Britain’s post-pandemic ‘work from home’ culture has now extended to criminals, who have been permitted to carry out community payback work from the comfort of their own homes.
Offenders have been making face coverings and greeting cards at home in a bid to clear the vast backlog of unpaid work which built up during the Covid pandemic.
In a report by four chief inspectors, probation officers branded the work-from-home approach as ‘innovative’.
They said they planned to use it going forward for those who are unable to perform ‘external’ payback work.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year said criminals ordered to perform unpaid work should do so in ‘fluorescent-jacketed chain gangs’, to visibly pay back their debts to society.
He also said last week that working from home ‘does not work’, arguing in a scathing attack that cutting down on remote working would boost productivity and revive the UK’s town and city centres.
Meanwhile, a 500,000-strong backlog of passport applications is wreaking havoc on Brits’ holiday plans, with long queues seen outside offices while civil servants continue to work from home.
The Criminal Justice Joint Inspection also warned the criminal justice system remains a ‘long way from recovery’, with the number of cases waiting longer than a year surging by more than 340 per cent since March 2020.
Offenders have been making face coverings and greeting cards at home in a bid to clear the vast backlog of unpaid work which built up during the Covid pandemic. (Stock image)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (pictured) last week said working from home ‘does not work’, arguing in a scathing attack that cutting down on remote working would boost productivity and revive the UK’s town and city centres
The backlog has also extended to hours of unpaid work by criminals.
Criminals convicted of less serious crimes, such as theft or shoplifting, are often ordered to carry out between 40 and 300 hours of unpaid work in the community, depending on the severity of the offence.
But following the pandemic and its successive lockdowns, there is now a backlog of hundreds of thousands of hours of uncompleted unpaid work, reports the Telegraph.
By the end of November last year, more than 13,000 offenders had not completed their mandated community service hours within 12 months of being sentenced.
It meant the Probation Service had to go back before judges to seek extensions, adding more pressure on the already clogged up courts.
The chief inspectors said this led to offenders with ‘specific needs’ being permitted to carry out some of their work from home.
Huge backlog of passport applications wreaking havoc on Brits’ holiday plans
The wait time is about five weeks, the target was extended to 10 weeks due to the backlog
Desperate travellers were queuing out the door at the passport office yesterday in a bid to beat the huge backlog caused by staff shortages and a surge in post-Covid travel.
Photos showed lengthy queues snaking round the building at the passport office in Peterborough with families waiting hours to be seen in the hope that their holiday plans could go ahead.
Other offices in Durham, Liverpool, Glasgow, London, Newport and Belfast are equally busy trying to cope with demand as it is estimated there is a huge backlog of 500,000 passport applications to process.
The usual wait for a passport is around five weeks, but target waiting time has been increased on HM Passport Office website to 10 weeks as officials struggle to keep up with demand.
Despite this, Home Office minister, Tom Pursglove admitted last week that the current 10-week target of processing applications is not ‘guaranteed’.
Mr Purglove said passport offices across the country will be reinforced with an additional 700 staff ‘by summer’ in a bid to quickly process millions of outstanding passport applications.
The backlog has been blamed on a sudden rush in demand for new passports following a lull during the two years of Covid-enforced travel restrictions.
Officials have argued that holidaymakers have put off their passport renewal until they needed to go abroad as a result.
Post-Brexit travel rules from the EU have complicated matters further as they require travelling Britons to have at least three months validity remaining when travelling to EU member nations.
The Government expects 9.5 million British passport applications to be dealt with in 2022 – almost double the number processed last year.
It comes as families continue to face holiday disruption as a result of the enormous backlog in applications.
An Edinburgh family were forced to cancel their long-awaited trip to Disneyland after passport delays meant they were unable to travel.
Stuart McLean, his wife, Claire, and their two young girls were due to head to Paris for a five-day trip to mark their five-year-old’s birthday this month.
Applying for passports for both girls in February, the family were told that the wait time would be five to seven weeks, allowing plenty of time before they headed off.
However, Stuart, 35, said that unexplained delays in the passport office had seen one of the passports arrive after four weeks, with the other nowhere to be seen.
With one passport still nowhere to be seen, the couple made the decision to cancel the trip less than two weeks before they were due to head off in order to ensure they got their £3,000 costs back.
Stuart said: ‘We had been taking our daughter for her fifth birthday, and had applied for the passports at the start of February.
‘One came within four weeks but there was no sign of the one for our two-year old.’
‘A group of Community Rehabilitation Companies in the south of England, for example, developed an unpaid work ‘project in a box’, which could be sent to individuals who were shielding at home or could otherwise not attend external sites,’ they said.
‘Projects included making face coverings and greeting cards to strict industry standards, with the proceeds going to charity.
‘The Probation Service has adopted this idea and will deploy it when individuals meet the qualifying criteria.’
The backlog of unpaid work means that over the next three years, the Probation Service would need to deliver 155 per cent of the hours carried out pre-Covid.
Meanwhile, the report also said criminal justice staff will likely continue to enjoy a ‘hybrid’ working system going forward, which it criticised for ‘reducing opportunities’ for colleagues to learn from each other.
It comes despite pleas from the government, including prime minister Boris Johnson, for civil servants to return to the office full time.
The inspectors said: ‘While there are some clear advantages to such arrangements, some staff have also told inspectors that working from home or socially distanced offices have reduced opportunities to learn alongside more experienced colleagues.
‘This is something that will need to be considered in developing future ways of working.’
Elsewhere, the inspectors, who oversee the police, Crown Prosecution Service, prison and probation, warned that the criminal justice system was continuing to operate at ‘unacceptable levels’ in England and Wales.
They warned that police were suffering from a lack of detectives, resulting in low charging rates.
The report said forces were far from recovering from the ‘shock’ of the pandemic, while the number of victims waiting more than a year to have their case heard had quadrupled.
It also said prisoners were being kept in their cells for up to 22.5 hours per day.
‘We have found that justice delayed, denied or disrupted in far too many instances,’ they said.
Speaking on behalf of the four watchdogs, Charlie Taylor, the chief inspector of prisons, said: ‘This report reflects our serious concerns about the ability of the criminal justice system to recover, even to its pre-Covid state.
‘The impact of the pandemic will be felt for a prolonged period and whole-system recovery will take a lot longer than initially anticipated.’
Earlier this month, magistrates had their sentencing powers doubled in a bid to tackle the courts backlog – but barristers warned the move could trigger a flood of appeals.
Criminals will now face sentences of up to a year from today for a single offence, compared with a previous six-month maximum at a magistrates’ court.
The plans are part of a bid to relieve the huge crown court backlog of cases built up over the pandemic. Until this month, magistrates had sent cases to crown courts for sentences longer than six months.
It is hoped that dealing with more offences in the lower court will free up time for crown courts to handle complex and serious cases, delivering swifter justice for victims. Justice Secretary Dominic Raab estimates the move will free up 1,700 days of crown court time a year.
It comes after it was revealed yesterday that British workers are leading the world in refusing to return to the office, despite a push by ministers to kickstart the commuter economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
New figures show the UK now tops the table of nations where workers would rather quit or find a new job than return to the office five days a week.
Women are said to be the ones leading the so-called ‘flexidus’ of staff demanding a mixture of remote and in-office working, with 52 per cent admitting they have left or have considered leaving their jobs of a ‘lack of flexibility’.
It came as the founder of one of Britain’s largest mobile retailers yesterday warned that work from home culture could spell a ‘catastrophe’ for the British economy.
Phones4U creator John Caudwell added his name to the list of experienced entrepreneurs warning of a lasting impact of remote working on British businesses.
He also slammed a ‘growing sense of entitlement on the part of workers’ who he said believed that jobs ‘exist for their own convenience rather than to serve customers or the public’.
His comments come as ministers and civil servants continue to lock horns over plans to force them back into the office following the lifting of all Covid restrictions in the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said cutting down on remote working would boost productivity and revive the UK’s town and city centres.
But unions say they will ‘resist indiscriminate demands from the Government for civil servants’ return to office-based working’, arguing that staff can work efficiently from home and that ‘work is no longer a place, but what is done’.
New figures published by Work From Home Research (WFH Research) have revealed how Britons are most likely to leave their jobs if told to return to the office five days a week.
The survey, involving 33,000 people from across the world, shows how 23 per cent of British workers say they would rather quit or start looking for new job rather than go back to the office.
Britain’s WFH hotspots: The areas where companies are letting staff work from home most
Britons who want to work from home should get jobs in seaside towns such as Worthing, Southend and Bournemouth, according to newly analysed figures
The areas where companies are letting staff work from home most, with Worthing, Stoke and Burnley among the towns topping the list of so-called ‘Zoom hotspots’.
New figures show how the West Sussex seaside town of Worthing has seen a 650 per cent rise in jobs postings with remote working on offer since the first Covid lockdown.
Figures also show a huge increase in the number of ‘flexible working’ positions in the city of Dundee, east Scotland, where job postings have increased by 319 per cent.
The former booming industrial town of Burnley has also seen a 391 per cent rise increase in work from home job posts between March 2020 and March this year.
Stoke-on-Trent, best known as the home of England’s pottery industry, finished third with a 323 per cent increase in postings with remote working in the last two years.
Meanwhile port and seaside towns that featured consistently in the top 25, with Southend (320 per cent) Plymouth (308 per cent) and Bournemouth (268 per cent) all among the list.
The analysis, carried out by online meeting place Zoom and jobs site Indeed, comes amid a growing row over the future of work from home – which became the default position during the first Covid lockdown in March 2020.
That puts Britain above every other nation included in the survey, including the US (14.8 per cent), Russia (15.7 per cent) and China (8 per cent).
In terms of Europe, only Hungry (20 per cent) and the Netherlands (19.6 per cent) came closest, while Britain was significantly ahead of France (11.9 per cent), Germany (14.8 per cent) and Italy (11.9 per cent) and the world-wide average of 14.58 per cent.
Meanwhile, other data by WFH Research, which is run by a number of US universities, including Stanford, showed how Britons on average desire to work around two days a week at home.
This is roughly in line with the number of days those surveyed told WFH Research they currently work at home – around 1.93 days on average.
That puts the UK above the world average of 1.43 days; but behind Singapore, where people work on average 2.4 days per week at home, as well as Malaysia, at 2.1 days, Australia, at 1.97 days a week, and Canada, at 1.93 days per week.
The UK’s continued work from home culture, despite all Covid restrictions being lifted in England in March, is also clear from Google Mobility data. Figures from February 2020 to May this year shows how journeys to the workplace are down more than 20 per cent still when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
This is more than any other country, including the US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany.
But while mobility data for office workers remains down on pre-pandemic levels according to Google, figures for Tom Tom surprisingly show an increase in traffic levels in London when compared to 2019.
Congestion levels reached 70 per cent in London at peak time (8am) yesterday, up from 63 per cent in 2019 and from 48 per cent in 2020 – when the UK would have been in its first Covid lockdown. However congestion figures for the rest of the day dropped below pre-pandemic levels.
It is a similar story in Manchester, where congestion levels at peak time yesterday reached the same as 2019 levels – and remained above them throughout the day.
And in England’s second city, Birmingham, peak time congestion levels reached 65 per cent on Monday, compared to just 36 per cent in 2019.
Leeds and Liverpool followed a similar pattern – with congestion above 2019 levels. Southampton was one of the only cities to buck the trend, with congestion at 53 per cent yesterday, below the 61 per cent of 2019 levels.
However, while congestion levels are now either catching up or exceeding pre-pandemic levels, the number of people using public transport in London remains significantly lower than pre-Covid.
Figures for last month show more than 70 million tube journeys were made in March this year, the highest level since February 2020 – prior to the first Covid lockdown. However that month saw 106 million journeys made – meaning 30 million less journeys were made in March than before the pandemic – despite England not having any Covid restrictions for three months.
It comes as new research from Linkedin shows 52 per cent of women surveyed saying that they’ve considered leaving, or have left, a role because of lack of flexibility.
The continued work from home culture is also clear from Google Mobility data. Figures from February 2020 to May this year shows how journeys to the workplace are down more than 20 per cent still when compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is more than any other country, including the US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany
Congestion levels reached 70 per cent in London at peak time (8am) Monday, up from 63 per cent in 2019 and from 48 per cent in 2020 – when the UK would have been in its first Covid lockdown. However congestion figures for the rest of the day have dropped below pre-pandemic levels
It is a similar story in Manchester, where congestion levels at peak time Monday reached the same as 2019 levels – and remained above them throughout the day
And in England’s second city, Birmingham, peak time congestion levels reached 65 per cent Monday, compared to just 36 per cent in 2019
Southampton was one of the only cities to buck the trend, with congestion at 53 per cent Monday, below the 61 per cent of 2019 levels
Almost a quarter (23 per cent) of women said are more likely to leave their role since their employers started enforcing back to office policies and nearly two in five (37 per cent) said they felt like progress made on flexible working during the pandemic is being lost.
Of those whose workplaces have not gone fully remote, two in five (39 per cent) of UK professionals surveyed say that they are now expected in the office four or five days per week.
Meanwhile a quarter (25 per cent) say that their employer has put set office days in place, which makes juggling home life more difficult.
Charlotte Davies, Career Expert at LinkedIn, said their research showed how women wanted to work flexibly, while Molly Johnson-Jones, Founder of Flexa Careers, said working from home was a huge step towards ‘gender equality at work’
She added: ‘It is crucial that flexible working is accessible to everyone, as we shouldn’t have to justify our need for this based on gender.
‘Companies that offer flexible working to all, without request processes requiring individuals to state the ‘need’ for it, are the ones that are creating true equity in the workplace.’