Monday, 20 February 2017

The Hokey Cokey Internet

Last week saw publication of HMI Probation's latest report and this is how Russell Webster summarised the findings regarding the CRC:-
Manchester probation struggling to implement new model

Overall, inspectors found the quality of the Cheshire and Greater Manchester’s CRC’s work was mixed. The CRC (owned by Purple Futures) is applying the same innovative way of working in each of the five CRCs it owns, based on solid research into what makes people turn away from crime. Despite this, leaders were finding it hard to embed in practice. Public protection work was not good enough because policies and procedures, though commendable, were not being applied consistently enough by frontline staff to protect actual or potential victims from the risk of harm.

Sickness absence rates were high in the CRC and individual caseloads had been large in the months before the inspection. This led to cases moving from one Responsible Officer to another, making it difficult to keep hold of the meaningful relationships so central to good rehabilitative work and reducing reoffending. Extra staff had recently been recruited, which should improve the quality of work and staff morale.

The CRC was delivering impressive services for women, supported by additional funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

In common with other regions, the NPS had experienced less change and was more settled. Staff morale was relatively high and good core work to protect the public was carried out, though there was more to do on delivering rehabilitation work consistently.

Inspectors made recommendations which included the NPS accessing the range of accredited and non-accredited programmes and services on offer from the CRC to reduce reoffending, and the CRC providing all staff, and especially new staff, with regular supervision and training. The CRC should also improve the effectiveness of the management of unpaid work.

The main inspectors’ findings of the work of the CRC were:

  • The CRC had not made a sufficient contribution to protecting those at risk of harm. Public protection policies and procedures were robust but they were not being applied consistently, and so the impact of the work to protect actual and potential victims was limited.
  • The CRC was not sufficiently effective in delivering interventions to reduce reoffending. Progress in the delivery of interventions to support desistance had been made in too few of the cases. The quality of the work and its impact was not consistent. Assessments had largely been carried out well but planning for work to support desistance was weaker.
  • The CRC was generally effective in supporting service users to abide by their sentence. The frequency, quality, enforcement and the number of appointments offered was generally good and consequently, service users usually complied.


I currently work within CGM (owned by Interserve Justice/Purple Futures!). I was somewhat surprised at some of the content of the recent HMIP inspectorate report - it was rather weighted towards the views/opinions of senior management (oh quelle suprise I hear you shout) - apparently allocations between NPS and CRC is going well (couldn't be further from the truth) not sure if this is due to the PSC's (Professional Service Centres) who deal with allocations and enforcement - the powers that be told us that these centre's would free front line staff up to work more effectively with offenders. 

What happens here is that staff spend more time chasing up enforcement requests - breaches unable to be completed due to the poor quality of letters or letter not even being issued - UPW contacts not being updated with staff not having any idea if someone has actually attended (at the start of the new year they had a massive backlog of hours to be inputted). 10 day initial OASys are supposed to be inputted by the PSC's however staff end up chasing these up which results in staff being left with very little time to complete (like 10 days isn't bad enough).

We have IM's (formally SPO's) who have no formal Probation officer training/qualification (no longer required to be a manager) - they are now more like business performance managers who have to look after health and safety, estates management and imprest (that was always going to work NOT) they have no idea what they're doing so it's little wonder they're struggling to embed the interchange model!

Managers are constantly banging on about meeting targets and service delivery targets otherwise we'll loose money (back to being our fault again). We are constantly battling with the hokey cokey internet (one minute your in the next your out - may also have something to do with staff being in charge of setting up IT systems that have absolutely no experience or skills in doing so).

We have so many new staff that through no fault of their own been dropped from a great height into roles with no case management (some of these staff have been displaced from their previous roles when the initial changes took place - admin and UPW). There is a feeling of total despair from most staff, the environment is that of a dangerous one and yes we are not protecting the public but this is not down to damn hard work from front line staff, but that we are constantly hindered by rubbish systems and procedures. I could go on forever and as you can guess I missed the memo requesting I collect my rose tinted glasses.


And that's just the start of it. I too was disappointed at the report it certainly does not reflect the reality. Staff morale non existent, high case loads and sickness, staff leaving at some frightening rates. Those that are left behind can't cope and CGM are struggling to recruit especially PO's, no one wants to work for them. And this situation does not seem to be getting better, they have no answers to the mess and are flapping about like fish out of water. CGM needs to be handed back to the gov before anything serious happens either to the public or the staff.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Pounds Not People

An eerie silence seems to have descended. We appear to be treading water again and the blog may slip gently into a period of suspended animation, pending news of the next crisis of course. So, while we mark time, here's something I saw on Facebook recently to tide us over:- 

The latest from Noms!! We have to get evidence of housing quals and employment - we have to request this twice but no one is sure what happens when the majority of offenders don't provide this - then this has to be done for start and end of order release from prison, end licence end PSS. Any significant event such as change of job, and separate forms for each concurrent order - and it's related to CRCs being paid!! We were all gobsmacked!!

It's crap isn't it? We have endless emails about it in NPS about missing data. I've got too much to do so it's not at the top of my priority list.

Yep. We've been asked to do this for months.

It's total unnecessary bollox!!

The status is captured through a personal circumstance at the offender level so you shouldn't have to do a different form for concurrent orders?

Double/triple counting? Per Order rather than per person!

Yes per order!!

They are completely bonkers

We've been told we have to!! Also even if the licence period is a few days we still have to do a new one at start of PSS!!


We have been told we have to record the data even if it the same as what is already recorded, so at termination if the info is the same we still have to close down the line and then re-open with the same data! Absolutely crazy.

It's just too bureaucratic

We have been doing this for some time in the CRC, the q's are built into our new Induction Pack and the Service Users seem accept it when presented this way at the induction.

Ever get the feeling you've been conned? Quote John Lydon (Sex Pistols)
Certainly not the service I joined back in 1999

It's been in our induction pack for ages but this is a new version with new rules!

Its all about £'s not people.....

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Responses to That Speech

Here's Frances Crook writing on the Huffington Post:-

While Major Sentencing Reform Is A Political Step Too Far There Are Safe Ways To Reduce Prison Numbers

Liz Truss’s bark is worse than her bite. The trouble is that it is the bark that gets the attention and influences what happens.

The Secretary of State for Justice made a speech on Monday about her plans for prison reform that was widely trailed in the Sunday papers. The media salivated at her apparent toughness; but the speech was both more nuanced and more sensible.

Prison sentences have been subject to inflation due to political pressure throughout the Labour years and continued under the Coalition and this government. Liz Truss is right to point to the increase in men serving sentences, often long sentences, for sex crimes. Longer prison sentences have led to double the number of people, almost all men, in prison in the past twenty years. Labour built more prisons but that expansion of the estate encouraged even more people to be sent into the system. The lesson is that ‘talking up’ prison and talking tough leads to increases in the number of people sent to prison.

I don’t need to reiterate the dire state of prisons yet again. Everyone knows they are awash with violence, drugs, assaults and the result is more crime inside prisons and when people are released.

A speech by a secretary of state faced with such appalling challenges should point the way to greater safety, purpose and public confidence. I welcome the commitment to recruit more staff. I have visited two prisons in the last week where recruitment is being based on values as well as competency, which is an exciting development. I welcome the work being done with the Department of Health on improving mental health gatekeeping so that people can be diverted to appropriate services.

But, the elephant in the room is the one thing that she has refused to do and the one thing that will make a difference. It is the one thing that was used to hit the Sunday headlines. She has to reduce the number of prisoners. Prisons will not be safe and purposeful if they are grossly overcrowded. It will not work.

I recognise that major sentencing reform is probably a political step too far. Even Michael Gove balked at that. But there are, under the radar, changes that can ease the pressure and lead to a controlled and safe reduction in prison numbers.

The Howard League is urging smoother release on parole, end the merry-go-round of recalls to prison for administrative reasons, and, put a stop to adding extra days of imprisonment for breaking prison rules. None of this would solve the deep-seated problems, but it would give a breathing space and consequently save lives.

I hope that Liz Truss is true to her word and makes prisons safer and purposeful. I will keep pressing for prisons to work for the few who need to be there, but this can only be achieved when they are reserved for the few, not the many.

Frances Crook


Here's Rob Allen and an Unlocking Potential blog post:-   

The Speech Liz Truss Should Have Given......

I am glad to be at the Centre for Social Justice because our prison system is anything but socially just. The use of prison inevitably produces enormous financial, social and ethical costs. In what everyone can now agree were reckless efforts to rein in the first of these costs, the second and third have risen to unacceptable levels. As a former management accountant I am determined to do something about that.

In terms of the numbers of prisoners, it is shameful that we have the highest prison population rate in Western Europe and almost twice the rate of the Netherlands and Germany. And while prison numbers have at least not risen since 2010, they should really have fallen. The numbers sentenced by the courts for indictable and either way offences has fallen from 370,000 to 280,000 in the last six years. It’ s true that there has been a marked increase in convictions for sex offences and the public rightly expect the most serious cases to receive a proper level of punishment. But how, in a period of austerity, with prisons in crisis, are we to justify the fact that more than 27% of theft and burglary offences were punished with imprisonment last year compared to 22% in 2010? Or that the average sentence lengths for these crimes rose from 8.8 to 9.2 months? There’s a similar pattern to drug offences and fraud.

I would like to see prison reserved for the most serious offenders and sentence lengths brought into line with Western European norms. I am instructing the Sentencing Council to revise its guidelines to give effect to that. We should aim to reduce our prison population by ensuring that the upper limits of the revised sentencing guidelines are not exceeded by the courts and by encouraging alternative problem solving approaches and restorative justice wherever that is justified. In many cases this might involve a more lenient approach than some might like but we desperately need a more varied and effective approach to the complexity of crime so that victims, offenders and the public get better results.

In drawing up guidelines, the Council must look at the cost and effectiveness of sentences. I have to say on those criteria, I am not convinced that all of the people that currently go to prison need to be there, or be there so long. Of the 77,000 people sentenced to prison for the more serious offences last year, 28,000 were sentenced for theft and burglary. More than 30,000 of the 77,000 were sentenced to 6 months or less. I’m pleased that the number of short sentences has been falling but it has a long way to go. After my review of Probation reports next month, I will be looking at ways that the service can contribute to diverting many more of these short term offenders from jail. I am also interested in exploring how elements of a prison sentence can be converted into a community based sanction. If prisoners agree to undertake a period of unpaid work in the community for example they could be released earlier from custody than they otherwise might have been.

This will help with overcrowding which I now realise is the key problem that needs to be solved before we can regain control of our prisons and start to make them the rehabilitative institutions we have been promising. To provide immediate respite, there will be a presumption that all sentences of up to 2 years will be suspended. I am also taking executive action to release IPP prisoners who have now served longer than the maximum current sentence for their offence and for all post tariff cases, I will be taking to steps to ensure that prisoners only continue to be detained if there is evidence they remain a danger to the public.

I hope that these measures might give the prison system the breather it needs. I might be accused of a quick fix but I believe I am taking the necessary urgent action to address what is an emergency while laying the groundwork for a sustainable future. To inform longer term plans I have established a Justice Reinvestment Task Force which will report by the summer on how to establish direct financial incentives for local agencies to spend money in ways which would reduce prison numbers. I am not convinced that the costs of imprisonment should continue to be borne at national level. At the end of the day, prison is only a small part of the answer to crime.

Rob Allen

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

No Quick Fix Says Truss

I think it's fair to say we've been mightily unimpressed with Liz Truss since she was appointed Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, but she has at her disposal some skilfull speech writers and clever people to guide her on policy. I've selected the following section from her speech yesterday and to be honest, if the situation wasn't as dire as it is, you could be forgiven for thinking it all sounds so sensible. Probation hardly gets a mention of course, but that's just routine now. 

A speech on criminal justice reform by the Secretary of State for Justice

So while Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service focuses on reform, it will be the Secretary of State’s duty to hold the Service to account for the progress offenders make on getting off drugs and getting the education and skills they need to get a job on the outside. I am also beefing up the powers of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons so that they have the teeth when a prison isn’t working to intervene and make the Secretary of State act.

As I have said before, a prisoner’s family is the most effective resettlement agency. Thanks to the evidence collected by Lord Farmer’s Review, Governors will have access to comprehensive data to help them decide what works best to bolster positive family ties. I also want to congratulate the Centre for Social Justice for highlighting the importance of the role of fathers. I think we must always remember that as we look at the justice system because the involvement of fathers is vital.

It will take time to bed in but once we have our reforms in place we will be able to measure progress, learn from the best and, when necessary, intervene to turn around failing prisons.

This change will not happen in weeks or months, it will take time and determination to deliver but as a society we simply cannot afford to put this off any longer. All of the people in this room are vital to this change. I am grateful for your work.

Profound changes in our prison population make the need for reform even tougher and even more critical. We have a challenging time ahead, but an incredibly important time ahead too and I am proud to be leading the Ministry of Justice at this time.

I am equally determined to address the factors that fuel prolific offending for other crimes, like theft and shoplifting, that can all too often put offenders on the path to a prison sentence.

Reforming the criminal justice system does not begin and end with reforming the prison estate and our probation services, though that is the critical place to start.

We also need to intervene earlier by giving our courts the right tools for reform. There can never be an excuse for committing crime but too often people end up in prison because our interventions to tackle problems like drug addiction or mental health issues don’t work as well as they should.

The number of first time offenders in the system has fallen by 57 per cent since 2006, whereas our reoffending rates have stayed flat.

That means police, prison officers and probation staff see the same faces over and over again.

And it means communities end up being blighted by the same people. Any MP will tell you that one of the most frequent complaints in surgery is from law abiding residents who can’t understand why such a small number of people can be allowed to wreak so much havoc in their neighbourhood.

So, just as we are giving prison and probation staff more power to reform offenders, our courts should also be able to play a frontline role in reforming criminals and getting them to quit crime for good.

Ministry of Justice research shows that community sentences are most effective when they tackle the problems that contribute to the offender’s crime. Mental Health Treatment Requirements are some our most effective measures that can really help get someone’s life back on track.

But if I tell you in 2015 mental health treatment requirements accounted for fewer than 1% of all treatment commenced as part of a community sentence you will see where the problem lies.

We need a more systematic, nationally consistent approach that provides quicker and more certain access to mental health treatment for offenders who need it. That will stop them getting into a position which leads to a custodial sentence.

I am working closely with the Health Secretary who is extremely committed to this and NHS England to develop a new mental health protocol. This will ensure timely access to mental health services where the courts impose a mental health treatment requirement as part of a sentence.

I am also working with the Judiciary and the Health Secretary to make sure courts have better access to psychologists to diagnose and oversee treatment of offenders.

We have already got great work taking place in Newcastle where a dedicated mental health team produces reports for sentencers. This means that cases conclude more swiftly as fewer are adjourned because a costly expert report needs to be prepared and sentencers get better information.

And in Milton Keynes a bespoke service has dramatically increased the number of sentences involving mental health treatment. I want to see that approach adopted throughout the country.

We also need to do more to tackle the scourge of drink and drugs. 62% of prisoners who reported using drugs in the four weeks before custody reoffended in the year after release. But in 2015 drug treatment orders accounted for only 5% of treatments attached to community sentences.

In its pioneering report, Ambitious for Recovery, the CSJ called for greater use of drug courts with rigid compliance. Evidence from Australia suggests those who adhere to their drug treatment order are 37 per cent less likely to offend.

Early intervention by our courts is vitally important in stopping women offenders from ending up in prison. We will be announcing our strategy for women later this year and have already announced a new director for women in custody and the community – Sonia Crozier. I believe it is the first time ever that the agency responsible for prisons and probation have a single person responsible for women across community and custody.

Family drugs and alcohol courts, like the one I visited in Maidstone, will play a vital role in this. I believe that judges are as important in reforming people as any prison or probation officer.

Working with local authorities, judges closely oversee compliance with treatment programmes. I’ve watched it in action – I know that it works. Over 26 weeks, those taking part have to comply with drug testing and therapy sessions to stay clean.

This sort of consistent supervision and support, overseen by one judge over a long time period, is helping women beat the addictions that can fuel crime, and making it more likely that they will be able to regain custody of their children.

Let me provide one example among many. One woman, I’ll give her the name Jenny, has transformed from a drug dependent 25-year-old with a five-year-old daughter to a woman determined to do right by her child.

Without this intervention Jenny would have continued to steal to feed her habit. Jenny now has a chance at a better life. Her daughter does too.

There are people who would dismiss this as soft justice. I would call it decency and common sense because without this court ordered intervention, Jenny’s path was almost certainly leading to prison.

How many more victims of crime would there be before that happened? How many more working people would have returned home to find their back window smashed and their treasured possessions gone?

And what about the children of offenders?

All the evidence shows that children whose parents end up in prison are much more likely to end up there too. Two thirds of boys separated from imprisoned parents go on to offend themselves.

Chances are that they would grow up to rob and steal to feed a habit. Generation upon generation of blighted lives and blighted communities.

Early intervention is not a ‘nice to have’ added extra to the justice system, it is vital if we are ever to break the cycle of crime, punishment and more crime.

I want now to address the final point – that we need to better at managing the prison population we have. We are making progress but there is more we can do.

Everyone, including David Blunkett who introduced them, regrets the effects of indeterminate sentences of imprisonment for public protection. It is to the credit of Ken Clarke that he abolished them.

We need to be realistic that these prisoners on these sentences have committed serious crimes and that some are dangerous people. But there are others that have long served their minimum term and are committed to proving that they are safe for release.

Of course, public protection must be the number one priority. But it seems unjust that someone sentenced in 2010 can remain in prison for years when - if sentenced today - they might have an automatic release date.

That’s why it’s important we tackle the backlog of these cases that are waiting for a Parole Board hearing. We are making progress. There are currently 3,683 of these prisoners in our jails. And last year we released a record 553.

But I know there is more to do. That is why I have set up a dedicated unit within the Ministry of Justice to ensure these cases are dealt with as efficiently as possible, while ensuring that people are only released when it is safe to do so.

I also want to ensure the system of recall works better, and that we remain focused on making sure that more foreign criminals are sent home every year.

In 2016 a record 5,810 foreign offenders were sent back to their countries and I want to build on that. We all agree it is desirable to have a lower prison population but it has to be for the right reasons.

Public protection is paramount which means managing the prison population in a safe and sustainable way. I want to see the prison population go down because Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service has got better at reforming offenders. I want to see it go down because we have got better at intervening earlier. I want to see it go down because we have got better at managing the population inside our jails.

Reductions by cap or quota, or by sweeping sentencing cuts are not a magic bullet, they are a dangerous attempt at a quick fix.

We need to do the hard work of improving community sentences, dealing with problems like drink and drugs and making our prisons work better.

This will not be fixed in weeks or months – but if we are resolute – we will see our society become safer and our prison population will reduce.


Of course the speech was delivered on the day the BBC aired its shocking undercover footage of HMP Northumberland. Here we have what the Guardian thinks:-

The Guardian view on Britain’s prison crisis: quick fixes solve nothing

Panorama’s investigation at HMP Northumberland shows a system that is failing to achieve even the most basic of penal goals

Even after the recent prison disturbances in Birmingham and elsewhere, there are some who still pretend that talk of crisis in Britain’s prisons is so much liberal hand-wringing. No one who watching tonight’s BBC Panorama investigation into conditions in one of the country’s biggest jails can possibly take refuge in that lazy claim any longer.

The programme’s undercover reporter spent two months in HMP Northumberland, which houses almost 1,350 male inmates. He discovered widespread drug use, poor regimes, door alarms not working and a hole in a security fence. These failings reflected the inability of staff to exert sufficient control in the prison, a consequence in part of lack of staff, generating growing uncertainty and danger. Instead of the rehabilitation programmes it is supposed to offer, the prison was effectively compelled to focus solely on risk management.

If that isn’t a crisis, it is hard to know what the word means. No one believes that Northumberland is untypical or unrelated to wider trends. And no one can pretend that rehabilitation, training and education are possible in any but the most perfunctory manner in such drug-driven disorderly circumstances, if they are possible at all.

The justice secretary, Liz Truss, actually admitted as much in her speech on criminal justice reform at the Centre for Social Justice on Monday, although it was not the main message she tried to convey. Ms Truss spent much of her speech trying to argue that sentence inflation is not the penal problem that many claim, and defending the importance of stiffer sentences for violence against children and women. Yet woven into these defiant arguments were some stark admissions about Britain’s prisons: our prisons are “too violent”; unruliness and self-harm are at “unacceptable levels”; drink and drugs in prison are a “scourge”. All that, and much more about dysfunctional prison regimes that she simply left unsaid, is true. And it is not acceptable.

The plain fact is that Britain’s prisons are struggling more than ever to do the job they have been given. There is not one unique sign or cause of this multilayered problem. Nor is there one magic bullet solution. To pretend that the prisons are the sole cause of the problems that have been exposed repeatedly over the years is ridiculous. But it is no more ridiculous to pretend that the prisons are not part of the problem as well as part of the solution. If prisons become incubators of crime and of drug use that feeds crime, or pressure cookers for rising suicide levels, then they are failing, not succeeding.

All these things are happening, and not just in Northumberland. The answers include more money, better-trained staff, drone controls, drug treatment orders and facilities, better regimes, including alternatives, and changes in sentencing guidelines. None of this will be addressed in a quick fix or easily – as Ms Truss knows. But only the government can grip it, no one else. Cuts and policy swings are absolutely the wrong place to start.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Prison Chaos

From the BBC website:-

Undercover Panorama report reveals prison chaos

Chaos in one of the biggest prisons in the country has been revealed in secret filming for the BBC. An undercover reporter spent two months at HMP Northumberland, which houses up to 1,348 male inmates, for Panorama. He discovered widespread drug use, a lack of control, door alarms that did not go off in one block and a hole in an internal security fence.

The Ministry of Justice said it would investigate the "extremely serious allegations" at the Acklington jail.

Prison officers also found balaclavas, blackout clothing and wire-cutting tools at the category C jail. It is believed inmates had been sneaking out to collect drugs or other contraband thrown over the perimeter fence. These discoveries were made in a block where inmates preparing to transfer to open prisons were not locked in their cells at night.

In one of the most disturbing episodes of the undercover investigation, footage shows a prison officer having convulsions on the floor after accidentally inhaling spice, a cheap and stronger synthetic alternative to cannabis, which is rife in the jail.

The undercover reporter, who was working as a custody officer, was told by some staff they did not feel able to confront prisoners because they were worried back-up support would take too long to arrive. During the secret filming, the reporter also recorded scenes including:
  • Prisoners incapacitated by drugs
  • Officers sometimes left on their own to manage large groups of inmates
  • Inmates threatening staff
The Panorama investigation comes days after the Ministry of Justice announced the replacement of the National Offender Management Service with a new prison and probation service aimed at cutting crime and reforming offenders. 

HMP Northumberland is run by Sodexo Justice Services. It was privatised in 2014, when the government was aiming to cut £500m from the prisons budget. To win the contract, Sodexo pledged to save the taxpayer £130m over 15 years. Two hundred jobs, including 96 prison officer posts, were cut. At the time of the deal, the Prison Officers Association warned it could result in "escapes and riots".

HMP Northumberland is a training prison that is meant to offer a range of education and training programmes to prepare inmates for release. The Panorama reporter witnessed some inmates colouring in pictures of the children's cartoon character Peppa Pig in an "employability skills" class provided by an outside contractor, Novus. It told Panorama it had investigated these concerns and sent a report to the government.

The Ministry of Justice told the BBC: "The justice secretary has been clear that levels of violence and self harm in our prisons are too high, which is why we are investing an extra £100m annually to boost the front line by 2,500 officers. "These are longstanding issues which will not be resolved in weeks or months but we are determined to make our prisons places of safety and reform."

A spokesman for Sodexo said: "We are proud of those staff at HMP Northumberland who do a professional job in such difficult circumstances. "Security and the safety of our prisoners and staff are our top priority, which is why we have made significant investments in these two areas over and above the contract requirements."

As part of the investigation, Panorama analysed what prisoners had been saying about safety in prisons across England and Wales. Panorama took HM Inspectorate of Prisons data on prisoners' perceptions and analysed it to reveal how fears have changed over the last decade.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

A History Lesson

As we reflect on the demise of the National Offender Management Service, here's a timely reminder from August 2009 with Andrew Neilson writing in the Guardian:- 
Whitehall's great crime mystery

Who knows who's in prison and where they are? Not Jack Straw. C-Nomis has turned into just another taxpayer-funded IT fiasco

Government IT disasters, we know thee well. From everyone's child benefit details going awol to the NHS national programme for IT ballooning in cost and delays, Whitehall's catalogue of errors grows ever larger. Soon, they'll need a database to keep up.

The latest admission of failure involves C-Nomis, the catchily-named computer system that is meant to provide real time access to the records of people in the penal system. Problems with the roll-out mean the Ministry of Justice has just announced that the recent publication of monthly prison population figures – which tell us how many prisoners we have and track characteristics in the custodial population like offence, sentence and age – will be delayed. The delay is indefinite. So right now, as of this minute, Jack Straw doesn't actually know who he has in his prisons.

What's astonishing (or perhaps not) about this news is that C-Nomis is already three years overdue and running at double its original cost. The subject of a damning National Audit Office report published earlier this year, C-Nomis is notorious within criminal justice circles as a byword for incompetence, profligacy and embarrassment.

The C-Nomis story is worth briefly recounting. In 2003 the government decided to implement market reform in criminal justice that mimicked the reforms being piloted in the NHS. This led to the creation of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), which brought the prison and probation services together into one unwieldy – I mean, "seamless", bureaucratic fit. It introduced the concept of "contestability" into the penal system, where "offender managers" would buy custodial places or community interventions from the public, private and voluntary sectors based on cost-effectiveness.

For this market to work, something called "end-to-end offender management" was required. And this in turn required an IT system that allowed offender managers to share information in real time and track individuals at any point in their sentence, either in prison or in probation. C-Nomis was born.

The audit office report describes how a project originally costed at £234m in 2005 had, by 2007, spent £155m, was two years behind schedule, and was estimated to rise in total cost to £690m. The audit office found that budget monitoring was absent, that civil servants "significantly underestimated the technical complexity" of the project and that contractual arrangements with key suppliers were weak. Even worse, Whitehall failed to spot an opportunity to actually make some money. The government failed to patent the work done with their contractor, Syscon, which means that Syscon now markets customised versions of C-Nomis around the world, and British taxpayers effectively see no return on their investment.

Eventually the project was "re-scoped" to bring costs down to £513m. C-Nomis is now only going to be rolled-out in prisons and not in probation, making a mockery of "end-to-end offender management" and putting the efficacy of any market reforms in serious doubt. Not that this has stopped the Ministry of Justice ploughing on regardless. The latest disaster within a disaster that is an indefinite delay in the monthly prison population statistics will no doubt be shrugged off by civil servants as just further attrition.

In his book on organised crime, McMafia, Misha Glenny describes the psychological dependency that scam victims develop with their perpetrator, how the more money the victim loses from sending funds to the Nigerian businessman on email the likelier it is that they will send on more cash in their desperation to will the promise of riches into reality.

There's something of this about how government finds itself wedded to its decisions – not just in terms of funding committed but also to policies. Market reform in criminal justice required "end-to-end offender management", which required an IT system that shared information across the entirety of prisons and probation. That's not happening, but still, millions are being poured in and the system is being contorted into fitting an undeliverable policy agenda. As with so much else that involves Whitehall, there's only one response that comes to mind.

Go figure.


Some of the comments are absolute belters:-

God, someone is finally talking about this! I'm a probation officer (not a f***ing Offender Manager, thanks all the same) and it's a mystery to me why the whole NOMS debacle isn't a national scandal with heads rolling left, right and centre. I can honestly say I cannot think of a single improvement to working practice that has resulted from the project. We've had ROMS (Regional Offender Managers) appointed on fat salaries who we are told would be 'evolving their own job descriptions', then it was decided after a couple of years that the position was not needed and they were all got rid of - to be replaced by DOMS (directors of offender management) on fat salaries who seem to have the exact same job, and a seemingly endless parade of useless bureaucrats paraded before us saying they are "looking forward to finding out about probation and driving through change" before they leave a few years later having made a contribution it's difficult to actually see.

And my God, the IT! In probation nationally we have a custom designed 'assessment tool' running through Lotus Notes that basically consists of about 30pages of boxes to tick on various aspects of punters' lives which then comes up with a number to calculate risk of the person re-offending. Officers have to do one of these on every case every 3 months at least, or if anything notable happens like them getting a job or getting nicked again. Assessment reports for court have to be generated through this program, using a format that gives the IT system all the credit for making the assessment of the person and is more concerned with showing numbers and bar graphs than actual detailed information and a professional's view on the person concerned. 

The problems with this program - eOASys - are constant - the database crashing over 15 times a day sometimes (I kid you not), inability to actually savewhat you've done, prohibitively slow running so evenchecking if someone's on the database can take twenty minutes, connectivity with the prison system (whereby ownership of an individual's record is passed between probation and the prisons) a joke - records lost in the ether where it's unclear who actually has them, requests for access ignored or not getting through so probation staff are unable to do the necessary work on time. The latter point affects the many cash-linked targets attached to eOASys and results in a mountain of shit and bollocking from HQ statiticians for those concerned despite their not being able to do anything about it.

The general IT systems in London don't even work adequately day-to-day: June was particularly bad, with computers for half the probation staff in London (hundreds of people) completely unavailable for over three days at a stretch and four or five single or half days. Such server outages have been common for years, with the server driving the printers regularly going down so reports to aid Courts with sentencing can't be presented despite being ready on time, costing a fortune in public money through ineffective Court hearings. 

It's only in the past 6 months that any acknowledgement of these problems affecting day-to-day work has been made at higher management level - before this it's just been constant bollockings for missing targets because we're clearly not working hard enough. We've been made so dependent on the sodding computers, but the standard and reliability of the technology is getting worse with this, not better.

I could go on but I fear my blood pressure forbids it. I'll finish by letting you know that at present London probation is awash with consultants from AdEsse whose job it is to bully staff into knocking themselves out and neglecting other more valuable work in order to meet targets for eOASys completion and the filling in of forms about ethnicity monitoring and so on - so we can achieve trust status ASAP. Tactics have included enforced shutting down of entire probation offices for a week while staff work on their computers to finish eOASys assessments - no alternative arrangements for people to have actual contact with their probation officers, their appointments are simply cancelled and they are refused entry to the office should they turn up in crisis. In some boroughs, individual members of staff who miss a target (eg finishing an eOASys a day late) are summoned to a meeting with a panel of consultants and higher managers, usually a significant distance from their office, to explain themselves. The time taken out of the working day will make it more likely they will miss more targets or not be able to see people who turn up for their appointments, so the cycle continues and they may eventually be subject to a 'kaisenblitz'. Look it up. Not pretty.

Nextweek an AdEsse consultant will spend two days observing work in my office, and on the basis of this will prepare a 5-day 'Rapid Improvement Workshop' it is compulsory to attend. So an entire week unable to do any work. And we're one of the highest performing offices.

About time someone looked at this scandal which has been rumbling for 2-3 years and which is based on flawed ideas about criminal justice. To those of us who work in the system, it is particularly galling as it comes as our probation services are being told to absorb 20% cuts over 3 years at a time of rising prison populations. (84,150 recently)

Probation as a system is being run down and the result will not be pretty. Prisoners will not be rehabilitated and crime will rise. Its that simple. And yes, I know we are not rehabilitating everyone now, thats because rehabilitation is hard, but imagine how much worse it would be if we rehabilitate less people?

"It introduced the concept of "contestability" into the penal system, where "offender managers" would buy custodial places or community interventions from the public, private and voluntary sectors based on cost-effectiveness."

Who, in their right fucking mind, thought that this would be a good idea? The first thing an incoming government should do is ban anybody with an MBA, or economics degree, from working in any government department other than the Treasury. Unfortunately, the incoming government seems wedded to this managerial economic bullshit, and handing over responsibility to rip off merchants like Capita, Serco, and the 'voluntary sector'.

A fantastic article and yet more evidence of the fact that the entire penal system is in desperate need of long term fundamental reform. The 'Commission on English Prisons Today' published their report last month, following a two-year long inquiry into the state of the system. It recommended the dismantling of NOMS, which is far too centralised and a highly expensive bureaucratic mess, as is clear to see here! The current system is not fit for purpose, and whilst it's difficult to know where to start, organisations such as the Howard League & the Commission have laid out their vision to work towards a society with less crime and fewer people in prison. If nothing else, the Government ought to cut the prison population so that they'll have less prisoner data to attempt to manage/lose!

Check out the work of the Howard League and access the Commission on English Prison's report here:

An excellent expose of a ghastly story. It's rather more than just an IT disaster though, isn't it? It's also a tale of the government's adoration of management consultancy gobbledegook, its blind belief in anything labelled as a market solution no matter how ridiculous or inappropriate and its determination to follow dogma without paying attention to the real world consequences.

Could anyone who had any common sense possibly think this was a sane proposal from any point of view - except the consultants and contractors who would be paid hundreds of millions for dreaming it up, hundreds of millions for giving it a go, then hundreds of millions more for trying to fix it when it does not work, and hundreds of millions again in compensation when it is finally cancelled.

It seems we are inured to this, battered into a sullen and resentful apathy by this government. In a day or two another equally horrifying story will emerge, and we'll forget this one, and it will just go on and on... There are no penalties, not even any shame, for the guilty, just the opposite.

The reason why these IT disasters happen is because IT managers in the public sector are the usual box-ticking, paper-pushing bureaucrats who have long since lost touch with bleeding edge IT development. Some buzz-word salesman comes along and promises to give them an all-singing, all-dancing, IT system which will solve all their woes. The poor, over-worked, manager is only too eager to leave all their woes behind so signs on the dotted line. They forget to read the small print...

Lessons to be learnt:-

1. There is no silver bullet in IT.
2. Public sector IT managers should concentrate on integrating their existing systems, one step at a time, rather than replacing everything with a snake-oil salesman's wet dream.
3. Pay companies only for the functionality they deliver. Have that delivered bit-by-bit - rather in a single magic upgrade. Testable, verifiable, benchmarks are essential in any large (or small) IT project.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Death of PSR Linked to Prison Suicides

The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies publishes a regular bulletin and it always serves as a good pointer to what's going on:-

In its structure, planning, delivery and financing, probation across England and Wales continues to face major problems. We are developing ideas for a project looking at what has gone wrong, and how it can be put right. If you have some experience or thoughts to share, or you would like to support this initiative, please get in touch.​

Richard Garside, Director

In the news

In an article for the OpenDemocracy website, our Senior Policy Associate, Rebecca Roberts, argues that the £1.3bn for new prisons would be more wisely invested in community and welfare provision. Our Deputy Director, Will McMahon, was a co-signatory on a letter inThe Guardian calling for a moratorium on new prison builds. We helped Building magazine with a piece on the dodgy economics of the prison-building programme.

Ex-services veterans under probation supervision

We partnered with the Probation Institute and the Forces in Mind Trust on a profile of the landscape of services for former service personnel with a criminal conviction. Our Research Director Roger Grimshaw summarises our findings.

Colonialism and criminal justice

In May we will be holding an event on the relationship between Britain's colonial empire and the development of criminal justice in the United Kingdom. Book your place here.


Pieces on our site this month include:
David Scott on the sickness haunting our prison system
Roger Grimshaw on why monitoring places of detention matters
Mike Guilfoyle on the perils of partnership working

And finally...

Dr Mark Sanford-Wood, lead for the General Practitioners Council on prison medical services, questions whether prisoners with mental health problems are in the right system.

'We are seeing increasing numbers coming through reception direct from court where the crime they are accused of appears to be the result of mental illness, rather than anything else', he told GP magazine.


I think it's worth re-publishing the article from GP magazine, especially in view of the recent policy statement from the Sentencing Council regarding the need to avoid court adjournments for Pre Sentence Reports at all costs. Well here we have the evidence for what the cost is:- 
In the last year, the GP said, ‘the courts appear to be sending us increasing numbers of people who are already quite significantly mentally ill.
We we are seeing increasing numbers coming through reception direct from court where the crime they are accused of appears to be the result of mental illness, rather than anything else. There does seem to be an increasing number of people who clinically, you would question whether they are in the right system.’
Of course this should also serve to highlight the fact that in addition to the PSR being virtually abandoned as a vital professional assessment process, it's now virtually impossible to obtain a Psychiatric or Psychology report prior to sentence.  


Rise in seriously mentally ill prisoners linked to record suicide rate, fears GP

Increased numbers of seriously ill people being jailed rather than sent to hospital could be contributing to soaring suicide rates, a senior GP working in the prison medical service has warned. GPC lead on prison medical services Dr Mark Sanford-Wood said he believed the numbers of people who are already significantly mentally ill being sent to prison was on the rise and was putting additional pressure on the system.

The HMP Exeter GP told GPonline that prison doctors were having to care for more patients with serious mental health problems because it had become more difficult to access specialist psychiatric support services. Dr Sanford-Wood’s comments came as the Ministry of Justice last week revealed there had been a 32% increase in suicides in prisons in England and Wales, with a record 119 people taking their own lives last year. Rates of self harm and violence against prisoners and staff also increased.

The government has agreed to fund an extra 2,500 prison officers to ease staff shortages in England and Wales after the Prison Officers Association warned of ‘bloodbaths’ because of declining staff levels and rising prisoner numbers.

The Prison Ombudsman last week criticised the criminal justice system after a man with serious mental health problems killed himself in HMP Chelmsford despite having been recommended by a psychiatrist for transfer to a secure hospital. The ombudsman said Dean Saunders should have been in a hospital and had been ‘let down’ by prison and health services. The prison had ‘insufficient’ psychiatric cover to meet the population’s needs, it said.

Dr Sanford-Wood, speaking before the latest suicide figures were published, said the increase in self-inflicted deaths was caused partly by resource pressures in prisons. ‘When you have a system under so much resource strain, strain on finances, strain on staffing, then inevitably it is going to make things more difficult, and you may get more suicides,' he said.

In the last year, the GP said, ‘the courts appear to be sending us increasing numbers of people who are already quite significantly mentally ill’.

‘We we are seeing increasing numbers coming through reception direct from court where the crime they are accused of appears to be the result of mental illness, rather than anything else. There does seem to be an increasing number of people who clinically, you would question whether they are in the right system.’

If more patients who should be treated in secure psychiatric settings are being sent to jail, Dr Sanford-Wood said, ‘inevitably, the prison system is going to be more challenged in providing them the care they need’. The Devon GP leader said that increasing difficulty in accessing specialist psychiatric support services in hospitals also meant prison GPs were having to care for more patients with more serious mental health conditions.

‘Most GPs would recognise the amount of availability and support of specialist psychiatric services in hospitals can be quite patchy. That may be a funding issue, or it may be shortages in the psychiatric workforce,' he said.

‘There has been an increase in the number of psychiatric cases we are having to deal with ourselves. More challenging access to specialist psychiatric input for cases. GPs, in my experience, are now picking up more complex cases that previously probably would have seen a consultant psychiatrist.’

He added: ‘I'm not not saying those cases are being unsafely dealt with, but there is certainly a more challenging environment. Because the people we are dealing with are inevitably more unwell.’

The doctors’ leader was speaking on the eve of last Friday’s BMA conference for prison GPs to exchange ideas and experience of the fragmented service.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

HMPPS - Reaction

Here we have Rob Allen's take on the news sneaked out yesterday by the MoJ under cover of the Brexit Parliamentary vote:- 

NOMS to HMPPS: Rebadging or Real Reform?

So the National Offender Management Service is no more, to be replaced by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. Is it a rebadging of what is perceived as an unloved and unlovely bureaucratic monster with a more transparent and comforting title? Or a more significant shift in responsibilities which will lead to real change?

There are undoubtedly highly positive elements in the Truss reforms; long overdue investment in staff not only of resources but professional training and status. There will be a greater focus on women in the criminal justice system - much needed although we’ll have to see whether adding the responsibility to an existing role will bring about the far reaching reforms that are urgently required.

For some in the probation world, the hope of a quickie divorce from their forced marriage to prisons has been dashed although the new arrangements could lead to a conscious uncoupling in due course. Much depends on the review of the reformed system which will report in the spring.

But what of prisons? The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper makes no mention of replacing NOMS. It’s in the design of the reformed prison system in paragraph 68. HMPPS will be an Executive Agency like NOMS. It will continue with the core of its business – managing prisons -but be stripped of its role in commissioning services, making policy and it seems monitoring performance. From April these functions will move to the Ministry of Justice. Agreements between individual prisons and the MoJ will also come into play although in an unpromising start, the Prison Governors Association have advised their members not to sign them. Despite the White Paper’s promise of negotiation, there apparently hasn’t been any.

Although the new arrangements promise clarity, there are still many questions. Is it sensible to split commissioning and contract management between the MoJ and HMPPS? Where will Electronic monitoring fit? And where will the line on policy development be drawn? The Prison service instructions introduced last year included guidance on preventing corruption, the interception of communications, faith and pastoral care for prisoners, searching of cells and the care of transgender prisoners. We have been promised a bonfire of these instructions although almost all look important and most essential. Some may be better informed by policy wonks in the Ministry of Justice but most need experienced operational input.

One of NOMS biggest critics argued it was “dangerously out of touch with its operational heartland”. In that respect the new arrangements could make things worse not better.

Rob Allen


The Napo response:-

The Secretary of State for Justice has today deposited a statement in the House of Commons Library which confirms that the existing National Offender Management Service is to be rebranded (with effect from the 1st April) and will be known as Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS). 

It is understood that the intention is to create a more effective Executive Agency that will deliver improved integrated offender management using the various skill sets that are currently available within the prison and probation workforce. Napo expects that the Ministerial statement will also announce the creation of a new policy directorate within the Ministry of Justice covering Prisons, Offenders and Youth Justice.

The Chief Executive for HMPPS will be Michael Spurr with Sonia Crozier retaining responsibility for Probation services and assuming responsibility for the development of a new approach to the custodial estate for female clients.

Current arrangements for managing the contracts with Community Rehabilitation Companies will remain with the Agency, and it is intended that the reorganisation will result in the development of a more focused approach to team working with an increase (as yet unknown) as a result of the current Offender Management Review, in the numbers of probation practitioners working within public sector prisons. Here there will be teams led by a Senior Probation Officer who will be part of the line management regime that is overseen by the Prison Governor.

Napo understands that there are no expected implications for individual terms and conditions and no possibility of redundancies as a result of this change. Clearly, there will be a need to enter into early discussions with senior HMPPS management about the staffing plans for each public sector prison establishment, the development of suitable industrial relation arrangements, and the substantial challenges of identifying and dealing with the technical complexities in constructing and delivering a more integrated approach to rehabilitation and supervision.

Napo will be issuing further news for members at the earliest opportunity and we will be meeting urgently with our sister union the Prison Officers Association to consider their views on this development.

Whist generally welcoming this initiative, that if it is successful, will place probation at the heart of the justice system Napo has already advised senior management that urgent action must be taken to address the perennial problems of low pay and excessive workloads, both of which are at the centre of Napo's recently launched campaigns.

Ian Lawrence        Yvonne Pattinson Chris Winters          Dean Rogers
General Secretary National Co-Chair National Co-Chair Assistant General Secretary


From Facebook:-

Predictably very little interest in this story in terms of column inches. It has generated little if any public interest and some fairly unimpressed Twitter postings by ex chief probation officers. It's clearly a failed PR move by a frightened bunny caught in the headlights response rather than anything worthy of much attention. A take over by one ineffective and dysfunctional organisation by another ineffective and dysfunctional organisation to form an even larger ineffective and dysfunctional organisation with impressive letter heads (what next embossed envelopes?). Liz Truss shows a complete lack of anything that might be generously termed strategic vision keeping whatever talents she may possess extremely well hidden from all. She has however demonstrated consistent levels of ignorance/impotence in the face of an ongoing crisis . Therefore it is no surprise to anyone that the answer Liz has managed to formulate after straining every brain cell she possesses to the limit to address prison overcrowding and probation failing is not what was required but rather 'let's change the name and give everyone a new logo with Her Majesty on the letterhead' whoopee do. David Raho

 I particularly like this paragraph given the past five years:-

"The creation of HM Prison and Probation Service will build a world-leading, specialist agency, dedicated to professionalising the prison and probation workforce, backed by an additional £100m a year and 2,500 additional prison officers."

 "Professionalising the prison and probation workforce" FUCKING CHEEK OF THE WOMAN

Very understandable scepticism from most in probation combined with hiding the story in very, very busy news day - not least with the Brexit vote. However, whilst scepticism is good cynicism needs to be avoided. The fact there isn't a plan (let alone a worked up strategy) does give probation a chance to grab the agenda and shape it. This is the central admission that both arms of Grayling's prison and probation revolutions have fallen off. Once Gove changed direction, and started questioning, today was inevitable. Even a chance of moving rehabilitation to the heart of the justice system is worth trying but - and it is a big but - to work they need to invest, listen to staff, work out the huge organisation and people issues in both services, honestly accept recent failures...without all of that and more they'll just prove that doing a good thing badly is not much better than their usual doing bad things badly. Dean Rogers.

Is there anyone left from probation with any influence to "grab the agenda"

I tend to agree. Probation as a profession is being deprofressionalised and subsumed. Dean the 'big but' is an enormous ask and would mean those in power doing something they have never previously committed themselves to doing even when responsibility was shared between the Home Office and local authorities. We know what they should do but I would be amazed if they committed to doing this. For me this goes in entirely the wrong direction with the inevitable result of a a prison dominated organisation with a 99% prison agenda occasionally talking down to those providing probation services indicating they should do more for less. In my opinion control probation needs to be devolved to local authorities and at the very least be roughly coterminous with police areas. There is little justification for a large centralised bureaucracy that have never delivered anything but bureaucracy failing to stand up for probation as a profession and acting as nothing more than a political football with no semblance of an autonomous identity. If I am proven wrong in my scepticism I will freely admit it but for most practitioners the impact with be to see a new sign go up outside one of the few remaining offices. David Raho.

So NOMS is going replaced by the new Prison and Probation Services!! Essentially the same organisation with a convenient name change!! What will it mean in real terms for probation?? Resources are already pledge for the prison side any for us??

Well said.

Headlines on GMB tv this am is campaigners are saying probation is failing female offenders in spite of increased we go again. It makes me so angry. People are working so hard and with often overwhelming case loads and reducing resources. Can't they see it's the bureaucratic and ill informed decisions which are failing, not us

Sonia Crozier has been given the lead on this. What could possibly go wrong?

Same old with a new name. Prison Officers are leaving at a rate not seen, new ones will not be in place for some time. Recruitment for Probation haphazard major shortages in South East Kent can't recruit PO'S despite MFS £32k start!

I turned down two NPS jobs as they wouldn't put me back on the top scale despite being on it for some years before I left and having over 25 years in the service!! Others made the same decision!! This was based on a prison service policy!!

Yes agree. I was approached and I told them to come back with something sensible. The prestige of working for the NPS is not worth a pay cut

The only way is to return to what worked - no CRC and no civil service - both are equally as bad as the other !!

I was no more than a facilities operative within the probation so no one will understand where I am coming from but I will try. In my thirty years I worked under many CPO's and don't get me wrong they were all good people but not successful in fighting politicians who have their own agendas. Sir Graham Smith was the only one to successfully fight the then Home Secretary on joining the prison service and probation together. He did this with skill and humility and a personal belief that offenders could change. Rather than incarceration into a prison system that was failing even in the eighties. On a personal note if I achieved anything in my career it was because I took my lead from him and always put Staff and visitors above my own needs and it served me well. (I only wish I could be as eloquent as he was).

I know, I saw this yesterday and was too depressed and simultaneously enraged. Same shit, different name.

Thought could not feel any worse about it all.......

It's amazing how they keep pulling it out of the bag. Buts it's okay as we will be professionals soon!

Insulting patronizing.... Words fail me ....

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Prison Service Swallows Probation Whole

Well here it is, a day late, but confirmation of the demise of NOMS and the takeover of the National Probation Service by the Prison Service, under a smirking Michael Spurr no doubt. There's absolutely nothing here for probation and indeed the 'notes to editors' confirms it - it's all about prison officers.  

A new frontline service focused on reforming offenders and cutting crime will launch in April 2017, Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss announced today.
  • Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to replace National Offender Management Service (NOMS)
  • new service will be responsible for rolling out government’s reform programme to reduce reoffending and protect the public
  • the service will launch new leadership programme and new promotion opportunities for staff
  • changes backed by additional £100 million to boost frontline by an extra 2,500 staff
HMPPS will have full responsibility for the operational management of offenders in custody and the community, including strengthening security in prisons, tackling extremism and building intelligence about criminal gangs.

Supported by work to recruit an extra 2,500 officers, the new service will launch leadership and promotion programmes for prison and probation officers to further professionalise and build pride in the service.

The new operationally focused service will be supported by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) taking on responsibility for overall future policy direction, setting standards, scrutinising prison performance and commissioning services.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss said:
"This new and operationally focused frontline service will implement the reforms we have announced to make our prisons safe and cut reoffending. Our prison and probation officers do a vital job and they deserve to work in a world-class organisation which supports them in reforming offenders and keeping the public safe. Creating HMPPS will bring clarity to managing our prisons and probation services while further professionalising staff and building pride in their work."
The move follows the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper which outlined an overhaul of the prisons estate with the forthcoming Prison and Courts Bill due to make reforming offenders a key duty of prisons for the first time. 

For the first time, there will also be a Board Director with specific responsibility for women across the whole system, reporting into HMPPS Chief Executive, Michael Spurr.

Michael Spurr said:
"The launch of HMPPS provides a great opportunity to focus on and improve operational performance in prisons and probation. There is a great deal to do but I am confident that with the additional resources the government are providing, we can transform the system and deliver the high quality of service the public deserve."
The service will be dedicated to professionalising the prison and probation workforce. New schemes to improve promotion opportunities have been launched, including:
  • enhanced qualifications for probation officers
  • a new leadership programme
  • an apprenticeship scheme (to launch in April 2017)
  • higher pay and recognition for specialist skilled officers dealing with complex issues such as counter-terrorism, suicide and self-harm support
This wholescale, organisational reform will be supported by measures within the Prisons and Courts Bill, which will set out a new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons, building on the wide-ranging reforms set out in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper.

Notes to editors

Progress on recruitment and retention:
  • we have made 389 job offers to new recruits wanting to join the Prison Service which puts the government on track to recruit the first 400 of the extra 2,500 frontline officers committed to be in place by the end of March 2017
  • boosting pay for hard-working staff by up to £4,000 at some of the most difficult-to-recruit prisons and those with high levels of staff-turnover, including HMP High Down, HMP Downview and HMP Coldingley
  • appointing 75 mentors for new starter prison officers to help them in their first few months in the job which we know can be a difficult time
  • providing retention payments at sites with the greatest levels of staff turnover. For example at Feltham which is close to Heathrow we provide a £3000 retention payment;
  • starting targeted local recruitment initiatives at 30 sites so that governors can more easily recruit the people they need
  • launching a new Prison Officer apprenticeship scheme next year for over 1000 new officers that will help increase diversity and make it easier to join the Prison Service
  • developing a new graduate scheme that will encourage people from a broader range of backgrounds to join the Service
  • we have launched a Troops to Officers scheme that will support people to join the prison service after leaving the military

Latest From Napo 137

Defending National Collective Bargaining - Issue 2 Feb 2017

In the last edition of Defending National Collective Bargaining, we reported that the elected National Officers had met to decide on how to respond to the result of the indicative ballot on possible industrial action to defend existing national collective bargaining arrangements.

This bulletin offers clarification as to the Officers decision with regard to developing specific bargaining arrangements with NPS and CRC employers.

Some important facts

Following the result of the Indicative Ballot the Officer Group assessed the response from those members who had taken part and after a considered debate, with differing views, it was collectively agreed that there was not yet sufficient evidence to support a move to a formal ballot for industrial action at this stage. Consequently, and given that all employers had announced their intention to withdraw from the NNC, a decision had to be made as to whether Napo should now engage in developing bargaining structures with the NPS and the CRC owners, or simply stand aside and leave engagement with the employer in the sole hands of UNISON.

Since the AGM, all employers have been seeking union engagement on possible arrangements for future negotiation and consultation if the NNC were to cease. Until such time as we were able to assess the response from members in the indicative ballot, Napo reserved its position on formally agreeing to the proposals as per the decision taken at the AGM, but has sought to ensure that commitments have been included in the draft versions which match our overall objectives to defend collective bargaining and, as members would expect, reflect our primary responsibility and obligation to protect members interests at the workplace.

NNC no longer exists but Napo's agenda remains live

We have done everything possible to try and convince the employers to remain in the NNC, indeed we have been doing so ever since the employers threatened to withdraw from this over a year ago, but once NOMS had decided to carry out their long standing intention to pull out, the CRC owners followed suit. Nearly all employers have now withdrawn from the NNC or are in the process of doing so. The NNC mechanisms will not be restored.

In light of these developments a vote was taken within the Officer Group which resulted in a clear majority decision to ask local negotiators to develop employer specific collective bargaining models, with full-time Napo Officials directly leading any negotiations. In such talks, Napo will be demanding nationally agreed positions. For example, in the 2017-18 pay negotiations Napo will produce a single national claim across all employers, and the National Executive Committee will be asked to assess the impact of negotiations against this benchmark. We are confident that the structures being proposed, will recognise the protected existing contractual guarantees encompassed in the NNC Handbook and National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement (both of which remain in force even without the NNC machinery) which were agreed prior to share sale. Consultation about non-contractual local policies and practices will continue to happen locally, as they did under the former Trust and NNC structures, with Napo ensuring that the key issues which impact on our members at the workplace will be negotiated and supported by Full Time Officials in partnership with members and activists.

We intend to put more resources into training and support for our local representatives than ever before; this is in reaction to the scale of local challenges, such as workloads, and because of the strain of negotiating with multiple CRC owners and the demanding agenda being faced by our members in the NPS and Probation Board Northern Ireland.

Planning for Industrial Action

To be absolutely clear, the foregoing does not mean that Napo has ruled out the prospect of future industrial action; but in order for this to stand any chance of success we all need to all pull together and lay the foundations for a hard-hitting campaign that if needs be will seriously impact on the employer and which works best for our members.

Based on the current mood amongst members to move to industrial action now, (as evidenced in the indicative ballot turnout and direct feedback from our activists), any notion that we would ask our members to sacrifice wages for token industrial action and potentially wreck our ability to wage a national campaign in the future, would be both tactically na├»ve and irresponsible. Members should remain confident that where a majority of members respond to a call for action on a significant issue then Napo will respond accordingly. The National Executive Committee meets in March and will have a full opportunity to make an important contribution to the ongoing debate about Napo’s industrial strategy in defence of collective bargaining. As indicated previously, we have made it very clear to all employers that Napo is prepared to fight for fair pay and equal treatment for all of our members, wherever they work.

Napo Officers Group
Napo General Secretary