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

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.

Good relationship with key worker pivotal in turning young people away from crime

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 00.21.39One positive and sustained relationship with a youth worker can make all the difference in helping young people leave crime behind, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Today she published a report on the effectiveness of practice in Youth Offending Teams (YOTS), looking at the main themes which desistance research has identified as being important in supporting children and young people’s routes away from offending.

The report, Desistance and young people, relates to findings from interviews undertaken with young people who had not reoffended for 12 months after the end of their community or custodial sentence and with those who had, to see what they thought worked or did not work for them. Interviews were also undertaken with parents/carers and key workers and case records were checked. In recent years, YOT workloads have reduced, as has their funding and often their continuity of staff. Those changes as well as the relative lack of youth research may have affected how far YOTs have applied themselves to youth desistance. Inspectors found some case managers had an excellent grounding and understanding of desistance theory, but most staff were unclear about how key approaches could be applied.

Inspectors were concerned to find that in some cases, case managers were ambivalent about reparation work and felt that children were sometimes slotted into existing projects that case managers thought unlikely to prove effective. Some case managers reported spending too much time getting young people into unpaid work, with enforcement action if they didn’t complete it. Many of those young people persisting in crime had found unpaid work ineffective in promoting desistance despite the effort and cost involved in making it happen. On the other hand, those young people who desisted from crime had much more positive experiences of unpaid work.

Inspectors were pleased to find that YOT workers generally worked hard at building relationships. Those young people who were successful in turning away from crime laid great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker.

The Youth Justice Board and youth offending services have continued the national implementation of the AssetPlus assessment and planning framework which will help YOTs to personalise desistance support for young people and all youth offending service staff are due to complete training which includes desistance theory.

Dame Glenys Stacey said:

“The Ministry of Justice is considering whether the way youth justice works at the moment is fit for purpose, and is looking at how to prevent youth crime and how to rehabilitate young people who have committed crimes. The review’s interim report in February 2016 highlighted the importance of improving educational outcomes for children and young people who have offended and we agree – YOTs need to give this greater emphasis.

“But there are other factors YOTs would do well to focus on – which include stimulating a child’s motivation to change, addressing substance misuse and helping them to become part of a community. This inspection has highlighted some critical lessons to be learned if desistance theory is to become fully embedded in youth offending service.

“Most notably – and I think this does take the research forwards a little – those successful in desisting from crime laid great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker or other professional, seeing it as the biggest factor in their achievement.”

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

HM Inspectorate of Probation reports on early implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation – transitional issues remain‏

probationAdult probation services under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme had seen some improvements but more needed to be done, said Paul Wilson, Chief Inspector of Probation. Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published a fourth report on the early implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

The report, Transforming Rehabilitation – Early Implementation 4: an Independent Inspection of the Arrangements for Offender Supervision by HM Inspectorate of Probation, relates to findings from inspections undertaken in July and August 2015. Inspectors focused on work undertaken at the point of sentence and allocation by the National Probation Service (NPS), work undertaken by the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the NPS to manage offenders, and the interfaces between the two organisations. This included work with those released on licence.

The NPS and CRCs came into existence on 1 June 2014 as part of the Ministry of Justice Transforming Rehabilitation programme. This was the first step in a series of changes designed to open up the probation market to new providers, reduce reoffending rates and allow the NPS to focus on managing high risk of harm offenders, those eligible under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements and foreign national offenders subject to deportation. All court work is delivered by the NPS. CRCs are not involved in preparing reports for court. They manage cases presenting low and medium risk of serious harm and deliver interventions on low, medium and some high risk cases. CRCs were transferred from public to private ownership on 1 February 2015.

Given the scale of the changes involved, it is not surprising that many of the recommendations from earlier reports still apply. Nevertheless, inspectors were pleased to find that some progress had been made in the following areas:

  • the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) had issued national guidance which removed the requirement to complete fully the Case Allocation System process for those cases where the allocation to the NPS is mandatory;
  • the NPS was putting a robust and timely risk management plan in place for all high risk of serious harm cases;
  • the NPS was ensuring that there was a sufficient full initial assessment of the risks medium- and high-risk offenders posed, particularly to children;
  • the NPS was undertaking home visits where appropriate, to manage medium- and high-risk offenders; and
  • CRCs were providing appointments with an offender manager as part of group or duty inductions.

Many of the challenges identified in earlier inspections remain and some of the recommendations made in previous reports are still relevant. In particular:

  • NOMS should explore the possibility of allowing joint access to the nDelius record for a short period after transfer so that incoming information can be handled efficiently;
  • the NPS and CRCs must ensure that relevant information held by either party is shared efficiently at the court hearing stage;
  • the NPS should establish a quality assurance system to improve the accuracy of the completion of the Risk of Serious Recidivism tool;
  • if it is not possible at the time of allocation to gather all the necessary relevant information from partner agencies, NPS staff should clearly indicate on the Case Allocation System what steps have been taken to gather that information and what is required to complete the full analysis;
  • CRCs should improve the quality of full risk of harm assessments;
  • CRCs should ensure they have effective management oversight structures in place for cases where there are concerns over the level of risk of harm; and
  • CRC managers must ensure that offenders engage with their assigned officer at the earliest opportunity.

In order to drive improvements, inspectors made further recommendations, including: the NPS and CRCs should ensure that in all relevant cases sufficient progress is made to reduce those factors making the offender more likely to reoffend; the NPS should improve the availability of information provided by other agencies to ensure as much of the Case Allocation System can be completed prior to allocation of the case; and CRCs should ensure that in all cases where required there is a sufficient review of the risk of harm assessment and management plan.

Paul Wilson said:

“Our primary focus continues to be on the systems and processes which underpin the quality of service and impact on rehabilitation. This is intentional. No-one should underestimate the importance of systems which are the foundation of the operating models of the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and govern the flows of work between them.

“We have not yet reported on the implementation of Through the Gate resettlement services to short-term prisoners, a key element of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. With sufficient cases now in the system, progress will be reported early in 2016. Early scoping work suggests that implementation of some schemes in prisons and in the community has been slow and it is not yet clear how the delivery models planned by all CRCs will meet complex resettlement needs. The present rather disjointed provision is a long way from the seamless Through the Gate service so essential to the challenge of reducing high reoffending rates for this group.

“To date I have published reports which draw attention to serious transitional issues. I am clear the transitional period should end early in 2016 and that the NPS and CRCs should then be fully held to account for their work. To this end the inspection regime will change markedly in April 2016. Our new Quality & Impact inspections will focus on the effectiveness of the new probation organisations in reducing offending, protecting the public and ensuring individuals abide by the sentence of the court.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation from 15 January 2016.
  2. 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.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation.
  3. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.

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.

Probation Officers Vote To Strike

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Probation officers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action over Government plans to privatise the service.

Revealing the results of a ballot at its AGM in Llandudno, the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) said 84.4% of members supported strike action on a 46% turnout. A date for the strike is yet to be fixed.

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.

Ian Lawrence, Napo’s general secretary, said: “We now have a mandate for industrial action that we shall be pursuing with vigour but as always Napo will be seeking to avoid this if possible by way of further negotiations with ministers.”

If a strike goes ahead, it will be only the third time in its 101-year history that Napo will have taken such action.

Mr Lawrence said: “Napo does not take strike action lightly, but we strongly believe that decimating the award-winning public sector Probation Service and selling it off to the likes of G4S and Serco will result in increased re-offending rates, a lack of continuity in risk management, and will see the privateers making huge profits at the expense of victims, offenders and taxpayers.

“We want to raise public awareness of what these proposals will mean to the communities and put a halt to Grayling’s plans until there has been a full review of his plans and a proper parliamentary debate.”

Napo previously claimed negotiations with the Ministry of Justice over its Transforming Rehabilitation reforms had been ”seriously compromised” as a result of the department’s ”interference” in the consultation on the proposals.

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.

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 revelations that both firms had overcharged the Government for criminal-tagging contracts, prompted calls for the Ministry of Justice to abandon its plans to privatise the probation and prison service.

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.

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 have voted to strike – we have well-established contingency arrangements to deal with any potential action.

“More than 600,000 offences were committed last year by those who had broken the law before, despite spending £4 billion a year on prisons and probation.

“The public deserves better and we are committed to introducing our important reforms, which were widely consulted on.

“We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our reforms move forwards.”

Prisoners Replace Probation Officers Claims Labour

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The Coalition is sacking probation officers and paying former prisoners to take their place, Labour claimed today.

Shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter questioned the costs and merits of the Government’s new prisoner rehabilitation plans.

Outlining the proposals in the Commons, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the new policy would mean lower reoffending rates by ensuring prisoners were properly managed when they left jail by “for the first time creating continuity between custody and community”.

But Mr Slaughter said: “It’s not probation officers who will now undertake 70% of supervision – you place a great deal of faith in reformed old lags helping out but you admitted on the Today programme these will have to be paid.

“So, professional probation officers sacked and replaced by ex-offenders. Is this your brave new world?”

Mr Slaughter said it was “disappointing” it had taken the coalition “three wasted years” to reach the conclusion on the need to cut reoffending.

He said Labour in government made some progress on cutting reoffending and said Mr Grayling’s plans were “ambitious”.

“Unfortunately, it’s a programme based on fewer resources, untried and untested methods, and putting faith in exactly those private sector organisations that have failed to deliver other major public sector contracts,” he said.

Mr Slaughter asked if there would be more money available or if existing resources would be spread more thinly, and he questioned the cost of reorganising the prison system to create the Government’s proposed “resettlement prisons”.

The shadow minister said: “You know the prison estate is chronically overcrowded and understaffed, so do you seriously think a reorganisation can take place against such a backdrop?”

Mr Slaughter questioned whether ex-offenders would get priority for social housing during “the worst housing shortage for a generation”.

He added: “Reducing reoffending while maintaining public safety should be our twin priorities.

“A focus on reoffending is to be welcomed but the Government’s ill thought-out policies and total reliance on payment by results are putting the safety of communities up and down the country at risk.”

The changes will mean every offender leaving prison must serve a minimum of 12 months under supervision in the community.

Mr Grayling said all offenders who enter prison, even for just a few days, will be subject to new supervision and will be given support through housing, employment, training and substance abuse programmes.

The reforms, to be rolled out across England and Wales by 2015, will see around 65,000 offenders serving sentences of up to two years receive extended rehabilitation.

Responding to Mr Slaughter in the Commons, Mr Grayling said: “I don’t understand why you are coming up with this faux anger about what we are doing when the legislative foundations that enable us to push through these reforms were passed by the last Labour government.

“If they supported this concept then, why do they not support it now?”

He defended the plans to use former prisoners after it was demonstrated as effective in test schemes.

Mr Grayling said: “You need to go and look, not in the world of big business but in the voluntary sector, where some of our first-rate charities have got living examples today of former offenders who have gone straight and are now helping turn the lives around of a next generation of offenders.

“I want to capture those skills in helping bring down reoffending.”

The Justice Secretary said the coalition did not believe all problems would be solved by “throwing money” at them.

“Are we actually saying it is not possible to run the system more efficiently and deliver support where it is needed to the offenders most likely to reoffend when they leave prison?” he said.

“Again, the divide between us and them. They think it is just a question of spending more taxpayers’ money, higher taxes. We want to get better value for the taxes we already raise.”

Mr Grayling said the resettlement prisons would make the prison estate work better and stop the need for prisoners to be moved across the country.

He said the plans had been worked up in conjunction with governors and other experts.

He told MPs: “Short sentence offenders will almost always stay in one place and longer sentence offenders will come to a prison close to where they are going to be released so when they are released we can provide continuity of support through the prison gate.

“It’s the right thing to do, it should have been done years ago.”

Mark Leech, editor of  Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said it was little more than a charade.

“I passionately believe that successful ex-offenders have a role to play in helping others reform, but its a charade to think they can replace skilled and qualified probation officers.

“When the reoffending figures rise or refuse to fall what is the next big idea to be – handcuffing offenders to police officers perhaps?

“This Justice Secretary says he wants to get drugs off the streets – well it might be an idea if he first managed to keep them out of jails.”

Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said breaking the cycle of crime means breaking the dependency on drugs.

The Labour MP said: “Can I ask him (Mr Grayling) to be very careful about choosing providers on drugs rehabilitation, like G4S, who may have expertise in tagging, and they are obviously very good at that; however, they don’t have the expertise as far as rehabilitation on drugs is concerned.”

Mr Grayling replied that the Government has to be “absolutely certain” that the organisations it recruits have got the necessary expertise.

“I have no intention whatever of contracting with organisations that cannot demonstrate that they have got real and genuine expertise in delivering the solutions we need, I give him that reassurance.”

Barrister Sir Edward Garnier (Harborough, Oadby and Wigston) also urged the minister to ensure that small groups, such as charities and individuals, had a chance alongside bigger contractors to “carry people from prison out into the community” so there is no gap between incarceration and going out into society.

He added that he wants reassurances that people in prison will leave jail being able to read, with the average inmate currently having the reading age of an 11-year-old.

Sir Edward said: “You cannot get a job if you cannot read.”

Mr Grayling said one of the elements of the new contracts will be to put together resettlement services in prisons and support out of prisons to create a “genuinely joined-up service”.

He added that there were examples of older, more experienced offenders who have gone through the prison system helping younger inmates.

Mr Grayling said he wants to see prisoners who can read teaching those who cannot.

Conservative Philip Davies (Shipley) questioned what weight is being put on longer prisonsentences as figures suggest these reduce rates of re-offending.

He said: “The figures from his department are perfectly clear that the longer people spend in prison the less likely they are to re-offend, largely because it gives them the time to do things like teach people to read whilst they are in prison before they are released.”

Mr Grayling said the length of time people had been spending in prison was increasing and he agreed they needed to take the opportunity to turn around the lives of people in jail.

But he added: “Those who are today saying short sentences don’t work, they shouldn’t happen, they always miss the point that 80% of people that arrive in our prisons have already been through a community sentence and it hasn’t worked.”

Concerns were raised in the Commons by Labour MPs about the opportunities for public sector organisations to bid for payment by results contracts.

Earlier in the questions, shadow minister for public health Diane Abbott, said: “How can it be a good thing to exclude some of the people with the most expertise and professional training in these matters?”

Mr Grayling said it was not correct to suggest the public sector would miss out and probation staff are being actively encouraged and supported to form their own mutual organisations to bid for contracts.