Saturday, 22 October 2016


This comment piece from the Guardian is yet more evidence of a system in crisis, largely as a result of politicians of both the left and right having used the criminal justice system as a political football for decades. Now it's all going wrong, they have no answers and whereas the probation service would at one time been part of a solution, daily we see that falling apart as the Grayling TR omnishambles approaches its end game.

This killing in Pentonville lifts the lid on the crisis in our prisons

Murder behind bars – it’s a story that was already written. In fact I could’ve written most of this article months before Tuesday afternoon, when a 21-year-old father lost his life. All that needed to be filled out were the particulars – the names of the prison, the victims and the assailants. The victim was Jamal Mahmoud, who was, according to his friends, not as bad as his conviction for firearms offences suggests. The location: G wing in HMP Pentonville, known as the Gaza Strip among inmates.

To be honest I wouldn’t have been surprised if this had happened while I was locked up in Pentonville in 2011. I saw some nasty stuff, including an east v south London gang fight between 30 people. Occasionally there was blood, or “claret”, splattered on the wall. A guy had boiling water poured over him. But I’m even less surprised that there is bloodshed now because prison standards have slipped since then. They will slip still further unless drastic efforts are made by politicians to challenge the two-dimensional fallacies spread by those who’ve never experienced life behind the wall. We can’t begin to address the problems in our prisons until we have a realistic sense of what they are like.

There is violence, but it is important to understand that life behind bars is nothing like Hollywood’s bloodbath portrayal. On my release, my mind was damaged, but my body was unscarred, principally because I was not involved in the areas that cause the majority of violent incidents – drugs, gangs and severe mental health issues. From the little we know, at least some of these may have played a part in this week’s killing.

The continuing tragedy is that our prisons need not be like this. Gangs are manageable when you retain experienced staff, but we’ve seen valuable personnel demoralised and replaced by lower-paid equivalents in a short-sighted attempt to save money. The older officers I saw knew who was in which gang, and had a chance of keeping things in check.

But when you have a 21-year-old inexperienced prison officer from the provinces trying to cope with inner-city gang feuds, who can be surprised that things go wrong. The drug problem is also preventable with front-end investment. Think rigorous checks on staff and visitors, sniffer dogs, nets that stop drones and packages full of heroin being thrown over the fence. But in the absence of that, one failure begets others. Failure to tackle drugs leads to exacerbated gang problems. The drugs and gangs are interlinked and both cause violence.

The prevalence of drugs also results in countless people being released with addiction problems that they didn’t have when they entered the system. Each day, on leaving my cell, I saw people sprinkling heroin into roll-up cigarettes.

And then there’s mental health. If we lock up people with a clear need for psychiatric care for 23 hours a day, the result is surely predictable. I would hear people wailing and kicking their doors until 5am. One guy would spend each night screaming “ET take me home”.

So much could change if we were more clear sighted. With a relatively small amount of money well spent, the prison system could exponentially reduce all of the causes of violence.

What’s happening in our prisons is less the biblical battle of good and evil that is commonly portrayed, more a matrix of complexities both good and bad. Liberals argue that prisoners are victims of the system; reflexive rightwingers say criminals are completely capable of making decisions and should therefore suffer harsh consequences. Both are right and wrong.

Both fall victim to the lure of easy answers, when the real solutions – with potential for rehabilitation and the prospect of alternative constructive punishments – require time and concentration.

We need a clear-headed conversation that involves inmates and moves away from the old muddled narratives. We have seen this week what happens in prisons when they are starved of resources and run on the basis of politics and prejudice. No one is reformed, no one is protected, no one wins.

Carl Cattermole

Friday, 21 October 2016

Latest From Napo 121

From the General Secretary's latest blog post:- 

Justice Select Committee hear from the MoJ permanent under secretary

As I said last week, events in Probation are getting a pretty good airing within Parliament and occasionally outside as well (see BBC story below).

Last week saw the Justice Select Committee invite MoJ Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton to talk them through his departmental accounts for the previous year and the relevant link (below) to the hearing that took place on 13th Oct and the reference to TR, starts at approximately 10.50am. Interesting stuff where, in the face of a robust grilling about Chris Graylings flagship policy, Richard sounded far from convinced about the tangible outcomes of the programme. Mention is made of re-engineering the CRC contracts and its useful to note that the CRC providers are currently locked in negotiations with NOMS as part of the important Probation Systems Review that I have written about previously, with the outcomes due to be reported to Ministers at the end of the month.

It’s now inescapably clear that despite whatever spin the CRC owners put on it, their empires are failing not just because they aren't getting as much business as expected but also because they are not performing well with suspect operating models resulting in many of them getting consistently fined via service credits.


For several months now the Probation unions have been involved in a dispute with Working Links (now owned by Aurelius) across their three CRC’s.

After several meetings and a determination from the NNC Joint Secretaries which urged the parties to seek assistance from ACAS, it was really useful this morning for the unions to spend some time presenting our issues to the ACAS conciliators.

It would have been great if the employer/owners had pitched up as well, as all of us there in Central London had expected, but for reasons as yet unknown this did not happen. I am sure there is a logical explanation and hopefully we can get all the parties around the table very soon.

It can only be hoped that Working Links/Aurelius are taking stock of the heaps of criticism coming the way of CRC contractors before they stumble on and make irreversible staff cuts that we have told ACAS are not only simply unreasonable but also constitute a risk to staff, clients and the public.

SFO’s – so why do they happen?

Speaking of Working Links, I was intrigued to catch sight of a recent copy of their staff newsletter ‘Justice News’ where, following a number of SFO’s that have occurred under their watch, the company claim that their figures are below the national average. It also explains the commendable steps that they are taking to analyse the facts that have emerged. What most of us will have a difficulty comprehending however is a statement which says: ‘Our experience over the past two years is that more (SFO’S) tend to occur in the summer, for reasons we don’t yet understand- or maybe it’s just coincidence.’

The answer may lie in the fact that summer brings an increase in the transient population across Britain and a correlation in the movement of offenders. Given this obvious fact it is important that providers of probation services (whoever they are) have sufficient skilled practitioners in place with adequate access to relevant data in locations that are fit for the crucial purpose of being able to actually interview people. It might also help if recalls were the norm rather than the exception

Another salient lesson to support this not especially surprising notion, is provided in the excellent Radio 4 Broadcast ‘File on 4’ which provides a pretty damning picture of TR overall, especially in the areas of services for Women and Through the Gate.

In one of the featured case studies, which makes for some very uncomfortable listening, we hear how the perpetrator (who has since confessed) to the murder of a young man, missed 8 appointments in the lead up to the tragedy.

It’s also worrying to hear how the authorities at MOJ central and the CRC’s are reportedly running for the covers when pressed to release information which the families of victims understandably feel they are entitled to.

These are among the many issues that I hope to bring before the Justice Select Committee when I appear before them next month. Meanwhile, my thanks to the Napo members who took part in the programme and our communications team here who helped direct the BBC to all the right places.

News Roundup 6

Three stories worthy of note. This from Civil Service World website:-

Louise Casey: I did not ask DCLG to sit on critical Troubled Families report

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has denied suppressing the findings of a highly critical independent report into its flagship "Troubled Families" programme, as the scheme's former chief Louise Casey hit out at "unedifying" attacks on its work.

The Troubled Families programme was launched by ministers in 2012 before being granted a £900m extension last year, and sees central government give councils up to £4,000 to identify and "turn around" families with entrenched social problems including unemployment, domestic abuse and truancy. The families then receive a dedicated social worker to coordinate public service support to tackle their problems.

But a report published this week by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) – which was commissioned by DCLG in 2014 – called into question the success of the scheme, saying it could find “no significant or systematic impact” that could be directly attributed to the multi-agency programme.

Appearing before the Public Accounts Committee, DCLG permanent secretary Melanie Dawes rejected suggestions that the department had tried to "sit on" findings it disagreed with, as Dame Louise Casey – who led the first incarnation of the programme – hit out at the NIESR for the way it had presented its own study.

Part of DCLG's analysis was leaked to the BBC earlier this year, prompting questions from MPs on the committee about why the department had taken so long to publish its full study.

Dawes insisted that, although the NIESR's research had been ready in August, it was one part of a wider evaluation exercise commissioned by the department which had not been ready for publication until the "synthesis report" uploaded to GOV.UK this week.

"I don't know what copy the BBC had, of course," she said. "It was a leaked document. What I can say is that the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) bit of the evaluation was finalised at the end of August – that forms part of the overall evaluation. It was big and complex and it did take longer than we expected" – DCLG perm sec Melanie Dawes

Seeking to justify the delays, Dawes said the NIESR's part of the evaluation was based on a "very complicated and quite kind of experimental national data evaluation", and said interim findings from the team had raised concerns in the department that there were "very many data issues" with its initial work.

As a result, Dawes said, officials had "challenged the fundamental basis" of some of the NIESR's analysis, and had called in an academic from the University of Cambridge to review the think tank's findings.

But PAC chair Meg Hillier said it was "extraordinary" that a report initially expected in early 2014 had only been published two-and-a-half years later – and just 48 hours before the hearing by MPs. She asked Dawes what DCLG had been "trying to hide" through the protracted publication process.

The DCLG perm sec replied: "We weren't hiding anything. And, in fact, I should say I think the evaluation is very ambitious – the department invested in a way that no other social programme has invested in evaluation.

Casey, who is now leading a review into opportunity and integration for the government, said there was "no way on god's earth" that it would be helpful for the department to suppress findings. But she attacked the NIESR for publishing its analysis separately of the department's wider report, a move she said had led the media to focus only on its negative findings. "The frustration is that it is one part of a much bigger story," she said.

The NIESR's report found that outcomes for families in the programme were almost identical to those who were not given special treatment, with 45% still claiming jobless benefits a year-and-a-half later, and anti-social behaviour, criminal offences, and truancy levels no lower than for those in the programme.

But while Casey said she did not dispute the central findings of the NIESR's study, she said the negative elements of its work appeared to have been "quite deliberately" emphasised.

"I've got nothing to lose in a scenario like this," she said. "I think lots of comment made by those closely involved with the evaluation – who have been leading on the press in the last few days – has been unedifying. They didn't wait until the rest of the evaluation was out. I'm sure they feel suppressed but that simply isn't true."

Asked by PAC chair Hillier whether she was "unhappy" with the way the NIESR had conducted themselves, Casey replied: "I am, I'll be honest about it. I don't want to make it a personal thing, because actually I accept that this – within the strictures of this one piece of work, it doesn't prove what I hoped it would prove. But did I ask the department to sit on it? No I didn't. I think it's better to have that stuff out and washed out in the public domain so you can have a discourse about it. My frustration, if I'm honest, is that we haven't had a chance to set the record straight."

The former Troubled Families chief said "no one" would dispute "the fact that 116,000 [families] had problems and now have less of those problems". But were you to have read some of the publicity in the last few days and indeed what's been put out by this organisation you would think 'oh, the whole programme's useless'," she said.

Writing on Twitter during Casey's evidence, NIESR fellow Jonathan Portes said his organisation's press release promoting its findings had "simply reproduced" the executive summary of a report signed off by DCLG itself.


This from the BBC website:-

Prison reforms 'simply not achievable' amid 'loss of control'

The government's ambitious prison reform plans are "simply not achievable", the former chief inspector of prisons has warned. Giving a lecture in London, Prof Nick Hardwick said rising suicides, assaults and murders in jails were proof of the "loss of control". His comments come days after a prisoner was stabbed to death and two others injured in London's Pentonville prison.

The government says it will set out prison safety and reform plans soon. It has already announced an extra £10m to be spent on prison safety, and 400 extra staff are due to be deployed by March next year.

In his speech, Prof Hardwick - chief inspector of prisons from 2010-16 - said homicide in prison had previously been rare at between one and three a year, but had risen to seven in 2015 and five so far this year. "I don't believe this recent increase is a coincidence," he said.

"It is the most extreme example of the decline in safety that I... have been warning about for years." Given the loss of control, "ambitious plans to improve rehabilitation and education or tackle extremism are simply not achievable", he said.

"I see no sign that the number of homicides, self-inflicted deaths, self-harm incidents and assaults will not continue to rise. Politicians, policy-makers and senior managers need to think through very, very carefully and honestly the consequences of further deterioration and how this might end up," he added.

He went on to say that the Prison Governors Association's call for an inquiry into the state of jails in England and Wales was "the last thing we need", as it would take years before any action was taken. Instead, he said safety in prisons would only improve if there was "a very substantial increase in staffing levels".

Prof Hardwick became chair of the Parole Board in March this year, and was the first chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission from 2003 to 2010.


This from the Guardian:-

How management consultants are cashing in on austerity

Since 2010, when the coalition embarked on austerity, one profession has turned cuts to the public sector into a business opportunity: management consultants. How did they get the gig? Are they doing essential work for beleaguered services or are they charlatans with a PowerPoint presentation?

You might ask why Whitehall and councils can’t make these decisions for themselves, but the severity of the cuts has meant that the people who normally make the cuts have themselves been cut. An entire strata of bureaucracy has disappeared, and management consultants have filled the hole. They advise on decisions that will profoundly alter the shape of public services in Britain, and so how they make these judgments is crucially important.

David Craig, a former management consultant with 30 years’ experience, explains that their aggressive business plan involves a problem-finding strategy. “What you’re looking for is something that gives a big emotional shock to the client. We want to take them to what we call the ‘valley of death’.”

The “valley of death” is the apocalypse scenario, telling the troubled organisation that if they don’t do something huge and expensive to change quickly, it’s going to fail, fast.

Very few organisations need a complete overhaul; they need sensible tweaks. But this, Craig says, doesn’t sound dramatic. That’s why you hear consultants refer continuously to “transformation programmes”.

“Once we’ve taken them into the valley of death, it’s time for salvation. Now we go to the sunny uplands: it’s bad, it’s really bad, but working together we can save the situation. It’ll only cost you two or three million, or maybe you need to buy a computer system for another 50 million.”

This strategy of finding things to fix once you’ve got your foot in the door is known in the trade as “land and expand”. “You start to uncover issues in an organisation and put them under pressure,” says John Bennett, a former management consultant to the public sector. But is this cynical or just good business?

In Wales, PricewaterhouseCoopers rolled out a template called an “operating model assessment” across numerous councils, pocketing more than £5m. But this initial work, Bennett says, was to land bigger money with something called a “risk and reward” contract. Instead of accepting a fee upfront, the consultancy firm takes a percentage on any savings it can find. The more cuts that are made, the more money it takes.

One council in south Wales entered into a “risk and reward” contract that reportedly netted PwC 16% profits on all cuts made. This might seem outrageous, but it’s a neat solution to a tricky situation. Councils accused of hiring expensive consultants can use a contract that avoids upfront money. And consultants have a stake in working hard to find new savings rather than rolling out a template.

PwC says: “It is important that our work delivers a tangible return on taxpayers’ investment. Our fees are often – and increasingly – dependent on the performance of our services, whereby we are only paid in full if we deliver the full benefits agreed.”

But is it morally right that management consultants are making a profit from cuts to public services? “I think it’s absolutely right that they should be rewarded for achieving what the public sector wants to achieve,” says Alan Leaman, chief executive of the Management Consultancies Association.

Anthony Hunt, the leader of another Welsh council, Torfaen, says that if the advice leads to some services being protected, then it’s a price worth paying. The danger comes when “strategic partnerships” with consultants create a dependency on consultants.

Consultants have been at the heart of government since the late 60s. Under Harold Wilson’s technocratic revolution, the civil service wasn’t trusted to deliver radical reform. The then minister of technology, Tony Benn, believed outside experts were the only way to make change happen. And so the allure of the “expert” was cemented in the minds of politicians of all political persuasions, and parts of Whitehall’s civil service were sidelined.

Some accountants and IT managers turned consultants, became outsourcing suppliers, running everything from prisons to road maintenance. They had figured out that actually running a contract worth billions was more lucrative than advising on who should run it, for mere millions.

McKinsey & Company has advised and restructured everyone from the White House to General Motors since the 1920s. But it has also been entangled in Enron and John Major’s privatisation of Britain’s railways. Firms such as McKinsey have been at the heart of government for so long, they arguably now provide the continuity and in-house knowledge the civil service once did, so the question is: what’s the problem?

The answer might be lack of transparency, which creates suspicion, even if it may be unfounded. There are good consultants out there, doing valuable work helping public services in critical condition stay alive. Their work is focused and necessary but here’s the key thing: they walk away when the job is done. It’s just the other kind we should worry about.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

CRC Dispute - Latest 8

Working Links Response sent to Napo members in the Souh West yesterday:- 

18th October 2016

Dear Francis,

Thank you for your letter. Whilst we would have preferred to maintain the dialogue with the unions, we realise that is not possible at the moment because the local union representatives are not attending meetings. Therefore we welcome the suggestion of a meeting with ACAS even though it comes at quite an early point in the current procedures. We are keen to do anything to move things forward.

We are therefore available on the following dates for the meeting at ACAS that you propose:

21 October at any time
31 October after 1pm if the meeting is in Euston
4 November at any time

We would also like to add that we are unable to stop any processes while this dialogue takes place, including our current Voluntary Severance process. Our employees are keen to understand their position and to ensure that they have the ability to plan for the future. As Christmas approaches us we do not want them to suffer uncertainty as a result of any further delay. To that end, we hope that you will be able to meet us on any of the dates proposed above and in the meantime will continue working toward a position of clarity with volunteers as previously indicated.

We will deal with the substantive issues set out in your letter during our meeting at ACAS and we very much hope that we will be able to move forward.

We look forward to receiving your dates and to arranging a time to meet.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Hindson
Managing Director Justice WL CRC

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

CRC Dispute - Latest 7

Here we have a joint statement from Napo, Unison and GMB:-

For distribution to all trade union members across the three Working Links owned Community Rehabilitation Companies

No to Job Cuts...yes to fair play for staff.. Probation trade unions standing up for you!

18 October 2016

DISPUTE LATEST - ACAS asked to intervene

Last week saw the issue of an interim determination by the National Negotiating Council Joint Secretaries following the oral and written evidence that was presented to them by the parties to the dispute at a meeting held on 5th October.

The Joint Secretaries observations (attached) raise some serious questions about the underlying aspects of the dispute and recognise the fact that industrial relations have reached an impasse. It is therefore no surprise that a key recommendation in the determination is that the parties agree to urgently meet with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) to explore whether a resolution of the dispute can be reached.

At the time of writing we understand that a senior ACAS Conciliator has been assigned to the case and that attempts are underway to contact all parties to see if an initial meeting can be convened later this week to map out a series of further meetings where the parties can attempt to find common ground.

What this dispute is about

Whilst the probation unions are fully prepared to enter discussions that can be brokered by ACAS, we thought it would be helpful to again spell out to our members (and prospective members) why we have had to lodge a formal dispute with the three CRC employers concerned.

Job cuts and voluntary redundancy: The unions have made it clear that we oppose the concept of further staff reductions as we remain unconvinced that they are justified. The unions are also concerned that the operational model Working Links are trying to construct is unproven and represents a risk to the safety of staff, clients and the public.

Nevertheless, the probation unions have made it repeatedly clear, despite the employers intention to press ahead with their staff reduction programme, we are insisting that the option of enhanced voluntary redundancy must be promoted across all three CRCs in order to see what impact this might have on staff currently in post. We have also urged Working Links to instruct their CRC's to seek serious expressions of interest from all staff for EVR so that some informed modelling could be undertaken whilst issues about future WAV volumes and funding are confirmed between the CRC owners and NOMS.

Pay up on EVR: as we have consistently pointed out, without the above steps being taken the unions cannot be seriously expected to countenance a reduction in EVR terms when some staff have already been awarded full packages.

The replacement of the EVR scheme for an inferior voluntary severance scheme is also unacceptable because:

  • Under the terms of the National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement, we do not consider that the employer has demonstrated fair and equal treatment of all staff.
  • The employers have not engaged in transparent, equitable and straightforward processes relating to re-organisation.
  • That they have not ensured that unions are properly consulted with and kept informed of plans to reduce the workforce to a so called end state by 31st March which is essentially the locus of this dispute.
  • The existing redundancy policy within DDC CRC does not allow for a variation of the terms for voluntary redundancy and we expect this to be the benchmark across the whole of the Working Links CRC estate. We have offered the support of our local reps in working to a harmonised redundancy policy and this remains on the table. Instead we are now seeing arbitrary attempts to force through changes in each CRC's policies while a dispute is in existence.
  • It is the fault of the contractor that they have failed to adequately take account of their obligation to understand and recognise the express terms and conditions of their potential workforce that were made known to them in the pre-share sale process.
  • The employers continuing refusal to withdraw the Section 188 notices which we believe will allow CRC employers to rely on in future as justification for commencing a formal period of consultation over compulsory redundancy.
  • The failure by the employer to agree to any moratorium or period of reflection to reconsider the current staff reduction proposals in light of the Probation System Review.
  • The lack of additional funding from Aurelius the new owners of Working Links whilst the possibility of new ventures are promoted amongst staff in fear of their livelihoods. We again reiterate our request to meet with members of the Aurelius senior management team so that we can be convinced about the availability of funding to avoid unnecessary job cuts.
Join a trade union now!

The dispute between the Working Links/Aurelius CRCs and the probation unions is about protecting jobs and public safety and ensuring that if some jobs have to be lost then individuals are entitled to the same compensation as already paid to other staff. This, and many more reasons, illustrate why it is more important than ever that staff across the three CRC's belong to a trade union.

More news will be issued to members at the earliest opportunity but the above statement has been issued by the probation trade unions to confirm our position as a response to misleading announcements issued by senior Working Links management.


National Negotiating Council for the Probation Service
Standing Committee for Chief Officer Grades

Employers’ Side Secretary: Francis Stuart 

6th Floor 
Clive House
70 Petty France
London SW1P 3LW

Trade Union Side Secretary: Ian Lawrence
4 Chivalry Road
London SW11 1HT

SCCOG/GMB Joint Secretary: David Walton

14 October 2016

Paul Hindson Working Links
Dianne Powell HR Director Working Links
Dino Peros Napo
Denice James Napo
Pen Gwilliam Napo
Ceris Handley Napo
Rob Robbins UNISON
Glyn Jones UNISON

By e-mail

Dear Colleagues

Dispute between Working Links CRC’s and Probation Trade Unions

Thank you for making the time to meet with the Joint Secretaries on the 5th October to discuss the above dispute and/or making written submissions to us.

We have now had an opportunity to consider the various representations and would wish to make an interim determination as follows.


The Joint Secretaries are aware that the Probation trade unions registered a dispute with Working Links on 28TH June 2016.

This followed months of discussions at Joint Unions and Management level and a number of JNCC’s within the three Community Rehabilitation Companies concerned namely:

  • Devon Dorset and Cornwall
  • Bristol. Gloucester , Somerset and Wiltshire
  • Wales
All three CRC’s were recently acquired by Aurelius but, as far as we can ascertain, continue to be managed by Working Links.

The issues that have given rise to the dispute appear to centre on three key areas. Firstly, the intention of the CRC employers to reduce the staffing profile across the three CRC’s by around 38%, the terms for Voluntary Severance now on offer in place of the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy scheme made available to some existing and former staff, and the level of consultation afforded to the trade unions by the employer under the terms as contained in the National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement. Whilst we understand that there has been protracted dialogue between the parties, the Joint Secretaries are concerned that it has taken so long for an approach to be made for our intervention. This has limited the scope for us to intercede as constructively as we would have wished especially given the deterioration in relations between the parties.

Interim determination

1. Given the nature of the exchanges with the parties, the Joint Secretaries are seeking clarification of some issues with the NOMS Commercial Directorate (who were unable to attend the JS meeting.

2. It is abundantly clear that despite the efforts of all parties and for any number of reasons, industrial relations are at an impasse and would benefit from the urgent intervention of a third party in the form of the Arbitration and Conciliation Advisory Service (ACAS). Given that this possibility has been put to the parties who have signalled their readiness to engage in this process, the Joint Secretaries would recommend Mr John Woods be contacted in order to facilitate matters.

If this route is followed we invite the respective parties to provide a progress report to us by 3rd November for our further consideration.

3. Whilst there are clearly major points of disagreement between the parties the Joint Secretaries believe that all parties appeared to be genuinely committed to reaching an agreed position if at all possible. The Joint Secretaries would therefore recommend that the CRC employers make reasonable and structured additional facility time available (and workload relief) to enable local Napo, Unison and GMB representatives to take part in these further talks and subsequent engagement between the parties with the position being reviewed at the end of March. If ACAS intervention is agreed we strongly recommend that talks are convened with the utmost urgency with the parties acknowledging that these may need to take place within an intensive timetable.

4. The Joint Secretaries have examined the written exchanges between the parties and the oral representations that were made to us, and would recommend that the following key issues should be factored in to ensure a fully informed process. We commend the fact that there is an existing ‘issues log’ which tracks the key aspects at large in the dispute. This should be updated where appropriate and reissued to all parties (including ACAS, if the parties agree to use this approach) no later than 7 days from the date of this letter to assist the dialogue. The parties may also bring such additional documentation as they see as relevant to the attention of ACAS.

- The rationale for the proposed job reductions and their connection with the current operational model and the implications of any potential contractual changes that may follow as a result of the Probation Systems Review;

- Full and open dialogue over the issue of client and staff and public safety in terms of the Operational Model.

- The rationale as to why the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme that has already been made available to a number of employees in the three CRC’s concerned is no longer available, and the implications of the recent offer by the employers across each of the three CRC’s of an alternative Voluntary Severance scheme on lesser terms;

- In this respect the Joint Secretaries believe it would assist the discussions if the employers’ refrain from committing agreement to any of the existing applications for Voluntary Severance until further dialogue has taken place as suggested.

- Consideration of the potential equality and demographic outcomes of planned staff reductions by whatever route, especially in relation to the gender aspects.

- Clarification of the exact terms of any early retirement scheme that may be offered.

- Clarification of the status of the Section 188 notices that were served on the trade unions which are clearly a major point of contention within the dispute

- How the parties may put in place a structured and formalised joint approach to avoiding compulsory redundancies by considering invoking the existing redundancy policies and the Management of Change protocols contained therein We note that the employer in the DDC CRC has recently signalled an intention to review the existing compulsory redundancy policy. We also note that the trade unions are unwilling to engage in this discussion whilst a dispute exists, this is an unhelpful situation and the Joint Secretaries suggest that in accordance with our suggestion at paragraph 2 above, that this additional impasse be factored into third party discussions.

- How the parties may be able to facilitate a resumption of local JNCC’s and the Joint Union and Management Forum

We are hopeful that the foregoing represents a constructive agenda which will facilitate the forthcoming dialogue. We wish the parties well in the deliberations to come and remain available to assist if necessary.

Yours sincerely

Francis Stuart
Ian Lawrence
David Walton

NNC/SCCOG Joint Secretaries

Cc Ben Priestley, UNISON
John Woods ACAS
Natalie Sands NOMS Contract Directorate

Monday, 17 October 2016

News Roundup 5

Another good article in Private Eye I see reminding us that many of the contract winners were in fact 'second best' in order to give the illusion of a great deal of interest and to stop the big boys scooping the pool:-


I think most would agree that Dame Glenys Stacey has made an excellent start as HM Chief Inspector of Probation and I notice there is an invitation to provide comments on how her task might be assisted. Too good an opportunity to miss I'd have thought:-   

HMI Probation Stakeholder Survey 2016

As one of our stakeholders, your views are very important to us. Feedback on various aspects of our work, such as our reports and communications, will enable us to identify potential areas for development and improvement, thus maximising our effectiveness and impact.

The survey should only take 10-15 minutes to complete, and your responses are completely anonymous. There will be an opportunity to provide an email if you would like to be added to the distribution list for our 2017 stakeholder survey, but this information will not be used for any other purpose.

The survey will close on Friday 04 November 2016.

Many thanks for your input.


In order to try and counter much of the negative publicity that inevitably flows from poor inspection reports and with much of probation now being a commercial operation with companies effectively competing with each other for future business, I guess we can expect more of this sort of stuff in the propaganda war. This from Cheshire and Greater Manchester CRC:- 


Thanks to the Through the Gate (TTG) service, provided by Shelter and the Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC), John spent his first night out of HMP Risley in a bed rather than sleeping rough.

Shelter’s Lisa Snow established contact with John on the weeks leading up to his release. To ensure that the risk of future reoffending was minimised she worked closely with John’s probation officer, Case Manager Emily Curbishley, completing a detailed resettlement plan in order to understand his accommodation, financial and employment needs.

The assessment revealed that upon release John, who had been sentenced to three years for burglary, didn’t have access to stable accommodation. As a result Riverside Housing Association’s Gate Buddies scheme, together with the prison, provided support by helping to organise a suitable move-on address.

Numerous applications were made to find John accommodation before suitable housing in Manchester was found, but on the morning of John’s release plans had to be changed at the last minute, a challenge frequently faced by the TTG team. However, thanks to support from Gate Buddies, a bed was successfully secured for John at SASH, a sheltered housing initiative run by Riverside Housing.

Lisa said: “It’s becoming increasingly difficult to secure accommodation for prisoners being released as many accommodation providers are losing their funding and our options are becoming more and more limited. It’s therefore imperative that Shelter and CGM CRC work as closely as possible. Shelter has established strong links with Gate Buddies and SASH and this case is a great example of effective joint working and communication between all of the organisations that worked to support John. We worked closely together, from first meeting John through to the day of his release. As a result we were able to best assess John’s needs and make an appropriate referral resulting in a very positive outcome.”

Emily said: “Securing accommodation for service users has a significant impact on reducing a person’s likelihood of re-offending. Having a stable base, with support, improves a person’s chances of engaging with relevant services such as attending appointments with medical services, benefits agencies and drug and alcohol teams. This can have a really positive effect on a person’s risk of re-conviction. Not only does Through the Gate support someone to make efforts to gain suitable accommodation it also supports good communication, as I was able to relay messages to John regarding his housing needs through my Shelter colleagues whilst he was still in prison. In this instance, Gate Buddies has provided invaluable support. One of their team met John, took him to his new address and helped him when he needed it most. Without these organisations working together it’s likely John’s first night out of prison would have either been spent sofa surfing or on the streets.”

Sarah Cooke Regional Contacts Manager said: “John’s case illustrates the innovative work we do with service users across the North West, in partnership with CGM CRC and other providers. TTG is only a year old, but we have already helped nearly nineteen thousand people. In the first quarter alone we have supported 2,815 people into accommodation. Housing is intrinsically linked to the risk of future reoffending and everyone deserves a home. We won’t stop until no one has to face bad housing or homelessness.”


I see from this tweet that Harry Fletcher is hard at work with his latest employers:-

"A dozen Questions drafted by Hfletcher and Tabled By Plaid on lamentable performance by CRCs go down this week in Commons" 


Finally, I'm afraid the blog is going to have to return to auto-pilot for another week as I'm away again and internet connection is going to be difficult. Please keep an eye out for any significant developments while I'm away and as always, share the information with us all here. Thanks.   

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pick of the Week 17

CRC probation officers are being told they will hold about 50 medium risk cases. Many unpredictable DV cases. Will also have to cover Marac and in addition assist PSO's or oversee some of their work and advise if need to pass to a PO. Basically doing some of the work of middle managers who will soon be reduced by 50%! 

In addition struggling with admin staff moving to hubs and some offices have no reception or admin to field calls so we are all doing that too, PO or PSO, we just muck in. Failing IT systems and waiting days to get IT problems sorted. In addition some CRC staff are having to interview in public buildings or share a single interview room with multiple colleagues. 

The general public will not be aware of this at the moment but may object if they knew or not take little jimmy to the creche there! I would like to see a staff survey perhaps tied in with a service user survey to build a picture of exactly what is going on and then publish the findings. A comparison with criminal justice social work in Scotland would also be helpful to see if things are any better there. They have been unaffected as separate system and social work qualification is still required here! The loss of this professional and relevant qualification seemed to herald a decline and undermining of our role.

As has been observed on & by this blog for some time now, the 'reality of probation' is that probation as a noble profession has been assigned to history, it has been fatally wounded & profits for privateers are paramount. Individuals are stoically fighting to maintain a level of service provision that is meaningful, but at huge personal cost.

Grayling, his acolytes & those who eagerly collaborated in this vile social experiment should be prosecuted for gross negligence in public office. They have damaged or destroyed careers, charitable organisations & peoples' lives. They should be required to make recompense from their own deep pockets - pockets filled with public money &/or gratuities from private companies. They should be exposed as the charlatans & fraudsters they truly are. They should be ashamed, but sadly they are without capacity for shame, they are without conscience.

A well written and recognisable piece by the Probation Officer in the Guardian. It communicated on a number of levels including an emotional appeal. It would be interesting to see such articles appear in a wider cross section of the media, in particular the more right wing press, where I imagine that readership might be less aware of the plight of many public service workers and those members of the public (all of us) who lose out as a result. The account is one that might have been written by any number of public sector workers. Maybe more articles could be submitted with an ambition to find a wider audience?

It was a good article, and I identified with much of it. And we do need more of similar in different places. Maybe we need more articles by or on behalf of those receiving the 'services' and how they came to need them in the first place. And how we criminalise people at the drop of a hat, sometimes from an early age. A sustained campaign would be good. We can't rely on the Howard league to do it all for us. And I don't think the public would respond primarily to the plight of probation staff. I think we would come across as feeling more sorry for ourselves than for victims of crime and service users put together. Sadly I don't think that those in charge at present will want the awareness they will need in order to be able to find it in their hearts to change things. They are hard - hearted.

There never was a golden age. If you take out TR from this article, you have a description of probation in the years leading up to the split, not least the 70% of time spent in IT processing on substandard systems. Compared to the costs of imprisonment, sufficient funds have never been invested in rehabilitation – or the causes of crime: poor education, poverty, drugs, etc... Structurally unequal societies manufacture crime and discrimination. Frontline probation work, especially since the cognitive-behavioural revolution, has always been about dealing with generations of failing individuals who are part of the fallout of the wider social failings. There will always be crime, but, as the evidence shows, it prospers more where there is economic inequality and lots of law and order rhetoric.

I would like to know how frontline staff are going to cope when we are reduced by 40%? What tasks can we let go of in order that we can keep up with the incessant demands upon our time? We are running at full speed. Working Links seem to think that the answer is to get rid of the 'troublemakers' and assume that newly qualified staff will be putty in their hands. I can tell you now that the newly qualified staff I have spoken to are no push overs and they are as appalled by the destruction of the service as anyone else.

For me the PI was born in unfortunate circumstances but that aside the concept is one I support. Professional standards and values, the idea of a body that seeks to protect, enhance and promote the gem and integrity that is the Probation ideal needs supporting in my view. To fail to put fear, grievances. appreciable as they be, aside will I believe be to the detriment of Probation as a recognised profession.

I'm afraid they aren't going to get much support from us broken band of POs. Unfortunately we've nothing left to lose and we realise no one cares that we've been destroyed. It seems to me we just keep trying our best to do what we can of our job until we find a way out.

I believe that had the PI developed prior to TR it would have flourished. I don't see how it can maintain professional standards when it failed to speak out against privatisation of probation services.

Privatisation and profit was and remains a huge contention for me too, particularly in our work. The modus operandi as Chris Grayling stated at the time was, 'I don't want to pay for a service I want to pay for results.' He is a, 'here today gone tomorrow politician.' I think the PI were likely in an invidious position, power as we know can be abusive and executive power is no exception. 'Probation' in my view, a hundred or more years in its history, will be here tomorrow. That is where my mind's eye is and PI can develop as a champion for the cause if given a chance. If it fails then we look elsewhere I suggest. I just do not see a credible alternative at this juncture.

Exactly, whatever the PI may say now, it has remained deafeningly silent over TR, the methods of implementation and the damage wrought to professional practice as a result. I will never join; not in a million years.

Why did NAPO support PI's birth if it does as you say it spells it's own end. NAPO surely saw some shared aims. They can co - exist and co - operate I would argue.

Dunno, possibly an attempt to be seen to be supportive of the directive labelled 'TR' (after all probation has always evolved to accommodate political and legislative changes of direction), without fully appreciating the ramifications of doing so on this occasion. A bit more clear sighted focus might have helped - and stronger representation of what the Members were saying.The rush to 'cosy up' to the idea made many Members feel they were being sold out.

Here's the thing. I am knackered, I have been at it all bloody day, trying to keep my head above water, my clients well-served and the public safe. During my working day I deleted Lord knows how many emails forwarded on by my manager "FYI" containing a plethora of training opportunities. I don't know if the PI is a good or bad thing, (starting to think it's a good thing) but we are drowning here in a sea of crap IT, lack of accommodation for our clients, a weekly round of contributions to the leaving present for a redundant colleague, the trauma of the departure of the redundant colleague, the effort of getting other equally shat on agencies to step up to MAPPA. Hell, this feels like an add on I haven't the time to engage with.

Sounds like my day! The only thing that keeps me going is my lovely colleagues who have gone through this experience with me. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer and the replacements seem to just want a job not a beloved career I hate what Probation has become.

The PI had every opportunity to speak out against TR and the destruction of a previous award winning public service, it failed to do so and I will not join for free, let alone pay. And perhaps Helen Schofield, you may wish to note that CRCs also work with ex veterans and not just NPS, have you consulted CRCs to ask about there strategy for working with this group of vulnerable adults? You may also like to consider that many of the staff working in the CRCs across this country are indeed staff shafted by MoJ. They are the very same people who helped probation trusts meet their gold standard service and who were credited with good or outstanding performance until Grayling destroyed our Service. 

It's not the staff doing the daily job that has resulted in the failure of TR, it's the models of delivery having to be run on a shoe string because the MoJ couldn't get their figures right and greedy profiteers put money before the needs of people, something the Tory Government promotes. Shame on Grayling, shame on Tory and Lib Dem government and MPs, shame on the majority of Chiefs Officers of Probation Trusts, shame on other public sector workers and indeed the public for allowing this mess to happen. The world was warned but no one listened and now we all pay the price, the disaster unfolds and everyone is now gasping.

"The use of the three terms "probation, rehabilitation and resettlement" is very deliberate in the Probation Institute. Although we have retained the name "probation" in our title (it would be a travesty to lose it) we are very clear in our wish to include practitioners, managers and leaders right across all the organisations working in this field".

This statement sums up what the PI is. Not for probation, not for probation practitioners, and the bottom line not a "probation" institute. Yes we have called for a professional association for many years (a role Napo should have filled) but this is not it. I know nobody that's joined and I'm not surprised.

Here lies a the very real dilemma of the 'Duty Of Care' which many of those reading this Blog would have hoped/wanted from PI. However, I also accept it was never going to 'stand against' TR or pro-actively campaign to highlight its impact on our Staff/Communities/Working arrangements. Although, I do value it drawing the public to a number of recent damning Inspections. Rather, it seeks to salvage some of the remnants of Probations Essence, Rich Legacy, Identity and Professionalism. I too echo many of the sentiments shared above and feel that sense of powerlessness and shame neither, to have the words and or the voice to consistently 'Stand Up/By a Much Loved Public Service. Many of whom, still firmly believe 'Unification' is the only way forward. 

I acknowledge that the PI is working on the basis of 'Moving Forward' and that of 'letting go' of the past and needing to embrace/work with something that many are still fundamentally opposed too. That's where our thoughts, feelings, heart and voice remain in an altogether different place and that's where for me the dilemma remains. Sending best wishes to all our staff/Unions and PI as we all continue in altogether different and increasingly divergent ways to try to make sense of TR. Also to ALL those staff we have and continue to lose along the way.

The government like to blame the use of psychoactive drugs for all the ills of today's penal system. But that's just spin. They certainly impact on daily life in prisons, but staff shortages and the impact those shortages have on daily routine and facilities for prisoners is certainly a far greater driver for the growth of violence and disturbances in prisons then drugs. There are far too many people in prison in the first place, and increasingly it's becoming a place to house those with mental health problems as mental health services in the community continue to be cut back. The number of people walking the landings with serious mental health problems is a far more dangerous concern then psychoactive drugs.

I agree, it's not the drugs, as the truism goes, it's the economy, stupid. The MoJ are going to provide a cash injection of 14m. In the last five years Noms have inflicted cuts of £1bn and the cuts to the public sector prisons were £334m. And they did it through fraudulent benchmarking which was the cover story for making the cuts. The reduction in prison officers and in particular the loss of experienced staff is what has plunged prisons into crisis. It was said at the time that cuts would be dangerous to health & safety - the death and harm statistics, neglect of the mentally-ill, are now bearing out those predictions.

Another knee jerk reaction? Problem solving courts would only work if all the relevant services are in place and can be accessed quickly! With offenders waiting months for counselling and scarce resources this will only flag up the deficiencies. What we need are better resourced services and more time with offenders. Magistrates are already sentencing without PSR's in many cases! I could do so much more to support my caseload and still try to make some time to take vulnerable offenders to appointments they may otherwise often miss or advocate on their behalf regarding housing or mental health services, but I am overstretched and this will only get worse with further cuts as part of so called transforming rehabilitation.

Article from the Howard League doing the rounds. The private companies whinging that they were misled and now they are losing money! Hey folks, this is not a game of monopoly. You gambled and were prepared to risk public safety for profit and now you are throwing your dummy out of the cot because MoJ is refusing to let you get away with it. End the contracts then and hand the keys back and do everyone a favour. Get on with what you do best. Selling brie, shoes or dodgy dealings in Saudi Arabia are much better suited to you than public protection. Stick with what you know and let the real professionals get back to work.

I work as custody probation officer in a prison and whilst am extremely busy as we all are, I will say that OMU across the disciplines are extremely stretched. Senior Prison officers who are supposed to be managing offenders sentences are always tasked out on the wings dealing with self harming, assaults on staff and offender on offender assaults, escorts to hospitals and covering staff shortages within the regime due to extreme staff shortages. This is not what they signed up too and in turn leaves administration staff to pick up work in their absence. Unfortunately, admin staff are briefed to request email as they won't know who they are talking to. If OM'S were able to get in with their contracted role, that line if communication would be possible and negate need for email request. 

As custody probation officer, I am in contact with all OM'S in community on my caseload so all know who to contact and deal with issues as they arise. That is because, although I am extremely busy, I am in the fortunate position to be on hand to deal with issues as they arise. The government led benchmarking exercise and fair and sustainable initiative was unrealistic and like TR and TTG has left absolute chaos within each establishment. Please don't think that requests via email are prisons being awkward but more a case of no resources. Prisons as are probation are in a right mess at the moment.

I was surprised to read the FT article yesterday, especially as it wasn't on the back of any particular event or incident. It was more the providers whinging, it was a straight forward accusation, the government misled us and sold us a pup. I expected more to be said in today's more 'lowbrow' press, but not a mention. So why yesterday and why the FT?
I have no idea really, but it leads to a lot of head scratching and pondering. It could be perhaps that the providers (especially with the Working Links saga posted above), that maybe the providers are arguing both ends, to create a space where they can simply step away from the contract with minimal penalty, or better still, have the government take the contracts back? I get the feeling that TR is being spoken about very seriously in quiet little rooms in Whitehall at the moment, and not just on this blog.

Probation in London has always been particular challenge to run even when it was being done by people who more or less knew what they were doing. It continues to have a transient offender population, higher risk offenders, lot's of prisons, and suffers staff retention problems that require you to constantly recruit. It's a special case just as policing is a special case in the capital and needs careful handling. LondonCRC is now a very unattractive and hazardous place to work with no light at the end of the tunnel and incentives to go the extra mile. 

I have not met one member of staff who can honestly say they wouldn't jump ship if they could get the same money elsewhere. MTCnovo and those they have appointed to run LCRC are a bad joke. The former senior managers all got their enhanced voluntary redundancies and some of them are now showing up cashing in on bits of work and clearing off again. But the rest of us are saddled with a ridiculous bunch of probation amateurs consisting of prison service senior job hoppers and assorted opportunists who seem to pop up when there's a job going and jump off the moving train shortly before it crashes. We didn't choose to work for who now blame us for the failure of their ridiculous untested operating model that we all told them wouldn't work. Unfortunately no one imagined it could get this bad.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

TR Consequences

This from the Guardian:-

Frank's first day out of prison was long and stressful, but I stuck by him

I’m sitting at a window in the administration block of a category B prison in west London. I’m waiting for the week’s discharges to start filing out, heading towards freedom, having paid their debt to society.

I’m there to meet one of them. His name is Frank* and I’ve been seeing him for the past four months as part of a “through the gates” mentoring initiative. Inside Out, the charity behind the scheme, has been matching volunteer mentors from the community with prisoners awaiting release. We volunteers have provided both emotional and practical support to try to minimise the risks of reoffending.

A vital part of this has involved meeting our mentees at the gate, on their day of release, and shepherding them through a myriad of appointments and layers of bureaucracy to try to give them some semblance of permanence at what is a time of enormous change and anxiety.

When I meet Frank outside, he smiles. But it’s short-lived as he seems determined to get on with things. He knows the score. It’s not the first time he’s done this.

We immediately head to the nearest convenience store down the road from the prison. Frank has a list of names and prison numbers and doesn’t hesitate to spend most of his release money (a paltry sum of approximately £30 which every prisoner is given on release), on newspapers and magazines to be delivered to his friends on the inside. They’d do the same for him, he assures me.

With that done, we begin the real work of the day, starting with a meeting at the local probation office, scheduled weeks in advance. Yet Frank’s probation officer isn’t working that day, we discover, so we swiftly carry on to the Jobcentre Plus office. They aren’t expecting him either and the staff instruct him to complete an online application for jobseeker’s allowance.

We sit at a computer and Frank looks lost, his index fingers hovering above the keyboard, occasionally pecking at the keys which seem unfamiliar to him. I offer to take over and together we eventually fill in the form. Frank thanks me, saying he wouldn’t have had the patience on his own.

Afterwards we head to the civic centre where Frank has an appointment to arrange his housing benefit, again arranged well in advance. We arrive early and sign in, then sit in the waiting area and wait our turn. One hour becomes two hours and two become three. We drain multiple cups of coffee. More than once, Frank gets up, clearly irate, and starts to walk out. I have to run after him to convince him he’s throwing away more than he thinks. Eventually we are seen and Frank is granted access to a temporary hostel until his benefits come through.

We walk to the hostel and up to his room. Frank looks visibly relieved to drop his bags. It’s not much, but for the next few weeks it’s his: somewhere he can call home and where he – not a prison officer – can lock and unlock the door as he pleases.

It’s only then, when the security of his lodgings is assured, that Frank starts to think about food. I ask what he’d like for his first meal on the outside. He insists on a Big Mac.

By this time it’s heading into evening and our day together is drawing to a close. We swap phone numbers and agree to keep in touch. Frank gives me a hug, a surprising show of warmth. Before we part, he tells me he couldn’t think of anyone else who would stick by him for a whole day, going through what we have been through. Frank tells me I’ve done more for him than any probation officer or key worker has ever done. He turns and heads off towards, I hope, a brighter future.

* Frank is a pseudonym.

Aris Tsontzos is a trustee of Inside Out. The charity is closing later this month owing to financial problems. Responsibility for mentoring has been passed to the chaplaincy of the prison described.


For me, this is the key bit:-

"The charity is closing later this month owing to financial problems."

No mention of this on their website. A google search brings up nothing. What's the back story? Another inevitable consequence of 'Transforming Rehabilitation' I guess? The project looks good to me and just what Grayling promised, right?   

Our Mission

At Inside Out, our mission is to help a wide range of prisoners make a successful journey from their cells back into society by training and supporting a diverse selection of volunteer mentors to enable them to do so.


We will achieve this through:

* One-to-one relationships
* Advocacy
* Training
* Psychotherapy
* Co-operative Independence

Our mentoring is at an enhanced level because a diverse and experienced range of volunteer mentors deal with a wide range of mentees, including those with a mental health and substance abuse history. They are also pro-active advocates for their mentees in helping to solve their practical problems.


The one-to-one relationship between offender and voluntary mentor is at the heart of our work. It is established inside the prison and continued after release. Many mentees have little support from family or friends and their major need is for somebody independent to talk to. They value the fact that our mentors are completely voluntary and are not connected with any official body. Our volunteers are from a wide range of ages, races, educations, backgrounds, and are of any religion or none. Our mentees are prisoners who express a desire to turn over a new leaf, regardless of age, history or tendency to recidivism.


Inside the prison there are a variety of options for support, but it is not always easy to access them, nor are they always provided efficiently. The mentor may need to chase up:

* Borough affiliation and Probation/CRCs
* Home Detention Curfew applications
* NOVUS - the body inside the prison responsible for rehabilitation of short-term      prisoners,
 including their preparation for life outside
* Access to support for drug and alcohol abuse via RAPt
* Employment options within the prison
* Education
* Legal issues, including outstanding court cases

Outside the prison the mentee is even more likely to need support with the complexities and bureaucracy involved in surviving on the margins of society. The mentor may need to contact:

* Probation or CRC Officer
* Borough Housing Officer and other accommodation providers
* Job Centre Plus
* Drug and alcohol support workers
* GP and other health workers
* Providers of employment or volunteer opportunities
* Education providers
* Solicitors and court officials
* Providers of support for financial issues and debt


All our mentors have two days’ training before being matched with a mentee. They have on-going support sessions and extra training is also available.


Since Inside Out’s inception there has always been a psychotherapist working on the team whose role is to assess risk and offer sessions to offenders with complex needs such as a history of violence, mental health problems or sex offences. They offer therapeutic sessions to a variety of offenders, provide support and extra training to those mentors who are interested in working with these more challenging mentees. In addition to this they work with prison staff and ACCT Assessors offering a Staff Support Service and workshops to develop understanding in complex areas such as trauma.

Co-operative Independence

Operating within the prison system yet retaining full independence we are building synergistic partnerships with other charities and statutory bodies. Independence supercharges the enthusiasm and commitment uniquely provided by volunteers, while co-operation with other providers avoids duplication and enables us to provide coherent services that benefit prisoners.

We are risk assessed and operate as an independent part of the Chaplaincy team, and were highly rated in the recent prison inspection, which said ‘Good resettlement and mentoring services were provided by the Inside Out group’ [HM Inspectorate of Prisons, December 2015]

Our success is confirmed by closely monitoring our own results within the performance of the overall relationship. We are to be formally evaluated by Westminster University in May 2016.

Within the complexities of the evolution of 'Transforming Rehabilitation' we never lose sight of our purpose which is to help prisoners re-enter positively into society.

An Appeal

Just when you thought it was all over

… there has been a tsunami of coverage in the press reporting on the sorry state of affairs in prisons and probation. There is so little satisfaction to be had from mouthing "We told you so" when every day sees valued and valuable colleagues leaving on crappy terms. How absolutely depressing that this argument is being wrung out in the language of the market, in the disgruntlement of investors and shareholders. "The market" will be the final arbiter in this tragedy, and the privatisation model will crash and burn, but while I will welcome the demise of the Grayling experiment, I mourn the personal cost to so many.

For many probation people, the feeling is that it’s all over, and in some ways it is, with a sense of nostalgia amongst the activists who fought the fight. But when we were told to “get over it” we didn’t. The predicted acceptance phase of our bereavement/change hasn’t happened. And that is because we are right. This -TR- is wrong, it doesn’t work, it’s a mess. So here we are a year on, decimated and demoralised. And yet: and yet, maybe this isn’t the end of the road. Inevitably after the event, the establishment is waking up to the mess of Grayling’s creation. And yet, and yet, there may be fight still left in us.

We have Probation to fight for: a crucial public institution that will never have the kudos of the NHS, but which enshrines all that is good about the UK, and which serves the public by protecting it from harm, and embracing those of its members who fall through the cracks. If reminded forcibly, the minister and the government will recognise the urgency of the situation.

Which brings me to the blog of the General Secretary of my Union NAPO.

“We have also been notified of the following Early Day Motion (EDM) which, if it secures enough signatories, will force a full Parliamentary debate. This means that some pressure on your constituency MP to support the EDM would be very timely.”

I will leave you to google the blog and the details of the motion. The nub of it is that our General Secretary is to speak to the Justice Select Committee on 1st November. That it in itself speaks volumes. Then there is a proposed Early Day Motion which will need the signatures of MPs to go ahead. This: the committee, early day motions, is where stuff happens. So my message is

Write to your MP now. You can find them at

The motion (which is wordy) ends “urgently calls on the Government to rescind the CRC contracts immediately and launch a review into the Transforming Rehabilitation Agenda and its impact on offenders, victims, the public and staff."

Do your bit. Write to your MP, and just say it like it is. You don’t need to research or be an expert in policy or legislation. You don’t need to be a member of a Union (much as I recommend it) Just say it like it is for you, and that this (TR) absolutely must be reviewed.

Su McConnel

Friday, 14 October 2016

Latest From Napo 120

Here's an extract from the General Secretary's latest blog:-

Justice Committee seeks Napo's views

Yet another sign that Parliament is showing serious interest in the shambolic state of the probation landscape arrived yesterday. The Justice Select Committee (JSC) have sent me a personal invitation to speak to them on November 1st on the implementation of reforms to the delivery of probation services under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

My experience of appearing before various parliamentary committees over the years leads me to believe that the JSC have decided that the recent reports on the implementation of the programme, including those from the Public Accounts Committee, HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the range of challenges that have been identified require their attention.

In the invitation the Committee say: "That having been advised by the Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, at her inaugural session with us in September that the Ministry of Justice is reviewing how the reforms are operating, the purpose of this seminar is to consider the key issues and opportunities surrounding arrangements for the provision of probation services. This will help the Committee to ensure it is sufficiently well informed on these matters when the Ministry reports on its review."

It's a great opporunity for us to publically highlight the key issues being faced by our members and turn the spotlight on the failure that TR was bound to be and the chaos that is out there.

Probation System Review

We continue to track the progress of the review and understand that a report to Ministers is due very soon. We hope that the evidence we have submitted and our representations to the Project lead at the Probation Consultative Forum will be factored into the final report. Our hope is that it may suggest some changes which are designed to bring clarity and or confirmation about how and what the 21 CRC providers are actualy supposed to be doing, and how steps might be taken to help them do it.

Ultimately, we will want to see things which will bring some relief for our hard pressed members and hopefully some outcomes which might allow some CRCs to step back from their plans to press on with staff reductions.

Early Day Motion tabled on Through the Gate shambles

As I indicated during my speech to the AGM, we are in regular touch with the Labour Shadow Justice Team who are submitting a range of parliamentary questions on the state of probation.

We have also been notified of the following Early Day Motion (EDM) which, if it secures enough signatories, will force a full Parliamentary debate. This means that some pressure on your constituency MP to support the EDM would be very timely.

Here is what it says:

"That this House notes with concern the recently published inspection report, Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Short-Term Prisoners by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons; further notes that Through the Gate is a flagship rehabilitation policy of Government which aims to reduce reoffending rates of those serving under 12 months; is aware that Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are responsible for this provision yet due to lack of incentive from Government contract arrangements, are failing to give priority to this work; is concerned that the report highlights that of the 86 cases inspected, not one client was helped into work, a third were released with nowhere to live and limited provision was given to those in debt; notes that in 61 per cent of cases inspected, the CRC had taken insufficient account of public protection, most notably in cases of domestic violence; is aware that, since the introduction of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, probation services across the UK have seen a reduction in service quality and low morale within both CRCs and the NPS; and urgently calls on the Government to rescind the CRC contracts immediately and launch a review into the Transforming Rehabilitation Agenda and its impact on offenders, victims, the public and staff."


Stop Press News just out from London CRC:-

Donna Charles Vincent, Deputy Director of Operations

I wanted to let you know personally that Donna Charles Vincent – Deputy Director of Operations – has decided to leave London CRC and her last day will be Wednesday 19 October. I’ll be really sad to see Donna go and have tried to persuade her to stay. But she’s decided, after 28 years in Probation, and lots of early starts and long hours, to spend some quality time with her family while she explores new opportunities.

Donna has been an invaluable member of my senior management team and her leaving will be a huge loss to our business. She’s done some tremendous work to keep Operations at the centre of what we do despite the significant challenges we faced as part of our transformation and introduction of our Cohort Model. In recent months, she’s been instrumental in helping us focus on improving the quality of our probation practices by introducing and embedding ‘Building for best’. We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but this has given us a firm foundation to build on in our aim to meet our Ambition 2020 vision of being the best at reducing reoffending.

From Tuesday, 18 October, Paul McDowell, London CRC’s Transformation Director, will be taking on the role of Interim Deputy Director of Operations for four days a week. The ACOs will report into Paul on an interim basis while my senior management team and I consider how best to meet the needs of our business in light of Donna’s departure.

I’d like to say a personal thank you to Donna for all her hard work, commitment, contribution to London probation over the years, and the support she’s given me in the time I’ve worked with her. Please join me in wishing her all the very best for the future.

Helga Swidenbank
Director of Probation