Sunday, 7 August 2016

Pick of the Week 11

Lovely to know it's all sunshine and roses then apart from the pesky problem of illicit drugs (mainly supplied by the staff rather than being brought in by visitors or thrown over the walls no matter what NOMS and the tabloids would have you believe). Doesn't seem to occur to NOMS and MoJ that if they dealt with overcrowding, proper jobs and education and rehabilitation, the drug use would likely go way down because people wouldn't be taking drugs to deal with the boredom of being locked up 23 hours a day in a rat infested hole with broken windows. And if you deal properly with security and bent staff, the problem would probably disappear altogether because the supply route would be cut off. But apparently NOMS has no intention of actually dealing with the problem preferring to blame prisoners and drugs.

Disgusting. We earn peanuts in probation. 1% pay rise, forced unpaid overtime, no benefits or rewards at all. I work in London. In the CRC most staff have left, off sick or forced out. Most PO's gone and replaced by agency staff. NPS just as bad. E3 isn't working and goalpost being moved. Field (OM) teams being forced to complete pre sentence reports because courts understaffed. Message is most PO's to be replaced by PSO's. No Managers in CRC or NPS. Senior managers strutting about with Bionic badges.

Welcome to the world of the UK's self-styled "elite". Most will be wondering "how does it work?" Where does one find the door to be able to join in this game of "I, Me, Myself"?

So, just look at some of the most challenging cases you work with, those who have committed the most damaging offences. The self-obsessed refusal to accept any wrong-doing, the re-telling of events in their favour, the brazen justification of inappropriate self-gratification & entitlement - its all on a par with the most entrenched offenders in denial. No remorse, no empathy; off the scale narcissists who gather willing acolytes around them to assist in their offending.

From NHS checklist for narcissistic PD traits:

"Other symptoms include:
- exaggerating their own achievements and abilities
- thinking they are entitled to be treated better than other people
- exploiting other people for their own personal gain
- lacking empathy for other people's weaknesses
- looking down on people they feel are "beneath" them, while feeling deeply envious of people they see as being "above" them."

And people wonder why some offenders refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. They are only following the lead of those in power. Cameron ran away rather than face up to the mess he made. Lin Homer has been lavishly rewarded for the mess at HMRC, Spurr gets a wacking big pay rise for presiding over the worst crisis in modern prison history. People see those in power getting away with never admitting they are wrong or accepting responsibility for their failures and mistakes and people simply follow that example.

"We achieved this through three key areas of work: • ensuring no reduction in operational performance" Audit reports indicate that performance is declining and even this summary explains that completion of Community Orders has gone down. Any risk register used to spot problems in the system would be in amber and red across the board - a long way from where we were 18 months ago when it was a sea of green. do we hold Michael Spur to account for his pay rise?

We don't. Once again, Raffles gets away with it. It seems that trial by media is the only means of holding cheats to account, e.g. Sunday Times (Cameron's honours), Telegraph (MPs expenses), Mirror (Spurr's payrise). But unlike Watergate, in this media savvy Age of the Goldfish it seems the impact is lost - within 24 seconds public outrage dissipates & the notion of punishment or reprimand disappears like morning mist: "Get over it!"... "Move on!"...

We live in sad times where Liars, Cheats, Thieves & Bullies prosper. Olympic drug cheats, Cameron's handouts to chums, failed Labour coup, Trump, etc etc etc etc ad nauseaum.

I agree that's exactly where Spurr & the whole bally TR shambles should be held to account. But it won't happen. Spurr & his crew have given gobbledegook answers & confabulations to numerous Committee hearings & walked free; and equally the Committee has failed in its duty to follow up on the empty promises made by NOMS officials.

It's heartbreaking that such a pack of self-serving hyenas can get away with the disassembly of a public service whilst being paid from the public purse & lying to the arbiters of parliament.

Please can someone at MOJ/NOMS start an audit of the CRC's. Something is clearly not right with the book-keeping in my opinion. Please do this quickly to avoid a similar news story to the one that has occured with the school academy scandal. Who is keeping an eye on funds and ensuring they are not bring diverted directly into someones pockets? The whistle has blown so get off your backsides civil servants and do your jobs!

From House of Commons interim report on TR, 22-1-2014:

"The national probation service team will be responsible for risk assessment. They will have a duty to carry out a new assessment when a person's circumstances change, and it will be the duty of the provider to notify the team of any material change of circumstances. They will be co-located, and when an offender becomes a high-risk offender, they will be taken back under the supervision of the national probation service. This is about people sitting in the same office and working together, just as people work together in any office environment."

From Spurt's report per today's blog:

"In 2015-16 activity continued to fully embed the new structures created by Transforming Rehabilitation. As the CRCs have started to implement their strategies to move away from Local Authority provided ICT and buildings, we have ensured that the NPS has the resources in place to operate effectively. This has included a programme of building moves to ensure that the NPS makes efficient use of the remaining estate following the CRC exits."

But hey, who cares?

Spurr claims "Our contract management teams are closely monitoring and robustly managing providers to make sure they fulfil their contractual commitments to maintain service delivery, reduce reoffending, protect the public and provide value for money to the taxpayer."

The CRC owners have been given something like £80M of public money from the "Modernisation Fund" - why? And where's that gone? How was failing to honour EVR an adherence to contractual obligation? What about the assets written-off when CRCs cleared off from shared buildings, e.g. furniture & office equipment dumped in skips? What about penalties for terminating leases and other contracts? How was that cost-effective?

Exactly! Where HAS the £80m modernisation fund gone? Perhaps one of us could put in a freedom of information request? It will all come out in the open sooner or later. Corruption in the heart of the government and private sector! Failing banks bought back by government at taxpayers expense. Roll on 2018 'failing CRC's bought back by government at taxpayers expense'. Estates scandal, buildings built at huge public expense now lie empty!

Chris Grayling, HoC, January 2013:

"I do not expect this to lead to wholesale redundancies in the probation service. It certainly means a new world for many people in the probation service in being part of the new organisations, new social enterprises and new consortia that will deliver the services. Yes, of course there will be some changes, but this does not involve, suddenly and instantly, mass redundancies in the probation service—that would not be right."

I quite like this admission by Grayling, also from Jan 2013 questioning by back-benchers:

"I am making sure that, when it comes to risk of harm to the public, that remains in the public sector and will continue to do so."

I agree, Chris, through your incompetence you HAVE ensured that 'risk of harm to the public' continues to remain responsibility of the public sector namely in the hands of this venal, corrupt, dishonest government & its senior civil serpents.

May I take people back to the 26 July blog and the post which included the following observation viz- "would suggest the period leading to Trust status & subsequent culture of league tables (2006-2010) contributed to an escalation in the use of IPP sentences, e.g. Trusts not wanting SFOs to blemish their performance statistics. Risk averse managers would be encouraged to increase risk & highlight IPP options to the courts. As described earlier, Oasys made it easy to raise the stakes. Maybe someone has figures that could prove/disprove this theory?"

The graph in today's blog supports this as 2006 - 2010 seems to be the period where the graph is at its steepest gradient. Crikey, who'd have thought it?

From Report referred to in post below: "Of the 40 cases which had a risk of harm analysis, only half were judged to have given sufficient consideration to risk issues. Inspectors disagreed with the classification in 17 cases, judging it to be inflated in 16 (40% of cases)."

Can we extrapolate this to expand the argument and say that IPP sentences were inflated by at least 40% due to the risk averse target-driven Trusts trying to avoid financial penalties? Years of unjust sentences. Well done Blair, Brown, Blunkett, Straw, NOMS & Trust Chiefs - aided & abetted by the Coalition.

From memory: initial NOMS training was explicitly for PSR writers *not* to use the magic words 'significant risk of serious harm' in their reports. Appeal cases brought about a change to that situation meaning that although, that specific assessment was for the sentencer to make, PSRs needed to assist by including the author's own view on the matter.

As we have known for a long, long time, no politician or policy maker listens if they don't want to hear. A joint report by Owers & Bridges was published in 2008 based upon interviews with practitioners & prisoners in 2007:

"Probation input

1.4 Inspectors examined a sample of 48 cases of adult men, young adults and women sentenced to IPPs, to see whether pre-sentence reports (PSRs) properly addressed risk in order to assist the sentencing court. There had been little guidance to probation staff in carrying out this role. Inspectors found:
• Of the 45 cases with pre-sentence reports, fewer than half were informed by a full and accurately completed assessment of current and previous offending behaviour.
• Of those cases, 31 (over two-thirds) had at least one diverse need, such as mental health, substance misuse, ethnicity or learning difficulties. In only 14 cases did the report demonstrate an understanding of the relevance of the need to the offending or future risk.
• Of the 40 cases which had a risk of harm analysis, only half were judged to have given sufficient consideration to risk issues. Inspectors disagreed with the classification in 17 cases, judging it to be inflated in 16 (40% of cases).
• Overall, the quality of the risk of harm assessment was not sufficient to assist the courts adequately in deciding whether to impose an IPP sentence."

Yet the graph shows the number of indeterminate prisoners continued to escalate at an alarming rate: "la-la-la, I'm not listening."

And also of significance, not to be overshadowed by high profile matters, in recent years the slashing of budgets has led to goodness knows how many sentences of imprisonment being handed down without any pre-sentence psychiatric assessment. The situation is then exacerbated by massively reduced health service provision within prisons, no diagnosis or suitable meds - or if there is a diagnosis there's no interest in making the effort to effect a hospital transfer - and then there's a request for the last gasp detention & assessment at the gate on release by the local CMHT expecting them to pick up the case.

It's that lack of joined up thinking that defines recent Government thinking. There used to be a department that looked at the consequences of policy decisions 'across the piece' i.e. if you change benefit rules, what are the consequences for Health, Housing etc or, if you change the policy on GP services, what would happen to A&E and so on. 

The universal mantra of cut cut cut appears to have had a massive knock on effect across the board. No PSRS = more Mentally Disordered Offenders in custody where there are no services, add less staff = increase in suicides and assaults in prisons, poorer throughcare etc etc. Any Government worth its salt should have recognised this instead of blaming 'legal highs' (which also wouldn't be a problem if prison security hadn't been compromised as well). It could all have been avoided by a credible Ministry. The MoJ remain an embarrassment.

Could not agree more. The issue of resources is never given its proper place in any discussion about criminal justice. All the remodelling of the system is forever couched in the language of efficiencies and doing more with less. And one of these efficiencies has been the virtual disappearance of psychiatric assessments, whose demise pre-dated but oiled the works for the dumbed-down reformatted pre-sentence reports. These reports, especially for those sentenced to custody, were key opportunities to make sound and comprehensive assessments and hopefully shape future assessments in evaluating risks and needs.

All the talk focusses on 'efficiencies' but never on the resultant deficiencies - as though the system could be run on thin air. Just as there is a need for a living wage to meet the necessities of life, so equally there must be a level of resource to finance service delivery. When there isn't, as in the NHS, services are rationed, waiting lists grow and clinical need gets redefined by accountants at the cost of human suffering. In criminal justice, it means corners are cut and what were once considered core tasks become peripheral; it means staff numbers are depleted and the system is in a state of permanent crisis, which gets translated into increased death rates and hopelessness and boredom; a prison system that keeps many in long beyond their tariffs because it simply cannot resource rehabilitation programmes. When you consider the millions it is costing to keep IPPs in custody, the so-called efficiencies are nothing of the sort – they are simply examples of being penny-wise and pound foolish.

I'm disappointed by the increasing suggestion that if people breach by way of further offending or failing to comply then it must be in some way the fault of the managing CRC staff.

Our CRC are getting directed not to see offenders that officers feel they really need to see. Recalls are being stopped by managers who, pre spilt, would have recalled immediately for same circs. Risk escalations likely to increase as officers don't feel they are able to manage (what might normally be described as medium risk) with enforced restrictions.

Officers being told not to take people back for breach. High staff sickness and good staff leaving. Although not necessary the fault of individual officers, I would say that the complete lack of engagement with offenders is contributing to failures (breach and further offending). Some officers seem to be relishing the changes though. The ones that weren't good officers before TR.

It's also disappointing that Grayling and his cohort didn't listen to people who do the job. PSS is in the main unwanted by offenders, it offers them very little and is just another way to control and monitor them. At present the CRC I am in is in meltdown with sickness and people leaving and this is before the cuts. No idea of the complexities of the job shown by those imposing their ideas to save money. A not so slow train crash which lives up to the title omnishambles. Shame on those who imposed this circus.

Recommendation 11 in the inspection report demonstrates how the CRCs' need to make money undermines a good initiative at diversion. It is essentially arguing that diversion carries disadvantages for CRCs balance sheet.

'The NPS should be aware of the negative financial consequences for the CRC of positive initiatives, such as Checkpoint, that are designed to keep low level first time offenders out of the criminal justice system.'

It does not spell out how being aware of negative financial consequences should lead to. Should a percentage of diversions be dropped in favour of helping CRCs to get their payments for results? In other words, don't overdo preventative work. Don't cut too far back on your sugar intake because you will hurt Tate and Lyle's share price. Or, don't overdo community penalties because the prisons need high occupancy rates. This recommendation is fatuous, irresponsible nonsense and marks a new low in the worth of these inspection reports.

This earlier quote from the report is even funnier & more explicit:

"Checkpoint, a scheme to divert offenders from charge and prosecution following arrest, was a recent initiative which would be subject to evaluation. With active involvement of the NPS, working alongside Durham Police, it was a positive attempt to stop offending before it escalated. The scheme, however, had an adverse impact on the CRC’s budget which was clearly an unintended consequence."

Now that's what I call TR!!

I cannot think of a more likely 'intended consequence' The whole idea is to keep someone out of a system that labels and harms life chances. Next the probation inspectorate, using the same screwball logic, will say that conditional discharges and fines have unintended consequences. The probation inspectorate has become a parody of itself - a laughing stock!

I think the fact that people are leaving in droves speaks volumes. My own contacts suggest that the reason is that people with a long history of professional standards are sick to the teeth of being asked to do 'dumb'. Superficial pretence fails to deliver any element of job satisfaction and any one with the slightest modicum of intelligence is going to get frustrated very quickly. Those that remain are either only in it for the money, like the employer, or are dumb enough to be satisfied with maintaining the illusion on behalf of a corporate parasite. There is no professional basis on which to justify the practices that have been outlined in this blog since TR 'bit'. Probation is now little more than a twitching cadaver that doesn't yet realise that it is dead. A shame. It was a noble profession for more than a century before the disease of TR took hold. Now it is more tumour than living organism.

Very accurate account. My colleagues are all seeking ways to get out including just leaving! We are struggling to carry on when all we knew has now gone and only meaningless targets count It's fair to say that most of us have compromised our professional integrity now.

Cut & Paste comments from the HMIP report sections on Reducing Reoffending & Protecting The Public which I would humbly suggest shows that TR is, as was always known, fatally flawed. Why can't HMI Probation just admit its a f*cking mess?

"- The move towards on the day court reports provided less time for the NPS to gather required information prior to allocation of the case. We found the quality of the pre-sentence report assessment of the likelihood of reoffending was sufficient for cases subsequently allocated to the NPS, but not always suf cient for those cases allocated to the CRC. Proposals contained within the reports were not always appropriate for the needs of the case.
- There was an overall lack of awareness by the NPS, CRC and sentencers about rehabilitation activity requirement days, which required addressing. The NPS and courts had recently agreed that the CRC could have some representation within the Durham courts to improve the appropriateness of pre-sentence report proposals.
- Information provided by NPS court staff to the CRC at the point of allocation was often incomplete. It was particularly concerning that domestic abuse call-outs and/ or Child Protection concerns were not checked or responses not provided prior to allocation of the case. That placed the onus on the CRC responsible of cer to carry out the necessary enquiries, which was not always done.
- The risk of harm assessment and risk management planning were not always suf cient. In particular, relationship concerns were rarely addressed, even when there was a history of domestic abuse. That failure to deliver meaningful rehabilitative work to domestic abuse perpetrators made it less likely that reoffending and public protection outcomes would be achieved.
- The inadequacy of some risk of harm assessments at the court stage acted as a barrier to addressing potential public protection concerns in CRC cases. In addition, CRC staff were not always knowledgeable about the Case Allocation System form that highlighted outstanding risk of harm tasks that needed completing."

All of the above issues are NOT local staffing issues but are wholly due to the stupidity of ideologues & lickspittles expediting the TR project, e.g. Loss of resources, loss of experienced staff, unnecessary & inequitable splitting of service provision, etc ad infinitum...

Yes.....I went to an engagement event with ACO last week and was told, alongside 20+ others in the room that we're crap! Not at all efficient (one of those E's) because:

SFO's feedback says so
We rely on our managers too much
We are still using Admin to check our reports, and she reminded us there is a spell check available......she failed to note there are lots of templates with no spell check facility
We are taking far too much toil, which is not reflected/indicated in the workloads (WLM tool)
We're missing targets
We are not using Equip
We don't get things done on time, Parom 1's and Part B's

Just when you're feeling really rubbish trying to read endless e-mails about processes, work arounds, updates, understand Nessi and NSI's you get a 'final' interim advice on ARMs. We are all chasing our tails trying to recover work you have already done, on time, to have to do it all again....what would be a really novel idea, is to have an IT system fit for purpose.

What would be too much to ask, is for a managers and a management structure, that remembers we are real people, not wigits.

Your managers should be ashamed to treat you like this. They need to reward the staff doing their best. Instead they overload us and fail to protect us from burnout when we take on the workload of colleages who are off sick. This creates a domino effect and the whole line crashes! To be honest am sick and tired of covering sick colleages and expect managers to sort it out.

We've had this conversation in our office today we feel we are treated very badly we never get any positive feedback, only negativity and complaints about what we can't do. We are seeing all of our work hived off by other agencies and we are left with the impossible and increasing admin. It's ridiculous, but we realise there's no point in resisting and we need to look out for ourselves now.

Sorry to hear that. It doesn't sound like your ACO is very motivational. Perhaps you could offer her a "tool kit". Should be plenty of those green spiral bound books around and surplus to requirements. Check with your local CRC for one. They won't have much need for them any more when the offender rings the call centre.

I am grateful that this wasn't my experience in our ACO E3 engagement event. There was a general feeling of "yes, it is a bit shit but it's shit for all of us, let's work together to get through this".

It is now over 18 months since the split and still no sign of things settling down. People leaving and not being replaced. IT absolutely crap, everything you try to do takes forever. Senior management do not communicate with frontline staff. Agency staff that have been in post for over 2 years. New staff lacking boundaries, someone is going to get seriously hurt.

So they withdraw administrative support and give everyone a personal alarm (the market in this technology is rocketing), which nicely covers some of their H&S responsibilities. But no one in a position to 'meet and greet' and know who is in the building. I thought this information was vital in respect of fire risks. Seemingly not. Thus the Inspectorate writes:

'Not all the hubs were easy to manage from a health and safety perspective. Some of them gave open access through the front door, and in some hubs there was a risk staff on duty may not have known who was in the building at all times.'

Seems to me the Inspectorate is clearly identifying a H&S hazard: having a real-time awareness of who is in the building is of paramount importance. Aside from the risks of walk-in thefts, there is a basis lack of security in not knowing who is on your premises.

I suspect if a H&S risk was identified in relation to service users or children, it would have been reflected in the report's recommendations. But the recommendations are silent on this point of potential risks to staff of running a poorly supervised hub.

I'll have what the creators of that CRC quality standards document are having! Legal highs?

"This document aspires to provide a physical environment in the hubs, describing them to be..'welcoming, informal, educational and purposeful, often comprised of a café type layout in a community centre where members of the local community are already attending. When the community justice cuts are operating well' - (splutter choke) - 'they should resemble a vibrant community centre that ANYONE would WANT to attend, where colleagues, participants - (offenders) and agencies, can have refreshments together, access the internet and move forward together, offering and accessing support and guidance. There should be a buzz atmosphere.' !!!

..and the little dog laughed and they all lived happily ever after.... I can see so many reasons why this will/should never happen.


  1. It's all gone down the pan in London. The CRC is busy telling its 'responsible officers' to spend their time filling in spreadsheets on their caseloads and repeat what's on other spreadsheets. The NPS is busy telling it's 'offender managers' to log into its new database EQUiP and pretend it has value. Both are unnecessary exercises for PROBATION OFFICERS and neither has anything to do with reoffending, resettlement and rehabilitation.

    Correct comments about NPS risk assessments and CRC risk escalation above. Pre Sentence Reports are poor quality because of the push for oral and short reports, and because of PSO's completing reports. There are many on the CRC caseload that should be high risk but the managers won't hear of it. HMIP inspections and audits should be on management practices rather than probation practitioners who are not to blame.

  2. Prison governor attacked by inmate at HMP Wayland

    Police are investigating an attack on a prison governor by an inmate. Paul Cawkwell, governor of HMP Wayland in Norfolk, was targeted by a prisoner in the canteen of the category C men’s jail. He reportedly needed hospital treatment for his injuries.

    A prison service spokesman said:

    “We do not tolerate any violence against our hard-working and dedicated prison staff. Safety in prisons is fundamental to the proper functioning of our justice system. When incidents like this occur we work closely with the police to push for the strongest possible punishment. This incident is now being investigated by police, therefore we cannot comment further at this stage.”

    In its last annual report, the prison’s independent monitoring board voiced concerns about staffing levels. But sources said the assault on the governor was an isolated incident which involved one prisoner and had nothing to do with staffing levels.

    In May about 20 prisoners were involved in a food fight at the jail and in June a prisoner attempted to grab a set of keys from an officer. HMP Wayland opened in 1985 and has an operational capacity of more than 1,000.

  3. Meanwhile back on the ranch the crc staff are shrinking fast so who will there be left to actually do the work? SW admin. hub being set up yet we are told they do not have enough staff! Despite this admin staff being given evr! Tell me..does that make sense?

  4. Nothing makes sense with regards to crc's. I thought my anger over TR had subsided but it never really goes away. Life should have settled down by now but each day it becomes harder and harder. It's scary to think that we have a bunch of idiots in government who make decisions about our future without any thought for the consequences Surely MP's should be held to account for their actions.