Friday, 23 September 2016

TR in Derbyshire

Especially aimed at those persistant commentators on this blog who say things are 'just fine' with TR, here's how it's going in Derbyshire, as reported on the BBC website:-

Probation in Derbyshire has 'slipped' after reforms, says report

Supervision of criminals in Derbyshire has got worse since the government out-sourced parts of the probation service, the chief inspector of probation says. Dame Glenys Stacey said the standard of some services in the county was now "significantly lower" than before.

In 2014, the government replaced probation trusts in England and Wales with 21 rehabilitation companies, made up of private firms and charities. A Probation Service spokesperson said it would "monitor performance closely".

Probation reforms, implemented by the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, overhauled the supervision of released prisoners and people serving community sentences in England and Wales. As part of the changes, the probation service was split in two, with community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium-risk offenders.

At the same time a National Probation Service (NPS) took over the supervision of high-risk offenders.

In one of her first inspection reports since the new system was introduced, Dame Glenys says she found no evidence that public protection was being made a priority by Reducing Reoffending Partnership - the CRC that won the contract in four counties in the East Midlands.

Her report said the "quality of work" provided by the company in Derbyshire was "significantly lower" than it was under the former Probation Trust - describing it as "poor" in some areas. Dame Glenys said many staff felt the new approach to rehabilitation was "not yet a reality". She said the CRC had "ambitious plans for an effective and modern probation service, to make a difference to people's life chances and reduce re-offending". However, she said the implementation of the changes has been "troublesome and slow" and that "standards have slipped. Leaders do need to focus on delivering good quality services today as well as improving tomorrow," she said.

She went on: "The public can be reassured, however, that the National Probation Service in Derbyshire is managing high-risk offenders well."

Catherine Holland, chief executive of Reducing Reoffending Partnership, said the probation team in Derbyshire was working hard to keep the public safe "by reducing reoffending". 

"We welcome this inspection report which identifies recommendations and many areas of good practice. We will use its findings to further strengthen our work," she said.

A government spokesman said "public protection and reducing reoffending will always be our priority. "We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and insisted a robust action plan was developed by the CRC. We will continue to monitor performance closely."

However, Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report indicated the probation service was "letting down people who are trying to change their lives.The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view," he added.


From the report:-


Overall, the quality of work was mixed, and differed as between the CRC and the NPS. 

The quality of CRC work was significantly lower than that we saw formerly in the Probation Trust, and was in some respects poor. Assessments and plans were often not good enough, and purposeful rehabilitation work was seen in too few cases. We expect to see public protection prioritised, yet we did not find evidence of this. The organisation was still in transition, with systems implementation taking longer than anticipated. 

The NPS was in a better position. A strong, legacy culture of good professional practice and a focus on public protection prevailed. The quality of work was generally good and the NPS was effective in protecting the public and assisting the rehabilitation of offenders. 

Staff and leaders in the CRC had experienced and were still experiencing a great deal of change, those in the NPS less so. No doubt this affected the quality of CRC work: CRC senior staff were still occupied with the imperatives of change implementation.


CRC leaders thought the organisation was short-changed in the allocation of staff to Derbyshire on inception. Derbyshire were slightly under the allocated resource at the time of the Probation Trust split and this was compounded by a disproportionate number of staff, compared to the rest of the CRC, leaving for jobs in the NPS and prisons around January 2015. Numerous attempts have been made to recruit permanent staff, with varied success, leading to a high level of agency staff being deployed in the interim. At the time of the inspection Derbyshire were continuing to recruit as current operational staffing levels were below those identified in the target operating model. 


First line manager numbers had reduced from seven to four, in line with the operating model. Several front-line staff said they did not feel adequately supported, with those managers taking on new responsibilities for buildings, performance, personnel issues and other matters. Managers reported they had not been able to maintain a focus on service delivery, for similar reasons. The changes had reduced significantly the time available to them for promoting quality practice. We found few instances of management oversight adding value to the work of practitioners. Only 4 (of 36) practitioners said that inadequate management oversight had limited their ability to achieve positive outcomes with service users. We considered the situation was more problematic than this figure suggests, as few cases could show that management input had either added value to the work, or resolved concerns about work that was of poor quality. 


Frequent reassignment of cases, together with staffing levels below those planned and new (short sentence cases) work led to very high caseloads for responsible officers. Several said their caseloads were around 70. They felt their caseloads and workloads had increased since CRC inception. For some, the workload pressures had increased as a consequence of holding more complex cases. The frequent use of agency staff led to high levels of caseload reassignment. Some staff told us that often they did not know anything about the case when they saw a service user for the first time. There was an element for many service users of having to ‘start again’. One was very critical of the number of different responsible officers he had had. He said: 
“I’m well p***ed off. I’ve now had four different workers in six months. I’m sick of telling them the same stuff. Can they not look in my file? Yeah, I did wrong but how would they feel if they had to keep telling different people about their personal stuff?” 
Delays in implementing key aspects of the operating model (new IT systems and interface, and the customer services centre) designed to free up responsible officer time and improve efficiency and effectiveness left individual workloads not conducive to delivering high quality services. 

It was not reasonable to expect responsible officers to achieve consistently the rehabilitation and public protection goals required. We asked responsible officers if their workload had an impact on their ability to deliver positive outcomes in their work with service users. Almost three-quarters said it was having a negative impact on the quality of their work. 

Staff told us that the reality for them consisted of fewer staff with higher caseloads, having to do what they could with the limited resources available. A practitioner told us:
“high caseloads have led to us having less time to spend with service users. Some cases can have five or six responsible officers over the term of their order. There is no consistency for service users. We have had a big turnover of staff and agency workers. It tends to be agency workers’ cases that are getting passed around the team. Some cases are going two to three weeks without a responsible officer. Some agency workers are not up-to-speed when they start, as they are not familiar with the work or systems, having been out of practice for a while”.
Just over half of the 36 staff who answered the question felt that that their training and support had enabled them to help the individual who had offended to achieve positive outcomes. Several staff told us that they felt their level of professionalism had dropped since CRC inception and that they did not experience the CRC as prioritising quality of work.

Operational sites 

The CRC’s estates strategy had seen the Derby team recently move into new business premises. Staff had encountered a number of problems with the new building and several reported that they had not had suitable responses to the concerns raised. Ongoing issues in respect of IT, the perceived lack of suitable interview spaces, and health and safety concerns had left many staff demoralised. Some were concerned that critical telephone or email messages were not getting through and that they might be missing important information about, and from, service users and others. During the coordination of this inspection we also encountered difficulties in communicating with CRC staff, both by telephone and email. Much of this was no doubt initial ‘teething problems’ with the new building but the experience of staff in Derby was raising concerns for staff elsewhere, as others would also be moving to new premises in the near future. 

Supporting systems 

The CRC was still reliant on legacy systems, but had provided staff with new hardware while innovating, and developing a new case management system known as ‘Partnership Works’. Partnership Works is designed to reduce double entry of information, support case administration, and help practitioners to develop quality sentence plans and put in place the right interventions, thereby enabling them to manage high caseloads and spend more time with service users. 

Development has progressed, but before use the system must be approved NOMS. The approval process is onerous, staged, and lengthy (the process began in 2015). Managers were anxious, as the CRC’s new operating model depends on successful implementation of the system. Managers were hopeful of conditional approval in late September, but were concerned at the likely demands of the further stages to full approval, and the potential for significant consequential delays in implementing the new operating model. 

The CRC was the first to try and link to the Ministry of Justice’s Strategic Partnership Gateway, the facility that would enable the various systems to work together. The Strategic Partnership Gateway was not yet available. CRC managers confirmed all those involved understood its importance and Ministry of Justice staff had been working to provide interim solutions. The delay was nevertheless hampering the CRC’s ability to provide their new customer services centre. The customer service centre aimed to go live in September 2016, using alternative enablers, until Partnership Works is launched.


I notice that news about Derbyshire has prompted a rare press release from Napo - apparently the first since May:-

Probation union Napo responds to HMIP report on Derbyshire Probation Services.

The HMIP report on Derbyshire Probation Services is damning of the service being provided by the Community Rehabilitation Company owned by RRP.

The report highlights that there has been a significant reduction in the quality of the service being provided in comparison to the previous Probation Trust which was dissolved in 2014.

Napo is deeply concerned that the report exposed so many failings and in particular those relating to public protection and safeguarding. However, this is in line with reports from our members about excessive workloads and a shortage of experienced staff following an unnecessary redundancy process. There has been a consistent failure on the part of the CRC to provide adequate ICT and the introduction of a poor telephony system has only exacerbated the issue of poor communication between agencies and service users.

Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: "Whilst Napo is not surprised by this report we are saddened that our predictions of service failure following the privatisation of probation have come true. We warned the government that these so called reforms would reduce the quality of service delivery and have direct impact on public protection. We now call on the Minister to urgently review these arrangements and set a clear and strict timetable for the CRC to implement the recommendations of the report. If the CRC is unable to improve then the MOJ needs to seriously consider removing the contract and returning the probation service back to public ownership."

Napo's AGM, due to start 29 September in Cardiff, will be debating a number of motions regarding the new delivery of probation services. However, the Minister Sam Gymiah has declined an invitation to attend and to speak to members directly about their concerns for the profession and for public safety.


  1. From BBC website:-

    The government's promised "rehabilitation revolution" in England and Wales is "far from complete", an influential committee of MPs has said. There was "no clear picture" of how the probation system was performing, two years after changes had been announced, the Public Accounts Committee said. And it said IT problems had "undermined the pace of change".

    The government said it was committed to delivering the "vital reforms" and reducing re-offending rates. But in a report published on Friday, the Public Accounts Committee said: "The Ministry of Justice is now more than two years into these ambitious reforms, intended to reduce reoffending, but they are far from complete.

    "There is still no clear picture of how the new system is performing in important areas of the reforms." It said information and communications technology (ICT) systems in probation were "inefficient, unreliable and hard to use".
    "Failure" to deal with these problems and "serious uncertainty over the impact on providers of lower than expected business volumes" had also "undermined the pace of change".

    The MPs also said it was unclear whether the extension of supervision after release to offenders sentenced for less than 12 months was "having the desired impact", saying almost 60% of people who received short prison sentences "reoffend within a year". The committee acknowledged the "scale of challenges" facing the MoJ in the coming years, particularly in delivering "ambitious" changes to the courts and prisons systems in England and Wales at a time of "increasingly constrained resources".

    "But it is crucial that the ministry completes the 'rehabilitation revolution' it has started and makes good on its promise to reduce the huge economic and human cost of reoffending," it said.

    Labour MP Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said there was a real danger the MoJ had "bitten off more than it can chew". "Ambition is one thing, but, as our committee continues to document across government, delivering positive results for taxpayers and society in general is quite another," she said.

    "'Revolution' is a potent word the government may regret using to describe its reforms to rehabilitation. "After two years, these are far from complete, and there remain serious risks to achieving the performance levels expected by the end of 2017."

    Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said: "We are carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation service to improve outcomes for offenders and communities. "Public protection is our top priority, and we will not hesitate to take the necessary action to make sure our vital reforms are being delivered to reduce reoffending, cut crime and prevent future victims."

    Commenting on the report, Liberal Democrat justice spokesman Jonathan Marks QC said that without his party in government to pursue reform "we have seen progress grind to a halt". He said the rates of reoffending were not only a "massive waste of public money" but "disastrous" for the public and bad for people "stuck in the cycle of reoffending". He also accused the government of inaction on reducing the prison population and said many prisons in England and Wales were "academies of crime". The Lib Dems wants to replace short jail terms with "robust" community sentences and "greater use of tagging" for sentences of less than 12 months.

    (Editors note - It was of course the Lib Dems who actively supported the Tories in destroying the Probation Service by the introduction of TR.)

  2. Is it true that the "rehabilitation revolution" is far from complete? And in what way is it far from complete? I am thinking this is it. What you see now is how it is going to be henceforth. Chaos and poor practice. But what is it the powes that be are expecting to find once the revolution is complete? Companies more adept at covering their tracks to make things look great even though they are not? These stats of performance measures which would enable the companies and the government to sing their mendacious harmonies together without the BBC suspecting a thing? Where are we expecting to be when that revolution is complete? I suspect that the mendacious harmonies is but stage one of the revolution.

  3. If we ever do go back to public ownership I am hoping we will not go back to how things were before the split in certain respects. I am hoping we would lose some of the less helpful aspects of how we were. There were things that held us back from actually enabling proper rehabilitation of service users coming our way. This does not mean I agreed with the privatisation. CJS should be public not subject to profit.
    Our public probation officer personas tended to be slightly holier than thou, unable to see and admit that there by the grace of God go all of us. This was aided and abetted by the revolting Oasys assessment we are still forced to use, with its implied assumption of how a person should be in order for that person to pull themselves away from offending, that the acquisition of middle class souls is what we must judge people on. In a new public world we should do
    more to campaign for other public services. Increasingly there is nowhere else for our service users to go. Advocacy should be a much more important and valued part of the job, and we should put much more pressure on our managers to give a strong and positive representation for our service users with other agencies and obv with NOMS. And when we have proof that they do we should back them up.

    1. 9 22 -quote - 'our public probation officer personas tended to be slightly holier than thou, unable to see and admit that there by grace of God go all of us'.

      That is a bit presumptuous. All of them?? Yes, there were some pompous PO's, everyone is different, but there were more hardworking, sensitive, understanding PO's who went out of their way to support while challenging; and spending excessive amounts of time to get to know the client to develop their trust, as they explored issues in their background, whatever their character and resistance; to give them space to cry as they offloaded sadness and horror stories; and to share with the client their own personal experiences if relevant.

      I and several other colleagues, would consistently work longer hours, and the thank you cards that we would receive at the end of an Order, even from the unexpected 'no-hopers', would demonstrate how much the offender appreciated our support, trust and honesty, firm but fair.

      Holier than thou? Where was your experience of that with every colleague?

      But I do agree with you about the mechanical, soulless, time consuming, repetitive Oasys! But -'middle class souls'?? Maybe we northerners didn't know what 'middle class' was!!!

    2. Reviewing gifts is inappropriate. You should of handed it back. Your there to deal the law and not take gifts

    3. 09.22 is right to caution against the halcyon days. The probation culture did not go sour overnight. The impact of managerialism and a competitive culture based on league tables and targets, did much harm to the ethos, job satisfaction and service delivery.

    4. re 15 50 - a thank you card is NOT a gift to be handed back. I don't know where you got that idea. It is a simple thank you and we would put them on the wall, as still happens now in hospitals and other places who engage with the public. Since when did people hand thank you cards back? It was not uncommon and were gestures for which we were very appreciative, working in a potentially volatile environment and knowing that we had done some good work. Work that was not so much as 'dealing with the law' as you so awkwardly say, but working with people within the law. And I'm sure it still happens now for some staff who go that extra mile.

      There WERE occasional chocolates given but they were left in the general office for all staff to share; we were allowed to accept them but not allowed to keep them for ourselves. Anything larger or personal was not allowed at all and quite understandably.

    5. I got a Toblerone this week but did share it with my colleagues wouldn't dream of turning such kindness down especially when client was penniless !

  4. Prison = Profit, Probation = Profit, Poor Performance = Profit. What a revolution!!!

  5. How much longer can the CRCs rely on 'teething problems' excuses? Good to see the contrast between the working NPS and dysfunctional CRC. I wonder if the fact that one has a public ethos has anything to do with the gulf in performance. That the CRCs would never work in the private sector was the prediction of all the experts with the exception of the neoliberal ideologues, the evidence in support of this prediction is now flowing in.

    No, it's got nothing to do with teething problems and delays in implementation of so-called operating models. That sort of mitigation is glib and reeks of denial. The truth is the CRCs are not fit for purpose. The mad experiment, based on a crazy hypothesis, and soundbites about rehabilitation revolutions and £46-pound-in-your-pocket, is an affront to those working in probation, and those who receive its services.