Newsletter 2 October 2013

Dear PCA member

We have here a round-up of the latest on the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme.  Also a report back from the party conferences.

As in the previous newsletter I want to draw particular attention to the arrangements for next year’s PCA Conference, on 23- 24 January 2014 in Manchester. So make sure it is in your dairy and we expect to be opening registration at the end of October.

And again a reminder that the PCA Executive would like to invite applications from PCA members for three vacancies on the Executive Board: A Director vacancy, to be filled by Associate Members at PCA,  at Trust ACO/Director level, and two co-opted vacancies to be filled by members at any level, CEO,  or ACO/Director. No remuneration is payable to Directors or co-opted members, however expenses reasonably incurred on PCA business, will be reimbursed.  If you wish to be considered please send me (savas.hadjipavlou@localhost) a short statement in support of your application verifying also that the application  has the support of the Trust Chief Executive or Chair as appropriate.  Applications should reach me by 11 October please.  If you would like to discuss the roles please get in touch.

We value your feedback.  Send your comments to feedback@localhost

Savas Hadjipavlou

PCA Chief Executive


1. MoJ launch competition for probation services

2. Debating the future of probation: PCA party conference round up

3. MoJ publish draft documents on staff transfer for consultation

4. Prison Reform Trust publish new mental health and learning disability resource

5. PCA Annual Conference 2014 – we’d like to hear from you

6. Read our report on the ‘Passing the Torch’ leadership event

MoJ launch competition for probation services

On 19 September, the Government gave formal notice over a forthcoming competition on the sale of 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies and linked contracts to provide probation services for those offenders assessed as a ‘low-medium’ risk of causing harm to the public.

The Government have also issued directions to Probation Trusts to begin a formal 28 day period of consultation on a staff transfer process outlining the suggested principles and terms of splitting resources and cases to establish Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the new National Probation Service(NPS).  The Target Operating Model for the new services has now been published, which outlines the current proposals for the remit of both the CRCs and the NPS.

This marks a step change in the Government pushing forward with plans to implement the Transforming Rehabilitation programme announced in May 2013. The PCA have voiced significant concerns with these plans particularly over risks to public protection from splitting the management of offenders over public and contracted sectors, and the high risks of losing professional expertise and successful local partnership initiatives during and after the transition.

Despite the PCA’s very considerable misgivings – which are shared by very many other organisations – the Secretary of State for Justice has been unwavering in his intention to go ahead with these changes. The PCA believes that the priority now is to ensure that the transition to the new organisations, the National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies, should be done in as safe a way as possible.  This should be about securing an effective and well managed transfer of the probation caseload on 1 April 2014, the date planned for these new arrangements to come into effect following the abolition of the current probation trusts.

We have consistently argued that the time frame for these changes is impractical and unrealistic.  We do not think that the transfer should be dictated by the time scale, but by an objective assessment of the conditions needed for a safe transfer, prioritising the safety and protection of the public.

The transition to these new organisations will be very complex, entailing splits in staff, resources and caseloads, and the development of new protocols for working across the public and contracted sectors (with support from ICT systems). This all would need to be in place, fully tested and staff trained, before Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service should be allowed to   ‘go live’.

As the Government looks to begin implementation of its plans, the PCA believe it imperative for the Programme meaningfully to engage and draw on the expertise of the leadership and professionals of Probation Trusts, in particular to develop objective ways of assuring that changes can be carried out safely.

In all this it is extremely important to maintain the support of all staff.  We welcome the assurances for continuing dialogue and consultation. That needs to be meaningful, with the changes and plans fully articulated and other information needed, so that staff can make informed comments and choices about their future.

The Ministry of Justice has also published Transforming Rehabilitation: a summary of evidence on reoffending” providing an overview of key evidence relating to reducing reoffending. The PCA welcomes that this report clearly acknowledges that “the skills of practitioners in supervising offenders and delivering interventions are known to contribute to reducing reoffending and also to improving other outcomes” (section 3).

All this underlines the case for establishing an independent Probation Institute, to promote professional skills and standards in a more plural probation service delivery market. The PCA (with the Probation Association, the Ministry of Justice and other key stakeholders) is working to bring about the creation of such an Institute.

Debating the future of probation: PCA party conference round up

PCA have attended several events on criminal justice at the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat party conferences.  These have provided valuable opportunities for MPs and TR stakeholders to debate the future of the criminal justice system, with a wide range of views and arguments from the suitability of PbR in the justice system to the significance of local partnerships and role of IoM.

LibDem conference featured several debates and events on privatisation of public services, the importance of local partnerships in reducing reoffending and debate over PbR.  The probation service was not extensively discussed in its own right, eclipsed by the arguments over the merits of Legal Aid, but Ministers’ wider arguments on the subject were compelling and reflected many of the PCA’s own concerns about the scale and pace of the MoJ’s proposed reforms.  In particular, Ian Swales (member of the Public Accounts Committee, and Sir Alan Beith, Chair of the Justice Select Committee, expressed serious reservations about the implementation of the MoJ’s TR Strategy, questioning its by-passing of Parliamentary procedure and the ambitious timelines it has drawn up for implementation.

LibDem Ministers for Crime Prevention (Jeremy Browne) and  Health (Norman Lamb) both spoke eloquently about the value and importance of tailored local partnerships in reducing re-offending and increasing public protection.  Both affirmed a desire to work closely with police, PCCs, local health centres and rehabilitative centres as well as probation professionals to maintain and further develop a holistic approach to community sentencing.  While Ministers were broadly supportive of PbR and the MoJ strategy, this renewed focus on local initiatives indicates opportunities for PCA engagement with the Department of Health and the Home Office as we move through the transition.

The Labour Conference focused more specifically on probation, with Sadiq Khan in vocal opposition of Mr Grayling’s ‘half-baked’ plans to privatise the service.  Speaking at a Criminal Justice Alliance event, the Shadow Justice Secretary outlined Labour’s concerns over the Transforming Rehabilitation programme including: doubts over the capacity of the new operating model to manage safely fluctuations in case risk over the course of a probation supervision period, difficulties in sharing sensitive data between the police and private companies, and alarm over the scaling up of privatisation across the whole criminal justice system with its implications for public accountability. Whilst Labour welcomes the focus on rehabilitation, intentions to improve resettlement from prison, and extension of probation supervision to those serving less than 12 months custodial sentences, they fundamentally disagree on the Transforming Rehabilitation approach.

Labour alternatively favours plans drawn up by the former Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, to devolve more commissioning power to Probation Trusts, which would enhance inclusivity of innovative voluntary sector providers and further enable effective local partnerships.

David Hanson, former Minister for Crime and Policing, spoke critically of TR at a roundtable event hosted by IPPR.  Along with Keith Vaz and Paul Goggins questioned the boundaries of what should be in the public sector and thought that the current plans for probation went too far. David Hanson contended that  a Labour administration would insist on tangible, clarified outcomes and a clear business case from providers before awarding contracts.

Speakers at the Conservative party conference approached the topic of probation from a provider perspective, with a particular focus on the benefits of more voluntary sector involvement under TR plans. Nick Hurd MP, Under-Secretary of State for Charities, pledged continued government support for local partnerships, contending that the Cabinet Office and the MoJ have been in close communication throughout the programme’s development to date to ensure that private sector organisations collaborate meaningfully with VCSE organisations in the future to minimise involvement from the ‘man in Whitehall’ and produce local tailored solutions to crime.  This was echoed by Jeremy Wright, Minister for Prisons, who reiterated that private providers will have to show detailed plans for collaborative partnerships with VCSE organisations and not just use them as ‘bid candy’ in the ongoing competition for contracts.  Encouragingly, the MoJ has demonstrated some flex on the ‘Payment by Results’ mechanism for CRCs, as the Minister stated that CRCs will be rewarded for reducing the frequency of re-offences committed by an offender, as well as rewards for achieving a ‘binary’ measure of success.

Anne Marie Miller MP stated that local partnership organisations’ ‘engagement with business is both critical and necessary’ for delivering services both effectively and efficiently; using local expertise to improve results and private funding to reduce costs to the taxpayer.  However, Juliet Lyon from Prison Reform Trust expressed concern that the business language of commodities and markets was reductive and ultimately unhelpful in understanding the complex and multiple needs of offenders.  PCA were pleased to hear the Probation Institute raised as a potential solution to this, to maintain quality standards across both the CRCs and NPS.  However, Criminal Justice Alliance and Prison Reform Trust both expressed serious reservations over the pace and scale of the reforms, as well as the potential loss of skills and expertise over the course of the changes underway.

The PCA continues to voice these concerns to the MoJ and seek the best possible outcome for probation staff as we move through the transition period.

Prison Reform Trust publish new mental health and learning disability resource

The Prison Reform Trust, together with Rethink Mental Illness, have now launched a new mental health and learning disability resource:

This tool, available both online and in hard-copy, aims to support vulnerable individuals in the criminal justice system by helping members of the judiciary to recognise when further information about an individual defendant might be necessary, how to get that information, and how to use it to inform their decision making.  Mental health conditions are not always recognised by police, magistrates, or indeed by the offenders themselves, and this resource aims to address this by identifying behaviours that could be indicative of a mental health condition.  The informative report provides information about a spectrum of mental health conditions that are commonly seen in individuals within the criminal justice system and provides guidelines for sentencing vulnerable offenders as well as recommendations for further support.

Hard copies of this resource are now available.  For more information, contact Jenny Talbot OBE, Director of the Care not Custody Programme at the Prison Reform Trust:

PCA Annual Conference – we’d like to hear from you

Following our announcement in the previous newsletter about the PCA Annual Conference 2014, we would like to hear your ideas for workshops for the event.  Please send your suggestions and ideas to Catherine Sinclair-Jones at pcaadmin@localhost and we will aim to incorporate as many of your ideas as possible.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Read our report on the ‘Passing the Torch’ leadership event

On 26th September, the PCA and PA held a joint event on leading through the transition, which was coordinated by Barrie Crook and facilitated by Jane Allen.  The workshop featured a presentation by Sue Winfield and Vicki Taylor, who have recently been through the experience of dismantling the high performing South of Tyne and Wear Primary Care Trust (PCT).

The session provided Trust Chiefs and Chairs with a valuable opportunity to hear the experiences of a senior leadership team who have been through a similar experience, assessing which elements proved most challenging and which key leadership strengths enabled Sue and Vicki to safely ‘pass on the torch’ to new providers.

Please read our report on the workshop here.

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