Saturday 31 December 2016

Sadly, it is All About The Money

It's time to mark the passing of yet another year of misery and chaos brought about by TR and the endgame really could be in sight. The trouble is, none of us know what it is and that includes the MoJ. One thing's for sure though - it is all about the money, when we all know it should be about the person, but that's what ignorance and politics have done for us.

As always, thanks for reading and contributing. Following a period of steady decline, interest is picking up once more and I detect signs of a new defiance and determination amongst those that remain to 'tell it as it is'. A bolshy workforce was always identified as a key risk by the MoJ right at the beginning of project TR and this blog will remain as a platform for anyone with something sensible to say on the subject. 

I'll sign off with some fascinating exchanges seen recently on Facebook:-      

Can I ask how people are consistently hitting that ridiculous 10 day ISP target. I ask because some recent cases have come up that DRR delius attendances within 24 hours of sentence have triggered off this 10 day target, when in fact CRC have only been informed of the sentence after 2 weeks! I'm told some pull through or do a very basic ISP with a view to reviewing asap! I just want to try and hit an actual target and not be placed on a hitlist for once.

We had problems where an appt was kept with us, starting the 10 days, but then a week or so in we were belatedly informed the person had kept an earlier appt with a partner agency which triggered the deadline earlier than expected and meant a rush job was required. The advice at the time was to pull something (anything!) through to hit the target and review in better quality ASAP (tho given the never ending flood of ISPs ASAP never arrived for me).

That's shocking but I'm not surprised. I said to my SPO today should I just pull through blank pages to hit a target and then review it as those on top of these tables are doing just this. I saw someone for the first time and was chuffed to actually complete an ISP within 2 hours of our first meeting. It was a failed target as he'd seen a partnership agency before me! so I stormed into my managers room shouting WTF do I do.

Is this for CRC or NPS? In NPS, we are told that the 10 days only start counting from when the 'initial contact' goes on any ndelius. So a partner agency wouldn't be able to trigger this.

We are CRC but it is still when the contact goes on Delius. In my situation I had seen him on the Friday, but a week later a contact from our DRR drug partnership was put on for the Tuesday before - which meant my ISP should have been done 3 days earlier than I realised.

The clock starts at any intervention following sentence even if the person never actually attends an OM appt. I've done a few on people I've never met (and who subsequently got breached for no OM contact at all).

Great example that sums everything up as well as the target pressures we all feel.

No it's the first appt even with agencies - it's crap innit?

We do a paper ISP at induction which is hit and miss as often have no CPS etc and as usually seen on duty - have no time to assess properly!!

Are you in London? Our ISP's only count if on OASys

No apparently it was part of the bid - I thought only oasys counted as well but we have 30 days to do oasys as long as the paper one is done. Trouble is that it includes a risk assessment part which is impossible to do without precons so it's either left blank till we get these or based on information from the offender- neither is good!!

....only specific 'initial contact' starts the clock. Not planned office visit or other contact. If partnerships are recording their apts as initial contact you need to have a word and change it to other apt, drug key work apt etc. X

Just what I was going to say, only the person responsible for doing the assessment should be recording the "initial contact", I assume it means "initial contact with Offender Manager". However, doesn't this need to be within 5 days of sentence or it misses another target? (Theoretically you then have 15 working days to do ISP)?

CP initial contact will trigger the 10 day target as well as clicking the custody release button.

Yea, absolutely right. The initial contact Delius entry has to be offered/recorded within 5 days...x

I left for maternity leave in Nov so it may have changed since but I know I've definitely had to do a few ISPs for people who attended DRR appts and never triggered the Initial Contact as did not show for me. I remember as I made a big deal about the waste of time (a week prior to leaving) in building objectives for someone I was recommending had his sentence revoked for non compliance.

Get the initial data recorded as something other than lnitial Appointment then it does not trigger the 10 day.

Unfortunately data analysts get on our back to either change or ensure that initial delius contacts are correctly applied. Appears to be more people watching and analysing delius entries than practitioners these days!

Always ask for advice from your manager in writing. My experience is there is no pull through no CPS and no one to interview. Target gets missed. Avoid the hit list by asking each case by case in written what you should do. Only an idiot would put you on the list.

Those lists make me feel like an idiot especially after seeing cases for the first time and completing an assessment within 24 hours only to find out I missed that target. I threw my arms In the air the other day in my managers room shouting 'WTF am I supposed to do'.

Paper ISP at induction is all we're managing!

We have been told that it only counts if it is a full pasts, that is signed and locked (NPS anyway). That is from the performance team. X

Just to clarify! The delius entries from partnership agencies are entered by a central CRC hub in our area. That makes me laugh as one recent case was allocated to me via a different CRC hub nearly 2 weeks after the CRC partnership hub had entered that initial DRR contact. Hubbadubdub I say!

As always massive inconsistencies in practice around the country - I have no idea why some areas can do paper ISP and others have to do full oasys!!

We're dealing with the standalone UPW cases, manage cases from the hub by phone whilst they're in another county. Which is challenging. Then there's the caseloads of 260 and the never ending breaches, my colleague had 22 in 3 days last week. And half of them are bound to be rejected by NPS. Gah!!

A hub from another country! Sounds like a sci-fi film title! Did you get a response, I never did so I'm looking to take cases back to Court due to an inability to cater for diversity.

Ok. I would do the basic to clear the 10 days target and set a review date to do the OASYS interview. You must do the review on time though. You must also use the start code on Delois outlining what you have done and the date you complete. Realistically you do not have 10 days. The assessment is run over night. We need to be smart.

That's interesting as well as being strategic. I'll discuss this approach with the team. Thanks.


So why is most of my time now spent taking people shopping, completing referrals to charities and contacting debt or housing agencies etc! I asked a year ago why CRCs had got rid of Engagement Workers that took this valuable but time consuming work on enabling practitioners to focus on behaviour and targets etc. No reply!

Totally agree have stopped doing Sheriff Recorder funds as I ain't got time to go shopping with clients.

I only do them for those showing progress rather than rewarding those who continue to reoffend.

This used to be a fund that specifically said was not to be disclosed to clients. Word gets out though and I often find myself saying 'what have you actually done that entails me seeking and supporting funding for you' I also find myself saying 'no you can't buy top range trainers!'

They've been told by prison staff that you probation officers will work wonders.

One of the most valuable support structures of the past few years was the introduction of Engagement Workers from User Voice. They worked the wonders that gave a realistic and generic approach to resettlement. So they were then dropped despite being a priceless resource to us practitioners.


Happy New Year!


The Sheriffs' & Recorder's Fund was born in the exciting days of social progress at the beginning of the nineteenth century. As with Elizabeth Fry later, it was the horrors of Newgate Prison, where prisoners had to pay for their own food and children lived with their condemned parents in filth and fear, which stirred the Sheriffs of the City of London into action.

In 1808, when public hangings were still taking place outside the debtors' door of Newgate, Sir Richard Phillips, of whom this portrait is in the National Portrait Gallery, and Alderman Sir Christopher Smith of the Worshipful Company of Drapers and later Lord Mayor of London, started a fund to help inmates and their families.

The Fund provided grants to enable prisoners and their destitute dependants to buy food, clothing, footwear, coal and candles. Later, emigration grants to begin a new life were added It was a remarkable philanthropic venture, way ahead of its time.

The first donors were all individuals, led by the Lord Mayor of London and the Bishop of Durham. Poor Boxes at the prisons were the forerunners of Life Governors, 200 Club donors, Legators and Livery Company Charity committees. All through its existence, the Fund has relied on the generosity of individuals and institutions in the City of London.

The first administrators of the Fund were the London Prison Chaplains and in 1828 trustees and a treasurer were appointed, but there are few solid records until the middle of the nineteenth century when in 1845 the Duke of Cambridge attended the first official fund-raising event, a dinner at the Mansion House. In 1846 the first donation by a Livery Company, the Cutlers, is recorded. The most consistent Livery Company supporter appears to be the Armourers and Brasiers, who have been giving since 1876.

The first annual report appeared in 1846 when the objectives of the Fund were described as ‘the temporary relief of the distressed families of persons in confinement; a temporary provision for persons who on being discharged from confinement have no means of present subsistence and habitation; the purchase of such tools, implements and materials as may be conducive to habits of industry in debtors and criminals’. Two hundred years on, the Fund’s mission is remarkably similar: training, tools, equipment and clothing to help ex-offenders find their feet and a way forward.

From the outset, the Fund recognised the innocence of prisoners’ dependants and the particular problems of women ex-prisoners whose family responsibilities limited their ability to earn; grants for mangles and sewing machines appeared regularly – the nineteenth century equivalents of washing machines and clothing.

The need for decent clothing was consistently supported. For example, in 1887 the Fund provided 284 hats, 106 skirts, 102 jackets, 120 bodices, 38 chemises, 54 pairs of stockings and 96 petticoats. During the Second World War under rationing secondhand clothing and blankets were available from the Fund’s office in the Old Bailey. 

As well as its close relationship with the City, over the past century the Fund has grown closer to the Law. In 1931 the Fund merged with the Recorder’s Fund for ‘assistance of cases on probation’. When the Old Bailey south wing was built in 1970, on the site of Newgate Prison, the Corporation of London generously gave the Fund the financial life-saver of a small office from which it still operates.

So, in its modern form, the Fund works mainly through the Probation Service. The two City of London Sheriffs and the Recorder of London are its Presidents and Vice-President, and the individuals and corporate bodies of the City of London its main supporters.

A remarkably consistent City institution, doing good in a fundamental way for over 200 years.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Probation 50's-style

Thanks go to regular contributor 'Getafix' for spotting that in late January 2017 Network are releasing on DVD the 12 oldest surviving episodes of the 1959 ATV drama series 'Probation Officer', with the complete episode above available to view on YouTube as a taster. I also notice that the pre-release price is £18. This from the Network website:-

An early hit for ATV, this absorbing, rigorously researched and very human drama series centres on the work of a team of probation officers based in London, and the lives of the men and women of all ages and backgrounds who come under their care. Drawing on the documentary skills of creator Julian Bond and produced by Emergency – Ward 10’s Antony Kearey, Probation Officer was broadcast at a time – a time when the service was increasingly coming into focus as a progressive response to rising crime.

Future Doomwatch star John Paul stars as newcomer Philip Main, alongside The Avengers’ Honor Blackman as Iris Cope, the team’s only female officer. Guests include Alfred Burke, Susan Hampshire, Charles Lloyd Pack, Richard Vernon and Peter Vaughan – while Earl Cameron and Lloyd Reckord star in a blistering tale of racism and intolerance which features one of the earliest interracial kisses ever broadcast on British television.

Probation Officer does not exist complete in the archive - this volume contains the twelve earliest surviving episodes from series one.


This from the Cherished Television website:-

Probation Officer began in 1959 on ATV (Associated Television) and ran until 1962. The hour-long episodes use a semi-documentary format and deal with the problems encountered on a daily basis by the probation service professionals. Three of the main characters in the series are, Philip Main (John Paul), Margaret Weston (Jessica Spencer), and Bert Bellman (John Scott).

John Paul stars as probation officer Philip Main from the very first episode broadcast in September 1959. Another regular cast member from the early days of the series is John Scott (probation officer Bert Bellman). Jessica Spencer (probation officer Margaret Weston) joined the series in the latter part of 1960. Also in the regular team is probation officer Steven Ryder(Bernard Brown).

The series embraces the work of various law enforcement agencies empowered to punish all types of crime and general law-breaking in the UK. The early series are set in and around an assizes court, with later episodes focusing on the juvenile court system, followed by the work carried out by the magistrate's courts. Although the series is intended as entertainment, it does wherever possible focus on important problems encountered not only by probation officers but also by the general public.

One of the episodes of Probation Officer is about a man who tries to assist a young lady who is receiving the unwanted attention of three young thugs on an underground train, but while the other passengers are held back the would-be knight-in-shining-armour is savagely beaten-up. As a consequence of his injuries the man loses his job because he is unable to work, thus illustrating the fact that although it is everyone's duty to be vigilant and help a fellow citizen if possible, if any injury is sustained in the process the government can give no financial assistance.

Probation Officer gained the unusual distinction for a television series by having one episode shown to a group of peers in the House of Lords. The life peer Lord Stonham described the series as "a valuable social service" and in a statement published in a television magazine during the original run of the series, Lord Stonham says "Probation Officer does not preach, because you would not listen. But, while you watch these fascinating stories of other people's troubles, you get a picture painted with pinpoint accuracy of our penal system and its fault." He continues "It [Probation Officer] plays a leading part in persuading the nation to try to make good citizens of those who would otherwise be lost and enables those who have broken the law and paid the price, to find themselves again."

The writer of the early scripts of Probation officer and creator of the characters Philip Main and Bert Bellman is Julian Bond. Before commencing work on the scripts, Julian Bond spent three months researching into exactly what the work of the probation service involves. Bond, who also wrote some of the later scripts for the series, visited courtrooms, met with probation officers and those in the officers' care. The character of Philip Main is a composite of several probation officers Julian Bond met in the course of his research.

Postscript 31/12/16

Sadly, it looks like Network have become irritated with the numbers of people looking at the free episode and have taken it off YouTube. Strange that - you'd think they'd be pleased with the free publicity and possible sales of the DVD.  

Saturday 24 December 2016

Happy Christmas!

Image result for smiths crisps
As you all know by now, this blog doesn't carry advertising, but if it did, these are probably some of the products and services I'd endorse. Have fun and enjoy the break. 
Image result for lucky numbers chocolatesImage result for lucky numbers chocolatesImage result for Woolworths UK imagesImage result for Party sevenImage result for zebo black grate polish imagesImage result for Witney Blankets imagesImage result for Cecil Gee imagesImage result for Tandy imagesImage result for Chelsea Girl imagesImage result for Hornby Dublo imagesRelated imageImage result for Bloater paste imagesImage result for Henekeys imagesRelated imageImage result for frog kits imagesImage result for Kwik Save imagesImage result for Freeman hardy willis imagesImage result for trust house forte images

Friday 23 December 2016

CRC Dispute Latest 19

Branch update

22 12 16

Dear members

Yesterday within the DDC CRC another notification was sent to all staff regarding new interventions facilitator job descriptions. The document is another attempt to get you to vary your current and actual job and job description and allow your role to be morphed into something none of us in the unions have had any chance to negotiate on your terms protections.

Napo have made it clear, despite those taking the option of the Working Links deficient offer and have resigned their roles are to leave shortly. Those of us to remain in our jobs have and will continue to protect our employment rights and terms. This means that NAPO and Union members should not be varying our contracts without proper negotiations through the Unions.

1 Trade union consultation on all new roles having been properly undertaken. This being part of the ongoing national dispute already.

2 The job evaluation process has been applied properly and in agreement with the trade unions. Napo are of the view any role in the organisation even under working links should attract the sort of pay variations DOWN that they are on record for suggesting.

3 This trick of directly attempting to get you to change your role is beyond the process of consultations with the Unions and we can remind you to not attend and just offer a standard reply if you are approached or coerced by anyone to attend these meeting or any separate and to follow E-Diary meeting which Is effectively a 1-1 “as a trade union member we are waiting the finalised position of the ongoing dispute issues. When the union leaders are satisfied they will signal our position in order to protect my transferred and existing terms and conditions under appendix B. For the disputed reasons alone I will not be taking part in matters that effectively will result in a variation of my contract position. If my role is to be changed then my current role has to be made redundant for me to be treated properly under the terms of my employment rights. The Unions have made this clear in the dispute.

4 The unions have been constantly avoided by HR senior management in order to avoid providing you with your full employment terms and rights. This meeting being offered is just part of the process to continue to undermine your terms. Ultimately to increase your working hours reduce pay and open to a massive loss of recognised core hours and appropriate payments structure.

5 Non-members have the same entitlements but we cannot speak for them directly. They should join Napo Now. Especially in light of the appalling terms of reference that Working links continue to peddle but we just could not accept.

6 In relation to Unpaid work staff this is a process that will impact heavily on what happens to your roles and as yet NAPO the Unions have not had any proper consultation on the working models for the new operations that they plan.

The Unions are clear the changes they want are going to involve more work and the promise of less pay with far less resources. What we are clear about is that this situation has to be addressed and yet all the process issues being referred by the working links and senior management have not been submitted to the unions in writing. Instead we are seeing the Management go directly to you and we are seeing these sorts of trickster approach to get around your Unions. They are adopting high pressure tactics in order to change your job and force new working practices upon you. None of which have been agreed or managed properly. None of which you have to accept, instead be resolute and just reject all matters that involve your jobs and changes that have not been agreed with the Unions.

Health and Safety Assessment

The Unions remain in dispute as the health and safety issues of workloads the weightings for role changes and the pay and terms of conditions are not being addressed at all by the fiasco of Working Links aggressive manner and deliberate avoidance of any real or meaningful process. The games playing they have engaged at the ACAS talks are incredible. Working links fail to adequately respond in a timely way avoid any proper response on written material allege all sorts of compliance with the due process but which are just total rubbish and run and hide in order to just drive on with their relentless time pressured approach to reducing your terms. The ridiculous position is that we might well have been able to see members paid properly under their terms of employment by seeking all volunteers across the whole staff group. Instead and now due to Working Links continued mis-management of the processes we have differential terms. Which we are making representations on. Staff who want to leave but cannot get their entitlements and staff who are in fear of continuing in a role given what the awful prospects look like under the current feelings of what is becoming a regime not a decent and certainly an unfair and disingenuous employer.

The General Secretary

While we are battling locally a moment of support to the GS Ian Lawrence. He has been a tremendous ally of the branch and a diplomat on the worst employer process we have ever experienced and will ever see. Worst in our opinion of all the privateers across the CRCs. There can be no punches pulled this lot, are out to destroy any recognition of what was probation and we have to stop this plain and simple!

The leadership from Ian has been a welcome asset and we appreciate his efforts in trying to get the management within Working Links to look properly at the mess they are making and the way they engage. Sadly they have not responded well to this and so Ian and myself have been in another lengthy legal case conference this week that will trigger more action early in the new year. Look out for our bulletins. The General Secretary Ian Lawrence will be publishing his message also today. Look out for this and to continue our research in the rise on year of the failing public safety record of Working Links in their dramatic climb of SFOs.

Napo are still reeling from the claim by Working Links who you will know are new to this arena of our work and our members. While they promote the language of “our people”. Shameful, when having not properly attempting to have brought many with them, instead choosing to push experienced colleagues through the door as fast as they can. This brain drain we are experiencing also saw them deduce that SFOs occurrences are greater in the summer months. A detail that has never escaped experienced practitioners! This massive TR revolution has produced devastation and wasted spending and generates pathetic observation from Working Links.

It is just as pitiful and we are sorry our members are being put through this, when it is so clear it will fail. The SFO issues continue and we want to ensure under the strictest confidence to continue to canvas your further concerns. Members you were surveyed by NAPO SSW Branch recently to inform us of your experiences. We used some of this shocking material in the ACAS talks and while Working Links asked for the details of which we could not have disclosed that material the results were shocking. It is this underlying fear that practitioners are experiencing that we should expose as well as the secreted numbers held back by Working links of the total within the CRCs and of the regions total SFOs detail. The General Secretary will be posting further on this. In the meantime please forward or contact me at any time on this issue and I will collate material and maintain your security. What Working links appear to do is hide, Napo does not.

Members we have your support given the meetings and the galvanised indications of the branch. Napo pledge to continue to make sure Working Links and their current abuses and employment failings are properly held to legal account as soon as our members suffer any consequences from Working Links dangerous asset stripping approach and pairing down to which reduces the services for the protection of public safety. Reducing the delivery of effective rehabilitation to service users that is something set to become extinct. Together by rejection of their plans we can protect your roles and your future.

It is year too much under the treatment of Working links let us hope that in 2017 someone in the MOJ Noms central sees some sense and takes the keys from them rather than expect these people to hand anything back.

Dino Peros Napo Branch Chair SSW
Cc Ian Lawrence General Secretary Napo.

Thursday 22 December 2016

CRC Dispute Latest 18

Dispute latest for all union members (and prospective members) in the Aurelius/Working Links owned Community Rehabilitation Companies

22nd December 2016


Over the last 12 months your trade unions have been pressing the employers to reconsider their disastrous strategy to reduce staffing by over 40% across the CRC estate and introduce an operational model that we believe is fundamentally unsafe and unfit for purpose.

This led the unions to register a dispute and approach the NNC Joint Secretaries which resulted in the recent intervention by ACAS. The other issues that have given rise to the breakdown in industrial relations have included:

The failure to implement the agreed redundancy policies before commencing staff reductions, which would have allowed for a transparent and structured approach to options that would avoid so many redundancies

The shambolic approach to the subsequent offer of enhanced voluntary redundancy to part of the workforce and a shabbily conducted and inferior voluntary severance scheme

A total lack of transparency as to why job cuts of this magnitude are considered necessary by Working Links Aurelius.

Secret deals between Aurelius and their bankers which we understand have been the main driver for achieving the 'end state' staffing figures.

The refusal by Aurelius/Working Links to work with us to challenge the Ministry of Justice's flawed payment by results mechanism and its impact on the weighted annualised volumes (WAV) formula which is also causing pressure on staffing numbers.

The suggestion that in fact it is the NOMS contract managers driving the staff reductions figure. If so this is a matter that stems from the original contract letting and MOJ NOMS will be held to account.

A dereliction of responsibility by employers to even the most basic health and safety requirements meaning that these are now part of the ongoing dispute and the subject of legal advice.


Despite the huge workload that ACAS are facing on a number of fronts at the moment, they have made every effort to try and engage with the parties, but the Unions have been repeatedly frustrated by the employers approach and their continuing failure to provide relevant information for the purposes of collective bargaining (direct negotiation) on these issues.

More recently, we have demanded that the employer demonstrate their commitment to provide a safe working environment by agreeing an upper limit for caseloads and have posited a number of questions and offered potential solutions that would help managers and staff to cope with the huge operational pressures that they are facing.

While we have this week received some statistical information that we asked for ages ago, none of it brings any comfort, or a sense that the unions concerns are being taken seriously. Worryingly, the latest figures on sick leave show a marked increase since the start of the year. Again, this is a health and safety issue for which the employers are clearly afraid of seeing public exposure. A new agreed approach to the working model will reduce the fears of staff or see them return to health. Meanwhile we await sight of the intended operational model.

It’s all about profit

The bottom line for companies like Aurelius who, we are told, purchased Working Links this year on the basis that they believed they would turn things round, is profit. This, and securing a foothold in the door for lucrative government contracts in other areas of the public sector.

Staff see regular portrayals of good news by senior management, but we have asked, not unreasonably, why there is such an unseemly rush to reduce staffing if they truly believe that new business is on the way. Aside from whether or not this turns out to be the case, it is a fact that Ministers have ordered a fundamental review of the CRC contracts (Probation System Review) and we know that the Prison reform programme will bring some opportunities for providers of probation services and that these factors should be considered before the employers seek to make further staffing cuts. Our concerns are that unless stipulations are clear over the use of new money or changes to the PbR formula then that will become profit as well.

Where next?

Whilst the trade unions have not ruled out further involvement with ACAS and have said that we will engage with management on health and safety issues in order to protect our members, we remain seriously disappointed at the disrespectful way in which we have been treated.

We intend to secure a meeting with the NNC Joint Secretaries and NOMS contract managers early in 2017, and are preparing our report which will provide a detailed chronology of the employers failings so far.

We have also been under some pressure from the media to give them information about the dispute, the consequences of reduced staffing and the direct impact on serious further offences across all of the areas covered by the 3 CRC's. We are considering these requests again, but have held back so far from public comment while we have been involved in ACAS talks and still await important information that would allow us to continue meaningful dialogue.

Protecting yourself 

Meanwhile, members are advised to take these 4 simple steps to protect your position while the dispute is still live.
  • Do not agree to take on work that is not part of your current job description 
  • Do not agree to a change in role unless this has been subject to job evaluation involving the unions
  • Enter all instances of a health and safety risk in the accident log or register these in writing with your line manager 
  • If you consider your caseload to be excessive register this in writing with your line manager 
Further work is currently underway on a number of issues that the unions are running past our lawyers regarding contract legislation and health and safety, and the unions will issue further advice to members as soon as we can into the new year.

The unions will also be organising a series of consultative meetings in the new year to report back on a number of issues and to test the mood of members to consider all the legal options as well as the possibility of further action in defending your jobs and services.

Meanwhile, we would like to wish all our members and their families as enjoyable a festive holiday as possible, and thank you for your continuing support for your Union in these very difficult times. If you are not already a member and are reading this bulletin then get in touch now so we can help to protect your interests as well.

General Secretary        Regional Organiser   National Secretary
Napo                             UNISON                    GMB/SCOOP

Some Christmas Messages

Dear Colleagues

As we come to the end of 2016, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your hard work, dedication and professionalism over the last 12 months. The last year has been challenging but your commitment and passion has helped us continue to deliver positive outcomes for service users across all three of our organisations.

As anticipated, last week’s HMIP report into North London was a difficult read for all of us. However, I’m pleased to say that everyone’s commitment to the delivery of the CRC’s Ambition 2020 Change Plan is beginning to take shape and I’m confident that, when the Inspectorate returns next year, London CRC will demonstrate further significant improvements, moving it closer to achieving its vision of being the best at reducing reoffending.

Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC) also recently received its Ofsted Report this month. Despite the significant changes that have taken place at the Centre since we took over earlier this year, the Ofsted Report highlighted many positive instances of good practice. For example, 93% of young people reported feeling safe at Rainsbrook. And, the fact that the STC retained its Ofsted status during this challenging period is a testament to the hard work of its staff. Their ongoing commitment will ensure Rainsbrook continues to be seen as the flagship STC in the eyes of the Youth Justice Board.

I’m delighted that Thames Valley CRC has retained its position within the top eight CRCs in the country as a result of some incredible teamwork and commitment. This is a great achievement and puts them in a strong position to start 2017, where I’ve no doubt that they’ll achieve their vision of being one of the top three performing CRCs in the country.

These achievements are only possible through your hard work and commitment. I recognise there is still a lot to do but I’m confident we have the right people and teams in place across all three organisations with the passion and drive to achieve our goal of reducing reoffending and rehabilitating service users.

Thank you for your dedication in 2016, I appreciate that some of you will continue to work throughout the Christmas period and I hope you find some time to relax and spend some quality time with your loved ones.

I once again would like to thank you for your hard work and commitment, and I wish you and your families a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Rich Gansheimer
Chief Executive MTCnovo


From Martin Davies, Interserve (Justice)

Hello Everyone

I just wanted to write a short email to say a huge thank you and wish you all a peaceful, restful and hopefully fun time over the festive period.

Obviously 2016 has had a fair few challenges, not least the difficulties we’ve had embedding the new ICT and the PSC processes, as well as losing some of our colleagues.

What will never cease to amaze me is the way everyone gets their head down and works to our values and goals. We all know the work we do has a hugely positive impact on our communities and the recent publication of the interim re-offending data validates the work you all do every day. Re-offending is reducing and that’s a testament to each and every one within the CRCs and our partners – well done all.

Undoubtedly 2017 will set us new challenges, but as we have seen in 2016 we will meet those head on together.

Thank you again for your tremendous work and I look forward to 2017 as we drive forward. I hope, over the festive period, you find time to relax and have fun.

Have a great one!


Dear Members,

The times they are a-changing? Not the song, but the ongoing issues we in Napo still face in both the CRC and the NPS. I've just read an old JNCC report from Christmas 2010 to Devon & Cornwall members and it appears to me that little much has changed. Other than removing a few points that are no longer relevant, substitute the Trust/Management for Working Links and many issues are still with us 6 years later - policy changes, pressures on budgets (ironic given the financial status of Aurelius and estimated profit from this deal) and threats to members roles both in the CRC and NPS. See the edited message below and know that we have not given up as you will have seen from the recent Branch Report 17 +.

Before you revel in the nostalgia of the 2010 report be assured that we will continue to fight for your employment rights and if you have kept up to date with the recent updates on ACAS you will be aware there is still a lot to do, and our intention is to see this through to the end. We will be going back to a meeting with the NNC Joint Secretaries in the near future as their still needs to be a conversation with NOMS Contract people, and don't forget that we are awaiting for a written outcome of the recent meeting with the representative from Thompson's.

On a last and important note thank you to all of you for your continued support and communications. We can not do this without you. Likewise I hope you will join me in thanking the Branch Exec who continue to support in the background and the Reps who are there to assist and support you when required. To say it has been an eventful year is an understatement but myself and Dino as your JNCC Reps are ready for any challenges the New Year may bring. It goes without saying that as Branch Chair Dino has continued to demonstrate his commitment to the members through his continued energy and dedication to defending your rights as employees, and I know from your many messages that this is much appreciated.

For the Dylan fans among you:

"Come senators, congressman
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway,
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's the battle outside raging
It'll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
Cause the times they are a-changing"



Denice James JNCC Rep


JNCC Reports Christmas message 2010

Dear members, 

Just as we approach the end of another year we in NAPO can just take a few moments to reflect on where we all are. Given all the news and changes proposed  from a government who  do not really have a  proper grasp of where are going and what will end up being.  The hybrid of public sector joining forces of competition achieving savings on the one hand whilst costing much more in real impact on our posts or security and the tax paying public for reducing risks.  That said we have the feeling in some quarters that the Trust should now act and behave more corporately in the spirit of commercial enterprise as it learns it way to manage budgets that are provided to fund staff properly. 

We are not fans of this in NAPO, it means the end of an approach that would always try to ensure better practices towards our members. We have policy changes and protections suspended to reflect increasing pressures on budgets and costings, although we feel the squeeze,  I can  report that some management supported by the board do not quite engage at the same level. There are too many legacy and new special arrangements or conditions of service for particular staff. A philosophy of equality that NAPO continues to instil and will need to ensure as the budgets will get tighter. No doubt these issues will surface more aggressively in 2011 if things progress to crisis point where our members roles are threatened. 

This is a marked year where we have continued to support a process of efficiencies which have been and remain directly related to preserve members jobs. We will continue to negotiate hurdles and savings that are committed to protect jobs. You will have read various branch reports that we have been putting out to remind NAPO members of meetings and the importance of unionism at these times. The risks of everything facing some review or re modelling.

The latest difficult news to manage is the current threat to Unpaid work. The tendering arrangements and plans to hive off public sectors workers on mass is just a start. The good news however, is that despite all the speedy talk of  action  by the summer and regionalisation with bids stacked against trusts in favour of partners from the commercial world, what is becoming increasingly clearer is the news that bidders do not have a proper awareness or understanding of the nature of the work we engage. 

The levels of difficulty that many offenders present are much more than a people management task, linked to time management exercise.  The belief of a computer cost profit analysis model makes UW a bidders bonanza. This is clearly flawed and we will be doing our best to fight for UW our members and work with trusts to bid for its ownership within probation protecting all colleagues. 

Members we have to consider the threat to us all whatever your role NAPO will act in solidarity with the wider trade union movement  to defeat the Condem governments failings and mis-understanding  of public safety.  

What is clearer, is that we will all need to start thinking of unity action more locally. Protesting at some time in the future will no doubt see balloting of views from members and we need to convey the right messages to those in control to protect safety and generate confidence in us and our work in probation as the only provider of choice for the ranges of work you deliver.

Moving on we see more opportunity for colleague members to apply for  voluntary redundancy.  We have also seen many staff leave in this way at the beginning of the year. To all those who have left and those in contemplation we wish you well and thank you for your support over the years and that the future you choose delivers what you want.  It is a point to remind us all though that the next round of accepted redundancies via voluntary application may not be awarded based on need of Trust. We watch these issues with interest. 

In the meantime those of us who remain to face the increasing workloads  with less time is a strain. We are at a point in the branch that we cannot see members continually taking new work  without relief. Members are suffering the piling up effect.  Napo does not have a recently established work return policy and so  we urge members not to accept work that increases  your feelings of stress through overwork. Foreseeability of your own stress is important. This is to avoid absence through work related sickness. Any further interest on this please contact anyone in the branch exec for further advice and signposting. Equally raise these matters formally and immediately with your line managers to action appropriately.

In the closing part of the year many of us turn our attention away from the additional scrutiny of the OMI. We in NAPO, have a keen interest in the results. These are due in February 2011. It will help us all gauge where we are as a service.  The work that has been delivered and the quality. It may have a significant impact on how we are structured facing the challenges of budget reductions and the policy changes outlined in the latest Condem governments green paper on justice services. We will not get into this here but draw your attention to NAPOs notice board on the intranet where it has been posted.  Your comments are welcome. 

In relation to you,  the members,  we will continue to manage the plethora of issues and cases that members need their union branch for. We remain on constant guard to protect and moderate where possible the worsening impacts of policy direction for NAPO and Unison colleagues in the collective spirit of unity. 

Napo appreciates the difficulties facing us all and continues to promote actions that draw attention to our issues. 

From here we just need to thank all our members for your support up to the end of this year, our executive members past and new. The branch officials for working in many cases above and beyond and to wish you all a pleasant and restful break whatever you may be celebrating or doing. We look forward to a better new year. 

Dino Peros  JNCC

Wednesday 21 December 2016

David Laws Loses Plot

Here we have disgraced former Liberal Democrat minister David Laws talking to the FT and failing completely to strike the right tone in relation to prison reform:- 

Prison service seeks top graduates with ‘SAS-style mindset’

A government-backed scheme to recruit top graduates directly into the prison service will begin operating in the new year, in an effort to ease the crisis in UK jails by attempting to raise the calibre of prison officers and boost staff numbers across the sector.

The programme, set up by the charity Unlocked, will allow participants to complete a masters degree over two years while working on the frontline under the mentorship of experienced prison officers.

But this is not a scheme for the faint-hearted. David Laws, the former Lib Dem minister who chairs Unlocked, said the charity would be looking for applicants with both a good academic record and an “SAS-style mindset” to enter one of the toughest careers in the public sector, combining the skills of counsellors, teachers, police officers and social workers.

“We need people who have got an appetite for challenge and strong sense of social responsibility,” he said. “Let’s face it: they will need to step up to the plate because the prison estate is a difficult place to work at the moment.”

In evidence to the Commons justice committee last month, Mr Gyimah acknowledged that across the country, prisons had become a “less desirable environment” to work in as attacks on staff have become more frequent. He cited the penchant of some offenders for “potting”, or throwing excrement at officers.

A report this summer into HMP Birmingham warned that the increased accessibility of psychoactive drugs meant staff were “concerned for their personal safety as well as for the safety of the prisoners”.

Mr Laws said despite stories such as these, the Unlocked programme had still received around 200 expressions of interest ahead of applications formally opening in January. He added that the scheme — which will start with 45 graduates in its first cohort next summer — will seek to raise the status of prison staff. “This isn’t about the cliché of a big, burly prison officer spending all their time on control and locking people up,” he said. “We know that we are never going to create a rehabilitation revolution unless we change the whole culture of prisons, including on the wings.”

After two years, participants will be given the choice of either continuing in the prison service or using their experience to join other organisations such as the Civil Service Fast Stream, Ernst & Young and PwC, all of which have lent their support. However, justice campaigners say the government needs to take more radical action if working in jails to be seen as a higher-status role.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said while it was great having “a few people coming into prisons with classics degrees”, requirements for education and training should be raised across the whole estate. “I have always argued that prison officers, like nurses, should have to do vocational degree courses,” she said. “It’s a very complex job which needs professional-level skills.”


Meanwhile, there's some interesting advice on offer for London Mayor Sadiq Khan on how to sort probation out on his patch. This from the CityMetric website:- 

How can Sadiq Khan fix London's struggling probation system?

London’s probation system is in trouble. Last week's damning report by the probation inspectorate found an alarming deterioration in provision in the capital, posing a serious risk to public safety. So what can mayor Sadiq Khan do to get probation back on track?

The core challenge for the mayor is that the current structure of the probation service leaves him with few direct powers to improve the quality of provision. Oversight, budgets, and commissioning powers for the most part lie with central government.

This is all the more problematic because it is clear that the issue with probation largely stems from the current nationally established structures. Dame Glenys Stacey, the Chief Inspector of Probation, was last week particularly damning of the work carried out by the London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), one of the new privately owned probation providers recently introduced by the government to rehabilitate low and medium risk offenders.

As many argued when the government was considering its reorganisation of probation, the new structures are proving wildly ineffective at reducing reoffending. The changes have added further complexity to an already fragmented system, by splitting probation into a National Probation Service for high-risk offenders and CRCs for low and medium risk offenders.

The current system is also too centralised: CRCs are nationally commissioned, so have little incentive to work together with other local services, many of whom hold key policy levers to reduce reoffending. Add to that problems with staffing, uncontrollable caseloads, and poor oversight, and it’s no wonder that the system is under strain.

As IPPR argue in our new report, the priority for Sadiq is therefore clear: he needs a deal with the Ministry of Justice to be granted new probation and prison powers from central government.

The obvious ideal solution would be for the mayor to be granted full commissioning powers over probation services, as he has suggested himself. But in the short term this is unlikely: the CRC contracts have only recently begun and last for a total of seven years. Short of an early termination of the London CRC contract by the government (which after this week’s inspection is not as far-fetched as it might sound), there is little hope of securing significant new probation powers before the end of this parliament.

But there is still plenty that can be done now. For inspiration, Sadiq should look to Greater Manchester, where there is considerable momentum towards a more devolved, innovative system. In particular, there are three things he can focus on in the short term.

First, as in Manchester, Sadiq can bid for the control of custody budgets for certain cohorts of offenders in London – particularly young and short-sentence offenders, given they have such high reoffending rates. While the mayor does not currently have control over probation, he does have a number of other policy levers to help reduce demand on the prison system – particularly as he sets London’s policing and crime priorities. Controlling these new budgets would allow any savings made from reduced demand to be reinvested in other ways to bring down offending rates, such as preventative service and alternatives to custody. He would also need to secure some upfront "transformation funding" to make sure there is some extra initial money to play with for these services, rather than just relying on savings to be made down the line.

Second, the mayor can argue for more powers over the youth justice system. The mayor should make the case to central government to break up Feltham Young Offender Institution into a range of smaller "secure schools" – a new type of secure accommodation for young offenders that puts education at the centre of provision. He should then bid for powers to commission places at secure schools for young offenders within London. This would allow for a far more joined-up approach at the local level between youth custody and probation (which is already devolved to local authorities).

Third, Sadiq should prioritise reform for women offenders. Women are significantly more likely to self-harm and develop mental health issues in prison, and many have dependent children. In many cases, custodial sentences cause more harm than good.

The closure of Holloway women’s prison in North London therefore provides an opportunity to rethink women offender provision, reduce the use of custody, and invest in more effective alternatives. Sadiq should make the case for some of the substantial savings from the closure of Holloway to be passed to City Hall, for them to be reinvested in a new women’s centre and a new approach to women offenders in London.

He can take a leaf out of Greater Manchester’s book: their "whole system approach" to female offenders has created an alliance between nine women’s centres for female referrals and has helped to share best practice, streamline reporting processes and facilitate closer partnership working.

But the mayor should not be limited to these three ideas: he should explore with the Ministry of Justice a range of options for London to be granted greater control over budgets and commissioning. This week’s report highlights the need for immediate action. There should be plenty of scope for London to secure a more locally driven, innovative, and joined-up approach to prisons and probation in the coming year.

Marley Morris is a research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Long Shadow of 2011 Riots

It's looking increasingly likely that history is going to record that it was the summer riots of 2011 and Justice Secretary Ken Clarke's response to them that set in train the crisis we now face in pretty much all parts of the Criminal Justice System. It sowed the seeds of the disastrous breaking up of the Probation Service; gave a boost to increasing prison numbers and set in train the waste of huge sums of government money on Louise Casey's 'Troubled Families' project. 

Of course this all happened during a period of austerity brought about by the 2008 banking crisis and the consequential cuts in government spending that had to be endured by the Prison and Probation Service. In a perfect example of what happens when experts are not listened to and false economies are instituted, we now face having to spend huge sums in order to try and reverse the havoc wrecked by some very bad political policy decisions that were supposedly designed to cure the problem, curry public support and save money. And just look where it's got us.  

Here's Ken Clarke writing in the Guardian in September 2011:-

Kenneth Clarke blames English riots on a 'broken penal system'

The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, has blamed the riots that swept across England last month on a "broken penal system" that has failed to rehabilitate a group of hardcore offenders he describes as the "criminal classes".

Revealing for the first time that almost 75% of those aged over 18 charged with offences committed during the riots had prior convictions, Clarke said the civil unrest had laid bare an urgent need for penal reform to stop reoffending among "a feral underclass, cut off from the mainstream in everything but its materialism".

Writing in the Guardian, Clarke dismisses criticism of the severity of sentences handed down to rioters and said judges had been "getting it about right". However, he adds that punishment alone was "not enough".

"It's not yet been widely recognised, but the hardcore of the rioters were in fact known criminals. Close to three quarters of those aged 18 or over charged with riot offences already had a prior conviction. That is the legacy of a broken penal system – one whose record in preventing reoffending has been straightforwardly dreadful."

He says: "In my view, the riots can be seen in part as an outburst of outrageous behaviour by the criminal classes – individuals and families familiar with the justice system, who haven't been changed by their past punishments."

Clarke uses his intervention to call for the coalition government to adopt a "renewed mission" in response to the riots that addressed an "appalling social deficit". His comments will reignite the debate on the causes of the disturbances, which the prime minister, David Cameron, has said "were not about poverty".


Five years later and there's now widespread acceptance that we have a crisis in the Criminal Justice System. Here's the latest blog post by Frances Crook of the Howard League:- 

The answer to the prison crisis is simple: less is better

Yesterday, Liz Truss made a statement and answered questions in Parliament following the riot in Birmingham prison.

She reiterated her plan to recruit more staff, although this will only replace a quarter of those who were got rid of by her predecessor-but-one. Other plans involve curtailing the use of mobile phones and testing for drugs. I believe her when she says she is primarily concerned about safety and that her aim is to make prisons places that provide a positive experience. Unfortunately, her plans are far too unambitious and will not have the desired effect.

It is worth looking back at how prisons got into this mess. Labour presided over an explosion in the use of prison, locking up the poor, the mentally ill and the annoying in ever greater numbers. It poured billions into building new prisons to cope with this human flood and invested in basic skills education. The money was never enough to deal properly with the torrent of humanity being crammed into jails but was just about enough to keep a lid on suicides and unrest.

Ken Clarke was genuinely shocked at the size of the prison population when he took over as Lord Chancellor in the Coalition government. He introduced measure to control the magistrates’ propensity to remand to custody and tried to improve regimes. Slowly, numbers went down.

Chris Grayling wanted to be seen to be tough. He closed prisons and crammed people into fewer establishments and drastically cut staff, both officers and managers. The result was an increase in violent assaults on prisoners and staff, an increase in self-injury and an increase in suicides. This year we have already surpassed the record number of people taking their own lives.

Michael Gove undid some of Grayling’s policies but, most importantly, he led a national conversation to try to get a consensus that prison should be a place for the few and even they could be redeemed. Meanwhile, prisons deteriorated.

Liz Truss has only been in the job for five months. She has a stark choice and she has, I think, made the wrong decision. It is simply not feasible to make prisons safe and purposeful by recruiting a few more staff. The only solution to the prison crisis is to have fewer prisoners.

The prisons are bloated with people who are serving excessively long sentences. There has, rightly, been concern about people who are years past their tariff on indeterminate sentences that were abolished years ago, but, there are thousands of others who are the victims of sentence inflation.

Liz Truss needs the support of the Prime Minister to deal with the prison crisis. She needs to reduce the number of people in prison and there are various technical routes to achieve this. But most importantly, she has to take advantage of the ground laid by Michael Gove and the public understanding of the crisis arising from the riots, murders and deaths. This is the time to take control and be bold. She should say she is going to reduce the prison population to what it was under Margaret Thatcher. By halving the number of prisoners, she could make prisons safe and purposeful and she could save public money.

We don’t need to squander more money on building ever more cesspit prisons. The answer to the crisis is simple: less is better.


Even the FT feels it's time to reduce the number of people incarcerated:-

Britain’s prisons are a national disgrace

The degree of civilisation in a society can be judged by entering its prisons, Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote in 1862. The Russian writer’s words apply directly to the UK, with its overcrowded and increasingly violent prisons. The spate of riots in institutions across the country suggests that the custodial system is close to meltdown.

Over the past 25 years, the UK’s prison population has exploded, doubling to more than 85,000 inmates. Yet staffing has been cut drastically and budgets have failed to keep pace, especially during the era of austerity after the financial crisis. The introduction of private sector-run prisons has not proved a panacea.

The riot at HMP Birmingham on Friday highlights how the authorities have lost control of their prisons. The disturbance, which spread across four wings of the dilapidated Victorian-era prison and involved 260 prisoners, took 12 hours to end. A team of “Tornado” prison guards, specially trained to deal with riots, had to be brought in to regain stability. More than 300 inmates have been moved out of the prison as a result of the damage.

The incident follows a violent outbreak at a prison in Bedford and a six-hour rampage at another in Lewes, East Sussex. These three events have one thing in common, according to the National Council of Independent Monitoring Boards: staffing shortages. Over the past five years, the number of prison officers in the UK has been cut by 31 per cent. The result is that prisoners are being kept in their cells for up to 23 hours a day — a recipe for boredom, frustration and violent conduct.

Liz Truss, the justice secretary, has acknowledged that the dire state of Britain’s prisons is a longstanding problem which will not be solved in a matter of weeks or months. Her response has been to unveil a major investment programme, delivering 2,500 extra prison officers, greater autonomy for prison governors and tougher drug checks (a reflection of how prisoners have compromised security in many prisons).

These reforms are welcome, particularly the much-needed recruitment drive. Unless the government wishes to embark on a significant prison building programme — bear in mind that it is to date seeking planning permission for two new prisons only — something drastic must be done. The answer is a reduction in the prison population.

This may be anathema to law-and-order Conservatives, but Michael Gove, the former justice secretary, has set out a blueprint for reform. In a recent lecture, he said: “Overcrowded prisons are more likely to be academies of crime, brutalisers of the innocent and incubators of addiction rather than engines of self-improvement.”

For too long, successive British governments have focused on punishment rather than rehabilitation in prison. Ever since Michael Howard, the hardline former Tory home secretary, declared in 1993 that “prison works”, sentences have been more severe and conditions have deteriorated.

Mr Gove correctly observed that prisons should focus on detaining the most dangerous criminals. The protection of the public should count far more than the misguided clamour for heavier custodial sentences. If prisoners demonstrate good conduct and self-improvement in prison there is no reason why the nature and length of their sentence could not be commuted in the public interest.

The state of British prisons today is intolerable. It is time for a fresh approach. Ms Truss must show she is up to the job. Without action, the prisons and the public will be condemned to further cycles of violence.


Meanwhile, here's the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies covering the scandal of Dame Louise Casey's Troubled Families project:- 

Reaction to damning troubled families report

The publication by the influential House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of a report into the Troubled Families Programme is 'a complete dressing down' for the Government, the Centre's Deputy Director has said. His comments came in advance of a summit the Centre is holding next month to assess the purpose and impact of the controversial Troubled Families programme.

The main criticisms of the programme and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) are:
  • False claims were made about the success of the programme, including the claim that the 99 per cent of families had been 'turned around'.
  • The claim that the scheme had saved net £1.2 billion was not true, as it did not account for the costs of delivering the programme.
  • The payments by results aspect of the programme 'risks incentivising quantity over quality' according to the PAC chair, Meg Hillier.
  • There was a self-evidently perverse incentive for local authorities to claim success, based on the manipulation of national datasets.
  • The DCLG had been 'evasive' when explaining the reasons for the one year delay in publishing the commissioned evaluation of the programme.
  • The DCLG 'was unable to provide assurance... that it would be able to evidence a statistically significant impact of the programme in the future'.
The Centre's deputy Director, Will McMahon said:
This report is a complete dressing down for those, in Downing Street and Whitehall, who commissioned and led the development of the 'troubled families' programme. In Parliamentary terms, it is about as damning as it gets. The whole programme was born of a shotgun marriage between the need for a government response to the 2011 riots, following the financial collapse and austerity, and the desire to point the finger at the usual suspects. The only mystery is why the PAC did not call for the whole programme to be binned given that there is no evidence that it has had, or will have, any positive impact whatsoever.

This from Civil Service World website amply demonstrates just how sneaky government is in trying to cover up the bad news:- 

DCLG blasted over Troubled Families report delays and "tick box" approach

The Public Accounts Committee has said it was “unacceptable” for an evaluation of government’s Troubled Families programme to be published over a year after the communities department received a draft copy.

The Troubled Families programme was launched by ministers in 2012 before being granted a £900m extension in 2013, and sees central government give councils up to £4,000 to identify and "turn around" families with entrenched social problems including unemployment, domestic abuse and truancy.

A evaluation of the programme, commissioned by the department in 2013, “was unable to find consistent evidence that it had any significant impact at this stage,” according to a Public Accounts Committee report published on Tuesday.

This evaluation was due to be published in late 2015, and the department received a draft version in October 2015. But DCLG did not publish a final version until October 2016, although part of the report was leaked to the BBC in August 2016.

The report describes this delay as unacceptable, and also criticises the department for choosing short-term measures to track a programme aimed at tackling deep-rooted social problems. Committee chair Meg Hillier said of this focus on short-term measures: "A tick in a box to meet a prime ministerial target is no substitute for a lasting solution to difficulties that may take years to properly address."

Hillier was also clear that officials should not consider the MPs' comments on the delay in publishing the evaluation as a simple “slap on the wrist about Whitehall bureaucracy”.

“Let me assure them that given the ambitions for this programme, the implications for families and the significant sums of money invested, it is far more serious than that," she said. "But it is particularly important with a new initiative that there is transparency so that the government can learn and adapt the programme. The department has undermined any achievements the government might legitimately claim for its overall work in this area.”

The report adds: “The department was evasive when explaining the reasons for this delay, furthering the impression that government is reluctant to be open and transparent about the Troubled Families programme."

A spokesperson for the government said the programme had "enabled local authorities to expand and transform the way local services work with families". But of course, there will always be lessons to learn and we have already made significant improvements to the second stage of the programme," they added. We will look carefully at the evidence to find out how we can improve the programme further to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”

DCLG perm sec Melanie Dawes told MPs at an evidence hearing earlier this year that the delay in finalising and publishing the report was due to concerns about data quality. An independent academic was commissioned to review the work before it was published.

The department also told MPs that the evaluation was an ambitious piece of statistical analysis that had not previously been attempted, and that evaluators had to work with poor quality data because the programme was still in its early stages.

The National Institute for Economic and Social Research, which led work on a part of the evaluation looking at the national impact of the programme, disputed both of those assertions. 

The evaluation had six strands which looked either at financial benefits, national impact or changes in the delivery of services to troubled families. Although it found no consistent evidence that the programme has had any significant impact so far, there was evidence of good practice stemming from the programme, including changing the way local authorities work with families and allowing them to support more people.

There was also evidence that families taking part in the programme were more confident, reporting that they felt better about their lives and the direction they were taking. However, the evaluation could not directly link these improved outcomes to the Troubled Families programme, and the department was not able to assure the committee that it would provide evidence of a significant impact in the future.

The report also urges the department to review its payment-by-results mechanism, after the evaluation found evidence that the framework incentivised local authorities to move families quickly through the programme “without providing the support necessary to tackle deep rooted problems.” There were also reports that some authorities had used national databases to identify families who had experienced positive outcomes and retrospectively define these as ‘troubled families’ in order to claim payments.

The committee also criticised DCLG for its use of the term “turned around” when discussing results of the programme, saying this was misleading “as the term was only indicative of achieving short-term outcomes under the programme rather than representing long-term, sustainable change in families’ lives".

MPs said that in future DCLG “should ensure that the terminology it uses to communicate the achievements of the Troubled Families programme gives an accurate depiction of how disadvantaged families make progress”.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Whatever Happened To TTG?

Oh look, Parliament discovers Chris Grayling's promised support for released prisoners under TR and called 'Through the Gate (TTG) was just a load of bollocks after all:- 

Former offenders face "cliff edge" in support when leaving prison

The Work and Pensions Committee report says former offenders leaving prison face a "cliff edge" drop off in support offered to help them re-enter normal life and find work, and that even while in prison, education and employment support are fragmented and good practice is "patchy and inconsistent".

Read the report summary
Read the report conclusions and recommendations
Read the full report

Failure of rehabilitation or reoffending prevention

The Government's own assessment of the prison system is that it fails to rehabilitate criminals or prevent them from reoffending, and the cost to the taxpayer of reoffending stands at around £15 billion per year in the criminal justice system alone.

Ministers admitted in evidence to the Committee that there is no one person in Government who has responsibility for helping prison leavers into work, and the Committee says there is no clear strategy for how different agencies, in different prisons, should work together to achieve the common goal of getting ex-offenders into work.

Job-ready ex-offenders potentially dismissed by JCP as hard cases

Early reports on the Government’s new "Through the Gate" service paint a disappointing picture: in researching resettlement services for short-term prisoners HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons did not encounter a single prisoner who had been helped into employment by Through the Gate provision.

Following the end of day one mandation to the Work Programme, an increasing number of ex-offenders will rely on Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Work Coaches for employment support, and the Committee is concerned at evidence that even ex-offenders who are job-ready and keen to work may be dismissed by JCPs as hard cases.

Committee recommendations

The Committee says:
  • all prisons be required to demonstrate strong links with employers, including local businesses
  • all prisons should be required to offer workshop courses, apprenticeships or similar employment opportunities with real employers
  • all Jobcentres should have a specified person who specialises in helping ex-offenders into employment
The move to allow payment of Jobseeker's Allowance on day one of a prisoner's release is welcome: DWP has offered no explanation why claims for Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit cannot also be made in prison and paid on day one of release, and the Committee says they should be.

One in two employers wouldn't consider hiring an ex-offender

The Committee applauds the efforts of employers like Timpson and Virgin Trains who recognise the benefits of employing and supporting ex-offenders, but 50% of employers would not even consider offering any ex-offender a job. Employers need to be encouraged to change their recruitment practices, and incentivised to do so.

The Committee says Government should pilot a reduction in National Insurance contributions for those employers who actively employ ex-offenders. DWP should develop practical guidance to help employers recruit ex-offenders. This should include information on spent and unspent convictions and should challenge misconceptions regarding employing ex-offenders.

"Ban the box" should be extended to all public bodies

The Committee welcomes moves to "ban the box" - to remove the initial criminal record disclosure section on job applications - for the majority of civil service roles and says it should be extended to all public bodies, with exclusions only for roles where it would not be appropriate. Ban the Box does not oblige employers to hire ex-offenders but it increases the chance that they will consider them. The Government should also consider a statutory "ban the box" for all employers.

Chair's comment

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"It seems to us that former prisoners trying to make a new life for themselves walk over a cliff edge when they walk out the prison door. We have known for decades that finding a home and finding a job are absolutely central to preventing re-offending, which costs the criminal justice system alone £15 billion a year. That is without even beginning to factor in the costs of benefits, healthcare and the human cost of people struggling to reintegrate into society and going back to a life a crime. Yet Members of this Committee have assisted constituents with first-hand experience of failures in rehabilitation: individuals leaving prison with a no fixed accommodation, no financial support and no prospect of finding work. Turned out often literally onto the street with a £46 resettlement payment, weeks to wait for most benefits and little meaningful help in or out of prison to make the transition into work, it is no wonder people who have served their time and want to make a new start are reduced to desperation, and feel no alternative but to return to crime.

Government has announced it will publish a new strategy in early 2017 for getting more ex-offenders into employment and this marks welcome progress. Former offenders who have served their sentence and want to change their lives deserve a second chance. Prisons, the Government and employers all have a responsibility, and an interest, to help them take it."


This section fills in more of the detail:-

Transition into the community

The Government recognises the importance of smooth transitions and in May 2015 it introduced Through the Gate provision. These services are provided by Community Rehabilitation Companies and should include support with finding employment, securing accommodation, finance and debt advice and help for victims of domestic abuse. Early reports on Through the Gate services, however, paint a disappointing picture. All too often prisoners face a cliff edge in support once they reach the prison gate. In researching resettlement services for short-term prisoners HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons did not encounter a single prisoner who had been helped into employment by Through the Gate provision.

Following the end of day one mandation to the Work Programme, an increasing number of ex-offenders will rely on Jobcentre Plus (JCP) Work Coaches for employment support. We have seen some evidence of good practice but the quality of JCP support is not consistent. It is unacceptable for ex-offenders who are job-ready and keen to work to be dismissed by JCP as hard cases. All Jobcentres should have a specified person who specialises in helping ex-offenders into employment. Ex-offenders who are ready to work should also have access to the Work and Health Programme on a voluntary basis.

Timely payment of a prisoner’s correct benefit entitlement can help to alleviate financial pressure and can discourage reoffending. The move to allow payment of Jobseeker’s Allowance on day one of a prisoner’s release is welcome. We recommend that claims for Employment Support Allowance and Universal Credit also be made in prison and paid on day one of release.

Information is fundamental to good policy. We are astonished by the current lack of data on employment for prison leavers. Community Rehabilitation Companies should be required to track the outcomes of the prisoners they resettle, including whether they have helped them into work.