Thursday, 7 November 2013

What Next?

Despite the harbingers of doom, the general feeling seems to be that the strike was worthwhile and successful in bringing much-needed public attention to the cause of trying to save a well-performing public service. 

I also have to say how enormously uplifting it's been to see so many images of colleagues taking action up and down the land and to have visual proof that collectively small actions can indeed add up to something really quite big.    

We've always bemoaned the fact that we get little media attention and people don't understand what the government is intent on doing with it's TR omnishambles proposals. Well, any casual glance around the internet will confirm that the day of action generated much media interest and therefore the question now becomes, what next?

Without doubt attention now has to return to the House of Commons and the second reading of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill which takes place next Monday November 11th and as outlined here on the HoC website:-
The Offender Rehabilitation Bill [HL Bill 88 2013-14] seeks to amend the law relating to the release, and supervision after release, of offenders released from short custodial sentences. It would also make some changes to community sentences. The Bill represents the legislative parts of the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation strategy (see below). The Bill can be (broadly speaking) separated into three parts:
• The first part, which consists of clause 1 alone, concerns the MoJ’s controversial proposals for reform of the probation services. Opponents of the proposed reforms have argued, among other things, that they would create perverse incentives for new contracted providers and lead to increased risks to public protection. These were not included in the Bill as introduced as the MoJ said it would make the changes using existing powers. Clause 1, a non-Government amendment, would require any change to the structure of the “probation service” to be approved by both Houses of Parliament first.
• The second part, clauses 2-13, deals with the supervision of offenders released from short custodial sentences. All offenders released from sentences of less than two years would be subject to at least 12 months of mandatory supervision in the community. Many commentators have welcomed the proposals, but some have argued that they could lead to an increase in the use of short custodial sentences and an increase in recalls to prison.
The Bill would also put on a statutory footing the requirement to have regard to the special needs of female offenders when making supervision arrangements. It would also introduce new drug appointment requirements and expand the categories of drugs that can be tested for.
• The third part, clauses 14 -18, would amend the community sentencing framework. It would introduce a new “rehabilitation activity requirement” for community orders and suspended sentence orders and make amendments to allow private providers to be responsible officers for the supervision of offenders subject to such orders. It would also introduce a new mandatory requirement that offenders subject to such orders seek permission from their responsible officer before changing their place of residence.
Territorial extent
Most of the provisions of the Bill consist of amendments to existing legislation which applies to England & Wales only.
There is a comprehensive briefing paper prepared by the HoC research team for the benefit of MP's, but given the woeful degree of knowledge displayed by some, including my own MP, I seriously doubt if they ever read all this stuff. I suspect they rely heavily on their own young and enthusiastic researchers and the Whips of course, in order to decide what stance to take on any particular issue. 

Maybe I'm being unduly pessimistic and I have to admit that I have little insight into how the Westminster machine works, but I do know that right at this moment in the political cycle, minds are beginning to be focused on the next General Election and all parties are becoming especially alive to their image and likely fortunes. This is particularly true of the Liberal Democrat part of the coalition.

I simply cannot believe that they can be happy with what their Tory partners are proposing for the Probation Service. It strikes me that it fundamentally goes against what Liberal Democrats believe in terms of local control and accountability of public services. Here we have a case of a highly successful and important public service, run by local independent Boards, and each with tailored services designed to suit local need and in partnership with other local agencies. 

If that isn't an expression of Liberal Democrat philosophy, then I don't know what is. By its abolition, surely even at this eleventh hour, they can see that what is being proposed is an omnishambles of epic proportions, that has virtually no support from anyone that knows about the criminal justice system, and that goes completely against their core beliefs and values centred on localism. 

In the small amount of time left to us and before the second reading of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill next week, I think we must try our upmost to impress upon Liberal Democrat MP's in particular the utter folly of what is being proposed and that they use their considerable political muscle to stop this before it really is too late.         


  1. I too believe the Lib Dems can play a significant part in halting the TR fiasco. I also want Grayling to explain though where and when and how he intends to recruit all the ex cons and old lags he needs for his ill thought out plans! And whats plan B if he can't get enough?

    1. Actually, the Probation Trust does recruit ex cons and old lags, and I've been very happy in my work over the last 14 years. But like other colleagues I'm not happy with the TR fiasco.

  2. We should all write/email Lib Dem MP's - quoting from todays blog and to remind them that their partners in Criminal Justice - Grayling et al...brasenly lied in the Parliamentary debate last week - CG said the opposition to his plans had not offered an alternative to the reoffending problem - of course I know the conceited barsteward said his bit and then left the Chamber until the last speaker, but his underling must have heard, and it will be recorded in Hansard, a number of the opposition, on behalf of a variety of trusts, actually did offer to take on the under 12 months, at nil cost????? Mr Grayling, you are failing to convince people of your argument and you should remind is all written down for prosperity! I was trying to get a film reference in, to draw on similarities between CG and ? but could not recall the name of Kevin Spacey's character in the Usual Suspects - the evil barsteward.

    1. Meanwhile Grinch Grayling the man who stole Probation

    2. Have e-mailed my Lib Dem MP and telephoned his constituency office - they say he has received 'lots' of representations about TR

    3. Thanks for your post this morning Jim. I have also emailed my Lib Dem MP and will phone his constituency office tomorrow.

  3. Keyser Söze - Grinch Grayling - there is a blockbuster in there somewhere!

  4. Emailed my Lib Dem MP and asked him to consider whether as a matter of conscience he could really support privatising probation with no evidence base, risking public safety, Expecting a bland, standardised reply mind you!

  5. Jim, are you aware that today NAPO issued a supplementary notice of industrial action - action short of strike action in the form of 'working to contract' and 'working to rule', to commence wef 14.11.13. Detailed guidance to be issued next week. Details on NAPO website.
    Let's keep up the pressure, comrades.................

  6. Good lets hope that working to contract/rule includes refusing to cooperate with the SEEDS claptrap

  7. Work on your Councillors too. This is what has happened in Newcastle upon Tyne:

    Napo Northumbria members were in the Civic Centre chamber gallery on 6 November as Newcastle councillors debated a motion moved by Labour Councillor Linda Hobson calling for support of the current Probation Service and condemning Grayling’s sell-off to the Security giants. The motion and a seconding speech had been drafted by two Napo members.

    Labour holds a majority on the council; the rest are Lib-Dems. The Lib-Dems put forward a disabling amendment.

    At 8.45pm the debate ended with the division: the Lib-Dem amendment was defeated. Amazingly all the Lib-Dems then voted for the original Labour motion which was thus unanimously carried – cue huge applause from the gallery!

    Linda Dobson spoke at the Branch’s strike rally in the Miners Institute, Newcastle –upon-Tyne on Tuesday and received rapturous applause from the 120 strong audience of strikers and supporters.

    The Branch is following this up on Saturday with leafleting in Alan Beith’s constituency town of Alnwick – it seems the Lib-Dems are now feeling uneasy over the TR issue…

    Tim Wilson, Northumbria Branch

    The Motion

    Council notes:

    The Coalition Government plans to privatise the majority of probation services including handing community supervision of 200,000 serious and violent offenders over to private companies.
    It also notes that this is not based on any sound evidence that service delivery would be improved; in fact, this is being driven ahead despite the fact:
    * That all current Probation Trusts show good or exceptional performance in public protection, reducing reoffending and service delivery
    * Northumbria Probation Trust is the top performing trust
    * Northumbria Probation Trust is a valued partner which works with us in keeping our community safe by managing offenders, protecting children and vulnerable adults
    * Electronic tagging contracts run by private security firms are costly and have been fraught with problems of financial mismanagement, poor practice, including increased risk to the public. There is no evidence that these contracts have contributed to a reduction in reoffending.
    Council believes that:
    * Fragmenting offender management will increase the risk of harm to the public
    * Cooperative partnership arrangements for managing the most active offenders will founder leading to a substantial risk of an increase in crime in the city
    * There has not been adequate scrutiny of the proposed plans
    * Payment by Results of probation services is an unproven model which at best has a massive potential for unforeseen negative consequences
    * Criminal Justice is not for profit
    Council resolves:
    * To oppose the privatisation of probation services
    * Raise awareness of the impact this will have
    * Write to the Justice Secretary to highlight Newcastle City Council’s opposition to these plans

  8. Thanks for the encouraging news coming out of Northumbria. Tommorow, I wil work on a letter to Councillors from my area using in part your council notes (adapted to my area). Cheers.