The wall of secrecy from Noms and the MoJ gets higher by the day; and yesterday’s meeting of the TR Consultative Forum was about as exasperating as it gets in terms of us not receiving straight answers to reasonably straightforward questions such as:
-Who is bidding for what CRC? (A): ‘Commercial and in confidence’
- Why have potential contractors been allowed a further opportunity to tweak their bids? (A): ‘Because they have!’
-Why have bidders who decided not to apply by the deadline not been allowed a similar facility? (A): ‘Because they haven’t!’
- Doesn’t this further evaluation stage and the announcement of Testgate 4 mean that the Share Sale timetable is now in complete disarray? (A): ‘We are still expecting to let contracts by the end of December.’
Let me be clear here: the Unions do not have a problem with any of the Officials sent to see us at these meetings but it is grossly unfair of their bosses, (and if I am being brutally honest, a tad spineless) to expose them to this sort of nonsense. We have now stepped up our request to see the new Minister and Michael Spurr to try and establish where this whole wretched,’ half baked’ scheme to auction off the Probation service actually is.
Here is my take on it all for what it is worth. CRC Chiefs were apparently told recently that there is no prospect of contracts being let before the end of the year. This means that the timetable is clearly in trouble; which in turn means that our success in securing a further testing process - as part of our ongoing legal challenges- along with the extra assessment of bids (which was never formally announced), has put the whole shabby process in an even worse place than before.
Where next Minister?
The potential scenarios in front of Grayling appear to look something like this: that he toughs it out and announces preferred bidder status to his mates in order to further demoralise the workforce even when he is awaiting the outcome of Testgate 4 which is designed to give him the answer as to whether it is safe to proceed (to share sale) or not. In so doing he will maintain his position of untold arrogance in the face of a myriad number of crisis’ that have been personally engineered by him: tagging, prisons, legal aid cuts, charities, probation etc. etc.
Or, (no make that an and) he will instruct the TR programme team to offer even more incentives to the bidders by removing or mitigating the risks that will be associated with the CRC contracts (see below for another example of blatant malfeasance in this regard).
He will seek to keep the Testgate 4 results as secret as those pertaining to ‘Testgates’ 1,2 and 3 and treat the Public Accounts Committee and Justice Committee with the same disdain that he has previously.
Or, he could admit that TR has been the most disastrously flawed change programme ever seen in any area of public service and resign; but since that is about as likely an event as Luis Suarez never biting another human being again, the only remaining exit strategy would be for him to make an announcement that because a steady operational state for TR has not been secured, and will take longer to achieve than first thought, and that Testgate 4 (which we are awaiting confirmation that we can have some input into) is unlikely to be completed in time for the above assurance, he is pausing the TR share sale. That would leave him in the clear to enter the next general election with his intention to privatise Probation being included in the Tory manifesto.
Caveat emptor (again)
No points for guessing which of the above are more likely. Meanwhile, would be bidders (who I know from our contact with some of them are regular visitors to this site) ought to note the following: you are being sold a con-trick even with all the ‘freebies’ that you are being offered; the environment that you will be entering is in operational chaos and is simply unsafe; the Labour party - should they attain office next May, have pledged to review any CRC contracts that are awarded and you really ought not to rely on their being lots of compensation available if your deal is consigned to the litter bin since the taxpayer has stumped up enough already. In short, it’s a liability pure and simple.
More sweeteners for the bidders?
Here is the official explanation regarding Tier 1 clients that was revealed by the TR programme yesterday in an answer to a previous question that we had posed. This followed some concerns we had about who would constitute an ‘Allocated Person’ within the CRC environment. Please read on but don’t all choke at once now?
What is a Tier 1 offender?
Tiering is the current probation resource model that puts offenders into 1 of 4 tiers based on likelihood of reoffending and Risk of Serious Harm. Tier 1 is the lowest and requires minimal intervention. For probation purposes, under the new system there won't be a tiering system - CRCs will be able to develop their own approach for segmenting offenders.
The vast majority of Tier 1 offenders will be managed by CRCs but they won’t be categorised as Tier 1 because this terminology will not apply in the new probation system. Tier 1 offenders will instead be referred to as ‘Allocated Persons’.
As defined in ‘Schedule 10 of the Allocated Persons Services Agreement’ an ‘Allocated Person’ is an adult who falls into one of two categories:
1. For a criminal offence:
- Has received a court sentence
- Been transferred from a Youth Offending Team
- Been transferred to England or Wales from Scotland, Northern Ireland or other jurisdiction
- Been transferred from a CRC or Contractor to another CRC or Contractor
- Been sentenced by court to a Community Order
- Been sentenced by a court to a Suspended Sentence Order
- Has been or will be released (whether or not on licence or supervision) following a custodial sentence of greater than one day.
2. For other reasons:
- Has been given an Enforcement Order
- Is aged over 18 and has been given an Attendance Centre Order
Broadly speaking, the following offenders will not be defined as ‘Allocated Persons’:
- Sentenced to a Community Order or Suspended Sentence and subject only to electronic curfew, exclusion or monitoring.
- An adult who was a juvenile at the time of sentencing unless the Authority has determined that such a person is an Allocated Person
It should be noted that for the calculation of quarterly and annual PbR cohorts the following Allocated Persons will be excluded:
- Sentenced to a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order and subject only to an Unpaid Work Requirement.
- Sentenced to a Community Order of Suspended Sentence Order and subject to an Unpaid Work Requirement plus electronic curfew, exclusion or monitoring
- Subject to an Enforcement Order
- Aged 18 or over and subject to an Attendance Centre Order
In summary, Tier 1 Offenders/Allocated Persons will be included in the annual and quarterly PbR cohorts but there will be some exclusions. At present, it is difficult to tell what proportion of Allocated Persons will fall into the excluded category.
It’s an understatement to say that this caused a bit of a stir at the TRCF and while we undertake some research which we will publish and release to members and the media next week, our understanding is that that this will remove a significant number of Tier 1 clients out of PbR and into 'fee for service', thus reducing the liability on would be contractors for people who are traditionally part of a very mixed picture when it comes to reoffending rates.
Whichever way one looks at this, it appears to be a direct and deliberate attempt to minimise bidders risk from the PbR model. We wonder whether that’s down to a loss of confidence as a result of the failed HMP pilots and/or a reaction to the nervousness of the market as well as limited engagement by the 3rd sector in the whole shambolic competition process.
This movement of not so much the goalposts as the grandstands as well, ought to raise questions about fairness amongst those contractors who based their decision not to bid for CRC’s on a different set of criteria.
Parliamentary Lobby 3rd September
That’s more than enough to be going on with for this week, but if you have not yet decided about coming to London for the big Parliamentary Lobby on 3rd September there is still time and we would love to see as many of you there as possible. This will be an ideal opportunity to show that the campaign against the share sale is far from over.
Enjoy the long weekend.