Sunday, 3 November 2013

Act in Haste : Repent at Leisure

So, just weeks before being introduced by Home Secretary Theresa May, we learn that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has succeeded in scuppering the much-heralded visitor bond scheme that was being targeted at certain 'high risk' countries like Pakistan and Nigeria.

Along with the 'go home' advertising vans, it's yet another example of how the inexorable approach of the 2015 General Election is beginning to concentrate the minds of politicians, like Chris Grayling talking here to the Daily Telegraph yesterday:-

But there is rising tension within the Coalition over issues including free schools, green levies and the Human Rights Act, while the Tory grass-roots are growing restless, especially in the rural shires that are still the party’s heartlands.
With a general election just 18 months away, the Justice Secretary is relishing the opportunity to take the fight to his Liberal Democrat Coalition partners and Labour.
So it is against that background that Mr Grayling sets out a series of unabashedly traditional Tory views which he and his colleagues on the Right of the party hope will form the heart of the manifesto at the 2015 election.
He trots through quite a list of policies designed to provide plenty of deep blue water between the Tories and the rest, but eventually gets to probation and rehearses the familiar mantra. I'm sure it will be news to most probation officers though to learn that under TR:- "It’s about giving a lot of people in the probation service much greater freedom to do the job."
This week, Mr Grayling himself will face industrial action. On Tuesday, unions are due to hold a 24-hour strike over proposals to privatise the probation service.
Under the plans, probation trusts will be abolished and the supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders will be transferred to “community rehabilitation companies” on a payment-by-results basis.
Leading figures in the probation service have told the Justice Secretary that he must delay his plans for six months or risk public safety.
Mr Grayling, however, insists that their concerns are unfounded.
“I think this is a token gesture,” he says. “We are trying to do the right thing. Yes, there will be some redundancies, but actually this not about wholesale staff changes. It’s about giving a lot of people in the probation service much greater freedom to do the job.
“I hear people say about our reforms [that] they’re going to endanger the safety of the public. They are not. Far worse is the risk to the public posed by the current system.”
Under the plans, offenders serving sentences of less than 12 months will be supervised on release for the first time.
New figures from the Ministry of Justice show that in 2011-12, 2,838 of the 29,691 repeat offenders released after serving short sentences went on to commit serious crimes.
They included 356 offenders who committed violent or sexual offences, and 2,482 who committed “serious acquisitive crimes” such as robbery. The total over the past decade amounts to 35,835 offenders.
Mr Grayling says: “The figures for serious crime by people who get no supervision post-prison are truly shocking. I regard it as a national scandal those most likely to reoffend are walking out of the front door of a prison with £46 in their pocket and effectively nothing else.
“It is a cycle that goes round and round. Even Jonathan Aitken [the former Tory MP convicted of perjury] when he came out of prison said that for him the most difficult part was knowing what to do when he left.”
Mr Grayling says: “The focus I’m trying to achieve is all about greater mentoring, someone who meets them at the gate who already knows what their issues are, who has booked them into rehabilitation, who has identified somewhere they can live. That’s the way to sort out reoffending.”
Anyone who watched the House of Commons opposition debate on the TR omnishambles last week will have quickly realised just how weak and unconvincing the government arguments for change are sounding. Not just that, but clearly they are ill-thought-out, discriminatory, risky and grossly unfair to a successful public service. 
As the debate developed, the obvious answer to the problem Chris Grayling endlessly goes on about emerged from the well-prepared opposition contributions - give the work to the probation service. It is so obvious that surely even the Liberal Democrats will eventually decide to call a halt to this madness, exercise their considerable muscle and, albeit a bit late in the day, inject some common sense into proceedings. 
Just as a reminder, here's what the Probation Chief's briefing paper says on the matter:-
The highest reoffending rates (57 per cent) are found among those on short-term prison sentences who currently have little or no contact with Probation Trusts. We welcome Government proposals to introduce support for this group (and have long asked for funding for Trusts to carry out this work). Indeed trusts have sought to work with the police and other local partners to provide through Integrated offender management arrangements for prolific and other high priority offenders. 
We have argued that rather than dismantling Probation Trusts, which have demonstrated high performance and continuous improvement, the Government should instead consider building upon their existing structure, through for example giving Probation Trusts greater flexibility and commissioning functions. This would enable Probation Trusts to continue to build effective partnerships and service agreements with private, voluntary and cross-sectoral organisations and encourage innovative pilots, such as local PbR linked commissioning of rehabilitation services.
The Government ruled out, against the weight of the evidence, the option of giving Probation Trusts the responsibility to deliver probation supervision to those released from short-term prison sentences, who currently receive no probation supervision. Probation Trusts have the existing skills and expertise to deliver high quality probation services to this cohort.
Back in July when the Guardian published details of the leaked TR Risk Register, I said it would be sensible of Chris Grayling to be considering a Plan B:-
All this is in the government's own words remember and is an absolute gift to doubters and trouble makers both in the Commons and Lords to make mischief and really slow things down. The time for plan B has arrived and a sensible Justice Secretary would now be looking to find a way out of the mess he has found himself in.
It's time to revisit what the Probation Chiefs Association have said all along, namely that commissioning of services would be best left with the successful Probation Trusts. Their strength lies with established local partnerships and the evolving role of Police and Crime Commissioners. Give responsibility for the under 12 month prison leavers to the Trusts and leave it up to them, the experts, to facilitate, commission and organise the rehabilitation revolution we all want. 
There will have to be a re-think about how the extra work can be absorbed on reducing budgets, but many of us in probation would welcome a slimming down of some overheads, especially management and Head Office functions. There could be amalgamations, strategic partnerships or whatever, but for goodness sake Chris - wake up, smell the coffee and let probation demonstrate that they can deliver economies, an expansion of services and all without the risks associated with your crap plan A.
It strikes me that in order to get out of this omnishambles that TR is creating, there really does need to be a Plan B. We all know what it is. The questions are:-
How much will it cost? 
Can it be funded from efficiencies?
Is it cheaper than TR?      


  1. Sadiq Khan due on Pienaar's Politics bbc radio 5 live before 11 am

    AND on Sky News Murnaghan before 12 noon where Grayling also due

    1. Probation in Media TODAY SUNDAY 3rd November

      More details Sunday politics Midlands - east I think - derbyshire_

  2. Support the probation Strike: A moral duty to act!

    Is it ... comments here for, against and maybe here : -


    Sadiq Khan NOW on BBC 5 Live

  3. Sadiq Khan very good on Sky and pointed out usual spin by Grayling, the dangers of TR and concerns being ignored.

    Ian Lawrence had pre-recorded interview and was good (shame not live), particularly as Grayling claimed TR not about saving money!

    I agree with you Jim, if it's about the under 12 months being supervised, then NAPO should be to looking to get Lid Dems on board to allow the Probation Trusts to do this. Of course, it's a shame that most of the Trusts did not fight the mess to start with.

    Grayling's had to back down on all of his original arguments for TR, but the under 12 months remains the only one left for him to hang his ideological hat on.

    It does appear that the political argument is shifting away from Grayling - lets hope time for Probation doesn't run out. The second reading is on 11 November.

  4. Why oh why do NAPO refuse to use the only weapon at their disposal.

    APPROVED PREMISES - shut these down the government would have to take notice. With no staff there will be about 3000 high offenders suddenly homeless. The only thing senior management in trusts want to know in the run up to strikes is whether the AP is covered
    I urge NAPO to stop pulling their punches

  5. Couldn't agree more with comment above. Let's make this f*****g strike count. Shut the APs!

  6. Plan B for my trust - between me ( a bottom of the food chain PO) and the chief exec are THREE layers of management . We also have a secretive ( well staff do not know what they do) business development unit staffed by a director, two managers, two POs and an admin person. Can anyone else spot where my trust could save the money needed for taking on board - at no extra cost - the supervision of under 12 month custodial sentenced people?

    1. A similar story in every trust I think.

  7. In my area there are 2 APs with one 2 NAPO members, so don't know how that would work ?


  9. "As Ashley Almanza, boss of security group G4S, rehearses his lines this weekend for his crucial 5 November strategy presentation on 5 November, several investors are whispering of gunpowder, treason and plot. Almanza is facing the biggest presentation of his life: he will have to spell out why the embattled £6bn group should not bow to activist shareholders and split itself up.

    He knows it could be a make-or-break performance. Shareholders remain divided on the question of whether the group is too big for its own good. G4S manages 650,000 staff around the world – and only two years ago came close to a £5.2bn merger (with Danish rival ISS) that would have seen it become the world's second largest commercial employer, behind Walmart.

    And if shareholder ferment were not trouble enough, the G4S boss is also facing a series of contract meltdowns and rogue employee scandals, and investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over electronic tagging."

  10. The National Probation Service for England and Wales (NPS) was established by the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (CJCS Act) and came into existence on 1 April 2001. NOMS came into being on 1 June 2004 in response to a review of Correctional Services “Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime”. During 2004-05 a National Offender Manager was appointed along with ten Regional Offender Managers (ROMs) who will be responsible for offender management within NOMS and for commissioning services from a range of providers.
    Expenditure for NPD in 2004/05 was £10.5M
    Assets: Ownership of land, buildings and IT equipment transferred to the Secretary of State from the predecessor organisations on 1 April 2001.
    On 1 April 2003 the responsibility for the management of the NPD estate transferred from the local probation boards to the National Probation Directorate. (source = Home Office Accounts Committee 2004/05).

    Probation is an essential part of the criminal justice system and at its best the probation service delivers community sentences which are tough, challenging offenders to change their offending lifestyles. The probation service has undergone extensive change over the last decade, and there is more change to come... The creation of NOMS was described to us as a “takeover” of the probation service by the prison service. It has not led to an appreciable improvement in the ‘joined-up’ treatment of offenders... There is significant scope to increase the contribution of private and voluntary sector organisations to the delivery of effective offender management and rehabilitation and payment-by-results offers a potential mechanism for putting the system on a sustainable footing. The models proposed are untested in criminal justice but there are compelling reasons to test the potential of a radically different approach. Large scale payment-by results commissioning may achieve savings, but economies can also be accrued at a local level. The Government needs to strike a careful balance between opening up the market to new providers and enabling trusts to operate effectively as local strategic partners, facilitating local solutions to local problems. (House of Commons Justice Committee -
    The role of the Probation Service - Eighth Report of Session 2010–12)

    These extracts from government reports in 2005 & 2012 give a flavour of the oft used epithet "change is the only constant" regarding the probation service. It makes reference to the poorly choreographed entrance & swift exit of Eithne Wallis' NPS in 2000/01, followed by the 2004 NOMS, then the 2005 DOMs and ROMs (another expensive & short-lived concept), along with the asset-stripping of the pre-existing probation areas through 'transfer of ownership'.

    Its interesting to see the one-liner in the 2011 report whereby NOMS is described to the Justice Committee as 'the "takeover" of the probation service by the prison service'. That committee, whilst sympathetic to the notion of PbR, still shouts its warnings loud & clear:

    "The Government needs to strike a careful balance between opening up the market to new providers and enabling trusts to operate effectively as local strategic partners, facilitating local solutions to local problems... The responsibility for delivering the sentence of the courts should belong to a single offender management local commissioning body."

    Grayling has gleefully stuck two fingers up to that Committee. They were:

    Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith (Liberal Democrat, Berwick-upon-Tweed) (Chair)
    Mr Robert Buckland (Conservative, South Swindon)
    Jeremy Corbyn (Labour, Islington North)
    Christopher Evans (Labour/Co-operative, Islwyn)
    Mrs Helen Grant (Conservative, Maidstone and The Weald)
    Ben Gummer (Conservative, Ipswich)
    Mr Elfyn Llwyd (Plaid Cymru, Dwyfor Meirionnydd)
    Claire Perry (Conservative, Devizes)
    Yasmin Qureshi (Labour, Bolton South East)
    Mrs Linda Riordan (Labour/Co-operative, Halifax)
    Elizabeth Truss (Conservative, South West Norfolk)
    Karl Turner (Labour, Kingston upon Hull East)

  11. Looking back, what was achieved?

    Ms Wallis & Lord Birt tied the knot in 2006 after his hasty divorce. She is now Managing Director of GovernmentBusiness at Fujitsu Services, providing Information Technology.

    I remember the moment when I came face-to-face with Ms Wallis in (probably) 2001 as she left a conference where she had been speaking as head of NPS. I recall that (naiively) I confronted her about her role in bringing about the demise of probation service values (as they once were), somehow believing I might make an impression; but before I could blink one of her 'minders' had slammed me against a wall whilst she was whisked into a waiting car. By the time I'd regained my senses, there was no-one around and it was as if nothing had happened. A surreal experience reminiscent of the old BBc2 drama "DeadHead" (remember the very young Denis Lawson? Its still unavailable on DVD, and only once repeated on satellite).

    Out of interest, how many of the NOMS team from 2004/5 remain? Perhaps only George Barrow, then head of communications and now something to do with Voluntary and Community Sector Infrastructure development at UK Ministry of Justice.

    And Mr Grayling?

    8 June 2004 – a Government website announcement stated:

    "Tuesday 08:56
    Two directors of a labour recruitment business that failed with total debts estimated at around £3.7 million have given Undertakings not to hold directorships or take any part in company management for four years.
    The Undertakings by Gurdev Singh Dadral, aged 50, and his wife Kamla Dadral, aged 43, both of Farndale Crescent, Greenford, Middlesex, were given in respect of their conduct as directors of SWIIS Limited ("SWIIS"), which carried out business from premises at 1st Floor Suite, 16/20 New Broadway, Ealing... Notwithstanding the disqualification undertakings given by the applicants, the applicants be given permission to be directors and take part in the management of the following four companies:
    (a) SWIIS International Plc; (b) SWIIS (UK) Limited; (c) SWIIS Foster Care Limited; and (d) SWIIS Nursing & Healthcare Limited."

    In 2010 the following register of interest was made by Chris Grayling:
    • Name of donor: Dev Dadral (the very same)
    • Amount of donation or nature and value if donation in kind: £25,000
    • Date of receipt: 12 March 2010
    • Date of acceptance: 12 March 2010

    Why might Mr Dadral have been so generous, given his considerable financial difficulties? According to their own website:

    "Swiis Health & Social Care has quickly established a reputation as a leading UK provider of staffing services in the industry."

    Could it have had a connection with the fact that in May 2010 Chris Grayling was appointed Minister of State at the Department for Work and Pensions?

  12. Just to cause irritation elsewhere, can I offer the following link from March 2012:

    It includes the assertion that: "Lying to Select Committee can be punished by a fine or imprisonment, although this power has not been used since the 19th Century. It still remains a serious charge however, and Grayling should, at the very least, be forced to resign."

    And here we are some 18 months later...

  13. by typing in "probation caseload" to a search engine I found this gem from January 1998:

    "CUMBRIA’S probation service will lose more than £52,000 in revenue grant for 1998-99 — the second cut in two years.

    The Home Office has confirmed that the cash-limited budget for the county’s probation service in 1998-99 will be £4,179,220, compared to the current year figure of £4,231,780.

    Chief probation officer Ian White said: “Our budget has now been reduced by more than £130,000 over two years. In percentage terms the current reductions are just over one per cent.

    “In real terms, however, when factors such as inflation, increments and salary settlements are taken into account, that figure is significantly higher.

    “Clearly, this will place us under further financial pressure at a time when the workload is increasing year on year.”

    In Cumbria, the service’s caseload has risen from 1,473 in November, 1996, to 1,714 in November. 1997. By the end of last month, Cumbria probation service supervised 1,113 offenders on community orders, 449 offenders on throughcare prior to release from prison, and 152 offenders on throughcare post-release.

    In a recent joint letter to the Home Secretary, the chairmen of the Central Probation Council and the Association of Chief Officers of Probation expressed their deep concern about the current resource situation nationally, and the potential effect of further reductions.

    It stated: “Our services are doing their utmost to deliver effective services with an increasing workload, increasing public expectations and an increasing proportion of volatile and potentially dangerous people. Committees have tried to manage the reductions of the past three years because they have recognised the financial restraints within which the Government have been working.

    “We do, however, feel it right to draw to your attention our considered view that it is now becoming impossible properly to resource the statutory responsibilities placed on probation services.”

    Ian White added: “I concur entirely with those views, and believe there will be difficult times ahead. In Cumbria we have so far been able to manage a rising workload with reduced resources, but this is a state of affairs which cannot continue indefinitely without affecting the quality of our service to the courts and the community.”

    1. Hmmmm... seeing as Cumbria is highlighted in the above historical document, I had a look around:

      at 31 December 2012 - TOTAL CASELOAD = 1843

      *** as compared to 1714 in Nov 1997: increase of 129, or ~ 7%

      budget in 1998 was ~ £4M
      budget in 2012 was ~ £8M
      x2 in 15 years

      4 bed property in cumbria in 1998 ~ £70,000
      similar 4 property in cumbria 2013 ~ £240,000
      x 3.5 in 15 years

      top of scale PO salary in 1998 ~ £25K
      top of scale PO salary in 2013 ~ £35K
      x1.4 in 15 years

      So it looks like the cost of property has had the greatest impact upon probation service budgets, not least since the Govt raided the assets of local probation areas in 2001 and charged them a flat London rate subsequently to rent the property from NPD. Thus, to be comparable, a 4 bed property in London in 2013 might cost £1M upwards, which would mean at least a 14 times increase in cost for Cumbria. Presumably the Govt has pocketed both the equity AND the increased rents on probation estate in England & Wales?

      The impact of caseload (+7%) or staff costs (+40%) over 15 years are therefore tiny when compared to the property costs @ ~ +1430% - a rate which suggests the Govt are straying into the territory of the loanshark.

    2. NAPO - ARE THESE FIGURES RIGHT? The cost per probation client per year in Cumbria must therefore be ~ £4,300 in 2013 (as compared to £2,300 in 1998).

      i.e. about 10% of the alleged cost @ £40,000 pa for a prisoner in 2013; and with a much lower risk of reoffending?

      Surely that's a win-win scenario? What on earth is Mr Grayling fretting about? What's that Sooty? Profits? Ideology? Oh, we hadn't thought of that had we children? Mr Grayling kept on telling us it was about saving money, but now it seems he's changed his mind & its about 'saving face'.

    3. I always thought taking the property assets was sneaky - needs highlighting really because it makes co-locating even less likely as contractors will refuse to pay inflated MoJ rents.

    4. Property assets?

    5. "Ten ministers are among hundreds of MPs who have been boosting their local party coffers by renting constituency offices from them.
      The MPs use taxpayers’ money to lease workspace from their own political party in a practice which has been branded “backdoor funding” by critics, who have called for a ban.
      More than a quarter of politicians are believed to rent constituency offices from their local parties, or, in the case of some Labour MPs, from trade unions.
      David Willetts, the Universities and Science Minister, paid £13,930 in rent and rates to his local party in Havant, Hampshire, last year.
      His ministerial colleague, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, spent £10,439 renting offices from the Horsham Conservative Association, West Sussex.

      Michael Gove, the Eduction Secretary, handed over more than £9000 to his local party in Surrey Heath, Surrey, to cover “office expenses” while David Laws, the Schools Minister, paid almost £10,000 in rent to his party in Yeovil, Somerset.
      Jeremy Hunt, Chris Grayling, Theresa May and party chairman Grant Shapps were among the other Cabinet ministers pouring taxpayers’ money into their local Conservative associations through office hire."


    1. "Probation officers in England and Wales are to stage a 24-hour strike from tomorrow in protest at the Government’s reforms of the service. They object to plans by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, to transfer responsibility for low-risk offenders to private firms and charities, with payment by results. A smaller public sector probation service will continue to monitor high-risk offenders.
      A good deal of alarmism is accompanying the campaign against these changes: the public will be placed at risk; criminals will “fall between the cracks”; and the reforms are being rushed. Yet the principal bone of contention here is ideological. The probation union Napo believes this service should only be delivered by the state and accuses the Tories of privatising it for the sake of doing so. For his part, Mr Grayling says the state has failed and it is time to try something new. The notion that the private sector should be excluded from delivering probation services, irrespective of whether the current system works, is the truly dogmatic position.
      Mr Grayling is trying to improve results - and if private firms can achieve that then they should not be excluded by an outmoded animus against private sector involvement. It is not as if Napo can point to the signal success of the current system to reinforce its argument. Last year, more than 600,000 offences were committed by people who had broken the law before. In addition, almost 150,000 criminals dealt with by the police and courts had committed at least 15 previous offences. The rate of recidivism is actually worsening despite an annual prison and probation budget of £4 billion. This is a scandal that needs to be addressed and not reduced to a pointless public good/private bad argument which might still exercise the unions but is irrelevant to most people who just want to see results."

    2. I despair at the ignorance shown by this comment piece.

      The sentenced criminals who are supervised by probation workers on community orders, or following automatic conditional release (1 - 4 years prison) or traditional assessed parole cases (4 years and over) plus life sentences, as MOJ figures show reoffend much less often than those who are not supervised by probation (prisoners serving under 12 months)

      The arrangements planned are so complex they will not work, there will be more case transfers, more supervision breakdowns, more recalls - so more prison places will be needed.

      The changeover is too rushed as has been demonstrated by the MOJ not delivering the consultation papers to probation employees in the time it set itself to complete the consultation - 25 th October or the alternative date which has now been extended a second time. Every current probation worker is to be reassigned - the majority to work for an as yet unknown organisation by April 2014 - it is a disaster - the Government are not listening - the MOJ avoid all questions of detail - probation workers are desperate many - not all - believe the only way they can get attention is to strike and unless there are fast sensible negotiations on all this - a token 24 hour strike has been called from 12 noon on 5th November - which might just get some public attention - already there is an article (inaccurate) in the Daily Telegraph - maybe folk will tell their MPs they are not satisfied with the way professional folk who work hard to keep us all safe are being ridiculed by people who cannot even keep to the time table for consultations they set themselves!