Another bad week for Grayling

Aside from the obvious question of how many more of these can there be? It’s pretty rare for a Government Minister to have such a torrid time of it over the course of five days unless there are any of you old enough to remember the scandalous revelations of the ‘Profumo’ affair. If not, it revolved around the usual political ingredients of sex, power and money, a bit like most of those that have involved many other politicians since, only that one had the added drama of a bit of alleged KGB spying thrown in. Anyway, I am not convinced that Chris would be able to (even if so inclined) to match the giddy exploits that brought about Profumo’s demise.

No, it is more likely that it will be his propensity to be consistently economical with the truth and bore everyone half to death at the same time that will do for him; and if so he will have been helped on his way by the direct contributions that you are feeding in to the inbox, which is providing fuel for some testing Parliamentary Questions, such as the one which asked him whether staff names had been ‘pulled out of the hat’ as part of the dreadful assignment process which was used to determine the staff split.

This issue alone has attracted significant interest from the media who, on the back of our placed articles in the Times and Independent (twice) over the last three weeks are warming to the TR scandal once again. For the record, this is due to the hard work being put in by Tania Basset and her contact with the Labour Front Bench Team.

See the following articles (one of which is highly amusing) that will make for unhappy reading for the beleaguered Secretary of State.

Unions call again to halt the share sale

I have this week written to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and all MP’s alerting them to the fact that the three Probation Unions have again demanded that the share sale be halted as the operational state of the service is such that it is simply unsafe to proceed.

Here is the correspondence to MP’s.

4th July 2014



I am writing to you to seek your urgent assistance. The subject matter is the break-up of the 106 year old Probation Service in England and Wales, and the creation of a National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) which are owned by the Secretary of State. The intention is to allow private and voluntary sector bidders to purchase contracts within the 21 CRC’s for the management of low and medium risk offenders, while the NPS will retain responsibility for managing high risk offenders.

While Napo shares the aims of the Secretary of State to reduce reoffending and assist the under-12 Month Custodial Community (which the Probation Service currently does not have responsibility for), my union has been running a major campaign to alert the public and politicians of the inherent dangers in Chris Graylings plans. Our members within the current Probation service have delivered the highest reduction in reoffending rates since 2007 with 33 out of the former 35 Probation Trusts having performed at a gold standard quality benchmark.

There were around 500 negative responses to the Government’s original consultation on TR, and despite numerous Freedom of Information requests the Minister still refuses to publish the Programme Risk Register. This highlights the many areas of major concern identified by MoJ Officials and, the Ministry of Justice still refuses to reveal the results of the testing processes (‘Testgates’ 1, 2 and 3) that they claim have given their TR agenda operational credibility.

Communities under threat

Napo is a Professional Association as well as a Trade Union and our campaign has sought to highlight a number of areas such as:

  • Public Protection and the risk of serious harm which we believe will follow as a consequence of the Privatisation of 70% of the service.
  • The wholly unrealistic timetable that resulted in the closure of 35 Probation Trusts from the 1st June, and the ensuing shambles that has followed the arbitrary division of the workforce using an un-agreed and in some cases ‘random selection’ assignment process.
  • The highly flawed Target Operating Model which has resulted in the chaos we are now witnessing and which was also imposed without negotiation.
  • A Payment by Results (PbR) model that will allow providers to be paid a fee for service even if reoffending rates increase.
  • The increased bureaucracy and administrative chaos that will follow with the introduction of 50,000 new (under-12 month custodial cohort) clients per annum with at least 21 new service providers who have no track record in Offender management, operating separate case management and computer systems.  
  • The appalling track record of some of the potential bidders’ performance in the public sector, such as Sodexo and their management of Northumbria prison.
  • Capita: despite them being fined £54K for their failure to supply Court interpreters on a language services deal.
  • Geo Group and Amey who are understood to be constructing joint bids for CRC contracts but who have incurred £645,000 fines for their performance failures on three prison escort and custody contracts.
  • The complete destruction of morale across the workforce in advance of privatisation from next Autumn


Napo prepared to negotiate


While we remain open to discussions with Ministers, Napo has been doing what a responsible trade union should do, and that is engage in detailed negotiations with Ministers and their Civil Servants over many months to try and understand how these plans will make a positive difference to reoffending, while also seeking protections for our members.


We believe that Parliamentarians from all parties should look carefully at what has happened to probation staff, clients and effective offender management programmes following the award of the London Community Payback contract to Serco which is now falling apart at massive cost to the taxpayer and which will be brought back into the London CRC.  


Stop TR so that Parliament can decide, and support EDM 111


We are asking Parliamentarians to bring Ministers to account for what is being increasingly seen by Academics, Trade Unions and other stakeholders as a reckless social experiment, and one which neither party within the coalition included in its last election manifesto.


I attach a letter from the three Probation Trade Unions which requests senior Civil Servants to advise Ministers that the proposed share sale of the 21 CRC’s should be halted, at least until a ‘steady state’ of operations has been achieved and the results of the next testing process has been analysed and opened up to Parliament for further scrutiny.  


If possible I would also welcome your support for Early Day Motion 111 sponsored by Elfyn Llwyd MP. I can also advise you that the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group will be organising a Parliamentary Lobby on the 3rd September to which you are warmly invited to attend. This will be an opportunity for Parliamentarians to hear at first hand from staff working on the front line about their experiences since the split on the 1st June.  


Napo wants to see full Parliamentary and public scrutiny of the TR agenda which will destroy the one service that can make a difference to reoffending, and which has a proven track record of working in partnership and commissioning with other providers in the field of offender management. I am asking you to do all that you can to help to save the Probation service, protect your constituents, and keep the management of offenders in the hands of professionals. Please also refer to our weekly Parliamentary E-Bulletins which alert you to the key issues that concern us.

Thank you for your time and please contact Napo using the details below if you should require further briefing material.

Yours sincerely,


General Secretary


The Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court Staff

Here is the letter to Michael Spurr:



JTU 10-14

4th July 2014

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive

National Offender Management Service

Dear Michael,

TR – Operational state of the NPS and CRC’s

Given the developments being reported to us, the three Probation unions believe that we must once again formally express our serious concerns at the current operational state that exists following the imposed split of staff into the NPS and CRC structures from 1st June.

The sheer volume of empirical evidence from our members who are desperately trying to cope with what we can sadly only describe as abject chaos across the two arms of the service, leads us to the conclusion that notwithstanding our ongoing opposition to the TR agenda, it is simply unsafe for the Secretary of State to proceed with the CRC share sale process. Our view is based on the operational risk, the risk to the safety of the public and staff, and in addition, the failure by ministers to demonstrate that the sale of CRC contracts represents best value for money to the taxpayer.

The following is a summary of our key concerns but this is by no means exhaustive in terms of the magnitude of the problems:

  • The continuing risk of harm to staff and members of the public which is directly attributable to excessive workloads, a flawed Risk of Recidivism Tool, and unrealistic case allocation. We continuously predicted this outcome prior   to the unagreed staff assignment process being implemented.
  • The emotional breakdown and high sickness rates being suffered by many staff who have been left in total chaos by the inept and unnecessary rush to split the probation service into two separate strands.
  • Withdrawal of SDR facilities to Magistrates Courts and reductions in Court Reports due to increased case handling times and staff shortages
  • Non allocation of cases and unavailable records due to ongoing ICT difficulties (NDelius)
  • Estates relocations causing difficult journeys for clients which will probably result in appointments not being kept
  • Insufficient consideration to the impact of the Target Operating Model in relation to the interface between Probation and Prisons.  
  • The confusion over the scope of the Lockheed Martin ICT contract (subcontractors ATOS) and its impact on ICT staff in NPS and the CRCs. As yet NOMS has failed to consult the trade unions over the implications of this outsourcing of former Probation Trust work

Unions seek a halt to TR

The above summary of the myriad problems that are plaguing the TR programme leads us to make a combined plea that senior NOMS officials and the Permanent Secretary must now advise the Secretary of State that the share sale process should be halted. This would provide an opportunity for the NPS and CRCs to work towards establishing a ‘steady state’ of operations prior to a later decision to award preferred bidder status to contractors, once the ‘Testgate’ 4 process has been  analysed and it’s results made available for public and Parliamentary scrutiny.

It will not surprise you to hear that we believe that by halting the share sale process, an opportunity will also be created for the construction of a pilot scheme across one or two CRC CPA’s, so that a transparent and publically accountable evaluation can be conducted before further irreparable damage occurs to the Probation service and before more public money is spent on shoring up a bidding process that has simply lost all political credibility.

As always, the unions are more than happy to meet with you and the MoJ ministers directly to discuss our request.

Yours sincerely,

Ian Lawrence              Ben Priestley                           David Walton            

General Secretary              National Officer                   National Secretary

Napo                                      UNISON                                GMB/SCOOP


CC:       Dave Prentis, General Secretary UNISON

            Paul Kenny, General Secretary GMB

            Sharon Holder, National Officer GMB

            Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC

Rt. Hon Sadiq Khan, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

Edward Cooper, Slater and Gordon

And here is another very supportive article towards the cause

More porkies this time from Jeremy

Not to be outdone in the ‘Most outrageous answers I can give Parliament’ competition came an offering from the Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister who in response to a question about the rationale for TR said that the successes of the HMP Peterborough reoffending experiment had played a ‘large part of their thinking’ in the TR programme.

Strange that, especially since Jeremy had one hell of a problem last autumn identifying precisely what the success rate was as Radio 5 lives’ Victoria Derbyshire (please put her in charge of Newsnight?) savaged him big time.

Anyway, let me get this right: the Coalition has spent at least £150 million on this shambolic TR train crash, £9 million at least on consultants and is aiming to award untold £billions to private contractors based on an experiment that did not produce any figures of substance (if you believe them) whatsoever until last Autumn, several months after TR had been launched.

If it was not such a serious issue his answer would almost be funny.

10TH July Strike

Napo Members will be aware that there is a Major Public Sector Strike next Thursday 10th July. As explained in this week’s Branch Circular Napo are not asking our members in Probation and FCS to strike but you may want to support colleagues in the other Unions involved. . 

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General Secretary's Blog