Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Latest From Napo 165

Regular readers may well have noticed that there's been a paucity of Napo updates for some time. Mostly, but not exclusively, I tend to cover the General Secretary's weekly blog, but only if I feel there's something new or of particular interest contained in it. Here we have a slightly edited version of the latest blog post from last Friday:- 


Just when you thought the probation crisis had reached a nadir comes news that two CRC owners have decided to make further cuts to staffing in a desperate attempt they tell us to keep their front line operations afloat.

Interserve, following another profits warning to investors and a share price that plummeted by 50% has announced that they are going to close the Fareham PSC (probation support centre). It is anticipated up to 10 CRC staff seconded to the Fareham office could be effected by the closure of the Fareham PSC as will a further 13 members of staff directly employed by Interserve.

National Official Sarah Friday reporting to this weeks Napo Officers and Officials meeting said that the unions were told that it will also mean Intervention Managers/SPOs in the CRCs taking on additional corporate service functions in addition to the HR responsibilities that have been added to their job descriptions. This in turn will impact on their pivotal role for the Interserve Justice Interchange flex team model to work.

In the West and East Midlands the Reducing Reoffending Partnership (RRP) are currently going through a second wave of redundancies, this time within corporate services as opposed to frontline staff. They state that despite receiving additional money from the Ministry of Justice in the summer, there are still significant shortfalls in their finances. As such they are reducing corporate services to avoid having to make further cuts to the frontline. There are currently 50 posts at risk of redundancy, although it is hoped this can be reduced to 30 if internal opportunities are utilised.

A further exercise to reduce costs is being carried out with RRP’s estates. They are in the process of closing down all of the probation offices in the Black Country with the exception of Wolverhampton. National Official Tania Bassett has told Interserve that Napo is deeply concerned about the impact this will have on staff due to travelling, especially those with caring responsibilities or disabilities. More worrying is the impact this will have on service users who will be expected to make much longer journeys in order to comply with their order.

These are but two more examples of the disastrous impact of TR on what was once an award winning service. Many CRC’s are holed so far below the waterline that no amount of taxpayers cash will save them from sinking later if not sooner.

In other areas such as the CRC’s operated by Working Links we are seeing significant numbers of experienced Probation Officers jumping back to the not exactly green and grassy pastures of the NPS telling reps that they have had enough of the incompetent regime that is presiding over community safety.

Napo submits its evidence to the Justice Select Committee

Sorry, but Parliamentary protocols prevent us from providing you with sight of this until the Committee give their permission, but take it from me its a high quality offering that reflects the massive amount of work that your employees and Officers are putting in to help hold the MoJ and CRC’s feet to the fire.

Not that it is all negative; as we have suggested steps that can be taken to restore morale to staff, embed ‘good practice’ benchmarks and how a licence to practice is a ‘must do’, along with creating greater transparency and accountability by involving Police and Crime Commissioners and metro-Mayors to monitor performance.

The submission is supported by detailed appendices that provide a withering critique of the post-TR landscape and where we make it clear that failing contractors should be shown the door marked exit.

PSO Conference next Friday 24th November

Really looking forward to my speech to next Friday’s PSO conference to be held at the NUT, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place Kings Cross, London WC1H 9BD. Registration opens at 10:00am and the conference formally starts at 10:30am.

Professional training in a changing landscape is the theme, and I have been asked to make a keynote address. Here I will be sharing my thoughts on the steps that Napo needs to take to bring about a greater focus on training and development among NPS and CRC providers and how this sits with Napo’s own strategy for growth and my intention to see our practitioner members paid a proper rate for the job (a key trade union objective that is often forgotten in the world of corporate speak that is regularly spewed out from the MoJ and politicians). Even more reason why our members, whatever job they hold within the justice system, should be afforded the respect and dignity that they deserve.

More news next week, telling it like it is.


I'm aware that the General Secretary has given another interview to Russia Today and his contribution can be viewed from approximately 13 minutes in. As always, there is concern amongst some members as to the wisdom of helping to legitimise what many feel is a pretty much unvarnished propaganda machine of the Russian State. 


  1. I guess the general lack of interest in the probation issue by C4, BBC, Sky, ITN, Dave, QVC or Quest leaves RT as the only available broadcast medium available?

    1. RT and Sputnik are beyond the reach of UK government spin doctors, and for me that is their main attraction -- I can read/watch news and opinions that my own government would prefer not to be broadcast. Yes, it's Russian government propaganda but they are totally blatant about it so actually that makes it harmless.

      If you have something to publicise that is embarrassing to the UK government then RT might be your best hope of getting the story out there. It's not the first time they have broadcast about TR and the outcome.

  2. From Guardian 7/11/17 here's Spurr in a parliamentary committee dodging more bullets & refusing to give answers about his chums at G4S:

    "Pressed by Labour’s former prisons minister, David Hanson, over the contractual penalties that the private security firm G4S had faced for its failures in running Medway STC, Spurr would only confirm that their contract had not been renewed.

    He revealed that G4S had also failed to find a buyer for its 25-year contract to run Oakhill secure training centre in Milton Keynes and it had been taken off the market. The private security company announced its intention to sell its UK “children’s services business” in February last year, including its secure training centres and 13 children’s homes. The Oakhill contract was signed 2004 and has a further 12 years to run."

  3. Guardian report on Lord Thomas speaking in October 2017 about a devolved Welsh justice system:

    "There is a huge problem facing the criminal justice system in England and Wales in relation to both prisons and probation, and therefore it is worth looking at (whether we) could do things better," Lord Thomas said. He added there was "little doubt that the prison population has grown to an extent that the resources that are required to fund it properly are simply not being provided."

    "The pressure on the prison system is very high. The prospect of rehabilitation has waned," he said.

    At least someone is prepared to speak honestly about the shitty state of affairs HMG have brought about with their ridiculous TR agenda.

  4. Excerpt from Lords' Hanasrd for 31/10/17:

    "The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con)
    - My Lords, we undertook an internal review of the probation system and, as a result, made changes to ​community rehabilitation company contracts in the summer. Details of these changes were contained in a Written Ministerial Statement from Minister Gyimah on 19 July. We are continuing to explore further improvements that could be made to the delivery of probation services and will set out at a later stage any changes that are made as a result of this work.

    Lord Ramsbotham (CB)
    - My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Clearly, all is not well with probation. Following a whole series of disappointingly and devastatingly bad reports by the chief inspector, the Justice Select Committee launched an inquiry. Following the bad contracting, during the summer the Ministry of Justice had to bail out community rehabilitation companies to the tune of £277 million, which it can ill afford. Many of the warnings in the official impact assessment that the rushed Transforming Rehabilitation agenda had a higher than average risk of failure have been proved correct. Can the Minister tell the House what the Government are going to do about probation? Will they make time for a debate on the subject before the end of the year?

    Lord Keen of Elie
    - On that last point, I cannot say that the Government will be able to make time for a debate on the subject before the end of the year. On the suggestion of bad contracting, I would point out that contracts were entered into with 21 CRCs, and that those contracts encountered some financial difficulty for one particular reason—namely, it was originally anticipated that some 80% of those undertaking probation would be referred to the 21 community rehabilitation companies. In the event, only about 60% of those subject to probation supervision were referred to the companies, and that impacted directly upon their financial model as determined under the original contracts. For that reason, interim arrangements were made with the CRCs in the year 2016-17, and in the current year. However, the figure of £277 million referred to by the noble Lord is not a fixed figure: it may have to be met, depending on the performance of the CRCs.

    Lord Beecham (Lab)
    - My Lords, morale in Northumbria’s probation service and CRC is at a low level because of understaffing, with 50% of officers leaving the service, excessive workloads, less supervision and the need to concentrate on high-risk cases at the expense of other cases. This is exemplified by case loads of 40, including four to five high-risk cases, now being replaced by much higher case loads, with a greater proportion of high-risk cases and problems with escalating cases from the CRCs to the National Probation Service. What do the Government regard as a satisfactory case load for officers to manage in terms of overall numbers and the balance between high-risk and other cases?

    Lord Keen of Elie
    - There is no fixed proportion as between officers and the number of persons being supervised. That will depend upon the particular CRC and the circumstances in which it is engaged with the individual. The National Probation Service is in the course of recruiting 1,400 additional staff. In addition, the CRC contracts require providers to ensure that they have sufficient adequately trained staff in place. ​Indeed, results tend to bear that out. Nearly two-thirds of CRCs have reduced the number of people reoffending in the past year, according to statistics up to June 2017."

    Clearly probation is not a pressing issue & all is well.

    *HMI Probation reports were manna to Lidington (post to follow)*

  5. Commons Hansard, 31 Oct 2017:

    "Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
    - But is it not the case that according to the Ministry of Justice’s own figures, there is a direct correlation between the length of a prison sentence and the likelihood of an offender reoffending? In other words, the longer that somebody spends in prison, the less likely it is that they are going to reoffend.

    Mr Lidington
    - It is true that short-term sentences appear to have the least effect in reduced reoffending, but the comparison with them is with alternative community sentences, which are available for that similar type of crime. Those community sentences work best when they link up with services such as drug and alcohol treatment programmes sometimes provided by other authorities in the community.

    Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab)
    - I think the whole House will agree that community sentences function only when magistrates have trust in the people supervising them. Last year, thousands of community sentences were served in London alone. Will the Secretary of State therefore commit today to an urgent independent review of the performance of the London company responsible for supervising many of these community sentences in London, following the revelations in last week’s “Panorama” investigation that the London CRC—community rehabilitation company—had failed to act on 15,000 missed appointments over 16 months?

    Mr Lidington
    - Of course, as the hon. Gentleman knows, the company responsible has denied some of the claims that were made in the “Panorama” programme. None the less, it is quite clear that missed appointments are a serious matter. We expect the London CRC, like other CRCs, to take appropriate action. I believe that in the independent inspectorate of probation we have precisely ​the kind of independent body that he has called for. It is currently looking again at London and we look forward to its next report.

    Richard Burgon
    - I hear the Secretary of State’s reassurances about the delivery of community sentences by the so-called CRCs, but for us to be absolutely sure about this, I argue that we need to know the advice that the Minister has had about the failure of the CRCs. The “Panorama” documentary revealed an in-house MOJ paper warning of the risks of handing much of the supervision of community sentences to the private sector through the privatisation of probation. Will the Secretary of State make that memo public so that we and the House can ensure that those flaws are being tackled?

    Mr Lidington
    - I think the hon. Gentleman is referring to a document that was produced some years ago. It is important now that in addressing the underperformance of some areas of the probation service, we act on the recommendations from the independent probation inspectorate and seek, through the contractual mechanism, to drive up standards to where the public would expect them to be."

    So Dame Glenys is Lidington's escape route - and her insistence on increasing funding for the CRCs completes the feedback loop.

  6. And Sam Gyimah doesn't shy away from using Dame Glenys either; this from Written Answers:

    "Richard Burgon:

    - To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the criticism of the use of booths in probation work contained in the HM Inspectorate of Probation report, The effectiveness of probation work in Cumbria, published in October 2017. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 19 October 2017, cW)
    - To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the settings used by community rehabilitation companies to meet service users; and if he will make a statement. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 19 October 2017, cW)
    - To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the potential effect on public safety of the use of booths by probation services; and if he will make a statement. Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 19 October 2017, cW)

    Sam Gyimah The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

    - In her report, the Chief Inspector of Probation found that the work of probation services in Cumbria was good, with exceptional practice at the CRC, and that the work of the CRC was the best they had seen since the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.

    We recognise that it is important that offenders and probation staff can meet in an environment appropriate for their specific needs, and that public safety also forms part of those considerations. I expect the CRC to take note of, and act on the Chief Inspector’s recommendations. Our contract management teams will continue to monitor and robustly manage providers closely to make sure they fulfil their contractual commitments to maintain service delivery, reduce reoffending, protect the public and provide value for money to the taxpayer."

    Again Dame Glenys is being used to justify CRCs, but her glowing words are presented without context.

    I think we ought to know who are these mysterious, robust 'contract management teams', & what do they actually do? Cos there aint no sign of any robust contract management yet... unless its handing over untold £millions of public money when the CRCs plead poverty?

  7. The statement that the RRP is closing "all of the probation offices in the Black Country with the exception of Wolverhampton" is not quite correct.
    Under this definition of the "Black Country" there are 4 RRP offices all of which are shared with the NPS.
    The Dudley Office (Hope House) will currently remain a shared site and the only change may be a slight increase in the number of RRP staff.
    The other 3 offices (Walsall, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton) will remain open as NPS offices and the RRP staff will be moving out of all of them (yes, including Wolverhampton) and moving to a new combined Wolverhampton office.
    I think facilities at the new office are a considerable improvement but the criticism of extra travelling for both staff and clients is very true and a considerable disincentive.

  8. Recent (paraphrased) irony-free account given to me (paid off after 24 years) by a PO I trained (about 5 years ago) in a supermarket aisle:

    "I just love this agency contract work. 4-day week; time limited in any one location; premium rates; dip-in, dip-out; expenses to cover living & travel costs during the week; long weekend at home or on a Euro city-break before another week *somewhere*."

  9. Email received from an agency, my name removed.

    Good afternoon ****,

    I hope you're well and had a good weekend.

    I wanted to get in touch with you as we've been approached to provide people to complete OASys assessments.

    The reports are a mix of Layer 1 and 3 so I wanted to see what sort of pay you'd be looking for for this sort of role, whether it be pay per report or per hour.

    Please let me know.

    1. Would you get to meet these people that you are writing assessments on?

    2. I don't know!

    3. Ask how much they are prepared to pay you and let us know!