This new report explores the growing scale of private sector involvement in the UK’s prisons and probation service, and looks in detail at what has been happening in the three areas of offender management in England and Wales – prisons, probation and electronic tagging – in an attempt to assess the implications for the taxpayers, public safety and the rehabilitation of offender.
The report highlights serious concerns over private sector involvement in offender management, including the concentration of contracts in the hands of just a few large companies; the involvement of companies currently being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office; the lack of adequate service standards in the private sector with implications for public safety; finally that the payment by results mechanism contains serious flaws, particularly in regard to encouraging contract winners in the private and voluntary sectors to concentrate on those people least likely to re-offend.
The report contains a series of recommendations – to view them, please click here.
TUC, based on research by NEF, May 2014.
This report by TUC, based on research by NEF looked at the scale and scope of outsourcing in five key sectors – social care, health care, offender management, local government and employment services. The report also examined the effects of outsourcing on staff working in a variety of public service jobs, such as care workers, nurses, prison officers and security guards.
This report is a wider overview report of research conducted by NEF for TUC, which also forms the basis for the above report – Justice for Sale. The report reveals that compared with public service employees, workers in privatised services are more likely to work longer hours, receive less pay and be on insecure or temporary contracts.
The report also revealed that low pay and poor working conditions in the private sector can affect the commitment and the motivation of employees and have repercussions on the quality of service provided. The hourly wage for a private prison officer is more than £4 less than an equivalent public sector employee, while private prisons are more likely to be overcrowded than publicly owned prisons. Private prisons, notes the report, have held a higher percentage of their prisoners in overcrowded accommodation than public sector prisons every year for the past 15 years.
TUC, based on research by NEF, March, 2015
In this document Napo outline what they hope to see from a new incoming government in the next five years, following the general election in May 2015. The document contains 11 key policy asks, based on reversing what Napo note is a criminal justice system in meltdown. Central to the document is a call for an incoming government to review all of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) contracts, brought in under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.
Napo, April 2015
Trade unions Napo and UNISON, who together represent 12,000 probation workers, have released findings from a joint survey of their members, which makes for harrowing reading. The survey was conducted in July 2014, soon after the reforms made under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme of restructuring the probation service had got under way. The findings reveal the shocking scale of mismanagement, errors, compromised risk management and increased bureaucracy on a scale scarcely imaginable.
Among the key findings are that:
- 80% of respondents have considered leaving their job in the last 12 months, the main reasons being:
- disagreement with Transforming Rehabilitation (78%)
- feeling undervalued (70%)
- having to compromise on standards (70%).
- 98% have no confidence in the Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling.
Napo and UNISON, 2014
Written evidence submitted by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) to the Public Bill Committee in regard to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill includes changes to the way offenders are dealt with before and after conviction; changes to the proceedings and powers of courts and tribunals; and changes to judicial review.
PCS’ submission covers a broad range of issues but the key areas are:
- Welcoming the restriction on cautions, but concerns about the way “exceptional circumstances” will operate.
- Concerns that the proposed “Single Justice Procedure” focuses too much on speed and not enough on offender management.
- Concerns that the ‘Criminal Courts Charge’ adds to the complexity of financial penalties and that changes to Judicial Review will restrict access to justice.
PCS, March 2014
Report from the Justice Unions’ Parliamentary Group – in response to the announcement in the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2013 that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) will face spending cuts of £2 bn over the four year Spending Review period. The report outlines the devastating effect the cuts will have on our justice system and argues that the cuts are not inevitable, and provides for alternatives to austerity.
PCS, Napo, PF, POA, June 2013
A pamphlet PCS launched with the Family Courts Unions Parliamentary Group, which exposes the impact of the first year of spending cuts to civil legal aid on family justice. In particular, the report notes that solicitors are now having to turn away more than 50% of families who would previously have been eligible for legal aid.
Family Courts Unions Parliamentary Group, PCS, March 2014
To help PCS representatives campaign against privatisation. The toolkit provides a comprehensive assessment of privatisation and outsourcing, including key issues and mechanisms for representatives to engage with. Finally, the toolkit provides advice and guidance for PCS representatives to plan and win campaigns against privatisation.
PCS, revised 2012
PCS on the reality behind the government’s mutualism agenda. This pamphlet sets out the importance of publicly accountable public services delivered by public servants and the difference between real mutualism and the government’s privatisation agenda. By using words like open and mutual, PCS show how the government aims to disguise its policies with a veneer of respectability, as mutuality implies some common interest and suggests consent. In reality privatisation is being imposed on an unwilling workforce.
PCS, February 2012
Briefing paper for POA members on pay, prisons, pensions and privatisation for the POA’s political rally on March 19 2014. The papers included in this booklet identify some of the main areas which the POA maintain need to be addressed over the next 14 months. Between now and the 2015 General Election the POA will be producing further papers covering more areas of concern for their members.
POA, March 2014
The report notes that while prison population has increased year on year for the last 20 years, from 43,000 in 1993 to 86,000 in 2013, the number of uniformed staff employed to care for and protect those committed by the Courts has remained static. The report explores violence in prisons and notes that prisoner-on-prisoner assaults continue to escalate to levels that would shock and dismay the general public, while prisoner-on-staff assaults continue at a rate of over 8 per day every day of the year. Finally, the report calls on the House of Commons and House of Lords to protect prisoners and prison officers, and to establish a zero tolerance policy towards violence.
POA, April 2013
The Prison Officers’ Association (POA) has published an independent survey of their members, conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Bedfordshire, which focused on work-related stress and wellbeing. The survey was of prison officers as well as nurses in psychiatric secure hospitals. The report is a damning indictment of government policy, revealing a totally demoralised workforce and the need for an urgent review.
Key among the findings are that none of the benchmarks set by the UK Health and Safety Executive for the management of work related stress have been met, and that levels of psychological wellbeing and job satisfaction are considerably poorer than those found in other “highly stressed” occupational groups.
POA, December 2014
This article explores key concerns with the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, in particular the abolition of Probation Trusts from 31 March 2014, to be replaced by a National Probation Service dealing solely with the highest risk offenders; the majority of services transferred to a holding Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in preparation for their eventual privatisation.
Lol Burke,Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Liverpool John Moores University, and Editor of Probation Journal, published on behalf of Napo, December 2013
This report summarises the findings of research conducted by UCU and the Centre for Education in the Criminal Justice System (CECJS) at the Institute of Education, University
of London. The research sought to learn more about prison educators and to explore the impact of offender learner funding on their professionalism and practice.
The findings are based on a questionnaire completed by 278 prison educators working in England. The key conclusion of the report is that the power of prison educators to help offenders turn their lives around is being ‘squandered’ due to constant re-tendering for teaching contracts.
Nearly two-thirds (62 per cent) of respondents to the survey criticised competitive tendering for prison education contracts (which leave staff with new managers and working contracts every three to five years) and the fact that funding is dependent on prisoners’ results. The prison educators also flagged up high workloads, limited opportunity for progression, lack of professional autonomy, lack of teaching resources and training opportunities, and the low status of prison education as major concerns.
UCU, February 2014
This report presents the findings of a survey of UCU members conducted in April 2012, including those who work in prisoner education. The key finding from the report is that education staff who work in prisons have considerably higher levels of work-related stress than British workers in general. The report found stress related to employees’ level of control at work, and clarity about their role, had got worse since a comparable survey was carried out by UCU in 2008.
Through the use of a standard Health and Safety Executive (HSE) questionnaire, the report clearly pinpoints the major drivers of stress as repeated contractual changes, lack of management support, lack of role clarity, and fraught relationships with colleagues. The survey found that prison educators were reporting more stress than other post-16 education professionals in many aspects of their work.
Over 24,000 active UCU members responded to the survey, of whom 187 stated they worked in prisoner education.
UCU, March 2013
This report by Unite calls for government to invest in public services, demanding:
- Investment not public sector spending cuts
- Establish the living wage as a minimum, which would lift one million public sector workers out of poverty pay
- Pay rises for all, which means more revenue for the Treasury and a much needed lift to our local economies
- Collective bargaining, which would mean an end to the government’s five year diktats on pay.
Unite, March 2014
This report by Unite together with Goldsmiths University, London asks the question ‘what would a progressive government need to do, to ensure access to justice for social welfare in the twenty first century?
The report finds that more than 620,000 people, 80 per cent of whom are the most disadvantaged in society, have been denied access to justice because of the Conservative-Lib Dem government’s so-called ‘reforms’ to the legal aid system, which the authors brands a ‘false economy’.
Magna Carta Today? outlines a seven point plan to give greater access to justice to the thousands of people hit by the government’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO).
Unite, March 2015
In this report, UNISON reveals the extent of the damage done to council services in England since 2010,and the people that provide them, as well to police forces. The report provides further evidence that by imposing swingeing cuts to the budgets of police forces across the UK, the government has put policing in crisis and placed neighbourhoods and communities at risk.
Among the report’s findings are that one in four (4,430) police and community support officers (PCSOs) have been lost since 2010.
UNISON, May 2015
This report by UNISON finds that swingeing government cuts to police forces in England and Wales could be putting public safety at risk as unpaid volunteers have been recruited to carry out some of the most sensitive and demanding police staff roles.
The research reveals that a new ‘Home Guard’ of 9,000 police support volunteers has been quietly recruited by police forces in England and Wales to replace the 15,000 police staff job cuts made by the Tory-led Government.
The research is based on FOI requests UNISON submitted to all police forces in England and Wales in early 2014, to discover information about police service volunteers.
UNISON, October 2014
This report shows that more than 3,500 front line police community support officer (PCSO) jobs in England have gone since the start of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government, despite ministers’ commitment to protect front line policing,
The report is based on a survey of UNISON’s PCSO members, from which 1,900 responded. The reseach revealed that there has been an overall 22 per cent reduction in the number of PCSOs in England with nine police forces having cut more than 20 per cent of their PCSOs.
UNISON, April 2014
Press release from February 2014 by UNISON, noting that NAPO, UNISON and GMB reported the UK Government to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) over its plans to outsource the probation service to the private sector, as it breached international labour law. Article 24 of the ILO’s Forced Labour Convention states that community payback orders must be supervised by the public sector. Under the Government’s plans, this supervision will be handed over to the private sector.
UNISON, February 2014
UNISON Response: To the Public Administration Select Committee Inquiry Public Service Reform Programme – Citizen and public services
UNISON’s response to the Public Administration Committee’s Inquiry – ‘Citizens and Public Services’ – into the government’s public service reform programme, calls for more regulation in procurement and strengthening accountability before the government opens public services further, providing evidence and reasons in the response. UNISON’s submission covers key issues in procurement as well as the reforms to probation, including how the handing of probation services to the private sector removes any pretence at localism or accountability.
UNISON, September 2013
This briefing by UNISON gives some key examples from different sectors including criminal justice, of public service contracting-out, or outsourcing, going wrong, with some very serious impacts and implications. Examples covered include court trials abandoned due to a lack of interpreters following the service being outsourced, to G4S’ botched handling of security during the London Olympics in 2012.
UNISON’s monthly probation news bulletin, with information about the Speak up for Justice campaign.
UNISON, June 2014
This document is a list of the new owners of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), established by the government to replace the 35 former publicly owned Probation Trusts. Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling signed contracts awarding the CRCs in January 2015. Despite the Ministry of Justice’s announcement that the contracts were being awarded to a ‘diverse range of public, private and voluntary organisations”, together, multinational companies Sodexo and Interserve are leading over half of the CRCs. This disastrous and untested reform process has been beset with numerous problems and has received much criticism. See our blog for more details.
Ministry of Justice, January 2015
Parliamentary bodies / committees
In this report the National Audit Office (NAO) conclude that poor management of £40bn worth of outsourced public contracts (across the whole of government) left the government exposed to the possibility of widespread fraud and overcharging. The report is one of two reports, the other of which focuses on the Cabinet Office. The report notes the discovery of significant overbilling in in July 2013 dating back to 2005 (principally in the MoJ’s electronic monitoring contracts with G4S and Serco – who overcharged the taxpayer substantially).
At the same time as government ministers and senior civil servants announced the scale of the overbilling in the outsourced contracts the MoJ was administering, the NAO and the MoJ received allegations from a whistleblower about operational practices at G4S.
NAO, September 2014
The NAO’s ‘Probation Landscape Review’, published in March 2014, makes interesting reading and sets out clearly and independently the risks inherent in the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, including potential failure by the government to:
- Create a suitable market in probation services
- Commission effectively the services the government wants
- Manage suppliers effectively
- Manage the risk of market failure
- Manage the risk of supplier failure
Neither the Ministry of Justice, nor the National Offender Management Service, have distinguished themselves in any of the above previously, hence the warning from the NAO.
NAO, March 2014
In this report, the NAO find that the MoJ was on track to reduce spending on civil legal aid in a short time frame, but “cannot be said to have delivered better overall value for money for the taxpayer.” This is largely due to the NAO’s finding that the MoJ did not estimate the scale of the wider costs of the reforms (i.e. to other public services), “because it did not have a good understanding of how people would respond to the changes or what costs may arise”. The report makes a series of recommendations.
NAO, November 2014
In August 2011, the Ministry of Justice signed a new framework agreement for language services with a company called Applied Language Solutions (ALS). Under that agreement, a range of justice sector bodies entered into contracts with ALS for the provision of specific interpretation and translation services.
On 30 January 2012, the largest of those agreements, for the Ministry, which is worth an estimated £90 million over five years, became operational and immediately faced operational difficulties.
Following this, the National Audit Office received correspondence from a number of individuals, including MPs, whistle-blowers and the public, asking us to look into what had happened. This memorandum sets out the results of NAO’s investigation.
NAO, September 2013
Progress report on the efforts of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to improve performance following the initial investigation by the National Audit Office (NAO); see above. This report follows a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), who made a series of recommendations to the MOJ, and reveals that while some progress has been made in implementing the recommendations, a number of areas still need to be improved and the contractor Capita is still not meeting the target to fulfil 98 per cent of bookings of interpreters.
NAO, January 2014
Crime reduction policies: a co-ordinated approach? Interim report on the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme
The Committee raised issues in connection with four broad areas of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, to which it intends to return in its final report:
- the rationale and evidence base for the reforms;
- the transition from trusts to CRCs and the NPS;
- the proposed payment mechanism; and
- the creation of the market
The report notes they encountered support for the case for reform (for example in addressing post-release supervision), but clear concerns, primarily in regard to splitting provision between a public National Probation Service dealing with the highest-risk offenders and the new providers who will be dealing with low and medium risk offenders.
- The report also notes that the government has no contingency plans and that they are unable to determine whether sufficient funding is in place on the limited information that the Government has provided.
Justice Select Committee, January 2014
In this report, the Justice Select Committee find that savings have been made to the cost of the scheme, yet the MoJ had not achieved the other three out of four of its stated objectives for the reforms. Further, the report finds that “The Ministry’s significant savings are potentially undermined by its inability to show that it has achieved value for money for the taxpayer.” The report also notes that due to the changes in the reforms, which removed private family law from the scope of legal aid, there has been a substantial increase in people seeking litigation without legal representation. These ‘litigants in person’ are “increasingly people with no choice other than to represent themselves and who may therefore have some difficulty in effectively presenting their cases.”
The report provides a series of recommendations, and ends with a damning verdict on the MoJ’s changes to civil legal aid: “It was clear to us that the urgency attached by the Government to the programme of savings militated against having a research-based and well-structured programme of change to the provision of civil legal aid.”
Ministry of Justice, March 2014
This is a list of evidence taken by the Justice Select Committee in regard to their Inquiry into the government’s reforms to legal aid in 2013.
By Justice Select Committee, July 2013
The Justice Committee recently concluded their first major inquiry on prisons planning and policies in this last parliament, focusing on measures the Ministry of Justice has used to reduce the ‘operational costs’ of the system. The inquiry report reveals the huge strain that the system is under, as well as the disastrous impact of government reforms on performance and safety:
“In our view it is not possible to avoid the conclusion that the confluence of estate modernisation and re-configuration, efficiency savings, staffing shortages, and changes in operational policy, including to the Incentives and Earned Privileges scheme, have made a significant contribution to the deterioration in safety.”
Justice Committee, March 2015
The report begins by observing that more and more public services are being contracted out to private and voluntary providers, and that around half of the £187bn spent by the government on goods and services each year is estimated to be spent on outsourcing. The report concludes that the government must get its house in order, that proper scrutiny needed on this spending, as well as in regard to measures to ensure quality. Specific measures suggested include:
- The extension of Freedom of Information to outsourced providers, as well as access rights for the NAO
- A requirement for outsourced contractors to open up books to proper scrutiny.
Public Accounts Select Committee, March 2014
Probation and Criminal Justice reports
These two reports compiled by the Public Accounts Committee are based on a series of interviews with senior civil servants, to explore the current government’s reforms to Probation and to the Criminal Justice System. The committee concluded the “scale, complexity and pace of the changes are very challenging, and the Ministry of Justice’s extremely poor track record of contracting out…gives rise to particular concern.” They also noted that there are “significant risks” to the government’s reforms to the Probation Service, which includes introducing private and voluntary sector providers, managing a greater number of offenders than at present, and a payments by results system, measures which, PAC note, are untested, unpiloted and have unanswered questions as to capacity and accountability.
Public Accounts Select Committee, March 2014
This report is the result of an inquiry into the MoJ’s reforms to civil legal aid. The key finding of the comittee was that the MoJ had “introduced…[these]…major changes on the basis of no evidence in many areas…” The committee found that it is far from clear whether the MoJ had achieved its stated objectives beyond reducing spending. In this latter area, the committee found that the MoJ does not know whether the cuts that it made to legal aid spending have simply shifted costs elsewhere in the public sector. They concluded, the MoJ “does not understand, and has shown little interest in, the knock-on costs of its reforms across the public sector”.
Public Accounts Committee, February 2015
This report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMI Probation) in December 2014, is a report of an independent assessment of the early stages of the government’s reform of probation services – Transforming Rehabilitation. The report has highly worrying and critical findings, and notes that changes have led to ‘a number of challenges in information-sharing, IT and processes’, and that the speed of the reforms have caused ‘operational problems’.
HMI Probation, December 2014
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for England and Wales (HMI Prisons) has released its independent annual report into the state of prisons, for 2013-2014, based on a series of inspections. One of the key conclusions of Nick Hardwick, the current Chief Inspector, is that a lack of resources, overcrowding as well as policy pressures have significantly contributed to the rise in self-inflicted deaths, self-harm and violence in prisons.
In the report, Hardwick states that ‘it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that the conjunction of resource, population and policy pressures…was a very significant factor in the rapid deterioration in safety and other outcomes we found as the year progressed.’
HMI Prisons, October 2014
Think Tanks and Community and Voluntary Organisations
This report by NEF, is an evidence-based review of examples of courts that are:
- Saving time by diverting low-level anti-social behaviour cases into community-led restorative justice panels
- Improving victims’ experiences and making more effective decisions by specialising in certain types of issues
- Providing at-court support and advice services
- Making faster and more effective decisions by taking new approaches to pre-sentence assessments of offenders
- Expanding and improving their on-going supervision of offenders, delivering swift and certain enforcement of court orders.
NEF and the Centre for Justice Innovation, September 2013
Eighty-two prisoners took their own lives during 2014 as the suicide rate behind bars rose to its highest level for seven years. They included 14 young adults, aged between 18 and 24, data compiled by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveal. The figures also show that prisoners on remand were disproportionately likely to take their own lives in custody. The statistics are based on notifications received by the Howard League for Penal Reform from the Ministry of Justice, which records deaths in custody.
Howard League for Penal Reform, January 2015
This report examines failures by private firms contracted to provide services within the Criminal Justice System, and features a litany of deeply concerning cases of the impact of privatisation on individuals and institutions. Further, the Howard League for Penal Reform (the report’s authors) mention the report gives rise to the possibility of “systematic fraud of the public purse on a massive scale by profiting companies”.
A dossier developed from the report – detailing years of failures by the companies G4S and Serco was presented by the Howard League to police on 13 May, calling on the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police to assist the Serious Fraud Office in their investigation into the two firms.
The call was as a protest against the government’s decision to allow the two firms to resume bidding for contracts for justice services. The two firms were temporarily barred from bidding after it emerged they had overcharged the taxpayer for the provision and management of electronic tags for offenders; they agreed to repay £180m.
Howard League for Penal Reform, May 2014
Article written by Laura Janes, co-legal director and consultant solicitor for the Howard League for Penal Reform, for the Fabian Society’s website. The article outlines the point at which legal aid provides a vital means for dedicated lawyers to represent people who would otherwise have no voice. Laura ends by noting that the impact of the cuts to criminal legal aid will mean that ‘doing complex work is not even cost neutral’, and will greatly reduce the type of work that the Howard League for Penal Reform and others can do.
Laura Janes, Howard League for Penal Reform, for the Fabian Society, October 2013
Briefing note examining the government’s Payment by Results (PbR) policy, concluding that it creates perverse incentives for providers, as they face making losses if they seek to cut reoffending.
The paper offers the following solutions:
- The scheme should be simplified to pay (or penalise) on a per-person basis for reductions (or increases) in re-offending.
- Outcome payments should be concentrated over a narrow range of re-conviction rates to maximise investment.
- The MOJ should drop the annual ‘cohort’ payment model and implement a ‘cumulative’ payment model in its place.
Social Market Foundation, August 2013
A response to a report by free market think tank Reform, The case for private prisons, which claims that the private sector are more effective in managing prisons and that flexible terms and conditions for staff contribute towards this, providing a set of recommendations for government. The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) counter these points with evidence and raise questions about the analysis, which has been questioned by the Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright MP.
The PRT continue to draw upon the actual evidence, explore problems involved in interrogating the data, and raise some serious concerns about privatisation, in a prisons system which is already the most privatised in Europe. They note that privatisation is no panacea.
Prison Reform Trust, February 2013
In this briefing, the Prison Reform Trust give very comprehensive and useful statistics in regard to the existing evidence on prison performance; statistics which provide weight to the case against privatisation and illustrate the state of the prison system in some depth. The authors note that even those who support reform “are beginning to ask questions about the scale and pace of change in the justice system”.
The report observes that the current reforms, including a rapid round of prison closures and re-designation of up to 70 establishments across England and Wales as resettlement prisons, plus outsourcing most probation and resettlement to the private and voluntary sector, are happening as the MoJ receives a significant reduction in its budget, and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has to make almost 25% resource savings by 2014–2015.
Prison Reform Trust, Autumn 2013
Prison Reform Trust’s Autumn 2014 installment of the Bromley Briefings series of publications, providing comprehensive statistics on the prison system in England and Wales. This briefing reveals a prison system is under an unprecedented strain; “a public prison service cut by £263million in three years, struggling to cope with the loss of more than 12,500 (28 per cent) of its staff since 2010 and an ever-rising prison population”
Among the key findings were that at September 2014, 80 of the 118 prisons in England and Wales were overcrowded, that private prisons held a higher percentage of their prisoners in overcrowded accommodation than public sector prisons, while there had been a significant rise in self-harm incidents among prisoners and a fall in the percentage of prisoners entering employment on release from prison.
Prison Reform Trust, Autumn, 2014