We're almost up to week 20 since the world-class Probation Service was smashed and split asunder, but it's only Tuesday and I've already got a full blog post's worth of horror stories. Given that the MoJ are still spinning the line that everything is just 'fine and dandy', with a few 'teething' problems, I thought I'd disabuse them of this delusion early this week.
I'm also publishing now because of the serious nature of the information that's coming in, and as a public service for the benefit of privateers currently waiting on tenter hooks for news about the success or otherwise of their attempt at getting a slice of the probation pie. It's your last chance to walk away unscathed from this utter disaster.
Actually, it's also specifically aimed at the 'Kevins' of this world. That new breed of CRC CEO who are currently spinning loads of bollocks about how things are running smoothly at the behest of their current MoJ masters. Typically breezy, here's what Kevin says:-
Since we became The Cumbria and Lancashire CRC in June summer has come and gone. I hope you’ve had a great one, whether you’ve been away, enjoyed day trips out or simply took time off to catch up with some DIY jobs around the home, like myself.
We’ve now been operational for just over four months and I wanted to give a short update on our progress so far.
To recap, in June 2014 the probation service split into two. The National Probation Service (NPS) now manages all high risk work and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) manage all medium to low risk work – this led to the launch of the new Cumbria and Lancashire CRC.
Since the separation, the CRC senior managers have been meeting regularly with NPS colleagues to manage the changes and have developed an interface agreement, which has established new working arrangements. Together we have mapped out new procedures and processes and worked closely with each other to deal with any early issues being highlighted as a result of the change. The CRC has achieved a lot in the short space of time, since June we have:
- Developed our business plan
- Delivered on our interim contract with the National OffenderManagement Service (NOMS)
- Held regular interface meetings with the NPS at local and regional levels
- Launched our new Positive Futures Offender supervision model
- Developed our vision and values
- Taken over the responsibility for six attendance centres
The next few months will continue to be equally busy as we move forward with the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. One of our priorities will be to support the NPS to operate independently from us by theend of October, alongside preparing for share sale and private ownership towards the end of the year.
If you want some more information about the changes or the work we are doing, please contact us.
KevinAnd here's what people on the frontline say:-
Revocation at the halfway stage also drastically reduces the amount of breaches that will need doing - again another 'no no' in the world of private enterprise. Successful drug programme completions must be worth ££ too because we've been instructed to get the element revoked as soon as a few negatives have been put in. Again better to revoke whilst 'clean' rather than allow the element to continue and they maybe have a relapse which would be bad for targets. It seems ££ is going to be paid for not just the overall CO/SSO but the individual elements too, hence the panic to revoke.
Given the above then possibly some private companies may do well from TR but I can't help feeling that it's at the expense of those who are down on their luck. I also wonder about future sentencing options should they re-offend in the near future post revocation - if I were a magistrate and told that X had had a recent period of supervision then what's the sentencing alternative because they can't keep giving revolving supervision. Courts will be looking at more punitive sanctions ie curfews or short sharp shock prison sentences. I just know when I go into supervision my SPO is going to be going through my caseload, not interested in work I've done with offenders, but checking why I haven't revoked X, Y and Z.
So this is how "professional judgement" is to be exercised in the future!! Need to bring to attention of local JNNC reps.
Why the surprise? Creaming and parking is the way these companies work. We all know it and said so before TR started. Services will be designed to secure the illusion of outcomes. The needs of the offenders and our communities was never a consideration.
Supervision by the private sector has nothing to do with the rehabilitation of offenders.
Successful outcomes will be measured by a claim of financial reward, and have nothing to do with the impact that period of supervision has on the individual being supervised.
Indeed, rehabilitation is counter productive for private enterprise. What they really want to do is keep the individual out of trouble for the period of supervision so they can get paid, and then (fingers crossed), they'll reoffend again so you can get another pay check by supervising them again.
I'm an ex offender myself although its been nearly thirty years since I even had a parking ticket, but I'm quite frightened by whats happening with TR, and indeed by Crisis Graylings ignorance, not only in meeting the needs of the offender, but by creating vast areas where manipulation of the system at the expence of the offender can occur.
As I said above, the ideal goal for private sector supervision would be to hope the offender will reoffend again once they've completed a 'successful' period of supervision.
So, is it beyond the private companies to have arrangements with private landlords (which they would call 'satellite accomodation'), providing a 6 month tenancy for those on supervision to claim a housing outcome, but where the landlord would refuse to extend the tenancy beyond the original 6 months? Homeless again, no supervision or support networks, and the private company rubbing their grubby hands together waiting waiting for that individual walking back through their door for another period of rehabilitation?
Could outsourcing companies be this callous, this manipulative of the system? There seems to me to be plenty of evidence to indicate YES THEY COULD AND WOULD! There are massive faults with this system leaving vulnerable people open to exploitation and abuse. They're not offenders to the private sector they are commodities and stock in every way. If you want a loan for the company against your projected yearly profit you tell the bank manager your company supervises 1200 offenders at x amount per individual so projected profit is y. Human commodities. It's disgusting!
Well said - we are already reading how some in CRCs are gaming the system by pressuring for early discharges rather than leaving a supervision order to run its course.
With regard to the voluntary and charitable sector, TR brings a fundamental change, that those organisations may, or may not have considered carefully enough. Information from charities working with offenders will have to pass information back to supervising officers. If that information should result in breach proceedures and a return to custody, then the charity involved in providing that information has actively participated in effecting the imprisonment of an individual.
Although it may be all above board and legal, it (for me) fundamentally changes the perceived role and function that charities perform in society. I mean would OXFAM say, be happy if the information they provided on offenders they worked with led to 60 people being imprisoned over a year? I think not. It just dosen't seem to suit what you do.
Why would charities for reasons of profit become involved with a government that is actively trying to remove itself from the Human Rights Act? And where do charities stand with TR if the individuals they work with are no longer protected by that HRA?
I have heard about one office where a CRC PO Temp is moving on, leaving 50 odd PO cases with no one to transfer them to. Coincidentally, at the same time CRC PSOs are being told they need to start taking on DV cases - something they have not done before.
I know CRC offices where Crown Court breaches have not been submitted because to do so would expose the bloody piss poor case management by temps that have exited stage left leaving the newly allocated officers to pick up the pieces.
Post split, not enough Assessors and Trainers in either NPS or CRC to train up new recruits. Pre-split, work covered somehow or other by committed L&D professionals. All well and good to announce plans to train new PO's - has someone seriously looked at corporate support needed, especially as CRC VR process creating slimmer structures. Whilst a lot of attention is being focussed on frontline operational staff - just take a look around at the emerging corporate support structures.
NPS has suffered badly through not having any corporate support post split.
The latest TR travesty in my NPS office (South Yorks) is due to lack of PSOs to cover courts - admin staff have been given temp contracts to fill gaps!! Heaven knows how they will be able to complete reports and assist the Court without training? The experienced and qualified PSOs assigned to the CRC are rightly disgusted! The POs working in court tell us it's a shambles and we feel the reputation of the probation staff is becoming embarrassing!
I understand role of SPOs with PQF candidates is to increase - yet a further responsibility! (I'm not a SPO).
I'm fed up of management creeps volunteering for everything (covering colleagues on maternity or other understaffed CRC offices) and then moaning they're tired & overworked. Stop propping TR up and you wouldn't be!!
I'd say that in West Yorkshire there is an uneasy and risky situation at present. CRC staff are getting very demoralised through caseloads of 90+ for PSOs and approaching 60 for POs (virtually all DV). That is untenable now and they will go under weeks after U12 months cases come on-line. I can't see why any private companies would want to take over as the reputational damage would be immense, they would be out of their depth and it would take an almighty amount of money to try to keep it on the rails. 'Staff mutuals' also wouldn't work because they are in effect management buy outs, and in WY they haven't got a clue about practice (they brought us post sentence assessment for god's sake as a way of making things more efficient. Doh!).
Meanwhile, NPS has become focussed on prison resettlement and report writing. The system is only operating because a large majority of PSRs are being written sessionally for extra cash by CRC and NPS POs. If the contracts are ever handed out the private companies would soon put a stop to their staff doing them, and then we would be quickly stuffed...... because that's the only thing that's keeping us afloat. NPS are also wanting to put POs into prison, hostel and court teams. All an additional need and cost because of the inefficiency of TR. Yet, there are no staff to move to these teams, and secondly, haven't managers realised that there will soon be cuts to NPS? Risk management is all over the place, inefficiency is increasing due to TR processes, partnerships are down the drain already, AND the financial numbers aren't adding up.
What a mess. What a government made shambles. What a bloody peculiar and weird design for a Probation Service, never mind one that was previously high performing!! If you were starting from a blank piece of paper, this would have been the last design on the list, suggested by the mad bloke in the corner.
Solution in my neck of the woods - Merseyside - is one of the following: stick everyone on 8 wk reporting; refer everyone to a partnership agency (this means I don't have to see them and the contact counts); revoke everyone; put everyone in a monthly reporting centre. This frees you up to do oasys after oasys all day long zzzz.
Similar in my area (north of you). POs transferred back into court teams to do the case allocation and risk escalation/review system, PSOs being made to write majority of court reports (v few full PSRs being done, so no OASys). Staff in wrong locations still due to TR split eg one large office having to put every case (CRC) onto reporting centre because only have one PO. Other CRC offices with PSOs carrying massive case load but one NPS office with PSOs asking for work with only 16 cases each. Managers fighting between themselves as CRC do not want some of the cases allocated to them.
Oh and I agree, the requirement to staff the prisons with POs can't be met unless they take all CRC POs to do the jobs leaving PSOs carrying virtually every CRC case. What really, really worries me are the DV cases sentenced by 5 day reports (FDRs) when enquiries (eg police searches) are not returned in that timescale and yet they are virtually all allocated to CRC.
Then my biggest worry of all SAFEGUARDING, I have heard CDOs say they do not have time to do sufficient enquiries - the scope for something really serious to go wrong is huge, it honestly terrifies me.
What business undertaking due diligence would not immediately drop out of the bidding? It is DANGEROUS, RISKY and reputational damage is the least of prospective deliverers of probation services worries. Victim's families will sue them for every penny when they are responsoble for what is surely coming. STOP, RE-CONSIDER and DROP OUT BIDDERS!
Pregnancy rate in our office has gone through the roof. Funny that.
In our office all that the PSOs seem to be doing is turning FDRs and Stand Down reports into OASys so-called assessments. I bet the private companies never counted on that - it's the biggest waste of time I have ever seen. And meanwhile nothing is happening with service users. What a pointless effing job.
One thing the CRCs can't control is what type of assessment they get from NPS. Our CRC staff are spending huge amounts of time making up the new shortfall in quality of PSRs that don't have OAsys with them - no SDRs any more just FDRs for CRC bound cases. Best of luck bidders - you'd better have deep pockets.
I am sure people can add a lot to this list. Just the amount of time trying to read impenetrable emails must add up to millions. I have given up reading them. they are full of meaningless tosh and I will try to hold out for some training on the ridiculous NDelius system (none though coming cos it's f*cked and they know it!).
The greatest cost though is not in the ridiculous additional little and large jobs that have been created, but in the loss of perfectly efficient systems, partnerships, and especially the skills, humour, motivation and dedication of truly excellent staff. The heart is gone, and the lights have gone out.
I have a lot of DV cases, some with 'live' Child Protection. I've been told to put them on fortnightly appts!!! Needless to say I refused.
The solution in my CRC is to offer the majority of clients 3 appointments with their officer for the duration of their Order. Aside from this, it's monthly telephone contact and revoke at halfway!
In Staffs & West Mids, telephone contact with offenders has gone through the roof, even for DV and on the med/high cusp cases. More worrying, figures are being fudged big time, office visits where offenders have not turned up are being marked down as attended. It's a terrible and very risky situation.
Keep it coming in everyone - I've still got Sunday's blog post to fill. This blog had a staggering 4977 hits yesterday, demonstrating to me that, far from everything 'bedding in nicely', a veritable head of steam is building up with shed loads of trouble just around the corner. Bidders - you were warned!