Sonia Crozier’s career in probation started almost 30 years ago in London and she has steadily risen through the ranks to earn the title director of probation.
Inheriting the top spot during such turbulent times would be daunting for some, but Ms Crozier told Napo members she felt “honoured, humbled and excited” to be given the
opportunity to help shape the future of probation.
“Napo and the other justice unions had a good working relationship with my predecessor Colin Allars, and I am looking forward to continuing that constructive relationship and
working with you to take forward our shared commitment to the reform, rehabilitation of offenders and public protection,” she said to conference just two weeks into her post.
Saying that a “vast amount of work” went into establishing the NPS and CRCs, she told members: “This was definitely one of the most far reaching reforms of the public sector that I can remember.”
“It’s an absolute tribute to the professionalism of probation staff in particular, and everyone else involved, that such a plan was delivered in such a challenging time table,” Ms Crozier continued.
Admitting there were still problems as confirmed by the Public Accounts Committee, the director said: “My commitment is to work with you, to work across the whole system systematically and methodically to put solutions in place.”
One of the issues identified by Ms Crozier is the fact the NPS had inherited a range of practices from the previous trusts. Shaping it into a “truly national organisation with a single operating model” is apparently the aim of E3.
“The OM model is another area where work is in progress,” Ms Crozier told conference. Quoting NOMS chief operating officer, Phil Copple, she said: “Using the special skills of qualified probation officers working in our prisons will give the right kind of focus of what we need to do to develop a rehabilitative culture and improve rehabilitation outcomes.”
Based on that thinking Ms Crozier said: “We in the NPS have been making strong representations that the new head of offender manager posts in public sector prisons should go to senior probation officers.” HM Berwyn opening in 2017 will be one of the pioneers of the new OM model.
Ms Crozier told members she was “acutely aware” of the IT frustrations many had and said she was pleased that the Strategic Partner Gateway that allows data sharing between the NPS, CRCs and MoJ was currently being tested by CRCs. E3 will also have tailored IT systems to allow for improved service delivery in areas such as approved premises and courts.
Alluding to a review of CRC operating models and contracts, Ms Crozier said: “We have been conducting a planned review of the performance measures of both the CRCs and NPS and we are considering what outcomes we want to see to support the rehabilitation of individuals and promote the quality of intervention and supervision.
“As we are all aware, the volume of new starts has reduced across the system and a greater proportion of individuals coming through our courts convicted of sexual violent offences
affecting the balance of workloads between the NPS and CRC. The impact of this change is now something that is actively part of this review.”
As highlighted by the Public Accounts Committee, the quality of resettlement services that should be delivered is variable across England and Wales.
“There are problems with prisoners being released from non-resettlement prisons and not receiving Through the Gate services from the CRC,” Ms Crozier said, adding that work is being done to streamline processes making it easier for NPS to purchase resettlement services for the offenders the manage in those prisons.
With so much work to do to ensure the probation service is able to deliver a high level of service in the post TR landscape, Ms Crozier said: “I hope what I have said today has given you a flavour of where and how I see probation developing. I’m glad to have had such an early opportunity to share my thoughts with you.”