Monday, 22 December 2014

Latest From Napo 54

The following is the text of an e-mail to all Napo Greater London Branch members sent earlier today:-

TO NAPO MEMBERS:

In the missive I sent to members on Friday I said that a further statement would be issued by the Officers Group. I did receive it on Friday afternoon but unfortunately, due to technical problems, I have not been able to circulate it to members until this morning.

From : Ian Lawrence ( General Secretary) and the Napo Officer Group

Following a very productive meeting with branch chairs/ representatives in London yesterday we wanted to send out a summary of the key issues discussed for circulation to branch members.

The meeting was held on a very sad day for us all given that the Secretary of State went ahead with the signing of the CRC contracts as per his timetable towards formal share sale and the intended go live operational date of 1st February. We all share a sense of disappointment that the JR process did not secure a delay of the contract award on the grounds of safety issues.

During the meeting Edward Cooper from Slater and Gordon gave an overview of the process to date including the legal advice given which resulted in the decision by the Napo Officers to discontinue the JR process on 8th December.

Accountability

For the avoidance of all doubt, decisions about the process were taken at each stage by the whole of the elected officers group plus the General Secretary by a secret ballot, with unanimous agreement on the basis of the legal advice. As you will be aware, some of the evidence disclosed to Napo from the MoJ was subject to a strict confidentiality order in addition to the usual restrictions placed on the use of evidence in public law proceedings. This order was made by the high court and any breach could lead to prosecution of individuals and/or Napo for contempt of Court. In some circumstances this could result in imprisonment and, for elected officers, loss of employment. All of the Officers were part of the decision making process, and were fully appraised of the legal advice at each stage.

Money

The eventual decision to discontinue our legal challenge was not financially driven, you will already know that we received some financial assistance from sister unions. This amounted to £23,000 in total and was aimed at assisting with the cost of lodging the Judicial Review application. Although there was no agreement for any further contributions from these or any other source, Napo was in a position to bear any costs associated with proceeding without jeopardising the future of our Union.

As advised previously, Napo attended a costs hearing on 12th December during which two orders for costs were made; disclosure costs are to be met by the MoJ and other costs to be met by Napo. The Officer group has subsequently decided to instruct Slater and Gordon to take this ruling to the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately the deliberately misleading missive from NOMs and MoJ earlier in the week omitted to include the fact that this option was available to us.

Communications on December 8th

It was acknowledged by the Napo Officers that the initial and necessarily quick communication from Napo last week had caused some confusion and frustration among many members and was open to misinterpretation. The Officers have apologised for this and pointed out that it was certainly not their intention. The aim was to get information to members as quickly as possible before the MoJ did; and, on legal instruction, Napo were limited in terms of what they could say. With hindsight the Officers recognised yesterday that this limited information caused a level of anxiety which they would have wanted to avoid. The meeting acknowledged that the subsequent communications from Napo around JR and a number of other important issues have included a great deal of additional information

Achievements during the JR campaign

Despite the disappointment about the eventual outcome of JR and the fact that Chris Grayling yesterday signed off the award of CRC contracts, we were still able to reflect at the Chairs meeting on our achievements to date in this leg of our ongoing campaign.

-We have been successful in securing disclosure of a number of key documents, including test gates 4 and 5 as well as other key information about staffing and sickness levels

- We were able to collate a substantial amount of evidence due to the fantastic response from members when requested which kept our challenge alive for as long as possible

- We are in no doubt that this evidence and our ongoing challenge has forced the MoJ to assess and act on the areas of concern we highlighted.

The next steps

It was agreed that moving forward we must focus on how best the Officers and Officials can work with Branches to promote and protect members interests in both the CRCs and the NPS. It was clarified at the meeting that any contractual terms and conditions can only be changed by agreement with the National Negotiating Council (NNC). Non-contractual terms and conditions will continue to be negotiated locally between CRCs and trade unions and nationally between the NPS and trade unions. It is worth remembering that irrespective of who the future CRC owners may be, the agreement on future negotiating structures was reached with all the probation unions at Ministerial level following the intervention by ACAS and that we Napo intends to defend this.

Everyone was aware that there are many challenges facing members currently. In order to hold the MoJ to account it is vital that we continue to collate evidence of systemic failures resulting in increased risk to staff, clients, and the public. These should be forwarded to campaigns@napo.org.uk. A copy of our campaign strategy will be forwarded to Branch Chairs shortly.

Contact with CRC providers 

The General Secretary has already written to the CRC owners to appraise them of our concerns and has offered to meet with them to discuss the issues that continue to concern us. This correspondence has been posted on the Napo website: https://www.napo.org.uk/news/napo-has-written-bidders-comprehensive-briefing. We understand that there has already been some positive responses and some initial meetings have been scheduled for early in the New Year. Chivalry Road will help to facilitate meetings between our local activists and the CRC owners in the New Year. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary campaign continues and we were told that briefings will be regularly prepared for politicians which will feature all of our concerns so that relevant questions can be asked in the House.

Sticking with Napo

The meeting yesterday ended on a positive note and reaffirmed the need for members to pull together during these difficult times and to stick with Napo. We need unity in the continuing fight against against unmanageable workloads and the expected further erosion of our pay, terms and conditions whether we are in a CRC or the NPS. It’s even more reason to stay with NAPO, the union that has been prepared to fight and lead from the front throughout the TR campaign. We thank you for your continued support.

Pat Waterman: Branch Chair

The cost of a privatised Christmas

Dear Jim

Private companies have so much more access to power and influence than you, me and everyone else who relies on public services. It doesn't make it easy to fight for public services for people not profit.

Despite this, 2014 has been a great year in many ways – so let's take a moment to celebrate some of the things we've achieved together:

  • Our Public Service Users Bill – which would push back privatisation and outsourcing – was introduced in parliament with a cross-party Private Members Bill.
  • The Early Day Motion in support of the Bill was signed by 83 MPs and the first council signed up to support the Bill.
  • We revealed new polling to show what the public thinks of outsourcing companies, and held a 'Sick of Serco' demonstration at the company's AGM
  • Labour and the Liberal Democrats both committed to our idea of a right to recall bad private companies
  • Our scorecard 'Privatisation: People vs Politicians' compared public opinion to party policies
  • We drew attention to the 'cost of privatised living' – households spend £250 more on train tickets, water and energy bills because of privatisation
  • We appeared in the media including the Mirror, the FT, the Independent and Sky News, and spoke at numerous events (Labour Party conference, Cooperative Party conference, Children England annual debate and many others)
  • We joined with other campaigns to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and to take a stand against the outrageous government move to privatise child protection (both battles continue..)
Thank you for everything you've done this year. Your actions are what has made this progress possible. Next year, we're going to build on it, taking forward the campaign for a Public Service Users Bill as a first step towards public services for people not profit.

We Own It is a new organisation which has just one part-time member of staff and a team of volunteers. We are too political to be a charity, which makes it hard to get funding. We need your help to make the organisation sustainable. If you believe in what we're doing, can you spare £5 a month to support us?

Thanks again, and we hope you enjoy and might want to share our one minute Christmas video. 
Have a very happy holiday and best wishes for 2015.

Cat and the We Own It team

Sunday, 21 December 2014

TR Week Twenty Nine

With regard to the issue of capability; I attended a briefing given by a CEO who confirmed as best that he could that the Sodexo model is likely to pit worker against worker in terms of reoffending rates of their individual caseload - of course it wasn't sold as this but as a 'recognition system' for good work..... well any analyst worth their salt realises that this is a covert way of pitting worker against worker and wrapped up in a fluffy awards scheme....

******
DLNR CRC are already talking about a same system of individual re-offending rates and star ratings.

******
At Sodexo run Northumberland Prison it is really funny to see the wall chart with star employee on the notice board as you go inside.

******
In a previous Mc Job I was awarded stars for good performance. Oh, how I miss that job :(

******
A friend in Interserve i.e. Purple Futures, said performance related pay will be introduced linked with re-offending for each case worker.

******
Purple futures has never had any plans to introduce performance related pay or to monitor reoffending rates by individual case manager. Hope this clears the point up.

******
'Hope this clears the point up.' Well of course it does - anonymous, uncorroborated statements on fundamental issues always set everyone's minds at rest.

******
This is always a by product of the staff recognition scheme and therefore will come in by default.

******
"has never had any plans" - doesn't mean those plans can't be brought in swiftly in the future. After all, we all know that the last government didn't plan for its legislation to be used for wholesale privatisation, but here we all are.

******
I feel the CRCs are going to fall apart. I already feel a pang of sadness when one of mine re-offends, but at least am aware I will not be put on a management chart somewhere. Now it seems my name will be bandied about in meetings as tho I'm a poor officer if one of mine re-offends. This is an extremely stressful situation to be under, particularly if someone re-offends and I have to then justify to the senior what I've done with the person to reduce recidivism.

What do they expect us to do - honestly?? It's like they're setting us up to fail. I've 20+ years experience and now feel like I don't know anything anymore. I've lost my confidence, I've lost my mojo. I want to leave so bad. I've not had any sick leave yet because as tough as it's been, I knew there would be tougher times ahead and for me they are fast approaching, as is my 6mths off with work-related stress.

******
I find the whole thing laughable, that I will be 'named and shamed' if one of my probationers commits a further offence, as if somehow personal accountability for ones actions alongside 70 odd years of academic theory about the causes of crime, sociology and (developmental) psychology now count for nothing! You might just as well set me a target that the sun must shine for at least 10 days over the next month in my town, and 'name and shame' me if I cant deliver on that!

I don't actually blame the private companies for using this model; it's used elsewhere and they have clearly swallowed the MBA dogma that managers don't need to know anything about the company they are running, transferable skills and all that. I am more dismayed that our CEO's and ACO's (many of them social work trained) can so totally abandon their first principles and endorse this drivel. Shame on them all.

******
I work in the NPS Court team. My workload has changed out of all recognition with the horrendous duplication of form filling, pushing out FDR's or being told to do as many oral reports as possible. My job has changed fundamentally being sent to different courts to cover for staff shortages as a direct result of the split. I firmly believe we will be affected further - we have absolutely no idea what the future holds now for any of us and I think it is a case of watch this space. Do you trust the MoJ? Just look at how they have responded to recent events. I dread to think what is coming for all of us CRC and NPS alike.

******
I will accept payment by results for my caseload as long as I get to screen them in advance and select those I consider to present an acceptable risk.

******
If you are simply turning people round and not having the time to help them through their problems (a call to the DWP normally takes 30 minutes due to the time you are on hold) then there is absolutely no hope for either party. However, in my area Sodexo also run the prison so it's a win/win for them. I'm actively applying for jobs and hope that I'm out of the madness soon. I pity those left behind, in either CRC or NPS.

******
For all affected by performance related pay, you need to be savvy and record what you need to record to maintain your income. For example, if stats are collated quarterly you will quickly learn to record what you need by the cut off dates and if needed, hold back some figures for the next quarter. So, if you are targeted to get 10 accommodation referrals and you get 12 hold 2 back to give yourself a head start next quarter. It is not right but that is how staff on performance related pay work - to the figures as they are needed. Learn quickly to play them at their own games.

Yes, I hear your cries of despair at the sheer stupidity of such games when we deal with peoples lives and trauma so, pay lip service to the figures - not to the impact of service users.

******
I spoke with someone who works at Working Links, he said how he has become disillusioned with the company as they're becoming more focused on targets rather than the people they work with. They are also closing offices down and introducing an orange bus in order to reach clients (I kid you not). He also told me that Working Links only went for the contract as MoJ have guaranteed a certain amount of profit, they wouldn't have touched it other wise. So on the orange bus I go!! I think they call that innovation.

******
I predicted that much of this would happen, but it was even before this blog was up and running. Now much of what I predicted has come to pass, and sadly the changes are irreversible. Creativity is the way forward, playing the MoJ at their own game by being smart when it comes to 'fudging the numbers' so to speak. Let the changes bed in, but in the meantime, look after your health by not taking work too seriously, just do what you can, concentrate on risk and sling shot the rest.

******
One thing that has not had a mention in all of this is the loss of 'corporate memory'. This means the bidders are free to repeat every mistake the Probation Service has ever made, all in the name of 'innovation'. Performance Related Pay empowers the offender and compromises the therapeutic relationship; 'breach me and I will re-offend and you won't get your PRP' kind of thing. More unsophisticated thinking. The offenders are going to run rings around all of this.

******
So let me get this straight, in my area there's no vacancies for NPS PSOs and so does this mean prison PSOs are going to have to go to a CRC (no space in ours either due to a recent big recruitment drive) or basically be made redundant? That's shocking - I don't think they should've recruited in the CRCs until the NPS staffing picture was clear because now even the CRCs aren't available :(

******
So, guess what. Who cares anymore? I'm knackered, on long term sick & highly unlikely to return. NAPOs claimed brinksmanship hasn't helped at all. I haven't the energy or stamina for this people-chess. PSO grade roles have long been abused by Trust managers to facilitate where we are now. The de-professionalisation is parallel to teaching, to social work, to policing & prison service roles.

I just watched Nick Clegg (metaphorically) sucking Brand's cock (BBC3). Can someone PLEASE get Brand on board? He's a liability, he's "random" and he's a loose cannon BUT he's effective. I need to go back to the 1970's for a rest.

******
In the last five days, my admin told me she is retiring, another admin has resigned and a PO colleague has gone on long term sick. We're a very small team, we're being decimated. Everyone is looking for new jobs.

******
Sounds like my office, I've never seen so many people leave - I think we have a leaving presentation every week! Why does the phrase 'rats off a sinking ship' come to mind?! Now, if only I could find the exit door!

******
I don't get this too many PSO's in NPS, I thought the shafting was done on how many high risk cases you managed so how did "too many PSO's" get into the NPS? They never managed high risk cases, again it makes a mockery of all the PO's shafted into CRC's. The whole thing stinks like a skunks arse.

******
The HMIP report is boring and part of the problem of modern day probation. The report traces events from court to termination on what has become an assembly or production line, with tasks that have to be slotted together and various interfaces scaled while maintaining clear channels of communication. And if this was not already problematic enough in an integrated service sharing a corporate identity, the fragmenting influence of TR will add further degrees of difficulty and complexity.

HMIP atomises and de-skills the probation task and is no different really to how the workings of an assembly line would be analysed. It's all about capturing knowledge and passing it along the line to the next operative in a bureaucratic and cybernetic chain. Once upon a time, probation staff knew their clients, would naturally liaise with the court staff or whoever. They identified with their caseloads, sought to be conscientious and deal with crisis and risks as they arose. HMIP gives us Lego probation.

******
Never mind the Probation Service, what about the Prison Service? I work as a PO in the Court Team and see first-hand how the Courts can be persuaded (with good reports mind) to go along with community sentences. Once the ORA is in place I'm going to have a hard time convincing them to support a proposal for said sentence if they know that the offender will be getting Probation once released.

Over a very rare (as in infrequent rather than uncooked) lunch break today there was not a Officer there who felt that the Bench would have any confidence in reports recommending community over custody sentence or indeed see any need for them. The impact this is going to have on the Prison is going to be massive and most likely one of those laws of unintended consequences. Whilst we may have it hard in Probation, I don't think it's going to be half as hard as what it will be in the prisons.

******
Makes little difference to me. I no longer have any time to help anyone and unless you come in covered in blood, knife in one hand and the severed head of your victim in the other, I'm going to find it difficult not to be thinking of Delius/PSR's/Paroms or other associated paperwork when I'm discussing things with you.

******
'most likely one of those laws of unintended consequences' or perhaps not. It's seemed from the start that MoJ want prison numbers to go up. I just haven't yet figured out why.

******
Super prisons and privatisation. There, sorted. My work here is done :)

******
Great point. I'm also a court PO and couldn't agree more. One of the laws of economics - supply creates its own demand. Just look at what's happened with curfews, SSOs, UPW etc and what happened with IPPs.

*******
I am a court PO too and also agree. This is massive and wholly unanticipated by NOMS so no planning in the system for this. Remember when we used to talk about TRain crash re TR? Well this is the biggest multiple pile up ever about to happen....

******
Yes this is exactly right - the courts will no longer have to do a careful balancing act for cases which meet the custody threshold: why give a shoplifted 12 months supervision plus DRR, when you can send him inside for 8 weeks under the misguided belief that "that'll sort out his drug problem" and he'll get the 12 months supervision when he comes out.

The prison estate will be 90,000 and rising before the end of 2015, easily. What was their prediction for IPPs before 2005? Low hundreds? This will dwarf that scandal. And the only reason this hasn't been anticipated by NOMS is that they haven't listened to front line practitioners - I've been making this point to my MP for well over 18 months.

*******
I know we have some Magistrates who read this blog. Maybe if they would like to leave an anonymous comment reflecting their views?

I'm reflecting on the staff numbers in my office and don't believe for one moment that we have enough staff to cope with the additional work that the U12months will bring. Pre-TR I worked in the Court team for some years, in various Courts, and saw just how many people on a daily basis were given U12month sentences. At times it outweighed those given community sentences. I know there will be a commencement date and it's unlikely that the ORA will be applied retrospectively, but even a quick back of a fag packet calculation suggests that over the next twelve months caseloads in CRC's are going to at least DOUBLE!!!


******
Of course NOMS officials know that there is a very high probability that the introduction of post-release supervision will increase the prison population. It is the same reason Custody Plus was binned. The question is whether their political masters have either taken notice of any warnings or allowed officials to plan for the consequences...

******
We are in utter crisis people. The word on the ground is that there are plenty of changes coming our way. A tsunami of bullshit crap.

******
Yep, ratings pitting staff against each other, under 12 months, no information and supposed to be starting Feb, increased reliance on volunteers who don't get paid for working with difficult cases, more tagging and booze tags. More money for managers and staff will continued to get shit on. Lovely.

******
We recruited 15 volunteers during last 6 months in my CRC and all but 3 have left, most found work in APs as sessionals, joined NPs as TPOs or found work elsewhere. A lot of time, effort resources, staff goodwill has been directed towards volunteers but we cannot retain them. Given a choice between paid sessional work with NPS, paid employment, volunteering ends without much notice, and who can blame them? No way to run any kind of business.

******
I sat with a client and his partner for over 2 hours listening to them yesterday. To hear the client articulate that "light bulb" moment and then go on to talk about it was part of what we do. Against the dire situation we all find ourselves in, little old me came away from work yesterday with a glimmer of enthusiasm and hope - actually doing the job I was trained to do. I say to myself "am I a PO or a feeder of information to the centre that eventually will use it against us all?" Client or Machine????

******
My experience of St Giles mentors has been very poor indeed. One poor lad was indeed met at the gates by an enthusiastic mentor who took him to accommodation that could best be described as unfit for human habitation. When he had the gall to protest, the mentor told him that everyone he had taken there had said the same thing, ie three people in as many weeks and that he had to take it and pay up or he'd be in trouble.

Another time a mentor told one of my clients how best to defraud the benefit system, something he had a previous conviction for himself. There simply are not enough trained and vetted mentors available and as Andrew rightly says the practicalities have not even begun to be considered. It would have been far better to ask a public probation service to do this work as the private and voluntary sectors are not geared up to provide these kinds of services safely.

*******
I have a habitual DV perpetrator who regularly receives short sentences, mainly for D&D/BoTP outside his ex-partner or her parents home. This is due to him refusing to work with Probation. If anyone planned to collect him from the Prison gate and advise him of his new obligations, then I would have SERIOUS concerns for their safety! I completely agree, someone is going to be badly hurt.

*******

I really fear for the safety of these mentors with some of our service users and hope a risk assessment is done eg double manning when driving them from the prison gate etc. All of this of course takes time and asking for the information from the appropriate agency, so much easier prior to TR dontcha think???

*******
I hope the mentors are insured to work with the released prisoners, not to mention car insurance. I thought CRC weren't to work with tier 4 sex offenders? Sex offender, tier 4, previously a MAPPA case and with PPU now supervised by newly qualified PO. I have previously seen the offender in prison when we ran TTG. He was banned from entering the Probation office. Worrying.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Frances Rattles MoJ

It would seem as if Frances Crook of the Howard League continues to get under Chris Graylings skin rather more successfully than we have of late. She appeared on BBC 2's Newsnight the other day and it's clear from this letter from Michael Spurr at the MoJ that she's struck a raw nerve talking about prison officers being ferried around in buses in order to plug emergency staffing shortages. 

It's also worth noting that in the wake of the successful prisoners book ban campaign, membership of the League has doubled over the last year. More power to her elbow!  

19 December 2014

Dear Frances

Newsnight

I am writing to express my deep disappointment with the inaccurate and, what I feel are
irresponsible comments, you made with regard to the impact of detached duty on under 18 YOIs during your interview aired on Newsnight last night and which you have continued to make on social media today.

First, we have been completely open and transparent about our use of detached duty to
support establishments pending permanent recruitment of staff. The leaked documents you obtained, which do not accurately reflect our final arrangements, merely proposed how we might deploy numbers that we have previously shared in response to Parliamentary Questions and the Justice Select Committee. Detached duty has always been used in the prison estate and it is a legitimate and appropriate way to manage short term staffing shortages.

Wetherby and Hindley are the only establishments in the under 18 estate which, at a time
when the population was low enough to allow it provided a small number of officers for short periods on detached duty to assist other prisons with shortages. During this time Wetherby have had accommodation out of use and both establishments continued to operate a full regime and therefore there was no impact on the young people there. Wetherby have not sent any staff on detached duty since early December, and while Hindley will continue to support other establishments, this will only be when staff become free as the under 18 population decreases following the YJB’s decision to decommission spaces there.

You stated that prison officers at YOIs have been cut by 40% and that young people would be locked up for about three weeks over the Christmas period ‘in their cells all the time’ as there will not be anybody on duty to open the cells to give them something to do, these statements are completely inaccurate. Since 2010, the population in the establishments constituting the Young People's Estate has reduced by 16% and in that period the number of officers (band 3-5) has reduced by 15% - this has maintained the prisoner staff ratio of 1.4 prisoners to each officer across those establishments. Therefore staffing levels have been maintained and the 40% cut you stated is complete nonsense.

In relation to the regime in the under 18 estate over the Christmas period, at Wetherby and Feltham there will be a full regime on non bank holidays (with the exception of 2 January) and on bank holidays, young people will have access to domestics (access to showers, open air and use of telephones) and/or recreational activities during both the morning and afternoon. At Cookham Wood, Werrington and Hindley, as services provided by external educational providers are not available between Christmas and New Year, a regime as set out above for bank holidays will be operated with the increased availability of access to visits and other recreational activities. Therefore again to say young people will be locked up in their cells ‘all the time’ over a three to four week period is also complete nonsense.

As I have said, I am extremely disappointed in your ill informed comments which will cause distress amongst young people and their families. Given your concerns about the pressures on the prison estate and your priority for the care of young people in the estate I would have expected a more responsible approach. My priority is keeping young people safe and secure and quite frankly your comments have made that job more difficult.

I hope in the future you will more carefully consider the impact your comments in the media can have and act more responsibly in checking the accuracy of the information you base your comments upon.

Yours sincerely

Michael Spurr

The End of a Sad Week

This has been a very sad week for the Probation Service with the contracts having been signed on Thursday. Lets start this roundup with the usual stubborn dissembling from the MoJ spin doctors:- 

Charities in front seat of new reoffending drive

The government fired the starting gun today on making key reforms to the way ex-offenders are looked after in the community, in an effort to tackle stubbornly high reoffending rates in England and Wales.

Today, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will sign new contracts with a host of charities, private companies and public organisations who will be brought in to manage offenders post-prison.

The successful organisations make up a diverse mix of providers that bring a wealth of experience including supporting people off drugs and alcohol, finding them secure homes and helping them into work.

These new providers will support around 45,000 offenders released from sentences of less than 12 months each year. This group currently get no statutory post-prison support and almost 60% of them go back to crime within a year.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

We finally have in these reforms the opportunity to break the depressing cycle of crime, prison and re-offence that so many individuals are stuck in.

Every year tens of thousands of offenders are released from prison with £46 in their pocket, get no support and are left to walk the streets. The majority reoffend quickly – and they commit thousands of crimes. That will now change, with proper support and mentoring for every offender who leaves prison, with a real focus on helping them turn their lives around.

We will pay the organisations that deliver this support by what works – and between them they have the skills and experience to deliver what does. Some of our most successful rehabilitation charities will now have the chance to use their skills to rehabilitate thousands of offenders who up to now have just been left to fall through the cracks.

The successful bidders are made up of a diverse range of public, private and voluntary organisations. Nineteen of the 21 contract areas will be led by new partnerships and joint ventures between private sector firms and some of Britain’s biggest and most successful rehabilitation charities, and six will be run with the involvement of a probation staff “mutual”. In addition, around 75% of the 300 subcontractors named in the successful bids are voluntary sector or mutual organisations, putting them at the frontline of offender rehabilitation.

There was strong competition for each of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), with bids showing real innovation. This includes proposals for far greater use of new technologies, both to enable frontline staff to work more efficiently and to enhance offender supervision. A wide range of models for mentoring prisoners on release were also put forward, along with extensive new rehabilitation activities, and more targeted services for specific offender groups such as women or those with mental health problems. Contracts have been split across 20 regions for England and one for Wales, and the successful bidders will be responsible for supervising and rehabilitating an estimated 200,000 low and medium risk offenders.

Almost 1,000 organisations, including 700 listed as VCSE (voluntary, community or social enterprise) have put themselves forward to work with the chosen providers to develop new ways of reducing reoffending and protecting the public.

Providers will only be paid in full if they are successful at reducing reoffending, helping drive innovation and getting best value for taxpayers.

Along with extending community supervision to all offenders, a nationwide network of resettlement prisons is also being created that will see offenders managed by the same provider from custody into the community, ensuring a proper through-the-gate approach to rehabilitation.

Under this system, the new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) will be required to draw up a plan for an offender’s rehabilitation within the first few days of them entering prison. The same organisation will then continue to support that individual throughout their time in prison, and this will continue as they are released into the community. The focus of the CRCs will be as much on helping ex-offenders sort their lives out as on traditional supervision.

They will also work hand in hand with the public sector National Probation Service, which is tasked with protecting the public from high risk offenders.


This was the Purple Futures welcome e-mail:-

Dear Colleague

I am writing to you all as we will be working together as part of Purple Future and I welcome colleagues from Cheshire & Greater Manchester; Hampshire and Isle of Wight Merseyside North Yorkshire Humberside & Lincs and West Yorks CRCs. Yesterday marked an important milestone in Transforming Rehabilitation as Purple Future is now contractually confirmed as the provider of probation and rehabilitation services across our CRCs.

The Partnership


Purple Future is a legal partnership between Interserve, 3SC, Addaction, P3 and Shelter.

COMMUNICATION:

During the competition period, we have been restricted in what could be communicated with the CRCs most particularly during the time period between the announcement of preferred bidder and contract signature, which took effect yesterday, 18th December.

It is usual for there to be a period of some weeks between contract signature and legal transfer of ownership while various technical, legal and financial matters are audited. We are in this period now and ownership of 5 CRCs will transfer to us on 1st February. Communication will become easier and more wide-ranging after this date.

You may be aware that a team from Interserve on behalf of PF, has already met with your CEO and SMT in recent weeks. These have been positive meetings on which to build future working relationships. We provided as much information as was possible given the on-going commercial constraints, which we hope to be able to share with you in the near future.

I know that you have already been through some massive changes over the last few months and want to reassure you that we will work collaboratively with the SMT on implementing the new operating model, building on and incorporating existing best practice within the CRCs.

The Interserve operational team has a wealth of probation and rehabilitation experience and understands the challenges that you have faced recently and those yet to come. It is clear that great progress has been made since June and due to the hard-work and strong ethos of those working in probation, the service remains stable and many innovations have been implemented in recent months. This provides a fantastic basis for building a new integrated approach to rehabilitation provision. The addition of the under 12 months cohort and a resettlement service that focuses on reintegration into the community are exciting new opportunities for us to support offenders in their journey towards their stable lives.

REFORM FOR ALL

PF has developed an operating model that recognises that offenders are individuals with the potential to change. Together we will help them realise this, while delivering their sentences. We will manage any changes with sensitivity and fairness, providing opportunities to reform for all but always with the safety of both the public and our staff as our priority.

TO DO THIS WE WILL:

Invest in new training, systems and processes - to ensure that public protection remains the top priority. This includes a commitment to continue to train probation specialists, ensuring that all staff are appropriately trained in public protection, and keeping everyone safe. Rehabilitation services will be expanded and refreshed.

Provide a 'through the gate' service to offenders - for all prisoners including those with sentences of under a year. This allows us to work with people who previously fell outside the remit of the probation service. This is an important change and our integrated, locally focused approach is well placed to make the most of this change,

Deliver the sentence of the court - in particular the new rehabilitation activity requirement (as required under the new ORA) using this opportunity to work with offenders to address the causes of offending while delivering the sentence.

Whilst we have developed these ideas about our approach, we expect to work together to continue the detailed delivery design work in the local context, and we are looking forward to this collaborative working from the earliest opportunity.

During January we will be working with your SMT to prepare for start of contract delivery from 1st Feb and thereafter with colleagues at ALL levels as we progress the new detailed design of the operating model and subsequent implementation. We will provide you with regular updates and communications during this period.

NEXT STEPS:

I appreciate that you will want to have more details about future arrangements and how they will affect you. However we do not yet have sufficient understanding of the details of the CRCs existing arrangements to be able to give you any more information at this time.

Please rest assured that we will be working together to develop an exciting new service delivery solution, and we are committed to being open and honest about any potential changes and how they may affect the way in which you carry out your work.

This seems to be the worrying bit, especially for a new operating model to start on 1st February:-
"I appreciate that you will want to have more details about future arrangements and how they will affect you. However we do not yet have sufficient understanding of the details of the CRCs existing arrangements to be able to give you any more information at this time."
There is more information on the P3 website:-

"The Purple Futures partnership, a new partnership of private sector, charities and social enterprise, will be providing probation and rehabilitation services in five areas of the UK from February 2015, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed today.

Purple Futures, led by Interserve, the UK-based FTSE-listed support services and public services company, together with the charities P3, Addaction, Shelter and the social enterprise 3SC, will manage services in Greater Manchester & Cheshire; Merseyside; West Yorkshire; North Yorkshire, Humberside & Lincolnshire and Hampshire, which together account for over 40,000 offenders each year.

From 1 February, the partnership will assume legal ownership of five Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), and the management of around 2,000 probation service personnel. It will deliver probation and rehabilitation services for the majority of offenders, however, high-risk cases will remain under the jurisdiction of the National Probation Service.

The services form part of the MoJ’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme, and will for the first time see business working with local specialist and voluntary groups to provide support to offenders, to improve their life chances on release and reduce reoffending rates.


Yvonne Thomas, Managing Director of Justice at Interserve, lead partner of Purple Futures, said:

“We recognise that offenders have the potential to change – and we will work together to help them realise this, while delivering their sentences. We will provide opportunities to reform for all - but always with the safety of both the public and our staff as our priority.
“We are confident in our plans and keen to start by working with our new colleagues. We understand that the past months have been a period of anxiety for many. However, we will be acquiring a very stable operation from the probation service and we have a unique opportunity to build an integrated approach to the rehabilitation of offenders. The inclusion in scope of offenders serving under 12 months and a resettlement service that focuses on reintegration into the community are exciting new opportunities for us to work together to support offenders in their journey towards stable lives.”

From 1 February, a number of new initiatives will be implemented by the partnership

"Investment in new training, systems and processes to ensure that public protection remains the top priority, with probation specialists trained in public protection. Rehabilitation services will be expanded and refreshed. 

A ‘through-the-gate’ service to prisoners. Purple Futures will also manage offenders on licence and post sentence supervision. This will include those on sentences under 12 months, who previously fell outside the remit of the probation service. 

Purple Futures will deliver the sentence of the court, and in particular the new rehabilitation activity requirement sentence (as required under the new Offender Rehabilitation Act), using this opportunity to work with offenders to address the causes of offending. 

A 48-hour ‘intensive service’ will be provided for the most vulnerable prisoners to support them on release, including a person to meet them on release, accommodation and specialist support for those mental health issues or with drug or alcohol addiction.

The creation of job opportunities for ex-offenders, including by working with them to set up social enterprises."


Mark Leftly of the Independent feels Interserve don't really know what they've bought:-
Interserve’s managing director of justice services, Yvonne Thomas, has tried to ease the concerns of the 2,000 probation personnel being take on by the outsourcing group as part of the Purple Futures partnership.

Yesterday, Interserve confirmed it had been awarded contracts worth £600m to take over five probation services.
The run-up to the privatisation has been fraught with all sorts of problems, including IT failures, that have compromised public safety. Ms Thomas at least admitted that “the past months have been a period of anxiety” for many officers, but she was wrong to say that Purple Futures is “acquiring a very stable operation from the Probation Service”.
Morale is at an extraordinary low among officers across the service; they are furious that they are about to become part of the private sector and believe that the Coalition’s reforms are dangerous.
Napo was clearly angry and issued this press release:-
Probation union anger as Justice Secretary ignores safety concerns and signs Probation outsourcing contracts
Napo is angry at the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as he presses ahead with his Probation Service outsourcing despite evidence that it is unsafe to do so. The Union, which has been campaigning against the Government's reforms since 2013, has documented evidence provided by the Ministry of Justice that there are still significant failures with the new system that they believe seriously undermine service delivery and public safety. But despite this contracts for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies have been signed by the new providers and Grayling, tying the government and future governments to 10 years.
See the Secretary of States Written Statement made today (18-12-14)
Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: “the service is still in utter chaos with IT systems failing again this week, significant staff shortages and excessive workloads. All of these issues are a risk to public safety. To sign off 10 year contracts when the system is not running effectively is highly irresponsible.”
Last week Napo discontinued its legal challenge against the Secretary of State as he had made assurances that all the problems will be fixed by the time the contracts are mobilised in February 2015 but Napo believe that he should have fixed the problems before signing contracts. Despite these assurances the MoJ still refuse to publish all the evidence that the system is safe and have maintained a confidentiality Court order against the union effectively gagging them.
Ian Lawrence said: “If they believe it is safe to sign contracts then they should publish the evidence that supports that. The only reason we are still bound by a confidentiality order is because the MOJ doesn’t want us to publish the evidence. Their own documents highlight acknowledges serious failings in the new probation system that echoes our concerns.”
Napo’s concerns were further supported this week when the Chief Inspector for Probation published his report that contained 68 recommendations and said that “issues raised by staff about IT require serious attention”. He also said “There is no doubt at all that there remains much more to do.”
The contracts themselves contain “poison pill clauses” that mean future governments will be liable to pay 10 years’ worth of profits to the providers should they terminate them. Some of the providers already have a chequered history with public sector contracts. The highly criticised Sodexo, have won bids for the majority of the North of England, and have recently been accused of institutional racism, also run HMP Northumberland. The Justice Select Committee raised the issue of a conflict of interest as they will receive larger payments for people going to prison than those that stay out. Seetec have previously been investigated for fraud on the DW programme. Only eight bidders were successful for the 21 contracts creating what critics have a called a “monopoly of corporate giants” taking over the justice system. 
Grayling used the Conservativehome website to gloat and record his political epitaph:-

So today we are completing the contracts that will change all of that. When the work starts in the New Year, no new offender will be left stranded with no help when they leave prison. Virtually every offender leaving prison will receive 12 months of guidance and support, as well as the statutory supervision required by the Courts. There will be an increased focus on mentoring and guidance, and the creation of a proper through the prison gate service, with most prisoners spending the last few months of their sentence in the areas they will be released into so that there are better preparations for that release.

Most of the work will be done by new partnerships between private sector companies with expertise in social change and voluntary sector organisations with skills in working with offenders. Like Ingeus, Interserve and Working Links who are all an integral part of working with the long term unemployed in the Work Programme, Sodexo who have helped shape the trial project in Peterborough, St Giles Trust and Nacro, who have leading edge skills in offender mentoring, and specialist charities like Shelter. Backed by hundreds of smaller local charities that will be able to do more great work with offenders.

They will work alongside a smaller, specialist National Probations Service, which will be tasked with managing risk to the public and particularly to working with the most dangerous offenders on a multi-agency basis.

And crucially, the new rehabilitation providers won’t be paid in full unless they deliver real reductions in reoffending. It’s a classic case of what this Government is about, delivering more for less for the taxpayer.

And Labour? In 2007, the Labour Government passed an Act of Parliament which opened out the rehabilitation of offenders to a new generation of providers. They understood then the difference we could make.

But they did nothing to complete the job. That has been left to us, to deliver a reform that I believe can make a real difference to our society. And the current Labour Party has opposed us every inch of the way. It’s a sign of the groundhog day ideology that lies at the heart of today’s Labour Party. A hatred for private sector and profit and wealth creation. A belief that the private and voluntary sectors in partnership cannot deliver positive social change, even though they are already doing so. A belief that the state should do everything, even when it hasn’t worked in the way it should. A view that the unions are always right. And a bizarre opposition to payment by results, even though most of us would think it common sense.

I reject their approach totally. I want real social change in a way that delivers real value for taxpayers as well. The Work Programme is already doing that. I believe our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms will do the same.

Chris Grayling

Finally, the heated discussion regarding Napo and the failed Judicial Review continues. The key issue seems to be summed up by this comment left yesterday:- 

On Monday December 8th Ian Lawrence, General Secretary of NAPO, and the NAPO Officers group issued an email to members outlining the basis of their decision to discontinue the Judicial Review proceedings. The email was headed

'NAPO SECURES CRUCIAL CONCESSIONS ON SAFETY FROM GRAYLING'

and I'm sure you're all now familiar with the content.

On Friday December 12th NOMS issued an email to CRCS, the NPS and to TR bidders stating:

'NAPO claimed in a communication sent to their members and the national media that as a result of the JR specific undertakings have been given... Contrary to the claims by NAPO no new commitments or undertakings were given and no changes have been made or promised in respect of the reforms'

A week has now passed, and no NAPO officer has responded to this very clear assertion that their stated basis for halting the Judicial Review is untrue. I can only presume that NAPOs officers are not disputing NOMS's assertion because it *IS* true, and NAPO's officers have mislead the union's members. If NOMS's assertion is untrue, let NAPO's officers say it is untrue.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Latest From Napo 53

Have faith in NAPO

Yesterday I attended a meeting of branch chairs from all around the country. The purpose of the meeting was to explain why the Judicial Review was discontinued and what happens now.

Let me start by saying that I am satisfied that, since Ian Lawrence announced at the AGM in Scarborough that NAPO was going to instigate a Judicial Review, the Officers and Officials of our union have at all times acted in the best interests of the members.

The officers appreciated that some of the communications that had been sent out to members had not perhaps been as clear and as helpful as they might have been. This was partly because of the speed with which events were happening and their wish to keep members as informed as quickly as possible.

The delays in getting information to members has also been because every e-mail had first to be checked by our solicitor and then by our barrister to avoid giving any possible grounds for contempt.

The opaqueness of the communications and the lack of information, is largely due to the processes of the court.

I do think that many members had an unreasonable expectation of what could be achieved by launching a Judicial Review. We believed that we had sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it was not safe for the Secretary of State to proceed to share sale. The MOJ has repeatedly refused to share the results of their testing with us while maintaining that everything was “hunky dory”.

The results of their testing procedures have now been provided to NAPO but the court ordered that it cannot be shared.

The issues surrounding the award of costs are also matters that cannot be shared by virtue of the order of the court.

So although this may be very frustrating for us all, I would ask members to appreciate that the hands of our Officers and Officials are tied. Were they to circulate the answers to many of the questions that members have been asking they would be in Contempt of Court and both they as individuals, and the union as a whole, would be subject to financial penalties. For our elected officers, who are probation service employees, they could also risk being made the subject of disciplinary procedures that could lead to their dismissal.

As a result of yesterday’s meeting a further statement will be issued by the Officers Group (hopefully later today).

But I ask all members to trust and respect the decisions of our elected officers. They have acted in good faith and with the interests of you all.

Why would you think otherwise? Do not believe all you read from the MOJ.

I would also advise any of you who are thinking about resigning from NAPO to think again.

Never has there been a more important time to be a member of a trade union.

Have faith in NAPO


Pat Waterman
Branch Chair

Guest Blog 15

A view from the small and medium charity sector

A missed opportunity

I work for a regional charity, but spent over 15 years working in Probation. Initially I thought TR would be an opportunity to bring the best of charities to work with the Probation Service. If I’m honest, I thought about 20% - 30% of the Probation Service would be put out to tender and we, charities, would bring in more than 20% - 30% of resources.

In 2010 the charity I work for had developed at no cost to the Probation Service a service for those serving less than 12 month, it worked brilliantly with the support of the local probation services and the police. There were lots of positive PR in the papers and praise from the people who were using the service. I thought TR would be the opportunity to develop this type of innovative service.

TR

We signed up for TR and I started going to meetings on next steps. However, as I attended these meetings I began to realise that some of the people involved in TR didn’t understand what they were selling.

Firstly, at these meetings about PbR, it seems that unless the Prime succeeds then Tier 2/3 don’t get paid. It felt like heads they win tails you lose. Primes stood a significantly better chance of getting paid than Tier 2/3s 

 PbR
Prime achieves target
Y
Y
N
Prime Paid Y/N

Y
Y
N
Tier 2/3 achieves target
Y
N
Y
Tier 2/3 Paid Y/N

Y
N
N

The more meetings I went to, the more depressing it became. I was truly shocked when I heard a former CPO of Probation criticise their old staff for lack of innovation and drive! Of course he was selling a bright new world for his new company. Caseloads of 100 clients and staff being paid circa £20k per annum were bandied about and how similar Probation was to Job Centres. When I heard about BIONIC I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. 

I gave up on TR and thought this is going to be a disaster which is going to cost someone their life. We, as a charity, washed our hands of TR and left the process.

As we got closer to TR and the CRCs became a reality, one of their first acts was to close down our project. It did not cost them a penny, but they no longer had the resources to support the project. I was very surprised that they closed down a free service, however it was their call if they did not want to offer this service to people serving less than 12 months. That was their choice. So much for innovation and partnerships with charity partners. As a regional charity, we had lots of contacts with smaller charities. One by one their contracts are being terminated as of 31st March 2015.

As someone who was heavily involved in the development of the Domestic Violence Perpetrators Programme in the Probation Service, I was shocked to hear about the split in the supervision of DV perpetrators and the potential costs to vulnerable women. This is not about money, this is about life and death.


The future

So, with private CRCs coming on line shortly, were does that leave the charity I work for and the small local charities? I suspect a significant number of the small charities will go to the wall. The criminal justice system will lose their experience, knowledge and generosity of spirit. The charity I work for will watch the CRC in action, but any ideas of working in partnership will be viewed with great suspicion.

Why would our well respected charity want to put its reputation at risk by becoming involved with multi-national companies who have no idea about the complexity or risk of the work they are taking on? How could we go to Trusts that currently fund our work and say “please give us some more money so we can work with this huge multi-national company so they can make a profit?” or give information on reporting of their clients to this charity to the CRC so they can claim their PbR bonus!

Finally

There is life after probation.  I left probation a number of years ago, but spent 15 great years in probation. Looking around at the small and medium sized charities that are working in this sector and find the passion, commitment and dedication I found in my 15 years in probation. Look at social services and see someone that rates your great skills and abilities.

The most important thing for me is what will this charity do about ex-offenders. We will watch the CRCs fail and we will slowly build up a network of charities to work with ex-offenders. We will offer our services because this is what we do, not what we are paid for.

I also expect that at some point within the next ten years, after a number of tragic avoidable deaths, someone will say you know what we need? A national probation service and we will begin again. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

MoJ Gives Two-Fingered Salute

16 December 2014

Dear Mr Guilfoyle,

TRANSFORMING REHABILITATION

Thank you for your email of 30 October to Simon Hughes, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, regarding the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms, and your invitation for him to attend a meeting of Greater London Napo. I have been asked to reply on behalf of the department.

As you know, the Government is introducing fundamental reforms to tackle the problem of persistent reoffending which blights our communities. It may be helpful if I began by reiterating the rationale and context for the changes we are making to the probation service. Over recent years former Probation Trusts improved their performance. While this is a tribute to the hard work of Probation staff at all levels, it is widely agreed that we need to improve provision of services and support for those who reoffend the most – who are the offenders released from prison following sentences of less than 12 months.

As in every other part of Government, we are faced with the challenge of trying to do better for less. We can either impose further cuts on the structures we have, risking increases in reoffending and leaving short sentence offenders without support after release, or we can reform the system so that it provides more effective rehabilitation at a better value to the taxpayer. We want to do this in a way that is sustainable for the future and we are committed to reinvesting most of the savings we make in order to support supervision for short sentence offenders. We can only do that if we bring in the best of the public, voluntary and private sectors to work with offenders in order to reduce their reoffending rates.

As you may be aware, on 19 September last year we launched the competition to find the future owners of the Community Rehabilitation Companies which will deliver rehabilitation services in England and Wales for low and medium risk offenders. On 5 December 2014, contracts were awarded to the successful bidders for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies. You will also be aware that transition to the new probation structures took place on 1 June 2014 and the National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies are now live and supervising offenders within the new structures. The 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies remain in public ownership until the transition process is completed.

The item on the ‘Today’ programme to which you referred in your email implied that our reforms were rushed, untested, unpiloted, and are putting the public at risk. That is not the case. Public protection remains a key priority, and our crucial reforms to probation are being rolled-out in a sensible way, with testing at every stage. Thorough, externally assured business-and-systems-readiness testing was conducted to review key activities that had to be completed prior to transition on 1 June. Evidence from the testing demonstrated that the business was ready to make the transition. We have also conducted testing at each stage as we moved towards contract award.

During the ‘Today’ programme item, the Minister also referred to the fact that we have been piloting a number of different approaches to Payment by Results (PbR) across Government and have gained valuable learning from these. At HMP Peterborough, for example, the short sentenced offenders who received through-the-gate support on release - as part of an innovative PbR Social Impact Bond pilot - are less likely to reoffend than those outside the scheme. A second PbR pilot operating out of HMP Doncaster has also shown marked falls in reoffending. The lessons we have drawn from implementing our pilots, together with the experience of other departments in using Payment by Results, have informed the design and commission of robust contracts which drive the right behaviours and generate value for money.

Finally, I would like to thank you for your invitation to the Minister to attend a meeting
of Greater London Napo. Can I suggest that if Napo Greater London branch would
like to discuss these reforms and their concerns further they approach the London
Community Rehabilitation Company. 

Best wishes,

Stephen Hubbard
Transforming Rehabilitation Programme

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Guest Blog 14

Hello Chris,

I don't know where to start. Over recent months you will be aware that there have been many, many comments about you, but how many have been written TO you? This is a highly sensitive subject, causing much anger, pain, frustration and disbelief, with words which I won't repeat, to describe you.

But you are a human being, in a long (presumably) strong marriage, and 2 young adult children. I have not read of any scandals involving you, in contrast to the accusations and confirmed revelations of the despicable behaviour of many politicians (and other noted people). You are an intelligent well-educated and highly qualified man, with a deeper side, having written an eclectic mix of books including a review of waterways. Who would have thought that this man, who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth, could show such sensitivity.

So today I am not calling you psychotic, dangerous etc etc, I am appealing to that sensitive, 'normal' side, who I presume loves and has protected his family, like the rest of us (and I genuinely am not being sarcastic, I am respecting the private man.)

I am a retired Probation Officer, qualifying with a DIPSW and Masters degree at the age of 48, after a history of working with young people, in the public sector, both part-time and full time, during which time I had also gained a relevant community and youth diploma at 44 after 2 years at Poly. Through my work I gained experience of every social problem, homelessness, fractured families, domestic violence, unemployment, abuse, self abuse, isolation, mental health, drugs, alcohol, sex offending, and personal issues of race, gender, sexuality, literacy skills, disabilities and confidence issues. I have worked in offices, community organisations and walked the streets, working with damaged families and seeking out disaffected youth. In those days, life experience was essential. I now understand you can be a trainee at 18. Surely that must be wrong? Even under 25 is still a bit unnerving, having to challenge streetwise, damaged, nothing-to-lose offenders.

Throughout a loving upbringing, I had been taught respect and understanding of other people, and these are the qualities essential in Probation. Staff need to have the skills to interact with and to understand clients/offenders/service users issues, and gain their trust where there may have previously only been indifference, rejection, intolerance or arrogance. And vitally, give those people TIME to trust you and open up to you. People aren't born criminals; not all rejected people go on to hate or steal or misuse substances, they somehow muddle through, no doubt with support somewhere, but for some, it is just too despairing a battle. And they break the law, out of frustration, hunger, isolation, anger, despair, rejection, fear, and resentment. 

The majority of people I supervised had been abused or neglected/rejected in their childhood, had gone in and out of care, to be abused again - many children's homes were harsh, threatening places where abuse was rife. I have cried with offenders who have broken down, and opened up to me, some big 'tough' even high-risk, middle-aged men, (who have threatened me with unspeakable things and later apologised) after a life of silence or rebuke from social workers for being naughty and telling lies. When it does come out, it is in a torrent of exorcism, but likely to be quickly hidden again if the PO goes too fast in this hallelujah moment.

Chris, that damages people permanently, and often results in crime sooner or later. For people to heal, they need other people to understand, and to be able to point the way. And there needs to be time to demonstrate understanding, and facilities to support them, something which is becoming harder and harder in this current political climate. What is certain, is that this cannot be achieved by just dealing with the crime and not the person, by looking at the offence, with no background knowledge or means of accessing it, by brief court reports, or ticky lists, or nothing at all, just the defendant, with judges and magistrates second guessing what the person has experienced before, what they have DONE before, with no guidance on what levels of support or restraint they need to impose. If a person is just shoved through a conveyor belt process, then quickly ticked out at the end, that is only bottling up the CAUSES, with a likelihood of going through the revolving doors again and again.

You have said that yourself, with your oft-repeated signature quote about the under 12 month supervision - they need to be supported during and at the end of their sentence, and on licence. Why then, are you removing or at best limiting, the quality of support AND control of offenders on community supervision?

- which brings me on to other issues, which confuses and to be honest, angers me. -

1) Why do you keep repeating a mantra of the under 12 months supervision being the reason behind this demolition of the Probation Service, when the Service has done this before? In my time we would offer them voluntary supervision for 12 months, and we would write to them at the end of their Order, inviting them to call in if they had a problem, in the early days of readjusting without support. We would also frequently go to the prison to pick up higher risk or more vulnerable offenders, having ensured they had accommodation, or have found accommodation for them. 

Then in the recent past, a meeting of CEOs offered to NOMS the facility to supervise that group of offenders, in the awareness of the likelihood of reoffending (the immediate period after the end of custody or supervision for some, was always regarded as a potentially risky period, after losing a line of support.) Indeed some Trusts had already successfully run trials. But the CEO's were told that it would not be proceeded with, without explanation. I can remember the topic of discussion before I retired was the possibility that we would be supervising this group in the near future (then), and we speculated on additional staff being recruited.

2) Secondly, why do you insist that crime is staying stubbornly high, when even NOMS records in 2013 revealed that it has been steadily dropping in 10 of the 15 Trusts, since 2010, with some areas, particularly in the North East and London, 'achieving better than expected results'? This is what the public are being told, with no one in the system appearing to contradict you. And did you know that the National Probation Service were the first ever public organisation to be give the British Quality Foundation's award for excellence?

3) Why have you said this transformation will be cheaper than retaining the status quo when hundred of millions of pounds has already been spent, with much much more still to come?

4) Why are you saying that NAPO is misleading and that most staff are happy and the reforms are 'bedding in well' and teams are making 'good progress', when the reality is spectacularly different? Many people are afraid to speak out, for fear of serious repercussions; some are tucking their heads in, ignoring the rumbling earthquake; staff in NPS have been warned not to speak out, and some CRCs too, and some senior managers are - dare I say - giving false impressions, understandably I suppose, protecting their own livelihood and salaries.

I know it is not like that. I have friends who are still working there, and I have been receiving emails from a number of colleagues. detailing the problems they are enduring on a daily basis. They are not lying, they are too distressed to lie. They are exhausted, with sickeningly faulty IT systems, inability to find info, unmanageably high case loads, systems which take hours to complete and are not worth the paper (computer) they are written on, and most importantly, potentially dangerous offenders passing unnoticed or 'un-assessed', domestic violence cases identified as low or medium risk, when this group is a simmering volcano (living with the victim and then RETURNED to the victim by the courts, sometimes because of the naivety of the unqualified, inexperienced, temporary officer in the court who has not had training on such a high risk group), newly released prisoners being sent to wrong address (into an exclusion zone where the victim lived in one case); indeed I could go on and on and on - those few words are the tip of the iceberg. 

I am sure you, or a sifting MoJ staff member, have been reading the Probation Blog. If so, you must wonder are all these people, nationwide, telling lies? Are all these people, who have loved their job as a vocation, telling lies? Are those people who have placed themselves at risk by revealing their identity by oath for the purpose of the JR also lying? Are all those people who have left with a broken heart - up to top management - also lying? Are the handful of senior managers who have risked putting their name to a comment also lying?

5) And on a related subject - do you honestly believe that everyone who states that prisons have become dangerous places is lying? Is Nick Hardwick lying? Are the governors lying (read between the lines)? What is the reason then for the high increased percentage of violence and deaths in prison? Why did a jury acquit 3 inmates for their protest? Why are people being banged up for 19 hours a day in crowded cells? I can remember regularly visiting prisons where there was generally a busy but contented atmosphere, with unproblematic prisoners moving around with no atmosphere of fear. Why is it recorded that all this has changed since June this year?

6) Where have the quoted 500 new recruits been placed, when people are still struggling with staff shortages, either left or on long term sick? Long term sick used to be a rarity when I was there, until 2011, not in the Dark Ages, which we rapidly appear to be returning to.

7) Why did you allow the split between the 70/30% staff to be managed in such a slap-dash unsafe way? 2 hats - take one name out and into that heap and 2 names into that heap, etc; sending some expertise and specialisms to CRCs and placing inexperienced PSO's (not all inexperienced I will grant, I have thoroughly experienced friends working in CRC's) into a role which gives them an entire case load of high riskers, a very stressful role for anyone. And I hear that some specialisms eg SOTP officers, (which I used to do, once a week, alongside my team PO role, after having extensive training) are struggling to operate, having lost their specialist worker to CRC.

8) And why assume ALL DV offenders are low/medium risk when this group are the most difficult to define? They usually live with their victim - AND children, who are the most vulnerable of all. The offender often has psychological issues, or drug/alcohol ones, which can turn a loved one into a monster in a wink, with the victim fearing the perpetrator but always believing his cries that he is sorry and will change. DV perpetrators are phenomenal deniers, sometimes, I believe, to themselves, which makes it harder to rehabilitate, like sex offenders. Again, it takes specialist training to work with such cases. Harking back to my early days in the 90's , every office used to have a trained person (which was me in my office at one time) who would sit in with the PSR writer when interviewing. There would always be 2 interviews. This was also the case with sex offenders, and the specialist worker would also produce a report. Now these same people are being sentenced with NO report or a ticky list. Do you honestly think this is ideal, or even safe?

It surprises me that DV offenders have a blanket assessment of low/medium risk, at a time when the government is paying more attention to the crime, (quote from Vera Baird - Police and Crime Commissioner - 'it is the most heinous of crimes') Do you not think that more attention should be given to this group?

9) Magistrates have always depended on the court probation officer for their knowledge and experience - a neighbour of mine is a long serving Magistrate who tells me how much they were valued for their analyses, background info and recommendations.

10) Can you imagine - have you seen it on the Probation Blog? - the technicality of re-arranging the offices, leaving one office, in many areas, with only high risk cases reporting? These offices have already been identified as the 'nonces and nutters office' around the country, with risk of confrontation. In the past no one knew what others had been convicted of, within the office anyway. Do you think this is safe? And some offenders are having to travel many more miles, to some offices in rural areas, which have only one officer and one admin. Again, do you think this is safe? And this leaves some offices overcrowded and some half empty, but unable to be used by CRC, as it belongs to NPS. Is this not bizarre? And travelling further afield to report, makes it more awkward to get there on time, if at all. Will they be at risk of breach if they arrive late? Will bus fares be paid - twice as much as before for the longer journey? I could go on.

11) I must also ask why, when people are posing questions at you, or informing you of problems, you either deny it, which is puzzling as there is clearly evidence to uphold these declarations. Or you will thank staff for doing so well, (when you must know that they are really hanging on by their finger tips, or have given up and left the Service, in tears over the death of a job they had loved for years) and then you say how everything has been improved, when it hasn't. Could you please explain? Are you being given the wrong information? The very day Parliament was told that the issues of N-Delius have been resolved, and people in CRC can now access info from NPS, I read a comment on the blog that attempts to gain info on 3 separate cases which were likely being re-assessed as high risk, were futile. I know that staff are supposed to be able to access info on N-Delius from admin staff, but is that really fair, given that admin staff have always been driven hard and overworked?

I implore you to think again about selling off the Probation Service to huge multi-nationals, employing staff who will have had little experience of such work. New graduates in NPS will be very young with little experience of understanding disaffected, damaged and dangerous criminals, yet will be making decisions on their future, with no idea of the implications for public and victim safety.

Probation has no issue with partnerships - it has worked alongside the police, voluntary organisations and educational systems, but it has retained control of sentencing and supervision. I ask you not to put many many lives at risk, nationwide, including offenders and staff and again I will say it - the children of victims and offenders, the most distressing issue, at a time when the government is reducing support systems and voluntary and charitable organisations.

I have just read that you have made the decision to go ahead with the sale - please at least put that on hold, until you hear what the High Court has to say. The Probation Service and its employees, and service users and the general public are at least owed that.

Your plan could still work, with a significant overhaul of partnerships, with more authority remaining in the public sector.

I could say more but I think I have said enough. Sadly I think it is all too late, but I still send this, with respect and with hope, and maybe, just maybe, you might accept that other ideas might just be better. You will gain much more respect if you decide to take a more moderate step.

Mgt Locklan

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Omnishambles Update 82

A bumper edition that begins with news of the recent update to Delius over the weekend:-

Great day today, full of uselessness. Delius on and off all day. Putting entries on for them to disappear. Then lost 2 hours work on an SDR on OASys, spent half hour on the phone to Shared Services call centre who logged the call to try and retrieve. Basically resigned myself to writing it again. "Did you save it?" she said. Erm, no but it was the finishing touches, putting it altogether. "Oh I would recommend you save the work at least every half hour." Oh, OK, no shit Sherlock, bit late now no? Can I continue or will I lose the work again? "Erm, I work in a call centre and not qualified to be able to tell you if it's Ok to continue on OASys. You should be OK though." What makes you think that then. "Erm, dunno really!!" I am on nearly 200 per cent. Like I have time for this shit!! NPS

This from Durham Tees Valley CRC gives you an idea of the chaos:-

Hi, 

Following the Delius upgrade this weekend we have been given a list of issues that have occurred.  These issues will be resolved in a further upgrade due in January.  If you should encounter any of these issues there is a workaround document in the SRM in HQ/TIM/Delius that assists - Delius TS2 Workarounds - 

  • The print button on the Office Contact Diary does not work. It is therefore not possible to use that print button to produce a paper copy of the lists of offenders due into the office on a given day.
  • When checking the Next Appointment details for an offender using the Offender Enquiry screen, any appointments occurring on the same day as the search is being made are not included.  Appointments for the next day and onwards are included.
  • When attempting to bulk transfer a set of requirements or licence conditions,  the process fails when there are more than 10 requirements or licence conditions available to transfer.
  • When working with the new ‘Next Appointment’ functionality it is not always clear when the next appointment against a given order or component actually is.
  • The application displays error messages when terminating the last item that is giving you access to an offender record, as anything other than Offender Manager.
  • The Team and Officer fields are mandatory in the Pending Transfers diary.This means that it is no longer possible to do a single search for the records being transferred into a Provider.This carries with it the risk that the allocation of an offender, or of work associated with an offender, may be missed.
  • Transfers of licence conditions are remaining active when the Licence Condition is terminated by a recall action.
  • NSI Caseload Screen not filtering by "Level". NSIs can be created at either offender or event level. The caseload diary screen always returns all NSI whether the filter is set to show All or Event Or Offender.
  • When creating a new NSI, if setting the status time to an earlier time, the screen will sometimes not save and instead change the status time to the current time.
If there are any other issues with new Delius please call the Helpdesk. Thanks.

The Chief Inspector has finally spoken and as Ian Dunt reports on the politics.co.uk website, things don't look too good just days away from the contracts being signed:-
Probation privatisation looks to be as big a disaster as we thought it was
When Chris Grayling announced the sell-off of probation services, he was told it was unnecessary, dangerous and needlessly complex.
Grayling ignored the criticism and pressed ahead regardless, but ramped up the timetable so that he could get the contracts signed before the general election and prevent any future Labour government from reversing it. Today we got an initial assessment of how that process is going by Paul McDowell, the chief inspector of probation, and it appears to validate the concerns of those who had warned the justice secretary off the idea.
We need to have some caution over McDowell's reports. His wife is the deputy managing director of a private justice company which runs some UK probation services. Grayling has repeatedly defended that arrangement and there is no evidence whatsoever that McDowell would let it affect him. But it would be absurd for us to ever allow a report to proceed without mentioning this fact.
In any sane world it would be considered untenable and something would have to be done – not because there is evidence of wrongdoing, but because these reports should be above the sorts of questions we now have raise when they are released. But we do not live in that world and anyway, it's worth observing that, while it is tempered, McDowell's report is actually very critical.
Here's how Grayling broke up the probation service. The existing national body was left in charge of high risk offenders. Low-and-medium risk offenders were the responsibility of 35 probation trusts, which were really companies in public ownership until the formal sell-off. Staff were reassigned, sometimes literally by having their names picked out of a hat. When we say the process was chaotic and rushed, we understate things.
The result was predictable. "Splitting one organisation into two separate organisations had created process, communication and information-sharing challenges that did not previously exist," the inspector said, rather understatedly. "Many of those issues will remain a challenge for some time to come and need close attention."
What does this mean? The point where probation meets the courts is in a state of disarray, or as the inspector puts it, there are "significant challenges". The lack of staff at the national service, for high-risk offenders, is having "a detrimental impact on the delivery of some of the services". Given the seriousness of these offenders, this is very dangerous. Probation union Napo has already warned that one murder could have been avoided if not for the reforms.
Communication between the national body and the new organisations is falling apart. This is particularly problematic because of the risk categories. Risk is dynamic. It does not stay the same. Say you have a violent offender who was long ago charged with domestic abuse. He is currently low or medium risk. But then reports come in that he started drinking again and neighbours report loud arguments in their house. He is now high risk. It’s proper communication channels which allow us to stop that sort of violence. The idea he moves to another organisation and probation officer when these reports come in needlessly complicates things.
The IT infrastructure, as everyone predicted, is in trouble, or, as the inspector puts it, a "challenge". He adds: "The lack of integration of IT systems was frustrating." Probation workers frequently cite difficulties accessing previous information about offenders.
Probation workers are overloaded with work leaving "significant gaps, especially in court". Amusingly, this is described with the words: "Matching of staff resources to the workload has been challenging". Leadership has also been lacking and so has internal communication. But McDowell doesn't water down his criticism for the unseemly haste with which the sell-off was conducted. He says:

"The speed of this implementation has in itself caused operational problems that could have been avoided or mitigated. We sometimes found that new processes were being communicated by email to staff for implementation the next day, with little or no time for training or instruction. It is important to recognise the impact that this has had on staff morale, and potentially on the efficiency of the service they were providing."
What's really irritating is that the speed was political. It was done this way to prevent Labour reversing it. In probation, errors cost lives. The understated nature of the report prevents it coming across as too damning. But for a justice secretary to have approached this task with anything other than supreme delicacy is deeply concerning. We’ve yet to see if Grayling's reforms will be as bad as the unions have suggested. But the early indicators do not look good.
Napo have prepared a briefing paper in readiness for today's Justice Questions in the House of Commons:- 

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) Report Published 15th December 2014 – Transforming Rehabilitation, Early Implementation.


A Parliamentary briefing from Napo, the Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court Staff
                                                                
Today’s report published by HMIP raises a number of significant concerns in relation to the implementation of the Governments reforms of the Probation Service. The contracts for the new probation providers are due to be signed on Thursday 18th December 2014 with a view to the contracts being mobilised in February 2015. However, the report contains 68 recommendations which Napo believes should be acted on, resolved and evidenced to be working prior to any contracts being signed by preferred bidders. In his foreword the Chief Inspector says:

“there remains significant challenges in getting court end processes working as they should”

“lack of staff in some areas of the National Probation Service was having a detrimental impact on the delivery of some services being provided.”

The interface between the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Companies will continue to cause challenges that need to be addressed.”

“IT continues to provide a predictable challenge….There is a risk that increased bureaucracy could stifle future innovation, so the issues raised by staff about IT requires serious attention.”

“The speed of the implementation has in itself caused operational problems that could have been avoided.”

“There is no doubt at all that there remains much more to do.”

The 68 recommendations in the report include:

12. The National Probation Service (NPS) senior managers should make arrangements for responses from Police domestic abuse units and children’s services to be received on the day in cases where an oral report (for the Court) is prepared.

A much greater number of offenders are being sentenced at Court using oral reports. Whilst this allows for speedy justice, without the necessary assessments being carried out with the above services there is a real risk that child protection issues and domestic violence concerns will go missed. Cases could be inappropriately allocated to the wrong organisation or grade of staff and not be properly managed during their sentence leading to a direct risk to the public.

15. National Probation Service managers should ensure that Offender Assessment System Risk of Serious Harm screenings are completed routinely at the report stage before any assignment of the case.

This is vital to highlighting risk of harm issues and failing to do so could lead to cases being allocated to the wrong organisation and risk issues to victims and children being missed.

18. The National Offender Management Service should ensure that a re-evaluation of the resources available to the National Probation Service to complete the new workload requirements should be urgently undertaken, particularly in relation to work in courts. (para 1.3, 1.9, 1.21, 2.11)

Napo has continually raised its concerns regarding staff shortages and that the workload in the National Probation Service is much higher than originally planned for. A lack of resources has led to high workloads, increased sickness and low staff morale.

41. Home visits should be completed by all Community Rehabilitation Company offender managers in cases where there are concerns about domestic abuse and/or safeguarding children. (para 3.23)

It is of concern that home visits had only taken place for 5 out of 35 cases where there were domestic violence or safeguarding issues. The report does not offer an explanation of for this but Napo’s own intelligence suggests that it is as a result of staff shortages and cases being allocated to inexperienced or unqualified staff.

46. Community Rehabilitation Company chief executives should clarify what type of case is appropriate for probation service officers (less qualified staff) to manage. (para 3.30)

There is increasing evidence from our members that probation service officers (PSO’s) are being allocated complex cases that are above and beyond their training and experience. This will lead to the de-professionalising of the service and cases not being safely managed in the community. This recommendation should be in place prior to any contracts being signed.

52. Community Rehabilitation Company chief executives should ensure full implementation of workload monitoring (para 3.29)

As yet there is no agreed workload management tool for either the NPS or the CRC’s.

56. National Probation Service (NPS) managers should ensure that home visits are taking place where appropriate, when the offender is classified high risk of serious harm, where there is a history of sexual offences or domestic abuse or where there are child protection concerns. (para 4.8)

This is not happening in the majority of cases looked at by the Inspectorate. Napo believes this is due to high workloads as a result of staff shortages and increased bureaucracy that has been introduced to the system. Home visits are vital for risk management and effective multi agency working.

58. The NPS should undertake a full review of the numbers and proportion of probation officers, probation service officers and administrative staff it employs so that all tasks can be completed efficiently. (para 4.16)

There is a clear disparity across the country of the role of PSO’s in the NPS. The inspectorate had reservations about the types of cases some PSO’s were being expected to manage in some areas. It was also identified that there may be too many PSO’s in the NPS and the original assignment process had not been effective.

59. The National Offender Management Service should review the roles and responsibilities of PSO’s and the training required to support them in their work and professional development.

Napo would urge all parliamentarians to read the report in full. It is of great concern that such a large number of issues remain unresolved yet the Justice Secretary still intends to sign 10 year contracts this week. We believe he should be held to account for this decision, provide evidence to the House and to the preferred bidders on why he believes it is safe to proceed to contract singing and how he intends to implement the recommendations before February 2015.

As a result of Napo’s legal challenge which concluded last week, further evidence from the Ministry of Justice was provided to us that causes further concern. However, due a confidentiality order issued by the Court, Napo is unable to share this information. It is in our view, a concern that the Justice Secretary continues to hide evidence that we believe should be in the public domain. It should be made available to preferred bidders prior to contracts being signed and should also be made available to the House so that he can be held to account for his actions.

Questions you may wish to ask:

1. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that all of the key recommendations in the HMIP report have either been implanted or at least will be prior to contracts being signed on 18th December?

2. If not what assurances can he give the House that contracts will be ready to be mobilised in February 2015?

3. Will the Secretary of State provide the evidence that Napo reference to the House for full parliamentary scrutiny?

4. Given the coalition said that they would not proceed to the signing of contracts if the HMIP raised any concerns, can the Justice Secretary now explain why he is proceeding when a significant issues have come to light?

5. Why does the Justice Secretary not postpone the signing of contracts until all of these recommendations are in place?


And finally, here is the letter Napo has sent to all the bidders:-


Dear .........,

1. I wrote to you on 11 December 2014 seeking to arrange a meeting or telephone conference to discuss what systems you will have in place to ensure the safety of our members and the public after you take over operation of the CRC(s) you are buying on 1 February 2015

2. As I indicated last week, Napo are the trade union and professional association representing the majority of trade union members within the Probation service. As such, we expect to engage positively with CRC owners through the agreed negotiating structures, with a view to protecting and promoting the pay, terms and conditions of the staff whom we represent.

3. I am sure that you will also appreciate that we have a wealth of professional knowledge and experience that we would expect to draw upon to protect our members (e.g workloads as per paragraph  below, but it is also knowledge and experience from which you as prospective purchasers could benefit from in terms of hearing things that have perhaps been hidden from you by the MoJ. I have outlined these issues below as we believe we are bound to advise you of them.

4. We want to ensure that we work with you on these issues now, before the transfer takes place, so that you have enough time to address the issues which cause us concern.

5. We are writing now to explain in more detail the nature of the issues which concern us. We would therefore welcome an early opportunity to discuss these with you.  We would like to ensure that you have them at the forefront of your mind as you plan how you propose to operate. Unless you have been made privy to this information by the Secretary of State we want to make sure that before you sign the terms of contracts, you have enough information about the risks which both we and the Secretary of State (separately) have identified in the system as it currently operates.   We want you to understand the systemic risks you are taking on, and to ensure that, before you sign contracts to take over responsibility for those risks, you are satisfied that you have adequate resources to put in place the measures to address them.

6. We want to negotiate with you so as to ensure that, after transfer, there are adequate management instructions and protocols in place to ensure that our members are not asked to work in ways which expose them to serious risks of avoidable harm to their physical or mental health.  (You will be aware that this is the common law duty which employers have to ensure workers’ safety).

7. We think it only fair to explain to you the background to this letter and to this voicing of concern.  As you may well be aware, Napo has been in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Justice over a number of months expressing concern that aspects of the new structure of the probation service may expose staff, the public and offenders to unnecessary risks of harm. Napo sought the engagement which we have traditionally enjoyed with NOMS over such issues. We repeatedly asked to be allowed to see the Secretary of State’s safety testing and assurance results so that we could engage with him on the substance of our safety concerns in a meaningful and informed way. Unfortunately, despite numerous documented requests over the summer and autumn, Napo was not allowed access to the Ministry of Justice’s safety testing information (not even on a confidential basis). This left us in a situation where we could not provide input informed by the safety testing results as to how to solve some of the problems which were clearly emerging on the ground.  

8. During that time, more and more examples emerged of cases in which probation staff were asked to do jobs for which they were not equipped, or to take on too many cases as a result of serious staff shortages and rising sickness levels, or in which CRC staff were asked to meet clients without proper computer access to safety records.  In some cases, these problems had resulted in serious physical or sexual assault or psychological breakdown.  Examples include a member of CRC probation staff seriously sexually assaulted after she was unable to obtain timely access to risk records which would have warned her not to see that offender alone, and two documented cases of murder after inadequately trained and overworked probation support staff were asked to take on inappropriate serious cases.

9. Napo was worried, on the basis of feedback from its members, that these risks were not being properly recognised or addressed by the Ministry of Justice in its secret safety testing procedures. On 20 October 2014, we sent the Secretary of State witness statements from our members giving examples of these concerns. Copies of these example cases can be made available if you would like to see them.

10.   Our members are very seriously worried that after ‘dual access’ to computer systems is switched off on handover of CRC shares, CRC staff will not have adequate and timely access to sufficient risk management information to enable them to work safely; that there is insufficient clarity in arrangements for appropriate and timely transfer of cases between the NPS and the CRCs and the safety consequences of transfer in these circumstances in the context of very serious nation-wide, endemic shortages of suitably qualified and experienced staff and extraordinary rates of stress-related absence.

11.   The Secretary of State said that transfer would not take place until he believed it was safe to do so, but was not prepared to explain to us or our members how these safety issues would be addressed and why we should be reassured that he would have taken steps to make sure that these problems were solved so that the system was safe.    We find this odd; if there are obvious answers to how our safety concerns can be addressed, we do not understand what is stopping the Secretary of State from saying so publicly.  We remain gravely concerned that this is because in practice these safety issues cannot be resolved by the intended date of transfer on 1 February 2015, at least without input of more resources than are currently being assigned to deal with them.

12.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to get the Secretary of State to discuss these things with us in a sensible and open way. So, on 6 November 2014, Napo made an application for judicial review in which we asked:

a) that the Secretary of State be forced to disclose his safety testing evidence;
and
b) if he concluded it was safe to sell the CRCs, to give reasons and enable Napo to make informed representations.

13.  We also argued that (on the basis of the evidence we had seen to that date, and the evidence from our own members), there were insufficient safeguards to ensure that there would not be unacceptable risks of serious physical or psychological harm, even if the system was operated as it was intended.  We asked the Court to make a declaration about that, and for an order that the Secretary of State should not sell the CRCs until ‘the avoidable harm is obviated’.

14.   Even when we were trying to run an argument about the safety risks inherent in the system if adequate measures were not taken to recognise and address them, the Secretary of State resisted giving Napo any of the results of his safety testing.  His argument – according to his written submission to the Court - was that there were “strong commercial reasons why the disclosure of [the safety testing documents] should not take place”.  He said that “Such disclosure would disrupt the ongoing procurement process and could derail negotiations”.  

15.  Napo remains unclear as to why tests into the safety of the operation of the publicly owned NPS and CRCs should be liable to disrupt the procurement process.   In Napo’s view, there is a strong public interest in CRCs knowing the full particulars of the safety risks which the Secretary of State’s safety testing has identified before they sign contracts agreeing to take on those operations and those risks.  We imagine that you would want to assure yourself and your shareholders that you have all the information you need about risk liability before contracts are signed.

16.  On 26 November 2014, the High Court ordered the Secretary of State to disclose his safety test results to Napo, but not more widely. As a result of that Order, the Secretary of State disclosed part of that safety information to Napo on 28 November 2014 and part on 4 December, the same day as he announced his decision to sell the shares CRCs to preferred bidders such as yourselves.  

17.  On 1 December 2014, we made detailed 18-page submissions to the Secretary of State about our concerns in the light of those results, highlighting where we considered they were borne out by the results of the Secretary of State’s tests and making detailed reference to them.

18.  Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to share that analysis with you, because it was based on documents and specific regional issues referred to in them which we are required to keep confidential.   Many of the documents which the Secretary of State disclosed were put into a confidentiality ring, and insofar as that confidentiality ring still stands, Napo is not in a position to discuss the content of them with any third party.  The fact of the confidentiality ring is not itself confidential, and we put you on notice that the Ministry of Justice may hold safety-testing information relevant to your CRC which has not been disclosed before sale.

19. We think that on the basis of his safety tests (some but not all of which have now been put in the public domain), the Secretary of State now recognises the systemic safety problems which Napo has identified over many months.  Napo believes that the problems about access to risk assessment information when dual access is switched off; the problems about CRCs being required to keep control of serious cases because the NPS refuses to take them on; and the problems of very serious short staffing have not gone away.

20.  Napo withdrew its application for judicial review because it now had the MOJ safety testing evidence, had made its submissions on it to the Secretary of State, and was satisfied that if the NPS and CRCs could put in place the measures referred to in the Secretary of State’s evidence of 4 December 2014 in time for handover and if the system operated as he said it would, those measures would constitute proportionate steps to recognize and obviate unacceptable risks of serious physical and psychological harm. That addressed Napo’s legal arguments about the safety of the ‘system’ operated as the Secretary of State intends will be the case.

21.   However, Napo continues to doubt that the NPS and the CRCs can in practice put in place the Secretary of State’s intended solutions to these problems in time for handover on 1 February 2015.  We fear that more people are going to get hurt as a result of inadequate computer information, inadequate training and serious shortages of staff able to do the increased amounts of work generated by Transforming Rehabilitation, even before the provisions of the Offender Management Act 2014 are brought into force.

22.   We want to take these concerns forward with the NPS regions and CRC management. Napo drew up a document of the problems which it had identified, what the Secretary of State’s safety testing evidence said in relation to each such issue, and what the Ministry of Justice evidence had said would be done about it before CRC handover. We think that this would provide transparency about what the MOJ says can and will be achieved before 1 February 2014.  We would like to share this list of steps with CRCs so that they can assure us if these things are achievable and so that we can spend the next three months working with you to identify working methods and instructions which will ensure that the intended steps are in fact implemented in time. There are considerable resource questions associated with this.

23.   However, our list of ‘steps’ is based on information which the Secretary of State disclosed to Napo for the purposes of the court proceedings.  We have applied for disclosure so that we could have shared it with you. We needed the Secretary of State’s or the Court’s permission to use that information to explain what the Secretary of State has said can and will be done. However, this was refused.

24.  The Secretary of State refused to let us use that information publicly, because he is apparently unhappy with the way we have expressed it, and last week the Court declined to order him to do so.  It said that the Secretary of State and Napo should be able to agree a list of information which could be shared.   We will seek such agreement, but today the Secretary of State has said he would need seven days to consider any such list from Napo.

25.   We think it is urgent that the CRCs know what safety concerns the Secretary of State’s safety tests have identified as continuing to arise.   We think it is important for CRC Chief Executives to know, before they take on those responsibilities, if they are one of the areas where particular safety concerns arise.  We think that having that information in the public domain would help us in working with you to ensure our members’ safety in the face of the specific issues that we know exist.    It is public knowledge that Napo opposed the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, but if the CRCs are to move into private ownership, we think it is of vital importance that we can work with CRC management to address safety questions on the basis of open discussion in full knowledge of all the facts.

26.   Unfortunately, as a result of the Court order, that is not possible.  However, we attach to this letter a document which goes as far as we can in setting out what our safety concerns are, and (so far as we can do so from documents which are in the public domain) what the Secretary of State has said he will do about it.   If you want to know about these matters in more detail, or about whether any specific  information is available about specific risks arising in your region, we suggest you may wish to seek further details directly from the Ministry of Justice.

27.  In the meantime, we would welcome an opportunity to meet you to discuss how we can work together to, amongst other things:

a) ensure adequate access to risk information on relevant computer systems, and instructions to our members as to what to do in cases  where such information is not available;
b) identify reasonable instructions to our members for risk escalation;
c) create reasonable protocols for identifying acceptable work loads and instructions to our members for what to do if faced with workloads beyond their competence or ability to process within time available.

Yours sincerely,

IAN LAWRENCE
General Secretary