#NQ3 Ian Lawrence writes: Probation System Review puts providers under scrutiny

The National Offender Management Service has announced the launch of a review into the state of probation systems. Whilst it is claimed that the main aim is to examine contract delivery 12 months after the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, it follows the publication of recent independent reports from the National Audit Office and the new HM Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey. These indicate that despite some improvements being noted by the NAO and HMIP, TR is still not considered to be delivering against the objectives.

Napo has moved quickly to ensure that we take every opportunity to submit evidence to NOMS, and Napo Branch Chairs have been asked to do all they can to work with Napo’s Officials to gather information from our members about their direct experiences in the NPS and the 21 CRCs. This will allow Napo to highlight the fundamental flaws that still exist in the post- Transforming Rehabilitation landscape and allow us to continue to bring real time evidence to politicians and senior NOMS management.

TR objectives

We have been advised that the Probation System Review will assess what adjustments, if any, can be made to the CRC contracts and wider probation system to support the achievement of the original TR objectives, which the government claimed at the time of their implementation would:

  • Open up the market to a diverse range of rehabilitation providers including Mutuals;
  • Incentivise providers to innovate through payment by results linked to a reduction of reoffending;
  • Extend rehabilitation in the community to an estimated extra 45,000 short sentence clients; and
  • Reorganise the support from custody into the community bythe provision of a “through the gate” (TTG) service.

Since then, TR has been the subject of continuous debate amongst parliamentarians, stakeholders within the criminal justice system and of course Napo members, who continue to feel the impact at the sharp end in both the National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies.

Areas of the review

It is expected that the review will report to the secretary of state and NOMS chief executive Michael Spurr, by the end of July, and there are seven aspects of the probation system that are being scrutinised. These are:

  • Allocation of cases;
  • Payment mechanisms ;
  • TTG;
  • Performance mechanism;
  • Financial and commercial health; and
  • Contract management.

Finally, it will also take into account other wider initiatives within the MoJ, such as prison and courts reform, and the NPS E3 project and how they impact on the CRC contracts and delivery thereof.

It seems that there is some nervousness within NOMS and the Ministry of Justice about the performance of CRC contractors as well as the higher than expected caseloads within the NPS, and that the strands of the review have been designed to obtain a comprehensive picture about what is actually going on across the service.

This is especially relevant in terms of the impact that reductions in the Weighted Annual Volumes (WAV) have had on service provision and the ability of CRC contractors to make their expected profits. This has led some CRC owners to plan for huge numbers of staff reductions and the introduction of some radical local operational practices which Napo are currently challenging across a number of the CRCs.

An opportunity to maintain pressure

I have sought to emphasise the importance of this review by writing personally to Branch Chairs to ask them to help us to compile detailed information via a questionnaire that focuses on the key operational difficulties that our members within both arms of the service have been regularly bringing to our attention.

Contributions should ideally come through Napo branches, but I would be pleased to hear in confidence from individual members about their experiences (ilawrence@napo.org.uk). In all cases any information – which will be anonymised – should come via non-gsi emails.

Only time will tell if this latest review is to have a positive outcome for our hard pressed members, many of whom are still struggling to come to terms with the impact of TR on their profession and the threats to their jobs as a result of this hugely unpopular privatisation. Many of you tell me that it’s time that the owners of the CRCs were brought to account, and we can only hope that this review will start to help achieve that objective.

Ian Lawrence
General Secretart


One comment

  1. Hi Ian, in my CRC, BeNCH, Fenland Office, when the split came we were left with no Office location at all. It was left to the staff and a new manager to try to find somewhere to set up shop. Here we are, several months down the line and we still have no permanent office. We operate out of a local drug agency building but this is by no means satisfactory. I have been interviewing my clients in the back of cars and in local coffee shops. One client expressed real dismay at having no place private to discuss some quite intimate subjects. My case load is running at about 70 and I am an IOM officer. We have seen our staff cut by about 30% over the situation pre-split. I have not had a pay rise since 2008 /9. I leave it to you to ask whether this is a satisfactory situation for a professional team of people trying to deal with complex people with complex lives.

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