News continues to come in from all over the country about the train crash that is 'Transforming Rehabilitation'. Everywhere there are reports of offices being in 'meltdown', for instance Darlington where the remaining skeleton staff have been instructed to place all clients on four weekly reporting. A perfect storm is brewing as a result of the idiotic CRC/NPS staff split that means caseloads for some have gone through the roof and staff are keeling over and reporting sick.
Management are becoming ever more desperate to try and paper over the cracks and are issuing draconian warnings about whilsteblowing to the media. It's reported that one colleague has been escorted from the premises and this may be connected with a story carried by local BBC news regarding inadequate supervision of sex offenders:-
High-risk sex offenders including rapists and paedophiles are posing serious dangers to public safety, claim probation officers who say they have not been trained to manage them properly. In the North East's Durham Tees Valley area, all such cases were being handled by a specialist public protection team. But under new restructuring plans some are now being dealt with by regular probation officers instead. The Probation Service downplayed the fears and said all sex offenders "will be managed by fully qualified probation officers".
The issue of workloads impacting on staff health, together with public safety, is rapidly becoming a major issue and has prompted at least two letters from branches to Trust CEO's as follows:-
21st May 2014
21st May 2014
Transforming Rehabilitation: impact on operational capacity and the risk to public safety
As the Chair of Merseyside Napo Branch, I am formally writing to you on behalf of the Branch to raise a number of concerns in relation to the matter above.
I would like to start by highlighting members concerns over workloads and an appropriate system to quantify and protect and support staff in terms of measuring workloads. You will already be aware of members of staff raising concerns, and recently staff at Wirral Probation Centre (WPC) have further muted their anger and desperation at the lack of resources to undertake their role. Their letter is representative of conversations branch executive members have had from staff trust wide expressing concerns over the impact of TR on workloads and staff wellbeing with this having a negative effect on their role to protect the public and rehabilitate. Many staff members are reporting to be ‘close to the edge’ in relation to their levels of stress and anxiety. In the open letter from staff at WPC, it was suggested that the tipping point in this regard had now been breached.
It is a matter of fact that the number of cases staff are being expected to manage in both the CRC and the NPS continue to grow. Initial estimations in February / March of 40 cases for PO grade staff and 70 cases for PSO grade staff in the CRC now appear a distant memory with typical figures being reported around 70 cases for PO’s and 100 cases for PSO’s. Likewise, it is also not an exception for PO’s in the NPS to be carrying over 40 cases, all of which will pose a high risk of violent offending or concerns of sexual offending towards the public.
These figures pose a real threat to the ability to be able to undertake quality work. However, this is compounded by the lack of any system of measuring workload which is also providing a real matter of concern for members. My recent interactions with a senior member of staff have suggested whilst the NPS is developing a system of workload measurement, it is not evident that the CRC were making any significant progress to this end. At last week’s health and safety meeting, when requesting information about this it would appear no decision had been made as to whether any tool would be based on an approach of thinking how much time would be required to undertake quality work on an average case, or whether it would be based on dividing cases by staff numbers. The latter would raise concerns for us as a trade union in that the measurement would then effectively become arbitrary and unrelated to the quality of work expected.
Concerns voiced in generic field teams are also echoed by colleagues and members in specialist teams such as court services, with one manager quoting the situation was a “nightmare” in a recent communication. It is apparent that the implementation of TR processes in courts has increased bureaucracy as opposed to making the system more efficient and cost effective. Court staff are being asked to retrospectively complete new paperwork such as the RSR taking resources away from an already stretched division in terms of the completion of the core task of reports and provision of services to the courts.
I would also raise with you our growing concerns over issues of diversity and equality. Even at this early stage it appears new documentation such as the RSR is not AT compliant and this is directing the roles of staff protected by equality at work and disability provisions. Further it is unclear as to what levels of AT support will be available to NPS colleagues post split. Given these developments I would be interested to hear whether the newly formed CRC’s and NPS will have the same level of commitment to ‘Investors in People’ status as Merseyside Probation Trust has previously demonstrated.
These issues raise significant concerns about the risk to public safety as a result of the transition to the NPS and CRC structures and are of such gravitas that I have copied this letter to our local MP’s and Ursula Brennan the Permanent Secretary.
It is our view that the above issues are a clear indicator that neither the CRC or the NPS is business ready in terms of public safety, staff wellbeing, and in terms of providing value for money to the taxpayer. We therefore call on you to make urgent representations to senior NOMS management to halt the split of staff on the 1st June and that you support an extension of the transition process to NPS and CRC’s for at least two months or until the above issues are fully resolved.
Transforming Rehabilitation: impact on operational capacity and the risk to public safety
As the Chair of Greater London Napo Branch, representing over one thousand members, I am writing to you on behalf of the Branch to raise a number of concerns arising from the process of splitting London Probation Trust into two separate organisations.
As the Chief Executive of the biggest trust in the country it was always going to be a challenge for you to ensure that all the processes were completed by the end of this month ready for the launch of the new organisations. It is my understanding that LPT has always been significantly “behind” other trusts. Indeed at the Transforming Rehabilitation Meeting the trade unions had with Senior Management only this week it was acknowledged that many processes will not be completed by the end of May.
You will be as aware as I am that there are significant staff shortages particularly in the Probation Officer Grade in the CRC. To meet the demand, and to seek to ensure that services are continued to the same standard, there is excessive reliance on agency and temporary staff. It is not envisaged that staffing issues will be resolved by the end of the month. It is my understanding that in addition, although the formal Staff Transfer Process has been completed, there remains a considerable amount of movement between the NPS and CRC of current LPT employees and it is envisaged that this is likely to continue.
Over the past few weeks, as cases have started to be transferred between staff allocated to either the NPS or CRC confusion and chaos has been rife in all the offices. Despite the pressure from members of your management team on staff to “Just get on with it”, I am clear that the case transfer process is far from complete nor is it likely to be completed by the end of the month. Although the statistical returns, and your own Workload Management Tool, may present a different picture (and even that some staff are working under capacity), I suggest that this is because of false accounting procedures. For example, members tell me that some of their cases have been re-allocated but that they are required to complete outstanding tasks at the same time as assuming responsibility for new work.
Although I am advised by your Head of Workforce Planning that, “The PO resource planned and assigned to the NPS includes the appropriate resourcing for delivery of forecast PSR demand”, I suggest that it might be a little too soon to say this with any degree of confidence. It is only in the past week that the organisation has ceased to allocate requests from courts for reports to Probation Officers assigned to the CRC.
As you will also know there remain a number of issues concerning IT provision that have yet to be resolved. In fact there are many matters that have yet to be resolved. Logs have been kept of the questions raised by the trade unions at our weekly meetings with Senior Management to discuss the measures that are being implemented to achieve the transformation of LPT into two separate organisations. These meetings have been taking place since the end of last year and yet, as the logs will reflect, many questions remain unanswered at this late stage.
You will also be aware that, according to the statistical analysis compiled by your own Equalities Department, there are significant diversity issues in the allocation of staff between the two organisations.
NAPO has repeatedly expressed its concerns about the extent to which the plans to “split” the probation service compromises public safety. I suggest to you, to the extent that the processes dictated by the Ministry of Justice will not and cannot be completed by the decreed date, that this is a particular issue here in London.
In our regular weekly meetings requests have been made by this union for the Risk Register that we believed you to be compiling in respect of these changes. On 25th March 2014 you are recorded as saying that: you would check with Paul Davies (Head of Corporate Governance) as to whether LPT could share the Risk Register with the trade unions. I was subsequently advised to make a request under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act which I duly did. I have now been advised that no such register exists and I have, as a consequence, referred the matter to the Information Commissioner.
These issues outlined above raise significant concerns about the risk to public safety as a result of the transition to the NPS and CRC structures and are of such gravitas that I have copied this letter to all the Members of Parliament within the Greater London area and Ursula Brennan the Permanent Secretary.
It is our view that they are a clear indicator that neither the CRC or the NPS is business ready in terms of public safety, staff wellbeing, and in terms of providing value for money to the taxpayer. We therefore call on you to make urgent representations to senior NOMS management to halt the split of staff on the 1st June and that you support an extension of the transition process to NPS and CRC’s for at least two months or until the above issues are fully resolved.
(Pic courtesy AnarchistPO)