Monday, 1 September 2014

More From the Ministry

2 July 2014

Dear Colleague,

Could you kindly clarify and respond to the following queries related to the TR programme and implications for the future of the Probation Service.

Yours Sincerely,
Mike Guilfoyle

By how much have the reforms reduced re-offending? The Justice Secretary has indicated that no great change from current patterns should be expected, though the current and steadily declining rate of re-offending by those under probation supervision since 2000 has been held up as a failure of the current probation arrangements.

Has the CRC bidding process proved successful in funding the provision of services, across all of England and Wales, to those with sentences of less than 12 months leaving prison? This extension of service is the great prize of the reforms. How effective are those services in reducing re-offending?

How significant is Payment by Results in the new arrangements, or are the contracts really block payments with a bit of a reward added on? The use of PbR was, of course, always the reason given for not allowing Trusts to bid for contracts.

In addition to the declared costs, how much have the reforms really cost across the piece to implement? Staff time in the TR team and NOMS, conferences and meetings, staff time in the Trusts, secondments from Trusts to the Programme, interim appointments, the use of consultants, IT changes, communications, signage.

What are the additional costs of managing and monitoring contracts (in the light of recent contract failures eg on electronic monitoring)? Could the cost of the reforms have been realised and used to fund an equivalent provision of services to the under 12 months’ cohort, without having the disruption and risk to services and performance caused by the TR reforms? Trusts certainly believed so – and some were already delivering the services, in partnership with PCCs and others, before Transforming Rehabilitation was published.

Are the CRCs any more liberated than Trusts could have been and wanted to be? Has the NPS been able to sustain managing the exclusively high risk caseload? Was the management of offenders jeopardised by the changes at any point? What has happened on performance overall? What has been the effect on staff professionalism, morale and motivation in the longer term?

Was it necessary to go through everything that the system has gone through over the past year to achieve what has in fact been achieved? What would a retrospective cost benefit analysis show?

28th August 2014

Dear Mr Guilfoyle, 

Thank you for your email of 2 July to which I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department. As the competition process is still underway and other elements of our reforms have not yet been implemented it is not possible to answer many of the queries that you raised at this current time.

In relation to your question about the costs of reforms I can confirm that the total Programme resource expenditure is part of business as usual costs for the Department and sits within the overall budget for the Ministry of Justice. As such there is no additional resource expenditure, other than external support and consultancy costs which have been required where the specialist skills are not available in-house.  Our proposals will be affordable within the context of the MoJ commitment to deliver annual savings of over £2 billion by the end of 2014/15. 

You asked about whether the competition process had been successful and how the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) had performed in relation to delivering services for those sentenced to less than 12 months. In terms of the competition I would like to reassure you that we have a robust and diverse market. The list of bidders who passed the first stage of the competition to win the regional rehabilitation contracts included a mix of private and voluntary sector partnerships – from charities experienced in tackling a range of issues affecting offenders, to small and large businesses and experienced multinationals. All of these bidders have experience in working with offenders or across the wider Criminal Justice System.

Along with the lead providers who have passed the competition’s first-stage, a further 1,000 organisations have expressed an interest in playing a role as part of the wider supply chain – with more than 700 voluntary sector organisations among that number. Mutuals formed by probation staff also have the opportunity to play a major role in the reforms, with a good number of the shortlisted bidders coming from this cadre. Bids were received at the end of June and we have healthy competition in each of the Contract Package Areas.

As I mentioned in my letter to you of 9 July we plan to commence the relevant provisions of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, such as extending provision of supervision to those given short sentences, at the point when ownership of the new CRCs transfers to successful bidders. We will do this in line with the Government’s commitment to roll out these important reforms by 2015.

In relation to the issue of how we pay new providers for services, I can reassure you that the Payment by Results (PbR) framework remains an important part of our reforms. The structure that we will put in place will make sure that providers have strong incentives to reduce reoffending, and will only pay in full for what works. This is a new approach, but not a radical step. We will have all the normal contractual arrangements that you would expect, including a clear set of service outputs which must be delivered and a performance mechanism which will ensure providers deliver these to the required quality. However, PbR will incentivise them to go further and develop innovative ways of reducing reoffending. Under PbR, CRCs will be paid for managing the cases allocated to them, and a proportion of their payment will be at risk and dependent on their performance in reducing reoffending.

We recognise the need to ensure high standards are maintained once the competition stage is complete and the new providers are in place. The Secretary of State will continue to issue national standards for the management of offenders, and the Government will place contractual requirements on CRCs in relation to the management of offenders, to ensure that the risk of harm posed by all offenders is effectively managed. Providers bidding to run CRCs will need to demonstrate in their bids how they would deliver high quality rehabilitative support to offenders, and they will be held to account to deliver these services in their contracts.  Bidders will also need to demonstrate how they will maintain a workforce with appropriate levels of competence and training to deliver these services.  

Additionally, where requirements have been placed on the CRCs under contract in relation to delivery of services, these will be monitored through NOMS contract management; this will include penalties for services not delivered to time or to quality. The payment mechanism design comprises two parts: a Fee for Service element, primarily for mandated activities that deliver the sentence of the court and licence conditions; and as I mentioned above a PbR element for reductions in reoffending. Providers can lose money on both of these if they fail to deliver.

Furthermore, the new system will ensure that professional standards continue to be maintained, with probation staff working in both the National Probation Service (NPS) and CRCs, and opportunities for placements and interchange between them. The NPS and CRCs will both be required to have suitably qualified and competent staff. The NPS will continue to use the Probation Qualification Framework (PQF) and CRCs will be free to do the same should they choose to.

We want our providers to have as much flexibility as possible in their approach to rehabilitating offenders. By putting our trust in front line professionals who work with offenders and giving them discretion to do what works to tackle individual offenders’ specific needs we will achieve the biggest impact on reoffending rates. However, providers will need to ensure that orders of the court are met and that licence conditions are enforced. They will have contractual obligations to work in partnership with the public sector probation service in managing the risk of serious harm. A diverse market of rehabilitation providers will bring innovation in rehabilitative services, and help deliver a real reduction in reoffending rates.

Finally, we recognise that staff morale is a very important issue, and as the employers of probation staff until 1 June, Trusts worked hard to ensure their workforce was effectively engaged and provided them with as much information as necessary during the transition to the new structures. We continue to maintain a robust communication and support strategy for staff across the service.

Yours sincerely,  

David Barnes
Rehabilitation Programme


  1. There isn't enough coffee or middle fingers to adequately reply to Mr Barnes.

  2. And what is the robust communication and support strategy that you speak of Mr Barnes ? I'm certainly not feeling the love here in London.

  3. It is a politician's response. It is wonderfully unspecific about the important details and avoids saying an awful lot about the present and the future. I have no time for these letters. They only serve to aggravate.

    1. I agree, you do read these types of letters with a sense of deja vu, all boilerplate language and it has been pretty much a dialogue of the deaf between proponents and opponents of TR. Reminds me Paxman asking Howard fourteen times if he had interfered in prison operational policy and each time he answered the same. So, we don't learn much from such correspondence, but I guess if nothing else it's showing that the awkward and unanswered questions won't go away.

      You never know, the MoJ may see the future in Joe Kuiper's 'manifesto'. The commitment to keep the core duties in an integrated public sector is nothing new of course, but maybe the openness to working with 'partners' in the private sector pushes the envelope out a bit more. Slimming down on higher management seems a good in itself. The Trusts were a failure and not of high calibre. Given the ideological nature of TR, probation is a hostage to political fortune and those forces rather than reason and logic will determine what comes to pass. As the Chinese proverb says: A peasant will stand on the top of a hill for a very long time with his mouth open, before a roast duck will fly in.

      I thought JK was a bit dismissive in saying that his visions had nothing to do with saving jobs, as though probation has been resistant to job losses. The workforce is shrinking and voluntary redundancies have been commonplace for years.

      I also think 'jobs' understates the motivations that bring individuals into probation work. I think careers is more apt than jobs, although it does not sound so palatable to say this is not about saving careers. JK may not be interested in saving jobs, but if terms and conditions are not preserved and enhanced there will be real problems ahead in recruiting quality entrants. So, attractive terms and conditions need to be part of the 'future' too.

  4. 'A diverse market of rehabilitation providers will bring innovation in rehabilitative services, and help deliver a real reduction in reoffending rates.'

    This might more accurately be read as:

    'By involving lot's of different organisations, who will want to attempt to make profit in different ways, we will ensure there is no accurate way to measure either success or failure. This will confuse the public and we will be able to claim our reforms are a success or if things really go pear shaped blame the providers. We have to make £2bn cuts every year and we'll get the providers we contract to do that for us so your job loss is down to necessary reorganisation to reduce costs and nothing to do with our failure to ring fence Justice spending. By the way we won't be burdening the new providers with all that red tape and bureaucracy that staff the Probation Trusts had to cope with because we can dump more of that on the NPS who can either pretend to like it or take their chances on the open market. Now p** off and stop writing such irritating letters as I have more important things to attend to.'

  5. Well done and thanks to Mike Guilfoyle for maintaining an effective campaign to expose the shortcomings of the Government in going ahead with a reform without seriously taking account of the practical difficulties known only to those who have been frontline practitioners.

    I have almost given up - like I did in 1992 when I realised that far too few colleagues are interested in much more than how the job works out for them.

    I genuinely believed when the proposals were announced in January 2013 and confirmed in May that year, that they would never come to fruition except in a minor way, that further nibbled away at the true spirit of probation, that underwrote the 1907 probation of offenders act.

    My MP, Priti Patel of Witham, Essex, told me with due emphasis on the day the ORB passed its last stages in the House of Commons (about February this year) - THIS will happen. She told me she had checked with the then head of the prospective CRC, the police and Essex County Council, that morning, that all was in place for a successful implementation in Essex - which is her main concern. She made no mention of integration with the NPS. They clearly have other priorities than effective criminal justice policies that enhance rehabilitation and minimise offending - which is why the whole scheme is so at odds with what I think is the purpose of 'probation' overall.

    I am astounded, that only comparatively few folk have walked away rather than collude with a structure that is at odds with what professionally they know is best. That many are working extra hours or for private employment agencies speaks poorly of the profession, but maybe I am misunderstanding something basic about integrity.

    Maybe all that remains is for the likes of Mike Guilfoyle to underline the crucial parts of the word-smiths replies to them so that eventually they can hold the government to account after TR collapses. I fear the collapse will be obscured by yet another media storm, about whatever is the focus of the day, with the msm & foolish politician's screaming for the resignation of this or that person, rather than look at the total failure of governance involved - as is happening with the latest south Yorkshire child care scandal - which is (I guess to practitioners) shocking only in the numbers involved as the fact of such lack of care of teenaged young people has been known about since at least when I was a social work/probation officer student on placement in a residential children's home in Lancashire in 1975.

  6. I think a lot of people are waiting to see what will happen before they decide what to do. Many of us have decades invested in this and don't want to walk away before share sale because,if it failed to take place for any reason, they know that it will be nigh on impossible to get back in. Many of us still believe that the powers that be cannot let this madness come to be because it is absolute lunacy. We will make our decisions when we have ALL of the information.

    1. Good points - meanwhile I cannot even imagine how awful it all is for most.

      Meanwhile I see via Twitter one Probation colleague has been asked to submit a FOI to find out if a client might be considered a risk to his child

    2. Be assured Andrew, many of us have walked away emotionally and in terms of personal investment in the probation business, the altruism premium which delivered so much over so many years is gone. However we have commitments and sadly, financially can not abandon our loved ones. But please be clear on this, we are all changed forever by this betrayal.

  7. I believe that Mr Barnes sincerely believes what he is saying. I think that he also believes that what he is doing is for the public good and that he is actually involved in a bold enterprise to bring about a revolution in the rehabilitation of offenders - though he may not have actually met one who was convicted (he has probably met Grayling). He talks convincingly about flexibility of approach and putting trust in frontline professionals as if liberating us from all the things that successive governments have imposed upon us and giving us new managers will transform us into rehabilitation miracle workers. But consider if you will that perhaps we not the government are the ones who have got it wrong. A generation of frontline practitioners have never experienced such freedoms and who are we to deny them their liberty.

    So instead of limply fighting TR and all of its nonsense let us together abandon rational thinking and our experience of what works and embrace the market without reservation or hesitation. Celebrate competition and back biting, welcome bureaucracy like a much loved friend especially if it is gifted upon us from on high. Let us cast away our bonds and have joyous unfettered relations with multinational corporations who deal in torture death and corruption. They are exciting organisations beautifully corrupt and rotten to the corp. Let us praise their work whenever we can as they are where all power comes from. Let our mantra of advise assist and befriend be forever consigned to the waste bin and be replaced with Greed, Immorality and Profit -its a lot more fun. We should march on Parliament demanding that they make contracts with the most ruthless and contemptible corporate entities possible and ensure that they are not regulated or called to account in any way.

    So we should applaud Mr Barnes naive optimism and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the foolishness that is the privatisation of probation freeing our minds of confusion and worry. Surely he does not go far enough. Let us be ambitious and creative and fervently demand that the NPS is also privatised as they will never be accountable and efficient unless they are. And while we're at it why not demand the return of birching and the death penalty?

    Stress? What stress?
    IT problems? Blessings from our corporate masters. We should thank them for punishing us with such diligence.

    These so called struggles are but small teething problems that will toughen you up and prepare you for the real challenges ahead that will make you stronger to serve.

    Only in this way can we go about our work safe in the knowledge that we are in a pact with evil incarnate and there is no more doubt. The odd blood sacrifice is a small price to pay for peace of mind. Ready to embrace your inevitable fate? All that is required is your heart and mind and of course your soul. Feel better already. Looking forward to seeing you on the other side.

    Starting to feel a little toasty down here? )8(---->

  8. Fantastic post and spot on.

  9. "The NPS will continue to use the Probation Qualification Framework (PQF) and CRCs will be free to do the same should they choose to".

    The key operating word being 'should they choose to do so'.

    Basically, this will give CRCs a freehand to employ officers, or more accurately unqualified personnel on the cheap.

    One rule for NPS and a freehand to CRCs.

  10. Off on a tangent... I see we're now getting so much closer to this Govt allowing the state to use any means possible to achieve its aims, inclusing the media. Is/was there a paedophile ring in Westminster abusing significant number sof children in the UK? Gone quiet. Exposure of systemic child abuse in Rotherham - and any and every one of our "rotten boroughs"? Gone quiet. And the many other human rights abuses and inequalities throughout the UK and the world. But...

    Parents take their own child to find what they believe to be a better or alternative means of caring for that child - MASS PANIC, MEDIA FRENZY... use of emergency international arrest warrant (created for counter-terrorism and organised crime purposes) deprive the child of his parents, parade parents on tv in handcuffs... And now we have the TPIM-Plus: what might they be used for? Gagging NOMS staff?

    I'm praying for Scottish Independence, then I can jump the wall and take my chances elsewhere.

  11. Most people I work with in probation do not like what is happening but are nevertheless striving to provide a good service to clients........being accused of "colluding with a structure that is at odds with what professionally they know is best" is unfair and insulting in my view......Bobbyjoe

    1. I agree, to be accused of colluding because we haven't walked away has pissed me off big time, what do I do with an essentially untransferable qualification such as the DIP PS Andrew prey tell? Bearing in mind I live in a rural area with no jobs and nothing near the wages I earn as a proffesional, please be careful with how you word things. I have a mortgage etc to pay and cannot afford a pay cut.

    2. So be it - I am much further away from practice and accept colluding is a harsh word.

      However I feel a sense of shame that I colluded with the destruction of traditional probation - consent to be made subject - early release only by application - when in 1992 I gave up campaigning against the 1991 CJA and got on with the job.

      I also accept that when I walked out on probation in 1988 without another job first it was due to personal conflicts with management and that I did have a CQSW & so did obtain locum local authority work before after a period of reflection I was successful in gaining employment as a probation officer with a different local probation service, to the one where I previously worked. I also spoke out as best as I could against the introduction of the DipPS, only giving up the campaign to re institute a unified social work/probation qualification in about 1998, when Napo's lead negotiator, Helen Schofield said we would not achieve any more than a separate professional qualification for pbn within an academic process at a similar level to the DIPSW. Thereafter all prospective probation officer trainees I met, I encouraged that rather than study for a DipPS they consider training for the social work qualification and then use it to apply to be a probation officer.

      As a 16 year old when I first left school, I rejected a job with a local newspaper that did not recognise the national union of journalists then approved training qualification (That was probably a lucky escape because I think I would have made a useless journalist, even though I was offered a very junior position with a newspaper)

      We need to make our own decisions and in exactly the same way as we might pursue a certain supervision regime or PSR conclusion - against the advice of management or colleagues, we are solely responsible for our career choices and that includes continuing in a profession where the standards and practice has been changed against our opinion.

    3. 'We are solely responsible for our career choices'

      From time to time I'm presented with the suggestion that our clients are making a choice when they continue to use drugs or commit crimes or make themselves homeless. I generally explain that it's often not as simple as it may appear, and that sometimes there isn't much of a choice for people to make when their options are limited. I suppose we could 'choose' the dole queue, the mortgage forclosure and so forth as 'standards and practices have been changed against our opinion' - but its really not much of a choice is it.

  12. There is something rotten at the top of society and I thinks its clear that there is a police and media cover up. We may be on the brink of war with Russia, the neo-cons want one and it would push up the stock price of many big arms companies,always a good reason for war. The BBC is little more than propaganda, the secret Transatlantic Trade deal that will underpin the the privatisation of the NHS, push down wages and kill off unions but is seen by the BBC as a job creating opportunity. The world is in parlous state yet we are whitewashed with a personal family tragedy that has real gravitas. Rotherham, war with Russia, the creation of a caliphate and the privatisation of the public services get pushed out of the news. What is going on??


    Manipulation and brainwashing.

  13. I suspect this is a standard letter being sent out by Mr Barnes and the MoJ. As has been said, good to see many haven't given up the fight. The music is about to stop and so very soon we'll see what of probation is left standing.

  14. Here goes - another day of crushing anxiety; of processing forms on a crap IT system; of facing accusations of being a dinosaur, a Luddite, a whinger; of grinding my way through innumerable tedious emails full of ersatz enthusiasm for a lost cause, or "instructions", or warnings about IT being "down" or how to "work around" another fuck up (i.e. it don't work properly so we've come up with yet another Heath Robinson solution - "hold your breath, turn around twice, switch it off & on again, do a handstand and it should be okay").

    Twenty years so far - I'm now counting the days to any possible exit that might present itself. Its a disgraceful state of affairs when such a critical public service is reduced to a circus clown show by a blinkered government.

  15. 1984 is here. Gagged from speaking out in public about public safety by the people who are our servants. The world has gone madder!! Grayling is the most dangerous Englishman. Jihadi John, nah!!

  16. Anybody know if V R is likely for PO s p o in N P S sorry to all of you who think we should stay and be killed by stress really need to know