Thursday, 15 December 2016

Damning Probation Report 3

Well, what a day! It was interesting to note the tone of the London CRC press release. Not in the slightest apologetic but rather arrogant, crying foul that only 40 cases were involved in the inspection, completely ignoring the fact that if extrapolated, the picture might be much, much worse. I mean, didn't every office have a large management poster in it proclaiming that 'only 50% of cases had a full OASys'?

Basically, as of now, London CRC is in 'special measures' and possibly until the spring. I understand NOMS have sent in a crack team to oversee the changes they want to see and Paul McDowell will most likely be driving these changes, such as frontline staff increases as part of the 20:20 Vision Project. My guess is his star is definitely in the ascendancy as a trouble shooter.

Interestingly, the new London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is taking a close interest in what has been going on in probation on his patch and his Mayors Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) looks likely to be a prominent part of the group monitoring the improvement programme. It seems the NPS will also be calling some shots and this might be seen as part of a trend that sees NPS becoming more involved with CRCs operationally. Perhaps NPS involvement in CRC business could be seen as an acknowledgement and recognition that not all 'innovation' is either realistically deliverable or indeed, actually wanted. 

At a guess, the inspectors are most likely to return towards the end of 2017 after change has bedded in a bit, some money has been spent and staff are hopefully feeling less battered and bruised. However, there is the distinct possibility that if things haven't improved substantially, then heads will almost certainly start to roll. No doubt in the meantime, I'd be surprised if the MoJ isn't quietly working up a plan B with very discreet discussions taking place with some of the big boys such as the likes of Amey and Capita. 

I'm led to believe Amey have been loaning MTCnovo several experts in HR and Facilities Management - at considerable expense - and it should be remembered that Capita are the only other company that had designs on the London contract from the beginning.

This is all incredibly embarrassing and humiliating for MTCnovo, but they basically find themselves over the proverbial barrel and had to agree to anything short of being stripped of the contract. Although it means they will be allowed to continue, it will only be under close supervision and scrutiny. If they screw up or more skeletons are discovered, then NOMS grip will no doubt tighten and it could well be 'curtains' for our American cousins.



Always pleased to have confirmation that the blog is widely read and I'm happy to highlight the following correction that arrived on the blog this afternoon:-
Jane Parsons, HMI Probation 15 December 2016 at 17:39
I would like to correct an assertion made here:

"These sort of events are to a large degree 'stage-managed' by the MoJ who of course are free to decide when any report is published, especially if it contains bad and politically-damaging news"
The Ministry of Justice does not decide when we publish our reports. We are an independent inspectorate and publish our reports as soon as they are ready.

Jane Parsons, HM Inspectorate of Probation

Thanks to the reader for sending me the following mailout to London Napo members this afternoon. (I've edited out 'other news')

Today has seen the publication of the HMI Probation report into probation services in North London. This report is hugely critical of the service and has generated significant press and wider interest. Napo has been heavily engaged in this. Here’s the link to our official statement, which is on the Napo website.

We wanted to additionally write directly to members in all parts of the service across London to add some more information about our engagement at national and London wide level and to explain more fully the position we’ve been presenting on behalf of members. Please share with colleagues who may not be in a union and ask them to join to strengthen the collective hand of staff during the coming period of continued uncertainty and change.

Yesterday, Dean Rogers and Napo London CRC Co-Chair David Raho were involved in a briefing with Helga Swindenbank, Paul McDowell and other CRC senior managers about the content of the report and the CRC reaction. This morning, Dean joined Ian Lawrence (Napo General Secretary) and Yvonne Pattison (Napo National Co-Chair) in a meeting at NOMS with Helga, alongside with NPS senior managers Sonia Crozier, Jude Grey and Kilvinder Vigurs. These meetings were honest and constructive. Dean has also recently been discussing operational challenges with Rise senior managers. We’ve made a number of critical points consistently at these meetings, including:

  • Staff can in no way be held responsible for the problems identified within the report for both the CRC and the NPS. Better staff morale is essential to better service delivery. This means urgently addressing issues with workloads, being secure in your role and being able to deliver what’s expected (with resourcing and training implications), better support for line managers, stable and workable IT for everyone, and far better pay and reward. No change programme will be sustainable unless it prioritises and addresses all of these challenges. 
  • Whilst Napo predicted all of these issues just saying, “We told you so” isn’t enough – Napo will be a critical friend of whoever is providing services and expect, going forward, that the professional voice of staff will be listened too and acted upon.
  • The MoJ are equally to blame for the CRC problems, having given assurances they’d tested the cohort operating model before letting the contract and, despite known staffing shortages in London, believed it to be workable and safe. Given the MoJ’s track record we welcome the involvement of the Mayor’s Office in scrutinising efforts to deliver improvements for service users and the public. We believe devolved scrutiny and local accountability are an essential part of providing a sustainable, high quality service in London.
  • A root problem for London is recruiting, retaining and developing staff – this predates the split. There has to be a probation wide strategy to address this urgently. This requires investment in high quality continuous professional development for all staff, especially recognising that London attracts more newly qualified staff; new appraisal and performance management systems; more first line managers with manageable numbers in their teams; and better pay and reward to meet London’s specific challenges. The CRC, Rise and the NPS should be working and delivering these together in partnership with unions and other stakeholders.
  • In this regard we’re encouraged by progress recently in national pay talks but want unity in pressing Ministers for the additional resource and freedom to develop positive changes across the NPS, CRC and Rise. Minister’s should not be waiting until April to present solutions via a Probation Services Review – things are more urgent than that.
  • We remained concerned about the sustainability of all of the CRC contracts. This may be the most critical report from HMIP to date but the problems identified are reflected across the country. There remains a strong likelihood that eventually one of the contracts will collapse – either because the company decides they can’t make a profit or HMIP decides cuts run too deeply into public safety. It is dangerous and scandalous that there is currently no contingency plan if this happened – there is no plan B. Napo does not think that the NPS could simply pick up failing CRC contracts. Nor is re-tendering to other struggling contractors a credible option. Napo is therefore pressing, alongside the Mayor’s Office and other stakeholders, for a sensible contingency to be developed now.
HMIP will be back for a follow up report at some point during 2017. This inevitably means that staff will feel under huge pressure with such a cloud hanging over London probation. Napo recognises this and will continue to champion and protect staff interests. The more members we have the more effectively we’ll be – partly because our voice will be stronger and also because, as a listening organisation the more confident and accurately we’ll be reflecting all staff’s real concerns. There really has never been a more important time to be a member of your union and professional association.

DEAN ROGERS (Assistant General Secretary) 
Lead National Napo Officer and Official for London
YVONNE PATTISON (National Co-Chair)


Stop Press 
This from the Evening Standard:-

Sadiq Khan: Give City Hall control of failing probation services

City Hall should be given control of the supervision of freed offenders in London, Sadiq Khan said today.

A watchdog has warned that the public is being put at risk by “unacceptable” probation failings in the capital.

The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said the “poor performance” of the London Community Rehabilitation Company, a private provider responsible for most probation work in the city, meant some offenders were not being monitored for months. Others were “lost in the system” with the result that Londoners were being “exposed unduly to the risk of harm”.

In response, the Mayor said the Government’s decision to privatise most probation work last year had backfired: “Today’s report is deeply alarming and shows that London’s probation service is simply not working, with Londoners significantly more at risk as a result of the upheaval caused by privatisation.

“Reoffending costs London almost £2.3 billion each year. I will continue to make the case to the Government that responsibility for probation services in London should be devolved to City Hall, so we can drive the very necessary long-lasting improvements that will cut reoffending, reduce crime, improve public safety and save the taxpayer money.”

The Ministry of Justice also described the findings, drawn from an analysis of cases in north London, as “unacceptable” and said it had deployed a team to improve performance. The LCRC said it had already implemented reforms and viewed public safety as its “number one priority”.


  1. The Probation Institute (PI) notes the report, published today by HMIP (Her Majesties Inspectorate of Probation) on 'the effectiveness of probation in North London' with much concern. The context for the report is an unprecedented structural upheaval in Probation. The changes were introduced with great haste and the new split Probation organisations, the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) with the voluntary sector have been working hard to make the new structures work. The report nevertheless reveals significant shortcomings in practice describing the CRC involved as 'poor'.

    Particularly concerning is the continued evidence of low staff morale leading to high levels of sickness, resignation and disengagement. Whilst it was noted that individual workers rise above this, the consequences of an increased risk of harm is highlighted as 'unacceptable'. Poor supervision and poor levels of management oversight leading to failures in reducing reoffending were deeply concerning. In the NPS the court services, vital to interagency cooperation remain 'stubbornly problematic'. We note that management in the CRC have abandoned their operational model which was making cooperation difficult but it will take time to improve services.

    Professor Paul Senior, Chair of the Probation Institute said 'Staff are inexperienced, lacking training and support, overwhelmed by the demands of the new systems and at breaking point. We welcome the work going on to improve practice but also call on the Justice Select Committee to announce an immediate review of all probation practices under 'Transforming Rehabilitation' given the succession of concerning reports over the past two years'

    The Probation Institute is an independent body that seeks to represent the Probation profession, uniting the various providers of services. The issues raised by HMIP highlight the need for such a body to uphold the quality of practice, promote research and ensure consistent standards of professional training and development amongst front-line staff and their leaders. Following the extent of privatisation and bifurcation of service delivery, the need for registration of practitioners in probation and rehabilitation services to maintain professional unity is now urgent. Practitioners would be required to demonstrate and maintain competence and undertake continuous professional development (CPD) regularly. Such a body is an essential part of improving the functioning of the new structures in order to deliver a good service to those that Probation supervises, the Courts and victims of crime.

    1. Thanks for that - in all the excitement I completely forgot to include the PI Press Release above.

    2. There is nothing independent about the group of Fellows on the PI. Lets face it the group of misfits of retired active and ex napo pro supporters to assist in the erosion of a once great and well rooted history of the probation structures. This band of self important and hangers on are having their days marked by the looming disaterous reports on what is a common situation across the country. yet they produce this glib and why they have half their lot delivering the worst practices on a better deserving public. The sooner this trite is gone the better nothing to see here not worth the farce hypocritical read.

    3. Yeah posted, not meant to be an endorsement of them as they are completely useless. Just to be referenced.

    4. Comment moved from another thread:-

      Anonymous 16 December 2016 at 11:55

      Yes, if the Probation Institute had the best interests of Probation, Probationers, service delivery and the safety of the General Public as central to their existence, surely they would be screaming from the rooftops, every opportunity they got - sadly, I have heard nothing from them. I deliberately did not sign up with them, as I was never convinced they did anything but release hot air. Now, you may suggest as a non member, what gives me the right to comment? Well, as someone in service for almost 33 years, you would think they may have been trying to impress me...encourage me to get on board - no; never had an email, never had a letter, never had any contact, of any kind - strange, as this is the institute that is supposedly looking out form me and my profession. In the words of Delia Smith "Where are you? Let's be having you"..she was drunk on the pitch at Norwich, but I'll be fair pissed myself later, as I join my colleagues in our festive bash. In reality the only people who have my back, are those I work alongside.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. Ee by 'eck, glum reading. Told tha it would be years ago. Anyhow.


  4. I blame the staff. If they did what they were told and just cooked the books TR would be a roaring success. But no all they do is harp on about public protection and having a vocation. Bloody ridiculous. You wouldn't be in such a mess if you took on capitalist values.

    1. OK Funny 22 10 but seriously look at the PI spin doctor rubbish Paul Senior be ashamed of this significant shortcomings these are not poor these are GROSS NEGLIGENCE. The city probation was exposed a few years back for an overworked under qualified and unprotected staff and what this reads like is an excuse list for the failings of the model. Over stretched under resourced staff. "Professor Paul Senior, Chair of the Probation Institute said 'Staff are inexperienced, lacking training and support, overwhelmed" Well that is nothing to do with staff is it? Where is training the model of resources and the appropriate leadership. Oh I see the management now all under a desk in the corner.
      "Particularly concerning is the continued evidence of low staff morale leading to high levels of sickness, resignation and disengagement." Downright liars we all know that fellows of the institute are the ones heading this agenda up in other CRCS sickness all time highs come clean your lies will be exposed PI scandalous gloss over. "note that management in the CRC have abandoned their operational model" Because they know it cannot work and have been hoping for the best yet other areas are planning to adopt it. How can this get past the scrutinisers at NOMS ? Abandoning their model is this not negligence really ?
      The final paragraph is rubbish just Blah Blah on themselves the self indulgent toothless worms the PI

  5. Interesting. Mr Khan is a canny type. I think he should be reminded that if he had the opportunity, he would tear up the CRC contracts

    1. Would it be possible for the mayor to intervene in this debacle? Could Napo arrange a meeting with the mayor to discuss what could be done? Would it be possible for the mayor to make a London probation service combining NPS and CRC in the capital into one joined up service?

  6. Are you looking at this Mr Grayling. You have created this omnishambles and I for one think you need to be held to account. It would appear that your draconian cuts through capitalism forced upon us are now actually going to cost the tax payer more to put right. I stand up and applaud you Mr Grayling! You have now single handedly messed up work & pensions, the justice sector and are in the process of ruining what is left of the transport sector. If I messed up as much as you, as a Probation Officer on the front line, I Would have been sacked, held to account and have to explain why another victim has been created because of your measures. You however Mr Grayling seem to get the opportunity to continue bulldozing your way through and costing the tax payer more. ensure. You, Mr Grayling are an absolute pr##K. This article sums you up:

  7. Talk still going on with regard to one CRC in the North looking to return the keys sooner rather than later but NOMS is bending over backwwards to persuade them to stay---more ideology vicar??

  8. NOMS should take it back if this is what they want. They are stooges covering up for the Government who are scared of negative publicity. Let it go and learn the lesson. Public services should remain in public hands. Is this a reference to Birmingham or Derby?