NORTH WEST NPS – Rated ‘Good’ but struggling with significant staff shortages

Inspectors found that senior leaders of the North West division of the National Probation Service (NPS) had a clear vision and strategy for high-quality services, but not enough staff to deliver them.

Staff shortages have been seen in a number of NPS inspections by HM Inspectorate of Probation. During the inspection of the North West division in October 2018, there was a 20% shortfall in the number of probation officers, around 140 posts. These probation officers are the frontline staff responsible for managing individuals who pose a high or very high risk of harm to others.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said staff shortages were a long-standing problem, resulting in an “undue reliance” on more costly agency workers. “Recruitment is centrally managed by the NPS. Local leaders are doing what they can to ameliorate the problem, but professional staff workloads are high. Despite these difficulties we found the quality of work was generally good.” The division was rated as ‘Good’, the second highest HMI Probation rating.

However, some aspects of practice needed attention. “Reviews of risk of harm were not always completed when circumstances change, and in some cases appropriate contingency plans needed to be set out,” Dame Glenys said, adding: “Domestic abuse and safeguarding checks were not always undertaken when required to inform court reports and allocation.”

The division’s approach to encouraging victims to take part in the NPS’s victim contact scheme was assessed as outstanding, the highest rating, with personal contact with victims followed up to ensure that victims could make an informed choice on whether to participate in the scheme. The scheme is for victims of a violent or sexual crime where the offender has been jailed for at least 12 months or detained under the Mental Health Act.

The North West division of the NPS covers the Manchester and Merseyside urban areas and stretches into sparsely-populated Cumbria. The provision of specialist services – interventions designed to reduce the risk of reoffending – varied according to geographical location.

Buildings in the division also varied in their quality, with long waits for repairs or maintenance in some areas. Dame Glenys said: “Staff should not have to work in vermin-infested premises, in my view. And oddly, probation staff who work in some courts in this division are not allowed to use the same facilities as other civil servants who work there, despite being an integral part of the service delivered to the court.”

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“The division is delivering a good overall standard of service, despite being under strain, and I hope that our findings and recommendations help the division to improve further. We note that staff shortages and poor facilities have featured in each of our recent NPS inspections, and our recommendations also reflect these wider concerns.”

The report is available at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Approved premises need more effective focus on drug testing and managing the risks of substance abuse, says Ombudsman

 

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Approved Premise (APs), home to people released from prison or on bail or court orders, need more effective drug testing practices and better staff guidance to identify and address the risks associated with substance misuse, and support individuals, according to a report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

Overdoses of opiate and other drugs, including alcohol, by people released from prison remain a significant risk, the PPO ‘Learning Lessons’ bulletin found. People are at a higher risk of overdose if they slip back into drug and alcohol use after periods of abstinence or detoxification.

The bulletin – Approved Premises – substance misusebased on findings from deaths in APs investigated by the PPO also raised significant concerns about New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). These range from stimulants to hallucinogens and are commonly seen in prisons and the community as synthetic cannabinoids, known by names such as Spice and Mamba.

Elizabeth Moody, the acting Ombudsman, said: “The rise of New Psychoactive Substance use in the prison estate is well documented and is widely recognised, in the words of the previous Ombudsman, as a “game-changer”. However, it is clear from our investigations that the implications of NPS for the AP estate have not yet been fully understood or addressed by the National Probation Service (which is responsible for APs).”

The PPO examined 29 of their investigations into AP deaths that were drug-related, or where there was a history of substance misuse. The bulletin expressed concern that testing for NPS in APs “appears to lag behind that in prisons and does not draw on the experience of prisons”. One case study in the bulletin discloses that AP staff were unable to test a man despite their concern he had taken NPS.

The PPO found some good practice in the management and care for those who misuse drugs and alcohol. However, Elizabeth Moody added, “we also see cases with too little focus on the risk of relapse and overdose.”

Some of the PPO investigations identified deficiencies in information sharing and in welfare checks. The bulletin made a number of recommendations relating to:

  • Ensuring a good flow of information between stakeholders, which is critical, particularly for managing substance misuse where there is a clear requirement for effective multi-disciplinary working. PPO investigations found this did not always happen.
  • Checks on the welfare of AP residents – another important way to ensure the risks associated with substance abuse are well managed. PPO investigations found checks were not always carried out effectively.
  • An overarching need for the National Probation Service to improve the AP manual to give staff better guidance on NPS use, information sharing and making welfare checks.

Elizabeth Moody said:

“We know offenders can be at heightened risk of death following their release into the community. I hope this bulletin will help AP staff apply the learning from our investigations to improve the ways they identify, monitor and address the risk factors associated with substance misuse.”

The bulletin is available here – https://www.ppo.gov.uk/?p=10336

Public At Risk Due To Poor Probation Work Says Inspectorate

probation1The public is at greater risk than necessary because of shortcomings at a probation body responsible for supervising thousands of offenders, a report warns.

Inspectors found staff assigned to manage low and medium-risk individuals in Gloucestershire were making “heroic efforts” but faced “plainly unreasonable” caseloads.

The probation watchdog described the quality of public protection work by the community rehabilitation company (CRC) in the county as “poor”.

Although the risk of harm was assessed to an acceptable standard in the majority of cases, it was not followed through often enough or well enough, according to the report.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “The quality of assessment and planning was mixed, but in any event, plans were not being followed through anywhere near well enough and some offenders were not being seen often enough.

“As a result, the public were more at risk than necessary, and offenders who could turn their lives around were being denied the chance to do so.”

In several cases, the CRC had lost contact with an offender for “significant periods”, the report said.

In one example a man who had a conviction for assault was said to have had no contact for two months after his first officer left.

The findings are the latest in a line of critical assessments of a controversial shake-up of the system for the management of offenders in the community in England and Wales.

Known as Transforming Rehabilitation, the partial privatisation launched in 2014 saw the creation of the National Probation Service to deal with high-risk individuals, while remaining work was assigned to 21 CRCs.

Dame Glenys said: “The National Probation Service was performing reasonably well, and the public can be reassured that those people who pose a higher risk are generally being supervised to an acceptable standard in Gloucestershire, although more could be done to reduce the risk that individuals reoffend.

“The picture was much more troubling at the community rehabilitation company, where there have been drastic staff cuts to try and balance the books.

“This CRC’s work is so far below par that its owner and government need to work together urgently to improve matters, so that those under supervision and the general public receive the service they rightly expect, and the staff that remain can do the job they so wish to do.”

The Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset & Wiltshire CRC was supervising a total of 6,701 offenders at the end of last year.

A spokesman for the CRC said the report “highlighted many pieces of good practice as we work hard to combat re-offending”.

The spokesman said: “Overall, we note we are performing relatively well compared to other CRCs and are performing well against targets set by the Ministry of Justice.

“However, we recognise there are areas of our work which we need to improve on if we are to be successful in achieving our ambitious goals.

“We will be working even harder, alongside our colleagues in the National Probation Service, to address the issues identified and deliver the services which the public, courts and our service users require from us.”

The CRC said all of the inspectorate’s recommendations are being or have been addressed since the inspection.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prisons and Probation Service, said the CRC’s performance “does need to improve”.

He said formal action was already being taken prior to the inspection, and an improvement plan put in place to address the inspectorate’s recommendations will be closely monitored.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “The Tories were repeatedly warned that their reckless part-privatisation of probation would prove to be a costly disaster.

“Now we see the latest in a series of reports demonstrating that public safety is being put at risk because ex-offenders aren’t getting the support, supervision and rehabilitation they need.”

Report: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk

North London Probation Services – Unacceptable Service Putting Public At Risk Say Inspectors

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Probation services in the north of London had deteriorated and work by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) responsible for managing low and medium-risk offenders was poor. People were more at risk as a result, and this was unacceptable, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Today she published the report of a recent inspection of probation work in the north of London.

The inspection looked at the quality and impact of probation work carried out by the CRC and National Probation Service (NPS) and assessed the effectiveness of work undertaken locally with people who have offended.

Delivering probation services in London is challenging. Around 17% of all those under probation supervision nationally live in the capital. Probation services in London have long struggled with high workloads. Inspectors last inspected London probation services in 2014, when services did not compare well with others in England and Wales, but the basics of probation were being delivered sufficiently well in most cases.

This more recent inspection found that the quality of the work of the CRC was poor. There was some good practice by individual officers and managers but generally, practice was well below standard and poorer than any other area inspected this year. A combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control meant some offenders were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in the system altogether.

The CRC’s operating model has led to noticeable disparities in individual workloads and other operational difficulties. The simple lack of management attention to whether offenders were attending and being challenged appropriately about the reasons for their offending was the most striking finding of the inspection and not acceptable.

The National Probation Service was delivering services better, but with plenty of room for improvement. The quality of work was mixed, but inspectors were pleased to find that, overall, public protection work was satisfactory. The CRC and the NPS were working reasonably well together although the delivery of court services was not entirely without problems.

Inspectors made recommendations which included the CRC making every effort to reduce caseloads to manageable levels and setting clear priorities for casework, providing all staff with supervision and support and ensuring all departments prioritise the operational delivery to service users.

Dame Glenys Stacey said:

“Delivering probation services in London is never an easy task, but services have deteriorated of late, largely due to the poor performance of the London Community Rehabilitation Company. Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result. We expect the company to make every effort now to deliver the inviolable requirements – the basics of probation – consistently well, and as quickly as possible. We welcome work begun during our inspection to begin to bring about much needed improvements, and will be back in 2017 to check on progress.”

The report is available at justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation from 15 December 2016.

CRC and Through The Gate: “Delivery is poor and little to commend.”

Changes ahead concept in word cloug on white background

The report reflects the findings of HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons. Under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, all prisoners sentenced to 12 months or less are now subject to 12 month’s supervision by probation services on release. This means that an extra 50,000 extra people are now supervised, an increase of around 25%. Reoffending rates are highest for those serving short prison sentences. Many have long records of convictions, complex needs and a history of not engaging with public services.

Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are now responsible for Through the Gate provision, helping prisoners to prepare for release and resettle in the community. This includes helping prisoners to find accommodation, employment or training, treatment for substance misuse and help with managing their finances. Through the Gate services had been in place for almost a year at the time of the inspection.

Inspectors found that overall, services were poor and there was little to commend. Too many prisoners reached their release date without their immediate resettlement needs having been met or even recognised. None of the prisoners in their sample (86 cases) had been helped into employment by Through the Gate services; too many prisoners were released without accommodation and not enough help was given to prisoners to resolve debts.

Some of the new services proposed in the bids for contracts had not been implemented and there was little evidence of the anticipated creativity or innovation in the new services being delivered by the CRCs.

Basic custody screenings, completed at the start of the sentence by prison staff interviewing prisoners, weren’t detailed enough to form the basis of planning for resettlement, and plans completed shortly afterwards by CRC staff did not robustly address the most urgent resettlement needs.

The risk of harm to others from prisoners was not always recognised, which meant victims were not always protected, particularly in cases of domestic abuse. The level of communication between staff in prisons and the community was poor and there was very little continuity between services in prison and the community. There were also concerning rates of reoffending and recall to prison, although the picture was more positive for women in the 24 cases sampled.

Among the reasons for this were that CRCs were not incentivised under their contracting arrangements to give this resettlement priority. Payment was triggered by completing tasks, rather than anything more meaningful. The work is difficult and requires partnership working with others locally, and relies on the effective early screening of prisoners.

Key recommendations made by inspectors include the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service reviewing the contractual requirements so that CRCs have greater incentives to develop resettlement services for prisoners. Inspectors also recommend that the National Offender Management Service promotes closer working between CRCs, prison staff and NPS responsible officers to improve the continuity of resettlement support and aid effective public protection.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said, on behalf of both inspectorates:

“There were great hopes for Through the Gate and there is still the potential for change that government and others wish to see. But turning prisoners’ lives around is difficult, and success in individual cases is not guaranteed, even when everything possible is done, particular for those with mental illness or addictions. There is far more chance of success if those involved are determined and incentivised to do the best possible job and systems are designed to support them.”

Read the report http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with individual adults, children and young people who offend, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.
3. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
4. For further information please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Probation & HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452.

Transforming Rehabilitation – further improvements, but problems remain

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 17.31.25Fifteen months after the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies are now working better together, but some significant problems remain. Advice given to courts is less reliable in some cases, and work to prepare prisoners on release needs a greater focus, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, as she published the fifth and final report on the implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

The report, Transforming Rehabilitation – Early Implementation 5 – relates to findings from inspections undertaken in October 2015 to February 2016. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were transferred from public to private ownership on 1 February 2015. HM Inspectorate of Probation has now begun a new inspection programme and will shortly be publishing a series of reports on the quality and impact of probation work, supplemented by thematic inspections.

During Early Implementation 5 inspections, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • written and oral reports provided to the courts by National Probation Service (NPS) staff to assist in sentencing and to guide those supervising individuals with a community sentence varied in quality and there were some gaps in information;
  • some staff preparing those reports had not received sufficient training and lacked confidence in completing the necessary assessments;
  • over two-thirds of offenders released from prison had not received enough help from the CRC pre-release in relation to accommodation, employment or finances; and
  • in some areas, a shortage of probation officers meant that CRC agency staff were allocated medium risk of harm cases for which they felt insufficiently trained.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most offenders allocated to the NPS saw their responsible officer soon after sentence or release and offenders were generally allocated quickly to a CRC responsible officer;
  • in many NPS cases, work to reduce reoffending and the risk of harm to others was good;
  • NPS work with many high-risk offenders was good and included effective joint working with specialists, good use of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and an active contribution to child protection procedures; and
  • CRC arrangements to return an offender to court if in breach of their sentence or when an individual’s risk is increasing appeared to have improved.

In previous reports inspectors made a number of recommendations to drive improvements. Future inspections will continue to examine the areas covered by these earlier recommendations.

Dame Glenys Stacey said:

“To speed up justice, courts require probation advice quickly, and often without the time for a written report. With a fault line between the NPS and CRCs under the new probation arrangements, reporting has become less reliable, and yet CRCs as well as courts are reliant on good reports to guide their work. We found the NPS working well overall, but this is a real weakness. We know that NPS want to improve performance here, and we urge those involved to focus particularly on the difficult job of getting together quickly the information they need from others to produce effective oral reports.

“CRCs have important new responsibilities preparing prisoners for release and promoting their rehabilitation, and yet this is not being given sufficient priority in some areas at the moment. Instead CRC staff are often heads down and focused on more immediate contract requirements. While we appreciate that constant pressure, we do expect managers to focus on the quality of work done, most particularly for prisoners set for release. Without sufficient preparation, those released are more likely to offend again and so find themselves back inside.”

A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Little or no progress at all in moving young offenders to adult probation services say Inspectors

Young-offendersjLittle progress has been made in improving the preparation and planning for young people to move from youth offending services to adult probation services and this can affect their rehabilitation, said Alan MacDonald, Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation.

Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published the report of an inspection of transition arrangements.

Today’s report, Transition Arrangements: a follow-up inspection, sought to establish how far the recommendations from a 2012 joint report, Transitions: An inspection of the transitions arrangements from youth to adult services in the criminal justice system had been implemented and whether practice had improved. HMI Probation inspectors visited six areas and spoke to staff from Youth Offending Teams, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service, conducting 50 interviews. Despite some examples of effective practice, inspectors noted an overall lack of progress by various local and national bodies in implementing its recommendations.

There are various different orders and sentences which can be imposed on a young person. Some, such as referral orders, reparation orders or detention and training orders, do not get transferred to the adult world when a person reaches the age of 18. Some youth rehabilitation orders can be transferred once specific requirements have been completed, and other orders should be transferred, as well as long-term custodial sentences.

Inspectors found that:

  • in the community, some young people were not identified as eligible for transfer and, in those cases which were identified, transfer was often undertaken as a purely procedural task;
  • young people were not as informed or involved as they should have been;
  • there was insufficient timely sharing of information between youth and adult services to enable sentence plans to be delivered without interruption; and
  • in custody, insufficient forward planning and communication led to an interruption in sentence planning and delivery of interventions after young people had transferred to an over-18 young offender institution or prison.

Inspectors made eight recommendations in the 2012 report. This report recommends to the Youth Justice Board, Youth Offending Team Management Boards, the National Offender Management Service, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies that those original recommendations are followed.

Alan MacDonald said:

“The transfer from the youth to adult world is a challenging time for any individual, including those involved in the criminal justice system. Failure to plan a smooth and effective transfer places a barrier to compliance and rehabilitation in young people’s lives.

“We found some examples of effective practice. However, the majority of cases had not been identified as possible transfer cases. There was no consistency across the areas we inspected. In many cases there was little or no preparation, a failure to use existing information and a lack of planning. Young people entered the adult service unprepared and uninformed of the expectations they faced. We believe that young people are less likely to reoffend if they receive well-planned, uninterrupted supervision moving from Youth Offending Teams to adult probation providers.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website from 19 January at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Back From The Dead Prison Officer Faces Jail

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The back-from-the-dead canoe fraudster, former Holme House prison officer John Darwin (left), from Hartlepool, is facing a return to prison after he left the UK without permission to meet a statuesque Ukrainian in a mini-skirt.

The 63-year-old was pictured in The Sun on a date with a blonde woman in her 20s in the town of Sumy, 1,500 miles from his home.

He was freed early on licence in January 2011 after being sentenced in 2008 to serve six years and three months for fraud.

That meant he was not allowed to leave the UK without Probation Service permission until all of his sentence was served.

A source close to the case said: “He is facing a return to prison for travelling abroad without permission.”

The Probation Service would not speak about individual cases but a spokesman said: “Any offender subject to licence supervision is required to gain permission from probation to travel outside of the UK; permission is only granted in exceptional circumstances.

“Any offender who travels without this permission will be subject to recall to custody.

“In these circumstances the Probation Service works closely with the police to implement the recall.”

It was believed Darwin was still in the Ukraine.

According to The Sun, Darwin and his date, a local woman named Anna, enjoyed a two-hour meal assisted by a translator, but the evening turned sour when he was confronted by a reporter.

The newspaper said Darwin first made contact with the woman over the internet.

He faked his own death in a canoeing accident in 2002 so his then wife Anne (right) could claim hundreds of thousands of pounds from insurance policies and pension schemes.

The couple, from Seaton Carew, were jailed at Teesside Crown Court in 2008 for the swindle, which deceived the police, a coroner, financial institutions and even their sons Mark and Anthony.

Darwin admitted fraud so received a slightly shorter sentence than Anne, who denied the offences. They have now divorced.

After faking his own death, Darwin continued to live in secret with his wife before they escaped to Panama to start a new life.

But in December 2007 Darwin walked into a London police station claiming he had amnesia and was reunited with his stunned sons.

His wife, then still in Panama, initially also claimed to be surprised – until a photograph emerged of them posing together.

Probation Trusts Working Well To Support Victims Says Chief Inspector

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The work Probation Trusts did to keep victims of crime informed and prepared for an offender’s release was generally of a high standard, said Liz Calderbank, Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing the report of an inspection of the Victim Contact Scheme. However, she added that some improvements could be made to the way in which offender managers and victim liaison officers worked together.

As well as a responsibility for supervising offenders, carried out by offender managers, staff in Probation Trusts have a statutory responsibility to contact and provide information to the victims of violent or sexual crime where the perpetrator has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more. This is difficult and demanding work, carried out by specialist victim liaison officers, which requires good judgement, tact and sensitivity. The report, Victim Contact: an inspection of the victim contact arrangements in Probation Trusts, reflects the findings of an inspection undertaken in response to a request from the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses who had received complaints about the work of Probation Trusts.

During the course of the inspection, inspectors interviewed 28 victims of crime and assessed 72 victim contact cases in detail. They also spoke with the victim liaison officers and offender managers involved in the particular cases.

Inspectors found that the vast majority of victims valued their contact with the victim liaison officers and felt supported by them at critical points in the offender’s sentence. Inspectors also saw good examples of joint working between victim liaison officers and offender managers. However, not all offender managers were fully aware of the impact of the offence on the victim which made them less likely to supervise the offender in a way which took account of the victim’s concerns.

Inspectors found that:

  • victims said they were provided with key dates relating to the offender’s sentence and felt their safety had been treated as a priority;
  • in nearly all cases, requested licence conditions were incorporated into the licence upon the offender’s release;
  • information sharing for the management of the risk of harm was more likely to take place when victim liaison officers and offender managers worked in close proximity to each other;
  • victims said they were unhappy about the fact that victim personal statements were now normally disclosed to the offender at the time of parole hearings and, as a consequence, were less likely to submit one;
  • victim liaison officers were concerned about hospital orders and the reluctance of some hospital staff to share information about the offender; and
  • in many cases, the offender manager had given insufficient consideration to the impact of the offence on the victim and how best to manage the risk of harm the offender may have posed, or continue to pose, towards them.

 Liz Calderbank said:

“While we found some aspects of victim contact work could be improved, we thought that overall, the quality of direct work with victims was of a good standard, a view that was endorsed by the victims we interviewed. We did, however, identify some issues that required improvement, the majority related to the work of offender managers, and have made recommendations accordingly.

“We welcome the decision that the new public sector probation service will retain the victim liaison role for all cases to which it applies because of the critical need, highlighted in this report, for victim liaison staff to work in partnership with those responsible for the assessment and management of high risk offenders.”

Inspectors made a number of recommendations for improvement to the National Offender Management Service, probation trusts, youth offending team managers and the Youth Justice Board.

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of this report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-probation/inspection-reports-thematic from 7 November.
  2. Inspectors visited six Probation Trusts to assess the quality of victim contact work by interviewing victims and assessing the work of offender managers and victim liaison staff. The six Probation Trusts were: Devon & Cornwall, Hertfordshire, London, Northamptonshire, Staffordshire & West Midlands and Wales.
  3. Inspectors interviewed 28 victims and assessed 72 victim contact cases, as well as interviewing key managers and staff from local and national organisations involved in victim contact work.
  4. Victim liaison officers are responsible for delivering services to victims in accordance with the Trust’s statutory responsibilities. Offender managers are case managers who have lead responsibility for managing an offender through the period of time they are serving their sentence, whether in custody or the community. The offender manager has responsibility for i) assessing the offender’s likelihood of reoffending and the risk of harm they may present to other people, ii) planning the work that will be undertaken to change their behaviour, iii) delivering this work through individual supervision or group work or arranging for help from specialist workers, for example those dealing with substance misuse, or accommodation problems and iv) taking appropriate action to enforce the community order or licence.
  5. HMI Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with adults, children and young people who have offended, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public. Further information about the work of HMI Probation is at http://www.justice.gov.uk/about/hmi-probation/.
  6. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.

4000 Probation Staff Continue Strike Action

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Thousands of probation staff will continue a 24-hour strike today over Government plans to privatise the service.

Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) walked out of offices across England and Wales yesterday at midday in only the fourth strike in the union’s 101-year history.

The union previously registered a trade dispute over Justice Secretary Chris Grayling’s proposals to transfer most of the service to private firms such as G4S and Serco.

The Ministry of Justice said around 4,000 workers – or 22% of probation staff – went on strike.

The action comes amid worsening industrial relations across the country as firefighters, post office staff and university workers have all been on strike.

Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “We regret any impact on our client base. Our action is designed to highlight the dangers of Chris Grayling’s plans for the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda.

“We believe as well as being a threat to our members’ terms and conditions, there is a danger to the community with using unproven providers.”

A package of £450 million-worth of contracts has been offered to private and voluntary sector organisations, covering the supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders each year on a payment-by-results basis.

Napo previously claimed negotiations with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) over its Transforming Rehabilitation reforms had been ”seriously compromised” as a result of the department’s ”interference”

in the consultation on the proposals.

Three probation trust chairs wrote to the Justice Secretary last week to voice their concerns about his plans and the possible risk of harm to the public if they go ahead.

Contracts are to be split across 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the National Probation Service (NPS), a new public sector organisation, will be formed to deal with the rehabilitation of 31,000 high-risk offenders each year.

More than 700 organisations from across the world have expressed interest in the contracts, the MoJ said, including hundreds of British firms.

A Government-wide review is being conducted of all contracts held by Serco and G4S, two of the country’s biggest private providers of public services.

The audit, triggered by allegations that both firms had overcharged the Government for criminal-tagging contracts, prompted calls for the MoJ to abandon its plans to privatise the Probation and Prison Services.

But it emerged that Mr Grayling intended to allow Serco and G4S to bid for the Probation Service – though the firms will not be awarded anything until the Government’s audit is completed.

Earlier this week, the Serious Fraud Office confirmed it had launched a criminal investigation into the allegations.

Napo has called for the proposals to be tested and claims recent reports from America, where some states have already outsourced their probation service, suggest there are concerns about how it operates.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “It is disappointing Napo has chosen to strike when we are making positive progress in meaningful discussions with them and other relevant trade unions as we transfer to the new arrangements.

“This is a strike in favour of the status quo, which is high reoffending rates and no support for 50,000 short-sentenced offenders each year who are currently released without any supervision and go on to commit so much crime in our communities.

“We have well-established contingency plans to deal with any potential action. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our important reforms move forwards.”