Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Those Letters

Many colleagues are reporting the arrival of 'those letters' and the remaining Trusts, including London, will be sending them out in the next couple of days. Here is the latest on the subject from Pat Waterman, Chair of Greater London Napo branch:-

Staying Sane in Insane Situations 

The decision of the Probation Board on Friday 29th November was to instruct the Chief Executive to begin arrangements for the Secretary of State's staff transfer scheme in readiness for the closure of LPT and the creation of the NPS and CRC's.
According to the information sent to you by Heather Munro last week a "Formal Local Consultation" with the trade unions, about the way in which the scheme is to be implemented, would begin at the Local Joint Panel Meeting (LJP) which took place yesterday. The LJP is the regular monthly meeting between the Senior Management Team (SMT) and the trade unions. 
At the meeting yesterday the SMT gave notice that it intended to prepare to send out letters to all staff which would either advise them of their "automatic" assignment to either the NPS or a CRC or would invite them to express an interest in either the NPS or CRC. 
In accordance with the instructions of our national officers, both recognised trade unions (NAPO & UNISON) gave notice of their intention to lodge a formal local dispute. 

I will be meeting with my UNISON colleagues tomorrow to write and deliver notice of this local dispute and I will circulate details of it to you all. 
The advice of our national officers and officials is that you should lodge a grievance on receipt of one of these letters 
I asked that I be provided with copies of the letters that LPT intends to send out to you all in advance of them being sent. My request was granted and it will be my intention to provide you with further guidance tailored to the particular wording of the letters being sent. 
There then followed a very odd discussion in which the trade unions tried to understand how we could engage in formal consultation, with a view to reaching any sort of agreement, on plans to implement a scheme that was still the subject of national negotiations. We eventually agreed to at least meet with SMT every Tuesday afternoon to listen to their plans. 
So to summarise: 

•        A formal local dispute will be lodged by the trade unions tomorrow 

•        Letters will start to go out probably by the end of the week 

•        You are being advised to lodge a grievance on receipt of a letter advising you on your re-assignment or on receipt of a letter that seeks an expression of interest. 

•        Further local guidance will be issued on how to lodge a grievance. 
According to my information LPT is one of the last trusts to issue these letters. As it is the largest trust this is a GOOD thing. It may be that with all the best of intentions on the part of the SMT it is simply not possible to meet the deadline of 1st April 2014. This would also be a GOOD thing. 

Remember that being sent to either the NPS or the CRC is a BAD thing.  There are likely to be cuts in both sectors in the future. Remember also that this palaver is as a consequence of the Secretary of State's wish to break up existing Probation Trusts and put large parts of our work up for sale. 
Finally, although I know it is hard, I would again urge you to follow both national and local advice and only work your hours. 

In response to my question as to how she expected staff to carry on with business as usual, when there was so much uncertainty regarding their futures, Heather Munro assured me that she had no such expectation. So I suggest that you take heart from this. Please participate in the industrial action. Together we can make a difference. 

Pat Waterman 
Branch Chair

On the subject of grievance letters, I've been contacted by a regular reader with an idea and I'm very happy to publish it here. If there are other people with great ideas, or who just want a platform on which to give vent to their feelings, please get in touch via the link on my profile page.


The Human Resources processes linked to Transforming Rehabilitation appear to have two main drivers. The first is speed. Whatever expectations that Probation staff have learned to have in relation to recruitment and role selection have been swept aside in favour of a process that is designed simply to get the job done within the ever-shrinking time available before we hit the wall on 1st April. 

The second objective relates to the need to ensure that, as Trusts ‘morph’ into the proposed NPS/CRC set-ups, those who are engineering the processes locally do not direct the best staff into the NPS at the expense of the soon-to-be-privatised CRC's. No consideration will be given to performances, competence, disciplinary record, sickness record, interviewing skills, presentation – the process is anonymised and managed using only the subject’s role profile and risk-related caseload data. 

The recent ‘Failure to Agree’ lodged by the National Negotiating Committee, another development that is clearly linked to the Justice Secretary’s reckless timetable rather that the willingness or otherwise of either party to work out their differences, resulted in the MoJ issuing instructions to Trusts to implement the assignment process immediately, without waiting for that national negotiating structure to resolve issues relating, amongst others, to pensions, continuity of service and redundancy. The assignment letters indicating to which organisations staff are to be allocated are already in the hands of many Trust employees and the rest are likely to receive theirs within days. 

NAPO has issued guidance to it’s members that they should respond to the ‘Automatic Assignment’ and ‘Expression of Interest’ letters by submitting grievances and by indicating that any choices or ‘Expressions of Interest’  they make are made under duress and without sufficient information on which to base any decisions. Many employees have already submitted grievances and others are drafting theirs as we speak. The response of the employers to grievances, however, are likely to be superficial and dismissive (the MoJ has already told Trusts that local disputes registered because of the implementation of the assignment process should be rejected). Trusts are already talking in terms of dealing with appeals as a ‘paper process’, rather than implementing any fuller investigation of the concerns raised.

In light of the likely response to the submission of individual grievances, the letters themselves, however heartfelt and whatever their individual merits, are likely to be filed or disposed of, forgotten about and dismissed as irrelevant, further evidence of the cavalier attitude of the MoJ to the management of Human Resources, the agreed policies and processes of existing Trusts and the whole issue of Industrial Relations in general. Fundamentally, it shows a complete disregard for the anger and disillusionment felt by the thousands of Probation staff who are being subjected to this monstrous process, despite many years of improving performance against reducing resources.

In an effort to give voice to the thousands of staff affected by this process and to allow the legitimate grievances of staff to become a matter of public record, colleagues are invited to copy their grievance letters anonymously onto the comments area of this blog. It would be useful if anyone posting their letter could initial it to head off any suggestions that the letters are in any way faked (it is sad to see that many staff who used to feel comfortable challenging the status quo now feel that they cannot do so openly - another victory for Grayling?). 

Interested parties need to know the strength of feeling of the people who have, to date, behaved entirely professionally and who have delivered their required objectives to an excellent standard. A series of posted grievance letters will offer irrefutable evidence of the strength of feeling of those staff being abused by this process and offer support to others who may be on the cusp of submitting. More importantly, however, it will prevent the MoJ and the privateers who are waiting to pounce from suppressing the notion that the privatisation of Probation is universally opposed by the only people who have the skills necessary to actually implement it.

Guest Blogger

PS As an alternative, copies of grievance letters can be submitted via the contact details to be found on the profile page. No names or other identifying details will be published.


  1. Seamless ! Guest Blogger / Jim - excellent piece (again)

  2. Alot of feathering of own nests seemingly going on at senior management level whilst us plebs are left to fight it out at the bottom. And we ever expected these people to stand up to TR? Same people now spouting propaganda about opportunities in the CRC, safe in the knowledge they have secured well paid posts in the same.

  3. I think this is a good idea, and will be taking part - though since my letter isn't expected to arrive for another couple of weeks I might miss the boat!

    When I reply, I'm going to enclose two copies of my grievance letter, one glued to the back of the Expression of Interest letter so that it can't be separated out.

    1. A approach that I also intend to follow and would suggest that others do the same!


    1. LABOUR politicians have written to a Government minister to demand answers on the future of a South Essex bail hostel.

      The future of the Felmores bail hostel is up in the air with the Essex Probation Trust looking to relocate it.

      But the Government is looking for private companies to run some hostels that house medium and low-risk offenders from next year – a move which could see less notorious criminals housed in Pitsea.

      Both Gavin Callaghan, Pitsea North West councillor, and Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for Tory Stephen Metcalfe’s South Basildon and East Thurrock seat, and Mike Le-Surf, have written to the Prison Minister about their concerns.

  5. Thanks to Pat Waterman, Guest Blogger and Jim for right good post

    Pat says, "In response to my question as to how she expected staff to carry on with business as usual, when there was so much uncertainty regarding their futures, Heather Munro assured me that she had no such expectation.

    Good, because I'm struggling to keep up with the extra stress of TR. I've put in a request to see Occupational Health, and let my manager know that, I'm on the edge with TR omnishambles!

    There seems to be no end to the changes that probation staff are having to go through and it is very draining and demotivating.

    I have been told that our letters in South Yorkshire are getting sent out on the 11th of December, to which I will then respond to it with a grievance, even if it is ignored.

  6. I lay carpets all day, but my wifes a probation officer, and as a consequence TR is having a massive impact on my life as well as hers.
    Having discussed the situation we decided (we're both close to retirement), that the best thing to do would be to take whatever redundancy package that was offered and be done with it all. However, her letter informed her that she will be NPC, and there may be redundancies but only for some senior management possitions and corporate staff. So it looks like theres no way out of this shite mess. People ( and I mean all affected by TR) really do deserve better treatment then this.

  7. My letter arrived yesterday - Durham Tees Valley PT - and I haven't slept. I have a busy day tomorrow ( well actually, today) and will be expected to perform as usual. Whatever happens from here on in, the MOJ has lost the heart and mind of a dedicated PO. I am hard working and just get on with whatever is asked of me but NO MORE. Something in me has died and that will directly translate to my work. I will deliver what is required and no more. Do not underestimate the future cost of this because performance has always been delivered on the unpaid extra work we do so freely. I will never do that again for an employer who treats me with such a lack of respect.

    1. My worst time is when I wake before the alarm and lie there not wanting to get up:at work it feels increasingly as if we are running 2 parallel lives especially in run-up to Xmas with a veneer of good mood,office decorations and parties alongside increasing worry about Probation and personal future,disillusion and ffatigueI'm not giving up on protesting the folly and risks of TR just recognising the impact of this struggle whilst still trying to do the job and hold things together at home for family.


    1. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling insisted yesterday that it was safe to sell off the probation service, despite a leaked government assessment saying the opposite.
      Mr Grayling told the justice select committee that the report was "theoretical" and refused demands to release other internal risk assessments into the sell-off.
      Under the government's plans up to 70 per cent of the probation service would be sold off.
      Private and voluntary groups have been asked to bid for contracts worth £450 million to supervise 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders a year under the shake-up - including murky security corporations Serco and G4S.
      The leaked "risk register" drawn up within the Ministry of Justice showed a more than 80 per cent risk of "an unacceptable drop in operational performance" leading to "delivery failures and reputational damage."
      Labour MP John McDonnell said it meant that under the changes, which have already led to a strike by probation staff, the general public "could be put at risk."

      Mr Grayling said the risks had been revised since the register was drawn up, although the timetable for privatisation remains the same and no explanations have been offered on how they have been mitigated.
      "It's just good management practice. That's all the risk register is," he said.
      He also denied that the sell-off posed safety issues, claiming that "at no point has any official come to me and said 'if you go ahead with this there is an 80 per cent chance of the public being put in danger.'"
      Contracts are to be split across private Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) in 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the new public sector National Probation Service (NPS) will be formed to deal with the rehabilitation of 31,000 high-risk offenders each year.
      Probation officers union Napo is fighting against the plans, arguing that they will trash valuable interagency relationships needed to deal with offenders properly.
      Napo spokeswoman Tania Basset said Mr Grayling's reticence to publish the risk registers "indicates that the reviewed documents are still flagging dangers up."

    2. Again, the truth twisted by knaves.

  9. Serco have also said that if there are risks with contracts the costing for those risks must be reflected in any bid tendered.

    1. Serco is “firmly committed to rebuilding the confidence of our U.K. government customer” and is “making good progress” on corporate restructuring, it said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment about the dearth of British work. A G4S spokesman declined to discuss a potential slowdown in contracts.
      The Justice Ministry canceled a tender Nov. 22 for a contract worth as much as 30 million pounds a year to run three prisons, due to “uncertainty” about the investigation. Serco was the lead bidder. Serco and partners withdrew from a competition for military purchasing, and Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has said he may keep procurement in public hands.
      Wariness over Serco’s reputation means it may not get contracts before the 2015 elections even if the company is given a clean bill of health, according to Speakman.
      Election Overhang
      “Politically driven initiatives” may be “difficult to work through,” said Tom Gash, research director at the Institute for Government, a London-based group that has criticized outsourcing oversight. “As you get closer to the pre-election period, people will start to look at those quite questioningly and think about stopping the process.”