Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Hostel Worker Speaks Out

With NPS due to introduce significant changes to how Probation Hostels are run, this recent contribution gives an insight into a part of probation work not often discussed:- 

For at least the past ten years there has been pretty much constant change in Probation and in Approved Premises (AP). You could see the signs of privatisation coming and then with the introduction of Trusts, privatisation could not be hidden as an ultimate government goal. There was a reprieve with only the so called low/medium risk offenders moving across to be managed by private companies. I believe government wants all probation matters in the hands of the highest bidder. 

For the next stage I can see Approved Premises targeted to be taken over by private companies. For years I have had senior management say when questioned about APs and privatisation, that “no one would touch them as they could not make enough profit and that high risk offenders would not end up under their control”. I think we all know by now that it does not matter what is right and proper or safe, the privatisation onslaught will go on. 

The introduction of EE is another example of the privatisation preparation. Have any of you looked at the blurb as to the reasons to gain EE certification? One of them is that it is a measurable standard which can “Provide evidence of quality assurance to potential customers, commissioners and external stakeholders”. Although cynical of the current EE tick box process, my colleges and I have worked in an enabling environment way within the confines of an enhanced supervision regime since the day I joined. Why on earth would I be in Probation if I did not believe that? 

Next will probably be the TUPE of AP Residential workers along with the fabric and total control of the APs to private companies, justifying this by saying that PSOs and the AP Manager will still work within the AP but will be retained under NPS control. Residents within the AP will also still have NPS POs and after all the now band 2 Residential Workers will have no other function than to carry out a security role so why would they be retained by Probation. 

At one of the E3 web chat sessions, Sonia Crozier said about the AP residential worker “the posts will attract older people with a range of experience, who are interested in a second career”. I feel that we have all been let down and that (selfishly) all my effort in helping residents and actually reducing risk in the middle of the night and weekends when no “professional” was about will in the future be lost. I certainly will not be going the extra mile and work above my new role and pay grade.

'Hostel run by cleaners'. Not far wrong. The new rates of pay are pretty much cleaners wages. In fact we have not had a cleaner for months in our AP and it is down to staff and residents to keep the place together. If you look at the private companies who are currently recruiting for the night worker, the pay is at minimum wage, and for a 48 hr week. God help those who work nights in the AP that are being TUPE across to the private companies on the 22 January. Give it a year and their contract will no doubt be torn up. 

These companies are also competing with the MoJ for the Residential workers posts presumably to supply sessionals or to get them into APs and take a finding fee. They will probably be more successful in their campaign as the civil service seems incompetent at recruitment. Our and many other APs have held vacant posts for years. Currently there are posts being filled by surplus prison officers! Yes I said surplus. 

Should I touch on the Facilities Management contract? Well I would if I knew what was happening as at 22 January when the new contract is supposed to start. What is happening about outstanding jobs? Clothes dryer out of order for the last two months, blocked drains and no intercom etc etc etc. Have we got a new maintenance man coming in? No one seems to know.

AP staff have been targeted in many ways to reduce costs. The ban on overtime came in to our South West AP some years ago and shifts that needed covering were filled by sessionals. When there were no sessional staff, the shifts were open to full time staff but you had to complete the shift as a sessional. Yes you were doing the same work as what you were contracted to do, same desk, same building, same room, same residents...and pen, but you were paid at a lower banding/rate and this was classed as a second job. 

This was taken to grievance but was stopped by HR as it was not deemed a grievance. Although if you look on the My Services web site it has a comprehensive description of what is and what is not sessional work! Then there was a ban on taking bank holidays off as holiday. So if you were unfortunate to be on the rota to work all the bank holidays in any given year, you were told that you could not take even one day as holiday, fair? This went to grievance and was won by staff. 

They then introduced a complex way of giving you your bank holidays. You front loaded the holiday hrs onto your leave card and then were told that if you worked a bank holiday you had to convert the amount of hours worked on shift during that bank holiday to TOIL. This meant that if you wanted equivalent time off i.e. a weekend, then you had to use the TOIL which meant you were financially out of pocket, not equivalent time off. This was taken to grievance and won by staff. Staff were pressured to attend team meetings and not receive any compensation. After complaints, TOIL was offered but again the taking of TOIL means the loss of income. 

Would any other probation worker PSO, PO or SPO expect to be asked to come in on an evening or weekend and accept no payment or TOIL for their time? I am talking about weekends and nights not extra time at the front or back end of a day. Management seemed to think that if you did not work during the week then it was ok to ask an AP worker to attend supervision during their working hours and that staff were being difficult if they said no.

I would like to finish on a positive. I have enjoyed my job and hopefully no matter what they throw at us I hope to retain some of the work ethic I see in my colleagues.


The following tweeted yesterday by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-
"Breaking News... Transfer of Approved Premises Waking Night cover now to take place in March following union pressure. More news to follow."


  1. Again it's heartbreaking to hear dedicated staff speak of being betrayed by organisations we've worked years for - working in hostels you are the first point of contact for the high risk offenders who reside there as our guest speaker started especially at weekends when there are no other services available. Apart from the abhorrent way hostel staff have been treated I feel for the residents of those hostels who due to their offences will be required to remain till their PO states otherwise - what effective work will be completed in order to attempt to reduce someone's risk in the community of the staff they employ have no skills not expertise and are paid in washers !!!!! - will this have a knock on effect to prison releases of the parole board have no faith in where an offender is to be released to ???!!!

    1. AP staff (particularly residential workers) don't really do much so I'm not surprised it's heading towards privatization. I'm just keeping real and understand some will disagree.

  2. Off piste here but interesting read from the FT on Interserve which due to carillon appear to have the government sweating a little ;

    1. From Financial Times

      Please use the sharing tools found via the email icon at the top of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at

      The UK Cabinet Office has set up a team of officials to monitor Interserve following concern over the financial health of the FTSE 250 contractor, which employs 80,000 staff worldwide and has an annual turnover of about £3bn.

      Civil servants have been looking at Interserve since it issued a profit warning last September, government advisers and officials said. The company employs about 25,000 staff in the UK providing cleaning, security, probation, healthcare and construction services.

      Concerns about the British outsourcing industry have mushroomed in recent weeks, especially after Monday’s collapse of construction group Carillion, which had racked up £1.3bn of debt and a £587m pension deficit.

      Interserve has come under pressure from the increase in the national minimum wage as well as large losses on a waste-to-energy project in Glasgow. Not only are a number of investors betting that the group’s share price will fall but some of its debt is trading at a steep discount to face value.

      “Ministers are very worried about Interserve, but the team is small and low-key as they are not wanting to unsettle,” said one official.

      Another government aide confirmed that Interserve was being “monitored” but said there was “no comparison” with Carillion: “There are regular discussions with all of our 30 strategic suppliers.”

      Interserve said it was keeping the Cabinet Office appraised of its progress.

    2. 1. Excellent contribution from hostel worker
      2. Interserve shares dropped by 15% this morning, but a slight rally to 9% drop just now...
      3. Additional info from Carillion suggests this collapse had been long anticipated & Carillion were effectively trying to play chicken with govt over rescue package.
      4. Its been suggested Grayling gave contracts to Carillion as part of this game of chance. Wonder if that was linked to Carillion's generous funding for May's leadership bid? Or the GE?


  4. Approved premises are already under strain, they are getting by on use of many many sessional workers and a small core of permanent and dedicated workers. The situation is far from ideal. I would caution the Government against facilitating further Private predation and profit in Approved Premises on the basis that the system is already strained. I also predict a flight of experience and professionalism if this were to happen which inevitably will lead to grave consequences. The outsourcing revolution has gone too far and as we are witnessing the costs of putting the house back in order is both complex and costly.

    1. I read with interest in todays Independent an article relating to Carillions collapse, but focusing on the not very often spoke about the "Social Value Act."
      I'm sure the privatised probation services flies in the face of that act as many local services that used to interact with probation no longer do.


  5. Enabling Environments certification is just an income generator for the Royal College of Psychiatrists - sold to Probation by snake oil sales folk. Numerous staff hours spent by staff compiling 'scrapbooks' of 'evidence' and information noticeboards to show the EE assessors.

  6. Another missed opportunity by the opposition to hold the government to account during PMQ’s over this fiasco. I like Corbyn the person, but he’s no leader. Missed to many open goals. You want him in your team but not playing up front.

    The country’s journalists are the one acting as the opposition at present. This sort of thing should be rattling the government. But they are not bothered.

  7. I think the Parole Board have to some degree already lost faith in Ap's. As a PO at a recent oral hearing I was given quite a bit of grief for reccing an AP.Asking what they could do for the prisoner. I was at a loss really. The rot set in when they took away the Programmes and groups which used to be a feature of an AP. I recall a time when you had a menu of activities you could pick for your case. Long gone.For many years AP's have just been holding pens where the only thing monitored is sleeping patterns.The SU gets up, goes out and then comes back for curfew. I say this as someone who does relief.It's not the staffs fault, they are very dedicated. It's the ideology of cost cutting weasals in Government.


    1. If there's a 'windfall' of such a vast amount of cash, then build a hospital, build housing or a school with it.
      It's unforgivable to shove it into the pockets of shareholders of immoral greedy private companies.

      Where does a 'windfall' of such a magnitude actually blow in from?


    Watch it & weep

    1. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT. At timecode 15:01:25, Spurr describes the 'new idea' that isn't yet working and for which HMPPS are giving away taxpayer money hand-over-fist. It was...

      " give responsibility to an organisation that works with these people in custody, and once they've left custody, who can marshall support from other services, who could work innovatively with those other service groups in order to support these individuals, and that was one of the main aims of the reform programme..."

      I can't type what I want to say next...

  10. When talking about Warboys' case Caroline Flint proves she hasn't a single firing neuron, despite her new glasses - but Spurr can't articulate what the situation is either. I doubt anyone would be able to make any sense of their unhappy exchange.

    AND THEN the Chair starts saying that HMPPS should provide the CRCs with enough money to get their ICT up & running!

    Let's be clear - the privateers bid to run the contracts because it was a licence to print money. All they had to prove was that they had £Hundreds-of-Millions of financial backing - but NOT cash in their hand (see Carillion). They paid £1 for each CRC they bought, they inherited all of the CRC assets, they were given £80M to pay off staff in order to cut their overheads (although they pocketed most of it for themselves), then they were given even more £M's because they were crying about reduced throughput. Surely they should sort out their OWN ICT ffs!?

  11. What a fucking mess!

  12. Excellent challenge to Spurr by Shabana Mahmood about the alleged 'unforeseen' issues; Spurr's clearly irritated - almost angry - reaction is (I paraphrase): "OK, so we got it a bit wrong, but we didn't project the volumes for the bidders AND the figures were there in the databank for the bidders to see and they didn't get it right either! So we're not to blame. They are!"

    In my head: You got it so very badly wrong, dickhead. That's why you're handing out new contracts and more cash.

  13. Timecode 15:40 on...

    Spurr - "blah, blah, complexity, blah, volatility, blah, first generation contract, blah, complexities, volume changes, blah..."

    Shabana Mahmood: "So, Mr Heaton, Mr Spurr - is this even the right kind of model that we should be considering for this kind of service given that when it goes wrong...and it does go wrong, often..."

  14. Flint has now started to fire those neurons & gets stuck into Spurr...

    Spurr (by now, riled as fuck): "The Doncaster pilot & the Peterboro pilot were different mechanisms completely, they didn't involve the statutory requirement for the under 12 month group, um, the decision was taken to go to scale on addressing the group of under 12 month offenders and the way to do that was to use the community model rather than the prison model, and that's why we proceeded with the TR reforms"




  15. Sorry for shouting.

    And sorry for typing so much on this, Jim, but its beyond comprehension that they are such barefaced liars.

    I need a lie down & a stiff drink.

  16. Spurr's examples of CRC innovation, never seen before, brand spanking new models of intervention?

    er, working with people in the community
    er, getting other agencies to work with people
    er, using mentors, um, in the community

    Seriously. That's it!!!

  17. Multi-disciplinary IOM's have been effectively dismantled by TR; but now, suddenly, the CRCs are being financially disadvantaged in the metrics by the anomaly of persistent & prolific offenders - "something we'll have to address when we adjust the contracts"


    1. As an ex CRC IOM PO who witnessed own team being dismantled I was trying to think of something powerful to say but like you I am still at the %$%££""!***&^!!***!! stage.

  18. Interserve=Carillion2?

  19. Long read but food for thought.