Friday, 6 March 2015

PI - Jury Still Out

From where springeth Mike McClelland's mandate to seek a representative role on the PI? He is paid by the membership to represent their interests in a so-called 'member-led' union. Is he seeking this position for selfish reasons or on behalf of Napo? If elected, will he be 'representing' in his own time or paid Napo time?

There has been absolutely no attempt by the Napo leadership to engage on the PI. The PI membership has been bloated for political reasons through the corporate funding of membership fees, which would have included personal details being passed on to a third party without the consent of members. Napo's position on the PI is hypocritical and sneaky.

There are two perspectives on the PI: one to ignore and boycott, the other to join and influence the direction it takes. I am boycotting it until I know what my future in Probation actually is (I am at a significant risk of redundancy). I would not criticise Mike or Keith for taking the alternative position. I know and trust them both and would feel better knowing they are in there rather than many others I could (but will not) name. NAPO cannot do right by many at the moment but I consider them to be in an invidious position at the moment. We cannot stop the train so need to decide whether we get on or watch it roll off into the distance without us. Both actions will draw criticism.

The sadness is Napo have not developed a disengagement policy for the time being. Ultimately PI maybe the right organisation but the timing is too soon or too late & I am not clear where it leaves Napo's Professional Committee work. In view of there not being a definite motion from 'the floor' to disengage - I presume the NEC had to take some action to get Napo at the centre of the organisation.

What I find so despicable is the PIs complete public silence on the main issue of TR which makes what we have now more dangerous than what preceded - namely the split. I have had past contact with Mike and respected him, I am not so sure now. I think he is in an awful position. Meanwhile MOJ seem planning to bring Napo to their knees by ending the direct deductions from salary. That is at least one issue Labour could make a public stand about NOW - presumably they do still believe in Trades Unions being active in the workplaces?

If the generic Mike's and Keith's of this world wish to take alternative positions, then it's a free country, but these particular namesakes are in positions of leadership in Napo and Napo is scared of actually consulting with it's membership about the PI. 'Member-led' is as nauseous a phrase as '£46 in your pocket'. If they haven't got a mandate then they are self-serving and are patronising the membership – and in the case of the funded Mike, at our expense. The PI is the condom with which the MoJ screwed Napo.

The split has happened, it's about saving what we can. A nice bit of pragmatism here, unburdened by the principle of joining up in the first place. In what way will the PI contribute to the salvation effort? It is not a pressure group, so it will not campaign against TR which would, I suppose, be parricide as it's an offspring of TR.

The PI will be a cultist, networking chatterbox representing TR in all its public/private/third sector diversity - and an earner for some academics. The PI will validate and institutionalise the split. It will do its best to keep its multiplicity of providers happy. That's always easy when you stand for everything in general and nothing in particular.

There have been calls for a Probation Institute for years. We have one now and Napo are now strongly represented within it. I have had some dealings with the PI and they are open to constructive engagement and are no doubt bemused at the continual raging of a handful of contributors to this website who, when not bashing Napo, bash the PI whenever it is mentioned.

Some of the most prominent academics in the probation world and others are now engaging with the PI and yes they are using its meetings and functions to network and build bridges to encourage professional practice. TR is often discussed critically as it has had a disastrous impact on professional practice. We are all trying to get to grip with the new organisations and structures and trying to make the best of things.

PI is not part of TR and has arguably fallen foul of Grayling's cynical attempts at PR manipulation that would have us believe that he dictates the terms of our professional status. Is it any wonder that several of those from Napo who were elected are the ones who have kept the professional light burning for our profession. Now is the time to support the PI and the values it stands for. Grayling wants it to limp along and fail so let's make sure he is disappointed.

Napo is 'strongly represented' in the PI. Yet Napo has been so quiet in promoting PI. Why? To criticise either Napo or the PI is to be one of a handful of discontents, according to its stout defender. As complainants through the ages have heard: 'No one else has complained!'

The claim that PI is not part of TR is a new twist on the truth, but then so was the rhetoric about Brutus being a reasonable man. The PI was a £90k indulgence by the MoJ to demonstrate its pseudo commitment to professional practice and development - to give credence to its TR agenda. But now we must separate these two events and understand there is no connection, just one of life's coincidences. Yet we are told, all they talk about within the walls of the PI are the evils of TR!

The PI people are bridge-builders, busy building bridges, including toll bridges, I presume, that will, perhaps, bridge the spilt. In my jaundiced opinion the PI is a bridge too far. The PI is clearly enabling some tormented souls to 'move on' with their careers and you have to admire their powers of recovery in adapting to the new structures.

I think there's a chance to use it positively. The TR mess will fall whichever way it will. We have little control over that but the PI can be built into something that continues to develop an alternative national voice and doesn't have to be an MOJ lapdog. I believe it will be independent if we support it and work within it.

The PI perhaps represents what might be regarded as the remnants of the establishment within probation ie the bit Westminster really listens to. If you continue to ignore that fact then you are ignoring the realities of the world we live in which clearly suits some. The PI is the only credible connection we have at present to those in power and you are wishing it away. We need to engage more not less as Napo's thinkers and strategists know only too well.

We are not apologising for the PI but rather defending its existence. It is growing and increasingly influential. It is also now attracting funding from a large variety of sources and tapping into funding streams that have long been available to similar institutes in the EU. There are some very smart and experienced people involved and they are in it for the long run. The smart money is on the PI.

Any evidence that 'Westminster listens'? Any evidence it listened to the probation establishment over TR? Maybe it's time the Napo thinkers and strategists went public with their thinking and share it with their member-led union, as it all sounds a bit elitist, what with smart people and smart money.

At AGM in 2013 I voted for an institute with the expectation that a licence to practice would follow which would ensure the future professional standing of my vocation. The half arsed kite mark it seems to be offering is the opposite, and to my mind an insult. Instead of defending our professionalism it will see it diluted.

PS - Another pedestrian blog by Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence and absolutely no mention of the Probation Institute. 


  1. Here we go again - navel gazing! People are drowning out there!!!

    1. No doubt the PI has already distributed supplies of emergency 'life rafts' to paid up members.

      Then they might be speaking privately to their friends at Whitehall and Westminster who managed to provide their start up funding an initial publicity. They obviously lack the integrity to issue public statements on behalf of their 'drowning' members, that is one reason why it is a despicable organisation.

      Nonetheless I acknowledge its existence and that it is favoured by The Secretary of State, the contract setter or employer of all probation workers, so inevitably the respective trades unions need to engage with it at some level.

      Can Unison members advise their Union's stance?

      I have given up hope of Napo, publicising details of its engagement, maybe now is the time for full members to demand such information.

    2. And sadly, to my shame, I accept I've been drawn in & am guilty if "describing the water".

      I don't know what to do to effect any change anymore. I try to keep working in as effective way as I've ever done, but as a PO the CRC constrains me with its cuts & administrative stranglehold & its "wait & see" uncertainty and outrageous caseload of primarily DV bullies.

      Is there a VR package? No-one will say. There are hundreds of emails weekly about operational this & that's, a threatening undercurrent to many.

      So perhaps navel gazing & describing the water is all that's left after an exhausting day? I have no energy. I'm depressed. I drink every night.

      I feel like I'm drowning too!! Venting via this blog helps.

    3. Commiserations Anon at 09.10 and all such similarly placed probation folk who don't know whether to try and swim to safety -perhaps against the current and into the storms - tread water - struggle to get nearer to the ship's wheel, or try to "go with the flow" yet keep their head above water.

      Than having decided a course of action, manage to stick to the plan, as the tides and weather behave unpredictably and other craft and life raft come near raising fear that whilst dodging one dilemma coming perhaps from starboard, something unseen comes through the murk from astern and puts survival in danger yet again!

      Escape with alcohol or other potentially addictive substances and behaviours is indeed understandable but ultimately such can be what finally sink us, as we alone can initiate recovery if we lose our ability to function as a consequence of addiction.

      Commiserations again - I wish I knew what I might do to assist those "in the sea" really find firm ground once and for all time - I am sorry, to the point of sounding trite in my repetitions.

    4. And just to add... The PI has offered no assistance to those who are drowning. While I might be thrashing about in and describing the water it seems to me that the PI are still playing bridge in the Captain's Quarters, have turned their backs to see if there's land on the horizon and are relieving themselves over the side. Not a single life-raft or buoyancy aid in sight!

      As for the suggestion the PI has Westminster's ear... ,?!?!

    5. And thank you, Andrew.

  2. A commentator defended the PI on the grounds that it's got Westminster’s ear and it's the only 'credible connection' probation has to those in power. Thank God we are not also hearing that it is punching above its weight yet. But it does have the blessing of Napo's thinkers and strategists. I had wondered if these demigods existed as they have kept such a low profile on the PI. I am afraid these post hoc justifications for involvement with the PI sound quite weak.

    What is the point of having anyone's ear if they do not listen to reason. There was nothing amiss with the arguments against TR and they were well-heard but then ignored for ideological reasons.

    Napo has spent decades hanging around the Westminster Village. Did it have Westminster's ear and credible connections with power? Was it time and money well spent? Everyone else these days is expected to evaluate outcomes, but Napo seems more of the wing and prayer type.

    The line, as usual, is one of: we are up-close with the opinion leaders in the PI who are smart and on our side, you know, inner circle stuff, making the weather. We know what we are doing, we have thought it through. Trust us.

  3. Surely the main focus of The Probation Institute should be to support and develop probation practice?
    The PIs silence on TR and the resultant chaos for service users and practitioners is damning. It was a simple test to pass and the PI failed.
    So what is it about? Well, it damped down some political type concerns that allowed TR to progress.
    We should all have real concerns about 'the direction of travel' the PI has embarked on. Given some CRCs auto enrolled their workforce you have to ask why? One reason may have been responding to an appeal by MOJ not to let the PI be strangled at birth by indifference. But those staff will have to pay their own renewal fees so it will be interesting to see how many do when they have free choice.
    So, in my view the PI has already done what it was designed to do - it kept people quiet and offered hope it had some purpose.
    Keith Stokeld could not have stood again for NAPO National Treasurer as he has been elected the maximum number of times. Mike McClelland is relied upon to do a lot of the T and Cs stuff, so I can only assume this is personal to both of them and not connected to NAPO but who knows?
    I will never ever join the PI.

    1. Just for the record, I applied as an individual. Napo haven't yet decided whether they want to engage in the PI going forwards. I have written to the Officers/GS stating that they need to do this but they've missed the boat re these elections. My election allows them an option. If they decide against further involvement then its my own time going forwards
      Mike McClelland
      Not anonymous - just don't know how to operate in the blogosphere & not very keen to find out!

    2. Thanks for that info Mike.

    3. Mike Mac respected able guy and may well help in some way bridge things positively for members. Still don't want PI though.

      Stockeld self serving interest, he will have no chance of doing a real job. He excels at responsibility avoidance and will do nothing for PI but wear their new badge, shameful ! Whatever the tune he will be wagging along behind just following za orders.

  4. How do we know the PI ballot wasn't fixed? How was it conducted, was there an independent scrutineer? Seems odd there is no mention of votes cast and turnout. All seems a bit secretive.

  5. HI Jim. One of the best foster carers I ever worked with was a probation officer. I am trying to find ways to engage with probation officers about their potential as foster carers. I would greatly appreciate any guidance you may have or someway to infiltrate your blog. If you could email me at I would be really grateful. Kind regards, Tim

    1. Tim, I would suggest a Guest Blog piece - my contact details are on the profile page. Cheers, Jim.

  6. Exclusive: Deloitte appointed to sell A4E

    Deloitte has been appointed to sell the scandal-struck work training business A4E, EducationInvestor understands.

    Three sources confirmed that a sale process was underway, with one suggesting the business could be broken up and sold in chunks. Dan Renton, director of corporate finance advisory at Deloitte, is said to be running the process.

    A4E was launched in Sheffield in 1991 and today delivers state-funded training to tens of thousands of clients in Europe and Australia. Its services range from supporting people into work, to training prisoners and helping clients set up their own businesses.

    But the firm has been mired in scandal over the last few years following a number of controversies.

    In 2012 the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) undertook an audit of all its contracts with A4E following an allegation against the firm. It found no evidence of fraud but terminated one contract after identifying “weaknesses in A4e's internal controls”.

    Ten members of staff have since pleaded or been found guilty for their part in a scam where money was fraudulently claimed from the DWP for a lone parent mentoring scheme.

    The firm reported a large pre-tax loss of £11.5 million in the 2013 financial year, but bounced back last year with a pre-tax profit of £2.2 million and sales of £189 million – up from £167 million.

    One source said the sale process began in January and that the business was being offered to trade before private equity. A group of northern-based colleges are thought to be interested in buying it, they added.

    Both A4E and Deloitte did not respond to requests for comment.

    1. Remember August 2014?

      "The welfare-to-work provider A4e has prematurely pulled out of a £17m contract to deliver education and training to prisoners in 12 London prisons on the grounds that it was unable to run the contract at a profit.

      The decision was criticised by prison charities as likely to cause significant disruption for inmates.

      Announcing that it would be terminating its contract, the company said delivering the Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) had become "extremely challenging" in the past two years because of "a number of constraints" which had "a heavy impact on learner attendance, completion and achievements".

      "We have concluded, in order to not continue to deliver the contract at a loss, to terminate our provision of [the contract] in London," it said. "This has been a very hard decision to make because A4e and its employees are passionate about the delivery of education services to offenders and believe education is critical to an offender's long-term rehabilitation."

    2. As their dodgy practices unfolded, so the rats disappeared, pockets overflowing with parnd notes. This from 2012:

      "Emma Harrison, the controversial boss of the welfare-to-work firm A4e, has resigned as chair of the company she created, blaming the media furore over her multimillion pound reward package and allegations of fraud.

      Her announcement came just 24 hours after she quit her unpaid advisory role as David Cameron's "family champion".

      In the wake of her departure from A4e the company announced it had called in a firm of lawyers to undertake an "independent audit" of its controls and procedures.

      In a brief statement on Friday evening, Harrison said: "I am today stepping down from my position as A4e chairman."

    3. CRC's will be like this as well, asset strip, get the money then bugger off when it goes pear shaped.

    4. I somewhat agree apart from the asset strip as we (the assets) will all have left or went on the sick LONG before then.

  7. Unpaid advisory role as "family champion". Hopefully this sort of thing will have been killed off by the Saville revelations - god preserve me from celebrity ambassadors and their ilk.

  8. Now that I seem to have figured out how to do this blog thing, just a few more thoughts on the PI. See above at 18.43 as Anonymous for earlier comment.

    I've been involved since before its birth and have been on the Steering Group since the outset. The others on the Steering Group, from the PA (now no longer in existence) and the PCA (also now no longer in existence) - that's the Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association, and from UNISON are all people who I believe have the best interests of Probation at heart.

    The Code of Ethics that we developed are largely based on European Probation Rules and Napo's own Professional Practice Book is sound in my view.

    I have always favoured a Professional Register operated independently rather than what we have at present - operated by NOMS and the Prison Service ( see PI 31/14). This is hugely unsatisfactory in my view though nothing we are likely to change this side of the Election and/or the back of Mr Grayling. Then, we might have a chance and the PI is the obvious candidate for operating it. Napo couldn't because of conflicts of interest in the event that we had to represent members faced with being de-barred.

    Alongside this, i have been working with others whom I greatly respect, from HE and other places, under the umbrella of the PI, to develop a training framework mainly for CRC staff (who else would do this?) both basic qualifying and CPD. I don't give their names because I don't think it's appropriate and nor do I have their permission.
    I'd be sorry to leave this work if Napo chose not to support the PI going forwards, but I would have to - I work on Napo's Training & Professional committees, but sadly I don't think we have the resources to progress this work. Moreover, I don't believe other stakeholders, such as the new CRC owners would entertain Napo holding such a pivotal role.

    I think that Napo and the PI can co-exist and work to the same end - protecting and promoting Probation but in different ways. But you'll need to make up your own minds.
    Does it have the ear of Westminster? Not particularly. Certainly not Chris Grayling. Andrew Selous has made positive noises but not much more. It's still all to play for on this front.

    Was the election fixed? I doubt it very much. Not a clue how you'd do this. Was it independently verified? No. It's early days in developing democracy within the PI but I think it's moving in the right direction.

    1. Developing a training framework - surely the CRCs themselves should be doing this? Theory will have budgeted for it as part of their bids. Is the PI giving this away for free?

    2. *they, not theory*

    3. Thanks to Mike for explaining - I think he is in an awful situation.

      PI overall lacks integrity, it has not spoken publicly about the negative aspects of TR, the foolhardy split and flawed ORA 2014.

      I recognise some of myself, as a practitioner, in the 90s after Social Work training was taken away and the Probation Order had its status changed to be a Sentence in its own right. Trying to do a good job in a difficult situation because probation is so vital to the nation and some individuals can still be effectively supported.

      It seems many of the flaws are obvious, (some expounded in Ian Lawrence's latest blog and in Mike's comment about the probation instructions that are still {9 months after the split} not properly in place). To try to patch up the flaws without simultaneously having a firm policy for reunification at the local level, is simply like putting new wine into old skins - it will eventually fail and what will be worse as, those involved with past SFOs like the Sonnex business for example, discovered to their cost, the good guys actually get blamed for the failures they were trying to fix; and the system will STILL fail.

      Meanwhile those politicos, who have made destabilising statements - such as - The Home Office is not Fit for Purpose - John Reed - have moved on to be directors of the outsourced agencies they worked with as Ministers. The top Probation bosses who have done their bidding, will have taken their pay-offs or moved into yet ever better paid positions somewhere in the Civil Service or a private company.

      Yet still MOST of, for example, the electric monitoring, is completely useless and a drain on the public purse for almost no public good. Whereas had that Labour government advanced what was working, and furthered it they would have got a far better return on their money and lots of damage to individual lives would have been avoided because, by now prison numbers could have been less than they were when Labour came to office rather than as is now happening, again going up steadily, month by month, even before the TTG recalls start to impact, and additionally suicides and deaths in custody are increasing again.

      AND now we apparently are going to have a smoking ban in prisons - I say let the politicians and folk from Policy Exchange etc., go and do the "morning unlocking" themselves because things are likely to get worse and lowly paid under trained staff should not have to bear the consequences of policy-makers stupidity.

      I have moved far from the PI - I am sorry for not being clear - but the consequences of trying to fix a sinking ship without the right materials and crew is likely to still end up with the ship sinking, only we will have spent more money, and have drowned more folk than by simply abandoning the ship and starting again with a rebuild with the reclaimed bits that can still be built into something better.

  9. PI is a stooge organisation. Isnt "ACO hopeful" still a director? Avoid like plague.

    1. No I don't think so - in any event the newly elected Representative Council will be deciding who the Directors are, as far as I know.

  10. Yes that's right - but more electing than deciding one hopes!

  11. A word more on training
    NOMS are undertaking a review of the PQF. The current contracts with Higher Education (HE) providers expire in March 2016. It is now urgent to plan for a successor training structure to ensure there is no training gap. A Review Group has been convened and has started work . Napo and the PI are represented on this group as are some of the CRCs. But primarily this is aimed at ensuring continuity of training within the NPS to Probation Officer level.
    What the CRCs do is up to them - so they can buy into the (son of) PQF if they wish. But the Secretary of State's new training and qualification guidelines, issued under the 2007 Act, are at pains NOT to fetter the CRCs in any way in this respect. It is true that some if not most of the CRCs, in the shape of training staff transferred from Probation Trusts know that training for staff is required and some plans are in place but they have also been waiting to see what the new owners want to do about it. It is fairly evident that the new owners mostly haven't even begun to think about training - other things to think about. We also know that CRC staff, notably PSOs, are feeling very much "second class" in this respect - the longer route to PO qualification having been closed off to them. In fact, the CRCs themselves are pretty fed up since NOMS/NPS staff did not, indeed were not able to, talk to them about training issues until the new owners were in place. They were thus effectively shut out until February.
    So yes, the CRCs should be arranging their own training, but who will ensure consistency, accreditation, portability etc? Is it a good idea for the new owners to all plough their own furrows in this respect, or should there be some national co-ordination? We think the latter and see the PI as the obvious vehicle for doing this. Again not something I think Napo could possibly have done. So the PI is planning a workshop later this month to talk to the CRCs about their training requirements and maybe help and guide them to achieving a consistent national framework that works for everybody.
    Maybe there is a view that one shouldn't seek to breathe the oxygen of life into the CRCs because we are still completely agin their very existence as private/voluntary sector providers in what we hold as being public sector work. But, like it or not, they are now a fact of life and i believe we have to do our best by their staff, our Napo members, and indeed the service users who should expect properly trained and qualified supervisors.
    That is why I, personally, thus far on behalf of Napo, have been actively working to promote this work alongside what has at times seemed a one person crusade against PI 31/14. So having given my 'take' on training and the PI, if nothing else, I encourage you now to read that Probation Instruction to see what we are up against in terms of a professional register. If you work in Probation - NPS or CRC, it affects you. And if you don't know where to find it - MoJ website - NOMS - Homepage - Probation Instructions.


    2. Mike - I think I'm right in saying you are the very first Napo official to come on this blog openly and make a contribution - so thanks for that.

      Any chance you can encourage any of your colleagues to do the same, or at least acknowledge the blog's existence?



  12. I rather doubt it on either front. I responded because you questioned my mandate (understandably). However i like the record to be straight when my motives are questioned. What i have shared with you here is largely about the PI rather than Napo - and of course training.
    Until quite recently I have used TR Briefings as the outlet for most of my information sharing with members. Now that TR as a programme is over, I guess we need to decide on a different vehicle and I have raised this issue. It's difficult to get the balance right - not too much info' and not too little. But, so far as Napo is concerned, I should probably confine myself to official channels - though it is possible I have appeared in other guises over the months past.
    I'm sorry, i'm not well engaged with social media - it's just taken about 3 hours of my holiday to figure out how to respond here! I do keep an eye on your Blog but not every day. I'm confident we both have the best interests of Probation at heart. I fear we have entered a dark period which may last for many years. That isn't even necessarily a criticism of new CRC owners, though if I had my way, it'd still all be in the public sector. The worst of it is that we have had a crazy operating model foisted upon us which will be damaging and difficult to operate. But we have to try to make the best of it for everyones sakes - and primarily that means trying to counter the impact of the fundamental split. I believe the unions and the PI have a central role to play in seeking to achieve this. It's pretty evident, talking to NOMS civil servants, as they shuffle uncomforably in their seats, that they realise that having no means of talking collectively to CRCs could just be a rather big problem. There is a whole new empire of contract managers with each team managing one of the 21 contracts. I have heard that they are setting up some sort of collective interface but so far details are scant. Competition - v - cooperation. Bit of a tricky challenge.

    1. Well, a guest blog will be welcome any time you fancy Mike.