Friday, 27 May 2016

Responses to Inspection Report

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.


  1. From BBC website:-

    The criminal justice system in England and Wales is failing victims and witnesses and is close to "breaking point", MPs have warned. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the system was "bedevilled by long-standing poor performance, including delays and inefficiencies". The committee's report also warned that cutbacks were affecting the ability of courts to deliver justice.

    The PAC found that about two-thirds of trials in crown courts were delayed or did not go ahead at all. There was a backlog of 51,830 cases awaiting a hearing as of September last year, it said, with an average 134-day wait between cases leaving magistrates' courts and the start of crown court proceedings.

    This was up from a 99-day average wait two years ago.
    Some 55% of witnesses have said they would not be willing to be witnesses again, with one in five being made to wait four hours or more to give evidence in court.

    PAC chairwoman Meg Hillier said: "These are damning statistics. "An effective criminal justice system is a cornerstone of civil society but ours is at risk. "Too little thought has been given to the consequences of cutbacks with the result that the system's ability to deliver justice, together with its credibility in the eyes of the public, is under threat."

    The committee also warned that people faced a postcode lottery in accessing justice. Victims of crime had a seven-in-10 chance of a crown court trial going ahead in North Wales but only a two-in-10 chance in Greater Manchester, official data showed.

    The length of time victims were made to wait between an offence being committed and the conclusion of their case ranged from 243 days in Durham to 418 days in Sussex.

    Figures also showed that government spending on the criminal justice system had fallen by 26%, while the number of Crown Prosecution Service lawyers had dropped by 27%, since 2010.
    The committee warned that the Ministry of Justice had "exhausted the scope to cut costs without pushing the system beyond breaking point". It recommended "rapid and significant" improvements in service to victims and witnesses.

    A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "The justice secretary has been clear that our criminal justice system needs urgent reform. "That is why we have embarked on comprehensive measures to improve our prisons and courts, backed by over £2bn of investment, to build a swifter, more certain justice system."

  2. I used to love going to work in the morning, now i feel an impending sense of doom! Waiting to find out who will be made reduntant and who will stay and hold the crumbling fort! Oh, we have to move out of the fort to save WL's cash. No idea where we will end up, probably a sinking dingy stuck in the detritus of some stinking fetid sink hole called TR.

  3. Hardly a mention about criminal justice over the last 2 years in the press regarding cutbacks and the decimation of services related to criminal justice. Suddenly the failures are being highlighted by the BBC. Is this in readiness for the next round of reforms and further privatisation.
    As Probation staff we are damned if we do and damned if we don't. How the hell can we continue to work like this. I am sick of seeing the misery of our clients day in day out and no resources to help them. All we do is signpost people to other agencies and they then signpost them on to someone else. No real work being done to really help people make changes, just ticking boxes.

  4. Meanwhile probation Chiefs cashed in and left us in this mess;

    "In total, 10 senior executives secured six-figure deals including lump-sum payouts as well as pension top-ups. They include Sally Lewis, the outgoing chief executive of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, whose exit package totalled £293,000, and Russell Bruce, the outgoing chief executive of Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, who received a redundancy package worth £230,000. Heather Munro, the former head of the then London Probation Trust (now the London CRC), who was paid a salary of more than £130,000 in her final year of employment, left with a deal worth £247,196. Her pension pot was valued at £1.4m."

    I notice former chiefs Tessa Webb and Sarah Billard who also received huge payouts have popped up as a HMIP inspector and a MD. Fellowships for them and other CPO's at the Probation Institute seem to be part of the deal.

  5. Sarah Billiald maintained that she never received a pay out when she resigned from Kent Probation.

    1. So there is one with a clear conscience. Not like the others, every single one, that kept quiet and sold probation down the river with their eyes on the prize.

    2. Sue Hall's another one. Sold us out under TR, got a massive payout, then sold us out again with the Probation Institute.

      I could say the same and list names for nearly every chief probation officer at the time of TR. Oh except for Sarah Billiald who did speak out and refused the EVR. And guess what, she wasn't even probation qualified but stood up for us with the best.

      Our problem now is that the Cheifs and senior managers left are amongst the worst. They are part of the current problems and the ones giving the instructions trying to cover it up, and that's CRC and NPS.

  6. Heather Munro's mask slipped before she left London Probation Trust and she engaged in a personal attack on those leading NAPOs campaign against TR in London after striking her own non opposition to TR golden handshake deal. She took her 30 pieces of silver but not before she smoothed the way for many of her mates who are currently enjoying EVR. So long suckers!!!!!

    1. A lot of TR can be blamed on Heather Munro. If she had come clean about the problems with Setco managing London probation's unpaid work this would have been a real spanner in the works for Grayling's plans. Now we know that she had a £million reasons to keep quiet.

      I hope they all enjoy their blood money, all the probation chief officers 2013-2015.

  7. Only 10 years old, this prison closure announced yesterday by written statement as Parliament went into recess, from Guardian:-

    Britain’s most overcrowded prison, HMP Kennet in Merseyside, is to close just 10 years after it opened, the justice secretary has announced.

    Michael Gove said HMP Kennet – a category C training prison, which opened in 2007 – was poorly designed and among the most expensive jails of its type.

    Kennet is on the same site as the Ashworth high-security psychiatric hospital in Maghull. It was designed to hold 175 men, but government figures record it as holding 338 at the end of March, nearly twice as many, and close to its operational capacity of 342.

    Gove told MPs the decision had been taken not to renew the lease with Mersey Care NHS trust for the site of HMP Kennet and it will close by July 2017.

    The prison was converted from existing medical buildings at a cost of £19m and took its first prisoners in December 2007. It offers training, education and workshops for all its prisoners.

    “The staff at HMP Kennet have been undertaking excellent work with the prisoners from Merseyside and the surrounding areas. The prison however does not provide an ideal environment for the rehabilitation of the men it holds. Its design and layout make it difficult to operate, it has the highest levels of crowding in the estate and is one of the most expensive category C prisons in the country,” said Gove in a written ministerial statement.

    The justice secretary said closing prisons such as Kennet would enable money to be invested in a modern prison estate with facilities for training and rehabilitation that would help prisoners turn their lives around.

    Soon after he became justice secretary last year, Gove announced he would close old and ineffective prisons, particularly inner-city Victorian jails. However, so far only Kennet and HMP Holloway, which was totally rebuilt in the 1980s, have been earmarked for closure.

    1. Wow all those millions wasted.

  8. Why are we all burying our heads in the sand and allowing this government to continue decimating services and wasting our money. It's very easy for people to think why should I bother as it does not effect me. However this continued destruction of public services in the name of austerity will effect us all.

    1. And it will be 10 times worse if they manage to brexit us out of the EU!

      Vote to stay in!

  9. The CJS is "close to breaking point", and that's without even including the post sentence stage where the worst problems are. Big thanks to Chris Grayling. What I can't understand is that out probation "leaders" and Michael Gove know this but continue to pull probation apart at the seams with the NPS' E3 and all the cut throat CRC models.

  10. It is clear that there are a number of issues identified in previous TR inspections which remain problematic. This report does not make new recommendations, mainly because many of the existing ones have not yet been implemented.

  11. How the private sector works in the CJS

    1. You couldn’t make it up (but Serco did)

      A CORONER has forced service giant Serco to implement swift reforms after it admitted that its computerised cell records at a busy London magistrates’ court were “a work of fiction”.

      The admission came at the inquest into the death of Sivaraj Tharmalingam, who died from an alcohol-related seizure while being held at Thames magistrates’ court in Bow, east London, a year ago. Jurors found a series of failures by Serco had contributed to his death.

      They had heard that Mr Tharmalingam, 50, was known to have epilepsy, which had left him with brain damage. He was also heavily intoxicated when detained, and Serco staff should have checked him every five minutes. In the hour before his death, he was monitored only once before being found unconscious.

      Records appearing to show that named staff had made regular observations had been fabricated. The computer operator told the inquest at St Pancras coroner’s court that she had been trained to record the checks as having been made on time and to “guess” which jailer might have done them. The jury also heard that Serco had no procedure governing what to do if a detainee was found unresponsive, and that there had been a delay in summoning medical help.

      North London coroner Mary Hassell issued a Regulation 28 warning, demanding reforms to avoid another preventable death. She said staff had painted a “very confused picture” of who was responsible for what, particularly when it came to the care of at-risk prisoners. Last week Serco responded with a seven-page outline of root-and-branch changes to the way it cares for prisoners in its custody – not just in London.

      Serco, as Eye readers well know, is no stranger to dodgy data. It was forced to give up its tagging contract and repay the government £68.5m after being caught charging for some offenders who were back in prison or dead. Similarly, it had to repay profits on its prison escort services when anomalies were discovered in recorded prisoner movements.

      But Serco was not the only one to be criticised in the case of Mr Tharmalingam. The jury also found failures by the doctor who had decided the previous night at Forest Gate police station that Mr Tharmalingam was fit to be detained. Dr Paschal Forkuo, who has since referred himself to the General Medical Council over the issue, had spent just one minute with the prisoner and not bothered to check his medication.

      Selen Cavcav, from Inquest, the campaigning charity, said the case exposes a serious gap in the oversight and accountability of private contractors. Unlike deaths in police or prison custody, which will be investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission or the Prisons Ombudsman, private contractors are not subject to any independent investigation.

  12. I am a a qualified PO with 13 years under my belt and some i have to seek the permission of a middle manager in order to recommend revocation and resentence of a breach! This is sheer lunacy probably forced upon us by working stinks.

    1. Ignore the direction, or put a note on Delius to say that in your professional opinion X should be recalled/breached for reasons a,b,c but this decision has been overridden by your Manager. Then print a copy off and keep it ( as Delius entries can be deleted by someone with the right level of access. Funnily enough, Managers of all grades get very twitchy when you start saying that you are recording all decisions in the interests of transparency!!

    2. Funny that? I had a feeling one of my records was tampered with but really nothing I can substantiate other than the clear thought that several of my inputs to the case record had gone. Materially they added to an argument that said don't recall when in fact a recall was made. Let's not be silly or opportunistic but other similar accounts would be valuable to hear.

  13. Where have all the Sodexo CRC CEOs gone??????

  14. The sodexo CEOs are looking for the golden bridge generously presented to them by the recent think tank report which postulates the amalgamation of both NPS and CRCs under the banner of the PCC thereby demonstrating how seriously they take localism-nothing whatsoever to do with the unpaid bills that are stacking up as the hoped for revune is coming in as a trckle rather than the torrent that they were falsely promised....the shit might have not yet hit the fan but the wagon carrying it is currently reversing into position and a bigger fan has been ordered such is the do I know all of this Im related to someone close to the throne who on a daily basis is decrying the cess pit that the privatisation of the service has become......the Think Tank has been working on this for a while so the great experiment can be seen as a success as it moves into the next phase...if this is bull would a CEO please come on and explain how and why the Think Tamk arrived at their conclusions???

  15. The S Yorkshire CEO, I hear, lost her job - was paid off and then offered another post ... with Sodexxo. Her replacement is the HR Manager!! You couldn't make it up. Although it seems like they did. Well done girls. Hope you collected all your knives from the backs of your colleagues you shafted along your way