Thursday, 14 December 2017

Inspector Signals End of TR

Chris Grayling and the coalition government of the time were repeatedly warned about TR and the smashing up of a gold standard, world-leading public probation service and this blog has continued to be dedicated to bringing this travesty to public attention. 

Today we see publication of an utterly damning annual report by Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation which many will take as signalling the beginning of the end for this disastrous, ill-conceived and ideologically-driven piece of political vandalism. This from the Guardian:-         

Private probation firms criticised for supervising offenders by phone

The part-privatisation of the probation service has led to tens of thousands of offenders – up to 40% of the total – being supervised by telephone calls every six weeks instead of face-to-face meetings, the chief inspector of probation has revealed. In the first authoritative assessment of the probation reforms introduced in 2014 by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary, Dame Glenys Stacey said they had created a “two-tier and fragmented” probation system with most private rehabilitation companies struggling to deliver.

The coruscating verdict based on 29 separate inspections over the last 18 months shows that while the performance of the publicly run national probation service (NPS) is rated “good”, that of the 21 private community rehabilitation companies (CRCs), which supervise the majority of the 260,000 offenders on probation every year, is “much more troubling”. When David Lidington became justice secretary in June, he said the probation reforms had encountered “unforeseen difficulties” and announced he would take a close look at their performance.

In her first annual report published on Thursday, Stacey said initial teething problems had been resolved but identified “deep-rooted” organisational and commercial problems that meant probation companies were not delivering the service the government had hoped for or had met ministerial ambitions to transform rehabilitation.

In particular, she voiced serious concern that the one-to-one relationship between probation officer and offender had been broken by the introduction of new models by the private sector that involve up to 40% of offenders being supervised remotely by telephone or in meetings in open booths that lack privacy. Under the model, offenders have an initial face-to-face meeting with a probation worker but then are not seen again while contact is maintained by a junior staff member through a phone call once every six weeks.

“I question whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well. Above all, a close, forthcoming and productive relationship between an individual and their probation worker is key,” the chief inspector wrote. “This is where skilled probation staff add most value, by motivating offenders, working continuously with them to bring about change, and at the same time protecting the public from harm. Yet in some CRCs, individuals meet with their probation worker in places that lack privacy ... or supervised by telephone calls every six weeks or so from junior professional staff carrying 200 cases or more.”

Stacey added she found it “inexplicable that, under the banner of innovation, these developments were allowed”.

The chief inspector’s key findings include:

  • Quality of work of CRCs is generally poor and needs to improve in many respects.
  • Government expectations that the CRCs would supervise mostly low-risk offenders have not been realised with the majority of offenders under their supervision medium risk. The NPS supervise the high-risk.
  • Most CRCs are struggling: “Those owners ambitious to remodel services have found probation difficult to reconfigure or re-engineer. Delivering probation services is more difficult than it appears, particularly in prisons and in rural areas. There have been serious setbacks.”
  • Unanticipated changes in sentencing and nature of work going to CRCs have “seriously affected their commercial viability, causing some to curtail, change or stall, their transformation plans, mid-way”.
  • Staff numbers have been reduced, some to a worrying extent. Probation workers are carrying 50-90 cases, junior staff up to 200.
  • The public national probation service is doing well protecting the public from harm from the most high-risk offenders but there is still room for improvement.
Stacey concluded: “Regrettably, none of government’s stated aspirations for Transforming Rehabilitation have been met in any meaningful way. I question whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well.”

It was disclosed in July that the contracts of eight probation companies had been adjusted in a £277m bailout over the next seven years. Eleven of the 21 companies are owned by two organisations, Sodexo Justice Services and Purple Futures.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said probation officers used their professional judgement to assess the level of supervision an offender needs: “In some cases, lower risk offenders can be supervised by telephone after a thorough, face-to-face risk assessment, and their continued suitability for this type of monitoring will be kept under review.”

The justice secretary, David Lidington, added: “I have made probation a priority in my first six months as justice secretary and I am committed to delivering a service which strictly enforces sentences, reduces reoffending and protects the public.”


This from the Telegraph:-

Thousands of offenders supervised by phone calls after release from prison

Recently released violent criminals are being supervised by telephone because of tight budgets, the Inspectorate of Probation has warned. Thousands of people are having their contact with the probation services limited to a single meeting followed by "remote supervision" by private providers, its annual report said.

In some areas up to 200 ex-offenders are being managed by each member of junior staff with very little experience, who speak to them for less than half an hour by telephone every six weeks. The cases managed by telephone are those assessed to be the lowest-risk, but in some cases they have included offenders with a history of violence who go on to commit more serious crimes.

In one case, a man with almost 30 previous convictions including one for domestic abuse was supervised by telephone only. He assaulted his former partner after becoming homeless and moving back in with her. In another a man with a conviction for supplying Class A drugs was charged with wounding after being managed with six-weekly telephone calls.

The damning report about the probation service found that private "community rehabilitation companies" (CRCs) who managed low and medium-risk offenders are failing to meet Government targets and could be putting the public at risk.

In 2014 the probation system was reformed to transfer responsibility for low and medium-risk offenders to 21 private CRCs, while the national probation service retained responsibility for the highest-risk people.

Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, said face-to-face work was "vital" and added that she had concerns about how staff knew they were speaking to the correct person on the telephone. "We should all be concerned given the rehabilitation opportunities missed and the risks to the public if individuals are not supervised well," she said.

"In some CRCs, staff numbers have been pared down in repeated redundancy exercises, with those remaining carrying exceptional caseloads. In most, probation officers have been replaced by more junior professional staff."

The most junior staff could have less than a year's experience having only just left college, the inspectors said. Dame Glenys said that workload pressures and remote monitoring "are undermining a central tenet of effective probation work – a consistent, professional, trusting relationship between the individual and their probation worker.”

Speaking at the launch of the report Helen Rinaldi, an assistant chief inspector who also worked on the report, said: "We would advocate that good-quality probation delivery absolutely relies on that central element of the relationship - you can't really influence someone's behaviour unless you've got a relationship with them, and we would just question whether that's as readily achievable if it's purely done on the phone."

The report also found that the Government underestimated the number of higher-risk offenders that would be managed by the companies, with around two thirds of their cases classed as medium rather than low risk. It had initially believed that the vast majority of their cases would be low-risk ones. The companies have also invested funds in new computer systems which do not work properly with the Ministry of Justice's older IT, the report added.

Richard Garside, director of charity the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies said: "So dysfunctional have the government's probation changes become that active sabotage would look much the same."

Secretary of State David Lidington said: “We have already changed CRCs contracts to better reflect their costs and are continuing to review them. We are clear that CRCs must deliver a higher standard of probation services.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson added: "In some cases, lower risk offenders can be supervised by telephone after a thorough, face-to-face risk assessment, and their continued suitability for this type of monitoring will be kept under review.”


  1. Her interview on the Today programme R4 was very telling and impressive

  2. "Secretary of State David Lidington said: “We have already changed CRCs contracts to better reflect their costs..."

    First line of defence - protect the payments to the privateers.


  3. So what happens now? We have been saying all this for months now! Didn't even need dame GS to tell us what we already now! MOJ and this disaster of a government should now take immediate remedial action. I suggest putting all offender managers back in with NPS for a start. That might help..should never have allowed privatisation of offender management.

  4. What is disturbing is that we predicted it would fail at every step since 2013, tried to tell everyone concerned but were disregarded.

    I was fobbed off by one Conservative MP close to Grayling, and more distantly two Liberal Democrats.

    Yet a few years ago I was trusted by Judges to discuss the nuances of sentences concerning serious offenders or members of the parole boards as licence conditions were designed and managed for prisoners who had committed heinous crimes.

    There has been a vast waste of taxpayers money, unnecessary deaths and lives made miserable consequent on all this.

    I don't think anything now will placate me.

    Once having considered my evidence and court welfare officer assessment, The House of Lords stopped an adoption going ahead and the lower adjudicating court gave me the consequent duty of supervising a seven year old child's return to his natural parent, in unusual circumstances.

    Yet our political system did not take my experience or opinion seriously enough to even properly consider it alongside the views of other front-line criminal justice practitioners.

    1. You're right, Andrew. For many (including me) TR wasn't just about losing their job, their career, their 'calling' or their EVR entitlement - it was also about being ridiculed, dismissed & bullied by ignorant greedy fuckwits, incompetent lickspittles & blinkered ideologues IN THE FACE OF CLEAR FACTS which they CHOSE to ignore.

      That choice made them 'not fit for purpose' & unfit for office.

    2. Just a gentle chiding Anon at 08.46 - even now some choose to be Anonymous.

      I failed to encourage folk to stand up and resist publicly in every way possible and also did not do enough "standing up publicly" myself.

      My campaigning was flawed so some of the disaster is to my shame, in the same way I failed to campaign appropriately in years gone by when I gave up at several points and got on with the job and took the salary.

  5. Apparently the London inspection report that is very likely to be damning and controversial will not be published for months. Inside sources indicate that Liddington is under unprecedented pressure and has been taking legal advice about getting out of the contracts that are clearly not producing enough profits for the owning companies oh yes and not Transforming Rehabilitation into anything cheaper and better that what was working befor the whole system was thrown into chaos. Grayling and his little profiteering helpers such as Jeremy Wright David Hood and Micheal Spurr have a lot to answer for and should be answering for it not getting lucrative jobs and bonuses as a result.

    1. Responding to Anon at 08.43.

      In the list of names do not leave of the Liberal Democrats who lusting for ministerial office and influence actively aided the TR process.

      I particularly have in mind the two who were Ministers in the MOJ; Lord McNally, who stayed on the gravy train at the Youth justice Board when he was replaced by Simon Hughes, who got to the table just in time to get a ministerial salary and subsequent loss of job payments along with others who I do not know the names of apart from Nick Clegg, whose agreement allowed the whole shameful business to go ahead in the first place.

      Then there were those senior national and area Probation Managers who signed up for the nonsense rather than walk out as a very few did.

  6. It's good to see the Inspectorate place a high value on the relationship between probation worker and client and see it as central to promoting personal change. It was a solid core value for many years in probation until we had the case management craze and the downgrading of relationships. Probation then was content to fragment service delivery in the belief there was a technocratic fix and that relationships were not so important. This led to clients being passed around like commodities and being obliged to have numerous changes in supervising officer: relationships suffered. Then along came End to End and an implicit revival of the importance of the central relationship. But it struggled to take root in the new probation culture, by then too preoccupied with inputs, outcomes and targets. It's a reminder that when you change a working culture, you can't revert to the former culture by flicking a switch. Probation today is a mess, but the perpetrators of TR had inside help.

    Ironically it has taken an outsider, the chief inspector, to affirm a value that probation previously devalued and virtually discarded. Now that this humanist value is ascendant again, it also needs to apply to relationships between staff and management, with management recognising the importance of supporting staff instead of treating them as anonymous cogs in so-called operating models that are failing. These models are an affront to good probation practice and also create disabling working environments.

  7. Perhaps both managers and employers also need to start valuing staff representatives such as trade unions who want all staff to be valued and treated fairly and who have never made unreasonable demands.

  8. Today all the criticisms of TR articulated in various ways on this blog have been completely vindicated. If the MoJ fail to act now then they are very blatantly completely failing in their responsibility to the public. They can’t say they didn’t know. They need to put their hands up and admit that the game is over and TR completely failed. We are not talking minor problems but rather widespread failure. They need to produce a road map that quickly puts the Probation Service back together and ends once and for all the ludicrous pretence of a justice market. All attempts to downgrade Probation as a profession need to cease. We need to be using all available resources to reverse the crazy operating model experiments in the CRCs that have no basis in what is known to work in reducing reoffending and start the process of realigning operations and systems ready for rebuilding repairing and reforming Probation back to a unified and functional service. Anything else is just wasting time and further public money.

    Liddington get your arse into gear and do it now or face the full force of criticism across the criminal justice system for being demonstrably weak and ineffective when faced with pressure from multinational corporations whilst ignoring the inspectors. Do it now and you will be doing what is right and just and may yet avoid being a footnote. The choice is yours.

    1. Anon at 09.20 writes "They need to produce a road map that quickly puts the Probation Service back together", with which I agree.

      That needs to include putting probation officers back as "officers of the (sentence supervising) court" with their first duty being to the court not their employers.

      Sadly that concept was not properly understood by many of us practitioners and also was not properly taught to me either at the otherwise wonderful University of Liverpool and then Merseyside Probation and After Care Service and its the regional training partners in the confirmation process in 1975/6.

      Also probation OFFICERS need to be put back professionally, through pre-entry training, on a par with Local Authority Social Workers and our contemporaries now employed in the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCSS). I am uncertain of their current job title - it maybe "Family Court Advisers".

  9. Criticism from the inspector is welcome and the tone is appropriate. Will it result in the abandoning of TR? I doubt it. For years now, ministries respond to criticism by stating that changes have already been made and you cannot say that systems and models aren't changing on a regular basis. The model has never worked but they keep trying to breath life into it. The dead parrot sketch comes to mind.