Friday, 29 April 2016

That NAO Report Explained

Key findings

The performance of the reformed system

6 23% of service users note things have got worse, they are particularly upset with housing, employment and having to repeat themselves.

7 Data collection is inaccurate and difficult to gather making it difficult to see how successful this has been. There will be no re-offending data for at least 8 months.

8 Contracts are tightly controlled in the CRC but the CRC are kicking back. The NPS has not got a clue what it is contracted to do.

9 The two organisations have conflicting objectives and are bickering with each other and pointing fingers.

10 NPS are over worked now, CRC will be once they have laid off enough staff to make a profit.

11 IT systems are a joke, inefficient, late and not fit for the job.

12 Phew. Some how the wheels did not come off. Lets give 'em a gong. There is a lot of rubbish we kicked into the long grass and the bidders did not have a clue what they were buying. Lets hope we have bought enough time. Fingers crossed.

13 We got our split numbers wrong meaning that the CRC's have not got enough work to make a profit from. If one of them gives the contract back WE ARE FUCKED.

14 Payment by Results. See the bit about long grass at 12. Also Innovation...we were joking. Lets put some guff in here about fees for service "Incentivise" is that a word? Who cares the policy wonks like it.

15 The NPS - too many cases, managers drowning, systems in flux, lots of inconsistent policies inherited. We have a change programme, somewhere over there in the field.

16 Through the gate...Well on track..Sorry cannot keep this up, it's a mess. We have a thing called "Through the Gate" in the prisons but what it is, how it works and when it will make a difference, who knows.

17 Voluntary sector. Well, come on, that was just bid candy. Sadly they all seemed to see that we had just put lipstick on the pig and they laughed and left. Never mind, the boss was able to stand up and talk about it and in any event we were always going to sell it off to the French and the yanks Brexit anyone?

18 Well, we got away with it so far. It did not fall completely to bits. Lets give the credit to the staff at NOMS, not the idiots with vocations who kept the show on the road while we shafted them all (Sorry people, but this is me and I do have a reputation to uphold PC)

19 But you know we are not out of the woods and it will just take something we have buried to start to smell and we are fucked.


a You know the problems with this are exacerbated by the fact that it was rushed and done half arsed to a stupid timetable. But hey we got away with it. Please take more care from now on. (Key point with any report is that the most difficult to understand sentence is the one where they are trying to cover up something).

b Ask the CRCs what they need in order to stay the course. If they leave WE ARE FUCKED


d Reform the NPS and for gods sake sort their IT and back office.

e The best way to ensure CRC buy-in is to give them more money and less oversight. Cannot see a problem with this, it worked so well with the SERCO tagging contract.

f Try and count things monthly. If we are constantly updating our numbers, then we appear to be doing more work.

g When giving more money to the CRCs (see c above) say it's for innovation.

That is what I got from that document. They have managed to write up "We avoided total disaster" as this is a great success. Its like Dunkirk, we get 300k soldiers off the beach but not a single gun, no tanks and no artillery. The Germans ran us into the sea in six weeks and knocked out our major European Ally. But when you read the reports its all plucky little boats and British grit and stiff upper lip. Be ready though from now on this will be used to counter any suggestion that anything is less than rosy.

(Thanks to 'Pina Colada')


Rob Allen had this to say:-

The Invisible Transformation

Back in January 2013, then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was admirably clear about what he expected his “revolution in the way we manage offenders to achieve”. "My vision is very simple", he wrote . "When someone leaves prison, I want them already to have a mentor in place. I want them to be met at the prison gate, to have a place to live sorted out, to have a package of support set up, be it training or drug treatment or an employability course. I also want them to have someone they can turn to as a wise friend as they turn their lives around”. The private Community Rehabilitation Companies which were contracted to provide 70% of probation work were supposed to implement this simple vision.

Three and a half years on, the National Audit Office today reported on how Transforming Rehabilitation has been going. It includes this gobbledygook.

“Through the Gate’ resettlement services began on 1 May 2015; there have, however, been some initial problems associated with the ambitious delivery timescales. For example, some providers encountered challenges in accessing prisons and mobilising their resettlement suppliers. NOMS’ assurance checks found that providers initially focused too much on whether offenders complete the process, which is one of the CRC service levels, rather than the quality of their resettlement plans. NOMS has worked with CRCs to clarify what more they must do for offenders beyond simply completing an offender’s resettlement plans within a five-day period (20 of the 21 CRCs were meeting this target in December 2015) and signposting them to services”.

If you have trouble understanding what that means, you can find an illustration in the Prison Inspectorate’s report on HMP Lewes published earlier this week. They reported that 30% of prisoners were released homeless.Their survey of prisoners (carried out at the end of last year) found that a much lower proportion knew anyone in the prison who could help them on release than in 2012- whether with problems relating to accommodation, employment, finance, education or drugs.Somehow however the Inspectors reached the conclusion that “CRC arrangements had developed well”.

In similar vein the NAO flies in the face of their evidence by highlighting the successful restructuring of the probation landscape “within ministerial timescales and without major disruption to services”. The report makes much of the fact that more than three-quarters (77%) of service users said they had not noticed any change in the overall service they personally received. In fact more felt that the overall level of support and help with housing and accommodation had got worse rather than better.

But isn’t it a strange revolution when most of the people its designed to influence don’t notice any difference?


This is Richard Garside's take on things:-

Probation reforms looking dicey

A couple of years ago I argued that the privatisation of the probation service – the so-called 'Transforming Rehabilitation' programme – would be something of a slow motion disaster. Ministers might push through their ill-thought-out plans, I wrote. The problems would come in the implementation.

A report out this week from the National Audit Office (NAO) notes that the Ministry of Justice 'successfully restructured the probation landscape and avoided major disruptions in service'. But it goes on to add that 'this is only the beginning' and stresses that the the Ministry of Justice needs to 'stabilise and improve' how the new system is operating.

The most striking finding in the report is the yawning gap between the estimated caseload volumes the new private 'Community Rehabilitation Companies' (CRC) used to cost up their bids, and the actual caseload volumes they are currently working with.

Among the 21 CRCs, four have caseloads one tenth lower than their estimates; eight have caseloads a fifth lower. A further three are falling short by a quarter and five have a shortful of a third.

The CRCs are paid according to the number of cases they manage. Fewer cases therefore means less money.

This may be something the CRCs can manage in the short-term. Over the lifetime of their contracts these shortfalls could place them under significant financial pressure.

As the NAO report points out: 'CRCs had proposed to raise significant levels of external debt to fund transformation activity and bridge their financial position during the first two years of their contracts. Lower than expected revenues increase the risk that CRCs may breach the terms of their debt facilities'.

This is polite auditor speak for 'looks a bit dicey to us'.

There is little glory in claiming success over the implementation of a badly thought-through set of reforms, and the Transforming Rehabilitation programme was particularly badly thought-through.

Ministers and civil servants would do well to place a premium on stabilising the current system in the short-term. It is also to be hoped that the NAO report will act as a spur for a longer-term rethink.


Sadly my car giving out on the Motorway prevented me getting to Paul Senior's valedictory lecture yesterday. Would anyone who attended be kind enough to consider writing a guest blog piece? Alternatively, leave some thoughts/reflections here? Thanks. 


  1. This is all lies and propoganda. TR is defying all odds as is fast becoming a booming success

    1. Wow you clearly don't work in it.

    2. I'll have what ever your smoking..

    3. Jim you are clearly rattling cages, You have your own Tory Central Office Troll just like the Guardian.

    4. A booming success? Examples please

  2. I think 18.01 is being ironic surely? What is going on in birmingham crc? Called today and asked who was running the show and someone told me they don't know and are 'waiting to find out'!

  3. Got paid today. I never used to think about getting paid, not because I am in any way well off, just because it was not the most important thing about my employment, now it is a kind of solace, I got paid today. Increasingly embarrassing to be employed by my Probation Service employer. Disgraceful, nothing more to say.

  4. I think Paul Senior said the other day on Twitter his valedictory lecture would be on YouTube if that helps at all?

  5. The NAO report proves that views expressed by many on this blog & elsewhere over the last few years were well-founded and well-informed, that Grayling & his associated cronies were incompetent to the point of being negligent and that (for fear of sounding boring) a world leading, first class profession was cynically & systematically dismantled by ignorant, arrogant, clueless ideologues. Consequently the carefully developed & nurtured careers of many dedicated staff have been squandered by those fuckwits.

    Once again let it be recorded that Grayling, Wright, Romeo, Brennan, Spurr and all collaborators in this debacle - including the lickspittle Trusts, the greedy predators & the ineffective unions - were responsible for a shameful & deliberate act of institutional vandalism.

    Thank you, Jim & all contributors, for keeping the channels of communication open.

  6. in my CRC the specialist Progammes Dept who deliver accredited programmes ie: BBR; TSP; BSR has been disbanded and staff have been allocated to a community office as has the 'community team' that officers had specialisms in housing and multi-cultural issues. The idea is that 'flex' teams are going to have multi-staff and PO/PSO are going to be delivering these programmes. Firstly, all accredited programmes need to be filmed so how this is going to work I don't know - just cos you can manage a caseload does not automatically mean you can deliver group programmes and vice versa - I know some programme tutors are in for a big shock.
    All admin have now been allocated posts and how on earth they have worked the formulas and locations out is beyond me - offices that previously had 4 CAs are reduced to 1 with the unchosen advised to await an email about a consolation job. Staff unwittingly pitted against each other ie CAs being asked to fill an application form in not actually appreciating it would be used to decide if they would be given a job because they were not told that whilst 4 of them at present this would be reduced to 1. Staff who have had grievances out against each other and working in separate offices have been flung back together because people matching posts and staff have no clue about who/what/where or why - all in all a shambles, lots of unhappy people. Also people not meeting targets and incurring service charges summonsed to HQ to explain themselves. Not a happy place at the moment.

  7. Are you part of the Purple Futures stable in the North?

  8. Has anyone tried transferring out of area recently? Did the government consider the impact of this? Offenders do move around quite a bit. I would hesitate to say more frequently than most due to family break-down, employment etc. Well try asking another area to supervise someone (os) because for one thing it is not straightforward, they don't respond to e mails and basically not interested! Moving area is a right with community orders and we need to be helping each other!

    1. oh what fun this is - I was emailing an SPO and never getting a reply and it turned out it was because I wasn't using the sodexo email address - I never knew this existed. I miss us all being on the same email address

  9. Oh, maybe that is the problem that i am having! Although whoever took the call said she didn't know who was running the crc there anyway because they had 'PULLED OUT'LOL. sounds like unreliable birth control method, says it all really. 'Privatised probation in need of the morning after pill as inexperienced providers pull out too late'.

  10. E3 consultation ends on the 9th May - anybody got any thoughts on it?