Thursday, 24 July 2014

Omnishambles Update 56

“News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising.” - William Randolph Hearst

I know what you're thinking. How can it be Omnishambles Update 56 when we've already had 57 and 58? Simple. I forgot about 56 in draft and went right by it. Of course I could have just ignored it and pretended I hadn't noticed, but I'm not that kind of person. I like things done properly and in an orderly fashion, so 56 it is, even if out of sync.

I notice that Harry Fletcher is being somewhat forthright in his latest blog in saying that, since his departure and despite the impression being given by Ian Lawrence to the contrary, his information indicates that Parliament has been largely ignored by Napo:-   
Just a Few Months Left
The process of selling off the Probation service in England and Wales remains a shambles. Hundreds of posts highlighting the chaos have been logged on the On Probation Blog. That blog should be essential viewing for all MPs and for many it already is. Staff report being taxed twice over because the Inland Revenue think they have two jobs, one for the old Trust and two at the NPS or CRC. Nothing on the IT side seems to work, scores of DV cases are unallocated and a 2 tier workforce is emerging that is class A in the NPS and class B in the CRCs.
There is and has been for months an urgent need for Parliamentary action but little has happened during the last period. Questions both written and oral and points of order should have been asked more or less every day but Ministers are getting an easy ride. One MOJ official expressed surprise to me last week at the lack of a real fuss about the sell off, another said that aspects of the contacting process and of tagging would not hold up to legal scrutiny.
There is to be a lobby in September of MPs by Probation staff, there will need a huge turn out if it is to have any impact.Simple, short, emotive and factual information is needed by all MPs of all parties to maximise any remaining hope of stopping the share sale.
I'm not aware we ever heard what the explanation was for cancelling that briefing meeting in Parliament a couple of weeks ago? To make matters worse there's this:-
Further to the confident expectation by Ian Lawrence that Chris Grayling would be appearing before the Justice Select Committee in September for a one-off TR session - my contact on the JSC has just informed me that:
"There are no current plans for the Secretary of State to appear before the Committee." 
Yesterday we had breaking news regarding the IT chaos. Despite the MoJ trying to put a brave face on things, the shite IT systems are failing:-

Sorry to go off thread but I wanted to update the OASys situation as NOMS are currently looking into a giant hole scratching their heads and wondering what the hell to do! Staff will be aware that the update last week-end caused major problems which they hoped to fix but hadn't been able to at 4:30 today. They have canvassed OASys leads to ask how long we can go without OASys as they advised staff not to create any more assessments as there was a risk they would be lost. Any that were critical it was suggested should be printed off. Looks like they don't expect HP to get a fix in the near future so the only other options is to re-set the system to last week-end. Only trouble is this would mean that any assessments completed this week will be deleted! As if things aren't bad enough for staff this could be the final straw that breaks the last vestiges of morale left. 

The IT system seems to be in meltdown with the email problems yesterday! Today in our office there were a variety of nDelius problems, log on difficulties, access to myservices, laptop security issues to name just a few! Would be interesting to hear from others if they have noticed IT getting worse this week?

We now learn that another key element of the TR omnishambles, the release of prisoners from local 'resettlement prisons' is proving impossible due to the system being rammed to capacity, and that the POA have decided to take action as indicated by this press release:-
The POA has today sent the first legal letter to the CEO of NOMS Michael Spurr as it challenges the recent decision to crowd more overcrowded public sector prisons. The prison population has continued to rise and NOMS has wasted millions of pounds in the last 2 years closing prisons, allowing thousands of staff to leave the service on voluntary redundancy packages all based on the gamble that the prison population would fall.
The POA has consistently warned NOMS and the Government that the prison population was not an exact science and that their policies would crash and burn, placing the public at risk and have serious consequences for the tax payer.Recent media interest on the prison service failings, has resulted in knee jerk reactions and placed a prison service already in crisis at serious risk of meltdown. The public has been outraged following recent revelations by the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the findings of the Howard League for Penal Reform that prisons are grossly understaffed, prisoners and staff at risk of being seriously assaulted every day and level of suicides on the increase. It seems no one is listening or cares.
The POA General Secretary Steve Gillan said,
“We will not stand by and allow prisons to become warehouses or our staff to be treated like punch bags on the back of a political agenda that is designed to save money rather than rehabilitate prisoners. Overcrowding places both staff and prisoners in danger.”

Steve Gillan further added,
“That the level of suicides and violence in our prisons is totally unacceptable. Hundreds of staff are being sent all over the country every day and staff face burn out, as they are forced to work excessive long hours in an attempt to maintain Good Order and Discipline”.
A member of staff recently reported that prisoners were fearful for their safety as weapons and drugs were freely available and no staff around to protect them. When asked why the POA had resulted to legal redress, Steve Gillan said,
“When the employer won’t talk or listen to our genuine concerns we must take all reasonable steps to protect our members, the prisoners in our care and the public."
Finally, I understand that there is likely to be some breaking news regarding Sarah Billiald, former CEO of Kent Probation Trust.


  1. I'm in NPS and I have a higher caseload than before the split. Of course now all of them are high risk. Numbers of oral hearings are going to increase three fold because of a recent Supreme Court ruling. Also when a case is transferred to NPS because of risk concerns it then stays with NPS permanently. These issues together with loads of PSR's make my job completely untenable. NAPO really needs to sharpen up its operation and communicate this to the people in power.

  2. The other month, for the first time in my career, I felt unsafe during a prison visit. Free flow of prisoners but not enough staff to open doors to allow them to get where they were going. I won't be going back any time soon - videolinks it is for me for now. I am genuinely worried about staff and prisoners who have no choice but to be there. It's going to be a long hot summer.
    'The effects of overcrowding at Strangeways and elsewhere were many and serious. Prisoners were held three to a cell without sanitation or washing facilities. They were allowed just one shower a week They were forced to share a single bucket for a toilet. With too few staff and too many prisoners, there was a lack of purposeful activity for prisoners. They were locked up and left idle, often for 23 hours a day. There was a lack of decent visiting facilities, so contact between prisoners and families was severely limited.'
    Sound familiar? Add to this:
    The book ban
    A backlog of parole hearings
    IPP cases over tariff
    A change of probation officer mid sentence (some have been working with their probation officers for 7 years or more)
    Understaffed prisons

    1. Sounds like a recipe for a riot, I read something yesterday about the hot weather and the effect this had on some prisons, can't recall the whole storey, this maybe another thing to add to the list.

    2. Could be this dreadful story in the Mirror

      A prisoner has gouged his own eyes out in protest at the sweltering conditions inside his cell, it was revealed today.

      The unnamed man inflicted the horrifying injuries on himself at HMP Nottingham as temperatures hit 25C.

      A number of inmates were thought to be protesting at conditions across the jail when the shocking incident took place.

      East Midlands Ambulance Service has confirmed that it was called to the scene at 6.43pm on Monday to treat a male patient, and that a prison nurse was already attending.

      The ambulance then took the man, believed to be just days from his release date, to the Queen's Medical Centre hospital in Nottingham.

      Police also confirmed they were called to the jail at 8pm the same evening to a report of an injured man and, following inquiries, "it was established that no crime had taken place".

      But prison bosses have now launched an investigation.

      A source inside the jail said: "Somebody cut their eyes out of their face. He was protesting.

      "The heat is just so high. Prisoners simply can't deal with it. They need to let some air in the room. It's only going to get worse."

      A statement from the Ministry of Justice said: "A prisoner at HMP Nottingham was taken to hospital following an act of self-harm. Staff reacted quickly and paramedics attended. No other prisoners were involved.

      "The prison is investigating the incident and police were informed as a matter of course."

      The incident comes after a critical report of the Category B prison by the Independent Monitoring Board.

      The organisation's annual review said a 25 per cent cut in budget had led to the loss of 140 officers, despite the capacity of the prison being upped in the same period.

      The IMB said the changes in operations were "unsustainable" and would lead to "more prisoner disruption and a further reduction in already low staff morale" in the future.

      It said prisoners were being stopped from having showers, work and education programmes were being cancelled, prisoners with serious mental health problems were being kept in cells formerly used for solitary confinement and Muslim inmates' food had been contaminated with pork products.

      Speaking earlier this week, a Prison Service spokesman said: "Staffing levels at HMP Nottingham are at an appropriate level to ensure the prison runs safely.

      Our approach to staffing levels has been agreed with the unions and puts prison officers back in frontline roles where they are most needed."

      But a woman visiting the prison said the conditions were "dreadful." She added: "It is disgusting. They hardly leave their cells, being in there at least 23 hours a day if not 24.

      They can have as little as one shower a week and exercise twice a week, which they are meant to have every day. That place is just horrible."

  3. I just had a look at the Gov e-petition about TR, only about 1200 signatures. Given everyone's views about TR I am surprised that not more people have signed this. It is another good way of getting attention and directly linked to the Gov giving them instant information about our discontent. I don't get it when people have a good moan but then don't take any action.

    1. The trouble is the last petition got 35,494 signatures - still no where near enough - I'm afraid it's a waste of time going down this route - the public don't know and don't care about probation or any of the CJS basically.

    2. And again that is probation's fault for not putting ourselves out there.

    3. In sick and tired of signing petitions. Sign this, sign that, send in this example, we are doing, your help is needed. It's all bullshit and achieves nothing. I'm stressed. Colleagues are stressed and yet we continue on the same path. When are we goin to see some proper action.

    4. Petitions.....I was frantic with the original petition trying to get signatures, family,neighbours, colleagues, judiciary, husband's work place, printed leaflets delivered by hand in too many places to mention,stood in town centres... I really really tried because I thought when this crap started we must make an impact...and we failed.
      You are right we need" some proper action" but I fear it will only come from a disaster and it just seems there on the horizon. I worry staff are going to be hurt, the prisons feel unsafe and both probation and prison staff are saying this. I fear a hostage situation as prisoners appear increasingly desperate and are not being heard.

    5. Anonymous24 July 2014 20:17 - we haven't failed. your effort has not been wasted. which ever way you look at it, it did make an impact, even though it may have been small nevertheless it did. but another strategy is needed now. we need more direct action. Thats were NAPO needs to fucking wake up. .

  4. Wikipedia notes that it was suggested at the time of the Strangeways riot that negotiations were prolonged in order to take attention away from poll tax demonstrations.

    Surely orchestrating riots would be a step too far even for Mr. Grayling and it is simply his obstinance and incompetence that has got us here?

    1. The only thing orchestrating a riot is the Governments own Privatisation Policies which are making them and their chums richer and richer. What's happened to Human Rights Legislation lately, prisoners are usually good at using them to fight for their rights, how come we have had no test cases with regards the appalling conditions.

    2. I find it hard to believe that negotiations over the Strangeways riot were prolonged to detract from media coverage about Poll Tax riots.

      I remember them as different parts of the same issue that Thatcher's consumer society, was only benefiting those with the 'muscle' to get some of the 'action', the rest were despairing - it seems as if folk nowadays are more docile, and feel less prepared to engage with government in any way, consider even the low turn-out in the election for Napo's General Secretary, just a bit above the Police and Crime Commissioners!

      It is over ten years since I was last actively involved in Napo General Meetings but from what I read I am astounded at how docile they and the NEC seem, compared to the disputes and conflict in the late 1970s & early 80s. I think the nadir was the covering up of the statues at Brighton and do wonder if the Moderation aspect - that the NMAG (Napo Members Action Group) folk, were behind, has contributed eventually to Napo policy-making being taken away from the core of the membership - I certainly remember feeling wary of contributing at times!

    3. Friends who worked at the bbc at that time have often reminisced about how they were directed to focus on the strangeways situation and were not allowed to cover the poll tax story. Several eng teams (reporter, sound cameraman, driver, etc) were sent from London to Manchester and told to stay there. This helped prevent any leakage in London. The poll tax story was flattened. I don't doubt Grayling had a hand in "managing" that. It maybe paved the way for his selection as MP?

    4. Anon at 18.46 is convincing - thank you - has it been written up in the public domain, Wikipedia apart, I wonder?

      However that was about 24 years ago - even if Grayling was at the BBC then, I doubt he would have been very influential, though it could well have been involved in the obfuscation.

    5. Sadly my enthusiasm for Grayling being influential at the Beeb over the poll tax riots was misplaced - seems he was a C4 employee at the time.

      I'll ask old friends if I can submit corroborating evidence; or if they will make comment here or elsewhere to verify.

      Another chum (eager reporter at The Times) gave a similar account of being sent to, and told to remain until further notice in, Manchester. Not sure if she'll own up as, being quite elevated these days (and with an amazingly selective memory), she's unlikely to remember anything relevant.

      And therein lies the issue of political life in the UK - its what we're allowed to remember, NOT what really happened.

    6. Is there anything that riots this summer would draw attention away from? Operation Fernbridge perhaps? Let's wait and see.

    7. For the uninitiated, the drunk or those with dementia (& Yes, I DO know what I'm talking about here) please find a recap below:

      "The riot cops are at the window but after 25 days of siege the prisoners defend every last yard of their autonmous space. Coming the Day after the Poll Tax riot the Strangeways mutineers provided some of the most memorable images of revolt of the time. The fire brigade were asked to train their hoses on the mutineers but repeated intervention from Ken Keating’s Ordsall Class Warriors – cutting of hoses and a robust presence outside the prison walls – prevented this becoming a regular event.ALAN LORD was scapegoated as one of the leaders of the mutiny and is still in prison today – 20 years after the riot. Alan has dramatically escaped once but recaptured. Surely we must use the 20th anniversary to build a campaign for his release as he is now one of the longest serving prisoners in the country and sadly forgotten by us all. FREE ALAN LORD!

      H.M.P Manchester formerly known as Strangeways was the scene of the worst ever prison riot in mainland Britain. The riot started on the 1st of April 1990 and lasted for 25 days. 147 prison officers and 47 prisoners were injured. Much of the prison was badly damaged or destroyed, the staggering cost of rebuilding coming to £55 million."

  5. Is the comment about Sarah Billiard old news? I'm a PO in Kent Surrey Sussex CRC and we're expecting her back as our CE, after the withdrawal of our mutual bid, that she headed up. If she is going, she won't be the first member of the bid team to vote with her feet - one of the 2 seconded ACOs has already jumped the CRC ship! But if it is old news, apologies for being cynical ....

  6. Has there been any more update on the case where a client was saying that he does not want to be managed by a private firm. Any news on this.

  7. We should get right behind the POA - they'll not be short of money to take legal action!

    In relation to the IT probs...I do hope that once it is resolved, an entry will automatically placed into every case, that due to technical problems any records, reports, risk management or sentence plans that may have been completed after Sunday 20/7 to - the date fixed This will safeguard staff in the event that anything occurs during this period resulting in an SFO or if your integrity and competency is questioned. I have done 3 SDR's in this period, and will be mightily pissed if they have to reset the system, wipeing out all that work. Oh and I am telling Judges why no information has been received from external agencies - cos our Email system is rubbish. Those dreaded Case Allocation Forms - they ask before each section, have you had time to consult with others etc -- well, No is the answer, as the Courts timetable don't work around our IT maintainers ability to provide and maintain.

  8. I know some people may say that Harry has an agenda, but if what he said is correct (and personally I don't doubt it), his comment that ..."One MOJ official expressed surprise to me last week at the lack of a real fuss about the sell off, another said that aspects of the contacting process and of tagging would not hold up to legal scrutiny" leaves me again wondering what the hell NAPO are doing.

    There was a post the other week that a planned Parliamentary briefing by NAPO was cancelled at the union's request. If true, why? I would think MPs time is difficult to get, so if they were going to attend a briefing on this mess and someone from NAPA HQ couldn't attend (and I accept it could be for genuine reasons), then why didn't they get someone else to attend? Surely this is the least they should have done for members.

    I see the NAPO site has a number of Parliamentary bulletins (three this month + more last month) detailing the mess TR has caused - all very good. But I would imagine MPs get loads of mail and unless they are specifically interested in Probation it is unlikely to get past their admin staff. You can't beat face to face discussions and Harry's experience (or other paid lobbyists) would be invaluable. Put aside your egos and differences and work to save this service. Your members deserve at least this much.

    Whoever gets the vote for Probation chair/vice chair will have their work cut out.

  9. Totally off topic, but I really think this person should be sacked as an MP - no excuse whatsoever for his behaviour.

    "A Tory MP has apologised for his "inappropriate action" after being given a police caution for common assault following an incident between him and his former partner.

    Former police minister David Ruffley said his partner had accepted his apology for the March incident".

    1. Nice to know the police are talking DV so seriously!!! Tories should sack him immediately.

    2. They would not take our clients apologies so quickly!!!!!!

    3. There were 2,000 plus cautions for DV in 2012. And they weren't all
      Tory MPs, so important not to get too reactionary regarding diversion.

  10. What is it about kent and sarah billiard you tease? ;)

    1. She has gone to a nunnery

    2. she has resigned!?

    3. She has gone to do missionary work.

  11. Interesting to note that the newish Chief Inspector of Probation was in Manchester on 21st July, I have just spotted this 'conversation' via Twitter: -

    For posterity I have copied the Tweets: -

  12. I wonder what effect this heat is having on the prisons. Thick walls retain heat it must be awful inside at the moment.

    1. It is. Google Prisoner gouges own eyes out.

  13. NAPO GET A GRIP!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Prisoners are being held in police cells again waiting for spaces to free up in the locals. Yes it's hot in prison now and the staff are run off their feet, tempers are fraying everywhere, it isn't going to take much to blow the lid off very soon.

  15. Off topic perhaps,but still a power & control issue. Colleagues in Cumbria might be alarmed by today's ruling that, suddenly, "not one local authority can make a decision about a local issue". This relates to the County Council decision NOT to accept or contemplate housing high level nuclear waste. But the local borough councils (allerdale & copeland, both poor as fuck - with some of the UK's poorest wards) seem to have been "persuaded" to "reconsider the government's offer". Jamie Reed (Labour, ex-Sellafield & Tosser) is MP for Copeland (where they plan to bury the high level shit underground) and Tony Cunningham (knight, lush and retiring Labour MP) represents Allerdale - once the stomping ground of Dale Campbell-Savours.

    Holidays in the Lakes will never be the same. Maybe people could express their distaste to BBC's Countryfile. John Craven would never allow this to happen.

    Napsac will be heartbroken - or lightly radioactive. Maybe this will incur the wrath of NAPO?

  16. I note with interest the comments on this site about getting our message across to the public on the horrors of TR. Here, for what it's worth, is my view. Firstly, you absolutely need experienced professionals to direct both the strategy and tactics of your campaign, Many in NAPO obviously have both passion and commitment, but this is not sufficient. Too much of the debate has the vibe of an angry megaphone outside a governement office. Might make the speaker feel good, but public not interested, way too Longbridge 1973 for someone with my background (see later). Secondly, we're pissed off. Public not interested much either. What they are interested in is the risk that unsupervised offenders might pose to them. So, as Lenin used to say in my WRP days, "what to do?" Well, firstly, a complete no brainer, hire Harry Fletcher. A pro. This is no time for what the Americans call "amateur hour". Secondly, have an article ready full of public at risk examples and get this published at the right time in the right place. Not much use in July or August, try the New Statesman (not the Guardian) the weekend just before the Tory conference and hope that other papers and the media give it traction. Finally, point three, is the same as point one. Never met Harry, but I know the type. Where's all this coming from? Well, in another life I worked in a Political Party HQ on 3 General Election campaigns.



    1. I think Harry is so pissed off with Napo HQ he wouldn't go back now even if asked - I believe he feels the GS is impossible to work with. I'm sure he feels the members have been badly let down and deserve rather better, so is quite likely to try and do whatever he can to fight TR despite Napo HQ. All very sad, and an utterly disgraceful farce that desperately requires the election of a powerful Chair able to urgently bang heads together.

  17. At a meeting last week NAPO declared there was no cancellation of a parliamentary meeting and it was explained that no back benchers had been identified for the planned debate. It was said that this would be moved to September.

    It was also declared by the GS that if anyone blogging here has anything negative to say about NAPO they should say it directly to the GS who has claimed to be open to challenge and criticism face to face.

    Well, this is a tried and tested method which usually ends in a show not too dissimilar to a silver back despite attempts at positive criticism. Then of course you have the rest of the pack who just say any old bull in some pathetic attempt at batting off any criticism.