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Meet the team: Transforming Youth Custody

for the new secure college

Plan for the new secure college

Last month I was on the eighth floor in 102 Petty France, visiting the Transforming Youth Custody team.

I heard how they are helping to make sure young offenders are equipped for a life away from crime: whether this is through the plans for the new secure college, improving education in existing young offender institutions or improving how we help young offenders into work on their release from custody.

I then visited their project room, with the walls covered in an array of charts, diagrams and graphs. The picture here is the plan for the new secure college – the white blocks looks a bit futuristic but the plans are based on all the learning from years of experience of running young offender institutions. Among the other material, I was particularly impressed by their programme dashboard which helps them to effectively manage risks.

In chatting to the team we talked about the need in MoJ to get better at project management and to hone our commercial skills – both of which are priorities in our Departmental Improvement Plan. It is only through investing in our people that we can make the best of the many challenges in delivering programmes such as Transforming Youth Custody.


Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

Meet the Team: Communication Evaluation and Insight

There is a real push from the Central Government Communications Profession to ensure that departments gets the right information to the right people at the right time, whether that be with staff, practitioners or the public. Evaluating our communications is one key way of ensuring we are as effective as possible.

Ursula visits the Performance Hub

Ursula visits the Performance Hub

I recently visited the MoJ Communications Evaluation team to see for myself how the MoJ uses data to inform communications activity. I was impressed firstly by the sheer volume of data they collect and by the way it is used to identify where potential improvements can be made and to identify the best way to communicate with different audiences. For example, the metrics show the optimum number of intranet news stories per month. Too few and people don’t bother to check, too many and people won’t read them. The right answer? Around 15 stories a month.

The data collected covers all communications activity in the categories of employee engagement; campaigns & marketing; reputation; and press & media. As well as showing the big picture, it also tells us how successful individual pieces of communication are. For example, when the MoJ Story was launched on the intranet it was read by 3,727 people in the first week and 77% of these people clicked through to read the full story. (For net aficionados, this is a high “click through” rate). If you’d like to find out more about how the team are applying science to the art of communication, do get in touch with the team.


Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

Meet the Team: Corporate Finance

Last week I visited the Corporate Finance team on the 10th floor of 102 Petty France.

Corporate Finance team

Corporate Finance team

As everyone in MoJ knows, we’re operating in a really difficult financial climate with a challenging budget settlement. The Corporate Finance team play a crucial role in ensuring that we are living within our means and are making plans to make sure we can continue to do so over the coming years.

During my visit I met people from a number of different teams, highlighting the breadth of work that the directorate is involved in – from ensuring that all policy advice to Ministers presents accurate and high quality financial advice to providing practical financial advice and support across the department through finance business partners. There’s very little that goes on in MoJ that doesn’t need technical advice or strategic support from the finance team and they are particularly busy with the priority change programmes which are transforming and modernising our services.

As you would expect, MoJ’s finance team are professional experts and they have an impressive overview of everything we do. Perhaps that explains why I got such a wide range of questions from the team – they were really interested in the challenges we face, and not just the financial ones.





Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

Firsthand on the front line: Huge achievements in Midlands probation

Community Payback

Community Payback

I recently spent the day in Birmingham, visiting both the Staffordshire & West Midlands Community Rehabilitation Company and the Midlands division of the National Probation Service.

Transforming Rehabilitation is one of the department’s priority programmes, and since we launched the programme I have visited probation managers and front line staff to hear how the implementation of the reforms is progressing. The TR programme has lots of complex elements but the most important is the people – the people we serve and the people who work in probation. The people I met in the Midlands are working hard to manage the changes that are underway, whilst ensuring that the quality of their day to day work is maintained.

I received a firsthand update on the achievements and the challenges in moving from a probation trust structure to a Community Rehabilitation Company and National Probation Service structure. An enormous amount has been achieved already and the staff I met were clearly committed to delivering their ambition of creating safer communities by reducing reoffending.


Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

Meet the Team: Sentencing and Penalties Policy Unit

SPUA few days ago I visited the Sentencing and Penalties Policy Unit in 102 Petty France.

The team’s work covers a wide range of issues, many of which are hot topics – from sentences for driving offences to indeterminate sentences to fines. Because these are issues with a high public profile, the team are experts on legislation – the current focus is the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. The nature of their work means the Unit have to work closely with other parts of the MoJ, and across Government, to make sure they understand the impact of sentencing policy.

The high profile of their subject matter means they also get a large amount of correspondence and PQs (the third highest in the Department), and I was impressed by the really comprehensive system they have put in place to track the correspondence to make sure it meets the deadline. They average 90% of all correspondence going out on time, which is an impressive achievement given the volume of letters.

The team are also going to be the first policy team to pilot the TW3 (The Way We Work), changes, which will see them changing the way they work to be more flexible. The whole team have been involved in working out how to make the new regime work best for them; other policy teams will be watching with interest.


Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

South Warwickshire Justice Centre are Meeting the Challenge

Celebrating success in the £200 challenge

Celebrating success in the £200 challenge

On July 18th I visited the South Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington Spa.

I was hugely impressed by the energy that the team have put into thinking of ideas – big and small – for reducing costs and saving money. They have really engaged with the £200 challenge: for everybody in the MoJ to think of ideas for how to save £200. As with so many other parts of their work, the team had presented this visually on one of their walls. I really liked the way staff were celebrating their success in every aspect of their work, from saving money and serving the public to supporting each other.

As I toured the building and spoke to the staff I picked up a strong sense of team work. There was a real understanding among them of the role they were playing in delivering an efficient and effective justice system.


Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

Old meets new at the Prison Service Training College

Prison Service Training College, Newbold Revel

Prison Service Training College, Newbold Revel

I recently visited the Prison Service Training College, Newbold Revel, near Rugby. I couldn’t help but be impressed by the 18th century mansion in which the college is based. The mansion and grounds are delightful, but there are also more modern buildings with facilities ranging from a large lecture hall to smaller breakout rooms. Using our department’s assets to bring in income is one of the ways that we can deliver value for the taxpayer. I’ll certainly be thinking about whether any future conferences I’m involved with can be held here.

The beautiful building and grounds were a bonus from a visit which was all about how we train prison officers. I saw the mocked up prison which has been built on the site, to allow skills such as those necessary to search a cell effectively to be practised in as real an environment as possible. I also saw control and restraint techniques being taught to new recruits, and somehow managed to end up in handcuffs myself!

A practical demonstration of control and restraint techniques!

A practical demonstration of control and restraint techniques!

The trainers I met both here and elsewhere in the college really knew their stuff and skilfully blended together theory and practice to give recruits what they needed to become fully fledged and confident officers.


Do you have a suggestion for a part of the MoJ I should visit ? If so leave a comment below.

Bringing citizenship to life with Speakers For Schools

In early July I visited a school in Somerset as part of a scheme facilitated by the charity Speakers for Schools. Here it is as reported by the Western Gazette:

Top civil servant joins in school debate

King Artur's School

Picture by Terry Fisher

STUDENTS at King Arthur’s Community School in Wincanton have been tackling the issues of knife crime penalties and youth unemployment.

Students shared their views on the difficult subjects during a special visit to the school from permanent secretary to the Ministry of Justice Dame Ursula Brennen on Friday.

Following a tour of the school with newly appointed head boy Charlie Carswell and head girl Lauren Costelloe Dame Ursula met groups of students who discussed and gave their views on how they might tackle some genuine issues of debate in Whitehall.

Head teacher Chris Beech said: “To have one of the highest ranking civil servants in the country work with our students was a real privilege.

“Dame Ursula was fantastic with the students, questioning their reasoning and giving a flavour of the difficulties of decision making at the highest levels. As ever, our students were also great and provided a number of creative solutions to the problems discussed.

“Having adults from the wider community sharing their experiences in a way that engages our students brings citizenship to life.”

You can see the original article here.

Engaging at A lively Civil Service Live

I attended Civil Service Live in Newcastle on 3 July and I have to say it was a truly rewarding experience. 2014 has been a crucial year for Civil Service reform and it was uplifting to see so many dedicated civil servants together in one place. There was lots of active audience involvement on the key themes for reform.

Graham Perry at the NOMS stand at CS Live Newcastle

Graham Parry at the NOMS stand at CS Live Newcastle

There was a particular focus on the way that the civil service is changing to fit the modern world. In a relaxed and informal environment people were attending talks on ‘understanding the work of Parliament’, ‘skills within the civil service’ and ‘reform in action’.

I was glad to see MoJ presence among the stands at the event, including this one where I heard from Graham Parry about the resettlement work at HMP Kirklevington; and the MoJ stand informing people about how we work digitally to improve our services and the way we work. Everyone I spoke to was struck by the range and diversity of what we do in the civil service and how we share the same core values.

Summer 2013

There is no point in making excuses – it is a shamefully long time since I have blogged. Here is a bumper Summer edition by way of a catch up. Read more