Monday 31 March 2014

Strike Pics 2

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Strike Pics

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Not Over Yet

Even at this late stage there are probably a number of Napo members undecided as to whether to strike or not. Whether to support their colleagues and deliver on the notion of collective responsibility. Some will feel that 'it's all over' and there's no point. Well I think it might be worth reading what Harry Fletcher has to say in his latest blog post published yesterday. 

Napo has been very fortunate indeed in having been able to secure the part-time services of the former Assistant General Secretary and as he makes clear, there is still considerable mileage in the Parliamentary process. In the circumstances, I'm sure there can't be any truth in the rumour that the union is considering early termination of his temporary employment, can there? This is what he has to say:-
Pace of Sell Off
The All Party Justice Committee became the latest group on March 25th to express concern at the pace of the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. MPs demanded clarification of the exact date of the take over of the new providers of supervision. Was it Autumn 2014 or spring 2015? They also asked whether or not the unions had signed off a post sale package and by implication the sale itself. The unions remain as ever 100% opposed to the sale. Problems continue to emerge most days with the timetable. 
The faster the pace the more likely the chance of errors. Over the last few days staff have learnt - that MAPPA eligible's were not included in the caseload calculation (and there are about 10,000 in that group), glitches occurred in staff accessing the Risk of Serious Recidivism tool, the main IT system is not suitable for AT users, report writing will take longer and there are insufficient staff to maintain the flow of reports to the courts anyway. 
The full implications for TR of Buddi pulling out of the £300 million tagging contract for hardware are becoming apparent: a) the timetable for the huge increase in tagging is behind what was hoped b) it is another example of a contract being let in an over hasty way c) bidders may start to think that what they believe they are after and what they will get are rather different. The Coalition had hoped to have the new traditional tag plus GPS tracking in place by mid 2015 with an increase from the current numbers tagged on a given day rising fro 26,000 now to at least 75,000 by 2020.
Over 20 parliamentary Questions drafted on behalf of Napo by Harry Fletcher on court chaos and tagging have been tabled via Justice Union MPs. At least 15 members of Parliament have written to the MOJ about different aspects of TRs progress. Many more will follow.  
The Future 
The strategy for slowing and defeating TR remains unchanged. It is a combination of Parliamentary action, legal challenges and industrial action. Legal opinion is needed and sought over a number of issues; the validity of using the Offender Management Act 2007 to avoid legislation, risk registers, the timetable and risk to the public, consultation with staff over transfer and allocation and the test of recklessness.
In Parliament questions both written and oral will continue, debates will be requested, points of order will be raised, EDMs will be placed and lobbying must continue. During the next 6 months all Probation staff should be sending to a central point details of their observations and experiences. They must then be published both in Parliament and the media.
PS - on twitter Harry poses this key question:- 

Question for MOJ How many of the original 50 bidders are not proceeding to the next stage and why have they dropped out?

Another blog always worth reading is that by Effie Perine and here is a taster:-
Rather than signalling the end, it’s the beginning of a new phase in which we can start to see our predictions become reality – and speaking personally, the more I find out and the more my team and I try to work out how we’re actually going to do this, the more holes and problems we can see. But now they’re becoming more than anecdote. They’re going to have a real, measurable impact in the real world.
Yes, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be awful, and we’re going to have so much more pressure put on us. But we can use this. This is the time when the wheels really start to come off. I think it’s important that this phase in the project is going to be marked with the industrial action Monday and Tuesday – a reminder that WE are all in this together, solid ground we can fight from in this sea of uncertainty.
Napo wants to hear from members on this, as per the link to Jim’s post above. I think we also need to hear from our friends across the justice system. If you notice changes in probation, if problems come up that are potentially linked to the new system, please help us by talking to us about it. Talk to officers in court, your local Napo branch, or contact Talk to us on twitter or blogs, and we can pass your information on, maybe enlighten you a bit more abut the reasons for problems too. Let’s keep talking, keep working together.
On that note, I look forward to seeing plenty of you on Tuesday at the Justice Alliance demo – meet 2:15pm, Old Palace Yard, opposite Parliament. There’s a rally in Cardiff April 1st, 12:30pm, at the Aneurin Bevan monument on Queen Street, and plenty of other local events across England and Wales. Check your local Napo branch’s twitter feed for information, or Picketing will be taking place at probation offices and courts from 12 noon on Monday 31st.
The full blog post 'The Plural of Anecdote' can be found here and is well worth reading. Finally, I saw this on the Napo Forum and rather liked it's simplicity:-


Sunday 30 March 2014

Pre Strike Roundup

First off there's been a lot of comment about Sodexo, the disturbance at their prison in Northumberland and their aspirations for running probation in the North East. I feel a reprise is called for, starting with this report from the Independent:-
Prison officials have dismissed reports of a "stand-off" between guards and inmates who reportedly took control of a wing on Friday. They confirmed a “disturbance” had taken place, but called the suggestion of a stand-off between inmates and guards "speculation". There were no reports of any injuries. The incident broke out at the HMP Northumberland, in Morpeth, at about 7.30pm on Friday.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers Association, told the BBC that prisoners had taken control of an area. “We do not know what has sparked this major incident, but I do know that 50 plus inmates have taken over a wing,” he said on Friday evening. “We have teams from other establishments trained to deal with riots on their way. There is concerted indiscipline and our officers will try to contain it.”
The trouble broke out after prisoners refused to go back to their cells, the BBC said, while police were put on standby ready to assist. A spokesman for Sodexo, which operates the prison, said the situation had been resolved. He said: “We can confirm there was a disturbance at HMP Northumberland. It was confined to part of one wing of the prison and has now been resolved. We will carry out an investigation into this incident.”
HMP Northumberland houses around 1,350 inmates and is a category C prison, for inmates convicted of less serious crimes who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to make a determined attempt to escape. Private firm Sodexo Justice Services took over the management of the prison in December last year.
This insecurity is happening in lots of jails, including those public sector prison service jails that have been benchmarked. A few hot days in the summer and all could go up.

I work in Northumbria and visit there on a regular basis. Since it was privatised it has been expressed by MANY staff in our trust that, to put it bluntly, it's a sh*t prison whee you do not feel safe at ANY time. People will be either maimed or killed in this prison; it makes Jokewood look like a Mormons club.

Still as long as Sodexo get their money, who cares if a few 'scummy criminals' get killed. Blood on their hands and not Chris Graylings!

Sodexo very quickly decided HMP Northumberland should be a 'free flow' prison. The internal gates are no longer locked and visitors are not given an escort to the wings/ OMU unless they insist. One of my colleagues was there recently and arranged with a seconded PO to meet and escort her. As they were crossing the grounds, he grabbed her hand and shouted 'run!' which she did. I don't condone any violent behaviour but I'm gald the inmates are making a stand. This prison is unsafe.

and in Northumberland Prison staff holding 140 cases including parolees to Offender Supervise, being told by management to deliver targets despite this. When are the legal reps of these prisoners going to realise? Or are the prisoners so satisfied with their easy regime....either way staff do not feel safe working or visiting given the reduction is staff there. Sodexo has cut staffing to the bone and so far is delivering savings and making far....

HMP Northumberland - POA say Sodexo placed profit above safety after cutting 200 jobs in last six months since taking over the running of the prison from the public sector. One wing of the prison reported to be badly damaged after 50 prisoners refused to go to their cells.

Dean Rogers from NAPO is suggesting there is only Sodexo in the competition for Northumbria "Strong rumour Northumbria prison contractors only bidder left 4 Northumbria probation contract. Up to MoJ / NOMS to quickly clarify..." Has anyone got news on that, surely a competition is more than one!

No inside info but Sodexo meets MoJ criteria, and had to be the favourite of the apparently 3 bidders left, the other two, if still in the process aren't in the same league. Most of us up here expecting Sodexo. Wouldn't be surprised if DTV in same position.

There's good money on Sodexo cleaning up in the north generally, with Capita looking good for the SE. There'll be a token mutual or two, but overall CG aint going to risk his pet project on amateur primes, he'll be wanting well-heeled, hard-nosed businesses who can spin their profit into public savings, who can paint a magpie-shiny gloss finish over the unprepared surface, and who will show their appreciation for a trouser-filling contract. A 'Fur coat, no knickers' distraction theft - to avoid reputational damage you simply restructure, pay off the 'guilty', and start again - having humbly submitted yourself to the government's cleansing procedures (and no doubt treated some key figures rather well along the way).

Someone was asking for evidence of the £20k salary figure recently. Here's a Sodexo job up for grabs, Team Leader in OMU at HMP Forest Bank - £25k, but with free meals and parking! So if thats a team leader salary, £20k aint a bad guesstimate for "offender managers".

Experienced POs at the upper end of scale 4 are, as been mooted for a while now, going to be too expensive for CRCs at £35k+. The brass will go to a layer of performance-orientated management and the shareholders. Per the 'agreement', 7 months from share-sale those expensive, experienced POs will be facing compulsory redundancies.

It would be kinder and more humane if MoJ/NOMS let them go on VR with whats left of any dignity. Its likely to be less painful all-round. It'll remove any prehistoric resistance, it'll make for an easier transition to the new culture and practices, it'll mean a more malleable workforce from the off without any woolly social work ethical nonsense getting in the way.

Sodexo in North has recruited a number of ex probation ex prison managers staff as consultants on daily rates between £200 and £500 so have got some senior people on board with knowledge of both local probation and prisons. They have not finished with their prison acquisitions either. They will grow either in first phase or picking off struggling mutuals (prediction) in second phase they want a "discrete" area for economies of scale and to bring in wholesale new system in development.

Now, as I am writing this, I notice that regular contributor Andrew Hatton is developing a thesis over on the Napo Forum that Sodexo in the North East is coming close to delivering the Tory government's 'master plan' for regional prison and probation trusts as outlined in a policy document dating from 2008. It's 113 pages long and somewhat ancient, but it's certainly worth dipping into. 

I'm sure there's something in the notion and it will be interesting to see how the discussion develops, but I can't help noticing how much in the document has fallen by the wayside, which I suspect is always the way with such policy documents. I suspect that as the time for reflection approaches we will be left with the classic argument; was the TR omnishambles all part of a grand conspiracy, or was it just an almighty cock-up produced as a result of crap decision-making by people who knew nothing about the job in hand?  

The row about the barristers doing a deal with the MoJ is rumbling on and turning pretty nasty with a split between the leadership and grass-roots becoming clear. This resignation letter from the Criminal Bar Association is worth reading in full on the Crimeline website:-
I have been a member of CBA Exec for three years now. I regret that the time has come when I can no longer remain a member.
The CBA took a momentous decision this evening, to take Grayling’s offer to shelve the cuts to the AGFS until 2015, and to enter into talks about the VHCC regime, and in return to call off the industrial action. In my view it was entirely the wrong decision, short-sighted and unnecessary, and one I cannot stand, or defend. We have allowed Mr Grayling, who was ‘on the ropes’ to divide and rule us. ‘Us’ in this context means, first of all, 41 fellow criminal practitioners who courageously blazed a trail for the CBA by taking direct action on 2nd December, returning their briefs when, at that point, the criminal Bar had never taken direct action, and they could not have known whether it ever would. Their courage was an example to us all, and we should not underestimate the value to the rest of us of the step they took. Grayling did not believe – probably because he was badly advised – that barristers would ever ‘go on strike’ but those 41 did. And because they did, Grayling took seriously your threat to refuse to do AGFS cases if the pay for those was cut. Our thanks to those 41 is to say “Well, we’ve sorted out a deal that spares the remaining 6,959 of us who only do AGFS cases. Good luck with your own small battle.”
Why did we feel the need to take Grayling’s first offer? I simply don’t accept that he was in any position to dictate terms: “This is only on the table until Friday. Take it or else” Or else what? Two weeks ago, the fee cuts were “ cast in stone”. The man is a p*ss and wind merchant, but, as it transpires, a very good one; one whom we have allowed to bully us when there was absolutely no need. The fact of the matter is (or was) that WE were the ones who held the whip hand. We could have demanded, as the price of calling off the direct action, at the very least, the restoration of VHCC rates as well as a stay (which is all it is) in relation to AGFS. He would have had no choice but to agree. We have demonstrated to him our industrial muscle, and he is (or was) running scared.
I say “ at the very least” because even that would have been a disastrously bad deal for the criminal Bar in the longer term. I am talking about, of course, our abandonment of the solicitors’ profession. Paul Mendelle spoke about the unforeseen after-effects of the Carter settlement in 2007. I was part of the Bar Council’s negotiating team, and at the time, we thought we had done a very good deal on behalf of the Bar. We were very pleased with ourselves. The solicitors were poorly–organised in their response to Carter, and as a result, in 2008, had to move onto a system of graduated fees – the LGFS – which provided, by comparison with the AGFS, and more particularly with the EPF taxation they had previously enjoyed, meagre pickings. We (the BC team) simply did not foresee what would happen next – that solicitors, who of course get the client in through their door first – would see the AGFS as the way of making up the shortfall. As we all know, the result has been an explosion of in-house solicitor-advocates, decimating the work available for the junior Bar.
Finally, on the eve of fresh industrial action by Napo, the Criminal Justice Alliance and reportedly some dissident barristers, this by regular contributor Papa is worth highlighting I feel:-

Went into the garden shed to look for my NAPO placard for the strike on Monday and Tuesday and because I have been politically active on the left for many years I have quite a few old placards gathering dust and cobwebs. Near the back I brushed the dust off an old sticker "Coal Not Dole" and boy that took me back to the miners strike and to the beginning of where we are today.

With the election of Mrs Thatcher the post war consensus to build a better world for the sacrifices made by millions of dead from two world wars was sadly at an end. Now it was time to take back all the gains built on that sacrifice. The backbone of the working class movement, the unions, was broken in 1984 and once the strength of the unions was gone a steady but strong erosion of pay and conditions began. However the most significant event of the time was "Big Bang" now finance dominated industry and society. The City of London was the only place to be and with the slow deregulation that quickened under New Labour, industry was left to wither on the vine or go in search of cheap overseas labour. 

The welfare state I think was always going to be the last battle and so about 20 years ago both the Tories and the emerging New Labour people went to America to see how they did things and how they could begin to dismantle our welfare state. Privatisation and the benefits of the free market were pushed and sang out load on every occasion and with the demise of the USSR there was no other way we had reached the "End of History". This was the guff we were sold and it became the "Truth" for the post war generations. The attack on our professions is just our part in this grand plan and make no mistake it has been planned. 

In the end we will all be forced to fight because wages and conditions can get much lower still and if we are to compete in the world market this is the logic of our position. An American comedienne when talking about society said there is a club (for the elite) and we ain't in it; more recently its been said that there is 1% that dominate and we aren't among them. And to date there has been only one side of this divide fighting and it ain't been us.

In the end we will be forced to fight, might as well start on Monday.

Saturday 29 March 2014

A Manager Explains

I never quite know what to write nowadays as things are so dreadful and the TR omnishambles is moving at such a pace, but lets run with what's happening up at Durham Tees Valley as being illustrative. It's not pleasant or edifying and those of a nervous or sensitive disposition might wish to pass on by, but this is the grim reality:-

Durham Tees Valley this afternoon, managers rushing round trying to catch staff to tell them where they will be located, one selection method being names in a hat if volunteers could not be found.......yes honestly. Someone who has given loyal service to the public sector treated this way, but that doesn't matter does it because it had to be done, didn't it? After all the Senior Management Team were only obeying orders.

This is horrendous! They can't be allowed to get away with that craziness..names out of a hat!!! Please give details to Hope Branch are pursuing this with management and supporting each other. Grim times and important to fight back!

This is very much a lie!!! The process took into account personal preferences as per their EOI, personal circumstances, grade and diversity issues. I can assure you that it was an equally painful process for those who had to choose where people were moving to, however, we are under direction of the Secretary of State and can do little about this.

Nevertheless, we are only human and mistakes can, and will have been made. We have a grievance policy which people can use if they feel there are any special circumstances which may warrant either a relocation or remaining in situ. It's very painful process but equally unavoidable. At the risk of sounding blunt, we must now put this behind us and get on with our job.

No one in the probation service is coming out of this unaffected and it is turning colleague against colleague as we can see from above. The only choice really is to leave and regrettably some people are doing this. We have been dividing our building into NPS and CRC floors. People are struggling with the moving, changing caseloads and now we have the added task of data cleansing. Splitting up offender information into the "correct" directories. The above talks about putting it all behind us but those assigned to the CRCs have even yet more to come. Sad times for our service indeed.

I am anon at 21:58 and involved in the office relocation process for DTV. I repeat and stand by what I said previously. Sometimes there is a 'JFDI' moment and this was ours. It's not ideal, somewhat unedifying and probably demoralising for all involved. But, there is a process for appeal through our grievance procedure. If you are unhappy then use it. Otherwise just get on with your job which you are paid to do.

Anon 21:58 and 23:47 - the callousness in your posts here is appalling and enough for me to believe every word of anon 19:32. 

To characterise what is happening as 'not ideal' and 'unedifying' is an ugly and offensive minimisation of the turmoil this is causing people. There's no 'probably' about it, there are few things more demoralising than some officious type telling you you should be a good little automaton and JFDI. The processes you defend are corrupt, unfair, deceitful and poisonous and no poxy, tokenistic grievance or appeals process is going to make up for it. As for your JFDI, you know what you and the rest of Graylings minions can shove it.

Amen to the above. I was going to write a similar post but you beat me to it! I can honestly say how genuinely shocked I am to see how callous at 23:47 can be. It is evident that this poster has little awareness on the impact of TR on most, particularly front line, probation staff and their only concern appears to be about the extra work they have had to do in regards to the staff split which is apparently 'unedifying'. As for getting on with my job, as I'm paid as a CRC PO I'd love to know what this is as despite me asking for a job description on more than one occasion I'm still none the wiser! But hey, at least I know what I can't do!

Anon@23.47. Hang your head in shame. 'Get on with your job which you are paid to do'. I wish I could. I've been stripped of my job. This is not demoralising or unedifying, it's destruction. You should be thoroughly ashamed of being part of this process.

You can see how staff there are treated by the above posts can't you? Written in anger by someone clearly in management to respond to someone clearly in distress, the shutters are up and no-one is listening are they?

Unbelievable. If it wasn't for the work itself I would have been doing something else years ago. Unfortunately a number of times I have observed managers who equate bullying with 'leadership'. Well we know that bullies are essentially cowards and here we are with the consequences. Just get on and do the job you are paid to do? Appalling.

Friday 28 March 2014

Latest From Napo 22

Today all members have had two emails from Napo HQ:-

Dear All
Monday and Tuesday next week will see thousands of Napo members taking a public stand against privatisation.  Grayling and the MoJ can be beaten with unified, collective action.  TR is NOT a done deal.
We are part of a broad alliance who are proud of our world class justice system but it is disintegrating in the hands of the Coalition.  We came into the Probation Service to help people.  For every client we’ve advocated for, worked late for, worried about, gone on an emotional journey with, challenged, comforted, listened to and helped change, we need to take action for them.
Amidst the insane bureaucracy, the long hours and the crap IT we do our jobs and what we do is profound.  At staff conferences up and down the country, service users, victims and partnership agencies (to name but a few) are falling over themselves to praise us.  None of them understand why Grayling wants to rip us apart and flog us off.  All of them are hoping we can stop it.

We’re not alone.  Campaigners against legal aid cuts, the cruel bedroom tax, the ban on books, callous disability assessments and our wealth being taken from the poor and vulnerable and given to the rich are all watching out for our solidarity next week.  We will be proud to stand with our Solicitor colleagues in defending what is right.   
Chris Grayling, Jeremy Wright and the international outsourcers can be beaten but our most dangerous opponent is apathy: “I can’t be bothered, it’s a done deal, striking is pointless” etc.  If that’s you, click on this link to see why Napo members across all branches are taking action. 
Be the change.

Tom Rendon
National Chair


Dear All

campaigns @ napo
Thank you to all those who have returned the questionnaires and sent emails in to the mail box.  This is providing us with vital evidence with which to challenge TR.  We’d be grateful if you could use the questionnaire format because this makes it easier for us to collate the information.  We have identified a QC to meet with next week to discuss how we can advance our intention to mount legal challenges.  Please keep the evidence coming in.

Reports we are getting from branches about vacancies are nothing short of scandalous.  NPS vacancies being ring-fenced to those already assigned to the NPS is discriminatory.  The NPS does not exist yet and has no legal status until the 1st of June 2014.  Some senior staff are working for Trusts and the NPS/CRC in what amounts to a clear conflict of interest.  Vacancies are being filled without fair and open competition.  Please send in as many examples as you can and we will obtain legal advice on this as early as we can next week.  This dodgy behaviour is a direct result of the chaos and disarray caused by the staff and case split.  NOMS has no idea what it’s doing and as the wheels come off, our case gets stronger and stronger.

The Justice Select Committee
We were advised, quite late on the day before this weeks session, that Chris Grayling had written to the Justice Select Committee (JSC) giving a deliberately misleading impression of the TR programme.  I refuted that in the strongest terms to the JSC and, along with Ben Priestley from Unison and David Walton from GMB, we have written a joint letter setting out our concerns directly to the Ministers demanding a meeting.  Please find the correspondence attached.  In appearing before the JSC, Jeremy Wright was still peddling the line that the unions had agreed to TR but was magnificently challenged by members of the Committee.  While we withdrew local disputes pertaining strictly to the lack of a framework agreement in order to negotiate, many branches remained in dispute over the staff split and other issues.  Jeremy Wright was embarrassed in front of the Committee as he was asserting that disputes simply did not exist.  John McDonnell MP questioned the Minister saying, “What do you mean they’ve agreed?  They’re all taking industrial action next week!”.  Let’s have a great turn out and show the government that this isn’t over yet.  Not by a long way.  

Omnishambles Update 42

As the strike on Monday and Tuesday rapidly approaches, I thought the following email from Pat Waterman, Chair of Napo Greater London Branch to CEO Heather Munro was interesting. She copied it to all London staff:-

Dear Heather

Last time we went on strike you wrote in your blog that:

I will not be taking action personally as I need to ensure that the organisation can operate safely, protecting those staff who continue to work and ensure we are managing the risk our offenders pose. I do understand however staff's wish to take action, demonstrating to the MoJ the strength of feeling in the service about the changes ahead.

In your blog this week you advised us all that you are going to Italy this weekend. While you are on holiday my members will be going on strike again to defend the trust against the plans of this government to abolish it and put much of our work out to tender.

You have spent your entire career in the public probation service and, while I do not expect you to join our action, you might wish to consider donating a day and a half's wages to the NAPO Strike Fund to help support all those who are willing to defend the service. We are fighting to SAVE THE PROBATION SERVICE. Please help us.

Pat Waterman

According to twitter conversations I've seen, the solicitors are pretty annoyed at their colleagues at the criminal bar agreeing a deal with Grayling, and it seems to be borne out by this on the Legal Futures website:-
Civil war broke out among criminal defence lawyers yesterday in the wake of a deal struck between the government and the Criminal Bar Association. The Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) accused the Bar’s leadership of using “the unity of the profession to pursue self-interest in a separate secret negotiation”. As a result of the agreement, the CBA has suspended its direct action: the ‘no returns’ policy which meant that barristers would not accept briefs where the original advocate has had to return it, and the refusal to handle very high-cost cases (VHCCs) since fees were cut 30% in December, which 41 barristers have already done. In return, the government has agreed to suspend the 6% cut to the Advocates Graduated Fee Scheme until after next year’s election and take account of the recommendations of the various ongoing reviews of the criminal justice system and criminal advocacy.
CBA chairman Nigel Lithman QC said: “This gives 89% of the criminal Bar (those that do not do VHCCs) what they have demanded and has been achieved by their resolve.” On VHCCs, he said that “whilst it is for each individual barrister to choose what work they undertake, there is no objection in principle to barristers who want to work on VHCCs undertaking such cases if they choose to do so”. Mr Lithman welcomed the government’s agreement to work with the profession to consider better alternatives to the VHCC scheme, adding at the end of his statement that “the CBA remains supportive of the stance taken by solicitors”. The only concession offered by the government to solicitors was that an interim payment scheme – aimed at helping firms’ cash flow – will be introduced this summer, a year earlier than planned, at a cost of £9m.
By doing a separate deal with the barristers it looks like Grayling has just made the solicitors more determined and most certainly 'up for it' on Monday and Tuesday. Talking of Grayling, the prisoner book ban continues cause him loads of bad publicity from all parts of the political spectrum and now includes HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick. Here he is talking to the Independent:-
The Government's blanket ban on books being sent to prisoners is a “mistake” and the policy should be changed, the Chief Inspector of Prisons has said.
In an interview with The Independent, Nick Hardwick said preventing harmless items such as books from entering the country's jails was unnecessary “micro-management” by politicians. Decisions on what prisoners can receive from outside should be left to the discretion of individual prison governors, he added. His comments will come as a blow to the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, who has so far dismissed growing objections to the policy, saying he is determined to bring “right wing solutions to bear on social problems where the Left has palpably failed”.
Mr Hardwick said that while the basic intention of the Government's policy was “sound”, aspects of the Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme - which places strict limitations on what prisoners can receive in the post and keep in their cells - were “not sensible” and “haven't worked out in the way ministers intended”.
“The problem in this case… is trying to micro-manage this from the centre, with the centre describing very detailed lists of what prisoners can and can't have,” he said. “I think that's a mistake. I think that once the policy intention is clear, how that's implemented should be left much more to the discretion and the common sense of governors, so that they can reflect the needs of their particular prison population.” Mr Grayling has come under mounting pressure to re-examine the policy since the issue was raised earlier this week by Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, in a critical article for a political website.
Her comments were picked up by author Mark Haddon, who galvanised Britain's literary establishment to speak out in protest. On Tuesday Alan Bennett, Sir Salman Rushdie, Julian Barnes, Ian McEwan, Carol Ann Duffy and other respected writers signed a letter condemning the ban.
While on the subject of Grayling, here he is in the Guardian talking about judicial review and campaigning groups:-
Campaign groups are undermining parliament by launching too many court challenges aimed at overturning government policy and avoiding costs by hiding behind "human shields", the justice secretary has said. In his clearest rationalisation so far of why judicial review cases should be limited, Chris Grayling accused pressure groups of exploiting costly legal procedures to delay legislation, planning permissions and deportation decisions.
"We have seen [judicial review] being used as a tactical tool rather than a vehicle for an individual to right a wrong," Grayling told the House of Lords constitutional committee. "Increasingly it's being used a political campaigning tool. It's trying to bypass … the political process.
"We are seeing pressure groups who are there to campaign and this is one of the tools that they use. We are trying to limit the human shield strategy where a campaign group finds an individual who has no resources of their own and rows in behind them. If the case is lost, there's no risk to the campaign group itself.
"My belief is that, to a degree I find quite unacceptable, it's either being used to delay or to try to challenge … a legitimate decision taken by the government and endorsed by parliament. We have no intention of getting rid of judicial review but I don't believe it should be a campaigning tool or a delaying tool." Even claims that were turned down imposed heavy costs on government lawyers and the courts, he said.
The justice secretary's comments come as the criminal justice and courts bill, which aims to limit public funding for judicial reviews, goes through parliament. One clause introduces the novel concept that courts can refuse cases if it appears "highly likely that the outcome for the applicant would not have been substantially different if the conduct complained of had not occurred". Critics have warned that it will force judges to engage in abstract speculation.
There really is no doubt where a chap like Grayling is coming from. It was a few weeks ago, but here he is telling the Civil Society website that charities do too much campaigning and should just get on with being like businesses:-
The charity sector is putting too much emphasis on campaigning and not enough on service delivery, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling told an audience of charity leaders last night. Speaking at a social welfare debate in London, organised by the Lord Mayor’s Charity Leadership Programme, Grayling said there was currently discussion about how much weight should be given to three issues – contracting, fundraising and campaigning.
“I disagree strongly with the campaigning side,” he said. “People talk about the amount MPs are lobbied by big business. But I would say that there is 20 to 30 times as much lobbying from the charitable sector, perhaps even more. I see there are big national organisations with active, well-funded campaigning groups at the centre, but with cash-strapped branches trying to provide services on the ground in communities, and I think 'are you sure you've got the balance right?'
“From the point of view of a constituency MP it doesn't feel right at all.” Grayling also said that the sector had to adapt in order to contract with government.
“The sector itself has to behave a reasonably commercial way,” he said. “If you want to win a government contract, you’ve got to be able to do a genuine business deal. We try to facilitate opportunities for the sector but we can't provide it on a plate.” He said the lesson he had taken from the Work Programme and Transforming Rehabilitation was that the sector needed to build more commercial skills, and that he had explained this lesson to Acevo, the NCVO and to contracting organisations. He said that change was inevitable for charities, because previous government methods of engaging with the sector had been too inefficient.
“In both of these programmes the social sector is enormously important, both for big organisations like Tomorrow's People and the Shaw Trust, and smaller niche organisations,” he said. “We've tried to create a level playing field.” But he said the sector also had to change to meet government’s needs.
“Before the Work Programme the Department for Work and Pensions contracted with 1,200 charities,” he said. “With the best will in the world that's not really terribly viable. It's much more difficult to manage large numbers of charities.”
Grayling said he did not agree with criticism from members of the audience who said they could not afford to become involved in payment-by-results programmes which took a long time before they paid out to contractors. “I don’t believe payment-by-results puts any constraints on the sector,” he said.
He said that charities should be able to get funding from prime contractors who had the balance sheet to fund smaller organisations during delivery, or they should be able to attract social investment to fund a payment-by-results contract.
But lets end this on yet another health warning to all potential bidders for probation work out there, and I do understand that your number is getting smaller by the day:-

I had my TR training this week and have some real concerns about the vulnerable position the bidders will be in. Do they realise that the main part of their business they have no control over? Relying on NPS staff to correctly allocate to CRC. If I were a bidder I would want some remuneration written into my contract for the occasions when this goes wrong as it will take time and resources to correct. 

Also, are bidders aware that the cases suitable for NPS / CRC can be changed by the government changing the offences listed on Schedule 15 (again) thereby making them MAPPA or not? Have they seen the case studies used in the training? I would certainly be asking to see these before putting in a bid!! Rapists, theft from person including use of weapon, the list goes on - all in CRCs! 

Also, the escalation of risk tool needs to be completed by someone who knows what they are talking about in terms of risk - it is going to cost them to employ such individuals. All I can say is bidders beware.

PS - Bidders would also do well to look at the history of Atos who have simply given up on their contract and walked away having had enough of dealing with difficult government work, as reported here by the BBC:-
The firm Atos, which assesses whether benefit claimants in Britain are fit to work, is to finish its contract early, ministers have confirmed. It follows government criticism over "significant quality failures". Disabilities Minister Mike Penning said a new company would be appointed in early 2015, and Atos would not receive "a single penny of compensation".
Atos had been due to finish in August 2015. It said the settlement was "in the best interests of all parties". It also said it would "work hard to support transition to a new provider", adding: "We will be transferring our infrastructure and employees to ensure consistency of service to those going through the process. "There will be no change for those applying for Employment and Support Allowance." Last month, Atos said it was seeking to end its government contract under which it carried out the Work Capability Assessments.

Thursday 27 March 2014

Omnishambles Update 41

Yesterday saw another email from Napo HQ sent to all members:-

Dear All

Legal Challenges: As you know, Napo has been in constant dialogue with lawyers about the legalities and rationale (or lack thereof) of TR. As already outlined, the challenge has to have a chance of success and we cannot risk the reputational and financial cost of a hasty or ill-judged challenge. It is frustrating but a trade union’s predictions of chaos and risk (however accurate) does not go far enough because the government will deny it and the challenge is over- that assertion is based on all the advice received so far. There needs to be documentary proof. As TR is rolled out, members may feel it is a bit late in the day but this is exactly the right time to challenge because concrete evidence comes into existence. We met yesterday again with lawyers and members will understand why we do not disclose all of the details of those meetings- this email is certain to get into the hands of the MoJ. As a trade union, we are obliged to raise these issues with government at the earliest opportunity and we have done this in good faith. But, as you know, the government has consistently ignored and misrepresented the concerns of Napo and our sister unions and is pressing ahead with its risky project.

We have provided some of the evidence (and we will be concentrating on this over the next 10 days) but the key evidence has to come from members. We have attached a questionnaire for you to fill out to give concrete and specific examples of issues. This cannot be purely anecdotal because, however real the issue might be, we need hard evidence. This will be used either in a legal challenge or as part of awareness raising in Parliament and the media. Issues of increased bureaucracy, IT, equality, risk, service provision and more all need to be gathered so we can evidence our case.


Please return your questionnaire to

Justice Select Committee: In the last 10 minutes of the Justice Select Committee, Minister Jeremy Wright was pressed to give answers about a letter provided to the Committee by the Secretary of State. The letter contained untruths about the nature of our dispute with the government and a nonsensical, confused and wholly deficient reference to the TR timetable which is all over the place. The Committee Chair said the timetable was completely confused. It was an embarrassing time for the government. TR is not a done deal. Not by a long way. We’ll be able to provide a more detailed write up tomorrow along with some updated information about Pensions.

Industrial Action: As with legal action, industrial action is ongoing, subject to members agreement. We are part of a wide movement across the justice sector. The tweet of the day comes from Sam Parham, Barrister at Garden Court Chambers, “Prison book ban, legal profession walk out, probation on strike, private prisons in chaos: Grayling’s out of control- his time at MoJ is up.” Napo members are holding rallies and forming picket lines to say, with as loud a voice as possible, we are not going down without a fight. For an uplifting sense of solidarity, click on the link below to see why determined and passionate Napo members in all different branches are taking action.

A big thank you to all those who sent in messages of solidarity. Napo’s Officers and Officials will be joining members on picket lines and at rallies up and down the country.


National Chair    General Secretary

Once more we have a statement from the Napo top table that obfuscates on the legal position, and I just don't buy all this guff about 'not letting the MoJ know' what we're up to:-

Legal Challenges: As you know, Napo has been in constant dialogue with lawyers about the legalities and rationale (or lack thereof) of TR. As already outlined, the challenge has to have a chance of success and we cannot risk the reputational and financial cost of a hasty or ill-judged challenge. It is frustrating but a trade union’s predictions of chaos and risk (however accurate) does not go far enough because the government will deny it and the challenge is over- that assertion is based on all the advice received so far. There needs to be documentary proof. As TR is rolled out, members may feel it is a bit late in the day but this is exactly the right time to challenge because concrete evidence comes into existence. We met yesterday again with lawyers and members will understand why we do not disclose all of the details of those meetings- this email is certain to get into the hands of the MoJ.

There is a bit of a theme developing here as the cost of going for Judicial Review is mentioned yet again. I don't like knocking Napo when we're in a fight for survival, but this blog is not going to drop this issue until we get a clear and unambiguous statement on the issue of Judicial Review of the 2007 Act, especially in the light of a recent unsolicited offer of legal assistance. 

I notice that yesterdays Prisons Special highlighted yet another appalling aspect of the TR omnishambles that we haven't covered in much detail so far, that of the relationship between client and officer and it's heartbreaking:-

Yesterday, the mother of a lifer (murder) rang me and cried when I told her I would no longer be working with her son. She told me how much he liked and trusted me and asked if she could still stay in touch. Later the same day, I had to tell an IPP licence client that I'd seen through oral hearings etc that I wouldn't be working with him anymore and I didn't know who would. He cried and thanked me for all my help. Today a visited a young man in prison who I've managed to secure an AP bed for. He was so delighted, shook my hand and asked me if I would go to the pub and have a game of pool with him when he came out. I was supposed to tell him I was transferring him. I couldn't bring myself to do it.

It's soul destroying. I told one of my clients he was being reallocated and all he could say is 'why are you leaving me'? I didn't even know what to say. This process is so destabilising for the people we supervise and they seem to be the last people that the government have considered in all this.

I've been supervising a client on and off for around 3 years. It would be fair to say that our relationship at times has been 'strained', however, we do have an understanding that I am more understanding of his FTA' than I am of his re-offending. He's been offence AND drug free for about 4 months, a big achievement, but has just been given a Curfew for a minor offence but one that occurred with a peer he has offended with and used drugs with in the past. I recommended a 'split' curfew, both during the day and all night. He was not happy about the mid afternoon one but said that he understood why I had done this and recognised that I was only trying to keep him away from said peer.

He did say that boredom was an issue as his parents both worked during the day and at night he just stayed in his bedroom as his relationship with his parents is still strained and he identified arguing/stress as a trigger to his drug use. I went, and out of my own money, purchased him a game for his Playstation as this is something he enjoyed doing and identified as a protective factor. The game was second hand, only a few ££'s and IMO not a big deal. The effect it had on him when I dropped it off was massive and he was close to tears when I explained why I had done this for him. Things like this make a difference to how people respond to us. I have no idea if he will remain offence/drug free, what I do know is that we now have a better working relationship and it's less likely that he is going to call me a 'fucking arsehole' and 'I want a new Probation Officer'.

It's these little things that make a difference and which will be missing come June :( It actually makes me quite upset to think about it.

I gave a young, vulnerable female client a Freddo when she came for an appointment on her birthday. It cost me nothing, another colleague had given it to me but it's monetary value was 10p. Her face lit up and she was delighted, she said she loved chocolate but couldn't afford it. She was a poor attender, after the Freddo, she wasn't. A little bit of kindness goes a very long way.

Finally, having been put through the agonies of the split, the NPS has starting advertising jobs:-

Applications are invited for a range of job vacancies in the new National Probation Service (NPS). 

Over 160 roles are available across the seven NPS divisions and at headquarters, following the allocation of existing Trust staff to new roles in January. They include a variety of roles in grades ranging from administrators to managers. 

Applications are being requested from existing probation staff – regardless of whether they have been assigned to the NPS or a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). 

The roles are initially being competed to probation staff only. If any vacancies remain unfilled, a wider recruitment campaign will take place. 

The posts were advertised on EPIC on 25th March 2014 and applications will be made via CV and a letter outlining how you meet the person specification. A range of ICT roles will be advertised in early April. 

Those successful will transition into the NPS on June 1st as part of the staff transfer scheme and will become Civil Servants but remain on probation terms and conditions. Probation continuous service will be retained. 

Roles vary between the divisional teams and headquarters. Posts have been job evaluated and are on a range of probation bands from Band 2 to Band B. 

NOMS Director of Probation, Colin Allars, said: 

“There are a wide variety of exciting opportunities to work in the National Probation Service currently. 

“The new roles will play an important part in establishing the brand new NPS organisation during the critical first few months and years. They are open to staff regardless of their previous experience in that kind of role. 

“I would urge any member of staff who is interested in a change of role or in working in the new NPS to register their interest with their regional recruitment lead. There is no obligation in doing so.” 

Any staff interested in finding out more about the available roles or who would be interested in applying, should contact: 

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Prisons Special

Another day, another 'special' and for this on prisons, I'm grateful to a reader for sending me the following very interesting internal Noms document. It shows how policy continues to be written 'on the hoof' and use up a considerable amount of fag packets :- 

From:              Colin Allars, Director of Probation
 & Phil Copple, Director of Public Sector Prisons

To:                  Probation Trust Chief Executives
                        Probation Trust Chairs
                        CRC Chief Executives
                        NPS Deputy Directors         

CC:                 NEMC
Governing Governors
                        Gordon Davison
                        Amy Rees
Senior Community Managers
Sophie Otter 

Date:               14/03/14


1. We intend to improve offender management in custody to ensure that it is at the heart of managing offenders and is core to our service delivery. The changes necessary to make these improvements will impact upon the role of seconded probation staff in public sector prisons. We are using this opportunity to consider the role of probation in custody to ensure that the professional skills and expertise that Probation Officers have are used to the best advantage for the whole of NOMS. This note introduces the new role for probation staff in custody and describes how we will introduce and manage this change.

2. This change is occurring in the context of Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms and the OM Change Programme. TR highlights the importance of OM in custody, not just in the final, resettlement stages of an offender’s custodial sentence; but throughout an offender’s journey. We are therefore looking to support prisons to deliver continuous improvement in offender management. Probation staff have a critical role to play in this process. We are therefore introducing changes and enhancements to the role of probation staff working in prisons, as well as a different complement of those staff. Building on and further developing the vital role probation already play, this new probation complement in custody will strengthen and support the role Prison Service Operational Band 4s play as Offender Supervisors.

3. The purpose of the new role of probation in prison will be to provide professional expertise in risk assessment and case management. The role will comprise:

(i) quality assuring the delivery of the offender management model in custody;
(ii) directly supporting Offender Supervisors by providing regular advice and guidance; and,
(iii) overseeing and directing all high risk cases managed by Offender Supervisors.

4. In this way, Probation Officers will be more able to influence and contribute to the delivery of offender management in prisons, supporting Offender Supervisors to increase their skills and professionalism in providing OM, whatever their current level of experience. Critically, Probation Officers’ expertise in risk assessment and management will help to drive up and maintain standards in this area and give a level of assurance that prisons are delivering good quality offender management. Further, Offender Supervisors will have increased confidence in the critical decisions they make in overseeing the progression of offenders through the custodial phase of their sentences.

5. A detailed role description will be provided soon as part of future communications about this change.

6. The new role for probation staff working in prisons, which has been developed in close consultation with NOMS Offender Management and Public Protection Group (OMPPG), TR colleagues and Probation professionals, requires the skills and experience that qualified Probation Officers possess. Accordingly, in the longer term, there will not be a role for Probation Service Officers (PSOs) in the new arrangements.

7. The transition from current arrangements to the new model will take place over 18 months to two years, and will be phased carefully to minimise the impact on both staff and the work of Offender Management Units. This will ensure the smooth transition necessary for operational continuity both in prisons and in the community. It will also enable the staff affected, particularly the PSOs, to be properly consulted, via their line managers, about their futures and supported into new roles. There will be no compulsory redundancies. Further details of the implementation strategy will be provided in due course, including detailed information on the opportunities available to PSOs currently working in prisons. These posts, depending on the area, may include roles in delivering offending behaviour programmes in prisons, other roles within NPS and potentially conversion into Prison Officers.

8. As many of you will be aware, Public Sector Prisons Benchmarking programme has introduced a model of Offender Management in most prisons (male local prisons and male training prisons) in which offender supervision will be exclusively delivered by Operational Band 4 prison officers. In designing this model, the need for professional, qualified Probation expertise was recognised. The Probation resource required to deliver the new model will be determined through an allocation tool which calculates the required complement of Probation Officers based on the ‘turnover’ of prisoners and risk of serious harm profile of the offenders in the prison. Overall, this will require an increase in the complement of qualified Probation Officers working in prisons. We will work with the leadership of the National Probation Service to determine how this increase should be met. Probation Officers currently working within OMUs in prisons can expect to move into the new roles without any matching or other process.

9. For open prisons the arrangements within OMUs will be slightly different; offender supervision will be a shared task between Prison Officer Band 4 and qualified Probation Officers. Prison Officers will provide offender supervision for the cases that will be managed by Community Rehabilitation Companies on release and Probation Officers will act as Offender Supervisors to NPS cases. There are wider changes to open prisons as a result of an MOJ review of Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) and these have been communicated separately.

10. To ensure the effective management, supervision and professional development of Probation Officers working in prison, the following arrangements will also be made:
First, to ensure their professional skills are kept up to date and their development maintained, the expectation will be that Probation staff working in prison will be posted for a limited period (details are still to be confirmed, but no more than 3 years).
They will be managed and supervised by Senior Probation Officers (SPOs) who will be based in the new NPS Divisions. We will work with the National Probation Service to identify any necessary adjustments in the SPO resource assigned to support Probation staff working in prisons.

11. On 1st June 2014 all Probation staff then working on secondment in prisons will transfer to the National Probation Service but will continue to work and deliver services as per current arrangements. More detail on the timing of these changes will be provided in due course and made available for consultation with staff and Trade Unions.

12. The changes outlined in this paper will add to the already fast-moving pace of change for the Probation Service and we acknowledge that this will feel like an additional pressure. However, the changes outlined are will produce a much clearer and focused role for probation staff in prisons. This will ultimately result in higher standards of Offender Management which will reduce reoffending and help to protect the public which, we are confident, will make these changes worthwhile.


It's great to see how Grayling has been forced onto the back foot over the prisoner 'book ban' policy. It's really captured the public attention with absolutely acres of bad publicity and even a Number 10 petition started by This is what Erwin James has to say on the subject:-
In the past few months the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has been rapidly diminishing the regime for people in prison. Last year he ordered all new prisoners back into prison uniform, then he stopped prisoners having Christmas presents sent in from their families. He has meddled with the Incentives and Earned Privileges Scheme so that prisoners who want to achieve the “enhanced” level of imprisonment – i.e. an extra visit a month, a better cell, a bit more money to spend from their private cash – have to do “over and above” just being well behaved. (A particularly niggardly move as he knows full well that so called “purposeful activity” in our prisons is becoming as elusive as the evidence that his other big idea, “Payment by Results” will actually work.)
More recently he has decided to restrict ROTL – Release on Temporary Licence – because of several high profile failures – yet last year there were almost half a million successful releases from prison on temporary licence. Nastiest of all of Grayling’s interference with the running of prisons however is his decision to ban prisoners from having books sent in and – incredibly – writing materials. These moves apparently are supposed to somehow magically “Transform Rehabilitation” and lead to a reduction in reoffending – yet a more illogical approach to the problem of recidivism would be hard to find.
This week he admitted that the system he presides over was “very flawed” and that the consistently high reoffending figures for released prisoners (costing the economy between £9bn and 13bn a year according to the office for national statistics) – was a “crazy situation.” Mr Grayling talks about “rehabilitation” on the one hand and yet treats people in prison like his own personal political pawns on the other. The fact is, it is the Justice Secretary’s rhetoric that is “crazy” and his determination to involve himself in the decisions which dictate the quality in the minutiae of prison landing life which is “very flawed.”
Commenting on Grayling’s decision to ban books being sent to prisoners Frances Crook, the Director of the Howard League for Penal Reform said: “Over the last year, because of shrinking prison budgets, staff cuts and increasing numbers, prisoners have been spending even longer in their cells without access to facilities such as libraries. It is common for prisoners to spend 20 hours a day in their cells during the week. At weekends they can be cooped up from Friday lunchtime until Monday morning. Conditions have deteriorated so much in recent months that this has become a major concern.
“Being able to read a book is a lifeline and a way of nourishing the mind. As families and friends are now forbidden from sending basic items into prison, prisoners are sitting in stinking cells, wearing dirty clothes, with nothing to do and not even a book to read. We urge the government [i.e Mr Grayling] to reconsider this draconian measure.”
If he really has the interests of future potential victims of people coming out of prison he really should reconsider all of the above.
Grayling is so rattled he rushed out a feeble press release yesterday in response to the petition:-
I saw your comments about the availability of books in prisons yesterday and am writing to correct some of the misleading reports that have been around.
There has been no ban on the availability of books in prison, and the change of policy has been to ensure that we have consistency across the prison estate. It was never the case that prisoners were simply allowed unlimited parcels - books or otherwise.
The restrictions on access to parcels by prisoners are necessary because of the need to limit the ability of offenders to get hold of drugs and contraband. The logistics of a prison estate with 85,000 people would make it impossible to check in detail every parcel sent in, and so rights of access to parcels are, and have always been, limited.
Prisoners have always enjoyed and continue to enjoy full rights of access to all the titles available through the local public library service, which operates a full service in all of our prisons. If titles are not available there and then, they can be ordered as normal.
In addition, prisoners can purchase individual items through the prison shop if they wish to do so. These can be ordered under controlled arrangements. Each prisoner is allowed up to twelve titles in their cells at any one time, inclusive of those borrowed from the library.
I’m sure that you would agree that we need to ensure that all prisoners have access to books, and also support to help them learn to read if necessary – and that is what happens. Equally, I am sure that you would wish us to ensure that we maintain proper security to prevent the smuggling of drugs, pornography and extremist materials – and that is why we maintain a tight limit on the right of prisoners to receive parcels.
With best wishes
Chris Grayling

PS - Just spotted this:-

More problems for Grayling are looming. This from the F.T. (paywall)

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, is under mounting pressure to act over fears that thousands of prisoners will bring compensation claims for being held beyond their minimum sentence. Ministers face the prospect of a torrent of claims over a backlog of prisoners being held for months and even years after completion of their minimum term. 
One prisoner in Erlestoke prison in Wiltshire, who was given a minimum sentence of seven months, has now spent seven years behind bars.