Monday, 30 June 2014

This is London Calling!

There's no doubt about it. The Greater London Branch of Napo are definitely on a roll at the moment and can clearly teach Napo HQ a thing or two about working the media. First there was that astonishing editorial in the FT last week:-  
"British governments of all political colours have been too promiscuous about transferring activities to the private sector. Not every public service lends itself to going private. The powers invested in the state for sensitive services such as prisons can never be adequately captured in a contract, and should not be supplied by private contractors. The government must control its temptation to outsource on all fronts. The rush to outsource the probation service is a case in point."
Then we learn from the GLB website this:-

"You can also see more than a little Napo GLB influence in this FT Editorial."

Then today the FT published a clearly well-informed article, highlights from which are:- 
Bids for £800m privatisation of probation service due on Monday
Private companies are finalising bids for £800m a year in contracts to run UK probation services, one of the government’s most ambitious privatisations so far.
The move to create a market in probation services on this scale is untested and will be closely watched worldwide.
Although some US states and European countries have outsourced parts of their probation services – including Austria, for example, through Neustadt, a private not-for-profit organisation – this is the first time that core probation services have been privatised anywhere.
Paul Senior, professor of criminology at Sheffield Hallam University, said the move was “unprecedented”. “Everywhere else the state has always retained oversight of the core services, so this model is completely untested,” he said. The process will be watched in Australia and in eastern Europe, where many countries are introducing probation services based on the old model used for England and Wales.
The plans are going ahead despite fierce opposition from MPs and peers of all parties, who say they are being rushed through ahead of next year’s election. Both the Justice and the Public Accounts select committees have registered their concerns, while the National Audit Office has also warned of risks.
Napo, the probation workers union, which strongly opposes the outsourcing, says staff – now divided between the new community rehabilitation companies and the national probation service – are struggling to cope. Napo says that computer failures with a new IT system have wiped thousands of offenders’ files, many staff have left leading to increasing vacancies, and morale is low.
And here is the background to that article as detailed on the GLB facebook page:-.

Financial Times reports that Bids for £800m privatisation of probation service due on Monday

Every article out there has a history. This particular article started life after a chance meeting outside the Serco AGM with Financial Times journalist Gill Plimmer who heard Napo GLB Chair Pat Waterman talking to SERCO CEO Rupert Soames about the Community Payback contract in London. Both parties realized the significance of this meeting and stayed in touch.

Pat leads from the front and knows that activism is not just about staying in an office sending emails and meetings with senior managers but involves getting out there and talking to members, building working relations with key people in the media, government, establishing links with other trade unions, and other relevant organisations.

As a result of briefing journalists like Gill about what the government is doing regarding probation they are able to write knowledgeably about the issues. All articles of this type are at pains to ask all parties involved to comment but rely on a variety of experts as information contained in them has the potential to wipe a lot of value off share prices of companies mentioned.

We are fortunate that this is something Pat (who was a former union press officer) and her team prioritise and work hard to achieve and as a result we now have a formidable network that is unprecedented in Napo in London's history and we are are fast becoming the 'go to' for the media on a variety of criminal justice and probation stories - causing Grayling a considerable headache.

Some results are immediate whilst others take a bit of planning and building over several months to come to fruition and where a story is a national one Napo HQ are always notified and involved. As a result you are now seeing a flurry of well researched articles in national newspapers and will continue to see these from now on.

More articles are in the pipeline.

In order to view the article you need to register on the FT website and you can view eight articles a month for free.

Well done GLB and Pat Waterman! Finally, here she is writing earlier today:-



How “Interesting“ are you finding it?

In conversation recently with a former member of LPT’s Senior Management Team (who is now part of the Senior Management Team of the London CRC) I was told that he wanted to see what would happen now as he thought it might be interesting.

Interesting is not the first word that springs to my mind when I reflect on what has happened and what could happen.

Disturbing, dangerous, distressing, and disastrous are words that I would use. I do not just want to see what happens. I want to try to stop it happening. Napo is against Grayling’s Transforming Rehabilitation Plans at both local and national level. This will inevitably lead to differences of opinion between the trade union and those whose commitment is to making the new organisations work..

Having said that this trade union, again at both local and national level, is committed to protecting the interests of all its members as much as it can. This involves entering into constructive and meaningful dialogue with the management teams of, at the moment , both the NPS and the CRC. Since the demise of LPT there have no formal structures for doing so and my priority has been to initiate discussions to set these up.

Last week the Branch Vice Chairs and I met with Sara Robinson, and a NOMS Senior HR Business Partner, and Nick Smart and two members of his Senior Management Team. This meeting had no formal status or agenda but was extremely helpful in teasing out issues that will need to be addressed in the near future.

We were told that CRC support for employment relations cases will cease to be provided to the NPS from next week but that the CRC will continue to provide IT support for the NPS until September. Acknowledgement was made of the IT problems that have beset us all since the beginning of June and we were advised that twenty two temporary CA’s are being brought in for three months to help clear the back log caused by the inability of the IT systems to allow existing staff to log on new work.

A full report of this meeting, and a subsequent meeting scheduled in a fortnight’s time, will be given at the Branch AGM on Friday 18th July.

Today is the day when the MOJ will announce the final list of preferred bidders. We wait to see who the preferred bidders are for London.

There has been a lot of publicity in the press lately including in The Financial Times. The article in the FT started life after a chance meeting outside the SERCO AGM when a journalist from the FT heard me talking to the SERCO CEO Rupert Soames about the Community Payback contract in London.

I am very aware that there have been a lot of e-mails from both the branch and from our national office. I apologise but there is a lot happening and I believe that it is part of my responsibilities as chair to keep you all informed.

Pat Waterman
Napo Greater London Branch Chair


  1. Not only but also.....
    Just so you are aware there has been a concerted media campaign by other NAPO activists too, some of which are paying dividends: Private Eye and The Guardian come to mind....
    some of us don't have 100% facility time like in London and quiet persistence is paying please EVERYONE keep at this it is important.
    Well done to London though!

  2. Warwickshire which was the smallest branch have also been v good at getting positive media coverage . The chair Dave Adams has worked really hard to get as much media exposure as possible

  3. Well Done all!
    It is always difficult to get any publicity so good job on what has been achieved so far.

    1. I am pleased to let you know that today Plymouth City council voted in favour of a motion to oppose probation privatisation. I had given some napo info to a labour councilior I know but she also did a lot of research as did other labour councillors. I know from some of the quotes she made that she has read this blog.

    2. Excellent news! Well done.

    3. Thanks jim

  4. I thought today was just the deadline for bid submission, with preferred bidders to be announced in September or October? Happy to concede the point if I'm wrong, though, and we could be forgiven for believing that the whole sorry process is sewn up already, behind closed doors

    1. I think your comment is right in every aspect annon 17:55

      Off topic, but it may be of interest some, and maybe even probation may get a mention, who knows?

    2. Three-quarters of young offenders are reconvicted 12 months after getting out of jail.

      Figures from the Ministry of Justice show there were just over 1,500 people aged under 18 in England and Wales in jail last year.

      An ex-offender, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he reoffended two to three weeks after coming out.

      He said prison can help some people. "It depends if you're ready to change," he said. "At the time I wasn't."

      The ex-offender said he was 17 when he ended up in a cell.

      "It's little things like, when you are a child stealing push scooters and push bikes," he said.

      "It gradually just builds into more and more things and you want more and more money.

      "The big money really for criminals is the drug trade which is where I ended up.

      The ex-offender said he could not turn to family and friends if he wanted to change.

      "With the area I grew up in there's not really any of my friends who would say, 'Don't do that.' If anything they would say, 'I'm coming with you.'"

      He explained what prison was like for him.

      "The first two to three days it was a big shock," he said.

      "But then it might sound bad to say, but it's just like school. It's the same routine but you're not going home at the end of the day."

      Now though he says he's turned his life around.

      "At the time you wouldn't think it, but now I have actually got a job, it's a lot better," he said.

      "It feels good when you see that money in the bank at the end of the month. You know you've worked hard for it and you spend that money more wisely as well."

      If you want to hear more about why so many who have been caught up in crime can't find a way out is the subject of a Radio 1 documentary on Monday night. You can hear 'Staying Out' on Radio 1 Stories at 21:00 BST.

  5. We should never feel even the slightest bit resentful when London get national publicity for our cause as the usual complaint being levelled is that there hasn't been enough media coverage. Well done Pat Waterman and GLB. and well done all the other Napo activists wherever you happen to be you should be encouraged that any Napo Branch can get the message out and that there are stories to be told that the public wants to hear and needs to hear them.

  6. I never hear what Manchester branch has to say, considering they are the second biggest service. Com'on Manchester pull your finger out this is VERY IMPORTANT.

  7. Cost cutting is causing injustice.

    Judge Gareth Jones sad that he had previously voiced his concern about a health board case which involved Anglesey council.

    'I have a suspicion, and it is only a suspicion, that this local authority may have fallen into the temptation of withholding the commencement of public proceedings for reasons of economy. I hope very much that this is not a correct suspicion.

    'If that suspicion was well founded, that to my mind would be wholly unacceptable.'

  8. Just watched the early day motion on the chaos in the DWP.
    Every Tory that spoke said,
    "That things are going slowly, because this government make sure that things work properly before they're rolled out. This can only be achieved by trial and correcting issues that occur along the way, so that when it's finally implemented in full they know its going to work".
    Just like TR eh?

    1. The difference between the two is that with Universal Credit they don't want to rush into paying poor people too much money, whereas with TR they absolutely do want to pay rich companies too much money.

  9. Discussion on this article is invited, as all the prisoners in Oakwood will eventually be supervised by probation in the community (obviously after they've been fully rehabilitated), it may be a good platform to raise concerns about TR? IMHO

    1. In the early hours of Thursday 6 February 2013, in his cell at Oakwood Prison, Edward Ham, known to friends and family as Steve, rang the emergency bell. He told officers he had chest pains. The time was 3.29 am.

      Guards at the Birmingham jail, which is run for profit by security company G4S, monitored Ham, but failed to call a doctor.

      On checking Ham at 4.52 am, G4S officer Anita Duggal “knew something was wrong because there was no response from him.”

      She told the inquest into Ham’s death at Stafford Coroner's Court last week: “I went in his cell after getting approval from my manager to see if there was a pulse but there wasn’t.”

      Even though all staff were trained in first-aid it took 12 minutes before anybody attempted CPR. It was 53 minutes before an ambulance was called.

      “They all thought one of them had called an ambulance when in fact none of them had,” paramedic Neil Weaver said in a statement read out at the inquest.

      Prison officer Sarah Hollyhead told the court: “It was my belief that there was a defibrillator available but it was locked away.”

      She said: “We were given demonstrations on defibrillators but were not allowed to test them out.”

      The inquest heard that the two private prison officers had less than two years’ experience between them. Both officers accepted that they had panicked. One was too fearful to enter Ham’s cell.

      When paramedics arrived at 6.20am, almost three hours after Ham had complained of chest pains, it was immediately apparent to them that he was dead. Steve Ham was 54 years old.

      Last week South Staffordshire coroner Andrew Haigh concluded that Ham had died of ischemic heart disease. The cause of death was “natural causes in a man who received sub-optimal care”. The coroner said he would make a report regarding staffing levels at the jail.

      HMP Oakwood is run by G4S, the self-styled “world’s leading security company” that is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for inflating fees on public contracts.

      Under what’s known as a “manage and maintain” contract, over 15 years G4S is due to get £349 million of public money for running Oakwood. (That’s according to Ministry of Justice FOI response reference 82754 June 2013).

      When the prison opened two years ago, minister of justice Chris Grayling, a former PR man, told Parliament: “We have a very good model for prison development in Oakwood… To my mind, it is an excellent model for the future of the Prison Service.” [Hansard, 5 February 2013]

      G4S declared Oakwood's ambition to be, within five years, “the leading prison in the world”. The prison would be “‘restorative’ in the widest sense of the word,” said G4S. And here’s how:

      “Prisoners and staff will be encouraged to repair individual or group harm as soon as possible and at the lowest level.
 Staff will contribute to reducing re-offending by acting pro-socially and modelling socially acceptable and desirable traits.”

    2. Eh?

      Ever since the first prisoners moved in (before the builders had moved out) in April 2012, G4S has failed to deliver the basics.

      In July last year even the Ministry of Justice expressed “serious concern” over Oakwood, granting the prison its lowest possible rating. The Howard League for Penal Reform called that a “damning indictment” of for-profit companies’ involvement in justice.

      In August, Oakwood’s Independent Monitoring Board reported that:

      • A very high level of staff had little or no prison experience, and high rates of sickness left too few staff for front-line duties.
      • Cell furniture was made of cheap fibre-board that was easy to break up into weapons
      • The stairwells, out of sight of CCTV cameras, were perfect for assaults
      • Hooch, drugs and mobile phones were plentiful; it was easy to throw contraband into the grounds, there being only one perimeter fence instead of the usual two
      • Self-harm was a worry — several prisoners had gone over the landing railings; there were no nets
      (You can access the PDF here).
      In October HM Inspectorate of Prisons (reporting on their unannounced visit in June) found those faults and more. Well over a third of inmates were locked up during the working day. Prisoners found it was easier to get drugs than soap. Levels of self-harm were high. “Many staff were passive and compliant, almost to the point of collusion,” said Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick, “and there was clear evidence of staff failing to tackle delinquency or abusive behaviour.”

      He went on:

      The inexperience of staff was everywhere evident and systems to support routine services were creaky, if they existed at all . . . Against all four healthy prison tests: safety, respect, activity and resettlement, the outcomes inspectors observed were either insufficient or poor.
      In January this year, G4S and their Ministry of Justice handlers tried to pass off serious disturbances at the prison as “an incident of concerted indiscipline”. G4S insisted that only 15 to 20 prisoners had been involved.

      But a member of the emergency “tornado team” brought in to quash the disturbance told BBC’s Radio 4’s investigative programme The Report that many more prisoners had been involved and they had taken over an entire wing of the jail.

      “Wires had been strung as tripwires at leg level and at chest and neck level as well, to try and prevent us from moving in an orderly fashion down the wing and sort of break us as we went through,” said the tornado team officer.

      “I would sum it up as a full-scale prison riot and we were very lucky that it only took place on one unit and didn’t spread.”

      Chris Grayling's exemplar of private sector efficiency has leaned heavily upon publicly funded police and ambulance emergency services.

      In the year before the riot, 128 emergency calls had been made from the prison to Staffordshire police, according to information obtained by the Wolverhampton Express & Star under the Freedom of Information Act.

      In the year after Ham’s death, Oakwood staff called an ambulance 358 times — more than twice as much as any comparable jail, the BBC revealed.

      The week after Steve Ham died, the Prisons Ombudsman’s investigator visited Oakwood to try to establish what had happened. In accordance with normal procedure the investigator issued notices to staff and prisoners inviting anyone with information to contact the investigator. Nobody came forward.

      That’s HMP Oakwood, the blueprint for a privatised future. By G4S, “Securing your World”.

  10. dunno if im wrong but at a meeting with the CEO and some senior management, one of them explained about the U12mth custodials that she said we would be responsible for by 'probably December' and it was 'up to the new owners how they delivered the model of supervision'. But I thought they new owners would not be starting managing until April??

    Does anybody know what's happening anymore??

    1. Wonderful. So on the one hand, you've got a group of people who know what they're doing, and who've got a proven track record of success dating back over years, despite being shackles by real terms decreases in frontline budgets, and often ludicrous bureaucracy. On the other you've got shady, unaccountable organisations, focussed entirely on delivering for their shareholders, whose only record is in fleecing the taxpayer. And you give the freedom to try new ways of working to the second group? Lunacy.

    2. Maybe it's time we all took advantage of the new law, and ask for flexable working hours?

    3. I don't know of a single Probation Officer that does not work at least 10 hours a week over their contractual hours. Flexible working hours don't even come into it and I fear that they will be expecting a lot more as on a daily basis we are handed down more and more senseless unworkable destructions (instructions).

  11. With all of us expressing how much we despise Grayling, I note that not many people are signing the petition Sack Grayling, strange, from this evidence it appears that most people don't want to see him sacked. At least that petition could help to raise further our contempt of this man.

    1. twitter seems to have gone quiet too - im sure its not because the chaos is not out there but more a case of people feeling twitchy of falling foul of policies

  12. This TR shyte is taking its toll, I'm suffering sensory overload:

    Head hurts night and morning from unbelievable levels of frustration
    Ears ring from non-stop lies, justifications and "motivational" training
    Eyes are raw from hours & hours in front of pc screen
    Fingers, wrists, forearms scream with RSI from typing myself senseless
    My nose is full of the stench of bullshit

    I can't wait to hear whose budding for our CRC, but I share an earlier view that the deal is already done. The deceit continues...