Tuesday 30 June 2015

Lawyers Take Action

It looks like the legal profession is determined to take on the Government over Legal Aid cuts:-

Urgent Information for Members further to Ballot

Dear Colleague

As you will be aware there have been a series of meetings across the country to discuss action against the 8.75% cut which is effective for all new criminal legal aid work commencing tomorrow. These took place in conjunction with the on line ballot.

There was a meeting of London practitioners last night at which over 100 practitioners and over 100 members of The Independent Bar attended. The meeting overwhelmingly supported the motion that solicitors cannot take further instructions on new starts after midnight tonight. To do so would place us firmly in breach of our professional duty. Many of us signed a pledge in October 2013 in which we declared just this. In January we face a further cut on litigator fees, in some cases more than 50%. This means that we will be having to make choice in many cases as to whether we visit clients in prison and make a loss, or make do with limited instructions and the consequences that follow.

We are opposed to Dual contracting, and seek to persuade the MOJ, as we have consistently done that the cuts which give rise to this program of forced consolidation is not necessary and dangerous for the fragile system within which we operate. Mr Gove cannot say on one hand that he wishes to move away from a two tier justice system whilst also implementing this programme.

At the meeting last night we received strong indications that some firms would withdraw their bids. We are interested to hear from firms who wish to take this step, in order to assist our research.

Firms individually decided that they would decline new instructions from midnight 1st July in respect of all legally aided matters save for discharging their contractual obligations as duty solicitors.

Whether a client is represented as duty solicitor or not, no legal aid certificates will be applied for.

Firms are entitled to take the view that whilst there are short term concerns over the vulnerable and those accused of serious offences, they cannot be represented to a professional standard under the new rates.

The duty solicitor will be available to assist these clients, during the time they are detained in the police station. For this to be effective, the duty solicitor or representative might want to cover the slot without relying on back up.

The view of firms at the meeting is that they will not be accepting back up calls during this period.

We understand that the Ministry of Justice may be preparing to brief journalists with regards to such cases where clients have been left without representation. If any of you have counter takes of clients that have suffered under the existing system please forward them through.

Most of the Big firms have agreed to support this action and a few that haven’t have agreed to a “no poaching “policy.

This really is the last opportunity attempt to protect what we have been fighting for over the past two years, please don’t be out off by the “what ifs”, which have allowed the MOJ to do whatever they want to us.

See documents below that may assist together with a letter to Mr Gove from LCCSA & CLSA.

1. Protocol for the action

2. Note to duty solicitors as to how they can help

3. Note to advocates to hand to others at court who may be unaware of what do are not acting

4. Leaflet to client explain the action

5. Statement from LCCSA

Please let other firms in your area know about this action, and if you can arrange meetings.

LCCSA is not seeking to encourage any breach of contract. You have each signed your contract with the LAA and it is your responsibility to comply with your obligations under the said contract and you must ensure that you do so notwithstanding whatever decision you have reached as an individual.


Guest Blog 41

I am a TPO who started as part of the big graduate recruitment onto the PQF. I had already been working as a PSO in Probation prior to this for 3 years, and before that worked in programmes in a Prison for 2 years so consider myself to be slightly different to the majority of my TPO colleagues. 

Our experience has been a frustrating and confusing one thus far. Aside from the recruitment process being shambolic with last minute interview dates given, having to wait nine weeks to find out if we were successful, finding out where we would be located two weeks before we were expected to start, I also had the added rigmarole of having to transfer from the CRC to NPS. Cue approximately 50 phone calls to shared services to prompt (and in the end push) them to correct my contract to acknowledge my continuous service and terms and conditions.

Since training has begun, I have to say management in my area have tried their hardest to help make this a positive experience for us. They were completely left out of the recruitment process and were given little to no guidance as to what should be done with us as we embarked upon a 15 month programme to become a qualified probation officer. Training events have been organised giving us sometimes only 48 hours notice that we need to travel a significant distance, they have also been cancelled sometimes on the day(!) via email when we have all already been on our way to the location. Getting cases has been a nightmare as very few of the NPS caseload are suitable for TPOs; I am only lucky with my previous PSO and programme experience that I have been allowed to have more 'meatier' cases than my fellow TPO colleagues.

I am so grateful to be finally training. It is what I wanted to do when I graduated in 2010 and it is what I have had in the back of my mind through my career so far in that I feel I have tried my hardest to get as much relevant experience as possible. I worry for my fellow TPOs. There is a sense of naivety, and with some perhaps a complacent bravado attitude of 'I can handle anything'. There seems to be a reluctance to ask for advice and a desire to push ahead with making decisions without consulting more experienced colleagues. This is all well and good, however training events thus far have focused on theory with little advice as to how to complete the more practice elements of the job, such as assessing risk of serious harm, completing MAPPA referrals, assessing for HDC etc.

Unfortunately the way training was sold on the website highlighted the starting wage of a Probation Officer and some seem to be using this as their main focus to succeed. Well, what 22 year old wouldn't want to be earning near enough £30,000 a year after graduating from University? What some of my fellow TPOs fail to realise is the true demand of the job. Most only have a handful of cases, have yet to work with the most serious of NPS cases and experienced the stress and difficulty involved in this. I have yet to experience this either, but know from my experience thus far not to go in with rose tinted glasses.

They estimate that there are 750 trainee probation officers as a result of this recruitment drive. A meeting with our regional head last week informed us that they were not clear what would happen with all of us when we qualify. When asked if we would get the PO role they have stated we would be 'transitioned' into, the response given was vague and went along the lines of 'you will need to be very flexible with regards to location'. When there are TPOs training across the country, I cannot see how there will be vacancies in other areas if there are no vacancies in the area that we are training in. It's also all well and good saying be flexible, but that isn't so easy with a young family to think about. I fear there will be a number of floating qualified POs kept in PSO posts with attempts to make them hold PO cases. I certainly will not agree to that.

I find myself feeling anxious and uptight every day, having to remind myself why I am training. I love this line of work, I love working with offenders and coaching people to make even the smallest of changes to their lives. But I look around and see stressed and tired colleagues, I read this blog and feel for the experiences of POs and other NPS staff around the country and wonder what I am doing.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If anyone has any advice for me (I am expecting a number of leave whilst you still can!), I would be most grateful.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Third Sector Blues

It was always said that the Third Sector were only involved in TR as 'bid candy' in order to make the 'big boys' look better. Grayling said it was to make sure we got 'the best of the best'. Here are some edited highlights from a long article on the Third Sector website indicating all is not well:-   

Transforming Rehabilitation: Will the sector be properly involved?

When the Ministry of Justice announced the preferred bidders for its Transforming Rehabilitation programme in October, the voluntary sector featured prominently. Sixteen voluntary organisations were named in the successful partnerships for prime contracts and about 75 per cent of the 300 subcontractors included in the winning bids were not-for-profits.

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary at the time, hailed the programme for bringing together "the best of the public, private and voluntary sectors to set up our battle against reoffending. I am pleased that we will be deploying the skills of some of Britain's best rehabilitation charities to help these offenders turn their lives around."

Eight months on, the programme has begun, but there are doubts about the actual scale of the sector's involvement and whether the subcontracting issues that blighted the Work Programme are being repeated. One large charity in a prime partnership has withdrawn and many smaller voluntary organisations that expected to be involved have not yet been given any work.

Clive Martin, director of Clinks, an umbrella group for charities that support offenders, says the sector's involvement appears to have been oversold. "This was paraded as a big opportunity for the voluntary sector to transform services, and the sector bought into it," he says. "It begs questions about the future of the sector in public service reform and the use of charitable money to bid for it."

Martin wants greater funding transparency and also expresses concern about the reluctance of charities to speak out about the programme for fear of upsetting prime providers. "That doesn't bode well for the sector's role in advocacy," he says.

Clinks and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations began monitoring the sector's involvement in Transforming Rehabilitation in May in order to get some accurate data. Nick Davies, public services manager at the NCVO, says this will lead to the creation of a special interest group to represent subcontractors, similar to the one the NCVO created for the Work Programme. "This is a very large flagship programme and all eyes will be on it to see if it becomes a successful model," he says.

Davies is encouraged by the greater emphasis on fixed-fee payments than on payment by results. The NCVO has accused private firms in the Work Programme of "creaming off" easier clients and "parking" the remainder with the voluntary sector.

But in TR there is widespread anger among subcontractors who have yet to receive any work, let alone payments. One chief executive, who does not wish to be named, was informed last year that her organisation would be involved, only to be told five months later that its services might not be required until some time in the future.

"It's ridiculous," she says. "The government rhetoric about the voluntary sector being involved is a load of rubbish. We and many like us were totally hijacked last year into engaging with the TR roadshow, which involved many meetings all over the place and taking time to engage with the possible primes. They required much paperwork.

"Meanwhile, other large mainstream funders seem reluctant to risk supporting small criminal justice system organisations involved in TR, either because they fear they will not survive it or they do not want to fund activity that is contributing to a large private sector organisation's profits, or activity that is seen to be mainstream statutory activity."

Another chief executive of a small charity, speaking anonymously, says it has received no work yet, despite assurances. "Our experience has been appalling," she says. "I feel extremely let down. All the messages were that local organisations were key to the delivery model."

Matt Wall, national secretary of the Community Chaplaincy Association, says the transition from a publicly run probation service has caused massive upheaval and consequently "charities have fallen down the list of priorities".

Wall estimates that between five and 10 of his organisation's 21 members that provide prison projects are in contract talks, but adds that urgency is needed. "Small charities don't have many reserves and, if they have to wait another three to six months for funding, it could cause significant strain," he says.

Wall also fears that some traditional funders, such as local authorities and trusts and foundations, will withdraw support because they mistakenly believe the CRCs cater for all services related to criminal justice, and he is anxious about the bureaucracy associated with offering enhanced support to 45,000 people, however laudable the goal. "I hope it doesn't lead to a universal, mechanistic support for everyone," he says.

Meanwhile, the spectre of the Work Programme, which was widely condemned for contracts that loaded risk onto charity subcontractors, looms large. Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, says: "There are concerns that it's the Work Programme all over again – but it's potentially more complicated because it's more difficult to measure people desisting from crime than getting into work."

Some CRCs are said to be working better than others. Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs, which helps prisoners in north-east England, says it has had contrasting experiences with its two primes: Achieving Real Change in Communities, which won the Durham Tees Valley contract, and Sodexo, which leads the Northumbria contract. Attewell says that because ARCC is a voluntary sector organisation and is used to working in partnership with charities "it feels like a more organic relationship". The relationship with Sodexo, she says, hasn't been as smooth, but she adds: "The problem is not Sodexo. It's the legislation. Providers are scrabbling to do the best they can in a timescale that's too short."

Companies and charities that run primes are reluctant to discuss their experiences. A spokesman for Interserve says it does not want to comment at such an early stage. Sodexo is consulting unions on plans to reduce staffing levels and a spokesman says it is reluctant to discuss matters while this is going on.

A spokeswoman for Nacro, the charity partnered with Sodexo in six CRCs, says it is too early to tell how things are working. "We should know more in six to 12 months," she says. Mark Simms, chief executive of the social exclusion charity P3, which is also part of Purple Futures, acknowledges it has been hard work so far.

"The private sector has had to learn to understand the voluntary sector, and we have had to learn to understand the commercial world, but the relationship is solid and based on absolute honesty," says Simms, whose charity has taken on 60 staff to provide services. "You don't get a brand new service one day and 100 per cent change the next. I understand the frustrations, but we have to get this right."


Pact, the prison advice and care trust, was named as a subcontractor in 14 CRCs at the preferred bidder stage. Its chief executive, Andy Keen-Downs (right), says no contracts have materialised yet, but it hopes to finalise three or four in the next two months.

"We invested heavily to be ready for contracts," he says. "It's not great for our budget-setting, but we expect things to happen in the next few months."

Keen-Downs says the complexity of remodelling a probation service that still retains a public sector element has caused all manner of problems.

"There have been some Kafka-esque situations," he says. "There have been stories of the probation service and CRCs falling out over who owns buildings and in some cases dividing them in half, like in Steptoe and Son."

He says some prime contractors have found the MOJ's Industry Standard Partnering Agreement, which promotes subcontracting fair practice, to be "cumbersome", putting them off engaging with charities. Charities, he adds, are unhappy about prime providers inserting clauses that say they own and can license the intellectual property of services.

"There's no way we are going to agree to that," says Keen-Downs, who fears it could lead to companies eventually hiring their own staff instead of using charity subcontractors. This was about transforming services, and we have yet to see it happen. We haven't given up on it. We think there is real potential for the sector to deliver fantastic solutions to reduce reoffending. But it could end up as a repeat of the Work Programme."


One particular Third Sector partner featured on here during the week:-

Spent hours last week with our 'supply chain partners' Shelter helping two hard to place young men into accommodation. Two days into this week they've both abandoned their housing projects.

I've been dealing with Shelter. I've someone due for release in July and in March I rang Shelter in the prison to advise the guy would be NFA so needed helping - they told me to ring back closer to his release date. I therefore rang twice a week for about the last 3 weeks leaving messages and in the end wrote to the prisoner to tell him to go and tell them I'd been ringing and wanted to know what they were doing to help him - feckin ridiculous having to go through prisoners to get agencies to answer my flaming messages, anyway next thing a phonecall off Shelter to say that they had referred my guy to a housing agency but cos they knew he and a member of staff were 'connected' (I'm unsure how) they couldn't help him and so all they could do was fill in a Mainstay form with him. Now this is the interesting bit, they said that they will fill the form and send it off but won't be ringing around any hostels etc as they've not got the time etc to do that.

If Shelter read this and want clarification of prison and people involved I am happy to give them. What a load a bull!!

I've got someone coming out in a few months and the prison tell me they have no resettlement support, absolutely nothing they can offer him.

Is that Shelter as well? I am absolutely hopping mad at the way they have ignored me. I feel quite angry an agency such as theirs are being paid a lot of public money to provide a service and to have the balls to actually tell me they'll do a mainstay form and that's it - worst of it is I knew this would happen and I was particular when I was fobbed off in March to make them accountable in June.

The extent to which CRC staff know what Shelter are doing is that they'll do something on Delius, an NSI, which at the end of the day is what they'll be using to get paid.

I have spoken recently with several people (all substance misuser's) that have recently been released from short custodial sentences. All are currently on the streets, and it seems that the normal avenues of being able to get short term or emergency accommodation is drying up and becoming much more difficult obtain. So much for through the gate!

I know many agencies have had their funding cut, or even stopped, but I also get the feeling that some agencies no longer want to, or at least feel uncomfortable engaging with Probation services.

Earlier this week someone posted on this blog that they had difficulties engaging with Shelter and finding a client a placement. I've heard several tales of late where people have found placements with agencies from other avenues where those same agencies were unable to help prior to release, or through negotiation with probation. This seems strange to me, and wonder why relationships between certain agencies and probation don't seem as harmonious as they used to be? Is there any identifiable reason? Or is it just the sign of the times?

Hi. As the National Contract Manager responsible for the mobilisation of the new Transforming Rehabilitation Through the Gate service, I am disturbed by the experiences outlined in the blogs above. Shelter takes all complaints about our service delivery seriously and with that in mind I would be grateful if you would contact me directly to discuss further - contact details John_Ryan@shelter.org.uk Mob: 07581785521

Are you serious Mr Ryan? Do you honestly think an employee of a privately-owned CRC, or a former publicly-run Trust would be stupid enough, let alone authorised, to make such a complaint? You are deluded if you think it possible!

Saturday 27 June 2015


Dear Jim,

Hope you are well - it is now 10 months since I left the Probation Service for the world of Adult Social Care - it is all very busy and I am still on a massively steep learning curve with loads of new legislation to learn. There is life in this old dog yet. Anyway, please find below a non-too reassuring email from GMPF. Having gone from one LGPS scheme to another without a gap, I have been anxious that my pension statements do not show an apparent space for the time I was employed by dear Xxxxxxxx CRC, because the role of administering the pensions was transferred to GMPF - it would seem that that will be at least the case because they seem to be still struggling with the number of early leavers.

That I left 10 months ago and the fact that my leaving Xxxxxxx CRC has not been processed yet has to be cause for concern. Sodexo's intentions are going to put them in a tail spin. You may want to share this info with your readers with the additional warning that before anyone thinks of leaving their Probation employer on either side of the divide, they ensure they have copies of all the transfers experienced as the Probation Services morphed into Trusts and then NPS/CRC. On a standard Pension statement it looks as if someone has been swapping employers, so any terms and conditions related to length of service that can be transferred will be lost, unless you can prove you did not move, it was just your employer who changed legal status. For that you need those transferring letters. For once I was glad of my squirrel tendencies.


Dear Mx Xxxxxxxx

Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) – Transfer

I can confirm that we received your leaving form from your employer, Xxxxxx CRC, but unfortunately, due to a large volume of these, it’s still waiting to be processed by our Early Leavers Team. As you have stated that you are interested in transferring your pension benefits from us to your new employer, Xxxxxxx Council, to avoid any further delays, I have asked our Early Levers Team to process the leaver as soon as possible.

Once this has been processed you will be awarded deferred benefits, which means that your benefits will be kept ‘on hold’ with this Fund until either you reach retirement or until you transfer them to another pension provider. Once your benefits are deferred, our Transfers Team have confirmed that they will send written confirmation of your membership details to Xxxxxxxxx Council and will also write to you to confirm that this has been done.

They have also advised that once Xxxxxxxxx Council receive the details of your membership from us, they should contact you directly about combining your benefits.

You may wish to discuss this matter further with Xxxxxxxxxx Council.

If you have any further queries, please contact us again.


Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx - Pensions Officer
Pensions Office - Helpline
Greater Manchester Pension Fund


To: Branch Chairs, Secretaries & Treasurers

Dear Colleague,

Branch funding arrangements and assisting membership participation in Napo

At the November NEC last year, a decision was taken as a result of a large deficit forecast for the 2015 budget to reduce the Branch grant from 6% to 3% for 2015 to assist with deficit reduction.

This followed a decision taken by the NEC in February 2014 which required that Branches must return 50% of any surplus funds held in the branch account on the 31 December into the Napo Organising Fund by the 1st May of the following year. This was accepted as an amendment to the operation of the fund and the rules of the fund were updated accordingly in the Annual Report for 2014. The terms of this formula can be found in that report in section 4 of the Napo Organising Fund (page 57). Essentially, this sets out the arrangement where Branches must return their surplus before making an application to draw their new Branch and AGM grant.

Whilst it is acknowledged that this has not been a universally popular decision, Napo continues to face a number of challenges to the way it organises and finances its activities as a result of the fall in income from subscriptions which has largely been caused by members leaving the Probation or Family Court Service. It is hoped to restore the Branch grant to its former level ideally in 2016 or as soon as the Napo consolidates its financial position. Meanwhile, the National Executive Committee and Napo Finance Sub-Committee are constantly keeping the situation under review.

Contingency arrangements

If any branch are experiencing financial difficulties they may, on presentation of a business case and a copy of the branch accounts, make a claim for additional funding in support of their activities. This would be in keeping with the purpose of the contingency funding arrangements which includes supporting activities designed to encourage attendance by Branch members at Napo’s AGM. This is in keeping with the previous decisions of Conference and NEC Meetings to facilitate a more equitable method of supporting members to fully participate in their union.

Enquires from Branches about the contents of this circular can be directed to Keith Stokeld National Treasurer who will be pleased to try and assist you.

Yours sincerely

The Napo Officers’ Group



22 June 2015


Dear colleague, 

PAY AWARD 2014/15 

I am writing to inform you that the Employers have presented the following as the full and final offer to conclude the 2014/15 pay award. This resulted from negotiations in December at the NNC between Probation Trade Unions and the employers’ side, representing NPS and the CRCs: 

A non-consolidated and non-pensionable lump sum payment will be made to eligible staff as set out in the table below. 

NPS Band/Non consolidated and non pensionable payment 

Band 1 £300.00 
Band 2 £300.00 
Band 3 £300.00 
Band 4 £330.00 
Band 5 £345.00 
Band 6 £385.00 
Band A £415.00 
Band B £470.00 
Band C £510.00 
Band D £590.00

Staff eligible will be those on the maximum of their pay band range on 31 March 2014 and in post on 31 March 2015 Payment will be pro rata to an individual’s contracted hours. NPS will be implementing this in June. 

I would be grateful if you could arrange for this payment to be made to eligible staff at the earliest opportunity. I very much appreciate your co-operation in supporting the request for you to make this payment to staff in respect of the pay award for 2014/15 under the national agreement.

Ian Poree Director, 
Rehabilitation Services - Commissioning & Contract Management

Friday 26 June 2015

Latest From Napo 63

This from the latest blog from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-


I reported earlier this week that the two disputes registered by Napo and Unison reps in South Yorkshire and Northumbria were to be considered by the National Negotiating Council (NNC) Joint Secretaries (of which I am one, and Francis Stuart of NOMS is the other).

Whilst I am in discussion with my Employers Side counterpart about the wording of a possible determination of these and one other unrelated dispute that we looked at yesterday, I am naturally limited in what I am able to say about them right now.

Meanwhile, it is reasonable to reveal that the genesis of these two disputes and the six others that have been served over the last fortnight or so, is that the unions believe that any attempt to vary a National Agreement cannot, under the terms of the protections that were secured from the former Secretary of State, be a subject for local discussion unless first referred to the NNC.

I am sure that many members in those six CRC’s, who are anxious to understand what it is they might be offered if they apply for EVR, may see this as a side issue but please read on.

During the many discussions that have been going on between NOMS, Sodexo and their six CRC’s it has become inescapably clear that Sodexo are not used to collective bargaining arrangements such as the NNC, and that we are not used to having to deal with them; but nevertheless we need to find a solution that accommodates this fact of life.

As I write, we have just had another full and frank discussion with Sodexo, but one which I hope has produced some constructive outcomes. I believe we can find a way to enter structured discussions about the EVR issue, whilst at the same time being able to assure members that we will be seeking a mandate from you and acting upon it. The unions are also asking that our national collective bargaining machinery will be respected at the same time, and that such a process must also allow the unions the normal opportunities to properly consult with those members most likely to be effected.

I appreciate that everyone with a potential stake in all this wants to know what is going on by the minute; but be assured that your negotiators are doing the right thing for you and all those Napo members in other CRC’s who may find themselves in a similar situation in the near future.

It’s very likely that more news about the situation will emerge early next week.

Guest Blog 40

Grace Under Pressure

Rather than offering a polemical post, here are a few brief jottings that hopefully will engage the wider interest of probation colleagues and other readers who may not be so familiar with this much lauded lecture series on the changing shape and direction of the Probation Service held in memory of Bill McWilliams. Having just attended the above lecture I aim to share with readers of Jims Blog some edited highlights! 

It was a particular delight given the tumultuous events over the last year which have seen the fractious fragmentation of a once unified and public Probation Service, to be able to attend The Eighteenth Annual Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture - Grace under Pressure :The Role of Courage in the Future of Probation Work which was thoughtfully delivered by Anne Worrall (Professor Emerita of Criminology Keele University) and which was held at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge earlier this week on Tuesday 23rd June. The format of this years lecture was enlivened by the inclusion of practitioner/academic interlocutors in the second half of the afternoon in the shape of Morgan O'Flynn (Probation Officer) and LoL Burke (Editor Probation Journal) and proceedings were impeccably facilitated by Professor Mike Nellis.

It was perhaps understandable, given some of the toxic fallout occasioned by threats of mass redundancies, real risks of de-professionalization, technological mishaps and the oft-cited associated farrago of morale sapping foreseeable organisational difficulties which pepper many of the contributions to this Blog from colleagues now working in the NPS/CRC divide as a result of TR, that the lecture started with a coy request that attendees should 'suspend justifiable cynicism' when listening! 

My immediate impulse was no 'tell it like it is', but with wry historical references to earlier premature announcements of the 'death of Probation' (ie SNOP 1984), the media stereotypes of probation presented in the TV Series Hard Cases (1988/89) and the illusive notion of a 'golden age nostalgia' shaped by unfettered professional and organisational autonomy faced critical scholarly scrutiny, but were balanced by snippets from the burgeoning ethnographic literature (including Anne Worrall's co-authored text 'Doing Probation Work - reviewed in the Probation Journal 2014) on how front line practitioners endeavour to 'make sense and order' of endless systemic change, ossified managerialism, privatisation and rancorous political interference. 

Rather a bolder narrative, based on extensive fieldwork and research, offered an account of workers resilience, refashioned occupational identities,optimistic practice and working courageously against the flow of centrally imposed risk-saturated diktat was advanced. (recall these insights are based on recent fieldwork in a fast changing work environment).

It was instructive to note that the newly appointed Justice Secretary Michael Gove was making his first major speech on the same day, although I doubt that even the most cynical would suggest that this was as a spoiler! The adage that framed the title of the lecture was taken from writer Ernest Hemingway's definition of courage 'as grace under pressure (or fire)' and Anne Worrall continually drew on this notion of 'civil courage' as part of the working credo of probation workers seeking to find meaningful spaces in which to undertake 'edgework', that is working at the boundaries of practice to ensure effective engagement with clients in an 'emotionally literate' way in the chaotic landscape of contemporary probation. The focus remained very much at the front line, although the scattering of now 'ungagged' former Chief Officers in the audience did not elicit much in the Q&A session by way of revelatory 'grace under pressure' moments in the lead up to TR! 

There was much mirth at the mention from one practitioner at the distribution in one CRC of 'BIONIC' badges (believe it or not I care!) as part of what appeared a misguided and facile organisational rebranding exercise, although there were some considered contributions about the scope for 'innovative' practice mainly drawn from CRC colleagues. This 'search for excellence' is of course partly offset by the problematic cash/target nexus enshrined in many of the CRC contracts! (contained in sobering outline in a recent NAO interim report on TR).  The vexed and much debated hot topic of the role of the Probation Institute and in particular how its 'code of ethics' could be better integrated into the practice arena, informed the latter part of the lecture and my reference to the cautionary demise of the College of Social Work in the Q&A slot, whilst noted, did not seem to presently unnerve many of its proponents in the audience.

I was struck by Anne Worrall's references to the Stand Up for Social Work Campaign (re launched by Community Care 2015) whose central messages of Taking pride in the great work that you do and talking about it to inspire others, Being honest about the challenges you face, Having the support you need to protect vulnerable people. Clearly demands the need for strong collective voices, making the right noises, shaping as well as responding to the political agenda, taking the public with you, and the need for strong collective voices (user voices did not merit much attention!) and alliances to create public awareness and debate (in/out of Parliament?) 

The imminent demise of the College of Social Work and governmental threats to jail Social Workers who fail to act on allegations of abuse suggest that these voices certainly need to hold fast to 'civil courage'!! There were nodding acknowledgement to what was denoted as the 'great unspoken' in terms of the 'feminisation of probation work' an unbalanced gendered workforce, the choking off of entrants from more diverse backgrounds in the labyrinthine qualifying regime, and the current gender split in CRC/NPS.

The centrality of the professional relationships, the demonstrable benefits of partnership working (IOM's) core values as encapsulated in the Probation Institute, looking outward towards workable organisational models of supervision in Europe, as against some of the macho-correctional cross-overs from the US, were also canvassed in the broad sweep of the lecture with the ever recurrent theme of civil courage undaunted by organisational changes but evincing a bold embrace of proven and valued driven evidence led practice, left the audience with many ponderables to take away. 

The full text of Anne Worrall's lecture will appear later in the year (Howard League Journal?) and the enduring worth and success of the Bill McWilliams Lecture (now surviving without former financial corporate support from the PCA/PBA) and whose continuing viability will it seems rely on the wider support of all those with an indelible commitment to the best of what probation has to offer. I later had the bibulous pleasure of informally meeting up with some of Bill McWilliams family in one of the popular hostelries overlooking the River Cam before catching the train to London with my estimable colleague Chris H. As a fitting tribute to Bill McWilliams legacy to probation, for those new to his life and work, I append this excerpt from the invitation to the lecture:-

Bill McWilliams, who died in 1997, had a prestigious career as a probation practitioner, researcher and writer. His quartet of articles on the probation service’s development up to the point at which the “punishment in the community” debate began, is now widely regarded as its definitive history of ideas. He was a staunch advocate of the need for rigorous evaluation of probation practice – but an equally staunch critic of the excesses of the management ideal. He had an independence of mind – irritating to more timid souls – that won him friends across the spectrum of political opinion in the Service. There are many who would say – as W.H. Auden said of George Orwell – “how I wish he were still alive, so that I could read his comments on contemporary events”.

Mike Guilfoyle

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Latest From Napo 62

Blog post today from Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary:-


Our top priority over the last few weeks has been the ongoing dialogue with senior Sodexo management about their offer of an Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme (EVR) which was supposed to shield the 600 staff who have been deemed as surplus to requirements from the possibility of being made compulsorily redundant (that’s sacked in everyday language).

Surplus to requirements: it has a dreadful ring to it doesn't it? Being in the frame to no longer be able to continue the career you entered many years ago which, through no fault of your own, is quite likely to be taken away because the new contractor who now owns your employer a) did not know how many staff it was inheriting and b) claim they cannot afford the terms of voluntary redundancy. Leaving aside the incredulity factor, both of these are fundamental issues that would have been very clear to anyone with half an idea about how to structure a competitive tender. What we now have is a classic blame game between the contractors and the MoJ about what they were being sold (see earlier posting: 'Salting the Mine') which again highlights another aspect of why TR has been and will continue to be an unmitigated disaster.

I will leave it there in advance of tomorrow’s meeting of the NNC Joint Secretaries where the parties will be discussing the two disputes that were registered earlier this year in South Yorkshire and Northumbria CRC's over EVR and the job cuts. The outcomes will be reported to Sodexo reps next week and we are currently considering how we can best consult with our members in all the Sodexo owned CRC's at the earliest opportunity.

Of course the whole farcical situation has been brought about by Graylings ideological reforms that have not only caused such serious uncertainty among Sodexo owned CRC staff but which were the genesis for the creation of the NPS which is creaking at the seams and which, one year on, still cannot demonstrate that it knows whether it is paying its staff correctly, and, as all too many members can claim from bitter experience - sometimes not at all.

Shared Service Problems

A good opportunity then to ask frustrated Napo members who have been suffering with pay problems to appreciate that these are not Napo's fault and that we have been (and are) throwing as much in the way of resources as we can into trying to get involved in personal cases that have been referred to us. Dean Rogers has a substantial number of members on his books in addition to his other equally important responsibilities and is working extremely hard to assist.

The reality is that this commitment of resources to helping people in difficulty is unfortunately no longer a shared one; since the NOMS specialist who was working with us on these cases has not had their contract extended. The other major factor is that the Shared Services division is in private ownership following its outsourcing to Steria (another wizard decision by the unlamented former Secretary of State for Justice) and guess what? They also plead that they didn't know what they were buying which also has a familiar (as well as dreadful) ring to it.

We will be issuing a separate update next week on the current situation and how we have been raising these problems at the highest levels.

More news to follow on Friday.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Sodexo News

E-mail to staff in Northumbria yesterday:-

Good afternoon everyone

In my previous email dated 11 June part of the agreed statement included that 'We expect to be in a position to communicate the outcome of those discussions and the offer to staff during the week commencing 22 June. As part of that announcement we will also provide you with supporting information and facilities to raise any issues.'

Unfortunately despite a great deal of discussions at national level we still aren't as far ahead as I would have liked. Below is a further agreed statement released across all six of the Sodexo-owned CRCs providing an update on where we are.

You will be aware from recent communications that Sodexo has, on behalf of its CRCs, made a formal voluntary redundancy package offer to the national unions and that the details of that offer are currently being considered by union representatives.

We had hoped to be in a position to communicate the outcome of those discussions this week, however as discussions remain ongoing we have decided to grant the unions a short, one-week extension to enable them to consider the proposal in more detail.

We appreciate that this undoubtedly a challenging time for all staff and that many of you may be disappointed not to have received details of the offer in the anticipated timeframes. We wish to assure you that this extension is a temporary arrangement and that we will seek to publish details of the staff offer at the earliest opportunity after 1 July 2015.

Thank you for your cooperation and ongoing commitment during this time.

I recognise that this is extremely frustrating for everyone and am pushing hard to get us to a position where we can share clear details with you about our restructuring plans. I'm as hopeful as I can be that this will be possible by the beginning of July so as soon as I can I'll be in touch.


Nick Hall
Chief Executive
Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company


Comment from yesterday:-

The unions have already rejected the offer you haven't seen yet. The six branches linked to Sodexo owned CRCs have all gone into dispute because of the company's intentions to put the offer to their staff when it has not been agreed at the NNC, something that is ALSO against the National Framework Agreement. In short, watch the unethical behaviour of this notoriously unethical company unfold over the coming days. This is why we were fighting to oppose outsourcing; because these companies are interested in only one thing and will achieve it at all costs including breaking agreements and even, if they think they can get away with it, laws. The only defence is to hold them to account in the way that Serco and G4S were held to account over electronic monitoring.

Friday 19 June 2015

A Difficult Subject

There's a rather remarkable play on in London at the moment and I'm rather glad I made the effort to see it. 'An Audience with Jimmy Savile' by Jonathan Maitland at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park North London is playing to capacity audiences and certainly helped me to understand rather better the warped thinking of this serial sex-offender. 

The performance by Alistair McGowan as Jimmy Savile is unnervingly believable, riveting and quite clearly emotionally draining and I really do hope he has plenty of support for what is undoubtedly an extremely taxing role. As an impressionist and accomplished actor, it's hard to think of anyone better able to play this part and he richly deserves all the credit for agreeing to it. 

Some may feel this play is too early, but I'm with many victims who seem to be saying it's actually high time to be exploring these issues and talking about Jimmy Savile, precisely because he appears to be in danger of being edited-out of our national and institutional consciousness. 

I gather there are at least two extra performances and this from the LondonTheatre1 website:-               

Jonathan Maitland said, “We were always determined that some of the profit from this show should go to support the amazing and vital work that National Association for People Abused in Childhood do, and I’m pleased to confirm that we will definitely now be in a position to make a substantial donation to them at the end of the run. What pleases me more than anything is that the play has had overwhelming approval from the many survivors of sexual abuse who have come to see it, as well as the wider theatre going public.”

Gabrielle Shaw, Chief Executive for NAPAC said, “We are delighted with the success of this outstanding play. ‘An Audience with Jimmy Savile’ shines a light on how Savile got away with his terrible actions, but even more importantly it highlights the varied experiences of those who were victims of his abuse. NAPAC works with adult survivors of childhood abuse, and the producers’ donation will go directly towards this work – notably the NAPAC support telephone line which offers free and confidential advice and a listening ear for those trying to deal with the trauma they have suffered.”

Jez Bond, Artistic Director of Park Theatre said, “I’m thrilled that Park Theatre has helped bring this important play to the stage. The reaction of our audiences after every performance reminds us just how successful theatre can be in raising the debate on current affairs. There’s much to be learnt from this disgusting piece of our society’s history – and I’m proud that we’ve been able to play even a small part in the autopsy of the events.”

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Bits and Pieces 5

While we continue to contemplate and record the demise of probation, it's probably high time for another selection of stuff that's caught my eye recently. It was going to be a weekend selection box, but I just got overwhelmed with negativity following the PI announcement on Friday. First off then, this from the Guardian:-

A day in the life of a prison governor: 'I never feel that I'm off duty'

I arrive at prison at 7.15am. As a duty governor, I know I’m in for a long day. We are contracted to work 37 hours a week, but we almost all work significantly longer hours, without overtime, just to meet the minimum demands of the job.

Today it is 10:15 when the first alarm sounds. When I arrive at the scene, I see a group of uniformed staff and I am told one of our officers has been assaulted by a prisoner. A prisoner is on the floor, being restrained by staff. A staff member gives me a brief account of what has happened, and the prisoner is then escorted, unrestrained, to our segregation unit.

The assault on the officer is serious. Her white shirt has blood on it, her face has scratches around the eye and she also has a nasty bite mark on her upper arm. We have to make sure that the officer is being cared for and evidence is preserved. She must be photographed, her clothing must be bagged and she will have to attend A&E within the hour for a vaccination. We have to take statements from witnesses, and the staff who intervened must complete the paperwork.

Having to manage an incident such as this is stressful, but it’s a controlled stress. The biggest pressure when you’re a governor is never being off duty and coping with a constantly overflowing volume of work.

Governors are leaving the profession and prison officer numbers have been cut. At the same time, the number of incidents we have to deal with, including attacks, suicide attempts and instances of self-harm, has increased. In the year to September 2014, there were 1,958 serious assaults in prison – an increase of 33% on the previous year. That figure includes 431 attacks on prison staff. It all makes for an increasingly demanding job.

At 5pm, there is another alarm. This time I arrive at the cell in question to find staff visibly shaken and the prisoner surrounded by nurses. It turns out that a prisoner has swallowed a J-cloth and paper towels. Despite the officers’ best efforts, they were unable to dislodge the blockage and the prisoner could not breathe.

We are lucky enough to have on duty a doctor whose previous role was in a hospital A&E department. He uses abdominal thrusts and manages to partially dislodge the blockage, enabling an officer to pull it out of the prisoner’s mouth to the sound of air rushing in. The prisoner is alive but needs to go to hospital. It is near the end of the main shift and we have to provide officers as an escort. This will mean that there won’t be enough staff to unlock prisoners for their association periods (time out of their cells), which will lead to discontent.

It is now 9pm and I am still in the prison. I wait for the assaulted officer to return to provide support and to get a first-hand account of what happened. The officer is grateful for me waiting to speak with her.

There is a plethora of paperwork to complete and it is only at the end of the day that I have time to reflect. In between these two incidents I am responsible for the smooth running of the prison – from handling people management issues to tasting the prisoners’ food (a mandatory requirement). As governors, we are expected to possess a wide range of skills, from incident command to contract management. It also helps to have some knowledge of medical law and to have the people skills to deal with everyone from a violent prisoner to a judge.

Some stress is healthy, but the frequency of incidents and the increase in the volume of work means that we find ourselves being stressed beyond those sensible doses, which results in governors leaving to become train drivers or vicars. Some prisons are more stressful than others but all are subject to the same degree of public scrutiny, particularly if something goes wrong.

Today, I eventually leave prison at 9.45pm. But the day doesn’t end there – I am now on call until 07:30 the following day. The author has worked in the prison service for 28 years.

It's no use MP's or anyone asking questions about CRC's because this is the response you'll get:-
On 1 February 2015, ownership of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) transitioned to new providers. CRCs are now separate, private entities, contracted by the Department to provide specific services and as such are responsible for determining their budgets, staffing levels and staff salaries. As they are autonomous organisations, the MoJ no longer holds details of their budgeted annual expenditure.
In terms of staffing, while CRCs are contractually required to have sufficient suitably qualified and competent staff, they are responsible for determining their own staffing levels and recruitment. No Chief Executives and only a small number of staff at Paybands A-D left their CRC posts during January 2015 while CRCs were still under public ownership. Since 1 February 2015, staffing has been a matter for CRC owners. The Department has not issued guidance to CRCs on recruitment.
Here's former HM Chief Inspector of Probation Andrew Bridges with some typically weasel words and reflecting on TR last October:-

In fairness, it’s not easy for people working in the Probation world to be optimistic when you’re trying to get your day to day Probation job done at a time of constant upheaval and rebranding, capped by the most recklessly gung-ho reorganisation that Probation has ever faced. The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme is indeed fraught with potential risks, plunged into boldly when the current Justice Secretary decided to forgo the pilot projects planned by his predecessor, so in this context it’s not exactly easy to feel optimistic.

Indeed, if I’d been asked at the planning stage whether I thought that the TR programme was a good idea I’d have had to say No, as it clearly sets out to change much too much, much too quickly. In particular, it was a bad idea to divide off so-called “High Risk” cases, and have them supervised separately by a rump National Probation Service. But once it became the policy of our constitutionally elected Government, I – and everyone else involved – had a choice to make. 

One option is to snipe from the sidelines, as many commentators do, saying loudly “I wouldn’t start from here”, and then walk away, while another option is to try to help make it work – or at least offer to do so – hence my offered prescription. For I have little patience with the ideological position-taking approach to discussing public services, when many people decide that being state run is unequivocally a good thing, and privately-run a bad thing, or vice-versa. 

It’s effectiveness that I’m interested in, and in my experience none of the different forms of ownership have a monopoly on either success or failure. You can do a good job whether you are a public or a private organisation, and I’ve been happy to assist either type of organisation to try to do a quality job, and I still am.

Under the TR Programme it will be harder to do this than it should be, which is why I say we have to be sober in our plans. But I think it can be done, which is why I also say that our approach should be optimistic. So why my sober optimism? 

First, I have a belief in Improvement, and also that with rare exceptions it does not require a budget increase to achieve this. 

Second, although I have a strong emotional attachment to public service, and its virtues when it is at its best, I know that it can have its drawbacks, particularly when it has no competition. Meanwhile, although private companies can sometimes behave pretty badly, they are also capable of performing very well. 

And third, new organisations can sometimes have the creativity and flexibility to devise new ways to do the work better. (To this end, will ‘staff mutuals’ - organisations co-owned by their staff - as well as other types of organisation, get the opportunity to prove themselves successful in the new Probation world?)

Contrast the mealy-mouthed stuff from the likes of the former HMI, Probation Institute and even Napo, with this from Lord Rasmsbotham, the indomitable former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. He has some sound advice to offer the new Justice Minister Michael Gove on the OurKingdom website. I'll end on some highlights from this absolute masterpiece that really does warrant reading in full from a true friend of probation:-

Want to improve our prisons, Mr Gove? Stop. Look. Listen.

There is no doubt that too many of today’s politicians are ill-equipped to judge the practicality of ideas, or to know, from experience, just how essential is proper leadership of any people who are involved in the delivery of any programme or activity. This makes it even more important that they should seek out, and listen to, those who know what they are talking about.

I fear that politicians have inherited a most unattractive blame-culture, which amounts to trying to ensure that they can never be held responsible for any decision or action, for which they might be blamed. While I can sympathise with them for their lack of experience, I am always sad when I see them falling back on the traditional tool of the inexperienced — the presumption that the measurement of the quantity of process, based on prescriptive targets and performance indicators, is an appropriate substitute for professional judgement of the quality of outcomes. This cult of managerialism is the curse of our age, not least because it is so widely practised by inexperienced Ministers and officials.

Nothing encapsulates the danger of this more than the recent introduction of Payment by Results for services commissioned by NOMS, and/or the Ministry of Justice, for the rehabilitation of offenders. I have lost count of the number of times I have said in the House of Lords that ‘People Are Not Things’. Every person, offender or otherwise, is an individual, who will act differently, think differently and behave differently, in different situations, from other people. Therefore you cannot generalise about offenders in the same way that you can about things such as different types of baked bean for example, or assume that any measurement of quantity, other than their overall number, has any meaning.

On Day 1 as HM Chief Inspector of Prisons twenty years ago, I asked the Home Office statisticians how they measured the re-offending rate, on which the success, or failure, of the offender management system seemed to be based. They told me that it was impossible to measure and what they actually measured was the reconviction rate, which they did by counting up court appearances. I have come across no evidence to suggest that that situation has changed, yet Ministers continue to refer to the un-measurable as if it were a Holy Grail.

To say that you will only pay organisations, for achieving — or deny them payment for failing to achieve — something that cannot be measured, suggests that you are out of touch with the real world.

Such action risks alienating the voluntary sector, which does more than 50 per cent of the rehabilitation work with offenders. No organisation, or its funders, can afford to wait for the three years that it takes to measure the so-called re-offending rate, to be paid for services rendered. If such organisations walk out, or are forced to close through lack of funds, Mr Gove’s ability to rehabilitate offenders will be seriously diminished.

When Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, introduced what is euphemistically called the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which is not a service at all but a system with its own bureaucracy, it was dubbed by some of its concerned opponents the ‘Nonsense On Marsham Street’.

It seemed to them, as it did and still does to me, that the last thing the Criminal Justice System needed or needs, is yet more bureaucracy, not least because both offenders, and those who have to manage them, are people, and ‘People Are Not Things’. Notwithstanding the dedicated hard work of many admirable individuals within it, the organisation and structure of the management of offenders has been dysfunctional for years, with operational staff crying out to be led rather than subjected to the cult of managerialism.

Since the introduction of NOMS, two of the three Secretaries of State for Justice have interfered with the management of offenders in a way that would not be tolerated in countries such as Sweden, the worst offender being the first non-lawyer ever to have been Lord Chancellor throughout the long history of that appointment. I hope that Mr Gove will not be tempted to do the same, because managing offenders is a time-consuming task, requiring considerable skill and training that neither he, nor the vast majority of the bureaucrats who surround him, possess. There is no reason why they should, because they have other parts to play in the whole process, for which they need different skills and experience.

Mr Gove might like to reflect on the fact that, unless things are right for staff, nothing will be right for prisoners. That is the way things are now.

Staff numbers have been cut below a sensible safety and operational minimum – witness the increased number of assaults, the number of times the emergency response teams have had to be called out, and the number of activities for prisoners, such as education and training courses, that have had to be cancelled because there simply are not enough staff to escort prisoners to them.

Far too many prisoners are left locked up in their cells all day, doing nothing, which is the very antithesis of rehabilitation, and hardly the best way to help them to live useful and law-abiding lives in the future.


Austerity is, or ought to be, a very powerful driver of all that I have mentioned. Mr Gove has an awesome responsibility, to exercise which he has been given a suspect bag of tools. Rather than rush in, with yet more theories, with which the Criminal Justice System, and particularly the Prison and Probation Services, have been bombarded for far too long, I beg him to ‘Stop’, before doing anything, ‘Look’ at what is required of him, and ask himself whether his present organisation is capable of doing what is required of it, and ‘Listen’ to those who know what they are talking about, and can tell him what will or will not work.

Armed with the knowledge of how much it costs to run an agreed offender management system, a regional structure, in which each region has someone responsible and accountable for supporting the management of its offenders, and an operational structure in which someone is responsible and accountable for consistent treatment of and conditions for each type of prison and prisoner, he will be in a position to run an offender management system that has at least a sporting chance of being able to protect the public. If he can go further, and persuade the Prime Minister that, it would make sense for one Minister to be responsible for co-ordinating the contribution of others, he will be in a position to determine whether and what remedial action needs to be taken to mitigate the ‘revolution’ rushed in predecessor. On his decision rests the protection of the electorate.

Monday 15 June 2015

Game Over

By nature, although probably a pessimist, in most situations I strive to look for the positive and that's generally been my approach to this blog, but I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that it's all over guys. The recent trumpeting of a professional register by the Probation Institute and the deafening silence from Napo in the face of a barrage of questions from members just serve to confirm what's probably been the situation for some time, probation is finished.

Despite having a huge amount of respect for the likes of Sue Hall, former CEO of West Yorkshire Probation Trust and Chair of the Chief's Association and now Director of the Probation Institute, she seems blissfully ignorant of grass-root feeling towards the PI. Ever since its launch jointly by the MoJ, Napo and probation employers at the height of the battle against TR, it's been viewed as nothing more than a Trojan Horse by many in the profession. Any attempt to suggest otherwise on this blog has meet with a resounding raspberry and all the indications are that this view persists - and there's a feeling the scheme is rubbish anyway:-  

It's a very confused register. For instance, an ex-client working as a peer mentor could join as an Associate Member for £10-40. Same goes for a volunteer or student. If either of these groups are employed by any organisation providing probation services but have no qualifications, for £40 they could become a Registered Member and add MPInst to their name. A qualified and employed probation officer has to pay £60 for the MPInst privilege which rises to £80 as an Advanced member if they declare a Masters degree. It's unclear where one has to be "employed" to meet the criteria of Category C MPInst, but managers also meet the Category D 'Advanced' criteria if they have 3 years management experience and a Masters degree but are not required to have a probation officer qualification. Managers of Category B who may not have probation experience also meet the Category D criteria if they have a Masters degree. For £100 nearly anyone can become a Fellow and use the letters FPInst, which is dependent on showing a contribution to the sector or expertise with two supporting referees.

Let's take Jim Brown as an example. He's a probation officer and wants to join the register. He pays £60 and becomes a Registered Member. He's not happy that the Sodexo managers that have barely seen a probation office are Advanced Members so he declares his Masters, pays an extra £20 and becomes an Advanced Member too. Not contented that the MPInst letters on his email signature are in use by volunteers and all of the PI linked UserVoice who paid £40 less. He decides to up his game, declare his blog identity and for a further £20 becomes a Fellow and updates his title with FPInst. He then realises that FPInst is more worthless than MPInst as it's been pimped out to not only current/former chief officers, but also academics, privateers, self-declared justice experts and others that have never stepped foot in a probation office but were not content with being Associate Members.

Even if we did need a professional register, this money grabbing format that was clearly designed to backslap our current/former leaders and romance the privateers, is definitely not the one! What says Napo?

Love it! Just looked up the PI membership levels. If I'm reading it right, to be a professional member level C you need a professional qualification BUT for the higher level D you DO NOT need a professional qualification! I have many friends and associates with MBAs who have worked in various settings and it appears they can become a probation manager for 3 years then register at a higher level than me with my relevant degree, probation qualification, 15 years experience and continued professional development. Which other 'professional institute' would allow this?!

I thought it was only dubious academic set-ups from which you could buy letters to put after your name. Seems not, as the Probation Institute is now in the marketplace. For your money you can suffix MPInst. I am not aware of any rules that govern this process. Anyone can set up a society, or whatever, and then charge a registration fee for the privilege of using what are called post-nominal letters. The PI needn't stop at letters, they could start flogging a coat of arms and then members could wear epaulettes and bits of gold braid. And there's always tattoos for the enthusiastic. Anyway, seems probation staff don't need any more letters in addition to what everyone already gets for free: JFDI.


I'm reliably informed that the NPS is currently putting 750 people through probation officer training, but there are nowhere near that number of vacancies likely within the Service and especially in the light of the impending budget cuts announced by the Chancellor. There are not likely to be any PO vacancies within CRC's because as we all know, redundancies are imminent and the role of PO will almost certainly disappear just as soon as the new owners can manage it. None of them understand probation, but they now make all the key decisions. It's utter madness.

In any event, as Saturday's Guest Blog 39 graphically outlined, even the infamous 'best of the best' NPS seems to be morphing into a bureaucratic nightmare, admirably confirmed by others on this site:-

Thank you for your guest blog. There you have it straight from the front line, a snap shot of what is undoubtedly replicated right across the country. I adopt many strategies in order to cope, but the best one is to keep my head down, in an attempt to avoid detection from above. I understand whilst this is effective for me, it is not always possible to adopt such a strategy. I too have seen my colleagues crying, being sick and then going off on long term sick. Amongst my colleagues there is still a sense of support and camaraderie and if I want anything I go to my colleagues first.

I too do not read any "communications" from central control. There is no time. I have one priority, my caseload. Paperwork, targets are a low priority. I will always help my colleagues and see people who come in for others. I ask myself above the coal face who is there for us? It feels like a void. Indeed if there can be "nothing" it almost feels like nothing.

NAPO I feel a loyalty to office reps and local officials, but it stops there. Again it feels like after them there is "nothing". Plenty of "communications", but PLEASE LISTEN NAPO, it feels like no one up there at the top table is actually doing anything to help us out down on the shop floor.

I have been in the service 20 years plus and feel exhausted with it all. I am a person that is super optimistic, but sadly I do not see this entire sorry situation improve anytime soon. I hope I will live to see the entire welfare state, health service, public transport and our service once again back where it belongs, entirely in the public sector. Until then I continue to fight against this rotten system wherever I can. See you in London on 20th June.

NPS now have a system with process maps for every NPS process. All the relevant PIs are attached to each process. It looks good apart from there are about 300 processes to re-learn. Disciplinary threatened if you miss a step in a process.

Yes - looks good so long as the (a) IT is working at all and (b) can load a page before timing out. Then there's the implicit assumption that each process map covers all eventualities. Additionally - I forget - does whatever workload measurement too in vogue this week have an allowance for the amount of time per day spent looking at the little Microsoft hourglass where the cursor used to be? If not, it needs to.


I think it's increasingly hard to disagree with the view often expressed on this blog that the Napo gameplan throughout TR has simply been to hang on to as much cash as possible in order to pay for staff redundancies and arrange a merger with another union. The leadership has been abysmal and structural deficiencies glaringly obvious to all but the Napo top table. They continue to fiddle as Rome burns as the saying goes. Membership is leaching weekly; legitimate questions from the membership go unanswered; check-off looms; cash gets divvied-up and the top table 'negotiate' with CRC owners over redundancies. Confidence is at all-time low, but they just carry on regardless at the top:-

I am completely fed up with NAPO. They have failed me and many more members. The best they can come up with is a survey. Everyone in our office was laughing. NAPO has absolutely no shame. It's fucking unbelievable. 

I have been a member for the past 9 years. I have never needed to call upon their help regarding disputes, thankfully. However, what I do expect is NAPO to represent my interest as a UNION. So far their whole strategy around TR has failed. NAPO are rapped up in secrecy i.e. Jonathan Ledger and we have a fucking union that is getting into bed with the Probation Institute. Has NAPO got any self respect or what? Disgraceful. Come Sept I have no intention of signing my direct debit mandate. I have paid them enough for what.... NOTHING.

I agree with some comments made here, however I am anxious that all this NAPO bashing is doing us no favours. National NAPO are far from perfect. I'm a Vice-Chair on my local branch exec and we are all frustrated with NAPO nationally but slagging them off on a forum like this isn't helpful. We are the members, if we aren't happy with them lets do something about it and take back our union. We need to keep NAPO alive, I don't want to become part of PCS or god forbid Unison!! I want to be in a probation specific union. If we don't like how things are being run, lets get together and do something about it. As they say, talk is cheap! Our members in CRC and NPS are struggling, we need to be strong and unified. I can't carry on with this job the way it is, NAPO is the only way we can make improvements locally and nationally.

Why do we need to keep the union that ballsed up the opposition to TR? Also, do you have any regard for admin colleagues (god forbid Unison!)?. 'Not helpful' is usually PC shorthand for 'you are telling the truth and it isn't what I want to hear'. Go back to the censored and manipulated Napo forums. This blog is not for the likes of you. God forbid!

NAPO is not the only way and we don't need to keep NAPO alive. Don't flog a dead horse. Let's merge with Unison or PCS and be part of a proper union. Probation isn't big enough or important enough to stand alone. It's time to stand together as the wider public sector.

In my view it's not even worth contemplating a palace coup at the AGM because who is competent and waiting in the wings to take the reigns? The cynic would say that member dissatisfaction is likely to result in a slow take-up for places at the AGM anyway and the possibility of inquoracy just plays into the hands of those at the top keen to see the status quo continue. 

It really pains me to say this, but I think Napo is finished because I see no sign of anyone emerging who is capable and strong enough to take on the General Secretary and instigate a root and branch revamp of internal structures from top to bottom. I mean look at this - just more of the same:-


June, 2015

Dear Branch Chair

I am writing to seek the support of your branch for nomination to the post of Vice-chair (with additional responsibility for finance). Our Union has been struggling against the most serious threat from a government that appears hell bent on putting the public as they drive ever onwards with their ‘public sector bad, private sector good’ mantra. 

As interim national Chair last year I was proud to take the fight against privatisation to the limit. Unfortunately, our small union just wasn’t able to take on the might of a juggernaut government determined to push through TR no matter the cost. Now more than ever our members need a union that will promote their interests in the most difficult of circumstances, defend public safety and ensure that jobs are secured for the future. 

This isn’t an easy time for Napo; organisationally, politically and financially the coming months and years are likely to be trying. This government has made clear its intention to assault unions through the limitation of facility time and the removal of check-off for subscriptions. I believe it is essential the union has an officer who:
  • understands finances,
  • will ensure that a deficit budget isn’t set (as has been again this year),
  • will properly account to the NEC for all expenditure,
  • has experience of managing budgets up to £millions,
  • recognises the importance of having comprehensive and fit for purpose financial regulations,
  • and will focus expenditure on protecting members’ futures
I joined Napo just weeks after starting as a Trainee Probation Officer, have held local branch positions and was a member of the National Executive Committee for a number of years. When the need arose last year I stepped up to take on the Chair’s role to steer the union at a critical time.

Our union needs strong leadership across the Officer group as we move into the new era. I offer such leadership, with experience of managing large finances. 

I would welcome a nomination from your branch.


Chris Pearson


I really do sense a growing body of practitioners wanting to throw the towel in and it angers me immeasurably to have to agree with them. I can't see any hope of saving this once proud and honourable profession that shows every sign of imploding daily. This is not an untypical view:-

I am not concerned about TR anymore. They broke it. End of. Now I just have to engineer my departure for an employer who has some idea of what it is doing and a chance of actually achieving something of value. That used to be Probation. Then came Carter and then came chaos. Nothing to worry about. It is over. Probation, on both sides of the divide, is about to become a 'joke' service like the Border Agency, the Work Programme, Domiciliary Care Services, Court Translation Services, Local Authority Housing Departments (that offer no housing), NHS hospitals where people die of thirst or hunger.... you get the idea.

Anything outsourced is doomed to deteriorate. I cannot think of a single service where this has not happened (speak to the staff and service users, not the management or politicians). It's all gone to s*** because the politicians are corrupted by their own ambition. Nothing to worry about.

Thanks you are so right, probation as we knew it has ceased, it is smashed beyond repair. Personally, I am working on my exit strategy. Public service as it used to be is consigned to the dustbin. MPs are the only people who believe themselves to be public servants now and look what a self serving shower they are, there's a gravy train and they and their cronies are the only ones riding it.

The astonishing truth is that there is no one who we can trust to speak authoritatively for the profession, let alone be in a position to try and save it. It seems to be left to a very grumpy PO at the tail end of his career to provide a platform for others to record the lingering death for posterity. What a sad bloody state of affairs this has turned out to be colleagues.....         

Saturday 13 June 2015

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