Thursday, 12 November 2015

Going to Hell in a Handcart

With the 'marketisation' of probation, everything's now about the money and here we have another step towards eroding the PSR, but "HMCTS and Magistrates welcome the direction of travel" apparently. Would that be going to hell in a handcart I wonder?  

Strategy for the production of Pre-Sentence Reports across NPS London

The revised Probation Instruction ‘Determining Reports for Court’ supports the national move towards producing a greater number of Pre-Sentence Reports as ‘Short Format Reports’. This is due to be published Autumn 2015, NPS London is working towards this model of practice. The direction of travel was previously set by PI 05/2011 and the new PI builds on practice that is already underway.

The PI will change the language of Pre-Sentence Reports introducing the use of Short Format Reports (SFRs) to enable the NPS to increase the efficiency with which reports are provided to Court and to allow the flexibility to use staff resources to meet the demands from Court under the Transforming Summary Justice (TSJ) agenda. SFRs replace both fast delivery reports (FDRs) and oral reports. The expectation is that the report will be delivered in the most effective manner to support safe sentencing. The current FDR and oral Report templates should continue to be used in the interim.

HMCTS and Magistrates welcome the direction of travel of the PI. The demands on Courts are increasing and they want to receive succinct reports delivered orally on the day where possible. Only where the Court requires a dangerousness assessment or in cases of very high risk should a standard delivery report be provided and a full OASys assessment. Prompt sentencing is also in many cases better for victims as it facilitates a speedy resolution to what can be protracted proceedings.

These developments take into account the following interdependencies:

  • changes in Court practices
  • demands of TSJ and better case management at Crown Courts; the changes in the nature of the NPS workload
  • increasing demands on field PO’s in terms of caseload, parole reports, oral hearings and additional tasks
  • use of standard delivery reports and their place within the contractual arrangements between NPS and CRC;
  • the purpose of sentencing as set out in the new Probation Instruction 
  • the balance of the work between pre and post sentence elements of an offender journey.
Nationally, London remains the most expensive among NPS Divisions in the production of reports for Court. Part of the rationale for this work is to reduce the cost of producing pre-sentence reports at Court. While this cannot be achieved overnight, this is an objective we are working towards over the next 3 months.

The following set of principles are to be applied across London Courts:

1. Courts to make every effort to complete reports on the day as an oral report.

2. Where the report can only be delivered in writing, because additional third party information is required or as a result of sensitivity around the case, this should be undertaken as a short format report in 0 – 5 working days.

3.This approach applies to both Magistrates and Crown Courts. All Courts are required to complete as much work as possible as ‘on the day’ reports. Additionally Courts are required to work as a national organisation and all work should be prioritised, regardless of the address of the offender.

4. Only those offences which require a dangerousness assessment or are high risk of harm, are done with a full Layer 3 OASys and in SDR format. All other adjourned reports are completed as short format reports with a Layer 1 OASys and an RSR/CAS, including a full ROSH analysis where one is triggered.

5. If a Layer 3 OASys assessment already exists, a Layer 3 assessment should be pulled through selecting "PSR other offences committed" as the purpose; updating Section 1 (Offending Information/OGRS), Section 2 (Offence Analysis), RoSH screening and the RoSH full analysis (if required).

6. Where the enablers for a report on the day are not present (i.e. DV call out information), and a report needs to be adjourned, where appropriate the report will be written as a short format report for workload management purposes, with additional time allocated if needed.

7. NPS Court staff must initiate safeguarding checks regarding children and adults where appropriate. It may not be required to adjourn sentence until the outcome of the checks is known as safeguarding work continues ihto the supervision of the order, the determining factor will be the offence type and if the outcome could significantly alter the sentence. The Court should be made aware if information is not yet received and a record made in CAS.

8. If an officer considers that a report merits a full SDR with associated OASys, they should consult their SPO. These should be reserved for high-risk cases.

9. Reports continue to be completed by the appropriate grade of staff (i.e. PO’s for HIGH risk cases, Sex Offences, Serious Violence – the guidelines for this do not change from those currently in place).

10. For this approach to be effective and for providers to receive the necessary information they need to manage their cases we MUST ensure that where triggered in the CAS or where the offender is deemed MEDIUM risk of harm a FULL RISK OF SERIOUS HARM (Risk Sections R1 to R10 in OASys) is completed. Check the OASys override (in the screening) – i.e. the bit that makes defensible decision not to complete full analysis.

The allocation of Reports to Sessional report authors should follow the same principles as outlined in this document and attract the appropriate remuneration.

Longer term position:

➢ The PI for Report Determination is due out later this year and will reinforce this position.
➢ There will be a standard nDelius report template for use in all Courts nationally. This will be one template which can be adapted for use as an oral, short format. The current template in nDelius is sufficient at present for use across NPS London. Standard delivery reports will continue to be completed in OASys.
➢ Community cases allocated to the NPS continue to require an OASys Initial Sentence Plan within 10 days of attendance at an initial appointment.
➢ Resourcing of Courts remains a key priority within NPS London and across the NPS.


  1. "Safe sentencing" now there's a concept which will be effectively ignored by this move! My team are all doing at least 2 reports a week each! They all fit into the dangerousness, serious violence, section 20's and 18's and shed loads of sex offenders! This policy is confused and built on shifting sands! It also begs the same old question as to where in courts is there interview facilities for probation?

    Multiple Baby P written all over this, who will be held responsible? Oh that'll be probation colleagues! Can't wait to hear how social care and police are going to accommodate this nonsense!

    Another day another fuck up! When can I retire? I need to read the document mentioned above, the purpose of sentencing, cos I'm not clear anymore!

  2. The PSR is yet another casualty of this Government's ability to know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Yes, the courts use them to pass sentence, and no doubt they would like them more quickly - but far more use is made of a PSR down the line by the case manager, prisons, Parole Board etc. Poor quality PSRs make poor quality initial assessments much more likely, and it's often difficult to recover from there. Yes, they might save some money in court time (and probably be able to close even more courts as a result, making access to justice even more difficult for some people) - but if these increasingly slapdash templates end up keeping someone in prison longer than they need to, or failing to pick up something that means a further offence isn't prevented, what's the cost there? Garbage in, garbage out.

    1. Absolutely the PSR is the best opportunity to identify the causes of offending and interventions to address these. There is merit in seeing a case through from start to finish. We are always playing catch up with those sentenced without a report and the relationship suffers..It is often the case that post sentence individuals don't want to really engage with probation

    2. Further evidence of the attitudes of those at Noms. They disregard all the evidence around reducing reoffending and do not value the skills of POs . I despair and struggle to motivate myself daily to employ my skills with clients and ultimately help keep the public safe.

    3. I don't think the courts have ever objected to speedier reports. Whether expedited reports make any qualitative difference to sentencing is something we will never know as 'directions of travel' are not researched in advance. If you are only interested in reducing costs, quality and safety is ignored. This is direction of travel without a highway code!

      Inevitably the assessments at the court stage will be cursory and superficial, pushing the responsibility for rounded assessments to community supervisors. For those who receive immediate custody, it's less likely that sparse information will be elaborated in overcrowded prisons. I can see mental health issues and learning disability being misrepresented in the scramble to produce nod and wink reports – for the 'offenders' journeys'. You will get a full report if you are dangerous to others but not if you are vulnerable and a danger to yourself.

      I bet they are up in arms at the Probation Institute about this, but I am sure they will square it with their code of ethics.

  3. And I thought the main reason for splitting probation locally was because the Liberal Democrats and Conservative Government believed there is too much recidivism and this was the only economic way to reduce the rate of reoffending!

    What a tragedy this all is!

  4. 2 things: Pre cons and CPS papers. In the event that they are immediately available, Speed - reading course, anyone?.

  5. I applaud the observation above, i.e. "This Govt knows the price of everything & the value of nothing". As long as its got big numbers & lots of zeros after them everything is up for sale. Saudi, China, India, etc etc. Fuck the morality, just celebrate the sale &, if your face fits, fill your pockets with all that filthy lucre.

    1. Aye, just ask Lance Armstrong.

  6. Got the timetables for 2 oral hearings in Jan 2016! I've written back to ask, a) does the prison have video conferencing and b) is it okay with the parole board, that I am attending viavsuch a medium. Not cos I'm laszy, my head of LDU has said we cannot travel outside the county! Can't wait to hear the sighs from the parole board and astute legal eagles, who sometimes rely on us to give considered evidence and risk management plans!

    1. We have been told we can't go to our local prisons either

  7. Everything going to dogs! Heard today, from someone cascading from a learning event, that we're soon to be told, not to use services of CRC, but to shop around or DIY! Apparently, their too expensive, ie £3000 for one referral to a DV programme! I should imagine that will be the fee, even if case doesn't complete! Yahoo! You couldn't make this shit up! If I was really a conspiracy theorist, I might think this is the rational behind those on the day reports, being done on the hoof and just sent onto CRC projects! Make em rich!

    1. Yes, rate card charge for programmes is on commencement (I think, as opposed to referral) not on completion. In our area anyway.

  8. Amid talks about ethics and values in probation, about the need for quality training and professional responsibility, about empowering service users – there is nothing about empowering staff. The so-called return of professional autonomy is make believe. Staff are powerless. They have been converted into petty bureaucrats, part of a system which shares many features found in totalitarian systems. Such systems are not amenable to feedback, they positively resent it and they don't want professionals, they want functionaries.

    Even if some believe that they have retained autonomy, every Probation Instruction shows it to be illusory. Unlike probation circulars that were issued to, and mediated by, the old probation boards, the probation instruction is a clear diktat that demands instant obedience by each recipient. It is non-negotiable. It matters not that it may contain instructions that seem harebrained or contrary to core values.

    The governance of the probation service is not in the traditional public sector anymore than MI6 is or other similar agencies of the state. A service like probation should be embedded in localism, not centralised. Ironically decentralised probation lies in the CRCs where I think its social work roots stand a better chance of survival.

    The PI neatly encapsulates the power relations in the NPS. They will steadily erode what left of probation values, as they reshape and redefine what probation is and what it does.

  9. From Dec 2015 NPS will not have to use services from CRC, which cost, but can go anywhere for services so long as they don't cost. Huge drop in referrals to Programmes, ETE and Accommodation because there is a charge to NPS whereas before they were free. Absolutely ridiculous!

    1. Its bleedin' hilarious. Exactly what was predicted, i.e. a total pigs ear, except that CRCs are now being ignored by NPS. Next step will be whingeing CRC owners getting together to bully this lickspittle government into compelling NPS, via their NOMS lackeys, to use CRCs - "it was in the contract". Shitheads, the whole lot of 'em.

  10. Crc is putting most prison releases on accredited programmes as can charge a 3000 pound referral charge regardless of if they complete / start the programme to make up for the lack of referrals based on the weighted average caseload.

    Cerching charges go up service remains the same.

    1. Who are they charging? If they're CRC cases, surely the CRC pays for the service? I can't see why NOMS would go "yeah sure, here you go - here's some more cash on top of your contract just because you say so".

      In my area, the last benchmarking exercise found that DV programmes were costing over £3,000 to deliver anyway,,,

    2. CRC charge NPS. NPS until Dec have to use CRC services. After that they can choose their providers but they have no money to pay for the services

    3. Your response makes no sense. Yes CRCs can charge NPS for services provided to NPS cases under the rate card. However, if they're NPS cases, surely the NPS OM decides whether they go on a programme or not? The CRC can't suddenly decide to put all NPS cases on TSP.

  11. Probation Officer12 November 2015 at 22:49

    Nothing more than probation services on the cheap.

    This PI is not even signed off yet they're implementing it already. With no enquiry and limited time for analysis, the result will be the 'Pre Sentence Report' becoming nothing more than a script telling sentencers whatever they want to hear.

    Once again our Probation managers/leaders have failed to stand up to their MoJ masters. Whatever happened to evidence based practice, best practice, etc?

    And where are the Napo and the Probation Institute hiding?

    ... Tumble weeds roll!!