Saturday, 19 December 2015

All So Predictable

We don't seem to talk much about things in Wales on here, but the picture is just as grim. This from Walesonline in October:-

Kinnock accuses Government of 'playing with fire' with changes to the probation service

Aberavon MP Stephen Kinnock warned the overhauled service was 'failing'.The country has a “failing” probation service and urgent action must be taken to protect public safety, Welsh MPs have warned. Aberavon Labour MP Stephen Kinnock secured a debate to raise concerns about the UK Government’s “transforming rehabilitation programme”. He said: “The Government are applying a false economy and are playing with fire, with the risk to public safety.”

The UK Government overhauled the probation system, with the creation of a National Probation Service – which is responsible for managing high-risk offenders – and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies.Mr Kinnock warned that a “world full of good will is not going to address the insurmountable structural flaws arising from the split”.

He claimed the new system was introduced “without any adequate testing or piloting” and the “allocation of budgets and staff was largely guesswork”. Pressing for action, he said: “I do not believe we can afford to wait two to three years for the situation to resolve itself when the consequences of a failing probation service are so critical to public safety.”

He cautioned: “It is crystal clear to all concerned that the transforming rehabilitation programme conceived by the coalition Government is simply not working. We in the Labour party are pragmatists. “As such, we urge the minister and his colleagues to remove ideology and dogmatism from this matter in order to enable common sense to prevail. We call on the minister to listen to the experts and fix this broken system before it is too late.”

Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Liz Saville Roberts said: “Plaid Cymru strongly opposes any privatisation of probation services in Wales – and, indeed, beyond... Indeed, justice services, which are at the foundation of an equitable civil society, are surely ill-served by the profit motive, and run the risk of being fundamentally compromised whenever the providers’ financial interest is challenged by the complex needs of individuals and the communities in which they live.”

She added: “If the Government do not do more to address the root causes of crime and the potential for reoffending, the transforming rehabilitation programme will be just another demonstration of their failure to deliver security and justice... Surely the mix of poverty, mental health issues, addiction and low skills should be addressed as a whole.”

Gerald Jones, Labour MP for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney, said: “Most worrying is the fragmentation, which means that offenders are juggled between multiple members of staff before they finally meet their personal probation officer.”

Torfaen Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “We cannot have offenders literally being passed around members of staff. There has to be a member of staff with whom they can build a relationship of trust and confidence.”

Justice minister Andrew Selous said: “[The] group of offenders with the highest reoffending rates remains those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody. Almost 60% of those adult offenders go on to reoffend within a year of leaving prison. “They are the one group that previously remained out of scope for statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community... We came to office in the previous Government determined to change that...

“The key point is that we would not have had the money to introduce supervision for the under-12-month group without the reforms.” He added: “The owners of Wales Community Rehabilitation Company are a shining example of collaborative working. The contract to run the CRC was awarded last December to Working Links, which is a public, private and voluntary company working in strategic partnership with Innovation Wessex, a probation staff mutual...“In Wales a working group has been established to map employability provision across Wales.”


Just like all the CRC's, the realisation is dawning on Working Links that the MoJ sold them a pup with a fake prospectus and there's no money to be made out of supervising offenders after all. Hence, just like Sodexo, the plan is to make massive cuts. This again from Walesonline:-  

Probation service in Wales faces 'disastrous' 40% budget cut

Wales’ privatised probations service faces “disaster” unions are warning after the company which now runs it says if intends to make budget cuts of 40%. Working Links was awarded the contract to run the probation service last year, and does so through a newly created firm called Wales Community Rehabilitation Company (WCRC).

Glyn Jones, a regional organiser with the trade union Unison, said: “We must be told by WCRC why this is happening, how many staff are threatened and how the service can be viable next year when £4 in every £10 has disappeared.

“There is never a good time to throw people out of their jobs but to drop this bombshell over Christmas is insensitive and will cause a lot of worry in many households this year when families should be enjoying themselves. At a time when Home Office ministers are talking about reducing numbers in prisons, the probation service which looks after people with non-custodial sentences is being slashed to the bone. Unison said when it was sold off to private companies it would be a disaster waiting to happen; it looks like that time is now very close. A service created to rehabilitate and support those who had lost their way will become one where resources are stretched to maximise profits and the critical needs of those at its centre are forgotten.”

A Working Links spokesman said: “Since taking on the CRCs, we have been open and transparent about the need to make efficiency savings. We have been in long discussions with the unions who understand the situation. After careful consideration, we are starting to streamline our support services across the business and have opened up opportunities for voluntary redundancy for those wishing to leave our CRCs. This will be an enhanced package and it is our aim, wherever possible, to avoid compulsory redundancies. We are now consulting with the unions and our people on our proposed new way of working across the organisation. At this stage we are simply looking for expressions of interest of those people who may wish to leave the organisation. This is a complex change programme that will last some months."

The spokesman added: “Change is always unsettling and we are working to ensure that there will be as seamless a transition as possible. We will ensure that probation officers can continue to focus on supporting offenders and reducing rates of reoffending. And our goal is to give them even more front-line time to do this by reducing some of the non-essential back-office work that they are currently required to do. As part of our proposed changes we are considering a split between physical face-to-face interactions with service users and a more remote delivery of services. We are consulting with the unions and our people on all potential changes. Our front line delivery will not be negatively impacted by our proposed changes. At all times we will ensure we deliver a safe service.”


The news has prompted what some might say is the usual bluster from the Napo General Secretary in his latest blog:- 

Napo totally opposed to Working Links job cuts

Christmas and bad news are synonymous, especially if you are employed within one of the three Working Links (WL) Community Rehabilitation Companies covering Wales and the South West of England.

Although we are short of vital information about the exact numbers of intended job losses in each of the WL locations, the quantum 40% reduction in overall staffing costs is both ‘gobsmacking’ and absolutely outrageous. The meeting this week in Worle between CRC and WL senior management and the Unions (which Mike McClelland and I attended alongside local Napo Reps) heard the by now familiar tales of woe about how the contractor has fallen foul of the Weighted Annual Volume (WAV) syndrome, the WAV is essentially the forecasts of the numbers of service users that were expected to cross the CRCs' doors and which were a major factor in the bidding process around fee for service / payment by results that the CRC owners entered into.

Of course, we know that the whole shambolic process which preceded the CRC share sale was, to say the least, less than transparent. Even after allowing some bidders a second bite at the cherry after their first efforts had failed to pass muster, the whole despicably inept exercise has several months later resulted in what seems to be a ‘suck it and see’ approach to the rather important task of managing offenders.

While it would be churlish to castigate Working Links for things that they were ripped off on in terms of the contracts they signed, they could do worse that join us in common cause in the representations to the Minister that the unions will be making.

As you would expect a lot of work has been going on this week and further correspondence is in draft as I write this so I will report in more detail next week. Meanwhile, let me make it absolutely clear: Napo opposes the rationale as well as the size of these intended job cuts and given the steer that I received from local reps this week, I have no hesitation in saying that if members want the campaign to include industrial action we, and our sister union Unison, must respond accordingly.


With Sodexo-owned South Yorkshire CRC demonstrating that cutting costs and sacking staff inevitably leads to failed audits and 'special' measures, I guess it's only a matter of time before the penny finally begins to drop that this simply ain't going to work. It seems Purple Futures are realising:-
I work in the CRC somewhere in the North West. My Manager said Purple Futures are not making profit and it is not viable. The manager said I should consider a change of career or move over to NPS. The manager made clear his views and said he/she has already got an exit plan. Wonder what she/he means?


  1. Wales and the SW lead the way in challenging the unmitigating disaster that is TR but it remains important to get Gove to publicly condemn these changes in order to distance himself quickly from Graylings disaster.....perhaps Napo could ask him directly....Does he support the changes to probation that have seen services hived off to private concerns or would he have favoured a more methodical approach to first testing the model that is clearly not working now?

    1. I read the General Secretary blog with interest and could easily believe he and his top table officials are taking on the incompetent management of Working Links when the reality is the local reps he refers to anonymously are compiling comprehensive catalogues of evidence to challenge the employers position. The local reps are committed to fight tirelessly for their members employment and security. The reality is that without this relentless input locally there would be no ongoing battle and requirement for Working Links to account for their 40% reduction in staff. It would have gone the same way as the Sodexo catastrophe in the North under the unhelpful G.S watch. Credit should be given where it's due and in this particular case, to the tenacity, skill and extensive knowledge of the South West Branch Chair and his Team. As a NAPO member in the area I feel very grateful to my reps for keeping me accurately informed in the regular branch reports and updates. I am confident that everything that can be done is being done to protect me by my colleagues. It is annoying that the G.S is jumping on their shirt tails and taking the credit. It would be more honest if he thanked the reps publicly and attribute any successes to date to the people who have and continue to fight for it.

    2. With respect, Ian Lawrence is the GS of an organisation that starts at Chivalry Road and ends on the coal face. To suggest he is riding on the shirt tails of local reps is completely missiing the point that any organisation with a national brief, especially where there are myriad employers, require local representation in order to secure information and to be able to act on it. The above reads as if people should expcet Lawrence to visit every office and see everything himself before he can act with integrity.

  2. Compare and contrast time.

    Andrew Selous: "They are the one group that previously remained out of scope for statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community... We came to office in the previous Government determined to change that..."

    Working Links: "As part of our proposed changes we are considering a split between physical face-to-face interactions with service users and a more remote delivery of services" (i.e. we're not actually going to bother seeing a load of them)

  3. Annoyed Probation Officer19 December 2015 at 11:30

    I'm tired of hearing the line "TR created the National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC's)". What this headline leaves out is that nothing of purpose or value was created. Probation 'worked' before TR, there was no evidence beforehand that the TR changes would improve probation and the evidence afterwards is that TR is a total mess.

    The CRC's are facing massive staffing cuts, the introduction of very questionable practices, and offender supervision is being sub-contracted to outside companies. Sodexo, Working Links, MTCNovo, and the rest, they're all the same.

    The NPS is recruiting unqualified staff to replace qualified probation officers, planning to force probation officers into prisons and is downgrading reputable probation practices to get more for less. Read it's E3 policy 'blueprint'.

    The govt likes to bang on about introducing supervision for those serving under 12 months. The fact is that young offenders receiving under 12 months already received 3 months supervision. Instead of giving Courts the power to use a similar model the cut-throat via that idiot Chris Grayling govt introduced a mandatory 12 months supervision for all serving under 12 months. This was a cherry to give the CRC's enough business to make profit. The result has been disproportionate periods of supervision on one hand, and on the other hand hordes of offenders being badly surprised by CRC's who are now realising they can't handle or profit off the work with the required levels of competent/qualified staffing.

    It's a shame Probation staff have been silenced and can only speak out anonymously. My Xmas wish to Santa is to sprinkle a bit of magic dust and compel our representatives to say the above in a public statement released on their websites and to media outlets. "Who are our representatives" you ask? That would be those that are best placed to stand up for probation but have instead been part of the problem rather than part of the solution - probation chief officers past and present, the senior probation puppets directing the NPS and CRC's, those silent govt-fearing voices at the Probation Institute. Our probation Union Napo needs to be more comprehensively vocal too. And where are the probation and criminal justice academics?, silent from the start!!


  5. Criminals could be dealt with via Skype because of big cuts to the probation service, it has been claimed. Employees and unions have criticised cost-cutting proposals being considered by Working Links in Wales. Massive cuts to the probation service could see offenders being dealt with via Skype – and parts of the service run from Middlesbrough.

    One worker dubbed the plans of private firm Working Links “dangerous” after it was revealed they plan to axe 260 people – 44% of staff. “They are centralising in Middlesbrough, because they have already got a centre there,” the source said. “That is happening between now and February. They have announced they are looking to make a 40% saving in Wales and for that to happen they need to make a 44% staff reduction. That is just Wales. They are doing the same in other areas.”

    Working Links was handed contracts to run probation in Wales, Devon and Cornwall, and Bristol and Avonmouth when the government privatised it last year. “They are on about having contact with offenders via Skype or text,” said the worker. They would not even be coming in but being seen on a screen. The risk to the community is huge.”

    The source said everywhere in Wales would be affected. “They announced this week they are setting up centrally based admin hubs, which is like a central pool based in Cardiff and Swansea,” said our source. There will be no admin staff in areas like Haverfordwest, Merthyr or Pontypool.” The effect will be “massive”.

    “The probation service is already criticised as soon as anyone commits an offence,” the insider said. “It will only take one person to commit a horrendous crime and people are going to turn around and say, ‘It is probation’s fault because they do not monitor them.’

    “It is dangerous, it really is dangerous. It’s happening because Working Links are a profit-making organisation and they told the government they could make a 40% reduction in costs.

    “Working Links have to make us cost effective and probation is never going to be cost effective because it is hands on.”

    Unison spokesman Glyn Jones said Working Links had not provided “full details of the new way of working in probation.”

    “From the little we have heard we are sceptical,” he said. “With regards the technology to be utilised we have grave concerns and we have concerns about the safety of our members delivering the service in buildings that are not suitable.”

    Mr Jones said union members had already been attacked by criminals when they were meeting in premises other than secure offices. He said the union had been assured they would be a “full and frank discussion” about the proposals.

    1. Working Links insisted they wanted to “help offenders to turn away from a life of crime and thus reduce reoffending.”

      “After careful consideration, we are starting to streamline our support services across the business and have opened up opportunities for voluntary redundancy for those wishing to leave our CRCs,” a spokesman said. “This will be an enhanced package and it is our aim, wherever possible, to avoid compulsory redundancies.”

      Working Links confirmed it was “consulting on proposals on changes to our estates.” It wanted to create “a more cost effective information technology solution” to “deliver efficiencies.”

      “We are a major employer in Wales and although remaining headquartered in Middlesbrough, we are proposing two of our main operational hubs will be in South Wales, with an additional Welsh language hub in North Wales,” a spokesman said. “At this stage we are simply looking for expressions of interest of those people who may wish to leave the organisation.”

      “These voluntary redundancies are focused on enabling us to align our support services across the Working Links group,” the spokesman said. “We will ensure probation officers continue to focus on supporting offenders and reducing rates of reoffending. Our goal is to give them even more front-line time to do this by reducing some of the non-essential back-office work that they are currently required to do.

      “As part of our proposed changes we are considering a split between physical face-to-face interactions with service users and a more remote delivery of services. “We are consulting with the unions and our people on all potential changes and detailed risk assessments will be undertaken for each offender we work with and at all times we will ensure we deliver a safe service. Our front line delivery will not be negatively impacted by our proposed changes.”

  6. Where were you when Napo colleagues stood outside offices on strike? Did you cross the picket line justifying your inaction on the basis you couldn't afford to lose a day's pay? I knew the day would come in Wales when staff would start panicking. An old Welsh saying says there's no point lifting your petticoat after pixxxng.

    1. many in my area didn't strike because they knew they were in NPS and assumed they were safe - everybody and I mean everybody thought CRC was inferior and would not need Probation Officers. All NPS offices in my area now quaking as the tsunami of shit is on it's way and they cant get under it and cant get over it.

    2. The CRC is inferior because thats how the govt designed it, and that's how the private companies are developing it. The NPS is inferior too compared to what probation used to be. Probation has become increasingly inferior over the past 20 years, ever since they detached us from social work and fooled us into believing we were an enforcement agency and rehabilitation took a back seat to punishment and public protection. The staff are not inferior though and we're all against TR whether we striked or not. In my area most of us were on strike, didn't matter if we thought we were going to NPS or CRC. Likewise we all know we'll be affected be the changes and cuts, NPS or CRC. Nobody wants to face this shite or see their colleagues face this shite.

  7. " “We will ensure probation officers continue to focus on supporting offenders and reducing rates of reoffending." "

    That is devious and deceitful implying that it is ONLY probation officers "supporting offenders and reducing rates of reoffending"

    1. It is deceitful and aimed for public consumption. As though doing probation officers a favour by getting rid of their admin

  8. What is 'non essential back office work'?

    Or is it just bullsh*t

  9. I'm just staggered that anyone running a big company was stupid enough to sign up to this TR bullshit. Did they learn nothing from the DWP work programme fiasco? Surprised anyone's shareholder's let them sign up to such dodgy contracts. These people probably spend more time researching which washing machine to buy than they did which probation services to bid on

  10. Thoughts on the future of Community Payback.My prediction for the not too distant future.
    A very small dedicated team to complete Initial Interviews along with their new ETE partners in CP.Placements for offenders to be sourced with a focus on income generation for the cash strapped CRC's.No Probation Supervisors,vans,equipment necessary.The beneficiary will arrange supervision, equipment etc.
    All enforcements will be carried out by Admin at the Contact Service Center.Breaches,if any, will be an Admin role,countersigned by a responsible officer, with a proposal that leans towards more Unpaid Work hours to generate more income.
    Think this won't happen? Fast forward 18 months....

    1. Not so much Community Payback, as Community Cashback?

    2. i cant see anyone requesting more UPW simply because if it's not completed in 12mths then it's a 'fail' and we're fined. Additional breach hours would only add to the risk of someone not completing. Far too many full time employed people getting 200 hours and thus leaving little room for absences which is causing us a headache.

    3. If the 200 hours is a substitute for custody then it would be preferable to me. In anycase, why are you worried about targets. Community based sentences have to be a robust and credible option for sentences and the public. This won't happen when more people become aware of the sham orders.

    4. Agree that this may be the plan but the providers need to understand that the use of prisoners to do work for profit is a breach of EU legislation and constitutes slave labour.

    5. NOMS have provided advice on this and it is deemed fine to seek income generation. They even provide suggestions as to how to manage it.
      CP people and prisoners are not the same.

    6. NOMS say it's ok? Well that's fine then. Obviously the NOMS seal of approval overrides any questions of morality...

    7. Totally agree Anon 09:38. 'Sham' Orders is a perfect description. I am surprised that anyone buys into what is passing for 'innovation' under TR. All I know is, if I'd had my handbag snatched off me in the street, been mugged for my phone, or had yet more items thieved from my small independent business I'd be well pissed off to know that the perpetrator may be reporting to a fingerprint recognition machine or receiving a quarterly skyped interview from a location potentially over 100 miles away as their 'punishment'. 'Joke' doesnt come near as a description of what is going on.....

  11. Unpaid Work hours vary from 40-300 hours.14 days per 100 hrs as a guide.Breaches of UPW normally results in 7-20 hours additional,plenty of scope generally for additional hours resulting in additional income generation.No one would normally propose extra hours if near the end of an Order.As you say no point putting forward a proposal to fail.

  12. Its time to come clean. I was a whiney prick of a PO.

    I naiively & placidly expected napo to fight my corner in the TR battle but I was sorely disappointed. Despite the protestations, the oromises & the polemic, SodUCo stripped me of my job & 60% of my EVR. Napo have never made contact with me since, not even an approach to ask if I'm ok, where are my subs, am I alive... So my advice to those of you now at risk from Skulking Finks & Poiple Fuckups or any other organisation with a made up playground gang name is: FIGHT. Kick them in the vulnerables, bite, scratch, poke, scream & headbutt. Tell everyone what's happening. Use local media, social media, national media. Leak like a sieve & make yourselves safe. No-one other than yourself is going to look after your interests.

    1. @21:30 Absolutely fucking bang on! This is not a game, there is no love from above for the maingrades, we are despised, a hinderance, a cost. A cost that takes from their profit.

      Please wake the fuck up. Your union is not the problem, you are. You are because you are your fucking union!! o-r-g-a-n-i-s-e yourselves and fight back.
      Fight for your careers, your professionalism, your dignity. Fight because this is your job and you understand it. Fight because even those who are at the mercy of the state, still deserve to be treated as fucking humans.
      Stop with the hitting of targets, the doing the work of others. There are no prizes for working above your grade, taking on tasks that are none of your business, going the extra mile bollocks. Only we can protect ourselves.

      read your job descriptions and stay within it, read your policies and ensure those above work within them. Engage your health and safety reps and refuse to do anything that may put you in harms way. Take your breaks, dont work overtime, remove all goodwill. Fight back. Come on!!!
      Reclaim Probation Movement.

  13. 21:30 and 23:59, Fine fighting words but I'm not convinced. Doing our hours and keeping to the job role doesn't do much in terms of fighting back. Nobody cares about probation so there's nobody to complain to; there is no "probation movement" and it will not be 'reclaimed'. We did fight TR, we want to fight the privateers and the Ministry of Justice, but we know the chips are stacked against us. We're not like the police, the doctors and the train drivers where from the outset managers, directors and union leaders adopt a public and active stance against challenges to their professions and workers rights. Instead our probation unions (Napo and Unison) have proven to be useless, our probation managers and directors are leading the destruction of our profession and our professional association (probation institute) doesn't represent probation.

    I'd compare probation staff to a colonised people, and British governments are good at colonising. First they attacked us with TR and our own managers and leaders sold us out, then they enslaved us with the gagging order, the split and the civil service code, then they broke our spirit working us to the bone and hammering us with the never ending new policies and instructions, and then they left us to rot and die with cuts, redundancy and E3. Those that have been on the probation reservation (NPS and CRC's) from the start hold on in hope that if we work hard enough we may be safe, things may improve, at least we can pay our bills, mortgages and put food on the table. Those of us born into the post-TR probation servitude, the newly recruited and newly qualified, don't know any better so just get on with it.


    1. A very interesting article. Is anyone fron South Yorkshire CRC able to say what (kneejerk) reaction Sod-u-all are taking? Many of the concerns raised are also happening in my CRC. Is there a way for me to inform the MoJ as I feel it's about time we started fighting back against these shysters?