Thursday, 1 February 2018

What Former Chiefs Think

Continuing to sift through the submissions to the Justice Committee inquiry into TR, here's a view from two former chiefs:- 

Written evidence from Tony Knivett and John Budd (TRH0093) 

1. Our Credentials 

This is a joint submission. 

John Budd, as vice chair of the Probation Chiefs’ Association (PCA) was one of the PCA team of negotiators for the NPS during the talks which resulted in the transformation of the Probation Service. In this capacity he worked closely with ministers and senior civil servants as the Secretary of State developed his ideas on Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). John was also CEO of three Probation Areas, turning around failing performance in all three. Among many larger projects, with Tony Knivett, John introduced the EFQM to the National Probation Service (NPS) and was part of establishing a corrections service in Romania. 

Tony Knivett was ACPO in the Cambridgeshire Service - arguably a forerunner in prioritising “confronting offending behavior” rather than welfare. He went on to form Knivett Blake, independent contractors who amongst many initiatives, contributed to creation of the NPS, conducted inspections across the country and introduced financial management, strategic planning and governance systems to probation services nationally. 

This submission is not written from any ideological perspective. It is intended to be a pragmatic response to what we consider to be a dire situation for current probation services. 

2. Short term Solutions 

In our opinion, short-term solutions are not going to address the problems that the Probation Service faces. The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms were so fundamentally flawed in their inception and implementation that only a wide scale positive change will result in the Probation Service regaining its reputation as a world leading corrections agency. 

Short term fixes will only paper over the cracks that exist in the Probation Service and in our opinion, short term work should focus on the preparation for the creation of a Probation Service that is modern in its approach to delivering effective services for offenders.

In the short term therefore, we consider that the government should: 

- commence a fundamental review and develop policy which will allow a longer term implementation of a revised and fit for purpose modern Probation Service 

- commence a consultation exercise with key partner organisations; the Police, Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), the courts and judiciary, Local Authorities (LAs), the voluntary sector, etc and ask how they would work with a modern Probation Service and what services they require to help protect the public and their communities 

- re-consider the immediate management of Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) contracts as the servicing of the contract is resulting in probation staff spending too much time providing information and data to NOMS at the expense of running their organisations, working with offenders face to face to confront their offending behaviour and working with other agencies to protect their communities. 

3. Longer term Solutions and the Future of Probation Services 

Some of the high profile critics are rightly, deeply concerned about the current arrangements and would wish to go back to the Probation Service as it was before TR or to return to a social work model. We would not support this at all. We believe that an urgently needed review should not be reforming or improving existing arrangements but about looking at effective practice past and present and designing a new approach. Now is an excellent opportunity to create and introduce a modern Probation Service. This should have been the realistic goal of TR rather than what has happened as a result of an ideological driven and ill considered TR programme. The future of the Probation Service should, in our opinion include the following: 

- A modern Probation Service should be a single service. Perhaps the most disastrous effect of TR has been the fragmentation of the Probation Service and dividing it into two separate and mostly disparate organisations 

- An effective probation service will be a public sector organisation employing as it has always done until recently, talented employees wholly dedicated to public service and committed to painstakingly working with offenders in order to reduce re-offending and protect the public and local communities 

- A modern Probation Service should be based upon a pragmatic assessment of effective organisational functioning and the delivery of services. The government should have learned that an ideological driven approach, as demonstrated by TR, does not work 

- A modern Probation Service should be locally accountable. It should not be managed centrally, as it is currently by NOMS. Consideration should be given to PCCs and/or LAs having a role in the accountability of the Probation Service 

- A modern Probation Service should be locally based, locally managed, providing services with local partners to local communities. The emphasis is on the word Local. It has been noticeable since TR how little the Probation Service has been able to contribute to local partnership working. In our opinion this is a key deficit which must be addressed to build a service which whilst following national standards of governance and performance outcomes can provide a relevant product geared to the needs of the community served.

- The responsibility for the management of offenders should be with the Probation Service, Probation Officers should have this responsibility 

- The provision of offender services should be from a diverse provider base. The private and voluntary sectors have a key role to play and should be actively engaged in working with offenders, but always within the overall offender management role undertaken by a Probation Officer 

- Offender services should be delivered having been developed on the basis of best practice, here and abroad. To date the focus has been largely on correctional practice in the USA. but a much broader approach is needed - learning from other countries including Europe.

While we do not think that there should be a return to a Probation Service as it was before TR, we strongly recommend that members of the Probation Service that have left the service since TR was implemented, should be actively consulted and engaged in the design of a new Probation Service. It should be remembered that before TR, all 42 Probation Trusts were achieving the performance targets that were set by government. There are people, past and present who have experience in running successful, effective probation organisations. 

It is important not to simply blame one minister or government for the disastrous consequences of the TR reforms. In order to be balanced and to make the most effective contribution to the design of a locally based, public sector service that is fit for future functioning and practice, past leaders of the Probation Service should recognise their limitations in full and effective engagement over a number of years with different governments. Now is the time to utilise the knowledge, experience and skills of all of those who can make a contribution to building a future Probation Service and rectifying the mistakes of TR. 

4. Conclusion 

The Justice Committee Inquiry into TR is very important as a means of gathering evidence which will show that that TR has not succeeded in its intentions and is not working to reduce re-offending or to protect the public. While improvement and innovation was needed, the government of the day did not pay sufficient attention to the advice and information that it was given. It was commonly accepted, except by the government, that the TR reforms, particularly in respect to the Probation Service, were ill conceived, insufficiently developed and would not work in practice. Sadly, much of what the PCA predicted to government would happen, has happened and in a relatively short period of time. This is an opportunity for government to take stock and we hope to concede that TR has not and is not working. There are many organisations and individuals who would be more than willing to assist in rectifying the mistakes of TR. A civilised and democratic society needs to have a sensible and just, publicly run corrections service. A modern, fit for purpose Probation Service could, with police and prison services, again be a central part of providing for public safety. 

December 2017


  1. While we do not think that there should be a return to a Probation Service as it was before TR, we strongly recommend that members of the Probation Service that have left the service since TR was implemented, should be actively consulted and engaged in the design of a new Probation Service
    No Of course you don't as the chiefs help drive the pulse out of what probation was didnt they?
    Yes of course you want to hear from all those that left voluntarily or ran away as they may have something to tell us that atre left in the mire and mess. No thanks to you liking to come back in another consultancy deal on top of your pay offs for selling the Trusts out. Unless your offering free time which we all know will tear you away from your holidays. Scepticism reigns.

    1. A return to probation services pre TR?
      Personally I'd favour a return to probation services pre NOMS.
      Pretty TR was better, but pre NOMS was much much better.


  2. from Sunday Times, April 2015

    *Probation chiefs cash in as 700 staff lose jobs*

    "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."

  3. Sorry to correct Anon 09.48 but some of those that left before TR did not receive any payout to go but able to see the writing on the wall.I was a NAPO rep as well as an SPO. I spent hours of my own time in the evening reading endless documents to keep up with the changes so I could brief members in both the union and the team.I discussed career options with anyone who wanted it outside the service because no one else was doing it.Both the employers and union wanted,for their own selfish reasons,for folk to stay put and make the resulting and predictable mess work.The turning point for me came with the one day strike after the split had been decided.All unions members, bar one,who had been assigned to the NPS did not come out on strike.The drawbridge for colleagues assigned to the CRC was well and truly pulled up.With that I decided to put myself first and got another job.If you consider this to be cowardly,so be it.We will have to differ.
    I would gladly speak to the likes of John Budd if he is asked to try and repair what is left of the service but I think I would be considered to low in the pecking order to merit any attention.
    It will take drastic action to repair the damage done but reuniting the service and recreating local links have to be the first steps.

    1. Don't think anyone was called a coward in that post is it a case of the cap fits ?

  4. If I was approached to help rebuild a decent Probation Service, as a former SPO with over 20 years management experience, I would consider it but only if my salary was the same as it was when I left i.e. top of the scale. I have already had the piss taken out of me once. I am not going to allow it to happen again. I agree that the problem here was NOMS and the MOJ. The 'takeover' of Probation by Prison management was and is at the core of the problem. I recall a colleague telling me that she had overheard Phil Wheatley telling his Prison Service manager colleagues to 'Not discuss this with' the only Prison Manager at the top table during his tenure. Wheatley no only ignored Probation input, he actively avoided it and sought to keep Probation out of the loop. The attitude of NOMS and the MoJ to Probation has been and remains a disgrace. This whole debacle has to be laid firmly at their door. Probation was always a difficult idea to sell so why was it given to the amateurs to manage? Money and careers to be made? A fool's errand, more like.

  5. Sorry, Wheatley told his Prison Service colleague not to pass their discussions on to the only PROBATION manager at the top table (I cannot remember his name).

    1. Roger Hill was Probation Director at the time

    2. Yes. He was the chap that Wheatley consciously wanted to keep out of the loop. This conversation took place on a shuttle bus and was overheard by a Probation Officer. (Walls have ears, as the war poster once said).

  6. I don't trust the pragmatists and I do not believe anyone can be free of ideology. One of the authors contributed to the creation of the NPS – yet now advocates a locally-based service. They also present a false dichotomy regarding social work and confronting behaviour. Was there ever a time in the idealised social work era of probation when behaviour was not confronted and can you really have a confronting paradigm without social work values underpinning wider rehabilitative objectives? I don't think so and it's silly to take either-or stances. And by the way, I think there were 35 probation trusts pre-TR – not 42. Probation work is subtle and no one gains by talking tough and playing to the public gallery.

    1. Well said - effectively the principles of probation practice are what became local authority social work practice and need to be rooted in what was understood as "social work" by about the 1960s - with pragmatism.

      Once parole became part of probation - about 1967 - the difficult balancing act of care and control was definitely to the fore and probation officers juggled with it similarly to those trying to assist courts reach best outcomes for children in broken families or mentally ill or young child criminals.

      Describing the so called "service users" constantly as offenders ignores the reality of labelling theory.

      One to one professional as long as achievable relationships are at the heart of it all choice should be offered to prospective supervisees whenever possible, with them being held to the consequences of those choices.

      Let us please return to probation as an alternative to a sentence and make probation officers firstly answerable to the courts who impose the orders that lead to almost all their work, be that preparing a presentence report or post sentence supervision, whether or not prison is part of the sentence.

      There is also a difficult juggling act to do with national standards/principles of practice(maybe established by legislation) and local manangement.

      A local democratic management needs to be involved at least partially, such as with nominated local government representatives on management boards in the way that did operate (and may still do) with school governing boards)

      In real life amongst "grown ups" discretion is at the heart of probation; the care and control issue is constantly juxtaposed as it is for us when we are parents/teachers/leaders of youth organisations be that a sports team or Guide group, etc., etc.

      HM Parliament needs to accept that and start telling it straight to the public and media who will always be driven by salaciousness, what sells at the box office and commercialism.

  7. "Phil Wheatley CB is a criminal justice consultant and non executive director for the Northern Ireland Prison Service. He was formerly Director-General of HM Prison Service and the National Offender Management Service in England and Wales...."

    Observer Dec 2010: "Trade unions have reacted furiously to news that the former head of the Prison Service is to become an adviser to a private security company bidding for multimillion-pound contracts to run jails. Phil Wheatley was until June the head of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), the organisation responsible for overseeing the 260,000 offenders who pass through the prison and probation system each year. During Wheatley's time in charge, the Ministry of Justice introduced measures that opened the way for more jails to be run by the private sector. From next month [Jan 2011] Wheatley will work as a consultant to G4S..."

    Guardian, 2016: "Writing for the Guardian Phil Wheatley, the former chief executive of the National Offender Management Service and director general of the prison service, said it would “take years to put right” but the role of successive Conservative justice secretaries needed to be openly acknowledged and understood “if there is to be any chance of recovering from the current disaster”. Wheatley explicitly blamed Ken Clarke, Chris Grayling and Michael Gove for bringing the custodial system to a state of “operational disaster” as a direct result of deep budget cuts and wild swings in government policy."

    How about 'wild swings' in personal beliefs for personal gain?

    1. And just who might be Guvnor at the operational disaster known as HMP Nottingham? Could it be one of the Wheatley clan?

    2. Excerpts from a whilstle-blower story on BBC website ref-HMP Nottingham:

      The prison officer said there are two suicide attempts at the prison every week, on average.

      "We've got a safety tool so we can safely cut the ligature from round people's necks without causing them any harm," he said.

      "I've done one since I've been here in Nottingham and it's my second one I've done [in my career], and there's nothing scarier in the world, because someone has made an attempt to end their life."

      "It doesn't happen every day but it happens. A couple of times a week we will save somebody's life."

      He said the media reports on deaths at Nottingham Prison but not the lives saved.

      "They [the media] don't count how many people that we cut ligatures off their neck, how many lives we save, how many people we've saved when they've cut themselves open," he said.

      His claim is supported by the Prison Officers' Association which confirmed suicide attempts are not recorded in official figures.

      Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke noted that more than half of the staff at HMP Nottingham had less than one year's experience and this "clearly showed in their dealings with prisoners".

      The prison officer said many people leave after six months to get jobs outside of the prison service.

      "Why would you work in a prison for the money that we're on when you could go and get the same, if not more, in a supermarket?" he said.

      He takes home about £1,600 a month after deductions.

      "Sort the wage out and you will keep the staff. You wouldn't have members of staff with eight, nine or ten years' experience leaving to go and work in a holiday park as a security manager, or in Tesco as a forklift truck driver," he said.

      Jackie Marshall from the POA:

      "We've got issues throughout the country with recruiting and it's the same at Nottingham," she said.

      "They [the government] brought in new pay scales in 2012 which lowered the starting pay for officers. Some of them come in and think it's not worth staying with what they see."

      "They let a lot of experienced staff go when they did the cuts," she said.

      "They [the government] wanted the new staff in on the new pay scale. And we do have experienced staff leaving now because of what's going on."

      As a result, she said, the prison has "new staff teaching new staff".

      The prison recorded about 200 assaults in the six months prior to being inspected, and about half of these were against staff.

      Over two-thirds of the men surveyed at HMP Nottingham said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay at the prison.

      "I can guarantee 100% of members of staff in there have felt unsafe at some point," said the prison officer.

      "In the last six months I've been assaulted. A couple of weeks after that a prisoner assaulted two members of staff. One was off for a while with concussion, one had a dislocated jaw.

      "Nobody knows if you are going to get dragged into a cell like the poor girl in a prison elsewhere.

      "Why would you want to risk your life every single day?"

      Ms Marshall said: "The level of violence faced by staff and prisoner-on-prisoner is horrendous, the self-harm that prisoners are causing themselves and the deaths in custody are horrendous, and staff have seen some terrible things."

      Following an inspection in February 2016, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said Nottingham had "suffered from a lack of continuity and consistency in its leadership" - having had five governors in four years.

      The current governor, Tom Wheatley, has been in post since June 2016.

      Justice Secretary David Gauke said: "We have been clear that we should be held to account for the state of our prisons and that is why we introduced this urgent notification process."

    3. Prison officer behaviour is sometimes part of the problem, as reports of their bullying and abusive behaviours towards prisons support. Prison officers are sometimes prone to see self-harm as an attempt to manipulate the system. Attempted suicides where there is successful prison officer intervention are recorded as self harm and I have no doubt as part of the incident report the role of the prison officer is highlighted.

  8. And once again we have probation professionals totally ignoring the service user. If you're going to design a probation system from scratch as is posited by these folks and consulting everyone all over the place ab out it, shouldn't you also be consulting the service user for their input into what works and what doesn't so you can actually design a service that has a hope in hell of actually doing what it should do? Everyone I know who has gone through probation at any time is in agreement that probation should work WITH the service user and not simply do things to them as they have done historically and continue to do. No wonder the reoffending rate is stubbornly high. When will probation people of all ranks learn that until you work with the service user rather than foisting some rubbish off on them, it's never going to achieve it's goals?

    1. Exactly correct work with the service user - it seems obvious really - all explained by Glasser and his Choice Theory.

    2. 15:53 - keep those reminders coming.

      In approx 25 years of Probation work I've tried - and, sadly, failed numerous times - to ensure my professional focus is upon those sent to work with me by the courts (or prisons). As a qualified & experienced professional when granted the time, respect & length of leash, I have been at my most useful in helping someone to effect change but...

      ... The biggest distractions, barriers and sources of frustration have always been those uninvited impositions, e.g. 'management guidance', 'practice instructions' or simply accountants monitoring targets disguised as SPOs.

      Two comments today have stood out for me:

      "Probation work is subtle and no one gains by talking tough and playing to the public gallery."


      "No wonder the reoffending rate is stubbornly high. When will probation people learn?"

      In our so-called democracy we have numerous adversarial systems. Justice is not about truth but about who can 'win'. Politics is not about integrity or the will of the people, but who has power and influence in order to get their own way and 'win'.

      We have a pseudo-Darwinian society where survival of the fittest doesn't mean healthy - it more often means the fattest cats, the meanest bullies, the biggest liars, the holders of the greatest amounts of power.

      Leaving the EU? Trump? Boris Johnson? Michael Gove? Nigel Farage? Grayling? *unt? Putin?

      And it is exactly such people who are prone to 'talking tough' and 'playing to the gallery'. They are also the people who want to keep subtlety out of the picture - who hate nuance, loathe freedom of expression and belittle generosity of spirit.

      Whilst 'The Players' are beguiling the media and travelling the world (at our expense) feathering their own nests, us 'Little People' are being taken for a ride. Our taxes are being handed over to pirate shareholders & fraudsters, our national infrastructure is being placed under overseas control.

      For example, Leaving the EU was about regaining Sovereignty, yet those who have lied & campaigned the most are responsible for the outsourcing which has led to our trains being run by German, Dutch & French companies; our power provided by French, American Japanese & Korean companies; our probation services provided by American, Australian, French & German companies.

      And so yes, 15:53 & netnipper, it is no surprise that such parallel dissonance exists in the probation world whereby the task-in-hand is 'trumped' by the anxiety of job survival, where the depressed and stressed-out professional cannot effectively focus on the needs of their 'client'.

      Doomed to fail? Designed to fail?

      Does it matter? Its failing us all.

    3. Apologies, Andrew, should have acknowledged your contribution as well.

    4. The comments are what matters 20.41

      Thank you.

      You have made valid points, we need HM Parliament to take proper account of and responsibility for probation as it is it's legislation and weak oversight of HM Government that has caused the current crisis in England and Wales, due to ignorance, a lack of engagement and the use of the fear of crime for electoral purposes.

    5. Exactly right 15.53

  9. The article above does not mention who should “lead,” or manage any newly re-constituted service.
    I have no faith and no confidence in the current incumbents who have remained tight lipped about the demise of the service and would be fiercely opposed to any of them positioning themselves at the top table in the future.
    They have steadfastly refused to speak out in support of their staff and have pushed through change despite the evidential base which proves that it is badly designed and does not work.
    At the end of the day, they have feathered their own nests and sold us down the river!

  10. At last some good news!

    1. If I described a company that had issued a big profit warning, watched its shares fall by nearly 80% in 18 months, been handed several big public sector contracts, seen work in the Middle East cancelled, witnessed a big rise in its debt pile, recently changed chief executive and finance director and had had its trade credit insurance withdrawn - you might think I am talking about the Carillion of a few months ago.

      I am, in fact, describing a company called Interserve which, despite some important differences, is the company that bears the closest resemblance to the liquidated Carillion.

      Interserve won contracts last year with the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice, Network Rail and the State of Qatar.

      Despite a new £102m contract in the Gulf state, its most recent financial report in July last year admits that "political developments in the region remain a clear risk to the business that could impact during the second half of the year and beyond".

      In its UK construction business, Interserve has been losing money and been exiting contracts where it can.

      On almost unchanged revenues, its operating profits fell 28% in the six months to July 2017 while the more important cash flow turned negative.

      Meanwhile, its debt pile rose 41% to £387m as of July 2017 and is thought to be around £500m now.

      After its profit warning in September, the new management conceded that it was possible it would not be able to honour the promises it had made to its banks, and in October its trade credit insurance was withdrawn - just as happened to Carillion nine months ago.

      To be clear, there are some important differences. The company cancelled the dividend nearly a year ago to preserve cash and its lenders recently advanced some short-term financing - a sign perhaps they believe the new management can turn things around.

      The new chief executive, Debbie White, has already embarked on a turnaround plan that has included cutting both costs and headcount, which could boost profits by £15m this year.

      Its debt compared to its net worth is high, but not nearly as high as Carillion's, and it has assets like plant and machinery and interests in joint ventures it could sell to raise cash - a luxury Carillion didn't have.

      Carillion had a number of major projects that went sour whereas Interserve's problems stem primarily from one line of business - its energy-from-waste business - from which it is extricating itself.

      The UK government says it is monitoring Interserve and in a recent statement declared "it doesn't believe any of its key suppliers are in a similar position to Carillion".

      Interserve is a much smaller business than Carillion, but if you were looking for a mini-me this looks like a chip off the old block.

      The predators in the financial markets who bet against companies - as they did so heavily with Carillion - are sniffing around Interserve.

      A 14% intraday share fall in January didn't last long - the shares that day recovered most of their ground. Since then, however, the shares have gone below the trough hit that day and fell almost 20% on Thursday.

      Like Capita, it needs to raise more capital by issuing new shares. Unlike Capita, (which announced plans on Wednesday to raise £700m of new equity) it hasn't managed to do it yet.

      As a major fund manager told the BBC: "There has been radio silence on that for some time which suggests they are not finding it easy. The outsourcing sector is going through a denouement - Interserve has been playing the same game (as Carillion) and that game is over."

      The company announces full year results at the end of March.

      It will feel like a long wait for holders of the shares and will feel like a lifetime of work for Ms White, who will have to reassure and convince the banks to stick with the company before she can reassure the markets.

  11. Here is a bit of help for those that have lost hope and advice to NPS and CRC companies who are internationally being viewed particuarly the latter as having lost the plot. Have a look at Strategic Training Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS) . It is having some good results in Canada and Sweden and for those who are old school firmly based in the social work tradition.

  12. Anon 02:55 Thanks for highlighting this and we'll cover it in a forthcoming blog post.