Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Latest From Napo 182

Here we have an edited version of the latest blog post from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-

#Reunification – A meeting with Bob Neill MP

I have just returned from Parliament having met Justice Select Committee Chair Bob Neill, along with our National Chair Katie Lomas. It’s one more in a series of important engagements that the team and I have been undertaking since AGM. These have included meetings with Lord Ramsbotham and the Labour Police and Crime Commissioners, members of the Labour Justice Team, the Justice and Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group, National Audit Office and various professionally focused seminars.

These activities, along with our regular interface with our media contacts provide us with major opportunities to promulgate the reunification campaign as we enter the next stage. This is specifically designed to help you get our message across more effectively to all MP’s at this critical time especially those who hold influential positions on Parliamentary Committees.

The more we engage with HMPPS/MoJ sources and the more we hear ‘off the record’ comments from senior CRC leads, the more confidence we have that the Governments plans to re-marketise Probation are another ill-considered and desperate ploy to save political face no matter what the cost to the taxpayer and community safety.

Even without the current political chaos it is hard to see how the timetable for designing, tendering and awarding new CRC contracts can be achieved especially as there is a growing tide of opposition to this folly.


#PayUnity

Members should hopefully have seen my letter to David Gauke that I sent across last week. This demanded that his Government make the necessary adjustments to current and prospective CRC contracts and agree to establish pay parity across the whole of Probation. I am about to write to CRC leads to encourage them to join the campaign too and we will publish these letters along with the responses

I expect our request to the SoSfJ will be seen as fanciful to say the least and will soon be at the bottom of his in tray while his attention and that of Rory Stewart remains focused on doing anything possible to avoid a General Election. I would be delighted to be proved wrong and hear that they are willing to meet with people who have a different perspective to their own.


Membership growing - so why not recruit a friend too?

Finally, it’s well worth mentioning that we have received a record number of applications to join Napo over the last month. While this has been boosted by new members from the NPS we have seen a notable rise from CRC staff, many of whom have told me that they have seen the value of joining a campaigning, principled union that speaks out with authority on the professional issues.

Look out for more news soon on the recruitment campaign and join our growing list of ‘Napo Activ8rs.’

Ian Lawrence

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Latest From Napo 181

Mention was made yesterday of the latest Napo magazine mailout that contains the following:-

Gauke asked to tackle two tier probation pay system

Dear David,

Pay in the Probation Service

Just over four years ago, the then Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling implemented the Governments ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ programme.

You will of course be aware of Napo’s ongoing campaign to seek reunification of the Probation Service; this has evolved in light of the lessons learned from what has been a highly controversial outsourcing policy that has been the subject of considerable scrutiny by Parliament and widespread criticism by the Probation Inspectorate.

I understand that the Government will be submitting its response to the ‘Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence’ consultation exercise in the New Year, and my team and I would welcome the opportunity to engage with you and explain our perspective, before you finalise your thinking.

A two-tier pay system in Probation

Last week the three Probation unions resoundingly accepted the pay offer for staff working within the NPS. This resulted from the constructive engagement over the summer between Unions and HMPPS and NPS Officials, and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you and Under-Secretary Rory Stewart for your support in securing a respectable pay remit from the Treasury.

Whilst all the unions are pleased that a negotiated settlement proved possible, which included a clear commitment to jointly work on a competency framework and a Licence to Practice, you will not be surprised to hear that this success has brought with it some understandable demands and considerable resentment from the members we represent in the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies. They are giving me a very clear message that pay equity should now be applied across both arms of the Probation service.

In light of this, the Probation Unions are already engaging with CRC owners to seek their support for our pay equity campaign. Whilst we have received a mixture of responses so far, it is evident that the NPS pay settlement is causing your CRC providers serious concern about their ability to maintain even minimum standards of service delivery within the remaining life of their contracts.

Moreover, and as we predicted would happen some time ago, we are seeing clear evidence of CRC staff starting to explore (or already applying for) the many unfilled vacancies that exist within the NPS.

Napo has made publicly clear why we believe additional funding should be made available to resolve the ‘two-tier’ pay situation that has now been established.

Frankly, I find it very difficult to explain to our members why half a billion pounds has been found to sustain the CRC contractors, but pay awards (such as have been made) over and above the 1% contractual entitlement are vastly inferior to the NPS pay settlement.

In the longer term, your intention to terminate the current CRC contracts and ‘re-marketise’ service provision under the guise of 10 new contract package areas, looks to be simply unsustainable.

Unless there is to be a consistent pay and reward regime across both arms of the service with adequate financial provision being made available to enable prospective contractors to match NPS pay rates, it is difficult to see how future providers will be able to retain existing staff or recruit to the required delivery standards.

Irrespective of our obvious differences over the merits of privatisation, there is a serious danger that unless steps are taken to bring about equity on pay, then service provision will suffer further and inevitably bring with it a corresponding impact on community safety.

I hope it will be possible to arrange a long overdue meeting between us where we can seek to address the important issues that I have set out above for your consideration.

I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely

IAN LAWRENCE
General Secretary


--oo00oo--

Approved Premises update

At yesterday’s meeting of the NPS/Trade Union Engagement Forum, we received reports on the status of the current Double Waking Night Cover outsourcing and the plans for the roll out of the NPS AP Rotas.

DWNC contracts Sodexo and OCS

The view from NPS is that there has been an improvement in delivery from both providers but that ‘hotspots’ exist across 30 sites in the OCS contract mainly in South East and South West England, and long standing difficulties within the Sodexo contract in the North West.

Whilst the statistics show 90% against the delivery target and appear to be an improvement on previous reports, the unions were concerned to hear that the provision of temporary cover for some shifts due to the failure to provide permanent staff is reliant on the services of yet another recruitment agency.

We also continue to receive reports from members about unreasonable expectations around shift cover and some worrying issues about the suitability of some staff who have been sent to cover shifts by recruitment agencies.

Napo raises some serious questions

The unions have posed a number of questions around contract failures, the invoking of penalties, comparative costs and who will be responsible in the event of a serious health and safety incident. We have been promised a response to these points and these will inform our intention to raise the issue of the DWNC contracts yet again with the Secretary of State.

New AP Rotas

Unions have once again expressed our concern following news that NPS divisions have been instructed to finish rolling out the new AP Rotas that were part of the E3 implementation programme.

Some time ago, the unions reached an agreement with the NPS that discussion about the implementation of AP rotas should take place at NPS Divisional level and that there would be a post-implementation review (PIR) on those areas where the rota had been introduced to help inform future roll out.

Whilst we still await an approach as to the PIR, it is now clear that consultation has been patchy and that the rota requirements are proving to be unpopular.

We will include this situation in our future contact with Ministers.


--oo00oo--

Unions express concern over CRC-NPS secondment arrangements

Napo, along with our sister unions UNISON and GMB, have registered major concerns following the news of arrangements to transfer staff on secondment from some Community Rehabilitation Companies to undertake NPS work due to the perilous financial position of the parent companies.

Whilst the unions obviously wish to explore all opportunities to avoid the possibility of redundancies within CRCs, the Unions have not been consulted centrally over the intended arrangements, which we are claiming should have been held under the auspices of the National Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement that was underwritten by Ministers at the time of Transforming Rehabilitation.

Rationale

In light of this unsatisfactory situation, the Probation unions formally registered our misgivings about the secondment arrangements, some of which have already commenced, at yesterday’s meeting of the NPS/Trade Union Engagement Forum.

Below are the key issues that we raised and on which we are demanding answers and urgent further discussion as we attempt to protect our member’s interests.
PI 50/2014 which expired in June this year, appears to be the basis of the secondment arrangements and whilst it is appreciated that there has been some local dialogue between CRC providers and unions, we would have expected central discussions to have taken place.

The failure to engage with the trade unions over the appropriate rates of pay for seconded staff who will be undertaking equal work of equal value is obviously our primary concern. We have pointed out the fact that CRC staff will be sitting next to NPS colleagues who will soon be in receipt of superior rates of pay as well as Agency Staff whose hourly rate is also likely to be much higher than those paid to CRC employees.

We have also questioned the potential impact on NPS Staff who may have suffered an unwelcome transfer under E3 from their previous location or who may be awaiting a Transfer request.

What happens next?

Senior NPS management have been left in no doubt that this is another example of inadequate consultation. We have also made the point that when CRCs previously made redundancies the NPS turned down the Union’s request for staff to be taken back in, but are happy to now agree secondment arrangements ‘on the cheap.’


Our National Officials will be advising the relevant CRC providers of our position while we await a response to these points, and especially the demand for Pay equity for CRC staff during the period of their secondment period whilst working within the NPS.

Advice to CRC members

As always, it is a matter of individual choice as to whether you decide to take up a secondment opportunity in the NPS on the terms being offered. Napo has an obligation to point out these important issues, especially our demand for pay parity for CRC staff undertaking work for another employer, albeit on a temporary basis.

Napo will keep you posted on developments once we have more news.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Holiday Blues

The astute amongst the regular readership will have noticed that the blog has not been functioning normally of late, the main reason being that I've been out of the country on holiday. I had hoped to keep tabs on things whilst away, as previously, but this has not proved technically easy and upon reflection, I found I actually wasn't bothered any more.

Now back home and sat on the sofa at two in the morning unable to sleep, I'm coming to realise that one result of taking a break has been to take stock of things and begin to decide if I really do want to carry on committing so much time and energy to a cause and venture that is so clearly lost and running out of steam? Contributions and information sources are drying up, ironically at the very time that media approaches are once again increasing in response to what I'm told is a routine lack of interest and engagement from Napo.

For the first time since qualifying as a probation officer my union membership has lapsed and rather worryingly, I don't think I'm minded to renew it. Despite regular suggestions that I'm anti-Napo, this has never been the case, but there comes a time when we must each individually consider if it really is worth the hassle, especially when the outfit is clearly dysfunctional and devoid of insight, let alone any sign of a willingness to change. I'm sure my absence from future AGMs will be well-received in certain quarters.  

The recent discussions on Facebook regarding my selected re-publishing of anonymised contributions was no great surprise either and has served to remind me of the widespread and toxic climate of fear, bullying and intimidation prevalent through much of the profession post-TR. It's regrettable, but in view of the concerns expressed such valuable insights into the true situation will have to remain 'secret' and not available to the media and public - a situation that I'm sure will please many within the MoJ, HMPPS, CRC management and Napo to name but a few.

I'm conscious that since starting out people increasingly use smart phones to access the blog, rather than laptops and this medium really isn't conducive for long reads. The number and quality of contributions has changed considerably too with many people migrating to 'secret' Facebook groups, in many ways replicating the now defunct Napo Forum pages so disliked by the union hierarchy. 

So, where is this all leading to? To be honest I'm not sure but I suspect the answer is a winding down and a personal gradual acceptance that nothing more can be done to stop probation's decline because there simply isn't a shared willingness or effective wherewithal to do otherwise. Actually I doubt there's even an acknowledgement of there being a problem in certain quarters given the increasingly prevalent 'new' breed of officer. But at least we've catalogued the journey, provided the audit trail and given some mutual support to each other along the way. 

I'll continue to publish as and when I feel the situation warrants, but I suspect less frequently from here on in. As always, contributions are most welcome and I'll end by highlighting this article from the latest edition of the Probation Journal:-    

Travelling in the wrong direction? A critical commentary on the consultation paper Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence

Abstract

The Ministry of Justice’s Consultation Paper – Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence – launched by Justice Secretary David Gauke in July 2018, represents a revisionist view of the recent history of the probation service in which many of its assertions are incoherent, disingenuous and disconnected from the lived realities of both those who offend and local communities having to deal with the impact of austerity on local services. In addition, the consultation process itself is disingenuous in that it presents the failure of the Transforming Rehabilitation initiative as one of technical oversights and misjudgements that can be put right through a series of relatively minor adjustments. Answers to the 17 consultation questions, however insightful and helpful they may be, will do nothing to deal with the underlying difficulties of Transforming Rehabilitation.
      

Friday, 9 November 2018

More CRC Redundancies

Seen on Facebook:-

Devastating news for colleagues in Warwickshire & West Mercia CRC more redundancies announced with those affected leaving 2 weeks before Christmas. Colleagues in NPS will receive back dated pay rise at the same time colleagues working in the same location loosing their jobs.

Are they frontline staff? Short of staff in London. 


PSOs, admin and a couple of resource officers.

Maybe I’ll do some agency work then.

I might join you!

Hounslow is lovely.

Loads of vacancies in Slough.

Yes 2 PSOs.


That’s in my office. Not sure how many in the others.

How awful. We need more staff not less.

It’s my office too. It’s 3 x case admin, 4.5 PSO’s and 2 x UPW.

That’s for the whole CRC, not just one office.

Omg that’s awful. Oxfordshire NPS are desperate for staff - all grades. Deffo should apply x

Need to know the full extent of this.

It’s about 12 FTE across CRC no more than 14


Not surprising - it was made very clear the probation part was losing money over a year ago- when it was announced the contacts would be ended early all the signs were that cuts were on the cards! They’re cutting their losses and will get out!! There was never any thought for staff!!

I am told that the Union reps were instructed to work from home today, that all (other) staff were instructed to be at work for an important meeting, but when arrived given individual interviews. That the redundancies will be selected on the basis of disciplinary record, sickness record, skillset. 40 days process, so just in time for Christmas the absolute bastards. One member of staff telephoned direct to Xxxxx holiday.

I just read the ‘script’ about the consultation period by my ACO.

I am so sorry Xxxxxxxx. I am sure they are following the rules/law, but it is still cruel and rotten treatment.

Also that staff were told that they were not allowed to have a Union rep with them to these meetings.

I had to deliver the message to some colleagues and can categorically say that wasn’t the case in my LDU . Can’t speak for other parts of CRC.

Hi Xxxxxx. I am getting this third hand, so you will be much better informed. Can you say what is happening?

That is bloody outrageous.

I wouldn’t be surprised if union reps were told they couldn’t attend some meetings in some parts of CRC. Those affected were told by an ACO in each office those not told by SPO. Industrial relations in CRC rock bottom with no sign of improvement anytime soon.

CRC are not going to agree to pay rise are they. 

Not a snowball in hells chance. It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better (if it ever does). The NPS are gradually turning into what used to be Probation Trusts whilst CRCs are dying on their knees.

I knew that this wouldn’t happen despite the blurb about the NPS getting theirs and then to get the CRC to match it.

How do u mean about NPS turning into trusts?

CRCs won’t get anything like what NPS have got anytime soon regardless of what NAPO say.

We were right then ... I’m a pessimist by nature by I guessed there wasn’t a snow balls chance in hell.

Bloody awful.

I am so fed up with this all - staff are treated so appallingly. It really makes my blood boil.

This is how privatisation works. They make profits by cutting. Then the cut service is the new standard for the next round of tendering. Repeat until all you have is a person on minimum wage based in a porta loo.


What on earth is going on. We all need to be better informed. Some of us are single parents with mortgages. Why has NAPO fought for 6% for NPS and not the same for CRC when we all pay the same union subscription

We are being told we are not allowed union reps or work colleagues in with us for any except the last consultation meeting. Is that correct? I feel I’d really appreciate the back up of someone else helping to clarify what is said.

This is appalling.

It feels like divide and conquer.

Yes definitely.

Following the announcements today the Mercia branch issued an email to members. We have been taking steps this afternoon which have included direct contact with senior management and will be sending out another email advising members tomorrow morning. 

This will answer your questions regarding consultation Xxxx.

Will this information also be sent to staff's personal emails for those who are on leave for some weeks such as Xxxxxxx and others who are on sick leave?

Yes if those are the emails that members have registered with Napo - we will also put the information on the Mercia Facebook page.

Brilliant, am pretty sure you have my email.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Latest From Napo 180

Here we have an edited extract from the latest blog post by the Napo General Secretary:-  

NAPO MAKES OUR POSITION CLEAR ON TR MARK 2


As I have reported in previous weeks, the so-called consultation on ‘strengthening Probation and building confidence’ is nothing but a sham, and won’t change the intended direction of travel which is to create a false market and merely sell off the whole shambles under a different regional structure.

This is what I have been saying at any number of events, including meetings of the Justice and Family Court Unions Parliamentary Group and last week’s gathering of Labour Police and Crime Commissioners which was also attended by Lord Ramsbotham who is heading up the Labour Party’s own review of the future of Probation which we are obviously linked into.

Meanwhile, the unions have made their position clear in the initial exchanges with senior MoJ and HMPPS leaders where we are in the process of ensuring clear conduits are up and running about the Government’s plans for Probation and how we are going to handle the transition of work in Wales back to the NPS.

I will be issuing more details about all of this as soon as we have more substantive news, but meanwhile I thought you should see the agreed statement that the unions have insisted will be included in all minutes of meetings around the intended ‘remarketisation’ exercise.

"Napo/ UNISON/GMB request that the following statement appear at the start of the minutes of this and all subsequent meetings of the ‘Strengthening probation, building confidence,’ Engagement Forum.

That whilst Napo/UNISON/GMB are prepared to take part in the Engagement Forum meetings, Napo/UNISON/GMB wish to make it explicitly clear that we are in total opposition to the ‘re-marketisation’ of the CRC contracts as proposed in the ‘Strengthening Probation, building confidence consultation launched by the Secretary of State for Justice. Moreover, we reserve our rights to take such steps as we deem appropriate (including the possibility of legal action), in support of our policy to achieve the reunification of a Probation service under public control and ownership."

Saturday, 3 November 2018

No Negativity Here!

Seen on Facebook:-

Hi all! Had an interesting email today about midyear appraisals and how being negative can get you a needs improvement rating. Has any one else had this or is it just our AP area? I would be really interested to hear how negativity is rated/scored and if there are guidelines outlining what being negative actually is.

Oh interesting. I don't know, but I can give a whirl and see what happens. I do think that political/union action could be more inventive. Strikes are costly to the individual and get workedaround. A collective undertaking to "be negative in appraisals" might make a point and be actually quite empowering.

I'm just concerned that this is just another passive/aggressive email. I don't really get how negativity can be judged against personal standards. If the union were involved in setting the bench mark then where do I find the criteria?

With the new proposed pay structure (year 3) I wonder if a negative would = no pay rise???


But if you were top of the pay scale would you get one anyway...?

I'm not sure from my understanding year 3 structure lacks content. Who knows and that would make me apprehensive for voting for it but that is easy for me to say as a temp. The reality as a contract member of staff is I would probably bite their hand off. x

They have already been trying to link appraisals to pay! Last year I didn't receive my increment and when I queried this, was told that it was because I had received a 'needs improvement' on my appraisal! I asked for a copy of the policy which says a needs improvement score leads to withholding of an increment and Shared Services said I would have to ask the employer. Put it this way, my LDU head knew nothing of the sort and nor did any other manager I spoke to. I eventually got my increment because it transpired that the score had been entered in error anyway (I should think so!) but something very fishy was going on.

That’s appalling the Service are breaching policies.

I know someone who refuses to do them altogether.

Can you refuse to do them?

You can refuse to participate in the process. It doesn't help you but, technically, unless they can show how you can improve *other* than not being negative about the process, they cannot just say Needs Improvement. A Needs Improvement requires them to provide actual steps needing to be taken to show improvement, either through Line Management work or via the Performance Improvement process. Things like extra training, improved work, etc. The real problem is that there is a government "policy" that no more than 15% maximum of your workforce can get Excellent and no more than 15% can get Needs Improvement. If you exceed either, then an outside person/group has to come and see what the Line Manager is doing wrong. So, even if everyone is doing fine and no one "needs improvement", management will try to find some way to get some people onto Needs Improvement. Whole thing is ridiculous.

Culture of fear. Their ruthless efficiency is an abject illusion. The phones were down in my NPS office today because the bill hadn't been paid. The creaking weight of the bureaucracy of this is giving way, but terrified middle managers are trying to keep the show on the road.

Yes I got my first need to improve after 16 years!! Apparently I had too many complaints you couldn’t make it up!

That happened to one of our people here in Xxxxxxxxx as well - nothing official about the complaints and no suggestion of how to improve... Just making up the numbers.

I thought it sounded a bit fishy. I get the feeling if you are too negative it’s twisted around...

They need to show that negativity is affecting the qualify of your work and they rarely can. They just need something to move people out of Good or even Excellent because the numbers have to work out.

We always say in our office that the more complaints you get (from offenders), the more efficiently you’re doing your job!!

Yes I’ve heard that too.

And what about if you a trade union rep and are highlighting issues of concern?

Negativity it seems is being anti-corporate and standing up for TU rights.

I’m confused. Where does it say in the appraisal policy that you have to have 15% of staff needing improvement? I know that only so many people can have excellent but apart from that, everyone should be in good unless there are capability issues. I’ve never heard of anyone getting needs improvement.

I was shocked by the above suggestion and as an SPO have never been told to do this and as such I spoke with HR regarding this. This is an old myth that is not based on fact. There is no policy/guidance/suggestion/nudge from ACO anywhere that no more than 15% can get outstanding or needs improvement. It is not a policy or practice within any civil service department and definitely not in the NPS. The figure may reflect the general distribution of ratings across the organisation given that you will always have lower figures at the extremes of an assessment, but it is not pre-determined or driven by any policy. Hope that helps.

Thanks. Hopefully that applies to the needs improvement rating as well ie there’s no pressure on managers to have 15% in this category either.

Especially not!! Having a needs improvement is not something any manager I know enjoys giving or ever wants to give. There are no targets when it comes to SPDRs (other than they need competing.

It must vary from area to area - so much for consistency? Whilst absolutely not, no-one in my area is pressured to have a specific % as outstanding or needs improvement, we are advised this is the anticipated distribution of scoring and when we meet to discuss our provisional scores, they are compared to the expected distribution. And within my own area, roughly that proportion are assessed as outstanding or needs improvement.


Scary stuff.

What do you make of my comment above in my reply to Xxxxx? I not only (erroneously) got a Needs Improvement but SS withheld my increment because of it!

Bloody hell that’s shocking. It is in our existing terms and conditions that increments can be withheld if you are on capability but I’ve never come across it being used and there’s a long process to get to that point. Nothing SSCL does surprises me glad it was sorted for you. 

I know! Not only was I not on capability but I was on maternity leave when the SPDR rating was applied - which is contra policy because all staff on maternity leave must be given a notional 'good' rating!

Can we ask for something in writing from the NPS about what constitutes negativity? What are the 'criteria' for being assessed as being 'negative' by our employers?

I think it’s called the Thought Police. Orwell wasn’t far off! Just a little premature! My whole team should need improvement if that’s the case! Appraisals are total nonsense!


I’ve just seen this thread - my concern is that negativity or “an attitude that is not hopeful or enthusiastic” is just that - an attitude! Apart from the fact that it seems attitudes and emotions are now being policed! It could then be used to control a worker who is criticising NPS bureaucracy - i.e it’s over complicated excessive procedures - being an active Napo member; or being fed up with high caseloads etc.

Friday, 2 November 2018

More HMI Reports

Two HMI reports were published yesterday, and here we have the press release on West Yorkshire CRC;-

West Yorkshire CRC - weaknesses needing improvement but motivated leaders and staff eager to learn

Staff in West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) were found by inspectors to be well led and striving to do well but they struggled with heavy caseloads, ICT and infrastructure problems beyond their control, and some gaps in skills.

The weaknesses at the CRC, which supervised 8,136 medium and low risk offenders at the time of the inspection in July 2018, led HM Inspectorate of Probation to rate it overall as “Requiring Improvement.”

Aspects of its case supervision were assessed as inadequate. A key weakness was found in work to reduce the risk of harm to potential victims from those under supervision. Inspectors noted instances where, in domestic abuse cases, some staff members failed to identify the potential risks posed to children.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, publishing a report on the inspection, said: “A key area of practice that requires prompt improvement is managing risk of harm. Case planning in general is not sufficiently robust and reviews of work need to be improved across the board.”

However, despite noting some poor assessments, Dame Glenys also concluded the leadership of the CRC, part of a consortium of CRCs led by Interserve, was eager to learn and improve as it faced some major challenges:
  • Leaders and staff had done much to develop their organisation, “in straitened circumstances, but more needs to be done to improve service delivery.” The report noted: “Staff and managers are passionate about providing quality services but many report being overwhelmed by workload pressures and being weary of organisational change.”
  • Much of the CRC’s operating model is embedded but some key aspects (such as the organisation’s estate strategy and information and communication technology strategy) are not fully implemented. These compound the already demanding workload pressures on staff. The report noted that for full implementation to be achieved, the Ministry of Justice must promptly ensure that Interserve can use the Strategic Partner Gateway, or a suitable alternative, that will enable the various systems to work together.
  • Some case managers have gaps in their knowledge and skills, and this limits their ability to deliver good-quality, personalised services. The management has begun to address these deficiencies.
Among positive findings, Dame Glenys noted that partnership working was strong. Specialist services, such as services for women, were in place and Through the Gate work with those leaving prison, as well as supervision of unpaid work imposed by courts, showed promise.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“This CRC’s senior leaders understand the challenges faced by the organisation. They promote a culture of learning from mistakes and they actively respond to findings from audits and independent inspection. Consequently, we expect that the findings and recommendations in this report will assist their efforts to address practice shortfalls and improve the quality of the services provided.”

--oo00oo--

The second is the result of the first new-style of inspection report and perhaps those of a cynical disposition would not be surprised that overall it's quite positive. Having said that, it confirms how TR has created staff shortages everywhere - and we tragically know what the consequences of that can be - and there's a marked unwillingness to use the services of the local CRC and the infamous 'rate card'. 

South West South Central division - good performance overall despite staff shortages

The South West South Central division of the National Probation Service, supervising nearly 13,000 offenders from Berkshire to Cornwall, was found by inspectors to be performing to a good standard overall.

In the first report in new programme of inspections of the NPS divisions, Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said the division was effectively led with robust systems to monitor performance.

However, publishing the first report in new programme of inspections of the National Probation Service (NPS) divisions, Dame Glenys said that a shortage of staff was having an impact on the division.

“The number of probation staff has fallen short of the target since 2015; at the same time the National Probation Service workload has increased. The division has a clear delivery plan to address staff shortfalls, but this had not yet had the necessary impact and, as a result, caseloads in some parts of the division remained high.” The report noted that the problems were most acute in the part of the division bordering London, where vacancies remained unfilled despite the offer of higher salaries.

Inspectors found the division has recently focused on the quality of its assessments of individuals, reflecting the principle that establishing and maintaining a professional relationship with those who are supervised is at the heart of all probation work.

Dame Glenys added: “We found outstanding results in this aspect of its work. The planning of supervision was good, and focused on reducing reoffending and keeping others safe.” Inspectors noted, though, that “contingency plans”, spelling out how to respond to any heightened risk of harm to others, should have been more robust.

The division provided sufficient information to courts to assist in sentencing and a good service to victims who had opted into the victim contact scheme.

There were, however, some shortcomings. The delivery of supervision did not focus enough on addressing factors related to offending, and not enough attention was paid to keeping individuals’ progress under review. Some interventions were working well but the division was not making full use of all services provided by the Community Rehabilitation Companies in its areas.

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“This division is performing to a good standard overall. I hope that our findings and recommendations enable it to do better still, although we see that, in some matters, improvement is dependent on centrally driven policies and support.”

Thursday, 1 November 2018

Latest From Napo 179

I've just noticed that the last time I featured a blog post from the Napo General Secretary was in August, which probably says as much about the content as it does about my editorial skills. Anyway, here we have the latest blog post, somewhat belatedly referencing a year-old report from the National Audit Office and evidence from the Magistrates Association that's several months old:-

Sodexo hit the panic button on pay

Just as was predicted at our recent AGM, the news of the current NPS pay offer has spooked CRC owners who are understandably worried that they will lose staff across to better paying employers, (well actually, the NPS to be precise). News reaches me of NPS vacancy pages on the internet receiving record numbers of hits, and examples already in of CRC staff voting with their feet despite taking a hit on continuity of service and deciding that reaching their pay maximum in a lot less time than they would have, is simply well worth it.

This is another example of the "pay war" that now blights the fragmented probation landscape and it's yet another scenario that Napo predicted ages ago once the idiots who perpetrated TR created a "free market".

Sodexo are of course one of the two big players in CRC world and the size of their organisation means that they could easily match the going pay rate (subject to the NPS offer being accepted by the unions). This is the same Sodexo who I remember asking us in the spirit of partnership some months ago to keep them posted on developments on NPS pay. Not unreasonably the unions asked for an urgent meeting to consider the implications of the NPS offer, but heard last week that this employer has just gone and done what it has always done (remember the great EVR avoidance scandal) and imposed a sub-standard award. Presumably, they hope that their employees will be so grateful to receive anything that they will not shout too loudly.

Cynical does not even begin to describe it. By the way, I am told that there are quite a few vacancies in the NPS within some of the areas where Sodexo is operating.

Magistrates join in to heap pressure on Ministers

Below are a few key headlines from the excellent response by the Magistrates Association to the MoJ "Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence" consultation that sits well against some of our key objectives in our reunification campaign.

To see the full document click HERE - but a number of key themes catch the eye:

Continuity is viewed as vital for successful rehabilitation and release. The MA stresses that continuity of the Probation Officer from sentence to release can improve desistance and help prisoners resettle. This runs contrary to the plans under the OMiC review to diminish the role of the community based practitioner.

It’s also suggested that Benches must write a report every time they sentence someone to 3 months custody or less which is especially supportive of our own and others campaigning to bring about the reduction or abolition of short term sentences.

Following on from one of the key aspects that featured at our professional session at AGM this year, the MA also says that Probation must provide bespoke interventions for vulnerable and minority groups such as women and BAME clients. Given the reluctance or inability of CRC providers to invest in this area it is something that the state must move to provide if it is serious in trying to move the recommendations of the Lammy Review into real actions.

On the need for a Licence to Practice, the Magistrates support the concept and point out that it should be mandatory for all providers, saying that it needs to be an assurance indicator of quality for the CRCs .

So does the NAO

The National Audit Office is another independent body who monitors the use of public money by our elected politicians. It never stops short of telling it like it is in terms of its findings about which particular drain the taxpayers money has gone down, and yet again it has come up trumps in identifying the mysteries of the bung money that has gone the way of the underperforming CRCs.

CLICK HERE

Coming as it does on the back of a raft of HMI Probation reports, and the strongly worded rebuke letter from Bob Neill and the JSC to David Gauke’s consultation, it is even more incredible that anyone seriously believes that a new round of CRC contracts will repair the damage.

Senedd pitches in on #reunification

Seems like it’s a long queue then, as news reaches me of the debate in last week’s plenary session at the Welsh Assembly where the Government called Probation a “national embarrassment” but its staff “heroic” as the Senedd debated the future of probation in Wales.

The decision to put Offender Management work back to the NPS is obviously welcome but anger over the apparent plans to leave interventions and programmes out there to some other bidder is as unpopular in Wales at is this side of the border.


Ian Lawrence

--oo00oo--

This from Napo News online:-

The Welsh government called probation a “national embarrassment” but its staff “heroic” as the Senedd debated the future of probation in Wales this week.

On 23rd October the Welsh Government debated the future of probation in the context of the new proposed model for Wales announced earlier this summer. Napo Cymru, and in particular Su McConnel, have worked tirelessly to keep the Senedd up to date on Napo’s position, campaigns and the view of Napo Cymru. With devolution becoming an increasingly debated topic, and particularly the devolution of justice to the Welsh government this was a well-attended and interesting debate.

Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for local government and public services, said that the Welsh government acknowledged that the probation service was in “chaos” around the split and was failing to protect victims. The debate focused on what has gone wrong but also on the importance of the Welsh government being involved from the outset of any future design for the service.

Leanne Wood, former probation officer, former leader of Plaid Cymru and member of the National Assembly said that probation had diminished to the point where offenders have not been monitored and public safety had been reduced with tragic consequences. She cited the murder of Conner Marshall, whose mother Nadine has campaigned alongside Napo about the dangers of TR and the impact of poor quality CRC case management. Leanne agree with Napo Cymru that to shoe horn probation into a market driven model will and has failed.

“Introduction of a profit element into the management of offender’s risk is obscene and should never have been considered in the first place”, she said. She also went on to highlight that staff have been treated appallingly in recent years.

Other Assembly members also raised the impact on staff. Julie Morgan quoted Napo Cymru and their briefings on a demoralised workforce. She called for a need to rebuild staff confidence and trust and pays tribute to officers who have struggled heroically in an impossible regime.

So strong is the Welsh government’s determination to take probation out of the private sector, even UKIP were onside in the debate. With Wales facing a very different model to England in the new round of contracts, Napo Cymru with national support will continue to lobby the Senedd on a unified public probation service. The future of probation in Wales is starting to look promising.

Tania Bassett, National Official

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Women and Prison

Yesterday the Justice Committee took evidence from a number of people, including Dr Kate Paradine CEO of the charity Women in Prison. This from Huffington Post:-
 
Investing In Ending Women's Reoffending Would Save Money - And Families


Investing in solutions that will ensure that women and their children are supported to break the vicious cycle of offending, saving millions to the public purse in the process

Today, I am giving evidence to MPs on the Justice Select Committee who are investigating the unprecedented crisis in our prisons and what can be done about it over the next five years.

I am keen to convey the overwhelming evidence showing that prison doesn’t work and that a change of approach is needed. It fails to deliver justice or reduce re-offending and increases trauma and harm to some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged citizens.

Most of the 3,800 women in prison (5% of the overall prison population) have been victims of violence and abuse as children or adults. A third grew up in care. The vast majority are serving short sentences for low level non-violent offences, mostly theft (including shoplifting) – usually linked to mental ill health, substance misuse, poverty and domestic violence. Women are often a family’s primary carer and in nine out of 10 cases when a mother goes to prison her children will have to leave home to live with relatives or go into the care system.

The Government’s new ‘Female Offender Strategy’ reflects some of the blueprint for change set out in Baroness Jean Corston’s ground-breaking 2007 report. The strategy includes a welcome end to plans to build new women’s prisons and a commitment to reduce the women’s prison population by focussing on diversion and community alternatives to custody.

At the heart of delivering the strategy sit a network of local women’s centres providing services to address the root causes of offending – mental ill health, domestic violence, substance misuse, debt and homelessness. In Manchester, such services have helped to reduce imprisonment of women by 35%. A recent evaluation shows that for every £1 spent on women’s centres, £4.68 is saved in other areas of public spending.

The strategy could mark the beginning of a long-term cross-party plan to drastically reduce re-offending, whilst saving millions of pounds spent on counterproductive and harmful prison sentences. If a national network of women’s centres delivering holistic services was funded to demonstrate its effectiveness – a similar model could be rolled out to reduce the male prison population and to tackle high rates of men’s re-offending.

However, the desperate reality for such centres suggests that we are a long way from making this a reality. The disastrous ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms that privatised the probation service and brutal cuts to public services have taken their toll on women’s centres. Those that have managed to remain open endure an unsustainable ‘hand to mouth’ existence, with staff routinely at risk of redundancy and services diminished or threatened with closure.

Aside from funding linked to tackling domestic violence, a pitiful £1.5million has been allocated over two years for running services linked to the government’s new strategy across England and Wales. This compares to £342million additional funding found for private companies delivering the failed reforms to the probation service. It is despite the fact that millions were earmarked to build new women’s prisons, and many more millions will come from the sale of HMP Holloway – the women’s prison in London closed two years ago and now sitting empty on acres of valuable land.

The direct costs of women caught up in the criminal justice system largely fall to the Ministry of Justice and policing, but locking up women with complex needs is also a public health issue. Funding needs to come from across government departments to reflect the causes of, and solutions to, women’s offending. It is an affront to justice that where a woman lives influences whether or not she receives community support or a prison sentence and this postcode lottery needs to be urgently addressed.

Our shamefully high imprisonment rate, the highest in Western Europe, can only be reduced if we increase the confidence of police, the courts and the public in community alternatives to prison that deliver justice and address the causes of crime. Adequately funded women’s centres, offering proven constructive long-term solutions, working collaboratively with police, local authorities, health providers and probation, could have a central role in halving the women’s prison population by the next decade.

For the first time, a cross-party consensus exists that there is a more effective way to administer justice and that the answer to the catastrophe in our prisons, lies in our communities. What is needed now is urgent action: Investing in solutions that will ensure that women and their children are supported to break the vicious cycle of offending, saving millions to the public purse in the process.

Dr Kate Paradine 

Dr Kate Paradine is Chief Executive of the national charity Women in Prison. Kate has led various change initiatives in the public and charity sectors on issues including domestic abuse, child abuse, substance misuse and mental ill health including publishing national policy and strategy documents. She led the project to transfer staff and services from the National Policing Improvement Agency to the College of Policing and was previously National Quality Lead at CRI (now Change, Grow, Live). Kate has been chair of trustees for a group of women’s refuges and for national theatre company Clean Break.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Guest Blog 72

When the lights went off in Long Marsh

It’s day but like night, night in Long Marsh,
where once we did sing and chortle and flirt
there’s hardly a soul, not even young Bert
who’d have us in stitches wearing a skirt,
now it’s hush in the shade of the gloom in the rooms,
not even a squeak from the office chair castors
relieved of the weight of probation staff arses
no tales to be telling of ghastly disasters
from Yeovil or Taunton or Somerset pastures
no rustles of papers or clicking of staplers
no hum of a hard drive no creak of a door.

It was long hours we worked, lunch breaks were shirked
while we did what we could to help them -
out of work, or a marriage
or just out of drugs or just out of prison
or out of ideas and about to give up - they needed a lot
so we tried to explain you’ll have a much better time
when you stop doing crime and they’d listen

Oh that was back then, in twenty and ten, and out of the blue
came Grayling the Failing, with orders to ruin it.
Ruin it, shit on it, cut it to bits
(good training for later, when you get transport)
then we can sell it and stop spending money
on dubious characters who’ve broken the law
Send them to prison, take all their books,
I’d give them the birch, but that bloody EU,
Punish them properly, punish them hard, that’s how they’ll learn -
Who cares if they hates us? They’ll never vote Tory
and nor will probation - all gluten free lefties
with Guardian and teapots and wellingtons too

Back then! now just the ghost of solicitors’ visitors
and hark, is that Byron? no the wail of a siren
not likely you’d hear much poetry now
not here in the gloom of a fadeaway day,
no, here in Long Marsh there’s nothing to hear
not the berping of clients who’ve drunk too much beer
not the clinking of saucers with cups full of tea
just a feeling that everything’s lost and at sea
there’s nothing to hear and nothing to see
nothing to do and no one to be
all dust and ashes, just gone, vamoose
like a story once told, an old hoot from an owl
just a quick twit not even a twoo
just a hint of a whimper, but less than a whisper

O bring back young Bert and bring back his skirt
(the cross dressing flirt) bring back the cross lady
who shagged on the copier and got even stroppier
bring back the other one, the big one, the boss
whose absence now feels like a loss!
We used to do listening and hold people’s hands
and encourage them variously not to fuck up
but all that is gone, we cost too much money,
there was something wrong anyway,
you cannot have laughter, no not in the office,
so the monitoring now is all done remotely.

The thing with a tag is it’s 24/7 and fairly low cost
(depend on us always, G4S told us)
to fiddle the stats and would you believe it,
crime figures are dropping, and dropping some more
so thumbs up for prisons, gigantic if poss
we've been through the issues, all nicely debated,
get the scroats onto methadone, nicely sedated
and see how the crime has swiftly abated.
Now make sure the lights are all off if you please.



Thirteen years ago I was taken on as a counsellor to work with
Probation clients. I found myself with warm-hearted, expert and
dedicated colleagues. In various ways they sought to bring out the very
best in their clients and help them say goodbye to transgressive
lifestyles. They did a really good job - I should say we because I was
made to feel part of something important.

I detest the cheap and greedy vandals who messed it all up, woe unto
them, may cockroaches infest their kitchens and moths invade their
wardrobes and crabs .... I'd better stop there 


bestcallpaul@gmail.com