Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Probation Institute Evidence

As we know, the Justice Committee is in the process of considering Prison Reform and I realise I never got around to publishing what the Probation Institute submitted by way of written evidence:-


1.1 The Probation Institute’s response is based on the following key foundations 
  • Prison Reform should not be considered in isolation. Prisons are one element of a criminal justice system. All these elements interact and significant changes to one impact on other parts of the justice system. 
  • Overemphasis on imprisonment as a punishment is one of the most significant shortcomings of the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales. Deterrence and punishment are ineffective in reducing crime as demonstrated by the very high re-offending rates amongst those imprisoned compared to those managed in the community. 
  • By all recognised measures, the volume of crime has been falling for nearly two decades, not just in England and Wales, but in most jurisdictions in the developed world. Yet during this period the prison population in England and Wales has more than doubled. The falling volume of crime presents an opportunity for justice re-investment into rehabilitative services in the community and into wider measures that reduce crime and protect victims or potential victims. 
1.2 Our response draws on the collective expertise of our members and fellows who work in rehabilitative services across the criminal justice services including within prisons. It also reflects our position paper on Penal Reform published earlier this year (see ) 


2.1 The use of prison should be restricted to those who present too great a risk to the public to be managed in the community. The present prison population is unsustainably high. The majority of those currently in prison do not pose a danger to others. The high prison population puts pressure on the prison estate and on staffing. Black and ethnic minority populations are significantly overrepresented in the prison population, an issue that will be examined in David Lammy’s review. Women are disproportionately imprisoned for nonviolent offences. The evidence for this has been set out in numerous reviews and inspections, most recently Baroness Corston’s review in 2007. A high proportion of the prison population have issues with addiction and/or poor mental health. 
  • Prisons punish those sentenced by depriving them of their liberty. The prison regime is not and should not be an additional component of this punishment 
  • The purpose of prisons should be the humane containment of offenders assessed as presenting too great a risk of harm to others to be managed in the community. 
  • Prisons should 
  • ensure the well-being and safety of prisoners 
  • focus on promoting those interventions that reduce the risks posed by prisoners and facilitate release and resettlement. These may be prisoner focused (e.g. education, offence focused work, life skills, promotion of family links). They may also be focused on the required monitoring, supervision and other external controls required to enable management in the community, an approach effectively delivered at present by the best practice within the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA). 
2.2 Imprisoning people who do not pose a risk to others for relatively short periods of time results in very high re-offending rates. Those factors most likely facilitate reduced offending are stable accommodation, stable employment, stable and positive relationships, access to local services that can address underlying issues such as poor mental health and addiction. All of these are adversely impacted by a custodial sentence. 

2.3 The current size of the prison population actively restricts the ability of prisons to fulfil their key purpose. It is extremely expensive. Overcrowding makes the provision of effective services to prisoners more difficult and poses an increasing risk to staff working in prisons. A rational reform strategy should include sentencing reform and promote the management of non-dangerous offenders in the community. 

2.4 Re-investing the resources currently deployed to manage an unnecessarily high prison population into better resourced and targeted community-based programmes and preventative measures is the over-arching strategy most likely to achieve sustained reductions in re-offending. The strategy is being pursued in other jurisdictions including state and federal systems in the United States across the spectrum of political leadership. 

2.5 Adequate resourcing for staff within prisons must be an immediate priority to support regimes which can deliver more effectively on their rehabilitative goals. 

2.6 Re-offending rates of those supervised in the community are consistently lower than those for custody. The difference widens when applied to those serving sentences of 12 months and under. The differences are evident in groups with matching criminal histories.

2.7 Reinvesting in community sanctions that are demonstrated to reduce re-offending is likely to bring re-offending rates down further, faster and more cost-effectively. Further research into effectiveness will always be welcome but in essence the evidence is clear about what kind of approaches are most likely to be effective with most people. (MoJ, 2013) Rather than searching for a “magic bullet” that will transform re-offending rates, consistent investment in what research already tells us works, and in the training and recruitment of staff to apply this, is likely to bring sustainable results. 

  • The prison modernisation programme should enable 
  • sufficient, well trained staff to ensure that the key purposes of containment, safety and wellbeing and rehabilitation are fulfilled. These staff include Probation, rehabilitation, resettlement and voluntary sector staff who have important roles within prisons. 
  • A reconfiguration of the geography of the estate so that prisoners are held as close as possible to their home areas. This facilitates the maintenance of family links and links to services which will be critical to successful re-settlement on release. 
  • The modernisation programme should consider how the delivery of its key aims could be facilitated by greater prisoner involvement in prison regimes. Prisoner Councils have been successfully set up in a number of prisons. Providing prisoners with greater opportunity to influence and exercise responsibility for regimes is consistent with promoting desistance from re-offending. 

  • Humane containment 
  • Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of prisoners 
  • Promoting desistance 
  • Facilitating links with families and local services 
  • Leading regimes that deliver the above 
  • In a more locally configured prison system, playing a full part in local partnerships to ensure that the prison is integrated with local services 
4.3 NOMS 

The case for the retention of NOMS rests on it developing cross system leadership between prisons and probation. NOMS has arguably focused primarily on prisons which account for the vast majority of its budget. NOMS should liaise with key leaders in the new devolved government arrangements in particular Mayors, Police & Crime Commissioners and Integrated Commissioning Boards. These are key stakeholders in the criminal justice system. NOMS needs to work with them to develop whole system leadership. 

4.4 MoJ and MINISTERS 

Penal policy is an area marked by risk aversion, in the face of a perceived public appetite for exclusively punitive responses to crime and, with occasional exceptions, a lack of leadership to promote alternative approaches. The reform agenda presents an opportunity for Ministers and senior policy makers to promulgate a bold evidence based approach to policy. A policy of justice reinvestment can be promoted as both more cost effective and producing better outcomes in terms of reducing offending and improved social integration. 


The factors that contribute to offending and effective means to reduce re-offending spread across the range of government social policy departments. The Policing & Crime Act 2009 which came into force the following year, placed a duty on Local Authorities to consider reducing re-offending in the exercise of all their duties. This duty should extend to all central government departments and the exercise of this duty should be audited so that authorities are held to account. There are some excellent examples of good inter-agency work where non-criminal justice agencies contribute effectively to resolving re-offending (Prolific & Priority Offender Schemes, Integrated Offender Management, Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conferences for domestic abuse). These are inconsistent however, and are often undermined by a lack of commitment or awareness at senior levels in central and local government. 

  • The opportunity arises to pursue a policy of justice re-investment 
  • There is an opportunity to restate the purpose of imprisonment clearly and publicly and then reconfigure the prison system to deliver it 
  • The geography of the prison estate is one of the major challenges. A truly locally focused prison system would have enormous benefits but is difficult to achieve with the current estate. This difficulty will increase if the trend toward larger prisons continues. 
  • Introducing governor autonomy may have a part to play in delivering an improved prison system. The impact is likely to be limited because 
  • population management is centrally or regionally controlled. Governors will not have control over the type or number of inmates in their jails 
  • it does not address the disconnect between the delivery of services within prison and the community. This is a long term issue which has resulted in prisoners undergoing multiple referral processes with little coherent oversight 

6.1 The P.I. is not in a position to comment on details about the commissioning and procurement of private prisons. 

6.2 In relation to ancillary services the recent TR changes which have involved the commissioning and procurement of “Through the Gate” Services has been problematic. The principle of a “Through the Gate” service, integrating service provision within prisons and the community, is critical to improving rehabilitation. However, significant shortcomings are already emerging in the specifications of the contracts. The commissioning intention does not appear to match the service provision. For example, the intention appeared to be the provision of counselling, safety planning and support to survivors of domestic abuse and/or those involved in sex work. The reality has been that most CRCs have issued sub-contracts to their supply chain partners that require no more than a brief contact to “signpost” to specialist services outside the prison. Similar issues have occurred with respect to accommodation, employment, substance misuse and education services. HM Inspectorate of Probation picked up these concerns in their “early findings” inspections of Transforming Rehabilitation. Whilst some difficulties in gearing up supply chains and introducing new arrangements were inevitable, it appears that more fundamental flaws are emerging. There are significant and sometimes dangerous disconnects between the work of Prison Offender Management Units, Prison Probation Teams (National Probation Service) and “Through the Gate” teams (usually providers contracted by the CRC). 


7.1 Performance measures should focus on outcomes rather than process and be related to the achievement of the prisons’ key purposes (containment, safety and wellbeing, management/reduction of risk, promotion of desistance). The Prison Service already uses “Measuring of Quality of Life in Prisons” instrument. This is an effective tool for capturing both qualitative and quantitative measures. Greater input from prisoners themselves to performance measurement regimes would be beneficial. 


8.1 Other criminal justice jurisdictions can offer some valuable learning 
  • In the Netherlands responsibility for re-integrating those released from prison lies with local communities under the oversight of the mayor. This responsibility is exercised effectively and reoffending rates are lower than in England & Wales 
  • Norway has successfully promulgated a criminal justice policy where prison is a last resort for those who are deemed too dangerous to be managed in the community. Prison regimes in Norway stress the need for prisoners to take responsibility within the prison. 
  • The trend toward justice re-investment in North America has already been highlighted 

9.1 The independence of HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM are critical and must be preserved. 9.2 Independent Monitoring Boards sometimes lack the breadth of knowledge to address issues relating to “through the gate” and rehabilitation services. 


10.1 The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme? 

A bold reform programme is likely to impact significantly on TR. If it resulted in a reduction of the prison population community caseloads for both the National Probation Service and particularly Community Rehabilitation Companies would rise. This need not be problematic and may indeed mitigate some of the difficulties faced by CRCs as a result of lower than expected volumes of cases coming through Courts. Reconfiguring the prison estate and greater governor autonomy would have significant implications for “Through the Gate” services which are currently centrally commissioned. As noted the initial performance of this service is not promising so this may provide an opportunity for contract variation in respect of these services. This in turn may promote a re-alignment of CRC based supply chain relationships to provide more effective services both “through the gate” and in the community. More emphasis could for example be placed on promoting community based services for women where the CRC commitment has thus far been disappointing. In short, a radical prison reform programme could facilitate the roles of Probation organisations and the voluntary sector in playing a more co-ordinated and effective part in resettling prisoners and enabling them to re-integrate as active citizens.


A bold reconfiguration of the prison estate would facilitate a more devolved approach. There are significant potential benefits in joining up local CJ provision and budgets under the control of Police and Crime Commissioners and/or elected mayors. This is likely to promote more outward looking prisons truly integrated with local services. 

10.3 Devolution would also present opportunities to involve local communities including victim, offenders, their families and others more directly in the CJ system, promoting greater transparency and understanding of the system. In turn this could have benefits in terms of public confidence. 

Professor Paul Senior, Chair, 
Nick Smart, Vice-Chair and Helen Schofield, ACEO 
On behalf of the Probation Institute 29 September 2016

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Going Digital

To be honest I'm just treading water at the moment due to a seeming dearth of something new to say about the TR omnishambles. It does however give us time to examine related matters, such as the following article on the 'Digital by default news' website which caught my eye. Although on the face of it, it sounds eminently sensible, along with practitioners being forced to conduct sensitive interviews via video links, my heart continues to sink in relation to the prospects for good probation practice.  

Parole Board continues digital transformation

The Parole Board has issued an update on its move to digital and the introduction of paperless hearings by October 2017. The body is undertaking a large project to overhaul the way it works, in line with its strategic objective of reducing the backlog due to constraints and ensuring more efficient ways of working.

As an organisation it says it has looked into new ways of electronic working. Previously, all dossiers for Parole cases (which average between 300-500 pages for reviews) were printed at its office in London and couriered out to Parole Board members around the country. This process was expensive, time consuming, and not environmentally friendly.

Going paperless

The E-dossier project was launched last year, with 17 members trialling the new system at first. This has now been rolled out to 176 members (85%), with the target of having 90% of the membership accessing their case information electronically by April 2017.

The Board says it will be completely paperless for hearings by October 2017. At present 102 members are conducting completely paperless parole reviews across the country (50% of the entire membership).

The members have all been provided with a tablet laptop and access to the secure ‘Web Access Module’ to see their cases and download the dossiers. Project staff have worked closely with prisons to ensure access with the devices went smoothly at the prison gates, and have taken on board feedback from members to make improvements to the new system.

The courier and printing cost savings that will come from this project alone mean 250 more prisoners will be able to have hearings each year. The next steps of the project are to work with the courts and ensure members who are current serving judges can access Parole Board dossiers through their digital judiciary accounts.

The second cohort of new members will join the organisation in June 2017 and they will be trained to conduct paperless hearings right from the outset. Once they start to conduct parole reviews we will be a fully operational digital organisation.


In other news, this drew a wry smile as yet another of Grayling's big ideas bit the dust yesterday:-

London Central Employment Tribunal upholds the claims of over 200 judges for unlawful age, race and sex discrimination and equal pay

London Central Employment Tribunal has today upheld the claims of over 200 judges for unlawful age, race and sex discrimination and equal pay against the Lord Chancellor and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in relation to changes made to their pension entitlements.

The judgment from the Tribunal held that the MoJ and the Lord Chancellor had discriminated against younger judges by requiring them to leave the Judicial Pension Scheme in April 2015 whilst allowing older judges to remain in that Scheme, and that this discrimination could not be justified.

Shubha Banerjee from the employment team at Leigh Day who is representing 204 of the judges said:

“This is a great victory for our clients, many of whom sit alongside older judges who were appointed some years after them but who are, in effect, paid more purely because they are older. The fact that there is a significant number of female and BME judges in the younger group simply compounds the unfairness of the changes that were made to judicial pensions. According to Judicial Office Statistics, about one third of all judges in England and Wales last year were female, and only 7% described themselves as from a black or other minority ethnic background.”

The Tribunal found that the changes caused younger judges to suffer a disproportionate loss to their pensions purely because they were younger. The decision could have ramifications for other public sector groups, such as police officers, teachers, firefighters and prison officers, who have been subjected to similar negative changes to their pensions.

The legal team were Shubha Banerjee and Chris Benson from Leigh Day and Andrew Short QC and Naomi Ling from Outer Temple Chambers.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Latest From Napo 133

Here's what I feel is most relevant from the latest Napo General Secretary's blog post:- 


As many of you will be aware, the new Civil Service Attendance Management Policy was implemented by NOMS into the NPS on 5th January 2017. It seems that the implementation of this policy, despite the failure to agree it with Napo and other unions, is set to cause huge rifts between managers and staff if the early feedback we have received this week is anything to go by.

The genesis of this deficient and divisive process is that the government sees public servants as a burden on society and has decided to launch one of the most punitive personnel management regimes for managing sick absence that it has been my misfortune to see in many years in this business.

We wrote out to NPS members in the week to confirm that we had received a number of queries and concerns from branches about this policy. Napo has followed up on the meeting that took place between Michael Spurr and the unions just before the Christmas break and are challenging both the contents and the implementation of the policy.

We have also made it clear to Michael Spurr and his senior management colleagues that we are appalled at the lack of clear communications to staff. Many managers have not received any information about what the policy contains and how it should be used, which has significantly hampered their ability to brief staff and local Napo reps. We also have serious doubts about the quality and quantity of the training that has been offered for managers. Below is the link to the advice Napo issued just before Christmas. We are working urgently on further guidance and advice for members which we will issue shortly.

Essentially, this policy was drawn up and implemented without anything resembling negotiation, and apart from some late and very cursory consultation where we managed to secure some changes, it was very much a case of ' carry on regardless' (for those of you who remember the lamentable series of movies of that genre) but without even the remotest semblance of humour.

While the NOMS supremos cannot escape the accusation that they have palpably failed to bat for their team, this is yet another example of the attitude that this government has for its employees who it sees as wasters and malingerers who jump at the opportunity to take sick leave. Unlike the faceless Mandarins in their Whitehall ivory towers who concocted this nonsense, our members live in the real world and we will do our best to highlight and challenge the numerous problems that this is already causing at all levels. Meanwhile, I fully appreciate the difficulties this implementation places on our reps on top of all the other pressures that you (and we) are facing, and Napo will do all that we can to help you represent any members who fall foul of the new instructions.

I aim to publish the exchanges we have had with Michael Spurr once he has been able to consider our latest letter, but issues such as the lack of an Equality Impact Assessment, retrospective treatment of absences preceding the policy, new rules on sick pay, and the way in which serious underlying medical conditions are apparently supposed to be totally ignored as a factor for not attending at work are right up there. So, as a member asked me yesterday, it's presumably ok for someone with an infectious medical condition to drag themselves into the office and put others at risk to avoid being pulled up under the policy?

More news as soon as we can get it to you.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Welfare to Work Cuts

Here's an article in the Guardian that confirms yet more bad news for the criminal justice sector and the chances for many probation clients gaining employment:-  

Thousands of jobs to go in government shakeout of welfare to work sector

Thousands of experienced employment coaches are expected to lose their jobs over the next few weeks as ministers trigger the first stage of a massive shakeout of the government-funded welfare to work sector that will see it shrink by 75%. The employment services industry is preparing for what one insider called “a bloodbath” as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) moves to replace the work programme with the much smaller work and health programme.

Documents seen by the Guardian reveal that seven of the 15 work programme prime contractors, including big private sector names such as Serco and Maximus, have not made it on to the initial shortlist for the new scheme. The work and health programme shortlist, which is to be officially announced next week, begins a process in which the remaining eight work programme firms will compete with three new entrants for just six new regional contracts.

The final outcome, expected when contracts are awarded in late spring, could result in some firms being forced to abandon the market, or diversify into other contracted out public service areas, such as criminal justice or apprenticeships.

“This decimates the welfare to work industry. It represents the unravelling of nearly 20 years of unemployment support experience,” one industry insider told the Guardian. Work coaches provide long-term unemployed clients with help to acquire a range of employment and life skills designed to increase their chances of finding work, such as CV writing, IT skills and literacy, as well as liaising with potential employers.

Thousands of work coach jobs are expected to be lost. “This means large job losses among really experienced frontline advisers, the majority of which are in charities,” said Kirsty McHugh, the chief executive of the Employment Related Services Association.

The work and health programme is expected to start in the autumn and aims to provide specialist support for long-term unemployed people, especially those with health conditions or a disability. Funding will be about £100m a year over four years. This is about a quarter of the current annual spending on the work programme, which closes at the end of March, and work choice, which will continue for a few months longer.

Ministers have been warned that the cuts will undermine the government’s ambitious commitment to halve the disability employment gap by 2020, which requires it to find jobs for about 1.2 million people with disabilities or long-term illnesses able to work.

Ministers are understood to believe that rising employment levels, coupled with the provision of extra disability employment advisers in Jobcentre Plus, means that recent high levels of investment in employment support are no longer needed. But the Commons work and pensions committee warned in November that the scale of the cuts to the work and health programme meant that many disabled and ill claimants would be unable to access support.

Tony Wilson, the director of policy and research at the Learning and Work Institute thinktank, said: “The work and health scheme will support far fewer people and it would not be able to deliver services to the extent that could be done previously. Our assessment is that this scheme will make a vanishingly small contribution to the halving of the disability employment gap.”

Of current work programme contractors, Serco, Maximus, Seetec, Interserve, Learndirect, NCG and Rehab Jobfit are not on the work and health programme provider shortlist. The following firms have made it on to the shortlist, known as the framework: PeoplePlus (shortlisted in all six contract regions), Shaw Trust (5), G4s (5), Ingeus (3), Reed (3), Working Links (3), Pluss (2), Prospects (1), APM (1), Remploy (1) and Economic Solutions (1).

The regions covered by the framework are: central, north-east, north-west, southern, home counties and Wales. London and Greater Manchester will run their own devolved work and health scheme.

The work programme – which was launched in 2011 by the then secretary of state for work and pensions, Iain Duncan Smith – achieved mixed results and was fiercely criticised for the low numbers of disabled and chronically ill people it succeeded in supporting into work.

It was also dogged by controversy over alleged misconduct by work coaches, and the high salaries earned by top executives. Emma Harrison, the founder of A4E, was criticised for paying herself dividends of £8.6m in 2011, on top of a £365,000 annual salary.

Harrison, who had a brief spell as former prime minister David Cameron’s “families tsar” sold her personal stake in A4E to Staffline group in 2015 for a reported £20m. The relaunched company, PeoplePlus, is shortlisted in all six work and health programme areas.

Industry insiders expressed surprise that Maximus – which has gained notorietyas the provider of the DWP’s controversial “fit for work” tests – failed to make the shortlist as it had been seen as one of the best performing work programme providers in terms of getting long-term jobless people into sustainable jobs.

A DWP spokesperson said: “Our new work and health programme – which our providers will help us deliver – will allow us to give more tailored support for jobseekers and there will be an overall increase in funding for people with health conditions and disabilities. Work coaches play a crucial role in supporting people into work and these changes will allow us to do more through our Jobcentre Plus network.”

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Prison Reform 3

While we wait for news of what the Probation Review will bring, here's a useful year-end roundup from Rob Allen on his Unlocking Potential blog:-

A Year in Prisons

A year that opened with David Cameron championing prison reform as a great progressive cause in British politics ended with a record number of deaths, a high profile escape, staff walking out and Tornado teams quelling a series of major disturbances. The first six months saw Michael Gove promising the earth but delivering almost nothing; the second Liz Truss scrambling for funds and ideas to repair the damage inflicted on the prison service by her predecessors.

Her White Paper may not have lived up to its hype, but she quickly recognised that getting more staff onto the landings is a prerequisite for anything more ambitious. Having previously argued that prisons should be tough unpleasant and uncomfortable places, she makes an unlikely reformer but deserves the chance to fix the mess she inherited.

Truss baulked at Charlie Taylor’s extravagant plans to reconfigure youth justice and has so far resisted proposals to reduce the numbers of adults in prison- not surprisingly for a proponent of longer and tougher sentences. Ken Clarke, Nick Clegg and Jacqui Smith joined the list of politicians prescribing radical policies once they cease to have the power to implement them. Their call to halve the prison population received some support from Labour but they have form in calling for - and reneging on - a halt to the arms race on punishment. Michael Howard thinks it gravely irresponsible to slash prison numbers. But even he says there might be room for modest reform.

Measures beneath the radar are probably the best we can hope for in 2017.The Sentencing Council could play a greater role in stabilising sentence lengths but problem solving courts seem to be on hold. It’s not clear how far the devolution agenda has to run in justice.

Probation could normally be expected to play a greater role in replacing prison but its reckless privatisation has left it struggling to cope with existing work let alone take on more. We will find out early next year if a review leads to contracts being torn up – or more likely tinkered with.

We are due a progress report too, on the 10,000 new prison places due to be built in 9 new prisons by 2020. Don’t be surprised if these have been delayed. NOMS Chief Michael Spurr told the Justice Committee last month that it will be 2025 at least before prison cells hold only the number of prisoners for which they were designed. Prison reform may just about still be a great progressive cause - but it's a long term one.


I understand that prison reform will feature on BBC1's 'The Big Questions' scheduled for Sunday 22nd January 10.00am and tickets for the audience in Bradford might still be available. 

Friday, 13 January 2017

Inspector Finds Problems with RRP

Here we have the latest inspection report from the Probation Inspectorate:- 


This is our second inspection of adult probation work undertaken in the Midlands division of the National Probation Service (NPS) and in a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) owned by the Reducing Reoffending Partnership (RRP). 

RRP is applying the same ambitious operating model in the two CRCs it owns, and it is reassuring to see the progress made since our inspection in Derbyshire just a few months ago. Implementation in Staffordshire and Stoke is almost complete - albeit case management software and systems are still pending - and the operating model is now almost fully fledged. 

RRP’s model provides for an extensive range of interventions and it was pleasing to see some in good use, for example, substance misuse services. We were impressed as well by RRP’s commitment to specific services for women, and commend its strategy to others. 

That said, the CRC is not yet delivering the full range of planned services. Delivery has been inconsistent during a period of rapid change, but there is the prospect of steadier times ahead. Individual caseloads, however, look set to stay high with some officers now responsible for up to 80 cases. 

High individual caseloads are becoming commonplace in CRCs. Of course CRCs must manage within anticipated resource, but the public is at greater risk when officers are spread too thinly and if quality assurance is not robust. 

In common with other regions, the Midlands division of the NPS has so far experienced less (and less complex) change. It was not surprising then that the organisation was more stable and effective. This is generally consistent with what we have found elsewhere. 

Overall, the NPS work inspected was of sufficient quality but there were notable weaknesses in places, for example in the provision of rehabilitative services. There was little evidence of the NPS purchasing services from the CRC to assist here, whereas CRC provision of services to the NPS is a key tenet of the model for probation services nationally. In practice and despite leaders’ intentions, the rate card (listing services available) and/or concerns over pricing remain sticking points, here and elsewhere in the country. 

Both the CRC and NPS in Staffordshire and Stoke need to improve the quality and impact of their work. We hope that the findings and recommendations from this inspection will help them to do just that.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation January 2017


Russell Webster has summarised the report here and the following is is a taster. 

The main inspectors’ findings of the work of the CRC were:
  • Assessments of risk of harm were done consistently and to an acceptable standard, thereby providing a good grounding for future work, but those assessments were not followed through sufficiently well.
  • In almost half of the cases insufficient steps had been taken to keep to a minimum the service user’s risk of harm to others. Moreover, in a high proportion of cases, sentence planning was poor.
  • There was no evidence of the CRC seeking to quality assure public protection work. Management oversight was limited.
  • The CRC was not sufficiently effective in delivering interventions to reduce reoffending.
  • In most cases, the CRC produced an assessment and plan sufficient for the purposes of reducing reoffending. There was evidence of some effective work but this was offset by adverse consequences of organisational change, particularly disruption to the continuity of supervision due to frequent changes of responsible officer.
  • Members of staff were confused about their roles, and the availability of appropriate interventions.
  • The use of ‘step down’, where contact is reduced or managed by telephone calls, was not compatible with the risks associated with cases, nor did it support rehabilitative work.
  • Most CRC service users had abided by the conditions of their sentence. If they did not, appropriate enforcement action was taken.
  • Individual diversity was taken into account in the assessment, planning and delivery arrangements in almost all cases.
  • The high turnover of responsible officers was less of a problem in this area of work, but in almost one in four cases the lack of continuity led to unacceptable levels of contact and poor enforcement work.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

A Forseeable Mistake

Continuing with our TR retrospective theme, just before Christmas an Editorial from December 2015 in the Independent was highlighted by a number of people on Twitter and I think it fits in rather nicely at this point in our deliberations:-   

Privatising probation services was a foreseeable mistake – and now we all stand to pay the price

When the Government flogged off 70 per cent of the probation service to the private sector earlier this year, the then Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, who was the driving force behind this change, insisted it was “great news”. The public, he said, would “finally benefit from the best of the private and voluntary sectors, working together with the public sector, to cut reoffending”. 

That assertion was widely contested, and with good reason. There is no sign of reoffending rates falling; the prisons minister, Andrew Selous, makes only the modest claim that the reforms are still “bedding in”. Meanwhile, as we report, part of the service may be taken back into state hands after Sodexo, the French firm running the South Yorkshire region, flunked a justice ministry audit. The report is a catalogue of shortcomings on Sodexo’s part, noting gaps in terms of safeguarding information, recording appointments, supervising offenders and more. It gave Sodexo until February to up its game, warning that its contract may be terminated. 

It would be easy to focus on the tragi-comic absurdity of choosing a company best known for supplying catering services to run a probation service but this would be to miss the point. The real problem with Mr Grayling’s changes is not which companies were chosen to run the probation service but the fact that it was privatised at all – without good reason, without pilot schemes and in the teeth of opposition not just from the unions but from almost every expert in the field. All the evidence points to this being privatisation of the worst type – driven by an obsession with free market principles and the belief that every department of national life can be turned into a money-spinner.

The sell-off might have been justified had the old probation service been a vastly expensive system of Byzantine complexity, but it was not. In 2013, the Ministry of Justice rated all 35 probation trusts in England and Wales as good or excellent. The old trusts also had the virtue of simplicity and clear lines of accountability, all of which have become blurred since Mr Grayling pressed on with divvying them up, handing 70 per cent to 21 private community rehabilitation companies, or CRCs, while keeping 30 per cent in state hands as the National Probation Service, the NPS. 

From the start there were concerns that the private contractors would be unprepared for the task. Even supporters of privatisation, such as the former prisons minister, Crispin Blunt, said Mr Grayling was “moving too fast” with a national rollout. The arbitrary 70-30 per cent division of assets has created a muddle, establishing two services delivering similar services where there had been one. CRC staff have complained that they are not able to see the files of offenders allocated to the NPS. Morale in the CRCs is dismal. No surprise there. One of Sodexo’s first announcements on getting the job in South Yorkshire was that it intended to axe hundreds of jobs. Union surveys show more than half of those working for CRCs are looking for new employment. 

The shadow Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, recently said Labour should renationalise the probation service by getting out of the contracts “as quickly as we financially and legally can”. This would be hard to do because Mr Grayling agreed lengthy contracts with the contractors that would be very costly to scrap. 

Almost everyone can see the damage that was done to the railways by privatisation. Because the work of the probation service affects only a minority of the population, there is far less interest in what has happened to it. This is unfortunate because if the probation service does not work we are all at risk in terms of rising crime. The current Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, is making a name for himself as a determined reformer of our broken prison system. He would do well to try to undo at least some of the damage that his predecessor inflicted on the probation service. 
I ran a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!
I ran a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!
I ran a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!
a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!
I ran a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!
I ran a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!

I ran a department in the public sector prison service co-ordinating a wide range of support services for prisoners nearing release, varying from housing services, through mental health, education, employment and benefits to rehabilitation. We made wide use of volunteer groups and especially one to one mentoring. The system was complex, but cheap to run and effective. It worked in conjunction with the Probation Service to avoid duplication and to ensure public safety. It is now run by one of these CRC's, is completely ineffective and has become an excercise in box- ticking to ensure " contract compliance" , I.e  to get the money. The previous service had been widely praised as a good model for other prisons to follow, as we achieved a notable reduction in reoffending. Now, all gone to hell!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Reflections on TR

In the context of the on-going Probation Review, lets continue with our theme of looking back at how and why it all went wrong. Here's an absolutely fascinating interview given by one of the top officials on the CivilServiceWorld website in April 2014. She didn't stick around for long of course:-
Interview: Antonia Romeo, MOJ

The Ministry of Justice’s track record on outsourcing is a shaky one – but in its probation reforms, it’s running one of Whitehall’s most ambitious greenfield contracting-out schemes. Matt Ross meets project chief Antonia Romeo

The last time Civil Service World interviewed a senior Ministry of Justice figure, in March 2013, it wasn’t a comforting experience for either side. The MoJ’s programme to contract out the management of court interpreters had not gone well, with many criminal cases delayed by shortages of skilled linguists. But when presented with the concerns raised by two select committees and the National Audit Office, permanent secretary Ursula Brennan kept giving the same answer: the MoJ had needed to move fast to avoid “further confusion and the belief that we weren’t determined,” she argued. The desire to appear confident about the scheme, it appeared, had trumped basic elements of good practice such as properly assessing the task at hand, acting on the warnings of the MoJ’s own due diligence assessors, or piloting the planned reforms.

Given this history, when CSW returned to the MoJ’s Petty France HQ to talk about the probation outsourcing programme with Antonia Romeo, director-general of criminal justice, it was with both a long list of questions, and a certain amount of scepticism. After all, since last year the MoJ’s mismanagement of the electronic tagging contracts run by Serco and G4S has raised yet more questions over its ability to manage private suppliers. And the probation scheme is far bigger and riskier than either the interpreters or the tagging projects.

The probation scheme does, though, have the advantage that it’s been conceived to introduce new approaches to rehabilitation and increase productivity – allowing probation services to be extended to a new group of offenders – rather than simply to cut costs. Those sentenced to prison terms of less than one year currently receive no support when they’re ejected back into the community: “The point of this programme is to bring into scope 50,000 offenders,” explains Romeo. “This is an affordable way of extending provision to the under-12-month group, where we think we’re likely to have the most impact in terms of reducing reoffending.”

Compressing the quart

The MoJ’s plans involve squeezing these additional 50,000 offenders into the budget that currently funds around 150,000 low- and medium-risk offenders overseen by the probation trusts. But this isn’t about telling service providers to “stick with your old processes and take on an additional 50,000 people,” says Romeo: by changing the roles and expectations of those working with offenders, she believes, the scheme will cut the costs of reducing reoffending. “This work is going to be done in a completely new way,” she says.

Most offenders, she points out, have “a very complex and intractable set of problems that need to be looked at holistically.” Reducing reoffending involves helping people tackle challenges around housing, drug use, skills, literacy, mental health and a host of other issues; it means coordinating public and voluntary sector bodies’ work; and it demands new services, such as one-to-one mentoring, and ‘through the gate’ programmes that prepare offenders to leave prison and support them once they’re free. The MoJ’s plans are built around the idea that ‘community rehabilitation companies’ (CRCs) – contractors that bring together the finance and systems of large firms, and the skills and local knowledge of local charities – will monitor offenders more cheaply, and reduce reoffending more effectively, than our existing probation service.

Probation is currently delivered by 35 probation trusts – each with its own board – whose boundaries align with those of the police forces; however, there will only be 21 CRC areas, with each contractor overseen directly by the MoJ’s National Offender Management Service (NOMS). Given that the programme is ostensibly designed both to mobilise local charities, and to foster cooperation between local public service providers, the probation reforms look remarkably like a classic top-down reorganisation. But Romeo emphasises that the system will vary from place to place: “We’ve got to design a system that works locally, and we spend a lot of time engaging with local partners,” she says. “We’ve got competition teams whose job it is to make sure that we really understand, in running these competitions, what the local issues are. Police and crime commissioners and local authorities are very involved.”

With the contractors looking upwards to NOMS, why should they engage with other local organisations to build those holistic services? “Because they’ll have some of their money at risk against reductions in reoffending,” she replies. “What works is working across the piece with local partners – so they’ll be highly incentivised to do that.” At the “stakeholder events” being run in each area, she adds, “we’re finding that potential bidders really want to understand the local landscape and how those local partnerships work. And we’re asking bidders to say how they’ll sustain and build on local partnerships. We’re not just hoping it’s going to happen; we’re expecting them to tell us in their bids.”

On cash and contracts

In December, the MoJ announced that 30 bidders had passed the ‘pre-qualification questionnaire’ stage – a mix of private companies, consortiums, and probation trusts working towards ‘mutual’ status. At this point in the process, Romeo won’t say much about how the probation budget will be divided – either between the CRCs and the rump National Probation Service (NPS), which will manage high-risk offenders and write court reports; or between the ‘fees for service’ paid to CRCs for delivering their core work, and the funds awarded according to CRCs’ success in reducing reoffending. She does note, though, that “we’re not seeking to take a huge amount out of the overall probation budget over the next few years” – the challenge is to improve productivity to fund a rising caseload, rather than to maintain quality as income declines – and that “the majority of the contract will be on a fee-for-service basis.”

In fact, it sounds as if Romeo hasn’t yet made the final decisions on the risk within the payment-by-results mechanisms: it’s “being set through the competition”, she says, with the MoJ “asking people to tell us how much they’re prepared to put at risk, and what reduction in reoffending” they think they can achieve. The important thing, she says, is that the competition isn’t designed to deliver a set of defined services for the smallest possible sum, but to identify those contractors who’ll provide the best possible service within the set budget. “This is not a price competition; this is a quality competition,” she says. “It’s about getting incremental reductions in reoffending over the long term, to help us live within our means in future years.”

The NPS, meanwhile, will continue to oversee high-risk offenders. As the new system is established, these will be identified using what Romeo calls an “actuarial tool”: a piece of software that “looks at all the indicators and does something rather complicated and determines what level of risk someone is.” When your correspondent expresses scepticism over a machine’s ability to predict a criminal’s chances of reoffending, Romeo emphasises that the final decision will be made by NPS professionals – as will decisions over whether to recategorise offenders once the system is up and running.

Because those deemed low- and medium-risk are handled by the CRCs whilst high-risk offenders are overseen by the NPS, offenders may find their supervision being transferred between CRCs and the NPS – and there are obvious dangers around handing over offenders just as the risk of them reoffending is increasing. However, Romeo denies that such offenders will suddenly be presented with a new set of staff and procedures: “It doesn’t necessarily mean a completely new set of people; it will all depend on what’s best for that particular case,” she says. “They will now be the responsibility of the NPS, but in terms of who’s doing offender management and what are the interventions – that won’t necessarily completely change.”

The relationship between the CRCs and NPS will clearly be crucial here, as will the exchange of data between them. CRCs will, says Romeo, have to make their IT systems compatible with the NPS’s network, enabling them to share information about offenders. However, contractors “will need some support during the first part of the contract; we’re not expecting them to suddenly come in with a whole raft of new IT on day one,” she says. “There will be a period of being supported and using our systems; then a period of them choosing what systems they want to run.” The CRCs and NPS will also be expected to share offices, facilitating joint working and the retention of a strong local branch network. “They will be separate organisations, but there won’t be separate approaches,” Romeo claims.

Getting it right this time

The complexities of the new system are bound to make its introduction challenging – and it’s far from proven that the ministry is capable of successfully managing such a big outsourcing project. After all, four days after the CSW interview in which Ursula Brennan rejected the challenges put to her concerning the courts interpreters project, the Treasury quietly published a response to the Public Accounts Committee report in which it accepted every single recommendation: at that time at least, there were clearly big holes in the ministry’s outsourcing capabilities. So let’s run through some of the things the MoJ got wrong that time.

First off, PAC found that the MoJ “did not have a clear understanding of its requirements under the new system”, and ended up being “driven by bidders’ proposals rather than its actual requirements.” What’s more, it didn’t pilot its scheme before implementing it nationwide. What evidence is there that the new probation system will meet the MoJ’s aim of reducing reoffending? Romeo acknowledges that the ministry hasn’t trialled its final proposals anywhere. “You have to turn on the statute once nationally,” she says. “You can’t provide rehabilitation services to under-12-month cohorts in some areas and not in others – not least because people go in and out of prison, and end up in different areas, so whether they were covered by the statute or not and whether that service provision existed would become impossible to manage.”

Furthermore, she notes, there’s “a timing issue, because the government’s policy is to roll it out by 2015, so we can really start feeling the effects in reductions to reoffending.” There is clearly a political timetable behind the pace at which the MoJ is moving – but Romeo argues that the ministry’s payment-by-results pilot in Peterborough prison has “a lot of similarities” with the probation reforms, providing confidence about the new system. The Peterborough scheme offers the under-12-month cohort intensive support from local charities, with investors rewarded according to their success in driving down reoffending.

Here, says Romeo, the interim results show a 10% reduction in reoffending, compared to an increase of 10% nationally. “The providers have chosen to commit quite a lot of resource to ‘through the gate’ services,” she says. The MoJ’s belief is that, by setting out expectations in contracts and using payment-by-results incentives, it can encourage CRCs handed a much broader caseload of offenders to maintain that focus on rehabilitation.

Taking the con out of contract

Asked about contract management, Romeo emphasises the role of the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) in approving and monitoring its new contracts. In the courts interpreters scheme, PAC said, the MoJ’s own credit rating report recommended that its chosen provider “should not be awarded a contract valued at more than £1m” – but the ministry ignored it. This time, Romeo says, things will be different: “The Cabinet Office has a very clear process for awarding contracts.” The CCS has “brought together all the things departments need to be doing, and obviously we are following those guidelines”: the ministry is currently “building a best practice contract management function, and that will have the deep domain business expertise that is required as well as the commercial expertise and the corporate services support.”

The ministry’s proposed payment-by-results model has also come in for criticism, with the Social Market Foundation arguing that the 3% margin for error initially set out by the ministry would incentivise contractors to let reoffending rates creep up. “One thing is clear: we will not be operating a payment mechanism that incentivises people to do nothing,” Romeo responds. “We published our payment mechanism so that people could give us feedback, and we have looked at what people said in developing the final version.” For example, the MoJ moved from a “binary mechanism” – which required offenders to completely stop breaking the law – to a “hybrid mechanism”, rewarding both complete cessation of offending and a reduction in the number of crimes.

The contracts are expected to run for 7-10 years, but they’ll include a set of penalty clauses and the right for the MoJ to “step in” and take over a failing service. “We’ll have, both within the contract management function and also within the NPS, expertise in probation services,” she points out; the ministry will be equipped to take over if required.

Moving safely in a risky world

As the ministry introduces the new system, Romeo argues, it’s taking every precaution to ensure it’s robust. “To get large transformation programmes working, you’ve got to have really good assurance in place so that you know you’re not believing your own hype,” she says. “We have external, independent assurers telling us if we’re doing the right thing and, before we proceed with any part of the programme, whether it’s sensible and appropriate to do so.” NOMS has a business assurance board designed, she adds, to “give me, the senior responsible officer, the assurance that this is going to work and isn’t taking on any unnecessary risk.”

Equally crucially, the ministry has “a very thorough programme of communication with the trusts themselves; and transition managers who spend all their time talking to trusts about what’s going on. I know that one of the risks in a major programme can be the people at the centre of the programme not understanding how it’s bedding down, and I’m determined to make sure that doesn’t happen. So I personally listen very carefully to what people tell me; and I go out all the time and talk to trusts, and to local authorities, and to police and crime commissioners.”

Romeo is sure that the new system will improve results. “At the moment, we have a very serious and professional group of probation staff working incredibly hard with local partners to reduce reoffending,” she says. “We’re seeking to allow those that move out to the CRCs the freedom and innovation to bring in new and better ways of doing things.” And in that process, she adds, “my job is to make sure that we don’t take any unnecessary risks as we move; that we look very carefully and seek assurance that what we’re doing won’t lead to any reduction in ‘business as usual’ or to any risks.”

Over an intense 50 minutes, Antonia Romeo has answered every question about this wholesale transformation of our probation services – but the risks involved in the reforms remain substantial. Convicted criminals are an unpredictable set of people, and the stakes are high: if contractors take their eyes of the ball and their clientele break the law, people will get hurt. Given the MoJ’s past mistakes in outsourcing schemes, the programme’s success is far from guaranteed.

Yet Romeo is clearly aware of the dangers, and determined both to manage the process as carefully as possible, and to watch carefully for emerging problems. “We need to progress this in a really disciplined and controlled way. We don’t take any risks in moving from one phase to the next,” she says. “My job as senior responsible officer is to make sure we deliver the benefits of the programme. We need to really understand what’s going on – and there are no prizes for not listening.”

Written by Matt Ross on 24 April 2014

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

What Investigation?

With the Probation Review well underway into the omnishambles created by Chris Grayling's TR, maybe it's time to reflect on exactly what went on during the bidding process and the 'dodgy' prospectus the successful contractors say they were sold. For instance, what ever happened to this, as reported in an article from 13th March 2016 in the Daily Mail:-  

Ministry of Justice orders an urgent probe into former civil servants helping private firms to win multi-million-pound contracts

The Ministry of Justice has started an urgent inquiry after The Mail on Sunday uncovered evidence that ex-civil servants were boasting of Government connections while working for private firms to secure multi-million-pound contracts in Britain and abroad. 

This newspaper found several senior MoJ officials recently left Whitehall to take up jobs with a consultancy. In the months before they departed, the consultancy’s UK branch had helped secure contracts worth more than £600 million for a controversial US firm to run probation services across swathes of the South East, and a Northamptonshire young offenders’ unit.

They had worked for the commercial arm of the MoJ – shut down last year after disclosures it was to be paid £6 million to ‘reform’ the prison system in Saudi Arabia. This operation, Just Solutions International, closed in September. Its former chief Tony Challinor, now a director of consultancy TDPi, boasts of using experience and knowledge gained in government in the private sector.

His profile on business networking site LinkedIn says he had led a Ministry of Justice team to ‘scope and develop solutions’ for governments and criminal justice agencies around the world, adding: ‘I am very pleased to be able to continue to develop and deliver this work through TDPi.’

Former civil servants must not ‘exploit privileged access to contacts in Government or sensitive information’ gained in their duties. If a job risks breaching these rules, it must be approved by a Whitehall committee.

Mr Challinor is one of several ex-mandarins at TDPi to whom the checks were apparently not properly applied. The firm’s website mentions Sibylle Batten, who led the MoJ’s International and Market Development Unit, and ‘has extensive experience in business and partnership development’.

Sources told The Mail on Sunday that TDPi is looking at contracts in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Somalia, where it hopes to ‘rehabilitate’ pirates. 

Its director Rebecca Grattan is also chief operating officer of MTCnovo, the British branch of prisons firm MTC. Its successful bids to run probation services in London and Thames Valley and the Rainsbrook youth detention centre were organised by TDPi’s sister company. By 2021, the income from these will top £600 million.

In the US, MTC has been beset by scandal. Last year a Texas immigration detention centre it ran was destroyed when prisoners rioted. The state of Mississippi is facing class-action lawsuits from prisoners in MTC-run jails who allege they endured violence and were denied healthcare.

Criminal justice expert Harry Fletcher branded it ‘outrageous’ that a firm with such a record was to run Rainsbrook. MTCnovo said it plans to bid for further UK contracts.

The Ministry of Justice said it had started ‘an immediate investigation with support from the Cabinet Office’ as a result of the findings.

Asked about the probe, Mrs Grattan said: ‘Both Tony Challinor and Sibylle Batten have followed the recommended procedures. Neither individual is working in any capacity for MTCnovo nor has done so in the past.’ Mr Challinor and Ms Batten did not respond to requests for comment.

This article from the Guardian:-

Ministry of Justice officials 'helped private firms win government contracts'

Ministers have ordered an immediate inquiry into allegations that former senior civil servants from the Ministry of Justice have used their Whitehall knowledge and contacts to help private companies secure government contracts worth millions.

The inquiry follows a Mail on Sunday investigation which questioned the role of a director of a consultancy, TDPi, whom they named as Tony Challinor. Challinor is the former chief executive of the MoJ’s commercial arm, Just Solutions International, which was shut down last year in a row over a Saudi prisons contract.

The prisons minister, Andrew Selous, said the reported allegations involved claims that former MoJ employees had behaved improperly and that knowledge they may have acquired while working for the department had been used to gain a competitive advantage.

“We take all allegations of impropriety extremely seriously,” said Selous, adding that an immediate investigation had been launched with Cabinet Office support.

“The rules around former civil servants taking up employment in the private sector are made very clear when they leave. Under no circumstance should they exploit privileged access to government contracts or sensitive information which could be used to influence the outcome of commercial competitions,” he said.

The Mail on Sunday said that Challinor was one of several senior MoJ officials who had recently left Whitehall to take up jobs with TDPi. In the months before they left their Whitehall jobs, TDPi’s UK branch had helped secure contracts that would be worth more than £600m by 2020 for a US company, MTCnovo, to run probation services in London and the Thames Valley as well as Rainsbrook secure training centre in Northamptonshire.

Challinor, who was also head of commercial development for the prisons and probation service, says in his Linkedin profile: “After a brief period of retirement from the UK civil service I am leading a new company building on the work I previously delivered.” He left his role as head of commercial development at the national offender management service in December after more than four years in the post.

Challinor goes on in his profile to highlight his experience in creating a dedicated MoJ team to develop solutions for governments and criminal justice agencies around the world and says he hopes to develop this work through the TDPi consultancy. The paper also named a second former MoJ official who had a senior role in the department’s international and market development unit.

Selous added in a written ministerial statement to MPs that the MoJ had improved its commercial capability in the last six months by doubling the senior commercial experts monitoring work with the private sector.

A spokeswoman for TDPi told the Mail on Sunday that Challinor had followed the recommended procedures and had never worked for MTC Novo. Challinor declined to comment.


This article from CivilServiceWorld

Ministry of Justice launches probe into former commercial staff

The Ministry of Justice has begun an investigation into claims that a number of its former commercial staff have emphasised their links to government while seeking private sector work.

The Mail on Sunday reported at the weekend that several senior MoJ officials who had been part of the now-disbanded Just Solutions International team – set up to sell British criminal justice advice to governments around the world, including Saudi Arabia – are now working for a private consultancy called TDPi.

The consultancy's website promises "a fresh approach to solution development in international justice and correctional services", and its team includes director Tony Challinor, who stepped down as head of commercial development for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in December.

In a statement to MPs published on Monday, justice minister Andrew Selous said: "Yesterday the press reported allegations that former employees of the Ministry of Justice have behaved improperly and that knowledge they may have acquired while working for the department has been used to gain a competitive advantage.

"We take all allegations of impropriety extremely seriously. We have launched an immediate investigation to ascertain the facts, which the Cabinet Office's Proprietary and Ethics team will support."

Under rules governing post-Whitehall business appointments, senior civil servants "are expected to refrain from drawing on any privileged information which was available to them when in office", with appointments subject to clearance by the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

Selous added: "The rules around former civil servants taking up employment in the private sector are made very clear when they leave. Under no circumstance should they exploit privileged access to government contracts or sensitive information which could be used to influence the outcome of commercial competitions."

Selous said the Ministry of Justice had, "over the last six months", taken steps to improve its commercial capability, "more than doubling the senior commercial experts monitoring work with the private sector". But there was "still more to do", he added, and promised to update MPs with the findings of the joint investigation once it had been completed.