Wednesday 31 August 2016

Ever Decreasing Circles

I notice that the Government has finally got around to recognising the serious lack of emergency mental provision and are taking steps to relieve the police of some responsibility in this area. The Home Office press release can be found on their website and this is from the Nursing in Practice website:-

Government announces funding for 41 mental health ‘safe places’

The Government has released the first wave of funding for mental health “places of safety” in a bid to keep the mentally ill out of police cells. Some 41 projects will benefit from a share of the £15 million fund to improve provision of mental health shelters.

The Department of Health is looking to put an end to situations that see people experiencing mental health crises, and having committed no crime, being placed in police cells. The Government estimates that hundreds of people are locked in cells every year because the proper health services are not available in time. The first wave of bids, totalling £6.1 million, has been awarded to 15 NHS trusts and partnership organisations covering 11 police force areas.

The full list covers Avon and Somerset, Cleveland, Derbyshire, Devon and Cornwall, Essex, Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire, Sussex, West Yorkshire, and Wiltshire police force areas. Projects include new section 136 suites, crisis cafés, triage vehicles and places of safety for children and young people. The projects have been focused where use of police cells as a place of safety has previously been amongst the highest in the country.

Jeremy Hunt, health secretary, said: “This government is committed to ending the scandal of people in crisis being locked up in police cells. “When a person is experiencing a mental health crisis they need the right care, in the right place and at the right time. We are fully committed to improving mental health services across the country and these projects will help support people at a crucial time.”

The Government has also opened the bidding process for the remaining £8.9 million of funding to the rest of England. Through local Crisis Care Concordat groups, organisations including mental health trusts, clinical commissioning groups, police forces, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector can bid for the funding here. The funding can be used for refurbishments of existing places of safety, building new places of safety and creating mental health crisis cafés, among other things.

Amber Rudd, home secretary, said: “We have seen good progress on our manifesto commitment to reduce the use of cells, with numbers dropping by 32% across England and Wales in just one year. But there is still more to do, and the 41 projects announced today will provide vital facilities for those in crisis to ensure they get the compassionate care and support they need.

“The police should never be the default response for someone experiencing a mental health crisis. And we are going further, bringing important changes to legislation through the Policing and Crime Bill to ensure that police cells are only used as a place of safety for adults in exceptional circumstances, and will ban their use altogether for under 18s.”

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at Mind, the mental health charity, said the announcement was “welcome”. She said: “When you are in crisis you need to be in an appropriate, safe, therapeutic environment, not treated like a criminal. This funding will help provide more suitable places to take people in some areas, and we look forward to future announcements detailing how the rest of the £15m will reach frontline services, urgently, to ensure people in crisis get the help they need, when they need it.”

However, she added that the Policing and Crime Bill “doesn’t go far enough”. She continued: “We believe no one should end up in a police cell when they are in a mental health crisis and we are calling on the Government to take the opportunity presented by the Policing and Crime Bill to ban the practice altogether.”


Am I missing something here, but isn't this just applying a bit of temporary sticking plaster to the fundamental problem of insufficient core revenue funding? These flashy new facilities will all have to be funded somehow on a regular year-on-year basis, and how is that going to be achieved? Hang on - the problem only arose in the first place because there was insufficient core revenue funding for mental health provision..... 

Tuesday 30 August 2016

UPW in Trouble Says Judge

It looks like another CRC is in special measures and has incurred the wrath of the Recorder of Norwich no less. This by Tom Bristow from the Eastern Daily Press:-

‘I’ve gone shopping with my mum’ - how criminals are avoiding unpaid work in Norfolk and Suffolk

Courts are avoiding punishing criminals with unpaid work because it is not being supervised properly, according to a senior Norwich judge. 
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has now ordered the company running community punishment in Norfolk and Suffolk to improve after a review was carried out in July.

Unpaid work, which includes offenders guilty of crimes from drink driving to assault removing graffiti and tidying up wasteland, was contracted by the government last year to Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). The CRC for Norfolk and Suffolk is run by a French company, called Sodexo, but Ministry of Justice figures show the system is performing worse here than anywhere else in the country.

Our investigation has found some criminals given CRCs may be avoiding punishment and other problems, including:

  • One criminal managed to avoid doing unpaid work by saying he had gone shopping with his mum;
  • Up to 120 criminals being assigned to one case officer;
  • One offender not showing up on 41 occasions;
The MoJ said it had told Norfolk and Suffolk’s CRC to put an action plan in place to improve. The CRC said its performance had now “improved significantly”. But on Friday, August 19, Recorder of Norwich Judge Stephen Holt said in Norwich Crown Court that the system was in trouble.

”We are having real problems with the supervision of unpaid work,” he said. He told the court judges were staying away from imposing unpaid work because they felt the criminals were not being supervised enough. A CRC worker in court told Judge Holt that they had to deal with up to 120 offenders per officer. Under the old system the figure was 40 to 50 per officer.

Judge Holt also said there were cases where criminals had not turned up to do their unpaid work but no breach proceedings had been triggered by the CRC. And this newspaper has learned that on one occasion an offender did not turn up for unpaid work because he said he was shopping with his mum. The CRC classed that excuse as “acceptable”.

The National Audit Office published a report in April into CRCs which found there was “an inherent risk that offender managers may avoid ‘breaching’ offenders” as this could affect targets. Government funding to CRCs is dependent on them hitting their targets. Their contract states they have to hit target by February 2017.

Another case was heard at Norwich Crown Court where the offender had not shown up to do unpaid work on 41 occasions. All of his absences were classified as “unacceptable” meaning he could give no reason for skipping his punishment. One judge at Norwich Crown Court has designed a form for Norfolk and Suffolk CRC to fill in to record how many hours of unpaid work the offender has actually done.

Norfolk and Suffolk was the worst performing CRC in the country in five out of 15 measures which the MoJ uses to monitor them, according to the latest available figures which cover January to March this year. It was the second worst in the country on two further measures.
The figures show:
  • Norfolk and Suffolk CRC is referring just 11pc of cases on time where offenders breach the terms of their community punishment. The target is 95%.
  • Nine per cent of offenders are starting unpaid work within a week of being allocated. The target is 75%.
  • Only 37% of offenders are initially being contacted on time by the CRC after being sentenced. The target is 97%.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and insisted a robust action plan was developed by Norfolk and Suffolk CRC. “We have already seen signs of improvement but will continue to monitor performance closely.”

A Norfolk and Suffolk CRC spokesperson said: “Our performance has improved significantly in the last few months. “Since July, 94% of community service orders have started within seven days and our staff 
are delivering high-quality supervision for projects that benefit 
the community and offender rehabilitation. We continue to work closely with local judges to support greater confidence in community service as a sentencing option.”

Saturday 27 August 2016

What To Do?

The following contribution initially got caught in the spam filter yesterday and came in by way of response to the news that former Napo Assistant General Secretary Helen Schofield has picked up the reins at the Probation Institute. 

It's already generated some lively responses and I feel the issues raised and broad message it contains are so important, especially in relation to this blog, that it deserves highlighting. The subject always generates a great deal of heat, but I'd very much appreciate us trying to focus on light as well. Thanks. 


The Probation Institute and NAPO, acting as a professional association, are actually all that there is to represent probation as a profession publicly and in consultation and negotiation with others. Nobody else proposes to do this job and there are very few in the wider criminal justice community who will campaign on our behalf to preserve our professional status that has been precarious at the best of times. 

There appear to be no shortage of short sighted persons either presently or formerly working in probation who seem to have a lot of time on their hands to attack and criticise both NAPO and the PI (or anyone who supports them) mostly for what they think they should have said, or for what they would like them to have done, despite either not being a member or not getting involved. It is in fact these persons who may well be part of the problem now and would perhaps be better occupied adjusting their aim towards our real enemies and trying to offer support to those who are trying to work in and deal with the new landscape. 

Anyone who hasn't worked in or been closely associated with work in probation in the last 18 months, probably doesn't realise how much fundamental change there has been and what the experience of this has been, particularly on those trying to fight for jobs and professionals. It has been very demotivating for anyone worried about their future and who actually wants to be constructive and wants to influence change positively. 

I have known very hard working professionals and well motivated activists to leave both probation and/or NAPO because of member apathy and others who have been personally attacked for their association with the PI, often by people who have contributed little to the profession. Some of the most vocal of these people seem to belong to a group of persons who believe that it was all so much better when Noah was a lad and that it is ok to land a cowardly anonymous low blow and then run away, apparently thinking this is somehow ok to have no respect for anyone, even though it smacks of hypocrisy. 

As a result of lack of respect for anyone or anything, there are fewer and fewer people who are willing to stand up and be identified as supporting probation as a profession, or willing to openly discuss professional issues, including whether or not probation as a profession can now be said to exist. Has our profession been reduced to skulking around in the shadows, taking cheap shots and sniping anonymously at others? If it has, then this is a sorry, dishonourable state of affairs and no way to fight for professional recognition and our much cherished oft-referred to, though to some, semi mythical probation values.

The winners from all this infighting and personal attacks are MoJ bureaucrats who have aimed to destroy probation as a distinct profession because it delayed their plans and multinational corporations who see belief in caring as no more than a PR or marketing approach.

David A Raho

The "winners" are those running Napo and the Probation Institute who are receiving funds/revenue and a bit of status for doing less than nothing! Yes these two organisations exist, but have done nothing to change or successfully challenge the increasingly dire state of probation (NPS and CRC's), nor does the PI represent us although I'm sure most wish it did. It's probably fair to say that Napo is well on its way to joining the PI in its role as "lipstick on the TR pig".

I think you just agreed with what was said.

Actually much of the concerns with both Napo and the PI have been formally raised one way or another. It is a cop out to relegate these types of concerns to 'anonymous comments', especially with these organisation that claim to be member focused. Both Napo and the PI are a let down.

Concerns have been addressed. The PI will probably cease to exist and Napo will probably lose the battle to negotiate on behalf of all those employed by probation service providers. But it does not change the fact that they are all we have to work through and doing them down by constant criticism of everything they do or say is a hiding to nothing. Anyone involved in either organisation voluntarily now considers it is a thankless task given the negativity heaped upon them. 

Some of those commenting on this site show little appreciation for those who day in day out do their best for both the probation profession, whilst those who take satisfaction in this constant barrage are those who want to see probation deestablished and deprofessionalised. The response from a lot of former activists has been to become discouraged and withdraw from the fight against TR. If anyone wanted TR to succeed they would indulge in constant criticism against the only organisations that have opposed TR either directly or indirectly and anyone putting their head above the parapet.

These are memberships to services and associations we have paid for. They have not just failed just because they were ineffective, but because they failed to listen to those they claim to represent and are still not listening, even at the eleventh hour. So yes they should be criticised, because had they truly represented the members, then it would have been very different. Had these two organisations not been led by incompetent, money grabbing, power hungry fools ...... and I mean the past ten years of Napo and the PI from the outset.

The Probation Chiefs Association and Probation Association should not have been involved in setting up the Probation Institute. The opportunity for the PI came about and they took control, which is how they have always worked. The unions were foolish to support this move and should have sought a more neutral leadership. Instead it ended up with the very same probation chief clique & co running the show, and right at the top those that ran the PCA and the PA. 
Just look at which probation chiefs the PI awarded fellowships too, mostly those who were big on commercialising probation, including one currently in bed with Working Links, another that created a super-trust and another that sold off community service! 

Ever since its creation the PI has pandered to privatisation and has not been the professional association or voice of probation it claimed to be. These questions were raised far and wide at the start but have been ignored and this is why probation officers won't join it. Too many questions are still being raised about its revenue streams, its MoJ shadow, its CRC pre-paid memberships, its membership structure that equals non-qualified managers with qualified practitioners, and the decisions around its elected committee, its partnerships and more, particularly its silence. Probation practitioners are a forgiving bunch and with the right change in direction this could easily be overturned but it seems the PI is happy being a failure, something it seems to have in common with Napo!

The PI's big mistake was not building the support, trust and dependency of members. Why would any of us sign up to a paid membership and professional register when the basics of outlining, promoting and protecting probation practice and qualifications were and still are grey areas for the PI. Instead of gaining practitioner support and building authority to become a regulatory body, it blasted ahead blinkered delivering its messages through the distrusted senior management and the emerging privateer networks and then couldn't understand why practitioners weren't interested. Helen/Paul, if you're reading then don't make the same mistakes and instead listen to the practitioners.

Thursday 25 August 2016

Oldest Trick in the Book

So, the turnout in the recent Napo elections was 12.5% and the existing joint Chairs have a renewed mandate to carry on steering the ship pretty much on the same course. Out of 733 valid votes cast, 280 voted for the status quo, whilst 457 were obviously keen on something different - but that's first past the post for you. 

I repeat what I said at the outset, namely that if you were a cynic, you could say that making sure the opposition to the current Chairs was split would ensure they got elected and that's exactly what's happened. It's pretty much the oldest trick in the political book. The figure for Dino Peros was 234 and Chas Berry 223.

It's quite bizarre, but am I the only one who can see certain parallels between the recent 'campaign' within Napo and Jeremy Corbyn's 'campaign' during the EU Referendum. I don't think I've in any way changed my mind regarding the dysfunctional nature of top leadership within Napo, but would remind members that there will be an opportunity to endorse the tenure of the General Secretary next year.    

Probation Gets a New Voice

I see the Probation Institute has appointed Helen Schofield as acting Chief Executive and this is her first blog:-

This month the Probation Institute says good bye to Savas Hadjipavlou, CEO since the Institute opened in 2014. Savas successfully set up the Probation Institute as a membership organisation, owned and directed by our members. We wish him well for the future.

The Board have appointed me to lead and manage the Probation Institute to drive forward the future direction. In taking this role I am working closely with Professor Paul Senior Chair of the Probation Institute. Some of you with long memories may recall that Paul and I shared, with others, an earlier challenge nearly 20 years ago in which we succeeded in retaining probation training in higher education despite pretty fierce opposition. That was a long time ago and much has changed since.

Returning to the Probation landscape after 12 years in a senior management role in Police Training with the National Policing Improvement Agency and the College of Policing I am reminded but still surprised by both the differences and the similarities. The proportionate difference in central funding is massive and still deflects criminal justice priorities away from crime prevention and rehabilitation towards detection, investigation and arrest. In spite of, or perhaps because of this, creative alliances between policing and probation rely heavily on the initiative and energy of individuals and struggle to achieve sustainable funding. I read the EHRC report on eliminating all forms of racial discrimination with real sadness; “As well as being more likely to be a victim of hate crime, people from ethnic minority communities and migrants are much more likely to experience disadvantage in the criminal justice system”.

Our ambition and vision for the Probation Institute today is much wider and more radical. Our ambition for consistent, high quality standards must now include all practitioners and managers in Probation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement; in NPS, CRCs, voluntary organisations, private companies, prisons or those managing offenders in policing roles. We want to be the Professional Body and Regulatory Body for everyone working or volunteering to help individuals to stop offending and lead fulfilling lives in positive relationship to others.

I see the role of the Probation Institute to reach out to practitioners, managers and leaders; to work together to set standards of competence, learning and research, to promote qualifications and to speak up for professional practice. Our ambition must be strong and radical because this occupational group is now very widely dispersed and urgently needs regulating to meet standards.The Probation Institute is ready to become the Regulatory Body for Probation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement.

In proposing this I want to build on our achievements in the first two years – the Code of Ethics, the Professional Development Framework, joint projects with partner organisations and position papers to list just a few. All our activity must be relevant and important to public, private and charitable organisations; we can’t afford to neglect knowledge, skills and values for any groups. Our Professional Development Framework seeks to raise and recognise competence and strengthen performance in all roles.

The Trailblazer Apprenticeship which we are leading with CRCs and voluntary organisations sets out a single, funded standard of competence, learning and qualification for a Rehabilitation Practitioner at the equivalent to the PSO grade, in all types of organisation. I am convinced that an independent Regulatory Body is the only possible mechanism for setting and achieving the essential standards and consistency where responsibilities have become so devolved to plural groups of employers.

A Regulatory Body would be independent of government, it would have representation from higher and further education, practitioners, trade unions, employers, awarding organisations, sector skills councils and representatives of government departments. It would set levels of competence and qualifications for all practitioner and management roles, and maintain the Professional Register. This would leave the trade unions free to represent their members, and to negotiate pay and conditions of service, collaborating with the Regulatory Body but free to act on behalf of their members. There would be strategic interfaces and joint projects with other bodies. The sector as a whole would be stronger because it could demonstrate consistency, clarity and confidence in professional practice.

This project to establish a Regulatory Body needs to move forward in Autumn 2016. As we drive this forward my priorities will also be to continue to increase our membership, to be the professional voice for practice and learning in Probation, Rehabilitation and Resettlement, to work with our partner organisations in joint projects, and ensure that our offer to members is clear, relevant and timely. I will be writing a blog regularly to keep up to date with our activity and look forward to readers’ views.

Helen Schofield
Acting Chief Executive
August 2016

Helen's CV according to Linked in:-

Director Probation Institute
January 2016 – Present (8 months)

Delighted to be co-opted on to the Board of Directors of the Probation Institute, working with Paul Senior again and helping to grow the first professional body for probation and rehabilitation. Now we have the Probation Register in place, the Professional Development Framework, and the Learning Provider Endorsement Scheme.

Trustee Carnegie Community Trust
October 2015 – Present (11 months)

A real challenge to build a Community Hub and Enterprise Library at Carnegie Herne Hill where there is huge anger at the closure of the public library by Lambeth Council

Director Justice Sector Training
September 2014 – Present (2 years)

Launched the first pan Justice Sector entry level qualification Preparing for Work in the Justice Sector. A huge opportunity. Full suite of teaching, learning and assessment materials now available and we are inviting pilots across 2016.

Independent Consultant
May 2014 – Present (2 years 4 months) London, United Kingdom
Training and Learning Strategy from pre entry to CPD

Head of Learning Strategy College of Policing
December 2002 – May 2014 (11 years 6 months) London, United Kingdom

Transformed the national police training infrastructure.
Introduced and developed the first National Policing Curriculum and the National Policing Learning Programmes.
Developed the first Initial Qualification Framework for Policing.
Developed the first national Police Race and Diversity Learning Programme.
Established National Operational Gold Command Training.
Led and managed the expansion and consolidation of the Police E Learning capability (NCALT). Led the Police Olympic Training Project 2012.
Steered the Joint Emergency Services Tri Service Training Project 2013 (JESIP).
Developed networks, partnerships and effective models for the delivery of police training across England and Wales.

Chief Executive Community Justice National Training Organisation
August 1998 – December 2002 (4 years 5 months)

Established the first National Training Organisation in the Justice Sector, responsible for Occupational Standards and Qualifications for the Probation Service, Victim Support, Police in Community Safety an for Youth Justice. Built a UK wide membership organisation spanning the justice sector and aligning knowledge, skills and values of practitioners across the sector.

Assistant General Secretary NAPO
1995 – 1998 (3 years)

Finally, in researching Helen's background, Google also threw up these letters in the Guardian from December 1999 that serve as interesting reminders of the journey we've all been on:-

I can accept your characterisation of the change of name of the probation service as "Jack's tough love" (Straw's tough probation order, December 8). But I must correct your shallow analysis of our plans for the Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Service.

A change of name is essential. Not as a sign of weakness nor as some sort of obsession with marketing. But to reflect the work the service will be delivering in the future. Community sentences are punishments served in the community and they must rehabilitate to prevent future offending.

The new name is part of major reforms in the organisation of the service. We are introducing programmes to stop offending behaviour, based on evidence of what works. And under a new bill to be published shortly, there will be new enforcement powers for the service to ensure offenders comply with the terms of their orders, otherwise they will be returned to court with the presumption of firm punishment.

The government is determined that the CPRS will be a credible and important law enforcement agency, whose purpose is clear - to protect the public and reduce offending.
Paul Boateng MP Home Office

The proposed new name for the probation service is totally inappropriate.
1) It is based purely on the government's wish to project itself to middle England as tough on law and order.
2) It is contrary to the humanist ideology on which the probation service has always been based.
3) It is opposed by the vast majority of probation officers.
4) The words punishment and rehabilitation have only to be interchanged to leave it open to ridicule.
5) Where is the evidence that the probation service is seen as over-sympathetic to offenders? Most research shows that the public is less punitive than governments believe. 
Tom Penny London

I was sorry to read that Paul Boateng seemed to have rejected the Community Justice Service as an "unappealing" title for rebranding the probation service.

The Community Justice National Training Organisation is proving to be a very appealing concept and structure through which we are raising skill levels and developing consistent standards for all agencies working in the community to reduce harm from offending.

One of the 70 new national training organisations, the Community Justice NTO is working with employers and with government departments to ensure that the community justice sector delivers crime reduction strategies and offers support and protection to the victims and witnesses of crime.

The Community Justice National Training Organisation is committed to opening up knowledge and understanding about community safety and crime reduction. Perhaps the next time we debate the rebranding of a public protection service the public will also have a strong view. Meanwhile we must hope we don't find ourselves regretting a hasty decision to rename the probation service. 
Helen Schofield Community Justice National Training Organisation

Wednesday 24 August 2016

The Art of Understatement

Thanks to Russell Webster for drawing our attention to the most-recently published official re-offending rates for the years up to September 2014 and therefore prior to the break-up of Probation under Chris Grayling's disastrous 'Transforming Rehabilitation'.

As Russell notes:-
Probation supervision
The proven reoffending rate for adult offenders starting a court order (Community sentence or Suspended Sentence Order) was 33.2%, a fall of 6.7 percentage points since 2003, and a decrease of 1.0 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months.
Released prisoners
The proven reoffending rate for adult offenders released from custody in October 2013 to September 2014 was 45.5%. This represents a fall of 6.0 percentage points since 2003 and a small increase of 0.1 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months. Since 2004, the overall rate for those released from custody has remained relatively stable at around 45% to 49%.
The rate for those released from short sentences has been consistently higher compared to those released from longer sentences. Adults who served sentences of less than 12 months reoffended at a rate of 59.7%, compared to 33.4% for those who served determinate sentences of 12 months or more.
The trends for those released from short and long sentences have both remained broadly flat since 2005 and are consistent with the overall trend. 
overall offending to Sept 2014

So, here we have yet more confirmation of the extremely weak case the government had to set about completely smashing-up the probation service that was performing well at the time. The probation privateers would do well to take note of Russell's somewhat under-stated conclusion:-
As we have seen, these rates have more or less stabilised over the last decade although it is interesting to note that the drop in reoffending for those under probation supervision may make payment by results targets for the new private probation providers more difficult to achieve.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Last Chance To Vote

The following email has been forwarded to me by several readers in the South West and I'm happy to publish it here:-

If you still haven't sent off your ballot paper to vote for National Chair this is your final chance to go and do it now. If you're still undecided then you know it makes sense to vote for DINO.


  • Voting for him ensures that CRC are represented on the top table.
  • He is dedicated to fighting for our terms and conditions whether NPS/CRC.
  • He has previous experience of representation and negotiation at National level.
  • He has been, and remains a key player in bringing about the current dispute with Working Links despite their continuing attempts to ignore union representatives within the three local branches.
  • Members have confirmed his tireless commitment when representing them - both via branch e-mail and posts on the Probation Blog.
  • He communicates with the members and believes the top table are there to serve the interests of the members - not the other way round.
Denice James
Probation Officer
NAPO JNCC & Staff Rep
Dorset Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (DDCCRC)


In order to try and keep a bit of impartiality here, can I remind Napo members that other candidates are standing for National Chair and Chas Berry has taken the trouble to make contact via Twitter. In response to the lively discussion over the weekend, he responded thus:-
"for the record I did speak up at the last NEC against the proposals for NNC and have argued against consistently at O&O"

"No secrecy. I have been arguing publicly against the NNC proposals for months now, including at the last NEC"

"also worth noting it was KSS motion to NEC moved by me and Alec's role at PNC that resulted in decision to debate at AGM"
I also published Chas's YouTube video a week or two back, along with his article in the Socialist Newspaper. As far as I can see, the other candidates for National Chair have not undertaken any campaigning and no one has sent me any supportive emails.

Price of Everything : Value of Nothing 3

Governments of all hues are always telling us about how they want to 'save money', especially during periods of austerity. It's invariably possible by 'greater efficiency', by 'doing more with less' or 'better targetting', but the funny thing is, it nearly always ends up costing more, delivers less and often merely shifts costs to other areas of public expenditure.  

This from the Guardian:-

I'm a DWP call handler and have no time to care about your disability claim

This morning I spoke to a cancer patient, a woman with kidney failure, and a young man who had just lost the mother of his children. Each of them thought I was trying to help them. I wasn’t really though, because helping them would take longer than 23 minutes.

Twenty three minutes is how long it should take me to help you make a benefit claim, according to my bosses. I work in a Department for Work and Pensions contact centre and take calls from people who are at their lowest point.

These are people who need my help to navigate the complex claims system so that they can get a meagre payout. They’re often vulnerable and desperate by the time they reach me. My job is to fill in a new claim form for employment and support allowance based on the information people give me and then send that form off to the benefit centre where the claim is processed.

The headset beeps and I launch into my scripted greeting. The caller wants to tell me about her recent cancer diagnosis, what type it is, what the treatment will be, the reasons her employer has given for not offering sick pay. But I don’t have time to listen to her story. “I’m afraid we need to stick to yes or no answers” I say, and I feel horrible because this poor woman wants to tell someone about this huge awful thing that’s happening to her, she wants a friendly listener to make her feel reassured that she will at least get financial help.

But for me, the only thing that’s really important is how long each call takes. We are measured on our average handling time (known as AHT) and if this slips beyond 23 minutes per call we face performance management, which is code for “you’ll get in trouble”. This involves anything from stern words and increased micro-management from your line manager right up to written warnings and dismissal.

I have a script I read from, over and over again, the same for every customer. Some of the questions are opaque at best: “has your doctor told you that special rules apply to your condition?” is one which flummoxed the woman this morning who has cancer; the script specifies that I should not offer an explanation of the term unless I’m asked. She did ask, so I read the follow-up line “special rules means your doctor has told you that your condition has a life expectancy of less than six months.” No, she said, not yet, and I breathed a silent sigh of relief that I wouldn’t need to ask another series of questions about this, pushing the call-handling time up further.

In the DWP’s modern-day version of a sweatshop, we staff are singularly ill-equipped to actually offer any help or support. I have had absolutely no training in how sickness benefits work. I don’t know what happens when I send a claim to be processed, so I can’t answer any questions about what will happen next or when somebody will get a payment.

Quality checking is done but it’s about whether we are reading every word of the script, there is no measure of how good a service we provide or whether or not people are able to make a successful claim with our help.

The woman with cancer has answered all of my scripted questions and I am reading her a list of instructions about what to do next. I doubt she is taking it all in; at this point she’s been listening to me for 45 minutes. I’ve already failed to hit the AHT target; she has children and it takes a long time to input all their names and dates of birth, plus she took ages to find her tax credits award notice to read me the figures. I decide I will take an extra couple of minutes to explain to her the importance of sending in fit notes signed by her doctor on a regular basis.

This isn’t in my script despite being absolutely key information and a major stumbling block for many new claimants. If the call is listened to by my line manager this will be flagged up as an area where I’m missing time targets, as will the three minutes earlier in the call where I let her cry quietly down the phone because her life is imploding and she’s frightened of what the future will bring and this is all too much for her. A more motivated call-handler would have got her back on track quickly, today I am not that person.

I feel like crying too after this call, because I know I have failed this woman in so many ways. No time for me to cry though, there is no break between calls, the headset beeps again immediately and this time it’s a woman with kidney failure. I’m failing her too, and afterwards I will fail the bereaved young father, and this afternoon there will be more and more people I fail to help. And this will continue presumably until the government finally finds a way to do away with benefits entirely, at which point our sick and disabled people will be left with nothing, not even my hurried 23 minutes of script.


This from the Daily Record reminds us of that cunning spending sleight-of-hand so favoured by Gordon Brown:-

Private Addiewell prison set to cost taxpayers nearly £1BILLION in shocking PFI deal

Privately run Addiewell prison will end up costing taxpayers nearly £1billion – more than 12 times what it cost to build. The outrageous bill for the jail in West Lothian, built under the controversial private finance initiative in 2006, was revealed after a parliamentary question by SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor.

Scottish Prison Service chief executive Colin McConnell revealed the estimated cost of the 25-year contract with Sodexo Justice Services will be £955million. The deal was brokered by the then Labour and Lib Dem administration.

MacGregor said: “This is an absolutely staggering revelation, showing the sheer incompetence and damaging legacy of the Labour and the Lib Dem executive. The PFI contract for Addiewell prison was always a bad deal for the public purse, but the latest estimates revealing a bill of nearly £1billion for a £80 million building will leave Scottish taxpayers paying way over the score for years to come.”

Dave Watson, head of policy and public affairs at Unison Scotland, said: “The extortionate cost of the Addiewell prison project reinforces the call for a full inquiry into all public-private partnership schemes to consider bringing them back into the public sector.”

Under PFI or PPP schemes, private firms got contracts to construct and maintain public buildings, usually for 30 years, in return for an annual “unitary charge” that covered the initial capital spend and ongoing running costs. The SNP dropped the system when they came into power in 2007 and instead set up a scheme that caps the profits private firms can make.

PFI came under renewed scrutiny in April when a string of Edinburgh schools that were upgraded under the scheme were forced to close amid safety fears. We then revealed how the total bill for the privately built and managed public projects in Scotland will climb above £36billion. Labour and the Lib Dems declined to comment on the Addiewell figures. Scottish Greens justice spokesman John Finnie MSP said: “PFI has been an unmitigated disaster and one which those two former governing parties should apologise for.”


Finally, a reminder from the Morning Star about that 'competition' Grayling held for privatising probation:-

The Big Lie About 'Competition'

The government argues that competition improves services, but in the probation service at least a quarter of contracts were awarded without any competition at all. Solomon Hughes reports

The Conservative government has privatised most of the probation service over the past two years, in a multibillion-pound scheme the Labour Party called “crackpot.” Chris Grayling, the minister who launched the scheme, insisted it would make the management of ex-offenders better and cheaper because there would be “greater use of competition to drive value and ensure taxpayers’ money is invested in services that work.”

That’s the standard argument for privatisation — commercial competition makes things better. Except a freedom of information request reveals that there was no competition in many probation regions. At least a quarter of the contracts, worth £1.7 billion, were awarded without any competition at all. Only one single company bid for each of these contracts.

Probation in five regions, including London, is run by companies which got the job because they were the only ones who applied for the work. And in four more regions there was a competition, but the Ministry of Justice did not give the job to the “winning” bid. Instead the “second-best” firm won the deal because the ministry was scared an overall lack of competition meant the “winning” firms would dominate the market.

Probation services try to steer offenders and newly released prisoners away from crime and into jobs and housing. In 2013, then justice secretary Grayling launched a “rehabilitation revolution.” Probation would be handed over to new, privately run “community rehabilitation companies.” These private firms would be paid to take over probation for all but the 20 per cent of most dangerous offenders in 21 UK regions.

Sadiq Khan, then Labour’s shadow justice minister, called it a “half-baked scheme” that might be “a danger to the safety of local communities.”

The privatisation doesn’t get a lot of press, but it is really huge and risky. According to the original tender contracts, the seven-year deals are worth £6.2bn of taxpayers’ cash. If the companies are worse at steering offenders back into society, then people can by badly harmed by the scheme.

Grayling said: “The contest to win one of our sought-after rehabilitation contracts will be genuine and hard-fought.” But a detail in a report investigating the privatisation by official watchdog the National Audit Office published in May revealed that there were “single bidders” in some areas. Grayling’s claims of a “hard-fought” contest were untrue. The auditors did not say which areas had no competition, so I asked for the details through a freedom of information request.

After two months and much consultation, the Audit Office told me which of the five contracts went to firms that were the “only one compliant bid.” They include the probation services in both London and the Thames Valley. These were given to MTC, a US private prisons firm with no previous British experience and a record of riots and scandals in the US.

The London contract — worth £982 million, according to tender documents — is the biggest single deal in the probation privatisation. The government has handed a very sensitive, billion-pound contract to a dubious firm for the simple reason that no other company wanted the work.

The other “single bidder” firms given probation contracts without competition were Working Links, which got the contract to run probation in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall; Sodexo which was given Norfolk and Suffolk and Purple Futures, a consortium led by privatisation specialist Interserve, which got Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. According to tender papers, that means £1.7bn of probation contracts were given with no competition.

These firms got these huge, safety-critical contracts because they were the only ones that wanted them. The government picked the applicants from a shortlist of one. There was also a further failure of competition: in four more regions the Ministry of Justice deliberately did not give the contract to the best bidder. The ministry had a rule that no single company could have more than 25 per cent of all the probation contracts, supposedly to stimulate competition.

But because there was not enough competition for the contracts in the whole process, this meant the ministry had to deliberately give the contracts to the “next best bidder” in South Yorkshire and Bedfordshire-Northamptonshire-Cambridgeshire-Hertfordshire (which both went to French catering firm Sodexo); Bristol-Gloucester-Somerset-Wiltshire (which went to Working Links) and Derbyshire-Leicestershire-Nottinghamshire, which went to a consortium led by Australian “workfare” firm Ingeus. In each of these regions probation has been taken from the public sector and deliberately given to a private firm which the ministry knows was not the best for the job.

All told, nine of the regional probation contracts were awarded to firms without proper competition, either because there was only one bidder or because the department chose the “second-best” bidder. The value of these contracts according to the tender documents is £2.9bn, or 47 per cent of the total value of the entire privatisation. The Ministry of Justice told me that “in each case the successful bid met the minimum thresholds. Other bids for these areas failing to meet the minimum thresholds were excluded.”

Sadiq Khan said the probation plan was a “botched privatisation,” a “grotesque and unnecessary waste of money.” The contracts involve critical work with offenders which can affect whether they get homes and jobs and “go straight” or return to crime. But the only thing stopping this all going wrong is a claim about “minimum thresholds.”

Many of the firms have no experience of working with ex-offenders. Those that do, like MTC, have a terrible record. The only thing the government could claim as a plus was “competition” — but in many cases there was no competition. Grayling modelled his scheme on the Work Programme for the Unemployed, which itself was a failure. However, he has “moved on” since the scheme was launched.

Only two things stand between us and probation failure. First, firms like MTC or Sodexo. Second, the new Justice Secretary Liz Truss. Neither inspires confidence.

Monday 22 August 2016

London News 2

Thanks to the reader for sending me that London Napo email regarding facility time, amongst other things:-

Hi Members

Those of you who were at our well attended AGM on the 22nd July, will be aware that Pat Waterman and David Masterson came to the end of their two terms in office as Chair and CRC Vice Chair of the Branch respectively. David Masterson went back to the field full time as from the 31st July and Pat had her last day in the Napo Office at the end of last week.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your warm wishes and good luck messages.

I wish to thank Pat Waterman for the service she has given to this branch and for her contribution to NAPO as a whole. I wish her well for the future. To David Masterson, you know what I think, so will live in hope!!....We miss you!!

Members please note that my union role accounts for two and a half days facilities time per week, which is in keeping with the Cabinet Office guidelines. NPS Vice Chair, Terry Wilson also has a similar arrangement. We now have a vacancy for my previous role, which we hope to fill at the next branch meeting, as an expression of interest has been made.

Turning to the CRC, members will of course be concerned that a number of branch positions remains unfilled at this time, including CRC Chair and Vice Chair. It is vital that Napo members are represented in the CRC and therefore my priority task as NPS Co-Chair is to ensure that temporary arrangements are in place, until these vacancies can be filled. David Raho is currently the only Branch Officer on the CRC side, but as of the 4th August at 5.30pm he was informed by LondonCRC that he is no longer to be granted any facility time to carry out essential work on behalf of the branch and our CRC members. Regrettably as things currently stand LondonCRC have decided to "cease" the facility time arrangement they had with London Napo, pending a "review". With this new situation, it will be increasingly difficult to offer representation to members in the CRC, in all but the most urgent cases.

We are in discussions with National Napo to plan a way forward and to agree in principle, the nature of support with the CRC JNCC meetings with LondonCRC. It is important to note that Terry and I as NPS employees, cannot undertake CRC casework as LondonCRC is a private limited company. They will only allow their employees, who are members of Napo to be involved in any formal HR proceedings. However, it is important to note that a National Representative will be allocated to any case where there is a possible outcome of dismissal. So this is the position on the CRC side, but we will do our best to facilitate support to our CRC members.

In terms of RISE, Assistance General Secretary Dean Rogers, already covers the RISE JNC and will continue to offer support to our two NAPO representatives, Debbie Scotland and Judith Granata.

We would encourage any CRC member that is interested in applying for any of the vacant branch posts to speak to me or one of the Branch Officers or alternatively, write into Mail London Napo for further details.

Terry, David and I are planning a new recruitment strategy for London, in conjunction with National. We have some exciting plans, which we want to introduce over the next 12 months. More details will follow in due course. It’s clear that we need new active members across all staff grades and especially in the CRC. All offers of support are welcomed.

To NPS members who have not made the switch to Direct Debit, please do so as soon as possible. You can call the membership department at National Napo on 0207-223-4887 to make the switch over the phone.

Lastly, please do not forget to use your vote in the Ballot for National Chair and Vice Chairs (Probation) and Steering Committee. Electoral Reform Services (ERS) has been appointed as the Independent Scrutineer for the elections and is overseeing the ballot of all full members. If you have not received a ballot paper by now you should contact ERS directly on 020 8365 8909. The closing date for return of the ballot papers to ERS is 12.00 noon on Thursday 25th August.

Remember, there has never been a more important time to belong to NAPO. YOUR UNION NEEDS YOU!!!

Stronger together

Patricia Johnson           Terry Wilson           David Raho
NPS Co Chair               NPS Vice Chair      LondonCRC Health & Safety Convenor

Sunday 21 August 2016

Magic Wand : My Arse!

There is an image I just can't get out of my head right now. It's from last year's AGM and it's the cringing moment when Chris Winters presented the General Secretary with a magic wand "because he always says he hasn't got one". That this charade was felt in any way appropriate perfectly sums up for me how utterly dysfunctional the leadership of Napo is. 


This is nothing less than a sell out. NAPO 115 Blog starts with 'Some time ago NOMs and ...CRC employers signalled their wish to reform the current NNC and SCCOG' (OK they can wish what they like, but the ball remains in our court). Proposed new arrangements for single table bargaining - arrangements put forward by whom? - the ball is still in our court - we have protected negotiating machinery as per the Staff Transfer Agreement - IL says so himself.

'Whats on offer?' Offered by whom? - we don't have to accept any 'offer' from NOMS or the CRC, or put any offer forward - the ball still remains with us. 'The proposals suggest' - proposals that came from whom?  The NPS and CRC have been 'exploring' with the Unions......hello? Exploring? In the Joint union response we 'suggested'... hello?. Why are we 'suggesting' anything? As a Trade Union we don't 'suggest' to employers - we make clear and considered demands - if you want XYZ you have to agree to ABC UP FRONT and then we'll decide if we accept. 

Sod all this 'we have expectations the employers will put the following measures in place first' Noooooo. Measures in place - then we talk further. And then they have the cheek to push a tentatively worded proposal on the membership 'to support....provided principles are enshrined....' Noooooo, employers - agree to these principles and then we'll talk again....

This is not negotiation and I cant believe we are putting forward such a weak spirited performance when the ADVANTAGE LIES WITH US. We have the power to call the shots on this bit of negotiation, so why aren't we?  We also have the option not to negotiate at all and just to sit tight - the ultimate position and bargaining chip. What was it said on a post a few weeks back about the sharks? Well they are circling on this and we have all the markings of an easy meal.


Ian Lawrence & co now show their true hand on the flop, i.e. the surrender of one of the key features of trade unionism that kept employees protected from unscrupulous, divisive employers. Since the retirement of a weary Judy McKnight we've been cursed with a succession of patsies at the top of Napo. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that post-Benny Hill (aka Ledger) the union was so compromised that systemic collapse was inevitable. 

Goodness only knows what other dark secrets the NOMS/MoJ bullies have at their disposal, primed & ready for release to the press should Napo fail to comply with the TR project. I can't think of any other explanation for the woeful catalogue of incompetence, silence & inaction. Perhaps this was the poisoned chalice handed to Mr Lawrence? I don't know the answer but if it were so, presumably he had a choice - £75k salary to steer Napo into the iceberg, or try to find something else whilst we're briefing against the PCS refugee.


The motion proposed by the leadership asks the AGM to endorse the 'new national collective arrangements' The missing word here is 'bargaining' The so-called 'national collective arrangements' basically rubber stamp the disintegration of national collective bargaining on pay and conditions. This is apparently an example of Napo being 'proactive' and 'protecting the professional and industrial concerns of members'. 

Only two years ago Napo signed the framework agreement which guaranteed retention of national collective bargaining – but no fury in the leadership motion about yet another breach of the framework agreement. In fact, it's more than another breach – it marks the end of a useless 'peace in our time' agreement. I think this wartime allusion is apt because since the outset Napo has pursued a policy of appeasement, hoping perhaps that their reasonableness would be reciprocated. It has not worked and has only added to perceptions of weakness. This motion now seeks to give the employers a green light for independent negotiations and Napo's conditions – wish list - for acceptance will not amount to a hill of beans – and they know it. The Napo leadership feel powerless, they sense no militancy in the workforce. The loss of national collective bargaining would be a historic reversal – but I am not sure that even this would disturb the sleep of many in the workforce.

In contrast the competing motion reminds us of the earlier undertakings given by the employers' side and spells out the likely consequences – a race to the bottom – if national collective bargaining is abandoned. Getting this truth lodged in the minds of the wider workforce would be a major challenge. Given the past form of Napo's campaigns in engaging with, and mobilising, a docile workforce, it requires a lot of optimism to believe that such a campaign will create any industrial muscle, because without far-reaching solidarity the employers will just go ahead and impose new pay negotiating arrangements.

Motion 1 wants to sign another surrender agreement; Motion 2 wants to fight. It truly is decision time. At the moment, to misquote, it looks like a choice between either dying on your feet or dying on your knees.

It's interesting that Chas is coming out now to stand against the supposed leadership, that is IL and DR, there is no other leadership other than these two, the rest just follow. Chas has been Vice Chair, where has his voice been? It hasn't been heard at NEC that's for sure. 

These plans have been going on in secret meetings at the probation consultative forum and outside where IL has suggested there has been no negotiation, yet a proposal has arisen from these very meetings. CRC attendees have been told to keep quiet about these meetings which were questioned at NEC. Minutes from last NEC: Ian explained Napo’s participation in the Probation Consultative Forum. This is not a negotiating forum but is a chance for issues of practical and technical significance in probation to be fed into government circles. It is a good area for influence to grow. An example recently had been Mercia CRC serving redundancy notices with no consultation: because NOMS Contract Section are concerned about the public image of renegade contractors, a relationship existed where Napo were able to persuade Contract Management to intervene over some key HR issues within one of the CRC’s. 

Reports from these meetings have been presented with claims of CRC attendance. When questioned on who has attended and how many meetings IL has been a closed shop. Come on Chas, now is the time to let us know what all this secrecy is about. Clearly you are challenging the leadership, but you had your chance as Vice Chair. Dino CRC that's what we need to get this sorted.


Talking of Dino, thanks go to the reader for sending me the following latest news from the South West. It doesn't escape my notice that the author seems to think that National Collective Bargaining is rather too important to give up lightly; they also happen to be standing for National Chair and there's just time to cast a vote if you can find that ballot paper you couldn't be bothered to fill in.  

19th August 2016

Branch report Redundancies update 12

Dear members,

⦁ As we all enjoy some of the sunshine and the August bank holiday break not so far off, it is important for me to update you all on the mid term of events and let you know that the General Secretaries blog today will inform wider areas of the situation on collective bargaining and The NNC.

⦁ How things are going with the employers Working Links the Company and their new owners Aurelius’ is something the sell out position the management are claiming nothing has changed. From what NAPO have understood Ian Lawrence has asked some questions on the potentials at our recent and first of the regions dispute meeting in London with Unison GMB and sister Napo branches.

⦁ The Dispute meeting held at Chivalry Road 26th July was never going to be a settlement meeting but was more a mix of positioning and small inroads to clarify what resolutions might start to settle some of the dispute heads. It is not helpful when WL representatives do not appear to actually want to engage meaningfully in any proper dialogue. Nor with a real view to looking to resolve the tensions. We experience this as their leadership refuses to make any real commitment or decisions claiming a need to consult with colleagues. Despite this on other occasions we have never seen or heard this reference before the dispute. They never accept the invidious position they have engineered despite constant and clear attempts from all the affected branches to encourage them to do things properly under the legitimate procedures.

⦁ Given the meeting was fairly bland and non committal they reported their dissatisfaction from Working links the company about reading up reported matters in meetings to NAPO members. It was loosely agreed not to detail a formal report at the time, which is why there has been no interim information to you. Maintaining this position is something I am holding together for the while at least. I have obviously drafted my notes and made a staff side report available to our representatives side.

⦁ We still await the Working links the company response to the innovation Wessex letter of independence inquiry. The GS had written to them although to date drawn a blank . There has been some cross over of issues although no reply is a pretty poor show whoever you are. We are used to this treatment in the DDC area. From the dispute letter however NAPO have received late in the day reply, a magical type response as if there is nothing wrong with the way Working Links the Company have conducted themselves or their intentions to dismiss so many staff in both record of number, and in haste of time. Their appalling references to a structure to what is described as the “terms of reference“ which are basically their proposals on how to manage dismissals. I have been through it several times and its not fit for anything let alone a proposal for agreement. These are both incredibly poor and fail to follow already agreed and owned collective arrangements.

⦁ The 1-1 interviews situation had caused no ends of the worst practices we have ever experienced and witnessed in the role of union officials. The incredible mis-managed and deliberate external recruiting while threats to incumbent employees is currently being argued. All the examples are being collated and to ensure for our members if legal challenges are necessary the evidence is here.

⦁ On top of this, as if this was not already enough. We end up with a Working Links the Company announcement that they intend to leave National Negotiatory Council as from the 1 11 2016. Delivered in a way that describes a well principled and decent structure for National collective agreements for employers and Unions to operate and which have done well for many years. These terms and conditions serving the process for good employment relations is now described by Working Links representatives as not fit for purpose. I am yet to see, and learn of their infinite wisdom on how any local company is now setting its stall out, and to be any better! Not a chance! After all they have a public record of having to return hundreds of thousands of pounds after a false claims scandal. Monies from the government obtained and described as less than honest. From a company that has to date failed to engage appropriately with the unions. What might they actually believe. That their future arrangements will look fair or compliant with any reasonable and proper tenant remains to be seen. From what we have experienced, don’t bank on it. Keeping in mind their recent sell out to Aurelius was not a victory but more a financier’s rescue fund which is more an indication of the true organisational ability. I suspect more of that come as the mistakes get more obvious and the overcutting leaves the service that was vulnerable and the staff within it let alone the failure to deliver real qualitative services.

⦁ The combined Unions have another meeting scheduled after the bank holiday. I will keep you posted. There are a series of letters running and these will all be published shortly and as soon as we make head roads or not. Perhaps escalation to further our collective dispute which has the support of Unison Napo and the GMB and hope that we can all grab some rest over the final bank holiday this year.

⦁ My apologies for having nothing positive to report at this time but to assure you we continue to maintain the protective position for our members and to ensure the data and evidence collection continues no matter the additional pressures being placed on all the reps at this time.

⦁ If you have any concerns please write the rep of the unions or to me and record all you can that impacts on your role. Next week sees the elections of the national chair for Napo and whoever that becomes. Please ensure we stick together in NAPO to maintain our best collective fighting chances as the situation with the employers continue and their agenda takes a further pace towards more reductions in all staff.

Dino Peros Napo Branch Chair SSw


Finally, I would like to remind readers of this contribution from a few weeks ago:-

Chas Berry NPS.
Yvonne Pattison NPS.
Chris Winters NPS.
Katie Lomas NPS.
Keith Stokeld NPS.
Tina Williams NPS.
Iqbal Bhopal NPS.
Tony Mercer NPS.

Dino Peros CRC.

What does this mean? Currently Napo HQ is 100% NPS. Current candidates are 89% NPS. Now it is not the fault of these candidates that they are NPS and less CRC staff applied. But Chas, Yvonne and Chris should do the right thing and stand down. We need CRC representation. Vote Dino.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Decision Time

"it’s become apparent this week that there is some duff intelligence" I wonder if he is referring to himself here? I am shocked to discover so much has been advanced across this agenda? Have the chair and vice chairs been endorsing such advanced planning and does the NEC give it the thumbs up? If we get to AGM on this debate with many potentials for the implications to be unclear, I can see a voting disaster and if the arrangements whatever they become will be as useless as aspects of the previous staff transfer agreement. We can all work out this is good for the privateers, nothing in there for the memberships rights. These are grave revelations and when was it first known and to who? Does not look transparent from here.

Does this mean CRC staff being sold further down the river? CRC staff definitely seem to be the poor relations. Why have our terms and conditions been eroded? I agree that members are not doing enough, however, we did expect there to be a judicial review, there could have been a test case put through the court. NPS staff may make comments about how awful it is following the split, but I've yet to hear one person say they would rather be in a CRC. The government split us, why is Napo hell bent on helping them finish it?

The end to national collective bargaining is the holy grail for the CRCs. This is not being sought to enhance conditions of service and however much Napo harps on about benchmarking minimum standards, these will have no traction with the employers. We saw how in probation trusts conditions of service – car allowances, subsistence, and a range of other policies were all amended despite the NNC handbook. And when the Joint Secretaries were brought into disputes, they were ineffective guardians of conditions of service, because the employers always played the card of affordability and protecting jobs! The only thing they could not touch was salaries – now these will be attacked if negotiations are devolved locally.


When Napo signed the agreement formalising TR, the members were not asked to vote on it, they also never thought to seek the views of members when a whole year sailed by with no action on a judicial review. But when it comes to national collective bargaining they want the members to sign the death warrant.

The TR agreement was supposed to guarantee good redundancy terms, national collective bargaining and Napo confidently expressed the view at the time of signing that compulsory redundancy were unlikely.

As TR split the probation, so the end of national collective bargaining will signal the end of Napo representing both sectors. We have heard recently that there are insufficient resources to represent members because of the withdrawal of facility time, so it's pure fantasy to think that there will be sufficiently experienced local reps able to negotiate on pay and conditions.

Probation will be a two tier service and in the CRCs there will be more losers than winners. It's all over because essentially the probation workforce was too atomised and divided to stand together. The so-called TR split is leading to the creation of two separate services and Napo is delusional if it thinks it can hold the ring with its pragmatism.

Good post time up for the leadership no confidence motion instead and this debate will destroy AGM.

NAPO's Brexit!

Divide and conquer! Don't vote for it, FFS!


Here are the two motions referred to by the General Secretary in his blog yesterday:-

10. NNC reform - collective bargaining arrangements in probation 

This AGM recognises the complexities around the provision of probation services since the TR split. All employers have stated that they want independent negotiating arrangements with the unions. 

AGM agrees that Napo must offer a proactive and consistent approach to future negotiations with employers to protect and promote the professional and industrial concerns of members. 

This AGM endorses the proposed new national collective arrangements, transitioning local single table bargaining, on condition of the following: 
  • all employers provide adequate facility time, rights for local representatives, sufficient time for training, and opportunities for access to members and potential members; 
  • an updated NNC Handbook, which will be recognised as a ‘national benchmark’ for pay, terms and conditions; 
  • proposed local agreements must be referred to Napo’s Probation Negotiating Committee for guidance, to ensure accountability, consistency and coherent strategic direction; 
  • the retention of the NNC Joint Secretaries for the referral of ‘legacy’ issues and the availability of local dispute and arbitration machinery which includes the involvement of ACAS; 
  • all employers to support a Probation Professional Practice Forum (3PF); 
  • The Probation Negotiating Committee are to provide regular reports to members on the effectiveness of the new arrangements. 
Proposer: Probation Negotiating Committee 

11. Defend national collective bargaining 

The National Agreement On Staff Transfer and Protections signed 28th January 2014 gives a specific undertaking to protect national collective bargaining. This is summarised in paragraph 21 where it states: 

“It is agreed that the existing national collective bargaining arrangements will continue in the CRCs and NPS on 1 June 2014 by means of the Staff Transfer Scheme. The NNC and SCCOG machinery will also continue to apply to new staff.” 

Post share sale a number of CRC owners are threatening replace national collective bargaining with completely local arrangements. While a few staff may benefit from locally competitive local pay and conditions, in all likelihood this will result in a ‘race to the bottom’ in most areas. More importantly, it will torpedo Napo’s stated aim of achieving a nationally agreed, fair and equitable pay structure.

Officers and Officials are instructed to oppose any attempt to break up national collective bargaining and to launch a campaign amongst members in any CRC that threatens to withdraw from current NNC/SCCOG arrangements. 

Proposer: Chas Berry 
Seconder: Alec Price

Friday 19 August 2016

Latest From Napo 115

Today's blog from Napo's General Secretary:-

NNC Reform? Members to decide

Some time ago NOMS, and a number of CRC employers, signalled their wish to reform the current National Negotiating Council (NNC) and Standing Committee for Chief Officer Grades (SCCOG) machinery.

Napo’s Probation Negotiating Committee and your National Executive Committee have received reports from the two meetings that have taken place this year between the employers and the three probation unions involved, and a set of proposals have now been presented by the employers which I will be issuing in full to members next week in the hope that you will decide to debate them at the forthcoming AGM in (Cardiff 29th September to 1st October). The AGM motions list contains a motion supporting reform and one seeking no change to national collective bargaining. It is also intended that a pre-AGM discussion document will be issued which presents the pros and cons of NNC reform.

The intention is that the proposed new arrangements for single table bargaining between employers and unions will commence from this November. I do need to make it clear that these have not been agreed by the unions, as it’s become apparent this week that there is some duff intelligence circulating about the actual position that we have reached.

What’s on offer?

The proposals suggest reforming the current national collective bargaining arrangements for probation members working for the National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies.

Presently the pay and conditions of NPS and CRC staff are decided by national negotiations which take place at the NNC for staff on pay bands 1 to 6 and at SCCOG for senior managerial grades. The current negotiating machinery was protected in the NNC/SCCOG Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement which governed the transfer of staff to the NPS and the CRCs prior to the introduction of Transforming Rehabilitation in 2014.

It is no secret that NPS and the CRC owners wish to see changes because:

  • The NPS is a civil service employer which is bound by the Treasury and by civil service policy and procedure.
  • The CRCs are now privately owned separate bodies which want to develop their own approaches to future pay and conditions.
  • The CRC owners do not want to sit around the same negotiating table and have to share commercially sensitive information with their competitors during pay talks.
As a result, the NPS and the CRC owners have been exploring with the unions the possibility of reforming the current negotiating machinery. In essence, they want to move away from the NNC/SCCOG and allow each employer to set up its own local negotiating body with the unions to negotiate pay and conditions, including the annual pay award.

The Joint Union Response

In response, and after debate by Napo’s Probation Negotiating Committee, the probation unions put forward a counter proposal to protect the NNC/SCCOG. At the same time, the unions recognised that the role and remit of both these negotiating bodies would have to change to reflect the post TR environment for both NPS and the CRCs.

In summary, we suggested that: 
  • The NNC/SCCOG remain as national bodies with jurisdiction over NNC/SCCOG handbooks and national collective agreements.
  • CRC participation at NNC/SCCOG be refreshed in line with the post share sale environment.
  • NPS to create a Joint Negotiating and Consultative Committee (JNCC) to enable formal national negotiations and collective agreements to be reached between NPS and NPS trade unions. This will mirror the existing arrangements that exist within each of the CRCs.
  • NPS JNCC and CRC JNCCs to be given latitude to amend NNC/SCCOG terms and conditions by local collective agreement, with minimum standards being the National Staff Transfer and Protections agreement.
  • NNC/SCCOG Joint Secretaries to remain available to arbitrate over NNC/SCCOG agreements, management of change procedures.
  • New local dispute and arbitration machinery involving the use of ACAS.
  • Probation Consultative Forum (PCF) which is a non negotiating body dealing with professional and practice issues across probation to be opened up to the CRCs as full participating members.
Last April the unions followed this up with confirmation that any change to the NNC/SCCOG negotiating machinery would have to be put to members for approval. We also pointed out that there would be significant resource implications for employers in reforming the existing negotiating machinery. In particular, we highlighted our expectation that employers would have to put the following measures in place first:
  • Effective employer level joint negotiating and consultative committees (JNCCs) to enable proper local negotiation to take place and reach agreements. Where appropriate, agreed Cross-CRC Forums for issues that span a block of CRCs owned by one company (this is already existing practice in many areas).
  • Trade union side representation on new JNCCs/Cross CRC Forums to enable all recognised unions to be fully represented across all NPS Divisions and CRC employer areas.
  • Sufficient facility time to enable the trade unions to play a full role in local bargaining.
  • Training for sufficient trade union representatives to play a new expanded role in the new landscape.
  • Travel and subsistence to be available at the employer’s cost for trade union representatives to attend meetings.
The point we made here was that the NNC/SCCOG machinery traditionally saved local employers a lot of money by conducting single table bargaining. This would change in any proposed new system and would lead to cost implications that employers would need to give the unions assurances over, prior to us putting any proposals to members for their agreement.

The employers responded by asking the unions to confirm if we were prepared to allow individual employers to negotiate the annual pay rise with the unions locally. The unions indicated that we would have to put this to members as part of the eventual proposals that emerge to reform the negotiating machinery.

Napo’s position

Napo’s Probation Negotiating Committee met recently to consider the latest developments and agreed to submit a motion to the AGM which supports reforms to the NNC provided that a number of important principles are enshrined in a new collective agreement. These are:
  • That any change to the national collective bargaining machinery will require a national collective agreement at the NNC
  • The NNC Handbook will need to be updated in advance of any changes in line with recent agreements since 2014 to form the baseline for any local negotiations going forward
  • The NNC/SCCOG bargaining bodies to merge to form a single table bargaining machinery at NPS level
  • Any local change to the NNC Handbook must be by local collective agreement only
Pay negotiations

Given the foregoing, it’s no surprise that the NPS and CRCs want to move away from a single national pay deal for NPS and CRCs during 2016 and allow the 2016 pay rise to be negotiated at local level.

Napo has not agreed to this because this would first need our members to agree in the draft national collective agreement which we are proposing as the means of reforming the negotiating machinery.

NPS has already started talks with the unions over reforming the NNC pay and grading structure for NPS only. Napo believes that these talks could potentially be widened to include the CRCs as well to ensure that we have a level playing field on pay going forward.


Until Napo members have voted for whatever reforms emerge from the on-going national talks on pay reform, CRCs should be reminded that the current national pay arrangements will continue.

The employers’ side would like any new arrangements in place by 1 November, which is the very earliest that any changes could take place, but as these would have to have been agreed by the unions in advance of this date, this timetable may be aspirational.

Please look out for more detailed information about this important issue over the next week or so.

Unions seek urgent meeting on AP issues

I am grateful for the feedback from branches and members about the problems being experienced as a result of the implementation of E3 and we will take this into our upcoming meeting with NOMS next week. Meanwhile, the unions have asked for a specific and urgent meeting to discuss the specific difficulties in Approved Premises notably around: the inflexible approach being adopted towards staffing Rotas, the privatisation of night waking cover, TUPE arrangements, the matching and slotting process and pay protection.

As always, trying to find a slot for a meeting is a task in itself, but we will get more news to you as soon as we can.