Thursday 28 February 2019

You Were Warned!

It all started with a remarkable comment:-
"Recent senior leadership conference for both NPS and CRC, David Gauke asked the room why nobody spoke up to warn the Gov that TR was a bad idea. Room apparently fell silent."
Then some Twitter exchanges:-

Jake Phillips - @jakephillips (Reader in Criminology @ SHU. Generally tweet about probation, criminology, politics...):

"If true, @DavidGauke might benefit from being reminded that probation officers actually **went on strike** in protest at the plans!!"
North East NPS, Stakeholder Engagement @NPSNESE replied:
"I think you have hit the nail on the head isn’t true...that’s not what happened at all...and it was Rory Stewart not David totally incorrect..."
Whether it was David or Rory, I find it's an astonishing insight into politics; how decisions get made; how many of them are spectacularly wrong, but mostly how the average person down the pub or on the Clapham omnibus can spot the flaws in an instant. I mean, who'd have thought this:-  

Rail franchise model cannot continue, says review chief

Britain's rail franchise system no longer delivers clear benefits and cannot continue as it is, says the man leading a review of the network. Keith Williams said in a speech to industry leaders that firms are not adapting to changing consumer demands.

Rail franchising - contracting out passenger services - has drawn heavy criticism, with some contracts failing and customer complaints rising. The rail industry said it accepts that the status quo cannot continue. Mr Williams was appointed by the government last year to lead a "root-and-branch" review of the rail network.

Speaking in London, he said: "I have heard a great deal about the franchising model… driving growth in passengers and benefits to services. But with this growth, the needs of passengers have changed, whilst many of the basic elements of our rail system have not kept pace. Put bluntly, franchising cannot continue the way it is today. It is no longer delivering clear benefits for either taxpayers or farepayers."

The current "one-size-fits-all" approach to franchising does not work for every part of the country and every passenger, he said in the annual Bradshaw Address, named in honour of George Bradshaw, who developed the Bradshaw's Guide to the railways.


Or this:-

Outrage as help-to-buy boosts Persimmon profits to £1bn

Housebuilder Persimmon made a record-breaking £1bn profit last year – equal to more than £66,000 on every one of the homes it sold – with almost half of its house sales made through the taxpayer-funded help-to-buy scheme. The York-based builder, which sparked widespread public and political outrage for attempting to pay its former chief executive Jeff Fairburn a bonus of £110m, posted pre-tax profits of £1.09bn.

The huge profit – the biggest ever made by a UK housebuilder – means Persimmon banked £66,265 from every one of the 16,449 homes it sold last year. The average selling price was just over £215,000. The profit from each house it sells has nearly tripled since 2013, when the government introduced the help-to-buy scheme in an attempt to help struggling families buy their first home. Last year the company paid an average of just £31,536 for each plot of land, and spent £112,295 on actually building each home.

Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused Persimmon of “pinching their profits from the public purse”, adding: “Far from benefiting first time buyers, the major effect of help-to-buy is to drive up demand while having no effect on supply. The result is not help for those who need it, but a boost to the profits of big developers.” Cable demanded that the government immediately end the help-to-buy scheme and take action to crack down on “outrageous” executive pay. “This greed is coming at the expense of the public purse through the subsidies in help-to-buy,” he said. “Help-to-buy is a scam, enriching developers while forcing buyers off the ladder by pushing up prices.”

Greg Beales, the campaign director of the housing charity Shelter, said: “Persimmon represents everything that is wrong with the housebuilding system. The firm has generated huge profits from taxpayer subsidies whilst doing very little to help solve the housing crisis we face. “Piecemeal schemes such as help-to-buy have made the situation even worse by inflating house prices and giving big developers a leg-up – while doing next to nothing to help those most in need of a genuinely affordable home.”


Or that decimating youth services would not result in this:-

Gangs: 27,000 children in England say they are members - report

There are 27,000 children aged between 10 and 17 in England who identify as being part of a gang, according to a report by the Children's Commissioner. It adds that 313,000 children know a gang member - and, of those, 34,000 have experienced violent crime.

Commissioner Anne Longfield said gangs were using "sophisticated techniques" to groom children and "chilling levels of violence" to keep them compliant. The Home Office said it was "committed to protecting vulnerable children".

According to the report, gangs "set out to prey on vulnerable children" - and those suffering from mental health issues or abuse and neglect in their family life are particularly susceptible.

Wednesday 27 February 2019

Time For Action

There's a petition to sign which is supported by the Economics Foundation, GMB, Unison and Napo:-

Our probation service is incredibly important.

Without probation staff, it’s easier to fall back into a life of crime. Communities are less safe than they should be. Unfortunately, probation is in danger thanks to one of Chris Grayling’s hare-brained privatisation schemes.

What happened?

In 2015, Grayling, who was then Justice Secretary, sold off 70% of our probation service to private companies. 35 publicly owned, local probation services were split up and sold off, turned into Community Rehabilitation Companies. The private companies cut costs to make a profit – and standards are falling. They’re now failing to meet 2/3rds of their targets

Ex-offenders are finding it harder to reintegrate back into society, and more of them are reoffending. Since privatisation, the number of people committing a serious further offence while under probation supervision has risen 20%. And now, Working Links, who owned three of the companies, has collapsed, leaving staff and service users in the lurch.

What can we do?

We need to bring privatisation to an end, and bring the CRCs back into public ownership. The contracts are ending in 2020 - two years earlier than planned. This is a perfect opportunity for the current Justice Minister David Gauke to bring them in house.

Sign the petition above to tell the government to bring probation into public ownership.


There's a free conference to go to:- 

Let’s Get Active - Time for Change

The 2019 Women in Napo Conference will take place on Friday 5th April in the NEU Head Office, Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London, WC1H 9BD (just five minutes from Euston and Kings Cross/St Pancras mainline stations)

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Sonia Crozier, Executive Director and Board Lead on Women
  • Amy Rees, Director General HMPPS Probation
  • Nicola Smith, Joint Head of Equality and Strategy at the TUC
  • Diane Abbott MP, Shadow Home Secretary
  • Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London
Invited speakers include:
  • Claudia Webbe, former chair of Operation Trident, Islington Councillor, Labour Party National Executive Committee.
  • Women’s Occupational Stress at Work run by visiting TUC Tutor, Susan Murray
  • “Let’s get Active!”, Napo ACTIV8R campaign run by Napo Officers
  • Nicola Harding, criminologist and feminist academic researching the impact of TR on women on probation.
Refreshments provided

Now FREE to members! Get your registration in early to avoid disappointment. Non-members can attend for a fee of £50. In the event of oversubscription priority will be given to members. 


Finally, there's a policy document from the Labour Party to read:-

Building an effective criminal justice system

Tuesday 26 February 2019

Chatham House Rules

The focus remains with the Howard League as I see Frances Crook is really getting stuck into the new battle for probation's future. This from her blog yesterday:- 

Principles for probation

I attended a meeting today on how to sort out probation. We agreed that it was under the ‘Chatham House Rule’, which means I can talk about what we talked about but I will not identify who was there or who said what. All I will say is that the meeting included some representatives from the professions and users in the system and the group will carry on working.

We tried to bring together some overriding principles that should govern any future reform of community justice. The Howard League has already drawn up a blueprint of ideas that includes principles and suggests a structure, and we submitted this to the Ministry of Justice consultation.

These are some of the principles that struck me as things we should agree:

  • Probation should be reunited into one whole service. The split created by Chris Grayling has been disastrous on every level and will never work. Community sentences must have a voice in court if they are to merit confidence and private companies cannot do this because of the inherent conflict of interest.
  • Probation should be separate to prisons. Some 200,000 people are sentenced to a community intervention each year and the service that manages them should have integrity and independence. Whilst the reintegration-from-prison function of probation is also critical, it should be not subsumed into the prison system but should be independent from it.
  • Probation should not be a growth industry. Community supervision should be targeted and focused on only those who really need it.
  • Probation should be linked to the services that support desistance. It is having somewhere to live, something to do all day and social interaction that turns lives round. Links with local authorities, voluntary groups, employers and health services are the most important relationships.
  • Probation must be professional. No public service can be a profession if it is dancing to the tune of the overriding profit motive inherent in private companies.
  • Probation must be coterminous with local services. Links with local authorities, voluntary groups, employers and health services are the most important relationships.
  • Probation should be reconstructed to bring back community payback. Unpaid work was one of the most shambolic parts of the so-called service delivered by Working Links before it went bust. Community payback must be integrated into a public service because that is where the essential relationships with voluntary and faith groups, which provide the work opportunities, sit.
I also believe that punishment should not be party political and so the delivery of sentences must not be accountable to local politicians. Of course, community services must be engaged with local people. For example, in South Wales sheep stealing is a problem and it might be that community payback could respond to that.

Ministers are thinking about what to do next. Something has to change as probation is not working and that is a disaster for victims and communities, and it is feeding the prison population. I hope they are listening to our sensible and workable suggestions.

Frances Crook



I notice David Raho, Acting Napo Vice Chair, has offered the following thoughts over on Facebook and published here with permission:-

"These are good principles as you would expect from The Howard League. Where I differ slightly is that I do believe there is a role for private companies and the 3rd sector however it should always be the public sector calling the shots (if those commissioned to provide services need advice then they can ask for it) and commissioning services to be delivered consistently in a new formation of probation services that are devolved and locally accountable and firmly in the public sector.

We certainly need to try to drop all the pseudo civil servant nonsense and go back to being local authority workers focused on being in touch with local need and serving our communities rather than pandying to the whims of shady political masters in central government or indeed to multinational corporate interests.

Trusts were a good model of credible devolved services but they were never allowed by government to reach their full potential by being permitted and funded to take the next step towards becoming semi autonomous commissioning bodies. I believe that the creation of properly funded Trust like probation organisations with the power and resources to commission services based on local need and possibly covering larger geographical areas would be a good way to involve some of the talent and skills that private companies and the 3rd sector can contribute. This would encourage innovation and progress. If pursued this could also potentially provide a politically palatable pathway towards a better service rather than replicating the mistakes of TR1 on a bigger scale in TR2.

The NPS is unfortunately a good example of a centrally controlled locally unaccountable model of service delivery and Frances Crook rightly infers that something better and more Probation like is required to do the job properly."

David Raho

Monday 25 February 2019

MoJ Found Wanting Again

Yet again the Howard League proves itself to be on the ball in being able to hold the State to account by carefully considered use of legal process, this time in relation to a privatised prison. What astonishes me is that every outsourced prison has an on site MoJ 'minder', and there's an MoJ 'police' that supposedly monitors the private CRC's. One can only wonder what practical purpose they serve other than provide a completely false impression of oversight - a magician's illusion involving smoke and mirrors. This from the League's redoubtable CEO Frances Crook:-     

The state cannot outsource its human rights obligations

The high court made an important judgment this week about the failure of the Ministry of Justice to monitor private prisons. It got no media coverage as it got lost in the maelstrom of politics.

Peterborough prison, run by the French food company Sodexo, admitted that it had carried out illegal strip searches on three women and a woman who was in the process of transitioning to male. The company admitted that there had been systemic failings at the prison and deficient training for staff. The prisoners settled the case against Sodexo but maintained their challenge to the secretary of state, arguing that there was a failure to supervise and monitor proper protections for prisoners.

The high court agreed with the claimants’ arguments in respect of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and found that there were systemic failures in the particularly difficult and sensitive area of strip-searching:

“Any person in any profession can on occasion make a mistake. The capacity for mistakes is part of the human condition. But where a significant number of people working together are responsible for a number of mistakes then the conclusion readily follows that something serious and preventable must have occurred, especially in the sensitive area in which I am concerned where much work has been done in recent years precisely to avoid the sort of unlawfulness which occurred.”

The court found that the breaches were serious. A significant number of officers were involved and they all proceeded straight to a level 2 search (a full strip search), without first conducting a Level 1 search (which requires the removal of the woman’s clothing apart from her underwear) or a rub-down search. In one case, this required a prisoner to remove and dispose of a sanitary towel, which the judgment says must have been humiliating and embarrassing for the woman concerned. No adequate reasons were given for the search, and no proper records were kept. In summary, the court concluded, “there were numerous serious, systemic and widespread failures at Peterborough prison over the relevant period which led to a number of strip searches being carried unlawfully, for a variety of different reasons”.

The critical finding of the court condemning the secretary of state was the failure not to have an adequate and effective system in place to prevent infringements in the first place. This is particularly egregious when it affected the strip searching of female and transgender prisoners, the majority of whom have previously experienced sexual, physical or psychological abuse.

This judgment will have significant implications for private government contracts in all fields. The judgment makes clear that the state cannot outsource its human rights obligations and that it can be held accountable in domestic courts for a failure to monitor and supervise its private contractors.

The Howard League submitted detailed expert evidence to the court.

Read the judgment in full.

Sunday 24 February 2019

SFO's - Who Is To Blame?

Right from the beginning of the TR nightmare, politicians were repeatedly warned about the dangers of SFO's. The privatised CRC's were warned, as was the MoJ. Here is Hardeep Matharu writing for Byline Times confirming that it wasn't a matter of crying wolf and staff rather than politicians are carrying the can:-  

‘Probation Workers Supervising Offenders Who Commit Murder and Rape on their Watch Are Being “Scapegoated”over Chris Grayling’s Failed Reforms’

With the number of serious further offences perpetrated by those on probation rising by over a third since the service was reformed in 2014, the probation workers’ union asks: where is the political accountability for the failings?

Probation officers supervising offenders who commit serious further crimes such as rape and murder are being “scapegoated” by politicians for failings created by Chris Grayling’s widely-condemned reforms of the system, the union representing probation workers has claimed.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), said probation officers are “being scapegoated for mistakes caused by this failed privatisation experiment” – the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms of probation, introduced by then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in 2014.

The reforms saw the part-privatisation of the probation service – charged with supervising offenders released from prison and those serving community sentences – with ‘low-to-medium risk’ offenders being supervised by privately-run ‘community rehabilitation companies’ (CRCs) and ‘high-risk’ offenders continuing to be supervised by the public sector National Probation Service (NPS).

Grayling’s splitting of the service has been beset with problems and received widespread criticism, with campaigners and probation officers themselves at the time warning him not to take a wrecking ball to the then award-winning service.
“I will never get over the trauma of what happened as a result of the SFO. I will live with that for the rest of my life.” Probation Officer
Since the reforms were introduced, the number of serious further offences (SFOs), crimes such as rape and murder, committed by those being supervised by probation have been on the rise. In 2017-18, 242 offenders were charged with a SFO – a 39% increase since 2013-14 and the highest figure in the past nine years, according to the latest official figures.

But, instead of examining systemic failings, NAPO, which represents those working in the NPS and the CRCs, claims that probation officers – particularly in the NPS – are increasingly being targeted for blame following SFOs, which the union sees as ministers diverting accountability away from themselves.

NAPO told me that interventions by the Justice Minister in high profile, highly publicised SFO cases has resulted in “biased investigations”, a much more punitive stance being taken by the NPS towards staff, and senior probation officers being pressurised to find someone to blame.

Burnt-out staff dealing solely with high-risk cases in the NPS are living in fear as “the Ministry of Justice and NPS insistence that someone be held to account for a SFO and the tragedy that follows is now so driven”, it said.

‘Ministers looking for scapegoats on the front line’

Mr Lawrence said the union’s caseload of probation officers involved in disciplinary actions or required to provide evidence at inquests following SFOs has increased markedly over the past two to three years.

“We know that there are more members under the cosh than before,” he said. “We are committed to our members not being scapegoated for mistakes caused by this failed privatisation experiment. We want the work returned to public control.”

Tania Bassett, NAPO national official who has provided support in the disciplinary cases, said: “The NPS has unfortunately decided to take a far more draconian approach to SFO investigations than previously. The blame culture appears to be coming from intervention of the Minister in cases that have got a high profile.

“There is no acknowledgement on the part of the NPS that these SFOs are happening due to unmanageable workloads and a total lack of management oversight. The Minister needs to take some responsibility for this chaos and not just look for scapegoats on the front line.”
“Serious further offences are very rare, but each one is taken extremely seriously and investigated fully so that we can ensure any mistakes aren’t repeated.” Probation Service Spokesman
One probation officer involved in a SFO said: “I will never get over the trauma of what happened as a result of the SFO. I will live with that for the rest of my life. But, now the NPS is doubly traumatising me by threatening me with my job, profession and livelihood. No one asked to work in this failed system. The NPS is not fit for purpose but we are the ones carrying the can for it.”

Another probation officer said: “I have sat in on the continued persecution and witch-hunt of an experienced probation officer who feels he is almost being held culpable for the actual SFO. It is disgraceful and shocking.”

A third added: “The NPS is an organisation run by people who have no understanding of the pressures and demands of case supervision. The use of fear and blaming forces middle managers to pass on their insecurities.”

One probation officer said staff involved in SFOs are not given any guidance about what work to prioritise or not to do: “Most of the front line probation officers to whom this traumatic event occurs are massively overworked and have been for long periods – for example, holding the equivalent of one-and-a-half caseloads for over two years without respite and promises that things will improve, but haven’t.”

“It was an aberrant decision, to leave Leroy Campbell at large”

In 2016, Lisa Skidmore, a 37-year-old nurse from Bilston, Wolverhampton, was raped and strangled to death by Leroy Campbell after he climbed through her bedroom window, just four months after he was released from prison.

A prolific violent and sexual offender, in 1983 he had been sent to prison for seven years for entering a nurse’s home and attempting to strangle and rape her. At the time he killed Ms Skidmore, Campbell was being supervised by the NPS. Weeks before the murder, Campbell had told his probation officer he was thinking of raping again and had been looking at, and noticed, open windows.

A 2018 review by HM Chief Inspector of Probation of Campbell’s supervision, commissioned by the Justice Minister Rory Stewart, found that, weeks before the murder, Campbell had told his probation officer he was thinking of raping again and had been looking at, and noticed, open windows.

“This should have resulted in immediate, positive and firm action to protect the public… instead, Leroy Campbell was left free to commit these terrible crimes. It was an aberrant decision, to leave Leroy Campbell at large,” said Dame Glenys Stacey.

The Chief Inspector said an investigation, including the staff involved being temporarily suspended, should have been launched immediately by NPS managers. “Disciplinary actions,” she said, “should be timely, to be as fair as possible to all concerned, and to maintain public trust”. She said it was “odd” that this hadn’t been the case.

Although “systemic failures” were at the core of many SFOs, in this instance, “practitioners and managers simply did not do what they should have done”, she found. However, she added that Grayling’s ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms had been introduced just before the decision was taken to release Campbell and “while this is no excuse, it is a relevant consideration”.
“The nature of the challenge facing the NPS has changed since ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’. There are fewer opportunities for new staff to develop their skills by working with lower-risk offenders.”Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation
Campbell’s case had been transferred to a probation officer who had just been given a “full caseload of offenders who presented a high risk of harm to others” – 36 cases. The senior probation officer involved was also new to the transferred cases.

“The changes brought in by the restructuring of probation services meant that the NPS became entirely focused on… those presenting a high risk of harm to others,” the report said. “This is a significant change for those staff and managers who had previously held a more varied caseload. Prioritisation now meant identifying the highest risk cases within a caseload where few present a low risk. One could speculate that the benchmark for cases that receive the most attention moved upwards.”

It added: “The nature of the challenge facing the NPS has changed since ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’. There are fewer opportunities for new staff to develop their skills by working with lower-risk offenders. The span of control of front-line managers has not reduced, but they must now be skilled in identifying and prioritising risky situations and cases from within a caseload where few present no risk.”

‘Failings by those supervising the offender’

When asked to respond to NAPO’s concerns and the rise in SFOs since Grayling’s reforms, a Probation Service spokesman from the Ministry of Justice said: “Serious further offences are very rare, but each one is taken extremely seriously and investigated fully so that we can ensure any mistakes aren’t repeated. When a SFO review identifies failings in practice by those supervising the offender, the NPS or CRC can take action under formal performance or disciplinary procedures if necessary.”

More than a quarter of a million people are living in our communities under probation supervision right now – 262,758, according to the latest official figures, more than three times as many inmates currently locked away in our prisons. The job of probation is indisputably one of essential public safety. The question then must be – how much do we care about our safety?

Do you work in our probation or prison services and have concerns? Email Hardeep Matharu, Social Affairs Editor, confidentially, on

Saturday 23 February 2019

Latest From Napo 186

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

Working Links demise a victory but big test ahead

Last week saw some dramatic developments that culminated in the three Working Links Community Rehabilitation Companies going into Administration. The MoJ simultaneously announced the appointment of SEETEC to manage a recovery plan through the Kent Surrey and Sussex CRC until the end of its current contract. Napo and the Probation unions moved quickly to ensure that the necessary transfer orders and arrangements for the payment of wages were in place for ex-Working Links CRC employees.

There is no doubt that the resilience of Napo members and those of their sister unions throughout the dispute with Working Links, have been a major factor in seeing this dreadful employer out of the door. The refusal to be cowed by an endemic bullying culture driven directly by the directors of the Working Links Board, and the resistance to attempts to change your terms and conditions without agreement have been an inspiration. Their efforts were supported by a courageous group of managers in the former Devon, Dorset and Cornwall CRC. They recently helped to expose the scandalous state of operations in this area that were the subject of a most damning HM Inspectorate of Probation report last week.

Working Links have gone away, but there are a multitude of unanswered questions around accountability and responsibility which Napo intend to pursue through Parliament and the media over the coming weeks.

Union engagement with SEETEC and KSS CRC management

There was very little time to celebrate the departure of Working Links before an urgent meeting took place in Chippenham last Monday between the new provider’s senior management team and trade union representatives. The key issues included:

  • The mechanics of the transfer of ex-Working Links employees into KSS CRC and the initial agenda around the ‘measures’ that will need to be the subject of negotiation with trades unions
  • The initial mobilisation plans (over the first 90 days) to stabilise the delivery of Probation services in the areas that were formally under the remit of Working Links. More specific news will follow on this as soon as it becomes available
  • The need to urgently consult with unions and stakeholders on the plans to speed up the handback of Offender Management work to NPS Wales and how this will impact on the current roles of some staff.
  • The need to establish a longer-term transition plan under the existing and now varied, KSS CRC contract.
  • The positive intentions of the holding company SEETEC in respect of the recruitment of staff and initiatives on professional standards and training.
  • Arrangements to ensure that regular meaningful dialogue is established between unions and senior management with the aim of reaching agreement.
Union’s response

It is fair to say that while the vast majority of the meeting was positive, the unions had cause to take issue with some of the content of the letters that arrived through ex-Working Links employee’s doors last Saturday morning. These caused a number of union reps to have their weekends interrupted fielding calls from a substantial number of worried members.

Such was the pace of developments in respect of the transfer that the unions nationally had simply not had the opportunity to consider the contents of what SEETEC were sending out to their new employees. Whilst we obviously recognised the need to make initial contact with staff and welcomed the required assurances about payment of wages and the desire to engage with the trades unions, we made it clear that issues such as pay and variation of contracts must be the subject of negotiation under the terms of the Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement. I also need to make it clear to members that you not required to respond to these letters.

New suits but same message?

We said that were pleased that the departure of Working Links ended the long running dispute with that employer, and that unions were now ready to engage with positively with SEETEC/KSS CRC.

Nevertheless, we took a strong position on behalf of our members in saying that the level and quality of engagement with the new employer must seriously improve from what has gone before. The employer also agreed the importance of adequate facility time for union reps to have input into the transition plans

We also demanded early sight and discussion of the mobilisation plan and the unions agreed that it would be useful to spend time at an ‘away day’ event involving managers and union reps from the Kent Surrey and Sussex areas of the enlarged CRC.

The unions will shortly be submitting a joint pay claim covering all of our members in the KSS CRC.

Napo membership

Our membership team at Napo HQ have already made the necessary arrangements to change our databases and have contacted KSSC to ensure that your membership subscriptions will continue. Napo members formerly employed by Working Links need take no action.

Finally, Napo will issue as much news as we can on the above issues and other developments, but also look out for local news from your respective Napo Branch within KSS CRC (these remain unchanged).

Enquiries about this bulletin can be directed to where a member of our team will respond at the earliest opportunity.

Remember: unity is strength, and the more members there are within the whole of KSS CRC the more effective we can be in taking your issues forward with the employer.

Ian Lawrence
General Secretary

Friday 22 February 2019

If Only Probation Wasn't Broken!

It seems to me that whilst domestic politics continues to be focused on matters European and the right-wing's eye is off the ball, there's definitely a head of steam building in relation to at last doing something about the size of our prison population. The trouble is we're all still trying to cope with the effect of TR and that rather makes community alternatives a tad tricky to magic up. 

Here's Rob Allen's thoughts on that recent Gauke speech that sought to divert attention from the first CRC's going bust just hours before:-   

Sentence Planning: Why David Gauke Deserves Two Cheers

No one was quite sure what to expect from David Gauke this morning. Would we get some reheated (or under cooked) announcements to distract from the latest Ministry of Justice fiasco - in this case the Working Links probation company? Or was the Justice Secretary out and about as part of a government strategy to show that away from the joy of Brexit, domestic policy making is proceeding apace across Whitehall?

As it turns out, on this occasion at least, such cynicism was ill founded. It was to my mind the best ministerial speech on sentencing since Ken Clarke spoke at King’s College just after the 2010 election. Then, Clarke expressed incredulity that the prison population had doubled in the twenty years since he had previously held responsibility for it. There were echoes of 2010 today. Clarke thought it “too simple just to argue about tougher sentencing or softer sentencing … but I believe in intelligent sentencing,seeking to give better value for money and the effective protection that people want”. Gauke retains the sentiment but calls it smart.

The Justice Secretary staked out a much more constructive way forward on the use of imprisonment than any of the four Justice Secretaries who’ve followed Clarke; by urging caution in continuing to increase sentence length as a response to concerns over crime; by arguing for switching resource away from ineffective prison sentences and into probation; and by starting “a fresh conversation, a national debate about what justice, including punishment, should look like for our modern times”.

Since Clarke’s departure, policy has sought to focus much more on the practice of imprisonment than its use - with disastrous consequences. Prime Minister David Cameron didn’t want to “waste too much energy discussing big existential questions about the prison population.” As Justice Secretary, Liz Truss tried to paint England and Wales as “fairly mid table when it comes to custodial sentences” in comparison with other countries and argued that sentence inflation was limited to sexual and violent crimes.

Gauke rightly told his audience today that we are an international and historical outlier in terms of our prison population and that it’s not just about violent or sexual offences. “Prison sentences, in general, have been getting longer”.

So in terms of tone, his speech does mark an important break with recent history. Cameron described the idea that we could somehow release tens of thousands of prisoners with no adverse consequences as nonsense. Gauke sees “a very strong case to abolish sentences of six months or less altogether, with some closely defined exceptions, and put in their place, a robust community order regime”. 46,000 such sentences were imposed in the year to June 2018-more than half of all the prison terms passed.

Cameron promised you wouldn’t hear him “arguing to neuter judges’ sentencing powers or reduce their ability to use prison when it is required.” But that’s just what Gauke is planning.

Or is he? In the Q &A that followed the speech, it became clear that little has been decided in government but is rather being explored. As I have argued earlier there are difficult technical questions about achieving reductions in the use of short sentences. It’s the details that did for Ken Clarke’s efforts to reduce prison numbers – in his case the attempt to increase sentence discounts for early guilty pleas. So any penal reformers’ prosecco needs to stay corked for the moment.

The failings of the part privatised probation system will do little to assist Gauke’s ambitions, although the long-awaited arrival of GPS tracking - first announced as “prisons without bars” by David Blunkett in 2004 - should increase options for monitoring community-based supervision. But it’s hard to see his promised shift in resources from prison to probation until the new services and structure come into place in 2021.

In the meantime, to build on his speech today, he should establish a review of sentencing as part of the national debate he wants about punishment in the modern age. Perhaps he could ask Justin Russell to lead it?

He’s the senior MoJ mandarin who Gauke wants to succeed Glenys Stacey as Chief Inspector of Probation. Several people I spoke to at the speech this morning were uncomfortable with that appointment. The independence of HMI Probation is of paramount importance and it simply doesn’t look right for an official who has been responsible for probation reform to lead the organisation.

Rob Allen

Thursday 21 February 2019

Meanwhile Another CRC Not Doing Well

Over the last couple of days there's been some negative comment regarding the Interserve CRC's, their 'pimping out' of PO's to NPS and yet more organisational changes 

"It's supposed to disguise the fact that Interserve are selling most of their experienced Probation Officer's services to the NPS instead of providing anything like a proper Probation Service to the community or to the clients unlucky enough to be allocated to their CRCs"

"I too work within an Interserve CRC and just cannot understand what on earth our management are trying to achieve other than get more with less staff - it's confusing and frustrating for staff and service users alike especially when good relationships have been formed that have took time and effort on both sides to be just ignored depending on what supposed "specialisms" that service user is deemed to fit - yet again another farcical model that management are all happy clappy about just like they were with the first one that didn't work."

well this is what Dame Glenys has to say in today's press release:-

Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire CRC– clear strengths but staff struggling with the pace of organisational change

The Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) was found by inspectors to have clear strengths. There was a capable leadership team, it performed well in some areas and the CRC had a good understanding of where improvements in service delivery were needed.

However, the CRC, one of five in the Purple Futures group, was assessed overall as ‘Requires improvement’. Inspectors’ concerns focused, in particular, on the impact of organisational changes.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said the fieldwork for the inspection in October 2018 took place a week after the CRC had announced a new change programme, ‘Enabling our Future’. This had caused some staff anxiety about their future roles.

“The CRC’s operating model is now in place and is understood by staff and others who work alongside the CRC. However, the morale of operational staff is low. They report a disconnect between themselves and the aspirations of their senior leaders.

“They continue to find the pace of change overwhelming and believe it is not communicated well. This has had a negative impact on service delivery and is contributing to staff feeling that their workloads are unmanageable.” Inspectors, though, did not believe workloads were excessive and concluded that “constant change is the main factor affecting staff motivation.”

Another concern for inspectors was a variation in the quality of services delivered by senior case managers (those qualified as probation officers) and case managers (probation services officers). Case managers were not well equipped to deliver high-quality, personalised services for those under supervision.

Dame Glenys added that this difference in quality was most marked in work to manage the risk of harm to others. “Here, the work of case managers is not effective and leaves actual and potential victims not fully protected.” Inspectors noted that the quality of some aspects of work was “erratic.”

On case supervision, inspectors noted:

  • Assessments focused appropriately on factors related to offending but analysis of these factors was often weak.
  • Planning for work to reduce reoffending was generally done well but inspectors found that planning did not fully address how to keep actual and potential victims safe.
  • The engagement of individuals under supervision was prioritised well but not enough interventions were delivered to support desistance – the cessation of offending or other antisocial behaviour – and keep other people safe.
  • Reviewing of work was erratic and “significantly let down by responsible officers failing to focus meaningfully on risk of harm issues.”
On a more positive note, the CRC – which supervises 5,347 people – was found to deliver impressive services for women. The delivery of unpaid work ordered by courts and Through the Gate services for those leaving prison were both rated as good.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“This CRC’s senior leaders are committed to promoting a culture of learning from mistakes, and they respond well to findings from audits and independent inspection. We expect that the findings in this report will help to tackle shortfalls in practice and develop the quality of service delivery.”


Tweet from Frances Crook:-

"Scrabbling around desperately for something positive to say about private probation company, the women's centres are praised, expect the CRC doesn't run them"

Wednesday 20 February 2019

MoJ Warm Probation Ready For Serving

Probation Programme Commissioning Market Engagement Event 11th December 2018

Probation Programme Mobilisation and Transition Market Engagement Event 12th December 2018

Probation Programme Commercial Strategy Market Engagement Event 13th December 2018

I think I need to make it clear that I simply don't recognise nor understand the terminology and gobbledegook in this document and in my humble opinion impenetrable shit like this should have no place in the world of probation. It's utter bollocks as far as I'm concerned and I'm beginning to get angry again......

Jim - can't disagree, and sorry to be a provocateur of your ire. It makes me incandescent with rage that these documents, prepared in Dec 18, when the imminent demise of WL was known, show that TR2 is already being divvied up, viz-KSS being asked to pick up the WL package: "Market share will be capped at 30% of caseload and a maximum of 2 contract package areas", i.e. KSS & SouthWest = done deal for Seetec.

While probation staff are being treated like shit right across the board Gauke & his MoJ cronies have already had lunch with the bidders and £thousands are being spent grooming each other...... which means Gauke daren't kick off about WL - or anything else probation - in case he upsets the commercially sensitive apple-cart: "I will return to the subject of probation in much greater depth later this year."

Contract launch is April 2019
Initial bids evaluated May/June
Qualifying bidders to tender June/Aug

That'll explain why Gauke & co kept WL under their hats until there was no choice. If it had come out before this bidding process started then other bidders might have cried "foul", or muddied the waters over who has WL packages.

It seems likely that these "market warming" excercises are why the ministers are saying very little about probation right now - hence the other interested members of parliament and trade unions need to be asking very penetrating questions - I pay less attention to them now as my expectations of proper scrutiny are very low - have you dear reader heard anything meaningfull? I presume nothing significant will be heard from the Justice Committee until the market has gone cold!

It would appear that the MoJ have failed to include consultation with the union NAPO as outlined on page 13 of the transfer and mobilization guide in the case of Seetec. Transfer has already occurred behind closed doors and retrospectively the unions invited - not very transparent. Ian Lawrence what are you doing about this or are you going to leave it for SW Branch to sort yet again?

Tuesday 19 February 2019

MoJ Masterclass in News Management

Well, yesterday saw the culmination of a weekend's-worth of MoJ news management in order to try and drown out the disgraceful failure of TR so perfectly demonstrated by the collapse of Working Links. Just for the record it went like this:-

Friday am - Rory Stewart kicks things off with a made-up story about prison violence reducing
Friday pm - news of Working Links failing put off to the graveyard slot of 3.30pm
Saturday am - rehash of old electronic tagging story for the weekend
Monday am - Gauke makes speech about reducing prison population and smarter justice with no mention of probation
Monday pm - no parliamentary questions re Working Links just a ministerial written statement
Tuesday - job done!  


That Reform speech in full:-

Beyond prison, redefining punishment

Since the early 1990s, we’ve seen the prison population almost double, from about 45,000 in 1993 to just over 83,000 in 2008. Since then, it has been broadly stable and currently stands at a little below 83,000. This is the highest rate of imprisonment almost anywhere in western Europe.

For every 100,000 people in the Netherlands, 61 are behind bars, in Denmark 63, in Germany it’s 76, in Italy it’s 99 and in France it’s 104. In England and Wales our incarceration rate is 139 people per 100,000. Why do we have such high rates of imprisonment – both by international standards and our own historic standards? Part of this is about our society and government rightly recognising and responding to the rise in certain types of crime.

More offenders are being jailed for violent crime for example. And last year, over a third of people sentenced for crimes involving knives or other weapons were given immediate custodial sentences. That’s up from 23% in 2009. And the length of sentences is increasing – sentences for sexual offences for example have gone up from 43 months in 2007 to just under 61 months in 2018. 

It’s also about changing expectations about the kinds of crimes for which we expect perpetrators to be more severely punished. Look at sexual offences where we’ve seen more victims feel able to come forward, more people brought to justice, and with many more convictions and much longer sentences than a decade ago. But it’s not just about violent or sexual offences. Prison sentences, in general, have been getting longer. Even for offences which aren’t violent or sexual, the average sentence length overall has increased. Take fraud: the average custodial sentence for that has gone up from just under a year in 2007 to over 18 months in 2017.

Now, whatever your own views on what should happen, as a matter of fact it is clearly not true that sentences overall are getting shorter or justice is somehow getting softer – as some argue. When it comes to the length of prison sentences we are now taking a more punitive approach than at any point during Mrs Thatcher’s premiership.

Let me be clear. I do not want to reverse the tougher sentencing approach for serious offences. But equally, we should be extremely cautious about continuing to increase sentences as a routine response to concerns over crime. We have to recognise that such an approach would lead us to becoming even more of an international and historical outlier in terms of our prison population. Instead, we need to take a step back and to ask ourselves 3 questions:

  • Is our approach to sentencing actually reducing crime – when reoffending remains stubbornly high, creating more victims and putting the public at risk?
  • Are we running our prisons in a way which maximises offenders’ chances of turning their lives around, of going on to gainful employment and re-joining society as a responsible citizen?
  • And should we be seeking opportunities in the coming years to find better and alternative ways of punishing as well as rehabilitating offenders?
It is these questions – how we punish people for their crimes - which I’d like to talk about today (18 February 2019). I think now is the time for us as a society, as a country, to start a fresh conversation, a national debate about what justice, including punishment, should look like for our modern times. Because as I see it, there is a false choice between the narrow and often polarising discussion about ‘soft’ justice versus ‘hard’ justice.

In my view, we should be talking about ‘smart’ justice. Justice that works. Now, for most of us in society, the very idea of going to prison for even a short amount of time, and the loss of liberty that entails, is a real deterrent. But that thinking fails to get into the mindset of many of today’s criminals –who are either reckless, or who don’t fear prison because they have friends and family who have all done time. Perhaps their lives are so chaotic that prison, in the scheme of things, might not seem so bad. That is true of no group more than those serving the shortest sentences.

In the last five years, just over a quarter of a million custodial sentences have been given to offenders for six months or less; over 300,000 sentences were for 12 months or less. But nearly two thirds of those offenders go on to commit a further crime within a year of being released. 27% of all reoffending is committed by people who have served short sentences of 12 months or less. For the offenders completing these short sentences whose lives are destabilised, and for society which incurs a heavy financial and social cost, prison simply isn’t working.

The most common offence for which offenders are sentenced to less 6 months – some 11,500 offenders – is shoplifting. We know that offenders who commit this kind of crime often have drug or alcohol problems, and many are women. Almost half of women sentenced to a short custodial sentence are there for shop theft. The impact of short custodial sentences on women generally is particularly significant. Many are victims, as well as offenders, with almost 60% reporting experience of domestic abuse and many have mental health issues. For women, going into custody often causes huge disruption to the lives of their families, especially dependent children, increasing the risk they will also fall into offending.

And for many offenders, both men and women, who may not have a stable job or home, and who are likely to have alcohol or drug problems, a short stay in prison can result in them losing access to benefits and drug or alcohol support services and treatment. Coming out of prison, they find themselves back at the start of the process and feeling like they have even less to lose. That’s why there is a very strong case to abolish sentences of six months or less altogether, with some closely defined exceptions, and put in their place, a robust community order regime.

Let’s be honest. The public will always want to prioritise schools or hospitals over the criminal justice system when it comes to public spending. But where we do spend on the criminal justice system, we must spend on what works. Why would we spend taxpayers’ money doing what we know doesn’t work, and indeed, that makes us less safe? We shouldn’t.

The reception of a new offender into custody – that first night inside – is one of the most resource heavy moments in an offender’s journey through the system. Every offender must have their property logged. They must be issued with their prison essentials – toothbrushes; clothing; bedding. They must be risk assessed for self-harm risks and the risks they pose to other offenders. There are full security procedures including a strip search for many. And then once these offenders are set up inside, there’s no time for the prison service to do any meaningful rehabilitative work with them.

In 2017, almost 50,000 offenders were sentenced to immediate custody for 6 months or less. By abolishing these sentences we’d expect also to reduce the number of receptions carried out. Just think how much better we could use the prison officers’ time and resources, whether focusing on security, whether looking after those at risk of self harm, or whether spending more time on running regimes which really will make a difference – those built around temporary release for work, education, and tackling drug addiction.

And offenders are less likely to reoffend if they are given a community order, which are much more effective at tackling the root causes behind criminality. Now, I do not want community orders which are in any sense a ‘soft option’. I want a regime that can impose greater restrictions on people’s movements and lifestyle and stricter requirements in terms of accessing treatment and support.

And critically, these sentences must be enforced. That’s why on Saturday I announced the rollout of our new GPS tagging programme which will allow offenders’ movements to be more effectively monitored. Working with our justice partners, I hope that GPS tags will be available across the country by April. It will be an important new tool in controlling and restricting the movement and certain activities of offenders. It will also help manage offenders safely in the community and strengthen the protection available for victims by monitoring exclusion zones.

Other new technology and innovations are opening up the possibility of even more options for the future too. For example, technology can monitor whether an offender has consumed alcohol, and enables us to be able to better restrict and monitor alcohol consumption where it drives offending behaviour. We are testing the value of alcohol abstinence monitoring requirements for offenders on licence, building on earlier testing of its value as part of a community order.

Underpinned by evidence of what works to reduce reoffending, we are also increasing the treatment requirements of community orders. Our research shows that nearly 60% of recent offenders who engaged with a community-based alcohol programme did not go on to reoffend in the two years following treatment. Offenders given a community sentence including mental health treatment have also shown to be significantly less likely to reoffend.

That’s why we have worked with the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and Public Health England to develop a Treatment Requirement Programme which aims to increase the number of community sentences with mental health, drug and alcohol treatment requirements. The programme is currently being tested in courts across five areas in England –Milton Keynes, Northampton, Birmingham, Plymouth and Sefton. It dictates a new minimum standard of service, with additional training for staff to improve collaboration between the agencies involved – all of which is increasing confidence among sentencers to use them. I look forward to seeing the outcomes of those trials shortly.

Many offenders in prison have mental health problems, but often struggle to engage with treatment on the same terms as they could in the community. That is why the Health Secretary and I want to explore how innovative digital technologies can be put to use to serve the mental health needs of our prisoners.

We also know stable accommodation is a key factor in reoffending. As part of the Government’s Rough Sleeping agenda, we are investing up to £6.4 million in a pilot scheme to help individuals released from three prisons – Bristol, Leeds and Pentonville – who have been identified as being at risk of homelessness into settled accommodation, while providing them with wrap around support for up to two years. This is part of a cross-government action necessary to cutting reoffending and tackle the root causes of criminality.

But if we want to successfully make a shift from prison to community sentences it is critical that we have a probation system that commands the confidence of the courts and the public. I will return to the subject of probation in much greater depth later this year. But, in thinking strategically about the future of our justice system I believe in the end there is a strong case for switching resource away from ineffective prison sentences and into probation. This is more likely to reduce reoffending and, ultimately, reduce pressures on our criminal justice system. I am determined to strengthen the confidence courts have in probation to ensure we can make this shift away from short custodial sentences towards more punitive and effective sanctions and support in the community. However, as I mentioned earlier, prison will continue to be right for some.

My second question was about what sort of prison regime we want. For those who are serving longer sentences, we need to ensure that prisons are humane, safe and secure. Much good work has been done over the past year, led by the excellent Prisons Minister Rory Stewart. But in prison, to reduce the chances of reoffending on release, there needs to be a positive outlook for the future and a sense that there is light at the end of the tunnel so long as an offender wants to turn their back on crime.

That’s why I have spoken before and we have consulted on a new approach to incentives and privileges that better incentivises prisoners to abide by the rules and engage in education, work and substance misuse interventions, whilst ensuring poor behaviour can still be tackled through the loss of privileges. It means maintaining a link to the outside world – for example with work and family – so that prisoners don’t get institutionalised and lose hope.

If, at the end of a prison term, our objective is to release into the community a responsible citizen, we must first ensure that we have a responsible prisoner. An important way we can do this for some prisoners is release on temporary license – or ROTL. Research last year shows the more ROTL a prisoner gets, the less chance there is of them reoffending. It provides purposeful activity and experience while in prison so that they have the right attitude for work, can get a job when they’re released, prepare for re-joining their families and society and turn their back on crime for good.

We are currently consulting on loosening some of the barriers to using ROTL for some prisoners. Our plans will encourage using ROTL more often to get prisoners off the wings and into the workplace by removing blanket restrictions on when governors can consider ROTL, particularly those who have progressed to open conditions. Rather than blanket bans, the focus will rightly be instead on how safe it is for a prisoner to be released on ROTL, enabling them to go out to work sooner, and helping them to prepare for eventual release.

I am pleased to say that three prisons, HMPs Drake Hall, Ford and Kirkham, are currently testing out new arrangements for ROTL, giving their Governors more discretion over temporary release for men and women. This will be a great opportunity to learn from their experience, and explore the best ways to safely and more quickly get prisoners out for work.

Our other reforms will also make reoffending less likely on release. Whether that’s our £7 million investment for new in-cell telephones to maintain family links or looking at how we categorise the risk prisoners pose so they are put in the right type of category prison.

This brings me to my third fundamental question. Is it time to begin to think again about how we punish offenders in future. Historically, for many offenders our earliest prisons were little more than holding pens ahead of transportation or indeed capital punishment. Of course, those sanctions are no longer available to us. And, for the avoidance of doubt, I am not advocating their return. But for the past couple of centuries, we have – almost by default – come to accept the view that punishment essentially means prison.

Looking at reforming short sentences by providing a robust community orders regime is a near term initiative that will help us tackle the problem of reoffending. But thinking about effective punishment for different crimes isn’t limited to those that currently get short sentences. I believe we are nearing a time when a combination of technology and radical thinking will make it possible for much more intensive and restrictive conditions to be applied in more creative and fundamental ways outside of prison.

I think for some offenders we need to revisit what effective punishment really means. Home curfew, driving bans, alcohol bans and foreign travel bans are just some of the options that already exist and which might play a bigger role. I believe the biggest potential comes from being able to better target someone who makes large profits from committing a financial crime like fraud. Or the kingpin drug baron who makes his money one step removed from the violence and misery this illicit trade creates.

Fraud, for example, is a serious offence. It is far from victimless and the consequences for innocent people can be devastating. So, it needs a serious punishment. And the criminals who commit these offences are calculating. They are premeditated. And they are motivated by greed.

In recent years, the custody rate has increased from 14.5% in 2007 to over 20%, and the average custodial sentence going up from under a year to over 18 months. But once fraudsters have sat out their sentence, they may be able to return to their comfortable lifestyle as soon as they get out. Indeed, serving a 2 year prison sentence but knowing your illicit cash is still hidden from the authorities, is not an effective punishment.

I can see us being able to take a different approach. For example, this kind of fraudster or kingpin would still need to spend time in prison. And we will continue to pursue relentlessly to confiscate the proceeds of crime. But we could go further. I want to look at what happens after prison – whether our more effective punishment and deterrent for these criminals might involve jail time and more lasting and punitive community interventions. After serving part of their sentence behind bars, we could, for example, continue to restrict an offender’s movement, their activities and their lifestyle beyond prison in a much more intensive way.

And that could also mean a real shift in the standard of living a wealthy criminal can expect after prison. I want to look at how, once a jail term has been served, we can continue to restrict their expenditure and monitor their earnings, using new technology to enable proper enforcement. They would be in no uncertainty that, once sentenced, they wouldn’t be able to reap any lifestyle benefits from their crimes and would need to make full reparation to the community as part of the sentence.

I’m keen to get industry working with us to develop the necessary technology. Our banks are looking more and more at their social responsibilities, and they could look at what part they can play in investing to help us to deliver this vision. Community sanctions like this won’t be soft options, but they will be smart ones. They will enable us to impose an unprecedented level of punitive sanctions outside of a prison, with punishment hitting closer to home and hitting criminals where it always hurts – the pocket. It will allow us not only, as the old adage goes, to ‘let the punishment fit the crime’, but to let the punishment properly hit the criminal in a more tailored and targeted way outside of prison.

Prison will always play a part in serving as punishment for serious crimes and in rehabilitation, and our reforms will deliver that. But we need to think more imaginatively about different and more modern forms of punishment in the community. Punishments that are punitive, for a purpose. As with our approach to short sentences, ultimately, it’s about doing what works to reduce reoffending and make us all safer and less likely to be a future victim of crime. In that sense, I believe the choice – and the debate – isn’t one of soft justice or hard justice. It’s a choice between effective justice or ineffective justice.

I know that there will be some who argue that the only problem with our criminal justice system is that it isn’t tough enough, that the answer to short sentences is longer sentences, that the best way of stopping recently released prisoners from reoffending is not to release them. And that the endless ratchet effect of higher sentences is giving the public what it wants. But I believe that those in positions of responsibility have a duty to show leadership. To confront difficult issues, be led by the evidence and pursue policies that are most likely to deliver for the public. That, I hope, is the approach I have set out today – thank you.

Monday 18 February 2019

Working Links Latest 2

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding this email from today:-

Urgent ref transfer letters Feb 2019

Dear Napo Members

Most staff of the DDC BGSW Wales CRCs will have received their transfer of employment letters by today.

The document notifies you that should you sign an objection, and return within 5 days, you will become unemployed and retrospectively. This is neither lawful or an appropriate way to manage the situation that we all face in this time of critical change.

Within the document it specifically provides an agenda that they want to seek negotiations with the unions that effectively varies your contractual rights. These potential changes which we know already are less favourable conditions, claim to follow the Staff Transfer and Protections arrangements. In fact they do not and nor are the proposals in the spirit of the protective contractual agreement. Negotiated by National Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence he will be concerned as to this premature immediate attempt to do staff down on protective terms. Especially following the appalling Working Links who tried to do just the same thing to us. (I will be writing shortly in conjunction with the General Secretaries response to Napo members on the situation of the unprecedented HMIP findings and the far too late removal of Working Links. The appalling untenable and disputed working model and the mendacity of the claimed workload indicator tool shortly.) Therefore NAPO SSW branch will not be in any position to support the transfer arrangements suggested agenda items signalled by the SEETEC transfer proposal as currently stated. The employer is a CRC not Seetec they do not have the authority to vary the collective national agreement, or suggest later on, post transfer date, that in fact you had accepted, or the Unions and Napo could relinquish any of your contractual or statutory rights.

To indicate an objection and then be dismissed as if you could do this is just an incredible bullying tactic. Seetec claim if you have objected a forfeit of many employment terms and statutory rights are lost. They cannot do this and an employment tribunal would be the arbiters of such claims. No one can sign away statutory rights. Their actual aim is to diminish your entitlements to your DDC redundancy policy, mobility, and direction protections, critical in our difficult geography and lack of clear estates strategy. Worse yet to come, working hours location and roles. Seetec offer all staff this potential trap, which is as worse, a position, on par with the appalling Working Links attempts to achieve the same.

Seetec should realise quickly the SSW Branch of Napo with our regional pan members, the General Secretary, and our combined efforts over 3 years to protect your posts, terms and conditions will not be lost in some cynical poorly constructed game playing, that they immediately started before speaking with the unions. Just more of the same it says loudly.

This agenda has not been agreed or presented to the Unions prior to placing the issues before you. No consultation on Pay and worse, fail to recognise pay is a national collective bargaining issue not branch. Napo negotiation team with Unison officials look at the current dispute issues and ensure appropriate contractual agreements remain fully protected. The agenda will be amended to reflect all local and national collective agreements and will remain in place and continue as is, post the point of transfer.

Napo SSW view is currently the comparisons to Working Links style of trickery or deceit is indistinguishable. If this is the start then things are set to get a lot worse in the future. Although we meet them as a team today, I will ensure Seetec have the opportunity to assure us this position of theirs is possibly a mistake and then perhaps we can move forwards productively on a much needed change agenda, once we get satisfactory assurance that they understand the national Staff Transfer Protections clauses that we will put to them.

Their suggestion to agree unknown terms or polices, and matters not negotiated from Seetec, to vary terms without consent or due procedures will trigger an immediate dispute.

I am sorry to report this early alert on week 1 of Seetec but their initial start still has some potential to be resolved. I will keep you posted.

Dino Peros 
Napo SSW Branch Chair

Working Link's Collapse No Surprise

By way of a recap regarding Friday's news of Working Link's collapse, this from the Guardian:-

Grayling attacked over 'disastrous' part-privatisation of probation service

Union bosses have condemned former justice secretary Chris Grayling’s “disastrous privatisation programme” after a probation services provider went into administration.

It was announced on Friday that Working Links, owned by the German-based asset management group, Aurelius, had collapsed. The same day, HM inspectorate of probation published a report saying that Working Links staff wrongly classified offenders as low-risk in order to meet government targets.

The provider was criticised in the report for allowing business imperatives to trump the quality of its services, which the inspectorate ranked as inadequate, warning that similar practices could be present in other regions of the UK.

The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said that Working Links probation staff in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall were “under-recording the number of riskier cases because of commercial pressures” and completing sentence plans without meeting the offender involved. In the report, the inspectorate said that the risk offenders posed to society had been downplayed just to meet government targets.

“Effort is focused disproportionately on reducing the risk of any further contractual (financial) penalty,” Stacey said. “For some professional staff, workloads are unconscionable. Most seriously, we have found professional ethics compromised and immutable lines crossed because of business imperatives.”

Grayling pushed through the transferral of 70% of the work done by the public probation service to private and voluntary sector providers in 2015, in what was called the most extensive privatisation in the criminal justice system ever. The National Probation Service (NPS) was created to deal with high-risk cases, while the remaining work was assigned to 21 community rehabilitation companies.

The justice secretary, David Gauke, was questioned over the inspectorate’s highly critical report in an interview on Saturday in which he recognised that the practices reported were clearly unacceptable. However, he rejected the suggestion that the partial privatisation of probation services had been a failure.

The shadow justice secretary, Richard Burgon, blamed Grayling and the Conservatives’ “obsession with privatisation” for the failures within the system, which he said needed to keep the public safe rather than “boost the profits of private companies”.

Napo, a union campaigning for probation services to be returned to public ownership, said it had repeatedly warned the government of the situation. “This is exactly what we warned the government about from day one of this disastrous privatisation programme that has seen an award-winning service fall into total chaos in just four years,” Napo’s general secretary, Ian Lawrence, said. “They admit it has failed and are ending the contracts early, but the situation with Working Links is beyond the pale.”

Kevin Brandstatter, a national officer for the GMB union, said services in the justice sector were not being delivered, while thousands of jobs had been sacrificed in an attempt to deliver profits. He warned that Interserve, “a company which totters from financial crisis to financial crisis” holds a number of similar contracts.

Cat Hobbs, director of We Own It, a group campaigning for public ownership, said management of offenders was a vital service that was “far too important to be subject to the whims of market forces.This should be a wake-up call for the government,” she said. “Irresponsible privatisation is wreaking havoc on our public services. Probation services should be brought in-house immediately, managed by the public sector.”

Aurelius announced last week it was selling the remaining parts of its public-sector businesses in the UK, with community rehabilitation services to be transferred to services company Seetec. “With the current sale, Aurelius has now withdrawn completely from the business of outsourced services for the public authorities in Great Britain,” it said. “The further development of this market will largely depend on public budgetary conditions. Government savings constraints have already led to a substantial consolidation of this industry in the past few years.”

Gauke also announced on Saturday the establishment of a new privately run scheme, Tags for Offenders, which will allow for the 24-hour GPS monitoring of offenders’ location.


The fact that Working Links was failing has been an open secret for months.This from the report to Napo's November 2018 NEC meeting:-

Working Links

Since the last NEC it has become very clear the Working Links CRCs are in dire financial trouble despite the MoJ bail-out. This was admitted by Senior Working Links Management who revealed that crisis talks were taking place between their parent company Aurelius and the MoJ. The likelihood is that the MoJ will be ordered by the Ministers to shore up Working Links to the end of the current contract to save political face, but the possibility remains that these CRCs could be the first to fold.

Engagement takes place whilst the long-running dispute with the unions continues; we have recently had a reasonably constructive exchange with the CRC Chiefs which resulted in an agreement to consider the new Minimum Contract Specification (MCS), via a short sides meeting, that has been ordered by the MoJ, and which totally dismantles the flawed Operating Model which was one of the key factors, along with the failure to consult, that led to the dispute. It is understood that this exchange resulted in Working Links acknowledging the need to properly consult staff over the MCS.

Pay. There is absolutely no chance that Working Links will establish pay equity during the remaining lifetime of their contract but they may join us in common cause to lobby the MoJ for more resources, but I do not believe they will be allowed to rebid for the proposed contract package areas by Aurelius or the MoJ even if their Senior Managers were disposed to so do.

Since our last Pan-CRC meeting, the 1% contractual progression is to be paid out and a further 1% payment has been made to staff at Band 1 to ensure that the employer is matching the National Living Wage at least until April next year. Whilst this is a sign of their desperation, it represents movement of sorts. It remains to be seen whether these developments ease tensions with the Unions on a range of other issues.


Friday's email to staff from the KSS CEO contains much needed reassurance:-

Today MoJ has appointed Seetec to manage probation service's in the South West and Wales, following the parent company going into administration, employees and the caseloads will move immediately into the KSS CRC contract.

Colleagues in the region have done their best while being starved of financial and support over many months. As can be the way with legal processes, I only got clearance at 3pm from lawyers, administrators and the MoJ to talk with colleagues in the regions and explain more about what was happening. I am so impressed with the way they have worked relentlessly to support the people they work with in extremely difficult times, they deserve all our thanks and admiration for their professionalism, dedication and resilience.

What is also really clear to me is that following the work we've led on last year, we need to put probation values and purpose back at the heart of the service. The reality is that there is no magic bullet that stops people reoffending. It's about practice which builds relationships and uses quality interventions to try and lower risk. There's plenty of work to be done to invest in the service and provide practitioners with the professional autonomy they need to get the job done.

Suki Binning