Saturday, 27 September 2014

Grayling Having a Laugh

19 September 2014

Dear Ben, David and Ian,

Transforming Rehabilitation

Thank you for your letter of 8 September, requesting that the Ministry defers transfer of ownership of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

I recognise that this has been a time of change for probation staff and I am grateful for their hard work in implementing these reforms. As you are aware, we are taking a staged, measured approach to implementation and are using all the period up to the point at that contracts are let to stabilise and embed the new structures. I can see absolutely no grounds for deferring contract signature at this point. We continue to engage with probation staff, who have been closely involved with the development, testing and delivery of these reforms at every stage. While some are still adjusting to the new structures and working practices, many probation officers have been engaging constructively with our reforms and are beginning to see the genuine opportunities these changes can bring for offenders and for society as a whole. It is therefore disappointing that some social and other media activity has been deeply offensive to members of staff, their loved ones and victims of crime.

The following sections respond to the specific concerns you raise in your letter.

Transition to new structures     
It is inaccurate to state that the transition has not been a success and that the NPS and CRCs are struggling with the new system. Thorough, externally assured business and system readiness was conducted to review key activities that had to be completed before transition to the new structures on 1 June. On the basis of evidence from the testing we remain satisfied that the business was ready for transition. Further more, the cutover period itself progressed well and we successfully completed the migration of staff, property and ICT to schedule. 

There are always challenges in a significant change programme such as this, which are in addition to normal operating pressures. However we rigorously managed the changeover period and continue to support staff as they work to embed new structures. As you would expect, we continue to refine the new processes; indeed we have recently set up a 'Solutions in Partnership' Team to both support the resolution of issues as they arise and to spread the numerous examples of best practice emerging since June. We would welcome your involvement in that Team's work.

CRCs ICT/Corporate Services support to NPS 
The period between June 1 and service transition was specifically designed to provide for a gradual separation between CRCs and NPS in a number of areas. It is therefore entirely expected that there are some areas where separation has yet to be completed prior to service transition. There is no evidence that this will not be done in time, and we are confident that we can establish a level of separation between the organisations so that they are able to function independently, or with support from the Ministry, by the time the contracts are let.

Parliamentary scrutiny of the procurement process 
While it is not for Parliament to scrutinise the procurement process itself, it is worth noting that the principles behind the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have been subject to considerable parliamentary debate and scrutiny during the passage of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill and and an Opposition day debate in the Commons. Let us not forget that the reforms were made possible by the Offender Management Act, which passed through Parliament under the previous Labour government. In addition, the reforms have been subject to a Justice Select Committee Review and ongoing scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee. In terms of the Major Projects Authority's (MPA) analysis of the Transforming Rehabilitation procurement process, the MPA as part of the Cabinet Office, is in no way restricted in its analysis of Programme delivery. The appropriate timing and nature of MPA assurance activities are agreed with the Programme Team. Assessments are focused on assuring delivery and are provided in confidence to the Programme leadership in order not to prejudice commercial interests.

Letting of contracts prior to the election 
You also raised concerns that the letting of the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts would be out of bounds of acceptable practice in relation to elections. We are adhering to the standard convention set out in the Cabinet Manual and followed by previous administrations.

Public safety post contract signature    
In response to your concerns about public safety post contract signature, I would like to reiterate that public protection remains our top priority and the transition to the new arrangements will happen in a sensible way, which ensures public safety at every stage. I am clear that we will continue our robust assurance processes throughout the change programme, only proceeding to the next stage when it is safe to do so. However, as practitioners, you will know that there are operational challenges inherent in the day to day work of the Probation service, and these should not be confused with, or attributed to, TR.

Staff health and safety
In terms of pressures on staff, we recognise that this has been a time of change and, although the Ministry is not the employer of staff in the CRCs, we of course accept that we all have a responsibility to work together to ensure the new system is implemented in a way that minimises the additional pressures such change brings. However, we do not accept that a change in the ownership of CRCs is significant in this regard, given that the new operating system is already live, and will have been running for several months before service transition. We recognise the continuing pressures on staff, however many of these will not be removed in full until we complete the change programme. Therefore, it is to the benefit of the staff teams that we move to complete these reforms as quickly and sensibly as possible and achieve the system improvements we all want. As you know, we already have work under way to ensure that the new processes are easy to use and, as a key part of the system, we would welcome your involvement in this, to help your members. 

Napo/Unison member survey     
Thank you for enclosing a copy of your recent member survey. I note that the survey was only responded to by 10% of Napo and UNISON's membership, therefore it cannot be said to be a truly representative picture. Throughout the TR programme, we have been mindful of staff morale and have sought to engage probation staff in the reforms at every stage. Trusts, as the employers of probation staff until 31st May this year, and subsequently the NPS and CRCs, have worked hard to ensure their workforce provided with as much information and reassurance as possible throughout. The MoJ also worked closely with probation staff to support them through the transition and is continuing to provide support to staff in both the NPS and CRCs as they work to embed the new structures.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to probation staff for their hard work to implement these reforms. I very much hope that as Trade Union leaders you will together work with us as we head towards contract signature, to provide the best support for your members.  


Dear Colleague,

Minister rattled by Napos campaign

An introductory meeting took place today between representatives of Napo (Ian Lawrence and Yvonne Pattison), UNISON (Ben Priestley and Neil Richardson) and GMB/SCOOP (David Walton) and the Minister.

Minister ducks out of AGM

As we had half anticipated, the Minister opened the meeting on a sour note, by making a clumsy pre-written statement denigrating Napo’s involvement in social and media coverage relating to the deaths of two serving staff and a previous Serious Further Offence. In view of this the Minister said that he felt it would now be inappropriate for him to accept the invitation to speak at the Napo AGM.

I responded to this clear attempt to deflect attention from the key operational and staffing issues by indicating that we had already explained to Colin Allars that we are comfortable with our position and that I would respond formally outside of the meeting. I also took the opportunity to inform the Minister that we had been informed of two further SFOs that had subsequently occurred and which had not yet been picked up on by the media.

These early exchanges and the Minister’s attempts to rubbish the recent Napo/UNISON staff survey results created a tense atmosphere for the remainder of the meeting which sought to explore the areas covered in the attached letter. Bizarrely, we were told that this had been sent to the unions in advance by Chris Grayling but in fact none of us had actually received it prior to the meeting.

Denial continues

As can be seen from the correspondence from the Secretary of State, which we will be responding to jointly with UNISON and GMB in light of today’s exchanges, the reception by Mr Selous to our concerns on: court reports, staffing, operational readiness, continuing IT failures, massive workloads and the lack of transparency around Testgate 4, were at times stunningly complacent.

At one point Mr Selous astonishingly claimed that it was clear that the staff he had spoken to up and down the NPS and CRC had “got over the grieving process” (following the split) and were now looking forward to the many opportunities open to them in the new environment!  He later sought to clarify his comments by acknowledging that a major change programme such as TR was uncomfortable for many, but that problems were being ironed out “day by day”. On the question of resourcing, the Minister revealed that the MoJ were looking to recruit a further 1,000 probation officers across both arms of the service. Napo and our colleagues estimate that this will require additional funding of around £30 million which we will seek to question as part of our ongoing dialogue with senior NOMS/MoJ Officials. 

The unions attempted to raise a number of additional issues that were clearly of concern to our members, especially around report writing, same day transfers and sessional staff crossing the divide, and the interface between efficient IT and the need to ensure public safety. Yvonne seemed to capture the Ministers attention on the latter point as she exposed his obvious lack of basic knowledge about the probation system.

Sadly, the Minister was determined to limit the meeting to half an hour, so a more comprehensive dialogue on matters which he ought to have devoted more time to if he was serious about listening, was just not possible.


As you would expect, we pressed the Minister vigorously about our dissatisfaction around the parameters supposedly being examined in Testgate 4 and whether they compare to HMI Probation standards. He said that, ‘it was his intention to have robust, properly functioning processes up and running at the point of share sale,’ but he failed to reassure us about how this was to be achieved. We also pressed him on the refusal to publish the results of Testgates 1-3, the continuing rejection of Freedom of Information requests, and the role of the Major Projects Authority who, we have recently learned, have refused to engage with the unions or release information. The Minister merely claimed that he was only following the practice of previous administrations.


The Officers and I will issue more news to members about the ongoing written exchanges. Yvonne and I compared notes afterwards and have come to the somewhat obvious conclusion that the unions were not really being taken seriously.

All in all, not the most productive of exchanges that Napo has had with a Government Minister.

Yours sincerely



  1. "Yvonne and I compared notes afterwards and have come to the somewhat obvious conclusion that the unions were not really being taken seriously."
    and there we have it, that's because they have failed to demonstrate they were worthy of being taken seriously!

  2. Please can we be careful about the use of SFOs as a weapon. In every SFO there is a perpetrator of a serious offence who has made a choice, however dysfunctional their circumstances and decision making. It is deeply worrying that the SFO process inherently seeks to prove that probation staff are held accountable for the perpetrators actions. And equally worrying that our union seeks to use SFOs as a measure of stress on the service. Yes, there are processes and duties of care but, as someone noted on this blogsite recently, no oasys ever stopped anyone committing a serious offence. We do not spend 24/7 'cuffed to our caseload. SFOs are rightly examined rigorously, but we should not assume that we (probation) are responsible. Just because the TR process has knackered the service, we can't throw SFOs around as "told you so". That implies we are responsible. It absolves others from their responsibility, e.g. the perpetrator, the police, the tag companies, social services, or anyone else who may have played a role. It also generates a culture of fear, leaving colleagues terrified, distressed and feeling blamed if a SFO occurs with one of their caseload. It feeds the monster we're trying to slay.

  3. "...function independently..." just one of the many comments that demonstrate the deep level of ignorance on the part of the minister and lap dogs concerning the work of public protection and risk assessment. A Judge recently requested in court specific assistance from the probation service - totally logical and sensible - and a kind of satisfaction was felt in explaining how that would no longer be possible now that probation had been split into separate functions. "Well that's very helpful" he commented. "Yes your honour" was the reply.

  4. Let me answer the SFO issue, in every case I have been involved in as a rep the person holding the case has faced formal investigation. The employer ALWAYS seeks to scapegoat someone and I see no reason for that to change, It is never the fault of the perpetrator - this is the blame game and with the pressures to make TR succeed I can only see that worsening to the detriment of staff.

    1. We don't get permission to have Union rep with us when interviewed on a SFO case. Voted for motion about this at last years AGM but not aware of any changes.

  5. Grayling talks about 10% of staff completing the questionnaire being not truly representative of staff as a whole. Well I woukd throw back in his face that his so called pilot of voluntary offenders from two prisons, that he uses as a a success story , not truly representative as offenders nationwide. Also the statistics of reoffending from under 12 months sentenced prisoners, not truly representative of reoffending nationwide. !!!!!!

    1. Well said and good point.

    2. That muppet's party got about 22% of the electorate behind them at the last election. Not too representative either....

  6. I would love to know where they found these staff who are telling them everything is running smoothly. It's just not true! And where are they planning to find 1,000 extra POs? Don't they realise we have to be trained? Or perhaps they think people who have left the service will be persuaded to come back because TR is going so well. Do they even believe their own bullshit?

    1. "Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to probation staff for their hard work to implement these reforms. I very much hope that as Trade Union leaders you will together work with us as we head towards contract signature, to provide the best support for your members."

      In the poetic words of my client 'fuck off Grayling'

  7. Some people on twitter seem to be saying that things are great their crc ..

    1. There are undoubtedly pockets where a handful of individuals are satisfied with their lot. The trouble is, the CRCS as they are operating today are NOT the CRCs that will be operating after the new regimes kick in. NOBODY KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN. It has not been piloted, the operating models are unbtested, the providers are untested, the proposed 'innovations' unknown. Current CRC staff are lambs being loaded onto lorries without knowing if they are going to a nicve new green pasture or an abbatoire.

    2. Can we have a link to the twitter conversations referred to please?

    3. Re Jim's request above @rjwakers tweeted at 9:32 PM on Thu, Sep 25, 2014:" I have to say the CRC staff in Plymouth are buzzing… great team, great work and growing reputation for innovation"

    4. There'll be lots of tweets at "@mojstooge" no doubt

    5. I think they've missed a 'N' from their Twitter name :)

    6. Seriously? That's the best comment you can come up with Anon 18:39?

    7. Anon 18:39 you are so original and obviously very bright..!

  8. It' Graylings SFOs that the country needs to be concerned about. Herr Grayling is not only a psycopathical liar, a bully who will do anything to get his own way, he"s also busy dismanteling any avenue of challange there may be to his personal agenda not caring if it's leagal or not. And I do believe it is his own personal agenda rather then party policy.
    It's high time the PM was asked if he gives Graylings personal agendas his full support given that not all of them are legal and most of them untested!
    Heres his next step in taking over the world.

  9. Good luck to all going to Epsom today!

    1. There seem to be quite a lot there and at least one journo who is filling Twitter with photos