Saturday 30 May 2020

Not Moving On

I gather there is a rule in political circles that if a story is still on the front pages after eight days, someone's head has to roll. I think it might have been a 'rule of thumb' from Alastair Campbell's days at No10 under Tony Blair, but whatever, tomorrow, Sunday, appears to be the likely day of reckoning. So, lets reprise the situation and see what the state of play is.  

In order for us all to do as we are told and 'move on' as the increasingly-beleaguered prime minister earnestly wishes, the public must obligingly have become bored with the story and be distracted with purchases of BBQ-stuff in eager anticipation of lockdown being eased. Of course it's only being eased early at this point and when 'track, trace and isolate' is not properly ready in order to provide a Cummings smokescreen. Two senior scientific SAGE members have confirmed it's simply too soon.

We all know that the Cummings' fanciful 'back-engineered' story, concocted in order to satisfy certain known facts, is complete bollocks, something admirably highlighted at length during last night's HIGNFY and they didn't even mention the now confirmed position that Cummings jointly owns the property he was staying in and is therefore a second home.  

The list of Tory MP's demanding that Cummings is sacked is still growing, as is the list who are simply unhappy and the petition demanding his removal has passed one million. The Guardian is reporting that MP's have received over 180,000 emails:-

Constituents bombard MPs with tens of thousands of emails over Dominic Cummings

The furore over Dominic Cummings’ breach of lockdown rules has prompted tens of thousands of people to flood their MPs’ inboxes in what some described as the biggest outpouring since Brexit, a Guardian analysis has found. As Boris Johnson tried to draw a line under the crisis involving his chief adviser, constituents across the country sent missives to their MPs, with many sharing stories of their own lockdown hardships.

A Guardian analysis covering 117 MPs found they have received a total of 31,738 emails since a joint Guardian and Daily Mirror investigation a week ago divulged that Cummings had travelled to County Durham and taken a trip to a beauty spot with his family after suffering coronavirus symptoms.

If that level of correspondence was reflected across all 650 MPs, it would suggest the revelations may have sparked as many as 180,000 items of correspondence. The numbers were either provided in response to the Guardian’s request for figures, or in statements MPs had released to constituents.

Johnson has repeatedly suggested it was time to “move on” from the Cummings row, despite about half of Tory backbenchers – more than 100 MPs – calling for his most senior aide to resign or be sacked, or criticising Cummings. Many said they were motivated by their constituents’ anger.

On Friday evening Theresa May added her voice to the Tories criticising Cummings. In a statement to constituents of her Maidenhead seat, the former prime minister said she could “well understand the [public’s] anger” towards Johnson’s senior adviser. “I do not feel that Mr Cummings followed the spirit of the guidance,” she said.


What's particularly interesting is how the Cummings affair has burst the bubble of Brexit euphoria surrounding Boris, his personal ratings plummeting and how normally loyal Tory supporters are 'getting it'. This from the Guardian on Thursday:-

The Tories are losing the shires – this is a gift for Keir Starmer

What Britain wants is a “strong leader prepared to break the rules”. Or at least that’s what it wanted a year ago, when a Hansard Society survey showed that 54% of voters were actively looking for a prime minister willing to play dirty if necessary. In retrospect, these findings predicted much about the rise of Boris Johnson last summer. His supporters were never so much blind to his flaws – who didn’t know the score by then? – as curiously attracted to them, or at least willing to see their usefulness in the circumstances.

Brexit supporters in particular, exasperated with what they saw as months of Brussels running rings around Britain, argued that you can’t make an omelette without someone cracking eggs. Only now, waist-deep in eggshell, do some of them seem to be realising that the end of rules-based order isn’t as fun as it sounded. And that means something fundamental is shifting.

Johnson’s personal ratings have plummeted through the Dominic Cummings debacle in a way they didn’t before, even as people’s loved ones were dying, in a sense because this is so personal to him now. Politics is becoming a contest of character, not merely ideology – a choice between government by not-so-lovable rogues who don’t seem to accept that the rules apply to them, and something that for the last few years has been made to look bland, dull and out of touch by comparison. Yet when the alternative seems to be living in a state of rage at what this government is becoming, then playing by the boring old rules suddenly starts to look appealing. Enter, then, Keir Starmer.

The most heartbreaking aspect of this past week has been hearing from people who now feel guilty for doing the right thing, tortured by the thought that in not rushing to see their dying relatives they may have inadvertently let down those they loved. By refusing to admit that Cummings was wrong to exempt himself from lockdown rules, the government is now pouring salt into these wounds.

In an excruciating piece of breakfast radio today, Matt Hancock was repeatedly asked if Cummings had done “the right thing” by driving a carful of coronavirus to Durham. The health secretary could only say, wretchedly, that it was all within the guidelines, which is not only nonsense but the answer to a very different question. The truth is that Cummings may have flouted not just the regulations with his day trip to Barnard Castle – as Durham police have reportedly concluded, or the sense of social solidarity emerging over the last few months, but also a very specific, small-c conservative sense of decency and duty.

That’s why shire Tories are furiously buttonholing their MPs, vicars are revolting, police officers are privately fuming, and the Daily Mail is on the warpath on behalf of middle England. When told to do their moral duty for the good of the country (not least by the Queen, live from Windsor Castle), Mail readers generally do it – and vociferously judge those who don’t. Defending Cummings for failing to do the same is an open gesture of contempt for the values on which the provincial and suburban, golfing and gardening, churchgoing heart of what used to be the Conservative party is founded. And simultaneously it enrages many of the new northern working-class Tory voters on which this government’s majority depends.

The people Labour’s new leader must win back don’t just live behind the so-called red wall, but in southern and Midland marginal towns which used to return Labour MPs in the party’s winning days. Most know nothing much about Starmer yet, except that he has nice hair and once bought his mum a field for her rescued donkeys; but right now that beats defending the indefensible.


So, the man with no ideas simply has to hang on to the ideas man at any cost. This piece by Mandrake in the European was rather telling I think:-

Why Boris Johnson missed out on role of editor at the Telegraph

No newspaper campaigned more stridently for Boris Johnson, to lead the nation than the Daily Telegraph. Tellingly, however, its former proprietor Lord Black – and then his successors, Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay – did not, however, want to see a man quite so chaotic, tardy and unpredictable installed as its editor.

“Boris made no secret of the fact he wanted to be editor of the Telegraph, but all they were prepared to give him was the Spectator,” a former hireling of the newspaper group tells Mandrake. “One of the things that put them off the idea was how he responded when, one quiet Sunday during the late 1990s, Charles Moore, as editor, had left him in charge.

“As usual, David Lucas, at the time the Telegraph’s very able night editor, outlined what was going into the paper at the afternoon conference and Johnson sat there and silently nodded. He then withdrew to his office for a bit – talking to no one – and left early. David was bemused as the editor of the day tended to say something at some point. The feeling was Boris knew he was out of his depth.”

Johnson’s editorship of the Spectator – a period punctuated by so many sexual shenanigans that it became known as the Sextator – did little to persuade the pious Barclays they had been wrong in their judgment.


I'll round this off with another piece from the Guardian following that terrible performance by Boris at the Scrutiny Committee earlier in the week:-

Floundering Boris leaves no doubt: our PM is a showman out of his depth

We’ve reached the point where the only way to understand the state the country is in is to realise that it has become a banana republic. A failed state run by a bad joke of a prime minister, who prioritises the job security of his elite advisers over the health of millions. A man who sees no need to be across the most basic points of government policy and is so inarticulate that he can’t even start a sentence let alone finish one.

It’s normal for a prime minister to appear before the liaison committee – the supergroup of select committee chairs – at least three times a year. This was the first time Boris Johnson had bothered to turn up in more than 10 months. And you could see why. Even with Dominic Cummings sitting just off screen – Boris’s eyes kept darting to the right, desperate for help – holding up placards with something approximating an answer, Johnson was lost for words. The great populist who doesn’t even realise he has long since lost the support of the people. A mini-dictator surrounded by yes men locked inside the No 10 bunker.

What made this even more pathetic and desperate a spectacle was that Boris clearly believed he had prepared thoroughly. If he had, then his short-term memory is completely shot. More likely though, Boris’s idea of preparation is just a quick 10-minute skim of a briefing note.

Boris is the supreme narcissist – the apogee of entitled arrogance in which other people are there only to serve his needs. A fragile ego, disguising an absence of any self worth.What’s more, you sense he knows it. That in the wee, wee hours he looks through a glass darkly and sees the blurred outlines of his limitations and failure.

The session started with questions from committee chair, Bernard Jenkin, and Boris was clearly expecting friendly fire. Only to many people’s surprise – possibly even his own – Bernie turned out to be no patsy. Instead he went straight to the point. Why was there to be no cabinet secretary inquiry into Dominic Cummings’s clear breach of the government coronavirus guidelines.

“Um... er... well,” Boris blustered looking frantically to Classic Dom for help. Up went the placard ‘It’s time to move on.’ “Um... er... well ... I think what the country wants is to move on,” he said.

What the opinion polls have clearly shown is that at least 70% of the country think that Laughing Boy is basically taking the piss – one rule for the elites, another for the little people. Only Boris somehow ignored that, believing that he knew better what the people really thought than they did. Who would have guessed that Boris would have ascribed to the Marxist idea of false consciousness?

Six times Boris insisted that the country wanted to move on. Something I’m sure the families of those who have died – not to mention the many thousands who could yet die as the prime minister trashed his own public health message to protect a chum – must have been delighted to hear.

Pete Wishart, Meg Hillier and Yvette Cooper all went in for the kill. Had Boris actually seen the evidence that Cummings had provided for his special and different Covid-19 fortnight away on his father’s estate? Boris nodded fiercely. He had. And the evidence was that it was Dom who was running the country and he didn’t have the power to sack him.

Nor could he explain the difference between deputy chief medical officer Jenny Harries’s clear instructions to stay at home and the supine advice of several cabinet ministers who had insisted that maybe having to look after your own child constituted exceptional circumstances. Boris’s best guess was that maybe Harries hadn’t been as clear as he would have liked her to be and he hoped that she would come on message in the near future.

He ended the section on Cummings by insisting that all the stories that Dom had corroborated in his rose garden press conference were essentially false.

Things didn’t improve when Jenkin moved on to other areas of the government’s handling of the coronavirus. Boris had only the sketchiest idea of how the new track and trace system that was meant to come in to operation the following day would work. A nation panicked. He even said he was forbidden from making any promises on dates for reaching government targets. Let that sink in. The prime minister is forbidden from making his own policy. If we had been in any doubt who was running the country we weren’t any more.

Boris didn’t even know the basics of how his own benefits system operated. This was Government 101 and the prime minister was still out of his depth. During the worst health crisis for a century we are lions led by dead donkeys.

Friday 29 May 2020

What's Going On?

Just recently news has been filtering through as to 'things going on' at the MoJ and in particular an effective 'audit' of CRC caseloads. Things escalated yesterday with a reader pointing me in the direction of an email from Suki Binning, CEO Seetec, subsequently followed by a mailout from Napo:- 

Dear colleagues

This year we have been tested in ways none of us could have predicted. I have never known a period which has required us to continuously reshape and change our service for such an extended period of time. I am enormously proud of the way you have worked with courage, using your initiative and with the utmost care for the people and places you serve.

Even though our focus is on tackling the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19), it is my responsibility as chief executive to look to and prepare for the future. We know that next year, probation structures will change once again. I want to share with you some important developments regarding the changes.

Firstly, the Ministry of Justice communicated to prospective suppliers yesterday that they have suspended the process to appoint new probation delivery partners as they review the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19). We are seeking clarity from the Department on what that means in practice and will keep you updated.

My view is that the pandemic has underscored the value and resilience of the mixed economy of providers. We redesigned our services quickly, developed new ideas to support other public services through the crisis and used our financial strength to support you by setting up a hardship fund and implementing planned pay rises of up to 11 per cent, skewed towards the lowest pay bands. The pandemic has also created new challenges that are likely to continue for some time requiring an ethos focused on delivering value for money, flexibility and innovation. As the Secretary of State said last year in the House of Commons, KSS CRC is an example of where 'best practice has been achieved, showing an excellent delivery of unpaid work placements and a comprehensive range of programmes on offer'. We can be proud of our record delivering probation services for the communities we serve.

I want to secure what we have built and apply our expertise for the benefit of the whole system as we recover from the virus. As you know, I have chosen to remain in the private sector in order to lead Seetec's Justice division, which is bidding to operate and manage new activity hubs and the new probation delivery partners. Over the course of the coming year, our challenge will be to continue to deliver services while preparing for the new arrangements and our transition to a new organisation. My focus will be to use that time to strengthen the whole system, for those who will transfer to the public sector and those who will transfer into the new delivery partner. We will work closely with NPS leads in the respective regions who have already contacted us regarding engaging with those colleagues who will move to the public sector.

In terms of the new organisation, it's vital that stakeholders and partners are able to easily understand its role and purpose. Our focus on criminal justice should also be clear. With that in mind, we have chosen a new name - Justice Interventions Company - which provides both clarity about what we do and what can be expected from us.

Rest assured, we will embed into the Justice Interventions Company the best of our sector's identity and values. We will build on the culture, record of service delivery and goodwill that we have developed for KSS CRC because I truly believe that what you have achieved here is very special, vital and must be protected. As the Government's announcement of the new arrangements this time last year made clear, probation has a long history of providing the right kind of interventions that are effective in helping offenders to turn their lives around, reducing reoffending and protect victims. We have been at the forefront of that work. Our Justice Interventions Company will build on our record to date but will focus entirely on developing tailored, evidence-based approaches for the people in our local communities that you understand and serve so well.

While I know we are in the midst of responding to the Covid-19 crisis, I want to reassure you that we continue to prepare for our future. Thank-you for everything you have done in recent weeks, which comes on top of the challenges and obstacles you have overcome over recent years. Your professionalism and dedication to the people we support remains a source of pride and inspiration for many, including me.

Any queries as always feel free to contact me.


This from Napo yesterday:-

Probation Reform bidding process is suspended due to C-19 pressures

We were advised yesterday afternoon at our regular engagement with Senior Leaders from the Probation Reform Programme that a decision has been taken to suspend the current bidding process for the intended Probation Provider Contracts due to commence in 2021. This is not a cancellation of the programme and we understand has been caused by the current operational pressures on the MoJ and HMPPS caused by the C-19 pandemic.

The attached letter sets out the actual position and also confirms that CRC providers have been notified of this development. We can also confirm that no decision has yet been taken by the Minister as to whether existing CRC contracts are to be extended, and the previous speculation by some CRC providers to this effect is unfounded.

More information about the Probation Reform Programme will be included in a future member mail out as soon as it is available.

Ian Lawrence 
General Secretary
Katie Lomas National Chair


Dear all, 

I am writing to clarify the current position in relation to the Probation Delivery Partner competition. 

On Tuesday, we issued a notice to the organisations involved in the PDP competition that we were suspending the process. This is simply to provide us with a short amount of time to work through the implications of Covid19 on the Probation Reform Programme. 

I am aware that there is some rumour that the PDP competition has been cancelled. That is not accurate. 

Delivery of the Probation Reform Programme remains a top priority for the Ministry of Justice and we are committed to moving at pace to deliver reforms. You will understand that Covid19 is an unprecedented challenge and it is right that we take a small amount of time to ensure the programme is best placed to continue with reforms in this new and difficult operating context. 

I would be very happy to discuss this further if you have questions on behalf of your members. 

Yours Sincerely, 
Jim Barton

Thursday 28 May 2020

Beer And A Pie

Having at last deigned to appear for questioning by Parliament's Scrutiny Committee yesterday, Boris once more cut a shambolic figure, floundering, clearly not in command of much in the way of detail and still intent on trying to defend the indefensible. He wants us all to 'wash our hands and move on' of course, but we're not and the Cummings saga has a long way to run yet. Why not do your bit and consider investing in a collectors item, a few cans of 'Barnard Castle Eye Test' from Brewdog:-
No photo description available.


Short sighted beer for tall stories. Our New England, Old School IPA is locked down and loaded. Dry-hopped for a juicy hit with pineapple, mango and hint of zesty lime. All profits will go to funding our production of free sanitiser for the NHS & Health Care Charities.

12 x 330ml can available now for pre-order - product will be available within 2 weeks. Please see Terms and Conditions. Delivery address for this product will be collected when the pre-order is redeemed along with the applicable delivery charge. 

The perfect accompaniment:-

Latest From Napo 211

Here we have the latest from Napo published yesterday:-


We reported last week that Napo and our Sister Unions are due to engage in National discussions about the jointly agreed measures that will be needed to support any changes to the EDM protocols.

Unfortunately we learned this morning of some communications issued to CRC leaders from HMPPS which requested them to implement increases in Unpaid Work Services with effect from 1st June. This information had not been shared or discussed with the trade unions and we immediately took this up directly with the Director General Probation.

Following this, a further communication was issued to CRC contractors which clarified the actual requirement for CRCs to start planning a recovery process which will involve consultation with local trades unions. Later today the Unions also demanded that an agreed set of principles must underpin our future discussions on recovery strategies.

Read the full joint unions statement here 

Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence adds: ‘This was an unfortunate mistake in messaging which will have caused CRC staff unnecessary anxiety. Our vigorous response demonstrates that Napo takes the issues impacting on CRC members just as seriously as those of our members across other employers.’

If you know of a colleague who is not a trade union member please encourage them to join Napo using the following link

Napo HQ


JTU16-20 27 May 2020 


The probation unions were concerned to learn this week that HMPPS had issued a request to CRCs to restart Unpaid Work with effect from 1 June. 

The HMPPS CRC contract management team wrote to CRCs this week in the following terms: 

‘The imperative now is to commence increased delivery of services where it is practicable and safe to do so, and as such from the 1st June 2020 the Authority requires a ramping up of Unpaid work delivery across all CRC contracts. This is in-line with the easing of lockdown restrictions recently announced by the Government.’ 

The unions have complained about this surprise announcement to the Director General of Probation at HMPPS. We expressed our concern at the lack of consultation with the unions on the letter and the confusion and worry that this has caused to members working for CRCs. 

As a result of the unions’ actions today, HMPPS has issued a correction to its initial request to the CRCs in the following terms: 

‘For clarity, we are requesting; to be in line with the move to a next phase of relaxation of restrictions (from the 1st of June), the Authority would like for CRCs to start working towards the recovery of UPW achieving 25%. We acknowledge that the achieving of 25% will not be immediate as the logistics and notice period will need to play out first. We envisage the 25% being achieved within the first couple of weeks in June. Your Contract management Team of course remain on hand to discuss and locally driven challenges and nuances with you.’ 

The unions understand that this correction means that CRCs are actually being asked to incrementally re-start UPW with a view to achieving 25% over the first two weeks of June. 

The unions have tabled the following principles as the basis for the recovery programme for UPW: 

1. All CRC UPW recovery plans to be the subject of full consultation with trade unions 

2. A jointly agreed UPW recovery risk assessment template, including the need for joint risk assessments with UPW beneficiaries, to be developed with the unions prior to the recovery process 

3. Risk assessments of every proposed UPW project to be undertaken in association with the trade unions in line with the agreed template 

4. At least 2 full weeks’ notice of the start of any UPW operations 

5. Social distancing to be an integral guarantee of all recovery plans 

6. Additional Trade Union facility time to provide for effective local trade union engagement on UPW recovery including workload relief 

Members in UPW are therefore strongly advised to speak with their local Trade Union branch for advice if you are asked to undertake any work in connection with the implementation of UPW recovery.

Tuesday 26 May 2020

A Right 'Barney Castle'

From yesterday:-

The common features of a psychopath and sociopath lie in their shared diagnosis — antisocial personality disorder. The DSM-51 defines antisocial personality as someone having 3 or more of the following traits:

- Regularly breaks or flouts the law
- Constantly lies and deceives others
- Is impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead
- Can be prone to fighting and aggressiveness
- Has little regard for the safety of others
- Irresponsible, can’t meet financial obligations
- Doesn’t feel remorse or guilt

Scenes & Promises from a Rose Garden


As I write this Dominic Cummings is still in post and has the full backing of the prime minister Boris Johnson. This is entirely predictable and in my view excellent news. It confirms beyond doubt that Johnson cannot manage without his mate 'Dom' and that therefore in a reckless 'all or nothing' gamble he must do anything it takes to hang on to him because if Dom falls or slips on his sword, Boris will be toast in fairly short order. 

The fact of the matter is that without the 'Brexit' bollocks and absence of Parliamentary theatre, Boris post-Covid cuts a pathetic, shambling figure, obviously not up to or interested in the job any more and now completely out-shone and out-gunned by Keir Starmer. We know Rupert Murdoch and the Barclay brothers are more than keen to use their normally loyal Tory newspapers to oust Boris and enthrone Gove, so by stubbornly hanging on to Cummings, Boris is just ramping-up the hostility and inevitably of his ignominious defenestration. I gather his popularity has already dropped 20 points and for the first time is in to negative territory. 

The beauty of all this is that it's not a 'Westminster bubble' story that doesn't resonate with the public - on the contrary it very much does and all those chickens are coming home to roost - all those blanket bans on 'unfavoured' media outlets; regular abuse of disliked media types; the 'dissing' of civil servants, experts, respected middle class professionals; the routinely-insulted Tory back benchers and former ministers are all united in determining that this story will not go away. Career psychopath Dom has made lots of enemies - because that's his MO as a 'disruptive' - and they are now united in making sure he does go - eventually. And if he goes, so does Boris.    

I'm pretty sure there won't be many probation officers who watched that astonishing No10 performance without it bringing flashbacks of memorable interviews of yore and similar convoluted attempts at explaining matters described in the CPS bundle! Didn't it remind you of Jim the washing-machine guy? In my experience many a PSR has had to carefully address similar inconsistencies, obfuscations, minimisations, embellishments, omissions and inaccuracies. They are all the stock-in-trade of someone facing allegations and desperately needing some innocent explanations. By supreme irony a pathetic excuse is what's known in the North East as a 'Barney Castle'.

His case in full as seen summarised on Twitter:-

1) We had to drive to Durham because we had a childcare emergency but it was safe to do so because neither of us had COVID-19 symptoms at the time but it was definitely an emergency but...

2) Our normal childcare options in London weren't available so we had to go to Durham but I didn't ask anyone in London because my niece in Durham had already volunteered to do childcare for us but...

3) I felt sick in Barnard Castle so I had to get out of the car and go for a walk but I was also well and didn't have any symptoms any more so it was safe for me to be out and about and to drive back to London but...

4) I had to take my wife and child when I drove to Barnard Castle to test my eyes because if my eyes failed my wife would then have to drive but it wouldn't have been safe to try to drive to London because my wife couldn't have driven instead of me but...

5) I thought my wife had COVID-19 so I ran home from the office but she felt a bit better so I went back to work in the office at the centre of government even though I'd just been with my wife who I thought had COVID-19 but...

6) We had to stop on the way back from Barnard Castle because my four year old needed a wee but we definitely didn't stop on the 260 miles drive to Durham because none of us needed a wee and my ill wife didn't need us to stop either but...

There won't be many police officers or Crown Prosecutors not thinking the same way as probation officers either judging by this tweet from former prosecutor Nazir Afzal:-
'Every criminal lawyer will have heard a version of the Cummings’ Barnard Castle story. It’s when a suspect creates a story around the known facts. Nobody believes it.  PS: wasn’t it his wife’s birthday that day? Happy Birthday.'
It drew this response:-
'So, as a juror who for the moment thinks it's a plausible story, I'm now waiting for the cross- examination which destroys it. None of the journos there got close. As a hard-bitten prosecutor, what are the weaknesses you'd question him on? Genuinely interested. ' 

- coincidence of his wife’s birthday - Why he didn’t mention it in first press release - why he didn’t mention it in 2nd press release - why he denied it when the witness was first mentioned by Guardian on Sunday - “false” they called it - why he didn’t just drive round the large estate? Why didn’t she drive? Why if the London house was so unsafe for the wife & child did he drive them back there. Why did they take up hospital capacity which is what lockdown was designed to prevent? Why did he do all the driving when there were 2 helpful nieces & he was so ill? Why? Why? 

I'm clearly not the only one who was thinking along this line:-

"Dear JB

Using a BBC iplayer recording of Dom's interview yesterday, write an offence analysis and risk assessment of Dom's transgression paying particular attention to:

(i) any pertinent issues of mimimising, denial and dissembling
(II) Whether his lack of contrition has any impact on his possible culpability re: current offence or his future level of risk Or is this irrelevant? Use results of the latest criminological research of the consideration of an admission of guilt or not when Parole Board members are considering release.
(iii) In your risk assessment include any pertinent safeguarding issues and any risks to the public.
(iV) Discuss the impact of this type of transgression on the public's future adherence of government lockdown measures (if any).

In your answer you will disregard the official Civil Service Twitter account message: 

“Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?”


Finally, this from Twitter and subsequently taken up by the New Statesman:- 

"Cummings said he warned about a corona virus in 2019. Thing is, he didn't. References to SARS and corona virus were added to his blog post on pandemic risks sometime between April and May of this year." 

"half of his statement today was about how important he was and why that meant he had to get back to London as soon as possible. On 14 April he finally gets back to London, and the most important task that awaits him is editing past posts on his blog to make himself look prescient."

Friday 22 May 2020

Latest From Napo 210

Here we have the latest Napo Covid Bulletin No 21 published yesterday:-

Unions joint statement on risk assessments for Black/BAME staff

The current C-19 pandemic is an unexpected catastrophe that has wreaked havoc on the world economy and has led so far to over 2 million fatalities globally. Here in the UK, the statistics for infection and death show little sign of abating despite the implementation of lockdown policies that have been widely criticised as having been too little in substance and very late. Now a further debate is raging over what many believe to be an irresponsible approach by Government to start easing them.

One thing has become inescapably clear from this crisis, which is the morbidity rates of people with underlying health conditions. But the problem runs much deeper than that; with the emergence of compelling evidence which shows that Black/BAME staff are especially at risk of becoming seriously and possibly fatally ill.

There are any number of medical theories as to why this is so and what extra steps should be taken to acknowledge the position and take precautions. For many weeks now it has been truly shocking to see the number of C-19 related deaths within the care community, yet it can be argued that the disproportionate numbers of deceased Black/BAME health workers is also a national scandal which merits serious scrutiny.

While this issue is the subject of a Government inquiry, the view from trade unions and the TUC is that immediate action is needed now to address the specific risk that puts a substantial number of highly vulnerable key workers in danger of succumbing to this dreadful virus. As members would expect, Napo and our sister unions are seeking to pressure employers into recognising the threats and to issue revised instructions on customised Risk Assessments for Black/BAME staff.

This why we have today issued the following Joint Statement which will be brought to the attention of all the employers that we engage with. We will issue regular updates following engagement with employers.

JTU15-20 21 May 2020 


Probation unions, NAPO, UNISON and GMB/SCOOP are working together to protect our Black/BAME members in the National Probation Service and in the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies in relation to the increased risk from Covid19 affecting members of Black/BAME communities in the UK. 


NHS England confirmed on 7 May 2020 that members of Black/BAME communities are among those groups who are clinically vulnerable to Covid19*. The NHS stated: 
‘We now know there is evidence of disproportionate mortality and morbidity amongst black, asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people, including our NHS staff, who have contracted COVID-19.’ 
The NHS has subsequently issued detailed guidance for NHS employers to undertake specific risk assessments of the vulnerability of Black/BAME staff to Covid19 and appropriate action to reduce exposure to, and the risk from, Covid19 for Black/BAME staff. The police service has quickly adopted the same approach for police officers and police staff. 


In a recent meeting with senior HMPPS officials the three probation unions called on the NPS and CRCs to proactively respond to the NHS statement, and follow the NHS risk assessment programme to protect Black/BAME probation staff now. We expect the NPS and the CRCs to take the same approach. 

The unions do not believe that there is time to wait for further research on the risk of Covid19 to Black/BAME communities, which Public Health England is due to publish in a few week’s time. We need action now to protect our Black/BAME members. 


NHS Statement on Increased Risk of Covid19 to Black communities:
Assessment Framework for Black staff in relation to Covid19: 

Yours sincerely, 

Ian Lawrence General Secretary Napo
Ben Priestley National Officer UNISON
George Georgiou National Officer GMB/SCOOP

HMIP Report into SFO Investigations

On 14th May HMIP published their report into SFO investigations. Whilst it won’t make comfortable reading for HMPPS, it does highlight the same concerns that Napo have been raising for some time. Napo has been supporting a number of members who have found themselves under investigation from the initial stage right through to the inquest in some cases. What is clear is that the approach to SFO investigations has taken a very punitive turn which has led to members being under extreme stress, going through disciplinary hearings and in some very sad cases, losing their jobs. As a result Napo has been in a position to regularly raise members fears and concerns with HMPPS. This report is further evidence that these were not unfounded and that there needs to be a significant review of the SFO process. 

Some Key Findings:

For some time now HMIP have called for greater transparency of SFO’s for victims. Whilst the report acknowledges some headway in this area, HMIP clearly believe that more needs to be done. SFO’s can take years to complete and the although victims have access to the full review, this is often complicated, and written in jargon. Very few victims actually take up the offer and the reason for this needs to be researched further.

The purpose of an SFO investigation is to understand what went wrong, lessons that can be learnt and how this can improve practice and policy. However, HMIP found a very mixed picture. On a national level there is not enough analysis to identify themes which could inform policy and practice. On a local level it found that areas were much better at implementing lessons learnt. However, what was significant was that HMIP felt that this was overtaken by the fear the process invokes in staff, and this undermined the ability to learn. The findings in the report confirm what Napo has been saying for the last few years. Staff perception that SFO reviews focus on individuals and not on organisational responsibility were in fact true.

The central SFO unit takes too long to complete the review with staff and victims waiting on average 6 months.

There is a lack of multi-agency contributions with SFO reviews. They focus solely on probation. A multi-agency review would make it easier for victims to understand case management and provide a better context.

SFO reviews lack independent oversight, unlike domestic homicide reviews or MAPPA serious case reviews. Independent oversight ensures quality assurance, enable public reporting and allow the SFO teams to focus on the lessons to be learnt which in turn can then drive policy and practice. Napo has long argued that the review process should be in the hands of HMIP but we welcome the idea of a greater oversight by the Inspectorate.

Napo will be now pushing for HMPPS to acknowledge this and to seriously review how the SFO process is carried out. We will be calling for a meeting to specifically look at the reports findings and asking HMPPS what steps they will be taking to improve and to meet the HMIP recommendations.

A more in depth piece on the report will be published in the next Napo Magazine. A copy of the report in full can be found HERE

Generic Risk Assessments (GRA)

AP’s have recently completed GRA’s relating to their place of work and the documents were shared with TU’s at the above meeting. Common themes were evident across all AP’s and these have been collated into one document with recommended measures in place. The documents are available for all AP staff to view. 


Napo raised the issue of PPE masks and the importance of staff being able to use this equipment properly. It was agreed to send a video link to staff to access guidance regarding putting on and taking off face masks appropriately. If members require this information please seek assistance from your line manager in the first instance.

AP Occupancy

All staff will be aware that to provide staff with a safe working environment a decision was previously made to have single room occupancy. The priority referral process also ensures accommodation for service users who meet the priority one criteria. These steps were taken to assist staff and residents to adhere to the social distancing guidance and provide accommodation to individuals whose risk dictates the need for close monitoring. Napo members have been informed that in some AP’s social distancing has proved very challenging, members have also raised their concerns about increasing AP occupancy. These concerns were raised and we were advised that AP staff should follow PHE/W guidance regarding social distancing for example; screens, demarcation areas, ventilation, workforce planning, and PPE. Clarity was also sought about increasing AP occupancy and we have been advised the Secretary of State has a responsibility to provide AP accommodation for individuals who are deemed to pose a high risk of serious harm to others. AP’s do need to continue to take residents who are leaving custody but we have been assured this will be undertaken in a safe and planned way with an increased level of collaboration and information from the discharging prison. If this is not happening please raise with your line manager in the first instance.

AP Staffing

We have been informed that the recent recruitment drive for areas where it has proved difficult to recruit has been successful. There were a couple of AP’s which were forced to close due to staff shortages and it is anticipated they can be reopened shortly.

Rota Review

The majority of AP’s have settled into the new APRW rota and reports have been positive. There are still some AP’s who have yet to change to their preferred rota but due to unforeseen circumstances this has not been possible. It is anticipated this will occur as soon as practicable.


There are a few compulsory on-line training events for AP staff to complete if they haven’t already and all staff will be given encouragement and support to complete the necessary training. Face to Face conflict resolution training has been placed ‘on hold’ due to Covid-19 but it is hoped this will commence as soon as its safe to do.

AP Residential Worker Job Evalutation

Many RW’s will be aware their role will shortly be job evaluated. The process for this is as follows; A Job description questionnaire is completed by RW’s (this has already been done) and submitted to the Job Evaluation Scheme (JES). A panel of three people (including a TU rep) is selected from a group of TU reps who have undertaken the training and a matrix is used to score the tasks and the role will be then banded and the outcome circulated. Napo believe that RW’s undertake a vital role in AP’s and should be remunerated accordingly. I can confirm this view is widely shared.

Monthly Staff Dial In

Finally, many of you may be aware of the monthly all staff dial in. Dates, times and details can be found on the AP Directory. The call is usually 10 – 11 on the final Friday of the month, the next one is on 29th May. Napo encourages all staff to dial into these meetings if possible to raise issues directly with AP Senior Managers.

A Better Recovery

The TUC hosted a mini-conference (on zoom) to launch its new report A Better Recovery this week. The report sets out a plan to getting Britain growing out of the crisis and preventing mass unemployment. TUC General Secretary, Frances O’Grady, was joined on the panel by Shadow Chancellor, Annalise Dodds, and Financial Times Economic Correspondent, Martin Sandhu. READ MORE

Napo HQ

Sunday 17 May 2020

Lockdown Musings

As usual I watched Andrew Marr and hearing Amber Rudd reminded me of just how low the calibre of government ministers has become under Boris Johnson. Anyway, my ears pricked-up when she became quite animated with the newspaper story about the police writing personal letters to well-known villains and indeed making visits to encourage them to carry on desisting from previous criminal behaviour at this difficult time for the nation.

Blimey I thought - yet again the police straying in to the kind of work that would once have been the purview of probation. Just the sort of innovative, imaginative, client-centred response to changing circumstances we used to be renowned for and management would not only permit, but would actively encourage. Completely impossible now of course in a service run by civil servants under centralised command and control.

This was all going on as I was realising with some acute embarrassment that I'd sent some readers on a wild-goose chase with a casual reference to FDR's key adviser and former social worker Harry Hopkins having studied and lived in London for a period prior to assuming his role as a Dominic Cummings sort of influence over US policy during the war. I misread it, clearly wanting to hear it because it satisfied certain preconceived ideas on my part. Now that's a danger I'd become acutely aware of during my probation career and so was an inexcusable lapse. By nature my MO has always been to study the evidence and I guess explains my early thoughts of joining the police long before circumstances brought me to probation's door.

Before we leave Harry Hopkins though, his fascinating story serves to remind me of an absolutely key element of what I believe probation is all about, or should be. Put as succinctly as possible it's getting to understand why people think in a certain way and do certain things. Simple to say, but in my view mightily challenging to undertake properly and effectively. A skill essentially not easily taught but rather assisted by life experience, an enquiring mind and openness to on-going self-examination and learning. This is why probation was always open to individualistic characters with life experience and where innovation and flexibility were routine. 

Ok as one reader recently remarked to me 'old Home Office PO grade were pretty much hit and miss Jim' and I wouldn't argue with that, but then what in life isn't? Surely the key thing was that there was a significant number of remarkable practitioners at this time who were responsible for a huge number of enlightened developments such as Community Service, Day Centres, Intermediate Treatment, Family Therapy, Drug Projects, Women's Groups, Housing Support, Literacy Projects etc etc etc. I well recall when I started out, management positively encouraged active community engagement, research, external training opportunities, peer support, consultant mentoring, not to mention encouragement for any developmental ideas from the bottom up. What I would give to go back to such an enlightened environment!

This hasn't quite turned out to be the personal exposition I originally intended on the theme of early influences and why we turn out the way we are, but I'm hungry and it's time to eat, so I guess that'll have to await another day.            

Saturday 16 May 2020


Unknown to the vast majority of readers, this blog has had quite a number of challenges and difficulties from a variety of directions over the years and each time my policy has generally been to sleep on things and take as much time as possible to consider a course of action. Without going in to any great detail, currently they are a mix of the personal, technical and philosophical. 

Basically since 'flipping' yesterday and switching to comment moderation, I've received a number of very supportive messages and I'd like to thank the authors of them very much indeed - reader participation and involvement has always been the cornerstone of this blog and over the years your wisdom, wit, insight, testimony, compassion, empathy and general erudition has been a joy to behold and has certainly repaid in spades the effort I've put in keeping it going. It's certainly enriched my time, given me cause for hope and carried me through some quite challenging episodes.

Without doubt we are living through some very scary worrying times and everyone is having to find their own individual way of coping and rationalising what's going on. I've just recently finished reading a book about the political shenanigans of the three great allied statesmen of the Second World War and what I learned has shaken me considerably, not least the uncanny parallels with what's currently happening in terms of similar lies, bullshit and mendacity. 

Of course, along with the model railway, it's pure escapism from the increasingly depressing and sterile environment that domestic probation has become for me here in England. I have a strong suspicion I'm going to need a few more sleeps before I decide how to proceed. Meanwhile, take care, stay safe and look after each other.          

Thursday 14 May 2020

Lessons Not Being Learnt

Right from the start when Chris Grayling and the coalition government began to impose their omnishambolic 'Transforming Rehabilitation' on a gold-standard service, there were repeated warnings that it would lead to an increase in Serious Further Offences, and so it transpired. As a consequence, the deeply cynical amongst us have long suspected that the whole SFO investigation and reporting system has been the subject of deliberate obfuscation for political ends. Too often it's also felt as an opportunity to simply 'throw staff under the bus' rather than look at systemic failings.  

Here we have HM Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell with a press release introducing his latest report on the subject and unambiguously calling for an independent body to oversee the whole process in order to help restore public and professional confidence in a currently deeply-flawed system:-

Probation system ‘not doing enough to learn from past mistakes

The probation system is not doing enough to learn lessons from serious crimes committed by offenders under supervision, according to inspectors.

Nearly a quarter of a million people are on probation in England and Wales. Around 0.2 per cent of these individuals are charged with serious further offences each year while under supervision. These crimes include murder, rape, and other violent and dangerous offences.

HM Inspectorate of Probation examined the way probation services review and learn lessons in these cases. Inspectors also looked at how HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) quality assure those reviews, and use information to improve national policies and practice. Victims and their families were asked about their experiences too.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Serious further offences have a devastating impact on victims and their families. The review process must examine the period leading up to the offence and how the probation service managed the risk of serious harm.

“Our inspection found that individual reviews were good in parts, but a fifth (22 per cent) of those we inspected failed to give a clear judgment as to whether all reasonable steps had been taken to manage the risk of serious harm. At a national level, more needs to be done to identify trends and themes to drive changes to probation policies and guidance.

“Until this work is done, the government and probation services are not doing enough to learn from past mistakes. Lessons must be learnt to prevent more tragedies in the future.”

Probation services in England and Wales are delivered by a mix of providers. The National Probation Service (NPS) supervises high risk offenders in the community, while 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) supervise low and medium risk offenders.

When an individual who is on probation commits a serious further offence, a manager in the relevant NPS division or CRC conducts an internal review.

Inspectors found:
  • Serious Further Offence reviews often set out the timeline of events, but are less effective at explaining why the offence took place. Reviews should draw clear conclusions on failures of probation practice.
  • Serious Further Offence reviews focus solely on probation practice, unlike reviews conducted in other parts of the criminal justice system, such as those following domestic homicides. Offenders are usually known to other agencies, so these interactions are not explored and important opportunities for joint learning are being missed. Inspectors recommend external agencies that have been involved in the case, such as the police and children’s services, should be involved in the Serious Further Offence review. Consideration should also be given to whether this should be mandatory for all homicide cases not currently covered by other multi-agency procedures. There should be a requirement for SFO reviews that include findings on the actions of other agencies to be shared with those agencies.
  • Individual probation officers involved in cases are interviewed by the Serious Further Offence review teams, but often do not see the final reports and have limited opportunities to question the findings. Some staff view the process negatively and believe its primary focus is to attribute blame. The Inspectorate concluded this ‘culture of fear’ undermines the ability of organisations to learn from the process.
Relatively few victims or their families ask to see the Serious Further Offence review and take up of this offer is not monitored centrally. More effort needs to be made to increase the uptake of this offer.

Victims and their families that do ask to see the review found the process open and honest about failings, and appreciated the chance to discuss the case with a senior manager.

The Inspectorate found the content and length of the reviews would be difficult for some victims and family members to digest. Inspectors also urged greater consideration to individual circumstances before disclosing reviews, for example to ensure vulnerable victims have proper support.

HMPPS is responsible for quality assuring Serious Further Offence reviews and providing feedback to probation services.

Inspectors found:
  • Reviews are not analysed nationally to identify themes, which could improve policy and practice.
  • Staff shortages have led to backlogs and unacceptable delays – the HMPPS quality assurance process should take 20 days but takes six months on average.
  • There is a lack of independent oversight and transparency in the process with HMPPS auditing the quality of its own work.
Mr Russell said: “Significant resources are rightly invested in the Serious Further Offence review process. In our view, the current arrangements are inefficient and lack independence and transparency.

“We recommend an independent agency should get involved in quality assuring this vital work. The agency should look at a proportion of completed reviews each year and publish its findings on a regular basis. This will help to increase public confidence in the process.

“Following our inspection, we have made a number of recommendations to the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS. These aim to refocus the Serious Further Offence review process on learning lessons, improving probation policies and practice, and increasing access for victims and their families.”

Earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Justice asked Mr Russell to conduct an independent review into the case of Joseph McCann, who committed a series of serious further offences while under probation supervision. The first part of that report will be published in June 2020.



Serious Further Offences (SFOs) are committed by a small proportion of the probation caseload. For the victims and families involved, however, the consequences are devastating and often life changing. It is therefore essential that probation providers are accountable for the work undertaken and that the learning from such events results in improved service delivery. 

This is the primary purpose of the SFO review process, which was first introduced in 2003 to ensure rigorous scrutiny when serious offences are committed by service users subject to probation supervision. A revised process was implemented in April 2018. This was the focus of our inspection. 

A priority for the new process is to ensure increased transparency for victims and family members, and to some extent this has been achieved in that they now have access to the full review document. The reviews, however, are often long and complex documents that examine probation practice in detail, sometimes over many years. Although probation providers have ensured that the disclosure of reviews to victims is handled sensitively, it can still be confusing and overwhelming. Very few take up the offer of full disclosure, and further work is needed to better understand the reasons for this and to take full account of victims’ individual circumstances and needs. 

At the heart of the SFO review process is the aim that learning from SFO reviews should improve the management and supervision of service users. We found a mixed picture. At a national level, SFO reviews are not analysed to identify themes, inform policy and improve practice. At a local level, probation providers have procedures in place to identify learning from the reviews that they have undertaken. The fear and concern that the process provokes in operational staff, however, undermines the ability of organisations to learn from the process. Their perception is that the review focuses on individual and not organisational responsibilities, and our findings confirm this. 

SFO review cases are frequently complex, with many agencies involved. Most SFO cases, however, are not the subject of multi-agency reviews and the current process focuses solely on probation practice. Valuable learning is therefore lost. A multi-agency contribution would help victims and family members to have an improved understanding of the management of the case. 

The HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) SFO review team is responsible for the central quality assurance of the SFO reviews and providing feedback to local areas. There have been unacceptable delays in this process, with probation providers and individual staff members waiting an average of six months for feedback on their reviews. 

In contrast to the process for other serious case reviews, such as Domestic Homicide Reviews or MAPPA serious case reviews, the current SFO process lacks independent oversight and transparency. Although we don’t recommend that an independent body should take on the reviews themselves, we do recommend that there should be independent oversight of the quality assurance process, by an independent body scrutinising the quality of a sample of reviews on a regular basis and reporting publicly on what they find. This would also allow the overstretched central HMPPS SFO review team to focus its efforts on drawing together the lessons learned from SFO reviews and promising practice identified across England and Wales. This in turn should be used to inform national policy and drive improvements in practice. 

Significant resources are rightly invested in the SFO review process. In our view, the current arrangements are inefficient. The potential improvements to the management of service users and increased accessibility for victims and family members are not fully realised. We make a number of recommendations to improve the efficiency and the overall impact of the SFO review process.

Justin Russell HM Chief Inspector of Probation

Sunday 10 May 2020

We Are Where We Are?

I saw this yesterday and it struck a chord with me:-

I sometimes wonder what happens to people. There's a raft of folks who I just cannot fathom. I have a life outside of probation. I always did have, it's just more outside than otherwise now. Some aspects of who I am are fixed while other elements are flexible and I believe they are directly related to aspects of being a person who makes the effort to be a half-decent human being.

Language, honesty, integrity & courage are essential elements that remain with me wherever I am. Writing PSRs, being a court duty officer (mags & crown) and working with sex offenders were the keystones of my probation career.

I cannot understand managerialism, JFDI, it is what it is. I cannot comprehend what it is that makes people feel so good they surrender their integrity. I cannot even begin to get my head around lying.

As far as I could tell from 20+ years' graft, sex offenders & DV perpetrators lived in a fantasy world built on lies & self-deception. It was never their fault, never their responsibility, they were framed, set-up, slighted, seduced, pushed too far, but they could also be charismatic, believable & full of bon homie - until confronted with the dissonance of their situation.

And that is what I see with Grayling, Johnson &, to be fair, most politicians.

Currently they seem to be living in a world where they're managing a fantasy pandemic - one where there's enough PPE, everyone's prepared, the lockdown was timed to perfection, etc etc. Just watch their responses in the briefings when they are challenged with the reality of the situation - Raab, Hancock, Gove, Jenrick have all snapped, snarled & snipped at the person asking the question.

"So how did you get to the child pornography site?"
"So why did you punch your partner in the kidneys?"


It seems to me to link nicely with the response from regular reader 'Getafix to last Tuesday's blog post 'A Defining Moment', which of course was itself a reader's contribution:-

I read today's post several times when it appeared as a comment yesterday. To me it not only illustrates the scale and journey of the probation service over time, but also its decline. The Social Work ethos was the foundation stone of the probation service. It's removal was not only irresponsible, it was an act of political sabotage. It allowed probation to become a tool of the state. A service that could be shaped and manipulated in any way that suited the political ideology and Government agendas of the day.

'Prison Works', Tough On Crime, Tough On The Causes Of Crime, were great mantras from polititions like Leon Britton and Michael Howard, but they had little to do with the advancement of our justice services, they were slogans to bolster public support for electoral purposes. They worked, but they badly damaged probation no longer supported by its social work foundations.

We've had years of debate and discussion on the destructive nature and the folly of TR.
TR would never have been possible if probation had still been underpinned by its social work foundations. I really do think the value of the social Work approach within our Criminal justice system is becoming more understood in today's world once again. Police and even prisons are adopting far more of a social work approach then they ever have before. The wheel will be reinvented, but it will be a slow process. There's small pockets reappearing in specific areas now, but their small and very specific. But as its said, 'The longest journey starts with the first step'.

'Getafix followed this up the following day:-

I'm someone who completely believes that probation should be based on a social work ethos. I've had some difficulties this week understanding some of the comments that's been made. I understand that others don't favour the social Work ethos, and I don't dismiss that point of view. Yet I struggle to understand why favouring a social work ethos indicates any particular political view point. Why isn't it be seen as apolitical? A philosophical and pragmatic approach underpinning a service, with no political colour as a pragmatic method to fulfil its remit? Indeed, did the removal of the Social Work requirement in 1997 move probation from a left wing to a right wing organisation? If the social Work ethos belongs to the left, then its removal must surely cede possession to the right? Why does social work define anyone's political identity?

It's a coincidence that Jersey has been mentioned on the blog today, because reading over the last few days to try and understand more why favouring a social work ethos in probation could be seen as a demonstration of political allegiance I stumbled on a research paper from a few year ago relating to probation services on Jersey. It didn't answer my questions, but I found it an interesting and informative read non the less. Maybe other might too.


I'll have a layman's stab from deep inside my kevlar cocoon.

1. Did the removal of the Social Work requirement in 1997 move probation from a left wing to a right wing organisation? Yes. More accurately, it anchored the moves that had already taken place.

2. If the social Work ethos belongs to the left, then its removal must surely cede possession to the right? Yes. Its now 'owned' in every sense by the MoJ/HMPPS, a control-and-command led profit-oriented structure.

3. Why does social work define anyone's political identity? For myself, its tied up with whether we regard people as a commodity to be exploited or as part of the social fabric, to be cherished. The 'right' embraces control & command, monetisation, exploitation, profiteering - 'they know the price of everything but the value of nothing'. The 'left' tends towards the nurturing, caring & sharing of peoples' experiences, cultures & lives, regardless as to whether its the fruits or the burdens that are being shared.

There you go, Bamber, there's my starter for ten.


Firstly, I wholeheartedly agree with 'Getafix that a social work ethos should be seen as apolitical and it frustrates me how many people on this blog seem to assume that a left wing political preference should be a prerequisite for the job.

As for above, they've tried to set out their position as if commentating from an objective point of view, but clearly the fact they have chosen negative labels for the right and positive labels for the left reveals their own bias.

Ultimately, the right is defined by valuing the individual over the collective. But how is that at odds with the social work/probation value of believing that everybody is capable of change? The right is more likely to believe in the capacity of individuals to change than the left.


No, revisionista above, you play with my words. I don't need or want your agreement, but you cannot re-present my piece as something it isn't. I set out *my* position. And there it is in all its simplicity. No attempt to observe from any point of view other than my own, hence I start with "For myself..."

Another right-wing trait I forgot to mention... the readiness to revise history, to remodel the facts to suit the narrative. The coronavirus crisis is a case in point - not enough PPE in stock, delays in ordering it, when it finally arrives its shoddy-as-shit, then they issue out-of-date PPE & refuse to release the test data that proves whether or not the PPE is fit for purpose. Dates on gowns might not be a problem, granted, but filters on medical grade masks might just be a critical issue. I just hope my kevlar cocoon is in-date...


That research article from the British Journal of Social Work and referred to by 'Getafix can be found here and I've selected the following:-

Moving Away from Social Work and Half Way Back Again: New Research on Skills in Probation


Research on social work in the criminal justice system was well represented in the social work literature until the 1990s. Since then, changes in the organisation, training and research base of probation practice, particularly in England and Wales, have all contributed to a separation between probation research and the mainstream social work research literature. However, recent probation research, by focusing on individual practice skills and on the quality of relationships, is producing findings which resonate with traditional social work concerns. The study presented here, based on analysis of videotaped interviews between probation staff and the people they are supervising, shows what skills are used and the effects of skilled supervision. People supervised by more skilled staff were significantly less likely to be reconvicted over a two-year follow-up, and the most effective supervisors combined good relationship skills with a range of ‘structuring’ or change-promoting skills. In effect, this can be regarded as a test of the impact of social work skills used by probation staff and suggests that a closer relationship between mainstream social work research and probation research could be productive for both.


In recent years, probation has moved away from social work both as a subject and as an institutionalised practice towards what is commonly termed community corrections or offender management, and in so doing has taken on a distinctively different identity. It began its life in the philanthropic and charity movements of the nineteenth century and in particular the early social project (Vanstone, 2004). Although, in one way or another, probation has always been involved in the administration and management of particular non-custodial sentences, it has retained distinctive social work characteristics not only through its involvement in adoption, matrimonial and divorce court functions, but also through practice founded on the traditional social work treatment model. In the latter part of the twentieth century, it shed its family court functions and, in its current, modern form, it focuses exclusively on work with those who appear before the criminal courts and who pose significant risk to the public through their offending, standing apart from social work as a criminological project. At least, this is how it appears. In this paper, through reflections on our study of the practice of probation officers in Jersey (Raynor et al., 2014), we examine this phenomenon and attempt to distinguish between the appearance and the reality. In the process, we reappraise the argument that probation should be seen as social work and reflect on how mainstream social work might adapt to accommodate the roles of social workers in criminal justice. We begin with the relevant history.

Discussion: probation as social work?

Studies such as this, which show a connection between the use of appropriate interpersonal skills and better outcomes for service users, are clearly of interest to probation services, and research on skills has now been carried out in several countries (for some examples, see McNeill et al., 2010). One purpose of this article is to suggest that this kind of research also has implications for mainstream social work, and for the relationship between probation work and the wider social work enterprise. Some of the skills observed in our study, such as relationship skills, are clearly part of the skills repertoire traditionally valued and taught in social work. Probation officers in Jersey, unlike most in England and Wales, are normally qualified in social work; the same is true in other jurisdictions, notably Scotland, where social work in criminal justice is professionally and organisationally a branch of social work. However, good outcomes in our study are also connected with the use of ‘structuring’ skills to facilitate change and to develop new thinking and behaviour. The results are consistent with the idea that relationship skills are a necessary condition for positive influence in individual work, but may not on their own be sufficient to bring about change in problematic attitudes or behaviour. This kind of change often seems to require more structured forms of learning.

Studies of the impact and outcome of professional intervention have been central to improvements in the effectiveness of probation work in the last two decades. Arguably, this has been a less consistent emphasis in broader social work research. Reasons for this include the fact that probation work lends itself to the use of reconviction rates as a (relatively) straightforward outcome measure, since the purposes of probation usually include a reduction in offending, in the interests of both the service user and the wider community. Probation can of course have other valid purposes, such as reintegration into the community, resettlement and the pursuit of a wide variety of individualised forward-looking intermediate goals in particular cases, but most of the time reconviction can be used as a rough-and-ready proxy measure which is congruent with the societal purpose of probation services. Other sectors of social work have more diverse or less standardised goals and more ingenuity may be needed to identify appropriate outcome measures. However, the effort may prove worthwhile. Social work education is under attack both politically and from other professional sectors: Michael Gove, the responsible Minister and a leading figure on the right wing of the current ruling coalition, argues that, if trainee social workers are taught that their service users are ‘disempowered by society’, this makes them likely to explain away and excuse problematic behaviour rather than trying to change it (Gove, 2013). Martin Narey makes rather similar points from a more professional and less politicised point of view in his report on the preparation of social workers for child and family work (Narey, 2014). Essentially, the argument is that commitment to an anti-oppressive stance makes it difficult for inexperienced social workers to challenge problematic behaviour. From such a perspective, probation work may seem too controlling or coercive to be part of an empowering vision of social work. However, such a view, if it exists, rests on a fundamental misunderstanding.

One former Chief Probation Officer with whom both authors worked used to define his job as ‘helping offenders to help themselves to stop offending’ (Sutton, 1996). This has more to do with empowerment than oppression: even if people are not responsible for the problems they face, improvement is likely to require some action on their part. Even cognitive–behavioural offending behaviour programmes, which worried some practitioners who saw them as a form of coercive behaviour modification, are better understood as a way of facilitating change through social learning (Raynor and Vanstone, 1997). The successful probation staff in our study helped their clients by eliciting co-operation and engaging collaborative effort, not by one-sided authoritarianism. This is entirely consistent with our experience of effective probation over many years. Mainstream social work might benefit from a more consistent focus on outcomes, and from probation's experience of trying to use evidence from outcome studies to develop and improve practice. Social work's defence against Gove's attack has so far concentrated on exposing his ideological assumptions and political motivation (for an example, see Social Work Action Network, 2014), but more focus on evidence of positive outcomes would also help to add weight to the argument. In the last century, the education and training of most social workers included some coverage of crime and of social work in criminal justice, but this is less prevalent in the social work degree courses offered since 2003.

Qualitative research alone will not find it easy to provide evidence of effectiveness. As a recent discussion of policy-related research pointed out:

Qualitative research is often advocated as the best way to capture the complexity of social phenomena, but even rich case studies full of insight about how things happen are very limited in answering ‘why’ questions without the systematic comparison of cases that would enable us to understand causation, which is essential to policy intervention (Blackman, 2013, p. 334).

In other words, without qualitative research, there is not much social science; without measurement and comparison, there is not much social science. In our study of skills and outcomes, we have used both approaches, and the results could not have been obtained without doing so.

Finally, we would suggest that probation work itself could benefit from closer integration (or reintegration) with the wider social work profession. This is hardly innovative: any study of the early history of social work will find plenty of examples of work concerned with what was usually called juvenile delinquency (for some examples, see Raynor and Robinson, 2009). Probation in England and Wales is smaller than other welfare institutions and, since coming under the direct control of the Home Office in 2001, it has been something of a political football. Politicians preoccupied with a need to appear tough have obstructed development and made probation more punitive. The current government is in the process of implementing a wholesale privatisation programme (Ministry of Justice, 2013) which virtually all informed commentators believe will make matters worse. Social work may feel itself threatened but has not (yet) faced anything like this. Although several commentators have written about difficulties in maintaining traditional social work commitments and values in the modern social and political environment (e.g. Parton, 1994, 2003), social work has not experienced, as probation has, a political campaign to substitute punishment for welfare (Raynor, 2012). Probation might benefit, as in Scotland, from being seen and defended as part of a wider social work movement for social progress and social justice, which in our view is what it should be. However, this argument strays well beyond the scope of this paper. At least we hope to contribute to a more substantial representation and appreciation of criminal justice social work in the mainstream social work literature.