Saturday, 30 July 2016

Bubb Bows Out

Following on from yesterday's blog post about the third sector and how they are gearing up for a better slice of the action provided by prison reform, it suddenly occurred to me that we don't seem to have heard much lately from their self-serving and supremely pompous cheer-leader Sir Stephen Bubb. But here we have the answer in the form of his blog and one must feel for him as surely any aspirations for ermine would seem to have taken a further serious knock with the unexpected changes at No 10?

Bubb's Blog

"This CEO blog promises to reveal the inside track of a third sector leader influencing in Whitehall, championing professionalism and causing a stir."


A Journey...

I've been a fan of the Today programme since I was a kid (indeed I'm on it enough!) But I never dreamt it would be responsible for the next stage of my career. Last year I did a interview on the lessons from the demise of the Kids Company. I said that this was an object lesson in charity funding: neglect the back office and front line delivery suffers. I said that funders need to remember that money must be spent on building infrastructure in top leadership and governance. Listening to the Today programme was a philanthropist who couldn't agree more and got in touch with me. And so half a year later I'm stepping down as the CEO of ACEVO to lead a new programme to build better governance.

The philanthropist in question has decided to remain anonymous - not seeking publicity or branding. Its an old tradition much rarer in these days when people demand "transparency" but there is a strong Biblical injunction not to boast about giving;

"When you give to the poor, don’t blow a loud horn. That’s what show-offs do in the meeting places and on the street corners, because they are always looking for praise."

Or obviously, I prefer the King James version;

"Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward."

So Bible trumps transparency!

Inevitably I think back to the near 16 years I've spent at ACEVO. It all began at a party in Notting Hill. I was chatting to 3 stalwarts of the third sector; Susie Parsons, head of The Lighthouse, Judi Clements, head of Mind and the indomitable Val Amos. I'd been approached by a head hunter to apply for the ACEVO CEO post. I wasn't sure. They told me it just wouldn't suit me; too staid and traditional, "why, they even have Scottish country dancing at their conference"! So that was the clincher. A challenge!

It was a strange beginning. An office in Harrow for goodness sake. 9 staff. A very old fashioned voluntary sector feel but I set about the task with gusto. Moving to London proper was top of the list and we were soon in Victoria and beginning to grow. The high point in our development was when my then Chair John Low and myself were being photographed atop the office, Parliament in the background and celebrating our 2000th member. At the high point we had over 40 staff. Alas, like so much of our sector times have changed, austerity has wreaked havoc among many charities and ACEVO has not been immune to those pressures. But our voice and our presence is as strong as ever. Promoting the value of sector leaders, our delivery role and our advocacy.

There are so many anecdotes to tell. Many will wait for the autobiography but some highlights now. In the golden days I remember being in No. 10 with my board members meeting Tony Blair to discuss how the third sector could help reform public services. He was late. I'm told by "a source" that when he went into his office for his briefing he looked at the file and said, words to the effect "what the f ... am I doing meeting the voluntary sector". I guess as well you might. When he returned to his office he was reformed - he said we have to do this. And that was the start of the Office of the Third sector, Ed Miliband's first job and the third sector service delivery white paper. Shortly thereafter Blair came to a packed out hall to a conference on "future public services" to hear me talk about how to reform public services through our third sector. Blair was great. As always. Though he managed to forget to announce the key part of his speech when he was to launch an initiative with RNID!

Fast forward some years and I was standing next to David Cameron to launch his "Open Public Services" white paper. I quoted Machiavelli to him, much to his amusement!

I've had many conversations with our current PM over the last 6 years. He happens to also be my MP and we sometimes chat over the vegetables at the Farmers Market in Charlbury. One slightly awkward moment was a chat the day before I knew that the Times were running a front page story headed "Big Society is Dead". A story that Nick Hurd reminds me they have since run on a number of occasions. But nevertheless that didn't stop him asking me to head up the task force on choice and competition in the NHS during the infamous "pause" on the Health Bill. I well remember the day I became the first, and so far only charity leader to address a meeting of the British Cabinet. I had 2 minutes. And though I shouldn't be immodest it was a powerful contribution. Brilliant was what one Cabinet Minister said, but I mustn't blow my horn! I have framed my notes from that event.

But its not always been a happy relationship. Once, following an explosive piece in The Times on my excoriating analysis of government cuts on our sector I has a visit form Eric Pickles. He told me of the PM's displeasure in graphic terms and suggested I might reform. Clearly that was a sobering conversation and I talked to colleagues on what to do. But the consensus was clear. Your job is to say it how it is. Its your members you should worry about, not politicians.

But its the contact and interchange with members that's been one of the highlights of the job. Our sector has some incredible people; strong leaders committed to the cause and its always been fun meeting and hearing from them. One thing is for sure - no ACEVO member holds back on their views!

I'm not sure how it will feel in June when I no longer have that CEO role. I'm not sure I'll miss the managerial aspects of the CEO role and I will relish the opportunities for innovation and creativity that come with my new role.

The funder has put his trust in me to deliver a major and important initiative to boost better governance. A 2 year programme and who knows where that will lead or where my next challenge will be.

It's 15 years since I took up the reins at ACEVO and I'm 63. But I've never felt like retiring! I'm not the retiring type, and still too energetic to retire. There is much to sort. Recent media scrutiny, pay, fundraising and the Kids Co debacle did convince me we must do something to support better strategic leadership and governance in our sector.

Indeed I know, from the far too many ACEVO cases of CEOs in trouble with bad governance, that something more is needed. And I'm glad to say that a philanthropist thought so too, and is giving ACEVO a substantial donation to enable me to lead a "charity futures programme". This will look at how to build what we have been describing in our ACEVO strategic plan as a "charity excellence hub". Looking at a big intervention that boosts support for charity infrastructure.

To do this effectively, I am going to stand down as the CEO and, whilst remaining in ACEVO, I will lead this project from July for 2 years and probably beyond.

I'm excited by the ambition of the project. My 15 years have taught me that our sectors' leaders need the level of support and development that other sectors take for granted. And when we face the challenges of delivery against constrained resources and attacks in the media and elsewhere, great leadership and good governance become so much more important.

I sent a message to ACEVO members yesterday to thank them for the strong support, comfort and advice over the years. I have tried to be a strong and robust voice for sector leaders. In doing this I always felt I had my ACEVO members with me, urging me on!

ACEVO has achieved great things over the last 15 years. The fact we are a more professional sector, with stronger leaders; our work on full cost recovery; setting up the Office of the Third Sector; promoting the role of third sector service delivery has made a difference. I'm proud of the work I did championing the rights of people with learning disabilities in my report on Winterbourne View. I'm proud to have led ACEVO and made an impact in our sector and on the national stage. A CEO should step down feeling they have made a difference. And sometimes it's been rocky - but if you are a CEO remember you do not make omelette's without breaking eggs.

The great thing is by remaining in ACEVO I will continue to see members, continue to make my views known, revitalise my Blog, but wearing a different hat!


--oo00oo--

On the subject of resignation honours, I was interested to see this from the Daily Telegraph and reminded that both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown didn't bother risking the inevitable public opprobrium:-

Whitehall blocks David Cameron's 'cronies' honours list over ethical concerns

David Cameron’s resignation honours list has allegedly been blocked by mandarins in Whitehall over concerns surrounding the suitability of several of the nominations. The former prime minister was expected to hand out honours to some of his closest aides at No 10 in a move which risked starting another “cronies” row. However, according to The Times, the Cabinet Office and the Lords Appointments Commission has raised ethical concerns about some of the names put forward. 

Craig Oliver and Ed Llewellyn, two of David Cameron’s most senior advisers, are thought to be rewarded in Mr Cameron's resignation honours list, which is due to be published in a few weeks’ time. The pair are among a dozen key staff – many of whom have worked with Mr Cameron since he became Tory leader in 2005 – who Mr Cameron hopes will receive official recognition.

A source told the newspaper: “David Cameron put forward a number of names. Some of them did not even make it past the first hurdle – the Cabinet Office. “Cameron’s surviving team are having a series of difficult discussions with them to try and get through as many as possible.” A separate source added: “Given Cameron is well aware of what is involved it should come as no surprise that they are running into difficulties and it is pretty brazen of him to have tried in the first place.”

Traditionally the resignation honours lists are published some weeks after a prime minister vacates 10 Downing Street in the London Gazette. John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said it was "hugely embarassing" for Mr Cameron. He said: 


“It’s hugely embarrassing for David Cameron and it raises lots of ethical questions that there has been this delay,” he said. “There must obviously be a reason for the delay – and a good one. “The fact that his special advisers got this huge unprecedented payoff when everyone else is having pay freezes shows that his exit from No 10 is not turning out to be very dignified at all.”

The former Labour prime minister Harold Wilson was mired in controversy in 1976 when his resignation honours list included businessmen whose principles were seen as against those of the Labour Party. It was swiftly dubbed the “Lavender list” because of a claim that it was made by Marcia Falkender on lavender-coloured note paper.

Downing Street has not commented.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Latest From Napo 112

Today's blog post by the General Secretary:- 

Unions secure EVR agreement in Purple Futures CRCs

After several months of hard work and considerable input from Napo negotiators supported by our local reps, an agreement has been reached with the employers across the Purple Futures owned CRC's. This covers Early Voluntary Retirement and Pay and employment protection for staff who are to be seconded into the Interserve Professional service centre.

Commenting on the news of the agreement Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: "Whilst not achieving everything that the unions wanted, this agreement represents a significant achievement, reflecting the hard work of full-time negotiators and Napo's elected Officials at National and local level."

The agreement also sends a signal to other CRC providers of the benefits of meaningful engagement with the trades unions to avoid compulsory redundancies. It also stresses the importance of why CRC staff should belong to a trade union.


-oo00oo--

Purple Futures Joint Union Bulletin No. 3 

Purple Futures Restructuring

Napo and UNISON appreciate that this restructure has been extremely stressful for you and your colleagues, but please remember you are not alone. If you have any questions, please contact your local Napo or UNISON representative.

Napo and UNISON reps have worked hard to raise your workplace concerns with the employers at local meetings and at the Cross CRC Trade Union Forum meetings, which bring Napo and UNISON representatives together with management from all five PF CRCs.

At national level we will continue to work with Purple Futures to get the best possible outcomes for all our members. We hope to meet with Purple Futures in the near future to discuss how the Cross CRC Trade Union Forum work best for members and the employers into the future.

At our request Purple Futures has set up employer/trade union working groups to look at issues such as assistive technology, stress, violence at work and workloads. We have also raised concerns about how the new ways of working will work and impact our members, particularly in regards to the flex teams, estates and health and safety.

Napo and UNISON can’t do the work we do without the help of our local representatives. Please contact your union if you are interested in becoming a union representative, or if you want to help out your union in any other way.

Protecting You During Organisational Change

UNISON and Napo have been working closely together to protect and promote our members’ interests in the organisational change process which is likely to see about 200 staff made redundant and another 70 or so staff seconded to the Professional Service Centre sites run by Interserve Justice. Here’s what we have done:

  • Represented members who have been unhappy with their redeployment options
  • Improved the Organisational Change Policy and Procedure to give better pay protection, as follows, to staff who suffer a loss of income as a result of redeployment:
  • Improved the voluntary exit payment for staff who are made redundant and who sign a settlement agreement, to give 4.5 weeks pay for each year of service. This is one of the best deals achieved by the unions in any CRC to date. Full details of the package can be found below.
  • Negotiated better safeguards for staff who sign a secondment agreement to work for the Professional Service Centre, including rights to continuing trade union representation in Interserve Justice and clearer/fairer procedures in a number of key respects. See below for more details.
Enhanced Compulsory Redundancy Package

UNISON and Napo are pleased to report that Interserve has agreed to pay an enhanced compulsory redundancy package to staff who are made redundant, and who agree to sign a settlement agreement to leave their CRC. Purple Futures has made clear that this enhanced redundancy package applies to this particular restructure only and should not be seen as applying to any future restructures or redundancies. No doubt Napo and UNISON will return to discuss this issue with Purple Futures in due course.

We have been in talks with the Company for many months to secure this package and, although it does not match the National Negotiating Council (NNC) Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy terms in all respects*, it will provide significant additional benefit, over and above statutory terms, to members who are now facing redundancy. Staff over 55, who are made redundant, are also entitled to immediate payment of their benefits under the Local Government Pension Scheme.

Here are the full details of the exit payments:

  •  All Interserve/Purple Futures CRC permanent employees with two years or more qualifying service (service that counts as continuous service) that are redundant will be entitled to a redundancy payment based on actual basic weekly pay at the time of termination, and not the statutory rate. 
  • Redundancy for those under the age of 55 (Subject to a signed Settlement Agreement)
  • The redundancy payment will be paid, subject to a maximum of 67.5 weeks’ pay and reckonable service of 15 complete years, as follows:
  • Four and a half weeks’ pay for each year of completed service (any statutory redundancy payment is included in the compensation payable).
  • Redundancy for those aged 55 or over (Subject to a signed Settlement Agreement) The redundancy payment will be paid, subject to a maximum of 67.5 weeks’ pay in accordance with the above, together with immediate payment of the standard retirement pension and a standard retirement grant (i.e. pension lump sum).
  • Notice periods: The general position is that permanent employees that exit the organisation with an enhanced redundancy package will be expected to work out their full notice period and there will be no additional pay in lieu of notice for anybody 
  • leaving with this enhanced package. Where it has been pre-arranged that people leave before their contractual notice period has expired, statutory deductions for tax and National Insurance Contributions will be made in respect of the period of unexpired notice and this will be reflected in the illustrative figures. However, under these exceptional circumstances the organisation will make an additional payment to meet those statutory deductions due to ensure that the employee is not in any worse position than they would have been if they had worked their notice.
  • Untaken Holiday: It is expected that all holiday will be taken before the last day of service, however exceptionally, where this is not possible, untaken holiday will be paid.
[*The Purple Futures redundancy offer does not match the NNC Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy deal insofar as it:
  • Does not apply to staff with less than 2 years service
  • Does not reckon all regular earnings in the calculation of the lump sum redundancy payment, i.e. the calculation will be based on basic pay only and will not include regular contractual payments such as: unsocial hours, standby and sleep-in, contractual overtime etc..]
Settlement Agreements

UNISON and Napo advise members who are offered a settlement agreement in order to access the above redundancy package to use the services of our legal advisors Thompsons Solicitors, who have a dedicated Settlement Agreement Unit which can provide the legal advice which you need before signing your agreement.

In order to use this service, you will need to:
  • Phone Thompsons on 01752 521850 and advise you are an Interserve employee
  •  Provide your name, address, contact telephone number
  • E-mail the proposed settlement agreement to Thompsons settlementagreements@thompsons.law.co.uk
  • Confirm any deadline you have been asked to comply with, by your CRC
Thompsons will invoice Interserve directly for the cost of the legal advice, so there is no need for you to be out of pocket.

NB: If you choose not to use Thompsons Solicitors and instruct alternative legal representation in relation to your settlement agreement, it might have consequences for the assistance that Napo and UNISON may be able give you with your case going forward in any matter relating to your settlement.

Secondment Agreement

About 70 CRC staff will be offered the option of secondment to the Professional Service Centre (PSC). Secondment means that the staff will work at the PSC, and be managed by the PSC manager, but remain employees of their CRC for the duration of the Purple Futures contract with the MOJ, subject to the caveats set out below.

Napo and UNISON understand from Interserve that this option will allow the staff to retain all their CRC terms and conditions, as well as continuing membership of the Local Government Pension Scheme. These benefits would potentially be at risk if staff were required to transfer employment to Interserve Justice, which will run the PSC.

Members who are considering the secondment option are advised as follows:
  • It is your personal decision as to whether to accept a secondment to work for the Interserve Justice PSC, but, as this is the only option being offered to you, refusal to accept will make you vulnerable to potential dismissal from your CRC , or compulsory transfer to Interserve Justice, once your work moves to Interserve Justice. 
  • The secondment agreement seeks in good faith to protect your current CRC employment status for the duration of the Purple Futures/MOJ contract, including your terms and conditions and pension rights, but with the following qualifications:
  • Your terms and conditions are liable to change in line with any changes to the terms and conditions of staff working for your CRC at any time during the secondmento You will have no greater, or lesser, employment security than staff who remain working for your CRC, insofar as you may be:
§ Dismissed during your secondment for gross misconduct or incapability, in line with your CRC’s policies and procedures

§ Dismissed by way of redundancy if your CRC or Purple Futures reorganises the seconded workforce as part of organisational change at any point during the secondment

§ Subject to redeployment procedures at the end of your secondment if there is no suitable alternative post available for you back in your CRC

UNISON and Napo will continue to provide representation to members who are seconded to the PSC.

Big Ideas

It's generally accepted (as predicted on this blog) that the voluntary sector has basically been shafted by TR and are still painfully coming to terms with this situation, as are the rest of us of course. But this sector, along with the commercial sector, are nothing if not resourceful and they don't intend to get caught out in relation to the next big idea, that of prison reform. They've developed a powerful lobby group in the form of Clinks and they're currently hard at work behind the scenes doing their best to influence MoJ and NOMS thinking. 

Before that though, here's a reminder of the situation in relation to TR:-   

Change and Challenge
The voluntary sector’s role in Transforming Rehabilitation

TrackTR is a partnership project between Clinks, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the University of Birmingham’s Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC). 

The intention of trackTR is to build a picture of the voluntary sector’s experiences of the changes to probation services brought about under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, and the impact this has had on their services, their organisations and the people they support.

Key findings 

The information received has informed key findings, representing the views of those voluntary sector organisations that replied to the survey and those who attended the consultation event. 

1 / The pace of change is slow The changes to probation services are taking a long time to embed. Given the scale of reform this is not entirely surprising but the pace of change has still been much slower than many anticipated. The pace of change is reported to be curbing investment in the voluntary sector’s rehabilitation and resettlement services, meaning that services run by the voluntary sector are vulnerable and at a greater risk of closure. 

2 / Voluntary sector involvement in supply chains appears low Only one quarter of the 151 voluntary sector organisations that responded to our survey reported being funded through a CRC’s supply chain. Of those that are being funded through supply chains 70% are delivering pre-existing services. The organisations that are in supply chains are disproportionately larger voluntary sector organisations, with very few smaller or medium sized organisations represented. However, the contribution of voluntary sector organisations outside of supply chains to rehabilitation and resettlement outcomes is likely to be considerable. Half of the voluntary organisations outside of supply chains still receive and accept referrals from CRCs and the NPS, whilst over twothirds receive referrals directly from prisons. 

3 / Poor communication between probation services and the voluntary sector is damaging local relationships The voluntary sector’s relationships with CRCs and the NPS are being negatively affected by a lack of communication about future strategy, service development and commissioning opportunities. Furthermore, many voluntary organisations report a mixture of confusion and uncertainty about what services are being offered through CRCs and the NPS.

4 / The NPS needs to work more effectively with the voluntary sector Only one organisation responding to our survey had a direct funding relationship with the NPS. We heard that the ‘rate card’ system limits strategic engagement with the voluntary sector, restricts collaboration as well as innovation and increases the cost of services to the NPS. 

5 / The quality of services and the outcomes for service users require close monitoring Many voluntary sector organisations could not say whether Transforming Rehabilitation had negatively or positively impacted on services or service users, possibly because the transition to new approaches is still underway. However, those that had seen a change were more likely to report it as negative rather than positive; in some cases considerably more likely. Additionally, only 3 in 10 organisations funded by CRCs to deliver services in supply chains felt that the level of funding they received allowed them to deliver a high quality service. 

6 / There is anxiety about current and future funding and sustainability Although most voluntary sector organisations report that their funding for rehabilitation and resettlement services hasn’t been impacted as of yet, there is growing anxiety about the sustainability of services and evidence that the situation needs monitoring. Those outside of CRC supply chains are more likely to believe that their services are unsustainable. Organisations also report that a lack of information about what services the CRCs and NPS are commissioning and/or delivering is putting other funding sources at risk, particularly local authorities and independent charitable funders.

--oo00oo--

Determined to get a better deal in relation to prison reform, Clinks have set up specialist groups such as RR3:-

REDUCING REOFFENDING THIRD SECTOR ADVISORY GROUP (RR3)

The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) exists with the purpose of building a strong and effective partnership between the voluntary sector, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to reduce re-offending. The chair for the group and its secretariat is provided by Clinks.


and they've just published a discussion document full of lots of good ideas:-

Prison reform and the voluntary sector
Background 


The Reducing Re-offending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) was asked in February 2016 by the Minister for Prisons and Probation, Andrew Selous, to provide information on how the voluntary sector can be engaged in the government’s programme of prison reform and contribute to reducing reoffending. This paper sets out key issues and ideas that we believe will support the voluntary sector’s engagement with the prison reform programme. 

The issues and ideas set out in this paper make reference to two recent Clinks publications: a practical guide to prisons engaging the voluntary sector and a discussion paper that explores what a ‘good’ rehabilitative prison could look like.

This paper is split into three sections: the role of the voluntary sector in supporting rehabilitation; engaging the sector in closing and opening prisons; and engagement with new Reform Prisons.

Summary of Ideas

1 The engagement of the voluntary sector primarily needs to happen locally unless national or high volume services are being commissioned. This requires that the sector is engaged pro-actively by relevant criminal justice agencies; this will require some human resource to engage the sector. 


2 The principles of desistance should be built in to the heart of any reform programme to better understand how and why people move away from crime and stop re-offending. 

3 The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) can build on approaches such as the Young Review’s Independent Advisory Group to consult with key experts in the voluntary sector throughout the design and implementation of the prison reform programme, in order to ensure that the distinct needs of those in the CJS with protected characteristics or requiring specialist support are met. 

4 The MoJ and NOMS should work closely with the Advisory Board on Female Offenders and the RR3 Women’s Reference Group to develop and implement this approach. 

5 NOMS should provide good advance notice of decommissioning processes, with clear information about timelines provided to relevant voluntary sector organisations. This should also be accessible to service users and their families. 

6 NOMS should conduct an impact assessment of each prison closure on voluntary sector organisations and their service users to ensure any decommissioning of prisons supports the managed exit of important rehabilitation services. 

7 When a site is earmarked for potential development, Clinks could map the existing work taking place by the voluntary sector in that area, to provide the MoJ and NOMS with information about stakeholders for engagement. 

8 NOMS, with support from Clinks, could bring together the voluntary sector working in a specific area where a new prison will be built, along with the local community, and involve them at the earliest opportunity in the process of building a new prison.

9 The MoJ and NOMS should ensure new prisons are built in areas that are easily accessible to local communities and have good transport links, as well as suitable accommodation for visitors. 

10 The MoJ and NOMS should consult the voluntary sector, prison staff, prisoners and their families about the design of any new prison during initial planning stages. It is essential that any consultation process involves consistent feedback from officials so individuals are kept informed and engaged with the process. 

11 The MoJ and NOMS should ensure that during consultation about prison design the location and accessibility of services delivered by the voluntary sector is considered. This needs to take into account the needs of all prisoners, including those who experience physical disabilities or belong to other equalities groups. 

12 The MoJ and NOMS, in partnership with the voluntary sector organisations which are embedded in their local communities, should consider how to ensure the community is able to access the prison. 

13 The MoJ and NOMS should include key times for consultation with the voluntary sector within timelines for the prison reform programme, and allow for the continued input of expertise and feedback from the voluntary sector during the design and implementation of the prison reform programme. 

14 Clinks could support the MoJ and NOMS to facilitate the meaningful engagement of the voluntary sector as a strategic partner for Executive Governors and senior management staff. Clinks can bring together a working group of key voluntary sector leaders, representative of small, medium, large and national single-issue organisations working across varying geographical areas, to support Executive Governors in understanding and working with the voluntary sector. 

15 Executive Governors should provide flexible but systematic routes for voluntary sector organisations to share intelligence about emerging needs, pitch ideas and advocate for service improvements. The MoJ and NOMS should provide appropriate oversight of this process to ensure that issues raised by the voluntary sector are addressed.

16 Executive Governors could seek to engage the voluntary sector in strategic processes and decision-making within the prison. This can be done in a number of ways, as outlined in Clinks’ guide The rehabilitative prison: Good engagement with the voluntary sector. 

17 The MoJ and NOMS should work with Clinks to conduct a stakeholder mapping exercise for each Reform Prison area in order to determine what voluntary sector expertise and delivery already exists to support people in contact with the CJS inside prison, in the community and through the gate. This will prevent both the duplication and loss of existing provision, as well as ensuring that the prison reform programme actively contributes to better joined-up working in local areas. 

18 Executive Governors could work in partnership with the voluntary sector to undertake a needs assessment of the people in the prison and identify key priorities for commissioning. This could be done in a number of ways, such as Executive Governors producing a document similar to the Police and Crime Plans produced by Police and Crime Commissioners which identifies strategic priorities over a specific period of time, or by feeding into the local authority’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. 

19 Executive Governors need to consider the impact of contract size on market diversity, and where possible break contracts into smaller lots. The MoJ and NOMS should be alive to the challenges experienced by smaller organisations in engaging with the prime/subcontractor model and mechanisms such as payment by results. 

20 Prison staff should gather information upon an individual’s reception to the prison about which voluntary sector organisations they are already in contact with and contact them as early as possible. The importance of gathering this information should be considered in any review of the Basic Custody Screening Tool.

21 Executive Governors should encourage and facilitate increased voluntary sector access to the prison to support someone in their desistance process. Practical guidance on how to achieve this is published in Clinks’ The rehabilitative prison: Good engagement with the voluntary sector. This should include a review of the security vetting process to ensure there are no unnecessary barriers to maximising the contribution of people with personal experience of the CJS. 

22 Executive Governors could explore options for increased communication and skillsharing between prison staff and voluntary sector staff. This would enable an improved understanding of each other’s roles and allow voluntary sector staff to offer better support to staff within the prison. Strategies to develop this could include having a named voluntary sector/community/stakeholder co-ordinator within the prison; running joint training programmes for prison and voluntary sector staff; and agreeing information-sharing protocols between prison and voluntary sector staff. 

23 The MoJ, NOMS and Executive Governors could utilise the networks and knowledge of the voluntary sector to provide access to community services and ways to engage the community with the prison (such as through volunteering). This should include increased use of Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL); increased opportunities for the public to access the prison; and increased opportunities for prisoners’ families to visit them in prison. 

24 The RR3 Special Interest Group on Commissioning Family Services could be engaged to discuss how the commissioning of family services is integrated into the prison reform programme, with the aim of providing good quality support for the families of people in contact with the CJS across the prison estate. 

25 The MoJ and NOMS should ensure that there is clear national oversight of the prison reform programme and robust mechanisms in place for failure to achieve outcomes.

26 A local accountability structure could be put in place for each Reform Prison to enable this, such as a board of governors comprising local stakeholders in rehabilitation and resettlement and including voluntary sector representation. This structure should have direct links to the MoJ and NOMS to ensure that any developing problems are addressed. 

27 Executive Governors could seek to engage with other already existing local structures such as Local Criminal Justice Boards, Police and Crime Commissioners, local authority forums, and other community and voluntary networks. They could also refer and feed into local plans relating to community safety, such as Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, Police and Crime Plans and any plans for justice devolution. 

28 The MoJ and NOMS should issue clear guidance to Executive Governors on the involvement of the voluntary sector and wider community in setting local outcomes. This will ensure that outcomes are not only appropriate to each individual prison context, but are also outward facing, linking the prison and community to support the long-term process of desistance.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Probation? - 'Still Waiting for that Submission'

Transcript of speeches and Q&A (11.30 am session) with the MoJ Ministerial team on Monday 25 July 2016 

RICHARD HEATON 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this this [inaudible] event, it’s very nice to see so many of you here. In a moment, I’m going to have the great pleasure of introducing our new Lord Chancellor. Let me just say three things first. 

First, a big thank you to everyone in this room and way beyond it, across the Ministry, who have worked so hard since we last met in this format, not just in transitioning and inducting new minsters, but also across the field in the various important public service we do. This is an immensely capable department and I’m very proud of the work you’ve done over the last few months, so thank you. 

Second, I’d like to say a thank you, in his absence, to our outgoing Secretary of State, Michael Gove, who was, as many of you know, a true and, in some ways, visionary reformer, and thank you to all of you who helped to make his vision a reality. 

But thirdly, and most importantly, it’s my great pleasure to introduce someone who I know you will hear very shortly is also a reforming Secretary of State, but is also the first woman Lord Chancellor. So I’m delighted to introduce – hang on, I’ve slightly missed something out – I’m going to introduce, in a moment, Liz Truss, but we also – you see on stage the supporting ministerial team: Sir Oliver Heald, MP for North East Hertfordshire, you’ll hear from in a moment; Sam Gyimah, MP for East Surrey; Dr Phillip Lee, MP for Bracknell; and Lord Keen, the Advocate General, who is going to be our spokesman in the Lords. So you’ll hear from all of them, but first of all great pleasure to introduce the first woman Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss. 

SECRETARY OF STATE 

Well, thank you, thank you very much Richard. I’m incredibly excited and delighted to be taking on this role as both Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. I’m delighted to be the first female Lord Chancellor. We had a really great swearing‐in ceremony last week at the Royal Courts of Justice, where I met the senior judiciary for the first time.

And, you know, justice is something I’ve worked significantly on in the past; I was a member of the Justice Select Committee. I think it’s an incredibly important part of government. The rule of law is at the heart of what it means to be British, and protecting the independence of the judiciary – important aspects of British justice, like trial by jury – and our legal system is very, very important to me. But also, the work that we have to do in reforming our prison system, in reforming our probation service, in reforming our youth offender institutions is also incredibly important. 

Last week, Theresa May, our new Prime Minister, laid out her vision of a Britain that works for everyone, and everyone does mean everyone. And, of course, those who come into contact with the Criminal Justice System are often some of the most vulnerable in our society. We have very high rates of illiteracy in our prisons, as I’m sure everyone’s aware. And the agenda of prison reform is incredibly important. We need to make sure that people aren’t just being locked away, but also they are having the opportunity to get into meaningful activity, to become more educated so they can lead a better life on the outside. And that is good for them, but it’s also good for our society as a whole. 

Of course, we do have some very important issues to deal with, in terms of prison safety, security, mobile phone usage, drug abuse, which I’m also very keen to tackle and get a handle on. And, in working on that, I’ll be working with prisons and probation minister Sam Gyimah, who’s got a fantastic record at the Department of Education. In fact, he and I have both done the same job at the Department of Education. And, you know, we are very keen to get on with that agenda, both in terms of explaining the philosophy and making that case, but also in delivering that on the ground, because no reform can take place without delivery, and there’s many people in this room who will be involved in that. 

Secondly, the whole area of court reform is absolutely vital. We know that there are too many delays in the justice system. As I’ve mentioned, there are some very important parts of our system that have led the world in terms of legal systems and, of course, the judiciary, but we need to make sure that we’re at the forefront of modernisation. I’m a huge supporter of digitisation; I did a lot of work on it at Defra. Defra, in fact, is responsible for releasing a third of all government data and was rewarded as the most data‐driven department in government. But now –

RICHARD HEATON Can we ask someone [inaudible]? 

SECRETARY OF STATE  

Richard doesn’t agree with that, but anyway I’m sure we can now exceed that here at the Ministry of Justice. 

But also what I want to see is the senior levels of the judiciary and the legal profession open to more people from whatever background people are from, whether they’re a man or a woman, whether – whatever ethnic group they are from. And at the moment, at senior levels, there is still work to do. I know that the judiciary have made big progress but that is one thing that I will be focusing on, because people have to feel they’re part of our justice system. It is a system for everybody, it is our common law and I’m very keen to make progress on that front. 

There’s also the whole area of the Ministry of Justice transformation. We do need to modernise the department; I know there’s a lot of work already underway on this. I think there’s more we can do to automate, to make sure that we operate in a system‐wide way, and that will mean that everyone in this room and beyond will be able to contribute even more to the outcomes that we want to see on the ground, whether that’s in terms of improving prisoner education, whether it’s in terms of improving our performance in courts. The more that we make sure our organisation is as modern as possible, operating as effectively as possible, that means we can deliver more reform on the ground. 

I’m a great fan of the American naval motto, ‘Keep it simple, stupid.’ What I want to do is make sure that we focus on a few key priorities that we make sure we deliver those priorities, and we have the resources in the plan in place to deliver those priorities. I did have a look at the Ministry of Justice priorities; there’s quite a lot on the list at the moment and, you know, keeping it simple is important, so we all understand what we’re aiming at and what we’re doing. 

So what I’m going to be working on, with the ministerial team, over the summer is really whittling down those priorities, making sure that we have the resources and the schedule in order to be able to do that, and making sure that we deliver on that. But so far I’ve, you know, very much enjoyed the first week or so. I’ve had a very warm welcome from all of the team at the Ministry of Justice, been really impressed by the speed and quality of work that I’ve seen here. So I think we’ve got a great opportunity, over the months and years, to make a huge difference in the country, and I’m very much looking forward to working with all of you. Thank you.

SIR OLIVER HEALD 

Good morning. I’m Oliver Heald, I’m the new Minister of State. I’m looking forward to dealing with court reform, justice reform, the crown dependencies, legal profession and, of course, legal aid. As a barrister for many years, I think we do have the best legal system in the country, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be updated, that we need to use modern technology and to be efficient. And, when I was Solicitor General, we started on the project to digitalise the Crown Prosecution Service, we started to see the beginning of the work with the courts, and I’m absolutely delighted to be here and be able to support the Secretary of State and to help with that vital work. And I’d like to just join in the thanks for the welcome and for the excellent briefing I’ve had so far, so thank you very much. 

SAM GYIMAH 

Good morning everyone, can you all see me? Well, no, when I first got selected as a parliamentary candidate and I knocked on a door, someone said ‘Well, I expected tall, dark and handsome.’ To which my reply was, ‘One out of three is not bad.’ 

It’s a great pleasure to be here. Anyone – any minister or any politician who’s been through the reshuffle process can feel that sometimes it feels like pot luck. You sit there waiting for your phone to ring, or not ring at all in some cases, and then, when it rings, you wonder what you’ll get. And it’s really – it’s a real privilege to be in a department where what is being – what we’re trying to do here, in terms of prison reform, rehabilitation centres and all the reforms, is very much at the top of the government agenda. 

It’s good to be working with a Secretary of State who has a proven track record for reform, but it’s also good to know that reform, as far as the Ministry of Justice is concerned and what you do, it’s not an option for us; we’ve got to do it. And so it's a great privilege to be in this job and I'm sure that working with you and the Secretary of State we'll be able to deliver what could be really transformational for our country. 

The Secretary of State made the point that, if we want this as a government that works for everyone, then actually it's going to be for everyone, and it's in the prison system that I – when I look at it, we see some of our deepest social ills manifested. So if it’s going to work for everyone we've got to reform it and we've got to make sure that it works there. And I'm sure, working with you and the team here, we’ll be able to deliver. Thank you. 

LORD KEEN 

Good morning. My name is Richard Keen. Despite having the greyest hair, I have the least experience of anyone on this stage. I was in practice at the bar in Edinburgh in London in the areas of commercial law and public law until May 2015 when I was appointed the Advocate General for Scotland with responsibility for advising on Scots law and the divorce settlement. The Office of the Advocate General is in Dover House. We are extremely grateful to the Welsh office because without them we would be the smallest department in Whitehall. 

It is tremendously exciting to move on to what is one of the great departments of state with such a diverse portfolio. And I really look forward to working with all of you and with the Secretary of State. Thank you.

DR PHILLIP LEE 

Good morning everyone. My name is Phillip Lee. I'm surprised to be here at Justice. When I took the call, I thought, ‘Well, I'm a practicing doctor. What do I know about the Justice Department?’ In fact, in the first week that I've been here it's struck me that actually that my professional experience, and I've consulted between 60 and 70,000 thousand patients over the last 10, 15 years or so, quite a lot of whom are from socially challenged backgrounds. And it struck me in the first week – and I've got a pretty broad brief family law, youth justice, women offenders, etc. – it struck me actually that quite a lot of the people who are in that system, that my experience of dealing with those challenging communities will actually be of quite some value here particularly in the realm of mental health. 

I'm privileged to have been appointed as a minister to this department, very much looking forward to supporting a very reform‐minded Secretary of State, but perhaps above all, in my own small way, I'm hoping to make it easier for you to do the very good work that you've done prior to me coming here, so that going forward the department can function perhaps even better. Thank you very much. 

RICHARD HEATON 

Thank you, Phillip. Thank you to the ministerial team. Now we have a chance for questions either to the Secretary of the State and the team, or to me or generally. Questions or thoughts? Right at the front.

----//----

QUESTION Hello. Is this any intention to build the nine prisons that were previously announced? 

RICHARD HEATON Intention to build the nine prisons? 

QUESTION Yes. 

RICHARD HEATON Keep it simple, yes. Okay, this is going well. Gentleman here, number one.

----//----

QUESTION 

I was actually interested in seeing if you’re still going ahead with the autonomy of the prisons, and perhaps how that works with the data management that you’re talking about as well, because will that cause more issues if you’re devolving responsibility? 

SAM GYIMAH 

I think the quick answer is yes. I think autonomy is actually, I think, structurally essential to delivering the kind of improvements and transformation that we need. We’ve seen it in education. I think making prison governors more autonomous, giving them freedom, is absolutely key and will continue. In terms of how we get there, there are a lot of things that we need to work through, what autonomy means, and what areas over which we give people freedom. And that’s what we’re going to be doing over the next few weeks and months. But it’s absolutely central to the prison reform programme. Thanks. 

RICHARD HEATON 

Okay, one more, maybe? One more? If there’s one at the back. Microphone making the way to the pillar. 

QUESTION Hello. I was interested in what you think the prison reform programme and autonomy means in relation to the probation service reforms? 

RICHARD HEATON Autonomy in relation to the probation reforms? They’re only a week in, for heaven’s sake. 

SAM GYIMAH 

I’m still waiting for that submission. I think the way I see public service reform and how it works, is, firstly, you devolve power to the people on the frontline. You give them a lot more control over budgets and decision making, then you find ways to hold them accountable, in a very clear and transparent way. And then you have targeted interventions, in the case of prisons, whether it’s around education, whether it’s around mental health. That makes sure that you can solve the problems that go on in there. 

That’s kind of the tool kit, as it were, and it’s the tool kit we’ll be looking to apply to prisons where it is appropriate, and the same will apply to the probation service as well. I know a lot of work has already gone on there, but it’s still, as Richard said, the first week. I don’t want to over‐claim or over‐promise, but the probation service will not be forgotten in the reforms that we’re thinking about.

RICHARD HEATON Okay, I… 

SECRETARY OF STATE Do you want to say…? 

DR PHILLIP LEE 

I’d hate to feel left out. More broadly, I’m covering youth offender work and women’s prisons. And in the submissions that I’ve read so far, there are some arguments to say that custodial sentences aren’t necessarily the most effective way, in the short term, of preventing reoffending. I think I’m going to look a bit more at it, but the sort of relatively short two to three‐month stays in either women’s prisons or youth offender institutes or the like, it doesn’t strike me as enough time to have an effective intervention programme with each individual, and maybe we need to start looking at different ways of preventing reoffending in both groups.

RICHARD HEATON 

Thank you, Phillip. Thank you everyone for coming, thank you very much. Huge thank to you to the ministerial team. What you’ve heard is a ministerial team that is absolutely fired up with reform, but also a big focus on focus and on delivery, and I know that we as a department and the brilliant civil servants that we have will help this team deliver its objectives and will rise to the challenge. So thank you for coming and thank you Liz.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Manchester Leading the Way

As we've discussed before, Manchester leads the way in doing things differently under a Combined Authority and Elected Mayor, both big ideas of now former Chancellor George Osborne. Assuming that Theresa May intends to allow the 'City Region' devolution experiment to continue, included in this 'new deal' is not only control over things like the NHS, but also Police and Crime Commissioner, prisons and probation. However, Frances Crook of the Howard League is concerned at the early decision to build a new prison and says so in her latest blog post:-  


Devolution and criminal justice system

Devolution is being offered to Manchester, and it is a great opportunity for the great city to do things differently. Unfortunately, it comes with strings. Indeed, the puppet master is yet again the Treasury and central government and this means that devolution is not quite the real deal.

It could be a real opportunity to develop distinctive local policy to create safer communities in Manchester and invest in what works. This is a chance to take control of Greater Manchester’s future by pioneering new responses to the problems in the criminal justice system and reject Westminster’s failed policies.

I have been impressed with the innovative approaches emerging from Manchester in recent years, not least the whole-system approach for women in contact with the criminal justice system. This followed the evidence, bringing agencies together to intervene early, divert people from the criminal justice system and respond to law breaking in the community, with the least harmful and most effective response.

The Howard League has worked closely and successfully with Greater Manchester Police over the last few years to change the approach to policing children and reduce child arrests. Our latest figures show that GMP has achieved a larger reduction in the number of children arrested than any other police force. In policing Manchester is leading the way in showing the best outcomes for individuals are achieved by investing to keep people out of the criminal justice system. This, importantly, saves money for the police and the city. The whole point of devolved budgets is to give cash back to communities, so they have the flexibility to invest early to save in the long run as well as improving the lives of local people.

In light of this, I was disappointed to see that plans are already afoot to build yet another prison in Manchester. This is the wrong approach to take and if pursued would be a missed opportunity to ensure the criminal justice system better serves the people of Manchester. Beyond the initial capital spend, the long-term commitment of resources will eat into future budgets and prevent other investment. It will mean taking cash out of communities rather than giving cash back to help those communities thrive.

Manchester Strangeways prison has not had a happy history and all the new big prisons across the country have suffered appalling problems with high levels of violence, assaults on staff, lack of activity, self injury and suicide, and endemic recidivism. The giant prison being built in Wrexham will force men to share small cells and has only half the number of workshop places for its proposed population.

Prison building has been a Westminster obsession but the evidence that this approach has failed is everywhere apparent in the prisons themselves. Building more prisons simply creates a larger, more expensive version of the failing system we have at the moment. Greater Manchester should resist this and follow its own example of applying downward pressure to reduce the involvement of criminal justice agencies in people’s lives.

A new prison will absorb a huge proportion of the local justice budget and house people from all over the country. This money would be far better spent investing in community sentences, drug and mental health services and strengthening the network of women’s centres – policies that would lead to real improvements in community safety.

We need real devolution and a markedly different approach to responding to crime and it can be implemented in Manchester.


I will follow with close interest how the devolved powers work and what is achieved. If used properly, Greater Manchester could lead the country in developing a much more humane and effective justice system that serves local people.

--oo00oo--

This from the Manchester Evening News:-

Greater Manchester now 'committed' to new prison – and looking at possible sites

Greater Manchester leaders are committed to building a new ‘local’ prison and are now drawing up a shortlist of sites, according to the region’s interim mayor. The government has asked town hall chiefs to identify suitable places for a new ‘resettlement prison’, a kind of open facility for low-risk offenders from the local area designed to rehabilitate them back into the community.

George Osborne announced plans for a series of such prisons several months ago and since then local authorities across the country have been asked by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to scope out locations. Now, as Greater Manchester signs a deal to devolve criminal justice - so it can better line up the court, probation, police and prison system in a bid to cut offending - both the government and interim mayor Tony Lloyd say there will be a new prison built somewhere in the area.

Asked whether the region’s combined authority was ‘committed’ to the idea, Mr Lloyd said yes. “We have got to identify what are good sites,” he said. “To me it’s a no-brainer because we know local prisons are better. If they maintain proper contact with partners and family, it’s more likely people come out of prison ready to go straight. “We will work quickly to identify what’s the right site.”

There have been no indications so far of where the prison might go, but combined authority insiders said it could be on existing prison estate, privately owned land or a council-owned site - but since the latter are being prioritised by council leaders for housing, that is less likely.

Justice minister Andrew Selous said: “At the moment the ball is in the court of the Greater Manchester combined authority for the region to come up with some possible sites to present to the MoJ so we can have a look at them. “We are looking at new prison capacity on a ‘new for old’ basis. We do want to close inefficient prison accommodation as part of providing these 10,000 new prison places in better conditions.”

However combined authority sources said a prison closure in the region was unlikely - as most facilities are relatively modern, while Strangeways is for category A prisoners rather than low-risk offenders and has recently had an expensive refurbishment.

--oo00oo--

As it happens the CEO of the local CRC is bowing out and in a fit of 'gate fever' appears remarkably optimistic about the future. This from the CRC's website:-

CHRIS NOAH, CGM CRC CHIEF EXECUTIVE, REFLECTS ON A LIFE IN PROBATION

After a career in probation that has lasted for more than 33 years Chris Noah, the Chief Executive of Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company (CGM CRC), is retiring. Chris’ long association with probation began when she was just fifteen when she first saw the effect the justice system could have on people’s lives,

“Every Wednesday afternoon, at the grammar school I went to in Harrow, we did voluntary work out in the community. I ended up on a placement at a prisoners wives centre helping to run the crèche. Listening to the stories of the wives, stories about how they coped with the impact the criminal justice system had on their families, was fascinating. Something just clicked and I knew that this was an area in which I wanted to work, and one in which I could make a difference. So I actively started to look around for a career within the justice system, which in those pre-internet days was no easy task, and eventually I came across the probation service.”

Armed with advice from the careers service Chris took aim at her next objective, securing the Certificate in Qualification in Social Work (CQSW) at Keele University.

“I took the probation option with my CQSW which meant I got my first insight into probation on a placement in Crewe, after which my thoughts turned to where I might want to practice. I applied to a number of probation services and I was offered interviews in London but I took the interview in Greater Manchester even though I’d only been to the city twice before to play netball!”

Not only did Chris take the interview she also, when it was offered, took the job becoming the youngest probation officer in what was then the Greater Manchester Probation Service (GMPS). However on that first day back in 1983, in the forbidding surroundings of Salford Probation Centre, Chris had no idea just how far her career would take her.

“I remember that first day so well. Back then the building itself was a grim affair, with bars on all the windows, but as I peered through them I saw they had plants inside and I thought if plants can grow in there then it’ll be alright! When I first joined all I wanted to be was a probation officer. I very quickly found that I loved the work, that I loved helping people change their lives and to stop offending. But I never for one minute thought I would be with the organisation for so long let alone end up as chief executive. But it’s fascinating that as retirement has got closer what I’ve been thinking about, what I’ve been reflecting on, has been those years in Salford, those years as a practitioner working directly with service users." 


"In some ways the job back then was very different. There were no computers or mobile phones of course and everything was hand written or typed. There was much less in the way of procedure around things like home visits. I’d be out to a tower block in Salford at seven at night and no one would know where I was, which is unthinkable now, although it has to be said I was always more afraid of the dogs than the people. But some things about the job haven’t changed. In terms of helping people to change their behaviour the issues of employment and housing are the same, the issues around drug and alcohol use are the same. In fact in many ways the root causes of why people end up in the criminal justice system in the first place haven’t changed at all.”

But that’s not to say that Chris believes there hasn’t been progress over the last three decades.

“There’s been an awful lot of research into what does and what doesn’t work and that’s definitely deepened our understanding of how to effect positive changes in the behaviour of service users. And we’re all undoubtedly much better at working effectively in partnerships now. In fact these days it’s generally recognised that offending is not just the problem of the criminal justice system, and that employment, accommodation, drug and health services have massive parts to play.”

As the years went by, and as the GMPS morphed into the Greater Manchester Probation Trust (GMPT), Chris advanced steadily up the ladder but the decision to take that first step into management had a somewhat unusual origin.

“In my early years I was unfortunate enough to observe a truly terrible manager in action. Watching that person was a real lesson in how not to be a manager, in how not to be a leader. In fact on one memorable occasion this person actually climbed out of a window and left the building rather than respond to an announcement over the P.A. system requiring their attention. I can vividly remember thinking to myself that I’ve got to be able to do a better job than that and it was then that I really decided to set out on the whole management and leadership trail.”

Her final promotion came in 2014 when the split between the CRCs and the National Probation Service (NPS) took place and Chris was made chief executive of CGM CRC. During this time Chris also led the creation of the new management structure encompassing both CGM CRC and Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Company.

“To tell you the truth I don’t know what I expected when I took on the role of chief executive, but I knew I had to do it, that I had to get in there and make sure that we did the right thing for the staff and for the service users. No one would pretend that the last two years have been all plain sailing. Change can be hard for people and setting up a new company, establishing a going concern in only six months, was a real challenge for everyone and I couldn’t have done it without the fantastic team I had around me."

“Even though I would have never said I wanted to work in the private sector I’ve really valued the last 18 months and the opportunity to see how things can be done differently, to see what is possible without the old bureaucracy. In a way it’s almost like going back to those early 1980s days where you’d try something and if it didn’t work you wouldn’t do it again, but if it did work you’d develop it further. When we get through the last part of the changes, including the much needed changes with our IT, it will not only give our staff more time to spend with service users it will also help them to be more innovative and more creative in how they are able to help people, because we have to remember that we’re not dealing with widgets on a production line, we’re dealing with people.”

As she prepares to say goodbye to the organisation she helped create Chris is optimistic about it’s future.

“There’s a great team in place and Chris Edwards is going to be a brilliant chief executive. I’m of the view that with Interserve Justice the two CRCs in the North West have a real opportunity to make positive and lasting changes in both the lives of our services users and in our communities. I think the new model and service design will strengthen the relationship between our staff and our service users.”

And what advice does Chris have for someone just starting out on their own career in probation?

“You have to believe in the ability of the individual to change and you have to learn not to take it personally if they reoffend. You have to persevere, you have to constantly be there for them because in my experience it might take a dozen attempts before they’re ready to change. But at some point that person will be ready and we need to be there in order to support and facilitate that change. It’s all about the service users, it’s not about us.”

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Parole Board Memo to MoJ

Those of us in probation have known about the IPP problem for a very long time indeed, a situation excacerbated by prison service cutbacks, TR, a backlog in Parole Board hearings and a general culture of 'risk-aversion' that permeates the criminal justice system nowadays.

As far back as 2010 the government admitted that the situation was 'not defensible' and David Blunkett the Home Secretary responsible for introducing the scheme is on record as saying he very much regrets the 'injustices' that have arisen as a result.

Unlike Chris Grayling, his successor Michael Gove also recognised there was a serious problem and was in the process of trying to find a remedy before he was unceremoniously sacked from the MoJ by the new Prime Minister Theresa May.

For this substantial group of prisoners, who have no idea when they might be released and with most way over their tariff date, despair often leads to self-harm as reported here by the BBC:-

'Self-harming rise' among prisoners on indefinite sentences
The rate of self-harm by inmates serving indefinite prison sentences in England and Wales has risen by almost 50% in four years, figures suggest. Last year, there were more than 2,500 acts of self-harm by prisoners serving imprisonment for public protection, or IPP, sentences, at a higher rate than among those serving fixed sentences. The Prison Reform Trust said it showed IPP prisoners were in "despair".

The Ministry of Justice said it was urgently looking at IPP offenders. IPP sentences were scrapped in 2012, but thousands of inmates are still waiting to be released. According to new Ministry of Justice statistics, which were compiled by the Prison Reform Trust, there were 2,537 incidents of self-harm among the population of 4,100 IPP prisoners last year. The figures suggest rates of self-harm among IPP prisoners have gone up significantly every year for the last four years.

'No finish line'
They showed there were 550 incidents of self-harm per 1,000 IPP prisoners last year. That compares with 324 incidents per 1,000 prisoners on determinate sentences and 200 per 1,000 prisoners serving life sentences. Of those still serving IPPs, 3,300 have served more than the minimum sentence they were given, while 400 have served at least five times the minimum sentence they received.

--oo00oo--

At long last it looks as if with Nick Hardwick's arrival at the helm of the Parole Board and at the behest of Michael Gove, there is at last a plan as to how to deal with the issue. This from the BBC website:- 

Parole Board chief urges indefinite jail release change
Prisoners held indefinitely after serving their minimum term or tariff should not have to prove it is "safe" to release them, new Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick has said.

Various factors make it "incredibly difficult" for some inmates on Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences to find such proof, he said. He wants new criteria for freeing IPP prisoners in England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice said the suggestion had been "taken on board".

IPP sentences were introduced by Labour in 2005 as a way of stopping the release of dangerous prisoners. But courts were banned from imposing any more IPP sentences in 2012 amid concerns they were being used to hold people for periods which their original offence did not warrant.

In March, 4,133 IPP prisoners continued to be detained, the majority of whom had been convicted of "violence against the person", sexual offences or robbery.

'Festering in prison'
The Parole Board can approve a prisoner's release after the minimum term - the "punishment" part of their sentence - but only if it is satisfied it is not necessary to hold the inmate in the interests of public protection. It means the prisoner has to prove they do not present a risk and can be safely managed in the community. In March, about 80% of IPP prisoners - 3,347 - had already served their minimum term but were still locked up.

In his first interview since taking up his post in March, Prof Hardwick told the BBC that procedural delays, problems accessing offending behaviour courses and finding suitable accommodation made it "incredibly difficult" for some IPP prisoners to prove that it was safe for them to be let out.

"Some of them are stuck, festering, in prison long after the punishment part of the sentence," he said. Ministry of Justice figures show more than 500 IPP prisoners given tariffs of less than two years were still in prison five or more years later. "Once it gets to that point, they stop making progress and they start going backwards," said Prof Hardwick. "So this is, I think, a blot on the justice system and I'm very keen we can do something about it."

Risk test
He said Liz Truss, the new justice secretary, should consider activating Section 128 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The clause allows the justice secretary to alter the test which the Parole Board has to apply when releasing prisoners. Both houses of Parliament would have to agree to the change, but fresh legislation would not be required.

"There are legislative options that will enable us to change the risk test so it's more about 'is there proof that they're dangerous rather than proof that they're safe?' and there are some other measures that can be taken... to try to cut into that group," Prof Hardwick said.

The former Chief Inspector of Prisons said there were three categories of IPP inmate who would benefit most: Those on very short tariffs but still in custody; prisoners held beyond the maximum sentence for the offence they had committed; and offenders who were too frail or elderly to pose a danger.

'Crazy'
The Parole Board is also trying to cut the backlog of prisoners awaiting decisions on their release, by hiring more parole panel members and dealing with cases more efficiently. Prof Hardwick said it was "crazy" to be paying out compensation to inmates held in custody because their cases were delayed due to a lack of resources.

In 2015-16, there were 463 damages claims lodged, five times the number the previous year, with £554,000 paid out in compensation, compared to £144,000 the year before. "It's not a good use of taxpayers' money," Prof Hardwick said. "It would be much better to put the money into ensuring that the system is working efficiently so that people get dealt with fairly and get out when they're supposed to and when the courts intended."

The Ministry of Justice said: "The chair of the Parole Board has made a number of recommendations to improve the parole system and reduce the backlog of IPP prisoners. "Work is ongoing within the department to address these issues and his recommendations have been taken on board".

--oo00oo--

As is now routine in the airbrushing of probation out of the picture, no mention of the vital role probation has in all this, both in preparing reports and release plans for Parole Board hearings, and in undertaking supervision under the terms of any Parole Licence. I so wish we had an effective, authoritative champion that could put our case......