Monday, 26 June 2017

What To Do With Probation?

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

How Do We Solve A Problem Like Probation?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what are the alternatives?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


  1. Do not underestimate the power & influence held by HMPPS, formerly NOMS, still headed by Spurr. Grayling happily fronted & took the credit for TR but it was driven from the dark corners of our control-&-restraint meisters.

    You can befriend, influence & educate politicians as much as you want BUT... need to crack the rigid, hermetically sealed exoskeleton of HMPPS & let some oxygen seep in.

    1. From previous thread on SOTP, a clear example of NOMS's smothering, stifling approach to probation which has resulted in MORE harm caused, as opposed to their empty platitudes about protecting the public:

      ** Accredited Offending Behaviour Programmes - a licence for influential, academic bullies to appeal to NOMS with myths of magic bullets & money-making collaborations selling rigid programmes with fly-by-wire manuals. This sounded the death knell for innovative probation groupwork, allowed for the introduction of central control via the wafer-thin veneer of accreditation & enriched a few bank accounts. Tick some boxes, job done!

      Same old story - monetise everything for profit aka "Know The Price of Everything, Know The Value of Nothing" **

  2. How many people who read this blog and have actively worked in the Probation Service can be sure that their interactions with "Clients" have not been the number one reason that those "Clients" reoffended?

    It would seem that if at some time you worked in an SOTP that you have caused further sexual abuses to occur.

    However, do not fear, not all go on to reoffend, some suffer lasting psychological abuses as a direct result of forced participation in SOTP.

    I wonder how many of you reading this now will be going out today to deliver another community session of SOTP?

    If you are, give your reasons for doing so in the comments below...

    1. The number one reason that our clients reoffend is the choice that they make to reoffend.

      Stop making excuses for yourself and take responsibility for your decisions and actions.

  3. So you are saying it is impossible for the choice they make to reoffend being any kind of direct/indirect result of intrusive, psychologically damaging "treatment"?

    Can you honestly say that you have never offended or psychologically abused any "Clients"?

    1. No, that isn't what I'm saying at all. Try thinking before making kneejerk comments.

      "The number one reason" clearly implies there may be more than one reason. I'm saying that the individual's choices are at the top of that list.

      Stop trying to look for excuses.

    2. Excuses for what?

      Perhaps you should think before making knee jerk comments.

      How do you know that probation hasn't been a number one reason?

      Where are all the contributors to this blog?

      What has happened, could it be that many who used to work for probation have seen the error of their ways and have now taken a route away from abusing others via probation malpractices?

      There's bound to be a few stuck in the mud, heads in the sand who cannot change their abusive ways, could it be that you still work for the former probation service Anon 14:22? If so why? Still convinced that you are helping the masses and preventing further offending?

      Can you not comprehend that you are responsible for psychological abuse of others?

    3. @16:25

      The deafening silence is most likely because we've heard your BS a million times before and know it's not worth responding.

    4. So you are disregarding the assesment of my GP and Psychiatrist by calling their findings BS?

  4. Tricky to comment meaningfully without full access to the report on the SOTP but maybe we need to consider the quality of the re-offending.If someone moves from, say, sexually sadistic homicide, to say, shoplifting, then they have re-offended but is that necessarily a bad thing or is it progress?

  5. Yes indeed, clearly there are too many in reciept of £ both infront of "Clients" and behind the scenes for the full extent of the report to be published. That's why a report into the effectiveness of a programme offered by probation has been hushed up and not released?

    Clearly as you claim, all those who reoffended after taking part must have been convicted of shoplifting, making for a prime reason to not release the findings of the report.

    Seriously whats happened here? People used to show some passion here. It was almost as if they cared.

    1. Hello, 16:35 et al, looks like you're back again. I'm guesing it was you & I who hit an impasse of xchanges last November, but clearly this revelation of MoJ hiding facts & figures about the impact of SOTP has re-activated your feelings of distress & trauma.

      Have you read &/or got a copy of the report? It might be useful to take a copy to your GP/psychiatrist/therapist to discuss how its triggered a reoccurrence of your post-trauma symptoms & look at further work to ameliorate them.

      It might even be worth taking the report to a lawyer to consider if your situation merits legal redress, assuming it fits with the conclusions of the report.

      This is not an attempt to minimise or deflect the report's view that some SOTPs have had a negative impact upon participants; it IS an attempt to encourage you to continue to manage your ptsd symptoms.

      As before (assuming its the same poster), best wishes for your journey.

  6. Do you have a copy of this report? Perhaps if you are still on probation payroll you could request this report from your manager?

    I am staggered that so many continue to work for such an abusive institution. I guess £ speaks louder for probation workers than the standard of service and the effects on those individuals who are recieving it. You all hide behind the exact same sheilds as those you criticise on this blog. No legal action will ever reach the doors of Truss or Grayling just as no legal action will ever reach the door of those who directly implement such abusive policies at the coal face.

    So long as it's not illegal what's the problem?

    1. No I don't work as a PO anymore. I was offloaded by the privateers when they decided to prioritise & maximise their profit so, after retraining, I now make & sell expensive coffee drinks.

      I have to apologise as I have just re-read the Daily Bilge article & realise the report isn't available yet, if ever. Perhaps because it would open the doors to claims from group participants looking to excuse their re-offending ("the programme made me do it") & victims of those subsequent offences. It might still be worth taking a copy of the press article to discuss with your GP/psychiatrist/therapist as it has clearly caused further distress.

    2. Anon20:40 - if you haven't already found it, there's a link to the report on this blog, the purple text 'report', Friday 30 June 2017
      "Truth Will Out".

  7. This may seem an unusual question to ask as a long serving PO, but, what is the point of OASys?

    When OASys was first rolled out, we were instructed to write short but relevant notes in 1-13 sections, document a short yet clear risk management plan and a short sentence plan; a document being instructed to be shared with partnership agencies. Even managing a high case load, producing meaningful (as far as was possible) OASys did not prevent me from doing my job as an Offender Manager.

    Roll forward to this week. Now, on average, completing a new ISP to meet the newly developed Quality Assurance Standards takes 10+ hours. A colleague said one recently took them over 12 hours. We both have many years service and know how to do an Oasys. This is proving to be the norm not the exception.

    Reviews to this new standard, Terminations to this new standard, all take our time away from seeing offenders (ex). Many OASys are being rolled back, rejected, no longer meeting this new super duper standard, with requests to do a better job again being the norm rather than the exception. No longer can we share them with partnership agencies. Just who the hell reads them?

    Add to the fact that each offender needs an ISP, numerous reviews, and a Termination review, all to meet this new, Quality Assurance Standard, and it begs the question, what are Oasys about.

    Sure, as Officers, we can spend all out days data inputting. But what about the offenders we supervise? How can it make sense that I have to allocate 10+ hours for an ISP, perhaps half that or more for a detailed review etc, and when you multiply these numbers by the 30-40 case loads, cases changing hands time and time again, then I and my colleagues have little or no time for anything else, let alone supporting, supervising and assisting those with are changed with managing.

    I am alone in questioning the validity of Oasys, or any computer task that means Officers have to spend 7.5 hours of an 8 hour day data inputting.

    How can we help offenders turn their lives around if we don't have time to spend with them? I do know this, 10 hours spent with an offender will have more results in helping that person turn their life around than the same amount of time spent on a computer.

    Anyone else agree with this, and if so, what can we do about it?