Sunday 30 November 2014

TR Week Twenty Six 2

I did not want to be privatised at all. But I can't help wondering if it would have been better for us to be sold as a complete entirety rather than the split. Keep strong and care for each other. Blessings to you all.


One very serious consequence for Grayling that 'may' come from JR, is that he may not have been very honest with the private sector about the true nature of the risks involved. If that was true, then bidders may pull out or want to negotiate contracts again (greater risks = greater wonga), and it's all time consuming. There can be no doubt I think, that JR will reveal information that the bidders will be just as interested in as probation services are. Perhaps being aware of this is part of the reason Graylings been silent of late? However, until such a time as JR is heard, regardless of personal opinions and observations, all we can do is speculate. 


Bidders are just as aware of the potential risks as Grayling, possibly more so. Most, if not all, of the bidders will have bought in advice from probation professionals who will have no reason not to give honest opinions on the nature of the risk, without political spin. They will have priced for that risk already and the MoJ will be trying to reassure them...


I have 14 weekly late night reporters. Absolutely bonkers. Most come after 6pm. It's a quick hello, here's your next appointment. Then I receive abuse from them because of their 1 hour bus journey to the office. It's mind boggingly stupid way to manage things!


I suspect weekend reporting may be one of the innovations being considered.


I couldn't agree more. I had offered to do this in the past to my manager and instead of seeing this as positive, she actually asked if it meant I could not manage my workload within my working hours! You couldn't make this stuff up could you? Just makes me reflect on how many innovations practitioners have had rubbished by senior management. They really have sold us down the river


Free speech is one thing, but this is offensive to SPOs in DTV and unnecessary. One of the motions at AGM was to support SPOs as they will be the fall guys in all of this. CRC SPOs cover late nights and that includes NPS staff as they have been told to ring the on call SPO if they have a problem. 


Someone referenced it would be more expensive to open at weekends - only if you assume your terms and conditions will be intact. If you aren't paid extra to work weekends, then it would cost no more than now.


Actually it was suggested simply to help the offenders, some of whom had to get trains and were often able to only walk in and sign for their next appointment. Two of my offenders had worked very long hours prior to reporting on the only night made available by the Trust for this purpose. I was able to do this, so suggested it with time off in lieu during the week. Anyway the answer was no. You missed my point about how flexible practitioners have been prepared to be in the past.


I think there would be very little real demand for weekend reporting, certainly in every office I've worked at. Nearly everyone I've worked with was able to attend at some point between 8am-7pm Monday-Friday. Remember that opening even on a Saturday morning would increase costs quite considerably, with staff wages, building overheads and so on factored in.


Are these 14 all High risk? This kind of brief mechanistic reporting does no one any good. If possible to re-assess any as Medium? More good likely if can be seen fortnightly, but for longer more meaningful session. If can't reassess to Medium yet, there is surely an argument for a remix/reallocation of some cases to colleagues? I think 3 late-nighters is absolute max to manage and that's still a strain!


So, TR Week 26 and where are we?

1. The Sell Off: this proceeds at an alarming rate with little reflection or, it seems to me, care. This Government continues to outsource our Criminal Justice Sector to foreign owned companies where the end profit will go outside the UK. British professions are being down graded with reduced terms and conditions and, of course, less tax revenue and NI coming to the UK as a result. Be clear, the simple cost of running probation in the public sector is not the sole financial consideration as Grayling would have you believe. 

2. The buyers: has the Government issued some form of indemnity or guarantee to them? It makes so little sense for them to have expended great financial resources on this project otherwise. Just what is in it for them? Are the profits really going to be so great? Caveat emptor my friends, as your share value can go down remember - never lose sight of reputational damage from lack of public confidence in your organisations. Remember Northern Rock! I believe there is something the public is not being told about Graylings dealings with you - are you so sure he can be trusted?

3. The Day Job: so we are told by the MOJ all is running well. Now we know this is not true and whilst the rush to the sell off continues, we need to ask if the pace of this is dictated by trying to out run the truth catching up with the MOJ? Is NOMS trying to outpace the Tsunami of chaos that is moving ever faster towards the shore of reality?


On point 2, there is no guarantee or indemnity. These companies bid for government contracts at risk. What is in it for them is a 7 year government contract with a profit margin of probably 4-5%


Hasn't it all gone quiet about HMIP and his wife and the CONFLICT OF INTERESTS couples in public life eh Mr Grayling? This can not be allowed to continue, we are not stupid and we are watching closely ....

I had a vision of this nightmare scenario in court a decade ago. I thought it couldn't possibly happen in a 'democratic' 'civilised' society. I said to my then boss, once the criminal justice system becomes a mere administrative process, without the time to consider legislation or interests of justice, then we may as well be under a communist or fascist dictatorship. The courts are becoming farcical, with poor IT, missing evidence and costly delays due to new procedures that due not work. I am so depressed by all of this. The only winners will be the IT contractors and other sharks waiting to feast on the carcass. And it won't be too long before we are sacked for having an opinion.


If you want to see the shenanigans that really matter, explore how the tripartite game of pass the parcel will be achieved. I hear CRC chiefs are getting cold feet because company law has to be adhered to strictly in the transfer of ownership and since they are now the "directors" they have that responsibility to pass ownership at a certain day to the new providers - trouble is the new owners are having to promise they will take ownership as prescribed and the MoJ is having to promise there are contracts there to hang the business hat upon! 

This merry go round means that any slip ups and CRC chiefs could be pursued - personally through the courts. Highly unlikely but it is creating sleepless nights for the traditionally cautious probation types.....


The CEO of Interserve says outsourcing frontline services is a must given the state of public finances. Still using the austerity argument. Complete mendacity of course. It's about screwing the workers and all those so-called senior leaders who have jumped ship presumably embrace this lie.


Just wanted to post the strap line of the company taking over London Probation CRC : BIONIC : stands for ....wait for it....'believe it or not I care'. That is the largest chunk of the privatised probation and they feel like they need to sound like a pre-teen action hero. FFS.


I have read on here a few times about the new NPS officers being 'young' and 'women'. Why is this important? I really shouldn't have to write this but being young and female does not mean you cannot do your job. I know we don't mean this but it is what is implied when we talk about an officer's age and gender. Perhaps we need to consider this and our own prejudices.


In my experience younger male clients respond better to younger PO's of either gender. I agree and in my opinion the blog and many of the replies have always (not just post TR) had the underlying view that young females do not do the job as well as older males. I agree the service probably would benefit from being more diverse in terms of gender and background of staff. However this does not equal the view that young female staff can't or don't do a good job, just as all older/experienced (male) staff are not all perfect either.


I understand the operating model may be commercially sensitive, but they are also crucial for staff worrying about their careers. Sorry if this post focuses on Band 4s, as I know all in CRC may be impacted, but if their model does not include the same, or similar number Band 4 OMs, then why are MoJ recruiting new TPOs? The expense of doing this is not justified when there is likely to be a good number of current POs being made redundant (or managed out without redundancy) and out or work in a few months. 

Put the next cohort of TPO recruitment on hold until after April 2015 and allow CRC POs to transfer into the NPS without the loss of service and on the same pay scales. After all, we did the same job up until June 2014, we have years of experience in risk assessments/public protection and reducing re-offending and are proven in the role.


Well said, but this makes too much sense for them. Remember they are 'saving money' bullshit. In addition all that rhetoric about the most experienced officers goes out of the window when they are now willing to take on TPO's without any experience. It all stinks and we have been truly SHAFTED.


VIVE LA NORTH EAST!! So French catering company Sodexo has HMP Northumberland and Northumbria in the bag with all profits destined for France and now this government looks set to sell off the East Coast Mainline to the French National Train Operator. C'est Grim up Nord mes amis....


It's always been grim up here, the Tories closing pits, shipyards and fishing has not helped. Not entirely surprising given that the Tory vote in this area has traditionally been very low. They're trying their hardest to keep it that way. Bastards!


Can anyone explain why there are 100's of PO and PSO vacancies being advertised around the country, for both CRC's and NPS, and 100's of graduate trainees taken on, but only 2 jobs advertised in Nbria - at Sunderland mags court. And that is the first I have seen since TR came in.

And there were no adverts in the press for Nbria for several years before I retired in 2011. When people left/retired, staff were just shuffled about - like Musical Chairs. Are they so well organised they don't need more staff? Or is no one leaving??(I know that is not true). Or are staff paddling under the surface faster than anyone elsewhere??!!!!!! Or are they just stepped over, when they die on the job??


Give me my EVR and there'll be a vacancy at Northumbria :)


But will you be replaced?! Even a tweet from Nbria, on the government's Twitter site advertising for graduates to train, said they had not recruited in Oct, will not be in Jan, and MAY BE in April. How do they manage without recruiting??


A pregnant Wales CRC officer was attacked and hit in the stomach today by a female offender. No cameras in interview rooms, no way of alerting anyone that you are in danger. This is NOT acceptable. Who is risk assessing the buildings where CRC staff are/will be working?


The Officer was working on the women's Pathfinder project supposedly with low risk women supported in the community as an alternative to prison. All offenders have the potential to become high risk and you never know until it happens.

TR Week Twenty Six 1

I have made the point repeatedly that most SFOs come from medium and low risk cases because probation have always managed the high risk cases well. One of the most dangerous consequences of TR is to introduce mass reporting centres to reduce costs NOT to offer a more suitable service catered to offender needs. This will mean no-one can monitor safety or risk.

One of the things we know is that stress raises risk of both harm and re-offending for most offenders. So let's stop responding to them as individuals and treat them like cattle - processed in large centres by stressed staff with targets to meet rather than service to provide to their fellow human beings. The alternative which seems to have developed is lone working with no-one monitoring staff safety.

One of the precepts of my own practice has been "there but for the grace of God go I" it is often easy to see how people's back story has sowed the seeds of their criminality and to see how you might have ended up the same in their circumstances. This leads you towards developing insight into what could possibly bring about change for that individual. All of this is being blown to the wind by TR. I hope the CRC officer in Wales recovers and lessons are learnt.


I am someone who can't go until I'm wheeled out, never been very good at interviews and it seems that most of the jobs I know how to do are linked to this TRavesty anyway. So I am stuck trying to negotiate the hoops..I'm not going to jump them, that's for senior managers, but I am going to keep saying that this isn't working.

And it so isn't working. Whilst senior managers worry about the RSR and case allocation tool, a rubbish bit of kit that no-one will ever look at again once the case has been put on one side of the divide or the other, (assuming of course that you can find it), probation staff are struggling to manage their work as there just aren't enough staff to do all of the needless tasks that are now required as a result of the divide.


Sadly I am not in a position to resign, but would if I could. I have children to support so I have been looking for alternative work with no success. Given that every practitioner knows how dysfunctional our work has been made under TR, I try to muddle through like so many colleagues. Like you I despair about the impact this has upon Domestic Violence cases where probation had worked so hard with partnership agencies over the years to bring about holistic work with victim safety given prominence for the first time. However my main concern arises from our work with sex offenders.

I have seen a trade off between the level of focus needed in this work and move (in NPS) to our entire case load being all High Risk offenders. Previously a practitioner has been able to use their professional judgement to focus most intensively with the cases that needed it at any given time. A completely responsive approach to risk which worked. 

Now that professional judgement is lost, mired in a fog of cases all needing maximum attention, at a time when many were simply transferred en masse to practitioners who did not know the cases and had to try to catch up with speed being the only requirement due to limited work time available to do this amid all of the changes forced upon us. The scope for damage is immense.


It is encouraging that some senior managers have the courage to make a stand. Had the former chiefs and Trusts been more vocal in their opposition to TR, we may not be in this mess. We all know they were not allowed to raise a collective voice but they (and their Association) have to take some responsibility for what has ensued. As for risk, it's interesting that CG has not published a 'nil return' for SFOs he was hoping for!


A report by Nick Hardwick published last week about North Sea Camp open prison noted:-

He raised concerns that the prison was struggling with extra work especially with staff shortages - noting at least 20 vacancies in the offender management unit unfilled at the time of inspection.He said: “The offender management unit simply could not cope with demand and often felt as though it was under siege from prisoners who wanted help and advice about the completion of their sentences, but could not get a response from over-stretched staff.”

TRs through the gate is obviously very well prepared then??!!!


Like you I have resigned from the Probation Service because of TR but did not feel ready to stop work. I reasoned why should CG and his chums make me retire ahead of my own schedule? I have been lucky enough to secure work with a nearby local authority, back to social work. I have three months under my belt now. It has not been an easy transition for me but I think I am getting there.

The casual manner in which the service has allowed expertise to walk out of the door amazes me and it is in some sense how the service, over the past decade or so, has lost its way. At my leaving "do" one of the ACOs said that it was not surprising I was going into social care and she mapped out my Probation career from her perspective, pointing out that I had always sought out the "difficult people to work with". Funny, I had thought that was what the job was about. Silly me.

Like you, I still follow this blog every day to see how my colleagues are faring in both the NPS and CRC. I am yesterday's news to my former colleagues, gone without so much as a passing glance. At one of my last Leadership Forums one SPO said that staff were leaving because TR 
"wasn't for them" as if this was a lifestyle choice.

I am seriously concerned about how TR is dividing up the work and how in the short time I was there post the split I felt my ability to function as a front line SPO was compromised on a daily basis. The foolish way the resources and workload were allocated have stretched the sinews of an organisation that was never over-staffed in the first place. Take front line staff away to do pointless deskwork, invented to cover the cracks in your new structures seems to me to be a lesson in how not to manage. In years to come TR will be up there with other classic Governmental howlers and folk will shake their heads and ask why it happened. The history of government is littered with many examples of waste and social vandalism and TR will be up there with the rest.

Good luck to JR NAPO - I will be following its progress


As one who has also resigned, I can only agree with "The casual manner in which the service has allowed expertise to walk out of the door amazes me and it is in some sense how the service, over the past decade or so, has lost its way." I too, am moving over to social work, but my main focus is on supporting Napo and JR and getting rid of TR, and stopping this govt getting in again. 

Should we succeed, I'll go back to Probation because, as anyone who works in the profession knows, it's in the blood. That the new guard can casually say goodbye to those of us who have worked for years, and can treat those who stay with such utter disdain, shows their utter disregard for humanity and their contempt for professionals. I've been thinking recently that most people in power are bankers, politicians, CEOs, those in right wing think tanks and the media. None of these jobs need any kind of professional status and they hate those of us who still believe in it. GOOD LUCK NAPO


I've resigned too, as I have to work & trained after POs were social workers have joined an agency. 4 people have resigned from my office recently. One to be fair to do something she always wanted to do but TR did make her bring it forward. The others are 2 agency, one social work. It's sad.


No doubt the bidders for TR will be just as interested in the contents of those testgate reports as everyone in the probation service are. And just a personal note:- I love it when Grayling is made to do something he doesn't want to do. It makes me feel that the bully is getting some of his own medicine back, and feeling the way he makes thousands of other people feel on a daily basis.


Staffing crisis as NPS + CRC's compete for staff - concerns about CRC's losing OM's and newly trained PSO's eager for TPO recruitment opportunities. More chaos ahead?


Can I just ask? For those of you switching or going back into social work, what has been the position over not being a registered social worker? Did you keep your registration active (from when we could have signed up for free or at minimal cost... didn't think then that I would ever consider going back to social work!) or have you been able to register on the offer of a job or after appointment? It is just that when I've looked I've been led to believe that as a CQSW holder who has been out of social work (but in Probation) for many years, I need to be a registered social worker in order to apply for jobs. Thanks.


I applied for a job as a senior social worker and when offered it applied for HCPC registration. I had got a list of the training I had done in Probation for the past ten years or so and sent off my application. I received a response very quickly and that was that. I have a CQSW and a Diploma in Social Studies. Hope that helps


Like everywhere else TPO's being given High Risk Offenders especially Mappa cases so many NPS left or off sick thru stress. I fear it just goes over the heads of TPO's


After reading the blog tonight I think I'm going to re-register my CQSW and get on the look for social work jobs. There is an alternative to the NPS!


Given that the HMIP report on TR is now not to be published till after the the JR hearing, shouldn't NAPO be trying to get the court to ensure either it is made available or that the report author/HMCI are summoned to court to be cross examined given that the SoS has made much of HMIP' s silence on TR?


I cannot for the life of me work out how ANY contracts can be signed prior to a report being published into any possible impact of it. It's a bit like buying a car and then being told that you cannot check it for faults until some months later. It just does not make sense and if Ian Lawrence/NAPO have got any nous they'll raise this question with both the Judge and Grayling. The latter will only be able to mutter 'stubbornly high re-offending rates' like some glabrous idiot, but you might get some raised eyebrows from the Judge. Just a thought.


Does anyone seriously think the report will say anything other than 'nothing to see here...move along'. I've said it before, when it comes to devious, lying, manipulative and mendacious bastards, you gotta be going some to beat the Tories. A pox on their houses. All of them.


What legal implications are there for CEOs if they do not make sure all Trust and NPS data is destroyed/moved on before share sale? It seems a big job, they seem a bit scared.


It's a genuine question. We have been told there are legal implications if this is not done. What legal implications are there and will it hold up share sale?


The key will be how they evidence meeting their targets. Preparing a 'sentence plan' is easy but the easiest way to evidence this and collate the information is to use OASys, not an easy tool and very time consuming. Here is what I am wondering... 

If staff complete a sentence plan on a piece of paper therefore meeting the contract target, but CRC management struggle to find a way of evidencing that target as being complete, can they take disciplinary action against staff for not completing sentence plans on time?

We're being threatened with disciplinary action if we don't get OASys ISPs done to target however there is no OASys target, just a sentence plan target. The next 12 months will certainly be interesting...


Oh My God! I have just spent a week chasing myself up my own bottom and getting nowhere. I come on here to try and get some feeling that I am not alone and what am I faced with ......... Fucking gobbledygook ..... Wake up you bastards the Service is gone!!


But it's not gone yet and just like Al Capone was jailed for tax avoidance, there might be things we can do...What if we don't complete any OASys but do all out plans on paper? They will miss their targets. What if we don't have time to do all the bits and pieces that make it legal to sell us off. Will they have to postpone? Information is key here. What will have most impact and what can we get away with?

Saturday 29 November 2014

Court Report

Further news about Napo's legal challenge is contained in the latest blog from Ian Lawrence:-
A good day at Court
It was a highly dramatic and tension filled day at the high Court on Wednesday. Yvonne Pattison and I attended the disclosure hearing along with our legal team, while the National Executive Committee met a few miles away with Chris Winters in charge all waiting anxiously for breaking news.
You will by now have seen the update that we published yesterday and all of your Officers and Officials share your frustration that we cannot be as fulsome with our reporting as we would all wish, due to the complex legal restrictions that we and the defendants are bound by.
It's now in the public arena that the adjudication on disclosure went in our favour on our requests for some key documentation on Transforming Rehabilitation that we have been seeking sight of in order to better inform our case. Mr Justice Irwin was clearly more impressed by the submissions on behalf of Napo from Helen Mountfield QC aided by Chris Buttler, than he was by the defendants claims that our disclosure submission should be struck out in its entirety as (in their view) it was not in the public interest, and because it was (again in their view) entirely politically motivated.
This latest setback for the Secretary of State (which we gather he is not taking too well) could have been avoided a long time ago of course. It would have been altogether easier for all parties had the Government adopted a more reasonable approach to the issue of what ought to be transparent when a reform of such major importance is being pushed through at such speed.
I accept that this can only give you all a mere flavour of the exchanges that have taken place so far in and out of the Court. Nevertheless, I hope it demonstrates why Napo has been so determined to secure what we need to allow those who will decide the outcome of the JR application every opportunity to do so with the full details in front of them.
A good day then for Napo members, and indeed a good week; but still some tough ones await us and will include masses of hard work and lots of long hours as we pore over the disclosures that we expect to arrive by close of play, and those that will follow next week.
It's not often I am short of a word or two but as I close this posting I cannot adequately describe how proud I am to stand shoulder to shoulder with you all in this huge struggle. Your support, including the fantastic messages of encouragement we are regularly receiving, is giving us all the strength to see this through.
Ian Lawrence
I have no idea if the General Secretary still paces the floor at Chivalry Road demanding to know the identity of the author of this blog, but regular readers will be aware that it has not been an entirely harmonious relationship with Napo and it will have to be left to historians to decide if it's existence has been ultimately helpful or not in the fight against TR. 

It should go without saying that I'm absolutely delighted to see a case being prosecuted through the courts at long last and would make this point - maybe it's time those who somewhat understandably became disillusioned with Napo in recent months reconsidered their position and re-joined. 

There was much talk and some enthusiasm at one time for a 'fighting fund' being set up in support of a legal challenge, but it came to nothing. It strikes me that there could be no better way of demonstrating support than filling out an application form. Just a thought.

The Guardian has grim news regarding criminal legal aid:- 
Legal aid contracts for on-call criminal solicitors to be slashed by two-thirds
On-call, duty contracts for criminal solicitors to attend police stations and courts will be slashed from 1,600 to 527 in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice has confirmed. The announcement that ministers intend to go ahead with restructuring the profession, despite being defeated in a judicial review of the initial consultation, was greeted with dismay by solicitors.
Fresh invitations to tenders for the new contracts have been sent out by the Legal Aid Agency in the expectation that the criminal law market will be forced to undergo a process of merger and consolidation. Savings will be made, the LAA believes, by solicitors’ firms combining to make economies of scale to compensate for 17.5% cuts in fees being introduced in criminal cases.
Responding to the news, Andrew Caplen, president of the Law Society, said: “We are extremely disappointed with this announcement. In our view the scheme fails to meet the ministry’s own objectives of ensuring that criminal legal aid must be sustainable with enough solicitors doing criminal duty work. “Some areas of the country could be left with no legal representation for anyone accused of a crime, depriving vulnerable members of the public from access to justice. We are very concerned that the ministry has not taken into account the views of the overwhelming majority of our members who responded to the consultation, or to the independent consultants who raised concerns about the economic impact on the supplier base.”
Jon Black, president of the London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association, said: “This is a really depressing day. The MoJ has shown that it’s hell-bent on forcing through these cuts whatever the warnings, whatever the price to society and justice. “Civil courts are imploding under the strain of legal aid cuts. The criminal courts are going the same way. By the time the public is really aware of the effects of this attack on our criminal justice, it will be too late,” he said.
“This carve-up of solicitor contracts in police stations and magistrates’ courts, combined with yet more cuts will cause terrible collateral damage. A fair defence for those who aren’t wealthy will become a lottery. As firms start to close or cut corners to keep afloat we’ll see plummeting standards of defence and miscarriages of justice. It would seem that the government is unconcerned by this. But no one should be hoodwinked, it’s too high a price to pay.”
Again from the Guardian, another judge speaks out:-
Appeal court judge ‘horrified’ at number of litigants without lawyers
 A court of appeal judge has said she is “horrified” at the number of unrepresented litigants and warned that the delays caused will “clog up” the justice system. Dame Elizabeth Gloster’s forthright comments were delivered at the launch of a report that exposed low morale within the legal profession and found that 83% of lawyers believe justice is no longer accessible to all. 
The study, by the law firm Hodge Jones & Allen, interviewed more than 500 senior solicitors and barristers, concluding that nearly two-thirds (61%) fear there is little trust in the fairness of the judicial process. Entitled Innovation in Law, the report assessed changes brought about mainly through the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) – which sliced £350m a year out of the civil legal aid budget – and considered ways in which the system might be improved. 
More than 80% of the lawyers said the situation was worse than five years ago, 87% believed that wealth is a more important factor in access to justice than it previously was and 79% said increases in court fees were making it harder for people to bring cases. As many as 69% of the lawyers questioned said they would not recommend the legal profession as a career.
And another reported in the Mirror:- 
Brutal Coalition cuts are putting justice at risk, claims top judge
A top judge has slammed the Coalition for putting justice at risk with its brutal programme of cuts. Judge Gordon Risius said “almost every part of the system” has been damaged by cuts to legal aid, the Crown Prosecution Service and probation. And he tore into the “almost daily” problems caused by private contractors failing to provide enough dock officers to guard defendants.
Judge Risius, who retires as the top judge at Oxford Crown Court in a few months, raged: “The rule of law and the criminal justice system is very much under threat.”
Courts continue to close, despite well-argued campaigns to save them. This from the Spalding Guardian:-  
Court closed after consultation sham
Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling closed Spalding Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday following a public consultation that was branded a “sham”. The court was de-listed on December 19 – with all work sent to other courts – but the official closure is the final death blow.
Criminal Defence Associates Lawyer Rachel Stevens said the Lord Chancellor was only interested in achieving the outcome that suited the civil service. Speaking on Tuesday, Miss Stevens said: “The consultation process has been a complete sham and a waste of time. “The reasons given today for the decision to close the court are, verbatim, the arguments put forward by the court service when they asked for representations.
Finally, I continually hear depressing news regarding increasing numbers of judges who are willing to sentence for quite serious matters without the need for full probation reports. The Recorder of a major northern city apparently feels there's no problem and it's much quicker and cheaper to weigh off a manslaughter charge on an FDR. It's so short-sighted and unprofessional. I cannot help but wonder if we've been wasting our time over the years and if they ever really understood the purpose of a full PSR.......     

Friday 28 November 2014

Words of Comfort

First off, here's the latest news from Napo HQ sent out yesterday to all members:-

Dear Member

Judicial Review update - Napo secures important disclosure ruling

Following our initial directions hearing at the High Court to apply for a Judicial Review, Napo yesterday attended a disclosure hearing. For quite some time, Napo has been seeking to secure a copy of the Test Gate 4 report but to date the Secretary of State had only provided summaries, but not the report itself. Because of this, and as the Secretary of State had provided so little other accompanying documentary evidence with their witness statements, an application for specific disclosure was made on behalf of Napo, and late yesterday afternoon the Secretary of State was ordered to provide significant documentary evidence, including - importantly - the Test Gate 4 and Test Gate 5 reports. Whilst not all of our requests were accepted by the Judge a significant proportion were, and the documentation that will be released is highly significant in relation to our case against the Secretary of State.

The documentation which will be provided will be subject to an implied duty of confidentiality until such time that they are referred to in open Court. Napo’s Officers and Officials will not therefore be able to disclose any information regarding specific documents to members.

Whilst we still have a long way to go in our legal challenge which is set to commence on 10th December, this is a significant step for Napo and one we hope will provide a boost to members as they continue to work within the chaos of probation on a day to day basis.

Further news via the Napo website and direct mail outs to members will be issued in due course.

Ian Lawrence (General Secretary) and the Napo Officer Group

Clearly good news, and as a contributor commented yesterday, forcing Grayling to do anything against his will leaves one feeling quite good. I'm told he's due before the Justice Affairs Commitee again next Tuesday 2nd December at 11.15, so lets hope Sir Allen Beith and his compatriots give him a hard time over the compromised 70% Chief Inspector of Probation, amongst other things. Michael Spurr will be giving evidence also. 

There must be quite a few CRC CEO's feeling quite uncomfortable at the moment as they begin to realise exactly what the preferred bidders have in mind and eye them up trying to decide whether they have a future in the brave new world order or not. I predict quite a few will be gone in short order as, despite their best endeavours at demonstrating innovation and commercial savvy, it will count for nothing with the big boys.

A dickie bird tells me that 'letters of comfort' are hastily being prepared as the CEO's face all kinds of possible legal problems as the omnishambles moves into the next phase. According to wikipedia:- 
A letter of comfort is a communication from a party to a contract to the other party that indicates an initial willingness to enter into a contractual obligation absent the elements of a legally enforceable contract. The objective is to create a morally binding but not legally binding assurance.
Generally, a letter of comfort is drafted only in vague terms, to avoid creating enforceable contract terms. Few nations regulate letters of comfort by statute; whether a letter of comfort creates legally enforceable contractual terms is often determined only by courts of law, based solely on the wording of the document. Despite their nonbinding status, letters of comfort nonetheless provide risk mitigation because the parent company is putting its own reputation in jeopardy.
Completely unused to the harsh realities of the commercial world, they may yet rue the day they decided to get or stay involved. 

News also reaches me that the MoJ will shortly be landed with a new headache in the form of a stack of crap and very second-rate real estate all over the country as the big boys make it clear they have no intention of taking on such liabilities. In short order CRC's will find they will be considerably down-sized into less offices, forced to 'hotdesk' and effectively kill off Graylings nonsense about co-locating with NPS. When this happens, the true chaos that will flow from separation will become fully evident.

According to the Huffington Post, poetic justice for sealing the fate of the Probation Service looks like it's in store for Nick Clegg in Sheffield:-    
Nick Clegg Is Dangerously Close To Losing His Seat
Nick Clegg is perilously close to losing his parliamentary seat as a new poll indicates that he enjoys a poll lead of just 3% points among voters in his Sheffield Hallam constituency. In response to a survey by Tory pollster Lord Ashcroft, just 31% of voters said they would back the Liberal Democrat leader at the next election, with 28% saying they would vote for Labour. Such a finding is potentially dangerous for Clegg as it is within the margin of error.
Labour's parliamentary candidate Oliver Coppard told HuffPostUK that the poll "won't come as a surprise to anyone who's actually spent any time speaking to people in Sheffield Hallam". He added: "It's obviously a two horse race here now and has been ever since Nick Clegg betrayed so many of the people who voted for him in 2010. The momentum is only going one way.
"No one here will forget his decisions on tuition fees, Forgemasters or the huge cuts he's inflicted on Sheffield. It's obvious that Nick Clegg's priority is keeping the Lib Dems in government with the Tories, not what's best for the people who live here in Hallam."
Voters in Clegg's own backyard also issued a withering verdict about his suitability to lead Britain, with only 11% saying he would make the best prime minister, just narrowly ahead of Ukip leader Nigel Farage at 9%. The findings will be deeply unwelcome for Clegg in his bid to survive next year's general election, as other polls have shed light on the Liberal Democrats' nationwide plunge in popularity.
A previous poll by Lord Ashcroft found that the Greens have overtaken the Lib Dems for the first time in a decade, placing them at 8%, just ahead of Clegg's party at 7%. The data suggests an astonishing number of young people, 28% of 18-24 year olds, are planning to vote Green, though the poll only surveyed around 1,000 people.
Finally, here's the link to the BBC i-player featuring Napo Cymru.

Thursday 27 November 2014

Guest Blog 10

“This is to give formal notice of my resignation.

This is one of the most painful decisions I have ever made, and definitely the most prolonged. Thank you for your efforts to secure me a transfer within the NPS. Today would be the last moment for you to communicate the terms of the proposed transfer and I have heard nothing, but this has given me one last chance to reflect on my situation.

In February of this year, I wrote to Lord Ramsbotham and in a long letter, (which he quoted in the House of Lords), I said “…both NPS and CRC look so bleak, so awful in prospect, and neither constitute that to which I committed my career and loyalty”  Sadly, that statement holds as true now as it did then. I hope with all my heart that the Judicial Review finds in favour of NAPO, and that the next government takes steps to repair some of the damage wreaked so recklessly by this one, but I am weary, I am within five years of the time I planned to retire from Probation, and I am in the fortunate and privileged position of having an option to leave.

I am and will always be a “Probation person”, it has shaped me and I am enormously proud of my time in the Service. I will miss working within it, and with the practitioners, administrators and support staff with whom it has been such a privilege and honour to serve our communities.

Best wishes
Su McConnel“
I posted that off, then I had a little cry, went for a walk, and then - comme d'habitude - logged into NAPO news, Jim's blog, and twitter.

There is now a hiatus while we wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review. We are now at a point where the MoJ defence looks likely to be that the “transformed” service is not quite as much of a mess as NAPO states. It is worth noting at this point that our Probation Service as constituted by the independent Probation Trusts, was a highly rated, proven successful, efficient and effective public service. And one which had already offered a cogent alternative plan to take on short term prisoners without any need for this wanton destruction.

TR puts the public at increased risk. It was my concern about the increase in risk to victims of domestic violence that formed the main theme of the long letter to Lord Ramsbotham I mentioned in my resignation. I continue to believe, and will continue to say, that Domestic Violence is the most heinous fault-line that runs through the whole morass of TR. A while back I heard William Hague challenging Chris Grayling and Theresa May to address seriously the issue of violence to women and girls in this country. Grayling's so called “reforms” in the criminal justice system have arguably impacted most severely on women and children, and TR is no exception.

A good few years ago I took part in a working party assembling the data for a submission for European Excellence rating for my Probation Trust. At the close, the independent consultant/chair of this exercise observed that the one great weakness of Probation was that it failed to articulate its own values and identity and instead made a specialism of jumping through all and any hoops set externally by Government. An organisation with a clear identity and values, he continued, would on occasion choose not to execute directives which ran counter to its identity and in so doing would in fact strengthen its position. I thought it was powerful at the time, and I am reminded of it now.

In contrast to the inability of their leadership to achieve a clearly articulated professional ethos (and then to defend it) Probation workers - and many partnership workers - have an ethos and values-base that has proven extraordinarily resilient in the face of many challenges. As their organisations demanded jumps through every hoop, the show went on: skilled, dedicated staff engaged with their clients with respect and attention in order to forge positive relationships, affect change, manage risk, reduce harm, lower re-offending and protect victims. I have no doubt whatsoever that this values base will survive and that a unified public probation service built on this will be a prize worth winning and won. Whether we win it sooner or later is the issue.

I am hanging up my Probation Officer hat, but not my campaigning one. Over the next months and onwards I will continue to campaign with NAPO. You can take the girl out of probation but...

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Omnishambles Update 81

Pat Waterman, chair of Napo Greater London Branch, writes with news from Utah:-



In his blog yesterday, Nick Smart (CEO London CRC) reported that last week he had had his first meeting with London’s “preferred bidder” MTCnovo. The meeting was also attended by MoJ staff whose role was to ensure that the issues discussed did not stray into areas that were "competition sensitive" which meant that any detailed discussion of MTCnovo's plans, including their operating model and any plans they have with respect to corporate services, were out of bounds. M
TC were represented by Rich Gansheimer who will head the MTCnovo Operating Board to which Nick, as CRC CEO, will report.

We are advised that:

“MTCnovo were very keen to stress their corporate values, particularly around respect for individuals, and how they will apply this to staff and service users. MTC encapsulate this in the acronym BIONIC (Believe It Or Not I Care).” It was also explicitly stated, in response to comments on social media, that while the founder of MTC was philanthropically motivated and did hail from Utah, they have absolutely no formal or informal connection to the Mormon Church.

Rich Gansheimer qualified as a social worker in 1986 and began his correctional career in the same year at the Ohio State Reformatory. With over twenty six years experience correctional experience in the State of Ohio, Rich Gansheimer was appointed MTC’s regional vice president in Texas in 2012. In this position, Mr.Gansheimer oversaw eight correctional facilities MTC operates for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ). Capital punishment is legal in Ohio. A total of 139 people (one woman and 138 men) are currently under a sentence of death in the state as of January 16, 2014. Since the death penalty was re-instituted in the United States in 1976, Texas has executed more inmates than any other state.

Nick says that on balance he felt that the meeting was a positive one. I wish that I could be so confident. I just cannot help but wonder about someone whose experience is all within the American “correctional service”. While we wait for more news about the future of the CRC, the Deputy Director of the London NPS, Sara Robinson, advised staff in her blog last week that:

As a result of the recent implementation of the RSR/CAS improvement plan I am delighted to report that we have significantly uplifted our RSR/CAS performance. I was always confident that London would achieve this improvement quickly and these figures demonstrate how well we have done in a short space of time. I would like to thank all staff involved for their continued hard work to ensure that we get RSR/CAS completion right.

I am not sure what constitutes a significant uplift and would be interested to know if this accords with members’ reality.

Sara also tells us that there are 32 Newly Qualified Officers joining the NPS, taking up posts across London in November. Fifty six new PQF learners joined the NPS last month. A new cohort of eighty two is expected on 2nd February 2015. Fifty of these new learners will be placed in the CRC. A further cohort of possibly sixty learners in total is expected to start sometime in April.

I am only too well aware of the staff shortages in all grades particularly the qualified Probation Officer grade. But I do have concerns about where all these learners are going to be placed.

I would also like to remind members of the Branch Meeting this Friday (28th November) at BPR. Lunch is available from 1p.m. The meeting will start at 2 p.m. with a panel discussion entitled “Crisis, What Crisis”. Our guest speakers will be Sara Khan (Director of Inspire), Janet Crowe (Deputy Director of Prison Reform Trust) and Will McMahon (Deputy Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies).

Formal Business starts at 3p.m.

I hope to see many of you there. If you do intend to come to the meeting do not forget to email Mail London NAPO so that we can arrange a Visitor’s Pass for you.

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair

Meanwhile, some contributions from the frontline:-

Leics lost a universally respected IT trainer last week. The new CRC simply tripled her tasks and chucked in a few more for good measure, having lost Derbyshire staff to NPS and pruned over 50% of the remainder from Leics and Notts. I think she saw what they expected her to do with the broom and that was the last straw. I've never seen so many leaving gifts and cards for one person. Apparently, at no stage, did anyone from the CRC consult her about what she could take on in addition to her already burgeoning workload. Luckily, she was in a position to walk away. OMs with mortgages and families, experiencing the same wholesale changes in their Jobs, face a horrendous prospect and not everyone can just tell them where to stick it.

I am certain many more would be walking away right now if they were financially in a position to do so - me included.

I certainly would. The current situation on so many levels is untenable and getting worse by the day. The systems actually prevent the work getting done and it would seem the impending updates are no improvement. Even those of us who are fortunate to enjoy reasonable health and decided to insist on staying to see if there would be any semblance of sense or ability to continue without the selling of souls, are now falling and collapsing under the stress and abject incompetence of those supposedly 'implementing change'. It is one huge disorganised nightmare and getting worse by the day. This is not from a perspective of not wanting to change, not having the ability to adapt quickly and easily or being unable to use and access the IT. It is from an informed, experienced and objective analysis. Enough is enough and this is more than enough. 

Prisons are key sites for recruiting to "terrorist" organisations and the Spookes know this. Benchmarking and 'Fair and Sustainable' has taken thousands of officers off the landings of our Prisons and we are in a situation, in many prison, where the prisoners are in control. All prisons are full of drugs and gangs organising the sale and collection of debt. This environment is perfect for the identification of the vulnerable and suggestible and the radicalization of the alienated. Clearly the best way to stop this is to have many more staff who have time to build relationships and change minds. TR is dangerous at so many levels, they just have not thought it through.

As the TR revolution beds in in my area, the more frustrating each day becomes. There are constant instructions regarding the whereabouts of data and who has or does not have access rights. After thirty plus years as a PO with a similar profile to Jim's, I am deeply saddened at the events that are befalling the probation service, both locally and nationally. I can't believe that TR was ever conceived in the first place.

A valued manager of 8 in one location of the NPS told she has now to manage 30 over 7 locations. The inevitable resignation followed and she is leaving imminently. The MoJ are simply incompetent and arrogant beyond belief. The damage they have perpetrated on this service is, ironically, nothing short of criminal.

Here's a real life true vignette for all you Bidders. Think hard about what you are entering into. This happened today in the CRC. (Slightly abridged).

Vulnerable, heroin using woman with a 20 week concealed pregnancy is beaten black and blue by her partner. Social Worker I've worked with for years phones to ask if I can help get her into a refuge and needs info on the man and how soon he will be released into the community:- 

Me: Really sorry, I can't access his records.
SW: Is he still on licence?
Me: I don't know, I can't access his records. 
SW: He's being charged with GBH, can't you recall him?
Me: I have no idea, I can't access his records.
SW: Did you know he's not long out of prison for severely assaulting a previous partner who was heavily pregnant?
Me: No, I didn't. I'm sorry to sound like a parrot but I have no access to his records.
SW: The refuge need a risk assessment on your client, I know you can't send me the OASys but can you summarise it for me?
Me: Unfortunately she is due in Court for another matter and NPS have taken the OASys to do the PSR. I no longer have access to my own records and because I've got 40 odd other cases, I can't remember it all off the top of my head.
SW: This is just ridiculous.
Me: I know! And dangerous and fucking stupid.

That sounds scarily like conversations I've had with social workers. They call me as they have serious concerns about people I supervised whose supervision ended pre June this year and ask for risk details, order/licence details. My response? Sorry, I can no longer see records on the individual that I supervised and I can't remember. Please call NPS duty, that is if they have time to answer the phone as they're so overworked. Dangerous doesn't begin to describe it.

I did ring NPS and their Duty Officer rang me back. Without a word of a lie, it was lovely young woman who worked in the CRC for 8 weeks before getting a place on the qualifying framework on the basis of her degree in Criminology. I mentored her briefly during her 8 weeks with us, she's now 6 weeks into her new role.

I understand that we don't want to assist with TR and being in the NPS I am not in your position. However, I continue to communicate with CRC colleagues and would have asked them to deal with the matter. I will not allow the split to take away the reason I joined probation to protect the public and enable others to make positive lifestyle changes. We must remain strong and care for each other.