Saturday, 16 February 2019

HMI Sticks Knife in TR

Preface

Before I launch into today's offering I feel the urgent need to call out the mendacity of the MoJ and the utter cynical news management by civil servants, paid for by us in order that the public can be deliberately misled and 'bad news' buried. And make no mistake, ever-so-nice Rory Stewart played his part in yesterday's fake news story about prison violence reducing in order to save his job, so that the Working Links collapse could be shunted off to the news graveyard of Friday afternoon. No doubt the same minister authorised 'bookending' the bad news with another fake news story this morning about satellite tracking of offenders. And this is the typical behaviour of the mendacious government department that run HMPPS with an iron grip and will run the whole of a reunified probation service if the current Napo campaign is successful. 

--oo00oo--

It's now quite clear that the MoJ spin doctors were aware Dame Glenys Stacey was about to stick the knife into the whole TR project, nicely timed with the Working Links collapse and her report on Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC does not mince its words in the press release:-  

Chief Inspector welcomes government action over Working Links and publishes damning report on Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, has welcomed government action to ensure the continued operation of three private probation companies whose parent company, Working Links, has announced it is going into administration.

The need for an urgent government response, in the interests of protecting the public, is underlined by a deeply troubling report released today by Dame Glenys, following an inspection of one of the Working Links CRCs – Dorset, Devon and Cornwall (DDC).

As soon as the results of the DDC inspection in November 2018 were apparent, Dame Glenys advised the government that intervention was necessary, the first time she has recommended this course of action. It is the first CRC in HMI Probation’s 2018-19 inspection schedule to be rated as ‘Inadequate’, the lowest rating.

Inspectors found staff were under-recording the number of riskier cases because of commercial pressures. They were also completing individuals’ sentence plans to meet performance targets, without actually meeting the offender.

In the report, Dame Glenys said these were “immutable lines” which had been crossed. She said: “The professional ethos of probation has buckled under the strain of the commercial pressures put upon it here, and it must be restored urgently.”

Today, Dame Glenys welcomed the government’s “swift action” in moving to ensure the three CRCs under the wider Working Links banner are protected and can continue to safeguard the public. Working Links has three CRCs, in Wales and the south west. The government has agreed that Seetec, owners of Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC, will take over the three Working Links CRCs.

Dame Glenys said: “This should be a turning point. Ministers recently took the decision to terminate all 21 CRC contracts early, next year. The Secretary of State is now considering what comes next. Our CRC inspection evidence shows a variable picture but it is one in which the provision of services in most cases is wanting, often significantly so.

“We find probation services delivered by the National Probation Service, for higher risk individuals, to be good, overall. It is not easy to change the model for delivery by CRCs of a complex service for over 154,000 medium and lower-risk offenders every year. But the future model must preserve the ethos of probation, and respect and nurture the probation profession itself. The alternative is made clear in the thoroughly dispiriting Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC report.”

That report records CRC staff telling inspectors they believed the way Working Links was operating was “contrary to the core values and purpose of probation”, with no direction or any strategy for improvement.

Staff, inspectors concluded, “are trapped in a spiral of decline. The imperative to meet task-related contractual performance targets and so avoid service credits (financial penalties) dominates working life”.

Dame Glenys was particularly troubled by two aspects:

  • All cases in Working Links CRCs are assigned a blue, red, amber or green rating, based on their level of risk of harm and/or of reoffending. This rating determines the resources which will be allocated to them. Cases rated as ‘red’ require the most frequent contact and more interventions. The report noted: “Practitioners told us they refrained from case-appropriate assessments in some instances to limit the numbers of ‘red cases’ that have to be seen every week. This is an immutable line crossed. It seriously compromises the CRC’s understanding of the caseload and the resources required to manage the work safely and effectively. What is more, it compromises probation itself in those cases.”
  • A key element of CRC work is to involve the individuals in planning the progress of their sentences from the courts. While there was sufficient engagement with individuals in most Cornwall cases, it was insufficient in the majority of those in Devon and Dorset. Too frequently, inspectors found, there was no plan at all. The report noted: “This is exemplified in one case by the inspector’s observation that “the plan was completed to meet a target, so was done before the responsible officer met the service user, with the service user having been turned away from his induction appointment because the CRC had not yet allocated the case.” The report noted that this, too, was an immutable line crossed.
Dame Glenys said: “The Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall CRC is not delivering probation services to anywhere near the standards we and the public expect.”

Inspectors found good Through the Gate services for people leaving prison. These services are outsourced in a well-contracted and properly-resourced scheme. But, Dame Glenys said: “Most other work is of poor quality, and simply not enough meaningful work is being done. Instead, effort is focused disproportionately on reducing the risk of any further contractual (financial) penalty. For some professional staff, workloads are unconscionable.”

Some officers had on average of between 80-100 cases, with some caseloads reaching 168 – an unmanageable workload. CRC staff had been cut by one-third since 2015 and one manager described the pressure as “mind-blowing”. Courts had very little confidence in the CRC.

Staff felt they had little support and had not been consulted in a staff survey since 2015. The report noted: “There were many concerns about the personal safety of staff in operational offices.”

The Inspectorate has previously expressed concerns about work in the Gloucestershire area (part of the Working Links’ Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire CRC), where inspectors found that work to protect the public and reduce reoffending work was poor. HMI Probation will next week start inspecting the Working Links’ Wales CRC.


--oo00oo--

This is not just a report about a failing Working Links CRC - it's a condemnation of the whole TR project:-

1. Organisational delivery

Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service’s (HMPPS) notification to terminate this and all other CRC contracts early has led to confusion among the staff in this CRC about the direction of the organisation. Staff at all levels voiced their strong commitment to the probation service, but perceive the way that Working Links is operating this business to be contrary to the core values and purpose of probation. There has been an absence of direction, as managers experience the constraints of working towards an exit plan. There is no strategy or direction to improve the quality of core probation work. 


Staff in DDC CRC are trapped in a spiral of decline. The imperative to meet taskrelated contractual performance targets and so avoid service credits (financial penalties associated with performance levels below contractual targets) dominates working life. There is a high staff turnover, and professional staff numbers are reducing. Several probation officers have taken up employment with the NPS in the last year. Recruitment is proving difficult in this area. 

There are examples of positive work in the CRC, exemplified by the development of work with women, the use of community hubs for inter-agency work, the maintenance of integrated offender management (IOM) and the range of structured interventions available. There are serious risks to these services in the current operating environment, however. For example, the number of community hubs is reducing.

Leadership

A Working Links vision and strategy set out the aspirations of: Providing a great service, being a great place to work, delivering ambitious growth, being pioneering – innovative yet responsible. This vision provides the basis of the DDC CRC annual service plan and continuous improvement plan. 


All grades of staff believe that services delivered by the CRC are driven exclusively by financially linked contractual targets, and that little of the Working Links vision has come to fruition; 94 per cent of staff surveyed stated that the CRC does not prioritise the quality of service delivered. 

There has been a marked change in the relationship between Working Links and the CRC since early 2018 with the announcement of contract termination by October 2020. This has been characterised by increased financial controls, and reduction of training and human resource advisor capacity. At senior management level, there is a perceived loss of corporate coherence between Working Links and the CRC, limited financial authority, and increased financial constraints to the point of disruption of service delivery, particularly in the areas of unpaid work, ICT and estates. 

The business risk register identifies a range of business risks assessed as having up to a likely probability of occurring but no more than a minor impact. We felt that the impact of these risks was underestimated. There is not a single mention in the risk register about the quality of services delivered. Risk mitigation, identified in the DDC annual service plan, has no reference to the role of middle managers in supporting and developing staff through the oversight and supervision of work. The CRC has an array of quality assurance processes that have had little impact on the quality of services delivered. 

The operating model is based on group delivery of many of the elements of the sentence. This includes group induction of all cases. On one occasion, we saw 20 people being inducted by one member of staff; the planned ratio is one member of staff for six individuals.

Delays in accessing rehabilitation activity requirements (RARs) and accredited programmes compound the resource difficulties for responsible officers. There is evidence that practitioners understand the operating model – the ‘BRAG’ case assessment system, in particular – as solely a method to control the allocation of their time and not to support an individualised, high-quality service. Practitioners told us that they refrained from case-appropriate assessments in some instances, to limit the numbers of ‘red cases’ that have to be seen every week. This is an immutable line crossed. It seriously compromises the CRC’s understanding of the caseload and the resources required to manage the work safely and effectively. What is more, it compromises probation itself in those cases. Two initiatives are about to stretch resources still further, as outlined below. 

Firstly, responsible officers located in operational hubs hold up to 162 cases, assessed as requiring contact every 30 days by telephone. We have previously expressed our concerns about this approach: there is no evidence to suggest that it is valid; instead, we believe that it limits the potential to effect change in individuals. Current resource problems will be compounded by the new contractual requirement for minimum levels of face-to-face contact in all bar stand-alone unpaid work cases. This will limit the number of cases supervised in the operational hubs and increase the number of cases held by community-based responsible officers. 

Secondly, the CRC has previously used layer 1 Offender Assessment System (OASys) – a limited assessment – in the majority of cases. Efforts to improve the quality of work has led to the re-adoption of the more detailed layer 3 OASys assessment for most cases. This could lead to improvements in the CRC’s understanding of the risks and needs of the caseload, and provide a platform for a more individualised service. The resource commitment that this entails has yet to be fully integrated into the organisation’s measure of workload, and presents a further challenge to an already stretched operational resource, with no additional resource identified to undertake this work.

Staff

The CRC’s Justice Innovation Unit (which works across all three Working Links CRCs) has developed a workload indicator tool that suggests that there is sufficient capacity to manage the caseload requirements if all posts are occupied. The perception of most responsible officers surveyed (72 per cent) is that the workload is unmanageable.


Caseloads range from 18 to 102 for probation officers and from 14 to 168 for probation service officers. In some offices, the average caseload is between 80 and 100. This is unmanageable, and puts professional staff in an invidious position. At the time of the inspection, the workload indicator did not take into account the additional time required to complete layer 3 OASys work. Similarly, it did not reflect an agreed commitment to incorporate the additional time required to deliver face-toface work in almost every case.

One manager commented that: 

“People are so stretched that we have lost sight of what it takes to rehabilitate and to protect the public. Quality is about building relationships, doing the work, but people don’t have the time to do this; we are over-processed and it is mind-blowing. Even just to send a letter, there are too many processes and you do not dare step out of that process”. 

Middle managers report high workloads, with one manager reporting they had direct responsibility for as many as 27 staff. There is little time for detailed and reflective supervision. Continual reminders about performance targets dominate the work of responsible officers, at the expense of considered work with individuals. 

The deficiencies identified in practice indicate a staff group without the opportunity or capacity to develop and apply the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage the requirements of the caseload to a high quality. There were, of course, some practitioners who demonstrated good practice, but this was far from the norm. 

There has been a reduction in overall staff numbers by one-third since February 2015, in mostly corporate and administrative roles. A management document sent to the inspection team indicates a potential future ‘end state’ which includes further staff reductions. The Dorset offices are almost entirely dependent on agency staff at probation officer grade. Managers have expressed concern about the level of service provided, with some of the agency staff employed being unable to work to required standards; this is exacerbated by insufficient management supervision. 

The CRC has retained a commitment to training probation officers through the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP), although the numbers involved (currently two new-starts) do not match the organisation’s need for staff trained to this level. 

The supervision of responsible officers is almost entirely focused on performance and targets rather than managing risk of serious harm and safeguarding. Only one officer in twelve could identify an example when a supervision session has included discussion about a child safeguarding matter. Just over one-third of staff surveyed indicated that they receive supervision that enhances and sustains high-quality work with service users. 

There is an approach to quality management across the three CRCs, led by Working Links’ Justice Innovation Unit. Quality management work is delivered via an observation policy, case auditing process and feedback system (the ‘Learning Loop’). A detailed quality team schedule describes the range of activity to be undertaken. The approach has made no discernible difference to recurring problems in key issues, such as enforcement and sentence planning. 

Less than 20 per cent of staff thought that there was sufficient access to training, or that there was a culture of learning and continuous improvement. A detailed ‘learning and development’ offer indicates a wide range of opportunities, but there is evidence that it is not well deployed. This was illustrated by recent spousal assault risk assessment (SARA) training, where only 5 of 31 planned sessions were delivered owing to non-attendance both by participants and facilitators. 

There has not been a staff survey since 2015 and, although the CRC plans to conduct such an exercise, there is caution at a senior level about what this would achieve. The absence of an up-to-date staff survey limits the CRC’s understanding of levels of staff satisfaction and the reasons behind them. 

There has been poor engagement with the trades unions in the last two years, following disputes over roles and grades for unpaid work staff. This has improved recently as a result of agreed new contractual requirements for additional face-toface supervision. 

There is a keen sense (72 per cent of staff surveyed) that insufficient attention is paid to staff safety and wellbeing, and there were many reports of staff put at risk in a range of operational settings.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Working Links Latest

As always, thanks go to the several readers for forwarding the following regarding today's failure of Working Links:-

Dear all

Today, the Ministry of Justice has appointed Seetec to manage probation services in the south-west and Wales. This comes after the existing provider, Working Links, and its three community rehabilitation companies currently delivering the services, entered administration.

Under the agreement, we will transfer the contract for probation services in Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire (BGSW), Dorset, Devon and Cornwall (DDC) and Wales into Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (KSS CRC). All staff and the current caseload will transfer with immediate effect.

As part of the organisation of services, I will take on responsibility for all Seetec probation areas, including KSS CRC. Manjinder Purewal will continue as chief probation officer for KSS CRC. BGSW and Wales will be managed by Dawn Blower and DDC will be managed by John Wiseman. Dawn and John both join us as part of the transfer. The remit of the excellence and effectiveness directorate, led by Graham Wines, will expand to include every region.

We can take some pride that the Ministry of Justice has appointed Seetec as the new parent company in the south-west and Wales. Every single member of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex team has worked relentlessly in recent years to build a reputation for high-quality service delivery. We protected our probation values, invested in interventions and ensured that building strong face-to-face relationships with the people we support remains at the heart of what we do.

We were the first region the Ministry of Justice took out of enhanced oversight following the transfer to the private sector. And in 2017, HM Inspectorate of Probation said in their annual report that we were one of the three CRCs judged to be “performing well”.

This news is a vote of confidence in your work. But we also recognise that there is no room for complacency as we approach our annual inspection in February. We can expect even greater scrutiny from the inspecting team and our other statutory partners.

The reforms which brought in the private sector in 2015 remain controversial. Many of you will know that I had my own concerns about how the move would affect us. Fortunately, in my view, we have been able to protect our values and ways of working, while benefiting from private sector investment that would not have been forthcoming under public sector ownership.

Now, as a bigger provider, supporting people in some of the most deprived areas of the country, we have an even greater responsibility to uphold high standards and advocate for our probation values, which have served us well to date. I am confident that you will continue to represent the very best of yourselves, your colleagues and the CRC.

If you are approached by the media or other stakeholder who wants to know more about this announcement, please refer them to media@seetec.co.uk.

I will keep you updated on the progress of the transfer of services in the south-west and Wales. Thank-you for your continued professionalism and expertise in the weeks and months ahead.

Yours sincerely

Suki Binning
Chief Executive for KSS CRC


--oo00oo--

Napo Branch report 29 update

Dear Napo members 

Many of you have been reporting the news that the employability staff of Working Links have been told they are to end their roles. Staff in Working Links were reporting last night that their information is that the company is now insolvent. The news from a Unison publication makes things a little clearer. There is also the IT helpdesk going down, giving clear indications that things are not going well. 

We have been told not to publish key facts by our GS and as such I cannot confirm what is quite clearly already well known and as usual is up on media sites and those personal media groups which are familiar to many staff. There are also some publications that have the fuller details on the reported collapse. 

The news on the probation sectors is yet to be confirmed by MOJ and as we wait the speculation is focused on the Seetec group now owning the CRCs in the Working Links Contract areas. As yet we are keeping an eye on Companies House to see when, and indeed if, the insolvency is registered today as it just becomes a public issue at that point.


Whenever, the news is confirmed at last by the MOJ, it is a singular example of just how not to do things these days with the speed of media coverage. In conversation with other chairs and reps who feel angry at the way we have been kept out of the important updates is another example of why no one in a union should be tying themselves to any confidentiality nonsense claiming it to be a commercially sensitive issue. If a company is bust it is bust and there is nothing commercially sensitive about that. The impact on the staff, partners and colleagues is immense, and many of us are saddened at the plight of other workers losing jobs and not as yet clear whether their entitlements to redundancies is yet to be managed properly. I won’t continue this aspect except to remind readers that it was as recent as December when Working links put in its accounts, to be ratified by Aurelius, that the company had funds to be termed a going concern. Less than 3 months on and they are in the position of insolvency. If that is the case where were these accounts genuinely assessed? Who undertook them, and by what appropriate process? Lets us hope the Parliamentary Finance Committee give this some scrutiny. 

What this means for staff in DDC is that we do not yet know formally what Seetec’s plans are but whatever it is they have a huge mess to try and fix when they actually take over. We will be looking closely at the ARSA documents to determine exactly how members stand as for giving our consent for the possible changes and that as yet we have no consultative talks on any protections arising from the staff transfer and protections arrangements. It may be that Seetec are not of the genuine opinion these are to be honoured which would not read well for a starting point. 

With the likely departure of Working Links, the damage they leave behind is immense;
A disastrous working model that was never agreed or consulted properly;
The appalling abuses of overwork of all staff from the incredibly poor workload indicator tool farce.

An urgent need to rapidly change the way some senior management have failed to engage the unions in both HR of terms and conditions policies, and respect for any or meaningful dialogue since day 1 of the unfortunate Working Links way. We have no doubt that much of the controls on senior management had been directed by the appalling inabilities to do anything properly from the working links way but we have to see this approach terminated immediately. This will no doubt be a feature of our renewed efforts to protect staff. 

Last week at the branch meeting a motion was passed to direct the Napo JNCC branch to issue the existing workloads agreement under the protective STAP arrangement and to advise all staff on how to hand back work or reject new work. This is ongoing and re issuing the foreseeability papers has been done this week for members. The re-issue of the WPEC agreement, with advice is to be brought together shortly. Before we get this out however there is a planned Trades Union Pan area meeting on Monday which I understand includes the Chief Officer of Seetec so we will post out an update immediately after that meeting, with the confirmed facts and details of what NAPO SSW branch put to Seetec in that meeting. Also to engage on the over workloads and measurement tool failures you have endured to date. 

For our part NAPO SSW branch are sorry to understand the loss of peoples’ roles and jobs in the employability side of Working links. However we are not able to advise non members of unions except to say they have rights and access to information to make reclaims on any redundancies they may be due and a process to claim. I would be looking at the signing off of the accounts as there was NO indication they might be insolvent within 12 weeks. 

In relation to our members, we have a duty to ensure your continued protection under your terms. If you’re not in Napo now, then join. NAPO SSW branch initiated a dispute with Working Links that has run for 3 years and we continue with the details of that dispute until whoever provides the appropriate reassurances that our members need. We need a working model that is genuinely fit for purpose. A real workloads negotiation and a genuine commitment to protect and discharge the duty to care for staff properly under the health and safety legislation and agreements. 

Once we are assured of the critical issues we will again take on the fair pay for work campaign and work with NAPO to continue to seek to fight for the reunification of probation and the end to privatisation in a false market. That said it remains incumbent upon any trade unionist and officials to keep dialogue going. Something the Working Links way failed at brilliantly. 

However, we have to start afresh and look to see where there is common ground. Seetec will inherit the worst example of the failed privatised areas ever. They learned nothing from HMIP reports and yet today we see the latest DDC HMIP report released what a coincidence ( I doubt that). The scandalous grasp on an MOJ contract that has seen some behind the scenes goings on that we shall just have to wonder at. While we think on about that, we also have to look to restore our branches and our local negotiation forums to something more respectable, and re generate the appropriate mechanism for local JNCC. 

I hope to hear on Monday the restoration local bargaining so that branches can resume the sort of engagement on protecting staff terms and conditions that we are supposed to have had already protected. You will recall this branch took the whole dispute through the failing and weakened national joint dispute procedures in London whereby the joint secretaries offered mere advisories and hopefuls than actually demonstrate any teeth for errant and failing contractors. The proverbial toothless Tiger does exist. What a pity they all seemed to miss every red warning they could have. They should have taken steps mid dispute and challenges to the contractor. From there we have the ACAS avoidance, the Aurelius cash lifting experts and now their own calamitous implosion and failure. The not so secret Seetec take over which may well be better news. Oh well so much for open and transparent. 

As of this afternoon there has been a circular from the CPO of DDC and whilst I am happy to read the pledge of terms and conditions being protected we now have that in writing and it is welcome. What a pity there was no such commitment on these said terms when in the same role in Working Links control. That said I expect he is speaking on behalf of Seetec and we will not see any “U” turns on that stated position. This means a harmonisation agenda for all areas and the best of the policies to be agreed. We welcome the commitment to our redundancy agreements and the working terms under national negotiating council rules. Moving forwards then let us all hope we don’t see any repeats which gets us embroiled in the absolute failures of what we have suffered to date along with the destruction of probation services. 

Finally after such mixed views and news we are confirmed as workers under Seetec and we shall continue to put right many of the failings, this is a long road back to something we can all sustain with such drastic staff cuts. That said I can confidently say at last now that the king is dead. We can all be assured that farce of the section 188a redundancy at risk notices has now fallen. Ironically they failed to indicate the same courtesy and legal requirements to their own staff. What sort of people has probation been entrusted to? Long live the new king? Lets fight for the reunification of public service as soon as we can. 

The local news Plymouth Herald reporter Carl Eve has published the story today and we salute his sterling efforts to expose Working Links fiasco over the period a true friend of probation. Latest news Urgent remedial action is required in this CRC. Without it, public confidence in the delivery of probation services in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall will be yet further diminished and professional staff further compromised, and thousands of individuals who deserve decent probation services will continue to be let down. We have recommended that Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service intervenes in this CRC. In my view, this organisation will not deliver the urgent improvements needed without intervention.

Clearly as I predicted in the last few branch reports a sad sorry state of affairs and at last those responsible be gotten rid of JUST IN Time Too late having compromised public safety and ignoring NAPO SSW calls to fix the problems. We are now vindicated. 

Dino Peros
Napo SSW branch chair.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

New Chief Inspector


Justin Russell announced as candidate for next Chief Inspector of Probation

The Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon. David Gauke MP, confirmed today that his candidate to be the next Chief Inspector of Probation is Justin Russell - currently Director General responsible for No Deal EU exit planning at the Ministry of Justice.

Justin has been selected following a rigorous assessment process conducted in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments. A panel of four, including two external interviewers, assessed all the candidates and put forward to the Secretary of State those who passed the high bar for consideration for this role.

The Secretary of State has invited the Justice Select Committee to hold a pre-appointment hearing. Pre-appointment scrutiny is an important part of the appointment process for some of the most significant public appointments made by Ministers. It is designed to provide an added level of scrutiny to the appointment process.

Pre-appointment hearings are held in public and allow a Select Committee to take evidence before a candidate is appointed. Ministers consider the Committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment.

The current Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, has agreed to continue in the post until 31 May, when, subject to the pre-appointment hearing, Justin Russell is expected to take over the role. He will resign from the Ministry of Justice and from the Civil Service before taking up post.


HM Inspectorate of Probation

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation leads HM Inspectorate of Probation, which is the independent source of fair comment for ministers and the public on the effectiveness of the work of probation and youth offending services.HM Inspectorate of Probation produces and publishes reports on individual probation service areas as well as on thematic topics such as the way probation works with sex offenders, or the role and effectiveness of Approved Premises. The Chief Inspector also publishes an annual report. More information on HM Inspectorate of Probation can be found on their website.
Biography

Justin Russell has spent over thirty years working on a wide range of criminal justice issues as a researcher, policy maker and major programme leader and has a long-standing interest and involvement in probation and youth justice policy. This has included working as a Policy Special Adviser to Home Secretaries John Reid and Jack Straw and in the No10 Policy Unit, as well as heading up the Home Office’s Violent Crime Unit from 2008 to 2012, where he led the production of the 2009 and 2011 Violence Against Women and Girls strategies and the Tackling Knives and Ending Gang and Youth Violence Programmes.

Until recently, he was Director General for Justice Analysis and Offender Policy at the Ministry of Justice where he led the prison, probation and youth justice reform programmes. He has also worked for the Audit Commission and Mental Health Foundation and was a non-executive Director of Turning Point from 2005 to 2011.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Napo at Work in the South West 20

As usual, thanks go to the reader for forwarding this:-

Branch report 28
February 2019 

Dear Napo members SSW branch, 

I draw your attention to the branch report just before Christmas. In particular the mention of selling or holding Companies that are “going concerns”This point is important. 

Aurelius, the parent owner, has a few days ago removed the Working Links trademark from its website and published the sale announcement yesterday. This news has broken out on to social media.

From the Aurelius accounts a going concern should mean a company has funds to sustain itself for a period of time. Despite what was said in their accounts, the disposal was clearly their intention. The risks were greater than the rewards for Aurelius. To avoid public scrutiny of justice CRCs being traded due to their failings, it appears a secretive grace and favour arrangement may have been brokered. Is this to spare the MOJ embarrassment? TR is not allowed to fail. 

The most recent news is that Seetec is in discussions about a temporary arrangement to cover the Working Links areas. The Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee will be looking for the same questions as the CRCs are due to report back progress by the end of February. Perhaps Working links have dodged another bullet there too. 

It does not solve the problems just yet there has been no formal MOJ announcement and nothing proper from Working links save to say the local CPO short and unclear explanation. Followed by Seetec which says one thing but actually admits they are in in talks to rescue the failing operation of Working Links controlled areas. This failure can only mean one thing that the HMIP report publishing in March must have condemned the operational model. The Unions, at time of writing, have had no indication on what way the HMIP view of the Working Links model and workloads indicator tool which in fact should be agreed weightings. Anyone would have expected the usual MOJ statement along the lines of ‘we are pleased to announce this wonderful collaboration of existing partners taking the contracted areas to an early amalgamation and new horizons on a bigger scale for service delivery’. Nothing as yet. No doubt something will come soon enough as the spin masters catch up on the early unplanned announcement from Aurelius. 

Workloads 

Napo has a branch meeting Cornwall 7/2/19. We will be raising a workload Motion and a formal position on the handing back of work in allocated tasks that have no weightings agreement. Working links through their policy of exploiting skilled staff, and their failings to manage workloads properly with an agreed workload calculation, is now too much for all staff to bear because so many are reporting absence through overwork stress. 

From our collective agreement (legacy agreement between management and the unions) on the workloads priorities and employee care (WPEC), I have extracted the relevant passages below. Senior management claimed to not have a copy and the unions have had to provide it. This is one of the documents that would have been provided in order to achieve ‘due diligence’ prior to the take over. 

Working Links subsequently changed the narrative and termed their new calculator tool an indicator. This means nothing as tasks have to be weighted for the timings they involve in order to follow an agreeable structure. Workload with assessed timings can then be allocated to staff. Instead the use of a meaningless indicator tool by Working Links remains in dispute. Under the terms of WPEC NAPO SSW shall be issuing members guidance on the legitimate ways to hand work back subject to the agreement principles. This is a legacy protection and they have no scope or agreement to change those terms unilaterally. 

1. The proposals have two major timelines. The first centres on provisions which need to be implemented with immediate effect to address current workload problems affecting teams, clusters and individuals. The second centres on further detailed work that will need to be undertaken regarding analysis of workload, to ensure by the beginning of May 2003 that the allocation of resources is based upon accurate and up-to-date information. 

4. The DCPA Board and Chief Officer recognise that difficult prioritisation decisions have to be made now by managers to address serious workload problems. The Home office in Probation Circular 4/2001 set out a Joint Agreement on Workload Priorities and Employee Care reached between the Home Office, ACOP, Napo, CPC and UNISON. The Circular required all Probation Areas to undertake joint work with the trades unions to develop a local agreement. This document reflects a new, shared approach to addressing these issues urgently with Napo. It also marks a significant commitment by both DCPA and Napo to working together in line with the following statements and obligations, which are the accepted building blocks for workload priorities and employee care in the National Probation Service: 

None of this has been achievable under Working Links who block, stall, and avoid responsibility. We hope to see our Probation professionals in senior management released to rectify the inbuilt fault lines dominated by the Working Links ideology, working within public sector to deliver credible public services being fair and appropriate in managing staff terms and conditions. We have been three years in formal dispute, constant complaining on budgets, yet at no time have they been able to acknowledge any failings. 

Last week saw the Working links release of an annual summary of their achievements. Many staff have reported their anger at the insensitivity, and many have asked at what cost the value of the claimed achievements in comparison to what the probation trusts provided do not compare. What they did not mention in their achievements list was 

1 More staff off with sickness than ever before 
2 More staff deprived of their working terms and conditions 
3 Exiting staff deprived of their genuine entitlements to redundancy terms as agreed under the STAP 
4 More staff than ever dissatisfied in the workplace over workloads. 
5 Conditions of buildings estate infrastructure depleted and not fit to use. 
6 Removal of phones, Wifi, reduction in travel provision. 
7 Loss of decent formal training arrangement as all developments are IT based Q and A 
8 The loss of staff retention as many chose to leave. 
9 Serious failings developing in Unpaid Work. 
10 Loss of vehicles issues, and desks telephones. 
11 record dissatisfied staff in disputes 
12 Health and Safety failings across the board 

The list goes on. 

The recent statement from the finance director of Working Links sent to all staff last week on the 1st Of February exacerbated a serious situation. It was an incredible statement. Full of excuses. Not one shred of taking any responsibility, and feeling sorry for themselves as they would have known their situation before the statement was drafted. Disingenuous from the outset. 

Over the past few months we have been in negotiations with the MOJ regarding the future of our three Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC): Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire (BGSW) CRC; Dorset, Devon and Cornwall (DDC) CRC and Wales CRC. We understand that this is uncertain times for many of you working in the CRCs, as well as those of you that work across the wider Working Links Group. We continue to hold discussions with the MOJ and will keep you updated on progress and what this means for you, as soon as we can. 

Another mislead from the Working Links way as we all learned of the situation via Aurelius sounding celebrations publication of their news. The author would have already known the situation and had no intention to tell staff anything. Will anyone in Working links ever be able to tell the truth instead of just the spin? 

If you’re not in NAPO and reading this join now. The future is not clear and despite rumours of an NPS take over of the case management duties it does not appear obvious in the current exchanges. Other than already agreed for Wales then why not here can we not be returned to public services. It remains a murky hiatus. As yet we do not know how the pan agreements are going to work out and of course the harmonisation agenda may now need a revisit. 

On that basis we will be looking to ensure that despite the return to the shared drive of some of DCPA collective agreements we have still not seen published the DDC Redundancy collective agreement WHY not? 

Whatever happens now? NAPO will be ready to represent and protect members in this difficult and uncertain time. For that reason alone join Napo now help strengthen the collective bargaining process and work to protect your terms and conditions. 

In light of the as yet unpublished HMIP report we can only go on the feedback from contributing members and venture it is not likely to be good perhaps there is another reason why Working Links had to be side-lined fast as they may not be able to hold any credibility and have already had two bad HMIP reports. They are not likely to have learned anything from the disaster that has been the unmitigated failings of the Working Links way whatever we will see. As this chapter closes and a new one opens in all their time I cannot find one positive thing to say about the Working Links tenure I am sorry for that. 

Dino Peros 
Napo Branch Chair SSW.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Probation No Longer a Career

Every now and then a particularly erudite contribution arrives that seems to sum things up rather neatly:-

"I am old and grumpy but far from stuck in my ways. My comments and criticisms of the current ‘leadership,’ are from an analytical perspective, evidence based and with the benefit of 30 years experience. In my opinion, probation is no longer a career, but merely a stepping stone to something else.

We are seeing all the problems that the prison service had some years ago. No real problem with recruitment because it all looks good on paper, but severe problems with retention and, worse in my opinion, people putting themselves forward for management roles without the skills, ability or experience required and who have no hesitation in telling others how to do a job they were not capable of doing themselves.

We have a silent leadership with nothing to say on any national stage, but having sold all of your principles, beliefs and ethics are they surprised that the workers do not support them. 

There has been little comment on here about the outcome of the staff survey which once again this year, and despite claims that things would improve, demonstrate that there is a significant gap between what they claim and what we experience."

Discuss.

--oo00oo--

As this is published, I notice a major discussion has broken out over on Facebook regarding the extremely vexed question of ViSOR vetting for staff in NPS. It seems that this compulsory process is now centralised and disclosure must now include passwords for social media accounts. As has been suggested, although refusal to comply will not lead to dismissal, but rather banishment to the likes of court, many staff are now openly questioning the very future of probation as it becomes increasingly the admin arm of the police. This will cause Napo some embarrassment as they launch their 'reunification' campaign:-

Napo Reunify Probation Campaign Launched

Napo’s campaign to reunite the Probation Service starts now. The campaign is to be launched on the back of recent media coverage of the dangers of a split probation service evidenced by the shocking rise in SFOs since TR.

Napo will be urging Ministers to halt the current remarketisation exercise, following the MoJ ‘Strengthening Probation’ consultation. and crucially to bring the whole of the service back together under one agency - as is now proposed in Wales.

The first stage of the campaign will be to get parliamentarians on-board. The arguments we will be making will focus on 8 reasons for a unified probation service:

  • We have a two-tier workforce for pay, conditions and professional standards.
  • Marketisation has failed for clients, staff, public and CRCs themselves as none have made a profit.
  • Public safety is compromised with a massive increase in SFOs and community safety completely undermined by a divided organisation.
  • No local accountability or meaningful involvement with stakeholders by the NPS or the CRCs.
  • NPS is paralysed by bureaucracy, inefficient and centralisation of processes. A one size fits all approach does not work.
  • Staff burn out in the NPS from working solely with high risk and complex cases are having a detrimental impact on staff wellbeing.
  • No end to end offender management which is proven to be the most effective for desistance.
  • The need for profit has driven out the third sector organisations vital for local support.
Napo will be producing briefings for parliamentarians and the media on each of the 8 reasons over the coming 8 weeks.

We also hope to secure a date for a drop-in event in parliament, where MPs will be invited to meet with Napo Officials, Officers and Members at the event and to hear directly about the dangers of the split service and the need for this to end.

Napo has also produced postcards outlining the campaign and these are going out to branches now. We will be asking you to send a card to your constituency MP asking them to support the campaign.

--oo00oo--

So, how exactly is reunification of Probation under the dead hand of civil service control going to improve things? Even the Napo campaign admits that with NPS you get:-
  • No local accountability or meaningful involvement with stakeholders by the NPS or the CRCs.
  • NPS is paralysed by bureaucracy, inefficient and centralisation of processes. A one size fits all approach does not work.
Wales is different and is a devolved Administration. This simplistic campaign for reunification under NPS control in England has not been thought through and is not the answer to preserving the probation ethos. To put it bluntly, it will be the kiss of death for a once-proudly independent profession, destined to die a slow and lingering death at the hands of bureaucrats.    

Monday, 11 February 2019

Parole and PR

The Parole Board are recruiting and in an effort to encourage a broader range of applicants the following piece of PR puff has been published by the MoJ. It all sounds pretty upbeat but I'm not entirely sure it fairly reflects the current situation at all and those of us with long memories will recall the sad loss of the 'independent' report on the grounds of economy.

Life at the Parole Board


A beginning

I joined as Parole Board member 175 in the year 2000. There were about 20 of us new recruits and most were connected in some way with the law — either judges, barristers, magistrates, ex-probation officers, or senior ex-police officers. There were no members representing any minorities.

There were no oral hearings at prisons, although independent members (non-judges, psychiatrists, and psychologists) did go to interview the prisoners and feed that information into the dossiers. Dossiers were thin and contained only basic information as there were very few offending behaviour interventions available. The hearings took place in an office at the Parole Board, when up to 18 cases were considered by a panel of 3 members.


The change

Gradually, the membership increased, and offence related courses and programmes were introduced into the prisons to address the identified risks for each individual prisoner. Panels of members then started to go to the prisons to deal with oral hearings where the prisoners voices were heard, and evidence was taken from probation officers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Decisions were full and reasoned and delivered in writing within 14 days of the hearing. This has expanded over the years with more ‘professional’ input and decisions that now must stand up to public scrutiny.


The test to be applied

A panel consists of a Chair - either a judge or another trained and qualified member - and up to two other members, who hear the evidence and perform a risk assessment. The general test is whether the person whose case is being heard would pose a risk of serious harm to the public, and whether that is a risk that can be safely managed. The decision made by the panel is a majority one, except in panels of two, where it must be agreed by both members.

The members

Over the years the membership has increased significantly as the volume of work has greatly increased. The backgrounds of the members has changed so that it has become more representative of the public. However, in one important field it has shown little improved representation – that of the black and ethnic minority communities. It is vital that more members of those communities offer their services in this very valuable and fulfilling work.

Am I happy in my work?

I can honestly say that I would not have continued as a Parole Board member if I did not enjoy my work. It is onerous but satisfying, especially when you have been able to reach a decision that is fair to the prisoner, the victim, and the public. I have met, sat with, and made friends with so many different people, and discovered talent coming from many different walks of life. It has demonstrated to me that you don’t have to have been closely connected with the law to be a good Parole Board member.

Should you be afraid to do the work?

There is nothing to fear, as no one is sent out to do the work without proper training and help from mentors. There will also be refresher training at regular intervals. So don’t be afraid! Just give this important work some consideration.

His Hon. Judge Geoffrey Kamil, CBE

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Let's Have a RAR Day

With the MoJ publishing revised guidance, now seems as good a time as any to consider what those mysterious 'RAR days' are all about:-  

1. What is the rehabilitation activity requirement?

This guidance is to explain what the rehabilitation activity requirement (known as ‘RAR’) is and how it should be used. This guidance has been produced by the Ministry of Justice probation policy team.

The RAR is one of the requirements that can be included within a community order or suspended sentence order. The main purpose is to secure someone’s rehabilitation, restoring service users to a purposeful life in which they do not reoffend.

The RAR was introduced in 2014 under the Offender Rehabilitation Act to allow providers of probation services greater flexibility to decide on the best ways to rehabilitate individuals. Community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) were encouraged to access a diverse range of rehabilitation providers from the private, voluntary and social sectors.

The RAR replaces what would previously have been undertaken as part of both the supervision and specified activity requirements. What would have previously been known as ‘supervision’ is now split between RAR interventions and offender management activity by the responsible officer (RO). The RO oversees progress of the order and develops a close, trusting relationship with the individual to support them in successfully completing the requirements they’re subject to.

The RO plans with the service user how to use the ‘RAR days’ allocated by the court and which activities to take part in to help their rehabilitation, tailored to their specific needs.


2. RAR in sentencing

The court can decide to include a RAR as part of a community order or a suspended sentence order. They do not have to include a RAR. A RAR should be proposed when the person has clear rehabilitative needs, when appropriate activities are available and where these needs cannot be met by an accredited programme or a treatment requirement.

To assist sentencers, National Probation Service (NPS) court officers should make clear proposals that specifically identify the rehabilitative needs to be addressed and the number of days needed to do so.

Where needs can be met by an accredited programme or treatment requirement, this is the preferred intervention. This is because accredited programmes are evidence based and should achieve improved outcomes if provided to the right people in the right way. A RAR should only be allocated alongside an accredited programme if it can address additional rehabilitative activities that are not addressed by the programme. The RO can offer additional appointments to secure compliance and help maintain motivation.

Treatment requirements are delivered in partnership with locally commissioned substance misuse or mental health treatment services. These partnerships bring together the resources and skills to help those with mental health and substance misuse difficulties. Consent is required for all treatment requirements.

Drug rehabilitation requirements (DRRs) can be given when the court is satisfied that the service user is dependent on or misuses drugs, and that treatment is likely to help and is available.

Alcohol treatment requirements (ATRs) can be given when the court is satisfied that a service user is dependent on alcohol and that treatment is likely to help and is available. The service user’s dependency on alcohol does not have to have caused or contributed to the offence for which they’ve been convicted.

Mental health treatment requirements (MHTRs) can be given where the court is satisfied that an offender has a mental health condition that’s treatable either in a community setting or as an outpatient in a non-secure setting. MHTRs can be used for any mental health issue, including personality disorders, and the treatment offered can cover a wide range of interventions from therapy for depression and anxiety through to secondary and psychiatric care.

3. Assessing rehabilitative needs


A RAR could be used to address someone’s needs in the following areas:

  • accommodation
  • education, training and employment
  • relationships
  • lifestyle and associates
  • non-dependent alcohol misuse (ATRs are intended for those who are alcohol dependent and DRRs for those who misuse illegal drugs)
  • emotional management (MHTRs are intended for all diagnosed mental health conditions, apart from those that require a hospital or guardianship order)
  • attitudes, thinking and behaviour
  • finance, benefits and debt
These are the needs that evidence shows either predict reoffending if they are not met, or if they are addressed will contribute to the stability people need to be able to deal with other significant issues.

In general, the more of these needs the person has, the greater their risk of reoffending. The NPS advises the court in a pre-sentence report on an appropriate maximum number of RAR activity days that might be needed and why. The court cannot set what specific rehabilitation activities should be done.

The court specifies the maximum number of RAR days that someone can be instructed to participate in activities. The number of RAR days allocated should take into account the complexity and severity of someone’s needs and their risk of reoffending. The RAR is not designed to be used as a punishment.

There’s no maximum number of RAR days but the ‘offender group reconviction scale’ (OGRS) score, based on age, gender and criminal history, should be the main guide to the number of days proposed. This is because there’s a clear link between the OGRS score and the number of rehabilitative needs. Longer RARs should be reserved for those with a higher risk of reoffending as they will have the most needs to address.

OGRS score  Average number of needs  RAR intensity  Guideline number of RAR days
0 to 24%        2.4                                                                          n/a
25 to 49%      3.2                                      Low intensity          RAR 1 to 15 days
50 to 74%      4.4                                      Medium intensity    RAR 15 to 25 days
75 to 90%      4.4                                      High intensity         RAR 25 to 60 days
Over 90%      6.2                                      High intensity         RAR 25 to 60 days

People with an OGRS score of less than 25% present a low likelihood of reoffending and are unlikely to benefit from rehabilitative interventions. It should only be in exceptional circumstances that they’re identified as needing a RAR. There would need to be clear indication of dynamic risk factors linked to an increased risk of reoffending.

In relation to identifying the rehabilitative needs of sex offenders, OGRS is not a good predictor of sexual reoffending. The factors most strongly predictive of sexual offending include: unusual sexual interests, attitudes that support sexual offending, poor emotional relationships with adults and a lack of self-management. The NPS court officer needs to assess if any of these factors exist and should be addressed by RAR interventions. If they’re eligible for an accredited programme, that should be the intervention of choice. It may be necessary to propose more RAR days if other stabilisation needs are identified.

The pre-sentence report should provide enough information about someone’s needs for the court to understand what their RAR is likely to focus on and why this should contribute to their rehabilitation.

People under probation supervision frequently have a wide range of needs. The important task is to identify the needs that, for that person, need addressing to reduce their risk of reoffending.

4. RAR in sentence planning

After sentencing, the assigned RO completes an initial assessment and, with the service user, decides on the interventions that will be done within the RAR, how they’ll be delivered, how often the person attends and what outcomes they’re aiming to achieve. This forms part of the ‘sentence plan’. It’s important to focus on the needs that are predictive of reoffending.

A RAR ‘day’ does not mean continuous activity throughout a whole day. All activities need to be enforceable. The activities that count as 1 day could include:

  • individual face-to-face planned and structured sessions designed to address identified needs
  • a planned activity with a third-party provider
  • 2 or more separate planned activities or sessions in the same day
If someone’s circumstances change in the course of the order, the RO can amend the number and type of activities to ensure they continue to meet the person’s needs. However, the number of RAR days cannot exceed that proposed by the court.

The sentence given by the court states the maximum number of RAR days that someone can be instructed to attend. If the RO believes that the agreed outcomes have been achieved through a lower number of RAR days than specified by the court, or through an alternative method, this needs to be recorded on Delius (the probation case management system) with the reasons explained.

5. What counts as a RAR activity

A RAR activity must be a pre-planned, structured intervention to address someone’s identified need to support their rehabilitation. The RO and the service user should agree the desired outcomes ahead of the activities, so that progress can be tracked.

Probation providers will have different interventions they can offer as part of a RAR to address the needs that are strongly predictive of reoffending. These are likely to include activities in the areas of:

  • accommodation
  • education, training and employment
  • relationships
  • lifestyle and associates
  • non-dependent alcohol misuse (ATRs are intended for those who are alcohol dependent and DRRs for those who misuse illegal drugs)
  • emotional management (MHTRs are intended for all diagnosed mental health conditions)
  • attitudes, thinking and behaviour
  • finance, benefits and debt
  • specific interventions for women
This is not a full list. Other activities could be included as a RAR as long as it’s planned, structured, clearly meets rehabilitative needs and there’s a rationale as to why it should work.

The activity could be as part of a group or could be individual ‘face-to-face’. An activity is usually delivered by a third party on behalf of the RO, but could be by the RO themselves if there’s no existing intervention available.

The RO must also undertake additional offender management activities, which include motivation, promoting and sustaining hope, supporting compliance, enforcement, public protection and overseeing the overall direction and sequencing of activities in the order. These appointments do not count as RAR days and the RO can offer as many of these as they feel are necessary during the course of the order. There will also be other unstructured discussions between the RO and the service user to support them in addressing their identified needs. These discussions are crucial to the building of a positive relationship with the service user, but do not count as RAR days.

6. Selecting RAR activities

The RO needs to understand the person’s needs that lie behind the offence and select an existing intervention to addresses these. If no suitable activity exists then they must record this on Delius (the probation case management system) with the reasons explained.

Examples of activities could include:

  • programmes designed to address specific issues such as emotional management
  • enforceable appointments with a specialist organisation to help achieve outcomes relating to housing or financial needs
  • working with a mentor, for example to attend college, go to the library or help prepare a CV
  • structured sessions with a RO, third sector provider or in-house specialist to help improve an individual’s ability to solve problems, make good decisions or access and maintain engagement with other services
7. Delivering RAR activities

RAR activities can be delivered by a sub-contracted provider (where there are arrangements to monitor attendance, as these are legally enforceable), an in-house specialist or by the RO. When the RO is delivering RAR interventions, this should be recorded as such, as it’s distinct from their offender management activity. The RO should ensure the service user is engaging with the process and making progress.

All appointments instructed by the RO, whether delivered by the RO or other RAR provider, are enforceable.

The RO should be assessing whether the person’s needs are being met through the planned interventions and making changes if appropriate. The provider of the RAR activity should be reporting back on attendance, progress and suggested next steps.

The service user cannot be instructed to attend more RAR days than those given in their sentence. The RAR days do not necessarily need to be spaced out for the duration of the sentence, they can be completed whenever is most appropriate.

After completing the RAR activities to address the risk of reoffending, the RO can signpost the service user to further support if needed.

The outcome of the RAR intervention needs to be recorded on Delius. This should reflect whether the desired outcomes that were agreed as part of the initial sentence plan have been achieved. The RO needs to confirm that this counts as the completion of the RAR. If fewer days have been completed, the RO needs to record the rationale for taking this decision, a description of the progress that’s been made and the outcome achieved.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Deckchairs May Not Move : Shock!

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following which perfectly demonstrates what a total omnishambles privatised probation has become since TR:-

Dear colleagues

Some of you will have seen that yesterday, Aurelius - the backer of one of the other parent companies providing probation services - published an announcement suggesting that they will shortly transfer their operations to Seetec, the parent company to Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company.

The areas of service delivery in question are Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire (BGSW), Dorset, Devon and Cornwall (DDC) and Wales.

This announcement was picked up by some in the sector and was also circulated on social media.

There are a great many factual inaccuracies in the announcement. I want to set out candidly to the whole team what is happening.

The first thing I want to say is that Seetec is not in negotiations with Aurelius nor Working Links to buy these services or Working Links, as is suggested in the announcement. Neither has any agreement been reached to transfer these services.

However, as part of the Ministry of Justice’s contingency planning in respect of these regions, we have been asked to provide the MoJ with a proposal on how we might manage and operate these services. Those discussions are progressing but no final agreement has yet been reached.

You will know that I am of the view that should a provider be unable to fulfil their commitments, there should be an opportunity for others to step-in to manage the service. Seetec’s financial position is strong and, thanks to your hard work, we have a proven track record in Kent, Surrey and Sussex. We stand ready to help and support the Ministry of Justice if that is an option they wish to take.

However, perhaps more importantly, it is vital to remember that our probation colleagues in the south-west and Wales continue to support the people they work with and protect the public. It must be a very challenging time for them, and the announcement published yesterday has only served to fuel uncertainty and anxiety.

I am determined to ensure that we don’t add further uncertainty to that picture, and we will continue to focus on service delivery in our own area. I will keep you updated as to any other changes in this situation over the coming days.


Suki Binning
Chief Executive, Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Things Can Only Get Better

So, we learn via the MoJ press release that Michael Spurr's replacement is not to be a 'dyed in the wool' civil servant, but someone with extensive Local Government experience and particularly versed in how to deliver public services during hard financial times. Lets not forget Mr Spurr's part in TR and hope things can only get better under Dr Farrar. (Sorry about the old Blairite slogan). 

Chief Executive of HM Prison and Probation Service: next appointment

Dr Jo Farrar has been appointed as the next Chief Executive of HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). Jo will take up the post on 1 April, following an open competition.

During a career spanning more than 30 years, Jo has gained wide-ranging experience of leading complex public organisations through times of significant change. At present, she is Director General for Local Government and Public Services at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – a role she has held since 2016. As part of this, she has helped local government to deal with significant increases in demand in a difficult financial climate.

Before that, she served as Chief Executive first at Bath and North-East Somerset Council and then at Bridgend County Borough Council.

Prior to those roles, Jo spent 16 years in central government – with both the Home Office and Cabinet Office. Her public service career started in the Parole Unit of the Prison Service, in 1987.

She succeeds Michael Spurr who is leaving the role after nine years, as was announced in September 2018.

Jo Farrar said:

I am hugely honoured by the opportunity to lead HMPPS at such an important time. It is a service that is critical to protecting the public and helping people turn their lives around. Early in my career, my work in prisons and probation gave me a lasting commitment to public service and a passion to make a difference. I am delighted to return.

The issues we face in our prisons, and the need to put vital probation services onto a strong footing, are well known. Working alongside the dedicated people in all parts of HMPPS, I look forward to addressing these challenges and delivering improvement over the years to come as we create an outstanding service of which we can all be proud.

Sir Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, said:

Jo’s record of getting difficult things done in the public service made her an outstanding candidate for this job. She will provide energy, focus and humane leadership as HMPPS emerges from several challenging years. It is a tribute to Michael Spurr’s determination and skill, as well as to the hard work of so many colleagues across HMPPS, that Jo will arrive at a time of cautious optimism for this incredibly important service. I look forward to working closely with her as we consolidate and accelerate this progress.

Rt Hon David Gauke MP, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, said:

This is truly one of the most important jobs in the civil service and I am delighted that HMPPS has secured a Chief Executive of Jo’s undoubted calibre. Since taking office, I have worked very closely with Michael’s team on an ambitious programme of reform to prisons and probation. His dedication during that time – and for many years beforehand – has been outstanding. As HMPPS enters a new era, under new leadership, I very much look forward to working with Jo as we strive to deliver the world-class service to which we all aspire.

Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, Communities Secretary, said:

I am extremely grateful to Jo for her relentless dedication and commitment to local government during a period where the system has faced real challenges.

Her focus has been unwavering on doing the best for her staff, as well as turning innovative policies on communities and public service reform in to tangible actions with real results. She is an example of the very best of public service and I wish her all the best in her new role.

Michael Spurr will remain as Chief Executive of HMPPS until 31 March.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Deckchairs Shuffled

Judging by this German press release it would seem there's been a further consolidation of CRC ownership and failing Working Links has been sold:-

Munich / London, February 5, 2019 – AURELIUS Equity Opportunities SE & Co. KGaA (ISIN DE000A0JK2A8) will sell the remaining parts of its public-sector business in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The homecare business in Northern Ireland was sold to the longtime minority shareholder, the Mackle family. The business of community rehabilitation services for the British public authorities (so-called CRCs, Community Rehabilitation Companies) will be transferred in accordance with them to services company Seetec, based in Hockley (Great Britain).

AURELIUS had already sold the homecare business in England, Scotland and Wales to the Health Care Resourcing Group (CRG), based in Prescot (Great Britain), at the end of 2018. With the current sale, AURELIUS has now withdrawn completely from the business of outsourced services for the public authorities in Great Britain. The further development of this market will largely depend on public budgetary conditions. Government savings constraints have already led to a substantial consolidation of this industry in the past few years.

After being acquired by AURELIUS, these activities were subjected to an extensive restructuring program, including the introduction of a much improved IT infrastructure, the enhancement of service quality, and cost reductions in the areas of personnel, overhead costs and rents.

--oo00oo--

Statement from Napo on future of Working Links CRCs

It has been bought to our attention that Aurelius Group have today announced, via their Website, their intention to transfer the Working Links CRCs to Seetec, who currently own Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC.

Napo believes that there are very good reasons to doubt the veracity of this statement and that any such transfer of interests is among a number of options that are being actively explored and which would still require the approval of the Secretary of State for Justice.

The Probation unions are in regular contact with senior HMPPS and MoJ management to press our case for reunification of the service. During these discussions we have constantly raised our concerns about the performance of Working Links and their parent company Aurelius. We have said that in our view these CRCs should be immediately reinstated to the status of Government Companies rather than inviting another CRC owner to step in and try to address the serious problems that have occurred since the start of the contracts.

Napo believes that the Aurelius statement today and the communication to CRC staff last week have caused unnecessary speculation and uncertainty.

Napo wanted to assure our members in the Working Links CRCs that we are aware of this development and that whatever future option comes to pass, we will be making urgent representations to ensure that terms and conditions as well as jobs are protected.

In this uncertain time we understand that this ill-judged communication from Aurelius will cause even more anxiety to our members. As soon as we have more details we will update you.

Ian Lawrence
General Secretary Napo