Justice Select Committee hear from the MoJ permanent under secretary
As I said last week, events in Probation are getting a pretty good airing within Parliament and occasionally outside as well (see BBC story below).
Last week saw the Justice Select Committee invite MoJ Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton to talk them through his departmental accounts for the previous year and the relevant link (below) to the hearing that took place on 13th Oct and the reference to TR, starts at approximately 10.50am. Interesting stuff where, in the face of a robust grilling about Chris Graylings flagship policy, Richard sounded far from convinced about the tangible outcomes of the programme. Mention is made of re-engineering the CRC contracts and its useful to note that the CRC providers are currently locked in negotiations with NOMS as part of the important Probation Systems Review that I have written about previously, with the outcomes due to be reported to Ministers at the end of the month.
It’s now inescapably clear that despite whatever spin the CRC owners put on it, their empires are failing not just because they aren't getting as much business as expected but also because they are not performing well with suspect operating models resulting in many of them getting consistently fined via service credits.
UNIONS ENGAGE WITH ACAS IN WORKING LINKS DISPUTE
For several months now the Probation unions have been involved in a dispute with Working Links (now owned by Aurelius) across their three CRC’s.
After several meetings and a determination from the NNC Joint Secretaries which urged the parties to seek assistance from ACAS, it was really useful this morning for the unions to spend some time presenting our issues to the ACAS conciliators.
It would have been great if the employer/owners had pitched up as well, as all of us there in Central London had expected, but for reasons as yet unknown this did not happen. I am sure there is a logical explanation and hopefully we can get all the parties around the table very soon.
It can only be hoped that Working Links/Aurelius are taking stock of the heaps of criticism coming the way of CRC contractors before they stumble on and make irreversible staff cuts that we have told ACAS are not only simply unreasonable but also constitute a risk to staff, clients and the public.
SFO’s – so why do they happen?
Speaking of Working Links, I was intrigued to catch sight of a recent copy of their staff newsletter ‘Justice News’ where, following a number of SFO’s that have occurred under their watch, the company claim that their figures are below the national average. It also explains the commendable steps that they are taking to analyse the facts that have emerged. What most of us will have a difficulty comprehending however is a statement which says: ‘Our experience over the past two years is that more (SFO’S) tend to occur in the summer, for reasons we don’t yet understand- or maybe it’s just coincidence.’
The answer may lie in the fact that summer brings an increase in the transient population across Britain and a correlation in the movement of offenders. Given this obvious fact it is important that providers of probation services (whoever they are) have sufficient skilled practitioners in place with adequate access to relevant data in locations that are fit for the crucial purpose of being able to actually interview people. It might also help if recalls were the norm rather than the exception
Another salient lesson to support this not especially surprising notion, is provided in the excellent Radio 4 Broadcast ‘File on 4’ which provides a pretty damning picture of TR overall, especially in the areas of services for Women and Through the Gate.
In one of the featured case studies, which makes for some very uncomfortable listening, we hear how the perpetrator (who has since confessed) to the murder of a young man, missed 8 appointments in the lead up to the tragedy.
It’s also worrying to hear how the authorities at MOJ central and the CRC’s are reportedly running for the covers when pressed to release information which the families of victims understandably feel they are entitled to.
These are among the many issues that I hope to bring before the Justice Select Committee when I appear before them next month. Meanwhile, my thanks to the Napo members who took part in the programme and our communications team here who helped direct the BBC to all the right places.