Saturday 29 September 2018

Latest From the Inspector

Here we have that speech from Dame Glenys Stacey given the other day:-

Thank you for inviting me to speak here at Birkbeck this evening. It is such a pleasure to have the chance to meet with you all, and to discuss with you matters that are dear to my heart. 

I understand Birkbeck’s founders first met in the Crown and Anchor, in the Strand. It was THE public house for radical and reformist thinkers at the time, back in the 1820s. Nowadays, the college enjoys more contemporary facilities, but is just as hospitable as the Crown and Anchor – as we have seen – and no doubt it is just as committed to radical and reformist thinking. 

This is a timely event, and a fitting venue, as we cannot deny we have experienced radical and reformist thinking in shaping the probation service delivery model in recent years. Now government is planning further changes, and has consulted on some aspects of the way probation is to be delivered. What is more, ministers are expressing a new interest in the tripartite relationship between punishment, sentencing and probation. I welcome that fresh interest. 

This event gives us, here, the chance to think about how these things relate to each other, and how the right balance is to be struck between punishment, rehabilitation and restoration (another tri-partite relationship, I think). When we look at desistance research, the focus is on the need for offenders to ‘make good’ as Professor Shadd Maruna put it. This is somewhat different to punishing people, yet we know that there is a public expectation that offenders will be punished. This is a given, and indeed all community sentences must by law contain at least one element of punishment. 

There’s a good debate to be had – and I would argue that it is a question of balance! But I have been asked to speak now about some of the key themes that have arisen from our inspections of probation services. That may seem a dry subject, but I hope to show you it is not, and indeed that it is directly relevant to the wider issue, and the tri- partite relationships we are speaking of. I would like to focus on three areas: alternatives to short custodial sentences, the advice given to courts on sentencing, and then sentencer confidence in community sentences – as we are more likely to see community sentences if judges and magistrates have faith in them.

Community sentence orders are on the decline, despite research showing them to be more effective than short sentences at rehabilitating offenders. Over the past 10 years, the number of community orders has reduced by 52 per cent, and the number of drug and 2 alcohol treatment orders and the number of Accredited Programmes ordered are down as well. Over the same ten-year period, the number of suspended sentences – which are, of course, custodial orders – increased by 31 per cent. 

Incidentally, I was encouraged to see recent pilots that show sentencers are more likely to order drug and alcohol rehabilitation orders when a psychologist is present to assist the court. I think it is really encouraging that these arrangements for expert clinical advice, in court, are being trialled, and I welcome the prospect of the extension of this programme, subject to continuing positive evaluation. Specific drug and alcohol treatment orders can change people’s lives for the better. 

At various points in time, policymakers have hoped that community sanctions would operate as an alternative to imprisonment, reduce prison populations, and be a safe and cost effective way to control crime and rehabilitate offenders. It hasn’t worked that way: across Europe, data on imprisonment and community sanctions show there has been a widening of the criminal justice remit, with more people entering the system through both custody and community sanctions. So, what are the alternatives, now, to short prison sentences?

Prisoners who serve short sentences typically have chaotic lives and greater levels of need. This is often characterised by a combination of substance misuse, homelessness and mental health issues. Working with this group is challenging but important, both for the individual involved and for society at large. When people are in and out of custody, it causes disruption to the individual, our prison and probation services and to wider society. 

In most cases, short prison sentences do more harm than good. The Ministry of Justice’s own research confirms community sentences can lead to greater reductions in reoffending, compared to short custodial sentences. Community sentences can keep a vulnerable person on the right side of the prison gate, but they need to be delivered well, to be effective. 

So for example, unpaid work, when combined with other aspects of probation, has great potential but our inspections have found it is not being delivered to a uniformly high standard. 

Unpaid work is often the longest period that an offender is likely to be in close contact with a member of probation staff. Good unpaid work can help individuals to develop life and vocational skills that reduce the risk of reoffending. Research shows unpaid work is most effective if it starts promptly and runs regularly, and those doing it see it as useful and rewarding, and if staff supervising the work follow the principles of pro-social modelling. 

That is what we should expect. However, our thematic inspection from 2016 found managers gave little consideration to how unpaid work could contribute to rehabilitation, and we still find it regarded as an adjunct to probation supervision, rather than fully integrated into it as part and parcel of the rehabilitative work. But in 2016, the requirements for unpaid work (what good unpaid work looks like) were not specifically stated. 

Following on from that inspection, we have worked over the last year with probation providers and government to produce clear, unequivocal standards for Unpaid Work, and for all other aspects of probation work as well.

And I am glad to see government taking a new interest in unpaid work, and asking – in its consultation recently about the future of probation services – what can be done to promote unpaid work schemes which both make reparation to communities and equip offenders with employment-related skills and experience? It is the right question, hopefully seeking the right balance between reparation and rehabilitation, without undue emphasis on punishment. 

Do have a look at our standards. They are on our website. They now underpin all our inspections, and they are being used increasingly by probation providers, to inform for example their staff training and their own quality management systems. 

Unpaid work is a commonly used community sentence, up there with Rehabilitation Activity Requirements - orders that enable probation providers to do what is best with each individual, by way of rehabilitation. In our 2017 inspection of these types of order, we found insufficient meaningful probation activity, and no activity at all in about one in ten cases.

Government has the opportunity now to be more specific about what is expected, as it recasts contract provisions and moves to a smaller number of CRCs nationwide. We have recommended already that these orders should only be used when they are likely to provide the best rehabilitation for the offender, over and above other options. So for example, in cases of domestic abuse we know that the number of orders made for an offender to undertake the only accredited programme (‘Building Better Relationships’) has reduced by 12% in twelve months, and we hope in highlighting that, that the National Probation Service will recommend it and magistrates and judges order participation in the programme more often. 

I say that I hope the NPS will recommend it, as in deciding whether to order unpaid work or a rehabilitation activity requirement or indeed to impose a prison sentence, courts are advised by the NPS, responsible for providing advice in some 140,000 cases each year.

Traditionally, pre-sentence advice was delivered in full written reports. In recent times, challenging targets for speedy justice have led to most advice being delivered orally, on the day. After a shaky start, it is a credit to the NPS that it now has a good process in place. It is generally able to get the right information together quickly, and competent and motivated staff are in court daily, to enable courts to pass sentences swiftly and safely. 

However, we have found that the NPS does not assess the risk of an individual going on to cause serious harm well enough overall, and yet this is core probation work. 

In addition, the NPS’s reports generally meet the court’s needs but they are less likely to be comprehensive enough for CRCs, who take over and manage most cases. There is a fault line here – CRCs cannot be sure that the NPS presents a full enough picture for them in each case. CRCs are then paid for producing timely sentence plans, rather than making sure each plan is based on a sufficiently thorough assessment of the individual. In some cases, plans do not take into account relevant matters, such as a history of domestic abuse, child protection issues, or antisocial attitudes and lifestyles. 

We know that the NPS has plans to improve pre-sentence work and has invested in technology here as well. And it is now taking a default position and advising community sentences rather than suspended sentence. And again, we welcome government’s renewed interest: in its recent consultation it has proposed that a more comprehensive assessment of the individual is developed and added to over time, so that all agencies dealing with the individual have access to the right information at the right time, without having to collect it from scratch.

The NPS can get yet better at advising courts, but of course, judges and magistrates need to be sure that a community sentence will be delivered well enough, in order to have confidence that a community sentence is preferable to the alternatives. Sentencer confidence is a live issue.

More than a third of community and suspended orders include a Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, but we know from our inspection of such cases that magistrates lack confidence in them. A survey by the Magistrates’ Association has found almost three- 4 quarters of respondents said they did not have enough information about what offenders will do when serving such a requirement. 

When it comes to it, confidence is built by consistent, good quality probation services, but we have found serious failings in the delivery of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements on the ground. It is time to look again at RARs – they haven’t delivered as intended – and I was pleased to see that the Ministry of Justice recognise recently the need to be more specific, in CRCs’ future contracts, about what is expected.

For starters, and as we recommended when inspecting RARs, these orders need to be started promptly, there need to be proper programmes of structured work, and absences need to be dealt with promptly and consistently as well. The public, magistrates and judges need to know individuals have meaningful supervision and receive appropriately tailored probation services, striking the right balance between reparation, rehabilitation and punishment, in order to have faith in community sentences. 

The Ministry of Justice’s consultation on the future of probation services closed last week (21 September). The Inspectorate responded, of course, and we have published that response on our website. We look forward to hearing more about how the government will shape the future of probation services, and trust that our inspection findings will be material to government and ministers as they think through the next iteration of the probation delivery model. 

The way probation services are delivered is inextricably linked to the efficacy of sentencing. It underpins that tri-partite relationship between punishment, sentencing and probation, and it influences it as well – as the better we are at probation, the more likely it is that judges and magistrates will order a community sentence, and the more likely government policy will lean towards community sentences as well. 

Thank you for listening and I look forward to hearing your thoughts shortly.

Dame Glenys Stacey

Thursday 27 September 2018

No Easy Answers

In the wake of the Labour Party conference and as the following recent discourse on Facebook demonstrates, there are no straightforward answers to try and repair the damage inflicted on the Probation Service:- 

Richard Burgon shadow Justice Secretary has just said labour government will return all Probation to public sector.

Fantastic news.

Katie Lomas He has been saying that for some time! Napo working with his team on the Review being chaired by Lord Ramsbotham...

Yvonne Pattison It's not a straightforward task either but it was myself and Ian that first suggested the round table review to look at what is needed to facilitate this.

Don’t think a lot of members know that.

Yvonne Pattison He has written to a number of key people asking for input, including us, academics, done chiefs/ex chiefs etc. It's in written format so far but there will be face to face meetings further on. I believe Ian has mentioned it more than once in his blogs

Frontline staff should be fully involved in any review. Many chiefs/EMT have NO idea what it's like on the frontline.

Or about the impact on the risk to the public with some of their decisions.

Yvonne Pattison I do know some members have given their views as they were asked locally...the consultation will widen out further down the line I'm sure.

Maybe if it's only chiefs or EMT that get involved with any review, they would like to come 'back to the floor' in every office for AT LEAST a whole week - before any review meetings - to see what it's really like.

Yvonne Pattison I attended our local consultation on Strengthening Probation. The initial date for input has passed...more information will come out after the first paper which lord Ramsbotham s drafting...

Katie Lomas He did say it at Napo AGM last year and we have been writing about it during this year as the review emerged...

I know he did as I asked him to say it in words of one syllable, but it hasn’t been mentioned on any national tv so really really good to hear it being reaffirmed.

I dont believe it will ever happen. He will say anything to get votes. Who else in his party agrees with him? Too much damage has been done already. It would be such a massive upheaval and CRC have had their fair share. Don't get me wrong...would be great...but what are the chances of that happening.

The shadow chancellor for starters. A long term friend of NAPO, he would hold the purse string that could be relaxed to renationalise and from what I’ve seen of John he’s no free marketeer. It would be one of an entire raft of renationalisations.

That would be a dream come true for all of us.

Supposedly contracts for CRCs are being cut short in 2020 instead of 2 years after! Who knew it wouldn't work out. 

The contracts are going back out for tender to secure new terms. It's nowhere near the end of privatization.

David A Raho Richard has said it before. However, the part of Probation that is currently in the public sector is currently grossly underresourced therefore renationalising probation would require a definite relaxation of the purse strings to achieve something near satisfactory This may take at least a few years to accomplish. As others have said previously if Labour does form a government and John McDonnell remains in his present position then he would no doubt be sympathetic and indeed support this ideologically. However, Labours anticipated programme is highly ambitious and big-ticket pledges will no doubt take priority. My view is that you cannot sort probation out properly without sorting prison and the court system and the police out as well. Reforming the entire criminal justice system is a big ask of any government even if it has a large majority and clear plans. I am not aware that Corbyn has clear plans in many key areas and I do not think this is a matter of faith even if I prefer the direction of travel towards renationalisation and public ownership of rail and utilities such as water and power.

Change has to start some where.

David A Raho Can he say where he is planning to start? We know his team is working with Lord Ramsbothams review but is this going to be in the manifesto? Is he going to make a statement at the Labour conference?

Katie Lomas  It is the shadow justice team who commissioned Lord Ramsbotham to chair the review for them. They are championing it! The aim is not “nationalisation” but public ownership and local accountability.

David A Raho  Glad to hear it but to be fair a commitment to undertaking a review into the privatisation of probation was in Labour’s 2017 manifesto (let's be generous and assume they were thinking about this in 2016 or earlier) - the point being they were not necessarily committed to an outcome of full public ownership - no matter who said what. The review may arrive at that point (I would welcome it) and I do hope that there is more local accountability but there is much to do before reaching that position and a whole parliamentary term of work to do to come up with something that will satisfy most of the main players. Incidentally just looking at Burgon's programme for conference there is no mention of probation - I suspect a lot of probation folk are desperately trying to find a mention from anyone anywhere. So I guess he is kind of low key championing probation publicly whilst we hope he is doing lots of good stuff behind the scenes. I guess we must also hope that this is a cunning strategic approach to ensure broader cross-party appeal that he will surely need to get anywhere with it.…

You seem pessimistic.

David A Raho Skeptical and cautiously realistic. Probation could not have been privatised without radical intervention by a Labour government (opposed by 40 MPs including McDonnell and Corbyn Burgon was in Uni) and it probably can't be put back into public ownership without solid cross-party support. I think this article '
Dissenting Labour MPs force government climbdown on bill' from 2007 is illuminating. I'll continue to follow Dylan's advice and watch the parking meters.

Katie Lomas Richard was quite clear in saying they are considering ‘how’ to bring Probation back into public ownership and not ‘if’ they will...

David A Raho  I'm Sceptical about the how. If you examine his voting history Burgon is no fan of PCCs and devolution so he may not favour that option, McDonnell is talking about employee share ownership schemes today (would that be his option?). We know the NPS is bankrupt and probably not in a fit state to reabsorb communities. Public ownership does not necessarily mean private companies will not be involved in delivery like PFI.

Katie Lomas  John McDonnell’s speech today made it clear that no new PFI deals would be done. I don’t personally think that moving from the CRC/NPS split to everything in the NPS would be in any way positive. Hence why we shouldn’t talk about “renationalisation” but instead bringing probation back together, in public ownership and with local accountability...

David A Raho  Renationalisation and taking formerly public bodies back into public ownership to rejoin colleagues in a public sector organisation or whatever is fine by me (better together etc). I don't think that any government will easily abandon the NPS idea without something pretty robust to replace it seamlessly. A lot fewer people now in positions of real influence in the private probation companies are probation people and those now in charge strongly believe that losing their grip on probation contracts will never happen as easily as Richard Burgon appears to believe unless they want it to. They have their fingers in a lot more contractual pies than just the probation contracts and are getting themselves positioned in order to challenge/resist a weak administration. The government relies on the private companies to deliver a whole raft of services now. Would Labour seriously want to take on the multinationals that run the shadow state aided and abetted by ex-MoJ consultants etc? Very doubtful. If they did they would have to demonstrate a high level of unity and some slick manoeuvres that would require expert statecraft and superhuman politicking not seen on the Labour benches since Attlee last warmed the governments front benches. I am also aware that politicians stock response to a complex problem is to form a review committee to look at the evidence and consider options - all positive and good. Then they set up another committee to look at the preferred option to cost it and rhino test it for feasibility. Labour want to do a lot of things and with a crammed schedule they risk running out of time to put the required legislation on the statute books only to claim that they had a contingency plan and end up implementing the lowest cost option as a stopgap that never gets filled.

I don’t favour the local accountability model at all. I think probation has been used as a political football in the past and putting it under the PCCs which seems to be the preferred decision will make that even more likely. Also move into the NPS was a dawning realisation of how in a single service there could be so much variance in practice and policy, staff pay and benefits etc. I do t think the NPS is at all perfect but I favour a national service with some local flexibility to work in partnership with local charities and providers to the old trust system.

David A Raho Depends who is in power Jamie as to what the model will look like. At the moment the Tories are calling the shots but concerned about mounting pressure from the backlash against Grayling who is finally becoming the whipping boy for neoliberal excess. I have a preferred option and a realistic option given that some CRC owners have been consolidating their position and may well act collectively to put pressure on whatever the government to ensure a continuation of their income streams. Not all owners of CRCs are the same or equal and the MoJ bar is not that high. My preferred option is a devolved model with a funding link with local authorities eg providing offices and facilities and learning from Youth Justice. I would create local adult justice boards and involve a host of agencies with probation taking the lead. Some smaller central body like the YJB would be helpful. The CRCs would like bigger areas longer contracts and more money that is not linked closely to performance.The more realistic option I fear long term will be a further break up of probation with bits of both NPS and CRC hived off and run as separate operations or absorbed by other departments such as HMCTS HMPS CP a separate standalone thing and communities becoming private-public sector joint operations. Between times CRCs are likely to get bigger contracts. If these were 7 years then they would make commercial sense as they need to sign leases on office space etc. Ian Lawrence has just blogged about Napos opposition to this.


Edited version of Ian's latest blog here:-

Bidders Beware!

Our wholesale opposition to the calamitous decision by David Gauke to retender the shortened CRC contracts, and offer new ones within a reconfigured 10 region structure was again reinforced in our submission to the ‘Strengthen Probation Building Confidence’ consultation last week.

Anyone who believes that this consultation is meaningful, as in the Government actually changing their mind as a result, cannot have been following the script. Those harbouring such hopes would have seen that for themselves if they had been able to attend the latest attempt by the MoJ to smooth the path for would be contractors.

I have always worked on the basis that consultation of this nature is about learning from the mistakes of the past and ensuring that all steps will be taken in the future not to repeat them. Unfortunately, there is little sign that this will happen and just as was the case in the initial engagement events that many of our members have attended, the intended direction of travel from last week’s gathering in London - akin to a "wild west medicine" selling show without the waggons and horses - was very clear.

It goes something like this. The last Secretary of State for Justice destroys an award winning Probation service and opens the floodgates to a social engineering disaster, despite over 90% of those responding to another so-called consultation telling him that he really ought not to have gone there. Said Minister later departs the post-Transforming Rehabilitation dystopia that he and a number of spineless senior NOMS leaders were responsible for creating, and is rewarded with another high profile political post as Secretary of State for Transport.

As for TR four years on, nearly every report from HMI Probation describes it as a failure save for a few pockets of good practice. Findings which are then endorsed by what for me is one of the most damning Parliamentary inquiry reports I have ever seen from the Justice Select Committee which also says it’s a failure. Incidentally, news just reaches me that another hugely critical report is due from HMI Probation tomorrow and it will make for some seriously unhappy reading yet again for the private providers who are yes, collectively failing yet again on their contractual responsibilities.

A different universe

Anyone watching Chris Grayling in his TV interviews last week (it is very difficult I know) on the plans to launch a major review into our railway system will have found the language to be depressingly familiar to the mantra that preceded TR, e.g. "public/private partnerships can work, innovation and flexibility is all that is required, freedoms to make decisions, trade unions to blame", etc.

What I find especially disconcerting is that in the face of what is by any standards about the most catastrophic privatisation I have ever seen of its kind, and granted we have seen plenty more examples, the only response that I can see from Government is to simply repeat the processes that led to where Probation is now.

For Government, it’s as if TR never happened; that the systemic failure of CRC providers to heed the signals from our members that we put out before TR such as be careful what you wish for as well as bid for, never happened either. Documented evidence from Napo and scores of other organisations that spelt out the risks and likely results are just something to be ignored, as millions of pounds of taxpayers' money is ploughed into TR Mark 2 and the creation of another highly dubious re tendering exercise where the likely results are already writ large. Against that background, anyone seriously contemplating bidding for the intended next round of contracts ought to think again. It’s as corrupt a process as it was four years ago and we will not baulk from saying so.

SFOs - let me be clear, we will protect our members

According to one of my media sources we are seeing more Serious Further Offences being committed in England and Wales. These incidents are highly emotive and require timely and accurate investigation to determine what lessons can be learned and whether certain things might have been done differently by an individual or by the various agencies involved. Victims' families also demand (and are entitled) to answers.

SFOs occurred prior to TR, they happen now and they will in the future. Inevitably, they become highly political because Ministers and Governments are responsible for presiding over a justice system that is supposed to minimise the risks to public safety.

In such a climate, politicians may seek to blame individuals and not their own failures for the ensuing human tragedies that occur in a probation service which is less safe than it was, where staff are under intense pressure. A service that has become hugely fragmented since it was irresponsibly thrown open to the market.

Now we see it start to unravel. Napo, heavily involved in representing several members since our last AGM whose practice has been called into question despite having undergone the initial SFO review, only to hear later down the line that another investigation has arisen because of a pending inquest or by way of a Ministerial intervention.

Members occasionally ask me whether I intend to publicise our position in relation to individual members who are in proceedings following an SFO and the answer is an unhesitant no. Our first duty is to represent the interests of the members involved and given the propensity for these cases to gravitate to inquests or the attention of Ministers, we need to say nothing that could complicate matters.

I think members will agree that this is a sensible approach, but I can certainly promise this: that Napo will not stand by and see our members made scapegoats for systemic failure by their employer or for situations that would never have happened if those responsible for making previous decisions, or for providing the necessary resources, support and protections for staff, are the ones who really ought to be answering some very uncomfortable questions. Even more reason for having a trade union at your side come the day when you might need us.

Ian Lawrence

Wednesday 26 September 2018

Guest Blog 71

Parallel lines 

I don’t wish to dwell on Brexit in this blog although it is my starting point. Nor do I wish to overuse railway metaphors but since Chris Grayling has just pronounced on Brexit it must surely be self-evident that this project is now right on track to hit the buffers any time soon.

Whilst this blog is about Probation nevertheless I continue to be struck by the parallels that exist between the continuing TR fiasco, Brexit and the railways. It would appear that lessons of government do not cross departmental barriers.

Last week there was discussion about the compromise that might exist within Brexit between timing and the quality of the deal we might achieve. There was comment on the fact that it was not possible to negotiate a good deal in the time available. No surprise there. Whatever your views on Brexit there has been ongoing concern from all quarters about the dangers of trying to exit the EU in a satisfactory manner in the time that we have allowed ourselves for the project.

It’s a pity John McDonnell isn’t quoted as saying that Probation would be up there on the Labour agenda for (re)nationalisation when Labour come to power. You’d have thought he would be well aware of the situation - he’s attended enough NAPO AGMs in his time. Railways and other utilities are on the list but arguably no service is more at risk of total expiration at the altar of privatisation than Probation. I have a real fear that if CRC contracts are modified and re-let for another 7 to 10 years from 2020, there will be very little left of a once great Service by contract end and very likely a long time before.


The current TR2 timetable in brief appears to look like this:

  • Now until the end of the year - the MoJ/HMPPS mull over the responses to the Consultation.
  • January - some sort of pronouncement is made about the way forward.
  • February 2019 - March 2020 - revision of policies and practices are worked up, contracts are drafted and the contract process takes place with the new contracts being awarded in March 2020. (If you work backwards from contract award through the formal tender/bid process to it’s start point, a significant chunk of next year disappears)
  • March 2020 - October 2020 -the lead-in period to the operational phase of the new contracts.
  • October 2020 - 10 new CRC contracts become operational.
I may have missed it, but I’ve not seen anyone asking to see the risk register for this project nor the timeline with milestones. Much less have I seen either document being published by the MoJ. At the very least I would expect both Napo and UNISON to demand sight of these documents - though I fear they will whistle for them. My understanding is that there has already been slippage with the consultation stage and further slippage can be anticipated. I may of course have missed these documents in which case maybe someone can enlighten me.

As I said in my last guest blog, this timeline is ridiculously short if Probation is to be put back in good shape. Parallels with Brexit are apparent. Equally, two years is a very long time for further chaos to be generated in an already seriously damaged service. One might well imagine that CRC owners who decide not to bid for the new contracts or who are unable to do so are likely to rapidly lose interest in the project and disinvest or under-invest. Adequate staffing and training are obvious targets for savings ahead of leaving the party. The chances are also high that one or more of the owners will hand back the keys some time soon - unable to make sufficient profit etc. Isn’t that what happened to unpaid work in London? It would indeed be interesting to see the risk register.


Any requirements for legislation, certainly primary and very likely secondary too, could not be met in the time available, largely consequent upon the all-consuming needs of Brexit. Any primary legislative change in criminal justice is very likely to wait three to five years - i.e. well beyond the proposed date for the new contracts.


Then there is the proposed Wales model. Many have observed that if it can be done in Wales, why not in England? Equally pertinent questions are these:

If Wales is some sort of pilot for a new way of operating (which I believe may have been suggested by the Director of Prisons & Probation in Wales), then

  1. When’s the pilot period
  2. When is the evaluation and
  3. Where on earth is there any possibility of utilising this model elsewhere, if it’s successful, after contracts have already been let for a further 7 to 10 years.
The only logical way to proceed

Something akin to the East Coast main-line contract or indeed now, Birmingham Prison. The CRC contracts should be taken back into public ownership as soon as possible. This limits the further damage that might be done between now and 2020, it allows for some stabilisation and a proper period of review and forward planning. Even Chris Grayling now seems in favour of that for the railways. It also allows for the possibility of revising legislation.

It’s very doubtful that the Government would countenance taking all CRC staff into the Civil Service and equally those involved would very likely not welcome such a fate but there are other models of public ownership and management.

Finally for those who know me as one of the Directors of the Probation Institute, just to say that we have submitted our response to the Probation Consultation, as well as to the Lord Ramsbotham/Labour Party Consultation. Both responses are embargoed at the request of the recipients but the Institute’s views will be outlined in our next Probation News.

Mike McClelland

Tuesday 25 September 2018

CRCs and Domestic Violence

Well, what a surprise. CRCs no longer have the trained staff, inclination or ability to deal adequately with DV cases. All this was predicted, the warnings were ignored and somebody has to carry the can. So far it's just Michael Spurr. Here's the press release from HM Probation Inspectorate:- 

Community Rehabilitation Companies are failing to tackle domestic abuse and keep victims safe

Community Rehabilitation Companies are not doing enough to rehabilitate perpetrators of domestic abuse or keep victims safe, according to a new report out today. HM Inspectorate of Probation found poor practice was widespread in Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), which supervise low and medium-risk offenders across England and Wales.

Inspectors found probation staff did not have the skills, experience or time to supervise perpetrators properly. In more than half (55 per cent) of the cases that inspectors looked at, perpetrators of domestic abuse were not making enough progress on their court orders. In too many cases, perpetrators were drifting through their probation periods, rather than getting the support and challenge they needed to change their behaviour.

The report also raises concerns about the role of probation staff in preventing future incidents. Probation staff tended to underestimate risks and work to protect victims and children was not good enough in seven out of ten cases (71 per cent).

Too often, home visits – which can help staff to assess the potential risk to partners and children – were considered a luxury. Inspectors found that in cases where a home visit should have taken place, fewer than one in five (19 per cent) had been completed.

Chief Inspector Dame Glenys Stacey said some of the safeguarding practices that inspectors had uncovered were of “grave concern”.

Dame Glenys said: “Too often, we were left wondering how safe victims and children were, especially when practitioners failed to act on new information indicating that they could be in danger.”

The Inspectorate was so concerned about seven cases that they asked the relevant CRCs to take immediate action to ensure the safety of victims and children.

Inspectors found some CRCs only expected the most basic assessment of cases, giving staff a limited understanding of the offender and the context of their crime. Written reviews, which are used to monitor offenders’ progress, were completed in less than a third (32 per cent) of cases.

Inspectors found probation staff did not always draw on available information from other agencies, such as the police and social services. In some cases, they did not have the knowledge and skills to assess the impact of domestic abuse on victims and children. Others failed to understand the importance of reviewing and responding to changes, such as an offender moving in with a new partner.

Dame Glenys said: “Domestic abuse is not a minor issue – last year, more than 1 million incidents and crimes linked to domestic abuse were recorded by police across England and Wales. CRCs play a crucial role in supervising perpetrators of domestic abuse and we found they were nowhere near effective enough, yet good work could make such a difference to families, individuals and communities as a whole.

“There isn’t a national strategy to improve the quality of CRCs’ work on domestic abuse. The government’s current contracts have led to CRCs prioritising process deadlines above good-quality and safe practice. There are no specific obligations on CRCs to tackle domestic abuse and there are no direct incentives for this work either. The Ministry of Justice has the opportunity to consider this issue when it recasts contracts.”

Inspectors found issues with the delivery of ‘Building Better Relationships’, the only nationally accredited domestic abuse programme for use in the community. The course supports perpetrators to examine and change their behaviour but, in practice, it is bogged down by contractual and logistical issues.

In the cases that inspectors looked at, just over a quarter (27 per cent) of perpetrators had been referred to the programme. This is far fewer than CRCs expected and has a direct impact on their income because they are paid for each participant and can be penalised financially if there is a high dropout rate.

CRCs are stuck in a downward spiral – with fewer people starting and finishing the programme, there is less money coming through the door to fund future activity. In the cases that inspectors looked at, less than half of referrals had started their course and others were unable to start because their course had been cancelled.

Some staff had created their own alternatives to ‘Building Better Relationships’ – but these courses were not accredited, based on evidence or consistently delivered by experienced staff.

Dame Glenys said: “CRCs have developed new domestic abuse policies and guidance but this is not translating into effective practice. We found probation staff with unmanageable workloads. Inexperienced staff were managing complex issues with little training or management oversight. Some were too busy to do a thorough job, others didn’t have the knowledge to do a good job.”

Inspectors found small pockets of good practice but, overall, it was a concerning set of findings. The Inspectorate makes eight recommendations in its report, with the aim of raising the standard of probation work with perpetrators of domestic abuse and giving greater consideration to victims’ needs.

The Inspectorate also calls on CRCs to put the right training and support in place so staff can supervise perpetrators of domestic abuse effectively, manage the risk of harm to actual and potential victims, and deliver interventions that are based on evidence.

Chief Executive of Women’s Aid Katie Ghose said: “In cases of domestic abuse offences, it is vital to have the right response from probation services. Survivors of domestic abuse need to be protected, and the threat from perpetrators must be managed.

“This report shows that Community Rehabilitation Companies are failing victims, with a significant lack of understanding about domestic abuse, especially coercive control. Probation officers are routinely underestimating the ongoing danger posed to the victim, and not reassessing the level of risk involved when circumstances change. The findings of this report show that Community Rehabilitation Companies are currently not fit for purpose when it comes to domestic abuse cases, and we call on the government to urgently change this to protect survivors.”

This from the Guardian:-

Private probation firms 'put victims of abuse at risk'

Inspectors say poor practice is widespread in community rehabilitation companies

Tens of thousands of victims of domestic abuse and children are being put at further risk of harm by privatised offender supervision companies whose staff lack the skills, experience and time to supervise perpetrators, according to a new report. Inspectors found poor practice was widespread in community rehabilitation companies (CRCs), the privatised probation providers introduced in England and Wales under widely derided reforms by the former justice secretary Chris Grayling.

In 71% of cases assessed by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) as part of a thematic study into CRCs’ approach to domestic abuse, work to protect victims and children was deemed not good enough. Guardian analysis suggests this figure could be equal to as many as 55,000 cases. There are 158,727 offenders under probation supervision by CRCs across England and Wales. HMIP said an assessment of previous inspections suggests as many as half – equivalent to around 79,300 cases – feature domestic abuse.

The chief executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose, said: “This report shows that community rehabilitation companies are failing victims, with a significant lack of understanding about domestic abuse, especially coercive control. Probation officers are routinely underestimating the ongoing danger posed to the victim and not reassessing the level of risk involved when circumstances change. The findings of this report show that CRCs are currently not fit for purpose when it comes to domestic abuse cases and we call on the government to urgently change this to protect survivors.”

The level and nature of contact with perpetrators was sufficient to help protect victims and children in only 55% of cases looked at by the inspectorate. In the cases where there should have been a home visit, these had been undertaken in only 19% of cases. Probation staff were also meeting offenders in public spaces such as cafes, which limited the scope to explore and address sensitive and personal issues.

The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said: “CRCs play a crucial role in supervising perpetrators of domestic abuse and we found they were nowhere near effective enough, yet good work could make such a difference to families, individuals and communities as a whole.”

Inspectors raised concerns about the falling referral and completion rates for domestic violence prevention programmes, designed to reduce reoffending among perpetrators of abuse. The only course to be accredited by a public authority, called building better relationships, was introduced to probation services in 2012 in a bid to reduce reoffending.

There were 4,452 programmes started in 2016-17, a 7% fall compared with the previous year, the inspectorate says in its report. Of those who started, only 2,041 – or 45% - completed the course, a 12% drop in completions compared with the year before.

In the cases that inspectors looked at, just over a quarter – equal to 29 men – had been referred to the programme. At the time of the inspection, 13 men had started the course. However, in seven cases the course had been cancelled. “There were too few referrals to this programme,” the report says. “Many individuals experienced extensive delays before joining a course and too many did not complete one.” The inspection looked at 112 cases and interviewed 30 perpetrators of domestic abuse.

The probation sector in England and Wales was overhauled in 2014 by Grayling, who ignored warnings from within the Ministry of Justice and broke up existing probation trusts, replacing them with a public sector service dealing with high-risk offenders and the CRCs that manage low- to medium-risk offenders. After a succession of highly critical reports from the inspectorate and the justice committee, as well as derision from those working within the sector, David Gauke, the justice secretary, announced that eight private firms and the 21 CRCs in England and Wales were to have their contracts terminated in 2020, two years earlier than agreed.

Under Gauke’s proposals put out to consultation, the number of CRCs operating in England and Wales will be reduced to 11, with 10 new probation regions to be formed in England plus an additional region in Wales. Stacey said recasting the contracts presented an opportunity for the ministry to reconsider the issue of how CRCs deal with domestic abuse.

The prisons and probation minister, Rory Stewart, said: 

“We must protect victims of domestic abuse from any further suffering. That is why we have set out plans to better support victims, bring more offenders to justice and ultimately keep the public safe through our proposed domestic abuse bill. We are taking decisive action to improve CRCs by ending current contracts early, investing £22m in through-the-gate services, and we have consulted on how best to deliver probation services in the future. This report highlights pockets of good practice to build on, but more must be done. By putting in place new arrangements, we will heed the lessons from what has and hasn’t worked, so probation plays its full part in tackling domestic abuse and protecting victims.”

Richard Burgon, shadow justice secretary, said: “Once again we see how the private probation companies are failing to keep the public safe. The government must stop letting victims down and ensure that there is a complete overhaul of probation so that it puts women’s safety first.”

Friday 21 September 2018

Spurr Sacked - But Not Yet

I guess it's no great surprise that the politicians nearly always find a way of avoiding having to take responsibility for anything other than success and lo, the prison crisis has claimed the head of HMPPS, but not yet! This from the Guardian:- 

Prison Service chief Michael Spurr told to step down

Spurr has faced criticism over crisis in jails but campaigners say ministers are to blame

The head of the prison service, Michael Spurr, has been told to step down from the role amid an ongoing crisis in jails in England and Wales. Although Spurr will remain chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service until the end of March next year, the Guardian understands he was told by the Ministry of Justice’s permanent secretary, Richard Heaton, he had to go. A source said: “He’s not been without his critics. A change of direction was needed.”

However, prison reform campaigners praised Spurr’s efforts and said ministers were “deluding themselves” if they thought a change of leader would fix overcrowded and under-resourced prisons. And former Labour justice secretary, Charlie Falconer, said Spurr had been “dealt as shitty a hand by the government as it is possible to deal”.

The announcement of his departure comes after a series of damning prison inspections. Spurr, who has been with the prison service for 35 years, including nine years leading it, has faced criticism over the mounting crisis, with the parliament’s justice committee attacking his “lack of leadership”. He joined the service as a prison officer in 1983 before working his way up through a series of posts as a governor and then becoming head of the service.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Michael Spurr will be an extraordinarily hard act to follow. He is an exceptionally principled and knowledgeable leader who has selflessly served an endless succession of short-term ministers. “Whoever takes over will face the same fundamental problems of overcrowded and under -resourced prisons. Those are problems which only ministers can address and none of those whom Michael has served so faithfully have delivered. Anyone who thinks the problems in our prisons can be solved by a change of leader is deluding themselves.”

The formal process to appoint Spurr’s successor will start next month, although it is understood the permanent secretary is to review the top managegement structure of the Prison Service. In a statement, Heaton said: 

“Michael is an exceptional public servant. His commitment to the organisation he leads and to a humane and effective offender management system has been unflinching, through a period when the system has faced extraordinary pressures, challenges and constraints. “Michael’s leadership has been exemplary. But we now need to look ahead, building on Michael’s work and developing a strategy for the next decade. I have therefore decided that April 2019 is the right time to ask a new chief executive to take on this important role.”

Justice secretaries have been handed four urgent notices by the prison inspectorate in the last year – for jails in Exeter, Nottingham, Birmingham and Bedford. It is the most serious level of action the inspectorate can take over conditions in a prison it inspects. In the case of HMP Birmingham, the jail was taken off the hands of its private operator, G4S, and returned to state control for at least six months as officials battle to reduce violence, drug use and disorder.

David Gauke, the justice secretary, said: “I am extremely grateful to Michael Spurr for his leadership of HMPPS. His focus has been unwavering on doing the best for his staff and for victims of crime, on discipline in the prison estate and on caring for and rehabilitating offenders. He is an example of the very best of public service and civil service leadership. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Michael into the new year.”

The number of assaults against prison officers continued to rise in the most recent batch of official figures, which revealed 9,003 assaults on staff in the 12 months to March, up 26% from the previous year. Last week thousands of prisons officers staged a walkout in protest at health and safety violations they allegedly face from working in such conditions. The walkout was brought to an end after a threat of legal action from the government, which said the protest was illegal and irresponsible.

Thursday 20 September 2018

An End to Short Sentences?

Whilst 'probation' has once more slipped into a state of suspended animation pending the sham 'consultation', the same cannot be said for the prison service. At some point the government are going to have to bite the bullet regarding short prison sentences. Here is Rob Allen from last week:-  

State of Emergency

Should we think of prison officers as emergency workers? This week’s new law creating tougher penalties for assaults on such workers certainly does so. The categorisation seemed a bit odd to me - what about probation staff or youth workers who don’t make the list? They get thumped – or worse - from time to time - I got a head butt from a lad on Intermediate Treatment back in the 80's. Anyway, I concluded that philosophically, it might be quite helpful to think of imprisonment as an emergency – an abnormal and harmful situation which we should do everything possible to prevent, minimise and help sufferers to recover from.

This week’s warning letter from the Chief Inspector of Prisons about HMP Bedford describes a more straightforward emergency in terms of immediate risks to health, life and property. The horror stories include a prisoner luring rats into his cell and killing them - an amputee trying to stay clean by splashing water on himself from the sink - and frightened or incompetent staff unwilling to intervene with one group of rowdy prisoners or acceding to unreasonable demands from another to get them back into their cells. Peter Clarke found attacks on staff – some serious - taking place at least every other day and even more frequent incidents of self-harm among prisoners. It's little surprise that this has proved a last straw for the Prison Officers Association who have flirted with illegality to organise a national protest.

In his response to the industrial action Prison Minister Rory Stewart claimed that “we are taking the action that needs to be taken.” But are they? Alongside harsher penalties for violent prisoners, body worn cameras, ‘police-style’ handcuffs and restraints, incapacitant spray and patrol dogs on landings look like a narrow and lopsided remedy. Stewart must recognise this; in Parliament, he described as “a very reasonable proposal” Labour’s idea for an emergency plan, with new Treasury funds, to end overcrowding and end under staffing.

What should such a plan look like? There’s certainly a need to revise upward the target for recruiting new prison staff. Current plans will not lead to the necessary ratios But action is needed on the demand side too.

Given the concentration of the worst difficulties in local prisons, the government should move immediately on their proposal to reduce the use of short sentences. We don’t know the makeup of Bedford’s population today but when inspectors last went in 2016, a fifth of prisoners were serving sentences of less than 12 months. Cutting these numbers would free up not only space but officer time in receiving and releasing petty offenders every day.

Rory Stewart may be right that “something as serious as changing our entire sentencing policy would require primary legislation and a lot of discussion in the House” but while getting that process going, his boss David Gauke, the Lord Chief Justice and new Chair of the Sentencing Council should find ways of encouraging courts to suspend more short prison sentences or convert them into community orders.

One way might be to introduce a new national presumption against the use of short custodial sentences, recommended yet again this week in a thoughtful report from CREST Advisory. Another might be to reinstate the principle that courts should take overcrowding and other painful realities of prison life into account when determining the punitive weight of a sentence.

Before sending people off to HMP Bedford, judges from Luton and St Albans Crown Courts and surrounding Magistrates’ Courts ought surely to reflect on the conditions there and the fact that one prisoner in five say they acquire a drug habit after arrival. Local consultation arrangements involving police, prosecutors, courts, probation and prisons - such as those introduced after the Woolf Report into the Strangways riot - need to be reinvigorated.

Ensuring such arrangements between justice agencies are in place across the country could also help to limit the numbers on remand – over a quarter of prisoners at Bedford in 2016 -and those recalled for breaching orders - 10% in Bedford.

There are many longer term measures that need to be taken to stabilise prisons such as providing an opportunity for prisoners to earn earlier – maybe much earlier - release. Rightly or wrongly, too many prisoners feel they have little to gain by abiding by the rules. Again, while legislation would be needed in the long term, some measures along these lines might be introduced without it. Constitutional purists might quibble, but the whole point of a state of emergency is that it requires governments to do things that normally aren’t permitted.

Rob Allen

Saturday 15 September 2018

POA Take Action 2

"hahaha like an ex and unsucessful POA wannabe would have lead people to the picket lines!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Joke. whole blog is a joke now."
"Napos shit. The GS is shit. blah blah change the tune, it's boring now Jimbo."
Yes, sadly the level of debate on here has deteriorated somewhat, but ignoring crap like this, I thought it would be interesting to see what Mike Rolfe has had to say on his Facebook page about yesterday's POA action, especially as we know his policy is one of openness and engagement. Of course many of the the issues faced by HMPPS colleagues are the very same for probation staff:-      

I realise I will most likely be shot down as an antagonist for this post and perhaps even a thorn in the side of the POA but just before team ‘Hate Rolfe’ that seem to troll me on Facebook comment I want to make clear I supported the POA action today and helped ensure that members at my branch were informed of the steps that were likely to be taken and not fearful of the repercussions and I will continue to support my union in whatever action is called. However I do believe that the POA membership deserve some more answers following today’s action. The obvious win is the media coverage, but what else has been achieved?

I’m aware of the negativity that has been displayed towards certain members of our NEC in recent weeks and their personal interests financially have rightly come into question if that affects their standing on issues affecting our membership, similarly difficult questions have been raised in the wake of Birmingham being returned to the public sector, the announcement that colleagues from Glen Parva would not be able to return to a public sector prison and that all new builds will be tendered without HMPPS being able to bid, all these things have seemingly passed under the radar without a backlash and POA members have rightly asked questions. The violence stats have been in the public domain for a while and HMP Bedford has long been on the watch list as a dangerous place to work.

There was no build up to this action, we were not told in any detail what the issues we were fighting against are, what we were demanding and what we have achieved is also not clear. What was clear was that we would not be resisting any injunction and that we would be straight back to work following any action from the feedback at our meetings. We were also told in many various forms that the General Secretary was the individual that had called this action and that it was all on him...another unusual step and one that leaves me suspicious given the recent questions raised about his own suitability to maintain his role.

There are many good people on the NEC, people I have every faith in to try and achieve the best for their members, but I can’t help but think they are also the type of people that would have absolutely no issue with being named and leading on action as a United NEC, so why this was called in one persons name baffles me?

I agree wholeheartedly that the level of violence in the service is unacceptable, that we have insufficient staff but let’s cut to the crux the issue is not being able to recruit anymore it is the abysmal treatment of staff through the theft of their pension, the deterioration in pay and the treatment of staff more generally. If the employers pay well and look after their staff then we will be fully recruited and people will stay in the job and things will improve, frontline staff numbers also need to be at a level that makes staff feel safe, prisons disciplined and empowered to work with prisoners that will bring about safe and successful establishments. Investment is needed in the correct area and OMiC is an opportunity for most local committees to try and steer cash into the areas we heard about today to improve security such as search teams and dog patrols.

POA members rightly deserve answers, calling them into action is no easy feat and asking people to lose half a days salary in support of the unknown will only maintain support for the POA in the interim unless a positive deal is forthcoming in wake of the action. I hope this is the case and I hope that in the days following that we will actually hear what has been asked for, what has been achieved and what good is in it for the members who have made a sacrifice today. I also hope that this was not an opportunity to use the POA membership for deflection from personal scrutiny. Unity is strength, but apathy will easily set in if we are being used in some plot designed by someone to dine out on the latest action in lead up to their next election.

Well done to everyone involved today and let’s hope that things change as a result.

Mike Rolfe


There is a lot of backslapping going on regarding this latest protest, but it is important to remember that similar protests have achieved nothing, apart from more staff suffering! On the subject of suffering staff can accept reluctantly that half a days pay will be deducted but might feel better if there elected representatives were to donate a similar amount to a charity which would enforce a special bond of togetherness!

I'm on team POA. Very long message Mike. I'm not sure about some comments. I'm sure that the NEC would have had to agree on any action so I don't think a GS can just go ahead alone and call this. If the employer cedes on some of the issues then it's a success and they've seen today staff have had enough. I'm this time everything should be put aside, stand strong and when some form of normality returns all the other issues and sniping from members will carry on but now stand firm. I also think if allegations of personal interests and finance should be openly approached and those people be given the chance to answer instead of being crucified in this forum.

Well said Mike and bringing an insight into the action called for that a majority of members would not be aware of. When you lead there was no hidden agenda but it appears that membership are being used as pawns in a game of chess that they will not benefit from!!!

That's coming from newly appointed Chairman who jumped ship. I had a lot of respect for Mike Rolfe but my judgement is questionable. And that my own personal opinion.

What did you want the NEC to do?..... tipping staff off would through the brown noses or those who had a vested interest in embarrassing the current NEC.....alerted management. Then you would arrive at a grotesque situation were managers would have been waiting with written orders for staff to go on duty, with the NEC in court before the rest of us would be out of bed. The NEC were in that position and there’s no other way around it

Again; we hear the voice of Mike Rolfe. Again, all words. Bravo.

Good words.

Nicely put Mike.

I wasn’t behind it, I thought it was knee-jerk and ill thought out, but you raise some valid points. It was a mess, it was sweeping, it was without a build up, and again (my opinion) we look like the stroppy, teenage relative of the Civil Service. Had we have gone on “protest” for some of the reasons you list: The pension, Glen Pava, the fact we cannot bid for new prisons, I’d have maybe supported it, but to cite more protection, the day after sentences are doubled is almost embarrassing.

The NEC needs transparency, we need to guide them to what we want, after all we pay them for Christ sake. Maybe we are fortunate at my establishment, but the (now acting) Governor has revamped profiles, forked money for better physical security and is ultra protective and supportive of her staff, today, I felt, was a kick in the teeth to her.

Led a great group of people today, he and they should be proud. However, the NEC on the other hand...Get back there Rolfey... Sooner rather than later.

I am not privvy to the inner workings of the POA. what I will say though is...... I have seen far more comments by people today on the state of our prison system than ever before. If nothing else, this action has brought it to the fore. Now, it is up to the POA to keep it there and do right by their members. Time will tell......

Of course you would have mate, it’s all over the news... But this isn’t the first time our NEC have stamped their feet. Like you say, time will tell. Today, in my opinion was poorly planned, poorly thought out. There is an undercurrent and today was about politics.
Is the individual who called this strike willing to lose half a days pay too?? I doubt it.
It's counter-intuitive like most industrial action but I get the point of it. From speaking to people I know in the service, ex-service and even ex-inmates; it's just getting more and more out of hand.

Everybody will lose pay today including the NEC who are employed by the prison service, we can't really expect our employed staff to give up there wages. A member at Feltham thought the deduction last time and won so we will be looking to him for advise. I feel today was needed as the employer now knows we will take action regardless of there injunction. I believe the NEC did what we have all been asking today and led us. I am a true supporter of mike and want nothing more than to see him back on our NEC where he belongs. The recent concerns raised about some NEC members does need to be addressed but today is a day to be proud of ourselves as the membership truly did show we stand strong together regardless.

Steve Gillan isn’t paid by the prison service. Is he losing a mornings pay?

How can we as a union ask that he loses wages for the day. It would be a gesture to give up his days wages but that is his choice we don't want to start imposing sanctions on our own employed staff.

Isn’t that what’s just been asked of us with little and no information? Every time Mike Rolfe asked us to stand with him he made a donation. The NEC has fought to keep Mike from reelection using our money and today we stood outside and lost a days pay. Steve Gillans name is all over today he should do the same.

Of course it would be his choice and it is something that they should be doing Unity is Strength and all that!

That is very true, Mike did make a massive donation however not everyone is Mike Rolfe. Mike is one of the most amazing and inspirational people I've ever met. He has become a good friend and someone I will always remain loyal too. Steve will never be Mike because they broke the mould with Mike. We can't force them to give there money up and we shouldn't either it's has to be a choice they make.

Great Post Mike and one I fully agree with. My thoughts about some members of our NEC have not changed and as others have said needs looking at. The membership should be rightly proud of their unity and strength today but I have to say most staff would take themselves to a place of safety if the paint on the toilet wall was changed to a colour they didn't like these days. We have had enough and I hope HMPPS the government now see that. I don't want pava or ridged cuffs I want more well paid staff and my bloody pension back.

Brilliant post, we need ongoing action and this current unfit for purpose neoliberal Tory government needs to be voted out. Our members had enough of financial restraints and cuts. Had enough of being attacked and threatened by a growing culture of ruthless and violent criminal behaviour. Had enough of incompetent leadership, had enough of privatisation, had enough of pay cuts and pension reforms. The TUC should have led a national strike but they are submissive. I hope the current NEC continues to apply pressure on the government and hold the current government and the incompetent employer accountable. Vote the Tories out and hold the senior civil servants accountable for the current poor state of affairs we are all in.

We have the same things going on over here and it can get worst, Long hour's and low pay reduction in Benefits, what more could a fellow ask for, that's life with privatisation.

Your message too long IMO. I guess we will find out next week after the NEC meet management.

Mike your words today where absorbed by us all and we know you are thinking of us all not just your own interests!

It's been suggested that someone may be pulling strings and and I and others have seen a raft of people hiding behind false profiles and sniping at the present POA NEC to discredited them.

I agree totally, I believe some people have a vested interest in subtle attacks on the POA seems there are people using aliases who are attacking the’s almost like a war of attrition or a silent coup of the sort attempted at Jeremy Corbyn, and is really unbefitting in my opinion. Our national chairman has attributed himself professionally, he puts his members first, second and third..... and puts himself last...... and will remain with his members till the last man falls. His appearance at the select committee and at today’s press interviews, is a true measure of the man assured when the NEC go into discussions with government, they are going in with the support of the vast majority of the membership. And rather placing banana skins in their way..... support them publicly and loudly.

What a marvellous oratory. Mike you are a master of oratory. I had great faith in you when you became chairman but in all honestly you decided to move on. Do what you decided and move on don't try and recover what you threw away. On these sites there seems to be some who take up the cudgels for you you made your bed lie in it, either support the people in charge or do one.

Everyone else lost money as well. I've never insulted Mike. He could have led us to the next level but he moved on. If he returns and makes a difference that's great. I've no intention of blocking him as he has some really good inputs and if he returns he could add to a really strong NEC.

Mike decided to move on. There's no problem worth that but he can't wind the clock back. If he wants to regain what he had there's a process to go through and there's no problem in that but there seems to be some Mike Rolfe supporters who always say "hail Mike,hail Mike". Mike could have been a magnificent chair ably supported by the NEC they could have moved on, they didn't.

Let the current membership decide because I think you will be very shocked. If Mike wanted back in then I'm very sure he would get a huge amount of votes. I hope he stands for GS because he will get my vote and the vote of my branch without a doubt.

If they want Mike back because I for one will be trying my hardest to get him to agree to stand for election for the GS position.

I’m expecting Mike to stand again at the next general election Laura .... perhaps in a constituency that more reflects his views...... I haven’t any reason to believe otherwise.

Good words Mike and my thoughts when this first broke this morning.

I just hope the next time they call for action they inform me so as not to make me look like a complete idiot in front of my members I am one pissed of Chairman right now.

Think of the brown noses, who would have run squealing to the management....if this wasn’t kept under wraps...... there are people who have vested interests in the failure of the current NEC..... who would have spilt the beans

SG hides behind a 6 figure salary nuff said.

Friday 14 September 2018

POA Take Action

The feeling appears to be growing that HM Government are not going to find it quite as easy as previously in obtaining an emergency injunction to stop industrial action by the POA. There seems to be a veritable legal minefield opening up around the rights and wrongs of compelling staff to work in unsafe and dangerous conditions. 

Napo members made their choice in sticking with the current General Secretary rather than opting for Mick Rolfe, the former POA Chair. The prospect certainly put the wind up the MoJ, but that's all water under the bridge now and confirms their view that probation can be safely kept on the back burner with a sham 'consultation'. Meanwhile, Bob Neill clearly has the bit between his teeth and set Rory some awkward prison homework:- 

Dear Rory,

Urgent Notification at HMP Birmingham 

Thank you for informing us of the urgent notification issued by the Chief Inspector following his visit to HMP Birmingham, and for your continued cooperation on this matter. I'm sure you will agree that what the Chief Inspector reports having seen at Birmingham is shocking. We await the full report, but the findings he has shared so far are the worst I think we have seen. 

As you know we have corresponded on previous urgent notifications, and I am grateful to you and officials at the Ministry and HMPPS for your ongoing assistance. We do, however, remain deeply concerned about the conditions in which some prisoners are living. It is especially worrying that it falls again to the Chief Inspector to shine a light on ongoing problems which should have been raised and resolved through normal reporting and oversight mechanisms long before his visit. 

There were many red flags prior to the Chief Inspector's visit to Birmingham that do not appear to have prompted sufficient improvement. We saw a similar pattern leading to urgent notifications in Liverpool and Exeter, but it is particularly startling in this case because of the significant disturbance at Birmingham (which endangered the lives of both prisoners and staff). It appears that even this was not enough to result in a demonstrable improvement in conditions. Both the disturbance and a subsequent inspection prompted action plans, but it is not clear if they led to improvement. I echo your comments in the Chamber last week that this is unacceptable.

We welcome your proactive approach, but we remain deeply concerned by the failure of individual prison Governors (or Directors), HMPPS and the Ministry to act to rectify problems when they are identified. I have discussed this with my Committee and the severity of the situation in Birmingham has led us to conclude that we must act to hold the right people to account for this failure. I have asked Clerks to contact officials at the Ministry to arrange for a public evidence session so we and the staff, prisoners and families of HMP Birmingham can understand what went wrong and what the Ministry is doing to fix it. We hope you will be able to attend and will be as open, honest and helpful as you have been to date and were during our evidence session in January on HMP Liverpool. Officials will arrange an appropriate date which will be confirmed in due course, but it is likely to take place shortly after we have seen the full HMIP report and your action plan. 

In the mean time we would like clarity on the following and would be grateful if you could provide a written response at your earliest convenience: 
  • You said in the Chamber, that issues with Birmingham have been ongoing for a while:
What information were you collecting from G4S on their performance at Birmingham?
When were issues were first identified, and what action was taken as a result? 
  • A number of action plans have been put in place at Birmingham: 
Can you provide us with all the action plans that have been put in place since January 2016, and the log of progress against them. 
If progress against action plans fell short of expectations, what action was taken? 
  • You said that you had issued G4S with notices to improve:
When were notices to improve issued and what prompted them? 
What measures did you put in place for G4S to demonstrate the improvement required? 
Did the prison show improvement following these notices? 
Did the Government penalise G4S in any way - for example, issuing financial penalties if they did not meet their contractual obligations? If not, was this because G4S were meeting their contractual obligations, or were there other reasons?
  • You noted that G4S had changed the Director (also known as the Governor} of HMP Birmingham prior to the most recent inspection visit:
In January 2018 G4S announced that it was going to move the Director of HMP Birmingham to Oakhill STC. Was this the move you referred to? 
If so, why was this Director moved to a facility that was also struggling, having been rated Inadequate by Ofsted two months earlier, in November 2017? If not, can you provide additional information on Director moves, for clarity? 
  • We now know that 300 prisoners have been moved out of Birmingham: 
When was the decision taken to reduce the number of prisoners at Birmingham, and what prompted that decision? 
Where have the prisoners moved out of Birmingham been moved to? 
What has been the impact for receiving prisons and how have the Ministry or HMPPS assisted receiving prisons in catering for the additional prisoners? 
  • You noted that you have brought 32 prison staff into Birmingham:
Are these 32-staff full time equivalent, and if not, can you clarify how many full time equivalent posts have been moved into Birmingham? 
What mix of grades and roles are these staff (i.e. are they all prison officers}? 
Where did the additional 32 prison staff come from, and have other prisons lost staff in order to put more staff into Birmingham? 
  • You said that action was being taken with no additional cost to the tax payer: 
We understand that you are not currently paying G4S to run the prison. Are the Government currently paying G4S staff in the prison, and covering G4S overheads in the prison, or are G4S still paying these costs out of their own pocket? 
If this cost is being picked up by Government, does the money which would normally be paid to G4S for this contract cover the current running costs, including the additional 32 staff? 

Many thanks again for your continued co-operation on this matter. I understand that we have asked a number of detailed questions and would invite officials from the Ministry to contact the Clerks of the Committee to arrange a reasonable timeframe in which to respond before the public evidence session.

Bob Neill 
Chair, Justice Committee