Friday 28 December 2018

A Sad Inevitability 2

With little real news around, I see probation gets a mention in today's Guardian:-

Decline in community sentencing blamed on probation privatisation

Report says courts have lost trust in non-custodial orders being carried out properly

A sharp decline in the use of community sentences is due to trust breaking down between judges, magistrates and the probation service after privatisation, according to a study by a justice thinktank. Since 2011, there has been a 24% fall in the number of non-custodial sentences imposed in England and Wales at a time when Scottish courts are using them far more frequently.

A report by the Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) blames the decrease chiefly on disruption caused by changes introduced by Chris Grayling when he was justice secretary. Those changes split the former probation service into privately operated community rehabilitation companies (CRC) and a residual National Probation Service (NPS), which only deals with high-risk offenders.

Judges and magistrates remain largely unaware about what happens after they hand down a community sentence, the report, entitled Renewing Trust, says. Few of them witness the progress of, and compliance with, court orders. Many on the bench still want to use community sentences, recognising them as a vital option, says the report. “It is simply that their trust in them has been dented recently, largely by reforms imposed by policymakers on hard-working probation practitioners in both the NPS and CRCs.”

At his annual press conference two weeks ago, the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, acknowledged recent difficulties. “There were very profound problems in the delivery of the monitoring and implementation of community sentences for some time and … as a result, judges did lose confidence in it,” he said.

“It was simply that it became clear that many people were not complying with the orders, were breaching the orders, and little, if anything, was happening … The Ministry of Justice has been working hard with those who deliver community sentences and that problem is being resolved and so the confidence of sentences both in magistrates courts and crown courts is increasing.”

The CJI report found the number of drug rehabilitation and mental heath treatment requirements being issued by the courts had fallen by more than half from peaks earlier in the decade. A shortage of funding for treatment in community places was also blamed.

Phil Bowen, the director of the CJI, said: 

“Despite the best efforts of practitioners on the ground, our report shows that the trust of sentencers in community sentences is fraying. While sentencers still see community sentences as a vital option, the combination of cuts to justice budgets and the government’s poorly implemented privatisation reforms to probation means that their trust in probation’s ability to deliver them has been dented over the past six years.”

Commenting on the report, John Bache, the national chair of the Magistrates’ Association, said: 

“We share [this report’s] concerns about magistrates’ confidence in community sentences … There is an urgent need to ensure that effective community sentences are made available in every area of the country. Sentencers should also be given opportunities to review the progress made by offenders on community sentences. This would enable magistrates to give community sentences with confidence, knowing that they will help offenders to turn their lives around.”

Monday 24 December 2018

Happy Christmas 2018

Woolworth (UK): Have a Cracking Christmas: 1981

Things seemed much simpler back in the day - make your own beer, pop in a casssette, dab on some denim and hope you were going to get that GKN screw selection box! Just look at the size of the Quality Street tin back in 1981 and of course there was still cracknell in the red wrapper! According to this found on the internet, quite a few favourites have gone over the years:-
  • Brazil (the original 'Purple One' with Brazil nut, replaced with hazelnut version)
  • Chocolate Strawberry Cream (now replaced with Strawberry Delight)
  • Chocolate Toffee Cup (now replaced with Caramel Swirl)
  • Hazelnut Cracknell (red wrapper)
  • Hazelnut Eclair
  • Rolo (Not to be confused with later Chocolate Toffee Cup which had a darker wrapping)
  • Coconut Eclair (Green Wrapper)
  • Chocolate Nut Toffee Cream
  • Fudge (Purple wrapper)
  • Malt Toffee (replaced with toffee deluxe as a "new" flavour)
  • Toffee Deluxe (brown wrapper, similar in size and shape to the Coconut. Do not confuse with with later versions.)
  • Milk Chocolate Round (now replaced with Milk Choc Block in green wrapper)
  • Peanut Cracknell (blue wrapper)
  • Coffee Cream (brown wrapper, same size and shape as the strawberry cream)
  • Almond Octagon (purple wrapper)
  • Vanilla Octagon
  • Gooseberry Cream (green wrapper light green fondant with a touch of Gooseberry Preserve covered in milk chocolate)
  • Apricot Delight (blue wrapper, square chunk, apricot flavored jelly covered in milk chocolate)
  • Toffee Square (metallic pink wrapper, a small square of very hard toffee)
  • Chocolate Truffle (brown square chunk, a soft truffle filling covered in milk chocolate)
  • Montelimar Nougat
  • Fruits of the Forest Creme (pale purple wrapper)
Thanks for reading and contributing over the last year. Hope you have a Cracking Christmas! 

Sunday 23 December 2018

Latest From Napo 184

A Christmas message from your National Chair and General Secretary

As this year draws to a close we reflect on what has been another hugely challenging 12 months for the Union and our members across the 24 employers where we are represented.


2018 saw a welcome outcome to the long awaited NPS pay negotiations where our work with our sister unions and some positive engagement with senior HMPPS management secured an agreement on pay modernisation which saw the highest rises anywhere in the public sector in 2018 and significant improvements to pay progression. We have also signed off a new negotiating structure for the NPS which we expect to provide better outcomes for members.


The NPS pay deal, while being important in finally addressing the problem of long pay scales and inequality in pay, inevitably caused our CRC members to ask when they could expect to achieve pay parity. Now we have begun the process of targeting other employers and we have written to all 21 CRC Chief Executives, seeking urgent engagement to explore how they can join us to lobby the MoJ to make the additional resources available to replicate the NPS pay deal.

Some CRC owners have already signalled that they are happy to work with us in common cause. Over recent weeks some CRC owners have returned to the negotiating table with improved pay offers in light of the pressures caused by the NPS deal. We will not lose focus on the needs of our CRC members, and our team of National Officials are supporting local Napo reps in negotiations and consultations with CRC owners and are providing regular progress reports to Napo’s National Executive Committee (NEC).

Diversity in our representative structures

Napo’s nationally elected Officer Group includes one member from Cafcass, two CRC members and three from the NPS members which is far more representative of our overall membership. We will also be launching our brand new Napo representatives training package in 2019 covering new and experienced reps from all employers as another strand of our strategy for growth. This vitally important project is designed to equip our reps with the skills to help our members in branches which include multiple employers to ensure that they can try to offer you the best support possible.

Napo’s predictions on TR vindicated

This was also a year when, finally, our warnings about the disastrous outsourcing of Probation were sadly proved right. No one who has any understanding or experience of Probation was particularly surprised when the decision was made by the Secretary of State for Justice to end the current CRC contracts early. Our task now is to work together with other unions and a range of supportive stakeholders to make sure that past mistakes are not repeated by Government. The new year will see the start of our major campaign which is based around the ‘8 good reasons to reunify probation’ campaign which we need all of our members to play a part in.


Our members working in Family Courts will have been as angry as Napo reps were at the decision by Cafcass to impose a derisory pay award with no consultation or even any notice to the recognised trade union that this was about to happen. Family Court section members can be assured that the pay campaign will also address the issues they face with an employer who doesn’t seem able to secure a reasonable settlement from the Treasury to pay what they deserve.


Our members working for PBNI still await the start of pay negotiations once a remit has been authorised, but Napo has received assurances from the newly appointed members of PBNI that they are committed to engagement on pay and wider terms and conditions issues as soon as possible.

Again, Napo will be insisting on maintaining the long held convention that deals negotiated with the NPS will be replicated for our members working in Northern Ireland as well.

More news on these campaigns and what you can do to get involved in them, will feature in our regular mail outs to members but you do need to agree to ‘opt in’ to continue receiving these. As we sign off for the Christmas break and wish you and your families an enjoyable holiday, please remember that we are always happy to come out and visit members at branch meetings or workplaces to try and address specific concerns - we await your invitations!

Katie Lomas and Ian Lawrence

Saturday 22 December 2018

Napo at Work in the South West 19

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following:-

Napo SSW Branch report Seasonal update 27

Dear members,

A short Xmas message as we all look forwards to the well deserved seasonal break.

Increasingly the weakening position of the Working links contract holder position is becoming much clearer. The incredible notice of travel ban financial expenses costing spending of small pounds expenditure have to be authorised by the financial Working Links Director. Who by the way they are down to just two Directors for the CRCs contract areas.

There are still many adjusted Working Links staffing contracts weaved into the justices funding including non-advertised roles filled in the Middlesbrough Working links HQ.

While following the money as we all watch on as staff resources are desperately short in relation to buildings, supplies, travel staffing and all the rest of the needs to run a decent proper service I have to publish the very healthy account of the Aurelius Christmas accounts from the public purse. Their minimal reporting of taking significant monies from the contract is fairly clear. 

Prior Year Adjustment
During the year £150,000 of interest receivable from Working Links (Employment) Ltd was reclassified from Investments to current assets. 
Take a careful read at the small print here and the optimistic outlook of the directors of Working Links that their engagement of their activity will continue. We do hope not and on current form not at all likely. 

(Unfortunately it's not proved possible to reproduce extract - Ed)

Staying with the issues of the ongoing dispute the failings of the whole structure are becoming so obvious the MOJ have to act now as none of us know what the melt down is actually going to become.

Locally we have just seen the closure of the HMIP activity and there could be no way on this planet the inspectors could not have picked up the destructive Working Links model and its complete failure to deliver any quality services. I am not about to speculate too much on what the report is likely to uncover but our extensive feedback from members who took part, is that not one of them was able to report anything positive of the Working Links structures that have plagued this contract area.

Looking at the accounts above the issue of the contract variation with the MOJ to deliver 1-1 services has seen Aurelius look to get out of the money taking activity as they realise the MSC 1-1 has to be delivered within existing costs. That means less available free cash available to them so they are selling the Working Links venture as a bad debt. On top of that the monies Working Links received is suggested all it did was to pay off its debts to the banks. No one mentions the responsibilities of the contracts. Aurelius not saying anything like they have in the past like the new cash injection from Government makes the contract a prospect without any onerous issue. The prospects of last years bail out seems to have dried up.

A few things we seek in our Christmas wish list to Santa is the removal of Working Links as soon as possible which cannot be much longer reading between the lines. As they get sold off to a bad debt company stated in the Aurelius intentions, we ask who might then become in charge of a failed company from the debt foreclosure sale? The MOJ recognise this is simply not a realistic prospect. We know the MOJ could not allow some debt recovery assets stripping small firm in the back door to manage a contract that allegedly included vetting and sustainability checks. Selling a debt ridden Working Links entity to anyone is just not going to happen, is it? So, when is the NPS going to have to take over?

Besides we all know the NPS situation is that they must realise the dysfunctional service design of the CRC places too much friction between the two operating processes. Any faith in the current situation is simply negligence.

Something more fundamental in relation to public reclaim will most likely be a response to the dysfunctional situation of the Working links way facing a sell off. We would like see a properly managed and agreed service design although that will take rapid capital and proper care of probation works. We want stability for staff in all locations with restorations of proper terms and conditions for all staff contracts. We want to see a return to trade union recognitions and negotiating terms, position properly staff engagement than continue with the mess they have created.

Torquay staff want a building fit for use. All staff need a reassurance things are in hand to fix the collapsing situation. We need to restore proper HR functions that look to resolve than to engage in argument over good staff practices and treatment.

The list goes on and we continue in NAPO SSW branch to maintain your rights and terms. Things are not much better in many situations across the NPS but we continue to do our best against some of the backward looking views we receive from that sector. Whatever the pressures or attacks on the SSW branch, we will continue to do our best for you whatever it takes!

Next year is going to be very challenging given what we have learned in the closing of 2018 an awful year. We note the Christmas message from the Working links way is more work and work harder for 2019. Well that cannot be sustained as we all realise the MSC variation is to see all offenders 1-1 and will require increased new staff resources and at some point has to be funded. Existing unrealistic staff workload ratio has now to be addressed.

No annual pay increase from Working Links as they refuse to engage any discussions with the Unions. The ruination of probation work for targets low pay appalling conditions withdrawing of terms hiding away the policies for several years and always making negative decisions is what are fast becoming the undoing of arguably the worst of all contract holders.

Member all that remains for me to do is to thank you for your support in the toughest of times throughout this year. The fantastic Executive of the SSW who make the Chairs role a real privilege to serve them. Our members in need of the branch support and for their trust in us.

Our SSW membership will be aware of some of the difficulties this executive has faced during the year. Relations with management continue to decline and the nature of personal cases are more acrimonious under the privatisation controls. Against a background of the issues that led to the Certification officer complaints Napo were wrong and have to date still not produced one letter of contrition or apologised. A special thanks To Dave Rogan who we all know is tireless and still working hard for peoples rights as we do in the SSW branch .

For the rest of your 2018 in whatever way you celebrate during this season period have the best time you can in the break. Enjoy the rest where possible and next year, let us all hope together the deliverance we need comes sooner than later and we will do our best to bring that about whatever that takes.

Dino Peros
NAPO SSW Branch Chair

Wednesday 19 December 2018

A Sad Inevitability

There was always a sad inevitability about privatising the probation service, namely that staff would be cut, caseloads would rise and work would suffer - and lo it came to pass. Here's the latest HM Inspection report and press release:-  

Staffordshire & West Midlands CRC - Quality affected by highest workloads inspectors have seen

Staffordshire and West Midlands Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) had strong leadership and some good aspects but the quality of its delivery of supervision was undermined by excessive workloads, probation inspectors found.

The workload in the CRC, responsible for supervising 13,531 offenders, was the highest seen in the six CRCs inspected since April 2018 by HM Inspectorate of Probation. The CRC covers Birmingham, the Black Country, Staffordshire and Coventry and Solihull.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said the CRC had been given a ‘requires improvement’ rating – the second lowest assessment.

“There are some good elements of delivery across the organisation, and leadership is strong and provided by a dedicated and motivated management team. The individual workloads of probation professionals are, however, the highest we have seen so far in the current inspection programme and this is clearly affecting the quality of work.”

Dame Glenys said that she had already made the importance of an adequately resourced probation system clear to the Ministry of Justice, which has negotiated contracts with 21 CRCs in England and Wales.

“With a severely stretched workforce, staff morale and sickness levels deteriorate, day-to-day practice becomes overburdened by firefighting, effective engagement with training, policies and guidance reduces and, consequently, individuals subject to probation supervision are let down. It is also extremely difficult to keep the public safe.

“We have found that here in Staffordshire and West Midlands. I am particularly concerned that risk of harm is not being prioritised in the assessment, planning and delivery of services.”

The report noted: “Two-thirds of staff interviewed told us that their workload was unmanageable and this is not surprising; a high proportion of them had more than 70 cases, and the majority, particularly those managed by probation officers, were complex.” Inspectors were concerned about inadequate work to assess domestic abuse and child safeguarding concerns.

Despite the effects of heavy workloads, however, Dame Glenys said the CRC “should be commended for what it is achieving in difficult circumstances. I am impressed by the CRC’s approach to engagement at a strategic level, using feedback from those under probation supervision to improve services when it can.

“And this CRC is employing some people who have previously been subject to probation supervision, demonstrating a commitment to changing lives and showing what individuals can do when we all try.” Supervision of unpaid work orders from courts was also good.

Lastly, Dame Glenys added, “I am impressed by the quality of management information available to leaders here, and the way they have used it to improve the CRC’s contract performance over the last 12 months. Leaders across Staffordshire and West Midlands are focused now on improving the quality of work, and no doubt the right management information will prove valuable.”

Tuesday 18 December 2018

Titanic Deck Chairs Rearranged

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding yesterday's Interserve news sent to all staff:- 

Dear Colleague

As part of Fit for Growth and our ongoing transformation, we have taken the decision to move our Citizen Services business into our Support Services division with immediate effect. This consolidation reflects our continuing journey towards One Interserve, as we create a more effective and simplified business providing Support Services, Construction and Equipment Services.

The two Managing Directors for Citizen Services - Chris Peel and I - will both sit on the Support Services Senior Leadership team reporting directly into Debbie White. In the short term, the business Development and Marketing teams will be reporting into Chris, the Legal Commercial and Projects team will be reporting into me, and Steve Jones will be reporting into Lynn Mawdsley who will be joining the company on 2 January 2019 as Deputy Chief Financial Officer.

Yvonne Thomas, Managing Director, Citizens Services will be leaving the company at the end of December to set up a new venture. Yvonne joined Interserve seven years ago to set up the Justice business and joined the Executive Team to lead the Citizens Services division in 2016. 

Debbie White, CEO Interserve, shared: "With clear goals and our strategic priorities now in place, the time is right for us to move our Citizen Services business into our Support Services division. I'd like to thank Yvonne for her contribution to the business, unwavering commitment and strong leadership through the challenging period we've recently seen and wish her well in her future endeavours."

Your senior leaders have been briefed on these business changes. If you have any questions please feel free to speak to them directly or your line manager in the first instance. 

Kind regards,

Ian Mulholland     


Meanwhile Private Eye continues to report on the probation omnishambles:-

Monday 17 December 2018

Time Up for Spurr and Stewart?

Whilst we are otherwise engaged in Christmas-associated matters, the blog will keep ticking-over in the background with nothing much new to report or discuss. But I notice the soon-to-be-departed Michael Spurr gave his winding-up thoughts to the Justice Committee recently, and Rory Stewart might not be far behind. This on Converse Prison News:-    

Michael Spurr: Reflecting on 35 years in the Prison Service

Women jail staff are as likely to be attacked as their male colleagues after long-standing “norms” disappeared from life behind bars, the head of the prison service has warned.

Reflecting on changes during his 35-year career in the system, Michael Spurr noted that for a long time, male inmates would not hit female officers. But, giving evidence at the Commons Justice Committee, he said: “Over the last 10 years, that has changed – there’s pure equality. If you are in the wrong place at the wrong time you get hit, for things that are quite trivial today compared to previously, which would have been dealt with potentially by an expletive rather than a punch. Those are norms that are changing.”

Mr Spurr also flagged up the influence of technology and social media as he outlined how changes in society have filtered through to prisons. He said: “Social interaction isn’t as it was. People are so used to engaging in media. When you allow people out of cell, unstructured time with adults engaging with one another was the norm. Younger prisoners find that much more difficult.”

Issues relating to mental health and drug use in the community have a bearing on what goes on behind bars, added Mr Spurr, who will leave his role as chief executive of HM Prisons & Probation Service next year.

At the same evidence session, Prisons Minister Rory Stewart admitted he faces a battle to keep his job after he pledged to resign unless a drive to tackle violence and drugs at struggling jails succeeds. Mr Stewart declared in August that he would quit if there was no improvement in safety standards at 10 establishments hit by “acute” problems within a year.

Describing the latest estate-wide violence statistics as “very, very worrying”, he said: “I have promised to resign unless we turn that graph round on violence in those 10 key prisons. At the moment, that graph is going in the wrong direction for me.”

Latest prison safety figures for England and Wales show there were a record 32,559 assault incidents in total in the 12 months to June, up 20% from the previous year. Assaults against staff increased by over a quarter (27%) to 9,485 incidents.

Mr Stewart said he believed there are some “green shoots”, but he told the committee: “It’s going to be a tough fight because we are having to work with a situation that is not just violence in our prisons – assaults on police officers are going up, assaults on ambulance workers are going up.”

He re-stated his belief that very short custodial sentences can be counter-productive. He said: “The wrong kind of short sentence may feel good in the short term because you feel you are banging someone up. But just putting someone in prison for a few days, a couple of weeks – it’s long enough to damage them, it’s not long enough to change them.”

In other comments, Mr Stewart disclosed that an electronic tag which allows GPS monitoring of offenders in the community has now “gone live”, and floated the idea of setting up charitable foundations through which local residents, particularly those in “quite wealthy communities”, could contribute “philanthropically” to their local prison.

Friday 14 December 2018

Time To Ground TR2

Those with long memories will recall the sad fate of the TSR2 experimental aircraft. Thanks go to the reader for pointing me in the direction of the following summary discourse by Dean Rogers regarding probation's current plight and published on Linkedin. There's time to ground TR2 even before takeoff:-   

It's Time To Intervene - Repeat Offenders Are Running Probation

Everyone with an interest in probation, from the National Audit Office to the Public Accounts or Justice Select Committees, have condemned the catastrophic failure of the MoJ’s “Transforming Rehabilitation Revolution”. This brainchild of Chris Grayling saw the abolition of Probation Trusts in 2014. Local provision was split - privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) now look after low and medium risk Offenders whilst high-risk Offenders are supervised from Whitehall and the National Probation Service (NPS).

Government programmes often go wrong and fail to meet political expectations or promises to taxpayers, but the scale of failure in this instance makes it a model in the dangers of poor governance. It’s failed all parties on all levels:
  • Contractors were sold on empty promises, the NAO identifying projected losses of £400M+ over the original 7-year contracts. The rush to beat a political timetable didn’t allow for piloting so the programme crashed and burned.
  • Predictions that work would be shared 70:30 between the private and public sectors was evidently wrong before any contracts were let. It’s turned out to be nearer 40:60. CRCs cut staff to break even. The NPS have thousands of vacancies, with staff burning-out from only dealing with high risk cases.
  • The split in local services complicated information sharing and undermined trust between local agencies. This combined with staffing failures contributes to serious further offences rising by 25% in the last year – probation has got more dangerous and expensive for the taxpayer.
  • Establish partnerships with the 3rd sector were broken and driven out of the system. Clinks research shows where charities remain engaged many are not being paid.
  • Improved support for those being released to link them straight into drug, alcohol and DV programmes whilst minimising the risk of homelessness or unemployment (known as Through the Gate) have been described as less effective than doing nothing by HMI Probation.
In short, a combination of ideology trumping reason, avoidance of testing and evidence, shocking financial planning and weak contract management meant the whole revolution was doomed. Government admitted as much earlier in 2018 - after a damning Justice Select Committee report, Government announced contracts were being terminated early.

However, hopes of a TR Counter-Revolution built around lessons learned are being dashed. Suddenly the impossible looks possible – the MoJ are conspiring to make the situation potentially even worse! The “plan” is to rush to replace the new contracts in record time. The proposed model retains the core split whilst stretching the local – 21 contracts will be merged into 10, albeit each area overseen by an expensive new civil servant to manage the contract challenges…literally just making the problems bigger.

  • How, any sane person with a passing interest in public safety and/or sound management of public finances may ask, can they be planning on yet again:
  • Tendering contracts, in less than a year, before they’ve identified what exactly is required from either CRCs or the NPS and/or worked out how much this would cost to do safely?
  • Coming-up with a model that increases the current pressures of staff by threatening new staff transfers, complex harmonisations of terms and conditions, and promoting uncertainty and competition around pay and pensions with little to no time to address these before contracts are re-let?
  • Selling-off core services to providers who now have a proven track record of failure, with Inspectors deeming 5 of the 7 current providers to have contract areas that “require improvement” or worse?
  • Making little to no provision for the 3rd Sector to safely or sustainably enter the market?
  • Ignoring professional input into their “consultation”, with staff, unions, academics and other experts all screaming that the most critical part of a new model should be re-unifying services based upon local accountability? What works in Hackney will be different to Hereford, Newcastle has different needs to Norfolk.
This isn’t rational or reasonable so how can this be happening again?

Firstly, the public allow them to get away with it. Probation isn’t popular because offenders are unpopular. People don’t want to think about or engage with offenders. This isn’t unique to England and Wales. International research with data from 233 countries asking over 2M people what they thought the life-saving properties of autonomous vehicles should be in situations where death is unavoidable found that people would save dogs before criminals – although criminals marginally came ahead of cats who could presumably use their 9 lives to save themselves.

This gives politicians a license to continue re-offending in their management of probation. They think they’ll get away with it and if they are caught they’ll pay a short term fine then people’s attention span will drift. This is the mentality of a hardened gangster.

This is amplified by the wider political chaos and uncertainty in these troubled and volatile times. When uncertainty has saturated all areas of governance it’s hardly surprising that attempts to wipe up probation’s mess end up just spreading the sticky mess wider and further.

Secondly, those who do care are almost neo-Saints, used to putting up with chaos and struggle, trained not to judge, and not likely to give in until their flame has exhausted itself. This is exploited by politicians. During Grayling’s revolution most probation leaders, to their eternal shame, stood on the side-lines and watched in silence apart from the occasional “Tut”. Napo made some creative alliances with the legal profession angered by legal aid cuts, and encouraged the majority of its membership to strike twice, when prior to TR it had only taken strike action 4 times in over a century. But Napo stood alone – even Unison failed to join in their action. Survivors of that campaign are battle weary. Newcomers to probation need convincing they can win.

Thirdly, the Government and media like to portray what are complex problems and challenges in easy black and blue terms, getting most excited when someone has died – exactly the wrong cases to most clearly see the problems and actions that further demoralise staff. Even the liberal press, sympathetic to probation, usually only run a probation story when it can run alongside a “Probation is failing” subline when HMI Probation reports consistently say the only thing keeping probation going at all is the unsustainable level of commitment and unending professionalism of staff. Staff don’t want to rally around being told they’re failing. They need a positive message to organise around.


So what can be done or is the TR Counter-Revolution destined to be even more tragic than Grayling’s master-class in how not to govern? There are grounds for optimism, such as:
  • Serious money as well as lives are at stake and many players on all sides literally can’t afford to let this go wrong again. Letting or taking poorly formed contracts presents measurable financial risks and the NAO, PAC, JSC and financial press are all over this already, unlike TR1. The Gangsters are vulnerable, having lost their grip on their community.
  • Even chaos requires government time and it is unlikely that Gauke could bully TR2 through parliament as Grayling did in the Coalition days. The Gangsters are also divided. If pension complications or the 33% contractual limit for any one provider that were tagged into TR1 require parliamentary testing a block on the crazy timetable can fall into place.
  • This time there is an emerging unity amongst the ranks of those opposed to TR2. The biggest risk in TR2 is the timetable and Gauke’s haste to put something in place - having terminated the contracts early they need to do something. But TR1 was a dogmatic dog-fight between forces pro and anti – privatisation. Now even those who could live with outsourcing (e.g. Charities, local leaders, and even some CRC owners and Napo members working for CRC’s shocked by the experience of NPS staff) stand worried and concerned by Gauke’s haste.
In short, there are more players involved in the game this time, more people watching and more people paying attention. The political risk and price of getting this wrong are higher for the Government whilst Napo has new ready allies willing to join in and speak-up.

And in the confusion comes Napo’s trump card. Gauke can’t portray Napo and its members as the bad guys this time because, in parallel, the Government are committed to implementing common professional standards across probation (including any contracts) for the first time, supported by aligned pay reform (so far only being funded for the NPS). These standards can’t be designed by politicians or bureaucrats. They inevitably have to turn to Napo members and invite them in to the debate. Members are lined up ready to engage loudly and positively!


This will be a short campaign. Between Christmas 2018 and April 2019, all the big questions must be answered and prices set for the timetable to progress anything like safely. In the middle of this, Gauke has to report back to the JSC in parliament. Between April and October 2019, “bidders” will assess their risks and the market will need to justify and sustain itself under public and parliamentary scrutiny.

Napo’s message to Gauke and his crew is a short, simple and clear one. Just pause. Stop and take stock. You don’t have to rush and repeat Grayling’s mistakes. To get TR through the MoJ created the CRCs and ran them for 8 months before handing them to private contractors. Take those that are failing back. Put everything else on hold whilst you test what will work and what that costs going forward. Take your time identifying the snags – like TUPE and harmonisation issues - before you try and sell anything.

The ideology is all on one side. None of us can afford to allow the Gangsters to win again.

Dean Rogers
Assistant General Secretary Napo

Wednesday 12 December 2018

Latest From Napo 183

Here we have the latest blog post from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-

Why CRC pay is a top priority

Its hardly surprising that the NPS pay out has caused some predictable resentment among our members in the CRC estate.

In my letter to the Secretary of State David Gauke - CLICK HERE - which picked up on the mandate given to us by the AGM in Southport, I made it very clear that the NPS pay modernisation deal must be replicated and spelt out very clearly why we are campaigning to achieve pay parity between NPS and CRC staff.

Its an issue that I have raised personally with Justice Select Committee Chair Bob Neill MP, the Probation Programme Engagement Forum where we are arguing for contract adjustments now and in any future versions that see the light of day in 2020. I am also signing off a personalised letters to every CRC Chief Executive within the next few days which will seek their support in lobbying the MoJ for more cash.

Our campaign and communications team here are working on specific recruitment material for CRC staff which will make it very clear that pay parity won’t simply be achieved by us simply shouting louder and why increasing membership density is an important factor in making employers sit up and take notice that their workforce will no longer be prepared to take every rubbish pay offer that comes their way.


All of this as I have said on numerous occasions, will be a struggle. If further proof were needed then take a look at the reply just in from David Gauke to my earlier letter which trots out the same insulting response that we hear from any number of people that the CRC employers are separate entities for pay purposes, despite them having received an additional half a billion pounds in taxpayers funding to shore up their failures.

This situation has been compounded by the refusal of CRC owners to support their chief executives to pay more to their staff and/or at least give a commitment that if they should bid for the proposed new CRC contracts, those bids will include pay parity if it has not been achieved by 2020. Our campaign work locally is being taken forward by your Napo National Officials in partnership with your reps who will be pleased to explain this activity in more detail. I can also say that National Chair Katie Lomas and I are prepared to attend member and prospective member meetings upon request.

Victory is possible

I well remember being involved in similar campaigns in years past. One especially, where the private provider had won contracts from Government and were presiding over a four-tier workforce. As you would expect, the union tried reason, then tried persuasion but then spelt out to staff in very stark terms that it was only strength in numbers that was going to make an immediate impact, rather than a drawn out campaign of expectation that the employer thought it could simply bat off.

Within weeks, union membership had increased from around 30% to nearly 100%. Suddenly the attitude of the employer changed markedly and negotiations started to be taken much more seriously.

Our position was strengthened by an increasing willingness by members to take collective action which, in the end did not become necessary, as we eventually reached a ground breaking deal with the employer.

The message is as stark and simple and relevant today as it was to those workers back then. Join a union and help to empower yourselves.

Napo addresses new starters event

To further reinforce the above point, Last week Katie and I addressed around 130 new starters at an event hosted by the Probation Institute and appreciation to Helen Schofield and her team for the opportunity. Here is what I had to say prior to a hugely enjoyable Q&A.

Napo General Secretary urges new starters to join our pay and reunification campaign

Thursday 6 th December 2018

Good afternoon and many thanks to the Probation Institute for this opportunity to speak with you today at this hugely successful event. Can I also wish you all the very best with your studies as you approach qualification and hope that you have acquired vital knowledge and experience during your time within the service so far. 

With me is Napo National Chair Katie Lomas (a serving practitioner who well understands the challenges that our members are experiencing. Can I say how appreciative we are of the important work carried out by the Institute in what are incredibly testing times for anyone delivering Probation services in a Criminal Justice System. I make no apologies for saying that you have committed to an especially challenging career path but one that performs a vital public service in assisting clients and safeguarding our communities. 

As Helen said earlier, I am the General Secretary of Napo an elected position covering a five year period and I am now six months in already to my second term. 

My duties as the senior elected employee within Napo include the responsibility for assisting our members in Probation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Family Court Service. Typically, my work alongside elected Officers and Napo staff, involves high level interface with government ministers, the senior leadership of the Official Opposition and a multitude of cross party politicians and senior NPS/ HMPPS and MoJ departmental heads. 

I am also the lead spokesperson for Napo in our regular contact with TV and media and, as part of the day job, I also have a negotiating role with the three CRC Contracts in Wales and the South West which keeps me well in touch with the issues being faced by our members.

Within the wider union world, I am on the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions and I represent BAME workers from various unions as a member of the TUC General Council. 

I will have a bit to say about Napo a bit later and why I hope you may consider joining us, and Katie and I will be pleased to try and answer any immediate questions that you may have, or you may contact either of us via afterwards.

I wanted to focus on three specific issues which I hope will be of interest to you 

Firstly the landscape 4 years on from Transforming Rehabilitation 

Whether or not TR is the much vaunted revolution that Mr Grayling said it would be, and I could use a variety of adjectives to describe it, there are a litany of problems facing staff wherever they work. 

Within the NPS there are still staff shortages despite the efforts to encourage recruitment and enlarge the diversity base, staff are consistently telling us about the pressures of higher than expected workloads, the impact on their health and for those working in Approved Premises, the dreadful effects of the outsourcing of double waking night cover arrangements. 

Additionally, we have major concerns over the OMIC project on which Katie Lomas leads for Napo. 

Napo and our sister unions recently secured a pay settlement covering NPS staff which represented a long awaited breakthrough on pay modernisation, especially pay progression, where our hard work has helped to cut the time it will take you to reach the top of your payband from 25 years to 6. That achievement has not happened by magic its down to the long term campaign and sheer hard work that Napo has been part of. 

On the back of this we are stepping up our campaign to return to genuine collective bargaining across the NPS and CRC’s so that we have common standards of employment and rates of pay across the two arms of the service which will bring stability and certainty for staff. 

So our message to the CRC Chiefs and the Government is simply: pay up now!

Pay up and bring an end to the scandalous situation where CRC staff are now second best in the pay stakes, pay up now for CRC secondees working in NPS Divisions who are doing equal work of equal value alongside their NPS Colleagues. And If you are working in a CRC then help us to spread that message and increase the pressure on the employers. 

On the back of all this, we think that there is now an incontrovertible case to reunify Probation. 

Napo’s position is that we want to see Probation back in public ownership where it belongs. In Wales, work is being taken back from the failing CRC into the NPS, and we are obviously saying that if this good enough for Wales its good enough for England too! 

In the Oral evidence that I gave to the Justice Select Committee in March, (who have issued a highly critical report demanding improvement to which such as TTG support and Minimum Contact Specification), I said that Napo are committed to working with all politicians to see a community focused, desistance driven probation model, set free from the still Prison-centric HMPPS. 

Alongside this priority is the work that will need to be undertaken to build a Competency Based Framework which formed part of the NPS Pay settlement, to strengthen the Professional aspects of your work and thats why Napo, along with the Probation Institute, are campaigning for a Licence to Practice.

All these issues become even more important as consideration is being given to what happens to the CRC Contracts in 2020 and why we are saying that this Government must not repeat the same mistakes again by remarketing the Probation Service. 

Look, let me be clear, Napo has always been opposed to the privatisation of public services, but I have gone on record before and will again, in saying that not all of the post-TR difficulties are the fault of the CRC owners. 

It was not their fault that the CRC contracts were insufficiently structured and resourced from the outset, or the door being shut meaningful engagement with third sector providers and they're not to blame for a flawed PbR model. 

Of course there are a few things some of them and this government are to blame for; but today my message is one of encouraging everyone with an interest to see how we can work with NPS and CRC Employers to ensure that where service improvements are needed we can try and work together. But that commitment must be matched by CRC owners to engage positively with the trade unions, especially on the issue of pay equity, and by them recognising the imperative to deliver safe operational models, and understand that people must come before profit, and why their hard working staff must be treated with dignity and respect. 

So what might that future model for Probation look like? 

I mentioned the objective of freeing Probation from HMPPS control earlier on, but in Napo’s view we need to campaign for a publicly owned model that embraces the concept of Community Justice.

One that builds on the key principle that its governance structures must be founded and delivered by people who understand the diverse needs of their communities: probation practitioners obviously, and the trade unions and professional bodies but also stakeholders such as the NHS, especially in the fields of mental heath drug and substance abuse, the Judiciary, Regional and Metro Mayors, PCC’s, local councillors, diversity representatives and those organisations in the third sector who are desperate to make a meaningful contribution to help reduce reoffending, but are currently denied the resources to do so. 

Localism was the bedrock of the Probation Service before it became fragmented, and it should be the cornerstone of a new future which encompasses the proud traditions of your profession, one which engenders trust from our communities and does right by the clients it seeks to assist and redirect into making a meaningful contribution to society. 

Its a big ask, but If you are on board with that campaign, I wish you all the best in playing a part achieving that transition. 

Thirdly and finally: What is Napo and why be a member? 

We are, as the title illustrates, a trade union and professional association for Probation and Cafcass staff.

Membership of Napo brings with it access to the Probation Journal and our recently relaunched and highly commended Napo Magazine and regular personalised weekly mail outs and my own Blog postings which seek to give you clarity on the issues that matter to you. These illustrate how Napo is doing its best to help you with issues relating to your employment and professional development. You will also have access to legal support depending on the circumstances and through our Napo Extra membership services you can also access a range of lifestyle discounts and financial advice. 

More information and application forms are easily accessible on the Napo website but I am also grateful to the Institute for their help in making our material available alongside theirs and I urge you to consider joining both our organisations! 

Finally, thank you all for your attention and I am sure that you will enjoy the remainder of today’s activities.

Ian Lawrence

Thursday 6 December 2018

What Could Possibly Go Wrong? 2

You privatise the National Forensic Science Service and just look what happens. This from BBC website:- 

Randox forensics inquiry: Forty drug-driving offences quashed

At least 40 motorists convicted of drug-driving offences have been cleared after evidence of manipulation was found in the forensic testing process. The motorists were banned from driving and in some cases fined, but their convictions have since been overturned. About 10,500 test results are being reviewed after data was allegedly manipulated at Randox Testing Services.

The National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) described it as a "most serious breach" of forensic science standards. A further 50 drug-driving cases have been dropped as a result of the alleged data manipulation at the firm's Manchester laboratory. Police suspended all contracts with the company, used by 42 of the UK's 43 forces, in November last year.

Greater Manchester Police has arrested two men, aged 47 and 31, who worked at one of its laboratories. They were arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Six others have been interviewed under caution, with one remaining under investigation as part of what Justice Minister, Lucy Frazier, described last month as an "expansive" criminal inquiry.

The scale of the operation to review the 10,500 Randox cases is unprecedented. It began in January 2017 and is likely to continue until the end of 2019. Randox, which is paying for samples to be re-tested by other laboratories, estimates it will cost the firm £2.5m. Police are also likely to incur costs because of delays to other cases, while motorists whose careers and livelihoods have been affected after being wrongly banned from driving may sue for compensation.

But the most significant impact of this disturbing affair may be on public confidence in forensic science: can we be sure that the test results we almost take for granted are accurate? In total, up to 2,700 cases have been re-analysed so far and two drug-driving cases that resulted in road deaths were referred to the Court of Appeal. Both convictions were upheld but one motorist's sentence was reduced. Two other non-fatal cases involving drug-driving have also been sent to the Court of Appeal. One conviction was quashed and the other has yet to be decided.

Ch Con James Vaughan, NPCC lead on forensics, said he could not remember a forensic science failure "of this magnitude". He said re-testing was taking longer than expected because there was a "chronic shortage" of scientific expertise and accredited laboratories, leading to delays in providing toxicology analysis in unrelated cases of sexual offence and rape.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

As we all know, privatisation of public services is going really well and everyone seems to think Rory Stewart is a really good Prisons minister. What could possibly go wrong? This from Civil Service World:-

Public sector bids barred from next round of prisons contracts, confirms MoJ

Public sector providers will not be allowed to bid for contracts in the next competition to operate prisons, the government has confirmed, with HM Prison and Probation Service only able to provide a comparator to external bidders. Justice minister Rory Stewart announced the launch of the competition, which support plans announced by the Ministry of Justice in June to add up to 10,000 new prisons places, in a written statement to the House of Commons yesterday.

Through the competition, the MoJ will appoint and framework of prison operators, from which it will select the operator for each new prison in shorter ‘call-off’ competitions, he said. The framework will only be open to private companies unless bids do not meet a given standard, Stewart said. The new framework will be used to appoint companies to operate prisons that are already under private management once the existing operators’ contracts run out, and to award contracts for new-build prisons.

The first contracts to be opened to a call-of competition will be two new-build prisons in Wellingborough, in Northamptonshire and Glen Parva in Leicestershire. Construction of both prisons will be funded using public capital. “HMPPS will not bid in the competition but will provide a ‘public sector benchmark’ against which operators’ bids will be rigorously assessed. If bids do not meet our expectations in terms of quality and cost, HMPPS will act as the provider,” Stewart said.

The MoJ announced plans for the Wellingborough facility in 2016, four years after HMP Wellingborough closed, taking with it 600 places. Construction is set to begin in December, so that the prison can open in 2021. The construction of Glen Parva prison was initially intended to be privately-funded, but in last month’s Budget it was announced the government would fund it. The facility will open in 2022. In a written statement earlier this month, Stewart said the public funding would “enable the prison to open earlier than originally planned to meet the needs of the growing and complex prison population.”

The announcement comes at a time when private prisons contracts are coming under intense public scrutiny. In August the Ministry of Justice was forced to take over control of HMP prison from the private contractor G4S after an inspection showed high levels of violence and self-harm. In his statement yesterday, Stewart said the framework “should reinvigorate the prison market by encouraging new providers to enter the custodial arena”.

“It will also enable MoJ to more effectively and efficiently manage a pipeline of competition over the next decade,” he said. Earlier this year, Stewart said the MoJ was expecting the prison population to rise by around 10,000 to 93,000. He said he wanted to reduce “if not eliminate” shorter prison sentences of up to 12 months, although there is no legislation currently in train to make this happen,

Mark Fairhurst, national chair of the POA – the trade union for prison officers and secure psychiatric workers – branded the move to limit bids to private providers an “insult” to taxpayers.

“It’s an absolute disgrace that taxpayers’ money is being used to build prisons to be run by to profiteers, without the public sector being allowed to bid,” he said. “Prisons are not for profit and we’ve proven time and time again that private providers are not fit for purpose,” he said, pointing to the example of HMP Birmingham.

He said the union would fight “tooth and nail” to prevent any publicly-run prisons from transferring into the hands of private operators, which would mean prisons officers who are now civil servants moving into private employment.

“The question that remains now, is are they going to bar G4S and Serco from bidding?” he asked. The two companies, which between them run 10 of the 14 contracted-out prisons across the UK, are both under criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office over their running of electronic monitoring contracts.

He also said the union would “insist” the HMP Birmingham remain under public management, and would take “all necessary steps to show our discontent” if it were returned to G4S.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said prisons privatisation had been a “costly failure”, and that the statement showed the government was doubling down on its commitment to privatisation “instead of learning the lessons and changing direction”.

Sunday 2 December 2018

Probation 'Bung' is £500 million!

Congratulations must go to Private Eye and especially reporter Solomon Hughes who continues to delve into the deliberately opaque world of probation privatisation in order to expose the omnishambolic mess it has become. Thanks to some serious journalistic legwork he has discovered that a staggering 2,714 staff have been shed by the privateers whilst at the same time benefiting from a government handout of £500 million. 

In a fascinating podcast linked to the article, Hughes explains that the story is generally 'under-reported' and the money 'not openly-declared'.     

Saturday 1 December 2018

Latest From Napo 182

Extracts from the latest Napo magazine:-

Napo NEC – first meeting of the new Napo year

Napo NEC met this week in the first meeting of the new Napo year post-AGM. New NEC reps were warmly welcomed and took great pleasure in ratifying 100s of new members who have joined since the last NEC meeting.

NEC reps play an important part in Napo and at this meeting they agreed the operating plan for the year as well as approving the budget to allow all of the vital work of the union to be done.

Reps were given an update on Napo’s Strategy for Growth and discussed ways that we are working to support members and reps to become more active in the Union including the launch of our new rep and activists training programme.

Delegates to the Women’s TUC conference and the TUC Black Workers conference were ratified, work will now be done to consider motions to those conferences. The motions to the 2018 AGM that were passed are now resolutions and these were allocated to the relevant Napo committees so that work can be undertaken through the year.

Some of our committees have vacancies, please contact your branch chair if you are interested in getting more involved in the work of the union.

Motions passed at the Family Court Section AGM were noted by NEC and a motion from South Yorkshire branch on member expenses was passed, committing us to review the amount paid for mileage to increase it from the very low rate set some years ago.

NEC were informed of the resignation of Vice Chair Denise Mason and thanked her for her hard work, wishing her well for the future. According to our constitution NEC has the power to appoint an acting Vice Chair to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term (until AGM 2019). David Raho was elected to this position and we welcome him to his new role.

CRC pay – issue being escalated to Probation Programme engagement

At this week’s meeting of the NEC it was made clear that there is considerable anger over the failure by CRC Providers and the MoJ to extend the terms of the NPS Pay award to CRC Staff. The NEC heard about the next steps in our efforts to establish pay parity as part of our ‘8 Good Reasons to Reunify Probation’ campaign. This will encourage all members in the CRC estate and NPS to raise their concerns directly with MP’s about the many problems that you are facing.

CRC Chief Executives will soon be receiving a letter from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence following the debate at the NEC, where a clearer picture emerged of the pathetic responses by corporate management to our claims for fair treatment on pay for their staff.

This week also saw the unions and senior HMPPS management meet under the auspices of the Probation Programme Engagement Forum (TR mark 2). Work is under way to agree some terms of reference which will allow the unions to raise our concerns about the plans to repeat the selloff of Probation and the need to protect the terms and conditions of staff whilst maintaining our total opposition to the whole concept of marketisation.

In a clear sign that Napo will not forget the needs of our CRC members, we have insisted that a major discussion needs to take place about why CRC owners can claim that they cannot afford a decent pay rise for their staff whilst having received half a billion pounds in bailouts from the taxpayer. We will also continue with our argument that adjustments should be made to current CRC contracts to allow providers to match NPS pay rates, and that if this does not happen, then any new contracts that might emerge in 2020, if this disastrous plan is not halted, will simply be untenable.

Napo and our sister unions are pressing our case that CRC staff currently on (or thinking of) secondment to the NPS should be paid NPS rates of pay. Napo also pointed out that there are some staff who are currently undertaking vital work around Minimum Contact Specifications ordered by the MoJ on failing contractors, who must be paid the commensurate rate for the job.

New HMPPS senior Leadership Structure

It was formally announced today that there is a change to the structure right at the top of HMPPS. Two new Director General posts have been created, reporting to the CEO. These posts have been filled on an interim basis to allow for the structures to be developed but permanent selection will take place once the new CEO (the replacement for Michael Spurr) is appointed next year.

Amy Rees has been appointed as Director General for Probation and Phil Copple has been appointed as Director General for Prisons. Both job descriptions require a professional background in the relevant work area. Napo welcomes this development as an important move towards maintaining a distinct Probation identity within the department and look forward to meeting with Amy to discuss how Probation’s Professional identity can be both protected and developed.