Friday, 25 September 2015

TR Latest News 5

Director of Probation appointments – Thames Valley and London

Message from Rich Gansheimer, Chief Executive, MTCnovo

I am really pleased to announce two senior appointments as we move to an important part of the transformation programme over the coming months.

Gabriel Amahwe is to become Director of Probation, Thames Valley CRC from November, taking over from Paul Gillbard who is leaving after 11 years at TV. Many of you have known Gabriel over several years and he will be a key member of the senior management team going forward.

In addition, Helga Swidenbank will be joining us in November as Director of Probation, London CRC and will take over from Nick Smart after a handover period. Helga has wide experience in the justice sector, including working as Governor of HMP Bronzefield and for Sodexo Justice Services, and will bring fresh thinking at an important time for London CRC.

I would like formally to thank Paul and Nick for their expertise and support while we have been undertaking such great change. Maintaining highly professional services at a time of extended change is extremely difficult and both Nick and Paul have led their teams superbly during an unsettled period.

Helga and Gabriel will be closely involved as we make the end-of-year changes that will transform the way we work across both CRCs. I realise during transformation that the amount of change seems unending, but there will be a more settled period ahead, I promise!

Helga, Gabriel and I are determined that our senior management teams will work closely with all of you to create a fresh way of working with service users, and that will involve meeting as many of you as possible as we drive our exciting plans forward into 2016.


The Cohort Restructuring Project in the London CRC has now concluded. We have been advised that:

66% of PO’s preferencing on cohort received their first choice
34% of PO’s preferencing on cohort received their second choice
80% of PSO’s preferencing on cohort received their first choice
17% of PSO’s preferencing on cohort received their second choice
86% of PO’s preferencing on location received their first choice
9% of PO’s preferencing on location received their second choice
87% of PSO’s preferencing on location received their first choice
7% of PSO’s preferencing on location received their second choice

The consultation exercise that resulted in this project was very productive as management took on board most of our suggestions. This bodes well for future consultations about the other proposed changes in the CRC.

On behalf of the Branch, David Raho attended the CRC Drop-in session at BPR this week to hear about the planned IT upgrade planned to start rolling out later this year. He was joined by one of our members from CP who is an AT user. Given how reliant we all are on functioning IT to do our work, equipment and systems upgrades that work for everyone are of course welcome. The hardware supplied by Hewlett Packard is a big step up performance wise from current equipment. However, our main concern, given past and present problems, is that all our members should be able to benefit from the upgrade.

It appears that MTCnovo were not given detailed information about those in the workforce who require assistive technologies before bidding. They do seem to have been giving this some urgent attention since becoming the owners of LCRC. We understand that a dedicated AT support line will be available rather than having to use a call centre. The employers are keen to consult with the unions as they want to get things right first time and they are also keen to involve AT users in testing the new equipment and systems.

We will keep you posted with developments. In the meantime we would suggest that you try to attend the Drop-in sessions at BPR (there is another one scheduled for Tuesday 6th October 2-4 pm.) and let us know of any concerns that may arise during testing and roll out. We rely on you telling us how the new equipment and systems are working (or not).

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair


Jim, it has been brought to my attention that some people who have reached retirement age since TR have not received their pensions and despite many telephone calls and emails to Shared Services the issue has not been resolved. It has been leaked that the department do not have the information needed to identify the staff, so are unable to pay them. Shared Services do not know how to resolve the issue and people are left in limbo. It would be interesting to see how many people are affected. I am aware that some are about to take legal advice.


The justice bid, mobilisation and transition team wins 'Team of the Year' for demonstrating the Interserve values



Nick Smart has announced that he will be leaving the London CRC at the end of December. Having previously been the Chief Executive of Surrey & Sussex Probation Trust, Nick was asked by NOMS to become CEO of London CRC on the understanding that he would see through the period from public to private ownership and assist with the new owners' transition plans. Nick may well be one of the last Senior Managers to have spent the majority of his career in probation in the public sector.

Earlier this week Rich Gansheimer, Chief Executive, MTCnovo announced that Helga Swidenbank had been appointed as the new Director of Probation, London CRC and will be arriving in November to take over from Nick Smart. He went on to say that Helga will be closely involved in the end-of-year changes being made by MTCnovo that will transform the way we work.

Helga Swidenbank joined the UK prison service in the 1990's. At the start of her career in the prison service she worked at HMP Wormwood Scrubs before becoming a Deputy Governor at HMYOI Feltham. She was there from 2004 until 2007 during which time the POA are on record as describing Feltham as an "unsafe establishment for both staff to work in and prisoners to reside within" and warned the governors that they were breaching health and safety legislation.

In 2007 she joined Sodexo Justice Services and was Director of one of their prisons (HMP Bronzefield) for over five years. Before her present appointment as Director of Probation, London CRC, she was the Account Director with Sodexo Corporate Services (International Large Accounts Division).

What concerns me is that, despite the claim by Rich Gansheimer that she has "wide experience in the justice sector..........and will bring fresh thinking at an important time for the London CRC", she does not appear to have any experience of working in the probation sector.

I have never made any secret of my views that probation services should have remained in the public sector but, for the benefit of all members who work in the CRC, it is vital that this union engages as positively as possible with the new owners and the new Director. As I have mentioned in previous emails, our experience so far of negotiations in the CRC has been good and I hope it remains so.

According to her own CV Helga is accomplished at working in partnership with staff associations and trades unions. I look forward to meeting with her.

Pat Waterman Branch Chair


  1. So NOMS is full of ex prison staff and it seems they are now joining and leading CRC's. Nobody seems to value Probation, do they?

  2. Great. Another Prison Governor who defected to Sodexo has made it to the top of a CRC. If another senior manager tells me that they have experience in the CJS and have been a prison governor for X years before moving to Sodexo, I am going to scream. It's like a manager of a abbatoir taking over a veterinary surgery, saying 'I have lots of experience of working with animals'.

    1. You owe me a keyboard as I've just spat coffee all over mine! Shouldn't laugh but that is graveyard humour at its finest!

    2. Make that two keyboards!!

      Well done Pat at least someones on this lot like a rash.

      Forgive me for thinking but as a former prison PO who watched prison privatisation offering accelerated promotion for those who were otherwise floundering and off they went and good riddance to some of them an all.

      Whilst I am sure Helga Swidenbank gave a great interview and ticked all the boxes are we really meant to believe that her eyes have been firmly set on a new career in probation in the prestigious role of CRC CEO? Is that really what she will settle for at what looks like the peak of her career? Or is something else going on?

      Surely this means a pay reduction or did prison governors take a sudden pay cut?

      Perhaps this article in the guardian might shed light on the role they really want to hire her for

      Wouldn't it be just so so convenient if they had a spare ex prison governor on the books that they could conveniently slot in to run a young offender facility? Perhaps a very experienced ex governor who perhaps has previous experience in say Feltham young offenders prison? Ooooh very handy indeed..... Does this US company think we're a bit slow when it comes to strategic planning or something? Do they think we can't smell a rat at 100 yards? So it is my guess she won't be sticking around too long in the CRC in London as there are bigger fish her bosses might want her to fry.

      Well if that#s the game then leave probation out of it!!!!!!!

      It seems there are just so many people who've had no experience of probation jumping in to make a quick buck or am I just a grumpy old cynic?

    3. We must also be careful what we wish for. Probation experience or background isn't a guarantee of anything, e.g. we have Nigel Bennett as ceo. And numerous other probation senior managers seem have have made the seamless transition into a new lifestyle as a corporate assassin, with no evidence of regret or dissonance.

      Maybe this could be the singular positive legacy of the TR omnishambles, i.e. it has unmasked & exposed the fraudulent, shallow bullies who had inveigled their way into the heart of probation. Perhaps we needed TR as the catalyst for a cleansing process, a colonic irrigation, a purging of the growing toxicity within the probation ecosystem? Forests need fires to survive.

    4. Probation needed some reform but if we look at the criminal justice system as a whole it is not the probation service that required being hacked into bits and sold off piecemeal nor should prisons ever have been placed into the hands of private companies. The real root and branch stuff needed to take place elsewhere by stopping those who would send more people to prison for short sentences or for non violent offences that could be dealt with with community sentences from doing so. The whole system is out of balance and real rehabilitation takes a back seat or clings to the rear bumper. Our penal policy is becoming more retributive and punitive like the US every day. The right wingers have even managed to subvert the word rehabilitation What next private security probation officers equipped with innovative tasers, cattle prods and uniforms?

    5. We're nearly there already, with uniformed security guards as part of the approved premises staffing regime. Just need to arm them...

  3. before other comments start, and I get told I'm off topic - as a retired PO, could someone tell me what the 3 E's is about, which I have seen mentioned a few times, in connection with NPS. - is it about an aim or training for that aim or what - Enthusiasm, Effort, Effectiveness perhaps? - it sounds Civil Servicy....

    1. Don't know about that but before I left DLNR CRC they had posters up promoting the 5 F's. I never took note what they meant, other than they were very different to the 5 F's we used to know as schoolboys. Let me think...Find 'em, Follow em, Fin..hold on, there's someone at the door...

    2. Efficiency, Effectiveness and Excellence... probably in that order, with efficiency being of paramount importance (as in "do it for less"). Those that lead 3E are the most powerful people in the organisation, in my opinion. Just an opinion.

    3. I would say it's more powerful to be able to support and motivate someone who has never had support or motivation in their life, to make a positive change. Just an opinion.

    4. By "powerful" I meant that they are probably the people that are applying most influence. I don't think that is necessarily a positive or good thing.

    5. thanks 2055 re the 3 'e's. Is it a model to aim for? I can see everyone rallying to the call already....

    6. Sent in by e-mail:-

      E3 Efficiency, Effectiveness and Excellence - Focus on the new OM Custody Model

      This spells out 'cuts' for the NPS, with harmonisation of processes as well as job roles, coupled with 'estates strategy' where NPS are finding themselves rattling around buildings that previously held all Probation staff, workforce planning as well as the newly announced 'OM Custody Model' the time is approaching where the anticipated cuts within NPS will be hitting home.

      The new custody model talks of 'greater continuity between court, prison and community OM work'. I think the 'grumpy old cyclic' 25/09/15 22:09, who talked of 'smelling a rat', is nearer to the truth than was realised. A principle with the new OM Custody Model is 'the responsibility for custodial OM should sit with the prison', therefore there is going to be a shift of staffing resource from the community into the prison, with case management responsibility firmly sitting with the prison. The role for SPOs within the prison looks to diminish unless the Head of OMU is competed for and ultimately reporting to the prison governor.

      Reading between the lines this smells of further reduced roles for NPS staff in prisons (we have already seen programme tutors in prison as well as PSOs roles in the prison going) specifically the New OM Model implies loss of senior NPS roles in prison and potentially staff transferring over to the Prison Service. It is no surprise Training of new Probation Officers new contract in 2016/17 has been halted with the talk of 'a competency framework for each role' relating to this new model. The proposed development will be out for consultation with Probation, Prison Unions and staff to design and plan this new 'specialised service'; is it any wonder that previous prison Govenors are being drafted in to CRCs particularly where there is a private prison nearby. Watch this space, the next few months could be crucial, hopefully NAPO will not sleep walk into collusion on this one, in the way they did with Transforming Rehabilitation and the Probation Institute.

      As I wave goodbye to colleagues in the CRC who are loosing their jobs, it strikes me this is the start of a long road of goodbyes which will cover CRCs, NPS and Prison staff without taking into consideration cutbacks due for the Civil Service in general. We need to keep a close eye on what is happening in all the respective unions if we are to be one step ahead of these changes.

  4. Oh Lord, Helga Swidenbank. Whoever appointed her clearly does not know the woman. I worked with her at Bronzefield and she was the last person who should have been put in charge of a prison because she's an idiot. Does not bode well for probation

    1. I have a feeling that those probation folk in London CRC would like to know more about who will be their boss. For the record I worked with Nick Smart a while back. He was always decent and reasonable and every inch a PO. I wish him well in whatever he does next and if he decides to call it a day and retire then I wish him a well deserved retirement. But what a shame if all that knowledge went to waste.

  5. @ ml 09:41 - according to a NOMS survey, only 12% of staff knew what e3 was and how it was going to effect their working lives.
    Im not one of the 12% but i know enough to know it will probably come out of my wages.

  6. I may be wrong but do the three e's not stand for - entropy, evisceration and exit?

  7. This morning I was supposed to have a trial. I didn't have a trial because the CPS didn't serve the evidence which they were directed to serve two months ago. There was a specific court order telling them to serve it. They didn't. Instead, when they found out that their copy of the evidence didn't work (it was a CCTV recording) they just decided not to rely on it, and claimed that made everything OK.

    When the CPS breach their disclosure obligations (which they had clearly done here) they are supposed to apply for an adjournment and if that is refused they are supposed to offer no evidence, and the case is dismissed. What they do instead, is lie, claim they haven't breached their disclosure obligations, refuse to offer no evidence, and the defence have to apply for the adjournment. That's what I did. The case was adjourned.

    I went back to the office, and reviewed the batch of legal aid cuts that will be introduced in January. These introduce a flat, greatly reduced, fee for nearly all magistrates trials. Solicitors who get cases adjourned because the CPS haven't served the evidence that could exonerate their client, will swiftly go bankrupt as a result. In fact, solicitors who do any work on their cases at all will swiftly go bankrupt. The only way to stay in business will be deal with a large number of cases and pressure all your clients into pleading guilty. If you think that is a result which the government has achieved by accident, then you're a fucking idiot.

    When I left the office I didn't go home. Instead, I added an hour to my journey by driving in the opposite direction to go and feed a client's cats. He got remanded a few days ago. The police suffered one of their frequent not-my-job-can't-be-arsed attacks and left his cats in situ. It's not my job either, but the RSPCA and Cats Protection will only take them if he signs them over for permanent re-homing, which seems a bit harsh as he hasn't been convicted of anything yet, and even if he was agreeable, he can't do anything right now because he's in prison. So I went and fed the cats, because no one else was willing to.

    Don't worry, though. This sort of thing won't be the case for long. I'll be out of a job in a few months. Even if my firm manages to win a contract this autumn, no one who does the job well will be able to make a living at it post-January. The only advice you'll get after that is Plead Guilty, but it won't be from me. And there's no chance at all that anyone will feed your cats.

    I'm not a good person. A lot of people I know are good people and they don't wish retribution on those who are creating this situation.

    I'm not a good person, though. I do wish it. I wish for everyone who voted for this government to be arrested and charged with something they didn't do. I wish for them to fall into the meat grinder that our justice system is becoming. I wish for them to suffer the trauma and stress and injustice that they were content to inflict on others because they didn't think it would happen to them.

    It won't though. The system works, you see. The system is that if you keep about a third of the country comfortable, you can pay for it with the blood and misery of the rest, and still keep getting elected.

    Whether or not you put your dick into a pig's head doesn't really come into it.

    1. I think this piece is worthy of being a headline blog.

    2. Me too. Angry piece, but eloquent and true. I am finding it increasingly difficult to find reasons to continue doing the job I do. Shock, dismay, anger, fear and a sense of hopelessness plague my senses. If we do not have a JUSTICE system we have no humanity, no decency. What we have now is a carcus circled by predetors growing fat on taxpayers money. Criminal.