Saturday, 9 September 2017

Latest From Napo 161

Here we have the latest blog post from the Napo General Secretary:-

Probation campaign focuses on accountability

The Trade Union Congress gets underway in Brighton on Sunday and Napo has two keynote motions which will be up for debate on Tuesday morning. We always have two motions at the TUC and they always get carried; but I have been doing some work with the senior TUC leadership to try and secure a bit more than the usual ‘supported by the General Council’ statement that precedes the vote by Congress.

It will be for Frances O’Grady to decide whether or not she will oblige here, but in a week where the issue of greater accountability has loomed large in all sorts of political areas then I am hopeful. The reason being that the debate on the future of probation and for that matter how things got to where they are now, will of course continue. But with an increasing number of politicians and elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) showing an interest in what is going on in their patch (see last week’s Blog and the BBC link for an example) it’s as good a time as any to argue that the track record of the CRC providers (not just the dreadful Working Links efforts that featured last week) must be more transparent to the public than is currently the case.

Accountability is an important facet of a democratic society, but in terms of the post-TR landscape it’s in pretty short supply. For beyond the internal MoJ/HMPPS mechanisms that are supposed to reassure the public that robust performance measures are in place to keep poorly performing contractors in line and that due reparation (service credits) is made to the contracting body when they don’t meet expectations, the curtain marked transparency is a heavy one to lift.

Aside from our work on this aspect of TR, the HM Probation Inspectorate is about the only other public body who has been able to step under that curtain and I eagerly await the outcome of their further work especially in other parts of the Working Links CRC estate and London, the latter of which is a follow up to the disastrous report on the MTC Novo - owned CRC which featured 9 months ago.

So the addresses that Yvonne and I are due to deliver in moving motions 68 and 69 (reports to follow) will urge the TUC to show a greater willingness to engage with the debate that is quickly developing. With information reaching me that PCCs are queuing up to see Ministers to press the point about the lack of accountability then perhaps Frances will be able to find some time to help us press our case in high circles.

What is actually going on in the Working Links CRCs?

Whilst on the hot topic of accountability, here is a letter that I have sent across to senior HMPPS management as a follow up to the publication of the HMI Probation report into service provision in Gloucester.

Jim Barton, Executive Director
Community Interventions Directorate
Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service

7th September 2017

Dear Jim

HMI Probation report - Gloucestershire

Following our brief discussion yesterday I am writing to request that Napo and the Probation Unions be afforded an opportunity to meet with you, together with representatives of your CRC Contractors Aurelius/Working Links, your contract managers and the NPS Divisional Director following the publication of the above report.

You will I am sure, appreciate the serious concerns that I have been expressing in recent media coverage and my written communications to Napo members about the report’s conclusions. Our current view is that serious consideration must be given as to whether this provider is fit to continue with the management of probation services not only within the BGSW CRC but also the two other parts of their contract package.

This request has been made on the basis that a similar opportunity was afforded to the trade unions immediately after the publication of the HMI Probation report into service provision in Greater London where, with Sonia Crozier’s assistance, we were able to have some constructive dialogue about the remedial steps that were to be put in place as a result.

I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible and Annoesjka Valent will be pleased to try and co-ordinate diaries at this end.

Yours etc.

PAYE and Pension Contributions in the NPS: Update for members issued earlier today

On 7th September Representatives from Napo, Unison and the GMB met with NPS senior management and discussed the ongoing problems with SSCL and the collection of pension contributions, which in turn impacts on individual pay and tax rates.

Despite being made aware of these specific failings more than a month ago the unions were disappointed but not shocked that the NPS were still not able to quantify the numbers impacted and the scale of the shortfall in contributions. Indeed, whilst seeking to offer assurances that the problems were being fixed, no one from the NPS was able to explain how or offer any assurances that all or any of these failings would not happen again.

They did say that new P60's for 2016-17 will be sent to impacted staff although these will reflect the incorrect pension contributions. This will affect anyone who has not had their full contributions collected who are due to retire or anyone who leaves the NPS between 1st February and the issues being rectified. It could also have marginal impacts on people's tax where they are on marginal tax rates (ie near a tax band or child benefit tax threshold). Napo is seeking advice in this regard but members in this position should notify the Employer, specifically on this point immediately, copying in the GMPF. All members are urged to check whether their LGPS contributions have been missed by the NPS, using our previous guidance.

Other payments

The employer confirmed that unspecified numbers of staff who had been in receipt of unsocial hours payments, sick pay or maternity leave had also been impacted but they could not confirm if, as we suspect, the problems extends to other groups also listed in our last advice. Nor could they confirm that all new starters have been auto-enrolled into the local government t pension scheme, in accordance with their legal obligations.

Unbelievably, the NPS Representatives were unaware that, whilst these issues had been under investigation, some members had been written to and told that pay protection afforded under E3 arrangements was deemed to be non-pensionable. The unions do not accept this premise but had not even been informed of this view or told that these letters would be issued to members. That the senior NPS HR team had no knowledge of who or how or why these letters had been authorised for issue, was the clearest sign yet of the continuing lack of control and order in their systems. The unions intend to formally ask for these letters to be immediately retracted until an explanation is presented.

Napo response

Accordingly, it is evident that the NPS does not have control of its PAYE and pension systems. Napo has raised this already at the highest levels - directly with the Pension Ombudsman and Ministers. We are now seeking further advice as to how we should advise members in challenging individual problems. We will also be considering whether there are collective actions that could help bring about an urgent and credible solution.

Our priorities will continue to be:

  1. Doing everything we can to make sure the problems are addressed centrally and the threat of further failures is neutralisied. Napo believes this can only be guaranteed by unpicking the systems supporting NPS pay, pension and HR advice from the rest of the MoJ.
  2. Maintaining that no member should suffer any further stress and detriment worrying about having to make up many months of pension contributions which the employer has not deducted, or any related tax liabilities. The scheme established when the NPS and CRC's were created to address maladministration of pension schemes should be invoked, however politically embarrassing that is for the MoJ.
  3. Making sure the credibility and sustainability of the pension scheme (LGPS) is not undermined any further by the incompetence of the NPS / SSCL systems - including an assurance that hat all staff are correctly auto-enrolled.
The NPS have, at least to union Representatives, expressed their anxiousness and concern about the scale of the failings and the urgent need to address them. Our view is that at least amongst those employed to directly support the NPS, this is genuine. This however only amplifies our concern that they have demonstrated no capacity to get the problems under control and address them, highlighted by their continued failure to know what advice was being sent to their staff in their name. We are less convinced that senior MoJ officials are prioritising and addressing these failings, against the need to cover their part in their creation and the costs to the MoJ of addressing them fairly.

Accordingly, all members are urged to:

  1. Revisit our previous guidance and check their August and September pay statements accordingly - then follow this advice where needed.
  2. Look out for further Napo advice and information on these failings.
  3. Talk to colleagues who may not be in Napo urging them to join so that we can advise and represent them if required.
AGM Motions you get to choose what should be debated

Transparency and accountability are also hallmarks of Napo’s work for, and with, its members. A great example is the facility for members to prioritise which of the 34 motions and 2 constitutional amendments should be tabled for debate at the Nottingham AGM. So whether you are going or whether you are not, (although I hope that you are) here is the link where you can decide.


  1. The situation in working links is throughout the whole area and not just Gloucestershire. Even as cynical as I am I would never have believed it could actually get as bad as it is now. Staff are simply incapable of doing their jobs with severe staff shortages, a rushed in model of operating that is not working, poor IT ( 3 different e mail accounts! What is that about? ) programmes staff covering large areas. Many service users waiting long stretches for groups or UPW placements. Enforcement likely to be poor as OM numbers rise. Staff continue to leave or go sick and little prospect of being able to recruit in many areas. It is very hard indeed to see how this can continue without a complete meltdown. There appears to be no leadership whatsoever. Middle managers have been ground down and overworked to point where they cannot support staff anymore which we believe was working links intention. Supervision and team meetings have stopped in many areas to be replaced by e mail directives regarding targets from working links 'managers' who presumably sit at a laptop all day firing these out to demoralised staff! There is no acknowledgement from ACO or above that the situation is in crisis and maingrade staff, despite having to cope with daily chaos and poor facilities and IT are suffering the affront of continued directives to 'meet targets' or else! Is it any wonder then that there is a massive shortage of frontline staff to actually manage the service users! If CRC's are being run as a target driven business then WL's have failed. You cannot produce anything that requires skilled workforce without investing in staff and recruiting and retaining staff with those skills. Working Linka appear to have believed they could treat skilled staff shoddily and easily replace them when they left with robotic and maleable staff. Now they have discovered that they can't because probation officers don't grow on trees! Now they are desperately trying to recruit but that only leaves agency staff who will move around and unlikely to have the commitment to the team that is needed to make it work long term and of course come at double the cost of a PO on the books. What on earth have we created here? The only winners appear to be the employment agencies who must be rubbing their hands in glee.

  2. Said it 4 years ago, 3 years ago & will say it again... during this whole TR debacle Napo have sat back & offered various descriptions of the water while members were drowning; and those who survived the initial storm-surge continue to struggle to stay afloat.

    The employment agencies, however opportunist & no doubt the offspring of or siblings to CRC owners, are throwing temporary financial lifebelts to survivors... but the Nasty Party can't even bear that and have introduced the IR diktat to cap frontline pay.

    Still, at least the European Research Group (pro-Brexit Tory ideologues) are being funded by the taxpayer OVER & ABOVE annual MP salaries.

    1. KrishGuru-Murthy on C4 news did some good work exploring the ERG. Here's a link to some more info:

      A bit sideways viz-topic but still relevant per lying cheating government ministers pursuing self-serving ideology at taxpayer expense, breaking the rules/law & flying in the face of reason... A bit like TR.

  3. If NPS cannot manage their PAYE and pension obligations I'm sure that one of the frequently mentioned agencies could put them in touch with a range of umbrella companies to manage this task.

  4. I felt like 'Norman no mates' at the Bristol anti-austerity rally in Bristol today. Other unions were there so why not NAPO? Apathy rules eh! Next time can we please organise a group and show we are behind NAPO!

  5. I enjoyed rediscovering this in an old [2016] Guardian this morning:

    "With Theresa May off in Bahrain painting her Turner prize-losing Brexit red, white and blue, the short straw of standing in for her at prime minister’s questions fell to the leader of the house. It was David Lidington’s bad luck to have found himself up against a forensic Emily Thornberry rather than the haphazard Jeremy Corbyn; it was his misjudgment to come to the house almost totally unprepared.

    The shadow foreign secretary doesn’t normally cover herself in glory at the dispatch box, often managing to antagonise as many in her own party as she does on the government benches. But for her promotion to PMQs, she had come unusually well-primed. Her plan was nothing less than Lidington’s assassination.

    Could the leader of the house give a simple answer to a simple question? Was Britain planning to stay in the customs union? Yes or no? Lidington appeared startled. Whatever instructions the prime minister had left him on her Post-it note, it hadn’t included this. He waved his arms around theatrically, as if hoping to drag up an answer with a little method thinking. Nothing. Nada. Customs union was well above his pay grade, but he was sure the government had a great plan.

    Thornberry pressed him a little harder. Did he remember saying back in February that leaving the customs union would be a total disaster? “Does the minister still agree with himself?” she inquired, twisting the stiletto. The look of panic that crossed Lidington’s face suggested he remembered it only too well.

    “Um, er,” he mumbled. “Things have changed a lot since then.” Certainly they had for Lidington, who was now entering a possible career-ending parallel universe. Someone passed him a note, which he eagerly opened. “The customs union is not a binary issue. There’s at least four possible outcomes.” He had no idea whether this was true, no idea of what it meant, but it was all he had to offer. The next time Theresa went away, she could get someone else to do her dirty work; up in the gallery, the prime minister’s advisers were having much the same thought."

  6. The PI, the self-proclaimed "centre for excellence" on all things probation, released this 'account' on 7 Sept of a meeting with Lidington:

    "Secretary of State Round Table Discussion on Prison Reform

    The Probation Institute recently attended a round table discussion on prison reform with the Rt Hon David Lidington. We felt it worth sharing an account of the key points that were made to the Minister. Those also attending this session, one of a series, included CJ Alliance, CCJS, Maslaha, Unlocked Graduates, Transform Justice, Prison Reform Trust, Black Training and Enterprise, RSA, Howard League, Butler Trust and Barrow Cadbury Trust.

    David Lidington acknowledged the crisis in the prisons in terms of numbers, violence, self-harm, mental ill health, substance misuse, low staff morale, constraints on constructive activity and lack of housing on release. He acknowledged some very innovative work in the prisons and felt that this was insufficiently recognised and celebrated. He expressed his commitment to tackling these serious challenges.

    Key points made to the Minister included:

    • The importance of high quality and consistent training for the whole of the prison, probation and rehabilitation workforce including leadership

    • The need for greater recognition of ongoing good work, such as the annual celebration of achievements through the Butler Trust Awards

    • Need for greater and more effective engagement with the needs of BAME prisoners who currently form 20% of the prison population and this disproportionate statistic is a central, critical issue not a peripheral matter. Governors need well researched pro-active community strategies to help them to reach out to organisations who can support BAME prisoners

    • Massive challenge of sentencing for both men and women; it is understood that sentence inflation has occurred in virtually all types of offence, making a major contribution to the present overcrowding. Recognition that no strategies can be effective until numbers are reduced

    • Proposals are being made by the Howard League to reduce extra days for adjudications, and recall

    • The Scottish new presumption against sentences under 12 months is of interest to all and will be reviewed; it seems no legislative change is achievable in England and Wales for the next 18 months however, due to Brexit. CCJS estimate that following the Scottish policy could reduce 20,000 receptions and 3000 prison places

    • The proposal to build five new women’s prisons was regretted by the group who felt that the funding should go to women’s centres for the 845 of women sentenced to non-violent offences

    • Barrow Cadbury Trust regretted the long term structural changes made by MOJ in particular the increasing privatisation; it was explained that funding foundations have been moving away from concerns in the prisons in the last 5 years partly due to disappointment in the last 5 years partly due to the failure of sustainable funding to carry through the Corston recommendations and partly due to resistance to giving charitable funding to commercial organisations. Foundations have an interest in funding womens’ centres, work with 18 to 25 year olds and the anticipated recommendations of the Lammy Review

    • The Black Training and Enterprise Group spoke about the particular vulnerability of black community organisations to the loss of funding following TR

    • The Probation Institute drew attention to the impact of the reports of poor performance of CRCs by HMIP which, although essential reports at a time when retaining confidence in community interventions is absolutely essential. MOJ need to make clear statements as to how they will address the damaging impact of TR.

    David Lidington described the meeting as the start of a regular dialogue and told the group he welcomes advice, suggestions, and invitations to look at projects. It’s hard to say if anything will result but the need and the urgency is understood.

    Helen Schofield
    September 2017"

  7. From the Indeed recruitment website:

    "Sodexo Probation Officer yearly salaries in the United Kingdom

    Salary estimated from 40 employees, users, and past and present job advertisements on Indeed in the past 12 months.

    Last updated: 04 September 2017

    Average salary
    £24,422 per year

    ▼24% Below national average"

  8. Public sector pay cap is being lifted for police and prison officers only.


    1. You beat me to it Getafix! Let's hope this paves the way for other services including Probation but basically all public sector and public service roles privatised or otherwise.

    2. The government is to lift the 1% public sector pay cap for the first time for both police and prison officers, the BBC understands.

      Ministers are expected to accept recommendations for higher pay rises this week and also to pave the way for similar increases in other sectors.

      BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said it was the "first concrete example of the pay cap being dismantled". Unions, the opposition, and some Tories are calling for the cap to be lifted.
      Public sector pay was frozen for two years in 2010, except for those earning less than £21,000 a year, and since 2013, rises have been capped at 1% - below the rate of inflation. The higher increases expected this week for police and prison officers are based on the recommendations of independent pay review bodies, with recruitment and retention problems being cited in the case of prison officers. The BBC understands the Treasury will then issue guidance on next year's pay round, which is likely to see the cap eased in other areas where there are similar problems, such as teaching and nursing.

      Most - though not all - pay review bodies this year identified recruitment and retention problems, but decided to take note of government policy on wage restraint so they didn't recommend rises above an average of 1%. But the police and prison officers review bodies, in as yet unpublished reports, did call for increases above 1% this summer, and the government has been mulling over how to handle a controversial issue.

      This week it will agree the recommendations, though there may be some creativity over how the pay awards are implemented. And the government would also say that some public sector workers have enjoyed rises above 1% through promotion or pay increments. But now, more widely, the treasury is expected to tell other pay bodies - covering teachers and NHS staff for example - that they can take recruitment and retention difficulties into account when recommending next year's increases. So not lifting of the pay cap across the board - which Labour is calling for - but this could be, as the TUC put it, a crack in the ice of pay restraint.

      It comes as MPs are set to vote on public sector pay on Wednesday. Labour's health spokesman Jon Ashworth urged Conservative MPs who "sincerely" believe the public sector pay cap should go to vote with his party during its Opposition Day debate, which would not be binding on the government. He told Sky News: "We keep getting briefings in newspapers and suggestions that the government is sympathetic and wants to do something, and 'oh, it's terrible and we accept that but let's see where we get to'."

      The Public and Commercial Services union is to ballot its members on industrial action over the cap. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has said raising pay in line with inflation for the next three or four years would cost £6bn to £7bn more than continuing with the current policy.

    3. It's hard to work out the governments thinking on lifting the pay cap.
      If it was to be across the board for all public sector workers why name the police and prison officers in particular?
      On the other hand it's worth noting that both police and prison officers can't take industrial action, and the cap being lifted in those areas only will surely prompt industrial action in areas where a pay rise is not given.
      Maybe the cap will be lifted across the public sector as a whole, but the pay rise will be so derisory it will upset everyone.
      I think there's trouble ahead on this one.


    4. Fits perfectly with the current UK govt's use of deceit & bribery to maintain power. DUP to gain a majority; police & prison officers to ensure control & restraint of the nation's dissenters.

    5. Some breaking news.
      The government has broken both parliamentary and bribery laws by giving the DUP a £billion the courts have reportedly just declared.
      The treasury announced that there must be a parliamentary vote before the ruling was given.

    6. Short straw for probation officers once again. Clearly we're not the 'Prisons and Probation Service'.

      We risk assess for the police.

      We sentence plan and resettle for the prisons.

      But only 'they' are entitled to a pay increase.

    7. Ref 11:41's post, thanks must go to Gina Miller (she of the Brexit challenge) for pursuing the govt to court over the £1bn issue.

  9. Private Eye looks at Lurking Winks in current issue...

  10. Missing Links get one of the worst probation inspection reports ever! No surprise there then!

  11. What's the difference between working links and the neanderthals? Nothing, the neanderthals eventually became extinct...or did they?