Saturday, 18 September 2021

Latest From Napo 226

Here we have yesterday's mailout from Napo:-

Dear Xxxxxxx

Reject the Public Sector Pay Freeze - Have you voted in the Indicative Ballot?

Napo members in the Probation Service are being asked to vote in an indicative ballot to reject the insulting pay offer from their employer and send a strong protest against the governments public sector pay freeze.

At this week’s Trade Union Congress, it was made clear by many speakers that the only way to defeat the vindictive pay freeze for key public service workers is likely to be through industrial action. Napo’s ballot is an opportunity for of our Probation members to say that they have had enough of being treated with disrespect by this government, enough of 10 years of austerity and the wanton destruction of our public services and enough of low pay, and the impact on your families living standards.

Why It’s not just about pay

While reunification is obviously welcomed, not a day passes without us receiving reports from your local Napo activists, members of your National Executive Committee and elected officers, about unsustainable workloads, staff shortages and the massive pressures being faced by on our members and manager members. There is a long way to go before these problems are resolved and the longer that the Probation service is starved of serious investment then this situation will simply get worse.

It’s a plain fact that until something is done to improve the pay of probation workers the service will fail to recruit and retain the staff that it desperately needs and fail to achieve the plans to rebuild following the disastrous effects of privatisation.

Given the chaos that our members in Probation are experiencing it ought to be an obvious choice to demonstrate your anger and frustration by way of casting your vote to reject the pay freeze in the indicative ballot. By doing so you can directly help to force the employer back into sensible negotiations, but we need our members to support their union and maintain pressure on your employer by taking part in this ballot.

Vote to reject the pay freeze

If you have not already voted, the link to the current indicative ballot is here.

UNISON members in Probation are also being asked to vote against the pay freeze and support industrial action.

Say no to the pay freeze
Say no to the disgraceful 2021 pay offer
Say no to unsustainable workloads, high stress levels and staff shortages

Please support your negotiators in our attempts to secure a decent pay rise for Probation staff

AGM – a chance to come together – in person or virtually!

Napo’s AGM will this year be a hybrid event. We look forward to welcoming as many members as possible to Newcastle. We have a large venue that will allow for social distancing and we are taking steps to ensure that the format supports us all in keeping safe. For members who cannot attend in person we are offering the chance to participate virtually, you will be able to speak and vote on motions and to listen to speakers and participate in the professional sessions. We know that some may be prevented from travelling or being in groups of people due to COVID vulnerability or for any other reason and it is important that we do what we can to avoid excluding people from AGM.

Members employed by the Probation Service will be allowed one day work time to attend AGM on the basis that it contributes to professional development

Pay, workloads, professional issues and COVID recovery are important to all of our members and we know you need a place to talk about them and to find ways to do something about them. AGM gives you that opportunity – don’t miss it, contact your branch for details of the support they are offering and register today!

Plus, in more news:
Napo Stress Survey
SPO Forum 29 September, 1pm

Best Wishes
Napo HQ

Friday, 17 September 2021

A Plea

"In the middle of being extremely irritated by the usual shenanigans that forms the bow-wave of an announced inspection, I hear we have a new boss. Just like the old boss, except probably worse. This written on the back of the irritation, not the new boss. I guess the New Boss may fill your blog for a while but if you find this useful, please go ahead, happy for this to be attributed to Pearly Gates."

An Inspector Calls: “Forget your people, polish your files”.

We have notice of an inspection. Understaffed, underpaid, and overworked, we click open our emails to receive the predictable exhortations: all leave cancelled, spreadsheets of cases in the frame, five-page checklists for file cleansing. Managers booking calls to (ahem) talk through the cases, quality assure our work. Of course there is time and resource to do this: they will facilitate Shut Down Days. Translated this is “Forget your people, polish your files”. An already exhausted and depleted team look defeated and stressed.

Inspections make people nervous. Area leads are nervous their area won’t get the best marks. Divisional leads are nervous their division won’t get the best marks. These two rely on our “performance” for their pay and advancement. Next rung down will have a section who are hungry and ambitious for same. Competition. They have stakes in this game.

Caseworkers: how good or bad your area, divisional or team lead looks on the back of this inspection is pretty much irrelevant. Your pay won’t go up or down. The rest of them are pushing down their anxiety onto you. Unless your work is criminal or seriously incompetent, this is all irrelevant and a distraction. Chill. I hope we can individually and together find a way to push back, failing that, if you get in a room with an inspector, just say it like it is.

PS: Is the inspectorate aware of the stress and idiocy that notice of their inspections creates? Wouldn’t unannounced inspections be a better model?

Pearly Gates

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Mr Angry At The Helm

We all know Johnson's cabinet consisted of mostly second rate lightweights and despite several deservedly getting the chop yesterday, some might say the situation hasn't improved much. The reshuffle also confirms how low down the food chain the Justice Department is with yet another change. Arguably a reasonably competent minister thrown under the bus and replaced with a very angry and now demoted Dominic Raab. Here's Rob Allen on our new Justice Minister writing in May 2015:-  

Tough and Unpleasant: New Minister's Views on Prisons

Dominic Raab, new Minister at the MoJ, is best known for his views on human rights, set out forcefully in his 2009 polemic The Assault on Liberty. Repealing the Human Rights Act will be his main task but his views on penal policy are noteworthy none the less.

In his book, Raab observes that prisoners have benefited more than most from new categories of human rights "foisted on Britain contrary to the wishes of parliament". He appears to think that the executive should have the power to veto the release of criminals on the grounds of public safety and seems unimpressed by judgments allowing prisoners to practice paganism in their cells or have access to fertility treatment. But Raab also argues that “the prison regime has called out for reform for years- to better prepare offenders for release into the outside world.”

Optimism about what that might entail evaporates quickly while reading another book Raab co-authored after the 2010 election, along with (among others)now fellow ministers Liz Truss and Priti Patel. After The Coalition: A Conservative Agenda for Britain argues that we need to "reverse the tide of soft justice". According to Raab, some judges have declined to jail criminals on human right grounds and punishment in the justice system is too often a dirty word.

There is an unwelcome belief according to Raab that prisoners should be treated in prison in a way that reflects the normal life of freedom that all citizens generally enjoy. He and his colleagues “are not ashamed to say that prisons should be tough, unpleasant and uncomfortable places”. They want persistent offenders sentenced for prolonged periods, praying in aid Howard League research on the ineffectiveness of short prison terms. Raab would also privatise all prisons.

Five years on Raab might take the view that prisons are now sufficiently unpleasant places. But his controversial views surely make the case for some form of pre-appointment scrutiny for would be ministers. The public have a right to know ministers' views about the areas for which they will have responsibilities, direct or indirect, and whether they are suitable candidates. In Raab’s case, I have my doubts.

Rob Allen


Whilst we're about it, lets just remind ourselves of the character of the guy currently occupying No10. This from Monday's Guardian:-

PM condemned for joke about UK becoming ‘Saudi Arabia of penal policy’

Opposition politicians say Boris Johnson remarks about Priti Patel’s policies are a ‘new low’

A joke by Boris Johnson that the UK could become “the Saudi Arabia of penal policy” under Priti Patel has been condemned as “disgusting” and a “new low” by opposition politicians. The prime minister made the remarks, which can be viewed in video footage obtained and reported by Business Insider, during a speech behind closed doors at a Conservative party fundraiser event on 10 September.

“In the immortal words of Priti Patel or Michael Howard or some other hardline home secretary, addressing the inmates of one of our larger prisons: it’s fantastic to see so many of you here,” Johnson told the 300 attenders at the lunch, which took place at the InterContinental London Park Lane in Mayfair.

He went on to joke about the UK becoming the “Saudi Arabia of penal policy” under Patel as part of comments about work on renewable energy. “I said last year we’re the Saudi Arabia of wind. Probably the Saudi Arabia of penal policy, under our wonderful home secretary,” Johnson said.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most punitive regimes in the world. It is one of the few remaining countries to carry out capital punishment by beheading and has long been accused of grave human rights abuses, including the torture of activists. It can impose the death penalty for homosexuality and many drug offences.

Patel has previously indicated her support for the death penalty as a “deterrent” for serious crime, though she has since denied this and suggested she is not an “active supporter” of the policy.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, called the prime minister’s remarks “disgusting”. She tweeted: “Saudi Arabia beheads its own citizens, tortures activists exercising their democratic rights and kills homosexuals. This is disgusting. As ever with Boris Johnson behind closed doors the mask slips and we see what he really thinks.”

Alistair Carmichael, the Lib Dem spokesperson on home affairs, said the comments marked a “new low” for the prime minister. He added: “Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record is nothing to joke about. We have real and serious problems with crime and the rule of law in our country that deserve better than sloppy punchlines behind closed doors.

“UK police officers facing the PM’s pay cuts certainly won’t be laughing. Boris Johnson may admire his pals in the Saudi dictatorship but he cannot escape the fact that his Conservative government is failing miserably to do what actually works to prevent crime.”

In January, Politico reported on Johnson’s making a similar joke on a call with 250 business leaders. Downing Street denied he made the comments and said it was “total bollocks”.

During his speech at the event, the first large Tory party fundraiser event since the pandemic began, Johnson praised the role of the private sector in the pandemic.

“And who invented that vaccine, my friends? Was it produced in the laboratories of the Department of Health and Social Care? Was it Public Health England? Was it the NHS? No! No, it wasn’t. No, it was the private sector, it was big pharma, it was the UK pharmaceuticals industry,” the prime minister said.

Johnson also boasted about having been “the only politician who stood up for [the bankers] in 2008”. “We are, basically, fundamentally, the party of enterprise and wealth creation. And I salute the City of London, incarnated here, and I always stick up for the wonderful bankers,” he said, going on to refer to the role of capital in fulfilling his “levelling up” agenda.

Attenders paid up to £500 for tickets to the three-course lunch, raising “a substantial sum of money” for the Cities of London & Westminster Conservative Association as well as for Conservative campaign headquarters and other groups, according to the event’s brochure.


The prime minister’s puerile remarks on penal policy (PM condemned for joke about UK becoming ‘Saudi Arabia of penal policy’, 14 September) plumb new depths in what passes for debate on the subject in this country. Short of conscription, the decision to imprison represents probably the most extreme manifestation of the state’s authority over individuals. Deciding how we exercise that power deserves better than a second-rate stand-up routine.

Peter Dawson
Director, Prison Reform Trust

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

I Believe In You

Thanks to the wonderful Talking Pictures TV channel, last night I finally got to see this landmark film of 1952 which enjoys a bit of a cult status amongst POs of a certain vintage. I wasn't really sure what to expect, but from the outset I got a shiver and was instantly transported back to my early days. 

Even from the 80's, it was all recognisable. My own office with nameplate on the door; reverence and disdain from clients in equal measure; a constant stream of life's flotsam and jetsam; matrimonial one minute, criminal cases the next; the urgent call for a Probation Officer at court over the road and being routinely 'volunteered' due to a life-long habit of wearing a tie. 

It might be tempting for some to mock the quaintness of language, dress, social more's, practice and procedure of the time, but for me all the fundamentals of probation practice are present right from the beginning, as indeed the reasons why the role was so attractive to people with a degree of life experience under their belt. 

The court room scenes in particular sent a shiver down my spine, not least because I was there, in court on my feet, saying those very words! I can still hear the Bench chair now "Your Probation Officer seems to feel you warrant a further chance. I will revoke the current order and make a fresh order for 12 months. You are free to go." It was a great feeling because you felt justice had been done; you had earnt your salary; they had another chance; it was the right decision for them and society.

But lets not get too misty-eyed. Very early on we hear the classic line from the star PO "A Probation Officers life is full of disappointments". A truism of course, because the 'failures' keep coming back and the 'successes' we generally never see again. But we never give up and that's the essential message of this wonderful film. 

It may be portraying life 70 years ago, but the basics are exactly the same. Probation as we would recognise it very rarely features on the big or small screen, so try and watch it simply for its rarity value. It may just serve to confirm you made the right career choice and help you deal with all the current managerial and process-driven crap.   


Sunday, 12 September 2021

Probation House Style

Probation under civil service control absolutely loves acronyms and there's a very particular management house style I have the greatest difficulty taking seriously and reconciling with the real world. Take for example the latest Insight blog :-
Delivering Quality Interventions in Probation: The Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR)

Jason Morris and Laura Baverstock work as Senior Policy Managers within the Service Design Team in the Probation Reform Programme (PRP). In this blog, they explain the work that has been underway to uphold key commitments to increasing the availability of quality RAR interventions in Probation; make best use of evidence and evaluation; and, preserve Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) innovation with a collaborative approach to service design.

On 26th June 2021, 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were renationalised and unified with the National Probation Service (NPS) to form a new Probation Service for England and Wales. Since then, the Probation Reform Programme (PRP) has continued its work to implement probation’s Target Operating Model (TOM). The TOM provides a blueprint of how the new Probation Service will operate. As part of this effort, we’ve been working to equip Probation Practitioners and Regional Interventions Teams with quality interventions that enable the delivery of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements (RARs).

The Rehabilitation Activity Requirement

RARs form part of a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order to set the amount and type of rehabilitation activity for people on probation. They were introduced in the Offender Rehabilitation Act (2014), as a distinct sentencing option to the ‘programme requirement’ (fulfilled through Accredited Programme completion). Prior to reunification hundreds of identifiable RAR interventions were available across the CRCs alongside many other bespoke interventions. Over recent years, room for improvement has been identified in the delivery of RARs both from the academic community and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP).

The TOM sets out how the Probation Service will deliver RARs. A large amount of RAR activity will be commissioned from partner organisations through “Commissioned Rehabilitative Services”. The main vehicle for Probation Service-delivered RARs will be in the form of Structured Interventions and Probation Practitioner Toolkits (also referred to below simply as "toolkits"). Structured Interventions provide a set of exercises delivered primarily to groups by interventions facilitators in a set sequence. Toolkits are comprised of similar material delivered by the Probation Practitioner on a one-to-one basis as part of supervision.

Our task now is to ensure that the TOM is fully implemented to ensure consistency in the availability and quality of Structured Interventions and toolkits. This will improve confidence amongst stakeholders (including the courts) around how the Probation Service delivers RARs.

Approved Suites: Structured Interventions and Probation Practitioner Toolkits

The national Effective Interventions Panel (EIP) played a key role in the lead up to reunification, by enabling RAR interventions to be appraised against seven core principles set out by the Correctional Services Accreditation Advice Panel (principles that are distinct from those required for Accredited Programmes).

The Seven Principles used within the EIP to assess Structured Interventions and toolkits are as follows:

1. Alignment with an evidence base
2. Credible rationale for how, why and for whom the intervention will work
3. A structure that allows replication
4. A selection process that targets the intervention appropriately
5. To equip people with useful skills and ensure that no one will be disadvantaged or harmed
6. Quality assurance to ensure it is delivered as designed.
7. A commitment to research and evaluation

The EIP is made up of experts from across HMPPS. Panel sessions involve a democratic scoring process, which results in recommendations and conclusions that are fed back to developers.

HMPPS Contract Management and the PRP Service Design Team identified interventions from CRC rate cards to continue as Structured Interventions in the unified Probation Service “post contract”. In addition, the EIP sat eight times between October 2020 and January 2021 to appraise 45 Structured interventions. A total of 37 were ear marked for incorporation into an Approved Suite of Structured Interventions that would come into effect by April 2022.

The EIP also sat 10 times to appraise Probation Practitioner Toolkits between April and May 2021. During these toolkit EIP sessions, a total of 24 sets of materials were appraised and seven toolkits were provisionally approved for inclusion in an 'Approved Suite of Probation Practitioner Toolkits'.

EIP decisions were then ratified through a further governance process which approved development work to finalise the approved suites of toolkits and Structured Interventions. The overarching ambition for Probation Practitioner Toolkits was to create greater alignment across the suite to increase their potential to work as wraparound support for other interventions. In addition, several overlapping EIP-approved Structured Interventions were identified for amalgamation into single offers via workgroups comprised of staff from Regional Interventions Teams. A total of 12 Structured Interventions would account for all Structured Intervention delivery from April 2022 onwards.

The Structured Intervention workgroups offer a key opportunity to refine innovation in a stepwise fashion to Structured Interventions:

- fully adhere to EIP principles

- build on CRC innovation

- involve people on probation as co-creators

- integrate sentence management support through alignment with toolkits

Clinical and strategic oversight for Structured Interventions and toolkits will continue to be provided by the national EIP process. This governance will help establish toolkits as the vehicle for RAR delivery within the role of the Probation Practitioner; a step that aims to help put the supervisory relationship back at the heart of probation work. Furthermore, continued EIP governance will help us to work towards greater content alignment between supervision and in-house interventions (such as Structured Interventions and Accredited Programmes). This has the potential to enable interventions to combine more holistically, making the experience of probation more cohesive for people accessing a range of probation services.

Monday, 6 September 2021

How's It All Going?

How come there is little comment on this blog on how the training that is crap e learning and caseloads are going since the merger of CRC NPS not to mention any sickness absence through stress?

I regret I cannot answer but wonder why does not Anon tell us all s/he knows rather than just hint?

I have definitely myself commented more than once on the lack of training available to staff, specifically on one to one work and skills to meaningfully address key issues such as anger/stress management, personal wellbeing and other skills. The "mandatory" e learning in child protection and domestic violence are in particular very basic and belittling. The mantra of probation today appears to be about referring the person on, either to other services, offending behaviour programmes that most have already attended, or watered down commissioned out services. I'm not against individuals working with other agencies...but I have started to question what the point of an individual actually attending probation is anymore. While a load of "exercises" have been chucked into equip, the skills based training to actually deliver meaningful supervision sessions is sorely lacking. The focus on writing parole reports and assessments using paint by numbers QA tools misses the point entirely.

HMPPS/NPS have their foot on the throats of staff - "one wrong move & we'll crush your larynx." Everyone's terrified of getting caught out. Welcome to the New Probation Service. Everyone knows it. Probation Staff Survey 2021 states: "We will only report statistics where we have enough replies to ensure that no individual can be identified." Taking Back Control. Freedom. A World Class System. Or just right-wing totalitarianism? Wouldn't surprise me if JB hasn't had a shot across his bows warning him to "publish positive propaganda or we'll close you down".

You can always make an FOI request. A simple and risk free task for a retired colleague. Just keep bombarding them with FOIs. Stress is the biggest cause of stress across the PS at the moment. They'll blame it on anything other than poor workforce planning and Tory bungling. The people being punished are experienced staff at the frontline. No other profession gets treated this way and certainly not proper civil servants. No one in their right mind would want to join probation whilst it is in its current state.

As a returning PO out after 15 years and in post for 16 weeks what have I found? incredible pressure on main grade staff, cover your arse comments from some managers, a blame culture and the depressing loss of passionate staff who are simply fed up and or over worked. I have huge admiration for my fellow main grade staff, and for some SPO, above that I have no idea, never met them and the blurb that comes out is not relevant. It's the loss of passionate new staff that I find most concerning. They are the future.

If they believe your concern is genuine. There's the rub. Where I am we are starting to see the steely glare of management morphing to the wide eyed panic of rabbits in headlights, as staff leave, recruitment adverts illicit no response, and long term sickness absences seem to be increasing. I'd be interested to know what the long term sickness absences look like across the board: in my office it is a significant proportion of the dwindling staff. Whenever I see this discussed, there is a defensiveness: the figures can't be compared because the CRC stats are not available or comparable or relevant now. Or it's all down to Covid so obviously we can't extrapolate or draw conclusions in this exceptional time. Not for the first time the words WE WARNED YOU spring to mind. It's all a bit of a mess, isn't it?

Yes and the mess is getting bigger as experienced colleagues start taking their early retirement and now leaving as an option to carrying on. 3 months notice and no replacement so the solution of the management team is to add their hours to yours and if you complain it's classed as a business need get on with it. Apparently anyone can do this job and a recruitment drive eventually will fill in the vacancies. Not sure who will train these new people but hey... yet another business need and another job on top of the ever increasing workload.

Staff at 60 will always have planned to go. It's what the NPS actually want. Old ideas values reform ideologies are to be vanquished on the dereliction of people services. It has been said a long while back on this blog there is no need for any professional judgement as we are moving to a penalty organisation. Infiltrated by police, crime is a process for punishment as more attractive to the Tories than reform. Punishment is meted out as a tariff on balance to the crime. Reform is costly and measures are not easily transformed into figures of achievement.

So we have seen and it cannot escape anyone's notice the promotion structure has favoured aggressive thickening attitudes from some nasty characters many at DD level. The CRCs have a part to play in their left over disasters now in power roles. Probation for officers is finished. Probation is not what it was or should be but it will be unrecognisable in a few years and specialist training for certain roles is all we need. The rest of you will be cheap to hire and fire as the PO will finally be sunk by the superior PO managers who have no value stock in their original career base. It is because they think they are special to achieve this financial status and lower so they will do as they are bid.

As a local Napo rep who does her best for members I take exception to all this Napo bashing that makes me wonder whether there are in fact senior management stooges on here having a cheap shot and trying to cause as much anti-union sentiment as possible. Constructive and informed criticism is surely preferable to name calling. The way to change how a union represents people is to join it and use the democratic processes to elect those you want. You are not stuck with leaders. If you resort to name calling or misrepresentation of facts then you are simply contributing to the problem rather than being part of the solution. This blog should be building bridges to the unions and those who want to support probation. Many potential allies of the profession and potential new voices are put off by name calling and lack of reasoned arguments.

JB Things are indeed grim. I have been a probation officer for 17 years and never known so many people going off with stress and no let up of allocations. The so called workload management tool indicates how much in excess of 100%. If we were paid according to the WMT then it would be fiddled to keep us all at 100%. I am 40% over and a PQIP just went off with stress literally ran from the building sobbing on Friday. Surely my salary should be increased by 40%. There is no one left except one other officer who said she is at breaking point. What happens when I am the last one there? 

I heard they are threatening people who are off with stress to come back to work. All the experienced colleagues have left or want to leave. They keep telling us there are more trainees coming but who is supposed to train them? Some left during COVID without actually once seeing a person on probation face to face. This job is now shit and if I get another senior management pep talk I'm liable to puke. I just want to call in sick tomorrow and stay off for 6 months. I advise everyone to go sick and don't put up with this crap any more.

I do not work in the hardest hit LDU OMU whatever the xxxx they call it these days so cannot say, hence the question. I've heard there is huge unrest though. As for outside of this business as usual in shoving people into roles with no proper training or care, staff in tears and unwell with stress because they are left to it without management support or even responses to the problems. Shared services constant xxxx ups and months and years with no reasonable adjustments in place. It beggars belief. Maybe everyone is just too tired and stressed to say or perhaps too under the grip of fear those bxxxxxxs impose.

Thursday, 26 August 2021

Pay Us The Money!

This angry comment has come in and was awaiting moderation:-
"A post from yesterday but I think it is worth including on here to ensure more people see this. It is beyond a joke at this point. It was only a few weeks ago one of our Senior "Leaders" was spouting about working on next year's pay deal. Hard working staff are having the p*ss taken yet again, anyone heard from NAPO!?!?!? Thought not."

It follows on from this yesterday:-

"What crap. Pay me my money the MPs took what they wanted no debate. The management come to me with more work and loads of additional tasks because I have been willing to try. Then I get criticised for under performance when I am doing two people's work. Well you can fuck off with soft soap pay the owed reduce the workloads and stop bullying staff with this shite of manipulation. Just fuck off NPS cloakroom kids."

I agree. It is worth repeating that probation intranet piece with Ian Barrow, Executive Director Probation Workforce Programme, if only because hardly anyone ever bothers sharing such stuff any more. It therefore goes some way in confirming just how low morale is within the newly formed Service, and despite the best endeavours of the spin doctors with last week's 'Probation Day' lovefest. Indeed, I've been informed that over on the infamous private social media site there have been 61 enthusiastic responses to the question:-   

"Anyone on here no longer in Probation? I'm curious to know what roles people go on to do. I need an exit plan."

Probation Service pay award – Ian Barrow interview

Pay is a subject often close to our hearts and at the recent Probation Service all-staff events, many of you asked questions with regard to pay, in particular how long the pay award takes each year.

We sat down with Ian Barrow, Executive Director for the Probation Workforce Programme, to provide some more information and insight about the process that sits behind this work and explaining the current state of affairs for 21/22.

Ian, can you bring us up to date on this year’s pay award and pay progression?

I know that some of you are frustrated with the time it has taken to make progress on this year’s pay award and pay progression. Firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that your pay progression remains contractual for this year.

However, it forms part of the total pay award and therefore the process that underpins its agreement. As part of the Civil Service, the Probation Service has to follow Civil Service guidelines, which includes the pay remit guidance. The pay remit guidance lays out how much each government department can award their staff each year.

Once we’ve received this, we then need to engage with both HM Treasury and Cabinet Office on our pay award proposals to make sure they have all the information they need, and with our Trade Union colleagues to ensure that it is fair and in line with collective bargaining principles.

This can take some time and pay awards are not always agreed or processed prior to the end of a pay year. Pay is important and we always want to make sure we’re getting it right to secure the best deal we can for our workforce – even if that takes longer than usual.

We are currently engaging with HM Treasury and Cabinet Office and with the recognised Probation Service Trade Unions (GMB/SCOOP, Napo and UNISON) to work to agree the pay award for this year. We will keep you updated as we progress with breakthroughs in negotiations via the intranet, Probation News and dissemination via your regions.

Will we receive our pay progression this year?

A number of you have had concerns about whether there will still be pay progression payments this year, due to the temporary pause on pay rises for most public sector workforces in response to the economic challenges brought about by COVID-19.

If you are eligible for pay progression, then once we have agreed this year’s pay award, you will receive pay progression payments backdated to 1 April 2021.

Can you tell us if other pay reforms are planned?

As well as working to agree a pay award for this year, we’re also currently working to continue our pay modernisation journey which started in 2018 with the Modernisation Agreement that was agreed between HMPPS, Probation Trade Unions and staff.

One of our core areas to focus on is to make sure that the pay structure is coherent, sustainable and rewarding. We will be continuing our engagement with staff over the next few months and continue to collect your views on pay and its importance to your job in probation, and as part of your overall reward package.

Where can we get further information?

Pay information will appear on the dedicated Probation Service Pay page.

I know pay can be a really dry subject so we are developing a number of short articles to demystify pay and reward which will be published on the new Pay and Rewards updates intranet page in the coming weeks.


I would remind readers that Napo emailed this to members last Friday:-

Indicative ballot to reject the pay freeze and the insulting pay offer from the Probation Service

Earlier this year the Probation trade unions submitted a multi-year pay claim to try and achieve some certainty on pay going forward. After some promising early exchanges, the negotiations hit a barrier when the government announced a public sector pay freeze.

Despite every effort by negotiators to point out how staff have maintained vital services at great risk in the face of the pandemic while helping to deliver Probation reunification, we eventually received a derisory pay offer for 2021 that has recently been considered by Napo’s Probation Negotiating Committee (PNC).

Indicative ballot to be launched – reject the pay freeze!

Essentially the offer means that only those staff earning less than £24k would receive £250, with no increase in pay or allowances for anybody else. That means the majority of probation staff will get no pay rise at all this year and probation pay will continue to go backwards.

Members are understandably asking about when contractual pay progression will be paid out. As we have explained previously this requires clearance by the Treasury, but it is important to remember that pay progression arrangements are designed to ensure that staff receive the rate for the job within 5 years. Therefore, pay progression is not a pay award to compensate you for rises in living costs.

In light of the above, and the disappointing pay award in 2020, the PNC have recommended that Napo members in the Probation Service should be asked to reject the pay offer and indicate their willingness alongside UNISON members, who are also being balloted, to take industrial action. Any action would only take place following a second statutory ballot.

Further details of the indicative ballot will be sent to members next week together with an electronic ballot paper. Members will be asked to send a strong message to the government, and to the Probation Service, that we will not accept the pay freeze lying down and that the offer from the employer is an insult.

CNN Love-in To End

Lets be clear about this from the start. I'm not a customer of Virgin because I like the brand or am a fan of its profoundly irritating founder. Due to living in a small pocket of urbanised poor reception, I was an early convert to the 'digital superhighway' of the 90's and cable tv. Because of successive takeovers and mergers I've ended up being a distressed purchaser of Virgin, essentially because I'm not a sports fan and can't be bothered to install Freesat.

Basically I've been reasonably content to keep paying my subscription for four reasons 1) picture quality 2) Tivo recorder 3) Talking Pictures TV 4) CNN. Collectively, all these elements have effectively kept me going through the pandemic and to be frank have been vital elements of my wellbeing. So, imagine my dismay when tuning in to CNN yesterday to read that Virgin will be dropping CNN from 31st August:-  

Due to WarnerMedia’s plans to move to a subscription model for the CNN news channel, it will no longer be available on Virgin TV after 31 August. Customers can still watch and catch up on the latest news on major news channels such as BBC News, Sky News, Bloomberg and many others.

Many thanks, now piss off!

I really didn't see this coming, not least because CNN has become so well-respected for its news and political coverage, especially during the US Presidential election. This from thedrum:-

The UK is CNN’s largest market behind the US and Canada in terms of digital audience, and it grew by 73% in 2020. So on top of the TV carriage deals, it was ‘experimenting’ with the CNN livestream. It’s seen enough demand on the product to warrant the monetization. “As consumer behavior changes and we see significant digital audience growth in the UK, we see an opportunity to increase our offering in the digital space.”

CNN’s data suggests that the current audience of the livestream have high incomes, are well educated, are most likely to be in a management or c-suite role and predominately are in the 25-54 age group. It’s a group with a high propensity to pay for the product.

Raad says: “There is a strong appreciation for CNN in the UK, with last year’s Ofcom news consumption study rating CNN among the UK’s top news sources.”

It's all about money of course and capitalism:-

The global news provider is putting the livestream of CNN International, once readily available on its site, behind a subscription in the UK. CNN argues that the subscription income will help improve the product and make it more readily available to news lovers without them having to pay for TV packages like Sky, Virgin TV, BT and Freesat. The CNNI livestream will be accessible on mobile and desktop, and, at least at launch, Rani Raad says it will be ad-free – although that may change down the line.

That's disingenuous of course, so it looks like my love affair with CNN is coming to an end and I'm really sad. The quality of the journalism and political analysis really has been outstanding. The presenters have been refreshingly polite, incisive and extraordinarily well briefed and informed. The editorial policy has been balanced but ruthlessly focused on the search for truth. They had no truck with Trump, his acolytes, apologists and 'alternative truths', but always fearlessly 'called it out' for what it was, sadly in stark contrast to endless BBC equivocation. 

I'm going to be much less well-informed after 31st August, especially concerning US politics and as an 'Americanophile' that saddens me enormously. It's been a fun journey though and as I say, was one of the major elements of my personal covid survival plan. Who'd have thought that by the wonders of the modern digital age an outfit in Atlanta Georgia could be so significant a factor in my living room here in northern England?   


Thursday, 19 August 2021

Reality Behind Love-in

Blimey. Someone at Napo has torn themselves away from the week-long self-congratulatory probation love-in, that hard-pressed staff have no time for, and issue a response to that HMI report on drugs. I can't help but notice publication didn't interrupt the endless chirpy upbeat stuff on the official Twitter feed though and it was instead emailed to all members this afternoon:- 

Napo’s response to the HMIP Thematic Report on Drugs

Napo members will be frustrated to read this report detailing the many failings of the failed experiment in probation privatisation that was Transforming Rehabilitation (TR). This report is released just weeks after Dame Carol Black has issues her Review of Drugs part two making recommendations for multi-agency, whole system partnership approach with ring-fenced funding.

Declining service provision before and through TR

Many Napo members will recall the former Drug Intervention Programme (DIP) which operated up to 2013. This offered a genuine multi-agency approach to supporting those leaving prison who had drug misuse issues. DIP reduced acquisitive crime by a third but ended in 2013 and even though there were some local attempts to replace it these largely ended in 2014-15 because of TR.

TR brought with it a wholesale disinvestment in provision of probation services. This applied across the CRCs and the NPS. The NPS had to invest early on in infrastructure and was always behind in achieving the appropriate staffing levels. Almost every year since 2014 when the NPS was created Trade Unions were told that staffing would reach steady state in the next 2 years but that steady state was never achieved. Some CRCs made staff redundant early on, some left it until later in their contracts, others relied on not replacing the huge numbers of staff who left. Across all employers there was an increase in retirements and an increase in turnover generally. In 2014-15 there was a TR related baby boom as many women staff timed their plans to take maternity leave to give them respite from the chaos in the workplace. The loss of skilled and experienced staff from the probation system will take many years to recover from and unification is not the answer some might think it is. We are now losing staff who just cannot cope with more organisational change, and also staff who cannot tolerate the excessive workloads and are disappointed to find that the new unified service just brings all of the staffing issues together – it resolves nothing.

Courts and Pre Sentence Reports

Drug treatment requirements have become more difficult for Probation staff working in Courts to arrange. This is because the staff working in Courts are employed by the National Probation Service and up to unification the CRCs were responsible for delivering the requirements. Added to this the push for ever speedier justice means that adjournments for pre-sentence report enquiries are rare. Adjournments are generally needed to allow for proper assessments for treatment requirements but for lower risk cases it can be a huge challenge for Court staff to persuade sentencers to have any type of pre-sentence report, never mind one which will require an adjournment for a few days. The HMIP report highlights the number of people sentenced without any pre-sentence report and this is a real concern, no one can be sentenced to a treatment requirement without a pre-sentence report so they should be mandatory in cases where drug misuse is a factor.

Drug review Courts have also disappeared in most cases and these should be reintroduced to support sentence confidence in treatment requirements as well as to promote engagement and progress for those subject to the requirements. There is real value in sentencers seeing the progress made, sharing in the discussion of challenges being faced and the work done to motivate and support clients to make positive changes to their lives. There is also huge value for clients in participating in this dialogue and feeling themselves to be an active participant with equal stake in the process post-sentence. Much is made of developing social capital and attending drug review Court hearings is a very real way of doing this.

Specific interventions and sentence management

Prior to TR most Probation Trusts operated with specialist teams to work with clients subject to Drug Rehabilitation Requirements and other relevant sentences. These teams were often co-located with the partner agencies who provided the treatment and wrap around services. It is encouraging that a return to this model is recommended and we hope this can be achieved however there will need to be further and significant investment into the system to replace what has been lost. In particular the mantra of resource following risk will be a barrier, most of the cases that are covered by this report will not have been assessed as high risk so will not attract the level of resource that is required to achieve some of the goals.

The report details the need to address some of the underlying issues relating to drug use such as trauma but such work takes time and skill. Contrast this with staff carrying workloads measured at 150% or more of their capacity and the lack of specialist training available to them and the scale of the problem becomes clearer. The Government response that they are recruiting 1000’s of additional Probation Officers is of little use when many of the cases being discussed will be managed by PSO staff. In any case increased recruitment will take some time to make a genuine difference due to the significant loss of staff over the last seven to ten years. The report also highlights the importance of co-ordinating treatment and interventions and supporting and motivating engagement with them. This again is work that required time and skill, and the development of a positive working relationship which is especially challenging when staff have 70 or more clients to work with at any one time.

Some of the recommendations in Dame Carol Black’s review of drugs will support recommendations in the HMIP report however it is difficult to see how staff so overworked and facing significant organisational change as a result of unification of probation will be able to capitalise on this. Training is one way to ensure that probation staff develop and maintain skills in this work but the current focus is solely on system and process based and mandatory training for the staff recently transferred to the Probation Service from other employers and in the professional qualification for trainee Probation Officers. Career development training and the ability to focus on specialism or semi-specialisms seems very far away for most Probation staff at the moment and it will take an estimated 18 months to reach the intended operating model for the unified Probation Service.

Unified Probation Service Operating Model

A search of the unified service operating model reveals only one reference to drugs, in the section describing the limited work of the Community Sentence Treatment Requirement (CSTR) programme. This began in 2017 but has yet to expand to cover all areas. The HMIP report notes that where it exists there are positive improvements but the lack of focus on work with people whose drug misuse is related to their offending in the operating model is very concerning.

Genuinely local multi-agency arrangements need to be reinstated. These must take into account local needs and priorities and will necessarily be different in different areas. This is tricky to do with a centralised model for operations and contracting. The promised improvements to contracting via the dynamic framework of Commissioned Rehabilitation Services (CRS) will not necessarily be the panacea imagined as contracts are awarded centrally and regions can only purchase services or not in the early years, with innovations funds restricted to activities not concerned with delivering the order of the court. This gives little opportunity for local collaboration to meet specific needs.

Napo HQ

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Rain Falls on Probation Parade

It doesn't look like HMI Justin Russell got the HMPPS memo about this being a celebratory week for probation:- 

Probation services – ‘disappointing’ work with drug users ‘lacks focus and funding’

Probation services are responding poorly to drugs misuse and addiction cases, according to inspectors.

Probation services across England and Wales supervise nearly 156,000 people in the community. HM Inspectorate of Probation estimates that almost 75,000 of these individuals have a drugs problem, yet fewer than 3,000 people were referred by probation services to specialist drug misuse treatment in 2019/2020.

HM Inspectorate of Probation partnered with the Care Quality Commission to examine how probation services supervise this cohort.

Inspectors found:
  • too few people on probation receive help to tackle drugs misuse – and when referrals are made, the quality of services is often not good enough
  • funding for treatment has reduced and criminal justice programmes to identify and refer people for treatment have “withered on the vine”
  • very few drug users on probation are being tested for drug use – just one in six of the inspected sample of known users
  • key information is missing, not captured properly or used to commission services. Probation services were unable to tell inspectors how many Class A drug users were on their caseload or how many were in treatment
  • six out of 10 magistrates that the Inspectorate surveyed said they were not confident probation was delivering the necessary treatment.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: 

“Drug-related crime causes widespread misery and costs the public purse more than £9bn a year. Yet there is a lack of focus and funding across the whole criminal justice system to tackle drug use and supply. The current system is not working well and the findings of this inspection were very disappointing.”

In the inspected areas, two-thirds of prison leavers received treatment for drugs misuse while in custody but did not continue to receive help on release. Inspectors were concerned to see poor follow-up arrangements in the community, with the situation considerably worse in England and better in Wales.

For several years, HM Inspectorate of Probation has reported on heavy workloads in parts of the probation service. Some probation officers managed upwards of 70 cases, which affected the overall quality of their work.

The findings in this inspection were consistent with the overall picture, with probation services often overstretched. Practitioners did not always have the time to examine individuals’ back stories and identify factors that could help support them into recovery, stay safe and move away from drug-related offending. Probation court teams made too few recommendations for treatment.

Two-thirds of the practitioners interviewed during this inspection felt they needed more training on the impact of drugs and how to support individuals with trauma and recovery. At the time of the inspection, probation services were delivered by the National Probation Service and privately-owned Community Rehabilitation Companies. Major reforms took place at the end of June and probation services are now unified into one public-sector service.

The Inspectorate has made 14 recommendations in its report to improve the quality of supervision including more drug rehabilitation court orders, greater use of testing, and increased funding for treatment.

Mr Russell said: 

“Probation services have an important role to play in supporting positive change for individuals caught up in drugs and their supply. The new Probation Service must strengthen every aspect of its work with drug users. It needs to build a comprehensive picture of this crime-generating cohort and commission the right services to reduce their drug use. Justice and health organisations must work more closely together, for example to ensure continuity of support for prison leavers.”

Mr Russell added: 

“Earlier this year, the government provided additional funding to improve drugs treatment. While the announcement was welcome, the money is for just one year – we need sustained commitment to fund drug treatment and recovery for people on probation. I welcome Dame Carol Black’s recent call for additional ring-fenced government funding for substance misuse treatment. People on probation should be an urgent priority for any future increase in investment, which would cut crime, save lives and more than pay for itself in the long run.”

Dr Rosie Benneyworth from the Care Quality Commission said: 

“Where services were available and people could access them, we found dedicated health workers providing good quality care for people in need of substance misuse services. However, the vital holistic support provided around this can vary greatly and be a barrier to keeping people engaged and on their recovery journey. Concerns around the availability of these services, along with concerns around continuing engagement with people as they move from one part of the system to another, means that as it stands the right care is not reaching everybody that it should.”

Oliver Standing, Director of Collective Voice, said: 

“Effective drug treatment and recovery has real transformational power – reducing mental and physical health harms, supporting people into super-charged citizenship, healing families and creating savings for the public purse. And crucially it has a strong, proven link to reducing crime – keeping vulnerable people out of the criminal justice and leading to fewer victims of crime in the future.

“The findings of the report are stark. It is estimated almost half of those supervised in the community by the probation service have a drug problem. The fact that only slightly more than two per cent were referred into specialist support in 2019/20 surely represents a systems failure. Although community services have experienced a decade of profound disinvestment, Dame Carol Black’s recent review has set out a compelling vision of a refreshed and renewed system and made the case for major investment. This important thematic review will help to shape that brighter future.”