Monday 30 September 2019

Probation Death Knell 2

Our profession once more finds itself at a crossroads and with no effective voice. It should be noted that probation is of such little national interest that neither the Secretary of State nor Prison and Probation Minister are due to make an appearance at the Napo AGM, or the Tory Party conference in Manchester this week. 

But with the rapidly approaching demise of the failed CRCs, most of their work and staff will shortly be disappearing behind an impenetrable wall of civil service bureaucracy and command and control management. Whilst NPS continues to struggle with both recruitment and retention of frontline staff and fails to understand the reasons, it doesn't stop management and the bureaucracy from churning out endless 'alphabet soup' initiatives such as this highlighted by a concerned reader:-  

More confusion & B/S from 'the centre':

"NPS is also committed to ensuring that NPS court staff adequately consider mental health needs when supporting court sentencing, which includes recommending community sentences and/or MHTRs. NPS will also support the work of the MoJ, Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHSE and Public Health England (PHE) who have developed a Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR) ‘protocol’ to increase the use of Community Sentences with treatment requirements, which includes increasing the use of MHTRs. The NHS has also committed to set aside increased funding for CSTRs through the Long Term Plan, and it is critical that NPS engage with partners as this process develops. Moreover, it is imperative that NPS works more closely with NHSE Liaison and Diversion providers to ensure that health staff may contribute information to support court sentencing and proposals for treatment requirements where possible."

But the Protocols describe the following procedure:

"At Court
  • Defendant pleads or is found guilty.
  • Pre-Sentence Report is requested by the court and undertaken by the National Probation Service. Court will ordinarily require completion of report within four weeks.
  • Report author, acting either at the explicit request of the court and/or, on the basis of professional judgement, assesses that the offender may benefit from the imposition of a MHTR and requests an assessment.
  • Report author obtains consent of defendant to assessment and treatment; completes Referral Form outlining presenting issues and/or symptoms and forwards this by secure email to Community Mental Health Assessment and Recovery Team"
An adjournment of up to 4 weeks? Defendant's consent? Liaison with appropriate mental health professionals? Sounds a bit 'old skool' to me...


I think your post is representative of something more endemic, and worthy of another post. From the perspective of working in London NPS, there is a litany of "centralised" tools that, collectively, are leaving the staff in a sense of disarray. Nobody objects to getting feedback, encouragement, steers about their work, reflective discussion, or pointing out where things might be better - in fact most staff positively encourage this. However, when layer upon layer upon layer of initiatives are introduced without really questioning if the previous one added any value, problems occur. 

Here are a few examples of what staff now do or are subjected to, which didn't exist some years ago, and yet the senior management say "Oh, but your workload measurement tool says you are on 100%"
  • Data quality days
  • Updating "HETE data", "risk registers", "MAPPA flags"
  • Whole days spent auditing one case using a tool bizarrely named the "LIPAD"
  • OASYS reviews every 4 months whether the case needs a review or not
  • "lifer panels", "IPP panels"
  • PD case discussions; PD case consultations
  • Not only entering Delius contacts, but doing so using the CRISSA Format which takes double the amount of time per contact
  • OASYS QA tools which go into a plethora of details of what needs to be in a "current situation", "offender comments box", "sources of information", "what will increase the motivation" boxes, upon boxes, upon boxes.
  • Going to "risk is everybody's business" training which is like going to an induction on day 1 of your job
  • Going to "safeguarding" training which is pitched at the level of a primary school child
  • Entering NSI's which nobody quite understands and hopes we have done correctly - the latest now being for "maps for change"
And how any of this benefits the end user (service user or victim) is beyond any of us - the HMIP tells us "YOU ARE CRAP AT DELIVERING WORK TO SERVICE USERS" and yet nothing, organisationally, has been focussed on this, other than implementing so called "IPAD" tool which is ridiculously unfit for purpose - and yet despite knowing all this, there we sit, click, clicking away, fearful that if we don't we'll be sacked. And then it dawns on us - there are OTHER JOBS OUT THERE - and the senior leadership team sits there scratching their heads thinking how they can "monitor attrition" and can't quite work out how their new workload measurement tool datadashboard quality assurance initiative hasn't given them the answer.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Probation Death Knell

For those who are still unsure why it's not a good idea to have Civil Servants running probation and why 'reunifying' under their bureaucratic dead hand of command and control will be the death of the profession, the following example of management 'alphabet soup' should serve as a warning:-

"Work on a refreshed PSR Quality Development Tool (QDT) was concluded in March 2019, this has now been supplemented with an Oral Report Specific QDT in recognition that this is now the predominant delivery format for PSRs. Both tools have now been approved by the National Court Strategy Group and are available for use across the division. 

Work is ongoing to develop a PSR Quality Assurance Framework, which will detail how the QDT aligns with Skills for Effective Engagement, Development and Supervision (SEEDS) and The Management Oversight Models. The framework will capture minimum expectations (and whether these expectations are mandatory or for guidance purposes) and will be presented to the Senior Leadership Team in October 2019 for consideration."

Friday 27 September 2019

Squaring the Circle

So, Ken Clarke and other moderate senior Tory fears about it all being a part of a nasty plan are indeed correct, a situation gleefully confirmed by the career psychopath Dominic Cummings last night when he referred to it all as a 'walk in the park'.

But it gets even worse because we now understand why the Prime Minister is so confident that he can square the circle provided by the Benn Act - he intends to suspend the law. John Major tells us how in this from the Guardian:-

Boris Johnson may use the privy council to bypass the legal requirement on him to seek a three-month Brexit delay if he cannot get a deal, the former prime minister John Major has suggested. In a speech to the Centre for European Reform thinktank this evening, Major plans to say:

My fear is that the government will seek to bypass statute law, by passing an order of council to suspend the [Benn] Act until after 31 October. It is important to note that an order of council can be passed by privy councillors – that is government ministers – without involving HM the Queen.
I should warn the prime minister that – if this route is taken – it will be in flagrant defiance of parliament and utterly disrespectful to the supreme court. It would be a piece of political chicanery that no one should ever forgive or forget.
Major is referring to the difference between an order in council, which needs the approval of the monarch, and an order of council, which does not. Johnson has repeatedly made the apparently contradictory claims that he will, at once, abide by the law and refuse to ask for a delay.    


From Twitter:-

I expect to be on @BBCr4today at 7.10 am commenting on this suggestion that the Government may attempt to use an Order of Council to suspend the Benn-Burt Act that requires the PM to seek an Article 50 extension.

My view is that while a Government attempt to do this may cause delay (because of the need for judicial review) there is no sound legal basis for what appears to be proposed.

It is unclear from Sir John Major's speech exactly what may be in contemplation. One possibility would be an Order made under the royal prerogative. But that would plainly be incapable of suspending an Act of Parliament.

Attempting to use the prerogative to suspend an Act of Parliament would amount to an assertion of a dispensing power - a power that is explicitly denied by the Bill of Rights.

Using the prerogative to suspend an Act of Parliament would also be flatly inconsistent with fundamental constitutional principles, according to which primary legislation enacted by Parliament takes priority over the prerogative.

Another possibility is that the Government is contemplating the use of a statutory power to suspend the Benn-Burt Act. It is possible in principle for one statute to authorise the Government to amend or repeal (or suspend) another statute: a so-called Henry VIII power.

However, the Government would need to identify a statute that authorised it to suspend the Benn-Burt Act. The most likely candidate is the Civil Contingencies Act 2004. But this does not in fact provide a legal basis for what appears to be in contemplation.

Emergency regulations under the Act can only be made if the relevant person (Her Majesty in Council or, in urgent cases, a senior Minister) is satisfied there is or is going to be an emergency, and that the measures in the order are urgently needed to address the emergency.

It is very difficult to see how those conditions could be met. An emergency means threats of serious damage to human welfare, the environment or national security. No emergency exists or is imminent that would justify suspension of the Benn-Burt Act.

For these reasons, I do not think that there is any credible legal basis for an Order capable of suspending the Benn-Burt Act.

That is not, however, to doubt that if the Government purported to make such an Order, it may sow confusion and cause delay to the fulfilment of the duty imposed by the Benn-Burt Act, thus reducing the likelihood of the European Council granting an Art 50 extension.

It is worth adding that Sir John's use of the term Order *of* Council has caused some uncertainty. Such Orders can be made under statutory or prerogative power, their defining feature being that they do not require the Queen's approval.

However, an Order of Council cannot prevail over an Act of Parliament if made under the prerogative. If made under statute, it can prevail over another Act of Parliament only if the parent statute authorises that.

It follows that Orders of Council can, by virtue of being Orders of Council, have no special status that distinguishes them from other forms of legislation that are legally inferior to Acts of Parliament.

Mark Elliott

Professor of Public Law & Deputy Chair of the Faculty of Law, 
University of Cambridge.


We shall  soon all be experts on our unwritten constitution. This from the Spectator:-

Has the Supreme Court handed Boris Johnson a Brexit escape route?

The Supreme Court’s judgement is the latest constitutional perversion after the Benn act. But ironically it may assist the Government in achieving its objective of Britain leaving the EU by 31 October, without having to seek an extension to the Article 50 process.

In paragraph 34, the Supreme Court states that its ‘proper function’ under our constitution is to give effect to the separation of powers (which justifies court intervention in relation to prorogation). Then, in what appears to be an innocuous sentence in paragraph 55, it says that it is to be “remember[ed] always that the actual task of governing is for the executive and not for Parliament or the courts.”

Yet the Benn Act manifestly contradicts this principle. It dictates how the Government must conduct negotiations with a foreign body, the EU, to the extent of obliging the Prime Minister to write specifically worded letters and accept whatever extension it offers when certain conditions are not met. In the situation when the conditions are not met (i.e. if the House of Commons has not voted for a deal or approved exit without a deal), the Prime Minister then has no choice but to act as instructed, whether he wants to or not. At that point, in what sense is he governing? The Prime Minister becomes a mere puppet of Parliament, which to all intents and purposes is the governing body.

The judgement also outlines another fundamental constitutional principle: Parliamentary accountability. In paragraph 46 it says:

“Ministers are accountable to Parliament through such mechanisms as their duty to answer Parliamentary scrutiny of the delegated legislation which ministers make. By these means, the policies of the executive are subjected to consideration by the representatives of the electorate, the executive is required to report, explain, and defend its actions, and citizens are protected from the arbitrary exercise of executive power.”
But if the legislature takes on the functions of the executive, without taking office, then to whom is it accountable for its policies? To whom does it report, explain, and defend its actions to? Itself? Which of its members speaks on its behalf?

To show the absurdity of the current situation, suppose the Brexit select committee wanted to summon someone to scrutinise the effects of an extension to Article 50 to 31 January 2020 (or beyond). Who would it call? Perhaps it ought to call Hilary Benn, whose name is attributed to the Act that mandates the policy. But Hilary Benn happens to be the chairman of the committee. The Benn Act then arguably destroys the very principle of parliamentary accountability, which the Supreme Court cited as a cornerstone of the British constitution.

If the Benn Act is unconstitutional, the next question to ask is whether the Court has the ability to rule that it violates constitutional norms and provide a legal remedy.

Again, the answer lies in the present judgment. In discussing the justiciability of prerogative powers, paragraph 35 says that:

“The [first] issue is whether a prerogative power exists, and if it does exist, its extent. The second is whether, granted that a prerogative power exists, and that it has been exercised within its limits, the exercise of the power is open to legal challenge on some other basis.”
But there is no reason why this should not extend to virtually any claimed power – the courts can decide if the power exists, and if it does, what is its extent. This is one of the normal functions of a court. Why shouldn’t the power of parliament to enact laws be examined too and subject to scrutiny and analysis by the courts and its limits determined?

The counter argument to this is that the Benn Act is a proceeding of Parliament so is protected from court scrutiny by Article IX of the Bill of Rights 1689 (which the Court ruled does not cover prorogation). Yet it could be argued that this Article, which is a significant part of our constitution, cannot be used as an instrument itself to destroy the constitution. By way of comparison, judges ruled that the Statute of Frauds 1677 itself could not be pleaded as a defence against accusation of fraud.

If you maintain that Article IX is absolute, then it would mean that Parliament could legislate to abolish judicial review, open justice, the courts or even Parliament itself. This would do unlimited damage and destruction to the constitution, all without the courts having any say.

Before this judgment, I believed the principle of parliamentary sovereignty meant that parliament could do this. Now I am not so sure; the Court has taken it upon itself, under the common law, to be the guardian of certain constitutional principles. It could be argued then that while it has a constitutional duty to supervise the exercise of prerogative power, it also has a duty to supervise the power of parliament.

The sovereign was – before this ruling, at least – the ultimate limit on the use of prerogative power in the absence of statute. The Court in its judgment at paragraph 30 states that it expresses no view on the matter of whether the Queen was obliged to accept the advice to prorogue. Yet it then contradicts this by claiming that the Prime Minister was “the only person with power…to have regard to all relevant interests, including the interests of Parliament”.

This reduces the monarch to a nodding dog, who simply acquiesces to wherever her ministers drive the nation and its institutions. The Court has usurped the role of the constitutional monarch and invented a novel role for itself, essentially transforming Britain into a democratic republic. If it rules against prorogation today, then is it to challenge the Royal Assent, by which bills become law, tomorrow? What if the Government were, in an exceptional case, to advise the Queen to refuse such assent?

Before the Cooper-Letwin Act and the Benn Act, the House of Commons and the House of Lords were the checks on the unconstitutional power of the Crown in Parliament. The Government should now test whether the Court will apply with consistency the reasoning that it used to justify its new constitutional powers in relation to prorogation.

If the matter of prorogation is now justiciable because the Court can protect Parliamentary sovereignty and accountability as part of the fundamental separation of powers, then why should the Court not also intervene when that principle is violated by a Parliament which presumes to usurp the executive by taking upon itself the actual task of governing?

The way is now open for Boris Johnson to refuse to comply with the Benn Act on the legitimate ground that the Act is unconstitutional and that the courts (and ultimately the Supreme Court) will agree; and even if the Court won’t go so far as declaring it an actual nullity, then at least they will refuse to enforce it.

Alexander Pelling-Bruce is a political researcher

Thursday 26 September 2019

We Are On a Dangerous Road

Following the humiliating defeat in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, our Prime Minister had no choice but to cut his US trip short and return straight home to face a packed House of Commons. The spectacle millions of us witnessed was truly shocking and without doubt has demonstrated he is an unfit person to hold public office. 

In reckless behaviour that apes that of the current US President, Boris Johnson has clearly decided to follow the advice of his special advisor and career psychopath Dominic Cummings and set the People against Parliament. His appalling choice of language and dog-whistle rhetoric was specifically designed to incite anger and the ugliest forms of civil unrest within our population, knowing full well that it will be enthusiastically fuelled by the right-wing press and internet trolls. I don't think I've ever been so alarmed or appalled by any other politician in my lifetime and that includes Enoch Powell.

I suspect this Twitter thread from Jonathan Lis of British Influence will resonate with many this morning:-      

"I don’t think any of us who witnessed what happened in the House of Commons today, whether in person or on TV, will ever forget it. I think the genuine, inhuman, toxic horror of it will remain etched in my mind for the rest of my life. This sounds shrill or hysterical. It is not. Something died tonight that will never come back. Something of our decency, our love, our care for one another, not as political opponents but as human beings, trying to do what’s best for the people we care about.

This transcends Brexit. I don’t care if you voted leave or remain. It even, in fact, transcends prorogation. This was a festival of gleeful cruelty orchestrated by a political leader so removed from humanity that he was prepared to barrack and assail the friends of a murdered MP. Make no mistake. We’ve witnessed the first steps of a very deliberate revolution. This is the end of civility. End of playing by the rules. End of giving a fuck about anyone or anything beyond the nationalist prize you think will unlock the glory you couldn’t begin to deserve.

This is Trump’s Britain in ways we can only begin to compute. Language has no more limits. People have no more value. The aggressive, heartless contempt starts here and people have every right to be scared. These moments are as dangerous as any we’ve found in the last 80 years. We expect it from Johnson. The total unadulterated sociopathic malice was ‘priced in’ by his Tory enablers who denied what was in front of them and looked the other way. It’s the rest of the Tories who shame and devastate us. They saw, they listened, and finally they applauded.

If you value democracy, if you value civility, if you value basic fucking decency to your fellow human beings, now is the time to fight for it. We will get over prorogation. We will, somehow, get over Brexit. But unless we fight hard, fight now, we may not get over this."


This from Buzzfeed News:-

Female MPs Accused Boris Johnson Of Putting Their Lives In Danger After A Furious Brexit Debate In Parliament

Boris Johnson received widespread condemnation from across the House of Commons on Wednesday night and was accused of putting politicians’ lives in danger, after he claimed that delivering Brexit was “the best way to honour the memory” of the murdered MP Jo Cox.

Amid furious scenes in parliament — with some MPs walking out of the chamber in protest and others left in tears — the prime minister shocked the Commons by responding to a plea from Labour MP Paula Sherriff to moderate his language in the wake of death threats to politicians by saying “humbug”.

In astonishing exchanges across the House, Sherriff told Johnson: “We stand here under the shield of our departed friend with many of us in this place subject to death threats and abuse every single day. “And let me tell the prime minister that they often quote his words — “Surrender Act”, “betrayal”, “traitor” — and I for one am sick of it. We must moderate our language and it has to come from the prime minister first.”

To cries of “shame” from opposition MPs, Johnson replied: “I have never heard such humbug in all my life.”

Several Labour MPs left the Commons chamber in protest at Johnson’s description of legislation passed by MPs aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit as a “Surrender Act”. Despite the criticism the prime minister doubled down on his language by calling it the “Capitulation Act” and the “Humiliation Act”.

In an emotive intervention, Labour’s Tracy Brabin, who took over as MP for Batley and Spen after Cox was killed a week before the EU referendum, asked Johnson: “As the woman who has taken over the seat left by our dear friend Jo Cox, can I ask him, in all honesty, as a human being, please, please will he going forward moderate his language so we will all feel secure going about our jobs.”

The PM replied that “the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox and indeed the best way to bring this country together would be, I think, to get Brexit done”. Cox campaigned vocally for Remain before she was shot and stabbed to death by a far-right terrorist in the final days of the referendum campaign.

Johnson’s words were condemned by Cox’s husband Brendan on Twitter:
Feel a bit sick at Jo’s name being used in this way. The best way to honour Jo is for all of us (no matter our views) to stand up for what we believe in, passionately and with determination. But never to demonise the other side and always hold onto what we have in common.
In response to another question from the Labour MP Anna McMorrin about the abuse politicians were receiving on social media, Johnson warned that it would not stop until Brexit was delivered. If McMorrin thought “that storm on Twitter is going to abate, she’s got another thing coming,” the PM said.

Johnson was also criticised by Conservative MP Jeremy Lefroy, who said: “With freedom of speech comes responsibility, and sometimes that responsibility means not saying what one might like to say — words like surrender, betrayal, treason”.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said: “The Prime Minister tonight proved he is totally unfit for office. To suggest the best way to honour Jo Cox, an MP who was murdered for what she believed in, was to pass his Brexit deal was sickening.”

As the debate raged in the Commons, BuzzFeed News spoke to several MPs who expressed their horror at the prime minister’s language. Sherriff revealed the level of abuse she and other colleagues have received in recent months: “I’ve had swastikas left outside my office. And I know now as a result of that, I might not be able to go home this weekend, stay in my own house. We’ve had MPs have to move addresses, stay in hotels, there’s a lot that goes on that we don’t necessarily talk about.”

Alison McGovern, a close friend of Cox, said: “It is devastating that our Prime Minister cannot realise the consequences of his words. They have real life effect. This isn't a game, and he should listen when people express grief and distress at what he says.”

Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News revealed the specialist police unit set up to investigate crimes against MPs has received 558 complaints since its inception and has seen a huge increase in reports in the last 12 months.

Scottish National Party MP Alison Thewliss called for Johnson to resign, saying his behaviour was: "Absolutely despicable. And what makes it worse is it's deliberate. He's doing this deliberately to wind people up, to get people out on the streets. It's irresponsible and it's dangerous, and it's got to stop. He's got to go."

Labour’s Rosie Duffield said: “He is inciting violence, implying to [women] MPs repeatedly that if we vote his way, we will all be safe. His answer to Anna McMorrin sounded like an outright threat. I had written a question about Kent but when he upset so many of my colleagues, I felt compelled to call him out. This is what real privilege looks like.”

Tuesday 24 September 2019

The Spider Gets the Fly

I simply can't let such a momentous occasion as today's Supreme Court Judgment pass without comment. It's history in the making as 11 Justices of the Supreme Court unanimously confirm what we've all known from the beginning, that our Prime Minister is a serial liar, doesn't do detail or read briefs and instead prefers to just 'wing it':-

"Perhaps most tellingly of all, the memorandum does not address the competing merits of going into recess and prorogation. It wrongly gives the impression that they are much the same. The Prime Minister’s reaction was to describe the September sitting as a “rigmarole”. Nowhere is there a hint that the Prime Minister, in giving advice to Her Majesty, is more than simply the leader of the Government seeking to promote its own policies; he has a constitutional responsibility, as we have explained in para 30 above.

61. It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason - let alone a good reason - to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, from 9th or 12th September until 14th October. We cannot speculate, in the absence of further evidence, upon what such reasons might have been. It follows that the decision was unlawful."

I'm particularly interested to hear how the PM can say he 'strongly disagrees' with the decision given that I don't think he's legally-qualified and there were no dissenting voices from a bench of eleven Justices. 

So, as Parliament resumes its work and scrutiny of the government tomorrow, our unwritten constitution seems to have survived, despite the best endeavours of Boris Johnson and his career psychopath special adviser Dominic Cummings, but surely the position of both is now untenable? 

I suspect the events of the last couple of weeks will have struck a chord with probation staff, familiar as they are with the easy propensity with which some clients lie as the automatic default position in any tricky situation. The Whipps Cross Hospital episode where, when cornered by an angry father of a sick child accusing him of just wanting to stage a press stunt, Boris just lied as quick as a flash, straight to a BBC camera.

Of course, in addition to having form as being a proven liar, Boris Johnson displays that other very similar trait often seen in some clients, that of entitlement. The sad thing of course is that despite all this, he will still garner support in certain unsavoury quarters with the likes of Toby Young ridiculously suggesting that if the Judiciary are to have the 'upper hand', then Justices must be subject of questioning and confirmation hearings before appointment to the Supreme Court. 

Sadly I suspect there will be much similar nonsense spouted before the day is out, but in the mean time, lets take comfort from a truly momentous day and the Law having taken its clear and utterly unambiguous course in upholding our famously unwritten constitution. 

I'm guessing the choice of Lady Hale's brooch was purely accidental.             

Saturday 21 September 2019

Napo AGM Motions

The Napo AGM is fast approaching and there's only a week left for members to express a view as to the respective priorities for debate from a line-up of 35 ordinary motions. Given the stifling nature of the Civil Service, not surprisingly there are a number of themes about breaking free of their stranglehold, but nothing much that looks particularly contentious, apart that is number 34. I don't know what others think, but this particular motion strikes me as quite extraordinary and has all the hallmarks of some serious disquiet amongst the ranks in appearing to tell Granny how to suck eggs. Anyway, these are the ones that particularly caught my attention:-

1. Serious Further Offences and workload 

This AGM moves that an officer’s Workload Management Tool (WMT) must be a mitigating factor when in a Serious Further Offence investigation. WMT must be discussed during the Serious Further Offence process and be included in any official documentation or report on the findings of the Serious Further Offence. 
Proposer: Napo Cymru

2. Workload 

Probation Officers and Probation Service Officers are increasingly working above capacity on the Workload Management Tool and for prolonged periods of time. The over-allocation in case management has resulted in officers feeling their workloads are impossible and unachievable, yet they are still expected to meet all targets and achieve best practice standards. Working over-capacity naturally reduces the quality and timeliness of assessments, reports and recording, and the ability to provide the level of supervision needed to manage complex cases. The current system of over-allocation puts the responsibility on managing an over-capacity situation with individual officers and not with the organisation that systematically over-allocates cases. This AGM moves that officers should not, in any circumstances, be allocated over 100% for any length of time. 
Proposer: Napo Cymru

5. Workload Measurement and Management 

South Yorkshire Branch welcomes the development of Workload Measurement Tools in the CRC, the NPS SPO Project and Probation Review but results have been slow in coming or are patently overdue. It is crucial that workload measurement is as accurate as possible and covers all grades and roles vulnerable to excessive workloads, furthermore, that workload is not only measured but managed. Situations impacting on members’ wellbeing include: 

• no national measurement or management of prison workloads or for certain grades of staff; 
• ad hoc and retrospective arrangements within the CRCs; 
• the regular additions of court tasks without a corresponding increase in time allowance;
• SPOs being pulled away from supervision and staff support because of time consuming HR tasks; 
• weightings for new cases not being sufficient to reflect the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) and the front-loading of work. 

Underpinning all of this should be an understanding that 100% capacity is the maximum work an employee should be asked to do. This AGM calls on Napo to:

• continue to press the employers to improve workload arrangements across all areas of work and report back to the November NEC;
• register a national workload dispute; 
• encourage and support individual members to submit foreseeability notices to their employer. 
Proposer: South Yorkshire Branch

6. Pay and pension parity 

AGM will be aware that, since Transforming Rehabilitation (TR), we have seen a huge disparity in the pay and terms and conditions of probation staff. This has caused a great deal of anxiety amongst staff and lack of job security, disproportionately affecting women. In turn, this destabilises the workforce and undermines performance and public safety. Conference believes that, in order to resolve these issues and rebuild public confidence, pay parity and the harmonisation of critical terms and conditions such as maternity and paternity leave is crucial to achieving this. This AGM calls for a campaign to make this a top priority. This includes the endeavours of paid Officials, Officers and critically, all members working to achieve this through, for example, letter writing and lobbying MPs. 
Proposer: Campaigning Committee

7. Serious Further Offences 

This AGM understands that the ’early look’ process puts members into possible disciplinary action before the Serious Further Offences (SFO) investigation has taken place. This AGM believes the current SFO process places our members in highly stressful situations and possible double jeopardy, if the ‘early look’ has resulted in a disciplinary and the full investigation results in further punitive action whereby dismissal would be hastened. This AGM calls upon National Officers and Officials to negotiate a new SFO process which is less punitive and supported and take into consideration factors such as workloads. 
Proposer: Patricia Johnson Seconder: Peter Halsall

11. Replace OASys 

This AGM is conscious of the requirement for an assessment tool that captures information about an individual that relates to risk, need and responsivity. However there have been longstanding concerns around the time spent in administrative tasks, one of the most time consuming of these is completing OASys assessments, over 50% of practitioners expressed their concern in an MoJ study (Moore 2015) that there were not enough working hours to complete assessments. OASys atomises an individual into component parts, leaving a reader/assessor unsure of who this person actually is (Aas 2004). Significant time is spent by workers in probation completing assessments due to the length and repetitious nature of the OASys, but the utility of this information to anyone outside of the MoJ is unclear, particularly as it draws practitioners away from developing relationship with their clients. AGM therefore calls on Napo nationally to pressure HMPPS over the need to review the relevance of OASys given that a tool developed in 2001 in response to ‘What Works’ is now out of date, and to develop a streamlined assessment tool relates to the current desistance and strengths-based research. 
Proposer: South Yorkshire Branch

13. Training that is fit for the job 

Staffing shortages in the NPS are widespread and negatively impacting on workloads and staff wellbeing. Despite the attempts of HMPPS to recruit new staff, some are leaving after just three years. This AGM believes that the current training programme is inadequate and does not properly prepare learners for the role or profession. The reduced amount of time the qualification takes means learners are only able to cover the basics, with little or no time for reflective practice. Those learning in the NPS are expected to cut their teeth on high and very high risk of harm cases, while those in the CRC get very little time to experience the full role of a probation officer with Courts etc. HMPPS’ own research shows that newly qualified staff do not feel adequately trained to do the role and are overwhelmed. This is a risk to staff, clients and the public. This AGM calls on the Professional & Training Committee to challenge HMPPS on this, to campaign for a full review of the training and to demand that HMPPS take this issue seriously. It also asks branches to actively recruit new learners and newly qualified officers so they can be better supported by Napo. 
Proposer: Professional & Training Committee

14. Group Work Programmes 

This AGM believes that group work programmes play a vital role in the process of change and personal development – making a significant contribution to the work of the probation service and the lives of clients. However, we are alarmed by the BBC report published on 4th June 2019 which shows that both short duration, non-accredited and accredited programmes have not been evaluated for years. In essence there is no current outcome based evidence to show that programmes work. This is clearly unacceptable for clients and for our members who deliver programmes. It is also not acceptable for members of the public. It is another example of the failure of all probation providers and indicative of the mess made by TR. This is further proof that programmes should be an integral part of a unified and locally accountable probation service. This AGM therefore calls upon Napo nationally to insist that programmes are delivered to best practice and agreed group work standards and are evaluated as a matter of extreme urgency. Napo will insist that outcome based evidence is published publicly by the MoJ by May 2020. 
Proposer: South Yorkshire Branch

15. Protect our role boundaries, before it’s too late 

For too long now we have witnessed diminishing boundaries that define the roles of Probation and Probation Services Officers. Whilst PSO roles are increasing in responsibility without any true correlation in pay, the role of the PO is threatened by what are fast becoming POs on the cheap. The time is now to stop the drift before offender management is reunified in two years’ time. Failure to act now may allow the Civil Service to take advantage of the current vague guidelines that are continually exploited by management to use poorly trained and sometimes untrained staff to cover for the lack of qualified POs. The current move in the NPS towards PSOs completing reports on sex offenders and domestic abuse perpetrators is not the thin end of the wedge, but the culmination of years of slippage that has been allowed to evolve. This AGM instructs Officers and Officials to take action now to stop the constant drift and blurring of role boundaries and ensure that clearly defined boundaries to protect both grades are in place before we move towards reunification of Offender Management as a department of the Civil Service. 
Proposer: Staffordshire and West Midlands Branch

20. Integrated service 

Napo welcomes the move by the MoJ to bring “offender management” back into the public sector. Napo however rejects the separation of “offender management” and rehabilitation. This is a false distinction made by the MoJ. Napo believes that Unpaid Work and Interventions are an integral part of the probation service. This AGM calls for a fully integrated, united service with all core functions, including Unpaid Work and Interventions, delivered from a single organisation. This AGM therefore calls upon all members, Officers and Officials to campaign both nationally and locally to raise awareness of this flawed model and to work alongside stakeholders to achieve 100% reunification to restore confidence of both the Courts and the public. 
Proposer: Campaigning Committee

21. TR2: Full reunification 

Unpaid Work and Programmes are core Probation functions. In Wales, Offender Management staff will transfer to NPS in December this year. The language used to justify the re-marketisation of Unpaid Work and Programmes has drawn an erroneous distinction between “Offender Management” and “Rehabilitation”. TR2 will not be completed, even in Wales, until the contracts with CRCs are terminated in 2021. Therefore, December 2019 is not a “cutoff” in terms of this campaign, nor the deadline by which this fight must be won. We will not rest until Probation is reunified in its entirety in the public sector and we call on Napo to continue its fight for the full reunification of Probation. 
Proposer: Napo Cymru

26. In the public sector and never for profit but out of the civil service and released from prison 

The delivery of probation services belongs in the public sector. However, the move to the Civil Service as a result of TR has meant that the National Probation Service is now overly bureaucratic and follows a top down “command and control” culture. Probation Officers are encouraged to think critically about the work that they are doing and how. This is almost impossible from within the Civil Service where criticism of the establishment is forbidden. Although we recognise the advantages of working closely with our colleagues in the Prison Service, we are not an adjunct to that service. While the senior roles in HMPPS are predominantly held by those with a background in the Prison Service and while the second ‘P’ in HMPPS is generally silent it is difficult for the Probation Service to focus on developing its own culture and values. This AGM calls on Napo to campaign for all probation services to exist outside of the Civil Service but in the public sector, as a nondepartmental government body in the same way as organisations like Cafcass and many others. 
Proposer: Campaigning Committee

27. Give us back our Probation Identity 

Throughout the reforms of Probation, from Jack Straw’s concept of a National Probation Service through NOMS to the current format of HMPPS, the Probation identity, once held up as a beacon of excellence, has continued to be consumed and marginalised. In the continued barrage of instructions and policies, the identity of Probation continues to be expunged or at best seen as an afterthought. In some cases, there is barely an effort to disguise the fact these are churned out with the word Prison changed for Probation. The staff transfer is the ideal opportunity to assert the values and true identity of Probation as a standalone and vibrant organisation, whose contribution to protecting and serving the community, is not recognised by renaming us as justice workers. Probation requires its own structure and champion and where its achievements and unique contribution can be nurtured and recognised. Where training and development is linked to the professionalism that already exists rather than being treated as an afterthought. This AGM, as part of the Licence to Practice debate, asks the Professional & Training, Campaigning and Negotiating Committees to collaborate on advancing the basis for a separate Probation Service with its own director. 
Proposer: Keith Stokeld Seconder: Maureen Vernon

30. The shame is with the leadership not the professionals who deliver 

This AGM is ashamed to find the leadership of the services we work for is prepared to blame the staff for failed inspections in CRCs and more lately over a high profile SFO in the Midlands. The Chief Probation Officer, rather than acknowledging the impact of the high caseloads the staff were working under, chose to express her shame for their practice. It is time to acknowledge that, no matter how many times the organisation seeks to reintroduce the latest version of quality assurance or a regurgitated version of desistance, staff are sinking under the pressure. It is not for the lack of professionalism or the desire to develop and deliver effective practice, it is simply the weight of work that increases the risk of failure. This AGM calls on Campaigning Committee to campaign to redress the blame game on staff and focus on reducing workloads. For the Professional & Training Committee to develop a toolkit of reforms on which staff are able to resist the relentless pressure of high risk cases. To support the measures being undertaken to remove the blame game from staff in preference to focusing on the systemic failures of the services we work for. 
Proposer: Staffordshire and West Midlands Branch

31. The Future of the Probation Service 

Having considered the government’s proposals for a future probation service, as set out in “The proposed future model of probation - a draft operating blue print” this Conference calls upon Napo’s Campaigning Committee to make clear that:

• it believes the future service, while providing national coverage, should cease to be either a part of the Civil Service or the Prison Service and should seek alternative arrangements for its governance based on shared responsibility between local authorities and the Ministry of Justice; it rejects the distinction between “offender management” and “interventions” as designed to promote a market for services that ought to be united and delivered as one, free of market interference; 
• it discards the phrases “protecting the public” and “preventing reoffending”, for which the evidence is slender, in favour of “advise, assist and befriend” which should seek to enable desistance from offending; 
• insists the term Probation Court staff designated to Court are appropriately trained to oversee the delivery of the court’s supervisory orders and to otherwise assist in the fair delivery of justice. 
Proposer: Chris Hignett Seconder: Mike Guilfoyle

33. It always was ‘Foreseeable’ 

AGM notes the reports from members working for Interserve Justice of the significant impact of work-related stress, created by the lack of capacity and support, to undertake meaningful rehabilitative work with clients. This has been shown to lead to increased risk of serious harm posed to the public as a direct result of an inadequately resourced operational model. Workloads are consistently well above the agreed threshold, resulting in unacceptably high stress levels and a staff group which is told that there is nowhere for the work to go, leaving it dejected, completing tasks outside of paid working hours and at risk of disciplinary processes. This AGM also notes that an ever-decreasing staff group, combined with increasing workloads, can only increase the likelihood of Serious Further Offences. This AGM instructs Napo Officials to work with the employer to address the issues, to support the use of Foreseeability Notices and ensure that the appropriate remedial action is taken by the organisation on receipt of such notices. If this is not forthcoming, a dispute should be raised to ensure that the health, safety and well-being of members is protected so that risks of harm to the public are minimised. 
Proposer: West Yorkshire Branch

34. It’s not reunification until it’s reunified 

Conference welcomes the emergency resolution submitted by West Yorkshire Branch and passed by the NEC at its June meeting (reproduced below). This AGM calls on the National Officers and Officials to provide the membership with an update on the progress that has been made with this critical campaign. In addition, this AGM instructs Napo National Officers and Officials to request a copy of the risk register relating to the reorganisation, as part of a campaign to highlight the dangers of leaving this section of the workforce outside of the statutory sector. Napo must increase the profile of this important campaign to ensure the failings of TR are not replicated, to protect those members currently outside of the reunification, increase the morale of current members and illustrate the importance of Napo to a layer of employees not currently organised by the union. ‘Napo notes and welcomes the decision to unify the offender management section of the CRC’s with the NPS. We also note with concern the decision to leave interventions, unpaid work and ITTG in the private and non-statutory sector. Napo recognises the anxiety this has caused for members working in these sectors and is aware of the dangers of demoralisation and membership loss. Napo will prioritise a high profile campaign to bring all sectors of the CRCs into the NPS by:- 

1) Convening a meeting of representatives from all the CRCs to discuss and develop the strategy. 
2) Produce written material for members to use in lobbying MPs and other key stakeholders 
3) Lobby Parliament regarding the inherent risks to the public and service provision should interventions and UPW remain in the private and non-statutory sector. 
4) Produce a regular bulletin for members to update them on the progress of the campaign.' 
Proposer: West Yorkshire Branch

Friday 20 September 2019

A Warning About TR2

We all know TR was a complete disaster, not withstanding the civil servants involved received awards, and at least one former Tory minister has recently repented and admitted they tried to stop Chris Grayling. But as the government still seems wedded to privatising bits of probation under TR2, for completeness we'd better cover this latest report from the Institute for Government that spells out why it almost certainly won't work:-  

Government outsourcing: what has worked and what needs reform?

Labour’s policy of bringing public services back into government hands by default would be a mistake. But senior politicians have consistently overstated how much money is saved by outsourcing services. Outsourced services are those delivered by the private or voluntary sector. This report ranks which have been outsourced successfully and which need reform.

It finds that outsourcing waste collection, cleaning, catering and maintenance services has delivered significant savings and benefits to citizens. Particularly in these areas, bringing services entirely back into government hands could lead to worse and more expensive services for the public.

The report also shows that consecutive governments have overstated the benefits of outsourcing. Senior politicians regularly claim outsourcing can still deliver 20–30% savings but there is no evidence to support this.

It highlights a series of high-profile contract failures – including security at the Olympics, welfare assessments, offender tagging and probation. These contracts have wasted millions of pounds, delivered poor services and undermined public trust. The outsourcing of probation failed on every measure, harming ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives.

Consecutive governments have outsourced services with no market of good suppliers or in pursuit of unrealistic cost savings – and without a reasonable expectation that companies could deliver efficiencies or improve the quality of services.

The report recommends that the current government must strengthen its commercial skills and capabilities, makes ministers and officials more accountable to the public and improve the evidence base that informs outsourcing decisions.

About this report 
The role of external suppliers in delivering services to the public and to government has been expanded significantly over the past 40 years. This report assesses where outsourcing has worked and where it has not, and why, and makes recommendations on how to improve the way government contracts out services. 

Government outsourcing is at a crossroads. Government spends tens of billions of pounds a year on services delivered by external suppliers. Yet a string of high-profile failures has put Britain’s outsourcing model under intense scrutiny. The Labour Party has called for a wide range of services to be brought back into government hands. 

But in some areas, outsourcing has delivered substantial benefits, saving money and improving services. Instead of preferring public or private on ideological principle, government should base contracting decisions on what has worked and what has not, and why. 

Outsourcing, which we define as the private or voluntary sector delivering services to the government or the public after a process of competitive tendering,* has been expanded over the past four decades. Beginning in local government with services such as waste collection, successive governments have extended outsourcing to areas including front-line services and major information technology (IT) projects. 

They have done so with a largely consistent rationale: that applying market mechanisms and private sector expertise to the work of government can reduce costs, raise quality and achieve wider benefits such as innovations and improved public sector efficiency. 

In this report, based on more than 50 interviews with current and former government officials, suppliers, academics and industry experts, we assess whether outsourcing has met those aims. We review the evidence in 11 service areas: waste collection, cleaning, catering, maintenance, back-office human resources (HR) and IT, prisons, health care, employment services, adult social care, private financing of construction and probation. Our judgment of each is presented in Table 1 (we include a full summary of each service area in Chapter 2).

Outsourcing has worked best in ‘support services’ that are relatively simple to contract for and deliver: waste collection, cleaning, catering and maintenance. When these services were first outsourced in the 1980s and 1990s, it delivered large savings, often around 20% of annual operating costs, mostly while maintaining levels of quality. Companies therefore achieved significant efficiencies, although some savings were driven by paying staff less. 

Over time, the public sector has become more efficient in these areas, meaning the comparative advantage of the private sector has got smaller or disappeared. This has led some contracting authorities to bring services back in-house. But that does not mean outsourcing has not worked – early savings have effectively been ‘banked’, and improving public sector efficiency was a key motivation for the exercise. It is doubtful that if provision were returned entirely to government hands it would deliver the levels of efficiency currently achieved while competitive pressures remain from private services. 

For front-line services, the picture is more mixed. Private prisons are cheaper to run and have introduced innovations, including in how staff treat prisoners. They perform better on some quality metrics and worse on others, but the introduction of competition has improved performance in public prisons. Outsourcing has provided extra capacity in the NHS and, in some cases, improved the performance of public hospitals, but there is a lack of comparable data on cost and quality and some case studies show damaging failures. 

Probation is an exception: outsourcing has failed on every measure, harming ex-offenders trying to rebuild their lives. The heavy costs show why government should be cautious about extending outsourcing of front-line services and only do so when it is confident it will work. 

Outsourced IT services, on balance, appear to have often been more efficient and modern – despite multiple well-reported failures. Private financing of construction projects, on the other hand, has been more expensive while achieving unclear benefits. 

Politicians and senior officials often cite 20%–30% savings when making the case for outsourcing services today.1 But while this was possible for some services outsourced in the 1980s and 1990s, we found little evidence that such savings are available today, whether for services outsourced for the first time or on second- or third-generation contracts. Where there is more recent evidence of savings, they are typically of around 5%–10%. 

Across these areas, we found that government lacks the evidence it needs to inform current decisions on how to deliver services. This includes a paucity of evidence on the cost and performance of services that the public sector delivers in-house, not just those that are outsourced.

In 2015, under a programme called Transforming Rehabilitation, the MoJ outsourced the management of medium and low-risk offenders in England and Wales to 21 regional community rehabilitation companies. The rationale for introducing competition and outsourcing was that, despite increased spending on prisons and probation, re-offending had remained stubbornly high.

Community rehabilitation companies supervise 150,000 medium and low-risk offenders, and some of the 40,000 extra short-term prisoners who previously had not been managed in the probation system. They also provide some services to high-risk offenders managed by the National Probation Service. The contracts were for seven years but the MoJ decided in 2018 to terminate the contracts in 2020, two years early. In 2019, it announced that the management of offenders will be brought back in-house, although private companies will continue to provide “innovative” drug and rehabilitation services.

The case study of Transforming Rehabilitation shows that the outsourcing of probation has not worked in the UK. Quality has been unacceptably poor. As chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey concluded that the outsourcing of probation was “irredeemably flawed” after she found 80% of community rehabilitation companies to be inadequate in at least one key quality area, and many in several, including delays and poor-quality assessments. Support provided by the public sector’s National Probation Service for high-risk offenders performed better on every metric.

Outcomes are also generally poor. The proportion of offenders who re-offended decreased slightly but the number of re-offences per offender, and the number of prisoners recalled to prison for breaching their licence, both increased for medium and low-risk offenders, while the rates for high-risk offenders (for whom probation remained in-house) saw no such increase. But interviewees questioned how much providers could be held responsible for these outcomes – even though they are partly paid on the basis of them – given they depend significantly on other localised factors such as the police, magistrates and judges.

Nor does the outsourcing appear to have delivered the intended cost savings. The MoJ has had to invest at least £467m more than was required under the contracts because the contracts were not delivering a good-quality service. This is still less than was initially anticipated at the outset of the reforms, but as the NAO has said the department has made little progress in transforming rehabilitation. One industry expert speculated that the programme had probably cost roughly the same as the previous programme, while dealing with more offenders, but it is not possible to confirm this. An audit of the contract in 2019 concluded that it had provided “poor value for money”.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to rigorously compare the cost and quality of probation services before and after they were outsourced. We found no rigorous comparative evidence, in part because outsourcing in this area is only a recent phenomenon, but also because of changes in the service and problems accessing data held by suppliers. We found no comparable evidence from other countries, because probation has not been outsourced in most countries. Announcing in 2018 that the services would be brought back in-house, the MoJ itself recognised that outsourcing had not worked as it had hoped. Sector experts agreed. We set out the reasons why the outsourcing of probation hit so many problems in the next chapter.

3. Why has outsourcing succeeded or failed?

But in several areas, including electronic monitoring and probation, government has outsourced services without a well-functioning market and has paid too little attention to generating competition. As we highlighted in earlier work, this not only jeopardises the potential gains of competition described above, it also increases the likelihood of opportunism from suppliers and risks problems with service performance.

The outsourcing of the electronic monitoring of offenders, where the market has been dominated by two suppliers (G4S and Serco), demonstrates how an uncompetitive market risks supplier opportunism. In 2013, when the Ministry of Justice’s (MoJ) contracts with the two companies came up to be re-tendered, it discovered “significant anomalies” in billing practices: both had charged the department for tags that had never been fitted. In the summer of 2013, Serco and G4S withdrew from the tender process for the electronic monitoring contract. In December 2013, interim arrangements were put in place for Capita, the remaining supplier in the bidding process by the end of the financial year when the contracts were due to expire, to take on the contracts. G4S subsequently won a further contract for the provision of tags.

Such uncompetitive markets are liable to suppliers abusing their power – and the exit of one or two suppliers can leave government in a poor position with limited bargaining power. The NAO found that the contracts failed to deliver promised quality outcomes, while it is unclear whether projected cost savings were achieved.

Several subsequent attempts at procurement hit problems partly because the market was not sufficiently competitive. Interviewees suggested that there was an early assumption in government that reputational risk would ensure that private providers performed well, but that has not proved to be the case – and in many cases where markets are weak, suppliers win further contracts soon after serious failures.

The outsourcing of probation services shows how outsourcing without a well-functioning market contributes to poor service performance. While some probation service providers had provided specific interventions, the full management of offenders had not been outsourced before in the UK, or anywhere else using the model the UK adopted.19 At the time, the Institute for Government and others warned that the absence of capable suppliers, combined with the difficulty of contracting probation services, made outsourcing a poor choice.

Interviewees told us that major outsourcing companies issued similar warnings – and late in the procurement process the department struggled to ensure that it had enough bidders for contracts in some regions and had to approach suppliers directly to encourage them to step forward. By requiring that organisations bidding to be one of the 21 ‘prime contractors’ had a ‘parent company guarantee’ – effectively taking on financial risk – the department excluded voluntary sector organisations and social enterprises with experience in this area from bidding to become prime contractors. Many of the companies that won contracts had minimal prior experience, which in some cases contributed to the widespread failures to provide a quality service. 

Wednesday 18 September 2019

'Balancing Probation, Public Opinion and Politics'

A number of us can't wait to hear what Michael Spurr has to tell the probation throng eagerly awaiting his contribution to the 4th World Congress on Probation in Sydney, New South Wales. After all, he was at the MoJ helm and everyone knew it was a disaster because even former Tory minister Philip Lee has just confirmed that at the Liberal Democrat Party conference. Lets hope Mr Spurr uses the Antipodean opportunity to set the record straight. meanwhile, this from the Guardian:-    

Tories knew probation service was ‘a mess’, says ex-minister

The former justice secretary Chris Grayling was warned repeatedly by members of the Tory party not to part-privatise the probation service, according to an ex-minister. Phillip Lee, who quit to join the Liberal Democrats earlier this month, has revealed that during his two years in the justice department there were “deep concerns about that policy” from within the party itself.

The probation service was part-privatised in 2014 under Grayling, the then secretary of state. It cost £500m and involved lower- and mid-risk offenders being supervised by 21 private companies. After a series of failings from providers, including a sharp rise in offenders being recalled to prison for breaching their licence terms, the government decided to end the contracts early and received significant criticism from the National Audit Office.

Lee quit the government over Theresa May’s Brexit policy in 2018 after serving as a justice minister since 2016. He issued his criticism while speaking at his first Lib Dem party conference in Bournemouth at a fringe event on vulnerability in the justice system. He told party members that the Tory government “knew internally that [the system] was a mess”.

He said: “There were some market-sensitive issues because obviously they were private companies. What frustrated those of us on the liberal side of the Conservative party was the person who was responsible for introducing the original policy was told repeatedly not to do it.”

Grayling was at the helm of the department between 2012 and 2015. The quality of probation and the performance were regularly raised by people from within the Ministry of Justice and within the Tory party, Lee told the conference. He said: “In fact, internally within the Conservative party, there were deep concerns about that policy.”

Lee’s frank appraisal of justice policies developed by the party under Grayling’s leadership also involved concerns about the relationships with lobbying groups for women and victims, which he described as “pretty awful” when he first joined the ministry.

“I spent most of my time in the first, six, nine to 12 months trying to get that relationship into a better position,” said Lee, adding that the department was a revolving door of ministers and not often viewed as a department for which politicians craved to work.

Support for certain policy ideas or reform wavered also among his Tory colleagues, he said, adding how “[I] often found myself at the despatch box, looking forward, getting more support than I did from behind me in my time at the justice department”.

One of those policies included trying to pass reforms on prisoners on temporary licence being able to vote, which he said had more support from opposition parties than among Conservatives. He said he and the then justice secretary David Lidington had believed “we could have gone for it. We had parliament behind us,” but not the full support of the party. Lee said it was striking that of the Tories who no longer have the whip, four are former justice ministers.

Tuesday 17 September 2019

Crime and Punishment

Most TV programmes that feature prison are deeply depressing and the first episode of Ch4's Crime and Punishment is no exception. Two years in the making and billed as highlighting the work of all parts of the criminal justice journey, last night's offering that focused on the iniquities of Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences amply demonstrates the folly of politicians using crime as a way to win votes. Quite ironic really as we are already hearing Boris Johnson doing exactly the same thing as a key plank of his current election campaign.

Right from the beginning when brought in by Tony Blair and his dreadful Home Secretary David Blunkett, everyone involved knew that IPP was likely to be a disaster and so it turned out to be with politicians and judges blaming each other to this day for the ongoing disaster so painfully evidenced by the documentary makers. It's such a clear message that no wonder they chose this aspect of the criminal justice system for the first hard-hitting episode.

Although quite sensibly abolished by Ken Clarke in 2012 and despite sterling efforts by the Parole Board to progress release of those who are many years over tariff, the IPP agony still has many years to run with hundreds of men cruelly trapped in a system that is simply not resourced or designed to deal with. It's bad enough to hear the frequent refrain from a prisoner that they're 'on their fourth probation officer and only met their current one via video link', but it's a professional disgrace to hear that the officer has been refused permission to attend the Parole Board hearing because of cost. In such circumstances and particularly with so obviously psychologically damaged individuals, how on earth can it be expected to do any meaningful work, yet alone treat the prisoner with any degree of respect and earn their trust? 

Of particular concern highlighted last night is the prevalence of serious self-harming by prisoners who feel trapped in a system with no obvious way out and hence this extreme exercising of control in order to gain attention and engagement with a frankly bureaucratic and managerial approach by many. In fact precisely the command and control aspect of HMPPS that is currently being highlighted as a reason why probation must break free of these civil service shackles if it is to survive as a worthwhile endeavour at all. 

It was particularly interesting to note the very strong and independent words of the Duty Governor in over-ruling the views of the health professionals regarding a proposed transfer out of the medical wing and his criticism of the recommendations by a 'remote' management - "sending two people to a meeting with a script is not helpful". It struck me forcefully that it was only really the Governor who displayed genuine concern for the prisoner and what might be the best and most pragmatic way of dealing with a very difficult issue. What should be noteworthy is that a Governor is largely independent, autonomous, experienced and not hidebound by bureaucracy, indeed just like probation used to be.      

Friday 13 September 2019

TV Alert

Oh, look what's coming and starts on Monday at 9pm:-

Crime and Punishment looks at the criminal justice system from top to toe. The results are not always pretty

Channel 4‘s Crime and Punishment is a hard-hitting documentary series exploring every area of the criminal justice system from both sides of the law.

Filmed over two years, it follows the work of police, probation, prison, prosecution and parole as all the limbs of the criminal justice system manage risks to the public using limited resources, while also dealing with offenders who can’t seem to escape the system.

This first episode shines a light on the 3,000-plus prisoners who are serving IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) sentences. Even though IPP was abolished in 2012, these prisoners still don’t know when or if they’ll be released.

Monday 9 September 2019

Remembering Paul Senior

At a time when we once again find ourselves embroiled in a struggle to keep the probation ethos alive, the profession is without a high profile champion. In the summer we lost Paul Senior and I notice the Probation Institute have dedicated the latest issue of Probation Quarterly to his memory:-

I first met Paul when he was chairing Napo Probation Practice Committee circa 1980: articulate, confident and knowledgeable with strong left wing politics.

I don’t think I fully understood Paul’s passion for Probation and everything that it stands for until the then higher education social work qualification, the Diploma in Social Work, was challenged as the requirement for appointment as a Probation Officer. In 1994 the Conservative Government through Michael Howard and Baroness Blatch threatened simultaneously to remove the qualification requirement for appointment as a probation officer from both social work and higher education and to replace it with a statement of work based competence. The ensuing struggle between Conservative ministers, Napo and the Association of Chief Officers of Probation was resolved by incoming Labour Government in 1997 promising to retain the qualification in higher education but not in social work. As Home Secretary, Jack Straw agreed to introduce the Diploma in Probation Studies. By this time Paul had become the first ever Professor of Probation Studies at Sheffield Hallam University. He was asked to develop the qualification and worked tirelessly to create a specific Vocational Qualification embedded into a Degree. 

Without Paul’s achievement in enabling the translation of social work theory and practice into probation theory and practice the ethos of probation would have been completely overridden by enforcement and control twenty years ago. Paul went on to lead at Sheffield Hallam one of the three funded Probation Programmes now known as PQIP and to develop the Hallam Centre for Community Justice. Paul shared the huge disappointment of Transforming Rehabilitation. He continued his robust defence of compassionate, empowering approaches to rehabilitation. Although struggling with illness, in 2015 Paul took over as Chair of the Probation Institute which he led with passion to become a stronger, clearer voice for professional recognition, research and post qualification learning. Paul was a brave warrior and champion for Probation. We miss him hugely and it is our responsibility to walk in his footsteps. 
Helen Schofield - Acting CEO, Probation Institute 

Although our paths had crossed throughout our probation and academic careers, I only got to know Paul well when I interviewed him in 2011 for the research project I was undertaking with Rob Mawby on the occupational cultures and identities of probation workers. His passion for probation work shone through and he was also very supportive of our research and its subsequent publication. Although I am technically breaching research ethics by identifying an interviewee, I’m sure Paul would have been happy for me to disseminate his response to my question about the value of home visits in probation, which demonstrates both his gently self-mocking character and his empathy with offenders and their communities: 

And then, probably after lunch, because I can remember the days we used to have lunch and we’d go and have a beer sometimes, I would set off to my patch. I’d have a few appointments, but I’d also just drive around and I’d see some of the lads on the street and stop and have a chat. And I’d spend most afternoons on my own, without complicated telephone systems, booking in to see if I was still alive and, you know, no one would know where I was really. I’d just go and have cups of tea and talk to people and occasionally have some difficult times. I ran little groups at the school sometimes and we had a report centre out there, so one afternoon a week, I would be there and people would come in. 

But Paul was emphatically not someone who hankered after the “golden age” of probation. His commitment to the Probation Institute was one of the many ways he demonstrated, throughout his life, his desire to be at the forefront of discussion about the future of probation work.
Anne Worrall - Editor, Probation Quarterly

“I first met Paul during my doctoral studies when he recorded an interview with me for a video to go on the community justice portal – he was immediately supportive and enthusiastic about my research on probation. I then moved to SHU and worked more closely with him through the British Journal of Community Justice – again, his support for early career researchers was really something that stood out for me. I’ll never forget the days we spent at the Heaves Hotel discussing probation in preparation for writing the special issue of the Journal which was published in 2016 – his drive and ability to get us working together and, even more impressively, sticking to deadlines was something to behold! The world of probation is undoubtedly poorer without him.” 
Jake Phillips

“I knew Paul for over 15 years as a fellow practitioner who had become an academic and who continued to fight ardently for the probation profession. Paul always was generous in his encouragement of others, and his contributions to maintaining high standards and quality in probation practice are well known. He published numerous articles and books/chapters to promote these standards and challenged government policies which undermined probation officer autonomy and skill. He will be sadly missed particularly in this climate where people of principle are increasingly rare. The last time I saw Paul reinforced my high estimation of him and I had great respect for his bravery, particularly at the last Portal lecture which he kindly chaired despite being very unwell. He had so much pride in enabling communication between academics, policy makers and practitioners.” 
Wendy Fitzgibbon

“He was a friend to many people and his legacy is huge. The world of probation is much diminished with his passing. He was a great doer and I remember the weekend in the Lakes where he guided us to produce much thoughtful discussion and eventually the edition of the British Journal of Community Justice. A truly great and strong, brave person.” 
Anthony Goodman

“Paul was a giant of the probation world for so long and his wisdom and insight will be very much missed. I entered higher education from probation to teach on the DiPS in 2001 at Newport. At that time we ran the programme on behalf of Sheffield Hallam and Paul was very kind to me, encouraging and supportive and did a great deal to ease my way into the academic world. I will always be very grateful for this.” 
John Deering

“A few years ago, Paul was a guest speaker at our yearly conference (when we were Humberside Probation Trust), Paul’s slot was just before lunch – he was simply captivating. It was the first, and only time that no one actually wanted to finish for lunch – I could have listened to him all day – he is one of only a handful of people I would have liked to invite to a dinner party.” 
Sue Beulah

“At all stages of my probation career – as practitioner, teacher and researcher – I have admired the determined and practical way that Paul championed the profession, its practice, its expertise and its values. I was fortunate to work alongside him on two projects: as part of the editorial board of the British Journal of Community Justice and in the development of the Probation Institute. On a personal level, the more I came to know Paul the more I appreciated his kindness and wisdom. I felt very privileged to be part of the group that met, at Paul’s invitation, for two days at the start of 2016 to talk about probation. The challenge now, in a world without Paul, is to ensure that conversations about the ‘essence of probation’ continue loudly and clearly.” 
Jane Dominey

“Paul Senior played a central role in the delivery of the new Diploma in Probation Studies in 1999. This followed a successful campaign, in which I was centrally involved, to resist the then Home Secretary, Michael Howard’s, decision to end the requirement that probation officers hold a recognised professional qualification. The campaign was successful because of the united front presented by the Central Probation Council, the Association of Chief Officers of Probation and the National Association of Probation Officers. In this campaign, we were greatly assisted by the support of leading academics, notable amongst whom was Paul. When Jack Straw became Home Secretary after the election of the New Labour Government in 1997, he accepted the need to establish a new professional qualification for probation officers. 

Almost a decade later, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Probation Service, Paul had the idea of 365 members, former members and friends of the Service recalling a memory of their time in Probation and a new reminiscence appearing daily on what Paul called the Community Justice Portal. I was a contributor, but like others, doubted that Paul could find 365 people willing to participate. However, he did and later, 100 of those memories were compiled into a book entitled ‘Moments in Probation’, which, for me, is a fitting legacy for Paul”. 
Mike Worthington