Here we have edited highlights from today's blog post by the Napo General Secretary:-
Ministers do some window dressing before the summer recess
I don’t suppose for one minute that any of our members will have been surprised to see the statements of intent from the Ministers with responsibility for probation that were issued on Wednesday evening.
Timing is always important but so is quality; and it was clear from the traffic appearing on social media such as ‘Twitter’ and the enquiries that followed my media release yesterday that the open letter from David Lidington and the written Commons statement from Sam Gyimah, were widely being seen as deeply disappointing as well as contradictory in one important respect.
Personally, I have no difficulty understanding why they both wanted to tell the world that more taxpayers money has been thrown at CRC Contracts to enable them to keep their heads above water, but perhaps they should really have stopped there rather than offer the suggestion that the current operational difficulties were ‘unforeseeable’ which was tantamount to taking not just one biscuit but several packets of them.
Let’s face it; this is a glaring example of how the pressure to say something to defend an uncomfortable position merely served to highlight the extent of the problems.
I have had the opportunity to speak over the phone to both Ministers over the last few weeks. They were receptive to what I had to say and we have been promised meetings with them. I have also undertaken to write to them about the state of probation and once I have done so and received a reply I will of course publish the exchanges.
Meanwhile, I have seen that Bob Neill MP has been reappointed as Chair of the Justice Select Committee and I will also be in touch with him to rearrange the appointment that was unfortunately cancelled on account of the general election. I am hopeful that the Committee will press on with considering the need for an enquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation that we have been pressing for.
Napo members in the media
Two recent programmes on probation have appeared: ITV Wales http://www.itv.com/walesprogrammes/wales-this-week scroll down page to the ‘ Why was my son murdered?’ feature and BBC East http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08xcnwd/sunday-politics-east-16072017 (starts at about 41:41) the latter featuring Heidi Allen MP Conservative Cambridge and Sandy Martin MP Labour Ipswich.
Here serious questions have been raised about service standards offered by CRC providers Working Links and Sodexo. I was able to assist the producers in both cases and get a brief slot on both. More important were the anonymised contributions from members and former probation staff about the issues that were featured.
Appreciation to all those who took part in the programmes, and whilst I hope there will be no attempt by employers to investigate who said what and to whom, I will need to be notified immediately if this should happen.
Napo’s future: have you some good ideas to share?
Last week I mentioned the work that is currently underway to look at how Napo can grow and make the necessary changes to prepare itself for the huge challenges ahead of us. At the last NEC meeting it was suggested that we should open up a direct route for individual members who have something useful to say and we have now created the following e-mail conduit:
Nothing you say will be published anywhere without your permission and I will personally ensure that all contributors will get a reply.
Can you assist with some important research?
We have been contacted by Sebastian Carro who is an MSc Candidate in Occupational Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London.
Sebastian is currently conducting extensive research into the general employment relations climate across the UK and is particularly interested in exploring the business attitudes that paved the way for the dreadful Trade Union Act 2016.
I have been asked if I would publicise the link to the survey that Sebastian is running as part of his research project and encourage our members to consider participating
The link to the survey is:
Many thanks to any members who decide to take part.
Here's that press release:-
20 July 2017 - Immediate Release
Union accuses Ministers of misleading the public about probation reforms
Responding to last night’s Ministerial statements on probation reform, the leader of the largest probation union accused the Government of misleading the public over the true impact of reforms to the probation service.
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary of Napo said: “The notion that the current difficulties besetting probation were unforeseeable is a gross distortion of the facts, and is an insult to staff who have been put under huge pressure by increased caseloads and the unsafe operational models introduced by many of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies.”
He continued: “Napo is especially angry at the contradictory claims by Ministers about 'Through the Gate' support services for offenders after a recent report by HM Inspector of Probation revealed that this much vaunted initiative is in fact a total shambles.”
The union has been campaigning through Parliament for an enquiry into the probation reforms in 2014 which saw a gold standard award service divided into a National Probation Service and 21 companies run by private providers including the catering company Sodexo and facilities management specialists Interserve.
Ian Lawrence added: “While Napo stands ready to work with Ministers to see improved standards of delivery, we believe that failing CRC contracts ought to be returned to public control.
“Our members, whose hard work has at least been acknowledged by Ministers, expect urgent action to alleviate unrealistic workloads, stressful working environments and their pay which has reduced by 21% in real-term value over the last seven years.”