Wednesday 31 December 2014

End of Year Ramblings

The last day of the year has finally arrived and I really must find something to say, not least because I notice the comment thread on the last post has sprung into life. It's been a good break, but the novelty is definitely wearing a bit thin and I'm definitely missing the banter.

Lets start with the news that the former CEO of London, Heather Munro, follows a previous illustrious incumbent, one Paul Wilson, in being elevated to the Order of the British Empire. Idly googling around, I see she's also become a trustee of the Centre for Justice Innovation, a very strange Anglo-American outfit that seems to operate well below the radar:-
With a commitment to sharing learning between the US and UK, the Centre combines research and international evidence gathering with expert support to front-line practitioners to help build a more innovative and dynamic criminal justice system.
She joins the likes of this anonymous chap, someone I've never heard of, but I get the very uneasy feeling it's his like that are pulling the strings behind the scene:-   
Gordon Wasserman is an internationally recognised expert in policing and criminal justice.
From May 2010 to March 2012, Lord Wasserman was Advisor on Policing and Criminal Justice to Prime Minister David Cameron and Home Secretary Theresa May. In January 2011, he was appointed to the House of Lords as Lord Wasserman. He is a member of the Conservative Party in the Lords where he takes a special interest in policing and criminal justice matters.

From 1983 to 1995, Lord Wasserman was Assistant Under Secretary of State for Police Science and Technology in the Home Office. In 1996 he moved to the USA as special adviser to the Police Commissioner of the NYPD. From 1998 to 2002, he was chief of staff of the Philadelphia Police Department. He subsequently set up his own consultancy practice and, in that capacity, provided strategic advice to a number of other US police departments, the US Federal Government as well as to US and UK companies serving the public safety market. Born and raised in Montreal, Canada, Lord Wasserman came to England initially as a Rhodes Scholar.
I notice they are holding a conference in February 'Better Courts 2015' in conjunction with the New Economics Foundation and given the current destruction of the Probation Service, this sort of guff gets me pretty angry:-
People in trouble – whether it’s addiction, debt or homelessness – often find that their problems lead them to court. But, all too often, courts don’t have the tools to address those underlying issues. However, emerging evidence from around the world suggests that innovative new approaches can help courts to find more effective ways of handling the most difficult cases. By connecting to social services, holding people to account more effectively and ensuring that justice is seen to be done, courts can find long term solutions to complex problems.
Of course 2015 is election year and I'm going to really enjoy seeing that weasel Nick Clegg getting his come-uppance and for no better reason than his two-timing abandonment of Probation. For those with long memories, it could potentially be as enjoyable as seeing Michael Portillo getting booted out of Enfield. 

Just to allay any concerns, I fully intend to keep the blog running in order to catalogue the on-going TR omnishambles and closely examine the innovative new ideas that emerge from Probation's naive and blissfully ignorant new owners. It should prove interesting to say the least. I'd also like it to continue to be a lively platform for informed debate and hopefully mutual support in what will inevitably be another difficult and traumatic period for everyone that cares about Probation.  

2014 has been a hell of a roller-coaster year for this blog. It took four years to get the first million hits, but the second million is likely to only be a few months away. Quite amazing when I reflect on the sheer power of words, bashed out on a laptop connected to the internet. No wonder politicians are getting jittery with so many people now publishing and communicating directly with each other and bypassing mainstream media which so often is seen to be falling down on the job.

So, here's to another lively, informative, thought-provoking and fun year! Please keep the info coming in and please feel free to make contact with ideas or text for guest blogs - they always get a good reception and it gives me a bit of a break. 

Warm thanks go out to all my readers and contributors, as it's you that makes this blog what it is and makes it all so worthwhile. I'm always blown away by the erudition and wit that appears on a daily basis, even in such difficult times, and it continually reminds me why Probation is such a special family. I will be raising a glass to you all tonight. 

Happy New Year!    

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Happy Christmas!

That's me almost done for another year and my contribution towards keeping capitalism afloat for a bit longer. Just one more sleep before we find out what all the frenzy was about and hopefully peace descends for at least 24 hours.

It's been quite a journey we've been on together, but I'll save the reflections until next week and after a chance to recharge the batteries over the festive period. 

Happy Christmas everyone!



Tuesday 23 December 2014

Latest From Napo 56

This is the latest e-mail from Pat Waterman, Chair of Napo Greater London branch:-


And so this is Christmas


The contracts have been signed. Almost immediately a Howdy-Doody message from Rich Gansheimer, CEO, MTCnovo was posted on London-i followed by a personal letter from Nick and Rich to all CRC staff at their home address. Rich is apparently
“really keen to meet as many of you as possible and work is now being done to finalise dates and venues for a number of meetings through January and February next year. These will provide a great opportunity for you to hear more about MTCnovo, to meet my team and to listen to our plans for the future. They will also provide a good opportunity for you to raise any concerns or questions you have about MTCnovo.”
Details of forthcoming Staff Roadshows were circulated yesterday. I would urge members to attend. I (or one of the other Branch Officers) will be trying to attend as many of these meetings as possible. Rich is also keen to emphasise that:
“MTCnovo will approach this period of transition with care for our new colleagues as a priority”
and wishes to assure you all that:
“in terms of your day to day roles, nothing changes in the immediate period because our priority must be to ensure continuity in service delivery.”
The following day, the first mobilisation meeting took place between the Senior Management Teams of both the CRC and MTCnovo. The meeting was chaired by the MOJ. The first thing MTCnovo said that they wanted to do was to visit all CRC sites (presumably to see exactly what they have bought). Yesterday they were out surveying their estate in the Thames Valley area and today they are visiting St John's Street office (a prime piece of real estate in trendy Islington). The visits are being coordinated by Ann Potter (CRC Head of Estates) and we have asked that our Health & Safety Convenor David Raho be advised of the schedule of visits.

MTCnovo have been allocated six desks in BPR and, now that the cloak of commercial confidentiality has been lifted, have already started sharing information with senior managers in the CRC. I approached two of the CRC Senior Managers yesterday and asked if I too could be provided with information about how MTCnovo intends to deliver services when they assume full ownership on 1st February 2015.

Today I briefly met with two members of the MTCnovo Transition Team. I was advised that they would be presenting their “High Level Operational Solution” to SMT on Monday 29th December 2014. I was invited to attend this presentation but, like some members of SMT, I will be on leave on that day. I was however assured that a copy of the presentation would be made available to me and I have arranged to meet with Rebecca Grattan, Chief Operating Officer, on Monday 5th January 2015 to discuss their plans. So that’s my holiday reading sorted. I am interested to know what their plans are for delivering the services that the CRC have been contracted to provide by the MOJ.


What is happening in the NPS.

It is no exaggeration to say that national negotiations are in disarray. NAPO has an ever increasing list of issues they would wish to resolve but the inability of NOMS to engage in constructive and meaningful consultation is staggering. The fallout from this is being felt by all of you who work in the NPS particularly those of you in courts and who write PSR’s. The resource implications of introducing the RSR and CAS forms were not properly taken into account . The “official” guidance on how to complete these forms is eighteen pages long. A more “user-friendly” guide put together in one area still amounts to almost three pages of step by step instructions. This also assumes that you have all the information you need and that the IT systems are working properly. I have heard of calls being logged very quickly by the new NPS IT Helpdesk but then there being long delays in the problems being solved.

I am also hearing a rumour that, where reports are submitted later than two days before the date of hearing, the report author could be summonsed to attend the court to explain the delay. In my opinion, combining the additional work now required to complete a PSR with this requirement is a recipe for disaster. How do the powers that be expect you to cope?

And so this is Christmas.

The Branch Office will be closed from Wednesday 24th December and will re-open again on Monday 5th January. On the behalf of all the Branch Officers I would like to extend season’s greetings to you all and wish you a Happy New Year

Pat Waterman. Branch Chair.

Latest From Napo 55

The following is the latest blog by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence published yesterday:-  

Show us what you are going to do?

By now you should have had some feedback from last weeks meeting of Branch Chairs and Representatives which the Officer Group convened as soon as we took the unanimous decision to discontinue the Judicial Review following legal advice.

The meeting could easily have escalated into recriminatory mode, but it didn't. That was because those in attendance came along to give us open and honest feedback from their constituent members but to also listen carefully to the comprehensive presentation that was made by our lawyers Slater and Gordon and our accompanying narrative, in an atmosphere of mutual respect in accord with Napo's values.

In the space of a full day we covered a lot of ground about what has taken place over the last 12 months. We explained how we have tried to pursue the legal leg of the TR campaign as a means of trying to convince the judiciary that the award of CRC Contracts was unsafe, but we also fully acknowledged that our communications on the day that we announced the discontinuance were not up to the standards that we normally set. In return, we were able to describe the unique pressures that we were under, and with the benefit of hindsight the Officers and myself have taken the constructive criticism about this on board and appreciate the way in which feedback was imparted to us.

It was clear to me from day one of my time at Napo that our internal democracy is about as clear and transparent as you will see anywhere within the trade union world and, it ought to be said, the wider political horizon that we operate in. As the day moved on it became possible for everyone (and by that I mean everyone) to appreciate the anger and disappointment that ultimately we had achieved all that was legally available to us through JR. As importantly, there was also a great number of tributes to all of those courageous Napo members who have put their names to witness statements about the issues that formed a major part of our efforts. I was able to report that I have written on behalf of the Officers to thank each of them personally for stepping up to the plate when they were needed. I am sure that we are voicing the sentiments of all our members in that regard.

Looking ahead

The latter part of the meeting allowed us all a useful opportunity to focus on the continuing TR campaign as well as the activities that we are planning from now until the next General Election.

Two key aspects are worth mentioning here. One is the fact that the Court decided that all of the evidence from the Secretary of State that was submitted during the litigation must remain confidential to a limited number of Officers and Officials. We believe that this does nobody any favours and I include the MoJ and Noms in that respect, because it's one thing saying that you have taken, are taking, and will be taking further steps to make the service operationally safe by the time of the expected formal share sale on 1st February; but it's quite another to demonstrate publicly how and exactly when this will happen.

Here is what I have said to Michael Spurr on this very subject:

18th December 2014

Dear Michael,

Following on from the Judicial Review proceedings, those of us at Napo who were in the confidentiality ring are somewhat at a loss to understand why you would not want to make your submissions to the High Court publicly available in the spirit of open government, transparency and accountability. Moreover, it is our belief that if probation staff were able to read your submissions, then they would better comprehend the ministerial decision to proceed with the sale of the CRCs.

Much of what was in the evidence bundles is already either public, or fairly public, knowledge. There were Probation Instructions which are readily available to all. There was then the Service Specification which we had previously seen, albeit in an earlier iteration. There was then a significant amount of Management Information data which had recently been published on the MoJ website and then of course the HMIP Report - now also published. Finally there were the reports on TG4 and TG5, which we believe are also now in the public arena.

Primarily then, this leaves statements made by yourself, Ursula Brennan, Antonia Romeo and Ged Bates which, taken together, rebutted Napo's own evidence and provided the Justice Secretary with confirmation that it was safe to proceed to sale. Having read these (and indeed the TG4 and TG5 reports) we do not see anything here that could be assigned as 'commercially sensitive'. For the sake of confidentiality, we would be happy to see redaction of any references to either individual staff members or any particular work locations. Beyond that however, it is our belief that your collective credibility with staff would only be enhanced if you were to demonstrate to them, by releasing these documents, exactly how the decision to proceed was arrived at.

Yours sincerely,

I await a reply, but meanwhile all we have seen on this important subject is last weeks statement from the Ministry of Spin with Colin's name on it, saying that no concessions or undertakings were given to the Court or the unions. It's a bit pathetic, but it's symptomatic of the standards of non-communication that we have come to expect these days.

The second recent development follows my letter to the CRC bidders that I mentioned I had sent them all last week, and which has generated some interest already with a couple of them booking some meeting time with us.

You will recall that in the absence of the official evidence that we believe should be published, Napo provided an analysis to the bidders of the steps that the SofS has said he has relied upon to enter into contractual arrangements with them. I hope they negotiated themselves an exit route if or when they come to see that the operational state of readiness that Grayling must have promised them turns out to be nothing but a sham.

We will of course keep you posted on developments. We will also impress upon all those that we do see as to how valuable it will be for them to properly engage with our local representatives and hope that after taking ownership they will instruct their CRC Chief Executives to abide by the National Staff Transfer Agreement and the associated collective bargaining machinery with all of the unions.

ICT problems what problems?

Clearly some nervousness exists in high places about us sharing what our members are telling us about operating standards, as this reply (from Colin again) to some representations about ICT Problems indicates. Note it's also been copied to the bidders.

Judge for yourself whether all of this stacks up given your experiences?

18 December 2014

Via email – Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, Napo

Dear Ian,

Thank you for your letter, and email from Mike McClelland in which you raise concerns around the stability of ICT systems used by probation staff.

I would like to start by correcting your press release today suggesting that IT has failed this week - it has not. We are satisfied of the stability of the ICT system and the ability of the system to support probation staff in their work. The localised and limited slow running identified immediately following the transition have been closely monitored and a technical solution has been identified for deployment should they create other than localised and manageable issues. Throughout the roll out of the TR reforms a clear ICT programme and plan has been in place. We remain on track with delivery of the programme and the changes have been clearly communicated to staff throughout. The further changes planned for January next year have always been part of this plan.

Whilst we are aware that there have been issues with changes to the ICT systems in advance of the changes last weekend, these have not been systemic and workarounds have been put in place where required to ensure the continuity of business operations. With any major ICT change you would expect issues to occur which need to be addressed, and to date there have been remarkably few issues which have occurred as a result of the Transition State 2 (TS2) ICT activity and certainly less than any organisation would expect in a change of this size.

Ahead of the ICT activity which took place between 11 – 14 December clear instructions were issued to all staff through a number of channels alerting them to the changes and the need to ensure that contingency was put in place locally. This included information in the TR Programme bulletin for cascade to staff over a month in advance of the planned activity, and a range of communications activity including via the Bulletin, ICT managers (Emails, events and teleconferences), EPIC updates and through pop-ups for OMNI users. Communications made absolutely clear the outage times for nDelius, including that work would be lost if staff logged on during the outage period.

The TS2 ICT activity over the weekend progressed well with only 1 severity 3 incident and 2 severity 4 incidents (the lowest level of severity) occurring. Incident rating is an integral and normal part of any such transition and provided these are understood and properly managed – as has been the case here – they need not preclude progress. As you identify, revised workarounds documents have been issued to staff containing simple ways to deal with a small number of issues identified by some staff since the application has been made live. As part of the key decision point process we operationally satisfied ourselves that the workarounds were manageable as part of assuring the decision to proceed with rolling out the changes. This is entirely normal when major system changes are implemented.

You also identify in your letter concerns around live testing of ICT changes relating to operation of the Offender Rehabilitation Act (ORA) 2014 and Through the Gate (TTG). We do not plan to commence the ORA 2014 until service transition on 1 February, and TTG will not commence until 12 weeks after transition.

In November this year user acceptance testing was conducted with staff from across the probation system to ensure that the changes rolled out as part of TS2 would have the appropriate functionality to support users. The large majority of the functionality that will support the changes resulting from commencement of the ORA (2014) and TTG has already been introduced so staff can begin to familiarise themselves with it, although without the data that will be generated from the ORA and TTG going live it is not possible to “test” this functionality in the live environment as you suggest, nor would this represent good practice. This is why we conducted user acceptance testing in November.

I hope this has addressed your concerns.

Yours sincerely
Colin Allars
Director Probation

Cc: Ben Priestly UNISON
David Walton GMB SCOOP
CRC Bidders

A 0% pay offer - someone's having a laugh"

Safe to say it won't be Napo or Unison members, as we at last received the anticipated, derisory, and depressingly insulting 2014 pay offer.

We will be briefing you in detail after the Christmas break but we had no problem in signalling agreement with Unison that this will be the catalyst for another National Dispute which presumably the CRC Bidders will not have factored in to their calculations.

0% then to 'a workforce who has worked very hard to get us to where we are with TR' (Chris Grayling). 0% to an already low paid (by comparison with other professions) yet highly skilled group of people who make a real difference to society, and 0% on top of the 5 year pay freeze that public servants have endured throughout the tenure of this sanctimonious apology of a Government that awards itself what it wants when it wants.

A time to reflect

In a world where unspeakable violence is regularly waged by those who seek to use the innocent as a means of fermenting division and hatred, and where the state and the many sinister multi-nationals seem determined to eliminate the right of ordinary working people to exercise their fundamental entitlement to stand up for themselves and their colleagues, it seems as good a time as any to remind ourselves of why we joined a trade union.

As the late great Tony Benn often said, its always been about struggle. Joining a union because it tries to do something for its members, simply because it is run by its members. One that seeks to present a united position to defend our interests, and those of people who share our values elsewhere but whose voices may not be as strong, or who are forbidden to speak out on pain of death or serious injury against injustice and inequality. If these were the only reasons to join a trade union, then in my book they would be more than enough.

Napo members this year have shown there are plenty more reasons. Nobody can claim the conditions that gave rise to the formation of the union movement in the late 1800's is in any way comparable to what exists in Britain now; but one thing has never changed, and that is the need for collectivism in the face of adversity which is what has kept us together during another tough year for our members. One which has seen the probation profession rent asunder by the ideologues who know nothing about you and even less about what you do and why you do it, and those who lamentably did their bidding without so much as a whimper.

Because of all this, Napo members face an even more uncertain future in 2015. My message to you all, and those who might be considering joining us, is straightforward. I hope it will have the same resonance as the one that will have been voiced by our illustrious predecessors over a hundred years ago. This is your union, it will do its best to help you, but we can't always do everything that you want us to; but we will at all times respect and act upon the directives that we are given by our members through our democratic structures. If you want to make it stronger and more effective in defending your interests then not only stay with it but consider getting involved.

Remember also, as we move towards the close of the year, how this 8000 strong union and professional association has faced the sheer weight of opposition ranged against us. That our members have done so with such fortitude and resolve is something that you can be proud of.

Others who have tried to denigrate and silence us can be disappointed they have not succeeded. They will be hearing a lot more from us in the future.

Whether you have a faith or not, I hope that you are able to enjoy whatever space you can find over the winter holiday to be around people whom you care about, and to remember those who are no longer with us.

My best wishes to all our members and their families for the year ahead.

Ian Lawrence
General Secretary

Monday 22 December 2014

Latest From Napo 54

The following is the text of an e-mail to all Napo Greater London Branch members sent earlier today:-


In the missive I sent to members on Friday I said that a further statement would be issued by the Officers Group. I did receive it on Friday afternoon but unfortunately, due to technical problems, I have not been able to circulate it to members until this morning.

From : Ian Lawrence ( General Secretary) and the Napo Officer Group

Following a very productive meeting with branch chairs/ representatives in London yesterday we wanted to send out a summary of the key issues discussed for circulation to branch members.

The meeting was held on a very sad day for us all given that the Secretary of State went ahead with the signing of the CRC contracts as per his timetable towards formal share sale and the intended go live operational date of 1st February. We all share a sense of disappointment that the JR process did not secure a delay of the contract award on the grounds of safety issues.

During the meeting Edward Cooper from Slater and Gordon gave an overview of the process to date including the legal advice given which resulted in the decision by the Napo Officers to discontinue the JR process on 8th December.


For the avoidance of all doubt, decisions about the process were taken at each stage by the whole of the elected officers group plus the General Secretary by a secret ballot, with unanimous agreement on the basis of the legal advice. As you will be aware, some of the evidence disclosed to Napo from the MoJ was subject to a strict confidentiality order in addition to the usual restrictions placed on the use of evidence in public law proceedings. This order was made by the high court and any breach could lead to prosecution of individuals and/or Napo for contempt of Court. In some circumstances this could result in imprisonment and, for elected officers, loss of employment. All of the Officers were part of the decision making process, and were fully appraised of the legal advice at each stage.


The eventual decision to discontinue our legal challenge was not financially driven, you will already know that we received some financial assistance from sister unions. This amounted to £23,000 in total and was aimed at assisting with the cost of lodging the Judicial Review application. Although there was no agreement for any further contributions from these or any other source, Napo was in a position to bear any costs associated with proceeding without jeopardising the future of our Union.

As advised previously, Napo attended a costs hearing on 12th December during which two orders for costs were made; disclosure costs are to be met by the MoJ and other costs to be met by Napo. The Officer group has subsequently decided to instruct Slater and Gordon to take this ruling to the Court of Appeal. Unfortunately the deliberately misleading missive from NOMs and MoJ earlier in the week omitted to include the fact that this option was available to us.

Communications on December 8th

It was acknowledged by the Napo Officers that the initial and necessarily quick communication from Napo last week had caused some confusion and frustration among many members and was open to misinterpretation. The Officers have apologised for this and pointed out that it was certainly not their intention. The aim was to get information to members as quickly as possible before the MoJ did; and, on legal instruction, Napo were limited in terms of what they could say. With hindsight the Officers recognised yesterday that this limited information caused a level of anxiety which they would have wanted to avoid. The meeting acknowledged that the subsequent communications from Napo around JR and a number of other important issues have included a great deal of additional information

Achievements during the JR campaign

Despite the disappointment about the eventual outcome of JR and the fact that Chris Grayling yesterday signed off the award of CRC contracts, we were still able to reflect at the Chairs meeting on our achievements to date in this leg of our ongoing campaign.

-We have been successful in securing disclosure of a number of key documents, including test gates 4 and 5 as well as other key information about staffing and sickness levels

- We were able to collate a substantial amount of evidence due to the fantastic response from members when requested which kept our challenge alive for as long as possible

- We are in no doubt that this evidence and our ongoing challenge has forced the MoJ to assess and act on the areas of concern we highlighted.

The next steps

It was agreed that moving forward we must focus on how best the Officers and Officials can work with Branches to promote and protect members interests in both the CRCs and the NPS. It was clarified at the meeting that any contractual terms and conditions can only be changed by agreement with the National Negotiating Council (NNC). Non-contractual terms and conditions will continue to be negotiated locally between CRCs and trade unions and nationally between the NPS and trade unions. It is worth remembering that irrespective of who the future CRC owners may be, the agreement on future negotiating structures was reached with all the probation unions at Ministerial level following the intervention by ACAS and that we Napo intends to defend this.

Everyone was aware that there are many challenges facing members currently. In order to hold the MoJ to account it is vital that we continue to collate evidence of systemic failures resulting in increased risk to staff, clients, and the public. These should be forwarded to A copy of our campaign strategy will be forwarded to Branch Chairs shortly.

Contact with CRC providers 

The General Secretary has already written to the CRC owners to appraise them of our concerns and has offered to meet with them to discuss the issues that continue to concern us. This correspondence has been posted on the Napo website: We understand that there has already been some positive responses and some initial meetings have been scheduled for early in the New Year. Chivalry Road will help to facilitate meetings between our local activists and the CRC owners in the New Year. Meanwhile, the Parliamentary campaign continues and we were told that briefings will be regularly prepared for politicians which will feature all of our concerns so that relevant questions can be asked in the House.

Sticking with Napo

The meeting yesterday ended on a positive note and reaffirmed the need for members to pull together during these difficult times and to stick with Napo. We need unity in the continuing fight against against unmanageable workloads and the expected further erosion of our pay, terms and conditions whether we are in a CRC or the NPS. It’s even more reason to stay with NAPO, the union that has been prepared to fight and lead from the front throughout the TR campaign. We thank you for your continued support.

Pat Waterman: Branch Chair

The cost of a privatised Christmas

Dear Jim

Private companies have so much more access to power and influence than you, me and everyone else who relies on public services. It doesn't make it easy to fight for public services for people not profit.

Despite this, 2014 has been a great year in many ways – so let's take a moment to celebrate some of the things we've achieved together:

  • Our Public Service Users Bill – which would push back privatisation and outsourcing – was introduced in parliament with a cross-party Private Members Bill.
  • The Early Day Motion in support of the Bill was signed by 83 MPs and the first council signed up to support the Bill.
  • We revealed new polling to show what the public thinks of outsourcing companies, and held a 'Sick of Serco' demonstration at the company's AGM
  • Labour and the Liberal Democrats both committed to our idea of a right to recall bad private companies
  • Our scorecard 'Privatisation: People vs Politicians' compared public opinion to party policies
  • We drew attention to the 'cost of privatised living' – households spend £250 more on train tickets, water and energy bills because of privatisation
  • We appeared in the media including the Mirror, the FT, the Independent and Sky News, and spoke at numerous events (Labour Party conference, Cooperative Party conference, Children England annual debate and many others)
  • We joined with other campaigns to oppose the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and to take a stand against the outrageous government move to privatise child protection (both battles continue..)
Thank you for everything you've done this year. Your actions are what has made this progress possible. Next year, we're going to build on it, taking forward the campaign for a Public Service Users Bill as a first step towards public services for people not profit.

We Own It is a new organisation which has just one part-time member of staff and a team of volunteers. We are too political to be a charity, which makes it hard to get funding. We need your help to make the organisation sustainable. If you believe in what we're doing, can you spare £5 a month to support us?

Thanks again, and we hope you enjoy and might want to share our one minute Christmas video. 
Have a very happy holiday and best wishes for 2015.

Cat and the We Own It team

Sunday 21 December 2014

TR Week Twenty Nine

With regard to the issue of capability; I attended a briefing given by a CEO who confirmed as best that he could that the Sodexo model is likely to pit worker against worker in terms of reoffending rates of their individual caseload - of course it wasn't sold as this but as a 'recognition system' for good work..... well any analyst worth their salt realises that this is a covert way of pitting worker against worker and wrapped up in a fluffy awards scheme....

DLNR CRC are already talking about a same system of individual re-offending rates and star ratings.

At Sodexo run Northumberland Prison it is really funny to see the wall chart with star employee on the notice board as you go inside.

In a previous Mc Job I was awarded stars for good performance. Oh, how I miss that job :(

A friend in Interserve i.e. Purple Futures, said performance related pay will be introduced linked with re-offending for each case worker.

Purple futures has never had any plans to introduce performance related pay or to monitor reoffending rates by individual case manager. Hope this clears the point up.

'Hope this clears the point up.' Well of course it does - anonymous, uncorroborated statements on fundamental issues always set everyone's minds at rest.

This is always a by product of the staff recognition scheme and therefore will come in by default.

"has never had any plans" - doesn't mean those plans can't be brought in swiftly in the future. After all, we all know that the last government didn't plan for its legislation to be used for wholesale privatisation, but here we all are.

I feel the CRCs are going to fall apart. I already feel a pang of sadness when one of mine re-offends, but at least am aware I will not be put on a management chart somewhere. Now it seems my name will be bandied about in meetings as tho I'm a poor officer if one of mine re-offends. This is an extremely stressful situation to be under, particularly if someone re-offends and I have to then justify to the senior what I've done with the person to reduce recidivism.

What do they expect us to do - honestly?? It's like they're setting us up to fail. I've 20+ years experience and now feel like I don't know anything anymore. I've lost my confidence, I've lost my mojo. I want to leave so bad. I've not had any sick leave yet because as tough as it's been, I knew there would be tougher times ahead and for me they are fast approaching, as is my 6mths off with work-related stress.

I find the whole thing laughable, that I will be 'named and shamed' if one of my probationers commits a further offence, as if somehow personal accountability for ones actions alongside 70 odd years of academic theory about the causes of crime, sociology and (developmental) psychology now count for nothing! You might just as well set me a target that the sun must shine for at least 10 days over the next month in my town, and 'name and shame' me if I cant deliver on that!

I don't actually blame the private companies for using this model; it's used elsewhere and they have clearly swallowed the MBA dogma that managers don't need to know anything about the company they are running, transferable skills and all that. I am more dismayed that our CEO's and ACO's (many of them social work trained) can so totally abandon their first principles and endorse this drivel. Shame on them all.

I work in the NPS Court team. My workload has changed out of all recognition with the horrendous duplication of form filling, pushing out FDR's or being told to do as many oral reports as possible. My job has changed fundamentally being sent to different courts to cover for staff shortages as a direct result of the split. I firmly believe we will be affected further - we have absolutely no idea what the future holds now for any of us and I think it is a case of watch this space. Do you trust the MoJ? Just look at how they have responded to recent events. I dread to think what is coming for all of us CRC and NPS alike.

I will accept payment by results for my caseload as long as I get to screen them in advance and select those I consider to present an acceptable risk.

If you are simply turning people round and not having the time to help them through their problems (a call to the DWP normally takes 30 minutes due to the time you are on hold) then there is absolutely no hope for either party. However, in my area Sodexo also run the prison so it's a win/win for them. I'm actively applying for jobs and hope that I'm out of the madness soon. I pity those left behind, in either CRC or NPS.

For all affected by performance related pay, you need to be savvy and record what you need to record to maintain your income. For example, if stats are collated quarterly you will quickly learn to record what you need by the cut off dates and if needed, hold back some figures for the next quarter. So, if you are targeted to get 10 accommodation referrals and you get 12 hold 2 back to give yourself a head start next quarter. It is not right but that is how staff on performance related pay work - to the figures as they are needed. Learn quickly to play them at their own games.

Yes, I hear your cries of despair at the sheer stupidity of such games when we deal with peoples lives and trauma so, pay lip service to the figures - not to the impact of service users.

I spoke with someone who works at Working Links, he said how he has become disillusioned with the company as they're becoming more focused on targets rather than the people they work with. They are also closing offices down and introducing an orange bus in order to reach clients (I kid you not). He also told me that Working Links only went for the contract as MoJ have guaranteed a certain amount of profit, they wouldn't have touched it other wise. So on the orange bus I go!! I think they call that innovation.

I predicted that much of this would happen, but it was even before this blog was up and running. Now much of what I predicted has come to pass, and sadly the changes are irreversible. Creativity is the way forward, playing the MoJ at their own game by being smart when it comes to 'fudging the numbers' so to speak. Let the changes bed in, but in the meantime, look after your health by not taking work too seriously, just do what you can, concentrate on risk and sling shot the rest.

One thing that has not had a mention in all of this is the loss of 'corporate memory'. This means the bidders are free to repeat every mistake the Probation Service has ever made, all in the name of 'innovation'. Performance Related Pay empowers the offender and compromises the therapeutic relationship; 'breach me and I will re-offend and you won't get your PRP' kind of thing. More unsophisticated thinking. The offenders are going to run rings around all of this.

So let me get this straight, in my area there's no vacancies for NPS PSOs and so does this mean prison PSOs are going to have to go to a CRC (no space in ours either due to a recent big recruitment drive) or basically be made redundant? That's shocking - I don't think they should've recruited in the CRCs until the NPS staffing picture was clear because now even the CRCs aren't available :(

So, guess what. Who cares anymore? I'm knackered, on long term sick & highly unlikely to return. NAPOs claimed brinksmanship hasn't helped at all. I haven't the energy or stamina for this people-chess. PSO grade roles have long been abused by Trust managers to facilitate where we are now. The de-professionalisation is parallel to teaching, to social work, to policing & prison service roles.

I just watched Nick Clegg (metaphorically) sucking Brand's cock (BBC3). Can someone PLEASE get Brand on board? He's a liability, he's "random" and he's a loose cannon BUT he's effective. I need to go back to the 1970's for a rest.

In the last five days, my admin told me she is retiring, another admin has resigned and a PO colleague has gone on long term sick. We're a very small team, we're being decimated. Everyone is looking for new jobs.

Sounds like my office, I've never seen so many people leave - I think we have a leaving presentation every week! Why does the phrase 'rats off a sinking ship' come to mind?! Now, if only I could find the exit door!

I don't get this too many PSO's in NPS, I thought the shafting was done on how many high risk cases you managed so how did "too many PSO's" get into the NPS? They never managed high risk cases, again it makes a mockery of all the PO's shafted into CRC's. The whole thing stinks like a skunks arse.

The HMIP report is boring and part of the problem of modern day probation. The report traces events from court to termination on what has become an assembly or production line, with tasks that have to be slotted together and various interfaces scaled while maintaining clear channels of communication. And if this was not already problematic enough in an integrated service sharing a corporate identity, the fragmenting influence of TR will add further degrees of difficulty and complexity.

HMIP atomises and de-skills the probation task and is no different really to how the workings of an assembly line would be analysed. It's all about capturing knowledge and passing it along the line to the next operative in a bureaucratic and cybernetic chain. Once upon a time, probation staff knew their clients, would naturally liaise with the court staff or whoever. They identified with their caseloads, sought to be conscientious and deal with crisis and risks as they arose. HMIP gives us Lego probation.

Never mind the Probation Service, what about the Prison Service? I work as a PO in the Court Team and see first-hand how the Courts can be persuaded (with good reports mind) to go along with community sentences. Once the ORA is in place I'm going to have a hard time convincing them to support a proposal for said sentence if they know that the offender will be getting Probation once released.

Over a very rare (as in infrequent rather than uncooked) lunch break today there was not a Officer there who felt that the Bench would have any confidence in reports recommending community over custody sentence or indeed see any need for them. The impact this is going to have on the Prison is going to be massive and most likely one of those laws of unintended consequences. Whilst we may have it hard in Probation, I don't think it's going to be half as hard as what it will be in the prisons.

Makes little difference to me. I no longer have any time to help anyone and unless you come in covered in blood, knife in one hand and the severed head of your victim in the other, I'm going to find it difficult not to be thinking of Delius/PSR's/Paroms or other associated paperwork when I'm discussing things with you.

'most likely one of those laws of unintended consequences' or perhaps not. It's seemed from the start that MoJ want prison numbers to go up. I just haven't yet figured out why.

Super prisons and privatisation. There, sorted. My work here is done :)

Great point. I'm also a court PO and couldn't agree more. One of the laws of economics - supply creates its own demand. Just look at what's happened with curfews, SSOs, UPW etc and what happened with IPPs.

I am a court PO too and also agree. This is massive and wholly unanticipated by NOMS so no planning in the system for this. Remember when we used to talk about TRain crash re TR? Well this is the biggest multiple pile up ever about to happen....

Yes this is exactly right - the courts will no longer have to do a careful balancing act for cases which meet the custody threshold: why give a shoplifted 12 months supervision plus DRR, when you can send him inside for 8 weeks under the misguided belief that "that'll sort out his drug problem" and he'll get the 12 months supervision when he comes out.

The prison estate will be 90,000 and rising before the end of 2015, easily. What was their prediction for IPPs before 2005? Low hundreds? This will dwarf that scandal. And the only reason this hasn't been anticipated by NOMS is that they haven't listened to front line practitioners - I've been making this point to my MP for well over 18 months.

I know we have some Magistrates who read this blog. Maybe if they would like to leave an anonymous comment reflecting their views?

I'm reflecting on the staff numbers in my office and don't believe for one moment that we have enough staff to cope with the additional work that the U12months will bring. Pre-TR I worked in the Court team for some years, in various Courts, and saw just how many people on a daily basis were given U12month sentences. At times it outweighed those given community sentences. I know there will be a commencement date and it's unlikely that the ORA will be applied retrospectively, but even a quick back of a fag packet calculation suggests that over the next twelve months caseloads in CRC's are going to at least DOUBLE!!!

Of course NOMS officials know that there is a very high probability that the introduction of post-release supervision will increase the prison population. It is the same reason Custody Plus was binned. The question is whether their political masters have either taken notice of any warnings or allowed officials to plan for the consequences...

We are in utter crisis people. The word on the ground is that there are plenty of changes coming our way. A tsunami of bullshit crap.

Yep, ratings pitting staff against each other, under 12 months, no information and supposed to be starting Feb, increased reliance on volunteers who don't get paid for working with difficult cases, more tagging and booze tags. More money for managers and staff will continued to get shit on. Lovely.

We recruited 15 volunteers during last 6 months in my CRC and all but 3 have left, most found work in APs as sessionals, joined NPs as TPOs or found work elsewhere. A lot of time, effort resources, staff goodwill has been directed towards volunteers but we cannot retain them. Given a choice between paid sessional work with NPS, paid employment, volunteering ends without much notice, and who can blame them? No way to run any kind of business.

I sat with a client and his partner for over 2 hours listening to them yesterday. To hear the client articulate that "light bulb" moment and then go on to talk about it was part of what we do. Against the dire situation we all find ourselves in, little old me came away from work yesterday with a glimmer of enthusiasm and hope - actually doing the job I was trained to do. I say to myself "am I a PO or a feeder of information to the centre that eventually will use it against us all?" Client or Machine????

My experience of St Giles mentors has been very poor indeed. One poor lad was indeed met at the gates by an enthusiastic mentor who took him to accommodation that could best be described as unfit for human habitation. When he had the gall to protest, the mentor told him that everyone he had taken there had said the same thing, ie three people in as many weeks and that he had to take it and pay up or he'd be in trouble.

Another time a mentor told one of my clients how best to defraud the benefit system, something he had a previous conviction for himself. There simply are not enough trained and vetted mentors available and as Andrew rightly says the practicalities have not even begun to be considered. It would have been far better to ask a public probation service to do this work as the private and voluntary sectors are not geared up to provide these kinds of services safely.

I have a habitual DV perpetrator who regularly receives short sentences, mainly for D&D/BoTP outside his ex-partner or her parents home. This is due to him refusing to work with Probation. If anyone planned to collect him from the Prison gate and advise him of his new obligations, then I would have SERIOUS concerns for their safety! I completely agree, someone is going to be badly hurt.


I really fear for the safety of these mentors with some of our service users and hope a risk assessment is done eg double manning when driving them from the prison gate etc. All of this of course takes time and asking for the information from the appropriate agency, so much easier prior to TR dontcha think???

I hope the mentors are insured to work with the released prisoners, not to mention car insurance. I thought CRC weren't to work with tier 4 sex offenders? Sex offender, tier 4, previously a MAPPA case and with PPU now supervised by newly qualified PO. I have previously seen the offender in prison when we ran TTG. He was banned from entering the Probation office. Worrying.

Saturday 20 December 2014

Frances Rattles MoJ

It would seem as if Frances Crook of the Howard League continues to get under Chris Graylings skin rather more successfully than we have of late. She appeared on BBC 2's Newsnight the other day and it's clear from this letter from Michael Spurr at the MoJ that she's struck a raw nerve talking about prison officers being ferried around in buses in order to plug emergency staffing shortages. 

It's also worth noting that in the wake of the successful prisoners book ban campaign, membership of the League has doubled over the last year. More power to her elbow!  

19 December 2014

Dear Frances


I am writing to express my deep disappointment with the inaccurate and, what I feel are
irresponsible comments, you made with regard to the impact of detached duty on under 18 YOIs during your interview aired on Newsnight last night and which you have continued to make on social media today.

First, we have been completely open and transparent about our use of detached duty to
support establishments pending permanent recruitment of staff. The leaked documents you obtained, which do not accurately reflect our final arrangements, merely proposed how we might deploy numbers that we have previously shared in response to Parliamentary Questions and the Justice Select Committee. Detached duty has always been used in the prison estate and it is a legitimate and appropriate way to manage short term staffing shortages.

Wetherby and Hindley are the only establishments in the under 18 estate which, at a time
when the population was low enough to allow it provided a small number of officers for short periods on detached duty to assist other prisons with shortages. During this time Wetherby have had accommodation out of use and both establishments continued to operate a full regime and therefore there was no impact on the young people there. Wetherby have not sent any staff on detached duty since early December, and while Hindley will continue to support other establishments, this will only be when staff become free as the under 18 population decreases following the YJB’s decision to decommission spaces there.

You stated that prison officers at YOIs have been cut by 40% and that young people would be locked up for about three weeks over the Christmas period ‘in their cells all the time’ as there will not be anybody on duty to open the cells to give them something to do, these statements are completely inaccurate. Since 2010, the population in the establishments constituting the Young People's Estate has reduced by 16% and in that period the number of officers (band 3-5) has reduced by 15% - this has maintained the prisoner staff ratio of 1.4 prisoners to each officer across those establishments. Therefore staffing levels have been maintained and the 40% cut you stated is complete nonsense.

In relation to the regime in the under 18 estate over the Christmas period, at Wetherby and Feltham there will be a full regime on non bank holidays (with the exception of 2 January) and on bank holidays, young people will have access to domestics (access to showers, open air and use of telephones) and/or recreational activities during both the morning and afternoon. At Cookham Wood, Werrington and Hindley, as services provided by external educational providers are not available between Christmas and New Year, a regime as set out above for bank holidays will be operated with the increased availability of access to visits and other recreational activities. Therefore again to say young people will be locked up in their cells ‘all the time’ over a three to four week period is also complete nonsense.

As I have said, I am extremely disappointed in your ill informed comments which will cause distress amongst young people and their families. Given your concerns about the pressures on the prison estate and your priority for the care of young people in the estate I would have expected a more responsible approach. My priority is keeping young people safe and secure and quite frankly your comments have made that job more difficult.

I hope in the future you will more carefully consider the impact your comments in the media can have and act more responsibly in checking the accuracy of the information you base your comments upon.

Yours sincerely

Michael Spurr

The End of a Sad Week

This has been a very sad week for the Probation Service with the contracts having been signed on Thursday. Lets start this roundup with the usual stubborn dissembling from the MoJ spin doctors:- 

Charities in front seat of new reoffending drive

The government fired the starting gun today on making key reforms to the way ex-offenders are looked after in the community, in an effort to tackle stubbornly high reoffending rates in England and Wales.

Today, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling will sign new contracts with a host of charities, private companies and public organisations who will be brought in to manage offenders post-prison.

The successful organisations make up a diverse mix of providers that bring a wealth of experience including supporting people off drugs and alcohol, finding them secure homes and helping them into work.

These new providers will support around 45,000 offenders released from sentences of less than 12 months each year. This group currently get no statutory post-prison support and almost 60% of them go back to crime within a year.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

We finally have in these reforms the opportunity to break the depressing cycle of crime, prison and re-offence that so many individuals are stuck in.

Every year tens of thousands of offenders are released from prison with £46 in their pocket, get no support and are left to walk the streets. The majority reoffend quickly – and they commit thousands of crimes. That will now change, with proper support and mentoring for every offender who leaves prison, with a real focus on helping them turn their lives around.

We will pay the organisations that deliver this support by what works – and between them they have the skills and experience to deliver what does. Some of our most successful rehabilitation charities will now have the chance to use their skills to rehabilitate thousands of offenders who up to now have just been left to fall through the cracks.

The successful bidders are made up of a diverse range of public, private and voluntary organisations. Nineteen of the 21 contract areas will be led by new partnerships and joint ventures between private sector firms and some of Britain’s biggest and most successful rehabilitation charities, and six will be run with the involvement of a probation staff “mutual”. In addition, around 75% of the 300 subcontractors named in the successful bids are voluntary sector or mutual organisations, putting them at the frontline of offender rehabilitation.

There was strong competition for each of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), with bids showing real innovation. This includes proposals for far greater use of new technologies, both to enable frontline staff to work more efficiently and to enhance offender supervision. A wide range of models for mentoring prisoners on release were also put forward, along with extensive new rehabilitation activities, and more targeted services for specific offender groups such as women or those with mental health problems. Contracts have been split across 20 regions for England and one for Wales, and the successful bidders will be responsible for supervising and rehabilitating an estimated 200,000 low and medium risk offenders.

Almost 1,000 organisations, including 700 listed as VCSE (voluntary, community or social enterprise) have put themselves forward to work with the chosen providers to develop new ways of reducing reoffending and protecting the public.

Providers will only be paid in full if they are successful at reducing reoffending, helping drive innovation and getting best value for taxpayers.

Along with extending community supervision to all offenders, a nationwide network of resettlement prisons is also being created that will see offenders managed by the same provider from custody into the community, ensuring a proper through-the-gate approach to rehabilitation.

Under this system, the new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) will be required to draw up a plan for an offender’s rehabilitation within the first few days of them entering prison. The same organisation will then continue to support that individual throughout their time in prison, and this will continue as they are released into the community. The focus of the CRCs will be as much on helping ex-offenders sort their lives out as on traditional supervision.

They will also work hand in hand with the public sector National Probation Service, which is tasked with protecting the public from high risk offenders.

This was the Purple Futures welcome e-mail:-

Dear Colleague

I am writing to you all as we will be working together as part of Purple Future and I welcome colleagues from Cheshire & Greater Manchester; Hampshire and Isle of Wight Merseyside North Yorkshire Humberside & Lincs and West Yorks CRCs. Yesterday marked an important milestone in Transforming Rehabilitation as Purple Future is now contractually confirmed as the provider of probation and rehabilitation services across our CRCs.

The Partnership

Purple Future is a legal partnership between Interserve, 3SC, Addaction, P3 and Shelter.


During the competition period, we have been restricted in what could be communicated with the CRCs most particularly during the time period between the announcement of preferred bidder and contract signature, which took effect yesterday, 18th December.

It is usual for there to be a period of some weeks between contract signature and legal transfer of ownership while various technical, legal and financial matters are audited. We are in this period now and ownership of 5 CRCs will transfer to us on 1st February. Communication will become easier and more wide-ranging after this date.

You may be aware that a team from Interserve on behalf of PF, has already met with your CEO and SMT in recent weeks. These have been positive meetings on which to build future working relationships. We provided as much information as was possible given the on-going commercial constraints, which we hope to be able to share with you in the near future.

I know that you have already been through some massive changes over the last few months and want to reassure you that we will work collaboratively with the SMT on implementing the new operating model, building on and incorporating existing best practice within the CRCs.

The Interserve operational team has a wealth of probation and rehabilitation experience and understands the challenges that you have faced recently and those yet to come. It is clear that great progress has been made since June and due to the hard-work and strong ethos of those working in probation, the service remains stable and many innovations have been implemented in recent months. This provides a fantastic basis for building a new integrated approach to rehabilitation provision. The addition of the under 12 months cohort and a resettlement service that focuses on reintegration into the community are exciting new opportunities for us to support offenders in their journey towards their stable lives.


PF has developed an operating model that recognises that offenders are individuals with the potential to change. Together we will help them realise this, while delivering their sentences. We will manage any changes with sensitivity and fairness, providing opportunities to reform for all but always with the safety of both the public and our staff as our priority.


Invest in new training, systems and processes - to ensure that public protection remains the top priority. This includes a commitment to continue to train probation specialists, ensuring that all staff are appropriately trained in public protection, and keeping everyone safe. Rehabilitation services will be expanded and refreshed.

Provide a 'through the gate' service to offenders - for all prisoners including those with sentences of under a year. This allows us to work with people who previously fell outside the remit of the probation service. This is an important change and our integrated, locally focused approach is well placed to make the most of this change,

Deliver the sentence of the court - in particular the new rehabilitation activity requirement (as required under the new ORA) using this opportunity to work with offenders to address the causes of offending while delivering the sentence.

Whilst we have developed these ideas about our approach, we expect to work together to continue the detailed delivery design work in the local context, and we are looking forward to this collaborative working from the earliest opportunity.

During January we will be working with your SMT to prepare for start of contract delivery from 1st Feb and thereafter with colleagues at ALL levels as we progress the new detailed design of the operating model and subsequent implementation. We will provide you with regular updates and communications during this period.


I appreciate that you will want to have more details about future arrangements and how they will affect you. However we do not yet have sufficient understanding of the details of the CRCs existing arrangements to be able to give you any more information at this time.

Please rest assured that we will be working together to develop an exciting new service delivery solution, and we are committed to being open and honest about any potential changes and how they may affect the way in which you carry out your work.

This seems to be the worrying bit, especially for a new operating model to start on 1st February:-
"I appreciate that you will want to have more details about future arrangements and how they will affect you. However we do not yet have sufficient understanding of the details of the CRCs existing arrangements to be able to give you any more information at this time."
There is more information on the P3 website:-

"The Purple Futures partnership, a new partnership of private sector, charities and social enterprise, will be providing probation and rehabilitation services in five areas of the UK from February 2015, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed today.

Purple Futures, led by Interserve, the UK-based FTSE-listed support services and public services company, together with the charities P3, Addaction, Shelter and the social enterprise 3SC, will manage services in Greater Manchester & Cheshire; Merseyside; West Yorkshire; North Yorkshire, Humberside & Lincolnshire and Hampshire, which together account for over 40,000 offenders each year.

From 1 February, the partnership will assume legal ownership of five Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), and the management of around 2,000 probation service personnel. It will deliver probation and rehabilitation services for the majority of offenders, however, high-risk cases will remain under the jurisdiction of the National Probation Service.

The services form part of the MoJ’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme, and will for the first time see business working with local specialist and voluntary groups to provide support to offenders, to improve their life chances on release and reduce reoffending rates.

Yvonne Thomas, Managing Director of Justice at Interserve, lead partner of Purple Futures, said:

“We recognise that offenders have the potential to change – and we will work together to help them realise this, while delivering their sentences. We will provide opportunities to reform for all - but always with the safety of both the public and our staff as our priority.
“We are confident in our plans and keen to start by working with our new colleagues. We understand that the past months have been a period of anxiety for many. However, we will be acquiring a very stable operation from the probation service and we have a unique opportunity to build an integrated approach to the rehabilitation of offenders. The inclusion in scope of offenders serving under 12 months and a resettlement service that focuses on reintegration into the community are exciting new opportunities for us to work together to support offenders in their journey towards stable lives.”

From 1 February, a number of new initiatives will be implemented by the partnership

"Investment in new training, systems and processes to ensure that public protection remains the top priority, with probation specialists trained in public protection. Rehabilitation services will be expanded and refreshed. 

A ‘through-the-gate’ service to prisoners. Purple Futures will also manage offenders on licence and post sentence supervision. This will include those on sentences under 12 months, who previously fell outside the remit of the probation service. 

Purple Futures will deliver the sentence of the court, and in particular the new rehabilitation activity requirement sentence (as required under the new Offender Rehabilitation Act), using this opportunity to work with offenders to address the causes of offending. 

A 48-hour ‘intensive service’ will be provided for the most vulnerable prisoners to support them on release, including a person to meet them on release, accommodation and specialist support for those mental health issues or with drug or alcohol addiction.

The creation of job opportunities for ex-offenders, including by working with them to set up social enterprises."

Mark Leftly of the Independent feels Interserve don't really know what they've bought:-
Interserve’s managing director of justice services, Yvonne Thomas, has tried to ease the concerns of the 2,000 probation personnel being take on by the outsourcing group as part of the Purple Futures partnership.

Yesterday, Interserve confirmed it had been awarded contracts worth £600m to take over five probation services.
The run-up to the privatisation has been fraught with all sorts of problems, including IT failures, that have compromised public safety. Ms Thomas at least admitted that “the past months have been a period of anxiety” for many officers, but she was wrong to say that Purple Futures is “acquiring a very stable operation from the Probation Service”.
Morale is at an extraordinary low among officers across the service; they are furious that they are about to become part of the private sector and believe that the Coalition’s reforms are dangerous.
Napo was clearly angry and issued this press release:-
Probation union anger as Justice Secretary ignores safety concerns and signs Probation outsourcing contracts
Napo is angry at the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as he presses ahead with his Probation Service outsourcing despite evidence that it is unsafe to do so. The Union, which has been campaigning against the Government's reforms since 2013, has documented evidence provided by the Ministry of Justice that there are still significant failures with the new system that they believe seriously undermine service delivery and public safety. But despite this contracts for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies have been signed by the new providers and Grayling, tying the government and future governments to 10 years.
See the Secretary of States Written Statement made today (18-12-14)
Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: “the service is still in utter chaos with IT systems failing again this week, significant staff shortages and excessive workloads. All of these issues are a risk to public safety. To sign off 10 year contracts when the system is not running effectively is highly irresponsible.”
Last week Napo discontinued its legal challenge against the Secretary of State as he had made assurances that all the problems will be fixed by the time the contracts are mobilised in February 2015 but Napo believe that he should have fixed the problems before signing contracts. Despite these assurances the MoJ still refuse to publish all the evidence that the system is safe and have maintained a confidentiality Court order against the union effectively gagging them.
Ian Lawrence said: “If they believe it is safe to sign contracts then they should publish the evidence that supports that. The only reason we are still bound by a confidentiality order is because the MOJ doesn’t want us to publish the evidence. Their own documents highlight acknowledges serious failings in the new probation system that echoes our concerns.”
Napo’s concerns were further supported this week when the Chief Inspector for Probation published his report that contained 68 recommendations and said that “issues raised by staff about IT require serious attention”. He also said “There is no doubt at all that there remains much more to do.”
The contracts themselves contain “poison pill clauses” that mean future governments will be liable to pay 10 years’ worth of profits to the providers should they terminate them. Some of the providers already have a chequered history with public sector contracts. The highly criticised Sodexo, have won bids for the majority of the North of England, and have recently been accused of institutional racism, also run HMP Northumberland. The Justice Select Committee raised the issue of a conflict of interest as they will receive larger payments for people going to prison than those that stay out. Seetec have previously been investigated for fraud on the DW programme. Only eight bidders were successful for the 21 contracts creating what critics have a called a “monopoly of corporate giants” taking over the justice system. 
Grayling used the Conservativehome website to gloat and record his political epitaph:-

So today we are completing the contracts that will change all of that. When the work starts in the New Year, no new offender will be left stranded with no help when they leave prison. Virtually every offender leaving prison will receive 12 months of guidance and support, as well as the statutory supervision required by the Courts. There will be an increased focus on mentoring and guidance, and the creation of a proper through the prison gate service, with most prisoners spending the last few months of their sentence in the areas they will be released into so that there are better preparations for that release.

Most of the work will be done by new partnerships between private sector companies with expertise in social change and voluntary sector organisations with skills in working with offenders. Like Ingeus, Interserve and Working Links who are all an integral part of working with the long term unemployed in the Work Programme, Sodexo who have helped shape the trial project in Peterborough, St Giles Trust and Nacro, who have leading edge skills in offender mentoring, and specialist charities like Shelter. Backed by hundreds of smaller local charities that will be able to do more great work with offenders.

They will work alongside a smaller, specialist National Probations Service, which will be tasked with managing risk to the public and particularly to working with the most dangerous offenders on a multi-agency basis.

And crucially, the new rehabilitation providers won’t be paid in full unless they deliver real reductions in reoffending. It’s a classic case of what this Government is about, delivering more for less for the taxpayer.

And Labour? In 2007, the Labour Government passed an Act of Parliament which opened out the rehabilitation of offenders to a new generation of providers. They understood then the difference we could make.

But they did nothing to complete the job. That has been left to us, to deliver a reform that I believe can make a real difference to our society. And the current Labour Party has opposed us every inch of the way. It’s a sign of the groundhog day ideology that lies at the heart of today’s Labour Party. A hatred for private sector and profit and wealth creation. A belief that the private and voluntary sectors in partnership cannot deliver positive social change, even though they are already doing so. A belief that the state should do everything, even when it hasn’t worked in the way it should. A view that the unions are always right. And a bizarre opposition to payment by results, even though most of us would think it common sense.

I reject their approach totally. I want real social change in a way that delivers real value for taxpayers as well. The Work Programme is already doing that. I believe our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms will do the same.

Chris Grayling

Finally, the heated discussion regarding Napo and the failed Judicial Review continues. The key issue seems to be summed up by this comment left yesterday:- 

On Monday December 8th Ian Lawrence, General Secretary of NAPO, and the NAPO Officers group issued an email to members outlining the basis of their decision to discontinue the Judicial Review proceedings. The email was headed


and I'm sure you're all now familiar with the content.

On Friday December 12th NOMS issued an email to CRCS, the NPS and to TR bidders stating:

'NAPO claimed in a communication sent to their members and the national media that as a result of the JR specific undertakings have been given... Contrary to the claims by NAPO no new commitments or undertakings were given and no changes have been made or promised in respect of the reforms'

A week has now passed, and no NAPO officer has responded to this very clear assertion that their stated basis for halting the Judicial Review is untrue. I can only presume that NAPOs officers are not disputing NOMS's assertion because it *IS* true, and NAPO's officers have mislead the union's members. If NOMS's assertion is untrue, let NAPO's officers say it is untrue.

Friday 19 December 2014

Latest From Napo 53

Have faith in NAPO

Yesterday I attended a meeting of branch chairs from all around the country. The purpose of the meeting was to explain why the Judicial Review was discontinued and what happens now.

Let me start by saying that I am satisfied that, since Ian Lawrence announced at the AGM in Scarborough that NAPO was going to instigate a Judicial Review, the Officers and Officials of our union have at all times acted in the best interests of the members.

The officers appreciated that some of the communications that had been sent out to members had not perhaps been as clear and as helpful as they might have been. This was partly because of the speed with which events were happening and their wish to keep members as informed as quickly as possible.

The delays in getting information to members has also been because every e-mail had first to be checked by our solicitor and then by our barrister to avoid giving any possible grounds for contempt.

The opaqueness of the communications and the lack of information, is largely due to the processes of the court.

I do think that many members had an unreasonable expectation of what could be achieved by launching a Judicial Review. We believed that we had sufficient evidence to demonstrate that it was not safe for the Secretary of State to proceed to share sale. The MOJ has repeatedly refused to share the results of their testing with us while maintaining that everything was “hunky dory”.

The results of their testing procedures have now been provided to NAPO but the court ordered that it cannot be shared.

The issues surrounding the award of costs are also matters that cannot be shared by virtue of the order of the court.

So although this may be very frustrating for us all, I would ask members to appreciate that the hands of our Officers and Officials are tied. Were they to circulate the answers to many of the questions that members have been asking they would be in Contempt of Court and both they as individuals, and the union as a whole, would be subject to financial penalties. For our elected officers, who are probation service employees, they could also risk being made the subject of disciplinary procedures that could lead to their dismissal.

As a result of yesterday’s meeting a further statement will be issued by the Officers Group (hopefully later today).

But I ask all members to trust and respect the decisions of our elected officers. They have acted in good faith and with the interests of you all.

Why would you think otherwise? Do not believe all you read from the MOJ.

I would also advise any of you who are thinking about resigning from NAPO to think again.

Never has there been a more important time to be a member of a trade union.

Have faith in NAPO

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair

Guest Blog 15

A view from the small and medium charity sector

A missed opportunity

I work for a regional charity, but spent over 15 years working in Probation. Initially I thought TR would be an opportunity to bring the best of charities to work with the Probation Service. If I’m honest, I thought about 20% - 30% of the Probation Service would be put out to tender and we, charities, would bring in more than 20% - 30% of resources.

In 2010 the charity I work for had developed at no cost to the Probation Service a service for those serving less than 12 month, it worked brilliantly with the support of the local probation services and the police. There were lots of positive PR in the papers and praise from the people who were using the service. I thought TR would be the opportunity to develop this type of innovative service.


We signed up for TR and I started going to meetings on next steps. However, as I attended these meetings I began to realise that some of the people involved in TR didn’t understand what they were selling.

Firstly, at these meetings about PbR, it seems that unless the Prime succeeds then Tier 2/3 don’t get paid. It felt like heads they win tails you lose. Primes stood a significantly better chance of getting paid than Tier 2/3s 

Prime achieves target
Prime Paid Y/N

Tier 2/3 achieves target
Tier 2/3 Paid Y/N


The more meetings I went to, the more depressing it became. I was truly shocked when I heard a former CPO of Probation criticise their old staff for lack of innovation and drive! Of course he was selling a bright new world for his new company. Caseloads of 100 clients and staff being paid circa £20k per annum were bandied about and how similar Probation was to Job Centres. When I heard about BIONIC I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. 

I gave up on TR and thought this is going to be a disaster which is going to cost someone their life. We, as a charity, washed our hands of TR and left the process.

As we got closer to TR and the CRCs became a reality, one of their first acts was to close down our project. It did not cost them a penny, but they no longer had the resources to support the project. I was very surprised that they closed down a free service, however it was their call if they did not want to offer this service to people serving less than 12 months. That was their choice. So much for innovation and partnerships with charity partners. As a regional charity, we had lots of contacts with smaller charities. One by one their contracts are being terminated as of 31st March 2015.

As someone who was heavily involved in the development of the Domestic Violence Perpetrators Programme in the Probation Service, I was shocked to hear about the split in the supervision of DV perpetrators and the potential costs to vulnerable women. This is not about money, this is about life and death.

The future

So, with private CRCs coming on line shortly, were does that leave the charity I work for and the small local charities? I suspect a significant number of the small charities will go to the wall. The criminal justice system will lose their experience, knowledge and generosity of spirit. The charity I work for will watch the CRC in action, but any ideas of working in partnership will be viewed with great suspicion.

Why would our well respected charity want to put its reputation at risk by becoming involved with multi-national companies who have no idea about the complexity or risk of the work they are taking on? How could we go to Trusts that currently fund our work and say “please give us some more money so we can work with this huge multi-national company so they can make a profit?” or give information on reporting of their clients to this charity to the CRC so they can claim their PbR bonus!


There is life after probation.  I left probation a number of years ago, but spent 15 great years in probation. Looking around at the small and medium sized charities that are working in this sector and find the passion, commitment and dedication I found in my 15 years in probation. Look at social services and see someone that rates your great skills and abilities.

The most important thing for me is what will this charity do about ex-offenders. We will watch the CRCs fail and we will slowly build up a network of charities to work with ex-offenders. We will offer our services because this is what we do, not what we are paid for.

I also expect that at some point within the next ten years, after a number of tragic avoidable deaths, someone will say you know what we need? A national probation service and we will begin again.