Thursday, 15 June 2017

Napo - The Future

As indicated by Napo General Secretary last week in his blog, big changes are afoot within the union and I'm grateful to the member for sharing the following lengthy, but important document:-


PRIDE in Napo – A Strategy for Growth (2017 to 2021)


There has never been a greater need for a united, positive, professional voice to speak up for probation and family courts - drawn from an active and engaged community of members with credible local leaders who make THE difference with employers to improve the working environment at all levels. In short – there has never been a greater need for Napo.

Yet our environment has never been more difficult and uncertain. Both probation and family courts have been hit by earthquakes with more after-shocks to come. Across probation and family courts our members and potential members have never been more vulnerable and the future of what the professions do and how they do it has never been so unclear. Demands and pressure on staff at all levels has increased whilst rewards have been frozen. In the earthquake, Napo’s organisational structures have been badly damaged and the remaining structures look unstable. In this new environment, doing things as Napo did before isn’t working and can’t work.

Napo needs to change not what we are for or why we do things but what we do and how we do it – and we need to change quickly to capitalise on huge opportunities emerging on the near horizon:

  • HMPPS – Rehabilitation has, in theory at least, moved to the centre of political debate with the attention of political decision makers and the potential for additional resources. But these aspirations can only be met if probation professionals translate these aims into tangible, joined-up and practical plans for people who know little about what successful rehabilitation needs. Only Napo is in a position to provide the co-ordinated professional voice across all levels of the service. With Employers confused and panicked Napo are well placed to hugely influence the future landscape. In particular, we must ensure that community provision isn’t lost in prison centric modelling, and demand that CRC’s are brought closer into the plans. We’ll also need to lead a values and culture battle inside prisons. The value of professional expertise must be recognised and supported. We need to be demanding that regulation and accountability is adequate and resonates across the communities we serve – with national standards being locally delivered. 
  • PAY - There has to be significant probation wide pay reform. HMPPS has already exposed the faults undermining the broken pay system. These are further amplified and complicated by introducing private sector competition in the CRC’s. Napo is leading the reform discussions and a successful outcome can help show the collective value of union membership. Its already clear that a 'pay market‘ has opened up between the NPS and CRC’s.
  • CRC’s – With new negotiating and bargaining arrangements across CRC’s Napo can establish a new relationship with local Employers, members and potential members. The CRC’s remain acutely vulnerable financially and politically, with repeated criticism from HMI Probation reports and mounting local pressure from PCC’s and Regional Mayors wanting a slice of the action. The CRC’s need our expertise, help and input. This can be exploited – we can get better outcomes for members and better access to non-members.
  • CAFCASS – Cafcass have recognised their workload crisis. Senior management have acknowledged the value of Napo’s ability to politically challenge and influence debate in ways closed to them. They want to work more closely with us in their external battles and this is opening opportunities for internal gains – better access to non-members, help with raising Napo’s profile and access to line managers and better outcomes in representations. But Napo must be ready to build on this momentum.
WINNING FOR MEMBERS INDIVIDUALLY – With the NPS HR system having all but collapsed, CRC’s not knowing what they’re doing professionally, and Cafcass running on empty there are huge numbers of practical individual problems that members are encountering. The need and demand for Napo’s ‘employment insurance’ has never been more evident. Napo are winning many battles locally that we can highlight to show the increasingly obvious difference we’re making.

HQ MOMENTUM – Napo has already been reviewing and changing how we work at HQ. Our move from Chivalry Road has increased staff flexibility and team working. Investment in staff training means people are ready to help secure Napo’s future. But we need the resources and tools to make changes to how we work so we can respond more quickly, flexibly and in particular embed the principle of ‘Members First’ and a ‘Members Voice’ in everything we do. The sale of Chivalry Road provides potential to invest to grow.


In comparison to many unions, Napo has a huge advantage. Our model and values are already founded upon political independence and individuals having a direct say in what their organisation prioritises and how they do things. Napo is unique in having this embedded in our core values. We are also of a size where maximising and retaining these qualities is genuinely viable. Putting our members at the centre of everything we do and how we do it; and testing and measuring the success on member feedback and reaction must continue to define Napo.

But we can and must do this differently and better. Our current processes and structures are redundant. They don’t work effectively enough. For Napo to survive this needs to be recognised and addressed quickly – not only so that we don’t miss the opportunities on the near horizon but because the maths tell us if we don’t start operating soon the patient will die.

Napo is running at a deficit. We spend more than our income. Even with additional reserves from the sale of Chivalry Road this can’t go on forever. Short term scope for further savings are possible – staffing numbers could be cut; the professional journals could be closed; resources to branches that are struggling to function could be cut. But these measures will only accelerate the decline, making it harder to re-engage and grow. Without a change in how we operate Napo will soon have neither the resource or the size and credibility to meet our aims and values. At that point, most probably by being swallowed by a larger generalist union, Napo’s capacity will be reduced to reactive representation of individuals and at best protesting from the side-lines.

Alternatively we can invest to grow. Monies from the sale of Chivalry Road can be utilised to fill the key strategic gaps and help Napo to change how we operate. New ICT systems can be bought in that facilitate better direct communication with members, support internal conversations and networks, and help Napo better record and measure what we’re doing to increase efficiency and effectiveness; better and more frequent training and support can be delivered for local representatives, with coaching and development pathways – our volunteers should be seen as a full-part of Napo’s team; leadership support from HQ can be better aligned to support a new operating model.

By investing to grow and changing how we deliver on our values we can start to recover the investment from being more efficient and targeting resources more effectively.

However, talking about investing to grow isn’t enough. Napo will not survive by wishful thinking and current leaders can’t expect to be given precious resources if they don’t have a credible, strategic plan. Equally, how the plan is costed and developed, implemented, measured and reviewed should in itself be a symbol of Napo’s values and a demonstration of how Napo will be operating in the new environment.


Change is always difficult and people will naturally be sceptical. Research from studies of successful and unsuccessful change programmes shows that if our people are to join in and help deliver Napo’s change they need to not only know and understand what, how and why things are changing but they need to have total confidence that these changes are anchored firmly to Napo values – they need to believe that they will work.

The same research consistently recommends that the values underpinning change are captured in a ways they can then be translated, measured and tested consistently as the plans are rolled out. This not only maintains momentum, understanding and confidence but allows for people to be given greater freedom and flexibility to tweak exactly how the aims are translated in their part of the plan – thus lowering barriers to momentum, re-enforcing the habits and behaviours core to Napo’s values and maximising the chances of success.

To achieve this we are proposing launching the change programme under the banner ‘PRIDE in Napo’. PRIDE translates as:
  • POSITIVE – Proactive, understanding and championing what members do. Looking for opportunities. 
  • RELEVANT – Testing whether what we do, how we do it and why we do it, is making a difference for members.
  • INCLUSIVE – Actively listening and seeking different inputs, seeking partnerships for common interest whilst retaining our independence.
  • DEMANDING – of Employers and of ourselves, for our members and those they serve.
  • ETHICAL – Welcoming accountability, and diversity, promoting openness and always behaving in ways that reflect Napo values.
These can be headline tests for how we act and operate with employers, members, potential members, partner organisations and each other. They can provide a framework for more detailed translation in conversations between Napo leaders and partners at all levels, underpinning a coaching model of performance development and accountability; and informing new training and personal development programmes.

As a way of rolling out and refining these values to ordinary members and non-members, research also strongly suggests that there is merit in re-defining a new contract with members. This could be re-enforced with an annual update and personalised summary of Napo’s achievements, issued with an invite to the AGM and a check of their details from 2018. This could also incorporate feedback – with positive feedback being used to feed recruitment and negative feedback being reflected upon. This new contract would capture the PRIDE values.


PRIDE in Napo: Members

We know what we think our members and potential members want but recruitment rates suggest that we’re either getting this wrong or that we’re not delivering on our aims or communicating them well enough to reach all potential members. We need to provide more focussed effort if members themselves are to put more effort into helping their union. We need a much better understanding of what members and non-members expect and want from their Napo membership (1). We know our strength rests in being a direct professional voice for members but we also know we don’t have the levels of internal, on-going dialogue to be sure we are really representative in all areas. We don’t know that all members even know what we are already doing for them (2 & 3). We don’t know if all members know how they can join in the Napo conversation. We need to provide more opportunities for members to talk to us and each other (4, 5 & 6). We also know we are not currently reaching non-members regularly and inviting them to join in (7).


1) Conduct a members’ survey in the summer of 2017, reporting before the AGM to inform the 2018 Napo Plan

2) Full member information audit by the AGM

3) Establish a national communication programme (e.g. fortnightly all members’ news bulletins and e-polls / Reps and advocates specific information sheets, accessible and signposted on the web / more Napo wide celebrations / specific training in communications / lobbying employers to remove access barriers to staff communications, including developing local protocols)

4) Use ICT to organise and develop member conversations and internal dialogue across Napo and between particular self-identifying interest groups, via Networks (piloting for Managers and prison based members) and better use of internal social media - with HQ leading by recruiting network champions and local advocates, coaching and promoting; utilising better ICT systems and Napo’s track record of ‘Monitoring’ for ensuring dignified conversations.

5) Fill the need for positive conversation about what we do and why, via different local events, such as ‘Probation Meets’.

6) Review how we can bring local advocates and representatives together effectively and efficiently.

7) Pilot a non-members survey across Cafcass in parallel to the members’ survey.

PRIDE in Napo: Local leaders and champions

Like all voluntary organisations, Napo relies upon having a cadre of local Representatives, Champions and Advocates. This is even more the case with 24 employers to engage with in a model that is member driven rather than top down. Whilst it is critical that Representatives are not asked to negotiate very complex issues (such as pay) and for National Officers and Officials to directly support local negotiations, it is vital that Representatives are able to take day-to-day responsibility for co-ordinating and leading local Napo activity. However, we know we currently have significant gaps. Napo is under-investing in training and development of our local reps and under-valuing our local volunteers. In a new model, they should be brought more formally into Napo systems and supported more proactively. Those with evident ability in negotiations should be developed, encouraged and advanced, where possible helping fill gaps across their region or employer. Napo also need to accept that not all representatives will want to or could do all of the traditional Rep functions. Volunteers should direct and shape what we ask of them in line with their skillsets with Napo adapting not dictating. Others unions (e.g. PCS) have found that by providing flexible job descriptions and local structures they can recruit more advocates. By having a structured process after ‘recruitment’ that identifies skills, enthusiasms and interests, Advocates can hit the ground running and quickly make a difference, aiding retention and growth. Different pathways for those who like communication, representation or recruitment, supported by improved access to themed, relevantly pitched training, also increases effectiveness.


8) Develop a common induction programme for all new volunteers where they can direct what they want to do and achieve, and establish a personal goals and development plan for all Reps in conversation with the link National Officer, aligned to the principles of the new Napo Performance Development Coaching model.

9) Develop flexible job descriptions for different levels of Advocates, Representatives and Champions during the summer of 2017 in consultation with existing Reps.

10) In parallel, identify recruitment strengths and work with employers to maximise their effectiveness via facility time and operational flexibility. In particular, look to secure Regional Reps and Owner-wide Reps in probation and Cafcass who can take more complex local cases and coach other advocates.

11) Conduct local representation and skills audits between September and December 2017 to inform the roll out of a new Napo Training programme (utilising GFTU and bespoke Napo training, and looking where credible to work in partnership with other non-competitor unions)

12) Roll out new reporting and recording processes to help Napo know what is happening where, using improved ICT processes.

13) Celebrate branch successes locally and nationally through awards, developed in consultation with members and current reps.

14) Create opportunities for on-going coaching and training around themed masterclasses, webinars and workshops on issues such as pay, pensions, promoting diversity, performance management, etc. with the themes chosen in consultation with Reps and advocates.

15) Utilise the NEC to support advocates, identifying mentors and role models.

PRIDE in Napo: National support and guidance

To co-ordinate this effectively and efficiently however, Napo centrally needs to be better able to know what is going on locally – including monitoring facility time, casework themes and outcomes, organising activities etc. The correct balance has to be struck between intervention and support and allowing a degree of local freedom, autonomy and room to innovate…Napo can’t do dictatorship! But that also means that Reps, especially those working for Napo using facility time, are able to take responsibility for what they have said they can and want to achieve. This should be supported by link National Officers and Officials taking on coaching and mentoring roles, as well as via better ICT processes to record data so that Napo can tailor activity and identify priorities in a more effective and efficient way.


16) Finalise the new Napo Performance, Development and Coaching system for Napo staff to replace our old Annual Development Review including training for coaches during the summer of 2017 so that concepts can be piloted in willing branches in Autumn 2017, before roll out in 2018 across Napo.

17) Adopt a national facility time recording plan, to be supported by improved integrated ICT systems.

18) Use some of the existing Organising Fund to encourage innovative local engagement activities, such as pilots for Probation Meets.

PRIDE in Napo: Accountability, Sharing and Innovation

In turn, member and local advocates and representatives feedback should be a central part of Napo’s ability to measure how we’re doing, feeding into the new performance development and coaching model for all staff – informing our strategic plan, staff training and resource planning, and being used to highlight and celebrate success (see 13). Being able to respond quickly to HQ skills gaps is also critical (19 and 20). Staff who do not wish to adapt to a shift in their roles should be given an early opportunity to opt-out on reasonable and dignified terms (21), with this being managed in a way that doesn’t leave Napo unable to deliver the new strategy.

Napo has also started to make better use of existing partnerships – for example the GFTU. In looking to be more effective and more efficient we should look to develop opportunities to access and share best practice with others who share our broader aims, goals and values. A good example is the new partnership with the AEP which is helping to sustain the National Representative panel, promote better practice in other areas and potentially provide Napo with a new income stream (22). Another example is the networking contacts gained via Unions21, as well as access to their shared research if we became corporate members (23). An exception is our continued membership of the TUC where we must, in all honesty, question the current value for members’ money (24).

Out of improved dialogue across Napo we anticipate identifying other ideas and opportunities to test further innovations – for example, our adoption of agency members is already providing a return. Identified opportunities already include supporting the implementation of a probation wide License to Practice, which could provide an income. AEP have also highlighted how they make use of advertising jobs to generate revenue; whilst other professional associations could show us how to reduce the cost of our AGM through more comprehensive professional sponsorship. To develop these ideas more quickly and ethically more NEC members and members need to be involved (22 and 23).


19) Set up a new Napo Development and Growth Fund, overseen by a new General Purposes and Resources sub-Committee of the NEC which would be in effect in permanent session. Informed by the General Secretary, elected Officers and the Pride in Napo principles resources could be allocated quickly to accelerate change.

20) Agree in principle to utilise this new Development and Growth Fund to meet identified skills gaps following a staff skills audit in the summer of 2017; and likewise local reps and advocates skills gaps via a quarterly report based upon local skills audits, inductions and local PDC conversations.

21) Give permission for the General Secretary to explore if there are staff who do not wish to continue being part of Napo’s on-going journey with reasonable but fair and consistent offers to allow dignified exits where possible, without impacting upon Napo’s ability to deliver our strategies.

22) Instruct the GS and AGS to continue to explore opportunities to develop joint working with other unions, in particular in training and Rep development and/or research, reporting to and being directed by the new General Purposes and Resources sub-Committee (see 16) and the elected Officer group.

23) Affiliate Napo to Unions21 at a competitive rate, to be negotiated by the AGS who already supports their work via their Advisory Committee.

24) Task the GS with discussing the TUC’s current offer to Napo with the TUC with a view to either improving value for money or considering withdrawal, with the GS reporting back to the NEC in 2017.

PRIDE in Napo: Employers

As stated above, our Employers need Napo as much as we need them. There are opportunities to maximise benefits from this mutual self-interest in the coming months. Critical to these will be resources for members. Whilst facility time is not and cannot be a pre-requisite to union activity, local advocates and Representatives cannot be expected to fulfil the roles the employers require without their proactive support. National HQ needs to co-ordinate and lead on negotiations to secure adequate, appropriate access to facility time and resources as a priority (25). This should include efforts to embed the structured and flexible representative framework set out in the new model (e.g. regional and company-wide lead Representatives). Those reps must also agree to suitable accountability mechanisms by supporting a new facility time and case monitoring system to be developed by Napo HQ for piloting in late summer 2017 (see 14).


25) Using a national model developed by HQ and approved by elected Officers, National Officers after input from Napo Officials will prioritise negotiations with employers around securing appropriate, flexible facility time and resources agreements.


This is a comprehensive, holistic strategy. The 25 recommendations fit together and support each other, although they do not exclude other ideas and not all are ‘business critical’. Although it would be useful to approve the strategy as a whole so that this forms “the Plan” which will be constantly under review, the NEC does not necessarily need to approve all of the 25 proposals at once, particularly as some are dependent upon other things happening. Indeed, they may feel some of the proposals are not necessary at all.

However, some proposals are facilitators – without these other things can’t happen. This final section aims to order and group the proposals and identify the key, urgent business critical decision that must be taken as soon as possible to facilitate rolling out The Plan.

These decisions will need to be taken at the next NEC meeting, if there is to be any momentum ahead of this year’s Napo AGM and the critical opportunities on the near horizon are to be utilised. To assist in maximising debate and discussion ahead of the full NEC on 22nd June the concepts behind the plan will be introduced and discussed at the meeting on 6th June.

If this timetable slips then we will be behind schedule and risk being too rigid which will mean that we miss opportunities as they emerge later in 2017. If we miss these opportunities and get further entrenched in reactive problems into 2018 then the opportunity will pass and 2018 will not be about growth but how we manage Napo’s decline and demise.


  • Proposal 19: Set up a Napo Development and Growth Fund overseen by a new NEC General Purposes and Resources sub-Committee
  • Proposal 4: Use better ICT to change how we communicate.
  • Proposal 16: Finalise the new Napo Performance, Development and Coaching system
  • Proposal 9: Develop flexible job descriptions across Napo including for local advocates and representatives
  • Proposal 18: Adopt a National facility time recording plan
  • Proposal 25: Prioritise negotiation for appropriate local resources
  • Proposal 10: Look to secure Regional Reps and Company-wide Reps and train them in becoming coaching advocates
  • Proposal 20: Identify skills gaps supported by Proposal 11 – a local skills audit 
  • Proposal 1: Conduct a members’ survey before the AGM
  • Proposal 2: Conduct full members’ information audit by the AGM
  • Proposal 7: Parallel non-members pilot survey in Cafcass
  • Proposal 21: Explore if there are Napo staff who do not want to stay and seek to negotiate exits without impacting on Napo’s ability to deliver our strategy
  • Proposal 23: Affiliate to Unions21
  • Proposal 3: Establish a national communication programme
  • Proposal 14: Create opportunities for on-going coaching and training, including themed masterclasses, webinars etc.
  • Proposal 12: Roll out new reporting and recording processes using improved ICT
  • Proposal 8: Develop a common induction programme for Reps and advocates
  • Proposal 5: Fill the need for positive conversations through local events such as Probation Meets / Proposal 18: specifically by using the Organising Fund
  • Proposal 13: Celebrate successes through developing awards, in consultation with members and Reps.
  • Proposal 15: Utilise the NEC to support advocates, including mentoring and role models.
  • Proposal 22: Instruct GS and AGS to continue to explore opportunities for joint working with other unions
  • Proposal 6: Review how and when we bring advocates and Representatives together effectively and efficiently
  • Proposal 24: Task GS with discussing the TUC’s VFM, to produce a report back to the NEC


  1. As a former NAPO Branch Chair and ex-SPO, I am deeply saddened to see the debacle that continues to unfold within the Probation discipline. Throughout decades of service, I was required to engage with HR officers on any number of levels and was always impressed with their professionalism, as I have been with the colleagues delivering services to offenders. Whenever I visit this blog or speak to former colleagues, I am appalled at the dog's breakfast that has been made of this. I place the fault firmly with the civil servants and Prison managers who dreamed up this farce. They were warned but they knew better. Disgraceful incompetence on a massive scale.

    1. I think this is right: the causes of these problems can be traced back to neo-liberal infatuations with diminishing the state. We should not blame Napo which is on the right side of the argument. Maybe with a bit of a renaissance breaking out in politics, there are grounds for thinking the darkest days are over.

  2. "Judy McKnight spent her working life as a public sector trade union official. She was General Secretary of Napo, the trade union and professional association for family court and probation staff, from 1993 until her retirement in 2008. She was previously a senior national official in the civil service union, the National Union of Civil and Public Servants, (now part of PCS – the Public and Commercial Services Union). Judy was active for many years in the TUC, (Trade Union Congress), being a member of the TUC General Council and chair of the TUC Women’s Committee. She was also a member of the Executive Committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions."

    Judy & I exchanged differences of opinion at times but she worked bloody hard for the profession & the membership, she had integrity & she had courage. For the last 9 years Napo has been falling apart, shamefully discredited by the abusive behaviours & incompetence of individuals in positions of responsibility allied with the bare-faced eagerness to climb into bed with noms/moj.