Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Guest Blog 5

Strategy by Joanna Hughes

I am envious, as well as delighted, at the collapse of the intended privatisations involving the Land Registry, Child Protection and the student loan book. After all, the reasons against privatisation were the same or no less compelling in our case – a bogus rationale geared towards a multinational cartel that bred strike action, widespread professional and academic opposition, and the likelihood (now fact in our case) of small bidders pulling out – proof were it needed of the absence of a genuine ‘market’… 

Yet the Probation Service is still now split, in readiness for the ‘share sale’, for all of the widespread chaos evidenced by this blog. As if further proof were needed about the corporate ventriloquists behind Chris Grayling, the Justice Minister has recently announced that the much-feted under12 month group will now be electronically tagged.

So, what next, or put it another way: what can we do to make things change? Harry Fletcher has often said that there are three elements to defeating TR: legal action, industrial action and parliamentary action. I am not on the inside of either NAPO or parliament, but one has to speak as one finds, and I am just voicing what I know. As a proportion of us (a large one, I hope) are off to Westminster today, let’s look at where I think we are in terms of each.

Parliament:

On 22 August Harry Fletcher wrote about the possibility of reversing TR:

‘In the absence of a coordinated campaign within parliament and the press involving unions, managers and the Institute and with sound public support it seems unlikely. Most Parliamentarians seem unaware of events. There are excellent exceptions like Sadiq Khan and Lord Ramsbotham. Others like the Lib Dems, know the score but will not intervene. There are 3 months left to stop the rot. Officials and senior civil servants must be aware that the timescale is not deliverable and the next Government will be left to pick up the pieces and say so to politicians.’
Harry has also told me that today's lobby will only be worth it if there are hundreds of MPs there, so I hope you have all called on your representatives to turn up. I also hope that, unlike last time, NAPO have invited MPs of all parties as, to my mind, so much of our activity has been preaching to the converted.

From my own experience, I also have a certain amount of information on parliament. I have sent a so-called parliamentary briefing taken from quotes from this blog, to John McDonnell via Harry, for an adjournment debate in October. I have sent in PMQs via my MP for MOJ oral questions this month and I have persuaded my MP to ask Ursula Brennan for a meeting asap. 
We have received no reply as yet. 

If I mention these things it is purely to highlight what I (very) regretfully have come to consider as a failure of NAPO really to take the fight in evident ways to Parliament. At the least there is a failure of communication: we are at a critical juncture, but which of us knows what is going on in Parliament, and what NAPO is doing there? 

I cannot help but ask such questions, for instance, when I find that a reliable parliamentary source tells that there have been no PMQs since Harry left and that the quality of the parliamentary briefings is wholly inadequate. Like many I suspect, I feel very regretful at bashing my union, but after months, with so much at stake, I feel we have not been well-served. We are at a point where the Union has to provide leadership and resistance to TR, not modes of negotiation that are indistinguishable from compliance.

Legal action:

Many feel both that the Judicial Review (assessing the risks of TR before it goes forward) is vital to the fight, and that NAPO needs to show they are not dragging their feet on this. Ian Lawrence has dampened expectations by quoting to me the cost as in the region of £250,000. According to two sources of legal advice that I have sought (including an expert on Judicial Review) there is a real case to be made (with new information and new angles too given developments in recent months), and the estimated cost would be much lower. Further, it is common to make a ‘Protective Costs Order’ when the sides are unequal (which they are when one is the govt.) which would limit the costs to £50,000 – 75,000. I have no idea why NAPO are quoting such a high sum but I will ask Ian at the rally and hope you will too!

Harry Fletcher tweeted:

‘Probation selloff - Just how 'legal' is the contractual process? The MOJ must be put under pressure to make public its own lawyers advice!’
He also said in his blog that an MOJ official told him “aspects of the contacting process and of tagging would not hold up to legal scrutiny.” Anyone with any legal knowledge or thoughts about the bidding process please contact me or catch me later today.

Contributors to the blog have commented on the 'constructive dismissal’ element of being forced into the CRC and wondered if this could be pursued? All I have heard about this is that NAPO made a deal that means this is not viable, but again we need information about this, and the rationale. Anyone know anything about this?

Industrial action:

Everyone tells me that it will be very difficult to engage the NPS now they are in the Civil Service. I find it difficult to disagree with Simon Garden commenting on the blog:

“If the union leadership had been serious about industrial action - if they had built for a strike, organised, agitated, engaged and involved people, then things could have been very different.”
My own view is that real leadership in this situation on the part of the Union has been crucially lacking and that we have missed important opportunities, but also I feel that all is not lost, were the Union genuinely to address the needs and wishes of the members, and the exigencies of the situation.

In conclusion, we are not doing brilliantly on the three elements needed to defeat TR, but the bidding process is in disarray. Surely though, we should use the Union to focus robustly on that, and on the risks, and illegalities of the MOJ?

As has been mentioned in previous blog posts, this is an avenue worth pursuing, so any information on bidders would be helpful. Crucially, TR still has to pass Ursula Brennan and, while she is the person who still tries to praise the privatization of court interpreters, she has her reputation to think of and won’t proceed if we continue to show how risky it all is, and how far she is personally associated with the changes.

Finally, IF I get a meeting with her, I will need all the help I can get from readers and contributors to this blog in order to present our case.

39 comments:

  1. Why would Ursula even consider meeting someone who's thrown the towel in in probation. I'm guessing many people would have resigned on "protest" if they were financially able to: I wonder if Joanna is really the martyr she makes herself out to be?

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    1. Your use of the word martyr is misplaced in these circumstances.

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    2. 'Why would Ursula even consider meeting someone who's thrown the towel in in probation. I'm guessing many people would have resigned on "protest" if they were financially able to: I wonder if Joanna is really the martyr she makes herself out to be?'

      This might well be the most pissy little small-minded comment I've read on this blog. Truly pathetic.

      Simon Garden

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  2. Who told you napo didn't invite all parties? I invited my mp (a Tory) but he chose not to attend.

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    1. Every member is asked to contact their MP. Then it is obviously up to that MP if they do/don't attend. Napo HQ cant be blamed for who turns up.

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  3. Another example of Napo "not doing anything". ;)

    http://www.itv.com/news/update/2014-09-03/over-half-of-probation-staff-actively-seeking-new-job/

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    1. "The survey also revealed an overwhelming level of dissatisfaction with the Government, with 98% of respondents saying they had no confidence in Justice Secretary Chris Grayling."

      I seriously hope the other 2% answered "don't know" to that question...

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  4. I am not active in napo,I read my monthly napo bulletin and pay my subscriptions and am not privy to the personalilties or obvious agendas that some responses to Joanna Hughes's article seem to evidence are out there. For me as a po with 25+ years experience she makes good clear points which I as a napo member would want answers to. I have no agenda,I have gone on strike when it's been called. It seems staff want to fight each other rather than focus on the bigger picture.

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    1. The blog itself evidences the wish to in-fight. Lots of praise for HF who walked away from Napo. We should ignore this union bashing and get on with the bigger picture

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  5. Anon at 6.37. All I can go on is that the Gloucester MP, a Tory, ranted at me that no Conservatives were invited and Harry Fletcher confirmed that only Labour were invited and was annoyed that the Tories and Lib dems weren't there. Anon at 6.32. I'm very sorry you think I am a martyr and it is certainly not the way I consider myself. I am lucky not to be the main breadwinner in my house, but I am unemployed and seeking work all the time. In the meantime, I spend a lot of time fighting this as I believe in it, but I did not wish to give an impression of martyrdom. I can't think U Brennan will see me either, but it won't be because I've thrown in the towel but because she's on unsure ground.

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    1. You trusted a Tory = naive

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  6. Anon at 7:14- I have googled and realised I do know who you are Joanna and that to take the stand you did was very courageous. For her critics above rather than be negative why not applaud this individual who has stood by her convictions and is fighting still for our role and our jobs?

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  7. Re industrial action - two strikes were poorly supported. Many see their work as just a job rather than a vocation and have no stomach for the fight. Care workers strike for 7 weeks, we cannot manage a couple of days. This failure is probably the biggest factor of all.

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  8. As an SPO, we have noted that staff have stopped volunteering for roles like Fire Marshalls, First Aiders, NAPO roles, task and finish groups etc. Goodwill gone, many waiting to see which bidder gets their area and what their proposals are before looking to leave, others waiting for redundancy. Probation, both NPS and CRCs, are watching and waiting to see what the end state is before deciding their intwntions. Bidders have an insurmountable barrier to re-engaging staff. 'Motivational speeches' from the CEO of a multi-national will fail to bring most on board and it will be decades before the damahe to morale is repaired.

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  9. I am
    Coming up from Plymouth today for the lobby . Hope to see you there jioanna. I will never stop fighting. I am nps and under no illusion that it is safe. Jilln

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  10. Might the Clacton By Election be an opportunity to publicly advance the cause of a locally unified and publicly run system of probation?

    Close of nominations day to be in about two weeks around 18th September - deposit only £500.00 and 10 local constituents needed to support a nomination.

    For a link to detailed information about qualification to stand etc.: -

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=814

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=814

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    1. Andrew, I admire your optimism, but any attempt to raise an issue other than the nonsense spouted by Ukip and the Tories will be drowned in the sea of noise around this by-election.

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  11. Grayling and andy have been making missleading statements. Grayling has said there are 80 bidders but cannot figure the maths. There was around 30 to begin with and a fair few have dropped out including several mutuals. Usual guff. Plus andy is saying they are supporting staff. Unsure how. This whole thing has been a mess of dictats and short timescale just for an election.

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  12. Looking at the figures, it looks likely there is going to be a monopoly. Using Russ Webste'rs website as a guide in Dec 13 there were 30 bidders that passed the PQQ stage and as my colleague above points out there are undoubtedly some of that 30 who have seen sense and withdrawn. The thought of these remaining companies being let lose and introducing untried and untested freedom to introduce god only knows what systems to manage some of the most difficult members of society is something out of a story that begins 'Once Upon A Time' but will not end with 'they all lived happily ever after'.

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  13. They lie. End of.

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    1. yep! few words but thats it in a nutshell.

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  14. https://uk.news.yahoo.com/98-probation-workers-no-confidence-chris-grayling-100159860.html

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    1. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/job-cut-jail-crisis-prisoners-kept-4155815

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  15. Like many others who post here, I get a real sense of a shared struggle, and support, so you can imagine my annoyance when today a Probation colleague from Lancashire, shared the lengths his service is willing to go to cover the cracks. Lancs are askng for volunteers to work over time to write PSR's at £150 a throw, and it is a matter for the author to decide on an SDR/FDR - same price. He went on to say he has booked a week off and has taken 10 reports; he seemed pleased with himself. I did suggest it is people like him willing to paper over the cracks that allow Mr Graylng to spin his lies, about the size of caseloads and the pressure on staff..people like him, and all those who opted for retirement or redundancy, that have popped up covering hostel shifts, for programmes or training, are complicit in the demise of the service and I find it hard to disguise my contempt.

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    1. Hang on. 30yi, the Lancs body will get a week's leave (paid; lets say £100/day) + £1500 for the 10 reports... £2k for the week. What's not to like about that?

      1. Its presumably for NPS PO grade staff only?
      2. It screws over any workload calculation
      3. It skews any notion of what is achievable by NPS

      Okay, there's three fairly good reasons for starters. But at least one PO will see the benefit of market forces.

      In Lancs' newly found sibling county a fair few POs have (according to gossip) taken several pieces of silver for reports, IT updates and other corporate clean-up tasks.

      For those with hefty mortgages, heftier childcare bills and even more demanding credit card debts (cars, holidays, weddings) the attraction is obvious. There's no "bigger picture" when you can clear your own debt.

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  16. Agreed. My area offered overtime yesterday and, 10 mins later, they had enough takers. Complicit is the word. Conversely, no volunteers for fire marshals, first aiders etc. It's all about the money now. Tragic.

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    1. I suspect this isn't quite the 'market' in probation that Grayling envisaged... You simply can't put a price on goodwill, and all those offices papering over the cracks with overtime are going to have a big shock when the money taps get turned off.

      For any bidders reading: this is the equivalent of a dodgy car dealer doing a shiny new coat of paint and desperately hoping that you don't look under the bonnet, cos the engine isn't there any more.

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  17. Merseyside are also offering £125 a throw for SDR's... they are being snapped up.

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  18. Northumbria branch getting some column inches again
    http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/concerns-raised-stanley-knife-goes-7712148

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  19. Northumbria CRC has descended into complete mayhem with the workload measurement exercise. Nobody has the slightest clue what they want us to do. We have to record manually everything we do all day; these are called activities. We then have to put this into Excel everyday summarising all the 'activities' into 'actions' and linking them to a Delius number. If an activity rolls into an action that finishes on the following, or subsequent day; you have to carry it over and summarise the whole action on the day you complete it.

    Confused? Yes us too. Ridiculously long incomprehensible daily e-mails telling us where we're doing it wrong, about 2 hours a day spent trying to do the activity logs (which we've been instructed we can't count as an activity), and the air is blue with swearing frustration. Truly, truly awful.

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    1. I completely agree. It's like they are trying to prove the Mayans were fecking right!!!!

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  20. Off topic stressed and need to know if S P O PO grade mps are likely to get V R ? Anyone who wants to have a go about this don't waste your time I want out before it kills me

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    1. Not likely to get enhanced redundancy package - who is! Wait until June 2015 and SPOs can probably get the standard redundancy. Just my opinion.

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  21. Today’s press release on competition needs some additional scrutiny;

    More than 80 bids to win regional rehabilitation contracts and lead the new era in a fight against reoffending are currently being evaluated by the government.
    There is strong competition in all regions with an average of 4 bidders for each area. More than half of the bidders include a charity, mutual or social enterprise.
    ( Let’s look at this , not 80 bidders , more like 20 bidders – some like the mutuals have been consumed by multi nationals Innova now part of GEO , GEO delta and Willodene all part of GEO.
    Strong competition, well if that was the case why are they providing a further opportunity for bidders to have another shot at the target? )
    Mutuals have an opportunity to play a major role in the reforms, with eight potential staff organisations competing for a share of the contracts.
    ( ARCC remains independent, GM mutual part of Sodexo, three other mutual part of GEO, another linked to Prospects, another I am not sure of but clearly the mutual are linked to bigger organisations – more like sub-contractors!)
    Charities experienced in tackling a range of issues affecting offenders, small and large British businesses and experienced multinationals have partnered together to bid for the work that will help turn offenders’ lives around. All bidders have experience working in the criminal justice system or with offenders.
    (Is this true?? Well it could be after all working in the CJ system could be admin, tagging, prison building, escort services – hardly the qualification to operate a probation service – again if they were experienced in the work why are they needing an extra bite of the cherry?)
    The competition winners will lead the 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) that have been tasked with tackling stubbornly high reoffending rates in England and Wales. They will provide an unprecedented level of support to prisoners released from short sentences that currently get no statutory supervision and return to crime at an alarming rate on release.
    Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:
    This competition represents a real opportunity for us to introduce new ways of rehabilitating offenders, where charities with proven track records in housing ex-prisoners could be working in hand in hand with drug treatment providers and companies with expertise in getting offenders into work or training.
    It’s really encouraging to see such a range of organisations coming together to bid for this work because only by taking a truly fresh approach will we be able to make a real dent in reoffending.( How can the fact that the competition continues be encouraging – disappointing would be a better term)
    The status quo just isn’t working, as more than half of those who leave prison after short sentences are going back to crime within months.
    The competition is on track and we expect to award contracts by the end of 2014. A limit has been put in place that will prevent any organisation from winning more than 25% of the total value of the competition, to ensure a diverse range of providers that will encourage quality and innovation.
    In addition almost 1,000 organisations, including 700 listed as VCSE (voluntary, community or social enterprise) have put themselves forward to work with the chosen providers to develop new ways of reducing reoffending and protecting the public.( This is such a non-statement , just because you want to work in the system does not mean the bidders WILL work with you – some of these organisations could be bid writers, accountants , marketing – we will certainly not see this number of Tier3 suppliers in this competition)
    As part of its commitment to creating a level playing field for all providers, the Ministry of Justice has developed an Industry Standard Partnering Agreement (ISPA).
    The ISPA represents a new approach to subcontracting and sets a standard that will promote fairness. The chosen providers will be required to use this agreement when entering into contracts with material subcontractors and registered suppliers.

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  22. Its very rare anyone re-offends on my caseload - i've currently got 2 cases out of 70 re-offended for minor offences and both struggling with addictions. I therefore wonder where the data to support the 'persistenyly high' quote is arrived at. If you divide the figure amongst the number of OMs and do not include under 12 mth cases then it shows how well Probation perform.

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    1. I am thinking of rolling out a new TP programme - Transforming Politicians. They will be tagged and monitored 24 hours daily. After all, they swan around with £46,000 plus of hard working tax payers' money in their pocket and the levels of lies, deceit and shameless misleading of public and parliament remain stubbornly high.

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    2. perhaps you're working with the wrong people- I work and always have done with people who are likely to re-offend-progress may be slow but its there.We come to heal the sick not the healthy.(quoting Jesus as only a Taoist may).

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  23. Northumbria Crc have been offered overtime reports. And have been taken up. Hypocrisy from Noms for offering and also the staff completing them.

    Simply papering over cracks. Maybe if judges and magistrates were aware important deadlines are getting missed it might be highlighted in the media. Sad times.

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  24. I still enjoy the craziness - reports on cases from my crc caseload involve them being given interview appts with nps staff. Sometimes (depending on individual staff member) they'll ring me or email for update or discussion; one nps body asked if I'd (effectively) write the report & email it to them; often there's no consultation. The nps assessments rarely make it to my desk (a managementmt issue, I do declare); and the proposals have often been unhelpful, even a hinderance, in terms of making progress with my cases.

    Recently I had a solicitor ring me from court asking the qyestions the nps hadn't asked. They then used the information verbally shared to persuade a district judge to go with a fine as opposed to the 100 hours unpaid work proposed by nps.

    TR = Totally Rubbish.

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