Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Future According to Reform

I guess it's no great surprise to see that Theresa May's strong hints at making a pitch for PCC's to run a re-united probation service have been influenced by a Tory think tank and bingo, Reform has produced just such a report. I love the way it's written in the surreal belief that TR has been a huge reforming success and a quick glance through gives me the strong feeling that close examination over the coming days might bear fruit of one sort or another:- 

Local commissioning, local solutions: devolving offender management

Over the last 15 years, there has been significant change to the way in which offender management services – i.e. prison and probation – are organised and managed. This has included the introduction of competition, first through private sector run prisons and then more recently through the outsourcing of the bulk of probation services through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. Successive governments have also sought to create a more integrated offender management system, primarily by bringing prisons and probation closer together through the creation of a single agency – the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) – to manage both.

These reforms have delivered some positive change: costs are down and there have been measurable, albeit small, reductions in re-offending. For the scale and ambition of the changes made, however, the impact has been disappointing. Despite marginal improvement, reoffending rates remain stubbornly high and some aspects of prison performance have actually deteriorated. In addition, there remains continuing pressure to secure better value for money from the offender management services. A different approach is needed

The case for change

Offender management services should be designed and delivered at a local level. They must also be integrated. Evidence shows that a consistent approach to case management is more effective in managing risk, develops more positive offender engagement and is more likely to reduce reoffending than an approach in which case management responsibilities are shared across more than one person. An offender’s journey through prison and probation should be as seamless as possible – the right services, delivered at the right time, in the right place.

The Government has recognised the compelling case for continued reform, announcing plans to devolve greater powers to local areas and give prison governors operational autonomy, starting with establishing six Reform Prisons this year. Their reforms are also backed up by a £1.3 billion investment in modernising the estate by building new prisons and closing old and inefficient ones. Nonetheless, this programme does not go far enough, fast enough. An integrated system which puts rehabilitation at its heart cannot be adequately achieved whilst the system remains driven by the centre and pre-occupied principally with managing the prison population.

The proposals in this report set out an ambitious blueprint for reform that sees the Government’s current programme as the first step towards a radically different model of offender management.

Local commissioning, local services

Offender management services need to be commissioned and delivered locally, by commissioners who can make well-informed decisions about where money is best spent to achieve reductions in reoffending and reflect local priorities.

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) occupy the right place in the system to fulfil this function. They are sufficiently local, and have direct accountability to the electorate in the communities they serve. They can claim a democratic mandate to change criminal justice services in order to reduce crime. This democratic mandate and the need to win re-election also instils a strong antidote to provider capture.

As such, PCCs should take responsibility from NOMS for commissioning all prison and probation services. They should also take responsibility for commissioning drug and mental health services for offenders to enable genuinely joined-up solutions to be configured at a local level.

To facilitate this, the current National Probation Service (NPS) should be disbanded. Responsibility for the management of all sentenced offenders, irrespective of risk, should transfer to CRCs.

Building on the Government’s plans to devolve autonomy to prison governors, all prisons should be re-constituted as self-governing organisations, rather than merely branch offices of a highly centralised national organisation. Prisons with freedom to respond quickly and flexibly to the requirements of PCCs will enable the momentum of reform to be accelerated.

These reforms together would negate the need for NOMS. Instead, a small Offender Rehabilitation Strategy Unit should be established in the Ministry for Justice to provide advice to the Justice Secretary on strategic planning and priorities, budget setting and response to poor performance.

At the same time, a new delivery vehicle should be created to drive local service integration. Local Rehabilitation Trusts (LRTs) should bring together one or more prisons, with CRCs and other offender services to enable the provision of end-to-end services. LRTs would offer commissioners integrated solutions, aimed at reducing cost and improving outcomes.

The Government should also create a new Criminal Justice Regulator, with responsibility for setting and monitoring standards, ensuring value for money and encouraging competition. As with other public service regulators, they would intervene in cases of poor performance. The regulator would replace the current complex and overlapping system of multiple organisations, providing clarity and consistency.

Taken together, these changes would create an offender management system which was genuinely local and genuinely accountable. With empowered local commissioners and providers able to take rational and informed decisions to deliver better outcomes.


Introduction 

This report examines options for building on the Government’s reform of the offender management system in England and Wales: that is, the arrangements for managing the prison, probation and surrounding systems. It seeks to build on the ambitious reforms delivered through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme and to map out a direction of travel for further reform of the governance and delivery of prison and probation services.

Our proposals are based on two principles. Firstly, that the offender management system needs to be seen and treated as exactly that: a system. The goal of the many attempted reforms over the last 15 years has been to seek to integrate prisons and probation (and other agencies who work with offenders and influence their future behaviour). Although there is no doubt that the prison and probation delivery landscape is now markedly different, it is questionable whether the efforts at integration have gone far enough or realised sufficient benefit. We reflect on the success, or otherwise, of these efforts, and the key barriers which have hindered progress on these objectives. 

The second principle is one of localism. Whatever the policy framework for offender management services, it remains the case that (in the vast majority of non-digital crimes) offending takes place locally and the best responses to offending behaviour are designed, organised and delivered locally. 

Reflecting these principles – the need for a systemic approach to managing offenders and the need for solutions to be delivered locally – this paper proposes options for radical devolution of responsibility for managing prisons and probation. 

Understanding the problem 

NOMS, and the institutions and services it manages, have seen almost perpetual reform and change over the last 15 years, mainly driven by an inability to govern the competing tensions of ministerial desire to set objectives nationally and to meet national pressures, particularly on prison populations, and the desire to achieve local transparency and control to meet local needs. This fundamental tension lives on in the current arrangements, where the management of a national system – as HM Prison Service (HMPS) predominantly remains – runs up against the provision of local community-based rehabilitation services through the recently created Community Rehabilitation Companies. 

Designing for the future 

This circle needs to be squared. Reducing reoffending means changing the behaviour of individuals. These changes are achieved locally, through local networks and services. Trying to achieve such outcomes with a system which still has a national centre of gravity limits the ability of providers to meet local needs, to innovate and to craft genuinely local solutions to the reoffending problem. 

Resolving this conflict, alongside the need to bed-in the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms and achieve significant further efficiency savings, has left prisons and probation facing extremely challenging and confused messages, particularly in relation to how to work together to deliver the resettlement agenda. 

This paper argues that we must begin planning for the post Transforming Rehabilitation future now. 

We are, however, well aware that intelligent people have been attempting to achieve these aims since before NOMS was launched. Any plans need to be realistic and reflective of the very real barriers which have stymied previous reform in this area. Only by being open and honest about the real tensions in the system can we reach a point where decisions can be made to rank one priority over another and deliver change which will explicitly inhibit some aspects of the system to enable others to flourish.

(More to follow)

--oo00oo--
About the authors 

Kevin Lockyer worked for nearly 25 years in prisons and probation, as a prison governor and as a senior civil servant in the National Offender Management Service. After a spell as a Director of the crime reduction charity Nacro, he now runs his own consultancy business and has supported a number of large private and voluntary sector organisations during the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. 

Richard Heys worked for five years in the National Offender Management Service and Ministry of Justice on competition, commissioning and estate matters, before undertaking consultancy work. He has acted as financial bid manager for a range of criminal justice-related competitions including electronic monitoring and Transforming Rehabilitation. Richard is a professional economist. 

The report was edited by Charlotte Pickles, Deputy Director and Head of Research, Reform

48 comments:

  1. Of course a NOMS Civil Servant & Prison Governor are just the people to advise HMGov of the reality of front line probation practice and how it all interacts with the wider criminal justice system including linking smoothly person to person and via cyber space, with (including) police, prosecutors, Magistrates' Courts, Victims Support agencies, social services, specialist local groups who support such as victims of domestic violence, and many , many more, do you get my point? Maybe a current practioner reader will compile a comprehensive list - I can think of many more, but lack the dexterity to complete it whilst communicating via a phone device.

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    1. PS. Remember Theresa May wrote that Gove already is in agreement with this plan which we were told would be publicly announced after the May PCC elections just gone, so Reform are right on schedule. No doubt the Probation Institute, Napo , Unison and Nacro and other 'usual' CJS commentators will be sharing their views in the next few hours - I am looking forward to their contributions, but ESPECIALLY of the Labour Party who were all forewarned like the rest of us by Theresa May as an aside in her speech about education for young convicts.

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    2. About the editor of this marvellous policy document:

      "An ex-adviser to Iain Duncan Smith has suggested he should scrap child benefit and tax some disabled people's benefits.

      Charlotte Pickles - who helped design hated measures like the bedroom tax - says the plan could achieve nearly half of the Tories' £12bn welfare cuts."

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  2. Couple of opportunist poachers come wannbee game keepers now they helped put the game at risk of any survival..

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  3. Probation Officer24 May 2016 at 08:20

    A Tory think tank with Tory ideas. This is the end game for probation, we are now on notice. They'll sell it all off if they can get away with it, I give probation a year if we're lucky. Maybe now the probation unions and directors will speak out against this and keep speaking out.

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    1. hear, hear! @08.20

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  4. @08:20 maybe now Probation staff will unite with their unions and make a stand.
    Yours in eternal hope

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    1. As I recall we united with the unions and were then railroaded with TR! Tbh the "you didn't support your Union" argument is quite pathetic. As with TR which was also off the back of a Tory think tank report, this requires a lot more than a just unions. See the recent wins by junior doctors and others, they had their organisations in support.

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    2. Sorry but I have to disagree. Had the Unions united and members supported them we would have had a stronger voice.

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  5. They have admitted that TR has failed while saying it is a success. Read it carefully

    "Local Rehabilitation Trusts (LRTs) should bring together one or more prisons, with CRCs and other offender services to enable the provision of end-to-end services. LRTs would offer commissioners integrated solutions, aimed at reducing cost and improving outcomes."

    This admits that destroying the trusts was an error.

    "To facilitate this, the current National Probation Service (NPS) should be disbanded. Responsibility for the management of all sentenced offenders, irrespective of risk, should transfer to CRCs."

    This admits that splitting the Probation Service on some arbitrary risk line was an error. We can disagree about which half needs to be disbanded but given the handcuffs on the contracts this is the only way it CAN be put back together in the next 7 years.

    "These reforms together would negate the need for NOMS. Instead, a small Offender Rehabilitation Strategy Unit should be established in the Ministry for Justice to provide advice to the Justice Secretary on strategic planning and priorities, budget setting and response to poor performance."

    This says NOMS is not fit for purpose, how long have we known this?

    "Resolving this conflict, alongside the need to bed-in the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms and achieve significant further efficiency savings, has left prisons and probation facing extremely challenging and confused messages, particularly in relation to how to work together to deliver the resettlement agenda."

    This admits that they have made a massive mess of the whole system, second half particularly.

    "This paper argues that we must begin planning for the post Transforming Rehabilitation future now. "

    And this says that what we have now is untenable.

    As an aside somebody commented yesterday about 0 hours contracts in UPW. That is the future for us all. I am on top PO scale and do not expect a significant payrise for the foreseeable future.

    We are at the high water mark of salaries for the Probation Service, in ten years they will be 3 year rolling contracts topping out below 30k (on current rates). Just like in the drug field. There will be no professional qualifications but lots of ex whatevers (users, prisoners, etc) with a counselling qualification.

    There will be no union action, the union is hamstrung by the legislation and by a combination of exhaustion despair and misplaced loyalty to the service users among the staff. This is what it is, make your peace with it or get out. I am staying because its the only job I am any good at and because at some point they will pay me off.

    Pina Colada

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  6. Time for an evidence-led, practitioner-focussed Position Paper from the Probation Institute

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  7. Local service? - yeah we had all that. I recall when I first started that the local councils provided 30% of Probation costs,70$ by the govt, which changed near the end of the last century.

    A few years later, Trusts took over, and Probation became co-terminus with the police. And the cracks started to show.

    Now CRC's are closing down offices and shrivelling up the localities and spreading out offices and courts over ridiculous distances, making it impossible for staff and offenders to travel.

    And now these crazy opinionated 'experts'(one ex-Probation -shame on you) have come up with a 'brand new' idea of local - fair enough - but give total responsibility to the CRCS who value profit, not rehabilitation????? Where are their brains???

    Please tell me I am just having a bad dream.

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    1. I should have said 70% from CENTRAL govt.

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  8. We call it a criminal justice system, but the 'system' part has always been a misnomer, as the parts often work at cross purposes and that has been evident over the years with the failure of prisons and probation to work together – the various sentence planning initiatives have not worked. The fragmentation caused by TR will only make things worse. Before TR the trusts, for all the rhetoric of 'freedoms' were managed from the centre. They had to slavishly follow the diktats from Noms, such as benchmarking and meeting austerity targets as budgets were cuts. On paper the trusts were in the public sector, but in spirit they competed with each other to be lean and be seen as businesses rather then services. The trusts had no political clout to develop local identities – and they were led by functionaries who had no political authority.

    Maybe the PCCs would have enough political independence to manage rehabilitation services better, maybe they could bring about integrated services. The CRC contracts cannot be abandoned without financial penalties, so they are here for the foreseeable future. In terms of the work experience and conditions of service would it make much difference if the post-E3 NPS was put to sleep? The PCCs are not all cut from the same political cloth and perhaps prison and rehabilitation services under their control would fare better than in the current artificially split probation service.

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    1. It is actually the CRC cull and the NPS E3 which is now laying the foundations for LRT's and PCC control. This couldn't be a worse outcome as the focus will be on cost-cutting and there will be no professionalism left in probation. Mark my words.

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    2. Also anyone that attended crime partnerships when we were probation trust would know that in times of resource issues everything is diverted towards the police and the rest or the agencies get the scraps that are left. Take this into account with the knowledge that CRC's are nothing more than dud contracts for doing less than nothing. Much better to absorb the CRC's into the NPS and establish/protect it as a statutory agency in its own right, seperate of police and prisons, and with some local flexibility. We had this model with probation areas.

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    3. It would be preferable to absorb the CRCs into NPS - but the cost of compensating the CRCs would be prohibitive and so this option will never be taken up.

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    4. This point needs to be widely publicised.

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    5. CRC have made inroads into cost cutting. NPS have not. You dont think that will mske a difference

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    6. Trusts were already stripped to the bone, we'd implemented 'Lean' and stopped luxuries like refreshments at meetings years ago. The Trusts were good value for money. NOMS however has always been a huge waste. Get rid of NOMS and use that money to pay off the CRCs. Let Grayling take the fall for his appallingly bad CRC contracts (that Sadiq Khan for one warned him about) and put this whole sorry mess behind us.

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    7. The NPS is rubbish and is only set to become worse under E3 our dictators are only interested in artificial performance targets and not real face to face work I for one would be glad to see it disbanded now it's been ruined

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  9. Was this not the plan all along. Split the workforce initially,then claim success so the nps could follow. We were easy pickings. NHS will be next how can they continue as they are with millions in debt. They've picked off government agencies one by one in the name of austerity whilst the government and their buddies are laughing all the way to the bank.

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    1. Agreed. This is the plan and this is the agenda. Doctors and headteachers have shown their muscle and slowed down the big picture. Probation seems to be easy pickings. Sorry for hard working staff but not NOMS. Mind you handsome redundancy packages in the pipeline ?

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    2. I expect it was a long game that began with changing the status of the pbn order from being a special type of Conditional Discharge and got REALLY serious when Howard abolished the pre-entry training and put nothing in its place.

      The heart of New Labour - Straw, Blair, probably Boateng and Blunket and G4S Reid, and probably others basically agreed with Howard and earlier John Patten. They wanted probation to be just deserts and simply the management of community punishment. They also wanted to deceive trades unionists that they were not really Tories in disguise, as we now know they actually were. Eventually New Labour gave in and agreed with the academics to reintroduce pre-entry Training (it took much negotiating over months) providing it could be dressed up as not really a branch of social work, which classic probation officering had started out as.

      No we got to this sorry state by lots of incremental changes over more than 20 years.

      Should probation folk admit defeat and start again from scratch doing voluntary work in the courts, perhaps trying to utilise deferred sentences as a basis for voluntary social work, with defendants who agree?

      That is if deferred sentences are still available to Courts, I cannot recall the last time I heard of one being imposed.

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    3. Yes, deferred sentences are still available, and used quite liberally in one of my local courts - buggering things up for the offender who has to be transferred to the NPS for the duration of the deferment.

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  10. God, how I laughed when I read this...it's got it all....end to end offender management (tick, done that) local delivery err the basis if the disbanded trusts ( tick done that) and on and on.. talk about reinventing the wheel..or put another way fixing something that was never broken ( except till TR and Failing Grayling came along) WHAT UTTER BLOODY CRAP

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  11. Come Brexit and the Tories will be too busy fighting amongst themselves for Camerons job. I wouldn't worry as this is unlikely to happen just yet.

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  12. Word on the street from a colleague working for NPS in an area about half way up the UK is that those ridiculous short format reports have been implemented and when there is an assessment of dangerousness asked for by a Crown court, a bit is added on to the end of said short format reports. Judges incandescent with rage at the shockingly low standards of reports being written, all at the behest of managers via E3.

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    1. These reports are saving time, money and resources. Judges are happy with the swift justice being delivered. Its working so thanks for highlighting

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    2. nps spo, you forgot to add: "cheque is in the post, my other car is a lamborghini, dog ate my homework, I promise not to...." etc, etc.

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    3. NPS Probation Officer24 May 2016 at 21:57

      Rubbish. As somebody who writes these reports I can tell you the short format reports are terrible. It's a clunky template with bad formatting, unnecessary sections and a word count. Even the automatic signature signs off the writer as a NDelius/OASys username, with role not included. Clearly design so it can be completed by anyone, and painting by numbers is a good comparison. I've heard the same, magistrates and judges hate it.

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    4. Thanks NPS PO but you're wrong. Our data is sound and popular through the judiciary spread are that these reports are good. Swift justice for all. A win for all. Its just how it is so we need to accept this change.

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    5. Are you really an NPS SPO??? I doubt it. You sound like those stooges we've had on this blog more and more in recent years.

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    6. I hear the same rubbish from my manager. It makes me wonder whether the 10 minutes he actually spent doing the job before he sought promotion actually taught him anything.

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  13. Get rid of thr nps and watch those groveling POs come begging for jobs in the CRC. I can't wait to see those NPS POs strutting around thinking they're above the CRC come begging for jobs. If I'm management by then im goining to enjoy saying Noo!

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    1. You have a point. But if your characteristic of future management got help all. You need to grow up first.

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    2. Shut up fool 21.44. Ive all the hallmarks to lead

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    3. Yes 21.39 does have a point. Many P.O EGOS will be bruised.

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    4. Here we go again....divide and rule. We know Probation Officers "strutt around" but they've earned the right to do so as any tom dick and harry can do unqualifed work!

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    5. NPS Probation Officer24 May 2016 at 22:06

      I don't think anyone begged for a job in NPS or CRC, we took what we were given. I've never seen probation officers strutting around either. The reality is that we do a job with crap pay, little respect and hardly any job satisfaction. Whether probation Areas, Trusts, NPS or CRC it's never been great and the perks are non-existent. Both NPS, CRC or whatever they call us next will always employ as 'Probation Officer' is a dead end job that nobody really wants to do any more. Let's face it, none of us will be encouraging our kids to work for probation and most of us move on at the first decent opportunity that comes along.

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    6. I am getting really fed up with the PSO with a chip on their shoulder banging on all the time about "strutting" PO's. Not in my office, everybody is stressed to death and trying to help each other through the day. And also the experienced PO's are the first port of call for everybody about everything so if your office is like that then maybe they have earned some strutting rights.

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    7. Lol ive never seen a po strutt around. I see a po handle business on a day to day basis with them always being the first point of call - even for managers

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    8. Agreed - no NPS PO'S strutting around, but plenty of NPS PSO's bossily demanding this or that, - magnanimously 'accepting' my breach report as 'adequate'!!!!

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    9. One PO asked me to park his car the other day. They do strutt around particularly NPS ones wanting to call the shots all the time

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    10. Quite hard to strutt around when we're all on our knees!

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  14. Yes the new reports are pretty bad. The current practice is that full PSR's are reserved for dangerousness and high risk, short format for everything else. Not heard of adding a bit on the end of short format to mention dangerousness, but I don't expect Judges to be happy with the new format even for the lower end cases.

    This is an example of downgrading our work so it becomes easy for two-bit 'think tanks' to put us down. To be honest working in the NPS has been okay up until now. Caseloads are high but then they always were. I think the real changes are coming with E3 which is a shame as ithe NPS could have worked as it is with a bit more staffing and resources.

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  15. Disbanding the NPS is a no brainer and could be easily done without any opposition whatsoever. Sentencers couldn't give a toss who writes reports as they are now only interested in throughput rather than justice. The bulk of supervision is now done by CRCs and even though it's complete chaos there are enough mugs who work to keep the plates spinning. NPS work could easily be done in the CRCs as we were all doing this not so long ago. Goves instinct will be to privatise and this report gives him a road map.

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