Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Charities and TR

Another day and another report into just what a roaring success Chris Grayling's TR programme has been for the probation service. I would add that the 'Third Sector' were warned by this blog about getting involved and they only have themselves to blame:-

The voluntary sector’s role in Transforming Rehabilitation

TrackTR is a partnership project between Clinks, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the University of Birmingham’s Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC). 

The intention of trackTR is to build a picture of the voluntary sector’s experiences of the changes to probation services brought about under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, and the impact this has had on their services, their organisations and the people they support. 

Transforming Rehabilitation 

The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have replaced the previous 35 Probation Trusts with a single National Probation Service (NPS), responsible for the management of high risk offenders; and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) responsible for the management of low to medium risk offenders across England and Wales. The CRCs also have a new responsibility for supervising shortsentence prisoners (those sentenced to less than 12 months in prison) after release. From 1 February 2015 the successful bidders in the competition for CRCs began to deliver probation services.

The role of the voluntary sector has been central to the government’s promotion of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. When the new CRC providers were announced, the Ministry of Justice stated that “75% of the 300 subcontractors named in the successful bids are voluntary sector or mutual organisations.”

The aims of trackTR 

Successful transformation: trackTR aims to support the improvement of services for people under probation supervision by advocating for the successful transformation of probation. We believe this includes the effective involvement of the voluntary sector in co-producing services and delivering better outcomes.

Understanding the role of the voluntary sector: trackTR aims to understand what role the voluntary sector is undertaking to support the rehabilitation and resettlement of people under new and emerging probation services. 

Supporting the wider ecosystem of services: the voluntary sector supports a vast range of people in need across England and Wales, all of which adds to the wider ecosystem of services. TrackTR aims to gather the experience of the widest possible range of voluntary sector organisations working alongside probation services. 

Increasing transparency: trackTR aims to increase transparency, to shed light on which services are being commissioned from the voluntary sector by CRCs or the NPS. 

Informing procurement practice: the changes to probation under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms represent one of the biggest public procurement exercises in recent times. TrackTR aims to support improvements in future procurement trends by listening to the views of the voluntary sector organisations involved. 


This report has been informed by three main sources of information. 
  • A survey was designed to capture the views of voluntary sector organisations delivering rehabilitation and resettlement services in the Criminal Justice System (CJS). It was open between August and October of 2015 and gathered the views of 151 organisations. 
  • A consultation event on the findings of the trackTR survey was held in late January 2016, with over 90 voluntary sector organisations. 
  • In depth conversations with providers and policy makers were held over the course of the project to better understand the data we were receiving from the voluntary sector, and to place it in the context of wider changes to policy and practice.
Executive Summary

Key findings

The information received has informed key findings, representing the views of those voluntary sector organisations that replied to the survey and those who attended the consultation event. 

1 / The pace of change is slow 

The changes to probation services are taking a long time to embed. Given the scale of reform this is not entirely surprising but the pace of change has still been much slower than many anticipated. The pace of change is reported to be curbing investment in the voluntary sector’s rehabilitation and resettlement services, meaning that services run by the voluntary sector are vulnerable and at a greater risk of closure. 

2 / Voluntary sector involvement in supply chains appears low 

Only one quarter of the 151 voluntary sector organisations that responded to our survey reported being funded through a CRC’s supply chain. Of those that are being funded through supply chains 70% are delivering pre-existing services. The organisations that are in supply chains are disproportionately larger voluntary sector organisations, with very few smaller or medium sized organisations represented. However, the contribution of voluntary sector organisations outside of supply chains to rehabilitation and resettlement outcomes is likely to be considerable. Half of the voluntary organisations outside of supply chains still receive and accept referrals from CRCs and the NPS, whilst over twothirds receive referrals directly from prisons. 

3 / Poor communication between probation services and the voluntary sector is damaging local relationships 

The voluntary sector’s relationships with CRCs and the NPS are being negatively affected by a lack of communication about future strategy, service development and commissioning opportunities. Furthermore, many voluntary organisations report a mixture of confusion and uncertainty about what services are being offered through CRCs and the NPS.

4 / The NPS needs to work more effectively with the voluntary sector 

Only one organisation responding to our survey had a direct funding relationship with the NPS. We heard that the ‘rate card’ system limits strategic engagement with the voluntary sector, restricts collaboration as well as innovation and increases the cost of services to the NPS. 

5 / The quality of services and the outcomes for service users require close monitoring

Many voluntary sector organisations could not say whether Transforming Rehabilitation had negatively or positively impacted on services or service users, possibly because the transition to new approaches is still underway. However, those that had seen a change were more likely to report it as negative rather than positive; in some cases considerably more likely. Additionally, only 3 in 10 organisations funded by CRCs to deliver services in supply chains felt that the level of funding they received allowed them to deliver a high quality service. 

6 / There is anxiety about current and future funding and sustainability 

Although most voluntary sector organisations report that their funding for rehabilitation and resettlement services hasn’t been impacted as of yet, there is growing anxiety about the sustainability of services and evidence that the situation needs monitoring. Those outside of CRC supply chains are more likely to believe that their services are unsustainable. Organisations also report that a lack of information about what services the CRCs and NPS are commissioning and/or delivering is putting other funding sources at risk, particularly local authorities and independent charitable funders.


  1. It is interesting to read about all the constructive engagement between the unions and Noms over E3, yet hard to square this with the relentless attacks on facility time. Noms is now saying that all travelling expenses – attendance at JNCCs, representation of employee meetings – all previously covered by the employer – will in future have to be financed by the unions.
    Allied to the drastic cuts to facility time, this is death by a thousand cuts – at what point does the term 'facility agreement' become a misnomer?

  2. Is this a real report because statements like "We heard that the ‘rate card’ system limits.." are very ambiguous? It doesn't sit right with me that "charities" have been so eager to take the work of paid professionals. Even though we all knew TR was a lemon the charities still put up bids as they wanted to take the work and secure the £contracts. Now they are crying because it hasn't worked out and they're not gaining the expected revenue, probably haven't even recouped their bid outlay. "I told you so" is an understatement.

  3. "TrackTR aims to support the improvement of services for people under probation supervision by advocating for the successful transformation of probation."

    So Clinks, the voluntary sector and Brum Uni are going to tell us how to do our job, and no doubt tell us all how probation should be further transformed by handing contracts to Clinks and the voluntary sector! From what I've seen of the voluntary sector under TR it is us that should be telling them how to do their job, because there are a lot of substandard services out there positioning for probation work. This is one of the consequences of TR, it took the 'expert voice' away from probation (100 years old btw) and allowed every man and his dog to become a self styled expert.

    1. "TrackTR" - sounds a bit agricultural to me.

    2. There's quite a marketplace in so-called research. You pay your boffins and they produce findings that help to promote your cause. It's known as 'funding bias'.

  4. Yes TR didn't work. We know!

  5. It's all so predictable not only has Probation been destroyed the voluntary secter and even the greedy multinationals are bound to be damaged by Graylings mad scheme
    It's such a shame that the previous links with organisations have been severed in the chaos but on an individual basis I have been able to make some positive relationships with the voluntary secter which has been very helpful in helping clients Shelter have been particularly useful and able to do the stuff I can't anymore but clearly don't have the risk management experience and have been happy to leave that responsibility to me It makes a bit of a mockery of the rate card system though why would we go through CRC to pay for services we can access for free ?

    1. Whose scheme was it really - I do not think Grayling understands it so certainly did not devise it, and we know that Lord McNally who introduced it to Parliament did not understand it, he could hardly answer any questions spontaneously.

      I have the impression Gove is using the Reform organisation to devise his prison strategy, but I suspect that Policy Exchange was more responsible for for TR than any other agency - I could be wrong.

      Incidentally how are Grayling's 30 Resettlement Prisons getting on 15 months after the Through The Gate legislation became operative?


    1. Recent mobile phone videos and TV footage have shone a light on prisons. They appear lawless and chaotic places, where drug use is widespread.

      One video illegally filmed on a banned mobile phone by prison inmates captured disturbing footage of a semi-naked prisoner dressed in tea towels, apparently high, dancing for the entertainment of others to get a fix of a synthetic cannabis known as “spice”, which the chief inspector of prisons said last month is “having a devastating impact in UK prisons”.

      In a new report, prisoners reveal the prevalence and effects of new psychoactive substances (NPS), of which spice is by far the most common, on their minds and bodies.

      Of 805 prisoners surveyed in nine jails, a third had used spice in the previous month. The majority of survey participants estimated between half and nearly all prisoners had used spice in prison. The peer-led inquiry, conducted by ex-offenders’ organisation User Voice, also found the growing popularity of spice had contributed to an increase in violence, bullying, mental and physical ill health, and even death.

      “Spice has taken over the drug culture in prison,” said a respondent. “It’s reached epidemic levels.”

      The survey, conducted between December 2015 and April 2016 found spice use in the previous month was three times higher than reported in the chief inspector of prisons’ 2014-15 annual report.

      Spice has the effect of blurring out time and has become known as the “bird killer” (“bird” being slang for a prison sentence – you can pass your time in jail in a blur). Its categorisation as a synthetic cannabinoid masks the fact it is much stronger than cannabis, and has a hallucinatory dimension. Prisoners say they have seen “people come out of their cell, run along the landing and go straight towards the gates because they think they can run through the gates … or run towards a wall and actually think they can run through the wall”.

      Other stories include a prisoner saying he had seen someone high on the drug eating their own vomit in a bowl and dipping bread into it; another saw someone drinking water from the toilet and eating salt. “When I had my last experience of spice, I felt my brain was being ripped out,” one inmate said.

      The report was commissioned by the NHS, which is concerned by the increase in medical emergencies in prison seemingly brought on by use of legal highs. Callouts of all emergency services to jails have risen by 52% from 14,475 in 2011 to 22,055 in 2015. “Fifty-seven ambulances came to this wing in one month,” said a prisoner. Another counted 17 ambulances at his prison in one day.

      Last month the prisons and probation ombudsman reported that there had been 39 deaths in custody linked to NPS between 2013 and 2015, compared with a previous figure of 19 for synthetic cannabinoids between 2012 and 2014.

      Given what is known of the risks – and the associated effects of palpitations, seizures, paranoia – what is the attraction for so many prisoners? For some the answer is obvious: “Your problems disappear cos you don’t think about them,” said one inmate.

  7. One of my initial observations on joining the Probation Service many years ago, coming from the voluntary sector, was the relative lack of connection between Probation the services that were available almost immediately outside the office door, in the local community. There were some very good collaborations that were happening and were managed on a secure footing, a win – win in my experience. My own voluntary organisation at the time had a contact with the local Probation Service and received a fee for that service thereby securing a stream of funding. The spin off was that we had more people coming through our doors and whom we could then seek to engage in other services whose outcomes supported other sources of funding. In addition the link made the organisation more attractive to volunteers who like me joined up, made a name for myself and then secured a Probation career from it. Note here the localism, local people, community and Probation. Probation has long needed to get away, by degree of course, from the desk in the Office and make in - roads into the local community and community in the wider sense, not just the voluntary sector.

    Many of us who comment on this blog know by example and intuitively that the new structures that TR created are poorly positioned to deliver locally and draw on the community in the way that its creators might have imagined. Maybe someone else can develop the idea why this is the case (I am struggling to collect my precise thinking on it) and propose some alternatives. Alternatively you might disagree and think TR created the basis for localism, community, Probation and voluntary sector and equally your thoughts please.

  8. I remember negotiating with the local crown court, unpaid work and a local community centrea, bespoke placement that worked really well. I was doing two reports at the same time, one a theft from a local charity (neighbourhood community center)by the volunteer treasurer and the other for a very high reading aggravated drink driving offence! The later, was a very wealthy, qualified accountant, so when he avoided jail in favour of unpaid work, I arranged that he kept the books at the charity until he completed his hours, which he did and then stayed on! There is no way I could do that now. From such as hoc arrangements we then got partnership managers organising working partnerships, some good and some very poor! TR did away with partnership managers and a lot of partners! Last October I was advised by our director, that projects consumed into the CRCs had a continuing responsibility to offer their services to nps! Not happening. I made a referral to our local women's service provider, for a female to accompany me to interview the wife of a lifer,a specific and very sensitive task,r requested by panel at last oral hearing, where independence and impartiality were crucial! Made the request (written referral) to several people in same organisation, but have heard nothing in nearly 5 months! When Parole Board ask why I have been unable to provide the information they specifically asked for, i will have to say, the resource is seemingly unavailable!

    1. That's the problem with big contracts, everyone sticks to the letter of what they are paid to deliver. Your request is slightly out of the norm and probably won't be covered. I'd be suprised if the services offered by the providers include working with the partners of offenders.

      You might be better of trying to speak to the VLO manager, it won't be as independent as requested, but probably better than nothing.

    2. Sova used to do this accompanying stuff, but now I never hear of them in probation.

  9. Before TR I recall working closely for many years with the voluntary sector. As probation officers we always accessed local community services and used what was local. Sova, Mind, CAP, CAB, Shelter and more. One other organisation made bikes with the homeless, another helped with reading and writing, another collected and provided furniture, another financial advice and debt support. We once had a drive to get in even more community services and got local charities to come into the office once a month and tell us how we can work together. A 'Local Agency Tree' we called it I think and each leaf was a new partnership. All this ended with TR and since then we only see charities that have CRC contracts or are out to make money for doing relatively little, and so are not really charities.

    1. The problem was that the probation service never paid for any of the services it got from those local charities. And since none of those local charities had a magic money tree, they were unsustainable. Charities cannot provide services with fresh air - they have to employ staff to actually do stuff. Those staff need to be paid.

    2. Not true. Many probation trusts had financial arrangements with local charities they worked with. Others readily encouraged sending clients their way at times their services were underused. The difference now is that the charities we're talking about here are those "charities" in name only seeking big bucks and contracts whether they can deliver or not, usually they cannot!

  10. Completely lost at work today. Just have no idea where this is all going. Voluntary sector relationships. Just everything. What an utter mess HMP is in. NPS omnishambles.

    1. I'm lost too. I just try and survive and get by and get paid. I need a good probation officer

  11. Imagine the scene: a professional probation service, working creativley and fruitfully with energetic community groups (particularly effective with women clientele). Imagine some local trusts building this into a gold standard effective service. This is not now. The labrynthine procurement and commissioning arrangements are right up there with the incomprehensible finance packages that brought about the last recession. Same deal, different sector

  12. I hate Chris Grayling. I can never decide whether to be crosser with him for being an incredibly effective neo-liberal ignorant profiteer, or with our #leaders aka seniro management for their collusion, but Grayling really is apalling. Please please vote to remain in Europe. He is poised to roll out his planned destruction of the Human Rights Act, which is probably one of the last rock solid anchors on which we might build a cjs to be proud of, and a society of which we would like to be members