Year, with staff induction taking place in early February 2015.

On last week’s blog Xxxx Xxxxx posted a question asking for clarification in relation to seven years’ protection on terms and conditions, following share sale. I thought it may be worth sharing the response on this week’s blog. It is important to note that the MoJ has confirmed that the sale of shares in CGM CRC to the new provider does not constitute a TUPE transfer of undertakings as there is no change of employer, merely a change of ownership of the shares in the employer company. Following the share sale, existing NNC and SCCOG National Agreements on Pay and Conditions of Service will, therefore, continue to be the terms and conditions for all staff.

You may be aware that there will be further releases of N-Delius on December 14 and January 15. These releases are designed to fix some bugs, but will also support the final separation of CGM CRC and NPS. This will mean that the ability for CGM CRC staff to have joint log-ins and access to NPS information will cease for most people, although for some roles such as receptionists access to some NPS information will remain. Briefings will take place over the coming weeks to inform you of the main changes, so make sure you sign up for your local event. We will then be training up ‘SuperUsers’ in all clusters, who will receive in-depth training on the changes, so they can support colleagues when the new system goes live. Follow-up training for all staff will take place in January and February. There will be further releases during 2015, which will bring in further changes to the Offender Rehabilitation Act, but as yet we have no dates or details of these.

Best wishes

Just a reminder what many on the shop floor are thinking:-

Advice to bidders: if you sign these contracts you inherit a large number of your workforce with a very bitter taste in their mouths and with no incentive to make your profit agenda work. If I were you, I would have my VR offer letters ready to go from day one and let those of us with a conscience, social values and no desire to assist you to make immoral profits off our backs and our tax etc, get out and move on to something meaningful and worthwhile. Working for you is most definitely not either.


I hope you're right about inheriting a bitter workforce. Looking at overall levels of activism in the workforce in resisting TR, I wonder about high levels of docility and apathy. We know outsourcing primarily reduces costs by reducing workforces, lowering wages and pensions and reducing allowances. And we can reasonably expect these elements will make up the lion's share of the 30% cut to budgets. Once these private companies and outfits like NACRO take the reins, there will be an unholy race to the bottom. Wages at the top will be fine and so you can understand the senior managers seeing pots of gold for themselves, far more than they could have hoped-for in the public sector. But those below will carry all the losses. There will be more probation staff needing state benefits to get by, as the state subsidises low incomes, as the companies, with their first duty to their shareholders, pursue their profits. 

All this was foreseeable and yet rank and file staff showed a readiness to cross picket lines and lacked even the motivation to vote in ballots. And overnight probation work will become profit-driven. Sure, there will be high-minded pronouncements about what the companies stand for and how they are committed to rehabilitation, but the bottom line will be about making money as there is no other rationale for their involvement, because the shareholders must come first. And if it seems they can't make their expected profits or their brands suffer reputational damage, they will walk away, just like ATOS.

The NoOffence website carries an interesting blog with yet more sobering reflections for putative probation winners:-

The long-awaited list of ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ preferred bidders has thrown up some novices as well as experienced riders in this wide open race to change the face of rehabilitation in and beyond our prisons via the open to abuse, tried and detested ‘Payment by Results’ module to assist post-release offenders to gain employment, housing and generally reintegrate into their community. The ‘more for less’ concept, so lauded by central government, means that the difficult to place inmates will find themselves shunted on to the smaller tiers with the monetary clock ticking as what can be realistically offered in terms of time allocated against financial reward. Again, history tells us that there will be great emphasis on the former and very little on the latter with inmates seen as ‘cash cows’ rather than individual human beings with very wide-ranging and diverse needs. Anyone with any experience of working with challenging offenders will know that the ‘one size fits all’ approach simply does not work. Effective probation is not for the uninitiated. It is an acquired skill and certainly not to be learned ‘on the hoof’.

The great and outspoken Camila Batmanghelidjh of Kids’ Company spoke at an Odgers Interim event in September 2014 of her concerns that some voluntary organisations were clearly compromising their aims, objectives, services and constitutions in the pursuit of income and survival at any cost. ‘Charities are prioritising their own well-being over that of their beneficiaries and morphing into money-making organisations’. Despite changes in social demographics in the sector, there are some charities who believe that they have an absolute right to exist, despite their services hardly, if ever, moving with the times to meet or even address these social trends. Indeed, a few years back, I recall a refreshingly frank, shooting from the lip presenter from The Big Lottery Fund telling an assembled Central London audience of which I was part that one of the first questions that their assessors ask when looking at a new grant application is - ‘Are your services really necessary or are you asking us to keep you in a job?’. Some charities take note! Blunt but extremely relevant as we see the seemingly endless parade of formerly well-respected charities and voluntary sector organisations tout themselves around and enter into doomed, cobbled together consortia and partnerships, dare I say ‘Joint Enterprises’, in their fight for financial survival at any price - emphasis on ‘any price’ - but often at the inevitable cost of the service user - the offender. The old analogy of you buy cheap, you buy twice could not be more openly at play in these cut to the bone contracts. There is plenty of internet evidence of past contractors, providers and their partners walking away from these ‘cheapest wins’ contracts when they realise that the main bidder can’t make a profit and/or when the spectre of penalty clauses looms into view.

Even if we accept this ‘chase the money and dodge the dole queue’ concept, how many of these small to medium sized organisations have survived the mine field of ‘Payment by Results’ where their financial relief is often very short lived and at the cost of their previous good reputations? The smaller you are, the less volume your voice has when it comes to settling your invoices. One man’s credit balance is another man’s overdraft. And how many of these small organisations have the financial ‘legs’ or the unrestricted reserves to enter into speculative contracts - often a direct contradiction of their governing documents - where they might or might not be paid, compromising their management committees ‘limited liability’ as they do so.

I fear that these latest Transforming Rehabilitation contracts will, yet again, deliver a number of master classes in ‘massage’ when it comes to outputs, outcomes and invoicing and even more cases of some very big dogs wagging a considerable number of very disillusioned and hungry small tails as the true costs of rehabilitation and resettlement become apparent and the spreadsheets are regularly rewritten in red.

As these mainly ‘private sector led and the voluntary sector follows’ contracts pervade every public service in our day to day lives, central government paints itself into a financial corner, wholly of its own making. Mrs Thatcher’s TINA policy - There Is No Alternative - has, with the decimation of the voluntary sector in penal-related work, led to the birth of a daughter, TRINA - There Really Is No Alternative. It is a matter of time and resource-availability until private sector providers sit opposite central government commissioners and tell them the sum that they are prepared to accept to pick up the contract from the hands of the commissioners. The ethos of ‘supply and demand’ - you supply the contract and we will demand the price you will pay - will become the norm rather than the exception. Pursuit of excellence will fade and die since there will be no other choice of provider.

Something I noticed from a week or so ago should serve to remind us of the chaos yet to come:-

I noticed someone mentioned the poor practice by G4S. When they had the tagging contract and were challenged about closing enforcement actions, they frequently blamed Probation for not letting them know what action had been taken. I had to investigate these for my Trust and found in only about 15% of the cases where they'd notified us of a breach of curfew we had not let them know what action we'd taken. The rest were down to G4S and included where the Order was managed by the YOT, another Trust, they'd misspelt the email address and best of all where they'd taken the email address out of the NAPO directory and sent an email to "" [sic].

I heard recently of a case who had emailed Interserve Finance Dept. purporting to be from a subcontractor asking them to make future payment for the work to a new account. No points for guessing who's account that was! In all they paid the sum of £132,000 into his account! Best of all they didn't even notice. It was only when the bank queried the payment that the theft was picked up. Doesn't say much for their Corporate Governance or risk assessments!

More on legal aid:-
Cuts to the civil legal aid budget are not delivering better value for money for the taxpayer, the UK’s top spending watchdog has found. 
The National Audit Office’s review of cuts to civil legal aid, on track to deliver savings of £300m, concluded that the Ministry of Justice had not done enough to consider the wider implications of such speedy and drastic cost savings. The ministry “has been slower to think through how and why people access civil legal aid”, Amyas Morse, head of the audit office, said in a statement published with Thursday’s report. “Without this understanding, the ministry’s implementation of the reforms to civil legal aid cannot be said to have delivered better overall value for money for the taxpayer. ”The audit office estimates that the cuts have resulted in more people going to court without legal representation, leading to lengthy and costly delays. 
There has been a 30 per cent rise in family court cases where neither side is represented by a lawyer, according to the NAO’s statistics. The watchdog estimates that the taxpayer will have to shoulder £3.4m in extra costs from such delays, according to the report. The ministry had forecast that the cuts would result in more family cases going to mediation and fewer to court. Instead, the number of cases going to mediation fell 56 per cent, or 17,246, in 2013-14 compared with the previous year. 
The MoJ said: “We had one of the most expensive legal aid systems in the world at around £2bn per year. Given the financial crisis inherited by this government there was no choice but to find significant savings. This report confirms we are doing just that. “This was never going to be an easy process, but we have made the necessary reductions whilst ensuring legal aid remains available where people most need legal help. ”The report’s findings are the latest blow to the ministry’s overhaul of legal aid, which has sparked two walkouts by barristers, the first in living memory, and a judicial review. The High Court ruled in September that the justice ministry acted illegally over a consultation carried out before announcing parallel cuts to the criminal legal aid budget. 
Thursday’s report by the audit office scrutinised only the civil legal aid budget. Margaret Hodge, who chairs the Commons public accounts committee, accused the MoJ of being “out of touch with reality”. She said: “Achieving value for money is not just about cutting costs.” Sadiq Khan, Labour’s shadow justice secretary said: “This damning report by the National Audit Office completely exposes David Cameron’s reckless assault on access to justice for what it really is: bad value for money and leaving hundreds of thousands without proper legal advice.” 
I'll end with an apology concerning comment moderation. I've introduced this reluctantly in order to stop irritating contributions from a self-described and very unhappy SOTP attender who was attempting to hijack discussion. So, please be patient, but there will inevitably be a delay between submitting a comment and seeing it published. Such is the reality of life I'm afraid.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

TR Week Twenty Five

Is it me or does anyone else think it's strange the wall of silence from the winning bidders? Maybe they don't want to antagonise the losers and again I also think their silence is strange too.....

It's because they aren't winning bidders yet. They are preferred bidders, but they are essentially still part of an active competition. The bidders can still drop out and the MoJ can still decide not to contract with them. No one is going to say anything substantive until contracts are signed.

The competition isn't over until contracts are signed and share sale happens in February. Until then there will understandably be limited amount heard from the mercenaries in waiting.

Chris Grayling is not taking responsibility for the prison crisis, neither is the government holding him to account. They are all complicit in this, they are all in it together. 

He accounts for the problem in prisons by placing the blame on the prisoners. Not me Guv, my hands are clean. It's those nasty Proles, coming in here with their rights and all that. Don't they know that I don't give a f*ck?

If he could make it a criminal offence to 'self inflict death' (it's suicide you immoral bastard!!!) he would. 

I understand Chris Grayling used to work for Burson Marsteller, a global public relations company. Go on folks, have a look at the Wiki entry, I particularly enjoyed the reference to BM being subject to "protest and criticism for its use of smearing and doubt campaigns" that's where he learnt his dark arts....

My CRC are discussing using Social Workers to replace disappearing POs. Their qualifications are acceptable and, with some sort of conversion training, they would be welcomed.

Regular readers will have noted that EPIC has adverts for Social Workers on there, highlighted here a couple of weeks ago, it's interesting!

If it was easier for CQSW qualified probation staff to register/demonstrate professional competence then they would fill some posts.

Thé government have already got troubled families waiting in the wings to fill the gaps.

Grayling will get his platoon of old lags to plug the gaps, perhaps recruited by Old Chums Archer, Black & Aitken.

CQSW & DipSW qualified POs spend £hundreds & minimum 12 months registering despite their probation background, whilst the old lags just walk in through the back door with MoJ approval. Sweet!!

How can the HMPI say anything negative about TR in his report? To do so would put his wife's company at risk of loosing £millions of government contracts. So there will be no truths from him.

In Northumbria CRC, all is tickety boo, unless you look at the never before seen and ever rising sickness levels, which as management are happy to tell us, is due to stress. But hey all will be solved by downloading an app. Who needs human contact as we are all just numbers!! Like voting on the Xfactor app, but without a right to an opinion!

Couldn't face work today, not all that well. At one time I would have gone in, not now. They need to come and spend à week in one of our offices. They'd soon see the chaos they've created.

Of course NOMs are saying the publishing of these figures are a one off. Any future measurements for the profit making companies will not have to worry about these. They'll have he goal posts widened for them. One quick change will be the removal of the current OASys. They won't have staff spending hours on it, plus the RoSH completed by NPS will assess the risk issues. Job done as far as they will be concerned.

The MoJ statistics have their flaws, but overall don't they seriously challenge the narrative of probation as being in meltdown, of staff leaving in droves, of high sickness levels, of performance being on the floor? It is fair to raise arguments about quality and shifting criteria, but court reports have been receiving the 'expediting' treatment for years and SFO criteria has been revised many times. The MoJ figures do not lend any credence to 'service in crisis' assertions, perhaps because probation staff have been adept at workarounds, taking on sessional work and keeping up goodwill.

In a word no. Not all that can be measured counts, and not all that counts can be measured. If you had hundreds of staff saying something is not working, would it be prudent and defensible to ignore this? What needs to be put into perspective is the fact that TR has only being going for a few months and it's fair to say that all is not going to plan. Factor in that the CRC's will be run by mainly inexperience people (those at the most senior level probably have little experience) as well as the empirical evidence that those who get these form of contracts inevitably end up making a pigs ears of things, and you can see why the concern exists. 

Now, when people start dying due to these mistakes, it's those who said and did nothing that some may also level blame at. Probation IS in meltdown. I know, I'm there, trying my best to do my job with 101 new PI's every month. Yes targets are being hit but the point is very clearly being missed!

Inspection due next month in the North West, anywhere else? Usual bollocks REQUESTED by managers. Check your cases that could be in there. Cook the books with acceptable retro entries please, as much as you can. Let's make it appear as if all is well eh? Not a fucking chance, they will see it as it is in our office. 

We had an inspection a few weeks ago just CRC. Most of us told him how It is, he said "I know."

We have a Safeguarding audit as well (North West) and we've been given the heads up about what cases etc.

Yes, ours was safeguarding. We had really short notice so didn't really do anything extra with the cases. I did go to review the OASsys the day before then decided not to bother. I'm not managing to do initial OASsys, so why would I do a review because we're being inspected?

SFOs take a while to happen and for people to be charged. Would like to see the data for July/August to October instead. Bet it shows a whole different picture.

Why bother with the stress? If your workload is over 150 per cent, tell your manager that this equates to over 17 hrs per week and that you will do 37 as contracted unless they pay you for extra hours or they guarantee toil. Do not work extra hours and when something is missed, tell them what your workload is over and over and repeat until they retire to their office, hold their head in their hands and cry buckets! Do it tomorrow and watch the stress evaporate. 

Put a collective grievance in, tell them you will not stand it anymore. Tell them you will not accept it anymore. Tell them you will fight TR to the death, we are nearly there. Don't lose face, never give up. We will win this, I can guarantee this! Displace your EXTRA responsibility back on them and remember the mantra of Pass it up, Pass it up, Pass it up! I am not in the union and on over 200 per cent and as chilled as a bottle of Chardonnay in the freezer! It's easy, it's not your fault, it's impossible to do it all. Don't let anybody tell you it!

It would be helpful if you could provide a template of the grievance steps you took to tackle excessive workloads, the management response and the actual outcome.

The steps were simple and straight forward. All it took was one person sending a collective e-mail asking each person what he/she could not do. We did our own workload check from the old existing data log. We then all signed a collective letter which was effectively a vote of no confidence highlighting what we felt we could not do within our contracted hours and all said we will be working our hours and no more. 

Highlighted a number of actions such as paid overtime instead of toil etc. Threatened to withdraw flat rate report writing. Got the union to have a meeting with the Chief. Chief responded and agreed to overtime being paid. Got extra staff in from quieter areas. Still not come up with the goods in telling us what we can no longer do, so next step formal collective grievance which we all put our names to. Certain things put in place but the view is too little, too late.

Re-alcohol bracelets. I hope they are going to have good assessors. For some it is dangerous to just stop drinking..

I see in the USA up to 80% of the costs of alcohol bracelets are borne by the wearer. And effectiveness is linked to participation in alcohol treatment/support programmes.

I was just reminiscing about when supervision, was just that - tailor made for the individual and their consent to the making of such an order was crucial. When Attendance Centres were for 'football hooligans' to stop them attending home games - that's why they are 1.45 - 4.45 every other Saturday and Electronic Monitoring was to ensure night time burglars were tucked up in their own beds, and not entering those of others.

Now it's not about the clients, victims or the general public, but for profit; to generate income for the few, at the expense of the many. That 'means test' re Criminal Court Charge - I hope it works better than the one devised in 1991, when it was decided that the amount of the fine should reflect the clients ability to repay - that worked, or did it? I don't recall any departure from the Magistrate's Sentencing Guidelines, and they made no allowance for the income of the client before them.

I am getting so despondent, and just wish a crater would open up and swallow CG and his Government. Just how much pain do they want to inflict on people? At least I am on leave this week, and I will now go and do something to take my mind off this.

I've read recently too, that IDS is trying get a restriction placed on the prescription of methadone for addicts, and instead use more 'holistic' methods of treatment. Is is of course an attempt to 'save' the user a lifetime of unemployment he boasts. No doubt Graylings friends in companies such as Sodoxo or Working Links or Interserve would be given the contracts to provide such 'holistic' therapy. I hate this government, its just a 'rich leach' on the rest of society.

In my area CRC told can't apply for secondment NPS jobs because they can't spare Band 4s. Somehow I don't think Working Links will see it that way. Still, the senior manager won't have to worry - no doubt EVR available to them, just sod everyone else - need to make sure targets are met pre Feb 2015. Bastard.

I think may also be worry about what guarantees there are about what CRC jobs would be at end of secondment period with NPS

I kind of like it when someone goes 'off message'. TR is a worthy headline issue and the future of probation work is important. There were many working in probation who argued that it went off message itself when it went corporate and embraced a target and performance culture. That was the zeitgeist and I don't think the public services could do much about it. The road to TR was a long one and in part the probation service obediently marched towards the gunfire.

The truth is that Con/Libs have made such a mess of everything, in such a cavalier way, whether its legal aid, prisons or probation, in attempt to dupe the electorate, that they no longer have any idea of whats going on or how to turn things around. All they know is that they've made a huge mess. Unfortunately, even if they pulled the plug on all these disasterous reforms, you're left with Humpty Dumpty syndrome, "all the kings horses and all the kings men, didn't know how to put Humpty back together again".

And that's another truth. Everything so broken by incompetence, and lack of foresight, and just plain stupidity, it would be almost impossible to get everything back in order again. Together the Con/Libs have destroyed a fully functioning CJS, where there's no benefit for anyone, least of all for the 'hard working tax payer'. Shame on the lot of you!!

Where is Grayling?- his absence is like watching Psycho without the shower scene!

Simon Hughes wants an end to sentences of less then 12 months? Will that mean fewer people going to prison? Or more people being sentenced to 12 months or longer? It strikes me that there's a time bomb for the prisons ticking away within society at the moment, one which is about to have its fuse shortened.

That bomb is that how ever many people are in prison, there's at least the same amount on licence serving the second half of their sentence in the community and another 60,000 to be added with the <12 month group, all subject to recall. The prison population is not only governed by those being sent there by the courts, but also by the number subject to breach proceeding by probation service.

In a world of profit making enterprise, it cannot be long before private companies realise that they have considerable influence on the ebb and flow of numbers on an already stretched and crisis ridden prison service. That to me would seem to give the private sector considerable negotiating power over the MoJ when they find their contract difficult to deliver on. Just a thought!

Looking at internal NPS Probation Officer jobs. Got the following response 'Unfortunately we can not proceed with your application as this vacancy is only open to surplus staff'. How many surplus Probation Officers are there within the Civil Service? Utter madness.

I think Graylings silence over the past few weeks is very telling. Indeed, the only reference to him I can find in todays press is about the decline in the use of cautions. In the last 3 months, he's lost several JRs, probation bidders have pulled out, theres been 2 murders in the prison system, (god knows how many suicides), he's been brought to account several times by the PAC, least of all for the huge amount spent on consultation fees for TR, had constant criticism for his unnecessary and dark ages prison reforms and book ban, had to say sorry for recording confidential phone calls between prisoners and their MPs, he's been turned on by his own party very publicly in the commons (called a tyrant!) amid never before seen uproar in the Commons over his dodgy underhand approach to the EAW, and been asked to account for the number of empty prisons and court houses littered around the country costing tens of thousands a month. 

One court house in Stoke is occupied now for several days by protesters complaining about its closure, and insult to injury, an empty court house in Harringay is now occupied by squatters with a number of large dogs that keep neighbours awake at night. His own local newspaper in Epsom is one of his worst critics, and the prison governor of High Down prison has announced to the world from the witness box that the MoJ have admitted getting things wrong, despite telling the public the total opposite, and calling concerned charities 'left wing agitators for questioning his policies. 

There's much, much more too! I have a feeling that someone, a bit more important than Grayling in the Party, and who can't be bullied by him has had a few words, and that's why Graylings had to "wind his neck in" of late. He's an embarrassment to his party, and a liability to the CJS and the nation.

Rochester & Strood - what a hoot. I'm not a ukip fan by any stretch but they are exposing the mainstream parties for the false fools they truly are. Gove got roasted by Eddie Mair (R4), Lucy Powell led a merry dance by Krishnan (C4)... Tories & Labour desperate as to who can offer the warmest embrace to Rochester's now famous Sun reader with his van & St George flags. 

Politics is in total disarray, directionless, lost in the wilderness. He's just a bloke who lives in a house who drives a van - presumably to earn a living. Comment was made when his mate showed up earlier (when BBC news were doing a piece) in his Chelsea Tractor. So what? They're just people. Now it seems those who were killed in Cadogan Sq were "Polish workers". So fuckin what? They were people; sons, maybe fathers, maybe brothers. Politics is eating itself alive. The Media is providing the garnish.

Today I had to pass a case over to the NPS due to an escalation in risk. I completed the necessary form yesterday, waited until today for a response, when I was told it had been accepted by the NPS. I was also told I could no longer make an entry on Delius or complete an OASys review! 

Seems stupid to me that prior to the split I would have had a consultation with my SPO, raised risk to high, reviewed OASys and maintained management of the case as I am the person with the knowledge and experience. Now it is out of my hands and I have information that can't be passed on to the new OM... how is this managing risk, or providing end to end management??

I have made this point many times by posting on this blog as a case allocator.

Information considered crucial to understanding risk can be passed on in a letter.

No, that is not correct. Any information should be contained within the risk escalation tool, that is the assessment in it's entirety. To start writing letters to pass on risk information merely supports the point I am making, it is not fit for purpose. It is cumbersome, time consuming, rolled out without training and DANGEROUS.

I have a female case with Personality Disorder who has committed a further offence and pre split would have, as others have pointed out, managed her increase in risk myself. If I go through the risk escalation process she will be sent to another office and of course be seen by a new officer. In this case I know it will increase her risk even further and therefore in a dilemma!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Bits and Pieces

We haven't mentioned the irritating and self-serving Sir Stephen Bubb for some time, CEO of the trade union for charity sector CEO's, but a reader has nudged me in the direction of their recent manifesto:-  

Acevo calls on politicians to protect charities' independence and right to campaign

Apart from the nice photo that Jim may like to have as a screen saver, I find this article very interesting. Demanding from the government independence and freedom to speak out against policy, whilst at the same time bidding for government contracts for workfare and TR, appears to me that the third sector want their cake as well as eating it. It also makes it quite clear just how naive they are in trying to profit from public sector work if you actively seek involvement in something that you may also want to stand against!! Strange world.

This on the CivilSociety website:- 
Acevo calls on politicians to protect charities' independence and right to campaign
The government should bring in a series of measures designed to protect charities’ right to campaign and maintain their independence, the charity chief executives body Acevo says in its manifesto ahead of the 2015 general election. Freedom of speech of the third sector should be enshrined in law, the freedom of charities to speak out against injustice should also be protected and there should be a presumption in law that charity campaigns constitute fair and honest comment, the document, Free Society – realising the nation’s potential through the third sector, published today, says.

The manifesto also calls on politicians to protect charities’ access to judicial review and extend legal aid to charities that represent an at-risk or underrepresented group, commit to a single Third Sector Act that brings together all the regulation around charity campaigning, and to work with organisations with a mission to maintain the independence of the sector’s voice and set up an All Party Parliamentary Group for Third Sector Independence and Campaigning. It calls for all parties to repeal the Lobbying Act in the first year of the next parliament. The manifesto urges politicians to restore the minister for civil society to minister of state level and allow whoever holds the position to attend Cabinet meetings.

Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, called on politicians to commit to the five-point “pledge card of policies to safeguard charities’ and campaigners’ ability to speak out". The manifesto is in response to concerns about a ‘chilling effect’ on charities’ ability to criticise government policy that has descended over the last 18 months after government legislation restricting access to judicial review, legal aid, and charities ability to campaign before general elections, Acevo said.

Bubb said: “Charities and campaigners depend on a free and independent voice. At exactly the time when their views are needed most, the voices of many of our most important campaigners are being chilled by laws like the Lobbying Act. “It’s time for politicians to recognise this and stand up for our country’s civil society. Rather than promises of a big society tomorrow, we need a free society today. Acevo’s manifesto suggests policies to make it impossible for charities to be gagged in future. It is a blueprint for a free society and it’s time for the political parties to listen.”
In response to the manifesto, Rob Wilson, the minister for civil society, said the document “merits consideration” by the government and all parties. “It’s interesting to see such a detailed package of policy asks from the charity sector. I look forward to scrutinising and debating the manifesto in the weeks to come,” he said. “Over the next 6 months positive dialogue between charity leaders and politicians is vital.”
Blanche Jones, campaign director at 38 Degrees, said in response to the manifesto: “After a series of big money lobbying scandals and broken promises, the public’s trust in Westminster politics is crumbling away. More people are looking to charities to speak truth to power, and pinning their hopes on campaigners to fix the problems our country faces. “But the third sector is facing the most hostile environment in decades. The Lobbying Act leaves corporate lobbyists untouched but effectively gags many non-profit campaigners, while a series of concerted political attacks on charities seems intended to silence them. “If politicians want to win back trust from the public, they have to protect the right of campaigners to speak freely. Repealing the disastrous Lobbying Act would be a good place to start.”
Yes, we will all be watching closely over the coming months as the charity sector gets screwed by the probation primes! You have been warned though, and you still have time to pull out.

The Rochester and Strood by-election result continues to confirm that the Westminster political class is in serious trouble and that a massive protest vote in favour of UKIP at the May general election will be as much a desire for 'a plague on all your houses' than it will be support for any set of policies. A worrying time for the democratic process, but probably inevitable and overdue given the history of bad behaviour and general contempt politicians have long-held for the electorate. The feeling is mutual of course.

Emily Thornberry's sacking and the now infamous tweet of white van and England flags rather nicely sums the issue up, together with her reported observation that she broke a cardinal rule of politics viz 'voters can be rude about politicians; but politicians can never be rude about voters'. 

I mention political bad behaviour deliberately and not just in the context of fiddling expenses and nest-feathering, but much more serious matters that ever-so-slowly are at long last beginning to emerge and that have the potential to really rock the cosy Westminster political boat. It's a matter I've touched on before in connection with allegations of child sexual abuse involving the former Elm Guest House in West London and prominent Establishment figures. 

In view of recent delopments, I'd like to return to the matter, not least because historical sexual offending is still very much in the news. Celebrities continue to be convicted as a result of victims coming forward in the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations. The most recent is former DJ Chris Denning, as reported here in the Guardian:-
Former Radio 1 DJ Chris Denning admits 41 sex offence charges
Chris Denning, a former DJ, has admitted a total of 41 sex offence charges against young boys in a series of crimes spanning 20 years. A former colleague of Jimmy Savile and one of the first Radio 1 DJs, Denning, 73, pleaded guilty to 10 charges of indecent assault on a male, a charge of gross indecency and another of indecency with a child when he appeared in custody on Friday at Southwark crown court in London.
Denning, of Basildon in Essex, previously admitted 29 charges – including 26 counts of indecent assault on a male and three of indecency with a child – at a hearing at Southwark crown court in August. One of his victims was aged nine. He is set to be sentenced on the 41 charges when he next appears in custody at Southwark on 9 December.
Scotland Yard said the offences involve 26 male victims who were assaulted between 1967 and 1987. On Friday Denning also denied one count of indecent assault on a male. After the hearing DCI Michael Orchard, from the sexual offences, exploitation and child abuse command, said: “Christopher Denning is a dangerous serial offender who committed numerous offences over a 20-year period against a large number of young boys. One of these victims was as young as nine years of age. Denning’s only redeeming quality is that he has not made his victims go through the trial process.” He added: “I would like to thank the victims for their bravery and courage in coming forward. I hope that Denning’s admittance of guilt is the first step in helping them move on with their lives.”
But, as many have suspected, this concentration on celebrities both major and minor is but a distraction from some very serious matters that have been covered up for decades and that go right to the heart of the British Establishment. Despite a huge amount of effort, it's not going to go away as the genie is now well and truly emerging from the bottle and there's a real sense of the net closing in on some very big names, some of whom are still with us.

Theresa May recently announced the findings of the Wanless Report, as outlined in the Guardian:- 
Theresa May: Wanless report finds Home Office cover-up ‘not proven’
The official Wanless review into whether there has been a cover-up of the Home Office’s handling of child abuse allegations in the 1980s has returned a verdict of “not proven”, the home secretary, Theresa May, has told MPs. “There might have been a cover-up,” she said. “I cannot stand here and say the Home Office was not involved in a cover-up in the 1980s and that is why I am determined to get to the truth of this.”
Peter Wanless, the chief executive of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), concludes in his inquiry report into 114 missing Home Office files relating to child abuse in the 1980s that there is no evidence that they were “deliberately or systematically removed or destroyed to cover up organised child abuse”.
Wanless says the record-keeping practices inside the Home Office at the time mean it is not possible to reach a categorical conclusion on whether or not files were destroyed as part of a cover-up but says: “We found nothing specific to support a concern that the Home Office had failed in any organised or deliberate way to identify or refer individual allegations of child abuse to the police.”
The home secretary responded to Wanless’s review of the original Home Office internal investigation into the missing files by asking him to look further at how the police and prosecution authorities handled the child abuse allegations that were passed on to them by the Home Office at the time.
She has also asked Wanless and his co-author, Richard Whittam QC, to establish whether any of the material mentioned in the internal inquiry or in connection with the 114 missing files was passed to the security services, and if so, what action they took. MI5 responded to the Wanless inquiry by carrying out a search of its own files but said it had not found any relevant to the review. 
The home secretary also announced that the Metropolitan police had agreed to investigate allegations by a journalist, Don Hale, that a file of allegations involving prominent people, including MPs, passed to him by Barbara Castle, had been seized from him by special branch officers.
Then the prime minister started spinning in a most unwise manner that will inevitably return and bite his arse. I quote selectively from a piece in the Huffington Post:-
Abuse Campaigners Are Not Conspiracy Theorists, Mr Cameron
Cameron has spun in a different direction, arithmetically, trying to convince people concerned about child abuse and cover-ups that two plus two makes nothing. Spinning on the day the Wanless report, into missing Home Office documents said to contain information about powerful people abusing children, was released, Cameron resorted to calling abuse campaigners conspiracy theorists. To do so, he exploited the fact that evidence could not be found within a few weeks to explain just how at least 114 files concerning child abuse went missing.
One of the missing files is a dossier presented in 1983 to then Home Secretary Leon Brittan by the Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens. Mr Dickens, who is now deceased, spoke in 1983 of a paedophile ring involving "big, big names - people in positions of power, influence and responsibility". Despite attempts to posthumously smear Dickens, there has been progress in investigating abuse rings linked to powerful people, including those involving the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE).
Therefore for Cameron to say, in response to the Wanless report, "It is important that it says that there wasn't a cover-up. Some of the people who've been looking for conspiracy theories will have to look elsewhere" seems astonishingly callous and shows little respect for survivors. The fact that NSPCC chief executive officer and former civil servant Peter Wanless wasn't able to prove exactly how files went missing does not prove that the abuse described in files did not take place or that the files were not deliberately removed or destroyed.

There are compelling and troubling links between abuse in North Wales and that in children's homes and approved schools across the country, PIE, Westminster and Elm guest house in London. Not to mention links between Jersey and Jimmy Savile, and between Savile and Cyril Smith - who is also linked to Elm guest house and the abuse of children elsewhere. There are also questions to answer about the security services alleged presence at Kincora Boys' Home in Northern Ireland and Elm guest house.
These are just a few examples where connections have been established. Anyone who has researched child abuse rings in Britain is painfully aware of links between networks. Any commentator also knows that writing about these abuse rings at the moment is a legal minefield, as people who previously could have been mentioned - to help explain links between rings - have recently been re-arrested. As legal proceedings are active for those cases, it is not possible to name them in a piece relating to abuse rings, because it potentially prejudices forthcoming trials. The absence of that information in this piece protects me. The absence of files from the Home Office - however they went missing - can only protect abusers and their protectors.
The search for copies of the missing files widens as reported by ITV news:-
Former Blackburn MP's archives searched in hunt for abuse files
Police are searching the library archives of former Blackburn MP Barbara Castle in the hunt for documents which may help uncover claims of historical child sex abuse. Officers from the Metropolitan Police are working through the official archive of the former Labour Minister at the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library in search of the infamous 'Dickens Dossier', the missing file containing allegations of a paedophile ring in Westminster in the 1980's, as well any other information relating to abuse.
The developments come three days after the Home Secretary Theresa May ordered the Met to investigate claims by North West journalist Don Hale that he was handed a separate dossier by Barbara Castle in 1984, when he was editor of the Bury Messenger. He claims it contained the names of 16 prominent MPs who were involved in a paedophile ring, who were actively campaigning on behalf of the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) for Parliament to make sex with children legal.
But before he could publish the story, the says the files were seized by Special Branch officers, who warned Mr Hale he'd face prison if he published its contents. The 'Castle Dossier' was produced just 12 months after the 'Dickens Dossier' was handed to the Home Office by former Littleborough and Saddleworth MP Geoffrey Dickens. He believed high profile figures in Westminster and other areas of public life were abusing children. It's a belief Barbara Castle shared. She campaigned tirelessly against paedophilia and child abuse, and had asked numerous Home Secretaries what had happened to the 'Dickens Dossier'.
The Met are now trawling through 850 boxes of documents in the Barbara Castle Archive to see if contains a copy of either the 'Dickens Dossier' or the 'Castle Dossier', both of which have gone missing. Officers are also searching through hundreds of 'closed' files including letters and correspondence in search of any information which may help locate the whereabouts of the dossiers, as well as any other information which may help uncover allegations of high-profile historical sex abuse. 
  We also learn of a possible homicide as reported by the BBC:-
Historical abuse inquiry: Police examine 'possible homicide'
Police are investigating "possible homicide" linked to what has been described as a paedophile ring involving powerful people in the 1970s and 1980s. The group is alleged to have included senior figures in public life, the military, politics and law enforcement. 
In a statement Scotland Yard said inquiries were at an early stage. A key witness who has spoken to police has told the BBC that he was abused for nine years as a boy. He has appealed for others who may have evidence to come forward. The Metropolitan Police said detectives were made aware of allegations regarding possible homicide during the last month.
Speaking anonymously to the BBC but using the name "Nick", the alleged victim said he had given three days of video-taped evidence to detectives. His accounts are being assessed as part of Operation Midland, a new Scotland Yard investigation which is under the umbrella of its inquiry into historical abuse, Operation Fairbank.
Nick, now in his 40s, says that he was first abused by his own father before being "handed over" as a young boy to the group. "They were very powerful people and they controlled my life for the next nine years," Nick added. "They created fear that penetrated every part of me, day in day out. You didn't question what they wanted, you did as they asked without question and the punishments were very severe."
Nick said the group was "very organised" and would arrange for chauffeur-driven cars to pick up boys, sometimes from school, and drive them to "parties" or "sessions" at locations including hotels and private apartments in London and other cities. The children were not usually allowed to speak with each other and Nick says he struggled to work out the identities of the abusers. He has given the names of some of those he believes were involved to the police and the BBC.
The BBC has agreed not to reveal any of these names because of the ongoing police investigation and because of the need for further evidence to corroborate his account. "They had no hesitation in doing what they wanted to do," Nick said. "Some of them were quite open about who they were. They had no fear at all of being caught, it didn't cross their mind." When a child "stepped out of line", he said that abusers would inflict brutal and painful punishments. He said: "[The abuse] destroyed my ability to trust. It's pretty much wrecked any relationships I have had. Intimacy for me is a pretty much a no-go area."
Nick said he had one motivation for speaking to the BBC - to encourage other alleged victims or those who unwittingly assisted the abusers to come forward. "They need to find the strength that we as survivors have done," he said. "People who drove us around could come forward. Staff in some of the locations could come forward. There are so many people who must have had suspicions. "We weren't smuggled in under a blanket through the back door. It was done openly and people must have questioned that and they need to come forward."
Nick says his torment suddenly came to an end when he went to a pre-arranged place to be picked up by a driver and no-one arrived. He went the next day, worried that he would be punished for a diary mistake. Again there was no car waiting. He never saw his abusers again and says he still has no idea why.
At long last this whole dreadful murky story is beginning to emerge. Files may still be missing, but victims are coming forward with testimony and it's going to shine a very harsh light indeed upon the whole matter of child sexual offending, our attitudes to historical offences, not to mention the role of the Establishment, official 'cover-ups' and the accountability of politicians. Of course the Probation Service is expected to deal with much of the consequences and it's a moot point if TR will make this difficult and challenging task any easier? I'll end on this from the Daily Mirror in July:-  
Tory child abuse whistleblower: 'Margaret Thatcher knew all about underage sex ring among ministers'
Margaret Thatcher was warned that senior ministers were involved in a child sex ring, a former Tory activist claims. Anthony Gilberthorpe says he sent her a 40-page dossier in 1989 accusing Cabinet members of abusing underage boys at drug-fuelled conference parties.
Mr Gilberthorpe, who claims he was ordered to recruit boys for the ministers, says he posted the “graphic” allegations to Mrs Thatcher after befriending her. Mr Gilberthorpe, who was a young Tory hopeful when he was asked to recruit for the parties, said: “I outlined exactly what I had witnessed and informed her I intended to expose it. “I had met Mrs Thatcher on several occasions and even presented her with a birthday cake in 1983. I believed she had to know.”