Saturday, 18 June 2016

Latest From Napo 110

Here are what I feel are the most relevant parts from the latest blog post by the Napo General Secretary:-

We need to see some basic accountability

Despite our fundamental distrust of the private providers who have found themselves running probation delivery contracts worth billions of pounds of taxpayers money on the basis that someone thought they would do things better than before, Napo has a responsibility to our members to engage with all employers to try and protect and promote your interests.

We do that in good faith, but it's a challenging process to say the least in a number of areas. In fairness, some of the CRC employers have also worked with us to try and avoid disputes and find solutions to emerging problems, but unfortunately we are not always seeing the sort of transparency that we would like. This is especially the case in relation to the provision of safe working environments for staff and clients, and new operational concepts where service delivery is expected to be conducted in somewhat unconventional settings with an unrealistic reliance on the goodwill of staff. (pictures and testimonies welcome please)

Moreover, we have also been concerned about the role of so called independent providers and the 'innovative ideas' that result in our members being expected to trial new concepts with next to no consultation or guarantees about safety.

This week we have had cause to report Sodexo to the data watchdog following untold attempts by the unions to get them to publish the results of their review into the awful interview booths that they instructed their CRC bosses to install in a number of locations. The issues have been well rehearsed in Napo communications but here is what we have said to the Information Commissioner which pretty well sums up the sad story.

JTU 11-16

Christopher Graham,
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

15 June 2016

Dear Mr Graham,

Reporting Data Protection Breaches: Sodexo-owned Community Rehabilitation Companies

Napo and UNISON are recognised trade unions representing staff who work for the 6 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) which deliver probation services in the following areas:

Cumbria & Lancashire
South Yorkshire
Beds/Northants/Cambs/Herts (BeNCH)
Norfolk & Suffolk

These 6 CRCs, in common with all 21 CRCs across England and Wales, were privatised by the government with effect from 1 February 2015 and the 6 listed above are now owned and run by the private company Sodexo. All 6 Sodexo CRCs are registered with the Information Commissioners Office.

Since Sodexo took over operation of the 6 CRCs, the company has introduced a new operating model which has replaced private rooms for staff to interview service users with an open-plan booth system. This booth system has been problematic from the start, because our members have found it impossible to guarantee service user confidentiality as a result of the acoustic deficiencies of the booths. In short, interviews with service users can be overheard by other service users, other members of the public visiting the CRC offices and staff working in the open plan environment.

This has caused distress both to service users and to our members who are very conscious of their legal responsibilities under the Data Protection Act to ensure that service users’ personal information is not disclosed in breach of the Act. Both Napo and UNISON have been raising our members’ concerns with Sodexo for some months now, but to no avail.

One of the responses of Sodexo to the disclosure problem has been to issue the following disclaimer to staff:

‘With regard breaches of sensitive personal data; staff are advised to maintain an awareness of other service users in the booth and waiting area when undertaking work with our client group. I would like to reassure you that providing employees act appropriately and responsibly, within the remit of their role, and in accordance with the Personal Commitment Statement, signed by all staff members, then (name of) CRC as the employer will not take formal action against individuals for inadvertent breaches.’
The company commissioned two organisations earlier this year to provide potential remedies to the problem of data protection breaches, but we were informed at the end of last month by Sodexo that they have commissioned yet further consultants to report on solutions to the problem by the end of July. This further work has been ordered on the basis that the earlier commissioned remedies have, we believe, come up short in relation to recommendations to resolve the above problems. Neither Napo, nor UNISON, has been given sight of the consultants’ reports received to date.

Napo and UNISON believe that this further delay in finding a remedy to a problem which is causing great distress to service users and our members is unacceptable. Data protection principle 6 (Data Protection Act Schedule 1) states that an individual has: ‘A right to object to processing that is likely to cause or is causing damage and distress.’ Both Napo and UNISON interpret this as meaning that a service user could reasonably object to being interviewed in one of the Sodexo booths for the reasons set out above.

Out of frustration with Sodexo’s lack of action to address this issue, we are therefore referring the data protection issues set out above to you for your attention and intervention as appropriate.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

General Secretary   National Officer
Napo                        UNISON

The other issue that has emerged over the last 7 days involves Working Links, the owner of the 3 CRCs in the South West regions and Wales, which has led the unions to raise questions about the relationship with a mutual organisation who has provided them with advice about their operational hubs.

As always, I never publish a letter that we have sent directly to an employer/CRC owner until they have had an opportunity to reply, but I thought that members would want to see another example of how we are continuing to try and bring contractors to account.

It's AGM Season

In every union that I have worked for and been a member of, the most repeated question is: 'What's the union doing about it?'

There is nothing wrong with asking of course, but if you want to know more about what Napo is doing (loads) you could do worse than get along to your own branch's general meeting and of course read the material that we send out to branches, place on the website and increasingly, send to your preferred email address.

Napo meetings give you the opportunity to ask your elected officers and salaried employees (that's me on both counts) to explain what we are trying to do in response to the huge range of issues that are emerging from the 24 employers who we try and do business with. I am just completing this as I wait to speak at the well attended Western Napo branch in Weston-Super-Mare and my long journey down and to South South Western in Devon this week and Hampshire Isle of Wight has given me a strong sense that those predicting the demise of Napo are hugely off the mark.

Our longevity of course depends on rebuilding and maintaining a strong and vibrant membership base and ensuring that the growing numbers of new local reps who are volunteering to help you, are provided with the training they need. These obvious priorities will be met sooner by members signing over to direct debit and/or coming back to the Napo fold.

Napo Extra... coming your way soon

Finally, look out for news of the soon to be launched 'Napo Extra' member services package. We are promoting this over the next fortnight while we tie up the final stages of the new website that will host the services and products on offer.

Our partners at Parliament Hill calculate that an average £600 per annum in consumer and discounted savings could be available, and you will be able to test that out using the on line calculator that forms part of the offer.

Another reason beyond those that exist already, to be a member of Napo.


  1. I am still making my mind up about re-joining napo after a break in service. The problem you mention above regarding sodexo is also happening in other crc's. I don't want to be identified by saying too much but other crc's are asking staff to interview at open public areas, not even a booth because they have been moved out od suitanle offices to save money. Given what has happened in the news recently it does concern me that our personal safety is being taken for granted as is our client's safety. Recently one of my clients who hasental health problems made a comment about a member of the public as we sat at an open table in public area. It msde me realise what could happen! Please can napo do an audit of the situation in all crc offices? If i felt like napo were looking out for us i would consider re-joining but i ferl they need to be more pro active in reaching people!

    1. How about you join NAPO and then make the request as part of the Union?

  2. I think CRC's have spoken to the same consultant as i think the majority will be doing open plan booths.

    1. Open plan yes, booths no

  3. I don't feel they can do Napo at all, let alone Napo Extra. The Sodexo statement is not a disclaimer but very firmly passes the buck to frontline staff viz-"I would like to reassure you that providing employees act appropriately and responsibly, within the remit of their role... then (name of) CRC as the employer will not take formal action against individuals for inadvertent breaches.’" That's no lack of action, that's a very positive move from Sodexo's perspective; but surely something the NOMS floorwalkers ought to be addressing as part of their remit to keep CRC owners on track & within MoJ guidelines.

    But who in NOMS wants to upset the French caterers? Who knows, maybe there's a fast-food franchise lined up for every Sodexo CRC diner to serve coffee, burgers & fries to their new customer stream? MoJ sponsored premises (Modernisation Fund), guaranteed footfall...

  4. Napo is looking out for napp hq and not you. Take it from someone who has worked at the top table. Its sad but true. Napo extra... Haha that made me laugh.

  5. An active union would advise ALL STAFF IN SODEXO AREAS to inform offenders of their right to refuse to attend appointments at Sodexo offices, which would be non-enforceable. This would decimate the targets and put the newspapers into overdrive.

    "Data protection principle 6 (Data Protection Act Schedule 1) states that an individual has: ‘A right to object to processing that is likely to cause or is causing damage and distress.’ Both Napo and UNISON interpret this as meaning that a service user could reasonably object to being interviewed in one of the Sodexo booths for the reasons set out above."

  6. Napo - too expensive18 June 2016 at 10:52

    I've not rejoined Napo since the direct debit thingy. I doubt £600 of discounts from services I don't need will sway me. I say keep the £600 and reduce the member free to about £10 per month. Then I'd be able to afford to join.

  7. Sodexo's invention of the behavioural act of an 'inadvertent breach' merely underlines their arrogance. A breach of sensitive information is a breach however it comes about and there is a legal responsibility on Sodexo to ensure that the systems it has in place can be trusted to process information safely. The fact that they issued such advice suggests they know their systems (the booths) are unsafe.

    It follows that staff are at risk of committing breaches because they are working in an unsafe workplace. Why can't Napo therefore ballot its members on this issue with a view to issuing formal advice to members that could include a refusal to use the booths because they put individual members at risk of breaking the law.

  8. It doesn't make any difference what sodexo say. I am moving to open plan inerviewing. If i mention something in an interview and someone gets beaten up as a result on the way home then i could be prosecuted and end up with a criminal conviction. Don"t think it can't happen because it already has to NHS staff overheard at a bus stop. Sodexo etc. Will not back you up they will simply cover there arses by landing crc staff well and truly in their own shit.

  9. Until a mass fight occurs in an office and people are hurt, nothing will sufficiently change. We've had flare ups already but the professionalism of the staff have managed the situation, but the environment is open to pub style brawls, and they will happen, just a matter of time.

  10. " ...if you want to know more about what Napo is doing (loads)..."

    I'd be genuinely interested to hear what NAPO has actually ACHIEVED as a result of this effort, because I'm drawing rather a blank at the moment...

  11. Shocked to enter reception at CRC and see people being interviewed in ' Wimpy' style booths on left.

  12. The new CRC managers have no Probation practice experience so can't understand the impact of reforms on working practices. They draw up lovely flowcharts and speak authoritatively about their planned changes, but when questioned in detail about everyday practice issues that conflict with their ideal plans, they quickly show their naivety. These are risky people, who are inadvertently putting staff and members of the public at risk. They think they know better than experienced practitioners and are too arrogant to actively listen to concerns raised.

  13. Our research shows open planned offices increases engagement. Seeds produced a wealth of research on this. Its open plan in DWP, local authorities and substance misuse services and it works very well. Despite all the concern; there is not a single bit of evidence to indicate this will not work so stop the scare mongering

    1. Whose research would that be then? Can we have chapter and verse please asap so I can prepare a speacial blog post - or maybe one from your good self? Cheers.

    2. I work in a large city in the South West. Social Services, council workers and substance misuse staff ALL work in private interview spaces. Thankfully so do I, at the moment at least.

  14. As Jim says, please produce the evidence? I will assume you are not a front line worker that actully works with a complex client group? Would you want to walk into a booth and possibly be overheard being asked questions about how and why you assaulted your partner, drug and alcohol use, criminal history, mental health, self harm or suicidal intentions. Would you want to open up about being the victim of sexual or physical assaults either current or historical? Well? This is the daily reality for frontline staff in crc or nps. Would you for that matter expect to go to your GP and be physically or mentally examined in public? Can you imagine the pain and humiliation of disclosing abuse when people could be listening in background, how exposed you would you feel? I have worked in this field for very many years and have heard many accounts of this nature. Our service users are more than just numbers or 'offenders' they have very often been victims, past or present. Your statement belies your shocking lack of empathy and awareness. There is no excuse for this.

  15. Napo/ noms/ moj need to do an urgent audit of crc offices in terms of health and safety and data protection/ public protection. Hearing about colleagues eirking from booths or sat in libraries! How has this been allowed to happen? Have also heard of staff with mobility issues being moved to buildings with no disabled access or facilities who were previously using a lift being told they will have to climb stairs! How has this been allowed to happen?