Sunday, 2 April 2017

Select Committee Special 4

The transcripts of evidence given to the Justice Committee on Tuesday in relation to their half-hearted inquiry into the TR omnishambles have been published and here we have that given by the unions:-

Witnesses: Ian Lawrence and Ben Priestley.

Q159 Chair: Mr Lawrence and Mr Priestley, thanks very much for coming to assist us with the inquiry. For the record, could you introduce yourselves and your organisation?

Ian Lawrence: My name is Ian Lawrence. I am the general secretary of NAPO, which is the trade union and professional association for probation and family court workers.

Ben Priestley: Good morning. My name is Ben Priestley. I am a national officer with Unison, a public sector trade union. We represent members working in both the National Probation Service and the 21 CRCs.

Keith Vaz: Chair, may I declare an interest? I am a member of Unison.

Q160 Chair: Thank you for mentioning that, Mr Vaz.

Gentlemen, there is a problem with transforming rehabilitation. It seems generally accepted that things are not going as people would wish and that there are difficulties and challenges. How do you think that has come about? Where does the responsibility lie? What caused us to get into this challenging situation, and what do you think is the way out of it, in a nutshell?

Ian Lawrence: We forecast some time ago that there would be difficulties with the programme, even though we felt that there were elements of it that were useful. We asked the MOJ to look carefully at the likely impacts. We felt that our representations fell on deaf ears. It was pushed through politically and expediently. Many of the problems that you see now are because of the haste with which it was implemented.

Q161 Chair: Did you raise those issues when it was brought in?

Ian Lawrence: Indeed we did. Secondly, the CRC estate and the owners of CRCs have had their own difficulties. It would not be fair to blame everything on them. There are a number of things that they could have done better, but the way the contracts were predicated has not helped matters.

Q162 Chair: Mr Priestley, what is your take on how it has come about?

Ben Priestley: It is very clear from the way our members feel about their work and what they have been through in the last two or three years that the blame for what has happened to probation must be laid at the door of the Government of the day. There was no support anywhere, from any organisation that had anything to do with the probation service, for the transforming rehabilitation reforms. There may have been some support among some of the private companies that hoped to benefit from it, presumably financially, but you would have been hard-pressed to find any other proponents of it. Some of the voluntary and charitable bodies that hoped to get some work out of it soon became disillusioned. As we now know, the vast majority of the work was hoovered up by large multinational outsourcing companies.

Ian mentioned the haste with which it was done. As Paul mentioned, the idea that you would take the existing budget and use it to expand the service quite radically to supervision of service users leaving prison after short-term sentences, at the same time as maintaining all the existing provision and making whatever profit or cut the private companies wanted, was always going to be a real difficulty.

There was no agreement between the Ministry of Justice and the trade unions about how the service was to be split. At the 11th hour, the trade unions were sitting around a table with the Government to sort out the split of the workforce, and the Ministry of Justice, in effect, torpedoed those talks. We ended up with a situation where an almost arbitrary 50:50 split was put in place and hurried through. That left the community rehabilitation companies with more staff than they needed, apparently, although we would probably contest that, and the National Probation Service with fewer staff. The companies that had inherited or bought the contracts then set about reducing their workforces by between 20% and 40%, centralising a lot of services. The reality was that they had to do what they did in order to make their cut, I guess, but the blame clearly has to be laid at the Government’s door.

Q163 Chair: Was there Ministry involvement in the talks where you discussed the split and so on? Was it just Government officials?

Ian Lawrence: Yes, but not for some months. It was a very frustrating experience.

Chair: Understood.

Q164 Mr Hanson: Welcome, colleagues. Following on from the Chair’s comments, do you think the Government were aware of the elements of risk in the proposal? You said that, in your view, the consequences are a result of Government policy and that there is some responsibility on the CRCs. The issues are about case load estimation, incentive design and through-the-gate resettlement. Was there an awareness by both parties—Government and CRCs—that there was a risk that some of those things could go wrong?

Ian Lawrence: I think the CRCs were misled, to be brutally honest with you, in terms of what the contracts were based on—the data on which they were based and the envelope in which they were expected to work financially. However, they bought the contracts in full knowledge of that. We urged the Ministry and the former Justice Secretary to run a pilot scheme before implementing it. We could have tested it thoroughly and seen what the pitfalls and the commercial aspects were. Everybody would have been better informed as a result.

Q165 Mr Hanson: Misled is a very strong term. Do you think they were inadvertently misled? Was it to do with the speed of the process and not thinking it through, or was there a genuine understanding that there were going to be problems, but once the contracts were signed it was up to CRCs to sort them out?

Ian Lawrence: Overwhelmingly, the view of our members, Mr Hanson, is that it was politically expedient.

Mr Hanson: Mr Priestley?

Ben Priestley: On the issue of the contracts, and what was or what wasn’t in them and the discussions that took place between the client—in this case, the Ministry of Justice—and the contractors, it is of course impossible for us to know. That is commercially confidential information that you may be able to get hold of, in your capacity here, but we cannot, because that information is denied to us, as indeed it is to the general public. That may remain a mystery forever more. What we now know is that there appears to have been a mismatch.

The difficulty that we now have—I am sure we will come back to this in relation to the probation system review—is the question of how that is to be resolved. Is it to be resolved simply by throwing more good public money after bad? I hope we get a chance to reflect on that, in particular. It would be very helpful if we were able to have a better insight into the commercial undertakings that were given, because at the moment it is a mystery.

Q166 Mr Hanson: Finally, do you think that the CRCs’ eyes should have been slightly wider open when they went into the contracts?

Ian Lawrence: We could only do our best to warn about the consequences. They had their own commercial agendas and different reasons for getting involved in the whole process—some of them quite honourable, I am sure. There was enough of a warning sign out there for them to pause and maybe question the MOJ a bit more about what they were purchasing.

Ben Priestley: What we know, as I mentioned, is that all the small and medium-sized enterprises fell away relatively quickly during the competition, probably for the reasons that Ian mentioned. They probably saw the writing on the wall. Two big multinational companies now run half the community rehabilitation companies. They captured that. Those of us who work in the field probably have the sense that those companies were taking on the contracts as a loss leader. As you are well aware, two large companies were barred from bidding, having been involved in some difficult relationships with the MOJ—in fact, Chris Grayling had relieved them of their contracts—so the field was slightly smaller than it would otherwise have been. There was a kind of “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” frame. They are companies that probably wanted to get into the field of rehabilitation. They are large companies, with very deep pockets. To that degree, they were probably willing to take the risk, even if they probably did not know at the time what the risks were.

Q167 Kate Green: Since transforming rehabilitation came in, we have seen a rise in the number of recalls as a result of offenders breaching supervision requirements. I wonder what your members are saying about what might be going on in the CRCs. On the one hand, are there deficiencies in the capacity to supervise properly? On the other hand, are CRCs disincentivised from breaching because of the payment-by-results model?

Ian Lawrence: There are a number of factors—far too many to cover in the time available. You have to look at a number of issues, principally case load. I may differ from previous witnesses on this, as our members say that case loads are increasing. It seems that there is an issue between the CRCs and the judiciary on the efficacy of the sentences handed out and the capacity of CRCs to undertake rehabilitation activity requirements, for example. There is anecdotal evidence that there is some pressure on people not to recall. I have yet to see it documented. Possibly, because of the financial pressures on the CRCs, they have to focus on their principal targets.

The key thing for us is the fundamental difficulty with the payment-by-results mechanism. That has to be addressed before you will start to make a difference in how things are done locally and in the NPS. At CRC level, we need urgent review of the funding mechanism, to allow CRCs to do what they contracted to do. They tell me that many of them are suffering a 30% or 40% decrease in income at the minute.

Ben Priestley: Recently, we did a very quick survey of our members. We did it partly in order to inform our appearance here, but we would be very happy to provide it to you, Chair, and I may touch on some of it elsewhere. The answer to your question around breaches is complicated, as Ian said, but one of the things that came through very clearly from our survey is that the CRCs cannot get the breaches into court in time, because of problems with staffing, delays in administrative systems and delays in IT. Once those breaches get into the system, they are rejected because they are simply out of time. That is something the Committee may want to look at in a little more detail. I do not have the detail of how that works, but you will be able to interrogate the community rehabilitation companies around it. Ian mentioned case load, which is clearly also a problem. I do not think that it is just about disincentives for the CRCs; it is about their administrative inability to get the paperwork to the courts in due time.

Q168 Kate Green: Are you picking up any pressure on your members from the CRCs to behave in a particular way?

Ian Lawrence: One of the pressures members report they are under is not to take annual leave when they want it. Many of them are under such pressure that they are working their own hours; they are working weekends in order to meet targets. You can understand that, as they have pride in what they do, but it cannot go on forever. It will not get the results that the CRCs or any provider wants if staff are driven into a stress situation.

Ben Priestley: I will quote an anonymous member. He or she says, “Constant changes in systems processes that rarely work. Everything takes twice as long. Ongoing IT problems that impact on ability to manage case load effectively. Poor communication with NPS at the point of sentence results in misallocation of cases and time delays in completing initial sentence plans. The emphasis appears to be on quantity and not quality. The whole organisation feels like it operates on a crisis basis, making things up as it goes along.” That is from a member working for a CRC. It goes on and on and on. That is a common refrain.

I would really like to get across to the Committee that for those who work in the service this is a heartbreaking situation. These are professionals who, in many cases, have worked for a considerable period of time in probation and have seen their organisation torn apart, in an experiment that nobody said would work. Frankly, everyone knew at the time that it would fail. All the evidence is there for the Committee to look at, in the words of warning that NAPO, Unison and others put forward.

Staff do not feel valued. They are under pressure, both in the National Probation Service and in the community rehabilitation companies. In fact, in the survey we have just completed, over 50% of National Probation Service staff say they never feel valued at work, which is higher than the percentage of community rehabilitation company staff—about 42%—who say that. It is a desperate time for our members. They really want their voice to be heard at this time.

Chair: If you could share that survey, where appropriate, we would be very grateful to you, Mr Priestley. That is great.

Q169 Victoria Prentis: Where do we go from here? Mr Priestley mentioned that you would like to see the contracts, effectively, with the commercial providers. How would that help you to plot the way forward?

Ian Lawrence: There has to be some accountability and better transparency about what has gone on and what the financial position is. I wrote in my blog to members the other day that it is about time that people came clean. Unless we know what the position is—yourselves, us, the NPS and contractors—we will never make things better. We could look back, but we want to look forward. We look forward to the probation and prisons merger perhaps changing the emphasis on rehabilitation. We agree that there are too many people in prison. Unless you want them back in prison, you have to do something tangible while they are in incarceration, but it is as important not to decrease the quality of standards outside—care in the community. You have to look at that holistically. That is the key element we want to see brought forward. Payment by results must change. Through the gate, which has been an abject and total failure, has to be put right—quickly.

Q170 Chair: What are the key things you would do to put through the gate right?

Ian Lawrence: There should be some clarity around what is expected, and there should be some funding. It is always down to money, isn’t it? As people have said, there should be a greater role for the third sector to be commissioned to provide services. That was the formula under the old trusts. You commissioned people to do things, and it worked. We want to see more of that.

Q171 Chair: It has been suggested that through the gate is really signposting, and not much more.

Ian Lawrence: It is £46 and a leaflet now, as opposed to 46 quid before. It is not good enough.

Ben Priestley: In relation to your question about the way forward, our concern is that the probation system review is looking at a sticking-plaster approach, in effect. It is not questioning the fundamental basis on which the contracts were let or the architecture that is now in place. From that point of view, as I mentioned earlier, it will probably involve throwing more good public money after bad. In effect, the companies have the Government over a barrel.

It is very rare for a Government to take a service back into public control. That could be done, if contracts fail, and there are contracts on the verge of failing. As other witnesses said, the probation inspectorate has delivered some quite strong statements in relation to public protection being at risk. At some point, the Government need to consider whether some contracts are not fit for purpose and need to be brought back into the public sector. As we understand it, the plan for that is that the National Probation Service would again take over ownership of the community rehabilitation company that was taken back into public control, as was the case when TR started out. They were managed by NOMS under those circumstances.

It goes further than that. These reforms have finished a job that Governments have done over a period of time—to reduce to a point of nothing local democratic control of probation. As the probation committees became probation boards, became probation trusts and became community rehabilitation companies, all the last vestiges of local authority influence and control were withdrawn, to the point where, clearly, there is now no local interest. It is no longer a local service.

Probation is a local service; it is not a national service. Unison would encourage the Committee to interview police and crime commissioners and chief constables. A few months ago, I was at a conference of Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary, where I sat at a table with chief constables and police and crime commissioners. All of them, to a person, were saying that transforming rehabilitation has failed. One chief constable said, “I have just rearrested our most prolific burglar for the 50th time. What is TR doing here?”

There is a view among many police and crime commissioners that the oversight of these contracts, at least in the interim, should accrue to them. We know that Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, has gone in on the task force that the MOJ sent into the ailing London contract, following the inspectorate’s report before Christmas, but he has said, “If it can’t be turned around, I want control of probation in London.” That must be right. Unison’s view is that we must revert to local democratic control. Probation is a local service. It has good links with local statutory providers, all of which have been totally fragmented.

Q172 John Howell: The Government are reviewing transforming rehabilitation. How would you assess the process they are going through?

Ian Lawrence: It is not as transparent as I would have hoped. NAPO provided detailed evidence to the probation service review. We have had some discussion with Ministers, which was helpful up to that point, but now, nearly two years on, we really ought to know a little more about what the Ministry is planning and what the problems are—what we have been touching on today. There should be some indication of what we could put in place to make things better.

We have talked quite a bit about payment by results. That is just one aspect. Colleagues have talked about a licence to practise. NAPO certainly declares an interest there and supports the concept, because we are extraordinarily concerned at the erosion of professional standards, both in the NPS and in the CRCs. Whatever you put right still needs a skilled and efficient workforce to make it work. Those are areas where we think the review could do some things.

There should be transparency on the financial position of the contractors. Many of them say, “We’re not going to tell you this because it is commercial and in confidence, and our competitors might get an idea.” Well, many of them are in difficulty. Let’s be clear about that. Let’s be honest. Let’s start with a clean sheet about where people are. Let’s see how much money is required to make emergency resolutions and let’s look at things in the medium to long term.

We had been told that the review you spoke about, Mr Howell, was due to reach some interim conclusions last October. The Minister said there weren’t any. If the Minister says there aren’t any, there weren’t any, but I would have expected some. The review needs to report, and soon. I urge the Committee to look very carefully at its conclusions. As Ben said, we will be happy to provide further evidence in any area you choose.

Q173 John Howell: Apart from the things you have already mentioned in the course of this interview, what would you like to see included in or excluded from the review?

Ian Lawrence: There must be a fundamental look at where contracts have totally failed. Maybe I do not come at this in quite the same way as Ben. Piecing it all back together would be a mammoth task. Whether the NPS itself is capable of taking it all back is another thing. I am told by a CRC, in reliable evidence, that even if it gets through the current contract and does not get any more service credits—fines for non-delivery—it will be £15 million down at the end of the contract. That has to be cause for concern. That is just one; I do not know what the rest of them are like. I do not see that that justifies what has happened. I think something particularly important must happen in that respect.

Ben Priestley: As I mentioned before, the problem is that the focus of the probation system review is very constrained. It is looking at allocation, payment mechanisms, through the gate, performance, financial and commercial health—presumably of the CRCs—and contract management. It is looking just to mend a system that many people think is fundamentally broken. I do not think there is any chance of any of us being able to persuade the Ministry of Justice to widen the scope of the review. It is to do a very limited job of saving the contracts in the short term, to allow them to limp through—presumably until they get to the end of the seven years. At that point, we hope there will be a fundamental re-examination by the Government of the day of how to put right the manifest failings of the system.

Q174 Keith Vaz: Morale must be at an all-time low for the probation service. However, in all the time that I have been in politics, morale has been very low in the service. Is it lower than ever before?

Ian Lawrence: I would say that it is now. I do not know whether it is universal, right across the estate. There will be people who could show you otherwise. I can only go on the reports we receive from our members—the feedback I get when I am out and about in the field, talking to people. It is low because they feel de-professionalised. It is also low because of something completely different, which I will mention, if I may: the lack of investment in staff. Probation practitioners are among the lowest-paid public servants, on a professional basis, that you will find anywhere.

Q175 Keith Vaz: Could you remind the Committee how much a newly qualified probation officer gets?

Ian Lawrence: Into the low 20,000s. Even a skilled practitioner—

Q176 Keith Vaz: What is the low 20,000s?

Ian Lawrence: I would need to look up the exact figure. It is about 23 or 24k.

Q177 Keith Vaz: That is after a university degree and training.

Ian Lawrence: Indeed.

Q178 Keith Vaz: Mr Priestley, don’t you think the Government have a point? If you look at the figures, you would expect a service that is professional to have delivered better outcomes as far as rehabilitation is concerned. To me, the probation officer is the critical part of the criminal justice system. When people come out of prison, you want to make sure that they do not go back. Ken Clarke and other Lord Chancellors have been saying this for years and years. Do you accept that there is some responsibility on those who have had to deliver the Government’s agenda over a period of time, under successive Governments, that it has not been delivered and therefore they had to do something pretty radical? I am not saying that that is my view. I am just putting the view that they had to do something, and this is what they have done.

Ben Priestley: All the evidence is that successive Governments have sought to meddle with the probation service. It is not politically influential. This would never have happened to the police service. The police service would never have been split in two, with half of it privatised.

Q179 Keith Vaz: If you asked the Police Federation, I am not sure that they would agree with you after what has happened in the last six years, but never mind.

Ben Priestley: Probation has always been the fall guy, because it has been a relatively small institution and it was local. It was an easy target, in a sense. All the evidence was that, pre-TR, the probation service was performing well. It needed a period of stability, after a lot of change over many years. Of course, that is exactly what we have not had over the last three or four years.

Q180 Keith Vaz: Yes, but Ministers want results, don’t they? The figures show that people who have been on probation are going back to jail. They expect to see a decline in the number of people going to jail, because of the money that they are spending. That has not happened, has it? Something has gone wrong.

Ben Priestley: It has, but it has gone wrong in the whole system. If we were to attach performance targets to the Prison Service, it would be a manifest failure, given the fact that so much recidivism happens. All the blame for that cannot be laid at the door of the probation service, as the Government might like to do. The Prison Service itself is failing, and has failed for many years. It is a failing institution. There are plans to reform it now. Maybe those will help it to work.

In relation to your point about morale, as Ian said, it is incredibly low. Staff are desperate for a period of stability and calm, in order that they can get on and do their jobs properly.

Q181 Keith Vaz: How many people do you represent between you?

Ian Lawrence: Ten thousand or 11,000.

Q182 Keith Vaz: Do you think that there is a case for your adopting an alternative plan? There you have the professionals, as your members. Why are you waiting for Government to do things? If you have an alternative plan, why don’t you put forward one that is properly costed and that will deliver for the Government what they and the public want: a reduction in the number of people going back to prison? That must be the kernel—the most important part—of the probation service. Take them into the community, get them back into civilian life and make sure that they do not go back to jail.

Ian Lawrence: We agree entirely. Our services are at your disposal in that regard. We have any number of experts who can come up with solutions.

Q183 Keith Vaz: Why are you waiting for us? Why don’t you go off and get your plan?

Ian Lawrence: Mr Vaz, you have a position of authority here. You can order inquiries; I cannot. You can go to the Minister and say things that I would like to say, but probably cannot. You are in that position. Let’s face one fact. We see 40,000 more people who have been on short-term sentences now than we saw before TR. There has been no extra money for that anywhere. That might explain why people are in the recidivism cycle. We want to stop that. We have solutions and suggestions.

Q184 Keith Vaz: So you can put those solutions and suggestions forward to this Committee and to the Government.

Ian Lawrence: We can certainly do that.

Q185 Keith Vaz: In a coherent, funded way.

Ian Lawrence: As best we can, in terms of funding, given the limited access that we have to financial figures.

Q186 Keith Vaz: Finally, could you pass on my thanks to the members of the probation service? Probation officers do a fantastic job, under huge pressure. They need to be commended for what they have done and what they continue to do every single day.

Ian Lawrence: That is appreciated.

Q187 Philip Davies: If we listened to your evidence in isolation, we would think that everything was hunky-dory in the probation service before transforming rehabilitation came to pass, and that the service was flawless before that. That was not the case, was it? You gave the illustration of a police officer’s frustration at arresting a burglar for the 50th time. The police have been complaining about that for donkey’s years—long before transforming rehabilitation. The probation service was a bit of a shambles before all of this, wasn’t it? This has not created a shambles. The probation service had a long catalogue of failures long before this came into place, didn’t it?

Ian Lawrence: You can look at the failures, as you describe them, Mr Davies, and at the failures since. It would make for interesting reading. None of us here would suggest that the probation service, as was, was utterly flawless. What it had done was reduce reoffending to the best level for 10 years. That does not mean that you would not get incidents occurring of the type that you have no doubt experienced. It goes back to our suggestion that there are too many people in the system anyway. People who ought not to be incarcerated ought to be given the opportunity of reparation that works for the community. If there is a failure, it is that things like unpaid work have not been properly supervised or funded. In many cases, it is even worse now. That goes some way towards explaining it. I do not agree with your analysis that it was a shambles before. Sorry.

Ben Priestley: I agree with Ian. I think that misrepresents the case and the hard work, skill and expertise of staff who, for not very large salaries, do a very difficult job. The problem, as I mentioned, is that the probation service has to work in the context of a criminal justice system that is not delivering. This is not just a spotlight on probation; it needs to be a spotlight on the whole criminal justice system. The evident failure of the prison system to rehabilitate offenders has been a national scandal for many years. We cannot address those issues without looking at it as a whole. There has not been a really fundamental review. Hopefully, the work that this Committee is doing around what we hope will become a formal inquiry will be very important in resetting an agenda for probation in the widest sense, taking into account the prison system as well. I have to defend the skill, expertise and commitment of staff who work for the probation service. It was not a failure before. Unfortunately, in many respects, it is a failure now.

Q188 Philip Davies: Stephen Ayre was a convicted murderer who was released from prison and, as a result of the shambles of the probation service, abducted and raped a 10-year-old boy in my constituency. Not much skill and expertise there, was there? That was long before transforming rehabilitation. There are endless such cases. Please don’t come here and give the impression that the probation service was absolutely brilliant, with all these experts, and all of a sudden it is a shambles. You are making a political point. It is not really backed up by the evidence, is it?

Ian Lawrence: Serious further offences have always occurred. They still do. It would be interesting to see an analysis comparing the horrendous types of crimes that you describe pre-TR and the similar sorts of things that are going on now. Then you could make a rational judgment about how good or bad we were. SFOs occur. Our issue around the current system is that many of the CRCs have been forced to put in place operational models that could make the incidents that you described even more frequent. That ought to be a cause of concern for all of you. One thing that the probation service review ought to do is call in those operational models, because that is an area where we can have input. It is not about a campaign of hatred against the CRCs; it is about making things work. That is what we would like you to help us to do.

Chair: Thank you very much.

Q189 Jo Stevens: We have heard from you this morning about the review that is going on and the fact that there are no interim findings yet. Last week, we heard from MTCnovo and Interserve about the fact that they had not been able to shed as many jobs as they had hoped, although we have seen a decline of between 20% and 40% in the CRCs. How concerned are you that, if the situation continues and we do not see the conclusion of the review, more jobs will be shed from CRCs during that period?

Ian Lawrence: Massively concerned. We had big issues with the number—the quantum figure—of staff cuts that were made by the CRC owners. In some cases, it was up to 40%. We have issues around the way that was discussed—or not discussed—with the unions, and the way in which some people were given voluntary redundancy payments, but some were not. There is a whole panoply of issues.

Let us look forward a little. We want to engage with the CRC owners, but as I said earlier and say again—no apologies—let us have some honesty about where they are and where we are coming from. You cannot keep reducing staff at the level it has been carried out, and with the intentions I have heard of, and have a service that is fit for purpose. You will have plenty more issues like the ones Mr Davies raised. Already people are seriously stretched. That is why funding must be uppermost in the Government’s considerations, to stop the rot. We are in trouble.

Ben Priestley: We are already dealing with companies that are thinking about the second tranche of redundancies, voluntary exits and so on. I expect that an element of that is sabre rattling in advance of the commercial negotiations that they are going to have with the Government; but, as Ian said, when our members in the CRCs are telling us that workloads are currently unsustainable, we are extremely concerned by the idea that further staff can be shed. In the recent survey that we did, 41% of our members in community rehabilitation companies said that their workload was never manageable at any point during the working week; so, there has to be real concern if more staff leave.

It is not just the staff who have left; it is the fact that a lot of the admin and clerical functions were centralised by many of those companies in remote hubs in different parts of the country. That has caused administrative delays and frustrations to staff, who then have to take on responsibility themselves for carrying out some of those administrative functions. It is an added burden to someone who is trying to do his or her work as a practitioner—as a probation service officer or a probation officer—to have to do the admin work as well.

The MOJ knew that those models were in place. It signed them off. That is what we are always told. The companies say, “This is the model that we told the Government we were going to do. They were absolutely fine with it, so you have to live with it.” It is a problem.

Chair: Gentlemen, thank you very much for your evidence, your time and the offer to provide further information. It is much appreciated.


  1. Probation in the news

    1. The British people can expect an expensive, riskier and drawn out period of transition than they might currently be expecting. No parallels with TR are particularly required. Just as with TR it is forewarned and will become self evident once the spinning can no longer be sustained.

    2. Ian Lawrence is on a completely different agenda to the struggling members he unfortunately represents. If he Negotiates pay for staff the salary of probation Officers should be basic knowledge surely. He is unprepared and uninformed so how effective are any of his contributions. He justifies the employers financial position, even empathises with them and gives weak challenge. Others have mentioned renowned trade unionist such as Dino who looks at every angle and corner and whom the employers do not look forward to challenging. Lazy Ian Lawrence has ambition and renumeration way above ability, taking without conscience and in denial about his capability and poor knowledge no doubt. His contribution to the committee above expose his inadequacies and bizarre negative assessment that the restoration of the Gold Standard of Probation back to public service is not possible or required. The idea that the probation service should be further diluted towards the third sector and the consequential further erosion of his members protected terms and conditions is outrageous. This man is a loose canon and as a member I would like to raise a vote of no confidence in him. This based on his present performance (in addition to countless) exposures of incompetence. Long standing staff feel trapped in both NPS and CRC and will remain so whilst this rambling fountain spouts ideas he dreamt about the night before, with no research or evidence to support his statements. He would do better if he employed a speech writer. Maybe he does when he has to!

  2. So Ian Lawrence has no idea what a newly qualified PO earns! Keith Vaz is the first person I havw heard foe some time who bothers to thank ua for what we do. No mwntion of PSO's even thought this change came in pre TR. Philip Davies does his best to hide the blatant fact that things are worse post TR by using imigary of savage offences/ shock tactics. Hopefully NAPO will now present their findings and a solution for a way forward to Keith Vaz which will involve consulting members? Let's face it, if government had listened to us to begin with we would nit be in this mess. Philip Davies is an idiot if he cannot see that things are worse post split! How can you shed 40% of staff as they have done in some CRC's such as working links and expect things to work better? Who would possibly believe that but a complete incompetent or money grabber who doesn't care a tiny little shit.I am a PO often working alone in a room with no admin at any time, trying to do my oasys, records, see offenders,risk manage and at same time answer phone fir people who are away or interviewing, take messages for other officers, sort out the photocopier, empty the shredder, clean the office and empty the bins, clean the toilet when someone from the organisation we share building with leaves skid marks all over the toilet bowel! This is the reality we face post T.R and it was not like that before Mr Philip Davies, so if you think that ia good use of my time pop over and help me clean the shitty loo next time on whatever you earn per hour.

    1. Philip Davies MP is a skid mark on the toilet bowl of politics. His sheer ignorance shines through every time he opens his bigoted mouth.

    2. Keith Vaz. I don't know how he has the cheek to sit on that committee.

  3. Dear old incompetent Phillip Davies. What a total tosspot the man is.

  4. Philip Davies doesn't understand it at all. A couple of weeks ago in parliament he was arguing that people should serve their full sentence, i.e 3 years means doing 3 years,which effectively removes any supervision on release. At the same time he extolled the great virtues of TR.
    His view of an 'offendr' it that it's an innate part of personality. A car will always be a car, ergo an offender will always be an offender. He holds no truck with and social, economic factors, or indeed mental health issues, or legislation that criminalise certain behaviours.
    He believes that punishment by itself is the only cure for criminal behaviour. It's probably a position he's arrived at from reading tabloid newspapers.
    I'm an advocate of all people being able to voice their opinion if it doesn't bring harm to anyone else. Debate. Discuss.
    But Philip Davies is absolute in his thinking, has no experience of the CJS, and not open to any other way of thinking that doesn't concur with his own.


  5. If Ian Lawrence's performance was poor it was because he was poorly briefed by those charged with keeping him informed and preparing him. Bluster and tub thumping may wash with his members but not with a select committee populated by professional bullshitters such as our delightful political representatives are. As someone who regularly advises politicians I could tell he went in cold thinking he could wing it on the limited understanding he has on probation issues. Given more time his very limited repertoire of responses would break down rapidly. He is no intellectual or political heavyweight and was soon out of his depth and unable to score points or convince anyone with the limited skill-set at his disposal. Ben Priestley was better briefed and therefore put in a better performance possibly hampered by Lawrence's failure to support with arguments and evidence. In this situation it would have been strategically sensible to have joint meetings and joint briefings to make the most of the opportunity and actually bring some evidence to present. Ironically perhaps Napo is currently led by professional trade unionists (they don't care which union they happen to be working for) without probation backgrounds or any personal interest in probation as a profession (this used to be balanced by people like Mike McClellan and dare I say Dino who used to do the job) but have some very capable branch chairs whereas UNISON are presently more impressive at the top (not much competition) but their branch and local reps are often found wanting or missing in action.

  6. With every aspect of the UK CJS in turmoil, and politicians just making things worse, maybe someone at the MoJ should read this.
    It really does make sense.


    1. Evidenced based? Free from political interference. Focus on real and constructive rehabilitation?
      No! Can't see that taking off here!

  7. Interesting piece in Mail on Sunday today with regards TR disaster and Antonia Romero involvement. Sorry I am unable to post it

    1. Trying to get the article to cut & pasye...

      The high-flying diplomat in charge of drawing up new trade deals after Brexit was behind a disastrous £4 billion privatisation of probation that is about to be scrapped.
      Antonia Romeo started work last week as Permanent Secretary at the new Department for International Trade, with the key role of ‘promoting the UK as an outward-facing, free-trading global nation’ once it leaves the European Union.
      Extraordinarily, until the summer she will be commuting to Whitehall from New York, where she was Her Majesty’s Consul General.
      But The Mail on Sunday can reveal that in a previous role at the Ministry of Justice, she was the ‘senior responsible officer’ for a botched shake-up of supervision for criminals leaving prison, which is facing a major overhaul this month.
      In a letter to MPs seen by this newspaper, Ministers have admitted the entire system is ‘falling short of our ambitions’ and multi-billion-pound contracts with private firms will have to be renegotiated as part of a review’.

    2. Figures obtained by MPs show that since the new regime was introduced in February 2015, a total of 1,021 Serious Further Offence reviews have been carried out into crimes committed by prisoners on probation.
      This newspaper can now reveal that the Prisons and Probation Minister, Sam Gyimah, has admitted the system is in need of a complete revamp just two years after it was introduced.
      In a recent letter to the Justice Select Committee, the Minister said the ‘comprehensive review’ of probation was ‘looking at all aspects of the system’ including the ‘contractual arrangements’ with CRCs.
      He acknowledged a ‘key factor in the performance of the probation system’ has been the lower-than-expected numbers of offenders for CRCs to handle, ‘which have had an impact on CRC revenue and their ability to transform their businesses’.
      Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru’s Justice spokesman, said: ‘It would be astonishing if senior officials responsible for these failings are now being put in charge of developing international trade agreements.’
      A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance.
      ‘We are carrying out a comprehensive review of the probation system to make sure it is preventing future victims and will set out our plans for reform in due course.’
      The Department for International Trade declined to comment.

    3. (This came in between the two chunks above - what a hassle!)

      It saw the 35 existing probation trusts across England and Wales dissolved, with lower-risk offenders put in the care of 21 privately run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), and the most dangerous inmates looked after by a new state-run National Probation Service.
      But the scheme has been a costly failure. The firms have been given far fewer offenders to supervise than they were promised, making them unviable as businesses. Some have laid off staff while others are planning to hold virtual meetings with criminals on Skype.
      Bosses of the CRCs told MPs last month they will have to walk away from the deals they struck with the MoJ – worth £3.7 billion in total – unless they are renegotiated. Watchdogs have also highlighted problems in the new system, with HM Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, warning last year that services in London have deteriorated ‘due to the poor performance of the CRC’ and the city is now ‘more at risk’.


      Here's a link to prove it ain't made up!

    5. Never ever, ever, EVER imagined I'd enjoy reading the Daily Mail.

    6. Thanks a lot for tracking down the Daily Mail article - much appreciated!

    7. I commented thus: -
      "It is a pity that the DM and other newspapers did not properly report the destruction of #probation in England and Wales as it happened - then it might have been stopped. Sadly nobody, especially our MPs would take any notice of people like me with thirty years front-line probation and prison experience.

  8. I watched the Select Committee, aghast at the contribution from the Probation Institute. What on earth was that about? Two weak lightweights blubbering on without direction and making some astonishing claims. Asserting that they are truly independent. Really? 7 directors. How many are CEOs of CRCs. Still they can't get it right. What is the point of this self aggrandised organisation?
    Why weren't the heavy weights presenting evidence? Mike Nellis for example, an obvious choice.
    Shocking performance from the Probation Institute.

    1. Nellis yes of course a real talent this is why Paul senior would only ever be a third rate and poor intellect when you play and ace like Nellis. I know nobody out there will raise you and see you on that trump card. That Schofield woman who has some napo union background was completely inept bordering obvious incompetence. Also clearly had no game plan.

    2. "Why weren't the heavy weights presenting evidence?"

      Because, Anon at 17:11. it is not a serious enquiry or it would have included prior unannounced visits to sites where probation is practiced and what the Justice Committee discovered there would have been put to those giving evidence rather than some like Davies and Vaz being allowed to "showboat"

      However, Vaz with some incisive questioning did show the value of having a trained barrister examining witnesses, they just had the wrong witnesses apart from maybe Dame Glenys last week and Priestly this week.

      It seems to me parliament is not fit for purpose or they would have improved the ridiculous ORA2014 in the first place and not had such nonsenses as RAR's and folk sentenced to days being on 12 months post release supervision.

    3. Andrew are you not meaning the post above 17:11 ? Many of this readership had hopes it was a serious review if you are clear it was a sham exercise then no once criticise the performance and capacity of the panel and the respondents. It was baiting and hardly skilled but the unions had a chance to glow and yet extinguished themselves the other poor shows were all on par.

  9. Philip Davies: "The probation service was a bit of a shambles before all of this, wasn’t it? This has not created a shambles. The probation service had a long catalogue of failures long before this came into place, didn’t it?"

    Er, not really Mr Davies. Pre-TR Probation has a long & proud history of protracted & unsung success in working with those convicted of offences, in working with families & children (latterly siphoned off as Cafcass) & in working with the broader impact of criminal behaviour. It is true that a few high profile cases that were seized upon & ampified by the media may have involved some specific probation-related concerns, but nowhere is there any media focus upon the years & years & years of unrecognised interventions by probation staff with the thousands of vulnerable individuals who have been otherwise discarded by society, discharged by every other profession, set adrift in the unique & lonely vacuum that exists between hostels, prison & hospital... no money, no friends, no family, no hope - and often with enduring psychological &/or psychiatric issues for which they self-medicate with excess alcohol illicit drug use.

    At least that could have been a pen picture of the vast majority of my caseload over a 20+ year career as a Probation Officer until you invited some French pastry chefs to take the reins. Now I create chocolate art on overpriced cappucinos.

    Mr Davies, you are an over-priveleged, under-educated disgrace. You are prejudiced, blinkered & emotionally imprisoned by your selfishness, your arrogance & your poisonous right-wing ideologies.

  10. The biggest problem appears to me to be that the MoJ got rid in hundreds if not thousands of years of corporate knowledge and experience in one fell swoop leaving no-one left to guide the new management teams as they ventured into what was (is?) new territory for the. I left a CRC just 17 months ago and am now applying for another job. On seeking to identify a referee, it transpires that there is literally NO-ONE left in my old CRC's management team who was there when I left. All gone. Every one of them. Tragic.

  11. Not a stat I was aware of until reading the Mail article today...

    "Figures obtained by MPs show that since the new regime was introduced in February 2015, a total of 1,021 Serious Further Offence reviews have been carried out into crimes committed by prisoners on probation."

    1. Stats eh! Of course sfo figures will increase when everyone who leaves prison now has pss, so on our books for at least a year when previously not the case! We are being stitched up on that one!

    2. Language of the article gives a clue... "crimes committed by prisoners on probation". That'll be the PSS then.