Friday, 19 September 2014

MoJ Answers 1

Earlier this year there was a chance for probation staff to put difficult questions direct to ministers via a 'web chat'. Many questions went unanswered and as a result, over the summer, a small army of MoJ mandarins have been toiling over some suitably banal and obtuse answers. This typical MoJ bullshit is available on EPIC, the private probation intranet, but I thought it would be of interest to a wider audience and I intend publishing it in full via a number of blog posts.   
Ministerial Web Chat with Probation Staff on Monday 23 June: Responses to Questions not Answered on the day
1. Case Transfer 

Is the Secretary of State aware of any fundamental risks of continuity in the transfer process concerning offenders who have had a change of officer from CRC to NPS or vice versa? Does he believe that what he has created in spite of his vision of transforming rehabilitation is in actual fact an additional layer of bureaucracy? Should he not be concerned that this artificial barrier between two organisations prevent the fluid management of the risk of serious harm presented by such offenders?

What was the logic of splitting Offender Management? This appears to have created increased levels of bureaucracy and cost.

Why if you are reducing bureaucracy have you added three processes to the PSR writing and several new referral forms between CRC and NPS? It seems to me that bureaucracy is on the increase.

The CRC contracts, and the new operational processes, have been designed to ensure staff in the new organisations do indeed work very closely together to manage offenders safely in the community. I assume that in the first question you are referring to the risk escalation process. We sought to avoid unnecessary bureaucracy in the design of the escalation process, which underwent testing with Probation Trusts. There are many excellent examples of staff working closely across organisational boundaries to manage the risk posed by offenders, including through MAPPA. 

2. Evidence

Your methods are untested, unsupported and unsafe. What are you intent on rushing the changes through? 

What and where is the evidence to suggest that this 'system' will work?

Can I go back to PBR - What evidence is there to suggest PBR works and where can I find this?

Come on! Mr Grayling - this is a mess and its hurting dedicated staff and impeding their ability to work with a highly difficult group of society which needs continuity of provision and support - TR is not going to achieve this! Imposing additional supervision on S/T custodial instead of just giving a CO to begin with merely increases punitive sentencing, custody population and undermines community links! Save cost by less S/T prison and invest in more better resourced community sentences - still 10th of the cost of prison!

Reoffending rates are too high, particularly amongst short sentenced offenders who are not formally managed by probation. In the current financial climate, there is no way we could have extended supervision on licence to those offenders without substantial changes to the way in which probation services are delivered. Given the high cost to victims, and to the wider economy, of this reoffending, it is important that we act quickly. However, I will not take risks with public safety. We are taking a staged approach to implementation which will enable us to ensure the system works. This is why we have first restructured the probation service, allowing the new operating processes to bed down in the public sector. At the end of the competition, new providers will take on CRCs which are already fully functioning, and in which staff will be carrying out the same functions on the day before contract signature and the day after. We have and will continue to learn valuable lessons from piloting and local testing. In particular, the pilot programme at HMP Peterborough continues to provide useful learning. Our pilot at HMP Doncaster has also explored how Payment by Results incentives can drive better reoffending outcomes for offenders leaving custody. 

3. PbR

Is payment by results still one of the driving factors in the new CRC? If yes what would the payment model be?

How will private companies make money out of CRCs for their shareholders?

[In relation to PbR] How can the CRC/NPS be held responsible for an offence 24 months after someone's Licence/Community order ended?

Do you recognise that there has been a history of payment by results leading to companies working to hit the results in a superficial manner, including fraud? For instance, if required for those unemployed to find a job that lasts for nine weeks, thousands were found a job for nine weeks and a day only - thus triggering payment. 

Can it be said that Payment by Results in Probation will prioritise long-term successes with service users for their benefit and not financial benefit to the controlling owner? Instead of working in a similar way to Payment by Results in prison-based education which can incentivise multiple short-term qualifications for financial gain, and not longer term successes which are more beneficial to the service user?

Payment by Results is very much part of our plans. The payment mechanism that we are introducing will reward providers who are ultimately successful in helping offenders turn away from crime. However, we also recognise that many offenders require significant and sustained rehabilitation support. Our payment mechanism therefore also incentivises providers to work with repeat offenders to try to reduce the frequency of their offending, recognising that this is a step on the path towards complete desistance. 
Why is it considered good business to remunerate one sector (CRC) yet not the other (NPS), dependent on results. Surely the aim of both is to reduce reoffending.

Both the NPS and CRCs will be remunerated for the work that they do with offenders, but a proportion of the payment made to CRCs will be at risk and dependent on their performance in reducing reoffending. We want to get the best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors, at the local as well as national level. But our approach recognises that public, private and voluntary sector organisations are not only funded differently but have different drivers for performance. The NPS would not itself be able to take on financial risk, because it is an integral part of NOMS and the MoJ and it is not possible to transfer financial risk within the public sector.

5. Risks

What's your biggest fear about the probation changes?

Will you be taking responsibility for the damage you have done to probation and the prisons once you have moved on from the department?

Do you really think this is going to work? Why did you not ask staff that do this job everyday and know what they are doing? I have been in my job for over 6 years and thoroughly enjoyed it now I don’t know where I stand.

Why change something that was working fine and didn’t need to be changed? Now it’s all falling apart.

My biggest concern is the need to deal with more than half a million crimes that are committed each year by those who have broken the law before. The very highest reoffending rates are among adult prisoners sentenced to custodial sentences of under 12 months. A staggering 57.8% of this group went on to reoffend once released. Many of these prolific offenders, with a host of complex problems, are released on to the streets with £46 in their pockets and little else. Living with the status quo just means accepting more crime and more victims, which we simply are not prepared to do.

We recognise that this has been a time of great change, however former Trusts, as the employers of probation staff until 1 June, worked hard to ensure their workforce was effectively engaged and provided with as much information as necessary. We continue to maintain a robust communication and support strategy for staff across the service. I am pleased that the service is continuing to operate effectively during the transition, and am grateful for the hard work of staff.

6. Deskilling CRCs

How do you feel about the fact that many qualified Probation Officers assigned to CRCs are actively seeking to leave/retrain in other careers due to the blatant de skilling involved in TR Agenda changes? What impact do you think this may have on public safety?

To what extent would you agree that PO grades allocated to CRC have essentially been demoted as no longer hold high risk work, write PSR, parole reports, etc & now do role of a PSO?

I recognise that this has been a challenging time for staff and that it is vitally important that we retain the expertise of probation professionals. I want to see their skills and expertise in play across the public, private and voluntary sectors. There will be a contractual requirement for CRCs to have and maintain a workforce with appropriate levels of training and competence, and those managing offenders will have to meet the Core Skills in Probation Practice, including the ability to understand and respond to the risk of harm posed by offenders. Those bidding to run CRCs will need to demonstrate in their bids how they will deliver this, both in the short and long term.

Why are the Government advertising for trainee PO's where lots of fully trained & experienced POs are now in CRC unable to use their skills.

What is your opinion on the loss of skills, knowledge and expertise from the support functions? NOMS/CRC's could be about to lose the future leaders and innovators who could have made Probation Trusts more efficient if the "old guard" had been removed earlier.

I have had three lifers taken off me and my PSR/Parole report writing responsibilities removed by being transferred to CRC - you have effectively halved the staff doing these roles and de-professionalised me as a Probation Officer (DipSW) and 15 years time served... this is a total debacle!

Is there really a role for a qualified probation officer in the CRC? Since the changes, I am doing the role of a PSO, I can only see this ending one way. i.e. we will be paid less or "let go". Given there was no fair selection process, is this not a breach of employment law?

In my office staff are highly stressed and have been for over a year because of the TR agenda. People are leaving constantly and are not being replaced, as the staff just aren't out there. How can the new structure work without qualified, experienced staff to undertake the work?

Does the freedom and discretion granted to CRC by the TOM extend to not employing probation officer grades?

When does the Minister envisage both organisations being fully staffed on a permanent basis?

CRCs and NPS divisions are currently developing their workforce plans, building on the staff structures inherited from Probation Trusts. Once these are completed, they will be reviewed centrally and will inform the current round of recruitment for trainee probation officers. In the meantime, CRCs and NPS Deputy Directors are continuing to monitor and manage staffing in their areas and all vacancies are being managed as part of business as usual processes.


  1. I'm glad the MoJ calls this "Responses to Questions not Answered on the day" - since there is no way in hell any of these responses could be considered "answers" in any definition of that word.

    Q. Mr Grayling, do you prefer apples or oranges?

    A. The last Labour Government left us in a position where there was no fruit left for hard-working people, even those with £46 in their pocket. Access to fruit should not be automatic, it should be a privilege won for making a positive contribution to the work of the orchard. Oh, and bananas to the lot of you.

  2. Questions we have answers to but aren't going to give them to you Lefty Probation types because you will use them against us so here are a load of superficial soundbites that you have already heard and, despite your having not believed them before, we will repeat until they become irrefutable facts. Now p*** off and get on with your work.

  3. Just an observation, but there appears that almost everyday of late some small organisation is receiving funding and starting up some agency to assist those caught up in the criminal justice system.
    Also carried in some local papers are statistics published by the MoJ giving regional break downs of the big fall in youngsters getting a first conviction.
    Theres also this sh*** from Jack Straw,

    Obviously the spin doctors are working overtime lately!!

    1. Hello, Mr Straw, I’ve met you before,” said a prisoner in Garth Prison, in 2008. “In Brixton Prison, in 1998”.

      This guy had spent 10 of the previous 14 years in jail. All the bravado his ilk show as young adults had gone. He was now sad and depressed. But when he left prison again, the chances were he’d be back on drugs and drink, back thieving and robbing.

      Breaking this cycle is one of the biggest challenge the system faces.

      Once is enough for many people who end up on the wrong side of the law. Crime is going down. What’s particularly welcome is that the number of youngsters who are “first-time entrants” into the criminal justice system is much reduced. But a single crime is one too many – especially if you are a victim.

      And there’s a hard core of offenders who simply don’t get the point. The courts give them a second, then a third chance, with a community sentence. They take the mick. Offend again. The courts then lose patience and lock them up.

      In 2010, a group of successful entrepreneurs came to see me while I was Justice Secretary to ask me to pilot a bright idea, to get people to invest in schemes to reform prisoners and ensure they stayed out of trouble.

      The system has a fancy title “Social Impact Bonds”, but, in essence, it’s simple.

      Foundations and trusts (or individuals) put their money into projects aimed at improving crime prevention and rehabilitation. The greater the reduction in reconvictions, the higher their return – up to a ceiling.

      Below a certain rate, they don’t get their money back – it’s treated as a donation.

      I agreed a pilot – for 3,000 short-term prisoners who’d be through Peterborough Prison – just before the 2010 Election. This was the first in the world.

      Now a major international report wants to extend this approach. They say based on performance so far, investors in the Peterborough scheme should get their money back.

      The charities and foundations benefit, the criminals now off drugs and crime benefit – and, above all, so do the law-abiding public.

  4. This didn't happen. Its just left wing activists picking on Grayling again.

    1. A prison officer was hospitalised after being attacked by three inmates.

      The male officer, in his early 30s, was jumped by three inmates at Lewes Prison on Wednesday morning.

      Sources at the prison said the officer was with a female colleague when three inmates were told they were about to be searched after acting suspiciously.

      The inmates attacked the male officer, who has been working at the prison for about six years, while the female officer ran for help.

      The victim was taken to Royal Sussex County Hospital, Brighton, for treatment to facial injuries.

      A source at the prison said: “He is a really nice guy and will be absolutely gutted by what has happened.

      “He and another officer saw a group of guys acting suspiciously and asked to search them. They then went for him. It’s such a shame.”

      The attack comes after The Argus revealed how serving officers and inmates were concerned that staff shortages at the prison were sparking increased levels of violence.

      Last week, an inmate said prisoners were spending longer in their cells because there wasn’t enough staff to cater for them all – fuelling inmate frustration and violent behaviour.

      In recent weeks, Lewes Prison governor Nigel Foote announced his resignation amid the allegations and Lewes MP Norman Baker told The Argus he had written to the Prisons Minister for answers.

      A Prison Service spokesman said: “Prison staff do an excellent job and their safety and security is of paramount importance. Anyone who is violent towards them – or anyone else in prison – can expect to face severe consequences.

      “We have referred this incident to the police and are helping them with their enquiries. We always press for the most serious charges to be laid against anyone violent in prison.”

      Since 2000, 264 separate incidents of assaults on staff have been recorded in Lewes Prison – averaging more than one-and-a-half a month.

      A spokeswoman for Sussex Police said: “At 9.45am on Wednesday, police were informed that a prison officer had been assaulted by a prisoner at HMP Lewes. Detectives are working with the prison management to investigate the circumstances.”

  5. Response to Graylings article in yesterdays Gaurdian by Frances Crook. (Isn't the Guardian only for left wing looneys)?

    1. Yesterday Chris Grayling, the Secretary of State for Justice, wrote an article claiming that prisons were not in crisis and that suicides behind bars were merely unfortunate but, crucially, entirely beyond his control.

      On the same day he published a report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) into Wandsworth prison that was devastating in its criticism of every aspect of the prison linked to staff cuts, that exposed people being unsafe, overcrowding, insanitary conditions and deaths. The IMB is appointed by him to tell him what is happening in prisons. It is the latest in a string of reports that reveal the crisis in prisons.

      Mr Grayling claims that education is being increased, but there is uncertainty over education in 12 London prisons as the provider withdrew from the contract after payments were reduced when staff cuts meant that prisoners were not being escorted to classes. Education in prisons holding children has not increased or improved.

      Recent reports by HM chief inspector of prisons reveal prisons that are dangerous, dirty and where activity is rare. Wormwood Scrubs, Chelmsford, Isis, Hindley, Doncaster, Preston, Ranby, Birmingham and Gartree are all overcrowded with prisoners lying idle in filthy cells. The only report that had a ray of light was on a small special unit for 50 boys that has more than 70 staff, so no wonder it can cope. The other prisons have faced staff cuts of more than one-third.

      It is worth taking one prison as an example to show what things are really like. The Wandsworth report illustrates the problems faced by prisons. The prison holds 1,600 adult men despite only being certified to hold 943. Three years ago it had 427 prison officers; by June this year the number had been cut to 260. The prison was built in 1851 and the wings are Victorian.

      The IMB says: “Staff reductions have had a detrimental effect across the prison; restricted residential activity, availability of and attendance at work and education, stretched legal services, reduced gym sessions, changed food provision, cancelled outpatient appointments, problems with property, insufficient Mandatory Drug Testing and reduced library attendance.”

      The prison has traditionally held only adult men but recently teenagers have been detained there and this has led to a more volatile environment with an increase in the use of force by staff. Staff are not trained to deal with teenagers.

      Three men died in the prison in the last year; one hanged himself. There were 536 known cases of men who were suicidal. Violent incidents increased by one-third.

      There is a shortage of activity places so 500 prisoners are locked in their cells all day, even if the rest are only allowed to go to activities part time. The Secretary of State claimed that more prisoners were working but the IMB in Wandsworth says: “The Board takes the view that the Government’s policy to get all prisoners working is not supported by the resources necessary to make this a reality.”

      This is one prison but the pattern is repeated across the estate. Six prisoners took their own lives in six days a couple of weeks ago. Greg Revell was only 18 when he was left alone in his cell overnight in Glen Parva and hanged himself in June. Most prisons have less than a handful of staff on duty at night so even if a teenager cries for help there is no one to comfort them. Greg had mental health problems and entered the prison with red welts round his neck where he had attempted suicide. Greg’s mother is grieving for her child.

      The Howard League published figures showing the staff cuts and the Ministry of Justice tried to claim that they were untrue, until it had to admit that the statistics were their own. We have up-to-date figures to show that staff cuts have continued.

  6. Bit off topic but I have heard that colleagues in the NPS in Gloucester have been told they don't have to do OASys because the team is in such meltdown and management aren't coping. That means no risk assessments for the high risk offenders.

    1. Thankyou Joanna, for not assisting this process any further and for saying what you really think on the high-level correct platforms. You are a credit to yourself. You were also undoubtedly a credit to this former Profession.

      Nevermind though, OASys never stopped anyone reoffending anyway... good riddance! Is what I say.

  7. No need to print the article Jim, its just for interest.
    I highlighted an article yesterday about 600 assylum seekers discovered in the Queens hotel in London, and pondered who was profiting from this disgusting situation.
    Outsourcing firms again I'm affraid. And I bet you can't guess who 2 of the 3 companies in the mix are?
    OK, I'll tell you, G4S and Serco!! Now who would have thought that eh, especially now when Serco are under further investigation for scamming TOYOTA.

  8. Another company profiting from TR, I have to attend training in Monday delivered by Penna PLC commissioned by the MOJ to deliver transition training to help me to transition from public to private sector practices, they are making me become corporate. We have also been instructed, with exceptions being signed off by SPO, to see all our offenders in Criminal Justice Hubs, for this read church halls and community centres, no rational, just to manage numbers, but no confidentiality, pass to volunteers, god knows how we are supposed to build any relationships let alone reduce offending, yet we are told to follow desistance practices, FDRs on DV cases, one and a half hours to produce report, totally downgrading DV. Durham Tees Valley yet again, the lack of transparency, failure to consult with unions and the knee jerk reactions are alienating managers and staff alike on top of the IT chaos, but from Monday I will be totally corporate and privatised. Does anyone know the cost of the training?

    1. You get what you deserve in this World.

    2. I wouldn't worry so much as the effect on the cost of training now I'm afraid. It's perhaps more the effect on the Client and the Public... Maybe?

      "god knows how we are supposed to build any relationships let alone reduce offending, yet we are told to follow desistance practices, FDRs on DV cases, one and a half hours to produce report, totally downgrading DV."

      We don't reduce reoffending, it's the Clients themselves. Some kind of procedure based on some BS statistic has no real proof of working. It isn't going to help stop reoffending either if there's no Staff or even if the Buildings are barely occupied anymore. It's really cheap to run and make a profit out of... there's no real proof that anything really works to stop anyone reoffending, so just let them get on with it basically.

      So long as we're being paid there's no sweat. Statistics will show, I predict, a year from now, that there's no real change to reoffending either way and if there's a reasonable reduction then we've been doing a fair Job for a fair day's pay.