Monday, 3 April 2017

Goodbye Nightmare - Hello HMPAPS

So, on the first day of rebranding, whilst we soak up the fake hype on being officially subsumed into the Prison Service and grimace at an unfortunate acronym (who remembers the possibility of being CRAPO?), lets join with John Podmore writing on the Justice Gap website and reflect on the passing of NOMS:- 

A farewell to NOMS: We need more than a name change

As Secretary of State Liz Truss announces the demise of the National Offender Management Service, few will mourn its passing. NOMS, known as the Nightmare on Marsham Street after its initial prestigious Westminster location, was born on 1 June 2004 following a review by Labour peer Lord Carter.

There was a prison crisis even then with the prison population having risen by over 60% in the previous decade. Home Secretaries Michael Howard, Jack Straw and David Blunkett had seen to that with their ever more ‘tough on crime’ policies and sentences. Blunkett’s kafkaesque Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection was perhaps Government’s most grotesque act of penal mismanagement, the effects of which still plague the prison system today.

The first NOMS Chief Executive was Martin Narey, rapidly succeeded by Helen Edwards, the first and last person in a senior position in the organisation with a probation service background.

For those of us running prisons at the time there was some initial enthusiasm. Declared principals of ‘end to end offender management’ made sense. Many prisoners were repeat offenders, most would eventually be released at some point, so bringing together prisons and probation, the custodial and community parts of the justice system, seemed eminently sensible.

We were however, naive over other key phrases emanating from Carter’s report: commissioners, providers and above all contestability. We had little idea what was to come in the form of contracted services that we as Governors would have no control of. Over the early years we had Regional Offender Managers (ROMS) which were quickly replaced by Directors of Offender Management (DOMS). The management of public sector prisons however remained under a separate prison service director, Phil Wheatley.

The prison crisis continued unabated with the prison population continuing to increase and controversies over foreign national prisoners seeing the end of Home Secretary Charles Clark’s career. John Reid succeeded Clark, by May 2007 Government had concluded that the Home Office was too unwieldy and disaster prone. Courts, prison and probation were hived off to form a new Ministry of Justice with Jack Straw back in the driving seat for justice.

By January of the following year, Phil Wheatley became CEO of NOMS with responsibility for all aspects of prison and probation. The prison service effectively annexed the probation service and probation expertise became increasingly marginalised. Michael Spurr replaced Wheatley in 2010 at which point the coalition took charge. Ken Clark briefly talked sense on reducing prisoner numbers and was summarily sacked for his efforts. While Clark had seen mass privatisation as the way forward his successor Chris Grayling demanded more rapid cost savings and slashed staffing numbers. The result is well documented and the prison system is now in its most parlous state for decades.

Politicians must take some of the blame but under them NOMS became a bureaucratic behemoth emasculating prison governors under a deluge of dictates. Demands for a better prison system have conflated sentencing and prison reform. They are separate; the former political dynamite, the latter long overdue. David Cameron and Michael Gove showed in the 2015 Queen’s speech that they understood that NOMS was part of the problem. The architects of top down managerialism were hardly likely to effect the change to governor autonomy and localism that was now recognised as essential. Swept away on the Brexit tsunami, Cameron and Gove have handed the baton to May and Truss.

For Truss the jury is still out. A few thousand new staff is a mere sticking plaster on a gaping wound. The establishment of a National Prison and Probation Service may just herald the cultural change so desperately needed. But as Truss has acknowledged, it is a long way back. Grayling’s treatment of probation was tantamount to going on to the battlefield and bayonetting the wounded. Community Rehabilitation Companies are slowly being revealed as the car crash everyone predicted.

And we now have flagship prisons such as Manchester and Belmarsh that no current prison governor wants to take on and at a basic salary of £65K remain unattractive to outsiders. If we are to have safe and decent prisons it will be Governors who will deliver them. Some out there are already doing so. Other are struggling. There are individuals working in health, education and business who we need to attract to a vital service. They need to paid at least as much as head teachers and above all be allowed to look downwards to their staff and prisoners and outwards to the communities they serve but not upwards to crushing bureaucracies intent on command and control.

NOMS was never an organisation that its employees proudly declared they belonged to. Creating a National Prison and Probation Service that people aspire to join and importantly to stay in and develop skills and careers is an important step forward. But it must be much more than just name change.


  1. Not sure that CRAPO is any worse then Her Majesty's PAPS.

  2. Working splints have reduced staff by 40% but guess what? A further unexpected exodus of staff who were just plain fed up so either took early retirement, got another job or just resigned means, da,da, we are now short staffed in some areas and need to recruit!

    1. Although interswerve did not cut front line staff many of them resigned due to the shitty treatment and poor working conditions, and they too are not recruiting can't afford it rather keep all the £££££ themselves.

      Does anyone know if staff got paid in London.

    2. Working links newest venture.


    3. A NEW skills programme aims to give 650 unemployed people the skills needed to find work in Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire and Dorset.

      Employment and skills provider Working Links is working with Wiltshire College to deliver the LEAP (Linking Employers and People) programme, serving up short accredited courses in customer service, IT, employability, enterprise and food safety.

      Working Links will also deliver a longer health and wellbeing course designed to support people with health barriers on their journey towards work. The organisation can even run flexible, bespoke courses for specific groups such as lone parents, people who’ve been made redundant or those aged 50 or over.

      To be eligible, people need to be aged 19 or over, unemployed, have not achieved any similar qualification before and live in Wiltshire, Somerset, Gloucestershire or Wiltshire. The programmes are funded through the Skills Funding Agency.

      Working Links performance manager Brian Mair said: “This is a great new programme for anyone looking to enhance their skills as they progress towards the labour market.

      "The courses generally last between one and two weeks and have proved really successful in the other areas of the country where we’ve ran them.”

    4. Those supervised by Working Links will be referred to this wonderful programme making two outcomes from one person.
      They'll be given money by the Skills Funding Agency, to do the things the MoJ are paying them for.

  3. Hey there, eager beaver. Wanna be in a video? We're hoping for Danny Boyle or Ben Wheatley...

  4. Procurement Notice

    "The Ministry of Justice is seeking expressions of interest from providers to manage the temporary recruitment of agency probation workers to provide cover in the event of short- or long-term absence to handle additional workload to write Pre Sentence Reports (PSRs) and to temporarily fill vacancies whilst recruitment is taking place. These will be qualified Senior Probation Officers, Probation Officers and Probation Services Officers not currently employed (at the time of their appointment) by the National Probation Service and any other body providing probation services to or on behalf of the Secretary of State.

    The requirement will cover probation locations across England and Wales and is currently anticipated to be split into Lots based on geographic regions. Suppliers bidding on a Lot must be capable of delivering the service within the whole of that geographic region."

    1. And another new idea up for tender:

      "The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is an agency within the Ministry of Justice. Its role is to commission and provide services in the community and in custody ensuring best value for money from public resources. NOMS anticipates establishing a framework agreement for the provision of services which will include the input and involvement of individuals who have direct experience of the Criminal Justice System. Utilising the valuable experience of service users will be an essential element of the requirement of any and all contracts let from this framework. Service user involvement entails the incorporation of users' views and experience in the planning, development, execution, management and / or evaluation of services. One example of the type of service that is anticipated will be required by NOMS is for the establishment and running of a Prison Council. Requirements will be determined on a prison by prison basis, subject to need and available resource. Contracts let from the framework will vary in size, value and duration. It is anticipated that the number of contracts let off the framework will increase gradually over the duration of the framework."

    2. Anon 6:33 Is that a recent Procurement Notice? Any chance of a link please? Thanks.

    3. It was opened in 2016 but not yet awarded. Try searching 'probation supply contract' - I've already binned thus morning's history, sorry.

  5. Failed Troubled Families Unit is now being rebranded (like noms, perhaps?) with new focus. I love this quote:

    Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green, said: "I don't want any child to be defined by the circumstances of their birth."

    Oh my...