‘One HMPPS’ – even more reason for Probation to be moved out from the department
Katie Lomas and Ian Lawrence write..
In yet another display of bad faith by senior HMPPS management, communications were issued earlier than had been agreed with the unions about the launch of the so called ‘one HMPPS’ programme.
What is it?
Members will recall the appalling message from the Prime Minister earlier this summer, which talked about reducing the ‘size of the state’ and cutting Civil Service numbers to 2016 levels. Following this, ‘One HMPPS’ is purportedly being launched to ensure closer regional alignment between Prisons and Probation in terms of high level operational matters and localised administrative functions.
Why we oppose it
Napo’s view is clear: this further major restructuring is being presented as a mask for future staff cuts across HQ functions in Prison and Probation despite the thin assurances that staff below Regional Probation Director level will be unaffected. This will not fool our members, who are seeing the daily populist tirade against public sector workers and their trade unions from both of the contenders for the Conservative Party leadership.
The General Secretary has sent a withering critique of the ‘One HMPPS’ programme to senior Probation leaders. Among other things this sets out our serious concerns about the stripping away of any semblance of separate support systems for Probation and the further de-professionalisation of the work carried out by our members.
We also reflect on recent history and how privatisation had such an egregious impact on the Probation Service.
The constant attempts to introduce more and more unwanted initiatives that are designed to instil a prison-centric culture into Probation and the regular insulting suggestions of the need to ‘professionalise’ Probation staff are unacceptable.
Probation is different and must always be
The letter also reminds management that we warned how the move into HMPPS many years ago was a risk to the profession and the threats posed by the needs of our larger and more costly partner in the prisons.
Finally, we say that if the Civil Service headcount needs to be reduced, then Napo have the perfect solution which is ‘oven ready’. Move the Probation Service out of the Civil Service into a non-departmental government body. In the public sector but freed from prison and removed from the Civil Service. Give Probation professionals the freedom to practice, give senior leaders the freedom to truly lead. Make the Probation Service locally accountable, enabling partnership working while retaining its unique culture and values.
Napo will be ramping up our campaign against this project in and outside of Parliament.
Calling all Napo members (Probation England and Wales) - your chance to hear about what Napo is trying to do on your behalf
Discussions on a number of major issues which directly impact on members have been taking place over the summer and are still ongoing. That’s why you are being invited to take part in the following meetings below. Come and listen to your National Officers and Officials about updates on Pay and Professional issues.
There will be 2 sessions on each of the following dates and we very much hope that members will be able to work one of these into your schedules. The First online meeting is: Tuesday 6 September at 12.30pm to 13.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm. The Second online meeting is: Friday 30 September, again at 12.30pm to 13.30pm and 3.30pm to 4.30pm.
Probation Reform Programme
By E-mail only
4th August 2022
Napo response to ‘One HMPPS’ announcement
While Napo intends to issue a report to our members this Monday to align with the release of the employers communications, I did indicate that Napo would offer our perspective on the ‘One HMPPS’ initiative.
Before doing so, I thought it would be helpful to reflect on some recent history to explain the basis of Napo’s antipathy to this project which, as you will see, we believe to have grave consequences for the Probation Service.
As a result of the disastrous Transforming Rehabilitation Programme in 2014, That part of Probation which was not subject to privatisation was brought into the Civil Service as the National Probation Service. This shadow of its former self was markedly different to the Service that existed before, with the Probation Trusts being abolished despite all having performance assessed as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and many having externally assessed marks of excellence.
The cancellation of the CRC contracts in 2021 moved the final elements of Probation work into the Civil Service and now all of the Probation System exists either as a direct provider, or in small regionally managed contracts for specialist support services. While reunification was obviously welcomed, the centralisation into a Civil Service culture has been a disaster for the profession.
The move away from Trusts that valued and supported the professionalism of their staff into the top-down command and control mechanisms of the Civil Service has stifled Professionalism so much that there is now a move, (led as ever by Senior MoJ and HMPPS Leaders) to introduce even more unwanted initiatives, purported to ‘professionalise’ Probation staff. As Napo has continually stated, this is an insulting term to highly skilled and committed professionals who have struggled to deliver a service in the face of cuts to budgets and staffing, following the previous disastrous and dangerous split in the system under TR, and its long term damage simply cannot be under estimated. It is unlikely that the decision makers in the Ministry of Justice will ever hear the true voice of the profession however, as they are so far removed from Probation, a tiny but hugely important part of the bigger machine that delivers Justice across England and Wales.
Now we are told that, in response to the announcement made by the outgoing Prime Minister about Civil Service Job Cuts, Probation will be subsumed into HMPPS and no longer exist with a separate framework to support it. Early versions of the communications about this move promised that decisions would be based on evidence and data which we have yet to see. It is not clear if this information will even make it into the final cut after Napo pointed out that this is the latest in a string of harmful decisions made on the basis of political whim with no appreciation of the facts.
Probation is different and must always be
The Probation System is markedly different to the Prison System. That does not mean that either one is better or worse, they are fundamentally different. The Prison system works on strict rules, security and hierarchy. These are necessary for the safety of staff and those in prison. The Probation system works on transparency, constantly questioning everything including instructions and rules. Probation training encourages the professional to question the system in which they, and their client, exist and to seek to understand and explore issues relating to power and control in their working relationships. This inevitably affects the way that those professionals respond to their own working relationships in their own supervision and management arrangements. Probation professionals should be expected to ask for evidence and data, to scrutinise the motivation for instructions and policy changes and, above all, to have an active voice in their own management.
For many years Napo has been warning that the move into HMPPS was a risk to the profession; the ‘One HMPPS’ programme is likely to realise these fears.
Probation as a profession will be under threat due to the needs of our larger and more costly partner in the prisons. Senior leaders will continue to struggle to make the voice of Probation heard and, in order to survive, will adopt more of a command and control approach, discouraging questioning and becoming more remote. The mantra of: ‘that’s not how Civil Service/HMPPS/Prisons do it’ will continue to be the stock response when those who retain Probation values and approaches try to be heard. It is important to note that in all the work done since 2014 to rebuild Probation in the Civil Service you never hear anyone say ‘that’s how Probation do it’. It is a great shame, there is much that our colleagues in the wider HMPPS and Civil Service could learn from the former Probation Trusts, especially those who were outstanding performers with externally verified excellence standards.
If the Civil Service headcount needs to be reduced, then Napo have the perfect solution which is ‘oven ready’. Move the Probation Service out of the Civil Service into a non-departmental government body. In the public sector but freed from prison and removed from the Civil Service. Give Probation professionals the freedom to practice, give senior leaders the freedom to truly lead. Make the Probation Service locally accountable, enabling partnership working while retaining its unique culture and values.
As previously stated, and for the formal record in all our future discussions about ‘One HMPPS’, Napo is implacably opposed to what we believe to be a direct threat to the profession, it’s staff and it’s vital role in the justice system and wider society.
In light of the foregoing you will not be surprised to hear that Napo will vigorously campaign in and outside of Parliament to achieve the aims outlined above.
- Allows for a “whole sentence” approach to the way we deliver our services, ensuring offender management services are better joined up across the whole of the offender journey;
- Empowers decision making at a regional level, enabling our leaders to ensure that the services they offer are tailored to the needs of and improve outcomes for users of our services; and
- Supports the sharing of resources, knowledge, information and skills through a new organisational structure that enables better outcomes and provides value for money.