Saturday, 21 April 2018

Probation Behind Bars

In the alphabet soup world of probation, OMiC is on the lips of many NPS staff as they contemplate having to serve a term behind bars under yet another new initiative. I notice Napo have published their considered thoughts on the matter:-

Offender Management in Custody – Napo view 


Napo has been in consultation with the OMIC project team for several months. This is a consultation, where the employer shares their plans and the Trade Unions have an opportunity to make comments. There is no way for any Trade Union to agree or disagree the plans, we can only comment and make suggestions. We are aware that some Divisional management teams have been presenting matters as “agreed with the Trade Unions” but this is not the case. 

Here we set out what we know and the concerns that we have about the model and the impact of implementation. So far we have been in consultation primarily with the design team given much of the implementation has been delegated to Divisional Implementation Boards (DIBS) which are comprised of both prison and NPS members. All of the information we know so far relates to public sector prisons. We are aware that discussions are ongoing with contracted out prisons but we have not received the detail on this as yet. 

What we know so far 

The DIBS were sent “Data Packs” comprising of approximately 100 pages of documents including projected figures for OMIC staffing (both probation and prison band 4 - formerly Offender Supervisors) based on a projected figure for each of the closed male prisons at a point in 2019. We know that the data shared with divisions and with prisons may be flawed, this has been admitted by the centre following questions by TUs and the divisions. It seems that differences in calculations of resourcing, along with differences in how divisions allocate current resources may have skewed things unhelpfully. What we do know is that the likely additional resource going into most prisons will be minimal (0.5 to three additional staff) but most of the High Security and Cat B establishments may require more (up to eight additional staff). The divisions (via the DIBS) have until the end of March to make an impact assessment to ensure that they can still deliver community work when they move staff to fill the vacancies in prisons. Despite the influx of new POs via the PQiP there are still likely to be shortages in some areas over the next couple of years, especially as the additional SPO resource for prisons is likely to come from the current PO group of staff. 

We have been told that WMT measures will not be used for custody work and that the project group have devised a resourcing model. This has been done with no consultation about the impact of the change to ways of working and there is no explanation as to how the resourcing figures have been devised, although an explanation has been requested. It is important to note that NPS staff working in custody will not the doing the same role as is currently done with a custody case from the community, it will be a combination of that role and the current Offender Supervisor role. A huge amount of work by the employers, trade union members and other staff went into the WMT timings that we currently have in place for the community. These may not be perfect, but they are based on an agreement and are the best we’ve got. It is very disappointing that the OMiC model is not using a similar approach to workload management for staff who will be working in custody. 

Many LDUs are currently struggling to fill PO vacancies and this has an impact on workloads. OMiC is being presented in some areas as a potential part of the solution to this issue as the figures (which are flawed) appear to suggest that fewer staff will be needed than anticipated, speeding up the process of getting to the fully resourced stage. Implementation is due to start in April 2018 and complete by September 2019 and the Divisional Implementation Boards will be responsible for ensuring that community delivery is not affected by the transition. 

There will be an SPO in each prison, staffed on the basis of 1 SPO to between 10 and 14 members of staff which is higher than the community equivalent. 

The OM team in the prison will be made up of NPS POs, prison Band 4 staff (either operational i.e. uniformed or non-operational) known as Prison Offender Managers (POMs). In addition there will be prison case administrators. The SPO will be responsible for managing all the Prison Offender Managers. This means that the SPO will be managing a team made up of people who have a different employer and different terms and conditions and different organisational culture. The SPO will be the Head of Offender Management Delivery and will be line managed by the Prison Governor (Deputy) and therefore the OM team will sit within the prison structure. The NPS will however remain the budget / resource owner and mention has been made of a link to the NPS divisions for professional development. The existing prison Head of Offender Management will become the Head of Offender Management Services. 

NPS staff will be expected to remain in a custodial role for 3-5 years and those already working in custody will not be expected to spend more than a further 3-5 years in this setting. Divisions are expected to ask all staff if they would like to work in custody or not and seek volunteers to fill any vacancies. The prison supplement (£675 pa) will be paid and excess fares/mileage will apply to directed moves as per the permanent transfer policy. Newly qualified POs can be placed in a prison role but only if there is sufficient support and experience within the team for them. 

Napo Concerns

Aside from concerns about the feasibility of the model (it promotes inconsistency of Offender manager and will make it more difficult to create a positive working relationship with the client which is the foundation of desistance according to research) there are many other concerns that members have around the implementation of OMiC. These concerns need to be raised both nationally and at divisional meetings with the divisional implementation boards. 

Workloads 

As mentioned above, it is not clear what measurements HMPPS are using to determine resourcing and therefore workloads. The SBC and WMT measures are based on doing one part of the OM role from the community. The rest of the role was done in custody by the OS (employed either by NPS or HMPS). Using these figures would give both too low a figure for resourcing and for WMT purposes resulting in an immediate workload crisis for Probation staff working in custody who would be unable to fulfil expectations to do two people’s jobs in the time given for only one. It is not clear what the resourcing figures are based on. As indications of staffing numbers are being released this concern is becoming acute as members working in prisons where there will be only a minor increase in staffing wonder how they will absorb a huge amount of additional work and members working in the community become more resistant to moving into custody fearing even worse workload pressures than in the community. 

We have already had some NPS staff working in custody telling local Napo reps that they are expected to hold CRC cases because the prison staff who should be taking on this work are needed for operational work on the wings to keep the prison running. This has always been a concern and is magnified by the fact that the OM team will sit within the prison structure, signalling that they are a resource to be used for operational priorities. 

For SPOs going to work in prisons the prospect of managing up to 14 people in a team with more than one employer and different terms and conditions, along with responsibility for delivering such a significant change to ways of working is daunting and we have serious concerns about the manageability of workloads for SPOs as well as concerns about the line management arrangements. It is already challenging for SPOs to manage a community team of 10 staff with the same employer and we have made representations that this ratio is wrong. 

Process of moving staff into custody roles 

Prisons are not evenly distributed around the country. There will be some members who do not live within an hour’s travel of a prison. When this was raised locally some DIB leads responded that all offices were within an hour of a prison, but this does not take into account that staff do not live in the office! There are some office locations which often struggle with staffing as they “feed” more than one prison with location meaning that they are the only “feeder” office. This poses another problem, if staff are moving out of some office locations to fill prison spaces but not others will there need to be a re-distribution of remaining staff to fill vacancies? The employer needs to bear in mind that since 2014 there have been more than usual office and staffing moves due to the segregation of CRC and NPS in many areas followed by re-distribution of staff due to E3. The process has been broadly painful for staff, with confusion over policy and process and a lack of common sense or pragmatic approach, never mind compassion. 

The process for moving staff is not given much attention in guidance, managers are simply told that 60 mins travel time is appropriate (90 mins in London) and to take account of reasonable adjustments. However, we have had some incidents of members facing extreme financial pressures as a result of being moved (exacerbated by the lack of fairness in the pay system) and members having to reduce their working hours (adding to the workload crisis) simply to accommodate additional travel. We would like to see additional guidance which includes the need to take all personal circumstances into account and to enter into genuine consultation on any directed moves. 

Flexible working and accessibility 

There are examples of members being told that, as they are moving to a prison role, their compressed hours or other flexible working arrangements (that allow them to balance work and caring or other responsibilities) cannot be honoured. This appears to be a problem in some establishments more than others, which reflects each individual prisons “culture” rather than a consistent HMPPS approach given there are also positive examples. There have also been examples of members being moved out of a prison role due to mobility issues (many prisons are impossible to move around without significant amounts of walking including stairs), there are examples of members being told they will have to leave medication they need regular access to in their car as it is not appropriate to have it in the prison meaning they have to leave the prison and re-enter via search etc each time they need to take it. All of these issues would need to be considered when deciding who should move to a prison role. A member may not require any adjustments in their current workplace but that does not mean the prison environment would be accessible to them. We have some members who do not drive, either by choice or not and it not an occupational requirement for Probation Officers to drive. Many prisons are not reasonably accessible by public transport given their physical location and this also needs to be taken into account. 

Location and Geography 

Most prison roles are currently filled by staff working in a local LDU cluster, especially when direction is needed. This is reinforced by the idea that, even though we are all working for the same employer, there is an imaginary wall between budgets for divisions and LDU clusters. It should be noted however that quirks of boundaries and transport and road networks can make a neighbouring LDU cluster area (even one in a neighbouring division) easier to access. Members would like to see volunteers for moves into prison being sought from all areas (including neighbouring divisions) before direction is considered, and for directed moves to include consideration of staff in other areas where travel could be within 60 minutes as well as the local LDU cluster. 

Safety in prisons 

There are some well publicised concerns about safety in prisons which are clearly of concern to our members. In all of the discussions about OMiC this is not mentioned in sufficient detail leading members to the belief that it is not being considered by the employer. Comment is made about the presence of alarm bells and radios but not a sophisticated understanding of the complexity of the individual we work with. In addition to the general considerations there are some members from BAME backgrounds who currently are not placed in certain offices due to concerns about their physical and emotional wellbeing. The employer must be able to demonstrate that they can meet their duty of care to staff when placing them in a custodial environment. This duty of care extends to emotional wellbeing and protection from abuse and discrimination as well as physical wellbeing. 

The transfer of cases between Prison Offender Managers and the community 

The data pack and the documentation contained in it has a series of PowerPoint diagrams (which are posted somewhere on the HMPPS intranet but not easily accessible) which identifies which type of case goes to HMPS, NPS and CRC and the point at which they transfer back to a community based colleague and in a number of cases back again. It is a complex set of scenarios, which has the potential to cause confusion especially if the underpinning IT or other systems are not in place. 

Contracted out prisons 

Less is understood at this point about the model for contracted out prisons, and the interface between the NPS and prison in the model may be different for these establishments. We are aware that some members working in contracted out prisons have been given differing versions of the process that will apply to them, we are seeking clarification on this. 

Job Descriptions and Job Evaluation 

We have been told that no changes to job descriptions will be needed as a result of OMiC and that therefore no job evaluation will be required. We will work with members closely to monitor this and, once there is more information available about the roles, there may be evidence to support a request for new or amended job descriptions. Where there are new job descriptions or significant amendments to job descriptions there would of course be a job evaluation process.

Friday, 20 April 2018

Digital Bollocks

Can anyone explain what this is all about?



Here's last year's advert:-

Delivery Manager for HMPPS Digital

An exciting opportunity for talented, tenacious individuals looking to join our team and take lead in creating world-class services in the Prison and Probation environment. You will ensure the secure delivery of high-quality, user-centred products that positively impact the lives of offenders, prison staff and society as a whole.


We're building a team of around seventy experts in Web Development, Design and User Research in Sheffield. This is a brilliant opportunity to be part of a growing team from its nascent stage and to play an active and continued role in the strategic development of the team and studio approaches. - Product team of product owner, interaction designer, developers - Agile coach for the studio - Head of Delivery in Sheffield - Community of delivery managers (currently you plus one other - growing to 8 in Sheffield), MOJ delivery management community (based in London), cross-government agile delivery community


What the specialist will work on 

Enable team members to create/run outstanding digital services using appropriate agile principles/methodologies, learning & iterating approaches frequently, to ensure the team deliver in the most effective and efficient way possible Remove impediments/blockers for the team Work with the product manager and other team members to define the roadmap for your service and translate this into actionable user stories and sprint-by-sprint plans Lead the collaborative, dynamic planning process for each sprint, helping team members prioritise work against the capacity and capability of the team Participate in the agile delivery manager community, sharing/re-applying skills/knowledge and bringing in best practice

Buyers will use the essential and nice-to-have skills and experience to help them evaluate suppliers’ technical competence.


Essential skills and experience 
  • Proven experience in delivering high quality digital projects and products
  • Proven experience using a range of agile tools and techniques
  • Proven experience balancing multiple priorities and dealing with ambiguity
  • Proven ability to challenge and remove any unnecessary barriers to service delivery
  • Experience in matrix-managing multi-disciplinary teams
  • Highly articulate and credible at a senior level, consistently delivering accurate reporting as to the current state of play with regard to the delivery of your service
  • Experience creating an excellent, delivery-focused, fun team environment where all team members from a range of disciplines thrive
Nice-to-have skills and experience 
  • Strong negotiation skills and the ability to influence external partners, stakeholders and customers to secure mutually beneficial outcomes
  • Excellent understanding of the digital landscape (inside and outside of government) and the opportunities for service improvement and innovation offered by digital technology
  • A high degree of market awareness, with demonstrable experience of innovative approaches to procuring services and of managing relationships with suppliers
--oo00oo--

The person has been in post for a year, so I wonder what's been delivered? Maybe this from last May on the Register website might shed some light on this kind of thing:-

Can you spout digital bollocks? London is hiring a Chief Digital Officer
Interest-free bicycle bundled with £100k+ salary

The Mayor of London is hiring a chief digital officer for the capital, advertised at a cool £107,000. The job advert on the Greater London Assembly website says:

As London's CDO, working in the Mayor's Office, you will convene GLA officials, the Smart London Board, local authorities and the technology sectors to encourage collaboration and adoption of common standards around data and service transformation, to drive the development of smart city technology, and to build London's reputation as the city that the world looks to for leadership in urban innovation.
It continues: "You will be a powerful advocate for technology and have the communication and diplomatic skills to convene and influence a wide range of external stakeholders."

We read all this guff and frankly we're none the wiser about what this role would actually contribute to... well, anything. Perhaps unwisely, we tried searching for a definition of "chief digital officer". This led us to CIO.co.uk, who burbled: "Chief Digital Officers are considered both the new stars of the C-suite as well as faddish or transitory roles which will eventually go away – a view even held by a number of CDOs themselves." Even the people currently in these roles realise that they're doing non-jobs.

Sorry Isn't Enough

Theresa May at TuesdayĆ¢€™s meeting with Caribbean leaders at Downing Street

As regular readers will appreciate, now and then this blog goes 'off piste', and so it is that I feel compelled to say something regarding yet another astonishing week in British politics that saw the Prime Minister forced to publicly eat humble pie and apologise not once, but twice. Apologies don't come easily to politicians and it doesn't happen that often. We are still waiting to hear one in relation to the TR fiasco, but that is nothing compared to this.     

When you've been around for awhile, heard about and seen some astonishing things, I guess you don't expect to be utterly blown away by something any more, but words can't really convey how angry and ashamed the Windrush saga makes me feel. I simply could not believe what I was hearing, people from the Caribbean who had answered the call to settle and work in this country after the Second World War, had paid taxes, held passports, paid National Insurance, started drawing pensions, were now some sixty years later being told by the Home Office that they had no right of residence and if they could not supply four pieces of documentary evidence for each of the last 40 years or so, they would be deported.      

As the story began to go nuclear at the start of the week and the Commonwealth Heads of Government began arriving in London, we heard the astonishing discourtesy of No 10 saying that the Prime Minister's diary simply 'did not allow time' for a meeting with twelve of them to discuss the issue. Within a day the diary was magically cleared and the first apology came from Theresa May's lips. By Wednesday the second was made in the House of Commons and by Thursday promises to make amends had been made and a special Home Office unit was already at work in order to 'fix' things.

It was of course one Theresa May who, when in charge at the Home Office, infamously instigated the climate of hostility towards illegal immigration, introducing those dreadful advertising vans that drove around threatening action and stirring up fear and alarm. We now learn that it was under her watch that the carefully-stored disembarkation cards had been destroyed - the very documents that could help determine the legal status of the so-called Windrush generation. This news generated what must be the lamest of official reasoning I've ever heard. Apparently we are meant to believe that the destruction of these records was due to concerns over 'data protection'. Someone is clearly taking the piss.

Throughout this whole sorry, shameful, on-going saga, what has really left an impression with me has been the quiet dignity of those who have been affected and interviewed by the media. I've found their stories of official, abusive and repressive treatment by the state truly shocking and heart-rending and made particularly poignant just as the Commonwealth Heads of Government are assembled in London. History may never record how angry and dispiriting it must all be to our Head of State.

It's note-worthy how gracious those Commonwealth leaders interviewed have been in accepting the Prime Minister's apology. When invited to suggest that the action of the Home Office could be viewed as racist, one said no, it appeared to be a 'cock-up'. Well I think it was yet more evidence of an insidious, uncaring, nasty government that appears quite comfortable to put the sick and disabled through Work Capability Assessments, see the homeless die on our city streets, force the poor to pay Bedroom Taxes, remove Legal Aid from many defendants and engineer a regime in our prisons that is returning many to the Victorian age. For me this has been a week when I feel ashamed by what my country is becoming.     

      

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Homelessness and Denial

As all probation staff know, provision of safe, affordable accommodation is an essential element of trying to stay offence-free and effective resettlement or rehabilitation following release from prison. It's been some time since we covered issues connected to homelessness, and the situation is alarming. This from the Guardian:-

Deaths of UK homeless people more than double in five years
The number of homeless people recorded dying on streets or in temporary accommodation has more than doubled over the last five years in the UK, the Guardian can reveal. With people found dead in supermarket car parks, church graveyards and crowded hostels, the number of deaths has risen year on year, from 31 in 2013 to 70 in 2017. At least 230 people have died over that period.

The figures compiled by the Guardian, which include an average of more than one death a week in 2017, are likely to be a substantial underestimate, as no part of the UK government records homeless death statistics at a national level, and local authorities are not required to count rough sleeper deaths.

According to the Guardian’s figures, the average age of a rough sleeper at death was 43, nearly half the UK life expectancy. Around 90% of those who died in the last five years were men, when the gender was provided. Experts have put the rise down to a rapidly increasing homeless population, rising rents, welfare cuts and lack of social housing, and have called for the government to take urgent action to address the root causes of poverty.

The sub-zero temperatures and heavy snow brought by Siberian air early in 2018 signalled a continuation of a deadly 2017, with at least 23 homeless deaths on the streets and in temporary accommodation reported by local media so far this year. In February the death of Marcos Amaral Gourgel drew widespread media attention after he died in freezing weather at Westminster underground station next to the Houses of Parliament.

“These figures are a devastating reminder that rough sleeping is beyond dangerous – it’s deadly, and it’s claiming more and more lives each year,” said Matthew Downie, of the homeless charity Crisis. He added: “Those sleeping on our streets are exposed to everything from sub-zero temperatures to violence and abuse, and fatal illnesses. They are 17 times more likely to be a victim of violence, twice as likely to die from infections, and nine times more likely to commit suicide. What’s worse, we know these figures are likely to be an underestimate.”

The investigation, which provides the most comprehensive record of homeless deaths in the UK to date, has prompted leading homeless charities to call for more robust statistics on mortality rates, and an extension of the review system used by local government and emergency services to investigate the deaths of vulnerable adults. Currently, homeless deaths are only investigated if there is concern that state agencies could have done more to prevent a death.

The Guardian asked all local authorities in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England how many verified rough sleepers have died in the council’s territory in the last five calendar years, asking for details on age, gender, location and access to homelessness services for each death through a freedom of information act request.

A verified rough sleeper is a homeless person who has been seen rough sleeping by an outreach worker, as described by the homelessness charity St Mungo’s. The request also asked councils to include deaths of verified rough sleepers in temporary accommodation, local authority run and commissioned B&Bs and support housing.

Several councils with large homeless populations where deaths have been reported in local media, including Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Leeds and Southend, either did not respond to the Guardian’s FOI request by the required deadline, or do not record the information.

The Guardian excluded 63 deaths reported by local authorities from the total statistics because they either did not meet the FOI definition, even though they might reasonably meet the public’s understanding of a homeless death, or because the information was not provided by local authorities in an interpretable format.

Greater London is the only part of the UK which records detailed information on its street population through the Combined Homelessness and Information Network (Chain), run by St Mungo’s . According to the figures, rough sleeping deaths peaked at 23 in 2014, and reached 21 in 2016, but fell to 16 last year.

Rough sleeping in England has increased for the seventh consecutive year, official figures have show, with at least 4,751 people sleeping rough every night, although the actual figure is widely believed to be much higher. Petra Salva, the director of rough sleeper services at St Mungo’s, called on the government to mandate safeguarding adult board reviews into every suspected rough sleeper death to establish more robust statistics. “Investigating deaths will help identify issues around care and where more help is needed to move people off the street and out of danger,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Homelessness Reduction Act came into force, which imposes new legal duties on English councils to prevent and relieve homelessness. While the new laws have been welcomed by campaigners, charities have said the act fails to address the root causes of poverty.

Polly Neate, the CEO of Shelter, said it would be dangerous for the government to see the law change as “job done”, and described the data as a “stain on our national conscience.”

After the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government were sent the figures by the Guardian, a government spokesperson said: “Every death of someone sleeping rough on our streets is one too many. We are taking bold action and have committed to halving rough sleeping by 2022 and eliminating it altogether by 2027. We are investing £1.2bn to tackle all forms of homelessness and earlier this week the Homelessness Reduction Act, the most ambitious legislation in this area in decades, came into force.”

The data was also sent to the Office for National Statistics, who confirmed they do not hold figures on rough sleeper deaths due to the way deaths are reported.


--oo00oo--

There's a new piece of legislation, but cynicism is rife. This again from the Guardian:-


Homelessness: another fine mess for councils created by government
Instead of rethinking welfare cuts or building more homes, ministers have refused to face the human cost of their policies. The Homelessness Reduction Act, which came into force this month, is at the same time a necessary and utterly ludicrous piece of legislation.

It is necessary because homelessness is spiralling out of control. As research from Crisis and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation published on 11 April reveals, there has been a 169% rise in rough sleeping, a 48% rise in the number of homelessness cases dealt with by local councils and a staggering 250% rise in people living in bed and breakfast accommodation since 2010. These rises mean England has more than 78,000 households living in temporary accommodation and more than 9,000 people living on the streets – and these figures are widely accepted to be a severe underestimate.

The new act places a legal duty on councils to help people at risk of homelessness find accommodation. They have been given £72m over three years to help deliver this – an amount that is almost certainly not enough but is a start.

It all sounds admirable. In reality, though, this is an exercise in policymaking so irrational it would be funny if it were not literally a matter of life and death. Not for the first time local government is being required to clear up a social and moral mess that is entirely the result of terrible policy decisions by central government.

Heather Wheeler, the homelessness minister, may disingenuously claim not to know what has caused the rise in homelessness but the Commons public accounts committee, the National Audit Office(NAO) and those who work with homeless people are of one voice: cuts to housing-related welfare payments and council support services are the drivers. They also agree that the impact of these cuts has been made worse by an overheated housing market in which private rental costs have skyrocketed in recent years.

In any logical policymaking world, a government might look at this evidence of the causes behind a growing national crisis and take action. Maybe rethink welfare reforms. Possibly bring some sanity back to the housing market by letting councils borrow more to build affordable homes for rent. Or even do something to reverse the 29% cuts to local government spending since 2010 now that the prime minister has admitted there is more money for vital public services.

And in a truly logical policymaking world, the former chancellor George Osborne would have listened to the Chartered Institute of Housing and numerous housing charities when they told him many years ago that cutting housing-related welfare payments and council support services would lead to greater homelessness. If he had, he might have foreseen that his money-saving plans would increase council spending on temporary accommodation by £330m.

As the NAO stated in 2012, the government has failed to take enough notice of the likely impact of its cuts on housing. And despite that early warning, the NAO concluded in September, this see-no-evil attitude continues today. In short, expect irrational policymaking – and the suffering of homeless people – to continue.

Adam Lent is director of the New Local Government Network


--oo00oo--

This final article from the Guardian seems to indicate the minister is in denial:- 

Homelessness minister: I don’t know why rough sleeper numbers are up
Heather Wheeler says she does not believe welfare reform and council cuts are factors

The UK’s new homelessness minister has told the Guardian she does not know why the number of rough sleepers has increased so significantly in recent years. Heather Wheeler said she did not accept the suggestion that welfare reforms and council cuts had contributed to the rise.

On a visit to a housing project in Glasgow, Wheeler said she remained “totally confident” she would not have to act on her pledge to resign should she fail to meet the Conservative manifesto commitment of halving rough sleeping by 2022, and eradicating it by 2027. “We’re going to move heaven and earth to get that done,” she promised.

In a recent interview, the Guardian spoke to Jon Sparkes, chief executive of the homelessness charity Crisis, who sits on Wheeler’s new rough sleeping advisory group for England. He expressed his frustration at the Westminster government’s failure to recognise the influence of welfare reforms – such as the housing benefit freeze, the household benefit cap and the universal credit rollout – on homelessness.

Wheeler was asked on Thursday about the reasons for the rise in rough sleeping, which has increased in England for seven consecutive years; official figures show 4,751 people slept outside overnight in 2017. The MP for South Derbyshire said: “In truth, I don’t know. That’s one of the interesting things for me to find out over the last eight weeks that I’ve been doing the job. We’ve looked at the different cohorts, and in London the number of veterans who are rough sleepers is down to about 2%.”

Commending the “amazing job” done by armed forces charities, she went on to describe a second “classic” reason for rough sleeping: coming out of prison with no support. “It’s very difficult. We also have a real problem in London with people coming over [mainly from Europe] for jobs, sofa surfing with friends, and then the job changes and they have a problem.”

Wheeler was visiting Turning Point Scotland’s Housing First project, part of an internationally successful model that places the most entrenched rough sleepers in permanent housing before they deal with addiction, mental illness or other challenges. It works on the assumption that people make the most progress when in a stable home, rather than a hostel or shared temporary accommodation.

In November, the Conservative government pledged £28m for similar pilots in the West Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool. A government-funded study in Liverpool concluded that Housing First could save £4m compared with current homelessness services in the area. Describing the appeal of Housing First, Wheeler asked: “What does ‘good’ look like? Having 80% of tenancies renewed. Drug rehab, booze rehab, mental health issues ... they can get sorted so much better when the wraparound care is there.”

Scotland, which had almost eliminated homelessness after pioneering legislation was passed by Holyrood in 2003, has recently experienced a similar increase, with an estimated 5,000 rough sleepers across the year.

The homelessness and rough sleeping action group, commissioned by the Scottish government and chaired by Sparkes, set out its first recommendations in November, which were immediately implemented. They included giving credit cards to frontline workers who need to make emergency purchases for rough sleepers, and rapid rehousing in settled accommodation rather than leaving people for months or years in temporary placements.

Wheeler said she was “mulling over” the action group’s recommendations and their applicability south of the border: “I want to come up here and learn about what goes on.”

Asked whether she perceived a difference in attitude to homelessness between Holyrood and Westminster, Wheeler said: “Actually, no. I think that maybe England is a tad more cautious in that we are very keen that we have proper pilots and we assess it. And I regret to say that the problem with the supply of affordable housing in England is much, much, much larger than Scotland. I find it fascinating that there is no private-sector rental used at all to place people up here – it’s all local authority and housing association, because you have supply.”

Asked whether she had heard from Glasgow service users that welfare cuts were leading to greater domestic insecurity, and if she felt at odds with other government departments in her mission, she said: “I didn’t hear that, which is refreshing. This is about supply. If you don’t sort out supply of affordable housing, there’s another million people living in our lovely country, we need to have greater supply of affordable housing. We are spending £9bn on affordable housing [by March 2021] because we recognise that’s what we have to do.”

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Latest From Napo 175

Here we have the latest blog post from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:- 

PROBATION UNIONS ORGANISE DAY OF PROTEST OVER PAY

Following my earlier reports on pay over the last few weeks Napo, UNISON (and we hope the GMB) are organising a Day of Protest for members in the NPS and CRCs to show their anger and dismay at the way that probation workers have been treated over the 2017/18 Pay farce and the delays in negotiations over longer term pay reform from 2018 onwards.

As has been made clear, the unions showed great patience during 2017 in the hope that our claims would be treated with respect. Attempts have been made to negotiate with the NPS and CRCs, but with the exception of a few CRCs, members have received little more than the increment which they were contractually entitled to, and members at the top of their pay band received absolutely nothing last year.

Probation staff have been treated far worse over pay than most other public sector workers, with only a 1% pay rise since 2009. That is why the unions are organising a Day of Protest on Friday 18 May for members to show their employer, the Ministry of Justice, and the government, just how strongly you feel about the disrespectful manner in which our claims have been considered. The state of probation pay, across the NPS and the CRCs, is a disgrace,

NATIONAL PROBATION SERVICE

On 16 February 2018, Michael Spurr confirmed that NPS staff would get nothing for their 2017 pay award, other than the contractual increment which staff received back in April last year. The 25% of NPS staff at the top of their pay band have received nothing, and there will be no increase in any allowances.

This was basically because HMPPS top-sliced your pay rise for 2017 to give a 1.7% pay increase for prison staff; £340 million to the CRCs in the big bail out last July and to pay £3,000 market forces payments to all new staff in the South East Division (but not to existing staff in the South East). Therefore, the NPS has spent the money that should have funded a pay rise on other projects.

COMMUNITY REHABILITATION COMPANIES

Only one CRC owner has made a pay offer for 2017, which the unions have been able to recommend. Others have made very low pay awards to staff, but some have done the same as NPS and given only contractual increments to their staff for 2017. The CRCs will no doubt plead poverty, but they got a £340 million bail out last July and, in the majority of CRCs, very little of this cash has trickled down to staff.

It’s time to protest on Friday 18 May

Given the above scenario your National Executive Committee have agreed a range of activities designed to show the NPS, HMPPS and the CRCs that treating probation workers in this way is wrong. That is why we are encouraging all members to take part in a day of protest over pay on 18 May. This will not constitute industrial action and you are not being asked to refuse to undertake your normal duties.

The unions will be producing materials to support the day, including leaflets and placards. We would like members to stage protests in public areas near to your workplaces, contact local MPs to come and meet you, and tell your stories to the local media. More information will be available shortly, but please put 18 May in your diary now.

NPS told pay NMW now

Here is what the unions have told HMPPS following some astonishing prevarication over implementation of new National Minimum Wage rates in the NPS

“As you are aware, the National Minimum Wage increased on 1 April 2018 to £7.83 an hour. This means that pay points 10, 11, 12 and 13 in pay band 1 of the NPS pay and grading scheme must be deleted with effect from 1 April and all staff on these pay points moved immediately to pay point 14, which has an hourly rate of £7.87.

There was some suggestion at yesterday’s TU Engagement Forum that this adjustment could wait until we have concluded our long awaited NPS pay reform, but the unions are not in agreement to the for obvious reason that this would be illegal.

We therefore expect NPS to make the necessary salary adjustment for our members in the April pay run. Any delay risks the NPS being reported for being in breach of the new minimum wage rate. We look forward to confirmation that pay points 10, 11, 12, and 13 will be deleted with effect from this month.”


You could not make it up.

New ICT system shelved by Sodexo CRC’s

The exchanges that I copied you into following the Public Accounts Committee report into the TR contracts show how much difficulty is still being encountered by private providers as they seek to link in to the MoJ portals to allow for better information exchange and case management processes with the NPS.

The track record so far is quite lamentable with only a very few CRC providers actually managing to achieve against the objective and the PAC are asking some pretty awkward questions as a result of this revelation. Over the last week or so Sodexo have announced that they are not progressing with the integration of their new OMS ICT system blaming the technicalities of the MoJ “gateway” as the reason. The company claims that it has heavily invested in this programme and that their operating model was based around the MoJ ICT requirements. Sodexo also claim that the stand alone functionality will lead to benefits for staff but that ball has a high level of spin from what I am picking up from members.

Meanwhile we are making our own enquiries at to what’s going on elsewhere and whether other CRC owners have abandoned, or are considering abandoning their gateway access plans. It was only a few weeks ago that Sodexo gave a commitment that the whole system would be operative in July. I expect that there are some interesting conversations going on right now between CERTAIN contractors and the MoJ.


The great AP Waking Night ‘cover up’

It’s not often I will publish a letter to the Minister whist awaiting a reply. But given what has been going on (or more pertinently what has not) in relation to the AP outsourcing debacle you can read the following joint letter with UNISON with the same sense of disbelief as we have been encountering as this shambolic project gets worse by the day:

Rt Hon David Gauke MP
Lord Chancellor & Secretary of State for Justice
12 April 2018

Dear David

Privatisation of NPS Approved Premises Night Waking Cover


Thank you for your letter of 23 February regarding the above. For the reasons set out below, we are not reassured by your reply. In particular you emphasized in your reply that all private contractor staff will be vetted in accordance with the contract, including a disclosure and barring service check and SIA licence. We learned this week, to our disbelief, that HMPPS is seriously considering the removal of the SIA requirement from the contract, because it has proved too onerous for the contractors!

All the evidence over the last month since the contracts went live on 1 March this year, is that all the concerns set out in our letter to you of 13 February have sadly been borne out by events. We need to bring these events to your attention so that you can consider whether there are grounds to suspend the contracts and bring the night waking cover back in house. The decision to advertise these contracts was a mistake which can be laid at the door of your predecessors, but it was your decision alone to proceed with them despite the clear warnings of the dangers of doing so. Here is what is actually happening:

South Contract: OCS
  • The unions understand that OCS has already been penalised with ‘service failures’ for being unable to provide the necessary cover in its contract area in the south.
  • It has been reported to the unions by South East Divisional management, at the last Divisional JCC, that since 1 March OCS has actually provided no cover at all, save for that delivered by the 9 ex-NPS staff who TUPE transferred to the company on 1 October.
  • In the Basildon and Guildford APs, NPS has had to provide all the night waking cover since the contract went live with its own sessional workers.
  • We are aware that NPS has instructed AP staff to OCS and log a work order to say that the company has failed to supply a night worker; that way NPS can claim the money back. This is a waste of valuable staff time and a detraction from their core work.
  • NPS confirmed that across the OCS South contract, since 1 March, the company has only delivered 66% of their contracted cover. We suspect that much of this cover was provided with agency staff, rather than the permanent staff stipulated in the contract.
  • The company has failed to supply the cover required under the contract notwithstanding the 60 day exemption from vetting standards given (inappropriately in our view) to the company to help it recruit staff of sufficient calibre to pass the necessary security standards. We would not find it acceptable for HMPPS to lower the vetting and security industry authority registration for OCS staff, if this is something you were tempted to do in order to make life easier for OCS. They signed a contract which requires SIA accreditation and in the absence of any vetting standards being in place at present, this accreditation is the only provision standing in the way of completely unsuitable individuals being placed in APs by the company. We are also disturbed to learn that one of the reasons you may be considering removing the SIA licence requirements is to allow NPS staff to apply to become sessional staff for OCS. If there is any truth to this it is an utter and total travesty.
  • OCS has allegedly told NPS that it is struggling to recruit staff in relation to the high risk nature of the work in APs. At one AP, an OCS employee turned up, but left very quickly when the nature of the resident group was explained. Perhaps the low pay the company is offering for a 48 hour working week is a factor here; we did point this out to you prior to the contracts going live.
  • Our members have been left in very dangerous situations when OCS members of staff failed to turn up and our members were forced to work additional hours at the end of a 12 hour shift. This is unacceptable and must stop now.
  • The shifts which OCS have been unable to cover have apparently been covered by a mixture of NPS sessional and agency staff. We ask that you confirm this to us in writing and in particular the proportion of shifts which HMPPS is having to pay to cover. In some cases, when the OCS member of staff has not turned up, the NPS has had to employ a sessional worker at additional cost to cover the shift; so HMPPS is presumably paying twice for the same cover.
  • OCS staff have no access to HMPPS systems, so are unable to undertake any of the risk assessment work that is essential to the operation of an AP.
North Contract: Sodexo

The same problems with private contract staff not turning up for shifts as required are being experienced on the Sodexo contract. Here is some testimony from some UNISON representatives in different APs in the North East Division:

‘I can give some basic feedback relating to staff not turning up for arranged shifts and NPS staff being left in the building long after their shifts have finished until alternative cover is arranged. Unfortunately this happens regularly at (Name of AP) and recently there was a period whereby it became the norm for staff to wonder if someone was arriving at 8pm to take them off, and often no one would come. When staff have rung the company they have said someone is on their way and on a few occasions when AP staff contacted the individual who was due on shift themselves, the person was waiting at home for someone to pick him up and bring him to work (arranged by the private company themselves) and he was still waiting for said lift after 8.30pm thereby meaning the NPS RW had to stay on the premises for 2 hours after their shift ended by the time someone arrived to take them off.

Only last Friday we received a call from the private company at 5pm saying that they could not provide a member of staff that night and my understanding is that the on call manager had to come into work and complete the shift themselves due to no other provision being provided.’


‘The contractors seem to have a casual attitude to punctuality. By and large they have no training and some of them are agency workers who are in the process of earning cash to fund other things like education etc. Quite a few of them work on other projects on their down time, and are breaking every working time directive there is. Because of the failings of our privatised DWNC, if colleagues are off sick, we do not know if they are going to be relieved by the contractors, or not at all. Last weekend we had the on call manager here for a night shift because Sodexo did not show.’
  • There appears to be confusion in the North Contract as to what Sodexo residential assistants can and can’t do on the contract. In the North West Division, the Sodexo staff are doing most AP duties and have log in access to HMPPS intranet systems, whereas in North East Division, management has produced a detailed schedule setting out what the private residential assistants can and can’t do. How can this disparity exist in relation to the contract which Sodexo signed?
  • The unions have placed on record a notice of serious and imminent danger to persons at work/in residence at the NPS undertakings that comprise approved premises in the North West Division as a result of:
  • a Two agency workers working together at any one time at an approved premises
  • b An agency worker working with a private residential assistant at any one time in an approved premises
  • In order for the NPS to comply with the Approved Premises Manual HMPPS must ensure that: ‘Under all arrangements, at least one member of staff on duty during daytime hours must be a keyworker or Offender Supervisor, and at least one in the evening and at weekends must be employed by the Probation Trust or Independent Management Committee and will be responsible for liaising with the duty manager in dealing with any immediate risks. Staff for night duty must not be drawn solely from private security firms.’
  • This means that HMPPS is in breach of the AP Handbook if you continue to allow the staffing arrangements set out at a. and b. above, and also in breach of the Health and Safety Management Regulations.
  • NPS North West Division has tried to excuse the unauthorised use of two agency workers together on the same shift at an AP on the pretext that NPS has serious staff shortages in Approved Premises. This is no surprise, as NPS down-graded the AP residential worker role as a cost cutting measure! Rather than using expensive agency staff, the unions are calling for the residential worker job description to be re-evaluated.
  • Here is a description of the reported experience of one Sodexo employee in the North West Division: (Name) was sent to the AP by Sodexo to do a night shadow shift last night. He informed NPS staff that he received a telephone call at 3pm yesterday, he was doing a day shift somewhere else, and he was instructed to be at the AP for 8pm to do a night shadow shift at (Name of AP) and if he didn’t do it the job would be given to someone else. Therefore, despite being up at work all day, he came and was up all night as well.
(Name) told NPS staff that, last night was his shadow shift, then he takes up permanent post and will do a further 4 night shifts starting tonight and he is now the new night security employee. He was informed that the job he applied for entails watching cameras and patrolling a building.

(Name) has now gone home to go to bed and will return for a further shift tonight and the next 3 nights after. NPS staff member said that somebody a male, who he suspects is quite high up at Sodexo rang up the AP in the middle of the night to see how things were going with (Name). NPS employee said he passed the phone to (Name) and he had a conversation with the caller. (Name) later informed us this morning that he didn't even know he was working for Sodexo until he received the phone call, as there was a different name on his time sheet, so he thought he was working for the company named on the time sheet.


Not surprisingly all of the above incidents have left our AP members feeling extremely vulnerable and angry at the failure of NPS to exercise its duty of care towards them, their residents and the communities which the APs serve. Our members are professionals who take their duties extremely seriously, and simply cannot understand why you have entered into a contract which has exposed them and their residents to danger and stress.

We will continue to monitor these contracts to ensure that you are complying with your legal duties as the employer and to expose on-going contract failures. We will also continue to campaign for these contracts to be returned as quickly as possible to the public sector.

When we expressed our concerns over this privatisation to the previous probation minister, Sam Gyimah, we were told that we were being ideological in our opposition. In reality it is your Department which has pursued an ideological commitment to privatise double waking night cover in approved premises against all the advice and entreaties from the staff who work in hostels. It is these staff, our members, who are picking up the pieces of your failed and failing initiative at the sharp end, and they are very angry.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lawrence
Ben Priestley

We have also written in similar terms to Sonia Crozier following her assurances as prefaced below about the DWNC contract.

‘As you know, the contract is now up and running. The providers have been providing consistent cover across the AP estate. We will continue to work with you during the implementation period and will seek to address any further concerns you may have.’

No I am not convinced either

Wednesdays Vigil for Justice

All that can get across to the MoJ HQ on Wednesday are welcome. Here are the details again: Meet outside the MoJ 102 Petty France Street Westminster 6:30 for 7:00. More news including some encouraging contact with members and the local Police and Crime Commissioners in the West Midlands in the next Blog post.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Glenys Told Off and Rory's Homework

So, what did we learn from today's final TR Justice Select Committee hearing? Well, all in all, it was a cracker and the transcript will be worth publishing I promise! Dame Glenys got an absolute roasting for moonlighting looking at farms and spectacularly misjudged the mood by quiping that her husband was now doing the cooking. How does an intelligent person in a high-ranking public sector post think they can get away with only turning up to work three days a week without anyone noticing? Only politicians like George Osborne could pull that one.

By 30 minutes in both Chief Inspectors had made it perfectly plain that they thought TR was a pile of crap and never likely to succeed. The former copper couldn't believe that such radical 'reforms' would be introduced without a bit of testing first and revealed that the governor of HMP Lindholme was so fed up with the MoJ-contracted TTG service that he'd purchased his own bespoke resettlement provision direct from the local CRC! He felt it was a 'good use of money'.

By the time the committee got to hear from the minister Rory Stewart they were on fire, but being ex-military, this guy's quite shrewd, smart and clearly doesn't make rash decisions before some thorough reconnaissance first. Although he wistfully acknowledged things wern't going too well at the moment and he had the power to terminate the CRC contracts early, rather ominously he indicated that a further radical re-think was simply likely to be too expensive. One can imagine who has the upper hand in the current secret negotiations with the CRCs. 

Still, Rory is still pretty much an unkown quantity, but one who clearly takes his homework seriously waving as he briefly did a copy of Redemption, Rehabilitation and Risk Management: A History of Probation by George Mair and Lol Burke. Maybe we'd do well to refresh our memories:-   

 Image result

Redemption, Rehabilitation and Risk Management provides the most accessible and up-to-date account of the origins and development of the Probation Service in England and Wales.

The book explores and explains the changes that have taken place in the service, the pressures and tensions that have shaped change, and the role played by government, research, NAPO, and key individuals from its origins in the nineteenth century up to the plans for the service outlined by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government.

The probation service is a key agency in dealing with offenders; providing reports for the courts that assist sentencing decisions; supervizing released prisoners in the community and working with the victims of crime. Yet despite dealing with more offenders than the prison service, at lower cost and with reconviction rates that are lower than those associated with prisons, the Probation Service has been ignored, misrepresented, taken for granted and marginalized, and probation staff have been sneered at as 'do-gooders'. The service as a whole is currently under serious threat as a result of budget cuts, organizational restructuring, changes in training, and increasingly punitive policies. This book details how probation has come to such a pass.

By tracing the evolution of the probation service, Redemption, Rehabilitation and Risk Management not only sheds invaluable light on a much misunderstood criminal justice agency, but offers a unique examination of twentieth century criminal justice policy. It will be essential reading for students and academics in criminal justice and criminology.


George Mair has been Professor of Criminal Justice in the School of Law, Liverpool John Moores University since 1995. Previously, he was Principal Research Officer in the Home Office Research and Planning Unit. He is a leading authority on community penalties and has published widely on this topic. He was a member of the Merseyside Probation Board, 2001-2007.

Lol Burke is Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Liverpool John Moores University. He has worked as a Probation Officer and a Senior Probation Officer. He was involved in the delivery of probation training prior to his appointment at LJMU. He is editor of the Probation Journal.


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Book Review Redemption, Rehabilitation and Risk Management: A History of Probation George Mair and Lol Burke, Routledge (2011); 216pp, ISBN: 9781843922490 


Those currently working for the probation service in England and Wales are likely to be well accustomed, even numb, to a feeling of foreboding about what the future might hold. For anyone wanting to contextualise the current situation, I can think of no better way than reading George Mair and Lol Burke’s excellent history of probation. The book allows its reader to understand how probation has arrived at the present, equipping them to make grounded contributions to current debates about the future. What these authors do particularly skilfully is provide a detailed linear history of probation’s genesis, whilst also weaving in the themes that have recurred throughout the last century. A sense of crisis, and of an organisation distrusted by government and grappling to define its own core purpose, may seem to be exclusively modern, but reading this history it becomes clear that current struggles have their roots in previous decades. In charting the highs and lows of probation’s history a new vantage point is offered; many of the strengths and challenges of the service can be seen as a product of the friction, sometimes creative, sometimes destructive, between a social work ethos and a criminal justice context.

The authors divide probation’s history in to eight chronological sections, each having their own chapter: Origins, The first decade, Consolidation, A major part of our penal system?, 1950-62: A golden age?, From Morison to Martinson: 1962-74, Alternatives to custody, and finally, The end of the road?. Throughout each section the history is detailed, the writing accessible, and the tone balanced. We learn that probation’s roots lie very much with the notion of a benevolent individual of higher social status ‘saving’ those deemed to be in need of redemption. Exploring ideas of social control, the authors bring this era vividly to life with well-selected extracts from the documents of the time, for example: 
Often without friends of their own, more often with friends only of a degraded type, out of touch with any civilising influence, the probation officer comes to them from a different level of society, giving a helping hand to lift them out of the groove that leads to serious crime. (p32) 
Comparing the language of this Home Office publication with the policy documents of more recent times the progress made is clear, although we might wonder how the language of ‘offender management’ will sound in a century’s time. The ‘probation officer’ cuts an interesting figure throughout the text, and it is fascinating to discover how the role has shifted from its original incarnation as a religious volunteer. In describing the probation officers of previous eras, the authors turn not only to policy documents, but also to first person accounts, and media representations, thus ensuring that complexities and nuances are drawn out. The different ways the practitioner has been conceptualised tell us much about the shifting skill-base of officers, and the prevalent frameworks for understanding offending behaviour. The reflections of the authors on the professionalism (or not) of workers, and the deskilling of more recent times, provide substantial food for thought.

However, this comprehensive history does not focus exclusively on the development of practice, and the lens expands to include the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), governments and, more widely, the social shifts of the twentieth century. Two world wars, fluctuating crime rates and the rise of a punitive-minded press are all shown to impact on probation – largely through the changes that resulted in what sentencers, governments and the public demanded it deliver. Something that the authors give consistent attention to is the struggle that probation has had in proving its effectiveness. They link this to the fact that probation has often been required to redefine its core activity in accordance with political headwinds. For example, shifting from rehabilitation to fulfilling the demand that it act as a means of reducing an everexpanding prison population, becoming more punitive in the process. Statistics and research are analysed in a sophisticated and insightful way, raising questions, but never dictating a correct interpretation. And the authors cast a keen critical eye, lending their support of probation validity, as they demonstrate that they are attuned to its faults. Theirs is not a polemic, but a balanced appraisal, and as such it is a history that deserves to be listened to, and learnt from.

Where the beginning of the book is engrossing in the rich detail it provides of probation’s past, the latter sections come alive with debate about the present and prospects for the future. Again, the balanced position of the authors serves the book well, as does their engagement with the micro details of frontline work and the implications this has for innovations, such as those around the desistance literature. They focus in particular on the rise of probation service officers and fast delivery reports, as well as the risks that increased competition hold. It must be said that their outlook is bleak, and the text takes on something of the tone of an obituary. Mair and Burke go so far as to suggest that the probation service may have lost its ‘roots, its traditions, its culture, its professionalism’ and, possibly, its future (p192). And with the weight of their knowledge and analysis, one feels hard-pressed to disagree. Although, if we can sustain the level of reflective debate attained in this book and use it to promote what we know probation excels at, it can be hoped that all is not lost.

Eleanor Fellowes
London Probation Trust

'Bleak and Exasperating'

One wonders at what point the MoJ and government finally admit that TR has been an unmitigated disaster for probation in England and Wales and urgent action is initiated in order to try and save something from the ashes. Today sees publication of yet another scathing report and accompanying press release from Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation:- 

Third sector organisations not playing expected central role in reformed probation services, says Chief Inspector

Probation reforms have failed to deliver the aim of ensuring that voluntary and third sector organisations play a central role in providing specialist support to offenders, according to Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation.

A new report presents a “bleak and exasperating” picture. Where the third sector is involved, the inspection found the quality of work reasonable overall, but the sector is “less involved than ever in probation services”, despite the eagerness of many dedicated people to work with offenders.

Government contractual arrangements for the involvement of third sector organisations in probation have been burdensome, disproportionate and “off-putting for all,” inspectors found. Some small, local organisations which worked with pre-reform probation trusts have lost the work.

Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms in 2014 created 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) to supervise medium and low-risk offenders, the bulk of more than 260,000 people supervised in the community in England and Wales. The HMI Probation report notes that Ministry of Justice statements at the time of reform “gave the impression that there would be a wide array of organisations involved in the delivery of probation services.”

However, in the thematic inspection – Probation Supply Chains – inspectors noted that CRC operating contracts “do not require CRCs to commission specialist services from the third sector or from others, even in those cases where CRCs expressed in bids their intentions to do that. Instead, they contain varied and somewhat vague statements of intent about CRCs developing their supply chains. CRCs who originally expected to use third-sector organisations have told us that they had hoped to have more comprehensive supply chains in place by now, almost four years on.”

Dame Glenys said: “It seems that the third sector is less involved than ever in probation services, despite its best efforts; yet, many under probation supervision need the sector’s specialist help, to turn their lives around.”

It was envisaged that probation “supply chains” would deliver services including help with finding accommodation and training and education. Inspectors reached key conclusions:

  • The National Probation Service (NPS), responsible for high-risk offenders, “is not buying services from CRCs to anywhere near the extent expected” under Transforming Rehabilitation – for reasons including objecting to the price and doubting the quality.
  • All CRC owners inspected were concerned about the financial instability and viability of their own contracts with the MoJ. “Their own lack of stability was driving their relationship” with principal and smaller sub-contractors in the third sector and most were looking for further efficiencies and cutbacks. Supply chains delivering services within the community were “generally small scale, and non-existent in some local areas.” A “noticeable proportion” of pre-2014 contracts with third sector organisations had been discontinued.
  • The Ministry of Justice’s template contract for CRCs – ‘Industry Standard Partnering Agreements’ (ISPA) – was “burdensome, and disproportionate to the value of most” of the third sector services being contracted.
On a more positive note, while inspectors found few unusual, niche or innovative services, they commended a ‘restorative justice’ initiative in Thames Valley. And two CRCs in areas with devolved political powers (Wales and Greater Manchester) had developed models in which the CRCs and NPS “were both contributing knowledge, expertise and resources to influence strategically the provision of local services.”

Overall, however, Dame Glenys said:

“It is an exasperating situation. Third-sector providers remain eager to work in the sector, and we found the quality of their work reasonable overall. Many are providing a more expansive service to individuals than they are paid for. Supply chains are thin, however, and set to get thinner still, as CRCs continue to review and slim down provision. There is no open book policy: we cannot be certain to what extent financial pressures justify a paucity of provision, but it seems very likely that they are largely responsible. As things stand, the future looks bleak for some organisations, and particularly for those individuals who could benefit so much from the services they can provide.”

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Foreword

The voluntary sector has long delivered specialist services to people under probation supervision, but with the government’s 2014 Transforming Rehabilitation initiative came a new expectation: that the third sector would play a key role in probation services. Almost four years on, this expectation has not been realised. It seems that the third sector is less involved than ever in probation services, despite its best efforts; yet, many under probation supervision need the sector’s specialist help, to turn their lives around. 

Government has allowed Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) immense freedoms. ‘Black box’ contracts allow CRCs to decide what to offer by way of specialist services. CRCs are generally providing an insufficient range of services. As the National Probation Service (NPS) is, in turn, dependent on specialist services offered for purchase from CRCs, there is a knock-on effect: there is even less on offer to the NPS. 

There are reasons for this. CRC finances have not worked out as intended, and many have had to make difficult choices between one expense or another. CRCs are uncertain about future income, and risk hefty financial penalties for failure to meet contractual targets. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) guidance and controls over subcontracting have been contentious and are perceived to be bureaucratic, making it off-putting for all. Moreover, specialist providers often wish to do more for individuals than the CRC is prepared to pay for. 

NPS managers hanker after commissioning freedoms, and feel disenfranchised. Some are finding circuitous ways to access alternative provision or have at times discouraged purchase from CRCs. Professionals making decisions in each case may sniff at prices, or fear poor-quality provision. These behaviours go against the grain of the probation delivery model, and make CRC provision yet more precarious, but they are to be expected. Probation professionals do not naturally see themselves as purchasers, and do not wish to be. It is contrary to the enduring cultural characteristics and values of the probation service.

It is an exasperating situation. Third-sector providers remain eager to work in the sector, and we found the quality of their work reasonable overall. Many are providing a more expansive service to individuals than they are paid for. Supply chains are thin, however, and set to get thinner still, as CRCs continue to review and slim down provision. There is no open book policy: we cannot be certain to what extent financial pressures justify a paucity of provision, but it seems very likely that they are largely responsible. 

There has never been one body responsible for the stewardship of these specialist organisations and services, but with Transforming Rehabilitation, the dynamics have changed. As things stand, the future looks bleak for some, and particularly for those individuals who could benefit so much from the services they can provide.

Dame Glenys Stacey
HM Chief Inspector of Probation
April 2018

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This from the Guardian:-

Ex-offenders face bleak future after reforms fail, report says

Ex-offenders trying to turn their lives around face a bleak future, a probation inspector has warned, as ambitious government plans to boost the role of charities and volunteers in the probation service have failed to materialise. Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, described the low involvement of non-profits, charities and voluntary groups in the rehabilitation and supervision of ex-offenders as “an exasperating situation”.

The probation sector in England and Wales was overhauled in 2014 by the then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, who broke up existing probation trusts and replaced them with a public sector service dealing with high-risk offenders and 21 privately run companies that manage low-to-medium risk offenders.

In a report on “probation supply chains”, or the outsourcing of services to a range of providers, the Inspectorate of Probation said Ministry of Justice (MoJ) press releases around 2013 to 2014 “gave the impression” that there would be a wide array of organisations involved in the delivery of probation services. But the inspectorate found that “almost four years on, this expectation has not been realised”. “It seems that the third sector is less involved than ever in probation services, despite its best efforts,” Stacey said.

Grayling’s hopes that third-sector organisations would wholly run some of the community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) were disappointed when the charities and voluntary groups were unable to bid because of the financial guarantees demanded by the government. However, it was still expected that third-sector organisations would provide specialist support – such as bespoke services for women, drug and alcohol abuse or gang membership – through sub-contracts.

But most CRCs have not sub-contracted services to the third-sector owing to their own “financial instability”, the inspectorate found, and many of the contracts in place before the reforms were not renewed. The CRCs told inspectors that the payment-by-results model pushed by Grayling, by which companies are paid depending on whether or not they hit re-offending targets and also face penalties when contract targets are not met, was at the root of their financial insecurity.

Among the specialist services lacking are those relating to gang membership, financial management, discriminatory attitudes and accommodation, the inspectorate found. And when a specialist service is provided, the feedback from ex-offenders was positive, with the assistance making a difference in the lives of two-thirds of offenders, the report said.

“It is an exasperating situation. Third-sector providers remain eager to work in the sector, and we found the quality of their work reasonable overall,” Stacey said. “As things stand, the future looks bleak for some organisations, and particularly for those individuals who could benefit so much from the services they can provide.”

The reforms were a cornerstone of Grayling’s time heading the MoJ. An employee of a charity that works with ex-offenders, speaking anonymously, told the Guardian: 


“The findings in this report are not surprising. While there was undoubtedly a genuine desire for diverse supply chains at the design phase of Transforming Rehabilitation, innovation has been hamstrung by overly prescriptive contract targets which carry heavy penalties but do little to promote desistance [reducing offending], if anything diverting resources away from it. A healthy supply chain with the specialist expertise to support a wide spectrum of needs will invariably cost more than doing everything ‘in house’, yet the drive for efficiencies that underpins Transforming Rehabilitation drastically limits CRCs’ capacity to commission the range of services that their clients require.”

The prisons and probation minister, Rory Stewart, said: 


“As Dame Glenys highlights in this insightful report, there have been challenges facing CRCs and involving the voluntary sector in the delivery of probation services. We now have a more diverse range of probation providers than ever before, and I want to see the voluntary sector play a key role in this. The expertise and commitment of third sector organisations has a crucial part to play in reforming offenders and ultimately keeping the public safe. I have been absolutely clear that I want probation to work better and there is much more to be done – particularly on getting the basics right – and we are working closely with providers to make sure this happens.”