Tuesday, 5 February 2013

What Insiders are Saying

With only 17 days left of the ludicrously short consultation period on the future of the probation service, we learn that the minister told Chairs and Chiefs on January 15th "The changes proposed are not ideological - we are listening. We want your ideas."

Well, here we have some further thoughts from Jo Kuipers, Chair of the Avon and Somerset Probation Trust and courtesy of the 'No Offence' blogsite. Regular readers will be aware that I highlighted the first briefing paper prepared by Mr Kuipers on 'A Dog's Breakfast' here. 

Quite rightly he complains about the insultingly-short consultation period and inadequacy of the briefing events, all massively over-subscribed. There is just a hint that a Judicial Review of the process would be entirely justified and I certainly would be prepared to chip in. 

This second paper reminds ourselves once again of the background to our supposed 'failure' and I quote from the document:-

"Probation Trusts: 
  • Have demonstrated improved performance year on year;
  • Have shown effectiveness in reducing reoffending and crime;
  • Where Trusts work closely with the police (e.g. Integrated Offender Management {IOM}, and where probation and police share premises) this is linked with crime reduction (e.g. Bristol) based on intelligence sharing. Such IOM schemes often already include ‘non statutory cases’ (e.g. those released having served under 12 months imprisonment) who are known to be ‘likely reoffenders’;
  • Are the first public sector organisation to win the coveted British Quality Foundation (BQF) supreme business gold excellence award in October 2012;
  • Have managed the improved performance at the same time as addressing a reduction of some 20% in its funding base;
  • Have the confidence of sentencers. Sentencers are the actual commissioners of probation work – all probation work derives from the sentence of the court. The Magistrates’ Association Press Release following the announcement by the Justice Secretary said: “Magistrates have always worked closely with the probation service, have a high regard for their professionalism and have confidence in probation trusts to deliver a high quality service.”
  • On the basis of data produced by MoJ / NOMS all Trusts are either good or excellent, and no Probation Trust is ‘failing’.
Some unnecessary risks associated with the MoJ plans are (and for a more detailed appraisal see my previous briefing paper of 17 January):

  • An unrealistic implementation timetable of 18 months, probably determined by the next general election. This timetable makes it virtually impossible for probation trusts to evolve into ‘mutuals’, especially if such processes require trust / business mergers;
  • The fragmentation of OM with consequent offender transfer and communication obstacles, and unclear responsibilities and accountabilities;
  • The damage to smaller specific current delivery arrangements, such as centres to address the specific issues that working with women offenders present;
  • Loss of local commissioning  and accountability;
  • Confusion for victims;
  • Damage to intelligence sharing especially between providers and the police;
  • Malversation – the profit motive has huge and evidenced potential for cheating, corrupt practices and target manipulation;
  • The simple binary measure of reoffending ignores desistance research and does not map accurately onto reducing crime data;
  • PbR as proposed will exclude the public sector from bidding for contracts, and will most probably limit most of the voluntary and community organisations, which cannot carry the financial risk pending publication of reoffending data."

Mr Kuipers then goes on to offer "Two options, focusing on the required outcomes of reduced reoffending, reduced cost and minimising risk, and which are not ideologically driven."

It will be interesting to see if the options outlined gain any traction amongst other Trusts, Police and Crime Commissioners or indeed probation management. The timescale for consultation is ludicrous and so is the time frame for implementation, just 18 months in order make sure it's all 'done and dusted' before the next General Election. It's no way to run a country is it? 

In the meantime, the 'No Offence' website also carries a guest blog from Ben Wild of Derbyshire Probation Trust with another suggestion, this time building on existing Integrated Offender Management partnerships. Just to wrap this up, I was amused but not surprised to see this snippet on the NAPO discussion forum pages:-

We met Under Sec of State Jeremy Wright on Friday 1st Feb. He was supposed to only give us 10 minutes but we detained him for 20. Although it was a typically smooth performance from him he was flummoxed by our question on whether he expected Probation to continue OASys assessments for offenders that we did not Offender Manage and he had to admit that he didn't know what OASys was!


  1. Any thoughts on this? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21282534 Obviously, will have to wait and see what the programme looks like, but I thought the summary wasn't inept...

    1. Thanks - yes I've penned some thoughts today 6th Feb under the title 'Out of Jail and On the Streets - Verdict'.