First off, here's some confirmation of the staffing crisis with a somewhat desperate advert to fill jobs in Gloucestershire. Increasingly people are realising that staff shortages everywhere probably means that redundancy will not be an option on offer any time soon. There's now plenty of evidence to suggest that some staff feel that the only way to try and regain control of their life under TR is to leave permanent jobs and 'take to the road' with agencies:-
Criminal Justice Skills are the market leaders in providing staffing across the UK to Probation Trusts. We are seeking recently experienced and qualified Probation Officers to work in a number of permanent opportunities in various locations. We currently have positions within the Gloucestershire area and our client’s requirements changes weekly so we also welcome your interest should you be available for opportunities in other locations around the UK.
Organisation: CRC Location: Gloucestershire Contract: Permanent Hours: Full Time Salary: £29,038 - £36,084
If there are not work opportunities available in your local area, but you are in a position to relocate, then our relocation support will assist you in making this a simple and achievable move. We can offer:
Advice and support on relocating – 30% of our interim staff work away from their local areas to secure work
Potential financial support – we can potentially loan you a deposit / initial up front accommodation costs if required
Support in finding suitable local accommodation – we can assist with finding suitable local accommodation and sometimes even an affordable room to rent with another member of staff if preferred and available
Flexibility with working hours – hours of work can potentially be negotiated with the hiring Manager if required in order to meet you travel requirements if returning home on weekends or if you are seeking part time work only. Many of our candidates work away from home during the week and travel home for weekends and have managed to secure work after struggling to find work in their local area.
If you are available for work and have experience as a Probation Officer, then please send me your updated CV (firstname.lastname@example.org) for consideration and indicate where you would potentially consider relocating too. We will then contact you to discuss the opportunities and relocation support we can offer in more detail.Another response to the TR omnishambles that has been mentioned several times on this blog is the significant rise in 'probation babies'. It seems that quite a number of young female officers have decided that the present chaos and uncertainty is a perfect time to start or add to their family. Of course this was always likely to become an issue with the extraordinary gender and age imbalance prevalent within the service over recent years and as a result is proving to be yet another aspect of an acute national staff and skill shortage.
The MoJ recently published the annual performance figures for probation trusts and prisons and I notice Northumbria Napo had this to say in a press release:-
Northumbria Probation Trust performance ratings confirm Governement gamble
Commenting on the publication today by the National Offender Management Service of the "Probation Trust Annual performance ratings 2013/2014", Mike Quinn, spokesperson for the Northumbria Branch of Napo, the Probation Union said:On the subject of transdermal tagging and the announcement of pilot schemes, Napo issued a press release:-
"The rating of all Probation Trusts in England and Wales as Good or Excellent just underlines the consistent job Probation Trust's did in achieving their aim of Protecting the Public and rehabilitating offenders. The publication comes just under two months since the Government set on the destructive path of abolishing Probation Trusts, and preparing to sell the majority of the work involved in managing offenders to the Private sector. Since the 1st June our members in both the Community Rehabiliation Company and National Probation Service have been besiged with IT failures, and numerous other systems failures, caused by an unrealistic and rushed timetable imposed by the Governement."
Mike went on to say: "In Northumbria, we have seen another well performing year, with the Trust having been rated Good or Excellent in every year since it came into being in 2010. The Government are embarking on a massive gamble with public safety accross Tyne and Wear and Northumberland by tampering with a well performing organisation in Northumbria, and planning to replace it with an untried and untested model of privatisation."
Commenting on pilots, Mike Quinn said "We've seen today the announcement of the piloting of tags to monitor the alcohol use by offenders - why then would the Government not pilot changes which have the potential to put the public at risk? The answer of course is that this based on an ideological agenda, driven by a Minister intent on seeing these changes completed before the general election."
Booze tags not the answer says Probation union
Reacting to the launch of the Transdermal tagging pilots in South London, which were announced by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, this morning, Napo, the union for probation and family court workers, claimed that the scheme would not solve the problem of binge drinking in the longer term.
Speaking on Sky News earlier today, General Secretary of Napo, Ian Lawrence, said: 'whilst the scheme is at least to be trialled first to allow for analysis, this will be seen in some quarters as a bit of a gimmick in terms of the wider issues. It is a pity that the plans to sell off the Probation Service are not also being piloted; but instead are being rushed through within a dangerously tight timetable for ideological reasons.'
In its submission to the Cross Party Drug and Alcohol Parliamentary Group in 2012, when the plans were first mooted, Napo told MPs that compulsory or voluntary sobriety schemes were controversial. The union cited the findings of charity Alcohol Concern who had expressed scepticism as to whether an enforced period of sobriety would necessarily change problem drinking in the long term.
Ian Lawrence added: ‘Napo has deep concerns about the lack of clarity about how payment and volunteerism within the scheme would work. It appears that an ability to pay would be a trade off in terms of sentencing. If the offender has to pay then it is clear that an individual with violent tendencies whilst drunk but who may be financially well off will be more likely to avoid a community intervention or a prison sentence than someone who for example might be in receipt of benefits’.
Napo also claimed that it had no confidence that the involvement of private companies in schemes of this nature would produce the expected results or value for money for the taxpayer. Ian Lawrence said: ‘the recent track record of companies such as Serco and G4S within the Justice Sector has proved that there is no substitute for properly funded intervention programmes run by skilled professionals in the Probation Service, which have been tried and tested in terms of reducing reoffending’.Michael Spurr was on the BBC Radio 4 World at One programme yesterday spouting yet more bollocks, this time on the increase in suicides and violent assaults in prison. Apparently he thinks the reason there are more violent incidents is because the guys are getting more violent. He assures us that it's nothing to do with cost cutting and staff reductions. Listen here from 21:02.
According to the MoJ's own assessments, 20% of prisons are now 'causing concern'. This on the Prisons.org.uk website:-
The performance of more than a fifth of prisons in England and Wales is “of concern”, a government body has said. Its annual ratings show 28 out of 126 jails, including the three opened under the coalition government, are “of concern” – the third of four ratings. Only one – Brinsford Young Offenders Institution in Wolverhampton – got the lowest “of serious concern” rating.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said prisons “are still running safe and decent regimes”. The prisons opened under the current government are Oakwood in the West Midlands and Thameside and Isis, both in south London. Oakwood and Thameside both opened in spring 2012 and are privately operated. Isis, a publicly-run jail for adults and young offenders in south London, opened in July 2010.
The ratings come from the National Offender Management Service, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. Its Prison Rating System (PRS) lists performance in four categories: public protection, reducing reoffending, decency and resource management and operational effectiveness. Overall performance is graded into one of four bands. These bands are – 4: exceptional performance, 3: meeting majority of targets, 2: overall performance is of concern, and 1: overall performance is of serious concern.
Separate figures show the number of prisoners who died in custody in 2013-14 was 225 – up from 181 in the previous year and higher than in any of the previous nine years. The figures in the report only go back to 2004-05, but the next-highest figure in that period was 211 in 2011-12. Of the 2013-14 deaths, 88 were recorded as self-inflicted, 127 were from natural causes, three were homicides and seven were listed as “other”.
Speaking about the number of deaths, justice minister Andrew Selous said the government was “working hard to understand the reasons for the recent increase. But this is a complex issue and there is no simple explanation, with the prison population containing a high proportion of very vulnerable individuals,” he said.
Mark Leech, editor of the national prisons newspaper Converse said Chris Grayling was “ignoring the facts”. Mr Leech said: “We’ve been warning Grayling for the last two years that his policies of savage budget cuts would have devastating effects and, now they are, he is choosing to ignore the facts when all the evidence is overwhelming.
“You cannot strip half a billion pounds from prison service budgets and expect it to carry on as if nothing has happened – all the more so at a time of record overcrowding and a massive shortage of staff – its sheer lunacy to expect that nothing will give – of course it will, and it is doing.”Finally, here's a reminder that the MoJ's interpreter contract with Capita still has some 'teething problems'. From the Mirror:-
A fuming judge asked a lawyer to trawl Chinese takeaways for a stand-in interpreter as the Government’s botched courts privatisation hit a new low. Judge Burr had already adjourned the case against Sun Liu at Cardiff Crown Court once, as no Mandarin interpreter was provided by outsourcing giant Capita. After another no-show the next day Judge Burr asked Liu’s lawyer to search local restaurants for help. The barrister refused and the case was adjourned a second time.
Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter raged: “This is the latest example of how the criminal justice system under David Cameron has descended into a complete farce.” Liu was in court on July 16 after allegedly failing to attend court in relation to offences of importing banned goods. She denies all charges. The case finally got underway today, almost two weeks late.
It is just one of thousands of cases each year which have been delayed or abandoned since the Government privatised the court interpreter service in 2012. Mr Slaughter said: “The interpreters’ contract shambles has been widely documented - but even by this Government’s standards this is embarrassing.”