Thursday 31 August 2017

Working Links In Crisis

Following another damning HMI report, Napo have issued the following press release earlier today:-

Another damning HMIP report on Working Links

Union claims Probation services in Gloucestershire are in crisis

The leader of the largest trade union representing Probation staff in England and Wales today claimed that service provision in Gloucestershire, part of the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) owned by Aurelius/Working Links is in a state of chaos and represents a danger to public safety.

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary of Napo (the trade union for Probation and Family Court workers) said: “The release of yet another damning report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Probation (HMIP), about inadequate service provision in Gloucestershire is further proof that our predictions prior to the privatisation of the probation service have proven to be correct. This must raise serious questions as to whether Aurelius/Working Links ought to be stripped of its contract and the supervision of its clients restored to public control.”

The HMIP report by Dame Glenys Stacey says that higher risk individuals within the management of the National Probation Service (NPS) were well served, but that the picture is altogether different for clients posing a medium and lower risk of harm in Gloucestershire who are managed by the Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BGSW CRC).

The inspectorates report highlights systemic failures in managing the risk of harm, applying measures to help offenders move away from crime, and inadequate delivery of Court sentences. The inspectorate also says that despite the ‘heroic’ efforts of staff, the service provided by the Aurelius/Working Links enterprise was nowhere near the standard expected.

The inspection looked at the quality of probation work carried out by the CRC and the NPS and assessed the effectiveness of work undertaken locally with people who have committed crimes. This was the second inspection of adult probation work under the control of a CRC owned by Working Links and the first covering the NPS South West & Central Division.

Ian Lawrence added: 
“This independent report is among the worst I have ever seen, but I am not all surprised. Napo and our sister unions have been in dispute for well over 18 months as we have tried desperately to get proper engagement with the employers who have refused to recognise the myriad problems that we have been raising and which have now been identified in the HMIP report. How this company has just been given another £4.5 million of taxpayer’s money is beyond belief.

Our members report the sheer exhaustion of trying to maintain an unsafe operational model which offers minimal face-to-face supervision of clients. There are also huge problems as a result of staff cuts of around 40%, resulting in high absence figures, massive caseloads and a damaging loss of morale. In short, our members are telling me that their employer is unfit for purpose.”

The union is calling for a full Parliamentary enquiry into the impact of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme implemented by former Secretary of State Chris Grayling in 2014, which allowed private companies to manage probation services.


From the report:-


We report here on our inspection of probation work in Gloucestershire. 

According to published performance reports, the division of the National Probation Service (NPS) that includes Gloucestershire was not meeting all the targets, and on some measures results were lower than in other divisions. On the other hand, the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) was performing well compared with other CRCs. However, we found a more nuanced picture on the ground. 

When we looked at the quality of work undertaken, we found that the NPS in Gloucestershire was performing reasonably well in many respects. The court team was providing a good service, and cases were then allocated correctly. NPS case assessments were thorough, and plans realistic. The public were protected from harm. Those under supervision were seen often enough, with any failure to attend dealt with appropriately. But in the majority of the cases we reviewed, NPS efforts to rehabilitate offenders often came to little or nothing, either because the offender disengaged or because, in those cases where specific interventions were planned to help the offender turn away from crime, the interventions were not actually delivered. 

We did not find such a coherent picture at the CRC. At the time of the inspection, Working Links had not been able to implement its plan (as set out in the contract bid) that a single responsible officer would support the offender throughout. Instead, offenders were being transferred between workers for operational reasons, and also as a result of painful staff reductions. Yet desistance literature emphasises the value of strong, meaningful relationships; our 2016 desistance thematic inspection (for youth) found the same, and practitioners know this from experience and professional studies. 

What is more, the operating model was not even working as it should. The proposed Community Hubs are so promising, but at the time of the inspection they had not been established. The interventions team that was to deliver rehabilitation activity requirement days was not fully functioning either. The Operational Hub was not managing the proportion of cases expected. Unpaid work was not being provided as it should. 

Caseloads were plainly unreasonable. As we have come to expect in such situations, managers and staff were making heroic efforts, sickness absence levels were high, and the quality of work was poor overall because staff were over-burdened and not given the professional support expected. The quality of assessment and planning was mixed, but in any event, plans were not being followed through anywhere near well enough and some offenders were not being seen often enough. As a result, the public were more at risk than necessary, and offenders who could turn their lives around were being denied the chance to do so. 

This is not as government intended, and I hope that remedial action is taken by Working Links and by government.

Dame Glenys Stacey 
HM Chief Inspector of Probation
August 2017

Why Prison Numbers Are Increasing 2

Phil Wheatley has been speaking to the Guardian again. This from yesterday:-

Surge in jail population adds to strain on overstretched prison service

Number of prisoners locked up in England and Wales has risen by 1,200 since May to 86,413 – and numbers are expected to rise further

An unforeseen summer surge in prisoner numbers in England and Wales is adding to the pressures on a jail system that is already “woefully short of spare capacity” and subject to frequent riots that take out cell spaces, a former head of the prison service has warned. Phil Wheatley, the last director-general of the Prison and Probation Service, has told the Guardian that the rise in prison numbers has “more or less wiped out” the value of a boost in the number of prison officers and prevented the closure of older jails.

“Trying to find a safe way through the problems facing Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, while at the same time ensuring prisons go smoke-free must be near impossible without substantial additional funding for staff resources,” said Wheatley. “It matters because prisons are in crisis and haven’t got enough staff to manage the planned population, let alone the equivalent of a couple of big prisons full of extra prisoners,” he said. "So far Ministry of Justice ministers seem to be publicly ignoring the problem and doing nothing except issue cheery press releases ... which suggest all is going precisely to plan and prisons are on track to be ordered and safe places where staff can spend more time reforming offenders.”

Wheatley says a Cumbrian prison lost the use of an entire wing only last week because of a serious disturbance, while another riot happened four weeks ago because there were only 20 officers on duty to supervise more than 1,000 inmates at a prison in Hertfordshire. Record levels of violence behind bars, including a 20% increase in assaults in the past year, have been seen and there is anxiety over of the introduction of the next phase in the ban on smoking in prisons due to come into effect this week. Wheatley’s concerns echo a warning from the president of the prison governors’ association earlier this month that the unforeseen surge in numbers had left them with “virtually no head room” at a time when many prisons are already in crisis.

The number of prisoners locked up in England and Wales has risen by 1,200 since May to 86,413, despite fewer cases going through the courts. Wheatley says the current population of 86,413 is 1,900 higher than the official 2016 projection of prison numbers for this summer, which anticipated jail numbers would fall to 83,700 by next June. Revised projections issued last Thursday by the Ministry of Justice now anticipate that there will be 2,700 more prisoners by next June than the original 2016 projection suggested. There are now fewer than 800 “spare” places in the system with official “usable operational capacity” of just 87,209.

“It is unusual for the projections to be so wrong so quickly. Something significant has changed in sentencing. It has to be sentencing because the latest statistics say that less cases are going through the criminal courts,” said Wheatley. “The projections were seriously optimistic and did not take account of the courts’, particularly the crown courts’, increasing use of custody versus non-custodial disposals and the trend towards longer sentences.”

The former prison service director-general says it matters because the funding for 2,500 extra prison officers promised by December 2018 was intended to cope with a prison population that was 1,900 smaller than it is now and 2,700 smaller than it will be in June 2018. “2,700 is roughly three times the full crowded capacity of Belmarsh [prison in London] so this is a non-trivial increase in a system already woefully short of spare capacity and subject to frequent riots which take out accommodation. Haverigg [in Cumbria] for example lost a wing as a result of a serious disturbance last week. It will prevent HMPPS closing old accommodation as they open new more efficient accommodation which is a major plank of their strategy to reduce cost and make the best use of the staff available.”

The latest MoJ workforce figures show that there has been a net increase of 868 prison officers since January as the drive to recruit a further 2,500 gets under way. But Wheatley says that recruiting and retaining staff in London and the south-east has been made very difficult because of government pay policy. “The riot at HMP Mount [in Hertfordshire] at the end of July was a prisoner reaction to a weekend of severely restricted regime. It was the result of there being less than 20 officers on weekend duty to supervise over a 1,000 prisoners and highlights that this is a real problem,” he said.

The justice secretary, David Lidington, has acknowledged that the prison system is going through a particularly turbulent period and he has lost a parliamentary slot for the government’s prison reform bill. Earlier this month he said he wanted to see prison numbers reduced but said that would only happen if reoffending rates fell and judges, magistrates and the public had full confidence in other punishments, such as sentences served in the community.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We will always have enough prison places for offenders committed to custody by the courts and set staffing levels accordingly. Prison numbers can fluctuate which is why we have a robust set of plans in place. This includes modernising the estate and building new accommodation. We are also transforming our prison estate and investing £1.3bn to deliver 10,000 new places.”

The spokesperson added that 550 places of the 2,100 capacity new HMP Berwyn in Wales had already been brought into use, a new 200 place house block at HMP Stocken in Rutland is due to open next year, along with a further 262 places being brought back into use in the coming months. The spokesperson added that no targets had been set for prisons to become smoke-free “They will only become smoke-free when it is appropriate to do so,” they said.


Reaction to the above seen on Facebook:-

I'm not convinced it's PSRs, I suggest it's linked to a lack of confidence in the management of low and medium risk cases... working in a court it's been ridiculous the volume of repeat offenders who have not been seen on existing orders. That does not instil confidence on sentences that a further community sentence will manage offending - that's my experience and what I'm being told .

Interesting and makes sense. Very worrying.

Really is. There was a DV guy, sentenced in July - entry on system in Jan, reoffended DV in April. Only attended for induction in July and never chased up - clearly this isn't everywhere but where I was this type of scenario was weekly at least.

I can see why a court would not trust existing management of community sentences the way things are now. It is just strange that they trust prison sentences more.

You know they will SERVE a prison sentence, Then get 12 months of "supervision" afterwards anyway. Need look no further really.

So a double dose for our service user of this thing called supervision which the courts now don't trust plus a stay in a drug infested poorly staffed overcrowded and dangerous prison. Hmmm

Yep, Great isn't it. I said at the time that all PSS was going to do was up the prison population, and here we are.

Interesting as locally we do see our people regularly and are timely with enforcement, however, it appears that we are not allowed to propose revocation even after 4th, 5th blatent breach, risk escalation seen as preferable to revocation. Recalls on licence are similarly discouraged, if they re-offend we are often told to await outcome of the Court appearance. very much feels that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.

On subject of report, had one today given SSO for Possess Supply Cannabis, one sentence about the offence, a further about a previous offence, nothing about any background information on drugs/alcohol/relationships/mental health then a sentence saying he is medium risk - how on what basis - not mentioned, then proposal. This was from Crown Court ....... words totally fail me

Not to mention that all of these extra prisoners will be on PSS, so there's a ripple effect on the whole CJS.

"Another culprit may be the Sentencing Council. A recent analysis has found that the guideline it produced on burglary offences in 2011 may have inadvertently encouraged courts to deal more severely with all types of breaking and entering. Although the Council did not intend to inflate the going rate, expanding the definition of the loss to the victim in such cases and creating a long list of factors signalling greater culpability by the offender seems to have pushed courts to punish offences more harshly than before. As I argued in a report for Transform Justice last year, the Council has not only failed to curb the growth in imprisonment - its original purpose. It may have made matters worse." Rob Allen quoted in Jim Brown blog

Saturday 26 August 2017

Why Prison Numbers Are Increasing

Here we have the latest blog post from Rob Allen:-

Why the Punitive (Re)Turn?

Why is the prison population increasing? Latest projections show numbers in custody are likely to increase by 1600 – at least one new prison’s worth – by 2022. The main reason is not that more and more people are being caught and punished for criminal offences. It’s that higher and higher proportions of those who are, nowadays receive custodial sentences. And their prison terms are getting longer. Both trends are confirmed in the latest criminal justice statistics. These show that it’s not only sexual and violent offenders who are facing tougher sanctions in court. Less than a quarter of people convicted for theft in 2010 went to jail but last year it was almost 30%. Average prison terms as a whole have gone up from 13.7 to 16.6 months over the last seven years.

It’s possible that courts are seeing more serious cases or more prolific offenders than before. That’s difficult to know in the absence of detailed research. But the halving of the cautioning rate – the proportion of offenders who were either cautioned or convicted who received a caution - suggest that many more low level cases came to court in 2016 than 2010.

There are other more likely explanations for this new punitive turn. The dismantling of the probation service may have made non-custodial sentences it supervises less attractive to judges and magistrates. Since 2010 the proportion of indictable only crimes - the most serious - dealt with by a community order or suspended sentence fell from a quarter to a fifth. For either way offences, market share for these two disposals fell from 42% to 37%.

Another culprit may be the Sentencing Council. A recent analysis has found that the guideline it produced on burglary offences in 2011 may have inadvertently encouraged courts to deal more severely with all types of breaking and entering. Although the Council did not intend to inflate the going rate, expanding the definition of the loss to the victim in such cases and creating a long list of factors signalling greater culpability by the offender seems to have pushed courts to punish offences more harshly than before. As I argued in a report for Transform Justice last year, the Council has not only failed to curb the growth in imprisonment - its original purpose. It may have made matters worse.

A poll published this week confirmed what has long been known - that the public is much less punitive than is often supposed. Asked what they believe would be most effective in cutting crime, more police on the streets, better parenting, greater discipline in schools and better rehabilitation all score highest. Just 7% of the public think the answer is more people in prison. Yet without some bold policy making in the Ministry of Justice, that’s just what we are going to get.

Rob Allen

Friday 25 August 2017

Latest From Napo 160

Here we have a slightly edited blog post from the Napo General Secretary:-


The news that we have picked up about the future prospects on pay from our trade union engagement meetings, and at what was the most depressing briefing session that I have attended in recent years with the MoJ Permanent Secretary, suggests a rough ride ahead.

The government driven pay strategy which has seen the MoJ prioritise the prison reform agenda and the pay of prison service staff while the value of a Probation Officers pay has been devalued by 21% over the last seven years, (Office for National Statistics research) provided another slap in the face for our negotiators when told that the results of the Prison Pay Review Body would have to be published before we could re-establish substantive discussions about probation pay modernisation.

Essentially there are three aspects to the complicated pay agenda:

  • The overall Public Sector Pay cap 
  • 2017 pay 
  • Longer term pay modernisation 

As I reported last week, the TUC affiliated unions across the public sector are being consulted on how they can be part of a wider national campaign against the regressive pay policy that has caused serious a serious drop in living standards since 2010. The Rally and Parliamentary Lobby on 17th October will see the start of this campaign to break the pay cap and I will send you details of how you can get involved.

As for 2017 pay, we have demanded that talks resume with the NPS and unions about what else could be done over and above the contractual 1% pay out made earlier this year. Of course our approach to pay is not solely focused on our NPS members, and our representations to CRC owners has meant that all but 4 CRCs have matched that, and in some cases have approved additional payments with a commitment to return to the table once we know more about the NPS pay position. Obviously we are knocking at the door of the recalcitrant CRCs to pay up now they have had this years WAV funding restored, and I will issue more news on this shortly.

Finally, and despite the huge amount of work that has been put in so far to map out a way forward, probation pay reform has also suffered a knockback as this minority government grapples with a multitude of problems that they deem to be a lot more important than yours.

A struggle lies ahead

In times as difficult as the ones that our members are going through, one harsh fact screams out, and that is: that this government will need to be pushed into a change of course.

Yes Napo will seek to negotiate as we have always done; and yes we don’t seek confrontation in place of an agreement that might lead to our members being treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, but I am saying this loudly and clearly: industrial action is likely to be the only way to force the pace of change. Any trade union is only as strong as its membership and if you want to make the government and senior MoJ management pay attention to our problems then you may need to take the necessary steps to make that happen. That does not come easily to Napo members who quite rightly care deeply about the clients and communities that they serve, but do ask yourselves, when was the last time that being nice got us anywhere?

NEC backs growth strategy for Napo

Pay is just one of the massive list of issues that Napo is trying to tackle as we face a multitude of attacks on our member’s terms, conditions, well-being and rights on collective bargaining.

The post-TR landscape while being predictable in terms of the chaos it has generated, has in itself doubled the demands on Napo’s resources both centrally and locally. Napo is no different to any other trade union in that, as the workforce in the areas we operate in generally gets older, then members retire. In the wake of TR at least 1800 staff have left for a variety of reasons or have taken early departure from their employer. Add to that the fact that many seasoned and highly experienced Napo reps have been among those former staff that departed from the service, and we have had a lot to contend with.

Chris Graylings parting shot to try and ruin Napo financially by removing ‘check off’ failed, in that we are still here and exposing his failings but none of the above has exactly made life easier for us.

These developments have created the most testing challenges that this union has faced at any time in its history. That is why over recent months your National Executive Committee have been considering the direction of our future operating strategy and the steps that we need to take to ensure that we remain as the leading trade union and professional association across the 24 employers we are recognised in for a lot longer yet.

‘Napo - a Strategy for Growth’ will have its formal launch at the AGM in October but at their meeting in London last week, the NEC showed commendable foresight in agreeing to release some initial financial resources (which as always will be under the scrutiny and authority of Napo’s Finance Sub-Committee) to allow us some flexibility in scoping out the potential changes that may help Napo to improve our services and communications, strengthen our hand at the bargaining table for all of our members and, critically, to identify and train a new generation of leaders.

None of this will happen by itself of course, and essentially it comes down to a stark choice between wishing that things might get better or actually showing the courage and leadership to take difficult decisions on the back of positive, practical and well thought out steps to make us more effective and more relevant to our existing and prospective members.

We have embarked on a new strategy for growth and we need all of our members to be part of it.

AGM motions flood in

Speaking of AGM, we have had around 30 motions arrive for inclusion on the AGM order paper.

They will be published shortly once Steering Committee have had a look at them and whichever order members decide they should be debated (ballot arrangements to follow) there is a wide range of interesting and hugely important issues up for discussion.

The Nottingham Conference will be a new look, two day gathering and the first to be held minus the perennially tiresome pre-event speculation as to whether or not we will be quorate following last year’s decision by our members to reduce the minimum attendance ratio.

I have a feeling it’s going to be a bit special.

Have you voted yet?

A long bank holiday weekend offers a great opportunity to dust down that pile of unopened envelopes that has been lying around on the kitchen table, mantelpiece, desk or wherever.

One of those should contain a ballot paper with the hustings of the two candidates standing for the vacant position of National Vice-Chair Finance namely Chas Berry and Keith Stokeld. Whoever emerges first from the contest will take up their position in the new Officer Group at AGM.

All I am able to do is to wish them both good luck and thank them for stepping up, and can I urge all members to take a few minutes to look at what they are saying and to cast your vote.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Michael Spurr Apologises

Regular readers will be aware of Carl Eve's sustained journalistic efforts regarding the Tanis Bhandari murder and I see that an official apology has been forthcoming from Michael Spurr, as reported here:- 

Apology for mother of man murdered by a known criminal

The man in charge of the service which monitors offenders has written to the mother of a murdered Devon man to apologise for failings which contributed to her son's death. Michael Spurr has written to Andrea Sharpe, mother of Tanis Bhandari, to apologise for errors in the handling of the case of Donald Pemberton, who was convicted of murder. Mr Spurr said he is “truly sorry” about the difficulties the family faced trying to get information about the monitoring of Tanis's murderer, reports plymouthherald.

The chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said a Serious Further Offence review has revealed a litany of failings. He revealed he was “looking into the processes” by which the reviews were carried out and how the service could improve. He admitted the case was “assessed against current requirements and processes were not followed as they should have been” adding “the SFO review therefore found the management was insufficient in each of these areas”.

Since receiving the letter in late April, Andrea said she has had mixed feelings about its contents. Although she now feels vindicated in battling against the authorities for the truth, the letter has underscored her strong feelings that killer Donald Pemberton should not have been at liberty when he killed Tanis on January 1 2015.

She said: “I felt great relief having read the letter but it opened up worse feelings. For example, learning now that the killer could have been re-arrested on December 30 – that really broke me. He didn’t need to be on the street that night. I don’t know what else I can do now. I feel like I’ve come to an end.”

Tanis, aged 27, was murdered on January 1, 2015 at the Green in Tamerton Foliot by Ryan Williams, aged 21 and Pemberton, 20. Pemberton was on licence at the time, having served two months of a four-month sentence for having a sharp article in a public place. His licence terms stated he was “to be well behaved” but two weeks before the murder he was arrested for brandishing two meat cleavers in Anstis Street in Stonehouse.

As The Herald has since learned, Pemberton's licence details were not on the Police National Computer and he was bailed by police to return to Charles Cross police station on February 9, 2015. His probation worker was not made aware of Pemberton’s arrest until more than a week later thanks to a call from the mental health Insight team. A court date to deal with the breach was eventually arranged to be heard on January 16, 2015.

In December last year The Herald exclusively revealed how two internal investigations – by the police and the privatised arm of the probation service – into the sequence of events which led to the death of the 27-year-old revealed a catalogue of delays, computer inadequacies and human errors.

The police’s internal investigation found “there was a chance” that Donald Pemberton – now serving a life sentence for the joint murder of Tanis – “would not have been at liberty on that night” had key information been available to officers on the Police National Computer “and a recall to prison had been issued for him, as a result of his behaviour” two weeks earlier when he was arrested for threatening a group of men with two meat cleavers.

In addition, the police report found that the circumstances which led to the builder’s death could be repeated not just in Devon and Cornwall, but in any force area in the country because of failings by the prison authorities in informing the Police National Computer Bureau.

The police report warned: “The concern is that Prisons, nationwide are adopting different criteria for sending, or not sending, prisoner licence details to the PNC Bureau. While this practice continues, and until all prisoner licence details are sent to the PNC Bureau, there is every chance incidents similar to this case will recur.”

The Herald, working Tanis’s family, called upon local politicians to put pressure on the government into tackling the issue. In February this year The Herald reported how after meeting with Tanis’ family Plymouth Moor View MP Johnny Mercer wrote to then Justice Minister Liz Truss asking: “what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the findings of the Devon and Cornwall Police inquiry into the murder of Tanis Bhandari that omissions in the recording of license conditions on the Police National Computer are likely to recur.”

The question, sent on January 27, was answered by Brandon Lewis, minister of state for policing and the fire service, on February 2. He wrote: “The omission in the recording of licence conditions in this case related to a Post Sentence Supervision notification, which is applied to offenders released from sentences of more than one day and up to two years in custody. This issue has now been resolved. All licence conditions are now recorded on the Police National Computer and prisons are also required to notify local police and probation services when offenders are released from their custody.”

The Herald later learned there had been a follow up question by Mr Mercer to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, asking “on what date the issue of the omission relating to the recording of licence conditions on the Police National Computer was resolved”. It received the answer from Mr Lewis: “This issue was resolved on 19 April 2016.”

The internal police report, which discovered the issue of the PNC omissions regarding licence details, was signed by the investigating officer dated September 9, 2016. The police have said their report was not forwarded to any government department prior to its completion in September 2016. There is, as yet, no explanation from the Government as to how it resolved the nationwide error found by Devon and Cornwall Police before the force had even completed its internal report.

In his lengthy letter to Andrea Sharpe, Tanis’s mother, Michael Spurr noted how because of Pemberton being a youth offender and previously receiving a custodial sentence of less than 12 months for the meat cleaver incident, any breach of his supervision was not a separate criminal offence and meant he could not be recalled direct to prison on the day of the breach. Instead, he would have to appear at court at a later date.

He noted how Pemberton, having been sentenced to four months custody after being convicted of the possession of an offensive weapon, was released on October 31 on a three month Notice of Supervision. He admitted the “releasing establishment should have informed the police of his release so that this information could be uploaded to the Police National Computer (PNC) to record that Donald Pemberton was subject to supervision.

“Unfortunately, this did not happen and I apologise for this. The failure was that of a particular prison establishment rather than a system failure.” He went on to reveal that Pemberton kept two of his three appointments with his “Probation Service Officer (PSO) in November 2014 and was issued a warning for the missed appointment. He explained how the PSO “identified at an early stage that [Pemberton] had mental health issues and set up an appointment with his GP”.

In addition, he admitted that by early December the CRC [Community Rehabilitation Company] which took over the privatised arm of the Probation Service “had concerns about his compliance with his supervision and about his ongoing mental health problems, which were significant enough to require a short period of hospitalisation”.

Mr Spurr revealed how over the “next two weeks” Pemberton was seen by his PSO and by the mental health team. Following Pemberton’s arrest on December 15, 2014 he was bailed until February 9, 2015. Mr Spurr said he “cannot comment” on the police’s decision, but notes Devon and Cornwall Police internal review of the case.

He wrote: “We did not to tell [sic] the police about the Notice of Supervision as we should have done, but the PNC would have included a list of Pemberton’s previous convictions including his recent incarceration in a youth offender’s institution. As you are aware the investigating officers did not check the PNC, therefore were not aware of his previous convictions and did not identify he may have been subject to supervision.”

The Herald learned from the internal reports by the police and CRC that Pemberton’s PSO only found out on December 22, 2014 he had been arrested and bail, thanks to a call from staff at the Insight Mental Health Team. This delay meant attempts to discuss the matter further with the arresting officer and discussions with the National Probation Service (NPS) were equally delayed.

Mr Spurr has now revealed that the NPS enforcement officer “had some concerns as to whether there was enough evidence to prosecute the breach, as [Pemberton] had not been charged”. This was despite police investigators already securing and viewing very clear CCTV evidence of Pemberton threatening a group of men with two meat cleavers.

Mr Spurr notes that following further discussion about the risk Pemberton posed, “a decision was made to summons [him] to appear in court. On 24 December, a court date of 16 January was set.” He also revealed that the enforcement officer chose not to go to court to request an arrest warrant be issue as Pemberton had not yet been charged and had a fixed home address.

However, he confirmed that Pemberton “then missed an appointment with his PSO on the 29 December and unsuccessful attempts were made to contact him by phone on 30 December. “Following missed appointments, if an offender does not have a reasonable explanation for missing the appointment enforcement action is taken, however, in this case breach proceedings had already been instigated so there was no further follow up.”

Mr Spurr accepted Andrea Sharpe and her family were “entitled to be informed by the Witness Care Unit” of her right to ask for a Serious Further Offence Victim Summary Reports (VSR) and to be informed about the Victim Contact Service (VCS).

Tanis’s family only found out they were entitled to a report from the Probation Service about the monitoring of Pemberton because they were told by The Herald. Until that stage they had not been contacted by the Witness Care Unit and were completely unaware they were legally entitled to the VSR. Even their Devon and Corwnall Police Family Liaison Officer was unaware of the Victim Summary Report and that they should have been contacted about seeing it.

Mr Spurr said he has since asked Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Victims Policy team to work with Witness Care Units “to ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities and to reduce the chances of this very important piece of work being overlooked.” He admitted that in relation to Tanis’s family’s experience the HMPPS Victims Policy team has “already made contact with the Devon and Cornwall Witness Care Unit and they have now reviewed their processes.”

Mr Spurr said he recognised it had been a very difficult year for Andrea, compounded by trying to obtain information about the case while still grieving the loss of her son. He wrote: “I am truly sorry about the difficulties you have faced and the additional distress this has caused you.”

As a result he said he would be “looking into the processes by which SFO reviews are carried out. In this regard, I am considering how we can ensure that the SFO review procedures promote a culture of openness about learning; produce robust reviews; provide victims with information on how was [sic] offender was supervised and; where there were shortcomings, how any lessons learnt will be implemented.

He said current SFO Review procedures asked three questions “whether Risk Assessment was sufficient, whether Risk Management was sufficient and whether Offender Management was sufficient”. Assessing the case of Pemberton’s management against current requirements he admitted “processes were not followed, as they should have been. The SFO review therefore found the management was insufficient in each of these areas.”

He admitted the written assessment and plan of Pemberton “was not completed in a timely manner, was of insufficient quality and was not reviewed in response to changing circumstances”. He admitted there was “an escalating pattern of worrying behaviour that was not sufficiently spotted and risk escalation to the NPS was not considered”. In addition, he noted that the Probation Service Officer who tried to contact Pemberton on December 30, after he missed his appointment on December 29, “took no further action” after this date.

Mr Spurr said the SFO review “found that more should have been done at this point, including risk escalation to the NPS and consideration of contacting police. (The SFO review also stated it was not clear what action the police could have taken if any). I have looked at the review and concluded that a warrant could have been applied for at this point.”

While recognising the context of the decision making at the time and the police’s decision to bail Pemberton, Mr Spurr said “there were sufficient concerns about the possession of weapons and the risk Pemberton posed to justify an application and it would then have been for the Court to decide whether to issue the warrant.”

As a result of Tanis’s family’s battle to highlight the mistakes made and hold organisations to account, Mr Spurr outlined a series of future actions to “prevent, as far as we can, further offending in the future”. Among the raft of actions already agreed include underscoring the importance of prison establishments to notify police and the PNC Bureau about the release of offenders and details of their licences. He said this importance had been “reinforced and further reminders will be issued”.

In addition an audit “will be undertaken to make sure the relevant Prison Service Instruction is being followed”. He said HM Prisons and Probation Service was working with police “to improve the type of information stored on the PNC” but claimed the “technical changes” to the PNC were “a police matter so I cannot commit to a time scale for this piece of work to be completed”.

He said HMPPS would also issue guidance on the use of warrants “making clear the circumstances in which they should be used for public protection, including for any young offenders who may still be subject to the previous Notice of Supervision arrangements”.

He said the HMPPS “Contract Management Team” undertook an audit of liaison arrangements and relationships with “key stakeholders in the Dorset, Devon and Cornwall CRC”, adding that the findings would be “discussed with the CRC Chief Executive Officer and senior managers” to agree any further improvements required.

In addition, he said the CRC had implemented a “new case management model, including an evidence based risk assessment and allocation process and a centralised administrative and information sharing function”. Finally he said he would review the current SFO review procedures “with the aim to provide more comprehensive and straightforward reports to be shared with victims”.

Tuesday 22 August 2017

Privatisation Not Working 2

For some time there have been regular mumblings about salary payments, tax deductions and pension contributions on a certain probation Facebook page. Of course these are all basic functions of any competent employer - but we're talking about probation post TR here. It rather looks like things have reached a head with the following press release issued today by Napo:- 

National Probation Service reported to Pensions Ombudsman following systematic failings

Napo is asking the Pensions Ombudsman to investigate the National Probation Service after uncovering systematic failures affecting hundreds of staff across the organisation.

The huge blunders were discovered when staff checking their payslips saw that incorrect pension contributions had affected the amount they were subsequently paid and taxed.

It is thought the errors are linked to the Shared Services Connect Limited (SSCL) contract and its introduction of a Single Operating Platform (SOP) in February designed to modernise the way the service handles payroll and Human Resources transactions.

The full number of staff affected is unknown but the NPS have confirmed that anyone who has had changes to their salary since February is likely to be affected. This includes staff on maternity leave, sick leave, working overtime and those who had just joined the service and were auto-enrolled into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

Napo Assistant General Secretary, Dean Rogers, says: “We can’t be certain if SSCL lied to us, the NPS and Ministers about testing SOP prior to implementation or if the problems are more fundamental. We strongly suspect these are systematic failures linked to probation staff being in a different pension scheme. Either way it is ridiculous and alarming that a government department can’t meet its pension obligations and manage a PAYE system for probation staff.”

The union expects that an investigation conducted by the Ombudsman or Greater Manchester Pension Fund (who administers the Local Government Pension Scheme) will confirm whether failures around the collection of contributions and auto-enrolment have broken the law and if the NPS should be fined and the SSCL contract terminated.

This is just the latest in other well documented issues relating to pay and HR in the NPS. In April, Napo contacted Probation and Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah to raise its concerns about new starters having to wait up to three months before being paid; wrong sick pay formulas; and pay errors taking months to be resolved because of inadequate computer systems. The response from the Minister said: “The appropriate performance, audit and contractual reviews are already in place at both an Agency, Ministry and cross-government level which shows that the contract is delivering against its objectives.”


Napo have also issued urgent guidance:- 

Advice to remembers regarding pension, pay and tax errors

Napo is writing to alert you to widespread systematic processing errors that we have uncovered, affecting many members in the NPS and in some CRCs. Because pension contributions have an impact on your pay and tax codes such errors may create subsequent tax and pay problems. It is thought the errors are linked to the Shared Services Connect Limited (SSCL) contract and its introduction of a Single Operating Platform (SOP) in February, designed to modernise the way the service handles payroll and Human Resources transactions.

This is especially disappointing as we had raised these issues among many others in April with senior NPS management and Ministers. The response was that performance, audit and contractual reviews were already in place at both an Agency, Ministry and cross-government level which showed that the SSCL contract was delivering against its objectives.

The full number of staff affected is unknown but the NPS have confirmed that anyone who has had changes to their salary since February is likely to be affected. This includes staff on maternity leave, sick leave, working overtime and those who had just joined the service and were auto-enrolled into the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS).

Thankfully the vast majority of our members will not have been impacted by this and we are not seeking to cause unnecessary alarm. We are also working tirelessly to secure guarantees from the employer that any shortfalls in employer and employee pension contributions will be met by them. We are demanding implementation of the Secretary of State’s Pension Guarantee, which was established when the NPS and CRCs were created to underwrite problems such as contribution breakdowns. We are also pressing for overpaid contributions where these have occurred to be returned as soon as is possible. We will endeavour to keep members up to date with progress on these issues, and you are also directed to our website where we will be posting any available news over the coming weeks –

However, the following advice should help to establish if you may have been impacted and what you need to do if you think your pension contributions are or have been wrong. We also include guidance about what to do to make sure the concern is registered.

If your employer approaches you and asks you to make an extra payment because of a contribution failure do not do so until you have gained advice from Napo, initially via your local Napo representatives who should liaise with their Link Officer. In these cases, Napo’s first step will be to seek to have any shortfalls met from the Secretary of State’s Fund, after advice and negotiation with the government, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF) and Pension Ombudsman.

Please also share this communication with colleagues who may not be in Napo. Whilst we can only directly represent those who are members they may want to consider the general advice and also consider joining us now. Joining involves a quick and easy process via our website –


Step one: Most people who have been impacted will fall into one or more of the following groups. If you do not fall into these groups you should still check your pay slips as set out below in steps two to four - but you should certainly do so as soon as is possible if in 2017 you have:

  • Been paid for any sessional work and/or overtime
  • Had your normal pay changed, e.g. for maternity leave or parental leave
  • Newly received or stopped receiving a regular allowance (e.g. for working in a prison)
  • Been promoted, either temporarily or permanently
  • Had any periods with sick pay
  • Had any other irregular or unusual payments (either one off or more regularly)
  • Usually had different payments from month to month
Step two: Look at as many recent pay slips as possible and compare them, particularly looking for pension contributions. If these vary and/or do not appear on any of the pay slips you should be immediately concerned.

Step three: Whether you think you have an issue or not, do this quick check. On the payslips, identify the sum for your full salary before any deductions, stoppages, tax etc. Multiply this by twelve for your current expected annual salary (A). Now check this figure against table one below to see what percentage pension contributions you should be making each month. For example, if you earn £24,000 you would pay 6.5% each month


Annual Salary % contribution

1 Up to £13,700 5.5%
2 £13,701 to £21,400 5.8%
3 £21,401 to £34,700 6.5%
4 £34,701 to £43,900 6.8%
5 £43,901 to £61,300 8.5%
6 £61,301 to £86,800 9.9%
7 £86,801 to £102,200 10.5%
8 £102,201 to £153,300 11.4%
9 £153,301 or more 12.5%

Now check your annual salary figure against the relevant % contribution rate. Do this by:

Dividing your annual figure (A) by 12 to get back to a monthly amount (e.g 24000 / 12 = £2000)
Divide this by 100 (e.g. 2000 / 100 = 20)
Multiply this by the % contribution rate (e.g. 20 x 6.5 = £130)

In this example £130 should be your monthly contribution. Any variation from this should be an immediate concern. If you do not have a pension contribution figure on your pay slip this should also be an immediate concern. If these figures vary between different payslips then check for variations to your monthly pay.

Step Four: If you have identified a problem then see step five of this guidance. Even if at this point you have not recognised a concern and you are a member of the LGPS, please check your annual pension statement which according to the NPS, should be coming to you shortly from the (GMPF). If you have not received this by the first of September see step 5 of this guidance. This statement will have an amount called a CARE pay figure. This should be identical to your annual pay, in almost all cases. Any variation between the two should be a matter of immediate concern. In the old pension scheme some payments were not classed as pensionable but in the CARE scheme all payments are assumed to be pensionable.

Step Five: If you have a concern you need to do 3 things quickly:

a) Email your line manager saying that you wish to register a concern about your pension contributions and ask them to forward the concern to your HR department and ask for a named contact point to acknowledge your concern within two working days. It is the employer’s responsibility to resolve the problem.

b) Contact the GMPF and copy them your concern saying that you have contacted your employer and expect the two to clarify your position. Ask them to notify you of the name of the persons dealing with your issue and for a timescale to resolve it. GMPF can’t solve the problem directly as they can’t change your pay but they can press your employer to meet their responsibilities. Registering your concern with the GMPF helps support later claims to the Pension Ombudsman. GMPF can be contacted (see details here.)

c) Notify your local Napo representative that you have taken the above actions using the email heading PENSION CONTRIBUTION ERROR. If you do not know who your local Rep is email and we will put you in touch. Please note that your local Reps and Napo HQ will not be able to resolve individual cases, but they can record your concerns and ensure that they keep Napo HQ up to date with trends and developments. They will also contact you directly with any national updates and/or advice that we issue centrally.

As stated above, any employers’ failure to collect and make the correct pension contributions is a very serious matter, and can in some circumstances even be illegal and lead to them being prosecuted and/or fined. However, you should not panic or be dismayed as Napo has identified the problem and is challenging the employers collectively for you. The NPS are aware of the problems and have this week announced that they are investigating the issues that we have alerted them to. You do need to help us to help you by checking if you are impacted and letting Napo and your employer know if you have any concerns.

We trust this is helpful. Do keep looking at the Napo website for further information and updates.

Yours sincerely,

Dean Rogers                         Ian Lawrence
Assistant General Secretary General Secretary

Monday 21 August 2017

Former Chief Speaks Out

I don't know how I missed this, but I did:-

The Hidden Prison Crisis: How Homelessness Causes A Cycle Of Reoffending

With prisons in crisis and probation services unable to cope with demand, prisoners are routinely leaving jail with nowhere to live and no prospect of employment. BuzzFeed News hears their stories and asks how this can happen in the 21st century.

It's an extremely competent analysis of our predicament by Patrick Smith of BuzzFeed News and was published on July 29th. With so many journalists seemingly never quite able to grasp the situation, in my view this is an exemplar of good old-fashioned journalism based on some sound research and several fascinating interviews, including of clients and a former probation CEO. The latter is particularly interesting because I'm not aware of any former CEO being willing to speak openly about the TR omnishambles.

It's a long article, well worth reading in full, with the first half detailing many of the realities associated with the complete failure of TTG. I've chosen to pick the story up half way through when the following question is posed:-

What is stopping prisoners with complex needs from getting the treatment and rehabilitation they need through the prisons and probation systems?

One probation officer, who works for the National Probation Service (NPS) and is based in Yorkshire, and who spoke to BuzzFeed News on the condition of anonymity, says that a stretched and demoralised probation service can no longer cope with the strain being put on it.

“We have a system that measures our workload and tells where we are on a percentage scale. And most probation officers I work with are on at least 130%. 100% would mean you have enough work to fill your week, so 130% to 150% is a significant overwork situation. I’ve seen people on 160%. Sometimes you can have a spike – your workload does fluctuate. But when you’re consistently over capacity that’s when it’s worrying. I’ve got colleagues who’ve been on really high workloads for years. It’s become normal.”

If the workload system reads 100%, that means the officer’s entire working week is full. So probation professionals have to stay beyond their allotted hours to finish the work, or some clients lose out. That, the source says, is exactly what is happening.

“Clients are absolutely being failed by this. Probation staff are going way above and beyond to make sure they aren’t failed. The reason so many officers feel stressed is because they know they’re not doing right by their clients – they can’t. “Every day we see people who need more time than we can provide. Having 45 clients a week just means you don’t have time to spend half a day with one of them.”

Penal reform campaigners have repeatedly argued that an ambitious programme to revolutionise and part-privatise the probation service in 2015 has created an ineffective and dysfunctional system that is routinely failing offenders. Insiders say that plans specifically targeted at improving rehabilitation are simply failing.

At the root of the problem is Transforming Rehabilitation, the flagship reform strategy of Chris Grayling, the justice secretary from 2012 to 2015, who had previously brought in similarly controversial results-based, private sector–led reforms at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Transforming Rehabilitation split the probation service in two: High-risk offenders are dealt with by a new body, the state-run NPS, while low-risk and medium-risk offenders are handled by 21 new private community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). Charities and several outsourcing firms – with varying degrees of experience of rehabilitation in the UK – bid for and won these CRC contracts.

The Ministry of Justice said at the time that “every offender released from custody will receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community”, including 50,000 of those sentenced to less than 12 months in custody, the group most at risk of reoffending. This programme, called Through the Gate, would resettle prisoners into communities – a job previously carried out by the old probation trusts. It was meant to be revolutionary. But it didn’t work out like that.

In October 2016, a damning joint report of the prisons and probation inspectorate said that the Through the Gate programme was having little or no effect on short-term prisoners being resettled and said that if the service were to be removed the following day, the effect would be “negligible”. In June this year a follow-up report said the same thing about prisoners serving more than 12 months.

The CRCs are too focused, the inspectors said, on their contractual obligation to produce a plan for every prison leaver, without seeing it through. “In too many cases, resettlement planning consisted of no more than referrals to other agencies, recorded as completed once an email had been sent,” the report said. “The CRC contracts incentivise the completion of resettlement plans, not the improvement of prisoners’ situations. CRCs are generally struggling financially and it is not surprising, then, that most have invested little in services beyond the minimum contractual expectation.”

Tellingly, no CRCs provided inspectors with any information on what happened to prisoners once they had been “resettled”. The CRCs, the probation insider said, had banked on there being much more offender work to do when they bid for the contracts. The government said that the 21 CRCs would manage the vast bulk of offenders.

But, in reality, since 2012/13 the nature of offending has changed. Now police services and courts are dealing with far more sexual offences than before, not least because of the sea change the Jimmy Savile scandal had on law enforcement and victims’ willingness to come forward to report both contemporary and historical sexual abuse. And sexual offenders are automatically classed as high-risk, meaning they must be dealt with by the NPS, which is under great strain.

The CRCs, meanwhile, are complaining that they aren’t making enough money. Two providers, MTCNovo and Interserve Justice, have both threatened to pull out of probation entirely. Every single CRC contract is reportedly loss-making due to the unexpected shortfall in workload. MTCNovo is still due to make at least £453 million from its London CRC contract alone, rising to £982 million with performance-related bonuses.

To address this and to save its model of part-privatisation, the government has tweaked CRCs’ contracts to ”reflect more accurately the cost of providing critical frontline services”. The new justice secretary, David Lidington, said in an open letter on 19 July that this extra cash was offered on the condition that the CRCs “provide better support as they help offenders build more positive lives”. Private Eye magazine noted that, despite the CRCs’ failings, the changes to the contracts amount to a £22 million bailout.

BuzzFeed News understands that the result of this ongoing chaos with resettlement is that NPS staff will be drafted in to some prisons in the northeast of England to help administer some Through the Gate services. It’s unknown what this might mean for CRCs and their performance-related contracts.

The government knows this system is not working. Lidington wrote in response to the fierce criticism of the probation service that “‘Through-the-gate’ arrangements … are falling short of our vision for a high-quality service that both reforms offenders and commands the confidence of courts.” He attracted anger and even ridicule for saying that “the system has encountered unforeseen challenges” after its 2015 split – particularly regarding a larger-than-expected caseload for the NPS and a lower one for the CRCs.

There was no shortage of people warning that this system wouldn’t work. One of them was David Chantler, formerly the head of the West Mercia Probation Trust, which under his tenure won awards and pioneered innovative rehabilitation and resettlement schemes.

“I was the longest-serving chief probation officer in the country. I think that was the reason why I was on the minister’s sounding board,” he tells BuzzFeed News. “So when I say they were warned about all of these things, I was there – I know they were. I described these problems and I know others did. I saw how the process was rushed through.”

Chantler’s concerns went unheeded. He resigned as a result, but made a point of leaving not when the service was part-privatised but when it was split into the NPS and CRCs. For him, the involvement of the private sector isn’t the problem – if it works, bring it on, he says. But he describes the rushed, arbitrary split of the once-unified probation service as “cack-handed”.

“When I had a probation service that did all the work, we could decide that if there was a lot of work to be done writing parole reports or visiting prisons, then we could shift the resources to that and scale back the less important stuff and overall you could use the resource flexibly,” he says. “Now, with two separate units, you can’t do that. It’s completely immobile.”

And while the reforms were sold as introducing free-market efficiency, for Chantler the CRCs are local monopolies that carry out the bare minimum to receive their contracted payments.

“When they started the process they were talking about having 70% to 80% payment by results. Now we’re in a situation where I know the local CRC in West Mercia can discount the payment by results element because it’s so small; if they simply do what the payment for service [requires] then they can balance the books. So they’re not motivated to do that which reduces reoffending – the payment by result element must by now be less than 1%.

“They’ve got no interest in bringing in new players [partner agencies] and sharing the work; they’re actually being more monopolistic than the public sector. There’s no competition because they are the monopoly provider in their area.” Chantler says he raised this point with Grayling before the split, but his protests were to no avail.

“I said this to him and he said ‘You’re being ideological about it.’ He said that businesses wouldn’t behave in that way – they would ‘do the honourable thing and do what needs to be done to reduce reoffending.’ I said ‘You’re wrong!’ Legally these companies are responsible for improving shareholder value.

“Grayling was number two in DWP and he was very, very used to payment by results and basically came in [to the MoJ] and was extremely gung-ho about saying ‘It works in DWP; it will work just as well here.’ That’s where it was coming from.”

Tania Bassett, a national official for the National Association of Probation Officers and a former probation officer herself, says that in any case there’s only so much probation can do. The service doesn’t own any houses – finding places for people to go and getting access to mental health services has always been a challenge. But the reforms have meant that probation can no longer use as many local partner agencies, which used to play a vital role in resettlement, she says.

“Partnership agencies, who are now being cut out of the system either because they’ve been cut or the CRCs can’t afford to pay them – that’s reducing the amount of partnership work going on since the old probation trust days. A long time ago we decided that probation can’t do everything and that we need local experts in drug and alcohol treatment, rather than officers trying to do the lot, which we weren’t really trained for. And we seem to have gone back now to that idea of doing it ourselves.”

Another campaigner who sounded the alarm bell was Frances Crook, CEO of the Howard League for Penal Reform, who is a long-term critic of the failure of prisons and probation to reform offenders. “The breakup 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,” she tells BuzzFeed News.

“Instead, successive inspection reports have shown that the risk to the public has increased, and 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. The problems could be foreseen and were foreseen. The Howard League warned about the likely consequences time and time again, as did many other experts. The new secretary of state for justice must now take bold action to resolve this mess.”

In a statement, a Ministry of Justice spokesperson told BuzzFeed News: “Public protection is our top priority and 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 and are working with providers to improve services to make sure offenders get the support needed to find accommodation and employment on release."

But those promised improvements will have come too late for people like Thomson. “It’s hard out there,” he says, “and sometimes you’ve just got to offend to survive.”

Patrick Smith is a senior reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Patrick Smith at

A National Humiliation

HM Inspector of Prisons recently paid a visit to the Justice Secretary's constituency. This is what they had to say:-

HMYOI Aylesbury

We recently published a report on HMYOI Aylesbury.

The young offender institution holds around 440 young adult men serving the longest sentences for this age group in the country. Most of the population are aged between 18 and 21. At its last inspection in 2015, inspectors commented on debilitating staff shortages which had negative consequences for prisoners. This more recent inspection found little progress had been made, some areas had deteriorated further and safety was a major concern. Inspectors found volatile and frustrated young people, too few staff and prisoners locked up for long periods with no activity and too little sentence progression.

Peter Clarke said:

“HMYOI Aylesbury showed some areas of considerable potential. Most staff appeared remarkably resilient and wanted to improve the prison. There were excellent areas of innovation which provided prisoners with valuable work skills in a realistic work environment. The Aylesbury Pathways Service continued to provide outstanding support to some of the most vulnerable and troubled young men in the prison estate.

“If the cycle of poor inspections of Aylesbury is to be broken, these strengths need to be built upon. It is time to stop rediscovering the same problems and to take concerted action to deal with them at all levels. Some areas of concern, such as poor governance of use of force, could be addressed by the establishment. Others, such as staffing and difficulties with securing progressive transfers for prisoners, needed action from HMPPS. The management team had a clear understanding of the challenges and the commitment to make progress, but needed support to implement our recommendations. Failure to do so yet again cannot be acceptable.”

To read the report, click here.


Here we have the Howard League's press release:-

Howard League responds to Aylesbury prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Aylesbury prison, published today (Thursday 17 August). Inspectors visited the Buckinghamshire prison, which holds young men aged 18 to 21, in April. They found that it had deteriorated, becoming less safe and affected by staffing shortages.

Last month the Howard League raised concerns about the prison in a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, David Lidington, who is also the MP for Aylesbury. The charity awaits a reply. Howard League research, to be published later this month, has found that more than 12,000 additional days’ imprisonment were imposed on prisoners found to have broken prison rules in Aylesbury last year – more than any other jail in England and Wales. Inspectors found that this system, known as adjudications, had spiralled out of control to the point where it had lost credibility.

The Howard League legal team is the only frontline national legal team specialising in the rights and entitlements of children and young people in custody. In the last year it has helped with 181 legal issues at Aylesbury – more than any other prison in England and Wales.

The most common issue was adjudications, and the second-most frequent enquiry was about treatment and conditions. The majority of these calls were from BAME young people. Violence is such a big problem in Aylesbury that some young people are too afraid to leave their cells to access services that would help them.

Last year the prison recorded 370 incidents of self-injury and 391 assaults, including 76 assaults on staff. Inspectors found that investigations into violent incidents were not always completed, and there was little support for victims.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: 

“The Howard League receives more calls about problems in Aylesbury than any other prison in the country. Now the wider world can see why. Hundreds of damaged young men, many of them teenagers, are being denied any chance of redemption because of the failures of the state. Violence is rife. Self-injury is common. Some are too afraid to even leave their cells. This is a report so shocking that, in normal circumstances, the constituency MP would be making a fuss about it in the House of Commons. On this occasion, the constituency MP is also the Secretary of State for Justice and therefore uniquely positioned to do something about it. It is time for action.”

Two-thirds of the young men in Aylesbury told inspectors that they had felt unsafe in the prison. Drugs and alcohol were readily available. There was a fatalistic attitude among some staff, and inspectors were handed several documents which read: “Aylesbury will always be violent.” Less than half of the young men said that they felt they could turn to a staff member if they had a problem.

Inspectors said that it was a “sad indictment” that young men in the segregation unit did not want to leave – not only because they felt safer, but because they were also more likely to get showers and other basic parts of the regime than if they were on the prison’s main wings. Just under a quarter of prisoners were unemployed, and those subject to a basic regime spent more than 23 hours a day locked in their cells. Some were allowed only two showers a week.

Visit facilities were basic. Inspectors observed visitors experiencing long delays, despite arriving early after long journeys. Only one in five prisoners who responded to the inspectors’ survey said that they had received help to maintain family ties.


Mark Leech of went a bit further:-

HMYOI AYLESBURY: A National Humiliation

HMYOI Aylesbury had deteriorated further in some areas and safety was a major concern, said Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the young offender institution in Buckinghamshire.

HMYOI Aylesbury holds around 440 young adult men serving the longest sentences for this age group in the country. Most of the population are aged between 18 and 21. At its last inspection in 2015, inspectors commented on debilitating staff shortages which had negative consequences for prisoners. This more recent inspection found little progress had been made and some areas had deteriorated further. Inspectors found volatile and frustrated young people, too few staff and many who were inexperienced and prisoners locked up for long periods with no activity and too little sentence progression. These factors led to some poor outcomes. Safety was a major concern.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:
  • nearly two-thirds of prisoners reported that they had felt unsafe at some point and there were high levels of sometimes very serious violence;
  • mechanisms of accountability for the very high use of force had effectively broken down and management oversight was very poor;
  • many residential units were in poor condition and basic standards of decency were not being achieved;
  • the management of equality and diversity was weak;
  • time out of cell remained poor and work, training and education activities, despite some improvements, were too limited; and
  • lack of staff in the offender management unit undermined risk assessment and rehabilitation work.
Inspectors were, however, pleased to find that:
  • health services were good and faith provision was very good; and
  • the prison continued to provide a wide range of interventions to address offending behaviour and the Aylesbury Pathways Service, which gave some troubled prisoners opportunities to understand and then change behaviour, was reducing incidents of self-harm.
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of HM Prison & Probation Service, said:

“The Chief Inspector is right to praise the professionalism and resilience of staff at Aylesbury. They do some remarkable work with young adults serving long sentences who have complex needs and whose behaviour can be very challenging. Improving safety and addressing ongoing staffing challenges remain the Governor’s top priorities. This is why additional staff are now being deployed to Aylesbury from other establishments to provide a consistent regime for prisoners and there are firm plans in place to fill vacancies through permanent recruitment. A Violence Reduction Plan is being actioned and the Governor will receive the support she needs to improve the performance of the YOI over the next 12 months”.

Mark Leech, editor of The Prisons Handbook who recorded a video blog on the report said: 

“Quite simply, HMYOI Aylesbury is a national humiliation.”

Sunday 20 August 2017

A View From the North

Thanks go to the alert reader for pointing us in the direction of the Sheffield Telegraph and the following essay penned on Friday:-  

Mad Management: Quality and productivity - or privatisation and waste?

In 1979 the fourth largest and one of the best known USA global companies, International Harvester, hired a new CEO, Archie McCardell. 

At the time the turnover was $8.4 billion. By 1982 they had debts of $4.8 billion and finally lost even their name. How was this monumental failure achieved? By cost-cutting, forcing bad work practices and trying to break the local autoworkers union; mostly at the advice of the CEO’s consultants! 
"In summary, what killed International Harvester was Archie’s cost-cutting, profit-taking and aggressive attitude towards staff and suppliers" 
McCardell was fired in 1982, one of the most despised executives in the USA, but he still had his millions while tens of thousands of workers lost their jobs. Industrial towns, like Rocky Island, Illinois, went into recession, but Archie walked away a rich man. The interesting thing is that Archie McCardell had form. His previous job was CEO of Xerox, where, benefiting from the spurious profit-levels provided by their earlier innovative technology, he neglected the rate of return on capital deployed and other basics. He left Xerox in serious trouble in 1979. His successor, David Kearns rescued Xerox at the 11th hour by instituting a quality improvement programme that focused on the customer, not the numbers. 

In summary, what killed International Harvester was Archie’s cost-cutting, profit-taking and aggressive attitude towards staff and suppliers. What saved Xerox was Kearn’s focus on customer care - understanding their needs - and adopting the RIGHT FIRST TIME (RFT) policy. RFT prevents the great waste that occurs through rework, and also, unsurprisingly, delights customers. In the eighties, for example, Toyota could produce a perfect new car in the time it took Mercedes to correct the defects in one of theirs off the line. 

One would think, therefore, that our politicians would follow the Kearn’s management model at Xerox? But no, they chose Archie McCardell’s. A prime example is Chris Grayling, the cabinet minister at the Ministry of Justice, followed closely by Jeremy Hunt. He, like Archie, has history. Taking the worst aspects of top-down, cost-cutting corporates he set about ‘reforming’ the MoJ in 2012. He instituted, for example, unfair court charges - which, Michael Gove, his successor, scrapped; selling prison training to Saudi Arabia - which Gove also scrapped, along with stopping books for prisoners; cutting legal aid to prisoners - which the Court of Appeal ruled unlawful; charging fees for workers taking their bosses to industrial tribunals - which the Court of Appeal also scrapped. Archie McCardell would have been impressed with his imperiousness, and David Kearns horrified at the sheer waste. 

This is not about politics. It is about the huge economic implications. Just refunding the tribunal fees amounted to nearly £30 million, without factoring in the administration costs. Add all the other ‘rework’ of failed policies and the tens of millions pile up. To cap it all Chris goes ahead with the privatisation of the Probation Service, against all the warnings from the police, the prison service, his civil servants and the Howard League. Because, when you’re drenched in neo-liberalism, you just KNOW that the private sector practices are better than public services. 

David Kearns put Xerox quickly back on its feet by improving quality, i.e. RFT and continuous improvement. Clearly then, this had to be where the probation service was failing. On the contrary, in 2011, the probation service won the British Quality Foundation’s (BQF) Gold Medal for Excellence. 

The probation service model worked! The same award that had gone to Ricoh, Siemens and TNT Express, all global successes, was awarded to this public sector organisation, which the CEO of the BQF described as ‘a shining example of excellence’. 

Clearly, after this accolade, Probation’s management model would be circulated throughout the public sector as best practice. 

But, no, our Chris, who knows better, privatised it in 2014, disbursing £800 million of public money to the private sector. 

As I commented in my last article over Hunt’s attempt to privatise NHS Professionals, dogma trumps evidence. But maybe it has turned out an economic success? Well, within two years the Tory chair of the Justice Select Committee, Bob Neil, said the privatised service ‘risks heading for a car crash’, with 21 private community rehabilitation companies reporting they were making a loss on almost all their seven-year contracts worth £3.7 billion.This a real lose/lose: in fact a lose/lose/lose because by October 2016 the Chief Inspector of Probation had “identified multiple failures”with one in three short-term offenders being released with nowhere to live. 

Chris must have a lot of rework to do. Actually, no. Like Archie McCardell at Xerox, he moved on in 2015 to Transport, leaving an unimpressed Michael Gove to pick up the pieces. 

Finally, there is a typically despairing British phase, ‘You’ve got to laugh’ (otherwise you would cry), and this is where I am at with this government over the sheer WASTE of taxpayers’ money and people’s lives. 

Between Chris Grayling and Jeremy Hunt alone we, the taxpayer are picking up a tab running into tens of billions, with a human cost that is as bad and more tragic. These two have been in charge of the fates of the most vulnerable people in our society, and they have treated them and their staff shockingly. Consequently our communities all suffer, and the nation cannot have a successful business environment in a failing society.

Has Grayling, like McCardle, finally been banished to the wilderness? No, he has been rewarded with Transport and has scrapped the Midland Mainline electrification, fundamental to economic growth in the North. 

Thank you, Chris Grayling, for nothing.

John Carlisle


I'm assuming the following from Sheffield Hallam University goes some way to explain something of the author:- 

Honorary Doctorate - 2004

Twenty years ago in Sheffield John Carlisle pioneered a revolutionary approach to dramatic business improvement, that of instilling supply chain, or upstream, collaboration: a commonsense approach spectacularly absent from British industry at the time!

This relationship strategy of profitable co-operation has been adopted by almost 100 major organisations across the globe. The approach has enhanced the quality of working life for thousands, delivering, as it does, dramatically enhanced performance without conflict, re-structuring and job losses. Welsh Water, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and business giants Shell, De Beers and Siemens are typical of organisations that applied his methodologies for increased savings of up 30 per cent and startling innovations.

As a result of helping clients world-wide deliver project savings of over £350 million per annum in the nineties, his Sheffield-based firm, JCP, became the biggest consultancy of its kind in Europe.

Born in Zambia, John worked in the copper mines before moving to England in 1970, settling in Sheffield in 1976 and establishing JCP in 1991.