Thursday, 26 November 2015

Probation Institute Debate

I thought it would be useful to summarise the recent debate and exchanges concerning the fledgling Probation Institute. It was kicked off by a comment I re-published from Facebook by Napo's David Raho. The ensuing contributions raised some serious questions and I'm grateful to him for openly responding:-

It has been suggested elsewhere that we continue to sign our correspondence PO PSO SPO as per employment contract and in addition start listing professional qualifications. In order to preserve our professional status including designations we need a recognised professional body that registers our qualifications courses etc as CPD. It was hoped that the Probation Institute would perform this role in the same way as the Institute for Learning does. Unfortunately the Probation Institute got a bad press (mainly due to Grayling dishonestly attempting to take credit for its establishment) and continues to be unfairly maligned and undermined and weakened by a small number of very vocal critics who have failed to recognise its potential importance to our profession.

I would encourage anyone concerned about their professional status and probation as a profession to join the PI in addition to NAPO (who are a professional association) who recognise the Probation Institute as aspiring to be a centre of professional excellence including all those with an interest and/or involvement in probation including academics, leaders, politicians, voluntary sector etc. Some of us have been calling for a PI for years and now we have one we need to join it and support it. 
David Raho

A Probation Institute with licence to practice powers rather than mere 'registration' may have been welcomed as it would have protected excellence as the PI aspires to become to a 'centre of excellence'. Though supported by the Napo leadership it is quiet support as I don't recall any strong promotion by Napo of the PI. It never gets mentioned by the general secretary and I don't see any evidence of Napo urging members to join.

There are trained and experienced staff seeking to transfer to the NPS and being told they will revert to the bottom of the pay scale. On this issue and other issues that affect conditions of service and livelihoods the PI is silent.

The MoJ spent 90,000 on the PI because it was good PR at a time when they needed to show their commitment to maintaining professional standards in the post TR world. No wonder its critics saw it as more fig leaf than supposed centre of excellence. The PI enjoys more traction with academics than practitioners. Is this just because practitioners have been deterred by a small number of very vocal critics, or could it be that in general it is regarded as a cosmetic: lipstick on the TR pig?

The practitioners I know see very little benefit in joining the PI until all the grand words about being a centre of excellence translate into concrete action towards achieving a proper register of licensed practitioners. Until then, and particularly whilst corporate entities and those with no background in probation can simply buy themselves higher levels of membership than frontline staff, to most people it will remain little more than yet another quarterly glossy magazine.

The PI should have been free to all frontline probation staff. Not everyone has to buy a registration, as does the humble NPS probation officer. CRC's had it paid for, NPS did not. The PI's 'code of ethics' didn't have a problem with this.

The other way is to be handed it for free by your friends. Funny that, the PI was set up by probation Chiefs and now they're awarding themselves "fellowships". This list of current 'awards' is packed with probation Chiefs (I'm not counting Andrew Bridges as he's the only one that's deserving in my book). I hope they enjoy writing C.O.R.R.U.P.T after their names.

CRC's staff may have been offered free membership to the PI but I don't know anyone that took up the offer in Kent. Maybe this was offered as compensation for NPS staff being given a day off for the Queen.

I disagree with David Raho on the Probation Institute (PI). It's a bit unfair to blame the critics when there are many flaws in the set up and operation. It failed us, we didn't fail it!

The PI may have worked if it'd been properly established in the first place. It's silly it was started by absorbing those of the Probation Association and Probation Chiefs Association, those that did nothing to fight the Govt destruction of probation. The PI has still not spoken against TR, it is silent against every new/additional Govt attack on probation, and I have never seen or heard it speak publicly in defence of probation. 

It's committees/boards are heavily packed with persons from Community Rehabilitation Companies and private firms. The PI has had ample time to combat/correct all of the above but seems to be only interested in increasing member fees and issuing silly 'fellowships' which include those that helped the sell off, and have nothing to do with, probation. Its professional register might have worked if it were not so intent on bowing to private companies by registering and giving silly post nominal letters to those without probation qualifications, and even volunteers those not working in probation. I don't see why it's partnered with Uservoice either, or why it needs to be propped up by Napo.

I agree probation needs a professional body, a format for registering qualifications and professional development, a credible place for identifying and accessing research and training, and a probation focused authority to speak on behalf of probation practice. Sadly the PI in its current form is not it, and has tried to be too broad and therefore too vague. Rather than blaming its failure on the critics it should go back to the drawing board. There's a lot we all could say on the PI but it would already know this if it tried to listen.

I agree with David Raho on much, but his comment that the PI "continues to be unfairly maligned and undermined and weakened by a small number of very vocal critics" is rather odd.

Who are these critics, except for those on this blog? Do we really have that much power? The PI has had a huge amount of establishment support, and its failure to gain traction is the result of the fundamental flaws in its design - particularly the offer of corporate memberships - as well as the PR problems that was the initial £90k seed money from NOMS and Grayling's early championship. The fact that it seemingly can't overcome the challenge of a few naysayers is a mark of its fundamental weaknesses, not the strength of the critics.

We do need a professional body, separate from the trade unions, but not this one. As Probation Officer says, to be credible the PI needs to be seen to be standing up for probation values and actively challenging the TR wrecking ball - but the current PI is financially dependent on the CRCs and will end up being complicit in the destruction of what it professes to value.

I intend to contact David Raho directly to explain why I am so opposed to the Probation Institute. I will express myself here anonymously because this is social media and being NPS I would be sanctioned for having the temerity to express my views. Yup in the land of Magna Carta, in 2015, I dare not speak out because I am a (second access to the better pension remember) Civil Servant. Not once has the PI ever spoken up about the truly shocking experiment-turned-reality of TR. Not once has the PI expressed any concern about the impact of TR upon victims, communities, clients/service users/offenders. Not once has the PI ever raised concerns from practitioners or managers.

I work in the NPS and horrified by the PI which incidentally was set up and funded by Chris Grayling's department, the MOJ. PI has no credibility and no teeth to uphold probation 'core' values. The only thing PI is interested in is using this organisation as a marketing tool to advise the aims of the private sector and supporting companies that are out to make a profit.

The PI was introduced as a smoke screen to smooth the muddy waters that the MOJ knew would follow TR. What they didn't envisage was us mere mortal front line PROBATION staff seeing right through it. I am quite frankly shocked by David Raho's statement, I always held him in high esteem.

It's a bit unclear. All this E3 nonsense is actually an opportunity for the Probation Institute to find itself. The PI, if it's reading, should tell the MoJ, NOMS, the NPS and CRC's - what best practice is, what probation practice must be and the role of the Probation Officer, how professional qualifications and standards must be maintained, how justice cuts will affect standards, the problems and effects caused by TR and privatisation, the restraints and robotisation of being civil servants, etc.

If the PI wants to be a "centre of excellence" and "voice" of probation then it needs to put in the work. Get rid of the premature partnerships, give the MoJ back its £90k, get involved in a few news interviews about crime, punishment and rehabilitation to promote and defend probation work, and then build in the right direction. Look how the police have taken the current terror threat and spoken out about justice cuts! I respect the likes of Paul Senior and Sue Hall but they're not doing enough if they want it to work. I'm an NPS PO and there is literally no point in joining, in fact I don't even know what it is except that it tried to run before it could walk. I'd love to help them make it work but clearly the PI's priority is membership fees, glossy magazines and pampering the self-believing 'elite'

I expect unions to fight for terms and conditions. I expect the PI to promote and preserve probation practice. Being a probation officer has always been and still is a profession. It is more than 'just a job' and therefore should not be subject to silly models and initiatives that strip it bare. This is not idealistic or a "fantasy", the fact is that with many 'professions' such as doctors, lawyers, police, surveyors, counsellors, social workers, etc, us professionals on the frontline should and must expect to be able and supported to do the job we are paid for and held accountable for. The reason for the superstructure of specialist unions, institutes, inspectorates, etc is to ensure this.

I am happy to talk to anyone regarding my current dealings with the Probation Institute. Like many I was sceptical at first but the PI will only be as effective as those involved in it and to a large extent prepared to give up their spare time to further its aims and projects. I am fully aware of how it was formed and the relatively small contribution from the MoJ. I think it has value as a means of networking and bringing together different people with an interest in probation that would not necessarily be comfortable dealing with trade unions. My experience has been that there are good people involved such as Paul Senior that those who have been around a while will recognise as good friends of the probation profession and will aim to do no harm. As a profession we need to engage with a wider audience and we need recognised infrastructure to do so. I am happy to hear from anyone directly.
David Raho

David Raho, total poppycock. That silly "only as good as it members" line may work in excusing the sham of the Napo exec/leadership, but the PI is not a union. It is in fact the responsibility of those running the PI to make it effective for and attractive to those that make up the profession it seeks to represent. If the PI cannot realise this then it is not ready to be an organisation/institute. There are many posts above stating the failings of the PI and what it could do to change. These points and more have been raised many times over, here and elsewhere. Let it show us how it is a voice of probation and centre of excellence, as it claims, because "networking" is not enough.

You are right to say the PI is not a union but some of those commenting do not make that distinction. It does however strive to be a democratic organisation and members therefore have a say. I do not expect it or similar institutes in their infancy to behave in the ways described or as a radical pressure group. However, I think some of the work currently being done may be influential. Nothing is ever as perfect as we want it to be and whilst it is easy to be negative about what exists it can at least be worked with rather than simply dismissed as irrelevant. 

If the PI fails it will be as much a casualty of TR as anything else and will be seized upon by those who's interests are served by deprofessionalising and silencing voices speaking up for the probation profession. As I said before I was initially a sceptic but I can see the sense in engaging with a wider group through the PI who would not necessarily feel comfortable engaging directly with NAPO as a professional association. I'm happy to do this. Without a professional institute there is no obvious home for specialist networks etc to find a home and those with interests in probation would rely on ad hoc professional conferences etc to communicate. So in providing the means to have a forum and network the PI fits the bill. They currently rely on members subscriptions and as far as I am aware do not get any money from the MoJ. My own hope for the PI is that it does provide professional services in the way the Institute for Learning does to te teaching profession. If it's membership increases so will its potential to have a stronger voice and a bit more clout and may well be more critical of policy makers. It is not however and should not be seen as being a trade union.
David Raho

If it makes you feel better to say that, congrats. The fact is it was badly set up and is doing little to nothing for our profession. If it's a "professional association" then it should be it now, and not 'when it has enough members'. You may say it's a catch 22 my friend, I say it must put in the work and the members will come. Look how the police spike and fought against cuts and are now protected until 2020. We've not heard a snippet from the PI on TR, sodexo, E3 or the looming cuts, but it claims to be the voice of probation but will not while it bows to the MoJ and romances its privateer friends. As I said, the comments are above and elsewhere, and the PI has done nothing to rectify this. You're not its spokesperson so you can't answer any of this either, so little point debating with me on an old blog post nobody else is reading. I'd love the PI to be an institute of probation, the fact is it is far from it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015


On the day that the charmless Chancellor announces yet another round of public service cuts, I'm fairly sure one lucky visitor to the blog will become the 3 millionth person to click on in order to get the latest news regarding the TR omnishambles. It's another significant milestone without a doubt, but unlike those previously, I'm in no mood to celebrate.

As we discussed a few weeks ago, readership is steadily declining as highly experienced colleagues continue to leave and are driven out of this once wonderful profession. Those remaining feel increasingly scared of contributing for fear of falling foul of bullying management in the privateer world of CRC's and the growing control freak environment of NPS. 

It's basically all incredibly depressing, but there's undoubtedly more to come and the blog has to soldier on for a bit longer in it's aim of highlighting and cataloguing the ever-unfolding disaster. As ever, it can only be achieved by people making contributions and continuing to send me information. We haven't really touched on E3 and the Staff Survey, or some of the daft and dangerous new operating models being developed by the privateers. 

As always, I would like to warmly thank everyone that has contributed and supported this endeavour through some very tough and soul-destroying times. In the words of all those official responses to negative reports, 'we've done a lot, but there's more to do'. Despite the difficulties and threats, please think about contributing what's going on in your area for the benefit of others and best of all, consider writing a guest blog piece and help fill the empty pages of late.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Jobs News

This from Facebook:-
News from a CRC:

  • Performance Delivery Manager. New name for an SPO. (At least it isn't PIM or POM)
  • 'The details will be confirmed as part of the consultation process'. Consultation vs Confirmed? Oxymoron?
  • Probation Practitioner. Anyone who supervises a Service User. This will replace the terms Probation Officer, Offender Manager, Case Manager and Probation Service Officer. This may also be referred to as ‘Responsible Officer’, as per the legal definition.
  • Role boundaries? In your dreams.
  • Community Support Worker: A (newly invented) paid position, CSWs are involved with the delivery of Service User rehabilitation activities and support as part of Reducing Reoffending Teams. They will have a major role in promoting engagement, undertaking assertive outreach with Service Users with the most complex needs.
  • Finally for now: Biometric technology will support automated step down reporting as Service Users approach the end of their order.

David A Raho in response:-
It has been suggested elsewhere that we continue to sign our correspondence PO PSO SPO as per employment contract and in addition start listing professional qualifications. In order to preserve our professional status including designations we need a recognised professional body that registers our qualifications courses etc as CPD. It was hoped that the Probation Institute would perform this role in the same way as the Institute for Learning does. Unfortunately the Probation Institute got a bad press (mainly due to Grayling dishonestly attempting to take credit for its establishment) and continues to be unfairly maligned and undermined and weakened by a small number of very vocal critics who have failed to recognise its potential importance to our profession. 

I would encourage anyone concerned about their professional status and probation as a profession to join the PI in addition to NAPO (who are a professional association) who recognise the Probation Institute as aspiring to be a centre of professional excellence including all those with an interest and/or involvement in probation including academics, leaders, politicians, voluntary sector etc. Some of us have been calling for a PI for years and now we have one we need to join it and support it.


BTW Jim, no blog on the NPS people survey yet? It's a shocker. Three quarters of NPS staff unhappy with pay, career progression and training and with the ability of the centre to run the service. Tiny confidence that their voice will be heard if they speak out and a fear of doing so. Shockingly, 25% of the respondents in one LDU say they want out in the next 12 months. These kind of numbers in a private sector organisation would prompt shareholder panic, changes at the top and some proper reform to ensure profitability. What will the NPS do? Probably nothing If the survey is anything to go by. Very few respondents believe action will be taken on the results. Don't get me started on bullying numbers. They're shocking too. Come on Jim and NAPO and UNISON make some hay with this.


Hi Jim,

I know several PO's who are withdrawing their applications for NPS because the salary they are being offered is back at the bottom of the pay scale. So, NPS would rather continue to pay £25-£30 per hour to a temp (not to mention recruitment agency fees) than take back PO's who were shafted in to CRC in the first place. All the way along through the recruitment process no one has been 'able' to confirm salary and then when offered job after all the slaver and costs involved in interviewing and disclosure processes, you get told the salary is at the bottom of the scale! Told to make a business case for going in at current salary, but it gets rejected. It's a farce and an insult!


Meanwhile, there are currently 60 PSO NPS jobs being advertised in the North West:-

Job description
Postholders will undertake the full range of offender management tasks for cases including assessment, sentence implementation and producing reports in accordance with National Standards, the Probation policies and key performance objectives of the National Probation Service. Postholders will report to a Senior Probation Officer or equivalent line manager.

The National Probation Service is seeking to employ a number of Probation Services Officers for positions across various delivery units in the North West (Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire). Successful candidates will be deployed in Offender Management Units undertaking challenging and rewarding work facilitating the rehabilitation and risk management of offenders in order to protect victims and communities from harm.

These positions can be based at any NPS location within the North West Region. Further information will be provided at interview. Probation Services Officers may be required to undertake any combination, or all, of the duties and responsibilities set out below. 

  • To undertake the full range of offender management tasks with offenders assessed as low or medium risk of harm. 
  • To use the NPS computer based systems to produce records and other documentation within agreed timescales as required 
  • To review Oasys, assessing the risks and needs of offenders for whom the post holder is the offender manager and complete within appropriate timescales. 
  • Where the post holder is the offender manager, to work collaboratively with colleagues and providers of interventions and to implement and review sentence plans in an effective and timely manner. 
  • To monitor and review plans to ensure they remain “fit for purpose”, making amendments as necessary and referring significant changes in risk to the team manager. 
  • Ensure effective referrals to and communication with offender management staff, interventions staff, service providers and external agencies to review progress and associated risks. 
  • When working under the guidance of a Probation Officer Offender Manager, report observations relating to risk of harm and/or of reoffending or any non-compliance within agreed enforcement procedures. 
  • Undertake home and prison visits as required. 
  • To be responsible for addressing the risks and needs presented by offenders being managed, for achieving compliance with national standards and requirements in orders and licences and for prompt and effective enforcement and breach. 
  • To take breach action, case transfer and case closure using Service procedures as appropriate. 
  • To work and engage with the offender, to promote change and to ensure they understand the links between all the relevant interventions. To facilitate the offender’s understanding of the links between the different interventions; help the offender make the links between new learning and their day-to-day environment; seek to ensure offender practices new skills and behaviours and habitualises new behaviours in their own environment. 
  • To undertake work in the court setting, including the completion of appropriate bail information reports, oral reports on cases and prosecution of breaches. 
  • To provide cover within the offender management unit and to other offender management units as appropriate. 
  • Demonstrate pro-social modelling skills by consistently reinforcing pro-social behaviour and attitudes, challenge anti-social behaviour and attitudes. 
  • Participate in quality assurances processes as required and jointly take responsibility within supervision and appraisal process for own professional development. 
  • To promote diversity and anti-discriminatory practice to all service users and staff in line with National Probation Service policies. 
  • To ensure all activities are conducted in accordance with Health & Safety Policies and procedures. 
  • Maintain and ensure safe storage and usage of data, service property and equipment. 
  • To undertake any other duties with appropriate support which are commensurate with the grading of the post. 
The duties/responsibilities listed above describe the post as it is at present and is not intended to be exhaustive. The Job holder is expected to accept reasonable alterations and additional tasks of a similar level that may be necessary. Significant adjustments may require re-examination under Job Evaluation and shall be discussed in the first instance with the Job Holder.

Minimum 5 GCSE’s at Grade C or above, including English

Relevant Degree:
- Criminology or Applied Criminology
- Community Justice
- Criminal Justice or Police Studies
- A combined honours degree where at least 50% is in one of the above titles and combined with Social Science or Law will also be accepted as relevant


  • Experience of working with a diverse range of people who have experienced a range of social/personal difficulties 
  • Understanding of factors related to offending e.g. substance misuse, accommodation issues 
  • Understanding of, and commitment to the principles of case management.
  • Knowledge and understanding of risk management/risk assessment as pertaining to offenders. 
  • Experience in planning and coordinating work. 
  • Understanding of Health & Safety legislation in the workplace. 
  • An understanding of and commitment to equal opportunities and diversity good practice. 
  • Knowledge and understanding of the work of the Criminal Justice System and Probation Service 
  • Experience of working with groups or individuals in order to motivate and change behaviour 
  • Knowledge of the aims and objectives of the Probation Service 
You will be asked to supply evidence of meeting these competencies when you apply.

Making effective decisions
Changing and improving
Collaborating and partnering
Persuading and influencing 

If you are a successful candidate you will be expected to undertake Basic Checks.

Reserved status
This is a Non Reserved post and is therefore open to UK, British Commonwealth and European Economic Area (EEA) Nationals and certain non EEA members

Working for the Civil Service
The Civil Service embraces diversity and promotes equality of opportunity. Applications from the UK Reserve Forces are welcome, as we aspire to be a model employer of those who serve their country. We also offer a guaranteed interview scheme (GIS) for disabled applicants who meet our minimum selection criteria. We will not tolerate any form of discrimination.

Commissioner's statement
The Civil Service recruits by merit on the basis of fair and open competition as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles.

School leaving age statement
Candidates will be subject to UK school leaving age legislation.

Sift/interview dates and location to be confirmed.

Further information
Public Interest Transfer and detached duty terms do not apply. The successful candidates will be required to meet the cost of transfer at their own expense. If you are a current Civil Servant or employee of a CRC, this vacancy may be available on a Loan/Secondment basis for up to 2 years. Applications are invited from suitable qualified staff. The Loan/Secondment is subject to the approval of the selected candidate's Business Unit, which should be obtained before confirmation of appointment.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Inquiries Here, There and Everywhere

First, news that Gove has written to the House of Commons Justice Committee in relation to the preferred candidates for the two vacant HMI posts:-

As you are aware, I am responsible for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation. Further to our correspondence before the recruitment process began, I am pleased to put forward my preferred candidates for the Committee’s consideration: Peter Clarke for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and Glenys Stacey for Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation.

Peter is a retired senior police officer, who served in the Metropolitan Police Service for more than 30 years. He rose to the rank of Assistant Commissioner and also served as Head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch and National Co-ordinator of Terrorist Investigations. In 2014 he was appointed Education Commissioner for Birmingham, with a remit to conduct an inquiry into the allegations concerning Birmingham schools arising from the ‘Trojan Horse’ letter. Peter is currently a member of the Board of the Charity Commission.

Glenys is currently the Chief Executive of Ofqual, the exams regulator in England. She is a solicitor by profession but also has 17 years’ experience leading public sector organisations, having previously served as CEO of Standards for England, Animal Health, the Greater Manchester Magistrates’ Courts Committee and the Criminal Cases Review Commission. In August this year, she announced her intention to leave Ofqual when her term comes to an end.

Candidates were informed prior to appointment that the positions were subject to scrutiny by the Justice Select Committee. As you are aware the hearing is non-binding but I shall consider the committee’s conclusions before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment.

Clarke has been a very busy chap since retiring from the police:-

New board members appointed to Charity Commission 22 May 2013

Mr Clarke is a retired senior police officer. He was Deputy Assistant Commissioner in the Metropolitan Police Service where he was Head of the Anti-Terrorist Branch and National Co-ordinator of Terrorist Investigations. Previous roles included Head of the Royal and Diplomatic Protection Department and Deputy Director (then Acting Director) of Personnel for the Metropolitan Police. He is a trustee of Crimestoppers, a patron of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London, and a non-executive Director for the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Rob Allen has his concerns and it's probably worth bearing in mind I'm pretty sure he broke the story about Paul McDowell's family connections.This from his recent blog post on the matter:-

Whatever one thinks of Clarke, it is disappointing that the opportunity has not been taken to make the post of Chief Inspector of Prisons more independent of government. Last year Hardwick told the House of Commons Public Administration Committee that being appointed by and reporting to the Ministry of Justice is “by its nature incompatible with full independence” and proposed direct accountability to Parliament. The Committee recommended as much in their report but just before the election, change was rejected, with the MoJ arguing that allowing the inspectorate separate offices and a website plus more freedom to recruit its staff were sufficient to “reflect the unique watchdog status of HMI Prisons”.

At the same time, as if to amplify concerns about independence, the Justice Committee were involved in a spat with Chris Grayling over the selection of Hardwick’s successor. The fact that the two "independent" members of the selection panel were revealed to be tory activists, led the Commissioner of Public Appointments to promise to amend the rules about panel membership. In the event no appointment was made but now that it has been, the Justice Committee will no doubt want to know who made it.

What else might they ask when Clarke comes before them for a pre appointment hearing? Most of their questions will no doubt focus on the skills, experience and values he will bring to a post which many consider as one of the foremost human rights monitors in the country. But there are three specific matters they would do well to raise.

First they will need to establish whether Mr Clarke has any family relationships that might cause a conflict of interest, such as that which ended Paul McDowell’s time as Probation inspector (and about which the Committee regrettably failed to inquire at the material time).

Second they might want to ask how being an ex-police officer could affect his judgement. After all inspection of police custody suites is an important role of the prison inspectorate these days. Former prison service staff are ineligible to be Chief Inspector of Prisons, but ex police officers seemingly not. His investigation skills will not be in question but will his impartiality?

Finally, they may want to ask a bit not only about how his experience in counter terrorism might affect his attitudes to the treatment of Muslim prisoners but about his other police roles too. For example he was deputy then acting head of personnel at the Met in the early 2000’s. Today the Met admitted that that there had been no proper management of the deployments of undercover officers, even after the introduction of supposedly stringent legal controls. Was that debacle any part of Clarke’s responsibilities? Lets hope not otherwise he will be busy contributing to Lord Justice Pitchford's inquiry.


It must only be a matter of time before the awful Criminal Courts Charge introduced by Grayling gets the chop. The Justice Committee have pronounced:-

Justice Committee report concludes that the Government should bring forward legislation to repeal the criminal courts charge.

Report: Criminal courts charge
Report: Criminal courts charge (PDF 243KB)
Inquiry: Courts and tribunals fees and charges
Justice Committee

If the Government is unwilling to abolish or radically reduce the levels of the charge, the Committee recommends that as an irreducible minimum, judges and magistrates should be given discretion to decide whether to impose the charge, and on the amount, in accordance with individual circumstances.

The Committee's main concerns are:

  • The levels of the charge being grossly disproportionate to the means of many defendants and to the gravity of the offences in relation to which it has been imposed
  • The lack of discretion given to judges and magistrates on whether to impose the charge and if so at what level, creating unacceptable consequences within the criminal justice system
  • The creation of perverse incentives for both defendants and sentencers
  • The detrimental impact on victims of crime and on the CPS from reduced awards of compensation and prosecution costs
  • The capacity of the charge to raise the revenue predicted by the Government, and the effect on respect for the legal process of levels of non-payment
Chair's comment

Justice Committee Chair Bob Neill MP said:

"The evidence we have received has prompted grave misgivings about the operation of the charge, and whether, as currently framed, it is compatible with the principles of justice. In many cases it is grossly disproportionate, it fetters judicial discretion, and creates perverse incentives - not only for defendants to plead guilty but for sentencers to reduce awards of compensation and prosecution costs. It appears unlikely to raise the revenue which the Government predicts. It creates a range of serious problems and benefits no one. We would urge Michael Gove to act on our main recommendation and abolish it as soon as possible."

Witnesses to the inquiry who gave oral evidence on the subject were critical of it, as were those who referred to it in their written evidence, except for the Ministry of Justice.


The Committee have launched an inquiry into Restorative Justice. The Chair Bob Neill has written a guest blog for Russell Webster and the terms of reference are as follows:-

The Justice Select Committee introduces inquiry into restorative justice

We welcome submissions by 31st of January addressing this subject. The Committee welcomes views on any aspects of the use or potential use of restorative justice in the criminal justice system, but would be particularly interested in submissions addressing the following points:

  • Progress made by the Government in implementing the Restorative Justice Action Plan 2014, including any changes that have been made to this plan
  • How the entitlements to restorative justice in the Victims’ Code are working, and their implications for any such entitlements in any future Victims’ Law
  • The impact and effectiveness of the National Offender Management Service’s restorative justice programme to promote the development of victim-offender conferencing
  • The effectiveness of delivery of restorative justice across the range of service providers and funding arrangements, including provision made by Police and Crime Commissioners, the Prison Service, the National Probation Service, and Community Rehabilitation Companies.

Finally, with increasing attention being drawn to rising numbers of deaths in custody, it's probably worth mentioning another of Gove's appointments :-

Although not subject to pre-appointment scrutiny, I would also like to take this opportunity to draw to your attention to the appointment of Kate Lampard, CBE, as the Interim Chair of the Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody.

Kate is a former barrister and former deputy chair of the Financial Ombudsman Service. She was previously appointed by the Secretary of State for Health to provide independent oversight of the NHS’s investigations into Jimmy Savile’s activities, and to produce a ‘lessons learned’ report. She was also commissioned by Serco to lead an independent review into the culture of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. She currently serves as a senior non-executive director in the National Health Service. She will serve for a period of 6 months from 16 November 2015, during which time a public appointment exercise will identify a permanent Chair.

There is also the enquiry recently set up by the Home Office into deaths in police custody and discussed here in a blog post by Russell Webster:-

There are three terms of reference:
  • to examine the procedures and processes surrounding deaths and serious incidents in police custody, including the lead up to such incidents, the immediate aftermath, through to the conclusion of official investigations. It should consider the extent to which ethnicity is a factor in such incidents. The review should include a particular focus on family involvement and their support experience at all stages.
  • to examine and identify the reasons and obstacles as to why the current investigation system has fallen short of many families’ needs and expectations, with particular reference to the importance of accountability of those involved and sustained learning following such incidents.
  • to identify areas for improvement and develop recommendations seeking to ensure appropriate, humane institutional treatment when such incidents, particularly deaths in or following detention in police custody, occur. Recommendations should consider the safety and welfare of all those in the police custody environment, including detainees and police officers and staff. The aim should be to enhance the safety of the police custody setting for all.
The role of Inquest

The Home Secretary also confirmed that there will be a formal role for INQUEST, a charity that offers advice to families bereaved by death in police custody. Deborah Coles, Director at INQUEST, has been appointed as a special adviser to the chair and the charity will:
  • facilitate family listening days so that the Chair can hear evidence first-hand from those who have lost loved ones in police custody to ensure their views are taken into account.
  • play a leading role on an advisory board which will offer expert advice to the Chair during the course of the review.

Friday, 20 November 2015

What Health Care?

Here's an interesting LSE blog that contains information long known to all probation staff, but that may come as news to the privateers now running 70% of probation:- 

Healthcare policy for those on probation operates on a wing and a prayer.

Over 200,000 offenders on are probation in the UK. Recently, probation has been extended to all those released from prison. Offenders are often socially excluded, deprived and highly vulnerable, with a high prevalence of physical and mental health problems compared to the general population. Here, Charlie Brooker outlines how this vulnerable population can fall through gaps in healthcare policy.

Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
Though there’s one motor gone
We can still carry on
Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer
(Adamson and McHugh [1943] – songwriters)

Previous research estimates that 39 per cent of offenders experience a mental illness whilst on probation. Suicide rates in prison rightly receive much media attention, yet suicide rates in probation are also much elevated in comparison to the general population but receive little consideration. Mental health treatment requirements exist as a sentencing option for the courts when considering prison or probation for an offence, but they’re rarely used. Nationally, they constitute 0.1 per cent of all requirements.

The health of probationers compares highly unfavourably with the general population, and even with the more unhealthy of the population (the lower social classes). This is the case for both physical and mental health.

Many offenders have (co-occurring) substance misuse problems. In the first two weeks following release, mortality rates are 12 times higher than for the general population. In a nested case control study, Bingswanger and colleagues established some of the clinical risk factors involved. These included: injecting drug use; tobacco use; cirrhosis; panic disorder and use of psychiatric medications. Probationers also experience elevated levels of long-term illness and disability.

The need for continuing and integrated healthcare is clear.

However, issues like mistrust of healthcare professionals, transient lifestyles, negative attitudes amongst healthcare staff towards offenders, problems with inter-agency communication, and inflexible/insufficient service provision mean that offenders’ access to healthcare is less than their needs. Many offenders are not registered with a GP and only access healthcare during crises.

To improve the health of this population and reduce health inequalities it is essential that they have access to health services which meet their needs. This would also enable us to uphold the principle of equivalence and reduce both re-offending and the use of crisis services (and the costs associated with this).

Probation services and arrangements for commissioning healthcare for offenders have both been the subject of recent reforms. Probation provision is now split into the National Probation Service – a public-sector service managing high-risk offenders; and Community Rehabilitation Companies – a mix of private and voluntary sector agencies managing medium and low-risk offenders.

Clinical commissioning groups should now commission healthcare for offenders on probation, but previous research suggests that many of them are unaware of this responsibility. The most recent study found that in 2013, 7 per cent of these groups directly funded healthcare in probation, a figure that declined to 1 per cent in 2014. Such commissioning should be informed by Joint Strategic Health Needs Assessments overseen by Directors of Public Health. It is iniquitous that all 136 prisons in England and Wales have been subject to local health needs assessments by either NHS England Area Teams or local public health groups whereas the same is true of only 25 per cent of probation services.

Some Mental Health Trusts do fund ‘own account’ mental health services into probation from their block contracts, but again this proportion has declined from 70 per cent in 2013 to 61 per cent in 2014. The two most likely services provided were clinics in probation offices and support for multi-agency public protection arrangements – the latter being a statutory responsibility. Clinic services vary but often consist of two hours per week where a mental health professional is available to give advice. There has also been a recent national initiative to provide professional support in probation for those with personality disorder. However, the impact of this scheme has yet to be reported.

Previously, government has outlined a role for the probation service in England and Wales in offender health involving advising the courts on alternatives to prison, and working in partnership with other agencies to ensure that offenders’ health and social care needs are addressed. There are links between health and offending, and health interventions can reduce crime. Improved health has been cited as a pathway out of re-offending, and considering offenders’ physical and mental health needs in sentence planning using the Offender Assessment System screening tool is an established part of probation staff’s role. However, there are concerns that local-level partnerships between probation and health services may break down following the restructure of probation and (for the reasons stated above), improving offenders’ health and access to healthcare remains a challenge.

Due to this high level of health needs and disproportionately low level of service access, the NHS, through clinical commissioning groups, should be commissioning healthcare locally for probationers with an in-depth understanding of needs and with a view to removing current barriers to service access for this population. Until then ‘we’re comin’ in on a wing and a prayer’.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

National Treasure Speaks Out

Michael Palin recently delivered the annual Longford Lecture and the full text can be found here. Entitled 'Collateral damage: The effects of prison sentences on offenders' families' Michael Gove was in the audience and although well worth reading in full, I've taken the liberty of selecting the following extract:- 

There is a system specifically designed to help offenders and ex-offenders, and that is probation. Probation officers have to assess some people with special needs and very acute problems. A probation report can impact greatly on the families of the offender. It is a chance for the background of their lives to be examined and their special circumstances discussed. But, like many other areas of the justice system the Probation Service has been affected by cuts and reforms designed to save money. Though the most dangerous highrisk ex-offenders still remain within the National Probation Service, the 35 public sector probation trusts were last year broken up and replaced with 21 privately-run "community rehabilitation companies" 

These have begun to cut human jobs in favour of automated facilities, which seems risky in an area where the efficacy of one to one help is generally accepted as the best way back. Those employed by the old Probation Service have had to put themselves up for re-employment with the new private providers. And they're not happy about it. As one of them put it, "the worst thing has been the attack on our morale. We've got the message loud and clear that our work isn't valued" 

1800 staff have left the probation service in the last year. It's hard to know how this loss of staff, specifically qualified to deal with unpopular and often dangerous people, can be squared with the oft-quoted commitment to reduce re-offending. 

Some prison officers I spoke to felt that one aspect of the re-organisation of the probation system, the idea of "transformative rehabilitation", was having exactly the opposite effect. Those with one-year sentences can now only be let out on licence. A single failure to meet any of the terms of the licence such as checking in for interview can result in them being taken straight back into custody. In practice this has resulted in a jump in numbers re-offending. This also raises the question of how many of the shortest custodial sentences are the best way to deal with the problem. A relative of a young offender told me paradoxically of how much more damaging shorter sentences can be than longer ones. They are predominantly served on younger males, many still in the education system. A year inside can mean the loss of GCSE qualifications which can set the offender at a huge disadvantage for the rest of their lives. 

But I'm an optimist and my interest in the whole subject is to try and see the positive side and to try and do what I can to understand the problem and to help those who are directly involved in offering support to the families themselves. I want very much to see chinks of light in so many stories of unrelieved gloom - some hope that things might be getting better. That we can learn from all these heart-rending stories.

When seeing dark clouds, or looking for silver linings, two things must be remembered. One is that no two cases are ever the same. We are not dealing with a certain class of person, or a certain mindset, we are dealing with individual cases all different one from the other in the way that we are all different one from another. 

The second thing to remind ourselves is that so much of the anecdotal evidence involves the potent combination of drugs, poverty and deprivation. From which one can only draw the conclusion that despite all the good work that is going on in the rehabilitation and re-education of offenders, there is nothing much that can be done whilst poverty is endemic in the system. The reality is pretty desperate. Figures from the Institute of Fiscal Studies in 2015 showed that 16 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. Child poverty stood at nearly 19% and absolute child poverty at nearly 20%, That's over 4 million children in poverty. And to be poor in our society is not the same as being poor in many of the places I've visited across the world. 

We are a developed country, and to be poor here is to have your nose pressed against a well-stocked window, with a finger constantly beckoning you to come inside. Possessions are power. The more you have the more you will be listened to, the less you have the more vulnerable you are to anything that will desensitise you from the real world. 

So let's not sit here and shake our heads about families who get into trouble and think that the answer is bigger prisons and a faster justice service. What we should be thinking about is how we can change a society that has 20% of its children in absolute poverty. 

But, as people are fond of saying these days, we are where we are - which roughly translated means don't blame me. If we are to be positive, we must not allow ourselves to be discouraged. We must look hard at what can be done, what is being done, and what needs to be done to help and support families of prisoners here and now. 

The state has not had a great record in this area. Prison reform is not a votewinner at the best of times, and certain sections of the media, though not of course, the Daily Telegraph, have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that they feel smacks of consideration for criminals. But something is clearly not working. The most recent report from HM Inspector of Prisons makes sober reading. "Outcomes reported on by the inspectorate", it concluded, "had declined in all areas and were the worst for ten years". The number of assaults in prison had increased, as had deaths in prison and attacks on staff. Overcrowding and staff shortages were blamed for this overall decline in safety. 

The Government is aware of the problem. Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Justice, pointed out in his speech to the Conservative Party Conference in July, that re-offending costs taxpayers £13 billion pounds a year. Almost two-thirds of those serving short sentences will return to prison within just a year of release. He echoed the conclusion of the Inspector of Prisons that even a small reduction in the prison population could free up sufficient cash to allow a lot more rehabilitation work. 

He went on to declare that the biggest failure of all in the Criminal Justice system was, and I quote, "the failure in our prisons" and he called on all concerned to put a new and unremitting emphasis on reform, rehabilitation and redemption. Individuals should never be defined by their worst moments. Prisoners should not be seen as liabilities, but as assets. The cause of prison reform, he concluded, should inspire us all. 

Fine words, very fine words, and it is encouraging to hear a government commit the state so unequivocally to rehabilitation and redemption. And in the last week we have seen encouraging signs that action will follow, with the announcement that some of the older, grimmer urban prisons are to be closed and sold off for housing. I must say, I can't wait to see how the marketing boys run with this one. Will we soon be seeing The Scrubs Quarter ? Or Pentonvilletto, Luxury Living a stones throw from the City, or the Mansion on Brixton Hill - your very own executive escape? 

I’m delighted that the Justice Secretary is so firmly committed to prison reform, but I can't help wondering how much he will be able to achieve when his own Chancellor is asking for 40% cuts across all unprotected departments. 

Which brings me back to the theme of this lecture. That whatever grand plans are being made, one of the modest, but eminently achievable ways of tackling the problem of harassed staff and overcrowded gaols remains a matter of valuing, maintaining and encouraging family support. Government figures confirm that chances of re-offending are 39% higher among those who have not received visits in prison than in those who have. And yet figures also show that almost half of all offenders lose contact with their families when they go to prison. 

Something clearly needs to be done to try and bridge this gap. If the Government accepts the implication that families are such an important element in their declared goal of rehabilitation, then they must make it a priority, not a side-issue. This requires effort and commitment right through the criminal justice system. It requires an investment in people as well as premises. People with the skill and the patience to deal with all the intricacies of family access including the damage done by separating mothers from their children. People qualified and experienced in detecting those with special needs, including mental health problems or learning difficulties, who shouldn't be in prison in the first place. It means making better use of community penalties. There are practical improvements too. Like financial provision for visits. At present non-working parents receive assistance, parents who are working, albeit on a low wage, just to keep food on the table, have to pay for their own transport. 

They should consider making the family more welcome in prisons, extending family days, providing areas in which the family can be reunited in a nonthreatening environment with looser time limits. These have been found to be highly successful in maintaining family links. The provision of family and visitor centres outside prisons where family members can wait in comfort and security should be made a priority. A reduction in the cost of phone calls from prison, currently four times as expensive as BT landline charges, would encourage prisoners to keep in touch with their families. Greater use of ROTL - Release on Temporary License - would mean that important home visits could happen. 

The National Offender Management Service is trying to address these issues, encouraging parents and children to stay in touch with more family days and in a couple of open prisons, facilities for children to sleep over for a night. 

All these measures require extra resources. The more families that visit, the more prison staff have to be available to organise and supervise the facilities.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Turning Purple

Purple Futures have started rolling out their 'Interchange' programme and the nominated cascade trainers have a 125 page manual to digest prior to delivery across the 6 CRCs. Here's a taster:-  

This document is provided to give you an overview of the core modules that are integral to the Interchange operating model. Reading this information prior to the Train the Trainer event will give background and context to the training. The information below is an extract of the key principles from the Interchange Delivery Handbook, which will be provided to staff when they attend the Core Module training.

Two key elements of the operating model, the Enablers of Change Assessment and the Interchange Plan, are predicated upon the implementation of the new Case Management System - Interlink, and this is referenced throughout the document. To enable staff to begin to work with the core modules, we have developed processes and templates to be used in the interim period, details of how these will work are contained within the Interchange Delivery Handbook.

There is some difference in language, key changes being:
  • Offender is now Service User 
  • Assessment becomes Enablers Of Change Assessment 
  • Sentence Plan becomes Interchange Plan 
The events have been designed to enable you to become involved in defining and designing the training you will be delivering and after the Train the Trainers event you will be provided with packs containing all the relevant materials required to deliver the staff training. We will also provide a contact group to provide ongoing support whilst you are delivering the training. We look forward to seeing you at the event. 

1.1 Background

Service Users will undergo their Interchange Induction Module at their first contact to prepare them for the full assessment meeting with their Case Manager and start preparing the plan.

All service users allocated to the CRC will receive a pre-assessment induction (the Interchange Induction Module) that explains how their sentence will be managed and how they will be expected to contribute towards their own rehabilitation. The Induction Module will introduce Service Users to the features of Interchange approach, build the motivation to change, develop planning skills and initial rehabilitative goals.

The where and when will be defined the CRC depending on numbers of attendees and location. The new approach to induction provides the opportunity to deliver service differently, to get Service Users and volunteers involved in delivering the induction and supporting inductees with the self-assessment. The induction will provide the opportunity to address any barriers to future compliance and clearly outline the expectations of the Service User and the CRC. Consideration should be given to the environment, refreshments and learning needs. CRCs will ensure that space and staff time is allowed at group inductions for service users whom may have pressing needs to be supported and be seen on a one to one basis.

1.2 Induction Session outline
The purpose of the induction session is to introduce Service Users to the Interchange Model, to ensure that they understand and adhere to their court order or licence and take responsibility for their behaviour and actions. It also begins the assessment and planning process with a self-assessment.

The desired outcome is that everyone experiences a collaborative and safe introduction to the CRC and gains a full understanding of what is expected of them and what they can gain from being on a community order or licence and working with their case manager. Therefore, it is important that particular attention is given to creating a safe environment for all. A motivational responsive facilitation style is linked intrinsically to inclusion and this should be promoted throughout the session. Where ever possible, facilitators need to be aware of any issues, which may affect individual participation and learning, prior to the session and ensure that they provide help and support as required. This session can also be delivered individually for service users identified as vulnerable for any reason.

It is recommended that peer mentors/volunteers will be available to support service users when they arrive, encourage compliance and wherever possible to co-facilitate the session.

Throughout, there should be an emphasis on recognising the skills and achievements that participants have, whilst encouraging them to access support and help, which will reduce the likelihood of re-offending.

The session is designed to last for 1.5 hours if delivered to a group. The suggested timings of the exercises are flexible. A short break may be taken at the discretion of the facilitator. This induction is suitable for both multi-requirement orders and standalone UPW. For standalone UPW cases this session should be followed by an UPW induction to include Health & Safety, UPW rules and requirements signed.

As recommended by HMIP report ‘where a group or duty induction is used, an appointment with the Service User manager should always be provided as part of the processes’.

The Interchange Induction can be delivered in a group or one to one setting. CRCs will define which dependant on numbers, and suitability. The Induction module has been tested in West Yorkshire; key recommendations arising from this are:
  • CRCs to provide information that can be given to the service user at court, prior to attending their induction, setting out duration, telephone numbers and what to expect when they arrive. 
  • Where group inductions are offered ensure prior to attendance that the service user is suitable and or is happy to undertake a group induction.
  • Be prepared to undertake one to one inductions with service users who do attend the group setting and are not comfortable or disruptive. 
  • Wherever practicably possible arrange for the allocated Case Manager to be present at the induction or immediately afterwards to meet the service user. 
  • Consideration to be given for ensuring Unpaid Work staff are involved to ensure correct allocation to work groups for service users with an UPW requirement 
  • Where ever possible use service users to support the delivery of induction and to talk about their own experience, either in person or a short video 
  • The setting for induction, either group or one to one should be as informal as possible and include refreshments.
Welcome and Introductions
Welcome the participants. Introduce yourself and ensure that they are familiar with housekeeping details. Facilitators can do a round of introductions if they feel it is appropriate. Give a brief overview of what is included in the induction session including timings to set the context.

Introduction of the Interchange Model
Briefly describe the interchange model, emphasising:
  • The importance of identifying where you are and where you want to be. 
  • The importance of planning, setting goals and reviewing progress. 
  • The availability of relevant interventions. Explain the director of services available to all service users and give examples of some of the interventions/services on offer.
  • Explain the ability to develop a record of achievement throughout the order and give examples e.g. CV, certificates, qualifications
  • Access to community resources.
  • The aim of achieving better outcomes in order to build a positive future.
Encourage a brief discussion with the aim of emphasising the advantages of engaging in the process and the opportunities available. Use the 6 Core Modules to describe the process explaining at they are at the first stage of the journey:
  • Induction 
  • Assessment 
  • Planning 
  • Networking 
  • Review 
  • Exit 
Understanding the Order or Licence
Ensure that they understand the requirements of their court order or licence and the consequences of non-compliance. The requirements of the order/licence should be made clear by emphasising the responsibilities of the service user rather than delivering a list of ‘rules’. Give a brief overview of RAR/SSO/Activity days and/or UPW activities.

Ensure that the Service Users are aware of the following:
  • The importance of attending as instructed. 
  • The name and contact details of their Case Manager. 
  • The consequence of not complying with their court order/licence. 
  • Emphasise the need to inform their Case Manager of a change of address 
Give everyone a copy of the ‘Code of Conduct’ and ensure they understand the expectations regarding their attendance and behaviour and sign it.

Exercise – Where am I now?
Explain that they will now move on to the first part of the assessment module with a self-assessment.

Highlight that it is useful to consider carefully where we are in different aspects in our lives in order to decide whether we want to make changes. Guide them to consider each section in turn and give themselves a score as to how satisfied they are with that aspect of their lives. On a scale of 0 – 5 with 0 indicating that they are not dissatisfied and 5 indicating that they feel they are very satisfied. The emphasis should be on whether these issues are likely to increase or decrease the likelihood of them re-offending. Have some pre-prepared examples and encourage them to think about the reasons for their score.

The following should be considered in each of the boxes:

Personal relationships and support networks:
Suggest that they ask themselves whether they have positive and supportive relationships.

Health and well-being:
This covers physical and mental health as well as any issues relating to problems resulting from their use of drugs or alcohol.

Home and money:
This covers accommodation and finances. Do you need help with housing? Do they have problems with your current housing? Are you claiming all benefits?

Education and work:
Relates to ETE - this should also include any voluntary work and any other contribution they are able to make.

Friends and support:
Relates to their social groups and networks and whether they feel these are positive and supportive. It also includes whether they feel they are in control of their lives and their own behaviour.

Motivation and Achievements:
As it suggests, this relates to whether they feel this is an area of concern for them. The more hope they feel of having a positive offending free future, the higher the score.

It is important to deliver the self-assessment in a positive and supportive way, whilst encouraging the participants to be honest and realistic. A useful question is to ask what score would be given by someone who knows them very well and has their interest at heart. Ensure volunteers/mentors are available to support where identified.

Where would I like to be?
Explain that we will now repeat the exercise and consider where they would like to be in 5 years’ time. Guide them to consider each box in turn and encourage them to score where they would like to be on a scale of 0 – 5 Again a score of 0 indicates that they are dissatisfied and 5 that they are completely satisfied with this area of their life. They should briefly describe or draw an image of the situation they would like to be experiencing in each area of their life. It is likely that they will indicate that they would like to be positive in each area. Next lead a discussion to highlight the differences from where they are now to where they would like to be.

Guide the contributions by asking questions such as:
  • How easy would it be to get to where they want to be?
  • Which area of their life would need most change to get to where they want to be?
  • Have they already made changes? If so, how did they achieve it?
  • How successful were they?
Discussion – Where do I go from here?
Explain that they have successfully completed first session of a series of 6 core sessions that everyone must attend. Praise their contribution and the fact that they have made that important first step.

Explain that there are also a range of activities that each person will be required to attend depending on their particular court order or licence and the assessment and goals that are set with their own case manager.

Explain that the next session will consist of a meeting with their own officer in order to plan a programme of activities. The idea is to work with them in a collaborative way and build on their own assessment and set goals.

Re-emphasise that there will be a ‘networking approach’ throughout in order to encourage them to identify ways in which they can build positive relationships and access support services, employment, training and education. Reinforce that all achievements will contribute towards their ‘Record of Achievement’. Re-assure them that help will be given when required.

Explain the arrangements for attending the next appointment with their Case Manager. Give out a copy of the evaluation sheet and ask them to complete it. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

New Probation Priorities

The prison visits I had booked, to meet long sentenced prisoners for the first time, have been cancelled. To save money. Boss has told me I need to cut back on the home visits I do, to make some savings. 6 months ago she told me I needed to do more.

Got the timetables for 2 oral hearings in Jan 2016! I've written back to ask, a) does the prison have video conferencing and b) is it okay with the parole board, that I am attending via such a medium? Not cos I'm lazy, my head of LDU has said we cannot travel outside the county! Can't wait to hear the sighs from the Parole Board and astute legal eagles, who sometimes rely on us to give considered evidence and risk management plans!

We have been told we can't go to our local prisons either.


Everything going to dogs! Heard today, from someone cascading from a learning event, that we're soon to be told, not to use services of CRC, but to shop around or DIY! Apparently, their too expensive, ie £3000 for one referral to a DV programme! I should imagine that will be the fee, even if case doesn't complete! Yahoo! You couldn't make this shit up! If I was really a conspiracy theorist, I might think this is the rationale behind those on the day reports, being done on the hoof and just sent onto CRC projects! Make em rich!

From Dec 2015 NPS will not have to use services from CRC, which cost, but can go anywhere for services so long as they don't cost. Huge drop in referrals to Programmes, ETE and Accommodation because there is a charge to NPS whereas before they were free. Absolutely ridiculous!


After a right good night out Ive made the mistake of browsing and coming back to the probation reality. Thankfully our plight is nothing compared to the horrors being faced in Paris, Kenya and Syria.

TR was designed to be a failure and has achieved its purpose - the end of probation. E3 is a management model designed to restructure and decimate what's left of probation. E3 and the Civil Service to the NPS is the same as what Sodexo is to the CRC's - one big axe.

Probation management lie and tell us that new measures like E3 and the instruction to downgrade court reports are blueprints and drafts ... "Let's give it a chance" they say. We already know the outcome and sadly London NPS is already implementing these "methods" and the rest will follow. Not so long ago London Probation Trust was the first to sell off community service - now 70% of probation has been sold.

Whether your with the CRC's or NPS it's all about the money for those in control. There is no emphasis on what works, they don't care about good practice and all the evidence for 'end to end offender management' no longer matters.

As always, managers and directors will work us all the way to the slaughterhouse - and they'll be no enhanced redundancy or golfing handshakes for those on the frontline. So in the meantime all we can do is what we've always done;

Do what you're required to do. Clock in, clock out and come to terms with working for a shoddy employer. If they want short reports and "efficient" working then that's what you give them. Work your hours and no more. Record your hours and tasks, and email your manager every time you're about to or do go over your contracted hours. If they want overtime let them pay for it as session work and unsocial hours.

Use team meetings, director briefings and whatever public forums they use to introduce new messages to voice your objections and concerns. Join/rejoin a union and make them fight for us. Napo is rubbish but it's better we've a pathetic weakling fighting our corner than nobody at all.

In reports, in letters, in emails and at meetings and hearings, call yourself a PROBATION OFFICER. Every PO I know signed up to help, rehabilitate and change people for the better. We didn't train to be 'offender managers' and we didn't ask to be civil service robots. Be honest with courts, prisons, parole boards, and all the rest - probation isn't what it once was. It's not our job to explain and apologise for the shite forced on us by probation directors.

PO's, PSO's, Admins and support staff - we're all colleagues and in this mess together. Be nice to each other. Remember there are other jobs and professions out there and THEY WANT YOU.

CRC charge NPS. NPS until Dec have to use CRC services. After that they can choose their providers but they have no money to pay for the services.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Latest From Napo 86

Blog posted yesterday by Napo General Secretary:- 

E3 is this to become the line in the sand?

I am seriously squeezed for time at this late hour of the week (and not feeling 100%) so will have to use Monday's long journey to Exeter on route to see members in South Western Branch to fill in some detail on the other hot topics that have emerged.

Key consideration for us all this last few days, with the publication of the E3 blueprint, has to be: just how further can our members be pushed given the disasters of TR, the relentless austerity agenda, the move to unintelligible and rigid Civil Service HR policies and the continuing problems that members face by way of massive workloads and operational chaos in many parts of the NPS?

For on the back of all this comes the latest potential assault on professional standards, grade boundaries and ultimately terms and conditions, in the shape of the generic E3 job descriptions for the NPS.

Old responses no longer available

Ordinarily, in days long gone, we could have told NOMS via the NNC and the probable support of the employers on the Probation Association (oh halcyon days) that heaping a massive grading exercise on members who are reporting that they are close to meltdown after the most despicable piece of political chicanery (TR to the casual reader) would be well, a not very good idea to say the least.

Times are sadly much different now, and in the absence of a hard hitting campaign of industrial action by the probation unions, then engagement has to be the initial response.

That ought not to be mistaken for acquiescence, or that we have ruled out asking that question at some stage given the potential threats posed by the various plans that have been previewed in the E3 blueprint, especially as we are already receiving a lot of traffic which suggests that many members are outraged at what they see as generic job descriptions that bear no reality to real life and, moreover, offer future detriment rather than reward.

For us it will be about trying to shape the engagement strategy in a way that will help make some sense out of the shambles that Grayling heaped on you and use this to try and achieve our aspirations on pay and much else besides.

Make no mistake, the E3 project will stretch our resources at Chivalry Road and whilst we will have no problem standing up to the employer, as members expect us to do, we cannot deliver it all from the centre.

That is why we have a healthy number of practitioner members who have volunteered to take part in the E3 work streams and those who have come forward to become fully trained job evaluators.

They will bring considerable expertise to their role, which is not to represent members but represent their interests (hence the project time that they will be granted and credit where it is due to NOMS on that score). Their work will supplement our efforts around the negotiating table.

Together we are stonger; but you know that already.

Good weekend

Friday, 13 November 2015

Omnishambles Wins Award!

The Project and Programme Management Award


Transforming Rehabilitation: MoJ

The Transforming Rehabilitation Programme was one of the most ambitious and complex sets of reforms introduced by the Coalition Government. Focussing on a group of offenders with often deep-rooted and intractable needs in a period of fiscal restraint, the programme needed to find ways to meet those needs for less. As a result, the programme aimed to introduce wholesale structural changes to the way probation and prisons work, to bring together the best of the public, voluntary and private sectors, and facilitate greater innovation in service provision. In a little over two years, the programme designed and delivered a completely new operating model for probation – navigating a challenging policy environment to innovate and allow rehabilitation to be extended to the most prolific offenders. This involved: new primary legislation; new organisational models; new processes spanning courts, prisons and probation; and a complex commercial strategy to build a diverse market for rehabilitation services. Collaborative project and programme management were key for delivery and close working relationships, coupled with strong and transparent governance, were significant to the success of the programme.

(See here for full list of winners)