Like Harry Fletcher, I think we were all surprised to hear from Chris Grayling yesterday that we are not in the middle of a revolution, but rather a few ‘evolutionary’ changes. Harry says the minister used the term 5 times during his session in front of the Justice Affairs Committee. He also appeared to be indicating that timetables were slipping:-
Justice Minister, Chris Grayling, was called to give evidence by the Justice Select Committee today, 4th December, on his ‘Rehabilitation Revolution’ and plans to privatise up to 70% of the probation service. Surprisingly he stated on five occasions that his transformation agenda was all about ‘evolution’ not ‘revolution’. I am unaware of him using this term before.
On several occasions he said the timetable was not set in stone and that all cases did not have to be reallocated and assessed by 1 April 2014. Again I am unaware of this being said before. The Minister added that 2014 would be used to test and monitor the new shadow arrangements. He also said that next year would be the opportunity to ensure that the transfer to the private sector would be carried out smoothly.
Grayling was quizzed in some detail by MPs John McDonnell, Elfyn Llwyd and Jeremy Corbyn about the consequences of his failure to publish the risk register. In response to questions about the risks contained in the register he said that the government never published them and that the risks had changed over the last five months. He was then pressed to say how they had changed and whether they had escalated or decreased but he declined to give details. He also refused to give the names of the 35 companies and consortia who are the MoJ preferred bidders for probation work.
It was also evident from the Minister’s answers that the original timetable had slipped and handover to the private sector is now set for December 2014. Grayling was asked many other questions including what would happen if consortia members split or fell out. The answer appears to be mediation or retendering. He was asked what would happen if there was insufficient market interest in some areas? He seemed to say that if that happened then the NPS would do it. He insisted that the whole exercise was about quality not cost.
When asked about comparisons with the failures of the Work Programme and Payment by Results Grayling was insistent that the Probation Change Programme was much less complex and would be easier to administer.
He was asked whether the split between public and private would be 30/70, or would it be nearer 50/50? He answered that there were differences between the financial and the people split and that this was still being worked on.
Finally when pressed by Elfyn Llwyd he said he had no knowledge of why relationships broke down in the employer/union interchange in late November. Elfyn Llwyd challenged the Minister on this saying his officials had changed the rules on continuity of service should a transferred employee undertake a new role, but Grayling denied that this was the case. He was further pressed by Elfyn Llwyd as to whether he would meet with the unions personally and said that the Ministry’s door was open.
Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence picks up on this latter point in his most recent blog:-
Here is what I had written into the minutes of the TR Consultation Forum the day after that fateful NNC meeting:
“As members of the Programme Team and TRCF will be aware, Napo, Unison and GMB* yesterday (20/11/13) registered a failure to agree following a meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) in London last night. The unions will now be approaching The Advisory and Conciliation Service (ACAS) for assistance.
Napo wishes to formally complain at what we believe was a cynical attempt to de-stabilise the NNC negotiating process yesterday, and to make it clear that we found the contribution from the Secretary of State’s representative to be extremely unhelpful and indeed unnecessary. This intervention follows the previous act of bad faith last week where contradictory documentation was distributed to Trusts outwith the NNC negotiating machinery. It is also Napo’s view that to compound this situation by presenting the employers and unions with a series of eleventh-hour and highly detrimental pre-conditions, which reneged on previously agreed assurances, was a total disgrace.
These actions prevented any discussion on the substantive material and have severely jeopardised the prospect of the NNC parties reaching an agreement on a comprehensive Staff Transfer Agreement, and Napo has no hesitation in laying the responsibility for this situation firmly at the door of the Secretary of State. As you may be aware, Napo has instructed our Branches to prepare to register local JNC disputes in the event that the Moj version of a staff assignment process is implemented by Trusts. Napo’s National Executive Committee meets next week to consider the situation and to receive reports about the next steps in the Union’s current Industrial Action Campaign.”
(*GMB clarified that they had reserved their position on a failure to agree)
The key point is that even if Grayling did not agree that his department was at fault for the breakdown in talks he cannot reasonably claim before his peers that he was unaware of why the situation had occurred.
Meanwhile, as ‘those letters’ continue arriving, this is the reality of a bit of ‘evolutionary’ change for highly professional staff up and down the land:-
“My letter arrived yesterday - Durham Tees Valley PT - and I haven’t slept. I have a busy day tomorrow (well actually, today) and will be expected to perform as usual. Whatever happens from here on in, the MOJ has lost the heart and mind of a dedicated PO. I am hard working and just get on with whatever is asked of me but NO MORE. Something in me has died and that will directly translate to my work. I will deliver what is required and no more. Do not underestimate the future cost of this because performance has always been delivered on the unpaid extra work we do so freely. I will never do that again for an employer who treats me with such a lack of respect.”
“My worst time is when I wake before the alarm and lie there not wanting to get up:at work it feels increasingly as if we are running 2 parallel lives especially in run-up to Xmas with a veneer of good mood, office decorations and parties alongside increasing worry about Probation and personal future, disillusion and fatigue. I’m not giving up on protesting the folly and risks of TR just recognising the impact of this struggle whilst still trying to do the job and hold things together at home for family.”
“I have followed your blog for some time as this omnishambles progresses and unfolds at alarming speed. It has kept me (almost) sane and up to date on the national picture as no other website has, and I wholeheartedly thank you for that. I take comfort from the comments of all the other professionals in this impossible and, quite frankly, frightening situation.
Amid the ridiculous, preposterous, and seemingly unstoppable plans of the MoJ, I have been doing my best as usual to ‘go the extra mile’ for my Service Users, because that is why I came into the job…………..to make a difference!
Today I was informed by my Line Manager that there is to be an audit on NDelusional entries as well as quality of CPJD’s. However he himself had admitted that NDelusional is not fit for purpose. I am exhausted by it all……..stressed, anxious, depressed, disrespected, deskilled and disillusioned. How can it be ‘business as usual’? My energy reserves are so depleted that I will expend them where they are most needed…with my offenders.The rest……….meeting cash linked targets etc etc can go and get lost. Demoralised is rather an understatement at this time and I turn my eyes upwards in the hope of help there.”
Courtesy of Jim Brown at On Probation Blog