This has gone on long enough and the time has come to call a halt to the madness. Apart from a few Tory ideological zealots and privateers on the make, there is absolutely no enthusiasm or stomach for this dangerous and unworkable slow train wreck of an omnishambles euphemistically called ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’.
Even though the MoJ won’t openly admit it, there is insufficient interest being shown by potential bidders both in the private and voluntary sector in taking on probation work. The realisation is finally dawning that the risks are just too great and the potential rewards so tenuous that it’s just not worth a candle. From every quarter there is trouble, whether it be jittery investors, an incalcitrant workforce or unhappy politicians.
I’m told that even the MoJ is riven with disdain for a failing project that requires every effort to be made to ensure a silk purse becomes a sow’s ear. Possibly Chris Grayling and Jeremy Wright still feel that the TR omnishambles can be rolled out before the next General Election, but virtually everyone else thinks differently and it’s just a matter of time before their hides will need saving by resort to a cunning plan ‘B’.
If evidence were required as to the real state of feeling within the MoJ, it’s provided by the news of a further leak regarding the updated Risk Register that Grayling resolutely refuses to publish. Here’s today’s Observer:-
Plans to put private companies such as G4S in charge of supervising tens of thousands of criminals on licence in the community have a “very high chance” of putting the public at greater risk and will result in a poorer service for victims of crime, according to an internal assessment presented to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and seen by the Observer.
The probation service’s risk assessment, written last month, spells out in detail how the government’s high-profile programme for allowing the private sector and voluntary groups to run its offender management programme is in danger of going off the rails.
The findings – coming after G4S and Serco were last week stripped of their contracts to monitor tagged offenders, amid allegations they carried out a multimillion-pound overcharging fraud – threatens to undermine the government’s case for pushing through its reforms within a short time frame.
The report is the latest in a series of internal assessments prepared for the MoJ ahead of its landmark reform of the probation service next year. It confirms that plans to use private sector firms, which the government says will help to help save taxpayers up to £200m a year, are in jeopardy.
On a scale of one to 25, where 25 is the highest likelihood of something happening, the assessment gives a maximum score to the probability that there will be a “reduction [in] performance” under the new system. It states that this will see the “potential for service delivery failure increase” and that there is a very high chance of “operational confusion”. As a result, offenders will pose a “higher risk to the public” and there will be “poorer outcomes” for victims and communities. The report warns that courts would “lose confidence in the ability of the service to deliver sentences”.
The assessment estimates that there is a 25 out of 25 risk that the programme will not “be delivered either in scope or within the timescale set by ministers”. Other risks include a drop in staff morale, tension with police and crime plans, increased risk of industrial action and loss of public confidence. The analysis is likely to be exploited by critics of the government’s privatisation agenda.
“The private sector is likely to miss cases which need recalling to custody, because of their inexperience,” said probation expert Harry Fletcher. “This plan will compromise public protection.”
The government had intended that current probation staff would be assigned to new private sector employers by 1 April, but concern about the way in which the reforms are being implemented suggests this timetable may slip.
Appearing before the justice select committee this month, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, seemed to concede that the timetable was not set in stone, referring to “evolution, not revolution”, a change of tone from previous comments.
A delay would raise fresh questions about the government’s ability to introduce its reforms of the public sector. The timetable for the rollout of the universal credit scheme had to be scrapped recently, and in November plans to privatise three prisons were abandoned.
So it’s all going wrong for TR and Grayling is ever so slowly being made to realise that a way out of this nightmare is needed, and urgently, But what could that be?
As an aside I see that there’s even more bad news for Serco with them set to lose the Cornwall out of hours GP service and pull out of hospital management completely:-
Serco has agreed to the early termination of its contract for out-of-hours GP services in Cornwall after the company left the county short of doctors.
The embattled outsourcing company also said it would stop running Braintree hospital in Essex as it pulls out of managing GP services and large hospitals. It follows a review of Serco’s healthcare operations.
On Thursday the company, along with G4S, was forced to hand over its electronic tagging contracts to rival Capita following fraud allegations over the way they charged the government.
Serco said the Cornwall and Braintree contracts and a loss-making agreement for community healthcare in Suffolk would cost it £17m in one-off charges.
The company said: “Serco has agreed with NHS Kernow to bring forward the end of its contract for GP out-of-hours services in Cornwall. Serco’s operation of the contract to date has experienced some operational challenges.”
Serco said NHS Kernow would look for another company to provide an “integrated service” before the contract expires in May 2015. The company’s agreement to run Braintree hospital will last until December next year.
Valerie Michie, managing director of Serco’s healthcare business, said: “The services we deliver in Cornwall and Braintree are no longer core to the future delivery of our healthcare strategy.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Kernow said there had been problems with Serco’s service but that it had improved. Serco will continue to run community healthcare services in Suffolk, but the business has not produced the profits it had hoped for.
Courtesy of Jim Brown at On Probation Blog