On a cold January night in 2015 a heartfelt post on a social media site from a probation worker feeling let down by NAPO, led to the following response from Yvonne Pattison, Napo’s elected Co-Chair: ‘What should Napo have done differently?’
For many staff members throughout the Transforming Rehabilitation process it has been difficult to come to terms with the utter chaos imposed on our service and the resulting impact on what is left. Whether in NPS or CRC, very few of us can say we have the same job now that we had 12 months ago. Teams have been torn apart, colleagues split, offices moved. It is difficult to put across the extent of total disruption that Transforming Rehabilitation has had on our work lives. For some, the chaos of TR has leaked into home lives too.
Probation staff across England and Wales continue to support each other through tears, denial, outrage, swearing, sleepless nights and stress related illnesses. The impact is clear to see and for some, continues to be immense. In the omnishambles that is TR, how many staff members have moved through the stages of denial, through to resistance and anger, all the way to acceptance and commitment? I don’t know the answer to that. Each person will deal with what is happening in their own way and some people will be further through the cycle of change than others.
For some individuals, significant changes to their roles have meant that they find it increasingly difficult to move past the stages of resistance and anger. For others, the stresses and strains of the change process has been too much. This cannot be good for probation services (whether NPS or CRC) or for the wellbeing of those who find themselves in such a position. I am aware of at least one instance where despite a direct request, Napo refused to refer an individual case for legal advice, alluding that Employment Tribunals are not an option. As is often the case, if we are told enough times by enough people that something can’t be done, we start to believe it.
In the past few weeks I have taken it upon myself to speak with an employment solicitor who has advised that in many of these cases there remains, even now, a clear case for Employment Tribunal. This is a serious route to go down and almost certain to result in irreconcilable damage to the employee / employer relationship, but for those who are unable to get through to the acceptance stage of the change process this could be their much needed way out. It won’t be for everyone, but for some it will give back a sense of power that has been lost through the TR process.
Paulo Freire wrote, “It is necessary that the weakness of the powerless is transformed into a force capable of announcing justice. For this to happen, a total denouncement of fatalism is necessary. We are transformative beings and not beings for accommodation.”
I don’t know if Napo are trying to avoid Employment Tribunals. I don’t know what Napo’s legal team would say about individual cases if members were granted access to them. I do know that whilst it is too late to stop the shares being sold, it is not too late for staff to be supported in the aftermath and ongoing chaos. So the point of my guest blog is this: there are still people hurting out there who need help to overcome the tragedy that is Transforming Rehabilitation and perhaps Napo should be asking themselves not ‘What should we have done differently?’ but ‘What can we do right now to support our members?’ If the answer is access to legal advice to negotiate a way out of the service and back to a healthier, happier life then let’s have it, it’s the least we deserve!
Anonymous Probation Officer