Thursday 31 July 2014

Last ASPT Report

So, here it is, blog number 39 and my last as Chair of ASPT Board. No literary stuff today.

NOMS / MoJ tells the truth.

Well, it had to happen, and credit where credit is due.

NOMS published the Probation Trust Annual reports, available via the link below. I draw the following quote from page 7, a real moment of truth that may haunt those who might have behaved differently and made some attempts to arrest the progress of a TR programme fraught with danger which will surely fail to meet its own objectives:

"progress could not have been achieved without the positive engagement and support we have received from Probation Trusts."

From our own Annual Report.

As we are talking about annual reports I thought I might just quote a snippet from ours. It is not startling in its content but we were bemused by the kind requests from NOS to make some amendments. It was drawn to our attention that the draft content as submitted to NOMS might reflect poorly on the Board. The Board quite properly considered each amendment proposed by NOMS but declined to make the suggested changes as the content reflected the views of the Board and the more 'sanitised' NOMS version did not. The Board was bemused by the NOMS proposals as they reflected poorly on the efforts being made by NOMS to try to remove or minimise any traces of concern about the TR changes and programme.

So, this is what we said in our report:

"Avon and Somerset Probation Trust business has been significantly occupied in responding to the demands of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. This has meant that, to a large extent, developmental priorities that would normally be delivered within our business plan have not been pursued. “Business as usual” has inevitably been impacted upon by the requirements made upon the organisation by the Programme.
Staff at all levels have operated within a context of great uncertainty and all were assigned to one of the two new designate organisations towards the latter part of the business year. This staff transition process was imposed within a mandatory contract variation served upon the Trust as the employer. The National Probation Service will create new civil service roles for probation staff within seven divisions in England and Wales under the management of the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service. In addition twenty one community rehabilitation companies have been created, currently under the ownership of the Secretary of State, and it is intended that these will, in the future, be subject to commercial competition. As a consequence significant uncertainty remains for many staff.
The Trust has registered serious professional concerns about the fragmentation of rehabilitation and public protection services that we believe the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme introduces for the future safety of our local communities. These concerns remain unallayed and the Trust has delivered all of its contractual requirements in terms of delivering robust and timely exit arrangements."
Nothing there for the Board to feel ashamed of saying, but NOMS didn't like elements of it. Frankly, we were extremely reserved.

We also said the following:

"Our established partnership to deliver Integrated Offender Management has developed very positively throughout the year and the contribution this scheme has made to drastically reduced rates of serious acquisitive crime is testimony to the value of this joint agency approach. Our Integrated Offender Management Scheme targets cases both under statutory supervision and those not subject to any form of order or licence. Our partnership cohort therefore includes a significant number of carefully selected offenders being released from short term prison sentences. Our further joint venture in Bristol, deploying integrated approaches with dangerous offenders has yielded extremely encouraging early results.
We are pleased to have undertaken a joint venture with Barnardo’s to increase awareness of prisoners’ children’s needs and the social capital represented by prisoners’ families. In addition we are proud to be working with Victim Support in establishing pre-sentence restorative justice opportunities. We consider the specialist statutory work we undertake on behalf of victims of serious violent or sexual crime to be of great importance and have been fully supportive of the inspiring leadership provided by the Police and Crime Commissioner in further developing integrated agency arrangements in this arena."
We remain concerned that excellent initiatives such as these, which are hard won, are threatened in this new TR environment. And a reminder - we (and other Trusts) offered to include the under 12 months group as NOMS hoped for (well, we were already doing it), but this offer was rejected.

What next?

Only time will tell. However, our CEO (until 31 July) and I have been steadfast in expressing our fundamental concern about the offender split by risk and the consequential staff split. This is a fault line in the new processes and organisations that will, without doubt, generate confusions, failures, accountability weaknesses, duplications and gaps, and communication errors. I do not wish this on any 'probation' staff, but it is inevitable.

I saw a tweet recently that suggested the value of a consistent NPS approach that might now happen. Yes, but the consistent approach needs to be a holistic one that includes the work of the CRCs, within which there is a coherent and workable system for offender supervision (Hmmm, did we not have that already?). The fault line, to be confused further once CRC contracts are let to a variety of providers, makes it a certainty that this will not happen.

The best we can now hope for is that the CRCs are incorporated within a national probation service with the NPS to reinstate offender supervision continuity, and the rifts that have been created might be healed. I do not think this will happen.

Depending (a bit) on the shape of a future government the more likely scenario (one I have referenced before) is that the concept of 'productive intervention with offenders' will be replaced by a 'surveillance' approach in both the NPS and CRCs, with an increasing reliance on electronic monitoring. This is why bidders might retain an interest - EM is easy and mechanical (scope for savings), but, as shown by HMI Probation, without intelligent intervention by qualified intelligent and supported staff working to constructive values 'easy and mechanical (EM)' are just not enough.

So, 42 years with probation comes to an end for me. It has been quite a ride. Am I sad? Yes, a bit, mainly because our successful and effective Trust in common with others has been destroyed without good cause whilst on a continuing improvement journey. Trusts have endlessly done what has been asked. Yes, because others in leadership roles caved in, or were seduced, without good cause. Yes, because our Board has been dismantled without good cause - a Board that has been challenging and a joy to work with. Yes, because the supremely brilliant working relationship that Sally and I have shared for six years comes to an end, without good cause. Yes, because I do hear the stories of those working in the NPS and CRC and their trials and tribulations - trials and tribulations without good cause. Yes, because there is no basis for TR beyond unevidenced and untried ideology.


That said, I do wish everyone in probation and associated businesses well, even those with whom I disagree. Remember, bearing a grudge harms the grudge holder.

Bye for now.

Joe Kuipers, 31 July 2014.

Another Perspective

The following comment came in over night and I think it's probably a good idea to ponder on it:-
I have read your blog for a long time now – certainly since well before TR stood for anything nasty. I have seen your blog change from the musings of a grumpy PO to something of a focal point for trying to turn the tide as a campaigning blog. I admire your dedication in doing a daily blog and the visitor figures speak for themselves, but I wonder if the content of this blog is doing more harm than good. 
I don’t think TR is a good idea, but I come at this from the perspective of an ex probation officer who has also worked in the private sector, and Westminster. I don’t have an ideological problem with the private sector delivering probation services – anymore than I have a problem with my dentist being in private practice (I would prefer it if he wasn’t though). This means that I am in the majority. As many of your contributors are aware we are in a political neo-liberal consensus just now, and however much you may disagree with it, I see no real signs that is going to change anytime soon. Certainly not at the next election.
I don’t say I’m right and you’re wrong but maybe it is healthy to have another perspective, and this might help explain why more of the same is unlikely to turn the tide on TR. If nothing else the following may at least cause some debate. So a few points:
1. Most of the comments on the blog will not be taken as evidence that TR split is not working. They will be dismissed as teething problems, and self-interest of staff who can’t accept change. Talk of lots of staff leaving will be taken as a positive by your opponents (less redundancy to pay). From the outside many of the comments that this blog attracts will be taken as confirmation that probation is indeed stuck in some kind of time warp badly in need of a shake-up.
2. In Westminster NAPO is seen as a bit of joke and certainly very amateurish, the comments here support that view. 
3. Most staff who survive the outsourcing quickly adapt to their new ‘brand’. We all seem to have a need to belong and feelings of disgust for NOMS and MoJ and previous senior management all help secure staff loyalty to the new organisation that emerges. I saw this at HMP Birmingham who shifted their loyalty to G4S very quickly.
4. In my view the best tactic for stopping TR is to help disgruntled unsuccessful bidders appeal the procurement process. Grayling’s weakness is that he has very little contingency in letting the new contracts. Delaying tactics – especially if they can slow down the letting of any contracts until Feb / March 2015, mean that he could run out of time before the next election. 
5. Ironically the more your contributors are successful in making probation look like a risky proposition, the less the unsuccessful bidders are likely to appeal (they might start to think they had a lucky escape). 
Good luck with the fight. But maybe reflect that trying to resist by shouting is unlikely to be successful – unless you think that your colleagues can suddenly become universally militant.
It's already prompted this reply:-
Your dentist has made an informed choice and as a customer so have you. Leaving ideology aside, the illogical bureaucracy introduced by TR and the cumbersome processes involved where they were once fast, streamlined, efficient and effective would leave genuinely 'innovative' entrepreneurs laughing their socks off. With experience in both the private and public sectors, this is the most ineffective and counter productive idea I have experienced. That is not a slur on my colleagues who battle daily with unfit for purpose IT which is not designed with public protection in mind. Commercial interest has its place but this is not it and with respect I don't think you understand what is happening.
My problem in all this is that TR is a very bad idea, ill-thought-out, dangerous, unlikely to work or save any money. The IT systems are shyte, it won't deliver the desired outcomes and when the private sector take over, it will foster fiddling and fraud. 

It's not as if government has a good track record on shit like this. Lets remind ourselves of two recent similar disastrous policy omnishambles, FiReControl and Individual Learning Accounts. This is what wikipedia says about each:-
FiReControl was a project, initiated in the United Kingdom in March 2004, to reduce the number of control rooms used to handle emergency calls for fire services and authorities. The original plan was for 46 current control rooms to be combined into nine regional control centres (RCC), but this plan was thrown into doubt in May 2010 when the government announced that fire services would not be forced to reorganise.

The Fire Brigades Union, which represents firefighting personnel and control staff at all levels within the fire and rescue service across the UK, launched a campaign against the regionalisation of emergency fire control rooms. The union stated that the project had virtually no acceptance amongst the workforce, which was of major concern to the directors and ministers. Members of the fire brigades union had grave concerns about the diversion of money to the project, and questioned the feasibility of having 30% less control staff available to answer emergency calls across the country during spate conditions. There were fears that the RCC 999 system would become swamped with calls and come to a complete standstill, and the loss of local knowledge amongst call takers was considered a significant risk. Chief Fire Officers feared they would have less control over service delivery in their county, which they felt might be a concern to fire authorities around the country.
All the regional Fire Control Centres were built at vast expense and some still stand empty to this day. The IT system cost a fortune and never delivered. 
The Individual Learning Accounts scheme was announced in the 1997 Labour Party manifesto to support adult education with a system of tax incentives from employers, as well as a cash contribution of £150 to each of a million individuals. The system was biased towards the uptake of information technology skills, following the emergence of the Internet. By the time the scheme was abandoned in October 2001, there were 8,500 accredited providers nationwide. The Department for Education and Skills was investigating 279 providers on the basis of substantial evidence of misselling, and police had arrested 30 people.
TR easily has all and more of the elements required for a classic government cock-up of the first order. These aren't 'teething troubles'. These are concrete examples of fundamental structural failings of a back-of-a-fag-packet idea that is now leading to injury and death. We have a duty as concerned citizens, taxpayers and professionals to draw the folly of all this to the attention of our elected representatives.    

Wednesday 30 July 2014

An Appeal

We clearly have a problem. For months and months, with the help of thousands of probation professionals, we've been cataloguing and collating the mounting evidence as to the scale and scope of the dangerous TR omnishambles that is destroying our service and profession, and the effect it's having on the criminal justice system, our clients and the public. 

Hundreds of staff have left in despair, hundreds more are on long term sick, cases go unallocated, emails go missing, IT systems collapse and now at least one woman has been murdered - all because of Chris Grayling's refusal to admit that TR is an unmitigated disaster and should at least have been rolled out slowly, road-tested first.

The problem is that nothing so far seems to have had the slightest effect in bringing home the seriousness of the situation to our elected representatives or the public. Apart from some notable exceptions, the mainstream media do not seem to feel there is enough of a story here. This shouldn't surprise us that much because the general public never really knew what we did anyway and the media have always had the greatest difficulty in portraying us in any meaningful way, especially in drama. We really do appear to be up shit creek on our own.

August is just around the corner, the time of year universally known by journalists as the 'silly season' because 'news' is normally in short supply. But this creates an opportunity for us to get some headlines and grab some airtime. There is a very well-known TV news programme that is interested in doing a piece about our situation, but we need people to come forward with those horror stories we all know about and ideally be willing to go public on.  We need named CRCs and specific NPS offices where it's all falling apart, risky things are happening and tragedies occurring. 

This is a very big ask indeed given the climate of fear Grayling has instigated across NPS and CRCs, but depending on the circumstances and the nature of the information, my guess is that anonymity may be the only way to proceed in order to get the stories out. Unless we ask, give it a try and see what comes in, we won't know.

I suspect Joanna Hughes is not the only one who is simply not prepared to roll over and see a service and profession destroyed before our very eyes without first having tried absolutely every avenue to try and halt it. If you agree and know something and want to try and help, then contact this blog using the email address on the profile page, anonymously if you prefer. We've got to do something and there can be real strength in numbers and sheer weight of evidence.    

PS I can't resist mentioning the latest blog post by the supremely smug and self-serving Sir Stephen Bubb - at long last it seems to have attracted the attention it so richly deserves!  

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Election Special 3

I must say I was surprised to see Pat Waterman enter the Napo election fray by sending the following email to all Greater London Branch members. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think it's at all appropriate and given recent history, some might feel her judgement and reasoning is a little suspect :-

Who I shall be voting for in the NAPO National Elections

There is to be an election this year for the posts of National Chair, National Vice-Chair and NEC Black Representative. Members who are eligible to vote should by now have received Ballot Papers from the Electoral Reform Services (ERS). Ballot Papers must be returned to ERS by Noon on Friday 22nd August 2014. If you have not yet received Ballot Papers I would advise you to contact NAPO HQ (020 7223 4887) without delay.

Last year Greater London Branch nominated Tom Rendon, a former chair of this branch, for the post of National Chair. Last year I advised the branch that I would be voting for him as I believed that he was :
“the best person for the job; the most capable and competent candidate to lead this union in what will undoubtedly be the difficult times ahead”.
I was delighted as anybody else at the time when he was duly elected. This year there are no candidates from Greater London Branch standing for either National Chair or Vice Chair.

Much as I like the stirring rhetoric of Dino Peros, I shall not be voting for him. This union has had its difficulties in recent years (even before we were split into two organisations). Those who held office at the time have to take some responsibility for what happened among our national officials. We need to move on if we are to survive as a trade union and, in my view, this involves bringing in “new brooms”.

I shall be voting for Yvonne Pattison/Chris Winters. As a feminist, where there is a creditable female candidate they will always get my vote. This time we have two. I also think that “job shares” are a good thing. The unfortunate personal circumstances that led to the demise of the most recent job share should not detract from the commitment of the current candidates to work together. In the 1990’s the post of National Chair was shared between John Hague (a member of Greater London Branch) and Jo Thompson (a member of what is now Trent Branch). This arrangement worked to the benefit of the individuals concerned and to the benefit of this union.

I am often castigated in National NAPO circles for being too London-centric. Voting for Yvonne and Chris would certainly shift the locus of power further north. Neither Yvonne nor Chris are known for their bombastic speechifying. But there is more to being a National Chair. They are both diligent hard workers and I feel sure that my union will be safe in their hands.

I shall be voting for Chas Berry for Vice Chair because of his explicitly Socialist politics. Reading his statement made me quite nostalgic for the old days when I was a member of NAPO Members Action Group. As a founder member of Women in NAPO I believe that women, especially younger women, should be encouraged and so I shall be voting for Katie Lomas for the other Vice Chair vacancy.

Richard Ogwang-Aguma is a member of our Branch Executive and gets my support as the NEC Black Representative.

I know most of the candidates standing for office and my views are based on my experience of meeting or working with them as well as my own personal beliefs. But this is just what I think. Make up your own minds but whatever you do vote. It’s your union.

Pat Waterman Chair
Greater London Branch NAPO

I note with interest Pat's reasons for supporting Yvonne Pattison and Chris Winters and by way of contrast, her reason for not supporting Dino Peros:-
Those who held office at the time have to take some responsibility for what happened among our national officials. We need to move on if we are to survive as a trade union and, in my view, this involves bringing in “new brooms”. 
Here is Yvonne answering a critic on Facebook recently:-
I have to say I am completely disillusioned with NAPO don't really see the point in a vote never mind the union. What are they doing nationally! Tim
Hi Tim there is lots going on nationally with you read the campaign bulletins and other communications coming out of HQ. to give some examples Tania and Ian and sometimes one of the officers meet with Simeon and Lori most weeks who work within Parliament and are feeding information and questions in constantly. Mike and Dean are in contact with Noms constantly and attend regular meetings looking at PI's, measures and issues around TR. We have had lots of effective press coverage in the independent as well as other papers. Believe me everyone at Chivalry Road is working really hard..if there's anything you feel we should be doing and aren't please let us know.

Monday 28 July 2014

Is It Safe Ursula?

Just like many of our clients for whom denial is the natural default position, the MoJ appears to be in total denial mode in relation to the 'safe roll-out' of TR. Despite mounting and over-whelming evidence of chaos everywhere, the MoJ just buries it's head in the sand hoping all the 'teething troubles' will get sorted and everything will be fine. Well, it looks like we may well have the first SFO involving the death of a woman at the hands of a man that should have been under supervision.

This from the Mirror:-
A woman was murdered by her ex-lover because of Tory changes to the probation service, leading Labour politicians claim. The man said to have carried out the attack had already been convicted of domestic violence and was thought so dangerous he should have been under constant surveillance. But his file went missing for a week as the service struggled to cope with being privatised. It was during this time “off radar” that he killed his ex-girlfriend.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said he had warned that the new system would pose a risk to the public – and demanded an inquiry into the tragedy. He added: “I wasn’t alone in warning the Government that their probation privatisation would create a confusing system for supervising serious and violent criminals. “This is a terrible tragedy which might have been avoided if probation wasn’t in utter meltdown.”
Under the changes, 70 per cent of the service is being privatised with firms taking over the supervision of all but high-risk criminals. Sources claim the man was first categorised as high risk but downgraded because of a lack of staff in the remaining state service. And because his files weren’t transferred with him, the private firm wasn’t able to keep tabs on him for a week.
Ian Lawrence, head of probation union Napo, said: “We have repeatedly warned Justice ­Secretary Chris ­Grayling that splitting the service will turn simple processes into time-consuming exercises. “There are significant staff shortages in parts of the country, an IT system that is not fit for purpose and a lack of basic infrastructure in place for these reforms to be anywhere near safe.”
But Justice Minister Andrew Selous said: “It would be irresponsible for the Labour Party to jump to conclusions when there is no evidence our ­rehabilitation reforms have undermined public protection.”
That comment by the brand new unpaid minister prompted this from a named Probation Officer yesterday:-
The response of Selous reported in the Independent was risible. There is not enough information in the press reports, and in any case, such a tragedy deserves full review. However, I have been minded today of the meeting I had with Mr Grayling and my local MP in June, when I voiced my concerns about the risks inherent in the TR programme and specifically with reference to DV cases. I told him that there was a cupboard full of unallocated DV cases in a local office and that this was dangerous. His response was that this was a local leadership issue, and that we should expect "teething problems" in the project. Outrageous. We have spoken out about the risks, particularly in DV cases, till we are hoarse, and it has felt like banging my head against a brick wall. The PCCs have voiced the same concerns. The TUC women's conference was unanimous in expressing concern. Selous trotting out the same old same old is just plain offensive. 
This article by Mark Leftly in the Independent on Sunday provides yet more evidence of widespread chaos:-
 A damning dossier of evidence and interviews compiled by The Independent on Sunday reveals the extent of Britain's probation crisis, as Labour calls for an inquiry into whether the reforms meant a preventable murder took place this month.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has repeatedly denied that the service has nearly ground to a halt as a result of changes introduced at the start of last month. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling split the probation into two ahead of privatising 70 per cent of the service that deals with low-to-medium risk offenders, as 35 trusts become 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). High-risk offenders are overseen by a new National Probation Service (NPS), a separation that has infuriated experienced senior officers.

The dossier reveals:

*A backlog of 75,000 unseen emails, many containing vital information about offenders, to and from probation officers built up in London alone, with similar problems in Norfolk and Suffolk;

*Overworked probation officers: in May, the Gloucester office had 23 staff who wrote 35 pre-hearing reports for adjourned cases, but after the split only six staff completed 27 last month;

*A trust chief executive from Somerset said she has quit because she feels the "fragmentation" of probation is not the "best framework for public protection";

*Former coalition justice minister Crispin Blunt said Mr Grayling should have tested such "revolutionary" reforms rather than just transform the whole service overnight.
The MoJ has repeatedly argued that the probation service has not descended into chaos, despite officers and unions complaining of IT failures and lost files. In an email to the new London CRC, a service desk manager said last week: "[IT provider] Steria has advised there are lengthy delays in the receipt and delivery of external emails. There is a backlog of 75,000 emails to clear." Insiders warned officers were not receiving vital emails from the police, who might be advising that an offender has been arrested. The MoJ said that this was a wider problem that had "nothing to do" with reform.
In Norfolk and Suffolk, a manager warned staff last week that there were "serious performance issues" with critical software, which could result in data being lost. In Hackney, east London, there were 65 offenders given probation from 17 June to 16 July. These offenders should have been allocated an officer within three days; 13 had not by last week. A London man found to have hurt his young child has been allocated as tier two – low risk – when such an offence should have seen him made a tier four, a high-risk offender. This means his supervision could be very different to what is recommended.

Joanna Hughes, a probation officer who quit in May, said that she had been told that Gloucester officers had seen their workload shared between far fewer staff. She said that officers were scared by "implied threat of disciplinary action if they speak out". Sue Hall, chair at the Probation Chiefs Association, said: "Day after day, time after time, there seem to be big new challenges that are testing the new system. Because the reforms were brought in too quickly it would be surprising if there weren't any problems."  
Mr Blunt said that if he was still a justice minister he would have advised that the reforms were tested in two areas before being rolled out nationally. He argued: "You make your mistakes, but then show that you've learnt and then show that it works."
With the extreme heat of the last few days combined with reduced prison staffing levels, we've seen the first breakout of serious disorder at HMP Ranby and with the prison suicide rate increasing, Frances Crook of the Howard League has speculated that the Tories appear to have reintroduced capital punishment.

Some time ago Dame Ursula Brennan, the MoJ Permanent Secretary, promised Parliament that TR would only proceed if it was safe to do so. Is it safe Ursula?

Sunday 27 July 2014

TR Week Eight

For the first time in many years I feel genuinely stressed with work. I have felt demotivated for months now. But the change wrought up on us has meant that my case load has slightly come down but my report writing has doubled. It's not doable. So I keep trying to write good reports as I always did but my work otherwise suffers. What was a nice office to work in these last years has seen most of us become more hassled, less inclined to help and more short fused. It's all very sad. Thank goodness it's Friday and I can forget about the mess that is probation for a couple of days.

Just left work now, but could easily have stayed until Sunday night. Cannot cope with the work, its coming from every angle like projectile vomit. My head is pounding and I don't know which task to do next they are all a priority. Please someone SORT IT OUT. What an utter mess.

Told the boss today my workload is crazy, I'm making mistakes & it's dangerous. She said "they have it worse in the next county".
Assistant Chief said there is national shortage of Probation Officers. Not enough staff to cover the governments proposed agenda. Whoops!
The whole idea of Chris Grayling's reform was that people would be released from their local prison. Except they won't. Cos jails are full.
Probation officers in Court now not allowed to have printed copies of court results, go into court offices or see a judge unless accompanied
Court NPS now prioritising Breaches of orders in favour of the NPS to detriment of CRCs. Breaches being abandoned!
Apparently the probation email system has been hit by a virus - meaning no emails are to be sent. Oasys was updated at the weekend too - only to botch up what was already awful - it seems that assessments and reports completed this morning and yesterday could have been completely lost.

No OASys, no email. Apparently Delius was working but no one can tell.

I'm in NPS and I have a higher caseload than before the split. Of course now all of them are high risk. Numbers of oral hearings are going to increase three fold because of a recent Supreme Court ruling. Also when a case is transferred to NPS because of risk concerns it then stays with NPS permanently. These issues together with loads of PSR's make my job completely untenable. NAPO really needs to sharpen up its operation and communicate this to the people in power.

The other month, for the first time in my career, I felt unsafe during a prison visit. Free flow of prisoners but not enough staff to open doors to allow them to get where they were going. I won't be going back any time soon - videolinks it is for me for now. I am genuinely worried about staff and prisoners who have no choice but to be there. It's going to be a long hot summer. 

In relation to the IT problems...I do hope that once it is resolved, an entry will automatically be placed onto every case, that due to technical problems any records, reports, risk management or sentence plans that may have been completed after Sunday 20/7 to - the date fixed. This will safeguard staff in the event that anything occurs during this period resulting in an SFO or if your integrity and competency is questioned.

I have done 3 SDR's in this period, and will be mightily pissed if they have to reset the system, wiping out all that work. Oh and I am telling Judges why no information has been received from external agencies - cos our Email system is rubbish. Those dreaded Case Allocation Forms - they ask before each section, have you had time to consult with others etc -- well, no is the answer, as the Courts timetables don't work around our IT maintainers ability to provide and maintain.

Oasys not working again today. Pressure is on from every angle but we do not have the IT to do our jobs, its chaos upon chaos. Who ever gets voted in hurry up and sort this mess out. From meltdown Manchester.

Was told of 17 year old sent to prison because court worried about chaos & he wouldn't be safely managed when he hit 18.

Something in my working day needs to give, so I can safely manage my dramatically increased workload.
Seeing more examples of people being given different jobs / promotions. What ever happened to a competitive, unbiased interview?

These retiring chiefs and professional managers who insist “Probation is always changing” (while sweeping their arms in a circular shape) and that “these structures just come and go and the spirit of probation will always live on” are just deluding themselves. TR is not just another incarnation, it distills all that is bad in the last twenty years and destroys everything that was good. The time will come when we will have to pick up the pieces and I hope that someone, somewhere will have the guts to stand up for social work.

I am so relieved to arrive home and to feel safe. I know it sounds mad but everyone is so stressed we have a constant under tow of aggression in our office now, where previously we all got on and I feel anxious all of the time. This can not be repaired.

It's sad that we are made to feel like this at work, all the goodwill and case discussion we had to enhance our practice is gone. I would be very surprised it the private companies would be interested in such a demoralised workforce.

MARAC report to write for a colleague on leave. Thought it would be straight forward but the prison have taken the OASys and NPS have got the Delius because there's a new PSR needed.I know nothing about this man. It's ludicrous.

Dear Bidder. My work is meaningless and without value and so will your shares be. Total Quality Management in action a la Grayling...

Went to see NPS manager I am CRC shafted. He wasn't in his office so I had a sneaky look at a memo on his desk from CEO, I know its wrong, but there's a war now and we need all the information we can get to see what they are up to. Anyway the memo said to offer all NPS jobs to those that have just qualified and did not get PO jobs post split for a fixed term with a view to permanent jobs, and for all those who had previously applied for NPS jobs such as agency staff and are on the reserve list. 

This makes a mockery of the shafting once again, so as we were all made to feel like shit they are now offering our jobs to those who were not even subject to the degradation of the shafting process, were is there transparency and fairness in this? Dirty Bastards. By the way this was from an office in dismantled Manchester.

They seem to be treating CRC shafted staff like they have scurvy, they seem to have forgotten that we had no choice in this, and it seems there is no way back. They would rather employ anyone that can read and write rather than give the post to CRC staff, so much for the "most experienced staff" that was banded about to humiliate us and make us feel that we were somehow less experienced, and worthy, bullshit. 

With the sort of staff now being employed by NPS such as newly qualified, inexperienced agency staff this makes a mockery of those that were shafted into CRC. Well done Grayling you have managed to manufacture a service that will struggle to meet the demands of managing serious cases, arsehole, this goes against your objectives of the shafting process and shows how fundamentally flawed it was.

MoJ is trying to "have its cake and eat it too". If CRCs snd NPS are separate organisations then how can NPS say it will only employ staff from CRCs on secondment? This is presumably to "protect" a loss of staff from CRCs but that's not the concern of NPS. Can this secondment restriction not be challenged nationally I wonder? Needs to be raised with Unions.

West Midlands is seriously going downhill. We need urgent unannounced inspections which will reveal dangerous practices. If there are any journalists looking for a story... here's your chance.

PSR "Unfortunately, due to the recent split of the probation service into two separate entities I no longer have access to detailed records'

Told publicly owned CRC's are currently excluded from increasing establishment due to possible share sale. What happen's if workload increases in the meantime? Is this decision putting public safety at risk?

Saturday 26 July 2014

Election Special 2

I'm pleased to say that the Napo Election Special blog post generated quite a bit of comment and even flushed out some responses from Dino Peros, one of the candidates for National Chair. The observant amongst you will have noticed that there has been no response from any other candidates. This could be for a variety of reasons including they don't read the blog, don't want to acknowledge its existence or don't want to campaign or engage here.

Given Napo HQ's reported attitude to the blog and conspicuous failure to even acknowledge such a large elephant in the room, it would be a little naive to think otherwise seeing as most, if not all the candidates, have very close links to Napo HQ already. 

This is a very important election at a critical time in the future not just of the union but our whole profession. I read somewhere that the turnout for the election of the General Secretary was something like 19.06% - this is derisory and I would venture to suggest we have to make sure that the turnout this time is significantly higher.

This comment from last week raised a number of key issues:-
So according to Jim you would be a better candidate for chair if you posted on this blog!,,,, I am beginning to think that you have a hidden agenda Jim. Some of your posts are very anti Napo and not helpful at all. 
Well, I do indeed have an agenda, but it's certainly not hidden. It has two parts and the first is I want to fight TR. Now the observant will have noticed that all the candidates want to do that because it's akin to motherhood and apple pie. But the second part of my agenda is tackling the dysfunctionality of leadership at Napo HQ. As far as I can see, none of the candidates tackle that one up front in their election statements, but we have this from Joanna Hughes:-
Dino has a reputation for being divisive, but I have always known him to be decisive, committed and actually able to make things happen. Above all, he has been outspoken from the start over TR and will stand up against Napo HQ: certainly, it will no longer be business as usual. I have always found Dino to be approachable, and to have good ideas. Even if his mind is not always conventional and I sometimes struggle with his formidable knowledge about unions and get lost, he has never struck me as someone who puts himself first or holds grudges. Rather, he commits himself to representing others and working for the union, and he is completely committed to defeating TR. While his grammar may leave a bit to be desired, he is passionate and he has shown himself capable of standing up against those at the top of the union, and so I favour him over the other candidates. We need to fight and fight from now until the election. This is also why I would vote for Chas as he is a fighter. (I can’t see a shared post working as they will only have 50% facility time anyway).
For me, and possibly those other Napo members not happy with the way things are at the moment, we would do well to dwell on these passages "will stand up against Napo HQ:certainly, it will no longer be business as usual" and "has shown himself capable of standing up against those at the top of the union."

Now, contrast that with the following on the SaveProbation facebook page:-
Napo now you should have received your ballot papers for positions of chair, vice chair and black's really important that you all use your vote, whichever way you decide to go. You will know by now that I am standing alongside Chris Winters as a job share for chair and I hope that you will consider us as an option. We feel we have strengths which compliment each other, can offer some continuity and a job share will allow for 100% facility time between us too. If you have anything you wish to ask or seek clarification on then feel free to message or mail me here or on napo mail. Whatever you decide, use your votes and let the membership speak! 
Yvonne Pattison
So, given that this blog has consistently highlighted the dysfunctionality of leadership at Napo HQ, members have a very clear choice to make. If you disagree with me and feel "some continuity"  is just what the doctor ordered, you have your candidates in Yvonne Pattison and Chris Winters!

If, on the other hand, you feel like we need more of the same like a hole in the head, Dino Peros looks to be more likely to be your candidate. In political terms it looks to me like an ocean of blue water between these candidates giving a very clear choice between 'continuity' on the one hand and 'no more business as usual' on the other. You pays your money and makes your choice, as they say. 

Whoever becomes Napo Chair, they will need a clear mandate from the membership because we're heading into even more choppy waters than experienced hitherto. We now know that Tom Rendon did not enjoy the support of his fellow elected officers towards the end, or maybe he never enjoyed it, and members need to be aware that history may repeat itself if they decide to cast their vote in favour of a Chair that wants to rock the boat a bit. It's a tough one, but we all know we're up shit creek already. Facing up to the issues now, whilst undoubtedly painful, might just be more preferable than the alternatives that are coming down the track at alarming speed. 

I'm extremely conscious that there is a third option in relation to National Chair with Robbie Bourget, but I simply don't know where she might be in terms of this key issue. For all I know she might be the ideal candidate who's approach to all this falls somewhere between what we might term the extreme positions of the others. The sad thing is we might not know unless people are willing to acknowledge the herd of elephants that currently reside at Chivalry Road and have an honest and open debate about it. I'm always happy to be proved wrong, but it seems unlikely in my view unless there are some changes in personnel. 

I'll just end this by pointing out there has been no mailout to members since the last NEC meeting when Chris Pearson supposedly took the reigns at Napo HQ. Looks like the dysfunctionality is set to continue for a while yet and I'm sorry if that sounds like it's 'anti Napo and not helpful at all', but who's fault is that?    

Friday 25 July 2014

Dear Mr Spurr

14 July 2014 11:16

Dear Ms Brennan and Mr Spurr,

Please find a parliamentary briefing on the state of the Probation Service, voiced by front line staff and halt this part-privatisation as soon as possible before a serious further offence occurs. Both Mr Spurr and Ms Brennan, you have a duty to stop this utter disaster before it becomes worse. I am a Probation Officer who has resigned in protest at these changes and continues to fight the destruction of a world class service. Please read this as I have sent it to Parliament through appropriate channels.

Yours sincerely,

Joanna Hughes

21 July 2014 13:52:19 BDT

Dear Ms Hughes,

Thanks for your email to myself and Ursula Brennan attaching a 'Parliamentary Briefing' about the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms. I am responding on behalf of the Ministry of Justice.

As you will know the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms have been set out in Parliament and are enabled through legislation (the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014). I recognise that you strongly disagree with the reforms and I note that you have resigned from the Probation Service in protest. I do regret that you felt it necessary to do this but of course I respect your view and your strength of feeling. Like you I care deeply about the work the Probation Service does. The current reforms will change the way that community services are delivered and will retain a strong public sector provision working with a range of other providers and partners incentivised to develop innovative approaches to reduce reoffending. They will also introduce statutory provision and support for the first time to offenders serving short prison sentences. These provide really positive opportunities for us to improve outcomes for offenders and the public.

These reforms have a legislative democratic mandate and it is our job to implement this policy effectively and that is exactly what we are doing. I don't for one moment underestimate the challenge of delivering the reforms but equally I don't accept that this is a 'disaster'. It is not, and to suggest that implementation is a 'mess' undermines the professionalism of your former colleagues.

The 'Parliamentary Briefing' you have attached appears to be a compilation of comments from staff about a whole range of issues. I assure you that we have mechanisms in place to deal with issues as they arise at local and national level and I am confident that we are doing just that.

I don't recognise where the £125m figure for the TR Programme comes from but it is wildly inaccurate. The Programme is being delivered within the MoJ's allocated budget and we will fulfil our duty to ensure that as the programme progresses we continue to deliver services effectively for the public and deliver value for money for the taxpayer.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Spurr
Chief Executive

22 July 2014 15:48:05 BDT

Dear Mr Spurr,

Thank you for replying to my email. I know that you are not correct about strong public sector provision and innovative approaches to reduce re-offending. Half the eight bids that involved probation partnerships have dropped out because they believe they cannot deliver a safe service with the funds available. How is electronic tagging, now extended to the under 12 months and probably in future to all low and medium risk offenders (as this will be the only way to make a profit) going to help reduce re-offending? Do you have any idea what reduces re-offending? After 17 years, the one thing I learnt is that it is the relationship between client and officer which is the overriding factor on whether a person re-offends or not. How is Sentinel, with its emphasis on tagging and check-in kiosks going to help with the relationship? How is payment by results going to work when all evidence points to the fact that, in fact, it restricts one's ability to perform any task other than the most menial.

I have just sent you information on the under 12 months custodial group that belies your belief in a 'legislative democratic mandate' and I again send you more evidence of ways in which parliament were misled over this. I am certainly not undermining the professionalism of my former colleagues and it is ridiculous to say so. They are working heroically in the most adverse conditions, having been treated appallingly. There are no mechanisms for dealing with all the issues listed by staff below and they would laugh in your face if you said that to them directly.

Unlike Michael Gove and Chris Grayling, why didn't you listen to the professionals who actually know what they are talking about? What kind of egoism takes place in the minds of those who feel born to rule? I am only asking, Mr Spurr, because you are doing their bidding and, in doing so, ignoring those of us who have actually performed this work day in and day out. This job is a career, which you have ruined for many, and it is ultimately not about business models, private companies wanting to make money or governments wanting to impose a neo-liberal model on society. This is about offenders, human beings who have often never had much of a chance in life, being used as pawns in a political game where rich people get richer and poor get poorer.

I don't expect you to understand me. I talked to you after your speech at the Napo conference in a corridor and you told me that your risk strategy for those who move between low, medium and high risk was solely based on the fact that people were staying in the same offices. Those people are being turned against each other, bureaucracy is increasing risk and you will have a serious further offence on your hands before too long. You and Ursula Brennan have a duty to stop this and Ms Brennan has pledged that she will not proceed if it is too risky. It is too risky,

Yours sincerely,

Joanna Hughes

Thursday 24 July 2014

Omnishambles Update 56

“News is something somebody doesn't want printed; all else is advertising.” - William Randolph Hearst

I know what you're thinking. How can it be Omnishambles Update 56 when we've already had 57 and 58? Simple. I forgot about 56 in draft and went right by it. Of course I could have just ignored it and pretended I hadn't noticed, but I'm not that kind of person. I like things done properly and in an orderly fashion, so 56 it is, even if out of sync.

I notice that Harry Fletcher is being somewhat forthright in his latest blog in saying that, since his departure and despite the impression being given by Ian Lawrence to the contrary, his information indicates that Parliament has been largely ignored by Napo:-   
Just a Few Months Left
The process of selling off the Probation service in England and Wales remains a shambles. Hundreds of posts highlighting the chaos have been logged on the On Probation Blog. That blog should be essential viewing for all MPs and for many it already is. Staff report being taxed twice over because the Inland Revenue think they have two jobs, one for the old Trust and two at the NPS or CRC. Nothing on the IT side seems to work, scores of DV cases are unallocated and a 2 tier workforce is emerging that is class A in the NPS and class B in the CRCs.
There is and has been for months an urgent need for Parliamentary action but little has happened during the last period. Questions both written and oral and points of order should have been asked more or less every day but Ministers are getting an easy ride. One MOJ official expressed surprise to me last week at the lack of a real fuss about the sell off, another said that aspects of the contacting process and of tagging would not hold up to legal scrutiny.
There is to be a lobby in September of MPs by Probation staff, there will need a huge turn out if it is to have any impact.Simple, short, emotive and factual information is needed by all MPs of all parties to maximise any remaining hope of stopping the share sale.
I'm not aware we ever heard what the explanation was for cancelling that briefing meeting in Parliament a couple of weeks ago? To make matters worse there's this:-
Further to the confident expectation by Ian Lawrence that Chris Grayling would be appearing before the Justice Select Committee in September for a one-off TR session - my contact on the JSC has just informed me that:
"There are no current plans for the Secretary of State to appear before the Committee." 
Yesterday we had breaking news regarding the IT chaos. Despite the MoJ trying to put a brave face on things, the shite IT systems are failing:-

Sorry to go off thread but I wanted to update the OASys situation as NOMS are currently looking into a giant hole scratching their heads and wondering what the hell to do! Staff will be aware that the update last week-end caused major problems which they hoped to fix but hadn't been able to at 4:30 today. They have canvassed OASys leads to ask how long we can go without OASys as they advised staff not to create any more assessments as there was a risk they would be lost. Any that were critical it was suggested should be printed off. Looks like they don't expect HP to get a fix in the near future so the only other options is to re-set the system to last week-end. Only trouble is this would mean that any assessments completed this week will be deleted! As if things aren't bad enough for staff this could be the final straw that breaks the last vestiges of morale left. 

The IT system seems to be in meltdown with the email problems yesterday! Today in our office there were a variety of nDelius problems, log on difficulties, access to myservices, laptop security issues to name just a few! Would be interesting to hear from others if they have noticed IT getting worse this week?

We now learn that another key element of the TR omnishambles, the release of prisoners from local 'resettlement prisons' is proving impossible due to the system being rammed to capacity, and that the POA have decided to take action as indicated by this press release:-
The POA has today sent the first legal letter to the CEO of NOMS Michael Spurr as it challenges the recent decision to crowd more overcrowded public sector prisons. The prison population has continued to rise and NOMS has wasted millions of pounds in the last 2 years closing prisons, allowing thousands of staff to leave the service on voluntary redundancy packages all based on the gamble that the prison population would fall.
The POA has consistently warned NOMS and the Government that the prison population was not an exact science and that their policies would crash and burn, placing the public at risk and have serious consequences for the tax payer.Recent media interest on the prison service failings, has resulted in knee jerk reactions and placed a prison service already in crisis at serious risk of meltdown. The public has been outraged following recent revelations by the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the findings of the Howard League for Penal Reform that prisons are grossly understaffed, prisoners and staff at risk of being seriously assaulted every day and level of suicides on the increase. It seems no one is listening or cares.
The POA General Secretary Steve Gillan said,
“We will not stand by and allow prisons to become warehouses or our staff to be treated like punch bags on the back of a political agenda that is designed to save money rather than rehabilitate prisoners. Overcrowding places both staff and prisoners in danger.”

Steve Gillan further added,
“That the level of suicides and violence in our prisons is totally unacceptable. Hundreds of staff are being sent all over the country every day and staff face burn out, as they are forced to work excessive long hours in an attempt to maintain Good Order and Discipline”.
A member of staff recently reported that prisoners were fearful for their safety as weapons and drugs were freely available and no staff around to protect them. When asked why the POA had resulted to legal redress, Steve Gillan said,
“When the employer won’t talk or listen to our genuine concerns we must take all reasonable steps to protect our members, the prisoners in our care and the public."
Finally, I understand that there is likely to be some breaking news regarding Sarah Billiald, former CEO of Kent Probation Trust.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Election Special

All eligible Napo members should by now have their ballot papers, together with details of the runners and riders for the top elected posts within the union. Given the unprecedented position we find ourselves in, I thought it would be worth trying to stimulate a bit of a discussion surrounding these Napo elections, and especially for the key posts of Chair and Vice Chairs. 

Regular readers will be extremely familiar with my views on the 'dysfunctionality' of Napo at the top, and judging by the extraordinary amount of comments generated by last Saturday's blog post 'Taking the Piss', these concerns are shared by others.

So, given all this, what do the candidates have to say about things internal at Napo HQ? Answer, precious little! If you look closely there are one or two carefully-crafted and coded references, but nothing that would frighten the horses after all each must already have fairly close working connections with Chivalry Road. But maybe we can flush the candidates out and tempt them to say a bit more? I know Dino has had a stab on this blog, but what about the others? Are you going to pretend things are OK at Napo HQ?

As a starter, lets look at this blog post from Sunday June 1st:-  
This dysfunctionality and disagreement regarding policy direction has been present for some time and long before Tom took the extraordinarily unwise decision to apply for an ACO post in the London CRC. This one key mistake sadly sealed his fate in the power game at Chivalry Road and he was unable to prevent the summary dismissal of Harry Fletcher from his temporary employment, contrary to the wishes of the NEC. The loss of Harry meant that his well-thought-out 50 point Action Plan was effectively consigned to the bin. 
It's quite likely that one of the officials who so singularly failed to back their Chair will assume the vacant position temporarily and possibly join other candidates in seeking a mandate from the membership (before) the next AGM. I think the membership will want a number of questions answering before casting their vote and in particular may well want to hear what plans any candidate may have in dealing with a whole raft of issues, such as:-
  • An independent inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the departure of the previous General Secretary
  • An internal constitutional review of governance arrangements
  • An effective member involvement and communication strategy
  • A financial, staffing and office accommodation Review 
  • An Action Plan for the continued resistance to TR, sale of the CRC's and member retention  
Lets be blunt about this. I'm reliably informed that there is to be no attempt at a Judicial Review of TR, not necessarily because there is no strong case, but because there is no money to fund it. This was probably always the case, but there's been a certain reluctance to share too much financial information with members. The publication of the Annual Financial Report gives some detail, and members might feel salient questions would be in order.

It's simply madness not to acknowledge that the next Chair and fellow senior colleagues are going to have to take some very serious decisions in relation to the internal structure, staffing levels and future of the union shortly after assuming office. Fighting TR is one thing, but there are serious internal issues to be dealt with as well. 

All the candidates appear to have wide union experience, so I have not republished their respective Napo battle honours, but rather just their statements on what they intend to do. I would advise members to read the full details on each candidate before casting their vote:- 

Robbie Bourget

I have always had a strong belief in strong social justice and am proud to belong to a union which I feel represents this belief. I believe that Napo can and should be at the forefront of all campaigns that centre on a fairer and more equal society because those we work with suffer when social injustice continues. I want to work to improve Napo's reach within Probation and Cafcass so that we become stronger and can carry the struggle forward to improve conditions not only for staff but also for those we serve, whether it be Courts or the clients. I am not afraid to put my views forward (which my MP will attest to) and I am willing to give freely of my own time to meet the challenges ahead and feel that I can represent all areas of the UK because I do not feel too bound to any one area and enjoy the diversity that is the UK. I reside close enough to London to make it easy to keep in touch with Napo Head Office and officials, but do not see London as the centre of the UK, merely a very large population base in a rather small area. London has special needs but other areas' needs cannot be forgotten as they are equally valid. I hope I can have the opportunity to represent all areas of the UK as Chair. Together, let us work to retain our professionalism and our rights as employees.

Yvonne Pattison & Chris Winters (Job Share)

We have chosen to stand as Co Chairs because we believe that collectively we bring a wider range of knowledge, skills and both trade union and professional experience. Whilst we share preferred learning styles (activist/pragmatist), our strengths lie in different areas, enabling us to use them to support each other for the benefit of Napo We have worked together as neighbouring Branch Chairs and more recently within the Officers group and we have evidenced shared views and a commitment to doing the 'right thing' for the wider membership.
In our view the priorities for Napo should be as follows:
  •  Fight the threat of privatisation linked to Transforming Rehabilitation, including the use of an effective media and Parliamentary strategy.
  •  Protect members' pay, codes and conditions.
  •  Ensure that Napo is a supportive and inclusive union for all members irrespective if they work in the Family Courts, Community Rehabilitation Companies, the National Probation Service or Northern Ireland and in whatever role.
  •  Retention of our members and active enrolment of new members, at all levels and in all organisations.
  •  Ensure the promotion of equality and diversity is fundamental to everything which Napo does
  •  The promotion of professional values, training and practice in all sectors of the Family and Criminal Justice systems.
  •  Support Branches/sections and ensure that Napo's structure are responsive to the external challenges but also meets the union and members' needs.
  •  Ensure a continued open dialogue between members and Napo centrally and be open to change within Napo structures if necessary

Dino Peros

Probation is split yet we are not divided! Our spirit and resolve remain strong and we will continue to fight the governments TR plans despite more to come!

The share sale, widely understood will not deliver a safe way to protect the public! We must persevere to ensure Probation remains a Public service and is never for profit.

Your vote to elect the most effective Chair decide who has appropriate experience skill and knowledge to support our common purpose our survival.

It is time for different strengths in this difficult role. Implementing change while incorporating views, from a range of mediums and proactive chairs and members. Ensuring our continued resistance against TRs appalling process.

Allied Unions involvement should be more obvious. PR Napo's priority continuing support to branches prolific posters, tweeters, getting probations defence recorded, recognising members who have been tireless.

Failing I.T, N-delius, resignations unfair selections flawed appeals Sickness increase and collapsing good will. Lack of confidence in the employers accompanied by excessive workloads! New dispute action cannot be ruled out.

I want to ensure transparent reporting for members on all issues. During this crisis! We will find reserves, retain our membership and encourage others to loin. Its not too late.

Having served as Vice Chair, I have the experience to manage immediately taking all members interests forward. We should build the case for judicial review legally challenge the distortions which have been shamelessly spread about Probation.
Vote for me. Thanks!

There are three candidates for two vacant positions of Vice Chair:-

Dave Adams

I am committed to fighting to save Probation and preventing the proposed share sale which will place Probation in the hands of the "privateers". I have led a high profile media campaign in Warwickshire and have had many articles published in local and national media and have been interviewed on local radio on numerous occasions, I have shown on numerous occasions that I am prepared to stand up and be counted and go on the record to publicise the scandal that is TR.

As vice chair I will use the resources that this position provides to continue to promote Napo's opposition to TR and reach a wider audience. I will also work on increasing the membership of Napo in CRCs and NPS in order to improve Napo's influence and representation.

Now more than ever Napo need vice chairs who will show leadership and who will fight to "save probation".

Chas Berry

Napo's strength in the battle to defeat TR has been our willingness to lead an independent strategy, including the use of industrial action, to force concessions that protect significant parts of our terms and conditions. It is this pressure and the threat of further action that is the key to seeing off the privatisation of the CRCs. We can have no confidence in Labour coming to the rescue and must maintain our independent position 
of opposition to privatisation up to and, if necessary, beyond share sale.

Independence does not mean isolation however, and we must try to build on common ground with UNISON, GMB and other unions. Alongside our colleagues in Family Courts we face the common problems of low pay, high workloads and the threat of privatisation. Unity in action around pay can unite us all and seize back the initiative from the privateers. General strike action on this issue would raise the confidence of all workers and send a powerful message that we will not accept the degradation and ruination of our livelihoods.

I am a member of the Socialist Party and have stood twice in local elections under the banner of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). With all the major parties following the same big business agenda it is vital we use our political fund to back candidates that won't do their dirty work for them This means helping those like TUSC who want to see a new party that represents the millions not the millionaires.

Katie Lomas

The last two years have been challenging both locally and nationally. We face further challenges in the months and years to come. Having fought to preserve our proud and precious service, we must continue to fight for our future. It would be all too easy for us to retreat to a safe place at this point. to hide ourselves from any perceived threat or exposure. Despite these feelings we must continue to fight, we must ensure that the public, the Government, the opposition and most of all the media, know what is really happening and the risk being taken with public safety.

This is not the only threat to Napo. we also need to grow as a union, to develop and leave behind the difficulties of the last few years and to become stronger. We are a small Union with a big voice. We need that voice to be heard. I will work to build the Union and make it strong, as I have done in my branch, nurturing activism, ensuring inclusion and that the branch does the work that the members require of it.

I would apply the same approach nationally. The democratic workings of Napo must be accessible to members and  those that carry out the work of the union must represent the membership and be accountable. Being a leader is not lust about being strong, it's about supporting those around you to be strong too, so that together we can fight the threats we will inevitably face.

A few comments have come in already:-

Just got home to open Napo election material. Feel encouraged by the positive & assertive Vice Chair candidates standing: maybe its because I've had a day from hell at work but have no sense of inspiration from those for Chair however. The choice of our NEC reps is going to be even more important.

I would urge people to vote for Dino Peros for chair. He is a brilliant rep who knows his stuff inside out. He has been my rep on one occasion and obtained the desired result. He is very feisty and I feel we need some one like that to deal with the likes of Grayling and the MoJ. He predicted a lot of what has been happening a long time ago. He has a long history of trade unionism and I think he will give Grayling a good run for his money.

I'm impressed by the election statements from Yvonne Pattison & Chris Winters (job share) but know little other than what is written in said statements. Are any readers of this blog able to recommend them? Also, Yvonne / Chris do you read this blog? Be great to hear from you if you do!

One would imagine that ALL candidates would be familiar with the sentiments of the staff as reported on this blog....perhaps THIS will be the forum of choice for their canvassing! 
At least one candidate has started to engage on here...perhaps Jim you might be able to encourage further involvement from the candidates....

Yvonne and Chris for Chair - Good solid and dependable grafters who won't set the world on fire but will certainly get the job done. Chas and Kate for Vice Chairs (though Dave seems ok too) Richard and Ikki for NEC Black Reps. Let's get it right this time for the members people. Show boating, self promotion, cushy directorships, laziness, personal agendas, scandals etc NO THANKS!!!!!!! 

Just listen to the members concentrate on doing what your elected to do and nothing else is required (or else we'll send Pat Waterman in to sort the lot of you out - so behave yourselves!!!!!). Thanks.

Napo needs a strong leadership. If only Pat Waterman were to run for the National Chair. Tough job ahead for the elected National Chair. Yvonne and Chris may be seen as a pair of safe hands but are they capable to lead the union through this challenging times? We need someone who is capable and able to steer our much loved service away from the mess Grayling has put us in. Having said that, respect to those candidates who have put their names forward. We just need to get it right this time round as we appear to be losing members in numbers.