Friday 29 June 2018

Contradictory Signals?

Earlier this week, Prisons and Probation minister Rory Stewart was giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee and made some surprising statements, including an aspiration to end prison sentences of less than 12 months. This in the Guardian:- 

Prison minister calls for more money to build jails in England and Wales

The minister for prisons has said that he would like the prison population to go down but is instead calling for more money to spend on increasing numbers because he does not believe his view enjoys sufficient support. In a candid appearance before the justice select committee, Rory Stewart said it was time to stop hoping the prison population would fall, adding that he would plead with the Treasury in next year’s spending review for more money to build and sustain prisons in England and Wales.

Stewart said there was not enough will among the public and parliament to do what was necessary to reduce the prison population, despite suggesting he thought that that was the right course of action to take. He added that the number of those in jail was likely to hit 93,000 by 2022, from its current level of about 83,000, as he confirmed two new prisons – including a privately financed one – had been given the go-ahead.

The minister also revealed that collapsed outsourcing giant Carillion underbid for its contract to provide maintenance work to prisons by £15m a year. The revelation will heap more pressure on the under-fire cabinet minister, Chris Grayling, who signed off the contract during his time as justice secretary. He told the committee: “I don’t feel, I’m afraid, even though ideally I’d like the prison population to go down, that’s very likely to happen because I’m not sure there’s the will among the public and the will amongst parliament to take the measures to reduce that population, in which case we need to increase our baseline and we need more money. And that’s the argument I’ll be making in spending review.”

Stewart’s comments came a day before the Ministry of Justice revealed it had scrapped plans to build five new community prisons for women as part of its new female offender strategy. The department is to trial “residential women’s centres”, which would provide supported accommodation to women as they completed community sentences, in a bid to reduce the number of women in custody. As of 15 June, the women’s prison population was 3,867, accounting for 4.7% of the prison population. Female prisoners are more than twice as likely as male prisoners to report needing help for mental health problems. The reoffending rate for women released from a custodial sentence of fewer than 12 months in April-June 2016 was 71%.

Stewart said that when Kenneth Clarke was justice secretary he entered negotiations with the Treasury for support in reducing the prison population to 65,000. But Clarke was “let down” and did not get the political support, Stewart said. “We just have to be practical,” he said. “My fear is for the last 20, 30 years, governments have been funding for lower numbers and never got the legislation through. I’m afraid - let’s stop thinking like that. We’ve got to just be realistic. The likelihood at the moment, unless something astonishing changes, is our prison population is going up to 92,000 or 93,000 and we need to have the money to pay for that.”

Stewart announced to the committee that a publicly funded prison in Wellingborough and a privately financed jail at Glen Parva in Leicestershire were to go ahead, with work starting in Wellingborough at the end of the year. The two prisons together will provide a further 4,000 places and should be part of a programme of six new prisons designed to provide space for a further 10,000 people.

The announcement of a new private prison was met with criticism from the Labour party. Richard Burgon, shadow justice secretary, said: “From the crisis in prisons maintenance to the failings of our probation services, the Tories’ obsession with privatisation and outsourcing has caused widespread damage to our justice system – and it’s the public who’ve had to foot the bill. “With a Labour government, there will be no new private prisons and no public-sector prisons will be privatised. Labour will bring all the outsourced prison maintenance contracts back in house at the earliest possible opportunity. The Tories must abandon this failed experiment of prison privatisation.”

On the collapsed outsourcing giant, Stewart said: “Carillion was proposing to try to save the taxpayer £15m a year by underbidding and trying to take on work, which cost Carillion £15m more a year to deliver than they were receiving from the taxpayer. The taxpayer is now paying a more realistic cost. “What effectively happened there is that we had a contractor come in to us – and this is a vulnerability with all private sector contractors – who effectively offered at their own risk to do our maintenance for considerably less money than it would cost us to do. £15m less.

“We signed up to that. In retrospect, more weight should have been given to the factors saying, ‘wait a second, what on earth is Carillion proposing here? They’re basically proposing to do this and lose £15m a year, is that really sustainable or are we going to end up in a situation where we are paying for it?’ “It turned out what Carillion was proposing to us was completely unsustainable to their finances.”

Last week Grayling faced a vote of no confidence in his capability to carry out his current role as transport secretary. In the same week he faced a damning report from the justice committee on the impact of his broadly criticised reforms to the probation sector.


By coincidence the minister was speaking on the same day as the Bill McWilliams Lecture and Rob Allen was in the audience:-  

Reducing Short Sentences for Women and Petty Offenders: Willing the Means as Well as the End.

At his excellent Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture in Cambridge yesterday, Professor Rob Canton invited us to consider the case of Rita, a defendant with a long record of theft offences - described indeed by the prosecutor as a professional thief. Rita is a victim too, seemingly trapped in a series of violent relationships with men, with a strong suggestion that she is relieved of her ill-gotten gains by her current partner. Why Punish? was the lecture’s title and by the end, in respect of Rita and many people like her there seemed no convincing answer. Yes, her behaviour should have consequences but imprisonment, or even an alternative such as a curfew with electronic monitoring look wholly inappropriate in the context of her life.

Almost all of yesterday’s audience will I imagine have been pleased to hear today’s announcement that the government want to see fewer women in prison for short sentences. There will be a welcome too for the Justice Secretary’s view that “Offenders are part of our society and we must take steps to understand and address the underlying causes of offending, if we are to improve the lives of victims and support offenders to turn their own lives around”. There may even be cautious optimism that the policy of reducing short sentences should apply to male offenders too. Prison Minister Rory Stewart said as much to the Justice Committee yesterday.

Where there may be more scepticism is about the means to the end. The £5 million earmarked for “intensive residential support options” which will act as alternatives for women is clearly not enough. Much more of the funds originally set aside for the thankfully abandoned community prisons should be reinvested to provide more comprehensive coverage.

But there will also need to be measures to ensure courts make proper use of community based alternatives. The Female Offender Strategy is very weak on sentencing, promising only that the “MoJ will work with judges to develop our understanding of what more might be done to ensure that the particular risks and needs of female offenders are addressed effectively in the court, and to ensure that courts receive all necessary information to inform the sentencing process”.

Extraordinarily there’s no mention of the Sentencing Council which makes Guidelines for courts. Lord Phillips, who chaired its predecessor body wishes he had prepared a comprehensive set of gender specific guidelines. The current Council should rectify his oversight. As well, they will surely need to look again at their forthcoming guideline on sentencing for breach offences which could lead to more rather than fewer short sentences. More fundamentally I’d like to see the law changed so that previous convictions do not automatically make offences more serious. That’s the only way of keeping petty persistent offenders the right side of the custody threshold.

Will this be done? I have my doubts after Rory Stewart's puzzling remarks in Parliament yesterday. He told MP's he'd like the prison population to go down but it was time to be realistic and accept that was not going to happen because of lack of public support. Instead he's planning for a prison population of 93,000 by 2022. This is far in excess of the 88,000 currently projected - an estimate that doesn't take account of recent falls.

Why did he say that? Maybe he know something we don't and some ugly sentencing reforms are in the pipeline for serious offences. Maybe he wants to persuade the Treasury to let him keep the prison building money to give some headroom in the system to eliminate overcrowding. This is a plan the Conservatives had before the 2010 election before the Crash intervened. Or perhaps Stewart wanted a get-tough headline in advance of the women’s strategy today. The Daily Mail’s “Green Light for Criminals" headline, based on his comments about short term prisoners, hasn’t obliged.

Either way Stewart shouldn't give up on reducing prison numbers. There are lots more things he could do than perhaps he realises.

As for the Mail, as far back as the 1990s, its editor Paul Dacre said that on crime his paper's role was "to articulate the concern of its readers and thereby harden the response from the Tory administration". Dacre is going soon and his approach to criminal policy should follow him out of the door.


Here's Frances Crook giving her take on things and writing in the London Evening Standard:- 

New strategy on women in prison would work for men

It is refreshing to see the prisons minister, Rory Stewart, take the lead this week. He told MPs he would like to see fewer short prison sentences, and he’s right. People working in the criminal justice system have long waited to hear a minister say it. Some papers howled, predictably, but behind the outrage there is near-universal support from those who are closest to the system and know it best. The minister must ignore the opprobrium and hold firm.

As should his boss, David Gauke, who deserves praise for unveiling a new strategy for women. The Secretary of State for Justice has scrapped plans for new prisons and decided instead to create more women’s centres.

They can achieve what prisons cannot, working with other organisations to turn lives around and reduce crime. When properly funded, they offer services ranging from help with mental health, addictions and abusive relationships to support with housing, child care, tackling debt and finding a job.

All this looks good on paper, but it is hard to imagine the difference it can make until you actually speak to someone who has had their life turned around. Someone like Emma (not her name), who I met at a women’s centre.

Emma was a woman in her 40s, a rough sleeper for more than a decade, a heavy drug user and an alcoholic. She had been a victim of violence and abuse. She was very expensive in terms of police time — not dangerous but repeatedly arrested.

There are about 3,800 women in prison today — representing less than five per cent of the total number of people behind bars — but this mark hardly begins to measure the impact of women’s imprisonment on families.

Seven in 10 women who go to prison are sent there to serve sentences of six months or less. Last year, one in four was sentenced to 30 days or less. Almost 300 women were given sentences of two weeks or less — a short period of time but potentially so disruptive that a woman can lose her job, her home and contact with her children. More than 8,300 incidents of self-injury were recorded in women’s prisons last year.

None of this ought to surprise readers of the Evening Standard, which has reported on the rising levels of violence and self-injury in London prisons, which are under immense strain. Wandsworth, designed to accommodate 841 men, was struggling to hold 1,384 at the end of April. Thameside and Pentonville, each intended to hold about 900 men, were looking after 1,200.

But more prisons aren’t the answer, and the Government’s decision to build two more for men is bitterly disappointing. It will lead to more prisoners, more drugs, more violence and more crime.

The evidence is clear. Ministers have seen it and are acting on it with a new approach for women. Doing the same for men would make us safer. Who wouldn’t want that?

Frances Crook is chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform

General Secretary Election 24

Hi Jim,

The results for the General Secretary election are in and I extend my congratulations to Ian Lawrence on being successfully re-elected for a further 5 years. There are many battles ahead for Napo and its membership and you will continue to have my full support for the struggles ahead as you collectively kick back against TR and push for fair pay whilst trying to survive as an independent union.

Whilst there is much that I wish I could have done during this election but was unable to, ultimately the Napo membership have decided and now is not the time for raising concerns over the process or even on the conduct of this election. It is much more important that you collectively get behind your leadership and General Secretary and show unity going forward in order to try and achieve the goals that are important to members.

I wanted to thank you for offering me a platform to engage with members via this blog and appreciate you giving me some airtime to try and let the members that use your site the ability to know a little more about me. I will of course continue to monitor your progress very closely and I sincerely hope that a positive message for Napo members is forthcoming soon.

I hope that by putting my name in the hat I will have assisted in the attitude changing towards negotiation and engagement with the different employers and that my messages on taking issues head on with vigour, enthusiasm and not being afraid of industrial action will form part of the future thinking of Napo. As I have stated during the election process you will not achieve anything through complacency and compliance and you must fight for everything that you desire so long as it is a reasonable and sensible request.

All that is left for me to say is thank you to those branches that nominated me and a huge thank you to all of those that voted for me and for my message of change. I apologise that I was unable to meet with members and spend time learning first hand your issues but I appreciate those that took a chance on me by giving me their vote and I hope that you remain justified in making that decision. Once again thank you and all the best for the future.

Kind Regards

Mike Rolfe

Thursday 28 June 2018

TR Must Be Reversed

As we await the result of the Napo General Secretary election, it's probably worth reflecting on where things stand in light of last weeks Select Committee report and the head of steam building for reversing TR. This from Sunday's Guardian:-

The Guardian view on privatising probation: ideology over facts

Chris Grayling was a justice minister who preferred to keep faith in privatisation even when his changes were failing some of the most vulnerable in our society. He ought to be accountable

In any ideology faith replaces sight. Blind obeisance means giving up on evidence, on the ability to learn and to correct one’s course and instead be willing to look like a fool. This was the approach the government took when it privatised chunks of the probation service in 2015 – saying it would inject dynamism, deliver improved outcomes and that contracts would link the arms of the criminal justice service. This was firmly contradicted last week by parliament’s justice committee which issued a scathing report on the reforms, saying they had failed to deliver promised improvements and MPs doubted they ever would. Left to look asinine is Chris Grayling, the justice secretary behind the changes.

Probation services are meant to oversee the rehabilitation and resettlement of prisoners. Yet the committee found the impact on reoffending rates has been “disappointing”. The much-hyped, enhanced role for voluntary organisations has not only not materialised – the sector’s involvement has actually decreased. The basic design is flawed. The categorisation of its 264,649 offenders (90% of them men) as either low, medium or high risk makes no allowance for the fact that levels of risk can change. The justice department negotiated the contracts poorly, and has had to revisit them and top up funding as a result. A “through the gate” service that promised to help former prisoners reintegrate turned out to mean that everyone would get a leaflet. Morale is at an all-time low.

That the whole sorry project was embarked upon before two pilot schemes were even complete was reckless. It is also a tell-tale sign that the ideas were driven by ideology rather than evidence. Though he tactfully refrains from hammering the point too hard, committee chair Bob Neill cannot help but echo the finding of probation inspector Dame Glenys Stacey, whose most recent report declared that the state-run part of the service works better. That Mr Neill is a Conservative and a criminal barrister, who presumably takes no political satisfaction from this, only makes the situation more awkward for the current government.

Supportive, challenging relationships are the key to rehabilitation. The government’s changes led to a situation in which supervision was reduced to a tick-box exercise, meetings replaced by phone calls. Reoffending rates remain stubbornly high, with all the risk to the public that entails, while prisons are packed. Since one of the report’s findings is that confidence in non-custodial sentences has collapsed, partly due to a lack of contact between probation contractors and the courts, the reforms have made a bad situation worse. Then there are the offenders themselves, many of whom are extremely vulnerable and at least a tenth of whom leave prison not knowing where they will spend the next night.

It does look like the state-run National Probation Service is more effective than that delivered by the private sector. Ministers warn another reorganisation will mean more chaos, but it’s extremely hard to see how, if the current contracts are cancelled or contractors go bust, a new set of contracts will be any better. Since they are more expensive to manage (£5.1m) than the prisons inspectorate (£3.5m), hiring more lawyers to manage them is not the answer. The obvious solution is to take the service back in-house. That “payment by results” and competition at all costs remain official doctrine when ministers are rewarded for failure breeds cynicism of the most corrosive kind. Mr Grayling must be held accountable, his failings consigned to the past tense.


The editorial prompted quite a spirited response from senior retired colleagues:-  

Probation service sacrificed on altar of Tory privatisation

Retired chief probation officers, among others, respond to the crisis affecting the National Probation Service

The current crisis (Privatising probation has been a disaster. Will the Tories ever learn?, 25 June) has a long series of antecedents. Chris Grayling’s catastrophic changes were ultimately made possible by the erosion of an ethical commitment to public service. Prior to the 2010 election, the Blair government’s instrumental approach to supervision in the community, its endorsement of the introduction of “independent providers” and its “tough on crime” etc mantra did little other than fill prisons.

The then Probation Service’s values of “advise, assist and befriend” were viewed as Dickensian and the social work qualification for probation officers was ended by the then home secretary, Jack Straw. This was all despite your correct assertion that “challenging relationships are the key to rehabilitation”. Crime can never be tackled through technical controls and contracts alone. The driving force has to be value driven. We have to face the fact that crime causation is a fraught topic without a complete scientific answer. However, it is clear that gross social inequality, poor relationships and damaged families play a very significant role. The response to this requires a renewed Probation Service, accountable to the public, that manages offenders in the community with care, compassion and realism.
Colin McCulloch
Deputy chief probation officer, Middlesex Probation Service 1994-2001

It is now 30 years since I retired from my proud and privileged position as a chief probation officer of 20 years. During that time, with the enlightened support from home secretaries of both main parties, the service established itself as a model for other countries in developing community-based, non-custodial penalties. Probation was respected by politicians and the courts as a humane and enterprising service prepared to embrace new methods and challenges. Often derided by those who talked tough and advocated harsh prison sentences, it moved steadily to a more central position in the criminal justice system. New entrants brought the professional skills of social work training but a robust system remained rooted in the confidence of personal relationships and trust between officer and offender. Probation had its own distinctive character. It was one of hope and a realistic faith that with tenacity and in valuing the positive qualities of even the apparently most hardened offenders we could influence for the good.

Over the years a number of independent reports helped to shape criminal justice policy. Has the time come, with prisons in crisis and a lack of imaginative political thinking, for a commission to assess what may be needed to develop a system able to tackle the complex challenges of criminal behaviour? That would take time but the quick fixes of political ideology result in the kind of disasters of Grayling’s ill considered policy. As with much else, the culture of public service has been sacrificed on the altar of privatisation.
Michael Day
Ludlow, Shropshire

As noted in your report on the justice committee’s findings re Chris Grayling’s “transforming rehabilitation” legislation (22 June), the committee recommend that the Ministry of Justice “consider fresh alternatives to such reforms”. One of their concerns related to the compulsory 12-month post-sentence supervision for short prison sentences and the recommendation “to consider getting rid of this requirement” as it “lacks flexibility to meet the varying needs of offenders”. In the case of women offenders, subject to post-release supervision by community rehabilitation companies, over 2,000 women were recalled to prison for “non compliance” in the three years up to 2017. Studies have shown that many women offenders have suffered quite chaotic lifestyles before entering custody and many will return to the community with these problems still outstanding. It is, therefore, not surprising that the non-compliance figures/returns to custody are so high.

Criminal justice legislation is riddled with “unintended consequences”. Prior to transforming rehabilitation legislation, no such cases of non-compliance would have occurred. Surely a return to custody in cases where no further offences have been committed is fundamentally flawed. The requirement for compulsory 12-month supervision for short-term women offenders needs to be abandoned.
Howard Thomas
Chief probation officer North Wales 1989-96

Probation workers successfully grappled for years with trying to meet government targets, deliver a quality service for offenders and in so doing contribute towards public protection and services for families and victims of serious crime.

Prior to privatisation, each of the 35 probation areas was rated as “good” or “outstanding” by the government’s own monitoring. That was not good enough for Chris Grayling. His ideological desire for privatisation flew in the face of logic and common sense, yet “Grayling’s folly” was inexplicably pandered to by Cameron and Osborne. None of them is involved now but public and privatised probation workers have to daily contend with the mess they hatched. Other than a few chancers hiding behind acronyms or faux logos of privatised companies, there are no winners from this fiasco.

For the sake of public protection, for services to families and victims, for a cohesive criminal justice system and for a Probation Service whose internal communication is not daily thwarted by bureaucracy, it must be wholly brought back into the public sector.
Mick Gough
Retired senior probation officer, Stoke on Trent

It’s very easy to say “We told you so” and to express our anger and frustration at the outcome of the privatisation of part of the probation service, and the sidelining of the voluntary sector, but what else can we do? Sussex Pathways, a small charity, provides mentors for people returning to Sussex after imprisonment and, surprise surprise, the likelihood of reoffending on release is reduced by something like 56%. The mentee works with his mentor on his own release plan – being realistic about his personal situation – for a couple of months before release and is met at the gate on the day that the prison releases him. The stupidity of asserting that a tick box or a phone call can deal with the complexities of a person’s return to the community is unfathomable. What we do works. It costs less than £1,000 per person per year, as against £40,000 for return to prison. Enough said?
Margaret Carey
Chair of board, Sussex Pathways

Wednesday 27 June 2018

The Future of Probation

Following on from yesterday's blog and the need for government to admit that TR has been an unmitigated disaster, with exquisite timing I notice that Frances Crook and the Howard League have been giving considerable thought to how things could be done better. And thank goodness, because it's been painfully clear for some time that probation still lacks an effective and authoritative voice of its own.

Funnily enough, almost as Frances published her latest blog, Rory Stewart was in the process of preparing the ground for an admission of failure by telling Bob Neill and the Justice Select Committee about Carillion's impossibly low bid for prison maintenance work, neatly pinning the blame on his predecessor Chris Grayling. The new minister strikes everyone as being honourable and it's surely only a matter of time before he decides to draw a line under TR and signals a willingness to consider a way out of this omnishambles? 

Community Justice and the future of probation

Forgive me but this blog will be a little longer than usual. We have been thinking a lot about the future of probation at the Howard League, given the train-wreck that was the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms introduced by Chris Grayling.

The Justice Select Committee is the latest body to deliver a damning critique of what has happened to probation services in England and Wales.

Now the big question is what next?

What follows is a work in progress and represents our developing thoughts on what might be a new vision for probation – Community Justice. Please tell us what you think – either by commenting on this blog or emailing our office.
Community Justice means thinking about structure and service delivery.


The structure of Community Justice reform is based on three key principles:

  • A national strategic focus, with leadership and accountability
  • Local service delivery, with multi-agency involvement
  • Minimum restructuring and minimum cost
The probation system currently fails on the first two of these principles and is not fit for purpose:

  • There is no national strategic focus because while there is a National Probation Service (NPS), the NPS only works with a section of the probation population. Neither has the NPS the independence required to provide a national strategic focus to probation work, being part of a larger body, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).
  • On local service delivery, the artificial split between the NPS and the privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) has created a two-tier system with no obvious coterminosity with itself, let alone with other local structures such as police force areas or local authorities.
A new structure would address these problems, and seek to meet the third key principle, in the following ways:

  • Create a Community Justice Agency
A national strategic focus would be created by making Community Justice truly independent. Probation would be separated from HMPPS and a new Community Justice Agency would be created to provide strategic leadership, promote best practice and ensure a level of consistency in local service delivery.

Separating probation and prisons provides a clearer distinction between the two services, reinforcing their separate identities and professional expertise.

The new Community Justice Agency would have responsibility for workforce development. It could take on a similar role to the College of Policing and replace the Probation Institute, with a commitment to working with research-intensive universities to evaluate and innovate on interventions. The evidence base for Community Justice and a public health approach is stronger than ever, but it is not being effectively exploited.

The Community Justice Agency would be led by a figurehead with responsibility for providing a national voice on the issues. There would be a role for the Agency to set some clear national targets around service expectations that could be developed locally (see below). It would also be responsible for some specific services that could only be provided nationally, for example, contact with the victims of prisoners.

  • Create local Community Justice Partnerships
Local service delivery would involve ending the split between the NPS and the CRCs and forming new Community Justice Partnerships (CJPs). The CJPs would deliver and commission probation services at a local level.

In order to minimise further disruption to the probation landscape, these CJPs could be structured around the current 21 community rehabilitation contract areas. Each CJP would be governed by a board of relevant criminal justice partners, and could be chaired by a local Police and Crime Commissioner or Mayor.

We recognise the existing 21 areas are not ideal but structuring around the TR reforms at least minimises disruption and cost. They would be the starting point for increasingly local arrangements and a move towards a more sensible coterminosity across local government and criminal justice partners.

Members of the CJP boards would include representatives from the police, local authorities, local voluntary groups and members of the community, sentencers, health boards and regional prison management. In cities such as London and Manchester, where the PCC role is subsumed into a larger mayoralty role, there would be scope for wider devolution of justice services and a whole system approach.

Service delivery

The Community Justice Agency would provide a national strategic framework to this local service delivery. As with the structural reforms, this delivery should be based around two key principles, enshrined where necessary in legislation and which the Community Justice Agency would promote.

Community Justice should be:

  • Targeted properly towards those who will most benefit
Just as the prison system is overcrowded, so is the probation system. There should be a national review of the extent of community orders and of post-custody supervision. The Crown Prosecution Service has a statutory duty to prosecute only in the public interest; thus the CJPs should have a similar duty to supervise only in the public interest. Such a duty would involve targeting and designing supervision so as to support desistance and reintegration.

At the same time, and helped by a tighter focus on the use of interventions, community orders would be reinforced and properly resourced to improve sentencer confidence. Post-custody supervision for those on short sentences should be removed in favour of voluntary local arrangements.

Community Justice would require a much more focused and responsive probation system than is currently possible under excessive and expansionary caseloads. A strategic focus on the application of criminal justice sanctions, at both the local and the national level, would make clear the relationship between sentencers and those delivering sentences.

  • Run properly in order to help people desist from crime
Successive reforms based around market competition have been pushed by various administrations since the formation of the National Offender Management Service. These reforms have all failed because probation services cannot sensibly fit within a market structure. Commissioning arrangements should be based on cooperation and joint purpose rather than competition. Efficiencies can be achieved through local organisations, including the voluntary sector, sharing mutual investment in services and co-commissioning to reflect local need.

Community Justice must be run on clear desistance principles. Service delivery would be run in a way that makes help accessible, encourages compliance and prioritises timely completion – over supervision for its own sake and models which promote incarceration by encouraging breach and recall. There would be some clear targets around service expectations set by the Community Justice Agency at a national level but these would developed by CJPs to give more regard to local circumstances and to ensure professional discretion can be exercised where appropriate. Such targets would include measures to ensure proper regard be given to delivering and commissioning for particular groups, such as gender-specific and BAME-specific services.

Frances Crook


Russell Webster:-

"Makes a lot of sense apart from 21 areas. I can see the rationale but hard to have local leadership when CRCs area doesn’t fit with PCC or CJ board boundaries. The problem is one we all face. It’s relatively easy to design a good probation model starting from scratch, designing one from the mess of TR is much trickier."

Tuesday 26 June 2018

Time To Admit Failure

We know probation is completely broken, Friday's Select Committee report admirably confirmed that. The CRCs are losing money, wanting out of the contracts as soon as possible and the MoJ is desperately searching for an answer that sorts things out, but avoids the political embarrassment of having to admit TR has been an unmitigated disaster. 

But it's not as if government's haven't been here before with total disasters that have cost the public purse vast sums and resulted in just tearing the plans up, admitting the failure and starting all over again. We did it with FiReControl, Individual Learning Accounts, Child Support Agency and the UK Border Agency, to name a few of the more recent examples.   

What's the problem in just adding probation to the list? 'It's been a disaster, we got it wrong, tear the plan up and start again.' Maybe the problem is not the avoidance of political embarrassment, it's the problem of finding an alternative. Despite the evidence, clearly David Lidington and the government still thinks it's privatisation. This is what he said yesterday as reported on the Public Finance website:-

Outsourcing here to stay, says Cabinet Office minister Lidington

Cabinet Office minister David Lidington has reaffirmed the government’s commitment to outsourcing, at a speech to the Reform think-tank this morning.

The MP for Aylesbury told his audience in London that public services “can be provided more efficiently at lower cost and at better value” by involving the private sector. Writing in The Daily Telegraph, he has also revealed today the government is to introduce new rules for companies working on public contracts. This will mean companies working with the public sector will be required to publish data showing how taxpayers’ money is being spent, how they are addressing the gender pay gap and improving ethnic minority representation.

Lidington told the Reform event this morning: “Governments of all colours have done outsourcing because the benefits of outsourcing are clear. What matters is that the service works for the people who use them while providing value for money.”

He admitted that there was a need for “more diversified markets” with outsourcing in the UK and explained how the government wants more charities, social enterprises and mutuals to bid for public services contracts. He also said the new outsourcing rules would extend the requirements of the 2013 Social Value Act, which requires commissioners of public services to think about how they secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits through contracting.

“We will develop proposals for government’s biggest suppliers to provide action plans for how they plan to address key social issues and disparities. We will extend the requirements of the Social Value Act so that contracts are awarded on the basis of more than just value for money – but a company's values too.”

Carillion – the outsourcing and construction company that collapsed in January – “reminds us that it is real people who suffer when things go wrong”, Lidington said. “It is the duty of all of us to build a fairer society.” He said that if a private sector company failed it was that private company “who should bear the brunt”.


So, whilst Lidington continues to try and tell us that privatisation works despite all the mounting evidence to the contrary and we know from the Times leak that the MoJ thinks bigger contracts is the answer, the big privateers are already crying foul. This from the FT:- 

Outsourcers are facing their own financial crisis

You know it’s a worrying time in your industry when the boss of one of the biggest companies draws explicit parallels between current events and what happened to the banks in 2008. 
Last week, Rupert Soames did just that, bemoaning the share-price collapse that has swept through the outsourcing sector — hitting companies that provide contracted services, often to public bodies. 

“Not long ago, Capita’s share price was over £10; it is now £1.50; Serco, now £1 was not long ago over £3; Interserve used to trade at over £6, and is now around 70p,” the chief executive of Serco said. The falls, he observed, had affected all the main outsourcing companies, wiping nearly £10bn from their collective market capitalisation. “These are destructions of a sector’s value not seen since the global financial crisis,” Mr Soames added. 

Serco’s boss may have had in mind just stock prices when he made the comparison. But in some ways outsourcing businesses are rather closer to financial groups than they or perhaps their shareholders think. Take for instance Carillion’s dramatic failure in January, which occurred after the company announced £1.2bn of writedowns on a series of construction and outsourcing deals in the previous summer. Instead of making a profit on these long-term contracts, it revealed a loss that would wipe out the previous six years of group profits. 

When an outsourcing business writes down the value of contracts, it is rather like a bank writing down a book of loans. If the decline in anticipated revenues is big enough, it can trigger a run where the spooked lenders demand their capital back. As contracts are not easy to sell at short notice, that leaves shareholders as the backstop provider of liquidity. If they say no, as Carillion’s did, and the government won’t provide a bailout (as it shouldn’t), the business can be toast. 

Carillion isn’t the only large outsourcing company to flirt with this sort of disaster. Interserve recently had to be reprieved by its lenders, while the UK’s biggest outsourcer, Capita, needed a rescue rights issue when a string of duff acquisitions racked up losses.

At the root of it all is a growing wodge of mispriced contracts. The industry relies for much of its business on public sector bodies and these, unsurprisingly, have grasped the power that being a monopsony buyer gives them. Mr Soames grumbles they have used their muscle to impose conditions “which are iniquitous and unfair”, such as a “Not our Fault Guv” clause, which says the customer is not responsible if the information upon which contracts are priced proves subsequently to be erroneous. 

But another way of looking at this is that the companies have — like the banks pre-crisis — under-priced risk in their hunt for ever more contracts. Gone are the easy wins in so-called first-generation outsourcing deals — where it was possible to reduce the cost of some process by up to 30 per cent, allowing both the customer to be satisfied and the provider to earn fat margins. Second or third generation deals offer much thinner pickings, increasing the scope for bosses to get things wrong. 

This is also happening at a time when an accounting change is making contracts structurally less profitable in their early years, increasing the financing strain on new business — the outsourcer’s lifeblood. To show the scale of this effect, when Capita restated its 2016 accounts on the new basis, net current liabilities ballooned from £19m to £1.2bn. 

Slimmer margins and tougher conditions clearly pose risks for investors. But accounting doesn’t always make it easy to perceive this. Companies only impair contracts when they decide that the revenue they will receive over the balance of the term is less than the cost they will incur in providing the service. Then they crystallise the difference. So the first investors may know is when they take a very big hit. 

Given these dynamics, and the career-shortening possibilities of impairment, it would be surprising if bosses didn’t defer the inevitable, rather in the way that many defer goodwill impairments on past, failed acquisitions. (Capita had goodwill equivalent to 4.5 times its net assets before its writedown). Yet this can lead to a sea of red ink when the dam finally bursts. 

There is a public as well as private interest in sustaining outsourced services — many of which are essential to the public. Mr Soames would like to see the customers behave more leniently. But in the meantime, auditors need to scrutinise business models beadily, alive to spurious deferrals of impairments and imprudent capital payouts. Everything points to these companies needing much more equity capital, not less.


In a situation like this it would be good to see a strong and effective voice from within the probation world, but with only a couple of days left before the ballot for Napo General Secretary closes, the latest blog post would appear to be the best we can muster:-  

Writing definitely on the wall for TR says Justice Committee

It remains to be seen whether Friday 22nd June 2018 will be remembered in future years by those members who have suffered the impact of Transforming Rehabilitation as ‘Vindication Day’. A day which saw the publication of probably the most damning report of its kind by a parliamentary select committee into what is undoubtedly the most ill-conceived social experiment that I have ever seen.

The Justice Select Committee has left no stone unturned in its almost forensic analysis of Chris Grayling’s masterpiece of a disaster, and I intend to write personally to the Chair, Bob Neill, l to thank him and his colleague members for their work and the two opportunities afforded to me to provide verbal evidence. If you missed it before you can catch-up on what I said on Parliament TV

So what happens next?

The extensive media coverage that we played a major part in generating gave a fair wind to the JSC conclusions, which strongly mirrored the evidence that we and other stakeholders had submitted. But, the key recommendation that the MoJ must initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation, is the pathway to bringing about the reform that our members have been desperately seeking.

We knew already from contact with some CRC owners that they have been engaged in talks with the MoJ about the possibility of shortening contracts which itself was one of the sources for the speculation in the Times article.

This was also confirmed in an answer to Parliamentary question that was tabled last week through our friends in Union Services

The worst case for our members is that the Minister orders the shortening of CRC contracts and parcels up even bigger lots to sell off, but the JSC recommendation that any alternative must be properly planned and tested would seem to rule out merely repeating the same mistake in an enlarged landscape. This presupposes of course that any privateer would be willing to risk stepping into that landscape given the outcomes from the JSC report.

Our task now is to do what I said we would in the film we made as part of the Vigil for Justice, which is to seek to work with all political parties to find a way out of the TR shambles. It will also require us to firm up on our thinking over the summer Parliamentary recess so that we are in a good position to seek the input into the MoJ review that has been asked for by the JSC

Standing by our Members

We will also step up our engagement with CRC owners so that the interests of our CRC members are prioritised over the months ahead. I totally understand that while many of you will have taken great heart from the publication of the JSC report, there will be some who may be worried about what lies ahead. One thing is certain, Napo will stand by, and be there, for all members in the lead-in to what we all want to see: a reunified, publicly owned and desistance driven Probation Service. We have a lot of work ahead of us and at long last we have a big political steer to build on. Let’s do that in unity and the belief that one day we will prevail.


What is clear to me is that the Civil Service has been as bad for probation as the privateers have. The dead hand of bureaucratisation marches on with a whole new raft of meaningless acronyms, typically delivered with breathless enthusiasm, whilst the whole ethos is inexorably corrupted by Prison Service influence:-
"Fabulous day in a very sunny Scarborough with a wonderful NE BSC and HMPPS EQuiP Team coming up with ways to improve on Deployment of the new laptops and challenges back to National BSC SMT!"
Probation has no place as part of the Civil Service, just as much as it should have no future with private enterprise. Yes the two parts must be reunited, but a way must be found to create the right organisational vehicle and I suspect that means a QUANGO - a nationally organised but locally controlled quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation. If that sounds a bit like what we had before, we will just have to bite our lip and pretend it's exciting, innovative and new.  

Monday 25 June 2018

A Remarkable Initiative

With the alarming rise in prison suicides, discussed here in January, I touched upon the groundbreaking work of a particular probation officer and with news of her passing I'm reminded of the many remarkable initiatives that have been spawned by our profession:-

I read with sadness the news of the passing of Kathy Baker (Biggar) - see Guardian obituary by Erwin Jones. I recall that my first encounter with Kathy was when she was working as a Senior Probation Officer in London in early 2000's. She had by then established a well earned reputation as an indefatigable advocate for better prisoner safety and improved suicide awareness through her Listener scheme. 

An ebullient and hard working colleague, whose management style could be brisk, her commitment to a more responsive and caring criminal justice system was always informed by humanity and warmth. I would often bump into her at outside conferences and lectures and she was always breathlessly engaged in her next project and her prescient outlook clearly foresaw some of the more damaging organisational changes that lay ahead for the Probation Service.

Mike Guilfoyle 

Kathy Baker obituary
Samaritans volunteer whose enduring legacy is the Listeners scheme to help prisoners in distress

A Samaritans volunteer for nearly 50 years, Kathy Baker, who has died aged 70, gave so much of her time to so many. But her enduring legacy will be the groundbreaking Samaritans Listener scheme which she founded in HMP Swansea in 1991 after a 15-year-old boy hanged himself in the prison.

The Listener scheme, whereby prisoners are trained to provide a patient and compassionate ear for fellow prisoners in distress, is one of the most innovative ventures introduced to the UK prison system and has saved countless lives. The governor of Swansea at the time, Jim Heyes, was a man of foresight who had been deeply affected by the death of the youngster and welcomed the Samaritans into his prison. He worked closely with Kathy to establish the Listeners as an integral part of his prison regime. Between them they created “a living organism”, as one governor described it, which has spread so that now every prison in the country is obliged to have such a scheme and to have a relationship with the Samaritans as part of their key performance indicators.

I first met Kathy when I was an early-years life prisoner. As deputy chair of Samaritans, she visited HMP Nottingham in 1992 to meet the new group of Listeners, of whom I was one. We were nervous, but she put us at ease and persuaded us that our voluntary roles would save lives. Fourteen years later and two years after my release, I met her again when I was asked to present her with the 2006 Perrie award, granted each year to the person who has done most to promote an understanding of the work of the Prison Service in England and Wales.

In 1994 Kathy was appointed MBE for services to prisoner welfare. As well as being a part of the service’s Safer Custody Group from the early 1990s, she was the suicide prevention adviser to high-security prisons from 2001 until 2007.

Born in Northwood, Middlesex, Kathy was the daughter of Frances (nee Weir) and Allan Biggar, who met during the second world war – her mother was in the Waaf, her father in the RAF. After the war, Frances became a full-time mother to Kathy and her sister Janet. Allan worked in the family publishing business, before going into journalism, writing for the Sporting Life and the annual Bloodstock Review.

Kathy was educated at Northwood college for girls. At 18 she went on an exchange trip to live with a French family for six months and during this time developed an interest in photography. On her return, she enrolled at Ealing School of Art, studying and qualifying in the subject and planning a photography career, which took her into the research department of Unilever. Soon afterwards she joined her local branch of Samaritans and became a stalwart of the Hillingdon branch throughout the 70s and 80s.

In the mid-70s Kathy was a co-founder of the festival branch – outreach tents at music festivals such as Knebworth and Reading – she and her colleagues arguing that the Samaritans were then seen as “too white and too middle-class” and that they needed to reach out to more diverse and younger people. Her colleague Phil Howes, another festival branch founder, remembered that “Kathy was like a mother hen and we were the chicks all running after her.”

Her Samaritan work at Hillingdon brought Kathy into contact with many prison leavers suffering mental health problems and other vulnerabilities and it was this experience that made her decide to change careers and join the Probation Service at Feltham in 1973. Several years later she became the prison probation officer in HMP Wandsworth. There she recruited prisoners who were coping well to “keep an eye” on those who were obviously not, and this was the starting point of what eventually became the Listeners. In 1991 Kathy was given the pivotal role of liaising between the Prison Service and Samaritans, travelling around the country persuading prison governors of the merits of the scheme.

Kathy met her future husband, Bill Baker, in the early 80s when he was a computer programmer for ICI and a fellow Samaritan. Bill also later became a probation officer and the couple were married in 2001, bringing Kathy three stepchildren. Following their retirement in 2007, Kathy and Bill decided to go on a world sightseeing trip which was cut short when Bill was taken ill and then diagnosed with cancer. Kathy nursed Bill until his death in 2009.

Kathy, now a Samaritan at the central London branch, kept up her involvement with the Listener scheme and other initiatives to reduce suicide in prison, even after she, too, was diagnosed with cancer early in 2016.

In 2017, the Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody (IAP) undertook a collaboration with the national newspaper for prisoners and detainees, Inside Time, National Prison Radio and Samaritans to reach out to those in custody, seeking their ideas for keeping people safe in prison. They received more than 200 detailed letters from prisoners, one of whom wrote: “I’m just one of many who have been saved by the Listeners.” Kathy responded personally to every letter.

“Through her professionalism and humanity, Kathy not only saved countless lives, she enabled people in prison to see that they too could save lives and help fellow prisoners in extreme distress,’” said Juliet Lyon, chair of the IAP.

“She had presence,” said Berny, a former long-term prisoner and Listener who after her release became a close friend of Kathy. “Wherever Kathy was, there was a sense of incredible kindness, love and acceptance.”

Kathy rarely spoke about why she did what she did, although she once said: “Enabling people to talk about how they feel is a real gift.” People from all walks of life, and in particular people in custody, will be eternally grateful that she shared that gift.

She is survived by her sister and her mother.

Kathy Mabel Baker, probation officer and Samaritan, born 10 June 1947; died 7 June 2018

Sunday 24 June 2018

Pick of the Week 53

I have said it before on here but I think that one of the catastrophic mistakes of the TR debacle was the almost instant removal of the entire top tier of management across Probation by which I mean CEOs, Board Chairs, ACOs and SPOs. What this did was to remove the corporate memory of generations of practitioners and managers who understood the complexities of working with offenders IN THE COMMUNITY. The Prison Service managers who appear to have been universally 'dropped in' to manage parts of the CRCs had no insight into the complex relationships between offender, agency, sentencers and the community. In short, they didn't understand the environment in which they were operating.

Any effort to regroup is going to be made that much more difficult by the fact that many of those managers have now retired and those who have not have moved on to other things. I know many former managers who would not go back for many reasons. Firstly, having been treated so badly once, they do not want to put themselves in harms way again. Secondly, and this is a real deal-breaker, the NPS will not allow a newly recruited employee start at anything other than the bottom of the scale. This means that a manager at the top of the scale in 2015 would be expected to start at the bottom of the scale. Having had the piss taken once, no-one is likely to want to allow it to happen a second time.

The damage Grayling, Spurr, Wheatley, Carter and all the other imposters have done is absolutely catastrophic because they have cut the head off the body. All the blood transfusions and organ replacements are going to fail because the head has been cut off. I think they are going to have to start again.

Some got financially rewarded or knighthoods so would not want them back. They helped the TR process along.

I was not a manager but had diligently developed a decade and a half of experience, know how and demonstrated good performance. I left a CRC, having become disillusioned with their incompetence and sliding values, and decided to focus my talents elsewhere. I cannot see that I will ever work for a CRC and neither will I take a slap in the face from NPS and be asked to start afresh on the pay scale or even below the point that I left. TR has been a near disaster on so many levels. I am glad I left and I am enjoying my new profession but dread the TR type revolution will follow me there. I see no let up from the Government's ideology of revolutionising important public services and detrimentally so in my experience.

Of course there were those who were more heavily involved as things developed but senior management of trusts would have had no realistic option of not engaging at all with the process. I also know that many of them were as critical of TR in public as the unions were. The bulk of those of us who got financially 'rewarded' would have much preferred to stay put and continue with the careers they had loved and invested in for decades.

Whilst I accept some staff at higher management level were excellent with strong sense of values I dispute that they represented such a crucial "head" of the Probation world. I think we were closer to the WW1 lions led by donkeys analogy. For years there was far too much passivity or acceptance of rubbish from NOMs and MoJ by ACOP etc. Not enough representation of what Probation [was] about but acceptance of others priorities. It's the staff that are key in this organism and thousands have been kicked out or left because they were made to feel unwelcome. We have lost huge talent, experience, creativity and passion for what Probation is truly about. Less about the pseudo-science of "risk management" and more about valuing people, understanding/interpreting what underlies angry voices, recognising strengths and helping people access them so as to move into non offending/re-integration etc. Losing that swell of grassroots energy and commitment is what is horrendous.

Fascinating how this particular set of Tories have been overtly & roundly slated by all-party committees examining their 'flagship' policies, e.g. austerity, TR & Universal Credit. And yet... Liz Truss denies we've experienced austerity, just a "period of readjustment", IDS describes the NAO report as "shoddy" whilst the Govt's response to the JSC criticisms is "but 40,000 are receiving support who wouldn't have otherwise."

The deluded fantasists continue to wreck everything they touch - destroying the lives of millions with their vicious, spiteful, self-serving ideology whilst wasting £billions of taxpayer money. Grayling - & those who colluded with his stupidity - should be brought to book in a courtroom for the civil & fiscal crimes he's committed, e.g. lives lost, lives ruined, careers ended.

It's rare for any politician to see accountability as a restraint on what they do – accountability is for the little people, the underlings. It is astonishing that the MoJ riposte to this TR report is that 40,000 are benefiting through the extension of supervision and support.

There is a knee-jerk rejection of returning probation to pubic ownership which basically worked well for a hundred years. Instead various interest groups want to improve TR – even though the sensible act would be to end this mad experiment. It is amazing how in such a short time the scorched earth policies of TR have eradicated probation infrastructure and got rid of experienced staff. I agree that nothing will change, probation will stagger on and things will get worse.

Yes Grayling et al should be brought to book but for me the priority has to be the start of restoring probation to a workable model. If I were GS (and never will be) I would call a special NAPO conference to discuss a strategy on how we respond to this, an agreed roadmap of what we do, how and when. This is too important to leave to those numptees on the top table. It's an amazing opportunity to re-engage the membership.

It's not enough. Rory Steward states 40k more offenders are now benefiting from probation services because of TR. I think he should be asked to explain just what those "benefits" are, and just how much is being paid to provide those "benefits". Unfortunately, today's report is covered by the Guardian and the Independent and has a mention on the BBC news website.

The whole issue will be buried under the June Brexit summit, Trumps State visit, and Boris dodging his vote on Heathrow runways on Monday. The issue needs to be kept alive and needs media attention or its yesterday's news already. Personally, I think that can only be achieved by hanging the whole mess around Graylings neck. He deserves it too. That gives rail unions ammunition for their own cause by raising the complete chaos caused in the probation service already by Grayling. Grayling is the man in the news right now, and I think he may be there for a while, and the opportunity that provides needs exploiting.

I suspect CRC’s will now fold and the only option will be to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I wish this report had named all the Probation Chief Officers and CEO’s that helped implement TR and should be today hanging their heads in shame. This includes those that received OBE’s and MBE’s, those that received huge redundancy and retirement packages, those now employed by HMIP, the Parole Board and CRC’s, those now lecturing in university, and those the Probation Institute made Fellows.

A summary analysis provided by Russell Webster (well worth signing up to his work, always a balanced and thoughtful writer on Criminal Justice matters).

'Perhaps the most important component of the Committee’s report is the demand for a review which looks at alternative models. The MoJ has been working on this for well over a year now and the latest rumours to reach me suggest an even more fragmented and complex system is being constructed out of the ashes of TR. While it seems clear that the role of private Community Rehabilitation Companies will diminish, it is far from clear where the responsibility for the offender management of low and medium risk offenders will sit. Whatever solution is proposed, surely the MoJ must seek to create a more coherent structure than we have now.'

"The splitting of probation services between the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies has complicated the delivery of probation services and created a 'two-tier' system. Although we heard about joint working going on at a local and national level, problems in the relationship remain."

I've fucking had more than enough of this fence-sitting, equivocal don't-rock-the-boat bollocks. TR was a scam; a politically motivated scam which included the aim of eroding the social work ethic from probation, the last bastion of compassion in a penal system run by neo-fascist pseudo-religious bullies. The BlueLabour government had already opened all of the doors, answering the BlairWeasel's prayers, while the last 10 years of 21st Century Tories ("the nazti party") has hammered home the nails in the coffin of humanity. Every middle-class fuckwit has fallen for it; every xenophobe has voted for it; and every greedy pig has profited from it.

Grayling is without emotion or empathy, the perfect sledgehammer to crack the various tricky 'nuts' of benefits, justice & transport - with a side order of brexit.

It's been said already by many other commentators, including those whose lives have been more directly impacted than mine, that the costs of this travesty of a social experiment perpetrated by charlatans, fraudsters & other vile collaborators stretch far beyond the £BILLIONS of wasted public funds... those costs reach into our communities & include no more resources for women, children & families; they effected the endings of the careers of dedicated professionals; they led to the loss of lives in prisons, whether through abuse by others or self-harm; the loss of family members - of mums & dads & children & partners; the loss of a professional workforce with experience & knowledge of working with damaged, difficult & criminally active individuals; the loss of any meaningful interventions with people who wanted & valued that work... the list is boundless...

And all of these things were predicted in advance, were warned about - but were DISMISSED, RUBBISHED & IGNORED.

This wanton vandalism of public service has parallels with the arrogance, the ignorance & the greed that characterised Grenfell - when the informed warnings & fears of the residents were ignored by the smug, the brazen & the powerful. No-one is ever going to be brought to book. And the best the JSC can do is recommend a review by February 2019? Sorry, Bob. You did well, you & your colleagues fought hard, but this isn't good enough. Those responsible need to be held publicly accountable and punished for their deceitful, self-aggrandising actions in imposing TR.

I am not following this in any length other than to thank you. A long time since we read a decent well written and response. You have captured it all and although the report is not looking to hang the idiots soon it has started the end. Sadly the moron at the top of the Union will not have the raw abilities to drive forwards what is needed to get the change right. Instead we will have to pay to watch them think they are there to help make a new service. Someone like you needs to stand for a place in office and I would vote for you on that statement. Great piece.

Saturday 23 June 2018

Attention Rory Stewart

So what was the official response to yesterday's damning Select Committee report?
Prisons and probation minister Rory Stewart said it was a "significant programme of reform". "For instance, an additional 40,000 people who would not previously have been monitored now receive support and supervision upon release," he said.
Oh dear Rory. Fancy falling for that very tired old MoJ fig leaf PR scam for TR. Don't believe this fantasy peddled by the MoJ spin doctors. It has always been a complete lie, never intended or included in the costings by the CRC privateers; a situation confirmed by successive damning HMI reports and even the government's own Open Justice website continues to say "Offenders sentenced to less than 12 months also serve the second half in the community but are not actively supervised by Probation." Now that's at least an honest statement of the position. I wonder how the MoJ spin doctors allowed that? 


I thought I'd pop this in as a reminder:-

This is interesting from the Institute for Government published 9th May 2013 

Probation reform: doing it all?

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s probation reforms are ambitious and complex. How should the Ministry of Justice attempt to reduce the risks that accompany changing everything at once?

Chris Grayling is in parliament today explaining his complex set of probation reforms to MPs. Never one to shirk a challenge, Grayling plans to:
  • Outsource the bulk of probation services, predominantly to private sector organisations
  • Extend services to those who have served prison sentences of under 12 months, who previously were not monitored post-release
  • Introduce a new contractual payment mechanism, which will aim to pay providers more when those they are supervising offending either less or not at all
  • Change the conditions of supervision for ex-offenders (ideas floated include compulsory cannabis testing and GPS tagging)
  • Significantly reduce the amount spent on probation services ; all while changing the geographical basis on which these services are provided
Doing any one of these things would be difficult. Doing all of them makes this join the list of some of the most ambitious public service reforms currently being pursued – along with Universal Credit, NHS reform and schools reform. The Institute for Governments’ work shows that creating new ‘public service markets’ is difficult and rarely do government or new public service providers get things right first time.

Ambition increases the risks that things will go wrong – and a safer route would have been to carefully sequence changes. Grayling clearly feels he is up against an electoral deadline, however, so is going for the ‘big bang’.

In this context, the Ministry of Justice should be building in as much scope as possible to learn as they go and then adapt their outsourcing approach. The Institute’s research suggests that there are at least three obvious ways of doing this that will still allow Grayling to keep the same public aims for the programme.

First, contracts should not be let all in one go in summer 2014. Some should be held back until late 2014 or early 2015. This approach will both encourage new providers of probation services to get up to speed quickly so they can win future contracts and will allow the MoJ to improve the contracting model after its first go.

Second, the MoJ should ensure that it contracts with different types of organisation. Private sector providers will probably win the bulk of contracts but ensuring that some non-profit providers are involved will allow government to test whether a profit motivation has a positive impact on performance or simply creates an additional cost for government. Supporting a probation trust to ‘mutualise’ and provide services in one area on a non-profit basis is also desirable. And there is a strong case for saying that the MoJ should retain an in-house provider to ensure it keeps a good grasp on the costs of provision and understands how providers are responding to contractual incentives.

Third, MoJ should demand high levels of transparency from all providers. They should publish data not just on their key performance indicators (including reoffending rates) but also on the contracts they have let to specialist providers of services like drug treatment or mentoring support. This will help the MoJ and other large providers to spot those specialist service providers that appear to be doing a good job and will allow the MoJ to monitor the ‘health’ of the market. One risk of this programme is that smaller organisations are squeezed out, reducing levels of competition.

All these steps would reduce the risk of current reforms. And indeed there are myriad other ways of maximising learning and flexibility – perhaps too technical to enter into here.

There is a problem, however. Flexibility – while undoubtedly a good thing in managerial terms – is not necessarily what several actors in this reform programme really value. Many politicians talk in private about ‘locking-in’ their reforms, by which they mean making it impossible for subsequent governments to undo their work. Commercial organisations meanwhile like certainty about what they are doing and how much they are getting paid – as it reduces their costs of capital and makes it easier to plan financially. Flexibility therefore costs more in the short run – a premium that officials are often reluctant to pay even if it promises better long-term value for money. Success in a procurement career is, ironically, often tied not to ‘results’ but to the number of ‘big deals’ you’ve done and the ‘savings’ that you secured through the negotiation process – as shown by all those PFI deals that left the taxpayer paying for facilities they no longer needed.

In other words, flexibility is systematically undervalued in government reform programmes – even if it is precisely what is needed to ensure that reform programmes such as Grayling’s are to have even a chance of success.

Tom Gash


You can't just tinker with the contracts Rory - you really do have to go back to basics:-

"The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms are not meeting the then Government’s aims. We are unconvinced that as things stand the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation. The Government should publish its review, in full, by 1 February 2019. Given the issues which have arisen due to the speedy implementation of the TR reforms and lack of piloting, any new model must be thoroughly planned and tested."

Justice Select Committee 22nd June 2018

Friday 22 June 2018

TR Can Never Work - Shock!

So here we have the results of Bob Neill's forensic Select Committee inquiry into the probation omnishambles called 'Transforming Rehahabilitation', created upon a hunch by the hapless and charmless Chris Grayling and that has all-but destroyed a former gold standard public service and profession. 

The report is utterly damning and more than justifies every ounce of scorn and criticism heaped upon TR both by this blog and every probation professional since inception. Given the findings, which have been patently obvious to all with eyes willing to see, what I find particularly galling is the continued collective willingness of current senior management in both NPS and the CRCs to apply lipstick to what is plainly a pig - last nights grotesque HMPPS award ceremony being a particularly nauseating example.    


In 2014 and 2015 the Government introduced major structural reforms to the probation system, which included changes to who delivered probation services and what was delivered as part of probation. These reforms were known as Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). The TR reforms sought to:

  • Extend statutory rehabilitation to offenders serving custodial sentences of less than 12 months;
  • Introduce nationwide ‘Through the Gate’ resettlement services for those leaving prison;
  • Open up the market to new rehabilitation providers to get the best out of the public, voluntary and private sectors;
  • Introduce new payment incentives for market providers to focus relentlessly on reforming offenders;
  • Split the delivery of probation services between the National Probation Service (offenders at high risk of harm) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (low and medium risk offenders); and
  • Reduce reoffending.
In this Report we examine the many serious issues that have arisen as part of those reforms and propose some short and medium-term solutions. The scale of the issues facing the sector is of great concern to us given that evidence suggests that if probation services are delivered well they can have a positive impact on the prospects of someone receiving probation support and wider society.

Set out below are some of our main conclusions and recommendations.


The National Audit Office identified in a Report in December 2017 that the Ministry of Justice had had to change the fixed-cost assumptions in their contracts with CRCs from 20% to 77%. In this Report we conclude that this raises serious questions about the Ministry of Justice’s reluctance to challenge overoptimistic bids and its ability to let contracts. We also call for there to be more transparency on the changes made to the Ministry’s contracts with CRCs and what the Ministry expects to get in return for additional funding negotiated by providers.

In this Report we criticise the Ministry’s constant renegotiation of CRC contracts but we welcome the Ministry being open to the idea of terminating contracts due to poor performance with CRCs before they are due to expire in 2022. If any contracts are terminated prior to 2022 we caution that transition plans must be in place which make sure that: offenders receive the support they require to be rehabilitated, and their risk of reoffending does not increase. The Ministry should undertake a public consultation on any further changes to ensure a wide range of views on contractual arrangements. This public consultation should consider the number of CRCs and the bodies eligible to bid for CRC contracts.

Provider performance

CRC performance in reducing reoffending, particularly the number of times an offender reoffends, has been disappointing. We conclude that we do not think that the payment by results mechanism provides sufficient incentives to providers to reduce reoffending, but we also do not believe that CRCs should carry full responsibility for poor performance in reducing reoffending. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice review the payment by results mechanism and set out where it should be amended.

The Ministry of Justice has not been applying the financial penalties (service credits) as envisaged in the contracts with CRCs and it remains unclear to us how the Ministry of Justice is tackling underperformance on a day-to-day basis. We call on the Ministry to set out what other steps it is taking to address underperformance.

NPS-CRC split

Under the TR reforms, offenders were split between the NPS and CRCs according to their risk of harm. This has complicated the delivery of probation services and created a “two-tier” system. There are co-ordination challenges and despite work going on at a local and national level to try and resolve these issues, problem remain. A swift resolution to these problems is needed. The Rate Card (the list of available specialist services and programmes that CRCs offer and which the NPS can purchase from the CRC) processes are cumbersome and create barriers for the NPS to use these services.

This split causes problems in the delivery of probation services as the risk of an offender can change throughout their time on probation. We call on the Government to ask HMI Probation to conduct a review of how offenders should be distributed between the NPS and CRCs, and to investigate the impact of changing offender risk and how the NPS and CRCs manage this matter.

The voluntary sector

We find in this Report that the Government have failed to open up the probation market, a key aim of the then Government when they introduced the TR reforms. The voluntary sector is less involved in probation than they were before the TR reforms were implemented. This is of deep concern to us given the real benefits that the voluntary sector, especially smaller organisations, can bring to probation. There is a lack of transparency on which voluntary sector organisations are involved in probation contracts. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice publishes more information on probation supply chains and considers what benefits might be gained from reintroducing targets for voluntary sector involvement. We also recommend that the Government should consider whether involving some of the smaller, more specialised voluntary sector organisations could be incentivised.

We also call on the Ministry of Justice to look at the contractual barriers to greater voluntary sector involvement, including those relating to sub-contracts.


Staff morale is at an “all-time low” and staff have high caseloads, in some instances they are handling cases for which they do not have adequate training, and they feel de-professionalised. This is the concerning evidence that we heard. We call on the Ministry of Justice to publish a probation workforce strategy, which covers staff in the NPS and CRCs, setting out the basics with regard to professional standards, training and maximum caseloads/workloads.

Short custodial sentences

We find it extremely worrying that sentencer confidence in community alternatives to short custodial sentences is so low, particularly as the latter have worse outcomes in terms of reoffending. We recommend that the Government should introduce a presumption against short custodial sentences, as the Scottish Government have indicated they will do.

Under the TR reforms compulsory 12-month post-sentence supervision was extended to short custodial offenders. We find that this one-size fits all approach lacks the flexibility to meet the varying needs of offenders. We call on the Government to consider getting rid of this requirement.

Through the Gate (TTG)

One of the key components of the TR reforms was that all offenders would receive an element of continuous support from custody into the community. The current TTG provision merely signposts offenders to other organisations and is wholly inadequate. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice reviews the purpose of TTG and the support it provides to offenders (including whether it should introduce a prisoner discharge pack, based on need). We also recommend that real consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate to release prisoners, with few family ties, from custody on a Friday because access to Government services can be difficult.

The TR reforms introduced a 12-week intervention point: 12 weeks prior to release, pre-release resettlement activity (such as arranging accommodation, dealing with finance, benefits and debts and support related to education, training and employment) commences. We find that this approach is too inflexible and does not reflect the varying, and often complex, needs of offenders. We propose that offenders should begin receiving pre-release resettlement activity no later than 12 weeks prior to release.

Types of activities and frequency of contact

There has been evidence following the TR reforms that some CRC providers supervise their offenders remotely, over the telephone. We conclude that kiosk meetings are never likely to be appropriate and that telephone supervision should only be used in exceptional circumstances and not in isolation. Further, delivery of probation services must be supported by credible evidence. The Ministry of Justice should set out its minimum expectations to providers on the balance between remote and face-to-face supervision and on where providers meet those they are supervising.

We were concerned that only one in two individuals are supervised by the same officer throughout their case given the strong evidence that continuity of support allows a trusting relationship to be developed. National guidance should be introduced.

We heard in our inquiry that some of the work offenders were required to do under unpaid work orders was meaningless. We recommend that, where possible, unpaid work should contribute to the local community and be linked to education and training.

Specific needs of offenders

The issues facing offenders on probation are not all within the gift of probation services to resolve, and therefore a cross-Government approach is needed and organisations need to work together.

There are strong links between homelessness and reoffending, therefore we find that it is unacceptable that any local council has been able to deem an individual who has served a custodial sentence as making themselves intentionally homeless. We call on the Government to amend its guidance for Local Authorities to make it explicit that an individual who is homeless because of having served a custodial sentence should be deemed vulnerable for the purposes of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. We further recommend that the UK Government should work with the Welsh Government to ensure that their homelessness legislation takes due account of the risks of reoffending.

Currently offenders cannot apply for Universal Credit until they are released from custody. For many this can mean that they have the £46 discharge grant to live on for a number of weeks. We call on the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions to enable offenders serving custodial sentences to apply for Universal Credit (UC) prior to their release from custody so that they receive UC on the day of release. In the interim we recommend that the Ministry of Justice set up a transitional credit fund for those offenders who have insufficient funds to provide for the basics.

Longer-term future of Transforming Rehabilitation

On the longer-term future of the TR reforms we conclude that we are unconvinced that the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation.


Is the current system salvageable?

193. We did not receive any evidence which took the view that the current system was without fault and did not require any changes in the short to medium-term. There was however no overall agreement over whether TR had a long-term future: several submissions indicated that the system was salvageable but a large number of witnesses also thought that it was not. In oral evidence Switchback, a London-based rehabilitation charity, acknowledged that there were problems with the current system but believed these could be fixed: some of the principles at the heart of TR “were good ones, which could be revisited”. Some witnesses, including Shelter, took the view that TR was still suffering from “implementation issues”.

194. HM Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, agreed in evidence to a question from the Committee that “the system [was] fundamentally flawed”. Unison told us that to date there had been a series of “stop-gap, sticking-plaster approaches” to the problems facing the sector, and “nothing other than a fundamental root and branch review and the reestablishment of a unified service will sort the problem out”. Other witnesses also agreed that returning to public ownership was the only option.

195. The Minister of State, Rory Stewart OBE MP, in oral evidence was more optimistic about the long-term future of the current system. He explained that the current probation system was “salvageable”. He also cautioned against another transformation:

Some of the problems that we are facing are problems of managing radical change. I can understand why people think that the current system has serious flaws, but I emphasise that there would be considerable costs in trying to reinvent the system yet again.
When should a review take place?

196. As we expressed earlier in this Report there has been a lack of transparency regarding previous reviews. The Ministry of Justice’s written submission appeared to indicate a preference for a piecemeal approach, rather than a wholesale review of the system. It explained that the Ministry was keeping the probation system under review and lessons learned would inform “the next generation of services”.

197. A number of witnesses, including Police and Crime Commissioners, a police officer, trade unions, academics and charities, called for an “immediate review” or for a review to start as soon as possible of the TR reforms. Unison surveyed its members to inform its submission: 78% of respondents supported a review taking place immediately. Several witnesses also called for a review within six to 12 months.

198. While some witnesses, including HMI Probation, stressed the importance of such a review taking place they also emphasised that the current contracts “cannot just be brought to a sudden halt”. Some witnesses, including David Chantler, a former Chief Probation Officer of West Mercia Probation, and Clinks, explained that commencing a review immediately would mean that a replacement to TR could be in place in time for the current contracts end date (expected to be 31 January 2022 although The Times reported on 14 June that the Government intended to terminate the contracts in 2020 and reduce the number of CRCs to 14 (from 21)). Others, particularly CRCs, called for “a period of calm” and “for sufficient time [to] pass so that [CRC] innovation and impact [could] be measured”. These providers varied in their views on when they thought a review of probation should take place, with some calling for a review now, others in two years’ time and other CRCs calling for a contract extension and a review after the seven-year contract.

199. Other witnesses, such as Business in the Community, a charity, stressed the importance of a review looking at the wider picture, including other areas of the criminal justice system and changes and challenges that they were facing. Shelter explained that the review also needed to ensure that lessons were learned from providers’ experience.

200. The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms are not meeting the then Government’s aims. We are unconvinced that as things stand the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation. The Government should publish its review, in full, by 1 February 2019. Given the issues which have arisen due to the speedy implementation of the TR reforms and lack of piloting, any new model must be thoroughly planned and tested.