HMI Probation pull no punches
Dame Glenys Stacey, the new HMIP supremo has wasted no time in stamping her forensically impressive style on her new department’s activities.
While I have always been impressed by the work of her predecessors, this week’s fifth post-Transforming Rehabilitation report from the inspectorate provided a particularly clear and well-constructed critique of the many continuing issues that we have been raising with politicians and stakeholders within the criminal justice system.
Essentially, Dame Glenys and her team have found that whilst there has been some progress in the interface between the National Probation Service (NPS) and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) there are continuing deficiencies in the areas of risk management, court reports, non-application of breaches and the woeful provision of “Through the Gate” rehabilitation services by a number of the 21 CRCs.
Not exactly ground breaking news in itself some may say, which is probably why the media largely ignored the issue in favour of more and more on the Euro referendum, and Jose Mourinho's image rights, but it provides us with plenty of material to take into our meeting with Michael Gove next month and before that senior NOMS and CRC Managers.
While anyone can say 'we told you so' about TR, its solutions we need and fast; but anyone who thinks we have given up the ghost on the idea of seeing underperforming CRC contractors placed under the responsibility of local Police and Crime Commissioners, or better still being stripped of their contract for non-delivery has not really been listening.
As always we will pick up these findings along with those from the recent NAO report and maintain pressure wherever we can. It is also important that we use the local conduit of NPS Divisional JNCC's and contact with senior CRC management to ask uncomfortable questions.
E3 statement from Napo
We have today issued as comprehensive a statement as possible about the up to date position on E3. It’s going out to the email boxes of all NPS and CRC members but here it is if you want a preview. https://www.napo.org.uk/news/e3-what-and-what-not-agreed
Napo secure important assurances for NPS members
Branches were recently issued with news (see here) about the agreement that Napo recently reached with NOMS about the process for implementing their objectives contained in the E3 operational change programme for the National Probation Service.
This should not be mistaken as an agreement about the various aspects of E3, many of which Napo are either implacably opposed to, or that we have serious reservations about regarding operational feasibility.
It is the primary function of any trade union to do all it can to protect the security of employment of its members. In the above Branch Circular we outlined the work we have undertaken to ensure no compulsory redundancies, pay protection and future placements in the pay protected band. Even as this statement goes to press your union is seeking further improvements to the E3 implementation agreement which we hope to have more news about next week.
Understandably, our members have continued to raise a host of questions about how E3 will impact upon them personally. Where we are not able to provide a clear answer, we are forwarding these on to the E3 team so that they can start to answer them, and you are encouraged to keep these coming into us ideally through your Napo Branch.
What is still under negotiation?
Napo is adopting a robust position in respect of a number of issues that feature in the programme and below we summarise what we have done so far and what we hope to achieve.
Napo are collectively involved in three distinct pieces of work relating to E3. Firstly we have been vigorously challenging the outcome of the E3 job evaluation process for Victim Liaison Officers and Approved Premises staff. It is our view that this process was flawed and important elements of some roles were missed out or misinterpreted leading to anomalous outcomes. We also have unanswered questions about some of the other outcomes, including those in relation to SPOs.
At the last meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) it was agreed to call a pause to the appeals process which would have resulted in hundreds of members having to lodge individual appeals in respect of the outcomes.
Instead, a new moderation process was agreed which has allowed the unions to gather the views of members from all of the grades involved, and resubmit revised Job descriptions and questionnaires which better reflect the actuality of the work that is undertaken.
Napo members from those groups have provided invaluable support in helping us draw up our challenge to the earlier exercise. We will be discussing the situation with NOMS at our next meeting with them as well as the logistical challenges that have arisen due to their intention to convene new JE panels over the course of late June and early July.
Again, we will issue definitive news about this as soon as it becomes available. We fully appreciate that the long gaps between us being in a position to provide more news adds to the uncertainty that members are facing, but JE is one of several equally important areas of negotiation that we are involved in, and we need to ensure that we properly manage the conflicting demands and do all we can to flesh out the detail and secure our aims, before we can report the outcomes of our discussions.
Meanwhile, and to be absolutely clear, Napo does not (and has not) agreed to the notion that anyone’s pay and terms and conditions should be reduced as a result of E3, and this is why we have secured the various protections that are mentioned above.
The other strand of E3 work is the consultation on the overall proposed operating model. To clarify the process, this was issued to the trade unions at the same time as all staff in the NPS at the start of a period of consultation. That consultation closed recently and now we await a formal response from the employers to our submission (see here - Napo Feedback on NPS Operating Model ) and further discussions with NOMS about the future direction of E3.
VLOs and AP Staff
There are two particularly controversial issues that we are engaged with right now. Firstly the position of Victim Liaison Officers where the original outcome of the E3 Job Evaluation scored the role at Band 3. We are in no doubt that our VLO members are seriously angry about this, and we have taken the various representations on board in our engagement with the employer. We have made it clear that we do not accept the JE result and the notion that people should be asked to undertake a role that other staff are paid at a higher rate for. Napo is pressing for a JE reassessment that confirms our view that this work is worthy of band 4 remuneration.
Secondly, in respect of the proposed changes to AP duty rotas, and the use of private contractors on night supervision, (where Napo has made it absolutely clear that we are totally opposed to NOMS proposals), we are currently considering the most effective means of consulting with our AP based members and this may involve workplace meetings and/or an indicative ballot.
Engagement with members
Obviously, many elements of the E3 operating model are of major concern to all our members and nobody here is able to say that we have all the answers to them at this time given the magnitude of the E3 change programme. As you would expect, we are prioritising these in terms of potential threats to your terms and conditions as well as the key professional issues that are before us. All this represents a substantial piece of work which we are trying to deal with alongside the continually challenging issues that are arising within the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies.
Napo Link Officers and Officials will be pleased to try and help Branches organise members meetings which we will do our best to attend but please ask your branch representatives to make contact with Chivalry Road as soon as possible.
HMIP report vindicates Napo's continuing concerns
You may already have seen the Napo press release (see here) in response to this week’s HMI Probation report. This vindicates many of the concerns that members have expressed in terms of risk management and service delivery across CRCs and the NPS.
In CRCs it is helpful to have an independent verification of the significant concerns around not being able to appropriately enforce. We know that Napo members fear the potential consequences of this approach in terms of public safety and we will use the additional evidence of the scale of the problem to increase the pressure on the MoJ to take real action about it. Napo branches may also wish to use this in local consultation and negotiation meetings. It is also helpful to see a critique of the much vaunted 'Through the Gate' (TTG) regime, which we know, from member feedback, is not necessarily providing any meaningful additional support for individuals leaving custody.
The HMIP report also confirms that we have been correct in our assertion that there are serious public interest concerns with regard to the E3 proposals for the production of pre-sentence reports; HMIP again highlights the major issues about public safety that we have continually been raising with politicians and stakeholders within the criminal justice system, especially over the increasing use of short format pre-sentence reports, coupled with the blurring of role boundaries linked to this work.
A recent meeting between Napo and the Magistrates’ Association revealed that the MOJ missive for all non-High Risk PSR's to be undertaken as standalone reports has hardly filled the judiciary with confidence.
In our submission to the E3 consultation it can be seen that there are already concerns among experienced court based members that their views about the appropriate type of PSR required to assess the risks posed by a defendant are being overridden by the drive to achieve unrealistic delivery targets.
During the E3 discussions we have tried to maintain a line which says that the same protections should be offered to PSOs working in Court as those working in Community Supervision Teams, and that staff should only undertake assessments on cases which are reserved to POs in the tiering model if they are appropriately qualified and remunerated as a PO.
We have also made it clear that PSOs and POs must only undertake work that they are trained to do and that what the department is trying to do to save costs is simply unsafe. This is an issue that we have already flagged up with the Secretary of State in advance of our meeting with him next month and in light of media coverage over the last day or so it will again be raised urgently with senior NOMS management.
NPS terms and conditions
We are aware that members are eagerly awaiting news of progress towards adopting some of the more favourable civil service terms and conditions including maternity/shared parental leave.
We are working with the employers on these along with other policies. These national negotiations have been stalled for some time through no fault of Napo and we have pressed NOMS to get things moving. But it will come as no surprise that the employers have prioritised those policies which they perceive to save them money over those which will incur additional costs to.
Please be assured that we will continue to use the agreed processes to make the case for our members. In Napo this means following the strategy devised by our Probation Negotiating Committee (PNC) and agreed by the NEC to get the right agreement for members via negotiations. Once we have firm proposals from the employers we will share these with members. If the proposals from the employers vary significantly from the agreed PNC/NEC strategy we would seek approval from members via consultation with Napo branches.
Sticking with Napo
The work that Napo undertakes for its members and the protections that we have secured under E3 impact on all NPS staff. In the 21 CRCs your union faces a huge negotiating agenda along with the continuing threat to hundreds of jobs. This is why it is increasingly important for staff in the probation service to belong to Napo as their union of choice. If you agree with these sentiments and are working alongside colleagues who you know are not Napo members then please feel free to share this report with them and encourage them to join us!
Please look out for further updates from Napo on E3 and a range of other issues as soon as it is available.
Ian Lawrence Chris Winters Yvonne Pattison
General Secretary National Co-Chair National Co-Chair