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.