Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Setting the Record Straight

I've said on a number of occasions that one aim of this blog is to provide an audit trail so that future historians or other interested parties can set the whole TR omnishambles in context and apportion appropriate blame when it all inevitably goes 'Pete Tong'. 

I wonder how many brave souls there are left around at the Probation Association and that signed-off this remarkable final two-fingered gesture to Chris Grayling and his TR omnishambles? Appropriately entitled 'A Parting Shot - The Questions Remain', this soberly-worded document goes into some fine detail in setting the record straight as to exactly what went on behind the scenes and goes a long way to confirming what a thoroughly unpleasant man Mr Grayling is. 

So, the dog finally barked! The following extracts give a flavour of the valedictory, including this little gem, 'The interface between the PA and the MoJ was considerably more taxing than that between PA and the unions', and concludes with some extremely salient questions that remain to be answered:-  


The National Negotiating Council and the Standing Committee for Chief Officer Grades have existed for some considerable time as the national negotiating machinery for pay and conditions of service for probation staff. Members (Trust Chairs) of PA form the Employers’ Side. Before the publication of the Strategy paper on 9 May 2013, and in the growing realisation that MoJ was approaching the future implementation of change as though probation Trust staff were direct employees of MoJ/NOMS, the Chairman of PA wrote to Ministers to point out the necessity of respecting the national negotiating machinery in the delivery of change affecting Trust staff. This was recognised by Ministers and the NNC and SCCOG worked from August 2013 through to January 2014 to deliver a National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections.

Alongside this negotiating machinery, the MoJ established a forum for discussion with employers and trade unions on issues affecting staff but falling outside the remit of NNC
and SCCOG. 

The course of these negotiations, consultations and discussions in the compressed timetable allowed was demanding in the extreme, involving residential sessions, almost weekly negotiating/consultation meetings and with constant email and telephone traffic in between.

The interface between the PA and the MoJ was considerably more taxing than that between PA and the unions, and, as will be seen from the Joint Secretaries’ circulars issued during these negotiations, it was the issues over which the employers did not have discretion but were reliant on the approach by MoJ that proved the eventual sticking points.

Although MoJ did make considerable concessions in the negotiations, time – as determined by the Justice Secretary’s timetable for Transforming Rehabilitation - was insufficient to secure the agreement of all parties. 

In November 2013 NOMS/MoJ decided to issue to Trusts a National Framework on Staff Transfer and Protections, much of which replicated the unagreed documentation being negotiated through the NNC and SCCOG and which included a pre-transfer staff assignment process based on the one being discussed with the unions, though with its own significant adaptations. 

There followed a critical week, which coincided with the week referred to above in the context of the revised risk register.
  • An NNC/SCCOG meeting already scheduled to take place a few days after MoJ’s decision to impose its Framework and assignment process held the prospect of securing an agreement on the texts that had been under discussion. The PA secured an undertaking from MoJ that if there were agreement, the negotiated agreement would supersede the framework imposed by MoJ but clearly agreement would be less likely if Trusts had started to implement the MoJ scheme. 
  • PA asked Trusts to report on their reactions to the MoJ’s action and compilations of these reports were circulated to all member Trusts, so that each could see the approach being taken by others. PA held a teleconference with member Trusts to share views, in particular on the legality of MoJ’s action. Trusts co-operated with the request from PA to restrict themselves only to preparatory work in order to keep the possibility of a negotiated agreement alive. 
  • Unfortunately notification by MoJ – later largely withdrawn – on the day of the meeting of some aspects of the agreement that were not acceptable meant that substantive discussion was timed out and agreement was not reached. 
  • The subsequent advice from the PA Board to Trusts was then that, while the absence of a negotiated assignment process was regrettable, they should continue with implementation of the MoJ assignment process, and the NNC and SCCOG agreed to exclude the arrangements for assignment from its negotiations. A National Agreement, which secured significant protections for staff, was ratified by both bodies in January 2014. 
This above account does not adequately reflect the tireless and critically important role played by PA on the substance of the discussions, in the hammering out of future HR and employment arrangements for probation staff during this period, acting as a central source of expertise on probation terms and conditions, relied on by all concerned and indefatigably working through the minutiae of necessary transfer provisions.

Questions for the future

The Probation Association is departing the scene at the point at which implementation of the reforms will start to bite in operational terms. As the MoJ itself says, there will be a period of transition in which teething problems can be expected. It is too early to judge the impact of the reforms but, for the benefit of future commentators, we lay down the following as questions to which we, had we been continuing as an organisation, would have been interested to know the answers:

  • By how much have the reforms reduced re-offending? The Justice Secretary has indicated that no great change from current patterns should be expected, though the current and steadily declining rate of re-offending by those under probation supervision since 2000 has been held up as a failure of the current probation arrangements. 
  • Has the CRC bidding process proved successful in funding the provision of services, across all of England and Wales, to those with sentences of less than 12 months leaving prison? This extension of service is the great prize of the reforms. How effective are those services in reducing re-offending? 
  • How significant is Payment by Results in the new arrangements, or are the contracts really block payments with a bit of a reward added on? The use of PbR was, of course, always the reason given for not allowing Trusts to bid for contracts.
  • In addition to the declared costs, how much have the reforms really cost across the piece to implement? Staff time in the TR team and NOMS, conferences and meetings, staff time in the Trusts, secondments from Trusts to the Programme, interim appointments, the use of consultants, IT changes, communications, signage. 
  • What are the additional costs of managing and monitoring contracts (in the light of recent contract failures eg on electronic monitoring)? 
  • Could the cost of the reforms have been realised and used to fund an equivalent provision of services to the under 12 months’ cohort, without having the disruption and risk to services and performance caused by the TR reforms? Trusts certainly believed so – and some were already delivering the services, in partnership with PCCs and others, before Transforming Rehabilitation was published. 
  • Are the CRCs any more liberated than Trusts could have been and wanted to be? 
  • Has the NPS been able to sustain managing the exclusively high risk caseload? 
  • Was the management of offenders jeopardised by the changes at any point? What has happened on performance overall? 
  • What has been the effect on staff professionalism, morale and motivation in the longer term? 
  • Was it necessary to go through everything that the system has gone through over the past year to achieve what has in fact been achieved? What would a retrospective cost benefit analysis show?
PS Just for the historical record, this blog was finally acknowledged by the PA last week when they uniquely joined the PCA and Probation Institute in re-tweeting my piece on Sue Hall's Cambridge speech. Recognition at last, if somewhat late in the day! 


  1. Can I have a go at answering?
    - not significantly, if at all
    - unsuccessful & again insignificant impact
    - pbr was part of the moj's trojan horse to smuggle in total privatisation
    - its doubtful the real costs will ever be known because of the underhand nature of operation TR
    - phenomenal and, as above, likely to be well hidden
    - if Trusts had been allowed to move forward with u.12 months and develop partnerships, the costs would have been a tiny fraction of TR as it exists, the disruption minimal and the benefits manifold
    - no
    - no
    - yes, & performance has been devastated by myriad of new policies, processes and systems - most of which are impossible and untested
    - its all but destroyed the profession and those in it
    - an honest, independent audit would show TR to be an assault on common sense, a gross misuse of public funds, a high risk gamble with the public safety, and perhaps the most cynical attempt to give public services away to global enterprise.

  2. probation officer25 June 2014 at 07:49

    Let's not fool ourselves.

    1. The probation association has made its stand far too late - the ship has already sailed.

    2. I believe the probation institute is the probation association reborn, as members of the PA are involved.

    3. These so called leaders helped hand over probation to the lowest bidder - good riddance, their epitaph is meaningless because they should have said it when it counts.

  3. Agree with above comments. The PA stood by in silence and watched and at times assisted the whole TR train wreck. They could have made shouted from the rooftops about this disaster but instead the silence was deafening. Good riddance!

  4. To an embittered practitioner like me, this all seems like a lot of too-little-too-late posturing by the Probation Association. I also note that whoever is in charge of their Twitter account was quite spectacularly disrespectful to Joe Kuipers last night, asking whether it wasn't time for him to "let it go". Given that he is one of the few in any position of influence to stand up, in public, against TR, this seems to be an indication of where their priorities really lie.

    However, taking into account the amount of self-serving platitudes that we've previously seen from the PA, this does seem to be a remarkable departure, and I suppose it should be welcomed for what it is.

  5. JB Can this post be forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee?

    I have mixed feelings about the PA, as I too believe Sue Hall was sacked following her appearance on Newsnight and therefore, I acknowledge that Chief Officers probably had caveats inserted into their contracts, as TR commenced, that resulted in them being ceremoniously dispatched, for speaking out of turn; but the Trusts should have done more for their employees. I suppose the cost to Chief Officers for raising their heads above the parapet would be similar to us, as individuals resigning..and with the exception of J Hughes, I don't know of anyone rushing to do so. So bitter sweet, although I am pleased some of the things I have raised in FOI requests has been laid down, by the PA for prosperity.

    1. "laid down, by the PA for *prosperity." - Freudian slip - malapropism - or precision?

      Private Eye on the Streets today - Harry Fletcher has predicted some instructive publicity about the TR Crisis - I await the postman's arrival with my copy with extra enthusiasm!

  6. The most telling sentence in the document for me details how a joint meeting of the The Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association determined 'to help design and implement' TR. There's little more to say on their contribution to our current predicament beyond this - except of course that it gives the clearest indication yet of the true nature of the Probation Association and Probation Chiefs Association designed and led Probation Institute... Oh, and of course everyone should also note the indication above that the Probation Association advised the trusts to apply the egregious sifting criteria despite the absence of any agreement

    Simon Garden

  7. Who gets to write the SDR on Mr, me, me me, pick me!

    1. No one unfortunately. Turns out the court wasn't covered by Probation because the staff were all working through a back log of RSRs so no one noticed what happened


    2. I bet you would relish the opportunity, Simon? I certainly would.

    3. Let us be professional about this - I hope JB will remove any comments that relate directly to a person who may be, or may become a client of probation practitioners and therefore entitled to have his or her situation treated with confidentiality and seen to be so treated.

    4. One thing the Public don't know is that Probation Staff prepare reports on most people found guilty of wrongdoing in the Crown Court - what we don't do is breach the confidentiality of that person and I am rather shocked that Andrew thinks we would, I do not recall the same protective attitude taken when Mr and the former Mrs Huhne were in the limelight. In addition to being a PO I am also a member of the public and I have a legitimate opinion on people who abuse their powerful positions.

    5. I did not express that too well - sorry - I think it is obviously useful to let public know of potential roll for probation in writing court reports but in my opinion not very impressive or reassuring when folk start expressing a special interest in dealing with any particular defendant

  8. too little, too late25 June 2014 at 09:20

    Has the PA paid you for this article Jim?

    The PA is one of the reasons why TR is here, it's comments after the fact are meaningless and I'm sure the MoJ is far from interested.

    The PA heads the probation institute, so why has this not be delivered as a Probation institute press release?

    Wasn't you singing the PI's tune too a week or so ago?

    PA + PCA = PI

  9. Surely the equation is

    PA + PCA + NAPO = PI

    And yes I said I'd changed my mind about PI because I respect the views of Sue Hall and Paul Senior, but I'm not a member and am not advocating anyone becomes a member - people can make their own mind up.

    Just for the record, I'm not in anyone's pocket, I don't get paid by any organisation in connection with this blog and I don't carry any advertising.

    If anyone wants to offer a piece arguing a different point of view I will happily publish it as a guest blog, provided it satisfies all the usual criteria of decency etc.

  10. Both the PA and the PCA have been sidelined by Grayling. They have both reflected the views of their members some of which vigorously supported TR and appeared on balance to welcome it when it was first proposed until they began to realise that it would not be Trusts commissioning services from private and voluntary organisations but rather Trust staff would be working for multinationals. The MoJ and NOMS did a job on them and they clutched at straws until the end because many were of course ambitious and feared damage to their reputations and access to other jobs, directorships and board memberships. They put money and staff into the PI and that makes perfect sense as the PI was to some extent a life-raft. All this goodies and baddies stuff really does run roughshod over the actual political complexities though. Looking for a hero to part the mists of ignorance and expecting them to be at a particular organisational level to have access to key meetings is naive - they take the money to keep quiet. Some of the so called champions against TR have in some instances undermined efforts to oppose it by looking for quick fixes and ended up backing the wrong horses and criticising those who have been slogging away. Wouldn't it be nice if everything was clear cut and simple and everyone knew who to clap and who to boo. Unfortunately for some there are lots of different views and to some there were aspects of TR that may have seemed at some point attractive. Some of the more ambitious have for instance profited at all grades turning their back on colleagues and those they might represent to further their own careers. Demonising the PI serves no purpose in fighting the probation sell off but clearly there are some individuals who those fighting TR would rather were not involved and those who criticise the PI are probably glad they are involved as it gives them a reason to criticise it.

    Don't forget that probation is still in the public sector. If you observe those who have been fighting privatisation in the NHS and elsewhere you realise that they are focusing on the bidders and exposing their failures in order to cause reputational concerns. This reflects on the judgement of ministers concerned who are concerned about a forthcoming election. We need all the allies we can get to fight this and the MoJ/NOMS PR people (who I can assure you study this blog assiduously at the request of their political masters) are heartened when they see probation organisations, that would be a powerful voice if united, in disarray. The PI has some good people involved in it who have some extensive networks. How on earth would the fight against TR and privatisation be furthered by alienating them? Finger pointing and negative campaigning only gets us so far. What is needed is to present alternative credible models of how probation could be kept public and work.. The Trusts were one way but there are others and these need to be worked up into realistic plans.

    1. Off topic, but Graylings flagship Oakwood prison is back in the press for more failings. How long can the MoJ continue to deny that the CJS is in crisis?

    2. The Probation Institute would gain some respect from me if it spoke up for probation practitioners NOW.

      As I have said it might have been a good organisation if negotiations for its existence began at the time Trusts began, there is much else that might be said but my belief is that energy spent on it now is wasted.

      As for it being the practitioners duty to come up with an alternative - that is nonsense - what existed was statistically making progress, what we have is a flawed scheme that destroys good practice and increases public danger AND costs.

      AND this is before they try to implement the very flawed ORA2014 - sentenced to supervision on release - one size fits all - a FULL 12 months supervision whether a prisoner got 2 days or 364 - that is INJUSTICE and will be a nightmare to implement - and there are those RAR's taking sentencing from the courts to the practitioners and the owners of their companies - lets have some public statements from the PI about such, then some of us might reconsider whether they are a worthwhile organisation NOW!

    3. Well said, what about those clients who are told to sit in court for 5 hours or so will they also get 12 months licence. Its not going to work. INJUSTICE at its best, how can it be justified.

    4. Much has been said today about the PM giving Andy Coulson a job in government whilst still under investigation for phone hacking, despite already being 'sacked' by the NofTW.
      The PM has stated several times since the verdict that it was a very bad decision on his behalf.
      But doesn't that statement beg the question that if it was such a bad decision to give someone under criminal investigation a job in government, then it must surely be a seriouly bad decision for the government to enter into contracts with private companies to provide public services that are themselves still under investigation for criminally defrauding the government?

    5. "what about those clients who are told to sit in court for 5 hours or so will they also get 12 months licence." - I do not think so because - according to my understanding sentences of less than a day are excluded -

      "2 Supervision after end of sentence

      (1) Chapter 6 of Part 12 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (sentencing: release, licences and recall) is amended as follows.

      (2) After section 256A insert—
      “Supervision of offenders
      256AASupervision after end of sentence of prisoners serving less than 2 years

      (1) This section applies where a person (“the offender”) has served a fixed-term sentence which was for a term of more than 1 day but less than 2 years, except where—

      (a) the offender was aged under 18 on the last day of the requisite custodial period (as defined in section 243A(3)),

      (b) the sentence was an extended sentence imposed under section 226A or 226B, or

      (c) the sentence was imposed in respect of an offence committed before the day on which section 2(2) of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 came into force."

      I have not scoured the probation instructions - possibly they have something to say - Grayling has said it will start this year, so presumably the prisons are all geared up to move folk at the appropriate point and the mentors to do the pre release visits and meet those being released at the gate are all being recruited and trained - now?

    6. HMP Oakwood was understaffed and 'chaotic' on the night Edward Ham died after suffering a heart attack, it was said.

      Prison officers were also not trained to use a defibrillator which was locked in a cabinet.

      It only emerged an ambulance had not been called when staff phoned asking where paramedics were.

      Mr Ham, known by his friends and family as Steve, was declared dead in his cell at the G4S-operated prison in Featherstone.

      The 54-year-old from Edgbaston suffered from high blood pressure and was taking medication to try and lower it.

      He complained of chest pains around 3.30am on February 6 last year and officers monitored him throughout the night, but a doctor was not called to assess his condition.

      Giving evidence at Stafford Coroners Court, prison officer Anita Duggal said: “He told me he had chest pains and when I checked him for a second time he said the pain was coming and going but that he would be okay.

      “I checked him again at 4.52am and knew something was wrong because there was no response from him.

      “I went in his cell after getting approval from my manager to see if there was a pulse but there wasn’t.”

      Despite Mr Ham’s condition, staff took 53 minutes before calling an ambulance.

      Security officer Caroline Williams, who worked in the prison’s control room at the time of Mr Ham’s death, said there were not enough staff on that night and described the shift as chaotic.

      She admitted there had been a lack of communication among her colleagues.

      She said: “At 5.05am prison officer Gareth Robinson called me and said an ambulance was required and that he would get one. It was my understanding that he would ring for an ambulance so I left it for him to do.”

      Giving evidence, Mr Robinson said he thought the control room would call an ambulance while he performed CPR on Mr Ham for 50 minutes.

      Staff eventually phoned West Midlands Ambulance Service asking where paramedics were and they were told an ambulance had not been requested.

      Paramedic Neil Weaver received a call at 5.58am and arrived on the scene at 6.06am.

      In a statement read out in court he said: “There was some confusion in the prison over when the ambulance was called and some sort of mix-up between staff on the wing and in the control room.

      “They all thought one of them had called an ambulance when in fact none of them had.”

      Staff could not access a defibrillator as it was locked away but admitted they had not received adequate training to use one.

      Prison officer Sarah Hollyhead, who was also on shift that night, said: “We were given demonstrations on defibrillators but were not allowed to test them out.

      “It was my belief that there was a defibrillator available but it was locked away.”

      Mr Ham admitted possession with intent to supply Class A and Class B drugs in October 2012. His drugs stash was valued at more than £1.3 million and he was sentenced to six years in prison. He served part of the sentence in HMP Birmingham in Winson Green before being transferred to HMP Oakwood in November 2012.

    7. I feel very uncomfortable with this article and video at several levels.
      Please watch it..

    8. I risk not being politically correct with this comment, and some may find it offensive. I'm sorry in advance for that because it's not my intention- I'm just flabbergasted with that news article above.
      My first response is this. Much reporting this year of radicalisation within our prison system by religious fundamentalists. There has been a very well publicised spat between Terressa May and Michael Gove recently regarding the "Trojan Hourse" concerns in schools, particullary in Birmingham.
      For Chris Grayling to publically and openly support a rehabilitation programme that excludes all except followers of Islam whilst holding the possittion of SOS for Justice to me just beggers belief, and he should be dragged accross hot coals for doing so.
      My second concern is that any rehabilitation programme should be all inclusive and extended to those in need, and not exclude anyone regardless of their ecthnic origin, colour or religious beliefs.
      Grayling today has endorsed secular rehabilitation, and for that the hot coals should be brought back out.
      I'm sorry if my thinking has offended anyone, but it's an issue that I feel so strongly about I'm about to e/mail my MP with my concerns, and a request that Grayling should be brought to the House to explain himself.

    9. Coincidentally I have just been emailed what seems a Government Produced video about this very organisation.

      "You are subscribed to YouTube for

      Supported housing scheme helping muslim offenders opens
      25-06-2014 03:47 PM BST

      Supported housing scheme helping muslim offenders opens
      A supported housing scheme helping Muslim offenders in London turn their backs on crime was opened by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling today, as he outlined the urgent need to bring down high..."

      I suspect religious bodies have been involved in similar things since before the probation of offenders act in 1907.

      There was a furore in the late 70s & 80s about a drug/alcohol recovery service that had hostels - I visited one once - if the client - of his own free will chose to go there it was not for me to say he could not go, as long as residence did not prevent him complying with conditions of his court order, unless there was reason to doubt the integrity of those running the scheme.

      I knew of a Buddhist Chaplain who regularly visited a London prison in the early nineties & had a very damaged client establish a relationship, to the extent that I helped facilitate a visit to a Buddhist Monastery for him after he was released.

      What about all the Salvation Army places? Some that do excellent work, the issue is that clients need to go of their own free will. The sadness is for those clients not able to satisfy the agency for religious reasons who don't get a similar opportunity. Then maybe there are others who have friends or relatives who will take them in, because of personal reasons but not take another.

      It all needs discretion and good supervision from highly trained and/or experienced probation personnel, where residence is part of statutory involvement with probation.

    10. With regard to your comments about a 'one size fits all' 12month supervision order Andrew, regardless of 1 day or 364 days, I thought you may enjoy reading this article, which may provoke a thought or two. I know its perhaps not the norm, but what would be gained by a 12month supervision order here?

    11. Thanks Anon at 18.09.

      I think ASBOs are a bad idea but had no direct experience of working with them. Puts me in mind of the old Suss offence that I saw too much of in my early probation days in Liverpool, (suspected person loitering), I think it was repealed about 1981.

      I am in favour of early release on licence, but only after application and assessment, and for the prisoner/parolee to get the supervision as an alternative to being in custody, so not as an extra sentence. I am totally against electronically monitored early release with a curfew, unless the individual merits of the situation warrant part time house arrest and no other occupants of the house have their lives significantly disrupted without them being willing. It must impact on parent child relationships, which may normalise the idea of the home as a prison rather than a place of sanctuary and recuperation etc..

      I have not given it serious thought but presume that a person sentenced to just over 12 months, will actually end up with less supervision than a person sentenced to 2 days in prison , unless the 12 mths to 4 year ACR sentences have changed as well.

      I am also not fully cognisant of those sentences that now attract a 50% remission - now I come to thing about it I am completely unsure of what sentence currently attracts what post release supervision and for how long and at what point - so I best stop.

      I guess many of us will meet folk who behave bizarrely and persistently almost no matter what adjudications they receive. I suspect it is more interesting to read about the Morecambe bird-man than live near him, although in that article he is represented as benign, which he probably is for most of the time.

  11. More evidence that private companies are unfit to do.....well, pretty much anything.



    I fear that this will not be the last death.

    1. A former mental health nurse at Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre has told BBC News women are not safe there.

      Noel Finn said he had repeatedly raised concerns about the assessment and treatment of women with psychological problems, but no action had been taken.

      Serco, which run the centre on behalf of the Home Office, said it provided a very high standard of care.

      The chief inspector of prisons's latest report had called it an establishment where residents felt safe, it added.

      The report had also described "good primary mental health provision", Serco said.

      The Bedfordshire centre houses up to 400 women under threat of deportation.

      When Mr Finn started working there, in 2012, he said, many of the detainees had been taking anti-depressants without having been properly assessed for psychological problems.

      "The system wasn't driven for mental health. It was more driven about, 'Are they fit to fly, physically?'" he said.

      A woman he had assessed as being at risk had later burned herself with boiling water, Mr Finn told BBC News. But staff had failed to spot her injury when they had entered her room and it had gone untreated for 16 hours.

      When he had asked how this had happened, he had been "basically told to shut up", he said.

      "Particularly around mental health, safeguarding and risk there were serious issues, serious gaps that needed to be closed quickly," Mr Finn said.

      Serco said an investigation had been carried out and a staff member dismissed.

      It had clear policies and procedures in place to enable staff to deal with incidents of self-harm, it added.

      Mr Finn, who resigned in 2013, also said he had witnessed "a toxic culture, where guards would flirt and be inappropriate".

      "That's totally wrong, there is a line you do not cross," he told BBC News.

      A woman detained at Yarl's Wood in 2009 told BBC News she had been propositioned by a guard when pregnant.

      She said she had asked him: "'Can't you see I am pregnant?'

      "Then he was like, 'But you are not with your boyfriend.' I said if he didn't leave the room I would scream," she said.

      She had not reported him because she had thought she would not be believed, she added.

      "It can be twisted around that I am the one that is flirting with an officer. And I did not want that kind of stigma on me, so I kept it to myself," she said.

    2. Outsourcing firm Serco has apologised after disclosing that 10 of its staff had been dismissed in relation to allegations of improper sexual contact with female detainees at the Yarl's Wood immigration detention centre.

      Appearing before the Commons home affairs committee, Serco executives said that the dismissals related to eight separate cases – out of a total of 31 which had been investigated – at the centre in Bedfordshire over the past seven years.

      The chief executive of Serco's UK central government division, Dr Bob McGuiness, said: "We set very high standards for ourselves and our staff. On those instances where we have fallen short of the standards that we have set for ourselves, I absolutely am sorry and apologise for these cases."

      The firm was summoned to appear before the committee after the Observer disclosed details of an internal report into an investigation into the claims by a 29-year-old woman from Pakistan that she was sexually assaulted a male Serco health worker.

      Former inmates have described a culture at the centre where vulnerable women detainees would have sex with guards and flirt with them in the hope of obtaining favourable treatment.

      Serco's managing director of home affairs, James Thorburn, said the firm was not aware of any cases of inappropriate relationships currently taking place between staff and inmates at the centre. He said the a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons had found no evidence of a wider culture of "victimisation or systematic abuse" at Yarl's Wood.

      "If we knew of anyone who is having any inappropriate relationship with any detainee at the centre we would act immediately. We would take that extremely seriously. That person would be dismissed if that was found to be the case," he said.


  13. Can't get the computer systems working properly? Then you should read this....

  14. Link to justice select committee report

  15. From the JSC report


    5. In 2011, we undertook an inquiry on the role of probation service, which considered the emerging proposals for extending competition and introducing payment by results.[8] We found that offender management could be more effective if trusts were given greater discretion both operationally and financially, for example to ensure that frontline staff spent more time directly engaged with offenders, and to make efficiencies in partnership with other agencies. The movement of prisoners between establishments and the inadequate priority afforded to sentence planning also undermined effective case management. We noted that basing commissioning on payment by results in reducing re-offending provided an opportunity to put the system on a sustainable footing. Nevertheless the focus on reoffending risked overlooking the importance of the rights of victims and the obligations of offenders towards them. We proposed that the mechanism should be tested. We observed that economies can also be accrued at a local level through strategic partnership approaches. We concluded that, ultimately, the responsibility for delivering the sentence of the courts should belong to a single offender management local commissioning body, linking the commissioning of prisons and probation more closely to the communities they are designed to protect.

    6. On offender management, the Government said in its response to our report that it was reviewing the offender management model but it believed that in some cases it would continue to be necessary to move prisoners to other establishments, for example, "to access an appropriate offending behaviour programme, or because the prisoner's level of risk has reduced".[9] In relation to payment by results, the Government believed that placing the focus on the outcomes that services deliver, and rewarding only those that achieve genuine success, would encourage providers to target the long-lasting rehabilitation of offenders.

  16. Again from the JSC report, but the figures suggest probation services are more expensive than the prison estate by some £200M, can this be correct? Or is it that the £617M spent by noms on prisons is IN ADDITION TO the Prison Service spend?

    "10. In 2012/13, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which is responsible for funding prisons and probation, spent £4.2bn, over half of which related to staffing.[17] Of this, £617 million was spent on public and private sector prisons and £853 million on probation services, which that year supervised 225,000 offenders. NOMS' net spend reduced in real terms by 19% over the four years to March 14, a figure set to reach 34% by 2015/16; this has included savings of £115m in probation and £90m in streamlining headquarters. NOMS has embarked on a benchmarking exercise to reduce the cost of public sector prisons by £450 million over six years.[18] By March 2016 it aims to have reduced the annual cost of a prison place by £2,200 compared to 2012/13.[19] The NAO's landscape review published in March 2014 details other savings, including £71 million savings by the end of 2013-14 through closing old and inefficient prisons, and investing in modern accommodation. This is planned to reach £211 million by 2015-16.[20]"

  17. By March 2016 it aims to have reduced the annual cost of a prison place by £2,200 compared to 2012/13
    So sentence planning is important ??? That explains why so many prisoners can not get the programmes they need, especially SOTP when we have men released following serious sex offending without any treatment at all leaving all risk managed in the community by yes, probation....

  18. Did not see that coming..
    Michael Spurr heads of NOMS became a CB ( Companion Order of Bath) "presumably as a reward for pushing through justice secretary Chris Grayling's probation privatisation, which is a disaster in the making...The public gets the disaster while he gets the gong"
    Private Eye 1369
    and probation staff got shafted .....

  19. Why not contribute to the NAO's next investigation?

    "Contract management in the Home Office and Ministry of Justice

    Scheduled Late summer 2014
    Sector Public order, justice and rights
    NAO Team
    Director: Jeremy Lonsdale

    Audit Manager: Neil Carey

    Media contact Angharad Thomas
    Direct line: 020 7798 7208 Email:
    Against the background of difficulties with a number of contracts for outsourced services (such as for asylum seeker accommodation, interpreter services in courts and the electronic tagging of offenders) this study will examine the progress made by both departments in strengthening their ability to manage the work of providers. The study is being conducted in parallel with other NAO work on contract management across central government, including Cabinet Office and the Crown Commercial Service.

    Email above personnel using our contact form selecting Public order, justice and rights as the topic, marking it for their attention in the subject field."

  20. For info - Link to noms 'organogram' for 2010, with salaries etc

  21. Elmley prison staff walked out last week on grounds of H and S.
    Today they have s death in custidy.
    I wonder how many deaths in custody that is this year. I fear its a lot.

  22. Completely off topic but have just noticed on the blog post on 23rd June that shared service staff are striking on 30th June. The day NPS staff are supposed to be paid and to ring them on if there are any problems. Now very worried.....

  23. If their members approach strike action the way NAPO members do, I wouldn't worry too much.

  24. NAPO members in our local NPS office were a disgrace - they thought they were home and dry by getting their choice of NPS and the majority of the 20 staff all went in during the day and a half strike. Now they are getting nervous because their caseloads have shrunk and the majority of their cases are inside. Our Trust still working to the ethos of only do essential mileage/journeys and so inevitably this is leaving people with time on their hands. In time it is plain as the nose on your face they are clearly over-staffed and will be facing an uncertain future. Sad times indeed.

  25. One of the many reasons why Jim hasn't posted today was because I was the lucky person who got the millionth hit! He spent the afternoon with me! What an absolute treat, It was a total delight to show Jim some of the hidden secrets of my city; to drink far too much in some of the best pubs in the country and obviously to have the opportunity for a damn good chat about all the challenges of being a Probation Officer today. The evading action we had to take when confronted by 30 reception aged school children chasing a herd of sheep was unexpected and will live long in the memory. Keep it up Jim, this blog is what we need. x

  26. Theres been several days such as this over the past year or so when theres been very little to comment on because theres no new information and Grayling is keeping his trap shut and keeping out of the newspapers.
    It's my personal observation that at times when these little pockets of quietness happen, they're generally followed a day or two later by Grayling finding himself in all kinds of self created mayhem and making all sorts of excuses and explanations to try put the blame somewhere else.
    I'm conscience that June 30th and the closing date for bids is only around the corner. Will it be that, that brings his next bout of self inflicted chaos? Maybe a prison riot to equal strangeways? The collapse of another high profile trial because of his legal aid cuts? I don't know, but I do know when he goes quiet, the storm follows very soon after.
    He'll be looking eagerly at the impending reshuffel me thinks, and hoping the PM slips him off somewhere else.

  27. "Know The Danger
    3 hrs ·

    Please post anon.

    The week so far in an east mids yoi

    Numerous fights and alarm bells, prisoner on the roof, causing thousands pounds worth of damage. And today a prisoner seriously assaulted, taken to hospital with what I believe are serious injuries. See what tomorrow brings.

    Is anyone listening and if they are do they care?"