Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Calling London

London is bar far the largest of the privatised CRC's and hence what happens there is extremely important to everyone, not least the MoJ and Napo, but particularly the future of the whole TR omnishambles. I don't think it's a coincidence that things seem to be moving rather quickly after the departure of London Napo's redoubtable chair Pat Waterman, together with other key people. 

The suspicion must be that the American owners are seeking to take advantage of a situation where they possibly feel there's a much-weakened union branch. Can we please continue to use this forum to share as much information as possible about what exactly is happening to probation in our capital city?  


It's no longer a rumour about facility time being removed in London CRC. Napo confirmed it in an email yesterday saying it won't represent members anymore which is a breach of membership rights. This is the end of Napo and the start of the London CRC tyranny. If Napo wasn't the most bloody expensive Union in the country it'd probably have a lot more members to throw its weight around. Either way, members have paid their subs and are entitled to representation so Napo better start pulling its finger out and hire some reps.

Share the email, as I doubt that Napo said any such thing as portrayed here.

I can't share the whole thing as it means forwarding the email; they track these things!! The email was sent yesterday by Napo London and states;

"Regrettably, as things stand London CRC have decided to "cease" the facility time arrangement they had with London Napo pending a "review". With this new situation, it will be increasingly difficult to offer representation to members in the CRC, in all but the most urgent cases.". .... "However, it is important to note that a National Representative will be allocated to any case where there is a possible outcome of dismissal."

The ending of a facility time agreement is not the ending of representation as this is a legal right. Any member required to attend a formal hearing has the right to representation and if this is a work colleague or trade union rep, these individuals have a legal right to paid time off to prepare and attend the meeting.

You can see the immediate logistical demands this places on the union and the challenges of negotiating workload relief on an ad hoc basis when representation is needed, hence Napo's line about prioritising representation to 'urgent' cases.

This is another CRC kick in the teeth and further underscores the weakness of the agreement that Napo signed prior to the split. It seems clear that some CRCs want to break union organisation at local level.

Haven't the government stopped all unions from having 'paid'facility time, or facility time allocated during contracted working hours? I'm sure that was legislated on when they attacked the check off process. Maybe someone with more knowledge then me could put me right if I'm wrong, but if I am correct I'd assume that all workplaces will soon follow suit and 'paid' facility time will go across the board.

The House of Lords voted down the attempt to reduce the facility time within the public sector. The Trade Union Act 2016 decrees that employers must collate info on how much facility time is taken and the cost to the organisation, but I can't see anything in the Act that erodes the original provision or quantifies it any way.

The owners MTCnovo and the employer London CRC have no clue about employee relations as they already got rid of anyone in HR who knew anything. They want to appear as if they are consulting with recognised trade unions for appearances but are extremely guarded and understandably nervous given their precarious financial position and the game they are playing with the MoJ. They are certainly gearing up to make staff cuts in the last quarter of this year and believe they can call all the shots and keep getting work out of their managers right up until the point where it is obvious they are about to shaft them. 

The fact is there are very few union reps still employed and they are aiming to make it very difficult for those that remain to be released from their full-time jobs - unless it suits them. There are all sorts of agreements, understandings and legal requirements, but they depend on dealing with honourable employers, not the sharks and chancers, failed prison careerists etc now in charge in London. The majority of the senior management team are already planning their exits realising that the ship is well and truly on the rocks and there are very few lifeboats. Public sector requirements do not apply to public limited companies who put profit before people.


It will be recalled that Pat Waterman's staff updates used to feature regularly on this blog, but I notice that I never got around to publishing a couple from earlier this year. So, lets rectify that, both as a reminder of her sterling work and because they probably contain still useful information. The first has been edited because it was concerned with a tax matter that only seemed to affect London staff:-

Meanwhile on 18th February staff in the CRC received an email from Donna Charles Vincent advising them that some temporary Probation Officers and Probation Service Officers would be leaving at the end of that month and some more would be leaving at the end of this month.

Although this may come as a shock and a surprise to some of you it is important to remember that the contract funding was always based on there being 347 Probation Officers and Probation Service Officers (Full Time Equivalents). The temporary staff were always surplus to requirements and were kept on to act as a “buffer” during the transition to the cohort model. Once the cohort model was established the work force would be reduced to the target on which the contract funding was based.

Out of a total of 107 temporary Probation Officers and Probation Service Officers, 32 were “let go” at the end of February and it is planned to let a further 40 go at the end of this month. These temporary staff represent about a quarter of all Offender Managers in the London CRC.

Although the intention is to have a fully permanent workforce, realistically there will always be a need to have some temporary staff of approximately 30 to cover for maternity leave and long term sickness absence.

The attainment of the 347 FTE operating number from April will not require any Probation Officer or Probation Service Officer redundancies. There will be some vacancies as a result of attrition but these will be available for the 32 PQF graduating in June/July.

As the services of temporary staff are dispensed with management will wish to engage in a process they are calling “smoothing”. This will involve moving staff around as some offices had more temporary staff than others.

This could be good news for those who wish to change their current location or cohort but it could present problems for those who have no wish to move from their present postings. We shall be fully engaged in consultation and negotiation with CRC management about what ever processes they propose to implement these changes in an attempt to protect the interests of all members.

Clearly these reductions in staffing levels will have implications for workloads and working practices. It was emphasised at the CRC JNCC that cohort ACO’s have always known about these planned reductions in the workforce and will have been organising their service delivery models accordingly.

We are presently engaged in discussions about the WMT in an attempt to ensure that it is an accurate reflection of the work being undertaken. But our advice is as always that you should only work your hours. Remember that you can only do so much and take of yourselves and each other.

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair


A Message from Pat Waterman Chair of Napo London Branch


Members in the CRC will have received an email from Helga Swidenbank on Friday 4th March entitled: CRC Directive 102 - OASYS Initial Sentence Plan.

Below is an email that I have just sent to Helga.


I am writing in response to the email you sent out to all CRC staff on Friday 4th March advising them that with effect from today "it is a requirement that all Offender Managers must complete a Sentence Plan in OASYS within 10 days of the Service User attending their first appointment on any order or licence".

Members have expressed concerns to me about the content and timing of this directive.

I note your appreciation of what you call "considerable challenges" with the new ICT in some locations. At the JNCC last week we were advised that there are four "stranded" sites (Wandle Road, Orpington, Kingston and Walthamstow) that could not be cabled and would be reliant on WiFi for at least the next four/five months. Reference was also made to three other locations that were referred to as "problematical" (Hounslow, Riverside House and Lewisham). I have reason to believe that this list is not exhaustive and that other offices continue to experience ICT difficulties.

Therefore your suggestion that staff "may have to make the time to work from a cabled office" could present some staff with more difficulties than others. It may also not be possible for them to simply "make time" within their contracted hours of employment.

I wish to bring to your attention that during the “split” of London Probation Trust into the NPS and the CRC performance targets in relation to OASYS were frequently suspended. Staff were told to prioritise offender management i.e. seeing cases, updating Delius and multi-agency working.

We have been advised by Paul Scarborough that in the WMT a full OASYS assessment (layer 3) is timed at 3-4 hours. The rise in average case loads that is likely to result from the decision to “let go” a significant number of temporary staff by the end of this month is also likely to result in unsustainable workloads. Cases are being transferred without any OASYS having been done previously.

Although for approximately the past year members in the NPS have been working towards a target of completing a Sentence Plan in OASYS within 10 days, previously this only applied to Tier 4 cases.

We will be raising issues at the next JNCC about the current WMT which makes no allowances for Office duties, UPW inductions, MARAC meetings and Safeguarding Children matters. This new directive is being implemented in what is already a very stretched, challenging and stressful time for members.

Pat Waterman
Chair Greater London Branch NAPO


  1. Probation employers will lose out if they remove facility time and do not provide an adequate amount it just shows how short-sighted they are, it may bring them extra profit in the short term, but in the long term they need a system of consultation and representation with their workers if the agency is to be fit for purpose.

    Staff councils do not do an adequate job, as we know from professional practice, that progress results when we listen properly to what uncomfortable comments come from those who it would feel easier to exclude.

    Maybe the London CRC owners are asset strippers and after a quick profit and a sell on to avoid the long term consequences in the manner of the way British Home Stores seems to have been treated by a former owner.

  2. In its promotional literature for joining Napo, it states, 'We guarantee the best available help if you have a problem at work'.

    In light of events in London around the withdrawal of the facility agreement, what status does this Napo guarantee now hold? One of the main reasons staff join a union is to insure themselves against problems at work. In fact this notion of insurance is directly referred to in the Napo literature – why would you insure your house, car – but not yourself?

    Napo nationally need to set out how they intend to respond to this withdrawal of facility time. If the remit of the Napo insurance is being modified, then they need to spell this out so members can make informed decisions. Napo have apparently said support and representation will be provided in urgent cases and those facing dismissal, but how is 'urgent' to be defined. If you are facing allegations in the workplace, it is always urgent for the individual concerned.

    1. A prime example of bad leadership form the top once agian.Napo should be fighting back against this not quivering at the knees offering resources it hasn't got.

  3. It's all going so very well don't you think?


    1. Growing numbers of ex-cons being hauled back to prison: More than 6,500 current inmates were recalled after being released on probation

      Prison is a ‘revolving door’ for too many offenders and is failing to stop their life of crime, according to a new analysis. The numbers of convicts being returned to custody after being released has soared over the past two decades, a campaign group has claimed.

      Figures show that in June 1995 only around 150 inmates were recalled offenders. As of June this year, the number was 6,600 – meaning it has risen nearly 50-fold.

      Campaigners claim this has put additional pressure on prisons that are already struggling to cope with chronic overcrowding, alarming safety problems and deep budget cuts. Offenders who are freed to carry on serving their sentence under supervision in the community can be recalled if they fail to comply with the conditions of their licence.

      In the period between January and March this year, 5,185 offenders were recalled for breaching the conditions of their licence - an increase of 22 per compared with the same period last year. Under the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, licence supervision was expanded so anyone sentenced to more than a day in jail receives at least 12 months' supervision on release.

      Failing to report to a probation officer can amount to a breach, while criminals can also be returned to prison if there is any deterioration in behaviour which leads officials to conclude there is an increased risk of committing further offences.

      In a submission to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Howard League for Penal Reform argued that the possibility of recall to prison as a consequence of a breach of licence should be removed.

      Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League, said: ‘Why are we sending men and women back to prison when they have not committed new crimes? Far from transforming rehabilitation, privatising the probation service and making more people subject to licence conditions has sped up the revolving door, returning people to prison and putting more pressure on a system that fails everyone. Removing the possibility of recall to custody would be a more sensible way to help people who are struggling to comply with their licence conditions.’

      The Howard League also described prisons as overcrowded and warned there has been a decline in safety behind bars since 2012.

      But the Ministry of Justice pointed out that in the 1990s only offenders serving more than four years could be recalled by the Secretary of State. That was reduced to 12 months in 1999, and there is now no limit. There is also a greater range of licence conditions imposed than in 1995.

      An MoJ spokesman said: 'These figures are not comparable. There have been significant changes to the way we manage offenders which mean comparing them is misleading. Public protection is our priority and offenders on licence must comply with a strict set of conditions. If these conditions are breached they face going back to prison. Safety in prisons is fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system and a vital part of our reform plans.'

    2. That is simply wrong from MOJ, I do not know from exactly which date, or what the statistics were.

      However once automatic conditional release was introduced in the 1990s, for all prisoners serving between one and four years they were on licence and subject to recall for breaches of the licence. The numbers did increase and there was much resentment from prisoners as I recall dealing with numbers of such prisoners returned to custody when I was a seconded probation officer, working in a prison.

      That error from MOJ needs correcting.

    3. Hope this helps - from Gov report on prison population changes:

      "• The recall population has grown rapidly since 1993, increasing by over 55 times
      – The recall population increased by 5,300 between 1993 and 2012
      – Growth in the recall population began in 1999, reflecting the change to the law in 1998 which extended executive recall to medium-term sentences (12 months to less than 4 years)
      – Between 2002/03 and 2007/08 the recall rate from parole more than doubled from 13% to 27%
      – Between 2003 and 2008 the average length of time spent in prison on recall increased. However, following the introduction of Fixed Term Recalls in 2008 (under which some offenders are recalled for a fixed 28 day period) average time on recall has fallen and the recall population stabilised."

  4. So, the chaos continues. Erosion of professional standards, erosion of protection for staff and especially loss of access to IT on a regular basis.

    Hmmm, wonder how MoJ will be able to monitor/measure CRC performance with insufficient/no data due to IT failures? The MoJ's "contract police" are either fast asleep or wholly complicit in this obscene farce. And sadly HMI Probation don't seem to be overly keen to tell it how it is, e.g. their last report on a north-east CRC area glossed over many failures to comply with basic requirements.

    Seems like the CRC owners, the predatory globals, are using a range of tactics to obfuscate the reality of the CRC crises playing out across the country. They'll pocket what they can until the game is up, blame others for any failure & bale out under Grayling's Golden Goodbye clause.

    When they reviewed TR the PAC had ordered a range of tasks be completed & reported back by MoJ/NOMS, none of which have been fulfilled as far as I can see. Since those reports were requested Grayling, Brennan, Romeo & others have disappeared. Only Spurr remains. And there's no chance of any realistic assessment now given the lack of data as a consequence of the innumerable IT debacles.

    A shambles of immense proportions, from the very politically ideological start right through to the scandalous handover of vast sums of public money to greedy globals. Will we ever know the true scale of the financial losses? Or, indeed, of the human losses viz-careers, health, liberty, deaths, or the many other victims as a consequence of the failed TR project?

    1. "The performance of CRCs and the NPS remains unclear given limitations around data quality and availability. Until data on reoffending are compiled in late 2017, data on performance are limited to information on service levels for the completion of probation activities. The Ministry allowed eight months until September 2015 before performance of CRCs would be open to penalties." Recommendation 7 from NAO TR report 28 April 2016

      This extract from the Touchstone blog 11 May 2016, by Philip Hadley:

      "The new NAO report reveals that until data on reoffending are compiled in late 2017, data on performance of the new CRCs and the NPS are extremely limited, which presents a very real challenge to holding the new privatised CRCs to account. In May 2014 the Public Accounts Committee published two reports on the probation reforms, concluding the reforms carried significant risks. Back then, the PAC called for the MoJ to ensure accountability and transparency:
      “The Ministry must ensure that the new contracts contain open-book accounting arrangements and allow the National Audit Office full access to contractual information, so that we can follow the taxpayers’ pound and be assured that value for money is being served and contractors are not gaming the system as has happened in the past.”
      It appears that the committee’s recommendations have not been followed, as the lack of data leaves the public without the ability to properly hold probation providers to account. The NAO report found that the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), part of MoJ, has no data for three of 24 of the CRCs, and insufficiently robust data in another two. Similarly, the MoJ has no data for five of the 25 NPS service levels and insufficiently robust data in another two."

    2. Excerpts from the NAO report:

      "Supervision of short-sentenced offenders
      4.14 Following the introduction of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, offender supervision, for the rst time, has been extended to offenders with prison sentences under 12 months. While this had led to an additional 10,000 ‘starters’ as of August 2015, this cohort of offenders is still expanding and there is to date little management information or analysis of service level performance or outcomes for this new cohort of offenders. The risk is that the Ministry does not suffciently understand and manage the performance of services to this new cohort of offenders.

      3.11 We observed severe ineffciency arising from the various ICT systems used. For example:
      • staff attributed several hours per week of lost working time to nDelius, the main probation case management system. Some considered nDelius had been unfit
for purpose as a case management tool even before it was laden with additional performance management and contract management functions during the reforms. NPS is making minor changes to the system on an ongoing basis;
      • nDelius is not intuitive to use and requires multiple steps for even simple actions. Most staff also complained of losing work they had entered and periods of system unavailability. Staff reported receiving limited training on the system;
      • the ‘risk of serious recidivism’ tool (RSR) used to assess offender risk is unable to pull information from other systems, requiring manual re-entry. Staff complained about the time required to complete the tool and considered that it should not be compulsory for evidently high-risk cases; however, changes in national guidance have removed the requirement to complete the RSR at the pre-sentence stage in all cases. NOMS also found extensive miscalculation and misreporting of results (paragraph 3.2);
      • the Offender Assessment System (OASys), for assessing the risks and needs of an offender, requires manual re-entry of information already entered in nDelius and RSR, increasing error rates and diverting staff from productive work;
      • and the case allocation system (CAS), which is completed by the NPS on all cases to document allocation decisions, is in part paper-based and also requires staff to re-enter data that are already in other systems. Work to improve its functionality is due to be implemented later in 2016.

      3.12 To increase efficiency and productivity, most CRCs are installing their own case management systems and ICT infrastructure. The NPS expects to continue with the existing systems for the foreseeable future.

      3.13 NOMS agreed to provide an interface with nDelius by June 2015 to enable CRCs to exchange case management information; however, its implementation has been delayed initially by other priorities and subsequently by increased scope. At the time of nalising this report, the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) advised us that the Gateway had been developed and was awaiting joint testing with CRCs’ systems. As CRCs regard the interface as essential to their transformation plans they have estimated consequent costs, which are subject to ongoing negotiations. The delivery of an interim bridging solution was completed in December 2015 and has helped CRCs who are changing their estates to move away from a dependence on Ministry ICT."

      Not very encouraging, and clearly CRCs are teeing up MoJ for further handouts of public money to cover their IT costs.

    3. We know the cost. Everyone who was around when this happened is fully aware of the cost. The Probation Service that I knew and loved is gone to be replaced by a sham. I have lost valued relationships, both personal and professional, lost valued colleagues and seen deeply experienced professionals cast aside to be replaced by pretenders; embarrassing ones at that. The cost is the devastation of a whole industry at considerable risk to staff, offenders, victims and the public. It will never be widely publicised because the same vermin that own these management companies own the media. They have crucified public services in a death of a thousand cuts. I have had to let it go for my own sanity but I will remain profoundly saddened by what has happened until the day I die.

    4. a good summing up @14:13

  5. Has Ms Swidenbank (or any CRC owners, managers or apologists) read any of the evidence to Public Accounts Committee from Mar 2014? For example:

    "Michael Spurr: The first thing to say is that there will be and we have negotiated with trade unions and others a voluntary redundancy package for use where we have identified surplus staff and it would be available post-June when we have moved to the new arrangements of setting up the CRCs and the NPS... I think we will need largely to retain [operational staff] because the aim is to expand the case load.

    Q90 Meg Hillier: Sorry, that is qualified probation officers?

    Michael Spurr: Yes. With operational staff, I have qualified probation officers and probation service officers. I absolutely agree with you about the importance of retaining quality staff to be able to do this work... As we move forward the expectation is that the NPS will continue to operate that probation qualification framework and we will have access to that framework for providers. Providers must say as part of their bids how they are going to retain and ensure the skills required to be able to do the job... Ensuring that we have the right quality of people to be able to do the job is right, but we may want to change the mix.. It may change, but there will be an absolute requirement to retain a qualified level of probation expertise. We have set out explicitly that we want providers to set out in bids how they intend to do that..."

    1. As for Napo, they were complicit from the start as confirmed by Spurr at the same hearing:

      "Michael Spurr: The allocation process [Shafting] will be completed this week, including all appeals, so we will have clarity about where staff are. The process has been set out fairly. The allocation process was agreed through a negotiation with trade unions and we followed that process properly, including the appeal processes. I do not anticipate employment tribunals..."

    2. Historical weasel words from Hansard which no doubt make grim reading for those qualified & experienced ("operational") staff who have been well and truly fucked over by the heavily remunerated Mr Spurr & his minions in the subsequent 36 months, whether through loss of careers or having to cope with stupid caseloads & bullying management (nps & crc).

      Napo do not have clean hands either. As predicted by Spurr, there were no employment tribunals despite the inequity & unfair procedures employed during the 'shafting' process.

    3. I am sorry but although Michael Spurr may have said 'allocation process was agreed with the Unions' it doesn't mean that he was telling the truth. I was Branch Chair in Dorset at the time and distinctly remember that NAPO never signed off on the sifting process. The advice given was to play no formal part in the sifting process - in Dorset JNCC Reps had been asked to sit on the sifting panels. Let's at least keep any criticism of NAPO accurate.

    4. No need to apologise, 20:50. It's only right & fair that there is a clear & accurate account, unlike the approach taken by MoJ/Noms & our elected politicians. So you are saying that Spurr lied to the PAC. That needs to be raised with the PAC, surely? Why haven't Napo challenged that already? Its a serious matter to mislead Parliament.

    5. 20.05. I think you are splitting hairs. Napo signed the Transfer of Staff Agreement and did not advise staff to refuse to engage in the actual allocation process. Members did play a formal part by filling in paperwork to facilitate the allocation process.

    6. It must not be forgotten that Napo most certainly dropped the ball, if they ever intended to hang to it, when agreeing the deeply flawed EVR arrangements. That was sheer incompetence & handed staff on a plate to the greedy privateers. Sodexo certainly made a killing by playing hardball & pocketing something like 60% of staff EVR packages, whilst rewarding compliant lickspittles with full pockets AND jobs to follow.

  6. Grow some balls is the only comment I have to make on this one tonight to London branch. Isn't it the most powerful branch with all those members according to Pat ? Facility time withdrawn so union reps fold and let it happen to them. What do they think a union is about ? weak weak weak weak. what will the employer do to you if you continue and what right do they have to remove it. Shame on London.