51 Bidders' probity
What should I do as a probation worker if a successful bidder who I may end up working for has been involved in fraudulent activity? For example G4S, A4E, SERCO.
G4S and Serco decided to withdraw from the competition to select lead providers of rehabilitation services. CRC bids will be rigorously assessed against robust quality, legal, commercial and financial criteria. The MoJ also undertook extensive due diligence of bidders on a range of matters, including integrity and legal compliance issues. As a consequence we have a robust and diverse market.
What is likely to happen to the pay and conditions for POs working in the CRC once the new providers take over? As they will be profit making organisations surely it follows that they will want to secure the services of POs for the least amount of money possible. Is there any protection of PO's current T&Cs?
As you will be aware, a National Agreement has been put in place to protect Terms and Conditions for staff. I believe the National Agreement offers a very good deal for existing staff and demonstrates our commitment to fairness by going much further than we are legally required. Staff will transfer to the new probation structures with their existing terms and conditions in place. The additional protections set out within the Agreement include a guarantee of employment in the new probation structures on 1 June 2014, no compulsory redundancies for a period of 7 months following contract signature, and an enhanced voluntary redundancy period of up to 67.5 weeks.
53 Staff safety
Elmley - why did NOMS deny staff withdrew to a place of safety over staff assaults?
I take violence towards staff very seriously. Although the level of violence in prisons overall is not increasing, there is an issue with serious assaults against prison staff and we need to make sure that staff are given the greatest support and protection we can offer. As a result Ministers have been keen to press the CPS to prosecute in all cases where the evidence is there so that there is a real consequence to prisoners when they assault staff. Work has begun with ACPO and the CPS to draw up a national protocol to govern how assaults against staff in prison are dealt with by the three parties.
In relation to the incident at HMP Elmley, MoJ responded to a press statement which suggested that staff at Elmley had withdrawn their labour from the prison for a day. This was not the case. Staff commenced duty at 9.30, following a meeting between the union and the Governor, and ran the prison as usual.
54 Approved premises staff
Is it true that Approved Premises Offender Supervisers will be replaced by Probation Officers?
I recognise that Approved Premises are an important public protection measure. It is important that, as has always been the case, staff working in Approved Premises are trained in how to assess and manage risk, and that they liaise closely with offender managers and multi-agency public protection arrangements partners where offenders’ behaviour gives cause for concern. The NPS will be responsible for ensuring that staff deployed in Approved Premises have the proper training and skills to do this vital job.
55 Information sharing
Because computer systems have been split between CRC's and NPS access to information about offenders is far more limited and inaccessible now. How can this be dealt with?
We have introduced controls within the main systems, based on individuals’ roles, to ensure that the right people have access to the right information at the right time. This will control which data authorised users can access, in a similar way to how Trust users did previously. There is no reason why information on offenders cannot be shared between organisations where appropriate, as is already common between many different agencies in offender management.
56 PCCs co-terminosity
PCCs are not co-terminus with CRC/NPS areas so have difficulty in committing to specific CRC/NPS wide RJ/Victim strategies!
I agree that effective joint working locally is crucial if we are to tackle persistent reoffending, and we have aligned the contract package areas with other agencies’ areas of responsibility in order to support this, while maintaining the scale and efficiencies we need. Many of the CPAs map one-to-one on to PCCs’ area of responsibility, and we have taken care to ensure that no contract package area cuts across either PCC or local authority boundaries.
We are engaging closely with PCCs and local authorities to ensure effective joint working continues at local level as the reforms are implemented.
Do you know or even care how low morale is at the moment with all of these current changes and failings? I really don't think you know the half of it! Everything has descended into chaos. How can TR be on track? This "ethos" is delusional!
We recognise that this has been a time of great change, however Trusts, as the employers of probation staff until 1st June, and now CRCs and NPS managers have been working hard to ensure their workforce is effectively engaged and provided with as much information as necessary. Through the existing contract management process we have not seen a fall in standards and will continue to monitor this throughout the duration of the reforms.
58 NPS Vacancies
When will the vacant NPS jobs be re-advertised?
Posts within the NPS operational support hubs that were not filled at stage 1 will be re-advertised shortly.
59 Communication with court staff
How are courts staff going to be kept up to date with new interventions so when they recommend a RAR to the court they do so with knowledge and integrity?
It is vital that relationships with local courts and other key criminal justice organisations are robust. The CRCs and the NPS locally will work together to ensure courts are kept up to date with developments.
60 Shared Services
You will know that the NPS/Shared Services provision is not functioning to an adequate level to support operational delivery. This is no reflection of the staff in Shared Services who are as helpful as they can be but they too have none of the answers and have not been insufficiently prepared for dealing with Probation providers who have requirements that are very distinct from the prison and court services etc. There has been woefully insufficient attention to necessary detail because it would appear that all available resources were targeted at a contractual level - be it the potential bidders or the CRC.
I am sorry to hear you have had this experience with Shared Services. I want to assure you that Shared Services had been preparing for some time for the addition of around 10,000 new staff from the NPS in order to ensure that key HR services would be available for the transition. Whilst Shared Services will take on board feedback about how services are delivered, it has a good record in combining the needs of distinct organisations (e.g. Prisons and Courts staff) and we expect this to continue with the introduction of NPS colleagues to the system.
61 Personal challenge
How much knowledge do you have of the Probation Service? Have you ever spent time at a busy Probation Office and truly seen the day to day work that is involved in managing all levels of risk? Do you know what a risk management plan is and what it entails? Do you fully understand the massive changes staff have had to undergo to put your ill conceived ideas into practice?
I and members of my Ministerial Team have undertaken numerous visits to Trusts over the last two years and have heard at first hand about the skills and experience staff bring to their roles, and the challenges they face. I also receive regular advice from senior, experienced probation and prison practitioners embedded within the TR Programme and NOMS. Our programme of reform is being implemented by a highly skilled team, who understand the challenges that working on the front line of offender management pose. I do understand that this has been a challenging time for staff, but these are important reforms that I believe will bring together the best of the public, private and voluntary sector to reduce reoffending.
Why can you only spare 45 minutes for this web chat on a matter that affects the whole of the UK?
These reforms are a top priority for the Department and I want to take as many opportunities as possible to explain the rationale for change, listen to your views, and answer your challenging questions. The recent web chat was only one of a number of ways in which engagement on these reforms by Ministers and senior MoJ officials takes place. This includes, among other activities, visits to Trusts and weekly updates and discussions.