Sunday, 7 May 2017

Another Report

What with all the excitement of a surprise general election, I've only just noticed yet another report into the travails of the criminal justice system ‘Doing it Justice: Breaking Barriers to Criminal Justice Transformation’. 

To be perfectly frank, I haven't bothered to read the 88 page report because I'm suspicious of anything that has Sodexo as a sponsor; the layout is not easy to read on a laptop; I've never heard of DragonGate* and skim reading shows little mention of probation (I notice neither Napo nor the Probation Institute were contributors). 

I'm hoping others out there might disabuse me of these prejudices, but in the meantime, here's a handy pre-packaged spin piece on the Public Sector Executive website and nicely timed for the recent mayoral elections:-      

Unlocking the combination to criminal justice reform

If new mayors want to improve the life chances of their communities, help the most vulnerable and trailblaze public service reform, then criminal justice transformation and ‘whole-place’ pooling of public service budgets must be priorities, argue former communities secretary Hazel Blears and Professor Lord Patel of Bradford OBE, former chair of the Mental Health Act Commission.

On 4 May, six mayoral elections will be held across England to decide who will lead the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, Tees Valley, West of England and West Midlands combined authorities.

With collective responsibility for more than 9.5 million citizens and nearly a tenth of national GDP, these new directly-elected mayors will have an unparalleled mandate to give strategic leadership and direction as a spokesperson to some of the most significant and productive regions of England.

Set within the context of Brexit negotiations, it is likely that many of the new mayors will see their primary role as one of promoting economic growth and guiding investment into their respective regions – given their responsibility for a range of fiscal and economic powers. If narrowly seen as their remit, this would be a missed opportunity.

Public service transformation mandate

Newly-elected mayors must not forget they also have a broader mandate for public service transformation. Many of the combined authorities have already negotiated significant devolution of powers for areas such as further education, skills, work, housing, transport, health and social care and criminal justice. This means that new mayors are natural leaders for providing effective cross-system and cross-sector leadership. This is because they will be able to: 
  • Convene leaders at all levels
  • Marshal and negotiate support from central government
  • Take responsibility for all aspects of service change
  • Have a whole-system view of the community
There is a broad and very public consensus that health and social care is one such area that would benefit from effective local leadership. Though we do not disagree, as is clear from our report ‘Breaking Barriers: Building a sustainable future for health & social care’ published in June 2016, we also believe that the criminal justice system equally requires urgent and immediate action.

There is mounting public concern with the return to the prison riots and disruptions of the early 1990s, unprecedented levels of self-harm and suicide and the urgent need to increase staffing numbers and improve training.

Though the government is working to address these issues, with a funding boost and pledge to recruit 2,500 new prison staff, underlying problems remain. These are problems which cannot be tackled solely at a national level and through a narrow focus on the greater use of custody.

For successful long-term outcomes, the evidence points to the crucial role and impact of targeted early intervention and prevention work carried out when at-risk individuals are young, by the police and children’s services, in schools, with families and through communities. Additionally, it is the work done during and after custody to reintegrate offenders back into the community, to find them a job or profession, a roof over their head and an effective support network that prevents individuals re-entering what is increasingly becoming a revolving door system.

No silver bullet

There is no single factor or silver bullet to deliver change and transformation to a criminal justice system which costs the taxpayer £17bn annually, let alone reducing the staggering £124bn estimated annual economic costs of violent crime in the UK.

However, the impact of crime and reoffending is a local issue. Long-term solutions can only be effectively delivered and overseen at this level.

These were also the conclusions of our report, ‘Doing it Justice: Breaking Barriers to Criminal Justice Transformation’, in which we identified three main barriers to achieving real transformation for the criminal justice system as: 
  • The need to reduce tensions between central government and local control of services
  • Increasing capacity to drive innovation
  • Ensuring greater integration between criminal justice and other areas of the public sector with the greatest potential to drive long-term change such as education and employment, health and mental health, substance use and welfare 
We also outlined five essential, interdependent building blocks for successful transformation at a local level that include: 
  • Co-commissioning and design of services to drive place-based transformation
  • Co-production to encourage public engagement and new ways of working
  • Creating a life opportunities approach to preventing reoffending based on recognising the life potential of offenders
  • Better use of digital technology and data analysis to support rehabilitation
  • Devolution of leadership and workforce development 
We believe that if newly-elected mayors focus upon these five building blocks and overcoming these three barriers, they will be able to produce real public service transformation that improves local labour markets and improve their communities’ levels of safety and resilience.

Benefits of a place-based approach

Early feedback from ‘Doing It Justice’ has shown us that there is broad consensus about the advantages that a place-based approach to the system can bring. This could, and should, include the full and dynamic transfer of both powers and budgets from government to devolved authorities to prioritise the prevention of offending and cutting reoffending rates.

At our summit, where we launched the report, it was encouraging to hear from outgoing Manchester City Council chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein, who has helped oversee Manchester’s programme of public service reform and economic renewal. He highlighted the opportunities Greater Manchester’s criminal justice devolution deal could deliver for the local economy, regeneration and community resilience.

Using their unique position and mandate, mayors can summon the effective leadership required to convene leaders from police, prisons and probations. Mayors can bring the Ministry of Justice and Youth Justice Board together with local agencies to ensure a co-ordinated approach delivered at the right level, and provide the necessary support and resources to invest in prevention.

In Greater Manchester, we have already seen their Public Service Reform Team advance this workstream, by developing a truly pioneering approach to localised criminal justice transformation. We call on Greater Manchester’s new mayor to ensure continuity with the current mayor Tony Lloyd’s approach and to prioritise investment in this area. In other regions, it is essential that newly-elected mayors recognise the importance of the local community and by enlisting their support and understanding, harness their role in championing criminal justice transformation to develop criminal justice workstreams of their own.

Full devolution not decentralisation needed

Local areas will need support from central government to integrate criminal justice services, and combined authorities, in this context, must be seen as the natural leaders for driving systemic transformation.

When viewed through the prism of collaborative working across the health, education, housing and welfare system, the possibilities for public value creation in driving radical change across the criminal justice system represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

We firmly believe that it is at a local level, through devolution, that is the best way to integrate services, which have been co-designed and produced using budgets and powers that have been properly devolved to reduce the human and financial costs of offending.

But to work, this must be a full-blooded exercise in devolution, involving financial freedoms and powers, to shift the aggregated power of pooled public service budgets to engineer transformational whole-place change. Anything less is mere decentralisation, a helpful step in the right direction, but one that would not do full justice to ensuring the safety of local communities.

Newly-elected mayors must ensure the current wave of devolution does not become a footnote in history, or otherwise risk not fulfilling their transformation mandate to the people they serve.

For more information

The ‘Doing it Justice: Breaking Barriers to Criminal Justice Transformation’ report can be accessed at:


*DragonGate Market Intelligence

Bringing joined-up thinking to a fragmented market

Having the confidence to enter new and culturally different markets takes courage, perseverance and most of all strong industry sector understanding. Working with the Public Sector is no different. Since our formation in 2012 our evidence based, step by step approach has provided clients with real politic understanding to complex, vast and ever shifting market dynamics.

DragonGate research and market intelligence breaks down the challenges and vastness of the Public Sector into manageable areas of focus and understanding. Through qualitative research and our deep consideration of people, processes and policy we can help clear the cob webs away from headline hogging myths and misconceptions and provide a fresh take on the machinery of UK Government.

Our project management teams work with clients from both the Public and Private public sector to help challenge, design and take forward new, innovative but realistic solutions to old problems. Through DragonGate’s event team we run exclusive, thought provoking seminars for senior management that bring together leaders from the public sector to address seemingly disparate but connected agendas under Chatham rules.

Our approach throughout is to work closely with our clients to provide tailored, pragmatic, mini-programme approaches which provide lasting and tangible results. We do not subscribe to abstract consultancy and strategies that bear no connection to the world of public sector constraints or business reality. Our world is the authentic world of the 21st century public sector manager.


  1. From Mirror in "authentic" 2007:

    "THE probation service is stretched to breaking point due to increases in prison numbers, an expert warned yesterday.

    Chief Inspector of Probation Andrew Bridges said new requirements to supervise offenders such as paedophiles was also adding to the load.

    Although budgets have grown, the service is still unable to meet demands.

    In his annual report, Mr Bridges warns the Government: "There is a risk of an unsafe level of public expectations of what can be achieved."

    Probation officers' union chief Judy McKnight said more people are in jail despite a fall in overall crime. She added: "Only those who have to go should go."

    The justice ministry has launched a review of the probation service."

  2. BBC on a 2008 report:

    "The Probation Service faces a crisis of shrinking budgets and a shortage of frontline staff, a new report says.
    The study, commissioned by probation union Napo, finds that staff in England and Wales are struggling to cope with complex and soaring caseloads. It warns there is a risk that court sentences may not be carried out. The Ministry of Justice say the government committed £40m to the Service in March, and an extra £17m will given later this year.
    The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies research was based on interviews with probation staff and an analysis of financial and workforce statistics.

    - Caseloads up 23% between 2002 and 2006, and by 47% since 1997
    - Probation budget increased by 21% since 2001
    - Frontline staff numbers rose by 21% between 2002 and 2006
    - Staff growth mainly in managerial roles
    - Number of fully trained probation officers fell by 9% between 2002 and 2006

    Whilst acknowledging that the probation budget has increased by 21% in real terms since 2001, the study found it had declined by 9% and 2% in the last two years respectively, and that the government is planning reduction of 3% year-on-year for the next three years.
    Dr Roger Grimshaw, research director at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London said the statistics show there is "no room for complacency" about the service's capacity to meet expectations of the courts and public.
    "The budget has already fallen over the last two years and probation areas are having to consider reducing key staff in the face of rising needs," he said.

    'Assessment obsession'
    According to the study, the number of probation staff grew by 21% between 2002 and 2006 but that growth was concentrated among management grades and less qualified Probation Service officers.
    We committed £40m to the Service in March this year on top of an additional £17m.
    Ministry of Justice spokesperson
    The number of fully qualified and trainee probation officers fell by 9%. And the ratio of offenders to qualified probation officers increased by 28% during this period.
    Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo says having more offenders to look after is not the only problem facing officers. Each case is more time consuming than it used to be, he said. "Since the millennium, more offenders go on programmes. As well as being seen one to one, they take part in groups each week... Staff have to do more liaison with mental health teams, police, prisons. There's an obsession with assessments, more and more time is spent in front of a computer. More and more cases are categorised as medium or high risk - convictions for violent of sex offenders - they take more time to deal with."

    High risk offenders
    Justice Minister Maria Eagle said the Probation Service does a valuable job to cut re-offending and reduce the number of victims. She pointed out the research had found there had been a 77% rise in the number of probation services officers between 2002 and 2006 and an increase in programmes delivered to offenders of 158% since 2002-3.
    She said: "That's work done by the Probation Service to reduce re-offending. The Probation service is currently achieving 96% of its target for accredited behaviour programmes and 117% for unpaid work.”
    Napo estimate the number of people on probation has gone up from about 170,000 10 years ago to about 240,000 now. Mr Fletcher says "courts are making more orders - over the last decade, more people have been jailed, more community service, less are fined. That's the trend.
    "And because more people are sent to prison, more of them come out on parole.""

  3. Re DragonGate:

    This company has been on the market under three previous names. The very first name, Public Sector Insight, was changed on Monday 26th March 2012 to Werran. The current name is used since 2011, is Dgmi Limited.

    1. Werran...

      Etymology From Proto-Germanic *werraną.

      Verb: werran - to cause confusion

    2. From dgmi website:

      "In Taoist legend there is a portal, the so called DragonGate, the entry point to an imperial palace at the top of a high pinnacle. The path to the DragonGate is blocked by a giant cascading waterfall at the bottom of which dwell scores of carp. Only the fish that is strong, brave and persistent enough to swim against the current and leap the waterfall, pass through the DragonGate and reach its full potential as a magnificent dragon."

  4. This report has some gems of incontravertible wisdom within its pages:

    "For example, people who have been in prison are up to 30 times more likely than the general population to die from suicide in the first month after discharge from prison."

    It ain't worth wiping your arse with, its just pseudo-research layered on top of what Sodexo want; a means of legitimising privatisation by topping up the bank accounts of Blairite Babe Blears & various chums so they can stick their names on the report.

  5. Amother significant funder of this report:

    "Sopra Steria Group, a European leader of digital transformation, was established in September 2014 as a merger of Sopra with Steria. See the timeline for both companies showing the milestones achieved over nearly 50 years before becoming a single entity."

    Err, so effective & successful that probation IT hasn't worked properly, if at all, for over ten years to date.

    1. The dgmi report offers a range of 'recommendations' including:

      The Ministry of Justice, Prison Governors and Community Rehabilitation Companies should support the development of secure ICT platforms and technologies that can enable prisoners to have access to information and resources that facilitate rehabilitation and resettlement. This could be supported through a series of nationally supported pilots in select prisons and CRCs"

      Hmm, maybe in purpose-built prisons designed by Jacobs & CRCs run by Sodexo using the SopraSteria 'Jade' tablet?


    3. "Since 2014, Rye Hill has exclusively housed sex offenders and there are currently 664 inmates (its operational capacity is 625). The prison's eight wings are named after celebrated rugby players: Beaumont, Carling, Davies, Edwards and so on. What makes Rye Hill additionally unusual is that it is run for profit. One of 14 private prisons out of a total estate of 124, Rye Hill makes an undisclosed margin for G4S, the global security outfit which built it under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI)."

  6. Now I know why the Co-Operative Group is going down the pan:

    "Former Salford and Eccles MP Hazel Blears has a new job as a £60,000 a year director of the Co-operative Group. The ex-government minister was elected by the group's members at their annual general meeting on Saturday.

    Ms Blears, 59, has been a member of the Co-op for more than 20 years, stood down as an MP at this month's general election. She said the group was a "great worthwhile mission".

    Ms Blears will be expected to work a minimum of one to two days a month holding the chief executive and higher management of the group to account in her new role, the group said."

    £60K a year for "one to two days a month" = £5,000 a day in the Chipmunk's pocket. So that's where my dividends are going.

  7. Yes, kind of wish Jim had not mentioned Sodexo at the outset as the read was made with some resulting suspicion. It does strike me that these companies are positioning themselves as the providers of solutions to the mess in Probation Services they in no small part have been complicit in creating (as evidence consider inspection reports, the latest in particular noting CRC performance as poor).

  8. If you've an ounce of integrity working for what's left of probation is just a really fucking shit job to have now isn't it

  9. That handy pre-packaged spin piece on the Public Sector Executive website... to me it just reads like a torrent of boastful business bullsh*t. Why can't they translate it into plain English? As presented the piece is full of almost unintelligible jargon. Frequently this style is used when people try to sound more knowledgeable than they really are, or when they are trying to make something sound more complicated than it really is.