Wednesday 31 May 2017

A Good Question

"Why has this forum come to a deadly silence?"

A very good question and there are several answers:-

1) There's a general election and therefore nothing much happens.
2) The Probation Review has been pushed down the line and things have generally gone quiet.
3) People are on holiday.
4) The Civil Service has successfully silenced staff.
5) Morale is low, people can't get motivated to contribute and are leaving the profession.
6) Newer recruits have very different perspectives to those who've been around awhile.
7) I've been pre-occupied with other things.

Collectively, these may beg the question, has the blog had its day? 

Many would certainly hope so, but I think not because we all know there's plenty of trouble coming down the line from a number of quarters and then, just like those very irritating hardy garden weeds, the blog will spring back into life.

Tuesday 23 May 2017

Prison News

This from the Morning Star:-

POA: Sodexo Boss Admits Prison Bidding Fails

Private prison race to the bottom ‘doesn’t work’

'Privateers' race to the bottom in running prisons “doesn’t work,” a top contractor has admitted. Sodexo justice services operations director Mike Conway said government contracts should be awarded with fixed budgets rather than having private bidders undercut one another.

“Instead of commoditising the prison market, that’s the path we should be going down,” he said on the fringes of the POA union conference on Wednesday night. If we end up going down that path in 10 years’ time … we’ll have very different consequences. We’ve got the challenge of trying to run prisons cheaply, both public and private, and we’ve found to our cost that doesn’t work,” he said.

Asked by a prison officer about private and public prisons competing to cut costs, Mr Conway said: “It’s not a costcutting race between the public and private sectors, it’s been a cost-cutting race between the bidders.”

The meeting was also addressed by G4S UK security and detention managing director Jerry Petherick. G4S came in for fierce criticism last December after rioting broke out at HMP Birmingham, which has been under its control since 2011. Mr Petherick insisted the riot was not down to a particular failure of his firm or the private sector, pointing to other disturbances in state-run jails last autumn.

“Unless we get the staffing profiles fully staffed, we’re always going to be up against it,” he said. But HMP Bedford delegate Martin Field scorned: “Your purpose for being here is to make money. The purpose of us being here is to provide a service.”

Mr Petherick replied: “I won’t shy away from the fact that I have to look after my shareholders.” He said the firm considered its investors as “stakeholders” alongside prisoners and staff. “You’re kind of indicating that the only thing we’re worried about is profit,” he added. “That isn’t so.”

The bosses were also grilled by POA general secretary Steve Gillan for not recognising his union at a number of private jails, saying they had instead struck a “sweetheart deal” with another union, Community. He challenged them to bring in multi-union recognition. “[Community] don’t understand the criminal justice system,” he said.

Mr Conway insisted it was “not a sweetheart deal” and he had been “very impressed” with Community.


This from the Daily Telegraph:-

Prison Service boss hired to manage troubled G4S detention centres

G4S has hired the man in charge of negotiating private contracts for government prisons to run its troubled detention services division. Paul Kempster is expected to join the outsourcing firm later this month and will oversee the five prisons G4S manages for the Government, as well as two immigration removal centres and a secure training centre for young people.

Mr Kempster is currently head of custodial services contract management at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, the part of the Ministry of Justice which manages prisons in England and Wales. As part of his role, he has been responsible for awarding contracts to private firms including G4S, Serco and Sodexo to run prisons in the UK. Work to privatise British prisons began in the Nineties.

However, outsourcing the running of offender services to private companies has not been without controversy. G4S has suffered amid high-profile scandals, including losing control of HMP Birmingham in December, which resulted in the most serious prison riot since inmates revolted at Strangeways in 1990. The incident caused an estimated £2m of damage and around 500 prisoners had to be moved. Last year it was revealed that G4S had been fined at least 100 times for breaching its prison management contracts, which it has held since 2010.

As chief operating officer, Mr Kempster will report to Jerry Petherick, managing director for G4S’s custodial and detention services division. Mr Petherick said the appointment puts this business “in a strong position to respond to today’s challenges and nurture innovation. Paul brings tremendous experience from more than two decades in leading and managing detention environments in the public sector and will be a huge asset to our established team,” he added.

As well as five prisons, G4S holds Government contracts to run two immigration removal centres, Brook House and Tinsley House, both near Gatwick Airport. These centres accommodate people who are about to be deported from the UK. As part of his new role, Mr Kempster will also be in charge of the running of Oakhill near Milton Keynes, a secure training centre which houses young people aged 15-17 who are on remand or sentenced to custody.

A recent report from education assessor Ofsted found that the overall effectiveness of the centre “required improvement”. Inspectors found while record numbers of young people were taking GCSEs, the mix of staff experience at the centre had left to “inconsistency and variability in practice”. G4S is currently in the process of selling the contract to manage Oakhill, which it holds until 2029, as well as another secure unit in Medway, Kent.


Finally, this from the BBC website:-

Suicide jail failed to improve, says doctor

Safety improvements were not made at a prison with the highest suicide rate in England and Wales despite a spate of deaths, a psychiatrist has told the BBC. Dr Elizabeth van Horn quit her job at Woodhill Prison in April, saying staff shortages had made change impossible.

Families of some of those who died are due to learn if judges will order the government to make the prison safer. The Ministry of Justice said it could not comment ahead of the court ruling.

Since 2013, 18 inmates have killed themselves at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes. The jail houses both Category A prisoners and convicts from the local area on short sentences. The courts, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and the prison's own independent monitoring board have all raised concerns. These include chronic understaffing, over-reliance on agency and temporary staff, while, as well as suicides, assaults on both staff and inmates have also risen in recent years.

Early last year Dr van Horn was asked to go to Woodhill, working two days a week. The experienced clinical psychiatrist had already spent six years working in other prisons, including Pentonville and Wormwood Scrubs, in London. Her first impressions were not good. "I was very struck by the lack of staff. There were lots of gaps in the discipline staffing regime, and anecdotally, certainly for the last six to eight months, quite a lot of the staff were quite newly trained and inexperienced."

Asked if anything had changed at the prison following each suicide, as management had promised families and the courts, Dr van Horn was clear: "No, not really, not in terms of an obvious change. It's not a question of not knowing what needs to be done better, because often these inquests throw up the same issues - but how do you achieve that? And I think not having a stable workforce is a fairly primary problem in terms of achieving these goals. You can only get things done if you've the workforce to do it."

Staff shortages can see inmates locked up for 23 hours a day, a major cause of mental health problems, she told the BBC. "Particularly for people with pre-existing mental health problems, that is an added burden...And when they complain about it, they are often seen to be attention-seeking, but in fact, they can't cope with that degree of isolation. What they need is to have meaningful activity, more social contact and less time isolated on their own."

The families who brought the legal action at the High Court have been supported by the charity Inquest, which has become exasperated with management at the prison. "Woodhill is a graphic example of a prison system that is in crisis," said the charity's director, Deborah Coles. We have no proper mechanism to ensure that recommendations made by inquests, by Prison Ombudsman investigations, are followed through, that action is actually taken".

Suicides in jails in England and Wales almost doubled since 2012 to 120 last year, while prison officer numbers have fallen by more than 4,500, official figures show. Overall, nearly £1bn has been cut from the prison and probation service in recent years. But, in what might be seen as an acknowledgement that the cuts have gone too far, the Ministry of Justice now plans to recruit 2,500 new prison officers.

But, according to one former inmate, staff quality matters as much as quantity. "We're getting the wrong sort of staff," said Jamie Blyde who has been in and out of Woodhill for over a decade. He was in a neighbouring cell-block last summer when his brother Daniel Dunkley killed himself.

Jamie knew seven of the 18 prisoners who killed themselves at Woodhill. "We used to get all the ex-forces, guys that could be annoying and hard to be around but they were straight and you knew where you stood with them. They were safe and would do everything by the book. We don't seem to have as many of them anymore, we're getting a lot of under-qualified people, a lot of people that are not meant for the job."



Families lose High Court battle over HMP Woodhill deaths

Relatives of two men who died in Woodhill Prison have lost their High Court case over the rate of self-inflicted deaths at the jail. Ian Brown, 44, hanged himself in his cell at the category A prison in Milton Keynes in July last year, while Daniel Dunkley, 35, died later the same month.

A total of 18 men have died at the jail since 2013 while seven men killed themselves just last year. Mr Brown's mother and sister, Pearl Scarfe and Julie Barber, and Mr Dunkley's brother, Jamie Blyde, who is himself a prisoner, wanted the court to order Woodhill's governor and the Secretary of State for Justice to comply with the requirements of the Prison Service Instructions (PSIs). They cover management of prisoners at risk of harm to self, to others and from others, early days in custody and medical emergency response codes.

On Tuesday, Lord Justice Irwin and Mr Justice Garnham rejected the judicial review claim which the governor and the Secretary of State for Justice said was "neither appropriate nor necessary".

Saturday 20 May 2017

CRC Dispute - Latest 24

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the latest joint statement from Napo, Unison and GMB:-


Some progress made in resumed talks but a lot remains to be resolved

Last week saw the first fairly positive meeting for some time between Working Links senior management and the recognised trade unions – Unison, NAPO and GMB - to discuss the ongoing dispute and in particular a range of issues around Unpaid Work (UPW). This meeting was chaired by John Woods from ACAS.

Union reps raised the large number of cancelled placements and the resulting “lost hours,” including instances where offenders are sent away because no placements are available, and the resulting health and safety risk to staff.

We have secured agreement that the new Case Worker role which the employer wants to introduce to replace Band 3 UPW Supervisors will be subject to a job evaluation process with a panel including trade union reps.

Senior managers claim that changes to shift patterns (normally to a longer working day) are only happening voluntarily, but we are sceptical about this. If members are aware of any changes to shift patterns being effectively imposed on staff in UPW, please inform your local rep.

Crucially, we have secured agreement that until the changes in UPW are formally agreed, any changes to job descriptions and shift patterns will be without prejudice, and will not be used by the employer to argue that staff have accepted changes.

UPW staff in the South West and the Cardiff area have refused to accept changes to their current working conditions, until such time as there is proper and meaningful consultation.

With this in mind, we will continue to urge management to find an acceptable solution to the problems in UPW as soon as possible. Until this happens our advice to members in UPW remains not to sign anything implying agreement to variations of contract or changes in job title, or to attend one-to-one meetings in which you suspect you might be pressured or encouraged to do so.

We will continue to advocate for UPW staff in the South West of England who have rejected the proposed variations of contract to have the same opportunities to apply for redeployment, early voluntary redundancy or early retirement as staff in Wales have had.

No to Zero Hours!

We are concerned about the possible use of zero-hours contracts for sessional workers in the CRC – UNISON, NAPO and GMB are all opposed to the use of zero hour contracts and will continue to resist their implementation in favour of contracts with guaranteed minimum hours which maintain flexibility without jeopardising workers’ rights.

Memorandum of Agreement emerges

Whilst there are many issues still to resolve, there was some optimism about what appears to be a renewed willingness of senior Working Links managers to commit to working with the trade unions, and we anticipate that several more meetings are likely to take place in the near future, possibly extending the conversations around UPW to the Interventions teams and elsewhere. We are now seeking to finalise a Memorandum of Agreement that sets out the process for the detailed discussions around UPW.

Relations between UNISON, NAPO and GMB reps in the CRC are positive and we are working closely together. We remain optimistic that progress will be made soon, but for the moment we continue to remain in an official dispute with the three CRCs and Aurelius/Working Links.

More news will follow as soon as it is available, meanwhile it has never been more important for Working Links CRC employees to join a trade union and help us to collectively bargain for all!

Friday 19 May 2017

Latest From Napo 149

Edited highlights from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence's latest blog post:-

The shameful Attendance Management shambles

The Probation Negotiating Committee met yesterday to look at a range of issues, and their valuable input into the life and fabric of this union is an important element of the leadership’s valued partnership with Napo's elected representatives.

Their decisions and recommendations will feature in the reports that are submitted to the National Executive Committee (NEC), who will themselves be busy next month. The NEC have a reconvened meeting which will follow the Napo Pay Forum on 6th June as well as their already scheduled meeting on 22nd June.

Among the myriad of issues that we spent time on yesterday was the notorious Attendance Management Policy, which I must say, ranks as one of the most clumsily handled and totally incomprehensible pieces of gibberish that I have ever seen foisted on our members.

Launched without anything approaching meaningful engagement with the unions, and accompanied by guidance which is about as obscure and contradictory as can actually be possible, the policy has caused abject misery for scores of members and a huge increase in personal cases for our hard pressed reps.

Here at the centre we have been doing all we can to impress upon HMPPS senior management just what a fine mess they have got us into, but also to try and explain to reps and members what the correct interpretation ought to be on the emotive issues of trigger points, managers discretion, and the way in which serious underlying conditions ought to be sensitively handled.

Safe to say this whole issue is right up there with the farcical situation (see previous blog postings) around the Shared Services Division (SSCL) non-service which has seen people unpaid for weeks and/or being provided with duff information which merely compounds their particular problem.

In terms of the Attendance Management Policy we are regularly reviewing our approach and information for reps in light of the regular feedback we have been getting and this will feed into the workshop sessions that are in the process of being organised for Union reps, NPS divisional HR leads and managers which will hopefully bring some clarity to this nonsense and ensure that a level of consistency might be established and respected by the parties.

As members will recall the legal advice we received was that there wasn’t anything directly discriminatory about the Attendance Management policy but that we could expect to see individual discrimination cases emerge.

So we are on the lookout to see where legal redress might be possible but the evidence so far shows that there hasn’t been a particular increase in these cases yet but it is still relatively early days for dismissal cases to emerge.

One of the biggest problems for us is that we cannot get management nationally to engage upon hypotheticals or unattributed anecdotes so what Napo needs at the centre is a clearer running total of cases being managed and supported locally that we can present to senior decision makers.

While we look to systematically address this it is vital that we receive continual feedback on the issues that reps are grappling with and some anonymised case studies that we can get included on the joint workshops.

I hope this helps to show how seriously we are taking these issues which of course are not of Napo's making.

Please use NPS contacts to press local issues

The above problems are among the many that our reps in the NPS divisions are encountering, and which we seek to escalate to the regular HMPPS HR Engagement meetings.

The problem here is that it is simply too much to expect every issue to be raised and resolved at this national forum when it might be more feasible to first try and exhaust the dialogue locally with the NPS divisions HR Business Partner with the assistance of your nominated National Link Officer.

Remember also that notwithstanding the demise of the former NNC structures, a dispute is still a dispute, and will need to be addressed as we seek to finalise a replacement national negotiating structure with the NPS

GFTU offers us so much

The General Federation of Trade Unions have just held their biannual conference in Stratford-Upon-Avon which was attended by National Co-Chair Yvonne Pattison and myself.

Here Napo made a major contribution, submitting four highly topical motions covering the disastrous Probation reforms and the cause and effect of SFOs, strategies against Domestic Violence and two on the imperative for unions to consider their options for sharing and pooling services and resources.

Napo is leading by example here, as we finalise an innovative partnership with the Association of Educational Psychologists which will see members of our respective National Representatives or equivalents take on casework with Napo securing an administration fee.

Adverts for vacancies on an enlarged Napo Representative panel have gone out to Napo Branches and we have already learnt a lot more about the important contribution that AEP members make to society and have helped them enhance their knowledge of what our members do as well.

The GFTU affiliate unions include those who have a political fund and those who do not and unions who are affiliated to the Labour Party and those who are not. Napo is in the latter of both categories and we were therefore only able to abstain on an emergency motion which called on the GFTU affiliates to do all they can to promote Labour Party policies during the General Election campaign and to encourage their members to vote accordingly.

A Warning to Charities

Yet another example of how unwise it can be for charities to enter into the world of contracting for public services. This from the Guardian:-

Drug and alcohol charity Lifeline Project collapses

Shock failure of charity serving 80,000 people a year and employing 1,300 comes after allegations over financial controls

One of the UK’s leading drug and alcohol treatment charities has collapsed days after the Charity Commission launched an investigation into claims that it had critically weak financial controls. Frantic efforts are being made to save the jobs of 1,300 employees of the charity, Manchester-based Lifeline Project, and the services it provides for 80,000 people a year, including prisoners in 22 jails and young offender institutions. Staff were told on Thursday that the charity was seeking to transfer services to other providers and warned that not all the work the charity does would continue.

The shock failure of Lifeline follows the collapse of the charities Kids Company in 2015 and 4Children in 2016 and is likely to reignite the debate about the running of essential public services by charities. Lifeline was set up in 1971 and grew particularly rapidly in recent years. Its annual income soared from £26m in 2012-13 to almost £62m in 2015-16, when it reported annual growth of 45%. It was formerly chaired by Paul Flowers, the disgraced former Methodist minister and Co-op Bank chair whose drug use was exposed in 2014. He was asked to resign from Lifeline in 2004 over allegedly excessive expenses claims.

Allegations of mismanagement were made to the commission last month by Roger Howard, a former trustee of Lifeline’s board, who is a leading figure in the drug and alcohol treatment field and served as chief executive of the UK Drug Policy Commission.

Howard said on Thursday: “Those of us who work in the charity sector and have a long history of serving on boards or as executives know that good governance is absolutely crucial. We have seen examples of other bodies, like Kids Company, where governance and leadership has been questioned. It’s really critically important to ensure that organisations delivering large volumes of public services have the right assurances in place.”

Howard served on Lifeline’s board from December 2015 to November last year, when he was asked to resign after seeking to raise concerns. These included the sudden rundown of the charity’s working reserves. The Charity Commission said on Thursday that Lifeline’s collapse highlighted the need for tight financial controls and oversight by charity trustees.

Paul Holdsworth, the commission’s chief operating officer, said: “We are sad to hear of the charity’s planned closure, though note that the trustees have worked to ensure that the majority of its services will continue and that the impact on beneficiaries and staff is managed and minimised.

“In the meantime we are engaged with the charity and its trustees, both to assess the events that have led up to this outcome and to ensure that trustees fulfil their duties and responsibilities in winding the charity up and passing its services to another charity.”

The charity runs drug and alcohol services across much of England and in Scotland. Its last annual report said it employed almost 1,500 people, but it is believed that many have been made redundant in recent weeks in efforts to stay afloat.

The biggest not-for-profit provider of treatment services, CGL, confirmed that it had been asked by Lifeline “four or five weeks ago” to step in to help and that it was working to take over “a significant proportion” of its projects. David Biddle, CGL’s chief executive, said: “We are moving to ensure the security and stability of projects that deliver services to vulnerable people across the country. We are providing the resources to ensure that they are able to continue.”

CGL, which stands for Change, Grow, Live, has annual income of £158m and employs 2,800 people. Biddle said it would “initially” make no job cuts among the Lifeline staff it was taking on, including its head office team, and he praised the role being played by Lifeline’s long-serving chief executive, Ian Wardle.

Lifeline did not respond to requests for comment.

Thursday 18 May 2017

Probation Reforms in the News

Criminal justice matters don't seem to be featuring much so far in the election campaign, but here's two stories that might help, the first from the Daily Mail:-

Ten criminals a WEEK commit a serious offence - including sexual and violent crimes - while they are on probation

Ten criminals a week are committing serious violent and sexual offences while supposedly being monitored by the authorities. The public is being put at risk by offenders who are meant to be under supervision in the community but end up before the courts accused of crimes including murder, rape, kidnap and robbery.

Some 1,021 serious further offence (SFO) reviews have been triggered since February 2015 after the Government introduced its flawed probation revolution. A review is carried out when a prisoner is charged with a major crime while being watched by the struggling probation services.

The findings will be embarrassing to the Ministry of Justice, which shook up the regime for managing offenders in the community in 2014. David Spencer, of the Centre For Crime Prevention think-tank, said: ‘It is shocking that so many dangerous criminals are being released to offend again. Probation should be solely reserved for low-level offenders.’

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: ‘Failures in the new system mean innocent people are being left in danger. Unless the Government is willing to substantially invest in our prison and probation services then the crisis will only get worse.’

Bob Neill, who was Tory chairman of the justice select committee in the last Parliament, said: ‘We need to look much more carefully at how we follow up on people who are on community supervision.’

Ian Lawrence of Napo, the probation officers’ union, said thousands of staff had been laid off since the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ shake-up. This meant staff increasingly supervising offenders remotely.

He said: ‘Offenders are being phoned up and asked, “Have you committed a crime since I last spoke to you?” The lack of face-to-face meetings mean people fall back into their old cliques, and struggle to turn their lives around. The so-called rehabilitation revolution has been an abject failure.’

Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts, who unearthed the figures, said: ‘We are approaching an average of 100 Serious Further Offence reviews a month. The Government cannot seriously claim the system is working.’

The statistics, which run from February 2015 to January 2017, were dragged out of the Ministry of Justice using Parliamentary questions.

The Transforming Rehabilitation overhaul created a National Probation Service to deal with high-risk offenders, with the remainder assigned to 21 partly-privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies. The reforms saw all prisoners sentenced to a year or less having 12 months of supervision on release. The extra 50,000 individuals being supervised represent an increase of around 25 per cent.

Under a payment-by-results scheme, the CRCs check whether criminals are complying with court requirements and help rehabilitate them. Justice Secretary Liz Truss has ordered a review of probation privatisation. A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Keeping the public safe remains our absolute priority.’


Selected comments confirm that it would be wrong to characterise all Daily Mail readers in a particular way:-

Successive governments have slowly destroyed the probation service. Staff have been deskilled, demoralized and dumbed down. Probation assistants have been employed in place of probation officers. They are less skilled at understanding and managing risk. 20 years ago an offender had weekly meetings where they were challenged (and helped) over finding accommodation, employment and turning their lives around. Today, supervision is classed as turning up outside the office, scanning your hand on the scanner and going home. The justice system is a box ticking excercise.

It is very worrying that even though the government were warned in advance that this was the likely outcome of these so called reforms, they choose to ignore the advice of the professionals doing the job on the frontline. If the press were any way serious about these stories they would put some of their best investigative journalists on the case. If you really want to know what the Judges or Magistrates think why not ask them. The answers will making interesting script. The public concern should now NHS." Watch this space!"

Sorry, forgot to mention, rumour has it that the private companies are all failing their targets, have returned to the MOJ for a re-think/re-drawing up of the contracts. The information already known about failures is damning. The review is likely to be hidden form the general public and slipped out in the summer to avoid media scrutiny.

This is an example of the worst kind of risk management driven by the desire to save money. The government is fully aware that under the current system, from time time, such things are bound to happen but they weigh this against the extra cost of a more robust system.

Not a very in depth analysis by the Daily Mail. There are undoubtedly flaws in the system, caused to a large extent by the changes initiated by Chris Grayling when he was Justice Secretary, and there are bits of poor practice by supervising officers. However the Community Rehabilitation Companies only supervise offenders who have been assessed as being low risk. If they committ a serious offence, this is likely to be unpredictable and so blame cannot really be ascribed to the CRC. Criminal behaviour is not always predictable - murders tend to be committed by people who have never been in trouble before.

Well what do you expect when you take 24% out of the Prison and Probation system, cut real officers on the beat and the situation isn't helped by those on probation being thrown off benefits at a whim in an already wary employer and housing market . There have been many noteable people that have reformed their character, shown regret and taken the world forward, would hate to think the world missed out on the next Mandela because they fell through a preventable trap.


From Private Eye:-

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Napo and Accountability

Regular readers will be aware that there have been long-standing concerns regarding the dysfunctionality of Napo at the top. Thanks go to the Napo member for forwarding details of an interesting report and motion to be discussed at the next London Branch meeting scheduled for Friday 26th May:-

NEC report to London Branch meeting 26/05/2017

I regret to inform the Branch that the NEC meeting scheduled for 23/03/2017 was cancelled by the National Officers and Officials group at the ‘eleventh hour’ due to ‘concerns around quoracy’.

Included in the notification was a ‘confidentiality agreement’ that NEC reps now have to sign, this is not in the Constitution and was not agreed by an NEC meeting nor is there an AGM policy permitting this. If there is a breach of confidentiality we already have a disciplinary process in place to deal with such events. We feel this is unacceptable to impose without following democratic process.

NEC reps were incensed that yet another NEC meeting has been cancelled and that democracy is being removed from this union which we feel is an unacceptable position.

Having NEC reps confirm attendance prior to a meeting is a new concept as previously you had to send apologies if you couldn’t attend. There is no policy altering this position.

The NEC reps called for an emergency NEC meeting which is going to be held on the 6th June. Although this is outside the time specified by the constitution when calling an emergency meeting we felt it was important to have this face to face meeting.

As your NEC reps we have major concerns about our ability to be able to hold the National Officers and Officials to account if they feel they can cancel NEC meetings almost at will. Please support the motion we are presenting in order to enable the membership to address what we perceive to be an erosion of democracy, accountability and transparency at the top of our union.

The ‘emergency’ NEC meeting will be held on the 6th June and the regular scheduled NEC meeting is on the 22nd June so hopefully we will have lots to report to the annual Branch AGM on Friday 21st July 2017.

London Branch NEC Co reps.


8. NEC Motion 

Motion to NEC re NEC meetings and accountability. 

This Branch believes that the NEC is vital in order to hold the National Officers and Officials to account and enable the Union to undertake its business. 

This Branch understands the last meeting of the NEC was cancelled due to a perceived lack of attendees and feel that scheduled NEC meetings should never be cancelled due to quoracy. 

This Branch further understands that the TUO committee is currently examining the way we organise NEC meetings and will be making recommendations to AGM. 

This Branch requests the TUO take the following considerations into account: 

1. Examine whether quoracy can be lowered in the same way AGM quoracy was lowered in order to expedite business. 

2. Examine Section 9 of the constitution and tighten it up to make it more difficult to cancel NEC meetings in future. 

3. Revisit returning to sending apologies for absence instead of confirmations of attendance.  

London Branch NEC Co reps.

Friday 12 May 2017

Napo Speaks Out

Taking a leaf out of the barristers book, I see Napo have chipped in with their pitch to prospective candidates. I'm going to say nothing:- 

Napo Manifesto Demands General Election 2017 

Napo – Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court Staff. 
Napo is an independent non-affiliated trade union. 

It has been well documented that the justice system is in meltdown. 50% of the probation service was privatised in 2015 leading to ongoing failures by private providers and excessive job cuts. The family courts are now also at breaking point as workloads have become dangerously high and prisons are in chaos. This document sets out Napo’s demands for the 2017 election and what we want to see the new government take action on to save our justice system and its staff. 

End the public sector pay freeze 
Probation staff have suffered a six year pay freeze. An increase in public sector pay would also put pressure on private providers to review pay in order to keep them competitive.

Extend Youth Justice Boards to cover 18-21 year olds 
Youth Justice Boards have proven to be very successful at reducing reoffending rates. Extending them to work with this cohort of offenders would enable a smooth transition to probation, reduce reoffending and reduce the number going into custody. 

Full independent inquiry into Community Rehabilitation Companies 
The inquiry should review the contracts, performance and cost of private probation providers. Those shown to be failing should be brought back under public ownership using the power of the Golden Share. Accountability for service standards and local commissioning should be delegated to democratically accountable bodies, regulated and inspected by a national HMI Probation. There should be widespread consultation about the form this should take, with potential for pilots for Police and Crime Commissioners and Regional Mayors (e.g. in London where MOPAC are involved already in monitoring the CRC contract following the HMIP's report in December 2016). 

Promote Probation 
Half of the £1.3 million ear marked for building new prisons should be invested in probation. There needs to be increased dialogue between sentencers and all probation providers to help rebuild trust and confidence. Current government policy is very prison focused. We want to see a policy that sees prison as the last resort and focuses much more on community interventions. 

Reverse cuts to legal aid 
Specifically review the qualification thresholds for qualifying to improve the quality of justice and reduce the strain on professionals, especially in Family Courts. 

Increased funding for the Family Court Service 
The huge increases in cases particularly arising from greater focus upon child protection nationally is having a detrimental impact on service delivery. Cafcass is now at breaking point with many members working increasingly long hours to complete work. Review sentencing guidelines Prison sentences have gone up 27% despite a fall of 25% in sentences for serious crime. We need to develop a strong presumption against imposing short prison sentences. Increase problem solving courts to help reduce prison sentences being passed. 

Prison Reform 
A commitment to reduce prison population as reform cannot happen while prisons are overcrowded. Prison & Courts Bill does not go far enough. This should be reviewed with a greater involvement of prison and probation staff. Napo believes that there has not been enough thought or consultation into the proposal to increase the number of probation staff in prisons or the impact this will have on community resources or staff. 

Introduce a Licence to Practice for probation staff 
This is already under consideration in the MOJ and would provide protection for all staff and keep providers focused on training staff to the right level for the job they do. 

Workload crisis 
Workloads in both probation and family court are dangerously high. In probation this is exacerbated by staff shortages, ongoing job cuts and poor recruitment and retention. Probation staff in both the NPS and the privatised CRCs face enormous and increasing workload pressures with some staff carrying workloads of over twice the accepted safe level (i.e. ranges from 150% - 210% on the workload management tool measure) and many reporting caseloads of 80-90 clients. One member in a CRC told Napo, “I am constantly anxious and terrified that I'll miss something critical because I haven't seen someone or completed some task.” While another member working in the NPS told the union they had “ time to do any offence focused work and are constantly firefighting.” 

In CAFCASS the workload has significantly increased causing stress and poor health to our members. It has a direct impact on the quality of work delivered and places the public at risk of harm.


I'll tag on edited highlights from Ian Lawrence's latest blog post:-

Napo's asks for this General Election

As we always have to make clear when approaching the mainstream political parties at General Elections, Napo is an independent Trade Union and Professional Association whose constitution prevents us aligning ourselves with any political party.

That said, we are entitled to ask important questions of those who seek to govern us and thats why we have finalised our 'Manifesto Asks' this week. This has gone across to the various political strategists in the hope that their responses will help our members to decide which party will do most to address the issues that matter.

As we say in our opening statemets, it has been well documented that the justice system is in meltdown with huge problems across its component parts. In probation we have the ongoing failure of the so-called rehabilitation revolution with many private providers in serious operational and financial difficulties, due to a combination of dodgy contracts and unsafe operating models and incompetent profiling of staffing needs. In the Family Court Service many of our members are at breaking point as workloads have become dangerously high. Prisons are in chaos (when have they not been) with levels of violence and self-harm seemingly beyond control and where, no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, staff are leaving in droves.

The full document can be seen here and we will publish any responses we receive.

PCCs have eyes on CRCs

As suggested in the manifesto demands, the notion that failing CRCs might be brought under the control of Police and Crime Commissioners or the increasing number of Metropolitan Mayors especially London is no longer a just fanciful concept.

Its clear from the intel reaching me that overtures are being made by a number of PCCs to explore if they might offer an escape route to CRC owners who may be at the end of their commercial tether or looking to find an honorable escape route.

There is nothing more substantial than that to report at the moment, but it introduces a new dynamic to the post-TR landscape which the new Secretary of State post-June the 8th would be wise to look at seriously.
Workload pressures and their impact are a huge issue for all members

I have just returned from a visit to Napo PBNI members in Belfast where Ranjit Singh and I also had a series of meetings with our sister union NIPSA, the Board's Chief Executive Cheryl Lamont and her senior management team Gillian Robinson and Paul Doran.

It was a pleasure and privilege to be able to spend valuable time discussing our members concerns and to explain our approach to the many problems that they face. These are not being helped by the current political uncertainties following the collapse of the Assembly and the parlous financial position which is in turn creating inertia in important decisions about paying up on the incremental progression that is a contractual entitlement for our members.

We will do all we can to find common cause with senior PBNI management to address this, and a joint approach will also be needed in finding a strategy to the alarming sickness absence figures that have just been reported across the workforce.

This will need sensitive and careful handling and some joint reserach into the underlying causes. The initial response from Cheryl and her team to our suggestion here has been very encouraging.

When enough is enough

As you will all know there have been a series of problems with the Shared Service division in terms of pay and pensions over a long period. One of the latest has been the diabolical mistreatment of PSO starters who have gone weeks without any sign of a salary payment.

Here's a typical example from one of our newest members as to what has been going on:

I started as a PSO in March and have still not received any pay. I have been contacting the recruitment services every day to find out when I will be paid but no one seems to know. At first there were delays with my security vetting but I've had all of this confirmed now and they keep saying I "should have received a call" but no one has been in contact. I received my offer of appointment contract and new starter form in April and returned this first thing in the morning. I am being told daily by SSCL that someone will "chase it up" and contact me within the day with an update but, again, I have received no contact so I am continuing to call daily to be told again that they will chase it up. I am going into my 8th week here and I do not have any money in my account - at the moment I am having to loan money from family members to get to work and pay for food and bills. I am not sure how much longer I am going to be able to do this for and I feel like I am not getting anywhere. I have tried escalating this repeatedly but with no result.

In Gravesend the other week we saw a remarkable show of solidarity for another member in similar circumstances when colleagues (including non-members I understand) spontaneously walked off the premises at lunchtime in abject disgust. I totally get where they were coming from and following this it was a relief to hear that the pay problem was resolved.

Thursday 11 May 2017

CRC Dispute - Latest 23

Thanks go to the Napo member for forwarding the following:-

Dino Peros, Chair South Southwestern Branch
Ceris Handley, Chair Western Branch

5th May 2017
Dear Dino, Ceris and Pen

Firstly my thanks to you and your Branch Executive and to those members in the Working Links/Aurelius Unpaid Work Service for their continued support of our negotiating position in respect of the proposed contract variations.

It has been disclosed to Napo in our discussions with the WL contract areas that staff within BGSW and DDC CRC’s, that it is the intention of the employer to seek to impose new job titles on all staff contracted to work in Unpaid Work units as has happened in Wales. My understanding is that contracted UW supervisors are to be re-designated as Case Workers as soon as the employers can either force the issue on staff or attempt to negotiate agreement from the trade unions.

Talks are due to take place this week on an agreed agenda which is designed to address the various issues around UW. These follow the NNC Joint Secretaries’ meeting at which the (then) NOMS contract manager was present and the subsequent JS determination which made it absolutely clear that an attempt should be made to reach a collective agreement to resolve this aspect of our wider and long running dispute with the company.

As you know, these issues are wider than Unpaid Work situation but the UW changes are currently dominating WL intention to drive ahead with their change agenda.

The unions will not be hurried or bounced into any non-negotiated arrangements impacting on the roles and job titles of our members and Napo is making it clear in the strongest of terms that all members who are affected should reject such changes and submit in writing their refusal to both change either their job title without consent nor to accept any contractual role changes.

We are aware that in fact the employers are already planning to publish the role changes without additional appropriate training or remuneration. The suggestion by the employers that staff should accept the revised job title but not actually deliver the new job description is nothing more than a ruse and the acceptance of a new title will be the first step to an employer driven deception of your roles. This cannot be appropriate and we are challenging this nonsense.

This will create confusion and further divisions in the fragmented workforce that cannot be good for service users, staff or beneficiaries We wait to see if this experiment can actually provide the number of staff that WL require to eventually drive out the existing job roles and conditions. In response we have said that we will enforce all the protections of the Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement if necessary and undertake to consult with the affected members over appropriate action should any staff become displaced unfairly and/ or inappropriately.

This letter can be shared with your members in the Unpaid Work service.

Yours sincerely

General Secretary

Wednesday 10 May 2017

Barristers Speak Out

It's been brought to my attention that, such is their anger with the out-going government and Lord Chancellor in particular, that the Bar Council have published their own manifesto. Of course it's at times like this that the lack of effective leadership of our own profession becomes all-too-obvious. 

The Value of Justice

The Bar Council's manifesto for Justice

A fair society depends on a strong and effective system of justice

It depends on every member of society as well as businesses and organisations, small and large, being able to turn to the Law for protection, for redress, for legal certainty and to establish their rights and freedoms. 
The Rule of Law underpins the fairness and solidarity of our society and our democratic way of life. 

The quality of any system of justice depends not only on the fairness of the law itself, but also on its accessibility. In 2017 the accessibility of our Law is under threat at home and abroad. This manifesto is addressed to all who take an interest in the future of our justice system. It explains, in the public interest, what we need from our next elected government, and why.

Core values of our justice system

Over time we have built a reputation for the best quality of justice available anywhere in the world. This reputation was not accidentally acquired. It has been founded on six core values: 

I. Judicial independence: by demonstrating our judges were independent, free from corruption, free from government pressure and robust in the face of attacks from the media. 

II. Legal excellence: by valuing standards of excellence in judges, in legal practitioners, and all who serve the administration of justice. 

III. Stewardship: by making proper investment in the infrastructure of justice - in court staff, buildings and administration, and by not charging excessive fees to those who want access to courts and tribunals. 

IV. Innovation: in a mixed economy: by enabling a mix between private and public funding of lawyers which ensured that everyone had access to the highest quality of representation and fostered an ethos of public service. 

V. Humanity: by respecting the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable in our society to ensure they had the means to achieve equality before the Law. 

VI. Open market for legal services: by enabling litigators all over the world to bring their cases to be tried in our courts, by avoiding protectionism and enabling our lawyers to trade freely and demonstrate their values and skills overseas.

This hard-won reputation is at risk. A reputation can be easily lost. Each of the above six values is under threat. 

I. The independence of judges has been attacked, and the defence of their independence was inadequate. The Lord Chancellor did not stand up for the judges who were attacked by the press as ‘Enemies of the People’. The Rule of Law depends on an independent judiciary. 

II. Judges and lawyers who serve the public have become less valued of their expertise and skills. For example, even before the press attack, a survey revealed that fewer than half judges (43%) felt appreciated by the public and virtually none felt valued by the media (3%) or by government (2%). Legal Aid lawyers have suffered 30% cuts over 10 years – more than any other sector providing public services. 

III. Although investment in technology is being made, the infrastructure is creaking. Court buildings are being closed and those that remain are insufficiently maintained. 31% of judges have concerns about the poor physical quality of court buildings. Court staff and court administration have suffered from a lack of investment. 64% of judges are concerned about low morale of court staff. The imposition of huge increases in court fees has deterred many from bringing their cases. For example, since fees were introduced the number of cases taken to employment tribunals has fallen by 70%. 

IV. Public funding of lawyers is diminishing in scope and value, to the detriment of those who cannot afford to pay for advice and representation. We are at risk of developing two-tier justice. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 (LASPO) removed whole areas of law from the scope of legal aid. Five years later nearly half a million people a year no longer receive legal advice on employment, housing, welfare and family issues. This does not save money for the country because unresolved legal problems create other expensive problems for society. The social costs cannot be ignored. The courts, especially the family courts, are filled with litigants in person; those who cannot afford lawyers and for whom the state now makes no provision. Many who cannot afford to be represented do not engage in the legal process at all. Disengagement of sectors of society can lead to a growing sense of injustice which of itself risks populism and extremism.

V. Changes in society have created new unmet needs for protection and redress for the most vulnerable in society. Poor decision-making affecting those with little or no knowledge or access to the Law is creating unfairness. For example, the huge increase in the detention of immigrants in detention centres is characterised by the very large proportion who are never removed from the UK and who ought never to have been placed in detention. The humanity of a society is judged by how it treats its most vulnerable. 

VI. Unless a strategic plan for the future of our legal services is devised and delivered, our exit from the EU will damage the international market value of the legal services sector, and undermine acquired rights and protections for our citizens and for our environment.

What must the next government do?

The next government must reverse this trend and restore our commitment to the six core values identified above. The fairness of our society and our international reputation for justice depend on this. Making the commitment should not depend on an upturn in the economy: it is too important to be left to that. Our economic growth and prosperity depend on the Rule of Law. 

Justice is not a commodity and should never be a luxury available only to those who can afford to pay for it. Justice is not like any other public service. Nor should the belief take hold that a system of justice must pay for itself. Justice is not a business. It underpins the principles of liberty and democracy, the Rule of Law and our human rights and fundamental freedoms. The price we pay for justice should reflect the value we place on living in a just and ordered society. We should take pride in our justice system. 

This is not to say that public expenditure on justice should be limitless. We look to the next government to invest in the administration of justice to ensure it is accessible to all and can be delivered efficiently and effectively.

To ensure that justice is available to all, the increasing diversity of our society should be reflected in the diversity of all who serve justice. Initiatives which promote under-represented groups in the professions and the judiciary should be supported by the Ministry of Justice. Working conditions for all court users should ensure that no under-represented group is deterred from participating in the administration of justice. We need to bring greater diversity to the judiciary. 

So we call on the next government to:

I. Demonstrate its commitment to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the Rule of Law. Under our constitution the Lord Chancellor has a specific duty to continue to uphold the independence of our judges. The next government must demonstrate its determination to fulfil this responsibility through a Lord Chancellor whose experience is combined with the requisite authority among ministerial colleagues to defend the independence of the judiciary and ensure that they have the support that is necessary to enable them to exercise their functions. 

II. Provide appropriate funding which recognises the value of the judiciary and those who work for the administration of justice so that standards of excellence can be achieved. Solicitors and barristers who were once prepared to undertake publicly-funded work are choosing not to do so because the rates of pay have become so low. So the quality of judges and of lawyers who work in public service in the future is at risk, and the quality of justice will suffer if nothing is done to reverse this. The standards of our justice system should not be allowed to fall. 

III. Invest in infrastructure. The previous government secured £750m worth of investment in IT on the basis that technology would make savings. Such investment is welcome and we must continue to modernise the justice system. But savings must not be made in a way which compromises the fairness of trials or at the expense of necessary human contact and the delivery of justice in open court. Existing court buildings must be maintained and modernised so that they become work places that are fit for purpose for all court users and provide suitable places for the delivery of justice to our communities.

IV. Review the consequences of LASPO and take steps urgently to remedy the loss of access to justice by the most vulnerable in society. In the last 10 years the amount spent by government on legal aid has reduced by a third from £2.5bn to £1.6bn. Yet the need for representation in housing, in immigration and in welfare cases persists. A recent survey of London MPs’ surgeries showed that 89% of the issues raised by constituents were legal. The most common areas of concern were housing, immigration and welfare benefits. The number of litigants in person in family courts is another visible sign of the problem. The loss of nearly £1bn legal aid support has effectively disenfranchised a whole sector of society from obtaining access to justice. Government should reintroduce legal aid to assist vulnerable citizens who are currently left to fend for themselves. 

V. Remedy poor decision-making by those in authority who deal with vulnerable members of society. For example, approximately half of those detained in immigration detention centres ought not to be there as is demonstrated by charities which provide legal assistance to those who cannot use lawyers. As with other sectors of society where administrative decisions impact vulnerable people, the Government should undertake a review of decision-making processes by immigration officers, in particular the time limits for making decisions, and ensure that provision is made for strong, independent oversight and review of decisions which is consistent with our commitment to the Rule of Law.

VI.In exiting the EU, develop a strategy for the legal services sector. This must recognise the value that Britain’s legal services contributes (£25bn which is 1.6% of GDP to the UK economy) and ensure that, subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny, measures are taken to: 

a. Enable citizens of the UK to continue to obtain judgments and enforce them across borders when the need arises as a result of an accident abroad, a commercial dispute involving a party in another country, or as a result of family cases involving custody and contact with children; and to ensure that (for example) existing benefits deriving from the EU in the workplace, consumer rights, and arrangements for the protection of the environment, can continue to be enforced in the UK. 

b. Ensure that EU co-operation in fighting cross-border crime continues. Current co-operation in investigation and detection of crime and the swift and efficient extradition of those accused of crime must continue so that today’s streamlined processes, essential to the fight against crime, are replicated. 

c. Safeguard and promote the UK’s international reputation as a global leader for the provision of legal services in the face of increasing competition from overseas, notably New York, Frankfurt, Paris and Singapore. The UK accounts for around 10% of the global market for legal services, second only to the US. It is also the largest market in Europe, accounting for around a fifth of Europe’s legal services fee revenue. Our competitors will use our exit from the EU to try to take our market share. To remain internationally competitive upon exit, we need to achieve mutual recognition and enforcement of judgments, and seek to maintain free movement of lawyers between countries. We should avoid taking protectionist measures and ensure the UK market for legal services remains open, liberalised and internationally competitive and that our jurisdiction continues to be the forum of choice for the resolution of international disputes. We should continue to promote the law of England and Wales as the choice of law between contracting parties across the world.

Our call on behalf of justice to politicians who ask for our vote 

• In 2017 our system of justice has become fragile. The six core values underpinning the justice system need to be supported and strengthened. 

• There is a growing body of evidence which is showing that the fairness of our justice system is being questioned, that justice is not serving all of our society, in particular those who are most in need. 

• Judges and practitioners who serve the public feel undervalued and demoralised. 

• To build a stronger, fairer Britain, that works for everyone, not just the privileged few, politicians of every hue must attend to the evidence of what is wrong with our system of justice and address themselves to the solutions we recommend.

The Bar Council represents 16,000 barristers in England and Wales. It promotes the Bar's high quality specialist advocacy and advisory services, fair access to justice for all, the highest standards of ethics, equality and diversity across the profession, and the development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Politics, Prison and Probation

With domestic politics continuing to take some interesting turns - the Tories having privatised the electricity industry for ideological reasons, somewhat surprisingly I see they now want to try and stop the privateers ripping customers off lol - a comment left recently has served to remind me of the experience of former insider Julian Le Vay and his take on the politics behind the life and death of NOMS. Of course we may also see the demise of the MoJ as well.... 

NOMS: an obituary

The National Offender Management Service, born 1 June 2004, died 8 February 2017. No flowers by request.

The abolition of NOMS last week greeted with a universal lack of interest. It will be little mourned, even though prisons and probation both did much better during NOMS' first decade than either before or since.

A difficult birth

NOMS was set up following a report by Pat Carter (1). Its conception was unnatural – a forced union of at least 3 different agendas: the introduction of 'end-to-end offender management', reducing the prison population and increasing competition. Its birth was troubled, with Blunkett announcing acceptance of its findings without adequate examination, or real understanding what they implied.

And it turned out to be malformed. Carter didn't go into detail and didn't test out his ideas. For example, he failed to notice that Government had no power either to run probation services directly or contract for them (which remained the case til Government legislated in 2007); or that about half of the resources for offender programmes were actually held outside the prison and probation services, so that making them 'commissioners' for such services missed half of the picture. His report also imagined a situation where the Department both ran prisons directly through line management and simultaneously 'commissioned' services from them, a legal and constitutional impossibility which, bizarrely, the current Lord Chancellor is about to re-attempt.

An unwelcome arrival

From the outset, NOMS was viscerally disliked by many in the prison and probation services, who knew full well how important is was to bridge the gap between custody and community services, but whose tribalism was too entrenched to be comfortable with a merged identity. Probation staff in particular understandably feared being dominated by the much bigger prison service, whose ethos it detested and whose demands for money and ministerial attention always trumped those of probation. All ministers believed in prison: some were dubious about probation.

NOMS was seen as a vehicle for ever increasing central control, exercised by a bloated and remote HQ. Figures banded about for the size and cost of NOMS HQ did not distinguish between classic civil service 'policy' jobs, and work that was fully operational and without which prison service couldn't have operated. It was an own goal that NOMS never produced any clearer account. (Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with centralisation. The chaotic, anarchic nature of the prison service up to the mid 1990s, where key operating instructions were causally ignored locally, sometimes because impossible to comply with, and terrible things shappened as a result, cried out for greater central grip. These things tend to go in cycles in large, distributed organisations.)

Endless surgery

If NOMS meant one big change, that would have been one thing – but the organisation was hacked about again and again.

Carter's notion of running prisons through both direct management and 'commissioning' – memorably described by Phil Wheatley as 'a plane that could never fly' – wasted years of constant reorganisation, trying to make this misconceived idea work, with the prison service separated out from NOMS as 'just another provider', before it was dropped in favour of plain ordinary line management. This constant shifting around – some units moved several times between the prison service, now deemed to be merely another provider, and the centre of NOMS – alienated many career civil servants in HQ.

Probation suffered from an especially bad case of what might be called 'Compulsive Re-organisation Syndrome' or CRS. First turned into the National Probation Service in the early 1990s, then into statutory Probation Trusts in the late 2000s, shortly before being broken up and part-privatised, part-centralised in the mid 2010s. Good people were exhausted, alienated or jettisoned along the way. What they must feel like now - as Government tells the prison service that empowering front line staff and freeing them from central control is - of course! - the way to improve services, and as the CRC contracts look more and more troubled. There is so much talk of accountability, yet no Minister is ever held to account for their botched or unnecessary re-organisations.

Missed opportunities

It can be said against NOMS that despite these massive re-organisations, it missed opportunities for getting real benefit from them. Prison and probation, far from being brought together, were cemented further into their silos. For example, there wasn't even an experiment in letting prison and probation services in an area as a single contract . Each prison and probation board or trust in an area continued to run their own offender programmes for the same bunch of offenders, instead of running a single programme across institutional borders.

And worked

And yet, for all that, the decade of NOMS invention was, looking back, a good one for both services – better than what went before , and certainly much better than what has come after.

...for prisons

The prisons system had been in a scandalous state for decades, right up to the turn of the century. But in the 2000s, with the introduction of effective management, a new generation of management minded governors, and substantial money for new offender programmes, there was steady improvement towards much more consistent performance (2). By 2010, the prison service was in a better state, despite continuing high over-crowding, than it had been in living memory.

Under the Prison Rating System, in 2010-11 no prison rated in the lowest category (cause for serious concern) and few in the next one up (cause of concern). Compare that with the turn of the century: a serious riot at Lincoln (2002), institutionalised beating in the Scrubs Seg, institutionalised racism at Brixton and many other prisons, the gruesome murder of Zahid Mubarek at Feltham, the near total collapse of Ashfield and Rye Hill! Or compare with 2015-16, when the PRS rated no fewer than 6 prisons as causing serious concern an a full quarter of the system rated as causing concern, and major riots at three prisons.

..for probation

Comparisons with probation's pre-NOMS performance is more difficult. Ironically, although prisons are often described as a 'hidden world', the media, and public, know what a 'bad ' prison looks like and excesses in prisons are (nowadays) pretty quickly made public. But 'failure', in probation, is not so easily recognised.

What one can is that far from being robbed of resources to pay the prison service, probation did very well in the 2000s.

Graph 1: probation resources 2001-08
(from Garside, R. and Groombridge, N., 2008 (3))
In fact, a study of resourcing of various criminal justice agencies in this period concludes that "probation appears to have been the main winner" (Garside, R. and Groombridge, N., 2008), ahead of police, prisons and courts.

In the same decade there were many important advances in the way probation worked: the offender management model itself, which had faults to be sure, but some virtues, better methodologies for offender risk assessment, so crucial to probation (Oasys, VISOR), better inter agency working (MAPPA). And in terms of achievement one can point to the NOMS ratings report for 2010-2011, which found every single probation trust to be giving 'good' or 'exceptional' performance. One can also point to the extremely low rate of serious re-offending by the 50, 000 or so high risk offenders supervised under MAPPA every year; in 2010-11, 'only' 134 were charged with such an offence, and not all convicted, though of course it wil be said that that is 134 too many (4).

...success in cutting re-offending

Many now say that the best, or indeed only, measure of the success of prisons and probation is the reconviction rate. I've expressed doubt about that in my last article here. But if that's what you think, have a look here, and then tell me why you still think NOMS in the 2000s was a disaster:

Graph 2: success in cutting re-offending 2001-2011
(Source: NOMS proven reoffending tables, 2010-11)
Granted it looks like a small reduction, but in fact it is as much as, if not more than, the criminological evidence suggests should be achievable, across the whole offender population. It amounts to many tens of thousands of crimes avoided. What's not to like?

(Indeed, it is very interesting to me that however often attention is drawn to this clear evidence of reduced reoffending, all you hear from politicians, pressure groups and criminologists is that reoffending rates have not come down. I am beginning to suspect that if there is one thing we really cannot handle, cannot accept, it is good news that conflicts with our deep belief that x or y is dreadful. We would much rather, it appears, that x or y continued to be dreadful, or at least seem so, than that we had to admit our prejudices are incorrect. One sees this in florid form in respect of many achievements of the Labour Government, where Labour supporters are far more insistent that nothing good was accomplished than the Tories are. It's a form of reputational self-harm. Because they weren't the right - or Left - sort of Labour Government, you see, so they just can't have achieved anything.)

The 2010s

I have talked of NOMS' success only in the 2000s. Of course, it was all downhill from around 2013. But one can hardly blame NOMS for that. Whatever the organisational structure, the cuts would have just as been severe, even more so because made without any attempt to manage them, and the mania for privatisation would still have struck. Indeed, NOMS became in a sense the victim of its own success: in a previous generation, the speed with which Grayling made succession of massive changes in prisons and probation would have been simply impossible. NOMS' greater managerial grip lent itself to Grayling's lust for successive massive, unargued, unevidenced, hasty re-organisations.


NOMS was the ugly, unwanted child who was a quiet success. But none of us can bear to admit it.

Next up

So much for history. The question now of course is why Liz Truss has abolished it, why she has chosen to make the changes she has and what the chances are of them succeeding. I shall return to that question.

Julian Le Vay


(1) 'Managing offenders, reducing crime ' (2003)
(2) It is de rigueur for criminologists decry 'the new public management' of the late 1990s: what species of management do they think existed in the early 1990s, when the prison service was a basket case? What kind of managerialism would be more acceptable to them?
(3) Garside, R. and Groombridge, N., 'Criminal justice resources, staffing and workloads' (2008)
(4) MAPPA annual report 2010-11, statistical tables.


We've covered Julian's analysis of things before as here in 'Organising the Perfect Train Crash' and here 'A Future for Private Prisons?' and here  'A Possible Way Forward'.

From Amazon:-

Competition for Prisons: Public or Private? Paperback – 16 Dec 2015

A quarter of century has passed since Margaret Thatcher launched one of her most controversial reforms, privately-run prisons, and the role of the private sector in delivering public services continues to be one of the big political issues of our time. This book, by a critical professional insider, re-assesses the benefits and failures of competition, how public and private prisons compare, the impact of competition on the public sector's performance, and how well Government has managed this peculiar 'quasi-market'. Drawing on first person interviews with key players, including Chief Executives and prison managers in both sectors and Chief Inspectors, Julian le Vay uses his former role as Finance Director of the Prison Service to give a wholly new analysis of comparative costs and of the impact of constant changes in competition policy. He draws out lessons from the parallel stories of the SERCO/G4S billing scandal, privately run immigration detention and the more radical approach now being taken on outsourcing probation, and looks in detail at four prisons, publicly and privately run, that 'failed'.Concluding with a critique of the future shape of competition, he also draws some general conclusions on the way government works. This is vital reading for anyone interested in the role of competition in public services, implementation of public policy, or the state of our prisons.

Julian Le Vay was Finance Director of HM Prison Service for five years, responsible for competitions to build and run prisons, then Director for Competition in the National Offender Management Service. Later he worked for two companies providing criminal justice services to Government. He is well placed to write about competition, having worked at different times on both sides of the fence.


This is very convincing and clearly-written analysis of more than two decades of attempts to introduce competition across the criminal justice 'market' in the UK. It is both a salutary, and depressing tale. Real competition - repeatedly stymied by the extremes of either political inertia or over-action (none of which seems ever to be predictable) - is now under threat by a Ministry of Justice which does not appear to understand what real competition is, nor how to achieve it. The results of the enormously ambitious Transforming Rehabilitation programme remain to be seen, but on the basis of decades of previous experience the omens would not appear to be good. The tax-payer, professionals and service users - indeed the whole country - deserve a more intelligent approach to the management of a mixed-economy of service provision than the series of broken experiments repeatedly foisted on us in recent times. It remains to be seen what, if any, real progress will be made, but Le Vay's book is a clarion call for some new thinking in the area of criminal justice competition policy.


25 years ago, in the dying days of her government, Mrs Thatcher introduced the then quite improbable notion of contracting with the private sector to run prisons. This book reviews how competition has unfoldeded since then, including the public sector prison service's rather odd dual role, both as customer for and competitor with the private sector.

I contrast competition for prisons with examples of competition, or lack of it, in 'adjacent' services – immigration detention, electronic monitoring and probation – and contrast the story here with the very different one in Scotland. I conclude by answering the question whether competition has 'worked' - whether it has been worthwhile; whether it has been a legitimate enterprise, which some would contest; and whether it has a future.

Why did I write this book? First, It is an important story – one of the most controversial and also most complete examples of outsourcing public services, and one of the longest running. Second, I was fed up with people writing about it from prepared positions, sometimes from ideological preference, sometimes with vested interests. I wanted to tell the story just on the basis of the evidence. And last, the story formed the central part of my career.

To my surprise, the book ended up being as much about how well – or badly – we are governed as about prisons, or competition.

Julian Le Vay