Thursday, 1 August 2013

Attention all PO's and PSO's

I've been reading some exchanges over on the Napo forum website, and thank goodness there's been some sign of life just recently. What particularly struck me was a response to a long and detailed post by 'SaveProbation' basically trying to rally the troops and get colleagues to wise up to the very real threat to our profession and employment that's looming on the horizon. I thought this response was interesting, not least because I suspect the sentiment is widespread:-  

Unless you have access to secret information that no-one else does, that looks more like speculation and conjecture presented as fact.

People are rightly worried, but I don't think making things sound even worse than they are will help anyone, other than making them even more stressed than they are. 

Clearly the message about just how dire the situation is has not got through in certain quarters and I urge any doubting colleagues to wise up quickly to what's being proposed and what the likely consequences are going to be. Just look at the evidence, listen to the mood music, and read what's being said both on the Napo website, SaveProbation twitter feed and this blog, and put the pieces together for yourselves. 

There's probably only a few months left to try and scupper these plans for our demise, because it's quite obvious that management and Trust Boards up and down the country are co-operating fully with MoJ/NOMS orders.

Whatever warm words you might be hearing about the formation of 'mutuals' or what you believe about TUPE rights, or what you might think about working for 'charities' or other cuddly-sounding voluntary sector outfits, PO's and PSO's will be made redundant, terms and conditions will get considerably worse and there will no longer be any secure future for anyone in a world of competitive probation tendering. Remember, there were 200 redundancies as soon as Serco took over the London Probation Trust UPW contract, and that is a partnership with the LPT!  

It's hugely disappointing, but not a single seriously dissenting voice in probation management is willing to stand up and articulate what we all know to be true, namely that the whole thing is a bloody dangerous shambles and must be stopped. They could refuse to cooperate, but they have decided not to, so it's down to the front-line to do something.

Don't be bullied by management into either cooperation or belief that nothing can be done. Question everything. Actually the time is fast approaching when the message must be 'Don't Keep Calm and Don't Keep Carrying On.'  

In order to reinforce the message, lets just look at a bit more of the context within which all this is happening. I caught this story on BBC local news recently about Cleveland Fire Brigade and at first didn't believe my ears. They are wanting to recruit volunteers with HGV licences on a zero-hours contract to drive fire engines in the event of a Fire Brigade Union strike. They also want volunteers to fight bloody fires on the same basis in the event of a strike.

This is a direct throwback to the 1926 General Strike and call for strike-breakers. I would add in passing that it was Cleveland Fire Service that was recently canvassing the possibility of becoming a 'mutual'. Of course if Fire Services do become 'mutuals' there is nothing to stop the likes of Serco or G4S snapping them up further down the line. The same would apply to any probation 'mutual' that might be formed. 

Zero-hours contracts are spreading like wild fire and can give zero pay and zero security. They can prevent you being able to claim benefits even when you've not had any work and prevent you getting a mortgage if you've been working a minimum 45 hour week for four years. The perfect flexible employee for this brave new world we're creating. Blimey, things have got so embarrassing with even Buckingham Palace using such wheezes that Nick Clegg has instigated an investigation according to this in the Guardian. 

I have to admit I don't know a great deal about the NHS and yet another reorganisation, but I'm learning fast and yet again there are warnings about what lies ahead for us and the rapidly changing political and economic context for public services. My attention has been drawn to the case of the Poole and Bournemouth Dorset Trust hospital merger. 

Poole is basically in serious financial trouble and if it doesn't merge with Bournemouth, it will go bust. But the merger is being stalled and has been referred by the Office of Fair Trading to the Competition Commission 'because of concerns about two competing Trusts combining'. Competing? I thought hospitals were all about patient care? In blocking the merger, this blog explains what actually is important:- 

It accepts that not merging will be worse for ‘patient services’ – but blocks the merger anyway because competition trumps what’s good for patients.
If there was any doubt that what’s really at the heart of the way the government has ‘reformed’ the NHS via its HSCA 2012 is finance and profit, this surely removes every last trace of it.
Whatever lip service is given to competition as a way of improving patient choice and healthcare standards, when it comes to the crunch under this government and the Act it forced through in spite of outspoken disapproval from patient groups and all professional healthcare bodies, financial and competitive considerations beat clinical concerns and patients’ interests. Hands down. Every time.    
The situation is even worse because it's said in certain quarters that this is all a wheeze so that hospitals that go bust can be passed effortlessly into the hands of private contractors to run. So, wake up guys, this is the brave new world being created by the political class and it's just about to hit us if we don't do something about it pretty damned quick!  


  1. I found a must read letter in the prison newspaper Inside Time last night. It's from a prisoner called Neil Carpenter, who I assume is American. The article is very short and well composed, and it's entitled sleep walking into.. You'll find it in the mail bag section of the Inside Times website. It really does need to be read.

    1. Thanks - yes a very good letter indeed 'Sleepwalking into Calamity' by Neil Carpenter HMP Chelmsford. A piece for tomorrows post I think.



  2. If you are eligible for full membership of Napo(every PO and PSO and Trainee/Student PO is) not to be a member now is foolhardy as it leaves it to others to determine Napo's strategy to challenge the nonsense that is called "Transforming Rehabilitation."

    AND not to attend the upcoming Napo AGM is extremely foolhardy because as a truly one member one vote organisation with the General Meeting(can be held more than once a year) its supreme policy making body it is there that significant decisions all most certainly WILL be taken.

    If YOU are not there vital AND crucial decisions that affect YOUR career may be made on YOUR behalf by colleagues who are there.

    In view of the absolute crisis for the continuance of probation in England and Wales in a form recognisable now and with the structure & organisation to provide decent employment & seriously contribute to public protection NOW is the time to be involved with YOUR Trades Union.

    If your are employed by a Probation Trust, NOMS or the NPS in any capacity, full or part time, you will almost definitely be eligible to be a member of UNISON if you are NOT eligible to be a member of Napo.

    I do not understand the decision making process of ordinary members of UNISON but think they are almost certainly not as influential as ordinary members of Napo. If you are a CEO or Board Member of a Probation Trust I do not know what Trades Union membership rights you have but you will probably be welcomed as an associate member of Napo.

    In view of the crisis facing probation employees I am a little surprised that Napo has not yet held a General Meeting this year but think it very possible that the upcoming AGM will not be the last General Meeting before all vital decisions are taken about the nonsense that is called "Transforming Rehabilitation."

    Andrew S Hatton
    Associate Napo Member.
    Retired Probation Officer
    (CQSW student, Univ of Liverpool & ILPS employee 1973-5,
    Merseyside PS 1975-82,
    Essex PS 1982-88,
    {Snr Social Worker, London Boro' of Newham & additionally NALGO Member 1988},
    ILPS/LPA 1989-2003.)

  3. The link here provides a useful outline of the events leading up to the privatisation of community service and the aftershocks – when basically Serco did as it pleased, the unions were powerless. I quote here from the piece:

    'The Serco redundancies impacted on managerial grades as well as supervisors. We were shocked by the speed and number of the redundancies, and complained – up to a senior Serco managerial level – about this, but unfortunately we were unable to persuade the company to reduce the numbers.'

    I don't know if the wider Napo and Unison membership will wake up to the risks and job insecurity ahead. I suspect the turnout in the Indicative ballot was low, maybe even embarassing. The penny just will not drop.

    As George Orwell said: " To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle. "

  4. Who speaks for Napo?

    Well it is not the Internet Forum although some very relevant contributions are to be read there and you are encouraged to contribute your opinions to the discussions - by so doing you are helping Napo's decision makers and colleagues by showing what your views are.

    It is Napo's General Secretary, Ian Lawrence who writes a blog to which you can contribute, but few do, which I find strange (I do not contribute but then I am not a full member - but have in the past contributed to previous General Secs Blogs or emailed them directly)

    Ian Lawrence and several National Officers Tweet. Ian can be found here:-


    Other than that all members have an absolute right to attend every meeting of their local branch - which cannot be denied them by their employer and also every national meeting, all full members should also receive a notice of every meeting to which they are eligible to attend and a copy of the Minutes of that Meeting(I am almost certain) - remember Minutes are not finalised until a subsequent Meeting confirms their accuracy anything produced before might best be headed DRAFT!

    Nationally Napo sends out circulars which my branch (Greater London) passes on when relevant via email even to me a mere associate member.

    Napo also produces Napo News which is mailed regularly to all members who ask for it but is now updated more regularly and can be seen via the Internet

    Napo News also Tweets

    The last Tweet I read from Napo News seems inaccurate to me It reads "92% of Napo members prepared to take action over Probation privatisation"

    Whereas I think it should have said "92% of Napo members WHO VOTED prepared to take action ..."

    So what my Granddad taught me was wrong "Andrew, believe half of what you hear but all of what you see" - then he died before the age of digital communication although printing had (just) been invented!


    BUT in my opinion there is nothing to replace the feeling of being part of Napo than being present at a General Meeting and voting in a decision that makes policy and hearing the chair of the meeting read out the result of a ballot - such as when Napo decided to become a member of the TUC or allow students to be full members (way back - I was part of the campaign that brought that about - having been a student & expecting to be subject to a one year confirmation process - when Napo were considering agreeing to extend the confirmation process to three years in other words changing MY employment terms and conditions, but not allowing me a say in the decision - that cannot happen now!)

    1. Andrew,

      After quite a bit of pondering, I've decided to delete several of your contributions, firstly because they were in effect just adverts for either joining Napo or attending the conference. Secondly because of the space they took up, and thirdly because it appeared to have killed the discussion.

      I hope you understand - we're all on the same side here and your contributions - not adverts please - will continue to be welcomed.



    2. OK. I am not surprised, neither am I surprised how inactive some Napo members are or that so many non members resist joining yet continue to benefit from the negotiations of Napo down the years - even though there have been some rocky times lately - until a few months ago.

  5. Appears my trust have now restricted access on the WID(s) to this site!!


    I'm not sure who else reads this but cages may have been rattled by the recent posts. Has anyone else been 'restricted' from accessing this at work??

    1. Obi Wan,

      Now wouldn't that make a great blog post?!

    2. If only my managers thought the staff were interested enough to warrant blocking your blog...........! the level of apathy down here is frightening. Some colleagues say they are 'worried' but this won't necessarily get them supporting any strike action. Why cant people see that it may cost them financially to go on strike it it will cost a whole lot more it they are made redundant or have their pay cut. I personally think we have nothing to lose and everything to gain by striking, and not just for one day.

    3. I suspect you may well be right - apathy, denial or just heads in the sand are Graylings real friends in all this - what on earth does it take to shake people out of this catatonic state?

  6. I have read this Blog with great interest for many weeks. What is concerning to me is that the Admin staff don't get mentioned much but if they do away with them what dire straights everyone would be in. London UPW have felt the full force of mass redundancy so what will the future hold across all Trusts for Admin workers. I feel its bleak and that someone should remember they exist as all we hear about are PO and PSO's.

    1. Very true - thanks for mentioning admin staff and I guess many will be represented by Unison.

  7. Admin staff, receptionists, etc will be the first to go. Closely behind them will be IT, training and other non frontline support roles. I doubt these roles will even make it to April 2015 and be part of any transfer to private probation services. In fact the only admin staff that will have any chance of keeping their jobs will be those that are already attached to high risk teams. Redundant admin staff will not be alone as a huge proportion of pso staff will suffer the same fate. It is expected some probation officer grades will be safe for a while if lucky enough to secure a place in a high risk team, however it is only a matter of time before soon to be redundant spo and management grades begin to snap up these positions.

    1. Very true SaveProbation, very true. So that's two of us who can see what's coming down the tracks with almost complete certainty, but you know I just can't shake off this feeling that most people are in complete denial.

      We don't know the turnout from the recent Napo ballot and that can only mean one thing - it was piss poor. But who felt it was best to try and hide such bad news? A very bad call.

      I'm getting weary guys - it's all been said and until something significant happens such as the Grayling Serco and G4S announcement, I think a sojourn may well be in order. I don't want to bore my readership to death. I want to try and stimulate some bloody action!

  8. My Trust has also blocked this blog, and I do share concern for all probation staff and as a PO, I do wonder if my skills are as transferable as Administrators; although I became a 'typist' of sorts, years ago and more recently, a telephonist - with the introduction of a 'phones system which removes a task from our reception staff and passes it onto anyone sitting nearby a ringing phone, who is expected to answer the phone, take messages and or respond to the callers, issues. Unbelievable Jeff! Remember, we are, in probation, all in this together.

    1. So this blog is being blocked by certain Trusts! Would anyone care to name which Trusts?



  9. This organisation are campaigning for NHS I wondered if we should get on board with them?

  10. NAPO has always had a too cosy relationship with employers seeing itself as a 'professional' body rather than a grass routes trade union. I have sat in meetings with member ACOs present which has stifled workload debates, staff fearing repercussion.
    NAPOs response to this whole rehab rev farce has been one of roll over and let it happen or 'write to your (Tory) MP' . I have learnt far more from this blog than at any staff briefing (sic) or NAPO email. Why don't NAPO in cosy Horesferryville, circulate details of this blog?
    Senior managers have also been told not to criticise Grayling and staff have also been warned about entering the debate on social media sites etc. Sue Hall CEO did at least go on local TV to criticise the changes unlike any other chief.

    1. Thanks for commenting here - it seems to be very appropriate in relation to today's post 'Things Get Ugly' - so I've put copy there as well.