Thursday, 15 December 2016

Damning Probation Report 2

Richard Garside writing on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website:-  

Time for a rethink as probation crisis deepens

The Centre's Director, Richard Garside, has today called on the government to get a grip on the problem of a rapidly deteriorating probation service. His call comes in response to the latest report from the Probation Inspectorate, into probation work in North London. The Inspectorate found that the service had deteriorated since its previous inspection in 2014, prior to the 'Transforming Rehabilitation' privatisation of probation.

The private company responsible for the Community Rehabilitation Company in north London – MTC Novo – was judged to be poor, with a 'combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control'. Some people under probation supervision 'were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in the system altogether'.

The Inspectorate also found that, 'despite the heroic efforts of some staff' they 'were sometimes working long hours and were often "fire-fighting" rather than enabled to deliver a professional service consistently or sufficiently well'. The public sector National Probation Service was working better, though there remained room for improvement.

Speaking today, Richard said:

"Though a report on one probation area, its findings echo similar problems found up and down the country. Something has gone badly wrong, and very quickly, with the probation service. The government needs to get a grip of the situation and re-establish probation on a coherent and sustainable footing. This could well mean doing the previously unthinkable: recreating a unified, public sector probation service, organised locally and coordinated nationally."

This from the BBC website:-

Public at risk over failing probation company, reports says

People are being put at "undue risk" under a new system which monitors offenders, an inspection has found. Some offenders were not seen for weeks or months while others were lost in the system altogether, a HM Inspectorate of Probation report found.

Community Rehabilitation Companies took over monitoring of medium and low-risk offenders from the government in 2014. The Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said probation services in London had deteriorated as a result.

The London CRC, which is run by private company MTCnovo, said it had made "significant progress" since the inspection was carried out.

The report said London was the worst area it had inspected this year. MTCnovo is the largest of the 21 companies set up when probation services were split between the National Probation Service and CRCs. It supervises 28,750 offenders across north London.

The report blamed a combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control. The assessment of risk of harm posed to others, and subsequent planning, was not carried out well enough in over half of the cases inspected, it said.

In one case a man with a long history of offending was recalled to prison following an allegation of domestic abuse, before being re-released subject to post-sentence supervision. "There was no assessment in place of the risk of future domestic abuse and no flag on the database identifying him as a domestic abuse perpetrator," the report said, adding: "It was not clear where he was currently living and whether or not he was living with a partner."

Dame Glenys said: "Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result." The government was carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation system, Justice Minister Sam Gyimah said.

Helga Swidenbank, director of probation at MTCnovo, said the company had already introduced a plan which addressed the recommendations made in the report. She added only 40 cases were inspected, just 0.13%, of London CRC's caseload.


Finally, this article from the FT:-

Outsourced London probation services ‘putting people at risk’

Damning inspectorate report could see US firm MTCNovo lose contract

MTCNovo, the US prison services firm, could be stripped of a contract to provide probation services for offenders in London after providing such poor management that an official report warned “people are being put at risk”.

Dame Glenys Stacey, the HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said that “probation services in the north of London had deteriorated” to such an extent since MTCNovo took over that “people were more at risk as a result, and this was unacceptable”. The inspector said a “lack of senior management focus and control meant some service users were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in the system altogether”. It said “there had been little or no likely impact on reducing reoffending”.

The report will feed growing concerns over the privatisation of the probation service after a series of critical reports by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation.

Liz Truss, the justice secretary, has already ordered a comprehensive review into the probation system, which was partly privatised by her predecessor Chris Grayling in 2014. The Ministry of Justice confirmed on Wednesday that this was due to be completed by April. It also said it had told MTCNovo to invest a further £370,000 in temporary staffing and appointed an independent task force of probation experts to monitor performance.

Sam Gyimah, justice minister, said MTCNovo’s performance was totally unacceptable. “An urgent improvement plan is now in place and I will not hesitate to take more action if necessary.”

He said they were looking at all contracts and were carrying out a review of the probation system in England and Wales. “This will improve the quality of our probation service, putting the focus on reducing reoffending by getting offenders off drugs and into training or work.”

MTCNovo said that it was “already addressing the recommendations made in the report” as well as “legacy issues” inherited from the London Probation Trust. “We recognise the importance of independent inspection and appreciate we have a number of improvements to make.”

Seven-year probation contracts worth £3.7bn were given to companies including MTCNovo, Sodexo of France, Ingeus of Australia and Staffline, Interserve and Working Links of the UK to oversee 250,000 medium- and low-risk offenders. But probation providers complained that their contracts were loss-making and unsustainable because they were based on incorrect assumptions provided by the Ministry of Justice when they bid for the contracts two years ago.

MTCNovo runs two out of the 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) set up to deliver the service, including the North London region. The London CRC is the largest in the country by contract value but work volumes — and therefore revenues — are 12 per cent lower than anticipated. MTCNovo owns a neighbouring CRC, Thames Valley, where work volumes are also 12 per cent lower than anticipated.

MTCNovo has cut front-line employee numbers by 15 per cent — broadly in line with the fall in work volumes. Staff morale is low, with vacancies running at 20 per cent, while the number of offices has been reduced from 40 to 27 raising concerns that offenders will struggle to access support, the report said.

Napo, the probation workers’ union, said “staff in London have done their utmost to make MTCNovo’s operating model work despite considerable professional reservations. It must be remembered that these are the same staff that previously delivered award-winning probation services when working for the public sector in London Probation Trust.”

It questioned whether Mr Grayling’s reforms were a “reckless ideological and politically-driven agenda, rather than an approach based on sound evidence”.


  1. So predictable chickens coming home to roost
    These examples can be found in all probation services since the split it's only a matter of time before another predictable disaster happens
    NPS PO

    1. Already happened Working links are in major difficulties having been snapped up by a german group Aurelius. They will want a market share and th eplans to cut staff continue in light of this news today. All CRCs should be ordered to retain all staff until agreed working practices and caseloads are matched to resourcing as the Union NAPO have called for. We are being told the public are not safe and the unions make it cl;ear neither are the staff low morale leads to stress absence and the vicious cycle. Ironically the CRCs are going to ignore this warning and continue to make cuts and then what take the remaining cash and hand back the keys. Do it now spare the staff any further misery Working links especially a failure in the making and already given their SFO secrets.

    2. "given their SFO secrets."

      I can be contacted via the profile page.

  2. What's not being made aware in the PI's report is that there are many secondary consequences of the TR omnishambles. Primarily, the impact its had on access to secondary agencies that work with offenders such as drug support and addiction services.
    The door has been closed by many of these agencies for those on probation supervision. Whether it's because they feel they were used as bid candy in the original bidding process, whether they refuse to structure and provide their services as dictated by CRCs, or whether they simply feel they should have a slice of the monies given to the CRCs for supervising offenders is almost irrelevant.
    The fact is there are lots of support agencies that are no longer willing to extend their services if you are under probation supervision.
    Its not just that probation is a mess that's having a damaging impact on service users, there's also secondary consequences to think about.


    1. Yes, I agree Getafix. But it seems to me that the private providers thought that a lot of the services provided to offenders were within the contracts. Of course they are not. These relationships rely on staying onside with these secondary services. Indeed I see probation's job as largely being a bridge between hard to reach offenders and the services that exist in the community. Providers though have come in with recycled and previously failed operating models and without any understanding of how Probation worked between the agencies in each community.

      As an NPS officer I phoned a service to refer someone last week, and the person asked me if I was a proper Probation Officer, or from Interserve. Seems that his service had been bombarded with demands on how they should provide services to Interserve service users. To him it seemed that CRC probation staff were being bombastic, but from my knowledge of the CRC it is more a case that the operating model neglected to think about partner agencies. The CRC are also going to model whereby programme staff will also provide offender management, and offender managers will provide programmes. It's a recipe for disaster in terms of staff performance. The accredited programmes will be compromised and supervision will get even further dumbed down or avoided.

      Unfortunately the providers are bound by their contracts to provide the operating model written into their bids. London's cohort model was never a starter, and Interserve's will fall foul also, despite them not being the most ruthless of the new providers.

      The model that worked was for specialist staff to provide internal interventions, most notable accredited programmes and unpaid work, and for field Probation Officers to build relationships and bridges into community services for people on their caseload -something which all desistance studies shows is the correct model.

      Most of us in Probation pre TR thought that the burgeoning emphasis on desistance strategies was teaching us to suck eggs, but the new providers thought they knew better, and Helga is in an untenable position. And judging by her comments is worthy of it.

    2. "the person asked me if I was a proper Probation Officer, or from Interserve"

      Lol, and this is exactly what people think about Probation. CRC's are not Probation and as soon as the NPS replaces its staff with PSO's it'll be viewed the same way too.