Napo gagged on safety concerns and amendments to operation of Probation Services
Napo – the probation officers’ union and professional association – was today forced to stay silent on the safety concerns and proposed amendments to the privatised probation service that were revealed by its court proceedings against the Ministry of Justice.
Although an earlier High Court hearing had ordered Chris Grayling to hand over his safety evidence and proposals to Napo, the court today refused to allow Napo to share any of that evidence with its members or the public. Instead, Mr Grayling has been allowed to keep bidders and the public in the dark about the dangers that exist in the system and the steps he has said he is taking to resolve them.
Napo is deeply concerned that Chris Grayling wants to thwart public debate on the privatisation of the probation service and withhold from the public crucial information about their safety once staff in privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies lose ‘dual access’ to the risk records on offenders and are asked to take on more clients. He is also trying to keep figures on staff shortages and soaring sickness rates out of the public domain.
Ian lawrence, General Secretary said "If the Ministry of Justice is confident that the steps they plan to take will adequately address the existing safety concerns in the system, Napo can see no reason for reluctance to tell the public about those steps. Mr Grayling’s insistence on secrecy raises grave concerns about whether he can deliver on his claims that the system will be safe before it is sold off to private management."NOTES TO EDITORS
1. Napo is the Trade Union and Professional Association for Probation and Family Court Staff. It currently has around 8,000 members working in the Probation Service.
2. In November 2014, Napo commenced a claim for judicial review of the Secretary of State’s plan to sell 70% of the probation service into private ownership, raising numerous safety concerns about the structure of the new system. On 26 November 2014, the High Court forced the Secretary of State to hand over the safety evidence he had been trying to keep secret. On 4 December 2014, the Secretary of State handed over further documents that set out for the first time the steps that he would take to make the system safer. As a result, Napo concluded its judicial review. Unfortunately, it is still prevented from sharing publicly any of those steps that the Secretary of State has said he will have.
3. Contracts with private providers of probation services are due to be signed on 18 December 2014.
The following has been sent out today by Noms HQ and indicates to me that someone is not quite telling the truth:-
Message from Colin Allars Director of Probation and Mark Head Delivery Director
You will have received confirmation in Monday’s bulletin that Napo had decided to discontinue their Judicial Review proceedings in relation to the TR reforms. The bulletin promised that further information would follow. We decided that before providing this we should await the outcome of a hearing with the court at which issues of disclosure and costs were considered.
This morning the hearing concluded. Napo have been unsuccessful in their attempt to disrupt these reforms. The court has instructed Napo to pay the entirety of our costs, save those in relation to an interim hearing on disclosure. The court made clear that Napo had to pay the Secretary of State's costs as they have not shown that the Secretary of State had made any of the legal errors alleged, or that he took any steps on safety as a result of the litigation. The court today refused Napo permission to appeal this decision.
Also on Monday this week, Napo claimed in a communication sent to their members and the National media that as a result of the JR specific undertakings have been given. As set out when we published the summary of Test Gate 4 and the outcomes of Test Gate 5, public safety has remained a key priority at every stage of the TR reform programme.
In response to the proceedings by Napo we clearly set out to the court the stringent assurance processes that have been in place throughout the course of the reforms to insure public safety. Contrary to the claims by Napo, no new commitments or undertakings were given and no changes have been made or promised in respect of the reforms or the previously planned mobilisation.
This means that there are absolutely no additional actions that need to be taken by CRC’s, by the NPS, or by the bidders as a result of the JR beyond the substantial action already planned or under way.
We remain on track to sign contracts with new providers by the end of 2014, with new providers taking over the delivery of services from CRC’s in early 2015. The intention also remains that the provisions of the ORA 2014 will be commenced at service transition.