Well, following a Freedom of Information request by a keen Napo member, we have the following answer from Michael Smith at MoJ/NOMS HQ:-
Your request has been handled under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA).
I can confirm that the department holds information that you have asked for, and I am
pleased to provide this to you.
No directive was issued by the Ministry of Justice to staff at West Yorkshire Probation
Trust in relation to the Channel 4 series ‘Burgled’.
The Secretary of State’s contract with the Probation Trusts advises that all national
media handling and queries should be referred to the MoJ Press Office. In line with
this, the makers of the programme discussed the involvement of West Yorkshire
Probation Trust with MoJ Press Office who, after consulting relevant officials in the
department, decided it was not something they wanted to contribute to at that time.
I wonder if West Yorkshire Probation Trust might wish to comment in the light of this response?
During my rest last week Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence announced that the union had formally registered a dispute with the MoJ over the shambolic TR 'consultations' now taking place and that there would be a further ballot of members in relation to taking industrial action:-
In a statement made to the Transforming Rehabilitation Consultative Forum on behalf of Napo, Ian indicated that the view of the union was that the current 28 day consultation process was ‘littered with confusion at best’ and at worst represented a ‘meaningless shambles.’ He added that the release of a letter by Ian Poree of the MoJ on 19th September to Probation Trusts, together with material that had not been the subject of discussion through the National Negotiating Council (NNC) had compromised the negotiating process. The statement also set out a number of key issues where agreement had either not been reached or where discussions had not yet started, especially over assurances on future terms and conditions, the availability of redundancy terms and assurances about membership of the Local Government Pension scheme for existing and new starters.
Risk to Public Safety
Crucially, the statement also highlighted the refusal of the Justice Secretary to release the MoJ Risk Register, despite a request by Napo National Chair Tom Rendon under the Freedom of Information Act, and the view of Napo that the Transforming Rehabilitation plans represented an inherent danger to Public safety.
In a press release issued yesterday afternoon, Napo indicated that notice would be served imminently on the Secretary of State informing him of the Unions intention to ballot it’s members for Industrial Action and action short of a strike.
By the way, don't forget the Napo Lobby of Parliament next week, 9th October.
Before heading off to Canada for a well-earned break, our regular informant from the inside Joe Kuipers posted two further blogs, firstly on the 'consultations' and secondly the 'Target Operating Model' for the whole omnishambles and are both worth reading in full. I quote from Joe's latter piece:-
TOM, the Target Operating Model, was published by the MoJ last week. It sets out how the future is intended to look for probation, a word that is clearly to be lost. My first thoughts were, if only we had had it so good - so much flexibility for the CRCs, such opportunities for blame shifting, and still so much to be worked out behind the descriptions of how it should all work.
And yesterday we were advised that Trusts may get as little as 10 weeks notice of actual termination, this a generous extension from the 4 that was the original 'offer'. This is to come to us as a mandatory contract variation, and I can but hope that all Trusts consider this carefully before signing.
Another good friend of probation, Professor Paul Senior, was able to publish a blistering critique of the whole TR business on the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies website and entitled 'Risky and fundamentally misguided':-
Qualified and trained expertise is not cheap. And remember that cost cuts are at the heart of these changes. How much will private companies be prepared to invest in high quality training and education to continue to deliver the graduate profession which probation officers have under current arrangements? The importance of the putative Probation Institute to guide training requirements cannot be underestimated here.
Who will case manage the offenders so that 'sequenced, holistic' approaches can be achieved. Risk assessment and sentence planning done by the National Probation Service, then cases transferred to the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) who may choose not to use case managers as they are costly in more than an administrative role. Co-ordinating provision cannot be achieved by slick software packages alone despite what the salespeople would contend. It needs professional judgement and engagement and co-production of plans with the service user themselves. Even if there was an army of peer mentors waiting – though I applaud the intention we know there are simply not enough people out there – should volunteers without training really do this difficult task professional task of supervision? I don't think so.
Of course Sir Stephen Bubb had something to say about TR:-
And on that cross party theme it was good to see support for the new plans for a rehabilitation revolution launched last week. Stuart (NCVO) and I were able to meet key officials last week to discuss the last details of the announcement. We both felt much progress has been made in understanding the special circumstances of charities and social enterprises in bidding for contracts. Much has been learnt from the Work Programme about PBR and sector tendering. And credit to Chris Grayling and his MoJ officials for the time they have spent listening to our views and our input. It has been more than the traditional "consultation”; we have been involved in the design. Now before I get carried away we have yet to see how the tenders will go and whether we get the private sector cleaning up again; a point I made at a roundtable we held down in Brighton today!
Finally I'm grateful to a reader for pointing me in the direction of this recent article by John Tizard on the Public Finance website. Having a local authority political and third sector background, it's interesting to see what doubts he has:-
For the continuity of the service in the short and long term those staff in the probation and rehabilitation services involved in developing mutuals and bidding should be able to engage actively with their colleagues across the wider service. Artificial separation makes little sense and could be damaging in the short and longer terms.Has the government got that level of sophistication or even the will to seek these outcomes?