I have been to so many, so called 'high level' meetings with senior management across the public and private sectors over the years that I thought I had seen and heard everything. You will appreciate that I don't have the same licence as others to use inappropriate language in written publications but if I did, this report would be riddled with expletives deleted.
The reason for the exasperation? A session with the Transforming Rehabilitation Consultative Forum yesterday where we had one presentation from a 'high flyer' about the reoffending rates from the HMP Peterborough and Doncaster pilots and the justification for closing Doncaster down before anyone had had an opportunity to take a forensic look at the much heralded success figures continually claimed by Ministers. If the sheer economy of the truth that was on display was not bad enough then the use of distorted language was in a league of its own as in: 'We will do our best to present these figures to the public in as accurate a way as possible, but one has to understand that these are difficult figures to present.' Well that's clear then.
Moreover, the revelation that a 9% dip within the cohort being assessed was thought to be a good indicator of success immediately drew a response that suggested it would not cut the mustard under the proposed payment by results TR formula. And crucially, that it was absolutely pathetic against the average 34% reductions achieved through IOM programmes. It was absolutely unbelievable, it really was.
Exit left for the hapless messenger, after which they were followed by a colleague who is a key sponsor of 'Testgate'. Yes, I thought you would smirk at that one. It has all the intrigue of a 70's era Nixon-esque scandal, but it's actually the new 'corporatespeak' description for asking structured questions. As in: the ones that elicit precisely the answers you want to get, so that you can try and convince a wider audience of your shambolic project, from as many obsequious lackeys who are falling over themselves to find favour with the establishment.
We listened patiently to the well-rehearsed mantra that may as well have been written by someone in the parallel TR universe which, inter-alia, said that all the MoJ testing outcomes for things like the serious risk of recidivism tool and IT support structures led the department and Noms to reach the conclusion that they will achieve a smooth transition to the new operating models on 1st June, albeit that this will still be within 'a challenging environment.'
Now Mike McClelland and I were not entirely sure whether to laugh or cry at this stage, but it gave us another heaven sent opportunity to show the letter summarising the TR train crash that is already out there and rehearse our earlier broadside to another messenger (Tom and I have mailed this separately to members but below is the attachment: letter to Amy Rees.
Oddly enough, there were no laughs from the other side on sight of this but another admission that these were indeed 'challenging times' etc. etc, yawn, yawn.
More on 'Testgate' to follow, but perhaps we are being a bit hard and should merely treat the concept as just an alternative description for the real world that you are all struggling with. That one is called Planet Chaos.
If anyone over in the MoJ thinks we are the ones making it all up then have a look at this gem just in from a London activist: 'Our court team now has no space to take on *any* new reports for next 2 weeks. No stand-downs, no same-day FDRs. Thanks, new MoJ bureaucracy.'
Letter to ACPO
Also below is attached a letter that Tom and I have written to the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in our continuing attempt to engage with as wide a range of stakeholders as possible.
We will keep you posted as to progress but we hope it strikes a chord about the continuing risks associated with TR.
Hope you have all been queuing up in droves to get your questions in to Colin Allars and his merry crew at NOMS in advance of the Web chat non-event that is taking place next week.
I thought these things were supposed to be a bit spontaneous and that the 'chat' took place around current and immediate questions, but not this one. Apparently all questions have to be submitted in advance and you can only access the site via Firefox. So no problems if you are AT reliant, don't have that portal on your web page or that your keyboard may still be stuck in a crate on the next floor up somewhere along with your favourite pot plant.
Anyway I expect that the hardy souls who can actually be bothered will get their questions through and that the exchanges will be presented to Grayling as further evidence that its all going rather swimmingly Sir. How sad does it get?
Run faster please Sadiq?
Well we all echo that I know in terms of Labour's reluctance to pledge the ripping up of CRC contracts if they reach Government next May. But a svelter Sadiq has asked if I can plug his efforts in this weekends Marathon in aid of the Dispossessed Fund charity.
I gather he has trained hard and hats off for the discipline required. In fairness he has set some realistic targets such as not expecting to beat Mo Farah and reaching the finish line before Ed Balls so anything you can do by way of a contribution would be very welcome. Here is the link: Sadiq Khan sponsor