Monday, 30 March 2015

Redundancy Special

My tame barrister seemed very excited about something because she purred as she read the Sodexo email sent on Friday. She won't tell me why, but equally she seemed concerned: "the unions should be all over this."

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In the Napo Branch Memo of 25/3/15 it is written: 'The unions do not expect CRCs to propose any compulsory redundancies during the term of the private contracts and branches should be vigilant in opposing any such proposals that emerge after 1 September 2015.' I find the union thinking on this almost magical. They sign a framework agreement that states specifically, that for a period of seven months there will be no compulsory redundancies, and come away with the expectation that there will be no compulsory redundancies during the contract term.

When negotiating the framework agreement, I wonder if the union side asked the MoJ why they wanted a sunset clause of a mere seven months when the unions foresaw no compulsory redundancies? It seems to me that any reasonable person would think that there was a clear intention to plan for redundancies. There was no sleight of hand by the MoJ – reading their intentions required no clairvoyance. And yet Napo, unable to grasp this nettle, grasped at straws of hoping it would not come to pass – and it has. September is early this year!

Why did Napo sign the framework agreement believing there would be no proposals for compulsory redundancies? Whatever, it was a major misjudgement and you have to wonder if they were up to the job. If this has caught the union leaderships on the hop, they have only their myopic selves to blame. I hope they don't ask us to write to our MP's on this one. They need to build and organise, quickly, for industrial action.

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I don't agree with the 7 month clause either, but it's likely that without it the privateers would have made redundancies anytime from 1 minute after share sale. Redundancies were always going to happen and the only way to stop this would have been to stop TR. Very sad news.

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If you are of the view that compulsory redundancies were inevitable, then seven months notice is better than one minute's. This view, however, does not appear to have been the one taken by the Napo leadership who expressed hopes of no compulsory redundancies during the lifetime of the contracts. Was Napo being hopelessly unrealistic? They, unlike the pessimists amongst us, were not expecting redundancies. Had they been expecting them they could have been planning a strategy to deal with this new threat. As it is, they are on the hop and calling for emergency meetings with CRC reps. Someone suggested on this blog a few weeks back that Napo had 'thinkers and strategists'. Well, it's a pity they never thought to war game the possibility that their optimism was fanciful.

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How do people think they will arrive at the decision of who will be kept and who will be got rid of? I would think first to go would be all temporary staff. I'm not at all convinced that just because you volunteer for VER you will get it but surely to goodness they'd 'let someone go' rather than keep them against their will and make one of their colleagues redundant. After this, what criterion will be used to choose which POs will stay and which POs will go? This is worrying.

With regards to offices in Lancs/Cumbria, the other day it said there was going to be a central office and a few other smaller ones dotted around the counties. Does that mean all admin will be done in the large centre and does all of this mean offices are closing? If so, which ones? If they are shared buildings, I'm guessing NPS will be left to pay the rent on the whole building rather than as a proportion, like they currently are doing. I'm dreading the next few weeks as things begin to unravel and hope everyone's getting as much support as they can.

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I would not assume that temporary or agency staff would be the first to go. The objective will not be to protect anyone's job. The assumptions that underpin selections will be driven by a cost-benefit analysis. This is all about units of labour, not romantic notions of loyalty to a hard-working workforce. I don't think Employment Tribunal time limits are relevant in the present context. As long as the employers follow the usual procedures, there will be no legal comeback.

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I think that Napo were too weak, incompetent or uncaring to forge a better agreement. We all knew that redundancies were always going to be a consequence of TR, and we knew that EVR would only be for those corporate staff in the Ivory tower. Based on what happened when Serco took over London Probation CP, it is unrealistic to think Napo believed there would be no redundancies. I note Napo is threatening emergency rep meetings but the JR horse has bolted and the TR ink is dry.

If Napo had any fight it wouldn't have agreed this in the first place. I'd like to think that since contract handover it's been supporting numerous complaints and employment tribunals. I think we can confidently say this will not be the case. The blame game doesn't help and nor does false hope. It must be awful for all colleagues in the immediate firing line.

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Well in our brief, it was 1 Hub, 3 LDU's. How they will be staffed was not certain as they haven't committed to any new buildings yet, let alone who are going to staff them. Also the assumption for the new staffing levels depends on better IT, better buildings etc, etc,. I've worked in private sector and normally just given risk letter and gone, money as notice in lieu, however, I think because this is country wide it is more complicated than just one factory closing. Business needs was pushed strongly when they talked about the redundancies in Probation. So don't book your holidays until you have it officially in writing your end date. I don't think it's going to be that straight forward.

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There is no opposition to voluntary redundancies – as these were part of the collective agreement signed by the unions. The concern is that any hoped-for enhanced terms will be watered-down, and these are the signals coming from Sodexo. Compulsory redundancies are a different story. These would be divisive. How these are challenged is an open question.

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This is and was always going to be a dog's breakfast. The operating model leaks like a sieve and will show its shortcomings within hours but we have to wait and see because the IT and buildings debacles are yet to resolved themselves and all sorts of details are still to be ironed out. The levels of incompetence and deceit amongst both the MoJ and bidders is such that the party is only just starting. There will undoubtedly be casualties but we cannot assume that this will stop at frontline staff. The people who are driving the bids are not the people we see on the ground. Most of them are on short term contracts and are likely to find themselves in the same dole queues as the rest of us as the wheels fall of this turkey.

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No Union can negotiate "no redundancies ever" deal with an organisation. Businesses have the freedom to make a business case for redundancies whenever and as noted above, when Serco took on UPW in London, they announced redundancy plans within about a month. The transfer agreement cited above would have been the best thought achievable - that doesn't mean Union negotiators thought the agreement was brilliant (I've no idea what they thought) but to sign up to it indicates they believed they had gone as far as they could to win some protections as opposed to what might have been imposed without.

Personally I'd rather we hadn't negotiated at all but the National Officials viewed their task was to protect as much as possible. In relation to what happens next, there should be collective consultation (eg looking to negotiate/influence numbers, categories, delivery plans, H&S impact etc as well as redundancy payments and redundancy criteria) then it moves into individual consultation with selected at risk group who are deemed to meet criteria. Your local Napo/Unison reps and link National Official need your support, not slagging off at this time. The local reps in particular have a lot of hard work ahead of them doing much in their own time. Yes if we had had better strike turnout before, maybe things would be different but I personally don't think sniping about the past helps anyone. As someone above noted, ask your local Branch chair, what can I do to help? From local Cumbria-Lancs Napo rep.

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I worked in industry before becoming a PO twenty years ago and have prior experience of divestment and redundancies. If anyone thinks they could have done better than NAPO and Unison in the Framework agreement, they really are kidding themselves. At least for 7 months there was protection. Don't believe me? Then look at what happened when Kraft took over Cadbury in 2011 with a pledge to keep open the Bristol factory. No warning just BANG factory closing, 400 jobs gone. That is the real world not the 'probation is a business' fantasy that the Trusts operated under and which many colleagues believe was the world of big business!

Without that agreement, jobs could have gone much quicker believe me. This is the reality of the private sector where £profit is all. Staff are just another overhead and offenders the raw material of a probation industry that is now emerging with a vengeance. Yes we should have fought a more committed battle, but sadly many of those we work alongside chose not to, for me, that is the main issue we got the union response we voted for (or perhaps more honestly, failed to vote for). We are reaping the whirlwind of complacency but lay off the unions for at least getting something, it was really better than nothing. WE WERE WARNED AND FAILED TO ACT IN UNITY.


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After Cumbria CEO sent her letter to her staff regarding the actual numbers they intend to lose, our CEO (Northumbria) sent an email aying they are calling a meeting with managers Monday. This was not how they planned to notify staff but with Cumbria sending their email, ours is forced to say something now. I think earlier than what they wanted. Cumbria have forced their hand. I think they are in panic in case people start to leave earlier than what they wanted.

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It is also my understanding that the CEO of Nbria has had his hand forced by the email sent by the Cumbria and Lancashire CEO. It is likely all the CEOs of the Sodexo CRCs have been shown the model at the same time but appears Nbria has had the balls and the sense to rubbish Sodexos plans. Nbria response wasn’t to simply accept and communicate to staff with an email of doom, but to send the plans back to Sodexo and tell them "think again, you're having a laugh if you think that will work".

While staff have not been told the details, it was apparently so absurd it would never work and that Sodexo really need to go back to the drawing board. When I look at the proposed cuts for Cumbria and Lancs, I cannot see how the same can be made in Nbria. We have lost a lot of staff in a recent recruitment drive to the North East NPS when they realised they did not have enough staff. This has left staff in Nbria having to be directed all over the place to plug gaps. It is likely more will be lost in another wave of recruitment for North East NPS and is likely some offices in Nbria will no longer be viable.

I understand comments today saying redundancies cannot be protected against or that when another company takes over redundancies are more often than not inevitable. I believe however this is a unique circumstance. CRCs are not a company which has ceased trading where all staff has to go or where all staff employed by the incumbent company has had a fair shot at redundancy. Don’t forget there are as many who want to leave as there is who want to stay. This is an organisation which has been split into two. The way in which this was done was wholly unfair and still to this day cannot understand how employment tribunals have not arisen as a result.

Staff were sifted into the CRC, not based on competency, level of qualifications or years experience but based on what type of cases they were supervising one day. At that stage staff were placed in a company they did not choose to work for and were given no option at all to take redundancy. No option to say “I don’t want to work for a private company”. No option to take the same redundancy packages for the staff that were told they were not needed in the new company before share sale.

Hang about!! Aren’t staff being told now they are not needed in the new company? So because some of us have been kept hanging around for a while while the powers that be get their arses into gear we aren’t afforded the same redundancy package. The very staff who have kept things running professionally in the face of fast paced, illogical and dangerous changes. They’d have known roughly what their plans were and how many staff they would need so why not offer the redundancies prior to the split and why, in Nbria for example were so many PO’s taken over to CRC when it is clear they are not wanted?

Staff were declined the opportunity to go to NPS as they HAD to go to CRC. So why should they be got rid of on a shot redundancy package? Why should these staff also now have to complete application forms, take interviews and negotiate their own terms and conditions to go over to NPS now they have realised they haven’t got enough staff? Anyone who has good contacts with employment lawyers need to get talking NOW. There are some big questions which need to be answered and matters concerning constructive dismissal type scenarios need to be looked into.

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DTV are to lose some jobs next year. How many is unknown, but it is my understanding that they hope to achieve this through natural wastage. However, if the planned bids were based on closing offices, how will this now be achieved if using mobile IT is not going to be possible because MoJ have not delivered the interface to allow this? I do not think DTV staff are going to be immune from this sorry mess. Trust CEOs and Boards across the country sold us down River because they did not stand up to NOMS or MoJ with the exception of one CEO and Board Chair, who battled shoulder to shoulder with us. I still believe that had Napo and Unison coordinated themselves better and both Unions had taken strike action collectively, it may have stopped this. Sadly it's all now downhill for staff, offenders, victims, public and taxpayers.

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Just to add my support to you all as former colleagues. As a NAPO rep it was obvious to me from the beginning that the fall out from all of this was not going to be pretty. Encouraging some colleagues to pull the ladder up thinking they were OK whilst others have been thrown to the wolves. As the only middle manager in my former Trust who took industrial action, I was generally seen as a fully paid up member of the awkward squad and decided to trade in my CQSW and move to another job. I knew I would be seen as an easy target when the inevitable redundancies popped up and I had no intention of ending my career in that way. It is interesting to reflect that most of the active NAPO members ended up being shafted into the CRC, myself included. Remember, the best predictor of future behaviour is what has happened in the past. EVR was only ever going to be trousered by a few. When I read the proposals for EVR I mentally made a note of those I predicted would profit. I am confident I will have guesed right.

To colleagues in the CRCs, do read these blogs. In between the understandable rage there is some sound advice. If you have allowed your union membership to lapse, it now may be too late to sign up but if you are in either UNISON or NAPO get rep help asap. It makes senior management stick to the rules even if your rep feels out of their depth (don't bank on help from NAPO HQ). Take as much control over the process as you can but don't cut your nose off as some are suggesting. Going out through competancy proceedings is not nice and could affect your chances of getting another job. Think for yourself and your own needs and those of your family. The organisation you worked for and took pride in has been butchered and the crows are picking over the corpse. Whatever Grayling and co think, you all have skills that other organisations will want to have. Nil desperandum, colleagues.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Bleak Futures Week 13

Was told by housing officer from local authority who is in our office one afternoon a week, from April clients have to be 12 months offence free before eligible for social housing -starting when released from prison. That's really going to help TTG.

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Been that way in Middlesbrough for some while now. It makes little difference coz most cannot afford either the rent or bedroom tax!

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It's all going to hell in a handcart but none of the providers care as long as they make their profits (which they will, at all costs).

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Whilst I agree that the providers will do what they can to make money, I'm not at all convinced that there is any money to be made. Firstly, the providers are getting the same budget as what previous trust did. From this they have all the Under 12 months to supervise which is going to cost something, eating into the budget. The idea that we would be working out of offices looks to be a pipe dream as the IT infrastructure is not only lacking, but will cost millions to put in place. Regardless, we need a base of some description and commercial property prices are going up, not down. And ALL of these properties will need refurbishment for client contact, interview rooms, CCTV, panic alarms etc. Again, an expense from the ever dwindling budget. On-going training to pay for, which will have to be sourced, and a place rented for any training to take place.

If the budget that CRC's were given has already been dipped into and the profit taken out at the beginning, it will be impossible to continue to offer anything but a token service, not meeting the needs of the clients and doing little to reduce re-offending.

Which brings me onto the next little gem. Re-offending rates have been falling year on year for the past 5 years. We know this. Police are now scrapping cautions for some offences which may have contributed to this and we have a perfect storm brewing of zero hour contracts, benefit sanctions and weeks to start up a new claim. I'll give it 18 months before not only the wheels fall off, but the cart horse pulling the cart drops dead!

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You forgot that the budget also decreases each year and is replaced by PbR......so yeah, we're f*cked!

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ETE workers in some areas are redundant directly due to TR but I bet they'll be kept waiting until after 31st March to be told they're not needed.

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I was just saying to a work mate today, where are Sodexo? Never heard from them since the briefing. The reply was they are coming and coming with so much force we will not know what has hit us, well redundancy will be what hits us. In our CRC in my department it is a joke, the manager cannot manage, in fact never been able to manage hide behind everyone else. Even one of my offenders today told me it was a joke. I used to say I was proud to work for this company, but not now.

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Sad to hear what people are saying. I did email my HR dept & got a reply to the effect that, understandably, until our CRC masters make a decision or an announcement, HR haven't a clue - nor can they calculate any possible figures for anyone.

It rather supports the view that those "in the know" took what they could, when they could, & made a run for it at the most timely opportunity. For those privileged few that likely means they'll disappear before end August 2015 with 67 weeks' worth of dosh in the bank, 12 months salary to boot & full of delusional belief that they "made a difference".Plus ca change.

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Staff in the CRC in South Yorks have now been informed of the redundancies. Staff to be gone by end of May and letters with offers to arrive in the post. No info yet on whether they will be enhanced?

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Has anybody else heard about the new fixed court fees from next month? They are shockingly steep eg £100 following guilty plea and £1,000 following conviction after trial and Mags will have no discretion whatsoever. It's sickening. Apparently sneaked in under statutory instrument, announced today. Our local sols are furious, one telling the Mags today 'everyone needs to wake up to what is happening'. The poor and vulnerable will drown even further under this vicious regime.

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One service user I worked with had agreed at Court for his fines to be taken from his JSA but told them it was in the process of being moved to ESA. When the Court tried to take the money they were told JSA was no longer set up. Service user was homeless and could not be contacted. Two weeks later he came to see me and said he was due to start ESA and could we spend one of our appointment time letting fines department know (he has no phone). We contacted fines department. They had already passed on to debt collectors who had added their own fees.

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I know this sounds mad but there is a part of me that says let it happen and watch it all unravel. These developments are making the problems worse and worse.

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Prison Offender Supervisors now doubling up on duties after benchmarking, so impossible to get sentence planning done. Now they are not submitting MAPPA reports on time - just how dangerous is THAT? YES DANGEROUS!

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BREAKING NEWS: Sodexo have released workforce planning numbers for Cumbria and Lancashire CRC. "We currently have an establishment of 340 full time staff. We will need to move to 217 by autumn".

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Very drunk man in northern hostelry confirms news that 37% of staff to be shed in Cumbria & Lancashire CRC by August 2015.

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Much, much worse than I expected. Time to leave. I'm not staying to deal with that mess.

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Uh? We currently have four POs carrying approx 60 cases each, and six PSOs carrying approx 80 each. Using that formula we'll end up with three POs carrying 80 cases each & four PSOs with 120 cases each. Or will it be seven members of staff variously on long term sick, detained under the MH Act or buried in their favourite church yard?

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Re the Sodexo blood letting that began in Cumbria today. All the temp POs that are all over the place now need to go and make room for those PO's from the CRCs who have been well and truly shafted. And to all of those who took the moral high ground when some of us were fighting for our jobs and who looked on whilst we struck - this was what we were saying would happen and has, unfortunately come to pass....

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I was worried about being made redundant, but even more so now hearing what the numbers are in CRC Cumbria. I know everyone is feeling frightened, I am personally a single parent with two children, mortgage, bills. Just like everyone else. Really scary time.

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I believe that there are almost entire offices staffed with agency staff in some parts of Manchester...

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Just got home after a difficult & emotionally charged afternoon. To any doubters or cynics, the info from Cumbria & Lancs CRC was circulated to all staff by Chief Exec via email. This is not a hoax or scaremongering. No doubt someone will find a way of getting a copy of the email to blog central.

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I feel for those in Cumbria & Lancs - both those who may lose their jobs and those who are left behind, you simply can't run any kind of effective service on those sort of lines. Very sad times.

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It is fact, Email sent to all Cumbria & Lancashire staff confirms case admin will reduce from 57 to 30, PSO's from 88 to 71, PO's from 56 to 31, Middle managers from 19 to 9, Senior managers from 9 to 5, Corporate staff from 60 to 16, unpaid work increase from 28 to 29 and Programmes increase from 23 to 26. It is not yet confirmed but likely that the central hub will be in Preston with local management units in Carlisle, Preston and Accrington, neighbourhood offices in Blackpool, Lancaster, Barrow and Workington. It is a mess, a bloody mess.

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That's not surprising, the contract arrangements mean that there is money for accredited programmes but not for other parts. Purple Futures and Ingeus not woken up to this yet as they are looking to cut Programmes. The issue will be around SFOs when they happen. Sodexo are taking a huge reputational risk, and I suspect there will be no winners in this.

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I can confirm we were sent the email in Lancashire. We are waiting to hear if voluntary redundancy will be offered or if Sodexo will play dirty and do compulsory redundancy after the 7 month clause. Mood in office very somber today with people considering their options.

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I'm in the Purple Futures and we've not heard a dickie bird. Apparently they're plotting as we speak. I'm sure this time next week we'll be posting similar comments - its going to be a domino effect around the country.

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I am so, so, so saddened to hear the news above. CRC staff shafted at every turn of this process. Those that did not fight against the demise of our previously award winning service should hang their heads in shame. These are our colleagues, no one deserves what is happening. No one is safe, it doesn't matter which CRC area you are in or who the feck won your contract - this is just the start. NPS staff - you want to hope the Tories don't get back in because it will be you next for the culling too. YES WHERE ARE MEMBERS OF NAPO HQ - have they taken redundancy?

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South Yorkshire are looking at approx one third cut. Not 100% sure on the breakdown grade by grade as it's only been communicated to grades most at risk of cuts.

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Sad, very sad looking at the numbers at Cumbria. I can see we will be getting interviewed again for jobs and fighting for jobs. Bloody nightmare.

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I'll just walk - stuff em. Creditors can have £1 per month and I'll do some temping for a while. I'm past caring now, it's been going on for too long.

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That is exactly how I feel. Life is more important, not going to get stressed over it. My creditors can have 50p from me hahaha.

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The whole thing is disgusting, in my department they have hired two members of staff on a 5 month contract. Cannot understand why, and when you ask why they been hired, they will not answer. I am training them and feel that they are here to replace me and other staff, as they are on less pay than us. Am I reading into something that is not there????

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I took strike action, attended branch meetings and I was reported to management by a colleague who is non union for alerting staff to this very possibility as being disloyal to my trust. I hoped to promote solidarity to oppose TR. I tried and failed, many others tried too. I just want to express solidarity to all colleagues affected by this. My heart goes out to you and your families. This is a shameful betrayal of loyal public servants.

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Swift email from Northumbria CEO this afternoon (sent while he's on leave), calling the managers in to a meeting Monday morning. NAPO/ Unison sent communication yesterday to members about EVR. The NNC staff transfer and protection agreement, the staff transfer scheme and the services agreement between CRC owners and the MOJ provide for any redundancies which arise during the LIFETIME of the CRC contract in connection with TR to be dealt with under the terms of the agreed NNC voluntary redundancy scheme. In the T&C of this, point 16 states "in addition, the commercial contracts will specify that, other than where more beneficial terms exist, where voluntary redundancy is offered, the enhanced terms set out in Appendix B should apply to any member of staff in a CRC employed by a Probation Trust on 31 May 2014".

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So that is Cumbria, North Yorks and now Northumbria. Looks like they are moving fast now. I think I will make that last nice purchase for myself before I get the P45.

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We've all been shafted. I have seen colleagues devote their working lives to this organisation. Been through the mill, produced results, cared about our clients, and for what? To be booted out of the door with not so much as a second glance. This new world of probation sickens me. It really does. This is not what I stand for. Meat processing "offenders" and worse for the staff. I've seen people really cry today; it was awful.

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Just to say I feel really sorry for all those in the CRC's facing what seems to be immediate job losses. The period May-Autumn suggested is just around the corner, so it seems the privateer probation companies are to waste no time in cost cutting. Sodexo has started the ball rolling and they will all follow suit. They intend to make a profit at any cost so cutting staff and ditching existing premises will be high on their agenda. I think the MoJ will be watching this to see what they can replicate in the NPS.

I recall sitting in a meeting in the early stages of TR. It was assumed that whatever takeover agreements, T's & C's, etc were made the CRC owners would be able to bypass these by "restructuring". From the comments above it sounds like "restructuring" is on the horizon. It's anyone's guess what this will include, but will probably include for staff that survive significant cuts in salary and new job descriptions to justify doing more for less. Maybe even to justify doing nothing at all.

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Whilst the detail is missing, similar numbers have been mentioned across the six Sodexo CRCs. Many careers are going to end with betrayal and hundreds and thousands of years of experience lost to the service. It will be replaced with a shallow pretence and embarrassing ineptitude. I am done with this.

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I am totally in shock at the numbers that they intend to reduce us by. I have given 11 years of my life to this company. Been through ups and downs and it was the love of the job that kept me here. Managers have stepped on me and tossed me to one side, but yet I worked through it all, again for the love of the job. I am unsure of what I would do next. Totally shocked.

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I think middle management in Cumbria and Lancs CRC have been in the dark as much as us. They attended a briefing on the morning that the email came out. They've not actually been told anything more than we have. Based on a conversation I had with my area's senior manager a few weeks ago - I don't think they realised just how deep the cuts were going to be either. I remember my ACO saying that the agency staff would cover the excess numbers. Well, the numbers above do not even taken account of agency numbers. This is on top of losing agency staff. I think Sodexo have kept this very closely under wraps and then let it rain like a massive shower of shit.

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To cut 36% of posts over six months is shockingly deep and rapid destruction anywhere. My heart goes out to all my former friends and colleagues still employed by NPS/CRCs after the election. And quite apart from the nightmare of struggling to deliver any kind of service in these circumstances, permanent staff in Cumbria and Lancs must have been quite needlessly tortured by this memo, which did not even tell them how many of the 123 posts disappearing are currently filled by agency/temporary staff. And so they cannot even guess at their personal risk of being made compulsorily redundant by autumn. Does anyone reading this from Cumbria/Lancs know the figures for non-permanent staff and feel able to share them?

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The non-permanents were not included in the stats presented. We will lose them AND the numbers quoted above.

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What? Are you sure? Bad enough already but the chief's letter clearly stated the non permanents WERE included in these figures. She wrote above: "We currently have an establishment of 340 full time equivalent staff (which includes agency and fixed term contract staff) within Cumbria and Lancashire and we will need to move to the full time equivalent of 217 by the Autumn." I can only hope this is the slightly less dreadful truth, still devastating for all staff, whether temp or permanent and for the communities they serve.

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I have seen a copy of the bid operational model and it's colour coded (offenders become blue, green, red or yellow) and this is determined by 1. risk of harm 2. risk of offending and 3. closeness to change. Every single client has to undertake a two hour New Directions group at the start of their order and they are allocated a number of 'intervention hours' depending on the three factors above. Someone who is highly close to change, med risk and high offending is 'red' and gets allocated 33 face to face hours. At the back end of every order there is a motivational tool of 'kiosk reporting' so that we don't have to see them and interrupt our working hours. The low risk, low harm band gets just 12 hours. All clients are on weekly reporting for twelve weeks and then monthly.

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It is nearer 41% in our area (also Sodexo). Temps and agency staff first to go but I don't see that as anything defensible. It is not as if those temps and agency staff were sitting around doing nothing. The innovations do not look safe, are certainly untested and the proposed operating models leak like a sieve.

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We need to remember that everyone has different personal circumstances and not make sweeping grand statements. My children are grown up, I live in rented accommodation and I don't have a car. For me redundancy is a big kick up the bum to get out of this horribly stressful job with a little bit of cash behind me. I'm all too well aware this isn't the same for everyone. Other people in my position might be feeling pressurised to move on to let colleagues with families and bigger commitments keep the jobs left. It's not straightforward and will set colleagues against each other. The only certainty is that there is more shit to come.

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Just have care in discussing colleagues positions. Last time redundancy was mooted a colleague with whom I shared an office said to me "you clearly have enough money, if you care so much why don't you just leave?". I have never been able to forget that. I did not have enough money but why should I have to tell her that? This will all start again...

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The privateers have timed the announcement to perfection, a sign of their skills in everything but probation.

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In my CRC we've been told already that we will get a max of 1.5 weeks a year redundancy, that is if you are over 40. Under 40 you get a week. So it really grates that all those in the ivory towers are sending out goodbye emails to one and all having snapped up the enhanced package of at least 4 weeks a year.... SODEXO know what they are doing with their £.

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Rumours are running rife in MANCHESTER CRC. People are talking about massive cuts to follow Sodexo announcement. I went to see my manager this morning after reading the blog and she would not even give me a proper answer, except for saying that she was worried about her own position. Now that says it all about management. Don't give a shit about staff but just worried about their own effing position.

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This is odd, I work in Manchester and only yesterday in a meeting we were told that some of us may be asked to work in Cheshire as they only have one PO due to all the PO's being off sick and a couple resigning. It's odd one day we are told we are short staffed then the next we are told that there may be massive cuts.

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Can you believe this shit? There are some people who failed to stand together when the time came to strike and are now in tears having heard all the rumours that they will be thrown out on to the trash heap. They are now talking about wanting strike action. My response was very simple. Where were you when it counted and we needed your support? This is what you get for not speaking up.

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I agree that if we had stuck together, including Unison, we could have brought matters to a stand still. After all you cannot operate a system without people. Total and complete chaos would have set on probation if we all said strike. Maximum strike - maximum effect.

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I agree up to a point, but MoJ played their trump card by giving EVR to support staff, ACOs & COs as they were all doing the work behind the scenes to ensure it could proceed. I know some of them are not able to get EVR now, but the operational staff never had a hope.

******
It's disgraceful. Is this the way we should be treated? Is this the way we are supposed to care about each other? Bastards the lot if them. What haven't we given for the service, our time, effort, dedication, good will? Worked beyond the call of duty at a cost to our personal lives so that we can have a safer future and positive communities for our children. Instead we getting shitted on by the same fucking management with their same lies and false promises, and then they try to pretend they value their staff by giving them tokinsitic awards. If you want to celebrate our success, just FUCKING LISTEN FOR ONCE.

******
Does anyone have any clue about the future for Trainee Probation Officers that are currently training?

******
Grim I would guess. You are there to fill the gaps while they get thier shit together. Once you qualify I guess you can be posted anywhere in the country, plus with the cut in MoJ budget I would of thought there will be less slots for newly qualified. With 70% plus cases going to CRC and PSO's being cheaper, not sure the need is there.

******
Dear TPO, the answer is that we simply do not know. It feels as if we all have an uncertain future and my advice to you would be to keep on with your studies and hope labour get in and keep their promise to reverse TR....

******
Please do not despair! It is likely that you will be employed, as economically you will be more cost effective - starting on lower end of pay scales etc. One of the worrying features of mass redundancy is how older staff self select themselves. It is illegal to select on the basis of age, however life can be made so awful that older staff go. I know I am in that position.

******
I was placed in an office that I used to work in before I became a TPO in October. They welcomed me with open arms. Think that was partly because the office is buckling under the pressure and just doesn't have enough PO's. One of the PO's said to me that they were relieved I was previously employed by the service as they didn't have the time to teach me 'the basics'. I really had to hit the ground running. I'm unsure what the new trainee we are having join our office in May will experience. People just don't have the time to train them. Still, I owe everything to the PO's in my office. They are amazing.

I spent a lot of time with the offenders in my previous role, now I feel they are in and out whilst I (and I hate to say this) clock watch thinking Ive got an ISP to do, I really need to make that referral etc. I was speaking to a colleague the other day about feeling trapped.

******
Your honesty is appreciated. I always say to TPO's if you want to do the job, do it for the right reasons. That means using our position to advocate on behalf of those most in need and opposing/voicing those structures and systems that keep people locked in a cycle of offending and self abuse.

******
22 years of blemish-free service, and all I can look forward to is the statutory maximum of £13,920.

******
I have 31 years service and like you am expecting no more than the statutory maximum. Does anyone know if, in the case of colleagues of 55 and over, if they have to also fund the release of the pension (not enhanced, but without early payment penalty)? Thanks.

******
In our briefing we were told there were two options, early retirement which CRC would sort out so without you having to pay the early payment penalty they would pay that. Sorry can't give you the exact wordings, or Voluntary Redundancy, not both would be on offer. Letters would be sent setting out the options to employees who were in the at risk pool.

******
For the first time in a long time, I have just had to say no to my son. Redundancies are on at work I said. Then reality hit me and I have just broke down. I hate this government, I hate Sodexo.

******
Please share my snotty tissue and accept my virtual hug. I'm with you. I'm so scared about losing my house. My child needs things that I can't commit to and things have already been very tight with the pay freeze and rising cost of living. Maybe we should set up a commune of cast off probation employees?

******
The news of the Sodexo shafting came in just as another Northumbria CRC director celebrated his departure on EVR. There's an emergency meeting of managers on Monday now the cats out of the bag, where the HR director, who is also getting EVR, will doubtless tell them how to spin this to keep people hoping until the axe finally falls. They should hang their heads in shame.

******
Emergency meeting, shame we already know. Yes I have been disgusted with head of HR getting her bit and running. Well I have no effort left in me now. So I will work until they tell me I am going but I doubt I will be working to the same effort as before.

******
Totally!! and would you believe they actually had the nerve to ask for donations to a leaving collection! I hope the HR head isn't going to do the same. She might want to tip them the wink that she doesn't need one! Well I for one am going to wind down my efforts. Can't use threats and bullying tactics anymore as we now know the truth, we are already shafted so time to take the same attitude as Northumbria CRC SMT and Sodexo. Sod the 'service users' lets milk it while we can. Take a break from the stress folks, look after yourselves and sod the job! Good luck with your re offending rates now. September is still a long way off, couldn't give a hoot about your targets now guys.

******
Join NAPO as local reps are invaluable and have day to day working relationships with HR and other key management bods. I'd also agree don't cut ur nose off - keep your pride and dignity. I'd also, with regard to colleagues, be a bit selective who I reveal my true thoughts to. Try not to get involved in large lunchtime moaning sessions as things can (and have) been reported back to management by snitches.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Information is Power

I want to start this off by recording my thanks to colleagues and friends for sending me information and documents, especially over the last 24 hours. It's only by sharing information that this blog is able to be of any use, and especially at difficult times like right now. 

There were just short of 8,000 hits recorded yesterday and that not only demonstrates the level of concern out there, it says to me there's an urgent need for information because in reality that's the essential element for any kind of action, political or otherwise. I don't just mean information about the grubby plans our new privateer owners have either - I mean the many SFO's in CRCs and NPS that are being covered up right now as a direct result of this TR omnishambles. We always said whistleblowing would be an element in all this mess, well, with the election now in full swing, may I suggest the time has come?

These comments from yesterday particularly struck me:-

From Sodexo's website:

"Our employees personify our values and are our greatest asset"...They're obviously making an exception in our case.

******
I'm in Cumbria and Lancs and I know my heads for the chop as I'm cheap to get rid of. I've cried since I got home today after the 'blow after blow' emails that kept coming through. It's like they punched us down yesterday and then continued to kick us in the head as we lay on the floor today... Thank you to everyone for your solidarity and outrage on behalf of us. I feel more together-ness than I have ever felt through this entire messy and ugly process.

******
"Jim surely you can help sort a strike"

Of course he can - whilst rolling a fag using just one hand and eating 3 shredded wheat. Jim is though, doing more than the bods who collect a salary for doing naff all whilst Rome burns.

******
Here's an email from Cumbria and Lancashire CRC referred to yesterday:-

Dear Colleague

Firstly apologies for sending this information on a Friday afternoon, but I wanted to share the information relating to potential redundancy with you as soon as possible.

Many of you have raised questions about this and I give below the responses we have received to those questions.

In respect of the question relating to local redundancy agreements, I understand there is a further meeting between Sodexo and the MOJ which will take place shortly. We have provided Sodexo with information and further legal questions for them to consider in their meeting.

Regards,
Penny

Workforce Planning Information from Sodexo

Will be there be redundancies?
Yes.

When will we know many posts you will have in your new structures?
Having completed our due diligence, we are now in a position to share our ‘end state’ numbers with you. We have asked your CEO and senior management teams to start communicating these numbers with you over the coming weeks.

When will you start to formally consult with us?
Senior managers will be looking to commence formal redundancy consultation with your recognised representatives over the coming weeks.

Will you be offering the current enhanced voluntary redundancy (EVR) terms?
No. The National Agreement sets out that the enhanced scheme that was made available to those who were employed on 31st May 2014, only continued until 31st March 2015. The opportunity to apply under this scheme is no longer available. Whilst we will be following local processes for redundancies, there is no obligation on providers to offer any enhanced terms after that date.

We had planned on the basis that the majority of exits would be on compulsory terms, seven months after contract commencement, i.e. 1st September 2015, as per the National Agreement. If operationally possible and staff wish to exit early through a compromise, we are currently looking at whether we can offer an exit package on slightly enhanced terms.

We have made changes to our local Redundancy Agreements, what is the impact of this?
We are aware that, Cumbria & Lancashire, Northumbria and Essex CRCs have made changes to their redundancy policies based on their interpretation of the national agreements. We are currently in discussion with NOMS as to the implications of these local changes.

Will the resources allocated to CRCs for the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy scheme be solely used for that purpose?
We will ensure that where redundancies become necessary, we utilise all available funds and strive to maximise the benefit for as many employees affected as possible.


******
I know many people have been asking where Napo is in all this? In addition to the now typically lack-lustre offering from the General Secretary's blog, the following appeared on the website yesterday:- 

Sodexo publish their new service delivery model – hundreds of jobs at risk

Sodexo has just published its new operating model – out for a very short consultation period over Easter. This model is expected to be imposed across all its CRCs. Details so far published suggest that up to one third of posts will disappear by the Autumn. The model is comprehensive and has clearly been some time in preparation. There will be a reduction in not only staff numbers but also offices and desks. Call centres and reporting kiosks are proposed. ‘Low’ risk cases will be allocated responsible officers in call centres, rather than someone that the service user will actually meet. A voice on the end of the phone – not sure yet which country it will be in. New IT systems and risk assessment tools are proposed. As with the NPS, staff will be treated to HR support provided by a remote service centre. Consequent upon this, the jobs axe appears to fall most heavily upon corporate support staff but all grades, front-line as well as back-office are affected. A whole raft of draft HR policies have also been published for consultation and negotiation.

What is not apparent at first glance is any assessment of workload measurement for staff. Is the job manageable under this new model? Napo will be assessing the new service delivery model and responding to it.

******
I think we need to see this 'new operating model' as soon as possible and start discussing it openly, whether 'commercially sensitive' or not. We've got to share more information, because we all know information is power. 

Finally, I'm going to sign this blog post off with an anonymous piece that came in last night. Please keep contributing guys. Please carry on looking out for each other and please think before penning any ugly recriminations:-

'Where were you?'

Reading the blog yesterday astounded me in lots of ways. The avalanche of voices to 'strike', the echoes of grief as the realisation that job cuts were approaching and the hatred towards different levels of staff currently in post is disappointing.

I am a Union member, a Manager and have supported staff across the public and private divide. I have been on strike and have been saddened by the apathy of staff who found it amusing that I was on the picket line with other members in the cold, rain and sunshine. I have been the butt of rude and hurtful remarks by some staff who knowing I was on the picket line gave them licence to behave badly.

Christmas 2013 was my time of feeling angry with Chris Grayling, my Chief Executive at the time and the Unions; the lack of information and uncertainty, the realisation the battle was not going to be won, yet I kept campaigning, blogging, canvassing and supporting all levels of staff. I have never taken the view 'I am all right Jack..' I still campaign including going on the street canvassing 'Let's kick Cameron and Grayling into touch' you'll hear me say and yet that doesn't take away the sheer sadness around potential job losses of friends, colleagues and members who will be affected by the sheer numbers of redundant post TR will bring.

Russell Webster's blog talks of staffing numbers for CRCs Q3 14/15 as 8290.83 showing a reduction of CRC staff as 2% which is equivalent to 150FTE. With yesterday's announcement of job losses at 30+% in one CRC, with up to 20 other contract package areas about to make similar announcements, it doesn't take a lot to work out the impact of potential Job losses in CRCs in the imminent future.

Critically this is to be expected from the business models the MoJ have supported to make the necessary cuts across probation areas. As an NPS staff member I am well aware there will be redundant posts in NPS, it's happening now, under the surface hoping staff do not notice but the axe is reaching NPS soon, remember TR was build on forecasted cuts across both CRC and NPS, it will just take a bit more time to happen, the Prisons were first to be hit and a quick glance at NOMS Business Plan for 2014/15 gives a clear indication of what's coming next.

It is a cop out to start blaming everyone for the current situation, despite being a Union member I too have been critical of both Ian Lawrence and the Press Officer at NAPO for silence at our most critical times however my only question to those that have just woken up to this travesty, I ask you, 'When the Unions were campaigning to support a strike, where were you?'

Friday, 27 March 2015

The Axe Revealed

Yet another aspect of TR reality was revealed yesterday with the following email to all staff in Cumbria and Lancashire CRC:-
  
Dear Colleague

I know you have been waiting patiently for information about the staffing figures and whilst I cannot at this stage give you detailed information on the structures and locations, I can give you the high level staffing numbers.

We currently have an establishment of 340 full time equivalent staff (which includes agency and fixed term contract staff) within Cumbria and Lancashire and we will need to move to the full time equivalent of 217 by the Autumn. This is a reduction of 123 full time equivalents. The numbers we need to move to are outlined below and are still subject to changes.

Job Area  Existing Numbers  Numbers we need to move to


Case Admin 57 - 30
Probation Services Officers 88 - 71
Probation Officers 56 - 31
Middle Managers 19 - 9
Senior Managers 9 - 5
Corporate Services 60 - 16
Unpaid Work 28 - 29
Programmes 23 - 26

TOTAL 340 - 217

(24 people are on secondment, these are heavily weighted to PSO in Achieve)

I am also hoping to be able to share with you information from Sodexo which will include details on redundancies. I know we have agreed that Friday isn't a good day to send communication but if the information is available tomorrow I will send it to you.

I know many of you will have a lot of questions about what this means for you and the next steps and ideally I would like speak to you face to face, but felt it important to get the information to you as quickly as possible as I know some of you will be taking leave over the Easter holidays.

We will, however, be holding 90 minute briefings for all operational staff on Monday 13 April (am) and a Corporate Service staff briefing on the 2nd April (am) and we will let you have details of locations as soon as we can. Please keep the date free in your diary.

In the meantime, if you have questions you can e-mail me at CL_askthechief or you can speak with your line manager or an ACE. If you are on maternity or sick leave please contact Sue Hall, HR Manager.

Regards

Penny

Penny Barker
Chief Executive
Cumbria and Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company (CL CRC)
99-101 Garstang Road
Preston PR1 1LD


Hardly surprising, but nevertheless devastating news for many loyal and hardworking professionals, Sodexo is first to show its hand and demonstrate beyond doubt that despite all the bollocks and fine words, in order to make profit out of probation, jobs have to go. 

I was particularly struck by this comment left last night:-
I wish I could have an honest chat with one of those ex-probation chief officers that sold us out as THEY KNOW exactly what's coming. There's a bunch of them on Twitter tweeting about their new lives after probation and with massive redundancy packages we'll never get. I'd suggest any Twitter users ask them a few questions. 
If there was ever a key time for Napo to speak up it is now. But then this is the same Napo that sold us down the river and gave away our Judicial Review.
At a time like this I'm also reminded of the whoops of joy and celebrations reported within the McDowell household when news of the contract award broke. It all leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth indeed. 

I also can't help noticing it's Friday and I suspect we're due a blog from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence. Lets hope it might actually say something of substance and there's some indication he might be worth his salary. 

Lets all be supportive of each other, share information and as the election campaign gets into full swing, at every opportunity make life difficult for those Lib Dem and Tory bastards that were responsible for destroying a well-performing public service in the first place.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

The Truth Will Out

Readers will know that Frances Crook of the Howard League has been prevented by NOMS HQ from taking up an invitation to visit two privately-run jails. This from the Guardian:-

Banning me from prisons won’t silence the truth

There are 14 privately run prisons in England and Wales and on Friday I received an email informing me that I am banned from visiting two of them, not by G4S who had invited me, but by the Ministry of Justice.

My charity, the Howard League for Penal Reform, argues that making money out of punishing people is both reprehensible and immoral and it is on these grounds that we have opposed the private management of prisons. Successive governments have privatised prisons, so it is not a party political issue. It has been claimed that introducing private sector competition into the penal estate has driven up standards but there is no evidence for this, indeed suicide and violence rates, along with similar evidence, points to the contrary. The only rigorous research commissioned by the Ministry of Justice to compare the two systems has never been published; I am told that it does not support this contention.

I have seen good and bad practice in both private and public sector prisons, having spent 25 years working in the system. I have never been a fan of G4S, indeed we have been pressing the Serious Fraud Office to pursue its investigation into the various companies accused of fraud on the tagging contract more vigorously. However, I accepted the invitation to visit two of the G4S prisons to see for myself. Private prisons are taking £500m of taxpayers’ money each year, so they have to have independent scrutiny.

I was due to visit Oakwood, one of the biggest prisons in the country, which had a very rocky start, with allegations that it was easier to get drugs than soap. I was also due to visit Birmingham, the first Victorian prison to be taken over by a private company. I wanted to see what improvements had been made in both jails.

I understand that the company informed the Ministry of Justice several weeks ago that I had been invited and it is bemused as to why it took so long to inform me that my visit was being prohibited. The implication is that the decision was taken on high.

The most surprising aspect was the crude letter sent to me by a senior civil servant. Had the MoJ wanted to stop me visiting, it would have been simple to write a carefully crafted letter suggesting that operational reasons, or sensitivity due to the election meant that at this time my visit was inappropriate. I would never have permitted a letter like this to be sent by one of my staff, and it is an indication of an atmosphere created at the very top.

When I posted the letter, without comment, on Twitter, it went viral because it was so rude. It was retweeted, favourited, linked and commented on in social media tens of thousands of times.

It is all the more amazing because today Lord Woolf has said that prisons are in as bad a state as 25 years ago when he investigated the cause of the riots in Strangeways and 20 other prisons. The triple whammy inflicted on prisons by government policies means that they are dangerous, violent places. They closed 18 prisons and relocated tens of thousands of men to the remaining jails. They cut staff numbers by more than a third. They allowed the numbers of people going to prisons on remand and under sentence to rise.

Report after report by the chief inspector of prisons and by independent monitors have told how people are locked in their cells with nothing to do for weeks on end and that violence is rising. If we treat people like this we cannot expect them to emerge into the community magically transformed into law-abiding citizens.

I recently spent time with the family of an 18-year-old young man who had only spent a day in prison when he hanged himself in his cell. He was one of 82 people who took their own lives in prisons last year. Things are going badly wrong and we have to tell it like it is.

Frances Crook

As it's Wednesday and Parliament is still sitting prior to dissolution, the House of Commons will be packed for PMQ's - Prime Minister's Questions. The shabby treatment of Frances Crook has resulted in an Early Day Motion and readers are urged to contact their MP this morning and urge them to sign it. The government must not be allowed to get away with trying to hide what's going on inside our prisons.

Early day motion 906

INVITATION TO FRANCES CROOK TO VISIT HM PRISON OAKWOOD

That this House notes that G4S issued an invitation to Frances Crook, the Chief Executive of the Howard League, to visit HM Prison Oakwood; further notes that the Director of Custodial Services at the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), Ian Blakeman, decided that the visit would not be appropriate at the time given Ms Crook's comments about private prisons, and informed G4S that it should withdraw the invitation; expresses great concern that NOMS should seek to prevent this visit, especially given that G4S specifically invited Ms Crook; and calls on the Government to ensure NOMS allows the visit to take place and encourages scrutiny of the justice system.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Bleak Futures Week 12

On the one hand it's great having a day off, but all it means is catch-up in the days after - a day less to get reports and prison visits done before the next court date. It's false economy.

*****
Just what I was thinking. We have a Good Friday and Bank Holiday and in my mind all it means is that I have 8 days to do 10 days work in. What has it come to when a long weekend off, when I can spend time with my kids, becomes a burden? My workload is increasing daily and whilst many of the under 12 months will go to the CRC, I'm not sure we have the capacity in the NPS to take more. I have a feeling that the RSR score will be increased this year to take the pressure off the NPS. I'm not gloating or anything and my colleagues in the CRC are likely equally overworked, but NOMS and the MoJ have it in their ability to arbitrarily change the rules to ones which better suit them.

*****
Really peed off to get a TTG - the original offences were from January but the Bail Act matters were post 1st Feb - the offender was not impressed either.

*****
One of my more 'challenging' clients coming to the end of a two year Licence - just got 8 weeks for TWOC. We now have the pleasure of each others company for a further twelve months.

*****
2 years of support and he continues to re-offend? You don't have to be Poirot to see that he is not suitable for Probation intervention. Not your fault I hasten to add but just shows this new TTG is a load of bollocks and is a one size does not fit all policy.

*****
TTG...I hear NPS are going to buy services for their offenders from TTG but wait...how can they buy a service that does not exist? Oh, I hear you reply. Well it isn't 01 May yet so there's still time...yup 6/7 weeks to set up a service and the staff haven't been recruited yet...TRansforming rehabilitation NOT.

*****
Takes 8 weeks at least for security clearance. It would be somewhat ironic if the one thing that Grayling broke the service up for was the one thing that did not occur. IMHO I cannot see it taking off in the meaningful form that Grayling envisioned. Anybody on here 'volunteered' for TTG and heard anything back yet?

*****
I'm from Merseyside and none of us have been asked to volunteer so not sure who's gonna be doing the TTG side of things in custodial establishments.

*****
About 2 weeks ago there was Expression of Interest in DTV CRC, of which TTG was one option. Unfortunately there was little information which may have led to making a more a informed choice. Not sure how many applied for TTG but as far as I know, no one in my office and CRC applied. I have a feeling that people will start being directed there in a week or so.

*****
Since reading this blog (including the comments) I keep hearing people's dissatisfaction with unsupportive and ass licking (excuse my french) managers. As a PQF trainee it is even worse. We are seen as a burden and with no support or direction are told to get on with it. Sadly these ass licking managers themselves went through the TPO route and have no clue how shit the PQF is. I hope to see on this blog a post dedicated to peoples experience on the PQF and post on lack of support from management.
Pissed off Anon

*****
I see OASys on IPPs and "Lifers" that are full of mistakes and it takes an age for the person involved to get redress. The main cause of this is too few staff - workloads are too high. Probation like most state jobs is a bureaucratic nightmare and now with the profit motive driving the show, it is becoming a bureaucratic hell and nothing will change until you decide to fight for it.

*****
A rumour is doing the rounds at the moment that the interface issue with CRCs and nDelius will take 18 months to fix and cost around £20 million. How true this is anyone's guess.

*****
I notice the MoJ Head of IT has jumped ship. That might mean something!

*****
I'm in an ICT workstream and it would appear that this is correct. It was put in layman terms so even an old bugger like me could understand 'Delius has a round hole but we have a square peg, we do not have the means to reshape either without using significant resources' which I took to mean money and time. Lets face it though, we've already got Oasys and Delius.....do we really want another computer system?

*****
If bids were based on an interface to allow CRCs to use own IT systems, and MOJ are not able to deliver this expectation, rather than CRCs handing back contracts, I would argue it's grounds for significant compensation to ensure they are not financially penalised for MOJ incompetence.

*****
Oh God, have just read this blog and my brain hurts.......Under 12 months custody and High ROSH = 4 weeks to do full OASys and ISP? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha tee hee

*****
As an outsider isn't that putting the cart before the horse? Surely a full OASys assessment (the governments fantastic risk assessment tool) should be done 'before' the level of ROSH can be determined? And indeed before the allocation to CRC or NPS can be decided upon? Am I reading today's post correctly? It appears to me that allocation of service, and ROSH is to be determined prior to OASys assessment?

*****
Is it Monday? Must be right then. But don't worry, there'll be another revision out tomorrow where ROSH is determined before the offence has been committed. A new kind of bespoke criminal justice system to suit the needs of CRC profiteers.

*****
I've heard that ROSH will now be determined pre birth and Steria are developing ultrasound technology as we speak....

*****
I'm in the CRC so how come OASys all have to be done within 10 days for low/med but if you are RoSH you get 4 weeks? - it doesn't make sense you would think it would be the other way around. Also don't forget we only have to see people once per fortnight for the first eight weeks and then once every 2 months. Why then the rush for the ISP?

*****
If the EVR end date is 31/3/15, and if the new 'owners' haven't completed "due diligence" to ascertain resources before that date, does the EVR end-date extend? No one in local Napo or our CRC seems able or wiling to answer.

*****
EVR carries on throughout the TR contract and doesn't end on 31/3. The issue will be application not definition.

*****
Interesting... Not the view our CRC masters have.

*****
We were informed immediately after share sale that there was not sufficient money left for any EVR for CRC staff - all went on corporate staff - mainly high end highly paid exec staff. Total disgrace - I know many practitioners would have opted to walk if they could have got the EVR package.

*****
On the increasing prison suicide rates, the Justice Select Committee said, “We considered it improbable that there is no link between estate reconfiguration, benchmarking and changes in operational policy, including the incentives and earned privileges scheme, and the shift in safety across the prison estate.”

But the ministry of justice (quote below) says there is no evidential link, but reducing suicides is a top priority. If it's a top priority to reduce suicides, then you presumably have some idea of what factors need addressing in order to bring about a reduction. As the MoJ dismisses the 'probable' factors identified by the JSC, then they should be identifying the factors which they believe may be causative. What they are doing is denying the obvious evidence and showing a callous disregard for human life. The MoJ is reaching new moral lows.

“The ministry of justice said that reducing prison suicides was top priority but insisted there was no evidence to link staffing levels, type of prison or crowding levels to the number of self-inflicted deaths across the estate.”

*****
HMIP is looking for short term secondments.....2 young offender inspections and one (to be confirmed on foreign nationals).....seems to me they are going to avoid the elephant in the room with its massive TRunk....

*****
Has anyone else heard that Oxfordshire custody cases are being managed by Cornwall up until point of release?

*****
Not just Cornwall but the rest of NPS South West South Central.

*****
Yes Plymouth have some.

*****
Clearly the MoJ and Grayling KNOW it's a mess, they KNOW they are worthy of censure and criticism and they KNOW that the Howard League have the credibility to bring their folly into view. They are frightened because they KNOW they have screwed it up.

*****
G4S is a private company even though they have public sector contracts so are therefore able to invite whoever they want to visit their facilities without NOMS permission. Or did we become some sort of KGB monitored secretly controlled state and I just missed the announcement?

*****
They might have Government contracts, but they are not G4S facilities - they are Government facilities run by G4S. That is why it is Her Majesty's Prison Oakwood.

*****
I think I'll write to Mr Blakeman, to ask why G4S are not permitted to proudly invite Frances Cook to see their achievement! Better do it before 31/3/2015, after which I am not allowed to exercise my freedom of speech, cos I'm a civil servant!

*****
Such a decision is clearly above Blakemans pay grade even though he is director, and I think considerable fall out may occur over this decision. He will I think find himself holding the sticky end of the stick on this one!

*****
Absolutely, this has the whiff of Grayling all over it.

*****
I think Frances should attend the prison visit as planned - with a film crew.

*****
This decision is a gift for both Frances Crook and G4S. G4S can say despite all of the adverse publicity and reputational damage it's incurred, it's still prepared to allow agencies that may be critical of its operational models to view and comment freely on its practices-nothing to hide here Sir!

Frances is in a position to claim "public censorship" of the real chaos in our prison system by denying her access, getting rid of Nick Hardwick because he tells the truth, and Graylings failed attempts to manipulate his replacement. On the other hand, NOMs (Grayling really), has opened up a can of worms for itself, and I think personally, legitimised all the criticisms from the Howard League for the past two years. There can be no other conclusion drawn, things are so dire through out the prison estate that no one but those who will lie about what they see will be allowed access. This is another ill thought out idea from the MoJ, and IMHO seriously stupid!

*****
And the next time G4S have problems and the government are pointing their finger at their failings, the line surely has to be, "We would like to engage more with external agencies that have a long term understanding of the operational needs for safe and productive prison practices. Unfortunately, the government will not allow us to do so". Well done NOMs!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Secret State

What living under the Tories in 2015 actually means:-  

Embedded image permalink

Friday, 20 March 2015

Grayling Caught Out

It's utterly typical isn't it? Having explained the blog was having a snooze, Grayling shows his true colours and gets caught out trying to fix a more favourably-inclined replacement for Nick Hardwick, the prison inspector he sacked. Too good not to highlight. This from Ian Dunt on the Politics.co.uk website on Tuesday:-

Stitch up: Former Tory minister put on board to select new prison inspector

The last prison inspector felt he was pressured out of the job because he was too critical of government. Now it seems plans are afoot to prevent his replacement being of a similar disposition. Details have been released of the selection panel for the new inspector and one name stands out: Lord Oliver Henley, former Tory minister at the Home Office and Defra under the coalition, as well as serving in numerous government roles under Margaret Thatcher and John Major. The idea that Lord Oliver would make an impartial assessor of candidates is not credible.

He is one of two 'independent' panel members, alongside Amanda Sater, a member of the youth justice board. The rest of the panel is filled out by Antonia Romeo, former director of criminal justice at the Ministry of Justice, who oversaw justice secretary Chris Grayling's chaotic privatisation of the probation service, and Dame Anne Pringle, a public appointment assessor nominated by the commissioner for public appointments. 
With one former Tory minister teamed up with a Grayling loyalist, the odds are stacked against anyone with critical faculties securing the position.

This is not a coincidence. Former inspector Nick Hardwick's reports into the decline of the prison estate were one of the only ways to get information about what was going on in the nation's prisons, given the draconian restrictions on journalists or campaigners speaking to inmates. Hardwick was incensed by the 69% rise of suicides in prison – a rise which coincided with the twin disaster of slashed prison budgets and ever-more inmates being crammed into the system.

His last annual report, released in October, described a "significant decline in safety", a steep rise in assaults and the "loss of more experienced staff" due to cuts. The report also went about as far as Hardwick could safely go in blaming Grayling directly. He wrote:

"Increases in self-inflicted deaths, self-harm and violence cannot be attributed to a single cause. They reflect some deep-seated trends and affect prisons in both the public and private sectors. Nevertheless, in my view, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures, particularly in the second half of 2013-14 and particularly in adult male prisons, was a very significant factor for the rapid deterioration in safety and other outcomes we found as the year progressed." [italics added]

In response, Grayling announced publicly that he would not renew Hardwick's contract, which runs out in July, and instead demanded that he re-apply for the job. This was not unexpected. Prison inspectors often have a difficult relationship with the government, although not all ministers are so disreputable in how they deal with them. Dame Anne Owers still had her contract extended and served two five-year terms, despite being very critical of the government. Lord Ramsbotham did not – a fact which probably owed something to his strained relationship with a succession of home secretaries (this is in the days before the creation of the Ministry of Justice). Hardwick opted not to reapply for the job, saying:

"Told MoJ ministers & officials I won't be reapplying for my post. Can't be independent of people you are asking for a job." Grayling insisted the re-advertising process was par for the course, but no-one doubts he wanted Hardwick gone. This selection panel is likely to deliver someone more to his liking.


But now we have this, as reported in the Guardian:-

Appointment of new prisons inspector halted amid criticism of selection panel

The appointment of a new chief inspector of prisons by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, has been halted until after the general election after it emerged that two “independent” members of the four-strong selection panel are Tory party activists. The Ministry of Justice has announced that Nick Hardwick, the current chief inspector whose term was not renewed by Grayling, has now been asked to stay on until November while a fresh hunt for a successor takes place.

Sir Alan Beith, the chairman of the Commons justice select committee, criticised Grayling’s failure to disclose that both independent members of the appointment panel were active Tory party members. They are Lord Henley, a former Conservative Home Office minister, and Amanda Sater, a member of the youth justice board who was named last year as women’s adviser to Grant Shapps, the Tory party chairman.

Beith said the justice secretary had given the MPs “no convincing reason” why he had not put forward for pre-appointment scrutiny the single “excellent” candidate that the panel had recommended. The appointment panel was chaired by Dame Anne Pringle, the commissioner for public appointments, and the fourth member was a senior justice ministry official.

Even though half of the appointment panel were active Conservatives, Grayling appears to have rejected the single preferred candidate they recommended, despite the candidate being rated by them as “excellent”. It is understood that Grayling believed the panel should have given him a choice of at least two or three names, despite a civil service ruling that there is no need for an appointment panel to put forward more than one name.

Instead, the justice secretary has now ordered the selection process to be re-run, putting the decision beyond the general election. Grayling has told the members of the justice select committee, who were poised to hold a confirmation hearing before the election, that “he will not be proposing a preferred candidate to them as there was not a wide enough pool of candidates from which to select”.

The justice select committee had been due to hold a pre-appointment hearing with the preferred candidate later this month, with Hardwick’s fixed term originally due to end in July 2015. The decision means that the new independent chief inspector of prisons will be appointed by the justice secretary in the new government.

A report on the affair rushed out by the Commons justice committee concludes: “The fact that two members of the panel were members of the same party as the appointing minister is a cause for particular concern for a post in which it is vital the incumbent commands public confidence in his or her ability to resist political pressure.”

The shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan, said: “Not content with effectively sacking the chief inspector of prisons for daring to criticise his government’s prisons policy, Chris Grayling has stuffed the appointment panel for the new inspector full of known Tories. It just shows to what lengths this government will go to avoid having their failing policies properly scrutinised. This fails the smell test, and it calls into question how any chief inspector of prisons appointed by this process could ever claim to be independent.”

Hardwick has proved a rigorous critic of Grayling’s prison policies warning of a “political and policy failure” last year and voicing concern that staff shortages were causing “huge tensions” across the prison estate in England and Wales.

The job description for the new appointment said that a “strong understanding of current and recent” government reforms in relation to prisons and probation was an important part of the recruitment process. Paul McDowell, the chief inspector of probation appointed by Grayling, stood down earlier this year after the Guardian disclosed that his wife was running the private justice company that had been awarded the largest number of probation contracts.


Finally this from Ian Dunt last night:-

Failure of scrutiny: How Grayling got his way with new prison inspector

Chris Grayling's behind-the-scenes attempts to appoint a more pliable prisons inspector could trigger a change in the code of practise for ministerial appointments, after a damning report called for urgent action to prevent it happening again.

The Commons justice committee raised the alarm when it discovered that both supposedly independent members of the appointment panel for the new chief inspector - Lord Oliver Henley and Amanda Sater - were actually active members of the Tory party. This information was kept from the justice committee. A third member, Antonia Romeo, was former director of criminal justice at the MoJ and the figure responsible for Grayling's probation privatisation programme. So out of four panel members, three had a reason to pick someone favourable to the justice secretary.

As if that weren't enough, Grayling then vetoed their suggestion and refused to put forward a candidate who was considered "excellent" by the panel.

The weirdness doesn't stop there, however. I'm told the MoJ's announcement into the extension of the current prison inspector's term was announced today specifically to sabotage the Commons committee report, which was originally timetabled for tomorrow. Instead of waiting for it to come out, Grayling pre-empted it in a bid to minimise the damage. After that, the committee was forced to make its report public immediately.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Autopilot

The blog is going to be on autopilot for a few days due to a combination of things including a dearth of something new to say, my mood reflecting that of many probation staff, some family matters to attend to, and finally the guest blog cupboard being completely bare. 

Please, dear readers, carry on doing what you've been doing for ages and ages; posting news, thoughts, observations and should anyone have the urge to write a guest blog, now would be as good a time as any. 

Look after each other and normal service should resume before long.

Cheers,

Jim   

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Information

I thought readers might be interested in some snippets from the latest (12th March) MoJ/Noms Senior Leaders Bulletin:- 

HMCTS provision of Court Orders to NPS

There are currently a variety of practices in place nationally for HMCTS to provide Court orders or Notifications of sentences at Magistrates court to probation, depending upon locally agreed practice.

A National process has now been agreed to enable prompt, electronic notification of the details of sentence to NPS. An electronic copy of the Court order or Notification of the order of the Court will be automatically sent direct from Libra to functional mailboxes set up within NPS. This electronic process will replace all existing local procedures.

• Libra will generate a court order/ notification of order of the court to be sent to 7 NPS Divisional mail boxes.
• These will then automatically forward to the appropriate NPS court functional mail box by using the OU code (code of the sentencing court).
• NPS Court SPOs will have a process in place to monitor the local and Divisional mailboxes on a daily basis
• On receipt of the court order/notification, NPS administration staff will check NDelius to confirm where the case was allocated to. NPS administration staff will then send the court order/notification on to the NPS or CRC office holding the case in line with PI 05/2014 Case allocations.

Functuality is due to be available from 23rd March 2015.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman publishes thematic report on prison suicides in 2013/14

Learning from PPO Investigations: self-inflicted deaths of prisoners – 2013/14

'There is no simple answer to why the number of prisoners committing suicide rose so sharply last year, but the rise was unacceptable', said Nigel Newcomen, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) when he published a thematic study on 10th March on the lessons to be learned from investigations into self-inflicted deaths of prisoners in 2013/14.

The lessons that need to be learned are:

• staff working in prison receptions should actively identify known risk factors for suicide and self-harm and not simply act on a prisoner’s presentation;
• relationship breakdown and violent offences against family members are known risk factors for suicide and being subject to a restraining order can be a sign of increased vulnerability;
• all new arrivals should promptly receive an induction to provide information to help them meet their basic needs in prison;
• mental health referrals need to be made and acted on promptly and there should be continuity of care from the community;
• prisoners are most at risk in the first month of custody; 
• the cumulative impact on potential suicide of restrictions, punishments, IEP levels and access to work needs to be considered; 
• prisoners on open ACCT documents should only be segregated in exceptional circumstances; • suicide prevention procedures should focus on the prisoner as an individual and the processes must be correctly implemented;
• increased risk of suicide and self-harm should be considered when a prisoner is a suspected victim of bullying; and
• effective and confident emergency response saves lives. 
This document is available on the PPO website at www.ppo.gov.uk. Please cascade to all relevant staff.

Offenders Sentenced to Less than 12 Months Custody

Following the implementation of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014, all offenders sentenced to less than 12 months custody will, for the first time, be subject to a period of post-release licence from the point of release. Furthermore, this post-release licence will be supplemented by a further consecutive period of Post-Sentence Supervision that will take the overall period of supervision in the community up to 12 months. As such, all offenders sentenced to less than 12 months custody who are assessed as High RoSH and/or having an RSR score greater than 6.89% must have a full OASys assessment and Initial Sentence Plan within 4 weeks of the date of sentence.

PQF Learner in NPS or CRC (Cohort 3)

Applicants to become a PQF learner in the NPS or CRC as part of Cohort 3 (starting in May 2015) will hear their results this week. The overall standard of applications was high.

The new qualification pathway for probation needs to be ready to be launched in April 2016.

To develop the pathway a board and project group have been established: the Probation Qualification Review Project is now underway and the Board meets regularly. Both have a combination of NOMS, NPS and CRC representation and anyone who would like to join the virtual Reference Group to review drafts and ideas is welcome to contact...

New E-learning - The Basics of Custodial Screening & Resettlement Plans

From the 8th December 2014, the OASys application was changed to incorporate the new Basic Custody Screening (BCS) form that is part of the new Through the Gate (TTG) Delivery Model.

From May 2015, Community Rehabilitation Company staff will begin to complete the BCS part 2 on prisoners for all receptions into custody who will have received a BCS part 1, which will have been completed by prison staff.

It is likely that CRC staff working in prisons completing BCST Part 2 will have had no previous experience of OASys and access will be limited by role based access (RBACS) to the BCST function on OASys.

As it is a contractual requirement of CRCs to complete BCST Part 2, learning has been developed for CRC staff who will not be OASys Assessor or OASys Case Administrator trained, but who will be required to complete the Basic Custody Screening (BCS) Tool Part 2 or administer the BCS Part 2 process.

The course will be available to learners on the Justice Partnership Academy and Justice Academy from April 7th 2015.

Pre-course reading of all of the BCS Guidance documents is required prior to completing the e-learning.

By the end of this course learners will be able to:
  • Gather username and password required to log into the OASys application from both Quantum and OMNI infrastructure 
  • Describe the support process for practice queries, functionality queries and when the application does not work as expected 
  • Navigate around the OASys system correctly 
  • Navigate to the ‘Pending BCS (Part 2) View’ and correctly use the view to administer the BCS process. 
  • State the difference between an OASys assessment and a BCS. 
  • State the timings for BCS Part 1 and BCS Part 2 
  • Complete BCS Part 2 resettlement plan 
  • Complete BCS Part 2 Pre-release activity 
  • Understand how to enter in resettlement activity at any point during the custodial sentence 
  • Print BCS 
  • Describe the context of the BCS as a part of the Through the Gate delivery model
  • Describe the offender management process 
  • Administer the functions that will enable the BCS process.
Completion of this learning will provide good assurance that CRC staff have the requisite skills and knowledge to be granted access to the OASys platform.

NPS Bail Information Officer Training

Following the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation, local training on bail information was no longer available. As a result, there was a need for us to provide national training in this area for NPS Court staff.

From March 27th a newly developed e-learning course – Bail Information Officer Training will be available on the NPS Faculty page on the Justice Academy:

Before undertaking the course, there is a pre course requirement for staff to have undertaken one shadow visit to Court with a Bail Information Officer (BIO) or to have previous experience of working as a BIO.

This new course is mandatory for all new NPS court staff and it will provide learners with the core knowledge and skills to enable identification of appropriate bail cases, completion of bail enquiries and creation of bail reports to a sufficient standard.

By the end of this course learners will be able to:

• Reference legislation relating to bail
• Explain key tasks of your role and how to prioritize
• List potential grounds for refusal of bail
• Understand the issues involved in gathering and verifying bail information
• Complete a bail report to a satisfactory standard
• Make a well-considered proposal to court including bail conditions where required. 

There is a pass/fail test at end of learning package but staff are able to repeat the learning until a pass is achieved.

The new learning is intended to help to reduce remands in custody for defendants suitable for bail, increase referrals to bail accommodation services and improve the quality of information provided to the Court.