Friday 30 June 2017

Truth Will Out

It seems as if the MoJ and HMPPS have decided to publish that unwelcome SOTP report after all:-  

Impact evaluation of the prison-based Core Sex Offender Treatment Programme
Ministry of Justice Analytical Series 2017


Aims and background 
The aim of the research was to extend the evidence base on the effectiveness of treatment for sexual offenders. This study measures the impact of the prison-based Core Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP) on the re-offending outcomes of sex offenders in England and Wales, whilst controlling for the different observable characteristics, needs, and risk factors of offenders. 

Core SOTP is a cognitive-behavioural psychological intervention designed by the HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) for imprisoned men who have committed sexual offences. The Programme is intended to reduce sexual reoffending amongst participants by identifying and addressing known criminogenic needs. It was accredited for use in prisons in 1992 by the then HM Prison and Probation Service Prison and Probation Services Joint Accreditation Panel, which later became the Correctional Services Accreditation and Advice Panel (CSAAP). The CSAAP help the MOJ and HMPPS to develop and implement high quality offending behaviour programmes and promote excellence in programmes designed to reduce reoffending. Programmes are assessed against a set of criteria derived from the “what works” evidence base. These include having a clear model of change, effective risk management, targeting offending behaviour, employing effective methods, ensuring relevance to individual learning styles, and maintaining the quality and integrity of delivery. Changes have been made to the targets, the content, and the methods used in Core SOTP since its introduction in response to emerging research. As a result, during the course of this study (and in the period thereafter) the Programme has changed. However, it remains a cognitive behavioural group based treatment approach. It was, and remains, available in approximately one-sixth of male prison establishments in England and Wales and is intended for individuals sentenced to 12 months or more, who had either a current or previous (sentence) sex offence, were willing to engage in treatment, and were not in denial of their offending. 

There were 2,562 convicted sex offenders who started treatment under the prison-based Core Sex Offender Treatment Programme between 2000 and 2012 in England and Wales. These were matched to 13,219 comparison sex offenders using 87 matching factors from Police National Computer (PNC) records, SOTP treatment records, and the Offender Assessment System (OASys) database (where available). Standardised mean differences between the matched treated and comparison groups for the matching factors showed that the matching quality achieved was excellent. 

Propensity score matching (PSM) was used to match sexual offenders who participated in Core SOTP (treated sex offenders) to similar sexual offenders who did not. PSM is a statistical matching technique which uses factors theoretically and empirically associated with both receiving the treatment and the outcome variable (i.e. reoffending) to predict a ‘propensity score’, which represents the likelihood of entering treatment. This propensity score is then used to match treated individuals to comparison offenders who are similar to them. 

The matched treatment and comparison groups were then compared on an extensive range of proven reoffending outcomes (sexual and non-sexual). These outcome measures were calculated over a period of up to 13.9 years (average of 8.2 years) starting from each offender’s release from prison between 2002 and 2012, with the follow-up period finishing in October 2015. For all individuals in this study (the treatment group plus the unmatched comparison group), the binary reoffending rate for all offences was 38.3% and the sexual reoffending rate excluding breaches, was 7.5%. These are low when compared to international studies but are within the range of other UK-based studies on reconviction rates for sex offenders (Craig et al., 2008). 

PSM can provide a robust quasi-experimental approach, although offenders can only be matched on observable variables. While extensive efforts were undertaken in identifying relevant factors, it is possible that unobserved factors could influence the findings that emerge from this research. Such factors include deviant sexual interest, general selfregulation problems and the degree of violence associated with the current sexual offence.

Key findings 
The main findings of the analysis were as follows: 
  • Some statistically significant differences were detected over an average 8.2 year follow up period. They were small in magnitude although they widened over the follow-up period. In particular: 
  • More treated sex offenders committed at least one sexual reoffence (excluding breach) during the follow-up period when compared with the matched comparison offenders (10.0% compared with 8.0%). 
  • More treated sex offenders committed at least one child image reoffence during the follow-up period when compared with the matched comparison offenders (4.4% compared with 2.9 %). 
  • Otherwise, the matched treated and comparison groups had similar reoffending rates across a variety of outcome measures. 
  • A variety of sensitivity analyses were performed, which mostly focused on the sexual reoffending measure. The sexual reoffending treatment effect was found to be reasonably stable across these. 
  • As previously noted, it is possible that these results could be materially influenced by unobserved factors. However, such factors would need to increase both the odds of treatment and the odds of reoffending after controlling for the observable factors that were included within the matching process. In fact to conclude that the sexual re-offending treatment impact is not statistically significantly different from a reduction of 2 percentage points, the odds of treatment and re-offending would both need to increase by 122%. This increases to 219% for a 5 percentage point reduction. While the sensitivity analysis, involving both treatment and comparison groups, shows reoffending rates to be higher for individuals who have higher risk profiles, the matching process includes a range of factors that are used to determine risk.
The results suggest that while Core SOTP in prisons is generally associated with little or no changes in sexual and non-sexual reoffending, there were some statistically significant differences. The small changes in the sexual reoffending rate suggest that either Core SOTP does not reduce sexual reoffending as it intends to do, or that the true impact of the Programme was not detected. 

This study draws on large treatment and comparison groups, long follow-ups, and many matching factors, thus addressing the most common shortcomings in the research field on sex offenders' reoffending behaviour. However it still has a number of limitations that could either bias the findings or the interpretation of them. In particular: 
  • It is impossible to conclusively rule out the absence of variables relating to deviant sexual interest, general self-regulation problems and the degree of violence associated with the current sexual offence that could possibly influence the results. Moreover, it is possible that the available data do not fully account for issues such as motivation to address offending behaviour. However, these absences are at least partly accounted for by matching factors included in this study (e.g. sexual deviancy by matching factors covering previous offending). Furthermore as shown above, what remains unaccounted for would need to have strong relationships both with participation onto treatment and reoffending to conclude that Core SOTP is associated with a reduction in sexual reoffending. 
  • The estimated impact of Core SOTP was found to be similar when removing from the comparison group those who were identified as having done community SOTP. However, it will include some differences between the matched treatment and comparison groups that reflect changes occurring after the prison sentence has commenced and which are not associated with the provision of Core SOTP. Such factors include participation on other treatment programmes in prison and in the community, differences in offender management and in supervision, and regional demographics e.g. in employment rates. 
  • Availability of good quality data on all factors which determine an offenders’ participation on core SOTP, was also a particular issue. It is possible that paucity of data on some key offender characteristics including denial of offending, and a degree of self-selection, could bias the results.
One of the main issues that will need to be addressed in any future studies on the effectiveness of SOTP in prisons, using some form of matching approach, is the collection of information on all potentially important variables. The lack of comprehensive empirical data on deviancy is a major issue that needs further investigation. Additional factors that need incorporating into any future study include other interventions received in prison and in the community, and the level of supervision once released from custody. Additionally, it is recommended that there be a focus on improving the quality of the data already collected on SOTP, e.g. a single unified record per offender. 

This study does not reveal the extent to which Core SOTP reoffending outcomes are due to treatment design or poor implementation. However the treatment approach should be modified in line with the latest evidence base, of which this study is part. In particular, it could include individual sessions as well as group sessions. It could also focus more on factors that have been established to predict reoffending. 

Whilst this research uses a recognised evaluation methodology, a randomised control trial could more robustly estimate the impact of any subsequent programme and this should be considered for the future.


There's little doubt that the MoJ and HMPPS have a highly-developed default policy of trying to bury bad news and the latest blog post by Frances Crook of the Howard League gives the context:- 

The end of sex offender treatment programmes
A few weeks ago I discovered that the prison service had quietly abandoned sex offender treatment programmes.

These courses have been a mainstay of dealing with men convicted of a range of sex crimes and have been a prerequisite for securing transfer to open conditions and eventual release from prison. Tens of thousands of men have gone through the programmes. Now, after two decades, research apparently indicates that the programmes make reoffending more likely.

Our lawyers started to get wind of the change when the young people we represent in prison told us what was happening. I tweeted about it because I wanted to find out what anyone else knew as there had been no announcement. There was only gossip.

I visited a prison and asked the governor and psychologist what was happening. I was told that the programme was indeed being ditched and that new courses were being introduced, that were ‘accredited but not evaluated’. So once again, something that seems to be a good idea is going to be imposed on people despite the fact that no one has any idea whether it will make things better or worse.

The Mail on Sunday journalist, David Rose, picked up the story from my tweets and did some investigating, and an article was published on Sunday.

I have always been sceptical about prison-based offender courses. Whilst I appreciate they get people out of their cells for a few hours, and goodness knows that is a good thing, how much they really change attitudes or behaviour is a moot point.

Of course, in a prison like Grendon where the whole institution is focused on therapy and engaging people, it is well known that lives are changed and success pretty much guaranteed. However, a prisoner doing a few hours a week on a behaviour programme, whilst living in a fetid, violent, unpredictable, drug ridden, filthy prison and being treated with little respect the rest of the time, seems to be to be asking a lot.

It is disappointing nevertheless that not only do they not help but the sex offender courses appear to make things worse.

Prisons are odd places, not like real life in any way. I tend to think that expecting any behaviour courses in prisons to prevent future offending or to work magic and turn men with a history of violence, aggression and misogyny into model citizens is just not going to work.

Frances Crook

Guest Blog 64

The Twentieth Annual Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture entitled Helping, Holding and Hurting - A dialogue about Penal Supervision was held on Tuesday 27th June. It was set against the backdrop of a rain-sodden Cambridge University campus with the headline speaker being the doyen of desistance research Professor Fergus McNeill (University of Glasgow). 

A disparate audience composed of academic luminaries, a sprinkling of practitioners (some having heroically negotiated attendance as professional development) former service users and associates and friends of the late Bill McWilliams, were also treated to a panel presentation, in which Fergus McNeill became one of the interlocutors, which vividly captured something of the 'lived experience' of being supervised.

A shifting montage of photographic images underpinned by capsuled user perspectives accompanied the discussion that later ensued. Fergus McNeil picked up in his nuanced observations on some of the thorny challenges of humanising supervision in the newly commodified world shaped by the NPS/CRC split, how supportive options to desist can overcome what he colourfully denoted as 'f**k it!'  moments in the probationer journey, the often unsteady pathways of service user engagement and voices (one offered example was service users sitting on recruitment panels for new staff), balancing resources to achieve more accessible, inclusively designed offices (fortress probation), with one audience contributor extolling the arrival of the 'model office for probation staff'! and fostering authentic relational opportunities (the title of the talk was derived from an earlier presentation given by Fergus McNeill on the oral history of supervision in Scotland), which supervisory relationships are often hard won (and easily lost!) and aim to bridge the distance between supervisor and supervisee, that did not objectify users, went beyond surveillant risk management and offered better supervisory outcomes.

The latter part of the afternoon was facilitated by ex-London CO Heather Monro who pointedly alluded to her 'media moment' when pilloried by the Daily Mail for referring to service users as 'customers' although she remained studiously tight lipped when one questioner in the Q&A slot described the present situation in London Community Payback/Unpaid Work in stripping away any last vestige of rehabilitative placements as a ' travesty'. (readers will recall that the disastrous £37 million 2012 Serco contract to manage CP was negotiated by the former London Probation Trust!) 

I flagged up the recent HMIP report on the work of probation services in the court setting which whilst offering some positive news, the timely delivery of court reports! needed to be seen against a worrying drop in sentencer confidence in the effective delivery of community sentences and the paucity of meaningful information on the content of rehabilitative requirements and the disappointingly poor performance of the new CRC providers. Whilst information on the numbers of breaches is readily accessible - where is the information (if any) on the number of early discharges for good progress (or completion reports in the Scottish context) which surely is one tangible marker of successful supervision?

Rounding off the afternoon was the estimable Professor Rob Canton (whose latest opus 'Why Punish' comes highly recommended) standing in for Mike Nellis who was unwell. He reiterated the importance of the moral quality of supervision (inspired perhaps by some of the insightful research on the moral performance of prisons), the importance of listening to users 'being present' and valuing staff as the right thing to do and retaining a passionate commitment to rehabilitative interventions - penal values matter and promoting the vision of a service that motivated staff to offer opportunities for caring, compassionate and authentic practice. 

It was hard to reconcile within the rarefied confines of the campus setting some of the more pontifical claims heard from some of the contributors about the current state of probation, set alongside the lingering impact of much of the destructive aspects of demoralising organisational changes that pepper this blog, occupy the pages of recent unflattering Inspectorial reports and no doubt await a politically convenient Ministerial opening in the as yet unpublished findings of the MoJ review of probation services and which have so painfully disfigured probation in recent years.

Encouragingly the longevity of this lecture series shows little sign of 'desistance' and 2018 may well signal another such outing (Cambridge?) Having imbibed the heady brew of the Bill McWilliams Memorial lecture 2017 with such a notable professorial champion of probation I was left pondering - how such a prestigious lecture series which appears to exist on a shoe string budget and a well spring of inexhaustible good will and admiration for Bill's legacy might be better supported and promoted? Readers might have their own thoughts?

Mike Guilfoyle

Thursday 29 June 2017

Mental Health Failure in Prison

There's hardly a day goes past without a report into the parlous state of our prison system. In the wake of a massive increase in suicides, the National Audit Office weighs in, as reported here in the Independent:-
Government fails to track mental health in UK prisons amid soaring suicide and self-harm rates, finds report

Prison authorities urged to address rising rates of suicide and self harm 'as a matter of urgency' after findings show failure to collect data on inmates' mental health needs.

The Government does not know how many people in prisons have a mental health illness, a report has warned, prompting calls for “urgent” action amid soaring suicide rates and self-harm incidents among inmates. Prison authorities’ response to rising suicide and self-harming rates in British jails has been “poor”, according to research by the National Audit Office (NAO).

Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS), NHS England and Public Health England have set ambitious objectives for providing mental health services, but they are failing to collect enough data on inmate’s wellbeing, the report states. It adds that the Government is unaware of how much it is spending on mental health in prisons and does not know whether it is achieving its objectives.

According to independent research carried out for the report, the NAO estimate that the total spend on healthcare in adult prisons in 2016-17 was around £400m. HMPPS does not monitor the quality of healthcare it pays for in the six privately-managed prisons it oversees. NHS England uses health needs assessments to understand prisoners’ needs, but these are often based on what was provided in previous years and do not take account of unmet need.

The warnings come after five years in which rates of self-inflicted deaths and self-harm in prison have risen significantly, suggesting that – although the data isn’t recorded – mental health and wellbeing among prisoners has steeply declined. Self-harm incidents increased by nearly three quarters (73 per cent) between 2012 and 2016, with 40,161 incidents of self-harm recorded in 2016 alone – the equivalent of one incident for every two prisoners.

The suicide rate among prisoners hit the highest year on record last year, with 120 self-inflicted deaths – almost twice the number in 2012. The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman found that 70 per cent of prisoners who had committed suicide between 2012 and 2014 had mental health needs. In light of the considerable rise in self-inflicted deaths and self-harm among inmates, the NAO warned that the Government must address the rising rates of suicide and self harm in prisons “as a matter of urgency”.

The report states that while the Government has set out an ambitious reform programme to address prisoners’ mental wellbeing, the prison system is under considerable pressure, making it more difficult to manage this. Amyas Morse, the head of the National Audit Office, said it was clear from the findings that the Government does not know what “base they are starting from” in addressing mental health problems in prisons.

She said: “Improving the mental health of those in prison will require a step change in effort and resources. The quality of clinical care is generally good for those who can access it, but the rise in prisoner suicide and self-harm suggests a decline in mental health and wellbeing overall. The data on how many people in prison have mental health problems and how much government is spending to address this is poor. Consequently Government do not know the base they are starting from, what they need to improve, or how realistic it is for them to meet their objectives. Without this understanding it is hard to see how government can be achieving value for money.”

The Ministry of Justice and its partners have undertaken work to identify interventions to reduce suicide and self-harm in prisons, though these have not yet been implemented.

The National Offender Management Service’s funding went down by 13 per cent between 2009-10 and 2016-17 and staff numbers in public prisons reduced by 30 per cent over the same period. When prisons are short-staffed, governors may run restricted regimes where prisoners spend more of the day in their cells, making it more challenging for prisoners to access mental health services, the report states.

It adds that staffing pressures can also make it difficult for prison officers to detect changes in a prisoner’s mental health, and that officers have not received regular training to understand mental health conditions, though the Ministry plans to provide more training in future. The report also raises concerns that while clinical care is broadly judged to be good in prisons, there are weaknesses in the system for identifying prisoners who need mental health services.

Inmates are screened when they arrive in prison, but this does not always identify mental health problems and staff do not have access to GP records, which means they do not always know if a prisoner has been diagnosed with a mental illness. Mentally ill prisoners should wait no more than 14 days to be admitted to a secure hospital, but only 34 per cent of prisoners were transferred within 14 days in 2016-17, while seven per cent waited for more than 140 days.

The process for transferring prisoners is complex and delays can have a negative impact on prisoners' mental health and they may be kept in unsuitable conditions such as segregation units. Previous research has shown that prisoners are more likely to suffer from mental health problems than people in the community, and that those whose mental health needs are not addressed in prison are generally more likely to reoffend.

Commenting, Peter Dawson, the director of the Prison Reform Trust, said it was “horribly clear” that prisoners are facing “disproportionate and unnecessary harm” as a result of the inadequate mental health provision.

“This is a familiar tale of admirable policy objectives not being delivered on the ground. There is a ray of hope in the successful rollout of liaison and diversion schemes in courts and police stations that spot some of the people who are most vulnerable,” he said.

“But this report makes horribly clear that our prisons are holding very many people who will suffer disproportionate and unnecessary harm because of the prison environment. It is futile to expect to improve their situation while prisons are overcrowded and thousands of people are spending a few weeks inside each year simply because there is inadequate community provision. The Government must grip the issue of who goes to prison so that the system can care properly for the minority who really need to be there.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We take the mental health of prisoners extremely seriously, which is why we have increased the support available to vulnerable offenders - especially during the first 24 hours in custody - and invested more in specialist mental health training for prison officers. We’re putting more funding into prison safety and have launched a suicide and self-harm reduction project to address the increase in self-inflicted deaths and self-harm in our prisons. But we recognise that more can be done and continue to work in partnership with HMPPS, NHS England and Public Health England to improve mental health services for offenders at all points of the criminal justice system.”

Wednesday 28 June 2017

Trouble With SOTP - HMPPS Responds

Following on from Sunday's blog post, here we have a textbook response, so typical of Senior Management - a lot of words, but saying absolutely fuck all:-  

26 June 2017

To Governing Governors/Directors of Contracted Prisons
Heads of LDUs


Dear All,

Many of you will have seen or heard of the media reports about the Sex Offender Treatment Programme. I wanted to write to you to assure you that we are aware of the articles and are working with colleagues to provide as clear a picture as we can both to you and those in our care or under our supervision.

As you know better than most, we are absolutely committed as an organisation to reducing offending and addressing the needs of men with sexual convictions. We have been at the forefront of this area of work internationally for some 20 years. Our programmes have evolved with the developing evidence base and we have prided ourselves on our evidence based approach. All of our work has been overseen by a panel of international experts who have confirmed that our approach is in line with the latest thinking about what works with this client group. Our work has always been open to close scrutiny, and we have welcomed this even when some have been critical of our approach. That is inevitable given what we do - it is right and healthy to have debate about the best way to change complex and often entrenched behaviours. When Michael attended the Professional Practice Forum on 5 May and spoke to many of you, I know that he was struck by the commitment and enthusiasm of staff working in this area and the range of research evidence presented which we should always use to develop further our policy and practice.

As you know, we have made significant changes to our programme offer for sex offenders in prison over the past year. In developing Horizon and Kaizen we have considered all the most up to date research. Horizon and Kaizen are built on the firmest possible foundations, and we have opened them up to external scrutiny for extra assurance on this. We will also be setting up special arrangements for monitoring and are putting a rigorous evaluation plan in place so that we can review efficacy regularly.

I recognise that media reporting such as this brings with it challenges, particularly for staff working on programmes, or men attending programmes in custody or in the community. We will always seek to improve our practice and further changes will continue to be made as we carry on learning from the latest research findings, and we will continue to work together to ensure that our approach remains world leading.

Please keep up the good work. I do recognise the hard work and commitment that you have put into working with this client group.

Digby Griffith 
Executive Director, Rehabilitation and Assurance   


This from InsideTime:-

Death of the SOTP?

For your information, there was a document produced by the MoJ, titled ‘206’, which was based on the two-year reconviction rates for those who participated in the SOTP (Sex Offenders Treatment Programme) and non-participants. This document is hard to find, but it shows that High Risk sex-offenders who participated in the programme actually increased their risk of reoffending by 2%.

After numerous letters to the Head of the MoJ’s Justice Statistics Analytical Services, many MP’s, NOMS, MoJ and Programmes – the SOTP has finally been withdrawn nationwide. This has resulted in all offenders IEP status reverting back to Standard from Basic (due to Maintaining Innocence and non-participation in the SOTP). This has not happened a moment too soon and should have happened years ago.

Eventually there will be new programmes brought in; Horizon, for medium risk, and Kaizen for high/very high risk offenders. There seem to be no details on timeframes for these programmes, and very little detail about them (whether they are offence-related, whether they are even accredited). If you could find out more, that would be great.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

What To Do With Probation? 2

Here we have another contribution to the debate from Penelope Gibbs, Director of Transform Justice:- 

Are we throwing good money after bad on probation?

There is a broad consensus about how to support people on their release from prison. Its common sense and it's summed up in the recent inspection report on "through the gate services". They need

- a safe place to sleep, from the day of release
- access to enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing, and transport
- a sense of hope for the future
- active links into services that can assist with other needs, for example addiction and mental health services.

"Only when the basic necessities of life are in place, will people start to make some of the behavioural changes that will support a life without further offending". Behavioural changes are difficult to make and those released will also need the support of families, friends and mentors to turn their lives around.

These services have always been provided badly on release. So when Chris Grayling decided to replace the old probation service with a new system, we all hoped that these basic needs might be provided for. But, unfortunately, the new system tends to focus on contract compliance, rather than in turning lives around. Most probation services were contracted out to private companies, who need to make a profit, or at least break even. To get paid, they need to prove they have completed certain processes - only a small payment is reserved for achieving good outcomes.

The poor performance of probation (particularly the new CRC companies) is shocking, and would receive more coverage if the prisons weren't in worse state. Two new inspection reports - on Though the Gate services and probation services in Suffolk - bare reading if you can bare to do so.Through the gate services were set up under the new probation system to ensure that those on release were supported. CRCs took over from prisons to deliver this and many subcontracted the service to charities. But according to the inspectors, they are not achieving anything worthwhile:

"Through the Gate services as delivered now are not likely to reduce rates of reoffending. For technical and legal reasons it is impossible for CRCs to track any difference Through the Gate has made for the prisoners they have worked with, such as finding accommodation or work... The staff we met in prisons working for Through the Gate were keen and committed, and were clearly very busy writing resettlement plans to meet contractual targets. Many of them, and some of their managers, were unaware that the work they were doing was having little or no impact on the eventual resettlement of prisoners".

The problem is that the companies are paid for producing plans, not for actually giving any help. So, when resources are tight, they just write plans. The inspectors found no cases where Through the Gate services had assisted a prisoner to get employment after release. Nor did they find CRCs promoting links to local colleges or education providers.

Housing help was hardly better. 10% of prisoners were homeless at the point of release and those that did have accomodation were too often set up to fail. "One prisoner told us that he was only earning £100 a week, but the rent for his BASS (government provided) accommodation was £194 a week. He was told that he has to pay this in full, and also knows if he gives up employment he will incur a benefits sanction. In another case a prisoner returned to previous work in the building trade but after three weeks of living in the cheapest bed and breakfast accommodation he could find, some distance from the site he was working, he lost the job for poor timekeeping".

Those leaving prison are supervised by probation. High risk people are supervised by the public sector National Probation Service, and lower risk people by the CRCs. But if you hope that probation services pick up the pieces scattered by Through the Gate services, think again. At least if the latest inspection report on Suffolk is a template. For both the CRC and NPS, the quality of work was "generally poor". This is a flavour of the inspectors' assessment of their impact on reducing reoffending

"The CRC was dilatory in completing assessments. We found assessments were generally superficial and sentence planning was poor. The delivery of interventions was correspondingly patchy, and poor overall....The quality of (NPS) work was poor across the spectrum of work to reduce reoffending. The majority of court reports did not provide sufficient information to help the CRC undertake good, comprehensive planning. Plans were not delivered well enough. There had been insufficient progress in most cases".

Of the CRC supervised cases, 8 out of 29 had been convicted or cautioned for another offence since the start of their supervision or licence period. The reality of what this means comes alive in some of the cases of poor practice cited.

"Len received a suspended sentence order with a requirement to carry out a domestic abuse groupwork programme. The assessment had not included an analysis of why he had reoffended against the same victim, or of the circumstances of the end of the relationship and the current situation. There was no planning for the 40 RAR days or to monitor or address his alcohol consumption, despite this being a feature of his offending. Due to health reasons the programme had not commenced for over eight months and no other domestic abuse work had been carried in the meantime".

"When Damien was released from prison he was homeless. He had a history of class A drug misuse and violence towards partners and family members, including child siblings, as well as members of the public. No initial assessment, sentence plan or risk management plan was ever undertaken. Management oversight, including the MAPPA eligibility forum (MEF), had failed to pick this up. (There had been no assessment since 2015, despite two other prison sentences). Contact was reactive and ad hoc and did not respond to risk of harm indicators, for example, reporting in the company of a new partner or being arrested for robbery. Damien had since been convicted of a new offence and was serving a 44 month custodial sentence".

The tragedy of the situation is that most people who get in trouble with the law do want to turn their lives around and they are positive about their probation workers. The latter are busting a gut, but have too much work - one CRC worker in Suffolk was supposed to be supervising 236 people!

The inspections show that the whole system needs reform. It is not the fault of individual Through the Gate and probation staff that things are not working. The new probation system is focused on contract compliance (ticking boxes) because government feels they have to be able to measure the performance of contracted out services - to prove the tax payer is getting value for money. And the new probation services have been isolated from the local public services which are essential to their success. For example, local councils have no incentive to provide housing for those released from prison. So those trying to find housing for ex-prisoners have their hands tied behind their back. Until the whole of the public sector is financially or otherwise incentivised to help those with convictions, I fear we will make no headway with reducing re-offending. There are many ways forward, but I feel delegating criminal justice budgets to local government is the best answer to the current chaos.

Penelope Gibbs
Director of Transform Justice

Monday 26 June 2017

What To Do With Probation?

I have no idea what the reach is for NapoNews online is, but just noticed this from 16th June:-

How Do We Solve A Problem Like Probation?

If the new justice minister had been following the debates across the justice sector before the election they’d be expecting to hear unions talking about an operational crisis in prisons; all stakeholders talking about financial difficulties undermining the CRC contracts; and calls from across the sector to improve access to justice after legal aid cuts.

They may be more surprised to hear Napo argue that the part-nationalisation of probation, the accidental side-effect of TR, has proved calamitous and needs to be unpicked and addressed as urgently as any of the other justice fires.

Unions will often be heard highlighting privatisation failures and calling for re-nationalisation but in probation at least, it is a harsh but inconvenient truth that the part-nationalisation of the probation service has been a disaster, with the NPS at least as unstable as the CRCs.

The scale of the problem is ever more obvious and ever more dangerous. During the election period alone, Napo has been seeking to resolve problems for hundreds of new PSOs and recent PQUIP starters who simply haven’t been paid for months. If you can’t pay your staff you cannot meet any credible description of a functioning employer.

Additionally, the Napo inbox is swamped with PAYE and pension problems. The pay system is recognised by all sides as being broken and is disrupting attempts to establish HMPPS and resolve the contractual funding problems with CRCs.

Staff appraisal, where it still functions, is demotivating and having a negative impact on performance. The move to HMPPS is beset with challenges however well intentioned, not least because it is being rushed like TR with little consideration seemingly given to the professional or financial structures that need to underpin any new models. Further, with so much political focus on HMPPS, the community aspects of the NPS look isolated and morale is further undermined.

The new justice minister must therefore accept the National Probation Service isn’t working – it may be appearing more stable than CRCs in most areas but that doesn’t mean it is performing strongly or meeting the national needs. If the HMI for probation were to announce a total CRC contract failure then the NPS could not safely absorb a failing CRC area, even temporarily.

CRC contracts are constructed around the premise that Government didn’t know how local support for low and medium risk clients was to be best delivered. The CRCs are essentially commissioning bodies or middle-men, who decide and then either deliver or buy-in what is needed. How much they can charge for this brokerage dictates if they make a profit. Now the Probation Services Review suggests contracts with the MoJ will become increasingly prescriptive. The state pays for the Commissioner but will be directing what has to be commissioned and fixing the price at the centre – potentially making the commissioning process redundant and certainly making it look inefficient.

Further, innovation has, as we and almost all experts predicted, also been driven out by TR’s financial risks and pressures. Under the old pre-TR model, Trusts often commissioned pilots from small local providers, often charities and not-for-profit organisations. These providers were forced out of the field by the big profit hungry CRC corporates. The need for the CRCs to get a cut made the margins for innovation too tight and the risk involved in any experiment to commercially challenging (especially when everything else wasn’t coming through).

A different Commissioning model could re-open the market place and allow charities, mutual and other providers that Trusts were increasingly working in partnership with, to re-engage. If covered by national rehabilitation professional standards this could also, in the long run, be more positive for members.

So what are the alternatives?

CRCs can’t be made to work – but we also know that trying to take everything back in to the centre and run everything from Petty France has no credibility either. Ministers could go on trying to ignore the problem, keep throwing money at the CRCs and battling on as no obvious easy solution is at hand. But ministers will also know that the longer this goes on, the greater the risk of serious further systems failures; SFO’s; probation distracting from solving the already critical prisons crisis; and these ministers being blamed.

Napo’s bet is that they’ll want to find an alternative – and a further election makes it easier to move on having put emotionally more distance between TR and the new Government (especially in a hung parliament where a minority Tory administration can say TR was part of the opposition’s fault as well as Grayling’s).

There would seem to be three possible options – none of which is perfect but all of which seem worthy of exploring and testing seriously and all of which return all parts of provision to locally accountable, publically funded authorities.

The Mayoral Model – where a regional mayor takes over commissioning and local monitoring of service delivery. We know from our own discussions that this has some interest in London. Research published by Unions21 into health and social care partnerships in Greater Manchester suggest that scope and interest across the North West is also likely. Regional Mayors also now exist in the Midlands, Bristol and the South-West and parts of the North East. The Welsh Assembly could play a similar role. A major problem is they don’t exist across the country and most are still establishing themselves as institutions with stakeholders and the public.

Police and Crime Commissioners take over running contracts and commissioning – This has known interest in several areas, including rural areas where profit is difficult and CRCs especially vulnerable to failure. However, PCCs have no political credibility with the public as yet and little visibility. Nor do they have any known capacity for running anything this complicated. There are also too many of them. For example, in the Kent Surrey and Sussex CRC area, which of the PCCs would lead. PCCs also overlap NPS regions. 
Local Authorities could take on the responsibility for probation, as they do in Scotland – However, here again there are problems – local authorities are struggling financially; have boundary issues like PCCs and we’ve not identified any existing appetite. Evidence from social services would also suggest that inconsistent provision would make this a risky offload for any minister looking to devolve risk and blame.

So none of the obvious options are fully formed. However, this is not a reason to dismiss them. The scale of the problem dictates minister can’t hide from it and the need to find a solution. Napo is committed to exploring these ideas and would like to think, in the new political environment the MOJ may break the habit of a lifetime and consider genuine pilots to test if and how these models could work.

It is also possible for this to be the start of bringing one probation service back together. Community delivery, commissioned by and accountable to locally elected bodies needn’t be split on arbitrary assessments of risk and the part-nationalisation of probation could begin to be unpicked. Imagine if after the next child abuse scandal a government suggested most child-protection and social services should be nationalised the political outcry would be deafening yet that is the model Grayling adopted to facilitate the failing CRC idea.

Whilst the hung parliament helps facilitate a new national conversation about a stronger and more stable model for probation we can also lay some strong foundations for whatever this eventually looks like by addressing the probation pay system failure and introducing professional structures and pathways around a new license to practice – two big ideas Napo has been leading on which will be huge victories for us and help turn the tide.

Sunday 25 June 2017

Trouble With SOTP

The news that SOTP courses were being 'pulled', even with participants half way through, was mentioned on here some time ago. Now this from the Daily Mail:-

The scandal of the sex crime 'cure' hubs: How minister buried report into £100million prison programme to treat paedophiles and rapists that INCREASED reoffending rates

The Government is hiding a devastating report that shows rehabilitation courses taken by thousands of jailed rapists and paedophiles make them more dangerous once they are released. According to the study, prisoners who take the courses are at least 25 per cent more likely to be convicted of further sex crimes than those who do not, suggesting that the sessions may have created hundreds of extra victims.

The controversial Sex Offender Treatment Programme (SOTP), a six-month psychological group-therapy course, is believed to have cost taxpayers well over £100 million since it was set up in 1991. Before the report was compiled, about 1,000 prisoners had been taking the 'core' programme at a cost of about £7 million a year, many at eight sex offender treatment 'hubs' – specialist jails where thousands of such criminals are concentrated.

The worst offenders went on to an 'extended' course, which was also found to make them more dangerous. An investigation by this newspaper has revealed:
  • The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) was initially reluctant to accept the bombshell findings, but after they were independently endorsed, it abruptly axed both programmes – but kept the decision secret;
  • Experts had for years been warning that the programmes were flawed, and there was no good evidence that they cut reoffending;
  • Paedophiles convicted of physically attacking children are especially likely to offend again after taking the SOTP;
  • The decision to keep the report secret was taken by former Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who rejected advice from officials.
There have been numerous documented cases of criminals who underwent the SOTP and committed brutal crimes on their release.

One of the worst was Clive Sharp, who took the course after being convicted and jailed three times for sexual attacks over a 30-year period, starting when he raped an underage girl when he was 17. He told his SOTP facilitator in the 1990s that he fantasised about tying up a woman, then raping and murdering her. In October 2012, after his last release, he fulfilled it when he invaded the North Wales home of vet Catherine Gowing, sexually tortured her, then killed and dismembered her. He is now serving life with a minimum 37-year term.

Another was Tony Rice, who raped, strangled and fatally stabbed Naomi Bryant in Winchester in 2005, just nine months after being released on licence from a life sentence imposed for three rapes and sexual assaults. He won his freedom after taking the SOTP. The coroner at Naomi's 2011 inquest said the case was 'a wake-up call for those involved in offender management'. Rice is again serving life.

Recent cases have involved paedophiles such as former social worker John Hoar, who was jailed for three years and eight months at York Crown Court in February for distributing images of children – some as young as five – being raped and tortured. He took the SOTP during a previous sentence for possessing child pornography.

Last month, Michael Wood, from Welwyn Garden City, was jailed for six-and-a-half years for having sex with an underage teenager and possessing child pornography. He had three previous convictions for paedophile activity, and after the last, for a sexual attack on an underage girl in 1997, he had passed the SOTP.

High-profile prisoners who have taken the SOTP reportedly include former broadcaster Stuart Hall, who in 2013 pleaded guilty to assaulting 13 girls, the youngest just aged nine.

Successive governments have made bold claims for the SOTP's success in curbing reoffending. As recently as April – after the damning report was delivered, and the programmes were secretly axed – the MoJ website claimed they had 'demonstrated that they are based on sound evidence on what techniques and interventions help offenders to change', and there was 'international evidence' that they reduced reoffending.

However, some experts have disputed such claims for many years. One was William Marshall, whose own, very different sex offender rehabilitation programmes in Canada have been shown to achieve huge cuts in reoffending rates.

Until 2004, Dr Marshall was employed as an external consultant to SOTPs in Britain. But exasperated by what he saw as the programme's shortcomings and the Government's failure to remedy them, he resigned. 'There were a lot of problems with SOTP and I didn't want to be identified with a programme I didn't agree with,' he said. 'They weren't adapting the course in line with developing knowledge, and many of those delivering the programme were not qualified.'

The worst problem was that the numbers being enrolled on the courses were 'far too ambitious', leading to a shortage of qualified therapists. In fact, most SOTP facilitators were chaplains, ordinary prison officers and other 'para-professionals'.

According to Dr Marshall, their lack of training meant that the facilitators were forced to stick rigidly to 'scripts' drawn from a thick SOTP manual. He said: 'Manuals take the therapist out of the loop. For sex offender treatment to succeed, you have to be flexible enough to keep adapting to every individual. A revamp is long overdue.'

Dr Marshall said he was 'amazed' that the new report was being kept secret, adding: 'Why waste time doing research if you're not going to publish it?'

Another prominent sceptic was David Ho, a forensic psychiatrist who has treated some of the country's most disturbed offenders at Broadmoor, and is now research chief at a secure unit in Essex. He said: 'I'm not surprised by the new evaluation. Both the academic community and the public have the right to see the full results.' Previous studies claiming SOTPs worked were fundamentally flawed, he said – as he had been arguing for years.

Questioned repeatedly by this newspaper, the MoJ refused to release the full data behind the secret report's headline results. But multiple prison service sources have told us that the study, based on many hundreds of offenders who went through the SOTP between 2002 and 2012, found reoffending rates 25 per cent higher than a comparison group who did not take the courses.

Overall, the MoJ says 13.2 per cent of sex offenders will be convicted of another sex crime within a year of the end of a sentence. The MoJ was forced to accept the results when they were independently endorsed in a review by Professor Dietrich Lösel, emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology.

Prof Lösel confirmed he had endorsed the report, but said he was prohibited from speaking about it until it had been published 'but I don't know when this will happen'.

Once it became clear that the SOTP made prisoners more dangerous, the pressure to axe the programme became irresistible. As one MoJ insider put it: 'If this was a medical trial of a new drug, you would stop the trial immediately.' But the decision not to publish the report means prison staff and prisoners have been left in limbo.

'All we know is the course has been stopped,' one senior officer said. 'We have not been told why.' Worst affected are some of the thousands of prisoners serving indefinite sentences for public protection, who had been waiting for a place on the courses before they could be considered for release. New courses to replace the SOTP are in the pipeline. But they remain untried and untested, and it is unclear when they will be widely available.

Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Parole Board, last night called on the MoJ to publish the report. 'The test when we consider an application for parole is whether we are satisfied that a prisoner's risk of reoffending has been reduced, and whether they are safe to release,' he said. 'People need to understand what works and what doesn't.'

An MoJ spokesman said: 'Public protection is our top priority, and we keep treatment programmes under constant review to reduce reoffending and prevent further victims. We are now in the process of rolling out new programmes and all offenders have either already started their new course, or are being assessed for targeted support.'

Saturday 24 June 2017

Latest From Napo 152

Here we have edited highlights from the latest blog by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:- 


As everyone who has suffered the chaos that has befallen probation knows, the Through the Gate (TTG) scheme was heralded as the main driver for Transforming Rehabilitation by the former and unlamented Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling.

His oft repeated boast that his reforms would mean that prisoners on release should get more than £45 in their pocket has been bettered; in that now its £45 and a leaflet.

Given the millions of pounds of taxpayers money that was squandered on his vanity project this is hardly anything to shout about.

Below is an early Day motion that has been submitted by the Labour Party after we had briefed them on this week’s damning joint report by HM Inspectors of Prisons and Probation.

It about says it all.

Early Day Motion submitted to Parliament

That this House is concerned by the recent findings within the joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prison regarding Through the Gate Resettlement Services; notes that Through the Gate resettlement services were introduced in 2015 to bridge the gap between prison and community; is concerned by the findings within the report which suggest that CRCs are making little difference to the prospects of prisoners due for release; notes that the report indicates that the primary focus of CRCs is to meet contractual arrangements instead of helping offenders within the service; further notes that inspectors found prisoners were no better served than 8 months ago noting that should Through the Gate services be removed tomorrow the impact on prisoners would be ‘negligible’; is concerned that Through the Gate services have never fully or successfully integrated into the prison system and that communications between all organisations responsible for carrying out Through the Gate services is almost non-existent; understands that a key role of Through the Gate services is to assist released prisoners in securing appropriate accommodation in time for their release; is aware that of the 98 cases observed by inspectors only two prisoners were found accommodation via Through the Gate services; is further aware of the consistent concerns raised by organisations during the implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme and calls on the Government to urgently review the performance of CRCs and the NPS as well as the Transforming 

Rehabilitation programme.

Another HMI Probation report – Courts in the spotlight

The third report in a week, this time looking at probation work in courts. Compared to earlier reports this is relatively positive in that it shows there has been some improvement in probation court work in the last year. However, it still raises concerns about how the probation service is functioning post-privatisation and that pre-sentence reports are not providing adequate risk assessments in many cases.

Our media release today basically says that while Napo welcomes the reported signs of improvement it still doesn’t fully reflect the difficulties faced by members on the ground with many of you reporting the requirement to complete up to six reports a day and 80% of those being written in a short format or delivered verbally to the court. This leaves little or no time at all, for safeguarding checks for domestic violence and child protection.

We have already started to channel the findings to our various contacts in and outside of Parliament.

A chat with the new Secretary of State

As is traditional upon their appointment, the new Secretary of State for Justice Telephones round the leads for the various HMPPS Unions to introduce themselves and this week I was happy to field the call from David Lydington on behalf of Napo/Unison and GMB.

These types of discussions are always a bit of a squeeze but the appearance of the report on TTG provided some additional material for me that probably was not on David’s original script.

A number of key issues were raised especially around the Probation System Review and the need for something to happen on Probation Pay and I intend to cover this in a bit more detail in the next edition of Napo’s online magazine NQ5 due out soon.
What I said to the Public Policy Exchange

A really good opportunity for Napo to get its messages across to opinion formers and CJS providers comes in the form of specialist seminars and conferences, and one such opportunity opened up this week following the invitation from the Public Policy Exchange. Among others present were Norman Lamb MP, and a one Jonathan Aitken former MP, and once a guest of Her Majesty’s prison, the latter who offered a particularly insightful view about prison reform and safety.

Here is what I said which helped to elicit an absorbing Q&A and I have subsequently heard, was well received by the audience.

Britain Still Needs A Pay Rise Public Rally – Monday 17 July 5:30 -7:00pm

Central London location (likely to be Parliament Square)

The new political realism that is signalling the end of neo-liberalism and the austerity agenda that has been part it, has clearly woken the TUC from its torpor and at long last we are seeing what could be the start of a proper combined pay campaign with the announcement of a public rally next month.

I am told that the aim of this event is to enhance the public profile of the TUC’s pay campaign, engage union members and build their awareness and capacity to campaign on the issue and to build on the strength of support shown for public services and fair pay for public sector workers during the general election campaign.

I hope that this rally which I have offered to speak at, will see a mobilisation of union members (including Napo members from across the 24 employers where we are represented) The TUC will be developing a common set of messages, materials and branding around the event, with a coordinated media strategy.

It is also intended to organise a parliamentary lobby of a targeted group of Conservative MPs which will take place earlier the same afternoon. It would be helpful if Napo members could let Tania Bassett know if you might be able to take part in the lobby.

The list of Conservative MPs that we want to engage with appears below:

MP/Constituency/Size Majority

Royston Smith Southampton Itchen 31
Zac Goldsmith Richmond Park 45
Derek Thomas St Ives 312
Stephen Crabb Preseli Pembrokeshire 314
Stuart Andrew Pudsey 331
Jackie Doyle-Price Thurrock 345
Amber Rudd Hastings and Rye 346
Theresa Villiers Chipping Barnet 353
Chloe Smith Norwich North 507
Craig Whittaker Calder Valley 609
Jack Brereton Stoke on Trent South 663
Lucy Allan Telford 720
Michael Ellis Northampton North 807
Anna Soubry Broxtowe 863
Chris Green Bolton West 936
Simon Clarke Middlesbrough South & Cleveland East 1,020
Ben Bradley Mansfield 1,057
Matthew Offord Hendon 1,072
Andrew Lewer Northampton South 1,159
Andrew Stephenson Pendle 1,279
David Morris Morecambe & Lunesdale 1,399
Justine Greening Putney 1,554
George Eustice Camborne & Redruth 1,577
Mike Freer Finchley & Golders Green 1,657
Iain Stewart Milton Keynes South 1,725
Bob Blackman Harrow East 1,757
Mark Lancaster Milton Keynes North 1,915
Richard Harrington Watford 2,092
Ian Duncan Smith Chingford and Woodford Green 2,438
John Stevenson Carlisle 2,599
Nicky Morgan Loughborough 4,269
Robert Halfon Harlow 7,031
Margot James Stourbridge 7,654
Jeremy Lefroy Stafford 7,729
Ken Clarke Rushcliffe 8,010
Bill Cash Stone 17,495
Caroline Spelman Meriden 19,198
Philip Dunne Ludlow 19,286
Jeremy Hunt South West Surrey 21,590


Press Statement

23 June 2017 - Immediate Release

Some improvements to court work still failing to deliver

Today Her Majesties Inspectorate for Probation published the third Inspection report this week, this time looking at probation work in courts. Compared to earlier reports this is relatively positive in that it shows there has been some improvement in probation court work in the last year. However, it still raises concerns about how the probation service is functioning post-privatisation and that pre-sentence reports are not providing adequate risk assessments in many cases.

Whilst Napo welcomes a more positive outcome from this inspection, it does not truly reflect the reality that our members are facing on a day-to-day basis. Napo members report that they are having to complete up to six reports a day at court in order to meet the Ministry of Justice target of 80% of reports being written in a short format, or delivered verbally to the court. They say they have no time to do safeguarding checks for domestic violence or child protection before an individual is sentenced, thus increasing the risk to potential victims.

Napo welcomes the recognition by the Inspector that probation ICT systems are woefully inadequate with many laptops not having the functionality to complete the tasks in hand. This is despite the government’s aspirations to digitalise the court system. Napo is concerned that probation is being left behind in technology which makes the workload even greater for our members.

It is deeply concerning that the Inspector found that Community Rehabilitation Companies (private providers) are allowing offenders to miss too many appointments before they take legal action via the enforcement courts. Napo members echo this concern with reports that some CRCs encourage staff not to enforce court orders in order to show offenders as complying and increase the organisations performance targets.

Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: "Whilst it is welcomed that there have been some improvements in court work, we still believe we are long way off from the quality of service being delivered before TR in 2015. Our members feel that they do not have the time to do adequate risk assessments prior to sentencing due to the arbitrary targets set by the Ministry of Justice. This situation must be reviewed urgently by Ministers as professional practitioners should be able to decide which sort of report they provide to the court on an individual basis. It is also deeply worrying that CRCs are not breaching offenders who fail to comply with court orders and this must also be investigated immediately."

Thursday 22 June 2017

The Queen's Speech

This from the Guardian:-

Privatised probation programme 'could be dropped with negligible impact'

A joint report by the chief inspectors of probation and prisons says staff are focused on paperwork and targets at the expense of prisoners

A key part of the government’s probation privatisation reforms could be dropped tomorrow without any impact on the resettlement of prisoners, a joint report by the chief inspectors of probation and prisons has warned.

In what critics dubbed a “devastating report on a growing scandal” Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation, and Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons, say that the work done by the 21 community rehabilitation companies in the government’s Through the Gate programme is having a negligible impact on reducing prisoner reoffending rates, two years after its introduction.

The chief inspectors say that too many prisoners have been released not knowing where they would sleep that night, that in too many cases prisoners’ risk to the public had been inadequately assessed before release, and despite much talk about the use of mentors, they could find only one prisoner out of a sample of 98 who had been mentored.

“None of the early hopes for Through the Gate have been realised,” they said. “The gap between aspiration and reality is so great, that we wonder whether there is any prospect that these services will deliver the desired impact on rates of reoffending.”

The chief inspectors’ report was based on visits to nine prisons where Through the Gate services were delivered by seven different rehabilitation companies in England and Wales and a detailed examination of the cases of 98 long-term prisoners.

“The overall picture is bleak,” they conclude. “If Through the Gate services were removed tomorrow, in our view the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible.”

They said that CRC staff focused most of their efforts on producing written resettlement plans to meet contractual targets, while the needs of prisoners received much less attention.

“Many have enduring problems including mental illness and addiction, and yet links between treatment in custody and in the community were not always easy. Indeed the whole transition is often fraught. Affordable accommodation is hard to source, and claims to state benefits take time to process, so some prisoners are released with nowhere to live, and like others, may face weeks without any income.”

The provision of post-release resettlement services was one of the key aims of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which saw the part-privatisation of the probation service.

The inspectors say that while many CRCs have employed well-respected voluntary organisations to deliver resettlement services, their potential has not been realised as they have focused on completing delivery plans. The few examples of the promised innovation, they add, have been on a very small scale.

The performance of the CRCs raises questions about whether they will qualify for any payments under the payment-by-results mechanism in their contracts when the first reoffending data becomes available in October.

Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, described it as a “devastating report on a growing scandal” adding: “One of the first challenges for the new government is to sort out this mess.

“The break-up of the public probation service, with a large part of it handed to private companies, was supposed to turn lives around, reduce reoffending and make us all safer.
“Instead, successive inspection reports have shown that the risk to the public has increased, and now we learn that Through the Gate services are so useless that they could stop tomorrow and we would not notice the difference. People who are trying to lead crime-free lives are being let down,” she said.

Labour’s shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, added that the report’s central conclusion pointed to “a complete failure of the Tories’ reckless part-privatisation of probation. Public safety is being put at risk because ex-offenders aren’t getting the support, supervision and rehabilitation they need,” he said.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We will take all necessary action to make sure the probation system is reducing reoffending and preventing future victims.

“We have undertaken an overarching review of probation, looking at the standards we set for providers and how we hold them to account. Additionally, we have made changes to how community rehabilitation companies are paid so they can focus on activities that will help cut crime. As part of part of the probation review, we have been looking at Through the Gate services and will be publishing our findings in due course.”


Following yesterday's Queen's Speech, Rob Allen tries to work out what the future is for prison reform:-

Prison Break

Why has the government junked the prison bit of the Prison and Courts Bill? There seem to be three main possibilities.

The first is that with big issues like the purpose of prisons and the role of the Secretary of State in running them due to be determined, ministers didn’t fancy depending on mavericks like Philip Davies MP let alone the DUP to get their way. The Tory party has always had its Michael Howards as well as Douglas Hurds and the risk of being held to ransom by hardliners – and having to rely on Labour votes to get their way- simply wasn’t worth the candle. Besides, the key to sorting out prisons-so this theory goes- doesn’t lie in a new legal frameworks but putting staff boots back on the ground as new Justice Secretary told us in his open letter today.

Theory two is that when Theresa May and her people asked what was in the bill, they were told that inspectors would get greater powers and ministers would have to respond to their criticisms. To which came the reply why on earth are we making another rod for our own backs? More transparency and accountability are the last thing we need just now.

Option three is that Mrs May is simply no prison reformer or at least not in the grandiose Cameron/Gove mould which gave shape to the thinking behind the Bill. She may be an instinctive hardliner herself but her record on social issues defies that simple characterisation. More likely in her weakened state she has realised that as far as the public is concerned, there are no, or few votes in prisons. With crime rising once again and what maybe a growing threat and reality of terrorist violence, reform and rehabilitation of prisoners is unlikely to help her government’s popularity in the country.

Whatever the reason - and it may be a bit of all three - within 18 months prison reform has been marched to the top of the hill and back down again. Mr Lidington’s letter promises that the work of making prisons places of safety and rehabilitation goes on. Maybe that is better done away from parliamentary and public gaze. But it feels, as the Chief Inspector of Prisons has said, a missed opportunity.

Rob Allen

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Job Offer

Probation Services Officer (PSO2)

National Offender Management Service
Closing date: 3 Jul 2017

About the job

Job description

The job holder will undertake the full range of work with offenders before and after sentence. This will include assessment, sentence implementation, offender management and producing reports. The job holder will provide case management support to a full range of offenders utilising service procedures and practice directions that underpin professional judgement.

Job Summary 

To assess and manage the risk (including risk management plans and escalation) posed by offenders to protect victims of crime and the general public by:

Liaising, providing information and advice to criminal courts, criminal justice agencies and other partner agencies
Supervise and manage risk of those offenders subject to community sentences, during and after custodial sentences.
Work with other agencies and groups to prevent crime and meet the needs of victims and offenders.

In line with NPS policies and procedures, the job holder must at all times demonstrate a commitment to equality and inclusion and an understanding of their relevance to the work they do.

The post holder must adhere to all policies in respect of the sensitive/confidential nature of the information handled whilst working in this position.

If relevant to the role, some out of hours working may be required (i.e. Courts, Approved Premises, programmes, evening reporting etc).

Responsibilities, Activities & Duties 

Probation Services Officers may be required to undertake any combination, or all, of the duties and responsibilities set out below.

To undertake the full range of offender management tasks with offenders assessed as low or medium risk of harm and to support the Probation Officer grade in high risk cases.
When providing case manager support, to contribute to the delivery of the Risk Management plan and report significant changes relating to risk of harm and/or of reoffending or any non‐compliance within agreed enforcement procedures
To use computer based systems to produce, update and maintain records and other documentation within agreed timescales
Ensure effective referrals to services and facilities and communicate with offender management staff, interventions staff, service providers and external agencies to review progress and associated risks.
To undertake prison, home or alternate location visits as required in accordance with service procedures and policies.
To undertake work in the court setting, including the completion of appropriate reports on cases and prosecution of breaches.
To provide cover within teams as required
To deliver and co-lead accredited programmes commensurate with grade
To conduct mandatory alcohol and drug tests as required, and to follow prescribed medication procedures
Carry out safeguarding children duties in accordance with the NPS statutory responsibilities and agency policies
Demonstrate pro-social modelling skills by consistently reinforcing pro-social behaviour and attitudes and challenging anti-social behaviour and attitudes.
To work within the aims and values of NPS and NOMS

The duties/responsibilities listed above describe the post as it is at present and is not intended to be exhaustive. The Job holder is expected to accept reasonable alterations and additional tasks of a similar level that may be necessary. Significant adjustments may require re-examination under the Job Evaluation scheme and shall be discussed in the first instance with the Job Holder.


For the purposes of selection the following competencies will be used:

Making effective decisions
Changing and improving
Delivering at pace
Collaborating and partnering


An annual salary of £22,039 – £27,373 plus London Weighting Allowance of £3,889, where this applies. In some areas the minimum starting salary has risen to £23,140; Norfolk & Suffolk, Kent, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire Local Delivery Units. 


Seen on Facebook:-

I can't believe NPS are advertising for 400 PSOs, duties include accredited programmes!!

Back tracking without admitting that they made a mistake.

Doing things on the cheap no doubt.

Are Napo involved? I can't believe that they will do programmes, that's the only bread and butter bit left for CRC!

That'll be sex offender programmes, presumably, unless TR is about to be overhauled.

That's a band 4 role

Not necessarily, locally NPS PSOs having training for it.

They do at the moment but under the E3 proposals future recruitment for Sex Offender facilitators will be PO only.....

It's the new group work - not an accredited programme, is my understanding.

As an employee of a CRC this scares me, should they finally admit it was a mistake and re-nationalise I fear we will have no job options to return to in the NPS due to the current recruitment drive.

They will also run group supervision sessions.

NPS PSOs are delivering group supervision, I'm not aware of any plans for accredited programmes and can't see that in the ad but the job description is intentionally vague for all staff to allow for the employer to make changes to the operating model in future....

I've been an Idap and then BBR sessional for about ten years and have just been informed I'm no longer required. Was given four weeks notice and on week five I was called and asked to cover..........

A lot of these PSOs will also be deployed within Court to deal with the up turn in same day delivery and oral reports to meet the new criteria

Need to keep an eye on the ratio of PO to PSO staff and case tiering. Interesting that it has been said elsewhere that there is little justification for PSOs to be working in the NPS and no justification for POs to be working in the CRC. And yet we see PSOs being recruited in both NPS and CRC where PO training is ceasing and POs that leave are not being replaced by new PO recruits and in the NPS where POs may be replaced by PSOs despite those who say they should not be undertaking work with those assessed as high risk.

I think NPS underestimated the number of cases that would be held by PSO staff post TR - certainly the cases I was holding until recently would have been PO cases pre-TR. The future for PSOs will be non-accredited groupwork on high risk cases as well as medium risk cases. I have recently left the Service having been treated appallingly and with a lack of support from Union. Leaving after 16 years in the service has been the scariest and best thing I have done in a long while...

That salary is a joke!

We have 3 OMUs in our office. Up until xmas we had 1 PSO in each OMU ...then got another 3 PSO's around March, so teams were about 7 POs and 2 PSO ....thats what E3 stated was needed however after 4 mths, 2 of the PSOs only have about 7 cases each, and now re deployed into Court team as they were 6 PSOs short. The thing is when the 3 new PSOs were put in OM teams, they knew the Court team was 6 short so everyone wonders why they were posted there first! Management just mess with staff and also offenders keep getting new officers isn't good. Now another PSO has resigned after only 4mths in the role, as he only had 12 cases and was bored! We heard about the PSO recruitment and just don't understand it at all....where will they go!?!

Saturday 17 June 2017

News Roundup 10

Just in case you were wondering, such has been the paucity of news of late that February was the last time we had a 'news roundup'. With the election supposedly out of the way and 'purdah' now at an end, the backlog of negative prison and probation reports are starting to be published. Yesterday the focus was on Norfolk and Suffolk CRC and Russell Webster has extracted the key elements:-

Probation in Suffolk “nowhere near good enough”

Both public and private probation failing in Suffolk
The two organisations responsible for providing probation services in Suffolk needed to do far more to protect the public, reduce reoffending and make sure people served sentences handed down by the courts.
That is the headline quote from Dame Glenys Stacey, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation, in a press release accompanying the probation inspection report into probation services in Suffolk which was published earlier today (16 June 2017).

The inspection looked at the quality of probation work carried out by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) and the National Probation Service (NPS) and assessed the effectiveness of work undertaken locally with people who have committed crimes. This was the second inspection of adult probation work undertaken by a CRC owned by Sodexo Justice Services, in partnership with Nacro.

Overall findings

The inspectors were very critical of the work of the CRC:

Overall, the work of the CRC in Suffolk was not good enough. Staff needed to do more to protect the public, particularly in domestic abuse cases, and they needed a greater focus on keeping children safe. Their work to prevent people committing further crimes needed to improve, as did work to ensure that people abided by the terms of their sentence. Staff were working hard but individual caseloads were very high and staff morale was low. Inspectors saw some good work, but the quality of work was generally poor.

Sodexo has a conceptually sound operating model for all of its CRCs. Based on robust research, it is designed to fully engage people who have committed crimes and address their readiness to change. Inspectors were concerned, however, at the over-reliance on telephone contact in supervising individuals. Without meaningful contact, people are less likely to develop the will to change their attitudes and behaviour. Inspectors were also concerned at the lack of privacy in open booths used for confidential interviews.

Implementation of the model in Suffolk has stalled and some systems are not yet up and running, partly because the Ministry of Justice’s necessary IT gateway that will allow for critical information to be shared is still not in place.

We have become accustomed to inspectorate reports where the work of the NPS has been rated much more favourably than that of the CRC. Unfortunately, the NPS in Suffolk was also found to be performing poorly:

The quality of work from the NPS with higher-risk offenders in Suffolk was also poor overall. As inspectors found with the CRC, more needed to be done to protect the public in domestic abuse cases and more done to safeguard children. Work to reduce the risk of people committing further crimes was poor across the spectrum. In the face of work pressures, local leaders had reduced the requirement to review cases, which inspectors thought left some potential victims more vulnerable than necessary.
Findings — CRC

The main inspectors’ findings of the work of the CRC were:

  • The CRC did not review the NPS’s initial assessments of the risk of harm posed well enough. Then CRC plans did not redress any shortcomings sufficiently, leaving some victims more vulnerable than necessary.
  • The CRC was dilatory in completing assessments. We found assessments were generally superficial and sentence planning was poor. The delivery of interventions was correspondingly patchy, and poor overall. Responsible officers had very high caseloads, but were often delivering one-to-one work rather than using supply chain providers or in-house groupwork (as anticipated in the operating model) thereby increasing the demands on their time. Leaders were taking action to redress the balance.
  • Service users had not received an acceptable level of service in too many cases.
  • Individual service users’ needs were not taken into account in enough cases. In too many cases, not enough appointments had been offered and non-compliance had not received an appropriate response.
  • Over one-third of service users had not complied with the sentence.
Findings — NPS

The inspectors found that the NPS in Suffolk were suffering from chronic staff shortages and felt that the NPS nationally had to do better to address this. Their main findings with respect to NPS performance were:

  • Public protection work was not of sufficient quality overall. As with the CRC, this was particularly notable in cases of domestic abuse and those involving the safeguarding of children.
  • Initial assessments were generally sufficient, but risks posed to known adults and/or children were not assessed well enough, with pertinent information missing.
  • Local managers expressly allowed routine formal reviews to be conducted annually unless there was a change in circumstances. We found that changes in circumstances did not always lead to a review. These arrangements left some victims more vulnerable than necessary.
  • The quality of work was poor across the spectrum of work to reduce reoffending.
  • The majority of court reports did not provide sufficient information to help the CRC undertake good, comprehensive planning. The risk assessments to support allocation appeared inflated to us: we found an unusual proportion of cases that we considered should have been allocated to the CRC. Then, assessment and subsequent planning were not good enough in too many cases.
  • Plans were not delivered well enough. There had been insufficient progress in most cases.
  • Overall, the quality of work was acceptable, but in too many cases, not enough appointments had been offered.
  • The response to non-compliance was appropriate in most cases.
Findings — Co-ordination between NPS and CRC

Overall levels of co-operation and co-ordination between both probation agencies appeared to be reasonable:

  • In terms of public protection, the two agencies were generally working together well. New Integrated Offender Management arrangements were bedding in, and NPS officers worked with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub and, through them, provided information to the CRC. Information-flows from court had improved.
  • Relationships worked reasonably well, with regular interface meetings focused on problem-solving.
  • The NPS chose not to use interventions on offer from the CRC, seemingly to save money, although the national delivery model for probation services assumes that they will.
  • The establishment of the CRC hub and the NPS central enforcement unit had created problems for each organisation which had affected enforcement. These were being resolved by middle managers and, where necessary, senior managers via interface meetings.

Overall then, this is a very damning report with some key recommendations including:
The CRC should take enforcement action where appropriate against those who don’t comply with their sentences and ensure people can be interviewed in private when necessary. They also needed to communicate and engage with their staff more effectively.
The NPS should provide specific support to responsible officers carrying caseloads of high-risk offenders.

The CRC and NPS together should improve the quality of case management, with a particular focus on the risk posed to known adults and children, and provide effective management oversight of all relevant cases.

Chief Inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey highlights two key features of the Sodexo model and appears to attribute blame for them to the MoJ procurement model:

Two features that are allowable within CRC contracts concern me, however. Some service users’ main contact with the CRC will be by telephone when in my view, individuals posing a risk to their families or the public should be supervised more actively. Those who are supervised face-to-face are often seen in open booths. This is not likely to encourage the candid exchanges sometimes necessary, and it does not provide sufficient privacy. I question these two aspects of the model and the funding constraints that encourage them.
She concludes in her, typically, direct style that it is not possible to operate a good quality public service without sufficient funding:
There is a simple truth here: to deliver well, all probation providers must be able to employ enough skilled staff, and then make sure they can give of their best. To do that, they need sufficient funding and the right priorities, systems and ways of working. Above all, staff need to be engaged and valued, in order to deliver well.

There have been 2 prison reports, HMP Brixton:-
Brixton was not a safe prison. Almost a third of prisoners told us they felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and nearly two-thirds had felt unsafe at some point during their stay. Levels of violence had increased and were high, and the prison’s response had been wholly inadequate. The number of self-harm incidents had quadrupled since our last inspection. Care for those at risk of self-harm was generally poor and there were dangerous shortcomings in support procedures that needed immediate attention.
and HMP Pentonville:- 
What we found at this inspection was, in some ways, encouraging, with significant efforts made to address our previous criticisms. However, we continued to have significant concerns about poor outcomes, particularly for the safety of the prison. Levels of violence remained too high and some of it was serious, including a homicide in late 2016. There had been five self-inflicted deaths since our last inspection, and frailties in the case management and care for men vulnerable to suicide and selfharm were evident. Governance, reporting and quality assurance of security, adjudications and use of force needed attention to provide reassurance that poor behaviour was being identified, well managed and dealt with fairly. In contrast, there had been some proactive measures to address levels of disorder, and there were signs that this was having a positive impact. Additional investment, some of which followed two escapes in 2016, was supporting these early signs of improvement Work to limit the supply of drugs, and support for men with substance misuse problems, was well developed. Nevertheless, significant work was still needed to address our concerns about safety.

Here we have edited highlights from the latest blog post by the Napo General Secretary:-


For some time now we have been highlighting the appalling impact of the government pay freeze and the lack of cash to support the Probation pay agreement that dates back to 2008. I was not involved in those negotiations which were concluded just before I was appointed as AGS.

As you will hopefully have seen from the regular flow of material that we have been issuing to members, the principal difficulty with a pay structure of this nature is that it was predicated on the basis of cash being readily available to fund the progression system and had not factored in the possibility of a pay freeze which is effectively in its seventh year now.

Damning Data

This week the Office for National Statistics published their annual survey of earnings in the UK Labour Market and it makes for stark reading.

The tables and narrative are a ‘statto’s’ dream, but the key headline is that the pay of Probation Officers has shown a real time decrease of 22% (yes 22%) with comparator occupations in the last 7 years.

Click here for a not so pleasant illustration

So what’s to be done about it?

Winning the propaganda debate is just one part of a successful pay campaign but unfortunately it’s not going to be enough to deliver what is needed. While Napo has been engaged in promising pay discussions it will as usual be down to ministers to sign the cheque, and in the current post-election climate its anyone’s guess whether we will have a government with sufficient longevity for us to reach an agreement with, or that even if there is, they will see the pay of our members as top of the priority list.

That’s why I was especially encouraged at the recent meeting of your National Executive Committee (NEC) to hear a contribution that was reflecting the views of their constituency which clearly favoured the prospect of a ballot for industrial action should negotiations, to which we are certainly fully committed, hit the buffers.

Whilst the election returned the Tories as the largest party with the most seats, this has to be about the most pyrrhic ‘victory’ in British political history. For the clearest message to come from that part of the electorate which actually matters (the majority that did not vote Tory) is that they have had enough with austerity and the lies that are peddled in support of it.

It may be time for Napo members to step up to the plate sooner than we might think.

TUC applauds CRC stress survey

Always good to see the work of craft unions such as Napo, given a mention in TUC despatches and here is an extract from this week’s TUC Health and Safety news.

"Staff at a privatised probation company are suffering high levels of stress as a result of intensive, high paced work and unrealistic deadlines, a joint union survey has found.

Napo and UNISON represent staff employed in five Purple Futures Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) owned by Interserve. After privatisation in February 2015, Purple Futures introduced a new operational model that included ‘significant staffing cuts’, the unions say. They add that the changes led to a marked deterioration in working conditions, with occupational stress the top cause of sickness absence. The unions embarked on a survey to support their negotiations with management for improvements to work practices. They say the ‘striking findings’ of the study showed workers were being pressured into undertaking excessive work, over long hours at a high pace. Nine out of ten (89 per cent) respondents said that they often or always have to work very intensively and 79 per cent reported they often or always have to work very fast. Six out of ten (61 per cent) said they often or always have unrealistic time pressures. Almost half of all respondents reported they are unable to take sufficient breaks, are pressured to work long hours and often or always have unachievable deadlines.

Napo and UNISON are now calling on Purple Futures to follow Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines and establish a joint working group to oversee the stress identification and management process, and for this group to include adequate trade union representation. They are also calling on the company to “remove the triggers for stress in the workplace and provide a safe system of work for all Purple Futures staff in relation to workload” and to “ensure that individual and group stress risks assessment are completed and reviewed when necessary, and that trade union health and safety reps are involved in the risk assessment process”. They say the company should also “agree with the unions a workload management tool, which provides all staff with the reassurance that their workloads will be set according to strict criteria to protect both staff health and safety and public protection.”

Napo/UNISON stress survey report.

Good work by all involved and many thanks to the excellent response by our Purple Futures CRC members to the survey which, as can be seen, we will now seek to take forward with Interserve at the earliest opportunity.

Dame Glenys sets her sights on Sodexo

It’s quite interesting if not mildly amusing to hear some CRC owners complain that they have been singled out for criticism by HMI Probation in comparison to their competitors. As I see it they are all on the accountability list; it’s just a question of when the inspectorate gets round to your turn.

Here’s the latest on Sodexo and there is a reference among other things to those infernal and hugely discredited interview booths that we have been telling them for ages are unfit for purpose . I do hope that they take note.

“Two features that are allowable within CRC contracts concern me, however. Some service users’ main contact with the CRC will be by telephone when in my view, individuals posing a risk to their families or the public should be supervised more actively. Those who are supervised face-to-face are often seen in open booths. This is not likely to encourage the candid exchanges sometimes necessary, and it does not provide sufficient privacy. I question these two aspects of the model and the funding constraints that encourage them”.

The full report can be found here. and we will be considering the recommendations.

That Michael Spurr letter on Attendance Management - Can NPS get their act together?

For some time our NPS Reps have been seemingly banging their heads against walls whilst trying to impress upon Divisional contacts that the letter from Michael Spurr to the unions in January gives a clear steer to managers about their discretion on whether to invoke trigger points.

Unfortunately it’s becoming increasingly clear that NPS divisions are not reading off the same hymn sheet and, by the look of it, haven’t seen the Michael Spurr letter either. Apparently lines need to be checked before this can happen.

That’s incredible to say the least so while others pontificate let me help cut through the red tape.

Letter from Michael Spurr


Finally, a request for assistance with some research:-

My name is Matthew Walker; I am a London-based master’s student enrolled in the MSc Public Policy and Administration programme at the London School of Economics.

I am conducting research on how the recent reconfiguration of probation services under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme has impacted probation staff’s levels of public service motivation. In order to advance my research, I reached out to my connections at an organisation I used to volunteer at (RAPt), and a former manager of a CRC who now works at RAPt recommended that I get in touch with you.

Public service motivation is defined as ‘the belief, values and attitudes that go beyond self-interest and organisational interest, that concern the interest of a larger political entity and that motivate individuals to act accordingly whenever appropriate’. Public service motivation has been shown to be linked to performance, sectoral preference, turnover-rate, job satisfaction, and incentive preference. A prevalent view in public service motivation literature is that the introduction of private sector values will have a deleterious effect on a workforce’s public service motivation. The focus of my study concerns whether or not the above statement holds true for Community Rehabilitation Company staff (in comparison with National Probation Service staff). Although public service motivation is an important issue in public administration, to my knowledge there is no prior study investigating PSM levels in the context of Transforming Rehabilitation.

I have prepared a survey designed to gauge employee's levels of public service motivation, which is up and running, and can be found at All responses are anonymous, and the survey takes no more than five minutes to complete.

I believe that the data I am collecting may be of interest to your blog and to the probation service at large. I am therefore writing to inquire whether you might be willing to either host or circulate the survey I have developed.

I would be very grateful for your support, and would be happy to share my data and finished report in due course.

I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for your time.

Best wishes,
Matthew Walker


I'm off for a few days and not likely to have internet access, so as usual will leave it up to readers to keep us abreast of developments in the interim. Thanks.