Friday, 19 January 2018

Latest From Napo 171

Here we have the latest blog post from the Napo General Secretary:-

PAC asks Spurr and Heaton: where’s the money gone?

Our comms team are in the process of carefully analysing this week’s oral evidence session of the Committee for Public Accounts (PAC). Here the cross-party committee gave Michael Spurr and MoJ Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton a torrid time as they called them to account following the report from the National Audit Office into the funding arrangements for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies on the back of the £27m ‘bail out’ this year and the further £277m guarantee for the duration of the contracts.

Unfortunately the announcement below means I have to cut this posting short but I intend to publish a PAC ‘blog special’ early next week once I have also had a chance to view the proceedings. Suffice to say that some of the responses to the searching questions from the PAC range somewhere between robust, unbelievable and embarrassing but you can see for yourself here.


Burnley Probation Office closed due to Asbestos on Premises

I have just heard from Sonia Crozier that following an inspection by the MoJ, a decision has been made to immediately close the NPS Burnley Probation Office due to the presence of Asbestos on the premises.

I have advised the Napo Branch of this news and to offer such support as is necessary to members who will quite understandably be very concerned about this development.

I understand that urgent arrangements will be made to arrange health checks for staff and that contingency plans will be put in place to cover service provision going forward while a search for alternative accommodation commences.

It would be appreciated if any Napo members who have immediate issues that they feel should be addressed would contact their local Branch Rep who will if necessary liaise with Napo HQ.

Lies damn lies or actually just the wrong set of statistics?

It’s not been the best of weeks for the MoJ Mandarins what with the PAC grilling, HMP Nottingham in special measures and, unless I have got it wrong, a set of statistics on reoffending figures that look to be well out of date.

The publication timetable, suggests that we should have been seeing the interim reoffending figures for the measured cohort Jan17 to Mar17 and the one year reoffending figures for the measured cohort between the periods of Jan 16 to Mar16. Those published on Wednesday appear to cover the period for 2015.

Confusion reigns, but why should we be surprised?

SSCL back in the frame again

Just after being assured that the Shared Services division (who are responsible for ensuring that people actually receive the payments they are entitled to) we see evidence that despite the litany of Kafkaesque blunders that were exposed last summer, there are still systemic problems around their inability to determine the difference between contractual provisions and their capacity to make up rules and change contracts without consultation in ways that cannot be correct.

Dean Rogers has had cause to raise a number of issues yet again with SSCL high command who ought really to look very hard at themselves in light of previous failures and the way they have let down their hard working staff who are desperately trying to operate a clearly flawed system.

The latest farce is around the interpretation that sick pay entitlements for NPS staff are related solely to their length of service as civil servants. This is absolute nonsense and as far as we are concerned is in direct contravention of the provisions of the National Transfer Agreement and its protections for those staff who transferred into the NPS under its terms.

More news on the response from Pay and Reward will follow once it is available. Impacted members should meanwhile challenge the interpretation and retain all correspondence and exchanges and consult with their Branch rep who will if necessary liaise with Napo HQ.

More news soon.


A little late, but better that than never, thanks to the reader for forwarding the latest news concerning the Working Links CRCs:- 

CRC News

For Napo members working in the Working Links CRCs: Dorset, Devon & Cornwall CRC; Wales CRC and Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset & Wiltshire


The long running dispute between the probation unions and Aurelius/Working Links enters its 22nd month. Members’ meetings have been taking place across the Napo South West and Western Branches with more scheduled, and I also look forward to my visits to Swansea and Cardiff over the next week. 

Why we are in dispute 
Despite the continuing attempts by ACAS to intercede in this dispute, the parties remain a considerable distance apart over a number of unresolved issues. 

This dispute has been brought about by: 

  • The employer’s savage cuts programme; which has resulted in the loss of more than 50% of jobs across the 3 CRCs while the operational model is still unfit for purpose.
  • A failure to consult with the unions in accordance with national protocols especially over the terms and mechanism of the abysmally handled EVR scheme. 
  • Failure to engage properly over workloads and employee wellbeing using well established policies that will benefit the staff and the employer. 
  • Failure to engage and explain the operational model that we predicted would result in serious deficiencies in service delivery.

Following the last set of talks brokered by ACAS in the summer, it became clear that there was little appetite amongst senior management to engage properly with the unions. This followed an impasse over a proposed Memorandum of Agreement on Unpaid Work Services which it had been hoped would result in a settlement on this important issue, giving both sides some confidence that we could make progress on other areas of the dispute.

Instead, the response to our request for details on the recovery plan bearing in mind highly critical HMI Probation reports was unacceptable and totally disrespectful of staff. 

You deserve a decent pay rise! 
The astonishing revelation that Working Links/Aurelius have been paid additional funding by the MoJ of £4.2 million for this financial year (part of a four year package reportedly worth £277 million to shore up the 21 CRCs in England and Wales) has caused understandable anger among many members who are struggling to pay their bills. 

In light of this we are demanding that a ‘no strings’ meeting take place with the employer to discuss the scope for a pay award that recognises the huge efforts of staff to keep the Working Links CRCs afloat. This is in the face of successive reports from Dame Glenys Stacey highlighting operational failings around standards of supervision, and ‘Through the Gate’ support which have also attracted some highly negative media coverage. 

We want meaningful dialogue and transparency 
Let me be clear, the unions would rather not be in this dispute and would much prefer regular dialogue in an atmosphere where the views of members and their commitment to assisting clients are treated with the respect that they deserve. 

Unfortunately this will require a change in approach from an employer who seems to think that trade union members are irrelevant, instead of understanding that staff can offer valuable solutions to the chaos that is all too typical of the Working Links operation. 

Napo pressing your case in Parliament 
You may have seen from my previous reports and weekly blog posts that the details of this settlement were not brought before Parliament. I have brought this to the attention of the Justice Select Committee who are investigating the dreadful TR programme, and to the Public Accounts Committee, where I have also highlighted the fact that this employer is amongst those with the worst track record on effective interventions and public safety considerations as recently evidenced in the BBC Panorama programme to which I contributed. 

I am also in regular contact with the Labour Party leadership on their future plans for Probation 

Indicative ballots - your chance to direct the dispute 
We need to get a better understanding of what our loyal Napo members think about the situation I have described, and your willingness to move to the next stage of this long running and unnecessary dispute. Napo and Unison are therefore planning to hold a series of consultative ballots for our members across the three Working Links CRCs. More details of these will follow soon. 

We need union members to make a clear statement in these ballots by voting ‘Yes’ to the relevant questions. 

Meanwhile, I am speaking at the following meetings in Wales: Swansea 1:00 on 17th January; Cardiff 1:00 Wednesday 24th January and in Plymouth on 22nd January. I look forward to seeing as many of our members there as possible and maybe you can encourage non-member colleagues to come too as they will be very welcome. 

Please contact your local Napo CRC reps to find out more about the dispute and upcoming meetings as these are arranged. Wales CRC: Pen Gwilliam, Ian Jones, Migden-Sue Roberts and Lisa Robinson BGSW CRC: Ceris Handley DDC CRC: Dino Peros and Denice James You can also contact me in total confidence at or on my twitter account: @ilawrenceL 

Regards Ian Lawrence 

Napo members standing together in UNITY in defence of your jobs, fair pay and safer communities.

Are Mutuals The Answer?

Seen on Facebook this from David Raho:-

Important not to see Carillion as some kind of exception that made critical mistakes. All corporations of this type are doing similar things. Very interesting to see mainstream media rallying around to support the activities and idea of multinational corporations as public service providers as if their annual bonuses depended on supporting them no matter what. The purpose of a corporation is to make profit.

I have no real problem with carefully outsourcing some services when this is to a not for profit organisation or a mutual that invests any surplus it might have back into itself in order to expand and to provide even better services. I have never supported the idea of profiting from the CJS in the form of shares and dividends as this leads to the creation of perverse incentives and the distortion of service delivery to meet targets rather than to benefit society.

When I joined Probation we were I think 80% Home Office 20% Local Authority and could plug in to all the benefits of both as local government officers. This was for many a very pleasant arrangement with both local and national oversight and accountability. We should not forget that the the Probation Trust organisations were progressive devolved government organisations with good potential despite Year on Year budget cuts and that the wisdom of reorganising Probation into pseudo public sector and contracted out or outsourced to private organisations (one staff mutual) was actually not only a step back but was anti-progressive and anti-innovation.

It is worth seriously thinking that if the bulk of Probation had been mutualised ie owned by and run by probation staff then things might be a lot better for everyone and we would have a lot more positive news rather than failure and job cuts. Perhaps there would be some interest in mutualising the lot. During TR there were bid attempts from mutuals but they were disadvantaged…/more-mutual-news.h…

The vast sums of money in guarantees and legal hurdles meant that many were compelled to hitch their waggon to bigger players who then called the shots. Russell Webster did some sterling work looking at mutuals

Unfortunately as predicted by some this has not worked out entirely well and for some proved to be extremely costly. The reckless gamble made by Grayling who apparently envisioned that the TR shakedown and sell off would bring in a diverse range of providers of Probation Services and that new players would bring new thinking, vision, opportunities and innovative approaches to bear on intractable problems that would excite and motivate staff and partners alike has not been realised and some say this was never the intention and that it was purely a smoke and mirrors ploy to ensure parliamentary acquiescence and pacify and divide opposition whilst manoeuvring the companies they wanted into running those services they want them to.…/policy-and-…/article/1319599

So what I am saying is there are other options other than on the one hand a Stalinist type centrally controlled NPS model (incidentally the very antithesis of the Tory ideal and therefore existing on borrowed time under the present administration) or on the other hand a loosely governed privatised free for all with largely clueless gung ho providers ruthlessly pursuing profit over everything else and who know they have the government over a barrel with a high level of confidence that they will be bailed out of their for profit schemes fail. Hence the fuss about Carillion because the government did not bail them out sending shockwaves through the privateer exec class flush with their Xmas bonuses who were no doubt relishing another year of tax payer fleecing in collusion with their friends in government.

Trusts and mutuals can and do work very well if the government of the day chooses to provide the environment to support them. The idea that the government would actually favour quality over cost cutting and privateering sounds pretty radical.

So I think we need to start looking forward towards next steps and start envisioning not how others think the Probation service should be like and how it should be run but what we think it should look like and how it should be run. Part of this is to divest ourselves of the negative baggage of TR and combat the damage and ugliness it has caused to us and our professional reputation and status.

Most probation staff value the skills and experience of their colleagues equally whatever organisation they were assigned to and so it is particularly galling for me to hear and witness that there is now an unwritten artificial hierarchy and division of probation staff that has been imposed and allowed to develop, encouraged aided and abetted by certain spin doctors who are not our friends, that peddles the myth that one staff group of equally experienced, capable and identically trained probation staff are now not as good or of a lower class than the other just because of who their employers are and what responsibilities happen to be assigned to them. 

It is disappointing that intelligent grown up persons apparently believe this tribal myth of superiority and are buying into the baseless belief of brown eyes good blue eyes bad or vice versa ( that runs counter to decades of established probation values and is a terribly divisive betrayal of all that is decent in the probation profession and what it stands for. Stop helping to peddle this divisive nonsense now and think instead of the positive ways we can unify and rebuild or profession together.

The involvement of multinational corporations in probation has damaged our reputation because of their way of doing things not ours.…/jeremy-corbyn-video-carillio…


Dean Rogers I don't want to scaremonger but the parallels between Carillion and Interserve are very worrying. A really interesting piece David A Raho. I agree we need to start the debate about what future options are now. Nationalisation is a slogan but in practice the MoJ is dysfunctional. Some of us in Napo have been looking at options for a while and we're pushing the debate hard over the coming months. For me, the key pillars must be common national standards; two way public accountability; and removal of cancerous profit motives. Increasingly mutualisation looks like an idea who's time has come but there needs to be safer, fairer commissioning model that facilitate 2 way accountability without insurmountable bureaucracy or cost. There also needs to be support for those wanting to explore this as making mutualisation work isn't easy either...but nothing worthwhile ever is.

Very good piece and I like your ideas! Don’t think it would tempt me to return to permanent work - I enjoy my current autonomy - but for the future of a service I committed to for many years and want to see it succeed - I would support any moves to help this happen!


I feel torn between a rock and a hard place. Since privatisation I've wanted all CRCs to fail and go bankrupt but seeing how shit roles down hill I'm worried if this did happen the CEOs would be fine and it would be the worker ants losing their income. Can such a mess ever be turned around?

Dean Rogers You're right to see there are no easy answers. There are alternative models and it is unlikely that all or most of the current owners will pitch up to renew their contracts so the State will probably have to look at a different model. Napo and others are already exploring options and promoting the debate with politicians, academics, etc (e.g. we are holding an event in the Welsh Assembly on this next month) and looking to include Members, victims and those with lived experience as ideas develop. It is important though that we hang all this on how important probation is and have a balanced, honest but positive message about how rewarding it can still be - if everyone thinks it's a basket case they'll never listen us.

But I bet the chief executives have got nice houses and good pensions out of it and so the general public suffer because the offenders aren’t getting there needs met, because over workers under staff and loss of mo jo. (Spirit). But those at the top are all right, so who cares. Sad times.

I just pray the pension pots haven't been dipped in to!!

Dean Rogers LGPS is secure. Only employer to significantly miss contributions since the split is the NPS...Napo spotted in and were on it quickly. New starters in the CRC are not in guaranteed schemes so less expensive for the employer and little incentive to skip payments. Carillion had contracts with very expensive historical schemes that were not being monitored by unions.

Yet another fuck up, that the taxpayer has to foot the bill...privatisation again not working despite the sweeteners at the bidding process....

Work is being taken from the NPS to give to the CRC's it's a crock of shit

David A Raho Many CRCs have carried out radical staffing cuts, office closures, and have high attrition rates of experienced staff at all grades. In certain cases CRCs are in the process of replacing POs with less expensive PSOs etc As a result in most cases they have effectively reduced their capacity to take on any new work and are struggling to do the work they have. What we would not want to see is for currently understaffed NPS community teams to be simply TUPE’d across to the CRC (the clue is in the title) companies and for remaining NPS staff (such as those working in prisons) to be absorbed into HMPPS in the process. The NPS was disappeared before and could easily be disappeared again. HMCTS would simply absorb current NPS court staff. These would be relatively easy solutions that the government could implement fairly rapidly. It is perhaps more strategically productive for our purposes to focus the debate on solutions that will bring us together. Spurr will wish to do his political masters bidding.

A diabolical combination - Spurr's disinformation and Grayling's kiss-of-death incompetence are the curse of Probation. Spurr's lack of principle is stupefying.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

CRCs Get a Windfall Not a Bung

The Guardian has been quick to report on yesterday's Public Accounts Committee hearing:- 

Private probation firms face huge losses despite £342m 'bailout'

Private probation companies responsible for supervising more than 200,000 offenders in England and Wales face total losses of more than £100m, even after a £342m “bailout” by the Ministry of Justice, MPs have been told.

Ministry of Justice officials acknowledged on Wednesday that 14 of the 21 community rehabilitation companies were expected to make losses ranging from £2.3m to £43m by 2021-22, partly due to a sharp fall in the number of offenders being sentenced to community punishments.

Details of the state of the part-privatisation of the probation service – introduced by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary in 2015 – were revealed during a Commons public accounts committee session. MoJ officials declined to comment on whether outsourcing was “an appropriate model” for probation services when pressed by Labour MPs, saying that it was a political question.

During the hearing, Richard Heaton, the MoJ’s permanent secretary, sought to reassure MPs that maintenance contracts for 50 public sector prisons that have been held by the failed outsourcing company Carillion would continue uninterrupted, with state prison staff ready to fill any gaps. Senior MoJ officials even suggested that repairs and maintenance at some jails could improve as a result of a more direct management relationship.

However, they refused to speculate on the position of a second major outsourcing company, Interserve, which is the largest probation provider, with five companies supervising 40,000 offenders in Manchester, Liverpool, Humberside and Hampshire. They said that they had an “open book relationship” with the company, with access to their internal figures, as well as external auditors taking an interest.

Michael Spurr, the chief executive of Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service, told MPs that the future of the private probation companies would be clearer after talks at the end of this month when new figures on reoffending rates were published.

The income of companies is split between fixed-fee payments for supervising offenders on community punishments, and payments-by-results for rehabilitation work with offenders, including 40,000 short-term prisoners upon release. It is possible the companies could receive extra payments-by-results of between £32m and £128m up until 2021-22 for cutting reoffending rates.

Spurr said talks would be held with the companies and then ministers on what further steps might be taken depending on the reoffending data. A National Audit Office report said initial figures showed that the number of further offences committed was actually rising, which could affect the future income of the companies.

Spurr confirmed to MPs that talks were also being held about whether the probation companies could be given extra work. He refused to accept that the MoJ had been engaged in a “bailout” of the private probation companies, saying the £342m in additional fees and projected payments up until 2021-22 amounted to “windfall savings that had been put back into the contract”.


An article in the Independent raises an interesting point regarding the collapse of Carillion:- 

Carillion's Government contracts could have been stopped by a single law. Why wasn't it used?

There’s a law that forces the Government to consider the social consequences of giving contracts to big companies like Carillion. 

In Oxfordshire, firefighters are on standby to deliver school meals now Carillion, propped up for months by government contracts, has gone bust. I wonder if many of those Oxfordshire families had heard of Carillion until they read in the paper on Monday that firefighters, already overstretched in their duties fighting fires and saving lives, might be needed to deliver food to their children.

It’s not just school lunches. A road-building project in Leeds has been thrown into doubt, a bypass in Lincolnshire may need a new contractor to finish works, academies sponsored by a Carillion trust will have to get a new name. At least 25 local councils had contracts with Carillion, including catering and cleaning, major engineering, library management and road gritting. We need wonder no more how one company could properly provide so many specialist services. It couldn’t.

These contracts made Carillion bosses rich: Richard Howson, the former chief executive, took home £1.5m in 2016. But they also made Carillion “too big to fail”. While hedge funds were raking in £18m as Carillion shares slumped after a profit warning in July, the Government continued to award the company contracts, including High Speed Two, worth £1.3 billion.

Carillion is part of what is known as “the shadow state”: a group of large companies secretively awarded Government contracts to run Britain’s public services. There are others. G4S will be remembered for its failures in the run up to the 2012 Olympics; Serco is the stock market’s best bet to mop up the contracts lost by Carillion.

What if, instead of awarding those contracts to another faceless FTSE 100 company, councils employed local businesses to do the work? It would boost jobs and training, nourishing communities, rather than leaving them vulnerable to market forces outside their control. Five years ago, this kind of thinking was the basis for the Public Services (Social Value) Act. Since it came into force in January 2013, public bodies are required to consider the social value of the contracts they award.

One-third of local councils have since used the Act. This amounts to £25bn of public spending being shaped by social values, out of total public spending of £268bn, according to Social Enterprise UK. In Preston, local councillors used the Act as the basis to redirect contracts, from printing services for the police to food for council buildings, towards local businesses. In Plymouth, the local council used the Act to employ CATERed, a co-operative company jointly owned by the council and 67 local schools, to provide school meals.

The Act gives smaller, local businesses a natural advantage. Bidders must prove that how they do business positively impacts the local social and economic value of their area, incentivising good practice and rewarding companies that support communities.

But many of the groups that use it say that it does not go far enough. Public bodies have only to consider social value rather than to embed it in their criteria for awarding contracts. And they only have to do so above a threshold set by the EU, which has increased to over £600,000 for services tendered by the central government, ruling out many smaller contracts.

A review of the Act, called for in January 2017, lost momentum after the snap election. But a review is now essential to give the public sector more confidence to use social value when deciding on how to award contracts – not least because after Brexit, the UK will have to redefine how it wants to run procurement for public services.

The Social Value Act is not a catch-all solution to the shadow state. It will take a change of culture in the Government to stop awarding the same handful of companies lucrative contracts with the understanding that they deliver profits for shareholders over the short term. But it is certainly a good place to start.


Finally, as a result of a parliamentary question from Richard Burgon MP we learn how much HMPPS has paid out over the last 12 months in hotel and travel for prison officers having to be shuttled around the country due to disturbances and staffing shortages:-

Total £2,409,893.31 involving 8129 hotel bookings and 6699 rail tickets costing £247,838.95.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Hostel Worker Speaks Out

With NPS due to introduce significant changes to how Probation Hostels are run, this recent contribution gives an insight into a part of probation work not often discussed:- 

For at least the past ten years there has been pretty much constant change in Probation and in Approved Premises (AP). You could see the signs of privatisation coming and then with the introduction of Trusts, privatisation could not be hidden as an ultimate government goal. There was a reprieve with only the so called low/medium risk offenders moving across to be managed by private companies. I believe government wants all probation matters in the hands of the highest bidder. 

For the next stage I can see Approved Premises targeted to be taken over by private companies. For years I have had senior management say when questioned about APs and privatisation, that “no one would touch them as they could not make enough profit and that high risk offenders would not end up under their control”. I think we all know by now that it does not matter what is right and proper or safe, the privatisation onslaught will go on. 

The introduction of EE is another example of the privatisation preparation. Have any of you looked at the blurb as to the reasons to gain EE certification? One of them is that it is a measurable standard which can “Provide evidence of quality assurance to potential customers, commissioners and external stakeholders”. Although cynical of the current EE tick box process, my colleges and I have worked in an enabling environment way within the confines of an enhanced supervision regime since the day I joined. Why on earth would I be in Probation if I did not believe that? 

Next will probably be the TUPE of AP Residential workers along with the fabric and total control of the APs to private companies, justifying this by saying that PSOs and the AP Manager will still work within the AP but will be retained under NPS control. Residents within the AP will also still have NPS POs and after all the now band 2 Residential Workers will have no other function than to carry out a security role so why would they be retained by Probation. 

At one of the E3 web chat sessions, Sonia Crozier said about the AP residential worker “the posts will attract older people with a range of experience, who are interested in a second career”. I feel that we have all been let down and that (selfishly) all my effort in helping residents and actually reducing risk in the middle of the night and weekends when no “professional” was about will in the future be lost. I certainly will not be going the extra mile and work above my new role and pay grade.

'Hostel run by cleaners'. Not far wrong. The new rates of pay are pretty much cleaners wages. In fact we have not had a cleaner for months in our AP and it is down to staff and residents to keep the place together. If you look at the private companies who are currently recruiting for the night worker, the pay is at minimum wage, and for a 48 hr week. God help those who work nights in the AP that are being TUPE across to the private companies on the 22 January. Give it a year and their contract will no doubt be torn up. 

These companies are also competing with the MoJ for the Residential workers posts presumably to supply sessionals or to get them into APs and take a finding fee. They will probably be more successful in their campaign as the civil service seems incompetent at recruitment. Our and many other APs have held vacant posts for years. Currently there are posts being filled by surplus prison officers! Yes I said surplus. 

Should I touch on the Facilities Management contract? Well I would if I knew what was happening as at 22 January when the new contract is supposed to start. What is happening about outstanding jobs? Clothes dryer out of order for the last two months, blocked drains and no intercom etc etc etc. Have we got a new maintenance man coming in? No one seems to know.

AP staff have been targeted in many ways to reduce costs. The ban on overtime came in to our South West AP some years ago and shifts that needed covering were filled by sessionals. When there were no sessional staff, the shifts were open to full time staff but you had to complete the shift as a sessional. Yes you were doing the same work as what you were contracted to do, same desk, same building, same room, same residents...and pen, but you were paid at a lower banding/rate and this was classed as a second job. 

This was taken to grievance but was stopped by HR as it was not deemed a grievance. Although if you look on the My Services web site it has a comprehensive description of what is and what is not sessional work! Then there was a ban on taking bank holidays off as holiday. So if you were unfortunate to be on the rota to work all the bank holidays in any given year, you were told that you could not take even one day as holiday, fair? This went to grievance and was won by staff. 

They then introduced a complex way of giving you your bank holidays. You front loaded the holiday hrs onto your leave card and then were told that if you worked a bank holiday you had to convert the amount of hours worked on shift during that bank holiday to TOIL. This meant that if you wanted equivalent time off i.e. a weekend, then you had to use the TOIL which meant you were financially out of pocket, not equivalent time off. This was taken to grievance and won by staff. Staff were pressured to attend team meetings and not receive any compensation. After complaints, TOIL was offered but again the taking of TOIL means the loss of income. 

Would any other probation worker PSO, PO or SPO expect to be asked to come in on an evening or weekend and accept no payment or TOIL for their time? I am talking about weekends and nights not extra time at the front or back end of a day. Management seemed to think that if you did not work during the week then it was ok to ask an AP worker to attend supervision during their working hours and that staff were being difficult if they said no.

I would like to finish on a positive. I have enjoyed my job and hopefully no matter what they throw at us I hope to retain some of the work ethic I see in my colleagues.


The following tweeted yesterday by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-
"Breaking News... Transfer of Approved Premises Waking Night cover now to take place in March following union pressure. More news to follow."

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Turning Up the Heat On the MoJ

As the fallout from the collapse of Carillion gathers pace, attention is at last turning to the MoJ and their infamous contracting skills. This on the Huffington Post website:-

Carillion Collapse: Justice Ministers Under Fire For Failing To Wrest Control Of Prison Maintenance From Firm

Public cash was thrown at Carillion to maintain British prisons despite ministers twice admitting the soon-to-go-bust firm was failing to deliver. Cells were left with smashed windows while inmates lived in squalor and, in some cases, were unable to access a towel and soap. But the Government still handed Carillion almost £100m from the public purse over the course of two years despite warnings.

Outsourcing and construction giant Carillion - which employs 20,000 British people - went into liquidation on Monday after issuing a major profits warning last year. It has public sector or public/private partnership contracts worth a staggering £1.7bn, including providing school dinners, cleaning and catering at NHS hospitals, building HS2 and maintaining 50,000 army base homes for the Ministry of Defence. It had issued three profits warnings before collapsing and had been struggling under £900m of debt and a £587m pension deficit.

Now justice ministers face a barrage of questions over why Carillion’s prison maintenance contracts weren’t wrested from the firm when serious evidence of failure started to emerge. They twice revealed in Parliament they were unhappy with the group’s performance. In September 2016, the then Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah told MPs: 

“I am particularly concerned about the rate of repairs in our prisons. Carillion is one company that has a contract and receives public funds to perform such work, and I have not been impressed by what I have heard about its response speed. I will meet its management to ensure that it delivers what we expect.”
Then in February 2017, Gyimah said he attempted to set up an action plan with Carillion, adding: “The performance of Carillion caused sufficient concern that I met with Carillion senior executives to set out our expectations for immediate service improvement.” Despite those admissions, Carillion was given £99.5m for prison maintenance contracts since June 2015, including £39.8m in 2017 alone.

Prisons and probation contracts in the private sector were supposed to deliver £100m of savings, but a damning report by HM Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke was utterly damning about the state of the prisons estate last year. Clarke found cockroaches, filthy toilets, litter-strewn cells and electric wires hanging above shower cubicles.

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: 
“This is not just about the shortcomings of Carillion but represents the Government’s damaging obsession with privatisation and outsourcing across our justice sector and beyond. Carillion continued to pocket tens of millions of pounds per year from the taxpayer for running prison contracts even when it was clear to ministers themselves that it was failing to properly deliver basic maintenance services. When these essential repair services were outsourced, they didn’t just fail to deliver the promised savings but made it more difficult for prison governors to manage prisoners and to help turn their lives around.
Cells were left unusable and prisoners unable at times to even get access to towels and soap. Labour has not only ruled out building any more private prisons but had already promised that in office it would look at returning prison service repairs contracts to the public sector. The Government must now bring those Carillion prison contracts back in house.”
Steve Gillan General Secretary of the Prison Officers Association called the conditions in jails “inhumane” and said urgent action was needed to carry out repairs that Carillion had not done. He said: 
“We need to know the contingency plans to keep our prisons operational. During the time Carillion had this contract the level of essential maintenance and work that is outstanding has spiraled out of control. This has resulted in loss of prison accommodation and inhumane conditions in our prisons”.
In a separate private sector contract, the Government pumped an additional £37m was handed to Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) despite a clear rise in violent reoffending in a move branded a “bung” by probation union Napo and “rewarding failure” by Labour. Gillan added: “When these contracts were let the POA and other unions within the MoJ raised serious concerns and objections.”

Ministers from across government met for an emergency COBRA meeting to discuss the fallout from the Carillion crisis. The Government also faces questions over why it continued to hand Carillion public sector contracts despite the profits warning. Ministers said the company refused a last-ditch £20m bailout, saying the firm and not taxpayers should foot the bill for Carillion’s failure.

Anger also erupted in Parliament over the bonuses handed to top Carillion bosses. The firm’s former chief executive Richard Howson pocketed £1.5m in salary, bonuses and pension payments during 2016 and, as part of his departure deal,Carillion agreed to keep paying him a £660,000 salary and £28,000 in benefits until October. Former finance chief Zafar Khan, who left Carillion in September, will receive £425,000 in base salary for 12 months. Interim chief executive Keith Cochrane will be paid his £750,000 salary until July, despite leaving the company in February.

The chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Labour MP Rachel Reeves, said the huge salary payments should stop immediately. She said that despite Carillion’s towering debts “year after year after year, they paid dividends out to their shareholders.” Reeves hit out at Howson’s continued salary payments and called for them to be stopped “as of today” before demanding a shake-up in the UK’s corporate governance laws “so that companies can’t siphon off money to the detriment of suppliers, workers and ultimately the British taxpayer.”

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington told MPs that the role of the company’s former and current directors in Carillion’s collapse will be investigated by the Official Receiver, and they could face “severe penalties”. He said that while it would be wrong to pre-empt any inquiry, “I can certainly well understand and appreciate that sense of unfairness”.

Referring to claims that the past and present board of directors could still benefit from planned payouts, Lidington said: “The Official Receiver does not only have power to investigate but the power to impose severe penalties if he thinks misconduct has taken place.”

The Government’s response to the Carillion saga is set to dominate the news agenda this week, as it emerged failed to appoint a key Government oversight position sat vacant for three months towards the end of last year.


The timing couldn't be better with some key players due for a grilling tomorrow:-

Government Contracts for Community Rehabilitation Companies inquiry

The Public Accounts Committee will examine the Government Contracts for Community Rehabilitation Companies on Wednesday 17 January 2018 2.30pm t
he Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House.


Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive, HM Prison and Probation Service

Scope of the inquiry

In July 2014, the Ministry of Justice created 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) to manage low and medium risk offenders on probation in England and Wales. Eight months later, the managing of CRCs was contracted out to eight companies.

By contracting out the Companies, the Government intended to incentivise innovation and open the market. However, in 2017 the Ministry made amendments to the contracts to run CRCs. This was owing to "unforeseen challenges".

The National Audit Office investigated the changes to the contracts. It found that the volume of CRCs’ work was below the expected level, meaning the contracts until 2022 were worth £2.1 billion to the contractors rather than £3.7 billion. With less income, the contractors were less able to deliver the required services and so the Ministry of Justice paid additional sums sustained good service.

The Ministry of Justice now expects to spend approximately £2.5 billion on the contracts. Although well below the 2016 projection of £3.7 billion, it covers a lower volume of work.

The Public Accounts Committee will ask officials from the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probations Service about the management of CRC contracts, why they made the changes they did, and how they can ensure value-for-money in the future.


Thanks to the reader for this:-

In advance of tomorrow's PAC hearing, some words from the March 2014 PAC hearing (& a link to the full transcript):

Antonia Romeo: I was going to say that one other lesson to be learned about contract management, of course, is that those who were involved in designing the contracts also have skin in the game when it comes to managing those contracts. When the programme finishes, the person responsible, the programme director who has this commercial experience, will move over and become the director of contract management and rehabilitation services, working within NOMS, for Michael.

Michael Spurr: The first thing to say is that there will be and we have negotiated with trade unions and others a voluntary redundancy package for use where we have identified surplus staff and it would be available post-June when we have moved to the new arrangements of setting up the CRCs and the NPS, but I anticipate that that will be used primarily for corporate service and support staff; operational staff numbers, I think we will need largely to retain, because the aim is to expand the case load....

Q175 Chair: The Report also talks about an aggressive timetable, Dame Ursula. How long is the period for getting the contracts in, from invitation to tender? How long has that been?

Dame Ursula Brennan: From the point of launching the invitation to tender to the point when we expect—

Q176 Chair: To when you want to sign them off in October. How long is that?

Dame Ursula Brennan: Between now and—

Q177 Chair: How long is it? What have you given yourselves between invitation—

Antonia Romeo: The invitation to tender will close in June this year.

Chair: That process—

Antonia Romeo: We have said that we will sign the contracts by the end of the year.

Q178 Chair: By October?

Antonia Romeo: By the end of the year.

Q179 Chair: Has that slipped from October to the end of the year now?

Antonia Romeo: No, there hasn’t been any slippage. I’m really aware that this is a programme that’s in flight, so if possible, I would prefer to commit to the overall commitment we have given for the programme, which is to roll out PBR by 2015... We plan to sign the contracts before the end of the year.

And some of the PAC recommendations from 2015:

* The Ministry is recruiting and training staff who can manage contractors and contracting over the long term. The Ministry maintained that appropriate weight will be placed on assessing the quality of the bids received and the organisations putting them forward. Contracts will be designed to prevent Community Rehabilitation Companies changing ownership without prior discussion with the Ministry and contingency arrangements are being considered to ensure that continuity of service will be maintained during the procurement and after the sale of the Community Rehabilitation Companies. The Ministry also plans to apply the lessons from past PAC reports and ensure that contracts have appropriate penalty clauses up to and including termination for non-performance.

* The Ministry should set out how it intends to satisfy itself that the proposed payment mechanism is workable. As we recommended in our recent report on contracting out public services, the Ministry must include open book accounting arrangements and ensure that they are used effectively. We would also want the NAO to have full access to contractual information that is relevant to assuring Parliament that value for money is being served in these contracts.

Lets hope these issues are revisited tomorrow by Meg Hillier & co, including questions as to whatever happened to the many 'report backs' expected to be delivered to the PAC.

Carillion and the MoJ

It's unfortunate, but the collapse of Carillion has rather thrown us off the TR omnishambles and given the likes of MTCnovo a breathing space until we can refocus on their bullying tactics in London. 

Just one of the staggering aspects to yesterday's outcome is the utter pointlessness of 'audited accounts', especially when the likes of KPMG get the job of clearing up the mess that the other big firm PWC spectacularly failed to spot in the first place. They just rotate positions but I guess that's how capitalism works and as one Tory MP was heard to say yesterday, "if you didn't have failures it would be like having Christianity without the Devil."

Given the MoJ's track record on outsourcing, I guess it's probably a good idea to remind ourselves and take a look at this article by the Institute for Government from last August:-

Outsourcing problems at the Ministry of Justice

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) can scarcely go a month without a bad news story related to one of its outsourced services. The recent outsourcing of probation services - which the Institute for Government (IfG) and many others warned was rushed and risky - is not going well. Many of the new private providers say they are making big losses, despite the department providing them with some additional cash, and probation inspections are revealing concerns with the majority of outsourced work.

There was uproar when MoJ announced that G4S would be providing electronic monitoring services for offenders, given the company is still under investigation for allegedly overcharging the department for the same services between 2005 and 2013. And this week, The Times published a Ministry of Justice admission that the savings promised when it outsourced maintenance of prison buildings to two companies in 2014 would not be delivered.

There have long been complaints about the quality of the work performed by Carillon and GEO Amey in different regions. And a recently published MoJ report reveals that “historically the costs of maintenance and services were not clearly understood by the business and consequently planning assumptions have not held true. The contract is therefore underfunded and the declared efficiency savings reduced.”

In truth, it’s currently impossible to find out precisely how well contractors delivering government services perform. Prisons and probation as a whole are inspected, which provides a good degree of transparency. But when more specific parts of the services are not inspected – as in the cases of electronic monitoring and prison maintenance – MoJ, like other departments, tell us relatively little about how well private providers are doing.

This is unfair to taxpayers, for whom the debate about marketisation is politically relevant given the differing stances of the main UK parties. But it’s also unfair to providers, as we can’t tell if problems are limited to specific companies or more endemic. If government acted on its promise to open up data on contractors’ costs and performance it would also be easier for us to judge the cause of problems – though basic data will never tell the whole story.

It is likely the 2014 outsourcing initiative didn’t get the time and attention it needed as it coincided with the much larger and more sensitive probation outsourcing. This was at a time when the number of MoJ civil servants had fallen significantly and there were vacancies in the commercial team. The IfG has written widely about the need to prioritise major projects ruthlessly, and outsourcing projects are no exception. Doing multiple outsourcing projects simultaneously can reduce competition as providers will often only have the resources to bid for select projects. And this wasn’t the only outsourcing initiative rushed through to lock in ‘savings’ before the 2015 election.

The backdrop of understaffed and increasingly violent prisons can’t have helped with delivery. I would wager that some of the reasons jobs aren’t being done as quickly as desired include poor communication from prison staff and constraints on prison access – a particular issue when some of the maintenance work is carried out by inmates. We’ve previously recommended the use of scenario and simulation exercises to test how contracts hold up in a range of circumstances, but these exercises rarely happen.

The underestimate of existing costs and the overestimate of savings was likely the result of inadequate data, poor technical skills and insufficient frontline consultation. But this is not just a question of staff skills and processes. Those contracting out services - ministers, officials and contractors - are often prematurely heralded for delivering ‘savings’ before they become real and then are not held accountable when costs escalate in ways that could have been predicted.

Commercial staff also have little incentive to look beyond the immediate costs of the service in question. The outsourcing of court translation services prioritised costs and wasted vast amounts of expensive court time and legal expenses when translators couldn’t be found for critical sessions. Disruption resulting from maintenance failures may be somewhat lower but shouldn’t be underestimated. For example, there are costs in staff time when officers have to escort prisoners to a different block if there is no hot water. Delays in fixing plumbing or ensuring a library is accessible can contribute to a hostile mood and ultimately even violence.

We urgently need better long-term performance management of government commercial staff and project owners to ensure those working on deals think about the long-term. Ministers and staff involved in projects that have gone wrong must be brought back to face Select Committee scrutiny.

But the most critical short-term steps to improve performance lies in better contract management. If providers promised to meet certain standards and are failing to, there needs to be a mature ongoing dialogue about the precise reasons and appropriate penalties must be triggered to incentivise improvement. The MoJ also needs to ensure that other departments using these providers are aware of the scale of the problems and the reasons for them – which will help inform future contracting choices.

The long-term solution lies in improving overall commercial capability in Whitehall. Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood has long said that this is one of his top priorities – but now is the time for us to start seeing results. Current plans to improve commercial capability in Whitehall are focused on the right issues. But they will not succeed unless ministers and permanent secretaries recognise the importance of the issue, invest in the resources required to oversee multi-million pound contracts effectively and involve departmental commercial experts in key outsourcing decisions at an earlier stage.


A reader has handily reminded us of this:- Feedback published by New Philanthropy on the TR competitive tendering procedure.

Problems with the TR competition

The round table participants identified four broad criticisms of the TR competition process:

- They found the process very chaotic and confused, with questions unresolved, deadlines and key aspects changing right up to the later stages of the competition. The final details of both the PCG and the payment mechanism were only available at a late stage in the process.

- The process was felt to be much more complex than it needed to be. Bidders needed to get to grips with vast amounts of documentation and detail.

- The MOJ did not appear to have the capacity to run or support an effective tendering process. Bidders who passed the PQQ stage received around four days of support from officials, but our participants estimated they needed three or four times that to resolve all issues and questions they had. The calibre and experience of officials supporting the bidders was described as ‘inconsistent’; some did not seem to understand their own processes and participants cited examples of contradictory information being given by different officials.

- The specification offered limited scope to describe the quality of bidders’ proposed approaches. More generally, our participants concluded that considerations around quality, vision, and innovation were largely irrelevant to the final decision of whom to commission."


As this from the Independent demonstrates, the fallout is going to have widespread ramifications and may prove a watershed moment for further privatisations. It also has Chris Grayling's fingerprints all over it:-

Carillion bosses face inquiry after protecting ‘exorbitant’ £4m bonuses ahead of collapse

Carillion bosses face an investigation into a “shameful” bid to protect their bonuses before the firm went bust, with the company’s collapse now threatening to turn into a major corporate scandal. The Government warned directors of the firm, which handled hundreds of public contracts, that they would be hit with “severe penalties” if found guilty of misconduct in securing some £4m in handouts last year.

The bonuses were branded “exorbitant” in the Commons – one former cabinet minister likened the situation to a “British Enron” – while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the collapse is a “watershed moment” for privatisation.

As the fallout spread, ministers were adamant fault lay squarely with the firm’s management and said taxpayers would avoid significant extra costs, despite stepping in to ensure Carillion-provided public services continued. But a slew of inquiries are now expected to pick through not only Carillion’s downfall, but the actions of ministers who handed the firm 450 contracts in recent years.

After Carillion failed, having racked up debts and liabilities worth £1.5bn, MPs heard how bosses tweaked rules in the firm’s 2016 annual report to make it harder for investors to clawback bonuses if the company hit trouble. Previously the firm had the right to reduce bonuses not yet paid, but after the 2016 report so-called “clawback” provisions could only be applied if financial results “have been misstated” or “the participant is guilty of gross misconduct”. A few months after the alteration an accounting crisis wiped £600m off the firm’s share value.

Labour MP Emma Reynolds, in whose constituency 400 of the 20,000 at-risk UK jobs are located, branded the bonuses “exorbitant” while workers’ pensions were at risk and creditors are set to get nothing.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington told the Commons in response that the official receiver in the case would launch an investigation into the circumstances around the firm’s collapse, and went on: “I think it would be wrong of me from the dispatch box to pre-empt the inquiry … into the conduct of both present and previous members of the board of directors. But I can say ... that the official receiver has not only the power to investigate, he has the power to impose severe penalties.”

His Labour counterpart Jon Trickett said: “It is shameful that as Carillion went from crisis to crisis, they were more concerned about protecting their big bosses rather than workers or our public services.”

The Institute of Directors (IoD) also waded in with a stinging rebuke to Carillion’s top executives for what it called a lack of “effective governance”. 
Head of Corporate Governance at the IoD, Roger Barker, said: “There are some worrying signs. The relaxation of clawback conditions for executive bonuses in 2016 appears in retrospect to be highly inappropriate.”

The firm was involved in providing school dinners and cleaning services to almost 900 schools; delivering maintenance and facility management services to hospitals, including 200 operating theatres, covering almost 12,000 beds and catering for 19,000 meals a day; construction work on rail projects including HS2 and Crossrail; maintaining 50,000 Army base homes; £200m of prison contracts and other major construction projects.

The firm’s share price has plunged more than 70 per cent in the past six months after making a string of profit warnings and breaching its financial covenants. But Downing Street accepted that eight contracts had been signed since a July 2017 profit warning, including a deal last Monday not yet signed with Leeds City Council to provide a new orbital road.

Of the others, two were deals with the Ministry of Defence, two related to HS2 and two were Network Rail contracts with a joint venture attached, plus a further one without, worth £62m.

Mr Lidington said: “It is regrettable that Carillion has not been able to find suitable financing options with its lenders and I am disappointed that the company has become insolvent as a result. It is however the failure of a private sector company and it is the company’s shareholders and its lenders who will bear the brunt of the losses: taxpayers should not and will not bail out a private sector company for private sector losses or allow rewards for failure.”

He said the taxpayer would step in to ensure workers providing public services were paid and to indemnify the official receiver, but officials insisted it would not mean major extra costs beyond what the Government would have paid Carillion under normal circumstances.

But as well as the official receiver’s probe, the Commons Public Administration Committee announced it would launch an inquiry into how the Government manages the risks of outsourcing.

One area of inquiry will likely include a decision to move a Government representative tasked with managing the relationship between Carillion and the public sector to another project, around the time the firm issued a profit warning last summer.

Ex-Labour cabinet minister Lord Adonis said the situation had “shades of a British Enron”, adding on Twitter that it involved “wild overbidding, fast-and-loose & grossly overpaid management [and] taxpayers taken for a ride”.

The Transport Committee will also grill Secretary of State Chris Grayling next week over contracts he approved before considering a wider inquiry, while chair of the Pensions Committee Frank Field MP said the Government had failed to heed warnings about Carillion.

The Labour MP said: “We called over a year ago for the pensions regulator to have mandatory clearance powers for corporate activities like these that put pension schemes at risk and powers to impose truly deterrent fines that would focus boardroom minds. If Government had acted then, the brakes might have been put on Carillion’s massive ramping up of debt and it never would have fallen into this sorry crisis.”

Britain’s corporate governance watchdog, the Financial Reporting Council, revealed they had been “actively” watching Carillion. A spokesman underlined the body’s powers to investigate, adding: “[We] will make a further statement on this matter shortly.”

Monday, 15 January 2018

Probation the London Way

Every now and then this blog gets a contribution from a reader and it takes your breath away - it gets your immediate attention and you know it requires action. 

It's quite apparent something serious is going on in London CRC according to contributions over the weekend. Remember, this is the CRC that suffered a damning inspection and have only just recently waved-off the inspectors from a follow-up visit. According to their evidence to the Justice Committee, this is the CRC that thinks "The principles of TR are sound." and has suggested that they ought to take over the NPS:- 

When will someone listen? When will someone actually be honest? When will someone just say enough is enough? MTCNovo. LondonCRC. My employers. You are embarrassing. You are a disgrace. You are putting the public at risk. You are tearing apart an important, valuable service. You are making numerous, weekly, daily, disgusting decisions.

1. Delivered from SPO’s - service users who attend outside of an appointment are not to be seen. There must be boundaries. MTCNovo, guess what? We work with chaotic and vulnerable adults. Yes, boundaries are needed. Qualified, experienced Probation Officers (not offender managers!) are capable of assessing boundaries but also engagement and compassion. That service user who had now travelled over 5 miles, out of borough to meet their Probation Officer may need some engagement. They may have an urgent reason for attendance. We may be able to support and prevent. Now, they will be sent packing.

2. Delius entries, a new directive, must be completed within 30 minutes of an appointment. What takes precedence? An entry on Delius or that urgent email you have received? Or that phone call advising of a serious issue with a service user which requires our attention? Those who have created and launched this new directive - Plan, Meet, Record - shameful. It’s pointless and pathetic. Just a way to further intimidate staff and manage by fear. Our entries will be spot checked. We will be held accountable if they are not achieved in an acceptable timeframe (30-45mins). We are a service trying to protect the public and support positive change. We are not, with all due respect, we are not working on a Supermarket checkout.

3. No more weekly appointments. Seeing a service user who required that level of engagement, gone. Why? So it allows staff to be allocated a higher caseload while in the minds of MTCNovo, being defensible. Prior to Christmas, a top caseload in LondonCRC was 55. A number plucked out of mid air. Not taking into any account the person. The mentality health concerns. The entrenched drug user. The reoccurring pattern of offending behaviour. Now? Not even a full month into the year - 69 cases is ‘manageable’.

4. The current manner to deliver any changes, is by fear. I have now lost count on how many times a sentence started with ‘if you have a serious further offence...’. Us?! I have been involved in 5 cases where an SFO has been committed. Nothing to do with me. We may make some errors. We may fail to pick up on something which may trigger a concern. We do not commit SFO’s. we do not encourage or support a case we manage to commit a serious offence. Yet it’s the golden line now. Management by fear. You will be spot checked.

Check away. Asses our quality. But you, MTCNovo, you London CRC, you senior managers - you - are responsible for putting the public and service users at risk. Through your inability to support staff. Your inability to train staff. Your inability to understand what staff face, daily. Your inability to have any morals.

Service Users in need of engagement, support, a chance - bottom of the pile. Staff with experience, passion, knowledge - ignored. Under valued. Newly appointed senior managers with no backbone to actually try to effect any change in how the service is being shredded. I have to laugh. Otherwise I would sob. Uncontrollably. Time to switch off. An eventful, busy, lonely week lays ahead.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Pick of the Week 38

MTCnovo complain in their submission about the NPS aggressively recruiting their CRC staff with higher starting salaries. Isn't this a rather pathetic moan from an innovative company? There is a simple market solution to retention: pay more. This, though, may not work in all cases, as some who leave their CRC and join the NPS do so because they prefer to work in the public sector and not for a profit-driven company. MTCnovo have an innovative idea: get rid of the competition by privatising the NPS - to create an integrated service.

Loved this indignant bleat from Interserve's submission:

"The current split between the NPS and CRCs is not working. The initial justification for the split – that responsibility for public protection and the management of risk can only properly be discharged by the public sector – is not working out as expected...

... In fact, the NPS, which was conceived as a Probation Officer-led, risk management specialist organisation, in many areas now employs many more Probation Service Officers. It has, in our experience, become the norm for a lesser qualified and experienced PSO in the NPS to take decisions in respect of an offender who has been managed by an experienced and fully qualified Probation officer from a CRC..."

Guess what? You're right! The split isn't working, never was going to work. Further on in their submission their lizard DNA begins to break through the human exoskeleton: "TR has opened new markets". That's all we need to know. New markets to exploit & squeeze dry is what Interserve & their ilk excel at.

What 'innovation'? It is a total con. There is no innovation in Working Links. How is getting rid of over 50% of staff, losing a brilliant training department, HR and IT plus running BBR groups with a single member of staff as opposed to 2 innovation? Also interviewing in libraries and forcing service users to travel further and further? WL in house training is a joke. Their so called emphasis on women's services is also a joke, 1 additional post! 

Please tell me where the so called innovation is? Introducing targets and the brag system, remote management from a call centre doesn't sound like innovation to me! A few RAR groups that you can't get anyone on doesn't sound like innovation either. Did WL read the inspectors report? You are failing big time because you didn't listen to staff and only listened to the brown nosers who went along with it hoping and expecting for rewards such as promotion! Now some of these brown nosers finally realising there is no reward they will be replaced by cheaper brown nosers from within WL! Genuine staff realise what is going on and are leaving because it is intolerable. No chance of government sorting out the mess because Teresa May is as deluded as Donald Trump. 'NHS crisis...what crisis?'

And there lays the unsolvable conflict that will always exist private management of public services. The employee measures success by the quality of their work and what they can give. The employer measures success by the quantity of their bank balance and what they can get.

Working Links do not have the collective intelligence to understand anything decent or appropriate in offending related work and structures. They excel in how to lie about everything, deny the truth, take what they can get, give nothing back. Take advantage of any situation and exploit the weak and vulnerable. They truly are innovative because no one could have imagined their take on offender provision. How to take anything beyond a slump and into oblivion. Working Links Well done you are the worst.

I entirely agree and that is why I am leaving asap. I cannot work for a corrupt organisation that is not set up to support the needs of staff, service users or the public it should serve. It is no longer a service that I would recognise. It is a business designed to con money from the tax payer to fill its own coffers. That is not what I trained to do all those years ago and I am not going to pretend it is acceptable. The CRC managers who existed pre TR know fine well it is a sham and yet they fail to speak out because they obviously feel they have nowhere else to go. Thankfully I do and I very much hope the situation is not allowed to continue. I am disgusted that MoJ and the probation inspectorate can allow thus truly disgusting and mercenary situation to continue in Working Links. Dame Glenys and her team should not just stop at the report, they should be getting inspection teams in now to cover the whole of WL's in the knowledge that the disease has spread to all areas and there is systemic failure with no chance of any remedy. Working Links LIE and will say whatever they have to to try and convince people that they know what they are doing when they clearly don't. Corruption!

I have promised myself that I will never work for a CRC again my integrity so challenged by my former experience. Durham does sound attractive, their ethos one that I could align with. The problem I think is the flawed system, the divisions, lack of alignment and purpose. If Durham were able to replicate nationally this would still be the case. TR is fundamentally a flawed design and I think Durham's relative success amongst the general debris and their observations in their submission highlight this.

I don't see why the spending of public money must be shrouded in commercial confidentiality. Just as there are calls for transparency in parole decisions, CRCs should not be exempt from freedom of information. It's therefore ironic that DTV complains about Health being difficult to engage in respect of information sharing.

Anyway, I wonder how fair this accusation is in the wider sense. In my experience it was fairly straightforward to set up protocols and of course they are a staple of MAPPAs. They also complain about court assessments lacking information, but instead of blaming the NPS, they perhaps should seek to understand those pressures that force the NPS to churn out same day reports on complex cases.

The root of the problems lie in the split. DTV say sentencers have struggled to understand the split between the CRCs and NPS. As it can be explained how to split an atom, why can't their much-lauded CRC representative in court explain the split to struggling sentences. Really, DTV should be more honest about this issue. It's not a question of struggling to understand in an intellectual sense – it's the fact that the split makes no intellectual sense. Maybe, unlike DTV, sentencers get the gestalt – that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

We're still all in this together, Tory-style. From C4 in 2012:

"Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude is still claiming thousands of pounds on a second home in central London despite the prime minister's personal pledge Maude would not "claim any money" on his second home. Equalities Minister Helen Grant is claiming £20,000 a year for a luxury London flat despite owning a £1.8m home in Surrey just 19 miles away from Westminster. Treasury Minister David Gauke recently sold his second home in central London which the taxpayer helped buy and has kept a profit of more than £20,000. John Whittingdale, chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee has moved out of a second home which the taxpayer helped fund and is renting it out for £400 a week. He is now claiming expenses for renting out a property nearby."

Gauke was the MP who said it was dishonest & disgraceful that tradespeople are paid cash-in-hand as it denies the public purse an income from VAT. Not that MPs expenses claims have any impact, eh? They were £90m a year before the expenses scandal & IPSA yet, despite a £15,000 pa pay rise (intended to mitigate expense claims) MPs expenses have not reduced. IPSA have merely kept them wrapped up in special opaque ledgers.

I think the PI has written sensibly, with obvious knowledge of Probation work and gone as far as it can go, given it's establishment, to say TR has not and cannot work in its present form. Their reasoning reflects all that has been predicted and reported over and over by many. I think the future does not involve CRCs doing Offender Management. Profit operators may have another chance to pick up some important peripherals. However, I still think they will muck up the peripherals.

Whilst I am no fan of the PI, I am of the view that none of the agencies outside of the MoJ could have stopped the monumental stupidity that was TR. The fault remains with those, including Grayling, who pushed the model through without pilots and against the advice of all of those who opposed it. One more or one less voice would not have made a difference against the ideological impetus from those who wanted this to happen.

It's a submission grounded in knowledge of probation and puts good emphasis on the fact that rehabilitation must be a collaborative effort with other agencies. The split and profit motive are flies in the ointment, alongside the insistence by CRCs on seeking refuge in commercial confidentiality, a card they play pragmatically and all too readily abandon when they want to complain about their contracts being underfunded. I suspect we wouldn't hear anything if they were making a profit.

I find it difficult to understand how someone who spent so long as home secretary should have so little interest in the justice system, particularly with the chronic problems it's suffering. It's pretty clear that there's no real interest or motivation to resolve those problems. It maybe that the system is so broken that the problems can't be resolved, and by continually changing the justice Secretary you keep the illusion of interest in the system alive.

I struggle to with some of Mays appointments in the reshuffle. A party well aware of the need to detoxify itself, its beyond belief that Esther Mcvey should be made secretary for work and pensions. That appointment will come back to haunt May I'm sure. Not moving Grayling is also a huge mistake. There's big trouble brewing at the Ministry of Transport. Graylings been summonsed to the PAC over Stagecoach and Virgin, (an estimated 3billion loss to the public purse), strikes are increasing, and even the private companies are now citing Grayling as the obstacle in reaching resolution. I would of thought moving him would have been a given, and again not doing so will come back to bite May. Whether it's transport, housing, welfare, NHS, Brexit, police, prisons, probation, the whole shaboogal is in crisis, total meltdown. It can surely only be a matter of time before it all blows up in the faces of this tory government?

I know what you mean about McVey, but she could end up as another national treasure like Anne Widdicombe, who saw nothing wrong with chaining pregnant women to hospital beds. And in terms of Works and Pensions, her New Labour predecessors were of a reactionary bent. And of course there was May's billboard vans telling immigrants to go home or face arrest which was a stunt worthy of the far right.

Whilst I have huge respect for Rory Stewart's past achievements in & his informed views about Afghanistan, I fear his determination to become a Cabinet Minister means he will doggedly pursue Party politics in regards to probation matters. Sadly this blinkered eyes-on-the-prize partisan approach will only diminish an otherwise decent human being.

E3 dictated that AP work could be done by Band 2 staff. The building is staffed 24/7 365 but only under the direction of a manger on Mon to Fri 9 to 5 (minus, training, meetings, AL, vacancies and sickness). This building houses only those deemed the highest risk. Most of the offenders have finished lengthy sentences and have not been tested in the community. Offences generally sexual and/or violent. High risk to known and/or public.

E3 has seen many experienced AP staff leave because a) due to worries regarding the new structure. b) moved due to new structure or c) the prospect of transfer to private security company. Many areas have had difficulty recruiting the new replacements for the loss of experience which in turn has meant APs running on agency staff and thin air. It will blow at some point. The model is similar to how prisons are managed, young inexperienced staff with good intentions working without oversight or alongside experience. Expected to manage those who have just been released form an environment of violence, fear, intimidation and bullying. Who are damaged emotionally, mentally or physically. Who require support, guidance, monitoring 24/7.

APs are a very demanding environment, dealing with those who were recently behind bars who now have access to bars, and drugs, and the many frustrations of transitioning from prison to the community. Only 2 staff (now one of those is to be a private security guard) and up to 35 offenders resident in the building. APs deal with overdose and death, self harm, violent outbusts from a group who in most cases have been victims themselves often growing up in deprived and violent circumstances.

By entrusting the welfare of this group to one staff member, recently recruited and a private security guard we fail not only them in their reintroduction to society but to the local communities as the potential risk of harm is increased. This is a very sad state of affairs.

The outsourcing of night waking cover started a decade ago with some probation trusts, so it's nothing new. There was no great resistance or campaigning at the time and what happens is these practices spread piecemeal and then along comes the MoJ to standardise practice. They could go for an in-house model, but lo and behold they choose outsourcing.

Government wont own up to the mess that Probation is in and the risks this poses after TR. Rapid turnaround in the MoJ tells me they have absolutely no intention whatsoever to address this, we just get the leftovers - and even worse, the young inexperienced and ambitious, to wallpaper over the cracks. The cracks are too deep the paper too thin, and the blue flashing light is shining through.

Three days into my NPS working week and I am exhausted and tearful. Nothing works, not the IT, the processes, the communications with CRC, the effing heating. Spending all of my time pounding a keyboard to hit targets, while our equally stressed managers blow around like straws in the wind, bickering with each other, forwarding on emails to us which we wont read and wringing their hands over whatever target is flavour of this month. Am I making a difference? Don't know, past caring.

"Hostels Run By Cleaners"! What a ridiculous and misleading headline. Fake News. Oh, and it is also not true that the location of Approved Premises are not made public. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the skills required to work in a residential setting and the training required, but this sort of hysterical naysaying does not help. The NPS may not be the best people to run Approved Premises at all - maybe the whole operation should be outsourced to organisations with a track record in residential social work. The MoJ are interested in moving elderly prisoners out in to 'secure care homes' - so maybe that is the future direction of travel, with specialist residential units for mental health, infirmity, addictions etc.. rather than generic NPS run hostels.

I think the point that is being made is that these management companies that have moved into Probation work have a background in catering (Sodexo) and cleaning and that their lack of corporate expertise in working with offenders in the community is apparent in the ongoing CRC debacle. I don't think it was meant to imply that all the staff had walked out and left the cleaner in charge. For a start, most NPS staff I speak to would love to see a cleaner actually coming to CLEAN their buildings never mind to run their approved premises.


Outsourcing of Facilities Management was an unmitigated disaster for Approved Premises. Cooking, cleaning & repairs and maintenance of the fabric of the buildings went to pot and destroyed community links with local traders and the opportunity to develop activities around resident involvement in cooking, cleaning and decoration.

Having worked in an AP (which is not a bail hostel for the last 10 years). I can say with some authority that it will not take long once the New way of working that things deteriorate. For years they have been working to prepare APs for total privatisation. The TR and E3 process is financially driven. There will be no benefits from these changes and will only drive down remaining staff morale. The new shift Rota means you only get 2 complete weekend free out of 7. I could go on and on about the proposed regime but very few are interested.

Some Probation Trusts ran some excellent APs, others not so great. E3 was a rushed affair that came up with a standardisation based on those who shouted loudest rather than objective evaluation. The adoption of 'enabling environments' as some sort of valid standard is a prime example. Purposeful activity has been dumbed down and operational expectations mainly adopt the lowest common denominator rather than any concept of excellence. Outsourcing staffing is part of this.

All go for staff in London CRC:
  • Electronic diaries must now be used by all. All appointments to be recorded and shared calendar shared with SPO / Admin / Team. As of his Friday.
  • All must now print out their caseload and record reporting frequency along with rationale as to why. Must be passed to SPO to sign of by 31/01.
  • Where BitPort has registered 3+ acceptable absences or 2+ unacceptable absences - feedback must be provided to SPO on circumstances and enforce. Feedback on this task to SPO by 15/01.
  • A deadline was set this week to feedback to SPO on all cases with a CIN register.
  • All out of date registrations on Delis must be updated and cleared by 31/01.
  • Prior to supervision with SPO, Standing Agenda Supervision Form must be competed by OM and submitted (it’s a long form!).
All while majority of staff are holding in excess of 65+ cases, with approx 90% of these on community sentences. With limited intervention support. Lack of resources. Non existent management support. Staff are literally drowning. Stress levels at an all time high. Some having anxiety attacks and in tears. Staff in genuine long term sick are being called by SPO’s and informed if they do not return, they will be discipline or relived of their job.

When you say "all go for CRC London" do you mean all the staff should all go, i.e walk out? These new measures, they are entirely in keeping with the methods and tone in the London CRC hitherto. Namely utterly pointless because they take my attention away from the service user and places it squarely upon the paranoia and mistrust of the organisation I work for. How to reassure MTC I am "doing my job", whatever THEY think that job should be. Motivating staff through terrifying them. Counterproductive nonsense. How can staff respond in these circumstances ? What is being asked of them is impossible for them to achieve. How would you respond?

London CRC Team meeting called his afternoon. SPO delivered the following:

1. All calendars are to be shared. They will be spot checked by management.
2. Plan, Meet & Record. It is a new directive that a Delius entry is completed within 30 minutes of Service User appointment. Will be spot checked. Any longer, accountability sought.
3. Service Users are not to be seen weekly. Any case seen weekly, escalation should be sought to NPS as this would imply an increased risk.
4. Not a new directive, but an expectation that each Officer should be submitting at minimum of one breach each week.
5. Staff should not plan an ‘admin day’. By following Plan, Meet & Record, this should not be required.

In other news - Harrow CRC are now a week into their new home at Denmark House. No induction to the office. A massive decrease in reporting frequency from service users (my caseload - 1 out of 12 appointments attended). That breach target will be a walk in the park.

Your place of work sounds awful too. Also the situation you are describing is not where Probation should be at all. Good to read you bringing these issues out. However, what have you or your union area actually been doing to highlight the plight to Parliament? Is there a submission. Has your Union done anything locally and involved your members. The SW team are clearly organising and working to promote their best interest with and for workers. The report is strong and evidence of the TR debacle yet they are contributing to the efforts to defeat the TR agenda. It is all very well to make comments of local issue today today but clearly your activity is of no use if not part of a coordinated and national strategy to change and reverse the situation, which all staff face. Focusing on your own window is a shame when you have missed or failed to contribute to the parliamentary process with all those brave contributors who are challenging the appalling situation of privatisation.

The challenge currently is being managed by fear. Staff genuinely are fearful of being disciplined or dismissed. As has to be respected, speaking out / challenging decisions is therefore reduced by this fear. Sadly, managers with Probation backgrounds, seem to have forgotten the true identity of a successful probation service. Forgotten are the core principles of what makes the service work for service users. Service Users are bottom of the pile now, very closely followed by Probation Officers in the CRC.

Staff are being disliked at an alarming rate. There is no effective management supervision. No training provided in any areas. MTCNovo are very quickly turning CRC Probation into one big call centre set up. Any advice on how to escalate the hideous mismanagement occurring daily I am aware of would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for this comment it makes the others stand out as a similar situation faced by those in the SSW reporting above. You should contact the obvious activists who are clearly maintain their positions and readers realise just how little is being done in your branch by the union? It reflects on the failings of those in roles at branches level. You have made references to the very same experience of fear and management adoption of negatives views against staff. POs are being left fallow and many non qualified staff are in control of the developing crisis.

SWM Branch & East Midlands Branch
Dear Members

Below is a joint statement from Napo SWM and East Midlands Branches

CRC colleagues will have received an email this week from the CEO of RRP- Adam Hart. There was reference in this email to the ‘Delivery First’ consultation and the proposed strategy in relation to the future of HR and Learning and Development within RRP.

Napo want to advise you that this proposal was only shared with the recognised TU’s after the Christmas break and has previously not been raised during any of the consultation meetings. Due to this and recent job adverts for PDM (SPO) and deputy Regional Head Roles being shared internally and externally Napo requested an urgent meeting with Senior management to share our concerns. This meeting happened on the 09.01.18 and we felt that we needed to share with members the issues and action Napo will take in response on behalf of the membership.

Napo discussed the impact of the announcement around HR and L&D upon our members and the recognised TU’s in terms of future engagement and that it has undermined confidence in the consultation process. Furthermore, those directly affected by the redundancy consultation feel that they have been misled. Napo are seeking advice from out national officials about the legality of such a move and will continue to reinforce the significant detrimental effect that this has had on our members and confidence and trust in negotiations with RRP.

Members may be aware of two recent job adverts for PDMs and Deputy Regional Heads. Napo were aware of the potential for these adverts to be shared in the New Year. However, we requested that these jobs should be advertised internally prior to external applications being sought. This was so that RRP employees felt that there was still an opportunity for career progression within the organisation and to motivate RRP to use the significant skill set already available to them. Unfortunately, RRP have disregarded this request and have gone external immediately. Napo have also noted that the qualifications for the jobs have been changed, without consultation, to allow those without a Probation qualification to apply – stating that a “related criminal justice degree or other relevant degree” would be considered. Napo have asked what degrees would be considered for these roles and have received an ambiguous answer thus far.

At the meeting on the 09th of Jan Napo advised senior management of our concerns about such a move citing the following:

  • Potential de-professionalization of the organisation and staff.
  • The detrimental impact of this on public protection.
  • Recruitment of managers with no knowledge of managing / reducing risk of reoffending, OASys, nDelius and Probation processes who could be managing a team of professionals who have more knowledge and understanding of the key role of probation services and public protection. This could lead to increased potential for professional conflict.
  • Reinforced recent HMIP inspection reports which raised significant concerns about public protection and management oversight of cases. 
Unfortunately, RRP appear to be of the mind that Napo and its members concerns are less of an issue than “getting the right person“ for the job as they see it. As a result Napo will be notifying interested parties of the developments within RRP and our significant concerns around how the organisation are progressing their recruitment strategy. There is a meeting with Adam Hart organised for the 23rd of January where Napo intend to reinforce our members concerns and if required seek members views on if and what further action may be warranted. Napo will keep you advised.