Friday, 24 May 2019

Problems at NPS

Whilst we are still absorbing the news regarding the reunification of probation, the most recent HMI report into NPS London should disabuse us all of the notion that it's only the CRCs that have been poorly-performing under TR. It's quite clear there are significant systemic problems with NPS generally. This from the press release:-  

London probation service makes progress in some areas but more must be done to support victims

Victims of sexual and violent crime are being let down by the capital’s probation service, according to a new report.

HM Inspectorate of Probation described work with victims delivered by the London division of the National Probation Service (NPS) as “wholly unsatisfactory”. In more than a fifth of inspected cases, victims of serious crime were not offered access to its Victim Contact Scheme. The statutory scheme provides victims with updates on the perpetrator’s sentence and gives them an opportunity to contribute their views on release plans.

Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: 

“We have found work with victims to be good or outstanding in other NPS divisions, so we are disappointed to see this is not the case in London. Some victims are not being offered a service at all, while others are receiving a service that is simply not good enough. There has been significant media, parliamentary and public interest in the London division’s work with victims in the Worboys case. The Secretary of State for Justice asked me to conduct an urgent review into the division’s work with victims, and this was published last year. It is deeply concerning to see that some victims of serious crime are still being failed by the service.”

Senior leaders are aware of difficulties with the scheme and have drawn up an action plan. At the time of inspection, some actions had not been implemented and inspectors concluded the scheme was not functioning as it should.

HM Inspectorate of Probation has given the London division of the NPS an overall rating of ‘Requires improvement’ – the second lowest of four ratings. While improvement is still needed, inspectors acknowledge the division has strengths and has made progress since its last inspection in 2017.

The division supervises more than 17,000 offenders in 29 offices, 12 approved premises (formerly known as probation or bail hostels) and nine prisons across the capital. Inspectors found staff have a sound understanding of the individuals under their supervision, and the assessment and planning of cases is done to a good standard overall.

The quality of the London division’s work to support decision-making in courts was rated ‘Good’. Inspectors found timely and largely comprehensive reports to help magistrates and judges in their sentencing decisions.

The division provides a comprehensive range of services to support individuals to turn away from crime. Services for female offenders are much improved since the last inspection. Projects to combat knife crime and improve access to accommodation show early promise.

Inspectors noted that London is the only one of the seven NPS divisions across England and Wales to have a Serious Case Advisory Unit. The unit provides profiling, advice and guidance on the handling of cases involving extremism, hate crime, gangs and serious organised crime. The division also leads or contributes to innovative multi-agency projects that tackle offences such as stalking and drugs-related crime in the gay community.

Inspectors were, however, concerned about aspects of the division’s work to protect the public. In one in five inspected cases, the probation officer and supervised individual do not have regular enough contact to manage and minimise the risk of harm safely. More attention should also be given to protect children and actual or potential victims.

As with other NPS divisions, there are staff shortages and issues with the national facilities management contract.

Dame Glenys said: 

“At the time of inspection, the London division had more than 150 unfilled vacancies and relied heavily on agency and temporary staff. High levels of attrition mean some offices lack experienced staff and this knowledge gap could potentially have an impact on the quality of services. Staffing problems are further exacerbated by high absence levels, with more than 10 per cent of staff absent through sickness or maternity leave.

“As we have found elsewhere, the national facilities management contract is failing to make repairs in a timely way and there are often delays of several months. The neglect of basic maintenance is having a serious effect on this division. There are insecure doors and problems with operating CCTV; staff report feeling unsafe in some offices. The lack of upkeep resulted in the temporary closure of offices and the temporary loss of beds in the approved premises. We recommend the Ministry of Justice, which manages the contract, steps in.”

The Inspectorate’s report concludes with seven recommendations to help the division to focus on areas for improvement.


I notice David Raho, Chair of London Napo, had something typically sensible to say on Facebook:- 

This is just my own particular take but it is no secret that the NPS is just as dysfunctional and problematic in slightly different ways as some of the CRCs and rumours I heard that this report was going to be toned down or buried in the light of recent developments were perhaps just that.

What is happening in any part of probation in London is dear to my heart and I do feel for the hard working and dedicated staff in the NPS who will feel disappointed. In my view this report adds real weight to the argument that we should all be concentrating our efforts and aiming to establish a completely new service that is locally based, one step removed from central government, different from either the CRC or the NPSs current offerings, but nevertheless combining the best of both organisations in a much stronger probation amalgam whilst consigning the worst of TRs bureaucratic and corporate excesses to the bin.

Despite the consistent CRC bashing, that those staff sifted into privatised services on the flip of a coin have had to take on the chin collectively, there is nonetheless always something to learn from some of the innovations and technologies that have been introduced recently to help (not all). There are also some excellent initiatives driven by some really talented professionals, experts, and dedicated probation staff that should be developed and scaled up in a new probation service rather than stopped and discarded. I’m proud of some of the good stuff that has been developed in difficult circumstances and those who have fought hard to do it well.

Probation staff are after all probation staff and those who don’t know or have forgotten what that means may hopefully now be embarking on a steep learning curve. Traditionally probation staff are experienced seasoned professionals from a variety of backgrounds with strong beliefs and values, integrity, and a strong sense of purpose and are as a result a pretty darn resilient lot with a lot of skills and expertise they can use to achieve rehabilitation and reduce reoffending.

Genuine probation professionals have no time for elitist pretentiousness that has no place in probation and as for those who look down on others because of something they were told by a misinformed minister or in a recruitment pamphlet, inflated egos etc. - no time for that sort of clap trap at all. Genuine probation staff have high degrees of professional autonomy and have never really bought into and jumped on the whole managerialism bandwagon. They ideally like their managers to be senior practitioners who are experienced practical and willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in at the frontline to help out at a pinch. Lead from the front not the spreadsheet!!!

Despite any phoney organisational formations imposed upon us we are mostly all united as probation staff dumped on in different ways through no fault of our own and we now have a service to rebuild. Probation staff have always been first class innovators who have always had to use few resources to make good things happen. We know naff stuff when we see it and appreciate good stuff that gets the job done. It’s going to take time to rebuild and if this government doesn’t get it right first or even second time we’ll keep plugging away. One things for sure, the new journey is just beginning and we mustn’t leave matters to those who have failed, but rather seek to develop something that will work properly by freeing up those at the frontline to do their job in a way that values and supports them.

So let’s draw a line under poor reports like this one that we knew was coming and get back to basics. We know we can do better once fully back together. More people at the frontline, lower caseloads, an emphasis on spending time getting to know clients and their networks to reduce risk rather than relying on computers, ticking boxes, and hiding behind directives and meaningless tools. Real probation work has always involved establishing strong professional relationships and changing lives by doing probation work we know works. Let’s make it happen together.

David Raho

In answer to a question about continuity of service and protection of members if it's a TUPE transfer, he went on:-

It’ll probably be a TUPE transfer. Of course that was one of the first questions asked however there is a big chunk of work to do. As far as I am concerned the MoJ have made an initial move but what they have proposed is unlikely to be the final outcome and may actually be very far from the final outcome if I have anything to do with it. For instance, few in the CRC will want to be subject to the stultifying pseudo civil servant nonsense that comes with being subject to the civil service code without all the benefits (such as earlier retirement, non contribution pension ability to transfer seamlessly to other civil service jobs etc) of being a genuine civil servant currently endured by NPS staff - lest we forget Grayling shafted everyone. This is for some TR all over again and will need some careful negotiation- once bitten twice shy. They are already registering a wave of dissatisfaction from frontline staff. What we face are political and ideological barriers being smartly justified by MoJ spin.


  1. "London division had more than 150 unfilled vacancies and relied heavily on agency and temporary staff. High levels of attrition mean some offices lack experienced staff"

    The Grayling Effect yet again.

  2. Genuine probation professionals have no time for elitist pretentiousness that has no place in time for that sort of clap trap at all. Genuine probation staff have high degrees of professional autonomy and have never really bought into and jumped on the whole managerialism bandwagon. They ideally like their managers to be senior practitioners who are experienced practical and willing to roll up their sleeves and get stuck.....Lead from the front not the spreadsheet!!!
    Sounds like David Raho has met some of the people who call themselves ‘managers,’ and ‘leaders,’ in areas other than London too. They have hijacked everything that I stand for to feather their own nests and don’t care who or what gets abused in the process.

  3. If the NPS was considered in the same way as a private enterprise is considered they would have been declared bankrupt in their first year of operation, broken up, and put out to tender. They are not fit for purpose.

    1. What a ridiculous statement. How can you possibly say that when every division other than London has been rated good? My colleagues and I are proud of the NPS.

    2. You can't get far if running on empty.

      The NPS faces workforce challenges including a shortfall of probation officers and difficulties filling vacancies and retaining staff. In August 2018, its overall staff vacancy rate was 11%, and as high as 20% in London. It relied on more than 1,100 temporary staff, at the same time as also facing a shortfall of around 930 full-time equivalent staff. (National Audit Office:

    3. 1100 staff would rather temp than join as permanent staff s you get more money and better treatment. That says all you need to know.

    4. This article focuses on some of the problems (and benefits) that may lay ahead in bringing the private parts of a service back into public control.


    5. Is 10:32 "I am the intervention "?

    6. I think 10:32 may well be "I am the intervention"........