Sunday 30 August 2020

Would You Adam and Eve It!

We live in a supposedly advanced and sophisticated society where we follow the science, strive for improvement and become ever-more efficient and effective. So how come it's taken so bloody long to finally get around to noticing the effing obvious that if you speed up justice by ditching full PSR's you end up with piss-poor results? What happened to PSR's is an utter disgrace! This from HMI Probation finally spells it out:-      


A key NPS responsibility is to provide advice and information to help judges and magistrates decide on the most appropriate sentence for individual service users. Recent years have seen a focus on speed and timeliness, with a shift from standard delivery reports to oral reports, and an NPS performance metric measuring the percentage of reports completed within the timescales set by the court. The findings in this bulletin clearly demonstrate that the focus upon speed and timeliness has had an impact upon quality. Notably, inspectors were less likely to judge that the pre-sentence information and advice was sufficiently analytical and personalised to the service user when an oral report was delivered.

Responses to the underpinning prompt questions reveal a number of issues with oral reports. They were less likely to have drawn sufficiently upon available sources of information, with information from other agencies not always shared in the time necessary to be included in the reports. They were less likely to have considered factors related to both risk of harm and the likelihood of reoffending, with less time for report authors to consider and reflect upon the information which was available. Unsurprisingly, the final proposal was then less likely to be deemed sufficient, and there was less likely to be a sufficient record of the advice and the reasoning. In some cases, it was clear that insufficient attention had been given to the appropriateness of accredited programmes or other treatment requirements. 

The quality of pre-sentence information and advice not only impacts upon the court’s decision-making but also has an impact post-sentence – with high quality PSRs assisting responsible officers in timely and sufficient assessment and sentence planning following allocation of the case. The obvious trade-off is one between speed at court and the need for more work post-sentence to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the service user’s risks, needs, skills and strengths, enabling service delivery to be sufficiently focused and personalised. 

The potential dangers from a pre-sentence focus upon speed and timeliness have been flagged previously by Robinson (2017), who stated as follows: 

“In the new court culture of speed, timeliness… is an important quality for PSRs, but as a sole measure of quality it leaves a great deal to be desired. Courts certainly do want reports to be timely, but they are not factories; they exist to dispense justice. Thus, whilst speed has become a key value for courts, it is not the only value that matters to them: they continue to want reports that are wellinformed, accurate and useful in enabling them to pass sentences that are proportionate, suitable for the individual and unlikely to put the public at risk.”

In the 2019 ‘Proposed Future Model for Probation: A Draft Operating Blueprint’, HMPPS have emphasised their commitment to improving the quality of our advice to courts and PSRs. The following changes are proposed: 

“We will revise the ratio of different report types to promote improved risk assessment and pre-sentence advice. 

We will reduce the percentage of oral reports on women, BAME offenders and those at risk of short-term imprisonment to improve the quality of assessments, identification of offending related needs and the targeting to appropriate interventions. 

We will improve the targeting of offenders to sentence requirements specifically in relation to treatment requirements and rehabilitation requirements, and ensure appropriate engagement with liaison and diversion services.” 

The findings in this bulletin are clearly supportive of these reforms. In relation to the highlighting of specific sub-groups, the bulletin indicates that reports were less likely to be judged sufficiently analytical and personalised for those with a high likelihood of reoffending. These service users tend to have multiple and complex needs, requiring careful consideration to be given to the most appropriate interventions and how they can be integrated into a coherent and holistic programme of work. 

In the more recent draft Target Operating Model (HMPPS, 2020), it is further stated that ‘Probation Practitioners in Court will carry out their duties with victims and potential victims in mind’. This bulletin also demonstrates that improvements are required here – we found that the impact of the offence(s) on known/identifiable victims had not been considered in one in three cases. Attention needs to be given to the format of all types of report so that there is a sufficient focus on victim impact, and to ensuring that victim statements and CPS documents are available to report writers. 

Within the Inspectorate, we will continue to pay careful attention to the quality of PSRs, with our inspection standards specifying what is expected in terms of the support provided to courts. We are very clear that any focus on speed and timeliness should not be at the cost of overall quality. Operating alongside our inspection ratings, we will seek to demonstrate to the NPS where they need to focus, helping to drive improvement where it is required. 

Finally, this bulletin has compared oral reports, short format reports and standard delivery reports, and it is important to recognise that, alongside the decline of cases coming to court, these has also been some shift to dispensing with any form of report. The 2015 Levenson Review called for more discretion to dispense with reports, as well as the greater use oral reports or previous reports, which was followed by the Better Case Management programme advising that Crown Court cases no longer required a PSR when there was no realistic alternative to custody. The impact of dispensing with any form of PSR is clearly deserving of further attention.


Oh look - the penny really has dropped and the command and control civil service are on the case like a shot:-

PSR [Pre Sentencing Reports] Pilot Project Manager (Ref: 36448)

Job description

We welcome and encourage applications from everyone, including groups currently underrepresented in our workforce and pride ourselves as being an employer of choice. To find out more about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace, visit:

Since 2010 there has been a significant decline in the use of the PSR, this phenomenon was explored by a Ministerially commissioned review by the Implementation Unit. The Unit concluded that that the purpose of the PSR has been lost and the Judiciary have very different views on the benefits of the PSR, and when one is deemed necessary. As a result the PSR is often deprioritised in favour of avoiding delay.

The Implementation Unit recommended that further work is undertaken to define the purpose of the PSR and better understand the balance between avoiding delay whilst ensuring that quality PSRs are delivered where necessary.

The National Court Team, led by Roz Hamilton, are delighted to confirm that funding has been awarded to deliver a PSR pilot across a number of courts in England and Wales. The hypothesis that will be tested is:

The increased delivery of quality and timely PSRs for certain offenders in magistrate courts will improve offender outcomes and the administration efficiency in justice by evaluating the impact of an alternative delivery model.

We are seeking a Project Manager for an initial 18 month contract, to plan, implement and oversee the delivery of these pilots. We are seeking an individual who is able to bring tenacity, innovation and resilience to support this high profile national pilot. The successful candidate will be highly organised and able to apply a project management approach. They will be able to work and engage with a wide range of stakeholders to generate the confidence of NPS court staff, HMCTS, the Judiciary and other CJS partners. The ability to work at pace along with outstanding verbal and written skills are critical to this work.

Overview of the job

Working at the direction of the Head of Operational Function the post holder will be deployed to a variety of roles in order to provide strategic support.


To support the Head of LDU Cluster providing management and leadership within the National Probation Service (NPS) Local Delivery Unit (LDU).

To represent the Head of LDU Cluster with external agencies/stakeholders and staff as appropriate.

The post holder must adhere to all policies in respect of the sensitive/confidential nature of the information handled whilst working in this position. May be required to participate in out of hours on call rota.

Responsibilities, Activities & Duties

Senior Operational Support Manager may be required to undertake any combination, or all, of the duties and responsibilities as directed by the Head of Operational Function as set out below.

• Cluster operational lead on caseload segmentation issues such as Child Sexual Exploitation, Guns and Gangs, Integrated Offender Management etc.
• Operational support to the Head of Cluster within relevant Probation Instruction criteria and rules such as Recall, High Risk of Serious Harm Case Transfers, etc.
• Providing support to the Head of Cluster within the relevant Probation Instruction criteria and rules such as, grievance, discipline, capability, complaints, etc.
• Responsible for the professional development of cluster staff
• Responsible for developing and deploying the Cluster Training Needs Analysis
• Ensure effective cluster employee recruitment and induction
• Act as cluster lead for performance & quality
• Act as cluster lead for audits and inspections
• Operational support to the Head of Cluster in completing reviews and delivery of action plans such as Domestic Homicides, Serious Further Reviews, Serious Case Reviews, etc.
• Responsible for the management of the Business Manager and the administrative support functions within the cluster
• Under the guidance of the Head of LDU Cluster; represent the NPS in local strategic partnerships and ensure appropriate representation within wider partnership frameworks in line with statutory responsibilities and operational policy
• Participate in the Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) locally in conjunction with other responsible authorities including the chairing of MAPPA level 3 meetings
• In the absence of the Head of LDU Cluster to make decisions and provide advice on the management of offenders where senior management authorisation or involvement is necessary e.g. authorising the recall of offenders to prison
• Operational support to the Head of cluster in the management of complaints within the cluster and direct involvement in complaint resolution where necessary
• Under the guidance of the Head of LDU Cluster to take the lead on specific divisional or cluster projects/portfolios including Equality and Diversity, Reward and Recognition, etc.
• Operational support to the Head of cluster in cluster compliance with Health and Safety legislation.
• Senior Management responsibility for estates, buildings and maintenance activities within the cluster
• Demonstrate pro-social modelling skills by consistently reinforcing pro-social behaviour and attitudes and challenging anti-social behaviour and attitudes
• Carry out safeguarding children and safeguarding adult duties in accordance with the NPS statutory responsibilities and agency policies
• Work within the aims and values of NPS and HMPPS

The duties/responsibilities listed above describe the post at present and are not exhaustive. The job holder is expected to accept reasonable alteration sand additional tasks of a similar level that may be necessary. Significant adjustments may require re-examination under job evaluation and shall be discussed in the first instance with the job holder.


• Leadership
• Making Effective Decisions
• Working Together
• Delivering at Pace
• Communicating and Influencing
• Managing a Quality Service
• Changing and Improving

Essential Experience

• Significant experience at middle manager level, including the management of staff
• Experience of monitoring performance in area of responsibility against predetermined targets, setting local targets and effecting necessary improvements
• Experience of budgetary control incl. procurement
• Experience of managing relationships incl. working with key local agencies and stakeholders
• Evidence of preparing high level written reports to a good standard

Technical requirements

A qualification in one of the following areas:

• Probation Qualification Framework Graduate Diploma/Honours Degree in Community Justice integrated with Level 5 Diploma in Probation Practice.
• Or, a qualification which was recognised at the time of qualification by the Secretary of State for Justice as per Section 10 of the Offender Management Act 2007. The following qualifications gained in England and Wales were previously recognised as providing such eligibility:
• Diploma in Probation Studies
• Diploma in Social Work (with Probation Option)
• CQSW (with Probation Option)

Knowledge of the wider criminal justice system

Saturday 29 August 2020

AGM 2020 Motions

It's that time of year for Napo members to vote on the order in which Motions will be considered at the virtual AGM being held in October. All are worthy, including significant constitutional changes that will see the number of Branches reduce from 23 to 14 representing the new regional NPS structure, but the following particularly caught my attention. All can be viewed here and voting closes at Noon on Monday 7th September:-

2. Increasing diversity in Probation 

This AGM notes that whilst the recruitment drive in probation is welcome, there is a growing lack of diversity in those recruitment with the majority of PQiP recruits being young white women. In order to have a workforce that fully represents the communities they work with the MoJ must address this issue. This AGM calls on Napo HQ to demand that the MOJ to: 

• publish their recruitment diversity statistics, 
• work with Napo to increase diversity in probation to carry out research, 
• identify barriers experienced by those seeking entry from a diverse background, 
• to published the results of the current Pathway to Progression pilot once it has concluded. 

Proposer: Professional and Training Network

3. Professional Role Boundaries 

AGM notes motions passed in recent years that seek to address de-professionalisation of probation work through blurring of role boundaries. Historically, it has been acknowledged that work involving high risk of serious harm cases, or those of greater complexity requiring a high degree of professional judgement, should only be managed by Band 4 probation officers or above. 

In both NPS and CRCs the distinction between which cases are managed at Band 4 and Band 3 has continued to become blurred. In NPS the introduction of Case Management Support (CMS) allows for extensive co-working of cases, while in CRCs the definition of who is qualified to be a Responsible Officer varies from business to business. 

Napo has attempted to address this problem nationally through the creation of a national register of practitioners and pay progression linked to professional development. Progress has been slow, however, and many staff continue to be responsible for work beyond their pay grade. With the re-unification of casework there is an opportunity to reassert professional role boundaries. This AGM demands: 

• the establishment of a professional register, 
• clear and consistent guidance across all businesses about what constitutes band 3 and band 4 work, 
• meaningful Continuous Professional Development linked to pay progression. 

Proposer: Kent, Surrey and Sussex Branch

4. Virtual Supervision? 

This AGM believes the relationship between a client and their Probation Officer is one best built on face to face contact. This AGM understands the MoJ has recently interviewed some staff currently working from home about the effectiveness of ‘remote’ supervision. Those interviewed have been left with the distinct impression the MoJ interviewers had limited knowledge about the depth and skills involved in managing probation clients and may be seeking ways in which to justify shutting offices and moving towards more remote working outside of COVID recovery. This contradicts the findings of recent Inspection reports criticising various CRCs for poor risk management via remote supervision. 

AGM believes long term remote working, instead of face to face supervision, will seriously limit the ability to assess and manage risk. It will impact on building relationships within which “interventions” and influence can take place, thereby damaging our effectiveness and our personal and professional reputations. AGM instructs Napo Officers and Officials to ensure any move to dilute face to face supervision is vigorously challenged unless backed up by evidence and appropriate training. 

Proposer: London Branch

6. Prison OM role boundaries 

This AGM believes NPS staff working in prisons are not being properly recognised or valued for their roles and their role boundaries appear to be unclear to many probation, prison and parole board staff and colleagues. All staff should be equally valued. 

This AGM notes redeployment of NPS staff in prisons as part of the COVID-19 EDM demonstrated the lack of importance placed on their day to day work by the organisation. Requests from Parole Boards indicate they are viewed as administrators. Other colleagues have used them as messenger services. 

This AGM views reunification as an opportunity to clarify and reinforce the roles and boundaries for NPS Prison Offender Managers. The AGM instructs the NEC, Officers and Officials and Probation Negotiating Committee to ensure that role boundaries are better defined and communicated to other agencies to ensure instructions and requests are role appropriate. 

Proposer: London Branch

7. OASys: 

Outdated, off target and stifled in bureaucracy OASys is well past its sell-by date. The exhortations to good practice, guided by the science, to coin a phrase, are informed by and refer to strengths based approaches, trauma informed practice and desistence theory. OASys is a hindrance not a help in facilitating good and effective work. There is a veritable industry now in polishing this tarnished old jug, absorbing the time and attention of professional probation staff, and diverting them from work which would be rewarding for both them and their clients. 

Demanding the junking of this behemoth by MoJ will be like asking a child to relinquish her favourite toy, but it’s for their own good This AGM instructs Napo to demand and negotiate a full overhaul of the systems used to assess offenders and plan their sentences, in order for these to inform and support effective work to rehabilitate probation clients and protect the public. 

Proposer: Napo Cymru

8. Stop the de-professionalisation of Probation Practice 

Napo AGM is concerned that tailored, creative and responsive approaches to probation practice are being eroded and replaced with costly and onerous check-list processes labelled as “evidence based”. 

Napo AGM believes that these time-consuming strategies “calling out” alleged poor practice, removing the autonomy of practitioners, and demanding changes to their work within unrealistic time frames, is having a demoralising impact on the workforce. In this climate, we have seen experienced staff become ill or leave, with differently qualified practitioners left to fill the void. This AGM believes that money to fund these processes would be better spent on good quality training, supervision and resources for practitioners. This means that time could be freed up allowing for thoughtful and well-considered practice, coming from a positive starting point where real change for service users might take place. 

This AGM therefore instructs Napo Officers and Officials to: 

• undertake research into the effectiveness of the current quality assurance strategies, exploring the impact of current processes on practitioners, service users and risk to the public, 
• collect data on the amount of money spent on quality assurance strategies and campaign for funds for quality assurance strategies to be re-directed to fund training and front-line services. 

Proposer: South Yorkshire Branch

9. Too Much Micromanagement, Too Little Support 

Napo recognises that a style of micromanagement has been allowed to encroach on our practice to create an unhealthy working environment. Professionals are increasingly working in a stifling environment where more of their assessments are consistently scrutinised and checked to ensure uniformity against ever changing standards. 

This modus operandi has appeared to increase at the same time that meaningful, supportive supervision has all but disappeared. Our members are hardworking, professional practitioners and should be recognised as such. Instead it becomes the norm that we are continually pushed to create regimented reports within micromanaged structures. 

There is a wealth of material that evidences how destructive micromanaging people can be. It detracts from the core focus of our work, demotivates staff and leads to burnout across all grades. It creates mistrust leading to the loss of experienced staff who choose to leave rather than be managed in such a way. 

This AGM asks that this be taken up as an issue to safeguard and promote our professionalism and re-build trust with our employers. It asks that we see a return of a proper supportive framework that promotes professional judgement and seeks to remove this harmful approach in management. 

Proposer: The Mercia Branch

10. PSOs: Plugging the gap and bearing the weight 

The significant staff shortages in Probation have been an issue now for the last 6 years of TR. However, it is yet again PSOs that are left carrying the weight of the service and being put at risk as they are repeatedly used to plug the gap in PO numbers. Misallocation of cases to members that don’t have the experience, have not had the training and are not remunerated for the level of work being asked of them is a long standing issue. 

Lockdown has exacerbated this issue leaving our members isolated and without any peer support or management support. The growing number of cases, that would previously have been allocated to a PO, now being given to PSOs, which has been identified by HMIP, Justice Select Committee and by Napo, is very worrying and putting the public and members at risk. 

This AGM calls on Napo to: 

• ask HMPPS to reintroduce adequate training for PSOs from day one of their employment, • ask HMPPS to issue clear guidance to managers about what cases should be allocated to PSOs and develop a clear role boundaries policy, 
• encourage PSOs to challenge inappropriate case allocation and to inform branches when issues arise. 

Proposer: Campaigning Network

11. Innovative Probation Technologies: Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater 

As part of TR, some providers of probation services invested large sums of public money in developing innovative probation technologies (software tools, automated administration systems, etc.) to show what could be done to streamline/simplify processes, improve efficiency and generally, improve upon clunky, patched-up, decades-old systems and outdated technologies used in the Trusts. 

These systems continued to be used relatively unchanged in the NPS. Recent NPS tools appear designed to make work more complex and difficult rather than easier. Bizarrely, the MoJ/ HMPPS appear to have committed themselves to persevere with their own flawed systems. They are, it seems, intent upon training those transitioning to the NPS to use clunky/ outdated, less user friendly and unreliable tools, than those used in the CRCs. This cannot be allowed to happen unchallenged. 

This AGM calls upon Officers and Officials to develop a no holds barred, punchy, and critical ‘Future Probation Technologies’ statement that focuses on current concerns, highlights existing technological innovations/solutions, and demands that the MoJ/HMPPS does not abandon the best innovative technological solutions already developed in the CRCs and does everything possible to acquire/assimilate/ develop these more advanced technologies, where appropriate, to help improve probation services and propel the NPS into the 21st century. 

Proposer: Professional and Training Network

12. Back to the Future for PSRs 

This AGM welcomes the fact that the Secretary of State for Justice has recognised the need for a greater investment in the quality of PreSentence Reports. The Magistrates Association has also stated that it is vital these documents are of sufficient standing to inform the sentencing process. 

This AGM calls for an end to unachievable targets for the completion of ‘on the day’ reports, where vital information on risk, particularly relating to DV and child protection, are more likely to be missed. Adequate time to properly assess vulnerability, e.g. in relation to trauma and/or mental health needs is also essential. 

Probation court staff require workload weightings which properly reflect the time needed to complete high quality report and risk assessments i.e. ones that meet the professional standards associated with PSRs before the implementation of ‘speedy summary justice’. 

These weightings must also take into account the increasing amount of work involved in completing the many other assessments needed, in addition to the PSR, which ensures that the finished article meets the demands of “quality assurance”. This AGM directs the Negotiating Committee and Professional and Training Network to press the relevant directorates to implement these realistic and fair workload weightings. 

Proposer: Professional and Training Network

17. Probation Reform 

Napo AGM welcomes the government’s second U-turn to end the privatisation of Probation Service delivery – hopefully, once and for all, the profit motive in probation work will be cast to the dustbin of history for ever. Grayling lied and failed, again. 

However, this AGM also notes that the current plans to regionalise everything under the auspices of the HMPPS, where Prisons are by far the greater power, are also likely to fail. Under the dead hand of the inflexible, command and control obsessed Civil Service, these reforms are far from the locally delivered, locally accountable, professional and flexible Probation Service that is required. 

Without that localism we will be less able to reduce the risks posed by some of the most difficult, disadvantaged and damaged people in society. This AGM therefore instructs Napo’s officers and officials to mount a concerted campaign with sister trades unions, opposition political parties and others for: 

• probation to move out of the Civil Service/ HMPPS structures at the earliest opportunity, 
• probation Services to be aligned with Local Authorities as non-departmental government bodies that are centrally funded, again at the earliest opportunity, 
• probation’s autonomy and professionalism to be genuinely based on social work values and social work training. 

Proposer: South Yorkshire Branch

18. Reunification achieved, but what next for Napo’s campaigning? 

Napo has achieved what many thought was impossible, the reunification of probation and an end to CRCs and a split workforce. Campaigning network has reviewed previous AGM motions and have consolidated them into one to help members focus on the rest of Napo’s demands. AGM calls on Napo HQ and members at grass roots level to campaign for the following objectives; 

• release from prisons - probation has been dominated by the prison service for too long and culminated in OMiC, a delivery model that goes against evidence based practice of what works and the need for consistency for prisoners, 
• out of the Civil Service - allowing probation to work as an independent body, get staff out of the shackles of the civil service and give it the flexibility it requires for effective delivery, 
• a return to evidence led practice - after TR which was based on zero evidence, probation needs to go back to what works, actively promote evaluation of interventions and fight for member’s professional development, 
• embedded in local communities - being centrally run by Westminster restricts probation from working with the local communities it serves and meet the needs of clients. 

Proposer: Campaigning Network

19. PQiP training is not fit for purpose 

PQiP training is still not fit for purpose. Despite the hard work of the professional and training network there has still been no progress on the much awaited review of PQiP. It is clear from our members that PQiP delivery has varied significantly across the country. Whilst reunification will resolve the issue of inconsistencies, the training has been reduced to a tick box exercise only teaching learners processes. Newly qualified members report feeling totally unprepared for the day to day work of probation and that they lack the confidence to carry out their roles. 

This AGM instructs campaigning network to work alongside professional and training network to: 

• highlight the issue with stakeholders, parliamentarians and the media, 
• urge HMPPS to start the PQiP review as a matter of urgency and meaningfully engage with Napo from day one, 
• urge HMPPS to ensure that the training is developed to meet the needs of learners and not the MoJ budget, 
• insist on the inclusion of more professional based training rather than just processes, 
• insist that HMPPS review their recruitment strategy in light of the lack of diversity of learners entering PQiP which currently sees a majority of young white women. 

Proposer: Campaigning Network

28. Life after lockdown, lessons we can learn from home working 

Home working has been difficult for many members from a lack of adequate working space, isolation from peers struggling with a life work balance. That is why Napo has used the term ‘at home trying to work’ to highlight the issues facing members. However, there have also been many benefits as it has offered people a flexibility that has previously been denied to many. The home working policy developed by HMPPS has never been signed off by Napo and has been consistently inconsistent in its application. Divisions and even offices have interpreted the policy differently leading to confusion. Lockdown now gives Napo the opportunity to address this. This motion calls on Napo to; 

• demand a review of the home working policy in light of Covid and look at what can be learnt from the lockdown, 
• address the issues that have arisen such as inadequate ICT, lack of working space, issues of confidentiality 
• identify the benefits of flexible working and ensure that these are not lost going forward. 

Proposer: Campaigning Network

Friday 28 August 2020

The Voluntary Sector in TR2 (2)

The concluding part of the recently published position paper from the Probation Institute:-

5. What does the Voluntary and Community Sector do in Criminal Justice? 

Many of the VCS organisations working in the criminal justice system in England and Wales today have their roots in 19th century philanthropic and often religious organisations. Their histories were significantly influenced by the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 which facilitated charitable poverty relief. Following the founding of the Welfare State in 1948 an understanding emerged that philanthropy had a continuing major role to play in post war society. By the late 1970s massive changes in populations and lifestyles resulted in new charitable organisations and in many of the traditional charities rethinking their role and purpose to meet more complex and diverse needs. 

An important group of voluntary organisations working in criminal justice have their origins in human rights movements and are predominantly campaigning organisations seeking to improve the political and operational environment of criminal justice. This paper is particularly addressing those voluntary and community organisations whose purpose is the delivery of a rehabilitation service to people caught up in the criminal justice system, but recognises the benefits to the justice system that campaigning organisations are able to make.

The range of activities carried out by voluntary and community organisations delivering services has continued to change and expand, and increasingly has tended to specialise. In its 2019 report on the State of the Sector, Clinks, the charity that supports, promotes and represents the VCS working with people in the Criminal Justice Sector, reports that: 

• The majority of VCS organisations in the justice sector are small; roughly 30% have budgets less than £100,000 per year compared to only 14% in the wider VCS. 
• The majority of referrals to the VCS come from prisons; there is a roughly even split between VCS organisations working in the prisons and those working in the community. 
• Service users’ needs are ever more urgent and complex. 
• There is increased evidence of trauma, self-harm, mental ill health, violence and lack of both financial means and housing. 
• There is substantial work ongoing with families and with victims of abuse. 
• The VCS works with significant numbers of BAME service users. 
• Increasing range of education and employment organisations. 
• Voluntary organisations rely heavily on volunteering to delivery their services. 
• Smaller and voluntary organisations are more reliant on funding from charitable trusts and foundations (meaning that smaller organisations are more likely to be providing a “free” service to the Probation Service by taking referrals but not being directly funded it). 
• The VCS in the justice sector is increasingly financially vulnerable for the reasons documented and has fewer reserves than the wider VCS. 

Research studies have explored the relationship between the VCS and the Probation Service. Common themes that emerge include the importance of positive working relationships between practitioners from different agencies, the need for clear communication, and the benefits of colocation to certain organisations. 

The impact of an increasingly contractual and competitive environment on the funding, values and independence of the criminal justice voluntary sector has also been studied, with concerns raised about the risks to the autonomy and distinctiveness of the sector. The writing about the sector acknowledges its diversity, and discusses whether all work in partnership with probation and prison is inevitably about control as well as help.

The research also provides evidence to support the argument that the VCS is able to work in ways which are effective, different from the statutory sector, and valued and appreciated by service users. 

6. Benefits of effective relationships between Probation and the Voluntary and Community Sector 

The Probation Service has never been a monopoly provider of rehabilitation support. The problems faced by many of Probation’s service users are best addressed within the community where they live and where there is the range of services that will continue to support them. Probation will always need to rely on partnership with others, both statutory agencies and the VCS, to help to reduce re-offending. Voluntary and community organisations add significantly to the resources accessible to service users, particularly in areas not appropriate for statutory provision. In some instances, the VCS is also able to supplement wider welfare services in the community and to offer help more quickly – for example in alcohol or substance misuse cases. The resources also include mentors, counselling, preparation for education, training and employment, family support, funding for individual needs, shelter and advice. Probation staff are well placed to guide service users to appropriate VCS organisations and to broker their services but are not always sufficiently well informed, trained, motivated or managed to do so to best effect. 

7. Funding and recent developments 

The statutory Probation Service expanded in the early 1980s following the introduction of Parole, Community Service and Suspended Sentence Supervision Orders from the mid-1970s. The contribution of the VCS came more clearly in to view. There was never a golden age of funding, but practitioners with many years’ probation experience recall more positive and collaborative relationships with the VCS. Some probation areas were heavily involved in funding and working in partnership. Others had very little formal relationship. Good partnership work often relied on local relationships at management or even practitioner level. Support for the VCS was sometimes through grant funding or assistance in kind (e.g. staff secondments) rather than through service contracts. 

Pressures in Probation funding (unfunded increasing workloads and management systems) began in the mid-1990s and produced concern for the long-term sufficiency of funding. In this context possible threats to Probation were seen to be the use of “unqualified practitioners”, electronic monitoring, privatisation and the transfer of work to the VCS. Between 2008 and 2015 probation funding was reduced broadly in line with wider criminal justice cuts. The increasing focus on commercial business practice in Probation Areas, and subsequently Probation Trusts, moved the relationship with the VCS onto a more contractual basis. For a time in the 1990s and 2000s Probation Areas were given a target to spend a fixed percentage of their budgets on VCS partnerships. This mirrored the direction that the VCS had already been pushed in its relationships with other statutory providers especially Local Authorities and Health Services. However, there was limited commissioning knowledge or expertise within the probation world and little integration with other, much larger, commissioning structures.

In 2015, the Government initiative “Transforming Rehabilitation” brought the long-anticipated part-privatisation of Probation. There was an expectation that some of the MOJ contracts for the CRCs would be won by the VCS. It was fully expected that the CRCs would contract with the VCS and work collaboratively. Indeed, the CRCs were given the “budgets” and contractual powers for all probation contracts with the VCS. The National Probation Service was (and at the time of writing remains) unable to contract directly. This situation now looks set to change in the light of the recent announcement on the future of the Probation Service. In reality the use of funded partnerships by the CRCs was very limited although it is important to state that the picture has varied between CRCs. If the VCS was presented as an incentive to the private providers this failed to materialise. A report from Clinks in 2018 “Under Represented, Under Pressure and Under Resourced” showed that Transforming Rehabilitation had created a situation in which the “voluntary sector’s role in Probation services is unsustainable”.

As a consequence, a new generation of probation practitioners have decreasing experience of working in effective partnerships with the VCS. Changes made under the Offender Management Act 2007 removed the requirement that offenders be supervised by those qualified as Probation Officers thus reducing opportunities for time during training to develop skills and understanding in effective partnership working. 

At the time of writing, it is anticipated that the newly re-integrated National Probation Service will have a budget of £100 million per year dedicated to funding for partnership work with the VCS and wider independent organisations. This funding is to be managed regionally through the Probation Dynamic Framework from 2020 and will seek to contract for the provision of services including education, training and employment, accommodation, mentoring and counselling. There are continuing concerns that these arrangements and a preference for contracts over grants will favour the larger voluntary organisations and that commissioning will not be local enough to engage smaller organisations closer to communities. The impact of Covid-19 on the VCS is not fully understood at the time of writing but emerging evidence from Clinks is showing that organisations financial sustainability has been significantly impacted and this will also need to be taken into account in future funding arrangements. 

It is anticipated that there will be joint work with Police and Crime Commissioners in commissioning. This should build on the existing examples of good practice where justice has been devolved e.g. in Greater Manchester. 

8. Commissioning and Engaging 

Securing funding is an exacting and resource intensive activity for the VCS. Whether for grants or for a contract, the process for engaging the VCS needs to be accessible and achievable. The process for grant funding is a more accessible process. Funding arrangements that last for a short period are particularly demanding and insecure; therefore we recommend a minimum of two years with break clauses. The VCS should be engaged in the full commissioning cycle from service design to delivery. Many of the services provided by the VCS are within the overall remit of wider public services including health, housing, education, wider justice agencies. Multi agency commissioning leading to shared provision can bring greater understanding of local priorities, needs and risks. It can make better use of resources offering a normalising experience for service users. Examples are found in women’s centres, youth justice and health and wellbeing boards.

10. Confidentiality and protocols 

The exchange of information between Probation and the VCS is very important and is the responsibility of both parties. Information is vital to assessing and managing the risks that may be presented by service users and also to understanding their needs. 

Protocols that set out the arrangements for the recording and sharing of information within a partnership should always: 

• Safeguard appropriate confidentiality for service users. 
• Enable risk assessment and risk management processes. 
• Comply with data protection legislation. 

11. Professional Development and Professional Status 

It is recognised that the majority of voluntary sector organisations have skilled and experienced staff and volunteers but are not always able to access formal qualifications and accreditation due to resource constraints. 

The absence of dedicated funding or a specific requirement for training and skill levels for work in the VCS is an ongoing challenge not only for practitioners in these organisations but also for Responsible Officers, who are qualified either through the Professional Qualification in Probation (a Level 6 qualification) or a Level 3 qualification, and who understandably question the disparity in qualifications between sectors. 

The Apprenticeship model encourages sector wide development and design of shared assessment standards where there are skills and knowledge in common. Such a development through the Apprenticeship Institute would offer the VCS access to funding to train practitioners to a consistent, recognised standard. It could also strengthen confidence in the statutory sector to support collaboration and partnership. 

The Probation Institute is open to all practitioners working in rehabilitation and our view, clearly on record, is that recognition and registration of practitioners should extend across all practitioners and managers working with service users subject to formal court orders, in both statutory and voluntary organisations. 

11. Conclusion 

The Probation Institute will continue working with organisations representing the VCS and with the National Probation Service. We hope that the Principles set out in this paper will contribute to a stronger relationship between Probation and the VCS benefitting both service users and the wider public.

(para 9 isn't missing - there appears to be a numbering error)

Thursday 27 August 2020

The Voluntary Sector in TR2

With some trepidation, lets take a look at a recently published position paper from the Probation Institute on the thorny subject of the voluntary sector and its future under TR2. Over the next couple of days I intend to cover the whole document due to its importance, but will be omitting references. 

1. Introduction 

Position papers produced by the Probation Institute are intended for a wide audience including practitioners, academics, policy leads and senior managers across the justice sector. This paper has been prompted by our wish to help to locate the relationship between the Probation Service and the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in a strong and enduring set of arrangements. To do this we provide some background and both the early and recent history of this relationship. We can see that, at times, Probation has viewed the VCS as encroaching on its core activities, whilst the VCS has seen itself as marginalised and underfunded. Our hope is that we can contribute to ways of moving beyond these challenges towards a genuine meaningful partnership in which both parties, located in communities as far as possible, feel secure about their critical contribution to rehabilitation. 

The paper is produced at a time of significant change resulting from the Government’s decision to fully re-integrate the National Probation Service from June 2021, thereby bringing to a close seven years of partial privatisation; and anticipating the formal engagement of the VCS through a Dynamic Framework operating regionally. The paper sets out principles to guide practitioners, managers and policy makers in Probation and the VCS as they seek to build consistent and constructive partnerships for the future. 

2. Principles of Partnership 

1. The core functions of the National Probation Service must be plainly articulated in order to enable the roles and responsibilities of different organisations to be clear. In our view these are case management and the delivery of core interventions requiring enforcement on behalf of the courts. It seems that this principle has been accepted by Government as of June 2020. 

2. The VCS is very diverse in structure and focus. Organisations working with offenders, victims and their families make a vital contribution to reducing offending, rehabilitation, resettlement and supporting people from desisting from crime. This contribution deserves to be better articulated and valued more highly including by probation practitioners. 

3. To increase stability of funding, grants or contracts used to fund voluntary and community organisations to work in partnership with the Probation Service should be for a minimum of two years with suitable break clauses. The funding mechanism should be grants wherever possible. 

4. Probation practitioner training should include the benefits of partnership work and good practice in collaboration and co-production. 

5. Probation managers’ training and performance outcomes should include the effective development and maintenance of strong relationships with the VCS, particularly awareness of successful partnerships and ways that Probation can work in partnership with the voluntary and community sector to co-produce supporting services. 

6. Grants and contracts for work by the VCS in criminal justice must include provision for appropriate levels of staff training. 

7. The views of probation practitioners and of the voluntary and community sector should be regularly sought on gaps in provision that the VCS is well placed to meet and on the effectiveness of existing local partnerships. 

8. Commissioning with the VCS should be at a sufficiently local level to enable small and medium sized organisations to provide services that meet the needs of particular communities. 

9. Commissioning or engagement of the VCS should be jointly developed by agencies working with Probation in the community responsible for issues including: housing; education, training and employment; and physical and mental health. Police and Crime Commissioners have an important, but not exclusive role, in commissioning. 

10. Clear protocols should exist for information sharing between the VCS and the statutory agencies. 

11. Basic risk training in common with probation practitioners should be accessible to VCS practitioners, some of whom work with individuals who pose a risk of harm. Training must include how to protect staff and when to alert Probation of risk behaviours. 

12. Both the VCS and the Probation Service must be accountable for their practice in a transparent and accessible form which is able to demonstrate the appropriate assessment and management of risk. 

13. The resources and capacity of small voluntary and community organisations offering niche local services to undertake repeated tendering for work must be recognised and supported. There is a particularly strong argument in favour of grant funding for small VCS organisations. 

14. HMIP working with Clinks should inspect the effectiveness of partnership between Probation and the VCS and establish good practice benchmarks, methods of identifying unmet needs and a clear focus on diversity and vulnerable groups. 

15. The Level 3 Apprenticeship for probation practitioners should be reviewed at the earliest possible date to include the skills, knowledge and behaviours required in the VCS. 

16. The Independent Regulatory Body which will be introduced by MOJ for the recognition and registration of probation practitioners must seek ways to also include as a minimum those VCS practitioners who work in partnership with the National Probation Service, addressing the resourcing implications.

3. Background and context 

The Probation Order was initially conceived as a voluntary arrangement based on trust. ‘The probation service has its roots in the voluntary sector and throughout the 20th century voluntary sector organizations have contributed to work with offenders in the community. Some of the activities originally located in the voluntary sector were, with the establishment of the welfare state, subsumed by an expanding public sector, for example the work of the Discharged Prisoner’s Aid Societies became the after-care responsibility of the probation service in the 1960s.

The extent and quality of partnerships between Probation and the VCS has ebbed and flowed over the last 50 years.2 Often these changes have been a reflection of the strength or otherwise of personal relationships or local infrastructure. Probation practitioners recognise the value of social and human capital in reducing reoffending. It is essential that they have the time to develop pro-social professional relationships with the people they supervise and that they support service users in the development of the wider relational aspects of their lives. Strong relationships with the VCS, who also support the needs of service users, help to manage risk and promote desistance.

4. What’s the difference? 

The answer to this question – what is the difference between Probation and the VCS - seems very obvious. Probation is a statutory function accountable directly to government and the courts and enshrined in legislation in which roles and responsibilities are prescribed. VCS organisations largely perform work that is philanthropic, social and non-profit making although they may work in partnership with statutory functions and may be contracted to perform some services that are required by legislation e.g. Through the Gate Services. In general however, the VCS does not get involved in sentence delivery but supports people to address underlying issues that in turn support them to complete their sentence. 

The further consequential differences are also very significant: 

• The National Probation Service which will be responsible for all case management, unpaid work and behavioural change programmes is fully funded by government. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) – currently in place until mid 2021 – are funded by government on a contractual basis. VCS organisations have no consistent funding and rely on grants, contracts and fund raising – all of which have the potential to marginalise the primary aims of the organisations 

• The VCS is governed by Boards – mainly of Trustees - to whom the organisations are accountable. Trustees of charities are accountable to the Charity Commission to ensure that the Charity works in pursuance of its own charitable objects and values. The National Probation Services is accountable in a similar way for adherence to policy set by the Ministry of Justice. 

• As non-state entities the voluntary and community sector can engender greater trust than statutory agencies. • Whereas the Probation Service can offer permanent contracts with job security, the majority of VCS organisations cannot offer the same level of security of employment so there is generally less stability in the VCS. 

• Probation practitioners have a required and funded training regime which includes a range of specific qualifications. Training in the VCS varies considerably and is often on a needs led basis. Many organisations in the VCS invest in training for their own staff and/ or provide aspects of specialist training for statutory organisations. The VCS has neither a requirement for specific training nor is it specifically funded to train staff or volunteers. 

• The VCS is able to focus on charitable aims and outputs which may include practical support, mentoring, help with addiction, housing, education, training and employment. The objectives of Probation are to reduce re-offending and to protect the public. Successful probation work relies on services provided in the community, but Probation is not resourced to provide these directly. 

• The VCS is able to operate with greater flexibility, speed of change and innovation in response to service user need, partly due to funding drivers. VCS organisations have worked increasingly to involve their service users in service delivery and governance. The value of this has only recently being recognised within probation policy making. 

• VCS organisations can be very specific in their focus and develop in depth knowledge and specialism - for example working only with BAME people, women, substance users, with foreign nationals or young people. The Probation Service must work with all those sentenced by the courts who fall under its remit. 

• The strength of the VCS often derives from its specialist expertise and particularly on local or regional focus. Few VCS organisations have national reach, whereas Probation must offer the same services throughout England and Wales. 

• The culture and language that has grown up in the VCS is different from the commercial and management culture that has become a characteristic of many public sector and current private sector probation organisations, although it is the case that larger VCS organisations have also adopted a commercial culture. Proposed changes to the ways in which probation services are delivered offer the opportunity to review and realign both culture and language.

to be continued

Monday 24 August 2020

Transfer Process Begins 2

The guidance referred to in the most recent Napo bulletin:-  

Probation Reform Programme - Updated Assignment Guidance (August 2020) 

This guidance material has been produced by the Probation Reform Programme and aims to support the transfer of staff from one organisation to another as part of the implementation of the new probation model in June 2021.

1. Introduction 

This guidance broadly sets out the principles of staff transfer and thereby aims to ensure that employees have a consistent experience of assignment during mobilisation. 

Transfers of staff to HMPPS (NPS) will be undertaken by way of Staff Transfer Scheme(s) (based on the principles of TUPE) using powers contained within the Offender Management Act 2007. 

Transfers of staff to Dynamic Framework providers will be undertaken by way of the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment Regulations (TUPE). 

This guidance document follows the principles already set out in the Role Assignment Guidance published previously and used for Wales in 2019 and is adapted to suit the current context in England and Wales. 

Population scope of assignment activity 

It should be noted that employees and/or workers (as defined in section 230(3)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996) of the CRC, their parent organisation, supply chain and subcontractors could be in-scope to transfer and should be considered as part of the assignment process. Employment status should be identified based on how such individuals are currently treated by the engaging organisation for employment law purposes. Eligible employees could include those on fixed-term contracts but not agency workers, independent (self-employed) contractors or sessional workers who cannot be categorised as either an employee or worker as outlined above. 

The assignment outcome would only be subject to change due to: appeal, a change in role, or formal objection to the transfer by the individual. 


This assignment guidance document is an authority produced / owned product that has been discussed and shared with NPS National Trade Unions. 

2. Pre-Assignment Assessment 

Employers must put arrangements in place so that line managers and potentially affected employees agree: 
  • the substantive role (not any temporary role e.g. acting-up or loan) held that will be used for assessment purposes; and 
  • what information will be used for the assessment e.g. Job Descriptions or other written information agreed by the employee and line manager; Employers must make “special provisions” i.e. reasonable endeavours to notify employees who are temporarily absent from the workplace to include them in the assignment process; 
3. Assignment Assessment 

The assignment process will apply a general principle that ‘the people follow the work’ i.e. eligible staff (CRC staff, parent organisation staff, CRC supply chain staff, Sub-Contractor staff) in scope will transfer wherever their work transfers, provided they are assigned to an ‘organised grouping’ delivering services/activities in-scope to transfer.

When undertaking assignment current employers should refer to: 
  • Details of the service definitions for NPS and DF services provided by the Authority. Please see Annex A 
  • This guidance document including the assignment process flow chart at Annex B 
  • An individual’s information. 
All relevant substantive roles should be considered as part of the assessment, vacancies could also be considered. Where a member of staff is temporarily covering another role, they should be considered in their substantive role. 

The performance and capability of employees is not relevant to the assignment process. 

The following underlying assignment principles should be considered when undertaking the assessment: 
  • Consider if the individuals role is part of an organised grouping which has the principal purpose of carrying out the services that are transferring and whether the individual’s role is assigned to that group other than on a temporary basis. 
  • Consider whether the role is wholly or mainly involved in delivering the activity attached to the transferring services. If a role is split across more than one activity, or covers other work not related to probation services, then the individual may not be assigned to an organised grouping or may not be wholly or mainly delivering the transferring activity, and may not transfer. 
  • Consider how the service is organised and arranged i.e. if the service was deliberately set up to support a particular area i.e. dedicated support or do they provide services across other elements of the future model. 
  • Consider the percentage of time spent on the transferring service. This will often be indicative of whether the role an employee/worker occupies is assigned to the service and in scope to transfer but will not always be determinative. There will be cases where other elements will need to be considered as part of the bigger picture. 
However, the general position is outlined below. 
  • In the context of the Probation Reform Programme a current employee could find that their role is solely dedicated to what will in the future be one part of the future model or it could be split between activities that in the future will fit with two parts of the future model (NPS & DF). 
  • Where a role is 100% focused on the transferring services / activity then it should be assigned to that part of the future model (NPS or DF); 
  • Where a role is less than 100% focused on the transferring services / activity then it should be considered in one of the following ways: 
  • More than 50% of time delivering one element of the transferring service/activity - assign the role to that part of the future model. 
  • Less than 50% of time delivering the transferring service / activity - the role would potentially not be essentially dedicated to the transferring service / activity and may not be eligible for transfer and will not be assigned.
  • Spends exactly 50% of time delivering the transferring service/activity - consider the nature and extent of work carried out during that time, is the activity shared equally or does one aspect merely take longer to carry out. The views of the role holder should be considered when arriving at the final assignment outcome. 
  • Where activities to be carried out following the transfer are "fundamentally the same" as those carried out pre-transfer, those assigned to such organised grouping wholly or mainly involved in the delivery of the service / activity would be in scope to transfer. The activities should not become overly fragmented i.e. the more split up the activities become between different providers the less likely it is that staff transfer will apply. The activities should remain fundamentally the same. If the work activities are fundamentally different after the transfer then staff transfer will not apply. 
  • In borderline cases consideration will need to be given to factors such as 
o the amount of value and time given to other parts of the business (i.e. nonprobation related services) 
o the managerial responsibility held over various parts of the business (NPS or DF), o the internal charging mechanisms/the allocation of the cost of the employees’ role to particular parts of the business 
o the description of the duties in the contract of employment (taking into account that duties may differ in practice). 
o Whether seen as an integral part of the business being transferred. 

Absence from the Workplace 

Those absent from the workplace, for whatever reason, will generally be included in the process (maternity leave, absence, career break, secondment, suspension etc). Where an employee is on long-term sick leave, it is only where the absence can be viewed as permanent and there is no expectation that the employee will be returning to work to participate in activities that their absence will exclude them from being in scope – what constitutes a reasonable expectation of the employee returning is a question of fact. Any decision to exclude on the basis that there is no prognosis of a return to work must be managed on a case by case basis and supported by clear evidence including advice from occupational health. 

Where an individual is absent from the office it will be their role immediately before the absence commenced which will be considered for the assignment process. 

Where an individual is seconded out of the organisation it will be their role immediately prior to going on secondment that will be considered for the assignment process. 

Where an individual is seconded into the organisation from another organisation they are not eligible to be considered for transfer as they remain the responsibility of their employer.

Corporate Services and Support Services Roles 

A service definition for corporate or support services roles has not been provided however the expectation will be that current employers use the assignment principles outlined in the assignment assessment section of this guidance document and the details of the roles based on the current operating model to undertake the assignment assessment. 

Whether staff in these roles are in-scope or not may depend on the principles set out in the section above i.e. ‘Assignment Assessment’. 
  • Whether they are part of an organised grouping 
  • whether they are wholly / mainly assigned to the transferring services / activity e.g. do they solely service a particular part of the future model (NPS or DF) 
Dynamic Framework 

For DF the following principles should be followed when considering assignment; 
  • Non- Day 1 Services – the current working assumption is that the Non-Day 1 services will not be commissioned for the transfer date. If staff are not delivering Day 1 services they would not be assigned and would not transfer. The Authority is currently working with key stakeholders within NPS to confirm whether or not these services will be part of any regional commissioning strategy and will update current employers if this is confirmed. 
  • Staff who are split across regions/PCCs or activities - As part of the DF MVP, some of the DF Day 1 services will be commissioned at a regional level (Accommodation & ETE) and some will be commissioned at PCC level (personal wellbeing, women's services). The assignment of employees/workers that fall into this category will always be a question of fact and the above assignment principles should be followed. 
4. Assignment Decision 

Employees must be notified of the assignment outcome in writing and must be advised of their right to appeal and the timescales of this process. 


The only grounds for appeal are: 
  • Incorrect substantive role used for assessment – details of the correct role need to be provided with the appeal; 
  • Incorrect role information used for assessment – further role information must be submitted with the appeal; 
  • Where a role (with the same work content / functions) is treated differently in the assignment assessment; 
  • Where this guidance has not been adhered to and this has materially affected the assignment decision. 
  •  Appeals need to have been received by the specified local submission point within 15 working days of the date of the assignment letter.
  •  Appeals will be considered and the outcome confirmed in writing within 10 working days of the date the appeal is received. 
  •  Appeals will be considered by a panel which will include a minimum 2 people (different from those who made the original decision and with appropriate expertise). 
  •  There will be no further internal avenue of appeal. 
5. Due Diligence by the receiving organisation (HMPPS-NPS) 

Once current employers have completed the assignment, receiving organisations will undertake the necessary due diligence to confirm that they agree with the assessment of the staff assigned to transfer to HMPPS (NPS). The receiving DF organisations/successful DF bidders, will liaise directly with the current employers to validate employees/workers that have been assigned to transfer to the DF. 

Changes following assignment 
  • Treatment of staff who secure a substantive job move (level transfer or promotion) after the assignment but ahead of the transfer date – if vacancies have been assigned then the successful candidate will know where the role is assigned - this will supersede their previous assignment. 
  • If a new substantive role is created after the assignment process but before the date at which no further recruitment is permitted (to be agreed locally) – the new role will be considered using the same assignment assessment and the outcome will be made clear to any applicants for the role.