Sunday, 25 September 2016

Pick of the Week 15

How much longer can the CRCs rely on 'teething problems' excuses? Good to see the contrast between the working NPS and dysfunctional CRC. I wonder if the fact that one has a public ethos has anything to do with the gulf in performance. That the CRCs would never work in the private sector was the prediction of all the experts with the exception of the neoliberal ideologues, the evidence in support of this prediction is now flowing in.

No, it's got nothing to do with teething problems and delays in implementation of so-called operating models. That sort of mitigation is glib and reeks of denial. The truth is the CRCs are not fit for purpose. The mad experiment, based on a crazy hypothesis, and soundbites about rehabilitation revolutions and £46-pound-in-your-pocket, is an affront to those working in probation, and those who receive its services.

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Is it true that the "rehabilitation revolution" is far from complete? And in what way is it far from complete? I am thinking this is it. What you see now is how it is going to be henceforth. Chaos and poor practice. But what is it the powers that be are expecting to find once the revolution is complete? Companies more adept at covering their tracks to make things look great even though they are not? These stats of performance measures which would enable the companies and the government to sing their mendacious harmonies together without the BBC suspecting a thing? Where are we expecting to be when that revolution is complete? I suspect that the mendacious harmonies is but stage one of the revolution.

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If we ever do go back to public ownership I am hoping we will not go back to how things were before the split in certain respects. I am hoping we would lose some of the less helpful aspects of how we were. There were things that held us back from actually enabling proper rehabilitation of service users coming our way. This does not mean I agreed with the privatisation. CJS should be public not subject to profit. 


Our public probation officer persona's tended to be slightly holier than thou, unable to see and admit that there by the grace of God go all of us. This was aided and abetted by the revolting OASys assessment we are still forced to use, with its implied assumption of how a person should be in order for that person to pull themselves away from offending, that the acquisition of middle class souls is what we must judge people on. In a new public world we should do more to campaign for other public services. 

Increasingly there is nowhere else for our service users to go. Advocacy should be a much more important and valued part of the job, and we should put much more pressure on our managers to give a strong and positive representation for our service users with other agencies and obviously with NOMS. And when we have proof that they do we should back them up.

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Quote - 'our public probation officer persona's tended to be slightly holier than thou, unable to see and admit that there by grace of God go all of us'.

That is a bit presumptuous. All of them? Yes, there were some pompous PO's, everyone is different, but there were more hardworking, sensitive, understanding PO's who went out of their way to support while challenging; and spending excessive amounts of time to get to know the client to develop their trust, as they explored issues in their background, whatever their character and resistance; to give them space to cry as they offloaded sadness and horror stories; and to share with the client their own personal experiences if relevant.

I and several other colleagues, would consistently work longer hours, and the thank you cards that we would receive at the end of an Order, even from the unexpected 'no-hopers', would demonstrate how much the offender appreciated our support, trust and honesty, firm but fair. Holier than thou? Where was your experience of that with every colleague? But I do agree with you about the mechanical, soulless, time consuming, repetitive OASys! But -'middle class souls'? Maybe we northerners didn't know what 'middle class' was!

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You are right to caution against the halcyon days. The probation culture did not go sour overnight. The impact of managerialism and a competitive culture based on league tables and targets, did much harm to the ethos, job satisfaction and service delivery.

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Just been reading up on the Sonnex case again. Does any of this sound familiar:

'These failings span our courts, the probation service and the Prison Service. Does the noble Lord accept that they are the direct result of an overcrowded prison estate, which has led Ministers to put concerted pressure on the courts and probation staff not to use custody, even when, as here, it was vital to protect the public? That is the primary duty of the Government. Does he accept that the failure to deliver on yet another IT system—namely C-NOMIS, which links the courts, prisons and the probation service—left staff ill-equipped to cope? The failure of IT systems is quite a constant complaint against the Government. Would the £40 million or so squandered on C-NOMIS have been better spent on strengthening front-line officer capacity? Does the Minister accept the independent review’s finding that the local probation service was inadequately staffed, diluting the supervision of such a high-risk offender? Does he also accept its finding that the probation service focused on Sonnex’s employment and accommodation needs, when its number one priority, as I said earlier, should have been public protection? This is yet another symptom of the Government’s confused priorities, paralysis and lack of direction.'

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This is just f*cking priceless. Noms/MoJ fracture a coherent, award-winning national service along artificial lines, impose ideologically driven privatised management structures & E3, then:
"18... The Ministry recognises the importance of getting the NPS and CRCs working together more effectively. It has put in place various governance structures, including ‘service integration groups’ to bring CRCs, NPS and NOMS together to work through operational challenges. The Ministry has also sought to identify and share good joint working practices, such as those existing in Wales, that it feels can be learned from and adapted to the different circumstances across England."
What a pack of a*seholes. Want more evidence? Try this corker:
"20. The Ministry has plans to make these savings, which include reviewing the way it carries out contract management and replacing specialist contractors with more affordable civil servants."
Grayling, Wright, Brennan, Romeo, Spurr etc etc should be facing charges of negligence in public office.

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"MoJ stance of being deliberately unprescriptive on how services should be delivered"...Well here in London CRC those of us who questioned the wisdom of their cohort model from the outset were told that the cohorts had to be gone through with because it was on the basis of the cohort idea that MTC Novo obtained their contract from MoJ. So I don't know who exactly was being inflexible about that. Now however there are moves afoot to undo aspects of the cohort model since it is unworkable. It is all so predictable it brings tears to my eyes. But why is it so hard for them to see these things coming from afar? It is not as if it was ever going to save them money running cohorts. I don't understand any of it.

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Staff in LondonCRC warned that the cohort model would be a disaster and we're proved right. We have to suffer the indignity of foreign multinational corporations employing random failed ex prison governors who after being placed in charge on large salaries proceed to teach us to suck eggs or else then when they fail again they bring in their mates who are also ex prison governors and/or failed/discredited prison inspectors to tell them what we were saying in the first place. You couldn't make this stuff up. Many offenders in London haven't been seen for over a year due to the chaos. And who the heck wanted to have tea with Helga? Hands up you hiding in the corner .......

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As a manager I must say London have at times been shocking. No one returns calls. Case transfer updates are never received. No enforcement seems to occur. Sincere lack of national process awareness. The buck must stop with their managers.


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No one returns calls? They don't even pick up their phones or respond to emails!!

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MTCnovo and their biggest company LondonCRC are a bad joke. The phones don't work, the laptops don't work and weigh a ton so everyone is going to sue their asses for shoulder and back injury, SPOs are nowhere to be seen (agile working means sitting on your sofa catching up on daytime TV) and some boast they have only contacted their staff via Skype. The offices are deserted. Records are being fabricated because there is no local oversight and some people are taking advantage because they know the idiots at the top haven't got a clue and are in it for the money. They talk big but to be honest they won't last until 2017 let alone 2020

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Through the Gate, one of the flagships of TR. Improving services for those serving less than 12 months. Providing services and support for these individuals was a winning argument, as it made such good sense. But two years on MPs report that 'two-thirds of offenders released from prison have not received enough help pre-release in relation to accommodation, employment or finances'. TR is a confidence trick!

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Far from being met at the gate by a mentor 'remember them?' and a wrap around service that would provide stability and support, I'm seeing a growing number of under 12 month prisoners being released to rough sleeping where the only support then can draw upon is from homeless charities. It's a disgrace, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon. Someone should be held to account, not just Grayling and the Tories, but also the catering and cleaning companies paid for the delivery of services. Rehabilitation Revolution? It's just poppycock!

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We had an emergency team meeting - told not to discuss private things in public and forbidden to talk about Jim Brown at work. Also 50% of cases don't have an OASys. That means 50% of offenders don't have a risk assessment or sentence plan. Why is this not in the national news? Helga cut facility time for Napo - let's cut her metaphorically speaking.

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Nice to see Mr McDowell has found a role for himself in the private sector since his fall from grace. With Mrs McDowell running Sodexo & Mr McD leading the 'London CRC Change Plan', does this give the McDowell household the most significant influence in CRCs? It must surely eclipse that other CRC power couple, Nigel & Andrea Bennett?

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I heard a number of people have already been suspended and managers are flapping around pretending they have only just discovered what a huge mess all the cases are in.

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If they had their time again I wonder how many of the CRC owners would have bid? I have little sympathy for them, but they they have put themselves in an impossible position. I don't think it will be long before more of them have to admit it openly or find a face saving way of ducking out. Having taken on these contracts they find themselves as central to the problem - unworkable contracts in a sector which should never have been privatised on ethical grounds.

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Yawn! why do we do this? The armchair mood hoovers are just empty vessels as all of it's just speculation until the report has been published. I come back to the question time and time again. If people are so unhappy why not leave?

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Well lots don't stay. Others do cos they have mortgages. Or inertia or loyalty to an idea that is dead. Or hope it will improve. Nobody l know has stayed because they embrace TR.

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One or two appear to embrace TR but privately believe it's a bottomless crock of guano that only serves to pay the bills until they can hop on another failing cash cow. Having long battled with prison staff the owners of CRCs regard probation staff as a softer target. They are part of the problem and just an extension of the states apparatus of suppression.

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Thing is, if the inspection is happening in your office it is quite easy to gain a feeling as to how things are going by what is being said or asked by the Inspectors. The response from Helga is bland go say the least, and unnecessary if this is just mischief making as the truth will out in the final report, and will be available for all to read on the HMIP website.

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I wonder how long Helga has got before the axe falls on her own neck? Maybe some other chancer from the prison service would like a go. The boys with the bionic badges from Utah will not be impressed by incompetence chaos and failure. Believe It Or Not It's Crap.

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MTCnovo's strapline is Believe It Or Not I Care (BIONIC). How much do they care by ending union facility time? I heard in one case a Napo rep was prevented by their manager under threat of disciplinary action not to accompany their member to a capability hearing even though the policy said they had a right to be represented. Surely what they are doing is illegal? I heard Napo may be calling in the HSE due to the state of some of their buildings as NPS staff are refusing to work in them.

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How big is London and Thames Valley's case load? Because MTCnovo haven't risk assessed or initiated sentence plans for 50% of offenders. I heard from a close pal (ACO) they are in special measures losing money. If I had shares I'd dump them before they become toxic.

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Some PSOs in certain Cohorts with 140 cases in London and POs dealing with DV and Child protection cases with caseloads in high 80s-90s.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

MP's Raise the Alarm

This from Civil Service World:-

MPs raise alarm on Ministry of Justice’s “Transforming Probation” programme

The Ministry of Justice is unable to demonstrate that wide-ranging reforms to the way offender rehabilitation services are run are a success, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have warned in their latest report. Members also said that so-called Community Rehabilitation Companies introduced to the system as part of the “Transforming Probation” reforms faced significant barriers, including delays in accessing the National Offender Management Service ICT system.

The PAC said that although the new regime was aimed at saving £12bn over seven years, the ICT issues alone had so far required compensation payments of more than £20m from the department. Their findings build on a National Audit Office report from April, which found that Transforming Probation’s splitting of services between the privately-owned CRCs and the National Probation Service had resulted in “unsurprising frictions” between public and private-sector staff.

The MoJ announced its "rehabilitation revolution" in 2012, and in June 2014 it split 35 probation trusts into a the NPS and 21 new CRCs. The public sector NPS now advises courts on sentencing all offenders and manages those presenting higher risks. CRCs supervise offenders presenting a low- of medium-risk of harm. However, the PAC said that more than two years into the transformation, there was no clear data on how the new arrangements were performing, and none was expected to be available until the end of 2017.

Committee chair Meg Hillier said the MoJ had set itself an ambitious target for the programme, which was still a work in progress at a time when the department was looking to halve its administration costs and drive reforms to the courts and prisons services.

“We are disappointed that, given the human and economic costs of reoffending, gaps in data mean the overall effectiveness of the reforms cannot be properly assessed,” she said. “Reintegrating offenders with the community is vitally important yet the quality of arrangements to support this is patchy. There is also a continued failure to provide hard-pressed probation staff with adequate computer systems.”

The PAC said there was a wide variation in the quality of arrangements to provide continuity between rehabilitation within prison and the community, and that CRCs’ “through the gate” services had not gone as well as the MoJ and NOMS had wanted.

They added that despite original aspirations for a wide variety of CRC providers, including mutual and charities, all but one of the CRCs was run by a private operator. MPs said the MoJ’s stance of being “deliberately unprescriptive” on how services should be delivered made it hard to evaluate their success.

“CRCs are expected to fund innovative programmes through their general resources,” the report said. “It is not clear to us how far this is actually happening. The ministry is reviewing the contracts with CRCs and considering what it should do to ensure that they create the right incentives for service delivery now, rather than relying just on a payment-by-results outcome in a few years’ time.”

MPs also warned that despite the importance of joint working across probation services, the relevant ICT systems were “inefficient, unreliable and hard to use”. They singled out NOMS’ nDelius case management system as a particular source of frustration that put "added pressure on hard-pressed staff”, and highlighted a £23m compensation payment made to CRCs by the ministry over delays in providing an access gateway to the NOMS ICT system.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the PAC report appeared to indicate that services were getting worse, increasing the risk to the public and letting down staff in the process. “The break-up of the public probation service was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer,” he said.

“Even though the probation watchdog waited more than a year for the new arrangements to bed down before carrying out local inspections, the reports we have seen show that the quality of work has declined. The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view.”

Justice minister Sam Gyimah said a comprehensive review of the probation service was being undertaken, with the aim of improving outcomes for offenders and communities. “Public protection is our top priority and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to make sure our vital reforms are being delivered to reduce reoffending, cut crime and prevent future victims,” he said.


--oo00oo--

Everything in this Public Accounts Committee report was widely predicted on this blog and despite all the official MoJ warm words, completely confirms in spades the anecdotal evidence that rolls in on a daily basis. In my view it's so important, it's worth quoting extensively:-

Offenders with short prison sentences

4.A crucial element of the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ was the extension of statutory rehabilitation in the community to an estimated extra 45,000 offenders sentenced for less than 12 months. For too long this group has had worryingly high reoffending levels, currently at nearly 60%, with the Ministry finding it extremely difficult to stop the constant “revolving door” of short-sentence prisoners. The extension of supervision has created extra strain across the criminal justice system through a significant increase in offenders being recalled to prison from the community for breaching their licence. Quarterly data from the Ministry shows the number of recalls increased by around 28% between 2014 and 2015. Some increase in recalls is to be expected from extending supervision and the Ministry regards the rate as within its expectations. But it is not clear to us that the Ministry and NOMS understands the full significance of the increased recalls or, more importantly, how this critical group of short-sentence offenders is responding to supervision, a concern expressed in the NAO’s report and other testimony we received.

5.The extension of supervision has also put additional workload onto staff already under pressure in prisons and probation and has created further friction between NPS and CRC staff. Indeed, as the Howard League for Penal Reform emphasises, the increase in the number of people recalled to custody is “pushing additional pressure and costs onto the already overstretched and under resourced prison service”.The decision whether an offender is recalled to custody is taken by the NPS; however, where the offender is supervised by a CRC, CRCs will provide the NPS with the evidence that offenders have breached their terms of supervision. The NPS may reject the CRCs notifications and, in some cases, this is happening for minor reasons such as spelling and grammatical errors in the notification. The Ministry has not provided us with the number of CRC recall requests that have been rejected by the NPS but claims that the level would be negligible. We received evidence that some CRC staff were discouraged from recommending enforcement action through the courts because it attracted financial penalties under the contracts. If widespread, this would produce fewer recalls than would otherwise be the case.


Continuity of rehabilitation beyond prison

6.Since May 2015, the 21 CRCs have delivered “Through the Gate” services in which they assess the initial needs of all offenders in custody, provide them with resettlement services in preparation for release and, where appropriate, meet them on release and work with them in the community. The Ministry acknowledged that the mobilisation of this resettlement work in prison has not developed as quickly and as well as it would have wanted. It is over a year since “Through the Gate” services were introduced yet it is a concern that there is still wide variation in the quality of resettlement services provided to offenders by CRCs in prisons across England and Wales. Given that the provision of “Through the Gate” services was an important part of the changes introduced under Transforming Rehabilitation, it is significant that over two-thirds of offenders released from prison have not received enough help pre-release in relation to accommodation, employment or finances. The extent of variation and service quality issues have led the Ministry to review its current arrangements, including the contracts in place with CRCs.

7.One of the biggest challenges in delivering successful probation and resettlement services in custody and the community is giving offenders access to services beyond the direct control of the justice system. Accessing services such as housing, education and employment requires the NPS and CRCs to work with, and influence, local and health authorities, police forces and other crucial providers. For example, the NPS finds it can be acutely challenging to find housing for sex offenders near their families, as local communities would rather they were placed elsewhere in the country. While the CRCs’ contracts incentivise them to find accommodation for offenders, we heard that the offender housing problem is deteriorating, with 42% of service users participating in research carried out for the NAO feeling that help with housing has got worse since the probation reforms.


2 Barriers to achieving the “rehabilitation revolution”


Reduced business for Community Rehabilitation Companies


8.The case volumes of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are much lower, by between 6% and 36%, than the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) had predicted when letting the contracts. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) attributed this, in part, to the changing nature of the offender caseload and the mix of cases that have come to be managed by both the National Probation Service (NPS) and by the CRCs. They also noted more pronounced change in rural than urban areas. Despite lower than expected case volumes leading to reduced income, CRCs have begun to introduce some innovative practices, such as equipping staff with new technology, new “one-stop” service centres and working with cohorts of individuals in very different ways. The extent of this innovation has, however, been slowed by unresolved negotiations between the CRCs and the Ministry to address the impact of the volume reductions on CRCs’ income. These negotiations were ongoing at the time of the NAO report in April 2016 and were still not resolved at the time of our evidence session in July 2016.

9.The changing offender caseload has also added significant pressure to the NPS staff who are having to manage higher than expected numbers of more violent and sexual offenders. When combined with flawed ICT systems and pressure on NPS managers to deliver support services, this puts staff under increased pressure and negatively impacts morale. NOMS commended probation staff and those working in the NPS and CRCs for keeping services running over a period of sustained change.

Incentives to innovate

10.The Ministry intended that the probation reforms would incentivise CRCs to deliver innovative approaches to delivering offender supervision and support services. It was deliberately unprescriptive about how CRCs would deliver services to different groups of offenders as it wanted to give CRCs freedom to develop their own approaches to how to help and support someone to change. This stance allows space for innovation but can pose risks to maintaining services, in particular for specific minority groups, such as women offenders.

11.Voluntary organisations raised the quality of services delivered to female offenders as a particular concern, as women have different needs in respect of the services that will support them to stop reoffending. There is a statutory responsibility on CRCs to provide services for women but services are inconsistent across England and Wales as the statutory responsibility is not supported by more detailed specification. We received evidence highlighting concerns about the decline in CRC funding for women’s services, as well as perverse incentives to focus on contract performance rather than service quality. The Ministry emphasised that the closure of HMP Holloway, announced in November 2015, provides an opportunity to rethink the shape and size of the female prison estate. It expects that the closure will result in a different way of accommodating women prisoners and fewer women in prison. The Committee will follow closely developments in the women’s prison estate and the impact this has on probation services.

12.The Ministry told us that its payment-by-results pilots in Doncaster and Peterborough prisons had established that organisations were not prepared to be paid solely based on a payment-by-results basis for reducing reoffending. Under the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme, CRCs are primarily paid for delivering specified services with only a small element, around 10%, of payments expected to be paid on the basis of reduced reoffending. The pilots also helped the Ministry to refine the payment-by-results mechanism to take into account the frequency of re-offending. We have, however, received persuasive testimony on risks posed by the payment mechanism and by arrangements in CRCs’ supply chains. For example, the payment mechanism can reduce the incentive to adopt innovative practices. Established approaches to reducing reoffending, such as group-based accredited programmes, and more innovative approaches, such as the Care Farm Model in Warwickshire and West Mercia, are both important methods. Where a court orders an accredited programme this will attract specific funding. But if the CRC has its own innovative interventions and the court consents to this through a general Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, these must be funded from the CRC’s general resources. Submissions to us cited a “race to the bottom” on service quality, with specialised, individual-focused services being decommissioned in favour of generic group activities. This, combined with NPS court staff lacking understanding on the range of services now available, means that some innovative approaches are not being used or funded.

13.The NPS recognises that it has more to do to provide the appropriate advice to sentencers and the judiciary on exactly what rehabilitation services are now available from CRCs, whose staff are not normally present in court proceedings. The NPS also cited examples where it is trying to deliver innovation, as part of its Efficiency, Effectiveness and Excellence (E3) programme, in areas such as the accreditation of its approved premises and its training of probation officers.

Third sector involvement

14.The reforms had a specific objective to open up probation to a wide range of rehabilitation providers, including mutuals and the third sector, to provide further innovation in supervising offender. To understand the market’s appetite to sign up to contracts where payment is based on reducing reoffending, in May 2012, the Ministry tendered contracts for a pilot offender rehabilitation programme at Leeds prison. The Ministry closed the competition after bidders decided not to compete. It claimed to have learned from this pilot that the voluntary sector, who are often smaller organisations, had less capacity than private sector bidders to accept financial and commercial risk. It is not evident to us that this learning was applied to the CRC procurement with all but one of the 21 CRCs now controlled by private sector owners. Voluntary organisations felt that the Ministry had sought to transfer more risk than charities, or their trustees, could accept.

15.The Ministry pointed to a wider supply chain supporting CRC owners, including organisations from the community health, skills and education and employment support sectors. However, evidence submissions to us raised concerns about how voluntary sector organisations are being treated by the CRCs and the NPS. Research into the sector has found that the pace of change has been slow, reducing investment by CRCs in voluntary suppliers’ work, that the reforms have not succeeded in creating a diverse supply chain, and that poor quality communication with the voluntary sector is damaging relations and impeding service improvement. The research also highlighted that while some services remain unchanged, very few voluntary sector organisations are seeing an improvement in probation services. In many cases, these organisations are reporting negative experiences and outcomes for services users. We also received further evidence that organisations involved were not clear about the commitments in the contracts including performance indicators, financial penalties and incentives.


Enabling joint working

16.Successful probation services depend on effective joint-working across various partners, supported by well-functioning ICT systems. Probation ICT systems have long been unfit for purpose, which hinders collaboration and frustrates staff who already work under pressure. We were told that the nDelius case management system used by NOMS had to be stripped back so it could be operated by CRCs and NPS regions nationwide as a single system. As a result, this reduced the useability of nDelius and NPS staff regularly raise ICT issues with senior leaders in NOMS. Improving nDelius is a priority for NOMS and is particularly important for the NPS who will continue to use the system for the foreseeable future.

17.Most CRCs are installing their own case management systems and ICT infrastructure to increase efficiency and productivity. For this to happen, CRCs needed the Ministry to provide a “strategic partner gateway” to link NOMS and CRC systems. The Ministry initially planned to deliver this gateway in the summer of 2015 but this was delayed by other priorities and subsequently by increased scope. Though the gateway is now in place, the delay has impacted some CRCs’ ability to transform their ICT systems at the pace they had planned. As a result, the Ministry has had to pay a total of £23.1 million to 17 CRCs.

18.The probation reforms broke long-established working relationships, which many staff have found difficult to adjust to. The Ministry recognises the importance of getting the NPS and CRCs working together more effectively. It has put in place various governance structures, including ‘service integration groups’ to bring CRCs, NPS and NOMS together to work through operational challenges. The Ministry has also sought to identify and share good joint working practices, such as those existing in Wales, that it feels can be learned from and adapted to the different circumstances across England.

19.The NPS told us it is currently trying to deliver a more consistent service to offenders across its seven regions within England and Wales. It wants to ensure best practice in offender supervision is shared across England and Wales, rather than have a standardised ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, the NPS is struggling with a high workload and difficulties accessing services outside its direct control, such as housing, education and work. HM Inspectorate of Probation advised us that staff morale, training, workloads and line management are all variable and will need to improve if Transforming Rehabilitation is to be fully effective. NPS managers are also finding it extremely challenging to take on the additional responsibility of providing support services to their staff. The NPS told us that it was right for managers to take responsibility for their staff, but it also recognised that it had not appreciated the significance of, and the investment required in, providing support through a shared service centre.


Wider pressures on the Ministry

20.The Ministry now has to see through the intended improvements in probation services alongside multiple changes in areas such as the prisons and courts systems. The Ministry accepted that the Transforming Rehabilitation procurement process had probably diverted attention away from other areas. It wants to make sure that in future “business as usual” activities or second order change programmes receive the same amount of attention. It is conscious of current pressures in the prisons estate: the increase in violence and self-harm, new psychoactive substances and the attendant security risks. However, the Ministry is also facing significant resource pressures, having to deliver savings to its administrative budget of 50% by 2019–20 and overall resource savings of 15% by 2019–20. The Ministry has plans to make these savings, which include reviewing the way it carries out contract management and replacing specialist contractors with more affordable civil servants.

21.The Ministry has committed to provide prison governors with greater autonomy to decide the services delivered in their prisons, and it is unclear what impact this would have on CRCs already providing “Through the Gate” services. The extent to which these plans will continue will be determined by new Ministers following the reshuffle in July 2016.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Latest From Napo 119

Here's the latest blog post from the General Secretary:-

HMIP and PAC reports - it's time for the government to act.

How timely, just ahead of our AGM, come two damning reports. The first by HMI Probation into the performance of private provider RRP in Derbyshire and the second, from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee into what they describe as the failure of Transforming Rehabilitation.

No surprise to us of course, and they are not the first or the last of their kind that have appeared, as the impact of Graylings ill-considered social experiment becomes increasingly clearer. The links to both reports appear below and as you would expect we issued media releases as soon as we picked up on the Press Association alerts.

At the time of writing we have had BBC Radio 4 showing interest on the back of our ongoing work with them about the public safety issues that they are chasing down in a number of CRC's. As you will appreciate this is a delicate issue given the propensity of the media to sensationalise incidents involving serious harm or death and the need for us to do all that we can to raise serious questions around public protection.

Probation union Napo responds to HMIP report on Derbyshire probation services

Public Accounts Committee report echoes probation union 's concerns on the failures of Transforming Rehabilitation

Over and above the various issues contained in the two reports comes a looming crisis over funding and the financial viability of some CRC providers who have seen major reductions in the WAV (Weighted Annualised Volumes) for the caseloads that they hold.

The obvious conclusion is that there is a reduction in the numbers of CRC service users but actually its more complicated than that, with growing evidence of a rise in higher risk cases (especially sexually related offences) that need to remain in the NPS, and reductions in the activities required of the CRCs in respect of the clients on their books. Throw in the complexities of the less than transparent payment by results formula, and the reasonable gripes of many CRC owners that they purchased a bit of a dud at share sale, then we have a growing crisis that requires high level intervention. Hopefully we will get a bit more by way of a reaction from the Ministry than the: 'its still early days' mantra.

We have a crisis and its time to take remedial action now.


Top judge sounds alarm bell over care cases

This is a really interesting blog by the President of the Family Courts Sir James Munby. I am sure the subject matter will feature in the debates at next weeks Family Court Section General Meeting in Cardiff and the professional session the following day. We will be contacting Sir James to enquire if he would be willing to have an article published in Napo Quarterly.

Care Cases -- The Looming Crisis

Napo demands clarity over AP Issues

Napo and Unison met with the employers this week to discuss some of the issues that have been raised by our AP members over the E3 implementation plans for Approved Premises. It was a useful meeting which, as always, resulted in many more issues being identified. We did secure an agreement that a Q&A document will be issued by NOMS, most likely next week, to give members answers to the majority of the issues you have raised. We will obviously be having ongoing discussions with the employers on these issues so do continue to feed any concerns and queries in via your local branch.

In the meantime we are aware that some members will be attending their 1:1 meetings and this is obviously a cause of some anxiety when queries and questions remain unanswered. Despite our requests for this part of the process to be paused until the requested information can be provided the employers have decided that they cannot delay the implementation in any way. It might be their call but we think its a mistake.

For that reason we have issued the following advice to members attending 1:1 meetings with their line manager. 
  • Prepare any questions or queries you have in advance and ask your manager to note at the end of the meeting any that remain unanswered with a description of how the answers will be sought and a plan for a further meeting once answers are available.
  • Ask your line manager to make a note that any decisions made during the meeting are subject to change if new information comes to light later.
  • Make sure you ask which roles you have been matched to, if you do not agree there is an appeal process attached to the pro-forma for the meetings.
  • If you are not happy with anything that happens in the meeting seek advice from your local branch rep in the first instance.
  • For members wishing to change the number of hours they work (for example from part time to full time or vice versa), you can do this at the same time as the E3 1:1 process, using the relevant form from My Services. Your line manager should be able to help you find this.
We will issue further more detailed advice on this and E3 related matters as soon as we can.

Looking forward to AGM!

This is certainly looking like its going to be an action packed gathering with some serious issues to be debated such as NNC Reform, our future professional strategy, and the many issues being faced by our members across all the employers that we cover.

I hope to see even more late registrations to boost the numbers even further, and I look forward to welcoming everyone and especially new members and first time AGM attendees to Cardiff.

--oo00oo--

Other news here:-  

Update on NPS - E3 Approved Premises

Napo along with UNISON met with the employers on 12th September to discuss some of the issues that have been raised as part of the E3 implementation for Approved Premises. This was a useful meeting however there are some issues that require further discussion. We did secure an agreement that a Q&A document will be issued, most likely next week, to give members answers to the majority of the issues raised. We will be having ongoing discussions with the employers on these issues so continue to feed any concerns and queries via your local branch.

In the meantime we are aware that some members will be attending their 1:1 meetings and this is a cause of some anxiety when queries and questions remain unanswered. Despite our requests for this part of the process to be paused until the requested information can be provided, the employers have decided that they cannot delay the implementation in any way.

For that reason we issue the following advice to members attending 1:1 meetings with their line manager:

  • Prepare any questions or queries you have in advance and ask your manager to note at the end of the meeting any that remain unanswered with a description of how the answers will be sought and a plan for a further meeting once answers are available.
  • Ask your line manager to make a note that any decisions made during the meeting are subject to change if new information comes to light later.
  • Make sure you ask which roles you have been matched to, if you do not agree there is an appeal process attached to the pro-forma for the meetings.If you are not happy with anything that happens in the meeting seek advice from your local branch rep in the first instance.
For members wishing to change the number of hours they work (for example from part time to full time or vice versa), you can do this at the same time as the E3 1:1 process, using the relevant form from My Services. Your line manager should be able to help you find this.

Further more detailed advice will be issued in due course.

--oo00oo--

As a bonus, I'll throw in his recent article for the Morning Star:- 

Round after round of government cuts have left probation close to the point of no return, says Ian Lawrence

The criminal justice system has been in chaos since the days of the coalition as a result of rushed decision-making based on ideology rather than evidence. While some of these decisions have been subsequently overturned by Michael Gove, such as criminal court charges and the prisoner book ban, there is still much to do to secure the future and sustainability of the justice system. Although it has been well publicised that prisons are in chaos with overcrowding and increased violence, the damage caused to the probation service following the rushed privatisation in 2015 has now reached a critical point.


The Probation System Review currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice is recognition on the part of the government that all is not well in probation. The Community Rehabilitation Companies’ (CRC) income from providing probation services is well below that predicted by the MoJ and, as pointed out in a National Audit Office report, raises real concerns about their financial viability and sustainability for the next eight years. Some 1,700 jobs have been cut so far from the private companies, with lack of money being the main reason cited. 
Services are not being delivered to the standard they had been prior to Transforming Rehabilitation being implemented and the HMI Probation are still raising ongoing concerns about the quality of work and staff morale in the CRCs.

In the National Probation Service (still publicly owned) resources are woefully low for staff to carry out their jobs effectively. Further austerity cuts to the MoJ have resulted in cost-cutting operating models that contradict evidence-based practice of effectively reducing reoffending and protecting the public.


Napo members face burnout as they try to cope with working solely with high and very high risk of harm clients and public safety is being jeopardised. Napo, a trade union and professional association, is therefore calling on the new Secretary of State to work with us to remedy the situation urgently. We need to invest in a long-term strategy to maintain professional standards across probation providers. This includes an effective recruitment strategy and a full pay review for staff who have had six years of the pay freeze so far. Greater autonomy for the National Probation Service is needed to enable the organisation to work with local communities and not be run centrally by Whitehall. Quality service delivery, increased professionalism and training for staff and to ensure there is value for money for the taxpayer.


While the press have focused on the prison crisis, it cannot be resolved in isolation. A
robust and effective contract management of the CRCs must be maintained to ensure holistic approach is required to reform the whole of the justice sector, but this approach must be based on evidence of what works and not just political ideology and soundbites.


We can still save the probation service and thus offer a viable alternative to custody. But unless there is a commitment from the government to do this, the probation service could be decimated to the point of no return and a world-renowned service could be lost to us forever. 


Ian Lawrence is general secretary of Napo.

TR in Derbyshire

Especially aimed at those persistant commentators on this blog who say things are 'just fine' with TR, here's how it's going in Derbyshire, as reported on the BBC website:-

Probation in Derbyshire has 'slipped' after reforms, says report

Supervision of criminals in Derbyshire has got worse since the government out-sourced parts of the probation service, the chief inspector of probation says. Dame Glenys Stacey said the standard of some services in the county was now "significantly lower" than before.

In 2014, the government replaced probation trusts in England and Wales with 21 rehabilitation companies, made up of private firms and charities. A Probation Service spokesperson said it would "monitor performance closely".

Probation reforms, implemented by the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, overhauled the supervision of released prisoners and people serving community sentences in England and Wales. As part of the changes, the probation service was split in two, with community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium-risk offenders.

At the same time a National Probation Service (NPS) took over the supervision of high-risk offenders.

In one of her first inspection reports since the new system was introduced, Dame Glenys says she found no evidence that public protection was being made a priority by Reducing Reoffending Partnership - the CRC that won the contract in four counties in the East Midlands.

Her report said the "quality of work" provided by the company in Derbyshire was "significantly lower" than it was under the former Probation Trust - describing it as "poor" in some areas. Dame Glenys said many staff felt the new approach to rehabilitation was "not yet a reality". She said the CRC had "ambitious plans for an effective and modern probation service, to make a difference to people's life chances and reduce re-offending". However, she said the implementation of the changes has been "troublesome and slow" and that "standards have slipped. Leaders do need to focus on delivering good quality services today as well as improving tomorrow," she said.

She went on: "The public can be reassured, however, that the National Probation Service in Derbyshire is managing high-risk offenders well."

Catherine Holland, chief executive of Reducing Reoffending Partnership, said the probation team in Derbyshire was working hard to keep the public safe "by reducing reoffending". 

"We welcome this inspection report which identifies recommendations and many areas of good practice. We will use its findings to further strengthen our work," she said.

A government spokesman said "public protection and reducing reoffending will always be our priority. "We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and insisted a robust action plan was developed by the CRC. We will continue to monitor performance closely."

However, Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report indicated the probation service was "letting down people who are trying to change their lives.The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view," he added.

--oo00oo--

From the report:-

Overview

Overall, the quality of work was mixed, and differed as between the CRC and the NPS. 

The quality of CRC work was significantly lower than that we saw formerly in the Probation Trust, and was in some respects poor. Assessments and plans were often not good enough, and purposeful rehabilitation work was seen in too few cases. We expect to see public protection prioritised, yet we did not find evidence of this. The organisation was still in transition, with systems implementation taking longer than anticipated. 

The NPS was in a better position. A strong, legacy culture of good professional practice and a focus on public protection prevailed. The quality of work was generally good and the NPS was effective in protecting the public and assisting the rehabilitation of offenders. 

Staff and leaders in the CRC had experienced and were still experiencing a great deal of change, those in the NPS less so. No doubt this affected the quality of CRC work: CRC senior staff were still occupied with the imperatives of change implementation.

Staffing 

CRC leaders thought the organisation was short-changed in the allocation of staff to Derbyshire on inception. Derbyshire were slightly under the allocated resource at the time of the Probation Trust split and this was compounded by a disproportionate number of staff, compared to the rest of the CRC, leaving for jobs in the NPS and prisons around January 2015. Numerous attempts have been made to recruit permanent staff, with varied success, leading to a high level of agency staff being deployed in the interim. At the time of the inspection Derbyshire were continuing to recruit as current operational staffing levels were below those identified in the target operating model. 

Managers 

First line manager numbers had reduced from seven to four, in line with the operating model. Several front-line staff said they did not feel adequately supported, with those managers taking on new responsibilities for buildings, performance, personnel issues and other matters. Managers reported they had not been able to maintain a focus on service delivery, for similar reasons. The changes had reduced significantly the time available to them for promoting quality practice. We found few instances of management oversight adding value to the work of practitioners. Only 4 (of 36) practitioners said that inadequate management oversight had limited their ability to achieve positive outcomes with service users. We considered the situation was more problematic than this figure suggests, as few cases could show that management input had either added value to the work, or resolved concerns about work that was of poor quality. 

Workloads 

Frequent reassignment of cases, together with staffing levels below those planned and new (short sentence cases) work led to very high caseloads for responsible officers. Several said their caseloads were around 70. They felt their caseloads and workloads had increased since CRC inception. For some, the workload pressures had increased as a consequence of holding more complex cases. The frequent use of agency staff led to high levels of caseload reassignment. Some staff told us that often they did not know anything about the case when they saw a service user for the first time. There was an element for many service users of having to ‘start again’. One was very critical of the number of different responsible officers he had had. He said: 
“I’m well p***ed off. I’ve now had four different workers in six months. I’m sick of telling them the same stuff. Can they not look in my file? Yeah, I did wrong but how would they feel if they had to keep telling different people about their personal stuff?” 
Delays in implementing key aspects of the operating model (new IT systems and interface, and the customer services centre) designed to free up responsible officer time and improve efficiency and effectiveness left individual workloads not conducive to delivering high quality services. 

It was not reasonable to expect responsible officers to achieve consistently the rehabilitation and public protection goals required. We asked responsible officers if their workload had an impact on their ability to deliver positive outcomes in their work with service users. Almost three-quarters said it was having a negative impact on the quality of their work. 

Staff told us that the reality for them consisted of fewer staff with higher caseloads, having to do what they could with the limited resources available. A practitioner told us:
“high caseloads have led to us having less time to spend with service users. Some cases can have five or six responsible officers over the term of their order. There is no consistency for service users. We have had a big turnover of staff and agency workers. It tends to be agency workers’ cases that are getting passed around the team. Some cases are going two to three weeks without a responsible officer. Some agency workers are not up-to-speed when they start, as they are not familiar with the work or systems, having been out of practice for a while”.
Just over half of the 36 staff who answered the question felt that that their training and support had enabled them to help the individual who had offended to achieve positive outcomes. Several staff told us that they felt their level of professionalism had dropped since CRC inception and that they did not experience the CRC as prioritising quality of work.

Operational sites 

The CRC’s estates strategy had seen the Derby team recently move into new business premises. Staff had encountered a number of problems with the new building and several reported that they had not had suitable responses to the concerns raised. Ongoing issues in respect of IT, the perceived lack of suitable interview spaces, and health and safety concerns had left many staff demoralised. Some were concerned that critical telephone or email messages were not getting through and that they might be missing important information about, and from, service users and others. During the coordination of this inspection we also encountered difficulties in communicating with CRC staff, both by telephone and email. Much of this was no doubt initial ‘teething problems’ with the new building but the experience of staff in Derby was raising concerns for staff elsewhere, as others would also be moving to new premises in the near future. 

Supporting systems 

The CRC was still reliant on legacy systems, but had provided staff with new hardware while innovating, and developing a new case management system known as ‘Partnership Works’. Partnership Works is designed to reduce double entry of information, support case administration, and help practitioners to develop quality sentence plans and put in place the right interventions, thereby enabling them to manage high caseloads and spend more time with service users. 

Development has progressed, but before use the system must be approved NOMS. The approval process is onerous, staged, and lengthy (the process began in 2015). Managers were anxious, as the CRC’s new operating model depends on successful implementation of the system. Managers were hopeful of conditional approval in late September, but were concerned at the likely demands of the further stages to full approval, and the potential for significant consequential delays in implementing the new operating model. 

The CRC was the first to try and link to the Ministry of Justice’s Strategic Partnership Gateway, the facility that would enable the various systems to work together. The Strategic Partnership Gateway was not yet available. CRC managers confirmed all those involved understood its importance and Ministry of Justice staff had been working to provide interim solutions. The delay was nevertheless hampering the CRC’s ability to provide their new customer services centre. The customer service centre aimed to go live in September 2016, using alternative enablers, until Partnership Works is launched.

--oo00oo--

I notice that news about Derbyshire has prompted a rare press release from Napo - apparently the first since May:-

Probation union Napo responds to HMIP report on Derbyshire Probation Services.

The HMIP report on Derbyshire Probation Services is damning of the service being provided by the Community Rehabilitation Company owned by RRP.

The report highlights that there has been a significant reduction in the quality of the service being provided in comparison to the previous Probation Trust which was dissolved in 2014.

Napo is deeply concerned that the report exposed so many failings and in particular those relating to public protection and safeguarding. However, this is in line with reports from our members about excessive workloads and a shortage of experienced staff following an unnecessary redundancy process. There has been a consistent failure on the part of the CRC to provide adequate ICT and the introduction of a poor telephony system has only exacerbated the issue of poor communication between agencies and service users.

Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: "Whilst Napo is not surprised by this report we are saddened that our predictions of service failure following the privatisation of probation have come true. We warned the government that these so called reforms would reduce the quality of service delivery and have direct impact on public protection. We now call on the Minister to urgently review these arrangements and set a clear and strict timetable for the CRC to implement the recommendations of the report. If the CRC is unable to improve then the MOJ needs to seriously consider removing the contract and returning the probation service back to public ownership."

Napo's AGM, due to start 29 September in Cardiff, will be debating a number of motions regarding the new delivery of probation services. However, the Minister Sam Gymiah has declined an invitation to attend and to speak to members directly about their concerns for the profession and for public safety.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rumour and Speculation

I see London CRC management have been quick to respond to these contributions from last night:-
"London CRC in Special Measures - Inspection uncovered many cases which haven't been seen for months!"

"Have you heard London failed their HMIP inspection? Like properly failed. No redeeming features."
I am aware there is some social media speculation about the current HMIP inspection of London CRC, and there maybe more in the coming days.

As you know, the inspection team is currently spending time with us and while that work is continuing, it is not appropriate to comment on any possible conclusions that the inspectors may come to. However, I want to be as open as possible with you about the current situation, and changes ahead.

As I said last week in my Ambition 20/20 update, for several months we have been planning significant changes to address concerns many of you have raised about caseload levels and management issues. You will also have heard me say that we need to improve skills and data integrity to meet our Ambition 20/20 goal to be the best at reducing reoffending.

Ambition 20/20 Change Plan

I assure you that these are not vague aspirations, but real plans to deal with substantial variations in workload across our cohorts.

Ambition 20/20, the London CRC Change Plan which is being lead by Paul McDowell and his team, is detailed and comprehensive. It addresses the immediate concerns of high caseloads, offender managers’ skills, leadership and managerial accountability, and data integrity.

Our plans have been shared with NOMS who have been supportive and are content with the approach we are taking to address the concerns we share.

You can find a summary of our plans, plus the latest Ambition 20/20 news and progress, on London i.

Focusing on our future

There will be much more information about the outcome of the inspection in the coming weeks, and I will share as much detail about progress as possible, as my approach is to be as open as I can be.

In the meantime, please treat speculation and rumour with great caution, as we will need to work positively and without distractions to ensure we achieve the results we all want and to focus on the needs of our service users.

Helga Swidenbank
Director of Probation

--oo00oo--

According to the posters up in every London office:-

Only 50%* of our service users have an OASys Sentence Plan!

*April's figures

Napo at Work in the South West 5

As always, thanks go to the reader for forwarding the latest news from the South West:-

Branch report Redundancies update 13

Dear members,
The National election for Chairs has now been concluded and I am sorry that my total was just not enough. Whether I could have made any difference substantial or otherwise to the future of the union can never be known. Too often these days I am resigned to saying “we are where we are” and getting here has been at the odd decisions and direction of wider events that drive us. The result while disappointing comes from another low turnout and should be of concern. It appears to indicate a low interest level of our membership. Sadly this disengagement by potential voting members is illustrated in part by reduced voting trends. It is concerning as none of the candidates could claim much of a mandate on the cast votes.

Nevertheless we have the incumbent chairs in place and continuity of the same is inevitable yet we have to think carefully and to ensure we stay with our union, get behind them. We have a full suite of officers in the leadership fully conversant as NPS employees and that level of structure may well be clover for NPS representation. All good then for the purposes and understandings for the way the civil service is dictating the changes.

Sadly for the NPS membership the E3 agenda has started to make itself felt. Not so much in mass change but in the actual confirmation it has started to implement a negative blueprint for staff changes across the board. No matter how many National Napo fielded have from the NPS to combat the worst aspects the losses to terms and conditions they seem to continue to mount up and look relatively unchallenged. The terrible outcome of the VLO situation is shrouded in a controversy. From their perspective of what actually led them to a pay band cut, no hope of any equalising for those already underpaid and worst no chance of climbing on a now frozen time marking pay structure. This is not the only issue that dominates my fear as many will argue it was pre-determined NPS desired outcome. It is exactly that which worries me. Is this the first of many more to come downgrading in both pay and job descriptions? Anyone in the NPS will need to give the position a long and carful look as E3 unfolds. The Hostel staff also affected and worst to come the discussions on privatisation of aspects of the night waking cover arrangements.

What we have to ensure is that we remain strong within CRCs now that our national union is so obviously favoured in the officers structure from the NPS. Couple this to the issue of the debate seeking permission from the membership on the dis-continuation of National Collective Bargaining to be debated at the AGM. If this falls to the regions, local CRCs, will inevitably destroy the unity we have as s single probation union. It would not be long before all terms are re negotiated or imposed and all existing policies will be assigned a comfortable place in the bin of the TR destruction. That said I am aware the General Secretary is clear that he wants to ensure all current policy terms are protected for a period in a legacy agreement.

I could never support any further moves to reduce the capacity of NAPO from national- collective bargaining. In this regard working constructively within NAPO the South-West dispute has taken the whole region forward in unity. Facing the determined yet awful ways Working Links the company have continued to neglect effective trade union consultation and negotiation. Our members facing unreasonable and multiple work and role changes the spectre of redundancies looming. Continued issue of S188 notices example poor practices. Because this was done to us without any real dialogue. (I wrote previously) it was mentioned in passing in a presentation slide last October. Following that the incredibly premature S188 notices set the combative situation as a formality ever since.

Recently at the second of three dispute meetings in London the General Secretary Ian Lawrence put similar points to working links with Glyn Jones to withdraw the notices come back to a fresh table and start to work towards areas that might be agreeable in the longer terms. Exit Schemes for staff at risk and to follow properly, agreed redeployment process across counties if necessary. To follow the best agreeable redundancy process and those already laid out in local terms. These remain protected under the period of contract while the staff transfer and protection arrangements are binding agreements. He expects the employers to honour. Pointing out they bought the contract in the knowledge of the policies and the terms. In fact the GS had also made it clear to members in the recent bulletin circulated mid September. All the senior heads of Union are united in this dispute as they all understand the DDC redundancy policy is the cornerstone of fair and agreed process for the dismissals of staff if the worst is to happen.

What the Unions find unacceptable and just simply not credible is that Working Links want to Axe over 140+ DDC staff by March end next year 2017. They claim they cannot \ will not slow the process yet new recruitment has continued rather than redeployment and retraining for existing substantive staff. Job insecurity has become a tool in the WL efforts to drive staff into roles borne from uncertainty of future. We have a range of selection recruitment issues coming to the fore. Jobs without description and no mention of pay rates. Members are complaining rightly so, of the continued feeling of a mis-managed process. It might be wiser to think this is a well managed process in the way the reorganisation establishes itself and will leave a lot of members displaced. Is probation being discarded for modern messaging now being delivered? The new way with a fraction of the skilled people. These approaches are not what many staff will have experienced in the past.

It is certain other areas will likely face similar in the future. Once CRCs get a foothold on local bargaining, your terms on pay working hour’s annual leave and so on will be fast on the agenda. Members will realise employers are likely to cut away any policy that supports staff in the ways that we have previously understood. Our most recent experience of this has been the tabling on the agenda of the DDC redundancy policy itself. Of all the policies that could do with an update any employee supportive policy. No, nothing, silence in fact. We had in local JNCC talked of the harmonisation expectations that were expected to be part of our working relationships which were flatly rejected. It has been no surprise to us in the JNCC that this policy agreement your terms and conditions which has been collectively agreed in the past would have come under the spotlight now. Working Links the company actually believe that because the policy has a review period written in as do all policies that this is the time they want to table a changes discussion. Reviews are written in as standard to recognise legislative issues that may arise or look to work for both sides to see what improvements could be made in the light of operational practice. Clearly Working Links the company have no interest in actually delivering on the current redundancy agreement because by doing so they will have inadvertently accepted the terms contained in that policy implementation. Oddly though by attempting to look at it through JNCC this quickly makes it clear this policy is one they must need to damage. Just as small point on pay negotiations redundancy is Pay and the argument for a 3 year protection on Pay related issues issue comes alive. Also phased a changes over a period of time is something that any negotiation will need to understand. We will keep you informed as soon as the JNCC are restored and after the disputes heads are settled if that is possible.

However, much of the redundancy policy has already been avoided in the current ways they have set about changing what was probation. The employers know this, which, is why staff have been subjected to the inappropriate 1-1 interviews outside of any agreement. This process is underpinned by lawful requirements yet Working Links have not demonstrated a competent approach to this after the catalogue of failure. This being a strand of the dispute. Much of it without proper notice, or real cooperative support for the Unions representation. Hurried examples where staff are contacted by telephone or have been called in from sickness to take part. Absolutely staggering examples of how not to do things yet claiming to be a fair and equitable employer. Hardly!

In the current round of dispute talks the employers want to claim that they are listening and dialogue should continue locally. It is clear and was made obvious, while a national dispute is running over reductions, the methods of selections, the current activities around recruitment, the untested and non-verified new model of working and the Innovation Wessex claims of true independence. Wessex drawing its funding entirely from Working Links despite an unverified claim to the contrary. We rightly remain sceptical that in fact any jobs should be lost. We need to be convinced that the monies are not in fact being redeployed for other structures and plans. Member’s jobs sacrificed to fund them.

While on funding discussions we found it incredible while national dispute is running and the General Secretary has reported this already, we listened to Working Links offer a revised position downwards for voluntary redundancy amounts. This worked out to 22 week reductions in total over the 15 years maximum.

It felt an absurd position, as to whether Working Links the company are serious about being seen as sincere. Coming to a dispute meeting with a genuine intention seeking to resolve issues is doubtful on this current form? From that point we have now had a secondary London meeting and have been arguing the status of the rates of the terms the periods of protections. The legitimate needs to equalise the best in terms for the region as Working Links the company plough on regardless of fairness. There is no point in saying anymore readers will get the point now.

As of today 20 Sept the there is a fourth meeting with Working Links the Company and the heads of the 3 unions In Weston. I doubt at time of writing there will be any breakthrough agreements or the forming of a new treaty. Instead it will probably see us move to joint secretaries and beyond as long as Working Links continue to fail to adopt and follow legitimate terms of all our members’ contracts and the national staff protections. Ian Lawrence has been incredibly patient and although I am not part of the closed team today I am optimistic given negotiations can be harder line as we have a legitimate starting base. Whatever happens I am expecting a wider report as Working Links constantly cry confidentiality and a secretive furtive need to stop disclosing issues. What are they talking about I ask myself. Occasionally hearing business risk or some other hackneyed claim. It is wearing.

Members it is important to remind us all that none of this defensive work is possible if we do not act as a collective. The Chair of NAPO BGSW Ceris Handley who is always in touch and supportive of the combined strengths from Wales Napo reps and chair Pen Gwilliam and Migden Roberts. Thought provoking and single minded. We have all worked collectively in our member’s interests and of course to protect us all.

The General Secretary Ian Lawrence has played no small part in that alongside his counterpart Unison and GMB. In this difficult period of positioning and what is increasingly hostile sometimes toxic environment. It is important to keep matters in perspective. Our Union sides remain solid in our intentions to hold any breaches of staff terms and conditions by Working links to account by whatever means appropriate. The General Secretary demonstrably made efforts to work to agreements and achievable ends in the interests of NAPO and union members. Some of what is reported has not been accurate and the recognition of leadership and good team solidarity has to be remarked upon here. We are a capable group and with your ongoing support we have some clear opportunities to ensure our conditions of service are honoured.

I am sure this report will no doubt make its way onto the On Probation Blog. I know we have differing views but it has to made clear in these types of open branch reports to members that circulation is incredible when viewed by Facebook and others. It is a wide media readership and I am always a little concerned to read the permutations offered as to what will happen what should be done next who’s doing what and all the rest. In the SSW branch we have a position we have a structured plan and we are managing the process as difficult as it is. Please don’t speculate what the options might be it does not help our thinking. We are conscious of the dissatisfaction the employers Working Links the company take at reading Branch reports they get widely circulated to our all Napo audience. I do not understand why if they are proud of their treatments and management of our members.

I make this point now because at some point in mid-October time limits for notifications will get closer and the agenda to drive those cuts either voluntary or compulsory will be the focus of attention. Napo will then look to you as members to support our media campaign press, TV, radio public and MPs to challenge the situation that we are facing. Large cuts are news and the views of professional practioners on what will be the consequences will be valuable. Anecdotal stories of your experiences the recruitments the leaver’s stories and why many felt they were pushed out on timing than supported. All these will feature as we challenge to reject anymore of the current trend.

In the meantime keep reporting to the branch exec and Denice James all you can and the way things are running and we will log them for the records and reporting. Stay in Napo get colleagues and non-members to join us in a stronger movement to help protect them further and to look to how you will be able to help the branch as we start to look at what needs to be done as matters may well continue to escalate.

Please Print a copy or two of this update and leave them around for non-members by all means to read and join Napo now. Share as widely as you choose to ensure we get full support from our Napo membership. Would the helpful Napo member who encouraged the BBC to contact me recently, do so again thanks? Any other support welcome through the branch and please attend the Plymouth meeting on Weds 21st 2:00pm.

Dino Peros SSW Branch Chair JNCC Representative.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

FAO Liz Truss MP, Sec of State

An excellent article here by an ex-prisoner on the Politics.co.uk website and addressed to Liz Truss:- 

Memo to the minister: If you care, this is what life is actually like in prison

There were a lot of things the new justice secretary didn't know when she appeared before the justice committee earlier this month. She didn’t seem to know what legislation she'd be pushing through, on what basis, or what was happening at her department. She and her rather baffled, investment banker under-secretary of state for prisons Sam Gyimah seem a bit ignorant of what's actually going on in Her Majesty's prison estate, since neither of them have deigned to ask those who have experienced it.

Probably they take the standard view: that prison is basically Butlin's Holiday Camp. As someone who spent a good few years in prison I can assure you it's nothing of the sort. It's about boredom, fences, white shirts and bureaucracy. Our prisons are old, decrepit and not fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

The cells are small, averaging six by eight feet, and built for single occupancy, but they often hold two or even three inmates. This causes an interesting problem due to the fact there is only ever one table and one chair. Privacy goes out the window very quickly. The cell toilet is located usually right beside the door. It's not sectioned off. You eat your dinner just a couple of feet away from an open toilet.

I say dinner, but I mean the unappetising sludge that is served as our only hot meal of the day. The average budget for feeding a prisoner is the princely sum of £1.87 per day for three meals. The daily rations usually consist of this:

Breakfast: Given to us at the serving of the evening meal the night before. Two hundred ml of long life milk, two table spoons of oats, four tea bags, two sachets of powdered creamer and two sachets of sugar.

Lunch: Served at 11:15. A cold sandwich and an apple. Maybe if you're lucky you'll get a cereal bar, commonly called a door stopper.

Dinner: Served at 17:15. A hot meal with rice or chips.

We're given a menu to choose from and all religions are catered for, but the portions are so pathetically low you usually end up tearing open the breakfast pack straight after dinner.

Time for the luxuries; which the tabloids love talking about so much. We get the chance to purchase from the prison shop every week and we can use our wages to purchase goods from it. "Wages?" I hear you say. Yes, we do get paid for the jobs that we do in prison. Well those of us that have jobs that is. There are ten prisoners for every position available. And what jobs they are. I once filled plastic bags with those delicious breakfast packs I mentioned above. Another thrilling job involved filling a small plastic bag with three balloons for a well known greeting card company.

The average working week in prison is 30 hours and the average weekly wage is £9.00, or if you prefer £0.30 per hour. Granted, we have no overheads, but that £9.00 is used to buy phone credit to call our family, purchase stamps to write to them and we might even want the luxury of a razor or shaving gel. Oh and also to pay for our television. Prisoners pay £1.00 per week (or just over 10% of our weekly wage) to have a TV in our cell. It's not free.

While we're here, let's clear up the PlayStation rumour. Other gaming machines are available, by the way. Except that actually they're not. Some prisoners do have Playstations, but they must be on the enhanced level of the current Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, meaning they must have been well behaved, attended work or education regularly and paid for it from their earnings. The model must be the older one, which have no wifi or USB ports. You can get a used one of these for about £50, but you're not allowed to buy them. The machine must be new.

If you don't manage to get a job then you're left in your cell with the two or three close friends that I mentioned above and locked up for anything from 23 hours per day to the luxury of only 18 hours per day.

That is the norm of prison life.

The under-staffing of prisons makes it much worse. We're told to choose between either a shower or a call to our family. Our places of work are closed. The education department can't open as there is no staff to handle it. Our visits are postponed or cut short. And what do you think that does to rehabilitation?

The chronic under-staffing in prison must be addressed. Without it, we'll see more riots. Oh sorry, they're not riots anymore. The Ministry of Justice now calls them 'incidents'. But any incident which sees staff afraid for their safety followed by the mass transferring out of prisoners seems to me like a riot. Whatever you call them, they're happening as you read this. In the last month, HMP’s Lincoln, Northumberland and Birmingham have experienced 'incidents' due to under staffing.

Staffing is the crux of everything in prison. There can be no reform without it. The lack of staff allows the flow of contraband to increase, it makes rehabilitation impossible and, worst of all, it costs lives. The recent spate of reporting on the increase of self harm and suicides in prison has brought this into sharp relief. I say that any life that is lost in prison due to the lack of staffing should be noted on a wall inside the Ministry of Justice lest we forget who is to blame.

Rehabilitation? Reform? Not until we make some serious changes. And for that he need a secretary of state who knows what they're talking about, or at least one who'll listen.

The Tartan Con is a pseudonym used by an ex prisoner who was sentenced to seven years in prison. He is passionate about prison reform and blogs regularly on the state of our prisons from his rather unique viewpoint under TheTartanCon.blogspot.com. He is on Twitter at @TheTartanCon.


--oo00oo--

A couple of weeks ago a reader submitted a letter for Liz Truss and I intended to re-publish it last week, but events intervened. I'll tack it on here:-

Dear Ms Truss,

On behalf of all of the over worked staff in all the CRCs, I thank you for your interest and determined points of view in relation to how you understand the privatisation of the previous gold award standard Probation Services, formally Trusts.

All our PO qualified staff are now languishing and enjoying to some degree the benefits of the new ways of working. We now have zero job satisfaction across the board. In statistics terms that means a 100% score for the card. WELL DONE! Our PSOs now carry all the work that should have remained within appropriate skilled staff groups but for less pay. Why not exploit them? Well Done!


A good percentage of highly skilled staff with centuries of amassed practice and experience, have all been shown the VR door out of work with a series of stolen compensation arrangements. So, in terms of crime, this lot went unreported and so reduced even more the numbers of thefts because of the distorted measurement by which crime is now recorded. Nevertheless, your government has created additional victims who also remain 100% off the score card. Well done. 

Morale 100% in the gutter, lost and deflated staff by resignation. Well Done! Staff sickness absence rates soaring, not quite 100%, but well on the way, so lets see things worsen and you will get another plaudit. Well Done.

Inter teams NPS relations failing. Well Done. Courts in a mess over sentencing and CRCs do not deliver on any proper outcome. Well Done. Of course my colleagues could go on at length. Unpaid Work no longer delivers. Well done! You may realise we have little time to actually complete a piece of real work these days. This list will grow.

Next time you're spouting your mouth off, you ought get one of your new support researchers this country pays for, or your PPS Parliamentary private secretaries to actually find out the real truth and not your disingenuous party line.

For and on behalf of, all of our totally demoralised, insecure and shafted, privateer, rubbish workforce, stuffed arbitrarily into the CRC innovation farce and nonsense.

Yours truly
One of the multitudes of had enough.

--oo00oo--

A postscript from another reader: 

Hear! Hear!

And please don't forget how the ripple effect of the TR target-led PBR bullshit affects communities - those who would see their probation officer regularly or when they felt were 'in need' or 'in crisis' can't do so anymore. So where do they go?


- Mental Health Team? No duty staff available, no Crisis Team.
- Police s.136 cell? Full up.
- Social Services? Overworked & no duty staff available.
- Drug or alcohol worker? No, closed down or appointment only.
- GP? No, only 3 mins available per appointment IF they're allowed in the building. GP: "Why not refer yourself to our NHS counsellor?" (The GP surgery get paid for each referral).

So we now have increasing numbers of sex offenders, DV perpetrators & chronic substance users ringing up & referring themselves to & clogging up the IAPT service - the NHS talking therapy provision for low mood, depression & PTSD as an alternative to prescription meds. And it won't be long before that service is oversubscribed by this wholly inappropriate client group - who, in order to be accepted, are posing as victims & absolving themselves of responsibility for their actions. Result? Another much-needed public service ends up in yet another train crash, a disaster leaving a trail of chaos & devastation in its wake.

Then no doubt some eager Tory child will be quick to suggest that privatising the IAPT service will resolve the 'crisis' - maybe the next MP for Epsom?