04 November 2013
Re: Transforming Rehabilitation
I am sure that many of you will have seen the article on the front page of the Guardian newspaper last week disclosing that three probation trust Board Chairs have written to the Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, requesting that he delay his plans for splitting the probation service by six months. I have since been approached by colleagues and union representatives asking why I, as Chair of London Probation Trust (LPT), do not do the same. Colleagues have also questioned me about why we have not appealed a contract variation from NOMS reducing the trust’s notice period from 12 months to 10 weeks. Given these questions, I thought it would be useful to set out fully the approach the LPT board is taking to its role in the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda.
As you will be aware, the Secretary of State began consultations on his Transforming Rehabilitation proposals in the autumn of 2012. LPT, along with in excess of 500 organisations, responded to the consultations. Our response at the time was made public and, if you are interested, is still available on the LPT intranet.
In May 2013, the Secretary of State announced his decision to split the probation service by 31st March, 2014 into the new National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC). Since this announcement, the LPT board has taken the view that it is our responsibility to implement the wishes of the Secretary of State to the best of our ability, in line with our terms of appointment. However, we are also conscious of our duty to ensure that this is done safely and to alert NOMS and the Ministry of Justice to any unacceptable risks.
In coming up with LPT’s transformation plans the following four priorities are at the heart of everything that we do:
- Ensuring that the proposals are delivered in a manner that minimises risk to the public.
- Ensuring that we offer a seamless service to the courts.
- Ensuring that we continue to offer a high quality service to our service users and that we can safely re-allocate cases where the split into the NPS and the CRC necessitates a change of offender manager.
- Ensuring that we respect our obligations as your employer and specifically that we split our staff into the NPS and the CRC in a manner that is as transparent and fair as it can be in all the circumstances.
We have prepared an Exit Management Plan for NOMS, however, some important elements of the plan are outside of LPT’s control. In particular some operational detail has yet to be given to us by the Ministry of Justice and, as you know, the national negotiations between the unions and employers are still ongoing. This means some components of the timetable are out of our hands. Where this is the case we have clearly highlighted it with NOMS.
The board has also considered a request from NOMS to vary our contract with them. Specifically this request was to shorten the notice period from 12 months notice to 10 weeks with a view to our contract ending on 31st March, 2014, in line with the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. This request has been made to all 35 trust boards.
The LPT board considered this contract variation at length at our September board meeting. Along with almost every other trust, the LPT board decided not to appeal the variation. Our reasons were: any appeal was unlikely to succeed; we have know that these changes were coming since May 2013 effectively giving us a years notice; and, finally, given that we are working hard to meet the clear deadline of 31 March 2014, there seemed to be little merit in requesting a delay. However, in accepting the variation to the contract, the LPT board once again took the opportunity of highlighting in writing any risks to our timetable.
We are now part way through the implementation stage of the Transforming Rehabilitation
programme. In delivering the Secretary of State’s agenda, Heather Munro and SMT are working hard to balance the needs of employees and service users, with a focus on public safely. The timetable is challenging, however, we have plans that can deliver the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda in a manner that is consistent with the four priorities I set out above. The board has set up a number of assurance mechanisms to continually assess the deliverability of our plans and will continue to monitor this until the 31st March, 2014 when the trust will cease to deliver services. We are raising issues and will continue to elevate any unacceptable risks appropriately, should they arise.
I hope this letter clearly explains the approach of the LPT board. I know that this is a difficult period for many of you. It is not easy living with uncertainty and I know that many of you are anxious to know whether you will be in the NPS or the CRC and what this will mean for you. Heather Munro has been providing you with weekly updates on any progress on the national negotiations and other Transforming Rehabilitation matters. Please be assured that we are passing on information as soon as we are able and will continue to do so.
Finally, on behalf of the LPT board, can I express my thanks for the professional way in which all of you are approaching this difficult transition period. Despite all the inevitable distractions and concerns raised by a transformation programme of this magnitude, LPT has continued to provide a high quality service to London and there has been no dip in our performance. This is a real credit to you all.
I particularly like that last paragraph - it says to me 'lets really rub salt in the wound'. Despite morale at rock bottom; staff leaving in droves; massive caseloads; increased levels of sick leave; a strike, and now a work-to-rule, it says "there has been no dip in our performance. This is a real credit to you all." Or to put it another way 'f*ck you!'
Further transmissions have been received from tailgunner over on the Napo forum, one updating the weather report and another concerning the vexed issue of continuity of service, so I thought I'd add both here:-
As reported elsewhere, the Napo Probation Negotiating Committee meets on Monday 18th and then, coincidentally, the UNISON Negotiating Committee meets on the 19th. Primarily they will be considering two things which will be the substantive agenda items at the National Negotiating Council (meeting with employer reps and the MoJ) on Wednesday (20th).
Firstly the pay claim for 2013/14. Some may ask whatever happened to that - which would be a good question. No formal offer has ever been received and the latest, now several months ago, is that the Employers are awaiting Treasury authority to make an offer. You can be a long time waiting if it suits Whitehall.
If on the other hand, somebody like the Secretary of State wants something to happen yesterday, then it will happen yesterday. The MoJ are seeking a retrospective endorsement, by the NNC, of their National Framework for Staff Transfer or possibly ratification of the NNCs own draft agreement on Staff Transfer & Protections - not quite the same thing as reported elsewhere.
So the second item for consideration on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday is, properly, the draft National Agreement on Staff Transfer. The final draft is still being completed following on from the last NNC meeting on the 11th and the subsequent position statement issued by the MoJ . If this agreement is ratified, it will be sent out by way of a Joint Secretaries Circular and this would then be the Agreement governing the staff transfer process. It would be effectively written into National Conditions of Service and all it's provisions would, as such, have contractual status for staff. If it is not ratified, then the MoJs National Framework would be imposed under instruction by the Trusts ( probably, though not certainly, a lawful instruction under contracts between the MoJ and Trusts for the provision of Probation services). What is clear is that, in the latter scenario, the enhanced Voluntary Redundancy package would not be available. In the former scenario, the MoJ have now indicated that the scheme will be written into the commercial contracts with new providers.
This is not unlinked to a very real and developing issue in negotiations about the staff split within Probation. It's to do with continuity of service. CRCs and the NPS are not going to be able to be cited on the Redundancy Modification Order which dictates how portable continuity of service is. If they are not so cited, then this will act as a real brake on staff moving around, either between CRCs, between the NPS and CRCs, and indeed between social work departments and the Probation Service - whatever that is in the future. In my view, this will not benefit anybody, individuals or organisations.
To clarify, the RMO is fundamental to continuity of service under the NNC Handbook - National Conditions of Service, in terms of entitlement to leave, sick pay, maternity pay and redundancy pay. All pretty important considerations when looking to change jobs. The MoJ, in negotiations, recognise the problem but haven't come up with an acceptable, or indeed good, solution. Protection of continuity, as offered, is only for 9 months post share transfer. This represents a detriment for transferring staff and as such it conflicts with the principles of COSOP and indeed with the draft Staff Transfer Scheme that the MoJ themselves have prepared (to be clear, by this I mean the draft Statutory Instrument that will need to be tabled before April 2014 to legally enable Probation staff to be transferred to other providers.)
I must buy a new anorak - it gets cold sitting back here in a glass turret.