Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Latest From Napo 195

Here is the latest blog post from Napo:-

Staff transfer negotiations stall


Negotiations between the unions and HMPPS to reach agreement on the terms for transfer of Offender Management work and CRC staff to the NPS in Wales in December this year, and the NPS in England, and other future probation providers in 2021 (should new contracts emerge) have stalled. It was hoped to finalise a staff transfer and protections agreement last week to provide the best possible terms for members to move from their CRCs to the NPS/other providers.

However, we have not been able to reach agreement on some key elements of the transfer arrangements. As a result, HMPPS has indicated that it will need to refer these outstanding issues for further consideration within government.

UNIONS ASK FOR TRANSFER DELAY IN WALES

The outstanding matters will take a number of weeks to resolve. In the meantime, and despite our strong objections, HMPPS has confirmed that it intends to proceed with the transfer of offender management staff from the Wales CRC to NPS Wales on 1 December 2019 as planned. We have therefore written to the Welsh Government and to the Justice Minister Lucy Frazer to urge them to intervene. The unions want the transfer delayed to at least 1 February 2020 to enable the transfer negotiations to be satisfactorily concluded.

Another reason for demanding a delay is that, until the negotiations have been completed and CRC members have voted on the final package, the option for CRC staff in Wales to transfer onto NPS pay and conditions at the time of the intended transfer (1 December 2019) and 2021 for CRC staff in England, will not be available. This will mean that Wales CRC staff will transfer on their existing CRC pay and conditions to NPS Wales until such time as we have balloted CRC members on a package of measures that we want to see retrospectively applied for staff in Wales to 1st December 2019.

This situation is regrettable and certainly not the fault of the unions. We have prioritised and applied ourselves to the negotiations in good faith and have not been able to close the gap between us and HMPPS in relation to the full package of measures that will be needed to underpin the overall transfer of OM staff to the NPS.

Unions agree employment protections for non-transferring staff in KSS (Wales) CRC

Meanwhile our union reps in Wales have worked to secure an agreement that staff who are not transferring with OM work to NPS Wales, and who are remaining with the above employer, will be matched to jobs in the new operating model being introduced across the whole of that CRC until the end of its contract in 2021. This is a significant achievement, but it does not give the longer term protection that the unions are seeking for all of our members who remain with their CRC until these contracts end in Wales and England in 2021, and who will then transfer to new providers of Probation as per the government’s plans.

Consultation with members

The unions are now considering how and when we should consult with our CRC members in terms of the ballot on the outcome of national negotiations. Please look out for further updates as soon as more news becomes available.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

A Wake Up Call

For anyone interested in the world of probation post TR, last night's episode 5 of Crime and Punishment on Channel 4 is a 'must see'. To be perfectly frank I found it deeply worrying because much of what has been said on this blog over the years was turned into reality and captured on camera for all to see.

We saw the true effect of giving probation officers nothing but high risk cases, namely no opportunity of respite from the constant stress such clients bring. My heart goes out to the officer who, even though working a three day week, is scoring 168% according to the Workload Management Tool. When asked about the effect of having to deal with the personal threats and risks involved, Verity's momentary loss of composure confirms what I know to be true, namely that the working environment created by TR within many NPS offices is putting staff at serious risk of harm and the possibility of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The reality shown in this documentary should be a wake up call to all currently involved in the re-design of the probation service and lessons must be learned, not least the vital importance of balanced and diverse caseloads in order to help protect staff from burnout or serious psychological harm. 

Postscript

Following on from my observations above, I've just remembered something I saw on Twitter a couple of weeks ago that rather concerned me. Normally there's absolutely nothing of any interest on the Twitter feeds of senior NPS managers, just the usual vacuous guff about important meetings etc, but this caught my eye:-
"Today I am so proud to announce the launch of the NWNPS staff support team. 35 trained NPS volunteers of all grades offering confidential non judgemental support to colleagues in NW prioritising well being and advise. Thank you colleagues for caring."
It's from Roz Hamilton, Divisional Director for North West, National Probation Service and it got me thinking. Given the stress, anger and low morale we all know is around in NPS, resulting in high sickness levels and poor retention rates, in all honesty who would feel it safe and comfortable to approach fellow staff, possibly in management and even if assured of confidentiality? Surely it must be obvious it could give rise to serious conflicts of interest and a potential minefield in terms of loyalties, responsibilities and information? Am I the only one who wouldn't touch it with a barge pole and feel any support service must be independent and arms length?

Monday, 14 October 2019

Conference Report 2019

Thanks go to two AGM attenders for furnishing the following reflections which have been amalgamated:-

The Hall did look very sparse and peppered with quite a few grey-haired activists. The overall mood was one of angry resignation. Mark Drakeford and Mike Nellis offered seasoned, sensible incisiveness, and recognised the role and existence of Napo in holding firm! There was a good exchange with Amy Rees of HMPPS and members were outspoken on impact of workloads, SFO's, excessive OASys burdens, and what reunification meant, etc. G Jackson got his battery of forensic questions of union's finance in during accountability, but no reference to legal costs in dealing with a certain blog! Ian Lawrence's keynote address was rather flat and muted, with usual tub thumping moments, but only a smattering of members offered a standing ovation.

We had a bit of a 'Labour Conference' moment on the second day when there was an Emergency Motion which tried to reverse the decision made by NEC to make a grant of £10K to a youth charity scheme to engage schools in trade unionism. It provoked the most controversy given the union's parlous finances, but a very encouraging sign of political activism. The speakers 'for' were all general membership, and those 'against' the Exec, pretty much, anyway there were assorted procedural votes and stuff, and then the Chair called it defeated, on a show of hands/cards, when it really wasn’t clear, and should have gone to ballot. 

To be honest I think it was all a bit of a distraction rather than a Crucial Thing. Nobody was against the principle of the grant and its aim, just some nervousness about the perilous state of finances. But it wasn’t a good look, more than anything else. 

The motion on the 'Future of the Probation Service was voted through, so 'Advise, Assist & Befriend' re-enters the probation lexicon again! London Napo were very strong on impact of recent critical HMIP report and especially 
given at least one SFO with 'organisational change' and workloads implicated. A 'reign of terror' with form filling and disciplinary action with CEO apparently noting '40% of staff not up to it'! (comment heard in the pub!).

Arguably the most moving personal contribution was from a survivor of multiple abuse. The best look of the day was for me at the end of a guest speaker slot given by the author and activist regarding adverse childhood experiences and sexual abuse, who identifies himself as a Survivor for legal reasons. 

It was a great and constructive speech, made its points vividly but without being sensational or lurid. Keith Stokeld was in the chair, and at the point where he thanked the speaker and started to move the proceedings to the next session, choked up and apologised for being so overcome. The hall just sat calmly and allowed him time to mop himself up, and then proceed. In my view a great thing to see men modelling the expression of gentle feelings, and the rest of us thinking that was fine and normal and healthy. A wee bit more of that in political gatherings would be a fine thing.

Katie Lomas is doing a pretty good job, in my opinion, of running a strategy to grow membership. And membership is growing for the first time for ages, but the transition to NPS for many currently allowed check-off will be a challenge. Make or break time I reckon.

Next years AGM will be in Eastbourne and reverts to the previous 3 day model. Must be money located down Keith Stokeld's sofa! 

Anonymous

PS. I understand Conference was informed that Assistant General Secretary Dean Rogers will be departing for another post in February 2020. No great surprise there as it's an open secret as to tensions between the GS and AGS. 

Napo 2019

As regular readers will be aware, my Napo membership lapsed earlier this year and therefore I did not attend the AGM in Cardiff. However, I notice that the Four Shires Napo Facebook page handily recorded several of the sessions, including that of Chair Katie Lomas, but not that of General Secretary Ian Lawrence. I think many members will be shocked to see how empty the hall looks, no doubt a reflection on the quorum now being a mere 150. Membership is of course the key issue for Napo and in this regard the following statements would seem to go to the nub of the matter:-

"Buoyed by the thought of belonging to the union pressing for a better deal for probation staff, 117 new joiners signed up between 15 October and 31 October, pushing Napo membership through the 5k ceiling it had been pressed up against for a significant period of time. Napo membership has been on a gradual increase – over 260 applications were processed between the September and November NECs. But this spike in membership during the ballot represented a 4% increase in NPS members." Napo News Dec 2018


"Napo has seen membership grow steadily since the last AGM. 18 out of 22 branches saw membership grow between May 2018 and June 2019. At time of writing, we have seen growth in NPS membership in 11 of the last 12 months; and 4 months continuous growth in the CRCs" Annual Report 2018-19 

"For the 2018 financial year, the amount received from membership subscription was £1,109,229; again, this has fallen dramatically over the preceding years. There is an urgent need for recruiting new members to strengthen the Union’s financial position." Finance Report 2019 

"The overall deficit for 2018 financial year was £400,926. This deficit once again has been offset from the general reserve funds." Finance Report 2019

"Number of members at end of year 5110" Annual Return Certification Officer 2018

"Number of members at end of year 4996" Annual Return Certification Officer 2017

--oo00oo--

From the comfort of my sofa, rather than attendance at AGM, here are my selected highlights from both the Annual Report and Finance Report:-

Selected highlights from the Annual Report:-

9. STRATEGY FOR GROWTH. 

The NEC continued to receive regular updates on the progress against the various strands of the Strategy for Growth. The Strategy runs until the end of 2019 and so they have also already been asked to consider how the outputs from the Strategy can be built upon and further initiatives developed to consolidate and strengthen Napo’s growth. 

At least in part as a consequence of the co-ordinated strategic approach we have been taking, Napo has seen membership grow steadily since the last AGM. 18 out of 22 branches saw membership grow between May 2018 and June 2019. At time of writing, we have seen growth in NPS membership in 11 of the last 12 months; and 4 months continuous growth in the CRCs - with significant opportunities for accelerated growth being targeted over the summer (e.g. #PayUnity in the CRCs). PBNI membership has also grown during 2018-19, whilst challenges remain in the Family Court Section which will be the focus during Branch training, and on-going negotiations with the employer. The removal of Check Off for staff leaving CRCs for the NPS between December 2019 and mid-2021 presents both a threat and potential opportunity for member growth and engagement with plans already developed to take on this challenge. 

Big projects set out in the Strategy for Growth that have been implemented and/or progressed this year include:

a) Re-Tendering of Napo’s legal support and Improving support for Members and Representatives 

In 2018-19 we undertook a review of our legal services and support package for Members and Representatives. We were concerned that in many cases members were waiting longer than we would want or they would expect to get access to advice and support from Napo. The NEC agreed to include in our re-tendering exercise proposals to provide a single point of entry member helpdesk, provided by our solicitors. This would allow members with an employment related question or challenge to immediately speak to a trained and experienced solicitor or employment relations specialist. The advice offered would then be recorded and where necessary the helpdesk would pass the case forward, with a brief to local Branch representatives or Napo Officers and Officials as appropriate. These Reps would then continue to be supported on the case by the experts on the help desk – potentially significantly improving the speed and quality of the support members and Reps receive and the efficiency of Napo’s response to members’ issues. 

The tender process was won by Morrish Solicitors, who consequently took over the provision of all of our legal support and services from Thompson’s in May 2019. Napo should place on record our thanks to Thompson’s for their help and support to Napo over many years, and for the professional way in which they supported a handover to Morrish during 2019. 

Work has been taking place to ensure the Helpdesk can launch alongside the ICT systems this autumn.

b) Activist and Representative Training (ART) Programme 

This comprehensive programme is being rolled out across all of Napo’s Branches during 2019 and early 2020. This is a significant undertaking but one which to date is being very well received by Activists. The programme re-accrediting all of Napo’s local leaders and developing Branch Plans that will inform and help shape Napo’s national planning. The programme also embeds and strengthens the relationship between the local Branch and allocated national Officers and Officials who are tasked with coaching and supporting the local leaders in the delivery and development of Branch Plans, mirroring Napo’s Performance Development Conversation (PDC) model. By the end of the programme we should, on current projection, have up to 200 trained and accredited Activists and over 150 accredited local Representatives to directly support local members with disciplinary hearings, grievances, etc. 

All of the modules reflect best practice in active learning and organisational reflection and development. Module 1 is focussed on how Napo is changing and challenges Branches to review how they do things and what they focus upon – aiming to promote greater team work and space for more than just responding to individual Member Representation. It also covers Napo’s values in different Napo contexts; GDPR as both a union issue and how Napo manages its responsibilities to members; legal rights for all Representatives under the ACAS Code; and how to run a collective local campaign promoting team working and shared responsibility. 

Module 2 concentrates upon best practice in Representing individual members – again including guidance about the scope and limitations of law and practical tips on effectively guiding cases to the most positive and sustainable outcome for members. 

Module 3 brings the Branch back together to review learning from Modules 1 and 2 and concludes with the agreement of the Branch Plan. 

At the time of writing we were almost ½ way through delivering Module 1 and have delivered about ¼ of the sessions in Module 3. Dates are fixed for the remaining sessions between September 2019 and March 2020. Dates for Module 3 are also now being set with Branches – these will run into the early summer of 2020. Sessions for new Activists and Representatives stepping up after sessions have been run in their branch will be run regionally going forward, starting in early 2020. 

In addition, additional resource has been secured from the NEC to consolidate the programme, by providing 2 1 day training sessions for all Branches in each calendar year – allowing focus on specific topics of interest and concern to Activists and Reps combined with time to review the on-going Branch Plans.

c) Facility Time and Honouring the ACAS Code 

Progress has been slower than hoped in developing national agreements that facilitate enough time for accredited Representatives to do the work they need to do. This is being prioritised and further updates will be given at the AGM. 

ii. Communications Strand 

a) ICT Development 

Following agreement in 2018 to commission a new Membership and Case Management Records System, with integration to Napo’s website, a project has continued managed by Keith Waldron and Anne Burbidge. This has also broadened to include integrating the new Legal Helpdesk for members and Reps (see below). At time of writing the project remains on schedule for launching at the 2019 AGM 

b) Member Surveys 

The NEC did not progress requests for external market research to test members and potential members views on Napo’s offer; value for money; and what they would want to see from Napo, reported in last year’s annual report. This will be an area where Napo’s inhouse potential should improve once our improved ICT systems are in place. This is the largest aspect of the Strategy for Growth that hasn’t been progressed as anticipated when the Strategy was adopted and will need to be an area for consideration by the NEC in 2020 and beyond.

--oo00oo--

Selected highlights from the Treasurer's report:-

Finance Vice-Chair’s REPORT TO AGM 2019 

The Annual Accounts – 2018 

A satisfactory balance between using the reserves and monies from the sale of Chivalry Road in a mixture of investments and revenue spending has been achieved to ensure Napo was able to meet its commitments for the year. Essential to this has been the work on exploring ways of growing the union for the future, along with continued efforts to maintain control over expenditure, especially in sourcing new affordable office space. These are ongoing aspects of the equation and are being actively pursued during the 2019 phase of the financial period. We are mindful of the obligation for Napo to remain solvent and its ability to discharge its duty of care to the staff and the optimum point at which to settle the HMRC bill in respect of the capital gains tax on the sale of Chivalry Road.

Since moving to the office at Falcon Road, Napo’s financial situation has been supported by the transfer of monies from the reserve funds to cover the costs of renting its current accommodation as set out below. In addition, investment in the Strategy For Growth initiative and the purchase of a new IT system designed to improve communication with members and strengthen the union’s organisational structure has been made.

2018 Accounts

The overall income for the year was £1,184,983 and expenditure was £1,585,909, this include £109,074 spend on representing members and £3,500 paid to branches from the organising fund. The overall deficit for 2018 financial year was £400,926. This deficit once again has been offset from the general reserve funds.

Income 



Subscriptions 

For the 2018 financial year, the amount received from membership subscription was £1,109,229; again, this has fallen dramatically over the preceding years. There is an urgent need for recruiting new members to strengthen the Union’s financial position. 

The cynical ending of Checkoff has undoubtedly had a lasting impact on our income. Napo has embarked on a campaign in preparation for the transfer of staff across Cymru to encourage the switch to Direct Debit for the payment of subscriptions. This will continue as the process of staff transfers continues with the ending of CRC contracts in England. 

There are two rates for subscription covering the existing system for payment through salary and those paying under Direct Debit. The latter as well as offering a reduced rate are shorter in range. 

For as long as I was treasurer and more lately as Vice Chair finance the AGM has not been asked to consider the level of member subscription. Members will be pleased to learn that this meeting is not being invited to increase these rates across the board. However, it is proposed to increase the current top rate of those paying by Direct Debit by £1 each month and a further tier introduced to the rates paid through this method.

In essence, this would mean those, earning £35,001 - £40,000 would move from £23 a month to £24. An additional tier for those earning over £40,001 will provide the union with an option of increasing their contribution to £25. Effectively an additional £2 to the current rate for those earning a higher salary. 

This may seem like a modest increase but any further rise in the rate may lead to the risk of diminishing returns for those who see it as the opportunity to cancel on the basis of affordability. In both cases would still fall below the maximum for those paying their subscriptions through their salary. This at present sits at £27.20 a month for the current maximum.

The two comparable rates for those members paying through deductions from salary are;- 


32001 – 33000 £26.40 monthly, annually £316.80 
33001 and above £27.20 monthly and annually £326.40 

Because of the constraints of data protection, control and the way records are kept it is not possible to provide an accurate assessment of how much this change could yield in membership subscription at this stage but when the new database has been fully implemented, we should be able to compute this information. 

Any increase along these lines would for the time being require the cooperation of members to declare their salary range including if they qualify for the additional tier. However, those who have benefited either through pay progression or an increase in pay would if members approve be in a position to assist in providing additional income for the union.

Expenses 

Staff Costs 

These for 2018 are near enough comparable with the previous financial year. However, it should be noted that the staff compliment has fallen accordingly; we have not replaced staff who have left or reduced their working hours. 

Accommodation 

Accommodation costs for 2018 remain similar to the previous year. However, member’s attention is drawn to the rental and associated cost for Napo’s office space in PCS building; at £95,107 for the year this is a considerable drain on the union’s reserves. 

Operating Costs 

Office costs such as stationery and postage are showing small increases in 2018 comparing to 2017. The more significant increase of £62,308 relates to the purchase of the new database and the installation of a new server.

Financial Costs

The increase in legal fees was largely the result of a case that was brought against the Union and required special investigation and arbitration. 

At the end of 2018 financial year, we had to re-evaluate the money invested from the sale of Chivalry Road due to the volatile nature of the financial markets. Initially we had a gain of approximately £40,000 but lost £37,478 through the changing pace in the money market. However, by the mid-point of this year, the investment had recovered to show a gain of £82,992.

Keith Stokeld 
National Vice-Chair for Finance 
12/09/2019

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Napo AGM 2019

Am grateful for the following observations:-

Mark Drakeford opened proceedings with a well informed passionate speech setting out the case for devolving probation in Wales to the Assembly. Talked about the ethics of public service, locality, professionalism, social justice. Music to the ears of all present, not least to Napo Cymru members, who it seems thank the heavens for a First Minister who not only understands the stance of a probation officer, but used to be one. As he said, there is a healthy quota of Welsh Government ministers with Probation CV's, and every development in probation is debated vigorously in the assembly. Eat your heart out England it would seem.

Also speaking at AGM for the first time, Shadow Justice Minister 
Richard Burgon MP had obviously digested the excellent review of probation by Lord Ramsbotham and is sounding much more up to speed with things. Obviously not in power, he did nevertheless get a standing ovation for saying under a Labour Administration probation would leave HMPPS and become an independent body.

Lots of motions, all passed unanimously, the theme being pay, training and workloads. At least two motions talked about SFOs and the need to take workloads into account

Budget in deficit again for the year reported. This can only continue for as long as the reserves match potential redundancy payouts and we are 'liquid'. Good news is an apparently steady rise in membership. There is an emergency motion re a decision to pay a grant to five schools to promote unionism. Some feel this is possibly a vanity project by Katie and Ian. 


Biggest tetchy moment of the day though was in the afternoon Professional Session with Chief Inspector Justin Russell, Amy Rees and Mike Nellis. Mike challenged both Napo and Amy/MoJ to show some genuine forward visionary thinking. Amy Rees repeatedly using the phrase “The Unified Model” and very, very angry members speaking from the floor rejecting this and demanding full reunification. She won't listen of course, but it was a real stand-off. The Grayling technique of repeating the same thing in the hope it would stick just wasn’t working.

Of course everyone is claiming the modest part-reunification as their own work, from Napo to Amy.  For some the MoJ approach to the TR “repairs” bring to mind:-

'As a Dog Returns to His Vomit, so a Fool Repeats His Folly'

Proverbs 26:11

Friday, 11 October 2019

Napo AGM and Conference 2019

We all know that bringing probation back together under civil service command and control is not the answer, so lets hope Napo can get its act together in Cardiff before it's too late. It must be obvious to many that the 'campaign' to date has been lack lustre to put it mildly and it will be interesting to see if the membership are up for trying to kick some life into those on the 'top' table. In the age of new media which makes publishing so easy, I simply don't understand why there isn't a veritable blizzard of activity in evidence.  

Anyway, as the AGM and conference gets under way later today, yesterday's publication of a summary report into the inspection of all probation services provides a useful backdrop for the day's discourse. This is the damning press release:-

Chief inspector: significant performance gap between public and private probation providers

Inspectors have found a significant performance gap between the public-sector National Probation Service (NPS) and private-sector Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

More than a quarter of a million people are under probation supervision. They are managed by 28 probation services: 21 CRCs supervise low and medium risk of harm offenders and the NPS’s seven divisions manage high risk of harm offenders.

HM Inspectorate of Probation has inspected all 28 probation services over the past 12 months. Inspectors have conducted hundreds of site visits and thousands of interviews, and have analysed nearly 6,000 cases.

In total, the Inspectorate rated:

  • zero probation services as ‘Outstanding’
  • six probation services as ‘Good’ (five NPS divisions and one CRC)
  • 21 probation services as ‘Requires improvement’ (19 CRCs and two NPS divisions)
  • one probation service as ‘Inadequate’ (one CRC).
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “This is the first time we have inspected every probation service in England and Wales in a single year and given overall performance ratings.

“The flaws in the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation model for funding and organising probation services have been well documented. There has been significant under-investment in services for supervising low and medium-risk offenders, and this report lays bare the legacy of that shortfall. As a result of these failures, CRCs receive less than they need to adequately supervise what is often a highly chaotic and difficult to manage group of offenders.

“We found a clear difference in performance between the NPS and CRCs, with five of the seven NPS divisions rated ‘Good’ but only one of the 21 CRCs falling into this category.”

Average caseloads for probation officers in CRCs were far higher than for the NPS, with over two-thirds of probation staff managing more than 50 cases, compared to just one in 20 staff in NPS divisions.

Mr Russell said: “Across all inspections, less than half of responsible officers felt they had reasonable workloads. The sheer volume of work can make it difficult for probation staff to maintain high standards and can impair judgment.

“High workloads can also contribute to stress and sickness levels. In some organisations, this has led to additional pressures on the remaining workforce as they cover for absent colleagues.”

Inspectors found a particularly large gap between the NPS and CRCs in the quality of work to protect the public from serious harm. Overall scores on this aspect of performance were up to 25 percentage points lower for CRCs than for the NPS.

Mr Russell said: “High workloads may be impacting on the way that risk to the public is being managed. Probation services are not doing enough to identify and manage the potential risks that some individuals pose to others. Poor practice is particularly stark in the private sector. Probation staff in CRCs did not assess risks sufficiently in nearly half (45 per cent) of inspected cases. Public safety was not considered properly when delivering probation activity in six out of 10 cases (59 per cent).

“Where CRCs should have conducted a home visit, just a third (32 per cent) were recorded.

We also found frequent lapses in information-sharing with other agencies such as the police and children’s social services. Probation staff are missing out on opportunities to spot and mitigate risks, including to keep children and potential victims safe.”

Mr Russell confirmed inspectors had raised the alarm when they felt there were immediate risks to the public. In these rare instances, probation services took prompt action to resolve issues.

Mr Russell said: “The government is currently considering the best way to reform probation services. I hope they will re-establish the twin aims of probation on an equal footing – services must protect the public as well as reduce reoffending.”

In relation to the NPS, which supervises the highest risk cases, the Inspectorate rated five divisions as ‘Good’ and two divisions ‘Require improvement’. Overall, inspectors found NPS divisions were particularly strong at assessing and planning cases, commissioning services to meet individuals’ needs, and working with agencies to manage the risks of serious harm and to support service users to stop offending.

But NPS divisions typically scored lower marks in two areas: staffing and facilities. There is a national shortage of qualified probation officers and many divisions have found it difficult to recruit and retain staff. Consequently, every division was rated ‘Requires improvement’ on staffing. The quality of premises also fell below expectations, and did not always provide a safe and secure environment for staff and service users. The Ministry of Justice holds a national contract to maintain facilities, but inspectors found some divisions’ sites required hundreds of repairs.

Mr Russell said: “Effective probation services play a vital role in helping individuals to turn away from crime and towards more positive and productive futures. Probation staff are often dealing with people who have complex and multiple needs, and the work that they do matters not just to individuals, but also to their families, communities and society at large.

“Over the past year, we have shone a light on the quality of work in each probation service. We will be inspecting all 28 organisations again to see if and how they have addressed our recommendations.”

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Best Wishes

Today is the day many Napo members will be heading off to Cardiff for the AGM and in order to amuse themselves they might like to watch and listen to Michael Spurr's version of history delivered to the delegates in Sydney earlier this year. It might come as a surprise to many that he describes himself as a 'practitioner' who 'once worked as a probation officer in the 80's'.

   KEYNOTE - Michael Spurr CB - EXPORT 300919.mp4

As always I wish Napo well, but this year I will not be present at the AGM, my membership having lapsed earlier in the year. As regular readers will know, I joined the union on appointment as a newly-qualified probation officer in 1986, but for reasons probably well understood by many readers and Napo members, I've decided to call it a day, so there will be no conference report as usual, unless any of those attending feel a burning desire to share any thoughts or reflections with us. Have a good conference and AGM. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

MoJ and the SOTP Fiasco

Last night's BBC Radio 4 File on 4 'Can sex offenders and violent criminals be rehabilitated in prison?'  made for grim listening and to me confirms all the worst aspects of the command and control HMPPS/MoJ culture that is steadily strangling the probation ideal and ethos. 

We've previously covered the appalling way researcher Kathryn Hopkins was treated by the MoJ and the saga provides yet more evidence as to why civil servants and politicians should not be influencing, let alone running, probation services or you end up with the sad sorry mess outlined by Danny Shaw in this radio documentary:-  

Sex offender: 'I've never had so many deviant thoughts'

In 2017, the government's flagship treatment scheme for people convicted in England and Wales of rape or child sexual abuse was scrapped after it was shown to raise the risk of reoffending. Two sex offenders have told BBC Radio 4's File on 4 programme what it was like to take part in the rehabilitation programme.

"Everything was discussed in minute detail. They had what was called the 'hot seat' and every prisoner that was in a group had to sit in the hot seat and they were bombarded - it was like an interrogation." These are Paul's experiences of group sessions on the discredited Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), which ran from the early 1990s until 2017.

Paul has been convicted of numerous offences, including rape, and is serving a long jail sentence. Speaking to me from a prison pay-phone, he says he started the SOTP on three occasions - it was a cognitive behaviour therapy designed to teach offenders to think and act differently. But, the 60-year-old says, each time, he was removed from the course before the end because group facilitators thought he "wasn't learning anything".

"Being in group settings, discussing serious offences and some less serious offences - because these groups were mixed - actually made prisoners worse and normalised what prisoners were doing," he says. Rapists, murderers, child sex offenders and "flashers" were all placed together, says Paul. "People were learning from their mistakes - they were learning from other group members how to perhaps be better sex offenders without being caught."

Ministry of Justice (MoJ) research showed 10% of men who had completed the SOTP reoffended, compared with 8% of those who had not done the programme. The results were published five years after analyst Kathryn Hopkins first alerted the department the scheme might not be working.

Paul also claims some inmates were told to disclose the names of their victims as part of the process of setting out their offending history in graphic detail. "It was to physically humiliate you and break you - I could see no other purpose for it," he says.

Many of Paul's observations are shared by Dr Robert Forde, a retired forensic psychologist who used to work for the Home Office and is an expert on assessing risk. Dr Forde told File on 4: "One prisoner said to me, 'I hate doing this course because I've never had so many deviant sexual thoughts as I've had since I started because we're talking about sex offending all the time and actually I want to get away from all that.'"

Another prisoner, who had himself been a victim of sex abuse as a child, told him he had been asked to give details of what had happened to him in front of paedophiles who had became aroused as a result. Dr Forde said some prisoners on the SOTP courses would "play the system" in order to convince the Parole Board they were safe to be released.

He said one prisoner had told him: "You claim to have things like deviant thoughts about victims or indulge in deviant sexual practices and then after the course is finished and you're doing the post-course assessment, you then drop all these things and you just tell the truth." The inmate claimed this would then result in the prisoner being given a lower risk score by course assessors.

Former prisoner Peter, who has served two sentences for sexual offences against children and possessing indecent images, tells me the SOTP provided a false sense of security. "You come out thinking you're fixed," he says. "There's that feeling... because it's a treatment programme and that's what treatment does, doesn't it - fixes what's wrong?"

Now in his 50s, Peter had to do a "booster" course when he was first released. "You're going back over the offences, so you keep reliving this stuff that just isn't helpful," he says. "You're not going to forget what you've done and you know you've made victims... if you're going to be a useful member of society, you need to try and move your life forward."

During his second spell in jail, Peter completed one-to-one sessions as part of the Healthy Sex Programme, which he found far more beneficial because it focused less on his offending and more on steps to overcome his problems. He is now receiving support at the Corbett Centre, a groundbreaking project in Nottingham run by the Safer Living Foundation Charity. It provides a range of emotional help and practical support for about 30 sex offenders living in the community. "You're in an environment where people know what's happened," Peter says. "So you're not having to start your life with a lie... you can put your life back on track."

Although the Corbett Centre shows some promising early signs, it will be some years before it is known whether it reduces reoffending in the long term.

A number of Ministry of Justice initiatives are also unproven - the Healthy Sex Programme is currently being evaluated, while the two sex offender rehabilitation schemes that replaced the SOTP, Horizon and Kaizen, have yet to be tested.

The MoJ says it works "closely" with the Correctional Services Accreditation and Advice Panel in the design of programmes delivered in prison and on probation. The department says the panel, which has to approve such schemes before they can be used, is made up of "independent experts from academia and practice from across the world".

But two forensic psychiatrists, Penny Brown and Callum Ross, have been so alarmed by the failings in the SOTP programme they are calling for greater oversight of new forms of treatment. This week, the Lancet Psychiatry medical journal published a paper they have written.

"We want to get reassurance that government-funded policy research is subjected to the same requirements and high academic standards that are placed on everybody else and all other scientists," says Dr Brown. "The need to show that you're doing something shouldn't override the risk of actually causing harm."

--oo00oo--

Mention of the Corbett Centre led me to the following Guardian article from February this year which I find astonishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, it doesn't mention 'probation' once! Secondly, it pretty much outlines sound probation practice that used to be part and parcel of supervision during a period of licence and echoes the in-house SOTP work undertaken by Probation Trusts before the introduction of the accredited, but now discredited, one-size-fits-all SOTP programmes. 

Finally, it serves to remind me of the situation regarding the charity Circles of Support and Accountability - an organisation that HMPPS decided to stop supporting financially. I am genuinely confused as to why the MoJ decided to withdraw such a piddling amount of money from a widely respected organisation doing very worthwhile work? I'm even more puzzled because the Safer Living Foundation runs Circles in Nottingham and Derbyshire. Can anyone shed any light on the politics of this very strange situation?   

University launches scheme to rehabilitate sex offenders

Controversial project aims to cut crime rate by teaching skills like cooking and building a supportive social circle

Sex offenders will be given support to help find a job and make new friends under a pioneering scheme run by a university and backed by police. The initiative aims to integrate people back into society to prevent them committing further crimes.

Offenders will visit a centre, the first of its kind in the UK, where they will receive employment training – from management skills to writing CVs – as well as help with building a supportive social circle, finding new hobbies or learning basic skills such as cooking. The strategy’s advocates say that, while they realise it will be controversial, it will reduce reoffending rates. The aim is to work with up to 100 people in the first year.

“We want to make sure they won’t reoffend because they will have found a niche in society, a way of reintegrating,” said Professor Belinda Winder, head of the sexual offences, crime and misconduct research unit at Nottingham Trent University, which is piloting the scheme.

“It’s for people who are going to be rejected, who feel desperate, lonely, isolated, a vicious circle which can contribute to reoffending. We are going to break that vicious cycle, but it’s difficult to know if people are going to be able to stomach this.”

Although programmes already exist to help support convicted sex offenders, the Nottingham scheme, adopted by the Corbett Centre for Prisoner Reintegration, is said to be the world’s first holistic approach to fully integrating sex offenders back into society.

Last year the main sex offender treatment programme for England and Wales was scrapped by the Ministry of Justice after a report revealed it led to more reoffending. Researchers found that prisoners completing the programme – which was designed to challenge the behaviour of male sex offenders with psychological techniques to change their thinking – were more likely to commit further crimes. Reoffending rates for sex offenders are between 10 to 14%.

The centre itself will have police from the Nottinghamshire’s force on site at various times during the week so they can meet sex offenders on licence, a move that will help save time and resources tracking down their whereabouts. Nottinghamshire’s police and crime commissioner Paddy Tipping said: “This groundbreaking piece of work will hopefully set the new standard for post-sentence reintegration into the community. It’s absolutely logical.

“If we can rehabilitate offenders and support them as they return to live in the community, they will be safer and less likely to reoffend. This in turn means there will be fewer victims of sexual abuse and harm. It’s an ambitious project and I’m proud to be involved.” The centre will be housed at a university-owned building in the middle of the city. “We’re mindful of the difficulties of what we’re doing,” said Winder. “But remember that people are free to walk anywhere in the city and go, for instance, to Costa Coffee.”

The centre will be launched this week by Safer Living Foundation (SLF), a partnership between HMP Whatton in Nottinghamshire and the school of social sciences at Nottingham Trent University. Lynn Saunders, chair and co-founder of SLF and governor of HMP Whatton, said the centre was a “much needed resource”. Winder added: “We’re giving people somewhere to go to help them to build a better new life, to get the support they want rather than, for example, wandering around the train station.” She added that two other UK regions had already expressed interest in adopting the model.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Probation Death Knell 4

I think it would be fair to say there is growing evidence of low morale and concerns regarding the impending NPS takeover:-

Just dipping in to the Blog having left the world of Probation recently. I neither miss the sick and abusive management created out of the so called rehabilitation revolution or the politics that go on regurgitating the same old crap. It's amazing that the higher echelons can find so many ways to describe how Probation should be designed and managed. How can anyone have any faith when no-one is prepared to say we got it wrong.

*****
The write up has been published and well read, the problem is those managers in NPS, The lot of them bought their own smoke of elitism an superiority. They are a nasty school head teacher doctrine of the 50s. They destroyed the structures, ate the Grayling line and wrote staff off in CRCs. They now need them back only won't take all just cherry pick. Then they will claim to put the new model into shape. They will never succeed as they are the most spiteful leaders ever, only ever having been moderated in the trusts. Once free in NPS they went berserk and as we now know what they are about, that generation could never deliver. They know who they are, power money greed and cronies.

*****
Bravo/Brava! I think you have identified & dared to speak of some key traits exhibited by those who have achieved the greatest benefit from TR & all that followed: Nastiness, nursery-school exclusivity, self-deception, spite, professional incompetence, greed. And sad-to-say I suspect you are right in saying the incumbent fuckwits will persist in post under the TR2 regime, continuing to be paid handsomely for abject failure whilst others carry the can.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Death Knell of Probation 3

Thanks go to the reader for pointing us in the direction of the latest Probation Change Bulletin which sets out where we are with the MoJ plans to gobble up probation under the dead hand of civil service control:- 

1. Introduction

An update from the senior team

Welcome to the September update on the probation reform programme. The common theme that runs through this update is that we are moving from design into delivery - from talking about the future of probation to making it happen.

We have begun the process of moving to the 12 new probation regions (11 in England, plus Wales) and have started recruitment for the six regional director vacancies. We hope that all regional directors will be in post from April 2020, allowing a phased transition to the new structures.

Consultation with staff in Wales is well underway and we aim to transfer offender management from the CRC to the NPS later this year. To support this process we’ve finalised guidance on how we will fairly and transparently assign CRC staff to either the NPS or to new contracted providers.

We have also reflected on the language we use to describe contracts. We have replaced Innovation Partner with Probation Delivery Partner. We think this is a clearer description of the purpose of those organisations and, importantly, it anchors them to the probation service of which they will be a key part.

We plan to launch the competition to appoint a probation delivery partner for each region later this year. 


Update from Wales

Seetec in Wales is currently engaged with staff and trade union consultation. This consultation process will formally end on 19 October 2019.

More information on the detail of the proposed Wales transition will be available after this consultation process. Our priority is to make sure that staff are fully informed at all stages.

Services will be commissioned in Wales at the same time as in England. We are working closely with HMPPS Wales to make sure that unpaid work, accredited programmes, resettlement and rehabilitation services are designed and commissioned in a way that meets the specific circumstances and needs in Wales. If you want to contact the programme team in Wales or have any questions please email futurepsw@justice.gov.uk


2. Service design

The design of future probation services

We have been sharing and refining our design with key stakeholders to build the first version of our Target Operating Model (TOM) for future probation services and we plan to publish it later this year. We will publish multiple versions of this TOM as the design work progresses.

2.1 Key features of the new system

  • A high-quality service to protect the public - reducing reoffending and improving outcomes for offenders
  • More support for our workforce to secure the skills needed to deliver effective probation services
  • Delivery that is responsive to local needs, creates the right conditions for a diverse range of providers and ensures a clearer role for voluntary and private sectors
  • Stronger engagement with stakeholders so that we can better influence levels of demand across the Criminal Justice System and improve sentencer confidence in probation delivery.
2.2 The role of the probation practitioner and the intervention providers

We are carefully designing a system based on a known evidence base, both for probation practitioners and specialist services, so that we can address specific needs and behaviors. We are using this information to more clearly define the roles and interfaces in the system, especially between the NPS and contracted providers. Here are some key facts:

  • The relationship between probation practitioners and those serving a sentence is key and the evidence base confirms their central role as an agent of change
  • Probation practitioners are likely to be more effective as agents of change if they can access specialist services to address specific needs - attempting to address practical needs can detract from building positive relationships
  • Interventions that build social capital are likely to be better delivered by specialist local providers
  • Our aim is to support probation practitioners by making sure interventions are available that meet frequently occurring needs
  • The focus will be on interventions that build skills and secure appropriate outcomes for the individual
  • Our approach should ensure we make best use of the opportunities and permissions that delivering a sentence can provide
  • Our new regional leadership will champion and enable a whole system response to desistance
  • The service will respond to the needs of those with protected characteristics, especially for groups where there is convincing evidence, such as women and young adults.
We thank those who have worked with us over the past month at various workshops. They have included HM Probation Inspectorate, Clinks, CRC and NPS leadership, academics convened by the Howard League for Penal Reform, the Advisory Board for Female Offenders, a working group of women’s organisations and a range of voluntary sector providers. In the month ahead we plan more workshops. For example, we will further test our resettlement model with prison governors and current providers of ‘Through the Gate’ services and we will have conversations with prison reconfiguration and Offender Management in Custody staff.

3. Transition and mobilisation

How we are changing from current to future services

We are looking very carefully at transition - taking care to manage the pace of change and work closely with local partners to deliver the transition. No area or region is the same so our approach to transition and the speed of transition will be different across England and Wales. To support this work we have established transition boards across England and Wales - one for each new probation region.

These transition boards have representation from both the NPS and CRCs. In addition, we are establishing sub-boards for people and estates across the country. A growing transitions team in the probation programme will support these boards. Once these boards are fully established they will be a critical part of our plans to transition to future services.

Key activities of the transition team in September have been: * Establishing the regional transition boards and sub groups * Recruiting NPS and CRC transition leads * Requesting more workforce data from CRCs (and their supply chain partners) to inform the accuracy of our workforce planning.

Key activities planned for October are: * Establishing a central transition plan and regional draft action plans * A meeting with all key transition leads to affirm roles, responsibilities and activities in the transition space.

4. Workforce

What we doing to support the probation workforce and related professionals

We are working closely with local HR partners in the NPS and CRCs to support probation staff and the employees of supply chain partners. The regional transition boards will enable effective communication to a wide range of practitioners in their local area.

These HR partners will also ensure that planning is localised and detailed enough to inform both our national direction and what we need to do regionally. They will report to their regional transition board. There will be local operational staff as well as HR specialists on the transition boards. Work will include planning the training needs across regions for all staff prior to future changes.

We are also looking at workforce needs for the probation delivery partners. This is the competition for unpaid work, accredited programmes and non-accredited red interventions.

5. Probation structures

The design and development of new probation structures

We are finalising the new regional senior management structure. As a milestone in that work we have recently launched the external recruitment process for the new regional probation director roles. The job adverts have been posted on Civil Service Jobs. (Please open this link in Firefox).

A crucial part of future structures is the work needed to ensure that the NPS operates seamlessly with contracted providers. We have been working with colleagues across the programme to run workshops with staff so that we understand the referral, commissioning, contract and performance management processes that support the delivery of interventions. We will build on these workshops so that we have the right processes in place for the new commissioning frameworks under the unified model.

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are vital local stakeholders and we will continue to work with them closely. We are organising a national event for PCCs on 21 October in London. At this event we will update on our work with them on a national level and, facilitated by the Association for Police and Crime Commissioners, we will define the role of PCCs in the future model. This includes how the NPS and PCCs will work together at both local and regional levels and how key enablers, such as data, will support this work.


6. Commissioning updates

How we are planning to purchase and manage commissioned or grant funded services

The commercial team have been working alongside service design leads to develop the right approach to buying services in the following areas: * Unpaid work * Accredited programmes and non-accredited structured interventions * Rehabilitation services * Resettlement services.

We have continued to work closely with the market and stakeholders to develop our approach across all these areas.

6.1 Probation delivery partners (unpaid work, accredited programmes and structured non-accredited interventions)

Following feedback from the market we have decided to amend the title ‘innovation partner’ to ‘probation delivery partner’. This better reflects the services that future providers will deliver while including our aim to work in partnership with future providers.

The competition for probation delivery partners has entered the market-warming phase prior to the launch of competition in November 2019. You can read the first set of draft documents published on the Government website on the probation reform consultation events and materials page.

6.2 Dynamic framework (rehabilitation and resettlement services)

We will make the dynamic framework available to other public sector commissioners and we are engaging with other Government departments and commissioners to seek feedback on: * Proposed categories of need areas and cohorts * Key principles of the framework and how other commissioners will be able to use the dynamic framework.

We are also engaging with the market by holding smaller scale workshops. At these events we will seek detailed feedback on our approach to ensure that we are proportionate and reduce barriers to entry wherever possible. We expect that the qualification phase for the dynamic framework will open in December 2019. Dynamic framework bidders will be able to qualify at any time during the life of the framework. But please note that call-off competitions for day one services will start in early 2020 so bidders are encouraged to participate from December 2019.

7. Links and further information

Response to the consultation on future probation services Draft blueprint on future probation services Event materials If you have any questions or would like to contact the programme team please email strengthening.probation@justice.gov.uk