Monday, 7 October 2013

The Final Countdown

Having exhausted possible favourite film references to the TR omnishambles, lets move on to music. There's been quite a bit of discussion recently about the fact that probation trusts might only get 10 weeks notice of contract termination - so we are indeed heading for the final countdown, a particularly lively and catchy number I recall from the days of MusicBox on ITV.

Thanks to Joe Kuipers and the information he has shared with us, we know about the contract variations being imposed by MoJ/Noms on each probation Trust Board, including the all important termination notice period. We also learnt that these variations turned out to be offers you couldn't refuse, but there is an appeal mechanism apparently.

It would seem that such is the 'independence' in mind and spirit of these Boards that only three have decided upon an obstructive course by exercising that right of appeal, and by far the largest, London, is not included. It is said that CEO Heather Munro 'had a tear in her eye' as she imparted the news. 

The following is from one Trust's staff information bulletin, but as I'm not sure about the quantity or quality of each Trust's efforts at sharing information, I thought it would be useful to reproduce here, albeit in somewhat modified and edited form. Clearly each Trust will be going through a very similar process and I wonder if the degree of helpful cooperation is universal?  

Termination of Probation Trust Contracts – letters from Colin Allars dated 23 and 27 September 2013

The first letter confirms that Trusts will get at least 10 weeks notice of termination of their service delivery contracts with the Secretary of State, and that termination will not be before 31 March 2014.  The second letter gives us formal notice of the start of the Potential Termination Notice on 1 October 2013.  This means that once this period starts, the MoJ can give us 10 weeks notice of termination at any time within the 12 months notice period.  The letter sets out the following timetable:

  • 1 October: Commence of Potential Termination Period (to end on 30 September 2014)
  • Mid-December 2013: Formal Readiness Assessments
  • 1 January 2014: Earliest date for serving formal notice of termination (3 months after beginning of Potential Termination Period)
  • Mid-January 2014: Decision point for serving formal notice of termination, giving 10 weeks notice of termination on 31 March 2014
  • 31 March 2014: Planned termination date. 
Letter from Walter Brady, Rehabilitation Programme MoJ, dated 20 September 2013 – Resource Testing
You will remember that we had a meeting at the end of August with representatives from the MoJ.  This was our opportunity to give feedback on their initial proposals on issues such as estates, local senior management structures, and numbers of staff to be transferred to the CRC/NPS locally. 
This letter was MoJ’s response to the suggestions we had made for amendments.   
Following “helpful feedback from all Trusts” the estates proposals have been changed and the MoJ’s position now is that they “have no plans for the estate to change as a direct result of transition.  The NPS and CRCs will operate from the buildings currently used by Trusts”. 
Where buildings are supporting activities that will only be carried out by the CRC or NPS in future, they will be operated by the relevant organisation. An example would be Approved Premises, which will clearly become an NPS building.
The MoJ have said that they will be looking - primarily in urban areas where there are a number of Probation buildings close together - to see if it is possible to allocate some buildings specifically to the NPS or CRC rather than sharing them. The MoJ will be contacting Trusts to discuss this, so we will keep you informed as to whether this will impact on us.

Senior Management structures - NPS

In our Resource Test submission, we asked for an adjustment to the LDU structure within the new NPS.  Originally it had 2 LDU Directorates – one for xxxx, xxxxx, and xxxxxx; and the other for xxxxx, xxxxxx, and xxxxxx.  This proposed structure would have been difficult in terms of partnership working with Police, Health, Police & Crime Commissioners, Local Authorities, etc.  We have succeeded in getting this changed so that there is one Directorate for xxxxxx & xxxxx, and the other covering the xxxxxx area including xxxxx.

Next Steps 

We have a further meeting scheduled with the MoJ on Thursday 10 October to go through the full current Probation Trust establishment and map numbers of roles at each grade  – and I would stress this is about numbers of posts, not allocation of individual staff members – to either the CRC or the NPS.  Any queries will then go back to the MoJ for a final determination, and we should then have the final numbers by the end of October.  Once we have the final picture, we will be able to share that information with you.
Exit Management Plan

As mentioned in the last TR Update, we had to submit our draft “Exit Management Plan” to the MoJ by 30 September.  This was completed and submitted by the deadline, and we now await a response from the MoJ.

As Joe recently tweeted:- So, what are the implications of potentially just 10 weeks notice to close a Trust down? Will Trust Chairs sign such a variation? I gather we can expect another blog post from Joe in the near future.


  1. The "I can't afford to go on strike" brigade are already limbering up at our office. So on top of everything else the next few weeks are going to see plenty of ill feeling between staff I expect. Sad times.

    1. Yes it's a sad, but dare I say, entirely predictable middle class response. Just imagine miners saying that........

    2. 'I can't afford to strike.' I suppose that sentiment echoes down the centuries. Had it prevailed there would have been no reforms to the exploitation of the working classes. The one's who cannot afford to strike will also not be able to afford to become sick – because once the private sector gets cracking in probation full pay whilst sick will soon be a distant memory. The pension you were expecting won't be the one you will get, either. And your living standards, which have been falling in recent years, will go into freefall as the private sector engages in a race to the bottom in respect of terms and conditions. To say 'I can't afford to strike' does not protect your status quo, it undermines your prospects and those of your colleagues and it guarantees failure. Salaries and conditions of employment are the result of many decades of collective bargaining between employers and unions, many of which would not exist and be curently enjoyed by the 'I can't afford to strike' brigade had their cowardly, defeatist and self-serving mentality prevailed.

      As for those who have given their 'heart and soul' and now think it's time to throw in the towel. What makes them think that without a fight they are going to enjoy generous redundancy terms? The weaker the unions the less fair will be the eventual redundancy terms. There will be plenty of scope for those who are exhausted to go early, but before they go they would be well advised to find some second wind to fight for the best redundancy terms. If there is a strike, in my view, it will not reverse TR – this action will be about getting the best possible deal for all members – those who stay and those who go.

  2. Hopefully the 'loyalty to colleagues' brigade will turn out to have better arguments than the 'I can't afford to go on strike' brigade.

    Two points.

    1.We are talking about wider issues than loss of income - such as your most dangerous client, slipping through the probation net as a consequence of poor communication between the extra agencies that will be involved after TR and committing the worst offence(s) of which you know he is capable.

    2. A strike is not the only form of industrial action that might be called, and even if a strike is called it may only mean losing one day's pay.

    Andrew Hatton

    PS - If in doubt about how to vote - read the last few months of this blog and in particular follow up some of the links.

    1. There is also another group apart from those who can't afford to strike that need to be considered.
      They are those that have given heart and sole to the service for many years, and seen it change that much over the past decade that its no longer the job that they joined.
      Many may now be wondering wheather its now time to go anyway, regardless of privatisation.
      Those in that group may have to dig deep to tick the yes box.

    2. I think that group might find it easier - they're likely to be quite angry and feel there's not a lot to lose in striking - a duty really for the sake of trying to save the job and profession they care so much about, even if they feel compelled to throw the towel in.

    3. The over ten years service folk are to be admired for sticking with it as they will remember a time when assessments were totally based on a professional judgement rather than a computerised algorithm.

      They are likely to hold a DIPSW or CQSW & if not yet eligible for retirement will be qualified to immediately seek work with a Social Services department of a Local Authority, where I suspect they will be snapped up. Birmingham SSD is said to be carrying a third vacancies for example - and although there are obviously big problems there, can they be much worse than the turmoil in probation over the last decade?

      Employment with a local authority means transferring within the same pension scheme.

      I suspect such folk will not walk until they know whether they may get the financial boost of a redundancy, which they have earned for their long service.

      Meanwhile, whilst they wait I hope they will support those colleagues determined to stop the privatisation before it is implemented rather than wait to see the chaos that will follow if Government really does implement it, which they seem stupid enough to be serious about doing despite the opprobrium and damage they will cause.

      Andrew Hatton

  3. Some 20 minutes into a Radio 5 live special on domestic abuse programmes and not one mention of the work that Probation does with that group, instead focusing on a non-criminal justice voluntary group. Frustrating but sadly reflective of the low profile we have.

  4. COPY of an Email I received this morning as an Associate member of Napo's Greater London Branch


    When I was ten years old I went on holiday with my parents to America. We were on a bus tour in Colorado when the tour guide offered an optional extra - a tour round a prison.

    My dad said NO. He said it was wrong. My dad said you shouldn't profit from another person's misfortune. So me and my mum and dad stayed on the bus while everyone else paid their $5 and went on the tour.

    My dad wasn't a Marxist academic..............he was a kosher butcher in North London. But he knew what was right and he knew what was wrong and he knew that making a profit out of prisons was wrong.

    He would have thought the same about Grayling's plans to sell off the probation service to private companies. He would have agreed that PROBATION SHOULD NOT BE FOR SALE.

    I do not believe that Heather Munro, whose entire career has been in the public probation service, is happy with these plans.

    I do not believe that she wants to see the demise of the "award winning" trust of which she is the Chief Executive.

    I do not believe that those who volunteered to be members of the Probation Board think that this trust is a failing organisation.

    And so it saddens me that they feel unable to speak out against the plans of this government to destroy London Probation Trust.


    We know that these plans threaten public safety as well as our jobs. NAPO is gaining many supportive friends and allies in its campaign.


    Pat Waterman
    Branch Chair"

    As I read I became tearful - I feel ashamed at what is happening and the way it is happening with so little public regard

    Andrew Hatton

    1. Andrew, I don't know when you left the service, but if you came back now it would be more then tearful for you. My opinion is that you would be shocked and quite skaken by what you'd find.

    2. I left in 2003, because at a time of massive reorganisation in London, when I learned about dual disabilities - addiction and dyslexia/dyspraxia I could not get the reasonable adjustments needed and was too sick to manage without becoming overstressed.

      I was directed to lie to a client - which I refused to do - I had a PSR altered - in which I said - there was inadequate information available to express an informed opinion on the most appropriate adjudication - or words to that effect (It was submitted - signed per pro - with my name retained).

      I was not trained or capable of operating as a computer operator or typist and unable to resist. Thankfully with Napo's support - I got out alive - but was ill for another three years before I finally got the right help for my addictions(they are many).

      One thing that upholds me is the knowledge that after I went off sick, and a Lifer I was supervising – missed appointments (that I had notified to the SPO) and was not pursued – was later arrested (I never found out the detail) – The CPO was directed to attend personally to give an explanation to the probation minister (a DCPO was sent!) – I received from that DCPO a letter of commendation for the work I had been attempting to do with the bloke – who had been very badly managed by others whilst in custody and was only released after a large public campaign that resulted in a European Court judgement and even then active delay to his release in person by the then Home Secretary – which only came after a threat of an application for Habeas Corpus.

      The bloke then did not settle in his first release home – where he had been supervised by colleagues who treated him as a victim (which to some extent he was) – he then turned up in London and was VERY reluctant to be supervised at all – and uneasy about a supervisor who not only visited him at his home but who also engaged with some of his media supporters – meanwhile he did keep appointments and knew I would report him immediately he missed any one without good prompt explanation – my file was handwritten dyslexic notes – I thought this is it – I am going out with a disciplinary – but I got the opposite fulsome praise!

      At times doing the job of a probation officer in accordance with integrity and in respect to the legal process can be VERY challenging and one can be very isolated by your own management. That had happened in 1980s when I received opprobrium from nearly all my service’s managers until my independent social work enquiry into a wardship case reached the House of Lords and the final court order contained large extracts of my original Court Welfare Officer’s report justifying the decision which introduced a small change in procedure (The Local Authority had resisted me having access to the child involved)

      I do realise just how much things have changed - I still blame myself as being one who realised the character of probation was completely changing by the withdrawal of the consent requirement to probation orders in '91 CJA. I eventually got on with it rather than maintaining the protest which a few of us tried to have via Napo.

      I did not realise that similar cultural disasters would occur from the introduction of ACR even though I did work in a prison from 97-02 where the consequences were apparent (probation officers no longer seen as possible helpmates to those being released). However I only thought that through in the last year - it is just as significant as the withdrawal of consent requirement - though few will understand the significance of that.

      Andrew Hatton

  5. The Guardian:- legal aid row over shadows global summit in london

    It would be nice if the world probation conference could attract the same attention.
    I think its an interesting article by itself.