Monday, 2 February 2015

Guest Blog 20

What Should NAPO Have Done Differently?

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


  1. Moving post-the reply to Yvonne's question re Napo, "what can we do right now to support our members?" is a very good one. I always understood that legal advice was sought by Napo Officials before deciding if a case should be supported through to ET. They will only progress cases with good likelihood of success.Your colleague should have been given info re the legal advice. Members who want to pursue this route need to liase with Branch Officers who in turn link with Napo HQ. Good luck

  2. I couldn't agree more, having sought legal support for several members I was really disillusioned to have NAPO rule this out. I believed 2 cases were very strong and involved breaches of the Equality Act. Trying to get hold of someone at Chivalry Road has been problematic and emails have been exchanged to express disappointment about this. However important the issues they were dealing with it can never be as important as representation for individual members. My Branch had a number of urgent employment issues and frankly responses were late and inadequate at times. I have posted before about my belief that TR could have been severely disrupted by a clear strategy of supporting all relevant members issues before Employment Tribunals - a few good judgements would have caused mayhem for MOJ/NOMS.
    NAPO needs to implement a duty officer/official system whereby one of them is in the office and available every day to deal with branch rep queries. The biggest union pressure is on branch reps who are at the coal face.
    A rep

  3. There is an existing (though I suspect little known) facility for a named Branch Officer to liaise direct with Thompsons. Ask yr Branch Chair to check with Napo HQ if they are the designated link or not. If you can't get hold of an Official, explain to reception you need to speak to Cynthia who is the link Admin Officrr. She cant give legal advice but could confirm who is the approved Branch link. This was so the branch link can get a legal view as to possible merits/risks of running with the case prior to approaching Napo HQ to refer a case. This was the system running last yr & havent heard its changed.
    Another rep.

    1. Thanks, I was aware of all that and Cynthia has always been brilliant but despite what you note that is the position we found ourselves in on several occasions, should also add several branch officers not just me. We all want NAPO to work, I was just responding honestly to this guest blog.
      Rep @ 8:34

    2. Another rep 08.49 replying to 10.25.apologies I wasnt casting aspersions just pointing out there was facility to get a legal view. If Thompsons were supportive of your members then its concerning why Napo took a contrary view. I agree re a duty system for advice in general would be a help. I guess a rota systenm when specific advice on reps is needed might be more problematic but anyway prompt responses are absolutely key you're right.

  4. I think CRCs will actively seek to recruit non union member staff (private prisons use this policy), so the demise of the probation service also has significant implications for NAPO.
    Somehow, I feel NAPO never really understood that.

    1. I think that is illegal.

    2. I think its called 'open shop recruitment'.

  5. If a new recruit to a CRC/NPS wants to join a union they have every right so to do! Thats protected in employment law.

    1. The right to join a union is protected by UK law.All workers have the right to:
      choose to join, or not to join, a trade union;
      decide to leave, or remain a member of, a trade union;
      belong to a trade union of their choice, even if it is different from the one recognised by their employer;
      belong to more than one trade union.
      An employer cannot discriminate against you for joining a trade union. You cannot be refused employment, treated unfairly at work or dismissed for joining a trade union.
      If your employer does discriminate against you, you may be able to make a complaint to an employment tribunal.

  6. Looks like the rumours were right:-

    Written Statement made by: The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling) on 02 Feb 2015.

    I wish to inform the House that Mr Paul McDowell has tendered his resignation from his post as Chief Inspector of Probation.

    As I discussed with the Justice Select Committee on 2nd December and covered in subsequent correspondence with the Committee Chair, an issue arose about a potential perceived conflict of interest for Mr McDowell given his wife’s employment with Sodexo, and their role as a provider of probation services. I have considered carefully all of the potential mechanisms and systems that could be introduced and used to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest. However Mr
    McDowell has decided that, in the circumstances, he will resign.
    Throughout this process Mr McDowell has acted with utter transparency and professionalism. Indeed I must acknowledge Mr McDowell’s assured leadership and the grounded independence of his findings in relation to the Inspectorate and the work he has done since his appointment.

    I regret that circumstances have changed and are now such that we have reached this position. At time of his appointment Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable and the appropriate preappointment processes in place at that time were properly followed. The Justice Select Committee will be involved in the appointment of a permanent successor in the usual way.


    2. Nice little job waiting for him at Sodoxo no doubt.
      I do think the timing of the announcement is a little strange though- first working day of new probation practices.

  7. It will be interest to see if he also goes back to nacro. Wonder what he will put on his linkedin page

    1. More on the McDowell story including Sadiq Khans response.

    2. part 1:

      The chief inspector of probation, Paul McDowell, has resigned over a conflict of interest row after his wife’s private justice company won the largest number of contracts to run probation services in England and Wales.

      McDowell, who was appointed by the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, said he was resigning from the £135,000-a-year watchdog role because although there were “measures in place to manage any conflicts of interest” it was clearly seen as a conflict of interest.

      “It is imperative that any inspectorate is independent and seen to be so,” he said. “Although we have measures in place to manage any conflicts of interest, and I would always carry out my duties without fear or favour, it is clear that a perception of conflict around my post remains. It is therefore right that I resign.”


      Grayling said he had considered “all of the potential mechanisms and systems that could be introduced and used to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest. However Mr McDowell has decided that, in the circumstances, he will resign.”

      The resignation follows the disclosure by the Guardian that McDowell’s wife, Janine, was managing director of Sodexo Justice Services, which was named as preferred bidder to supervise tens of thousands of offenders in six of the 21 probation areas in England and Wales. Sodexo took over the contracts on Sunday in partnership with Nacro, the crime reduction charity, of which McDowell was the former chief executive.

      The justice secretary paid tribute to McDowell, acknowledging his “assured leadership and the grounded independence” of his inspection work. “I regret that circumstances have changed and are now such that we have reached this position,” Grayling said.

      “At the time of his appointment Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable and the appropriate pre-appointment processes in place at that time were properly followed.”

    3. part 2:

      The resignation of the chief inspector of probation follows an announcement in December that Grayling would not be renewing the contract of the chief inspector of prisons, Nick Hardwick, amid speculation that he was too critical for the justice secretary.

      McDowell’s resignation triggered a sharp attack on Grayling by the shadow justice secretary, Sadiq Khan: “Not content with sacking the chief inspector of prisons, the chief inspector of probation has now resigned over conflicts of interest the justice secretary was fully aware of at the time he appointed him. A chief inspector needs to be able to do the job without fear or favour, without any hint of bias, perceived or otherwise,” said Khan.

      He said Labour had warned the government that McDowell’s position as chief inspector of probation appeared compromised through links to private companies picking up one-third of the privatised probation service.

      “It is shocking that McDowell’s departure has been delayed until the day after private companies take over the running of probation. When probation is undergoing the biggest upheaval in its history and dedicated staff are demoralised because of the government’s reckless privatisation, this is the time when a strong, independent chief inspector is needed the most as the guardian of the public’s safety. The justice secretary needs to urgently explain his role in this fiasco and how these multibillion contracts will be inspected and supervised without a chief inspector.”

      The justice select committee has also questioned McDowell’s position after the Guardian disclosure and the failure of Grayling to disclose the potential conflict of interest at the time of his appointment in November 2013. He took up the post in February 2014.

      Sir Alan Beith, the chairman of the justice select committee, raised a particular concern that his committee was not told of Janine McDowell’s leading role in Sodexo Justice Services when they endorsed his appointment at chief inspector of probation in the autumn of 2013.

      When the Guardian disclosed the conflict of interest, McDowell responded by insisting that it could be “managed appropriately” within existing Whitehall rules.

      “My wife and I do not discuss issues which it is inappropriate for us to discuss. We are very aware of what is appropriate and what is not,” he interrupted a holiday to tell the Guardian. “We have acted with absolute integrity and professionalism … I will not be got at by anybody.”

      The justice secretary said the justice select committee would be involved in appointing McDowell’s successor “in the usual way”.

      The announcement came the day after contracts to managing probation services involving the supervision of 200,000 ‘medium- to low-risk’ offenders were handed over to 21 community rehabilitation companies. A small rump national public sector probation service is now left to manage the remaining 30% of offenders assessed as high risk.

      The Sodexo/Nacro partnership is now responsible for probation services in South Yorkshire, Essex, Northumbria, Cumbria and Lancashire, Norfolk and Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Civil service rules meant that McDowell could theoretically have exempted himself from inspecting services run in those areas by his wife’s company but it would still have left questions about his ability to act as a national regulator.

    4. At what point was it ever okay or appropriate when Mrs McD was employed by Sodexo in a senior management position throughout? How can it possibly be that moving from ops manager & deputy top dog to top dog suddenly changes the goal posts? It stinks to high heaven - Justice Committee should be taken to task about not seeing through Grayling's smokescreen; Mr McD should be penalised for leading evreyone a merry dance; Mrs McD's company's bid should be revisited for signs of insider trading. Its an immorality tale writ large. SHAME ON ALL OF THEM.

    5. It has been apparent for some time that shame is something that is alien to these people. Maybe when the headlines start appearing, they may realise their folly but shame? That will have no part in it.

  8. I think it's a good point that Sadiq Khan makes when he says that Graylings reforms and TR begin without the watchful eye of a HMIP.
    It couldn't get much worse could it?

  9. I believe staff from North West CGM CRC have been to a briefing with Purple Futures management today. The question was asked about redundancies & I understand the reply was there will likely be staff reductions.. Is anyone surprised?

  10. Come on Purple Futures staff any gossip from briefing.........

  11. Same was asked of Sodexo and redu dancies acknowledged. Biggest surprise (or not) is how ill-prepared they are.

  12. So when, I wonder, is Grayling going to face prosecution for his role as a modern day slaver? People forced to work for a pittance with no ability to refuse to work and kept in inhumane conditions is the very definition of slavery. It would be one thing if these were decent jobs paying a decent wage that actually gave prisoners a chance to develop decent skills they could then use to secure employment on release but the UK hardly has a burgeoning industry in sandbag making or fence post creation which will provide anyone coming out of Coldingly with full time well paid job with career prospects

  13. Interestingly, Neal Hazel the Deputy Chief Inspector of Probation (on secondment from University of Salford) has links to NACRO through the lottery funded 'Beyond Youth Custody' project, which both Hazel (as head of The Centre for Social Research at the University of Salford) and NACRO are partners.

  14. Dear Members of Parliament of any hue, persuasion, belief-system or value-base -

    Is it beyond your wit to see that the concerns and fears raised for so many months, if not years, about the wanton destruction of the probation service - and ultimately the criminal justice system - were real and warranted?

    Is it not now plain to see that those who designed, participated and rubber-stamped this act of legislative vandalism are mired in an unholy mix of collusion, nepotism and pocket-filling.

    The Justice Secretary has systematically taken full and probably unreasonable advantage of his expenses as a Member (his claims of reimbursement are yet to be proven), and he has ridden roughshod over the moderation of parliamentary process by snubbing or dismissing those systems through which those checks & balances are supposed to be enforced.

    Now we have the overt disgrace of this Omnishambles, with the HM Inspector of prisons effectively sacked by Grayling, the HM Inspector of Probation set up to fail by Grayling (when McDowell should have known better in any event), the charitable sector compromised & hoodwinked.

    GREED has driven this whole fiasco.

    McDowell's wife rises, the contracts are signed, the cash flows - but in the meantime a whole raft of skilled, experienced professionals are driven out of their roles.

    Grayling's Clearances are upon us.

  15. He's misled parliament on several occasions and witheld vital information from the justice select committee, information that if it had of been provided may have resulted in Paul McDowell not being appointed.
    Grayling needs to be made to explain his motives for not disclosing that information.
    Ultimately, it's the PM that is allowing all this to happen by not taking Grayling to task, and maybe its time to pressurise the PM about the appauling and dishonest way his ministry of justice is being run.