Saturday, 6 September 2014

Guest Blog 6

Lobby against TR: “Preaching to the already converted” 

I don't work for probation and I never have. I am a politics student, who's mum works for Probation, and I am more than supportive of the campaign against Transforming Rehabilitation (TR), which is why I attended the lobby meeting on Wednesday. While this was the first lobby meeting I have attended, I am not new to left-wing activism, having campaigned for the Labour Party in Worcester, and having attended the Labour Party Conference last year. A common problem within left wing activism (possibly within the Right, but thankfully I wouldn't know) is that they will “preach to the already converted”. I have heard many accounts of this taking place, but a personal example would be a  Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) “debate” at the Labour Conference last year.

As someone who isn't fully convinced by CND but probably thinks they are a good cause, I was looking forward to a variety of opinions which would inform my understanding of the matter. Disappointingly, there was a panel of speakers who all completely agreed with each other, answering questions from a room full of enthusiastic supporters. This wasn't very informative, and honestly, rather boring. I left pretty quickly and am not any more convinced by CND as I was then. What was also clear, was that both the panel and the supporters all seemed to think that CND was a widely supported mainstream movement, supported by the majority of the UK public. Anyone outside of that room would tell you otherwise, so I was confused as to why they held this misconception. In hindsight, it seems pretty obvious why; they will only hold events like these, and only speak to each other, without effectively reaching out to the wider public or MPs, who collectively hold much more power on the policy on nuclear arms than a room of less than 100 people. Unfortunately, this pattern seemed to repeat itself on Wednesday.

“Preaching to the already converted” was a phrase I heard on numerous occasions during the lobby against Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) on Wednesday. While the speakers were motivational and the main concerns about privatization were voiced, there seems to be little point in rallying large numbers of supporters without giving clear direction of what to do. Joe Kuipers mentioned the need to focus on the future rather than the past, but this was only one speaker out of many that spoke that mentioned any real form of forward thinking.

The latest advice on the NAPO website was to “write to your MP”. We knew that already. Those campaigning have done so endlessly. Many lessons could be learned from the way that political parties campaign in marginal seats; remind supporters to vote and remind them why they are backing this cause, put the majority of focus onto those that may convert, and not waste too much time those who will simply never vote differently. Therefore, a simple method of campaigning against TR would be to compile a list of Liberal Democrat MPs, especially those that have rebelled against Coalition votes previously, and bombard their in-tray with reasons to stop backing Grayling's plans. This would be particularly effective given that the Liberal Democrats have just come out against the Bedroom Tax and, with Labour, voted it down. This may already be a plan, but it doesn't seem to have been communicated very effectively.

Just from the few conversations I had on Wednesday, it seems that there are divisions existing between CRC and NPS, managers and frontline, NAPO and Unison, the NAPO Exec and the members, leading to tension and a hindrance on campaigning. Quite frankly, I don't care, the public don't care and the clientele of the probation don't care. What we care about is public safety and effective rehabilitation of probation service users. Whatever problems exist between NAPO Exec, NAPO members and Jim Brown, need to be swept under the carpet, and everyone involved needs to remember their main mission; to stop the privatization of the probation service, and at the very least ensure that no matter what the circumstances are this time in two weeks, two months or two years, everyone is working to give the best possible service to their clientele. 

Jenny McConnel

21 comments:

  1. Thanks for that. Lets sweep our problems under the carpet and concentrate on our work. Ignore the crap working conditions and useless NAPO campaign. I love politicians me...........A geordie PO

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  2. My experience of lobbys is exactly that, the 'enemies' of the cause in question stay away. But they ARE asked to attend and ARE alerted to the issues and CANNOT say they were not aware. Changing a politicians mind is as hard as changing anyone elses. You can only do it incrementally over time. The lobby os only part of the campaign not the whole war against TR.

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  3. but i want to take all that energy and do something with it, but what exactly? doesnt feel very joined up

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    1. Subject: Privatisation of Probation - Urgent attention required

      Constructive criticism from independent observer, looking to the future this was the email I sent to my MP after meeting MP at Parliament on Wednesday 03/09/14:


      Dear MP

      Thank you for seeing me on Wed, as a NAPO Rep attending the Lobby, I list below critical factors with 2 Key changes necessary followed by other urgent concerns:

      Key changes required

      1). Probation Services split be RISK levels is Dangerous and Untested - Risk is dynamic and at time of escalation, moving ownership of cases between private and public sectors is madness. Think of scandals ie Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation, Staffordshire Health Care, Death of Baby Peter, highlight need for cohesive provision to ensure accountability rather than Offenders dropping through the criminal justice system.

      2). The Bill encourages VSCE, Voluntary Community & Social Enterprise, this can still exist in terms of contracting out Interventions ie Unpaid Work, Programmes (Excluding Sexual Offending Programmes) Education & Training, Housing, Drugs/Alcohol and Peer Mentoring Services - however the current Contracts include Medium Risk cases with complex Child Safeguarding, Domestic Abuse, Mental Health, Personality Disorders and in particular Female Offenders all with complex needs, for every Offender there are families and Victims. Urgent Review required to Stop contract process for Medium Risk offenders and resume bid process for Interventions only (which has been tested) this would reduce risk levels, make our communities safer with fewer reoffending and victims.

      (Common sense has prevailed stopping privatisation of Child Protection, Land Registry and Student Loans, yet despite the risks highlighted throughout Consultation process the TR (Transforming Rehabilitation) is dangerously crashing into the Buffers!

      Urgent Concerns

      3). Centralised Courts, takes away local accountability, removing discretion and independent advice from Probation Services ie if Secretary of State dictates all offenders get unpaid work or curfews, this will mandate disposals.

      4). Questions to be asked, How much has the TR process cost to date in Consultant fees? This is estimated at £millions, this question needs answers, had this money been invested in Probation, who all had Excellent ratings, the issue of under 12 months offenders could have been addressed. The plans to increase curfews for this group, a one size fits all approach is dangerous for those offenders with traits of domestic violence and criminal damage, resulting in more crimes and victims. (Worth remembering that 50% of under 12 mths offenders do not reoffend) Also worth noting that Thinking, Behaviours and Attitudes cannot be changed by electronic monitoring)

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    2. 5). The current IOM (Integrated Offender Management) multi disciplinary teams of Probation, Police, Drug and Alcohol, Housing agencies work with those offenders who commit 80% of the crimes including non statutory offenders, this is not new yet this Bill was designed around working with this group. Whilst sanctions around non compliance are built into this Bill, the prisons are in crisis and speedy justice will grind to a halt with the sheer numbers, the management of these offenders by private sector means discretion will be more desirable as this will be less costly, in the interests of justice, our community and victims of crime will suffer. police are also concerned with dealing with private companies whose interests are driven by profit.

      6). Current split ie NPS (National Probation Service) and CRCs (Community Rehabilitation Companies) creates duplication, staff from each organisation attending same meetings where previously only 1 staff member attended, leads to burnout and stress. Utter waste of public money!

      7). Preparation for the split ie one organisation splitting into two, has led to divides within the workplace, desks, filing cabinets, chairs dumped to prepare for split, now there is a shortage and new funds are required to purchase items. Disgraceful use of public funds. Expensive Equipment has been creamed off to the CRCs which are likely to go to private investors when this is public money. The divorce has happened now arguments around access rights and who owns what is rife. The CRCs manage the buildings with NPs staff being treated as second class citizens ie 'you are NPS you can't have a visitor pass!' Any other partnership who needs a pass yet the NPS staff visiting other buildings are deemed second class citizens.

      8). The lack of access within constraints of IT where process have been designed to not talk to each another is putting staff at risk. The Union NAPO have details of these cases including staff member victim of sexual assault, preventable death of a victim of domestic violence and the sad case of a Probation worker who took her life due to the stress of Transforming Rehabilitation.

      9). Staff were allocated to NPS and CRC 'out of a hat' for those who have dedicated their professional career to Probation the result has been devastating.

      10). Excessive caseloads across NPS and CRCs, lack of workload tool

      Once again thank you for your time and I trust that you will look seriously at the issues raised, reference to the Probation Blog gives an insight into the issues of Transforming Rehabilitation and is a realistic view of the chaos of Probation Service rather than the 'stage managed' visits to Probation motivated by high profit margins.

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    3. Above sent by anonymous contributor and posted on their behalf.

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  4. I agree & disagree (uh?). I agree that preaching to the converted is often pointless, but it is also useful and helpful that those in the midst of shitty situations are reminded there is support and others feel the same. I agree that in-fighting is often detrimental, but the tension created by disagreement inspires healthier debate and more lateral thinking. I agree that small gatherings do not always have impact, but healthy debate inspires those few to take the argument to a wider audience. Messages (however simple or obvious) need repeating often, e.g write to your MP, otherwise they can be lost - especially when staff are working in difficult day-to-day conditions, e.g high caseloads, limited or zero support from management, failing IT systems, systemic collapse of any workable structure, the persistent abuse, threats and/or lies of our political masters, etc.

    The lobby and similar events are often comfort rags, a means of reassuring activists and believers. A bit like party conferences, AGMs, Board Meetings.

    The 1981 CND rally which attracted 1 million people in London wasn't a flop. The Poll Tax rally (which many have tried to eradicate from history) wasn't a flop. Those in power clearly believe they are beyond the reach of anyone, but it will come back to haunt them.

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  5. Probstion Officer6 September 2014 at 11:35

    Very good post. NAPO should take note of this, but it is a useless union and it will not. The lobby was pointless as has been the rest of the NAPO campaign, and the above blog/post tells it how to do it properly.

    I did not go to the lobby for this main point of not wasting my time hearing people against privatisation give speeches to people already against privatisation, and I knew NAPO was too incompetent to get other MP's (the pro-privatisation, the undecided and the rebels) in the room to debate the points with the hope of converting them to our side. This would have been a job for Harry Fletcher, but instead we have the bull in a china shop Ian Lawrence and his inexperienced aide Tania Bassett.

    In any case, NAPO should have already known and done this, and the fact it has failed again, again 'preaching to the converted' shows what a tin pot union it is. We see this all the time from Napo, at meetings, at the rally, the lobby, and no doubt replicated at the AGM. Whenever someone suggest different the die hard union relics jump on them and we hear that pathetic old line - "a unions only as good as it's members".

    The other question is whether this is what we're all guilty of doing here - preaching to the converted? Maybe there's action we can take, staff and managers alike, but instead we moan alongside grumpy Jim Brown and tell ourselves we're activists and rebels. In the meantime the TR train rolls along an obstacle free track.

    And for those that respond with the pathetic "well what are you doing" response, I've done a lot of campaigning, protesting, writing to MP's and the MoJ, I've significantly used social media and reached out to many, and supported and rallied colleagues in their concerns and efforts too. I can't see any progress from NAPO or probation itself so now I've stepped back and get on with the job I'm tasked to do, and I'm enjoying it too.

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  6. "a union is only as good as it's members" Thank god it's not full of people like you.

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    1. That's the point ... I think it mostly is. The voting turn out, and the lack of solidarity on industrial action suggest that to me anyway. Unison have taken a different tack. This blog is a good place to let people vent. Do not confuse that with actions that may derail the TR juggernaut.

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  7. I said at the outset that TR will fail because it is a dumb idea and it won't work. I may yet be proven right!

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  8. I see that leading NHS campaigners are working together to produce an NHS Reinstatement Bill which which contains all the vital ingredients to stop and reverse NHS privatisation.

    I just wonder if this is something we could do for Probation. Here is the link that was tweeted by my leader of my labour council who appears to be supporting the Bill.

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/ournhs/brand-new-nhs-reinstatement-bill-from-allyson-pollock-gives-hope-to-campaigners

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  9. And health workers are marching through London today re their opposition to privatisation

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  10. Yes I think this is the way to go, I think the Green Party and Left Unity would support the Re-establishment of Probation and a a push the Lib Dems might too. Again NAPO and UNISON need to get behind this and fast.

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    1. It will need more than a push with the Lib Dems - see their policy paper 118 and my next blog post!

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  11. I went to the lobby and agree that it's preaching to the converted. However it was good to great to hear again from people we have figting our corner. Ithe lobby re invigorated me to keep fighting . I am going to write to all the libdems mp in my area and the other mp in Plymouth who is a Tory. Lucky that my mp is labour. A lobby don't forget is for individual members to lobby their mp and see them on the day.
    I am sorry there are so many negative comments as I found the day really motivating and it was good to meet up with friends from the Facebook group
    Jilln

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  12. im not the most articulate of people so if anyone has a template I can ping off to LDs in my area I will be more than happy to send it.

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    1. This is exactly what the union should be doing. Campaigns done by 38 degrees etc are always great because they have template letters people can use to send to their MP!

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    2. 1) absolutely agree, this is what union should be providing for you
      2) you dont have to put together the best thesis in the world, so put down your issues and if you are not confident, get a PSR -writing colleague to word it for you
      3) everyone should be sharing their letters with their colleagues, its amazing how useful it is to nick good phrases and things from each other

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  13. I was just going to list tr issues in my area .. Take them to task on what is in their policy
    Paper
    Jilln

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