Thursday, 5 April 2018

Future of Independent Hostels

For as long as I can remember, there's been a 'mixed market' in the provision of hostel accommodation used by the probation service with some of the best being owned and operated by various voluntary or charitable organisations. Over the years the role of hostels, or Approved Premises as they are now called, has changed from a mixture of bail provision and welfare orientation to that of exclusively accommodating high risk offenders released on licence.

Since the TR split and the creation of the NPS, the inevitable civil service 'bureaucratisation' and command and control ethos has been putting in an appearance everywhere, not least with the new arrangements for security firms to staff APs overnight. However, I'm heartened to see from their recently-published annual report that the remaining independent hostels are remaining just that, independent:-     
NAPA: National Approved Premises Association 
Annual Report April 2017 to March 2018 

The past year has been a challenging, exciting and rewarding one for the National Approved Premises Association (NAPA) and Independent Approved Premises (IAPs). With the creation of the National Probation Service (NPS) from 1 June 2014, and the resulting centralised management of the Approved Premises (AP) estate, the role of NAPA in representing the whole of the AP sector had been put into question. Subsequently, and as a result of that change, the National Probation Service confirmed its intention to withdraw NAPA's annual grant as they would be taking over the functions for the NPS managed APs that NAPA had historically had a role in providing. These included 
  • development of policy; 
  • provision of an annual AP conference; 
  • delivery of sector specific training;
  • promotion of good practice; 
  • fostering an understanding of the importance of the AP estate in its roles of managing and rehabilitating offenders who posed a high risk of harm to others. 
Consequently, NAPA made a decision to reform the organisation to focus specifically on supporting and promoting IAPs. This reformed NAPA position was welcomed by IAPs. The NAPA Executive was reconfigured so as to increase representation from IAPs, while, at the same time, ending that of 'Probation'. NAPA subsequently advertised and appointed a part time Director with a background in the IAP sector. 

With grant funding withdrawn, and IAPs struggling with limited budgets and not therefore in a position to offer financial support to NAPA, the Executive wrote to the Ministry of Justice requesting funding for 2017-2018. As a result, a decision was made to grant NAPA a further one year's (reduced) grant of £50K to enable NAPA to 
  • facilitate the new contract negotiations between Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and IAPs; 
  • support communications between HMPPS and IAPs; 
  • provide training and development to IAPs and their staff. 
In view of the new role of NAPA, an annual workplan was drafted and agreed with IAPs. The workplan was designed to meet the needs of IAPs and obligations to HMPPS. It is with a certain amount of pride that we can say NAPA, with the support of the Executive Board, Director and all of our IAP colleagues, has been able to successfully adapt to the new environment and meet the challenges and expectations set. 

The following areas of work have been delivered over the last year by NAPA: 

1. Nine training events have been delivered to IAP staff during the year: topics included: 
  • 'Dealing with Drugs and Alcohol’ 
  • ’Suicide and Self Harm’ 
  • 'Effective Engagement’, and 
  • ‘Risk Assessment and Management’. We are currently developing a package ‘Working with Sex Offenders’ to be delivered during 2018-2019. 
2. Three IAP meetings have been organised and delivered during the year, bringing the sector together and sharing developments and good practice. 

3. In July 2017, NAPA convened an IAP gathering at Gladstone Library in North Wales which was very well attended and positively received. We were able to get a range of interesting speakers, including Deanna Francis, the AP central coordinator for HMPPS, Becky Hart and Mandy Horne from the contracts section of HMPPS, whose remits were to negotiate the new IAP contracts, and Joe Simpson from Her Majesty's Inspection of Probation, who headed up the 2017 thematic inspection entitled Probation Hostels' (Approved Premises) Contribution to Public Protection, Rehabilitation and Resettlement. NAPA had been interviewed by Joe Simpson earlier in the year as part of the AP inspection, and was provided with the opportunity to comment on current issues and concerns regarding the AP estate whilst highlighting the value of IAPs. This, along with positive visits having been conducted by the inspection team to two IAPs (St Johns and Adelaide House), resulted in the IAP sector being presented very favourably in the final Inspection Report, and described by her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacy, at the Clinks AGM as "a hidden gem". Following suggestions made at the Wales event, NAPA wrote to Lynda Marginson, then Deputy Director of Probation with responsibility for leading on AP, asking if NAPA could become a member of the National AP reference group, contributing to AP policy and practice and feeding back issues to IAPs. The request was accepted, and, during 2017-2018, NAPA attended four meetings. 

4. NAPA has facilitated contract negotiations between HMPPS and IAPs, which involved the holding of four meetings. It is with great delight to report that the negotiations have now concluded and IAPs are very happy with their individual settlements. We think that piece of work alone highlights the importance of NAPA as an umbrella organisation for the IAP sector, and the strength that comes from IAPs working together as a group. 

5. The NAPA website has been reviewed, and constantly updated, by Mike Short (a former NAPA Director) on a voluntary basis. Mike has also overseen our twitter account. 

6. NAPA has continued to sustain and develop its presence in the AP sector by corresponding and liaising with key people, attending relevant events and holding membership of relevant organisations in the wider sector, for example CLINKS. 

In conclusion, NAPA started the year with a real threat to its continued existence. That demanded a rethink of our purpose and whether we still had a meaningful role to play in the AP sector under the new arrangements. This led us to focus our attention and efforts towards the IAP group, which has wholeheartedly supported our new intentions and recognised our value to a section of the AP estate which is in the minority and has historically struggled to get its voice and value heard. 

It is with great pleasure we can report that this narrowing of our focus to represent IAPs only has enabled us to make a positive contribution to the eleven IAPs having secured signed three-year contracts with HMPPS for the provision of AP services to take effect from 1 April 2018, and under improved financial terms compared with the grant awarded in 2017-2018. We have also provided well attended AP specific training events throughout the country and highlighted the innovative work and good practice undertaken by IAPs, thus giving IAPs a higher profile within the Ministry of Justice and facilitating positive communications between IAPs and the wider HMPPS.  

Jill Dilks NAPA Chair
Peter Faill NAPA Director 

27 March 2018 


  1. This is good news but the demise of supported housing “hostels” and move on accommodation is just as risky for Probation and the public. Two high risk of harm services have disappeared in my county with a loss of 24 bed spaces. Decent supported housing providers are being edged out of the market by profiteering companies, CRC writ large....

  2. HMPPS merely flexing financial muscle to control & restrain service provision, in the same way they used policy & political interpretation to delete probation from the face of the earth & continue to use utter incompetence to decimate prisons.

  3. Certainly in Leeds the three 'voluntary' independent APs are way ahead of the single NPS AP which is also a PIPE.

    Indeed, I would go as far as to say that the fantastic relationship between these three independent hostels ad the NPS just goes to show how the Volunatry sector CAN play a very useful role in the delivery Probation Services, but only if they are truly independent and treated with respect by the MoJ.

    With regard to the NPS hostel, I can't think of a more inappropriate hostel to be made a PIPE as relationships between staff and residents are so poor and heavy handed, but there we are, the wonderful world of the NPS.

    1. Enabling features of Psychologically Informed Planned Environments

      We were commissioned by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to explore the enabling features of Psychologically Informed Planned Environments (PIPEs) in three pilot sites – two prisons and a probation approved premises (AP).

      PIPEs are specifically designed environments where staff have additional training to develop an increased psychological understanding of their work. This enables them to create a supportive environment which can facilitate the development of those living there. PIPEs are not treatment, but are designed to enable offenders to maintain developments they have previously achieved. In prison, PIPEs are progression units for offenders who have completed high intensity treatment. They are applied to existing offender populations in APs.


      Establishing and maintaining supportive relationships between staff and offenders were seen as key to PIPE delivery, with offenders highlighting the importance of staff availability and respectful day-to-day interaction. Other key features included taking a more collaborative approach to PIPE management and providing formal support mechanisms for offenders.

      PIPE staff need to comply with the PIPE way of working, as inconsistent approaches can undermine helpful interaction with offenders.

      Communication about PIPEs needs to filter through all levels of operation. This helps ensure that the PIPE is supported both by those working within it and throughout the wider establishment/probation area. This is particularly important when non-PIPE staff have the potential to undermine the PIPE ethos. Communication also needs to extend to potential PIPE residents.

      Having non-PIPE offenders (‘lodgers’) on the unit can undermine the potential impact of the prison PIPE. It may be challenging to create units that are exclusively occupied by PIPE prisoners, but attention needs to be given to the impact that the mix of prisoners has on PIPE delivery.

    2. Not every prisoner, probationer and hostel resident has psychological problems or personality disorders. The push to ‘screen’ all for PD without their knowledge is very concerning. So is the drive for PIPE prison wings and hostels which force individuals into psychological interventions to be released or be granted a hostel bed.

      How much is being spent on this PIPE rubbish? The only ones seeming to benefit are the psychologists!

    3. I absolutely agree re the psychologists benefiting. PD services seem to have created a whole new self-interested and self-absorbed industry. If you ask and MoJ/ NHS psychologist to assess someone for PD or anything else it seems they make it their purpose to find something to 'treat', despite their being very little treatment that service users will actually engage with.

    4. “PD” has become an industry unto itself. “PD” probation officers are running around generating importance for themselves. “PIPE” has become the buzzword for AP’s, which amounts to PSO’s having a group chat about once a week and an inexperienced psychologist telling them what they already know.

      Every offender on my caseload has been “screened in” (not be me) for “personality disorder”. None are aware they have been categorised for “PD” and are being discussed and assessed for psychological interventions (I’m not sure what is actually on offer). Most just need a job and a decent place to live!!

      I get it, psychologist have to eat, but there’s probably more “PD” amongst the Probation managers!

    5. I agree with these sentiments. Probation has moved away from the social to the psychological, and people on our caseloads have been pathologised.

  4. Tweets from NAPA:-

    10% of all Approved Premises and 50% of the female AP estate is provided by the Voluntary Sector a great team.

    Up until 45 years ago all Probation Hostels & Homes were provided and run by voluntary sector providers, some very small and local. It was not until legislation in the early 1970s that Probation Committees were first allowed to directly run Probation and Bail Hostels...

    Alongside the expansion of new Probation & Bail Hostels run by Probation Committees over the next 30 years, many previously voluntarily managed Probation Hostels were 'taken over' by the Probation Service and their assets absorbed in to the Crown Estate.