Monday 21 March 2022


I've been wanting to say something about the obscenity playing out in Ukraine for days, but somehow words don't seem able to adequately convey the horror that Putin has unleashed upon a proud and honourable nation. However, this from the BBC website in the last hour seems to crystalize the whole unbelievable nightmare for me and put it into a chilling historical context:-

Ukraine war: Holocaust survivor killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv

A Ukrainian man who survived the Nazi Holocaust during World War Two has been killed during a Russian attack on the eastern city of Kharkiv. Boris Romantschenko, 96, died during Russian shelling of his apartment block on Friday, relatives said.

Russian forces have been relentlessly shelling Kharkiv, which lies just 30 miles (50km) from the border, for over three weeks. At least 500 civilians have now been killed there, Ukrainian officials say. Police said one of the victims has been identified as a nine-year old boy.

The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation said it was "deeply disturbed" by Mr Romantschenko's death. The organisation, of which Mr Romantschenko was vice-president, announced the news after being informed by his family and said he had "worked intensely on the memory of of Nazi crimes". "We mourn the loss of a close friend. We wish his son and granddaughter, who brought us the sad news, a lot of strength in these difficult times," the foundation's statement added.

Mr Romantschenko was born in the north-eastern city of Bondari on 20 January 1926. He was rounded up by Nazi troops after the invasion of the Soviet Union and deported to Germany in 1942, where he was forced to do hard labour, the foundation said. After a failed escape attempt in 1943, he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where some 56,545 people were murdered before its liberation in 1945 by the allies. 

He also spent time in the subcamp of Mittelbau-Dora, as well as the infamous Bergen Belsen and Peenemünde camps. He returned to Buchenwald in 2012 to celebrate the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the camp by US troops, where he recited the pledge made by survivors to create "a new world where peace and freedom reign".

The Nazi regime murdered over six million Jewish people across occupied Europe between 1941 and 1945.

Saturday 19 March 2022

Command and Control

Thanks go to the colleague for sharing this cracker:-

Sent: 16 March 2022

To: Xxxxxxxx PDU - Staff

Subject: Professionalism, responsivity and health and safety

Dear all,

I’m going to start this email by stating explicitly that the below observations do not relate to all staff. I recognise that you are all working in challenging times, doing the very best you can. However, I think it is important to revisit the expectation that all of us conduct ourselves with the utmost professional curtesy showing due respect for our colleagues and People on Probation. There have been a number of issues coming to the fore of late which can’t continue to go unchecked.


I can totally sympathise with the volume of email traffic that we all get - me personally at least 150 – 200 emails a day. Many of these however are escalation emails to me, where colleagues from with London and further afield are complaining about a lack of response from some of you. I get to see the chain of chaser emails which go ignored or unanswered and this is totally unacceptable. We are all incredibly busy and I recognise that, but even a holding email, advising that you will get to the matter as soon as possible is better than radio silence. This is incredibly frustrating to experience, think about how this makes you feel when you are on the receiving end of it.

Likewise, answering telephone calls. I have seen some staff blatantly ignore reception telephone calls or those form the service centre. What happens next is myself and SPOs then get copied in to emails to resolve queries and issues, only to see you at your desk seemingly able to have facilitated that call in the first place. Frankly, it’s rude, shows a lack of respect for our reception staff, leaves PoPs annoyed and causes unnecessary aggravation. There is a knock on effect when this happens and we need to be considerate of that fact.

PoPs are also left waiting in reception for far to long it causes congestion and leads to people getting irate. If your PoP is early then let reception know that you will come out and see them at the allotted time.

Health and Safety

Staff are still failing to book interview rooms, take the right panic alarm for the right room and if I catch the person who is deliberately unplugging the telephones in the interview rooms, there will be a consequence!! These rules are not meant to be a hinderance - it if for your health and safety. We need to be able to ensure the right response is provided if you need it. Reception staff can’t check to see if you are Ok if the phone is unplugged and if you need assistance in Interview room 3, but the panic alarm for interview room 5 is going off then any meaningful response is delayed. Taking the wrong panic alarm and using the wrong interview room has a knock on effect. This is an impassioned plea for you to all take this more seriously from now on. Health and Safety is a collective responsibility.


This goes without saying for the majority of you, but a reminder that we are a team that need to stick together and look out for each other. We all need to take leave for rest and recouperation and should expect colleagues to cover us as much as we should cover them. Same for unexpected absences, everyone needs to chip in, it should not fall to a select few or those who repeatedly help out whilst others chose to be unhelpful. I expect that cases are in a well-managed state with next appointments and a clear steer in Delius about what work has/is being done with them, especially when cover needs to be provided at short notice.

I expect everyone to take notice of the above. I have asked for examples of where this is not happening and this will be addressed directly with the individuals concerned as it is behaviour that will no longer be tolerated. It is simply unfair!

I appreciate that the tone of the email is curt, but I make no apologies for wanting to foster a work environment where all staff behave professionally and in line with our civil service values.

Kind regards,

Head of Service
PDU Xxxxxxx
London Probation Service

Thursday 17 March 2022

Nothing To See Here!

 Probation Service Change Bulletin - Issue 11 March 2022

1. Amy Rees, Director General Probation, Wales and Youth

Welcome to our re-launched Probation Change Bulletin for 2022. This bi-monthly bulletin will look to spotlight the latest news in Probation, covering all our portfolio change programmes - Reform, Workforce, Reducing Reoffending and Electronic Monitoring, as well as keeping you updated on any key developments across our business as usual areas.

A lot has happened since our unification on 26 June 2021, when we launched the new Probation Service, bringing together staff from the previous National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). As a new unified organisation we have been able to integrate the services we deliver alongside core supervision - working in partnership to address the needs of people on probation and support the government’s ambitious agenda to cut crime. All of this while dealing with the backdrop of a global pandemic, ensuring the continued delivery of probation across England and Wales. Probation achieved a lot in 2021 and 2022 is set to be another year of enhanced delivery and continuous improvement, building on our unification.

Our next edition will be published in May, so please keep an eye on this page for further updates.

2. Responding to COVID and Recovery

Great strides were made towards the end of 2021 to move from operating on Probation Exceptional Delivery Models (EDMs) to all probation regions in England and Wales delivering to full or light National Standards. EDMs are a suite of documents that were created to adapt how the Probation Service delivered from March 2019, responding to the impact of Covid-19. EDMs looked to set out the level’s to which probation could deliver, dependant on government restrictions and staffing levels. This allowed for flexibility of delivery across England and Wales dependant on local circumstance.

Due to the upsurge in the Omicron variant, Probation Gold Command was reinstated in late December, and the decision was taken to reintroduce the Probation Supervision EDM across England through January. In response to Welsh Government announcement, Probation in Wales also reinstated the Probation Supervision EDM, as well as range of EDMs relating to service delivery for the month of January 2022, this did not include Community Payback and 
Accredited Programme delivery.

As of 31 January 2022, all regions in England and Wales have now successfully exited EDMs again and will be operating on the new ‘Prioritising Probation Framework’, allowing for a steady increase in delivery and providing Regional Probation Directors with a robust tool to help regions adapt to how they deliver probation locally according to numbers of available staff. The aim is to move towards full delivery as soon and as swiftly as is safely possible.

All Approved Premises across England and Wales also exited their EDM on 31 January 2022, unless they were classified as an outbreak site, in which case they will exit their EDM once the UK Health Security Agency / Public Health Wales declares the outbreak closed.

3. Reform and the Target Operating Model (TOM)

The path to Target Operating Model sets out Probations intentions for the future of the service over the 18-months post-unification. The initial focus up to June 2021 was to unify the service, ensuring the transition of around 8000 staff to the Probation Service from the NPS and CRCs.

The focus since June has been to stabilise the service and embed the structural changes across the organisation against the backdrop of Covid-19 and Omicron. The focus now is on delivering more consistent management and delivery of sentence plans, better assessment and management of risk and more balanced caseloads, with an improved case allocation process to support this.

For Unpaid Work, Accredited Programmes and Structured Interventions changes are starting to be implemented that that will drive up completion rates and deliver better outcomes. Much of this will be through making programmes available locally, making improvements to the assessment and induction process and more regular reviews of active cases.

As set out in the TOM, the Probation Service is utilising commissioned rehabilitative services, working with external partners to meet key areas of rehabilitative needs, including: Accommodation; Employment, Training and Education; Personal Wellbeing; and Women’s Services.

Within Courts there is a focus on improving the pre-sentence reports in order to deliver quality advice to courts and improving sentencer confidence in the delivery of community sentences.

Probation is also working to modernise its digital tools to better support probation staff in supporting people on probation. The aim is to reduce duplication in systems, streamline processes and enable better data recording and analysis, to support workload management, decision making and engaging people on probation. Tools have been reviewed that were used to good effect in the NPS and CRCs prior to unification, and are being adopted and improved, as well as identifying gaps and building new ones.

4. Workforce

To support the reforms being undertaken in Probation and to meet the demands of society, in particular the response to the government campaign of recruiting 20,000 new police officers. Probation launched an enhanced recruitment campaign and are pleased to announce that the recruitment target of 1000 PQiPs (Professional Qualification in Probation) for 2020/2021 was met and Probation are looking to increase levels of recruitment even further in this financial year (2021/22) to 1,500 trainee probation officers. As well as PQiPs, there is a real focus on the wider recruitment of staff across Probation, ensuring the organisation recruits and retain the best staff possible. The continued work around recruitment has been a real achievement to help attract the staff needed to meet the growing demand of the wider justice system.

5. Community Payback

The importance of Community Payback was further recognised in the recent Spending Review announcement, with the government providing an additional £93 million of funding over the next three years. This is key to supporting initiatives to provide training opportunities for those on probation, helping them to develop skills to boost their employability.

A new approach to delivering Community Payback will see the Probation Service develop a range of partnerships with national organisation over the coming months to deliver projects across England and Wales. Many of these partnerships will look to focus on outdoor projects that help improve the environment across England and Wales.

Probation recently launched a recruitment drive to attract 500 extra Community Payback staff to join the service, helping to support the ambition to deliver an extra 3 million hours of Community Payback each year. For more information on the recruitment campaign and how to apply for a role in Community Payback, check out Recruitment drive to ensure offenders pay back for their crimes - GOV.UK (

Probation will continue to highlight the work undertaken around Community Payback via the HMPPS Twitter account – please check this out regularly to see the latest updates.

6. Reducing Reoffending

Last year’s spending review provided a substantial investment for reducing reoffending over the next three years. £200m a year will be invested by 2024-25 to improve prison leavers’ access to accommodation, employment support and substance misuse treatment, and introduce further measures for early intervention to tackle youth offending.

Work is now well underway on the delivery programme to provide prisoners and prison leavers with the support they need to lead a crime-free life. This includes:
  • Delivering a Prisoner Education Service in England which equips prisoners with the numeracy, literacy, skills and qualifications they need to get jobs or apprenticeships after they leave custody;
  • Transforming the opportunities for work in prisons and on Release on Temporary Licence, creating a presumption in favour of enabling vetted and appropriate prisoners to take up work opportunities;
  • Scaling up specialist roles tested in the Accelerator Prisons project that provide the support that prisoners and prison leavers need to turn their back on crime;
  • Introducing new Resettlement Passports that bring together into one place the essentials that prison leavers need to lead crime-free lives on release;
  • Ensuring that every prison leaver at risk of homelessness can access the new transitional accommodation scheme.
7. Electronic Monitoring

Electronic Monitoring continues to be a core part of probation service delivery. We currently monitor over 13,000 individuals every day and are looking to increase the caseload to c.25,000 by March 2025. Further investment from the government of £183m for the Electronic Monitoring expansion projects highlights the vital contribution Electronic Monitoring makes to the justice system.

Alcohol Abstinence and Monitoring Requirement (AAMR) is an additional tool available to the judiciary to address alcohol related offending and support rehabilitation. To see more about the new initiative to cut alcohol-fuelled crime, check out Offenders to be banned from drinking to cut alcohol-fuelled crime - GOV.UK ( and No Christmas tipples for 770 alcohol-tagged offenders - GOV.UK ( An Alcohol Monitoring on License (AML) pathfinder was also successfully rolled out in Wales and 3 women’s prisons on 17 November 2021, leading to a complete ban or monitored consumption when a person is released from custody. AML will be rolled-out across England in the summer.

Saturday 12 March 2022

The Need For A Better Plan

Even though the Probation Service has pretty much disappeared from public view behind the Civil Service wall of bureaucracy and secrecy, those in the know are fully aware that things are not at all in good shape. Effectively, there appears to be tacit agreement between key stakeholders to just cover their ears and shout 'la la la la la' as loudly as possible and hope everything will be just fine. 

Unless something serious happens, I don't think this situation will alter any time soon, but in the meantime it's interesting to see that the the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, even though not mentioning probation directly, is giving some serious thought as to the whole criminal justice landscape and the mess it's currently in:-     

A few weeks back, we published an article on our website by Whitney Iles, Khatuna Tsintsadze and Charlie Weinberg, the latest in the ‘critical care’ series they have been writing for us.

In the article, they criticised what they called “performance activism”, a tendency in the voluntary sector towards lots of activity, but “very little change on the ground”. While we don't really achieve anything, they argued, we are left “feeling good about our efforts”.

One of the things I have been wondering in the last few weeks is whether, in criminal justice, performance activism is itself a symptom of a frustration with the inertia of current criminal justice policy-making, its ‘stuckness’.

The prison system appears mired in almost permanent crisis. The police face a major crisis of trust. The court system is wrestling with an enormous backlog of cases. Injustices such as unfair joint enterprise convictions, the Imprisonment for Public Protection sentence, or racism throughout the justice system, are sometimes acknowledged. But nothing seems to change. Months may pass; the same issues, the same basic problems, remain.

Unsurprisingly, many of us probably feel trapped by the monotony of repeated criminal justice failure, unsure how, or if, we will ever escape it. A flurry of activity, even if it achieves little, can feel better than no activity at all.

I and colleagues at the Centre work are currently working on a new organisational strategy, to help guide the direction of our work through to our 100th anniversary in 2031. As part of that, I've been thinking about the problems of performance activism, and what might be behind it.

I've written this short piece to start bottoming out these issues. I'd be interested in any thoughts or reactions.


How do we escape the monotony of repeated policy failure? How do we instead do something genuinely new and transformative?

Consider the Prisons Strategy White Paper, published in December 2021, in what already feels like a different time.

It promises more prisons, on top of existing plans to expand current capacity to around 100,000 places. “We need a pipeline of accommodation beyond our current build programme”, the White Paper states, “and we will begin preparatory work... to set ourselves up for future expansion”.

There’s nothing particularly new here. In modern times, relentless prison growth has been the monotonous background noise of prisons policy since the eve of the Second World War, as I explained in this Prison Service Journal article from a few years back.

Its effect has been to scupper progress on meaningful reform. Whatever the merits of a number of other proposals in the Prisons Strategy White Paper – improving prison education, doing more to get ex-prisoners into jobs, and enhancing resettlement support, for instance – they will likely be negated by growing prisoner numbers.

A couple of weeks ago, Whitney Iles, Khatuna Tsintsadze and Charlie Weinberg wrote about “performance activism”, a symptom of a “lack of long-term thinking and political bravery”. With performance activism, we see “very little change on the ground”, while we are left “feeling good about our efforts”.

Current responses to initiatives such as the Prisons Strategy White Paper – talking up the perceived positives, while discretely shaking our heads about the obvious negatives – risks falling into this performance activism trap, I think.

Some might argue that this is what you get when too many grant funders favour short-term ‘impact’ over long-term ambition, and commissioning models reward nimble public relations, while punishing principled public challenge. I have much sympathy with such views.

But it also reflects the lack of long-term thinking that Whitney, Khatuna and Charlie wrote about, which all too-often leads to organisations falling into one of two, equally problematic, positions.

First, in seeking to influence the policy process, and to demonstrate impact, we can too readily accept the problem as defined by government, offering ‘solutions’ that tend towards reproducing in the present, and into future, the failed policies of the past. When this happens, we end up being defined in. We become part of the problem we claim we are trying to solve.

Alternatively, in seeking to escape the monotonous circularity of policy failure, we might too easily reject the grind of day-to-day influencing. This can result in powerful critiques and inspiring visions. But they are often critiques and visions easy to dismiss as utopian, and equally easy to ignore. This is the problem of being defined out. We stop having anything useful to contribute to the discussion.

What it means to navigate a course between these two, equally unhelpful, positions, to make possible an escape from the monotony of repeated failure, is something I and colleagues at the Centre are exploring, as we finalise a new strategy for the organisation.

In the context of the Prisons Strategy White Paper, it means, I think, developing coherent and credible alternatives to the seemingly relentless drive to ever more prisons, and charting a path to the world as we might wish it to be, while taking seriously the realities of the world as it is.

Richard Garside