Sunday, 20 October 2013

AGM Reflections

Every Napo member attending the AGM this year knew it was the most important ever and this was reflected in unprecedented levels of quoracy. Lets be honest, probation officers know how to enjoy themselves and getting up and to the hall on time has proved difficult over many years. But not this year, such is the degree of anger and determination to beat TR within the profession.

Meeting in Wales was particularly appropriate because Leanne Wood AM, Plaid Cymru leader is a former probation officer and made clear in her rebel-rousing speech that she is a staunch supporter of the Welsh Government wresting control of probation in Wales away from Westminster. There is the very real possibility that the demand will gain cross-party support and succeed, in which case it will become yet another spanner in the works of TR.

We all know events like this are not really representative of reality in that the room is full of over-whelmingly like-minded union activists and the danger as always is that it becomes an echo-chamber of the converted preaching to the converted.

Lots of great motions were passed, such as one condemning N-Delius as unfit for purpose, and spirits were raised by barn-storming speeches like that by the feisty Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumberland. 

Receiving a rapturous standing ovation for confirming that the 13 Labour PCC's were intent on orchestrating a spanner in the works of TR amongst all Commissioners, it's easy to see how strong emotions can be whipped up in such circumstances. But this is entirely right and appropriate because union activists must have their batteries recharged in order to return to branches and basically 'rally the troops'. 

Without a doubt this AGM succeeded in reaffirming that probation has many friends, is a highly professional and effective agent for good and is right to be fighting plans for the TR omnishambles by what ever means. We know from academics like Professor Paul Senior that there is no evidence to support the destruction of an award-winning and world class public service and Michael Spurr's spirited defence of TR sounded more hollow the longer he spoke.

In essence the AGM was pretty much music to the ears of anyone who has regard for this honourable profession. Many delegates will be returning to work places the length and breadth of England and Wales ready to engage with doubting colleagues and encourage them that not only can this omnishambles be stopped, but it is their duty and responsibility to stop it.

In my view the key to convincing colleagues that action is required hinges on discussing what the new National Probation Service will be like. Many PO colleagues appear to believe that it will be some kind of 'safe haven' from the carnage likely to engulf the privatised world of the CRC's. But in reality it it will be a command and control, public protection, law enforcement agency run entirely by ex prison service managers at the top. With Mike Maiden's departure confirmed as due to genuine personal issues, it's the dead hand of prison managers that will be running NPS now.

There is evidence to suggest that some people seem to think that it will be 'business as usual' in the NPS with just a different ID badge and name on the top of the pay slip. But what probation officer is going to feel happy becoming a civil servant with all that implies in terms of bureaucratic central control and inability to speak out about anything? It's completely against our professional ethos. Staff will become just risk assessors but with limited time and scope to work with anyone, as 'interventions' are most likely to be delivered by CRC staff only. 

It's time to wake up to the reality that it's no good pretending 'it'll be alright' or say 'lets see what happens' or even 'there's nothing I can do'. If implemented, this omnishambles is going to be very bad news indeed for everyone still in a job, but it can be defeated by many individual and collective spanners in the works and I intend covering more of these in the coming days.            


  1. Delius came after my retirement but I understand it is just one one more move to bringing in TR, and it being not fit for purpose says so much about the TR movement.

    1. Jane,

      Yes as part of the TR revolution, all Trusts have been made to switch from other case recording systems such as CRAMS or Delius original to new 'improved' N-Delius. The best way to describe the new system is click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click click repeated endlessly until you either lose the will to live or the system 'goes down' whichever happens first.

  2. I heard and witnessed a colleague go through the wringer the other day, as he had spent the day collecting infomation and preparing the paperwork in N-Delius for a recall to custody, something he couldn't avoid. He did all his bits and got it to the relevant person in time. However, the recipient couldn't open the document for the ACO to countersign it - consequently, it was out of time, and my colleaguehad to redue it al the next day - however, so that it didn't fail to get to NOMs in the requisite time, he was advised to redate the paperwork. I As a team we felt this to be dishonest and it should have gone to NOMs with a note sating why it was late, because the IT system is shite......I did not follow this up, as I did not wish to be associated with such skullduggery..I am almost certain this is happening everywhere - as NAPO have rightly identified - N-Delius is not fit for purpose and an over reliance on it will lead to all kinds of challenges, from service users too!

    1. There was a warmly-received suggestion at the AGM that a boycott of the shite system might be considered as part of the industrial action strategy - so more N-Delius horror stories would be a good idea me thinks.

  3. The pressure seems to be mounting, good news, particularly in light of recent comments by Jeremy Wright MP which clearly represents the government's position in remaining 'wrong and strong'. Probation staff do need to wake up and get active, the 46% vote turnout and the floundering probation petition suggests this to be the case. Nonetheless the fight is now hotting up and at least their is now a mandate for industrial action, and as I posted over at the Napo forum, action must mean ACTION with all the troops on board!


    Learning from mistakes? Aggressive timetables?

  5. This is I think a very interesting move by unison.

  6. Lets be clear:

    Unison, one of the largest trade unions in the UK, representing 1.3 million public sector workers, has publicly called on G4S to withdraw from its security contracts with Israel. Unison General Secretary Dave Prentis has written to the chief executive of G4S, Ashley Almanza, saying “I understand that your activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories only account for approximately 1% of G4S profits… However, I believe that the reputational risks that these activities pose for your company are far greater [than profit] and I would urge you withdraw now from doing business in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.”

    Unison points out that ‘as the occupying power, and a signatory to the 4th Geneva Convention, Israel is under a number of legal obligations with regards to prisoners’, which Israel is in breach of. Unison details the following services that G4S currently provides:

    * security for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons in Israel, to which Palestinians are transferred in breach of the convention’s stipulation not to detail prisoners outside an occupied territory;
    * the central command room at Israel’s Ofer prison in the illegally occupied West Bank;
    * security systems at Israel’s Kishon and Jerusalem detention centres, where there is evidence that Palestinians are tortured.

    Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Hugh Lanning, welcomed Unison’s approach to G4S, saying:

    "G4S must be under no doubt that servicing Israel’s violations of the 4th Geneva Convention is not only wrong but deeply unpopular. Shareholders raised their opposition to G4S’ activities with Israel at the AGM. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, together with other groups committed to peace, justice and human rights, have been protesting against G4S’ servicing of Israeli prisons and detention centres. Other major trade unions have also made representations to G4S – civil society organisations are also calling for an end to G4S profiting from Israel’s crimes. G4S must listen, and respond by pulling out of all its contracts with Israel."

    And before the screaming starts -this NOT anti-semitic rhetoric.

  7. NB - contrary to any previous online commentary experience that last comment took 19 attempts before it was allowed to 'pass' the anti-robot sentries. Is this coincidence or a link to key words and/or phrases contained within?