Saturday, 22 April 2017

What Do Charities Think of TR?

Regular readers will be aware that our insightful predictions as to TR being nothing more than an all-mighty train crash of epic, omnishamble proportions, have been proved correct in every detail. An award-winning service has been smashed; careers wrecked; most staff royally-shafted in one way or another; services dramatically deteriorated and released prisoners getting '£48 and a leaflet' - why, even the CRCs are crying foul! 

But what of the much-vaunted, bright as buttons, innovating, voluntary sector? Here is a fascinating insight provided in research conducted by NPC, the New Philanthropy Capital:- 
At NPC we are interested in how the public sector and voluntary sector work alongside one another. We have previously published reports on the role of the voluntary sector in health and education. This research into the criminal justice sector is our most recent exploration of the boundaries between the state and the voluntary sector.

'I’m not sure if TR is the Titanic or the iceberg, but it is one of the two.’ 

There has been very little transparency around Transforming Rehabilitation (TR), and there is uncertainty about its future.  Some established providers are finding it hard to continue. Both general and specialist sectors—such as women’s services—have found contract design to be at odds with their practice.

Interviewees identified four main challenges posed to the voluntary sector by TR:

1. Independent funders are now cautious 
2. Small, local charities are at risk 
3. Contract management has been confusing 
4. PbR has discouraged helping the hardest to rehabilitate 

1. 2. Affecting the whole sector  3.4. Affecting charities in TR contracts 

The four main challenges posed to the voluntary sector by TR 

1. Independent funders are more cautious Some grant making trusts and foundations have withdrawn funding from criminal justice out of concern about subsidising the state or contributing to private profits. Other funders have ‘redirected their lens’ to other areas like homelessness or employment.

2. Small charities are at risk Grass roots organisations feel they are ‘being exploited’ by some TR providers. With services provided through TR thin on the ground and demand increasing, providers refer to local charities outside of the supply chain, who are not only not being paid for their services, but also risk losing other funding sources by engaging. 

3. Contract management has been confusing: ‘Chaotic doesn’t cover it.’ Many charity providers have pulled out over lack of clarity, which has cost them significant resource. ‘It has been two years and some are only just signing contracts now.’ Others encountered the longstanding problem of being ‘bid candy.’ One charity we spoke to was named in 9 of 11 winning contracts bids but has never been approached to deliver a day’s work. 

4. PbR has discouraged helping the hardest to rehabilitate:TR’s payment by results approach risks disincentivising organisations from working with the hardest to rehabilitate. Though ‘PbR should help innovate…in reality it creates a risk averse culture where charities stick to tried and tested work.’ One result of this is that TR does not adequately address disproportionate outcomes for BME communities.

Charities risk drifting from their mission

Many charities’ missions are about being person-centred, holistic and long-term but it is often a challenge to live up to this: 

  • Some charities will ‘bid for anything to stay afloat’, moving away from their stated mission in order to receive funding. 
  • Funding is reducing while demand is increasing. As a result, ‘charities are having to raise the criteria to turn people away, which sits uncomfortably with trustee boards.’ 
  • Arrangement under TR contracts could mean having to deliver a ‘penal function’ by recording when service users do not show up for probation. This is at odds with the central relationship built on trust that is the focus of so much charitable work. Many charities have decided not to get involved in TR for this reason.
'Traditionally charities have stood apart because they don’t deliver punishment. This is increasingly a real point of contention.’

Mission drift is troubling, and puts charities’ service users at risk. Though the funding environment has made it difficult for some charities to resist, good governance should prevent mission drift.

Fewer charities appear to be campaigning

Though ‘numerous’ charities say they do policy related work, it seems that only a handful of voices dominate the debate. This is ‘helping government to say, “we’re not hearing that from anyone else”’ and allows them to not listen to concerns. It should be remembered that the first principle of the 2010 Compact between government and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) is ‘to respect and uphold the independence of CSOs, to deliver their mission, including their right to campaign, regardless of any relationship, financial or otherwise, which might exist.’

So why aren’t as many charities campaigning at what could be a crucial time for reform? 

  • The effect of government lobbying laws may have made organisations wary. 
  • Some funders are resistant to advocacy work: ‘It is deeply troubling to have heard funders not wanting to see anything with the word “campaigning” in it’. 
  • Campaigning has been ‘the first thing cut in many organisations’, where demand for service delivery outweighs potential long term change. 
  • Campaigning voices should come from service users, or ‘experts by experience,’ so at least some of the charities campaigning need to have frontline experience.
Charities could collaborate on their campaigning to limit the expense. Frontline charities could share their expert understanding with larger campaigning charities (bearing in mind sensitivities involved.)

‘While we focused on surviving, campaigning has been neglected. Now is an important time for us to move onto the campaigning on which we were set up to do.’

It is unclear how charities can innovate

We should be careful not to fetishise innovation 

There is already a lot of evidence of ‘what works’ in the sector and a demand for innovation by funders can be damaging: ‘It is well known what works in criminal justice, what changes is the political environment. Funders and charities still have an important role in putting forward the case time and time again for what works.’ And innovation may not be encouraged by PbR funding models: ‘If you design the wrong type of PbR model you don’t drive innovation, because innovation means you might go out of business.’ 

…but there is a distinction between innovative programmes, and delivering programmes in an innovative way. Charities could do more of the latter. 

When delivering programmes in prison, charities could be involved more fundamentally in co-designing interventions with prison residents and prison officers. Rather than delivering a programme and leaving, charities could incubate the skills and knowledge needed, shifting ownership into the hands of prison staff and residents. This would be an innovative and more sustainable way of building trust between prison officers and residents.

Devolution could encourage innovation 

Crime is local and its solutions often are too. Devolution offers great opportunities for collaboration between PCCs and charities. Charities should be clear with PCCs and governors about shared priorities and ways of collaborating to deliver better outcomes for those involved in crime and in the communities alike. Rather than waiting for a public consultation, they should proactively approach PCCs with ideas for collaboration while their ideas are in development.


Your editor is off on another short sojourn abroad and with internet access unreliable, I'm afraid the blog may have to run on autopilot until Friday. I know you can manage perfectly well without me and in my absence will keep monitoring developments for our mutual benefit and enlightenment. Thanks.  

Friday, 21 April 2017

Latest From Napo 147

Napo General Secretary address to Westminster Legal Policy Forum

At a seminar on prison reform held in London today, Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence, offered the following thoughts in a debate covering the raising of standards in Prisons and the future of integrated offender management:

Colleagues, Chair, in response to the Chair’s request for the speakers to be exciting, I am not sure that what I have to say will have you rolling in the aisles, but thanks for this opportunity which I hope will supplement the excellent contributions from other speakers.

Let me start with a positive, saying that in Napo's view the creation of HMPPS out of the ashes of NOMS ought to be the driver for the long awaited and desperately needed integration of the offender management system.

As we have heard, the advent of the General Election means that the current Prisons and Courts Bill goes back to the drafting board, but given the priority afforded to prison reform and the host of issues that Steve and Bob Neill have mentioned, one can only hope that the future government post 8th June, will move forward urgently with reform.

But let’s drill down into just some of the pressing issues that our members in the Probation service are facing in the context of managing the client base and some suggested solutions.

Firstly, on the stated intention to increase the number of probation staff in prison which has engendered some serious debate amongst our membership.

The Probation service is often the only consistency in a prisoner’s journey through the CJS. It is suggested on the one hand that this proposal would seriously disrupt this concept as offenders would see a change in their supervising officer every time they move between prisons, bringing further uncertainty in an already fragmented system which will only damage prisoner/probation relationships which we believe are the key to reducing re-offending.

Let’s face it, and its never popular to say this outside of this type of this engaged audience, but there are simply too many people ( and as we have heard earlier and too many unwelcome insect infestations) in the prison system, and I bet you won't hear many politicians echoing this fact in the upcoming hustings!

Prison should be a last resort for those who have caused or are liable to cause danger to our communities. So Napo believes that the MOJ should focus firstly on community interventions and prison based rehabilitation (for which there is clearly a compelling need). Second we must have skilled practitioners out there in the community to complete the whole project and break the cycle of recidivism.

And, as Bob Neill and others have said, Probation and Prisons must get the investment that is needed to focus on the priority of reducing re-offending and providing value for money to the taxpayer who speaking frankly have been taken for a ride.

Whilst we await the outcomes of the Probation System Review that has been trying to unravel the post -Transforming Rehabilitation problems, we believe that the new Government should take a firmer line with private probation providers who, as continual HMIP reports have indicated, (two more this week examining Working Links and Sodexo) are simply not delivering all that they were contracted to do.

So where necessary Napo believes that the MOJ should use its golden share option to take back control of failing CRCs.

But where CRC owners show a willingness to engage with us by treating their staff fairly and investing in training and working with us and others to develop a License to Practice, then Napo is prepared to match that commitment both within the National Probation service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies and that is what I said in my recent evidence to the Justice Select Committee and what I will again be saying to the next Secretary of State.

Finally, Progressive reform also means reducing the prison population by investing in probation, reviewing sentencing guidelines and restoring the confidence of sentencers, politicians and the public in the role of probation as an effective agent in the intervention process.

And I would say this wouldn't I? What’s also needed is a major Pay review for Probation to increase the recruitment and retention of staff.

It’s a long wish list I know, but we believe that with the right degree of commitment and political courage from our next Government, whatever its complexion, then these suggestions will make a major contribution to the social reforms that we have been considering and debating today.

Thank you for your time

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Another Day - Another Damning Report

Yet again, Dame Glenys Stacey, HMI Probation, provides us with plenty of evidence of the on-going TR omnishambles, this time in Northamptonshire:-   


This is the first inspection of adult probation work undertaken by a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) owned by Sodexo Justice Services in partnership with Nacro. We report on probation services provided in Northamptonshire by the South East & Eastern division of the National Probation Service (NPS) and the CRC. 

The quality of NPS work was reasonably good overall, but there are nevertheless issues for leaders to address. There are notable variations in the quality of work from office to office, and an ongoing and unnecessary tension in the division’s relationship with the CRC which leaders must resolve, in the interests of service users in both the NPS and the CRC.

Sodexo has an ambitious and conceptually sound operating model for its CRCs. Designed to engage the service user fully and address their readiness to change, it adopts a strengths-based approach. It makes a great deal of sense. 

Leaders are enthusiastic about the model, but regrettably it is nowhere near fully implemented in Northamptonshire or (we understand) elsewhere. The prioritisation tool and an impressive case assessment and planning tool central to the model are not yet in place, in large part because the long-awaited, essential strategic (IT) gateway that will allow for critical case data and information to flow is still not available. 

Sodexo has implemented other aspects of the model on its understanding with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service that the gateway would be here long before now. With the benefit of hindsight, leaders may reflect on whether part-implementation has served the organisation well, albeit some changes were no doubt necessary for pressing financial reasons. Certainly it has been problematic for staff and service users. Changes to the estate have been testing, staffing levels have oscillated, available interventions are under-used, and staff are now unclear about key processes. What is more, committed but stretched local leaders do not have a good enough grasp of, and hold on the quality of work actually being delivered. 

We acknowledge that we have looked at work completed during a significant time of transformation for the CRC. We found, however, that the work of the CRC was simply not good enough. There was too little evidence of effective work to reduce reoffending and protect the public, and an increased risk that service users would not fulfil the requirements of their sentence. 

We understand the strategic (IT) gateway is at the validation stage. The sooner it is implemented and the CRC’s financial situation is stabilised and made certain, the better. Only then will we see whether Sodexo and its local leaders, managers and staff can apply this innovative operating model well, and really deliver.

Dame Glenys Stacey 
HM Chief Inspector of Probation 
April 2017


The following are comments relating to CRC effectiveness:-

Protecting the public  

Overall, the quality of work was poor. 

The CRC was not sufficiently focused on public protection. Too many cases were assigned to staff without the skills and support needed to investigate, recognise and respond effectively to risk of harm. This undoubtedly affected the quality of information provided to, and focus of work by, partner agencies. Too little work was being delivered, for instance to reduce the likelihood of domestic abuse, and there were shortcomings in the consistency and effectiveness of joint working with the police and children’s social care services, leaving victims and their children more vulnerable than necessary. 

There was a lack of leadership, oversight and quality assurance for public protection work. Responsible officers were confused about the guidance available and how to access it, and unsure of the range of interventions available to help them manage risk of harm.


Reducing reoffending 

Overall, the quality of work was poor. 

Responsible officers did too little to understand the key factors linked to service users’ offending behaviour. This led to limited sentence planning. There was greater focus on meeting sentence planning targets than meaningfully engaging with service users to get the plan right. Progress was slow and in many cases there were delays in delivering the interventions service users needed to support their desistance from offending.


Abiding by the sentence 

Overall, the quality of work was unsatisfactory, although there were examples of innovative practice to encourage service users to comply with their sentences. 

Some responsible officers had an excellent rapport with service users, and were taking account of their individual needs and striving to remove barriers to engagement. Others had no relationship with them. This is quite at odds with the CRC’s operating model intentions, and in a number of cases it was uncertain whether the CRC would deliver the legal requirements of the sentence. 

The CRC’s ability to influence change was limited by, in a number of cases, the length of time between appointments and the organisation’s failure to initiate breach proceedings. As such, the court was not always aware that service users were not complying with their sentences and, therefore, was not able to take action to address this.


The operating model in practice 

In Northamptonshire, the model is not fully implemented and is not working at all as intended. Implementation of most key tenets of the operating model had faltered: we found little progress since we inspected Bedfordshire LDU informally in February and March 2016, when piloting our inspection methodology. The main stumbling block is that the all-important planned new IT systems have not been implemented yet, and the organisation has no clear interim operating model. 

The administrative hubs were up and running, but some processes remain under development. Cases that would have been assessed as green, for management by the hub, were still being managed locally by responsible officers, keeping their caseloads high. The planned biometric technology (finger-print recognition) had not been implemented. Like others, BeNCH was still waiting for the long promised national Strategic Partner Gateway to enable the secure flow of information between HMPPS and the CRC. Without the prerequisite IT systems, the CRC was unable to realise the full benefits of having most of its case administration managed by the hub or of introducing ‘Closeness to Change’ or Justice Star, the new practice management tools on which the new case prioritisation model relied. 

On the face of it, Sodexo’s plan was a sound one. The company had anticipated implementing new IT systems by autumn 2015. Changes to the estate would follow, and a workforce redundancy programme was timed to meet the anticipated efficiency savings to be brought about by new working practices. A 12 month redundancy programme was introduced in the spring of 2015, but without new IT systems, the organisation and its staff were left in limbo with some staff uncertain about interim or longer-term processes and responsibilities. 

This is an ambitious change programme, and it is difficult to understand why Sodexo gave so little attention to contingency planning, and went ahead with large-scale redundancies, given the clear dependencies and inherent risks. What is more, interim operating arrangements are now patchy, and unclear to many staff. The CRC had held workshops to introduce the new operating model and case management tools to staff but in reality, responsible officers were unable to gauge how far the model had been implemented, and which of any available new tools they should be using. 

Managers in Northamptonshire described their focus now as crisis management and contractual targets, with little time to concentrate on the quality of practice and outcomes.


The Hub 

BeNCH had involved staff of all levels in the design and implementation of its administrative hub, including agreeing and piloting processes with their input. Managers communicated proactively with practitioners, briefing them about changes in processes as these developed. Responsible officers, however, were still confused about processes and responsibilities in key areas such as enforcement.

There was a tension in the relationship between the hub and local practitioners, with the latter describing the hub as “the elephant in the room”. More than one local practitioner worried that “hub systems are automated and service users are not” and “the hub does not deal with the complexity of the lives of our service users”. 

Hub teams were arranged around processes, and this added work for the responsible officer and had an impact on the service user’s experience. For example, a service user who failed to attend an appointment would receive two letters, one from the enforcement team and one from the appointments team. 

Without the anticipated new IT systems, many hub processes depended on the correct use of the current case management system, nDelius. This had a substantial, negative impact on the smooth running of administrative processes. Responsible officers were improving their use of nDelius, but nevertheless there were still variations in their practice. Moreover, nDelius is unreliable, with system updates and failures making it periodically unavailable to staff. 

Regrettably, delays in implementing key aspects of the operating model had led to a perhaps avoidable disconnect and tension between the hub and the field. A number of seemingly trivial but exasperating issues were affecting practitioners, and inhibiting staff confidence in BeNCH systems. So for example, practitioners must scan completed induction packs through the IT network to the hub when they do not always have access to the necessary equipment, and the provision of evidence to accept a service user absence is presented locally but needed centrally. 

Wider stakeholder confidence in the CRC was adversely affected by difficulties in communicating with the hub. This led to frustration for Northamptonshire staff, operational partners, service users and the NPS. As a consequence, CRC responsible officers circumvented the BeNCH communications model and provided their direct contact details.


The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation’s report on adult probation services in Northamptonshire, published today (Thursday 20 April).

The report states that the publicly-run National Probation Service (NPS), responsible for supervising people deemed to present a high risk of reoffending, was performing reasonably well. However, inspectors criticised the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), which is owned by Sodexo in partnership with Nacro and tasked with managing medium- and low-risk cases. They found that the CRC was not doing enough to prevent reoffending and was not focused enough on protecting the public.

Too little work was being delivered to reduce the likelihood of domestic violence. Problems with the CRC’s work with police and children’s services left victims and their children more vulnerable than necessary. Staffing shortages made it hard for people to get on to accredited programmes, leaving some unable to fulfil the requirements of their sentences and unable to get the help they needed.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 
“The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to 21 private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer. Today’s report is the latest in a series of inspections showing how this has failed, increasing the risk to the public and letting down people who are trying to change their lives. A general election is only seven weeks away, and one of the first challenges for a new government will be to sort out this mess. It is time to end the dangerous experiment of ‘community rehabilitation companies’ and return to the single, successful, probation service that we used to have.”
Among the problems identified in the report was Sodexo’s reliance on an IT interface – to be provided by Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service – that is not yet ready. Sodexo went ahead with implementing its new operational model anyway and made staff redundant.

Inspectors said that it was “difficult to understand why Sodexo gave so little attention to contingency planning, and went ahead with large-scale redundancies, given the clear dependencies and inherent risks”.

Curtains for MoJ?

With the election starting gun fired, Rob Allen speculates what it might mean for the criminal justice system, including possible 'curtains' for the MoJ and the Home Office getting prison and probation back! (It will be recalled they got the Fire Service back recently).

What's on the criminal justice cards from a new May government?

More shocking revelations on prisons, this time from the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture who visited a range of detention facilities last year - Pentonville and Doncaster prisons and Cookham Wood YOI (as well as police stations, immigration detention centres and closed psychiatric hospitals). The report catalogues the depressing if familiar reality of prison conditions, finding none of the three establishments safe for prisoners or staff. The CPT found that locking children alone in their cell for all but half an hour a day amounts to inhuman and degrading treatment. And they were concerned that incidents of violence was under recorded, particularly at SERCO run Doncaster.

It’s possible that the report will be the last of its kind. If Mrs May fulfils her wish to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, a new Conservative government will find itself with a BREXIT 2 to negotiate. The Council of Europe may be the smallest of beer compared to the EU but it’s the continent’s leading human rights organisation. We may find ourselves sharing observer status with Belarus. But at least we won’t have to worry about letting prisoners vote.

What else might we see from a new Conservative government on the justice and prison front? There’s quite a bit from the 2015 manifesto that hasn’t been achieved. The promise of new technology is as yet undelivered, whether to monitor offenders in the community, to bring persistent offenders to justice more quickly or allow women with small children to serve sentences in the community. Perhaps thankfully there is no sign of the new semi-custodial sentence for prolific criminals, allowing for a short, sharp spell in custody to change behaviour; nor of extensions to the scope of the unduly lenient sentence scheme. Will we see these commitments reappear in this year’s manifesto or will they be quietly shelved? What will happen to plans for increasing penalties for driving offences which result in fatalities?

At least one commentator thinks that the 2015 manifesto is the enemy Mrs May wishes to slay. If he is right, there is no guarantee that the prison reform measures contained in the Prison and Courts Bill will necessarily reappear. For those with long memories, the post 1992 Major Government rapidly undid the liberal justice reforms it inherited. The counterpoint of recent headlines about prisons no longer being places for punishment and violent crime surges could easily prompt a harder approach on criminal justice in the new manifesto. Despite the flowing oratory of Michael Gove and process re-engineering of Liz Truss, the ghost of Michael Howard has never been far from the feast. While Mrs May is difficult to pigeonhole, I've always doubted whether her appetite for rehabilitation and redemption will have been sharpened by six years in the Home office - famously described by Peter Hennessy as the graveyard of liberal thinking since the days of Lord Sidmouth.

The CPT emphasised that unless determined action is taken to significantly reduce the current prison population, the regime improvements envisaged by the authorities’ reform agenda will remain unattainable. I wouldn’t put money on that. The best we can hope for is perhaps a steady state. Although if I were a betting man, I’d put a flutter on the dismantling of the Ministry of Justice. It’s quite conceivable that prisons and probation will return to the Home Office. The Tories have always thought of the MoJ as a European construct ill-suited to our traditions. Prepare to welcome back the Lord Chancellor’s Department.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Probation by Telephone - The Verdict

With the Probation Review and matters of general prison reform now almost certainly side-lined by the impending general election, the latest damning inspection report into the on-going TR omnishambles is not likely to get much attention.    


This is our first inspection of adult probation work undertaken by a CRC owned by Working Links, and our first in Wales after the implementation of the UK government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme. We inspected work done in Gwent by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) and the Wales division of the National Probation Service (NPS). 

The published performance figures for probation services have their limitations. Latest figures suggest that the NPS Wales is performing below average, but in fact we found strong leadership, motivated staff, readily manageable workloads and some excellent NPS work in Gwent. The big issue for NPS Wales is that the quality of work varies, place by place, yet if all offices could deliver the high quality of work done by the NPS in Newport, then more individuals would be helped more effectively, to change their lives for the better.

We found a more troubling picture at the CRC. More than two years after Transforming Rehabilitation, the operating model is still changing, and staff are anxious and no doubt long for stability. 

Seasoned Transforming Rehabilitation observers have long feared that CRCs would cherry pick, investing little in those most likely to reoffend, but instead the Working Links approach is to scale supervision, with the most intensive supervision for the most challenging individuals, and to work in local community hubs that also provide a range of services to the community at large. We were impressed with the community hub, in practice. For the one in four people assessed as low risk, however, their supervision while in the community is scaled back to a telephone call every six weeks, albeit one in three of these should also have contact with unpaid work supervisors or other interventions staff, assuming those arrangements work as intended. 

In our view, this means too many people get too little attention. Without meaningful contact, individuals are most unlikely to develop a will to change. What is more, as individuals’ circumstances change, so can the risk of harm they present to the public. Staff are unsure about the model, with their views no doubt influenced to an extent by the downsizing exercise underway. Implementation is taking a long time, and some aspects of the model are not working as they should. Staff morale is low, and sickness absence alarmingly high, yet (as I have come to expect) we found committed responsible officers working hard to support service users. 

The CRC’s published performance figures show it performing relatively well. What gets measured gets done, of course, but sometimes at a cost to other work that should be done, as we found here. With not enough service user plans actually followed through, and with staff numbers reducing substantially, it is hard to avoid concluding that despite good intentions, simple affordability considerations and an overpowering need to balance the books is driving priorities in this CRC.

Dame Glenys Stacey 
HM Chief Inspector of Probation 
April 2017


Frances Crook of the Howard League is characteristically forthright in their press release:-

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation’s report on adult probation services in Gwent, published today (Wednesday 19 April).

The report states that the publicly-run National Probation Service (NPS), responsible for supervising people deemed to present a high risk of reoffending, was performing well overall. However, the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), owned by Working Links, and tasked with managing medium- and low-risk cases, was criticised by inspectors.

The inspection team said that the CRC’s work was driven by “an overpowering need to balance the books”, with supervision of some people scaled back to just a phone call every six weeks.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 
“The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to 21 private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer. Today’s report, however, indicates that this has failed in Gwent, increasing the risk to the public and letting down people who are trying to change their lives. A general election is only seven weeks away, and one of the first challenges for a new government will be to sort out this mess.It is time to end the dangerous experiment of ‘community rehabilitation companies’ and return to the single, successful, probation service that we used to have.”

Monday, 17 April 2017

Pick of the Week 24

As we wait and see if the rumours are true regarding the long-awaited Probation Review being kicked into the long grass of Autumn, here are some powerful contributions that particularly caught my eye over the last week or so:-

Morning fellow blogees and what a great weekend to reflect on the failures of the prison and probation 'reforms'. I am sure most of us would agree that 'reform' is just a pseudonym for enormous financial cuts in this time of austerity. There is no actual reform is there..nothing that could be described as an actual improvement to services. Here is a snapshot of 'reform' to the management of offenders in the community over the past 25 years from someone who has recently taken early retirement. 

Remove our professional qualification and take social work out of probation. Let's face it the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work was more representative of our job which incorporates many aspects of social work, working with mental health, drugs and alcohol, domestic violence, child protection...bread and butter of social workers. Concentrating on only criminology or even psychology is missing the major environmental factors that are in need of change. Society v individual as the cause of crime. This government would prefer to blame the individual rather than focus on failings of society.

Creation of PSO's as opposed to fully qualified PO only. Ok I know this is contentious. I actually think there IS a role for PSO's and have worked with many in my time but it is a bit like teaching assistants in schools. Until they are accredited fully and have years of experience behind them they need close supervision and support. They should not be employed and then immediately given large caseload of low to medium risk offenders which is what happens now. It is similar to the news recently with large numbers of classroom assistants left in charge of classes. Gradual erosion of professional standards is not good for anyone. Just because you don't need a professional qualification to be an MP it doesn't mean other professions don't or do. We want to go back to the days of asking the barber to stitch a wound or pull teeth?!

Loss of community reporting offices and day centres. Gone are the days when you knew your local area and everyone operating services there. Some staff were running services voluntarily such as football groups or groups for women on probation. It wasn't cute n cuddly social work, it was a lifeline for some people who have told me years later in the street how much it meant to them! Now service users have to travel miles to get to a central office or 'hub' which seems to be the new fangled word!

Groupwork: groupwork rose to prominence but never replaced one to one work entirely. 2 years ago there were about 8 different groups in my area but post privatisation they have shrunk to about 4 and I am told even lower now as staff running them have left and need to train people up. Doesn't sound like progress to me.

RAR days! magistrates really know what a RAR day is I wonder? Surely this is just basic one to one supervision or a group which is what we were doing anyway when we had the time. A trip to the jobcentre? Come on! People would be doing that anyway.. just a renaming if you ask me!

Management. What was wrong with having one SPO managing one office! Worked for me but now TR means running around like a headless chicken supervising staff at 2 or even 3 offices and failing miserably.

Training. If it's free book staff on, if it costs forget it! No more in house training unit. So who is doing the basics such as managing risk, working with sex offenders? Ok, CRC don't work with sex offenders! Except when it is historical! Dodgy that! 

Could go on for ever here! Anyway I'm off to mow the lawn on this sunny day and ponder the meaning of life. Back to work on Monday, early retirement doesn't mean you can't get another job but you can hopefully choose to do something a whole less stressful.

"Supervision" rolled far more easily off the tongue in court, rather than "rehabilitation activity requirement", and far more straightforward to explain in terms of the Act and its practical application. I sometimes wonder whether these ridiculous changes are intended to fudge and confuse, all the easier to create an impression of something being done. What is a RAR day? I still don't know. How long does it last? If one is missed, does it require making up? Is there some mystical corner of ND that I've (easily) so far missed that shows how many RAR days have been completed on an ongoing order?

What is a RAR day? Same goes for Post Sentence Supervision. Poorly defined concepts, poorly integrated and in consequence practitioners, managers and so called businesses alike confused and uncertain. Justice Committee sensibly asks for clarity on Prison Reform lest it be the dog's breakfast that is TR.

RAR days = professionals running around like headless chickens ticking boxes and (forced to make some up if not enough are ticked), delivering meaningless interventions all so that the paymasters can get paid. Maybe this should be put in all PSRs when judges and magistrates ask for explanations as to what we do on RAR days.

Just had a bizarre dream series where CRCs had been forced to hand contracts over to Citizens Advice Bureaux, and "community rehabilitation" was being delivered in libraries & train station cafes by freelance "advisors" who were paid in cash after downloading their contact details via a laptop into a CAB mobile server mounted in the boot of a white Volvo V70.

The answer, is 'No.' No-one has noticed - including politicians, journos, etc - because no-one really gives a rats arse. Probation-as-was was always under the radar, low key, understated, modest to the point of clinically shy. On a number of occasions this blog has highlighted the path of probation's demise, from 1992 & the CJAct which turned probation into a political plaything, through the cessation of SW training in 1995/6, NOMS in 2003, Trusts in 2007 to the implementation of TR in 2013. NAPO lost its way from 2005 on as NOMS's stranglehold tightened & Trusts were hatched, with Ledger metaphorically & literally fumbling in the dark.

I've been out of the profession for some time now but I had chance to have conversations with some who are either still hanging on or more recently departed, and they have revealed shocking conditions in which people are working - bullying, incompetence, lying, no equipment, no management, no office, dismissals, people frog-marched out of offices... These are all things written about on this blog at various times, but which I've now had first-hand accounts of. It is monstrous how the privateers are behaving towards staff and clients.

One conversation was with an ex-colleague, now a senior manager, who thinks it's all just fine & dandy. They seemed well, positive, content and spoke enthusiastically about their achievements in the CRC......interestingly, and without fail, that same person was named by others as a "major local problem" - variously referred to as a bully, a braggart who refuses to listen, rarely in the office, blames staff for everything, a liar & a fraud.

A gaping chasm has opened up... is that where the simple truth has gone? Everywhere I look these days there are several varieties of truth. Take the US strikes on Syria. 59 tomahawk missiles were fired, but that's the only fact people can agree on. US say 58/59 landed on target. Russia say 23/59. Etc, etc...So Grayling's truth is not my truth - that much I do know!

It's clearly time for a blog special on the fiasco/failure/debacle/disaster that is Interserve's Cheshire and Manchester (and Merseyside, let's not pretend that's really separate) CRC - the very embodiment of cynicism with its institutional disdain for the real needs of its client group and a venomous contempt for the professional and personal integrity of what remains of its workforce.

Off Piste I know... but you need an update on the lunacy that is Interserve and the now fabled Interchange Model....The CEO, young Mr Edwards and his now infamous blog; his updates have somehow managed to conflate the abject failure of Interserve to manage one of their contracts in their core role as facility management and subsequent loss of revenue with the service credits accrued by MCRC and CMCRC which are currently running in excess of 100 thousand pound sterling. How he manages to compare the failure to clean a toilet to a satisfactory standard with the production of an ISP that has a Risk Management Plan and good sentence plan in the same breath is bewildering at best...

He completely ignores; or if I am being kind; he cannot compute the serious high sickness rates, coupled with PSOs/POs leaving in droves... in tandem with those clueless Directors (ACOs) Interchange Managers (SPOs) who think that by cascading an email untouched or not explained sent from on high with a single note saying "Please action". Knowing the attachment being one of those heavy duty many-paged documents they want you to pick the bones out of and somehow implement... and you know what the coal face does... F9 Delete.... 

If you can't be bothered to even try to explain in plain English what you want then it does not deserve my attention.... Off piste again with that rant but the latest offering from Interserve is that they want the flex teams (Pods, teams, units, in old money) to sort out amongst themselves, without any management oversight, no direction, no leadership, to reallocate case which may show as failing targets or cases that are 'drifting'. They want us to meet as flex team each week without any management involvement .. review their super duper Service Level Spreadsheets which are monitored by the poor old Case Coordinators (Case Admin, again in old money - there is a theme running here) and decide who should complete the ISP which is now too close to ignore as they are failing said target. 

The reason that the target is failing my dear Christopher, is because the ridiculous central focused Professional Service Centres (PSCs) are allocating new case to case managers at the start of their leave. So when they return from leave they ae faced with immediate failures.... Now the PSCs will blame the IMs (SPOs - Do keep up!!) for not completing their staffing spreadsheets which show who is available and who is not... but when the IMs have gone off sick or are trying their collective best to learn how to be facility managers (lets be honest, that is what they have turned into) who is in charge? Are the lunatics now running the asylum?... 

When I sit down and have a good old one to one with little Tommy Aikens during one of our RAR sessions (Reality = A good old supervision session in old money).. We both end up sharing the same comfort blanket to get through our day... Just another day in the life... interRUPT, interFERE, interGALACTICAL, interMITTENT but very little (inter)service..

Absolutely spot on - Mr E is far too removed to actually care about staff - on one of his visits to offices where he wanted to be viewed as "a listener/doer/caring" all he kept banging on about was when "everything was working effectively then it would make life easier to be a offender manager" we told him to come back when this was actually happening and that due to the failure of the Interserve model and the stresses associated with it, all staff were dropping like flies or hanging on by our finger nails - I'm sure this was resonated by staff in all offices he visited - the management of Interserve are like the 3 monkey's "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" - so much for their motto "every one has a voice" - well as long as you're saying what they want to hear!!

I don't know how Chris can carry on being so deceitful, its like he knows the service has failed and can't offer anything to the staff but instead of admitting it he carry's on spouting nonsense. I used to think he was okay when he worked for the trust, but he has turned out to be a right pillock. Both him and his wife are doing very well thank you out of interswereve.

If I could afford to leave Interserve's Manchester CRC I'd be gone today. While staff are being run into the ground by unmanageable caseloads and impossible and pointless targets and deadlines the managers - sorry I mean 'executives' and 'directors' and 'Interchange managers' - are busy slapping each other on the back for the 'progress' we're making because they've rendered the already dismal working environment even more unpleasant by shutting most of the offices and making the remaining spaces look and feel like start-up call centres done on the cheap. If there are consultants who advise cut-throat companies on how to make job conditions so miserable that everyone will leave instead of having to be paid redundancy money, they're definitely working for Manchester CRC.

I totally agree. I too work within Manchester CRC - I would so love to be able to leave but my finances at present dictate otherwise - Chris Edwards blog this week was of no surprise telling staff that he was impressed by those using Skype in order to cut down on travel expenses (not sure who these people are skyping instead of face to face contact - offenders ?). I've also been waiting (since I read it some time ago) for the "we need to tighten our belts and not do anything to loose Interswerve any more money" - they can't even manage a waste contract adequately. 

He also banged on about groups etc which we all know don't need half as many staff - I'm concerned and have been for some time (especially as Yvonne Thomas told the JSC that they didn't make as many cuts to staffing as they'd anticipated) that they will do so now they need to recoup their losses and nail them out of litigation (due to failed waste contract) - watch this space!! These really are bloody awful times and I totally agree that they want to shaft the experienced more expensive staff to be able to employ more niave inexperienced buggers on Interswerve contracts and T&C's whilst the exec, directors and the likes are of the belief that all in the garden is rosy - full of Interswerves waste Shit!

I too would like to leave but can't afford to, however on some days I feel the salary does not add up to the horror and stress working for interswere. They are despicable. I knew the minute I was shafted to work for them that my career was over and that I no longer could uphold the values dignity and morals to help those that are most marginalised in society.

Yes, it's like there are two Interswerve Manchester CRCs - the special magical Interswerve/Management version where just saying 'inter' five times transforms lives and everything's 'innovative' and 'exciting', and then the real one where the totally demoralised and ever-dwindling staff group are crammed into miserable call centre style offices designed to sap their will to live, while being expected to supervise sixty or seventy cases each with no resources apart from a laptop computer that only works every other day. It's Hellish, and better still it's clearly meant to be hellish so that we'll fuck off and make way for cheaper and more desperate and malleable staff.

I think Interswerve are beating the battle on that front from the comments regularly made about them on this blog, it won be long before the odd few staff that are left will leave, you can only suffer for so long. They'll keep getting paid and our lives will continue to be made miserable. Maybe the only staff left will be managers and they can deliver their own worthless piece of shit that they call the interchange model.

A little off topic but can I just stress again how much we loath and despise our clueless and morally bankrupt parasite paymasters Interserve, and how their bizarre notion that Probation staff would have the slightest interest in celebrating being a part of what they risibly try to term the 'Interserve family' only makes us hate them all the more... The 'Interserve family' might just be the most repugnant notion I've encountered in my working life....

The chief executive of the Interserve owned Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC today warned staff that Interserve's losses in their waste business mean that we as a CRC will now have to tighten our belts! Better still, in spelling it out he detailed how we are now expected to respond to Interserve's incompetence by...being of sick less!!


And as for their 'Interchange model' - A list of words chosen purely because they start with the same five letters as 'interserve' is not a 'model', even if you have paid off a bunch of mercenary university hacks to pretend it is.

Again back to one of my previous posts, the people that are banging the Interswerve drum are Probation staff (Snr Probation officers etc ) - Chris Edwards and his cronies who are narcissists with fragile egos that believe all their own hype and who's bank balances are so much more important than the people that they trained and used to work closely with! - Interswerve have obviously seen their greed and naivety as I'm sure when the going gets tougher Interswerve will (here's hoping) will kick them to the kerb like they've done with everything and everyone else they've touched.

I too work for interswerve CGM - I agree in the fact that "most" but not all IM's are approachable, however quite a few now have no case manager experience (?) as they've been shafted into the role from being programme managers.

We received an email today highlighting the fact that NPS will no longer be  loosening the shackles" and will be rejecting breaches for whatever reason, probably only known to them - numerous colleagues of mine have already experienced breach rejections/failures due to no fault of their own but reasons that the gatekeeping NPS team decided without liaising with said case manager.

The PSC's regularly get so many things wrong making life very difficult - the majority of staff I speak with feel that their job now entails more administrative duties due to the new model. Case loads are far to high (people have 60 - 100 cases) resulting in most staff being unable to prioritise as everything's a priority - it's a horrible feeling juggling plates like this knowing at some point you're going to drop a few (which could result in an SFO). Staff I know (I've been around quite a long time) experienced ones at that, have dropped like flies due to stress levels of holding so many cases (hearing a name and thinking 'who the hells that?', please tell me they're not on my case load).

Just the word 'Interserve' makes my flesh crawl. 'Purple Futures' was bad enough, but Interserve have now abandoned even any pretence of leading a 'partnership'. They plainly don't give a fuck about Shelter still taking our money and yet barely even bothering even to pretend to provide a meaningful 'Through the Gate' service. No one knows who 3SC are or what the fuck they even claim to do. P3 operate a criteria whereby they only provide support to clients who can demonstrate that they don't need it and otherwise it's just Interserve Interserve Interserve all the way. Better still, despite their transparent efforts to deprofessionalise our service, they seem to have some bizarre notion that we might somehow respect their filthy money-grubbing organisation and in some way be pleased or even proud to be a part of their 'Interserve family'. Their efforts to try and make us believe that they are our 'friend' or that they could give a damn about the people we work with truly make me want to vomit. Do they really not understand that as a workforce we have nothing but contempt for them and for everything they stand for? Fuck Interserve.

Seeing Interswerves "Ingenuity at work" signs on everything makes me feel incensed!! Through the gate staff don't even have access to NDelius so have no bloody idea who they need to contact, hence "we" are told that we have to make contact with TTG staff in whatever prison with ALL our custody cases, which yet again is a massive task, also part of Interswerves Appraisal objectives!! 

As part of Interswerves model we're supposed to have a "directory of  local) services" run by 3SC which is not fit for purpose but supposedly we use them for RAR days as they are "supposed" to be services that are locally commissioned by PS3 to provide CRC's services (really?) - one service on there is "phone FRANK" again REALLY! I'm sure courts would love to hear that we completed RAR days by phoning FRANK! - I totally agree with you it make me ill, however what makes me feel worse are the management that were previously Probation Officers that have sold their soul's to Interswerve and now appear to have no sign of professional nor personal integrity.

Well said. Interswerve are a deplorable company but always try to hide behind a made up image that they actually care. Do they seriously think that we are unable to see through their greedy bullshit. I wish they would F off and take their daft interchange model with them, they could try using it on their cleaning contracts.

Here's the thing with PF/Interserve. MCRC now has such a terrible reputation with Crown Court judges, District Judges and lay Magistrates. It really is bubbling under the surface. Directors, or ACOs in old money, have been called to account by the Recorder and District Judges for such poor quality of cases not being managed. They are rapidly loosing confidence.. So the bemused directors cobble together a very telling email to staff outlining the 'reputational damage' this is causing and people need to sort this out as a matter of absolute importance. Essentially waving a big stick. 

They, bless their poor corporate souls, fail miserably in recognising that the IT is so poor, the new PSOs are not trained, those poor sods have re located from admin, accommodation and HQ posts that were got rid of during the great run down of Trusts are now holding 70-80 cases with the most half-arsed on the job training, no idea about OASys sentence plans, RMPs, breach reports, evidence to support breaches, when to breach, HDC, ROTL etc etc etc.... Then, surprise surprise, these people leave in droves, and the cases left behind are by any standard in an absolute mess. 

The good old boys and gels who now hold nice fancy titles like Interchange Director are literally clueless..... completely out of their collective depths. The so called DOS (Directory of Services) to support RAR activity..... well it is merely just a poor quality spreadsheet that is at best described as embarrassing and at worst... well its just criminal. So what do you do when you are handed another dozen or so re-allocated cases that on inspection really does turn your blood cold? You draw a line under the past management and move forward. Sod reputational damage if it is in a unrecoverable mess, then send it back from whence it came saying not in my name... or return it to court in your name but having to expose the mess..

This is left at PSO/PO level to sort with that great management default phase ringing in your ears "Just do your best".... leadership at its very best... Yvonne T, if you happen to read this blog, I know you or at the very least your bright young things do... either hand back the keys or come down to the coal face and turn over some stones and see for yourself..

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Latest From Napo 146

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


News reaches me that a number of Working Links employees were not covered by valid CP vehicle insurance in the Devon area from the period of 27th March up to last weekend. The ensuing chaos in the delivery of Community Payback was compounded by a previous delay with the delivery of fuel cards. I am told that this resulted in some of the van fleet being grounded miles away from their scheduled use last weekend with desperate staff using their own vehicles to transport offenders back from community service assignments.

It seems that someone at least had the nous to order a lock down on the use of all fleet vehicles within the operational areas while steps were taken to rectify the situation. A number of supervisory staff, understandably concerned about their legal position, used their own vehicles to tell clients at CP sites to stand down.

It is not clear at this stage whether this resulted in unsupervised clients having to make their own way home, but a number of issues have been raised with me by members regarding the loss of community service provision, estimated at the equivalent hours for 70 clients, and the impact on those organisations who expected unpaid work to be carried out on their behalf. There are also doubts being expressed about other vehicles owned by Working Links that are thought not to have valid MOT certificates.

No; before you say it I will. You could not make it up.

Workloads campaign is for everybody!

We sent out another reminder to members this week about the plans for Napo members everywhere: NPS/CRC/PBNI/CAFCASS to take part in the lunchtime demos on Workers Memorial Day on 28th April. This is a timely opportunity to get out in the sunshine or rain (whatever) and highlight the impact of workloads on you and your colleagues. It’s also another opportunity to open up a discussion with colleagues who are not in a trade union about why we are organising activities such as this.

An unpaid bill?

News reaching me from the NPS North West where members have told me that it has not been possible to make telephone calls this week from a number of locations and Approved Premises around Lancashire, as it is thought that bills have not been paid on time.

Fortunately incoming calls were possible and hopefully someone down at HMPPS in London will have taken advantage of this and enquired as to what has gone on exactly.

It’s a strange eco-unfriendly world in some CRC’s

Speaking of bills, CRC staff tell Napo that SEETEC are unwilling to pay for the cost of the tea towel cleaning contract (reported to be £8 per week) and have instructed staff to buy new ones and throw them away. Mixed views about this latest cost cutting exercise, with some well-founded speculation that the ‘buy and throw’ policy is likely to be more expensive and not too good for our environment.

Maybe we ought not to be too surprised, following the ‘buy and throw’ approach to staffing that some CRC owners adopted soon after winning the contracts.

Attendance Management and the need for consistency

The way in which the deeply unpopular HMPPS Attendance Management Policy was written and its chaotic application across the NPS, is a constant source of dissatisfaction among members.

We are doing all that we can, amongst the many other priorities, to challenge situations where we can and to offer advice to hard pressed Branch Reps. We are also in discussion with the POA about their current engagement with HMPPS on the policy.

For example, National Official Sarah Friday met with HR specialists from HMPPS this week. They confirmed that there should not be a cap on the number of days for invoking trigger points when allowing for reasonable adjustment, as each case will differ and should be judged on its merits. So if there is evidence that a cap is operating please let your Link Officer know.

I was able to alert the HMPPS Well-Being team to some worrying information that had reached me this week from our reps in an NPS Division and I have been assured that they will be looking into how they can address the problems there as part of their support and sustain programme.

Branch Napo leads for the Attendance Management policy should also keep an eye out for an awareness workshop that HMPPS have agreed to run for managers and union reps. It is hoped that this will allow for full and open dialogue about what has and is going on, as well as what ought to be happening.

More news to follow as soon as possible.

Happy Holiday

Here’s hoping you make the best of the long weekend and that we have some decent weather to go with it.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Latest From Napo 145

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following circulated to all London Branch Napo members:-


All NPS members should shortly be receiving an e-consultation on proposals to harmonise several MoJ/NOMS policies, including maternity leave and annual leave for new starters. The proposals are a vast improvement on initial offers and reflect prolonged and difficult negotiations at national level. Napo are recommending the package as a whole. Members are asked to indicate their view by no later than 19th April.

Napo is the only party who have consistently pressed for urgent harmonisation of maternity leave since at split but at various stages this has been prevented. In recent months the hold-up involved the NPS insisting that any improvement in maternity leave should be linked to a cut in annual leave. Napo very forcefully opposed a move we considered to be discriminatory. Our campaign on International Women’s Day highlighted members’ frustration with the NPS, with hundreds posting pictures online saying #maternitymatters. This helped persuade the NPS to drop the link to leave, although the proposals do harmonise leave for new starters.

NPS still had great concerns about their capacity to actually pay staff on maternity leave without several months lead in. This reflects the chaos and fundamental failings in the SSCL arrangements (see more below). Napo however proposed a compromise which was accepted. This means the package takes effect from 3rdSeptember, except for maternity leave which will apply for members with an EWC of 30th April, albeit with NPS stating that they may have difficulty paying people impacted properly. This is an honest, albeit shocking admission fro a major government department but Napo’s view was, unless there are major changes to the SSCL contract, we couldn’t be confident they’d be any better placed to pay people accurately in September. An earlier or backdated application of maternity pay however would have been too chaotic.

Members not receiving an e-consultation should contact Napo directly. New members in the NPS joining between now and 19th April can also join in the consultation.


Hot on the back of the consultation about the NPS harmonisation package, Napo are also submitting their National Probation Pay Claim in the next few days. All members will be sent a copy of the claim so look out for it in your inbox over the coming week.

The claim is the same for all Employers, recognising the same challenges having transferred with a broken pay and grading model. The claim highlights how uncompetitive probation pay has become as a result of both the government’s prolonged pay freeze and the negative impact on pay progression this has disproportionately had in probation. Napo’s view is that these problems must be urgently addressed if probation employers are to have any chance of competing for staff or avoiding huge recruitment and retention challenges.

The recognised unions have been involved in pay reform negotiations with the NPS for some months are Napo remain hopeful that reform supporting the aims of the claim will be possible. The creation of HMPPS (HM Prison and Probation Service), adds further pressure on the NPS, as staff being expected to move into a custodial setting, could be asked to mentor and supervise prison staff in a lower equivalent grade, but who currently earn more than PO’s. We are also conscious however of the huge risk to MTCnovo’s capacity to compete for staff if NPS unilaterally introduces a significant pay gap. The same principle applies regarding softer terms such as maternity leave. For this reason Napo are lobbying government to make sure that the Probation Services Review (which is reviewing CRC contracts) recognises this risk and allows for a price adjustment so that CRCs can compete and members working in CRCs are protected.

To support the claim and the campaign, we will be holding a series of meetings and briefings for members.


Following negotiations involving Representatives from London and Thames Valley Branches and Napo Deputy General Secretary, Dean Rogers, principled agreement has been reached with MTCnovo regarding a new local negotiation and consultation framework.

The model replicates the existing local Joint Consultative Committees for matters subject to local consultation - such as re-organisations, local office matters, etc. Contractual issues, such as pay and leave, will be negotiated across both MTCnovo Contracts via a pan-CRC committee with representatives from both London and MTCnovo unions. Representatives will have support from Napo HQ – in MTCnovo this will be Deputy General Secretary, Dean Rogers (who also directly supports members in RISE).

All of the key concerns about a joint agreement have been covered in the draft and the branch has now been informed that the agreement has been approved by Napo’s Officers and Officials Group – including agreement around legacy contract terms and a dispute mechanism that demonstrates a commitment to resolving disputes before any contractual changes are imposed. Confirmation that the agreement has been approved by Napo’s Officers and Officials Group was sought by local Chairs prior to agreeing to sign. Having now had formal notification that the agreement has been approved we are now ready to go ahead and sign the partnership agreement.


Members in the CRC will be conscious that a payroll error meant that their March pay was delayed. This caused obvious distress and worry to members. Napo were able to make early contact with MTC Novo and we remained in regular contact throughout Friday. MTC Novo who were quick to both recognise the error and start to try and correct it. They also quickly agreed to meet any financial losses (e.g. bank charges, etc) and we will be talking to them further this week to clarify that all payments have been made and to see how any losses can easily and quickly be recovered for members.


Napo has had less success trying to resolve the many different processing failures in NPS HR. These currently include new starters not being paid at all; continuing problems with staff not having the correct PAYE amounts deducted leading to tax issues; staff changing their working pattern (e.g. maternity leave; going part time; increasing their hours) not being paid or taxed correctly; pensions contributions not being correctly collected; staff moving roles being issued with the wrong contracts; etc. We are extremely conscious of the increased risks arising from more staff being moved towards working in HMPPS.

The SSCL contract is clearly another example of the failed, rushed TR sell off. Put bluntly, any shared-service model can only work if all those covered are on shared terms and conditions. The insistence from HM Treasury that the split was dependent upon probation staff remaining in the local government pension scheme alone means this isn’t possible. Failures to address pay issues just exaggerate the differences whilst differences in maternity and leave have further highlighted the problem. Napo has been willing to address harmonisation to try and solve member’s problems but as we close the gaps the scale of the problem becomes ever clearer.

Napo is now of the view that this cannot be fixed without starting over. We are now lobbying Ministers and the Justice Select Committee to call for an enquiry into TR and asking them to call in the SSCL contract.


National Napo suggests……….

‘With so much going on and so much negativity around probation, prisons and the Justice Sector, it is important that we remember why we do what we do, and find new ways of getting together to talk about what our work should be about. Staying positive about probation has never been more important.

With people working so hard finding time to get together isn’t easy and attending old style union meetings can be difficult. Napo recognise this, which is why we are launching a series of informal, social get together after work where people can come with the specific task of saying why they still love probation, share successes and talk about what and how they want to see probation work in the future.’

National Napo wants to pilot these get together type meetings in London and Thames Valley.

We think National Napo’s aspiration is admirable, however, times are tough and the branch execs view at this time is that………

We recognise that London Branch has a diverse membership and many of our members have child care and other spare time commitments (not least recovering from work pressures) that make meeting after work etc difficult. What we suggest, as a first step, is that members start small by getting together with Napo colleagues for lunch (instead of eating at your desks) in order to talk about the issues that most concern you over a cup of tea/coffee and a sandwich etc. As a suggestion you could make this the last Friday of the month and advertise it to colleagues. Recent events have been experienced as disruptive and impacted on staff in many different ways not least with regard to the availability of local office union reps and access to experienced union members who have either moved elsewhere or left probation altogether.

In many work places we now need to rebuild the union networks from the bottom up and we need your help to do so. Getting together in small groups with other Napo members is the start of union activity at a grass roots level (it’s how unions started) and from your activity we hope to build a stronger union. You might, for example, decide to take small but significant decisions to kick-start things in your office such as agreeing re-establish a union notice board to provide a visible union presence or decide to participate in a Napo campaign or discuss professional issues such as training or the IT system. We know that once you get started then there will be no stopping you as there is a lot of energy and ideas out there and by meeting regularly you will gain invaluable support from your union colleagues and know you are doing something constructive.

If you need any advice and support regarding this, please get in touch. The idea is to get together, to get something started, please contact Mail London NAPO, or. nps.LondonNAPO

DEAN ROGERS (Assistant General Secretary)
PATRICIA JOHNSON (NPS Co Chair) David A Raho (CRC Co Chair)

Monday, 10 April 2017

Another Grayling Defeat!

Yet again the Howard League under Frances Crook has achieved a reversal of a Chris Grayling policy, leaving only the probation TR omnishambles to sort out. This from the Guardian:-  

Cuts to legal aid for prisoners ruled unlawful

The government has lost a key court of appeal battle over access to legal aid for prisoners in a ruling that campaigners have called a groundbreaking victory. Campaigners said the ruling vindicated their concerns that the system had become “inherently unfair” after the government stopped certain categories of prisoners from receiving criminal legal aid in 2013.

The Ministry of Justice’s refusal to provide funding has been overturned in three out of five categories, reversing cuts originally introduced by the former justice secretary, Chris Grayling, four years ago. The judicial review claim was brought by the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prisoners’ Advice Service. The Equality and Human Rights Commission intervened to support their application.

Three judges – Lady Justice Gloster, Lord Justice Patten and Lord Justice Beatson – found that the way legal aid restrictions had been operating was unlawful in three separate areas of internal prison hearings: pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, category-A reviews, and decisions on placing inmates in close supervision centres.

Their unanimous judgment said: “The government’s decision to remove legal aid from the five categories of decision-making that are the subject of these proceedings by the 2013 [cuts] was made because it considers that there were adequate alternative means in place to ensure prisoners can participate effectively in areas in which support has hitherto been provided by legal advice and legal representation.

“The consequence is that almost no changes have been introduced to replace the gap left by the removal of legal aid. We have concluded that, at a time when ... the evidence about prison staffing levels, the current state of prisons, and the workload of the Parole Board suggests that the system is under considerable pressure, the system has at present not got the capacity sufficiently to fill the gap in the run of cases in those three areas.”

Welcoming the decision, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the decision would make the public safer: “It vindicates our concerns that cuts imposed by the former lord chancellor, Chris Grayling, in 2013 presented a grave risk that prisoners would become stuck in a broken system.

“This sends a clear message that important decisions about prisoners cannot be made efficiently or fairly in the face of these cuts. We look forward to hearing from the lord chancellor with her plans to give effect to the judgment,” she said.

Deborah Russo, joint managing solicitor of the Prisoners’ Advice Service, said: “This is an unprecedented and groundbreaking legal victory in which the vulnerability of the prison population is fully recognised as a key factor in its limited ability to access justice. Common law came to the rescue of a marginalised and often forgotten sector of our society.”

The legal challenge produced major concessions from the Ministry of Justice before the case came to court in January this year. They agreed that legal aid should be available in cases involving mother-and-baby units, resettlement issues, licence conditions and segregation through an exceptional funding scheme.

But this left five areas where the withdrawal of legal aid was causing problems: pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board on whether the prisoner is suitable for a move to open conditions; categorisation reviews of category-A high-security prisoners; access to offending behaviour programmes and courses; disciplinary proceedings where no additional days of imprisonment or detention can be awarded; and placement in close supervision centres.

The 86-page ruling found that the withdrawal of legal aid was causing inherent or systemic unfairness in three of the these five areas, and that prisoners should have access to legal aid to pay for legal representation during pre-tariff reviews by the Parole Board, reviews of category-A high-security status, and decisions on placements within close supervision centres, which deal with the most disruptive and or dangerous prisoners.

Following the verdict, the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s chief executive, Rebecca Hilsenrath, said: “A hallmark of a democratic legal system is that it is fair and robust for all users. Without access to legal aid, prisoners with learning difficulties and mental illness would not be able to participate effectively in important decisions about their future, placing them at a significant disadvantage. We welcome today’s judgment that will ensure our legal system continues to provide legal help during these hearings.”

An MoJ spokesperson said: “We note the court of appeal’s judgment on changes made to legal aid regulations – introduced in 2013 – and will consider whether to appeal.”

The department is looking at alternative ways of ensuring that the system is not unfair. Such changes may involve means other than restoring legal aid.