Friday 31 March 2017

Latest From Napo 142

Here we have the usual Friday blog post from Napo General Secretary:-


To say it’s been an interesting and full on week for Napo is a bit of an understatement. We have some important news to announce for NPS members shortly about the conclusion of the negotiations on the Maternity policy and harmonisation package which are now with the Probation Negotiating Committee for their views.

On Tuesday I gave oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee (JSC) hearing into Transforming Rehabilitation along with Unison, which was the second slot in a session which also featured the Probation Institute and witnesses from the DTV and Thames Valley CRCs.

Here is the link: (you can skip to the union slot at about 10:11 in the stream).

As I have found during previous appearances before this and other Committees such as the Treasury Select and Public Accounts, you can prepare all that you want but there are always ‘curve ball’ questions waiting to happen.

Our members will judge for yourselves as to how effective the unions were in getting the key points across, but the feedback has been extremely positive, and of course I will be writing to Committee Chair Bob Neill to follow up on our contribution which was the culmination of our considerable efforts to engage with as many of the individual JSC members as possible over the past few months.

We now await the publication of the Probation Service Review and it’s hoped that the JSC will want to delve into the recommendations that will come with this. More news about this soon.

Given that Brexit and the aftermath of last week’s atrocity in Westminster dominated the news it was welcome to see the Daily Mirror manage to give the JSC some coverage along with yet another story about G4S and their dodgy electronic tags.

Here is the link to that and the Ministerial statement

Statement to Parliament: Justice update

Goodbye NOMS

It will take some time for the new HMPPS logo to become established but as from next week NOMS will officially no longer exist.

All conventional wisdom suggests that the original concept of NOMS has failed to bring about the wholesale reform to the prisons and probation components of the criminal justice system that it was created for. We all live in hope that the Ministerial commitments to do something about the prisons crisis and the state that Grayling has left Probation in are real, and don’t just join the pile of meaningless waffle that have come from countless former Secretaries of State.

Pay problem in MTC Novo

Dean Rogers and Yvonne Pattison responded quickly to a number of enquiries from worried members this morning Friday that they had not been paid this month.

I am assured that the issue is being addressed with some urgency by senior MTC management who have assured us that they will be contacting all staff to update them and that support will be offered.

Napo’s experience from supporting members in similar situations elsewhere has been that banks and building societies are much more understanding if organisations fail to pay staff than may have historically been the case, nevertheless we expect the situation to be resolved quickly.

What’s Napo doing?

Another excellent edition of our online Journal Napo Quarterly can be accessed through this link

If our current members and those who are thinking about joining or re-joining want to see a comprehensive digest of the various things we are trying to do across the 24 employers then this is as good a summary as it gets.

Lots going on even as I write this so do look out for more news on a host of issues over the course of next week.

More Trouble With Tags

Here's the Independent on an embarrassing admission by the MoJ:-

Minister admits G4S electronic tags may have wrongly sent people to prison

Ministers have been accused of a “colossal blunder” after admitting people may have been wrongly sent to prison due to faulty electronic tags being used to monitor offenders.

It emerged on Tuesday that straps securing the tags can incorrectly trigger alerts, suggesting they have been tampered with and making it seem as if those wearing them are illegally trying to remove them. Tests indicated that more than 100 of the G4S devices are defective, but officials tried to play down the gaffe by saying that if anyone had been wrongly incarcerated, the number was likely to be small.

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah admitted however that there is a chance that some “enforcement action” might have been taken against an offender or suspect in response to a false report of tampering. He said: “It does not mean an individual will have been automatically sent to custody. A single tamper alert without any additional evidence of an escalation of risk is likely to result in an alternative outcome, such as a warning letter. So it is unlikely that a first tamper on its own will result in an offender being recalled."

The Liberal Democrats said the episode was a “colossal blunder”, while the Government insisted there was no risk to the public.

MoJ staff notified Electronic Monitoring Services (EMS), which provides the electronic monitoring service, of an increase in the number of alerts raised when equipment worn by an offender or suspect is tampered with. This was investigated by EMS and G4S, which supplies straps and electronic tags used to monitor offenders and suspects who have a curfew as part of their sentence or bail. At the end of last month, G4S informed the ministry of an issue with faulty straps.

Mr Gyimah said: "We understand that the number of affected straps is small. Only straps that have entered the system since October 2016 are affected. This is the point at which the batch of potentially faulty straps entered circulation. G4S has been testing straps. That testing indicates that around 1 per cent (115) of the 11,500 straps in use today are faulty. If no tampering with the tag has been registered, they have operated as normal. Where a strap is faulty, however, there is a risk that it could incorrectly register that somebody has tampered with it.”

He stressed that the monitoring functions of the tags themselves are not affected and the security features within them have been working correctly and that “therefore, there has been no risk to the public”.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called for an urgent review, saying: "People may have been wrongly sent back to prison because of this Government's sheer ineptitude."


David Raho writing on Facebook:-

The EM technology G4S uses is fairly old and therefore tried and tested in the field. It is fairly reliable under normal use and when manufactured to the specification required.

It looks as if the current problems were due to manufacturing faults in a couple of batches of the bands that attach to the tag. These have anti tampering measures built in and if faulty can give false alerts indicating evidence of a tampering event or an attempt at removal. This is apparently a fairly rare fault.

This is, however, a serious matter as the decision can be made that someone is in breach for apparently interfering with the tag and they could ultimately find themselves in custody facing technical evidence that might appear to be reliable when it is in fact not.

Thursday 30 March 2017

Prisons and Courts Bill 4

In a roundup of prison reform news, here is Grace Wyld of the New Philanthropy Capital complaining in the Guardian that, just like probation, the third sector is being sidelined by the MoJ:-  

Privatising prisons won't stop reoffending. Charities will

Last Monday, the prison and courts bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons. Under the proposed reforms, prisons will have a statutory duty to rehabilitate offenders. You might be surprised this isn’t already the case; it is a reform long overdue.

But the justice secretary Liz Truss will struggle to realise this ambition to put rehabilitation at the heart of prisons without better involving the voluntary sector.

Truss told the House of Commons: “I am determined that we will do what we can to protect innovative schemes such as Storybook Dads, a charity that works to maintain ties between prisoners and their children.” Storybook Dads do fantastic work helping parents in prison to make bedtime story CDs and DVDs for their kids, but Truss’s statement raises two concerns.

Firstly, this is a prime example of paying lip service to the sector. The words “charity”, “voluntary sector” and “third sector” appear not once in the 65-page white paper, published last November, which forms the basis of the Prison and Courts bill. This is curious, since Truss opens the report by quoting the nineteenth-century reformer and philanthropist Elizabeth Fry. It is another friendly, nostalgic and frankly dismissive wave to the sector. It’s all too easy to signal good intentions by referring to historical figures, rather than actually acknowledging how much charities do to sustain the prison service today.

The sector has learned from experience that supportive statements from politicians don’t lead to any actual support on the ground. In 2014 the probation system was overhauled and restructured into “transforming rehabilitation” contracts. These contracts essentially outsource probation to the private and voluntary sectors in huge contracts which could last up to 10 years, with payment by results. Although the then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, encouraged charities to bid for these contracts, their time and money was largely wasted: not a single charity who bid to lead a contract was successful. One charity that was named in nine of the 11 winning bids was never actually approached to do a day’s work. They were clearly “bid candy” to strengthen a private sector company’s bid.

“I’m not sure if this is the Titanic or the iceberg, but it is one of the two,” one national charity that has been working to rehabilitate prisoners for almost 30 years told us. Many grassroots organisations are being exploited by contract winners for their local knowledge without being paid. Meanwhile, some independent funders are withdrawing funding from criminal justice entirely, concerned that they might be subsidising state and private sector profits.

My second frustration with Truss’s passing comment is that “innovation” has become something of a fetish. Government and funders constantly want the new and shiny, even though it is well evidenced that some traditional approaches — like peer support — just work. Innovation for innovation’s sake can be harmful.

At New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), we have been researching the role of charities in criminal justice, and our report, published today, demonstrates how charities are fundamental to the effective functioning of our justice system. Charities are able to form a distinct relationship with people involved in crime, one built on trust and made possible in part because of their independence from the state or corporate interests. And they stick around for as long as it takes; charities are not driven by profits or meeting short-term targets.

As part of NPC’s research I visited a prison with one such charity, User Voice, to see their prison council elections in action. It is a simple programme, designed to help prisoners feel they have a voice and increase their involvement in the prison community. I spoke to prisoners campaigning for parties they had themselves shaped, on issues such as safety, time spent in cells, education and even the state of the toilets. And they were encouraging prison officers – who would later be turning the key on their cells – to vote too.

You could feel the environment becoming a more conducive one for reform and rehabilitation. These elections were designed in the first instance by the charity, but the organisation and ownership of the scheme was quickly passed down to the residents, staff and volunteers who made it happen. Prisoners were empowered and trusted to take responsibility for their community. As far as I know, initiatives like this are unique to the charity sector.

Later in the afternoon a town crier announced the results while residents listened from their cells. Many reacted with thunderous applause by banging on the heavy metal doors: over 70% of the prison population had cast a vote.

One of the greatest assets of a charity working on the frontline is their service users: experts by experience, they should be front and centre of rehabilitation programmes. In fact, the majority of employees at User Voice are ex-offenders themselves. Shutting charities out of contracts designed to reduce reoffending is an enormous missed opportunity.

Certainly, charities must try to evaluate their impact, not least by using the Justice Data Lab to learn more about their effect on reoffending. And commissioners should choose services based on evidence of impact rather than the lowest possible cost. But government must also provide more data on the charitable activity that is actually happening on the ground in prisons and in communities across the country. They have been asked repeatedly for more transparency on this.

It is not often that a government bill offers such a clear opportunity for the charity sector. Now Truss must back up her rhetoric with action. If she does not, it cannot be taken for granted that charities will always be there to pick up the slack.

Grace Wyld is a researcher at New Philanthropy Capital, whose new report on voluntary sector organisations in criminal justice can be read here.


Again in the Guardian, we learn that plans for 'reform' prisons are not going smoothly:-

HMP Wandsworth governor leaves after failure of idea to give duties to prisoners

The governor of Britain’s biggest prison has left his job after the failure of radical plans to allocate some officers’ duties to prisoners, the Guardian has learned.

Ian Bickers had been the governor of Wandsworth prison, one of six to be selected by then justice secretary Michael Gove last summer for “reform prison” status. Three months ago Bickers told MPs about his plans to allow prisoners to be trained to deal with low-level administration work, leaving officers free for more important functions.

However, prison sources say that most of the “peer advisors” have been kept locked in their cells, and trainers from the charity St Giles Trust have been left sitting in empty classrooms as a result.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson confirmed Bickers’s departure from the prison but said he was being appointed to a “more senior position” within HM Prison and Probation Service and congratulated him on his new role. The spokesperson denied that his departure was to do with the fate of the planned changes.

Of the 50 prisoners recruited to be peer advisors – nicknamed “the purple army” after their purple tops – just 15 have been partially trained since September. Wandsworth staff say the problem is due to staff shortages in an overcrowded jail. St Giles Trust acknowledged that so far it had encountered difficulties in gaining access to trainees. Chief executive Malcolm Walker described the situation as “challenging, with the focus on those prisoners we can access”.

Prison sources say the prisoners could not be brought for training because they were mostly located on the five main wings at Wandsworth, which are on virtual lockdown for most of the day. Dave Todd, a member of the Prison Officers’ Association national executive committee for London and Kent, said staff were sometimes forced to curtail prisoner activities but only do so for safety reasons. He said Wandsworth was particularly affected by staff shortages and unavailability of existing staff through sickness.

“We need increased recruitment and retention of staff before we can properly deliver the service the prison system and the public deserve,” he said.

The staffing situation at Wandsworth has wider consequences for prisoners there. Documents seen by the Guardian show that the numbers of new prisoners at Wandsworth completing basic induction processes – including tests for basic maths and English – are falling dramatically, with the proportion completing the process dropping from 49% to 21% between last June and November, and further falls expected.

The prisoner-on-prisoner listener scheme, facilitated by Samaritans, is also affected, with many of the trained listeners located on the main wings where movement is strictly curtailed.


Finally, Guardian readers vent their feelings:-

Justice secretary shows contempt for prison experts

Yet again, we have a justice secretary demonstrating contempt for both experts and any other commentators who know what they are talking about over prisons and prison policy (Truss to announce four new supersized jails, 22 March). Titan prisons, first so dubbed by then justice secretary Jack Straw (no party political point, this), are the very reverse of the way forward.

Alan Travis rightly cites Lord Woolf in his seminal 1990 report and Peter Dawson of the Prison Reform Trust. This time even the Labour opposition has it right: shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon identified the blindingly obvious truth that larger prisons alone merely demonstrate an ever-greater capacity to shrug off the crying need for a drastic reduction in prison numbers. Locking up ever more of our on the whole non-violent, inadequate, disturbed and disadvantaged population is a non-policy of “out of sight, out of mind”. The damage to the very fabric of our society stares us practitioners in the face every single day.

The sole beneficiaries of this further overdosing on the wrong medicine would be the profit-hungry mega-companies to which the construction, containment and other services entailed would assuredly be outsourced should this justice secretary get her way. Over this issue if no other, come back, ex-justice secretary Michael Gove: all is forgiven.

Malcolm Fowler Solicitor and former chair of the Law Society’s criminal law committee
Tipton, West Midlands

The government also claims that the four new mega-prisons – ostensibly justified as a way to modernise the penal estate and reduce prison over-crowding – will generate financial investment and increase security for the surrounding communities. There is little evidence for this latter claim, but plenty indicating that a new prison is likely to be harmful to local people.

Prisons are warehouses for people with mental health problems. Problematic drug usage is reportedly at epidemic levels in prisons. A new prison increases demands on the NHS, so inevitably leads to a deterioration in existing health services for local people. A new prison also results in more children left without fathers or mothers, more elders left without carers, and other members of the family, such as partners, suffering financial hardships. And, rather than reducing fear of crime locally, prisons increase the public’s sense of insecurity.

Given the historic failings of prison to meet its rehabilitation goals, the current tightening of government budgets, and the fact that England and Wales now have the highest imprisonment rate in western Europe, the most rational solution to overcrowded prisons is to radically reduce the prison population.

Instead of building new mega-prisons, the government should be aiming to deliver social security by ensuring that all people in our society have access to decent healthcare, housing, education and jobs.

Dr David Scott, 
Bury, Greater Manchester

The news that this government plans to create 5,000 new prison places should bury any pretence that Elizabeth Truss is concerned to introduce positive prison reforms. The prisons and courts bill abandons the commitment in the Prison Act 1952 and Prison Rules 1999 that the aim of prison is to “encourage and assist” prisoners to “lead a good and useful life”, and replaces it with a duty to “prepare prisoners for a life outside prison”.

It is not to imply that prisons ever succeeded in this to suggest that the function is considerably reduced rather than expanded in the wording of the bill. Prisoners will be “skilled” to work in a low-wage, zero-hours and zero-rights economy and governers, given control over their budgets, will be audited on their success. Out will go any pretence of arts or education as an end in itself for prisoners. What governor would be brave enough to replicate the arts programme of the special unit of HMP Barlinnie in the 1970s, when their success will be measured, as Liz Truss states, on developing “education and training to match the skills and qualifications prisoners need in the local labour market”?

It’s easy enough to see what would actually be required to help most of the people doing jail time to turn their lives around – decent jobs, decent housing and decent rehab facilities would help most of the people doing jail time to turn their lives around. That they are not available is a product of coherent design, not unhappy accident. Our jails are full because the most vulnerable have been left as flotsam on the tide that’s carried the rich to new highs. All the proposed “reforms” offer is greater numbers banged up, with a McJob as a measure of their rehabilitation.

Nick Moss, London

Wednesday 29 March 2017

We Were Right

The Justice Committee have completed taking evidence into the TR omnishambles and we must now wait and see what cunning plan the MoJ come up with in order to explain handing over vast amounts of additional cash to the failing CRCs. Here's what Rob Allen makes of it so far:-

I Told You So

American novelist Gore Vidal described ‘I told you so’ as ‘the four most beautiful words in our common language’. But for those of us who predicted it, there has been little pleasure in seeing the debacle of probation privatisation laid bare in front of the Justice Committee during its short inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) that wound up this morning. It’s a shame the Committee has not done a fuller investigation. As with the MoJ Probation review, no written evidence has been invited. Perhaps both Ministry and Committee knew the horror story they would get-and the fact that the plot had all been told in advance.

So badly botched are either the contracting or management arrangements that the private community rehabilitation companies complain simultaneously that they have too few cases and that caseloads are unmanageably high. One CRC director gave ‘a wrong kind of snow’ type explanation for this but it’s hard to have much sympathy - unless that is, the private sector was actively misled by the MoJ – (a serious allegation made today which should be investigated). After all, one of the alleged benefits of privatisation is that it can transfer risks (such as changes in demand for services) from the government to the private sector.

But less than two years into the seven year TR programme, the contracts are having to be reviewed and presumably money found to bail out the multinational corporations that run most of the CRCs. Did anyone seriously believe that with the same overall budget, the new Probation and CRC set up could be expected to supervise and rehabilitate 25 per cent more offenders than the Probation Trusts they replaced? The result is that the through the gate supervision of short term prisoners post release – the supposed jewel in the crown of TR- according to one witness amounts to “£46 and a leaflet”, compared to just £46 previously.

Despite that reality, a witness told the Committee today that courts are imposing more short term prison sentences than pre-TR, thinking offenders will now get punishment plus help. The Chairman of the Magistrates Association said last week that if sentencers do not have confidence in the robustness of the alternatives to custody, they may conclude that there is no alternative to custody. These adverse risks for prison numbers were well rehearsed but ignored during TR’s rushed implementation. Just as worrying was today’s evidence that CRCs are not getting breach paperwork to court in time.

One ray of light in an otherwise gloomy landscape looks to be in the North East where the Durham and Tees Valley CRC seems to be avoiding most of the pitfalls. It’s no coincidence perhaps that it’s a single not for profit organisation run by a consortium of local organisations where staff have designed the operating model. Unlike elsewhere morale is good. But looked at in the round it’s hard to see how the Justice Committee can find TR so far anything but a major failure of public administration.

What is to be done? The reality is that with some crutches from the MoJ review, the arrangements are likely to limp on until 2021 but unless there’s a drastic improvement, something different will be needed then if not before. In London, the Mayor’s Office wants to join the oversight arrangements of the CRC “with the intention of devolving the full contract and commissioning responsibilities once the current contract ends”. If performance in the capital does not improve, maybe that should happen sooner. A more genuinely local approach rooted in Justice Reinvestment is surely the next chapter for probation after this tale of woe.

Rob Allen

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Select Committee Special 3

Another extraordinary evidence-gathering session of the Justice Committee's inquiry into the TR omnishambes can be viewed here. We'll have to wait a few days for the transcript, but in the meantime I'll offer a couple of comments.

Once again the true horror of TR is laid bare for all to see and it beggars belief that supposedly intelligent people thought it was a good idea and had any chance of working. Having said that, I'm afraid the contribution from the Probation Institute was mealy-mouthed as usual and apart from using the platform to argue for them being given the role of regulator and licencing authority, could offer no coherent plan for repairing the damage.

The same cannot be said for Ben Priestley of Unison however, who proved to be on top of his brief, was well-prepared and gave a barnstorming performance, in stark contrast to Ian Lawrence of Napo who even had difficulty knowing the salary range of a PO. 

This was the opportunity to really hit the Justice Committee with facts, figures, some blunt, coherent analysis, sound argument and most-importantly of all, a plan B. Ben did all this in spades and made a strong case for a return to local accountability and involvement of Police and Crime Commissioners in future probation provision. The session is well worth watching for his contribution alone.         

Select Committee Special 2

Q114 Jo Stevens: Ms Thomas, if this had been piloted, do you think that we would have avoided all the problems we have heard about today? 

Yvonne Thomas: The honest answer is that, having been on both the delivery and the receiving end of pilots in government over many years, I suspect that, if anything had been piloted, it would probably never have happened, due to the complexity of this and the frequent change of administration in the course of it. 

Chair: That is very interesting. 


The Justice Committee will be taking more evidence this morning for their inquiry into the TR omnishambles:-

Next meeting 
28 March 2017 9:45 am

Oral Evidence Session Transforming Rehabilitation


Professor Paul Senior, Chair, Probation Institute
Helen Schofield, Acting Chief Executive, Probation Institute
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, NAPO
Ben Priestly, National Officer, Unison
Gabriel Amahwe, Director of Probation, Thames Valley Community Rehabilitation Company
Mike Maiden, Chair, Achieving Real Change in Communities (ARCC)
Bronwen Elphick, CEO, Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company 


I think it's worth reminding ourselves what the privateers told the Committee last week during their session:-  

Examination of witnesses Witnesses: Yvonne Thomas and Rich Gansheimer. 

Q74 Chair: Good morning, both of you. Thank you very much for coming to give evidence to us. Like the other witnesses, could you introduce yourselves and your organisations, for the record? 

Yvonne Thomas: I am Yvonne Thomas. I am the managing director for justice for Interserve. 

Rich Gansheimer: I am Rich Gansheimer. I am chief executive officer for MTCnovo. 

Q75 Chair: That is very helpful to us. In terms of names people are familiar with, Interserve, in particular, deals with a number of CRCs: Manchester, Merseyside, Yorkshire and Hampshire. 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. We have five of the CRCs and handle about a quarter of the case load nationally. 

Q76 Chair: As I recall, MTCnovo deals with London, my local CRC, and Thames valley. 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes. 

Q77 Chair: You have heard the questions that were raised before. There are challenges here, aren’t there? Things are often described as patchy, at best. Why is that? Where do you think responsibility for that and for sorting it out lies? 

Yvonne Thomas: There are challenges. This is a massive transformation programme, and it is 24 months in. The challenges that I would highlight are some that have been referred to this morning. The first is the through-the-gate service, which has not been delivering what was expected, either from the CRCs’ perspective or from the offenders’ perspective. We tend to forget them in this sometimes. There are a number of reasons for that. In our case, mobilisation took longer than expected. We use an entirely third sector delivery model for our through- the-gate services. We were mobilising 19 prisons and over 160 third sector staff, so it took longer. The service started in May 2015, a few months after the contract. It is a very bureaucratic requirement. There are lots of forms to be filled in. There is not a great deal about through-the-gate. 

Q78 Chair: Is this a requirement set down by the MOJ? 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. We get an average of £60 for a resettlement. We pay out a lot more than that, but, by the time you have filled in all the forms, it is still not enough. We are talking about a context where you are operating in prisons. The challenges there are well understood. Getting access to prisoners to do the resettlement work is challenging enough. In some prisons, when you get access to those prisoners, they are more or less receptive to what you are trying to do. There are a number of challenges. However, a through-the-gate service has to be local. With the blessing of the MOJ, we are now working with Leeds, Styal, Risley and Winchester, because there is an empowered governor agenda. We believe that those services must be defined locally and with the prison governor, for local delivery. That makes sense to us, not more national legislation on what we should and should not be doing in Leeds or Winchester. That does not work too well. The second area is relationships with sentencers. National Probation Service advice to the courts, through pre-sentence reports, has been increasingly under pressure, with more and more oral reports. That has meant that the relationship between CRCs, the National Probation Service and sentencers has simply not matured in the way in which it needs to. 

Q79 Chair: So you do not disagree with Mr Richardson’s point. 

Yvonne Thomas: Not at all. We have seen a considerable fall in, for example, the ordering by magistrates of accredited programmes, which are one of the few very evidence-based interventions that will reduce reoffending. That set of relationships is still very immature. Finally, Dame Glenys remarked on the sustainability of the service—the commercial issues. The payment mechanism is not working as was intended. I have to question some terminology that has been used with regard to “workload” and “case load.” Since we took over the service, case loads in our five CRCs have risen by between 25% and 47%. Those are the MOJ’s figures. The technical mechanism that is used to calculate the payment, which is called a WAV, has fallen by between 14% and 34%. Our workload is going up, but our payment is going down. 

Q80 Chair: You are making less money than you expected. 

Yvonne Thomas: It is not sustainable. 

Q81 Chair: Are you going to continue in the business, or do you intend to withdraw from the contract? 

Yvonne Thomas: There is a technical problem here. Really, that is down to the current review by the Ministry of Justice. All that we want is that the workload is reflected in the payment mechanism. We believe that there is a technical problem with it. It needs to be fixed. 

Q82 Chair: If it is not fixed, you are out. That is the truth of it, isn’t it? 

Yvonne Thomas: It starts to get very tricky. 

Q83 Chair: All right. Mr Gansheimer? 

Rich Gansheimer: There are five challenges I would like to talk to. They may have been repeated already this morning, so it will probably not be much surprise. The first is around managing expectations of such a large reform. We, the ownership of the CRCs, are a couple of years into this. I recognise, from a policy format, that reform has been talked about and legislation has gone through for quite a while—over a number of years—but operational delivery of this reform, at the CRC level, has been over just two years. Creating stability—financially, commercial and operationally—for the CRCs to be successful is critical here. Part of that is the discussion that we have already had. 

Q84 Chair: What is the position financially as far as your CRCs are concerned? Is the workload what you expected? 

Rich Gansheimer: We have had the pay mechanism, which we refer to as a fee-for-service mechanism, built into a fixed cost base. Clearly, there is a gap. The case loads have grown by approximately the same amount over time. Obviously, the award of cases has an impact on that. It is a matter of saying, “What happens to that gap in the middle?” That is where the investment goes— 

Q85 Chair: Do you agree with Ms Thomas that it is not sustainable at the moment? 

Rich Gansheimer: Under the current format, no. I agree with that. That is why the probation service review is being undertaken currently—for us to have those discussions and to find out what is sustainable and will work. 

Q86 Chair: Without a change, your company, too, would have to consider its future. 

Rich Gansheimer: The board would certainly have to make that decision. That line has not been drawn yet. We are engaged fully with that. 

Q87 Keith Vaz: Ms Thomas, how much is the contract worth to your company? 

Yvonne Thomas: I will come back to you with the precise number, but it is of the order of £80 million to £90 million a year across the five CRCs, to run a quarter of the service. 

Q88 Keith Vaz: It is £80 million to £90 million a year. 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. 

Q89 Keith Vaz: Mr Gansheimer, yours is an American company, but it is operating here. Rich Gansheimer: We are MTCnovo. We are a joint venture here in the UK—partly American, but also a UK joint venture. 

Q90 Keith Vaz: What is the contract worth for you? 

Rich Gansheimer: We are in the same range. It is slightly lower— between £78 million and £88 million. 

Q91 Keith Vaz: Together, you will deliver 50%. Is that right? Ms Thomas, you are 25% of the total amount that is being delivered. 

Yvonne Thomas: In case load terms, yes. 

Q92 Keith Vaz: Mr Gansheimer, you are also 25%. 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes. 

Q93 Keith Vaz: In answer to the Chair’s question, if you decide that it is not financially viable and your shareholders start revolting against the board, because you are making a loss, you will just leave. 

Rich Gansheimer: I cannot answer specifically for our board. 

Q94 Keith Vaz: No, but if that happens— 

Rich Gansheimer: Clearly, there is a point at which a decision has to be taken. That is one of the options that would be on the table for discussion. 

Q95 Keith Vaz: So, yes. 

Yvonne Thomas: We think that the review is quite positive at the moment and that the MOJ is listening. We believe that this is addressable well within the original cost envelopes that were proposed. At the moment, you are operating hugely below the cost envelopes that were allowed. It seems entirely sensible to us that the review is taking place at this point in the process. There are some technical problems with the mechanisms, without a doubt. 

Q96 Keith Vaz: Sure. Ms Thomas, whom do you blame for this? Responsibility has to be placed on an organisation or an individual. That is what would happen in the private sector, isn’t it? 

Yvonne Thomas: Having been part of the team all the way through the discussions, the procurements and so on, I have seen this from the beginning. If we look at this and say, “What should people have known?”, the answer is that this was a first generation of attempting to do something quite transformative, so I sort of understand why we do not know everything. The predictions around volumes and case loads could have been more accurate, in that the expectation that was set was much higher—and much more in line with what we actually have. However, this technical mechanism is an overcomplicated payment mechanism. That was quite obscured during the development of the bid by the MOJ. 

Q97 Keith Vaz: Mr Gansheimer, you are obviously a very big company. You operate in America and here. Is it done better somewhere else? 

Rich Gansheimer: As far as the commissioning or the contract is concerned? 

Q98 Keith Vaz: Or whatever. Has somebody else got the secret of how this works? 

Rich Gansheimer: There is a lot of variation in how it works, in my experience, and I have been around a lot of different contracts. What I have found works best is that the work is clearly defined, the standards are clearly laid out, the expectations are clearly put to the providers and we are held to account to meet those expectations. 

Q99 Keith Vaz: None of that is happening here. 

Rich Gansheimer: I will not say that none of that is happening. I echo what Yvonne, my colleague from Interserve, has said about what was put out for bid and what we purchased in reality. It is not for me or MTCnovo to say, “Absolutely, that is the person to blame.” 

Q100 Keith Vaz: You were very clear on the five issues that you have just outlined. Would you have liked that clarity? 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes—clarity and stability around that being delivered. 

Q101 Keith Vaz: Which is lacking in this case. 

Rich Gansheimer: That is where the probation service comes in—to go back to the table and have that discussion. I also echo the point that, as this is a first-generation outsource, there are complexities around the commerciality of it, what needs to be delivered and so on. 

Q102 Mr Hanson: Did either of you do due diligence on the Ministry of Justice? It seems to me that, if you were entering into this sort of contract, you would expect the expectations that were put on you to have been thought through by the MOJ. Did you do any due diligence? 

Rich Gansheimer: That is a fair question. Yes, absolutely. The issue is when you go in and see the data that are presented. We had no reason to doubt the data that were being put in. That is what we were expected to bid to. 

Q103 Mr Hanson: You have been sold a pup, haven’t you? 

Rich Gansheimer: What has come to fruition from what we purchased has not happened, in terms of the volumes and some of the capability of some services. 

Q104 Mr Hanson: What would you say to those who say that you just saw pound and dollar signs yourselves and thought, “We will have a bit of that,” without thinking it through? 

Rich Gansheimer: No. When you bid for a service, particularly in the government sector, you always bid at a level of risk. This has certainly gone beyond the level of risk that we could have expected or imagined would happen so quickly. 

Q105 Mr Hanson: The question we have been talking about is, was any of this foreseeable beforehand? Did you anticipate that there was a risk of failure on your part, based on the terms that were set by the MOJ in 2012, 2013 and 2014? 

Rich Gansheimer: Let me be clear about your point. What was the question? 

Q106 Mr Hanson: Did you sense that there was an opportunity for you, but also a risk of failure, based on the terms that were set, or did you just see it as something that you could achieve because it was going to be dealt with by the MOJ on the terms that it had set? 

Rich Gansheimer: Based on what was laid out by the MOJ and what we felt we could accomplish, we felt that this was an opportunity that was worth pursuing. 

Q107 Mr Hanson: If this all goes belly up at some point, do you have any contractual liabilities towards the MOJ where you see it as not having met its part of the deal? 

Rich Gansheimer: There would certainly be discussions around that, in terms of what was known, what was not known and how that was presented at the time. 

Q108 Mr Hanson: The bottom-line question is, did you anticipate these difficulties when you signed the contracts in 2014? 

Rich Gansheimer: Not to the extent that they have occurred. As I said earlier, you certainly expect a level of risk to come into these contracts. That is not uncommon, especially with a first-generation contract. However, I do not think that we could have anticipated in any way the extent to which it has gone. 

Q109 Mr Hanson: Yvonne, do you differ from any of that? 

Yvonne Thomas: No. When we have been in discussion with the Ministry of Justice, all providers have expressed the view, to a greater or lesser extent, that if anyone did not do their due diligence, all eight did not. That is unlikely. The statistical basis for the contracts was very well laid out. We have to trust the customer—any provider does. If that is the expectation that is set, that is what you bid against. That is what we did. As Rich said, there is always risk, but there is risk that you know how to manage. That is why we enter this business. It is really important to say that, from the commercial perspective, the only way to make a decent return on these contracts is to reduce reoffending. That was a very attractive thing. You have to address the core problem in order to make these contracts worth running. 

Q110 Mr Hanson: How long does the MOJ have to sort this out before you walk? 

Yvonne Thomas: I do not think that there is any talk of walking at the moment. We are not at that stage. We are in a process of quite positive engagement. 

Q111 Mr Hanson: How long does the MOJ have? 

Rich Gansheimer: I would echo that response. As I said earlier, the line in the sand has not been drawn. We have not had that discussion. As long as we are engaged and are looking forward to a successful probation service review outcome, there is no reason to have that broader discussion at this point. As you can see, we are optimistic about the review. We have been very transparent throughout it. They have been engaged as well, as Yvonne said earlier. It has been a good process to work through these very challenging issues—no question. 

Yvonne Thomas: There is no reason why this mechanism cannot be fixed, if there is a will to do it. It will not cost the public purse any more, and it will address the issues. If that is the case, I am sure that it is not beyond us and the MOJ to fix it. 

Q112 Chair: Some potential providers pulled out at quite an early stage because they did not think that the contracts were viable. That was not the assessment that you made. 

Rich Gansheimer: I cannot say why they pulled out; I have no idea. I am aware that some did. 

Q113 Chair: Obviously, viability is an issue that you would all consider. 

Yvonne Thomas: My understanding is that one provider pulled out because it won a singleton contract. It expected to get more. 

Q114 Jo Stevens: Ms Thomas, if this had been piloted, do you think that we would have avoided all the problems we have heard about today? 

Yvonne Thomas: The honest answer is that, having been on both the delivery and the receiving end of pilots in government over many years, I suspect that, if anything had been piloted, it would probably never have happened, due to the complexity of this and the frequent change of administration in the course of it. 

Chair: That is very interesting.

Q115 Alex Chalk: Can I make sure that I understand? Some of the criticisms that have been made, including by Dame Glenys, are that the innovation that we were all hoping to see by CRCs is not really being delivered, which is a bit disappointing. Do you accept that? Whether it is your fault or not does not really matter. Do you accept that there is not the innovation that we might have hoped to see? 

Rich Gansheimer: I accept the criticism regarding innovation. At the same time, there is investment going into innovation. A lot of it sits in the ICT we talked about earlier. 

Q116 Alex Chalk: Forgive me; I do not mean to cut across you. Leave aside the investment for a moment. Do you think that it is delivering the innovation that we hoped to see? 

Rich Gansheimer: Yes. I think that there is a level of innovation. The challenges have been to bring it through. One of the big innovations is around case management—getting a single case management system that is pretty whizzy, in terms of being able to identify the needs of service users and offenders very quickly, to make referrals to the appropriate interventions and to make sure that we get that captured. As you have probably seen in numerous reports, the current system does not allow that. It is very clunky; we heard some previous testimony about that. We have continued to invest in further innovation around programmes. Has there been a pullback on some of that? Clearly, when the financials are not adding up, you have to make some financial decisions about what stays and what goes. As we talked about earlier, you have to work to a baseline to deliver these contracts, particularly around service levels. 

Q117 Alex Chalk: Very simply, the point is, “Less money, less innovation.” Is that fair? 

Yvonne Thomas: To an extent. I would not underestimate the level of innovation that is happening out there. In due course, as the inspectorate inspects more of the CRCs and wider case loads, it will start to see that. For example, there has never been a national service for the very chaotic, very complex people we deal with. That has now been completely invented and delivered across our five CRCs. That could never have happened under the old regime, and it is making a difference. On women’s services, we have everything from pop-up services to new collaborations between local authorities, PCCs and ourselves. There is a lot going on out there, and it is quite exciting. The frustration is that we talk about “the CRCs.” There are eight different providers, with many different models. All of them are doing some good things, and all of them are facing some challenges. You cannot take the worst of everything or the best of everything. 

Alex Chalk: That is fine. Understood. 

Q118 Kate Green: You have talked about the workload, which seems to be very heavy for you. What is not getting done? 

Yvonne Thomas: At the moment, because we were very cautious about our staffing numbers, everything that needs to be done around public protection, breaching and risk—the basics of running the service against the 102 probation instructions we are governed by—is being discharged pretty well. Case load ratios are starting to move up, which is worrying. We also have about 210 staff from the voluntary sector, who are providing a lot of the rehabilitative interventions. At the moment, we are holding it steady, but if these case loads continue to move and the payments continue to diminish, the first thing that we will do—as Richard will—is look at the discretionary spend. In our case, that is about £10 million a year. After that, you have to start saying, “If we can’t deliver this service safely, we shouldn’t deliver it at all.” We are a way away from that, but that is the inevitable consequence of the situation we are in. 

Q119 Kate Green: Are you sliding towards that? 

Yvonne Thomas: It is very difficult to say. This is not going to happen next week, next month or in three months. 

Q120 Kate Green: If the MOJ manages to renegotiate to your satisfaction to halt that trend, how quickly will that negotiation need to be complete for you to be able to make this viable? 

Yvonne Thomas: We would like to think that enough ground has been covered between the MOJ and the various providers to start getting something sensible in place during April or May. 

Q121 Chair: Were staffing reductions factored into your original bids? 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes. We took out quite a considerable number of management and administrative staff. We all have different views on, and different models for, front-line staff. We took about 160 people out of the original 2,000, but they were management and admin. 

Q122 Chair: That is the level that you had anticipated. It has not been more or less than you had anticipated. 

Yvonne Thomas: We have not taken out the level that we had anticipated. We just cannot at the moment, due to a combination of the lack of technology that was talked about earlier, which is quite a barrier, and the fact that the case loads are rising. 

Q123 Chair: What about your company’s operations, Mr Gansheimer? 

Rich Gansheimer: It is very similar. We have not been able to see the reductions through fully. We have one contract that is struggling with some of the basics. We have had to go back to the basics, to retrain and to do things of that kind. That has certainly not been reduced to where we would expect it to be. That is where some of the investment goes. We have another contract that we have been able to work to those numbers. We are doing pretty well in that area. 

Q124 Richard Arkless: Clearly, you have issues with the payment mechanism, which is causing you some alarm. Some of the things that you have been saying are quite alarming to us. On that basis, you will welcome the new review of TR. One of the things that you will hope it will assess is the payment mechanisms and how they work for you. However, what we are interested in is transforming rehabilitation for offenders. Clearly, you have financial concerns. Beyond that, in relation to the meat of the issue, which is transforming people’s lives, what would you like to see the review include or exclude? What action would you like to see come out of the review specifically in relation to transforming rehabilitation? 

Rich Gansheimer: I will allow Yvonne to answer for her company. For us, it is about the outcome and performance-based measures. As was mentioned previously, right now the service-level measures are a tick box; in other words, you are working to a specific service-level measure, so that you do not incur service credits. We want to be measured on the outcome—what we produce. Ultimately, what we have committed to is reduced reoffending. We want to be judged on what happens from the beginning to the end of the system, not on all the stuff that happens in the middle, where we incur high service credits if something does not go in exactly the way in which it should have gone, according to that service level. We want to be based and reviewed on the outcomes. That goes along with what Dame Glenys said earlier. 

Q125 Richard Arkless: How are those outcomes? If you were assessed just now, would they be positive? 

Rich Gansheimer: Obviously, we are measuring that right now. One of the payment mechanisms is payment by results. We have to have sight of that and are measuring it. We are using our data to measure where we think we are on that. It is still pretty early, because the final outcomes will come later in the year. We always put a caveat around our data on reducing reoffending, but we see good signs of it. 

Yvonne Thomas: What we are hoping for out of the review, apart from discussions about the sustainability of the service, which is central, is that the through-the-gate proposals will embrace the empowered governor and local need. We want this service to become more local and to represent its communities. We want to be incentivised to build on the innovation and some of the early results that we are seeing, particularly in respect of services to young men under 25, women and black and minority ethnic communities, supporting those with the most complex needs. We would welcome further and higher bars on those things, although we think that we are already achieving some of them. On the issue of what we want to be measured for, as I said to Mr Hanson earlier, this service does not work either as a service or commercially unless you reduce reoffending. We have now had the first six months of data from the Ministry of Justice. If we look at our own five, by the end of this year, 2,000 people who would have offended will not offend, if the current trends continue. The service is beginning to work. It needs to be given a chance and a little more support, for the sake of our staff, who are out there doing a difficult job. That is all that we want—to reduce reoffending. 

Q126 Chair: How do you square this reduction in bureaucracy with the aspiration of the chief inspector that there should be greater specification of standards? 

Yvonne Thomas: One hundred and two probation instructions are quite a lot. Maybe the existing standards could be better orientated. There could certainly be fewer of them that were more appropriate and more strictly enforced. 

Q127 Chair: Is that something that you want to have covered in the review? 

Yvonne Thomas: That would be helpful as an ongoing piece of work between the NPS, the CRCs and the inspectorate. 

Q128 Chair: It has been suggested, of course, that the way in which the payment structure works is an incentive for you not to report breach. Is that a fair observation? 

Rich Gansheimer: I do not think that that is something we have ever talked about. Clearly, we want to ensure the integrity of the system. We want to make sure that we do not automatically breach or recall and that we have worked with service users and offenders to make sure that we have maximised everything we can, to ensure that they have no arguments. 

Yvonne Thomas: Yes—not in front of me. [Interruption.] 

Chair: The House is just sitting; that is what the bell is for. It is a good time to conclude our evidence session. Thank you both for your time.

Monday 27 March 2017

Tribunal Fees

Whilst waiting for the next twist in the TR omnishambles, this could be another bad news day for the government:-

Tribunal fees "a clear violation" of UK & EU law, says Oxford University report

Oxford University experts in economics, Associate Professor Abi Adams, and the law, Associate Professor Jeremias Prassl, have described the Coalition government's introduction of employment tribunal fees as "a clear violation" of UK and EU law.

In an article to be published in the Modern Law Review journal on Monday March 27 2017, the academics describe the policy as "disproportionate" and claim it illegally denies workers access to justice. 

In an analysis of government data, the experts discovered that for up to half of all claimants with a good chance of succeeding at tribunal, the expense of bringing their case outweighs the level of the expected payout, meaning the worker would lose money by taking unscrupulous employers to task.

Dr Adams explained: "The average award for some employment claims, such as unauthorised deduction from wages, is as low as £600. With fees ranging from £390 to £1,200, it does not make economic sense for many claimants to enforce their rights."

What's more, the academics found that tribunal fees may be having the opposite impact of the government's reported aims: to lower the cost to the taxpayer of the tribunal system, to encourage early settlement of cases, and to deter vexatious claims.

Instead, the few claimants who are bringing vexatious claims were found to be the least likely to be deterred by the fees, while employers are disincentivised from making a settlement because they know there is a high chance that workers will simply give in rather than pay the cost of taking their case to court.

The number of claims going to tribunal dropped by 70% within the first year of the fees being introduced, and the cases hardest hit have been those involving low-income, zero-hours workers, who are often expecting lower payouts that will not cover their costs, the report suggests.

Dr Prassl said: "The Employment Tribunal fees are a clear denial of access to the courts, which has been a cornerstone of our justice system since Magna Carta. The conclusions of the Prime Minister’s Taylor Review into Employment Rights will be meaningless without a credible way for workers to seek justice."

The Institute of Employment Rights agrees that without the ability to enforce their rights at tribunal, workers can not simply be "empowered" to speak up against unscrupulous employers, as Taylor's preliminary recommendations - which largely revolve around increasing workers' awareness of their rights - seem to suggest.

However, we would add that it is not enough to simply remove tribunal fees, as the current system of placing the onus on workers to police their own rights falls short of effective enforcement. Individual workers have significantly less power, and access to significantly fewer legal resources, than their employers. We argue that the promotion of collective bargaining at both sectoral and enterprise levels is necessary to allow workers to negotiate for fair pay and conditions, as organising in trade unions is the best way to equalise the imbalance of power between employers and their staff. We also argue that an independent Labour Inspectorate should be established to ensure employers are following both the law and any collective agreements relevant to them.

Read more about the proposals in our Manifesto for Labour Law - 25 recommendations, the principles of which have been adopted by the Labour Party.

The conclusions of the Modern Law Review report support Unison's ongoing battle against the implementation of employment tribunal fees, which will be heard in the Supreme Court on Monday March 27 2017. Referring to the union's judicial review, Dr Prassl said: "The lower courts’ approach was inappropriately narrow in its interpretation of English and European law: a right without a remedy is of little value".

Saturday 25 March 2017

Latest From Napo 141

Highlights from the latest blog post by Napo General Secretary:-


Next week sees the second session of the Justice Select Committee hearings into Transforming Rehabilitation. Napo will be among those who have been invited as Witnesses to provide oral evidence.

It’s one of several important opportunities that have come my way at various stages of my work with Napo and other unions before it, and this one follows on from that of last Tuesday where HM Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey gave a full and frank account of her views about what has happened, what is still going wrong and what might be done to improve the situation.

This Tuesday the Committee will hear from the Probation Institute, Napo and Unison and representatives from two of the Community Rehabilitation Companies.

You can see what was said last week’s gathering and follow proceedings live or afterwards, on Parliament TV.

Earlier this week I addressed a seminar held by the Westminster Legal Policy Forum on the possibilities for Devolving Criminal Justice Services so that a greater responsibility for delivery might fall within the remit of Metropolitan Mayors or Police and Crime Commissioners.

True to form, some of what I had to say about the impact of the TR programme did not go down especially well with some CRC chiefs who were in attendance; but as I said to a number of them afterwards I have a duty to our members to reflect the facts which, in short include the following:

  • CRC performance (with a few exceptions) is well below what it ought to be
  • Through the Gate has been an abject failure
  • Many CRCs have gone running back to the Ministry of Justice crying foul over funding, the contract parameters and the fundamentally flawed Payment by Results mechanism.
  • Many staff have been treated abysmally by their new employers
  • Workloads have gone into meltdown
  • Professional standards are seriously slipping
  • Some Operational Models are well short of what is needed to ensure standards of service and protect the public
Solutions needed quickly

I also made it clear that Napo members (much as they would love it to happen) are realists, and don’t expect some miraculous ‘Damascene’ moment where Ministers suddenly decide that they are going to patch Probation back up again as once was.

But there are serious issues around accountability, competence and the way in which staff have been (and are being) treated, that also need to be addressed otherwise a devolved service to whoever is considered capable of taking more control of it locally in the future will simply be a waste of time.

That’s as honest an assessment as I can manage right now and the spotlight will be on others next week as well to come clean about where they are in life. It might be helpful if some CRC owners as well as the NPS bosses who told everyone it would be OK, fessed up and admitted that this whole TR thing was bigger than they thought and that they have miscalculated the enormity of it all. Whether they welcome it or not, it’s my view as well that not everything that has failed to work is necessarily their fault, but some have not helped themselves with perilous forecasts and strategies around staffing and service delivery that have left many of our members who remain in the NPS and CRCs in pieces. If senior management wherever they are from, are truly committed to making a fresh start in their relationship with the unions to find workable solutions than Napo will be there willing to engage.

Working Links in the spotlight again

It’s comforting to see that the recent media activity from Channel 4 and BBC Wales Radio into the Aurelius/Working Links CRC operation has been followed up by BBC South West last week.

I want to personally thank our former Napo activist Helen Coley and serving staff (anonymously for obvious reasons) for setting out the problems of an unrealistic operational model in stark fashion, and there won’t be anyone watching the programme who won’t have shared the sense of despair of the families of the two victims of the SFO’s that were featured.

One of these dreadful events happened prior to TR, and one afterwards; raising questions about the disrupted operational environment that existed prior to share sale and that during transition which shows little sign of major improvement according to our members.

To set the record straight, Napo’s part in this production was a legitimate attempt to illustrate the difficulties that have been among those that have given rise to a long running dispute between the unions and employers. The issues of responsibility and accountability, especially given the huge amounts of taxpayers money involved, are ones that ought to see the light of day and if Working Links think they have been hard done by then they should take it up with the BBC who many observers felt gave a very balanced view of the situation.