Saturday, 28 June 2014

Omnishambles Update 55

Lets start this bumper Saturday edition with some typical PR breathless hype. Despite all reports coming in as to the reality of the situation one month into the TR omnishambles, here's a CRC advert for probation officers that are urgently required :- 
"We are looking for enthusiastic and committed individuals to join our forward thinking team of staff within the newly formed Staffordshire & West Midlands CRC. 
In addition to a sound knowledge of the principles of effective practice, we are looking to appoint Probation Officers who are resourceful and innovative, who able to respond flexibly to changing priorities, to work to tight deadlines and be committed to promoting our aims and values."
Interestingly, in addition to all the usual guff including 'quality of eOASys completion', an 'ability to supervise PSO grade staff' is required. In the present climate and state of uncertainty and staff morale, good luck to them in filling these PO posts. 

But of course such has been the utter shambles resulting from the split that the NPS is also desperately advertising for PO's as well:-

Yesterday our Assistant Director asked us to urgently supply her a list of all PO vacancies as she needs to arrange for a recruitment advert to go out. I wonder how CRC POs will feel? Will they apply and then leave CRC understaffed or will they say stuff it! It all seems a mess.

The London CRC PR people have been busy trying to present a positive image too with this 'day in the life of' piece that many seasoned and jaded PO's might find difficult to recognise:-

A day in the life of a newly qualified Probation Officer

I qualified mid 2012, after coming to probation as an administrator, and a court reporter from the banking sector when I was looking for a change. My degree is in criminology, so this is an area I’ve always wanted to work in – so training to be a probation officer was a natural progression. I love it. No two days are ever the same, and I love the feeling of being mentally exhausted at the end of the day and knowing I’ve used my brain.

My day begins at 7.45am when I arrive in the office and sit down and check my emails and catch up on anything that comes in overnight. Depending upon whether anything is urgent, I may have to reorganise my day.

Around 8.30am I wrote a letter of recommendation for a client that finished their suspended sentence, who wanted to get their licence back early following completion of a Drink Impaired Drivers programme.

At 9.30am I get up from desk and grab a coffee, and then get on with writing reports until 11am, when I have my first appointment. As a morning person, I find this to be my most productive time of the day.

I see three to four people per day from Tuesday to Thursday. The appointments last around 30 minutes, unless a client wants to talk through problems.

Generally clients have appointment weekly, bi weekly or monthly depending upon close supervision they require. I keep Fridays and Mondays as clear as I can so I can write these up. In between my appointments I write up meeting notes on the computer system. Somewhere between 12pm and 2pm, I grab lunch and eat it at my desk.

At 2pm, I meet a client to go shopping. He has been in a hostel for a longtime, and has recently been given housing by his local authority. The Sheriff and Recorders Fund at the Old Bailey gave him a grant of £100, to go towards household items – so it is my job to keep hold of the money until he has purchased what he needed. We went shopping for a microwave and kettle. It was a good chance to catch up in an informal setting.

For the rest of the day I finish reports, complete OASys reviews, reply to emails, return phone calls and check my diary to make sure I am prepared for the next day.

I love the responsibility of being a Probation Officer. I’m glad I retrained. I wanted something to test my brain, and although the job can be daunting at times, I love the feeling of going home mentally tired at night.”

As yet we have no idea as to who will end up buying and running the CRC's, but as the privateers make their final decisions on whether to place a bid or not, people like Debbie Ryan might like to be reminded of what drives people like us in the public sector. I notice that with exquisite timing the Committee on Standards in Public Life have just published a report on ethics, summarised thus:-

The Seven Principles of Public Life
The Seven Principles of Public Life apply to anyone who works as a public office-holder. This includes all those who are elected or appointed to public office, nationally and locally, and all people appointed to work in the civil service, local government, the police, courts and probation services, NDPBs, and in the health, education, social and care services. All public office-holders are both servants of the public and stewards of public resources. The Principles also have application to all those in other sectors delivering public services.

Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.

Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.

Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.

Holders of public office are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.

Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.

Holders of public office should be truthful.

Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

There's more bad news for Chris Grayling as yet another top Judge delivers a blow to his plans for limiting Judicial Review, as reported here in the Guardian:-
Restrictions on judicial review challenges may be motivated more by a desire to avoid political embarrassment than the need to save money, a senior judge has suggested.
Appearing before the House of Lords constitution select committee, Lady Hale, deputy president of the supreme court, said she understood that ministers did not enjoy having their initiatives held up or overturned in the courts.
The Ministry of Justice is introducing measures in the criminal justice and courts bill currently before parliament that will make it more costly for NGOs to bring legal challenges against government or local authority decisions.
"I'm not sure that this is really a question of public resources," Hale told the committee. "I think the problem is, not surprisingly, that nobody who is running a government department, or who is operating in a government department, is very happy when somebody comes along and says the decision you have just taken is not in accordance with the law. Nobody likes that."
Private Eye tells us that the Parole Board are furious with Grayling for implying it was their fault that so-called 'skullcracker' was moved to a Cat D open prison, when in fact the enquiry he ordered has found it was his own public protection department that specifically excluded the Board's involvement.

We learn that the MoJ are trying to prevent news of prison disturbances becoming public knowledge and that prisoners were on the roof of HMP Dartmoor in sunny weather on 19th June. Apparently Grayling is furious to discover that they were offered sun cream by staff according to this BBC report :-

"The MoJ said sun cream was offered as part of a duty of care but declined by the prisoners."

There's an interesting piece on the website about risk registers that must make Grayling a little nervous too:- 
Iain Duncan Smith's latest effort to prevent the publication of documents warning of the dangers of universal credit has been dismissed by a judge.
You can see the desperation quite clearly now. IDS' team are throwing any old legal argument at the wall to see if it will stick. The judge's casual dismissal of the arguments seems to show a flicker of resentment at having to hear them at all.
Basically, this is IDS' worst nightmare: documentary evidence of the problems his department imagined universal credit could have, the scale of the problems which eventually transpired, and proof of whether they deliberately misled the public about the progress of the programme.
Finally, somewhat surprisingly the FT in a recent editorial questioned the whole business of outsourcing some functions of the state:-
"British governments of all political colours have been too promiscuous about transferring activities to the private sector. Not every public service lends itself to going private. The powers invested in the state for sensitive services such as prisons can never be adequately captured in a contract, and should not be supplied by private contractors. The government must control its temptation to outsource on all fronts. The rush to outsource the probation service is a case in point."
A pretty strong message there then, and not from the usual suspects like the Guardian either, but from the Financial Times! 


  1. They probably won't allow CRC staff to apply and give the vacancies to agency staff or those from Australia.

    As CRC assigned it makes me sick how they have treated us.

    1. In my area staff are fleeing the NPS, either leaving the service entirely or jumping ship for the CRC. It comes to something when the prospect of not knowing who your employer is or even how long you're likely to have a job for, is better than being a civil servant under Grayling.

  2. Well done to the Judiciary (Judges) and the FT - never thought I would ever be saying here, here to the Financial Times - and good to get some support from unexpected quarters! Is the tide turning?

  3. This whole debacle is a disgrace. It takes a special kind of incompetence and malice to take a gold award winning service and turn it into the shambles we are now witness to, and all right under the nose of Parliament. A stunning achievement. I don't think it could have been more poorly managed if they had INTENDED to do it badly. And all this BEFORE the amateurs get their hands on the service.

    It is interesting to see that a lot of the content of today's Blog point to an increasing awareness of the harm that is being done. Is it enough to stop that actual share sale from proceeding? I hope so as THAT is the point where the trouble will really start and the pretence of service delivery will become the operating model. As Prisons have pretty much failed to deliver on the rehabilitation elelment of their mission statement, the same management will fail to deliver on the rehabilitation element in the community. I foresee a breakdwn in confidence of community sentences as reports start appearing of low levels of reporting, programmes not being delivered and offenders being 'lost' by inadequate IT systems (already an issue, I understand). Well done, Chris. You have managed to restore our collective faith in the ability of a Tory Government to screw up public services.

  4. Probation Officer28 June 2014 at 09:45

    Well there's many real examples on the role of a Probation Officer: For those wanting to work in probation or scrambling to buy probation!

    1. Thanks for flagging this blog poster up - excellent stuff and I have them listed on the side bar blog roll for those of us who still use laptops or PC's even.

      Beware though Probation Officer - could be some more 'lazy blogging' coming up on here soon.....

    2. Good article about TR found here in the Independent today.

    3. I was just about to post that myself! Good old Indy - they might be small circulation but when they get their teeth into an issue they will keep going on it. And the FT as well!!

    4. There may be trouble ahead... Despite an overall cost of £8bn to reorganise the probation service, Mark Leftly reveals that the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is determined to ignore the critics and push ahead with his plans.

      Under a Coalition forged out of the need for public spending cuts, departments across Whitehall have been desperate to offload as much of their work as possible to the private sector. From child maintenance contact centres to community nursing, swathes of services once run by the state are now managed by outsourcing giants such as Capita and Atos.

      Some departments have been badly burned by the failures of their contractors, none more so that the Ministry of Justice. Most infamously, G4S and Serco were found a year ago to have billed the MoJ for electronically tagging offenders who turned out to be dead, overseas or already in custody.

      But the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is determined to push ahead with what critics argue amounts to the privatisation of vital public services.

      What's more, he is on the verge a fresh crisis in probation. Mr Grayling wants to hand over 70 per cent of the service to big business and mutuals later this year, reorganising probation from 35 trusts into 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). The contracts are worth around £700m a year for up to a decade, with options for extensions taking the overall cost to around £8bn.

      Preferred bidders to run the CRCs will be selected later this year, but preparations have been hit by an IT failure this month – with thousands of offenders' case files lost, frozen or wiped.

      The Independent can reveal the GMB, Unison and the probation officers' union, Napo, are pondering a judicial review. They argue such a vital service should not be driven by profit and there should have been pilot schemes to test the idea.

      They have just sent a third and probably final "pre-protocol letter" through lawyer Slater & Gordon, which states: "For the avoidance of doubt, we consider it would be unlawful for the MoJ to identify preferred bidders for the sale of probation services until the safety of the new scheme has been properly tested. If necessary our client is minded to take legal action to prevent it from doing so."

      These, though, are far from the only issues hindering one of the most troubled outsourcing deals ever proposed.

      The bidders

      Although not-for-profit organisations are in the race for the CRCs, the bidding experience of the private contractors makes them overwhelming favourites to win the contracts.

      Their records are under fire from unions and the Labour Party; Sodexo, for example, the world's 20th biggest employer, is bidding for around half the contracts. It was reported earlier this week that concerns have been raised over the French group's suitability for probation deals, due to problems with a contract managing Northumberland prison – there was a riot in March when more than 50 inmates took over an entire wing.

      Sodexo is also in the running for the Northumbria package of work, which means it could end up running both probation services and the jail there. Industry insiders are concerned similar situations could crop up across the country, opening up prospects of conflicts of interest and effective monopolies.

      A Justice minister says there are "safeguards and protections" but admits no discussions have taken place.

      Elsewhere, Capita is the favourite for the lucrative London contract, but the MoJ fined the FTSE 100 group nearly £54,000 from January 2012 to March 2014 for failing to supply interpreters on a language services deal. The Geo Group and Amey are chasing a number of CRCs but, working together, they have been fined £645,000 in performance penalties on three prison escort and custody contracts.

    5. Competition

      The deadline for bids is Monday and, despite plenty of interest, the evidence points to a lack of bidders with not-for-profit groups concluding they simply cannot compete. For instance, the Shaw Trust, which was down for areas spanning Dorset, Devon & Cornwall and Gloucestershire, Avon, Somerset & Wiltshire, has just pulled out.

      Ian Lawrence, of Napo, says: "This is not a true competition. It is clear the Government is enabling multinational firms to have a monopoly on our probation service. Charities, third sector organisations and mutuals simply won't be able to bid against large corporations who will put profit in front of the needs of service users and communities." Mr Grayling told The Independent: "We have a strong mix of bidders from a diverse range of partnerships."

      Break clause

      Should Labour win next year's general election, one of the first things that the party wants to do is overturn the contracts.

      That, though, might not be possible.

      The CRC contracts will typically last 10 years. In April, the shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan wrote to the MoJ's permanent secretary, Ursula Brennan, demanding assurances that the contracts contain "suitable break clauses or other opportunities for them to be terminated" by a future government "without the taxpayer being faced with huge financial penalties".

      In a recent reply, Dame Ursula said that the final terms were still "subject to negotiation", but hinted strongly that triggering any break clauses would prove hugely expensive.

      "Standard procurement practice confirms that seeking to provide for voluntary termination at little or no cost to the department would drive significant risk pricing from bidders," she stated. "I believe the voluntary termination clauses we propose will represent a reasonable and balanced position for the MoJ."

      Mr Khan is furious: "I don't want the next Labour government lumbered with £8bn-worth of failing contracts we're unable to end without the taxpayer being even more ripped off."

  5. I'm begining to think that Grayling comes up with these controversial ideas to keep the eye of the press focused well away from the real chaos hes creating?

    For David Cameron and his cabinet colleagues who grew up with the rigours of a boarding school education it was a normal fact of daily life.

    Dormitory “lights out” meant exactly that – and woe betide anyone who infringed the rules. Now, in a clear case of “what worked for us might work for you”, ministers are planning to extend the discipline of fixed bed times to teenage criminals in young offender institutions.From August, governors have been told that they must strictly enforce a 10.30pm cell lights-out policy and remove privileges from anyone breaking the new rules.After that time televisions – or reading under the covers – will be strictly banned and staff will be expected to carry out patrols to make sure the new edict is enforced.At the same time – perhaps to make them more ready for bed – the Government plans to more than double the number of hours of education and training that the 827 under-18s currently in custody receive each week.At the moment, teenagers in custody receive an average of just two hours of education a day – but this will rise to four under the new plans.The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who didn’t himself attend boarding school, said the move was less about  punishment and more about discipline.“The public expects that serious offenders face prison,” he said.“But it is also crucial that young people, most of whom have had chaotic and troubled lives, finally get the discipline so badly needed to help turn their lives around.“In some prisons young people are allowed to go to bed when they please. “I don’t think that is right. Stopping this inconsistency and introducing a strict lights-out policy is all part of our approach to addressing youth offending. Those who fail to comply will face tough sanctions.”But the shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan described the move as a “gimmick”.“Routine is crucial for those with chaotic lives, but to think that turning the lights off at the same time in every youth prison is all that’s needed to turn them all into law-abiding citizens is a joke,” he said. “This looks like a gimmick to cover the cracks caused by Grayling’s cuts.”Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said they felt the move was entirely inappropriate.“A new lights-out policy will only exacerbate the problem of overuse of physical restraint in the youth secure estate, which indicates a lack of trained, experienced staff with enough time to supervise and support the challenging children and young people in their charge,” she said.“As most parents of teenagers know, common-sense discussion, constructive activity, setting reasonable boundaries and encouraging personal responsibility all work better than new hard-and-fast rules backed by petty restrictions and harsh punishments.”

    1. Obviously the prison suicide rate is not increasing fast enough for Grayling.
      Making the the long nights locked up feel longer by locking chaotic and disturbed kids up in the dark is just another idiotic and dangerous idea from Grayling.
      I really do despise the man.

  6. Theres a line in this article from conservativehome that says,
    " They will be paid bonuses if they reduce reoffending".
    It's ckearly not a PbR model then?

    1. This morning we saw that the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has decided “that teenagers in young offender institutions will have bed times imposed under plans designed to instill discipline. From August, governors have been told to enforce a strict cell lights-out policy at 10.30pm.” Those caught breaking the rule risk losing the chance to watch TV at all.

      Mr Grayling said:

      “The public expects that serious offenders face prison. That is right. But it is also crucial that young people, most of whom have had chaotic and troubled lives, finally get the discipline so badly needed to help turn their lives around.”

      “In some prisons, young people are allowed to go to bed when they please. I don’t think that is right. Stopping this inconsistency and introducing a strict, lights-out policy is all part of our approach to addressing youth offending. Those who fail to comply will face tough sanctions.”

      Also the number of hours of education for young offenders receive in custody will double to 24 hours a week.

      The Labour Party have attacked the plans as a “gimmick.” Are they? It seems to me this would be a tangible difference for 827 young prisoners – those aged between 15-17 years of age in our five young offender institutions.

      Why is the Labour Party against them having a clear routine, more education, less staring at the TV all night? In what sense would that change be a “gimmick”?

      Then there was a pathetic comment from Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, who said that “encouraging personal responsibility will work better than new hard-and-fast rules.”

      This month competition has been introduced to the probation service.

      That is not the only change. As the Evening Standard reported recently:

      Justice Secretary Chris Grayling recognises that something radical must be done and has begun to roll out what has been billed as the biggest shake-up to the criminal justice system in a generation. His cornerstone reform, which yesterday received Royal Assent, ensures probation supervision for the first time to prisoners serving less than 12 months. He said: “We are finally addressing the glaring gap that sees 50,000 short-sentenced prisoners released every year with no support, free to go back to their criminal ways.”

      The two reforms are linked. The new Community Rehabilitation Companies can be run by bids from the private sector or the voluntary sector. They will be responsible for the greatly enhanced service. They will be paid bonuses if they reduce re-offending rates and will be encouraged to collaborate with innovative groups such as the St Giles Trust.

      The Shadow Justice Secretary complains that the changes are a “huge risk.” A risk? The level of success may be hard to predict but it is hardly a risk compared to the known disaster under the Labour Government of 50,000 prisoners a year being released with a £46 discharge grant – no home, no job, no other help and support at all and who thus regard the most viable option to be sleeping on the floor with members of the criminal gang they emerged from. It is unremarkable that the re-offending rate is high.

      Rhetoric about being “tough” or “soft” misses the point. Is it doing young criminals any favours to be “soft” and allow them to rot in front of the TV rather than ensuring they turn their lives round?

      Labour’s record on re-offending and rehabilitation was a disgrace. The revolution undertaken by Mr Grayling in this area which has started this month has been almost entirely ignored. I suppose The Sun and the Daily Mail have an ingrained pessimism over improvements in this area. The BBC and The Guardian have an ideological hostility to any extension of the profit motive – they will only take notice if there is some scandal at some stage. So well done to David Cohen for his interesting piece in the Evening Standard but generally the changes which have started this month have passed the nation by.

      Anyway these reforms should be a source of great pride to Conservatives – and of hope to young offenders who are looking for help to find a better path in life.

    2. Just posted the above at 16:14, but just had a thought (maybe a stupid one), but, TR was sold to Parliament on the basis of PbR, a kind of no win no fee, Parialiment voted it through, however misleading the arguements for were.
      However, (and this is the crux of my thinking), it still required Royal Approval, which it received on the basis of a PbR model.
      If Grayling has now changed aspects of TR significantly, such as a management fee and bonus instead of a PbR model, then surely he's implementing a proccess that he does not have Royal Approval for, and is therefore acting outside the law?
      Surely you can only do what you have Royal Approval for, you can't have Royal Approval for something and then change it to something else if you feel like it?
      I'm sorry if thats a silly thought, but it would be a great bases for legal challange if it wasn't silly.

    3. Or make any contracts that bidders sign invalid perhaps, allowing a future Labour government to terminate them if the so wish?
      It is an interesting thought!

    4. It's laughable that Con Home thinks the BBC are ideologically opposed to privatisation - there's a good clip on YouTube of Owen Jones pointing out, in relation to the Beeb's failure to cover the anti-austerity march last week, that research shows that business figures are given 19 times as much airtime as trade unions on the BBC

    5. My comment on The Conservative Home web page: -

      I have seen it suggested that the suicide rate may increase further with such a measure

      It is certainly a stupid decision to micromanage institutional behaviour from the centre.

      What would I know about it? - I worked as a probation officer from 1975 to 2003 including an attachment to a Borstal in 1980/81 & a secondment to a large local prison 1997 - 2002 when dealing with suicidal prisoners was an important part of my job. Suicides were reducing then they are increasing now.

      I wonder what experience of one on one contact with criminals the writer has had - I suspect very little, to write such shallow stuff.

      As for the new Community Rehabilitation Companies - they are already failing - why have the Governement removed all requirements for a nationally approved training scheme for CRC workers?

      Why is the government intending to let commercial companies attach the conditions of supervision to sentences when the ORA 2014 is implemented - suggesting G4S et al know better than Judges and Magistrates? Why will prisoners sentenced to 2 days imprisonment be required to be supervised on release for 12 months - exactly the same length of time as those sentenced to 364 days.? Is that justice? How can our parliamentarians be so daft to allow such nonsense which will prove unworkable and contentious from those on the receiving end. My biggest fear are riots, like I witnessed in the summer of 1986 when 10 prisons rioted within days. Why is news of current prison riots being suppressed?

      Two places to check the practitioners views.

      For prisons : -

      For Probation: -

  7. Can we please dispel the myth that fee for service has replaced PBR. They go hand in glove and it's exactly whats been in the pipeline for at least a year, as blogged by Russell Webster, so its not exactly new either

    1. Whilst I agree that there has always been an aspect of fee for service combined with PbR, I do feel that the proccess of payments to private companies under TR has significantly changed to the model that was sold to Parliment.
      Having to change the governments much heralded Peterboro' projects proccess of payment as it didn't suit the new model for payment being offered to private companies in part evidences a significant change from original ideology.
      I therefore do not feel that a significant change is a myth, although, as I say I do accept that there has always been an aspect of fee for service built into contracts.

    2. You'll have to spell out how what's currently proposed differs then, cause I'm not clear on it

    3. Surely we won't know what the respective proportion of PbR as opposed to Fee For Service will be until all the bids are in and we discover just how little enthusiasm there is for PbR - the much heralded. brilliant, silver bullet, wonder solution to our reoffending problem - diddly squat.

    4. As Russel Webster rightly says,

      Yet again the proportion of the new contracts which will be at risk on a PbR basis is stated nowhere in the document.This leads me to the inevitable conclusion that providers will be asked to bid both on price and the proportion of contract value they are prepared to risk against PbR.

      How many times during the Parlimentry debate did we hear that if you don't produce the results then you won't get paid?
      But what was not said was that the porportion of PbR would not be specified by the MoJ, but determined on the percentage that the contractor was prepared to accept.

    5. Anyone know what happened to Russell Webster, he was very prominent in terms of blogging and tweeting, but nothing for a while, hope he is ok.

    6. I am told a serious family illness.

  8. in the CRC we were all trained to deliver the Good Lives Model (Positive Futures) but now we've been told that this is on hold because it's not suitable in its current format and needs tweaking.

    I'm saying nuthin!!

  9. Eventually when the courts grind to a halt - we may not need CJS staff!

    " ‘Efficiency’ is the new ‘Targets’ = The massacre of the Criminal Justice system "

  10. I fear there will be more destructions coming our way, opps instructions.

  11. After 30 years in the service I desperately want to leave, I hate my job and am worried about people of my age who are not quite retirement age and no one else wants them due to being 50+. I don't know which way to turn and what else I can do this is the only job I've done since I was 21. Grayling and delius are very high risk and dangerous and nothing is getting in the way of their destruction, this can't be right, there must be someone out there with some common sense who can put a stop to all this shyte.

    1. Give it a try.You owe the service nothing now.Take your skills and experience elsewhere.If you have a CQSW you can move o ver to Children's Services or Adult Social Care.Ring HR or get to an open day.Recruitment is always happening.I am about to hand my notice in after many years in the service so I have a little knowledge.It may not work out but we know TR won't anyway.

    2. By leaving - folk will also be helping probation by bringing the collapse of TR nearer and presumably a fresh start - alternatively, in most situations is their any real sense in aiming to continue in either a CRC or NPS?

      It must be very tough for people with integrity and compassion and concern for colleagues, left behind, but ultimately we do a job of work, to give us an income and there is no reason whatsoever why we should not find another way of earning a living, even maybe, just in the short term - if probation gets fixed, decent staff will be welcomed back - that is what is apparently happening in the Prison Service with staff who recently lost jobs in one of several ways being welcomed back.

      From THE TIMES in January: -

      " Prison officers paid off then rehired in ‘merry-go-round’

      Richard Ford Home Correspondent Published at 12:01AM, January 18 2014

      A Prison Service recruitment drive is to target former officers who left with generous payoffs in the latest example of a public sector “merry-go-round” in which former staff are rehired.

      Prison officers who are re-employed will be able to keep the taxpayer-funded payments if they have been out of the service for six months or longer.

      More than 1,300 officers have taken advantage of a voluntary early departure scheme in the past two years. It has cost the Ministry of Justice almost £50 million in payments to officers alone. The figure amounts to on average £36,600 per officer.

      Steve Gillen, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “They have let too many people go and they now know they have let too many people go and so there is to be a recruitment drive.


    3. I can assure you, Andrew, that I did not make the decision to leave lightly but I knew that staying beyond share sale and given my high level of experience I would just be chewed up and then spat out. By leaving in this way I least I am exercising some control but I do understand how colleagues will not see it in that way. It is a risk but so will be staying on.

    4. I am certain Anon at 17.10 is indeed wise and is maybe more likely to minimise personal hurt from TR than folk who for whatever reason are continuing to work in intolerable situations where so much is flawed and it is almost impossible to use their skills from training and experience.

      The future of probation must be at best uncertain, so for some it is best to go now or soon, for others maybe best to hang on - I am glad it is not a decision I need make.

      I am sure it is most wise to be in a Union.

  12. The MoJ aspires to the efficient production of a useless product.

  13. do you know that serco community payback and debbie ryan from interserve are based in the same building?

    1. No I didn't, but nothing surprises me any more and it strikes me this woman perfectly represents all our worst fears for the future of our profession.

  14. Newshound didn't see this incident published anywhere either, so I can only conclude that the MoJ have a blanket ban on media coverage of prison incidents.

    1. Fears that a rising prison population is jeopardising safety in the nation's jails has intensified after it emerged that an inmate at HMP Bristol was in a critical condition after being kicked unconscious by another prisoner.

      The inmate, who remains in a coma, was attacked on Thursday by a prisoner known to have mental health problems, who was on remand having been arrested for strangling a woman to death in a care home.

      It is understood that paperwork alerting prison staff to the attacker's mental health had not been shared with them.

      With prison reform groups and penal experts uniting to warn that the prison estate is under pressure due to the closure of a number of jails and constrained budgets, concerns are mounting that the country's jails are becoming unsafe.

      A series of rooftop protests in jails across the country have triggered security fears as the population behind bars continues to grow. The number of prisoners held in Britain's jails has risen by 885 since 9 May, and now stands at 84,684. The total useable capacity in the prison estate is 85,526. If a similar increase was repeated over the next two months the prison system would run out of room completely.

      Earlier this month the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, warned that there had been a "political and policy failure" in the prison system.

      The latest Ministry of Justice statistics show that 74 out of 119 prison establishments in operational use in England and Wales are overcrowded, with the prison estate as a whole holding more than 9,000 prisoners than it was designed to hold.

      The secretary of state for justice, Chris Grayling, has instructed 40 public sector prisons to find accommodation by August for 440 more prisoners. But according to reports, all but six of these prisons are operating at overcrowded levels. A further 600 extra places are also being purchased in private prisons.

      However, there are fears that the spaces may not become available in time.

      "The rapid increase in prison numbers over the past few weeks is the latest in a series of warning signs which ministers must heed of a prison service under unprecedented strain," said Juliet Lyon, director of the prison reform trust. "The attack in Bristol is down to resource problems," said Harry Fletcher, a criminal justice expert. "Too many prisoners with mental health problems are ending up in the prison estate, and there is an insufficient number of staff to supervise them."


    1. Deported asylum seekers who have made allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour by staff at the Yarl's Wood detention centre are to be called before an ongoing parliamentary inquiry.

      The home affairs select committee will formally interview female former detainees, including some who were subsequently deported, about their claims. MPs will also visit Yarl's Wood to inspect conditions following accusations of secrecy and a recent refusal by the Home Office to allow the UN special rapporteur into violence against women to inspect the centre.

      Last week, during the hearing, MPs accused Serco of quoting selectively from various inspections into the centre, which the company runs for the Home Office, at a cost of £12.5m a year.

      The committee chairman, Keith Vaz, said: "There remain serious questions over the thoroughness of their [Serco's] investigations. It is vital that we have the full facts. The statements made by Serco must be tested. The committee feels strongly that those whose accusations have brought about these investigations should be given an opportunity to voice their concerns. We will look to call further witnesses."

      Serco said last Tuesday that it had received and investigated 31 complaints of inappropriate sexual behaviour involving staff – more than double the number that the company stated in a letter to MPs last September.

      The company also said that 10 staff members, relating to eight of the complaints, had been dismissed following complaints of inappropriate behaviour, two more than it previously stated. Confusingly, however, a freedom of information response by the Home Office, dated 30 April 2014, said that it knew of only one case of sexual contact that has been substantiated since Serco began managing Yarl's Wood seven years ago.

      Meanwhile, a 20-year-old Ugandan has alleged that she was deported after submitting a written complaint about an officer's alleged sexual advances. A wheelchair user known as Prossie N claims that a male guard in her room touched her leg and, according to her interpretation of his behaviour, propositioned her by implying that he could help her escape if she consented.

      Speaking from Uganda, she said: "It was clear that he wanted to have sex with me. The way he was acting, it was clear what he wanted. He asked if I needed his help. He said he would help me to get out of Yarl's Wood. I told him to get out. I said I know what he wants."

      Prossie N claims she submitted a complaint over the alleged incident, in mid-November last year, but said no one came to investigate her account. She was deported the following month.

      Serco, however, says it has no record of a complaint being made in November 2013. "They didn't do anything. I wrote a complaint and put it in the box but they just deported me," Prossie N claimed.

      Another alleged case involves a current detainee from South Africa who claims male guards entered her room without knocking, which is in breach of Serco guidelines. Serco denied this practice during Tuesday's hearing. The woman alleges that on 8 June a group of male guards and one female staff member entered her room without warning while she was in bed and that, although she made a complaint, nothing appeared to have happened.

      "I was in bed when they came in: they were demanding I just get out of bed because they wanted to search the room. It's still OK for them to walk into any room, any time they want," she said.

      She also alleged: "I have seen male officers behaving in an inappropriate manner with ladies. You see some flirting, things like that, touching the women."

  16. Can't be sure of the reliability of the information given to the Mirror in this article, but it's good to see probation credited with making the right decisions.
    The obvious success of the Mirrors CJS suppliment may mean a greater amount of reporting on all things involved within the CJS, and so could perhaps become a good friend to the probation struggle. Wouldn't harm to respond to some of the issues they raise, and highlight where possible whats really happening with probation?

    1. THE Sunday Mirror’s ground-breaking Justice On Trial supplement has been widely praised by lawyers, charity groups and readers.

      Last week’s 24-page investigation of the entire justice system revealed shocking figures and expert analysis.

      Criminal barrister Gareth Underhill tweeted: “Full of useful facts, figures, comments inc legal aid destruction.”

      Christopher Carter, of Learn2Listen social justice campaigners, said: “One of the best overviews I’ve ever seen on the justice system.”

      Napo, the trade union which represents probation staff, said: “An excellent summary of the issues the justice system is currently facing.”

      Readers inundated us with calls and emails praising the supplement, and detailing the way they had been affected by our laws and courts.

      Tell us your experience of the justice system. Email