Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A Move to the Right

In the wake of news leaking out that the latest meeting of the NNC has failed to reach agreement between unions, the employers and the MoJ concerning the precise details of the omnishambles, we learn there may be 'a move to the right.'  

Having been living under a coalition Lib/Con government for some years now, we are all familiar enough with the political reality that comes with a move to the right, but this is different, According to the latest blog post from Joe Kuipers, Chair of Avon and Somerset PT, those very clever young things down at MoJ/Noms HQ have come up with a cunning wheeze to deal with the dangerous delays now besetting the whole TR omnishambles implementation timetable - a move to the right. You simply put off some 'too difficult' matters to after March 31st when probation trusts are due to disappear. 

What is becoming ever more clear by the day is that the dire warnings contained in the government's own Risk Register, and which Chris Grayling still refuses to publish, are coming true. With some authority, this is what Joe Kuipers predicts will not be ready by the due date:-

  • Not all cases will have been transferred safely and correctly to their new owners in either the CRCs or NPS. Even if all goes 'well' it is a fair assumption that at least 10% of cases will be in the wrong place;
  • New case owners are not likely to know their caseloads well enough to make informed decisions about actions to take or not, especially critical for those that might just 'go wrong';
  • Not all staff will be in the right organisation, and the business demands on the new organisations (NPS and CRCs) are at best a bit of a guess until they have operated for say 6 months;
  • Not all trust business can be completed before the year end;
  • It is not clear that all HR matters such as appeals and voluntary departures will be resolved;
  • IT is very unlikely to be working fully;
  • Staff and manager training will not be finished;
  • It is highly likely that at least one case somewhere will 'go wrong' in the period as the new organisations are settling down if there remains continued insistence on the complete separation being achieved by then.

He goes on to refer to Sue Hall and Sebert Cox's evidence to the Justice Affairs Select Committee yesterday and the fact that the MoJ may decide to impose a decision regarding terms and announce it today in a telephone conference call:-

As well as pressing for the national risk register I have suggested to our Transition team, in the strongest possible manner, that the MoJ / NOMS rescales the timetable in recognition of the above 'facts'. I agree entirely with the evidence given to the Justice Select Committee today concerning the dangers and associated risks of the currently given timetable. In more sensible moments I hear phrases from MoJ colleagues like: 'We are looking to see what we can move to the right of the timetable' (meaning post 31 March); 'We are assessing what we must do before 31 March and what can be left until later'; 'We are looking to see if we can separate the timescales for the termination of the contract and the dissolution of Trusts'; etc. These are pretty open acknowledgements that the current timetable cannot and will not be met, so my advice, draw up a new realistic one rather than a weekly reschedule and repeated apologies which causes endless problems for local Trusts.

In the blog post Joe goes on to make some helpful suggestions as to how the MoJ might deal with the current difficulties in a responsible manner, but the trouble is I suspect his advice is treated with the utmost suspicion and whether by accident or design is intended to ensure they do the exact opposite. In any event it's hard to argue with this:-

A final thought to concentrate the minds, by my reckoning we have about 12 real working weeks left for the MoJ to get this right (er), if you take out Christmas and New Year times and agree that leaving matters to March is seriously risky? To put it another way, to meet 31 March deadlines the business needs to be in the right place by the end of February? Now, how likely is that?

Meanwhile, over on the Napo forum pages, the new tailgunner issues a storm warning:-

By all accounts the meeting at the Big House did not go well today. There is a teleconference tomorrow afternoon at 4.30 between Michael Spurr/Colin Allars and Chairs & Chiefs. The indication is that unless all parties are signed up to the draft National Agreement on Staff Transfer by lunchtime, then the Secretary of State will press the button and impose at 4.30. If this happens, it could be that letters of automatic assignment would begin to be issued by the end of the week. There should be a period of local consultation prior to implementation of any aspect of the scheme - indeed there really has to be in respect of those subject to 'Expressions of Interest' and Sifting but trusts just could implement automatic assignment without prior consultation. 

A written statement from the MoJ on their final position over the outstanding areas of concern is still awaited and is due to be issued this evening, giving all stakeholders tomorrow morning to read it, digest it and decide whether they can accept it and thus sign up to the agreement. Given that as yet no-one actually knows what this statement contains, some might say that this is an unreasonable manner in which to behave. A draft position statement (undated and unsigned) was handed out at yesterday's NNC but was not formally presented to the meeting. It contains some concessions which would be of benefit and may form the basis for the final version but nobody really knows.

Quite how the various stakeholders (unions, trusts and Probation Association) will react to this ultimatum remains to be seen.
If there is imposition, what would it be? It would be the Staff Assignment Process as currently drafted by the NNC together with as yet incomplete Guidance prepared by the PA, which, in effect, will have been usurped by the MoJ. It is unclear as to whether the enhanced voluntary redundancy package would be issued as well - though it seems unlikely. Imposition may also jeopardise other things in the draft National Agreement such as ongoing national collective bargaining across both the NPS and CRCs. Again all this remains unclear until the MoJ issue their final written position statement.


  1. Whats the problem, given the level of commitment, intelligent and progressive thinking demonstrated by MOJ, the Government and CG they could just get a hat out, or assign all those with a surname A-L to one and M-Z to the other....job done!

    On a personal note...I am getting so run down by this fiasco and I can see it all around me on a day to day's cruel and completely necessary!

  2. All Grayling's HR strategy (?) will do is reveal how unworkable it is sooner rather than later. Both automatic ass. and EOIs are flawed when applied to a Probation workforce. The hastened imposition of the approach will just reveal the folly as well as putting UNISON into dispute alongside NAPO.

    The iceberg cometh.

  3. I hope that ALL involved at ALL times remember that for a whole host of reasons some folk are inevitably 'out of the probation loop' for the time being, either incapacitated ourselves or understandably have our priorities on matters unconnected with probation and work - birth - marriage and for some death - and more.

    I hope all employers and negotiators are allowing due time for such folk to be contacted by letter - they may be away from home and not have a constant stream of internet chatter - yet whatever decisions they personally need to take - they need to be given time - after all - treating staff with such respect - will in the long run mean all are more likely to reduce reoffending, than if we go around creating or whipping up uncertainty.

    I include myself in this - at times the striving for immediacy, means some folk may feel stressed at not being bang up to date.

    I had this in some tweets this morning.

    Tweet 1: - I am off work my Father died on Monday I feel out of the loop can you help

    2: - I still keep getting this wrong read above please

    Responses, 1: - Ahh-When my dad died I HAD to focus on that & I didn't have Twitter to contend with-if you DM a tel no I'll call BUT??

    2: - I think I would let #Probation manage its own affairs for now - no career decisions should be required of anyone immediately

    Tweet 2: - thank you that's really good advice I just felt helpless!!!

    Response 3: - In a strange way - GOOD - that is perfectly NORMAL & expectable!

    4: - It is not a condition of work that we look at Twitter daily or at all AND we can 'sign out' without penalty - I have done so


  4. Sorry, Tolkny, but I hardly followed a word of that.... I don' t use Twitter. Is it me?

  5. Cheers for the correction, not sure if it is related to my mental exhaustion, but having a caseload of 50+ HR cases is certainly contributing to my inability to 'double check stuff' and I know for some people 50 cases is as Monty Python once said, "luxury" and I fear for those colleagues! However, not wishing to dwell on this I can still proudly say, I do the very best job I can for my cliens!!!!

  6. Off topic, but I find these two bits of news today quite frightening.
    Firstly, the decision of what documentation to declassify and make available to the Iraq inquiry (which has been stalled over access to key material), is about to be taken away from Sir Jeremy Haywood and made the responsibility of Chris Grayling!!!
    And also the conservatives have wiped clean the archives of all speaches and press releases since 2000!!!

    Which gives the answer to a question raised yesterday-whos fault is it?
    The blame lays at the feet of an extreme right wing government who seek to impose their political ideology on the nation. They don't care how they do it either, deciet, fear, or just plain old bullying, but thats where the blame sits.


    1. Despite a virtual news blackout nationally, the strike by probation workers in Napo on 5 and 6 November has brought the campaign against privatisation to prominence in every community.

      The decision to stage the walkout over two days proved to be a master stroke as the level of participation on picket lines and at rallies and demonstrations was unprecedented. This has lifted the confidence of probation workers and given us a sense of our collective strength as well as the huge support we have in the community, particularly among other trade unionists.

      But with justice secretary Chris Grayling seeking to press ahead with the sell-off, how can we make best use of this momentum?

      Napo has now served notice of our intention to take action short of a strike from 14 November. This is designed to interfere with privatisation plans without compromising public safety. For example, probation workers regularly work beyond their contracted hours to provide courts, prisons and the Parole Board with detailed assessments.

      These assessments are often requested outside required notice periods but are generally completed on time through the goodwill of staff, often at the expense of their own health. No longer! As one colleague remarked recently: "Grayling doesn't value the work we do, so let's see what price he puts on us when we stop doing his work for free".
      Further strike action may be necessary as we move closer to Grayling's deadline of 31 January for the 'splitting' of staff between the Community Rehabilitation Companies and what remains of the National Probation Service.

      Clearly, the response of Unison and GMB representing large numbers of administrative and Community Payback staff, who have yet to ballot their members over these changes, will be significant in determining the timing and effectiveness of future strikes.

      Through its independent strategy, however, Napo is showing that where it leads others will follow. This is evident from the numbers joining Napo and the pressure on Unison and GMB officials to join the fight.

      The consciousness of probation workers has moved significantly during this dispute. The arrogance and disdain with which their professionalism is being ignored in the name of corporate greed is a salutary lesson about the role of the political elite in upholding capitalism. With a bold approach many will draw socialist conclusions.

  8. Is nothing safe?

    1. London police to consider outsourcing 500 million pounds of services
      Wed, Nov 13 17:03 PM GMT
      LONDON (Reuters) - London's Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday it will consider outsourcing services from custody healthcare to catering worth 500 million pounds a year to help save money.

      Companies like Capita, Serco and G4S, who all work in the British justice sector and have seen new contracts put out at a slower pace than many analysts had anticipated, will welcome the announcement.

      Police forces across England and Wales have to find savings of 20 percent from 2011 to 2015 due to cuts in government funding.

      Scotland Yard will gather outsourcing proposals from potential bidders next year, the Metropolitan Police said.

      Some of the new areas it may ask firms to run are custody healthcare, language services, catering and procurement.

      The Metropolitan Police already outsources IT, facilities management and transport services.

      The regions have approached their funding problems differently, with Lincolnshire police paying G4S 200 million pounds to run services from firearms to custody suites, while the West Midlands force has backtracked on outsourcing altogether.

      G4S and British firm Interserve are two of five companies bidding to supply Avon and Somerset police, in the south west of England, with detainee transport and custody services, while other forces are trialling similar schemes.

      G4S and Serco, however, are under investigation after the government found they had overcharged it on electronic tagging contracts.

  9. transfer of cases, allocation of staff, risk issues - they can't even decide if we owe them for the pension fund because of 24 hours of strike action - was it a day? was it two half days? And NAPO haven't been any help either.

  10. ''Building on the success of the recent strike, Napo have given notice of a 'work to rule' starting in a weeks time, but it seems we won't find out what's involved until Tuesday''
    Which Tuesday are we going to receive this information NAPO isn't it meant to start tomorrow ?

  11. NAPO seem pretty incompetent on this whole work to rule issue to be honest. To expect us to work to rule from tomorrow when the guidance is late and there has been no explanation of why, nor any apology to members about this delay, is inexcusable. Doesn't fill me with confidence about how they will help members over any performance or competency issues that arise out of working to rule.

  12. NAPO read this Blog and will be aware of the feelings of disolution by members. However, given that next year there will be very few 'practising' PO's I think they feel that there is little point in fighting anyone's corner. I may be wrong but I very much doubt this and we can expect nothing more than tokenism from them.

  13. As a NAPO branch official, I have discussed the issue with national officials, the branch exec and branch members in a quorate meeting, all in three days.The work to rule starts imminently but its impact will be incremental and over time. The need for 'guidance' is less urgent than it was for a strike but it will be there. The guidance we will issue as a branch is in my head but, because of all the meetings I have been attending and the 300 miles of driving, I have not been in the same office as my computer since last Thursday so have not had time to type the guidance or email it (I am also dealing with two imminent grievance hearings). Some people need to consider their own definitions of reasonableness before bad-mouthing their union.

    1. Expecting someone to do what they said they were going to do, on the day they said they were going to do, it is not entirely unreasonable.

  14. I wish not to 'bad mouth' anyone. My personal opinion however is that since mondays commons vote, guidance and instruction is more urgently required then ever before. Indeed I feel guidance required as a consequence of mondays failure to derail TR should have been prepared and ready for issue prior to monday. What is it they say? Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

  15. My own anger and frustration about incompetence is directed at NAPO HQ where the majority of my subs are being used to pay salaries for professional union officials in London offices - not the branch officials who have to juggle workloads and caseloads and place themselves in vulnerable positions with their employers. I'm pissed off with those who were entrusted with our profession yet XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX (sub-judice, gagging order, etc) when we most needed the union to be active and responsive, i.e. towards the end of 2012 & start of this year - instead of allowing everyone to take their eye off the ball & be distracted by the alleged "shenanigans" of a handful. The current incumbents have, admittedly, inherited the chalice poisoned by their predecessors. BUT that doesn't mean that members should be left feeling exposed and uninformed. I hope NAPO officials ARE reading this blog.

    1. Good point well made.

  16. My Probation Trust management team here in South Yorkshire are now providing me and other staff with support briefings entitled "Dealing with Change". With all respect I am able to deal with change, but I just need to know what the bloody change is! At the moment TR is a bit like the Government announcing that there is to be a compulsory purchase order on your home, and then bringing in the bulldozers before you have been give any terms or conditions! It's just not fair, reasonable, kind or necessary!

    Personally, I am alarmed at the policies of my present government and feel as if I've been caught with my pants down - exposed, embarrassed and wondering "what the f***!"

    The "On Probation Blog"has informed, supported, and enabled me to keep on working business as usual. Happen, I'm being unreasonable, but I do wish that we had someone like Jim Brown in the NAPO executive team who was able to communicate with the members on a regular basis. I know that NAPO will be busy, busy with negotiations and other dealings, but surely that would not be too hard to achieve, and much better than the sound of silence!

    1. I agree, its not about dealing with change or letting go. Its the fact that there is fuck all information and expected to make a decision on the future. Bunch of clowns if you ask me.

    2. David Hurst,

      You are a real gent - thanks for the kind words!



  17. Its not the big nationals, but at least someones got something to say in the press to prove theres not been a media blackout.

    1. FURTHER to the article, headlined '£2m plan to help cut re-offending' (Sentinel, October 29), in which the Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, was voicing his support for the Offender Rehabilitation Act.

      While I would applaud the notion of extra support on release for prisoners sentenced to under 12 months custody, I would argue vehemently that this supervision should be undertaken by professionals trained in the supervision of offenders – the Probation Service.

      The Government proposal to which Mr Ellis eludes is for this work to be undertaken by private contractors whose primary brief will be to make a profit for shareholders.

      My understanding is that the supervision of prisoners is the tip of the iceberg, and that the proposal is for 70 per cent of the work of the Probation Service to be farmed out to these private contractors.

      This is purely a cost exercise in which the protection of the public can be seen as secondary to the need of shareholders in private companies to make money.

      The Probation Service has been effectively managing risk for 101 years.

      The Government has consistently praised the work done and acknowledged that all targets set have been met.

      What happened to the notion of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it?'

  18. Off topic, but a reminder of how double standards remain alive and kicking in all sections society - Lance Armstrong (Drug User and Cyclist) has indicated that he will give evidence to the UCI inquiry into drug use within the sport only if his Lifetime ban is overturned! A man from the UCI - clealry wants the information Armstrong says he has about corruption and collusion at the highest level - suggested Mr Armstrong wants an "incentive" to give evidence....what a load of bollocks - this is blackmail pure and simple and as for Mr Armstrong, he who 'loves' his sport (NOT) should be banging on the door to give his evidence, why, because it is the right thing to do.

    My advice to the UCI - overturn his lifetime ban, give him 8 years, by which time, he'll be 50 and he may just about be good enough to take park in the veterans 10K class at his local park - oh and of course, drug tests before and after every race. Looks like Mr Armstrong would not look out of place in the MOJ!