NOMS / MoJ tells the truth.
Well, it had to happen, and credit where credit is due.
NOMS published the Probation Trust Annual reports, available via the link below. I draw the following quote from page 7, a real moment of truth that may haunt those who might have behaved differently and made some attempts to arrest the progress of a TR programme fraught with danger which will surely fail to meet its own objectives:
"progress could not have been achieved without the positive engagement and support we have received from Probation Trusts."https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/322699/NOMS_AR_2014_web.pdf
From our own Annual Report.
As we are talking about annual reports I thought I might just quote a snippet from ours. It is not startling in its content but we were bemused by the kind requests from NOS to make some amendments. It was drawn to our attention that the draft content as submitted to NOMS might reflect poorly on the Board. The Board quite properly considered each amendment proposed by NOMS but declined to make the suggested changes as the content reflected the views of the Board and the more 'sanitised' NOMS version did not. The Board was bemused by the NOMS proposals as they reflected poorly on the efforts being made by NOMS to try to remove or minimise any traces of concern about the TR changes and programme.
So, this is what we said in our report:
"Avon and Somerset Probation Trust business has been significantly occupied in responding to the demands of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. This has meant that, to a large extent, developmental priorities that would normally be delivered within our business plan have not been pursued. “Business as usual” has inevitably been impacted upon by the requirements made upon the organisation by the Programme.
Staff at all levels have operated within a context of great uncertainty and all were assigned to one of the two new designate organisations towards the latter part of the business year. This staff transition process was imposed within a mandatory contract variation served upon the Trust as the employer. The National Probation Service will create new civil service roles for probation staff within seven divisions in England and Wales under the management of the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service. In addition twenty one community rehabilitation companies have been created, currently under the ownership of the Secretary of State, and it is intended that these will, in the future, be subject to commercial competition. As a consequence significant uncertainty remains for many staff.
The Trust has registered serious professional concerns about the fragmentation of rehabilitation and public protection services that we believe the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme introduces for the future safety of our local communities. These concerns remain unallayed and the Trust has delivered all of its contractual requirements in terms of delivering robust and timely exit arrangements."Nothing there for the Board to feel ashamed of saying, but NOMS didn't like elements of it. Frankly, we were extremely reserved.
We also said the following:
"Our established partnership to deliver Integrated Offender Management has developed very positively throughout the year and the contribution this scheme has made to drastically reduced rates of serious acquisitive crime is testimony to the value of this joint agency approach. Our Integrated Offender Management Scheme targets cases both under statutory supervision and those not subject to any form of order or licence. Our partnership cohort therefore includes a significant number of carefully selected offenders being released from short term prison sentences. Our further joint venture in Bristol, deploying integrated approaches with dangerous offenders has yielded extremely encouraging early results.
We are pleased to have undertaken a joint venture with Barnardo’s to increase awareness of prisoners’ children’s needs and the social capital represented by prisoners’ families. In addition we are proud to be working with Victim Support in establishing pre-sentence restorative justice opportunities. We consider the specialist statutory work we undertake on behalf of victims of serious violent or sexual crime to be of great importance and have been fully supportive of the inspiring leadership provided by the Police and Crime Commissioner in further developing integrated agency arrangements in this arena."We remain concerned that excellent initiatives such as these, which are hard won, are threatened in this new TR environment. And a reminder - we (and other Trusts) offered to include the under 12 months group as NOMS hoped for (well, we were already doing it), but this offer was rejected.
Only time will tell. However, our CEO (until 31 July) and I have been steadfast in expressing our fundamental concern about the offender split by risk and the consequential staff split. This is a fault line in the new processes and organisations that will, without doubt, generate confusions, failures, accountability weaknesses, duplications and gaps, and communication errors. I do not wish this on any 'probation' staff, but it is inevitable.
I saw a tweet recently that suggested the value of a consistent NPS approach that might now happen. Yes, but the consistent approach needs to be a holistic one that includes the work of the CRCs, within which there is a coherent and workable system for offender supervision (Hmmm, did we not have that already?). The fault line, to be confused further once CRC contracts are let to a variety of providers, makes it a certainty that this will not happen.
The best we can now hope for is that the CRCs are incorporated within a national probation service with the NPS to reinstate offender supervision continuity, and the rifts that have been created might be healed. I do not think this will happen.
Depending (a bit) on the shape of a future government the more likely scenario (one I have referenced before) is that the concept of 'productive intervention with offenders' will be replaced by a 'surveillance' approach in both the NPS and CRCs, with an increasing reliance on electronic monitoring. This is why bidders might retain an interest - EM is easy and mechanical (scope for savings), but, as shown by HMI Probation, without intelligent intervention by qualified intelligent and supported staff working to constructive values 'easy and mechanical (EM)' are just not enough.
So, 42 years with probation comes to an end for me. It has been quite a ride. Am I sad? Yes, a bit, mainly because our successful and effective Trust in common with others has been destroyed without good cause whilst on a continuing improvement journey. Trusts have endlessly done what has been asked. Yes, because others in leadership roles caved in, or were seduced, without good cause. Yes, because our Board has been dismantled without good cause - a Board that has been challenging and a joy to work with. Yes, because the supremely brilliant working relationship that Sally and I have shared for six years comes to an end, without good cause. Yes, because I do hear the stories of those working in the NPS and CRC and their trials and tribulations - trials and tribulations without good cause. Yes, because there is no basis for TR beyond unevidenced and untried ideology.
That said, I do wish everyone in probation and associated businesses well, even those with whom I disagree. Remember, bearing a grudge harms the grudge holder.
Bye for now.
Joe Kuipers, 31 July 2014.