Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Privatisation Not Working 2

For some time there have been regular mumblings about salary payments, tax deductions and pension contributions on a certain probation Facebook page. Of course these are all basic functions of any competent employer - but we're talking about probation post TR here. It rather looks like things have reached a head with the following press release issued today by Napo:- 

National Probation Service reported to Pensions Ombudsman following systematic failings

Napo is asking the Pensions Ombudsman to investigate the National Probation Service after uncovering systematic failures affecting hundreds of staff across the organisation.

The huge blunders were discovered when staff checking their payslips saw that incorrect pension contributions had affected the amount they were subsequently paid and taxed.

It is thought the errors are linked to the Shared Services Connect Limited (SSCL) contract and its introduction of a Single Operating Platform (SOP) in February designed to modernise the way the service handles payroll and Human Resources transactions.

The full number of staff affected is unknown but the NPS have confirmed that anyone who has had changes to their salary since February is likely to be affected. This includes staff on maternity leave, sick leave, working overtime and those who had just joined the service and were auto-enrolled into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

Napo Assistant General Secretary, Dean Rogers, says: “We can’t be certain if SSCL lied to us, the NPS and Ministers about testing SOP prior to implementation or if the problems are more fundamental. We strongly suspect these are systematic failures linked to probation staff being in a different pension scheme. Either way it is ridiculous and alarming that a government department can’t meet its pension obligations and manage a PAYE system for probation staff.”

The union expects that an investigation conducted by the Ombudsman or Greater Manchester Pension Fund (who administers the Local Government Pension Scheme) will confirm whether failures around the collection of contributions and auto-enrolment have broken the law and if the NPS should be fined and the SSCL contract terminated.

This is just the latest in other well documented issues relating to pay and HR in the NPS. In April, Napo contacted Probation and Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah to raise its concerns about new starters having to wait up to three months before being paid; wrong sick pay formulas; and pay errors taking months to be resolved because of inadequate computer systems. The response from the Minister said: “The appropriate performance, audit and contractual reviews are already in place at both an Agency, Ministry and cross-government level which shows that the contract is delivering against its objectives.”


Napo have also issued urgent guidance:- 

Advice to remembers regarding pension, pay and tax errors

Napo is writing to alert you to widespread systematic processing errors that we have uncovered, affecting many members in the NPS and in some CRCs. Because pension contributions have an impact on your pay and tax codes such errors may create subsequent tax and pay problems. It is thought the errors are linked to the Shared Services Connect Limited (SSCL) contract and its introduction of a Single Operating Platform (SOP) in February, designed to modernise the way the service handles payroll and Human Resources transactions.

This is especially disappointing as we had raised these issues among many others in April with senior NPS management and Ministers. The response was that performance, audit and contractual reviews were already in place at both an Agency, Ministry and cross-government level which showed that the SSCL contract was delivering against its objectives.

The full number of staff affected is unknown but the NPS have confirmed that anyone who has had changes to their salary since February is likely to be affected. This includes staff on maternity leave, sick leave, working overtime and those who had just joined the service and were auto-enrolled into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

Thankfully the vast majority of our members will not have been impacted by this and we are not seeking to cause unnecessary alarm. We are also working tirelessly to secure guarantees from the employer that any shortfalls in employer and employee pension contributions will be met by them. We are demanding implementation of the Secretary of State’s Pension Guarantee, which was established when the NPS and CRCs were created to underwrite problems such as contribution breakdowns. We are also pressing for overpaid contributions where these have occurred to be returned as soon as is possible. We will endeavour to keep members up to date with progress on these issues, and you are also directed to our website where we will be posting any available news over the coming weeks – www.napo.org.uk

However, the following advice should help to establish if you may have been impacted and what you need to do if you think your pension contributions are or have been wrong. We also include guidance about what to do to make sure the concern is registered.

If your employer approaches you and asks you to make an extra payment because of a contribution failure do not do so until you have gained advice from Napo, initially via your local Napo representatives who should liaise with their Link Officer. In these cases, Napo’s first step will be to seek to have any shortfalls met from the Secretary of State’s Fund, after advice and negotiation with the government, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) and Pension Ombudsman.

Please also share this communication with colleagues who may not be in Napo. Whilst we can only directly represent those who are members they may want to consider the general advice and also consider joining us now. Joining involves a quick and easy process via our website – www.napo.org.uk


Step one: Most people who have been impacted will fall into one or more of the following groups. If you do not fall into these groups you should still check your pay slips as set out below in steps two to four - but you should certainly do so as soon as is possible if in 2017 you have:

  • Been paid for any sessional work and/or overtime
  • Had your normal pay changed, e.g. for maternity leave or parental leave
  • Newly received or stopped receiving a regular allowance (e.g. for working in a prison)
  • Been promoted, either temporarily or permanently
  • Had any periods with sick pay
  • Had any other irregular or unusual payments (either one off or more regularly)
  • Usually had different payments from month to month
Step two: Look at as many recent pay slips as possible and compare them, particularly looking for pension contributions. If these vary and/or do not appear on any of the pay slips you should be immediately concerned.

Step three: Whether you think you have an issue or not, do this quick check. On the payslips, identify the sum for your full salary before any deductions, stoppages, tax etc. Multiply this by twelve for your current expected annual salary (A). Now check this figure against table one below to see what percentage pension contributions you should be making each month. For example, if you earn £24,000 you would pay 6.5% each month


Annual Salary % contribution

1 Up to £13,700 5.5%
2 £13,701 to £21,400 5.8%
3 £21,401 to £34,700 6.5%
4 £34,701 to £43,900 6.8%
5 £43,901 to £61,300 8.5%
6 £61,301 to £86,800 9.9%
7 £86,801 to £102,200 10.5%
8 £102,201 to £153,300 11.4%
9 £153,301 or more 12.5%

Now check your annual salary figure against the relevant % contribution rate. Do this by:

Dividing your annual figure (A) by 12 to get back to a monthly amount (e.g 24000 / 12 = £2000)
Divide this by 100 (e.g. 2000 / 100 = 20)
Multiply this by the % contribution rate (e.g. 20 x 6.5 = £130)

In this example £130 should be your monthly contribution. Any variation from this should be an immediate concern. If you do not have a pension contribution figure on your pay slip this should also be an immediate concern. If these figures vary between different payslips then check for variations to your monthly pay.

Step Four: If you have identified a problem then see step five of this guidance. Even if at this point you have not recognised a concern and you are a member of the LGPS, please check your annual pension statement which according to the NPS, should be coming to you shortly from the (GMPF). If you have not received this by the first of September see step 5 of this guidance. This statement will have an amount called a CARE pay figure. This should be identical to your annual pay, in almost all cases. Any variation between the two should be a matter of immediate concern. In the old pension scheme some payments were not classed as pensionable but in the CARE scheme all payments are assumed to be pensionable.

Step Five: If you have a concern you need to do 3 things quickly:

a) Email your line manager saying that you wish to register a concern about your pension contributions and ask them to forward the concern to your HR department and ask for a named contact point to acknowledge your concern within two working days. It is the employer’s responsibility to resolve the problem.

b) Contact the GMPF and copy them your concern saying that you have contacted your employer and expect the two to clarify your position. Ask them to notify you of the name of the persons dealing with your issue and for a timescale to resolve it. GMPF can’t solve the problem directly as they can’t change your pay but they can press your employer to meet their responsibilities. Registering your concern with the GMPF helps support later claims to the Pension Ombudsman. GMPF can be contacted (see details here.)

c) Notify your local Napo representative that you have taken the above actions using the email heading PENSION CONTRIBUTION ERROR. If you do not know who your local Rep is email info@napo.org.uk and we will put you in touch. Please note that your local Reps and Napo HQ will not be able to resolve individual cases, but they can record your concerns and ensure that they keep Napo HQ up to date with trends and developments. They will also contact you directly with any national updates and/or advice that we issue centrally.

As stated above, any employers’ failure to collect and make the correct pension contributions is a very serious matter, and can in some circumstances even be illegal and lead to them being prosecuted and/or fined. However, you should not panic or be dismayed as Napo has identified the problem and is challenging the employers collectively for you. The NPS are aware of the problems and have this week announced that they are investigating the issues that we have alerted them to. You do need to help us to help you by checking if you are impacted and letting Napo and your employer know if you have any concerns.

We trust this is helpful. Do keep looking at the Napo website for further information and updates.

Yours sincerely,

Dean Rogers                         Ian Lawrence
Assistant General Secretary General Secretary

Monday, 21 August 2017

Former Chief Speaks Out

I don't know how I missed this, but I did:-

The Hidden Prison Crisis: How Homelessness Causes A Cycle Of Reoffending

With prisons in crisis and probation services unable to cope with demand, prisoners are routinely leaving jail with nowhere to live and no prospect of employment. BuzzFeed News hears their stories and asks how this can happen in the 21st century.

It's an extremely competent analysis of our predicament by Patrick Smith of BuzzFeed News and was published on July 29th. With so many journalists seemingly never quite able to grasp the situation, in my view this is an exemplar of good old-fashioned journalism based on some sound research and several fascinating interviews, including of clients and a former probation CEO. The latter is particularly interesting because I'm not aware of any former CEO being willing to speak openly about the TR omnishambles.

It's a long article, well worth reading in full, with the first half detailing many of the realities associated with the complete failure of TTG. I've chosen to pick the story up half way through when the following question is posed:-

What is stopping prisoners with complex needs from getting the treatment and rehabilitation they need through the prisons and probation systems?

One probation officer, who works for the National Probation Service (NPS) and is based in Yorkshire, and who spoke to BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity, says that a stretched and demoralised probation service can no longer cope with the strain being put on it.

“We have a system that measures our workload and tells where we are on a percentage scale. And most probation officers I work with are on at least 130%. 100% would mean you have enough work to fill your week, so 130% to 150% is a significant overwork situation. I’ve seen people on 160%. Sometimes you can have a spike – your workload does fluctuate. But when you’re consistently over capacity that’s when it’s worrying. I’ve got colleagues who’ve been on really high workloads for years. It’s become normal.”

If the workload system reads 100%, that means the officer’s entire working week is full. So probation professionals have to stay beyond their allotted hours to finish the work, or some clients lose out. That, the source says, is exactly what is happening.

“Clients are absolutely being failed by this. Probation staff are going way above and beyond to make sure they aren’t failed. The reason so many officers feel stressed is because they know they’re not doing right by their clients – they can’t. “Every day we see people who need more time than we can provide. Having 45 clients a week just means you don’t have time to spend half a day with one of them.”

Penal reform campaigners have repeatedly argued that an ambitious programme to revolutionise and part-privatise the probation service in 2015 has created an ineffective and dysfunctional system that is routinely failing offenders. Insiders say that plans specifically targeted at improving rehabilitation are simply failing.

At the root of the problem is Transforming Rehabilitation, the flagship reform strategy of Chris Grayling, the justice secretary from 2012 to 2015, who had previously brought in similarly controversial results-based, private sector–led reforms at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Transforming Rehabilitation split the probation service in two: High-risk offenders are dealt with by a new body, the state-run NPS, while low-risk and medium-risk offenders are handled by 21 new private community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). Charities and several outsourcing firms – with varying degrees of experience of rehabilitation in the UK – bid for and won these CRC contracts.

The Ministry of Justice said at the time that “every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community”, including 50,000 of those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody, the group most at risk of reoffending. This programme, called Through the Gate, would resettle prisoners into communities – a job previously carried out by the old probation trusts. It was meant to be revolutionary. But it didn’t work out like that.

In October 2016, a damning joint report of the prisons and probation inspectorate said that the Through the Gate programme was having little or no effect on short-term prisoners being resettled and said that if the service were to be removed the following day, the effect would be “negligible”. In June this year a follow-up report said the same thing about prisoners serving more than 12 months.

The CRCs are too focused, the inspectors said, on their contractual obligation to produce a plan for every prison leaver, without seeing it through. “In too many cases, resettlement planning consisted of no more than referrals to other agencies, recorded as completed once an email had been sent,” the report said. “The CRC contracts incentivise the completion of resettlement plans, not the improvement of prisoners’ situations. CRCs are generally struggling financially and it is not surprising, then, that most have invested little in services beyond the minimum contractual expectation.”

Tellingly, no CRCs provided inspectors with any information on what happened to prisoners once they had been “resettled”. The CRCs, the probation insider said, had banked on there being much more offender work to do when they bid for the contracts. The government said that the 21 CRCs would manage the vast bulk of offenders.

But, in reality, since 2012/13 the nature of offending has changed. Now police services and courts are dealing with far more sexual offences than before, not least because of the sea change the Jimmy Savile scandal had on law enforcement and victims’ willingness to come forward to report both contemporary and historical sexual abuse. And sexual offenders are automatically classed as high-risk, meaning they must be dealt with by the NPS, which is under great strain.

The CRCs, meanwhile, are complaining that they aren’t making enough money. Two providers, MTCNovo and Interserve Justice, have both threatened to pull out of probation entirely. Every single CRC contract is reportedly loss-making due to the unexpected shortfall in workload. MTCNovo is still due to make at least £453 million from its London CRC contract alone, rising to £982 million with performance-related bonuses.

To address this and to save its model of part-privatisation, the government has tweaked CRCs’ contracts to ”reflect more accurately the cost of providing critical frontline services”. The new justice secretary, David Lidington, said in an open letter on 19 July that this extra cash was offered on the condition that the CRCs “provide better support as they help offenders build more positive lives”. Private Eye magazine noted that, despite the CRCs’ failings, the changes to the contracts amount to a £22 million bailout.

BuzzFeed News understands that the result of this ongoing chaos with resettlement is that NPS staff will be drafted in to some prisons in the northeast of England to help administer some Through the Gate services. It’s unknown what this might mean for CRCs and their performance-related contracts.

The government knows this system is not working. Lidington wrote in response to the fierce criticism of the probation service that “‘Through-the-gate’ arrangements … are falling short of our vision for a high-quality service that both reforms offenders and commands the confidence of courts.” He attracted anger and even ridicule for saying that “the system has encountered unforeseen challenges” after its 2015 split – particularly regarding a larger-than-expected caseload for the NPS and a lower one for the CRCs.

There was no shortage of people warning that this system wouldn’t work. One of them was David Chantler, formerly the head of the West Mercia Probation Trust, which under his tenure won awards and pioneered innovative rehabilitation and resettlement schemes.

“I was the longest-serving chief probation officer in the country. I think that was the reason why I was on the minister’s sounding board,” he tells BuzzFeed News. “So when I say they were warned about all of these things, I was there – I know they were. I described these problems and I know others did. I saw how the process was rushed through.”

Chantler’s concerns went unheeded. He resigned as a result, but made a point of leaving not when the service was part-privatised but when it was split into the NPS and CRCs. For him, the involvement of the private sector isn’t the problem – if it works, bring it on, he says. But he describes the rushed, arbitrary split of the once-unified probation service as “cack-handed”.

“When I had a probation service that did all the work, we could decide that if there was a lot of work to be done writing parole reports or visiting prisons, then we could shift the resources to that and scale back the less important stuff and overall you could use the resource flexibly,” he says. “Now, with two separate units, you can’t do that. It’s completely immobile.”

And while the reforms were sold as introducing free-market efficiency, for Chantler the CRCs are local monopolies that carry out the bare minimum to receive their contracted payments.

“When they started the process they were talking about having 70% to 80% payment by results. Now we’re in a situation where I know the local CRC in West Mercia can discount the payment by results element because it’s so small; if they simply do what the payment for service [requires] then they can balance the books. So they’re not motivated to do that which reduces reoffending – the payment by result element must by now be less than 1%.

“They’ve got no interest in bringing in new players [partner agencies] and sharing the work; they’re actually being more monopolistic than the public sector. There’s no competition because they are the monopoly provider in their area.” Chantler says he raised this point with Grayling before the split, but his protests were to no avail.

“I said this to him and he said ‘You’re being ideological about it.’ He said that businesses wouldn’t behave in that way – they would ‘do the honourable thing and do what needs to be done to reduce reoffending.’ I said ‘You’re wrong!’ Legally these companies are responsible for improving shareholder value.

“Grayling was number two in DWP and he was very, very used to payment by results and basically came in [to the MoJ] and was extremely gung-ho about saying ‘It works in DWP; it will work just as well here.’ That’s where it was coming from.”

Tania Bassett, a national official for the National Association of Probation Officers and a former probation officer herself, says that in any case there’s only so much probation can do. The service doesn’t own any houses – finding places for people to go and getting access to mental health services has always been a challenge. But the reforms have meant that probation can no longer use as many local partner agencies, which used to play a vital role in resettlement, she says.

“Partnership agencies, who are now being cut out of the system either because they’ve been cut or the CRCs can’t afford to pay them – that’s reducing the amount of partnership work going on since the old probation trust days. A long time ago we decided that probation can’t do everything and that we need local experts in drug and alcohol treatment, rather than officers trying to do the lot, which we weren’t really trained for. And we seem to have gone back now to that idea of doing it ourselves.”

Another campaigner who sounded the alarm bell was Frances Crook, CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform, who is a long-term critic of the failure of prisons and probation to reform offenders. “The breakup of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending, and make us all safer,” she tells BuzzFeed News.

“Instead, successive inspection reports have shown that the risk to the public has increased, and Through the Gate services are so useless that they could stop tomorrow and we would not notice the difference. People who are trying to lead crime-free lives are being let down. The problems could be foreseen and were foreseen. The Howard League warned about the likely consequences time and time again, as did many other experts. The new secretary of state for justice must now take bold action to resolve this mess.”

In a statement, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “Public protection is our top priority and we will take all necessary action to make sure the probation system is reducing reoffending and preventing future victims. We have undertaken an overarching review of probation and are working with providers to improve services to make sure offenders get the support needed to find accommodation and employment on release."

But those promised improvements will have come too late for people like Thomson. “It’s hard out there,” he says, “and sometimes you’ve just got to offend to survive.”

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Smith at patrick.smith@buzzfeed.com.

A National Humiliation

HM Inspector of Prisons recently paid a visit to the Justice Secretary's constituency. This is what they had to say:-

HMYOI Aylesbury

We recently published a report on HMYOI Aylesbury.

The young offender institution holds around 440 young adult men serving the longest sentences for this age group in the country. Most of the population are aged between 18 and 21. At its last inspection in 2015, inspectors commented on debilitating staff shortages which had negative consequences for prisoners. This more recent inspection found little progress had been made, some areas had deteriorated further and safety was a major concern. Inspectors found volatile and frustrated young people, too few staff and prisoners locked up for long periods with no activity and too little sentence progression.

Peter Clarke said:

“HMYOI Aylesbury showed some areas of considerable potential. Most staff appeared remarkably resilient and wanted to improve the prison. There were excellent areas of innovation which provided prisoners with valuable work skills in a realistic work environment. The Aylesbury Pathways Service continued to provide outstanding support to some of the most vulnerable and troubled young men in the prison estate.

“If the cycle of poor inspections of Aylesbury is to be broken, these strengths need to be built upon. It is time to stop rediscovering the same problems and to take concerted action to deal with them at all levels. Some areas of concern, such as poor governance of use of force, could be addressed by the establishment. Others, such as staffing and difficulties with securing progressive transfers for prisoners, needed action from HMPPS. The management team had a clear understanding of the challenges and the commitment to make progress, but needed support to implement our recommendations. Failure to do so yet again cannot be acceptable.”

To read the report, click here.


Here we have the Howard League's press release:-

Howard League responds to Aylesbury prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Aylesbury prison, published today (Thursday 17 August). Inspectors visited the Buckinghamshire prison, which holds young men aged 18 to 21, in April. They found that it had deteriorated, becoming less safe and affected by staffing shortages.

Last month the Howard League raised concerns about the prison in a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington, who is also the MP for Aylesbury. The charity awaits a reply. Howard League research, to be published later this month, has found that more than 12,000 additional days’ imprisonment were imposed on prisoners found to have broken prison rules in Aylesbury last year – more than any other jail in England and Wales. Inspectors found that this system, known as adjudications, had spiralled out of control to the point where it had lost credibility.

The Howard League legal team is the only frontline national legal team specialising in the rights and entitlements of children and young people in custody. In the last year it has helped with 181 legal issues at Aylesbury – more than any other prison in England and Wales.

The most common issue was adjudications, and the second-most frequent enquiry was about treatment and conditions. The majority of these calls were from BAME young people. Violence is such a big problem in Aylesbury that some young people are too afraid to leave their cells to access services that would help them.

Last year the prison recorded 370 incidents of self-injury and 391 assaults, including 76 assaults on staff. Inspectors found that investigations into violent incidents were not always completed, and there was little support for victims.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 

“The Howard League receives more calls about problems in Aylesbury than any other prison in the country. Now the wider world can see why. Hundreds of damaged young men, many of them teenagers, are being denied any chance of redemption because of the failures of the state. Violence is rife. Self-injury is common. Some are too afraid to even leave their cells. This is a report so shocking that, in normal circumstances, the constituency MP would be making a fuss about it in the House of Commons. On this occasion, the constituency MP is also the Secretary of State for Justice and therefore uniquely positioned to do something about it. It is time for action.”

Two-thirds of the young men in Aylesbury told inspectors that they had felt unsafe in the prison. Drugs and alcohol were readily available. There was a fatalistic attitude among some staff, and inspectors were handed several documents which read: “Aylesbury will always be violent.” Less than half of the young men said that they felt they could turn to a staff member if they had a problem.

Inspectors said that it was a “sad indictment” that young men in the segregation unit did not want to leave – not only because they felt safer, but because they were also more likely to get showers and other basic parts of the regime than if they were on the prison’s main wings. Just under a quarter of prisoners were unemployed, and those subject to a basic regime spent more than 23 hours a day locked in their cells. Some were allowed only two showers a week.

Visit facilities were basic. Inspectors observed visitors experiencing long delays, despite arriving early after long journeys. Only one in five prisoners who responded to the inspectors’ survey said that they had received help to maintain family ties.


Mark Leech of Prisons.org.uk went a bit further:-

HMYOI AYLESBURY: A National Humiliation

HMYOI Aylesbury had deteriorated further in some areas and safety was a major concern, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution in Buckinghamshire.

HMYOI Aylesbury holds around 440 young adult men serving the longest sentences for this age group in the country. Most of the population are aged between 18 and 21. At its last inspection in 2015, inspectors commented on debilitating staff shortages which had negative consequences for prisoners. This more recent inspection found little progress had been made and some areas had deteriorated further. Inspectors found volatile and frustrated young people, too few staff and many who were inexperienced and prisoners locked up for long periods with no activity and too little sentence progression. These factors led to some poor outcomes. Safety was a major concern.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:
  • nearly two-thirds of prisoners reported that they had felt unsafe at some point and there were high levels of sometimes very serious violence;
  • mechanisms of accountability for the very high use of force had effectively broken down and management oversight was very poor;
  • many residential units were in poor condition and basic standards of decency were not being achieved;
  • the management of equality and diversity was weak;
  • time out of cell remained poor and work, training and education activities, despite some improvements, were too limited; and
  • lack of staff in the offender management unit undermined risk assessment and rehabilitation work.
Inspectors were, however, pleased to find that:
  • health services were good and faith provision was very good; and
  • the prison continued to provide a wide range of interventions to address offending behaviour and the Aylesbury Pathways Service, which gave some troubled prisoners opportunities to understand and then change behaviour, was reducing incidents of self-harm.
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“The Chief Inspector is right to praise the professionalism and resilience of staff at Aylesbury. They do some remarkable work with young adults serving long sentences who have complex needs and whose behaviour can be very challenging. Improving safety and addressing ongoing staffing challenges remain the Governor’s top priorities. This is why additional staff are now being deployed to Aylesbury from other establishments to provide a consistent regime for prisoners and there are firm plans in place to fill vacancies through permanent recruitment. A Violence Reduction Plan is being actioned and the Governor will receive the support she needs to improve the performance of the YOI over the next 12 months”.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook who recorded a video blog on the report said: 

“Quite simply, HMYOI Aylesbury is a national humiliation.”

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A View From the North

Thanks go to the alert reader for pointing us in the direction of the Sheffield Telegraph and the following essay penned on Friday:-  

Mad Management: Quality and productivity - or privatisation and waste?

In 1979 the fourth largest and one of the best known USA global companies, International Harvester, hired a new CEO, Archie McCardell. 

At the time the turnover was $8.4 billion. By 1982 they had debts of $4.8 billion and finally lost even their name. How was this monumental failure achieved? By cost-cutting, forcing bad work practices and trying to break the local autoworkers union; mostly at the advice of the CEO’s consultants! 
"In summary, what killed International Harvester was Archie’s cost-cutting, profit-taking and aggressive attitude towards staff and suppliers" 
McCardell was fired in 1982, one of the most despised executives in the USA, but he still had his millions while tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs. Industrial towns, like Rocky Island, Illinois, went into recession, but Archie walked away a rich man. The interesting thing is that Archie McCardell had form. His previous job was CEO of Xerox, where, benefiting from the spurious profit-levels provided by their earlier innovative technology, he neglected the rate of return on capital deployed and other basics. He left Xerox in serious trouble in 1979. His successor, David Kearns rescued Xerox at the 11th hour by instituting a quality improvement programme that focused on the customer, not the numbers. 

In summary, what killed International Harvester was Archie’s cost-cutting, profit-taking and aggressive attitude towards staff and suppliers. What saved Xerox was Kearn’s focus on customer care - understanding their needs - and adopting the RIGHT FIRST TIME (RFT) policy. RFT prevents the great waste that occurs through rework, and also, unsurprisingly, delights customers. In the eighties, for example, Toyota could produce a perfect new car in the time it took Mercedes to correct the defects in one of theirs off the line. 

One would think, therefore, that our politicians would follow the Kearn’s management model at Xerox? But no, they chose Archie McCardell’s. A prime example is Chris Grayling, the cabinet minister at the Ministry of Justice, followed closely by Jeremy Hunt. He, like Archie, has history. Taking the worst aspects of top-down, cost-cutting corporates he set about ‘reforming’ the MoJ in 2012. He instituted, for example, unfair court charges - which, Michael Gove, his successor, scrapped; selling prison training to Saudi Arabia - which Gove also scrapped, along with stopping books for prisoners; cutting legal aid to prisoners - which the Court of Appeal ruled unlawful; charging fees for workers taking their bosses to industrial tribunals - which the Court of Appeal also scrapped. Archie McCardell would have been impressed with his imperiousness, and David Kearns horrified at the sheer waste. 

This is not about politics. It is about the huge economic implications. Just refunding the tribunal fees amounted to nearly £30 million, without factoring in the administration costs. Add all the other ‘rework’ of failed policies and the tens of millions pile up. To cap it all Chris goes ahead with the privatisation of the Probation Service, against all the warnings from the police, the prison service, his civil servants and the Howard League. Because, when you’re drenched in neo-liberalism, you just KNOW that the private sector practices are better than public services. 

David Kearns put Xerox quickly back on its feet by improving quality, i.e. RFT and continuous improvement. Clearly then, this had to be where the probation service was failing. On the contrary, in 2011, the probation service won the British Quality Foundation’s (BQF) Gold Medal for Excellence. 

The probation service model worked! The same award that had gone to Ricoh, Siemens and TNT Express, all global successes, was awarded to this public sector organisation, which the CEO of the BQF described as ‘a shining example of excellence’. 

Clearly, after this accolade, Probation’s management model would be circulated throughout the public sector as best practice. 

But, no, our Chris, who knows better, privatised it in 2014, disbursing £800 million of public money to the private sector. 

As I commented in my last article over Hunt’s attempt to privatise NHS Professionals, dogma trumps evidence. But maybe it has turned out an economic success? Well, within two years the Tory chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neil, said the privatised service ‘risks heading for a car crash’, with 21 private community rehabilitation companies reporting they were making a loss on almost all their seven-year contracts worth £3.7 billion.This a real lose/lose: in fact a lose/lose/lose because by October 2016 the Chief Inspector of Probation had “identified multiple failures”with one in three short-term offenders being released with nowhere to live. 

Chris must have a lot of rework to do. Actually, no. Like Archie McCardell at Xerox, he moved on in 2015 to Transport, leaving an unimpressed Michael Gove to pick up the pieces. 

Finally, there is a typically despairing British phase, ‘You’ve got to laugh’ (otherwise you would cry), and this is where I am at with this government over the sheer WASTE of taxpayers’ money and people’s lives. 

Between Chris Grayling and Jeremy Hunt alone we, the taxpayer are picking up a tab running into tens of billions, with a human cost that is as bad and more tragic. These two have been in charge of the fates of the most vulnerable people in our society, and they have treated them and their staff shockingly. Consequently our communities all suffer, and the nation cannot have a successful business environment in a failing society.

Has Grayling, like McCardle, finally been banished to the wilderness? No, he has been rewarded with Transport and has scrapped the Midland Mainline electrification, fundamental to economic growth in the North. 

Thank you, Chris Grayling, for nothing.

John Carlisle


I'm assuming the following from Sheffield Hallam University goes some way to explain something of the author:- 

Honorary Doctorate - 2004

Twenty years ago in Sheffield John Carlisle pioneered a revolutionary approach to dramatic business improvement, that of instilling supply chain, or upstream, collaboration: a commonsense approach spectacularly absent from British industry at the time!

This relationship strategy of profitable co-operation has been adopted by almost 100 major organisations across the globe. The approach has enhanced the quality of working life for thousands, delivering, as it does, dramatically enhanced performance without conflict, re-structuring and job losses. Welsh Water, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and business giants Shell, De Beers and Siemens are typical of organisations that applied his methodologies for increased savings of up 30 per cent and startling innovations.

As a result of helping clients world-wide deliver project savings of over £350 million per annum in the nineties, his Sheffield-based firm, JCP, became the biggest consultancy of its kind in Europe.

Born in Zambia, John worked in the copper mines before moving to England in 1970, settling in Sheffield in 1976 and establishing JCP in 1991.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Latest From Napo 159

Here we have a slightly edited version of the General Secretary's blog from yesterday:-

VISOR vetting - some clarification about what is going on

NPS members will be as concerned as Officers and Officials about the potential impact of the intended expansion of VISOR vetting as part of E3 phase 2. At the recent Trade Union Engagement Meeting the plan is for all CA, PSO, PO and SPO staff working in offender management and MAPPA to be vetted and to have access to VISOR.

For clarity this is a police owned record system and for NPS staff to access it they must pass a higher than usual level of vetting which includes giving details of family, household and finances. In the past members could effectively opt out of this by choosing not to move to a role requiring this level of vetting but the expectation that the majority of staff will be vetted changes this.

There are some obvious and quite understandable privacy and dignity concerns in relation to disclosure of such a level of personal information and we are concerned to hear some early reports of divisions expecting highly personal details to be passed through several layers of staff before reaching the vetting contact. If this is suggested in any division it should be brought to the Divisional JCC HR lead initially and if a resolution cannot be found referred to the Link Officer/official to escalate.

Napo highlighted the concerns around vetting in our response to the E3 phase 2 blueprint. As you will see from the branch circular issued shortly after the election when implementation began, we secured some helpful assurances from the employers.

Vetting failure

This means that, unless the reason for failure of vetting is such that a disciplinary case is warranted then no member of staff will lose their employment as a result of vetting failure. Anyone failing the vetting process would be redeployed or have a restricted caseload or other adjustments to allow them to continue to work. If any Divisions are giving a different message about this, reference should first be made to the circular mentioned above and the letter to Napo from the employers giving the assurances and if necessary the matter can be escalated initially to the Divisional Director and if necessary nationally via the Link Officer and Official.

The facts

We are awaiting further responses from the VISOR HMPP leads following our representations at TU engagement and we will issue more information as soon as we can. It’s becoming tiresome to have to repeat this yet again but anyone who says that Napo is happy to go along with this or that an agreement has been reached, are to say the least being somewhat economical with the truth.

Further E3 Job evaluation appeals

We have been contacted by a number of members in regards to all of the MAPPA roles (MAPPA Administrator, MAPPA Deputy Co-ordinator and MAPPA Co-Ordinator) and also the Review and Investigations Team Manager. We are appealing all of these results and will be working with our practitioner members to ensure that we have expert input into the process which is being Co-ordinated by National Vice-Chair Katie Lomas.

News on the Community Prisons for Women project

The project is part of the wider Prison Estate Transformation Project to build 5 new community prisons for women with 60 beds in each. This is a huge change in the way that women's custody is planned, designed and managed. The aims are for improved conditions and outcomes for women and a trauma informed model has been produced with women's needs in mind from the start of the design process.

Yvonne Pattison and Katie Lomas tell me that there is an acknowledgement that this is the first time an establishment for women has been designed in this way as all other women's prisons were either built as men’s prisons, or then converted.

Closeness to home is a key consideration and priority has been given to locations where there is the highest demand aligned to the CRC Contract Package Areas. It is acknowledged that there is a need for many more than 5 units but this is the first stage in the process. The broad geographical areas are London (2 sites), Wales, North West and the Midlands. All of the units will be on land adjacent to current or new prisons but the units for women will run independently with a separate staff group. There will be some sharing of services with the neighbouring prison however. The Governor from the nearest Women’s prison will have oversight of the unit. The units will be for women towards the end of their sentence, in their last 12 months and all women will need to be eligible for ROTL. The ideal is that all 60 residents will be out on ROTL at least 50% of the time. The residents will have a self-cook scheme with assistance given if needed and there will be a far lower level of physical security, in common with other women’s open prisons.


The Branch Circular referred to above:-

Dear Member

NPS Launches its 2017 Operational Plan

Now that the General Election has taken place, the National Probation Service has advised us that they intend to publish their Operational Plan for 2017.

Napo has ensured that our input was taken into consideration, and the following is a report of what we have said following contributions from Napo Branches and members and the elected National Officer Group.

In addition to the following summary of Napo’s views we have appended the formal response by the NPS.

E3 1-1 meeting issues

The employers have requested further engagement on this matter with Napo, as they accept that there were difficulties in the initial phase and this is a process that is vital for our members. We will continue to push for proper support for Line Managers who are carrying out 1-1 meetings, for meetings to be held only when the Line Manager has the information that will be needed, and for 1-1 meetings to be revisited when new information comes to light or circumstances change.

Chapter 1 - MAPPA

The employers have given the reassurance that there will be no change to MAPPA resourcing and that any changes to job descriptions will follow the agreed process.

Chapter 2 - ViSOR

The employers have offered a reassurance that additional workloads relating to ViSOR use will be taken into account. It will be vital for us to hold them to this. Additionally it is envisaged that (subject to IT constraints) nDelius entries will be able to be copied to ViSOR. The employers have also repeated the commitment to offering an additional time allowance for ARMS assessments (after many months of Napo representations). There is an assurance that ViSOR use won't be rolled out until the new IT project (TTP) comes in and an agreement reached that AT users will be involved in the testing of all IT applications including ViSOR on the new system.

The employers have also agreed that proper training is required for the roll out of ViSOR as opposed to the briefings that were offered when it was originally introduced. The employers have accepted that the additional vetting required for ViSOR use is likely to create additional stress for some staff. The NPS has repeated the reassurance that no one will lose their employment simply because of a vetting issue, unless the information uncovered is so serious that the code of conduct is breached.

The employers have denied that the ViSOR administrator role requires a new job description and job evaluation, this will need to be monitored carefully to ensure that no members are doing work that they are not being remunerated for.

Chapter 3 - Sex Offender Interventions

The employers have assured Napo that the resource model takes into account the new programmes. They deny that merging the Treatment Manager and Team Manager roles causes difficulty and we will need to work with members to monitor the roll out to ensure that any difficulties are addressed. There is however a reassurance that our comments about workloads have been taken into account, with the ratios of TM to staff being reduced in these teams to take into account the additional duties. There will be no new job description for this role and again Napo will work with members to monitor the implementation to ensure that duties being undertaken are appropriately covered by the job descriptions and job evaluation process.

There is an agreement with Napo's representations about making sensible decisions relating to movement of facilitator staff after five years, especially where there are specific circumstances to be considered. Frustratingly the employers still have not given any detail about the mysterious "VQ4 qualification" referred to in terms of non-PO qualified facilitators, despite Napo asking direct questions about it. We will continue to work on this during implementation to get the answers to simple questions that our members need. The employers do make assurances that pay protections will apply to anyone being redeployed and that any redeployment will be done in a way that adheres to agreed processes.

Chapter 4 - Administration

The employers have re-stated that decisions about the use of admin hubs will be made divisionally dependent on need. We need to ensure that Napo reps work locally with the NPS divisional leads to ensure that any decisions are made in consultation and that the proper process is followed in terms of redeployment.

Chapter 5 - Complaints

The employers have noted our suggestions for implementation of the plans; we now need to continue to make the case for the SPOs recruited to the team to have a variety of recent management experience.

Chapter 6 - Job Role Harmonisation

The employers have confirmed that there will not be a new job description for Polygraph examiners; it is simply the line management arrangements that will change.

The employers have re-stated their commitment to providing training that is individually tailored for any staff moving from a specialist role to a more generic one.

It is hoped that our members working within the NPS will find this narrative helpful. Any enquiries should be channeled through your Link Officer but where this is not possible then please contact Katie Lomas who will respond as soon as possible.

Please ensure that you bring this briefing to the attention of any of your colleagues at your workplace whom you happen to know are not a Napo member.

Napo - The Trade Union of Choice for Probation Workers.

Ian Lawrence
General Secretary

Katie Lomas
National Vice-Chair

Friday, 18 August 2017

Phil Wheatley's View

With so much to cover over the last few weeks, a number of blog posts and issues got left behind, but are probably still of interest and worth covering. One is a missive from former prison director and NOMS chief Phil Wheatley and can be found on the prison dialogue website:- 

Letter from the UK Summer 2017 

The UK Government has plenty to worry about in its current fragile state after the election. The Brexit negotiations have finally begun and the issues they generate will have to be managed alongside the repercussions of the recent terrorist incidents and the fire at Grenfell House. The scale of these challenges create an obvious risk that the Government may lose focus on dealing with failing and dangerous prisons and weaknesses in community justice. It will be important that the new Justice Secretary David Lidington ensures that this does not happen. Any optimism that he will do so has to be tempered by the recognition that he is the fifth Justice Secretary in the last seven years. 

To date each new Secretary of State for Justice has initiated a radical reset of the Department’s approach to prison and probation policy. This has required the expenditure of much management time and effort both to restructure and to develop fresh policies. Since 2010 none of these major initiatives has lasted for long enough to deliver the hoped for benefits. All this nugatory work has taken place during the period of austerity in Government spending, which required real terms savings in the prisons and probation budget of 21% between the financial year 2009/10 and 2015/16. The prison population throughout this same period has remained broadly unchanged and the supervision of all short term prisoners on their release has added to the work of Probation. 

That prisons are in crisis is undeniable. The Ministry of Justice publishes two regular statistical publications. The Safety in Prison statistics provide evidence of the unprecedented extent of the reduction of safety in prison and the National Offender Management Service workforce data indicates the equally unprecedented scale of reductions. There has been a loss of many experienced workers, a dramatic escalation in the resignation rate and a persistent failure to staff prisons to the level required to maintain safety and decency. All informed observers including HMCIP and the Justice Committee of the House of Commons have linked the reductions to the increased levels of suicide, murder and assault in prison. The Government belatedly recognised the link when at the end of 2016 it announced an extra £104 million for the recruitment of 2,500 additional prison staff. This partially reversed the 7000 reduction in prison staff that had been made between 2010 and 2016. 

It is also becoming clear that there is a crisis in the delivery of community supervision and sentences. Recent reports from the Probation Inspectorate indicate that there are serious failures in the quality and reliability of these services and that this is having an adverse effect on public safety. 

In 2015 the Government reorganised local Probation Services to create regional Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) undertaking all the medium and low risk work with offenders, and a National Probation Service providing reports to court and undertaking all work with high risk offenders. This reorganisation appears to have precipitated the deterioration in the quality of work. It was accompanied by the introduction of statutory compulsory supervision for short term prisoners (prisoners sentenced to under twelve months). The additional workload was to be resourced through efficiencies achieved by the creation of a single National Probation Service and competitive tendering for the CRC contracts. The Thematic Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Service for Prisoners Serving 12 Months or Under conducted jointly by the Probation and Prison Inspectorates was published this June and sets out starkly how little is actually being achieved with this group of offenders. The Chief Inspectors’ damning judgement is “if these services were removed tomorrow the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible”. 

The decision by the Ministry of Justice immediately before the election to provide substantial additional funding to the CRC Companies suggests that the Government believes that inadequate resourcing of this reorganisation may have been a major contributor to the weaknesses in performance identified by the Inspectorates. 

The most recent data on Safety in Prisons (Safety in Custody Statistics Bulletin published in April 2017) provides detailed statistics covering the twelve month period up to December 2016. Analysis shows that the rate of self inflicted deaths has more than doubled since 2013, self harm has reached a record level of 40,161, up 7,848 on the previous twelve month period, and assaults in the same period had reached a record high of 26,022 (of which 6,844 were on staff), up 5,504 on the previous year. This is a 26% rise on the previous year with the risk of serious assault on staff having tripled since 2012. This said, there are a few more encouraging straws in the wind that suggest the escalation in these figures has reached its peak. Data for the last quarter shows a slight decline in both staff assaults and prisoner assaults compared to the previous quarter. 

The most recent statistics on prison staffing (National Offender Management Service Workforce Statistics bulletin 18th May 2017) cover the period up to the 31st of March. They show that in spite of a determined effort to recruit new prison officers, the overall number increased by just 75 over the previous twelve months. On average prisons were 4.8% short of front line prison officers. The shortfall is measured against benchmark levels that were designed to provide each prison with a level of staff sufficient to deliver safety, decency and security – although many Governors feel that these prison benchmarks were set too low. Even so, in nearly three quarters of prisons the benchmark level has not been met. Nearly a quarter of prisons are more than 10% short of staff. Prisons in London and the South East where the local economy is buoyant are finding it a particularly difficult to recruit and retain prison officers at current rates of pay, which have been substantially reduced in real terms since 2010 with pay growth being restrained by Government policy. 

The leaving rate for prison officers, which in 2015/16 was already at an all time high, has risen further to 9.4%. Experienced people have been replaced by newly recruited staff on cheaper terms and conditions. This may have reduced costs but it means that an unprecedentedly high proportion of prison officers (24%) are inexperienced and in their first two years of service. There is also a 12% shortfall in support staff who are likewise proving difficult to recruit at existing pay rates. This matters because the shortage cannot be entirely addressed by overtime working and often has to be covered from the depleted numbers of prison officers. There is some good news in that much effort is now going into recruitment and the number of newly joined officers (1132) in the first quarter of 2017 was the highest ever. 

Against this backdrop, the most hard pressed prisons are hitting a downward spiral. Insufficient staff, too high a proportion of inexperienced staff and a tripling in the serious assaults on staff mean that those on duty are increasingly reluctant to confront and deal with misbehavior by prisoners. When inmates are seen to get away with being aggressive and disruptive it makes life difficult not only for staff but also for those prisoners who want to keep safe and make positive use of their time inside. As a consequence good staff have increasingly looked for alternative employment opportunities elsewhere that are safer, and prisoners feel more distressed and frightened, increasing the risk of suicide and self harm. 

It is not clear how Ministers and Senior Managers of HM Prison and Probation Service can reconcile their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 with either the rise in assaults on staff and prisoners with all the consequent physical and emotional injuries, or the increased death toll from suicide, both of which are the result of prolonged failure to achieve safe staffing levels. Prosecution of individual managers must be a real possibility if the Health and Safety at Work Executive decide to investigate some of these cases. 

The problems created by weaknesses in the performance of Probation and CRCs are real, though less immediately visible than those in prison. Offenders are not being supervised as originally envisaged, with most effort going into mechanistic achievement of bureaucratic targets rather than providing effective support and interventions that are more likely to reduce the risk of reoffending. There is a real risk that this overstretched system will fail to spot the signs that an offender presents such a big risk to public safety that urgent and effective action is required. Any high profile failure of this nature would rightly be a public scandal and probably explains why Ministers have decided to put additional money into the CRCs. It is too early to judge whether enough has been invested to mitigate the obvious risks that have resulted from the chaos unleashed by the reorganisation. 

The latest data on the Criminal Justice system (Criminal Justice Statistics quarterly 18/5/17) highlights that crime and criminal prosecutions have been falling and are now at the lowest level ever (time period 1970- 2016). However there has not been a consequent reduction in the prison population because the proportion of serious offenders receiving custodial sentences has increased by a quarter since 2010 and the average sentence length has also increased by a similar amount since 2007. These increases are a result of statutory changes to the sentencing framework and a tightening up of sentencing guidelines by the Sentencing Council. While reversing them may seem a logical response in order to reduce the size of the prison population to a level the Government can afford, it would be politically very difficult to deliver. However continuing to run a dangerous prison system is equally politically unsustainable. 

This is the toxic mix of problems the new Secretary of State David Lidington has inherited. He will have to manage these problems against a further planned reduction in the MOJ budget. It should be obvious that there is little if any scope for further savings in either prison or probation. If budget reductions are required they can only be achieved safely if the workload is reduced. Previous Secretaries of State have kicked the ball down the road behind a smokescreen of disruptive reorganizations: we can only hope that David Lidington is made of sterner stuff. 

If it becomes clear that he is allowing experienced senior prison and probation managers to get on with the difficult job of managing this pressurised system without second guessing them this will provide grounds for optimism. It would mark a change to the approach taken by the last two Ministers of Justice who have appeared reluctant to accept the advice coming from this quarter, choosing instead either to think they already knew all the right answers or to rely heavily on advice from senior civil servants with no operational experience. David Lidington must ensure he sets an affordable and realistic strategy to undo the damage described above if he is to make prisons safe and decent, properly protect the public and reduce reoffending. 

There will be no quick fixes. It will take persistent hard work to sort out the mess that reckless cost cutting and a proliferation of ill thought through political initiatives have created. 

Phil Wheatley 21/6/17

Thursday, 17 August 2017

More on Prison Reform

With seemingly everyone accepting there is a crisis in our prison system that requires urgent attention, there is a recurring use of the term 'rehabilitation'. Sadly there is no similar acceptance of a crisis in the 'reformed' probation service which has always had 'rehabilitation' as a core aim. Therefore, worthy though it might be, I fail to see how a new report and initiative from the RSA can possibly get anywhere unless the disaster of TR is fully acknowledged and dealt with. This on the RSA website:-


"It must come sometimes to 'jam today'," Alice objected.

When it comes to reforming the prisons of England and Wales, it can feel as if we have walked through the looking glass and what we found there are false starts. Like Alice who encounters the White Queen of Wonderland explaining the rule about jam: it is always on offer but for yesterday and tomorrow, not today.

When our very own Majesty’s speech in May 2016 led on prison reform there seemed reasons to be hopeful. Paul Tye, a member of the RSA’s Future Prison Project Advisory Group and a former prisoner wrote in its wake:

“Having served at Her Majesty’s pleasure on more than one occasion in the past, watching the Queen put prison reform at the centre of her speech, and listening to prison officers and prisoners talking about the dangers they face and the need for change, bizarrely gave me hope that we are recognising the depth of change needed… We are at the tipping point.”
Over a year later and it can feel as if we are still teetering on that axis but that the balance is not yet tipping in the right direction. David Lidington is the third person to hold the post of Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice since the RSA began the Future Prison Project in early 2016. Like his immediate predecessors, Michael Gove and Liz Truss, he acknowledges that there are deep-seated challenges that successive governments have failed to tackle.

Just a month in to office, Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons’ latest annual report would have come across the new Secretary of State’s desk. It concludes that prison reform would not succeed unless the violence and prevalence of drugs in jail are addressed and prisoners are unlocked for more of the working day. Earlier this month, the President of the Prison Governors’ Association expressed her grave concern about the state of the service. Meanwhile, despite Michael Gove and Liz Truss having secured funding for an additional 2,500 frontline staff, the prison service is struggling to recruit and train frontline staff fast enough to compensate for those officers leaving.

The final report of the RSA’s Future Prison Project outlined the potential for wholesale prison reform, addressing some of the wider failures of the justice system. It recommended increasing governor autonomy, local commissioning and greater devolution, supported by a leaner, clearer, central accountability framework and a new duty to reduce risk through rehabilitation. Our proposals informed what was the emerging government’s prison safety and reform agenda, and the November 2016 White Paper and we welcomed the 2016 Prisons and Courts Bill as potentially an historical shift in thinking about the purpose of prisons and how they are run. However, legislative reform was for another year: the Bill fell prior to the general election and was scrapped soon after. 

Rehabilitation tomorrow?

So, is it time to admit defeat and acknowledge that deeper prison reform focused around rehabilitation is for ‘tomorrow’? That today, what we all need to do is to ‘simply’ focus on the need for bread and butter: increasing stability, safety and resources?

This fails to recognise that the UK’s prison system, even when better resourced, has never distinguished itself in providing the right environments, opportunities and support in custody and in the community for rehabilitation to occur. That does not mean there are not fantastic governors, officers and prisoners working together with sensitivity and some success. There are plenty. But the risk is that if we abandon belief in deeper reform, seeing this as a distraction rather than something that has to happen alongside getting the basics right, we risk embedding the fatalism that many in the service already feel.

And as Matthew Taylor, the RSA’s Chief Executive has argued, when any institution becomes dominated by a culture of fatalism, blame and opposition can become the norm and culture becomes very hard to shift. Counter-intuitively, progress seems to rely on reaching for a higher purpose. The RSA has argued for some time, that putting a commitment to rehabilitation – alongside the right level of resources and reducing the overall prison population – at the core of our prison system is the best way to tackle risk, reduce reoffending and protect communities.

Articulating and delivering this ambition without any new statutory instrument to drive change through the system, while also tackling those acute challenges identified by the HM Inspectorate of Prisons and others, will be extremely difficult. Many people are fed up, scared, tired and have lost faith in change. But the new Secretary of State is right in stressing the need for continuing with the prison reform agenda, while also tackling some of the problems facing the probation service. The speed of travel and the depth of progress will depend on the extent to which service leaders, staff, prisoners and the partners they work with are enabled to realise the potential of reform and are empowered to practically respond.

And this is where the New Futures Network (NFN) could play an important role both in driving reform and bringing new players and resources into play. As part of our engagement with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and prison service in 2016, the RSA recommended the creation of a new body to support prison leaders to respond to reform, with an emphasis on education and employment, and on local leadership. Ministers asked for the design stage of such a body to be independent of Whitehall, to encourage broad and deep engagement, genuine innovation, and positive challenge to the status quo. We have now published our conclusions.

We conclude that the MoJ, initially at least, should sponsor the New Futures Network but that it have a degree of independence delivered by a non-political Chair with authority and expertise in either criminal justice or business leadership, and from outside Whitehall. This proposal has been discussed with officials at the MoJ, has been welcomed by Ministers as part of the government’s wider safety and reform strategy and will be considered alongside the MoJ’s employment strategy due to be published later this year.

In developing our proposal the RSA engaged with over 100 people working within prisons and probation and beyond, from the private, public and charity sector. Despite the challenges above, the government can take some credit for enabling an environment for many existing new organisations linking prisons, probation and employers to emerge (for example Tempus Novo, The Exceptionals, Offploy, Prosper 4 and Code 4000). Throughout we had conversations with governors, prisoners, officers, employers, charities, businesses and social enterprises. While all bought different perspectives, what was striking was the consensus around key issues: the need for central government and the prison service hierarchy to lead better and enable and trust its governors more; an appetite for commissioning that allows for greater local freedoms to develop sustainable partnerships and impact measures while drawing on the experience of others; and the desire for prison leaders to be able to spend more time looking outwards to communities and downwards to staff and prisoners when it came to ideas, innovation and delivery of rehabilitative approaches.

Yes, there was also some cynicism about the musical chairs of Ministerial change. Yes, there are deep questions about staff capacity but there was also an overwhelming consensus that reform needs to be driven locally, by governors and their communities, and that we need to act now to strengthen the culture and operational capacity for prisons to be able to become places for rehabilitation and progress.

Download the New Futures Network proposal submitted to the MoJ (PDF, 671KB)

The New Futures Network (NFN) team comprised Rachel O’Brien, who leads the RSA’s prisons work, Pamela Dow, former MoJ Director of Strategy, and RSA researcher Jack Robson. We are grateful to the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Tudor Trust, and the RSA for funding this work.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

The Deluded Dominic Raab

We are all familiar with the huge success of government IT projects, especially those related to the Ministry of Justice and their legendary contract drafting skills, well here's the utterly deluded junior justice minister Dominic Raab sketching out a bright future for all in the Daily Telegraph recently:- 
The Conservatives are bringing a tech revolution to public services

You may not instantly associate cloistered Inns of Court, judicial robes or the dock of a trial with the white heat of technological innovation. But this Government is using technology to pioneer reform to bring our courts into the 21st century – and deliver wider improvements in public services across the board.

The Conservatives will always be careful custodians of the public finances – and will never give in to Labour’s reckless demands for more spending that would push up taxes, or inflate debt for the next generation. But we’re restless social reformers too.

Our justice reforms are based on three principles. We want to protect the most vulnerable, and deliver better services for every citizen who comes into contact with the court system. We need a step-change in the use of technology to achieve this. And, by modernising the way court services are provided, we can also deliver far better value for taxpayers’ money. The first principle of any Conservative reform is to protect the most vulnerable.

The extension of video links for virtual hearings can shield vulnerable witnesses from the fear and anguish of coming face to face with a violent assailant – while ensuring justice is properly done. That way more victims will have the confidence to come forward, and more dangerous offenders will be brought to justice.

In family cases, we want to ban family members with a record of violence or sexual abuse from cross-examining vulnerable partners or children – and allow the judge to direct a publicly-funded legal representative to ask the appropriate questions. Our courtrooms must be a sanctuary from bullying and intimidation.

More broadly, we want to improve the average citizen’s experience of the justice system through more flexible procedures, streamlined case-management and digital technology. That will cut paperwork, reducing the number of physical hearings that need to be heard in court, and allow more disputes to be settled online. This will free up our judges to focus on the most complex cases, and reduce the disruption and costs that attending court inflicts on businesses and working families leading busy lives.

These reforms hinge on better use of technology – which is already underway. From video links to digital case systems, we’re reducing the stacks of paperwork tied up with pink string, and minimising the scope for losing documents. Online services are being expanded, while further pilots will make sure we learn the right lessons as we bed in reform.

Some lawyers are concerned about what all this means for their working practises. As in other walks of life, technology is the friend of remote working, and can help those grappling with the challenge of balancing bread-winning and childcare. We’re determined to make the system more user-friendly for everyone.

We need reform, if we are going to make the justice system more sensitive and effective, but it will also deliver more bang for the taxpayers’ buck. Take low-value money claims. They will be able to be resolved entirely online. It may sound like a small step but it will allow tens of thousands of more minor disputes to be settled this way, giving citizens quicker and cleaner justice.

Some people may find this prospect daunting, so we’ll make a range of support available – including web-chat advice, telephone assistance and face-to-face support. As we transition, paper-based channels will remain available for those who need them. Overall, we will invest £1.1 billion in courts reform, which once delivered will save us £250 million every year.

Court reform comes just at the right time. It will be a terrific advert for post-Brexit Britain. We have the best justice system in the world, and we’re a global leader in dispute settlement. And, since we’ve got the best judges in the world – who are helping drive these reforms – it’s only right that we strengthen their opportunities for career progression and development, for example, by offering fixed-term leadership positions, and more flexible deployment across jurisdictions.

Beyond the court room, the smart deployment of technology is driving reform across our public services. Digital technology is helping improve the management of rail traffic, so trains run more frequently, safely and comfortably. We’re digitising the tax system, so it’s easier for firms and individuals to file their tax return. We’re modernising the process for applying for a passport, so 90 per cent of applications can be done online by 2020. And that’s just the start.

We won’t make reckless promises, like Jeremy Corbyn’s vow to write off all student debt that Labour never intended to honour. We don’t hark back to some 1970s socialist utopia, which was a nightmare for anyone that lived through it, or give into Labour’s luddite opposition to reform. We’re looking to the future. From court rooms to train carriages, this Conservative Government will harness the power of technology to drive innovation, and deliver better public services to improve the quality of life for people right across the country.

Dominic Raab is the MP for Esher & Walton, and justice minister

"These reforms hinge on better use of technology – which is already underway. From video links to digital case systems, we’re reducing the stacks of paperwork tied up with pink string, and minimising the scope for losing documents. Online services are being expanded, while further pilots will make sure we learn the right lessons as we bed in reform."
The legal profession needs to wake up to what's really going on here. Let me repeat what I said a few days ago, there are secret MoJ plans to close every court in England and Wales and move everything online. Just to be clear, that means every Magistrates Court and every Crown Court - only the Old Bailey and Supreme Court would remain, largely for show trials and historic, ceremonial reasons.

All the tinkering around with video-conferencing, digitising the paperwork, extending court hours, eroding the role of magistrates, closing a few courts each year - these are all merely appetisers for the main course and a huge army of civil servants are beavering away on delivering the world's first complete justice system online! What could possibly go wrong?  

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Lidington in the News

I see that the new Justice Secretary has used yesterday's London Evening Standard to disabuse us of the view he's on his holiday's. Here is the article:- 

Prison reform must also factor in a new focus on rehabilitation

On a visit to HMP Pentonville in Islington last month, I was given a mug made in the print workshop by offenders. It’s in my office now, and when I look at the date — 1842 — that forms part of Pentonville’s logo, my respect for its governor and frontline staff grows. Imagine trying to keep control of, and rehabilitate, some of society’s most troubled and troubling offenders in a packed Victorian-era jail with Dr Crippen buried in its grounds.

The print workshop is evidence of the positive work happening there each and every day, giving offenders skills for life on the outside, on the right side of the law. The staff I met were professional and energetic, engaged in promoting rehabilitation and setting offenders on the road to reform. The admirable women who run the sewing shop, to single out just two of them, have no fewer than 40 years’ service between them.

But staff face huge challenges in Pentonville and across the prison estate. There is too much violence and self-harm. There are growing concerns about increasing numbers of criminal gangs in London and other cities moving from the streets to prisons, continuing their violent feuds. The use of illegal drugs and mobile phones, and their trade inside jail, leads to violence, addiction, debts, threats and misery. Nigel Newcomen, the prison ombudsman, has referred to the spread of new psychoactive drugs as a “game-changer”.

In this environment, too few prisoners get the training and education that will set them on the path to a more positive future. So my first priority is to improve safety and security, and then press ahead with prison reform. I’ve heard governors, staff and union representatives say the need to stabilise prisons is paramount. It’s a view shared by our well-regarded Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, in his meticulous reports.

Because I believe we should be accountable to the public for prison performance, and because it will help improve security and safety, I have decided to make our response to these reports more robust. It seems clear to me that when considered recommendations are made by the inspectorate they should be followed up. This is particularly true when the same issues crop up in different prisons: it should help governors — and policy-makers — understand the causes and find solutions.

For this reason I am setting up a new unit, ultimately accountable to ministers, that is responsible for making sure we respond and react to reports. We must do so in a timely fashion: we will also agree to respond within 28 days if the Chief Inspector flags up a significant concern he believes needs urgent attention. If we decide, with governors, that we should not accept a particular recommendation, or need more time to act, we will explain why this is the case or agree a new deadline where it is appropriate.

The changes we all want to see will not happen overnight, because in more volatile prisons the problems run deep. But more officers on the frontline will help. We are hiring 2,500 prison officers over the next 18 months — and the number of new recruits is currently at its highest level for seven years.

This means more support for colleagues, more eyes looking out for illegal drugs and mobiles, and more ears listening out for trouble brewing. And more support for prisoners, with our new key-worker scheme that will train each officer to work more closely with six offenders, building stronger relationships to bring about positive change.

Staff are getting more technical help: extra CCTV in jails, and more body-worn cameras for prison officers. Some 300 dogs have been trained specifically to detect psychoactive drugs. To combat the use of illegal phones, each prison now has hand-held mobile detectors, and we are working with mobile phone companies on new technology that makes handsets largely useless.

The people who use drones to deliver the contraband are being pursued through the courts: Tomas Natalevicius was sentenced to nearly eight years after being found guilty of conspiring to supply Class A drugs to prisons in the South-East. One of his targets? Pentonville. All these measures will help bring greater stability in the short term. But we must look to the longer term.

I want to see prison numbers come down. We need better custody that cuts reoffending and crime. And we need to ensure judges, magistrates and the public have full confidence in the other penalties available. The purpose of prisons is two-fold. First, justice, for victims and the wider public, by holding in prison offenders whose crime is so serious that no other penalty will do, or who would pose a danger to the public if released.

Second, rehabilitation, not because prisoners are entitled to an easy time of it but because society is entitled to expect them to make a fresh start when they get out. Prisons are out of public sight, and most often out of mind. But the vast majority of prisoners will at some point leave jail and rejoin our communities, which is why what happens inside matters to us all. And it’s why, when offenders are sent to jail, they should be held in conditions that help them turn their lives around.

The debate about prisons is now opening up to a wider audience, not least through the Evening Standard’s probing coverage of late. The facts on reoffending are stark: at the moment, around half of the offenders we send to jail will break the law again once they’re out, inflicting more pain on victims and ending up back behind bars. We must do better by offenders who are sent to prison to make them less likely to return. This will not happen overnight — but I will not shy away from the challenge.

David Lidington


On the same day, the Parole Board decided to ramp up the heat regarding the disgraceful situation that IPP prisoners find themselves in. The story was all over the media yesterday. This from the Guardian:-

Justice secretary told to 'get a grip' on prisoners with no release date

Parole Board chair warns over ‘unacceptably high’ level of suicide among prisoners serving indeterminate sentences

The chair of the Parole Board has expressed his frustration at the government’s failure to “get a grip” on the issue of prisoners serving indeterminate sentences under the discredited imprisonment for public protection (IPP) programme. There are 3,300 people in England and Wales on IPPs in jail with no release date, Nick Hardwick told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. The scheme was abolished in 2012.

He said hundreds of prisoners were serving time several years over the minimum tariffs set for them, and many were prone to self-harm as a result. “The levels of suicide, assault, and self-harm is unacceptably high. It’s the fault of political and policy decisions that should have been put right two years ago,” Hardwick, a former chief inspector of prisons, said.

He described IPPs as a blot on the system when he was appointed to the Parole Board post more than a year ago. Now he is urging the justice secretary, David Lidington, to introduce urgent changes of the type agreed by the former justice secretary Michael Gove before he was replaced by Liz Truss.

Hardwick said: “We need to get a grip on this problem. Michael Gove agreed to a whole series of changes and then was sacked before he had the chance to do it, when he was justice minister.”

Relatives of one prisoner on an IPP said he was suicidal after being “left to rot”. In 2006, James Ward, from Nottinghamshire, was given an IPP for arson with a minimum tariff of 10 months. Eleven years later he is still in prison with no release date after his parole hearings were repeatedly delayed. His sister April told the BBC he was self-harming and dangerously thin.

Hardwick said Ward’s case illustrated the plight of many. “The description the Ward family gave of that young man is happening to hundreds and hundreds,” he said. “The prison system is simply unable to care for a prisoner with that level of need at the moment.” He said delays in releasing prisoners on IPPs could be reduced if the onus switched to the state to prove they were a danger to the public if they were released. 

Hardwick said: “Some of those delays are down to the Parole Board, but we are making good progress in putting those right. But the other main reason for the delay is that it is so difficult for somebody in that young man’s position to meet the legal test of demonstrating that they are not going to commit a serious offence in future. For people with a tariff or punishment part of their sentence of less than two years, the onus should be on the state to prove they are likely to commit a further offence, rather than for them to prove they are not. We can do something about the IPP problem without compromising the safety of the public.”

He also pointed out that scarce staff resourcing was being tied up in monitoring prisoners like Ward. Every prison officer you’ve got on constant watch looking at a prisoner in this situation is not somebody walking the wings, doing the rehabilitative work with other prisoners,” Hardwick said. “If we allow resources to be drained away to this extent, then it threatens the security of us all.”

The Ministry of Justice says it is working closely with the Parole Board to process the cases as quickly as possible. A spokeswoman said: “We are determined to address the challenge of making sure all IPP prisoners have the support they need to show they are no longer a threat to public safety ... Earlier this year, we set up a new unit focused on this and improving the efficiency of the parole process. This work is continuing to achieve results, with 576 IPP releases in 2016; the highest number of annual releases since the sentence became available in 2005.”