Thursday, 4 January 2018

The Academics Speak Out 2

Continuing with another submission to the Justice Committee from the world of academia:-  

Written evidence from Rob Allen (TRH0071) 

1. I am an independent researcher and consultant and co-director of Justice and Prisons ( From 2005-10 I was Director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College London. From 1998-2006 I was a member of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and was a Specialist adviser to the Justice Select Committee from 2007-10. I have undertaken research on Probation in the UK and abroad. There are three areas within your terms of reference covered in this submission: the contractual arrangements between the Ministry of Justice and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies; the impact of the reforms on sentencing; and a potential model for the future. 

Contractual Arrangements 

Failure of Due Diligence 

2. It is clear that something seriously has gone awry with the contracting process with the result that the number of cases allocated to each CRC is very much lower than expected. So badly botched are either the contracting or management arrangements that the private community rehabilitation companies complain simultaneously that they have too few cases and that caseloads are unmanageably high. 

3. A key alleged benefit of outsourcing is that risk is transferred from Government to the provider. The CRCs should normally therefore have borne the consequences of the reduced volumes. The MoJ and CRCs say that the lower volume was not foreseeable. 

4. The Government also say that each CRC has a much higher proportion of fixed costs than was foreseeable. “This results in too much of the Fee for Service payment being changed when volumes change, when more of it should remain fixed”. 

5. On the face of it this looks like a failure of due diligence on the part of the CRCs. It was alleged in evidence to the Committee in March 2017 that the CRCs were misled. This is a serious allegation that should be investigated as part of the Committee’s inquiry. 

Contractual Failures

 6. In addition to receiving more than £30 million to correct the problems with the contracts, CRCs have been allowed “to re-invest contractual deductions in key areas of the business and improve services”. This appears to mean no negative consequences resulted from contractual non-compliance. This is in spite of the fact that the MoJ claim that the contracts “contain robust provisions requiring each CRC to ensure that it employs a sufficient level of competent and appropriately trained staff. We continue to closely monitor this as part of our contract management and assurance process”. 

Adequacy of the Contracts 

7. Because of commercial confidentiality, relatively little is known about the contracts. It is known that contracts do not specify that CRCs must maintain staffing numbers at a particular level and do not provide CRCs with an option to terminate the contract, (although they require Exit Plans to be in place and maintained throughout the life of the contracts.) As an oddity, I understand that the contracts require CRCs to provide suitable office accommodation for MoJ staff who are responsible for monitoring the contract. Piecemeal knowledge about the contractual arrangements does not allow sufficient scrutiny of their adequacy by Parliament. 


8. The weaknesses of the contracting process and resulting arrangements calls for some new form of oversight and accountability for the MoJ. Alongside the problems with CRCs, the failings of their efforts to make arrangements for Electronic Monitoring suggests a systemic and institutional failure which needs to be addressed from outside the Department. Some form of “special measures”, should be introduced with oversight from the Public Accounts and Justice Committees. 

Relationship with Courts 

9. Part of the reason for amending contracts was that numbers on court orders have been lower than anticipated. There are a number of reasons why the numbers of community orders have fallen but two are these .As the Magistrates Association have admitted, the demands of speedy justice increasingly mean that JPs have inadequate information about the people they sentence. A senior CRC manager put it more bluntly to inspectors: “The push towards same-day sentencing has been devastating. It’s all about getting a report and offender ‘done on the day’, not about getting the right outcome.” The West Mercia inspection report paints a highly dysfunctional picture. Only half of eligible and suitable offenders get sentenced to programmes most likely to reduce their re-offending. Some of those the courts do require to participate are ineligible or unsuitable. While the courts seem to rush to judgment when sentencing, cases returned to court because of a breach, face waits of up to six weeks at magistrates’ courts and three months at the Crown Court. 

10. Until relatively recently, courts would be content to adjourn a case for two or three weeks to obtain a comprehensive social inquiry report to assist their decision-making. There is now simply not enough in the way of core information available to them in many cases. Justice Secretary David Lidington has been struck by the fact that less than one per cent of all requirements started under a community or suspended sentence order are Mental Health requirements. Even where such interventions may be available, the time needed to make the arrangements often is not. In West Mercia inspectors found that “the proportion of court reports produced on the day of sentence in magistrates’ courts had increased from 47% to 75% over the past 18 months. This was still short of the national target, which required a further 15% to be produced either on the day or in a short written format.” 

11. The pressure on reports predates the Transforming Rehabilitation changes, but but the fact that since privatisation courts do not have direct contact with the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) has not helped raise their knowledge about alternatives to prison. All of the liaison goes through the National Probation Service. There is a reason for that. Now that sentences are supervised by private companies, sentencing decisions have taken on a commercial dimension. The Guide to Judicial Conduct makes it clear that the requirements of a Justice’s office and terms of service place severe restraints upon the permissible scope of his or her involvement with any commercial enterprise. If this is getting in the way of courts being aware of what sentencing options entail, the restraint needs to be modified in some way. The current situation is absurd. 


12. Magistrates and Crown Court Judges Sentencers need to be better informed about community based supervision options. Adequate pre-sentence reports need to be available and opportunities provided for sentencers to make visits to community based programmes. The respective roles of the National Probation Service and CRC’s in both these areas needs to be reviewed. 

Future Model for Probation 

13. The privatisation of probation has been a mistake at every level. As a small example, CRC’s now seem to charge organisations who benefit from offenders’ unpaid work. In West Mercia “unpaid work staff complained that they were not told where the money went, and so they could not answer when the beneficiaries of the work quite reasonably asked what happened to the charge they paid”. It is not surprising that “this had caused some local public relations difficulties”. There must be serious questions about the desirability of commercial involvement in this area of public policy provision. 

14. Nevertheless, the reality is that with some crutches from the MoJ review, the arrangements are likely to limp on until 2021 but unless there is a drastic improvement, something different will be needed then if not before. In London, the Mayor’s Office wants to join the oversight arrangements of the CRC “with the intention of devolving the full contract and commissioning responsibilities once the current contract ends”. If performance in the capital does not improve, maybe that should happen sooner. A more genuinely local approach rooted in Justice Reinvestment is surely the next chapter for probation after this tale of woe. 

November 2017


  1. Suitable accommodation for MOJ staff?.What does that mean?.So the reason so many CRC staff are in appalling accommodation post split whilst NPS generally have reasonable accommmodation is because no one thought to include this in the contract specification! Presumably they also neglected to include the need for appropriate accommodation for interviewing and supervising service users? Is this why there are so many reports of service users being seen in booths or in libraries etc? Seems as if the CRC companies were given free reign!

    1. CRC have to provide permanent office space for Moj contract management teams.

  2. wo sensible, evidence-based submissions that ring true. Much of what has happened was predictable, but it made no difference to the dash for privatisation. As Lord McNally well knows – he was a minister in the MoJ at the time – TR was ideologically-driven and so-called expert opinion was traduced and discarded. The claim about extending supervision and support for the £46-pound-in-their-pocket short-term prisoners was dishonest and cynical. But the likes of McNally, despite knowing the truth, wrote articles promoting rehabilitation fantasies. And it was all rubber-stamped by parliament – who now sit in judgement on themselves.

    1. With the number of contracts these private companies already have, the vast amount of money the contracts are worth, and the legal and accountancy teams that draft the contracts, I find it impossible to believe that premises or accommodation costs were not a calculation in the original bid.
      The truth is if they weren't making plenty of money, and able to see more money in the pipeline they'd be gone already claiming flawed contract or they were misled by the MoJ.


    2. The assumption seems to have been made that CRCs would stay put.An assumption flying in the face of what has happened with privatisation in the past.Some of us did point out at the time that they only fat in the sandwich was attached to Ts and Cs of staff.Oh how they laughed.....

    3. Our friends from the private sector bought the contracts for £1 each, cashed-in the realisable assets, threw out what they saw as costly overheads (experienced/qualified staff) & cut every possible corner in order to boost their bonuses & shareholder profits.

      The whole *point* of 'probation' never featured in their blinkered, financially-oriented consiousness. Nor was it ever going to as the entire TR project was a myth, a Trojan Horse which Grayling & co used to smuggle vast sums of public money into private-sector bank accounts. He did it with employment & training, & he's continuing true-to-form with transport.


  4. 'So badly botched are either the contracting or management arrangements that the private community rehabilitation companies complain simultaneously that they have too few cases and that caseloads are unmanageably high'.

    Orwellian, isn't it?

    What angers me is that pretty much ALL of these failings were predicted by INDIVIDUAL PRACTITIONERS. No research was necessary . We ALL saw what was going to happen and said so again and again. The impact of splitting the service, the lack of insight into the needs of the client caseload, complex relationships with sentencers, the consequences of a commercial aspect of service delivery on the justice imperative. Unions and Trust management saw it all coming and said so, again and again. Despite this, Grayling and his yes men, institutionalised Prison management to a wo/man, supplemented only by the nakedly ambitious amongst Probation management who identified this as an opportunity to climb and who are now almost all gone, despite their arrogance and duplicity (or because of it), continued with their 'hunch' and engineered what appears to be the biggest train wreck in the history of the British Criminal Justice system.

    I am not working in Probation but I speak to many who are. The stories I hear are farcical. Offices with no heating. Services and facilities to NPS buildings being withdrawn because bills weren't being paid. A workload management tool that tells staff that they have a caseload at 240%. The staff involved say they cannot cope and are threatened with 'needs improvement' status on their PDRs and told that they need to build their resilience. Managers accusing PSO of bullying because they said 'no' to massive caseloads. Competent officers 'burning out' within a couple of years of qualifying. Sex offender specialists who have had no supervision for TWO YEARS. It's not just bad practice; it is corporate negligence. These academics are making entirely valid points but, on the ground, you cannot bale out the sinking ship quick enough. It's a very, very bad joke.

  5. Not sure if it's any use, but if you click on this link and scroll down, you can access the Probation Institutes submission to the select committee.
    (it's a pdf file)


    1. All in good time 'Getafix - we will get around to them in due course...

    2. Why we all know what we think of them collaborators.

  6. A colleague of mine working in NPS has told me that arrangements are being put in place for the NPS to carry out some of the CRC work,namely applying to extend 3000,yes three thousand, outstanding Unpaid Work orders.At this stage it is unclear how this has come about but the implications of this work being performed by the public sector is interesting to say the least as well of course the 3000 orders not being enforced.

    1. If CRC was asked to carry out work that should be done by NPS they would be demanding payment.
      How much will the CRCs be asked to hand over?
      The union need to nip this in the bud.

  7. This project is relevant to London NPS only I am told.Indications are that no payment is being made but Crc London will reap the benefit of these orders once extended.

    1. It's corrupt.

    2. Sadiq Khan has hit out at the Government on all things criminal justice in London, including the botched privatisation of probation.

    3. Sadiq Khan has attacked the Government over being “weak on the causes of crime” and suggested that cuts could be driving rising violence.

      Speaking after four young men were murdered in unrelated stabbings in the capital during New Year’s Eve celebrations, the Mayor said police were already doing everything in their power.

      “The police are being tough on crime, but the Government are being desperately weak on the causes of crime,” he added.

      “Getting back to being ‘tough on the causes of crime’ will require a massive investment in the services that have been neglected for too long, tragically letting our young people down.”

      Critics have hit out at Mr Khan for presiding over rising violence in London since he was elected mayor in 2016, having vowed to “challenge gang culture and knife crime head on” in his manifesto.

      The number of teenagers murdered in 2017 was the highest since 2008 and there is mounting public concern over the number of stabbings and a spike in acid attacks and moped robberies.

      Violent offences have risen by 19 per cent in England and Wales in the past year, and by 3 per cent in London.

      Mr Khan claimed real-terms funding cuts to youth services, community groups, education, probation and the police since the 2010 general election had “reversed decades of progress in tackling the root causes of violent offending”.

      He also hit out at the “botched” partial privatisation of probation services, the ongoing prisons crisis and “scandalous” reoffending rates.

      The Labour Mayor called on ministers to prioritise youth services, community work, mental health, probation and prisons to fight the causes of crime.

      “On this Government’s watch, these critical services have been allowed to deteriorate and starved of funding and we are now paying a heavy price,” Mr Khan said.

      “I am doing everything I can to tackle this scourge in our communities. Keeping the country safe should be the Government’s priority too, and it is time ministers stopped shirking this responsibility.”

      Scotland Yard appealed for the public’s help combating knife culture after the four New Year’s Eve murders, which have been followed by another stabbing in Harrow and a murder in Ilford.

      Sir Craig Mackey, the Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said it was “truly unusual and extraordinary” for so many murders to take place in such a short period of time.

      “There are a number of issues affecting knife crime,” he added. “We are doing our part... but we need others working with us to help tackle those underlying issues around a knife culture that has emerged across London.”

    4. City Hall claimed that reductions to the central Government funding given to councils has triggered more than £22m of cuts to youth services since 2011, seeing 30 youth centres closed.

      It said London’s schools “face £99m in real terms cuts in 2018-19 alone”, with the funding gap for children’s services predicted to reach £2bn by 2020.

      The figures could not immediately be verified by The Independent and the Home Office has not yet replied to a request for comment.

      Mr Khan’s office said mental health services were also “chronically underfunded”, leaving young people with behavioural problems in later life, and that the proportion of young male convicts returning to crime had risen to almost 40 per cent in London.

      The capital’s probation services have been partly handed to one of several private “Community Rehabilitation Companies”, which were heavily criticised in a recent watchdog report accusing them of putting the public at risk.

      Senior police officers previously said they were being used as the “service of last resort” for shrinking public services, particularly in mental health, while calling for more funding to tackle rising crime and terrorism.

      Sophie Linden, London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, said the Met was in a “very difficult position” after officer numbers were cut to 30,000 in the capital.

      “My concerns, and I’ve been given assurances that it is possible to police London at those numbers, if they go below 30,000, which is exactly what the budget trajectory looks like, that is going to put the safety of Londoners at risk,” she told the London Assembly budget and performance committee on Thursday.

      “30,000 officers, we can cope with it, but it is not ideal in any sense because we know demand is rising, the population of Londoners is rising, the young population of London is rising and that comes with its complexities, opportunities as well, but great challenges in terms of policing. It is a real worry.”

      She added: “London is not in a good position, it is in no way a better position [than previously], it is in a very, very difficult position, and that is about safety.”

      Sir Mackey said cuts were forcing the Met to be more “prescriptive”.

      “We are having to make really, really difficult choices in terms of what we can prioritise and what we can do,” he said.

      “What you're seeing is increasing prioritisation of workloads... having to be really, really clear when we take something on or try something new about what gives.”

      A Home Office funding settlement announced last month was heavily criticised for relying on elected Police and Crime Commissioners taking more money from council tax to fund forces.

      The Metropolitan Police has already released guidelines instructing officers to stop investigating some “low-level crimes” as it works to save £400m by 2020 and other forces are believed to be considering similar policies amid a falling number of police officers.

      A recent report by HM Inspectorate of Constabulary warned that police forces are failing to respond to low-priority crimes because of “significant stress” caused by continued budget cuts amid a huge rise in demand.

  8. don't forget issues like illegally transporting UPWs in unroadworthy vans and putting them and other road users at risk. Near fatal accidents/incidents?
    Anyone interested in the evidence?
    Guardian? etc

  9. Rob Allen hits the nail firmly on the head. His poinent observation that the demise of the SER/PSR has led to some terrible and inappropriate sentencing is realised on a daily basis. I am part of the CRC project that has to unpick the mess of inappropriate sentencing. I will not apportion blame between NPS or CRC as that is devisive and wrong. We are both devalued
    by TR. I hold 67 cases, 65 are in the community and 2 long term custody cases.
    Of the community cases, only 2 have a passing resemblance to what could be called a PSR. As a result the wrong questions or no questions were asked or pursued. When I see them post sentence all kinds of issues fall from the tree. Long term mental health issues unresolved and not questioned or looked at pre sentence. The CRC allocates centrally from a spreadsheet algorithm on that flimsy information. I have several cases that take up the vast majority of my time, all because important information was not sought pre sentence. The Mental Health Treatment Requirement is now defunct. Why? Because it requires a psychological report pre sentence, that takes time and money. So what practical intervention is available to me. I have to find a work around the system. I get my case to undergo a 30 minute phone interview with the Community Mental Health Provider, on my work mobile phone, I know he will fail the interview as that interview by phone is looking to offer Cognitive Behaviour Therapy which they can provide. When he duly fails They write to him and his Doctor saying he needs a full psychiatric assessment. He eventually gets the Mental Health service he always needed some 9 months into his 12 month order. All could have been done at pre sentence stage. I had to see him weekly for 9 months to keep him from doing something stupid. His inital assessment at court was low risk based on very little....... I have been fortunate in my early career with Probation to see really good quality SERs/PSRs that we’re rigorous and well thought through with a serious proposal of a sentence.... for which I have witnessed district judges remark in open court as to the quality of report and well considered proposal... no more me thinks. This rush to sentence we have today based on very little ; causes no end of problems for any practitioners ,new or old ,to deliver the right intervention, so old hands like me seek workarounds to get what we know is the right intervention... the problem I have to live with : who has to suffer on my caseload so I can give more time to those who fell through the judicial cracks...... I cross my fingers and hope .....

    1. Spot on. I have experienced very similar issues myself.

    2. Thanks for that, based o what you have said, now I have enough information to identify the person you speak of, a friend of mine. I will let that person know cheers.
      I guess I can say on behalf of that person many thanks for breaching their right to data protection (you amateur blabbermouth idiot). I will instruct my friend to report you to the ICO for the breach and look forward to your demotion.
      I suggest you apologise now, publicly.

    3. Read up on Common Law around confidentiality, Data Protection and Human Rights Act 1998. I am confident that the Probation Officer concerned has not breached anyone's rights here. The client, the Probation Officer, The CRC, location are not named specifically and any other information that could reasonably identify the client are not disclosed. That someone you know might fit this account likely says more about the failings of the system than that which you suggest.

    4. To addend. There is, however, an ethical question around disclosing any aspect of a case without the client's consent and I doubt this was sought.

    5. No, indeed how about YOU 15:06 and this blabbermouth idiot read up on data protection.
      It doesnt matter if he/she/CRC are not named the fact is I KNOW who this is, therefore you HAVE identified this person and by doing so HAVE breached their data protection.
      All I have to do is put down the details here and you my friend are sunk.
      Thats it think on that eh.
      However thers always a stupid apologist for incompetence and you my friend are it.
      15:28 is absolutelty right, you think we or anyone want to talk to you again knowing that you are going to blab their personals details and case on a public website?
      you are indeed beyond the pale of incompetence.
      And this is the very point, most of you dont have a clue how to conduct yourselves professionally and have zero respect for data issues, it speaks volumes of your real attitude towards another human beings rights. Put simply you think they have none and you have some sort of right to lord it over them!!

    6. Pack it in, Anon 15:14. There are 250,000 on probation at any one time. The above is a common scenario and to insist you know the individual case from the scant detail above is nonsense, deliberately inflammatory and antagonistic nonsense at that.

  10. And still our own senior managers maintain their silence. Speak out now or be forever damned

    1. Word from napo is once it implodes managers who have colluded and cannot evidence that they have spoken out will go.

    2. Really, I didn't realise Napo was back in power. Try Johnny the Shoeshine Guy