Friday, 13 May 2016

The Inspectors are Calling!

It looks like we might soon be finding out how well the much-heralded 'Through the Gate' services are working:-

09 May 2016

To: Chief Executive Officers, CRCs
Deputy Directors, NPS

Dear Colleagues

Re: Thematic Inspection of ‘Through the Gate’ Resettlement Services Community Follow-Up for Phase One


Through the Gate services were launched in May 2015 to assist the resettlement of prisoners. We wrote to you on 01 March 2016 to set out the plans of HMI Probation and HMI Prisons to undertake a thematic inspection of these services. As part of phase 1 of these inspections, fieldwork has recently taken place in four prisons; HMP Preston, HMP Birmingham, HMP Wandsworth, and HMP New Hall. Prisoners being released from these prisons will be followed up in the community during June 2016. This letter is to let you know how that follow-up inspection will be conducted.

Follow-up in identified areas:

We will be directly following-up the cases inspected in custody, once the prisoners have been released. Contact has already been made with the CRC and NPS in the Contract Package Areas (CPAs) served by these resettlement prisons, and arrangements are being made for inspection visits to those locations. We will follow up cases already inspected in the prisons we visited, and a small sample of other cases being released from those prisons. This follow-up will take place between 06-17 June 2016.

Follow-up of other prisoners:

It is also important that we follow up any prisoners being released outside the CPAs served by these prisons. To do that, we will use remote access to nDelius and OASys. We will make telephone calls to the responsible officers in the community, who we will identify from nDelius. Where the prisoner has already consented, we will make a telephone call to them.

We will be looking at:

  • coordination of pre-release activity
  • communication between CRC staff in prison and responsible officers (CRC and NPS) in the community
  • integration of planning and interventions pre and post release
  • the impact of resettlement work delivered by CRCs in custody 
  • early resettlement outcomes for prisoners.
Further follow-up:

We may conduct further follow-up enquiries later in the year, using nDelius and OASys only. This will provide us with a more complete picture of the progress made by released prisoners, and will help inform our future inspection methodology.

Action needed:

It is possible that prisoners being released from the above named prisons could go to any CRC area or any NPS division. Please alert your staff to the fact that they may receive an email or phone call from an inspector to talk about resettlement cases. No action is needed from CRCs or NPS divisions to identify the case sample. If you have any questions please contact the lead inspector for this inspection, Liz Smith.

We are, as always, looking forward to working with you.

Yours sincerely

Helen Davies
HM Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation


It will be interesting to see what the Inspection finds because the housing situation is getting much worse, especially for offenders, as outlined in this extract from a recent Russell Webster guest blog by Langley House Trust which provides resettlement services for ex-offenders:-


Changes to Housing Benefit will wipe out 41% of supported housing

One of the most worrying proposals in the Autumn Statement and Welfare Reform and Work Bill is to change how Housing Benefit is funded. If the proposals go ahead, they will wipe out 41% of supported housing (including 82,000 specialist homes). This won’t just affect offenders who need to be re-housed after prison – it will also affect victims of domestic violence, the elderly, veterans, people with dementia and other vulnerable adults.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) could find that many of the supported housing providers they rely on to provide accommodation for people leaving prison disappear. And soon. The legislation is due to come into effect as of April 2016 and will be fully implemented in April 2018.

This is of grave concern. It has the potential to undo the millions of pounds invested in Transforming Rehabilitation. What kind of ‘rehabilitation revolution’ can there be if offenders can no longer be housed after release? Where will offenders be housed?

The MoJ’s colleagues in the Department of Work and Pensions undoubtedly did not intend for this to be a result of the Bill. But this is the stark reality that the MoJ faces if current exemptions for supported housing providers are removed.

Most people would agree that rehabilitation doesn’t work if someone hasn’t got a stable home. Trying to address issues that contribute to crime such as addictions and mental health whilst someone is rough sleeping or sofa surfing is nonsensical. If almost half of supported housing goes, the ‘alternatives’ for offenders to be re-housed after prison are:

  • Council housing – over-subscribed so unrealistic
  • Private rental – over-subscribed and unaffordable in some areas so unrealistic
  • Homelessness – increases the risk of reoffending but realistic
  • Prison – overcrowded, costly and with a poor record of rehabilitation but realistic
Rather than breaking the cycle of crime, it now seems firmly intact. And this is incredibly sad given the reforms of recent months and years.


Hi Jim,

I'm a keen reader of your blog and make it part of my routine to visit the site when I arrive home from work, so thank you for providing us with this platform!

I'm emailing you as I'm currently an agency PO in the North West and I've been with my current agency for some time. However, I've recently received an email from an agency that I had not heard of (Red Snapper) stating that I need to transfer through to them and I'd be paid less as they've won some sort of contract. If this was the case why have we not been told and why is everyone in the dark about this? The only contact I've had is from this agency and I'm concerned that this is based on lies. I've spoken to many colleagues about this and a few have received the same email and others have not which makes me think that it's not official as they've not contacted every temporary contractor.

This is the first I've heard of it and my managers have no idea what this means so it really concerns me why they are doing this? I'm wondering if you can use your blog to shed more light on the matter or if you personally know anything about this?

I am happy for you to use this email on the blog but I'd like my information to remain anonymous. Thanks.


  1. So The Inspection is going to ignore those sentenced between February and the beginning of May 2015 - maybe because no formal contract was in place - presumably all court orders were nonetheless actioned by the NPS &/or CRC depending upon seriousness assessment?

  2. On Red Snapper (who have been around for some time) why not simply ask current agency what's happening? It need not be a mystery - unless this is a plug for RS

  3. Red Snapper touting for business.....

  4. I only hope the Inspectorate looks at what is going on in the NPS as far as Report writing is concerned. Untrained PSO being told to do Reports on serious offences, by Oral report if you can get away with it by managers who have swallowed the dumbing down of the Probation Service hook, line and sinker.

  5. I strongly suspect that the results of the inspection into TTG will discover rather unsurprisingly that it has been a resounding failure. If releasing women from Bronzefield and giving them a tent as recently reported in the media is any indication of the new gold standard then the whole thing is doomed to failure

    1. I missed this story - from the Indepedndent:-

      HMP Bronzefield: Women given tents instead of accommodation when leaving London prison, inspection reveals

      The revelation that women leaving a west London prison were given tents instead of housing has been described as "staggering" by Government ministers and raised alarm among housing charity groups.

      A prison watchdog revealed sleeping bags had also been handed out to a number of ex-offenders from HMP Bronzefield amid a shortage of available housing.

      Shadow Prisons Minister Jo Stevens said in response to the report: "It is absolutely staggering that women seem to have been released from prison with nothing more than a tent or a sleeping bag.

      ”This is astonishing and a far cry from the safe and secure accommodation needed to assist them in the rehabilitation process.“

      Housing charity Women in Prison said the report, which was undertaken following an unannounced inspection, was "concerning" but "sadly not surprising" in the current housing climate.

      A spokesperson from Women in Prison said: “The fact that Bronzefield is resorting to issuing tents to women leaving prison with nowhere to live does not highlight a problem evident within that one prison.

      “Instead it is a reflection of how chronic the housing crisis has become and it urgently must bring awareness to the staggering high numbers of women that are leaving prison homeless across the women’s estate and the devastating impact this then has on those women and our communities."

      The number of women who left Bronzefield prison with settled accommodation in place had dropped from 95.5 per cent in 2014 to just 83.7 per cent in 2015, according to the report from HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

      It was also noted that in the six-month period leading up to the inspection, 103 women had been released with no fixed address to go to.

      The Housing for Women association also said the report was “concerning”.

      A spokesperson said: “We believe that preparation for release should start as early as possible before release in order to adequately plan and effectively link women into support networks in their ‘home‘ community including; making links with family and friends and clearly identifying accommodation options for them, linking them into additional support services as appropriate.

      "Without this planned approach and as widely documented – women are at significant risk of breaching their licences and/or reoffending.”

      HMP Bronzefield blamed the lack of social housing available in the south east as a contributory factor, and local authority housing departments’ downgrading of ex-offenders to “low priority” cases.

      “The prison had issued tents to two women who were released without anywhere to go to and the chaplaincy often gave out sleeping bags,” it said.

      “The community chaplain, however, was preparing a network of contacts in faith communities so that women could be placed in accommodation with them and receive support on release.”

      Martin Lomas, HM Deputy Chief Inspector of Prisons, who signed off the report, said: “HMP Bronzefield was a very good and improved prison… The general environment was good and care was taken to keep the prison decent."

      According to the report, many of the inmates at Bronzefield may be seen as vulnerable. Around one third of the women reported having a disability and 44 per cent said they felt depressed or suicidal.

      The figures raise concern over the amount of support available to ex-offenders undergoing rehabilitation.

    2. TTG, Catch 22, prison Resettlement Team; the name on the door ie irrelevant if staff are merely battling with a same local resources (or lack of). What is different now however, post TR, is that private companies are being paid a considerable amount of tax payers,money to innovatively do it differently, which they are manifestly failing to do? Or are they? Let's see some concrete evidence to the contrary, rather than just more of the vacuous rhetoric that everything is going swimmingly and TR is a runaway success.

    3. Sorry, should have qualified that - handing a lone vulnerable female a tent and sleeping bag on release may constitute innovation, but does it pass the test of a reasonable and acceptable decision (however I appreciate it may have met the contractual requirement to 'house' a person.....

  6. surely, if the prison is being forewarned about the who, the what, the when and the how, the prisons will be pulling out all the stops to secure accom and sort out benefits, drug support etc, so it will not demonstrate the norm.

    I know when our files were inspected - we clearly could not fiddle work which had been done, or not been done, but because we were forewarned, ages was spent on tidying up files. One year we were still handwriting our recording, and one admin officer was designated to do nothing else for a whole week, other than transfer the handwritten records, to typed records. Mine did not need to be 'amended' but I do wonder if anyone else ever took the opportunity to be a bit inventive....

  7. Probation Officer13 May 2016 at 20:47

    Through the gate is a sham, I've not seen anything useful. Catch 22 and the others are milking it for their CRC's. They sign up prisoners pre-release, complete a cv, have a chat about housing options and that's it. Then they email probation officers telling us what we already know, summarise what we're already doing, but provide nothing. This nothing is what they call 'soft outcomes' and how they generate income for doing nothing.

    1. ^^^ this, precisely this, is what happens in the d cat I work in.

    2. Yep exactly. Apart from in some cases it's more dangerous than doing nothing because they say prisoner has accommodation when they don't which comes with it's one risks. If PO thinks case is to be released somewhere safe then finds out actually there is no bed and they have plans to live with vulnerable children when actually this was known to prison and offender months before.

    3. It's because it's easy money. In some prisons all prisoners are automatically referred in to the CRC and TTG. For those that decline or opt out, any application they make for housing and employment services opts them back in as its a dual referral to the CRC and TTG. The actual TTG service provided is usually an assessment of wants and needs. Then an application to the homeless department or an application for a bank account is made, or some other feeble activity TTG can take credit for, and that's whether the prisoner needs it or not. I'm regulary getting emails from TTG staff in prisons informing me they've done things like housing applications and cv's for prisoners that already have housing and cv's. The most useless dealings I've had with TTG was a man automatically referred in and provided a homeless letter to his local authority and a job search even though he was about to be deported. Referral + Assessment + Actions/Outcomes = Payment. In some prisons governors have no idea this is happening. Some OMU's don't realise either and seem to forget that CRC's are not probation any more. When they realise they'll be kicking out TTG services.

    4. The most annoying part for me is that I'm constantly badgered for information about whether I've found accommodation for my newly released prisoners so they can claim them for their targets when I've worked my arse off !Also I have to constantly chase up staff in custody for info about any resettlement help for clients very frustrating

    5. another important point is that they do nothing about checking potential release address for risk They seem to see any decision around not approving address as an irritation but I suppose staff with no risk assessment training can't be blamed its down to their masters!

    6. 23.14 you sound like one of those cock schite NPS POs who always knows best because he has a vq5

    7. Lol the VQ5

    8. Yep NPS POS Strutting around the office thinking they run the show and that they need interview rooms over the CRC as their more important

    9. Some folk have a terrible chip on their shoulder hope they aren't allowed to supervise clients with such poor attitudes

    10. Hey , remain united , same values etc otherwise TR has won.

  8. I am struggling to find you have not heard of Red Snapper! They have been around for a number of years, longer than Service Care et al, just another Private enterprise agency in the Justice world trying to make a buck, lots of money out there up for grabs in the world of justice, someone will notice how much is going out to agency staff and that gravy train will carry on until after the EU debate/vote has passed us all by and Justice/Probation might become topical again.

  9. To the anonymous agency PO. Red Snapper is a recruitment agency, quite big and well known. Ask your own agency about the relevance of the email you've received, and beware falling for poaching and recruitment tricks. Luckily you didn't receive an email from that Nigerian guy wanting to transfer £100,000 to your bank account for safekeeping!!

  10. Doing a GRAYLIMG ought to be adopted as a synonym for ministerial incompetence or executive vandalism. What a mess and still the spin continues. I think the comments are restrained and do not fully highlight the extent of the disaster that is TR but the truth will out. A malcontent.

  11. Surely the private sector were anticipated to be able to fund accommodation and other services to replace LA and government funded provision therefore expand provision , expand the market and enhance provision to use the jargon. ... Not sure they they are up to plugging the gaps

  12. I'm not interested in competing with colleagues. I hope we all make it! Together in adversity! CRC, NPS, PO, PSO , whatever!

  13. I'm not interested in competing with colleagues. I hope we all make it! Together in adversity! CRC, NPS, PO, PSO , whatever!

  14. Dear HMI Probation

    Please remember Grayling's promise about TR & TTG from 2013:

    "The reforms will mean all offenders leaving custody receive ‘through the gate’ supervision and support to turn their lives around.

    The introduction of 70 resettlement prisons across England and Wales will mean the vast majority of offenders are released from prisons in, or close to, the area in which they will live. This will mean they can begin working towards their rehabilitation in the community from the moment they arrive in prison.

    It will also mean frontline staff outside prison can begin laying the groundwork and building links with the offender at the earliest opportunity. This will include seeing them come out to employment or training, and support to tackle drug and alcohol addictions."

    1. But what is Through The Gate? This from HM Gov website in 2013:

      "The Through the Gate programme is a Restorative Justice project that is run by HMP Kingston in partnership with Hampshire Youth Offending Team (YOT). The programme also engages young people from Portsmouth and Southampton YOTs, Local Authority Care Homes and Schools across Hampshire. The programme utilises primarily young life-sentenced prisoners, who volunteer their time with the programme, to meet with Young People subject to a Court disposal with the YOT, or those young people displaying anti-social behaviour within the community or a school setting."

    2. But in 2016 it seems TTG is also:

      "The Through the Gate model provides a mixture of intensive recovery and incentive-based motivational engagement support and supports offenders upon release into the community. This runs alongside efforts to reduce the supply of drugs and alcohol within prisons and so prisons are required to test prisoners on reception and pre-release for drug dependency issues. Specific interventions and programmes to tackle dependency issues will differ between prisons and are set up to respond to local needs.
      NatCen has been commissioned by NHS England, Public Health England and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to carry out a process evaluation of the Through the Gate model."

    3. In West Mercia "TTG – Through the Gate Service – a service provided in custody and community that work from start of sentence to end of licence period when released from prison, a service individually tailored throughout their sentence and beyond....."

  15. I have faith that Ms Davies won't let anything escape her gaze; bright cookie, very experienced, time-served PO 'on the tools', hard but fair manager. I once witnessed her delicately but completely disassemble the overblown ego of an incompetent & abusive male ACO; the added value is that he still doesn't know it happened.