The chaos rumbles on and it's no surprise that things are getting to breaking point now because the sun is shining, the kids are on holiday and so are a hell of a lot of probation staff. It was a stroke of genius by Noms/MoJ to introduce the TR omnishambles during the summer, just when there are so many colleagues wanting to take leave and of course had booked it many months in advance of the 'split'. This from the North East:-
Staff shortages closing Probation offices "no surprise" to Union.
A Probation office in Northumberland had to close its doors this week due to understaffing. Napo, the Probation Union, has learnt that on two occasions this week the National Probation Service Office in Blyth was forced to shut due to understaffing.
"Such incidents come as no surprise to us" said Mike Quinn, spokesperson for Northumbria branch of Napo. "The split of the well performing Northumbria Probation Trust by the government is best described as shambolic. At worst it's dangerous . We warned the Government that their ideological drive to Privatise probation would result in chaos."
The MP of Neighbouring Berwick Constituency is Sir Alan Beith, Chairperson of the Justice Select Committee. "Sir Alan was in a perfect position as Chair of the Justice Select Committee to help stop this disaster, but he did too little too late, and we're starting to see the consequences in a neighbouring constituency to his own" said Mike Quinn.
"Our members in the National Probation Service are struggling every day with chronic over work as a result of a shambolic split of a well performing service into two. This week we saw the National Probation Service office in Blyth have to shut due to understaffing. This is just unacceptable. Napo members are trying to continue to provide a first class service to the public, working with the highest risk offenders - their reward? Huge case loads, an over burdening of court reports and offices closed so offenders can't be seen."
Bids have been submitted for the Privatisation of the remaining part of the former Probation Trust, with the 'preferred bidder' expected to be announced in early Autumn.
Mike said "The glimmer of hope that we have is that Privatisation won't happen and we have an opportunity to try and work in a more sensible way between the NPS and CRC. Whilst Sir Alan quite rightly raises concerns about Sodexo's running of the prison in his constituency, let's not forget that his Party has allowed the potential of the very same company being in charge of rehabilitation in the community. We would ask Sir Alan to urgently make representations to the Minister in charge, Chris Grayling, that the whole process be halted, and that he work within his party to ensure they have a sensible criminal justice policy which does not allow profit to be made from crime and victims of crime"
Reduction in reoffending rates amongst those supervised by the former Probation Trust were the most successful in the Northumberland area, with the most recent figures showing a 16% reduction in re-offending.It's been mentioned already that a disproportionate number of female officers with children have been sifted into CRC's and it's at times like this that the cracks begin to appear. Then there's the no small matter of a mismatch in resources between NPS and CRC that's become particularly evident in Manchester:-
Mike said "Of course we are always striving to ensure even less crimes are committed, but our members have consistently shown evidence that what we do works. In contrast, the Government are seeking to gamble with public safety by introducing an untried and untested way of managing offenders in the community."
I am CRC in city centre Manchester and have more PSR's allocated to me than those in NPS.
How can that be?
We have never stopped writing reports and have 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 spoken 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.Things are so bad, I see overtime is on offer:-
Overtime - Over the next six to eight weeks we will be asking for overtime working to cover some very specific circumstances. Your ACO may offer overtime working e.g. at the weekend and over the summer annual leave period, which will help us to cover legacy Trust leave requests, legacy case transfer activity and a number of vacancies we are recruiting to. It is not expected that the overtime requirement will be extended beyond the end of September. If you are asked and agree to work overtime you can claim payments for overtime work using Phoenix self-service and choosing 'PS HR overtime and variable pay'. There is plenty of advice on the process for managers and staff on My Services.As well as temporary moves:-
Temporary move opportunities - Next week your ACOs will be asking NPS NW POs and PSOs to express an interest in voluntary and temporary moves around the division as a means of managing workloads. Should you be interested in a temporary placement (known as 'Detached Duty' in NOMS) then please discuss the opportunity with your line manager before completing the expression of interest form that will be issued shortly. More details on support available for temporary transfers will be included in the form.The recent spin by Chris Grayling and poodle Simon Hughes on results from the Peterborough and Doncaster PbR pilots has drawn this analysis from Richard Johnson on the Buying Quality Performance website:-
When the new outsourced probation service is rolled out next year (the tenders for these contracts are currently being evaluated by the Ministry), prisoners sentenced to less than twelve months will start to receive probation support nationally. However, is this really a replication of the Peterborough and Doncaster pilots? Is this really what the transformation of probation services into Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) is all about? (See 'Graylings secret revolution') If it were to achieve the same impact on reoffending, what will that mean for service viability with contracts being awarded to those organisations willing to put most of their cash at risk with ‘payment by results’?
Very significantly, both pilots spend more per offender than existing probation services and considerably more than any of the new probation contracts will. These new contracts will not fund the same frequency and intensity of post-release support. They will fund none of the pre-release and through-the-gate service which is so fundamental to the pilots.
As Grayling notes, “our system is inadequately equipped” to break the cycle of re-offending. But the newly outsourced probation services, with short-term prisoners added in, is required to represent an enormous cost-saving. These new contacts are about stripping out cost – aiming for a reduction of around 30% of current probation spend.He concludes by noting:-
It is hoped that the new probation services, if freed from bureaucratic dictat, can utilise their resources more effectively. Moving a large chunk of the old probation service into CRCs will allow contractors to achieve necessary cost savings, i.e. staffing cuts. It is hoped that need will drive them to form new local partnerships that will join up currently disconnected services. Perhaps the big private outsourcers really can innovate in service design. But, as one Ministry insider noted, this is not about procuring Peterborough on a national scale. Far from it. To suggest otherwise is either dangerously misguided or purposefully misleading.Perish the thought! Frances Crook at the Howard League is scathing:-
It is appalling, but not surprising, that Chris Grayling and the Ministry of Justice are attempting to suggest these very underwhelming results support the destruction of the probation service. Firstly, neither of the projects hit the targets the Ministry of Justice itself set, and secondly, the probation reforms bear little resemblance to these pilot projects. Transforming Rehabilitation is very different and a lot worse.
Supervision and support for those released from Peterborough prison after short sentences was funded by substantial additional money through social impact bonds – which is extra investment from the lottery and charitable trusts that could have gone to good causes. The government’s plans are to take money from probation to give it to private companies or consortia to manage people coming out of prison or on community sentences.
Under Transforming Rehabilitation services will need to be provided to at least 50,000 people emerging from short prison sentences but no more money will be available. In the Peterborough project intensive and specialised services were provided by experienced charitable organisations, who still failed to make any significant impact on reoffending, because they were given the impossible task of undoing the damage done by the prison.Finally, a few words on media profile. Ian Lawrence has popped up on national radio several times this week including the Today Programme and Victoria Derbyshire on Radio 5 live. It's prompted the following comments:-
Wot, no torrent of comment? I drive to work listening to an incomprehensible, unsure and embarrassing Ian Lawrence on R4 talking about parole vs. victims. Or was it a dream? Or is my handheld device broken? I get home, and after radio gaga there's radio silence!
Oh crikey, I am listening to this on i-player. jeeeeeeeeepers. Cringe
Agree with anon 22.18. If you have no current practical experience its best to keep quiet if asked about practice issues and use an appropriate practitioner to speak. Ideally one of National Officers?
NAPO has a Professional Committee - perhaps the chair of that could comment on professional issues. We also have a press officer (who was a probation officer) - is she acting as IL PR instead?
The relatives described the judge as an honourable man. He was telling the truth. The victim view is one factor amongst many - not least current risk. The victim view is not a veto. IL's comments were naive, but on subjects of risk, Napo too often is populist.
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.
Victoria is doing a great job. Lord Ramsbotham is doing a great job. IL is ..... not a great communicator. Really worth a listen.
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 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.