Monday 31 May 2021

A Good Thing

I'm going to stick my neck out here and state that some things in life fall clearly into a category that most informed people would be content to label 'a good thing'. Probation used to be one of them, but sadly no longer as it approaches full command and control of HMPPS next month. On the other hand 'Circles' clearly does and I notice they've just published a final report. Readers will recall that HMPPS disgracefully pulled the funding of this imaginative and innovative way of working in 2018. (Charts and diagrams omitted here).      

Celebrating the Completing the Circle Project: widening access to Circles for people convicted of sexual offences 

Circles UK recently hosted an on-line seminar to celebrate the successes of the ‘Completing the Circle’ project and the lessons arising from it. The ‘Completing the Circle’ project was an ambitious four-year programme which sought to end the ‘postcode lottery’ of access to the community safety and rehabilitative benefits of Circles. 

What are Circles (‘Circles of Support and Accountability’)? 

Circles UK’s vision is of ‘no more victims’. Its mission is to enhance public safety by working with individuals who have sexually abused others, and are at risk of doing so again, to self-manage inappropriate thoughts and behaviours, reintegrate safely into society, and lead responsible lives. 

The Circles model (also known as Circles of Support and Accountability) is a complementary approach which harnesses the strengths and resources of local people to augment the statutory risk management of sexual harm causers in the community. In the Circles model the abuser becomes the ‘Core Member’ of an ‘inner Circle’ made up of 4-6 professionally trained and supervised Volunteers. The Circle seeks to prevent further sexual abuse by reducing stigma and social isolation; factors known to be strongly associated with sexual recidivism. The Circle focuses on a person’s ‘positives’ and ‘strengths’ and seeks to support him/her to access safe social outlets and opportunities, avoid dangerous and enabling situations and behaviours and manage day to day challenges. In so doing the Circle serves to reduce the risk of reoffending associated with alienation and the attendant risk of harm to existing and potential victims. 

Circles UK was established in 2008 to set up and oversee organisations to deliver Circles in England and Wales. Organisations which run Circles must become members of Circles UK and operate within the requirements of a Code of Practice. These Circles ‘Providers’, as they are known, are also subject to biennial audits by Circles UK to ensure that quality and safety standards are maintained. There are currently nine Circles Providers working across England and Wales. 

Since 2008 over 900 Circles have run successfully with a known reoffending rate of less than 7%. 

What was the Completing the Circle Project? 

In 2015, the National Lottery Community Fund awarded over £2million to a consortium of Circle Providers, led by Circles UK. This consortium was given just 4 years to set up and run 188 new Circles in parts of England and Wales where they had not existed before. As the intention of the project was to ensure that communities in every part of the country would have access to Circles, the project was called ‘Completing the Circle, or ‘CtC’ for short. Circles delivery was expanded to five previously un-served parts of the country - Merseyside, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, and London.

What were the main successes?
  • All 188 Circles were established and completed in the parts of the country where no such service has been available before.
  • 778 Volunteers were recruited, trained, and closely supervised to provide the 188 new Circles.
  • In addition to many hours of mandatory core training, 291 Volunteers received additional supplemental training.
  • 103 Volunteers were supported to achieve National Open College Network accredited certification.
  • These Volunteers gave 35,976 hours of their time to help reduce sexual harm within their communities and roughly the same amount of time travelling to and from Circle meetings and activities.
  • The goal of helping sexual harm causers (Core Members in a Circle) to safely reintegrate into their communities was achieved. An independent evaluation showed that dynamic risk factors reduced and ‘protective’ factors across a range of variables, including employment, purposeful activities and hobbies, stable emotional relationships, and emotional wellbeing, improved.
Areas in England and Wales where Circles were successfully established due to the Completing the Circle project:

Lancashire 13 Circles
Notts/Derby 24 Circles
Merseyside 25 Circles
Lincolnshire 13 Circles
Northants 19 Circles
London 94 Circles

Volunteer hours 35,976

How were these results achieved – a case study 

To illustrate some of the issues that had to be overcome to make the project such a success, the London roll out will be used as a case study. London was the largest of the geographical areas involved in the project. There are more registered sex offenders (RSOs) living in the capital city than in any other area of England and Wales, with recent Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures reporting 6,581 Registered Sex Offenders being managed under Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). Even though the benefits of adding Circles to the existing range of public protection measures in London were self-evident from the start and the project was welcomed by statutory and other-sector partners, establishing 94 new Circles from scratch without pre-existing infrastructures, partnership relationships or a volunteer recruitment strategy in place presented significant challenges. 

What were the main challenges and how were they overcome?

Establishing effective multi-agency collaboration and information sharing protocols across the entire London area was a complex task requiring the Circle Provider in London to engage with multiple agencies and service providers within each of the London boroughs. It was achieved through the creation of a multi-agency steering group which developed and agreed protocols and agreed a Memorandum of Understanding. This took time to negotiate but was eventually signed off by all the key partners.

Once the project was operational, attention turned to promotion and referrals. Partnership agencies wanted delivery to be rolled out ‘clockwise’ beginning in the south west boroughs, so Circle Coordinators attended regional Senior Management Board and Cluster Management Meetings and delivered presentations at individual Offender Management Units throughout this area. Referral enquiries were slow to materialise, however, and to keep the project on target the roll out strategy had to be re-negotiated, with the outcome that agreement was secured to allow referrals to come in city-wide.

Understandably, some of the Volunteers who had already been recruited and trained to work in the south west of London chose not to continue at this point. In response, a pan-London recruitment initiative was developed, urgently targeting universities, volunteer bureaus, retirement, and religious/belief groups etc. across all boroughs to find citizens willing and able to volunteer in the areas where referrals existed.

This solution, though productive, threw up a new set of demands. Matching Service Users, Volunteers and restricted staff resources across a larger area was exacting. Multiple Volunteer training events had to be organised and the travel and time demands upon both Volunteers and Coordinators grew. Staff workloads, which had originally been calculated based on a restricted geographical patch, also increased. Indeed, the decision to promote the project and recruit Volunteers from across the entire London area, though constructive, stretched the staff group significantly. Hard work and tenacity on their part carried things through. In addition, where funding allowed, extra staff were recruited.

As the project moved on it became evident that a high proportion of referrals were for individuals resettled in London from other areas of the country. Many of these people were unfamiliar with local services. Often, they struggled to meet expensive travel costs as well. Similar issues emerged for some of the London based students who chose to volunteer. Higher than anticipated levels of staff turnover among the referring agencies also occurred, which was found to impact on communication and pace. To address these issues a lot of additional time was given over to supporting and enabling participation and engagement. It was also spent nurturing and maintaining relationships with partnership colleagues.

A concerted recruitment drive and tenacious programme of awareness raising took place alongside these efforts. Circle Coordinators visited individual Probation offices, attended MOSOVO meetings and spoke at partnership meetings. They ran stalls at Volunteer recruitment fairs, gave presentations at universities and set up a scheme to encourage established Volunteers to recruit their friends. As a result of these efforts, by early 2018 target ‘catch up’ had largely been achieved and the project was on course to complete in full and on time.

Then, in March 2018, her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) announced that all probation funding for Circles would end in September 2018. This decision was unexpected. In the preceding 15 months Circles UK had engaged in detailed discussions with HMPPS officials to introduce a nationally commissioned contract, a process which built upon a longstanding relationship between the Circles network and the Ministry of Justice/Probation Service. Even though funding for the London Circles came from the National Lottery Fund (and required no direct funding from probation or other statutory agencies), confusion and uncertainty resulted among Probation senior managers and staff. The result was that many referrals were withdrawn or suspended on the mistaken premise that all Circles delivery had ceased with immediate effect. Crisis discussions were entered at the highest level with the Ministry of Justice and senior probation officials. As a result, referrals for Circles in London were reinstated and the project was able to continue. Significant delays had, however, been caused.

Despite the challenges faced, by October 2019 the goal of establishing 94 Circles in London had been achieved. Multi Agency relationships have remained robust ever since. The pay-off delivered by the project in London is such that the National Probation Service has since provided ongoing funding. Financial support has also been given by the City Bridge Trust. That the people of London still benefit from the improvements in public protection afforded by Circles is testament to the creative ‘can-do’ attitude of Circle Volunteers and staff. Their example is repeated across the country.

Results by Borough

Circles were provided in 30 of the 32 boroughs – an outstanding achievement for a small staff team, particularly given the challenges and setbacks they encountered.


This article/blog has outlined the successes, challenges and learning of the operational delivery of the Completing the Circle project. It does not include the results of an independent evaluation of the project. This can be found in a separate article/blog which can be accessed here. 

Circles UK would like to express its sincere appreciation to the National Lottery for funding the project, the Sexual Offences, Crime and Misconduct Research Unit (SOCMRU), Nottingham Trent University and the Circles Providers who participated as delivery partners. These were: 

• Circles South East 
• The Safer Living Foundation 
• Change, Grow, Live 
• re;shape (no longer operational) 
• CROPT (no longer operational)

Saturday 29 May 2021

HMPPS Silence

It will not have gone unnoticed that there's been a conspicuous silence from the upper echelons of HMPPS following yesterday's astonishing conclusions by the inquest jury in the Usman Khan case. These Twitter exchanges by prominent criminal justice insiders spell out the issues:-  

John Podmore - The catastrophic failings revealed today at the #FishmongersHall inquest were the result of highly skilled forensic work by counsel for the coroner, Saskia, & Jack’s family @njbarmstrong. The SFO review by @HMIProbation found no such failures. Questions for @RobertBuckland

John Podmore - There remains, to the best of my knowledge, no statement from anyone in HMPPS nor any media interviews. If your job is to protect the public you should speak to it when you fail.

Ian Acheson - Certainly the SFO if not in public domain needs to be made immediately and fully available for scrutiny. This isn't good enough.

John Podmore - An urgent statement is required by @JNRussell10 and immediate publication of the SFO review. There are serious questions about the independence of the probation inspectorate.

This from the Guardian:-

Fishmongers’ Hall inquest laid bare failure to act on warning signs

Analysis: Evidence revealed MI5 missed series of opportunities to stop terrorist Usman Khan

When MI5 marked its own homework over the Fishmongers’ Hall attack, it concluded there was nothing it could have done to stop Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist, from killing Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones.

But evidence presented to the inquest into their deaths casts doubt on this rosy self-assessment and the jury criticised “missed opportunities for those with expertise”. Six weeks of testimony detailed numerous failed chances to stop Khan and a series of glaring warning signs about his behaviour and state of mind in the run-up to the attack.

MI5, the police and the probation service, all knew that Khan was due to go to a prisoner education event at the hall adjacent to London Bridge on 29 November 2019. But they did nothing to stop him or even take the precaution of sending a police escort.

The apparent failures stretched back to 2018, when Khan was automatically released on licence after serving eight years for trying to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan. In prison he was known as “High Risk Khan” with a record that ran to more than 2,000 pages. It detailed Khan’s violence, extremism, bullying and association with some of the most dangerous men on the prison estate including Charles Bronson, Lee Rigby’s killer Michael Adebowale; and the hate preachers Anjem Choudary and Abu Hamza.

In prison, Khan got into creative writing when attending courses organised by Learning Together, a prisoner education initiative run by Cambridge University. Khan was regarded as “poster boy” for the initiative, the inquest heard. And it was this that created a “blind spot” to his “unique risks”, the jury found. Fatally, Khan was invited to the Fishmongers’ Hall alumni event.

In the run-up to his release in December 2019, there was prison intelligence that Khan planned to “return to his old ways” and was intent on planning an attack. MI5 assessed that Khan’s threat level to the public had increased, reopened an investigation into him and began a covert surveillance operation when Khan was released into an approved hostel in Stafford.

Special branch officers at West Midlands and Staffordshire police knew about this troubling intelligence. But it was kept secret from those responsible for Khan’s overt management: his probation officer, Ken Skelton, and a Prevent team at Stafford police, led by Sgt Calum Forsyth. The inquest was told that such information is not always shared for fear of inadvertent disclosure.

Last year, the independent reviewer of terrorism, Jonathan Hall, QC recommended “wider sharing with probation officers not only of specific intelligence but also of threat assessments and profiles”.

Skelton and Forsyth did not even know MI5 was investigating Khan. With no knowledge of the intelligence that Khan could be intent on an attack, Skelton and Forsyth regarded the event as a positive opportunity for his rehabilitation. For its part, MI5 did not know the event was due to take place in the hall until a week before, and yet Skelton and Forsyth had known about the location for months.

Khan’s risk to the public was discussed by the police and probation service at regular multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) meetings. MI5 attended some of these meetings unbeknown to fellow attendees Skelton and Forsyth.

A senior MI5 figure, referred to only as Witness A, was asked repeatedly at the inquest why MI5 did not raise objections when in August it first heard of Khan’s event in London. “We had got no intelligence to indicate any concern,” she replied. And yet at around this time MI5 and counter-terrorism police had intervened to stop Khan being allowed to train as a dumper truck driver. They feared Khan could use a heavy vehicle as a terrorist weapon.

By November, MI5 was about to wind down the investigation into Khan. And according to Witness A, it regarded the Fishmongers’ Hall event as “a possible opportunity to obtain greater coverage around Khan to better understand his mindset” to check before closing the investigation.

In hindsight, there were already signs that Khan’s mood was darkening in the run-up to the attack. Mentors assigned to him under the government’s desistance programme, reported he was growing frustrated with his inability to find work. But his twice-weekly visits with mentors came to an abrupt halt in August 2019 because of a contract dispute between the firm providing the service and the Home Office. No replacements were found even during the “critical time” in September, when Khan moved to his own flat.

In the weeks that followed police were concerned that Khan was becoming isolated – a trait that a prison psychologist had identified as a warning sign of trouble. On 14 November, counter-terrorism police ordered a visit to Khan’s flat. Officers found seven editions of Assassins’ Creed, a violent video game in which users kill fictitious enemies with weapons including a blade concealed in an arm holster. A police request to photograph these games upset Khan, who described it as a “breakdown in trust”. Two weeks later he killed Merritt and Jones with knives strapped to his arms.

Despite their surveillance, MI5 failed to spot that Khan purchased a set of kitchen knives a day before the attack, together with materials for a fake suicide vest. But they already knew about his preoccupation with knives. In early 2019, MI5 officers were given a copy of a play Khan had written about a knife killer released from a secure institution. It features an investigation into whether the murders could have been prevented. The play “didn’t give cause for concern”, according to MI5.

MI5 has pledged that it will share more intelligence in future. But it insisted it did all it could in Khan’s case. The jury found “serious deficiencies in the management of Khan by Mappa.”

Thursday 27 May 2021

Probation News

Only a few weeks until the big change and there's an ominous lack of chatter, even on the Facebook page to a suggestion it be renamed and people campaign for a service with greater independence and less government control. The conspicuous lack of interest is both telling and hugely depressing. So, in that context, three pieces of information that may be of interest, but having said that, I can find no reference to the source of this posted anonymously yesterday:-

Couldn't find anything on napo web site, but unison's seems to be much more accessible.

1. This Scheme will apply to voluntary redundancy (VR/voluntary severance (VS) exits made by the NPS (and DF providers in respect of any CRC staff that transfer to them) as part of the transition to the Unified Model in 2021.

2. The Scheme will be in place for two years, starting 25th June 2021 and will apply to employees who were CRC staff and who transferred under the June 2021 transfers and who leave NPS/DF employment before 25th June 2023.

3. The provisions will apply in all cases of VR/VS arising as a direct consequence of the Probation Reform Programme and will remain in operation till 25th June 2023.

4. The decision in respect of individual applications on whether to award voluntary redundancy/voluntary severance is at HMPPS (NPS) discretion and will include consideration of, amongst other things, the exigencies of the service, organisational issues and business needs.

5. Exit payments will be made in accordance with all statutory provisions in place at their date of payment."

Have you got 15 years' service? Tempted to quit? Seems you're eligible for a £67,500 payout. Even 10 years' service lands you £45,000. Beats the disgraceful, pitiful insult that was the £20,000-ish severance paid to staff with up to 20 years' service by the CRCs back in 2015/16.



Income and Expenditure

The total income of the union for the period was £1,221,918. This amount included payments of £1,157,000 in respect of membership of the union. The union’s total expenditure for the period was £1,672,029. The union does not maintain a political fund.

Salary paid to and other benefits provided to the General Secretary, President and members of the Executive

The current General Secretary of the union was paid £85,044 in respect of salary and £5,044 in respect of Pension.


Probation Changes Bulletin - Issue 10 - May 2021 

1. Introduction from Amy Rees, Director General of Probation and Wales

Welcome to our latest bulletin, reporting on key updates and progress across our three probation programmes – reform, workforce and recovery. June 26 is a huge milestone for us this year when we welcome CRC colleagues and come together as one new unified probation service.

Last week HMIP published their thematic report into our work across probation in preparing for unification, which was positive about our readiness for June. This followed a review between October 2020 and February 2021 that covered our regions, regional probation directors, members of the programme team and external stakeholders.

Once we have completed these structural changes, our focus will turn to the implementation of our Target Operating Model published in February and delivering excellent probation services - more on this from Jim Barton below.

I also wanted to highlight the recently published Justice Select Committee (JSC) report on the “Future of the Probation Service”. The JSC took written then oral evidence from a range of witnesses from July – December 2020. The report is supportive of our unification plans and outlines a number of recommendations around assurance, which we will now be taking forward.

We continue to progress well with our organisational recovery and resuming the services we had to temporarily pause in response to the pandemic wherever it has been safe to do so. As the UK Government and Welsh Government ease restrictions, we have been regularly reviewing our plans and adapting to changing circumstances. Ian Barrow provides an update on our recovery progress along with an update on our Workforce programme below.

With our continued focus on providing those leaving prison with the support needed to stop them reoffending and protect communities, Hannah Meyer, Executive Director, Reducing Reoffending, Partnerships and Accommodation, provides an update on some of the important work underway in this cross-Government programme.

Finally, I would like to thank staff across the probation service for their adaptability and ongoing commitment as we move forward and start to see a semblance of normality. There is still a long way to go, but I am confident that with the exceptional teams we have in place, we will meet the challenges, implement our exciting reforms and continue to deliver our essential services to protect the public, reduce reoffending and change lives.

2. Update from Jim Barton, SRO, Probation Reform Programme

As Amy mentions, our focus remains on delivering our much-needed reforms from 26 June, when we will welcome NPS and CRC staff to our new, strong unified service, and begin working closer together to protect the public and help people lead law-abiding and positive lives.

We are focused on ensuring those joining the service in our 11 new probation regions across England and one in Wales experience a smooth transition. This applies equally to staff who will work directly within the new service and those in our Commissioned Rehabilitative Service providers. While many people will be doing the same role, in the same location and with the same manager from 26 June, some will experience a change in role, team, job title or job description. To support people through this change, we have set up a role alignment process to align professional qualifications for those joining our new service from CRCs, where their roles require them to do so.

The process of transferring the technology for staff at CRC parent organisations is in full swing, with increasing numbers now having access to the full range of Ministry of Justice online tools and resources as they take delivery of their new laptops and smartphones.

From 26 June, Accredited Programmes, Structured Interventions, Unpaid Work and Senior Attendance Centres will be delivered in house by our new probation service as before, with only a few small changes taking effect.

Probation practitioners will have a suite of interventions available to them, with Accredited Programmes and Structured Interventions delivered by our interventions teams, Commissioned Rehabilitative Services (CRS) delivered through the Dynamic Framework and Approved Toolkits delivered by probation practitioners. For interventions delivered via the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR), probation practitioners will allocate RAR days post sentence and select and sequence interventions that address the most significant areas of need linked to offending behaviour.

Unpaid Work will continue to be delivered as predominantly a punishment. From 26 June, staff sourcing Unpaid Work work placements will ensure sufficient high quality, local placements are obtained which meets the needs of individual service users. Senior Attendance Centres will continue to be delivered in their current locations.

From 26 June, the Interventions design team will work with the regions and their local interventions teams to plan for transition to the new end state operating models for Accredited Programmes, Structured Interventions, Unpaid Work and Senior Attendance Centres.

The process and timeframes for probation practitioners to complete the Unpaid Work assessment and screening are currently being reviewed and an update will be provided.

We have continued to commission a range of services (CRS) and award contracts to specialist external providers to meet key areas of rehabilitative services: Accommodation; Employment, Training and Education; Personal Wellbeing; and Women’s Services. The contracted providers of these commissioned rehabilitative services will work closely with probation practitioners and community interventions teams to ensure that the best outcomes are achieved for people on probation.

Finally, as part of the programme’s community engagement and recruitment initiative, a number of colleagues have been working with Year 10 students from School 21 on the Real World Project (“RWP”), which matches students with employers to work on a real life project over the course of a term. School 21 is a state-funded pioneering free school in Stratford, East London, for children from all backgrounds and programme colleagues have been working with students on a solution to the problem of ‘How can probation improve engagement of 18-25 year olds on Community Orders?’ The group have worked hard to understand the issue and generate possible solutions. The group have settled on a proposal which it is hoped may feed into broader thinking on how probation might develop lived experience mentoring. The RWP work has helped raise awareness with young people about the work of the probation services, in the hope that they may one day want to come and join us. It is part of a larger piece of work under way in in the programme, improving the way we work with 18-25 year olds managed by probation.

I remain incredibly proud of the quality and pace of the work from colleagues across the programme as we ready ourselves for 26 June to create a unified probation service that keeps the public safe, supports victims of crime and gives the right rehabilitative support to address the often-complex causes of offending.

3. Update from Ian Barrow, SRO, Workforce Programme

A huge amount of work continues as we meet each of our commitments set out in the Probation Workforce Strategy. This includes the first National Probation Service Recruitment and Retention Strategy which was launched at the beginning of April following extensive engagement from colleagues and stakeholders across HMPPS.

The strategy details our approach and commitment to recruitment and retention over the next three years. In June we will transition to the new unified delivery model, and this strategy provides clarity on our priorities and reassurance of continuity throughout this period and for the future.

We have also just launched our Probation Workforce Equality, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging (EDIB) Action Plan. Our unified probation service is about more than structural changes, it is about our staff and enabling them to deliver an excellent professional service. The EDIB Action Plan sets out a 12-month plan focussing on four key areas:
  • Attracting and retaining a diverse workforce that better reflects the diversity of our society and people on probation
  • Creating an environment that values equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging
  • Embedding equalities, diversity and inclusion into our policies, processes and governance to support all staff in reaching their potential
  • Building an inclusive culture through effective leadership and management
I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed their time and thoughts to help us to shape this strategy and to the enthusiasm of our staff as we continue to bring our workforce strategy to life.

4. Update from Ian Barrow, SRO, Recovery Programme

We continue to make progress with our Probation recovery as set out in our plan wherever it is safe to do so for staff and people on probation and appropriate for local circumstances. We continue to work closely with Trade Union colleagues nationally and locally to ensure ongoing engagement with our recovery work. We have reviewed the recent announcements by both the UK and Welsh Governments on national recovery plans to ensure we remain in line with government and public health guidance.

We intend to introduce lateral flow home testing arrangements for our staff in the coming weeks and aim to have most, if not all of our sites delivering testing by the beginning of May, following the successful roll-out to date. Home testing kits will shortly be provided for staff, enabling them to test themselves at home and report their results.

Delivery of Unpaid Work continues to improve. The reopening of non-essential shops and stores on 12 April, as per the national roadmap, allows us to review and where appropriate re-start indoor unpaid work placements which we hope will result in a further positive upturn in the delivery of Unpaid Work as community groups and charity shops begin to operate once again. The number of people attending placements will be guided by risk assessments for individual sites.

Preparations for restarting face-to-face Accredited Programmes group work are well underway with both NPS and CRC considering resuming small groups (2-3 participants) and where circumstances permit, standard delivery (4- 12 participants). Regional Probation Directors and CRCs will take decisions around delivery levels, based on local circumstances.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone throughout the probation system for all the hard work that has gone into supporting recovery activity.

5. Update from Hannah Meyer – Executive Director, Reducing Reoffending, Partnerships and Accommodation

Work on the Reducing Reoffending Delivery Programme is now well underway. The Cross-Government Programme seeks to cut crime and reduce reoffending by providing more support to prison leavers to find a home, a job and treatment for any substance misuses issues. People who leave prison without this vital support are more likely to reoffend.

In January, the Government announced a £220m package to cut crime, including £50m to get more prison leavers into stable accommodation and £80m to give more support to offenders with addiction problems.

A new Community Accommodation Service has been set up, bringing together Approved Premises and Bail and Support Services with a new service for prison leavers without stable accommodation. The new service is being developed in five regions and will provide basic, transitional housing which will deliver accommodation for prison leavers at risk of homelessness for up to three months. While there, people will get help to find a permanent home so there is less reason for them to turn back to crime.

We are also working closely with sixteen prisons to reduce reoffending and improve outcomes for prisoners and prison leavers across four key reducing reoffending pathways: education, health, employment and accommodation. Specifically, this will include rapidly designing and testing several new specialist roles. Recruitment for these roles has been launched and we expect the first candidates to begin to take up their posts in the coming weeks.

The Approved Premises Expansion Programme (APEX) is progressing well. An extra 200 new spaces are being created in APs by 2023, providing stable accommodation to prison leavers. APs help lower the risk of reoffending and, in turn, reduce crime rates.

Most notably, Eden House in Bristol is due to open during the summer. It will be the first new AP to open in nearly 30 years and will be for women returning to the community after serving time in prison. It will have capacity for up to 26 women, seeking to reduce their risk to the public and helping them to find permanent homes and work.

Tuesday 25 May 2021

PSR Before Plea

It's not a return to PSRs in not guilty cases - yes we used to - but I'm not at all sure we've covered this aspect of PSRs, apparently brought about as a consequence of Covid-19. This from NPS and Law Society last October:- 

Pre-Sentence Report Before Plea 


The purpose of this document is to create a clear operational process, so that pre-sentence reports can be prepared in advance of the magistrates’ court taking a plea at the first hearing. The signatories to the protocol have a responsibility to comply with it and the court and Crown Prosecution Service are encouraged to facilitate it. 

Legal basis 
  • The parties have a duty to actively assist the court by early communication to establish the defendant’s likely plea at the first available opportunity.
  • The court has a duty to obtain a pre-sentence report before considering community or custodial sentences unless it decides such a report is unnecessary. 
  • The statutory definition of a pre-sentence report means a court may consider a presentence report which it has not commissioned, to meet its duty.
  • The process also preserves the taking of a guilty plea by the court, following a clear acknowledgement of guilt.

The process will mutually benefit the court, defendant and criminal justice partners as it will: 
  • enable the court, in suitable cases, to proceed efficiently and expeditiously to sentence following a guilty plea without adjourning or standing the case down for a pre-sentence report. 
  • enable more flexibility in scheduling the pre-sentence report interview, which takes place prior to the hearing. The defence may ask the legal adviser, where necessary, to vary the first hearing date to ensure there is sufficient time to produce the report 
  • reduce the time spent physically at court, when social distancing measures are in place, therefore protecting all parties’ welfare during the pandemic. 

A pre-sentence report applies where: 
  • it is anticipated that an adult defendant, charged to appear before a GAP or NGAP hearing on bail or postal requisition, will be sentenced in the magistrates’ court; for offences triable either way see Sentencing Council allocation guideline,
  • a defendant is willing to indicate a guilty plea to all offences charged on the full prosecution basis. 
  • a defence legal representative, on behalf of their client, requests a PSR Before Plea. 
This protocol does NOT apply to cases to be sent or committed for sentence to the Crown Court where CrimPD 3A 9 and guidance within the Better Case Management handbook should continue to apply.

The process is set out in Annex A. The form used to request a Pre-Sentence Report Before Plea is attached at Annex B (“the applicable form”). 


In the event of parties consistently failing to comply with their responsibilities under the protocol the matter is to be reported to the Local Criminal Justice Board. 


National Probation Service: Sonia Flynn Chief Probation Officer 

Law Society: Richard Atkinson & Ian Kelcey Co-Chairs Criminal Law Committee Approval by Senior Presiding Judge of England and Wales 

1st October 2020


The Probation Institute has recently published a position paper:- 

Use of the Protocol for "Pre-Sentence Report Before Plea"

The Probation Institute has considered the new Protocol for the preparation by the Probation Service, of a pre-sentence report (PSR) before plea, for use in the Magistrates Court where there is an intention to plead guilty and the legal representative has requested the PSR before plea. 

We understand the pressures – volume of cases and long delays, which will have led to the agreement of this Protocol. However there has long been professional practice that pre-sentence reports should only be prepared when a defendant has either pleaded guilty or been found guilty by the relevant court. In our view this practice ensures legal justice for the defendant, avoids pressure to plead guilty, and also ensures that, as far as is possible, the report writer is making enquiries and proposals for sentencing based on the agreed view of the offence/s. 

We regard the Protocol with caution therefore and hope to contribute to ensuring that its use, where considered appropriate, will be the exception not the rule, and should always take into account the interests of justice and follow professional practice carefully. 

We believe that there are risks attached to preparing the PSR before a plea is formally taken in court, or the trial completed. These risks are: 
  • The defendant may be pleading guilty in order to receive a reduced sentence or to get out of custody after a long remand. If s/he would otherwise plead not guilty we suggest that this would be an injustice which should not be encouraged by Probation. 
  • Sufficient information about the charge (from police, witnesses) may not be available before the plea is taken - the PSR is therefore written without sufficient knowledge to be credible for the court. 
  • The protocol recognises that Probation may request that the date of the plea hearing is adjourned to allow time for a PSR before plea. In this case it is essential that sufficient time is provided to enable the necessary assessments and prepare a full report with researched sentencing options? Ten working days is suggested with a minimum of five days. It might be more constructive and beneficial to ask the court for an adjournment post plea or conviction. 
  • If the defendant is on bail it is possible that further offences may be committed before the case reaches a court hearing. This would potentially invalidate the contents of the Pre-Sentence Report. 
Here are some of the issues that we consider should be taken into account when using the Protocol for Pre-Sentence Report before Plea. 

1. Has the defendant consented to the preparation of a Pre-Sentence Report before the plea or finding of guilt is established? Do they fully understand the implications of this? 

2. What is the exact legal charge to which the individual is willing to please guilty? Has it changed since arrest? Could it change again? 

3. Has the individual considered pleading not guilty at any stage? If so, what has changed?

4. In order to prepare a PSR the report writer will need to know the facts of the case. Is there an agreed version? Do you have the police statements? 

5. If you are preparing a report on an individual who believes that notwithstanding the plea, they are not guilty it is difficult to discuss accountability, remorse, reasons for this offending etc. This may also affect the willingness of the individual to engage with rehabilitation, particularly on a community sentence. 

6. The court should be made aware in the report that the PSR was prepared before either a plea or a finding of guilt were established. 

7. If at any stage in the preparation of the PSR it becomes apparent that the defendant’s position regarding a plea is unclear the preparation of the report should be paused and reviewed by relevant parties. The defendant’s legal representative should be informed.

Probation Institute 
April 2021

Monday 24 May 2021

Independent Voices

There's now less than a month to go before the probation service effectively disappears completely from public view behind a civil service wall of tight information command and control. We've all become pretty much used to Napo effectively disappearing from the stage, staff are increasingly unwilling or feel unable to speak openly and once proudly independent campaigning voices become silenced, either through contracts, personnel changes or some form of pressure either implied or explicit. The tumbleweed is on the horizon even here, but before it takes over fully, lets continue to highlight whatever independent voices remain. Here's 'Getafix and then the outgoing Frances Crook of the Howard League:-         

"Man down the pub tells me that in my area the 6 current accommodation workers are being slashed to 1 under the new contract and will hold 'group' sessions instead of 1-2-1's. Not sure how that will provide the same level of service, or cover any diversity or vulnerability issues."

The above comment from yesterday reminds me that Ad Action pulled out from the original TR bidding process for this very reason. Working one to one wasn't a profitable option for their bid partners. Groups got bums on seats, more people, more money, and really that was what the endeavour was all about.

I'm minded too of St Mungos, (who's staff are currently on strike) where their contract to help homeless people came at the cost of having to share information and data with immigration services and the Home Office.

I'm reminded too of the work programme, where many charities took the King's shilling, and whilst vehemently opposed to benefit sanctions, were required to report claimants they engaged with to the DWP leading directly to sanctions.

I also remember the gagging clauses imposed on them, which for many charities left them unable to lobby on their own causes.

When it comes to service delivery there's a huge void between delivering on a social value ethos and a corporate delivery model. It has to be a conflict of interest, and I fear the third sector may suffer some considerable reputational damage from their involvement in this.

I find it very distasteful that even Clinks are using phrases such as 'supply chains'. They are of course referring to people, not Fair Trade coffee bean. Can a charity really remain a charity with its own personal ethos and mission statement when it becomes a member of state agency? What exactly will the Kings Shilling cost them in the end? Could they see their future CEOs being selected for them by the likes of Maximus or Seetec if they're all involved in the same markets?

I think the risk of reputational damage and loss of independence is massive for the third sector in this venture. They cried foul after being used as bid candy for TR, but I'm inclined to think they may live to view that as a lucky escape from which they'd wished they'd learned some lessons.



Frances crook writing for Politics Home:-

Fewer arrests would ease the strain on our over-burdened probation service post-Covid

The last decade has been tumultuous for probation in England and Wales. A service that had operated well for more than a century was torn into fragments in a disastrous part-privatisation.

Performance declined sharply and public confidence ebbed away as high-profile failings and parliamentary inquiries made the headlines. Companies went bust. Demoralised staff watched on as systems were scrapped and maps redrawn. And then came the pandemic.

As the country went into lockdown in March last year, this was a service already under tremendous strain. About a quarter of a million people were under probation supervision, and a research bulletin published that month by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation revealed that less than half of staff believed they had manageable caseloads. A lack of suitable accommodation meant that one in six men, and one in five women, were leaving prison with nowhere to live.

These challenges grew more acute as the realities of the pandemic became clear. Additional funding was found for emergency accommodation, but face-to-face monitoring was pared back to comply with government social distancing guidelines. Supervision over the phone became the norm and support services that probation relies upon, such as mental health and drug and alcohol provision, were reduced. Unpaid work and attendance at courses dropped dramatically.

Many children under supervision had no education or training. Doorstep visits, emails and phone calls replaced face-to-face meetings, while children without access to the internet found it particularly difficult to receive regular contact.

All these changes, and the backlog of cases that has grown as a result, have heaped more pressure on staff who are about to see their working practices alter once again. The failed Transforming Rehabilitation experiment introduced in 2014, which split probation in two and placed much of the work under the responsibility of private companies, has been scrapped. In its place comes a reunified model to be delivered by the public sector.

The Howard League opposed Transforming Rehabilitation from the start and campaigned for the reunification of probation. The new model is undoubtedly a step forward although, as it will be delivered through Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, the charity remains concerned that it will not give probation the independence it needs from Whitehall bureaucracy. These arrangements will become increasingly important if, as seems likely, the service is asked to supervise more people. The government’s plans to recruit more police officers and inflate sentencing, twinned with the impact of lockdown on relationships and employment, will only add to the strain.

Prevention is always better than cure, and so the focus now must be on taking measures that stop people being swept into the criminal justice system in the first place. We can reduce crime and ease the burden on probation – as well as prisons – if we divert people with difficulties to services that can help them, rather than arresting them and bringing them into a system that is overstretched.

This is why, throughout the pandemic, the Howard League has continued to work with police forces to reduce arrests of women and children. By promoting good practice and encouraging officers to use their professional discretion, we have helped reduce arrests of children by more than 70 per cent over the last decade, giving hundreds of thousands of boys and girls a brighter future. We are trying to match this success with women and hope this will provide a template for doing the same for men.

This is the innovation we need to see to help a reunified probation service meet the challenges ahead.

Frances Crook is chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform

Sunday 23 May 2021

Common Sense Drug Policy

It's been some since we mentioned drug policy here in the UK and, apart from a couple of police initiatives, anything positive happening. Whilst this situation is most unlikely to change, especially with a Tory government in control, it's worth reminding ourselves that there is an enlightened alternative as outlined in a Transform report published last week on the Portuguese experience. (Graphs and references are not shown).  



In 2001, Portugal decriminalised the personal possession of all drugs as part of a wider
re-orientation of policy towards a health-led approach. Possessing drugs for personal use is instead treated as an administrative offence, meaning it is no longer punishable by imprisonment and does not result in a criminal record and associated stigma. Drugs are, however, still confiscated and possession may result in administrative penalties such as fines or community service.

Whether such a penalty is applied is decided by district-level panels made up of legal, health and social work professionals, known as ‘Commissions for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction’. Where an individual is referred to a Commission for the first time and their drug use is assessed as non-problematic (low risk), the law requires their case to be ‘suspended’, meaning no further action is taken. Fines can be issued for subsequent referrals. Where some problematic trends are identified (moderate risk), brief interventions are proposed — including counselling — but these are non-mandatory. In ‘high risk’ cases, where more serious problematic behaviours and dependence are identified, individuals may receive non-mandatory referrals to specialised treatment services.

In the vast majority of instances, problematic drug use is not identified, and cases are simply ‘suspended’. Individuals referred to the Commissions overwhelmingly view their purpose as helping to reduce use and educate on drug risks. They are non-judgemental in nature, and a primary focus is safeguarding the right to health of those referred.

Importantly, the decriminalisation of personal possession is only one part of broader health-centred drug policy reforms that involve an increased focus on harm reduction and treatment provision. By ‘accepting the reality of drug use rather than eternally hoping that it will disappear as a result of repressive legislation’, Portuguese reform allows drugs to be treated as a health, rather than criminal justice, issue. The benefits of these reforms, therefore, arise from both decriminalisation itself and the establishment of a wider health-based response to drug problems.

Portugal was not the first country to decriminalise some or all drugs, and it has not been the last. However, it is one of the most prominent and influential. The Portuguese model directly influenced the 2020 decriminalisation measure passed in Oregon, for example, as well as proposed decriminalisation in Norway. Portugal is regularly held up as the leading example of drug decriminalisation, so understanding the outcomes is vital.


In the first five years after the reforms, drug deaths dropped dramatically. They rose slightly in the following years, before returning to 2005 levels in 2011, with only 10 drug overdose deaths recorded in that year. Since 2011, drug deaths have risen again but remain below 2001 levels (when there were 76 recorded deaths).

In 2001, Portuguese drug death rates were very similar to the EU average. While rates fell in Portugal following reform, they increased across the rest of Europe in the same timeframe. From 2011 onwards both Portugal and the rest of the EU have trended similarly, rising until 2015/6 — however, the gap between the two remains considerably wider than it was pre-reform. In real terms, drug death rates in Portugal remain some of the lowest in the EU: 6 deaths per million among people aged 15-64, compared to the EU average of 23.7 per million (2019). They are practically incomparable to the 315 deaths per million aged 15-64 experienced in Scotland, which is over 50 times higher than the Portuguese rates.


The move away from criminalising and imprisoning people who use drugs has led to a dramatic change in the profile of the prison population. In 2001, over 40% of the sentenced Portuguese prison population were held for drug offences, considerably above the European average, and 70% of reported crime was associated with drugs. While the European average has gradually risen over the past twenty years (from 14 to 18%), the proportion of people sentenced for drug offences in Portuguese prisons has fallen dramatically to 15.7% in 2019 — now below the European average.

Most of this decline occurred in the first decade following decriminalisation and the establishment of a health-led approach. Since 2010, the actual number of people in prison for drug offences has remained relatively steady, but a rise in overall prison numbers means the proportion of people serving sentences for drug offences has continued to fall.

It has also been suggested that reform has led to a reduction in drug seizures. However, drug seizure data is difficult to analyse so any conclusions should be treated with caution: reduced seizures may be a result of fewer drugs on the market or they may simply be down to reduced police activity.


Levels of drug use in Portugal have been consistently below the European average over the past twenty years. This is particularly the case among younger people: Portugal has some of the lowest usage rates in Europe among those between the ages of 15-34.

In the first five years after drug policy reform, use of illegal drugs rose slightly among the general population but fell again in the following five years. Use among 15-24 year olds fell throughout the decade, and among the general population was lower in 2012 than in 2001.

However, consumption trends in Portugal have been keenly disputed and often misrepresented. While drug use during individual lifetimes among the general population appeared to increase in the decade following reform, use within the past 12 months fell between 2001 and 2012. Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime consider use in the past 12 months (recent drug use) or within the past month (current drug use) as better indicators of trends among the general population.

Since 2012, past-year use appears to have risen, particularly among those over the age of 25. This is, however, based on relatively limited data from SICAD (the Portuguese drug dependence agency) and only one further dataset — in 2016. In any event, Portugal continues to retain one of the lowest rates of drug use in Europe.

Consumption figures alone tell us relatively little about the level of harm experienced through drug use. A rise in drug use among individuals using only occasionally, and recreationally, is unlikely to lead to large rises in deaths or other harms. For this reason, measuring levels of high-risk drug use, particularly among people who inject drugs, is important. As of 2015, there were an estimated 33,290 ‘high risk’ opioid users in Portugal. Per 100,000 population, this is above the European average. However, it is lower than when decriminalisation was established in 2001. Researchers have also noted a fall in the proportion of individuals referred to Dissuasion Commissions found to be dependent on drugs, suggesting a general reduction in problematic drug use — though this may, in part, be linked to police not repeatedly referring the same individuals if they are already in treatment. In 2018, 90% of individual cases were found to not demonstrate problematic use.

Drug policy reform in Portugal was combined with a change in approach to drug education, moving away from abstinence-based ‘just say no’ campaigns. Drug use in schoolchildren has been consistently below the European average for the past twenty years. Rates in 2019 were roughly the same as 2001. In line with European trends, as reported by the European school survey on alcohol and drugs (ESPAD), they have shown a gradual, consistent decline in the last 10 years. ESPAD also reports that perceived availability of drugs among children in Portugal is lower than the European average.


Drug policy reform in Portugal included wide-reaching needle and syringe programmes aimed at reducing risk of infection among people who inject drugs. In 2001, Portugal had 1,287 new HIV diagnoses attributed to injecting drug use. It had over 50% of all new HIV diagnoses attributed to injecting drug use in the EU in 2001 and 2002 despite having just 2% of the EU population. In 2019, with only 16 new diagnoses, it only had 1.68% of the EU total.

While HIV diagnoses have gone down across Europe in this period, the trend in Portugal is much stronger. Owing to its previously extremely high levels of transmission, Portugal retains some of the highest HIV prevalence rates in Western Europe among people who inject drugs (at 13%). However, this still marks a significant downturn since the millennium, when half of all new HIV diagnoses were attributed to injecting drug use. AIDS diagnoses in people infected through injecting drug use have also fallen dramatically over the past twenty years: from 518 in 2000 to just 13 in 2019. Again, this is a stronger downward trend than the EU average: in 2000 Portugal had 15% of new EU diagnoses; in 2019, it had less than 5%.


Hepatitis C prevalence among people who inject drugs has been estimated as the highest in Western Europe and is a result of multiple epidemics in the late 20th century linked in part to unsafe drug injecting practices up to the 1990s. Prevalence of hepatitis B (which, unlike hepatitis C, is commonly spread through means other than blood-to-blood contact) is below the Western European average. The EMCDDA reports that the number of new yearly hepatitis B and C reports have fallen consistently over the past twenty years.


A key feature of the new Portuguese drug policy, alongside decriminalisation, was the expansion of treatment services. Between 2000-2009, outpatient treatment units increased from 50 to 79. However, the number of individuals in treatment for drugs steadily decreased between 2009-2018, which may be linked to significant reductions in health and welfare budgets following the impact of the global financial crisis. Following the absorption of the country’s independent Institute for Drugs and Drug Addiction into the National Health Service (which itself saw budget cuts of 10% in 2012) health spending continued to fall until 2015 — to under 9% of GDP, from roughly 9.9% in 2009.

A reduction in absolute treatment numbers may also be related to reduced levels of problematic drug use, as discussed above. A study comparing patients entering treatment for heroin dependence pre- and post-reform found an overall decrease between 1992 and 2013, which the authors suggest could be linked to a fall in the number of newly dependent individuals. EMCDDA data also indicate a changing profile of individuals entering drug treatment, with admissions for opioids steadily falling over the past ten years but admissions for cannabis going steadily up.

According to the latest available yearly data there are an estimated 17,246 individuals in opioid substitution treatment in Portugal. Using this data, combined with EMCDDA estimates on levels of problematic opioid use in European countries, it can be estimated that over half of people with problematic opioid use in Portugal are in some form of opioid substitution treatment, slightly above the European average.

Harm reduction has also been a central tenet of the Portuguese drug policy reforms. The latest available data indicate that 1.3 million syringes are being distributed per year. This is significantly down since 2003, when the figure was at 2.6 million, but is still one of the highest in the EU.45 Portugal also has an estimated 2,137 needle and syringe programmes in operation, roughly three times the number of Spain — despite being a quarter of the size in population. Nonetheless, some advocates have been ‘frustrated by what they see as stagnation and inaction since decriminalisation came into effect’, particularly in relation to overdose prevention centres, naloxone provision, and needle and syringe programmes in prison. Portugal did finally open its first mobile overdose prevention centres, in Lisbon and Porto, in 2019. Other harm reduction efforts have been praised — including in relation to the provision of safer smoking kits — but it is clear that continued investment is needed.


A 2015 study found that the social costs of drug use in Portugal fell 12% between 2000 and 2004, and 18% by 2010. While the former figure was largely driven by the reduction in drug-related deaths, the latter was linked to a ‘significant reduction’ in costs associated with criminal proceedings for drug offences and lost income of individuals imprisoned for these offences.


Portugal has set a positive example for what can be done when drug policies prioritise health rather than criminalisation. At the turn of the century, Portugal was facing a crisis, including high levels of HIV infection among people who use drugs. Many impacts of reform were felt immediately: new HIV infections, drug deaths and the prison population all fell sharply within the first decade. The second decade saw slower improvement in key measures, as well as an upturn in drug deaths. However, many of these factors need to be put into context. Drug policy is still only one variable interacting with a complex mix of social, economic, cultural and political factors, and cuts to wider health provision in that period will have played a part in this. Nevertheless, Portugal is in a much better position than it was in 2001 and recorded drug use and drug deaths as a proportion of the general population are both well below the European average.

Portugal’s experience is a lesson in what can be achieved when policy innovation and political will are aligned in response to a crisis, and hopefully it will continue to evolve and lead on this issue. However, while ending the criminalisation of people who use drugs is hugely important both in its own right, in reducing stigma and as an enabler of any effective public health response, it only addresses part of the harms caused by prohibition. With innovation taking place elsewhere, including regulated cannabis sales in North America and safe supply of opioids and other drugs in Canada, there is also room for Portuguese drug policy to learn from and build upon other reform efforts, and continue in its global leadership role.

Saturday 22 May 2021

The Voluntary Sector View

Now the winners have been announced, here's what the voluntary or third sector thinks as voiced by their cheerleader Clinks:- 

What part will voluntary organisations play on the first day of the new probation service?

The reformed and reunified probation service will launch on 26th June. Today, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has announced which organisations have been successful in bidding for contracts to provide resettlement and rehabilitation services to support people under the new model. The contracts are separated into three categories: Accommodation; Education, training and employment; Personal wellbeing; and Women – specialist holistic service to support women under probation supervision.

These services have been commissioned through the Dynamic Framework. When the reforms were announced the Secretary of State reiterated commitment and recognition of the voluntary sector’s role in delivering rehabilitation and resettlement services, highlighting that our sector has “some of the best experience, innovation and skill to tackle these issues.”

Reading the list of organisations given contracts, it seems that this commitment has been realised. 88% of lead providers are voluntary sector organisations and approximately two thirds of the contract values have been awarded to voluntary sector organisations. This is a significant and positive change from the current model – our #TrackTR research found that the voluntary sector was under represented, under pressure and under resourced.

Limited role for small and specialist organisations

However, scratch under the surface and it’s clear that, while voluntary sector organisations make up a significant number of those who will be delivering these services, the commissioning process has failed to draw upon the vibrancy in our sector and the range and breadth of services it provides. The voluntary sector working in criminal justice is made up of approximately 1,700 organisations who are predominantly small, local and specialist. But across 110 contracts to deliver rehabilitation and resettlement services there are only a small number of lead providers – just 26, of which 23 are voluntary organisations.

Across the full supply chains for these contracts there are a total of 81 organisations, 73 of which are voluntary organisations. Over half of those organisations have an income of over £1m. If we compare this to the criminal justice voluntary sector as a whole, only 27% of organisations generate an income over £1m and 29% of specialist criminal justice organisations have an income of less than £100k.

As we know, racially monioritisd people are disproportionally represented among those under probation supervision and a recent HMI Probation report said probation must reset and raise the standard of work with racially minoritised people. Whilst we are pleased to see some organisations led by and focused on racially minoritized people in supply chains, there are only three. It is clear that these organisations are not being fully utilised to meet the needs of these people. We are also very concerned that none of the lead providers of services in Wales are Welsh organisations and only three such organisations have a place in supply chains.

It is extremely disappointing that the results of this commissioning process mean that people under probation supervision risk missing out on services delivered by small but vital organisations with strong local links at the heart of communities and with specialist knowledge of people’s needs to support them to move away from crime.

Education, training and employment; and Accommodation contracts

When plans for the new probation model were first drawn up these contracts were going to be smaller, covering Police and Crime Commissioner areas. However, due to the impact of Covid-19 on HMPPS commissioning capacity it was decided to reduce the number of contracts and increase their geographical footprint to cover whole probation regions.

Voluntary sector delivery is least represented in the Education, Training and Employment contracts with only one lead provider from the sector – The Growth Company. In England and Wales a significant number of small and specialist criminal justice voluntary sector organisations support people with their education, training and employment needs. But because these probation contracts must be delivered across entire probation regions, many of these organisations with a local footprint were unable to bid. It is a real shame not to see some of these organisations represented in supply chains. Of all the contracts these have the least extensive supply chains.

It’s a similar story with the accommodation contracts. 9 out of these 14 contracts have gone to voluntary sector organisations but the supply chains are quite limited.

During the bidding process we received significant feedback from voluntary organisations that the values of the contracts were too low for them to deliver services in partnership. Some were also concerned about the technical requirements for the contracts shutting out some organisations.

Personal wellbeing contracts

The personal wellbeing contracts include the provision of emotional welbeing, family and significant others, lifestyle and association, and social inclusion services. In Wales HMPPS commissioned a separate and specific personal wellbeing service for young adults. These contracts were let at Police and Crime Commissioner level and after feedback following the commissioning of the Education, training and employment and Accommodation contracts the threshold for some of the technical contract requirements was lowered.

34 of the 45 Personal wellbeing contracts have gone to the voluntary sector but there are only 6 voluntary sector lead providers. The extent of supply chains across these lead providers varies. In some areas there are several supply chain partners representing a range of organisations that deliver specialist services or work with particular groups, for example organisations that work to support family relationships and organisations led by and focused on racially minoritised people. In others they are significantly more limited than we would have liked – in three contract areas there are no subcontractors at all, and in 11 areas there are only a couple of organisations in the supply chains.

Overall, the extent that the supply chains involve small and specialist organisations is limited and in many areas lead providers have the same organisations in supply chains across different contract areas indicating limited involvement of organisations with local links and knowledge. We are significantly concerned that the diversity of support that exists within the voluntary sector is not being sufficiently drawn upon.

During the commissioning process we heard from organisations of the challenges they were facing in building diverse supply chains. Organisations told us that the timeframe for bidding was not conducive to building these relationships and that the contract values were too low to enable significant involvement of partners.

Women’s services contracts

The women’s contracts were let at Police and crime commissioner level and are to provide a service to women under probation supervision incorporating Education, training and employment; Accommodation; and Personal wellbeing services.

Initially HMPPS had planned to only commission a specialist women’s service for personal wellbeing and we are extremely pleased that following our feedback this fuller specialist service was commissioned recognising the need for women to receive a more holistic women-centred service to meet a wider range of needs.

Voluntary organisations will be delivering all of these contracts, the vast majority of whom are specialist women’s centres. Overall, there is a broader and more varied spread of lead providers, and also sub-contractors where supply chains are present. This is testament to the already strong relationships that exist among specialist women’s organisations making it easier to quickly build partnerships during this process. However, specialist women’s organisations remain concerned that the service specification does not encompass all services that women in contact with the criminal justice system need – in particular there is no focus on domestic abuse and sexual violence. The sector also found the commissioning process extremely challenging and so complex that some organisations chose not to or were unable to get involved.

Looking to the future

The contracts announced today are just the beginning. Beyond these ‘day one’ contracts, Regional Probation Directors will have budgets of over £100k a year to commission further services across the following categories:

• Finance, benefits and debt
• Dependency and recovery
• Young adults (18-25 years old)
• Black, Asian, and minority ethnic
• Restorative justice
• Cognitive and behavioural change
• Service user involvement.

Regional Probation Directors will also be responsible for re-commissioning the contracts announced today – which go live on 26th June – when they come to an end (31st March 2025 for all categories except Women’s services which will end on 31st March 2026).

In addition, Regional Probation Directors will have access to a Regional Outcomes and Innovation Fund from which they could commission services which support the reduction of reoffending but which are not part of enforceable sentence delivery requirements.

These services will all be commissioned through the Dynamic Framework and other commissioners could commission or co-commission services from the Dynamic Framework in any of the 14 service categories. The Dynamic Framework therefore remains a really important route for voluntary sector organisations to be involved in delivering services to people under probation supervision. Find out more about how to qualify here.

It is vital that Regional Probation Directors ensure the voluntary sector is represented in future probation contracts, but also go further to ensure the vibrancy and diversity of this sector (which has on the whole been excluded so far) is fully utilised – in particular the skills and expertise of small, specialist and local organisations.

To make sure this happens voluntary organisations need good communication: accurate, transparent, and timely information, with as much notice possible of bidding opportunities. This is vital for providers to build partnerships, bid for grants and contracts and mobilise services.

To ensure small and specialist organisations can engage in future commissioning opportunities HMPPS should recognise that complex contracts disadvantage small organisations and there needs to be greater use of grants to commission services at a local level. Grants should be the default mechanism for commissioning services, with contracts used as an exception when grants are not appropriate.

To ensure the knowledge and existing expertise that exists in local areas is taken advantage of there needs to be significant emphasis on partnership work, co-design with the voluntary sector and co-commissioning services with partners, other commissioners and charitable funders.

Clinks is currently building relationships with Regional Probation Directors and their teams to support them to engage with the voluntary sector and draw upon its vibrant and broad knowledge and expertise.

Friday 21 May 2021

MoJ Announces Winners

"A few quid being handed out, and a few regular customers in the mix, but here's the full list of contract winners to work with probation by region."

£200 million investment in rehab services to cut crime

Charities and companies which help rehabilitate offenders have been awarded around £200 million of Government funding to help cut crime in the new probation system.
  • Services to provide specialist housing, employment and training support to reduce reoffending
  • Multi-million-pound contracts awarded to more than 25 organisations
  • Providers to work with Probation Service to rehabilitate offenders and cut crime
The investment of an initial £195 million has been awarded to 26 organisations across England and Wales to provide vital support services that help reduce reoffending, such as employment and housing advice. This includes over £45 million awarded to services tailored to female offenders to address their specific needs and the underlying causes of their crimes as part of the Government’s pledge to see fewer women go to prison. The total funding awarded could rise to £270 million if contracts with these organisations are extended to their full terms.

By tackling the drivers of crime and getting offenders’ lives back on track, these services will help to prevent thousands of people becoming victims each year and save some of the £18 billion annual cost of repeat offending.

The move is one of the improvements being made to the Probation Service next month as responsibility for supervising low- and medium-risk offenders comes back under public sector control. The delivery of unpaid work in community sentences and behavioural change programmes are also being brought back in-house.

Prisons and Probation Minister Alex Chalk said:
"Tackling things like homelessness, unemployment and illiteracy is vital to our drive to cut crime but these issues cannot be solved by our brilliant probation staff alone. The expertise and support of charities and companies like those we are funding today plays a crucial role in helping offenders to rehabilitate and lead a crime-free life."
Almost £46 million has been awarded to charities which provide wraparound support to women in the criminal justice system, acknowledging the complex array of issues female offenders particularly face. Organisations including The Nelson Trust, Women in Prison, and a partnership between the St Giles Trust and the Wise Group will work with vulnerable women to help them get their lives back on track. This significant investment provides long-term support to women’s centres and other dedicated services for women serving community sentences or leaving prison.

Prison leavers are around 50 per cent more likely to reoffend if released with nowhere to stay so over £33 million will be shared by charities helping the homeless, including St Mungo’s, Shelter and NACRO. Their work will help get offenders off the streets into stable accommodation and work alongside the Probation Service’s new temporary accommodation service.

A further £33 million has been awarded to companies such as Seetec, Maximus and Ingeus which provide offenders with skills training and employment support. With their expertise in helping people find work they will partner with probation staff and the New Futures Network in the Prison Service to support offenders into jobs.

Up to £118 million has been awarded to organisations which work with offenders to address personal issues, including Catch 22, The Forward Trust and The Growth Company. This ranges from support accessing mental health services to help with managing complex family relationships.

The funding has been awarded through a new process designed to make it easier for charities and other third-sector organisations to access funding from Government and around two-thirds of the funding has been awarded to registered charities. In addition, many lead organisations are using the specialist skills of smaller organisations to help deliver services, with another 50 organisations, mostly in the voluntary sector, in their supply chains.

Notes to Editors

Women’s and personal support services have been procured at Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) level, while each provider for Education, Training and Employment services will work across one of the twelve probation regions in England and Wales. Accommodation services will also be provided at a regional level except in Wales where they have been procured at PCC level.

For the first time, the Probation Service is jointly commissioning the full range of rehabilitative services in Greater Manchester with the region’s Combined Authority from July 2021. In London, women’s services will be commissioned jointly with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) by providing funding to MOPAC’s existing providers for an extension and expansion of the current service. A new commissioning process will be undertaken for services from 2022.

Full list of contracts awarded according to region

Please note, the figures given are for the standard term of the contracts which are 2 years and 9 months, unless specified (see each contract below). Note Women’s services contracts are for 3 years and 9 months. For Accommodation and Education, Training and Employment services these are predicted values.

East Midlands

Women’s Services
Lincolnshire Action Trust - £544,992 (Lincolnshire)
Changing Lives - £1,240,656 (Leicestershire)
Nottingham Women’s Centre - £1,831,193 (Nottinghamshire)
Women’s Work Derbyshire - £1,509,887 (Derbyshire)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
The Forward Trust - £998,975 (Lincolnshire)
Ingeus - £6,021,064 (Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire)
Nacro - £2,963,412
Education, Training and Employment
Ingeus - £2,913,656

East of England

Women’s Services
Advance - £2,128,122 (Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire)
St Giles Wise (SGW) - £2,177,655 (Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Suffolk) (Northamptonshire – until June 2023)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Nacro - £3,054,280 (Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Hertfordshire)
The Forward Trust - £4,374,002 (Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Norfolk, Essex)
Seetec - £2,883,298
Education, Training and Employment
Seetec - £2,729,155

Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Women’s Services
Advance - £1,317,735 (Kent)
Brighton Women’s Centre - £1,167,285 (Sussex)
Women in Prison - £588,630 (Surrey)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
The Forward Trust - £2,557,318 (Sussex, Surrey)
Seetec - £2,135,134 (Kent)
Seetec - £1,977,871
Education, Training and Employment
Seetec - £1,903,774


Women’s Services
In London, women’s services will be commissioned jointly with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) from mid-2022 with the Probation Service providing funding to MOPAC’s existing providers until then.
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Catch 22 - £12,501,519
St Mungo - £4,882,708
Education, Training and Employment
Maximus - £4,999,117

North East

Women’s Services
Changing Lives - £4,253,089 (Cleveland, Northumbria)
St Giles Wise (SGW) - £866,581 (Durham)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Ingeus - £3,032,996 (Northumbria)
St Giles Wise (SGW) - £3,177,664 (Durham, Cleveland)
Thirteen Housing Group - £2,740,568
Education, Training and Employment
Ingeus - £2,903,359

North West

Women’s Services
Lancashire Women - £1,791,947 (Lancashire)
PSS UK - £3,050,765 (Cheshire, Merseyside)
Women’s Community Matters - £319,435 (Cumbria – until June 2023) (Subject to contract)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
The Growth Company - £5,732,481 (Lancashire, Merseyside) (Cumbria – until June 2023)
Seetec - £2,108,173 (Cheshire)
Seetec - £2,988,646
Education, Training and Employment
Maximus - £3,151,152

South Central

Women’s Services
Advance - £2,111,499 (Hampshire) (Thames Valley – until June 2023)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Catch 22 - £4,091,542 (Hampshire, Thames Valley)
Ingeus - £1,828,763
Education, Training and Employment
Ingeus - £1,889,412

South West

Women’s Services
Nelson Trust - £2,897,254 (Avon & Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire)
The Women’s Centre Cornwall - £1,765,668 (Devon & Cornwall, Dorset)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Catch 22 - £5,706,872 (Avon & Somerset, Dorset) (Wiltshire, Devon & Cornwall, Gloucestershire – all until June 2023)
Seetec - £2,852,365
Education, Training and Employment
Seetec - £2,624,658


Women’s Services
The Nelson Trust - £1,992,162 (Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, South Wales – all until June 2023)
PSS UK - £432,225 (North Wales – until June 2023)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships (Young Adults and 26+)
St Giles Wise (SGW) - £6,011,313 (Dyfed-Powys, Gwent – all until June 2023) (South Wales, North Wales)
Forward Trust - £2,006,168 (Dyfed-Powys, Gwent, South Wales)
Nacro - £633,425 (North Wales)
Education, Training and Employment
Maximus - £2,440,833

West Midlands

Women’s Services
Changing Lives - £6,095,524 (West Midlands, Warwickshire)(Staffordshire – until June 2023)
Willowdene - £1,014,080 (West Mercia)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Catch 22 - £1,639,494 (West Mercia)
Ingeus - £8,324,204 (Staffordshire, West Midlands) (Warwickshire – until June 2023)
Nacro - £3,823,196
Education, Training and Employment
Maximus - £4,147,256

Yorkshire & The Humber

Women’s Services
Changing Lives - £1,835,581 (South Yorkshire)
St Giles Wise (SGW) - £1,072,461 (North Yorkshire)
Together Women - £4,604,673 (Humberside, West Yorkshire)
Support services for issues including mental health, family and relationships
Foundation - £1,246,789 (North Yorkshire)
Ingeus - £6,671,666 (Humberside, West Yorkshire)
The Growth Company - £2,593, 567 (South Yorkshire)
Shelter - £4,068,990
Education, Training and Employment
The Growth Company - £4,134,343

Greater Manchester

Greater Manchester Combined Authority – For the first time, the Probation Service is jointly commissioning the full range of rehabilitative services in Greater Manchester with the region’s Combined Authority from July 2021.