Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Omnishambles Update 82

A bumper edition that begins with news of the recent update to Delius over the weekend:-

Great day today, full of uselessness. Delius on and off all day. Putting entries on for them to disappear. Then lost 2 hours work on an SDR on OASys, spent half hour on the phone to Shared Services call centre who logged the call to try and retrieve. Basically resigned myself to writing it again. "Did you save it?" she said. Erm, no but it was the finishing touches, putting it altogether. "Oh I would recommend you save the work at least every half hour." Oh, OK, no shit Sherlock, bit late now no? Can I continue or will I lose the work again? "Erm, I work in a call centre and not qualified to be able to tell you if it's Ok to continue on OASys. You should be OK though." What makes you think that then. "Erm, dunno really!!" I am on nearly 200 per cent. Like I have time for this shit!! NPS

This from Durham Tees Valley CRC gives you an idea of the chaos:-


Following the Delius upgrade this weekend we have been given a list of issues that have occurred.  These issues will be resolved in a further upgrade due in January.  If you should encounter any of these issues there is a workaround document in the SRM in HQ/TIM/Delius that assists - Delius TS2 Workarounds - 

  • The print button on the Office Contact Diary does not work. It is therefore not possible to use that print button to produce a paper copy of the lists of offenders due into the office on a given day.
  • When checking the Next Appointment details for an offender using the Offender Enquiry screen, any appointments occurring on the same day as the search is being made are not included.  Appointments for the next day and onwards are included.
  • When attempting to bulk transfer a set of requirements or licence conditions,  the process fails when there are more than 10 requirements or licence conditions available to transfer.
  • When working with the new ‘Next Appointment’ functionality it is not always clear when the next appointment against a given order or component actually is.
  • The application displays error messages when terminating the last item that is giving you access to an offender record, as anything other than Offender Manager.
  • The Team and Officer fields are mandatory in the Pending Transfers diary.This means that it is no longer possible to do a single search for the records being transferred into a Provider.This carries with it the risk that the allocation of an offender, or of work associated with an offender, may be missed.
  • Transfers of licence conditions are remaining active when the Licence Condition is terminated by a recall action.
  • NSI Caseload Screen not filtering by "Level". NSIs can be created at either offender or event level. The caseload diary screen always returns all NSI whether the filter is set to show All or Event Or Offender.
  • When creating a new NSI, if setting the status time to an earlier time, the screen will sometimes not save and instead change the status time to the current time.
If there are any other issues with new Delius please call the Helpdesk. Thanks.

The Chief Inspector has finally spoken and as Ian Dunt reports on the politics.co.uk website, things don't look too good just days away from the contracts being signed:-
Probation privatisation looks to be as big a disaster as we thought it was
When Chris Grayling announced the sell-off of probation services, he was told it was unnecessary, dangerous and needlessly complex.
Grayling ignored the criticism and pressed ahead regardless, but ramped up the timetable so that he could get the contracts signed before the general election and prevent any future Labour government from reversing it. Today we got an initial assessment of how that process is going by Paul McDowell, the chief inspector of probation, and it appears to validate the concerns of those who had warned the justice secretary off the idea.
We need to have some caution over McDowell's reports. His wife is the deputy managing director of a private justice company which runs some UK probation services. Grayling has repeatedly defended that arrangement and there is no evidence whatsoever that McDowell would let it affect him. But it would be absurd for us to ever allow a report to proceed without mentioning this fact.
In any sane world it would be considered untenable and something would have to be done – not because there is evidence of wrongdoing, but because these reports should be above the sorts of questions we now have raise when they are released. But we do not live in that world and anyway, it's worth observing that, while it is tempered, McDowell's report is actually very critical.
Here's how Grayling broke up the probation service. The existing national body was left in charge of high risk offenders. Low-and-medium risk offenders were the responsibility of 35 probation trusts, which were really companies in public ownership until the formal sell-off. Staff were reassigned, sometimes literally by having their names picked out of a hat. When we say the process was chaotic and rushed, we understate things.
The result was predictable. "Splitting one organisation into two separate organisations had created process, communication and information-sharing challenges that did not previously exist," the inspector said, rather understatedly. "Many of those issues will remain a challenge for some time to come and need close attention."
What does this mean? The point where probation meets the courts is in a state of disarray, or as the inspector puts it, there are "significant challenges". The lack of staff at the national service, for high-risk offenders, is having "a detrimental impact on the delivery of some of the services". Given the seriousness of these offenders, this is very dangerous. Probation union Napo has already warned that one murder could have been avoided if not for the reforms.
Communication between the national body and the new organisations is falling apart. This is particularly problematic because of the risk categories. Risk is dynamic. It does not stay the same. Say you have a violent offender who was long ago charged with domestic abuse. He is currently low or medium risk. But then reports come in that he started drinking again and neighbours report loud arguments in their house. He is now high risk. It’s proper communication channels which allow us to stop that sort of violence. The idea he moves to another organisation and probation officer when these reports come in needlessly complicates things.
The IT infrastructure, as everyone predicted, is in trouble, or, as the inspector puts it, a "challenge". He adds: "The lack of integration of IT systems was frustrating." Probation workers frequently cite difficulties accessing previous information about offenders.
Probation workers are overloaded with work leaving "significant gaps, especially in court". Amusingly, this is described with the words: "Matching of staff resources to the workload has been challenging". Leadership has also been lacking and so has internal communication. But McDowell doesn't water down his criticism for the unseemly haste with which the sell-off was conducted. He says:

"The speed of this implementation has in itself caused operational problems that could have been avoided or mitigated. We sometimes found that new processes were being communicated by email to staff for implementation the next day, with little or no time for training or instruction. It is important to recognise the impact that this has had on staff morale, and potentially on the efficiency of the service they were providing."
What's really irritating is that the speed was political. It was done this way to prevent Labour reversing it. In probation, errors cost lives. The understated nature of the report prevents it coming across as too damning. But for a justice secretary to have approached this task with anything other than supreme delicacy is deeply concerning. We’ve yet to see if Grayling's reforms will be as bad as the unions have suggested. But the early indicators do not look good.
Napo have prepared a briefing paper in readiness for today's Justice Questions in the House of Commons:- 

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) Report Published 15th December 2014 – Transforming Rehabilitation, Early Implementation.

A Parliamentary briefing from Napo, the Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court Staff
Today’s report published by HMIP raises a number of significant concerns in relation to the implementation of the Governments reforms of the Probation Service. The contracts for the new probation providers are due to be signed on Thursday 18th December 2014 with a view to the contracts being mobilised in February 2015. However, the report contains 68 recommendations which Napo believes should be acted on, resolved and evidenced to be working prior to any contracts being signed by preferred bidders. In his foreword the Chief Inspector says:

“there remains significant challenges in getting court end processes working as they should”

“lack of staff in some areas of the National Probation Service was having a detrimental impact on the delivery of some services being provided.”

The interface between the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Companies will continue to cause challenges that need to be addressed.”

“IT continues to provide a predictable challenge….There is a risk that increased bureaucracy could stifle future innovation, so the issues raised by staff about IT requires serious attention.”

“The speed of the implementation has in itself caused operational problems that could have been avoided.”

“There is no doubt at all that there remains much more to do.”

The 68 recommendations in the report include:

12. The National Probation Service (NPS) senior managers should make arrangements for responses from Police domestic abuse units and children’s services to be received on the day in cases where an oral report (for the Court) is prepared.

A much greater number of offenders are being sentenced at Court using oral reports. Whilst this allows for speedy justice, without the necessary assessments being carried out with the above services there is a real risk that child protection issues and domestic violence concerns will go missed. Cases could be inappropriately allocated to the wrong organisation or grade of staff and not be properly managed during their sentence leading to a direct risk to the public.

15. National Probation Service managers should ensure that Offender Assessment System Risk of Serious Harm screenings are completed routinely at the report stage before any assignment of the case.

This is vital to highlighting risk of harm issues and failing to do so could lead to cases being allocated to the wrong organisation and risk issues to victims and children being missed.

18. The National Offender Management Service should ensure that a re-evaluation of the resources available to the National Probation Service to complete the new workload requirements should be urgently undertaken, particularly in relation to work in courts. (para 1.3, 1.9, 1.21, 2.11)

Napo has continually raised its concerns regarding staff shortages and that the workload in the National Probation Service is much higher than originally planned for. A lack of resources has led to high workloads, increased sickness and low staff morale.

41. Home visits should be completed by all Community Rehabilitation Company offender managers in cases where there are concerns about domestic abuse and/or safeguarding children. (para 3.23)

It is of concern that home visits had only taken place for 5 out of 35 cases where there were domestic violence or safeguarding issues. The report does not offer an explanation of for this but Napo’s own intelligence suggests that it is as a result of staff shortages and cases being allocated to inexperienced or unqualified staff.

46. Community Rehabilitation Company chief executives should clarify what type of case is appropriate for probation service officers (less qualified staff) to manage. (para 3.30)

There is increasing evidence from our members that probation service officers (PSO’s) are being allocated complex cases that are above and beyond their training and experience. This will lead to the de-professionalising of the service and cases not being safely managed in the community. This recommendation should be in place prior to any contracts being signed.

52. Community Rehabilitation Company chief executives should ensure full implementation of workload monitoring (para 3.29)

As yet there is no agreed workload management tool for either the NPS or the CRC’s.

56. National Probation Service (NPS) managers should ensure that home visits are taking place where appropriate, when the offender is classified high risk of serious harm, where there is a history of sexual offences or domestic abuse or where there are child protection concerns. (para 4.8)

This is not happening in the majority of cases looked at by the Inspectorate. Napo believes this is due to high workloads as a result of staff shortages and increased bureaucracy that has been introduced to the system. Home visits are vital for risk management and effective multi agency working.

58. The NPS should undertake a full review of the numbers and proportion of probation officers, probation service officers and administrative staff it employs so that all tasks can be completed efficiently. (para 4.16)

There is a clear disparity across the country of the role of PSO’s in the NPS. The inspectorate had reservations about the types of cases some PSO’s were being expected to manage in some areas. It was also identified that there may be too many PSO’s in the NPS and the original assignment process had not been effective.

59. The National Offender Management Service should review the roles and responsibilities of PSO’s and the training required to support them in their work and professional development.

Napo would urge all parliamentarians to read the report in full. It is of great concern that such a large number of issues remain unresolved yet the Justice Secretary still intends to sign 10 year contracts this week. We believe he should be held to account for this decision, provide evidence to the House and to the preferred bidders on why he believes it is safe to proceed to contract singing and how he intends to implement the recommendations before February 2015.

As a result of Napo’s legal challenge which concluded last week, further evidence from the Ministry of Justice was provided to us that causes further concern. However, due a confidentiality order issued by the Court, Napo is unable to share this information. It is in our view, a concern that the Justice Secretary continues to hide evidence that we believe should be in the public domain. It should be made available to preferred bidders prior to contracts being signed and should also be made available to the House so that he can be held to account for his actions.

Questions you may wish to ask:

1. Can the Secretary of State assure the House that all of the key recommendations in the HMIP report have either been implanted or at least will be prior to contracts being signed on 18th December?

2. If not what assurances can he give the House that contracts will be ready to be mobilised in February 2015?

3. Will the Secretary of State provide the evidence that Napo reference to the House for full parliamentary scrutiny?

4. Given the coalition said that they would not proceed to the signing of contracts if the HMIP raised any concerns, can the Justice Secretary now explain why he is proceeding when a significant issues have come to light?

5. Why does the Justice Secretary not postpone the signing of contracts until all of these recommendations are in place?

And finally, here is the letter Napo has sent to all the bidders:-

Dear .........,

1. I wrote to you on 11 December 2014 seeking to arrange a meeting or telephone conference to discuss what systems you will have in place to ensure the safety of our members and the public after you take over operation of the CRC(s) you are buying on 1 February 2015

2. As I indicated last week, Napo are the trade union and professional association representing the majority of trade union members within the Probation service. As such, we expect to engage positively with CRC owners through the agreed negotiating structures, with a view to protecting and promoting the pay, terms and conditions of the staff whom we represent.

3. I am sure that you will also appreciate that we have a wealth of professional knowledge and experience that we would expect to draw upon to protect our members (e.g workloads as per paragraph  below, but it is also knowledge and experience from which you as prospective purchasers could benefit from in terms of hearing things that have perhaps been hidden from you by the MoJ. I have outlined these issues below as we believe we are bound to advise you of them.

4. We want to ensure that we work with you on these issues now, before the transfer takes place, so that you have enough time to address the issues which cause us concern.

5. We are writing now to explain in more detail the nature of the issues which concern us. We would therefore welcome an early opportunity to discuss these with you.  We would like to ensure that you have them at the forefront of your mind as you plan how you propose to operate. Unless you have been made privy to this information by the Secretary of State we want to make sure that before you sign the terms of contracts, you have enough information about the risks which both we and the Secretary of State (separately) have identified in the system as it currently operates.   We want you to understand the systemic risks you are taking on, and to ensure that, before you sign contracts to take over responsibility for those risks, you are satisfied that you have adequate resources to put in place the measures to address them.

6. We want to negotiate with you so as to ensure that, after transfer, there are adequate management instructions and protocols in place to ensure that our members are not asked to work in ways which expose them to serious risks of avoidable harm to their physical or mental health.  (You will be aware that this is the common law duty which employers have to ensure workers’ safety).

7. We think it only fair to explain to you the background to this letter and to this voicing of concern.  As you may well be aware, Napo has been in correspondence with the Secretary of State for Justice over a number of months expressing concern that aspects of the new structure of the probation service may expose staff, the public and offenders to unnecessary risks of harm. Napo sought the engagement which we have traditionally enjoyed with NOMS over such issues. We repeatedly asked to be allowed to see the Secretary of State’s safety testing and assurance results so that we could engage with him on the substance of our safety concerns in a meaningful and informed way. Unfortunately, despite numerous documented requests over the summer and autumn, Napo was not allowed access to the Ministry of Justice’s safety testing information (not even on a confidential basis). This left us in a situation where we could not provide input informed by the safety testing results as to how to solve some of the problems which were clearly emerging on the ground.  

8. During that time, more and more examples emerged of cases in which probation staff were asked to do jobs for which they were not equipped, or to take on too many cases as a result of serious staff shortages and rising sickness levels, or in which CRC staff were asked to meet clients without proper computer access to safety records.  In some cases, these problems had resulted in serious physical or sexual assault or psychological breakdown.  Examples include a member of CRC probation staff seriously sexually assaulted after she was unable to obtain timely access to risk records which would have warned her not to see that offender alone, and two documented cases of murder after inadequately trained and overworked probation support staff were asked to take on inappropriate serious cases.

9. Napo was worried, on the basis of feedback from its members, that these risks were not being properly recognised or addressed by the Ministry of Justice in its secret safety testing procedures. On 20 October 2014, we sent the Secretary of State witness statements from our members giving examples of these concerns. Copies of these example cases can be made available if you would like to see them.

10.   Our members are very seriously worried that after ‘dual access’ to computer systems is switched off on handover of CRC shares, CRC staff will not have adequate and timely access to sufficient risk management information to enable them to work safely; that there is insufficient clarity in arrangements for appropriate and timely transfer of cases between the NPS and the CRCs and the safety consequences of transfer in these circumstances in the context of very serious nation-wide, endemic shortages of suitably qualified and experienced staff and extraordinary rates of stress-related absence.

11.   The Secretary of State said that transfer would not take place until he believed it was safe to do so, but was not prepared to explain to us or our members how these safety issues would be addressed and why we should be reassured that he would have taken steps to make sure that these problems were solved so that the system was safe.    We find this odd; if there are obvious answers to how our safety concerns can be addressed, we do not understand what is stopping the Secretary of State from saying so publicly.  We remain gravely concerned that this is because in practice these safety issues cannot be resolved by the intended date of transfer on 1 February 2015, at least without input of more resources than are currently being assigned to deal with them.

12.  Unfortunately, it was not possible to get the Secretary of State to discuss these things with us in a sensible and open way. So, on 6 November 2014, Napo made an application for judicial review in which we asked:

a) that the Secretary of State be forced to disclose his safety testing evidence;
b) if he concluded it was safe to sell the CRCs, to give reasons and enable Napo to make informed representations.

13.  We also argued that (on the basis of the evidence we had seen to that date, and the evidence from our own members), there were insufficient safeguards to ensure that there would not be unacceptable risks of serious physical or psychological harm, even if the system was operated as it was intended.  We asked the Court to make a declaration about that, and for an order that the Secretary of State should not sell the CRCs until ‘the avoidable harm is obviated’.

14.   Even when we were trying to run an argument about the safety risks inherent in the system if adequate measures were not taken to recognise and address them, the Secretary of State resisted giving Napo any of the results of his safety testing.  His argument – according to his written submission to the Court - was that there were “strong commercial reasons why the disclosure of [the safety testing documents] should not take place”.  He said that “Such disclosure would disrupt the ongoing procurement process and could derail negotiations”.  

15.  Napo remains unclear as to why tests into the safety of the operation of the publicly owned NPS and CRCs should be liable to disrupt the procurement process.   In Napo’s view, there is a strong public interest in CRCs knowing the full particulars of the safety risks which the Secretary of State’s safety testing has identified before they sign contracts agreeing to take on those operations and those risks.  We imagine that you would want to assure yourself and your shareholders that you have all the information you need about risk liability before contracts are signed.

16.  On 26 November 2014, the High Court ordered the Secretary of State to disclose his safety test results to Napo, but not more widely. As a result of that Order, the Secretary of State disclosed part of that safety information to Napo on 28 November 2014 and part on 4 December, the same day as he announced his decision to sell the shares CRCs to preferred bidders such as yourselves.  

17.  On 1 December 2014, we made detailed 18-page submissions to the Secretary of State about our concerns in the light of those results, highlighting where we considered they were borne out by the results of the Secretary of State’s tests and making detailed reference to them.

18.  Unfortunately, we are not at liberty to share that analysis with you, because it was based on documents and specific regional issues referred to in them which we are required to keep confidential.   Many of the documents which the Secretary of State disclosed were put into a confidentiality ring, and insofar as that confidentiality ring still stands, Napo is not in a position to discuss the content of them with any third party.  The fact of the confidentiality ring is not itself confidential, and we put you on notice that the Ministry of Justice may hold safety-testing information relevant to your CRC which has not been disclosed before sale.

19. We think that on the basis of his safety tests (some but not all of which have now been put in the public domain), the Secretary of State now recognises the systemic safety problems which Napo has identified over many months.  Napo believes that the problems about access to risk assessment information when dual access is switched off; the problems about CRCs being required to keep control of serious cases because the NPS refuses to take them on; and the problems of very serious short staffing have not gone away.

20.  Napo withdrew its application for judicial review because it now had the MOJ safety testing evidence, had made its submissions on it to the Secretary of State, and was satisfied that if the NPS and CRCs could put in place the measures referred to in the Secretary of State’s evidence of 4 December 2014 in time for handover and if the system operated as he said it would, those measures would constitute proportionate steps to recognize and obviate unacceptable risks of serious physical and psychological harm. That addressed Napo’s legal arguments about the safety of the ‘system’ operated as the Secretary of State intends will be the case.

21.   However, Napo continues to doubt that the NPS and the CRCs can in practice put in place the Secretary of State’s intended solutions to these problems in time for handover on 1 February 2015.  We fear that more people are going to get hurt as a result of inadequate computer information, inadequate training and serious shortages of staff able to do the increased amounts of work generated by Transforming Rehabilitation, even before the provisions of the Offender Management Act 2014 are brought into force.

22.   We want to take these concerns forward with the NPS regions and CRC management. Napo drew up a document of the problems which it had identified, what the Secretary of State’s safety testing evidence said in relation to each such issue, and what the Ministry of Justice evidence had said would be done about it before CRC handover. We think that this would provide transparency about what the MOJ says can and will be achieved before 1 February 2014.  We would like to share this list of steps with CRCs so that they can assure us if these things are achievable and so that we can spend the next three months working with you to identify working methods and instructions which will ensure that the intended steps are in fact implemented in time. There are considerable resource questions associated with this.

23.   However, our list of ‘steps’ is based on information which the Secretary of State disclosed to Napo for the purposes of the court proceedings.  We have applied for disclosure so that we could have shared it with you. We needed the Secretary of State’s or the Court’s permission to use that information to explain what the Secretary of State has said can and will be done. However, this was refused.

24.  The Secretary of State refused to let us use that information publicly, because he is apparently unhappy with the way we have expressed it, and last week the Court declined to order him to do so.  It said that the Secretary of State and Napo should be able to agree a list of information which could be shared.   We will seek such agreement, but today the Secretary of State has said he would need seven days to consider any such list from Napo.

25.   We think it is urgent that the CRCs know what safety concerns the Secretary of State’s safety tests have identified as continuing to arise.   We think it is important for CRC Chief Executives to know, before they take on those responsibilities, if they are one of the areas where particular safety concerns arise.  We think that having that information in the public domain would help us in working with you to ensure our members’ safety in the face of the specific issues that we know exist.    It is public knowledge that Napo opposed the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, but if the CRCs are to move into private ownership, we think it is of vital importance that we can work with CRC management to address safety questions on the basis of open discussion in full knowledge of all the facts.

26.   Unfortunately, as a result of the Court order, that is not possible.  However, we attach to this letter a document which goes as far as we can in setting out what our safety concerns are, and (so far as we can do so from documents which are in the public domain) what the Secretary of State has said he will do about it.   If you want to know about these matters in more detail, or about whether any specific  information is available about specific risks arising in your region, we suggest you may wish to seek further details directly from the Ministry of Justice.

27.  In the meantime, we would welcome an opportunity to meet you to discuss how we can work together to, amongst other things:

a) ensure adequate access to risk information on relevant computer systems, and instructions to our members as to what to do in cases  where such information is not available;
b) identify reasonable instructions to our members for risk escalation;
c) create reasonable protocols for identifying acceptable work loads and instructions to our members for what to do if faced with workloads beyond their competence or ability to process within time available.

Yours sincerely,

General Secretary


  1. Why do people continue to call Mrs McDowell the deputy chief executive of Sodexo justice when even Grayling knows she was promoted to chief executive following her success in winning 30% of TR contracts (on top of a reported £200k bonus). Something Grayling described as making the situation more critical. And saying the conflict of interest situation needed to be sorted before contracts were signed. Time is running out SoS!!

  2. Re the issue of home visits. One of the fundamentals that I learned on my degree and CQSW course in the late 70s/early 80s was that home visits were an integral part of probation and social work practice. I immediately carried this on in my first and subsequent jobs. I would, additionally undertake joint home visits with social workers, CPNs and at a later stage, when working solely with sex offenders, with police officers. Clients expected it as all probation officers were doing the same. All my colleagues carried out home visits as I did. The "Howard" gap during the early 1990s which led to a dearth of qualified POs for a period, the subsequent glueing of frontline workers to their desks, the introduction of "Offender Management" which resulted in our client group being viewed as units to be processed rather than individuals, plus subsequent mandates from higher management limiting mileage claims, were all factors contributing to the near demise of home visits. Paul McDowelll is wholly right to raise this in his report, It's a pity, however, that this situation happened in the first place because of the changes that have taken place within probation practice over the past two decades in particular.

    1. You are right about good professional practice not being eroded overnight, but rather a decline over twenty years. It hasn't just gone wrong, it was going wrong for a long time. Many factors, as you point out, contributed to this decline, not least the removal of ECU. At one time probation services supported staff to do the job, to have a community focus. 'Fieldwork' (some readers may have to Google this word) went out of fashion, as gradually all sorts of managerial constraints were applied until probation staff spent 75% of their time at computer terminals assessing and categorising clients who they barely knew.

    2. I am furious at some of the pontificating by CQSW trained POs on this blog and the ignorance of the Dip PS training. I did my degree at Northumbria University and social work values and ethics were an integral part of our degree. In addition, all SPOs I encountered during my training (13 years ago) stressed such values as well. I consider myself well trained and educated to do my job properly and had 5 cases in an inspection rated at "excellent". Home visits are an integral part of my practice and will remain so - many of us work smart and prioritise the clients!
      So for God's sake give it a rest as in my experience a CQSW does not convey any automatic superiority, as ever it is what you do with your training and ongoing professional development that matters.
      rant over!

    3. Good post from 10:29. Home visiting does vary and the judgments on whether to make such a visit are not predicated on whether one has a CQSW or DipSW. Other factors as mentioned are generally responsible. I also think that colleagues may be less familiar with their communities because I they are generally office bound. The HMIP reports over the last decade or so highlight the lack of home visiting in Safeguarding and DV cases and performance has not really improved as the latest reports indicate.

    4. What ever qualifications you have doesn't matter when you don't have the time to do it. We are being pulled in all directions, everything is a priority and urgent. And now we have no WMT so they can pliƩ on the work. It would be fantastic to be allowed to work on each case as required, but they can't have everything. Good practice is the first thing that went when TR came out.

    5. We have a lone working policy and are not allowed to do home visits alone. So even if I am able to prioritise home visits, I am required to take someone with me which, with increasing caseloads across the board, I am finding harder and harder to arrange.

    6. I have never heard this before can you tell us which area and if NPS or CRC ? I would suggest you record on case records "home visit needed but no co worker available to complete with OM as per policy".

    7. Thank you, I will. Do most other areas work alone then?

    8. 08.37. It may have McDowell's name on it but my guess is that he wouldn't have a clue why HVs are so important let alone the difference between a home visit & an purposeful home visit! If he visits your area ask him!

    9. anon 18;07 to the best of my knowledge most OMs conduct solo home visits, in my experience they are most important when responsive to risk issues so unplanned. This makes it difficult to stop someone else's work to come with you. Only cases with specific issues eg risk to staff, weapons in house etc warrant double manning in my area and where I previously worked. Home visits IMO are critical to our work.

    10. I agree. Before the split we were allowed to do home visits with a 'lone worker device' but since the split these have been taken off us and now we are not allowed to do lone home visits. It frustrates me as I used to do a lot but now apparently we are going against policy to do lone home visits and could face disciplinary procedures if we go ahead anyway. I have so many home visits I want / need to do but managers are just saying wait until we have a new policy in place. Really frustrating.

    11. I am also sick of this 'I have a social work qualification' nonsense. As if the rest of us were trained by Michael Howard himself. I have practiced as a probation officer for over 8 years now. I have developed the positive values I was trained with. I make home visits. I reflect on my practice. I spend quality time with my cases. All those chiefs who sold us down the river, all those directors who send menacing emails out, the whole target culture - was mostly introduced by your social work class mates! So spare us yet another rude condescending lecture.

  3. Napo have done well to get briefing out on McDowell report ready for Justice questions today. Does anyone know if Unison have put out any info as well?

  4. Is it just me or does the fact that Jim has written over 80 blogs detailing the catastrophic consequences of this so called transformation tell us something about the nature of yhe debacle? 82!! That's a LOT of material!!

  5. It is really interesting how many of the issues raised in this blog have made it into that report - it does appear that practitioners have been listened to at least by HMIP, although sadly not by NOMS who have shown utter contempt for the workforce.
    Also, I agree with the above comment about NAPO's prompt response, a good briefing document IMO.
    Also Jim, great informative blog THANK YOU

  6. I see that despite telling the select committee that the HMCI Probations conflict of interest had to be sorted out before the TR contracts were signed he ducked the issue in parlememt today saying he would inform parlement at the appropriate time! Later he said that TR report supported his view that problems in probation pre-dated TR & saw the call for a steady state to support his move to sale ASAP! He really is a slippery sod!

  7. Too many PSOs in NPS. Interesting

    1. our court team is mostly PSOs

    2. I don't get this too many PSO's in NPS, I thought the shafting was done on how many high risk cases you managed so how did "too many PSO's" get into the NPS. They never managed high risk cases, again it makes a mockery of all the PO's shafted into CRC's. The whole thing stinks like a skunks arse.

  8. "the chief inspector identified a number of long-term systemic problems that predate any change we have put in place and were ensuring underperformance." Grayling

  9. The Probation Service is dead most who are left will be working for corrupt multi nationals who will do harm to their clients and in my view all who go along with this process are complicit.Those that can will leave, I will, others may tarry for a while but when their wages are slashed and they are being bullied many more will leave and flip burgers just to stay sane. Now is a good time for industrial action but it will not happen, the mad and the spineless are in control and their mantra of more for less deafens us daily. In the end we will have to fight them, we need to prepare ourselves.


    1. I left recently. Best thing I've ever done.

  10. The HMIP report is boring and part of the problem of modern day probation. The report traces events from court to termination on what has become an assembly or production line, with tasks that have to be slotted together and various interfaces scaled while maintaining clear channels of communication. And if this was not already problematic enough in an integrated service sharing a corporate identity, the fragmenting influence of TR will add further degrees of difficulty and complexity. HMIP atomises and de-skills the probation task and is no different really to how the workings of an assembly line would be analysed. It's all about capturing knowledge and passing it along the line to the next operative in a bureaucratic and cybernetic chain. Once upon a time, probation staff knew their clients, would naturally liaise with the court staff or whoever. They identified with their caseloads, sought to be conscientious and deal with crisis and risks as they arose. HMIP gives us Lego probation.

    1. Beautifully put. But lego is too complimentary. The bricks don't fit together or build anything recognisible. And they haven't even started on the courts yet. This will come early next year. The whole sorry shambles will collapse even further.

  11. Never mind the Probation Service, what about the Prison Service? I work as a PO in the Court Team and see first-hand how the Courts can be persuaded (with good reports mind) to go along with community sentences. Once the ORA is replaced I'm going to have a hard time convincing them to support a proposal for said sentence if they know that the offender will be getting Probation once released. Over a very rare (as in infrequent rather than uncooked) lunch break today there was not a Officer there who felt that the Bench would have any confidence at in in reports recommending community over custody sentence or indeed see any need for them. The impact this is going to have on the Prison is going to be massive and most likely one of those laws of unintended consequences. Whilst we may have it hard in Probation I don't thin k it's going to be half as hard as what it will be in the prisons.

    1. Makes little difference to me. I no longer have any time to help anyone and unless you come in covered in blood, knife in one hand and the severed head of your victim in the other I'm going to find it difficult not to be thinking of Delius/PSR's/Paroms or other associated paperwork when I'm discussing things with you.

    2. 'most likely one of those laws of unintended consequences' or perhaps not. It's seemed from the start that MOJ want prison numbers to go up. I just haven't yet figured out why.

    3. Super prisons and privatisation.

      There, sorted. My work here is done :)

  12. Great point 18.29. I'm also a court PO and couldn't agree more. One of the laws of economics-supply creates its own demand. Just look at what's happened with curfews, SSOs, UPW etc and what happened with IPPs.

    1. I am a court PO too and also agree. This is massive and wholly unanticipated by NOMS so no planning in the system for this. Remember when we used to talk about TRain crash re TR? Well this is the biggest multiple pile up ever about to happen....

    2. Yes this is exactly right - the courts will no longer have to do a careful balancing act for cases which meet the custody threshold: why give a shoplifted 12 months supervision plus DRR, when you can send him inside for 8 weeks under the misguided belief that "that'll sort out his drug problem" and he'll get the 12 months supervision when he comes out.

      The prison estate will be 90,000 and rising before the end of 2015, easily. What was their prediction for IPPs before 2005? Low hundreds? This will dwarf that scandal.

      And the only reason this hasn't been anticipated by NOMS is that they haven't listened to front line practitioners - I've been making this point to my MP for well over 18 months.

    3. I know we have some Magistrates who read this blog. Maybe if they would like to leave an anonymous comment reflecting their views?

      I'm reflecting on the staff numbers in my office and don't believe for one moment that we have enough staff to cope with the additional work that the U12months will bring. Pre-TR I worked in the Court team for some years, in various Courts, and saw just how many people on a daily basis were given U12month sentences. At times it outweighed those given community sentences. I know their will be a commencement date and it's unlikely that the ORA will be applied retrospectively but even a quick back of a fag packet calculation suggests that over the next twelve months caseloads in CRC's are going to at least DOUBLE!!!

    4. @ Ex-Napo member16 December 2014 at 20:43

      Sometimes I think that I short prison sentence prior to resolving drugs problems can be beneficial as it gives the user(s) time to reflect on their life and gain a period of stability and access to alternative prescribing which they may not have took up on in their previous lifestyle.

      I know this view may not resonate with some posters on this Blog but I'm just playing Devil's Advocate.

      In the right situation, a 'double whammy' may be a better sentencing proposal.

      (PS, Please don't shoot me down in flames :()

    5. @Anon 21:01 - yes a very fair point, and as soon as I clicked on 'Publish' I thought of two or three cases where exactly that had happened. My view on prison is that it "can work" - but only for the right person at the right time, which makes it poor value as an intervention!

      My concern is that "the right situation" is going to be impossible to determine, given the pressures on court teams and the near impossibility of making a considered judgement at PSR stage - so the reflexive attitude of the courts will be to lap up the 12 months supervision and Community Orders will fall by the wayside.

    6. As a Court PO (there appears to be a lot of us about) I've lost track of the number of times I've completed an oral or FDR when someone has vehemently stated that they want to address their drug use and would be grateful for a DRR only to then see them at each DRR review and their report indicating positive for Opiates and/or other drugs. It was apparent that their motivation was possibly to avoid custody. What I'm trying to say in my own cack handed way is that I also agree with the above and sometimes a short custodial sentence can induce stability whilst giving the individual time to reflect.

      Ohhhh, this indecision is all too much, especially when I have not had a drink tonight :(

    7. Half the addicts i've ever met first used heroin - you guessed it - in custody. As for 'time to reflect', well, i might be wrong but i think life in a typical UK prison probably doesn't have quite as much in common with a buddhist retreat as some people seem to think. Custody isn't so much a time to reflect as a time when making it through each day is a matter of applying your street honed survival skills around the clock...

    8. Of course NOMS officials know that there is a very high probability that the introduction of post-release supervision will increase the prison population. It is the same reason Custody Plus was binned. The question is whether their political masters have either taken notice of any warning s or allowed officials to plan for the consequences...

    9. Is there any actual evidence at all that a short period of custody induces stability rather than instability?

  13. It is ALL littered with massive bear traps simply because it was not piloted. The whole sentencing menu has been re-written without regard to the consequences for sentencers, prisons and offenders alike. The train wreck is imminent.

  14. FROM Twitter: -

    " ‏@Shelter

    Our CEO Campbell Robb is on the #shelterpresents stage to thank all attending, who by being here have raised £30,000 for Shelter. Thank you. "


    1. So that's his 2014/15 bonus covered then. Well done!!

  15. It's not whether or not someone has a CQSW or whatever, it's about power because power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.