Thursday, 15 December 2016

Damning Probation Report

Alan Travis writing in the Guardian:-

Privatisation of probation service has left public at greater risk – report

The public have been left more at risk by the privatisation of the probation service with some offenders not seen for weeks or months and others lost in the system altogether, according to an official watchdog.

In her most critical report yet, Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, said that a recent inspection of probation work in the north of London found a simple, unacceptable lack of management attention to whether offenders turned up to appointments and whether their offending behaviour was being challenged.

Her inspection report published on Thursday said probation services in north London have deteriorated since a community rehabilitation company took over the supervision of medium to low-risk offenders in 2014 and was now poorer than any other area that had been inspected this year.

“A combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control meant some offenders were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in the system altogether,” concluded the report.

Stacey said: “Delivering probation services in London is never an easy task, but services have deteriorated of late, largely due to the poor performance of the London Community Rehabilitation Company. Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result.”

Her highly critical report came after the justice secretary, Elizabeth Truss, acknowledged criticism of the privatised probation companies across England and Wales by demanding the rapid completion of an official review into the performance.

The London CRC, which is owned by MTCnovo, supervises 28,750 offenders, a 12% reduction in the past 12 months. The National Probation Service is responsible for a further 10,071 higher-risk offenders.

But the inspection found that caseloads for individual probation officers ranged from 50 to 100 cases each and some senior probation officers were overseeing more than 900 cases. Despite the 12% fall in the number of offenders it supervised, the London CRC still had a 20% vacancy rate and was heavily reliant on agency staff. Officers were doing little more than “firefighting” rather than prioritising those offenders who posed the most risk of harm to the public.

Many individual probation officers had themselves received no formal supervision for many months and the sickness rate trebled between May and August this year from 23 to 70 off for more than three weeks.

“The lack of a credible system to monitor the cases when responsible officers were off sick had meant that too many service users had not been seen for weeks or months and, in some cases, had been lost in the system entirely,” said the official inspection report.

The watchdog’s report judges the overall effectiveness of the London CRC as “poor” and in particular criticises a lack of awareness of domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues.

Stacey said the publicly-run National Probation Service was delivering services better in London, but with plenty of room for improvement. The quality of work was mixed, but inspectors were pleased to find that, overall, public protection work was satisfactory. The delivery of court services was not entirely without problems.

“We expect the company to make every effort now to deliver the inviolable requirements – the basics of probation – consistently well, and as quickly as possible. We welcome work begun during our inspection to begin to bring about much-needed improvements, and will be back in 2017 to check on progress,” said Stacey.

Justice minister, Sam Gyimah, responded to the inspection findings, saying: “I met senior managers at London CRC and told them this is totally unacceptable. An urgent improvement plan is now in place and I will not hesitate to take more action if necessary. We are also working closely with the mayor’s office for policing and crime.

“We are currently looking at all contracts and are carrying out a comprehensive 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. Findings from the review will be published in April.”

Napo, the probation union, said the inspectorate had confirmed that privatisation would lead to greater public risk with its most damning report to date.

Ian Lawrence, Napo general secretary, said: “This report is a damning indictment of this government’s reckless social experiment. We urgently need probation services to be reviewed and publicly scrutinised to ensure public safety, quality service delivery and value for money to the taxpayer.”

Helga Swindenbank, London CRC’s director of probation, responded to the report saying: “The number one priority for London CRC is public protection, which is at the core of all that we do. Since the Inspection, we have continued to make significant progress in reducing caseloads managed by our staff, prompt enforcement, and quality of offender supervision.

“This is all informed by the high priority we give to protecting the public. We have already taken steps to ensure that every single case is being actively managed to further protect the public. It’s important to recognise that only 40 cases were inspected, just 0.13%, of London CRC’s caseload.”


Napo Press Release:-

HMI Probation publish damning report on London CRC

HMIP London – Damning report of probation services in London says public are more at risk due to poor management by the public sector.

Napo warned the government that its reckless privatisation of probation services would lead to greater public risk. This has now been confirmed by the Inspectorate with its most damning report to date. Whilst recognising that providing outstanding probation services in London have long been challenging, this report makes it clear that there has been a significant deterioration since 2014.

The failure to meet even the basic level of service required to ensure public safety is deeply worrying. A lack of awareness of domestic violence and child safeguarding issues could not be more serious. Responsibility for this failure must rest equally with the Ministry of Justice and MTC Novo. The problems in London are reflected in other HMIP reports since privatisation across England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice were responsible for testing the operating models of all those bidding for probation contracts and assured parliament that they were all safe. That is clearly not the case and Napo is calling for an urgent review of all the contracts so that they can be fully scrutinised by Parliament. The current review, which is due to conclude in April, is neither transparent nor urgent enough. If the government is serious about addressing these issue it must engage with the professionals that know the job.

Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: “This report is a damning indictment of this Government’s reckless social experiment. Despite our continued warnings and ongoing concerns of private companies failing to provide an adequate service, the Government continues to allow these providers to preside over the destruction of what was an award winning service. We urgently need probation services to be reviewed and publically scrutinised to ensure public safety, quality service delivery and value for money to the taxpayer.”

He added: “Whilst the union welcomes MTC Novo’s attempts to address some of the issues by changing its operating model there is still much work to be done to ensure public safety and the rehabilitation of offenders is carried out effectively. Napo believes that eventually one of these contracts either in London or elsewhere is going to fail. The Minister must now engage with all stakeholders to try to rebuild the service and hold failing contracts to account.”

Napo is concerned that the Minister is failing to grasp the urgency of this issue. The union is pressing for the Justice Select Committee to intervene, and recognise that there must be a robust and effective probation service if the government is to resolve the prisons crisis.


  1. The Napo press release says "poor management by the public sector" - surely that should be "private sector"? Astonishingly poor mistake!

    1. If I can spot it, surely someone from Napo can pick that up in the proof-reading stage? Anyone who went on to read the rest of the release would realise it was a mistake, but that's hardly the point.

    2. It's been corrected on the Napo website

  2. Link to report here:

  3. Dame Glenys says: "We found the quality of work by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) poor. There was some welcome good practice by individual of cers and rst-line managers but generally, practice was well below standard, with the public exposed unduly to the risk of harm in some cases despite lessons from the past. That is plainly not acceptable."

    Helga says: "The number one priority for London CRC is public protection... This is all informed by the high priority we give to protecting the public."

    1. Helga says... I can never understand why official responses to criticism tend to contradict without evidence what has been evidenced to be the case. Clearly MTC novo has not taken public safety seriously or else they would have maintained defensible staffing levels and abandoned the cohort model at a much earlier stage. But Helga thinks that her contradicting the evidenced conclusion of the report is going to persuade people that the service is safe. It is common practice. But it makes her look stupid.

    2. What's all the fuss about, Helga must be wondering. As why else would she point out the damning report was based on a mere 40 cases, only 0.13% of the entire London caseload. Difficult to see how she is going to lead improvements when she is already undermining the inspection's outcomes. Helga forgets that a fish rots from the head down.

    3. Boom. Net nipper right . Nothing should be read into this poor sample

    4. 11:05 you are a thick one aren't you? Boom this and that what is your simple brain operating on sugar and rice crispies? Does mummy get the blame for not tucking you in at night. Did you miss the school trip and you still crave attention as all the others have something sensible to contribute. You don't. Arhhh . On the contrary and I realise you might well have intentioned sarcasm but for clarity sake at least. Nipper is making a sharp attack on the basis that Swidebank is dumming down the massive failure because the sample is small. Had it have been larger the facts would be much more stark and the condemnation of the leadership and the CRC obvious. We know this is a small group and yet the foolish Swidebank tries to wriggle but as Nipper makes clear she is the head of this fish and the rot is already in. She wont last long from this no matter the size of the sample.

    5. Thanks 11:51 - wouldn't normally encourage or endorse insults - but 'Boom' at 11:05 is a special case I think.

  4. Helga needs to get her head out of the sand!

  5. Helga Swindenbank said "important to recognise that only 40 cases were inspected, just 0.13%, of London CRC’s caseload.”.

    If I remember my Stats that small sample size make it equally probable that overall the situation is even worse rather than better.

  6. In Nov 2015 Helga said:

    "It’s the opportunity to help people make positive changes to their lives that attracted me to this role at London CRC. The Cohort Model gives us great scope to deliver evidence-based, tailored interventions to work with groups of offenders with special needs. We will continue to deliver high levels of service as we embed our new ways of working... In terms of my immediate priorities, I’m under no illusion that it’s been a turbulent time for Probation so I’ll be focused on reassuring staff, the offenders we supervise, and our partner organisations like you, that we will continue to deliver high levels of service as we embed our new ways of working. Key to this will be working closely with London CRC and MTCnovo colleagues to ensure the changes are implemented safely... I’m really looking forward to building on London CRC’s great track record of offender engagement to develop new and innovative rehabilitation interventions. I don’t get out of bed in the mornings to do a mediocre job. My ultimate goal is to significantly reduce reoffending across the capital and for London CRC to be the best- performing CRC in the country.”

    I love the smell of mediocrity in the morning!

    1. The report says, 'a lack of senior management focus and control', it catalogues numerous failings of senior management. A striking comment on page 18 refers to some managers being 'isolated' from the purposes of this business. It's true, some do live on another planet!

      We know what happens to those in the rank and file who are judged to lack capability, no matter how dysfunctional the workplace: they get fired.

      Yet when those in positions of leadership fail, there is no accountability. They scratch around for post-hoc justifications. The elites love to make an example of others but never of themselves.

  7. I've heard the phrase "first generation contracts are always going to be problematic" quite a lot lately. Not sure who that's trying to convince, or if it's just a sales pitch for more government funding.
    The truth is that if I bumped into my PO on the street they wouldn't even recognise me. Not sure I'd recognise them either. It's always the 'duty officer' that seems to see everyone now.
    "Any contact with the police"?
    "OK. Here's your next appointment".
    I have no doubt I could have a family member or friend turn up for my appointments and no one would be the wiser.
    Fortunately for me, I don't really require any assistance from probation, I'm just a 'tick box' target. But I feel so sorry for those that desperately need a helping hand up or a bit of support.
    Austerity? It's the provision of public services, Social care, Probation services, Social housing, addiction services, and social services, that's surpassed 'austerity' and becoming a barran landscape.

    As an aside, I see today that in future all police officers will have to be educated to degree level to join the force. Wonder if the new 'Rehabilitation Officer' will be given a degree status?


  8. Worrying to hear Dame Glenys on R4 seemingly agreeing that more public money needs to be fed into the CRCs to make them work!.Wrong!!!

    Still, the servile serpents who won awards for their runaway success in designing the TR contracts must be pissing their pants laughing!

    1. I got that impression too, front what she has just said on R4 Today programme. In my view it misses the point. The whole point about private companies is to make maximum profits for shareholders with minimum costs. However much money is given to the privateers, I don't see anymore being put into the work. Basic probation work - spending quality time with clients costs money. Far better to farm clients out to other agencies (who do the work for us whilst we get paid)!!!! Shareholders rule.Throwing mire taxpayers money at the privateers won't make things better as they will just keep it for themselves. Look what happened to the EVR pots of cash.

    2. Throwing any more money at this is a joke. They claimed it would save money and create their new world of probation despite all the common sense it cannot and here read it, IT HAS NOT and chucking in cash it STILL WONT because it CANT. Money will be taken into the margins for profit we may see a small change but this work is not a profit role its a state responsibility to manage offending not a greedy share holder who want 70% top slicing off the total income divided by a board who talk of share market value profit on costs and reduction strategy. More money will just be lost in the activity of driving up market profitability in our crime operations and the TORY fools gave more cash than accept the experiment is failing and THEY SHOULD HAVE TESTED IT FIRST WELL HERE IS THE TEST THE COUNTRY IS IN MELTDOWN AND THE REPLACEMENT IN STAFF TRAINING IS GOING TO COST MILLIONS MORE.

  9. it's heartwarming to see Helga hasn't lost her touch for creating chaos, despair and raging incompetence. never figured out why anyone would hire her with her track record.

  10. Helga failed to mention that when inspectors asked her to produce information about how many offenders across the whole of London had not been seen for weeks or months, the CRC's own figures matched what Inspectors were finding.

  11. From an article in the F.T.

    "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."

    Grayling wouldn't lie. Would he?

  12. Ms Swincheybank must realise this will escalate into a public debate in London. Better more able and reliable chiefs have had to resign for lack of case supervision and massive numbers that made the model unstable\ unsafe. He had to go at some point after tragedy but Swinchbank will have to go before then if by keeping her and something goes wrong shortly they wont take the blame by endorsing her mess now. This is a judgement on the leadership. Now take the cue Helga its a great opportunity for you to get out before they trip and push you over. Simple resignation.

  13. Helga should resign do the right thing we need someone who isn't tainted with incompetence.

    1. If she recognised the right thing she wouldn't be incompetent. Ambition way above ability here and oblivious to her own failings. Reputation is everything and earned from integrity

  14. Well done napo also check out next issue of private eye. 50% of service users don't have an oasys and that is an mtcnovo statistic pmsl

  15. Probation is the joke of the CJS. We've gone from being a pretty decent service with professionally trained probation officers, to a cheap rate organisation with untrained staff.

    While we became subservient to the police and others, only we suffered. Recent news is all police are to be degree trained. Funny that when probation qualifications have been dumbed down to nothing.

    1. Oh great degree standard thugs and bullies with a better more well written evidence statements and better quality corruption. Police at degree level that will sort a few more losers out and the best of the worst type of people will get through. Future looks great.

  16. Measures for improvement:
    1: assess each case manager against their caseload, which in the main has passed through a number of different agency workers it the last 6 months.
    2: conclude that it's the case managers at fault and they require immediate training.
    3: send everyone off on training to discover that there is no cover in place for the caseload of those on training, each and every team is working to wildly different practices (putting the original individual assessments into doubt as there was no benchmark), realise that centrally held document templates are, or were never actually in place and in the main people are being sentenced without report, cps docs are unavailable and that an 8 day target of layer 3 completion is a laughable target.
    4: give people 30 days to improve, in an increasingly failing environment... some Officers covering the cases of 3 other people... laptops that fail and have had to be repaired in other parts of the country.... paper notes for weeks and no assistance to catch up, CP have employed extra staff to assist with the backlog, but they are without laptops.
    Would be laughable if it were not for the effect it is having on our increasingly desperate Service Users

    1. Laptops?
      Who in their right mind thought someone could sit hunched behind a Laptop for 7 hours a day without the inevitable impact on your health. feel for you lot!

  17. Other CRC's lets not kid ourselves, HMIP could easily replace the MTC Novo name with any of the other private providers and much of the content of this report would still apply to varying degrees.