Saturday 31 July 2021

Rhetoric and Reality

Channel 4 news has for me always stood out head and shoulders above other news providers and of course it's no great surprise that it's attracted the ire of the Tory party for doing its job so diligently. I note Kathy Newman has decided to expand on the piece the other day about a rehabilitation charity closing housing provision due to government funding cuts. It's a familiar pattern of course, but somewhat at odds with party political rhetoric:-   

Boris Johnson’s crime slogans might win votes, but taxpayers will foot the bill if offenders end up on the streets

Six houses in southern England have for more than four decades provided a home for thousands of the most vulnerable people. Vulnerable, and dangerous. Because the houses run by a charity – Change Grow Live – have offered accommodation over the years for around 2,000 former prisoners who have committed serious offences.

But on Friday, as my colleague Jackie Long reported on Wednesday’s Channel 4 News, those houses will close their doors. The charity blames funding cuts. They’ve been bankrolled by West Sussex County Council since 2003, but with central government grants cut by 38 per cent in real terms over the decade to 2019, the money has run out. For four months, Change Grow Live has funded the housing project itself. But now it can do so no longer.

By an unfortunate quirk of timing, this comes in the same week that the government announced its blitz on crime. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice also announced that criminals would be guaranteed accommodation when they left prison as part of a £20m plan to reduce reoffending.

It sounds like a good idea, but according to Change Grow Live, it’s a “quick fix”. The charity warns that without a long-term, well-funded solution, ex-offenders are more likely to end up on the streets – where they could pose a threat to the public – or back in jail, where they’ll end up costing the taxpayer more.

“Beating Crime” risks being little more than a slogan if the criminal justice system in its entirety is under-resourced. This journalist-turned-prime minister is, like a hack on a deadline, a true pro at coming up with an attention-grabbing phrase. His critics fear it’s the details that sometimes elude him.

Boris Johnson certainly captured the headlines with his pledge to make ex-offenders join “fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs”, or slap GPS ankle tags on burglars. But it’s hard to treat either policy as ground-breaking when both have actually been announced or trialled years ago. Labour tried the hi-vis jackets in 2008 and abandoned it after the offenders were abused by members of the public. The expansion of electronic tagging was first announced in 2011, and was originally supposed to have been rolled out across England and Wales in 2019. This week’s announcement was scaled back to just 19 police force areas.

And what’s underpinning these eye-catching pronouncements? Across the criminal justice system – police, courts, prisons and probation – years of spending constraints are now beginning to be reversed. But those at the sharp end say budget cuts of such magnitude should never have been made.

There has been a tacit – though not public – admission that cutting 20,000 police officers since 2010 was a mistake. The prime minister says the government is now half way to restoring those numbers, but when I asked the policing minister Kit Malthouse if the original cuts had been an error, he cited financial pressures at the time. It’s telling that despite the huge burden of pandemic debt, the government now sees fit to make the investment.

On prisons and probation, too, ministers insist they’re starting to boost expenditure, though the details are murky. The Ministry of Justice saw spending fall by 25 per cent between 2010 and 2020. Prison and probation minister Alex Chalk was unable to tell me on Channel 4 News on Wednesday whether the promise of an extra 2,500 probation officers restored the numbers cut since the Conservatives came to power, nor how much lower probation funding was now than then. He was, he said, “99 per cent sure” it was higher.

And while Johnson waxed lyrical on “chain gangs”, I didn’t hear him explain how he planned to clear the record crown court backlog of sixty thousand cases – a relic not just of lockdown constraints but budgetary ones too, leading barristers say. Nearly two decades ago, when I was still a newspaper hack myself, I remember the then Tory shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin setting out a big new idea on law and order, and a startling break from the party’s “prison works” policies of the Thatcher era. He wanted to end what he called the “conveyor belt” of criminality.

It didn’t win the Conservatives power. And perhaps that’s the point. No doubt the hi-vis jackets and the ankle tags will be popular. But will they stop people re-offending?

And if that doesn’t give you pause for thought, consider this: a year in one of the houses run by Change Grow Live costs £18,000. A year in prison costs £44,000. Put like that, the failure so far to address long-term under-investment in the criminal justice system could end up becoming a greater burden to the taxpayer in the long run.

Cathy Newman presents ‘Channel 4 News’, weekdays, at 7pm


The origins of Change Grow Live will come as no great surprise to probation officers of a certain vintage because such initiatives were commonplace during the enlightened times when magistrates ran the probation service, not politicians:-

A pattern and a plan

We got our start back in 1977, when a group of magistrates in Sussex noticed a pattern. They saw people going to prison, being released with no home to go to, re-offending and being sent back to prison, over and over again.

So they decided to do something about it.

Recognising that homelessness was the basis for the pattern, they pooled their resources and bought a house. From there, they started offering accommodation and support to people leaving prison. They called their charity the Sussex Association For The Rehabilitation of Offenders, or Saro for short.

Seeing the whole person

In those early days, volunteers did all the work. They saw their approach had a big impact, so they opened more houses across Sussex to support people leaving prison.

They also noticed that drugs and alcohol played a role in the cycle of homelessness and offending. So they started to look for ways to provide support with those issues too. It might sound obvious, but taking a holistic approach that looked at everything going on in someone’s life was pioneering.

It proved to be just what people needed. To keep up with the demand for our services in the 1990s, we merged with other local organisations, including a domestic violence charity and a residential rehabilitation unit, and hired our first paid members of staff.

We also started a groundbreaking project: Get It While You Can. One of our members of staff - who started out using our services - had a great idea to put peer support workers in police custody rooms. The thinking was that right after someone’s arrested is the ideal time to get support. We also thought speaking to someone who’d been through similar experiences would help them see that there was a path forward.

It was an innovative, effective idea. It wasn’t the norm to make a connection between drugs and crime, use early intervention or peer support, but it worked.

Going nationwide

Get It While You Can was so successful that we wanted to roll it out nationwide and help as many people as possible. But the name ‘Sussex Association For The Rehabilitation of Offenders’ didn’t feel right now we weren’t just operating in Sussex. It was time for a change, so we chose a new name: Crime Reduction Initiatives.

As we started running projects across the country, we noticed another issue that was playing a role in the cycle of drug addiction and crime. People couldn’t get access to drugs like methadone fast enough to help them tackle their addiction, and that made it harder for them to make the changes they wanted to see in their lives. We developed new ways to make access to treatment quicker and better, like in-house prescribing, day programmes and counselling services.

Becoming Change Grow Live

In 2012 we merged with Sova, another charity working to help people change their lives and fulfil their potential.

Around the same time, we also noticed another change in our service users. We saw that more and more of the people we were supporting hadn’t committed a crime. Our name - Crime Reduction Initiative - was a barrier, because they felt like our services weren’t for them.

So in 2016 we changed our name again, to Change Grow Live. We took the name from the phases of our recovery programme: foundations of change, foundations of growth, foundations of life. It showed how we worked and helped tackle the stigma around seeking help.

2017 was also a year of change and growth for us. A charity called Lifeline was in crisis, and the vital services it ran were at risk of closing. We stepped in and took over some of those services to keep them running for their users.

The future

Since we first started, one goal has driven everything we do: to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s still what drives us now. We know that what we do works, so we want as many people as possible to benefit. That’s how we’ll make our vision - to change society for the better - a reality.

Tuesday 27 July 2021

Sense and Nonsense

I'm pleased to note that the recent Bill McWilliams Memorial lecture by Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford is now published on YouTube and it makes the perfect antidote to todays criminal justice political nonsense from Prime Minister Johnson.      

This from today's Guardian:-

MPs and campaigners alarmed at UK’s ‘discriminatory’ crime reduction plans

Government’s proposals include more frequent stop and search and making community service street cleaners ‘more visible’.

MPs and campaigners have sounded alarm at a series of proposals in the government crime reduction plan, including more frequent stop and search, a trial of “alcohol tags” and criminals undertaking “visible” community service cleaning streets.

Liberty said the permanent relaxation of search powers would “compound discrimination in Britain and divide communities” and the former shadow home secretary, Diane Abbott, said it was “alarming and counter-productive.” Labour said the policy was a “rehash” of a number of preannounced proposals and expansions of existing pilots.

The strategy will include a plan for every neighbourhood in England and Wales to have a named and contactable police officer as well as a league table for 101 and 999 answering times. Boris Johnson said the “beating crime plan” was part of the commitment to “levelling up” parts of the country plagued by crime and antisocial behaviour, but Labour criticised the strategy as lacking vision and said police were demoralised.

Among the proposals in the strategy are:
  • Permanently relaxing conditions on the use of section 60 stop and search powers for police to tackle knife crime
  • Expanding the use of electronic monitoring for thieves upon release from prison
  • Trialling the use of alcohol tags – which detect alcohol in the sweat of offenders guilty of drink-fuelled crime – on prison leavers in Wales
  • Making unpaid work “more visible” by getting offenders to clean streets and open spaces
Offenders doing community service will wear hi-vis as they clear canals or clean graffiti. “The intention is to make the price of crime visible,” one Home Office source said.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns officer at Liberty, said: “We all want to feel safe in our communities, but expanding what have proven to be discriminatory police powers isn’t how we get there. Many communities, particularly communities of colour, experience overbearing and oppressive policing and the package the government has put forward will only worsen this. It will subject more young people to further coercion, punishment and control.”

The Home Office said the plan put special emphasis on causes of crime including alcohol and illegal drugs, citing statistics that half of all homicides last year were drug-related. That will include the £31m expansion of Project ADDER to eight more local authorities, a strategy that combines police resources to target local gang leaders driving drugs trade, while also investing in addiction recovery.

The government also said it would be investing over £45m in specialist support in mainstream schools and alternative provision in serious violence hotspots to support young people to re-engage in education. The plan includes a £17m package for violence reduction units to give specialist support from trained youth workers when a young person is arrested or admitted to A&E with a knife injury.

Johnson said the government “cannot level up the country when crime hits the poorest hardest and draws the most vulnerable into violence”. The prime minister is to make a series of visits to promote the strategy but is likely to encounter tension with frontline officers after the government said the majority of officers would see no increase in pay this year.

The Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW), which represents 130,000 officers, last week said it had no confidence in home secretary Priti Patel, saying the government “could not be trusted”.

Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “This announcement of rehashed policies won’t make our streets safer. The Conservatives are all talk and no action when it comes to tackling crime. On their watch, police numbers are down and community policing has been decimated. Coupled with an insulting pay freeze, it is no wonder frontline police have declared no confidence in the home secretary.”

Thomas-Symonds said named officers were not a substitute for the effects of cuts on community policing. “Little wonder that, on their watch, antisocial behaviour is rocketing, there are record low convictions for rape and violent crime is devastating communities across the country.”

Abbott said the plan was “a checklist of gimmicks designed to get Priti Patel good headlines in the tabloid press in the short term but it does nothing about the long term problems in the criminal justice system.”

Johnson had initially pledged in an article for the Express that “if you are the victim of crime, you have a named officer to call – someone who is immediately on your side.” However, Labour said the policy appeared to have been diluted, pledging only that “every neighbourhood in England and Wales will have a named and contactable police officer dedicated to its service”.

A Home Office source called that a misreading – saying personal details for a named officer would be available for the area on which all victims of crime and concerned residents could call.

Opportunity Knocks

Yes once again there's an opportunity for fed up and ground down qualified probation officers to escape the stultifying grasp of HMPPS and head off to somewhere that still practices probation as we used to know it:-

States of Guernsey Careers: Probation Officer x 2 (77697)
Requisition ID 77697 - Posted 20/07/2021 - Justice and Public Safety - Guernsey

Service Area - Probation Service

Grade: - EGIII - £42,206 - £44,969 or EGIV - £46,350 - £48,965 or EGV - £50,325 - £53,166 per annum

Full Time

The States of Guernsey are looking for two Probation Officers to join their team at the Probation Service.

Probation Officers are the operational staff of the Probation Service having the one to one contact with offenders to assess, monitor and provide therapeutic interventions to reduce and manage offending behaviour.

The main purpose of the post of Probation Officer is to:-
  • Provide the Courts with quality information and assessment to assist in sentencing decisions;
  • Supervise offenders in the community in order to reduce crime and so protect the public;
  • Prepare prisoners for release and resettlement into the community;
  • Work with offenders and deliver interventions to address factors that increase their likelihood of re-offending, including attitudes, thinking and behaviour;
  • Manage high risk potentially dangerous offenders including violent and sexual offenders;
Given the nature of the work, the post requires flexible working which may include full or part time secondment to the Offender Management Unit at the Prison.

Whilst Probation Officers have responsibility to manage their own workload, they will have regular supervision with a Senior Probation Officer. The post requires the successful establishment and maintenance of a number of key professional relationships, including within the Committee for Home Affairs, the Judiciary, Law Officers, Advocates, Prison, Police, Court staff and Child Services, as well as within the Probation team.

Close links are also maintained with local voluntary and partner agencies that have a role to play in the management of offenders, victims and witnesses.

Please click on the link below to view a full job description for this role.

Job Description

Please click on the links below to find out more about living and working in Guernsey.

Living and Working in Guernsey

Getting to Know Guernsey

Employment Permit Information

Contact: Katherine Lockwood – Senior Probation Officer on tel. 01481 XXXXXXX or email: XXXXXX

We strongly advise that applicants speak to the contact named above before applying for this role.

Closing Date: 18 August 2021

Candidates should upload supporting information to demonstrate how they meet the key criteria for the role. This should be in addition to any CV supplied and should have clear examples of how each is met. The key criteria can be found within the job description which is available by clicking the job description link above. The information provided by candidates will be used by the shortlisting panel when selecting candidates for interview.

Note - Internal applicants are required to inform their Line Manager before applying for any States of Guernsey positions. Internal references may be taken up prior to interview.

Appointment to this role will be subject to the following pre-employment checks which will be completed following an offer of employment:
  • Satisfactory references which must include one from the candidate's current line manager
  • Occupational Health Clearance
  • Satisfactory, Enhanced, Disclosure and Barring Service Check with Barred Listing Check. Convictions likely to be considered relevant to this post include crimes involving, but not limited to, theft, violence, dishonesty, fraud, vulnerable individuals and children
  • Confirmation of required qualifications / registrations
  • Possession of a valid Employment Permit
Should the successful applicant not meet the requirements sufficiently he/she may be appointed at a lower grade than stated. The successful applicant would then have the opportunity to progress to the grade advertised once the necessary skills and knowledge have been developed and they have demonstrated the ability to undertake the duties at the higher level.

Please note that the States of Guernsey is undergoing a significant period of change and transformation. The officer must acknowledge and accept that the nature and type of duties within the role are likely to evolve and change over time in the course of that transformation. In such circumstances and accordance with the relevant terms and conditions of employment the employer may require the transfer, and/or redeployment, of an officer to other suitable roles within the States.

All employees are expected to uphold the purpose, vision and values of Service Guernsey: one organisation, one purpose, one focus and, in particular, to exhibit behaviours that reflect the core values of teamwork, accountability, customer service and empowerment.


This from Napo on the other hand for those who may still feel being a PO could be worthwhile:- 

HMPPS has announced that their latest PQiP recruitment campaign (trainee probation officers) opens today, Monday 26 July.

The campaign is open to employees first, prior to extending it to external applicants.

HMPPS say:

"This campaign has option specifically designed for internal candidates with two new internal pathways. 
  • New PSO progression for candidates with and without degrees (graduate and non-graduate)
  • Part-time programme
We have committed to recruiting 1,500 trainee Probation Officers in 2021/22 and offering opportunities to existing staff to apply is an important part of this commitment."

There are two webinars for current staff:
  • Wednesday 28th July - 6pm
  • Thursday 5th August - 12pm
You need to register for these. Please check out the intranet link below if you are interested. Contact your manager, HR or Branch for more information in the first instance.

Monday 26 July 2021

Are You Listening?

The world of probation here in England has changed so much, I'm not at all sure what's a 'given' any more for people joining and indeed the training they are given. The gap between those leaving and those joining seems ever wider. This slightly edited extract from the Guardian at the weekend serves to highlight something pretty fundamental to me, but I wonder how far it resonates below decks aboard the new HMS Probation?   

‘Be interested, be curious, hear what’s not said’: how I learned to really listen to people

Being a good listener isn’t just about shutting up and not interrupting – it’s about really taking in what someone is telling you.

When I was a young girl, a fabulous woman called Pam who lived opposite us would come to do my mum’s hair once a week. Pam was a retired hairdresser and beautician who had been taught partly by Vivien Leigh’s mother.

I knew this because I listened as she and my mother talked. My mum would sit under the stand hairdryer with wads of cotton wool curling out from under her hairnet to protect her ears from the heat, and Pam would talk and talk: about Margaret Thatcher (my mum wasn’t a fan); their early lives (Pam’s in Yorkshire, my mum’s in Naples); and about life up and down the London street where we all lived.

This arrangement started when I was about eight and continued until I left home aged 22. I would sit at the dining-room table reading the Woman’s Own problem pages, stealing the biscuits my mum had put out for Pam, all the while observing how, so often, neither woman really listened to the other. My mother would wait for gaps in the conversation so she could say, “Exactly”, and then launch into her own, often unrelated, anecdote. I saw all the information missed like dropped balls: wasted opportunities for further exploration. My father was rarely present at these meets, but on the occasions he was there, he’d raise one eyebrow towards me in a knowing look.

Throughout my teens, I noticed how rarely people asked questions. Over many meals and catchups, I would watch as family members interrupted and road-blocked conversations, sending the chat on a detour that became all about them. We have one well-known culprit in the family: I can count on the fingers of a mitten how often, in the two decades we’ve known him, he asks anybody anything about themselves. As a child, I lacked the words to explain the way I felt, and was often shut down. Thus observing how not to do it, I resolved to be different.

It was only when I was appointed the Guardian’s agony aunt in 2008 that I realised I still had a lot to learn. As part of the process of replying to readers’ letters, I would invite specialists (usually therapists) to work with me on compiling the answers. I was greedy for their insights into human behaviour, and soon learned that the basis of every problem I received was communication in some shape or form.

Listening, I discovered, wasn’t just about waiting for the other person to stop talking, or asking good questions, or even not interrupting. It was about really hearing what the other person was saying, and why they were saying it. Being interested, but also curious. Sometimes that means looking for what’s not said, what’s left out, which words are used to mask emotions that are hard to acknowledge. Likewise, good listening is about approaching what has been said as if you’ve never heard it before. Put simply, it’s about paying attention.

Listening is a skill that we could all do with sharpening. After all, for the past year, many of us have been conducting friendships and relationships entirely via social media or text message and email. It’s not like real life. You don’t have to concentrate as much; you can switch off and return to things when you want: it’s an intermittent transmit and, you hope, receive. Real-time listening is different. For a new podcast series, I revisited trusted experts who have been part of my column for the last 13 years, asking them to distil their wisdom in a series of intimate conversations. At the core of all of them? The art of listening.


The psychotherapist I’ve spoken to most often for my columns is Chris Mills, a specialist in relationships. I’ve always been impressed with his ability to hear not simply what I’m saying, but what I can’t hear myself (or, in the case of the column, what the reader is saying but hasn’t acknowledged). He taught me that allowing a tiny silence after someone has spoken can enable them to say that bit more. Try it: resist saying something immediately after someone has stopped speaking and just do a gentle, mental, count to 10.

But listening is not about remaining resolutely silent. If it goes on too long, silence can make things awkward. The mistake a lot of people make (myself included) is filling the silence with their own anecdotes, offering platitudes or, worse, cliches (“Everything happens for a reason” should be struck from the annals of mankind. Ditto: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”). Offering up the, “Oh, that happened to me/someone I know, too” stories seems empathic, and they do have their place if they’re short, reinforcing the point your companion was making before you return to the original subject. But doing this without thought is called “shifting”, because you hijack the conversation and turn it on to you. The other person can feel shut down.

Instead, try supporting them, using responses such as, “That sounds tough”, “How did that make you feel?” or, “What a lot you have on”. I used to think these were lightweight, until once, after a high-stress day during which people tried to be sympathetic but actually offered me lists of what I should do, my Italian cousin simply responded to my text with one word: “Capisco” (I understand). I felt seen, heard, understood. Ever since, I’ve never forgotten the power of the short answer.

In well-worn conversations, often between couples, listening can falter, because you think you’ve heard it all before (“Oh, not this again”). Learning to listen as if the information is new is useful for hearing things differently and even, perhaps, making progress. Remember: a person saying the same thing over and over again is probably doing so because they don’t feel heard.

The way information is delivered can also facilitate how well it’s heard. Anger often overshadows detail so it’s less about the message than the mode of delivery. If you make someone feel defensive they will rarely hear what you are saying, because little information is traded and certainly no progress is made when both parties are defending their positions. My very first (personal) therapist, the one I went to when I was barely out of my teens, was Gabrielle Rifkind. She’s now a non-conflict resolution expert. She taught me how to look at things afresh: it is about letting someone see your vulnerable side, and being receptive enough to allow your conversation partner to do the same. Compassion, it seems, is an ideal listening companion.

Listening, as the psychoanalyst Avi Shmueli taught me, is also about looking beyond catch-all, overused masking words such as “fine” and “horrible”. We use these words a lot, but they don’t actually describe feelings. Watch out for them in conversation and, if it’s appropriate, dig a little deeper. What does your partner mean when they say they’ve had a horrible day? What are you not saying when you say, “I’m fine”? What emotions could you replace those words with?

The child and adolescent psychotherapist Rachel Melville-Thomas taught me something else when we recorded a podcast episode called The Wonder Of The Teenage Brain. Teenagers interpret neutral faces as negative, she explained, no matter what’s coming out of your mouth. With that age group, it’s important not only to listen to them in all the ways described above, but to check on what they’ve actually heard. Teenagers also wait until you are busy doing something else to tell you important things – it’s done on purpose, so it’s not too intense. This is why big subjects can come out when you’re not making eye contact – such as when you’re driving, walking, or trying to cook dinner.

“This is all very well,” you may be thinking, “but who is listening to me?” I understand this. Not being listened to is to not be seen; after a while you feel stymied, shrunken. Unfortunately, you can’t make someone else listen to you. But I have learned that someone repeatedly not listening to you can be a form of control. As a child, I used to make adults look at me by physically moving their chins towards me. It’s not socially acceptable to do that as an adult, and, anyway, it’s no guarantee of being heard. If you do feel unheard, a good first step is to sit with the other person and say (always use “I” statements): “I feel we sometimes miss important details from each other. How do you feel about it?”

So has more than a decade of answering your questions and consulting the very best experts made me the mother of all listeners? Nope. But I do really try. Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned is to listen to myself: that inner voice, my instinct, to listen to what I need and how someone makes me feel. I used to think that if I couldn’t tell someone they weren’t habitually listening to me, it was because I sensed a frailty in them. Mills taught me that, actually, it’s about frailty in the relationship itself. That alone was worth hearing.

The good news is that listening is catching. If you feel listened to, it connects you to that other person, and those bonds grow. They, one hopes, will listen to you in turn. It was only after my dad died that I realised just how much he listened to me, and how valuable that was. He never paid me compliments, but he heard me, which is perhaps the greatest compliment of all.

Conversations with Annalisa Barbieri, Series 1, is available here.

Saturday 24 July 2021

Best of the Week 4

It seems working for MoJ/HMPPS/NPS has suddenly become a joyous, well-rewarded experience, or the civil service muzzles are a snug fit.

Senior managers in the new Probation Service must be feeling pretty pleased with the steady decline in staff feeling brave enough to voice discontent via social media platforms, but that pesky, bloody probation blog just seems to keep on going, despite all our best endeavours:-   

Doctor Adshead has excellent insights and a compassionate outlook. These qualities are sadly lacking in Probation at the moment. I have had many conversations with offenders who don't trust me throughout my career and that is and always was par for the course. What hurts me most is the realisation that their lack of trust is now entirely warranted. Probation Workers face a daily dilemma as to whether they value their own livelihood and their own well being. If they do, many of them feel compelled to throw the people they supervise 'under the bus'. Offenders are therefore now fully justified in their mistrust of Probation Officers and Probation Service Officers. Trust is not granted but gained through behaving morally and with respect. Hitting performance targets and operating a knee jerk breach or recall practice makes trust in Probation practice an absolute rarity.

I really appreciate where you're coming from. The only way I navigated all this was 1) give the people I supervised a reason to actually turn up, other than simply to satisfy the minimum terms of their order. Ultimately it was their appointment, their time and I worked hard to engage each and every one of them in what they wanted from that time and space. 2) make it abundantly clear that either I or them could not change the system we were both obliged to adhere to, whether we find that system unfair or not. Ultimately I would adhere to those license conditions to the letter and so should they, because I was not willing to bend or play with the rules and expectations placed upon me.

I'm not saying I was perfect or didn't make mistakes along the way, I did. But I adhered strictly to the principles of Trotters "working with involuntary clients" because that was the only way I could keep sane.

What got to me in the end was my feeling that I lacked training or skill to deliver meaningful work, and the emphasis on "referring out" our peoples issues to other agencies, and my realisation over time that other agencies staff (ie keyworkers/mentors/mental health staff and drug workers or CRC interventions) were no better equipped or trained than I. There was still unmet need, despite all these other people involved, but service delivery appeared fragmented and meaningless. I could no longer in good consciousness "play the game" and delivering meaningful appointments meant I was regularly in the office till 9pm filling out meaningless OASYS and umpteen referral forms. So I got out.

I find this so depressing and degrading for the individuals we work with. Providing counselling, therapy, CBT or psychotherapy takes years of study and years of professional practice to do well. Many of our individuals need just that. But nope, we as trained probation officers apparently can't provide personal wellbeing. Much better to farm the service out to someone who has no more training than a driving licence and GCSE English. I'm ENRAGED!

Hi Jim,

So, 24 days on in the new PS 'Former CRC Staff' as we are now called are rather miffed. In the tortuous Corporate Induction Marathon, I was forced to attend yesterday, I learned some genuinely interesting things. I learned for instance that if you want to get promoted you need to be 25 - 30, have limited life experience, well-groomed and with the happy slappy enthusiastic zeal of the newly converted. 

I learned that any critical questioning is actively discouraged because in PS land it is only permitted to agree or compliment not question otherwise you are surrounded by wet sponges who try to smother you. The chat box was policed and all inappropriate questions that were not approved were deleted including the question about why questions were being deleted. If Stalin were doing a Teams event in 2021 then it would probably be remarkably like this death by poorly put together PowerPoint. 

So much energy seems to be wasted with overly long self-indulgent meetings and an uninspiring regional director surrounded by equally uninspiring acolytes and fawning hangers on. Certainly, in London we are treated to the regional directors’ personal anecdotes that make a rendition of Vogon poetry seem pretty good and preferably by comparison. 

Transition was a disaster for many with hundreds of staff being downgraded, others still in limbo, promotion for the favoured, those at the top eased into jobs at the top in the new service whilst those elsewhere languish. Poor leadership. Stress. Nepotism. Low pay. Business as usual then. Many former CRC staff want to go back. Ho Hum

As an ex Senior manager in the pre TR Service, this sounds like a case study in how to develop a failing and dysfunctional service.

I applied for promotion 3 times. Never even got to interview stage. In each case the jobs were given to graduates fresh from university (despite job description saying experience essential) Didn't even get the courtesy of a rejection letter/email. So glad I am now out of it.

First time emailing you after years of following the blog which I often turn to for some perspective or maybe just to feel some camaraderie. Yesterday’s post brought tears of laughter to myself and another ‘legacy NPS’ member of staff after a tough day. With over 30 years experience between us, and having both remained NPS post TR, we read with glee what was a terrifyingly accurate depiction of the Civil Service monstrosity that is the Corporate Induction. All that has changed in these with the ‘new PS’, is that the efforts to persuade us that the Emperor has got clothes on have ramped up tenfold. I later sent your blog to a CRC colleague after they phoned struggling to make sense of the inefficient, stifling culture they have been thrown into. Welcome to the new world of civil service probation ‘legacy CRC’.

"So off went the Emperor in procession under his splendid canopy. Everyone in the streets and the windows said, "Oh, how fine are the Emperor's new clothes! Don't they fit him to perfection? And see his long train!" Nobody would confess that he couldn't see anything, for that would prove him either unfit for his position, or a fool. No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.

"But he hasn't got anything on," a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?" said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, "He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on.”

"But he hasn't got anything on!" the whole town cried out at last.

The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.

I would love to know where all these thousands of new officers are. Well, we all know the truth, they are recruited then either quit mid way through training, or move into better paid and less stressful third sector jobs after qualifying.

Yes, truly horrible job to be in. Treated like data in putters but with heavy responsibility. Which other organisation bar social services has such witch hunt, scapegoating attitude? Most protect their own, even complaint bodies. Ours quick to throw you under a bus then run over you a few times for good measure. Quality and performance demands while not giving proper training if any or the time to meet this constant influx and their instilling the fear of SFOs and losing your job to get unpaid overtime out of already stressed employees. Demands high yet no professional respect or support. It's a sad joke.

Boring heard it all before.....probation is more like HMS Titanic. Get me off this ship asap.

I feel I am banging my head against the bulkhead. If you want to retain staff pay them decent wages. Tired of slogging my guts out and being fed on ships biscuit.

I agree about receiving paltry 'ship biscuit' wages for being front line Probation staff . I'd also add that the SFO investigation service also bears comparison to being keel hauled then assaulted with a cat 'o nine tails whip if a target should not have been met. Bring back Captain Birdseye, all is forgiven!

"unification of the Probation Service has taken huge amounts of thought and planning over a long period of time." I'm guessing the first thought was "Oh F***, what have we done?" and the second was "We are just going to have to undo it. A bit" and the third was "Deny all responsibility for the original omnishambles"

Quite quiet in the office today, Jim. The Director, or the ACO or Exec or whatever they are called today is off on leave and the torrent of emails and directives seems to have dried up a bit. Think I will go and actually talk with a client, offender, service user, POP, PICNIC: my offering today for innovative nomenclature Person In Charge (Nominally in Charge).

Meanwhile, in steerage, we cling on to any old wood floating in the ocean....

"Probation when you think about it is one of the most important ships in the justice fleet... This bigger, better probation service will allow us to take a more consistent approach to supervising offenders at every level of risk and to drive good practice up and down the country."


"we have got to ensure that probation is ship shape and truly set up to turn offenders’ lives around for good, which is why we wasted £half-a-billion pissing about, lining the pockets of cheats and liars and dismantling a once-proud profession. But we have now spent £155m trying to paper over years of our targeted, intentional fiscal & institutional vandalism"

"Now the record investment we’ve put into probation, not just in cash terms but in personnel as well, mean that it is better able than ever to cut crime in our country. And through the unification of services, we’re making sure that probation is more joined-up, better equipped, and more able than ever to ensure justice is done and seen to be done."

This is the cul-de-sac that politicians have been desperate to drag probation into. Boateng tried with his "enforcement agency" bollocks. Buckland has finally said it out loud:
"probation is a politically expedient crime-fighting agency which will ensure justice is done and seen to be done."
Fuck the rehabilitation agenda. Fuck humanity. Probation will reinforce the political ideology of work, reward, satisfaction; employment, accommodation, and appropriate 'treatment' for those who do not comply with that model. Probation was NEVER about ensuring justice is done or seen to be done - that is the role of the courts. 

You're all now under the command of Romeo, who is the very willing lieutenant of Buckland and his 1922 masters. Mete out justice as you see fit; show the world you won't tolerate crime, insolence, resistance, alternative views, difference. Make the World Right! Who needs Dominic Cummings when we have an army of willing agents who will impose the chosen political will upon the world. !!!!!HUZZAH!!!!!

"Transition was a disaster for many with hundreds of staff being downgraded, others still in limbo, promotion for the favoured, those at the top eased into jobs at the top in the new service whilst those elsewhere languish. Poor leadership. Stress. Nepotism." Sounds like a scene-for-scene remake of the "transition" to Trust status back in 2008/09.

“Unpaid work will be the highly visible shopfront of our new Probation Service” I stopped reading at this point. Total shite. Same broken service. Now 100% led by ministerial numptys.

Whilst probation operates a desistance model rather then a rehabilitation model it will always be shoved along the 'crime fighting' road. In a resource deprived service, the desistance models common denominator will always be one of compliance or punishment. It doesn't solve anything, it only shelves problems. Just a thought for today. Can today's probation service really claim to have anything at all to do with the rehabilitation of offenders?

Whilst I should feel pleased that NHS workers are getting a 3% pay rise I feel envy and anger that Probation staff and other public sector workers have been discriminated again. Napo need to step up to plate and highlight even before this latest award probation staff have received 11% less pay increase o
ver the last 10 years.

I am pleased for NHS. I want to see them paid above offer and above inflation. Napo won't say or do a thing as staff don't support Napo. Lowest membership and dissolution. There are many new staff also who do not have old values it is shortly to become truly new delivery of a provision not a service. There are so few commentaries on here but no real objection it's an indicator the majority agree . New service new design old views are lost.

I have 6 more working days as a Probation Officer. After 20 years I will cross that line on my knees, broken hearted, dispirited and disillusioned. I feel guilty for not coping and for my failure to adapt and change? Sad.

Huge congrats and praise for dedicating two decades! It’s practitioners like you that we can’t afford to lose, so sorry this is how you are left feeling BUT remember the people in all this, the probation family and SUs alike will never forget the positive impact you’ve had!

Whether you agree or not, it is really important that all voices within Probation should be heard. This is crucial to practitioners' need to feel valued and that they are part of service and workforce development.

Wednesday 21 July 2021

All Aboard HMS Probation

"It seems working for MoJ/HMPPS/NPS has suddenly become a joyous, well-rewarded experience, or...... the civil service muzzles are a snug fit."

'Fair wind and following sea' for HMS Probation - extract from yesterday's speech by Admiral of the Fleet Buckland:-  

Now, something that is little known about our probation service is that it plays a role in how the system supports victims – explaining at parole hearings the impact of crimes upon them and making sure that licence conditions prevent offenders from intimidating or trying to contact them in any way.

Probation when you think about it is one of the most important ships in the justice fleet. It can be the difference between an offender allowing themselves to be swept back into a life of crime or navigating towards a law-abiding future on their release.

With over 80% of people who receive a caution or conviction now going on to reoffend, we have got to ensure that probation is ship shape and truly set up to turn offenders’ lives around for good, which is why this year and last year we have invested an extra £155m into probation services.

And we’ve also recruited record numbers of probation officers – more than a thousand trainees were employed last year, and we plan to bring in 1,500 more this year. Now, all this investment will ensure that we have the personnel to keep a closer eye on dangerous criminals and to create more opportunities to rehabilitate offenders, and working with police to swiftly get a grip of those who continue to commit crime

But in order to really get results we also needed to get the right structure in place, which is why last month we unified the Probation Service. This was the culmination of more than two years’ planning and I am hugely grateful to colleagues across probation for making it happen.

Now, by unifying the Probation Service, we are putting down a strong foundation for change, with twelve probation areas across England and Wales led by Regional Probation Directors who are now responsible for the delivery of the services with whom the courts, Police and Crime Commissioners, the police, and indeed all criminal justice partners can work.

We also want to be more joined-up across every agency of the state. Now, I have said many times that every department in government should be a criminal justice department – because policing, education, and health among many others have a role to play in preventing people from reoffending and offending in the first place. The new model for probation will I believe make it much easier for our response to be a seamless, all-encompassing one – to really help drive those results.

This bigger, better probation service will allow us to take a more consistent approach to supervising offenders at every level of risk and to drive good practice up and down the country. Again, leadership is going to be crucial to this, with the Regional Directors setting the strategic direction and making sure that the entire Probation Service collaborates to scale up what works.

Now, the new Probation Service is already making much more use of the technology that’s on offer to us today, like GPS and sobriety tagging. These innovations will drive better compliance with conditions placed upon offenders to help them to learn self-discipline and to empower them to avoid the kind of negative influences that can drag them back into criminality. And crucially they will enable us to act quickly if offenders are going off course, to respond appropriately to get them back on the right track and, if necessary, to put them back into custody to keep the public safe and to prevent crime.

Unpaid work will be the highly visible shopfront of our new Probation Service – because we want to make sure that justice in our country is done and seen to be done. There are literally millions of hours of unpaid work handed down to offenders as part of their sentence every year and we will make sure they are served more visibly – to help improve the environment in our towns, our cities, and our countryside. My hope is that this will not only clean up neighbourhoods but also act as a deterrent to would be criminals, making them fully aware that punishments will be served in the full gaze of their local communities.

The new Probation Service will also have a refreshed set of national standards – to ensure that there are more face-to-face meetings and more frequent supervision for offenders with the highest risk or most complex needs. And in addition, this new framework will strengthen probation staff’s role in tackling social and domestic issues – working in partnership with police and social services to protect children, to protect partners, and to protect others from domestic and sexual abuse.

Now, unification of the Probation Service has taken huge amounts of thought and planning over a long period of time. We want to make sure that the process continues to be a success as these new arrangements take hold. Over the summer, I therefore intend to publish a road map setting out the path for the next 18 months – to embed, to improve, and to foster innovation in the delivery of the Probation Service.

Now the record investment we’ve put into probation, not just in cash terms but in personnel as well, mean that it is better able than ever to cut crime in our country. And through the unification of services, we’re making sure that probation is more joined-up, better equipped, and more able than ever to ensure justice is done and seen to be done.

All this work will position probation as an integral part of our criminal justice fleet – to overhaul our response to crime and cut rates of offending in our country for generations to come.

Now, I would like to finish with prisons – without doubt the largest ship in the criminal justice fleet. As such, it makes sense that they need to be first rate and able to set the direction of travel.

There are about 65,000 sentenced offenders in our prisons today. By keeping this criminal minority out of our communities, prisons make sure they cannot do further harm to the law-abiding majority in our country.

But prisons are so much more than just mandatory boarding houses for criminals. In the course of a prisoner’s sentence, the prison service does vital rehabilitative work that can help us to address the amount of crime that now comes from reoffending, as well as its staggering estimated cost of over £18 billion per year. In fact, our most recent data suggests that around a third of sentenced prisoners have 15 or more previous cautions and convictions.

Now, like all of us, during the COVID-19 pandemic prisons were forced to do things differently – finding new ways to keep providing decent prison environments as well as their day-to-day rehabilitative work. I am enormously grateful to staff across the custodial estate for everything they have done to keep prisons working, despite the hugest challenges – they really are some of the hidden heroes of the pandemic. What has been a surprise for many is just what a success these changes have been, enabling regimes to deliver better services and to make prisons safer places.

In many ways, there will be no going back to how things were done before and the government is determined to seize the opportunity to build back a better prisons system – one that not only has better outcomes but also enables staff to keep better order and spot safety concerns much more easily. And this can support prisons to do both the short and longer-term work to keep the public safe and, ultimately, to cut crime in our country.

So, I can announce today our ambition to publish a Prisons White Paper – to set a new direction of reform as the prison estate adapts to recent legislative changes, transitions from COVID-19 and which begins to look to the future of criminal justice in England & Wales. I think that has to begin with capacity.

When this government was elected, it was on a promise to keep people safe by introducing tougher sentencing for the worst offenders and to end automatic release for the most serious crimes. Through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill currently making its way through Parliament, we are delivering on that promise.

In effect what this will mean is that many prisoners will spend more time in custody. And to meet the need for more space in our prisons, we have already started putting the foundations in place and committed more than £4 billion to deliver 18,000 prison places over the next six years – it’s the largest prison build programme in over a century. However, we must go further, and we hope that any forthcoming White Paper will include more information on our ten-year plan to create the next generation of prison places.

But it is also important that we invest in the estate as it exists today – to ensure that we maximise every asset we have. There are two important elements to this: firstly, making sure good influences from the outside world remain accessible to prisoners and secondly slamming the prison gates shut on the bad influences that can contribute to cycles of reoffending.

During the COVID-19 pandemic prison visits from friends and family were necessarily stopped to control the spread of the virus. Now this undoubtedly contributed to the national effort to protect the NHS and to save lives. But we know just how important these relationships are to prisoners’ wellbeing. They can play a huge part in how likely they are to engage with prison regimes and to keep positive about addressing the issues they need to overcome – and I know this from my own conversations with prisoners that I’ve started to have again now that conditions are safer. This was at the forefront of our thinking last year when we quickly rolled out video calling technology across the prison estate – to ensure prisoners could keep in contact with loved ones.

With suppliers unable to attend custodial settings, that very same technology enabled locked down prison regimes to carry on offering crucial education services. By giving offenders new interests and better skills – that might not have been accessible to them at home or in school – these services can be a shop window to a better life, demonstrating just what is possible with hard work and determination.

Any forthcoming White Paper should examine how it might be possible to make much better use of technology to safely facilitate both these forces for good – to keep prisoners upbeat about who is waiting for them beyond the prison gates, and to give them as clear a view as possible of the better future that could be waiting too.

Now at the opposite end of the scale, we know that there are also bad influences, which do huge damage to prisoners in their rehabilitation journeys – leading them away from the potential of a brighter tomorrow and back down the dark alley of crime.

And substance misuse so often plays a role in that – particularly for low level or repeat offenders and, though prisons should be able to insulate people from it, time and again we see drugs making their way through the prison gates, smuggled in by criminal gangs who make sure that vulnerable offenders rack up drug debts they might never be able to pay back.

We have made big strides in recent years on security with the new £100 million Security Investment Programme – to target Serious and Organised criminals’ attempts to smuggle drugs and contraband into our prisons, and we have introduced into the legislation new powers for prisons to make use of counter-drone technology.

And our intention is for the White Paper to look again at how we can strengthen our security response and potentially put in place a new drug strategy, so that we can keep these terrible influences out of our prisons. And amongst other things, we are already funding technology to block illicit mobile phones used by gangs to organise their operations, as well as rolling out x-ray body scanners across the entire male closed estate, and we have funded counter-drone technology to close off the delivery routes. Only last week I was looking at one in Lincoln Prison and officers told me what a difference it has made – keeping prisoners and staff safe from contraband.

As I mentioned earlier, we know that of those cautioned or convicted of a crime in our country, more than 80 per cent have at least one previous caution or conviction. That means more often than not that when offenders leave our prisons they go on to offend again. But we also know what works to prevent it – a job, a home, a healthy lifestyle. The evidence on this is clear, so it is imperative that the prison estate is set up to give offenders every opportunity to get their lives back on track.

And we want to look at how it might be possible to build on programmes like the COVID Emergency Accommodation Scheme, which many probation officers found to be invaluable. They reported that having a fixed abode improved communication with offenders and led to better engagement all round with rehabilitation. And at Leeds, Pentonville and Bristol, the Offender Accommodation Pilot gives up to two years support until offenders are settled back into the community.

Now one prisoner in that scheme had spent 8 years in and out of prison because of violence and drugs, but since being put into a managed tenancy his tests for substances have all come out negative and he completed his probation for the first time in August last year.

That’s the kind of crime-cutting success story we’ve got to replicate.

So, from this summer, we are introducing a new provision of temporary accommodation and support for up to 12 weeks post-release for prison-leavers at risk of homelessness, initially in 5 of our probation areas in England. And we are collaborating with 16 prisons to test new and innovative approaches to ensure offenders resettle back into the community and turn their backs on crime. This is being funded by the £50m investment in reducing reoffending announced at the start of this year.

Now, the Prisons White Paper should explore how it might be possible to put cross-agency and cross-government working at the heart of our response, so that we can make a difference to every factor that could contribute to rehabilitative success. We are currently building on our growing body of evidence on what works to reduce reoffending, and I am keen we explore what a ‘resettlement passport’ might look like to enable prisoners to get to that better future and make a positive contribution to society.

Now, our ambition would be for these passports to bring together everything offenders need to turn their backs on crime. Because the evidence shows us that if we get these things right, then prisoners are more likely to keep on the straight and the narrow post-release. Of course, it won’t be as simple as that in every case, but in so many it can be.

Now, we know that most women in prison have experienced trauma in their lives and this affects how they engage with rehabilitative services. Trauma is often at the root of the behaviour that drives their offending, so a trauma-informed environment can indeed help to address this.

We need to support women in prison to address their histories of trauma so they can turn their lives around. So, we need to become both trauma-informed and trauma-responsive in everything we do – and that means understanding what trauma is and how it impacts on individuals and then designing our services, buildings and systems to respond to it. Again, only a few weeks ago I was talking to some prison officers and this issue came out so powerfully.

Work has already commenced within the estate to help address women’s histories of trauma and we have started to see the positive impact this can have. The White Paper should build on that work, exploring ways to further test, evaluate and incorporate trauma-based methods in the women’s estate, to inform our wider approach to trauma across all cohorts of prisoners.

And finally, the White Paper should look at how we can invest in our most important asset in the prison estate – that’s our dedicated workforce. The CSJ’s award-winning report – Control, Order, Hope – set out just how vital the prison workforce is to preventing crime and protecting the public. Now, we want to take a fresh look at how we can retain talented staff and if there are ways in which they could better use improved technology

This could enable them to spend less time on administration, and more time on the afflictions that so plague our prison population. It could also allow the space for prison staff to develop their skills as rehabilitation professionals, so that they are better equipped for the enormous responsibility of their roles.

And having seen prisons as a minister but also in my professional career over 30 years, I think jail craft is so important and little understood. Prisons are not islands; they are part of our society, facing the same challenges. They must be fully linked up to community-based services if we are to effectively reduce crime. Now, our ambition for this White Paper is to capture the moment. As we transition back to normality after the global pandemic it could lay a path for the future of our prison system – one that takes advantage of the innovations that have demonstrated a different, better way of getting results.

My department is currently working hard to finalise these details, so that we can come forward with the best possible proposals. Now, making a success of the White Paper can and should mean protecting the public from the effects of crime in the short and longer term, protecting the law-abiding majority from the criminal minority, while at the same time giving those who want a second chance the opportunity to change their lives for good.

The criminal justice fleet in our country exists to protect the British public from harm. For it to do that as effectively as possible, we need to get each ship into formation towards a single destination. And that place, that destination is a safer, stronger Britain – where there is less crime and fewer victims.

We are already making progress, getting into position and making sure we’ve got the wind in our sails. On the way that victims are treated, so that they are better seen and heard by a criminal justice system that is truly on their side. And through a bigger probation service that has better practice and a more joined-up approach to get people’s lives on track.

But there remains more to do.

Prisons and the work done in them will need to lead the way and the government will soon bring forward proposals on how the prison estate can better cut crime both today and tomorrow – keeping dangerous criminals out of our communities, and giving those who want it a chance to re-join society as law-abiding members of it.

That’s how we will rebuild the criminal justice system in our country and that’s how I believe we’ll cut levels of crime for good. That’s how we’ll get to the safer Britain we can see ahead in the distance. This government is determined to see that journey through.

Thank you.

Sunday 18 July 2021

A Grand Plan

I suppose it's only natural that when you've created a vast empire, you want a grand plan. The MoJ has such a plan and they've just published it. Here are some highlights that particularly relate to probation, but I've left out much that concerns the prison estate:-

Ministry of Justice Outcome Delivery Plan: 2021-22 


The justice system is an essential public service, relied upon by millions of victims, families and businesses across our country to deliver justice outcomes that matter to them. Throughout the past year, the dedication and hard work of our teams and partners has kept that system going.

We are working to recover, rebuild and restore the justice system to its rightful place at the heart of our society and the foundation of our economy.

First, we must continue to rise to the challenges the pandemic presents the justice system and maintain our focus on recovery.

Secondly, we need to look beyond COVID-19 and rebuild public confidence in the justice system, by:
  • Building back safer: continuing to put public protection at the heart of criminal justice, cutting crime and reducing reoffending.
  • Building back stronger: by ensuring the justice system works for those who need it most.
  • Building back fairer: to deliver swift access to justice to deliver a first-class public service that works in the interests of all people and businesses.
Thirdly, our goal throughout will be to restore law and justice to their rightful place at the heart of society and reaffirm the position of justice within the constitution of the whole of the United Kingdom.

The whole of the Ministry of Justice is aligned behind this vision and strategy. There are clear plans for delivery of all our objectives, supported by effective governance and resources that are aligned across the Group and with our partners.

We are working to build a leading-edge organisation that is open, inclusive and welcomes innovation. Delivering the objectives set out in this plan is possible through the professionalism and commitment of our 80,000+ colleagues who all work every day to protect and advance the principles of justice.

2. Reduce reoffending

Outcome Strategy:

Our strategy to reduce reoffending is central to the government’s commitment to cut crime. Around 80% of convictions and cautions come from those who have previously offended (MoJ, 2020).

We are focusing on the interventions that are known to work: a home, a job and access to treatment for substance misuse. We will work with other government departments to deliver targeted interventions to tackle reoffending, including the roll out of transitional accommodation in five areas of the country to support those leaving prison at risk of homelessness, and fulfil our manifesto commitment to create a new Prisoner Education Service.

We are targeting our approach with other government departments to help reduce reoffending amongst young people and prevent them from offending in the first place. We will also commence delivery of the commitments set out in the Female Offending Strategy (2018), acquiring the site for the first residential women’s centre (RWC) site in Wales. This approach will support women offenders to address the underlying causes of their offending behaviour and thereby reduce reoffending.

We completed our transition to a stronger and more sustainable probation model in June 2021. This model will establish clear accountabilities, ensure that staff have the right skills to perform their duties, implement innovative rehabilitative programmes of work to prevent future crime and increase supervision of offenders outside of prison, so the courts will have confidence that monitoring will be strict and community sentences will be robust and effective.

To deliver this strategy in 2021/22 we will:

Deliver a Community Accommodation Service, including Approved Premises expansion and improvement and the provision of transitional accommodation for prison leavers at risk of homelessness in five probation regions, supported by dedicated housing officers.

We will work within sixteen prisons to test new processes and initiatives across accommodation, education, employment and substance misuse treatment to improve the rehabilitative support individuals receive in custody.

Continue the roll out of community sentence treatment requirements to new areas, to address the underlying cause of offending, for vulnerable offenders with mental health, alcohol and substance abuse issues.

To have delivered our Probation Reform Programme by unifying the probation service, as planned, in June 2021. This will improve services, build resilience and reduce reoffending.

Introduce legislative and practical changes to create strong alternatives to youth custody for children and reform the experience for the minority of those who must be detained. We will open our first Secure School by 2023, transforming the Medway secure training centre in Rochester, ensuring that young people in custody get access to integrated education, health and care.

Pilot Residential Women’s Centres, acquiring the first site in Wales.

Test new approaches to reduce reoffending and develop solutions to the key challenges prison leavers face through the prison leavers project.

Improve our electronic monitoring service, increase the use of alcohol abstinence monitoring and expand the use of Global Positioning System tagging.

Projects and Programmes

The Reducing Reoffending Delivery Programme will:
  • Deliver a Community Accommodation Service.
  • Deliver an improved approach to securing employment for prisoners [SDG 8.3 & 8.5].
  • Improved approach to connecting prisoners to community services to continue their substance misuse treatment. (including through Health and Justice Co-ordinators in probation [SDG 3.5].
The probation reform programme will:
  • Strengthen engagement and collaboration with local partners such as devolved authorities, Police and Crime Commissioners and others.
  • Accelerate the professionalisation of our workforce to secure the skills necessary to deliver effective probation services.
  • Improve our ability as a department to disseminate change quickly across the probation system.
1.2 Outcome Evaluation Plan

Probation reform - The evaluation programme will separate into multiple thematic areas with various initiatives expected to be piloted during the next five years. A mixed-methods approach (process, impact, economic evaluation) will be used depending on the requirements of each component part of the evaluation.

Reduce Reoffending Delivery Programme - The overall aim will be to understand how the programme has been implemented, whether it has led to the intended outcomes, and determine which ways of working should continue, be amended or be stopped completely. We are also looking to undertake a longer-term evaluation plan.

Youth Justice Programme - Aim to review the process and impacts of implementing reform change across the youth estate, focusing on the mechanisms of planning, introducing and implementing change, identifying challenges, and lessons learned to share across the estate. Impact evaluation will explore whether the programme has met its key aims of improving safety for children and staff across the secure estate and improving life chances for children in custody.

3. Deliver swift access to justice

Outcome Strategy:

Justice is a core public service relied upon by victims, families and businesses. Whether to resolve a business dispute, protect a child at risk, or bring an offender to justice – we aim to ensure that when our system is needed, it can be accessed swiftly.

Above all, this means a plan for recovery to tackle outstanding cases created by the circumstances of the global pandemic. In addition, we will take steps to make the courts and tribunals system stronger and smarter to improve the running of cases and the experience of all who use them, whether that’s defendants, victims, witnesses or lawyers. We will pursue smarter and faster alternatives to court across civil and family justice, through different ways to resolve disputes and introducing important cross-system reforms in family justice to guide families to the best outcome possible for them. This approach enables us to deliver a better experience for our users while ensuring that resources at court are focused on those who need them most. Alongside these changes we will support victims to access justice in a way that ensures they feel protected, cared for and safe. We remain committed to the sustainability of the criminal legal aid system, now and in the future, ensuring that the system that can adapt to the changing needs of defendants, practitioners and the criminal justice system of which it is such an integral part.

To deliver this strategy in 2021/22 we will:

Recover from COVID-19 and reduce outstanding cases in our courts and tribunals by:
  • maximising courtroom capacity and hearing capability across the courts and tribunals estate whilst ensuring that the appropriate COVID-19 safety measures are in operation.
  • optimising performance in the courts and tribunals by increasing the throughput of volumes of cases and managing the levels of outstanding caseloads.
  • working with other government departments to progress ways of resolving disputes which do not involve court hearings.
  • Deliver the Court Reform Programme, a key enabler to modernising and transforming the procedures and infrastructure of courts and tribunals, to further build organisational resilience and accelerate recovery, including development of the Common Platform and investing in remote hearing tools.
  • Reform the pension scheme to resolve the serious recruitment and retention issues within the judiciary, and recruit 1,100 judges and 1,500 magistrates.
  • Provide victims with a service in which they feel protected, cared for and safe by:
  • investing in victims’ services to support all victims of crime, with a particular focus on victims of sexual violence and domestic abuse. 
  • consulting on a Victims’ Law.
  • publishing a cross-government victims’ funding strategy.
  • publishing the Rape Review and taking forward a programme of work to address the low number of effective trials in rape and sexual offence cases.
  • implementing the Domestic Abuse Act to protect people from control, coercion and abuse.
  • piloting integrated domestic abuse courts.
  • Respond to the Criminal Legal Aid Review before the end of the year, which aims to ensure the legal aid sector can adapt to the changing criminal justice system..
Departments supporting the outcome delivery:

Crown Prosecution Service – Responsible for prosecuting cases and the progression of cases through the criminal justice system.

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – Responsible for legislation governing employment tribunals.

Home Office – Responsible for recruitment and investment in specialist capabilities across law enforcement; tackling neighbourhood crime; delivery of preventative interventions to reduce pressure on the criminal justice system; victim support; investments in research, evidence and data; immigration and asylum decisions, which drive tribunal demand.

Department for Work and Pensions – Responsible for welfare benefits decisions, which drive demand in social security and child support tribunals.

Department for Education – Joint responsibility for the First-tier Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) tribunal operating effectively; engagement as part of the family justice system and working with MoJ to prioritise child safeguarding issues and adoption in court.

Projects and Programmes

Through our Court reform programme
  • Professional court users will be able to access a single crime platform to share and access case information, bringing greater consistency and efficiency to the way criminal cases are managed.
  • Local authorities will apply online to take children into care and users will be able opt to resolve simple disputes online.
Victims’ support/law
  • Deliver a cross-government strategy to better align and refine outcomes for funding for support services for victims (2021).
  • Increase in victims who receive their rights and have confidence in the criminal justice system (2021).
  • Consult on a Victims’ Law (2021).
Domestic abuse
  • Pilot Integrated Domestic Abuse Court, which will improve outcomes for victims of domestic abuse, introduce an investigative approach in the family courts and implement the Harm Panel recommendations (2023).
  • implementing the Domestic Abuse Act.
1.2 Outcome Evaluation Plan

HMCTS Reform Programme - The Overarching Evaluation is a five-year evaluation programme running alongside the HMCTS reform programme. The evaluation will help assess whether the reforms are meeting their intended aims, improving access to justice, and ensuring the justice system is fair. We have identified four main themes in the reform programme and our research is structured around these:
  • Redesigning channels around user needs and a shift towards online services.
  • Enhancing the use of audio and video hearings.
  • Changing the physical court estate and the way it is utilised.
  • Centralising processes and providing additional support where required.
Legal aid review - We will monitor the impact of changes to the fee schemes through information gathered through the billing process. The impact on the provider base will be monitored through Legal Aid Agency (LAA) management information. Sustainability and diversity impacts in particular will continue to be assessed through the data sharing arrangements secured with the representative bodies (e.g. The Law Society and the Bar Council). These data linkages provide detailed information on provider base characteristics.

The impact on the provider base will be monitored through LAA management information. Sustainability and diversity impact in particular will continue to be assessed through the data sharing arrangements secured with the representative bodies (e.g. The Law Society and the Bar Council).

Friday 16 July 2021

Embedding a Baseline Roadmap Across Digital Platforms

Yes, we're all super excited, as I'm sure you are, to hear of the many and varied ways the MoJ is helping tired and weary frontline probation crime fighters cope with their digital platforms. It's all scaling fast, lots of ideas are developing and you can help improve the playbook!

Introducing the MoJ Digital Accessibility Team

Posted on:15 July 2021 

This financial year, the MoJ has created a Digital Accessibility team, to start embedding accessibility across the justice system. Through a 6 month accessibility profession project and on-the-ground learning, combined with looking at the cross-gov accessibility landscape, we realised that we had a gap. People were aware of accessibility and very keen to build accessible services, but needed a bit more support and structure around it. So, after a successful proposal to the Central Digital Senior Management Team, we were set up!

Who we are

The MoJ Digital Accessibility team is currently made up of two people - Xxxxxx Senior Product Manager, and Xxxxxx, Accessibility Lead. We’ll be expanding out to include a Delivery Manager and an Accessibility Specialist.

What are our goals?

We have three main goals for the year:
  1. Enhance capability and knowledge across teams delivering products and services
  2. Embed accessibility considerations into our processes, like recruitment and procurement
  3. Create a framework for a longer term, sustainable approach to accessibility.
That’s quite a lot of things! Xxxx and Xxxx have spent a lot of time planning out a roadmap for the year, so we can closely align our activities with these goals, and track activities, and progress against these goals.

What have we been up to so far?

So far, we’ve had a couple of different focuses. One has been raising awareness about our team. We held a launch party on the 19th March, to talk about our strategy and host some lightning talks from staff across Digital and Technology, which was very popular, and started lots of great conversations. We also presented on our team at the Chief Financial Officer’s standup, to 560+ people.

We’ve then been using the network we’re building through these activities to help us gather user needs. We’ve also been analysing data from accessibility surveys run over the past 2 years, ran a breakout activity at our launch party, and have been speaking to different communities within the organisation. This has helped inform us on what structures to put in place, for people to access the services we’ll be offering.

We’ve also been baselining our digital estate, and starting to identify what the highest priority services are, so we know where to focus our efforts first. We’ve been doing this with help from service owners and the product management community across the organisation, and with support from senior management. This will help us track progress, and also identify areas where we might need to pivot and iterate on our approach.

Lastly, MoJ is not the first department to set up an accessibility team, so we’ve been speaking to the Heads of Accessibility in other departments to discuss their approaches, share our approach, and get feedback. Accessibility is an emerging profession in government, and so we’ve been keen to make sure we can learn from what other people have done, rather than starting reinventing the wheel.

What’s next for our team?

We have quite a big roadmap for the next 9 months! In the immediate future, we’ll be focusing on these things:
  • finishing up hiring for our team, so we’re all in place
  • rolling out a program of training sessions across the organisation, to help raise awareness and capability - this will be a mixture of general awareness sessions and profession-specific sessions
  • starting up our in-house consultancy offering
We’ve got a busy year ahead of us, but we’ve been overwhelmed with the support we’ve had so far, from all areas of the organisation. Accessibility is a team sport, and we’re super excited about what we’re going to achieve together for the rest of this financial year.


There's more here:-

Introducing the service design playbook

Posted on:25 June 2021 

The service design playbook is a resource to help designers and digital teams navigate designing public services.

The goal of the service design playbook is to help designers that are new to service design in government understand how to apply service design thinking at each stage of product delivery and how to work with others in a multi-disciplinary team. It's the collective knowledge and experience of many of the service designers at the Ministry of Justice brought together to support other designers across the organisation.

Aligning the design approach across MoJ

We’ve scaled. Fast. In the last 18months, we have grown by 500% to a community of nearly 100 designers. We needed to standardise best practice and develop consistency in approach across our rapidly growing portfolio of work.

One of my favourite descriptions of service design is working with users and delivering services, and there are many frameworks and processes that exist in helping us achieve this. The double-diamond method and the Stanford school design thinking process are just a couple of the ones out there.

The playbook doesn’t recreate existing tools, but embeds them and supports designers to know how and when to apply them. While, as designers, we might not follow a set procedure in government, we have the frameworks in the GOV.UK Service Manual and the Service Standard that acts as a great starting point in understanding the mechanics of creating and running good public services.

The Service Design Playbook builds on the theory shared in these resources and provides additional practical approaches to designers as they navigate the service stages (discovery, alpha and beta).

What if our services are non-traditional?

During my year at the Ministry of Justice, I've recognised the complexity in designing digital prison and probation services and the particular challenges our teams overcome.

Our services are not always public-facing and are often created to solve challenges for staff that work in highly pressured environments.

We have numerous prisons that all run slightly differently, and the complexity of technical constraints feels very real. We’re reminded on a daily basis that design is always political. Prisoners and people on probation serve a sentence rather than choose to use a service. Between their needs and those of the general public, our staff and our members of parliament - it’s not always easy to know which user lays at the heart of our designs and who the service is really for.

Our service users are diverse, yet a thread ties them. They are affected by, care for, or are responsible for people who, in turn, are experiencing a vulnerable and distressing period in their lives.

I designed the playbook with all of this in mind. How do we approach the design of complex services that range from web pages to monolith legacy systems? How do we navigate the creation of services that impact people and staff across various prisons?

I collaborated with designers across the Ministry of Justice through a series of workshops and gathered our collective experiences to form the guidance shared in the playbook. The playbook prompts designers at each stage of the delivery process, from exploration to beta, to think about how they can collaborate with teams and stakeholders to deliver a service.

Whether it's looking at problem space and service users, exploring the policy space, to thinking about accessibility - there are tried and tested ideas and methods available to use at each step of every design phase. They include directions of when to use them and why.

How do we describe our work to our teams?

I joined the Ministry of Justice from a mainly non-government background. It took a little time to navigate my role and understand the cross-overs of my responsibilities with others in a multidisciplinary team.

Whilst the Digital, Data and Technology capability framework is a helpful introduction to all the professions and disciplines, I recognised the gap in guidance of how these disciplines worked best together to design the service end-to-end. There are seven roles within the user-centred design family and most designers often wear many (multi-disciplined) hats. So, where did the role of a service designer fit amongst all of our wonderful disciplines? Furthermore, how do we describe our part to our team members?

It’s a critical and challenging part of our role. Our work hinges on the collaboration of many disciplines. To offer the most value, we need to articulate our methods and build trust amongst the team. Only by convincing the team to spend time and energy in the process, do we encourage them to take it with us.

The ‘ introduction to the team’ section of the playbook aims to help service designers articulate our work and give multidisciplinary teams (and us) a better understanding of our role in government. This section shares the outcome of our work, how we achieve the outcomes, and the people we collaborate within the process.

Please help us improve the service design playbook.

What we have in the playbook is just the start. We will continue to develop it as we learn.

We would welcome feedback on the playbook, which you can share via email, or through comments on the playbook via Miro. We have lots of ideas on developing this further, and if you'd like to be part of that journey - we'd love to hear from you.