Friday, 30 August 2013

The Devil is in the Detail

Following on from yesterday's post and emerging details of the negotiations between the main unions, including Napo and employers/MoJ, I notice that some branches have decided to start circulating the confidential papers ahead of today's NNC and Monday's NEC.

It's also becoming clear that there is widespread unease amongst the ranks about the policy, process, content and timescale of it all. I suspect the following, circulated to members within one branch whilst attaching the documents, might not be untypical:-

We are concerned in the way National NAPO appear too relaxed and write in a way that is not balanced on what else we can be doing and should be resisting the employer proposals. 

This soft acceptance from National NAPO gives us an impression they may be too close to the drafting team and lost much of their ability to be fully critical of the plans which ultimately offer members very little.  What we perceive, being generous to our national colleagues, is at best possibly a delay tactic to see what the members say and at worst a support of these proposals to influence members to sign off their own demise. The  Language used to support that view "this is the best we can achieve" suggests there will be no proper fight, no overall action and really very little support for your jobs in the longer term.  No proper protection of roles and security.

As has already been mentioned, members will have just two weeks in which to absorb the complicated content of the draft agreement, discuss it amongst themselves and voice an opinion through their branch officials before the NEC considers the matter on September 17th.

Officially, not only are the details not supposed to be circulated amongst the membership yet, but crucially details of two key elements of the draft agreement are as yet unkown until the conclusion of today's NNC:- 

Appendix B gives details of the Staff Transfer Framework. It is the subject of further negotiations on the 30th August and hence it is not available in advance. It will include an element of assignment of staff – e.g. where there is a distinct operational function, an element of expression of interest for some staff and the application of sifting criteria that are objective and measurable and finally an appeals process.

This is probably the most contentious part of this agreement and it is unlikely ever to meet everyone’s hope and expectations. This is an unhappy process and we can only seek to make it as fair and equitable as possible.  However, as with this entire agreement, and indeed the package as a whole, it is for members to accept or reject.

      Appendix C is an enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme associated with the TR Programme.  It will apply in all cases of voluntary redundancy arising as a direct result of the programme. The structure of the scheme is fairly standard and modelled upon that which was applied in 2001 when a number of Probation Boards (as they then were) were merged. This Appendix should be available on 2nd September for perusal. We await two significant elements. Firstly, how long the scheme will remain in operation. The initial offer from MoJ/NOMS is until September 2015 and our initial claim is until 2024 (likely end date of contracts with new providers). The likelihood is a date somewhere in between. Secondly, the maximum number of weeks pay that will be applied (and this is offered at actual rates of pay rather than the statutory maximum). Here, the initial offer is 66 weeks and we have claimed 104. These matters should be subject to further discussion on the 30th August.

No wonder there is widespread anger and unease, not only at Chris Grayling's absurd and wrecklessly-imposed deadline, but also the suspicion of a 'sell-out' by Napo officials. In the end it will be for members to decide, but it's hard to avoid the unpleasant conclusion that they are being 'bounced' into making a vital decision whilst under duress and within an absurdly short timeframe. It's to be hoped the full details are published as soon as possible after the NEC on Monday or there will be real trouble in the ranks.  

As an aside, I understand that such is the turmoil down at MoJ/NOMS HQ with officials trying to make sense of the whole omnishambles, the 'split' between CRC's and NPP is now likely to be 50/50! It really is a case of not having a clue and in the end it might be decided either by tossing a coin or that other well-known scientific method of plucking a figure from thin air. If it were not so serious it would be quite funny.     


  1. I wonder if the Napo negotiators are affected by Stockholm syndrome. Locked away in a air-conditioned meeting room, in confidential discussions, determining the future of thousands – it's all heady stuff. The Branch that referred to 'soft acceptance' by National Napo resonates with what has been featuring On Probation Blog for quite some time.

    Will it be for members to accept or reject? Will National Napo be offering advice? What can you do when your trade union say: This is the best we can achieve – and you have less than two weeks to fully inform the membership, set up meetings to discuss the proposals and answer questions – this is the best we can achieve will be the remorseless piped music.

    The whole Napo strategy was wrong-headed, though soft-headed seems more apt. To put the membership in the position of having to decide at short notice is patronising and shows a lack of respect. This is perhaps the most important decision the membership will ever be asked to reach and there won't even be time for National Napo to go around the country answering the charge of soft acceptance and explaining what now happens to resistance.

    The agreement if there is one will turn out to be worthless anyway. With the exception of increased redundancy pay everything else will be so open to interpretation in practice that the employers will enjoy a turkey shoot. And National Napo will look the other way when this happens, because they will be powerless to influence events. This agreement is only really about terms for redundancy – the crux of the agreement is selling probation jobs. It's a sell-out in a literal as well as a moral sense.

    National Napo may get pats on their backs if they deliver the vote and seal the deal - but the pats won't be from the membership.

  2. If folk think TR is bad for any reason, rejection of whatever national terms are on offer seems one way the rush to destroy the structure of probation can at least be slowed.

    Moj & employers might need to be reminded that as there are existing employment contracts it really does need all parties to accept a change for the contracts to be changed,

    Employees might need to reflect whether the lure of enhanced redundancy terms are very attractive when rather than being made redundant they are required to work, with less colleagues more clients in a system that seems likely to be flawed from the outset. Despite its flaws when things go wrong workers will be blamed & trades unions may not be of much help to individuals in trouble.

  3. The response is simple. Reject the proposals.

  4. I received a reply to my letter to my MP this am .....he appears to be stating much of what has already been said on this blog. He says, "As an ex- Probation Officer I share your anger at the present dismantling of the Probation Service...we are in real danger of destroying a level of service which has been many years in the creation" . He assured me that, "in Parliamant we continue to make these arguments and I recently took part in a meeting involving the Bishop of Liverpool amongst others but the Government's spokesperson present was both ill informed and unprepared to listen to counter arguments." I also know someone who is, not by choice, involved in working on TR at NOMs; I trust this person's judgement, and I am advised on a regular basis, that NOMs staff are frustrated and bewildered, as you would be, if you were asked to write the script for a service, of which you have no knowledge, experience or particular interest in; however, even some of those same people are finding it difficult to make sense of Mr Graylings directives. It is extremely difficult to remain positive, but equally, I know that as a service, albeit relatively small, we can be defiant and we have a moral and collective responsibility to all those we work with, to our colleagues, our friends and families, to make a stand and as advised, REJECT THE PROPOSALS.

    1. If it's any consolation to NAPO members Unite Criminal Justice Managers is hardly on the barricades either. "We're all doomed", as John Lawrie would have said.

  5. From the progenitor of Unite Criminal Justice Managers

  6. Andrew,

    Thanks for the link - a fascinating historical piece which I'm sure will be news to many people and the basis for some spirited discussion at some point!



    1. There is some of that history exposed in Probation Journals now available on line as well as parliamentary submissions.

      I was also reminded of NAAPS, who seem to be no longer functioning and other non Napo organisations none whose names I can recall right now.

      Perhaps there should be a daily acronym quiz - I'll see what others suggest for NAAPS.

      I was surprised NOT to see ABPO, they were approved by Napo but independent - are they still functioning?

      Neither did I see Probation Officers Christian Fellowship - I went to one conference and haven't got of their mailing list since ( I remember conversations their with the late and admired by many but greatly criticised by some since his death - Ray Wyre)- I wrote sending a donation for costs suggesting removal but they still write once or twice a year, perhaps they still think I may convert - they are far too evangelical for me - I still remember going to a frightening 'healing' event of theirs at a Napo conference many years ago, with much exhalation and physical action - since then I have found and become estranged (my doing) from Quakers, some Quaker silences are too strong for me right now!!

    2. My SPO claims that she left NAPO after an annual conference once spent hours debating whether or not the breasts of the statues supporting the venue's proscenium arch should be covered up. I think she's either winding me up or has been reading to much Daily Heil or Viz. Can any older blog readers assist?

    3. The Dome Brighton ?

    4. Sounds perfectly feasible to me - Napo has at various times been hijacked by militants - where are they now?! lol

    5. That really did happen - I was not there it would have been the sort of thing Ron Lewis would have complained about and most other people but we got offtrack in some ways- Surely someone will be along with the date.

      I am pretty sure it would have been after Ron Lewis and the NASPO crowd had moved away from Napo.

    6. OMG. Thanks Tolkny - I now owe my manager a cake. Learning point: never bet with managers.

    7. I was actually there - hours of debate over naked cherubs. It was Red Guard stuff really. The debate was won by the 'feminists' and brown paper was used to cover up. Thank God the AGM wasn't held in an Indian temple - those that have numerous nude statues in various states of excitement.

    8. Possibly the Dome Theatre Brighton 1990 ish. The Sun had a field day.

    9. Embarrassing as it is it is good to be reminded of just how stupid Napo folk have been in the past at times.

      If it was 1990 that was around the time John Patten probation minister (remember him - he was a Tory star who burned out -

      talked about moving probation centre stage and the bosses bought the just desserts stuff and the rot set in -

      It never really was advise, assist and befriend because those of us who were professional in our relationships with clients - put public safety first and aimed to form trusting, challenging relationships with clients and those who cared about them, so they understood their vulnerabilities and strived to minimise them so they could live legally without the fear of always being arrested.

      We did not oppose the 91 CJA enough and lost our way, almost completely when we were cut off from joint training with social workers.

      Meanwhile most probation officers tried to carry on doing what felt worked best whilst the system frustrated them/us/me by treating clients as processing units and depleting parole with ACR that meant that for the first time we had supervisees who had not chosen to be supervised (YPs, BAC, DC, & SSSO apart - a small proportion of work)

      The resentment I experienced that prisoners felt towards probation colleagues between 1997 and 2002 when I was a seconded probation officer in a prison was something new.

      It was worsened because the Home Office was absolutely hopeless at processing the reviews of the recalls who felt they had been put in prison by a probation officer who they had been forced to see after they had done their time.

      Meanwhile the in custody numbers doubled making prison through care work ever more difficult and VAC almost non existent with relationships broken up as clients were allocated by type of sentence and different people worked with them at PSR, and subsequent stages and the priority became enforcement rather than building effective relationships.

      Ugh - we were arguing about statues and did not have the ability to use our constitution to move - next business - we left Napo to the activists - I wasn't there remember - as a disabled person, - although I did not know I was dyslexic till 2002, just getting through the working week and sustaining family life was always a struggle.

      Andrew Hatton

    10. Can someone nip down to Brighton Dome Theatre and check out what is holding up the proscenium.

    11. I have just remembered - then In 1990 we had the Strangeways riots were there was probably the most public exposure of the CJS after sentence in one go, in my lifetime.

      There were real deaths and I recall a man who I heard preach before he became a chaplain Noel Proctor was centre stage - a lovely man

      The government response was the opposite to what Lord Woolf's enquiry recommended - small prisons near home - we are now talking about a new large prison near Wrexham (A North Wales local prison has been needed since before I trained in Liverpool in 1973) - and moving prisoners near home before release to be visited and then on day of release met at gate by their 'old lag' mentor- that should disrupt any education or rehab work going on nicely!

      Whilst a seconded PPO I spoke to one Gov5 who I worked closely with who was on duty in a Midlands prison when the trouble broke out at Manchester. There was utter chaos as prisoners were shipped in and dumped into already crowded prisons with the normal assessment & allocation of newly received prisoners completely messed up. As always it was only the good will of most prisoners that prevented far worse harm.

      Folk who haven't worked in a large local prison and experienced the daily churn as prisoners go off to court and return, as many as 70 plus into a reception wing holding say 300, with about a dozen landing staff, can realise the work involved. The files are massive and all have to be individually processed and separated from some other prisoners, co-defendants or family or whatever as the circumstances require.

      And there are not an elastic number of cells. Then there are those who are seriously mentally ill and acting out. Yet the folk who do it are just ordinary blokes/women not highly paid, or highly trained, but some are superbly experienced at calming agitated folk down as well as winding them up - which can 'crushing' them if necessary) Sometimes getting it wrong

      - like a nurse who refused to move a phone within reach when I came out of surgery on Friday and couldn't move, said she was busy & someone would be back, but an hour later no one came - I was recovering quickly and reached it myself - no big problem _ I came home that night - some folk are similarly anxious about seemingly minor things when they get to prison - and face years banged up - they need to be identified and dealt with effectively immediately whatever else is going on - to avoid disturbances and worse. I exaggerate - some may think, but unless receiving staff in prisons are alert things go very wrong - we in probation are part of that system and if the prisoners feel we have sent them there we are going to struggle later to engage them in rehabilitation work, especially if we pass them from person to person.

      Prisoners/probationers won't talk about such stuff, they just will be reluctant to engage.

      The good will of prisoners needs cultivating not curtailing!

  7. Surely it can't be acceptable to agree any proposals until the TR bill has had its second reading in parliament?

    1. To answer Anonymous on 31 August 2013 07:42, as I understand it the 2007 Offender Management Act made it possible for a Government to privatise Probation Trusts in certain situations which the Lord Chancellor presumably believes are met and nobody has seen fit to test in court, probably because the careless Labour Government wrote the 2007 Bill too loosely.

      So that would seem to mean the Government has an absolute legal right to do what they are doing if they believe it is the the best interests of the UK subjects and residents of England and Wales - (I wonder how folk in Scotland and Northern Ireland are considering it all, or why government started in England and Wales and not elsewhere in the Kingdom - maybe an argument for devolved powers being handed to English subjects and increased devolution to those in Wales - but that is a dyspraxic digression to my answer to Anonymous' enquiry)

      The next point relates to the amendment to the current Offender Rehabilitation Bill, that was accepted by The House of Lords, and if also accepted by the House of Commons requires changes to the structure of the probation employers to be delayed until after debate in both Houses of Parliament. The fact is as it has not currently been enacted, so although it might be disrespectful the Lord Chancellor is at liberty to introduce the changes he is so doing.

      What I do not think he is at liberty to do, which he is doing, is to invite the Probation Trust members to vary the contracts they have with him that prevent him from giving less than 12 months notice for those Trusts to be terminated.

      I presume, but have not checked, that the Trust Board members have some sort of generalised duty to act in the best interests of the residents of the catchment area of where their trust operates. So it would seem to follow that by agreeing to terminate the Trusts in less than 12 months, which have they have apparently been asked to consent to by today, they are also indicating that they believe the alternative TR proposals are in the best interest of those they serve.

      As those of us who have worked at the front line of probation know, the TR proposals as announced are flawed and WILL fail in several ways.

      What then I find surprising is that there have been no publicly announced resignations from the Probation Trusts - particularly of members who are elected representatives of The Labour Party whose parliamentary party have it as their official policy to oppose the TR proposals - although they are not clear about how they will activate their opposition if they form a government after TR has been introduced.

      As those contract alterations were invited to happen by today, so possibly for the Trusts who have already accepted the Lord Chancellors over rushed timetable we are already too late' though hopefully not too late for the others or for Court action to challenge the whole business by a Judicial Review as Harry Fletcher (and he should know) first suggested three or four months ago.
      (I may write more later)
      Andrew Hatton

      PS back from surgery - all well.

  8. Could somebody pop as a result of Brighton Dome Movie theater to check out what's holding up your proscenium.
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