Publications on the internet
UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
Any public use of, or reference to, the contents should make clear that neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.
Members who receive this for the purpose of correcting questions addressed by them to witnesses are asked to send corrections to the Committee Assistant.
Prospective witnesses may receive this in preparation for any written or oral evidence they may in due course give to the Committee.
Taken before the Justice Committee
on Tuesday 17 May 2011
Sir Alan Beith (Chair)
Mrs Helen Grant
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Jonathan Ledger, General Secretary, Napo, and Matthew Lay, Chair Probation Committee, UNISON, gave evidence.
Q364 Chair: Mr Ledger is from Napo, with which many of us are quite familiar. It is the trade union and professional association for family court and probation staff. Mr Lay is from UNISON, as are many members working in this field. We are very glad to have your help this morning. Can I just start by asking you about the streamlining of national standards? Is it a good thing and do practitioners have the skills and knowledge to operate outwith such standards if they are either moved or made much less specific?
Jonathan Ledger: Good morning, and thank you. Going back over the history of the national standards and having represented Napo when they were first proposed in the mid- 1990s and when some of our concern was expressed, we would have to say broadly that we certainly welcome the streamlining of the national standards that has recently been implemented. It does have our support, not least because it improves and increases the discretion of probation staff, which is one of the criticisms we had of the original standards and indeed the way they were revised in subsequent years.
Our feeling is that returning greater discretion to probation staff will be good for a variety of reasons, which you may wish to explore. I certainly am confident that our members in our unions and working in the Probation Service have the skills. They have begun to work in what might be described as a slightly different culture over the last 10 years or so where an enforcement priority has characterised the approach very often, with perhaps a move away from what we had previously worked to. But, certainly, I would be very confident that the skilled and trained staff in the Probation Service would be able to work in a more streamlined environment and are quite capable.
Q365 Claire Perry: In many ways I feel very sorry for the service because I feel you have been put under many conflicting burdens over the years and this is a welcome step in trying to say professional judgment really matters. But I suppose I am worried about the implementation of it. Does it just become another processheavy exercise that does not actually deliver what I think we want, which is more professional judgment? Stepping back a little, do you think the offender management framework, if you like, which underpins both the older system and perhaps this system, has been effective? Has that allowed staff to manage young offenders effectively or does more need to be done?
Jonathan Ledger: Theoretically, we would be supportive of the offender management approach because we are fully supportive of the idea of end-to-end joined-up thinking and process of the way we work with offenders, whether it is in prisons or in the community. In practice, we have struggled to see it work properly, it has to be said. Not least, a lot of that has to do with the very different ways in which the Prison and Probation Services work, and quite legitimately so because of the nature of the work they have to do in relation to the sentencing outcomes.
In principle, yes, we would support that and think that our members would, although our focus has tended to be on the concept of supervision as opposed to management. Sometimes there has been confusion about that-that, in some way, the management concept removes the individual worker from the facetoface relationship they have with the offender with whom they are dealing. Supervision and the quality of that supervision is key. That is not saying Offender Management does not assist that, but sometimes conceptually we think it shifts the focus into an overview rather than in engagement, which is the key issue.
Matthew Lay: One of the things about the OM process is that staff are familiar with it. Therefore, any move away or change will impact on staff in terms of how they view that. In terms of streamlining of the national standards and the move towards greater freedoms and flexibilities for practitioners, that is also going to be taking place in an environment where there are reduced resources and therefore potentially additional pressures on those individuals. That, potentially, could create some vulnerability.
Q366 Claire Perry: Thank you for that. If you look at the model, though, and I do not know how it works on the ground, we have this slightly confusing definition of the four worker roles, all essentially circling around the same target, who is the person for whom responsibility has been given to the Probation Service. Is that efficient? Is it confusing? Does it work well in practice? Does it mean that people are reluctant to exercise their professional judgment because it might be somebody else’s role? How does that actually work in practice?
Matthew Lay: I do not think that is the case. There are blurrings in terms of people’s roles and boundaries, but they are well established in terms of the way practitioners go about their work. Yes, it is not faultless, but I think people are aware of their role and aware of their part in that machine in terms of delivering that offender supervision. I do not think they are necessarily a hindrance in any way at all.
Jonathan Ledger: I think the Probation Service has a great history of partnership and cooperation. It is a very inherent part of the way the service works. I let Matt go first here, because I am some years out of practice, but I was a probation officer for 16 years. The instinct is always to work both internally within the service but also with other agencies in a cooperative manner. That has not gone away, I believe, and I think we have adjusted okay.
Q367 Claire Perry: Just following on from that, clearly the drive is towards more localism, whether it is through commissioning or provision of services. Do you feel that the current system can support that more local assessment and local provision or commissioning of services?
Jonathan Ledger: We get close here to the heart of some of the issues and problems that we have highlighted as trade unions for some time. We get confused by the messages that we are getting on behalf of our members. On the one hand, there has been a focus on the concept of localism, and that has been around for some time, as you say. In general terms, we would support that. Again, the Probation Service developed out of that local work, whether it was in the courts and the communities. That was the focus. However, the creation of the National Offender Management Service has confused-muddied the waters, you might say-the situation that we have faced. Certainly, at times, it has to be said, for the workers and the staff on the ground, and for us sometimes as unions representing them, we are unclear where the responsibility lies effectively. Is it at a national level with the National Offender Management Service and with the Ministry of Justice, or is it with local trusts who are trying to apply the localism agenda, perhaps? At times it seems rather selective, according to what national policy seems to be. That has confused the whole agenda, I think, substantially.
Chair: We are going to explore that more fully the further we get on in this session.
Q368 Claire Perry: I have two more quick questions. One is OASys, which is clearly potentially a very useful source of data. Does that currently deliver what it could in terms of helping trusts to make individual decisions about offenders?
Matthew Lay: There is a lot of support for OASys from practitioners, and we have had dialogue in the past about whether that could be made more user-friendly and some of the processes could be adapted to make it more streamlined. But I think there is generally support, particularly amongst our members, for the concept of OASys and what it delivers in terms of effective risk management and analysis of that risk.
Q369 Claire Perry: There is a lot of potential with that data to go further.
Jonathan Ledger: I think this has already probably been said to you, but using it is quite cumbersome for staff. That is certainly the message we get. I would have to be frank with you. Within my union, there is quite a divided opinion about the value of OASys. Sometimes it is a generational view, it has to be said, where the debate takes place; those who have grown up with it more probably like it more. It has value in terms of what it sets out to do in terms of risk management and assessment, which is fine. But the process by which it is used, the time it takes and certainly where it is encountered electronically has been cumbersome. Again, that links into those familiar statistics you have about the amount of facetoface time staff have with offenders.
Q370 Claire Perry: It always seemed slightly that the missing link in the OASys data pool was the lack of correlation of that with reoffending data. The ultimate next step is to make it very transparent as to what interventions and case management plans work in terms of reducing reoffending. We have heard from several witnesses that it has been a latent attempt, if you like, to add proper reoffending data into the mix, and that would be one way, presumably, to get your union members to feel this was quite valuable, if you could really see the results of a particular intervention.
Jonathan Ledger: Yes, I think we would support that, if that link could be made. It is not entirely easy. Again, assessing progress and rehabilitation is always a complex matter and we would always argue is not simply about recidivism rates. It is about far more than that. In principle, making the tool more applicable to all the evidence is sensible probably for all concerned, but certainly streamlining it and making it more user-friendly would be a key component of that.
Matthew Lay: There was some work undertaken and we were in a sense promised a more refined version of it. That has not yet materialised. Whether that is a project that has now bitten the dust I am not quite sure. It is one of those projects that has not really come about.
Q371 Claire Perry: We had a very interesting session with clients of the Probation Service, current and previous, many of whom were repeat visitors. We were very struck by the testimony of a woman my age, in her mid-40s, who said, "I don’t want my probation officer to be some young kid who takes me out for coffee and has a chat. I want somebody to say, ‘Get your head in gear. Get your act together. Stop mucking about. Sort yourself out’." Many of us were really struck by that. It may have been a oneoff example. Do you think that is an accurate reflection of the way that the relationships have been going? You obviously have lots and lots of experience in the profession. Is there a role for a slightly tougher management system, if you like?
Jonathan Ledger: I would be rather sceptical about that as being a general characteristic of the way the Probation Service staff now work. In fact, if anything, since the infamous Paul Boateng speech about us becoming a law enforcement agency, the shift has been more to a punitive approach, one could argue, rather than a more compassionate one. It depends how you wish to characterise it. The idea of being soft is a misrepresentation of the general way staff indeed have to work these days in the context of enforcement and accountability.
However, as you know, there has also been an increasing return to the concept of those onetoone relationships and the key abilities and skills you need in order to develop relationships with the people with whom you work and for whom you have responsibility. If you do not now know how to engage with people, how to get alongside them, you are very unlikely to start to be able to challenge them and make demands of them in terms of the behaviour they are presenting and actually effect change. You need those skills where you have the empathy and you know how to communicate with people.
Beyond that, though, it builds in a permission, once you have built that relationship, to challenge people about the sort of behaviour they are presenting, the things they have done and the problems they have that might be contributing to that. I would recharacterise it. Yes, we need people who are compassionate, who understand and have those instincts to form relationships, but that is combined with the ability then to confront people and challenge them. That is what being tough is about. "Tough" is sometimes misrepresented somehow as being distant and hard. But we do not need that; we need people who can get alongside others and then challenge and have some impact on people’s attitudes and behaviour.
Matthew Lay: It is very easy to characterise the work that probation staff do with offenders as being soft, in a sense, and there is a bit of a myth out there. But if you came into any probation office on any given day of the week, where offenders are coming in and out, you would see the relationship that there is between the staff and the offenders. It is very professional and the staff are diligent. There are times where staff need to spend additional time with offenders. I just don’t buy into the fact that staff are going out having cups of coffee because there just is not the time available. But there may be the opportunity and it may be right for one person to go out and have a coffee at that particular given moment in time because that is the right thing to do. Generally speaking, if you go into any probation office, you will see it is a hub of activity and very businesslike. Offenders are treated with courtesy, yes, but there is clearly an importance for enforcement, for ensuring that offenders are compliant and making sure that they understand what they are doing and why they are on probation, etcetera. I am uncomfortable in a sense because it is such a common myth that is always out there. Our staff and our members are always having to battle against that and I do not think we will ever necessarily achieve that.
Jonathan Ledger: Can you forgive me for just being anecdotal on one point from practice? I can remember one time in 16 years taking a young offender out for a cup of coffee, essentially. He was a 17-year-old who had not eaten or drunk anything for several days, who was extremely vulnerable and ended up being murdered on the streets of London not long afterwards-in the midst of committing an offence, it has to be said. But that is the only occasion I can remember doing it and there was a very particular context. As Matt says, it is a false characterisation.
Q372 Chair: The point was not about coffee; it was about challenge.
Jonathan Ledger: Indeed.
Q373 Chair: It is fair to say that we have also had offenders in front of us, two of whom had committed offences in order to get back inside away from programmes which they found too challenging.
Jonathan Ledger: Precisely.
Chair: They preferred the comfort of jail to the continuance of the programme.
Q374 Karl Turner: The Ministry of Justice needs to make savings of 23% by 2014-15. I wonder what the impact on efficiency savings and cuts to the front-line service has been as a result, and whether there are any further areas where efficiency savings could be made.
Matthew Lay: One thing that you also need to add, and it is very important in the context of the modern Probation Service, is that we have those efficiency savings to reach, which are broadly around the 10% mark for most trusts over the CSR period. You have to add on to that the fact that Probation Service trusts up and down the country are involved in lots of relationships with local government and with the police, and they are also cutting back. In the Humberside area, in the Hull area, the Integrated Offender Management Project has had significant reductions in the amount of resource that is going into it. Prisons are returning seconded staff. Because prison staff are civil servants, they need to make redundancies and make their own savings. They are returning probation staff, adding to the burden that the probation staff are being taken out of prisons, which is a bad thing.
If you add to that a whole series of other things that are going on in terms of the partnership organisations that we work with in local government and the police, the impact is magnified. It would be easy to say that 10% efficiency savings are manageable, which is what NOMS and the Ministry of Justice say. We would argue that they are not, but, generally speaking, if you compare all the other cuts that are being made, it is not the worst. But if you add to that all of our staff, our members, who are engaging in lots of other projects, and these projects are being axed, it is creating a bit of a headwind which is going to lead to significant problems further down the line.
Jonathan Ledger: It is difficult for us to answer your question about making efficiencies. You will understand, from a trade union perspective, that our major concern is about the jobs of our members, as you will appreciate. Having said that, we have also been working very cooperatively with the MoJ, NOMS, the employers and trusts to try and calculate and work out how changes and cuts are being implemented with the least harm to the staff and on the service delivery that then follows. The risks of it are that the sort of cuts that are being made are generally probably targeted on what would be deemed as lower risk areas of work. We know from the experience of representing probation staff that risk is a very flexible and mobile issue. Somebody can be low risk one week and perhaps change in terms of how you might assess them within the next week or so, according to various problems or issues that may arise. In that respect, the danger is that, in looking at what might be seen as more easily reduced areas of work, we are having a longer term impact on risk for the communities we serve.
Q375 Karl Turner: What is your current estimate of the volume of the decline in the front-line probation work force then?
Jonathan Ledger: I saw the figures last week, which are the most recent figures produced from within the MoJ, which interestingly suggested there had been a very small rise in the number of probation officers. That is probably because all of those from the outstanding old training arrangements-I say "all of them", but many of them-had been employed. Where we have seen a significant front-line loss is obviously probation services officers, which both our unions represent. That reflects to some degree the point I was making about lower risk and lower priority, and therefore maybe that area of work being seen as one where cuts could be more readily made. There is certainly a measurable drop in that area of staff.
Q376 Karl Turner: Would you say that the workload is going up for individual probation officers and probation services officers?
Jonathan Ledger: In general terms, workloads over a number of years have gone up significantly. That was during a period where there was significant growth in the staffing of the service as well. But of course it is now going up because there are less staff to do the work, so de facto there has to be an increase in the workload. In general terms that has not changed significantly. The other workload implication of all of this is that we have seen a lot of very experienced probation staff lost in recent times through voluntary redundancy or early retirement packages. There is something of a generational loss going on for the newer staff who are coming through, who, before that, would have been able to turn to a lot of experienced staff to act as mentors and provide support in a very positive way.
Q377 Karl Turner: What is an acceptable caseload for a probation officer or a probation services officer? I have some experience of Humberside. In my experience, they are extremely committed and extremely busy, but remain very professional. I see them with many, many files, dealing with many, many clients. What is acceptable? I do not think they have an awful lot of time to do anything, never mind have coffee, to be perfectly honest.
Jonathan Ledger: From our point of view, this has been a 10-year question in trying to define an acceptable workload. The problem is that there are so many variables you have to take into account, which include the level of risk and presenting problems of any individual, which means a certain type of case has to be weighted more heavily than another. But the fact is that the sort of description you have of Humberside is true across a range of probation trusts for our members. They are making workload measurement decisions all the time. They are calculating on a one-by-one basis what they have to prioritise because the structure is not there within the Service to control that. Generally, workloads go up and up without any great control, except by individual regulation.
Matthew Lay: It is true to say that some trusts manage it better than others in terms of their internal processes, and where there have been disputes locally over workload it is generally because those trusts have not been flexible or worked with staff effectively to manage that. I just wanted to come back in terms of staffing numbers, because it is worth bearing in mind that, for probation, we have been on a downward path for about three years now, and resources have been largely frozen or reduced over that period of time. In a sense, the CSR has come on top of a couple of years where there were already reduced resources. In terms of staffing numbers, that pattern has been following that. As Jonathan said, a lot of experienced staff through voluntary redundancy schemes have been able to leave and there has been no real recruitment going on for the last two or three years. That will have impact further down the line, no doubt.
Q378 Karl Turner: Given what you have said, it is probably a leading question, but what is the impact on facetoface engagement with clients? Is there any impact?
Matthew Lay: It comes back to the questions about how we interface with offenders and particularly about streamlining national standards, for instance. It is all well and good having that flexibility for practitioners, but, if they have less time because they have more offenders, some of it becomes a bit of a pointless exercise. Therefore, we have to balance that and we have to observe that, if staff are going to engage more effectively with offenders in terms of facetoface engagement, they have to have the time to do that.
Q379 Karl Turner: That leads me to ask you about risk management and whether the existing system for risk management is fit for purpose.
Jonathan Ledger: We touched on this earlier with the discussion about OASys. We said it does provide the basis of something that does that job. But, again, it has a bureaucratic impact which affects the amount of time, and then this goes back to your earlier question about the amount of face-to-face time people can spend with those they are supervising. Every day, individually, people and the individual team level local managers are making decisions about where to prioritise time and focus. A lot of people have been very concerned that a sort of "tick box" approach to people coming in for supervision is not acceptable, but workload pressures sometimes created that situation. We do not support that. We think that is an indictment of some of the pressures on the service.
Matthew Lay: In terms of managing risk of harm, I think the Probation Service does a very good job overall and I think OASys plays a part in that. One of the interesting things about the debate on sentencing is that the focus is on those offenders who do not have probation supervision or generally have limited probation supervision and reoffend many times. Perhaps OASys is most effective in dealing with high risk of harm offenders and if they were to commit another offence it would be of a serious nature.
Q380 Karl Turner: Finally, how could the cuts in trust budgets have an impact on sentencing outcomes and can you give any examples?
Jonathan Ledger: This is a very grave worry because, quite clearly, if the Probation Service is not able to provide the range of alternatives, there must be a risk that sentencers will have to fall back on short prison sentences where they might be looking for community alternatives. Certainly, from what we have been picking up, there are cuts taking place to some of the partnership approaches that we have had, and this will impact on things like drugs and alcohol dependency work, work in domestic violence and programmes generally that we provide looking at offending behaviour.
We have also seen long delays in the takeup of those programmes. When courts are sentencing, obviously there is a significant delay sometimes and that undermines court confidence to some degree in the impact of what they have sentenced. We would support the fact that you need to pick something up. Once sentence has been passed, you should be picking up and intervening quickly. If you take the approach Napo have been talking about in terms of an intensive programme approach, then you need to do that quickly, soon after the sentence is passed, otherwise its relevance begins to get lost. That affects the motivation of the individual offender but it also undermines the confidence of the court. We really are very concerned that we may see a rise in prison sentences if the Probation Service is not funded to deliver the alternatives it does very well.
Q381 Karl Turner: What you are saying highlights my own experience. Sir Alan made the point, I think. In my experience, I have had clients who have asked me not to try and persuade the court to give them a drug treatment and testing order, as an example, because a short prison sentence is actually much easier for them. My concern, though, is whether a probation officer, first, is going to be around to assess the client prior to the sentence, and whether the resources are going to be available to offer that as an alternative to custody. What is your view about that?
Matthew Lay: We are seeing cuts to-
Q382 Karl Turner: Do you have examples? I am sorry to interject. I am trying to get an example from you.
Matthew Lay: There are examples all over the country, because of the money for work with offenders who have drug misuse. That comes through a different channel. We know that money has been cut back. That impacts on the ability for practitioners to do that sort of work. Working with drug users in particular is quite intensive. If it is to be effective, it needs to be intensive, and there is a resource element to it. As you reduce that, you clearly are unable to offer those services, and that goes for a range of other probation interventions that are currently provided.
One of the things around sentencing culture is that in a sense we are not there yet. A number of the cuts and the impact in terms of being able to offer services to the court take time so that some sentences are not going to be necessarily influenced at this moment in time. It will be two or three years further on before they start to see that those things that they previously would have offered are not there.
Jonathan Ledger: We could provide examples. We have been doing so because we are doing surveys of our branches. We will continue. I know MPs get a lot of information from us on this sort of area. We survey our branches in order to get that sort of information. I think your question also links to the quality of the court reports that have been produced as well and that is another area we would be very happy to discuss with you if you wanted to pick it up with us.
Q383 Jeremy Corbyn: Following the points that Karl Turner just made, how many of your members complain about levels of workload and allocation of caseload? I spent some time at a local probation office last year, and the point they put to me was that it was the one Government service that had no choice in the number of cases it had to receive. The workload appeared just to grow and, with increasing levels of probation, keeps on growing, and the staff levels appear to be falling.
Jonathan Ledger: I think that is right. In a sense, what we were saying earlier picks up that point. Certainly it is the perennial concern and issue that probably impacts across the whole of our membership most consistently. Talking for Napo here, we have been in national dispute with the probation employers for some four years about workloads, in an attempt to try and force some form of agreement that we can apply.
Q384 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you have a fixed number of clients per officer?
Jonathan Ledger: No, there is no agreement. As Matt was indicating, some areas have systems-they sometimes apply a traffic light system as a warning process to try and control these things, and some of those do work reasonably well; it is not a consistent picture across the board-but most do not. There is no figure, and there is no system of control.
Q385 Jeremy Corbyn: Is there no management guidance?
Matthew Lay: Interestingly, there has been some movement in terms of some of the work that was undertaken by NOMS in the specification benchmarking and costing exercises because they are trying, in a sense, to deliver unit costs for everything that goes on in the justice system. There is obviously work that has come through which analyses that, but they are tools that are inordinately complex and areas need to manage them and interpret the data and respond to that because it is very fluid. You are right to say that the number of people that are committing offences and going to court and then require this, this and this are not governed by the Probation Service. They are the recipients and manage that accordingly, and a trust does not suddenly get any more money to employ more staff if there is a surge. They have to manage it. The complexities of that make it inordinately difficult to manage demand and ensure that you are supplying the right number of staff to do that. Most areas will try and do that using their own management tools effectively to do that. As I say, some trusts do it well and some less well.
Q386 Elizabeth Truss: I am interested to understand your position on the restructuring that is taking place in NOMS. I know that you were certainly critical of its establishment in the first place. Clearly, Government have now taken away the regional level. Do you see more scope for savings at a senior level in NOMS, could you quantify those savings and, also, how would you propose to see a more local accountability structure work?
Matthew Lay: Both unions were critical of the creation of NOMS. In a sense, our criticisms were wellfounded at the time and they have proven to be correct in that the whole level of bureaucracy that has been created and the need to almost give them something to do to manage the Probation Service has been, I think, destabilising to probation.
Just to deal with your latter point, I think it was the Justice Committee that produced a report a couple of years ago called Primary Justice, which was quite an extensive piece of work which looked at how justice could be better managed locally. In terms of synergies and savings, it is clear that until probation is put back in terms as a local service, with the freedoms and flexibilities that even now they do not have over things like estates, for instance, those efficiencies that would be relatively deliverable are not going to happen. There are partnerships that used to exist with local authorities going back many years which were very successful in terms of the economies of scale on estates and things like that. Those things are not there now, but they could be recreated and those partnerships locally could be reestablished.
Q387 Elizabeth Truss: You are essentially saying that they would be democratically accountable to the local authority.
Matthew Lay: I am not saying that is necessarily the solution. What I am saying is that there are synergies locally that have been removed through the creation of NOMS, which could be reestablished and which would deliver greater efficiencies. Whether you have democratic control-that did not exist previously, because there used to be a committee-is, in a sense, an argument by which, as a trade union, I am not easily fazed. It is the efficiencies and the ability to return money into the operational level to ensure that we have the right staff that is critical here, and those efficiencies could be delivered.
Jonathan Ledger: I do not want to rake up too much old ground, and Matt has just covered some of that, but we would have to ask whether the regional approach in NOMS ever properly existed anyway. I think we are sceptical about that. One of the problems that is a consequence of that is that, from our members’ point of view, there is a huge amount of scepticism about the waste that seems to have gone on in creating, first of all, regional offender managers and then directors of offender management. We never were very clear what they did. For years we used to argue as unions, "Could you show us the ROMs’ job descriptions?" No one ever did, and they had been disbanded or removed before they ever appeared. You can appreciate then, especially in the context of the more difficult financial times that we are in, for our members, the probation staff working on the ground, there is a fair degree of cynicism created about the whole NOMS project from the very beginning and I do not think that has ever gone away. As you may be aware, Napo is now arguing that there should be separate arms, essentially, in terms of the way it used to be with prison and probation.
Q388 Elizabeth Truss: Could you just try and quantify what you think the proportional cost taken by the NOMS overlay is and, also, how much of that has been removed by taking away the regional tier? How much more fat is left in that organisation that could be disposed of?
Matthew Lay: It is worth noting that the savings we have been informed of that are taking place are quite big. The issue is not just about whether they are absorbing too much money. It is also about whether they are, in a sense, diverting priorities and creating work that need not necessarily be required. There is duplication as well, certainly when there was a regional level. It is worth questioning whether that regional level has yet been removed. Where there is a regional level there were duplications. There were trusts doing work and there were regional managers doing the work, and they were not even necessarily communicating about who was doing what. I think there are huge issues on that. Clearly, that has been dissipated, but then they have recreated it nationally anyway.
Jonathan Ledger: I think our argument would be that it is difficult to quantify and we would obviously be careful about, "Well, we do not represent staff", to comment too much about how you might reduce staffing within the NOMS organisation. But, certainly, under this proposal we are developing whereby you have a probation and a prison arm working closely together but separate because of the different focus they have, you really need only a relatively slim, small umbrella organisation to coordinate that. That is probably the area we would be talking about.
Q389 Elizabeth Truss: It strikes me that the reason NOMS was created was because of the silos within the different services. If we simply went back to the previous structure, there is a danger of that being recreated. The issue was that NOMS was at a national level, so it failed to engender the level of cooperation at a local level. Do you think more could be done to create genuine end-to-end offender management? I was struck by your answer to Claire’s question about the four different stages in that process. Would there be a possibility for one individual to take responsibility for managing an offender through their entire case history so you did not get the sense of being passed on? One concern I have in this discussion about computer systems is that we are getting away from the judgment of a qualified professional at a local level. What NOMS has done nationally is to partly take that away, but also having somebody passed on from officer to officer may be diminishing the ability of somebody to make a judgment. Would you say that is a fair comment?
Jonathan Ledger: It is a fair comment. At the macro level, we have always said that the problem with NOMS, especially since 2008, is that essentially it was a hostile takeover of Probation by the Prison Service. We never achieved a balance of voices within NOMS to make sure the Probation perspective was adequately there. That really picks up your local application point. I think we would support you in arguing for continuity of contact. I do not know whether or not one could realistically do that within a prison environment and then within the community, because there are two separate tasks to be done there. But with good communication and consistency of the person who is there for the Probation Service and consistency within the Prison Service, then you would achieve a lot more of what you are describing. I would hasten to say that that was more or less how it used to be. It was not perfect but we used to have that going on. There was not the need or desire to constantly change the responsible officer.
Q390 Elizabeth Truss: Could you just comment on the specifics between the Prison Service and the Probation Service. Would it be the case that both of those services could learn from the cultures of the other Service? I would be interested to understand what you thought the Prison Service could learn from the Probation Service in terms of the way you deal with offenders. Clearly, the reoffence rates are better in the Probation Service. That may be just a selection issue about the type of offenders who go to prison versus those who serve community sentences, but how do you think that could be better integrated and how could the different cultures in the two separate organisations learn from each other?
Matthew Lay: One issue that is paramount right now is that a lot of prisons are removing probation staff from those establishments. For many years prisons seconded probation staff to do offender management work with prisoners. Due to resourcing issues within prison a lot of those contracts are ending or being ended; therefore those prisons are losing a very valuable resource. Some of it comes down to the simplest of factors. In the whole of the NOMS exercise, probation staff remained employees of local trusts and not civil servants and that has clearly skewed how the processes of saving money take place. That has had an impact. It can be overdone in a sense. When you had probation staff working in prisons, they did that work very professionally alongside prison staff. They did not operate in a silo in the prison. They worked cheek by jowl with other staff and with the offenders. That is now being removed. That is not a good thing.
Jonathan Ledger: The two cogs are complementary. Maybe we have spent too much time worrying about somehow trying to subsume them and, in fact, we should recognise that they are very different because imprisonment and community service are very different concepts. But there is a lot they can learn from each other. That is not of itself an argument against a lack of communication. The roles are different but they are complementary roles. There is evidence that people are learning from each other, and Matt is right to highlight the positive work that goes on in prisons and has gone on in prisons where probation teams have been established and are working alongside prison colleagues very effectively.
Q391 Ben Gummer: In your submissions to the Ministry of Justice in the Green Paper, both Napo and UNISON touch on an implied criticism of the Probation Service. I have to say from my own personal experience-I am sure this is shared by other members of the Committee-whenever I meet probation officers they are incredibly committed and professional people but working in a pretty dysfunctional structure, which you have touched on. That seems to be the impression, too, of Ministers. Given that-I say that merely as a preface to talking about payment by results-you are right that, if you set up an involvement of the private sector where the interests are unaligned, you are going to end up with improper outcomes. But if you were able to get the profit motive aligned with offender rehabilitation in a true and pure payment-by-results model, how could that not be a desirable end?
Matthew Lay: I would say one thing. That is inordinately hard to achieve. One of the concerns right now about the payment-by-results model is that the providers are setting the framework by which they will operate because of the commercial risk. Therefore, in a sense, the balance is skewed. There is not a huge amount of evidence anywhere else in the world around payment by results in terms of criminal justice. It is not a well-trialled method. Therefore, there has to be some caution about how that is approached. Clearly, in an ideal world, there may be merits in that process. Can it really be achieved or is it simply going to be handing money over and, as we have now long discovered with PFI, simply another avenue by which companies can make more revenue out of the state than previously was the case?
Jonathan Ledger: I am grateful for your initial comments, which reflect our beliefs and views. The problem, I suppose, in defining this is that something like payment by results has run quite against the traditional approach of the Probation Service, which is very much based on altruism and the belief in cooperation, and the sharing of ideas and views. One of the great strengths is where academics or probation practitioners have developed work. I know SMART works with racist offenders or hate-based crime, where a lot of very good and excellent work has been done in the Probation Service. That has been shared. It has not been something to sell or to keep to yourself in order to compete over it. It has been something that has been promoted across the whole service, because it is recognised that we have a collective duty to do the very best work possible and reduce risk. From our concept, payment or reward is about the success we have with those with whom we work. We want it to be recognised that we reduce offending, we change people’s lives, we have less victims and we protect our communities. We would say our reward is achieving that. It is not about receiving some sort of financial incentive to get there, because we don’t need it, actually. We believe in it. Fundamentally, that is what the service is about.
With regard to introducing an element of competition, we have seen it elsewhere. We have seen it in the Prison Service where the previous Chief Inspector of Prisons highlighted the fact that in some competition processes one prison had developed some brilliant work with the prisoners they were responsible for but were not sharing it in their region in case it had to be put out to competition. That runs against the very fundamental concept of trying to do excellent work across the piece within the Probation Service. I have to say that some of where we are coming from probably starts from that thinking and that attitude.
Q392 Ben Gummer: I do not want to get dragged too far down in that. I take some of your points. Of course, it is possible still for people in the private sector to be working out of altruistic motives, but for the allocation of investment resources it probably drives better decisionmaking sometimes than NOMS has shown. Could I put it another way? We had a very interesting evidence session in this Committee with the back-to-work, payment-by-results providers, which, if you have not read it, is worth reading, because it was fascinating. They made a similar point. It really took 10 years to get to the point where you are able to get the interests aligned and the early PbR models were not working well. Do you think that the unions have a positive role to play in trying to form good PbR contracts so that we can get through that initial period where contracts do not work so well, or is it just going to be, "No, we don’t agree with it" in that consultation with the Ministry of Justice?
Matthew Lay: I think we have a duty to represent the interests of our members and to secure for them the best outcome possible, aligned with the fact that our members live and work in communities where crime is an issue and therefore they want to see the best for their community and for society in general. We have been very proactive and flexible in terms of working with employers, with NOMS, with anybody frankly, to align those ends. It is just, in a sense, frustrating that the skills and talents of our members have not been perhaps fully utilised by the structures, but it seems to move on and we have to throw all of that out to move to a competitive environment where we know the public sector, as in our employers, the Probation trusts, will be trying to compete with two hands tied behind their back.
Q393 Ben Gummer: Your point on the estates is a very good one and well taken, and you are not allowed fair competition across the two sectors. You talked about the skills of your members. A consistent theme I have picked up from management is that those younger members of the service who came in on a more target-driven culture and feel comfortable with that find the idea of a freer and looser environment and structure more frightening than the older members of the service, who are used to selfmanagement motivation, more performance management, and deciding how they are going to engage with offenders rather than ticking boxes. They are the ones, interestingly, who are more interested and excited about the possibilities within the Green Paper. Do you think there is a generational problem?
Jonathan Ledger: I mentioned it earlier, didn’t I, in the context of OASys and the perception, and inevitably there are generational issues. As we also highlighted, though, we are losing a lot of that older generation through the cuts process, and that is deeply regrettable.
People are capable of adjusting, and what is probably positive in this context is that it opens up a debate about what sort of working environment people want, and what freedom and discretion mean. It should not mean that you are without support and guidance in the decisions you make. Neither do we want a situation where people are so restricted they have no discretion at all, and of course they end up doing things by the number rather than making proper assessments. There is a tension there, but I do not think it is an insurmountable one, and it will be a debate. In our unions and the sort of structures we have, we encourage those debates and discussions and we will engage in that. I would be confident that people will work through that.
Matthew Lay: It is not necessarily destabilising, but it is interesting to acknowledge how, when the centre decides it wants to have a different approach, that skews how people do things. When the centre wanted very tough enforcement, that was driven in to change the culture of the organisation. When that increased enforcement led to higher rates of breach and return to custody, then they said, "We now need to not do that. We need to do something else." It is the same with training. Now we need to have practitioners who can tick all the boxes and do this and do that. Yes, clearly, as you move through those processes people’s anxieties are heightened, and as we get into it, people will be anxious necessarily about those changes. But they will adapt, because they are professionals, and ultimately they are in the business of trying to turn around an offender so that they are no longer an offender. That is the level they will operate at. Sure, those changes are destabilising, but ultimately you come through the other side. I have to say, though, I have not picked up a huge amount of optimism around the future, whether it be moving to payment by results or working for other providers. It is the opposite. I do not think that our probation managers are saying that our younger members are suddenly enthused by the prospect of potentially losing their pension or having their terms and conditions changed.
Ben Gummer: No, that wasn’t the question.
Chair: I think we need to move on, actually.
Q394 Mrs Grant: The Government in its Green Paper Breaking the Cycle emphasises the importance of more robust community sentences. Do you think there is evidence there at the moment that the existing community sentences are not robust or effective enough?
Jonathan Ledger: In some of our arguments we are supporting a move away from a shorter prison sentence and reducing the prison population into the idea of intensive supervision approaches, which make huge demands on the individual who is the subject of the sentence. Again, we come back to what we mean by "tough and robust". In that sense-and Sir Alan mentioned this earlier in one of the comments he made-people might prefer sometimes to be in prison rather than to have to confront a tough community penalty. Coming back to that, we would say that all the ingredients are there within the Probation Service-there is a resource issue that goes on inside this-to provide an intensive, demanding and challenging supervisory process.
We are not asking people, as was said in the earlier conversations, to be put into something which is just a friendly chat. We are talking here about confrontative, constructive and challenging work. When you look at something like restorative justice, its great strength seems to be about the fact that it makes people confront not only what they have done but the people they have done it to. By restoring those relationships, it has a profound impact on all those who engage in it. That is not easy. A lot of people say, "Yes, I’ll take the six months inside, thanks very much," rather than doing something like that, because it is so difficult. All the elements are there, and the way we define "robust and tough" might need to be discussed, but in essence, I think we are saying similar things.
Matthew Lay: There is also evidence in terms of community payback that communities were developing greater confidence in that as a form of sentence, particularly where they were engaged in suggesting schemes or playing a part in voting for particular projects, and they were able to see offenders out there doing that restorative justice. There was a communication issue. Again, that showed the adaptability of Probation to respond to those needs. Yes, we all would buy into that and fully support that as a concept and believe in it. The amount of resources you can throw at that, sadly, are not unlimited. I noticed in the Green Paper and in some of the cues for today, if you have electronic monitoring of people to ensure they turn up, that is great, but there is a cost and resource to it, and there is a limit to what you can do.
Q395 Mrs Grant: In terms of the public confidence, do you think there is more work that needs to be done there in, I suppose, convincing the public that a community sentence is not a soft option? It is not just the public, as well. I would extend that question and say do you think we also need to work on judges and magistrates too, in terms of convincing them that it is not an easy option? A community sentence can be a very intensive intervention, and it is not a soft and frilly let-out.
Jonathan Ledger: I completely agree. This is the perennial issue and problem that arises of course, as you have raised it. On the sentencer side, a lot of us regret the passing of the liaison committees that used to take place between the Probation Service and the magistrates’ courts, because people got alongside each other and talked about the work. They sometimes talked about individual cases where they had all worked with the same person, or perhaps a family, and shared ideas and views and got more informed about the sort of work that was taking place. The confidence of sentencers increased as a consequence of that.
As far as the public is concerned, we have often said that politicians bear a lot of the responsibility here rather than sometimes the focus on the Probation Service itself. We do obviously want to communicate and speak out, and studies have shown that, the more you tell people about the process of sentencing, what the outcomes are and what the background to a case is, the more understanding the public are of community-based interventions, for instance. It is a process, essentially, of education and communication. We need politicians sometimes to be brave enough, whichever party they are in, to speak out and say, "Actually, this is okay."
I would cite the example of the recent furore over the prisoner voting. It seemed to me it was a relatively side issue at one level in terms of the overall scheme of things in criminal justice. Yet the reaction to it did not make sense for me, when it was something that was encouraging a debate about civil responsibility and potential rehabilitation in the context of people engaging with a constructive process. But again, it was represented as somehow being about being liberal and wishywashy. You would have thought people were going to be let out of the door to vote rather than having to do it in some controlled environment. I think we have to have a more grown-up and mature discussion about criminal justice sentencing policy if we are going to help the public understand what it is we are doing.
Q396 Mrs Grant: But do you think politicians should take more of a lead on getting this message out about the effectiveness of these community options?
Matthew Lay: I think the narrative in the Green Paper-
Q397 Mrs Grant: Can you just finish that?
Jonathan Ledger: I will be fair and say, obviously, when you are elected and when you are accountable to your constituencies, you have to take into account the various opinions and views that are out there, so it is not simple. But occasionally we would benefit certainly from senior politicians saying, "This is a complex area of work. It is a difficult and demanding area of work, but actually it is valuable", rather than falling back on a more, I have to say, tabloid approach to the way we communicate now.
Q398 Mrs Grant: Do you think that shortterm prison sentences are less effective for women, and robust community interventions could be much better in terms of reducing reoffending and stopping all the chaos and family breakdown and children being taken into care when a woman goes to prison?
Jonathan Ledger: That is a very good and strong point, and absolutely, we completely support that point. One of the problems when you take people briefly out of their living environment for quite a short period of time is that you impact upon families. For women, it has a profound impact in terms of the dependent care responsibilities so often falling in our society in that way. But, also, you disrupt people’s living and working arrangements, and they come out with more problems than they went in with because a shortterm prison sentence does not allow any work to be done anyway. It is counter-productive in terms of what it is intended to do.
Matthew Lay: The Corston report was a very impressive report and some of the actions on that need to be followed up and given additional resources because it is clear that there can be a good payoff in terms of putting those resources in. I do not think we, in terms of probation practitioners, will ever satisfy the need for people to want people to go to prison, which exists in sections of the population. We will never achieve that. We can do better. But I think one of the pleasing things about the Green Paper, in terms of our response, is some of the narrative around trying to get a debate about alternatives to custody, trying to work with offenders in the community and on building up restorative justice. Restorative justice already does exist, and there are thousands and thousands of beneficiaries every week from restorative justice through unpaid work schemes and voluntary organisations. Huge projects are being undertaken. We just need perhaps to sing a bit louder about it.
Q399 Mrs Grant: Can you just let me have your views on curfews and electronic monitoring, please? How effective are they in reducing reoffending, Mr Ledger?
Jonathan Ledger: From our experience and what we have been able to establish, we have not been terribly impressed with the impact, in fact. Given the cost and the amount of resources that have to be put in to provide that service, and it is a significant cost, we think the return on that has been pretty poor. The fact is, it does not really have any intervention. It is a controlling element, and it produces a prisonlike situation in the home, but beyond that, so often it appears to be a cause for resentment rather than understanding, in terms of why the constraint has been placed on the individual. In the short term, to get out, people may well think it is a good idea, but experience seems to prove that that feeling does not last very long. We have really quite a poor perception of it.
Matthew Lay: The thing with curfew orders is that there are often other dynamics behind the offending behaviour, and the curfew order only deals with one small element of it. Being in the home may be part of the offending behaviour, and without that additional input, it may appear on the face of it to be a positive outcome, but deep down it clearly is not, and no one is addressing the root cause of the offending.
Q400 Chris Evans: The new Probation Qualification Award was introduced in April 2010. How do you think it is working?
Jonathan Ledger: We supported this. As unions, we worked closely with NOMS and the employers on the development of the PQF-Probation Qualifications Framework-because we felt that it would open up opportunities for existing staff in a way that had not previously existed. It has had our backing and support. However, where we were not in agreement with our colleagues in NOMS and the employers was that we felt this had to be implemented nationally. It needed, essentially, a quota system to ensure that work force planning would take place over the next few years. It also needed agreements around things like adequate time off for people to study, as well as meeting their workload demands, for the reasons we discussed earlier in the context of workloads. None of that was achievable and we did not reach national agreements. It was left to local discretion.
Our own figures suggest that about 640 people are currently on the gateways for both probation services officers and probation officers. But, for instance, in London, from the figures we have accrued as a union, there is something like a 40% attrition rate. That is a very significant figure at a relatively early stage of the application of the PQF. We are really concerned and we think a lot of that links to the lack of time off to study and do the academic side of the work that people need to do. We are very concerned that something that, in principle, is very good, by being delivered at a local level with local agreements rather than national ones is in danger of being lost, probably because of the cuts and the lack of prioritisation of training in the context of lower budgets, being lost.
Matthew Lay: We are also seeing money, in a sense, returned back, because they are not attracting enough people to go on to the training and to develop the skills. We strongly support the PQF development, primarily because a large element of it is on the job and upskilling staff particularly around the PSO grade, which had received very scant resources prior to the development of the PQF. But, unless there is a clear incentive and a clear pathway for people to develop those skills and move on, there are going to be some barriers to that development.
What we have also seen, and members will have observed this, is that under the previous system trainees have developed their skills, gained the qualification and then find they haven’t got a job. The state has invested millions of pounds in trainee probation officers and then they have been desperately trying to secure employment and work. That legacy is still there and people are thinking, "If I am going to expose myself in that way, I am better off not doing it." That is a real problem.
Q401 Chris Evans: The other thing I was quite interested in is that, in the Napo memorandum you submitted, you say: "As far as post qualification training is concerned, little if any occurs and the situation is unlikely to improve in the foreseeable future." What did you base that on, and, Mr Lay, is that your experience as well?
Matthew Lay: Yes, we would echo that.
Jonathan Ledger: I was just trying to think at what point that was written. I think it was-
Q402 Chris Evans: It was point 7.37 and it was under the subsection headed "Is the provision of training adequate?"
Jonathan Ledger: We were certainly concerned about the fact that training opportunities appear to be disappearing within the Service. Of course, we were linking a lot of this to the cuts and the fact that opportunities were gone. That is why we were investing quite a lot of energy in the PQF being seen through and developed in this way. But, as I say, it links to the point we were making that if there is not agreement-and we think it needs to be national-about the numbers that are needed to be put through the various gateways, there is a real risk of a shortfall of sufficiently qualified staff to take on key jobs further down the line. That is where we are really concerned that people in principle have something that is very good and a framework that is very positive, but they will be effectively denied the opportunity either because areas cannot afford to put them through it, or because when they do it, they do not have sufficient time to study.
Q403 Chris Evans: How far away from a national unit are you? Are you a million miles away?
Jonathan Ledger: We are nowhere near it, because there has been a resistance to the idea. It was something that the unions put forward, and we said there ought to be a national agreement on it, but in fact NOMS and the employers did not agree with us. I am afraid we are not in a position to see any agreement at the moment.
Q404 Chris Evans: What is your experience, Mr Lay?
Matthew Lay: Likewise. We argued also for protected learning time. We were not successful in securing that. Clearly, the PQF is a very good model for training, it encompasses all practitioner staff and has been moving now into supporting case administrators as well. But until there are the resources, and there is adequate planning going on in terms of work force and protected time, there are these barriers that prevent people from reaching their potential.
Q405 Chris Evans: Do you envisage serious problems if there is no post-qualification training?
Jonathan Ledger: I am sorry. I missed that.
Q406 Chris Evans: Do you envisage serious problems if there is a continued lack of support in qualification and training?
Jonathan Ledger: It is a numbers issue. The framework is fit for purpose. We have supported its development and now we are working on a casework administrator, in extending that, and that is again a very positive development. It is all about whether there is going to be an investment in it. Individual trusts, you can understand in a way, might argue that that is not a priority. The development of staff is not a priority for them at the point when they are struggling to deliver on the various fronts they need to cover. Given, as Matt said, that half the NOMS budget that was put aside for training and development was lost in the last year because it was not taken up, that demonstrates that areas clearly are nervous about how much investment they can make. We think this does need to be owned nationally, and the resource issue needs to be addressed nationally, so that areas can prevent a crisis in the future in terms of sufficiently qualified staff.
Q407 Chris Evans: I want to move just quickly on to sickness. The trusts have been successful in reducing their sickness absences. What do you think the reasons are for them achieving this?
Matthew Lay: It is an example of where we have worked constructively with NOMS and with the Probation Association to hammer out agreements. Locally, again, there have been variances which have been problematic, but when the NAO report a few years ago was highly critical of staff absences we sat down and we hammered out an agreement. We have taken some flack from members potentially over it, but we felt that, in general, it was a positive move. Members who are at work suffer when people are not at work and vice versa. We had a constructive engagement. That has delivered some returns and has contributed to the reduced absence. We have also focused on wellbeing in work and ensuring that people are respected. Those areas that have good sickness or good attendance at work generally are better places to work and have probably better local employers.
Jonathan Ledger: I would need to say just a little word about disabled staff, because certainly we had concerns from some of our disabled members, who talk about a greater focus and pressure at times on them in the context of some of the criteria that are applied. But Matt is right. Where an employer has been reasonable and flexible in their application of this, then it is possible to improve the working environment from everybody’s point of view.
Q408 Chris Evans: My last question is directly to you, Mr Lay. In your own evidence you report a number of local disputes about workload pressure. Can you give some examples of these types of disputes and more detail about it, please?
Matthew Lay: We are aware of them. They are generally joint disputes between ourselves and Napo. The most recent one was a Napo dispute in Nottinghamshire. The key issue is that we have a disputes process where we are alerted very early on to problems and we seek to intervene to try and bring about a positive outcome. It comes back to the earlier discussions we had. Workload is a perennial problem. We, as trade unions, seek to intervene to protect staff to make sure that they are able to do their job as effectively as possible. Where those disputes cannot be resolved, often through something intransigent that sometimes exists locally, then they will rear their head in terms of a dispute.
Jonathan Ledger: We have managed to resolve most, but they will continue to arise for the reasons and the discussions we have had earlier, because of the pressures that arise. It usually reflects the attitude locally, as Matt says. Nottinghamshire was the most extreme example we have had recently, and we did have a ballot. You are talking about an environment, the Probation Service, which has pretty good employment relations. It has a history of very strong employment relations actually. That is something we have all generally been committed to. It is quite an event and an issue when a ballot takes place about something like workloads, as it did in Nottinghamshire. We managed to find an agreement there and we did manage to get back on track with things. But we cannot say it will not happen again because of the current pressures which we have been discussing today.
Q409 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you do any surveys of your members on workload levels so you can collate it into both a regional and a national picture?
Matthew Lay: We did a big member survey last year around a whole range of things. Workloads was an issue. It was not the foremost issue for our members, but workloads are an issue.
Q410 Chair: Did you publish the survey?
Matthew Lay: Yes. We can leave you with a copy, which I will do. I have a copy with me. You will not be surprised to learn that the biggest concern of our members is job security. That dominates proceedings, but there is a lot of detail in that. Work pressure is a key one for people, because they want to be able to do their job as effectively as possible.
Q411 Jeremy Corbyn: When you came to a settlement in Nottingham, did you agree on a figure of caseloads for the future or what was the outcome?
Jonathan Ledger: It was not a number-based settlement. It was a process-based settlement. Essentially, it was the traffic light system with red and green, etc. There is a ratio that is applied and it was putting something in place which already had been in place but essentially was not being implemented. It was getting agreement to implement that and that is what was achieved in that particular example.
Q412 Jeremy Corbyn: Did you do a survey from your union?
Jonathan Ledger: We have done previously. Not as recently as Matt’s, although it is a perennial issue. As I said earlier, it is always top of the agenda, virtually, for our AGM and the discussions we have. But over the years we have done research on the figures, calculating what the workloads are to which people are working. We have information, although, as I say, I think Matt’s is more up to date than ours at the moment.
Matthew Lay: Our survey showed, with regard to perceptions of staff over the past 12 months, that 80% of our members had a perception that workload pressure had increased over the previous 12 months, which is a very significant number, and we had a high level of response to our survey. It does demonstrate that, and that clearly has an impact in the workplace.
Q413 Chair: I am not sure I have ever seen a survey result in which members said that the pressure on work had decreased.
Matthew Lay: That is quite a good observation, I am sure.
Q414 Ben Gummer: I have two very rapid points. The first one is, again, a point made by management to me on a number of occasions. It is their wish to have more ability to performance manage, which I suppose might, if it is a good manager, remedy some of the points you are making about the caseload in a more organic and responsive way. Is that something that you would welcome?
Jonathan Ledger: I would want to have a discussion about it, to have a good understanding of what it was that was intended, because I recognise that sometimes you get into phrases that can mean different things to different people. As we said in the context of attendance and sickness, where there is good joint discussion, we recognise we have a joint responsibility to ensure that the best professional practice is delivered. It is about how you get there. A good performance manager might assist that, but it needs to be a twoway street rather than a top down approach.
Q415 Ben Gummer: I think most of us agree with you entirely about the takeover of a functional organisation by a dysfunctional one in the creation of NOMS, and the problems that you were raising, Mr Lay, about probation officers in prisons. However, there is a good argument, which follows on from your points about the haphazard nature of some of these pilots being put out, for one pilot being on a vertical integration model where you take a Probation trust area, a number of prisons in that area, and you manage an end-to-end offender process in the way that my colleague was discussing. That has problems within it with your relationship with the POA and how that would be structured. I just wonder if I could put that to you as a possible pitfall and one on which you might like to comment.
Jonathan Ledger: We work very closely with the POA already, so I think in that respect I would be more confident of our ability to work out the working relationships than I might be of the structural tensions that might apply.
Chair: Thank you very much, both of you. We are very grateful for the time you have spent with us this morning and the answers that you have given us.
|©Parliamentary copyright||Prepared 20th May 2011|