Thursday 29 November 2018

Napo at Work in the South West 18

As usual, thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following:-

Napo SSW Branch report 26

November 18
Dear Napo members,

It has been a little while since my last branch report although thanks to Denice James for keeping us informed in the interim this summer.

There have been a lot of developments and ongoing issues with few resolutions. To help make this report easier to reference I have added a content list. I will keep the detail short as there is too much going on across the Working Links controlled territories. Recent dispute meetings in Cardiff saw revelations that Aurelius were due to meet the MOJ. Either keep floating the failing and broken Working Links or to pull the plug. I suspect the MOJ will have done a deal, whereby they pay to continue funding up to the new proposed contract periods. It is known that Aurelius have two debenture notices served on Working Links to ensure they are first in the scrum if and when Working Links finally fold.

1 MSC call centres and the return to 1-1.
2 Building Confidence - Probation consultation.
3 1% Pay contractual pay increase
4 Travel ban
5 Unpaid work
7 The Certification Officer issues Peros v Napo

Minimum Service Contacts.

It has all started to unravel faster for CRC contractors since the Parliamentary Report about the national probation scandal which, we have all endured to date. From that we saw the recent directions and contract variations to all CRCs to return to some meaningful work in the restoration of one to one working. Already there are talks nationally of the Working Links way to find a few loopholes in that new direction. That said, we understand these sorts of re negotiations are inevitable but at the short sides meeting NAPO are clear we want to see a return to proper offender focused working. SSW branch have made it clear that we support all we can to adapt current staffing and processes to ensure DDC at least achieve this. However, the unions are absolute that all terms and conditions will be protected and voluntary engagement to change staff roles will prevail from the flawed current call centre model.

NAPO SSW criticised this direction from the start and lodged the dispute that has run for 2 years or so. We have vindication for the SSW branch, steadfast rejection of the Working Links failing model. The Recent direction from MOJ is back to some form of case management that requires one to one working with the person. This is long overdue and a real smack to the dissolution of years of expertise being dumped by private interest.

In turn talks have opened up for the minimum service contacts (MSC). We are in agreement to support the process of expressions of interest as the first step to recruit staff properly to adapt, develop, or return to familiar ways of working with people than what we have seen under the so-called innovation of privatised working and their call centre coverall. The problems yet to be resolved will include staff locations, numbers of staff, the backlog of cases, immediate take up of new cases, and training - all compounded by an organisation that has shrunk to a fraction with too much work. No agreement to date on caseloads and weightings, yet they carry on regardless.

2 Building confidence probation consultation.

In September Napo SSW submitted a large contribution from the branch on the consultation questionnaire. The MOJ put out a number of questions, not all of which are relevant for a consultation period, then half way through changed the game by adding questions. It would have been smarter to extend the period too. In any case, I could not imagine anyone would be supporting the continued splitting of the service. Most people contributing to the survey will easily work out it is a ploy. It may be to provide the MOJ with evidence to undermine the PAC report.

The full submission by the branch has been circulated and we wait to see what affect if any there might be. It was clear the plan was to influence the new contract not to stop the same errors. The current decline across all standards is breath-taking.

Sadly, though this has a link to the NPS Pay deal. Running through the argument for NEVER paying equal rates for staff in CRCs or parity is this little gem from the PAC report.


107. Section 4 of the Offender Management Act 2007 provides that “the giving of assistance to any court in determining the appropriate sentence to pass, or making any other decision, in respect of a person charged with or convicted of an offence” is reserved to “a probation trust or other public body”.189 In practice this means that only the National Probation Service, and not Community Rehabilitation Companies, can submit pre-sentence reports (see footnote for definition) and provide advice to the courts.190 The NPS has a dedicated team of report writers servicing the courts.191

This disconnect from the officers of the court argument actually removes many of the cornerstone arguments that used to be part of the pay structure ownership.

When we see the new contracts, I doubt it will build any confidence anywhere after the last 4 years of the spiral fast ride to the bottom. Reduction of this contract out two years early cannot come soon enough but the real fears and concerns we have include the probation senior management and the difficulties they have faced in the contract years of working under the sheer excessive ebullience of the privateers. (We do not hear much of that talking up now).

Some of the senior management’s pressures were being driven to dump all they knew of best practices and to make cuts wherever told, their concerns being ignored and quelled. I can assure members that Napo is aware of many factors that encourage us to support the senior management team, as we all start looking at what the new transition arrangements are going to become. It will impact on them as much as any staff and we cannot predict what we will all face post the consultation influences. Larger areas will likely mean more rationalisation. Meaning more profits potentials.

3 1% contractual pay increase

Members will know that we have been attending some meetings with the Working Links senior management and probation senior management teams. Back as far as March we heard pledges for the timely payment of the contractual 1% to be awarded to staff but to date this has still not arrived. At our meeting in Cardiff the lead for Justice stated that the Working Links board have met and decided to pay the entitlement some 7 months late. We had thought the threat of charging the interest on the belated money might have had a part to play. However, when the arrangement was communicated in writing to the union sides the management had taken out of the increase a small number of staff who had a cost of living rise based on pay scales earlier in the year. Members will realise what a PR disaster and penny-pinching approach to staff salaries this was and what a derisory attitude from the Working Links way. In all fairness a few heavy end criticisms and some pretty fast e mails exchanged saw Dawn Blower head of justices make a case to include those staff for the entitlement than just see the lowest paid end up on a time marking lost award. All credit to Dawn Blower we had not expected her immediate intervention to resolve the latest tension and yet she managed to ensure that money is now committed to our hard-pressed staff.

4 Travel Ban

The Working Links Way has seen them order a travel ban for all staff except under some circumstances. It is fairly clear to most people in this industry what damage this will do to working relations across the organisation. The need to grab back all the essential duties based on cost just illustrates what sort of financial constraints they are trying to deliver their targets under. Some of us do not actually believe they are genuinely trying to deliver anything at all other than to get the contract taken off them. We all know that MOJ will squeeze blood from a stone to keep this flagship fiasco afloat. It is no joke when we are all aware the Working Links financial director is consulted on every expense more than 20 quid! They have ordered a zero-white goods replacement and all products that may be ordered have to be none brand names and the cheapest option. There is a tactical delay in paying staff expenses as I have received several complaints and disability related payments for staff also. Any attempts to claw back running costs only hasten the decline of the services. What happened to all the spouting and pouting of private enterprise innovation managing millions of pounds of public monies. A touch too much of the boasting self importance. Their latest planned disaster area for the SW is the removal of phones and having Skype computer calls only. Avoiding the phone bills won’t improve the services.

5 Unpaid Work

The poorest treatment and declining standards to staff is the current treatment of unpaid workers in CRC contracts. The worst documents I have ever seen are those that deride remove and strip away any employment rights. As if it is okay to ask workers to sign away lawful statutory rights. The Working Links way has seen staff in role through agency or sessional to be facing real pay reduction, no proper annual leave agreement, and zero hours no commitment. There are no disciplinary investigation protections, no employment protections and no sickness protections. It is beyond anything we have seen to date and currently they claim the unions have agreed the position since TR. For members record we will be writing to the management shortly on the issues seeking some talks and clarification. To be clear none of the unions would have agreed any such zero hours contract and nor would we, ever. We will look to ensure all those staff being turned over what are their lawful protections and to ensure we access such rights for our members interests.

On top of this, there are record numbers of stand downs, lack of work places, and van spaces for participants. Offenders on orders have no chance of being completed within 12 months. Angry stories where participants turn up for work having travelled far, who have lost pay from their work to be there only to be sent home due to lack of space. Innovation and privatised interest clearly failing to deliver any comprehensive and equitable area wide services. The public sector managed all this and was so well organised and more efficient in the past. In Torquay the CP workshop has been closed when there has been no obvious explanation. In Dorset it is reported little weekend activity and no weekend CP in Exeter. Cornwall is doing well considering the staffing issues and the very real threat to ensuring the great works in that area continue.


The inspectors have started their much-awaited inquiry and no doubt after the failings of the Working Links way and models dipterous report last August in BGSW, we will be in for some interesting reading. No doubt it will be raising eyebrows, tensions and anxieties in the Working Links way although we wonder do they care anymore. Did they do anything to learn from that experience?

The writing on the wall is a reduced contract period, a working model discredited, and a lack of staff and resources to deliver anything decent. As I write this report, indications are that it is unlikely the HMIP will be ordering commendations and celebratory medals and tie pins. Sadly though, I doubt there will be little holding them to account either. We look forward to March when that report is due to be published, if not sooner, and we urge all staff to continue the policy to tell the inspectors how it really is.

7 The Certification officer Peros V Napo

The substance of the case before the Certification Officer was basically straight forward. There were 4 complaints cited of breach of Napo Constitution and Disciplinary Rules by the Co-Chairs and one Vice Chair and the General Secretary. At the heart of the case was the question “are all members entitled to be dealt with in accordance with the Constitution - whatever the circumstances - or is it legitimate for Napo Officers and Officials to disregard the constitution?

The defence put forward by the Napo Barrister, supported by two lawyers, was that the issues of protecting confidentiality relating to Napo staff members meant the Constitution and Disciplinary Rules were not appropriate.

The Certification Officer was not persuaded by this argument and all 4 complaints of breach against Napo which, had been lodged by my representative, were upheld.

In her determination the Certification Officer declined to make an order against Napo making it clear her reason for not doing so was “Such an Order would, however, add nothing to the current position whereby all members are required to comply with the Constitution and Disciplinary Rules”. It is important to note that during the 12 months prior to the Hearing the Co-Chairs and Vice Chair failed to take up no less than 8 separate offers made by my representative to meet face to face on a “without prejudice” basis, in an attempt to resolve the matter. At least now, no other Napo member will ever have to experience the abuse of power to which I was subjected for over 12 months.

I thank warmly the fantastic role and skills of the lay representative acting for me, Dave Rogan. Ex Napo national rep with all the skills and intelligence to demonstrate in writing and argument everything that anyone on the NAPO officer’s team should have respected, understood, and acted properly on behalf of the membership they serve. The wonderful support of the whole Napo SSW branch executive. Great team, great people, those brave witness statements and our clever friends.

As Marx once said (Groucho, that) – ‘who would want to be in a club that would have someone like me in it.’ I have to say after the experience of that group on behalf of Napo I do have to think long and deep about that. However, and before then I am a real trade unionist and for me that comes first, whatever it takes.

Dino Peros

Napo SSW branch Chair.

Wednesday 28 November 2018

All So Very Predictable

Preparing and writing pre sentence reports for court used to be an absolutely key part of a probation officers job, but it's been steadily down-graded. Here we have an article from the Probation Institute magazine on the subject and to be frank it makes for depressing reading because it was all so very predictable:-

How are pre-sentence reports working today?

The relationship between courts and probation holds the key to tackling the over-use of harmful short-term custody and reducing reoffending. In June 2018, Justice Secretary David Gauke MP called for short-term custody to be used only as “last resort.” But if we are to make this aspiration a reality, we need to ensure that judges and magistrates have confidence in probation’s delivery of community sentences as they represent the only realistic alternative in many cases. 

The Centre for Justice Innovation works to promote community sentences as an alternative to custody, and to understand the reason why their use has fallen by 24% since the start of the decade, exploring the way that presentence reports inform sentencers’ perceptions of probation. Pre-sentence reports (PSRs) are a key point of contact between sentencers and probation. They provide judges and magistrates with expert assessments of the risks posed by an offender and the needs driving their offending, and recommend a sentence option which protects the public and supports rehabilitation.

By reviewing the available data and conducting interviews and workshops with practitioners, we have built up a complex picture: one of a system that has been buffeted by a range of policy decisions, but also one where creative and innovative thinking on the ground is finding workarounds to some of the structural challenges. 

In policy terms, clearly the headline issue is the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which erected a divide between courts and the organisations responsible for delivering the majority of the community sentences they impose. But alongside this radical shift, we have seen an increased emphasis on timeliness in the management of courts. While this is, in many ways, a laudable goal it has had its own impact on the work of probation in courts. And all of this change is occurring at a time when austerity is forcing every part of the justice system to struggle to maintain basic services with limited resources. Taken together, these factors have formed the backdrop for a substantial shift in how pre-sentence reports are delivered. 

The changing delivery of presentence reports 

In our analysis of data on pre-sentence reports, we found two key trends: a significant reduction in the use of pre-sentence reports, and a change in the way they are delivered. The fall in the number of pre-sentence reports is stark. We have gone from 185,000 in 2012/13 to only 124,000 last year: a fall of almost a third over a period when the number of convictions has remained relatively stable. This fall has been seen in both magistrates and crown courts (though the drop in the former is a little steeper). It’s worth noting, however, that these statistics don’t count cases where previous PSRs are re-used, which may exaggerate the size of the change, but nonetheless it seems significant.

Perhaps more striking, though, is the change in the way that reports are delivered. The National Probation Service’s E3 model set ambitious targets for increasing the proportion of PSRs delivered orally, reducing the use of written fast delivery reports (FDRs) and, in particular, the most comprehensive Standard Delivery Reports (SDRs). In the three years since the targets were introduced the use of oral reports has doubled – going from 27% of all reports to 59%, while SDRs have fallen dramatically from 22% to only 3%. In magistrates’ courts, in particular, the SDR is almost unheard of, representing less than 1% of all PSRs.

In investigating the impact of these changes with probation officers, we found some interesting messages. Firstly, and perhaps most surprisingly, the majority of practitioners we spoke to felt that the oral format was working well for the majority of cases. New arrangements with partner agencies such as police and social work departments to obtain background information and the “safer sentencing” focus on the issues pertinent to sentencing decisions were seen as working well, and both officers and sentencers valued the opportunity to discuss the report in the courtroom. However some long-standing officers did note that the limited recording of oral advice was undermining the traditional value of the PSR as a starting point for sentence planning.

Probation officers were more concerned about the reduction in SDRs and, in particular, whether FDRs were being used inappropriately in some complex or traumatic cases. They noted that the guidance around when to use an SDR was restrictive and reported that they felt discouraged from using their professional discretion to go against that guidance. The key challenge was seen as workload: while FDRs and SDRs were often delivered in a similar number of calendar days, courts staff were expected to complete an SDR with only a half day of work. Probation officers told us that working on this volume of difficult cases was leading to burnout in members of court teams and potentially undermining the quality of advice.

The content of pre-sentence reports 

The probation officers we spoke to offered a mixed set of views on the content of PSRs since the reforms. In terms of offender assessments, the consensus was that the system was working well – or at least as well as it ever had, given long-standing complaints around the suite of assessment tools in use. However, some did stress the difficulties of establishing a rapport with an offender in the short interval allowed for an oral report. 

There was more concern about the quality of recommendations of community sentences. Many of the officers we spoke to expressed real concern that they lacked the information about CRC services that they needed to be able to make detailed and robust proposals which can command the confidence of sentencers. This picture varied significantly across different CRCs however: some CRCs had provided expanded rate cards that offered detailed service specifications, while in other areas courts staff had never seen any rate card at all. Some officers also noted that the design of the Rehabilitative Activity Requirement (RAR) placed further limits on how far they could be specific about the way that an offender would be supported on a community sentence – a concern shared by many sentencers. 

Sentencers, in particular, also noted a fall in the use of treatment requirements in community orders. This is backed up by the statistics: the proportion of orders containing drug rehabilitation requirements and mental health treatment requirements has fallen by half since their peaks earlier this decade. In part, this is likely to be caused by the well-documented cuts to treatment budgets6. However, some practitioners also suggested that treatment requirements were being displaced by the RAR, either because it requires less pre-sentence assessment, or (less cynically) because it allows a better integration between treatment and other forms of support.

How can we improve pre-sentence reports? 

Our research suggests that while some areas are working well, recent policy changes have had some negative impacts on the delivery of pre-sentence reports which may be undermining sentencers’ trust in community sentences. Probation officers and sentencers who took part in our research have highlighted particular issues around the assessments of complex cases, the production of detailed recommendations for community sentences and the use of treatment requirements which all seem to have suffered. 

However, participants also highlighted innovations which they saw as having the potential to address these issues. Some of these focus directly on improving sentencing such as the Embedded CRC model in use at Teeside magistrates court where a CRC Probation Service Officer (PSO) is housed with the NPS court team to provide information on CRC service provision. Another promising example is the five-site Community Sentence Treatment Requirement Pilot which seeks to increase the use of those requirements via new resources for on-the-day assessment and enhanced provision in the community. 

Other strategies focus on improving sentencers’ broader knowledge of community sentences such as in Lincolnshire where the NPS and CRC have collaborated to provide magistrates with high quality training including opportunities to meet with a range of probation staff including former service users. Participants were also supportive of models of problem-solving courts where sentencers conduct regular reviews of offenders under probation supervision, which they felt could reduce reoffending as well as increase sentencer trust.

However, while we believe that these innovations can improve pre-sentence reports, we must observe two caveats. Firstly, many of these will require some investment. While the cost is likely to be less than the savings we could achieve through meaningful reductions in custody, we cannot pretend that improvement can be delivered for free. Secondly, many of these ideas are work-arounds to problems created by TR’s break-up of probation trusts. Repairing the damage to sentencer trust will be much easier if we use the opportunity of the end of the current round of CRC contracts to heal the rift in our probation service. 

You can sign up to receive a free copy of the report when it’s released at

Stephen Whitehead 
Head of Evidence and Data Centre for Justice Innovation

Monday 26 November 2018


I notice the latest Probation Institute magazine contains a 'personal view' by former civil servant and 'insider' David Faulkner. It strikes me as somewhat late in the day and a pipedream:- 


The government and the Labour Party have both instigated reviews of the probation service. No one would deny that change is urgently needed but the government certainly, and the Labour Party probably, will be looking for conclusions which fall conveniently within their own comfort zones. The situation calls for a more radical approach which takes account of the wider social and economic context. 

The reviews are taking place at a time of exceptional uncertainty about the United Kingdom’s future direction as a country, and for many people their prospects as individuals. The dividing lines are shifting between those who ‘belong’ and those who are part of the ‘other’, and between those who command authority and respect and those who do not. Identity is displacing class as an identifier in politics and social interaction. Old landmarks have disappeared and new ones have not yet taken their place. 

It has long been one of the principles of good government and good public management that decisions should be based on rational judgement, attention to evidence and respect for expertise, while decision-makers have at the same time to take account of how things look and feel. They have to pay attention to sensibilities, impressions and emotions. Governments have increasingly done so over the last 25 years, and yet ‘ordinary people’ have continued to feel neglected and overlooked, by the criminal justice system but also by government more generally. Brexit in Great Britain and Trump in the United States have been attributed to the ‘establishment’s’ failure to respond.

That failure is associated with three things. One is the increasing politicisation of government and public services, as party political advantage, political dogma and party management became confused with, or took the place of, the wider national interest. Another is the advance of neoliberalism and its substitution of metrics, targets, markets and contracts for professional judgement, public responsibility, public accountability and democratic control. The third is austerity whose effects on probation and prisons have now become all too visible. At the same time the boundaries of criminal justice have been extended into new areas of behaviour, beginning with anti-social behaviour orders, with serious implications for standards of justice. Probation has become essentially an agency of punishment, while the police have increasingly been expected to act as a social service when other services have been withdrawn or not available.

An effective and influential probation service is especially important in a situation of this kind. Probation works in those places where people’s lives are most precarious and their future most uncertain, and where the effects of social, economic and criminal justice policy come together. The country needs the service to do much more than punish offenders and coerce them into socially acceptable behaviour. Probation staff should encourage offenders to find opportunities and take advantage of them, to find a direction and purpose in their lives and to have some hope for the future. The service should establish or re-establish a place for itself in the communities which it serves, with a presence, an identity, a sense of belonging and an authority to make itself heard and felt in those communities. 

Staff should concern themselves not only with the offenders assigned to them but also with offenders’ families and the environment in which they have to make their lives; they should show that they are responsive to those who are affected by or concerned about crime or trouble in their communities or neighbourhoods, and that they have something to contribute. They should work closely with the courts, other services (and not only those which are thought of as part of the criminal justice system), local government and civil society. They should be out and about and not spend too much time in offices or looking at computer screens. 

Probation should not be thought of as being somehow apart from and nothing to do with ‘ourselves’, or with ordinary people going about their lives. The arrangements for probation’s management and accountability should reflect and facilitate that wider role, and should enable work to be arranged to suit local conditions as well as comply with national standards and objectives. The parameters for the service’s reform should therefore include:
  • Separation from the Prison Service; 
  • A local structure based on a suitable number of geographical areas; 
  • Accountability to probation authorities that are representative of local communities and stakeholders; 
  • Strong and independent professional leadership; 
  • The private sector’s role, if any, should be confined to specific, limited tasks commissioned by the new probation authorities.
David Faulkner

David Faulkner served in the Home Office from 1959 until 1992, being involved in probation’s expanding role in prison after-care in the 1960s and becoming Deputy Secretary for criminal justice, including probation, in 1982. He was Principal Private Secretary to James Callaghan and appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1985. He was subsequently a fellow of St John’s College, Oxford and an associate at the University of Oxford Centre for Criminology. He has written and lectured widely on how criminal justice policy is formulated and about the relationships between civil servants and elected politicians. His most recent book is Servant of the Crown: a civil servant’s story of criminal justice and public service reform, published in 2014 by Waterside Press. 

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Guest Blog 73

My Journey to Breaking the Cycle

Along my seven-year sentence I had several probation officers come and go, each with their own ideas on what I should and should not do sentence plan wise. To my horror a few months before my release date I was given a young inexperienced new school of thinking rookie who decided I would be put on MAPPA high risk and placed in an Approved Premises or Bail Hostel as we old timers call them. Despite my exemplary prison record and D category status for my last 12 weeks, having day release with no issues, this was the stance they thought was best for the publics protection.

The day of release came, and I walked myself down to reception one last time carrying a bag of letters and cards, received my £46 pounds discharge grant and that was it. I went straight down to Xxxxxx library to see a lady called Xxxxxx who worked for a council initiative to get people into work. We met in the prison library one day when I attended a jobs fayre for prisoners soon to be released. I had been doing a lot of construction related courses on day release with a charity, so it only made sense to approach Xxxxxxx for a construction job. After all, who else would employ an ex lag like me I thought?

Xxxxxx was shocked I had walked in with my prison bags before going to my approved premises, but I was determined to work so they were my first point of call. They told me to go to the hostel, unpack my few belongings and come see them the following day to look at different options for employment. I also had to attend probation, so I left, dropped my bags off at the bail hostel and headed to probation to meet my officer.

Again, my officer had been changed but this was not a bad thing as my latest officer was a veteran of probation managing high risk releases and lifers for years. They were not from this new breed of risk assessing 'can’t see the wood for the trees' new breed of probation officer, they was old school. I eyeballed the officer up and down, they had white hair and looked near retirement. They told me had never recalled anyone of their own doing and said could see I should not be classed as a high risk MAPPA based on the conversations of outlooks and attitudes we both had about my willingness to better myself.

I left that first meeting somewhat alleviated of the massive anxieties I had around getting recalled for next to nothing as had happened in the past. Some would send you back for being five minutes late to an appointment. This officer was different, and I liked them, gave me the breathing space I needed and the reassurance I was not treading on egg shells regarding a recall.

A few days after release Xxxxxxx directed me to a job screening for a Demolition specialist apprenticeship. I attended and was shortlisted to the final 5 from about 20 applicants by Xxxxxxx project as part of a Council initiative to get residents into work. I attended final interview in an ill-fitting suit from pre-prison days and got the job there and then due to my affiliation with the project who had close ties to the Developer. Probation were flexible, and I attended weekly sessions with my officer who step by step slowly took all the MAPPA risk markers off me rendering me low risk.

I made sure even though essentially a demolition labourer disguised as an apprentice, I worked hard and long hours, including Saturdays to keep me away from the awful Approved Premises where danger lurked behind every corner. I’ll give you an example, one day a plumber came to fix the loo at the AP, a resident walked into the bathroom and beat him to a pulp for no reason whatsoever. The poor guy left his van for weeks in the drive traumatised to return to work.

Living in this ill run hostel made me save and save until 10 months later I had enough to rent my own double room. My officer, upon seeing I was working and abiding to the rules allowed me to move and I was thrilled to have my own space albeit in a rough estate tower block on an infamous estate and in a flat share.

A year in to my apprenticeship my employer broke health and safety protocol damaging my wrist permanently. After mentoring gangs for them, going on video shoots about reformed characters and meeting MP’s, I was dropped like a stone and left unable to pay my rent. With a heavy heart I packed my belongings in a bag and dumped what I couldn’t carry as I was heading to Xxxxxx on a mega bus to stay on a friend’s sofa for a while to get back on my feet. I transferred probation and had a lovely lady, again old school.

Desperate for work, I applied for everything and anything including giving out leaflets. Unbeknownst to me my brother had called a new start up construction recruitment agency pretending to be me and arranged an interview. My brother is a good talker like me and I went along to the interview having never set foot in an office in my life. The employer hired me as a resourcer on £18k pa with 10p per hour bonus for every person I placed into a construction vacancy. I very quickly discovered a talent for sales and working 7.30am to 7pm at night I doubled my £18k with all my commission and 4 months later was offered a £5k pay rise and promotion to recruitment consultant, another promotion followed 3 months after that.

Probation saw me monthly at 6pm and I carried on for 18months making a name for myself in the business and building a busy desk and growing our brand and staff numbers from two of us to a team of six. I began to get headhunted and offers to jump ship and agreed to take a new job with a competitor with better pay and less hours as my fiancĂ©e and I had just had a little girl. I handed in my notice and kept quiet about where I was going and worked out my notice period, before it was leaked where I was going. So my once loving MD’s after trying to persuade me sacked me for being 10min late one morning due to train problems on my two-hour commute.

That was their way of getting out of paying my commissions earned and I went straight into my new job with our biggest competitor. Although verbally disclosing I had a record, my manager informed me I am a good chap and good at my job so keep it between me and him. One month in to my new job and fatherhood my old company blanket emailed that I was an ex prisoner to everyone in my company as well as our local competitors. I was immediately dismissed because nobody wanted me tied to their brand.

It was at this moment the Council had a Business Engagement Officer vacancy in their Work Match team which I attended the interview and got the job as a temp. My now wife and baby moved to a small dingy bedroom and I set to work in my new role. The general manager of my team was the very person who got me the demolition labourer/ apprentice job when I was released from prison. This time nobody could stitch me up and get me the sack because my employer knew my past and knew I had proved myself over the last two and a half years.

I quickly saved enough to rent a lovely place in leafy Xxxxxx and have now been taken on fixed term on a contract by the council. I often go into prisons to inspire the inmates that I have a email after two and a half years with no formal education and that employers are willing to help ex-offenders especially in my locality.

I help residents acquire employment, apprentice opportunities and work experience on major developments by working with developers under the section 106 clause in their contracts. Looking back two and a half years ago or a little bit longer I am amazed hard work, resilience and not giving up has got me this far. I have met some great people and made many good contacts.

Seven years in prisons was enough to wake me up and decide to choose life. It was not easy getting here but I got here by persistence and hunger, with a little bit of help from my beloved wife. If I can do 11 sentences and rack up 60 convictions spending half my life in prison and come out working in a business role for a major Borough, anyone can do it. My advice is never give up and when one door closes a better one will open.

Believe in yourself - you are capable of anything.


Tuesday 20 November 2018

Latest From Napo 182

Here we have an edited version of the latest blog post from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-

#Reunification – A meeting with Bob Neill MP

I have just returned from Parliament having met Justice Select Committee Chair Bob Neill, along with our National Chair Katie Lomas. It’s one more in a series of important engagements that the team and I have been undertaking since AGM. These have included meetings with Lord Ramsbotham and the Labour Police and Crime Commissioners, members of the Labour Justice Team, the Justice and Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group, National Audit Office and various professionally focused seminars.

These activities, along with our regular interface with our media contacts provide us with major opportunities to promulgate the reunification campaign as we enter the next stage. This is specifically designed to help you get our message across more effectively to all MP’s at this critical time especially those who hold influential positions on Parliamentary Committees.

The more we engage with HMPPS/MoJ sources and the more we hear ‘off the record’ comments from senior CRC leads, the more confidence we have that the Governments plans to re-marketise Probation are another ill-considered and desperate ploy to save political face no matter what the cost to the taxpayer and community safety.

Even without the current political chaos it is hard to see how the timetable for designing, tendering and awarding new CRC contracts can be achieved especially as there is a growing tide of opposition to this folly.


Members should hopefully have seen my letter to David Gauke that I sent across last week. This demanded that his Government make the necessary adjustments to current and prospective CRC contracts and agree to establish pay parity across the whole of Probation. I am about to write to CRC leads to encourage them to join the campaign too and we will publish these letters along with the responses

I expect our request to the SoSfJ will be seen as fanciful to say the least and will soon be at the bottom of his in tray while his attention and that of Rory Stewart remains focused on doing anything possible to avoid a General Election. I would be delighted to be proved wrong and hear that they are willing to meet with people who have a different perspective to their own.

Membership growing - so why not recruit a friend too?

Finally, it’s well worth mentioning that we have received a record number of applications to join Napo over the last month. While this has been boosted by new members from the NPS we have seen a notable rise from CRC staff, many of whom have told me that they have seen the value of joining a campaigning, principled union that speaks out with authority on the professional issues.

Look out for more news soon on the recruitment campaign and join our growing list of ‘Napo Activ8rs.’

Ian Lawrence

Saturday 17 November 2018

Latest From Napo 181

Mention was made yesterday of the latest Napo magazine mailout that contains the following:-

Gauke asked to tackle two tier probation pay system

Dear David,

Pay in the Probation Service

Just over four years ago, the then Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling implemented the Governments ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ programme.

You will of course be aware of Napo’s ongoing campaign to seek reunification of the Probation Service; this has evolved in light of the lessons learned from what has been a highly controversial outsourcing policy that has been the subject of considerable scrutiny by Parliament and widespread criticism by the Probation Inspectorate.

I understand that the Government will be submitting its response to the ‘Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence’ consultation exercise in the New Year, and my team and I would welcome the opportunity to engage with you and explain our perspective, before you finalise your thinking.

A two-tier pay system in Probation

Last week the three Probation unions resoundingly accepted the pay offer for staff working within the NPS. This resulted from the constructive engagement over the summer between Unions and HMPPS and NPS Officials, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and Under-Secretary Rory Stewart for your support in securing a respectable pay remit from the Treasury.

Whilst all the unions are pleased that a negotiated settlement proved possible, which included a clear commitment to jointly work on a competency framework and a Licence to Practice, you will not be surprised to hear that this success has brought with it some understandable demands and considerable resentment from the members we represent in the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies. They are giving me a very clear message that pay equity should now be applied across both arms of the Probation service.

In light of this, the Probation Unions are already engaging with CRC owners to seek their support for our pay equity campaign. Whilst we have received a mixture of responses so far, it is evident that the NPS pay settlement is causing your CRC providers serious concern about their ability to maintain even minimum standards of service delivery within the remaining life of their contracts.

Moreover, and as we predicted would happen some time ago, we are seeing clear evidence of CRC staff starting to explore (or already applying for) the many unfilled vacancies that exist within the NPS.

Napo has made publicly clear why we believe additional funding should be made available to resolve the ‘two-tier’ pay situation that has now been established.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to explain to our members why half a billion pounds has been found to sustain the CRC contractors, but pay awards (such as have been made) over and above the 1% contractual entitlement are vastly inferior to the NPS pay settlement.

In the longer term, your intention to terminate the current CRC contracts and ‘re-marketise’ service provision under the guise of 10 new contract package areas, looks to be simply unsustainable.

Unless there is to be a consistent pay and reward regime across both arms of the service with adequate financial provision being made available to enable prospective contractors to match NPS pay rates, it is difficult to see how future providers will be able to retain existing staff or recruit to the required delivery standards.

Irrespective of our obvious differences over the merits of privatisation, there is a serious danger that unless steps are taken to bring about equity on pay, then service provision will suffer further and inevitably bring with it a corresponding impact on community safety.

I hope it will be possible to arrange a long overdue meeting between us where we can seek to address the important issues that I have set out above for your consideration.

I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely

General Secretary


Approved Premises update

At yesterday’s meeting of the NPS/Trade Union Engagement Forum, we received reports on the status of the current Double Waking Night Cover outsourcing and the plans for the roll out of the NPS AP Rotas.

DWNC contracts Sodexo and OCS

The view from NPS is that there has been an improvement in delivery from both providers but that ‘hotspots’ exist across 30 sites in the OCS contract mainly in South East and South West England, and long standing difficulties within the Sodexo contract in the North West.

Whilst the statistics show 90% against the delivery target and appear to be an improvement on previous reports, the unions were concerned to hear that the provision of temporary cover for some shifts due to the failure to provide permanent staff is reliant on the services of yet another recruitment agency.

We also continue to receive reports from members about unreasonable expectations around shift cover and some worrying issues about the suitability of some staff who have been sent to cover shifts by recruitment agencies.

Napo raises some serious questions

The unions have posed a number of questions around contract failures, the invoking of penalties, comparative costs and who will be responsible in the event of a serious health and safety incident. We have been promised a response to these points and these will inform our intention to raise the issue of the DWNC contracts yet again with the Secretary of State.

New AP Rotas

Unions have once again expressed our concern following news that NPS divisions have been instructed to finish rolling out the new AP Rotas that were part of the E3 implementation programme.

Some time ago, the unions reached an agreement with the NPS that discussion about the implementation of AP rotas should take place at NPS Divisional level and that there would be a post-implementation review (PIR) on those areas where the rota had been introduced to help inform future roll out.

Whilst we still await an approach as to the PIR, it is now clear that consultation has been patchy and that the rota requirements are proving to be unpopular.

We will include this situation in our future contact with Ministers.


Unions express concern over CRC-NPS secondment arrangements

Napo, along with our sister unions UNISON and GMB, have registered major concerns following the news of arrangements to transfer staff on secondment from some Community Rehabilitation Companies to undertake NPS work due to the perilous financial position of the parent companies.

Whilst the unions obviously wish to explore all opportunities to avoid the possibility of redundancies within CRCs, the Unions have not been consulted centrally over the intended arrangements, which we are claiming should have been held under the auspices of the National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement that was underwritten by Ministers at the time of Transforming Rehabilitation.


In light of this unsatisfactory situation, the Probation unions formally registered our misgivings about the secondment arrangements, some of which have already commenced, at yesterday’s meeting of the NPS/Trade Union Engagement Forum.

Below are the key issues that we raised and on which we are demanding answers and urgent further discussion as we attempt to protect our member’s interests.
PI 50/2014 which expired in June this year, appears to be the basis of the secondment arrangements and whilst it is appreciated that there has been some local dialogue between CRC providers and unions, we would have expected central discussions to have taken place.

The failure to engage with the trade unions over the appropriate rates of pay for seconded staff who will be undertaking equal work of equal value is obviously our primary concern. We have pointed out the fact that CRC staff will be sitting next to NPS colleagues who will soon be in receipt of superior rates of pay as well as Agency Staff whose hourly rate is also likely to be much higher than those paid to CRC employees.

We have also questioned the potential impact on NPS Staff who may have suffered an unwelcome transfer under E3 from their previous location or who may be awaiting a Transfer request.

What happens next?

Senior NPS management have been left in no doubt that this is another example of inadequate consultation. We have also made the point that when CRCs previously made redundancies the NPS turned down the Union’s request for staff to be taken back in, but are happy to now agree secondment arrangements ‘on the cheap.’

Our National Officials will be advising the relevant CRC providers of our position while we await a response to these points, and especially the demand for Pay equity for CRC staff during the period of their secondment period whilst working within the NPS.

Advice to CRC members

As always, it is a matter of individual choice as to whether you decide to take up a secondment opportunity in the NPS on the terms being offered. Napo has an obligation to point out these important issues, especially our demand for pay parity for CRC staff undertaking work for another employer, albeit on a temporary basis.

Napo will keep you posted on developments once we have more news.

Friday 16 November 2018

Holiday Blues

The astute amongst the regular readership will have noticed that the blog has not been functioning normally of late, the main reason being that I've been out of the country on holiday. I had hoped to keep tabs on things whilst away, as previously, but this has not proved technically easy and upon reflection, I found I actually wasn't bothered any more.

Now back home and sat on the sofa at two in the morning unable to sleep, I'm coming to realise that one result of taking a break has been to take stock of things and begin to decide if I really do want to carry on committing so much time and energy to a cause and venture that is so clearly lost and running out of steam? Contributions and information sources are drying up, ironically at the very time that media approaches are once again increasing in response to what I'm told is a routine lack of interest and engagement from Napo.

For the first time since qualifying as a probation officer my union membership has lapsed and rather worryingly, I don't think I'm minded to renew it. Despite regular suggestions that I'm anti-Napo, this has never been the case, but there comes a time when we must each individually consider if it really is worth the hassle, especially when the outfit is clearly dysfunctional and devoid of insight, let alone any sign of a willingness to change. I'm sure my absence from future AGMs will be well-received in certain quarters.  

The recent discussions on Facebook regarding my selected re-publishing of anonymised contributions was no great surprise either and has served to remind me of the widespread and toxic climate of fear, bullying and intimidation prevalent through much of the profession post-TR. It's regrettable, but in view of the concerns expressed such valuable insights into the true situation will have to remain 'secret' and not available to the media and public - a situation that I'm sure will please many within the MoJ, HMPPS, CRC management and Napo to name but a few.

I'm conscious that since starting out people increasingly use smart phones to access the blog, rather than laptops and this medium really isn't conducive for long reads. The number and quality of contributions has changed considerably too with many people migrating to 'secret' Facebook groups, in many ways replicating the now defunct Napo Forum pages so disliked by the union hierarchy. 

So, where is this all leading to? To be honest I'm not sure but I suspect the answer is a winding down and a personal gradual acceptance that nothing more can be done to stop probation's decline because there simply isn't a shared willingness or effective wherewithal to do otherwise. Actually I doubt there's even an acknowledgement of there being a problem in certain quarters given the increasingly prevalent 'new' breed of officer. But at least we've catalogued the journey, provided the audit trail and given some mutual support to each other along the way. 

I'll continue to publish as and when I feel the situation warrants, but I suspect less frequently from here on in. As always, contributions are most welcome and I'll end by highlighting this article from the latest edition of the Probation Journal:-    

Travelling in the wrong direction? A critical commentary on the consultation paper Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence


The Ministry of Justice’s Consultation Paper – Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence – launched by Justice Secretary David Gauke in July 2018, represents a revisionist view of the recent history of the probation service in which many of its assertions are incoherent, disingenuous and disconnected from the lived realities of both those who offend and local communities having to deal with the impact of austerity on local services. In addition, the consultation process itself is disingenuous in that it presents the failure of the Transforming Rehabilitation initiative as one of technical oversights and misjudgements that can be put right through a series of relatively minor adjustments. Answers to the 17 consultation questions, however insightful and helpful they may be, will do nothing to deal with the underlying difficulties of Transforming Rehabilitation.

Friday 9 November 2018

More CRC Redundancies

Seen on Facebook:-

Devastating news for colleagues in Warwickshire & West Mercia CRC more redundancies announced with those affected leaving 2 weeks before Christmas. Colleagues in NPS will receive back dated pay rise at the same time colleagues working in the same location loosing their jobs.

Are they frontline staff? Short of staff in London. 

PSOs, admin and a couple of resource officers.

Maybe I’ll do some agency work then.

I might join you!

Hounslow is lovely.

Loads of vacancies in Slough.

Yes 2 PSOs.

That’s in my office. Not sure how many in the others.

How awful. We need more staff not less.

It’s my office too. It’s 3 x case admin, 4.5 PSO’s and 2 x UPW.

That’s for the whole CRC, not just one office.

Omg that’s awful. Oxfordshire NPS are desperate for staff - all grades. Deffo should apply x

Need to know the full extent of this.

It’s about 12 FTE across CRC no more than 14

Not surprising - it was made very clear the probation part was losing money over a year ago- when it was announced the contacts would be ended early all the signs were that cuts were on the cards! They’re cutting their losses and will get out!! There was never any thought for staff!!

I am told that the Union reps were instructed to work from home today, that all (other) staff were instructed to be at work for an important meeting, but when arrived given individual interviews. That the redundancies will be selected on the basis of disciplinary record, sickness record, skillset. 40 days process, so just in time for Christmas the absolute bastards. One member of staff telephoned direct to Xxxxx holiday.

I just read the ‘script’ about the consultation period by my ACO.

I am so sorry Xxxxxxxx. I am sure they are following the rules/law, but it is still cruel and rotten treatment.

Also that staff were told that they were not allowed to have a Union rep with them to these meetings.

I had to deliver the message to some colleagues and can categorically say that wasn’t the case in my LDU . Can’t speak for other parts of CRC.

Hi Xxxxxx. I am getting this third hand, so you will be much better informed. Can you say what is happening?

That is bloody outrageous.

I wouldn’t be surprised if union reps were told they couldn’t attend some meetings in some parts of CRC. Those affected were told by an ACO in each office those not told by SPO. Industrial relations in CRC rock bottom with no sign of improvement anytime soon.

CRC are not going to agree to pay rise are they. 

Not a snowball in hells chance. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better (if it ever does). The NPS are gradually turning into what used to be Probation Trusts whilst CRCs are dying on their knees.

I knew that this wouldn’t happen despite the blurb about the NPS getting theirs and then to get the CRC to match it.

How do u mean about NPS turning into trusts?

CRCs won’t get anything like what NPS have got anytime soon regardless of what NAPO say.

We were right then ... I’m a pessimist by nature by I guessed there wasn’t a snow balls chance in hell.

Bloody awful.

I am so fed up with this all - staff are treated so appallingly. It really makes my blood boil.

This is how privatisation works. They make profits by cutting. Then the cut service is the new standard for the next round of tendering. Repeat until all you have is a person on minimum wage based in a porta loo.

What on earth is going on. We all need to be better informed. Some of us are single parents with mortgages. Why has NAPO fought for 6% for NPS and not the same for CRC when we all pay the same union subscription

We are being told we are not allowed union reps or work colleagues in with us for any except the last consultation meeting. Is that correct? I feel I’d really appreciate the back up of someone else helping to clarify what is said.

This is appalling.

It feels like divide and conquer.

Yes definitely.

Following the announcements today the Mercia branch issued an email to members. We have been taking steps this afternoon which have included direct contact with senior management and will be sending out another email advising members tomorrow morning. 

This will answer your questions regarding consultation Xxxx.

Will this information also be sent to staff's personal emails for those who are on leave for some weeks such as Xxxxxxx and others who are on sick leave?

Yes if those are the emails that members have registered with Napo - we will also put the information on the Mercia Facebook page.

Brilliant, am pretty sure you have my email.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Latest From Napo 180

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


As I have reported in previous weeks, the so-called consultation on ‘strengthening Probation and building confidence’ is nothing but a sham, and won’t change the intended direction of travel which is to create a false market and merely sell off the whole shambles under a different regional structure.

This is what I have been saying at any number of events, including meetings of the Justice and Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group and last week’s gathering of Labour Police and Crime Commissioners which was also attended by Lord Ramsbotham who is heading up the Labour Party’s own review of the future of Probation which we are obviously linked into.

Meanwhile, the unions have made their position clear in the initial exchanges with senior MoJ and HMPPS leaders where we are in the process of ensuring clear conduits are up and running about the Government’s plans for Probation and how we are going to handle the transition of work in Wales back to the NPS.

I will be issuing more details about all of this as soon as we have more substantive news, but meanwhile I thought you should see the agreed statement that the unions have insisted will be included in all minutes of meetings around the intended ‘remarketisation’ exercise.

"Napo/ UNISON/GMB request that the following statement appear at the start of the minutes of this and all subsequent meetings of the ‘Strengthening probation, building confidence,’ Engagement Forum.

That whilst Napo/UNISON/GMB are prepared to take part in the Engagement Forum meetings, Napo/UNISON/GMB wish to make it explicitly clear that we are in total opposition to the ‘re-marketisation’ of the CRC contracts as proposed in the ‘Strengthening Probation, building confidence consultation launched by the Secretary of State for Justice. Moreover, we reserve our rights to take such steps as we deem appropriate (including the possibility of legal action), in support of our policy to achieve the reunification of a Probation service under public control and ownership."

Saturday 3 November 2018

No Negativity Here!

Seen on Facebook:-

Hi all! Had an interesting email today about midyear appraisals and how being negative can get you a needs improvement rating. Has any one else had this or is it just our AP area? I would be really interested to hear how negativity is rated/scored and if there are guidelines outlining what being negative actually is.

Oh interesting. I don't know, but I can give a whirl and see what happens. I do think that political/union action could be more inventive. Strikes are costly to the individual and get workedaround. A collective undertaking to "be negative in appraisals" might make a point and be actually quite empowering.

I'm just concerned that this is just another passive/aggressive email. I don't really get how negativity can be judged against personal standards. If the union were involved in setting the bench mark then where do I find the criteria?

With the new proposed pay structure (year 3) I wonder if a negative would = no pay rise???

But if you were top of the pay scale would you get one anyway...?

I'm not sure from my understanding year 3 structure lacks content. Who knows and that would make me apprehensive for voting for it but that is easy for me to say as a temp. The reality as a contract member of staff is I would probably bite their hand off. x

They have already been trying to link appraisals to pay! Last year I didn't receive my increment and when I queried this, was told that it was because I had received a 'needs improvement' on my appraisal! I asked for a copy of the policy which says a needs improvement score leads to withholding of an increment and Shared Services said I would have to ask the employer. Put it this way, my LDU head knew nothing of the sort and nor did any other manager I spoke to. I eventually got my increment because it transpired that the score had been entered in error anyway (I should think so!) but something very fishy was going on.

That’s appalling the Service are breaching policies.

I know someone who refuses to do them altogether.

Can you refuse to do them?

You can refuse to participate in the process. It doesn't help you but, technically, unless they can show how you can improve *other* than not being negative about the process, they cannot just say Needs Improvement. A Needs Improvement requires them to provide actual steps needing to be taken to show improvement, either through Line Management work or via the Performance Improvement process. Things like extra training, improved work, etc. The real problem is that there is a government "policy" that no more than 15% maximum of your workforce can get Excellent and no more than 15% can get Needs Improvement. If you exceed either, then an outside person/group has to come and see what the Line Manager is doing wrong. So, even if everyone is doing fine and no one "needs improvement", management will try to find some way to get some people onto Needs Improvement. Whole thing is ridiculous.

Culture of fear. Their ruthless efficiency is an abject illusion. The phones were down in my NPS office today because the bill hadn't been paid. The creaking weight of the bureaucracy of this is giving way, but terrified middle managers are trying to keep the show on the road.

Yes I got my first need to improve after 16 years!! Apparently I had too many complaints you couldn’t make it up!

That happened to one of our people here in Xxxxxxxxx as well - nothing official about the complaints and no suggestion of how to improve... Just making up the numbers.

I thought it sounded a bit fishy. I get the feeling if you are too negative it’s twisted around...

They need to show that negativity is affecting the qualify of your work and they rarely can. They just need something to move people out of Good or even Excellent because the numbers have to work out.

We always say in our office that the more complaints you get (from offenders), the more efficiently you’re doing your job!!

Yes I’ve heard that too.

And what about if you a trade union rep and are highlighting issues of concern?

Negativity it seems is being anti-corporate and standing up for TU rights.

I’m confused. Where does it say in the appraisal policy that you have to have 15% of staff needing improvement? I know that only so many people can have excellent but apart from that, everyone should be in good unless there are capability issues. I’ve never heard of anyone getting needs improvement.

I was shocked by the above suggestion and as an SPO have never been told to do this and as such I spoke with HR regarding this. This is an old myth that is not based on fact. There is no policy/guidance/suggestion/nudge from ACO anywhere that no more than 15% can get outstanding or needs improvement. It is not a policy or practice within any civil service department and definitely not in the NPS. The figure may reflect the general distribution of ratings across the organisation given that you will always have lower figures at the extremes of an assessment, but it is not pre-determined or driven by any policy. Hope that helps.

Thanks. Hopefully that applies to the needs improvement rating as well ie there’s no pressure on managers to have 15% in this category either.

Especially not!! Having a needs improvement is not something any manager I know enjoys giving or ever wants to give. There are no targets when it comes to SPDRs (other than they need competing.

It must vary from area to area - so much for consistency? Whilst absolutely not, no-one in my area is pressured to have a specific % as outstanding or needs improvement, we are advised this is the anticipated distribution of scoring and when we meet to discuss our provisional scores, they are compared to the expected distribution. And within my own area, roughly that proportion are assessed as outstanding or needs improvement.

Scary stuff.

What do you make of my comment above in my reply to Xxxxx? I not only (erroneously) got a Needs Improvement but SS withheld my increment because of it!

Bloody hell that’s shocking. It is in our existing terms and conditions that increments can be withheld if you are on capability but I’ve never come across it being used and there’s a long process to get to that point. Nothing SSCL does surprises me glad it was sorted for you. 

I know! Not only was I not on capability but I was on maternity leave when the SPDR rating was applied - which is contra policy because all staff on maternity leave must be given a notional 'good' rating!

Can we ask for something in writing from the NPS about what constitutes negativity? What are the 'criteria' for being assessed as being 'negative' by our employers?

I think it’s called the Thought Police. Orwell wasn’t far off! Just a little premature! My whole team should need improvement if that’s the case! Appraisals are total nonsense!

I’ve just seen this thread - my concern is that negativity or “an attitude that is not hopeful or enthusiastic” is just that - an attitude! Apart from the fact that it seems attitudes and emotions are now being policed! It could then be used to control a worker who is criticising NPS bureaucracy - i.e it’s over complicated excessive procedures - being an active Napo member; or being fed up with high caseloads etc.

Friday 2 November 2018

More HMI Reports

Two HMI reports were published yesterday, and here we have the press release on West Yorkshire CRC;-

West Yorkshire CRC - weaknesses needing improvement but motivated leaders and staff eager to learn

Staff in West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) were found by inspectors to be well led and striving to do well but they struggled with heavy caseloads, ICT and infrastructure problems beyond their control, and some gaps in skills.

The weaknesses at the CRC, which supervised 8,136 medium and low risk offenders at the time of the inspection in July 2018, led HM Inspectorate of Probation to rate it overall as “Requiring Improvement.”

Aspects of its case supervision were assessed as inadequate. A key weakness was found in work to reduce the risk of harm to potential victims from those under supervision. Inspectors noted instances where, in domestic abuse cases, some staff members failed to identify the potential risks posed to children.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing a report on the inspection, said: “A key area of practice that requires prompt improvement is managing risk of harm. Case planning in general is not sufficiently robust and reviews of work need to be improved across the board.”

However, despite noting some poor assessments, Dame Glenys also concluded the leadership of the CRC, part of a consortium of CRCs led by Interserve, was eager to learn and improve as it faced some major challenges:
  • Leaders and staff had done much to develop their organisation, “in straitened circumstances, but more needs to be done to improve service delivery.” The report noted: “Staff and managers are passionate about providing quality services but many report being overwhelmed by workload pressures and being weary of organisational change.”
  • Much of the CRC’s operating model is embedded but some key aspects (such as the organisation’s estate strategy and information and communication technology strategy) are not fully implemented. These compound the already demanding workload pressures on staff. The report noted that for full implementation to be achieved, the Ministry of Justice must promptly ensure that Interserve can use the Strategic Partner Gateway, or a suitable alternative, that will enable the various systems to work together.
  • Some case managers have gaps in their knowledge and skills, and this limits their ability to deliver good-quality, personalised services. The management has begun to address these deficiencies.
Among positive findings, Dame Glenys noted that partnership working was strong. Specialist services, such as services for women, were in place and Through the Gate work with those leaving prison, as well as supervision of unpaid work imposed by courts, showed promise.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“This CRC’s senior leaders understand the challenges faced by the organisation. They promote a culture of learning from mistakes and they actively respond to findings from audits and independent inspection. Consequently, we expect that the findings and recommendations in this report will assist their efforts to address practice shortfalls and improve the quality of the services provided.”


The second is the result of the first new-style of inspection report and perhaps those of a cynical disposition would not be surprised that overall it's quite positive. Having said that, it confirms how TR has created staff shortages everywhere - and we tragically know what the consequences of that can be - and there's a marked unwillingness to use the services of the local CRC and the infamous 'rate card'. 

South West South Central division - good performance overall despite staff shortages

The South West South Central division of the National Probation Service, supervising nearly 13,000 offenders from Berkshire to Cornwall, was found by inspectors to be performing to a good standard overall.

In the first report in new programme of inspections of the NPS divisions, Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said the division was effectively led with robust systems to monitor performance.

However, publishing the first report in new programme of inspections of the National Probation Service (NPS) divisions, Dame Glenys said that a shortage of staff was having an impact on the division.

“The number of probation staff has fallen short of the target since 2015; at the same time the National Probation Service workload has increased. The division has a clear delivery plan to address staff shortfalls, but this had not yet had the necessary impact and, as a result, caseloads in some parts of the division remained high.” The report noted that the problems were most acute in the part of the division bordering London, where vacancies remained unfilled despite the offer of higher salaries.

Inspectors found the division has recently focused on the quality of its assessments of individuals, reflecting the principle that establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with those who are supervised is at the heart of all probation work.

Dame Glenys added: “We found outstanding results in this aspect of its work. The planning of supervision was good, and focused on reducing reoffending and keeping others safe.” Inspectors noted, though, that “contingency plans”, spelling out how to respond to any heightened risk of harm to others, should have been more robust.

The division provided sufficient information to courts to assist in sentencing and a good service to victims who had opted into the victim contact scheme.

There were, however, some shortcomings. The delivery of supervision did not focus enough on addressing factors related to offending, and not enough attention was paid to keeping individuals’ progress under review. Some interventions were working well but the division was not making full use of all services provided by the Community Rehabilitation Companies in its areas.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“This division is performing to a good standard overall. I hope that our findings and recommendations enable it to do better still, although we see that, in some matters, improvement is dependent on centrally driven policies and support.”

Thursday 1 November 2018

Latest From Napo 179

I've just noticed that the last time I featured a blog post from the Napo General Secretary was in August, which probably says as much about the content as it does about my editorial skills. Anyway, here we have the latest blog post, somewhat belatedly referencing a year-old report from the National Audit Office and evidence from the Magistrates Association that's several months old:-

Sodexo hit the panic button on pay

Just as was predicted at our recent AGM, the news of the current NPS pay offer has spooked CRC owners who are understandably worried that they will lose staff across to better paying employers, (well actually, the NPS to be precise). News reaches me of NPS vacancy pages on the internet receiving record numbers of hits, and examples already in of CRC staff voting with their feet despite taking a hit on continuity of service and deciding that reaching their pay maximum in a lot less time than they would have, is simply well worth it.

This is another example of the "pay war" that now blights the fragmented probation landscape and it's yet another scenario that Napo predicted ages ago once the idiots who perpetrated TR created a "free market".

Sodexo are of course one of the two big players in CRC world and the size of their organisation means that they could easily match the going pay rate (subject to the NPS offer being accepted by the unions). This is the same Sodexo who I remember asking us in the spirit of partnership some months ago to keep them posted on developments on NPS pay. Not unreasonably the unions asked for an urgent meeting to consider the implications of the NPS offer, but heard last week that this employer has just gone and done what it has always done (remember the great EVR avoidance scandal) and imposed a sub-standard award. Presumably, they hope that their employees will be so grateful to receive anything that they will not shout too loudly.

Cynical does not even begin to describe it. By the way, I am told that there are quite a few vacancies in the NPS within some of the areas where Sodexo is operating.

Magistrates join in to heap pressure on Ministers

Below are a few key headlines from the excellent response by the Magistrates Association to the MoJ "Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence" consultation that sits well against some of our key objectives in our reunification campaign.

To see the full document click HERE - but a number of key themes catch the eye:

Continuity is viewed as vital for successful rehabilitation and release. The MA stresses that continuity of the Probation Officer from sentence to release can improve desistance and help prisoners resettle. This runs contrary to the plans under the OMiC review to diminish the role of the community based practitioner.

It’s also suggested that Benches must write a report every time they sentence someone to 3 months custody or less which is especially supportive of our own and others campaigning to bring about the reduction or abolition of short term sentences.

Following on from one of the key aspects that featured at our professional session at AGM this year, the MA also says that Probation must provide bespoke interventions for vulnerable and minority groups such as women and BAME clients. Given the reluctance or inability of CRC providers to invest in this area it is something that the state must move to provide if it is serious in trying to move the recommendations of the Lammy Review into real actions.

On the need for a Licence to Practice, the Magistrates support the concept and point out that it should be mandatory for all providers, saying that it needs to be an assurance indicator of quality for the CRCs .

So does the NAO

The National Audit Office is another independent body who monitors the use of public money by our elected politicians. It never stops short of telling it like it is in terms of its findings about which particular drain the taxpayers money has gone down, and yet again it has come up trumps in identifying the mysteries of the bung money that has gone the way of the underperforming CRCs.


Coming as it does on the back of a raft of HMI Probation reports, and the strongly worded rebuke letter from Bob Neill and the JSC to David Gauke’s consultation, it is even more incredible that anyone seriously believes that a new round of CRC contracts will repair the damage.

Senedd pitches in on #reunification

Seems like it’s a long queue then, as news reaches me of the debate in last week’s plenary session at the Welsh Assembly where the Government called Probation a “national embarrassment” but its staff “heroic” as the Senedd debated the future of probation in Wales.

The decision to put Offender Management work back to the NPS is obviously welcome but anger over the apparent plans to leave interventions and programmes out there to some other bidder is as unpopular in Wales at is this side of the border.

Ian Lawrence


This from Napo News online:-

The Welsh government called probation a “national embarrassment” but its staff “heroic” as the Senedd debated the future of probation in Wales this week.

On 23rd October the Welsh Government debated the future of probation in the context of the new proposed model for Wales announced earlier this summer. Napo Cymru, and in particular Su McConnel, have worked tirelessly to keep the Senedd up to date on Napo’s position, campaigns and the view of Napo Cymru. With devolution becoming an increasingly debated topic, and particularly the devolution of justice to the Welsh government this was a well-attended and interesting debate.

Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for local government and public services, said that the Welsh government acknowledged that the probation service was in “chaos” around the split and was failing to protect victims. The debate focused on what has gone wrong but also on the importance of the Welsh government being involved from the outset of any future design for the service.

Leanne Wood, former probation officer, former leader of Plaid Cymru and member of the National Assembly said that probation had diminished to the point where offenders have not been monitored and public safety had been reduced with tragic consequences. She cited the murder of Conner Marshall, whose mother Nadine has campaigned alongside Napo about the dangers of TR and the impact of poor quality CRC case management. Leanne agree with Napo Cymru that to shoe horn probation into a market driven model will and has failed.

“Introduction of a profit element into the management of offender’s risk is obscene and should never have been considered in the first place”, she said. She also went on to highlight that staff have been treated appallingly in recent years.

Other Assembly members also raised the impact on staff. Julie Morgan quoted Napo Cymru and their briefings on a demoralised workforce. She called for a need to rebuild staff confidence and trust and pays tribute to officers who have struggled heroically in an impossible regime.

So strong is the Welsh government’s determination to take probation out of the private sector, even UKIP were onside in the debate. With Wales facing a very different model to England in the new round of contracts, Napo Cymru with national support will continue to lobby the Senedd on a unified public probation service. The future of probation in Wales is starting to look promising.

Tania Bassett, National Official