Colin Allars, NOMS Director of Probation & Sarah Payne, NOMS Director of Probation
Dear Colin and Sarah
Thank you for your letter dated 10th June in response to my email of 6th June.
We appreciate that large projects such as TR are likely to experience teething problems and we recognise also that Probation staff and civil servants alike have worked extremely hard both before and since 1st June, to ensure service continuity at a high standard. The fact remains that the timetable that was imposed on us all has severely compromised the ability of Probation staff to undertake their roles efficiently and effectively and ultimately this will pose a serious risk to public protection. This risk is now compounded by the introduction of a wholly illogical operating model.
We recognise that Section 9 of the Offender Management Act 2007 provides the basis on which authorisation may be granted. The fact remains that PI 31/14 (still not received in draft) is the vehicle by which this authorisation is granted - otherwise why would you issue it at all? It was trailed as a 'major' Instruction and it was to have been available in early May. There remains a pre-existing PI authorising Probation Trust staff in this matter and to the best of our knowledge this has yet to be cancelled despite the fact that it is now effectively redundant. So our concerns on this front remain.
We would be pleased to receive copies of the reminders that you have sent, presumably to CRC CEOs and Deputy Directors of the NPS ( as well as a copy of a template interim CRC contract). Your letter makes no reference to the other Probation Instruction we cited regarding the role of Court Duty staff. It is true, I have had a telephone conversation with someone in NOMS regarding PI 31/14, but to describe this as "discussions on the key principles" would be something of an exaggeration. I am not aware of any other discussions involving either UNISON or GMB/SCOOP. As you will know, the agreed consultation period with the unions over draft Probation Instructions is 28 days and hence the timetable I posited in my email last week.
Based on intelligence we continue to receive from our members, Napo remains very concerned about (lack of) access to information based on the new operating model - RBAC issues as you describe them. As just one very small but illustrative example, a Social Services Child Protection Team contacted the last known supervising officer of an UPW Community Order. The Order had been completed and the PSO staff member now no longer has access to the closed record. She works now for a CRC. All closed records are held by the NPS. Of course, Social Services can be referred on, but to whom? Certainly not someone familiar with the case. Delay is built in as is lack of knowledge.
These RBAC issues appear to be structural rather than local and temporary problems as you describe them. They are then compounded by a myriad of other structural illogicalities reported to us, both of an ICT nature and otherwise. Another example would be the draft 48 page Probation Instruction we are currently considering regarding risk escalation. How anyone can be expected to take all this in, let alone operate it, is frankly beyond me. Again it builds in delay and bureaucracy that was not there before. Napo would therefore reiterate our concern that, in effect, it is a racing certainty that these logical inconsistencies and in particular the bars on information access, will be contributory if not causal factors in future failures to prevent SFOs.
We are disappointed that you are not minded to put the TOM on ice as we have suggested and therefore we feel bound to share our concerns more widely. A Parliamentary Briefing to this effect has already been issued by us.
National Official, Napo
CRC's not just doing pink and fluffy things
I can tell how well everything is going not just from the e-mails members send me but also from the number of e-mails sent by Ann Piercey on the Service Desk.
My advice as always is just to do what you can and if in doubt seek guidance in writing from your manager. Even Colin Allars, The Director of Probation in NOMS, admits that it is "not possible to get it right on Day One". But more from him later.
Since we all started working for "new management" I have made it my priority to meet individually with Nick Smart (CEO of London CRC) and Sara Robinson (Deputy Director of London NPS) to start to engage in the conversations that will set up structures to ensure that this branch is able to represent the interests of all its members.
Now that Nick Smart has got his Senior Management Team in place I am hoping that myself and the other Branch Officers will start to meet with them on a regular basis to discuss issues of concern to members. I know also that Nick Smart is keen to fashion the CRC into an organisation based on probation values before it is sold off and is inviting the unions to engage with him in this exercise.
Although NAPO continues to be against the TR project as a whole, members of this branch now work for the CRC and so, with caution and reservations, I have every intention on behalf of the branch of taking him up on his invitation. I would welcome comments and guidance from members.
Things were a little less clear when I met with Sara Robinson. Other than the ACO's who are running the clusters, she does not appear to have a Senior Management Team as such. There are people who are working on developing various strategic aspects of the London NPS but they appear to report directly to NOMS rather than to Sara. Although in the NPS there will be little that can be negotiated as such at a local level, I am hoping we will soon be able to set up regular meetings to at least discuss the implementation of directives at a local level.
I have also met with Jane Pound (formerly Head of HR in LPT and now in CRC) and established that the working relationships we previously enjoyed with members of her team will continue.
Matters are not so straight forward in the NPS. A Senior HR Business Partner for the London NPS should be appointed soon but their function will be to advise managers who will then be required to deal with many more things, on both an informal and formal level, on their own. There will be nothing like the level of support that was previously available to managers in LPT.
This could cause problems for some of the members of this branch who are managers. My advice would be the same as it would for any member who was being asked to do tasks for which they did not feel competent and for which they had not received adequate training. It is vitally important that training be provided to equip managers to perform these tasks. I have already made these views known to Sara.
In the midst of all this change we have not neglected our campaigning activities. The branch has continued to support all the campaigning initiatives of our national office and continued to maintain a lively and informative page on Facebook.
We await with interest an announcement as to who, following a bidding refreshment process, will be the final bidders for London. We thought that this announcement was due to be made at the end of this month. But, at a seminar last night at the Academy for Justice Commissioning which David Raho (Branch Press Officer ) and I attended, Colin Allars would say nothing more than that we were nearing the point of final bids and that shares would be offered for sale later this year.
But Colin Allars did say quite a few "interesting" things. In response to a question from a NAPO member, who had worked in CP, about what lessons had been learnt from the SERCO commissioning process he muttered that indeed lessons had been learnt but that the"SERCO contract was running pretty well" and had saved £25 million. Members with experience of the SERCO contract should feel free to disagree.
Colin Allars admitted that the new structures for delivering probation services were "far from a honed and well-oiled machine" and he was also very grateful to all former trust staff who had continued to deliver services even while the trusts were ending. He effectively said that none of this could have been done without their help.
And he also said that:
CRC's not just doing pink and fluffy things.
I see Mactailgunner was also in Cambridge on Tuesday and offers some further thoughts on the subject of the Probation Institute and in particular ethics:-
Like Jim Brown, I too attended the Bill McWilliams lecture on Tuesday. I was disappointed to see how few current practitioners managed to get along. I also made it to the Probation Institute's first summer conference last week where practitioners made a stronger showing.
JB notes how Sue Hall, the outgoing CEO of West Yorkshire Probation Trust, in giving her lecture, described the current mood of staff as 'flat' . Demoralised and deflated might be similarly apt descriptions now that June 1st has come and gone and the train crash is well under way. LAst Friday I also sensed an underlying anger amongst attendees. Equally understandable under the circumstances.
Sue described the Probation Institute as a possible 'ray of light' in the midst of what is frankly a pretty gloomy Probation world just now. Both she, and Professor Rob Canton last Friday, spent some time examining the values and ethics that underpin probation practice. A very live issue for the Institute as it consults over its own Code of Ethics. Both referred extensively to the European Probation Rules and Sue also to Napo's own Probation Practice Handbook published in 2011 (for which we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to Tom Rendon and Caroline Cosgrove in particular). Both publications highlight the importance and centrality of establishing positive relationships. An ex Chief Inspector of Probation opined that this discussion was a bit akin to navel gazing. I disagree. Never has it been more important in my opinion to reflect back on why we do what we do.
I am thus grateful to Rob Canton for drawing Brian Stevenson's TED talk to my attention.
www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_ne ... _injustice
Maybe I am one of the few who haven't heard this before, but if you haven't then I urge you to take 20 minutes to listen and reflect again on what it is that drives us. As someone said to me on Tuesday, Probation gets into your blood. And quite right too for there can be few more important things than justice and social justice.
If I read him right, JB was re-energised by what he heard yesterday. I was as well, both on Tuesday and last Friday. It was a bit like the buzz, the fire, you get from attending Napo AGMs. Hopefully Brian Stevenson might re-motivate you too. Those who actually post here are, I know, passionate about probation and justice. We all need to be. Sue Hall described how people, policies and governments come and go, but justice and probation are precious concepts and we need to defend and nurture them.
Many will feel it hard to summon the energy but never more important. Challenging entrenched offending behaviour and distorted thinking (including that of politicians and large corporations - transferable skills) is what we do best and now more than ever it is important that we apply our skills to best effect - in all directions. In order to do this we need patience, persistence, a strong and consistent underlying value base and the support of our peers and our managers. And we need to stand united.
Napo is a member led organisation. We all know it too has been experiencing rough times of late but it is central to the protection of Probation staff and to the promotion of justice and equality. Probation (Cafcass too) and if needs be, private owners of CRCs in future, all need to be held to account. Napo can do this. The Probation Institute, now that it is established, will also be a member led organisation. Both can co-exist and work together to promote justice, equality and professional standards. But both organisations are only as strong as the sum of their parts, their members. By joining, people can have their say, elect whom they want to lead these organisations and make a difference.
Of course it's hard just now and the months and years ahead are likely to be harder still, but take 20 minutes to listen and watch Brian Stevenson and think on.