Friday, 18 November 2016

Latest From Napo 124

Edited highlights from the General Secretary's latest blog post:-

Cafcass members help to engineer victory in the Lords

One of the last actions from our enlivening AGM in Wales was the debate around the emergency motion that alerted conference to the fact that Clause 29 of the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill, published the week before in committee, would give powers to exempt local Councils from their current legal duties affecting all social care services for children.

This possibility would have exposed a range of areas, including Child Protection, family support, the ‘leaving care’ services and services for disabled children to the vagaries of a “postcode lottery” for the provision of these critical protections.

The Family Court Section’s EM instructed Napo to join forces with the ‘Together for Children’ campaign to oppose Clause 29. On returning from Wales Jay Barlow (National Vice-Chair for the Family Court Section) found she had already been contacted by the co-ordinator of the campaign, Carolyne Willow, who had heard about the emergency motion. As you would expect Napo joined ‘Together for Children’ on the same day.


Jay tells us that: ‘More than 105,000 concerned people signed the petition set up by Carolyne on the 38 Degrees website. On 8th November this petition was heard by the House of Lords and the ‘leave out’ clause 29 amendment was passed by 245 votes to 213, a rare Government defeat by 32 votes. This is a fabulous example of what can be achieved when we pull together with other campaigners and it’s a profoundly important outcome for the children that our members work so hard to protect in both Cafcass and Probation.’

As is often the way, it’s an important result but not a full victory yet, and hopefully we won’t see Clause 29 back again at the third reading scheduled for November 23rd. meanwhile three big cheers for the Family Court Section please?

Drugs, Drones, Phones, Mannequins and Diamond Cutters too

As you would expect we sent over a message of solidarity to protesting Prison Officers this week who understandably decided that enough was enough in terms of getting someone to take their issues seriously.

Their willingness to ‘walk off the job’ when it becomes absolutely intolerable (despite the ban on industrial action) is both brave and commendable, although the injunction awarding judges obviously don’t agree. Anyway, it certainly meant that they got some valuable airtime as floundering Ministers struggled to get the governments supposed solutions across.

Naturally the action has sparked the usual wave of hysterical analysis by the likes of the Daily Mail and Express whose front pages are full of rump stake and video games exposes’.

In the real world these are the exceptions rather than the norm of course, and its drug fuelled unrest and the perpetual threat of and actual violence that are the issues regularly being faced by prison staff and service users within a system that has been left to crumble to absolute breaking point by successive governments. The picture has been embellished by some recent escapes under bizarre circumstances including, as was first reported, the clever use of mannequins placed in the absentees beds. This led to a number of colleagues with experience of the HMP body search regime to seriously question how that might actually be physically possible? Now we know that part of the case was pure fabrication (sorry), there is a more pertinent issue as to how diamond cutters became part of the plan?

Of course the absence of a structured approach to the rehabilitation question has fuelled the debate and it’s good to see any number of politicians belatedly hoisting their petards to that mast.

In terms of the obvious solutions of having less prisoners in prisons and more work with people best qualified to stop them returning there, I wonder if Chris Grayling ever stops to ponder how his flagship ‘through the gate’ policy has so quickly become a woeful cropper. His much vaunted boast that it was: ‘not good enough that short term offenders received £46 and no support.’ Looks a bit vacuous does it not? Although perhaps that’s a bit unfair, as these days it’s typically £46 (depending on length of sentence) and a leaflet.

The spiral of despair and recidivism shows no sign of abating any time soon.

David Lammy issues his emerging findings

I have previously reported that Napo has met with the review team looking into racial bias in the criminal justice system, and if Liz Truss and Sam Gyimah didn’t have enough on their plate then David Lammy’s interim report would have done nothing at all to cheer them up.

The conclusions so far back up our and many others assertions that people of BAME origin are far more likely to receive harsher and or disproportionate treatment from the criminal justice institutions.

David will now be seeking to drill deeper into the reason for this and we are at the stage where our members can be of assistance in terms of feeding in their personal views or experiences as to why this is happening.

Send me any comments to marked Lammy Review please ideally by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, here are some statistics which pretty much speak for themselves

Research and analysis: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales

Official Statistics: Associations between ethnic background and being sentenced to prison in the Crown Court in England and Wales in 2015


  1. Nothing to do with the above post but can anyone tell me the exact date that the CRC's ceased to be public sector and became private sector. For example Interserve's Purple Futures incorporated in October 2014 but that obviously wasn't the date they took private ownership of the CRC's. Thanks for your help

    1. To anon 18.03
      From 1 February 2015, Sodexo took on responsibility for the following community rehabilitation companies and all their employees:

      Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company
      Cumbria & Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company
      South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company
      Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire & Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company
      Norfolk & Suffolk Community Rehabilitation Company
      Essex Community Rehabilitation Company
      Not sure about other organisations. They all found out who had won bids in Dec 2014 I think.

    2. I cannot find the official Ministry of justice confirmation but it is referenced by the Probation Inspectorate - which also mentions some of the history and writes

      "CRCs were transferred from public to private ownership on 1 February 2015."

    3. Thank you both for your responses

    4. In Nov 2013 probation staff across all 35 probation trusts were "sifted" into either NPS or CRC roles. In June 2014 probation services were divided into a National Probation Service (NPS) across seven regions and 21 new community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). The MoJ held the shares in the CRCs, with the Justice Sec holding a "golden share" in each CRC, giving the Justice Sec an executive overview, i.e. nothing can happen unless Justice Sec agrees to it (presumably this was true of the Aurelius debacle?). The MoJ then chose the private companies they wanted to hand the CRCs over to, and as stated above the change of ownership was at midnight 31 Jan/1 Feb 2015. Staff in CRCs, who had no choice in the matter, endured significant changes to their contract of employment in June 2014 & again in Feb 2015. Some may have had further changes since then, e.g. Working Links/ Aurelius.

    5. Its actually hard to identify which CRCs are, in reality, managed by who if you start browsing Companies House register of directors. There are so many linked companies, shared interests in related companies, shadow companies, holding companies, directors who have interests in competing companies, etc. This is why privatisation is so dangerous, it ends up being an accountants wet dream of "hide the profits". Widow Twanky would be proud of the standard of the laundry.

  2. They may all be run by private companies but it is public money! Where is it going given that they're culling the workforce, a major part of their expenditure? It's not going to the employees or previous employees, that's for sure.

  3. It is great to see Probation people caring about the wider Criminal Justice System and beyond that. Would expect no less. Wider society, Politicians of various hue, have underestimated the central function, relevance and sheer volume of work that Probation represents. It reminds me of the player in a team that has no glamour in its role but somehow connects and evenly supports all aspects. Probation will be missed, in my opinion, but I sometimes think that because it is not obvious, that its passing will not be recognised. You need to keep pressing the case for Probation.

  4. Aaaaaarrgggghhhh!!!! For a supposedly key figure in our criminal justice system Napo's GS displays a dire lack of understanding and poor judgement when he writes: "Their [Prison Officers] willingness to ‘walk off the job’ when it becomes absolutely intolerable (despite the ban on industrial action) is both brave and commendable, although the injunction awarding judges obviously don’t agree."

    The 'injunction awarding judges' have no role in agreeing or disagreeing with the actions of prison staff; the judges' must simply consider & implement existing law. That is a keystone of our criminal justice system.

    He compounds his crass comment when he haughtily observes: "Naturally the action has sparked the usual wave of hysterical analysis by the likes of the Daily Mail and Express whose front pages are full of rump stake [sic] and video games exposes..." Or criticising the judges who ruled on the law regarding a parliamentary vote to activate leaving Europe? Oops!

    1. Those members of Napo who feel the case for finding another General Secretary is getting stronger by the day, citing the recent woeful appearance on Russia Today, will have to make sure there is at least one other alternative candidate next year when he finds himself up for re-election. Be warned, there will be forces within the union, especially at the top, who will try and ensure that there is no viable alternative candidate and hence no election.....

    2. Mickey Mouse? Hillary Rodham Clinton?

    3. So where is the bar currently set? Lacklustre, uninformed narcissist? Naiive, over-ambitious wannabe? What's been achieved by the last two GS's? Pay freeze for years; loss of annual leave; loss of essential car user allowance; loss of definition between PO & PSO roles; loss of a national service; loss of £130k as a leaving present to disgraced GS; agreement to sifting; no resistance to Sodexo; no public image or media presence, except for cringeworthy bits & bats; loss of hundreds of members; self-aggrandising blogs.

    4. The track record is not good, but there must be some committed, clued-up, inspirational people out there in the probation world willing to give it a go? Surely?

    5. He is flanked by doe eyed women who think they are there to serve him. So they do. The AGM gave me the biggest insight over the way they all buckled up to try and deliver his desires and one was to get out of national bargaining.