Saturday, 28 March 2015

Information is Power

I want to start this off by recording my thanks to colleagues and friends for sending me information and documents, especially over the last 24 hours. It's only by sharing information that this blog is able to be of any use, and especially at difficult times like right now. 

There were just short of 8,000 hits recorded yesterday and that not only demonstrates the level of concern out there, it says to me there's an urgent need for information because in reality that's the essential element for any kind of action, political or otherwise. I don't just mean information about the grubby plans our new privateer owners have either - I mean the many SFO's in CRCs and NPS that are being covered up right now as a direct result of this TR omnishambles. We always said whistleblowing would be an element in all this mess, well, with the election now in full swing, may I suggest the time has come?

These comments from yesterday particularly struck me:-

From Sodexo's website:

"Our employees personify our values and are our greatest asset"...They're obviously making an exception in our case.

******
I'm in Cumbria and Lancs and I know my heads for the chop as I'm cheap to get rid of. I've cried since I got home today after the 'blow after blow' emails that kept coming through. It's like they punched us down yesterday and then continued to kick us in the head as we lay on the floor today... Thank you to everyone for your solidarity and outrage on behalf of us. I feel more together-ness than I have ever felt through this entire messy and ugly process.

******
"Jim surely you can help sort a strike"

Of course he can - whilst rolling a fag using just one hand and eating 3 shredded wheat. Jim is though, doing more than the bods who collect a salary for doing naff all whilst Rome burns.

******
Here's an email from Cumbria and Lancashire CRC referred to yesterday:-

Dear Colleague

Firstly apologies for sending this information on a Friday afternoon, but I wanted to share the information relating to potential redundancy with you as soon as possible.

Many of you have raised questions about this and I give below the responses we have received to those questions.

In respect of the question relating to local redundancy agreements, I understand there is a further meeting between Sodexo and the MOJ which will take place shortly. We have provided Sodexo with information and further legal questions for them to consider in their meeting.

Regards,
Penny

Workforce Planning Information from Sodexo

Will be there be redundancies?
Yes.

When will we know many posts you will have in your new structures?
Having completed our due diligence, we are now in a position to share our ‘end state’ numbers with you. We have asked your CEO and senior management teams to start communicating these numbers with you over the coming weeks.

When will you start to formally consult with us?
Senior managers will be looking to commence formal redundancy consultation with your recognised representatives over the coming weeks.

Will you be offering the current enhanced voluntary redundancy (EVR) terms?
No. The National Agreement sets out that the enhanced scheme that was made available to those who were employed on 31st May 2014, only continued until 31st March 2015. The opportunity to apply under this scheme is no longer available. Whilst we will be following local processes for redundancies, there is no obligation on providers to offer any enhanced terms after that date.

We had planned on the basis that the majority of exits would be on compulsory terms, seven months after contract commencement, i.e. 1st September 2015, as per the National Agreement. If operationally possible and staff wish to exit early through a compromise, we are currently looking at whether we can offer an exit package on slightly enhanced terms.

We have made changes to our local Redundancy Agreements, what is the impact of this?
We are aware that, Cumbria & Lancashire, Northumbria and Essex CRCs have made changes to their redundancy policies based on their interpretation of the national agreements. We are currently in discussion with NOMS as to the implications of these local changes.

Will the resources allocated to CRCs for the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy scheme be solely used for that purpose?
We will ensure that where redundancies become necessary, we utilise all available funds and strive to maximise the benefit for as many employees affected as possible.


******
I know many people have been asking where Napo is in all this? In addition to the now typically lack-lustre offering from the General Secretary's blog, the following appeared on the website yesterday:- 

Sodexo publish their new service delivery model – hundreds of jobs at risk

Sodexo has just published its new operating model – out for a very short consultation period over Easter. This model is expected to be imposed across all its CRCs. Details so far published suggest that up to one third of posts will disappear by the Autumn. The model is comprehensive and has clearly been some time in preparation. There will be a reduction in not only staff numbers but also offices and desks. Call centres and reporting kiosks are proposed. ‘Low’ risk cases will be allocated responsible officers in call centres, rather than someone that the service user will actually meet. A voice on the end of the phone – not sure yet which country it will be in. New IT systems and risk assessment tools are proposed. As with the NPS, staff will be treated to HR support provided by a remote service centre. Consequent upon this, the jobs axe appears to fall most heavily upon corporate support staff but all grades, front-line as well as back-office are affected. A whole raft of draft HR policies have also been published for consultation and negotiation.

What is not apparent at first glance is any assessment of workload measurement for staff. Is the job manageable under this new model? Napo will be assessing the new service delivery model and responding to it.

******
I think we need to see this 'new operating model' as soon as possible and start discussing it openly, whether 'commercially sensitive' or not. We've got to share more information, because we all know information is power. 

Finally, I'm going to sign this blog post off with an anonymous piece that came in last night. Please keep contributing guys. Please carry on looking out for each other and please think before penning any ugly recriminations:-

'Where were you?'

Reading the blog yesterday astounded me in lots of ways. The avalanche of voices to 'strike', the echoes of grief as the realisation that job cuts were approaching and the hatred towards different levels of staff currently in post is disappointing.

I am a Union member, a Manager and have supported staff across the public and private divide. I have been on strike and have been saddened by the apathy of staff who found it amusing that I was on the picket line with other members in the cold, rain and sunshine. I have been the butt of rude and hurtful remarks by some staff who knowing I was on the picket line gave them licence to behave badly.

Christmas 2013 was my time of feeling angry with Chris Grayling, my Chief Executive at the time and the Unions; the lack of information and uncertainty, the realisation the battle was not going to be won, yet I kept campaigning, blogging, canvassing and supporting all levels of staff. I have never taken the view 'I am all right Jack..' I still campaign including going on the street canvassing 'Let's kick Cameron and Grayling into touch' you'll hear me say and yet that doesn't take away the sheer sadness around potential job losses of friends, colleagues and members who will be affected by the sheer numbers of redundant post TR will bring.

Russell Webster's blog talks of staffing numbers for CRCs Q3 14/15 as 8290.83 showing a reduction of CRC staff as 2% which is equivalent to 150FTE. With yesterday's announcement of job losses at 30+% in one CRC, with up to 20 other contract package areas about to make similar announcements, it doesn't take a lot to work out the impact of potential Job losses in CRCs in the imminent future.

Critically this is to be expected from the business models the MoJ have supported to make the necessary cuts across probation areas. As an NPS staff member I am well aware there will be redundant posts in NPS, it's happening now, under the surface hoping staff do not notice but the axe is reaching NPS soon, remember TR was build on forecasted cuts across both CRC and NPS, it will just take a bit more time to happen, the Prisons were first to be hit and a quick glance at NOMS Business Plan for 2014/15 gives a clear indication of what's coming next.

It is a cop out to start blaming everyone for the current situation, despite being a Union member I too have been critical of both Ian Lawrence and the Press Officer at NAPO for silence at our most critical times however my only question to those that have just woken up to this travesty, I ask you, 'When the Unions were campaigning to support a strike, where were you?'

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Axe Revealed

Yet another aspect of TR reality was revealed yesterday with the following email to all staff in Cumbria and Lancashire CRC:-
  
Dear Colleague

I know you have been waiting patiently for information about the staffing figures and whilst I cannot at this stage give you detailed information on the structures and locations, I can give you the high level staffing numbers.

We currently have an establishment of 340 full time equivalent staff (which includes agency and fixed term contract staff) within Cumbria and Lancashire and we will need to move to the full time equivalent of 217 by the Autumn. This is a reduction of 123 full time equivalents. The numbers we need to move to are outlined below and are still subject to changes.

Job Area  Existing Numbers  Numbers we need to move to


Case Admin 57 - 30
Probation Services Officers 88 - 71
Probation Officers 56 - 31
Middle Managers 19 - 9
Senior Managers 9 - 5
Corporate Services 60 - 16
Unpaid Work 28 - 29
Programmes 23 - 26

TOTAL 340 - 217

(24 people are on secondment, these are heavily weighted to PSO in Achieve)

I am also hoping to be able to share with you information from Sodexo which will include details on redundancies. I know we have agreed that Friday isn't a good day to send communication but if the information is available tomorrow I will send it to you.

I know many of you will have a lot of questions about what this means for you and the next steps and ideally I would like speak to you face to face, but felt it important to get the information to you as quickly as possible as I know some of you will be taking leave over the Easter holidays.

We will, however, be holding 90 minute briefings for all operational staff on Monday 13 April (am) and a Corporate Service staff briefing on the 2nd April (am) and we will let you have details of locations as soon as we can. Please keep the date free in your diary.

In the meantime, if you have questions you can e-mail me at CL_askthechief or you can speak with your line manager or an ACE. If you are on maternity or sick leave please contact Sue Hall, HR Manager.

Regards

Penny

Penny Barker
Chief Executive
Cumbria and Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company (CL CRC)
99-101 Garstang Road
Preston PR1 1LD


Hardly surprising, but nevertheless devastating news for many loyal and hardworking professionals, Sodexo is first to show its hand and demonstrate beyond doubt that despite all the bollocks and fine words, in order to make profit out of probation, jobs have to go. 

I was particularly struck by this comment left last night:-
I wish I could have an honest chat with one of those ex-probation chief officers that sold us out as THEY KNOW exactly what's coming. There's a bunch of them on Twitter tweeting about their new lives after probation and with massive redundancy packages we'll never get. I'd suggest any Twitter users ask them a few questions. 
If there was ever a key time for Napo to speak up it is now. But then this is the same Napo that sold us down the river and gave away our Judicial Review.
At a time like this I'm also reminded of the whoops of joy and celebrations reported within the McDowell household when news of the contract award broke. It all leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth indeed. 

I also can't help noticing it's Friday and I suspect we're due a blog from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence. Lets hope it might actually say something of substance and there's some indication he might be worth his salary. 

Lets all be supportive of each other, share information and as the election campaign gets into full swing, at every opportunity make life difficult for those Lib Dem and Tory bastards that were responsible for destroying a well-performing public service in the first place.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Truth Will Out

Readers will know that Frances Crook of the Howard League has been prevented by NOMS HQ from taking up an invitation to visit two privately-run jails. This from the Guardian:-

Banning me from prisons won’t silence the truth

There are 14 privately run prisons in England and Wales and on Friday I received an email informing me that I am banned from visiting two of them, not by G4S who had invited me, but by the Ministry of Justice.

My charity, the Howard League for Penal Reform, argues that making money out of punishing people is both reprehensible and immoral and it is on these grounds that we have opposed the private management of prisons. Successive governments have privatised prisons, so it is not a party political issue. It has been claimed that introducing private sector competition into the penal estate has driven up standards but there is no evidence for this, indeed suicide and violence rates, along with similar evidence, points to the contrary. The only rigorous research commissioned by the Ministry of Justice to compare the two systems has never been published; I am told that it does not support this contention.

I have seen good and bad practice in both private and public sector prisons, having spent 25 years working in the system. I have never been a fan of G4S, indeed we have been pressing the Serious Fraud Office to pursue its investigation into the various companies accused of fraud on the tagging contract more vigorously. However, I accepted the invitation to visit two of the G4S prisons to see for myself. Private prisons are taking £500m of taxpayers’ money each year, so they have to have independent scrutiny.

I was due to visit Oakwood, one of the biggest prisons in the country, which had a very rocky start, with allegations that it was easier to get drugs than soap. I was also due to visit Birmingham, the first Victorian prison to be taken over by a private company. I wanted to see what improvements had been made in both jails.

I understand that the company informed the Ministry of Justice several weeks ago that I had been invited and it is bemused as to why it took so long to inform me that my visit was being prohibited. The implication is that the decision was taken on high.

The most surprising aspect was the crude letter sent to me by a senior civil servant. Had the MoJ wanted to stop me visiting, it would have been simple to write a carefully crafted letter suggesting that operational reasons, or sensitivity due to the election meant that at this time my visit was inappropriate. I would never have permitted a letter like this to be sent by one of my staff, and it is an indication of an atmosphere created at the very top.

When I posted the letter, without comment, on Twitter, it went viral because it was so rude. It was retweeted, favourited, linked and commented on in social media tens of thousands of times.

It is all the more amazing because today Lord Woolf has said that prisons are in as bad a state as 25 years ago when he investigated the cause of the riots in Strangeways and 20 other prisons. The triple whammy inflicted on prisons by government policies means that they are dangerous, violent places. They closed 18 prisons and relocated tens of thousands of men to the remaining jails. They cut staff numbers by more than a third. They allowed the numbers of people going to prisons on remand and under sentence to rise.

Report after report by the chief inspector of prisons and by independent monitors have told how people are locked in their cells with nothing to do for weeks on end and that violence is rising. If we treat people like this we cannot expect them to emerge into the community magically transformed into law-abiding citizens.

I recently spent time with the family of an 18-year-old young man who had only spent a day in prison when he hanged himself in his cell. He was one of 82 people who took their own lives in prisons last year. Things are going badly wrong and we have to tell it like it is.

Frances Crook

As it's Wednesday and Parliament is still sitting prior to dissolution, the House of Commons will be packed for PMQ's - Prime Minister's Questions. The shabby treatment of Frances Crook has resulted in an Early Day Motion and readers are urged to contact their MP this morning and urge them to sign it. The government must not be allowed to get away with trying to hide what's going on inside our prisons.

Early day motion 906

INVITATION TO FRANCES CROOK TO VISIT HM PRISON OAKWOOD

That this House notes that G4S issued an invitation to Frances Crook, the Chief Executive of the Howard League, to visit HM Prison Oakwood; further notes that the Director of Custodial Services at the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Ian Blakeman, decided that the visit would not be appropriate at the time given Ms Crook's comments about private prisons, and informed G4S that it should withdraw the invitation; expresses great concern that NOMS should seek to prevent this visit, especially given that G4S specifically invited Ms Crook; and calls on the Government to ensure NOMS allows the visit to take place and encourages scrutiny of the justice system.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Bleak Futures Week 12

On the one hand it's great having a day off, but all it means is catch-up in the days after - a day less to get reports and prison visits done before the next court date. It's false economy.

*****
Just what I was thinking. We have a Good Friday and Bank Holiday and in my mind all it means is that I have 8 days to do 10 days work in. What has it come to when a long weekend off, when I can spend time with my kids, becomes a burden? My workload is increasing daily and whilst many of the under 12 months will go to the CRC, I'm not sure we have the capacity in the NPS to take more. I have a feeling that the RSR score will be increased this year to take the pressure off the NPS. I'm not gloating or anything and my colleagues in the CRC are likely equally overworked, but NOMS and the MoJ have it in their ability to arbitrarily change the rules to ones which better suit them.

*****
Really peed off to get a TTG - the original offences were from January but the Bail Act matters were post 1st Feb - the offender was not impressed either.

*****
One of my more 'challenging' clients coming to the end of a two year Licence - just got 8 weeks for TWOC. We now have the pleasure of each others company for a further twelve months.

*****
2 years of support and he continues to re-offend? You don't have to be Poirot to see that he is not suitable for Probation intervention. Not your fault I hasten to add but just shows this new TTG is a load of bollocks and is a one size does not fit all policy.

*****
TTG...I hear NPS are going to buy services for their offenders from TTG but wait...how can they buy a service that does not exist? Oh, I hear you reply. Well it isn't 01 May yet so there's still time...yup 6/7 weeks to set up a service and the staff haven't been recruited yet...TRansforming rehabilitation NOT.

*****
Takes 8 weeks at least for security clearance. It would be somewhat ironic if the one thing that Grayling broke the service up for was the one thing that did not occur. IMHO I cannot see it taking off in the meaningful form that Grayling envisioned. Anybody on here 'volunteered' for TTG and heard anything back yet?

*****
I'm from Merseyside and none of us have been asked to volunteer so not sure who's gonna be doing the TTG side of things in custodial establishments.

*****
About 2 weeks ago there was Expression of Interest in DTV CRC, of which TTG was one option. Unfortunately there was little information which may have led to making a more a informed choice. Not sure how many applied for TTG but as far as I know, no one in my office and CRC applied. I have a feeling that people will start being directed there in a week or so.

*****
Since reading this blog (including the comments) I keep hearing people's dissatisfaction with unsupportive and ass licking (excuse my french) managers. As a PQF trainee it is even worse. We are seen as a burden and with no support or direction are told to get on with it. Sadly these ass licking managers themselves went through the TPO route and have no clue how shit the PQF is. I hope to see on this blog a post dedicated to peoples experience on the PQF and post on lack of support from management.
Pissed off Anon

*****
I see OASys on IPPs and "Lifers" that are full of mistakes and it takes an age for the person involved to get redress. The main cause of this is too few staff - workloads are too high. Probation like most state jobs is a bureaucratic nightmare and now with the profit motive driving the show, it is becoming a bureaucratic hell and nothing will change until you decide to fight for it.

*****
A rumour is doing the rounds at the moment that the interface issue with CRCs and nDelius will take 18 months to fix and cost around £20 million. How true this is anyone's guess.

*****
I notice the MoJ Head of IT has jumped ship. That might mean something!

*****
I'm in an ICT workstream and it would appear that this is correct. It was put in layman terms so even an old bugger like me could understand 'Delius has a round hole but we have a square peg, we do not have the means to reshape either without using significant resources' which I took to mean money and time. Lets face it though, we've already got Oasys and Delius.....do we really want another computer system?

*****
If bids were based on an interface to allow CRCs to use own IT systems, and MOJ are not able to deliver this expectation, rather than CRCs handing back contracts, I would argue it's grounds for significant compensation to ensure they are not financially penalised for MOJ incompetence.

*****
Oh God, have just read this blog and my brain hurts.......Under 12 months custody and High ROSH = 4 weeks to do full OASys and ISP? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha tee hee

*****
As an outsider isn't that putting the cart before the horse? Surely a full OASys assessment (the governments fantastic risk assessment tool) should be done 'before' the level of ROSH can be determined? And indeed before the allocation to CRC or NPS can be decided upon? Am I reading today's post correctly? It appears to me that allocation of service, and ROSH is to be determined prior to OASys assessment?

*****
Is it Monday? Must be right then. But don't worry, there'll be another revision out tomorrow where ROSH is determined before the offence has been committed. A new kind of bespoke criminal justice system to suit the needs of CRC profiteers.

*****
I've heard that ROSH will now be determined pre birth and Steria are developing ultrasound technology as we speak....

*****
I'm in the CRC so how come OASys all have to be done within 10 days for low/med but if you are RoSH you get 4 weeks? - it doesn't make sense you would think it would be the other way around. Also don't forget we only have to see people once per fortnight for the first eight weeks and then once every 2 months. Why then the rush for the ISP?

*****
If the EVR end date is 31/3/15, and if the new 'owners' haven't completed "due diligence" to ascertain resources before that date, does the EVR end-date extend? No one in local Napo or our CRC seems able or wiling to answer.

*****
EVR carries on throughout the TR contract and doesn't end on 31/3. The issue will be application not definition.

*****
Interesting... Not the view our CRC masters have.

*****
We were informed immediately after share sale that there was not sufficient money left for any EVR for CRC staff - all went on corporate staff - mainly high end highly paid exec staff. Total disgrace - I know many practitioners would have opted to walk if they could have got the EVR package.

*****
On the increasing prison suicide rates, the Justice Select Committee said, “We considered it improbable that there is no link between estate reconfiguration, benchmarking and changes in operational policy, including the incentives and earned privileges scheme, and the shift in safety across the prison estate.”

But the ministry of justice (quote below) says there is no evidential link, but reducing suicides is a top priority. If it's a top priority to reduce suicides, then you presumably have some idea of what factors need addressing in order to bring about a reduction. As the MoJ dismisses the 'probable' factors identified by the JSC, then they should be identifying the factors which they believe may be causative. What they are doing is denying the obvious evidence and showing a callous disregard for human life. The MoJ is reaching new moral lows.

“The ministry of justice said that reducing prison suicides was top priority but insisted there was no evidence to link staffing levels, type of prison or crowding levels to the number of self-inflicted deaths across the estate.”

*****
HMIP is looking for short term secondments.....2 young offender inspections and one (to be confirmed on foreign nationals).....seems to me they are going to avoid the elephant in the room with its massive TRunk....

*****
Has anyone else heard that Oxfordshire custody cases are being managed by Cornwall up until point of release?

*****
Not just Cornwall but the rest of NPS South West South Central.

*****
Yes Plymouth have some.

*****
Clearly the MoJ and Grayling KNOW it's a mess, they KNOW they are worthy of censure and criticism and they KNOW that the Howard League have the credibility to bring their folly into view. They are frightened because they KNOW they have screwed it up.

*****
G4S is a private company even though they have public sector contracts so are therefore able to invite whoever they want to visit their facilities without NOMS permission. Or did we become some sort of KGB monitored secretly controlled state and I just missed the announcement?

*****
They might have Government contracts, but they are not G4S facilities - they are Government facilities run by G4S. That is why it is Her Majesty's Prison Oakwood.

*****
I think I'll write to Mr Blakeman, to ask why G4S are not permitted to proudly invite Frances Cook to see their achievement! Better do it before 31/3/2015, after which I am not allowed to exercise my freedom of speech, cos I'm a civil servant!

*****
Such a decision is clearly above Blakemans pay grade even though he is director, and I think considerable fall out may occur over this decision. He will I think find himself holding the sticky end of the stick on this one!

*****
Absolutely, this has the whiff of Grayling all over it.

*****
I think Frances should attend the prison visit as planned - with a film crew.

*****
This decision is a gift for both Frances Crook and G4S. G4S can say despite all of the adverse publicity and reputational damage it's incurred, it's still prepared to allow agencies that may be critical of its operational models to view and comment freely on its practices-nothing to hide here Sir!

Frances is in a position to claim "public censorship" of the real chaos in our prison system by denying her access, getting rid of Nick Hardwick because he tells the truth, and Graylings failed attempts to manipulate his replacement. On the other hand, NOMs (Grayling really), has opened up a can of worms for itself, and I think personally, legitimised all the criticisms from the Howard League for the past two years. There can be no other conclusion drawn, things are so dire through out the prison estate that no one but those who will lie about what they see will be allowed access. This is another ill thought out idea from the MoJ, and IMHO seriously stupid!

*****
And the next time G4S have problems and the government are pointing their finger at their failings, the line surely has to be, "We would like to engage more with external agencies that have a long term understanding of the operational needs for safe and productive prison practices. Unfortunately, the government will not allow us to do so". Well done NOMs!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Secret State

What living under the Tories in 2015 actually means:-  

Embedded image permalink

Friday, 20 March 2015

Grayling Caught Out

It's utterly typical isn't it? Having explained the blog was having a snooze, Grayling shows his true colours and gets caught out trying to fix a more favourably-inclined replacement for Nick Hardwick, the prison inspector he sacked. Too good not to highlight. This from Ian Dunt on the Politics.co.uk website on Tuesday:-

Stitch up: Former Tory minister put on board to select new prison inspector

The last prison inspector felt he was pressured out of the job because he was too critical of government. Now it seems plans are afoot to prevent his replacement being of a similar disposition. Details have been released of the selection panel for the new inspector and one name stands out: Lord Oliver Henley, former Tory minister at the Home Office and Defra under the coalition, as well as serving in numerous government roles under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The idea that Lord Oliver would make an impartial assessor of candidates is not credible.

He is one of two 'independent' panel members, alongside Amanda Sater, a member of the youth justice board. The rest of the panel is filled out by Antonia Romeo, former director of criminal justice at the Ministry of Justice, who oversaw justice secretary Chris Grayling's chaotic privatisation of the probation service, and Dame Anne Pringle, a public appointment assessor nominated by the commissioner for public appointments. 
With one former Tory minister teamed up with a Grayling loyalist, the odds are stacked against anyone with critical faculties securing the position.

This is not a coincidence. Former inspector Nick Hardwick's reports into the decline of the prison estate were one of the only ways to get information about what was going on in the nation's prisons, given the draconian restrictions on journalists or campaigners speaking to inmates. Hardwick was incensed by the 69% rise of suicides in prison – a rise which coincided with the twin disaster of slashed prison budgets and ever-more inmates being crammed into the system.

His last annual report, released in October, described a "significant decline in safety", a steep rise in assaults and the "loss of more experienced staff" due to cuts. The report also went about as far as Hardwick could safely go in blaming Grayling directly. He wrote:

"Increases in self-inflicted deaths, self-harm and violence cannot be attributed to a single cause. They reflect some deep-seated trends and affect prisons in both the public and private sectors. Nevertheless, in my view, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures, particularly in the second half of 2013-14 and particularly in adult male prisons, was a very significant factor for the rapid deterioration in safety and other outcomes we found as the year progressed." [italics added]

In response, Grayling announced publicly that he would not renew Hardwick's contract, which runs out in July, and instead demanded that he re-apply for the job. This was not unexpected. Prison inspectors often have a difficult relationship with the government, although not all ministers are so disreputable in how they deal with them. Dame Anne Owers still had her contract extended and served two five-year terms, despite being very critical of the government. Lord Ramsbotham did not – a fact which probably owed something to his strained relationship with a succession of home secretaries (this is in the days before the creation of the Ministry of Justice). Hardwick opted not to reapply for the job, saying:

"Told MoJ ministers & officials I won't be reapplying for my post. Can't be independent of people you are asking for a job." Grayling insisted the re-advertising process was par for the course, but no-one doubts he wanted Hardwick gone. This selection panel is likely to deliver someone more to his liking.


But now we have this, as reported in the Guardian:-

Appointment of new prisons inspector halted amid criticism of selection panel

The appointment of a new chief inspector of prisons by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been halted until after the general election after it emerged that two “independent” members of the four-strong selection panel are Tory party activists. The Ministry of Justice has announced that Nick Hardwick, the current chief inspector whose term was not renewed by Grayling, has now been asked to stay on until November while a fresh hunt for a successor takes place.

Sir Alan Beith, the chairman of the Commons justice select committee, criticised Grayling’s failure to disclose that both independent members of the appointment panel were active Tory party members. They are Lord Henley, a former Conservative Home Office minister, and Amanda Sater, a member of the youth justice board who was named last year as women’s adviser to Grant Shapps, the Tory party chairman.

Beith said the justice secretary had given the MPs “no convincing reason” why he had not put forward for pre-appointment scrutiny the single “excellent” candidate that the panel had recommended. The appointment panel was chaired by Dame Anne Pringle, the commissioner for public appointments, and the fourth member was a senior justice ministry official.

Even though half of the appointment panel were active Conservatives, Grayling appears to have rejected the single preferred candidate they recommended, despite the candidate being rated by them as “excellent”. It is understood that Grayling believed the panel should have given him a choice of at least two or three names, despite a civil service ruling that there is no need for an appointment panel to put forward more than one name.

Instead, the justice secretary has now ordered the selection process to be re-run, putting the decision beyond the general election. Grayling has told the members of the justice select committee, who were poised to hold a confirmation hearing before the election, that “he will not be proposing a preferred candidate to them as there was not a wide enough pool of candidates from which to select”.

The justice select committee had been due to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the preferred candidate later this month, with Hardwick’s fixed term originally due to end in July 2015. The decision means that the new independent chief inspector of prisons will be appointed by the justice secretary in the new government.

A report on the affair rushed out by the Commons justice committee concludes: “The fact that two members of the panel were members of the same party as the appointing minister is a cause for particular concern for a post in which it is vital the incumbent commands public confidence in his or her ability to resist political pressure.”

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, said: “Not content with effectively sacking the chief inspector of prisons for daring to criticise his government’s prisons policy, Chris Grayling has stuffed the appointment panel for the new inspector full of known Tories. It just shows to what lengths this government will go to avoid having their failing policies properly scrutinised. This fails the smell test, and it calls into question how any chief inspector of prisons appointed by this process could ever claim to be independent.”

Hardwick has proved a rigorous critic of Grayling’s prison policies warning of a “political and policy failure” last year and voicing concern that staff shortages were causing “huge tensions” across the prison estate in England and Wales.

The job description for the new appointment said that a “strong understanding of current and recent” government reforms in relation to prisons and probation was an important part of the recruitment process. Paul McDowell, the chief inspector of probation appointed by Grayling, stood down earlier this year after the Guardian disclosed that his wife was running the private justice company that had been awarded the largest number of probation contracts.


Finally this from Ian Dunt last night:-

Failure of scrutiny: How Grayling got his way with new prison inspector

Chris Grayling's behind-the-scenes attempts to appoint a more pliable prisons inspector could trigger a change in the code of practise for ministerial appointments, after a damning report called for urgent action to prevent it happening again.

The Commons justice committee raised the alarm when it discovered that both supposedly independent members of the appointment panel for the new chief inspector - Lord Oliver Henley and Amanda Sater - were actually active members of the Tory party. This information was kept from the justice committee. A third member, Antonia Romeo, was former director of criminal justice at the MoJ and the figure responsible for Grayling's probation privatisation programme. So out of four panel members, three had a reason to pick someone favourable to the justice secretary.

As if that weren't enough, Grayling then vetoed their suggestion and refused to put forward a candidate who was considered "excellent" by the panel.

The weirdness doesn't stop there, however. I'm told the MoJ's announcement into the extension of the current prison inspector's term was announced today specifically to sabotage the Commons committee report, which was originally timetabled for tomorrow. Instead of waiting for it to come out, Grayling pre-empted it in a bid to minimise the damage. After that, the committee was forced to make its report public immediately.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Autopilot

The blog is going to be on autopilot for a few days due to a combination of things including a dearth of something new to say, my mood reflecting that of many probation staff, some family matters to attend to, and finally the guest blog cupboard being completely bare. 

Please, dear readers, carry on doing what you've been doing for ages and ages; posting news, thoughts, observations and should anyone have the urge to write a guest blog, now would be as good a time as any. 

Look after each other and normal service should resume before long.

Cheers,

Jim   

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Information

I thought readers might be interested in some snippets from the latest (12th March) MoJ/Noms Senior Leaders Bulletin:- 

HMCTS provision of Court Orders to NPS

There are currently a variety of practices in place nationally for HMCTS to provide Court orders or Notifications of sentences at Magistrates court to probation, depending upon locally agreed practice.

A National process has now been agreed to enable prompt, electronic notification of the details of sentence to NPS. An electronic copy of the Court order or Notification of the order of the Court will be automatically sent direct from Libra to functional mailboxes set up within NPS. This electronic process will replace all existing local procedures.

• Libra will generate a court order/ notification of order of the court to be sent to 7 NPS Divisional mail boxes.
• These will then automatically forward to the appropriate NPS court functional mail box by using the OU code (code of the sentencing court).
• NPS Court SPOs will have a process in place to monitor the local and Divisional mailboxes on a daily basis
• On receipt of the court order/notification, NPS administration staff will check NDelius to confirm where the case was allocated to. NPS administration staff will then send the court order/notification on to the NPS or CRC office holding the case in line with PI 05/2014 Case allocations.

Functuality is due to be available from 23rd March 2015.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman publishes thematic report on prison suicides in 2013/14

Learning from PPO Investigations: self-inflicted deaths of prisoners – 2013/14

'There is no simple answer to why the number of prisoners committing suicide rose so sharply last year, but the rise was unacceptable', said Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) when he published a thematic study on 10th March on the lessons to be learned from investigations into self-inflicted deaths of prisoners in 2013/14.

The lessons that need to be learned are:

• staff working in prison receptions should actively identify known risk factors for suicide and self-harm and not simply act on a prisoner’s presentation;
• relationship breakdown and violent offences against family members are known risk factors for suicide and being subject to a restraining order can be a sign of increased vulnerability;
• all new arrivals should promptly receive an induction to provide information to help them meet their basic needs in prison;
• mental health referrals need to be made and acted on promptly and there should be continuity of care from the community;
• prisoners are most at risk in the first month of custody; 
• the cumulative impact on potential suicide of restrictions, punishments, IEP levels and access to work needs to be considered; 
• prisoners on open ACCT documents should only be segregated in exceptional circumstances; • suicide prevention procedures should focus on the prisoner as an individual and the processes must be correctly implemented;
• increased risk of suicide and self-harm should be considered when a prisoner is a suspected victim of bullying; and
• effective and confident emergency response saves lives. 
This document is available on the PPO website at www.ppo.gov.uk. Please cascade to all relevant staff.

Offenders Sentenced to Less than 12 Months Custody

Following the implementation of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, all offenders sentenced to less than 12 months custody will, for the first time, be subject to a period of post-release licence from the point of release. Furthermore, this post-release licence will be supplemented by a further consecutive period of Post-Sentence Supervision that will take the overall period of supervision in the community up to 12 months. As such, all offenders sentenced to less than 12 months custody who are assessed as High RoSH and/or having an RSR score greater than 6.89% must have a full OASys assessment and Initial Sentence Plan within 4 weeks of the date of sentence.

PQF Learner in NPS or CRC (Cohort 3)

Applicants to become a PQF learner in the NPS or CRC as part of Cohort 3 (starting in May 2015) will hear their results this week. The overall standard of applications was high.

The new qualification pathway for probation needs to be ready to be launched in April 2016.

To develop the pathway a board and project group have been established: the Probation Qualification Review Project is now underway and the Board meets regularly. Both have a combination of NOMS, NPS and CRC representation and anyone who would like to join the virtual Reference Group to review drafts and ideas is welcome to contact...

New E-learning - The Basics of Custodial Screening & Resettlement Plans

From the 8th December 2014, the OASys application was changed to incorporate the new Basic Custody Screening (BCS) form that is part of the new Through the Gate (TTG) Delivery Model.

From May 2015, Community Rehabilitation Company staff will begin to complete the BCS part 2 on prisoners for all receptions into custody who will have received a BCS part 1, which will have been completed by prison staff.

It is likely that CRC staff working in prisons completing BCST Part 2 will have had no previous experience of OASys and access will be limited by role based access (RBACS) to the BCST function on OASys.

As it is a contractual requirement of CRCs to complete BCST Part 2, learning has been developed for CRC staff who will not be OASys Assessor or OASys Case Administrator trained, but who will be required to complete the Basic Custody Screening (BCS) Tool Part 2 or administer the BCS Part 2 process.

The course will be available to learners on the Justice Partnership Academy and Justice Academy from April 7th 2015.

Pre-course reading of all of the BCS Guidance documents is required prior to completing the e-learning.

By the end of this course learners will be able to:
  • Gather username and password required to log into the OASys application from both Quantum and OMNI infrastructure 
  • Describe the support process for practice queries, functionality queries and when the application does not work as expected 
  • Navigate around the OASys system correctly 
  • Navigate to the ‘Pending BCS (Part 2) View’ and correctly use the view to administer the BCS process. 
  • State the difference between an OASys assessment and a BCS. 
  • State the timings for BCS Part 1 and BCS Part 2 
  • Complete BCS Part 2 resettlement plan 
  • Complete BCS Part 2 Pre-release activity 
  • Understand how to enter in resettlement activity at any point during the custodial sentence 
  • Print BCS 
  • Describe the context of the BCS as a part of the Through the Gate delivery model
  • Describe the offender management process 
  • Administer the functions that will enable the BCS process.
Completion of this learning will provide good assurance that CRC staff have the requisite skills and knowledge to be granted access to the OASys platform.

NPS Bail Information Officer Training

Following the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation, local training on bail information was no longer available. As a result, there was a need for us to provide national training in this area for NPS Court staff.

From March 27th a newly developed e-learning course – Bail Information Officer Training will be available on the NPS Faculty page on the Justice Academy:

Before undertaking the course, there is a pre course requirement for staff to have undertaken one shadow visit to Court with a Bail Information Officer (BIO) or to have previous experience of working as a BIO.

This new course is mandatory for all new NPS court staff and it will provide learners with the core knowledge and skills to enable identification of appropriate bail cases, completion of bail enquiries and creation of bail reports to a sufficient standard.

By the end of this course learners will be able to:

• Reference legislation relating to bail
• Explain key tasks of your role and how to prioritize
• List potential grounds for refusal of bail
• Understand the issues involved in gathering and verifying bail information
• Complete a bail report to a satisfactory standard
• Make a well-considered proposal to court including bail conditions where required. 

There is a pass/fail test at end of learning package but staff are able to repeat the learning until a pass is achieved.

The new learning is intended to help to reduce remands in custody for defendants suitable for bail, increase referrals to bail accommodation services and improve the quality of information provided to the Court. 

Monday, 16 March 2015

Guest Blog 33

Important stuff you should know as a probation officer

I have been reading recent posts with interest especially about the lack of time to produce detailed reports, lack of information etc. I feel that I have to point out the following to all those involved in either the CRC’s or the NPS: you are obligated under the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 to ensure that any personal data you place into a client’s file is completely accurate and any information you put into a report on a client is also required to be accurate and verified for accuracy..

This also means that you have a legal obligation to ensure that any piece of personal information you record in a client’s file is not “misleading as to fact”. If you do not do this, you are not only breaching your client’s data protection rights but you are also breaking the law. At the very least this could mean formal complaints against you or an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office or even a law suit.

It has always surprised and appalled me in equal measure that probation officers seem to be completely oblivious in relation to their legal obligations under the Data Protection Act. You deal with personal data every day in your jobs and should therefore take steps to educate yourselves about your legal obligations in this regard yet you do not. 


Data protection isn’t some vague fuzzy concept only paid attention to by someone at head office; it is part of your job and the failures to uphold your legal obligations towards your clients in respect of data protection issues means you are breaking the law. Given that you are supposed to help clients to stay on the straight and narrow, breaking the law doesn't really set a very good example for the client.

Now this may not bother you (it apparently doesn’t bother my OM who sees no reason why she has to uphold the law in anything let alone the issue of accuracy of what she records in my file) but there are legal consequences for failing to adhere to your legal obligations in this respect. This may not bother you but it sure as hell will bother your employer when it is forced to deal with the fallout and investigations and potential fines that can be imposed let alone compensation that could be awarded.

I suppose there are some probation officers who think that most of their clients are illiterate idiots who won’t know about the Data Protection Act and their rights under that Act so breaching the client’s data protection rights won’t come back to bit them in the butt but just bear in mind that all it would take to derail an entire CRC or NPS office is for every client (or even just a few) to request a copy of their file and then to raise a formal complaint about the inaccuracies in respect of personal data in their files (because in my experience there are likely to be numerous factual inaccuracies and information in the file which is misleading as to fact) for the entire system to come crashing down. Especially because the DPA requires a data controller (e.g. CRC or NPS) to have procedures in place for ensuring accurate recording of personal data and you have legal obligations to respond to complaints and amend inaccurate personal data within specified time frames.

You are, of course, entitled to express your professional opinion about a client in a client file but each and every time you do so you need to ensure that it is recognisable as a professional opinion and is not presented as a fact”. In other words, if you are not presenting a fact e.g. John is six feet tall (you had him measured), you should preface what you are saying with the phrase “in my professional opinion . . .” to cover your butt. 

Given that apparently a lot of butt covering goes on in probation and this is likely to increase as TR progresses, I am always surprised that your average probation officer isn’t aware of this and there is a consistent failure to properly record what is a professional opinion and what is a fact. Moreover you are legally obligated to take reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of any personal data given to you about the data subject by a third party before you put it into the data subject’s file. 

This does not mean doing nothing as seems to be current and historical practice. At the very least it requires you to ask of the third party what steps they have undertaken to verify the accuracy of the data they have given to you and if they cannot provide this information then when you record the information in the client file you need to make it clear that you have not been able to verify the accuracy of the information provided by the third party. 

You cannot simply assume that if it comes from a “trusted source” e.g. police, courts etc that it is accurate and the law requires that you make your own investigations in respect of the accuracy of the data provided to you. Fail to do so and if the data turns out to be inaccurate (and let’s face it we’ve all seen instances where through human error stuff has turned out to be plain wrong) you have broken the law because you didn’t take any steps to verify it. If said inaccurate data led you to make recommendations about a client that severely impacted on sentence (say if they are IPP) or their licence conditions etc then you may well be liable for compensation and redress to the client.

You are also required under the DPA to be able to show where you got any and all information you have in a client’s file. So if you got sent a fax from social services for example which is a letter say not from social services to probation but from someone else and social services were given a copy of it and have now given it to you, you need to keep the fax cover sheet to show who the information is from and when it was received so there is a paper trail relating to the letter. You cannot ditch the fax cover sheet as current practice in at least my CRC does, because then you are unable to provide the data subject with the information as to where you obtained the letter from. The law is clear that you have to be able to provide a paper trail detailing where you received every single piece of information in a client’s file from.

If you fail to accurately record each and every piece of personal information in a client’s file or write a report about a client, put in information which is misleading as to fact or do not clearly distinguish a professional opinion from a fact or present your professional opinion as fact you are breaking the law and are thus liable under the law for those breaches.

Ignorance of the law is not a defence in English/Welsh law so claiming you didn’t know what your legal obligations were won’t wash in respect of an investigation by the ICO into breaches of data protection rights or even a court case. Assuming that data protection is up to Head Office to worry about and thus not your concern is inaccurate and could land you in a whole heap of trouble.

For those who may be interested in finding out more on this subject, the Information Commissioner’s Office publishes a lot of very helpful help sheets on their website.


Anon

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Bleak Futures Week 11

What really concerns me most is the management policy of distancing itself from practice because if they do not know, they think they have no responsibility: any blame can sit with the practitioner. They should remember that their salaries are higher purely because of responsibility payments.

*****
The IT system should be the highest factor in the business risk register and coded red.

*****
I have this to say to everyone who thinks Manchester is capable of offering the same level of service now as pre-TR. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah *pauses for breath* hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah!

*****
This applies both to CRC and to NPS as things are changing daily and its reminiscent of the movie 'Downfall' when Der Fuhrer attempts to move divisions that don't exist anymore in the mistaken belief that salvation is at hand and no-one has the balls to tell him...sound familiar????

*****
There are people in our local prison doing CRC TTG and I've no idea who they are but they are not CRC Probation - they're not NPS probation either. Who are these people and why if prison staff are doing BCS and pre-release planning is there a panic that probation CRC staff need to be directed to transfer to custody if its being done by others? Very confusing about who's doing what.

*****
In HMP Durham it was until this month Foundation who ran TTG. This has now stopped and we are in an absolutely shocking position that people are being released with only £46 in their pocket and no support!!! It should not be like this and if there was only some way that we could tear apart, on ideological grounds, an award winning service in order to provide this support. Oh, hang on......

*****
This is one of the fallacies that the TR providers are about to discover. There actually was TTG support in place, just not through MoJ contracted services - mostly through agreements with Local Authorities and third sector. They were effective too, but are now down the swannie. The TR providers will now have to pay for their own service but without the flexibility that previous arrangements had. Dear oh dear....I just don't think they understood this at all. And I can't see how they can afford it. Past Foundation and Shelter services in the North - all will have to be replaced with TR provider money.

*****
A lot of what is going on is stalling and pretending. Just get to after the election then who gives a fuck.

*****
It's so depressing, and clients are suffering too, on a global (universal) scale! I'll soon try to transfer a lifer to another area - still within the NPS district. Never liked losing people I've positively worked with for years to another area, but his reasons for wanting to go are genuine and the right thing to do, for him. I anticipate a struggle and it shouldn't be this way! The other area has no council properties as it has all been outsourced to a private company, so that's the first hurdle, but then there will be probation, victim services, Mappa and police.

It's exhausting for me and emotionally draining for the client! I know what you're thinking, no change there, but post TR the system appears to have had an intellectual and morality bypass! A consequence of which has been a reduction of confidence, something I have never been short of, and that will, if it carries on lead to feelings of hopelessness!

*****
Good luck with your lifer transfer. My case is unable to return to his home area but no area will accept transfer of him near to his open prison (two areas nearby) citing "no community support/links" as the reason. Also I couldn't get him into an AP in south for his ROTLs earlier on for the same reason. Chances of accommodation are pretty low. I shall continue to try my best for him from one hundred and fifty miles away, but it is very difficult to travel due to time constraints (what do I leave undone in order to travel to him?) and expense. Rehabilitation....the reality.

*****
For the last ten years the provision of accommodation for probation clients has evaporated. Community Safety agencies, DV forums, Homelessness teams - all seem too eager to refuse to support applications. When did a CRB check become part of registering as homeless? Since when was gossip exchanged at a "professionals" meeting accepted as 'fact'? Not many weeks back I spent 5 hours at the local housing office with a client. At 4pm they told me they were closing for the day - "perhaps you could buy her a tent and a sleeping bag?"

For a recent releasee on Licence I've had to resort to utilising housing provision previously set aside for prospective tenants with diagnosed learning disability. Complaints etc have been lodged, but no-one seems interested. Even if he had £460 in his pocket on release, he still couldn't have found accommodation.

I think the wholesale transfer of local authority housing stock was criminal, yet another act of reckless political vandalism which robbed the local tax payers of their assets. Even if TR was a sensible plan (which it isn't) it is inherently doomed to fail because there is no working infrastructure in the UK. Why? Because it's been hastily dismantled & sold off over the last 30 or so years. Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown & Cameron are the Steptoe & Son of the political world. Scrap merchants, thieves & exploitative, self-interested gits.

*****
Second day in new CRC Team, just me replacing 3 FT staff who have jumped across to NPS. Was asked to see a young man who came in insisting he had an appointment and no record of him at all to be found on Delius. Admin had rung the Court, they said they didn't know anything about him. Took him in an interview room and he explained he had been in court two days earlier. He used to be with the YOT but the Court 'squashed' that and told him he's got to do 30 days something but he doesn't know what.

Put him in the waiting room, rang the YOT, exasperated officer says she's been on to the Court several times about him, he's high risk of harm and should be at the NPS office 6 miles away except it then turns out that he has given a fake address at Court (despite the YOT Officer warning that he might do this) and he shouldn't even be in our town. After he'd been hanging around now for 40 minutes, explained all this to him. He told me to fuck off and that Probation is fucking shit. Had to agree really.

*****
Happening all over the place!

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Yep. Case came into the office last week. Reception can't find him on Delius and he doesn't know who he is here to see. Eventually I go down and take him into interview room to ask some details (as office was crowded). From what I can gather he appears to be a CRC case arrived from Court. No record of him though. A shambles, not to mention dangerous.

Another one last week where unpaid work have no access to OASys before 1st appointment. NPS have a look and in his last assessment (2013) he was high risk of serious harm. Who knows what his risk is now as sentenced without an up to date OASys.

Finally, FDR completed at Court by PSO on known sex offender who police consider to be high risk. Index offence on the face of it, fairly minor and not a sex offence so historical offences had gone unnoticed. All this in one office in one week.

*****
Purple Futures looking fragile and wet behind the ears. They have been holding lots of workshops on new service design with staff who aren't experienced in the right places, and the unofficial feedback is that they are coming up with ideas that failed some years ago - group reporting, narrow officer specialisms. Unrealistic about challenges with IT systems also. We know from past experience that emphasis on group work and specialisms is very expensive and inefficient, and loose group work is ineffective too. Some people need reining in but are taken for innovative and enthusiastic.

My analysis of all this is that those TR providers who look at the Segmentation evidence on effective practice will shy away from groups for the sake of it. But unfortunately too many seem to think this is a route to effectiveness and efficiency.

*****
I'm so angered by what this government has done to what was once an award winning probation service. Nothing works anymore, NOTHING!! Case allocation - doesn't work. ORA - doesn't work. TTG - doesn't work. Delius - doesn't work. NPS helpdesk - doesn't work. Shared services -doesn't work (total piss take). It's total chaos out there while the managers go round telling everyone that it is working. There's a real disconnect between managers and their staff now, we don't speak to each other any more. No small talk or questions about how YOU are actually feeling with all these high risk cases. Just a get on with it attitude. I don't know who or what can save us now? I don't think many people care? It's all going horribly wrong.....

*****
It's all going wrong all right, when a PO with 20 years experience of managing high risk cases, continues to carry the same cases after being shafted to the CRC, with an allocated NPS member of staff overseeing the work, and tasked with 'risk management'. 20 years of loyal service rewarded by having all credibility stripped, renamed a 'responsible officer', and unable to make a decision about anything, only to find that the over-seeing NPS officers are agency PSO's been in the service 10 minutes with no investment what so ever. Good call for public protection!

*****
And yet again, it is spouted all is well when on the ground - it is far from it. Diluted supervision, and only ticking right boxes for profit is the key. Behind machines still rather than the real probation face to face work. It's as bollocks now as it has been for last few years. Correction - didn't think it could get worse but it has. Desistance - a manager wouldn't understand it if it bit them in the arse. And Napo, Unison - weakest unions I have ever been party to in all my years of working. Thank god I'm close to retirement.

*****
Can anyone explain to me how we are supposed to explain to courts what the pile of shite called a RAR is?

*****
Working Links run the DWP Work Programme in Wales and now run Wales CRC, plus 2 others. They frequently sanction offenders and make no allowances for their chaotic lives. They 'park' offenders. Fun times ahead!

*****
In Wales prisoners are now being released under the new ORA with no support agencies in place. TTG not up and running and still no date given for it

*****
Being elected to be assigned CRC has made me reflect on the quality assurance within our CRC and how effective we can be. Yes I'm gutted about the split, but my passion for the work that we all do and the commitment from staff is admirable. All the crap from on high can stay with the likes of CG and his pals and leave the face and future of our CRC to the ones who know best, us!!!!!!

Yes we are hearing on this blog about poor systems that are in place, managers rocking around corridors trying to creep their way into the arses of the providers and some staff walking away. However, there is a fight still ongoing around our integrity and values in the CRC world and in some ways we are winning. The providers we have in our area are listening, strange but true, and are willing to look at what we do as we are fighting for a service of quality not shite!!!

Training is still ongoing and gaining speed. Sorry NPS I know this is not true for you guys. QA is a priority, just as we knew it previously and for us staff we are standing up and shouting but being listened to. Sorry for going on, but my passion for my work and the good work shown by my colleagues is something I am very proud of and it is going to stay. I get sick of hearing us in the CRC world, your colleagues, being made to feel second fiddle, but one thing I will say is that we are not going away, we are going to fight this and keep our integrity because you know why - we have a pair of balls!!!!

*****
The Isle of Wight has two prisons – Parkhurst and Albany. There was a third – Camphill – but it closed. Grayling was on the Island last week. Guess which 'prison' he visited? Camphill! Had he visited Albany, he would have heard about the fire, that started in a cell but led to a full-scale emergency and 18 prisoners in hospital. There was panic at one point with trapped prisoners being told to saturate towels and hold them to their faces when the electronic cell doors initially failed to open. Maybe I missed this in the news at the time or was it suppressed? Not a minor incident as A wing was shutdown for weeks. But not something that Grayling thought worth a visit – preferring an empty prison instead.

*****
People leaving and no signs of any plans to replace them; people off sick; constant requests from management to courts to re-list cases; missed results due to staff absences; every previous route to efficiency blocked by a new layer of IT & bureaucracy. It isn't working.

*****
Well I am glad the CRCs can access a computer. North East computers and phones have been down all day in my office. No communication with the outside world. Of course if they had have been on I could have sent off my application for the Prison Governor NOMs graduate fast track, hasty rushed into senior leadership post. Because it's so much more gratifying not dealing with all the violence and bullying on the inside rather than scratching my arse all day in the office with little to do given we are encouraged to rely on ndelius. In future I shall take a book to pass the time.

*****
I have very recently had contact with someone who works for Ernst & Young. Our friendship has been developing positively. Who are they and what do they do? Well set your mind back a little. For those who are not aware, Ernst Young is one of the largest auditing firms for Gov departments. I'm slowly working to get some interesting information out soon.

*****
A piece of work from yesterday could not be completed due to no NPS admin. This morning I have to wait to be informed when NPS admin have done their thing before I am able to piss about with the IT bureaucracy myself. Then I need to inform NPS admin that I've done my thing so they can do yet another bit before CRC even get the case. Meanwhile in the good days I wouldn't have been pissing about like this. I would be somewhere else, doing something useful.

*****
Couldn't agree more. The lack of information provided by PSRs means CRC POs have to undertake their our own checks re domestic violence & child protection. Whilst waiting for the information to come back, no work is being done to protect said partner or child. When raised with managers, response is "if there is an SFO we're covered because there is no way of us knowing before". My response: "So it's OK that partner dies because we're covered? What the fuck?!?". Just how it is now.

Over in NPS: POs can check domestic call outs and child protection but the info won't be back to inform the court report. So what do we do with the info when it does come back? What if we are off sick or moved offices or no longer in the role? It's not good for important info to go through a third party.

Best process would be for NPS to make enquiries at earliest opportunity and for CRC to have a central e-mail for all info to go to to make sure it is received. This would mean NPS taking time to do 'work on behalf of CRC' and CRC not burying its head in the sand. Not sure I can see any of this happening. People will die but it's OK because the blame won't be able to be pinned on anyone so it's all good.

*****
The statement 'we're covered' will only wash once with SFO's, victim groups, politicians and the media - as the lessons learned from the first have clearly made no difference and the inquiries will just go on an on, with no regard for victims or perpetrators. Ten years or more ago, Probation managers insisted practitioners made checks on all those our clients live with, due to some very nasty and tragic deaths of children in the same household as our service users and there are parallels with social workers being pilloried for not getting over the front door to find out who lives there! It is an utter disgrace that current practice effectively ignores all that has gone before. I am ashamed to be part of it!

*****
Perhaps each office, CRC and NPS need to highlight concerns in writing and pass up the chain of command. Since it seems to be all about accountability, this might be a way of getting them to take action. If we've highlighted the issues formally, senior management won't be 'in the clear' when the inevitable happens. Might make them sort this out.

*****
Without wishing to understate the impact of TR on court reports, the dumbing-down of reports started years ago with a steady decline in full reports and the increase in orals and FDRs. The senior managers in probation trusts pushed these changes hard and were indifferent to the loss of quality. And yet before this dumbing-down there had been great emphasis on how a report could only be produced via a full OASys and in some cases – domestic violence in particular - two interviews were mandatory. This was the practice standard, it was evidence-based practice, consistent with the best probation values. And then all gets dropped like a hot potato as the expedited report becomes the norm. When any organisation can do such somersaults in service delivery, credibility as to core values and practices is destroyed, and you find it difficult not to conclude that it's so-called values are shallow and opportunistic. The workplace becomes a crude bureaucracy.

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Never thought they could be dumbed down any more but they are. One CRC PO who raised significant concerns regarding information coming to light after case allocated to CRC which involved sexual offence and family history of sexual offences told by CRC Manager - 'your job is not to assess risk but to assess need and not to go looking and digging for information regarding risk'. Our future - public at risk - we have to say NOT ON OUR WATCH.

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This mirrors the London CAT CRIT CIT experiment of about 15 years ago. It was found that no part of the system took ownership of anything but their bit. Seamless it was not. Now we have that situation on steroids. No part of the system cares at all about any other part. The Courts need to get the report done fast and so will roll them off. If it's expensive and mistakes need to be corrected, well that comes out of some other sods budget (and in a lot of cases out of some other Agencies budget) so screw 'em. This time though nobody is in a position to oversee the whole process. I suspect that it's falling apart faster than last time. But I don't know cos I am just a foot soldier. I don't think the generals know either cos somebody has put them in two separate bunkers, burnt their maps and torn out the telephone lines.

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New case that arrived for induction this week with no information - I couldn't even find out what her sentence was. I gently asked if she had her Court Order with her - NO! She told me her case was adjourned for 3 weeks and was given a report appointment on the day of sentencing and, due to transport delays, was 1/2 hour late for her interview. She was very upset at being given 20 minutes to relate her story and her frustration was stated to the Court in her report, again providing resentment based on a feeling of injustice. I gave an empathetic ear, but this demonstrates the complete failure to recognise the impact in fragmenting our service!

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New case allocated CRC - Looked for PSR not one, looked for pre-cons, none, looked for CPS none. Looked at RSR - ONLY document available - guess what - undefined was the answer against the majority of questions. Explanation - no NPS in court at time of sentence. How can a case be allocated to CRC without at the very least the full RSR being completed to accurately define the score? Surely if NPS are not in court, then an appt with NPS should be arranged post-sentence to complete the necessary paperwork? - PS No CAS either. PPS: This is not a criticism of NPS colleagues but of the system. However, what I don't think NPS staff understand is the impact on CRC staff is that this could have a significant impact on PbRs which ultimately is going to cost NOT JUST JOBS but potentially LIVES.

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Two cases in two days where NPS have contacted previous OMs (shafted to CRC) for information regarding current or previously known cases. In first instance NPS staff told the individual has been supervised for 18 months and failed to engaged in any intervention to address specific needs related to offending but still a CO being considered; the second the individual has never completed a CO - each has resulted in multiple breaches before revocation has been the ultimate outcome - you guessed - CO being proposed. I'm sorry, I'm all for wanting to help individuals, but where it is clear they do not want to engage with either their COs or intervention to address their specific needs - why set up the individual or CRC staff to fail?

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Honestly this happens with NPS allocations too...only the cases are high ROSH...I'm really NOT saying NPS cases 'trump' CRC cases before anyone responds that way, I just want to say we are all in the same rubbish boat. I also really feel for court staff 'cos who came into this job to work doing oral reports all day?

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Imagine this one....sentenced on oral report to an ATR, but err, the client had been suspended from his previous ATR for err, assaulting the alcohol keyworker - yup TR works!
PS not blaming the CDO, don't think I could have done any different in an hour....we are relying on the clients to tell us this vital information now and why would they?

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So sad to read today's blog. The bulk of my probation career was spent in the courts, providing sentencers, clients and colleagues alike with as good a service as possible. Daily liaison was inevitable with sentencers (judges or magistrates), clerks, defence & CPS lawyers, social services, police, youth offending, other probation areas - even with the media circus when higher profile cases were being dealt with. It was a challenging but satisfying career - and by proactively managing the work in the courts meant that, in every sense, we were on top of our game, and we were very rarely caught short. Sounds like its become a Kafka-esque nightmare.

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If you want to experience a Kafkaesque situation, try applying to leave the service and accessing your pension through Shared Services. The different departments don't appear to communicate with each other and the whole process is a stressful nightmare. The above post describes the process with alarming precision.

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"They have concerns about sentencing not being targeted to suit their business model". Is it now the case that private enterprise with no experience of, or no concern in other than profit, will significantly influence law and justice to shape itself around business models?

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It really is all going wrong from the courts - the blame must lie with management. Staff have no discretion just instruction these days and yes the term battery hens is appropriate.

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A woman down the pub told me that in Wales PO's are being withdrawn from Courts - only PSO's will remain - let's just see how that all works then shall we. Pay - in real terms our salaries have decreased - salaries have not kept pace with inflation. I believe salary scales will blur and merge - and in one direction of course - downwards.

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We've been split into teams, cases transferred in a week. Next week we start the new working arrangements. Only problem is we have not been told how we will be working. I thought the last year was bad, just when you think it can't get any worse, it does. Apparently every service user that has children will be checked for Social Services involvement. Social Services already in meltdown and must be against human rights. Whilst safeguarding children is paramount, because someone offends does not automatically mean he/she is a bad parent.

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For the last 2 years we've been under management direction to take names & dob of ALL children (birth, step, etc) of ALL cases (& their current partners) and check with social services - "triage" (ain't that a sweet name for it?) to see if they're known, current or otherwise. Any case refusing to provide those details or give consent is referred to "triage" for a check on the adults name & address in any event. Well, you never know, do you? They've been caught drink-driving, they've already proved they can wilfully break the law, they're likely to be liars as well, they probably starve their children to pay for their booze, they probably beat them in a drunken rage, no self-control you see, no discipline, just think of those poor babies, etc, etc, etc... "AND how would YOU feel if YOU failed to make those checks? What would the SFO say about YOU? Now get on that 'phone..." Fear is the key.

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We've just been given some 'training' as the above practices have now been introduced in our area. An interesting split in viewpoint was revealed - scenario: female comes to probation looking for her partner with child who is a bit dirty and hasn't got a coat on - its January - what would you do? Consensus amongst most PSO's was to ring social services immediately, with most PO's going Why? - and highlighting the many assumptions being made based on too little information.

The usual guilt-inducing rhetoric was trotted out by the trainers as per above 'how would you feel...on your watch...etc etc. Having recently watched Social Services drive a Hercules tank into someones life (Claire's law disclosure at their place of work so the whole world knew) only to 'drive out' again a couple of weeks later and close the case (so, there WAS no immediate risk to the family then,eh?) this blanket approach to regarding everyone as a risk will only cause more harm than good. Also, our local Children's Services offices are becoming a little shirty about all the extra assessment work we are passing their way, and the trainers were unable to confirm that a new Service Level Agreement was in place to cover this newly imposed role of ours. Luckily I'm pretty immune to attempts to try and make me feel guilty about what I do or don't do as a PO.

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I know that at least one CRC has had the job evaluation discussion (consultation) with the Trade Unions so the process of 'rationalisation' has started. The trouble with the whole TR mess is that so much is going wrong it has turned into white noise to the MoJ. Or perhaps they are deliberately asking questions about processes that ensure they receive only the answers they want.

There is a growing realisation, as you point out, that what CRCs have must change quickly now to ensure the business model works. The CRCs are now in the driving seat so expect pressure shifted upwards to the MoJ (deservedly so). I understand the question of business premises is a major issue in terms of cost and business efficiency. For new business models to work, the split must be more literal - to allow CRCs to operate in their existing co-locations was a fundamental error.

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I know that one CRC has a significant number of new PSOs because all of their POs have gone to the NPS and all their experienced PSOs are NPS trainees. Many of these new PSOs are still on their Probation period and cannot be confirmed because their caseloads are in such a mess but no-one knows whether it is the PSOs or the system that is at fault!!

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I have lost count of the number of 'briefings' emailed which contain lots of big pictures of shiny unknown people no doubt being paid a great deal of hard working tax payers money to do god knows what and tell me absolutely nothing in terms of what I need to know. I don't need to know their back story, what they enjoyed about Uni or how they are bubbling over with enthusiasm at the destruction of probation services. The self adoration is offensive.

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The blog is entirely accurate on the issues of IT and comments about premises...to such an extent that the CRC plans will be put back by "years!" As a consequence the CRC will have to pay larger fees for longer and so will seek alternatives for saving money. The obvious significant cost is staffing and so there is likely to be deeper staff reductions to save money. This is horrendous for those waiting for outcome decisions and should also be a worry to those who have transferred to NPS too - there is little shelter there. There is still plenty to be angry about; there is still plenty to fight for, so don't imagine this mess is yet a done deal.

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Parliament has been sold a duck, and the CRC's (fools to have been taken in, but that's what happens when your vision is clouded by £ signs). Sadly, they'll never admit it and will continue to shove square pegs into round holes - fuckwits. However, GC may be losing sleep as he has royally fucked off the wrong people, the private companies!

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Who has decided that in CRC the deadline for ISPs is now 10 days? How come it was previously 15 days with half the caseload, but all of a sudden our caseloads have doubled and the deadline for ISPs cut by a third - how can this be possible?? 

We've also been told under no circumstances can we be late with them - no professional judgements to inform the assessment - they must be added in an update. I and my colleagues feel like we can't do the job anymore it's almost like we're being pushed to breaking point so that we walk. 8 hours overtime I had to do last week just to get through the workload and we're exhausted.

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Completely agree with you it is impossible to maintain this for any length of time especially at the rate new orders are being allocated, along with those being released from custody. I am spending even more time behind my computer than I did previously - its a nightmare and this week I have been close to walking.

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Only walk at 5pm, same as I do. I know it might be easier said than done, until TR I regularly put in at least an hours overtime everyday, mainly paperwork as I spent the day doing something constructive such as working with clients, you know, the proper stuff. Now, come 5pm it's computer off, coat on and off out the door. I assure you the first time you try it you WILL struggle, each day gets easier. My work/life balance has improved considerably, I no longer have the 2pm heartburn I used to get and whilst it's still stressful and demanding, I do feel a lot better in myself. You going off on the sick is not helping anyone and if you think for one moment that your boss cares that he/she was the cause of it then you are sadly mistaken.

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This must be standard practice across Purple Futures CRCs - I feel so upset that I can't even see my workload management tool. I am obviously overworked but cant prove it - it's so wrong because I'm going like the clappers trying to do everything when the reality is I am on mission impossible. This is so unfair - we need sight of our workload management tool as our office are going crazy it's like we're deliberately being kept in the dark. The stark reality is some staff are starting to suffer mental health problems, interrupted sleep, agitation; anxiety and I tell you what, if ever there is a suicide as someones been worked to breaking point, CRC will have to answer to the Coroner and with the Probation family you upset one of us you upset us all - this will not be brushed under the carpet. CRCs get your act together!!

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I am concerned that colleagues are stating they are having to do the whole OASys assessment in 10 days. If their bosses in CRC/NPS read PI58/2014 it only mentions in section 2.3 that 'a plan' has to be completed. This does not have to be the OASys sentence plan. WWM CRC have provided a 2 page plan on Delius for us to complete and completing this in 10 days is a reasonable request.

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Do the CDC's have an overtime arrangement? If not, work only your contracted hours, don't try to fix it, 'tis broken beyond repair!

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I've noticed over the past fortnight or so the Data System Share on delius isn't working. This is a useful IT database that tells OM what prison establishment their offender is in plus it gives HDC/CRD/dates etc - I have missed this whilst it's been down - I also use this if I write to people as it gives their Noms & prison number.

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This is so deja vu. This is C-Nomis all over again, so many grand promises and tight deadlines that turn into delays, epic money pits and failure to deliver. CRC are supposedly bringing in new technology by the end of the year. If the government, bank rolling private IT contractors with lots of workers couldn't get that working, what hope in hell do each CRC have? C-Nomis cost £600 million plus.