Tuesday, 27 June 2017

What To Do With Probation? 2

Here we have another contribution to the debate from Penelope Gibbs, Director of Transform Justice:- 

Are we throwing good money after bad on probation?

There is a broad consensus about how to support people on their release from prison. Its common sense and it's summed up in the recent inspection report on "through the gate services". They need

- a safe place to sleep, from the day of release
- access to enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing, and transport
- a sense of hope for the future
- active links into services that can assist with other needs, for example addiction and mental health services.

"Only when the basic necessities of life are in place, will people start to make some of the behavioural changes that will support a life without further offending". Behavioural changes are difficult to make and those released will also need the support of families, friends and mentors to turn their lives around.

These services have always been provided badly on release. So when Chris Grayling decided to replace the old probation service with a new system, we all hoped that these basic needs might be provided for. But, unfortunately, the new system tends to focus on contract compliance, rather than in turning lives around. Most probation services were contracted out to private companies, who need to make a profit, or at least break even. To get paid, they need to prove they have completed certain processes - only a small payment is reserved for achieving good outcomes.

The poor performance of probation (particularly the new CRC companies) is shocking, and would receive more coverage if the prisons weren't in worse state. Two new inspection reports - on Though the Gate services and probation services in Suffolk - bare reading if you can bare to do so.Through the gate services were set up under the new probation system to ensure that those on release were supported. CRCs took over from prisons to deliver this and many subcontracted the service to charities. But according to the inspectors, they are not achieving anything worthwhile:

"Through the Gate services as delivered now are not likely to reduce rates of reoffending. For technical and legal reasons it is impossible for CRCs to track any difference Through the Gate has made for the prisoners they have worked with, such as finding accommodation or work... The staff we met in prisons working for Through the Gate were keen and committed, and were clearly very busy writing resettlement plans to meet contractual targets. Many of them, and some of their managers, were unaware that the work they were doing was having little or no impact on the eventual resettlement of prisoners".

The problem is that the companies are paid for producing plans, not for actually giving any help. So, when resources are tight, they just write plans. The inspectors found no cases where Through the Gate services had assisted a prisoner to get employment after release. Nor did they find CRCs promoting links to local colleges or education providers.

Housing help was hardly better. 10% of prisoners were homeless at the point of release and those that did have accomodation were too often set up to fail. "One prisoner told us that he was only earning £100 a week, but the rent for his BASS (government provided) accommodation was £194 a week. He was told that he has to pay this in full, and also knows if he gives up employment he will incur a benefits sanction. In another case a prisoner returned to previous work in the building trade but after three weeks of living in the cheapest bed and breakfast accommodation he could find, some distance from the site he was working, he lost the job for poor timekeeping".

Those leaving prison are supervised by probation. High risk people are supervised by the public sector National Probation Service, and lower risk people by the CRCs. But if you hope that probation services pick up the pieces scattered by Through the Gate services, think again. At least if the latest inspection report on Suffolk is a template. For both the CRC and NPS, the quality of work was "generally poor". This is a flavour of the inspectors' assessment of their impact on reducing reoffending

"The CRC was dilatory in completing assessments. We found assessments were generally superficial and sentence planning was poor. The delivery of interventions was correspondingly patchy, and poor overall....The quality of (NPS) work was poor across the spectrum of work to reduce reoffending. The majority of court reports did not provide sufficient information to help the CRC undertake good, comprehensive planning. Plans were not delivered well enough. There had been insufficient progress in most cases".

Of the CRC supervised cases, 8 out of 29 had been convicted or cautioned for another offence since the start of their supervision or licence period. The reality of what this means comes alive in some of the cases of poor practice cited.

"Len received a suspended sentence order with a requirement to carry out a domestic abuse groupwork programme. The assessment had not included an analysis of why he had reoffended against the same victim, or of the circumstances of the end of the relationship and the current situation. There was no planning for the 40 RAR days or to monitor or address his alcohol consumption, despite this being a feature of his offending. Due to health reasons the programme had not commenced for over eight months and no other domestic abuse work had been carried in the meantime".

"When Damien was released from prison he was homeless. He had a history of class A drug misuse and violence towards partners and family members, including child siblings, as well as members of the public. No initial assessment, sentence plan or risk management plan was ever undertaken. Management oversight, including the MAPPA eligibility forum (MEF), had failed to pick this up. (There had been no assessment since 2015, despite two other prison sentences). Contact was reactive and ad hoc and did not respond to risk of harm indicators, for example, reporting in the company of a new partner or being arrested for robbery. Damien had since been convicted of a new offence and was serving a 44 month custodial sentence".

The tragedy of the situation is that most people who get in trouble with the law do want to turn their lives around and they are positive about their probation workers. The latter are busting a gut, but have too much work - one CRC worker in Suffolk was supposed to be supervising 236 people!

The inspections show that the whole system needs reform. It is not the fault of individual Through the Gate and probation staff that things are not working. The new probation system is focused on contract compliance (ticking boxes) because government feels they have to be able to measure the performance of contracted out services - to prove the tax payer is getting value for money. And the new probation services have been isolated from the local public services which are essential to their success. For example, local councils have no incentive to provide housing for those released from prison. So those trying to find housing for ex-prisoners have their hands tied behind their back. Until the whole of the public sector is financially or otherwise incentivised to help those with convictions, I fear we will make no headway with reducing re-offending. There are many ways forward, but I feel delegating criminal justice budgets to local government is the best answer to the current chaos.

Penelope Gibbs
Director of Transform Justice

Monday, 26 June 2017

What To Do With Probation?

I have no idea what the reach is for NapoNews online is, but just noticed this from 16th June:-

How Do We Solve A Problem Like Probation?

If the new justice minister had been following the debates across the justice sector before the election they’d be expecting to hear unions talking about an operational crisis in prisons; all stakeholders talking about financial difficulties undermining the CRC contracts; and calls from across the sector to improve access to justice after legal aid cuts.

They may be more surprised to hear Napo argue that the part-nationalisation of probation, the accidental side-effect of TR, has proved calamitous and needs to be unpicked and addressed as urgently as any of the other justice fires.

Unions will often be heard highlighting privatisation failures and calling for re-nationalisation but in probation at least, it is a harsh but inconvenient truth that the part-nationalisation of the probation service has been a disaster, with the NPS at least as unstable as the CRCs.

The scale of the problem is ever more obvious and ever more dangerous. During the election period alone, Napo has been seeking to resolve problems for hundreds of new PSOs and recent PQUIP starters who simply haven’t been paid for months. If you can’t pay your staff you cannot meet any credible description of a functioning employer.

Additionally, the Napo inbox is swamped with PAYE and pension problems. The pay system is recognised by all sides as being broken and is disrupting attempts to establish HMPPS and resolve the contractual funding problems with CRCs.

Staff appraisal, where it still functions, is demotivating and having a negative impact on performance. The move to HMPPS is beset with challenges however well intentioned, not least because it is being rushed like TR with little consideration seemingly given to the professional or financial structures that need to underpin any new models. Further, with so much political focus on HMPPS, the community aspects of the NPS look isolated and morale is further undermined.

The new justice minister must therefore accept the National Probation Service isn’t working – it may be appearing more stable than CRCs in most areas but that doesn’t mean it is performing strongly or meeting the national needs. If the HMI for probation were to announce a total CRC contract failure then the NPS could not safely absorb a failing CRC area, even temporarily.

CRC contracts are constructed around the premise that Government didn’t know how local support for low and medium risk clients was to be best delivered. The CRCs are essentially commissioning bodies or middle-men, who decide and then either deliver or buy-in what is needed. How much they can charge for this brokerage dictates if they make a profit. Now the Probation Services Review suggests contracts with the MoJ will become increasingly prescriptive. The state pays for the Commissioner but will be directing what has to be commissioned and fixing the price at the centre – potentially making the commissioning process redundant and certainly making it look inefficient.

Further, innovation has, as we and almost all experts predicted, also been driven out by TR’s financial risks and pressures. Under the old pre-TR model, Trusts often commissioned pilots from small local providers, often charities and not-for-profit organisations. These providers were forced out of the field by the big profit hungry CRC corporates. The need for the CRCs to get a cut made the margins for innovation too tight and the risk involved in any experiment to commercially challenging (especially when everything else wasn’t coming through).

A different Commissioning model could re-open the market place and allow charities, mutual and other providers that Trusts were increasingly working in partnership with, to re-engage. If covered by national rehabilitation professional standards this could also, in the long run, be more positive for members.

So what are the alternatives?

CRCs can’t be made to work – but we also know that trying to take everything back in to the centre and run everything from Petty France has no credibility either. Ministers could go on trying to ignore the problem, keep throwing money at the CRCs and battling on as no obvious easy solution is at hand. But ministers will also know that the longer this goes on, the greater the risk of serious further systems failures; SFO’s; probation distracting from solving the already critical prisons crisis; and these ministers being blamed.

Napo’s bet is that they’ll want to find an alternative – and a further election makes it easier to move on having put emotionally more distance between TR and the new Government (especially in a hung parliament where a minority Tory administration can say TR was part of the opposition’s fault as well as Grayling’s).

There would seem to be three possible options – none of which is perfect but all of which seem worthy of exploring and testing seriously and all of which return all parts of provision to locally accountable, publically funded authorities.

The Mayoral Model – where a regional mayor takes over commissioning and local monitoring of service delivery. We know from our own discussions that this has some interest in London. Research published by Unions21 into health and social care partnerships in Greater Manchester suggest that scope and interest across the North West is also likely. Regional Mayors also now exist in the Midlands, Bristol and the South-West and parts of the North East. The Welsh Assembly could play a similar role. A major problem is they don’t exist across the country and most are still establishing themselves as institutions with stakeholders and the public.

Police and Crime Commissioners take over running contracts and commissioning – This has known interest in several areas, including rural areas where profit is difficult and CRCs especially vulnerable to failure. However, PCCs have no political credibility with the public as yet and little visibility. Nor do they have any known capacity for running anything this complicated. There are also too many of them. For example, in the Kent Surrey and Sussex CRC area, which of the PCCs would lead. PCCs also overlap NPS regions. 
Local Authorities could take on the responsibility for probation, as they do in Scotland – However, here again there are problems – local authorities are struggling financially; have boundary issues like PCCs and we’ve not identified any existing appetite. Evidence from social services would also suggest that inconsistent provision would make this a risky offload for any minister looking to devolve risk and blame.

So none of the obvious options are fully formed. However, this is not a reason to dismiss them. The scale of the problem dictates minister can’t hide from it and the need to find a solution. Napo is committed to exploring these ideas and would like to think, in the new political environment the MOJ may break the habit of a lifetime and consider genuine pilots to test if and how these models could work.

It is also possible for this to be the start of bringing one probation service back together. Community delivery, commissioned by and accountable to locally elected bodies needn’t be split on arbitrary assessments of risk and the part-nationalisation of probation could begin to be unpicked. Imagine if after the next child abuse scandal a government suggested most child-protection and social services should be nationalised the political outcry would be deafening yet that is the model Grayling adopted to facilitate the failing CRC idea.

Whilst the hung parliament helps facilitate a new national conversation about a stronger and more stable model for probation we can also lay some strong foundations for whatever this eventually looks like by addressing the probation pay system failure and introducing professional structures and pathways around a new license to practice – two big ideas Napo has been leading on which will be huge victories for us and help turn the tide.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Trouble With SOTP

The news that SOTP courses were being 'pulled', even with participants half way through, was mentioned on here some time ago. Now this from the Daily Mail:-

The scandal of the sex crime 'cure' hubs: How minister buried report into £100million prison programme to treat paedophiles and rapists that INCREASED reoffending rates

The Government is hiding a devastating report that shows rehabilitation courses taken by thousands of jailed rapists and paedophiles make them more dangerous once they are released. According to the study, prisoners who take the courses are at least 25 per cent more likely to be convicted of further sex crimes than those who do not, suggesting that the sessions may have created hundreds of extra victims.

The controversial Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), a six-month psychological group-therapy course, is believed to have cost taxpayers well over £100 million since it was set up in 1991. Before the report was compiled, about 1,000 prisoners had been taking the 'core' programme at a cost of about £7 million a year, many at eight sex offender treatment 'hubs' – specialist jails where thousands of such criminals are concentrated.

The worst offenders went on to an 'extended' course, which was also found to make them more dangerous. An investigation by this newspaper has revealed:
  • The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was initially reluctant to accept the bombshell findings, but after they were independently endorsed, it abruptly axed both programmes – but kept the decision secret;
  • Experts had for years been warning that the programmes were flawed, and there was no good evidence that they cut reoffending;
  • Paedophiles convicted of physically attacking children are especially likely to offend again after taking the SOTP;
  • The decision to keep the report secret was taken by former Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who rejected advice from officials.
There have been numerous documented cases of criminals who underwent the SOTP and committed brutal crimes on their release.

One of the worst was Clive Sharp, who took the course after being convicted and jailed three times for sexual attacks over a 30-year period, starting when he raped an underage girl when he was 17. He told his SOTP facilitator in the 1990s that he fantasised about tying up a woman, then raping and murdering her. In October 2012, after his last release, he fulfilled it when he invaded the North Wales home of vet Catherine Gowing, sexually tortured her, then killed and dismembered her. He is now serving life with a minimum 37-year term.

Another was Tony Rice, who raped, strangled and fatally stabbed Naomi Bryant in Winchester in 2005, just nine months after being released on licence from a life sentence imposed for three rapes and sexual assaults. He won his freedom after taking the SOTP. The coroner at Naomi's 2011 inquest said the case was 'a wake-up call for those involved in offender management'. Rice is again serving life.

Recent cases have involved paedophiles such as former social worker John Hoar, who was jailed for three years and eight months at York Crown Court in February for distributing images of children – some as young as five – being raped and tortured. He took the SOTP during a previous sentence for possessing child pornography.

Last month, Michael Wood, from Welwyn Garden City, was jailed for six-and-a-half years for having sex with an underage teenager and possessing child pornography. He had three previous convictions for paedophile activity, and after the last, for a sexual attack on an underage girl in 1997, he had passed the SOTP.

High-profile prisoners who have taken the SOTP reportedly include former broadcaster Stuart Hall, who in 2013 pleaded guilty to assaulting 13 girls, the youngest just aged nine.

Successive governments have made bold claims for the SOTP's success in curbing reoffending. As recently as April – after the damning report was delivered, and the programmes were secretly axed – the MoJ website claimed they had 'demonstrated that they are based on sound evidence on what techniques and interventions help offenders to change', and there was 'international evidence' that they reduced reoffending.

However, some experts have disputed such claims for many years. One was William Marshall, whose own, very different sex offender rehabilitation programmes in Canada have been shown to achieve huge cuts in reoffending rates.

Until 2004, Dr Marshall was employed as an external consultant to SOTPs in Britain. But exasperated by what he saw as the programme's shortcomings and the Government's failure to remedy them, he resigned. 'There were a lot of problems with SOTP and I didn't want to be identified with a programme I didn't agree with,' he said. 'They weren't adapting the course in line with developing knowledge, and many of those delivering the programme were not qualified.'

The worst problem was that the numbers being enrolled on the courses were 'far too ambitious', leading to a shortage of qualified therapists. In fact, most SOTP facilitators were chaplains, ordinary prison officers and other 'para-professionals'.

According to Dr Marshall, their lack of training meant that the facilitators were forced to stick rigidly to 'scripts' drawn from a thick SOTP manual. He said: 'Manuals take the therapist out of the loop. For sex offender treatment to succeed, you have to be flexible enough to keep adapting to every individual. A revamp is long overdue.'

Dr Marshall said he was 'amazed' that the new report was being kept secret, adding: 'Why waste time doing research if you're not going to publish it?'

Another prominent sceptic was David Ho, a forensic psychiatrist who has treated some of the country's most disturbed offenders at Broadmoor, and is now research chief at a secure unit in Essex. He said: 'I'm not surprised by the new evaluation. Both the academic community and the public have the right to see the full results.' Previous studies claiming SOTPs worked were fundamentally flawed, he said – as he had been arguing for years.

Questioned repeatedly by this newspaper, the MoJ refused to release the full data behind the secret report's headline results. But multiple prison service sources have told us that the study, based on many hundreds of offenders who went through the SOTP between 2002 and 2012, found reoffending rates 25 per cent higher than a comparison group who did not take the courses.

Overall, the MoJ says 13.2 per cent of sex offenders will be convicted of another sex crime within a year of the end of a sentence. The MoJ was forced to accept the results when they were independently endorsed in a review by Professor Dietrich Lösel, emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology.

Prof Lösel confirmed he had endorsed the report, but said he was prohibited from speaking about it until it had been published 'but I don't know when this will happen'.

Once it became clear that the SOTP made prisoners more dangerous, the pressure to axe the programme became irresistible. As one MoJ insider put it: 'If this was a medical trial of a new drug, you would stop the trial immediately.' But the decision not to publish the report means prison staff and prisoners have been left in limbo.

'All we know is the course has been stopped,' one senior officer said. 'We have not been told why.' Worst affected are some of the thousands of prisoners serving indefinite sentences for public protection, who had been waiting for a place on the courses before they could be considered for release. New courses to replace the SOTP are in the pipeline. But they remain untried and untested, and it is unclear when they will be widely available.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Parole Board, last night called on the MoJ to publish the report. 'The test when we consider an application for parole is whether we are satisfied that a prisoner's risk of reoffending has been reduced, and whether they are safe to release,' he said. 'People need to understand what works and what doesn't.'

An MoJ spokesman said: 'Public protection is our top priority, and we keep treatment programmes under constant review to reduce reoffending and prevent further victims. We are now in the process of rolling out new programmes and all offenders have either already started their new course, or are being assessed for targeted support.'

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Latest From Napo 152

Here we have edited highlights from the latest blog by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:- 


As everyone who has suffered the chaos that has befallen probation knows, the Through the Gate (TTG) scheme was heralded as the main driver for Transforming Rehabilitation by the former and unlamented Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling.

His oft repeated boast that his reforms would mean that prisoners on release should get more than £45 in their pocket has been bettered; in that now its £45 and a leaflet.

Given the millions of pounds of taxpayers money that was squandered on his vanity project this is hardly anything to shout about.

Below is an early Day motion that has been submitted by the Labour Party after we had briefed them on this week’s damning joint report by HM Inspectors of Prisons and Probation.

It about says it all.

Early Day Motion submitted to Parliament

That this House is concerned by the recent findings within the joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prison regarding Through the Gate Resettlement Services; notes that Through the Gate resettlement services were introduced in 2015 to bridge the gap between prison and community; is concerned by the findings within the report which suggest that CRCs are making little difference to the prospects of prisoners due for release; notes that the report indicates that the primary focus of CRCs is to meet contractual arrangements instead of helping offenders within the service; further notes that inspectors found prisoners were no better served than 8 months ago noting that should Through the Gate services be removed tomorrow the impact on prisoners would be ‘negligible’; is concerned that Through the Gate services have never fully or successfully integrated into the prison system and that communications between all organisations responsible for carrying out Through the Gate services is almost non-existent; understands that a key role of Through the Gate services is to assist released prisoners in securing appropriate accommodation in time for their release; is aware that of the 98 cases observed by inspectors only two prisoners were found accommodation via Through the Gate services; is further aware of the consistent concerns raised by organisations during the implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme and calls on the Government to urgently review the performance of CRCs and the NPS as well as the Transforming 

Rehabilitation programme.

Another HMI Probation report – Courts in the spotlight

The third report in a week, this time looking at probation work in courts. Compared to earlier reports this is relatively positive in that it shows there has been some improvement in probation court work in the last year. However, it still raises concerns about how the probation service is functioning post-privatisation and that pre-sentence reports are not providing adequate risk assessments in many cases.

Our media release today basically says that while Napo welcomes the reported signs of improvement it still doesn’t fully reflect the difficulties faced by members on the ground with many of you reporting the requirement to complete up to six reports a day and 80% of those being written in a short format or delivered verbally to the court. This leaves little or no time at all, for safeguarding checks for domestic violence and child protection.

We have already started to channel the findings to our various contacts in and outside of Parliament.


A chat with the new Secretary of State

As is traditional upon their appointment, the new Secretary of State for Justice Telephones round the leads for the various HMPPS Unions to introduce themselves and this week I was happy to field the call from David Lydington on behalf of Napo/Unison and GMB.

These types of discussions are always a bit of a squeeze but the appearance of the report on TTG provided some additional material for me that probably was not on David’s original script.

A number of key issues were raised especially around the Probation System Review and the need for something to happen on Probation Pay and I intend to cover this in a bit more detail in the next edition of Napo’s online magazine NQ5 due out soon.
What I said to the Public Policy Exchange

A really good opportunity for Napo to get its messages across to opinion formers and CJS providers comes in the form of specialist seminars and conferences, and one such opportunity opened up this week following the invitation from the Public Policy Exchange. Among others present were Norman Lamb MP, and a one Jonathan Aitken former MP, and once a guest of Her Majesty’s prison, the latter who offered a particularly insightful view about prison reform and safety.

Here is what I said which helped to elicit an absorbing Q&A and I have subsequently heard, was well received by the audience.


Britain Still Needs A Pay Rise Public Rally – Monday 17 July 5:30 -7:00pm

Central London location (likely to be Parliament Square)

The new political realism that is signalling the end of neo-liberalism and the austerity agenda that has been part it, has clearly woken the TUC from its torpor and at long last we are seeing what could be the start of a proper combined pay campaign with the announcement of a public rally next month.

I am told that the aim of this event is to enhance the public profile of the TUC’s pay campaign, engage union members and build their awareness and capacity to campaign on the issue and to build on the strength of support shown for public services and fair pay for public sector workers during the general election campaign.

I hope that this rally which I have offered to speak at, will see a mobilisation of union members (including Napo members from across the 24 employers where we are represented) The TUC will be developing a common set of messages, materials and branding around the event, with a coordinated media strategy.

It is also intended to organise a parliamentary lobby of a targeted group of Conservative MPs which will take place earlier the same afternoon. It would be helpful if Napo members could let Tania Bassett tbassett@napo.org.uk know if you might be able to take part in the lobby.

The list of Conservative MPs that we want to engage with appears below:

MP/Constituency/Size Majority

Royston Smith Southampton Itchen 31
Zac Goldsmith Richmond Park 45
Derek Thomas St Ives 312
Stephen Crabb Preseli Pembrokeshire 314
Stuart Andrew Pudsey 331
Jackie Doyle-Price Thurrock 345
Amber Rudd Hastings and Rye 346
Theresa Villiers Chipping Barnet 353
Chloe Smith Norwich North 507
Craig Whittaker Calder Valley 609
Jack Brereton Stoke on Trent South 663
Lucy Allan Telford 720
Michael Ellis Northampton North 807
Anna Soubry Broxtowe 863
Chris Green Bolton West 936
Simon Clarke Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East 1,020
Ben Bradley Mansfield 1,057
Matthew Offord Hendon 1,072
Andrew Lewer Northampton South 1,159
Andrew Stephenson Pendle 1,279
David Morris Morecambe & Lunesdale 1,399
Justine Greening Putney 1,554
George Eustice Camborne & Redruth 1,577
Mike Freer Finchley & Golders Green 1,657
Iain Stewart Milton Keynes South 1,725
Bob Blackman Harrow East 1,757
Mark Lancaster Milton Keynes North 1,915
Richard Harrington Watford 2,092
Ian Duncan Smith Chingford and Woodford Green 2,438
John Stevenson Carlisle 2,599
Nicky Morgan Loughborough 4,269
Robert Halfon Harlow 7,031
Margot James Stourbridge 7,654
Jeremy Lefroy Stafford 7,729
Ken Clarke Rushcliffe 8,010
Bill Cash Stone 17,495
Caroline Spelman Meriden 19,198
Philip Dunne Ludlow 19,286
Jeremy Hunt South West Surrey 21,590


Press Statement

23 June 2017 - Immediate Release

Some improvements to court work still failing to deliver

Today Her Majesties Inspectorate for Probation published the third Inspection report this week, this time looking at probation work in courts. Compared to earlier reports this is relatively positive in that it shows there has been some improvement in probation court work in the last year. However, it still raises concerns about how the probation service is functioning post-privatisation and that pre-sentence reports are not providing adequate risk assessments in many cases.

Whilst Napo welcomes a more positive outcome from this inspection, it does not truly reflect the reality that our members are facing on a day-to-day basis. Napo members report that they are having to complete up to six reports a day at court in order to meet the Ministry of Justice target of 80% of reports being written in a short format, or delivered verbally to the court. They say they have no time to do safeguarding checks for domestic violence or child protection before an individual is sentenced, thus increasing the risk to potential victims.

Napo welcomes the recognition by the Inspector that probation ICT systems are woefully inadequate with many laptops not having the functionality to complete the tasks in hand. This is despite the government’s aspirations to digitalise the court system. Napo is concerned that probation is being left behind in technology which makes the workload even greater for our members.

It is deeply concerning that the Inspector found that Community Rehabilitation Companies (private providers) are allowing offenders to miss too many appointments before they take legal action via the enforcement courts. Napo members echo this concern with reports that some CRCs encourage staff not to enforce court orders in order to show offenders as complying and increase the organisations performance targets.

Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: "Whilst it is welcomed that there have been some improvements in court work, we still believe we are long way off from the quality of service being delivered before TR in 2015. Our members feel that they do not have the time to do adequate risk assessments prior to sentencing due to the arbitrary targets set by the Ministry of Justice. This situation must be reviewed urgently by Ministers as professional practitioners should be able to decide which sort of report they provide to the court on an individual basis. It is also deeply worrying that CRCs are not breaching offenders who fail to comply with court orders and this must also be investigated immediately."

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Queen's Speech

This from the Guardian:-

Privatised probation programme 'could be dropped with negligible impact'

A joint report by the chief inspectors of probation and prisons says staff are focused on paperwork and targets at the expense of prisoners

A key part of the government’s probation privatisation reforms could be dropped tomorrow without any impact on the resettlement of prisoners, a joint report by the chief inspectors of probation and prisons has warned.

In what critics dubbed a “devastating report on a growing scandal” Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, and Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, say that the work done by the 21 community rehabilitation companies in the government’s Through the Gate programme is having a negligible impact on reducing prisoner reoffending rates, two years after its introduction.

The chief inspectors say that too many prisoners have been released not knowing where they would sleep that night, that in too many cases prisoners’ risk to the public had been inadequately assessed before release, and despite much talk about the use of mentors, they could find only one prisoner out of a sample of 98 who had been mentored.

“None of the early hopes for Through the Gate have been realised,” they said. “The gap between aspiration and reality is so great, that we wonder whether there is any prospect that these services will deliver the desired impact on rates of reoffending.”

The chief inspectors’ report was based on visits to nine prisons where Through the Gate services were delivered by seven different rehabilitation companies in England and Wales and a detailed examination of the cases of 98 long-term prisoners.

“The overall picture is bleak,” they conclude. “If Through the Gate services were removed tomorrow, in our view the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible.”

They said that CRC staff focused most of their efforts on producing written resettlement plans to meet contractual targets, while the needs of prisoners received much less attention.

“Many have enduring problems including mental illness and addiction, and yet links between treatment in custody and in the community were not always easy. Indeed the whole transition is often fraught. Affordable accommodation is hard to source, and claims to state benefits take time to process, so some prisoners are released with nowhere to live, and like others, may face weeks without any income.”

The provision of post-release resettlement services was one of the key aims of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which saw the part-privatisation of the probation service.

The inspectors say that while many CRCs have employed well-respected voluntary organisations to deliver resettlement services, their potential has not been realised as they have focused on completing delivery plans. The few examples of the promised innovation, they add, have been on a very small scale.

The performance of the CRCs raises questions about whether they will qualify for any payments under the payment-by-results mechanism in their contracts when the first reoffending data becomes available in October.

Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described it as a “devastating report on a growing scandal” adding: “One of the first challenges for the new government is to sort out this mess.

“The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer.
“Instead, successive inspection reports have shown that the risk to the public has increased, and now we learn that Through the Gate services are so useless that they could stop tomorrow and we would not notice the difference. People who are trying to lead crime-free lives are being let down,” she said.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, added that the report’s central conclusion pointed to “a complete failure of the Tories’ reckless part-privatisation of probation. Public safety is being put at risk because ex-offenders aren’t getting the support, supervision and rehabilitation they need,” he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We will take all necessary action to make sure the probation system is reducing reoffending and preventing future victims.

“We have undertaken an overarching review of probation, looking at the standards we set for providers and how we hold them to account. Additionally, we have made changes to how community rehabilitation companies are paid so they can focus on activities that will help cut crime. As part of part of the probation review, we have been looking at Through the Gate services and will be publishing our findings in due course.”


Following yesterday's Queen's Speech, Rob Allen tries to work out what the future is for prison reform:-

Prison Break

Why has the government junked the prison bit of the Prison and Courts Bill? There seem to be three main possibilities.

The first is that with big issues like the purpose of prisons and the role of the Secretary of State in running them due to be determined, ministers didn’t fancy depending on mavericks like Philip Davies MP let alone the DUP to get their way. The Tory party has always had its Michael Howards as well as Douglas Hurds and the risk of being held to ransom by hardliners – and having to rely on Labour votes to get their way- simply wasn’t worth the candle. Besides, the key to sorting out prisons-so this theory goes- doesn’t lie in a new legal frameworks but putting staff boots back on the ground as new Justice Secretary told us in his open letter today.

Theory two is that when Theresa May and her people asked what was in the bill, they were told that inspectors would get greater powers and ministers would have to respond to their criticisms. To which came the reply why on earth are we making another rod for our own backs? More transparency and accountability are the last thing we need just now.

Option three is that Mrs May is simply no prison reformer or at least not in the grandiose Cameron/Gove mould which gave shape to the thinking behind the Bill. She may be an instinctive hardliner herself but her record on social issues defies that simple characterisation. More likely in her weakened state she has realised that as far as the public is concerned, there are no, or few votes in prisons. With crime rising once again and what maybe a growing threat and reality of terrorist violence, reform and rehabilitation of prisoners is unlikely to help her government’s popularity in the country.

Whatever the reason - and it may be a bit of all three - within 18 months prison reform has been marched to the top of the hill and back down again. Mr Lidington’s letter promises that the work of making prisons places of safety and rehabilitation goes on. Maybe that is better done away from parliamentary and public gaze. But it feels, as the Chief Inspector of Prisons has said, a missed opportunity.

Rob Allen

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Job Offer

Probation Services Officer (PSO2)

National Offender Management Service
Closing date: 3 Jul 2017

About the job

Job description

The job holder will undertake the full range of work with offenders before and after sentence. This will include assessment, sentence implementation, offender management and producing reports. The job holder will provide case management support to a full range of offenders utilising service procedures and practice directions that underpin professional judgement.

Job Summary 

To assess and manage the risk (including risk management plans and escalation) posed by offenders to protect victims of crime and the general public by:

Liaising, providing information and advice to criminal courts, criminal justice agencies and other partner agencies
Supervise and manage risk of those offenders subject to community sentences, during and after custodial sentences.
Work with other agencies and groups to prevent crime and meet the needs of victims and offenders.

In line with NPS policies and procedures, the job holder must at all times demonstrate a commitment to equality and inclusion and an understanding of their relevance to the work they do.

The post holder must adhere to all policies in respect of the sensitive/confidential nature of the information handled whilst working in this position.

If relevant to the role, some out of hours working may be required (i.e. Courts, Approved Premises, programmes, evening reporting etc).

Responsibilities, Activities & Duties 

Probation Services Officers may be required to undertake any combination, or all, of the duties and responsibilities set out below.

To undertake the full range of offender management tasks with offenders assessed as low or medium risk of harm and to support the Probation Officer grade in high risk cases.
When providing case manager support, to contribute to the delivery of the Risk Management plan and report significant changes relating to risk of harm and/or of reoffending or any non‐compliance within agreed enforcement procedures
To use computer based systems to produce, update and maintain records and other documentation within agreed timescales
Ensure effective referrals to services and facilities and communicate with offender management staff, interventions staff, service providers and external agencies to review progress and associated risks.
To undertake prison, home or alternate location visits as required in accordance with service procedures and policies.
To undertake work in the court setting, including the completion of appropriate reports on cases and prosecution of breaches.
To provide cover within teams as required
To deliver and co-lead accredited programmes commensurate with grade
To conduct mandatory alcohol and drug tests as required, and to follow prescribed medication procedures
Carry out safeguarding children duties in accordance with the NPS statutory responsibilities and agency policies
Demonstrate pro-social modelling skills by consistently reinforcing pro-social behaviour and attitudes and challenging anti-social behaviour and attitudes.
To work within the aims and values of NPS and NOMS

The duties/responsibilities listed above describe the post as it is at present and is not intended to be exhaustive. The Job holder is expected to accept reasonable alterations and additional tasks of a similar level that may be necessary. Significant adjustments may require re-examination under the Job Evaluation scheme and shall be discussed in the first instance with the Job Holder.


For the purposes of selection the following competencies will be used:

Making effective decisions
Changing and improving
Delivering at pace
Collaborating and partnering


An annual salary of £22,039 – £27,373 plus London Weighting Allowance of £3,889, where this applies. In some areas the minimum starting salary has risen to £23,140; Norfolk & Suffolk, Kent, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire Local Delivery Units. 


Seen on Facebook:-

I can't believe NPS are advertising for 400 PSOs, duties include accredited programmes!!

Back tracking without admitting that they made a mistake.

Doing things on the cheap no doubt.

Are Napo involved? I can't believe that they will do programmes, that's the only bread and butter bit left for CRC!

That'll be sex offender programmes, presumably, unless TR is about to be overhauled.

That's a band 4 role

Not necessarily, locally NPS PSOs having training for it.

They do at the moment but under the E3 proposals future recruitment for Sex Offender facilitators will be PO only.....

It's the new group work - not an accredited programme, is my understanding.

As an employee of a CRC this scares me, should they finally admit it was a mistake and re-nationalise I fear we will have no job options to return to in the NPS due to the current recruitment drive.

They will also run group supervision sessions.

NPS PSOs are delivering group supervision, I'm not aware of any plans for accredited programmes and can't see that in the ad but the job description is intentionally vague for all staff to allow for the employer to make changes to the operating model in future....

I've been an Idap and then BBR sessional for about ten years and have just been informed I'm no longer required. Was given four weeks notice and on week five I was called and asked to cover..........

A lot of these PSOs will also be deployed within Court to deal with the up turn in same day delivery and oral reports to meet the new criteria

Need to keep an eye on the ratio of PO to PSO staff and case tiering. Interesting that it has been said elsewhere that there is little justification for PSOs to be working in the NPS and no justification for POs to be working in the CRC. And yet we see PSOs being recruited in both NPS and CRC where PO training is ceasing and POs that leave are not being replaced by new PO recruits and in the NPS where POs may be replaced by PSOs despite those who say they should not be undertaking work with those assessed as high risk.

I think NPS underestimated the number of cases that would be held by PSO staff post TR - certainly the cases I was holding until recently would have been PO cases pre-TR. The future for PSOs will be non-accredited groupwork on high risk cases as well as medium risk cases. I have recently left the Service having been treated appallingly and with a lack of support from Union. Leaving after 16 years in the service has been the scariest and best thing I have done in a long while...

That salary is a joke!

We have 3 OMUs in our office. Up until xmas we had 1 PSO in each OMU ...then got another 3 PSO's around March, so teams were about 7 POs and 2 PSO ....thats what E3 stated was needed however after 4 mths, 2 of the PSOs only have about 7 cases each, and now re deployed into Court team as they were 6 PSOs short. The thing is when the 3 new PSOs were put in OM teams, they knew the Court team was 6 short so everyone wonders why they were posted there first! Management just mess with staff and also offenders keep getting new officers isn't good. Now another PSO has resigned after only 4mths in the role, as he only had 12 cases and was bored! We heard about the PSO recruitment and just don't understand it at all....where will they go!?!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

News Roundup 10

Just in case you were wondering, such has been the paucity of news of late that February was the last time we had a 'news roundup'. With the election supposedly out of the way and 'purdah' now at an end, the backlog of negative prison and probation reports are starting to be published. Yesterday the focus was on Norfolk and Suffolk CRC and Russell Webster has extracted the key elements:-

Probation in Suffolk “nowhere near good enough”

Both public and private probation failing in Suffolk
The two organisations responsible for providing probation services in Suffolk needed to do far more to protect the public, reduce reoffending and make sure people served sentences handed down by the courts.
That is the headline quote from Dame Glenys Stacey, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation, in a press release accompanying the probation inspection report into probation services in Suffolk which was published earlier today (16 June 2017).

The inspection looked at the quality of probation work carried out by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) and the National Probation Service (NPS) and assessed the effectiveness of work undertaken locally with people who have committed crimes. This was the second inspection of adult probation work undertaken by a CRC owned by Sodexo Justice Services, in partnership with Nacro.

Overall findings

The inspectors were very critical of the work of the CRC:

Overall, the work of the CRC in Suffolk was not good enough. Staff needed to do more to protect the public, particularly in domestic abuse cases, and they needed a greater focus on keeping children safe. Their work to prevent people committing further crimes needed to improve, as did work to ensure that people abided by the terms of their sentence. Staff were working hard but individual caseloads were very high and staff morale was low. Inspectors saw some good work, but the quality of work was generally poor.

Sodexo has a conceptually sound operating model for all of its CRCs. Based on robust research, it is designed to fully engage people who have committed crimes and address their readiness to change. Inspectors were concerned, however, at the over-reliance on telephone contact in supervising individuals. Without meaningful contact, people are less likely to develop the will to change their attitudes and behaviour. Inspectors were also concerned at the lack of privacy in open booths used for confidential interviews.

Implementation of the model in Suffolk has stalled and some systems are not yet up and running, partly because the Ministry of Justice’s necessary IT gateway that will allow for critical information to be shared is still not in place.

We have become accustomed to inspectorate reports where the work of the NPS has been rated much more favourably than that of the CRC. Unfortunately, the NPS in Suffolk was also found to be performing poorly:

The quality of work from the NPS with higher-risk offenders in Suffolk was also poor overall. As inspectors found with the CRC, more needed to be done to protect the public in domestic abuse cases and more done to safeguard children. Work to reduce the risk of people committing further crimes was poor across the spectrum. In the face of work pressures, local leaders had reduced the requirement to review cases, which inspectors thought left some potential victims more vulnerable than necessary.
Findings — CRC

The main inspectors’ findings of the work of the CRC were:

  • The CRC did not review the NPS’s initial assessments of the risk of harm posed well enough. Then CRC plans did not redress any shortcomings sufficiently, leaving some victims more vulnerable than necessary.
  • The CRC was dilatory in completing assessments. We found assessments were generally superficial and sentence planning was poor. The delivery of interventions was correspondingly patchy, and poor overall. Responsible officers had very high caseloads, but were often delivering one-to-one work rather than using supply chain providers or in-house groupwork (as anticipated in the operating model) thereby increasing the demands on their time. Leaders were taking action to redress the balance.
  • Service users had not received an acceptable level of service in too many cases.
  • Individual service users’ needs were not taken into account in enough cases. In too many cases, not enough appointments had been offered and non-compliance had not received an appropriate response.
  • Over one-third of service users had not complied with the sentence.
Findings — NPS

The inspectors found that the NPS in Suffolk were suffering from chronic staff shortages and felt that the NPS nationally had to do better to address this. Their main findings with respect to NPS performance were:

  • Public protection work was not of sufficient quality overall. As with the CRC, this was particularly notable in cases of domestic abuse and those involving the safeguarding of children.
  • Initial assessments were generally sufficient, but risks posed to known adults and/or children were not assessed well enough, with pertinent information missing.
  • Local managers expressly allowed routine formal reviews to be conducted annually unless there was a change in circumstances. We found that changes in circumstances did not always lead to a review. These arrangements left some victims more vulnerable than necessary.
  • The quality of work was poor across the spectrum of work to reduce reoffending.
  • The majority of court reports did not provide sufficient information to help the CRC undertake good, comprehensive planning. The risk assessments to support allocation appeared inflated to us: we found an unusual proportion of cases that we considered should have been allocated to the CRC. Then, assessment and subsequent planning were not good enough in too many cases.
  • Plans were not delivered well enough. There had been insufficient progress in most cases.
  • Overall, the quality of work was acceptable, but in too many cases, not enough appointments had been offered.
  • The response to non-compliance was appropriate in most cases.
Findings — Co-ordination between NPS and CRC

Overall levels of co-operation and co-ordination between both probation agencies appeared to be reasonable:

  • In terms of public protection, the two agencies were generally working together well. New Integrated Offender Management arrangements were bedding in, and NPS officers worked with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and, through them, provided information to the CRC. Information-flows from court had improved.
  • Relationships worked reasonably well, with regular interface meetings focused on problem-solving.
  • The NPS chose not to use interventions on offer from the CRC, seemingly to save money, although the national delivery model for probation services assumes that they will.
  • The establishment of the CRC hub and the NPS central enforcement unit had created problems for each organisation which had affected enforcement. These were being resolved by middle managers and, where necessary, senior managers via interface meetings.

Overall then, this is a very damning report with some key recommendations including:
The CRC should take enforcement action where appropriate against those who don’t comply with their sentences and ensure people can be interviewed in private when necessary. They also needed to communicate and engage with their staff more effectively.
The NPS should provide specific support to responsible officers carrying caseloads of high-risk offenders.

The CRC and NPS together should improve the quality of case management, with a particular focus on the risk posed to known adults and children, and provide effective management oversight of all relevant cases.

Chief Inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey highlights two key features of the Sodexo model and appears to attribute blame for them to the MoJ procurement model:

Two features that are allowable within CRC contracts concern me, however. Some service users’ main contact with the CRC will be by telephone when in my view, individuals posing a risk to their families or the public should be supervised more actively. Those who are supervised face-to-face are often seen in open booths. This is not likely to encourage the candid exchanges sometimes necessary, and it does not provide sufficient privacy. I question these two aspects of the model and the funding constraints that encourage them.
She concludes in her, typically, direct style that it is not possible to operate a good quality public service without sufficient funding:
There is a simple truth here: to deliver well, all probation providers must be able to employ enough skilled staff, and then make sure they can give of their best. To do that, they need sufficient funding and the right priorities, systems and ways of working. Above all, staff need to be engaged and valued, in order to deliver well.

There have been 2 prison reports, HMP Brixton:-
Brixton was not a safe prison. Almost a third of prisoners told us they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and nearly two-thirds had felt unsafe at some point during their stay. Levels of violence had increased and were high, and the prison’s response had been wholly inadequate. The number of self-harm incidents had quadrupled since our last inspection. Care for those at risk of self-harm was generally poor and there were dangerous shortcomings in support procedures that needed immediate attention.
and HMP Pentonville:- 
What we found at this inspection was, in some ways, encouraging, with significant efforts made to address our previous criticisms. However, we continued to have significant concerns about poor outcomes, particularly for the safety of the prison. Levels of violence remained too high and some of it was serious, including a homicide in late 2016. There had been five self-inflicted deaths since our last inspection, and frailties in the case management and care for men vulnerable to suicide and selfharm were evident. Governance, reporting and quality assurance of security, adjudications and use of force needed attention to provide reassurance that poor behaviour was being identified, well managed and dealt with fairly. In contrast, there had been some proactive measures to address levels of disorder, and there were signs that this was having a positive impact. Additional investment, some of which followed two escapes in 2016, was supporting these early signs of improvement Work to limit the supply of drugs, and support for men with substance misuse problems, was well developed. Nevertheless, significant work was still needed to address our concerns about safety.

Here we have edited highlights from the latest blog post by the Napo General Secretary:-


For some time now we have been highlighting the appalling impact of the government pay freeze and the lack of cash to support the Probation pay agreement that dates back to 2008. I was not involved in those negotiations which were concluded just before I was appointed as AGS.

As you will hopefully have seen from the regular flow of material that we have been issuing to members, the principal difficulty with a pay structure of this nature is that it was predicated on the basis of cash being readily available to fund the progression system and had not factored in the possibility of a pay freeze which is effectively in its seventh year now.

Damning Data

This week the Office for National Statistics published their annual survey of earnings in the UK Labour Market and it makes for stark reading.


The tables and narrative are a ‘statto’s’ dream, but the key headline is that the pay of Probation Officers has shown a real time decrease of 22% (yes 22%) with comparator occupations in the last 7 years.

Click here for a not so pleasant illustration

So what’s to be done about it?

Winning the propaganda debate is just one part of a successful pay campaign but unfortunately it’s not going to be enough to deliver what is needed. While Napo has been engaged in promising pay discussions it will as usual be down to ministers to sign the cheque, and in the current post-election climate its anyone’s guess whether we will have a government with sufficient longevity for us to reach an agreement with, or that even if there is, they will see the pay of our members as top of the priority list.

That’s why I was especially encouraged at the recent meeting of your National Executive Committee (NEC) to hear a contribution that was reflecting the views of their constituency which clearly favoured the prospect of a ballot for industrial action should negotiations, to which we are certainly fully committed, hit the buffers.

Whilst the election returned the Tories as the largest party with the most seats, this has to be about the most pyrrhic ‘victory’ in British political history. For the clearest message to come from that part of the electorate which actually matters (the majority that did not vote Tory) is that they have had enough with austerity and the lies that are peddled in support of it.

It may be time for Napo members to step up to the plate sooner than we might think.

TUC applauds CRC stress survey

Always good to see the work of craft unions such as Napo, given a mention in TUC despatches and here is an extract from this week’s TUC Health and Safety news.

"Staff at a privatised probation company are suffering high levels of stress as a result of intensive, high paced work and unrealistic deadlines, a joint union survey has found.

Napo and UNISON represent staff employed in five Purple Futures Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) owned by Interserve. After privatisation in February 2015, Purple Futures introduced a new operational model that included ‘significant staffing cuts’, the unions say. They add that the changes led to a marked deterioration in working conditions, with occupational stress the top cause of sickness absence. The unions embarked on a survey to support their negotiations with management for improvements to work practices. They say the ‘striking findings’ of the study showed workers were being pressured into undertaking excessive work, over long hours at a high pace. Nine out of ten (89 per cent) respondents said that they often or always have to work very intensively and 79 per cent reported they often or always have to work very fast. Six out of ten (61 per cent) said they often or always have unrealistic time pressures. Almost half of all respondents reported they are unable to take sufficient breaks, are pressured to work long hours and often or always have unachievable deadlines.

Napo and UNISON are now calling on Purple Futures to follow Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines and establish a joint working group to oversee the stress identification and management process, and for this group to include adequate trade union representation. They are also calling on the company to “remove the triggers for stress in the workplace and provide a safe system of work for all Purple Futures staff in relation to workload” and to “ensure that individual and group stress risks assessment are completed and reviewed when necessary, and that trade union health and safety reps are involved in the risk assessment process”. They say the company should also “agree with the unions a workload management tool, which provides all staff with the reassurance that their workloads will be set according to strict criteria to protect both staff health and safety and public protection.”

Napo/UNISON stress survey report.

Good work by all involved and many thanks to the excellent response by our Purple Futures CRC members to the survey which, as can be seen, we will now seek to take forward with Interserve at the earliest opportunity.

Dame Glenys sets her sights on Sodexo

It’s quite interesting if not mildly amusing to hear some CRC owners complain that they have been singled out for criticism by HMI Probation in comparison to their competitors. As I see it they are all on the accountability list; it’s just a question of when the inspectorate gets round to your turn.

Here’s the latest on Sodexo and there is a reference among other things to those infernal and hugely discredited interview booths that we have been telling them for ages are unfit for purpose . I do hope that they take note.

“Two features that are allowable within CRC contracts concern me, however. Some service users’ main contact with the CRC will be by telephone when in my view, individuals posing a risk to their families or the public should be supervised more actively. Those who are supervised face-to-face are often seen in open booths. This is not likely to encourage the candid exchanges sometimes necessary, and it does not provide sufficient privacy. I question these two aspects of the model and the funding constraints that encourage them”.

The full report can be found here. http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/06/Suffolk-QI.pdf and we will be considering the recommendations.

That Michael Spurr letter on Attendance Management - Can NPS get their act together?

For some time our NPS Reps have been seemingly banging their heads against walls whilst trying to impress upon Divisional contacts that the letter from Michael Spurr to the unions in January gives a clear steer to managers about their discretion on whether to invoke trigger points.

Unfortunately it’s becoming increasingly clear that NPS divisions are not reading off the same hymn sheet and, by the look of it, haven’t seen the Michael Spurr letter either. Apparently lines need to be checked before this can happen.

That’s incredible to say the least so while others pontificate let me help cut through the red tape.

Letter from Michael Spurr


Finally, a request for assistance with some research:-

My name is Matthew Walker; I am a London-based master’s student enrolled in the MSc Public Policy and Administration programme at the London School of Economics.

I am conducting research on how the recent reconfiguration of probation services under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme has impacted probation staff’s levels of public service motivation. In order to advance my research, I reached out to my connections at an organisation I used to volunteer at (RAPt), and a former manager of a CRC who now works at RAPt recommended that I get in touch with you.

Public service motivation is defined as ‘the belief, values and attitudes that go beyond self-interest and organisational interest, that concern the interest of a larger political entity and that motivate individuals to act accordingly whenever appropriate’. Public service motivation has been shown to be linked to performance, sectoral preference, turnover-rate, job satisfaction, and incentive preference. A prevalent view in public service motivation literature is that the introduction of private sector values will have a deleterious effect on a workforce’s public service motivation. The focus of my study concerns whether or not the above statement holds true for Community Rehabilitation Company staff (in comparison with National Probation Service staff). Although public service motivation is an important issue in public administration, to my knowledge there is no prior study investigating PSM levels in the context of Transforming Rehabilitation.

I have prepared a survey designed to gauge employee's levels of public service motivation, which is up and running, and can be found at http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/transforming_rehabilitation_psm. All responses are anonymous, and the survey takes no more than five minutes to complete.

I believe that the data I am collecting may be of interest to your blog and to the probation service at large. I am therefore writing to inquire whether you might be willing to either host or circulate the survey I have developed.

I would be very grateful for your support, and would be happy to share my data and finished report in due course.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for your time.

Best wishes,
Matthew Walker


I'm off for a few days and not likely to have internet access, so as usual will leave it up to readers to keep us abreast of developments in the interim. Thanks. 

Friday, 16 June 2017

All Change At Working Links

"Phil Andrew Chief Executive of Working Links was instrumental in its take over by Aurelius. He has mysteriously left Working Links after telling CRC staff that he recognised there were some 'issues to resolve' and would see to it that their views were acted on. So the Aurelius/Working Links coalition of chaos continues and we are supposed to believe it is strong and stable. Strong and stable my arse!"

Here's that internal announcement in full:- 

Senior Management Team Changes

Good afternoon,

I am writing to tell you that Phil Andrew has left Working Links after four years with the company. Phil came to us from Sodexo and during his time with the business he has overseen a great deal of change including our transformation and fit for growth projects, and the acquisition of the company by Aurelius. We wish Phil all the best for the future. 

From today the company will be led by two permanent Managing Directors:
  • Brian Bell - Managing Director of Delivery and Growth
  • Steve Moon - Managing Director of Development and Planning
Brian will have accountability for operational delivery, operations support, business development and our International Consultancy Services and will focus on strategic direction, growth, performance quality and external relationships.

Steve will have accountability for all corporate support services as well as strategic partnerships and joint ventures, strategic direction and and governance, new business incubation, and mergers and acquisitions.

Two other new permanent appointments have been made to strengthen the Executive Team:
  • Steve Jones - Chief Operating Officer (COO) replacing Brian Bell. The Probation Directors, Country Managers, Jen Lawton and Liz Watkins will now report to Steve.
  • Raj Patel - Chief Finance Officer (CFO), Gill Newlove and Julie Simpson will report into Raj, along with his current finance team direct reports. 
Raj Patel, Stephen Denton and myself will report in to Steve Moon with Steve Jones, Colin Scott and Scott Kennedy reporting to Brian. We will also be recruiting for a Business Development Director who will report to Brian once an appointment has been made.

This is a new chapter for the business with optimism around seven new bid submissions, growing stability in our justice business, opportunities around new ways of working with work and health, improvements with new technology, and a new future strategy. There are however still challenges to face, with new government ministers potentially bringing a new political direction, the wind down of our existing Work Programme and Work Choice contracts, fully embedding the new operating model within the CRCs as well as our continued efforts to drive our new fit for growth ways of working.

If you have any questions about this communication please speak to your line manager or a member of the Executive Team.  

Best wishes

Clare Davey
Chief HR Officer                

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Napo - The Future

As indicated by Napo General Secretary last week in his blog, big changes are afoot within the union and I'm grateful to the member for sharing the following lengthy, but important document:-


PRIDE in Napo – A Strategy for Growth (2017 to 2021)


There has never been a greater need for a united, positive, professional voice to speak up for probation and family courts - drawn from an active and engaged community of members with credible local leaders who make THE difference with employers to improve the working environment at all levels. In short – there has never been a greater need for Napo.

Yet our environment has never been more difficult and uncertain. Both probation and family courts have been hit by earthquakes with more after-shocks to come. Across probation and family courts our members and potential members have never been more vulnerable and the future of what the professions do and how they do it has never been so unclear. Demands and pressure on staff at all levels has increased whilst rewards have been frozen. In the earthquake, Napo’s organisational structures have been badly damaged and the remaining structures look unstable. In this new environment, doing things as Napo did before isn’t working and can’t work.

Napo needs to change not what we are for or why we do things but what we do and how we do it – and we need to change quickly to capitalise on huge opportunities emerging on the near horizon:

  • HMPPS – Rehabilitation has, in theory at least, moved to the centre of political debate with the attention of political decision makers and the potential for additional resources. But these aspirations can only be met if probation professionals translate these aims into tangible, joined-up and practical plans for people who know little about what successful rehabilitation needs. Only Napo is in a position to provide the co-ordinated professional voice across all levels of the service. With Employers confused and panicked Napo are well placed to hugely influence the future landscape. In particular, we must ensure that community provision isn’t lost in prison centric modelling, and demand that CRC’s are brought closer into the plans. We’ll also need to lead a values and culture battle inside prisons. The value of professional expertise must be recognised and supported. We need to be demanding that regulation and accountability is adequate and resonates across the communities we serve – with national standards being locally delivered. 
  • PAY - There has to be significant probation wide pay reform. HMPPS has already exposed the faults undermining the broken pay system. These are further amplified and complicated by introducing private sector competition in the CRC’s. Napo is leading the reform discussions and a successful outcome can help show the collective value of union membership. Its already clear that a 'pay market‘ has opened up between the NPS and CRC’s.
  • CRC’s – With new negotiating and bargaining arrangements across CRC’s Napo can establish a new relationship with local Employers, members and potential members. The CRC’s remain acutely vulnerable financially and politically, with repeated criticism from HMI Probation reports and mounting local pressure from PCC’s and Regional Mayors wanting a slice of the action. The CRC’s need our expertise, help and input. This can be exploited – we can get better outcomes for members and better access to non-members.
  • CAFCASS – Cafcass have recognised their workload crisis. Senior management have acknowledged the value of Napo’s ability to politically challenge and influence debate in ways closed to them. They want to work more closely with us in their external battles and this is opening opportunities for internal gains – better access to non-members, help with raising Napo’s profile and access to line managers and better outcomes in representations. But Napo must be ready to build on this momentum.
WINNING FOR MEMBERS INDIVIDUALLY – With the NPS HR system having all but collapsed, CRC’s not knowing what they’re doing professionally, and Cafcass running on empty there are huge numbers of practical individual problems that members are encountering. The need and demand for Napo’s ‘employment insurance’ has never been more evident. Napo are winning many battles locally that we can highlight to show the increasingly obvious difference we’re making.

HQ MOMENTUM – Napo has already been reviewing and changing how we work at HQ. Our move from Chivalry Road has increased staff flexibility and team working. Investment in staff training means people are ready to help secure Napo’s future. But we need the resources and tools to make changes to how we work so we can respond more quickly, flexibly and in particular embed the principle of ‘Members First’ and a ‘Members Voice’ in everything we do. The sale of Chivalry Road provides potential to invest to grow.


In comparison to many unions, Napo has a huge advantage. Our model and values are already founded upon political independence and individuals having a direct say in what their organisation prioritises and how they do things. Napo is unique in having this embedded in our core values. We are also of a size where maximising and retaining these qualities is genuinely viable. Putting our members at the centre of everything we do and how we do it; and testing and measuring the success on member feedback and reaction must continue to define Napo.

But we can and must do this differently and better. Our current processes and structures are redundant. They don’t work effectively enough. For Napo to survive this needs to be recognised and addressed quickly – not only so that we don’t miss the opportunities on the near horizon but because the maths tell us if we don’t start operating soon the patient will die.

Napo is running at a deficit. We spend more than our income. Even with additional reserves from the sale of Chivalry Road this can’t go on forever. Short term scope for further savings are possible – staffing numbers could be cut; the professional journals could be closed; resources to branches that are struggling to function could be cut. But these measures will only accelerate the decline, making it harder to re-engage and grow. Without a change in how we operate Napo will soon have neither the resource or the size and credibility to meet our aims and values. At that point, most probably by being swallowed by a larger generalist union, Napo’s capacity will be reduced to reactive representation of individuals and at best protesting from the side-lines.

Alternatively we can invest to grow. Monies from the sale of Chivalry Road can be utilised to fill the key strategic gaps and help Napo to change how we operate. New ICT systems can be bought in that facilitate better direct communication with members, support internal conversations and networks, and help Napo better record and measure what we’re doing to increase efficiency and effectiveness; better and more frequent training and support can be delivered for local representatives, with coaching and development pathways – our volunteers should be seen as a full-part of Napo’s team; leadership support from HQ can be better aligned to support a new operating model.

By investing to grow and changing how we deliver on our values we can start to recover the investment from being more efficient and targeting resources more effectively.

However, talking about investing to grow isn’t enough. Napo will not survive by wishful thinking and current leaders can’t expect to be given precious resources if they don’t have a credible, strategic plan. Equally, how the plan is costed and developed, implemented, measured and reviewed should in itself be a symbol of Napo’s values and a demonstration of how Napo will be operating in the new environment.


Change is always difficult and people will naturally be sceptical. Research from studies of successful and unsuccessful change programmes shows that if our people are to join in and help deliver Napo’s change they need to not only know and understand what, how and why things are changing but they need to have total confidence that these changes are anchored firmly to Napo values – they need to believe that they will work.

The same research consistently recommends that the values underpinning change are captured in a ways they can then be translated, measured and tested consistently as the plans are rolled out. This not only maintains momentum, understanding and confidence but allows for people to be given greater freedom and flexibility to tweak exactly how the aims are translated in their part of the plan – thus lowering barriers to momentum, re-enforcing the habits and behaviours core to Napo’s values and maximising the chances of success.

To achieve this we are proposing launching the change programme under the banner ‘PRIDE in Napo’. PRIDE translates as:
  • POSITIVE – Proactive, understanding and championing what members do. Looking for opportunities. 
  • RELEVANT – Testing whether what we do, how we do it and why we do it, is making a difference for members.
  • INCLUSIVE – Actively listening and seeking different inputs, seeking partnerships for common interest whilst retaining our independence.
  • DEMANDING – of Employers and of ourselves, for our members and those they serve.
  • ETHICAL – Welcoming accountability, and diversity, promoting openness and always behaving in ways that reflect Napo values.
These can be headline tests for how we act and operate with employers, members, potential members, partner organisations and each other. They can provide a framework for more detailed translation in conversations between Napo leaders and partners at all levels, underpinning a coaching model of performance development and accountability; and informing new training and personal development programmes.

As a way of rolling out and refining these values to ordinary members and non-members, research also strongly suggests that there is merit in re-defining a new contract with members. This could be re-enforced with an annual update and personalised summary of Napo’s achievements, issued with an invite to the AGM and a check of their details from 2018. This could also incorporate feedback – with positive feedback being used to feed recruitment and negative feedback being reflected upon. This new contract would capture the PRIDE values.


PRIDE in Napo: Members

We know what we think our members and potential members want but recruitment rates suggest that we’re either getting this wrong or that we’re not delivering on our aims or communicating them well enough to reach all potential members. We need to provide more focussed effort if members themselves are to put more effort into helping their union. We need a much better understanding of what members and non-members expect and want from their Napo membership (1). We know our strength rests in being a direct professional voice for members but we also know we don’t have the levels of internal, on-going dialogue to be sure we are really representative in all areas. We don’t know that all members even know what we are already doing for them (2 & 3). We don’t know if all members know how they can join in the Napo conversation. We need to provide more opportunities for members to talk to us and each other (4, 5 & 6). We also know we are not currently reaching non-members regularly and inviting them to join in (7).


1) Conduct a members’ survey in the summer of 2017, reporting before the AGM to inform the 2018 Napo Plan

2) Full member information audit by the AGM

3) Establish a national communication programme (e.g. fortnightly all members’ news bulletins and e-polls / Reps and advocates specific information sheets, accessible and signposted on the web / more Napo wide celebrations / specific training in communications / lobbying employers to remove access barriers to staff communications, including developing local protocols)

4) Use ICT to organise and develop member conversations and internal dialogue across Napo and between particular self-identifying interest groups, via Networks (piloting for Managers and prison based members) and better use of internal social media - with HQ leading by recruiting network champions and local advocates, coaching and promoting; utilising better ICT systems and Napo’s track record of ‘Monitoring’ for ensuring dignified conversations.

5) Fill the need for positive conversation about what we do and why, via different local events, such as ‘Probation Meets’.

6) Review how we can bring local advocates and representatives together effectively and efficiently.

7) Pilot a non-members survey across Cafcass in parallel to the members’ survey.

PRIDE in Napo: Local leaders and champions

Like all voluntary organisations, Napo relies upon having a cadre of local Representatives, Champions and Advocates. This is even more the case with 24 employers to engage with in a model that is member driven rather than top down. Whilst it is critical that Representatives are not asked to negotiate very complex issues (such as pay) and for National Officers and Officials to directly support local negotiations, it is vital that Representatives are able to take day-to-day responsibility for co-ordinating and leading local Napo activity. However, we know we currently have significant gaps. Napo is under-investing in training and development of our local reps and under-valuing our local volunteers. In a new model, they should be brought more formally into Napo systems and supported more proactively. Those with evident ability in negotiations should be developed, encouraged and advanced, where possible helping fill gaps across their region or employer. Napo also need to accept that not all representatives will want to or could do all of the traditional Rep functions. Volunteers should direct and shape what we ask of them in line with their skillsets with Napo adapting not dictating. Others unions (e.g. PCS) have found that by providing flexible job descriptions and local structures they can recruit more advocates. By having a structured process after ‘recruitment’ that identifies skills, enthusiasms and interests, Advocates can hit the ground running and quickly make a difference, aiding retention and growth. Different pathways for those who like communication, representation or recruitment, supported by improved access to themed, relevantly pitched training, also increases effectiveness.


8) Develop a common induction programme for all new volunteers where they can direct what they want to do and achieve, and establish a personal goals and development plan for all Reps in conversation with the link National Officer, aligned to the principles of the new Napo Performance Development Coaching model.

9) Develop flexible job descriptions for different levels of Advocates, Representatives and Champions during the summer of 2017 in consultation with existing Reps.

10) In parallel, identify recruitment strengths and work with employers to maximise their effectiveness via facility time and operational flexibility. In particular, look to secure Regional Reps and Owner-wide Reps in probation and Cafcass who can take more complex local cases and coach other advocates.

11) Conduct local representation and skills audits between September and December 2017 to inform the roll out of a new Napo Training programme (utilising GFTU and bespoke Napo training, and looking where credible to work in partnership with other non-competitor unions)

12) Roll out new reporting and recording processes to help Napo know what is happening where, using improved ICT processes.

13) Celebrate branch successes locally and nationally through awards, developed in consultation with members and current reps.

14) Create opportunities for on-going coaching and training around themed masterclasses, webinars and workshops on issues such as pay, pensions, promoting diversity, performance management, etc. with the themes chosen in consultation with Reps and advocates.

15) Utilise the NEC to support advocates, identifying mentors and role models.

PRIDE in Napo: National support and guidance

To co-ordinate this effectively and efficiently however, Napo centrally needs to be better able to know what is going on locally – including monitoring facility time, casework themes and outcomes, organising activities etc. The correct balance has to be struck between intervention and support and allowing a degree of local freedom, autonomy and room to innovate…Napo can’t do dictatorship! But that also means that Reps, especially those working for Napo using facility time, are able to take responsibility for what they have said they can and want to achieve. This should be supported by link National Officers and Officials taking on coaching and mentoring roles, as well as via better ICT processes to record data so that Napo can tailor activity and identify priorities in a more effective and efficient way.


16) Finalise the new Napo Performance, Development and Coaching system for Napo staff to replace our old Annual Development Review including training for coaches during the summer of 2017 so that concepts can be piloted in willing branches in Autumn 2017, before roll out in 2018 across Napo.

17) Adopt a national facility time recording plan, to be supported by improved integrated ICT systems.

18) Use some of the existing Organising Fund to encourage innovative local engagement activities, such as pilots for Probation Meets.

PRIDE in Napo: Accountability, Sharing and Innovation

In turn, member and local advocates and representatives feedback should be a central part of Napo’s ability to measure how we’re doing, feeding into the new performance development and coaching model for all staff – informing our strategic plan, staff training and resource planning, and being used to highlight and celebrate success (see 13). Being able to respond quickly to HQ skills gaps is also critical (19 and 20). Staff who do not wish to adapt to a shift in their roles should be given an early opportunity to opt-out on reasonable and dignified terms (21), with this being managed in a way that doesn’t leave Napo unable to deliver the new strategy.

Napo has also started to make better use of existing partnerships – for example the GFTU. In looking to be more effective and more efficient we should look to develop opportunities to access and share best practice with others who share our broader aims, goals and values. A good example is the new partnership with the AEP which is helping to sustain the National Representative panel, promote better practice in other areas and potentially provide Napo with a new income stream (22). Another example is the networking contacts gained via Unions21, as well as access to their shared research if we became corporate members (23). An exception is our continued membership of the TUC where we must, in all honesty, question the current value for members’ money (24).

Out of improved dialogue across Napo we anticipate identifying other ideas and opportunities to test further innovations – for example, our adoption of agency members is already providing a return. Identified opportunities already include supporting the implementation of a probation wide License to Practice, which could provide an income. AEP have also highlighted how they make use of advertising jobs to generate revenue; whilst other professional associations could show us how to reduce the cost of our AGM through more comprehensive professional sponsorship. To develop these ideas more quickly and ethically more NEC members and members need to be involved (22 and 23).


19) Set up a new Napo Development and Growth Fund, overseen by a new General Purposes and Resources sub-Committee of the NEC which would be in effect in permanent session. Informed by the General Secretary, elected Officers and the Pride in Napo principles resources could be allocated quickly to accelerate change.

20) Agree in principle to utilise this new Development and Growth Fund to meet identified skills gaps following a staff skills audit in the summer of 2017; and likewise local reps and advocates skills gaps via a quarterly report based upon local skills audits, inductions and local PDC conversations.

21) Give permission for the General Secretary to explore if there are staff who do not wish to continue being part of Napo’s on-going journey with reasonable but fair and consistent offers to allow dignified exits where possible, without impacting upon Napo’s ability to deliver our strategies.

22) Instruct the GS and AGS to continue to explore opportunities to develop joint working with other unions, in particular in training and Rep development and/or research, reporting to and being directed by the new General Purposes and Resources sub-Committee (see 16) and the elected Officer group.

23) Affiliate Napo to Unions21 at a competitive rate, to be negotiated by the AGS who already supports their work via their Advisory Committee.

24) Task the GS with discussing the TUC’s current offer to Napo with the TUC with a view to either improving value for money or considering withdrawal, with the GS reporting back to the NEC in 2017.

PRIDE in Napo: Employers

As stated above, our Employers need Napo as much as we need them. There are opportunities to maximise benefits from this mutual self-interest in the coming months. Critical to these will be resources for members. Whilst facility time is not and cannot be a pre-requisite to union activity, local advocates and Representatives cannot be expected to fulfil the roles the employers require without their proactive support. National HQ needs to co-ordinate and lead on negotiations to secure adequate, appropriate access to facility time and resources as a priority (25). This should include efforts to embed the structured and flexible representative framework set out in the new model (e.g. regional and company-wide lead Representatives). Those reps must also agree to suitable accountability mechanisms by supporting a new facility time and case monitoring system to be developed by Napo HQ for piloting in late summer 2017 (see 14).


25) Using a national model developed by HQ and approved by elected Officers, National Officers after input from Napo Officials will prioritise negotiations with employers around securing appropriate, flexible facility time and resources agreements.


This is a comprehensive, holistic strategy. The 25 recommendations fit together and support each other, although they do not exclude other ideas and not all are ‘business critical’. Although it would be useful to approve the strategy as a whole so that this forms “the Plan” which will be constantly under review, the NEC does not necessarily need to approve all of the 25 proposals at once, particularly as some are dependent upon other things happening. Indeed, they may feel some of the proposals are not necessary at all.

However, some proposals are facilitators – without these other things can’t happen. This final section aims to order and group the proposals and identify the key, urgent business critical decision that must be taken as soon as possible to facilitate rolling out The Plan.

These decisions will need to be taken at the next NEC meeting, if there is to be any momentum ahead of this year’s Napo AGM and the critical opportunities on the near horizon are to be utilised. To assist in maximising debate and discussion ahead of the full NEC on 22nd June the concepts behind the plan will be introduced and discussed at the meeting on 6th June.

If this timetable slips then we will be behind schedule and risk being too rigid which will mean that we miss opportunities as they emerge later in 2017. If we miss these opportunities and get further entrenched in reactive problems into 2018 then the opportunity will pass and 2018 will not be about growth but how we manage Napo’s decline and demise.


  • Proposal 19: Set up a Napo Development and Growth Fund overseen by a new NEC General Purposes and Resources sub-Committee
  • Proposal 4: Use better ICT to change how we communicate.
  • Proposal 16: Finalise the new Napo Performance, Development and Coaching system
  • Proposal 9: Develop flexible job descriptions across Napo including for local advocates and representatives
  • Proposal 18: Adopt a National facility time recording plan
  • Proposal 25: Prioritise negotiation for appropriate local resources
  • Proposal 10: Look to secure Regional Reps and Company-wide Reps and train them in becoming coaching advocates
  • Proposal 20: Identify skills gaps supported by Proposal 11 – a local skills audit 
  • Proposal 1: Conduct a members’ survey before the AGM
  • Proposal 2: Conduct full members’ information audit by the AGM
  • Proposal 7: Parallel non-members pilot survey in Cafcass
  • Proposal 21: Explore if there are Napo staff who do not want to stay and seek to negotiate exits without impacting on Napo’s ability to deliver our strategy
  • Proposal 23: Affiliate to Unions21
  • Proposal 3: Establish a national communication programme
  • Proposal 14: Create opportunities for on-going coaching and training, including themed masterclasses, webinars etc.
  • Proposal 12: Roll out new reporting and recording processes using improved ICT
  • Proposal 8: Develop a common induction programme for Reps and advocates
  • Proposal 5: Fill the need for positive conversations through local events such as Probation Meets / Proposal 18: specifically by using the Organising Fund
  • Proposal 13: Celebrate successes through developing awards, in consultation with members and Reps.
  • Proposal 15: Utilise the NEC to support advocates, including mentoring and role models.
  • Proposal 22: Instruct GS and AGS to continue to explore opportunities for joint working with other unions
  • Proposal 6: Review how and when we bring advocates and Representatives together effectively and efficiently
  • Proposal 24: Task GS with discussing the TUC’s VFM, to produce a report back to the NEC