Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Parole Board Memo to MoJ

Those of us in probation have known about the IPP problem for a very long time indeed, a situation excacerbated by prison service cutbacks, TR, a backlog in Parole Board hearings and a general culture of 'risk-aversion' that permeates the criminal justice system nowadays.

As far back as 2010 the government admitted that the situation was 'not defensible' and David Blunkett the Home Secretary responsible for introducing the scheme is on record as saying he very much regrets the 'injustices' that have arisen as a result.

Unlike Chris Grayling, his successor Michael Gove also recognised there was a serious problem and was in the process of trying to find a remedy before he was unceremoniously sacked from the MoJ by the new Prime Minister Theresa May.

For this substantial group of prisoners, who have no idea when they might be released and with most way over their tariff date, despair often leads to self-harm as reported here by the BBC:-

'Self-harming rise' among prisoners on indefinite sentences
The rate of self-harm by inmates serving indefinite prison sentences in England and Wales has risen by almost 50% in four years, figures suggest. Last year, there were more than 2,500 acts of self-harm by prisoners serving imprisonment for public protection, or IPP, sentences, at a higher rate than among those serving fixed sentences. The Prison Reform Trust said it showed IPP prisoners were in "despair".

The Ministry of Justice said it was urgently looking at IPP offenders. IPP sentences were scrapped in 2012, but thousands of inmates are still waiting to be released. According to new Ministry of Justice statistics, which were compiled by the Prison Reform Trust, there were 2,537 incidents of self-harm among the population of 4,100 IPP prisoners last year. The figures suggest rates of self-harm among IPP prisoners have gone up significantly every year for the last four years.

'No finish line'
They showed there were 550 incidents of self-harm per 1,000 IPP prisoners last year. That compares with 324 incidents per 1,000 prisoners on determinate sentences and 200 per 1,000 prisoners serving life sentences. Of those still serving IPPs, 3,300 have served more than the minimum sentence they were given, while 400 have served at least five times the minimum sentence they received.


At long last it looks as if with Nick Hardwick's arrival at the helm of the Parole Board and at the behest of Michael Gove, there is at last a plan as to how to deal with the issue. This from the BBC website:- 

Parole Board chief urges indefinite jail release change
Prisoners held indefinitely after serving their minimum term or tariff should not have to prove it is "safe" to release them, new Parole Board chairman Nick Hardwick has said.

Various factors make it "incredibly difficult" for some inmates on Imprisonment for Public Protection sentences to find such proof, he said. He wants new criteria for freeing IPP prisoners in England and Wales. The Ministry of Justice said the suggestion had been "taken on board".

IPP sentences were introduced by Labour in 2005 as a way of stopping the release of dangerous prisoners. But courts were banned from imposing any more IPP sentences in 2012 amid concerns they were being used to hold people for periods which their original offence did not warrant.

In March, 4,133 IPP prisoners continued to be detained, the majority of whom had been convicted of "violence against the person", sexual offences or robbery.

'Festering in prison'
The Parole Board can approve a prisoner's release after the minimum term - the "punishment" part of their sentence - but only if it is satisfied it is not necessary to hold the inmate in the interests of public protection. It means the prisoner has to prove they do not present a risk and can be safely managed in the community. In March, about 80% of IPP prisoners - 3,347 - had already served their minimum term but were still locked up.

In his first interview since taking up his post in March, Prof Hardwick told the BBC that procedural delays, problems accessing offending behaviour courses and finding suitable accommodation made it "incredibly difficult" for some IPP prisoners to prove that it was safe for them to be let out.

"Some of them are stuck, festering, in prison long after the punishment part of the sentence," he said. Ministry of Justice figures show more than 500 IPP prisoners given tariffs of less than two years were still in prison five or more years later. "Once it gets to that point, they stop making progress and they start going backwards," said Prof Hardwick. "So this is, I think, a blot on the justice system and I'm very keen we can do something about it."

Risk test
He said Liz Truss, the new justice secretary, should consider activating Section 128 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. The clause allows the justice secretary to alter the test which the Parole Board has to apply when releasing prisoners. Both houses of Parliament would have to agree to the change, but fresh legislation would not be required.

"There are legislative options that will enable us to change the risk test so it's more about 'is there proof that they're dangerous rather than proof that they're safe?' and there are some other measures that can be taken... to try to cut into that group," Prof Hardwick said.

The former Chief Inspector of Prisons said there were three categories of IPP inmate who would benefit most: Those on very short tariffs but still in custody; prisoners held beyond the maximum sentence for the offence they had committed; and offenders who were too frail or elderly to pose a danger.

The Parole Board is also trying to cut the backlog of prisoners awaiting decisions on their release, by hiring more parole panel members and dealing with cases more efficiently. Prof Hardwick said it was "crazy" to be paying out compensation to inmates held in custody because their cases were delayed due to a lack of resources.

In 2015-16, there were 463 damages claims lodged, five times the number the previous year, with £554,000 paid out in compensation, compared to £144,000 the year before. "It's not a good use of taxpayers' money," Prof Hardwick said. "It would be much better to put the money into ensuring that the system is working efficiently so that people get dealt with fairly and get out when they're supposed to and when the courts intended."

The Ministry of Justice said: "The chair of the Parole Board has made a number of recommendations to improve the parole system and reduce the backlog of IPP prisoners. "Work is ongoing within the department to address these issues and his recommendations have been taken on board".


As is now routine in the airbrushing of probation out of the picture, no mention of the vital role probation has in all this, both in preparing reports and release plans for Parole Board hearings, and in undertaking supervision under the terms of any Parole Licence. I so wish we had an effective, authoritative champion that could put our case......

Monday, 25 July 2016

Napo Has a Plan

There's obviously been quite a bit of 'blue sky' thinking going on at Napo HQ and a plan with a snappy title has appeared which it's hoped the membership will discuss, refine and endorse at the next AGM. There's a hell of a lot in this 'consultation' document and not a great deal of time to deliberate on it, and of course it's end of term and the sun is out. 

In the current climate of general ill-feeling throughout the profession, I really do wonder what the response is likely to be? Anyway, here it is and I would urge members to spend some time on it and submit views as requested:-  

One Probation One Profession 
Napo’s strategy for the new probation environment 



This is one of the most difficult and critical periods in probation’s history in England and Wales. Whilst seeking to rebuild everything from morale and trust to working practices within and across the new split working environments, we stand nervously awaiting the impact of major reform proposals for prisons and other parts of the justice sector. 

In such times of uncertainty it would be easy to duck for cover, hide and seek to merely protect what we’ve salvaged to date. But probation isn’t about fear or hiding. The essence of probation is being proactive and not being afraid of difficult choices. As the professional association and union for probation and Family Courts staff, Napo’s proactively championed probation for over a century and we’re not going to step back from the challenge now. In adversity comes opportunity. 

In this period of confusion, uncertainty and change, Napo’s in a unique position. We are the constant. We are the only body with members from all parts of probation—from admin to ACO’s in every CRC, part of the NPS, prison and mutual. We are the place where anyone regardless of grade or union rank is invited and encouraged to come and have their say both about current concerns and the future. 

Napo’s always been proud of presenting the professional voice for probation—whether to policy makers in Parliament and the National Assembly, or to senior managers when designing training; through campaign materials and briefings to publishing the Probation Journal. We’re effective because our voice is genuinely inclusive— our unique open and flat democratic structures encourage members to be involved in these debates. 

That’s what this consultation is about. Probation talks about being a profession but for many and varied reasons we’ve lacked the structures that sustain a recognisable profession and our approach to professionalism. Pathways in to being a probation officer are consequently restricted with our own form of class system between PSO’s and ‘qualified PO’s’. Managers and leaders don’t have the training and qualification structures now common place in other professions. Consequently, probation’s seen by outsiders as a ‘Cinderella service’, not having the status or recognition it needs and deserves. Napo think it is time probation came to the ball. 

We can do that by having a plan when all around us are in a panic. This consultation paper outlines a starting position. In the tradition of Napo we want you, the professionals at all levels who know and care about probation most, to help shape and develop the plan so Napo can take something you can have confidence in to those with the power and resources to implement it. 

Please read through the document, talk about it with colleagues and return the attached questionnaire by 3rd September 2016. Then come to the AGM the make the final decisions. Thanks for continuing to support Napo and your probation service. 

Dean Rogers, Assistant General Secretary 
Tania Bassett, National Official (Campaigns and Parliament)

1. Establishing Probation’s values and core principles 

After the Earthquake 
Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) was an earthquake that has shaken probation to its foundations, with further seismic shocks predicted for probation and other parts of the justice sector. We don’t know when or where these occur. All we can be certain of is further uncertainty. 

If what, where and how our work is different and uncertain then it’s more critical than ever for all of our work to be anchored to a strong, clear sense of WHY . Every change must be assessed, measured and tested around WHY. 

The WHY provides the VALUES underpinning our service, against which the outcomes and processes are benchmarked. How and what we do must reflect these VALUES consistently for clients, partners, funders and staff to invest their trust, commitment and faith in the new operating environments. 

So what are probation’s VALUES? 
Napo proposes that professionalism is a PRICE worth paying— PRICE standing for: 
  • Professional 
  • Respectful 
  • Independent 
  • Challenging 
  • Ethical 
If PRICE encapsulates the values upon which probation is built – the foundation of all probation does, how it operates and how it is judged what are the principles that translate these values into practice? What are the principles to benchmark and test these values and tie them to probation’s goals and purpose? 

Napo’s starting point would be FIRST PRINCIPLES—at university the brightest and the best can get the ultimate accolade of a Double First and Napo think that nothing less than the best is good enough for probation members. Napo’s Double First Principles would be: 
  • Fair & Flexible 
  • Independent & Inclusive 
  • Responsive & Responsible 
  • Safe & Supportive 
  • Trusted & Transparent 
Q1. What are the common probation values and principles that should underpin all probation does and how we should do things? 
i. Does PRICE and FIRST principles capture these? 
ii. What 5 words best sum up probation values? 
iii. What 5 words best sum up probation principles?

2. Regulation and a Licence to Practice 
Social workers are regulated and licenced by the Health Care Profession’s Council (HCPC). Medical professions have their own professional councils (e.g. nursing, the General Medical Council, midwifery, etc) and teaching has the General Teaching Council. 

These set and monitor core values against a set of professional standards and qualification expected at each level of their profession. They’re independent of politicians and political interference (unlike Ofsted for example) so retain their credibility. Translating values into practice at different levels and situations is done via genuine dialogue with partners, including unions and professional associations. They can also develop training standards and advise on what continuous professional development (CPD) is required for professionals at different levels to progress along clearly defined professional pathways - e.g. requirements for managers and leaders to be successful. 

They also maintain a register of those licenced to practice. These are graduated at different levels, backed up by qualification that recognise professionalism , status and the monitoring of CPD. Napo has had policy since 2011 supporting setting up a probation licence to practice—is now the time to push for this again? 

Professional advantages… 
Applying minimum professional standards and applying a professional status to all frontline staff would protect probation from divide and rule, downward grade drift and people being pressured to do things they don’t feel qualified to do. It would support a structured career pathway, up to managerial or advanced professional roles, aligned to qualifications and training. Employers who don’t support this would risk being criticised by the independent regulator. 

Who could regulate probation? 
The whole probation profession would need to have initial confidence in its professional regulator. The regulator would have to have the capacity to then build and retain this confidence. There are a number of options for probation that Napo wants to consult members about. 

One option would be to expand the role of the Probation Institute (PI). Some Napo members have already chosen to join the PI and register via the voluntary licence they operate. However, the PI currently lacks the status, universal credibility and legislative standing to quickly or automatically fill the role of a probation wide regulator. 

It is possible the MoJ could task an established regulator, such as the HCPC, to establish a probation arm, which could be less complex legislatively and quicker to set up using establishing operating frameworks. Cafcass members are already regulated by the HCPC and aligned to social work frameworks. Could probation benefit from getting closer to social work in this way? Or is there merit on there being something new and specific set up for probation? 

Q2. Should probation be regulated and, if so, who by? - The Probation Institute - The HCPC - Something new and probation specific 
Q3. Should this include a licence to practice?

3. Building Partnerships in the new environment 

Probation’s reputation as a successful service was founded upon being innovative, open and accountable. 

In the new probation environment transparency is more difficult because of commercial competition between providers and weak foundations for the NPS where local autonomy and creativity’s often suffocated by central dictates and a bureaucratic pull to standardise everything. 

Napo also recognise that long-standing relationships with wider agencies and partners have also been strained by the new post TR structures. 

Napo thinks coming together around professional standards can begin to address these challenges and facilitate trust building between providers, professionals and wider partners. We also recognise partner agencies have a vested interest in a successful probation service. Napo thinks they need to also be brought in to the conversation, and that staff who work for them and are engaged on the probation frontline should also be protected by professional standards and expectations - e.g. agency staff, staff delivering relevant programmes. Napo’s rules may need to change to allow us to support and represent people in this position. 

A new place to come together 
Napo has therefore supported proposals already advanced for a new national Probation Professional Partnership forum (PPP), where CRC’s and the NPS would meet with unions to discuss and develop professional issues. The principle of a new PPP has been agreed within Napo but debate about its exact scope continues. We think there should be input from a new regulator and wider partners and that the PPP should have scope to direct and shape all of the keystone processes to sustain professionalism. We also think core values and first principles should be embedded into its measures and tests. 

Learning & Development 
Performance Management 
Professional Innovation 
Service priorities 
Measuring and Testing 

Q4. Do you support the creation of a national Probation Professional Partnership forum, and if so which organisations do you think could or should be invited?

4. Keystones for Professionalism 
Securing and sustaining recognition as a true profession requires structure to be in place—the keystones of professionalism. We believe the lack of these structures have been part of the reason why probation has felt so fragile and vulnerable. Now is the time to re-examine these and make sure they’re firmly secured into the new probation environment. 

This is especially important in a service like probation, which deals with complex people with complex problems. There are very few ‘black and white’ lines. People need to be confident and secure about making judgements. One of the greatest threats to probation is that it succumbs to a ‘single point of blame’ culture—highlighted by the likes of ex-Chief Constable Sara Thornton in the police and seen in numerous social work ‘scandals’. This needs probation to act now, coherently and consistently, in critical areas. These include: 

Broadening access and professional pathways 
Unless we unite as ‘One Probation’ new employers will inevitably seek to divide and rule, but challenging vested interest must start with challenging ourselves. 
Our world had already been moving around us before TR. The NPS E3 project has flushed out widespread variations in who and how some work is being delivered with people doing similar functions at different grades. The ‘professional boundaries’ and strict role demarcations that tucked a quasi-professional blanket around us has been pulled off, exposing probation to an uncomfortable chill. 

In this regard, probation is catching up with other frontline public services—teaching, social work, health professionals and police all having seen traditional boundaries blurred over the last 20 years, in part through on the job training and broader entrance routes. In almost all cases, unions and professional associations initially opposed these changes, predicting professional disasters, widespread service failure and exploitation. Almost all then recognised the risks from being seen to oppose not just these practices but those who accessed them—including many who’d evidently become excellent, committed professionals utilising pathways that would otherwise have been shut to them. 

Napo has largely taken a defensive stance around where existing grade and/or professional boundaries are set, which to a large extent has been, until now, successful in preventing more rapid and widespread de-professionalisation. But this excludes those looking to find a way over, around or through the professional walls we’ve been maintaining. If we’re serious about wanting One Probation then we have to do better at reaching and engaging with PSO’s and admin grades—many of whom are already doing or aspiring to deliver higher level frontline services, especially in the CRC’s. 

Embedding a Learning Culture 
A graduated licence to practice and broadening of probation qualifications to include apprenticeships, BTECs and other vocational qualifications potentially provide the first keystone. This would strengthen not reduce ‘professionalism’ at all levels, with scope to extend structured, formal training and qualification strands for managers and leaders including into areas such as HR, project management or, as in social work, for those not interested in becoming ‘managers’, advanced probation routes. In most professions, advancement of this sort now requires specific professional qualifications, the requirement for which acts as an engine to power Continuous Professional Development—something evidently lacking across the new probation environment. 

Napo Days 
To encourage and embed some structure into this we’re also considering the idea of ‘Napo Days’. These are based on school INSET days, also still known as Baker Days after the Minister who introduced them. Our initial thinking is for every employee to have an allocated bank of time specifically for CPD (e.g. 10 days a year). This would be enough to ensure flexibility for individual and collective, formal and informal learning, training and reflection to take place. We’d expect about 1/2 to be collective and incorporate active learning with the scope for whole days to be allocated for team rebuilding and reflection. How and what this was used for would be built into monitoring as part of performance management. 

Performance Management 
Performance management is a huge weakness across the public sector—especially in the civil service where staff survey after staff survey shows it ends up being demotivating and self-defeating. This can and should change. 

Good performance management should be rooted to the values, purpose and goals of the organisation as they relate through to the work people do. Measurements should reflect what and how people do their work, tested against the key behavioural values (KBVs) - our PRICE for professionalism. Where people work in teams the performance management should reflect teams. It should be forward looking and support CPD, not defensive and punitive. When supported by professional values, principles and structures it should be positive, proactive and part of everyday practice, not something that happens once a year or is done to someone. 

We think the current probation appraisal and performance management systems fail to meet these standards and that this is the opportunity to set out something better that works for all staff and all grades in all roles. 

Appropriate pay and reward 
Our professional agenda is not separate from our traditional union agenda. Repairing the broken pay system is a central pillar of any One Probation One Profession strategy. A good pay system would be: 
  • Transparent and easy to understand 
  • Fair and measurably equitable 
  • Competitive to attract and retain good people 
  • Affordable and sustainable 
Our current pay system’s inflexible, opaque, uncompetitive and unsustainable. Now is the best and right time to modernise our pay system.

A new model must be tested against how it promotes and sustains a new professional framework. 
This should rule out any moves to performance pay. 

Pay and reward should be intrinsically set according to what people do; the skills, knowledge and experience they use; and the responsibility and risk they manage. Fairness is critical. 

Talks with the NPS have already started at national level and we’re developing our ideas on how we can move from where we are to somewhere better. Please look out for further consultations on pay over the coming weeks and months. 

Developing practice and innovation 
Professionalism and innovation go hand in hand—professionalism becoming a driver for promoting innovation by driving out complacency, forward thinking reflection drowning negativity. Probation has a long tradition of promoting innovation and evidenced based practice and Napo has been at the heart of that. TR ditched this tradition and space needs to be found for it to be re-established. This can’t happen by accident or chance. 

Napo wants to explore ways of promoting Design Thinking principles and inclusive development practices—proper pilots tested and evidence based assessments returning, including in partnerships via the PPP forum and by finding ways to celebrate success. For example, we’re looking to pilot Probation Meets, again modelled on successful education practice, where Napo supports members meeting informally just to talk about what’s still great about being in probation and supportively share what we do well. Let us know if you’d be interested in finding out more about this approach. 

Q5. Do you think Napo Days are a good idea? 
Q6. Do you think workloads and current appraisal adequately support your CPD? 
Q7. Estimate how much time you have had for CPD in the last year? 
Q8. Does your current appraisal system actively make a positive difference to your performance? 
Q9. Do you think performance management could be improved to better reflect and support how you work and help you to do this even more effectively? 
Q10. How well do you understand the current pay system and why you earn what you do in relation to other colleagues earning more or less than you? 
Q11. Does your pay fairly reflect and reward what you do?

Finding the right balance…? 

Many businesses operate balanced scorecards to measure and guide their organisations strategy and activities. These can work well—if the right values and principles are measured, and there is enough honesty and transparency about what and how things are measured, then the model can provide the mirror within the organisation to reflect if and how principles and values are being holistically applied, or reveal misalignments between the priorities, values and goals. 

We think there is a lack of consistent, transparent and structured assessment of probation strategy and that a balanced scorecard model could potentially have a positive impact if cascaded across all areas of delivery. We think it could contribute to addressing the instability, inconsistency and fall off in evidence based decision making in probation and increase accountability. 

The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) Test – aligning principle with practice 
PRICE values and FIRST PRINCPLES used to test strategy and practice decisions: 
  • For policy 
  • For funding 
  • For staffing 
Q12. Do you support the development of a Balanced Scorecard Model along these lines across probation in partnership with Napo and a PPP forum?

Summary and what happens next…. 

We think that if these pieces can be brought together then we’d be well on the way to: 
  • Achieving greater recognition and support for managers 
  • Putting people at the heart of how, what and why questions at all levels 
  • Having greater support and structure to leadership development at all levels 
  • Greater self-awareness of professionalism, autonomy, trust and mutual respect at all levels. 
Staff would be more engaged, which 30 years of consistent research shows promotes innovative practice, more flexibility, encourages diversity, which increases productivity. Greater productivity means greater efficiency, greater resilience, greater value for money for the taxpayer and more support for the service. Ultimately this means better outcomes for clients and the public. Prioritising developing and supporting a One Probation One Profession strategy is something that could bring a greater focus on the valuable role of the probation service. 

Over to you…. 
However, you know probation best so we want to find out whether you agree with us; if you think pieces are missing; and what you think needs more developing. The 12 questions set out through the document will help structure this genuine member consultation which will run throughout July and August. You can email us your answers or print the document off and send us your answers directly. You can do this as individuals or collectively. 

Your responses will then be assessed and will inform the debate we’ll have at this year’s AGM in Cardiff from 29th September until 1st October. As ever, all members are invited and encouraged to come to the AGM, which itself doubles as a CPD event. 

Following the AGM, Napo will lobby all CRC owners, probation employers, partners and policy deciders to support the final professional agenda agreed by members at the AGM. 

At the same time we’ll practice what we preach by continuing to review, refine and add to the strategy post 2016 in consultation with you. You can join in through our soon to be launched Members’ Networks, accessing our regular surveys through our improving communication platforms or by just old fashioned writing and emailing us via info@napo.org.uk

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Pat Bows Out

Last Friday saw Napo London Branch hold its AGM and the indefatigable Pat Waterman bowed out as Chair having served her maximum term of four years. By far the largest branch and operating close to all the key players in our national political life, both she and the branch were always likely to be heavily involved in the fight against TR, but it was obvious from the start there were considerable tensions between the branch and Napo HQ. 

I'll be interested to hear what other commentators have to say, but I'm fairly sure there were quite a few squabbles and disagreements regarding tactics during the battle against TR and at a time when you'd have thought everyone's energy would have been harnessed to the common cause, Napo HQ appeared to be continually applying the brake to campaigning efforts by London Branch. I would say yet another example of ineffective leadership at the top of the union in being able to knock heads together, agree a strategy and exert line management of the General Secretary. 

A strong character who undoubtedly rubbed a lot of people up the wrong way, Pat is going to be a very hard act to follow and we would all do well to reflect on what she has to say. My thanks to the colleague for sending me a copy of her valedictory report delivered on Friday in the presence of both Ian Lawrence and Dean Rogers. The pic has been lifted from Facebook and I hope David Raho doesn't mind.    

Chair’s Report for Branch AGM 2016

This AGM marks the end of my term of office as Chair of London Branch and so this report is not only an account of the work done in the past year but also a summary of the events of the past four years.

Unlike the rest of the country, London did not need to wait for Grayling’s master plan to experience privatisation first hand. Within weeks of taking office in 2012 I was immediately involved in trying to protect the interests of members who work in Community Payback as part of that was sold to SERCO. The Senior Managers who were involved in that sell off have all now departed, some with generous redundancy packages. But the members who work in CP, and who are now back working for the CRC, have had a very uncertain past four years.

The ructions in our national office, that led to many of the officers and officials spending the latter part of 2012 at an Employment Tribunal, had an impact on the whole of the union beyond just the financial. The rapid elevation of the former chair of this branch to the post of full time national chair was a difficult period both for him and for his relationship with this branch.

But, in my opinion, we reached an all time low when twenty five members of this branch took it upon themselves to complain to the General Secretary about the choice of speaker at a Branch Meeting. I was advised by the him that, if we did not rescind the invitation, he would have to consider taking legal advice. I advised the General Secretary not to waste members’ money. The meeting went ahead as planned and our guest, who had voiced criticism of our former General Secretary, was allowed to speak on a variety of issues.

But 2013 was the year that Grayling commenced a consultation exercise on his plans for the Probation Service. The exercise itself was phoney. The views of both practitioners and managers were ignored and in May of that year the disaster that was known as Transforming Rehabilitation was launched.

Transforming Rehabilitation dominated the activities of this branch throughout 2013 and 2014. We fought a good campaign but the truth is we lost. In June 2014 London Probation Trust was abolished and everyone was assigned to either the NPS or the CRC. By the end of the year it was announced that the CRC had been sold to a consortium called MTCnovo.

In my report to the 2015 AGM I noted that the new owners made it clear from the outset that they wanted to work with us and for much of that year we enjoyed quite productive and cordial relations. What a difference a year can make.

As always London Branch was present at the National AGM in 2015 in strength. We sent a total of 75 members to Eastbourne but unfortunately the meeting was only ruled to be quorate for the afternoon of the second day. This meant that most of the motions, including some submitted by this branch, could not be appropriately debated.

It is with great personal regret that I have watched NAPO being torn apart by the politics of the Middle East. Motions to affiliate this union to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) have been on the National AGM agenda three times in recent years. Twice the motions have been debated and defeated. At the 2014 AGM yet another motion to affiliate to PSC was on the order paper but was not reached due to lack of time. This motion was then taken to the NEC in November by individual members where it was subsequently passed and became the policy of this trade union.

The diversity of the capital is reflected in the membership of this branch and the NEC decision reverberated through subsequent branch meetings often in a most acrimonious way.

After the National AGM some members of this branch wrote to the National Chairs voicing their concerns about the way the Annual Report, which contained the decisions of the NEC, was handled. These concerns were barely acknowledged let alone addressed. A letter from the Branch Officers to the National Chairs earlier this year, voicing our concerns that complaints of Anti-Semitism by members of this branch had not been addressed, has not yet even been acknowledged. As the Chair of this Branch I am disappointed but as a Jew I am disgusted.

I am sorry that both our representatives on the NEC decided to resign towards the end of last year. This left the branch without a voice in a national forum. As a consequence of decisions taken at a Special General Meeting in 2014 it was no longer possible for these vacancies to be filled locally and finally, after a protracted correspondence with national officers and officials, action was taken to try and ensure that there was an appropriate election for NEC representatives from this branch. I am grateful to Charron Culnane for putting herself forward and am only sorry that she is presently our sole representative on the NEC.

It is not for me to comment on the financial management of NAPO save for how it impacts on this branch. Members will be aware that, as a consequence of decisions taken by the NEC, our finances have become somewhat strained. I have written to the National Treasurer on more than one occasion outlining our position and asking for more money. It has been made clear to me that no additional funding will be given and the branch must confine its expenditure within existing limits.

Early in September some members in the NPS started telling me that they were receiving notices from HMRC advising them that they had underpaid their tax and that steps would be taken to recover the unpaid amount. It would appear that according to the Tax Office these members had been working for a period of time for both the NPS and the CRC. I raised this matter with local Senior Management whose immediate response was that tax was an individual matter which was for individuals to resolve. I knew it was not an individual matter when an overheard comment in the main office at Buckingham Palace Road produced a Mexican Wave style response.

An enormous amount of effort has been expended by me and by other branch officers seeking to resolve this situation. We were finally able to get both our national officials, NPS and CRC Senior Management to accept that this was not an individual problem but rather a systemic one caused by the transfer of data from the former Trust at the time when staff were assigned to one of two organisations. As a result of our hard work responsibility for this debacle has finally been accepted by NOMS who have instructed HRMC to rectify the mistakes. It is unfortunate that such mistakes could not be rectified within the previous tax year but I am now more optimistic that no one should suffer any financial detriment in the long term.

This is a problem that appears to have only affected London. I know that it is tempting to blame civil servants for this debacle but, in my opinion, the responsibility for ensuring that the data on her staff was appropriately passed to their new employers rested with the former Chief Executive of the London Probation Trust.

At the end of 2015 Nick Smart resigned as Chief Executive of the London CRC and Helga Swindenbank was appointed as the new Director. After a brief honeymoon period it soon became apparent that, as financial considerations started to bite, employment relations in the CRC were going to be very different. After a year long moratorium on permanent recruitment, the decision in March to release most temporary workers had a significant effect on members’ workloads. The development of the Cohort Model, which seemed to proceed so smoothly in the latter part of 2015, has started to become less sustainable and members are again being asked to move to locations not necessarily of their choosing. The long awaited new IT system has proved not to be the all purpose panacea.

I see things starting to unravel in the CRC and I fear for it’s future.

Meanwhile the NPS seems to becoming ever more bureaucratic with greater emphasis being placed on completing the correct forms rather than on actually engaging meaningfully with anybody. Decisions are all taken at a national level and local meetings with Senior Management are only really about information sharing rather than any real consultation and negotiation. I hope that we will have some influence in the implementation of the E3 Project locally but, as nobody seems to be too clear what is actually being implemented at any given time, I have my doubts.

The closure of the offices at Buckingham Palace Road presented us with the distinct possibility of having no office for this Branch. Negotiations took place with both the NPS and the CRC. In the end it paid to have some friends in influential places and Unit 6 in the car park at the back of Mitre House was refurbished largely to our specifications and dedicated to our sole use. For me it has been a trip down memory lane as I worked in Unit 6 when I was Branch ARO/ERO in 2010.

Since the last AGM we have had four Branch Meetings including one held at the View Hotel in Eastbourne. Two of these meetings have been quorate. Speakers at these meetings have been Professor Mike Nellis, Jim Barton (NOMS Deputy Director: E3 Programme Lead), Helga Swindenbank, Peter Tatchell, Becs T and Sally Wyatt (Lithium Laughter).

I am grateful for the help and support I have been given by the other Branch Officers, the Branch Executive and other members of this Branch. I could not have done this job without it.

Every year I have said that it is invidious to single out one member for special thanks and every year I have done just that. This year is no exception. This Branch could not function without Beverley Cole, our Branch Administrator.

It has been an honour and a privilege to serve this Branch as its Chair for the past four years. I thank you all and I wish my successors the very best of luck.

Pat Waterman
Branch Chair
July 2016.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Latest From Napo 111

From the General Secretary's Blog yesterday:-

Probation Systems Review
Given that the former Secretary of State had to twice postpone a scheduled meeting with us due to his Brexit campaigning, then next week’s meeting with his successor is about as timely as it gets.

We have just provided an interim submission into the Probation Systems Review that I alerted you to a few weeks back and this will form a key part of the revised briefing that we will offer to Ministers. Here is what we have said:

Probation System Review – Interim submission 14th July 2016
Napo is the Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court staff

As requested by NOMS this is an interim submission by the union for the Probation System Review and outlines some of the key concerns Napo has with regards to the current provision of probation services. A more detailed response outlining issues in specific CRCs and the NPS will be submitted later in the summer.

Payment Mechanism
Many of the CRCs have said that a decrease in community orders with the highest payments attached to them such as unpaid work and programmes has resulted in a lower than expected WAV payment causing reduced budgets and job cuts. This highlights a flaw in the payment mechanism as it is not representative of the wide range of work that CRCs carry out. By only paying CRCs for accredited programmes and unpaid work, CRCs are being prevented financially from developing or maintaining other ways of working or maintaining or growing their staffing levels. (An example of this would be Warwickshire West Mercia CRC who inherited a number of interventions from West Mercia Trust such as Willowdene Farm. This intervention, whilst proven to be effective in reducing reoffending, does not attract additional payment and is becoming unsustainable. The CRC is currently looking to reduce its existing contract with Willowdene to save money.)

The cause of this is in part due to the original 70/30 split of staff which is not reflective of the 50/50 split in workloads. The reduction in service users worth the most money being managed by the CRCs may be as a result of a lack of confidence amongst sentencers with probation services post-contract mobilisation. Magistrates do not know what CRCs are offering and how they deliver the work. We understand that CRCs are not allowed to have direct contact with magistrates regarding this as it is seen as a conflict of interest. In addition to this the NPS is not making the level of referrals to programmes delivered by the CRCs as was anticipated. This is apparently due to a lack of money to pay for the commissioning of programmes and lengthy waiting lists which exclude people on shorter orders or licences from participating. This is of particular concern with regards to domestic violence programmes. It is also an indication that the NPS is not financially sustainable. We understand from some of our members that there is a move to NPS delivering its own interventions and this could have a significant impact on members’ jobs in the CRC.

Despite this, or because of the significant job cuts in the CRCs (approximately 1700), workloads remain extremely high for staff; with many reporting being well over 150% on workload management tools (this is for both CRCs and NPS). This is further evidence that it is the payment mechanism or the commercial viability of CRCs that is causing the problem rather than reduced offending rates. Other initiatives, such as an increased use of community interventions issued by police, do not appear to have been taken into consideration in terms of volumes of work going to the CRC.

Payment by Results (PbR) is due to come online next February but many CRCs have indicated to Napo that they do not intend to factor PbR into their budgets. The payment is too low to be of any significance but the interventions needed to produce the results would be very costly to implement.

Commercial Viability
There are growing concerns about the financial viability of a number of CRCs. Members report increased anxiety regarding finances as an increasing number of CRCs make job cuts citing financial restraints. The levels of job cuts we have seen so far also suggest that CRCs are not commercially viable. This coupled with Service Credit fines that have been imposed on some CRCs for poor performance could see further cuts to staff and interventions. Napo does not believe that this is sustainable and fears that further job cuts will reduce CRCs’ capacity to carry out any meaningful work with service users and mean that they will carry out the basics in order to maintain a profit.

The National Audit Office highlighted in its report this year that the reduced level of business passing to the CRCs needs to be properly risk assessed. It urged the MoJ to identify the risks associated with reduced business and to develop contingency plans should a CRC collapse. Napo would support this but would go further in saying that any assessment of the commercial viability of a CRC must be done in conjunction with an assessment of CRC service delivery against the level of service delivery expected by the MoJ.

Quality and Performance
Napo does not have access to an up-to-date list of CRCs that have had Service Credits imposed on them and has had to rely, at this stage, on feedback from branches and CRCs. It is clear that the imposition of these credits raises questions about the quality of service being delivered both in terms of what is being delivered and how. Napo has raised concerns from the outset that a number of CRCs have developed operation models that in our view, and that of our members, are both dangerous and undermine the purpose of probation to protect the public, enforce the law and to rehabilitate.

Napo calls on the MoJ to urgently review these operating models and to insist that CRCs going through a restructuring programme provide revised operating models to evidence their ability to maintain or improve quality. As a professional association Napo should have the opportunity to have sight of these models (not all CRCs are currently prepared to share them) so that we can assess the impact they will have on our members day to work, long term service delivery and compare the variations around the different providers.

Napo is receiving reports that CRCs are attempting to hide poor performance figures, in particular the enforcement of orders. Members are telling us that they are being verbally directed not to instigate breach proceedings and to carry out additional home visits or send motivational letters to avoid formal breach proceedings. Service user contact records are recording a successful completion when in fact individuals should have been breached numerous times. It has also been reported that in some areas initial appointments are being ‘offered’ on Delius to meet the target of first appointments; but are then subsequently rearranged resulting in many service users not being seen within the target time frame.

Accredited Programme delivery is very varied across the providers. Staff shortages in some areas have led to groups being cancelled on numerous occasions, to lone staff running evening groups, including domestic violence, and to high attrition rates. These approaches undermine the integrity of the programme as well as having a detrimental impact on staff wellbeing.

As reported in the HMIP inspection report earlier this year Through the Gate (TTG) appears to be a key area in which the CRCs are failing to deliver. The variations of its performance around the country are significant according to our anecdotal evidence but not one CRC appears to be delivering well on this contractual requirement. Members in some areas have stated that they get to spend on average 12 minutes with each service user. There is no infrastructure to enable support into housing for example, until an individual has already left custody. As such prisoners are simply being advised to report as homeless on release. Interface with the NPS is also poor regarding resettlement.

Communications between TTG teams and NPS staff is limited. Governors are agreeing licence conditions agreed by the TTG team but not with the consent of the NPS officer resulting in inadequate licences and releases. MoJ figures earlier this year show a rise in recalls to prison and a significant number of those being for short custody prisoners. It suggests that the revolving door is still revolving and possible at a faster rate than previously.

These issues amongst others are exacerbated by a lack of training in both CRCs and the NPS. There is a greater reliance on PSO grades to carry out more complex work but without the grounding they require or the remuneration they deserve. This will contribute to staff burnout, low morale and will impact on service delivery and public protection.

Initial conclusions
It would not be appropriate to make recommendations or solid conclusions at this stage of the review. However, Napo does feel able to make the following observations and suggestions:

  • It is clear that NPS resourcing is having a direct impact on CRC provision. As such any reform of CRC contracts or service delivery should be done in conjunction with the NPS and the two should not be dealt with in silos.
  • Greater transparency is needed for the CRCs in terms of their operating models, financial stability and service delivery. A lack of transparency on these issues heightens staff anxiety, hinders constructive discussions with staff and unions and prevents CRCs being accountable to their local communities and to the MoJ.
  • The payment mechanism is flawed and this needs to be fully reviewed to ensure that it increases good practice and innovation rather than hindering it. If CRCs continue to cut back on services and partnerships they will inevitably reach a point of no return and to rebuild probation provision back to an award winning service will require huge investments and may still not be possible.
  • Napo strongly believes that there must be greater investment from all parties in continual professional development in order to build a strong resilient and sustainable workforce. Napo is currently developing a professional strategy that we will include as part of our more detailed response.
  • Any changes to roles within the NPS such as delivering ‘in house’ interventions must be done in conjunction with E3 and the unions.

Friday, 22 July 2016

No Competition

Seen on Facebook:-

With a little push in the right direction Private Eye did a little digging around and discovered MTCnovo put in the only compliant bid for London and Thames Valley CRCs. Apparently they got more than they wanted as they were only seeking a foot in the door and the MoJs rubber stamp to apply for prison contracts only to be lumbered with London that any savvy multinational wouldn't have touched with a barge pole. Working Links and Purple Futures also cashed in with no competition. So this was the contest that was to bring the best of the private sector to probation - not. A one horse race where even a knackered three legged horse could limp over the line and be declared a winner simply by taking part.

You might want to ask who assisted them to tick all the boxes the MoJ were looking for? And why did they get London despite a weak bid?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Election Special

Well you've all surprised me. Heatwave not withstanding, the hit rate on here has been phenomenal over the last couple of days as we've all been considering the candidates standing for election and especially for Chair of Napo. An incredible 5981 hits on Tuesday, with 5461 yesterday and loads of comments, some outrageously unprintable and hence deleted, but the blog can hardly be accused of being biased as all the candidates appear to have been roundly rubbished and praised in equal measure.

Ok, I exaggerated a bit. Some of the candidates have received some faint praise, but many members appear highly dissatisfied with the choice on offer, especially for National Chair and I think I can sense why. Despite the absurdly long and utterly uninspiring 'pulling rank' statements by the 'continuity' candidates, they are bound to win due to the oldest stunt in the book, namely the far left continuity candidate standing in order to split the vote and prevent the upstart PSO getting a look-in. All completely above-board, accountability and democracy satisfied and back to business as usual at Chivalry Road.

To say it's a sorry state of affairs would be yet another gross understatement in a  very long line of such. The blog has yet again provided plenty of graphic evidence of a very unhappy and angry membership which just doesn't seem to be addressed by the candidates in what must surely be some of the most bland, boring and pointless election addresses I've ever come across. 

Far be it for me to offer any advice, I'd merely point out the following glimmer of hope that at least one candidate acknowledges there's a problem and appears to be suggesting an eminently sensible way forward:-

"An independent review will enable us to modernise - become fit for purpose and have the best chance to protect our values, our jobs and our conditions."   

Those with long memories will recall I've been suggesting that Napo has been dysfunctional for some time and was in fact something highlighted by Judy McKnight prior to her retirement in 2008. It's my understanding that she was particularly critical of the ability of the NEC to effectively steer the Union and hold the General Secretary to account. I would suggest that subsequent events proved this view to be all-too-painfully accurate and left the Union completely unprepared for the tsunami that hit it in the form of TR. 

If the Union is to survive, there must surely be some acknowledgement of the situation and a willingness to tackle it head-on, or the sleep-walking into oblivion will just continue.    

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Fighting Talk 3

Here we have the final candidate for Napo chair and their pitch:-

Dino Peros

Candidate's Statement Section (a)

National Experience

2008-2010-2012 - Napo National Vice Chair serving for two terms consecutively with responsibilities to the Union Learning Initiative, Also served terms on the National Executive Committee. From 1999-2003 l served for 4 years on the National Negotiating Committee. Within the Negotiating Committee I was involved in pay deal negotiations. I have attended and participated in 20 years of AGM conferences moving motions and supporting members. I was for 3 years Chair of Union Learning Representatives steering team, the Link Officer to the Training Committee. l always worked closely with the Campaigning Committee and was Link Officer for 3 years. Having served as a member on the Equality Committee I then did 3 years as Link Officer. My responsibilities also included Vice Chair Link Officer to Kent, Thames Valley, Surrey & Sussex Branches and Northern Ireland.

While serving on the NNC l was selected to work as one of the National Job Evaluation team. This involved testing and ensuring it was fit for purpose and developing benchmarked posts. The duties include national implementation, training the regional trainers, organising appeals and taking part in appeal hearings. I was also directly involved in implementing the procedures locally and regionally. When serving as Vice Chair I have undertaken a range representations and legal action in some. I have served on disciplinary panels and dealt with matters at the highest level of Napo as a Vice Chair. 

  • TUC stage 1 Negotiating representing members.
  • TUC Stage 2 Collective bargaining.
  • TUC training in Leadership and Union Governance. 
  • Diploma in Employment law.
l am currently the South Southwestern Branch Chair and the lead JNCC representative. I have experience of all representations for all members, including local bargaining and making the changes with the new privatised structures.

Advice and guidance on Job evaluation and pay arrangements, VLOs more recently, training, mentoring and support to JNCC representatives both locally, regionally and nationally.

With 17 years branch JNCC Representative (over ten years of which was full time) | have experience of all Branch roles. I have been the representations coordinator of the branch, including involvement in  employment tribunals.

I have a Diploma in employment Law. l have worked on approximately 120 plus cases for members. l have experience of sickness and capability proceedings.

Section (b)

Napo requires leadership with commitment built on knowledge, achievement and experience with vision and flexibility that can deliver change.

Government action on Probation has been aggressive and ill conceived. To fight this challenge Napo has to change. I can lead that change.

An independent review will enable us to modernise - become fit for purpose and have the best chance to protect our values, our jobs and our conditions.

Membership must be galvanised to use our democratic structures to work with all groups to achieve change. Financial restrictions cannot be ignored but limiting essential investment cannot be used to prop up an ineffective structure.

Our strategy must be to protect all our members' rights and local and national reps must be trained and supported in this. This means real practical commitment to negotiation, equalities and health and safety issues.

Our aims must be clear, articulate and well presented in order to protect the professionalism of all grades. We must further develop our media strategy and our closer working with our TUC partners.

Working across multiple employer is different and can be uncomfortable but we must rise to this challenge and demonstrate we are a capable and effective Union. The decline must be arrested before it becomes too late.

My experience derives from 25 years of representing staff. Through grievance, discipline capability, redundancy, tribunals and negotiating local and national collective agreements. I have the knowledge, the experience, the flexibility, the vision and commitment to bring the necessary change Napo needs.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Fighting Talk 2

Here we have the pitch from what might be termed the 'continuity' candidates for Napo chair:-

Candidate's Statement Section (a)

Yvonne Pattison 

l started working for the Probation Service in 2002 and previously spent 11years in the NHS within the mental health field. Whilst in post I have gained experience in a variety of roles, including Court Duty and Reports, Victim Liaison, Programmes facilitation and Treatment Management and Offender Management. l also spent a period of time working in a specialist development role looking at accommodation provision and was the probation link to a multi-agency project providing accommodation for perpetrators of domestic abuse. This project, named 'Making Safe' went on to win the Butler Trust Award for Public Protection in 2008.

l am a trained and experienced facilitator in a number of Accredited Programmes, both general offending behaviour and the more specialised risk programmes, for example sex offender and domestic abuse.

In addition, l am trained to deliver training in respect of Safeguarding Children and have previously been responsible for this throughout the York and North Yorkshire Area and North Yorkshire Safeguarding children Board. l am also Train the Trainer qualified for RM 2000 and LlAP and have undertaken SARN training too.

In Trade Union terms I have been a Napo member for a number of years and was active at a Branch level for around 7 years, holding posts within the branch as a ULR initially and became Branch Secretary and then Branch Chair, a position l held for around 4/5 years. l am an experienced staff side and LJNCC negotiator and was also NEC rep for a time. l have represented a number of members on a variety of issues, including return to work following maternity, Ieaving employment due to sickness, discrimination, reasonable adjustments, capability, grievance and more. Whilst still the Branch Chair of North Yorkshire Branch l was involved in the merger of my branch with two others, however, l have not held a Branch post since our local AGM in July 2014.

l was a member of the local Trades Council branch, in Scarborough, and took part in local activities pertaining to issues across the wider Trade Union Movement.

On a National level I was a member of Training Committee for 2 years between 2011 and 2013 and was also Chair of Campaigning Committee for the same period. I have spoken at Napo's lobby of Parliament and l have spoken to motions at our own AGM and at TUC and at Women's TUC.

l have attended the Family Court Section conference in both 2013 and 2014 as Women in Napo link to Family Court Section and as National Vice-Chair respectively.

l was elected as National Vice-Chair in the 2013 elections and took up post in October that year. I had particular responsibility for London Branch as their link officer. My link committees were Equal Rights Committee and Professional Committee. Additionally, following the resignation of the National Chair, the Officers' group have taken a collective approach to covering the role and its responsibilities which has resulted in me becoming Link Officer to the South East Regional Branches as well as link to Steering Committee, AGM planning and the info@napo mailbox.

Chris Winters and l were elected as National Co-Chair in 2014 and have held that post since then.

For the Napo year 2012-2013 l formed part of the Employees Selection and Recruitment Committee and was part of the panel for Acting GS, Substantive GS and AGS posts.

I have completed a number of Trade Union/Napo training courses including ULR, Discrimination and Harassment, Representing Members, TUPE and Public Speaking for Women.

l have also completed the TUC Employment Law Diploma and the TUC Equalities Diploma.

Since taking up post in 2014 I have remained link to London Branch and additionally our Northern lreland Branch. I remain link to Steering Committee and AGM planning group.

I also sit on the executive committee of the GFTU.

l attend TUC Congress alongside the General Secretary and I have attended a number of different events representing Napo including being part of a panel debate on Justice in Meltdown.

l have been involved in the fight against TR in the High Court liaising with the legal team and attending hearings. At the inception of TR l was involved in meeting with a number of CRC owners alongside the GS.

Post TR l have been part of a regular team from Napo HQ which have met with senior NOMS officials on a variety of issues such as lT, JE and E3. Currently attend the Probation Consultative Forum and the TU engagement meetings on a regular basis.

Chris Winters

l joined Napo in 1988 and have been activist for over 25 years. Having initially held a number of branch posts including Branch Secretary, NEC rep and Branch Chair/lead negotiator, subsequently become involved on a national level. This has included:-

  • Co-Chair of Equal Rights Committee.
  • l have been a member of Negotiating Committee on three separate occasions most recently in early 2014, including attendance at the National Negotiating Council meetings with national employers.
  • l was a National Vice-Chair between 2000 and 2003 which included being the link officer to Campaigning Committee and Equal Rights Committee. In addition l undertook the full range of employer responsibilities on behalf of Napo.
  • Chair of Training Committee
  • l was the Branch Chair of the former Humberside Branch for the 3.5 years prior to taking up my current roles which involved a redundancy risk situation due to budget issues in the former Humberside Probation Trust as well as all of the consultation linked to the early local implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation.
In February 2014 l was elected as an Interim Vice-Chair by the National Executive Committee. I was the link officer to Health and Safety Committee and Training Committee, as well as being link officer for North East Region.

ln October 2014 Yvonne Pattison and l were elected as National Co-Chair following a contested election. During this period we were involved in the decision making in relation to the Judicial Review. This involved regular meetings with both solicitors and leading Queens Counsel and attendance at the Royal Court of Justice.

As a Co-Chair of Napo I have been involved in representing Napo with senior NOMS officials including Michael Spurr, Colin Allars as well as lan Mulholland from Public Sector Prisons. ln addition I have also been with meeting with the Secretary of State and the Minister of State. l have also been involved in rallies and lobby of Parliament, TUC anti austerity events as well as attending the occasional Justice Union Parliamentary Group meeting at Westminster.

As a national officer l have also contributed to Napo's responses to Probation Instructions as well as both Napo's response to both the E3 blueprint and the Consultation Document.

Another of my role as co-Chair has been to chair Napo's Probation Negotiating Committee and act as Vice-Chair of the National Negotiating Council meeting with senior representatives of NOMS HR, CRC employer representatives and fellow trade unionists.

I am the link Officer to Napo Cymru branch.

As Co-Chair one of my areas of responsibilities is to work with colleagues on the preparation of meetings such as NECs and the AGM as well as chairing them to ensure business is managed and participants are able to participate. 

In addition l undertake the role as the lead employer side representative in relation to Napo's internal negotiating machinery with the recognised trade union. I am also a member of the NEC's finance subcommittee responsible for putting together a draft budget alongside the Finance Officer and colleagues and reviewing it during the year.

l qualified as a Probation officer in 1989 having completed a post graduate social work qualification. My professional career spans nearly 27 years has been a varied one with a conscious decision to remain a practitioner. I have worked within case management on a number of occasions in the Hull area as well as working in both the Magistrates and Crown Court for a number of years. l was subsequently seconded to the Prison Service for five years before becoming involved in setting up a lCCP pilot project (and early pre-cursor to loM). I was actlvely involved in the supervision, development and assessment of Probation staff for approximately 20 years. Initially as a social work Practice Teacher and then as a Practice Development Assessor and NVQ assessor for both Trainee Probation officers and PSO colleagues undertaking NVQ level 3 awards.

l have been based at HMP Humber in East Yorkshire for the last 4 years, working as a seconded probation officer/offender supervisor. This has been on a 50% basis combined with Trade Union facility time.

Section (b)

ln 2014 we originally chose to stand as co-chairs because we believed that collectively we bring a wider range of skills, knowledge and both professional and trade union experience. We believe this has worked effectively over the Iast two years and has fostered good team working within Napo. We especially value working with a high number of women colleagues at a senior level.

The last two years has seen very significant challenges for members and Napo as an organisation and we have endeavoured to deal with these challenges in a calm, inclusive
und strategic manner.

We remain totally committed to representing Napo as evidenced by our regular lengthy working days in London.

In our view the priorities for Napo moving forward should be as follows:
  • Protect members pay, codes and conditions in an ever changing negotiating framework. 
  • The continued promotion of professional values, training and practice in all sectors of the Family and Criminal Justice systems by our interaction with national employers taking account of members contributions. 
  • Ensure that Napo is a supportive and inclusive union for all members whoever they are employed by and in what ever role.
  • Ensure that Napo not only retains our existing members but also find ways to grow our membership by exploring other options for recruitment.
  • Ensure the promotion of equality and diversity is fundamental to everything which Napo does.
  • Support branches/sections and members and ensure that Napo is responsive to the external challenges but also meets the union and member's needs.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Fighting Talk

I notice that the election for Napo National Chair starts in earnest now that ballot papers have been sent out. Here's Chas Berry's pitch as published on the Socialist Party website

Vote Chas Berry for Napo national chair
Bold leadership and austerity fight needed

Socialist Party member Chas Berry, currently vice-chair of Napo, the union for Probation and Family Court workers, is a candidate in the union's election for national chair. Ballot papers go out on 15 July and voting closes on 25 August. Chas outlines his election programme:

Our challenge is how to stay relevant to our established members while appealing to the broader, more diverse and generally younger group of staff likely to enter the workforce in future.

Decent pay, quick progression 'up the scale' and manageable workloads are what members tell me they want, and these are the priorities around which we can unite and re-build our union. This starts with defending national collective bargaining and increasing our membership density in existing workplaces.

We cannot stop there, however. In the rapidly changing criminal justice and family courts sectors we can extend our influence by attracting new members with a recruitment strategy that does not limit itself to our traditional base of support.

This will be tough but I think our union is uniquely placed to achieve it.

As national vice-chair for the past two years I have the knowledge and experience to lead the officers group and provide some continuity while we make the changes necessary to adapt to the new environments. Many activists recognise me as a socialist and anti-austerity campaigner.

I will bring combativeness to the chair, recognising also the full range of views on the most effective ways of promoting our collective interests.

Confidence will be restored when members start to see improvements they can measure.

This requires bold leadership and a willingness to link our day to day struggles with the wider trade union movement in the fight against austerity. I believe I can provide that leadership.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Pick of the Week 10

Those who felt that it was fortuitous to have landed a contract in the NPS, need only to speak to senior and local managers to know that the lexicon has changed. The game of thrones being played at the top of the NOMS hierarchy is in part trickling down to LDU managers/deputy heads who read performance scripts with as much conviction as unpaid thespians desperately keen to better themselves, while the scenery collapses around them.

It's not that they are all disingenuous - that would be palpably unfair; some of them are trying as hard as possible to bring staff along, but probation at this time is a losing game of markets. If the business and performance infrastructure and IT is not stable and if the commitment to diversity and effective practice is not commonly shared, morale will continue to decline. As the next E3 phase is ushered in, the chances of creating the conditions for a stable core identity look slim. The perfect conditions for further devolvement to either the private sector or other defined agencies specialising in commissioned services.

I'm in a SW CRC and haven't been asked (yet) to see clients in public libraries, but I have no intention of ever discussing anything personal (such as offence related) with anyone in a public space. Just the same as, if my GP announced he was holding all his surgeries now at the library I would change Drs. It boils down to respecting a person's right to privacy and data protection.

Good luck. Working Links might have been weak, but Aurelius will not be so soft. Sadly there was no appetite or strategy for a fight to stop a similar process in Sodexo owned CRCs & many experienced (aka "expensive") colleagues were lost, either by jumping early into new jobs or by being pushed into impossibly uncomfortable corners. At that time managers were enticed to comply through financial incentives, e.g. early agreement on EVR payments such that they could work for up to 18 months post-EVR agreement, then walk away with buckets of gold having done Sodexo's dirty work & shafted their staff. It is rumoured some of those managers were subsequently taken on by Sodexo. Nice work if you like the taste of venomous spittle.

Penny wise Pound foolish. In my days in the Merchant Navy it was accepted that morale was greatly effected by the food. Seven day week watch keeping month in month out in a small environment is similar to being in prison. The rise in self harm and suicides in prison is directly correlated to the prison victualling allowance being cut to £2.07p per day. The NHS Allowance is £3.15p per day, not wonderful, but at least in the hospital my wife was in she was able to choose Salmon and Cucumber sandwiches for dinner, I doubt salmon is ever on the menu in prison. The cost of raising the food budget to NHS levels would be £33 million, the savings from improved morale in prisons could easily be double that.

The whole system that has been created is bad for everyone. Male or female. Having to interview DV perpetrators in a completely public building! How can that be beneficial to anyone? Dv perpetrator wanted to disclose his behaviour and another non CRC staff member walked past and gave him a dirty look! Please can someone tell me how this sorry state of affairs has been allowed to happen?

A free market in rehabilitation services – it will drive up standards and the capitalist process of creative destruction will see to it that poor performers will fall by the wayside. The market thrives on open competition and red tape is for the dustbin of history. But in practice the CRCs press for monopolistic control and they replace red tape with commercial contracts that repress openness and transparency through gagging clauses and so-called commercial confidentiality.

No surprise that their business model is to pile 'em high in groupwork and ignore the complexities of individual circumstances. A crude approach that shows a cold corporate indifference to the actual needs of service users. In cutting costs to the bone you end up with services that are not fit for purpose. The result is empty rehabilitation that will do more harm than good.

The Women's Centre I worked with is still waiting to have a signed contract. The CRC has been demanding more for less but if they don't accept their offer they're finished. What to do - provide an inferior service or throw in the towel! Every single part of the Probation Service is broken! Makes me want to weep!

I've always been sceptical of an ongoing clamour for women in the cabinet purely for the sake of having women in the cabinet. Whilst I feel that women are certainly under-represented in the portakabins of political power, simply being a woman is not sufficient qualification for suitability in itself, just like being a man isn't. I'd like to see who she appoints and then assess them on suitability and competence, irrespective of gender.

Similarly, Angela Eagle's mantra about how it's about time Labour had a female leader is absolutely fair comment, but she needs to offer more than such tokenistic offerings as a platform for her ascension.

It is one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make where public services are concerned; to assume that the presence of a member of a marginalised group in a position of power will in any way bring that marginalised group into the mainstream. To assume a female minister will in any way improve the lot of women in the criminal justice system is naïve. If the incumbent minister is a Tory, it is completely ridiculous ;)

A friend of mine who is a PO was encouraged to join the Nomis co-ordination scheme as a contributor but it soon became clear that this was just so that they could say that they had front line staff working with them - from day one she was sidelined, ignored by IT boffins as 'they knew best' and had a front seat as to the amount of money that was wasted.....come forward to this week and it is clear that Delius is going through its own crisis, with files disappearing - dead files being resurrected and more importantly managers having such a slavish devotion to a deeply flawed system that when something goes missing the default position is 'You must have forgotten to do it'....we live in dangerous times colleagues..and to all those staff who believed that the system would reward them for not striking and for not speaking ...you're wrong..hopefully the change at the top will provide the golden bridge that the MOJ has been looking for as an excuse for reunification...cheaper to pay off all the contracts now than the trouble that's coming down the line (E3 and the prison crisis).

She (Helga) has no interest in probation. She thinks that what she learned from Sodexo can help MTCnovo with their ambitions to gain a foothold in private prisons and then run probation down and ditch it to some other corporation as as a write off. Maybe any half decent group of managers in London need to be working on a mutual to try to salvage whats left. I heard she is planning 50% staff cuts.

I am sitting at my desk in the HQ of London CRC today and those around me are whispering about this post, trying to cheer each other up, but it's like trying to crack jokes at a funeral. They all agree it is spot on and whoever tipped you the wink Jim knows whats what. It feels like being back at school not wanting a sadistic teacher to overhear our naughty conversation about a school scandal we’ve been told not to mention. 

Realistically, I think one of the only things that has kept a lid on things in London CRC has been the fact that the unions have largely been left alone with facility time arrangements largely intact and that staff have worked bloody hard to try to make completely crap plans that were completely unrealistic, sort of appear to work. The fact is that they have not worked and cannot possibly work as no one with a modicum of good sense and in their right mind believes that they can. 

However, rumours are circulating that Helga does not give a toss what anyone thinks and does not like unions at all because like all 'know it all' autocratic managers used to getting what they want without question, she does not like anyone questioning her authority or competence and pointing out that she is wrong even though it is obvious. The POA discovered this and apparently roll their eyes at the mention of her name. 

She is of course starting to surround herself with a highly toxic and obnoxious group of highly ambitious corporate climbers, some of whom I'm ashamed to say once called themselves probation officers but long ago sold their souls to commercialism, gleefully embracing the worst excesses of managerialism and greed and now see fit to trample on traditional probation values (if they can remember what they were) and talk about legacy issues as if they were something nasty they have stepped in. 

Helga’s idea of consultation is 'This is what we are going to do and if I want your opinion I'll give it to you, so I'll talk you listen' preferring to act and then pretending she consulted to staff no redundancies in her personal PR team. The upshot is that as soon as London Napo Chair Pat Waterman's term of office ends in July then she intends to pull the plug on Napo undermining its activities on behalf of its members and playing hardball with employee representatives.

Sounds like a stitch up. She thinks she’s got it all planned and post July she will no longer worry about what the unions think or do. It is very worrying that she apparently wants to target disabled and vulnerable workers who she seems to regard as unproductive and who should not be treated any differently even if their new IT system has never worked properly with the equipment they were forced to accept to do their work.

She also seems to feel there has been too much political correctness in London and she'd rather there was no mention of any of that equalities rubbish. At the same time she intends to start serious reorganisation to undermine any protections hapless staff thought had been placed on terms and conditions following privatisation and this will mean people being forced into ways of working they know won’t work or made redundant across the board and finding that they will have to reapply for a less well paid job with minimal benefits.

Staff who delude themselves into thinking that working harder and longer are kidding themselves. Helga has a spreadsheet and if your employee number is on it you’re a gonner – simples and so long sucker. She apparently thinks there are too many poor quality managers and that probation staff are inherently lazy and not pulling their weight - so she wants to squeeze until the pips squeak.

Meanwhile there seem to be ever increasing numbers of MTCnovo people appearing like corporate clones with no idea about probation but keen to make some money off the dying carcass who are presumably drawing salaries from the probation pot. Many of these are actually working on expanding their prison operation rather than probation which is the main business they wanted, not probation at all, otherwise why would they employ someone with a prison background who knows sod all about probation to head up the loss making probation business?

'Building for best: Building together' is an insult to staff as this is almost certainly the precursor to the final demolition of the probation service in London where staff are going to be blamed for the failures of the private sector and many hardworking and professional probation staff will be unemployed by Xmas or early in 2017. So better start polishing those CV's and readying the life rafts because Helga is sharpening her axe and it'll be anyone for chop except her and her team of fawning cronies who will no doubt get big pay offs when the time comes and move on to their next cash cow. 'Building to line the pockets of our corporate masters'. So, wake up and rise up probation staff of London before it’s finally too late. What have you got left to lose?

It is impossible to do this job with this kind of management culture. My advice to all is walk away. Let it fail. It will anyway, so don't collude and certainly don't put up with that kind of shit from an employer. Tell them how they make you feel. The fact that they don't give a shit is of no concern. It means that they can never say they weren't told, can never say that their staff are happy and can never say that they were competent managers. Another Prison Governor failing at managing a Probation service? No shit, Sherlock.

The pressure on staff in London is beyond a joke - the micro management and lack of tools to actually do the job make every day a misery day. We have lost pride, hope and any sense of achievement in what we do. God help us all!

All of the above equates to bullying. Ask for the policy within areas on bullying and then start whacking it on a few desks along with the Equality Act 2010. We will not be pushed and threatened any more by this bloody mess by the creeps and whittle arses who think fit to bully others beneath them. There is no way I am going to loose my dignity in all of this and if you don't arm yourselves with your rights, you are going to get walked all over! What do we have a HR team for, it's their duty to support staff, so start reporting your issues and take copies of these complaints. If you're not in a Union there are organisations like Acas etc who can advise you. Let's get it stopped by recording and empowering yourselves.


Merseyside & Cheshire Greater Manchester is already doing this, a couple of weeks back they released the Interim Service Delivery Quality Assurance Framework. Essentially it goes like this:

1. Ad hoc audits for providing assurances of caseload audits
2. Interchange Manager (aka SPO) audit a minimum of one casefile per Case Manager per quarter to ensure risk assessment; risk management including RMR adherence, sentence planning, contact recording, frequency of contacts, 3rd party information sharing, acting on new information, flagging and management oversight. Any case audit resulting in an unsatisfactory result, must be followed with a mandatory further 5 case audits to ascertain whether this was an isolated incident of unsatisfactory practice, or an example of general poor practice from the Case Manager. 

Further evidence of unsatisfactory audits for the additional 5 case audits must result in commencement of capability/disciplinary procedures, in discussion with local Community Directors. This begins as an informal action plan but evidence of consistent/continued poor practice must result in action. The audits are recorded in a central folder to ensure that a swift collation can occur. Audit results will be checked by the central leads to ensure consistency and benchmarking. The head of performance and information will collate results and present them to the Service Delivery & Ops on a quarterly basis to identify areas of improvement & good practice.

So it's happening over in Merseyside & Cheshire Greater Manchester. I seem to remember someone saying that Yvonne Thomas was praising the MoJ at the Probation journal TR2 event in Liverpool last week for giving them parity of funding with London for the first time. She was pulled up by Ian Lawrence who accused her of 'leading the charge' towards privatisation. So they have the cash and are recruiting cheaper staff, but now they want to make things leaner by getting rid of experienced higher paid staff.

Refuse to sign the letter until they produce detailed daily information regarding all the IT system outages, staff shortage, re-organisation chaos and communication problems with the NPS and a statement that guarantees exemption for all staff from any form of capability or disciplinary action arising from the information given.

They come from the US and create chaos. They insist on implementing a cohort operating model against practitioners advice that simply makes no sense when applied to London. When their own senior managers are shaking their heads and telling them the games up and it wont work, then they try to blame the already down trodden staff for the mess they created and foisted onto them.

Now I know that this is going to be an unpopular view, but. Anybody with eyes and an ounce of intelligence could see that this was going to happen. At some point a hatchetman (or in this case woman) was going to be appointed to do the "necessary". The groundwork was set with a couple of years of advice, then instruction, then competency procedures to drive home the message that the CASH LINKED TARGET was what mattered. Round my way there were three reactions:

Group A got the hell out. Off to NPS or off out of the whole sector. A portion of these re-appeared as NPS sessional workers.

Group B smelt the roses (round my way this is a small group). They did what was asked of them, given the choice between a target and a non target task, they did the target task.

Group C agitated or ignored. They carried on NOT doing oasys, NOT doing supervision plans, NOT making entries using the approved format. This is a big group.

Then they got asked/instructed to do a caseload validation and when given the results, group A were not about anyway. Group B were in an OK place and did what needed to be done. Group C stood about saying how unreasonable it all is and how it cannot be done. Having put their heads in the noose while hiding them in the sand, they then drew attention to their "incompetence/awkwardness" by waving their arms in the air and creating.

MTC Novo now have the chance to sack a whole lot of experienced and expensive staff on the basis of incompetency procedures, thereby avoiding expensive redundancy packages. I hope they send you all a little note of thanks. Now I am not for a minute saying that this is right/fair/just/OK, but it IS and it has been for a LONG TIME.

They are sharks, they look like sharks, they move like sharks and they are hungry like sharks, the response is to get out of the water or make sure that you have your shark repellent bat spray with you, not to go for a quick paddle.

I totally agree. I have been pulled in and told to get my caseload up to date as there are issues that are finance linked. I have a caseload of 85 and 'expected' to be on top of them all. I have been told that my situation will be reviewed in a few weeks, I fear that if progress has not been made I will be put in capability. Stressed PSO 25 years in.

I don't really like the whole character assassination thing! It makes me feel very uncomfortable. What is the problem with the letter? At my CRC we have been doing the brag thing for a while now. It is straightforward, so why not just do it? Ok, it has to work both ways and caseloads sound very high to me, but being obstructive is not going to help anyone and neither is bullying a member of staff, whether they are bottom of pile or top of pile.

Nobody likes character assassination, however there are certain individuals who have cashed in or who are cashing in on the catastrophe that is TR and we should give them little credit as they drive the TR agenda and make privatisation and the new landscape in the new reality for probation staff. What they are creating will serve as the blue print for the imminent privatisation of the NPS. 

People like Swidenbank are not interested in probation values and simply talk about business and profits. They may well appear to be people like us and wish to portray that in their corporate blogs, but that will be little comfort to those seeking new jobs in the months to come. People like her are the the product of years of NOMS being dominated by prison service managers with probation and rehabilitation being regarded as a footnote offering little or no alternative narrative to policy makers. 

The impression that most people who work in NOMS is that probation is the Cinderella service that never made it to the Grand Ball and will be forever forced to play second fiddle to her uglier private and public sector siblings managing the prison service. And now we have a new Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss who used to head up Reform who advocated privatisation of the entire probation service.

I have a work ethic and integrity that is slowly being eroded. On top of all of this we have been told that we have to leave the legacy building which has been taken over by NPS. As it has been problematic to secure a building for us so we are out on our arses with no-where to go.....meanwhile 'business as usual' TARGETS TARGETS TARGETS. It's diabolical.

This is clear enough union advice: all members are being advised not to sign. It is rare these days to receive such clear, unambiguous advice and it should be applauded.

I agree this is sensible advice and every Napo member in London can refer to this in discussion with their managers and managers can also refer to the advice given by the recognised trade union. Issuing such a letter was an arrogant provocative act by employers who show scant regard for the professionals in their employ. We are professionals not sessional labourers on a temporary building project that will be demolished at the end of contract.

R3 - Risk, Risk, Risk. Staff and individuals at risk if conversations during statutory supervision meetings overheard. Individuals may not disclose sensitive information due to risks of being overheard. Risk assessments and RMP's may not accurately reflect risks. Ineffective case management, risks to individuals, staff and members of the public increase. But does it really matter? Less risk of risk escalation, less risk of failures to complete orders as less challenging of thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, behaviour. As long as you turn up or answer the phone and say you're ok, then that's you off the hook 'til next appointment. Superficial case management? Discrepancies between reported/recorded assessments and actual risks of reoffending? Who really knows until some time in the future.

Yes, I believe this is the situation! The long term effect will be less effective risk management. It will carry on regardless UNTIL there are some serious incidents, life changing injuries or death. Then hey presto ...someone will be all over your records like a rash for serious further offence review. The CRC will probably try to get out of it but ultimately as the whole sorry state unfolds heads will roll at the top! Make sure you record your views in contacts 'could not duscuss xyz as we were overheard'. Managers may not like it but tough shit!

We're all nervous wrecks in our CRC office, we have to dot all our Is and cross our Ts and if we don't the performance team send the manager an email. No-one wants to be here anymore, but car finance and mortgages make it difficult to leave.