Monday, 26 February 2018

NPS Definitely Not the Answer!

There's nothing quite like having your prejudices reinforced is there? The other day I took time out and attended a talk being given by two former probation managers on 'Probation - its history and present state' sort of thing. They both had plenty of years under their respective belts, one having been culled some time ago, was now an academic, the other retired last year as an SPO in NPS with something to do with MAPPA. 

Significantly, I'm sure both hadn't been near a client for over 25 years, and it showed, thus confirming a naughty but widespread view I heard expressed over the course of my career - that if you were crap with clients, you got promoted

The mostly-retired audience were treated to a rather-too-lengthy history lesson before an astonishingly upbeat vision of probation post-TR that simply took my breath away. Perhaps, not surprisingly, we learnt how well NPS was performing and especially with regard to public protection, however the smugness of the presenter was somewhat pricked later by a number of very sharp and focused questions from the wily audience. 

But what I found particularly nauseating was the back-covering management-speak of a typical NPS functionary who clearly had taken to the command and control climate of the Civil Service like the proverbial water fowl. I had to stifle the urge to laugh-out-loud when they were stressing 'how much more publicly accountable things were now'. I felt very uncomfortable indeed by the implied superiority of NPS, when prompted by audience participation, in stark contrast to that of the 'failing' CRCs. Yes, a first class prat I thought! How can you talk about probation and not mention the importance of the officer/client relationship, and instead keep stressing processes and public protection?  But it also got me thinking.

There's a bit of a pattern developing with probation post-TR when considering the vexed question 'what the hell do we do to fix it?' I sense it rather suits the MoJ and NPS to allow the CRCs to take the blame, possibly in preparation for a re-unification, but at the very least to wave NPS as a partial success. In my view this cynical and crass attempt at obfuscation and manipulation needs to be called-out asap, especially if, as I suspect, the recently-retired NPS manager is anything to go by and typical. 

Ok, we know the CRCs are failing - this from Private Eye:- 

But a few months ago, I posed a question to a highly respected and experienced NPS Probation Officer of more than 30 years standing "Is being a Probation Officer compatible with being a Civil Servant?" The answer was an emphatic "No!"  Subsequently, I've asked the same question of other experience officers, all with the same clear response. Not surprisingly, I am of the same opinion and would therefore postulate that in trying to fix probation when considering a plan 'B', merging the service back together under NPS is definitely not the answer.  

Those with long memories and experience will recall what happened to Magistrates' Clerks when they were nationalised by the Civil Service upon formation of HM Courts Service, subsequently to become HMCTS. I soon noticed something very strange indeed. Once very friendly, chatty, professional colleagues turned into cold, distant, aloof and dictatorial functionaries of the state only too-keen to hector, cajole and bully everyone at the behest of MoJ diktats. The title 'civil servant' seemed somehow to have given rise to an air of superiority which very much translated into barely-disguised disdain for the other unfortunate professionals forced to spend much of their working day in the lower courts. 

One of the very unfortunate aspects of the probation 'split' has been the increasing rift between NPS and CRC staff with a regrettable growth in a 'them and us' attitude. It is sad to record but there is a pervasive, unsaid but implied view that if you were any good, you were 'sifted' off to NPS and that by extension the 'shafted' CRC staff were somehow second rate. This very unhealthy situation has been unfortunately compounded by recent HMI reports which often denigrate CRC performance, whilst noting that of NPS is seemingly better. 

Here's the most recent glaringly unhelpful statement by Dame Glenys Stacey, HMIP:-
“people on licence, and subject to recall, were more likely to be supervised by higher-grade staff who are experienced at making the necessary judgements.”
"Actually no because the CRC’s are full of temps and the NPS is propping itself up with trainees and PSO’s."

"Really!!! Not in my experience, it really doesn't work like that unless there is child protection. Those licence cases would sit with any member of staff regardless of experience - recalls have to be endorsed by a line manager and the manager above them. However all of that said, you have to know when to go to a manager to discuss a potential recall and as most of us know, some case managers are being left inexperienced to handle high case loads."

"Both CRCs and NPS are overstretched, dysfunctional and creaking at the seams. The parts do not make up the sum of the whole." 

Since Probation Officers became Civil Servants, they have noticeably retreated behind a wall of secrecy, a situation enforced by a climate of fear and threats. This is not to be confused with probation's long history of professional integrity characterised by not divulging or leaking client-sensitive information to the media, in stark contrast it has to be said to both the Prison Service and police. This is quite different in that it seems nothing of any substance can be said by anyone at any level regarding policy, good practice, innovation and development. 

You only have to glance at the utterly benign utterances of senior NPS managers on twitter to get a flavour of the dead-hand civil service command and control regime that now operates. Does anyone really believe there's going to be any serious innovation coming out of a state-run National Probation Service created by TR and run by prison-orientated Civil Servants? By way of a reminder, just spend a minute or two looking through the glossy 172-page 'Celebration of Achievement' proudly put together by the PCA in 2014:- 
"To celebrate past achievements and to capture a selection of the key moments of the Probation Service’s life, the Probation Chiefs Association, (PCA), has compiled this book with contributions from probation trusts and others. We hope you will find much to be of interest, and, within the limitations of a snapshot of a moment in time, that it will prove to be representative of a lasting legacy of the public sector Probation Service."
I defy anyone not to be impressed by the sheer devotion, professionalism, energy and scale of endeavour achieved under the previously locally-controlled and generally unshackled Boards and Trusts.    

The whole thing has become overrun with bureaucracy as well. It takes anything up to a year to clear the vetting process prior to appointment to a full-time NPS post and even getting 'purchase order' authorisation for employing a temp can easily become thwarted by minor omissions from filling in the on-line template. There's no human interface - the system simply aborts the process and doesn't tell you. 

Secreted away somewhere in the bowels of MoJ/NPS HQ is a team of functionaries who's task is to daily send out command and control instructions to NPS staff, but this group are completely unknown, faceless and cannot be contacted either by phone or email - the perfect way to run things 1984-style. 

To add insult to injury, where a once-proud and honourable profession is concerned, there's the none-too-small matter of practice and 'Performance Improvement Tools' in particular. It might sound like a good idea, for example for each PO to produce at least 3 Parole Reports each year that don't get amended by an SPO, in order to tick a performance box. Apart from the fact that Parole Reports are not always that common, the quality of the SPO-vetted reports are quite often suspect apparently. We know this because some agency-supplied 'old timers' are able to circumvent the process and supply 'old-style' reports, I'm told to universal acclaim! 

The point I'm making is that it's all gone wrong everywhere post-TR and NPS certainly has no place to be looking smugly down its collective nose at CRCs, made up as they still are with mostly former colleagues of only some three years ago. Any plan 'B' cannot be just about putting everything under NPS control, to be run from a bunker in London. Those who still believe in 'Probation' and hold firmly to the ideal know full well that it's always aimed to be about being nimble, flexible, responsive, innovative, practical, embracing, thoughtful, reflective, self-analysing, caring, supportive, questioning, challenging - just not Civil Service territory really is it?  


  1. 12 Nov 2013, HoC:

    Chris Grayling: "The most important part of the way the new system will work will be the co-location of individuals in the national probation service who are responsible for risk management and the new community rehabilitation companies, to ensure that where risk does change there is a swift transition from one to the other."

    9 May 2013, HoC:

    Chris Grayling: I can give that assurance. First, I am looking hard at the issue of Friday night releases. Secondly, the through-the-gate structure will ensure that whenever someone leaves prison they will be met at the gate by an organisation that will take immediate care over their lives. Thirdly, Members will see in the document that a joint project between the Ministry of Justice and the Department of Health will be trialled to measure the impact of a more substantial through-the-gate rehabilitation treatment service

    1. Unison, November 2014:

      "The ministry of justice has notified trusts of Mr Grayling’s desire to start the staffing split and reassign staff. UNISON, Napo and the GMB have emphasised to the ministry that we do not expect to see any local moves to carry out the split before the NNC meeting on 20 November."

      Be under no illusion, Grayling was forcing this upon everyone, bringing any amount of pressure to bear to get his own way - even going the extreme of provocatively introducing the divisive, Orwellian mindset of 'NPS Good:CRC Bad'.

    2. Grayling, 9 jan 2013:

      - The last Government were obsessed with pilots. Sometimes those in government just have to believe in something and do it

      - I simply invite the hon. Lady to look at the work done in Peterborough and by voluntary sector organisations to mentor offenders. Sometimes when we look at something, we can say, “That is the right thing to do.” That is what we are doing.

      - This is absolutely about a reduction in reoffending. I have believed for a while that we should carry out this measure. I was particularly pleased when the Prime Minister invited me to take my current position.

      - One of the questions I have for the probation profession is: should we facilitate the creation of some sort of chartered institute that raises professional standards in the profession? It will continue to be an important profession, with high-level specialist skills needed to manage the most serious risk.

      - I do not expect this to lead to wholesale redundancies in the probation service. It certainly means a new world for many people in the probation service in being part of the new organisations, new social enterprises and new consortia that will deliver the services. Yes, of course there will be some changes, but this does not involve, suddenly and instantly, mass redundancies in the probation service—that would not be right.

    3. Divisive, Dishonest Grayling, HoC, 30 Oct 2013

      I would rather the supervision of highest-risk offenders was in the hands of dedicated experts

      - "On the point about public protection, the national public sector probation service we are establishing will, of course, be responsible for risk assessing all offenders supervised in the community and will retain the management of offenders who pose a high risk of serious harm to the public, who have committed the more serious offences and who require multi-agency supervision. That is right and proper. An hon. Member—I cannot remember which one—made a point about the working day. I would rather the supervision of highest-risk offenders was in the hands of dedicated experts... As I have said, it will be a simple process. The national probation service team will be responsible for risk assessment. They will have a duty to carry out a new assessment when a person’s circumstances change, and it will be the duty of the provider to notify the team of any material change of circumstances. They will be co-located, and when an offender becomes a high-risk offender, they will be taken back under the supervision of the national probation service. This is about people sitting in the same office and working together, just as people work together in any office environment."

    4. What is the point in rehashing stuff we already know and already exists in public record and is only obliquely related to the blog post.

    5. But Chris, I thought you were more interested in playing with cars & trains now?

      I think its useful to have the lies, the cheating & the whole corrupt process kept in public view. Many of these excerpts are buried in pages & pages of Hansard, so for someone to take the time to allow them to become visible via this blog is much appreciated. Many other political scams are often allowed to die away but this blog is keeping the misleading words & actions alive. I have no doubt that the JSC have been influenced & informed by such dedication to truth.

    6. ... especially as Napo are so silent.

  2. I thought the Trusts were a very good idea, but given too little freedom to adopt local solutions. The politicians would never go back to that position and accept their own failings though.

  3. I think we are getting a little ahead of ourselves. Their is a fundamentalism about the Conservative party that would rather commit Hari Kari than re - nationalise anything. No guarantee of a Labour government next who will allow the CRC contracts to expire. I suppose we need to know what any government's vision of the future for Probation services is and we don't. Let's start asking them, demanding answers would seem a reasonable thing to do given the mess presently.

  4. Excellent blog Probation will never fit into the civil service, the unwielding bureaucracy is stifling! The existing systems just don't get us and as we are just a tiny part of a massive organisation no one cares! I'm an NPS PO and can sincerely say we are completely broken and not fit for purpose.

    1. great blog today. Regularly grimace at gulf between real civility plus dedicated professional staff (whether in CRC or NPS) and civil-servant types/tickboxers/bureaucratic/ stepforditis-afflicted colleagues again discernable across the divide

  5. Don't see many colleagues feeling superior in my NPS office except for those usual suspects that have always been that way! A lot of us wish we had got sifted to CRC now because at least we might have got a chance to get out with s bit of a pay out! Of course it wouldn't be like that big fiddle the senior managers sorted for them selves but in my area we are still hearing tales of managers getting much bigger severance packages than lower grades!

    1. Of course they did - they were responsible for the sifting, for deciding who got what, who was eligible for the enhanced payout, for scheduling who could transfer where. How many ex-Trust staff were paid out under the enhanced scheme then re-employed by either the CRC or NPS, while admin, PSO & PO staff were directed to the CRCs then cast adrift with a much-reduced pay-off - despite the MoJ handing over the fully costed EVR funds to the CRC, i.e. the £multi-million bung from the Modernisation Fund which the CRCs pocketed. They were only ever interested in themselves. Jim's blog-piece today refers to a highly relevant & oft-repeated mantra: "if you were crap with clients, you got promoted."

    2. A post from this blogsite in 2016:

      "Meanwhile probation Chiefs cashed in and left us in this mess;

      'In total, 10 senior executives secured six-figure deals including lump-sum payouts as well as pension top-ups. They include Sally Lewis, the outgoing chief executive of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, whose exit package totalled £293,000, and Russell Bruce, the outgoing chief executive of Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust, who received a redundancy package worth £230,000. Heather Munro, the former head of the then London Probation Trust (now the London CRC), who was paid a salary of more than £130,000 in her final year of employment, left with a deal worth £247,196. Her pension pot was valued at £1.4m.'

      I notice former chiefs Tessa Webb and Sarah Billard who also received huge payouts have popped up as a HMIP inspector and a MD."

    3. It irks me that so many of those chief officers received huge payouts and Queens honours for facilitating the shafting of probation and staff.

      Heather Munro stitched up London Probation Trust, sold off Community Payback before TR and kept quiet about all the problems it’d caused. No surprise she received the biggest payout of all. Took retirement on the eve of the split and hasn’t been heard much of since.

      Tessa Webb stitched up Herts Probation Trust, sold off employment services before TR, kept quiet about the problems. Shortly after becoming head of BeNCH CRC, retired and walked away with a huge payout and staff got jack. Now she’s a HMIP inspector. Hadn’t done the job for 20 years, looked down her nose from her ivory tower, then boom she’s back telling everyone how to do their job. It’s Pathetic!

      Sarah Billiald did right by Kent Probation Trust. She wasn’t even probation trained but had more credibility than the rest of them. Saw her on the news a few times before Grayling silenced her. She publicly called TR “Act of vandalism based on ideology”. The only probation chief to speak out without holding back the small print.

  6. TR will probably be seen as the straw that broke the probation camels back, but despite the gold award thats much mentioned, I think it was already broken prior to privatisation and the split.
    I think it's right to say bringing everything into to the fold of the NPS is not the answer. NPS and CRC are two halves of the same problem.
    The past 20years has seen so many changes, tweeks, and reforms to the probation services (probably more reforms then the welfare system), its long lost its ethos.
    That in part is a consequence of being part of the civil service and being shaped by political ideology and dogma, rather then pragmatic and logical solutions to the problems your clients present you with.
    The focus of the service has been changed to a model of process and outcome, directed by political policy, and shifted away from a localised and community based support network. In short its an agency of state, directed by the state, and subject to whatever the political mood happens to be. It should infact be a service rooted on academia and evidence based development.
    The only solution I can see for probation now, is not to focus on how to bring the two parts back together, but for someone to reinvent the wheel.

    As an aside, perhaps some might find this article on civil service functioning as humorous as I did.


    1. Would a devolved probation service, state owned, but governed and managed by local council rather then a centralised body from Whitehall be a good way forward?

    2. My guess is it would be in most cases and this would be a better fit with other local justice services and support agencies. That said if it is a good idea and there is no profit in it for their corporate friends they won’t be interested.

    3. The establishment by Grayling of a central government controlled public sector Probation Service was a very odd aspect of TR and was a compromise position with NOMS who feared a backlash when private providers inevitably cocked up with a high risk high profile case. It was also suspected by some political insiders to be the price of Labours support with the exception of Jezza and Johnny Mc who supported Napo - remember that many Labour MPs voted with the coalition for TR. Sadiq Khan Opposed TR publicly. The seriousness lameness of the NPS as a service was demonstrated by Sonia Crozier recently when things happen in the NPS you can just apologise on the beeb and still draw your salary each month safe in the various layers of bureaucracy that enables third rate civil servants to carry on as no one really expects them to be better than useless. In the CRCs boards of directors are far more ruthless as MTCnovo directors and CEOs have found out though the pay outs are better.

      It is likely that the government will start making it possible for CRCs to start paying their staff more than NPS staff irrespective of performance because in the Tory deluded vision of the world the public sector cannot be seen as preferable to the innovative and effective private sector otherwise they would place themselves in a self imploding ideological loop and disappear up their own bottoms leaving behind nothing but a whiff of sulphur and a bionic badge.

    4. It’s enough to make your blood run cold.

      “And before we get started, I want everyone to take a post-it note, and I want everyone to write down what they personally want to achieve from this away day. When you’ve done that, please come and stick them on this whiteboard for discussion.”

      Every Civil Service Away Day adheres to a very strict formula. And regardless of how categorically useless it was, afterwards everyone is duty bound to say what a roaring success it was and what a lovely day they’ve had, just like the couple who have narrowly missed out on the speedboat on Bullseye.

      The talk around the cabinet Brexit away day suggests they stuck to this winning format, subject to a bit of fine tuning.

      To start with, there will be the obligatory ice breakers, which nobody has ever enjoyed. Considering the various tensions, it’s probably best if the cabinet skip the trust exercises or Chequers will end up looking like a dressing station at Rorke’s Drift.

      It is important to remember that anybody doing anything at an away day is automatically granted the title “facilitator”, and everything they do on the day, no matter how mundane, is an act of “facilitation”. It’s not clear who was given this job for the cabinet, but I imagine it was probably Gavin Barwell.

      There will then be an introductory address by the Big Boss. This will focus on strategy, ideally containing little or no actual substance. That will pose few problems to this administration. No doubt the ambition will be somewhat greater, with whole conversations without discernible content whatsoever, just a mixture of non alphabetic sounds, semaphore and exhalation all carefully minuted by a mime artist.

      A question and answer session will usually follow, when the most ambitious members of staff will try and ask the most tediously self aware question, to raise their profile. The worst are usually young career focussed men, who may even introduce themselves before embarking on their question.

      I like to call these people, “wankers”.

      This, however, can be occasionally fraught with danger: at a recent departmental away day, a system had been set up so that participants could submit questions which would appear on a screen beside the panel. What they hadn’t realised was that questions could be submitted using any name they wished. By the time Sir Anthony Hopkins asked for the fourth time which was Sir Tim Barrow’s favourite Spice Girl, the chair couldn’t bring the session to a close quick enough.

      It’s unlikely the PM will hold such a session, lest she have to tell a number of cabinet ministers to facilitate off for repeatedly asking if they can be Prime Minister.

    5. After that, the day will be split up into breakout sessions. These will be themed and are usually split by interest such as policy vs strategy, or delivery vs implementation. Ideally these will make no sense, go on too long, and be led by a really evangelical individual who while technically speaking English, will be a real struggle unless you’re up to speed on your reputational dispositives. That should work just fine at Chequers. As with civil servants, I imagine there are a number of ways to split the cabinet's attendees. Plotters vs The Deluded could work neatly, or perhaps Cake vs Eat it.

      The cabinet's away day was rumoured to include a separate session led by various ambassadors and experts on EU member states. I’m sure we can all agree, increased cabinet-level understanding of European perspectives will come in very, very handy once we activate Article 50.

      Then it’ll all have been done for another year. Time to make a quick getaway to the pub for the obligatory post away day drink, otherwise Gavin Barwell will lose the deposit he paid on that function room at The Jolly Taxpayer.

      Let’s hope some consensus is reached. Early reports already suggest it was a roaring success. I’m not holding my breath. There were rumours that the meeting wouldn’t be allowed to conclude until key agreements had been reached, a bit like a governmental equivalent of Mad Max 3: Beyond the Thunderdome. What with David Davis’s reference earlier this week, it’s good to see that the franchise has finally become recognised as a significant political blueprint.

      Regardless of the decisions that are or aren’t reached this week at Chequers, it’s unlikely that when Jim Barnier shows us the mystery prize, it’s going to be a bespoke free trade agreement with all the trimmings. Commiserations, Prime Minister. Let’s see what you could’ve won.

      It doesn’t really matter. We’ve had a lovely day.

      The author is a civil servant in the British government, writing anonymously because Gavin Barwell probably won’t find any of this funny. While based on real events, parts of the above are embellished for comic effect.

    6. We all get a couple of quid. God Bless the Queen.The world'alright we me.
      Wish you were here, but you're not.
      Thanks for the service.
      C U yaaaaalllllll soon... .

    7. As per anon at 16.13, Sonia Crozier's performance at the Justice Committee and in tv interview with Suzanne Reid(repeated tonight I think)was appalling on both occasions; very lacklustre at Justice Committee and like a terrified rabbit caught in glare of car headlights with Suzanne Reid. Bizarre to apologize for shortcomings of VL set-up when the main area of identified concern (the concept of "eligible" victims who are only ones offered opportunity to opt into VL contact) is not the creation or choice of Probation Servce but whatever MoJ/Noms/ CJS bods that devised that system. I thought the only issues Dame Glenys Stacey picked up on were poor style of letter writing and a gap in annual contact over a yr or possibly 2 until resumed again. I understand the Inspector considered that the VLOs had gone over and above to try and get victim views prior to the OH.

  7. Interserve shares down to 57p. It's not looking positive.

  8. I hate being a Civil Servant. My soul is crushed.

  9. ‘There will then be an introductory address by the Big Boss. This will focus on strategy, ideally containing little or no actual substance. ‘
    Jim, this is a malicious and misleading comment. My boss was nowhere near the cabinet meeting.
    He was seen in a Northern city drafting one of his famous memos.
    You know who you are, take a bow!

  10. Not much has changed from the 2014 implementation of Chris Grayling’s rehabilitation revolution to Sonia Crozier’s 2018 appalling probation apology on ITV. Since being forced into the NPS I’ve learnt 3 things during these 4 years of hell at work;

    1. That the NPS and CRC’s are as bad as each other, two sides of the same dirty coin.

    2. That being a third-rate ‘civil servant’ basically means taking it in the rear by the Ministry of Justice, and saying thank you when it hurts.

    3. Probation doesn’t do any of what it says on the tin. If you are willing to lie about this to staff and clients alike, and if you are crap with clients, you get promoted.

  11. Clearly we can’t go back as too much needs to be undone without causing another crash. The answer is devolve all responsibility of probation services to PCCs. The PCC is answerable to parliament and their communities. They appoint a chief and the chief appoints the senior team. Local delivery of probation fit for their community. If your PCC hangs their political colours to a Tory mast the community gets the service they voted for. No need for HMPPS, they can drop the silent ‘P’ and look after the prison estate which can be the civil servant club.
    How to Find the lost soul of NPSand CRC staff...... well go back to an obscure date in mid November 2013. Remember comrades, the arbitary date set by MoJ. The musical chairs music stopped on that date. Whatever chair you sat on decided if you exit stage left or stage right. Nothing to do with the cream went to NPS and the rest went the other way. What ever cases you held determined the sift. Regardless of your previous experience and expertise, whether you were on long term sick or mertinity leave you had to fight for your spot... a few fights along the way but you either got shafted royally or just plain-shafted dependant on your view point.
    Now our Dame Glynis is a master of poking the stick at the CRCs, rightly so, we deserve it.. but she is using an inspection model that is in direct contradiction to the CRC contracts. She critises for not having rehabilitation measures in UPW, but HMPSS tell CRCs that it is a punitive sanction only and that’s what they must deliver. chief cook and bottle washer Ian Mulholand of interserve tells staff on his phone in on 23 Jan , we get paid for delivering the requirement as a punishment , no more than 2 Acceptable absences in the life of the requirement. Return to court quickly with breach. That is what interserve is paid for and that is what we will deliver, no if’s buts.....
    The UPW requirement in all its guises has bedevilled Probation since one really held boards or trusts to account for that failure but now they beat us to death with that stick.. 40 odd years of entrenched belief that it was not the front of house sentence it has now been elevated to.
    UPW the public and politicians get... programme and interventions don’t sell.
    Getafix was right when he said we are a monitoring and enforcement agency .. that comment I suspect was levelled at both NPS and CRC... good PO’s and PSOs went to the CRC.. both sides have bad ones as well so dial down the carping.. let’s not engage in a pissing contest here . TR was bad for all.
    We are not civil servants nor privatised tick box merchants, we are practitioners of probation.. find the soul, it will take time but it’s there... believe me this madness will end and we need to be ready......

    1. Probation under PCC’s would be just as bad. Terrible idea, PCC’s are a mixed bag we’d move from being aligned to prisons to being aligned to the police, frying pan to fire. HMIP is suspect too, employs ex-CRC chief officers and foes sessional work for the Tories. And don’t think managers didn’t fix the sifting in some places.

    2. 01:19, my point being they will never allow us to be stand alone. The PCC would appoint some form of probation board and separate out that responsibility from police. We work with police anyway but maintaining that separation of responsibility. We will never return to an advise, befriend and assist service.
      What we do is far to politicised now , and we need to be savvy. Get back to local delivery and local accountability.

  12. Anon 15:29. It irks me that so many of those chief officers received huge payouts and Queens honours for facilitating the shafting of probation and staff.

    Heather Munro stitched up London Probation Trust, sold off Community Payback before TR and kept quiet about all the problems it’d caused. No surprise she received the biggest payout of all. Took retirement on the eve of the split and hasn’t been heard much of since.

    Tessa Webb stitched up Herts Probation Trust, sold off employment services before TR, kept quiet about the problems. Shortly after becoming head of BeNCH CRC, retired and walked away with a huge payout and staff got jack. Now she’s a HMIP inspector. Hadn’t done the job for 20 years, looked down her nose from her ivory tower, then boom she’s back telling everyone how to do their job. It’s Pathetic!

    Sarah Billiald did right by Kent Probation Trust. She wasn’t even probation trained but had more credibility than the rest of them. Saw her on the news a few times before Grayling silenced her. She publicly called TR “Act of vandalism based on ideology”. The only probation chief to speak out without holding back the small print.

    1. Act of vandalism based on ideology

      The plans announced by justice secretary Chris Grayling are concerning (Private firms to take over bulk of the probation service, 9 January). Although high-risk cases would remain in the public sector, medium to low risk of harm cases can include violence against a person, child protection issues and domestic violence cases. This group also includes offenders at high risk of reoffending, such as prolific burglars, chaotic drug users and gang members. These are all complex and potentially dangerous individuals who require professional expertise in their management which the probation service possesses.

      As around a quarter of all offenders' risk changes during the course of their sentence, there will be a significant movement of cases between the public sector and new providers, increasing the number of handovers while reducing clear accountability. The Probation Chiefs Association has significant concerns that this, combined with the pace with which the government intends to implement these reforms, could end up compromising public safety.

      Sarah Billiald
      Probation Chiefs Association

  13. We can’t only blame the Tories!

    The service – which for a century was the envy of other countries because of its rehabilitative success, but whose ethos now begins with punishment – was better off when it was an operational service with its own professional head. It is time that this ill-thought through venture was ended or, not only will there be more similar cases, but there will be no one left in the probation service to manage them.

  14. On another note - LDU heads in the NPS are now throwing around the term ‘Responsible Officer’ like bags of can tell they are desperate for staff to use the term RO as opposed to PO/OM and/or practitioner! Another MOJ directive they all dance to!

  15. Looks like the smart money is going on Interserve to go.

    1. Hedge funds have increased their bets against troubled outsourcer Interserve as its shares crashed another 12 per cent amid concerns it was struggling to raise cash from lenders.

      The FTSE 250 contractor's shares reached a record low of 57p last night as fears grew about its financial strength after two profit warnings and the collapse of rival Carillion.

      In recent days, four hedge funds have increased their stakes in Interserve, with 7.52 per cent of its stock now shorted – meaning that investors are betting its share price will fall even further.

      Carillion had 14 per cent of its stock shorted when it collapsed last month.

      Those with large holdings of shorted Interserve stock include Squarepoint Ops and Oxford Asset Management.

      Hedge fund Marshall Wace, which made a killing correctly predicting Carillion's demise, now has a short position of nearly 2 per cent in Interserve, according to latest records.

      Interserve, which employs 80,000 people, including 25,000 in the UK, has had more than 75 per cent wiped off its value in the past six months.

      Management yesterday attempted to halt the share price slide, rejecting reports of problems with the banks and comparisons with Carillion.

      It was not enough, however, with shares slumping another 12 per cent to just 57p by the close.

      Interserve, which provides security, probation, healthcare and construction services, cleans the London Underground and manages army barracks, has been in trouble since a profit warning in September.

      It issued a second profit warning in October, when it also warned it could breach loan conditions for December, and opened discussions with lenders.

      Debt is expected to top £500million. Chief executive, Adrian Ringrose, 50, and finance boss, Tim Haywood, 53, quit last year as troubles mounted, with Debbie White, 56, stepping in as chief executive.

      Things appeared to be improving on January 10 when the firm said it expected 2018 profit to be ahead of expectations.

      But the share price was hammered when Carillion collapsed days later, and on January 17 the Financial Times published a report saying Cabinet officials were monitoring Interserve due to concerns over its financial health.

      Reports then emerged earlier this month the Government had hired accountancy firm Deloitte to advise on public sector contracts held by Interserve.

      This weekend, the Sunday Telegraph claimed Interserve was struggling to put together debt refinancing to replace a £180million credit line due to run out at the end of March.

      Interserve's banks include Lloyds, RBS, Barclays and HSBC – all of which are thought to have lost heavily from Carillion.

      Yesterday the firm's bosses said: 'We do not in any way recognise the assertion that our discussions with lenders on long-term financing have stumbled. We remain confident of reaching a positive outcome.'

      A Cabinet Office spokesman said: 'We monitor the financial health of all of our strategic suppliers, including Interserve. We do not believe that any of our strategic suppliers are in a comparable position to Carillion.'

  16. watch ellie reeves' debate here

    (27/2/18 blog page seems unresponsive to comments)

    1. ellie reeves' preview of the debate she has secured

      Today I am leading a Westminster Hall debate on the future of probation services; an issue which highlights many of the problems caused by ill-judged privatisation within our justice system.

      The separation of probation services in 2014 and the formation of the public National Probation Service and the outsourced Community Rehabilitation Schemes (CRCs) caused alarm at the time with individuals highlighting the potential for organisational difficulties and negative impacts on rehabilitation work. Three and a half years later, a recent National Audit Office report has shown that CRCs have, on average, met just 8 of the 24 targets set to them by the Ministry of Justice.

      When a prisoner is in the transition stage at the end of their sentence, they should be given complete and thorough assistance with accommodation, finance and their long-term employment prospects. The ‘Through the Gate’ strategy aims to support offenders through the various stages of their release. However, CRCs have failed time and time again in improving the prospects of those they were set up to help. A 2017 joint report between HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons report dismissed the work almost entirely stating that even if the “services were removed tomorrow, the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible”.

      Staff, who were previously employed by the probation services, have since reported that morale is low with many feeling that the work they are doing is inadequate to the work they were doing prior to the 2014 changes. 25% of respondents to a UNISON survey reported that that they only occasionally had the equipment, resources or systems to do their job properly.

      The failings within these organisations may be repeatedly highlighted but these seem to be continually ignored within the Government, who last July set in motion a series of payments, predicted to amount to £342 million, which have been put in place to bailout CRCs because of misjudged planning on their part. Instead of fining poor performing CRCs or ending their contract early, the Government see it fit to pay them millions more, not least at a time when there are other parts of our justice system in dire need of investment such as our aging prisons and the lack of services within them.

      Probation is not a box ticking exercise, nor is it a profession that should be solely driven on targets. It should be based on a well-rounded approach centred on the individual and their needs. I firmly believe that this is not possible under the current arrangement of outsourcing probation to those in pursuit of little else other than profit.

      The system we have appears to be a combination of failures that continue to let down offenders and waste taxpayers’ money. It is time, once and for all, for these failed schemes are brought back under public control so that we can get to the root causes of reoffending and provide rehabilitation services that are fit for purpose.

      Ellie Reeves is the Labour MP for Lewisham West and Penge

  17. From Huff Post article highlighted by getafix:

    Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted: “The changes we made to CRC contracts did not require the provision of additional services or staff.”

    The MoJ said CRCs “are falling short of our vision for a high-quality system” but said their contracts already require them to maintain staff at a “sufficient” level.

    In a separate PQ, however, the MoJ admitted none of the contracts specify maintaining staff at any “particular level”.