Friday, 30 September 2016

Working Links and VR

Thanks to a reader, here we have hot off the press and dated yesterday, the latest from Working Links. I gather it drew a few hollow laughs when circulated, especially this bit:-

"We are really keen to retain a high level of experience, commitment and knowledge within the organisation and hope that many of you will choose to stay to help us change more lives and create a better future for our communities"

Justice News Extra
Transformation Update

As we move forward with our transformation plans we are continuing to share information with you about our new ways of working, future changes and what impact this will have on the services we offer. This includes information on:
  • Operational hubs
  • Case management
  • Community hubs
  • Interventions
  • Community Payback
As you will be aware, the first stage of our implementation plans following the proof of concept testing phase was to set up the Operational Hubs. We are now well on the way to doing this and are currently in the process of moving a number of administrative duties into our Operational Hubs across Wales and the South West.

We are now looking to the next stage of our implementation plans which focus on transforming our frontline operations - and in particular case management and interventions. 

Through the communication events you will have attended earlier this year, and the fortnightly conference calls, we have shared further details on our proposals. We have been very open and honest throughout the whole of transformation that we feel we have more people than we need in certain areas of the business.

We are really keen to retain a high level of experience, commitment and knowledge within the organisation, and hope that many of you will choose to stay to help us change more lives and create a better future for our communities.

However, as well as transforming the business we are also faced with reductions in our WAV volumes and this is also leading us to consider our employee levels. And because of the changes we need to make to the business to ensure our future success, we know we have more people than we need in certain areas. We have considered a number of options and discussed these with the unions and our executive team. Following these discussions, we will now be looking to seek volunteers in areas where we have an oversupply, who may wish to apply for Voluntary Redundancy (VR). This process will be phased over the next couple of months across the CRCs.

The VR scheme we are proposing has been revised from the previous scheme and it is our intention to use this revised scheme for the remainder of our transformation programme when offering VR. By doing this it means we can continue to manage any exits from the business on a voluntary basis, mitigating the need for any compulsory redundancies at this point, which is something we are really keen to do.


The voluntary scheme whilst it is enhanced has different terms to the previously used EVR scheme. The multiplier that will be used for VR calculations is 3 weeks per complete year of service, capped at a maximum of 52 weeks. Please note that this scheme will not provide pension strain costs, although people over 55 are still able to apply for early retirement, in accordance with their local policy, as an alternative to VR. This should enable us to offer more voluntary exits.  

We hope that opening this scheme and supporting sufficient requests for volunteers to exit the organisation, we will be able to redude staffing levels whilst avoiding compulsory redundancies at this point. 

What happens now? 

The VR scheme will be opened to certain areas of our frontline operations on a phased timescale. We have already begun discussions with those individuals in Wales CRC and these discussions will take place in BGSW CRC and DDC CRC next month, where more detailed information will be shared. 

The voluntary redundancy scheme will be open to the following individuals, dependent on where there is a requirement to reduce numbers:

  • Wales CRC: people working in case management roles and management positions
  • BGSW CRC: people working in case management, interventions and management positions 
  • DDC CRC: people working in case management, interventions and management positions 

Please note that the scheme will also be open to those in Community Payback roles where there is an oversupply from November 2016. 

As with previous VR schemes, all applications will be reviewed and a decision made as to whether the application is accepted or declined according to the scheme selection criteria and business requirements.

What do you need to do?

If you are based in Wales, you will have been given more information on the process, whether it applies to you and what you need to do if you wish to be considered for this VR scheme. This information is also available to view on the Wales CRC intranet.

If you are based in BGSW CRC or DDC CRC you don't need to do anything at this time but further information will be shared soon.

Ongoing communication

We are continuing to consult with the probation unions about our proposed changes and new ways of working - and ultimately what impact this will have on people. We have also discussed the revised VR scheme with them and our reasoning for doing this.

We are keen to ensure everyone is kept informed on these discussions as we work to try and minimise this impact - and in particular the current areas of concern the probation unions have and how we are responding to these.

As we have the group intranet in place, and a platform that is accessible to all people working across the business, we have created an area on the intranet that is dedicated to our ongoing dialogue with the unions to ensure you kept up to date. You can access this through the link below or via the transformation section on the intranet, available through the main menu. 

We understand that you want as much information as possible about our future proposals - and we've had feedback from people on this topic too. We want you to hear updates and get information via other channels too, and not just through the intranet. Therefore we are considering continuing with the fortnightly call that all can dial in to and we will also continue to include information in Justice News. Regular communications will also be shared via managers.  

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Cardiff AGM 2016

So, much to the surprise and delight of at least some present in Cardiff's St David's Hall, this year's Napo AGM achieved quoracy at about 2.20, only 20 minutes beyond the advertised starting time and in very marked contrast to the fiasco at Eastbourne last year. It seems that the last time quoracy has been achieved this early in proceedings was three years ago, significantly when also held in Wales, so there's definitely some truth in the view that there's a 'Welsh effect' at work here. 

I guess it's no surprise that the absolute shambles of a mostly inquorate AGM last year spawned a constitutional amendment this year, promoted by Napo Cymru, to amend Clause 13c and replace the requirement for quoracy to be 5% of the membership with just 150 full and Professional Associate members. Actually Clause 13c states that the 5% have to be "from at least 15 branches", but in a lively and at times passionate debate, this aspect was somewhat skirted-around by the proposers. 

Of course issues to do with quoracy go to the absolute heart of any democratic union and it was embarrassing to say the least to learn that motions debated last year and that were subject to 'indicative' votes have yet to be ratified by the NEC some 13 months later. I have it on good authority that at least 3 NEC meetings this year were inquorate, with the most recent cancelled because it too was likely to be inquorate. 

As was alluded to by those speaking to oppose the constitutional amendment, issues of engagement, motivation and possibly communication would do well to be addressed, rather than merely reducing once again the threshold of quoracy for the supreme governing body of the union, but the proposal was carried by a significant margin in any event. I guess I won't be the only member pondering on how the NEC will be shaken from its obvious dysfunctional and somnambulant state though.

The other highlight of this first day was Sonia Crozier, the new Director of Probation at NPS, standing in for Sam Gyimah, the Under Secretary for Prisons and Probation who was sadly unable to attend. And all credit to her for agreeing to field some extremely robust questions and points that had the hall echoing to cheers of agreement, especially when crap IT and dangerous prison conditions for staff were mentioned.

All would agree that appointing a probation professional to this key post is certainly 'a good thing', but what an impossible position it must place such an individual in, especially one that values integrity and professional principles? She was asked pointedly what, if any, influence she could have over the obvious failings of the CRC's and the answer to such an unfair question was lost on me to be honest, but what I was left with was the distinct impression that Sonia has got to be our best hope of trying to salvage something worthwhile from the utter crock of shite that we all know TR is.            

TR and Women 2

On the day Napo return to Cardiff for their AGM, we have more evidence of the detrimental effect of TR supplied by the latest report from HM Probation Inspectorate into women's services. This is what the Howard League makes of it in their press release:-  

Transforming Rehabilitation programme puts women’s services under threat

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation’s thematic inspection report on women’s services, published today (Thursday 29 September).

The report makes clear that women’s services have deteriorated and are “under threat” following the implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme, which saw the part-privatisation of probation.

Inspectors found that dedicated funding for women’s services had virtually disappeared under TR. As funding is no longer ring-fenced, provision is now discretionary and dependent upon local commissioning arrangements by privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The report states that women’s centres are particularly vulnerable under the new arrangements and some have already lost funding. This is in spite of the important role they play in turning women away from crime and helping them to rebuild their lives. Inspectors were concerned that these funding difficulties could lead to services being reduced or lost altogether.

Inspectors found that, in one in three women’s cases, the quality of probation work was not good enough. Particularly weak was work to address domestic abuse, sexual exploitation, and other forms of exploitation of women, such as obtaining drugs or alcohol for others.

The report adds that the efforts of probation staff have been hampered by a lack of suitable accommodation for women.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to 21 private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer. Today’s report provides yet more evidence that this is not happening.

“The overhaul of probation was done with men in mind, and now we are seeing the results for a significant minority in the system: women. Women’s centres in the community, which have proved for many years to be successful in guiding women away from crime, are threatened with extinction. Other services are at risk. This is letting down the public and letting down women who are trying to change their lives.

“The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view, and our own research on the impact of these reforms on women will be published in due course.”


--oo00oo--

I notice that the BBC are looking into TR next week:-

Next Tuesday @ 20:00 on Radio 4 38 minutes

Transforming Rehabilitation: At What Cost? File on 4

The split and part privatisation of the UK probation system in June 2014 saw huge changes to the service, with high risk offenders managed by the new National Probation Service and low to medium risk offenders managed by Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

Two years on, probation officers report a system that has been 'ripped apart', with two sides often failing to communicate. There are concerns over rising caseloads, falling staffing levels and the number of murders committed by offenders released from prison on licence.

File on 4 speaks to families who have lost loved ones, and hears how they have had to fight to find out the full extent of the failings of the probation system in their cases.

Charities report particular concerns over vulnerable women in the probation system, with many being recalled to prison for breaching probation orders, following short sentences for minor offences.

As Transforming Rehabilitation is scrutinised by the Public Accounts Committee and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation, File on 4 asks if the changes are putting the public at risk?

Reporter - Melanie Abbott
Producer - Ruth Evans.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Napo at Work in the South West 6

As I have remarked on several previous occasions, politics is as much about luck as anything else and I notice that the on-going dispute with Working Links in the Devon, Dorset and Cornwall CRC over their local redundancy agreement provides the perfect curtain-raiser for Napo's AGM starting tomorrow:-

Napo statement to members re proposal by Working Links to reduce Voluntary Redundancy Terms

Working Links have today issued proposals to run a Voluntary Redundancy (VR) Scheme on inferior terms to the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme that has been made available to some staff. This has not been negotiated or agreed to by the trade unions and the decision to offer this and the wider issue of the planned job cuts have been referred to the National Negotiating Council Joint Secretaries, to whom the unions and employers will be making further representations. A date for that meeting will be notified soon.

Meanwhile, the probation unions are due to meet next Tuesday 4th October to review the situation that we have reached in our ongoing dispute with Working Links. Our advice to members is to not respond to the VR invitation until we issue more news. This is on the basis that we do not agree to the notion of job cuts, or have faith in the intended operating model and that the contractors should pay what they owe to staff who may want to leave the organisation using the best redundancy policy across their three CRC’s especially since no employee asked to be in this position as a result of the dreadful Transforming Rehabilitation agenda.

Last week’s meeting with Working Links

There has been some understandable speculation about the confidential meeting with senior WL management that took place last week attended by Unison Regional Organiser Glyn Jones and myself. I asked your JNCC reps to back my professional judgement (based on experience of these types of disputes for over 40 years) that at this stage of our fight against the job cuts, and trying to get what members deserve on EVR, it was tactically the right thing to do on a one off basis. In terms of how WL may see this, I can assure you that Glyn Jones and I pulled no punches about the issues at the heart of this dispute and any notion that the employer might have that they have somehow divided the unions is seriously mistaken. But two key things came out of the meeting that were not previously on offer.

Firstly, the presentation by WL of their alleged financial position. The decision to receive that information in confidence at this stage means that none of your reps (as CRC employees) would have been placed under intolerable pressure to not reveal commercially sensitive information which, aside from the employers reticence to disclose, was something that their paymasters in NOMS would not allow them to publish anyway while the Probation Systems Review is underway (conclusions from that are due end of October). Nevertheless, the unions have insisted that a similar presentation be made to the whole trade union side and I hope to progress that as soon as possible. For clarity, just because we have been presented with information does not mean that the unions either believe it or accept it as the basis for justifying the job cuts.

Secondly, we have persuaded WL to now go to the NNC Joint Secretaries as we had requested, and their plans will be called in for review thus giving Napo Branches a further opportunity to challenge what has gone on so far. This will help us to formally record that consultation and negotiation have been inadequate or even totally absent should opportunities arise for third party intervention or legal action down the line.

Stand united against further job cuts

The unions do not believe that steps should be taken to reduce jobs whilst we still await the results of the important Probation Systems Review which will be seeking to address the underperformance of CRC contractors. I have made it clear at Ministerial level that despite our misgivings over TR, we expected to see genuine attempts at innovation and new opportunities for our members to improve services to clients and see their skills utilised to turn lives around as opposed to them being thrown on the employment scrapheap. If WL and other contractors cannot deliver what they purchased then they ought to give serious consideration to handing the keys back to the MoJ.

The foregoing indicates why it is important to stick with or join Napo and be part of our campaign against further job cuts in Working Links. Please await further news after Napo’s AGM in Cardiff (there is still time to register) and next weeks combined union meeting.

Yours in solidarity

Ian

Ian Lawrence
Napo General Secretary

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Accountant's Reinvent the Wheel - Shock!

Warm thanks go to the reader for cheering me up on a very dull day by pointing me in the direction of this cracking article from Civil Service World:-

Reimagine reducing reoffending

KPMG's Chloe Burton offers her thoughts on how the introduction of a Prisoner Performance Manager could help reduce reoffending by incentivising good behaviour through support provisions that go beyond the prison walls.

Cutting crime

Reducing reoffending is one of the biggest challenges facing the British justice system. Currently, 46% of those released from prison commit another offence within 12 months – creating over 26,000 new victims every year¹, whilst jeopardising their own chances of turning their lives around.

This level of recidivism undermines the effectiveness of public services, and creates massive additional costs. The Ministry of Justice and Home Office sit at the sharp end, while their staff endlessly process repeat offenders rather than concentrate on prevention or rehabilitation. The effects are felt across the public sector. Local authorities and the Department of Work & Pensions must provide accommodation and a basic income for released prisoners unable or unwilling to find work. The Department of Health handle the mental and physical health impacts of long-term drug addictions and violent crime. Social services must cope with the impact of repeated offending on families – including the creation of new generations of offenders.

Government knows the importance of addressing reoffending and spend millions providing prisoners with education, training and counselling. But participation is generally voluntary, and interventions aren’t carefully targeted to address the challenges facing each individual.

Within the prison environment, many criminals are reluctant to admit that they have issues such as illiteracy or addiction - and the long-term benefits of addressing their problems are often lost behind the hard realities of life behind bars. So many offenders leave prison without having tackled the challenges that brought them there; and once alone on the outside many slide back into criminality.

Incentivising beyond the prison gates

Let’s reimagine the potential here to provide support in the form of a Personal Performance Manager, assigned to each prisoner, whose role would be to oversee rehabilitation. Based on a mentoring approach combined with incentives - rehabilitation and reward would be driven through a single programme.

Offenders on entry to prison, would be interviewed by a performance manager, who would identify factors most likely to lead to the individual reoffending. Prisoners would be asked to participate and help identify and fill gaps based on their needs, also taking into consideration needs post release.

Following these mandatory one to one assessments, a bespoke programme of interventions could be tailored to offer support both during an offender’s sentence and for and agreed period after release. Accompanying this rehabilitation programme would be an incentivised scheme, rewarding those who actively address issues and display good behaviour whilst inside. The performance manager would also be responsible for supporting and encouraging a prisoner’s self-development, ensuring that targets are met within the sentence plan, approving incentives.

Prisoners who participate by completing elements of their tailored plan – e.g. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, English GCSE or a skills based course, would be entitled to earned benefits. For example - those prisoners who have lost their homes could receive additional transitional housing following their sentence, and support or funds to help them secure new permanent accommodation. Those without work could benefit from additional Job Seekers Allowance, basic qualifications or a supported programme to help them back into work. Those who’ve damaged family relationships might be provided with personal development classes or the services of a family mediator in the weeks after their release.

It would also be important to address some of the wider problems that hinder an offenders’ ability to keep on the straight and narrow. Those with mental health problems could receive treatment in prison, and mentoring or support services after release. Those with drug problems could benefit from addiction counselling whilst inside, and in providing accommodation or activities that help them steer clear of bad influences. Those facing the longest and most onerous job-hunts could even be offered more flexible terms around the provision of jobseekers’ allowance, giving them more time before securing work.

Prisons currently adopt a national ‘Incentives and Earned Privileges’ scheme - those who behave well, attend training courses and contribute to prison life can earn luxuries such as TVs, personal possessions and the right to wear their own clothes. This programme is an integral part of a the day to day running of a prison but its incentives end at the prison gates; not designed to help prisoners tackle their offending behaviour once on the outside.

Researchers and prisoners themselves are clear about the problems that most often lead to reoffending. Whilst offenders are on the inside, many lose their homes, jobs, and connections to family and community which makes it far harder to integrate back into society. The rehabilitation programme designed would focus on the greatest risks, in order to help minimise those risks and reduce reoffending.

One strike and you’re out

In order to win public approval for this type of programme, it must be very clear that incentives have to be earned - only awarded through a prisoner’s active engagement and results. In order to work, this programme would have to offer offenders things that they value – and for some media commentators, prisoners’ entitlements end at food and water. But this programme isn’t about entitlements – it’s about earned rewards. Presented as a tough regime that offers benefits for those trying to turn their lives around; it would no longer be possible for offenders to earn privileges simply for behaving well inside, whilst refusing to address their criminal behaviour.

The programme would also have to ensure that prisoners couldn’t play the system. Offenders could behave well and participate in order to earn benefits following release and then reoffend. The obvious solution here is a ‘one strike and you’re out’ rule, under which people who’ve reoffended following their participation in the programme wouldn’t be eligible to participate again.

Perhaps the greatest challenge, though, would be the task of lining up funding and services required for the programme. Rather than providing a set budget to meet the needs of the UK’s prison population, the departments funding education, training, mental health and drug treatment services would have to serve all those offenders who’ve earned the rewards set out in their development programme. And when committed and well-behaved offenders left prison, their support packages would call on those providing services such as housing, job support, counselling and benefits. To trial this approach, a pilot scheme could provide a good indication of how successful this programme could be.

Ending the offending life-cycle

In the long term, investments would help tackle some of the missed opportunities produced by our failing rehabilitation system. If the UK could cut its reoffending rate, the savings would reach far beyond policing and criminal justice – reducing demand for benefits, healthcare and social services. So this would be a long-term investment, producing long-term rewards. To calm concerns in those departments required to commit resources up front, ministers could divert the cash savings accrued the police, courts, probation and prisons – to repay investments by health, education, housing and employment services.

Taking a more personalised and incentivised approach to rehabilitation would ensure that government is delivering the right interventions to tackle each individual’s offending.

This new holistic approach could, in time, generate not only big savings across government, but also provide huge social and community benefits. Happier families and communities. Less economic drag. Falling rates of drug addiction, unemployment, homelessness and violent acts. A drop in the number of people wasting their lives in criminality and prison sentences. And, above all, fewer victims of crime. What we’re doing now isn’t working. Perhaps it’s time to try something new.


About the author

Chloe Burton is a manager in KPMG’s Government practice, where she focuses on business transformation and customer experience.

This article is one of a series of thought experiments in which KPMG staff imagine new ways for government to achieve public policy objectives. This might mean building services around the user rather than the provider, or drawing on the huge potential of data and digital technologies, or tapping into the power of markets, new incentives, transparency, or the wisdom of crowds.

In every case, it involves fresh ideas. To channel our thinking, we imposed three rules: 1) Ideas must be designed to produce better public outcomes without increasing the burden on the taxpayer; 2) they must align with the government’s philosophy and headline policies; and 3) they must be realistic and deliverable. But within these rules we want to step outside conventional thinking, and test out new ideas on how public policy goals can be achieved. We want to stretch ourselves, applying new technologies and techniques to solve old problems. We are not calling for a specific future – but we are reimagining it.

Monday, 26 September 2016

How We Got Here

I notice that the recent scathing Public Accounts Committee report on TR, where the chair Meg Hillier said the MoJ 'had bitten off more than it could chew', has prompted this interesting analysis on Facebook of how we got to where we are now:-

Privatisation of the probation service in England and Wales was based on the false premise that reoffending rates had remained pretty much the same for some time, were unacceptably high, resistant to change, and therefore radical and disruptive action was necessary to start bringing them down. This was however just an excuse to pursue a neoliberal agenda which, in Graylings limited and simplistic understanding of these things (he has never pretended to be an expert but relies on his gut instinct when considering what to do), involves the privatisation of as much of the public sector as he can get away with as quickly as possible.

There is good evidence that initially Grayling's plan, supported by David Cameron and other ministers, was to privatise the entire probation service. However, he was apparently advised by probation folk in NOMS that this was a bad idea and at the very least he should retain some of the work with high risk offenders, prisons, the courts, and the APs in the public sector as there were significant fears - gained from the experience of prison privatisation and the privatisation of CP in London - that wholesale privatisation would simply be too risky and would inevitably expose the government to charges of recklessness with regard to public safety and accountability should anything major go wrong. Grayling was fully aware and had been briefed that companies such as Serco and G4S were not safe bets by any means (and fast becoming too toxic even for the usually, in his eyes as a former BBC Producer and PR company manager, gullible public to accept) so one of the main tasks of the Transformation Team was to find and encourage bidders to have a punt.

It is however the split between NPS and the CRCs that is the source of most of the concerns about risk and there were those in senior positions in the Trusts who urged and lobbied Grayling not to split the service but rather reform the Trusts and even give them the extra work. However the gamble to steer Grayling towards a rational rather than ideological outcome failed. They were reasonably certain for some time he would follow their informed advice. If I thought that Grayling was capable of strategic thinking I would credit him with playing the Trust Chiefs seemingly holding out a carrot only to replace this with a swerve to the right and a stab in the vitals followed later by a more conciliatory promise of a payoff and a gong if they played ball. Grayling was however convinced (his gut told him) that reform should be radical and revolutionary and not just a bit of a nip and tuck regarding the Trusts. He heeded advice from NOMS/MoJ to retain certain areas of work in the public sector placing this under closer direct government control and ignored advice from those warning of the potentially catastrophic consequences of a split.

Bidders for CRCs were therefore encouraged to present 'innovative' operating models in their bids. This was deliberate as the idea was to disrupt the status quo by establishing and bringing into existence a diverse range of approaches to tackling reoffending that would stimulate competition and further innovation. You could say that Grayling wanted to produce loosely controlled chaos from which he hoped would emerge cheaper leaner and meaner probation services that would chip away at the stubborn reoffending monolith.

This might appear to some to be a decidedly bold and exciting plan with lots of potential for innovation and transformative change however it soon became clear in the first round of bids that very few private companies were interested in participating and competing in what was essentially an artificially created rehabilitation services market. There was some panic that the whole TR programme would go belly up and in the second round bidders were assisted to come up with improved bids. As we know some CRC package areas only had one suitable bidder and some large multinational bidders were able to mop up a number of areas with bids that were superficially innovative but in reality just about doing things cheaper with less resources.

With a bizarre and discredited PBR payment system and significant risks to reputation smaller bidders, who were perhaps more genuinely innovative, such as staff mutuals were effectively discouraged. The usual multinational suspects, minus G4S and Serco who were under SFO investigation, were allowed to take over - much to the MoJs relief - as a politically embarrassing PR disaster was narrowly averted. Cameron gave Grayling whatever PR management resources he needed and at one time he had a team of 60 working to counter the efforts of trade unions and other organisations and pressure groups including a covert social media campaign designed to disrupt and counter any organised opposition.

However it very soon became clear to a number of the bidders, some of whom had not dealt with the MoJ/NOMS, that they had been sold a pup. A lot of the important planning work that should have been done had not been done and the rush to avoid ministerial embarrassment and tie the hands of any new administration was obstructive to any major tweaking.

Many of those voting to transform rehabilitation (TR) undoubtedly didn't have a clue or didn't bother to find out what they were voting for and didn't appreciate the dogs breakfast that needed to be sorted out and is still being sorted out in order to do anything new whilst retaining a degree of stability or business as usual.

The onerous task of making TR work was largely shouldered by what remained of Trust staff and the job of keeping the show on the road has been achieved through the titanic efforts of what remains of experienced frontline practitioners. What remains of the old Trust senior managers who couldn't get out on lucrative enhanced voluntary redundancy schemes are gradually being replaced in most cases by the owners own corporate employees who they assume are loyal to their cause - though in some cases have been turned from the dark side. The long suffering frontline practitioners who have not been offered an exit option have had no option but to keep carrying on despite evidence of low morale and increasingly poor performance due to factors such as unreliable IT systems, bedding in of new ways of working, that are largely beyond their control. Many would leave if they could leave without financial loss and employers are well aware that if they opened a door there would be a stampede to exit.

The fact remains that the probation service was not failing prior to privatisation and was not responsible for reoffending rates remaining static particularly those sentenced to less than 12 months custody whom they were never asked to work with. We should in any case be wary and sceptical of crime and reoffending statistics as their production is now a very politically sensitive operation that may well alter the fate of those agencies producing them. For instance many crimes may be ignored and certain groups disproportionately targeted as easy wins whilst harder criminal cases such as fraud and tax evasion pursued with less enthusiasm. Politicians have also interfered in the criminal justice system in England and Wales ignoring expert advice and pursuing populist policies of punishment and retribution rather than rehabilitation that has for instance led to an expansion of the prison system when some of our apparently more enlightened European neighbours are closing theirs and seeking ways to enhance and expand offender rehabilitation valuing the contribution of probation staff more rather than less.

Successive governments have cumulatively made a disgraceful mess of the probation service by treating it as a political football (Grayling is probably the most inept and determined in recent times). It would now take a very strong/brave and enlightened government to reform the criminal justice system to reflect modern thinking rather than sticking with the worst of all systems. Such a government does not appear to exist and probation has few if any champions in Westminster.

The expertise is still available although there is relatively little evidence that the new players have shown much if any interest in real innovation or indeed tried and tested approaches nor have actually involved themselves in producing any research evidence regarding whether what they have been doing actually works to reduce reoffending as yet - except anything they need to do to get paid. The suspicion, in the absence of reliable evidence, must be that at best they are making no difference - in comparison to what was previously in place - or that they are actually making things worse. If that is found to be the case then yes there is reason for considerable regret and for certain individuals to step up and take responsibility for their actions.


David Raho

--oo00oo--

"Cameron gave Grayling whatever PR management resources he needed and at one time he had a team of 60 working to counter the efforts of trade unions and other organisations and pressure groups including a covert social media campaign designed to disrupt and counter any organised opposition."

I find this particularly interesting as it was often alleged on the blog that 'dark forces' were at work trying to disrupt things on social media - and possibly still are. I wonder what evidence the author has for this assertion? 

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Pick of the Week 15

How much longer can the CRCs rely on 'teething problems' excuses? Good to see the contrast between the working NPS and dysfunctional CRC. I wonder if the fact that one has a public ethos has anything to do with the gulf in performance. That the CRCs would never work in the private sector was the prediction of all the experts with the exception of the neoliberal ideologues, the evidence in support of this prediction is now flowing in.

No, it's got nothing to do with teething problems and delays in implementation of so-called operating models. That sort of mitigation is glib and reeks of denial. The truth is the CRCs are not fit for purpose. The mad experiment, based on a crazy hypothesis, and soundbites about rehabilitation revolutions and £46-pound-in-your-pocket, is an affront to those working in probation, and those who receive its services.

******
Is it true that the "rehabilitation revolution" is far from complete? And in what way is it far from complete? I am thinking this is it. What you see now is how it is going to be henceforth. Chaos and poor practice. But what is it the powers that be are expecting to find once the revolution is complete? Companies more adept at covering their tracks to make things look great even though they are not? These stats of performance measures which would enable the companies and the government to sing their mendacious harmonies together without the BBC suspecting a thing? Where are we expecting to be when that revolution is complete? I suspect that the mendacious harmonies is but stage one of the revolution.

******
If we ever do go back to public ownership I am hoping we will not go back to how things were before the split in certain respects. I am hoping we would lose some of the less helpful aspects of how we were. There were things that held us back from actually enabling proper rehabilitation of service users coming our way. This does not mean I agreed with the privatisation. CJS should be public not subject to profit. 


Our public probation officer persona's tended to be slightly holier than thou, unable to see and admit that there by the grace of God go all of us. This was aided and abetted by the revolting OASys assessment we are still forced to use, with its implied assumption of how a person should be in order for that person to pull themselves away from offending, that the acquisition of middle class souls is what we must judge people on. In a new public world we should do more to campaign for other public services. 

Increasingly there is nowhere else for our service users to go. Advocacy should be a much more important and valued part of the job, and we should put much more pressure on our managers to give a strong and positive representation for our service users with other agencies and obviously with NOMS. And when we have proof that they do we should back them up.

******
Quote - 'our public probation officer persona's tended to be slightly holier than thou, unable to see and admit that there by grace of God go all of us'.

That is a bit presumptuous. All of them? Yes, there were some pompous PO's, everyone is different, but there were more hardworking, sensitive, understanding PO's who went out of their way to support while challenging; and spending excessive amounts of time to get to know the client to develop their trust, as they explored issues in their background, whatever their character and resistance; to give them space to cry as they offloaded sadness and horror stories; and to share with the client their own personal experiences if relevant.

I and several other colleagues, would consistently work longer hours, and the thank you cards that we would receive at the end of an Order, even from the unexpected 'no-hopers', would demonstrate how much the offender appreciated our support, trust and honesty, firm but fair. Holier than thou? Where was your experience of that with every colleague? But I do agree with you about the mechanical, soulless, time consuming, repetitive OASys! But -'middle class souls'? Maybe we northerners didn't know what 'middle class' was!

******
You are right to caution against the halcyon days. The probation culture did not go sour overnight. The impact of managerialism and a competitive culture based on league tables and targets, did much harm to the ethos, job satisfaction and service delivery.

******
Just been reading up on the Sonnex case again. Does any of this sound familiar:

'These failings span our courts, the probation service and the Prison Service. Does the noble Lord accept that they are the direct result of an overcrowded prison estate, which has led Ministers to put concerted pressure on the courts and probation staff not to use custody, even when, as here, it was vital to protect the public? That is the primary duty of the Government. Does he accept that the failure to deliver on yet another IT system—namely C-NOMIS, which links the courts, prisons and the probation service—left staff ill-equipped to cope? The failure of IT systems is quite a constant complaint against the Government. Would the £40 million or so squandered on C-NOMIS have been better spent on strengthening front-line officer capacity? Does the Minister accept the independent review’s finding that the local probation service was inadequately staffed, diluting the supervision of such a high-risk offender? Does he also accept its finding that the probation service focused on Sonnex’s employment and accommodation needs, when its number one priority, as I said earlier, should have been public protection? This is yet another symptom of the Government’s confused priorities, paralysis and lack of direction.'

******
This is just f*cking priceless. Noms/MoJ fracture a coherent, award-winning national service along artificial lines, impose ideologically driven privatised management structures & E3, then:
"18... The Ministry recognises the importance of getting the NPS and CRCs working together more effectively. It has put in place various governance structures, including ‘service integration groups’ to bring CRCs, NPS and NOMS together to work through operational challenges. The Ministry has also sought to identify and share good joint working practices, such as those existing in Wales, that it feels can be learned from and adapted to the different circumstances across England."
What a pack of a*seholes. Want more evidence? Try this corker:
"20. The Ministry has plans to make these savings, which include reviewing the way it carries out contract management and replacing specialist contractors with more affordable civil servants."
Grayling, Wright, Brennan, Romeo, Spurr etc etc should be facing charges of negligence in public office.

******
"MoJ stance of being deliberately unprescriptive on how services should be delivered"...Well here in London CRC those of us who questioned the wisdom of their cohort model from the outset were told that the cohorts had to be gone through with because it was on the basis of the cohort idea that MTC Novo obtained their contract from MoJ. So I don't know who exactly was being inflexible about that. Now however there are moves afoot to undo aspects of the cohort model since it is unworkable. It is all so predictable it brings tears to my eyes. But why is it so hard for them to see these things coming from afar? It is not as if it was ever going to save them money running cohorts. I don't understand any of it.

******
Staff in LondonCRC warned that the cohort model would be a disaster and we're proved right. We have to suffer the indignity of foreign multinational corporations employing random failed ex prison governors who after being placed in charge on large salaries proceed to teach us to suck eggs or else then when they fail again they bring in their mates who are also ex prison governors and/or failed/discredited prison inspectors to tell them what we were saying in the first place. You couldn't make this stuff up. Many offenders in London haven't been seen for over a year due to the chaos. And who the heck wanted to have tea with Helga? Hands up you hiding in the corner .......

******
As a manager I must say London have at times been shocking. No one returns calls. Case transfer updates are never received. No enforcement seems to occur. Sincere lack of national process awareness. The buck must stop with their managers.


******
No one returns calls? They don't even pick up their phones or respond to emails!!

******
MTCnovo and their biggest company LondonCRC are a bad joke. The phones don't work, the laptops don't work and weigh a ton so everyone is going to sue their asses for shoulder and back injury, SPOs are nowhere to be seen (agile working means sitting on your sofa catching up on daytime TV) and some boast they have only contacted their staff via Skype. The offices are deserted. Records are being fabricated because there is no local oversight and some people are taking advantage because they know the idiots at the top haven't got a clue and are in it for the money. They talk big but to be honest they won't last until 2017 let alone 2020

******

Through the Gate, one of the flagships of TR. Improving services for those serving less than 12 months. Providing services and support for these individuals was a winning argument, as it made such good sense. But two years on MPs report that 'two-thirds of offenders released from prison have not received enough help pre-release in relation to accommodation, employment or finances'. TR is a confidence trick!

******
Far from being met at the gate by a mentor 'remember them?' and a wrap around service that would provide stability and support, I'm seeing a growing number of under 12 month prisoners being released to rough sleeping where the only support then can draw upon is from homeless charities. It's a disgrace, and it doesn't look like it's going to get better anytime soon. Someone should be held to account, not just Grayling and the Tories, but also the catering and cleaning companies paid for the delivery of services. Rehabilitation Revolution? It's just poppycock!

******
We had an emergency team meeting - told not to discuss private things in public and forbidden to talk about Jim Brown at work. Also 50% of cases don't have an OASys. That means 50% of offenders don't have a risk assessment or sentence plan. Why is this not in the national news? Helga cut facility time for Napo - let's cut her metaphorically speaking.

******

Nice to see Mr McDowell has found a role for himself in the private sector since his fall from grace. With Mrs McDowell running Sodexo & Mr McD leading the 'London CRC Change Plan', does this give the McDowell household the most significant influence in CRCs? It must surely eclipse that other CRC power couple, Nigel & Andrea Bennett?

******
I heard a number of people have already been suspended and managers are flapping around pretending they have only just discovered what a huge mess all the cases are in.

******
If they had their time again I wonder how many of the CRC owners would have bid? I have little sympathy for them, but they they have put themselves in an impossible position. I don't think it will be long before more of them have to admit it openly or find a face saving way of ducking out. Having taken on these contracts they find themselves as central to the problem - unworkable contracts in a sector which should never have been privatised on ethical grounds.

******
Yawn! why do we do this? The armchair mood hoovers are just empty vessels as all of it's just speculation until the report has been published. I come back to the question time and time again. If people are so unhappy why not leave?

******
Well lots don't stay. Others do cos they have mortgages. Or inertia or loyalty to an idea that is dead. Or hope it will improve. Nobody l know has stayed because they embrace TR.

******
One or two appear to embrace TR but privately believe it's a bottomless crock of guano that only serves to pay the bills until they can hop on another failing cash cow. Having long battled with prison staff the owners of CRCs regard probation staff as a softer target. They are part of the problem and just an extension of the states apparatus of suppression.

******
Thing is, if the inspection is happening in your office it is quite easy to gain a feeling as to how things are going by what is being said or asked by the Inspectors. The response from Helga is bland go say the least, and unnecessary if this is just mischief making as the truth will out in the final report, and will be available for all to read on the HMIP website.

******
I wonder how long Helga has got before the axe falls on her own neck? Maybe some other chancer from the prison service would like a go. The boys with the bionic badges from Utah will not be impressed by incompetence chaos and failure. Believe It Or Not It's Crap.

******
MTCnovo's strapline is Believe It Or Not I Care (BIONIC). How much do they care by ending union facility time? I heard in one case a Napo rep was prevented by their manager under threat of disciplinary action not to accompany their member to a capability hearing even though the policy said they had a right to be represented. Surely what they are doing is illegal? I heard Napo may be calling in the HSE due to the state of some of their buildings as NPS staff are refusing to work in them.

******
How big is London and Thames Valley's case load? Because MTCnovo haven't risk assessed or initiated sentence plans for 50% of offenders. I heard from a close pal (ACO) they are in special measures losing money. If I had shares I'd dump them before they become toxic.

******
Some PSOs in certain Cohorts with 140 cases in London and POs dealing with DV and Child protection cases with caseloads in high 80s-90s.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

MP's Raise the Alarm

This from Civil Service World:-

MPs raise alarm on Ministry of Justice’s “Transforming Probation” programme

The Ministry of Justice is unable to demonstrate that wide-ranging reforms to the way offender rehabilitation services are run are a success, MPs on the Public Accounts Committee have warned in their latest report. Members also said that so-called Community Rehabilitation Companies introduced to the system as part of the “Transforming Probation” reforms faced significant barriers, including delays in accessing the National Offender Management Service ICT system.

The PAC said that although the new regime was aimed at saving £12bn over seven years, the ICT issues alone had so far required compensation payments of more than £20m from the department. Their findings build on a National Audit Office report from April, which found that Transforming Probation’s splitting of services between the privately-owned CRCs and the National Probation Service had resulted in “unsurprising frictions” between public and private-sector staff.

The MoJ announced its "rehabilitation revolution" in 2012, and in June 2014 it split 35 probation trusts into a the NPS and 21 new CRCs. The public sector NPS now advises courts on sentencing all offenders and manages those presenting higher risks. CRCs supervise offenders presenting a low- of medium-risk of harm. However, the PAC said that more than two years into the transformation, there was no clear data on how the new arrangements were performing, and none was expected to be available until the end of 2017.

Committee chair Meg Hillier said the MoJ had set itself an ambitious target for the programme, which was still a work in progress at a time when the department was looking to halve its administration costs and drive reforms to the courts and prisons services.

“We are disappointed that, given the human and economic costs of reoffending, gaps in data mean the overall effectiveness of the reforms cannot be properly assessed,” she said. “Reintegrating offenders with the community is vitally important yet the quality of arrangements to support this is patchy. There is also a continued failure to provide hard-pressed probation staff with adequate computer systems.”

The PAC said there was a wide variation in the quality of arrangements to provide continuity between rehabilitation within prison and the community, and that CRCs’ “through the gate” services had not gone as well as the MoJ and NOMS had wanted.

They added that despite original aspirations for a wide variety of CRC providers, including mutual and charities, all but one of the CRCs was run by a private operator. MPs said the MoJ’s stance of being “deliberately unprescriptive” on how services should be delivered made it hard to evaluate their success.

“CRCs are expected to fund innovative programmes through their general resources,” the report said. “It is not clear to us how far this is actually happening. The ministry is reviewing the contracts with CRCs and considering what it should do to ensure that they create the right incentives for service delivery now, rather than relying just on a payment-by-results outcome in a few years’ time.”

MPs also warned that despite the importance of joint working across probation services, the relevant ICT systems were “inefficient, unreliable and hard to use”. They singled out NOMS’ nDelius case management system as a particular source of frustration that put "added pressure on hard-pressed staff”, and highlighted a £23m compensation payment made to CRCs by the ministry over delays in providing an access gateway to the NOMS ICT system.

Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the PAC report appeared to indicate that services were getting worse, increasing the risk to the public and letting down staff in the process. “The break-up of the public probation service was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer,” he said.

“Even though the probation watchdog waited more than a year for the new arrangements to bed down before carrying out local inspections, the reports we have seen show that the quality of work has declined. The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view.”

Justice minister Sam Gyimah said a comprehensive review of the probation service was being undertaken, with the aim of improving outcomes for offenders and communities. “Public protection is our top priority and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to make sure our vital reforms are being delivered to reduce reoffending, cut crime and prevent future victims,” he said.


--oo00oo--

Everything in this Public Accounts Committee report was widely predicted on this blog and despite all the official MoJ warm words, completely confirms in spades the anecdotal evidence that rolls in on a daily basis. In my view it's so important, it's worth quoting extensively:-

Offenders with short prison sentences

4.A crucial element of the ‘rehabilitation revolution’ was the extension of statutory rehabilitation in the community to an estimated extra 45,000 offenders sentenced for less than 12 months. For too long this group has had worryingly high reoffending levels, currently at nearly 60%, with the Ministry finding it extremely difficult to stop the constant “revolving door” of short-sentence prisoners. The extension of supervision has created extra strain across the criminal justice system through a significant increase in offenders being recalled to prison from the community for breaching their licence. Quarterly data from the Ministry shows the number of recalls increased by around 28% between 2014 and 2015. Some increase in recalls is to be expected from extending supervision and the Ministry regards the rate as within its expectations. But it is not clear to us that the Ministry and NOMS understands the full significance of the increased recalls or, more importantly, how this critical group of short-sentence offenders is responding to supervision, a concern expressed in the NAO’s report and other testimony we received.

5.The extension of supervision has also put additional workload onto staff already under pressure in prisons and probation and has created further friction between NPS and CRC staff. Indeed, as the Howard League for Penal Reform emphasises, the increase in the number of people recalled to custody is “pushing additional pressure and costs onto the already overstretched and under resourced prison service”.The decision whether an offender is recalled to custody is taken by the NPS; however, where the offender is supervised by a CRC, CRCs will provide the NPS with the evidence that offenders have breached their terms of supervision. The NPS may reject the CRCs notifications and, in some cases, this is happening for minor reasons such as spelling and grammatical errors in the notification. The Ministry has not provided us with the number of CRC recall requests that have been rejected by the NPS but claims that the level would be negligible. We received evidence that some CRC staff were discouraged from recommending enforcement action through the courts because it attracted financial penalties under the contracts. If widespread, this would produce fewer recalls than would otherwise be the case.


Continuity of rehabilitation beyond prison

6.Since May 2015, the 21 CRCs have delivered “Through the Gate” services in which they assess the initial needs of all offenders in custody, provide them with resettlement services in preparation for release and, where appropriate, meet them on release and work with them in the community. The Ministry acknowledged that the mobilisation of this resettlement work in prison has not developed as quickly and as well as it would have wanted. It is over a year since “Through the Gate” services were introduced yet it is a concern that there is still wide variation in the quality of resettlement services provided to offenders by CRCs in prisons across England and Wales. Given that the provision of “Through the Gate” services was an important part of the changes introduced under Transforming Rehabilitation, it is significant that over two-thirds of offenders released from prison have not received enough help pre-release in relation to accommodation, employment or finances. The extent of variation and service quality issues have led the Ministry to review its current arrangements, including the contracts in place with CRCs.

7.One of the biggest challenges in delivering successful probation and resettlement services in custody and the community is giving offenders access to services beyond the direct control of the justice system. Accessing services such as housing, education and employment requires the NPS and CRCs to work with, and influence, local and health authorities, police forces and other crucial providers. For example, the NPS finds it can be acutely challenging to find housing for sex offenders near their families, as local communities would rather they were placed elsewhere in the country. While the CRCs’ contracts incentivise them to find accommodation for offenders, we heard that the offender housing problem is deteriorating, with 42% of service users participating in research carried out for the NAO feeling that help with housing has got worse since the probation reforms.


2 Barriers to achieving the “rehabilitation revolution”


Reduced business for Community Rehabilitation Companies


8.The case volumes of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are much lower, by between 6% and 36%, than the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) had predicted when letting the contracts. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) attributed this, in part, to the changing nature of the offender caseload and the mix of cases that have come to be managed by both the National Probation Service (NPS) and by the CRCs. They also noted more pronounced change in rural than urban areas. Despite lower than expected case volumes leading to reduced income, CRCs have begun to introduce some innovative practices, such as equipping staff with new technology, new “one-stop” service centres and working with cohorts of individuals in very different ways. The extent of this innovation has, however, been slowed by unresolved negotiations between the CRCs and the Ministry to address the impact of the volume reductions on CRCs’ income. These negotiations were ongoing at the time of the NAO report in April 2016 and were still not resolved at the time of our evidence session in July 2016.

9.The changing offender caseload has also added significant pressure to the NPS staff who are having to manage higher than expected numbers of more violent and sexual offenders. When combined with flawed ICT systems and pressure on NPS managers to deliver support services, this puts staff under increased pressure and negatively impacts morale. NOMS commended probation staff and those working in the NPS and CRCs for keeping services running over a period of sustained change.

Incentives to innovate

10.The Ministry intended that the probation reforms would incentivise CRCs to deliver innovative approaches to delivering offender supervision and support services. It was deliberately unprescriptive about how CRCs would deliver services to different groups of offenders as it wanted to give CRCs freedom to develop their own approaches to how to help and support someone to change. This stance allows space for innovation but can pose risks to maintaining services, in particular for specific minority groups, such as women offenders.

11.Voluntary organisations raised the quality of services delivered to female offenders as a particular concern, as women have different needs in respect of the services that will support them to stop reoffending. There is a statutory responsibility on CRCs to provide services for women but services are inconsistent across England and Wales as the statutory responsibility is not supported by more detailed specification. We received evidence highlighting concerns about the decline in CRC funding for women’s services, as well as perverse incentives to focus on contract performance rather than service quality. The Ministry emphasised that the closure of HMP Holloway, announced in November 2015, provides an opportunity to rethink the shape and size of the female prison estate. It expects that the closure will result in a different way of accommodating women prisoners and fewer women in prison. The Committee will follow closely developments in the women’s prison estate and the impact this has on probation services.

12.The Ministry told us that its payment-by-results pilots in Doncaster and Peterborough prisons had established that organisations were not prepared to be paid solely based on a payment-by-results basis for reducing reoffending. Under the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme, CRCs are primarily paid for delivering specified services with only a small element, around 10%, of payments expected to be paid on the basis of reduced reoffending. The pilots also helped the Ministry to refine the payment-by-results mechanism to take into account the frequency of re-offending. We have, however, received persuasive testimony on risks posed by the payment mechanism and by arrangements in CRCs’ supply chains. For example, the payment mechanism can reduce the incentive to adopt innovative practices. Established approaches to reducing reoffending, such as group-based accredited programmes, and more innovative approaches, such as the Care Farm Model in Warwickshire and West Mercia, are both important methods. Where a court orders an accredited programme this will attract specific funding. But if the CRC has its own innovative interventions and the court consents to this through a general Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, these must be funded from the CRC’s general resources. Submissions to us cited a “race to the bottom” on service quality, with specialised, individual-focused services being decommissioned in favour of generic group activities. This, combined with NPS court staff lacking understanding on the range of services now available, means that some innovative approaches are not being used or funded.

13.The NPS recognises that it has more to do to provide the appropriate advice to sentencers and the judiciary on exactly what rehabilitation services are now available from CRCs, whose staff are not normally present in court proceedings. The NPS also cited examples where it is trying to deliver innovation, as part of its Efficiency, Effectiveness and Excellence (E3) programme, in areas such as the accreditation of its approved premises and its training of probation officers.

Third sector involvement

14.The reforms had a specific objective to open up probation to a wide range of rehabilitation providers, including mutuals and the third sector, to provide further innovation in supervising offender. To understand the market’s appetite to sign up to contracts where payment is based on reducing reoffending, in May 2012, the Ministry tendered contracts for a pilot offender rehabilitation programme at Leeds prison. The Ministry closed the competition after bidders decided not to compete. It claimed to have learned from this pilot that the voluntary sector, who are often smaller organisations, had less capacity than private sector bidders to accept financial and commercial risk. It is not evident to us that this learning was applied to the CRC procurement with all but one of the 21 CRCs now controlled by private sector owners. Voluntary organisations felt that the Ministry had sought to transfer more risk than charities, or their trustees, could accept.

15.The Ministry pointed to a wider supply chain supporting CRC owners, including organisations from the community health, skills and education and employment support sectors. However, evidence submissions to us raised concerns about how voluntary sector organisations are being treated by the CRCs and the NPS. Research into the sector has found that the pace of change has been slow, reducing investment by CRCs in voluntary suppliers’ work, that the reforms have not succeeded in creating a diverse supply chain, and that poor quality communication with the voluntary sector is damaging relations and impeding service improvement. The research also highlighted that while some services remain unchanged, very few voluntary sector organisations are seeing an improvement in probation services. In many cases, these organisations are reporting negative experiences and outcomes for services users. We also received further evidence that organisations involved were not clear about the commitments in the contracts including performance indicators, financial penalties and incentives.


Enabling joint working

16.Successful probation services depend on effective joint-working across various partners, supported by well-functioning ICT systems. Probation ICT systems have long been unfit for purpose, which hinders collaboration and frustrates staff who already work under pressure. We were told that the nDelius case management system used by NOMS had to be stripped back so it could be operated by CRCs and NPS regions nationwide as a single system. As a result, this reduced the useability of nDelius and NPS staff regularly raise ICT issues with senior leaders in NOMS. Improving nDelius is a priority for NOMS and is particularly important for the NPS who will continue to use the system for the foreseeable future.

17.Most CRCs are installing their own case management systems and ICT infrastructure to increase efficiency and productivity. For this to happen, CRCs needed the Ministry to provide a “strategic partner gateway” to link NOMS and CRC systems. The Ministry initially planned to deliver this gateway in the summer of 2015 but this was delayed by other priorities and subsequently by increased scope. Though the gateway is now in place, the delay has impacted some CRCs’ ability to transform their ICT systems at the pace they had planned. As a result, the Ministry has had to pay a total of £23.1 million to 17 CRCs.

18.The probation reforms broke long-established working relationships, which many staff have found difficult to adjust to. The Ministry recognises the importance of getting the NPS and CRCs working together more effectively. It has put in place various governance structures, including ‘service integration groups’ to bring CRCs, NPS and NOMS together to work through operational challenges. The Ministry has also sought to identify and share good joint working practices, such as those existing in Wales, that it feels can be learned from and adapted to the different circumstances across England.

19.The NPS told us it is currently trying to deliver a more consistent service to offenders across its seven regions within England and Wales. It wants to ensure best practice in offender supervision is shared across England and Wales, rather than have a standardised ‘one size fits all’ approach. However, the NPS is struggling with a high workload and difficulties accessing services outside its direct control, such as housing, education and work. HM Inspectorate of Probation advised us that staff morale, training, workloads and line management are all variable and will need to improve if Transforming Rehabilitation is to be fully effective. NPS managers are also finding it extremely challenging to take on the additional responsibility of providing support services to their staff. The NPS told us that it was right for managers to take responsibility for their staff, but it also recognised that it had not appreciated the significance of, and the investment required in, providing support through a shared service centre.


Wider pressures on the Ministry

20.The Ministry now has to see through the intended improvements in probation services alongside multiple changes in areas such as the prisons and courts systems. The Ministry accepted that the Transforming Rehabilitation procurement process had probably diverted attention away from other areas. It wants to make sure that in future “business as usual” activities or second order change programmes receive the same amount of attention. It is conscious of current pressures in the prisons estate: the increase in violence and self-harm, new psychoactive substances and the attendant security risks. However, the Ministry is also facing significant resource pressures, having to deliver savings to its administrative budget of 50% by 2019–20 and overall resource savings of 15% by 2019–20. The Ministry has plans to make these savings, which include reviewing the way it carries out contract management and replacing specialist contractors with more affordable civil servants.

21.The Ministry has committed to provide prison governors with greater autonomy to decide the services delivered in their prisons, and it is unclear what impact this would have on CRCs already providing “Through the Gate” services. The extent to which these plans will continue will be determined by new Ministers following the reshuffle in July 2016.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Latest From Napo 119

Here's the latest blog post from the General Secretary:-

HMIP and PAC reports - it's time for the government to act.

How timely, just ahead of our AGM, come two damning reports. The first by HMI Probation into the performance of private provider RRP in Derbyshire and the second, from the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee into what they describe as the failure of Transforming Rehabilitation.

No surprise to us of course, and they are not the first or the last of their kind that have appeared, as the impact of Graylings ill-considered social experiment becomes increasingly clearer. The links to both reports appear below and as you would expect we issued media releases as soon as we picked up on the Press Association alerts.

At the time of writing we have had BBC Radio 4 showing interest on the back of our ongoing work with them about the public safety issues that they are chasing down in a number of CRC's. As you will appreciate this is a delicate issue given the propensity of the media to sensationalise incidents involving serious harm or death and the need for us to do all that we can to raise serious questions around public protection.

Probation union Napo responds to HMIP report on Derbyshire probation services

Public Accounts Committee report echoes probation union 's concerns on the failures of Transforming Rehabilitation

Over and above the various issues contained in the two reports comes a looming crisis over funding and the financial viability of some CRC providers who have seen major reductions in the WAV (Weighted Annualised Volumes) for the caseloads that they hold.

The obvious conclusion is that there is a reduction in the numbers of CRC service users but actually its more complicated than that, with growing evidence of a rise in higher risk cases (especially sexually related offences) that need to remain in the NPS, and reductions in the activities required of the CRCs in respect of the clients on their books. Throw in the complexities of the less than transparent payment by results formula, and the reasonable gripes of many CRC owners that they purchased a bit of a dud at share sale, then we have a growing crisis that requires high level intervention. Hopefully we will get a bit more by way of a reaction from the Ministry than the: 'its still early days' mantra.

We have a crisis and its time to take remedial action now.


Top judge sounds alarm bell over care cases

This is a really interesting blog by the President of the Family Courts Sir James Munby. I am sure the subject matter will feature in the debates at next weeks Family Court Section General Meeting in Cardiff and the professional session the following day. We will be contacting Sir James to enquire if he would be willing to have an article published in Napo Quarterly.

Care Cases -- The Looming Crisis

Napo demands clarity over AP Issues

Napo and Unison met with the employers this week to discuss some of the issues that have been raised by our AP members over the E3 implementation plans for Approved Premises. It was a useful meeting which, as always, resulted in many more issues being identified. We did secure an agreement that a Q&A document will be issued by NOMS, most likely next week, to give members answers to the majority of the issues you have raised. We will obviously be having ongoing discussions with the employers on these issues so do continue to feed any concerns and queries in via your local branch.

In the meantime we are aware that some members will be attending their 1:1 meetings and this is obviously a cause of some anxiety when queries and questions remain unanswered. Despite our requests for this part of the process to be paused until the requested information can be provided the employers have decided that they cannot delay the implementation in any way. It might be their call but we think its a mistake.

For that reason we have issued the following advice to members attending 1:1 meetings with their line manager. 
  • Prepare any questions or queries you have in advance and ask your manager to note at the end of the meeting any that remain unanswered with a description of how the answers will be sought and a plan for a further meeting once answers are available.
  • Ask your line manager to make a note that any decisions made during the meeting are subject to change if new information comes to light later.
  • Make sure you ask which roles you have been matched to, if you do not agree there is an appeal process attached to the pro-forma for the meetings.
  • If you are not happy with anything that happens in the meeting seek advice from your local branch rep in the first instance.
  • For members wishing to change the number of hours they work (for example from part time to full time or vice versa), you can do this at the same time as the E3 1:1 process, using the relevant form from My Services. Your line manager should be able to help you find this.
We will issue further more detailed advice on this and E3 related matters as soon as we can.

Looking forward to AGM!

This is certainly looking like its going to be an action packed gathering with some serious issues to be debated such as NNC Reform, our future professional strategy, and the many issues being faced by our members across all the employers that we cover.

I hope to see even more late registrations to boost the numbers even further, and I look forward to welcoming everyone and especially new members and first time AGM attendees to Cardiff.

--oo00oo--

Other news here:-  

Update on NPS - E3 Approved Premises

Napo along with UNISON met with the employers on 12th September to discuss some of the issues that have been raised as part of the E3 implementation for Approved Premises. This was a useful meeting however there are some issues that require further discussion. We did secure an agreement that a Q&A document will be issued, most likely next week, to give members answers to the majority of the issues raised. We will be having ongoing discussions with the employers on these issues so continue to feed any concerns and queries via your local branch.

In the meantime we are aware that some members will be attending their 1:1 meetings and this is a cause of some anxiety when queries and questions remain unanswered. Despite our requests for this part of the process to be paused until the requested information can be provided, the employers have decided that they cannot delay the implementation in any way.

For that reason we issue the following advice to members attending 1:1 meetings with their line manager:

  • Prepare any questions or queries you have in advance and ask your manager to note at the end of the meeting any that remain unanswered with a description of how the answers will be sought and a plan for a further meeting once answers are available.
  • Ask your line manager to make a note that any decisions made during the meeting are subject to change if new information comes to light later.
  • Make sure you ask which roles you have been matched to, if you do not agree there is an appeal process attached to the pro-forma for the meetings.If you are not happy with anything that happens in the meeting seek advice from your local branch rep in the first instance.
For members wishing to change the number of hours they work (for example from part time to full time or vice versa), you can do this at the same time as the E3 1:1 process, using the relevant form from My Services. Your line manager should be able to help you find this.

Further more detailed advice will be issued in due course.

--oo00oo--

As a bonus, I'll throw in his recent article for the Morning Star:- 

Round after round of government cuts have left probation close to the point of no return, says Ian Lawrence

The criminal justice system has been in chaos since the days of the coalition as a result of rushed decision-making based on ideology rather than evidence. While some of these decisions have been subsequently overturned by Michael Gove, such as criminal court charges and the prisoner book ban, there is still much to do to secure the future and sustainability of the justice system. Although it has been well publicised that prisons are in chaos with overcrowding and increased violence, the damage caused to the probation service following the rushed privatisation in 2015 has now reached a critical point.


The Probation System Review currently being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice is recognition on the part of the government that all is not well in probation. The Community Rehabilitation Companies’ (CRC) income from providing probation services is well below that predicted by the MoJ and, as pointed out in a National Audit Office report, raises real concerns about their financial viability and sustainability for the next eight years. Some 1,700 jobs have been cut so far from the private companies, with lack of money being the main reason cited. 
Services are not being delivered to the standard they had been prior to Transforming Rehabilitation being implemented and the HMI Probation are still raising ongoing concerns about the quality of work and staff morale in the CRCs.

In the National Probation Service (still publicly owned) resources are woefully low for staff to carry out their jobs effectively. Further austerity cuts to the MoJ have resulted in cost-cutting operating models that contradict evidence-based practice of effectively reducing reoffending and protecting the public.


Napo members face burnout as they try to cope with working solely with high and very high risk of harm clients and public safety is being jeopardised. Napo, a trade union and professional association, is therefore calling on the new Secretary of State to work with us to remedy the situation urgently. We need to invest in a long-term strategy to maintain professional standards across probation providers. This includes an effective recruitment strategy and a full pay review for staff who have had six years of the pay freeze so far. Greater autonomy for the National Probation Service is needed to enable the organisation to work with local communities and not be run centrally by Whitehall. Quality service delivery, increased professionalism and training for staff and to ensure there is value for money for the taxpayer.


While the press have focused on the prison crisis, it cannot be resolved in isolation. A
robust and effective contract management of the CRCs must be maintained to ensure holistic approach is required to reform the whole of the justice sector, but this approach must be based on evidence of what works and not just political ideology and soundbites.


We can still save the probation service and thus offer a viable alternative to custody. But unless there is a commitment from the government to do this, the probation service could be decimated to the point of no return and a world-renowned service could be lost to us forever. 


Ian Lawrence is general secretary of Napo.