Friday, 8 August 2014

A Fantasy World

Surreal - adjective having the qualities of surrealism; bizarre."a surreal mix of fact and fantasy" or what we in probation know as TR - Transforming Rehabilitation.

Here's Chris Grayling and Simon Hughes talking bollocks in the Guardian yesterday:-
We are also clear that we cannot meet our ambitions to reduce reoffending without serious reforms to probation. That’s why we are bringing public, private and voluntary sector skills together to reinforce work done by probation. This will make sure that we use all of the strengths available to tackle this enormous challenge.
With these reforms, a refocused national probation service has been tasked with protecting the public from the most challenging and dangerous offenders. The work we do with lower and medium risk offenders is moving into a new generation of community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). Free from public sector finance rules, they will be able to do innovative new things in areas such as housing provision – such as long-term deals with landlords to provide accommodation for those leaving prison who might otherwise end up sofa surfing. These organisations will be required to draw up a plan for the offender’s rehabilitation within the first few days of them entering prison. The same organisation will then continue to support that individual throughout their time in prison, and this will continue as they are released into the community.
These are major reforms so it is understandable that concerns exist. That’s why we are taking a measured approach, and ensuring that CRCs are first running in shadow form in the public sector. Probation staff are working hard to implement these changes on the ground and they deserve our thanks and support.
Our reforms to rehabilitation can deal with one of the greatest failings of the system we inherited – where there are more and more victims as a result of the same people committing crime over and over again. High reoffending rates have dogged successive governments for decades. Our two parties, working together in the national interest, are finally tackling this historic failing head on.
He was trying to put a positive spin on newly published results of the PbR pilot schemes at HMP Peterborough and HMP Doncaster:-
Too many prisoners reoffend. The coalition is determined to break this cycle
In ground-breaking changes to the probation service, prisoners are being given targeted support on release
Breaking the cycle of crime in our society is the driving ambition behind the coalition’s reforms to the criminal justice system. It is a goal that unites us personally and politically, even though we may disagree on other issues from human rights laws to the European Union.
The challenge we face as a country is clear. Crime levels are falling. Fewer people are coming into our system as first-time offenders. Yet more and more crime is being committed by people going round and round the system. It’s this cycle that we are determined to break.
Reoffenders overwhelmingly share the same characteristics. They come from troubled backgrounds. They may have had little in the way of parental guidance and dropped out of school at an early age. Often they have low levels of numeracy and literacy and nearly a quarter were in care.
Our current system is inadequately equipped to help them sort their lives out when they arrive in our prisons. It’s striking how many prisoners enter custody without any idea about how they will actually sort themselves out when they are released.
That problem is made much worse by what we believe to be the biggest failing in our system. If you go to prison for less than a year, you walk out at the end of your sentence with £46 in your pocket, and that’s all. No supervision. No support. Nothing. Most of these people reoffend.
That’s why this coalition government has agreed a comprehensive package of reforms to tackle this unacceptable issue. Today we are publishing the first set of results from our ground-breaking pilot schemes at Peterborough and Doncaster prisons, where a new approach to rehabilitating offenders is being tested. At both pilots offenders are being given targeted support on release to aid their resettlement back into the community. If the providers are successful at reducing reoffending they will be paid for these results. Early findings from the pilots have shown the impact that greater support from custody to the community can have, and this gives us great encouragement.
As a result of legislation we have already put in place, for the first time, every offender who leaves prison will get a year’s support and mentoring. Those on short sentences will no longer be released without the help they need to turn away from crime.
I thought the following comments neatly sum up an alternative version of reality:-
Had a quick scan of the PbR from the two prisons. Appears that even with a WILLING group of participants and an extortionate amount of money, the 'success' is negligible. Factor in that the two groups DID NOT have any Police cautions added to their re-conviction rates (whereas the other figures (which were higher in terms of re-offending) did) and it does not take a genius to work out that the whole think was an epic fuck up.
Jim, we're all fighting for nothing. In 12 months time, when we get the U12 months on our caseload (with no additional staff), the same people who have told me in no uncertain terms that "we can all fuck off if they think they are doing 12 month Probation after a 'shit & a shave' sentence", this whole thing will VERY VERY quickly unravel!! I would put my mortgage on the fact that in 18 months time, when Grayling/ConDems have gone, things will quietly revert back to normal.
As Frances Crook Tweeted - the only problems with Payment by Results are the results and the payment. Top drawer IMO :) 
I cannot fathom why the Lib Dems are so committed to TR. They have been from the beginning, and its just weird. Against anything even remotely liberal, unless they are being as naive as this sounds..."It’s striking how many prisoners enter custody without any idea about how they will actually sort themselves out" 
This paragraph was clearly missed in the cut-and-paste:"There'll be fluffy rainbows to ride on, mom's apple pie, sky-bacon and free love. Everything will be beautiful. No-one will hurt, no-one will cry, Israel will leave Gaza, Blair will lead the Middle East into Paradise, Scotland will become part of England and Rich Tea biscuits won't fall into my mug of tea anymore."
By way of contrast, the Napo press release was somewhat sober and lacking passion:-
Napo, the Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court Staff has today again challenged Chris Grayling to pilot his plans to privatise the Probation Service in England and Wales. The Secretary of State split the Probation service on the 1st June to facilitate the intended sell off of 70% of the services work to bidders representing the third and private sectors. The union says Ministers have told Parliament that the rationale behind the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ agenda has been based on the two prison based ‘Payment by Results’ pilots operating in HMP Peterborough and HMP Doncaster. The final results for cohorts 1 for these pilots are expected to be published by the MoJ in a press notice at 09:30 on Thursday 7th August 2014. (Napo will also be available for further comment thereafter.)
Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: 'Whilst we await these figures and the spurious claims of success that will no doubt follow, it’s worth remembering that the Secretary of State has misled parliament about a number of issues in connection with his reckless social experiment known as TR, and that the early results from these schemes could not possibly justify the wholesale fragmentation of the probation service and the massive operational chaos that has followed it.’
He added: ‘It’s worth remembering that Chris Grayling has so far resisted all attempts to elicit information about the discontinued ‘Payment by Results’ pilots in Wales and West Midlands Probation, which our members tell me would have demonstrated the limitations of such schemes as opposed to the continued use of publicly managed local interventions involving commissioned partnerships. These have been the basis of Probation's track record in reducing reoffending to its lowest level since 2007.’
The Union says that Ministers have previously tried to use the initial but hugely inconclusive results from the two Prison pilots to justify the proposed Probation sell off, but have failed to recognise the fact that these schemes are voluntary and will therefore be more likely to attract willing participants. This would not be the case where contracts would be handed over to the owners of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s). Napo is also currently challenging the Secretary of State to reveal the Risk Assessment of the Transforming Rehabilitation Project, and to publish the results of the testing processes which the government claims will prove that it is safe to proceed with the sale of contracts in advance the next general election.
Talking of alternative realities, I see that Michael Spurr was disabused of his assertion that everything is just fine during a visit to Bristol yesterday:-
Mr Spurr, 
The Branch see you have visited the Bristol Offices today and have no doubt you will have had sight of some good practice in the teams you have visited. This is to be expected, the legacy of the Probation Trust is that there are a great many professionally skilled and dedicated staff still in post determined to not allow TR to be of detriment to our service users and the public. 
We are less confident that you will have spoken to the many staff who are at or near to breaking point, or who have already succumbed to work-related stress and ill-health. We wonder whether you will have met with the Probation Officers who feel they have effectively been made redundant or the Probation Service Officers who feel insufficiently skilled to manage the risk of the new domestic violence cases they hold.  
We don’t suppose you will have noted the staff split has caused a massive drain of skill, knowledge and experience in important areas of interventions such as Sex Offender and Domestic Violence treatment programmes. 
We’re quite certain you haven’t met with the service users who don’t know their new supervising officer’s name and resent having to tell their story again to yet another professional when they already had a working relationship with the previous one. And have you had the chance to explain to some why, in future, they will have to travel to another city to complete a programme when previously there was one nearer home? 
Has it been made plain to you today, Mr Spurr, that we do not have the IT systems in place for us to do our work? and that not having access to offender risk assessments and contact records has the potential to put both staff and the public at risk. Even when available those systems often frustrate and infuriate rather than facilitate. 
So, Mr Spurr, We are glad you witnessed good practice and dedicated professionals at work and we hope credit is given where due to our colleagues who have so far stayed afloat. We do hope that your visit doesn’t result in a facile comment suggesting everything is ok, on track and functioning, it plainly isn’t. 
Sincerely, On behalf of the Branch Executive. 
Simon Clarke, Napo Western Branch Co-Chair
Finally, as I write this, news is coming in of the continuing crisis in Manchester. PO's are being invited to cross borders to give assistance, on pain of direction, and cash is being offered to anyone willing and able to write reports, whilst other staff are being directed to write reports. 

Chris and Simon - it looks like it's all going really well!


  1. Can a private company direct an employee to work for a public sector organization? I cannot see that in my contract!

  2. CRC staff can be directed up until share sale.

  3. Maybe there are no bidders and this is the first stage of merging us all back together? Who knows ffs!

  4. off topic but just seen thsi on twitter (posted by Sally Lewis)
    MoJ strike against shared service outsourcing extended

    Wednesday, July 30, 2014

    Civil servants at the Newport shared service centre for the MoJ have voted to extend one day strike action to two days. The staff who are represented by the Public and Commercial Service Union are taking this strike action in protest to proposals made to outsource the MoJ’s back office services to outsourcing provider Shared Services Connected Limited.

  5. I am CRC in city centre Manchester and have more PRS allocated to me than those in NPS. Anon 08:15 I hope you are right.

    1. How can that be?

    2. We have never stopped writing reports and had been directed until we receive further notice. Due to the cock up that Manchester made in the shafting they are very short staffed so CRC's are propping them up. I have also heard today that there are 10 NPS jobs for the city, applications from CRC staff which will I think be advertised next week. Having spoke with some of my CRC colleagues no one in our office seems to want to apply. If this is the same around the city what are they going to do, re-shaft us. Watch out people there maybe a shaft X2 coming our way.

  6. Anonymous8 August 2014 09:12 - now that's called taking action.

  7. I dont think enough members would strike were NAPO to call a strike now, which is a shame as there is a lot to play for over the next six months

  8. Just caught last few seconds of Ian Lawrence on radio 5 Live talking about the death of a client due to the reorganisation of the probation Service. Should be on" I player" later.

  9. 'A refocussed national probation service'. I work for this organisation as a PO. It is so unfocussed and chaotic you wouldn't trust it with much. Why? As it has been wrecked, wrecked and wrecked. Grayling is a total shame.

  10. Commenter earlier said "Just caught last few seconds of Ian Lawrence on radio 5 Live talking about the death of a client due to the reorganisation of the probation Service. Should be on" I player" later.". Unable to find this-which program was it, have checked the 12:00 broadcast on iPlayer, and the post was made at 12:36, so somewhere in there there should be an opportunity to listen, but can't find it.

  11. NPS advertising in our area to replace POs sifted into CRC against their will. Disgraceful abuse of power.

  12. I'm a retired PSO and my heart goes out to you all. These TR plans are thought up by people who clearly don't have Probation values at their core. I have read with interest how the two (prison and also, voluntary) pilots have failed to provide the justifications the MOJ were looking for and whether that makes a dent in the TR freight train remains to be seen.

    However, what would make a dent is if staff would stick to their contracted hours each week. I've read many, many comments on here with staff slating NAPO or their SPO and to be fair, perhaps those staff DO stick to their contracted hours. However, I think TR will likely succeed when current staff opt in to evening and weekend work (at extra pay of course) to put right what TR has messed up. It shouldn't matter if you've gone to NPS or CRC, if you would all stick together via work to rule you stand a chance of stopping this. I'm not advocating putting the public at risk, what I'm talking about is late PSRs and Parole reports which are of reputational damage and will highlight the inefficiency that I read TR has introduced. As others have pointed out, as long as you evidence these issues with emails or supervision notes to your SPO if you are struggling or asking them what to do and in what order, the SPO then has solid evidence to take further up the chain and you enable them to prove why things can't happen. There's no point blaming unions and managers when staff are working extra hours to make TR work. We tell clients to take responsibility for their actions - (some) Probation staff need to also because currently, the people up for the extra cash are shooting the rest of you in the foot!

    I'm rooting for you all and I hope you manage to overturn this TR nonsense somehow, but if you don't stick together I fear Grayling will destroy what's left of a profession I was proud to be part of for 3 decades of my working life.

    Jim - well done on keeping everyone informed - this is the best thing out there to showcase these ill-conceived plans.

    1. well said, I couldn't agree more !

    2. I agree totally with what you say, however in practice it is difficult to follow this line. In the last month or so I have been allocated about 12 new cases some inherited from staff that have left which are in a right mess all need oasys, contacting children services and referrals to here there and everywhere, I am still holding NPS cases and writing PSR's. Then we had a team meeting where the CRC mangers are now saying that our performances are failing, and we have almost been threatened with that Private Companies will not tolerate this and our jobs can be at risk, so what do you do, work to rule or work to keep a job. I can't manage this mess in working 9-5. I do not want to shoot anyone in the foot as I have been fighting TR with a passion. The bullying and threats have already begun.

    3. All this ' the private companies will be tougher' bullshit is just lazy management. You cannot do the same work with 100 cases that you did with 50, however 'tough' you are. These bullies are just cowardly.

  13. The Radio Five show was the Victoria Derbyshire show that ends at 12 noon. Perhaps its not on I Player but it will be recorded somewhere.

    1. Just listened. Its from roughly 10-45 to 11-00. Victoria Derbyshire seems to have a real interest in TR and seems to be sceptical to say the least about TR. Ian Lawrence made perhaps a too strong causal assertion re the recent death of a client. Hopefully she will follow this up as she indicated.

    starts at 44:30 Listening to it now. Victoria is doing a great job. Lord Ramsbotham is doing a great job. IL is ..... not a great communicator. Really worth a listen.

    1. Thanks for the link - good job not many will hear it - effectively it was four people talking about different things with no one - - especially the interviewer - Victoria Derbyshire (who is normally good - in my opinion) - having a grasp of the overall situation.

      Lord Ramsbotham did best - the social bond bloke was very cagey - understandably - he is employed to do a job nothing to do with TR -not one made the point about the future supervisees being sentenced to the programme - whereas -, as I understand it, the Peterborough ones are completely voluntary.. Ian Lawrence did his best but does not understand it from the point of view of a practitioner - the bit about the death was counter-productive - I have not read categorically, that the death I have read about is directly related to TR, so as Napo might end up representing staff in an SFO, it is probably best not to say much about it, yet, unless chapter and verse can be given, nailing a link with TR.

      I suspect BBC 5 live will not be returning to the issue anytime, soon and that most other journos will also stay away from it because it is so complex and needs a good background knowledge of what was, what is intended and the detail of the ORA2014 - as yet unimplemented - they are going to need to hurry up to get a start this year as I think has been publicly stated.

      Nothing was said about the most dangerous aspect of the reorganisation, - the split and all the consequences that follow from it - leaving alone the IT issues - which my reading, suggests is dominating much probation work and leaving less thorough contact with supervisors and clients.

      I just hope Napo's Communications committee can soon review the strategy being used and get some microphone ready practitioners lined up for interviews, and a stream of information explaining the detail to the media in general, because accurate understanding of what is happening is vital - for the media and public.

  15. anonymous yet again as we are not allowed an opinion! Having been a qualified PO for over 10 years I am even more disgruntled than ever at the ridiculous state of probation that this excuse for a govt has created. I'm now embarassed to associate myself with the self serving, power crazy organisation called beggars belief that public protection is dismissed as below 'process needs' (if it isnt written as we say, it isnt written) and at the beck and call of the the egos of the 'process matters at all costs' idiots! Have they ever actually worked with a client..blah blah whatever the current acceptable label is!!!! quite frankly, if you could see what I am seeing then you should be as restless at night as I am. politics...both nationally and between the NPS and CRC...i seemingly all that matters! point scoring at the expense of what our job is!!! This is a massive disgrace and an affront to those of us who wanted to make a difference to ppl's lives! I, quite frankly, will now do as little as possible for my salary...the organisations/companies will get what they deserve...nothing!! cases will get my all!!


      " The MoJ said the programme was being "rolled out in a controlled way to ensure we maintain public safety", and that it was "complete rubbish that staff are being silenced". "

  16. There is so much anguish in the posts to this blog. Anon at 21:48 it is a scandal that you can and will give your clientele "your all" whilst delivering nothing that your employers require. This is absolute travesty of our institution and profession. The "employers" have for a very very long time relied on you giving your all. They take it for granted, really they do, more than they realise. Its not j ust "goodwill" they factor in (increasingly without justification). They tick all their ruddy boxes with the results you achieve, whilst contructing more and more boxes to tick that take you further and further away from what you can and want to do to improve the lives of your clientele and our communities. The chasm between effective work and those that commission it grows ever wider.