Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Whatever Happened To TTG?

Oh look, Parliament discovers Chris Grayling's promised support for released prisoners under TR and called 'Through the Gate (TTG) was just a load of bollocks after all:- 

Former offenders face "cliff edge" in support when leaving prison

The Work and Pensions Committee report says former offenders leaving prison face a "cliff edge" drop off in support offered to help them re-enter normal life and find work, and that even while in prison, education and employment support are fragmented and good practice is "patchy and inconsistent".

Read the report summary
Read the report conclusions and recommendations
Read the full report

Failure of rehabilitation or reoffending prevention

The Government's own assessment of the prison system is that it fails to rehabilitate criminals or prevent them from reoffending, and the cost to the taxpayer of reoffending stands at around £15 billion per year in the criminal justice system alone.

Ministers admitted in evidence to the Committee that there is no one person in Government who has responsibility for helping prison leavers into work, and the Committee says there is no clear strategy for how different agencies, in different prisons, should work together to achieve the common goal of getting ex-offenders into work.

Job-ready ex-offenders potentially dismissed by JCP as hard cases

Early reports on the Government’s new "Through the Gate" service paint a disappointing picture: in researching resettlement services for short-term prisoners HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons did not encounter a single prisoner who had been helped into employment by Through the Gate provision.

Following the end of day one mandation to the Work Programme, an increasing number of ex-offenders will rely on Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Work Coaches for employment support, and the Committee is concerned at evidence that even ex-offenders who are job-ready and keen to work may be dismissed by JCPs as hard cases.

Committee recommendations

The Committee says:
  • all prisons be required to demonstrate strong links with employers, including local businesses
  • all prisons should be required to offer workshop courses, apprenticeships or similar employment opportunities with real employers
  • all Jobcentres should have a specified person who specialises in helping ex-offenders into employment
The move to allow payment of Jobseeker's Allowance on day one of a prisoner's release is welcome: DWP has offered no explanation why claims for Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit cannot also be made in prison and paid on day one of release, and the Committee says they should be.

One in two employers wouldn't consider hiring an ex-offender

The Committee applauds the efforts of employers like Timpson and Virgin Trains who recognise the benefits of employing and supporting ex-offenders, but 50% of employers would not even consider offering any ex-offender a job. Employers need to be encouraged to change their recruitment practices, and incentivised to do so.

The Committee says Government should pilot a reduction in National Insurance contributions for those employers who actively employ ex-offenders. DWP should develop practical guidance to help employers recruit ex-offenders. This should include information on spent and unspent convictions and should challenge misconceptions regarding employing ex-offenders.

"Ban the box" should be extended to all public bodies

The Committee welcomes moves to "ban the box" - to remove the initial criminal record disclosure section on job applications - for the majority of civil service roles and says it should be extended to all public bodies, with exclusions only for roles where it would not be appropriate. Ban the Box does not oblige employers to hire ex-offenders but it increases the chance that they will consider them. The Government should also consider a statutory "ban the box" for all employers.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"It seems to us that former prisoners trying to make a new life for themselves walk over a cliff edge when they walk out the prison door. We have known for decades that finding a home and finding a job are absolutely central to preventing re-offending, which costs the criminal justice system alone £15 billion a year. That is without even beginning to factor in the costs of benefits, healthcare and the human cost of people struggling to reintegrate into society and going back to a life a crime. Yet Members of this Committee have assisted constituents with first-hand experience of failures in rehabilitation: individuals leaving prison with a no fixed accommodation, no financial support and no prospect of finding work. Turned out often literally onto the street with a £46 resettlement payment, weeks to wait for most benefits and little meaningful help in or out of prison to make the transition into work, it is no wonder people who have served their time and want to make a new start are reduced to desperation, and feel no alternative but to return to crime.

Government has announced it will publish a new strategy in early 2017 for getting more ex-offenders into employment and this marks welcome progress. Former offenders who have served their sentence and want to change their lives deserve a second chance. Prisons, the Government and employers all have a responsibility, and an interest, to help them take it."


This section fills in more of the detail:-

Transition into the community

The Government recognises the importance of smooth transitions and in May 2015 it introduced Through the Gate provision. These services are provided by Community Rehabilitation Companies and should include support with finding employment, securing accommodation, finance and debt advice and help for victims of domestic abuse. Early reports on Through the Gate services, however, paint a disappointing picture. All too often prisoners face a cliff edge in support once they reach the prison gate. In researching resettlement services for short-term prisoners HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons did not encounter a single prisoner who had been helped into employment by Through the Gate provision.

Following the end of day one mandation to the Work Programme, an increasing number of ex-offenders will rely on Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Work Coaches for employment support. We have seen some evidence of good practice but the quality of JCP support is not consistent. It is unacceptable for ex-offenders who are job-ready and keen to work to be dismissed by JCP as hard cases. All Jobcentres should have a specified person who specialises in helping ex-offenders into employment. Ex-offenders who are ready to work should also have access to the Work and Health Programme on a voluntary basis.

Timely payment of a prisoner’s correct benefit entitlement can help to alleviate financial pressure and can discourage reoffending. The move to allow payment of Jobseeker’s Allowance on day one of a prisoner’s release is welcome. We recommend that claims for Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit also be made in prison and paid on day one of release.

Information is fundamental to good policy. We are astonished by the current lack of data on employment for prison leavers. Community Rehabilitation Companies should be required to track the outcomes of the prisoners they resettle, including whether they have helped them into work.


  1. Ban the box in the civil service - what a load of shite. If prisons and probation both vet and bar the vast majority of applicants with criminal records form gaining these jobs then what does this say about rehabilitation and reintegration. Until these public bodies led by example there will be no change.

  2. Probation Officer20 December 2016 at 07:54

    And probation offered to properly deliver TTG long before Grayling appeared. This from the long dead PCA. http://probationchiefs.org/2014/05/27/pca-chief-executive-writes-for-guardian-on-huge-opportunity-missed-by-probation-reforms/

    1. Probation reform is a missed opportunity

      Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, came into the job promising a revolution in probation. So the 35 existing probation trusts in England and Wales will be abolished from the end of this month, to be reinvented from 1 June as 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) to supervise medium to low-risk offenders. A new national probation service will supervise the remaining "high-risk" offenders. Why is this happening? Because short-sentenced prisoners currently receive no follow-up supervision. They are not the statutory responsibility of probation services because the previous government chose not to implement, on cost grounds, the "custody plus" provisions of the 2003 Criminal Justice Act.

      This group, about 50,000 ex-prisoners a year who have served sentences of less than 12 months, has the highest reoffending rates. By contrast the rate of reoffending is much lower among those 200,000 offenders on community sentences or on licence after release from prison whom the 35 probation trusts are supervising.

      Plainly, there is a powerful argument that everyone released from prison should receive supervision and help to stop reoffending. A majority of offenders have drug or alcohol addictions, mental health problems, low literacy and poor job skills that need addressing.

      The government's answer to funding this urgently needed extra supervision is payment by results (PbR). It claims that PbR will deliver the savings needed to make a reality of extra supervision and that it's essential for the private and voluntary sector to be involved in delivering such services as they have the innovation required to ensure better outcomes. So a competition is under way for the sale of the CRCs, which is expected by the end of the year.

      There is no real evidence or experience, however, to inspire confidence that the PbR approach will work – in fact it's the opposite, given the poor record of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in procurement and contract management, as pointed out in a report last week by the public accounts committee on the reforms to the probation service. The report was preceded in January by the justice select committee, whose report also pointed to many of the problems and risks.

      The changes are being imposed, against advice from senior probation managers who face the daunting task of creating the new organisations and bringing a sceptical staff with them. Many have voted with their feet. Of those who have stayed, about a third are also having to manage the not-inconsiderable task of merging their workforces into new, cohesive organisations. In one case, four probation trusts are becoming one CRC.

      The plans have injected uncertainty and have distracted the workforce from the core job – to supervise offenders. Many senior probation staff remain to be persuaded that the resulting turmoil is actually what is best for the service and will produce better outcomes. Key aspects of the plans are highly problematic, for example, dividing the management of cases across the public and private sectors will undermine effective coordination and supervision, potentially putting the public at greater risk.

    2. Staff are being reassigned from their current employers to their new employers before the shape of the work and workloads of the new organisations have settled down, IT is having to be reconfigured and new bureaucracy is being introduced to manage the movement of offenders between the national probation service and the CRCs, which will all be in the private sector from 2015. Much that has worked well is being reinvented. Everyone appears to be running to stand still.

      Against the complexities of such a large-scale change programme, the ministerial rhetoric has changed from revolution to evolution. But one cannot help feeling that a huge opportunity has been lost, to build on existing effective arrangements delivered by probation trusts that have all been judged by the MoJ as good or excellent, and which were never asked if they were able to take on the extra work.

  3. In recent weeks I have realised the whole basis of probation work has changed as far as the UK constitution is concerned and I have seen no one else write about it - not even Steve Collett in his letter to the Guardian - I think yesterday - that traced the history of some of the changes.
    Probably the crucial legislation was in 1991 - I cannot in my haste recall the Act - but it also set up ACRs etc.
    When I was new to be probation in 1973 - in England and Wales - Except in Inner London where the Home Secretary was in control & I am not sure how that came about, Probation was fully managed by the magistrates Coutrs Committee and nationally there was some sort of joint committee on which the Home Office was represented and had great influence because the Governement even then paid most of the costs.
    BUT the point is Probation came under the jurisdiction of the courts - constitutionally and so was separated like the other courts from the control of the Government.
    The other branches of the State being the Sovereign and the Executive, with the whole lot under the ultimate control of Parliament in accordance with Parliament's powers to legislate and levy taxes.
    Now Probation, at least in England and Wales is FULLY part of the Executive and no longer an arm of the Judiciary -
    Does it matter - I think it does - please dear reader show me where this has been written about?


    1. I think it's incorrect to say the probation service was ever a constitutional part of the judiciary, nor is the CPS. Modern probation and its management by the Home Office stems from legislation in the 1930s. Probation has always been under parliamentary, never judicial control. Only the judiciary is independent but it cannot overrule parliament by striking down legislation, unlike, for example, the US Supreme Court. In the UK parliament is sovereign.


    2. Well constitutionally Probation was in a strange position vis a vis the judiciary because I was certainly interviewed for employment by a panel of magistrates and appointed to a Court Petty Sessional Division as a Main Grade Field Team Probation Officer.

      Colleagues spoke of only a few years previous, PO's having to report to magistrates monthy, complete with case files, on individuals' progress. Imagine that! That's how far we've come.

    3. When I was employed by Merseyside Probation Service in 1975 - I was interviewed for a job within Liverpool City PSD by the Deputy Chief Probation Officer who had formerly been the Chief Pbn Officer of Liverpool Probation Service before amalgamation on 1st April 1974.

      In fact the different PSD’s in Merseyside continued to run more or less independently. In Liverpool where there were about 100 officers - each team was allocated two members of the Probation Committee who each made their own arrangements to monitor the teams work. Effectively it meant a visit once a quarter from one or other who saw the SPO and usually had 30 minutes or so with us all once or twice throughout the year.

      It was particularly used to discuss early discharges - so after such an agreement when it was put before the Court, it went through as a formality - without any discussion.

      I realise managerialism began from the 1930s and the independence may have been rather a technicality because the Home Office controlled the finances but the staff appointments were certainly done under powers delegated from Magistrates. CPO’s had to also be approved by the Home Secretary.

      It was a typical British accommodation - but it seemed to mostly work as far as I can tell - probation grew in stature and professionalism at least until the 1980s and was for practical purposes as far as case management was concerned entirely independent of the Executive Branch of Government apart from determining release or recall of parolees, life licencees, Borstal, Detention Centre & Young Prisoner licencees.

      In hindsight it was professionally independent of Government until Leon Brittan stepped in, in 1984 - on 1st May, when the Home Office issued a “statement on national objectives and priorities for the probation service”


  4. There is a missing link in all of this, the lack of coordination between the professional probation service and the proven effective but unofficial probation service, friends and family who wish to reintegrate the offender into society.

    For instance, the suggestion of a temporary job with dormitory accommodation in the weeks before Christmas picking flowers in greenhouses. "Probation won't let me do that because its out of area". I don't know if they asked or just assumed that was the case.

    1. You're right of course - often the best and most useful form of supervision and support is provided by friends and family. In my experience wise Probation Officers would do all they can to encourage such and find ways around any bureaucratic hurdles - but as you know, things have changed and certainly not for the better....

    2. I agree family and friends can provide immeasurable support but unfortunately most of my clients don't have that luxury and a lot are in the situation because of family

  5. What you really need is a clued in ex prisoner like Alex Cavendish to head up and design a service that would actually work and actually meet the needs of everyone leaving custody and which was able to force prisons and probation to comply. Far too often I've seen probation officers stop people from getting jobs or even volunteering. Or deliberately making people homeless by refusing to allow them to take up offers of appropriate housing simply because it happens to be in a different area to the one they got arrested in and probation won't let them change area despite there being no reason why. Until both prisons and probation are forced to work with someone who actually has a clue and provide a joined up service that works things simply won't change. This is what needs to happen but I doubt it will because the govt simply wouldn't fund it

    1. Well I would venture to suggest it needs to be someone who fully understands the probation ethos, whatever their background and that includes assessment and management of risk along with everything else.

    2. Not a probation officer then. They completely fail to assess any risk and look where we are as a result.

    3. 12 49 and Jim you're idiots. 15.04 you're spot on.

    4. 15:04 and 18:26 - provide evidence please to back up your comment/opinion.

    5. Having worked across services in multiple roles and grade the PO has over the years adopted a culture of the self righteous. This attitude has failed to recognise the workplace is just a work place and should not impose a status of new social requirement. Many PO staff more often adopt anything they are given role modelling pro social behaviours what works more recently desistence theory which just means NO. Are all avenues back to the same trunk road. Constant adoption of anything new before understanding and dealing with the material now. Too many of the PO structure sliding up and then doing down all that has gone before.
      When dealing with those who have offended there is way too much patronisation of how your own values affected by being reasonably well paid and class ridden status of how things should be and what others should adopt . All the time a bit too hypocritical when many of inside the Probation wall can understand what real racket it is. Sadly the frailty of the human condition comes forward too often and many within the ranks and from the top are just as dishonest in the white collar secretive behaviours and yet they will always go unnoticed as the collusion is drawn together by the nonsense of being a PO makes it a status level that no longer draws any respect. You only have to look back at the Napo debacle with the outgoing and internal issues all PO shenanigans. A divided organisation that only looks after one group you don't have to look far to find the evidence the problem is facing it.

  6. To keep me abreast of all Probation I currently follow three sources; the press, this blog and Russell Webster. The latter is balanced,factual, unemotive in the main. This blog is raw, emotive and to my mind an accurate reflection from the coal face, albeit best to take a longitudinal perspective. The press, well again follow the trends and themes with some reserved judgement is best advised. However, when they are increasingly aligning then that is something to definitely pay attention to. I was interested to read Mr Webster's latest piece: http://www.russellwebster.com/transforming-rehabilitation-so-far/

  7. Probation Officer20 December 2016 at 23:57

    I don't agree with a lot of the comments above. For me, in the past probation officers joined and trained because they genuinely wanted to help people to change. Not all, but most. We accepted that we didn't know everything, and it was our commitment and life/learning experiences that laid the foundation for us to do the job well. Changes in qualifications, computers, risk assessments, accredited programmes, cognitive crap, risk management, public protection, MAPPA, tick box procedures, etc, we took it all in our stride and continued with the main objectives of helping people to change and to not commit further crimes. This is what gave the job status, because being a probation officer was a worthwhile career and we were recognised for the good we did and what probation stood for. But then probation became an "enforcement agency" and began to shy away from its values and the work it did. Instead of continuing to work to work WITH the police, courts, prisons, housing depts, substance misuse agencies and charities, etc, it began to work FOR these services and became subservient to them. Probation Chief Officers became dictators inside their own little Probation Trust kingdoms, and the Government of the day was always king. TR then came along catching probation with its pants down in the middle of an identity crisis. TR gutted the defenceless Probation like a pig and left the carcass held together by tired and fed up probation workers, officers and managers who can find no meaning or future left in the job. What's worse, they're surrounded by waves of new probation workers, officers and managers that are increasingly inexperienced and young uni leavers for which the job is simply a job. This means nothing to the likes of Grayling, Gove and Truss so Probation (NPS and CRC) will probably remain in a sorry state of affairs. There will be no turning the clock back and no moving forward either, and the Tories have a good few years left to hammer us into dust.

    1. I fear Anon at 23.57 is mostly correct & recall in 1972 the blessed Clare Morris told me in my interview for a place on the University of Liverpool's Institute of Extension Studies, Diploma in Social Work Course as a Home Office sponsored probation officer student, that if I was accepted (I had said if I was taken on, I did not want to be expected to change my personality to satisfy some professional status & gain a mere symbolic qualification) that at the end of their (not then CQSW) course they would turn me out "beginning to ask the right questions".

      During the training I felt I learned to express a considered opinion that I could back up with information I had gleaned, and to the end of my career I strived to avoid making recommendations to courts or the parole board or even (despite the "a a & befriend" adage) giving advice to any client. I remained far from expert but did gain some experience of criminal justice principles and practice all underpinned by the more authoritative social work discipline, where practitioners are statutorily empowered to intervene in the lives of others without there first being a court order, which is a prerequisite for any official work done by a probation officer/service officer.


    2. There you are 1900 the best achieved is a reflection on a diploma. Hardly a qualification more like a certificate of attendance. As demonstrated no risk assessment. this is why you need a different qualified leadership to represent your unions. Not pos.