Thursday, 11 January 2018

Hostels Run By Cleaners?

With all the current media attention on the case of Warboys and his release on Parole Licence to NPS-supervised Approved Premises - a hostel in old money - it's worth noting what the MoJ has in mind regarding the vexed question of night cover. This in the Independent:-  

Government outsourcing 'high-risk' jobs guarding murderers and rapists at probation hostels to private firms

Jobs monitoring dangerous criminals, including murderers and rapists, after they leave prison are being privatised by the Government, The Independent can reveal. Controversial facilities management contracts are being used to pass some roles currently inside the National Probation Service (NPS) to contractors such as Sodexo and OCS. They include staff who monitor high-risk convicts overnight at more than 100 hostels across England and Wales.

Critics argue that employees taken on by private companies do not have the experience and training needed for the vital role. “I’d give it a year and something serious will happen with all the new inexperienced staff being taken on,” a source told The Independent. 

A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) consultation document said “double waking night cover” roles were being contracted out to standardise practice across the country. “An NPS review concluded that rather than a mixed approach across divisions, one consistent national approach would provide a more consistent, efficient and effective service,” it said. “Options for one consistent approach were developed and considered, including contracting out the night residential assistant service, which was agreed would be the best way forward.”

Documents seen by The Independent said the new MoJ management contract allows the work to be privatised and transferred to what it calls “external service partners”. The consultation is due to run until 15 January, but the jobs are already set to be transferred just seven days later.

Sodexo appears to have prepared for the influx of work by advertising for residential assistant posts at probation hostels in locations including Leicester, Worcester, Manchester, Liverpool and Wrexham. Full-time jobs to start later this month will be paid an annual salary of £19,760, with knowledge of offending, mental health, substance abuse, risk management, probation and the criminal justice system listed as “desirable”, rather than mandatory.

The description says workers will need to provide 24-hour cover including security and monitoring services, supporting to reduce convicts’ risk of reoffending, breaching their licence conditions or court orders. Sodexo says applicants must also “assist in the supervision of residents, maintaining discipline”, contribute to risk management and work out of hours on waking night duty and the weekends alongside NPS staff.

Ben Priestley, a national officer at Unison, said the union was concerned the change would “put residents, staff and communities in danger”.

“It’s a job that requires significant skills and significant training and our members’ concern is that on the salaries they are willing to pay, private contractors will employ individuals with a low skill set without the commitment to working in this, which is meant to be a therapeutic environment to help these individuals adjust to society after lengthy periods in prison,” he told The Independent. It is not a bog standard security guard role.”

The location of “approved premises” are not made public over security concerns but the facilities house more than 2,200 men and women across the country, with a budget of £49.5m for 2017/18. They are staffed 24 hours a day and enforce controls including curfews, check-ins, drug and alcohol testing and room searching. 

Around 90 per cent of residents are judged to pose a “high risk of serious harm” after serving lengthy jail sentences for crimes including murder, sex offences and terrorism. Staff are tasked with helping residents re-adjust to society, as well as keeping hostels secure and conducting risk assessments to protect the public. There have been several murders at the facilities, with a 44-year-old man killed by a fellow resident at a hostel in Derby in August.

Probation officers are concerned that more violence will occur if the standards of current NPS staff are not maintained. Unison said members in the probation service had already raised concerns about a limited number of contracted night staff when a new push for privatisation was launched in 2014.

“The NPS claimed outsourcing had worked but all the evidence from our members is that it wasn’t the case,” Mr Priestley said. “Members have had real concerns about the quality of staff that have come in when private contractors have been used, the training of those staff, the understanding they have around the sensitivities of working in that environment and just the simple problems of getting staff to turn up and work at the right time on the right shift with the right skills, attitudes and application.”

The debate comes after HM Inspectorate of Probation found the hostels were working well in the current format, before privatisation plans were announced. Dame Glenys Stacey said they were “exceptionally good at protecting the public”, returning residents to prison when needed, but that the quality of rehabilitation was mixed. Her report, released in July, concluded that more probation hostels should be set up to satisfy a shortage of places and ensure “more of our most dangerous offenders could be released safely, and change their lives for the better”.

Until 2014, local probation trusts ran the hostels but the Government’s 2014 transforming rehabilitation policy split management between the public National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). Those firms were found to be putting the public at risk by failing to properly monitor and rehabilitate offenders, HM Inspectorate of Probation found in a separate report released last month. It warned privatisation had created a “two-tier” system in the sector, with CRCs originally intended to monitor low and medium-risk convicts becoming dangerously overstretched.

Unison said the “privatisation experiment has failed completely” and urged the Government to bring all probation services back under public control. “Everyone knows that it’s been a disaster and that serious remedial work has to be undertaken to put it right,” Mr Priestley said. “The fact the NPS is hoping to go ahead with another ill-conceived privatisation round is astonishing.”

A spokesperson for the MoJ said: “We will be contracting additional trained staff to allow us to provide more support overnight in Approved Premises. “This work has been contracted out to ensure we have the flexibility to provide this additional support in a cost-effective way. “Under the new contract, staff will be safer and offenders will have more support.”


This is what the Napo General Secretary ian Lawrence had to say on the matter in his Christmas blog post:-

Xmas cheer in short supply on AP outsourcing

I guess that very few people will be surprised to learn that the privatisation of part of the Approved Premises Waking Night Cover arrangements has hit on some problems. Napo has raised concerns with NPS project leads indicating that some members in scope for TUPE are reporting serious dissatisfaction at the lack of information they have been receiving about their future terms and conditions and whether Sodexo (yes them again) and OCS have actually got their act together after being awarded the North and South contracts.

Aside from the fact that this is another pet project supported by Sam Gyimah, another Minister who seems to have a serious difficulty acknowledging the dismal performance of most private sector providers in probation, it is a move that many tell me will not end well especially if we see more incidents next year like those that saw two murders take place either in or just outside approved premises within a 12 month period.


  1. Whilst I have huge respect for Rory Stewart's past achievements in & his informed views about Afghanistan, I fear his determination to become a Cabinet Minister means he will doggedly pursue Party politics in regards to probation matters. Sadly this blinkered eyes-on-the-prize partisan approach will only diminish an otherwise decent human being.

  2. E3 dictated that AP work could be done by Band 2 staff. The building is staffed 24/7 365 but only under the direction of a manger on mon to fri 9 to 5 (minus, training, meetings, al, vacancies and sickness).
    This building houses only those deemed the highest risk.
    Most of the offenders have finished lengthy sentences and have not been tested in the community. Offences generally sexual and/or violent. High risk to knowns and/or public.

    E3 has seen many experienced AP staff leave because a) due to worries regarding the new structure. b) moved due to new structure or c) the prospect of transfer to private security company.

    Many areas have had difficulty recruiting the new replacements for the lose of experience which in turn has meant APs running on agency staff and thin air.

    It will blow at some point. The model is similar to how prisons are managed, young inexperienced staff with good intentions working without oversight or alongside experience. Expected to manage those who have just been released form an environment of violence, fear, intimidation and bullying. Who are damaged emotionally, mentally or physically. Who require support, guidance, monitoring 24/7.

    APs are a very demanding environment, dealing with those who were recently behind bars who now have access to bars, and drugs, and the many frustrations of transitioning from prison to the community. Only 2 staff (now one of those is to be a private security guard) and upto 35 offenders resident in the building.

    APs deal with overdose and death, self harm, violent outbusts from a group who in most cases have been victims themselves often growing up in deprived and violent circumstances.

    By entrusting the welfare of this group to one staff member, recently recruited and a private security guard we fail not only them in their reintroduction to society but to the local communities as the potential risk of harm is increased.

    This is a very sad state of affairs.

  3. The outsourcing of night waking cover started a decade ago with some probation trusts, so it's nothing new. There was no great resistance or campaigning at the time and what happens is these practices spread piecemeal and then along comes the MoJ to standardise practice. They could go for an in-house model, but lo and behold they choose outsourcing.

  4. Government wont own up to the mess that Probation is in and the risks this poses after TR. Rapid turnaround in the MOJ tells me they have absolutely no intention whatsoever to address this, we just get the leftovers -and even worse, the young inexperienced and ambitious, to wallpaper over the cracks. The cracks are too deep the paper too thin, and the blue flashing light is shining through. .

  5. Three days into my NPS working week and I am exhausted and tearful. Nothing works, not the IT, the processes, the communications with CRC, the effing heating. Spending all of my time pounding a keyboard to hit targets, while our equally stressed managers blow around like straws in the wind, bickering with each other, forwarding on emails to us which we wont read and wringing their hands over whatever target is flavour of this month. Am I making a difference? Don't know, past caring

    1. Same here for a lot of CRC staff. The split is the worst thing that could have happened. How it can be allowed to continue beggars belief.

    2. Where could you go if you decided to leave?

  6. "Hostels Run By Cleaners"! What a ridiculous and misleading headline. Fake News. Oh, and it is also not true that the location of Approved Premises are not made public. There is a legitimate debate to be had about the skills required to work in a residential setting and the training required, but this sort of hysterical naysaying does not help. The NPS may not be the best people to run Approved Premises at all - maybe the whole operation should be outsourced to organisations with a track record in residential social work. The MoJ are interested in moving elderly prisoners out in to 'secure care homes' - so maybe that is the future direction of travel, with specialist residential units for mental health, infirmity, addictions etc.. rather than generic NPS run hostels.

    1. I see Mr Gauke's staffers are keen to engage in the debate. Bravo!

    2. I don't work for the government nor support them, but equally I do not believe that hostels are run by the cleaners nor that NPS employees are the only people capable of running an Approved Premises. Not all probation hostels are currently run by the NPS anyway.

    3. I hink the point that is being made is that these management companies that have moved into Probation work have a background in catering (Sodexo) and cleaning and that their lack of corporate expertise in working with offenders in the community is apparent in the ongoing CRC debacle. I don't think it was meant to imply that all the staff had walked out and left the cleaner in charge. For a start, most NPS staff I speak to would love to see a cleaner actually coming to CLEAN their buildings never mind to run their approved premises.

  7. I thought all was done but there are additional submissions published/released by JSC on their webpage. It makes for very interesting reading. Wonder if there's still yet more unpublished evidence to come?

  8. Will JSC refer back to the evidence submitted for the Inquiry into TR that was aborted due to the Gen Election?

    This from an evidence oral session at HMP Hatfield in 2016:

    "Richard Heaton: The NAO covered most of the areas that I am concerned about. Michael Spurr reports to me and the things that I would hold him to account for would be the relationship between the National Probation Service and the CRCs; elimination of perverse incentives; computers and IT that work successfully for staff who use them; high- quality data; reduction in cost; and, the key one, the reoffending rate. Those are the basic things on which I would hold Michael to account."

    Not one of those 'basic things' has been achieved, so how & why do you pay the man a bonus, enhance his pension & keep him employed at great expense?

  9. All go for staff in London CRC:

    - Electronic diaries must now be used by all. All appointments to be recorded and shared calendar shared with SPO / Admin / Team. As of his Friday.

    - All must now print out their caseload and record reporting frequency along with rationale as to why. Must be passed to SPO to sign of by 31/01.

    - Where BitPort has registered 3+ acceptable absences or 2+ unacceptable absences - feedback must be provided to SPO on circumstances and enforce. Feedback on this task to SPO by 15/01.

    - A deadline was set this week to feedback to SPO on all cases with a CIN register.

    - All out of date registrations on Delis must be updated and cleared by 31/01.

    - Prior to supervision with SPO, Standing Agenda Supervision Form must be competed by OM and submitted (it’s a long form!).

    All while majority of staff are holding in excess of 65+ cases, with approx 90% of these on community sentences. With limited intervention support. Lack of resources. Non existent management support. Staff are literally drowning. Stress levels at an all time high. Some having anxiety attacks and in tears.

    Staff in genuine long term sick are being called by SPO’s and informed if they do not return, they will be discipline or relived of their job.


    1. I sincerely hope this is being read by Bob Neill & the JSC, Meg Hillier & the NAO, Rory Stewart, David Gauke, Treeza May (or may not), the media, the PI, etc etc etc.

      THIS is what Grayling & his team of kiss-as fuckwits, incl Spurr et al, have achieved.

    2. Upcoming Business - Commons: Select Committee (17 Jan 2018)

      Public Accounts: Investigation into Changes to Community Rehabillitation Company Contracts. 2:30 pm

      Witnesses: Richard Heaton, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice
      Michael Spurr, Chief Executive, HM Prison and Probation Service

    3. Could be interesting... but most likely just another layer of obfuscation, deceit & bluster worthy of yet another £25,000 bonus & a knighthood.

    4. When you say "all go for CRC London" do you mean all the staff should all go, i.e walk out? These new measures, they are entirely in keeping with the methods and tone in the London CRC hitherto. Namely utterly pointless because they take my attention away from the service user and places it squarely upon the paranoia and mistrust of the organisation I work for. How to reassure MTC I am "doing my job", whatever THEY think that job should be. Motivating staff through terrifying them. Counterproductive nonsense. How can staff respond in these circumstances ? What is being asked of them is impossible for them to achieve. How would you respond?

  10. 12 hour shift with a six hour sleep over ( never happened ) 24 bed , bail and probation hostel. Friday night shift on your own . No experience or training, 24 years old - Best grounding I ever had in this job - Year 1987 - Whats the problem ?

    1. "Whats the problem?"

      I think part of the problem is you comparing a 'bail and probation hostel' from 1987 with the situation in 2018. An utterly crass comment IMHO.

    2. I may be wrong but I think Surrey's Probation Hostel (St. Catherine's Priory) had 'private' staff covering night duties before the millennium. It had serious flaws (different staff every shift so no knowledge of the residents or general client group). Not sure how it went.

    3. Outsourcing of Facilities Management was an unmitigated disaster for Approved Premises. Cooking, cleaning & repairs and maintenance of the fabric of the buildings went to pot and destroyed community links with local traders and the opportunity to develop activities around resident involvement in cooking, cleaning and decoration.

  11. I worked with hostels in Gtr Manchester in 87 as an Assistant Warden as they were called back then and completed 24 hr shifts which comprised of a " sleep " ( I never really slept as you were on the same landing with only a normal door to separate you from the most serious offenders , violent , sexual and otherwise ) - there was a waking night supervisor on with you who would alert you if there were any issues , which depending on who we housed could be a regular occurance. Working in hostels was my first ecperience of Probation ( I had however worked for a number of years for social services child protection ) - I started off doing voluntary sessional work as the SPO refused to take me on unless I'd experienced hostel life etc , I then secured a job part time but still had other much more experienced staff to hand before to show me the ropes before I secured a full time AW post - I was 31 at the time and no shooting violet. There was talk then about ( probably in the early 90's ) what we called one man and his dog being brought into cover security but we laughed it off saying it was a bloody ridiculous idea !!!!!! As with everything TR it's extremely scary the lack of emphasis out on victims and protecting the public.

  12. Having worked in an AP (which is not a bail hostel for the let 10 year. I can say with some authority that it will not take long once the New way of working that things deteriate. For years they have been working to prepare APs for total privatisation. The TR and E3 process is financially driven. There will be no benefits from these changes and will only drive down remaining staff morale. The new shift Rota means you only get 2 complete weekend free out of 7. I could go on and on about the proposed regime but very few are interested.

    1. "I could go on and on about the proposed regime but very few are interested."

      On the contrary - could you please tell us more either here or would you consider a guest blog piece? Thanks.

    2. Some Probation Trusts ran some excellent APs, others not so great. E3 was a rushed affair that came up with a standardisation based on those who shouted loudest rather than objective evaluation. The adoption of 'enabling environments' as some sort of valid standard is a prime example. Purposeful activity has been dumbed down and operational expectations mainly adopt the lowest common denominator rather than any concept of excellence. Outsourcing staffing is part of this.

  13. Off topic - and this guy is the leader of the free world. What an example of a pathetic ignorant and down right racist bigot

  14. Part 1 - 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.

  15. Part 2 - 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 FM 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 sessional. 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 of 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 except 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 workers 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.