Monday, 20 September 2010

It Won't Work

It is rumoured that Army veterans are to be put in charge of violent criminals serving community service sentences.

The move follows hundreds of reports of staff being attacked or threatened by gangs of offenders doing unpaid work as part of the 'soft touch' sentences.

The Government is planning to privatise the system which has been run by the probation service for 34 years and they intend to recruit Afghanistan and Gulf War veterans to form the centre of a new get-tough policy.  Civil servants believe they can save up to £20m a year by offering retired sergeant majors and other con-commissioned officers the minimum wages of just below £6 an hour, because they are already receiving Army pensions.

Three companies, Serco, Kalyx and a consortium involving the MITIE group, have already been approved by the Ministry of Justice to tender for contracts to run the service.

Last night Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: “Community service, or unpaid work as it is now called, has been successfully run by the probation service for 34 years. Privatising to save costs, using former soldiers on minimum wages, is not the answer. It would be exploitative.
“Reports of abuse and threats are now occurring every working day. It is of great concern that there have now been shootings. There are clear implications for the health and safety of staff, offenders and the public.”
Why won't it work?  Supervising community service workers is no easy task.  Army veterans would be an ideal choice for the job and I have no problem with the service being privatised.  But to offer them £6 an hour because they receive an Army pension?  How grossly insulting.  The Army pension is said to be 'generous' but what people forget is many military personnel work years for salaries well below those they would receive in civvy street.  They do this in the knowledge that their pension will give them an adequate cushion once they leave the service.  To offer them the same wage as a 16-year-old with no qualifications is a colossal error.

Some may decide to take the job, but the majority of retired sergeant-majors and non-commissioned veterans will already have work to supplement their pension and I'd bet a pound to a penny none of them are paid £6 an hour.

If the government wants this to work then offer a decent wage for the skills that these veterans have acquired over many years.  They deserve nothing less.



Joe Public said...

Lets pay MPs & other ex- civil service retirees on gold-plated pensions a pittance for doing useful 'charity' work.

Better still, lets get a written promise from the oilks who dreampt up the scheme to promise they'll donate their leisure time on retirement.

Effing hypocrites.

Anonymous said...

To pay wages according to what people already have financially is a very dangerous precedent. Many people have some other form of income; some women over 60 have a pension, and some men over 65 work on with a pension. Should they be earning less because of this? Do MPs who have outside earnings earn less in the House of Commons? If so the Tory MP who had 10 other jobs must have been down to the minimum wage! Should people’s properties come into the equation. It’s not so long ago that property made more per week that working did.

(In fairness the minimum wage of around £6 applies to people of 22 and over. There is a reduced minimum for 18 -21 and an even smaller sum for 16 and 17 year olds.)

I take it that this is an English prison Service idea? I would be shocked to think that our people were doing this.

Personally I'm not sure about privatizing punishments. Partly for the reason that you give. They try to pay as little as possible. They get an experience man, tough and strong and used to dealing with men, and they get him as cheap as they can. This in order to maximize profit.

But it takes more than being hard and tough to cope with prisoners if you are trying to rehabilitate them.

The London government is inclined to come up with the most idiotic ideas. Remember they wanted all the failed bankers to become teachers?

subrosa said...

Hypocrites right enough Joe. These people they want to perform this responsible task for peanuts are possibly far more able to run the country than those who currently make these decisions.

subrosa said...

Sorry Tris, error on my part. They'll be getting around £1 more an hour than a 16 year old.

Can't find the source of the decision Tris but it will come into the public domain in time I expect.

I understand what you mean about privatisation but SM's are not just 'tough and strong'. They're men (usually) who have learned many other skills in dealing with people. Some are the kindest hearted people I know yet they don't suffer fools gladly.

Sheila said...

Quite sure the companies who get the tenders will be making plenty...

Haven't heard of the other two but SERCO are described in this wee Australian video as "The Biggest Company You've Never heard Of":

Mind you their own website is every bit as scary:

subrosa said...

Sheila, I had some dealings with Serco through work some years ago. I'm now convinced they're a company pushing the Common Purpose agenda.

Sheila said...

"Sheila, I had some dealings with Serco through work some years ago. I'm now convinced they're a company pushing the Common Purpose agenda."

Some relevant links on this thread from EnligtenedScot.

However what really interests me is your direct experience - a primary source if you like...

Would love to hear more - if you've blogged about it here then forgive me.

RMcGeddon said...

I remember this happening in the 90's when the Tories made thousands of servicemen redundant. Private companies moved in to do the non front line work and offered low wages to the ex servicemen saying the job was just a top up to their pensions. I don't think it was very successful and the wages creeped up as the attrition rate was so enormous. The private companies were getting engineers etc with 30 yrs experience and offering them school leavers salaries.

subrosa said...

Very interesting link Sheila. No I haven't blogged about it, it was a long time ago and hasn't been relevant to anything I've written. But if you email me I'll try to answer any questions you have.

subrosa said...

RM, I was searching for some info about that because I remember that too. It was a shocking state of affairs and not a success. Many veterans suddenly 'discovered' ways of enhancing their pensions through self-employment.

John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

I left HMF in 1974 and the 'you've got a pension so..' situation was put to me by a number of employers at that time. I refused this approach; my pension was in respect of what I had done and not what I was doing. I went into employment determined to find somewhere that did not try and take account of pension. Someone asked for my advice on something in my past line of work and a new Consultant was born. Money for old rope. Age advanced and I had more business than I wanted so I 'retired' from consultancy and went back to an employer who looked at what I did rather than what I had done. I now have four pensions so must be totally unemployable!

subrosa said...

A pension from 1974 wasn't worth much John. Wasn't it in the 80s pensioned were revised?

Good for you. I hope SM's etc aren't taken in with this and I'm sure they won't be as I've not met one who didn't have a bucketful of common sense.

RMcGeddon said...

" It was a shocking state of affairs and not a success. "

Yes you're right SR. Experienced guys who were the real characters at the heart of the Forces were made redundant because they had lower assessment numbers than the yes men who joined the golf committees and hung around the front office brown nosing all day.
I suspect history will repeat itself.

Observer said...

What government?

I haven't heard a whisper of the Scottish govt doing this.

subrosa said...

I don't think this affects Scotland Observer but I can't find anything to confirm that. Justice is a devolved issue and we don't have a Ministry of Justice here so I think it will only affect England and Wales at present.

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