Monday, 25 July 2016

Napo Has a Plan

There's obviously been quite a bit of 'blue sky' thinking going on at Napo HQ and a plan with a snappy title has appeared which it's hoped the membership will discuss, refine and endorse at the next AGM. There's a hell of a lot in this 'consultation' document and not a great deal of time to deliberate on it, and of course it's end of term and the sun is out. 

In the current climate of general ill-feeling throughout the profession, I really do wonder what the response is likely to be? Anyway, here it is and I would urge members to spend some time on it and submit views as requested:-  

One Probation One Profession 
Napo’s strategy for the new probation environment 



This is one of the most difficult and critical periods in probation’s history in England and Wales. Whilst seeking to rebuild everything from morale and trust to working practices within and across the new split working environments, we stand nervously awaiting the impact of major reform proposals for prisons and other parts of the justice sector. 

In such times of uncertainty it would be easy to duck for cover, hide and seek to merely protect what we’ve salvaged to date. But probation isn’t about fear or hiding. The essence of probation is being proactive and not being afraid of difficult choices. As the professional association and union for probation and Family Courts staff, Napo’s proactively championed probation for over a century and we’re not going to step back from the challenge now. In adversity comes opportunity. 

In this period of confusion, uncertainty and change, Napo’s in a unique position. We are the constant. We are the only body with members from all parts of probation—from admin to ACO’s in every CRC, part of the NPS, prison and mutual. We are the place where anyone regardless of grade or union rank is invited and encouraged to come and have their say both about current concerns and the future. 

Napo’s always been proud of presenting the professional voice for probation—whether to policy makers in Parliament and the National Assembly, or to senior managers when designing training; through campaign materials and briefings to publishing the Probation Journal. We’re effective because our voice is genuinely inclusive— our unique open and flat democratic structures encourage members to be involved in these debates. 

That’s what this consultation is about. Probation talks about being a profession but for many and varied reasons we’ve lacked the structures that sustain a recognisable profession and our approach to professionalism. Pathways in to being a probation officer are consequently restricted with our own form of class system between PSO’s and ‘qualified PO’s’. Managers and leaders don’t have the training and qualification structures now common place in other professions. Consequently, probation’s seen by outsiders as a ‘Cinderella service’, not having the status or recognition it needs and deserves. Napo think it is time probation came to the ball. 

We can do that by having a plan when all around us are in a panic. This consultation paper outlines a starting position. In the tradition of Napo we want you, the professionals at all levels who know and care about probation most, to help shape and develop the plan so Napo can take something you can have confidence in to those with the power and resources to implement it. 

Please read through the document, talk about it with colleagues and return the attached questionnaire by 3rd September 2016. Then come to the AGM the make the final decisions. Thanks for continuing to support Napo and your probation service. 

Dean Rogers, Assistant General Secretary 
Tania Bassett, National Official (Campaigns and Parliament)

1. Establishing Probation’s values and core principles 

After the Earthquake 
Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) was an earthquake that has shaken probation to its foundations, with further seismic shocks predicted for probation and other parts of the justice sector. We don’t know when or where these occur. All we can be certain of is further uncertainty. 

If what, where and how our work is different and uncertain then it’s more critical than ever for all of our work to be anchored to a strong, clear sense of WHY . Every change must be assessed, measured and tested around WHY. 

The WHY provides the VALUES underpinning our service, against which the outcomes and processes are benchmarked. How and what we do must reflect these VALUES consistently for clients, partners, funders and staff to invest their trust, commitment and faith in the new operating environments. 

So what are probation’s VALUES? 
Napo proposes that professionalism is a PRICE worth paying— PRICE standing for: 
  • Professional 
  • Respectful 
  • Independent 
  • Challenging 
  • Ethical 
If PRICE encapsulates the values upon which probation is built – the foundation of all probation does, how it operates and how it is judged what are the principles that translate these values into practice? What are the principles to benchmark and test these values and tie them to probation’s goals and purpose? 

Napo’s starting point would be FIRST PRINCIPLES—at university the brightest and the best can get the ultimate accolade of a Double First and Napo think that nothing less than the best is good enough for probation members. Napo’s Double First Principles would be: 
  • Fair & Flexible 
  • Independent & Inclusive 
  • Responsive & Responsible 
  • Safe & Supportive 
  • Trusted & Transparent 
Q1. What are the common probation values and principles that should underpin all probation does and how we should do things? 
i. Does PRICE and FIRST principles capture these? 
ii. What 5 words best sum up probation values? 
iii. What 5 words best sum up probation principles?

2. Regulation and a Licence to Practice 
Social workers are regulated and licenced by the Health Care Profession’s Council (HCPC). Medical professions have their own professional councils (e.g. nursing, the General Medical Council, midwifery, etc) and teaching has the General Teaching Council. 

These set and monitor core values against a set of professional standards and qualification expected at each level of their profession. They’re independent of politicians and political interference (unlike Ofsted for example) so retain their credibility. Translating values into practice at different levels and situations is done via genuine dialogue with partners, including unions and professional associations. They can also develop training standards and advise on what continuous professional development (CPD) is required for professionals at different levels to progress along clearly defined professional pathways - e.g. requirements for managers and leaders to be successful. 

They also maintain a register of those licenced to practice. These are graduated at different levels, backed up by qualification that recognise professionalism , status and the monitoring of CPD. Napo has had policy since 2011 supporting setting up a probation licence to practice—is now the time to push for this again? 

Professional advantages… 
Applying minimum professional standards and applying a professional status to all frontline staff would protect probation from divide and rule, downward grade drift and people being pressured to do things they don’t feel qualified to do. It would support a structured career pathway, up to managerial or advanced professional roles, aligned to qualifications and training. Employers who don’t support this would risk being criticised by the independent regulator. 

Who could regulate probation? 
The whole probation profession would need to have initial confidence in its professional regulator. The regulator would have to have the capacity to then build and retain this confidence. There are a number of options for probation that Napo wants to consult members about. 

One option would be to expand the role of the Probation Institute (PI). Some Napo members have already chosen to join the PI and register via the voluntary licence they operate. However, the PI currently lacks the status, universal credibility and legislative standing to quickly or automatically fill the role of a probation wide regulator. 

It is possible the MoJ could task an established regulator, such as the HCPC, to establish a probation arm, which could be less complex legislatively and quicker to set up using establishing operating frameworks. Cafcass members are already regulated by the HCPC and aligned to social work frameworks. Could probation benefit from getting closer to social work in this way? Or is there merit on there being something new and specific set up for probation? 

Q2. Should probation be regulated and, if so, who by? - The Probation Institute - The HCPC - Something new and probation specific 
Q3. Should this include a licence to practice?

3. Building Partnerships in the new environment 

Probation’s reputation as a successful service was founded upon being innovative, open and accountable. 

In the new probation environment transparency is more difficult because of commercial competition between providers and weak foundations for the NPS where local autonomy and creativity’s often suffocated by central dictates and a bureaucratic pull to standardise everything. 

Napo also recognise that long-standing relationships with wider agencies and partners have also been strained by the new post TR structures. 

Napo thinks coming together around professional standards can begin to address these challenges and facilitate trust building between providers, professionals and wider partners. We also recognise partner agencies have a vested interest in a successful probation service. Napo thinks they need to also be brought in to the conversation, and that staff who work for them and are engaged on the probation frontline should also be protected by professional standards and expectations - e.g. agency staff, staff delivering relevant programmes. Napo’s rules may need to change to allow us to support and represent people in this position. 

A new place to come together 
Napo has therefore supported proposals already advanced for a new national Probation Professional Partnership forum (PPP), where CRC’s and the NPS would meet with unions to discuss and develop professional issues. The principle of a new PPP has been agreed within Napo but debate about its exact scope continues. We think there should be input from a new regulator and wider partners and that the PPP should have scope to direct and shape all of the keystone processes to sustain professionalism. We also think core values and first principles should be embedded into its measures and tests. 

Learning & Development 
Performance Management 
Professional Innovation 
Service priorities 
Measuring and Testing 

Q4. Do you support the creation of a national Probation Professional Partnership forum, and if so which organisations do you think could or should be invited?

4. Keystones for Professionalism 
Securing and sustaining recognition as a true profession requires structure to be in place—the keystones of professionalism. We believe the lack of these structures have been part of the reason why probation has felt so fragile and vulnerable. Now is the time to re-examine these and make sure they’re firmly secured into the new probation environment. 

This is especially important in a service like probation, which deals with complex people with complex problems. There are very few ‘black and white’ lines. People need to be confident and secure about making judgements. One of the greatest threats to probation is that it succumbs to a ‘single point of blame’ culture—highlighted by the likes of ex-Chief Constable Sara Thornton in the police and seen in numerous social work ‘scandals’. This needs probation to act now, coherently and consistently, in critical areas. These include: 

Broadening access and professional pathways 
Unless we unite as ‘One Probation’ new employers will inevitably seek to divide and rule, but challenging vested interest must start with challenging ourselves. 
Our world had already been moving around us before TR. The NPS E3 project has flushed out widespread variations in who and how some work is being delivered with people doing similar functions at different grades. The ‘professional boundaries’ and strict role demarcations that tucked a quasi-professional blanket around us has been pulled off, exposing probation to an uncomfortable chill. 

In this regard, probation is catching up with other frontline public services—teaching, social work, health professionals and police all having seen traditional boundaries blurred over the last 20 years, in part through on the job training and broader entrance routes. In almost all cases, unions and professional associations initially opposed these changes, predicting professional disasters, widespread service failure and exploitation. Almost all then recognised the risks from being seen to oppose not just these practices but those who accessed them—including many who’d evidently become excellent, committed professionals utilising pathways that would otherwise have been shut to them. 

Napo has largely taken a defensive stance around where existing grade and/or professional boundaries are set, which to a large extent has been, until now, successful in preventing more rapid and widespread de-professionalisation. But this excludes those looking to find a way over, around or through the professional walls we’ve been maintaining. If we’re serious about wanting One Probation then we have to do better at reaching and engaging with PSO’s and admin grades—many of whom are already doing or aspiring to deliver higher level frontline services, especially in the CRC’s. 

Embedding a Learning Culture 
A graduated licence to practice and broadening of probation qualifications to include apprenticeships, BTECs and other vocational qualifications potentially provide the first keystone. This would strengthen not reduce ‘professionalism’ at all levels, with scope to extend structured, formal training and qualification strands for managers and leaders including into areas such as HR, project management or, as in social work, for those not interested in becoming ‘managers’, advanced probation routes. In most professions, advancement of this sort now requires specific professional qualifications, the requirement for which acts as an engine to power Continuous Professional Development—something evidently lacking across the new probation environment. 

Napo Days 
To encourage and embed some structure into this we’re also considering the idea of ‘Napo Days’. These are based on school INSET days, also still known as Baker Days after the Minister who introduced them. Our initial thinking is for every employee to have an allocated bank of time specifically for CPD (e.g. 10 days a year). This would be enough to ensure flexibility for individual and collective, formal and informal learning, training and reflection to take place. We’d expect about 1/2 to be collective and incorporate active learning with the scope for whole days to be allocated for team rebuilding and reflection. How and what this was used for would be built into monitoring as part of performance management. 

Performance Management 
Performance management is a huge weakness across the public sector—especially in the civil service where staff survey after staff survey shows it ends up being demotivating and self-defeating. This can and should change. 

Good performance management should be rooted to the values, purpose and goals of the organisation as they relate through to the work people do. Measurements should reflect what and how people do their work, tested against the key behavioural values (KBVs) - our PRICE for professionalism. Where people work in teams the performance management should reflect teams. It should be forward looking and support CPD, not defensive and punitive. When supported by professional values, principles and structures it should be positive, proactive and part of everyday practice, not something that happens once a year or is done to someone. 

We think the current probation appraisal and performance management systems fail to meet these standards and that this is the opportunity to set out something better that works for all staff and all grades in all roles. 

Appropriate pay and reward 
Our professional agenda is not separate from our traditional union agenda. Repairing the broken pay system is a central pillar of any One Probation One Profession strategy. A good pay system would be: 
  • Transparent and easy to understand 
  • Fair and measurably equitable 
  • Competitive to attract and retain good people 
  • Affordable and sustainable 
Our current pay system’s inflexible, opaque, uncompetitive and unsustainable. Now is the best and right time to modernise our pay system.

A new model must be tested against how it promotes and sustains a new professional framework. 
This should rule out any moves to performance pay. 

Pay and reward should be intrinsically set according to what people do; the skills, knowledge and experience they use; and the responsibility and risk they manage. Fairness is critical. 

Talks with the NPS have already started at national level and we’re developing our ideas on how we can move from where we are to somewhere better. Please look out for further consultations on pay over the coming weeks and months. 

Developing practice and innovation 
Professionalism and innovation go hand in hand—professionalism becoming a driver for promoting innovation by driving out complacency, forward thinking reflection drowning negativity. Probation has a long tradition of promoting innovation and evidenced based practice and Napo has been at the heart of that. TR ditched this tradition and space needs to be found for it to be re-established. This can’t happen by accident or chance. 

Napo wants to explore ways of promoting Design Thinking principles and inclusive development practices—proper pilots tested and evidence based assessments returning, including in partnerships via the PPP forum and by finding ways to celebrate success. For example, we’re looking to pilot Probation Meets, again modelled on successful education practice, where Napo supports members meeting informally just to talk about what’s still great about being in probation and supportively share what we do well. Let us know if you’d be interested in finding out more about this approach. 

Q5. Do you think Napo Days are a good idea? 
Q6. Do you think workloads and current appraisal adequately support your CPD? 
Q7. Estimate how much time you have had for CPD in the last year? 
Q8. Does your current appraisal system actively make a positive difference to your performance? 
Q9. Do you think performance management could be improved to better reflect and support how you work and help you to do this even more effectively? 
Q10. How well do you understand the current pay system and why you earn what you do in relation to other colleagues earning more or less than you? 
Q11. Does your pay fairly reflect and reward what you do?

Finding the right balance…? 

Many businesses operate balanced scorecards to measure and guide their organisations strategy and activities. These can work well—if the right values and principles are measured, and there is enough honesty and transparency about what and how things are measured, then the model can provide the mirror within the organisation to reflect if and how principles and values are being holistically applied, or reveal misalignments between the priorities, values and goals. 

We think there is a lack of consistent, transparent and structured assessment of probation strategy and that a balanced scorecard model could potentially have a positive impact if cascaded across all areas of delivery. We think it could contribute to addressing the instability, inconsistency and fall off in evidence based decision making in probation and increase accountability. 

The Balanced Scorecard (BSC) Test – aligning principle with practice 
PRICE values and FIRST PRINCPLES used to test strategy and practice decisions: 
  • For policy 
  • For funding 
  • For staffing 
Q12. Do you support the development of a Balanced Scorecard Model along these lines across probation in partnership with Napo and a PPP forum?

Summary and what happens next…. 

We think that if these pieces can be brought together then we’d be well on the way to: 
  • Achieving greater recognition and support for managers 
  • Putting people at the heart of how, what and why questions at all levels 
  • Having greater support and structure to leadership development at all levels 
  • Greater self-awareness of professionalism, autonomy, trust and mutual respect at all levels. 
Staff would be more engaged, which 30 years of consistent research shows promotes innovative practice, more flexibility, encourages diversity, which increases productivity. Greater productivity means greater efficiency, greater resilience, greater value for money for the taxpayer and more support for the service. Ultimately this means better outcomes for clients and the public. Prioritising developing and supporting a One Probation One Profession strategy is something that could bring a greater focus on the valuable role of the probation service. 

Over to you…. 
However, you know probation best so we want to find out whether you agree with us; if you think pieces are missing; and what you think needs more developing. The 12 questions set out through the document will help structure this genuine member consultation which will run throughout July and August. You can email us your answers or print the document off and send us your answers directly. You can do this as individuals or collectively. 

Your responses will then be assessed and will inform the debate we’ll have at this year’s AGM in Cardiff from 29th September until 1st October. As ever, all members are invited and encouraged to come to the AGM, which itself doubles as a CPD event. 

Following the AGM, Napo will lobby all CRC owners, probation employers, partners and policy deciders to support the final professional agenda agreed by members at the AGM. 

At the same time we’ll practice what we preach by continuing to review, refine and add to the strategy post 2016 in consultation with you. You can join in through our soon to be launched Members’ Networks, accessing our regular surveys through our improving communication platforms or by just old fashioned writing and emailing us via


  1. This will just be ignored by CRC and NPS managers and owners.

    1. So are you saying it was better not to submit anything? If they didn't submit it then you would porbably moan that they are not doing anything. They can't win.

  2. Is someone doing a Masters at NAPO HQ?

    1. Yeah Dean Rogers in HR his next career.

    2. I heard it was Tania Bassett the invisible/silent press officer. For God's sake hire David Raho to replace her. He is not silent nor is he invisible. Man of steel with integrity and contacts that Harry Fletcher would be envious of.

  3. Right thing to do in my view. Big question over recognition of Probation as a profession now, question how attractive as profession it is by comparison to others. Values, Principles and Standards all important etc. A sense of one Probation given fragmentation and squaring values, principles and standards with profit will be challenging. But exercise needs doing so well done NAPO.

  4. Wonder how much napo paid Bleedin'Obvious plc to have some interns come up with yet more pencil-case slogans? Its all a bit too little too late for 'probation' per se - maybe the role does need to be rebranded to avoid confusion between the profession that was, and the profiteering that now is.

    I fail to see how napo can have the brass neck to talk about a "price worth paying" - how does that sit with napo's compliance with shafting, with the Sodexo clearances, with E3 and so many other distasteful issues? Unlike many (now ex-) colleagues they didn't lose their careers and some 60% of their severance after being placed in an untenable position by an incompetent union. Sorry folks, you were the sacrificial lambs, the price worth paying!

    So napo, I'd suggest you start again but lose the term 'probation' - in my view you're not entitled to use that term after the way you sold out members & the profession over the last few years.

  5. building on the dream, I would suggest another PPP - Professional, Principled and Public.

    1. Big like :) (shame that won't be happening anytime soon).

  6. I don't know why mention of qualified POs is placed in inverted commas. Across the public services there are qualified staff and those at assistant grade in teaching, nursing, police and so forth. These are different grades and they represent real differences. But Napo imports the notion of 'class' to imply these differences are somehow unfair. No doubt these words will fire up those who assume PSOs are being diminished, but all I am pointing out is that qualifications either matter or they don't.

    This plan is about reviving Napo as a professional association and looking for ways and means to assimilate into the new TR structures. It implicitly marks the end of a period of unsuccessful trade union agitation.

    I think PRICE is an unfortunate acronym for values, as it uses the language of commerce for qualities that should be priceless. I immediately thought of Wilde's definition of a cynic – knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. With references to balanced scorecards, the document has too much of a managerial ring about it. I notice that Napo intends to 'lobby' and not 'campaign' on the back of this plan, which, again, shows how the pendulum is moving towards Napo as professional association/pressure group.

    The times they are A-changin. Napo tell us that 'in adversity comes opportunity'. I suppose that's true for those for whom adversity does not bring extinction. I really wish they would spare us this kind of motivational claptrap.

    Overall it's a plan that is looking for conciliation and compromise with the powers that be. One Probation One Profession is a useful rallying cry, but the hard-headed employers – the asset strippers - will probably read it as job done!

  7. If as some say, and in some part I agree, that it is all over for what we once new as Probation what does a blog like this become? What does NAPO become? Standing still, not looking to the future will leave us as a historical footnote. We all to some extent need to evolve. That does not mean I will ever forgive or stop complaining about what TR did to Probation but I do need to move and so do others. I would suggest responding to NAPO to try and shape this document, move it away from the bland managerial speak as initially presented, give it a beating heart.

    1. To evolve implies progress and that's the only point on which I disagree with you. It's about 'adapting' to circumstances and building shared understandings – a collective consciousness – amongst all the membership.

      Strip out the management speak and produce something that will inspire - as you say, a beating heart.

    2. I think for the time being we have to be cognisant of the fact that Probation services are split, an error in my view, but split nonetheless. Ideas that support a continuation of Probation values, a Probation profession still need pursuing (or not? topic to debate?) I believe.

  8. Great don't forget to send read receipts and see nothing much happen.

  9. Probation Officer25 July 2016 at 21:04

    Reading between the lines here it seems as if there's an acknowledgement that the Probation Institute has folded. I was at a Probation event recently and this opinion was evident there too!

    I'm pleasantly surprised at the rest and like the tag line too - One Probation one profession. Much of this is very positive and if Napo begins pursuing these ideas here then I think it'll be a union I'd want to be part of. The problem is that it's all a bit too late; how many members are left? Napo should have been using this type of approach in the run up to TR.

    Minimum standards - Yes

    Professional forums - Yes

    Pay review - Yes please

    Professional register & License to practice - Yes (only if it does NOT involve the PI)

    There are some schoolboy errors;

    CPD days for learning and development should NOT be called "Napo days". Who was the egotistical fool that suggested this?

    Probation staff have no interest in non-pay-linked appraisals, performance management or pay systems for services.

    As probation have now been mostly sold off, it would be laughable to apply the acronym PRICE to the values of the scraps left on the table!!!

    1. I can't fault this analysis. I'm pleased NAPO are looking to a future, and I will take some time to think about what has been suggested. I guess the PI is coming to it's obvious and deserving end.

  10. However we all came from the same place probation. No-one asked for the split so why should there be a debate about the confrontation of probation values or profession.

  11. Am wondering how Napo believe they will persuade employers to give all staff 10 paid days for personal development? A nice idea but pie in the sky in today's climate,I fear.

  12. Whoever has put this paper together has little understanding of what a 'value' looks like. The only term describing a value is 'respectful'. Would resurrect some old-fashioned ones (e.g. Biestek - non-judgementalism, self-determination etc) and maybe BASW Code of Ethics- human dignity and worth, social justice. Other professional codes of practice emphasise - integrity, accountability, confidentiality and recognise ethical dilemmas and the need for line manager supervision.

    Agree there is a need for 're-framing' values and principles, disagree with use of gimmicky acronyms as a framework. More thought needed to capture the essence of what 'professional standards' should encompass as these would be the foundation stones against which professional practice is monitored. A licence to practice or professional register needs stringent standards, especially when considering what infringements would constitute de-registration. If such standards were in existence now, many managers would have been struck off the register.

    Too late?

  13. To encourage and embed some structure into this we’re also considering the idea of ‘Napo Days’. These are based on school INSET days, also still known as Baker Days after the Minister who introduced them. Our initial thinking is for every employee to have an allocated bank of time specifically for CPD (e.g. 10 days a year). This would be enough to ensure flexibility for individual and collective, formal and informal learning, training and reflection to take place. We’d expect about 1/2 to be collective and incorporate active learning with the scope for whole days to be allocated for team rebuilding and reflection. How and what this was used for would be built into monitoring as part of performance management.

    Deciphered this means good bye facilities time agreements offered by Napo on a plate. Good bye TUC and affiliated recognised rights to time off to train trade union activists. Weaken the future of union members weaken the union. Call themselves able capable. Get lost !

  14. Divertimento - seeing as ex-shadow justice man & new Mayor SK is wavering I'm looking forward to ex-Lord Chancellor Big Chrissy G chummying up & kicking London's "garden bridge" into touch. But will he put a stop to it??? Its cost £40M of public money to date (design only, not a sod turned) with a potential additional government £50M guarantee for another capital city vanity project. Just imagine having £90M to play with because someone suggested a flowery river crossing upon which the elite can hold private parties. They already had a wobbly one built recently. This country is SOOOO fucked!

  15. Shut up. Free markets are the way forward. All you socialists will have egg on your face when it's proven business talks and public service expenditure is a drain on business expansion. I'm a pso who knows what I'm talking about

  16. Hello?? Just about 2 years too late!!! Pay review ... Bloody NAPO agreed to the reduction in incremental points that now means it takes just 21 years to reach the top of band 4!! Agreed to reduced holidays. Agreed to TR. Refused Judicial Review. What sort of tin pot union does this. Most of the members have left and quite right too. Shame Ian Lawrence and his cronies didn't do the same. Pfff this us all too late.

  17. Probation Institute definitely not folded. Great conference, well attended. Change of key personnel. Leading the Trailblazer Apprenticeship at Level 3. Pushing forward with CPD proposals for Autumn 2016.Get involved!

    1. The PI can't do anything worthwhile for CPD. It couldn't even make a simple statement against TR, E3 and everything else anti-probation. And what the hell is a "trailblazer apprenticeship"?, must be the new way to 'qualify' the unqualified on the cheap!

  18. Probation Officer26 July 2016 at 20:25

    The Probation Institute is dead in the water. It doesn't represent probation / probation practitioners and there's not much to "get involved" with. We all know the PI serves and romances the privateers decimating the rotting carcass of probation and the Probation Chief Officers that prepared it for the slaughter.