Let's not forget that this report is based on pre-arranged inspections, NOT random unannounced visits. It therefore beggars belief that despite being in a position to polish their turds, neither CRC nor NPS could produce anything like acceptable results. How can 25% or 33% failure to meet standards be even vaguely acceptable, let alone "more than two-thirds"? This is the impact of TR on what was previously a gold-standard public service.
Yes, it is all true and as a CRC PO I am told to do all I can to avoid breach and go to huge efforts to get offenders through the door. I have no problem with that but being asked to alter a decision on a record from unacceptable absence to acceptable is something I will not do. Remember that as CRC staff we carry some of the riskiest and unpredictable cases, namely domestic violence, accountable for majority of murders in UK. Ok, if they do it they go to NPS but we are holding the risk before it happens. I refuse to massage the figures like G4S and will breach if I feel I need to as a matter of public protection. Do not forget fellow officers that if the shit hits the fan it is your name that will go up in lights and when you look back, there is no one there to support you. You will be on your own in the spotlight! So stick to your guns and breach if you have real concerns.
Fuck me! Probation in the headlines. What will we do to capitalise on some public awareness of the TR scandal that we already know all about? Not much if past form is anything to go by. On another note, maybe some bright journalist reading this blog might pick up on this story too. Its a good one. Here's your free headline. "Grayling's Reforms Cause Prison Drug Crisis". I am reliably informed that HMPS have identified a worrying new trend where people on PSS are deliberately breaching in order to get a two week lie down in their Cat B local. Back in with a couple of ounces of gear in a condom up your arse equals a highly lucrative payout. Perhaps Grayling would approve of this example of the entrepreneurial spirit or maybe the CRC's will use it as an excuse for not breaching? Great to see someone else is making money out of TR though, isn't it?
60% staff gone in CRC Training Team through EVR or resignations since split. Several recommendations regarding insufficient training. Am one of 40% still in post and really concerned about future staff training and development. Focus however on impact of TR on operational staff.
The BBC news item was welcome. I am a PO in a CRC and I am certain that with increasing regularity that breaches and recalls are not being made because of the contract. I know that when this happens people go on to reoffend when they otherwise might not have, a very few will reoffend in a way that grabs the headlines although some who are not breached and recalled when they previously would have been will do neither, but this is not the real story with TR.
Rehabilitation for many of the people we work with, those revolving in and out of the Courts, cannot be done on the cheap and quick, certainly not the quick and I would say not on the cheap. The models the profiteers are working to want everything ticked off in the first 3 months of a community sentence or licenced supervision period with tokenistic interventions. For some cases this may appear to work but for the remainder, the people caught in the system more regularly, these are people who are usually faced with multiple problems, substance misuse, unemployment, homelessness, mental health, emotional affects from an abusive childhood or adult relationships, problematic peer associations, anti-social attitudes and much more.
In these cases, all cases, a good starting point for effective and efficient work is a good initial professional assessment and then professionals who can develop a good working relationship to support people to bring about self-directed or guided changes in their lives. This can take quite some time, perseverance and effort and is aided by well trained, experienced and skilled professionals. Sodexo et al did not sign up to this vision and when they figure out that a profit cannot be squeezed in the way that they had anticipated they will be gone, either that or Probation work will be?
Could morale be any lower in CRCs? Every evening I get home (late of course) and contemplate resignation but at my age (50 ish) I would struggle to get another job and still have a mortgage to pay. I work in a resettlement team where stress related illness is rife and we are struggling just to do the basic custody screening (target of 95%) let alone any meaningful work arising from this. We try and focus on the most pressing need of soon to be released prisoners - housing, but have very few meaningful resources to achieve the target of 90% of 'sustained accommodation' (clients remaining in that accommodation for at least 3 months following release).
We are struggling, to put it mildly, but face the wrath of managers and prison governors when we fail to deliver. Indeed, we are regularly held to account for the shockingly poor results of the pathways we are supposed to be addressing and we are constantly reminded that prison did resettlement so much better when it was in-house. Colleagues in the field also apply the pressure with 'well it's your job to find him somewhere to live.' Impossible with many of our medium risk revolving door clients who have fouled up with every housing provider in a 60 mile radius. Not sure where CRCs can go with TTG apart from to admit failure and push it back to governors.
I'm sorry. I'm one of the people on the receiving end of the awfulness of Basic Custody Screening. It achieves nothing. I usually know the person being screened and have yet to see one that is true. It is a total waste of time and effort and you guys must be knocking yourselves silly trying to achieve the target. For the first time ever I have heard two people in one week talk about trying to get back inside so they can make a bit of money. It's totally and utterly fucked up.
I was paid off by CRC last year on a non-EVR rate. I found myself between a rock & a hard place so chose to jump with a basic parachute rather than being thrown out without one. Within 24 hours I was cold contacted by two agencies offering me generous rates & "guaranteed" 6 month contracts, the higher offer being £34/hour as a private limited company or £25/hour as a PAYE staffer. They also offered to link me in with "a consortium" of independents who share the legal & accountancy costs... I gained the impression it was a tightly organised arrangement where everyone was in clover.
I refused & am quite happy pottering around doing gardens, painting sheds, occasional labouring to keep the mortgage company happy. The stress-free lifestyle is blissful. Its painful reading about the pernicious, divisive & abusive murky depths into which the probation landscape has been plunged.
I'm agency. I'd jump at being permanent if there was a chance. I'd lose about £500 a month. I might be able to apply for a mortgage though and I wouldn't have that sick feeling when the SPO asked to see me. 3 placements already this year. 5 days notice each time when they finished me.
I've just breached a class A user who agreed to UPW as he was looking at custody. It got him out of the mess in court but now he's hit a problem as he can't attend UPW - I think he's capable of doing it but his lifestyle is such that there's no chance. Anyway, he DNA court, picked up on warrant and not only have they not deleted the hours (as per my application) but they've also given him an 8week curfew for breach. Fecking joke and bet ur bottom dollar he'll breach again, get custody and lose his flat etc etc. I wonder if people are deliberately set up to fail?
Absolutely right, some of the sentences coming out of the courts these days are absurd, the legacy of under-trained NPS staff not having enough time or enough information to do a proper job.
FFS. Probation ALWAYS had worked with short term prisoners albeit on a voluntary basis before CG decided this group of people would make a good 'market' for profit. Those who didn't want the intervention weren't forced, whereas now they are forced and the non compliant running rings around their officers and playing the system, wasting everyone's time.
South Yorkshire had one of the best Unpaid Work set ups in Probation, with an excellent compliance rate. However, under Sodexo, the compliance rate has spiralled down and down to 35%. Meanwhile, staff were told that they were breaching too much, and that the system could not cope, so every breach should be run past a manager. Clients are voting with their feet in regards to unpaid work, as are senior managers, and PSO staff.
It took decades to build our workforce up and 12 mths for privateers to destroy it. Slash & burn with staff there will be no option but to re-merge soon purely to pool resources - one simply cannot survive without the other. Diversity of staff personalities is what cannot be quantified on a spreadsheet so when privateers were rubbing their grubby little hands at the prospect of shedloads of money, they totally under-estimated that ultimately they could only control some of the staff, some of the time and this has been their undoing.
The following 'guest' piece was submitted anonymously yesterday and sounds a timely warning:-
The cost of saying yes!
It was interesting to read the latest update from the HM Inspectorate of Probation and I noticed the headline “Staff told not to take action against probation breaches”. Where does that leave hard working staff that are being pushed to achieve these profitable outcomes? It's worth going back to see what has happened to staff that have followed the line of “just do it” or “JFDI”.
Look at A4E and its management of the DWP contract, this from the Independent “A dossier of evidence and complaints given to Ms Hodge, details of which The Independent on Sunday has seen, include allegations of past financial fraud, in-work bullying, claims of bad treatment and accusations that the welfare-to-work company delivered poorly run services. One complaint, written by someone who describes himself as a former A4E employee and whom the IoS has agreed not to name, described A4E as "nothing short of a gravy train". He said fraud at A4E had been "systemic" and "common practice".
Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the public accounts committee, who said of the leaked document about A4E "This appears to be devastating evidence of systemic fraud within A4E. Either A4E failed to act or to inform DWP, or they did inform DWP and the department failed to investigate properly.”
The BBC noted in the report on A4E that "potential fraudulent or irregular activity is not confined to one particular geographical area… and shows a potential systematic failure to mitigate the risk towards this behaviour at both an office and regional level".
So what happened to the people who just say yes? This from the Daily Mail, “Four former employees of scandal-hit welfare-to-work firm A4E admitted swindling taxpayers yesterday. The guilty pleas follow a police investigation into the troubled company which is paid more than £200m by the Government each year. Julie Grimes, 50, Aditi Singh, 30, Bindiya Dholiwar, 27, and Dean Lloyd, 36, admitted dozens of offences of fraud and forgery. A whistleblower claimed forged signatures and blank timesheets were 'routine' techniques used for bumping up the numbers of successful job placements. The four former A4e recruiters admitted a total of 32 offences during a hearing at Reading Crown Court yesterday”.
Wikipedia noted “In March 2015 six former (A4E) employees were jailed for forging files in a scam that was said to have cost taxpayers almost £300,000. Another four ex-members of staff received suspended prison sentences.” Interestingly the Judge in the case commented "No amount of pressure justifies the wholesale fabrication of information in files or the forgery of other people's signatures on documents, all of which is designed to extract money from the Department of Work and Pensions." The judge also “said it was not for her to decide whether more senior managers should also be held to account”.
Wikipedia notes on its A4E page “A former employee from the Manchester office of A4E reports that pressure to meet quotas made fraud commonplace: 'Forging signatures used to go on all the time. You had no choice because it was made very clear to you that you would lose your job unless you reached your targets. That comment sounds vaguely familiar. The response of senior management at A4E was blunt “A4E chief executive Andrew Dutton said the company has a "zero-tolerance policy" towards fraud.
So what has happened to A4E, a small number of staff have been jailed or given suspended sentences. A4E move on they are now People Plus and according to their home page “We are a leading employment support and training services company with a mission to transform people's lives and businesses through work and training.”
It goes on to state:-
“Justice relates to our operation of the probation service in Warwickshire and West Mercia through a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) formed as part of the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation project. Across the country we also operate programmes to help ex-offenders take their first step back into work upon their release. This includes the delivery of the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) in ten prisons in the East of England. Our unique position as a provider of mainstream services both in custody and in the community enables us to provide a seamless transition into dedicated employment search and support upon release”.So where does that leave staff in a culture of “Just do it”?
1. Don’t do anything without an audit trail
2. Keep copies of all relevant documents (off site)
3. Keep notes
4. If all else fails, record conversations.