Thursday, 17 July 2014

Omnishambles Update 58

We all know that the sifting or 'shafting' process has been hugely disruptive and damaging to a once well-motivated and professional work force and that Chris Grayling either deliberately or accidentally fostered the notion of a first and second class class service being created with the split between NPS and the CRC's. 

Initially there might have been a degree of smugness by those newly-arrived at NPS that they'd be 'alright' and more secure in their jobs than those colleagues left with the CRC's. Many of us felt that this was a most unwise conclusion to draw and I'm beginning to hear quite a few signs of anguish from that direction as the realities of staffing levels, caseloads and geographic spread of responsibilities begin to hit home.

In particular it doesn't seem that the sheer size of the NPS regions was fully appreciated at first and staff are now finding themselves being required to travel huge distances and being directed to re-locate to far-flung offices in order to plug gaping holes in provision. We all know that the split has failed to match resources to requirements and the situation is going to get a whole lot worse with news like this from the Parole Board, as reported here in the Daily Telegraph:-
The Parole Board has warned it will have to hold thousands more hearings with prisoners even though there is no chance of many of them being released, following a court ruling on fairness for inmates. It currently holds 4,500 oral hearings a year and predicts this could increase treble to 14,000. The Parole Board said the increase represented a “major challenge” and would cost an additional £10 million.

It follows a ruling by the Supreme Court in October which significantly widened the circumstances where an oral hearing with prisoners was required. In its annual report, the Parole Board for England and Wales said this would include cases in which “neither release nor a recommendation for open conditions are a realistic possibility”.

The board’s chairman Sir David Calvert-Smith said: “The implications of the decision, put simply, are that the Parole Board will have to hold oral hearings in a huge number of cases which had previously been dealt with on paper."

The Parole Board carries out risk assessments and makes decisions on whether prisoners should be released, or transferred to open prisons. It said that, prior to the Supreme Court decision, the domestic courts had agreed with its position that a “relevant factor in deciding whether or not to hold an oral hearing was whether such a hearing would be likely to make a significant difference to the final outcome”. But the court ruled that the issue of giving a prisoner an oral hearing to determine their possible release or move to an open prison was different to assessing whether that prisoner is likely to be released or transferred.
Claire Bassett, Parole Board chief executive office, said the implications of the ruling were “already having a profound impact on the volume of work handled by the Parole Board”. Writing in the report, she said: “Current estimates suggest that the increase in the number of oral hearings each year could rise from 4,500 to over 14,000. To meet this challenge the Board received additional funding and is undergoing significant change as it develops a new operating model.”
Justice minister Lord Faulks said the Government was working with the Parole Board to ensure it was able to cope with extra hearings following the court's decision. "The board has been given an additional £3 million funding to enable them to handle any increased workload, and is also introducing a number of changes to improve their capacity," he said. "Together with the board we will look at further options to help them deliver an effective service in this and future years."
Keen-eyed readers will have spotted that extra resources have been given to the Parole Board to help with the demand, but I doubt that the NPS can look to any similar help. There may not be any more money for probation, but there's plenty on offer for tagging as we learn that Capita have scooped the board with a new six year contract as reported here in the Guardian:-
The huge public services outsourcing company Capita has been confirmed by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, as the main contractor for the next generation of electronic tagging of offenders. The company has been managing the tagging of 100,000 offenders each year on an interim basis since April, when G4S and Serco lost the contracts as a result of overcharging allegations, which led to the two companies repaying nearly £180m.

Grayling said the new six-year tagging contract would allow the introduction of a new generation GPS satellite-tracking tags for some offenders by the end of this year. While Capita will manage the overall contract a Redditch-based company, Steatite, will develop and manufacture the GPS tracking tags. Airbus Defence and Space will provide satellite mapping and Tefonica will supply the network. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the new tags would allow dangerous and repeat offenders to be tracked around the clock and could also be fitted to prisoners who are given temporary release from prison to monitor their compliance and conditions.
The current tagging contract which has cost more than £700m since 2005 enables about 100,000 offenders to be tagged each year. Tags are currently used to monitor whether offenders released from prison under home detention curfew or under court curfew orders remain at an address. They are also used to monitor bail conditions. Grayling said the new technology would give Britain one of the most advanced GPS tagging systems in the world: "This technology will allow us to keep a much closer watch on the most high-risk and persistent offenders who cause so much harm to our communities."
The MoJ said all four companies "faced strong international competition to win the contracts". G4S and Serco were barred from bidding because of the ongoing police investigation. The MoJ claimed that the new contract would be delivered at a lower cost than the present contract and would deliver savings of £20m per annum in its second and third year of operations.
The ministry cited a "net present cost" of £228.8m for the six-year contract with Capita. Last August, the company said the contract would be worth £400m to them in revenues over the initial six-year term. The other three companies are to paid a total of £36.8m in net present cost. The new contract will be expected to include a new group of offenders – those being released from short sentences under 12 months who are to be supervised on release for the first time under Grayling's probation reforms.
Of course the last paragraph is the most significant as it gives confirmation that the under 12 month custody people - the famous group leaving prison 'with just £46 in their pocket' and the reason given for the whole TR omnishambles - will be tagged long before any thought will be given to supervising them. Handily, not having a settled address will no longer be a bar to having a tag fitted as the new satellite technology will mean that the homeless can be tracked in shop doorways or on park benches.

Not just that either. I understand that Chris Grayling rather fancies other aspects of the new technology, such as the ability to monitor alcohol consumption by means of transdermal tags, as described here:-
Transdermal alcohol monitoring is one of several alcohol monitoring technologies available today. It allows officials to monitor the alcohol use of probationers or parolees through an ankle-worn, non-invasive device that regularly checks the wearer’s transdermal alcohol concentration, or TAC. TAC is very similar to the better-known blood-alcohol content, or BAC.
Because alcohol is absorbed into the body’s soft tissues, about 1 percent of all ingested alcohol is excreted through the skin in the form of sweat or vapor. When alcohol is consumed, it travels to the stomach and then into the blood stream and the body’s soft tissues before being excreted as sweat or vapor. The transdermal alcohol monitoring device, like the BI TAD®, detects the alcohol when it is excreted from the body. TAC readings occur anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours after alcohol consumption, due to the time it takes the body to process the alcohol. Using transdermal alcohol devices to detect alcohol consumption dates all the way back to the 1930s, and has been validated by science and in the courts.
I've also heard Chris is keen on the possibilities that 'biometrics' might bring, so it really does look like the dawn of a brave new world. But we also remember the dismal failure of those electronic reporting booths that London Probation Service flirted with.

Finally, here's an interesting story that confirms all political parties are gearing up for the General Election next May. In what Labour describes as a bit of blatant hypocrisy, it looks like the Lib Dems are having a change of mind over the Tory bedroom tax, as reported here by the BBC:-
Lib Dems are proposing changes to the housing benefit cut for people judged to have bedrooms they do not need. The changes, called the "bedroom tax" by critics but described by ministers as the removal of a "spare room subsidy", were introduced last year in England, Scotland and Wales. Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said it was "time to take stock and change our approach".
Labour accused the Lib Dems, who had supported the change, of "hypocrisy". And a senior Conservative source told BBC political correspondent Chris Mason it was a "cynical PR stunt". The changes have meant a cut to the housing benefit paid to eligible council tenants and those who rent from housing associations who were judged to have bedrooms that they did not need. If tenants are deemed to have one spare room, the amount of rent eligible for housing benefit is cut by 14%. Those with two or more spare bedrooms have reductions of 25%.
Writing in the Daily Mirror, Mr Alexander proposed that nobody should face a cut in state help if there was no suitable smaller property available, and that disabled claimants should be exempt. New tenants in the social rented sector should still be subject to the changes, he said, but existing tenants would only be penalised if they were offered a "suitable smaller home and, crucially, turn it down".
Mr Alexander said the Lib Dems would "make the case for these new fairer rules" immediately, adding: "If we cannot convince our Conservative coalition partners, we will commit to these reforms in the our 2015 Liberal Democrat manifesto." A senior Liberal Democrat source told Chris Mason the party could not be precise at this stage about how much their proposed change would cost, but it is thought it would be around a few hundred million pounds.
Maybe we can expect a similar "time to take stock and change our approach" when the Lib Dems finally wake up to what an utter uber omnishambles TR is proving to be and that they have been shafted by their coalition partners who never had any intention of 'supervising' or helping the under 12 month custody 'leaving prison with just £46 in their pocket' people at all.

30 comments:

  1. I can't see the LibDems riding to the rescue. On 5Live this morning Paddy Ashdown, while describing "cordial" relations with Chris Grayling, stated areas of agreement including "the changes to the probation service".

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    1. I agree completely. Those in charge of the LibDems are Orange Bookers who espouse economic liberalism and thus a smaller state. They will not lose sleep over TR or suffer any hangovers.

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  2. All three of the main parties are plugged firmly into the Neo_liberal agenda. We will be collecting fines and stopping benefits before the decade is out.

    I work in a prison and I can tell you that the Parole requests are coming in thick and fast. Stress levels are sky high across the prison and this is just the beginning, wait until the CRC share sale the excrement will hit the fan then. Strangely management think that all our problems will be over when the CRC's come into the prison; bloody delusional.

    papa

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    1. It begs the question as to WHEN the short custodial sentences will be allocated to (mainly) CRC. If they are at sentence stage, then it will be impossible, and I stress that word, to visit and assess each and every client. What is likely to happen is that those doing less than 6-8 weeks will be given a discharge appointment to see their OM, many of whom will FTA. So then we are back to breaching/recalling them, adding costs and time to the process, costs and time to the Court process, cost and time to the recall section, cost and time to the Police who have to look for them. Now I cannot see how this is going to be effective!!

      And, if this was not bad enough, we all know that when many people decide to go AWOL as there is a warrant out for them, they just stop signing on. Sooooooo where will they get any money from?

      Bingo. They'll likely rob it. So crime goes up.

      So we now have a increase in cost, time, effort and crime. And that's before we get to the impact on the CRC.

      I work in the IOM and can tell you that it is bloody hard delivering and end-to-end service, attending sentence plan meetings, Licence conditions, setting up of services for release, short term interventions and long term interventions. This is just for a handfull of people and with the support of my team behind me. Trying to do this with over 30 or 30 people is impossible, considering that you will also have a caseload of clients in the community which also need your attention.

      I'm not at all worried about TR as I know the whole thing will collapse, there will be massive reputational damage and financial penalties for all involved. Trust me on this. Whether we go back to the way we were pre-shafting I have no idea, but we will all carry scars from this, the only people who will be unaffected are the chiefs and ACO's; it's those I have special ire for and those I am determined to see pay.

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    2. Oh, and I've also used the Buddi tags. They are quite good at keeping at eye on your customers...right up until the point that they cut it off.
      And throw it away.

      So now they have charges of Crminal Damage and compensation for the lost tag. Which will be taken from benefits (after 3 months to set it up) leaving them short of money and then they go out to steal.

      If ever there was a 'thing' which personified 'Omnishamles' then TR is it.

      Sit back, do the bare minimum and nothing else and just watch the whole fucking thing explode....just remember to keep your head down in case of shrapnel!!!

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  3. I wonder what the supervision of the under 12 month cohort will look like. A while ago now I thought I read somewhere that it won't necessarily be supervision like it is now and that recall won't work in the same way either I wonder if everyone will be put on a tracker and that'll be it. Does anyone have any links to literature on this?

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    1. I think they threw away the original fag packet that the plans were originally worked out on.

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    2. Your faith in the rigour of the system is admirable, and to be commended, but I fear it is misplaced. Literature? Highly highly unlikely. Grayling's attitude requires no evidence, he goes with his gut. Frankly we need to stop attributing honourable motives to these people. They have none. It is all balance sheets and bonuses for directors and those on the various levels of the payroll. PS-MoJ, we know you track this blog. Some of us, as you can see, see right through you ;)

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    3. As large as it is, going with his gut is not going to butter any parsnips!!

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    4. Most guts are, biologically speaking, full of shit.

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  4. Bureaucracy in prisons is undermining the whole system, Offender Supervisors are spending their days chained to their computers completing OASys and variety of reports and risk assessments. The result is prisoners are not being seen, stresses are building and violence is on the rise. Many in prison have mental health issues and many have been damaged via their contact with the state or damaged from within the home. They need to be seen, they need to talk about their problems but this is the last thing on the minds of overstretched prison staff. I fear for the well-being of staff and clients in what is becoming a long hot summer in the prison estate. Prison managers have no idea how the impact of a fragmented Probation Service will affect them; blindly they follow the demands imposed on them by the fools in Westminster and NOMS. They are managerial Zombies similar to our very own senior management, "forgive them for they know not what they do".

    papa

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    1. Q.
      Figures suggest that they will be c50k offenders per annum released after serving under 12 months. One thousand per week (roughly). How many additional administrators will it take (from prison budgets of course), to process the paperwork, inform OM's, prepare Licences etc.

      A.
      A lot. A fucking lot. And each being paid around £15k per annum.


      And it will take a lot more OM's/OS', both in the community and in custody to deal with them. Each one needing payment.
      And they plan to do this AND deliver a better service, all for less money? You're having a giraffe.

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  5. I was involved in the IOM/PPO pilot for satellite tagging and unless there has been a massive change in the technology in 3 months you still need a house to plug the beacon into and a power supply to keep it charged. It is also massively intensive manpower-wise as it requires a lot of work to cross match offences with peoples locations if it is going to be used for investigation/enforcement purposes.

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    1. Yeah, the battery (which was the half the size of a house brick) needed charging each night and the offender was plugged into the mains for 6 hours as the tag remained on his leg with a power cord stretching to the plug.

      At least I knew where he was, maybe this is what they are alluding to :)

      Oh, and who will pay for the additional electricity as I know many of mine were on a pre-paid meter.

      Jim, might be worth doing a blog just totting up the massive sums of money the whole thing will cost.

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    2. Clearly my expectations of the technology far exceeds the reality! I wonder if Grayling knows? lol

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    3. And if you know people who know people, it might be worth expanding the summary of costs to take into account having to pay the additional staff which is needed to ensure what needs doing, gets done.

      And if you have the 'phone number for Wonga, given them a ring and ask if they have a few Million spare to lent to Sodexo et al :)

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    4. Most of my current caseload have been one of these trackers at one time or another over the past 12 months (the police pay, I'm in IOM). I agree with what everyone else is saying - there just isn't the manpower to keep an eye on their whereabouts every minute of the day and that's with only a small percentage of offenders having a tracker. Also, when they disengage and want to do a runner they just cut it off. They have their advantages don't get me wrong but they are in no way a panacea and would be pointless for most people.

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  6. OMG, can you imagine the breach process...and the extra business through the magistrates court where incidentally Grayling want recalls reviewed rather than via parole board, the latter being too busy because of the increase in oral hearings as a result of the recent supreme court decision, which in turn will require more attendees from probation and prison staff which in turn will leave probation office/prison staffing levels reduced when TR has already caused massive disruption to staffing cover and workflow....isn't it going swimmingly Mr Grayling?

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    1. Yes nicely summed up! The law of unintended consequences - ooohh a blog post title there I think.

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    2. great idea, I am in a nice simmer of fury tonight and could provide more unintended consequences ...how about the delius entry that couldn't be accessed to check the offender arriving at probation from outside area for whom a warrant was outstanding.... high risk of course...and who sat in the waiting room with vulnerable woman with her child in tow...and therefore breached his SOPO on probation premises.....or the offender who gives the court an address where he is prohibited from living at as his child resides there on CP Plan but he is not allowed there with the child and CDO for some still unfathomable reason could not access her IT...or the probation officer who has been assured by the manager no extra work will be given and then gets 2 more psrs because of staff sickness and then has a full meltdown and is signed off straight away for 4 weeks.....

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    3. It's shocking - thanks for sharing. It's so important that we get stories like this out into the public domain.

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  7. The whole operating model for TR is based on ignorance, erroneous assumptions and a lack of informed and consequential thinking. This also applies to Grayling's prison policy. It is a time-bomb that is going to go off any time. A tragedy is inevtable and prisoners are already dying. How much evidence is enough?

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  8. Grayling is like Teflon, nothing sticks, and he gets away with what ever he chooses to do everyday. TR is shyte and he is an arsehole and it looks like we have to live with it. It doesn't seem to matter how many prisoners die, what riots and upheavals are going on in the CJA, he's still around and no one can seem to override the mess he is making. He has got a free hand to do what ever he likes and at what ever expense. Someone higher than him must be supporting his plans for him to carry on recklessly.

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    1. The ones who are supporting him are the multi-corporate companies who are right behind Grayling & co. It's a very simple formula cut front line service equals greater profits for shareholders.

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  9. In our area, I don't even think many of the under 12 month custodials will come to the CRC. They are often activations of SSO's, serious recidivists or sex offenders breaching SOPO's. Hope the NPS are prepared for the tagging debacle. £46 in your pocket is going to look like a fabulous option.

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  10. Grayling is putting the nation in direct danger. Some time ago spooks visited my prison. Radicalisation is on the increase, young bright men alienated by what they see as the West's war on Islam are converting other alienated young men. With the establishment of a Caliphate in North Africa, the expansion of ISSA and the on going call for military intervention by Blair our prisons are becoming recruiting centres for Jihad. The spooks say that exposure to rational argument by people who have an understanding of the complex issues at play is the most effective way of stopping the radicalisation of this generation of young British Muslins. But what does Graying do? He stops almost all face to face contact with this cohort. Staff are chained to their desks filling in forms; this lack of consequential thinking by the fools in Westminster and NOMS is endangering the lives of all who live in this country.

    papa

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  11. From today's Guardian (part 1) -

    The crime rate in England and Wales has fallen by an unexpected 15% to an estimated 7.5m offences, its lowest level since the official survey began 33 years ago.

    The fall is one of the biggest in the history of the authoritative Crime Survey of England and Wales, and was driven by a 22% fall in violent crime, a 25% fall in some types of household theft, a 15% fall in vandalism and a 10% fall in car crime.

    The murder rate in England and Wales also showed a slight fall in 2013, down to 551, and is now nearly 50% below the 2001-02 peak of 1,047, which included many of the victims of Harold Shipman.

    The claim that England and Wales are now much safer than 20 years ago is reinforced by figures showing that even antisocial behaviour fell by 7% last year, extending a six-year decline.

    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the 15% fall in the overall rate meant that crime had fallen by 25% since 2007-08 and by 60% since its peak level in 1995.

    The second official measure of crime, the contested police-recorded crime figures, which have lost their national statistics status, showed a much smaller annual fall of 2% to 3.7m offences. Statisticians said this was possibly the result of a renewed focus on the quality of crime recording by the police following the political controversy over their integrity.

    However, the police recorded crime figures reveal a continued upward pressure in specific crimes thought to be related to economic hardship, particularly shoplifting, which rose by 6% across England and Wales last year.

    But this masked a growing north-south pattern, with the underlying figures showing rises in shoplifting of 20% in the West Midlands, 19% in Nottinghamshire and 16% on Merseyside. Increases in shoplifting were recorded in 34 out of the 43 police force areas.

    The police figures also show the first fall for two years in smartphone street thefts, with the category of thefts from the person, which includes pickpocketing, falling by 2% last year.

    The detailed police recorded crime figures also report a 17% rise in sexual offences including a 20% rise in rape to 19,214, the highest level for a decade.

    The large rise in rapes and other sexual offences was partly due to increases in offences involving children, according to statisticians. The police figures record 13,090 sexual offences involving a child under the age of 13 in 2013, the highest reported total for a decade, and an increase of 32% on the previous 12 months. They include a 54% increase in rapes and sexual assaults on boys under 13 which rose from 1,775 to 2,727 last year. The number of sexual attacks on girls under 13 rose by 25% to 7,611 last year.

    Statisticians said that the rises reflected similar recent figures from the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which attributed some of this increase to the impact of the Jimmy Savile case. They said that media coverage of Savile and the police investigation into historical sex crimes, Operation Yewtree, had prompted victims to come forward.

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  12. I share everyone ire at the idiot Grayling. But I think in the event of a tragedy the audit trail leads back to the old trusts senior management teams. They knew full well what this idea would bring and opted for the Neuremberg defence. Grayling is (I beleive) ignorant, whereas our leadership knwo the complexity of what we do. Yet they stayed supine and only a very few gingerly raised some concerns. Imagine what would have happened if all SMG's just said 'No'. Call me an idealist if you like but there you go.

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    1. There were lots of things they could have done. I still can't quite compute the shocking reality of hearing my colleague tell me over the phone that they cannot access 'the system'. They don't know who is walking through the door. This is MADNESS. It feels strange that Management have allowed this to hallen so easily. They have been bullied by this discriminatory Govt without any co-ordinated effort to resist it. It's called wilful blindness and others suffer as a result.

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  13. Breach rejected by NPS colleague who won't discuss because I'm CRC staff making me feel like a second class PO who can't do their fucking job right when I've been doing the same fucking job for many years! Madness!

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