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. 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 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. 


  1. Excuse me but ' offenders not being supervised in private but in open booths'. They write the reports and say things are not acceptable but what is actually being done about this around all the CRC's. MOJ are coming across as being complicit in allowing very poor practices.

    1. Open plan booths are not really any different to those areas using open plan community rooms. It is shameful, I once had a female breakdown in front of me disclosing sexual abuse. I had another that just would not open up and when talking to a partner agency at another venue, they disclosed not wanting to talk openly when surrounded by others. Who can blame them, my only surprise is that there has not been a legal challenge about this

  2. Nice to Ian Lawrence blaming that useless waster J Ledger as his predecessor and also the moron that did nothing to curb the legislation that paved the way for privatisation. Does not mean the current incumbent is any good based on current form.

    The incredible news that Gove has 7k + worth of expenses to decorate his home. Outrage when the burning flats was awarded on a few grand of tender. Grayling had thousands also and so here we are the working ordinary wealth making citizen lives in a flat in a communal block. No problem to the Tories they can all die why do they value their worth Theresa May hiding a coward nothing stable nothing strong from this straw and lying woman. Next election she wont be leading that awful self indulged rich clubs friend the story party. Why not she must realise she is unpalatable even by the most moderate tory now. Go and go quickly you wont get the Tory thieves and in club out of this mess. When those victims families analyse the tory expense racket the cost of their wonderful palaces as second and secondary beautiful surrounding tastefully decorated and fire alarmed and fire proofed for them it really brings home the George Orwell prophecies that mean they just believe they are anointed. Owen Jones bless him ! Doing well in the media holder the daftest Prime idiot minister to account for flagrant class differentials she could not understand anyone's suffering privilege just don't get it .

    So while on victims in probation there are many additional murders since the split of TR will that Nasty Party May now reverse and revitalise probation so we can get back on with what we did well. Free from the mess of private idiocy and ideology. Free of the constructs of the ridiculous doctrine of join the dots approach of the scavenging and swinging NPS. Austerity she says is now over ? Oh really why because she has just been shown what a disgusting state they have reduced our wonderful divers country into us and you F****ing Tory scum. We are all coming for you one way or the other ballot box will see you all out lets have an election soon as .


  4. Unfortunately it seems that there is some momentum growing to removing the pay freeze for NHS staff and possibly teachers. This would be terrible news for those of us in Probation as the financial cost of doing that would condemn us to a further 10 years of pay freezes (at least).

  5. Just seen this in the Times. Don't know if I can get the rest pay wall.

    More than a third of offenders being supervised by a private company are failing to comply with their sentence, according to a watchdog.

    Work done by Sodexo Justice Services and the probation service in Suffolk was “nowhere near good enough”, Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, found.

    Offenders who posed a risk to their families or the public were dealt with over the telephone by Sodexo, which is in charge of probation for low and medium-risk criminals in the county.

    Chronic staff shortages and high caseloads in the state-run National Probation Service, which oversees high-risk offenders, meant that the quality of work was poor, particularly in domestic abuse and safeguarding of children cases.

    The semi-privatisation of the probation service, introduced by Chris Grayling,…

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  6. I was once proud to work in the Probation Service but my trust went when the Trusts went.

    1. The trusts laid the foundation for their own annihilation and for privatisation by failing to stand up for what they were supppsed to be working for. Governments both Labour and Tory have caused the mess we're in. We have not helped. We have failed to act radically ourselves.

    2. Speak for yourself then .

  7. MOJ are complicit. Putting profit and targets before public protection is criminal. Being criticised by my CRC manager with no experience of actually doing the job, their job is to cook the books and whip us mentally to meet targets. Fact that I was handed cases whilst on leave and then chose to prioritise the welfare of the public on my return dealing with police and various agencies due to a DV case where someone could have been hurt or worse was of no consequence. I have lost company money for missing a target because I may have saved a life. That pretty much sums it up does it not? Any more examples like this? I think we should post real life dilemas and incidents. But just state 'my CRC' and no personal details.

    1. Picture this in a thought-bubble:

      "Hmmm, putting company profits before the safety of the public. Who could possibly contemplate taking such a dreadfully immoral position? It might be how they behave in dictatorships or them other unruly, corrupt totalitarian states but that could NEVER happen in a civilised western democracy. The government simply wouldn't allow it."

  8. Is there a NAPO conference coming up in the south west. Someone said there was but can't find anything about it?Also does anyone know if we are entitled to paid leave for this and do we have to get petmission?

  9. I think there is something next week in Bristol. Will try to get a few of us to come over. Next Wednesday I am told!


  11. NAPO South West AGM is next Wednesday between 10am and 3pm at The Pier, Marine Parade, Weston-super- mare for all NAPO members in this area. Buffet lunch and ice cream on the beach if heatwave persists! Wold be great to get a good turnout , new members most welcome. Come and make your voice heard!