Monday, 9 March 2015

House of Lords Questions

I thought these fairly recent exchanges in the House of Lords on Probation are quite interesting and especially the reference to Napo "which was ordered to pay the substantive costs of that judicial review." All seems to have gone quiet at Chivalry Road on that topic. 

12th February 2015

Asked by
Lord Ramsbotham

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether any emerging risks to the programme to transform the delivery of probation services have been reported to Ministers, and what action is being taken to mitigate any such risks.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con):

My Lords, on 1 February, new providers began delivering probation services for low and medium-risk offenders, working alongside the National Probation Service. We conducted comprehensive testing at each key stage of the reforms, reporting and managing risks as appropriate and proceeding to the next stage only when we considered it safe. With the new system established, the National Offender Management Service is providing robust oversight and management of providers to ensure that the public are kept safe.
Lord Ramsbotham (CB):

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. When I was Chief Inspector of Prisons, I used to tell Ministers that they could accept either observed facts from me or unobserved fudge from officials, but that improvements could follow only on facts. Since the Secretary of State denied parliamentary approval of the rushed Transforming Rehabilitation timetable, it has slipped. Among many other problems, community rehabilitation companies have been given only a bare five weeks to mobilise when they say that they need six months, and community probation service officers, for example, are having to perform tasks with high-risk offenders for which they are not qualified. Clearly, all is not well. Will the Minister please tell the House when the Government will give the public the facts rather than fudge about the delivery of probation services?
Lord Faulks:

My Lords, I do not accept the characterisation given by the noble Lord. The suggestion that Parliament has not had the opportunity to consider this is not borne out by the fact that there were 50 hours of debate in Parliament, including debates on the Bill and a Westminster Hall debate. We have given information to Parliament and the public at every stage of the process, placing key documents in the Libraries of both Houses, including draft contracts, the staff transfer scheme and details of successful bidders. The matter has also been considered by the Justice Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. I also do not accept the noble Lord’s characterisation that there are problems. The issue has been carefully monitored. Of course, there may be some difficulties, and we are happy to hear any representations from anybody about how we can respond to these.
Lord Beecham (Lab):

My Lords, it is understood that in the course of court hearings over a challenge to the legality of the Government’s proceeding with the contracts for the 21 community rehabilitation companies, a number of concerns were raised. These related to problems with IT, the management of sensitive victim information, lost records of offender contacts, staff shortages, delays in pre-sentence and standard reports, and more besides. To what extent have these issues been resolved and what arrangements are in place to ensure regular monitoring of the situation?
Lord Faulks:

I presume that the noble Lord is referring to the judicial review instituted by NAPO that was withdrawn by NAPO, which was ordered to pay the substantive costs of that judicial review. As to pre-sentence reports, there is a 97% response rate of timely reports. As all those who have had to sentence offenders will appreciate, from time to time before this transformation there were delays in these reports. It is greatly to the credit of the probation service that it has maintained this standard. It is to be congratulated on the hard work that it is doing in coping with this transformation.
Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD):

My Lords, can my noble friend the Minister tell the House what progress is being made by the Probation Institute—the professional body for which many of us argued and which was established last year—the Probation Chiefs Association, the Probation Association and the two trade unions NAPO and UNISON? What role do the Government believe this institution might have in ensuring the continuing delivery of effective probation services?
Lord Faulks:

My noble friend is quite right to draw the House’s attention to the Probation Institute, which, as well as providing assurance that existing standards are to be maintained when the various bodies to which he referred are combining, is also there to capture the innovation that we hope will follow the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. It has been going for a year, involves all those concerned with probation, and will help with training, research and the establishment of good practice.
The Earl of Listowel (CB):

My Lords, has an assessment been made of the impact of the reforms on the continuity of relationship between probationer and probation officer? In particular, there has been concern that higher-risk individuals moving to a lower risk might suffer from some discontinuity of relationship. Has there been an assessment of this important issue?
Lord Faulks:

This is an important issue and there are no absolute answers to particular problems. However, all those involved, by their contractual obligations and their general responsibility to adhere to good practice, will try to maintain continuity where possible and ensure that there is not inappropriate transfer between the various categories.
Lord Judd (Lab):

My Lords, the noble Lord has emphasised that robust measures will be in place to ensure the safety of the public. However, does he not agree that the ultimate objective of the probation service is to enable people to become rehabilitated, good citizens? Will robust measures be put in place to make sure that the deliverers of service have got their eye on this, and not just on the profit?
Lord Faulks:

I entirely agree with the noble Lord. What this transformation is achieving for the first time is the ability for offenders who have received sentences of imprisonment of less than 12 months to receive through-the-gate support for a period of 12 months and assistance before their release from prison, as opposed to being released with a mere £46 in their pocket and no support. This should be celebrated on all sides of the House and provide genuine rehabilitation, reduce reoffending and enable offenders to take their full part in society.
Lord Laming (CB):

My Lords, because the Minister used the word “transformation”—which it really is to the probation service as it entails enormous change—it is the in the interests of us all that the service is effective and does its job well. Will the noble Lord assure the House that the Government will continue to monitor carefully how these changes are implemented, so that we know that they are working at the grass roots?
Lord Faulks:

I entirely agree with the noble Lord about the importance of maintaining proper oversight in the way in which this transformation is effected. The Government are committed to doing that, and whatever the shape of the Government will be after May, I am sure that that commitment will be maintained.

32 comments:

  1. Not a straight answer in sight. My grandmother could've answered every one of them with a stick of rhubarb.

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  2. Grayling, one of the political despots of our time, has a bare-faced cheek to invoke Denning:

    "Lord Denning, described Magna Carta as “the greatest constitutional document of all times – the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot”.

    And Faulks is clearly programmed to spout the risible "£46 in their pocket" tag line.

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    1. I would not be quick to sing the praises of Lord Denning. He was the judge who frustrated the Birmingham Six in their quest for justice. This is what he said, in 1980, in dismissing their appeal.

      Just consider the course of events if their action were to proceed to trial ... If the six men failed it would mean that much time and money and worry would have been expended by many people to no good purpose. If they won, it would mean that the police were guilty of perjury; that they were guilty of violence and threats; that the confessions were involuntary and improperly admitted in evidence; and that the convictions were erroneous. ... That was such an appalling vista that every sensible person would say, "It cannot be right that these actions should go any further."

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    2. I fully accept the point raised by the noble Netnipper. I was mostly horrified that CG had dared to use that particular quote, what with him (i.e. CG) being of the despotic persuasion.

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  3. What would you say is the minimum age an ACO should be? In terms of having right experience levels etc.

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    1. I think it depends what you want from your ACO. There seems to be 2 discrete types. The type that sees themselves as executive, nonoperational (which seems to be most of them, including, it has to be said, a lot of SPOs, who seem to be the last people on earth, you'd imagine to be good with the humans) and the operational, hands on, port in a storm, with a ready supply of 'seen it all before' experience and advice. The former can come straight out of uni, the latter, you're looking at a couple of decades in harness, before the step up to ACO. I know which type I've found to be the best to work for. Tony

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    2. One of Londons ACOs definitely isn't even 30 yet.

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    3. Are they competent? The rest is irrelevant

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    4. It's a pretty ugly question

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    5. Its a pretty loaded question

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    6. last SPO was the biggest crank I've ever had the misfortune of working with. how the hell she ever managed a caseload i'll never know.

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    7. Just like gender, age is not a significant indicater of anything! I was a volunteer all the way through my undergraduate degree, and did a 12 month stint as an "assistant warden" at a hostel in Leeds aged 23 - them were the days. Ripon House was mixed gender then with a mix of bail and probation places. There was no double cover, just me 20+ highly strung you people, with multiple problems, me and a key to a "sleep in" room and a telephone, of the landline variety! Friday and Sat nights were traditionally, the night everyone but me would get pissed, and I have to say, I never batted an eyelid, that's how it was. I'm positive I made some errors and had some close shaves, but I loved it and it was my platform to becoming a home office sponsored trainee at Newcastle university, honing my practical skills over 2 years in Biker and Scotswood! In all from leaving school, I had 8 years of life experience and training, so when I qualified at nearly 25 I felt invincible, knowledgeable and competent, I know it's old hat, but in 1986 I walked into my first year with a caseload of 50, and I've never regretted any of it; well maybe the departure from a client centered probation service to one driven by processes, but I do my own thing! So age means nowt, it's all about attitude, knowledge and confidence, whether the colleague has chosen, like me, to remain a PO or climbed the creasy pole!

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    8. My original long-winded answer to the question lacked a concrete example. I won't name colleagues but Karren Brady has been CEO at 2 football clubs, handling massive budgets and executive duties, very ably, since she was 23. She has never been expected to manage the first team. The service (from Home Office down), has too many Karren Bradys.

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    9. Why does it matter how old this aco is as long as they can do the job?

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    10. A caseload of 50 in 1986 is not the same as a caseload today. No OASus for a start. No emails, no weekly CJ Act etc etc. Very different animal.

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  4. www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/406818/community-rehabilitation-company-workforce-information-summary-report-q3-2014-15.pdf

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    1. Probation staffing levels fall under Transforming Rehabilitation
      CRC staff numbers drop by 2%
      The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) just published its latest workforce information summary report which records the number of staff working for Community Rehabilitation Companies at 31 December 2014.

      As you can see from the table below, overall there are about 150 fewer full time equivalent staff working for the 21 CRCs (who were at the time still part of the public sector); an overall reduction of 1.84%.

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    2. Wait for the next quarters figures, nosedive.

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    3. Will there be figures for the next quarters, now that CRCs are in private hands? Presumably NOMS don't have to publish them any more.

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  5. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/03/06/britain-s-horrific-vip-pedophile-cover-up.html

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  6. It is beyond doubt that our politicians are both naive and corrupt. If you need proof watch Adam Curtis's " Bitter Lake" an on line documentary about the rise of ISIS, the finacialisation of our economy and the rise in power of the banks. It's a bleak commentary on our piss poor political and financial class.

    The demise of our profession fits into this analysis, as I have said many times, probation fits into the wider contradictions at the heart of our society only by understanding that will you see the forces at work in the destruction of Probation.

    Michael Sheen made a fantastic speech about old labour values and the fight to save the NHS, see it on youtude and give yourself a lift.

    Papa

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    1. I saw some of that and he was on Andrew Marr's programme on Sunday as decent lad!

      I am becoming very concerned about the number of PQF's coming into the job, and that they "will be fully qualified probation officers in 15 months". I am not saying they are not very capable people, but all the restrictions on what they can actually do; most NPS clientele are are out of bounds until they are all put through training, i.e. working with sex offenders etc and there seems no prospects of those courses becoming available anytime soon. Some PQF's employed since last October, still waiting for some basic stuff, let alone key knowledge and practice! So it leaves only 9 months for everything else, some are still finding their way around Delius! I hope someone is keeping their eye on this. SPO's too busy forwarding newsletters, nonsence e-mails and countersigning everything you can imagine, they'll soon have to approve, our going to the loo!

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  7. And yet again, it is spouted all is well when on the ground it is far from it. Diluted supervision, and only ticking right boxes for profit is the key. Behind machines still rather than the real probation face to face work. Its as bollocks now as it has been for last few years. Correction, didn't think it could get worse but it has. Desistance, a manager wouldn't understand it if it bit them in the arse. And Napo, Unison, weakest unions I have ever been party to in all my years of working. Thank god I'm close to retirement.

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  8. Can anyone explain to me how we are supposed to explain to courts what the pile of shite called a RAR is?

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    1. Try this:

      "Your Worships / Your Honour / Your Lordship / Sir / Madam

      As you will be aware, the newly introduced RAR system of sentencing is a pile of shite."

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    2. That is not the task of a probation worker but in courts with Lay Magistrates the job of the Clerk. The Judges should work it out for them selves,

      Probation workers need to use professional knowledge to give information as far as is possible of their opinion of the impact of likely adjudications on clients including the family of the client,

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  9. Ch 4 investigative programme at 8pm tonight on DWP showed reporter going underground, doing a shambolic training course before working as a claimants advisor for 7 weeks, with hidden camera. DWP is shown to be in a similar horrendous shambles with IT systems which seem to be down most of the time, with 'have -nowt' claimants spending pounds on useless phone calls to DWP (40p a min), and advisors told NOT to mention the availability of hardship loans unless they are desperate and actually ask if there is ANYTHING WHICH CAN BE DONE TO HELP.

    This country, this govt, has become seriously shameful.

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    1. Working Links run the DWP Work Programme in Wales and now run Wales CRC, plus 2 others. They frequently sanction offenders and make no allowances for their chaotic lives. They 'park' offenders. Fun times ahead!

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  10. Just finished listening to Today in Parliament (r4). The current Venal Government are in fine, vicious form in both houses. Answers to any challenge or concern follow the formula of (depending on the house) "I don't believe you" or "we don't recognise those figures".

    They are deluded, vicious & self-obsessed - and those who have benefitted from such a disturbing leadership style (which pre-dates the coalition shower) include the bankers. Its a shame its taken until now for someone (i.e Margaret Hodge & co) to subject the greedy bastards to a tirade of plain speaking. Mr Guttersnipe & friends are, however, unlikely to do anything other than continue to feed their bank accounts. If I remember the figures correctly, one of those being challenged was earning £50,000 a year for 50 days' work - £1,000 a day to not know anything. (Transcript will be an interesting read).

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    1. Correction - Ms Fairweather received £500,000 "for the equivalent of one day a week", slightly more than I thought. So, just shy of £10,000 a day; £1,000 an hour; £16 a minute.

      Now she tells us what we can & can't see or hear as one of the guiding lights of the BBC.

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  11. Is there a way we can thank Lord Ramsbotham for all he has done and continues to do?

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  12. And Margaret Hodge, what a fiesty lady, motivated by honourable values!

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