Monday 29 April 2019

Guest Blog 74

My Time is Done

Not really into blogging but have as a recently departed PSO from CRC after over XX years service, I have a story to tell.

Caseload up a 1/3 from last year due to staff leaving and not being replaced. Instead, to try cover this up the organisation imposed a new team structure / Operating Model. This did not fool anyone as still the same number of staff or less and increasing numbers of service users from court or reallocated from colleagues who had left or were off sick. Repeatedly told I was at capacity (no workload measurement tool available at the time) but then allocated more cases as they “had to go somewhere”.

PPO semi specialist in resettlement team where there was an expectation for service users to be seen weekly plus additional contact and meetings with IOM partners. The information from senior management given verbally to me was that CRC is contracted by MoJ to only see service users for 30 minutes a month! This did not fit with expectations of the job or my values in relation to rehabilitation. I wanted to give a service to my caseload and actually try to motivate them to make positive changes which was shown as an effective way of working by feedback from them. To keep up I had to work daily through my lunch giving the employer 2.5 hours a week.

Running alongside work, my home life was difficult with my partner being diagnosed with Xxxxxx early 2018 and following surgery had daily radiotherapy sessions. To be fair my SPO/manager was supportive of me through this time. I then lost my Xxxxx and the final thing last year was my partner finally being diagnosed with Xxxxx.

I had time to reflect on the whole situation and felt that due to pressure from work and home something had to give and it wasn’t going to be me that went under as I needed to support my partner. I asked for a 6 month sabbatical to help me get through and support my partner attending numerous hospital appointments and changes at home relating to the Xxxxx. I was refused due to “nowhere for my caseload to be reallocated”.

I therefore had to go to my back up plan and requested compassionate early retirement. I was eventually informed after leaving that I was not to be granted compassionate retirement. This decision came as no surprise to me and was expected. How valued did I feel when within 2 weeks of leaving employment, agencies were advertising vacancies for my office yet no funds available for my sabbatical request.

Since making my decision to leave I have found some part time temporary employment where I am appreciated. This job is paying just above minimum wage but money’s not the main goal at the moment it’s being there for my partner at this early stage of Xxxxx. I’m sure there will be other PO/PSO considering leaving disillusioned over what has become of the service. My message is that there is life away from CRC, don’t be institutionalised.

Looking back maybe the refusal to give me the sabbatical gave me the impetus to get out before the job got me. My partner says I am much less stressed and so much happier. I’ll never be a rich man due to the hit I’ve taken on my pension but I’ll survive and cut my cloth accordingly.


Friday 26 April 2019

The Mess Can't Carry On!

I notice that once again the FT seems keen on keeping probation's plight on the political and news agenda, and there's some weasel words from Seetec, successor to Working Links:- 

Why is England’s probation system in meltdown?

Peter, a 40-year-old with a long history of violent offending, began an abusive relationship with a woman very soon after leaving prison. He was recalled to jail but when he was re-released, probation inspectors could find no flag on the database identifying him as a domestic abuser, nor any details of where he was living or whether he had a new partner. The head of the probation watchdog, who came across his case during an inspection, concluded she had “no confidence” that potential victims were being protected. Failures such as this tell the story of a probation service in meltdown. 

Just two weeks ago Glenys Stacey, the outgoing inspector of probation, warned that the current system was “irredeemably flawed”. The National Audit Office said last month that the malfunctioning service was causing “significant risks” for both offenders and the wider public. Earlier this year Working Links, one of the private companies that provides probation supervision, collapsed after four years of poor service and failing efforts to maintain a loss-making contract. Ministers — who are under increasing pressure to rescue the service from crisis — are expected to announce plans for a new probation system as early as next month. 

How Grayling’s reforms triggered problem 

The problems can be traced back to sweeping reforms introduced four years ago by former justice secretary Chris Grayling. He decided to “transform” rehabilitation with a £3.7bn programme of part-privatisation, transferring the management of offenders to eight companies running 21 separate contracts around England and Wales. Only the highest-risk individuals were kept under public sector supervision. However, this created a dislocation, with offenders in the same geographical area being managed by different organisations. Moreover, the contracts were speedily drawn up with untested providers, and the Ministry of Justice’s caseload estimates proved completely inaccurate. 

Julian Le Vay, former finance director at the Prison Service, is convinced that justice secretary David Gauke will have to introduce radical changes. “I don’t see how he can go back to parliament and say, I’ve had a look at this mess we’ve created and we’ve decided to carry on with it,” said Mr Le Vay. Experts believe that the MoJ, having been burnt by the failure of the contracting process, is considering a significant renationalisation of probation provision, which oversees just under a quarter of a million offenders each year. 

According to Mr Le Vay, this is inevitable given some of the structural problems caused by the Grayling reforms. “It’s the splitting of probation provision in each area that’s such a nuisance in terms of operational effectiveness,” he suggested. “We must have in each area of the country — however it’s arranged — one single probation service dealing with all the offenders in that community. If you start from that premise, it’s hard to see a future for the private sector running probation services in the long term.” 

The perils of turning back the clock 

However, returning services to the publicly run National Probation Service will not be easy. The costs of taking on more staff will be significant, especially given Dame Glenys’s warnings about the severe shortage of qualified probation officers. Private providers have been absorbing losses since the contracts began, so the MoJ will need to increase investment if it wants to bring the service in-house. This is likely to prove difficult for a department that has a structural deficit of just under £1bn. Its ministers may struggle to lobby the Treasury for more funds in an area that has never been as popular with voters as schools and hospitals. 

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo, the probation union, is delighted at the prospect of a renationalisation but even he admits it would bring difficulties. “It will involve money to pay staff correctly, and they’re burdened with high workloads, which we need to manage. The switch back will also involve lots more bureaucracy. But we still think, given the current status quo, this would be an improvement,” he said. 

One option would be to renationalise the majority of the service with some limited functions being recontracted privately — an approach that is being trialled in Wales. Under this model, the National Probation Service could take on overall management of offenders while companies provided training or specific interventions, such as helping offenders find employment. Tom Sasse, senior researcher at the Institute for Government, argues that if ministers decide to preserve some private involvement, then it is essential that they “avoid the contracting mistakes of the past”. “This means designing a contract that works for low- and medium-risk offenders, trying to better predict caseloads, and piloting any new models on a small scale before introducing them more widely,” he said. 

What role should private sector play? 

The providers themselves acknowledge that there is room for improvement, and are urging ministers not to abandon contracting altogether. John Baumback, managing director of Seetec, which operates probation services in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, south-west England and Wales, said first generation contracts “always present challenges” and suggested that the previous publicly controlled regime was not without problems. “But the original aims behind the government’s decision to encourage new providers into the probation system are as valid today as they were in 2015,” he added. “Before the reforms were introduced, the then chief inspector acknowledged that the system was inflexible and ill-suited to reflecting the specific needs of the individual.” 

Mr Baumback argued that the private sector has the capability to “react and adapt quickly to changing circumstances and policy priorities”. Gabriel Amahwe, director of probation at MTC Novo, which runs services in London and the Thames Valley, agreed that the reforms have allowed companies “greater freedom to develop new approaches” such as a specialist intervention to tackle knife crime in the capital. 

Those on all sides agree that whatever happens next is likely to involve further disruption to a service that has already undergone significant upheaval. “When we privatised probation, we were disrupting a system which hadn’t broken down,” Mr Le Vay pointed out. “But now we’re disrupting a system which very clearly has broken down, so at least there’s a logic to it.”

Tuesday 23 April 2019

Napo at Work in the South West 22

Shortages of staff and high caseloads have been regular themes of HMI reports of late, not surprising really given the TR omnishambles. Regular readers will be aware of the long-running battle Napo had with Working Links in the South West and according to this sent recently to members, it seems things are not going too well under the new Seetec management:-

Dear Napo members

Guidance for Case Managers

The guidance for case management was circulated late today and to date remains a non-consulted and not agreed position with the unions. While NAPO Unison will want to engage an agreement for fair workloads and ensure all tasks are properly weighted this document yet again carries no calculations for how long tasks actually take and are agreed. Indeed what essential tasks are and especially while we carry so many staff absences. Having met the senior management team this week in Cardiff it is clear there is a lot of talk but little real action in terms of a structured emergency plan that tackles immediately the urgency specified in the recent HMIP report. Eight week on and all we see is this? To this end we in Napo remain staggered at the impasse of the senior management not taking full responsibility for their failings of the model the workloads the situation the HMIP reports. Nor indeed take one of the HMIP recommendations to actually work collaboratively to straighten at any level the crisis of workloads facing staff.

The original workloads weightings employee care agreement carries six defined assurances that stem directly from health and safety legislation in order to protect you from excessive stressful working conditions. You will notice the interim chief officers document. We have to speculate they really do not want to reduce your workloads or allow you the freedom to exercise your right to self-protection. None of the six assurance and these form a collective agreement in your terms appear in the circulation to date. I urge members to continue to utilise the only collective and formal agreement of the WPEC and where possible of course follow the appropriate case management needs as suggested today. However your well- being and overwork comes first and that is your actual priority. The recirculated WPEC has the procedures for you there.

As Chair of the branch I am disappointed that on first major meeting with the Seetec authorities there appears to be no change in direction since Working Links were shown the door. There is no mellowing of approach to collaboration with the unions and to date there is a continued paralyses to actually work in a way that demonstrates real employee care. They actually rejected the opportunity to provide a moratorium for all staff on all issues post the incredible appalling news in the HMIP report itself. That said we all knew how bad that was going to be. Following this they have promised a pay deal and retracted it faster than light. They further were not really skilled up enough to understand the pay differentials that exist across the many grades whilst talking about staff recognitions. I will detail this shortly in a fuller branch report. On top of all that they did mention KSS caseloads as a 40-60 process but amazingly they do not have their case management model in writing at all to share the knowledge.

Dino Peros, Napo Branch Chair SSW.


Workload Indicator Case Management 

1. Context 

1.1 The South West and Wales Probation Services recognise their duty of care to ensure that the work of their staff is allocated and organised in such a way that workloads can be effectively managed. 

1.2 In order to meet this objective a Workload Indicator has been developed to reflect the current contract and operating model and which incorporates all aspects of operational delivery. 

1.3 The first release of this tool covers Case Management and incorporates a weighting for rurality. The assumptions underpinning the Workload Indicator are explained in the relevant document, (see Appendix A). 

1.4 Workloads should be equitable. Each member of the South West and Wales divisions should be able to request a review of their workload with their manager if their workload is excessive. Each member is also expected to follow any guidance that will help them manage their work (e.g. contact frequencies and the use of community hubs). 

1.5 This does not mean that all numeric caseloads will be the same as the make-up of a caseload will depend upon the amount of time each case needs and these will vary according principally to their BRAG status and the specific circumstances of each individual. Similarly, the different accredited programmes and RARs will require different resources. 

1.6 For Case Management, we have developed a Workload Indicator aligned to the 4.10 report and reflecting the volume of cases, the BRAG weightings and the available time for direct work with service users. The indicator will reflect the number of hours worked by each Case Manager on direct Case Management with service users. The available time is consistent with the available time calculation in the workload measurement tools previously used in Wales and BGSW. After deductions for average allowances of leave, sickness and training a further allowance is made for non-direct work such as attending team, other meetings and supervision. 

1.7 The weightings (points) are aligned to the time allowed for case management according to each case’s BRAG status. They reflect the need to provide the greatest resource to work with those service users who present the greatest risk of harm, likelihood of reoffending or potential for disengagement at any point in time. Public protection remains a key priority. This includes the safeguarding of children and adults. Timings used to develop the operating model (from the pilots in CRCs) are average timings and professional judgement will still need to be applied to ensure that resources are targeted where they will have greatest positive impact. 

1.8 The Workload Indicator enables Managers to identify where workloads are either above or below a threshold so that they can make any necessary adjustments for individuals and/or within the team. The threshold is 100 points. This threshold will take account of the Case Manager’s working hours (FTE). The Team Manager will take into account any adjustments required for individuals for health, performance or other personal reasons (e.g. phased return to work) and also take into account any duties being undertaken on behalf of others (e.g. to cover absence). They will consider any adjustments needed for those who are new in post, recognising that this may depend upon prior experience and exceptional training/Induction requirements. They will also apply the rurality factor as appropriate. 

1.9 Where the team exceeds their collective threshold, then the Manager should discuss this with their LDU head (Assistance Chief Officer), having first established that every effort is being made to work according to the operating model. 

1.10 Where adjustments cannot be made within LDU resources, the LDU head (Assistance Chief Officer), will discuss this with their Chief Officer who will consider whether any adjustments can be made across the division. 

1.11 The Senior Management Group will review the outputs from the Workload Indicator together with the current resource requirement, performance and quality data on a quarterly basis. This will inform ongoing workforce planning and resource deployment. 

2. How to use the Workload Indicator 

2.1 The Team Manager will review the Workload Indicator points with the Case Manager in a supervision session. They will also use this information when providing availability for new allocations and when allocating specific duties (e.g. MARAC attendance, Induction groups) or reports. 

2.2 The first action they will take will be to ensure that workloads are being managed according to the Operating model. The Operating Model has been developed by the CRCs after pilots, to reflect evidence-based approaches to desistance .This should in itself reduce current workload pressures. They will check the following actions with the Case Manager: 

a) That there is an up-to-date BRAG review, so that the resource required to manage the case has been assessed to take account of all current dynamic risk factors and their potential likelihood, impact and timescale. 

b) That the contact levels for the service user reflect this BRAG status (see latest version of Practice Direction for the Minimum Contact specification v1.3, Appendix B) 

c) That all cases have been terminated by due date.
d) That all cases that are assessed as suitable for the single requirement team will be allocated to that team according to current guidance. 

e) That where there is a community hub, all Amber cases will be given appointments to attend there, unless there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. any current structured 1-1 RAR work or work relating to safeguarding or domestic abuse). 

f) That all IOM cases will have a BRAG status of either Red or Red/Amber. Where cases are assessed as Amber or below, then it may be appropriate to have discussions with IOM partners regarding their suitability for the IOM scheme. You will be advised by your Manager about this. 

g) Any cases that have successfully completed their requirements and sentence plan objectives have been considered for early revocation. 

h) The sentence plan should be reviewed to determine how many RAR days are needed to complete the objectives. This will be a case by case decision. The rationale for the use of the days and any decision to use less than the maximum number of days should be person-centred and clearly recorded. 

i) Referrals should be made to RAR groups wherever and when these are available, and the service user meets the criteria. 

j) Services provided by partner agencies should be used to capacity as these have been designed to meet specific service user needs (e.g. Women’s services) 

k) Any impact on the achievement of performance metrics will have been minimised and any risks flagged to the LDU head. 

2.3 A checklist (see Appendix C) is attached for use by Case Managers when preparing for discussion with their Managers. 

2.4 If the above steps have been taken and the workload remains excessive, the Team Manager will work with the Case Manager to develop a plan, with timescales, to reduce the workload. This may include using some of the additional measures detailed below. It is recognised that workloads fluctuate and any forthcoming changes to workloads will be considered as part of any review (e.g. number of cases due to terminate shortly) 

3. Additional Measures 

In some circumstances additional measures may be required until more permanent solutions can be put in place (e.g. pending recruitment). These must be agreed by the LDU head (Assistance Chief Probation Officer) who will make a record of where and for how long they will be in place. Some key principles should apply to any workload prioritisation with public protection paramount. 

Key priorities: 
  • Court reports- breach; DRR; ATR etc 
  • Recalls 
  • Activity relating to assessing and managing risk of harm/safeguarding 
  • Seeing those service users presenting the greatest risk of harm (Red and Red/Amber cases or others where risk is increasing) 
  • Seeing services users newly allocated/released 
  • Sentence and risk management plans 
  • Seeing service users who have not been seen in the last 6 weeks (monthly appointments should be planned for all those in scope of AMK) 
  • Action to enforce 
Examples of measures that have been in DDC, BGSW and Wales CRC contracts, are as follows: 
  • Where service users are currently engaged in an accredited programme, DRR, ATR, RAR or SAC, telephone contact with the Case Manager can be sufficient to support progress and ensure that any issues are addressed or contact levels reduced, with manager agreement (recorded on contact log as Management Oversight). In Red or Red/Amber cases where there are active risks of serious harm it will need to be clear that this approach should provide adequate risk management and specify timescales. 
  • Contact frequencies can be reduced, with manager approval (recorded on contact log as Management Oversight) when the service user is making good progress. 
  • Contact should be maintained at a minimum monthly level for cases in scope for performance metric AMK (the criteria is covered in Appendix B). In order to enable this to happen, and where community hubs are not established, teams may wish to run contact sessions in the office. If the service user will see an Officer who is not the Responsible Officer, they should be named as the designated Case Manager in the sentence plan. 
  • Any further temporary measures must be agreed by the LDU head (Assistance Chief Probation Officer) who will assess the potential impact upon public protection and contractual requirements and then refer the proposal to the Chief Officer for approval to enable business continuity.

Wednesday 17 April 2019

Reunification Is Coming!

I know Easter is nearly upon us with many colleagues on leave and this is only adding to an eery silence on the probation front. There hasn't been much coming out of the MoJ for some time and since the veritable battering of TR dished out by the NAO, HMI and Justice Select Committee, to name but a few. 

The newly formed and adhoc 'Probation Alliance' have put forward a strong case for ditching TR2 and there is reason to believe commercial interest is lukewarm at best anyway. The 'Third Sector' have weighed-in with a strong pitch and we all await signs of white smoke from the MoJ and their deliberations on that 'sham' consultation, following a suitable 'pause' of course. 

The conditions are therefore perfect for rumour, or rather informed speculation based on joining up some dots, a few nods and winks and a bit of insider gossip, oh and political nous. It's looking like re-unification folks, but with a face-saving sop to privatisation with the hiving-off of UPW and the scene is being prepared courtesy of a parting shot from Dame Glenys delivered today:-        

Wales NPS - Well led and enthusiastic staff managing offenders well, but some suffering from high workloads.

Inspectors found the National Probation Service (NPS) in Wales, supervising nearly 7,000 high-risk offenders, to have dynamic, effective leaders and enthusiastic staff committed to high-quality work.

However, like other parts of the NPS across England and Wales, the service in Wales suffered from a shortage of probation officers, meaning some staff had unacceptably high workloads, despite the leadership’s efforts to mitigate the impact of shortages.

A report published by Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, following an inspection in December 2018, recommended that HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) should recruit sufficient staff to fill NPS vacancies.

Inspectors assessed NPS Wales as ‘Good’ overall, the second-highest rating. Its case handling was mostly good and, in one respect, ‘Outstanding,’ the highest assessment.

Dame Glenys said NPS Wales staff held leaders in high regard. “They feel there is a learning culture, and professional development is encouraged. Effective systems are in place to monitor and improve performance and the process of learning lessons from case reviews, audits and complaints was effective.” Despite shortages and high caseloads for some staff, overall morale was high and sickness levels were low.

“Stakeholder engagement is good and includes the Welsh Government as some services are devolved. A wide range of services is in place to meet offending-related needs – though access was limited in some rural areas.”

Inspectors found that pre-sentence reports assisted judges and magistrates to decide on the most appropriate sentence. Individual offenders were sufficiently involved in the planning and delivery of their sentence. Assessments identified and analysed offending-related factors and sentence planning was focused on keeping others safe. Work to keep sentences under review was outstanding.

Staff welcomed support which they felt had made them “far more psychologically informed and confident” to deal with offenders who had severe personality disorders and highly complex needs. Inspectors found a shortage of mental health provision across Wales but highlighted innovative training to inform staff about the impact of brain injury on individuals.

There were some shortfalls in NPS Wales, Dame Glenys added. Information from child and adult safeguarding agencies was not consistently requested and relevant information about individuals subject to supervision was not routinely shared with the prisons or police.

There were “extremely lengthy delays” before individuals could start offending behaviour programmes. “Delays of this nature are plainly unacceptable.” Inspectors found long waiting lists to get onto Horizon, a nationally accredited group programme designed for medium-risk male sex offenders.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“NPS Wales is performing to a good standard. I hope that our findings and recommendations help the division to improve further.”


This news coincides with a glowing report from the astute Frances Crook of the Howard League:-

Notes from a visit to the National Probation Service in Wales

Thank you to everyone in the National Probation Service (NPS) in Wales for meeting me and showing me round last week. I got some really interesting insights into the changes taking place and the immense challenges staff face.

The message to ministers is that reintegration of the service is going well and is popular with staff. This is particularly important as ministers have cited ‘restructuring fatigue’ as one of the reasons they were reluctant to bring the service together into a national public service in England. Once the failure of the community rehabilitation companies comes to an end, it is logical and would be popular to reunite probation into a national service, as we have argued repeatedly.

Apparently in Wales there will still be parts of the service that are going to be outsourced under a commissioning arrangement, which I think will be a big mistake. Unpaid work has never been a success when it was done for commercial reasons. Private companies do not have the practical links or the ethos to promote volunteering with small community groups. Serco ran unpaid work in London and it was a disaster; men were counting their time travelling up and down the Northern Line because the company did not have the relationships with small voluntary organisations to find things for them to do.

Unpaid work can be a great way for someone who has offended to pay back into the community and make amends, but it has to be immediate, constructive, well organised and appropriate. Commercialising it will not work.

There are lessons here for England

In Wales, I met some frontline national probation officers who were very impressive. They told me that before Chris Grayling deconstructed probation they had a mixed caseload which meant some very dangerous and risky people and some who represented less of a risk. Now they have a caseload of just very risky people, which means a relentless worry, and they go home every night worrying if they made the right decision. They also said that newly qualified staff have to take on a high-risk caseload.

I was told that the NPS in Wales is going to be doing more focused work with 18- to 25-year-olds. Also interesting to hear that they are monitoring magistrates’ courts as they are worried about unduly punitive sentencing of women.

I visited an approved premises that houses men coming out of prison, often who have served extremely long sentences, and helps them settle back into the community with housing and something to do all day. The staff were, quite frankly, amazing, but the fabric of the building was pretty shoddy (although I was told it was better now than before).

There are lessons here for England. I call on ministers not to replicate the mistakes of the past but to learn and put things right.


I know many probation professionals regard being a Civil Servant as completely incompatible with being able to deliver a probation service worthy of the name, but I suspect the pragmatic will accept reunification as a sound first step towards the ultimate goal of an independent, arms-length public service, hopefully able to shake off the dead hand of Prison Service command and control.     

Monday 15 April 2019

The Human Consequences of TR

As the MoJ considers how to fix the probation omnishambles, here's a timely reminder on the BBC website that TR has had a human cost:-  

Rise in deaths of offenders on probation since reforms

The number of people dying while on probation in England and Wales has risen by almost a third in three years, analysis of official figures shows. Campaign groups said there had been "institutional indifference" towards offenders released from custody. A social worker said her job had become "a treadmill of bureaucracy". The Ministry of Justice said a "great deal of caution was needed when trying to draw conclusions" from its figures.

The BBC's Shared Data Unit analysed Ministry of Justice data from 2015-16 to 2017-18. It found:

  • Last year 966 deaths of ex-prisoners were recorded, compared to 752 in 2015-16
  • About one in three of those deaths were self-inflicted
  • In 2014-15, there were 558 deaths, but that was before 40,000 extra offenders were brought under supervision following government reforms
Caspar Capel was 43 when he took his own life while a resident at an Approved Premises, formerly known as bail hostels. He had borderline personality disorder and was troubled with depression and alcoholism for most of his adult life, contributing to many suicide attempts. Weeks before his death, Mr Capel had spent several months on remand waiting for sentencing after exposing himself to a train conductor while drunk. His mother Sue, said he had "no opportunities" for rehabilitation whilst on remand and kept a journal detailing how he wanted to kill himself.

She said: "I'd like to see offenders treated as whole people with a combination of problems which have led to the offending, and for the offence to be seen in the context of that person's history and mental health problems. Caspar wasn't offending because he wanted to gain anything from it, he wasn't aware he was offending, I'm sure. But he was very sad and angry - not caused by the drink, but exacerbated by it."

A review by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman concluded there was nothing staff could have done to prevent Mr Capel's death, but acknowledged his complex history of mental health problems and alcohol misuse.

The arrangements for managing offenders were overhauled in 2014, with the probation service split in two. A new state body, the National Probation Service (NPS), which has eight divisions, was set up to supervise high-risk offenders, with 21 privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium-risk offenders. In March, the chief inspector of probation said the new system was "irredeemably flawed".

Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said homelessness, cuts to the voluntary sector and the spread of drugs such as Spice may have contributed to the rise in deaths. She added: "Whereas before we had a successful publicly-run probation service with qualified and trained staff who saw their mission as befriending and turning lives around, we now have a fragmented service with a tick-box culture where some people have not even met face-to-face."

One offender manager, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "When you lose a service user it has a massive emotional impact on you. Officers, when they know someone is quite vulnerable, will go above and beyond to try and mitigate some of that risk, but then there's frustration felt when services are in a similar boat to us and can't commit the time some of these service users need."

In Scotland, the work of the probation service is devolved to local authorities' social work departments, which are not required to record a cause of death for offenders under their care. Figures for 27 out of 32 councils that responded to a BBC Freedom of Information request, show there were 556 recorded deaths across Scottish councils since 2014-15.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The death of any individual, no matter what the circumstances, while on release under supervision or licence, is regrettable, and our sympathies go to their family and friends." Similar records from the Probation Board for Northern Ireland began in November 2016 and show a rise in deaths from 14 to 21 since then.

The Ministry of Justice said it was investing £22m to support offenders upon release. A spokesman said: "Our probation reforms were a positive change for public safety, extending supervision and support to approximately 40,000 extra offenders each year - nearly 20% more than in 2014. This significant increase in volume, along with the rising age of offenders and improved recording practices, means a great deal of caution is needed when trying to draw conclusions from this data." A programme to improve access to health services for vulnerable offenders with mental health, alcohol and substance abuse issues has also been launched.

Dr Jake Phillips, senior criminology lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, said national records of deaths under probation had improved since he first began researching the subject nearly a decade ago. He said: "There's a fairly strong argument for saying we know a lot about why people kill themselves in prison, for example, because there's been learning taking place for the last 20 years or so, from a range of angles. Under probation supervision, we just don't know that."

Rebecca Roberts, head of policy at Inquest, said: "There's been complete institutional indifference towards the lives and deaths of people following release from custody and a total lack of visibility and investigation. Deaths have been rising year after year and we need more scrutiny on why this is, and what can be done to prevent these deaths in future."

By Vicky Gayle
BBC Shared Data Unit

The Shared Data Unit makes data journalism available to news organisations across the media industry, as part of a partnership between the BBC and the News Media Association. This piece of content was produced by a local newspaper journalist working alongside BBC staff.


Article from Centre for Crime and Justice Studies 09/05/18:-

Jake Phillips, Loraine Gelsthorpe and Nicky Padfield provide an overview of their research into the deaths of people who die whilst under probation supervision.

Non-custodial deaths: missing, ignored or unimportant?

Whereas deaths in 'secure' or custodial settings have received considerable academic and policy attention, deaths that occur amongst those in the community have received far less attention.

Whilst the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman is empowered to investigate such deaths, this has never happened. Yet the mortality rate amongst people who are serving a sentence in the community is consistently higher than in the general population, and perhaps even higher than in custody.

In recent years, we have undertaken two studies (on behalf of the Howard League and the Equality and Human Rights Commission) which have sought to investigate this important social issue. In an article published in Criminology and Criminal Justice we have provided an overview of the findings and reflected upon the implications of our work.


We have found that women are more at risk of dying whilst serving a sentence in the community when compared to the general population, and that drug-related deaths and suicide feature heavily. In the research, for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, we focused on people who died of non-natural causes within 28 days of leaving prison and died by suspected suicide within 48 hours of being released from police custody.

Our analysis of government data found that the first week after leaving prison was the period of highest risk, with drug-related deaths being particularly prevalent. Of those people who died soon after leaving prison, a high number had committed acquisitive crimes. Data on the deaths of people who died by suicide on release from police detention showed that they were most likely to have been arrested for suspected sex offences.

In our research, for the Howard League, we analysed the paperwork that probation providers complete when an offender dies and identified a distinct defensive tone, especially where media interest was anticipated. Across both pieces of research our documentary analysis and interviews with police officers, prison officers and coroners identified aspects of policy and practice which might contribute to this high mortality rate. Issues of communication were considered key and participants referred to cuts to community provision which constrained their ability to make onward referrals where someone was in need of help.

The key finding, however, was the difficulty in finding relevant data and then, in turn, the realisation that the data that do exist are far from comprehensive. For example, the data we received about deaths of offenders in the community included many gaps. This raises questions about our understanding of the extent of the problem.

Why the neglect?

We have questioned why it is that non-custodial deaths are so neglected. We have narrowed this down to three broad factors: methodological, policy-related and sociological. Identifying causality or a definitive link between a period in police detention or prison custody and a subsequent death is very difficult, especially where one does not have access to coroners’ reports or case records. Moreover, probation staff appear not to update central records once a verdict at inquest is reached, which means that the cause of death is listed as ‘unknown’ in many cases.

In terms of policy, we have identified a lack of duty to investigate such deaths and wonder how far the massive structural changes in probation practice in recent years have compounded the lack of policy on this or contributed to a failure to implement policy. Finally, a sociological view focuses our attention on the ways in which community related issues receive much less attention than custodial ones. This body of work also highlights how institutions are focused on their own problems, leading to what Moore and Hamilton have termed ‘myopic exclusivity’ which means that the ability to ensure that someone is safe after they have left an institution becomes less important.


Overall, our research has shed light on key issues which underpin the high mortality rate upon release into the community after police detention or prison custody or supervision in the community. But the higher level finding, that such deaths appear to be side-lined when compared to deaths in other criminal justice institutions, is the main barrier that we need to overcome.

In order to address the high mortality rate, lack of knowledge, and general neglect, we advocate the creation of an ethic of care which ‘revolves around the moral salience of attending to and meeting the needs of others for whom we take responsibility (as individuals and as a state)’. Such an approach would enable us to understand the true extent of non-custodial deaths more fully, as well as encourage policies which might serve to prevent such deaths in the future.

Jake Phillips is Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Sheffield Hallam University

Loraine Gelsthorpe is Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice and Director of the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge

Nicky Padfield is Professor in Criminal and Penal Justice and Master, Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge

Sunday 14 April 2019

The Third Sector Pitch

Time to get back to TR2 folks. It was widely predicted that the voluntary sector would be used as 'bid candy' during TR, and it duly came to pass with those that were seduced subsequently shafted by the privateers. They've collectively cried foul ever since and now feel the time is right to exert some pressure. This from Clinks:-

Ensuring the voluntary sector’s role in the future probation model

Since the Ministry of Justice announced its decision to end current probation contracts early and consider a new model for probation from 2020 onwards, Clinks has been working to ensure that learning from our trackTR research is utilised and the voluntary sector has a central place in the future model.

In this blog, Jess Mullen, Clinks’ Head of Policy and Communications argues that in light of eight Community Rehabilitation Companies effected by collapse and administration and recent reports from HM Chief Inspector of Probation and the National Audit Office, the changes currently proposed for the future of probation do not go far enough. She outlines Clinks’ five recommendations to ensure the voluntary sector’s future role.

The current model – ‘irredeemably flawed’?

In her 2019 annual report, HM Chief Inspector of Probation states that the current probation model is irredeemably flawed. In recent weeks we have also seen eight Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) affected by collapse and administration, a number of CRCs rated by the inspectorate as under-performing, and the National Audit Office warns that the review programme risks repeating the mistakes of Transforming Rehabilitation.

Our response to the government’s consultation last summer recognised that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) remained committed to a split probation service in England, with supervision for low-medium risk offenders put to the market, alongside a proposal for an integrated service in Wales, where only accredited programmes and unpaid work would be contracted out.

We put forward recommendations on how to best enable the voluntary sector's role in both these models. Since the consultation closed we have worked closely with the MoJ and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to feedback on their developing proposals. Recent developments have led Clinks to agree with HM Chief Inspector of Probation; the current model needs a fundamental rethink and the changes currently proposed for the future do not go far enough.

Our TrackTR research highlighted the negative impact that the current model has had on the voluntary sector. In recent months we’ve seen even more clearly that this model has led to unacceptable levels of financial risk being passed to voluntary sector organisations in the supply chain.

Organisations are subsidising services, in part, as a result of the lack of sufficient resources for the model. And worse of all voluntary sector organisations have been left in hugely vulnerable situations when the operating model has failed. Nor have they been treated as an equal partner in planning for and mitigating against the collapse and failure of the model.

Organisations have also told us that they believe the model has had a negative impact on their service users and we have seen no improvement in outcomes for people with protected characteristics. In fact Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) has had a negative impact on specialist services for these groups. Our research shows that women-centred services, which are widely recognised as best meeting the needs of women in the justice system had worse experiences of TR and we have not been able to identify any specialist black, Asian and minority ethnic services engaged in CRC supply chains.

5 recommendations for the future

MoJ and HMPPS must seize the opportunity to put in place a model that will fully address the flaws in the current system and bring the sector with them in the delivery of a future model. If they don’t there is a danger that voluntary organisations will decide that getting involved in the delivery of future probation services presents too great a risk. As a result statutory services will lose the support of the sector’s 200 year legacy, experience and knowledge of working with people under probation supervision.

To ensure voluntary sector involvement the future probation model must:

1. Simplify the system and reconsider the commitment to contracting out

The enormity of resource involved in designing the currently proposed split model for England, delivering the competition and procurement, managing the contracts and monitoring service delivery could be better used in direct service delivery by a public sector probation service as is being proposed in Wales. Under this model only accredited programmes and unpaid work would continue to be contracted out.

2. Provide grant funding

Grant funding for the voluntary sector should be properly utilised to ensure the least possible risk for those least able to bear it. Effective use of grant making would reduce complex and expensive commissioning processes, sustain vital effective services and provide flexibility to give charities the space to innovate and find the best solutions for service users.

Commissioning strategies should make a proportion of budgets available as grant funding alongside other funding mechanisms. This would support a diverse voluntary sector providing the right mix of funding for a range of different sized organisations.

3. Tackle inequality

In her annual review, HM Chief Inspector of Probation stated that “it has proved well nigh impossible to reduce probation services to a set of contractual requirements”. This is particularly pertinent in considering the kind of flexible, individualised and holistic services needed to secure outcomes for people with protected characteristics. Further, contracting out probation services results in a blurring of responsibility and accountability for equalities outcomes. The current proposed ten contract package areas risks fragmentation of these services as well as disadvantaging small local and specialist organisations with knowledge and expertise to meet the needs of vulnerable cohorts.

Responsibility for equalities duties must be clear and supported by adequate grant funding for services to meet the needs of people with protected characteristics. Any contracted out services must have clearly specified requirements for meeting the needs of people with protected characteristics with a pass/fail criteria attached.

4. Ensure a local response

The majority of voluntary sector organisations working in criminal justice are small and locally based. The proposed move to ten co-terminus National Probation Service (NPS) and contracted provider areas could have a negative impact on these organisations. Commissioning strategies must ensure that the needs of the varied, diverse and specific localities within each probation area are met and must support and nurture further the existing eco system of voluntary sector organisations in each locality.

It must be recognised that only a handful of voluntary sector organisations would be in a position to consider bidding as prime contractors for probation services as currently proposed. The larger the contract package areas the more challenging this will be, limiting the potential overall share of the market that voluntary sector organisations are able to achieve. This will likely have the additional impact that contracts will not go to locally based organisations with existing relationships and track records in those areas.

5. Provide opportunities

The voluntary sector provides a wide range of services that support, and are often distinct from, the statutory probation supervision currently delivered by CRCs and the NPS. These services provide wrap around support and respond to changing need so that individuals are able to serve their sentence and go on to desist from crime and live fulfilling lives into the future.

Current Offender Management proposals see a role for the voluntary sector in the design and delivery of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements and Through the Gate (TTG) Services. To gain the confidence of the courts, Rehabilitation Activity Requirements will need to be specified and defined interventions and will bring voluntary organisations closer to an enforcement role than some have previously been in or will be comfortable with.

Through the gate services will be delivered in line with the current enhanced specification, which came into effect on 1st April, until year three of the new contracts, at which point the Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) model will be more fully embedded in prisons offering an opportunity to review TTG and better integrate with OMiC. However, voluntary sector involvement in the delivery of the enhanced specification is currently limited and it is disappointing that any significant changes to address the shortfalls of the current model will not be implemented until year three of the new contracts. It is also currently unclear what role is foreseen for the sector beyond year three of the contracts.

There must be opportunities and sufficient resource within and beyond Rehabilitation Activity Requirements for the voluntary sector to design and deliver what they do best - truly flexible, holistic and responsive desistance based services.

Jess Mullen, 
Clinks’ Head of Policy and Communications

Saturday 13 April 2019

Napo at Work in the South West 21

Thanks go to the reader for forwarding the following:-  

News for Napo members from the SEETEC KSS CRC and Unions meeting in Cardiff 9th April 

Representatives from the Probation trade unions across the extended KSS CRC area met with the employer in Cardiff last Tuesday. A joint statement is being discussed with a view to it being issued shortly but here is a brief summary of what transpired. 

This meeting was the first opportunity since the initial contact with the employer in mid February to meet face to face with senior management and it was made clear by the unions that further regular meetings need to be agreed going forward. There was a full agenda which featured a number of priorities such as pay, the plans to move Offender Management work in Wales to the NPS and the future collective bargaining structure, staff safety and wellbeing and workloads/operational plan. KSS CRC Management has agreed to reply to the unions on a list of agreed actions and further news for members will follow shortly when these have been received. 

On pay: the unions presented a joint union pay claim. Staff previously employed by the former Working Links CRCs have fallen behind on pay compared with those existing staff in KSS CRC. A situation that is further compounded by the second increment of a pay award in the original KSS CRC area. The unions have demanded pay harmonisation across the whole of the extended CRC as well as a substantive pay rise and shortened pay scales, and are asking that the employer consider working with us as part of the unions joint national campaign for the harmonisation of CRC pay rates with those of the National Probation Service. Seetec agreed to come back to us next week on this. 

On workloads: The unions were told that KSS staff have an approximate 40:60 PSO/PO divide of caseload.But in the ex-Working Links CRCs caseloads are way above this and in some instances actually double this figure. Seetec agreed to our request to roll out a programme of stress risk assessments and urgently discuss further steps to relieve the problem which is now critical. 

STAP is our benchmark! 

In connection with the future structure for the trade unions to be able to bargain collectively on your behalf - we are keen to see a structure which maintains local links, which is the best way of being able to support our members and build a new relationship with the employer. We do not believe that the employer has the luxury of seeking to run a harmonisation programme across the extended CRC and the unions are standing by the National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement (STAP).

Much of the rest of the discussion was taken up with detailed debate about how to resolve the terrible mess that has been left by Working Links in the South West and Wales. The unions have a number of ideas that we want to explore with the employer that we believe would make a major contribution to the SEETEC KSS CRC recovery plan, but we need to see a greater level of transparency and trust from the employer than that which has gone before. In short we want the employer to understand that the trade unions must have a role in discussions and decisions which impact on our members and that we are not prepared to be treated with disrespect as was the case under the appalling Working Links regime. 

Napo’s position on Wales 

At a meeting with the First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford, which took place immediately afterwards, Napo Cymru Vice-Chair Pen Gwilliam and General Secretary Ian Lawrence reiterated Napo’s policy to see all Probation work returned to public control in Wales and England, and explained how we are lobbying Ministers in Westminster to abandon their plans to leave Interventions and Programmes to the vagaries of a private market that has been shown to be a failure. 

In a separate mailing next week, Napo members will hear how our campaign is making an impact on Government in that it is clear that all future options for Probation delivery are now under serious consideration. We will bring you more news on this and the above issues as soon as possible. 

Ian Lawrence Napo General Secretary
Tania Bassett Link Official
Sarah Friday Link Official

Wednesday 10 April 2019

More on the Prison Debate

Here we have Rob Allen's take on the current prison debate:- 

Deja Vu All Over Again

The Justice Committee has produced a compelling report arguing that criminal justice is facing a crisis of sustainability, that prison is a relatively ineffective way of reducing crime and that the government should commit to a significant reduction of the numbers sent there.

This was their 2009 report Cutting Crime: the case for justice reinvestment significant parts of which resurfaced this week in the result of their latest inquiry “Prison Population 2022: planning for the future.” There’s nothing wrong with reprising what are by and large eminently sound conclusions. It’s always encouraging to read a cross party group of MPs state that “social problems cannot be meaningfully addressed through the criminal justice system” and that “there must be a focus on investing in services to reduce the £15 billion annual cost of re-offending and prevent offenders from continually returning to prison, thereby reducing the size of the prison population”.

Had the incoming Coalition government implemented the recommendations from the earlier inquiry, we would not now have been “in the depths of an enduring crisis in prison safety and decency”. Will this week’s recommendations fare any better?

There must be some doubts. First on the government side, when asked by MPs about his proposals for reducing short prison sentences – enthusiastically endorsed in the Committee’s report - Justice Secretary David Gauke said, “I do not think it can be sorted by the end of the year”. This is what officials call kicking a policy into the long grass. There must be long odds on Gauke still being in post by then and no guarantee that his successor will also hail from the Hurd/Clarke tradition of Conservative penal policy-making.

As for Parliament, the Committee wants MPs to look more closely at the impact on prison numbers when legislating. But while decrying an ever upward trend in sentencing levels, Justice Committee Chair (and member back in 2009) Bob Neill supported the 2015 Criminal Justice and Courts Act which did just that in respect of offences relating to possession of knives and causing death by dangerous driving.

In terms of public attitudes, the 2009 report argued that means must be found for encouraging and informing sensible, thoughtful and rational public debate and policy development on the appropriate balance and focus of resources. This week we heard that “Greater transparency is necessary to enable the public and others to understand the true costs and the challenging and testing nature of decisions which need to be made about public spending on prisons.” There's not much evidence that an emphasis on costs is the best way of persuading people to reduce the use of prison. Nor does it seem a particularly propitious time for a "national conversation" about crime and justice - whatever that might entail.

More promising is the Committee’s argument that improving the sustainability of the prison population will require a review of sentencing legislation which should include the role of the Sentencing Council. This week’s report quoted from evidence I submitted that the Council had not done enough to “challenge increasing sentence lengths, nor to give more explicit assistance to courts in determining when offences are so serious that only a prison sentence will do”. Perhaps their current mandate does not permit them to do this - but when, as seems likely, the Justice Committee looks at the Council’s role this year - ten years after it was established - it should consider what more the Council should do to reduce prison numbers and promote community-based rehabilitation - both within its existing remit and with an expanded one.

Rob Allen

Monday 8 April 2019

Prison : Sound Advice

Mention has been made of the recent Justice Committee report on the future of our prison system published on 3rd April last week. It's another big document at 124 pages, but there's a handy summary. The thing is, I can't help wondering how it's all ended up being such a colossal mess when our government has such sound advice available to it?   

Prison population 2022: planning for the future
Sixteenth Report of Session 2017–19


Over the past 25 years, the prison population has grown significantly from 44,246 in 1993 to 82,384 as at December 2018. Capacity has not kept pace with demand and many prisons are now deemed to be overcrowded. Whilst the number of people in prison has remained roughly stable since 2012, the amount spent on prisons has fallen in recent years. The Ministry of Justice currently has a gap in its finances across 2018–19 and 2019–20 which equates to £1.2 billion. We heard that this equates to a reduction in the prison population of roughly 20,000 prisoners. We conclude that ploughing funding into building prisons to accommodate prison projections is not a sustainable approach in the medium or long-term.T here must be a focus on investing in services to reduce the £15 billion annual cost of reoffending and prevent offenders from continually returning to prison, thereby reducing the size of the prison population. 

David Gauke, the Justice Secretary, set out in his speech on prisons in February 2019 that there is a very strong case to abolish sentences of six months or less altogether. We agree with him and recommend that the Government should introduce a presumption against sentences of less than six months. We believe that this approach will be more financially sustainable and will do more to reduce the cost of reoffending to society. We further recommend that when changes are being made to sentencing legislation in Parliament, the Ministry considers what more it might do to make Parliamentarians aware of the likely impact on increasingly restrained resources. 

We conclude in this Report that the ability of former prisoners and those on community sentences to access appropriate support in the community is vital to supporting their rehabilitation and reducing reoffending in the future, potentially reducing the repeated use of imprisonment. We welcome the Government’s recognition of the need for the new iteration of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme to address the shortcomings of the previous one in terms of funding for probation services. 

The nature of the prison population is rapidly changing. A higher proportion of offenders are in prison for serious violent or sexual offences. The average age of the prison population is also rising. Many prisoners have mental health problems, making it difficult for them to navigate the criminal justice system, and levels of literacy are often low. All these factors and others make managing the current cohort of prisoners extremely challenging. 

Our Inquiry also heard that the rise in the prison population in recent years has resulted from a greater proportion of those convicted being given a custodial sentence and custodial sentences becoming longer. This has been driven by a complex set of factors. The most significant explanation has been legislative factors created by a series of political and policy choices by successive Governments and parliaments. 

The Ministry has rightly focussed on safety and decency in prisons, however this has come directly at the expense of rehabilitation and purposeful activity. The Ministry needs to refocus its efforts to maintain a dual approach to maintain safety and decency, as well as improve rehabilitation. We heard during our Inquiry that regime restrictions related to staffing shortages and other disruptions severely undermine the delivery of rehabilitative services including education, mental health treatment, substance misuse treatment and offending behaviour programmes. This results in immeasurable wasted costs and does not represent an efficient or effective use of funds. The nature of regimes and restricted access to rehabilitative activities has a cyclical impact on the degradation of regimes and safety, owing to the boredom and frustration of prisoners enduring impoverished regimes, which can in turn lead to violence and self-harm. 

We also found that, whilst progress made on the Prison Estates Transformation Programme is welcome, the new-for-old strategy is not working as intended. Sites for new prisons have proven difficult to obtain, older and decrepit prisons have been forced to remain open owing to population pressures and receipts from the sale of existing sites do not cover the cost of building new prisons. The backlog of maintenance continues to grow, and many prisoners continue to live in cells designed for fewer people. On the Ministry’s current spending trajectory, it will take many years before these major issues are resolved. We recommend that as part of its Justice 2030 project the Ministry develops a realistic, properly costed, long-term estate strategy, that enables it to meet the needs of an ever-changing prison population. This should include provision for trials of alternative approaches for accommodating and caring for elderly and otherwise infirm prisoners, for women who do not represent a high risk to the public, and for the treatment of young adults to resolve the long-standing anomaly of the sentence to detention in a young offender institution no longer meaning that they are accommodated in suitably specialist provision. 

This Report finds that we are now in the depths of an enduring crisis in prison safety and decency that has lasted five years and is taking significant additional investment to rectify, further diverting funds from essential rehabilitative initiatives that could stem or reverse the predicted growth. There is a grave risk that we become locked in a vicious cycle of prisons perpetually absorbing huge amounts of criminal-justice related spending, creating a perverse situation in which there is likely to be more “demand” for prison by sentencers in areas where they have less access to effective community alternatives. 

We conclude that addressing the crisis in the sustainability of our prisons calls for a serious open public debate about the criminal justice system, the role that prison can and cannot play, and its affordability. We are pleased that the Prisons Minister and Justice Secretary have acknowledged this, but, regardless of the political climate, this cannot be just a long-term aspiration. We call for greater transparency to enable the public and others to understand the true costs and the challenging and testing nature of decisions which need to be made about public spending on prisons and other aspects of criminal justice. This should form the first step of the Justice Secretary’s ‘national conversation’ about these matters, which cannot continue to be hidden behind either prison gates or within the Ministry of Justice.

Sunday 7 April 2019

Cold Feet on Shorter Sentences?

By a strange twist of timing, the day before the Liverpool post mortem on TR, and in the middle of the Brexit shenanigans, David Gauke was giving evidence to the Justice Committee, principally on the subject of Legal Aid, but other important matters cropped up, including him meeting CRC CEO's the following day! For Sunday reading, it's worth paying close attention to his answers, especially in view of our discussions in a wet Liverpool last week:-  

Q18 Chair: We have been talking a bit about legal aid, and we are going to come back to that. Sometimes, it is suggested to us that the problem in your Department is the way it is set up, in the sense that, essentially, the bulk of the spend goes on prisons and probation, and courts and legal aid are tagged on and are potentially poor relations. 

David Gauke: That argument is made sometimes. When we were going through the allocations decisions last year, we had to make a number of difficult decisions. In truth, a number of difficult decisions had to be made on the prisons side as well, and probably, in that case, prisons bore the greater burden. It is a question of making a judgment as to what is right and what is necessary across the piece. 

I am not sure that, if one looked at spending across the different parts of MOJ, one would necessarily conclude that things have been skewed in the direction of the Prison Service, for example, versus anything else. On the courts side of things, it is a process where we work very closely with the judiciary. I work very closely with the Lord Chief Justice in determining where spending should be. The truth is—it is no secret—that the Ministry of Justice has had to make a number of difficult spending decisions over recent years. Every part of the Ministry of Justice has had to find savings and efficiencies. 

Q19 Chair: You make the point that you have to work with the judiciary. You have a unique role among Cabinet Ministers because of the judicial oath you take as Lord Chancellor. David Gauke: Indeed. 

Q20 Chair: You made it very clear when you took office that you regarded that as central to your function. What do you think is necessary to give you the resource to continue to achieve that objective? 

David Gauke: You are right. There is a duty on me to ensure that our justice system gets the resources it needs. In our approach to resources, I hope that the relationship with the Treasury over the last 15 months or so has been strengthened, building on very good work by my predecessors, to ensure that we spend public money wisely and efficiently, and that, if we need to go to the Treasury and say we need additional resources, we do so on the basis of evidence having been built up and a record demonstrating that we spend public money sensibly. 

You will be conscious that we made a fairly significant reserve claim for 2018-19. We are engaging very constructively with the Treasury for the future. I hope that will become clearer in future, but it is on the basis of demonstrating that we spend money wisely. To use a terrible phrase, it is not a question of shroud-waving; it is about making a strong case as to what we need to deliver a satisfactory justice system for the 21st century. 

Chair: A key part of that is prison spending. 

Q21 Victoria Prentis: We are not expecting you, particularly after the day you had yesterday, formally to have digested our marvellous report. 

David Gauke: I confess I have not read every page. 

Q22 Victoria Prentis: But we wondered whether you had had a little look at it and what your initial impression was. 

David Gauke: I have. If I may, I will make a couple of comments. It will come as no surprise to anybody on this Committee that I share the Committee’s desire to ensure that we have a justice system that delivers rehabilitation effectively and adequately. In my view, it is important that we ensure that our prison system is decent, humane and safe. We have faced very high levels of violence in recent years, and we need to make sure that we address that, because it is very hard to put in place adequate levels of rehabilitation when people are worried about being beaten up and drugs are overly prevalent. 

It is right that we get the basics right, and I strongly believe that that is necessary for safety and decency, but we also need to deliver on rehabilitation. We are making progress on that. Just this week, we have new education contracts in place. The education and employment strategy is very much a focus of mine; it is something I place great emphasis on. I want to deliver, as I know this Committee does, a justice system where people’s lives are turned around, because that is the way we can reduce crime. Reduce reoffending, and you will reduce crime. 

Q23 Victoria Prentis: In your speech on 18 February, you said there was a strong case for reducing shorter sentences. That is a major feature of our report and is the feature that was picked up this morning by the press, in so far as any of it has been yet. Do you think the Government would consider introducing legislation to that effect? 

David Gauke: Yes, we are considering our options. No decisions have been made as yet, but I worry about the impact short sentences can have and the poor rehabilitation record of those who have been sentenced to short sentences. This is a complex matter and it will be necessary to look at particular offences, as to whether the arguments are as strong on rehabilitation, and whether there are perhaps different arguments on deterrence or public protection that come into play. 

Q24 Victoria Prentis: The difficulty is that actual funding will have to be spent on robust alternatives, and real work will have to be done to make sure that there are good alternatives to prison. 

David Gauke: I very much agree. It is important not to think that addressing the issue of short sentences is, for example, a huge moneysaving opportunity. In the long term it might be, if it helps to reduce reoffending, but I completely agree with you that reducing short sentences needs to be viewed in the context of improving the alternatives. Community sentences that are robust and properly enforced are very important. It needs to be looked at as a package. I do not think one can overnight get rid of short sentences and then hope for the best. It needs to be viewed in that context. 

Q25 Victoria Prentis: We feel very strongly about that, as you will see from the report. I think the Committee would press you for a timeframe. Do you have any ideas? 

David Gauke: It depends on the particular routes one goes down. I stress that no decisions have been made, but if we were looking at a legislative route, given the approach I like to take, which is to be led by evidence, it would not happen overnight. Equally, going back to my earlier point, one needs to look at it at the same time as looking at alternative, community, sentences. We need to make sure that they are in place and robust. 

I do not think it can be sorted by the end of the year; it will take some time, but I am very keen to use that time to continue to make the argument and, I hope, build a consensus, which is sustainable and long term, that the approach we take to our justice system should be led by the evidence and focused on reducing reoffending. If we can do that, there is a significant prize for society. 

Q26 Victoria Prentis: You will certainly have the support of this Committee in that.

IPP prisoners remain, for this Committee, a very worrying part of our prison population. The numbers continue to fall, but two particular points worry us. First, we are left with a rump, if you like, that seems to be very difficult to deal with or to release. What steps are you taking to ensure that those cases can be looked at properly? 

The second thing we are worried about is the very high number of recalls in that population. I think it is nearly 1,000, which is astonishing given the size of the population. Those are our two areas of concern about IPPs. 

David Gauke: I do not want to depress the Committee further, but there is a distinct risk that the number of IPP prisoners will cease to fall because the level of recalls will exceed those being released. The difficulty, and a real challenge for the Parole Board, is that, as we get down to the hard core of those prisoners, they have to make an assessment as to public protection. The Parole Board will not release prisoners when they think there is significant risk to the public. They have to make those decisions on a case-by-case basis. 

Q27 Victoria Prentis: Have they been given all the resources and ability to make those decisions as quickly as they are able to? 

David Gauke: Yes, I think they have. For example, additional resources became available at the time of the autumn Budget for the Parole Board, so I think they have the resources they need. The Parole Board has a very difficult job and they need to make decisions on the basis of the evidence in front of them. That is what they are doing, but if their judgment—it is a very difficult judgment to make—is that an IPP prisoner would present a risk to society, I am not going to be critical of them for refusing to release such a prisoner. 

Q28 Victoria Prentis: Do you think sufficient resources are available to support IPP prisoners after release? That might in itself reassure the Parole Board but would also, one would hope, reduce the number of recalls. 

David Gauke: That is something we constantly have to look at to see whether more can be done in that area, but I am not particularly aware that it is the constraint in this case. At one point, I asked for some anonymised examples of the type of people who are not being released. It is very much not my decision, but when those anonymised examples are presented, you can see why the Parole Board was reluctant to release some of those individuals, even though they might have been significantly beyond tariff. 

Q29 Chair: Isn’t the real answer to grasp the nettle, as Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the former Lord Chief Justice, suggested, and change the law, and re-sentence all the current IPP prisoners to determinate sentences in accordance with what would be the normal practice now, rather than having this hangover in the system? 

David Gauke: There is certainly a respectable argument for that. Let’s see what progress we can continue to make. We all have to face the fact that many if not all of these cases are difficult, and there is a significant risk to the public. Much though my approach is very much focused on rehabilitation and so on, I also place significant store on protecting the public. 

Q30 Chair: Absolutely. Many of us might say that determinate sentences might be quite substantial, but they might be a more open and honest way of dealing with the matter than the half-life of the IPP. 

David Gauke: I can see that argument. I do not think anyone can be terribly comfortable with where we are. I accept that. 

Q31 David Hanson: The Minister of State, Rory Stewart, sent us a very helpful letter on 1 April regarding Birmingham Prison. He indicated in that letter that the cost settlement from G4S was £9.9 million. Is that the total cost to the Ministry? 

David Gauke: That is our assessment of the fair cost to us in stepping in at Birmingham. We believe we are being properly compensated for stepping in with regard to Birmingham. 

Q32 David Hanson: The £9.9 million covers the entire cost to the Ministry for the failure of Birmingham Prison and taking it over. 

David Gauke: It covers the cost of our stepping in with regard to Birmingham. I think the answer is yes. Obviously, we now take up some costs in running Birmingham, but that is the step-in cost. 

Q33 Chair: While we are dealing with this side of the Department’s work, can I put one other point to you? You said you wanted to work on the basis of evidence. The evidence is that Transforming Rehabilitation has been a complete failure, hasn’t it? 

David Gauke: Clearly, it has not delivered in the way we wanted. Last summer, I set out that I was going to make changes and bring those contracts to an end early. There was additional funding, for example, on the through the gate processes. We set out our proposal and consulted on it, and we have been looking very closely at the responses. We have also been looking very closely at what the NAO and Dame Glenys Stacey have said. Tomorrow, I am meeting the chief executives of the CRCs to discuss this further. I am reflecting very carefully on the balance between the public sector, the private sector and the voluntary sector in delivering probation services. 

Q34 David Hanson: Following up my first question, I want to deal with the cost of Working Links and Interserve collapsing, the cost of taking over those projects, plus the costs of repairing the damage that the chief inspector of probation and the National Audit Office referred to. What is your total estimate of those costs to the Ministry of Justice? 

David Gauke: The first point is that, as you have just heard, I am willing to acknowledge that there are things in the current probation set-up that are not satisfactory and adequate, and we will have to make changes. In terms of the criticism that this is costing the Exchequer lots more money than was anticipated, I do not think that is right at all. We are spending considerably less on probation and the CRCs than was anticipated. That is not to say that everything is all fine with the system; it is not. 

Q35 David Hanson: That is because there are fewer people being referred to CRCs, so the cost was not transferred and spent accordingly. 

David Gauke: It is also because the CRCs were paid by results and they have not delivered the results we wanted, but the expenditure on CRCs is less than we had anticipated. What has in truth been happening is that the shareholders of the CRCs have been subsidising the probation service, so it is not good for them, but the system is not good for us. 

Q36 David Hanson: Is it possible to supply the Committee with a balance sheet of costs incurred by the MOJ and payments made to CRCs, and your costs and estimates of what the Transforming Rehabilitation repair work will be? 

David Gauke: We can certainly provide you with as much detail as we possibly can, but we would also want to compare that with the anticipated costs of the CRC system. What we will find is that we are spending significantly less than we had anticipated when Transforming Rehabilitation was introduced. 

Q37 David Hanson: Is it possible to wrap that up with the response to the Justice Committee’s report of June last year that you promised to provide by October last year? As I recall, it is now April this year. 

David Gauke: I want to respond to that report when we have determined how we are going to respond to the consultation to the reforms I set out last summer, and how we want to take that forward. It would be sensible for me to respond to the Select Committee, and it is not my usual custom to delay a response, but, given that we are looking carefully at our options, it is right that we reach a conclusion before we respond to the Select Committee. 

Q38 David Hanson: The cynic in me would ask why you promised to deliver it in January this year—in October—when obviously there had been major changes and some consideration by the MOJ. Surely, it is now time to produce the Government’s response to the recommendations in the report we produced. 

David Gauke: The right thing for me to do is to take into account the evidence that has been presented to us as to the way forward and reach a conclusion on that. Once I have reached a conclusion, I can give a more helpful response to the Select Committee. Were I to provide a response at this point, I would be very limited in what I think I could say. 

Q39 David Hanson: Just between us, when is that likely to be? 

David Gauke: Just between us, I hope we will be able to say something in the not too distant future. 

Q40 Chair: Well, that’s faster than in due course, isn’t it? 

David Gauke: It is faster than in due course. It will be much earlier than in due course. 

Chair: We come back to the balance you have to have in the Department between the prison and probation side and the justice issues in the broader sense. You have been keen to ensure that there is proper access to justice, and some of our earlier questions were about how you make that a reality, rather than its being, in the famous phrase, like the Ritz hotel. We are now going to ask questions about the way people can access the system, some of the changes to eligibility and so on.