Saturday, 23 June 2018

Attention Rory Stewart

So what was the official response to yesterday's damning Select Committee report?
Prisons and probation minister Rory Stewart said it was a "significant programme of reform". "For instance, an additional 40,000 people who would not previously have been monitored now receive support and supervision upon release," he said.
Oh dear Rory. Fancy falling for that very tired old MoJ fig leaf PR scam for TR. Don't believe this fantasy peddled by the MoJ spin doctors. It has always been a complete lie, never intended or included in the costings by the CRC privateers; a situation confirmed by successive damning HMI reports and even the government's own Open Justice website continues to say "Offenders sentenced to less than 12 months also serve the second half in the community but are not actively supervised by Probation." Now that's at least an honest statement of the position. I wonder how the MoJ spin doctors allowed that? 


I thought I'd pop this in as a reminder:-

This is interesting from the Institute for Government published 9th May 2013 

Probation reform: doing it all?

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s probation reforms are ambitious and complex. How should the Ministry of Justice attempt to reduce the risks that accompany changing everything at once?

Chris Grayling is in parliament today explaining his complex set of probation reforms to MPs. Never one to shirk a challenge, Grayling plans to:
  • Outsource the bulk of probation services, predominantly to private sector organisations
  • Extend services to those who have served prison sentences of under 12 months, who previously were not monitored post-release
  • Introduce a new contractual payment mechanism, which will aim to pay providers more when those they are supervising offending either less or not at all
  • Change the conditions of supervision for ex-offenders (ideas floated include compulsory cannabis testing and GPS tagging)
  • Significantly reduce the amount spent on probation services ; all while changing the geographical basis on which these services are provided
Doing any one of these things would be difficult. Doing all of them makes this join the list of some of the most ambitious public service reforms currently being pursued – along with Universal Credit, NHS reform and schools reform. The Institute for Governments’ work shows that creating new ‘public service markets’ is difficult and rarely do government or new public service providers get things right first time.

Ambition increases the risks that things will go wrong – and a safer route would have been to carefully sequence changes. Grayling clearly feels he is up against an electoral deadline, however, so is going for the ‘big bang’.

In this context, the Ministry of Justice should be building in as much scope as possible to learn as they go and then adapt their outsourcing approach. The Institute’s research suggests that there are at least three obvious ways of doing this that will still allow Grayling to keep the same public aims for the programme.

First, contracts should not be let all in one go in summer 2014. Some should be held back until late 2014 or early 2015. This approach will both encourage new providers of probation services to get up to speed quickly so they can win future contracts and will allow the MoJ to improve the contracting model after its first go.

Second, the MoJ should ensure that it contracts with different types of organisation. Private sector providers will probably win the bulk of contracts but ensuring that some non-profit providers are involved will allow government to test whether a profit motivation has a positive impact on performance or simply creates an additional cost for government. Supporting a probation trust to ‘mutualise’ and provide services in one area on a non-profit basis is also desirable. And there is a strong case for saying that the MoJ should retain an in-house provider to ensure it keeps a good grasp on the costs of provision and understands how providers are responding to contractual incentives.

Third, MoJ should demand high levels of transparency from all providers. They should publish data not just on their key performance indicators (including reoffending rates) but also on the contracts they have let to specialist providers of services like drug treatment or mentoring support. This will help the MoJ and other large providers to spot those specialist service providers that appear to be doing a good job and will allow the MoJ to monitor the ‘health’ of the market. One risk of this programme is that smaller organisations are squeezed out, reducing levels of competition.

All these steps would reduce the risk of current reforms. And indeed there are myriad other ways of maximising learning and flexibility – perhaps too technical to enter into here.

There is a problem, however. Flexibility – while undoubtedly a good thing in managerial terms – is not necessarily what several actors in this reform programme really value. Many politicians talk in private about ‘locking-in’ their reforms, by which they mean making it impossible for subsequent governments to undo their work. Commercial organisations meanwhile like certainty about what they are doing and how much they are getting paid – as it reduces their costs of capital and makes it easier to plan financially. Flexibility therefore costs more in the short run – a premium that officials are often reluctant to pay even if it promises better long-term value for money. Success in a procurement career is, ironically, often tied not to ‘results’ but to the number of ‘big deals’ you’ve done and the ‘savings’ that you secured through the negotiation process – as shown by all those PFI deals that left the taxpayer paying for facilities they no longer needed.

In other words, flexibility is systematically undervalued in government reform programmes – even if it is precisely what is needed to ensure that reform programmes such as Grayling’s are to have even a chance of success.

Tom Gash


You can't just tinker with the contracts Rory - you really do have to go back to basics:-

"The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms are not meeting the then Government’s aims. We are unconvinced that as things stand the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation. The Government should publish its review, in full, by 1 February 2019. Given the issues which have arisen due to the speedy implementation of the TR reforms and lack of piloting, any new model must be thoroughly planned and tested."

Justice Select Committee 22nd June 2018


  1. CSW April 2014 - interview with Antonia Romeo on TR:

    "What evidence is there that the new probation system will meet the MoJ’s aim of reducing reoffending? Romeo acknowledges that the ministry hasn’t trialled its final proposals anywhere. “You have to turn on the statute once nationally,” she says. “You can’t provide rehabilitation services to under-12-month cohorts in some areas and not in others – not least because people go in and out of prison, and end up in different areas, so whether they were covered by the statute or not and whether that service provision existed would become impossible to manage.”

    Furthermore, she notes, there’s “a timing issue, because the government’s policy is to roll it out by 2015, so we can really start feeling the effects in reductions to reoffending.” There is clearly a political timetable behind the pace at which the MoJ is moving"

    March 2018, Antonia Romeo on Brexit:

    "The chief civil servant in Tory Liam Fox’s Department for International trade admitted Britain could suffer a “loss of trade” with around 40 countries when we leave the EU.

    Speaking to the Commons Public Accounts Committee, Antonia Romeo said some agreements Britain benefits from because of EU membership may not be successfully rolled over even if Theresa May succeeds in agreeing a two-year transition deal after Brexit day.

    She told the Committee: “We are working to ensure that we are not in that position.”

    We're fucked.

    1. Romeo's most recently revised biog - which strangely omits her role in fucking up the probation service:

      "Antonia Romeo is Permanent Secretary of the Department for International Trade.

      Previously, Antonia was Her Majesty’s Consul General in New York, and Director-General Economic and Commercial Affairs USA. In this role Antonia directed the trade, business and prosperity work of the UK Government across the United States, and led promotion of the UK’s economic profile, foreign policy, and national security priorities in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut’s Fairfield County.

      Antonia began her career in the private sector, at strategy consultancy firm Oliver Wyman. She joined the Civil Service in 2000 as an economist.

      Antonia holds an MA (PPE) from Oxford University, an MSc (Economics) from the London School of Economics, and an Advanced Management Programme diploma from Columbia Business School. She is a member of the British American Business International Advisory Board."

    2. Romeo in Dec 2017 - my heart fucking bleeds...

      "What was your most difficult decision in 2017?

      The toughest decision I had to make was a personal one: deciding to move my family back to London from New York, where we had lived since 2015, to take on the role of permanent secretary for DIT. While the decision was difficult, every day I’m in this job I think how privileged I am to be working with this team, right at the heart of government, on an agenda that is so important for the country – so I know it was the right choice."

    3. An economist. Of course she is

  2. Just been reading that the prison population has fallen to its lowest since 2010 due to more people now being released on HDC.
    So thats more people being supervised in the community by probation services that everyone knows are broken and falling apart.
    But I think that if those that can find an address to be tagged to are being released early on HDC, then surely the proportion of those being released on the halfway mark who are homeless will rise?


  3. Do the awards the civil service won for TR have to be handed back now?

    The Project and Programme Management Award

    Transforming Rehabilitation, Ministry of Justice 2015

  4. Probation went from gold medal winning public service in 2011 to total shambles and irreversible failure by 2018. Thanks to Chris Grayling and the Tories.

    1. It's very possible that Grayling could resign next week in anticipation that he may be sacked.
      He creates chaos where ever he goes, and even the Tories are disgusted by his continuous failings and the contempt he displays for Parliamentry procedure.
      He's even pulled out of a Transport summit in Manchester next week, and with the current chaos and recently leaked e-mail his decision not to attend has gone down like a lead balloon.

    2. What a wimp not to attend Manchester!!! Not that thats a surprise but disgraceful nonetheless!

  5. Meanwhile in NPS North West, Roz says there are no issues with morale!
    Clearly the radio signals from earth are not reaching whichever planet she is on.

    1. Well that’s because of the deal she struck with the devil for that CBE!

    2. Roz lives in LaLa land where everything is just wonderful

    3. There are plenty who ride to work on fluffy pink unicorns in NPSNW; its listed in Essential Criteria as part of the selection process.

  6. Maybe somebody needs to Pen a 26 page memo on the subject or talk for two hours without saying anything.
    Is there anybody out there who fits the bill?

  7. This dude has form when it comes to making a mess of things.

    1. Surely this isn't the same Stan Hardy, former toady Chair of the West Yorkshire Probation Board and former Chair of the Probation Association who said nothing publicly during the impostion of TR?

      From: SM Hardy, North Close, Leeds.

      Your brief but telling article “Warning over risk of prisoners reoffending” (The Yorkshire Post, June 16) demonstrates yet again the lack of coherent thinking on the part of the Government and senior civil servants.

      For almost a century, probation officers recognised that a clear route to change offender attitude and reduce significantly re-offending was to establish three inter-dependent strands – a job or training opportunity, a safe and stable place to live and the ability to develop and sustain meaningful relationships with others.

      The impediment to getting these in place was frequently offenders’ lack of literacy and numeracy skills. It is no coincidence that on average 70 per cent of those serving custodial sentences are functionally innumerate and illiterate. This causes feelings of inadequacy and resentment, leading to criminality and aggression, as well as dependency. Seventy per cent of inmates have a mental health issue which inhibits trust and respect in relationships, and the inadequacy and idleness because of lack of a job means that 70 per cent develop an addiction.

      Working this out isn’t rocket science, nor is the criticality of providing up-front investment in offenders so on release, they have hope and opportunity and society is saved not only crime but cost to society.

      Take, as a single example, an offender with a Class A drug addiction. He or she will be a daily offender since that level of dependency could rarely be afforded legally. Probation would work to get such people off addiction and into work. The result would be 350 plus fewer crimes and victims each year the individual didn’t re-offend. Isn’t that worth the cost of providing English and maths lessons to prisoners giving them a better chance of going straight?

      Sadly, the Probation Service was dismembered and emasculated by a certain Chris Grayling and so a very successful programme of managing offenders and reducing reoffending was discontinued. Mr Grayling will argue that the Probation Service couldn’t handle offenders with prison sentences of less than one year, and this was his rationale for privatising two thirds of the service. He ignores the fact that probation officers had been pressing to manage those offenders for a long time but were prohibited from doing so by the Department of Justice – Mr Grayling’s fiefdom at the time of the dissolution of probation. Curiouser and curiouser might be an appropriate observation.


      Major S. M. Hardy, (Rtd) TD DL

      Major Stan Hardy held Her Majesty’s Commissions (Army) for both the Territorial Army with the Yorkshire Volunteers and regular SSVC with 1st Bn The Prince of Wales Own Regiment of Yorkshire and was presented with the Territorial Decoration for long service in 1987.

      Following regular service, he worked in manufacturing and associated industries in both UK and overseas, notably the Far East where he led trade missions with Yorkshire companies. Stan is currently chair of both the West Yorkshire Probation Trust and of Local Care Direct, a social enterprise working into the National Health Service. The latter, he has been leading through a period of development and growth aimed at helping the organisation fulfil its role as a social enterprise. As well as chairing the West Yorkshire Probation Service, Stan is also the Deputy Chair of the National Probation Association, the Chair of Governors at Greenhill Primary School in Bramley, Leeds, and a member of the regional council of the Prince’s Trust.

    2. My original post was referring to Mr Grayling not Mr Hardy. I don't like opportunist bashing of people just because they didn't do something and even because they did. We are all players, play the ball please otherwise we just keep crying foul. Otherwise a dedicated JB blog fan.