Saturday, 23 July 2016

Latest From Napo 111

From the General Secretary's Blog yesterday:-

Probation Systems Review
Given that the former Secretary of State had to twice postpone a scheduled meeting with us due to his Brexit campaigning, then next week’s meeting with his successor is about as timely as it gets.

We have just provided an interim submission into the Probation Systems Review that I alerted you to a few weeks back and this will form a key part of the revised briefing that we will offer to Ministers. Here is what we have said:

Probation System Review – Interim submission 14th July 2016
Napo is the Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court staff

As requested by NOMS this is an interim submission by the union for the Probation System Review and outlines some of the key concerns Napo has with regards to the current provision of probation services. A more detailed response outlining issues in specific CRCs and the NPS will be submitted later in the summer.

Payment Mechanism
Many of the CRCs have said that a decrease in community orders with the highest payments attached to them such as unpaid work and programmes has resulted in a lower than expected WAV payment causing reduced budgets and job cuts. This highlights a flaw in the payment mechanism as it is not representative of the wide range of work that CRCs carry out. By only paying CRCs for accredited programmes and unpaid work, CRCs are being prevented financially from developing or maintaining other ways of working or maintaining or growing their staffing levels. (An example of this would be Warwickshire West Mercia CRC who inherited a number of interventions from West Mercia Trust such as Willowdene Farm. This intervention, whilst proven to be effective in reducing reoffending, does not attract additional payment and is becoming unsustainable. The CRC is currently looking to reduce its existing contract with Willowdene to save money.)

The cause of this is in part due to the original 70/30 split of staff which is not reflective of the 50/50 split in workloads. The reduction in service users worth the most money being managed by the CRCs may be as a result of a lack of confidence amongst sentencers with probation services post-contract mobilisation. Magistrates do not know what CRCs are offering and how they deliver the work. We understand that CRCs are not allowed to have direct contact with magistrates regarding this as it is seen as a conflict of interest. In addition to this the NPS is not making the level of referrals to programmes delivered by the CRCs as was anticipated. This is apparently due to a lack of money to pay for the commissioning of programmes and lengthy waiting lists which exclude people on shorter orders or licences from participating. This is of particular concern with regards to domestic violence programmes. It is also an indication that the NPS is not financially sustainable. We understand from some of our members that there is a move to NPS delivering its own interventions and this could have a significant impact on members’ jobs in the CRC.

Despite this, or because of the significant job cuts in the CRCs (approximately 1700), workloads remain extremely high for staff; with many reporting being well over 150% on workload management tools (this is for both CRCs and NPS). This is further evidence that it is the payment mechanism or the commercial viability of CRCs that is causing the problem rather than reduced offending rates. Other initiatives, such as an increased use of community interventions issued by police, do not appear to have been taken into consideration in terms of volumes of work going to the CRC.

Payment by Results (PbR) is due to come online next February but many CRCs have indicated to Napo that they do not intend to factor PbR into their budgets. The payment is too low to be of any significance but the interventions needed to produce the results would be very costly to implement.

Commercial Viability
There are growing concerns about the financial viability of a number of CRCs. Members report increased anxiety regarding finances as an increasing number of CRCs make job cuts citing financial restraints. The levels of job cuts we have seen so far also suggest that CRCs are not commercially viable. This coupled with Service Credit fines that have been imposed on some CRCs for poor performance could see further cuts to staff and interventions. Napo does not believe that this is sustainable and fears that further job cuts will reduce CRCs’ capacity to carry out any meaningful work with service users and mean that they will carry out the basics in order to maintain a profit.

The National Audit Office highlighted in its report this year that the reduced level of business passing to the CRCs needs to be properly risk assessed. It urged the MoJ to identify the risks associated with reduced business and to develop contingency plans should a CRC collapse. Napo would support this but would go further in saying that any assessment of the commercial viability of a CRC must be done in conjunction with an assessment of CRC service delivery against the level of service delivery expected by the MoJ.

Quality and Performance
Napo does not have access to an up-to-date list of CRCs that have had Service Credits imposed on them and has had to rely, at this stage, on feedback from branches and CRCs. It is clear that the imposition of these credits raises questions about the quality of service being delivered both in terms of what is being delivered and how. Napo has raised concerns from the outset that a number of CRCs have developed operation models that in our view, and that of our members, are both dangerous and undermine the purpose of probation to protect the public, enforce the law and to rehabilitate.

Napo calls on the MoJ to urgently review these operating models and to insist that CRCs going through a restructuring programme provide revised operating models to evidence their ability to maintain or improve quality. As a professional association Napo should have the opportunity to have sight of these models (not all CRCs are currently prepared to share them) so that we can assess the impact they will have on our members day to work, long term service delivery and compare the variations around the different providers.

Napo is receiving reports that CRCs are attempting to hide poor performance figures, in particular the enforcement of orders. Members are telling us that they are being verbally directed not to instigate breach proceedings and to carry out additional home visits or send motivational letters to avoid formal breach proceedings. Service user contact records are recording a successful completion when in fact individuals should have been breached numerous times. It has also been reported that in some areas initial appointments are being ‘offered’ on Delius to meet the target of first appointments; but are then subsequently rearranged resulting in many service users not being seen within the target time frame.

Accredited Programme delivery is very varied across the providers. Staff shortages in some areas have led to groups being cancelled on numerous occasions, to lone staff running evening groups, including domestic violence, and to high attrition rates. These approaches undermine the integrity of the programme as well as having a detrimental impact on staff wellbeing.

As reported in the HMIP inspection report earlier this year Through the Gate (TTG) appears to be a key area in which the CRCs are failing to deliver. The variations of its performance around the country are significant according to our anecdotal evidence but not one CRC appears to be delivering well on this contractual requirement. Members in some areas have stated that they get to spend on average 12 minutes with each service user. There is no infrastructure to enable support into housing for example, until an individual has already left custody. As such prisoners are simply being advised to report as homeless on release. Interface with the NPS is also poor regarding resettlement.

Communications between TTG teams and NPS staff is limited. Governors are agreeing licence conditions agreed by the TTG team but not with the consent of the NPS officer resulting in inadequate licences and releases. MoJ figures earlier this year show a rise in recalls to prison and a significant number of those being for short custody prisoners. It suggests that the revolving door is still revolving and possible at a faster rate than previously.

These issues amongst others are exacerbated by a lack of training in both CRCs and the NPS. There is a greater reliance on PSO grades to carry out more complex work but without the grounding they require or the remuneration they deserve. This will contribute to staff burnout, low morale and will impact on service delivery and public protection.

Initial conclusions
It would not be appropriate to make recommendations or solid conclusions at this stage of the review. However, Napo does feel able to make the following observations and suggestions:

  • It is clear that NPS resourcing is having a direct impact on CRC provision. As such any reform of CRC contracts or service delivery should be done in conjunction with the NPS and the two should not be dealt with in silos.
  • Greater transparency is needed for the CRCs in terms of their operating models, financial stability and service delivery. A lack of transparency on these issues heightens staff anxiety, hinders constructive discussions with staff and unions and prevents CRCs being accountable to their local communities and to the MoJ.
  • The payment mechanism is flawed and this needs to be fully reviewed to ensure that it increases good practice and innovation rather than hindering it. If CRCs continue to cut back on services and partnerships they will inevitably reach a point of no return and to rebuild probation provision back to an award winning service will require huge investments and may still not be possible.
  • Napo strongly believes that there must be greater investment from all parties in continual professional development in order to build a strong resilient and sustainable workforce. Napo is currently developing a professional strategy that we will include as part of our more detailed response.
  • Any changes to roles within the NPS such as delivering ‘in house’ interventions must be done in conjunction with E3 and the unions.


  1. Probation Officer23 July 2016 at 08:29

    Nothing should be done "in conjunction with E3". E3 is TR under a new name and pre-curser to privatisation of the NPS. Just as jobs are set to go in CRC's in London and elsewhere, this is on the cards for the NPS too. We have another non-legal as a Justice Secretary, no doubt brought into further Grayling's damned privatisation which Gove may have actually reversed, so it's all about to go down the pan.

    1. Yes E3 is the precursor to privatisation of the NPS. Truss is apparently very keen that this goes forward as soon as practicable following the next general election.

  2. Ex-Napo member23 July 2016 at 08:40

    Napo should be using this opportunity to hammer home the point that TR was doomed to failure from the start, because of the absurd carve-up of probation work, the distortions caused by the profit principle, and the involvement of catering companies and failed Work Programme providers who know increasing amounts of nothing about the tasks that they've taken on.

    I get why Napo feels it has an obligation to respond to this review on behalf of its members, but any "systems review" that doesn't recognise that the whole system isn't fit for purpose (by the way, does anyone else still experience a moment of rage at John Reid when they read those three words?), isn't worthy of the name.

    Napo should not be saying "It would not be appropriate to make recommendations or solid conclusions at this stage of the review". Napo has been asking members for evidence of TR's failures throughout the course of this unfolding disaster - surely there is enough to say "TR is a failure, PbR is a fraud, these companies are dangerous!" By all means offer some "suggestions" to tinker around at the edges if you really must, but any statement from Napo that doesn't reject the fundamental principles of TR is continued collusion, much as when the framework agreement was signed.

    1. Hear, hear ex napo member you have said in a reasonably succinct manner what so many of us believe. We have no real lead or management here at SW working links/ aurelius. Just paul hindson in his polyester suit digging his dirty heels into what remains of our deflated management team. He won't even refer to our cpo by his full name and insists on sending out meaningless updates like some vainglorious degenerate. I would love to see sally lewis return for the day to dig her stilleto heal into his underworked backside! She would make mincemeat of him in any debate about our future because he knows sweet FA about probation and in no way could he actually justify the cuts and shoddy treatment of offenders caught up in the system. Things are literally falling apart around us! Staff are suffering from low morale as they are packed off to shoddy premises in cave like rooms or semi derilict buildings that are due to be demolished! Offenders have no privacy and kick off because they don't know who is supervising them or feel vulnerable because they are overheard. Staff being encouraged to cook the books or avoid breaches at all costs. Come on! What does it have to take for everyone including napo to agree that TR stinks!

    2. Probation Officer23 July 2016 at 10:19

      While it's nice to reminisce, let's not forget that Sally Lewis is now living the good life on her hefty early retirement/redundancy package. Despite her minimal feather ruffling, she was paid off handsomely for bringing in TR along with the other Chief Officers while the rest of us are directed to the dole queue.

    3. So what was she supposed to do? Get paid for bringing in TR or get paid to do her job and then leave because she didn't agree with the privatisation? She was faced with a choice like the rest of us and did what she thought best. So what if she got a good pay out! What do you expect after 20 years of service! We all deserve a reasonable settlement if we have to leave but don't forget this is not a prison sentence and any of us can choose to leave if we make that decision. I would rather a qualified person like SL got something out of it than the likes of WL and aurelius. All i am saying is i would like a manager i can respect rather than puppets of WL.

    4. 1001 I think the Mr hindson you are talking about is an EX PO save you he he wont.

    5. He is not an ex PO! What utter rubbish! If he was he would have been crowing about this and making out he was saviour of probation!

    6. Probation Officer23 July 2016 at 13:35

      I expected the probation CEO collective to stand up for probation. They spent years lauding it over us about practice and targets, but when the MoJ rung the bell for the last round they stepped out of the ring and copped the payout. There is no rose tinted trip down memory lane when it comes to the actions of our former masters, no matter how much their remaining deludedly faithful minions like you may wish to pretend. They are no different from the current breed of CEO ravaging probation, NPS or CRC they are all the same. And if you're awaiting your "reasonable settlement", which is an understatement to refer to the some near half £million some CEO's received under EVR and a bumped up pension pot, then I can tell you the current drive is to force you out first. The current mantra is capability and disciplinary, and that's while they break you down with excessive workloads and deteriorating conditions. Oh and if that doesn't work in forcing you to fall unwell or resign, they'll just restructure and reband your role at a lower rate.

      NAPO is powerless against all of the above, and no amount of bulletins and campaign speeches will make a difference.

    7. Ex-Napo member23 July 2016 at 13:46

      @Anon 13:28. Yes he is an ex-PO:

    8. So it says but did he ever actually work as a PO? The information is very thin on the ground. I trained with someone who qualified as a PO but never did the job! Why? Failed all the interviews! Good with the talk but not so good with the actions. Dig a bit deeper!

    9. Who cares he was trained as a PO he obviously had the input training of his time. Now cutting everyone's throat and smiling at us while he does it. Taking a slice of the cash we cant imagine how much while damaging public services morale and putting staff on the scrapheap and sleeping well . What comes around, we live and hope.

  3. From the briefing: "CRCs say a decrease in community orders with the highest payments attached to them such as unpaid work and programmes has resulted in a lower than expected WAV payment causing reduced budgets and job cuts."

    Did that form the basis of Sodexo's slash&burn policy within weeks of taking the reins? No. That claim by CRCs & any subsequent discussion which seeks to validate such a claim is Null & Void. Smoke & Mirrors. Red & Herring. Bull & Shit. Napo yet again drawn (willingly?) into pointlessness, timewasting & diversion rather than grabbing the beast by the throat.

    1. I don't recall ever hearing the outcome of this Napo soundbite from 2015, so won't be holding my breath for any future results on CRCs or NPS/E3:

      "We are pressing from various angles and avenues for an full internal and external review and investigation of Sodexo and the TR process in the hope that building the pressure prompts Gove into covering his credibility. However by nature this isn't being done in full public view."

  4. I know that in purple futures CRC a 'dummy UPW appointment' is always given at induction and the service-user told to sign on the basis that it is only an offer of an appointment to fulfil contractual obligations. It is very rare any of these appointments have been honoured due to the short timescale and acceptable absences are always recorded against them - hardly PFs fault, they and other CRCs have, to some extent, been set up to fail.

    1. Same in Northumbria (Sodexo) and told to record ISP as being completed (manually) even if it hasn't to hit the targets! Talk about fiddling figures!

  5. It is the slippery slope if you are fiddling the books. I have refused to do this despite pressure as i expect there will be an inspection at some point and this could be disciplinary matter. If they sack me for refusing to lie so be it. It will free me up to spill the beans. I will go straight to the press, mp, moj, whoever will listen.

    1. Probation Officer23 July 2016 at 22:30

      Sadly nobody will listen because nobody cares.

  6. NAPO weak weak weak. Nothing said of the inflated value of the contracts at the outset that set all CRC's at level 6 of the WAV suggesting higher profits than could have been realised. Criminal ! If thats the best TB can do sack her.