Tuesday 30 September 2014

MoJ Answers 4

Continuing our serialisation of more carefully-crafted bullshit from the MoJ.

22. CRC bidders

What will happen if no companies bid for the CRC element of probation?

What would happen if the signing of the contracts does not take place before the election next year?

If you decide not to re-bid a contract what happens then?

Who would manage the contract in the meantime?

If a contract is not put up to re-bid, what is the alternative?

Who will run CRC if goes for re-bidding?

I assume it remains the intention that the TR process will be concluded before the dissolution of parliament? However, what happens if the 'share sale' to the CRC's are not concluded prior to dissolution of parliament?

Under our approach to transition CRCs are currently operating as going concerns under public sector ownership. We have strong bidder interest for all 21 CRCs and are on track to sign contracts with successful bidders by the end of 2014.

23. CRC bidders

Now that Chalk ventures have pulled out of the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Mutual Bid will the minister be sending in a Task Force to ensure that services to the Courts and more importantly public protection will be maintained?

We have designed the programme to ensure there is a carefully managed transition process across all areas, and that we only move forward at each stage of the changes when it is safe to do so. The programme is subject to rigorous testing and scrutiny. We will continue to focus strongly on maintaining public protection throughout the transition.

24. Challenging privatisation

Is the ultimate goal to see Probation (as it was) fail to meet the insurmountable demands now placed on the two entities it has now become, in order to pave the way for a complete privatisation of work with offenders?

What’s your vision for probation in 3 years time?Our ultimate goal under Transforming Rehabilitation is to ensure we deliver significant and sustained reductions in reoffending rates. These reforms to the probation service will play a key role in our vision of creating a justice system that produces more effective and more efficient services for all – reforming offenders, delivering value for the taxpayer and protecting victims and communities. I believe these are goals shared by probation professionals.

25. Restorative Justice

RJ is definitely one way forward and sadly overlooked for many years! However, CJS policy of successive Govs always appears to major on punitive measures instead of end to end rehab and restorative work! Tiresome - Gov response now seems to be give up and sell it off!

The Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 is explicit that the activities offenders can be instructed to take part in as part of the new ‘Rehabilitation Activity Requirement’ can include Restorative Justice activities. It will be for CRCs to determine how to best to tackle the offending behaviour of those they manage. However, the contracts we are developing will make it clear that CRCs should be able to deliver Restorative Justice activities where an assessment indicates that it might have an impact on reoffending.

Police and Crime Commissioners will be responsible for commissioning victims’ services from 1 October 2014 and until 2016 will receive funding to build capacity and commission Restorative Justice provision as part of their wider victims’ service grant. In the meantime, I can reassure you that you will continue to be supported by NPS in helping to achieve these aims.

26. Risk/VR

I'm an Offender Manager transferred to the NPS under TR. The last few weeks have been awful and the TR is a complete mess as experienced by me. I now have a totally new caseload of high risk offenders that I don't know. I'm very angry about this because I now have to get to know the risk level of these people while supervising them from scratch! If possible I would like to leave the NPS through voluntary redundancy. Is there any chance of this being offered to OM's in the NPS?

I'm an OM allocated to NPS. I am very angry about what has happened to me over the last few weeks. I now have a totally new caseload of high risk offenders that I don’t know. I would like to leave the NPS as a result of the mess of TR and its repercussions for me. Is there any chance that redundancy will be offered to OMs in the NPS? Thank you.

As you identify, where there are concerns about transferring a particular offender, staff have been able to postpone transfer until they are absolutely confident it is safe to do so. In these cases, the offender will remain with an appropriate probation officer, to ensure continuity and public protection. In addition, we will continue to monitor the balance of work across NPS and the CRCs, and allocate further resources where that proves necessary. Staff from both NPS and CRCs will be able to apply for any new posts that are created.

The enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme, agreed with Trade Unions as part of the National Agreement on Staff Transfer, is funded by the Ministry of Justice in the period to 31 March 2015. The Scheme has been targeted at corporate services and senior grades as this is where we anticipate a potential oversupply in the number of staff.

We are not currently planning to offer VR to probation officers and other operational roles as we believe we need to retain the skills of those who have been transferred to the NPS. I do appreciate that this is a time of transition, but I also believe that the specialist skills in the NPS will help us improve what we do in key areas like decision making on ROTL.

27. Mutuals

Why are mutuals struggling to fulfil MOJ criteria?

How many mutuals are left in the bidding process?

We have recently been told that our local Mutual bid pulled out because "the contract contained some commercial and operational terms which for us were too difficult to bear"? Is it possible to have any further clarification as to exactly what stopped the process?

There remains a strong competition in all regions for the contracts to run the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies with over 80 bids having been received and an average of four bidders for each area. Over half of the bidders include a voluntary, mutual or social enterprise organisation and mutuals continue to feature strongly, with eight potential staff mutuals competing for a share of the contracts.

28. Corporate Services staff

I am a member of corporate services staff assigned to the CRC who will, following share sale, be "surplus to requirements" but currently essential to provide crucial assistance with transition under the TR programme. I trust you will both be acutely aware of the chaotic impact this fundamental re-structure has created for the delivery of services. Without the support and help of those corporate services staff who will shortly be surplus to requirements, the NPS side of the organisation would be wholly unable to function. That support and help has been given by staff who have belief and skill in the work we undertake and who care about the "whole" service. Within the Trust we were recognised for the essential work we undertake and played very important and recognised roles in the successful work undertaken.

Corporate services staff have no guarantee of security in their employment and equally no assurances with regard to their access to the Voluntary Early Departure (Redundancy) Scheme. Receiving repeated thanks for all our hard work rather than any acknowledgement of the very serious position we face in our employment prospects feels extremely patronising and dismissive. What would you both want to say to motivate these staff to continue with the extraordinary level of support they are giving to both the NPS and the CRC?

Are business services admin/PA roles valued by NOMS/MoJ? We aren't seeing any evidence of this at present.

I recognise the hard work by staff to enable the NPS to start to operate and I am grateful for the commitment to overcoming the challenges that are an unavoidable part of any transition to a new model.

The Voluntary Early Departure scheme was open for all in corporate services to apply. Expressions of interest have been received; however, employers cannot give guarantees around eligibility as this is dependent on a number of factors, including the level of interest. While there is only one wave of Voluntary Redundancy during public ownership of CRCs, there will remain the opportunity for further waves of Voluntary Redundancy following contract signature.

29. Implementation

Has the Justice Secretary any idea of how much damage he has done and what an absolute disaster this privatisation has been. Chaos has reined supreme. Do you even care how your employers are feeling?

I understand this has been a challenging time for staff but I do not believe it is accurate to paint such a negative picture.  The vast majority of staff are working at the same desk, in the same team and in the same building. They are managing the same offenders and using the same IT systems as previously. Crucially, they continue to be able to call on their experience and knowledge of working with offenders to continue protecting the public.

Getting back to reality on the ground floor TR is not working what are you going to do about it?

We are continuing to test the new system to understand where we might make further improvements. But I am pleased that the transition to the new structures has been completed safely, and am grateful for the professionalism and hard work of staff.

Late news. I see the redoubtable Pat Waterman managed to 'handbag' Andrew Selous at a fringe event in Birmingham yesterday. He doesn't look very happy.

Monday 29 September 2014

A Way Forward

In the interests of transparency, the following is the text of an email by Joanna Hughes sent over the weekend to Napo's leadership and outlining a positive way forward regarding a possible legal challenge. She has promised to keep us all informed as to the response.

Dear Ian, Dean, Yvonne and Chris,

This is extremely important and I hope that you can get back to me as soon as possible. As I am sure you are aware, Napo members are increasingly upset and desperate about the stalling of any meaningful action on a Judicial Review and they are now realising that there is little realistic chance of the union's leadership having any positive news on this issue. It has seemed to many members as if this were our last chance to mount a legal challenge and, as share sale approaches, the lack of hope is now stirring up passions. I think I mentioned the necessity of hope in our first ever conversation and it is now well and truly fading. 

There are a number of reasons put forward as to why a legal challenge has stalled and these include saving the money for redundancy payments and the possibility of a merger with another union. As you can imagine, this is no comfort for Probation workers losing their career and livelihood and ultimately, means there will be no Napo as well. It is also now known how much money has been spent in legal fees, with little to show for it.  I believe there is increasing evidence that the argument that it is too risky and you do not want to waste members' money is not finding agreement with the membership. Although not consulted on for a view, believe me people are desperate to spend their subs on a chance of stopping this nightmare.  

I am afraid to say that a head of steam is gathering for a vote of no confidence in the General Secretary at the AGM because the members feel so let down by the leadership. In my view this would be disastrous and a public relations gift to our enemies like Chris Grayling. In my view this must be avoided at all costs and for this reason I feel it's vital that Napo urgently seeks a second legal opinion in order to calm the membership and offer some real hope that something can be done.

I know that both Edward and Dean have spoken to Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx and he has indicated that he is willing to brainstorm ideas for a Judicial Review with a group that includes myself and Dean. He would need all the legal advice and information sent to him before the meeting and he has costed this at £5000. This strikes me as a very sensible and positive way forward that will help to defuse the high level of ill-feeling and mistrust that is clearly growing. It is common practice for organisations such as Napo to ask for a second opinion and I believe this offer should be grasped before we are faced with uncomfortable motions at the AGM. 

I am therefore asking that instructions be given to Mr Xxxxxxxx and payment authorised to go ahead with a brainstorming session to review work undertaken to date and come up with possible ideas for a legal challenge. I anticipate that he would like Dean to be present in addition to myself and whomever else you might feel appropriate.  Once instructed, he has indicated that he could work quickly and offer an appointment the following week. 

As you have probably heard, I understand that the share sale is now in December, so we have a bit of time but need to move very fast. Mr Xxxxxxxx indicated to me that in one of his conversations with Napo, he was told that (deleted so as not prejudice any possible action). In view of the urgency, I'd very much appreciate an early indication as to whether Napo can proceed with this offer and ideally by Thursday at the latest. If you have any questions do not hesitate to get back to me.

Best wishes

Joanna Hughes

Sunday 28 September 2014

TR Week Seventeen

My line manager told me that in his opinion employees had their employment rights trampled on. I certainly fall into that group but having now left the Probation Service because of TR, any case I might have had is defunct. The way in which the split was carried out has been the most outrageous aspect of the whole matter.


My early grievance was ignored through the application of various HR strategies, now it's out of time. I'm so exhausted I don't really care anymore. Over 50 cases as CRC PO, 32 are DV perpetrators. I'm on my knees most days. Most have been sentenced 'fast delivery' so no oasys. Its my job to complete an initial plan & full oasys within 20 days. I was allocated 7 in the space of a few days. Rather than put myself on sick or in hospital, I'm tempted to wait until I'm sacked or there's the offer of a leaving package.


This sounds terrible! Hope you are finding support from somewhere and hope your branch is taking issue with caseloads like this? How can anyone (and some are on Twitter) extol the freedom for innovation within CRCs when colleagues are shackled with unrealistic demands like this. Testgate 4 is supposed to "testing" that the split is working safely and well. Examples like this illustrate it is NOT working-hope your area is presenting the facts to MoJ.


To be honest, I don't think the CRC management team are bothered about anything except pleasing their bidder. I suspect they already know exactly who's in the frame, which is why we're being whipped into submission - in preparation for the invasion of the profit snatchers. The "executive" know they're vulnerable to being axed so are playing hardball to impress their new masters: "look at me, I'm just like you. I'm tough, not a wet public sector wimp." Desperate, pathetic and shameful.

"It ain't about the money". Oh yes it is, panto villain Graything. Its about the money you & your chums will trouser.


Merseyside NAPO have sent word out that they have arranged a meeting on 23rd Oct for middle managers - they hope a National Officer will be able to attend. The meeting has been caused due to Merseyside NAPO reps receiving a number of emails from managers highlighting their concerns both in the CRC and NPS and these will form the basis of the agenda (Shared Services, workloads, role and responsibilities etc). The branch is also hoping to organise meetings for other grades and/or grades prior to 2015. 


CEOs are all fiddling while Rome burns and that goes for CRC & NPS. It's like they are either unable or unwilling to face the reality that staff are crumbling under the strain. Staff are there now simply to pay their mortgages - the job isn't a pleasure anymore it's a chore and people are dropping like flies. A new to probation PSO who started in May now has a caseload of 60 female cases. The atmosphere's terrible, we're running round like headless chickens and working all sorts of flexi that we never seem to have time to take.


It's the same in our office, only mainly NPS staff are talking with their feet, and going off on sick leave. I have never seen anything like this. The stress on the remaining staff is unbearable and no one has any answers, instead ACE's seem to think that all is okay, teething problems and all that denial shit. They must be working in some sort of parallel universe. It is horrendous and they are desperately trying to paper the cracks by employing more and more agency staff, some of whom are not even qualified to do the job. 4 months down the road and nothing has improved, instead things have got drastically worse.


I am tired of senior managers' posts in our CRC blog of happy home lives with cute kids and the lessons for working together - disingenuous and insulting to our intelligence -( and exploitative of children) please be more honest and just include pictures of kittens and puppies with toilet rolls and motherhood and apple pie and cease the Pollyanna nonsense that there's a hope for TR.


Heard today of an office in my area where one CRC PO was covering the caseloads of 5 POs as all the others were off sick, on leave or on training. No help from the NPS (and rightly so, given that this is their 'operating model'. 'Not operating', more like.


The risk escalation process is a disgrace. As a PO it was suggested to me this week that I override a CRC case when the CRC manager, an SPO in my old trust, had signed the case off at CRC side as moving to high risk. I did my bit on the "system" said the case was high risk.....then left it to my (NPS) manager to overrule me.....me thinks too many cases are now deemed to be going to NPS so shenanigans are afoot. You just watch, very soon I predict the RSR score will go even higher so more cases go to CRC. The signs are the CRC managers are trying to send cases back upon allocation to NPS....let the battle begin.....'cos CRCs do not want the complex cases as they are too expensive....


There have already been some almighty rows about case allocations in my office between former colleagues. But at least they've been face to face and so relatively resolvable. Just wait until the expensive leases run out and the CRCs leave for cheaper premises - then all these debates will take place by phone or email, and stretch on for days, leaving clients, victims and staff in limbo.

You hear this, Grayling? We're not anti-change, we're anti-people dying because of the shambles that's grown from your obstinacy and arrogance.


Just wait until after share sale when private companies want to send any case that's problematic, difficult to manage or where money has to be spent on interventions back to NPS. That's when the real arguments will begin.


Make no mistake the arguments have already started - CRC are "auditing" case allocation - looks like the last vestige of trust is rapidly disappearing. NPS and CRC are being set against each other. one of the great strengths of probation working was always the capacity to pull together, now blown to the wind by Chris Grayling.....but remember, he says there is no problem. The "good" staff are making the new system work but those nasty left wing union types are just making mischief. What happens when "the market" starts resisting too?


Auditors have been in our CRC office checking interface issues and timeliness from sentence to induction to 1st supervision appointment.


What a load of b????ks. This is appalling. Selected management will tell that man what he wants to hear. It makes me so angry I want to cry !!! If he ever came to my office I'd gatecrash and tell him what I thought!!


CLM Innovo are visiting all Merseyside CRC offices to give a presentation on their bid and to do a question & answer session. We are all a bit surprised as to why they would feel the need to do this. It's as though they have maybe had a 'nod and a wink'.


Looking at the comment yesterday claiming a mutual bidder was doing the rounds of offices to give presentations raises serious questions for those also in the running for the area. Should CLM Innovo win the bid I would be scrutinising the way they won against those that didn't. Don't forget this is the company who had to withdraw due to one of the partners dropping out due to financial concerns but who then suddenly were able to amend their bid and submit it after the closing date. You don't have to be a bloodhound to smell a potential rat.


Our area are trying to give some positive spin to Sodexo. Seems maybe they already know who will be winning the bids?


I understand the visits are connected to promoting interest in joining staff councils which would form part of the mutual structure. I'm in NPS not CRC so am relying on info from colleagues. Presumably whatever restrictions exist on contact between bidders and staff would allow for latitude here but trouble is who of us knows! We have no legal/business knowledge here, though hopefully Branch Chairs have been given guidance?


Well, seeing as probation chums in the innovo circus are being allowed to present their case to staff, maybe its only 'right' that sodexo get a good press too? "TR is utter shite" doesn't seem to be the third option on offer.


Regarding staff councils, they will be a workaround the unions. In businesses with more than 50 employees there is a legal duty to consult, not automatic, but activated by either employer or employees. Of course, you don't need a staff council if there is already a union recognition agreement. I don't know whether to call them Trojan horses or elephants in the room, but I see their purpose as negating trade unionism. They will recruit the school prefects of the workplace.


The specific intention is to disarm the unions and "enfranchise" staff .... so they do fear the unions in big business 'cos they get in the way of reducing terms and conditions or put another way, "reducing fixed costs" ( staff salaries ). Sounds like the best argument there ever was to join one to me!!!


Those who genuinely care are having the life crushed out of them by politicians like Grayling, by the new managerialism and by the system. They may be young, vibrant & newly employed, or ancient & creaking with not long to go. What management signed us up to over the years is of their making. As frontline practitioners there is a bitter irony in the fact that we have limited capacity to implement change in our own organisation.


"...function independently..." just one of the many comments that demonstrate the deep level of ignorance on the part of the minister and lap dogs concerning the work of public protection and risk assessment. A Judge recently requested in court specific assistance from the probation service - totally logical and sensible - and a kind of satisfaction was felt in explaining how that would no longer be possible now that probation had been split into separate functions. "Well that's very helpful" he commented. "Yes your honour" was the reply.

Grayling talks about 10% of staff completing the questionnaire being not truly representative of staff as a whole. Well I would throw back in his face that his so called pilot of voluntary offenders from two prisons, that he uses as a a success story, not truly representative of offenders nationwide. Also the statistics of reoffending from under 12 months sentenced prisoners, not truly representative of reoffending nationwide!

I wrote a breach report last week. It has now disappeared into the stratosphere of naff delius! I was so frustrated I cried! Why? For obvious reasons you will be familiar with, but mostly because I cant believe that we have been belittled to this degree!

We use IAPS in my CRC and you would not believe the stuff that disappears. I too have cried over a lost report.

I feel you pain. I lost an FDR, had to tell IT I couldn't talk to them as I was too upset. Wonderful colleagues brought tea and sympathy to get me through it. Still not been able to re do it as it had to be wiped off delius and admin start from the beginning again!

The same happened to me with a couple of Parole reports a couple of weeks ago. Our IT man recovered it for me but it was an old version. Was I stressed? !!!!

I work in court now but when I was in OM there was a 'glitch' in nDelius with Annex Hs (I think) whereby you saved it and it disappeared. Absolutely nothing we could do, happened to a few of us before IT figured out it was a problem on the system. Honestly. And this at a time when caseloads were through the roof and we were haemorrhaging staff. The only times I've ever come close to losing it has always been due to our crap IT systems at work!!!! I feel your pain x

Having sat on 2 oral hearings last week within the prison a judge promptly told said individual I may as well release you seeing as there appears to be no probation staff left here to monitor you correctly! I felt so sad that even the prisons are failing our public protection.

It's great to see the paperless office working at its best - I always print off 2 copies before I save or do anything else! 1 for the file and 1 for court team - I've lost too many reports to risk it any more. Same with DRR reviews!

I think it's really sad that there appears to be a huge divide between CRC and NPS, especially within the work place. We all predicted that this would happen. The one thing that hasn't changed in the TR process is that the client group are still the same. Both sides. We still all have to do the same work with cases as we did before. Ok a large portion, but not as many that are in the community, of my cases may be in custody as I am in NPS and coming towards the end of PQF, but they still need a lot of work pre release and I suppose one positive is that there is now the time, more so than previously, to engage pre release. I still have a high case load, in fact it is higher than it was pre split.

I am aware that the MOJ sent in assessors to the CRCs last week to check that the inter agency processes are working prior to share sale. I am also aware that those that met with them told them Ndelius is not fit for purpose and needs to be replaced, that the process for risk escalation is laborious, cumbersome and ineffective.....hopefully they will get the message wherever they go.

Potemkin Villages hastily being constructed at CRC Kent, Surrey, Sussex as Grayling announces visit to see progress of his 'reforms' .

Saturday 27 September 2014

Day Out in Epsom

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A day out in Chris Grayling's constituency of Epsom. Photos from Hardeep Matharu of the Epsom Guardian.
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Grayling Having a Laugh

19 September 2014

Dear Ben, David and Ian,

Transforming Rehabilitation

Thank you for your letter of 8 September, requesting that the Ministry defers transfer of ownership of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

I recognise that this has been a time of change for probation staff and I am grateful for their hard work in implementing these reforms. As you are aware, we are taking a staged, measured approach to implementation and are using all the period up to the point at that contracts are let to stabilise and embed the new structures. I can see absolutely no grounds for deferring contract signature at this point. We continue to engage with probation staff, who have been closely involved with the development, testing and delivery of these reforms at every stage. While some are still adjusting to the new structures and working practices, many probation officers have been engaging constructively with our reforms and are beginning to see the genuine opportunities these changes can bring for offenders and for society as a whole. It is therefore disappointing that some social and other media activity has been deeply offensive to members of staff, their loved ones and victims of crime.

The following sections respond to the specific concerns you raise in your letter.

Transition to new structures     
It is inaccurate to state that the transition has not been a success and that the NPS and CRCs are struggling with the new system. Thorough, externally assured business and system readiness was conducted to review key activities that had to be completed before transition to the new structures on 1 June. On the basis of evidence from the testing we remain satisfied that the business was ready for transition. Further more, the cutover period itself progressed well and we successfully completed the migration of staff, property and ICT to schedule. 

There are always challenges in a significant change programme such as this, which are in addition to normal operating pressures. However we rigorously managed the changeover period and continue to support staff as they work to embed new structures. As you would expect, we continue to refine the new processes; indeed we have recently set up a 'Solutions in Partnership' Team to both support the resolution of issues as they arise and to spread the numerous examples of best practice emerging since June. We would welcome your involvement in that Team's work.

CRCs ICT/Corporate Services support to NPS 
The period between June 1 and service transition was specifically designed to provide for a gradual separation between CRCs and NPS in a number of areas. It is therefore entirely expected that there are some areas where separation has yet to be completed prior to service transition. There is no evidence that this will not be done in time, and we are confident that we can establish a level of separation between the organisations so that they are able to function independently, or with support from the Ministry, by the time the contracts are let.

Parliamentary scrutiny of the procurement process 
While it is not for Parliament to scrutinise the procurement process itself, it is worth noting that the principles behind the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have been subject to considerable parliamentary debate and scrutiny during the passage of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill and and an Opposition day debate in the Commons. Let us not forget that the reforms were made possible by the Offender Management Act, which passed through Parliament under the previous Labour government. In addition, the reforms have been subject to a Justice Select Committee Review and ongoing scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee. In terms of the Major Projects Authority's (MPA) analysis of the Transforming Rehabilitation procurement process, the MPA as part of the Cabinet Office, is in no way restricted in its analysis of Programme delivery. The appropriate timing and nature of MPA assurance activities are agreed with the Programme Team. Assessments are focused on assuring delivery and are provided in confidence to the Programme leadership in order not to prejudice commercial interests.

Letting of contracts prior to the election 
You also raised concerns that the letting of the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts would be out of bounds of acceptable practice in relation to elections. We are adhering to the standard convention set out in the Cabinet Manual and followed by previous administrations.

Public safety post contract signature    
In response to your concerns about public safety post contract signature, I would like to reiterate that public protection remains our top priority and the transition to the new arrangements will happen in a sensible way, which ensures public safety at every stage. I am clear that we will continue our robust assurance processes throughout the change programme, only proceeding to the next stage when it is safe to do so. However, as practitioners, you will know that there are operational challenges inherent in the day to day work of the Probation service, and these should not be confused with, or attributed to, TR.

Staff health and safety
In terms of pressures on staff, we recognise that this has been a time of change and, although the Ministry is not the employer of staff in the CRCs, we of course accept that we all have a responsibility to work together to ensure the new system is implemented in a way that minimises the additional pressures such change brings. However, we do not accept that a change in the ownership of CRCs is significant in this regard, given that the new operating system is already live, and will have been running for several months before service transition. We recognise the continuing pressures on staff, however many of these will not be removed in full until we complete the change programme. Therefore, it is to the benefit of the staff teams that we move to complete these reforms as quickly and sensibly as possible and achieve the system improvements we all want. As you know, we already have work under way to ensure that the new processes are easy to use and, as a key part of the system, we would welcome your involvement in this, to help your members. 

Napo/Unison member survey     
Thank you for enclosing a copy of your recent member survey. I note that the survey was only responded to by 10% of Napo and UNISON's membership, therefore it cannot be said to be a truly representative picture. Throughout the TR programme, we have been mindful of staff morale and have sought to engage probation staff in the reforms at every stage. Trusts, as the employers of probation staff until 31st May this year, and subsequently the NPS and CRCs, have worked hard to ensure their workforce provided with as much information and reassurance as possible throughout. The MoJ also worked closely with probation staff to support them through the transition and is continuing to provide support to staff in both the NPS and CRCs as they work to embed the new structures.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to probation staff for their hard work to implement these reforms. I very much hope that as Trade Union leaders you will together work with us as we head towards contract signature, to provide the best support for your members.  


Dear Colleague,

Minister rattled by Napos campaign

An introductory meeting took place today between representatives of Napo (Ian Lawrence and Yvonne Pattison), UNISON (Ben Priestley and Neil Richardson) and GMB/SCOOP (David Walton) and the Minister.

Minister ducks out of AGM

As we had half anticipated, the Minister opened the meeting on a sour note, by making a clumsy pre-written statement denigrating Napo’s involvement in social and media coverage relating to the deaths of two serving staff and a previous Serious Further Offence. In view of this the Minister said that he felt it would now be inappropriate for him to accept the invitation to speak at the Napo AGM.

I responded to this clear attempt to deflect attention from the key operational and staffing issues by indicating that we had already explained to Colin Allars that we are comfortable with our position and that I would respond formally outside of the meeting. I also took the opportunity to inform the Minister that we had been informed of two further SFOs that had subsequently occurred and which had not yet been picked up on by the media.

These early exchanges and the Minister’s attempts to rubbish the recent Napo/UNISON staff survey results created a tense atmosphere for the remainder of the meeting which sought to explore the areas covered in the attached letter. Bizarrely, we were told that this had been sent to the unions in advance by Chris Grayling but in fact none of us had actually received it prior to the meeting.

Denial continues

As can be seen from the correspondence from the Secretary of State, which we will be responding to jointly with UNISON and GMB in light of today’s exchanges, the reception by Mr Selous to our concerns on: court reports, staffing, operational readiness, continuing IT failures, massive workloads and the lack of transparency around Testgate 4, were at times stunningly complacent.

At one point Mr Selous astonishingly claimed that it was clear that the staff he had spoken to up and down the NPS and CRC had “got over the grieving process” (following the split) and were now looking forward to the many opportunities open to them in the new environment!  He later sought to clarify his comments by acknowledging that a major change programme such as TR was uncomfortable for many, but that problems were being ironed out “day by day”. On the question of resourcing, the Minister revealed that the MoJ were looking to recruit a further 1,000 probation officers across both arms of the service. Napo and our colleagues estimate that this will require additional funding of around £30 million which we will seek to question as part of our ongoing dialogue with senior NOMS/MoJ Officials. 

The unions attempted to raise a number of additional issues that were clearly of concern to our members, especially around report writing, same day transfers and sessional staff crossing the divide, and the interface between efficient IT and the need to ensure public safety. Yvonne seemed to capture the Ministers attention on the latter point as she exposed his obvious lack of basic knowledge about the probation system.

Sadly, the Minister was determined to limit the meeting to half an hour, so a more comprehensive dialogue on matters which he ought to have devoted more time to if he was serious about listening, was just not possible.


As you would expect, we pressed the Minister vigorously about our dissatisfaction around the parameters supposedly being examined in Testgate 4 and whether they compare to HMI Probation standards. He said that, ‘it was his intention to have robust, properly functioning processes up and running at the point of share sale,’ but he failed to reassure us about how this was to be achieved. We also pressed him on the refusal to publish the results of Testgates 1-3, the continuing rejection of Freedom of Information requests, and the role of the Major Projects Authority who, we have recently learned, have refused to engage with the unions or release information. The Minister merely claimed that he was only following the practice of previous administrations.


The Officers and I will issue more news to members about the ongoing written exchanges. Yvonne and I compared notes afterwards and have come to the somewhat obvious conclusion that the unions were not really being taken seriously.

All in all, not the most productive of exchanges that Napo has had with a Government Minister.

Yours sincerely


Friday 26 September 2014

A Reality Check - Update

A day is a long time in politics as they say and my last somewhat depressing blog post about the lack of any legal challenge of TR has stimulated some urgent action in certain quarters. Not surprisingly it's dividing opinion with some gearing up for possible emergency motions at the AGM and others all for throwing the towel in as a lost cause. What I don't accept is this:-
The worst thing is giving the membership false hopes by talking about trying to get the union to mount a legal challenge. It's the stuff of fairy tales, ain't gonna happen any time soon. Just remember what we are dealing with, it's called a David and Goliath battle, because taking on the government isn't easy. The government has infinite resources, we don't! It's about being SMARTA about all this and getting a grip on reality all ready. Please wake up, it's too late to do anything now so just save your energies look for alternative employment that will value your skills. Probation as we new it is well and truly dead. RIP Probation. 
The thing I really find reprehensible is the leading of members up the garden path. I notice it being said on Facebook that my information is wrong, that the NEC was told something different and that Napo HQ will be telling everyone what the position is 'next week'. My response is simple. We will find out where the truth lies 'next week', but I'm sticking with what I've said because I believe it's true.  

The whole thing has been mismanaged from the beginning, possibly in the naive belief that the MoJ would be impressed with bullshit and bluster and simply 'cave in'. Maybe it was felt the membership would be similarly impressed for that matter. What we do know is that some 12 months down the line we are no further forward with a legal challenge, but some £100,000 lighter in the pocket according to more recent information. 

I'm all for recriminations at the appropriate time, but right now I think many members want some bloody action instead in order to stop the share sale, confirmed I hear for 19th December and not October as some people seem to believe. 

This blog doesn't do fairy tales and neither does Joanna Hughes and she has a definite offer of a 'brainstorming' session with a well-qualified lawyer with a view to quickly reviewing the situation and giving a second opinion as to the possibility of a legal challenge. Although not a pro bono offer, it is a generous offer and but a tiny fraction of what has been expended by Napo so far.

In the spirit of wanting action rather than a bloody row, I understand Joanna will be putting the proposal formally to the Napo leadership in the next few days and she has promised to keep us all updated as to the response. The main problem of course will become how will the decision be made, whether to proceed or not, if the second opinion proves to be optimistic and possibly based on differing criteria? The costs could be considerable and of course there is never a guarantee of success. 

Not just thinking of self interest, but of society generally, I know some members feel strongly that it's a no-brainer - that there must be a legal challenge whilst ever the Union has resources at its disposal. Many feel that if TR cannot be stopped, there will be no probation to speak of and hence no Union. Others, and possibly the majority of Napo's leadership, may well think differently. Whatever, members had better continue to make their views known, and possibly start agitating for a ring-fenced fighting fund rather sooner than later.    

Thursday 25 September 2014

A Reality Check

This is a very hard blog post to write and rather more so than is usually the case. I have no idea what to say or how it's going to end. We are in such a mess, no superlative seems adequate to describe things. Despite all the hurdles and apparent impossibility of the situation, I at least have always felt there was a cunning plan, but comrades it's beginning to look as if fighting on two fronts, the union as well as TR, is just not possible.

I guess it won't come as any great surprise to hear that people who know me well know that since this all started, this blog has become pretty much all-consuming. Amongst other things, I tell people that I simply can't believe the degree of bad luck that has befallen our union. Just by the sheer law of averages you'd think we'd get a bloody break and something would go right, especially when you see what utter chaos Grayling is making of our criminal justice system? 

But not a bit of it. Despite the army of committed, loyal, frontline foot soldiers beavering away trying to save our profession and service, they've been continually let down by an inept, unaccountable, unimaginative and ineffective leadership. The NEC has proved itself to be completely incapable of giving any direction and of holding the General Secretary to account. I'm told that since the Jonathan Ledger fiasco they're not even allowed to have a shared email group in case they might be tempted to discuss and plot amongst themselves. 

I'm told the General Secretary was particularly subdued at the recent meeting, and so he might be as mutterings about proposing a vote of no confidence are gaining momentum. But no matter how well-deserved, what would that achieve in terms of fighting TR? Nothing! 

I've said it before and I say it again - the GS needs managing! But how is that going to happen? At this critically important time, when the very existence of the union is in doubt, it was sheer barking mad to think the answer lay in having union leadership divided into two posts, and both elected on a platform of continuity! The last bloody thing we need is continuity. We need change, and we need it now!

Then there's JR - or more specifically, no JR. As news continues to leak out about the recent NEC meeting, I can confirm that the decision has been made - there is definitely not going to be a Judicial Review, despite some £80,000 having been expended on legal fees. It's completely academic now, but I can also say with a high degree of certainty that there never was any chance because Tom Rendon had no internal support when he tried unsuccessfully to drive the issue forward.

I said at the beginning of this particularly depressing post that I had no idea how it was going to end. Well, somewhat surprisingly, I think it's going to be on a positive note. I sense that the penny is finally beginning to drop with many members and there is a real head of steam to do something at the AGM; to demonstrate the sense of feeling and take some control over their union. 

There is much talk on twitter and Facebook about votes of no confidence and seeking motions to mandate JR. May I suggest that any action try and focus on the positive? An urgent change of lawyer and second opinion would seem like a bloody good place to start. And how about ring-fencing a fighting fund?   

Lets end on the excellent work by those branches organising the special event in Chris Grayling's constituency on Saturday. Judging by his outburst in the local paper, it's clearly got the guy rattled.  
On Saturday 27th September probation staff will be marching and rallying in Justice Secretary Chris Graylings Constituency to protest at the dangerous dismantling of the probation service.

It is little wonder that probation staff are angry as the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has abolished award winning local Probation Trusts and split the probation service into one highly controlled centralised National Probation Service and created 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) with the sole purpose of selling these companies in October this year to enable large multinational corporations such as Capita and Sodexo to increase their profits at the taxpayers expense.

The record of these corporations involved in other privatisations is not good with scandals in the court interpretation system, prisoner transport, detention centres, prisons, electronic monitoring, and IT contracts.

You would have thought that Mr Grayling had learned from the numerous scandals and disasters but now he wants to privatise probation too with potentially disastrous consequences.
Probation staff morale is at its lowest ever and remember these are the professionals who engage directly with offenders in order to tackle their offending and help rehabilitate them.

A poll by unions NAPO and Unison, which between them represent 12,000 workers in the probation service, found 80% have thought about leaving, while 55% are actively looking for alternative employment.

The survey revealed an overwhelming level of dissatisfaction with the government and Ministry of Justice, with 98% of respondents saying they had no confidence in Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
It appears that both the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the National Audit Office (NAO) also have little confidence in Chris Grayling. It appears that his department has been wasting taxpayers money by implementing privatizations despite lacking the skills and resources to do so. On the 04/09/14 the PAC seriously questioned the ability of the Ministry of Justice to manage the contracting out of services given their poor record and the lack of commercial experience of their staff. Admissions were made they had a number of key staff vacancies and even when staff were trained they tended to leave very quickly resulting in a high turnover of staff and little continuity.

The real concern is that there is now little doubt that large corporations, who can afford to hold on to expertise, are running rings around the MoJ. Far from getting value for money and improving services through privatizing them, the government’s plans are actually making key services such as probation less efficient, more costly to run, and increasing risk to the public of something going seriously wrong with potentially fatal consequences.

If an interpreter from a private company does not turn up at court a case can be adjourned with some costs; if the privatized prison escort service take a prisoner to the wrong prison it will cause a temporary problem and additional expense; but if the probation service is in chaos then the public will be put at increased risk. We believe that the MoJ should not play fast and loose and gamble with public safety.
Probation staff are not asking for the earth on behalf of the public they serve. They are only asking that before contracts are handed out, and the public’s probation service is sold off, that the Justice Secretary takes the time to consider the wider implications of proposed change, pilots his plans, and carries out a proper independent evaluation of whether or not his proposals would actually work. This would be far more acceptable to professionals than merely saying something has to be done, convincing his closest friends and supporters, and blundering ahead regardless with what experts have told him are very risky and potentially dangerous changes.

What’s the hurry? Are the Justice Secretary’s plans so lacking in merit that he needs to rush them into place before the next election on the pretext of trying to fix something that was never broken in the first place? Why does he keep saying he has to do something about reoffending rates and then present the answer as an untried, untested system that no other country would seriously consider as a plausible or workable solution?

Why the rush to undermine and split a service and its staff that was actually the highest performing public sector organization in existence? Why does he have little if any support for his proposals from those who have actually worked on the front line tackling offending? All these questions remain unanswered or denied by the Justice Secretary.
We will meet at the Epsom Playhouse at 11am and march through the High Street leafleting and then rally in Mount Hill Gardens where speakers will include NAPO General Secretary Ian Lawrence, Chairs of both NAPO Greater London and Kent Surrey and Sussex branches plus other speakers. Please feel free to join us.

Wednesday 24 September 2014

A Question of Trust

The lawyers are clear. Following their recent successful legal challenge, they wouldn't trust Grayling further than they can throw him, as this blog explains:- 
Ministry of Untruth. Who would trust the MOJ now?
It was a wonderful moment when finally the truth about the behaviour of the Lord Chancellor and his so called Ministry of ‘Justice’ was revealed in the historic judicial review judgement delivered by Mr Justice Burnett on Friday. There, exposed to the whole world was a scandalous history of double dealing and concealment. The truth exposed and long suspected, was that this Ministry will do almost anything to drive through doctrinaire and narrow policies based upon questionable and bogus statistics and in doing so suppress and distort expert evidence that does not support their bizarre proposals that so threaten access to Justice.
The description in the Judgement of our Ministry of Justice consultation as ‘unfair’ and ‘illegal’ was an extraordinary event bearing in mind the remit of that Ministry namely ‘Justice’. What a shameful moment in our country’s history. What will the world think? This causes huge reputational damage to the UK whose legal system was once the preeminent exemplar of fairness but now the very Ministry presiding over our legal system is severely damaged and compromised.
What went wrong? As we know the Lord Chancellor and his officials refused to allow the profession advance sight of the expert reports (Otterburn and KMPG) failing to allow us all the chance to make representations upon their content. In one of the many correct ‘calls’ he made, Bill Waddington our courageous CLSA Chairman, with pin point precision, asked for advance disclosure of the reports and was rebuffed by Mr Grayling personally by letter. The MOJ then proceeded to be over-selective in taking parts from the Otterburn report and then directing the KMPG team to adopt absurd assumptions, not referred to therein (Duty firms will surrender 50% of their own client base to non duty firms) entirely of their own departmental device and invention. It was thus far from being truly independent research as promised in the consultation.
But it is far more serious than this. Without bringing this action and without the consequential discovery of documentation procedure we would never have known about the PA Consulting report ruthlessly suppressed by the MoJ. The MoJ commissioned independent expert evidence from PA Consulting on the effect of cutting legal aid fees and then suppressed that evidence when it produced findings which were the opposite of what they wanted to hear as it would have given ammunition to critics of Mr Grayling’s proposals. The PA report overwhelmingly demonstrated that the profession could not survive the proposed cuts to legal aid.
Despite the Lord Chancellor personally having given a commitment to the practitioner groups to follow the recommendation of Otterburn, he then reneged upon this without notice and without giving reasons. The mealy-mouthed response that the Lord Chancellor meant this commitment to ‘include KMPG’ (whom no one at that meeting had heard off at that stage) and not just rely upon Otterburn was not credible (so found the Judge).
Thus did the Lord Chancellor and the MOJ manipulate or suppress the statistics and reports so determined were they to make the ‘expert report evidence’ support of their pre-determined decision already made in favour of the demonstrably unworkable 2 tie system. I am unable to reveal private conversations at meetings that I attended with others opposite the MOJ but suffice it to say the behaviour we encountered was entirely consistent with the conduct revealed by the proceedings with an onslaught consisting of a mixture of entreaties, bluffs and threats. The CLSA, with their fine allies in the LCCSA, stood firm and resisted it all. I am proud of what we achieved and above all happy that the profession after years of ‘taking it’ felt we hit back on their behalf.
This on the politics.co.uk website by Nicola Hill, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association – one of the two claimants who won the judicial review:-
Comment: Chris Grayling has been taught he's not above the law
Friday, 2 pm – momentous news. Not north of the border but in court one of the Royal Courts of Justice. A senior judge rules that the lord chancellor and justice secretary has acted illegally. The highest law officer in England and Wales brought to book by judicial review. What an irony. This is the very process Chris Grayling wants to restrict, to prevent ordinary people having the right to hold the state to account. 
So what happened in the high court on Friday? The judge ruled that some of the biggest changes in the history of publicly funded legal aid had to be stopped in their tracks. Grayling wanted to reduce the number of solicitors who are able to represent you, me, your teenage son or daughter at a police station or magistrates' court. But the high court decided the methods the minister tried to use to bring in these cuts were "so unfair as to be illegal". It all centred on a consultation – one of those where they don't properly consult anyone who actually matters. But in this case it's even worse that. The Ministry of Justice suppressed two key reports which were instrumental in pushing through the changes.
The ruling means that it is back to the drawing board. They are now going to have to consult all over again about these highly controversial proposed solicitor contracts - arrangements which would have driven down standards and meant there were far fewer solicitors available in police stations and magistrates' courts. They'd have given rise to appalling legal advice deserts. The brakes have been put on a politically motivated vandalism of our justice system, damage inflicted by the first non-lawyer to ever hold this post.

I am a lawyer and can see how momentous this judgement is. Momentous for people who have the right to a proper defence and momentous for the lawyers who want to do the job properly. It goes to the heart of what makes our justice system fair. Grayling has also been taught a very basic but important legal lesson. He may be a senior Cabinet minister in charge of our courts, prisons and probation services but he is not above the law.
It got very personal, which isn't what you expect in the dryness of a judicial review. Grayling's tactics were labelled that of "bully and bluff", "divide and rule". It was, according to our side, a "caricature of fairness". We don't like to get personal but - driven by ideology and underpinned by ignorance - these are very much Mr Grayling's reforms.
The justice secretary has a habit of burying his head in the sand, ignoring the real price of his cost-saving reforms in the criminal justice system, and effectively repeating: 'Crisis? What crisis?' We've seen a summer of discontent in the criminal justice system: with the deeply troubling rise in prison suicides, a meltdown in probation and a family court service at breaking point. We think of this terrible track record but the justice secretary would rather not. Perhaps no longer. The lord chancellor has been thrown the rule book by a judicial process which he is attempting to shut down. Through sheer determination, guts and legal know-how, we criminal defence lawyers took on the might of the Ministry of Justice and won. No wonder Grayling wishes to restrict access to justice where the state has to account for its decisions. What the high court ruling has allowed is room for an outbreak of sanity.
Let's stop using austerity as a cover for ideological changes. We want to improve the justice system as much as Grayling. We're ready to sit down and talk. But after this humbling judgement, is he?
Of course we've always known what a bully and thug Grayling is, and it was confirmed on day one of the legal action, as reported here in the Guardian:-
The justice secretary, Chris Grayling, relied on "bluff and bully" tactics to drive through legal aid cuts that will close hundreds of law firms, the high court has heard. At the opening of a judicial review challenge brought by criminal solicitors, Grayling was accused of coordinating a "caricature of fairness" in a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) review.
The changes being introduced provide for cuts of 17.5% in criminal court fees and reduce the number of duty solicitor contracts for attending police stations and courts in England and Wales from 1,600 to 525. The case has been brought by the London Criminal Courts Solicitors' Association and the Criminal Law Solicitors' Association, which say the consultation was unlawful. As lord chancellor, Grayling is named as the defendant in the hearing.
Appearing for the solicitors, Jason Coppel QC said the changes "put the criminal justice system at risk". "It's not based on any research," he said. "The very likely consequence is that hundreds of small firms will go out of business. "In large areas of the country [people] will not have access to a solicitor and the quality of the service will suffer."
The challenge is focused on the adequacy of the MoJ's consultation process, crucial details of which, it is alleged, were withheld from the legal profession at the time. "Now that we have seen the research from [the accountancy firm] KPMG on which decisions are based," Coppel said, "it highlights the injustice of not disclosing that research. Some of this was deeply unfair and nothing less than an insult to those in criminal legal aid firms who stand to lose their livelihoods."
The lord chancellor himself, Coppel added, "got personally involved in this process and … caused much of the unfairness in these decisions … The claimants have a right to expect procedural fairness. What they got was a caricature of fairness: empty assurances, bluff and bully, divide and rule, fronted by a senior member of the government." Evidence contrary to the MoJ's aims was suppressed, the court was told.
Given this success, not unnaturally many Napo members will be wondering exactly when their legal challenge will be launched? News is beginning to filter out from yesterday's NEC meeting when the subject was discussed. I'm told the lawyers were present and basically saying all the usual guff about it might not be a strong case and might cost a lot of money. So, apart from them continuing to wrack up a large bill, we're absolutely no further forward. Maybe it's time to get another lawyer? Or review the instructions? 

The trouble about all this is that the lawyers might just be reflecting the clients instructions. If the client is hesitant, is concerned more about the cost than the risks of winning or losing and in a business where nothing is ever 100% certain, isn't the legal advice going to reflect that view? In the end it's going to boil down to trust and at the forthcoming AGM members will have to make a judgement call. As with our work, we look at the evidence and the track record, listen carefully to the explanation and make a decision as to whether it all adds up or not? 

Whatever, I do know this. The General Secretary had better have a damned good explanation as to why a union and profession, facing almost complete destruction as we know it, some 12 months on has still not mounted any legal challenge whatsoever, to the astonishment of the MoJ and most observers of this sad, sad TR omnishambes.