Thursday 31 May 2018

The Probation Underground

As the MoJ continues to try and erase the word 'probation' and Napo members ponder who might be best to lead the union for the next 5 years, here's an interesting reminder in the current Probation Quarterly and I suspect, despite everything, this remains true:-
"have discerned what might be called a ‘probation underground;’ an enduring repository of traditional values, roles and practices attested in numerous interviews with serving practitioners, where a less censorious working language may have survived." 
Can probation be re-born in England and Wales? 

Maurice Vanstone and Philip Priestley introduce their book: ‘Probation and Politics: Academic Reflections from Former Practitioners’

Public services never stand still. They come and grow, they fade and die - now and then with a little help from their ‘friends,’ and new ones take their place. Sometimes change is on the side of the angels; sometimes not. Perhaps the most egregious example of the latter, maybe of all time, has been the recent ideological assault on probation in England and Wales. In 2013, seven of us, all former probation officers who became academics, had a letter published in the Independent protesting the proposed sale of probation to the private sector, due for Parliamentary confirmation the following Monday: 
To remove up to 250,000 of its cases and auction them off to an untried consortium of commercial interests and voluntary bodies is in our view to take a reckless gamble with public safety and to put at risk the prospects for personal change and reform which lie at the heart of what Probation is and does. (Canton et al. 2013) 
Following the passage of the Offender Rehabilitation Act (2014) into law we recruited further authors (making seventeen in all) and proposed a book of essays relating similarities in their shared career trajectories to public events within the criminal justice system. 

Collectively their contributions sketch an informal oral history of probation for almost half its lifespan in England and Wales. In Probation and Politics: Academic Reflections from Former Practitioners (Vanstone & Priestley 2016) they cast a critical eye over the history of the service, its values, and the effectiveness or otherwise of its diverse practice. They raise important questions about: the probation service’s identity, purpose, and methodology; its response to emerging research findings; its reaction to political pressure and an increasingly punitive criminal justice environment; its relationship with risk measurement; and, its adjustment to the needs of women and minority ethnic groups. These reflections reveal a deep level of uncertainty about the service’s survival as a humanising factor in criminal justice within the context of ever increasing, ideological, politically driven governance. 

A service receptive to change 

Since its inception the probation service has held at its core the principle that positive change is possible for people on probation, and consistent with that principle has been its own adaptability to change. In response to social and political demands, the lessons of ineffective practice, and the lure of new, often untested methods, it has embraced transformations in its functions, duties, responsibilities, theoretical foundations and practice. It is, therefore, no stranger to change.

That change has encompassed practice methods and their rationale, the types of work undertaken and how they have been managed, as well as the organisational shape of the service, but it has not altered its fundamental values encompassing as they have the notion of offering people who have been convicted of crime the humanistic opportunity of rehabilitation. The latter point, perhaps, has ensured that for the greater part of its history the service has occupied a constant position within the criminal justice system and been valued and endorsed by governments of different political persuasions. The fact that successive governments have deemed the probation service useful in so far as it allowed some expression of compassion within the processes of criminal justice has, perhaps, led to a reciprocal adaptability by the service in relation to its purposes, work and governance that has contributed to its survival. 

It is not overstating the case to say that the probation service has been suitably cooperative, constructive and flexible when faced with political demands and instructions. However, governance has intensified since the time chief officers were left to govern in their own way and probation officers allowed to do the job and make decisions largely unencumbered by bureaucracy, and in contrast, late twentieth and early twenty first century governance has been characterised by information systems and computer programmes, politically reordered objectives and priorities, National Standards, and new management systems. Much of this, it might be argued, introduced necessary improvements at both manager and practitioner level in the way the service was managed as well as in the practice of probation officers: those subject to intervention by probation workers need it to be skillful and informed by evidence as do the communities within which they live. There is no argument against change that demands professional accountability from managers and practitioners alike and raises expectations that practice should be informed by evidence of effectiveness.

Equally, it is not unreasonable to insist that changes made by government intervention should be driven by knowledge and evidence rather than ideology. What we have witnessed in the last few years are transformations emanating from a neo-liberal political philosophy that has led to the near extinction of a state agency with a hitherto distinguished history. Unsurprisingly, all of the contributions to the book coalesce around this sad reality.

Language, values, and the restoration of probation 

During the writing of Probation and Politics an umbrella debate between editors and authors addressed appropriate ways to refer to people who have broken the law, have been convicted, placed on probation, or served prison sentences. Latterly the view has grown that derogatory and pejorative labels for these groups are not only disrespectful in themselves but actually undermine the primary effort of probation to reduce rates of reoffending. The worst ‘offender’ in much of this ‘shameful naming’ has been the incorporation of probation into NOMS - the National Offender Management Service. Together with official encouragement (requirements) to routinely use the words ‘offender’ and ‘punishment’ in reports and other official communications, they have become embedded in official discourse to an extent difficult to avoid. Although the name of NOMS has itself been abolished, the odour of its punitive patois lingers on. 

If probation is ever to be restored to its proper place as a non-punitive, constructive response to law-breaking in the community, its traditional language, together with the values that inform it, will play crucial roles in the process. One contributor to Politics and Probation calls for the total ‘re-moralisation’ of probation along Kantian lines (Whitehead, 2016), echoing sentiments expressed elsewhere in the book and in the literature.

Equally vital to the restoration of probation will be the deployment of ‘evidence based’ methods for reducing reoffending together with evaluation procedures automatically integrated into practice - as tracked vehicles carry their own road with them. 

Authors in this collection share a common sense of outrage at what has become of their former profession, and a conviction that it must be born again, but none of them is sanguine about it happening imminently. However, some of them in their lifetimes of academic work have discerned what might be called a ‘probation underground;’ an enduring repository of traditional values, roles and practices attested in numerous interviews with serving practitioners, where a less censorious working language may have survived. 

The values include a bedrock belief in positive personal change, which Shadd Maruna identifies as a ‘key factor’when communicated by significant others of individuals desisting from offending (Sinclair-Jones, 2014). Could this counterculture also be construed as a probation-service-in-waiting ready to step forward when the present pandemonium of failing privatisations finally collapses under the weight of its own contradictions? 

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday 30 May 2018

General Secretary Election 10

I saw this desolate comment left last night and wondered how typical it is? 
Anonymous 29 May 2018 at 22:17
"Napo is non existent in Durham Tees Valley CRC, no communication at all from local Chair, no meetings, nothing. Forgotten members. Complete overhaul of Napo required."
There's now less than a week before Napo's NEC are due to interview both candidates for the post of General Secretary on 5th June, the closing date for Branches to submit nominations being noon Monday 4th June. 

By any stretch of the imagination it's all a ridiculously short timescale, the firing gun only having been triggered by email to Branches on 10th May. Over a period that includes not one, but two Bank Holidays, when many colleagues especially with young children take some annual leave, Branches are supposed to have organised meetings, discussed the merits of each candidate and if agreed, make a nomination. 

As usual with Napo, communication has not been a strong point as evidenced by the following exchanges on Facebook dating from Saturday 12th May, indeed the same day I fired the gun on the process with a blog post.      

12th May Facebook

I haven't received any information on the Napo general secretary elections. Should I have done and by what mechanism?

I’ve not either. I understood NEC have yet to interview both candidates at our next June NEC meeting.

Ah I didn’t know that.

It’s gone to branch chairs/convenors first. Got the email Thursday.

O interesting. Our convenor told us ages ago didnt need to send members stuff as "everything" would be sent out by Napo HQ individually to members. Met our NEC rep on TUC March yesterday & told me that it was next NEC when the candidates would be interviewed. We all get ballot slips eventually but hope we are not voting over summer which would be daft (holidays etc). As an aside...communicating news/what's going on and explaining process with rank and file seems to be a perpetual prob with Napo. I don't understand why when social media offers umpteen outlets! At times it's as if we are trying too hard to be "a magazine" with glossy pics' etc rather than just talk about core business and what the staff (Admin/Officers and Officials are actually doing on our behalf). Personally it's the latter I want as can get t'other elsewhere.

I think more info could be sent out but things have definitely improved. However certain things like this need to go to the branch exec first before members.

Katie Lomas. Branch officers have been sent info as there are things they need to do. NEC meet on 5th June and ballots go out to members shortly after that. If anyone has queries about the process contact your branch reps or link officer/official.

I get that Katie but it relies on Branch Officials communicating & as I said above when I queried Branch Chair re dearth of info was told it (all info) was sent out to individual members or to be found on website. We have had no Branch info since Xxxxxx stood down as Secretary last Sept and have since been told Branches no longer need Secretaries as info goes out to members.

Katie Lomas. Not quite as simple as that Xxxxxx, some stuff goes out direct - all members should get Friday news, plus other specific mailouts plus the blog - but where a branch exec needs to do stuff it goes to them...

Whatever is MEANT to happen I'm relaying what my Branch Chair and Convenor are saying happens and as I have said umpteen times now and am not going to repeat again after this, info has not been passed onto Branch members in Xxxxxxx since last Sept by our Branch Officers for the reasons given.

For what it's worth, I agree with Xxxxxxxx. I wasn't even aware there were going to be general secretary elections until reading a post on here that alluded to it. Perhaps this is not the forum for this discussion but I too feel I would like to know more about what's going on or being discussed.

Thanks Xxxxxxx! I suspect part of the problem is gulf between what is intended/planned centrally and what local officers understand/find feasible to achieve and meanwhile left in the dusk are common & garden members. I only found out about this FB page via references on Jim Brown's blog and then took ages to find a "sponsor" to allow me to join this group. If the Forum on Napo webpage had been developed well it could have facilitated these discussions between any member electing to join in and those Officers/Officials designated or choosing to link in plus there were trained moderators to ensure no abuse etc. As it stands this is a closed group I understand (thou what criteria for admission is I don't know) which is fine but there are a load of members still in the "dusk" or outside these forums of info exchange depending on ability of their Branch Officers to help keep them in the loop. Similarly we have a keen local NEC rep but [they are] one who doesn't use social media nor service emails. We no longer have branch meetings as could not sustain quoracy so members only know about Napo activity via what they find out from website should they bother to search that (still not the easiest to navigate and doesn't facilitate quick exchange info or quick answering of questions) or via emails from the centre......that leaves a lot of gaps!

I'm not sure its fair to hold Napo HQ responsible for what your branch officers aren’t doing or how they have miscommunicated stuff. No one has ever said branches don’t need to communicate certain things to their members so no idea where that idea has come from in your branch. It doesn’t make sense anyway as the exec need to discuss certain things first. The more actively involved people are in their branch the stronger they are!

I'm not blaming HQ I'm making the point that info that it's assumed goes out via Branch Officers from HQ doesn't in our area. Of course it's great when members are active and attend meetings etc but that doesn't happen everywhere and certainly isn't happening in my area and 3 people on Exec being only ones who did meet isn't enough to function as a Branch. Help from members and from HQ was requested last Sept. I'm not going to repeat myself any further.

I had no idea Ian was leaving!! Surely that is an important piece of information!!

Katie Lomas. Our General Secretary is an elected post and served a 5 year term so is up for election every 5 years.

Thanks Katie but I do remember being made aware of this in past years so it was a bit of a shock to see this suddenly appear! No apparent notice given (that I have received) that the term is up!

Katie Lomas.  An advert went out on our website and press, your NEC rep should have reported back to branch members that it was happening as it was discussed at length at last NEC. Ian has been mentioning it regularly since last AGM when he announced he would be re-standing. Branches have been informed this week, get in touch with you local branch officers to find out how they are dealing with it as each branch is different.

As a further example of not knowing key info...I learnt via trawling through Jim Brown blog posts that Katie is now apparently Co-chair with Chris. Is that true? If so what happened to Yvonne and presumably this is again info that was sent out via Branch Chair or Convenors or NEC?? Or is it that whomever made the post on JB's Blog had wrong end of the stick? Actually on re-reading Jim's blog I am maligning the integrity of his info as he's posted a document which ends 

"Please note that the nomination forms must be returned to Napo by noon on Monday 4th June 2018 – please follow the instructions on the form.

Yours sincerely


So what's happened here then?

Katie Lomas. Must be a typo Xxxxxx! No one has changed roles as far as I am aware!


For those willing to look, there are surely many telling indicators of systemic communication and organisational failures in the above exchanges, but the bit that really resonates with me is this:-
"We all get ballot slips eventually but hope we are not voting over summer which would be daft (holidays etc)."
Well, it is indeed anticipated that ballot papers are sent out to members shortly after the NEC meeting on 5th June, unless that is, some common sense prevails. Readers will recall from the blog post on 19th May that London Branch were able to discuss the matter at their scheduled meeting on Friday 18th May and were so unhappy with the process that the decision was made to demand more time and opportunity to learn more about the candidates:-
Emergency Motion
This Branch requests that the NEC make arrangements as a matter of urgency, such that all members have the opportunity to ask questions of both General Secretary candidates prior to the Election. If this is not achievable by the election deadline, this motion moves that the deadline be extended.
Proposer: Napo London Branch
It will be interesting to see if the NEC get the message and have the bottle to get a grip on things because unless there's some concrete demonstration of direction and leadership from Napo's supposed governing body, we are indeed all doomed.

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Warm Words or Action?

Whilst 'probation' continues to be officially 'disappeared' by Messrs Gauke and Stewart, I notice Rob Allen is encouraged by the recent warm words regarding sentencing and imprisonment. I'm afraid I remain deeply sceptical, firstly by their joint refusal to acknowledge, let alone fix, the TR omnishambles. Secondly, like all politicians, they are tempted by the offer of a quick fix magic bullet, this time in the shape of satellite electronic monitoring. They're just buying some time so the MoJ can work it's legendary contract drafting magic and create a veritable tagging bonanza for the likes of G4S or Serco.  

Prison Reform: See it, Say it, Sorted?

Is the Government finally grasping the nettle on Prison Reform? If dynamic duo may not quite be the right description for Justice Secretary David Gauke and Prison Minister Rory Stewart, they are certainly adopting a bolder approach to criminal justice than their predecessors. In particular they are now openly recognising the desirability of getting prison numbers down. Their employment strategy launched this week included proposals for much more in the way of temporary release for prisoners serving sentences. Now Gauke’s told The Times he wants a concerted effort to drastically reduce the number of people who are being locked up every year.

Having seen the parlous state of the prisons and the ever more yawning gap between policy aspiration and day to day reality on the wings, the new ministerial team are certainly saying many of the right things. The question now is can they sort them?

When I read that Gauke wants to start a debate about what punishment means, I was reminded of the work of the Rethinking Crime and Punishment (RCP), a programme I directed for the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation in the 2000’s. The first recommendation in our 2004 report was that “political leadership should be exercised to emphasise the goal of reducing the prison population while promoting the value of alternatives to prison”. Gauke’s off to a promising start on that but how about the other ideas which emerged from the work we funded. We wanted to see business coordinators in every prison to maintain positive relationships with local employers; and more and better arts activity for prisoners. On both Gauke is on the same page. We argued for new approaches outside prison for women offenders and those with mental health problems; on this we’ll have to wait and see.

On alternatives to prison more broadly we wanted to see a major public education campaign about community penalties, and greater involvement of sentencers and the public in their implementation. We piloted these ideas in the Thames Valley, enabling judges and magistrates to visit and discuss community-based programmes and members of the public to propose unpaid work assignments. As RCP ended, we published a costed manifesto showing alternative uses for the £2.3 billion which had been allocated on new prison places. It would pay instead for higher quality community supervision, wider availability of restorative justice, women’s centres and link worker schemes for petty persistent offenders with mental health problems. Structured dialogue arrangements would keep judges and magistrates informed about what was available and how it was working.

The plan was politely received but no more. But it’s that kind of approach and investment that’s now needed, utilising some of the £1 billon in the MoJ’s new for old prison coffers. Along with encouragement for the Sentencing Council to do more to curb unnecessary imprisonment and development of models for more localised funding arrangements, there’s the chance not just of the tide turning, but of a sea change.

Rob Allen

Monday 28 May 2018

Taking It Personally

Whatever your views are regarding the Probation Institute, there's never been any doubt where Paul Senior's heart lies. This from the latest edition of Probation Quarterly:-

Probation is a Profession, Never Let That Go 

A fascinating insight from Professor Paul Senior

In 1997 I submitted a paper to the Home Office regarding the urgent need for a Professional and Regulatory Body in the light of Probation’s withdrawal from social work training and its partnership with CCETSW (Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work) and as part of the construction of independent training for probation staff. I was told to remove this paper from discussion as it would cost too much so we proceeded to craft an excellent training, the Diploma in Probation Studies, with only light touch and non-independent oversight from the Home Office. 

There have been costs to this approach with uncertainty over qualifications for different grades of staff, whether probation could or should be regarded as a profession, the demise of post-qualifying training and much more. It always felt to me and others a wrong decision to make and there has been a gap ever since.

It has taken a long time since then to create a framework for a body and an organisational home to support these issues in the more uncertain post-TR world, but these issues remain pertinent and are now the central rationale of the Probation Institute. I have been honoured to Chair the Board of the Probation Institute over the past three years in a much-overdue effort to shape an organisation which, through its independence and expertise, can ensure the creation and maintenance of a regulatory framework, a professional body and a centre of excellence. This work remains in progress given the difficult times in which such an organisation has been introduced. In this paper I reflect on my time in this role which I leave in September 2018. 

I want to be clear about my reasons for leaving. I was diagnosed in January 2012 with an incurable, ultimately terminal, cancer. I have had a lifetime commitment to the profession and to the maintenance of professional standards of probation practice, having actively resisted attempts to de-professionalise the job against political pressures over many years. Through a range of guises - Probation officer, Chair, NAPO Professional Committee, CCETSW Council, joint appointment in training between probation and university, designer and implementer of the DipPS and researcher and probation academic - I have tried for over 40 years to support the best in probation. 

Jan 2012 was not a good month for me but it was disastrous for probation as the TR paper was published then. Like many others I campaigned against the changes and spent time attending rallies, speaking at events, tweeting endlessly and submitting papers. My paper to the 16th Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture in 2014 ‘Privatising Probation: the death-knell of a much-cherished public service?’ (P Senior, (2016) Howard Journal, 55, 414-431) attempted to capture many of the critical features of this change. I took it personally having worked on making probation practice robust and effective since I started as a probation volunteer in 1975.

As the new arrangements came into being in 2014 with a bifurcated service delivery model comprising the public sector National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies I promoted the construction of a professional development framework working with others, most notably, Helen Schofield and Mike McClelland. The danger of this split was that professional standards would become inconsistent and there appeared to be no attempt to insure against this. This framework would eventually be adopted by the Probation Institute (PI). 

The PI came into existence rather hurriedly, supported by a steering group of professional associations and unions, at an inauspicious time for it to be an easy ride. From the outset it sought to shape its identity and its independence through its members, its representative groups and committees and ultimately through its national Board. Though arguments have remained strong for such a body (nothing had been put in place since I had attempted to do so in 1997) it had to fight critiques from across the spectrum from ministers, unions and disgruntled and disillusioned probation staff. At a time of job insecurity and cutbacks it did not secure sufficient membership to grow the organisation quickly but recognition that it filled a gap ensured the PI was invited to the table on many professional discussions. I joined the Board in March 2015 and was made Chair in September of that year.

Having spent a lifetime fighting for probation this role has suited me. I took early retirement from Sheffield Hallam University in 2016, driven sadly by ill-health, but this allowed me to focus exclusively on the PI. All the work we have all done in the past few years has been done pro bono with a tireless acting chief executive, an energetic Board and fellows, volunteers and members. We are independent with no external funding outwith project work. I think we have succeeded through a lot of our initiatives to shape our future engagement with the sector. 

We worked tirelessly to campaign for a Regulatory Body for Probation and Rehabilitation staff and it now has strong support amongst government, organisations, unions and members and awaits time for legislation which Brexit is blocking on many fronts. We have published position papers on a range of topics which have contributed to national debate on key issues, submitted written and oral evidence to Justice Select Committees and other committees/enquiries such as the Lammy. Enquiry, we have worked with NPS and CRCs on the development of the new qualifying training, apprenticeships, on equality and diversity issues, on a women’s strategy and our Trainees Conferences and our annual Practitioners Conference are well supported.

Through our Research Committee we have successfully promoted practitioner research with the Sir Graham Smith Research Awards, we have strong links with universities through the Academic Advisory Panel chaired by Professor Anne Worrall as well as ground breaking research and e-learning on veterans in the criminal justice system. 

This summary of our work does not do justice to the development of a strong sense of purpose in what we can offer both as a bulwark against the isolation and disillusion of probation staff but also to support and promote good practice in the future.

Sadly for me my time is up, and I hate leaving a job incomplete but such is life. The world of probation remains uncertain as we go forward and there are no easy solutions. I am convinced that the PI can contribute to a brighter future for individuals within criminal justice and help deliver practices I remain proud of. Through my PI Honorary Life Fellowship I will continue to dip a toe into the work of the PI and wish the next Chair and the Board every success.

Sunday 27 May 2018

Don't Mention Probation!

Whilst we've been necessarily focused on the Napo General Secretary election, David Gauke is doing his best to continue the official MoJ line and pretend there's no problem with TR and probation by the simple expedient of never mentioning it. Official policy would appear to be that it's all far too difficult to sort out and I'm told some poor mandarin has been given the task of just trying to keep the show on the road until the CRC contracts end. 

It's ok to talk about prisons though and here he is announcing something that had already been announced - a classic distraction ploy, but again it's just about buying a bit of time until those pesky satellite tagging contracts kick-in next year when thousands of prisoners can be released. Never mind that the CRCs won't be able to cope supervising them on licence - it'll be ok, perhaps he has a hunch, a gut feeling:- 

From the wings to the workplace: the route to reducing reoffending

Secretary of State for Justice's speech at the Education and Employment Strategy Launch at HMP Isis.

It’s a pleasure to be at HMP Isis today to see some of the excellent work being done to help prisoners get a job when they are released. The impressive workshops being run here are helping prisoners to learn a trade and gain the practical skills and confidence they need to succeed in that trade beyond these prison walls.

The power of work
Why is that important? Well, I believe in the power of work to change people’s lives. As Work and Pensions Secretary, I saw how making work always pay supports people to take the right path in life and create a better future for themselves and their family.

It’s not just the financial security of having a pay packet, although of course that is important. It’s everything else that comes with being in work: purpose, structure, networks, having a stake in something. Nearly 400,000 more people have moved into work since this time last year; almost 3.3 million more people since 2010.

This sustained increase in employment and the strong jobs market that has supported it are great success stories. Indeed, the employment rate in the UK has been increasing over the last few years. At over 75% - it is now the highest it has been since records began in 1971. Yet, there is one group in society - former prisoners - where only 17% are in PAYE employment a year after they are released.

I want those ex-offenders who are committed to change to share in this country’s remarkable jobs story. Prisoners who come out of prison and do not get a job are a burden on our welfare state and on hard-working taxpayers. Without the focus of a job, they then often fall back into crime. That reoffending costs the UK economy £15 billion a year.

Ensuring ex-offenders come out of prison, not onto benefits but into work, reduces the financial burden on taxpayers and the welfare state. It reduces reoffending and, therefore, the number of victims of crime.

Prison as a turning-point
In my first prisons speech as Secretary of State in March, I set out what I saw as the purpose of prison: to protect the public, to punish by depriving liberty and to rehabilitate. I am clear that offenders are sent to prison as punishment, but they should leave with prison having been a turning-point in their lives. Delivering on that third purpose - rehabilitation - is at the heart of the education and employment strategy I am launching today.

Although prison cannot help those who are not willing to help themselves, for those offenders who see prison as a crossroads in their lives, as a chance to change, I want prison to provide them with the impetus and incentives to set them on the path to a better life. The foundation for creating that better life is work. This strategy will unlock opportunity and put prisoners on a path to employment. Because the evidence is clear: if a prisoner gets a job after coming out of prison, they are less likely to commit more crime.

As a window on the world of work opens for a prisoner, we often see the door to their criminal past close behind them. I want to make breaking through into that world a more realistic prospect for prisoners.

The first step is education - as Dame Sally Coates’ 2016 report made clear. Over half of offenders assessed on arrival into prison have the English and maths skills of an 11-year-old. Now, we have made good progress over the last few years in improving the quality of education in prisons:

70% of the education provided by the Offender Learning and Skills Service is now rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding, That’s up from 51% in 2015. But we must go further. We need to ensure that offenders not only leave prison with the basic skills they need to enter the workplace, but with the skills that employers are looking for.

Frankly, there are too many low-level qualifications being delivered that reap little or no reward for prisoners and are of little relevance for employers. Education in prisons needs to be much more closely tailored to the skills that employers in the local area need.

That’s why our Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway is helping link training with employment opportunities by giving a 12-month apprenticeship on release - that’s a guaranteed job and a guaranteed income. And governors know their prisoners and local areas best. I’ve said before that governors should govern. That’s why from April next year, they will be given full control of over how education is delivered in their prisons, able to tailor it to meet the needs of local employers and the local labour market.

From jobs on the wings to jobs in the workplace
Alongside education, it is also important to get experience of work. At any one time, thousands of prisoners are working in prison. A third of prisoners have a job of some kind. That could be a job working for one of the 300 businesses that have set up shop in prison, or it could be a job that directly helps with the running of a prison.

Whether working in a call centre, cleaning the wings, cooking in the kitchens or cutting hair in the prison barbers….prison work gives prisoners something purposeful to do and helps prisons run effectively. Prisoners can pick up some useful skills along the way.

However, that work has not been geared up in a way that properly prepares prisoners for employment or provides a clear route from a job on the wings to a job in the workplace. This strategy will build on the success we have had in getting prisoners doing jobs in prison and translate that into supporting prisoners into jobs when they come out of prison.

The Clink Partnership
We will be putting rehabilitation into the prison work routine by incorporating more on-the-job training and vocational qualifications into traditional prison jobs. In three prisons - HMP Bristol, Styal and Risley - we will work with The Clink charity to give make working in a prison kitchen more focussed on training, work experience, placements out of prison and ultimately employment and mentoring on release. I hope this is a model that can be adopted more widely.

Workplace ROTL
A key aspect of The Clink model is getting prisoners experience of work outside prison. That real-world experience from is vital. The evidence shows that it can reduce the risk of reoffending. So, for prisoners who have earned it, and who have been properly risk-assessed, we will get more prisoners out of their cells and into real workplaces.

We intend to do this by expanding and increasing the use of release of prisoners on temporary licence for work - or ‘workplace ROTL’. This will give more prisoners the chance to prove themselves to an employer, to build relationships and their CV, and to get that real-world experience before they leave prison.

Prisoners who go to work under ROTL are treated just like any other employee: they earn the same wages and have similar deductions made for tax and national insurance, as well as making contributions from their pay packet to victims’ funds.

So this is a foot through the door to work and to many of the benefits of being a real employee and it is an important step towards re-joining society and committing to the obligations that are required in doing that. Workplace ROTL is also a powerful incentive to promote good behaviour in prison. If you do not cause trouble, if you take the right path and play by the rules, that behaviour will be recognised and you will be rewarded with a more liberal prison regime.

In that sense, expanding the use of positive incentives like workplace ROTL, has an important role to play in reducing the levels of violence and disorder in prisons, alongside the other measures we are taking.

Personal prisoner stories
As part of the launch of this strategy today, you will see and hear stories of prisoners who have successfully taken that path, whose lives have been transformed from the opportunity workplace ROTL provides - and as a result of their own drive and determination. Let me give you just three brief personal stories.

Yasmin used workplace ROTL to start work at an engineering firm in the West Midlands. Since then, she has successfully applied for an apprenticeship and started full time work. She is now hoping to study for a degree.

Mikey got three months of work experience under his belt before being released from prison. He now works for Balfour Beatty. His advice to others if they are given the same opportunity he had is: “grab it with both hands”.

And Luke, whose story features in one of our campaign videos, went to a jobs fair in HMP Brixton. There he met a lady who signposted him to construction company Keltbray, who took him on. He says that if you have no prospects and nothing to lose, it’s very easy to fall back into what you know.

Luke says it’s a good feeling being self-sufficient. He doesn’t have to claim benefits. He can pay his rent. He is grateful to Keltbray for giving him a chance and now wouldn’t even consider doing anything that could put his new life at risk.

These stories show what is possible. But the fact is, half of employers wouldn’t even consider hiring an ex-offender. Beyond the prison walls, we need to change the mind-set of many employers. We also recognise the argument in favour of financial incentives and will balance this against wider government objectives. We will consider how to take forward a national insurance contributions holiday alongside wider work on employer obligations and incentives.

However, the basic incentive for employers should be that prisons provide a pool of potential recruits just like Yasmin, Mikey and Luke - hard-working and loyal. Some employers see that, including many of the employers here today. But I want more employers to look past an offender’s conviction to their future potential.

How do we do that? Well, we do it by working more closely with employers so they open their eyes to the benefits of hiring ex-offenders. Our New Futures Network will do just that. It will create stronger links between prisons and employers, championing prisoners and acting as a broker between prisoners and employers.

But this is not just about creating paths from institutions to employment, but about creating cultural change from within organisations themselves. I want employees, from the shop floor to the boardroom, to call out and challenge their employers if they turn a blind eye to attracting and representing ex-offenders in their workplace.

Fostering that cultural change will send a message that says: we believe in what you can contribute now and in the future, not what you have done in the past. And let me tell you why I believe now is the moment we can seize the opportunity to do that.

I think the public mood has changed somewhat in recognising that when an offender comes out of prison we, as a society, don’t want them to return to crime and reoffend. The public expects them to get a job and become law-abiding citizens. It makes good sense for society. It also makes good sense for business. In some ways, now more than ever.

Labour markets
As I mentioned at the start of my speech, we currently have a thriving jobs market. We know that demand for workers in some sectors is very high. Leaving the European Union is also likely to have an impact on the workforce in sectors such as catering, construction and agriculture. I see an opportunity here for both prisoners and employers, particularly those operating in these sectors.

By expanding the use of ROTL for work, more prisoners will not only be able to get a foot through the door to sectors like these, but employers will be better able to fill short-term skills gaps whilst also developing potential permanent employees for the longer term. That in my eyes is a ‘win-win’. Ultimately though, a lot of this is down to an employer’s mind-set and their recruitment policies. I want an employer’s head, as well as their heart, to be in the right place.

As a government, we are doing our part. We have already ‘banned the box’. That means we no longer ask about criminal convictions upfront in the recruitment process, which can put off ex-offenders from applying in the first place and lead to preconceptions on the part of the person recruiting.

We are also working with prisons to place ex-offenders into fixed-term jobs in the Civil Service. That way, an ex-offender can build up confidence and experience and have a good chance of being successful when they apply for a permanent role.

For those prisoners who are prepared to change, this education and employment strategy will help to break down both the barriers and the prejudices prisoners have faced. I say to prisoners: if you treat prison as a pivotal turning-point in your life, if you commit to change and to bettering yourself, if you are prepared to step up when you step out of prison, this strategy will work for you and empower you to prepare for, and move into, work.

I want prisons to be places of hope and aspiration that can propel prisoners into employment when they are released. In doing so, they will be able to start a new chapter in their lives, contribute to society and join their place in this country’s extraordinary jobs story.
Thank you.


This from yesterday's Guardian:-

Short prison sentences do not work, says justice secretary

David Gauke says he wants prison population to come down, with alternatives to short spells in jail for least serious offenders

Short prison sentences of less than 12 months do not rehabilitate prisoners and should be a last resort, the justice secretary has said, adding that the UK is now holding too many people in jail. David Gauke, who is overseeing an overcrowded prison service rife with violence and drug use, said that he would like to see the prison population come down, with alternatives to short spells in jail for the least serious offenders.

Gauke told the Times he wanted to start a wider debate about “what punishment means”, noting that prisoners held for less than a year have a recidivism rate of about 66%, higher than the reoffending rate of those handed non-custodial sentences.

“Twenty-five years ago the [prison] population was 44,000. Today it’s 84,000,” he said. “I would like it to fall.” He said efforts to cut the number of people incarcerated would depend on “how successfully we can build confidence in non-custodial sentences and how effective we can be in reducing reoffending”.

Gauke said the rise had been driven by longer and tougher sentences for serious crimes. But he acknowledged concerns about the role of shorter terms, saying: “There is an issue about public protection, but I think we need to look at the efficacy of short sentences.”

For some groups, there should also be a move towards alternatives to imprisonment. Female offenders – who are often victims of domestic abuse – have particularly complex needs, he said, while prison could be “absolutely the worst place” for people with mental health problems.

Gauke’s suggestions come days after he suggested that prisoners could fill gaps in the workforce caused by the UK leaving the European Union.

Saturday 26 May 2018

General Secretary Election 9

Hi Jim,

Thank you for posting my blog and allowing your readers to know a little more about me. I hope to contribute regularly during this election process and if successful I will continue to contribute to the wider debate that your blog seems to stimulate. This is something I have done previously and I would plan to continue to engage with members on unofficial forums as I believe any leadership role creates the need to engage with opinion and with debate which in turns leads to healthy membership and a clear direction from the elected leader.

I have now been properly signposted to your blog and have had chance to catch up on some of the comments and entries which I will respond to within this post. I note that many of the comments centre around my past and my job role rather than what my aims and objectives are for taking Napo forward I will respond to these comments first and then future contributions will focus on what my priorities going forward will be if successful.

Firstly I see much has been made of my battle with the POA via the Certification Officer, much of what I have read is wholly inaccurate and I would urge any member that is unsure to read the decision of the Certification Officer in full for themselves. Whilst I would prefer to talk and plan for the future I realise it is important to Napo members to understand my past and my Trade Union Credentials. It is not my intention to get drawn into personality battles more to allow people to know what kind of person I am and what I can offer Napo members in terms of commitment, energy and enthusiasm. But as the query has been raised I cannot avoid giving the contextual detail.

In May 2017 I was selected as the Parliamentary Candidate in the General Election for my local constituency, as a Civil Servant I had to resign from my role as a Prison Officer due to the guidance which prevents those employed by the state from taking political sides. As a consequence I ceased to be a member of the NEC of the POA. I think it is important to additionally note that I believed my candidature in the General Election for the Labour party, which was supporting a manifesto recognised to achieve the political aims and objectives of the POA, would further enhance the standing of the POA in the political arena not weaken it.

The POA rules and constitution has clear rules on ceasing to be a member of the POA NEC and when I wrote to the NEC in May 2017 I set out these rules and the consequences of my resignation from the Civil Service. I have a text still to this date from the POA GS stating that he believed I did not need to resign.

Following the election campaign in June 2017 and on my return to HMP Elmley as a Prison Officer I was informed that the POA GS was informing members that I was banned from standing for Office for 9 years until 2026. I immediately wrote to the NEC to clarify their position. In a response the GS told me that I was banned from standing for Office. I knew that this was clearly a case of discrimination against me as both the General Secretary and one of the Assistant Secretaries had both stood for elected seats in 2015. The GS stood for Labour (same as me) and the AS for TUSC. There are no rules within the POA that prevented any member from standing for political positions of their choice. I requested that the POA reconsidered their position but they refused my request and offered me no avenue of appeal. I also discovered that the POA NEC had taken steps to cancel my membership and I immediately restarted my membership.

At this point I think it is important that I give some context to the type of person I am. I have and will never allow anyone to bully or intimidate me, many have tried but none have been successful. From before I took the Chair position I had been subjected to attempts to bully and intimidate me from an individual by denigration and undermining my work for members usually by email, again I still have copies. I had faced each of these attempts to bully me head on and I believed that I had sufficiently prevented that individual from attempting to do so ever again, however I was wrong. Whilst I will not name any individuals in this post it will not be hard for Napo members to work out for themselves who I am referring to and should they wish to read the endorsements under Ian’s election statement then they can confirm for themselves who clearly wants to ensure that I fail in this election.

As there was no avenue of appeal for me I was left with two choices, let this individual get away with not treating me fairly and accept a ban for 9 years or take my complaint to the Certification Officer. A weaker person may have chosen the former as I realised that this would most certainly up the ante, but I could not allow a person I have known to be a purveyor of mistruths time and time again to treat me or anyone else in such a way. The choice was a simple one for me and although there has been much stress and aggravation I have seen this issue through to ensure parity and fairness for the future of POA members.

Between me challenging the NEC decision and taking my complaint to the Certification Officer I was subjected to public insults and derogatory comments from the same individual that sought to bully me. Additionally when it became apparent that they might not win on imposing a ban for 9 years they tried to say that I was banned for 5 years as a lapsed member instead. This latter 5 year ban argument was withdrawn and as a consequence I was able to withdraw two further complaints on the day of the Certification Officers hearing in London.

I will add that I have not taken any legal action against the POA, I have challenged an unfair decision they made against me at nil cost to anyone. The POA could have defended their decision themselves at nil cost to POA members but instead they employed a team of Solicitors from Thompsons and additionally Senior Counsel from Deveraux Chambers to defend their decision. Regardless of the odds being stacked against me I defended myself in front of the Certification Officer and won. The POA as a result were ordered to lift the ban and allow me to stand for National Office, and it was proved that they breached their own rules.

For reference I could have taken the POA to employment tribunal, I could have sought compensation for the unfair dismissal, I could have sought damages for the degrading and inappropriate way that I was talked about and attacked but I just wanted to ensure that anyone in future would be treated fairly and in line with the rules of the Union. Equality and ensuring that individuals are not subjected to discrimination, victimisation or harassment are issues that are very important to me as is being fair to all.

I note that some have suggested that due to this battle a return to the POA would be impossible for me. I would urge anyone who believes that to add me as a friend via Facebook and read the many disappointed messages from POA members following the news that I have chosen to stand for Napo GS. I would make it clear that returning to the POA NEC would be a well supported and an easy choice for me to make, and that I have had a large number of Branches offering to nominate me should I decide to stand for a POA elected post in future. I can say unequivocally that I am standing for the Napo GS role because it is a role I am genuinely interested in and one that I believe I can bring a lot of drive; enthusiasm and unity to should members decide to elect me.

In seeking appointment whilst you can never 100% give clear assurances on your future, my intention would be to see out the role for the period I am elected if successful. Similarly I am not looking to further my future political aims and I am not applying for this role for financial reasons. I genuinely see major issues within Napo, issues that I believe I could provide strong and united leadership and defiance against. 

I have learnt many crucial things from my Trade Union work in the last 10 years, two key things that stand out are that personalities are key to leadership, direction and success and that you have to fight for everything that you want. There is no easy route to solving the problems that Napo members face and if successfully elected as your next General Secretary I will need your support, unity and understanding in order to drive those issues forward for which you most desire.

The position of Napo is not dissimilar to that of the POA when I took over as an area rep, defeatism, apathy and people suggesting that there was no fight left, however I already know how passionate you all are and how important it is that your profession is given the credence and respect that it deserves. Being in a trade union is about sticking together, fighting issues that sometimes only affect a minority, other times fighting issues that affect the majority, whatever the issue I will want to ensure that Napo members help each other and not just themselves and this will be my first issue to get to grips with.

I have read comments about me being the preferred option for Spurr and Crozier to have in discussion, this did make me chuckle, should you wish to do your homework on me you will realise that my relationship with Senior Leaders within HMPPS is not one of cosy cups of teas and biscuits, in fact during the protest action the POA took in 2016 I called Spurr, Copple and the SOS Liz Truss liars both via online video and latterly live on Channel 4 news. Calling them out for misleading parliament and naming me in the House of Commons as part of their lies led to a Government E-petition to investigate Liz Truss’s claims and Spurr and Copple spent many meetings arguing with me to try and retract my statement which I refused to do. I similarly told Liz Truss, whilst Spurr and Copple were present, that she had been misled by the incompetent leaders within HMPPS.

In seeking election I note that many are concerned that a Prison Officer may end up leading your Union. Let me say this, to underestimate me and my ability to lead a trade union is your own choice and you will be able to make your own decision in this election. Yes I will have many flaws and weaknesses, but one thing that I know about myself is that I will give this role my absolute all, that I do not understand defeat and that I am dogged and determined in the face of adversity. It will be your choice who you elect to the role of General Secretary and I will accept that decision regardless of the outcome as if unsuccessful I will continue to support Napo, its aims and objectives and retain my associate membership.

If you select me as your next General Secretary you will be electing an experienced Trade Union Activist and seasoned campaigner, you will not be electing a Prison Officer with a narrow view of the Criminal Justice Sector you will be electing someone that will go out of their way to listen to and understand members every concerns, someone who believes in Socialism but is not afraid to make tough decisions and be forthright when the situation dictates. You will be electing someone that will once fully up to speed take on your issues as if they were my own and use all and every means available to me to try and achieve the desired outcome.

Kind Regards

Mike Rolfe

Friday 25 May 2018

General Secretary Election 8

Hi Jim,

Your email address has been passed to me as you had requested a contribution for your online blog as I’m standing for the role of General Secretary within Napo. I understand you have already sourced some information and so I apologise if this contribution repeats some of what you have already shared.

Personal information.

I am 40 years old and was born in Greenwich South London. I have two daughters and live with my partner Lisa a Psychologist who works at HMP Swaleside. I currently reside on the Isle of Sheppey where I also work as a Custodial Manager (Band 5) at HMP Elmley. I have worked at Elmley for 15 years. Before working in the Prison Service and after completing my ‘A’ Levels I worked as a Management Accountant for approximately eight years working for various large companies producing monthly management information and reports such as profit and loss and balance sheets. I also line managed a team of 15 staff. I decided to change career following my Father’s premature death from cancer at the age of 57 and wanted to do something more meaningful as I saw it. I am a strong believer in quality public services as being a vital part of the fabric to the wider functioning of society and I took the opportunity to become a Prison Officer to try and fulfil my own desire to do well.

Union Background.

Upon entering the Prison Service I had no hesitation in joining the POA and I saw trade union membership as an integral part of any career within the sector. As time passed by I recognised the importance of trade unionism in the workplace and became a strong advocate of promoting trade unionism activities and beliefs. Approximately 10 years ago I became a local trade union representative at Elmley having been very vocal at meetings for some time; this soon led to me taking over as Branch Secretary.

As the Government imposed more and more unrealistic cuts on our sector I started to feel increasingly frustrated with the system and I decided I needed to take a stand against these injustices. This came with great personal risks to my own employment by speaking out against cuts. My stance and the support it aroused with POA members led to my election onto the NEC. Whilst on the NEC I led several high profile revolts against management and Government including walking several individual branches out on health and safety grounds and taken control of HMP Pentonville for four days away from any management control. As a result I faced many threats, attempts to intimidate and coerce me but I did not falter in my commitment to achieve safe working conditions for my members. My reputation for being prepared to take management on at all costs led to my election as The National Chair of the POA in 2015.

Throughout 2016 I led the union through a turbulent time organising members to take various industrial action in the pursuit of longstanding issues around safety, pay, pension and terms and conditions. Several high profile meetings were arranged between myself and the then Secretary of State Liz Truss MP where I pushed for changes and additional funding for the Prison Service. The pressure placed on Government and the employer forced concessions and at the end of 2016, whilst the Government were still imposing cuts on public services more widely, £104 million was secured from the treasury for 2,500 extra Prison Officers and a pay and pension deal worth £13 million annually was offered to POA members which took the Government outside of their own imposed 1% pay cap. This additional funding from the Treasury to the MOJ was not money that was shifted away from other public sector unions pay claims.

During my time with the POA I led the union through some successful media campaigns highlighting the many issues within the mainstream media. I appeared on the national news almost daily including headlining the prestigious BBC 10 o’clock news on three occasions and made multiple appearances on a variety of topical shows, documentaries and news channels. In addition to raising the profile of the POA to undoubtedly its highest profile in its 75 year history I engaged members at every level by regularly attending branch meetings, arranging successfully and well attended public demonstrations and setting up the highly successful KTD (Know The Danger) Facebook page with over 30,000 regular followers.

Political Background/beliefs.

I have always had a keen interest in politics and I encourage everyone to take part in the debates and to understand the political landscape. I first ventured into standing for political positions in 2013 when I stood in the Kent County Council elections for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Following this I joined the Labour party after the 2015 defeat. I felt compelled to do so, that change was afoot and in hope that a Socialist Labour party would emerge.

In 2017 I stood as the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate in Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Although unsuccessful in my campaign to become an MP in what was considered a safe Conservative seat, Labour moved from third in the area to second with a 62% increase in votes compared to 2015 and an 11% swing towards Labour, the swing to Labour was higher than the national average. Since that campaign the Labour party has continued to grow locally picking up a vital by-election seat. Although I have stood as a Labour candidate I fully respect and understand the varying views of members within a trade union organisation. My understanding of this means that I find it easy to ensure that my work as a trade union representative is not affected by my own political views and I understand the importance of cross party lobbying in order to achieve union objectives.

Why Napo General Secretary?

I am standing for the role of General Secretary of Napo as it is a role that holds great interest for me and I am excited by the prospect of tackling some of the major issues Napo members have faced over recent years such as Privatisation, pay freeze and unreasonable workloads. This extends to the various members that Napo represents such as Probation Officers, court staff, Cafcass and temporary workers and I look forward to potentially getting to meet many members and listening to their concerns, issues and problems. The activists within Napo have continued to work hard to address issues for their members and I would welcome the opportunity to complement that work with a more ambitious and proactive agenda for change. This would include attacking those stubborn issues with a clear strategy to achieve success. The financial position of Napo is an area of serious concern and I believe that urgent steps need to be taken if we are to ensure Napo is sustainable for the future, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand over this issue and I believe small unions are the best at representing their members interests which is why I want to see Napo thrive independently not disappear.

I have maintained close relationships with some of your executive members, some of which stretch back 10 years and I have listened and talked to members about many of the issues that Napo have faced for a number of years. Whilst I have a good knowledge of the criminal justice sector and the difficulties that Napo members face I understand that I will need some time to understand those issues in depth to truly be effective in taking those issues on and helping to shape future campaigns and strategies. I look forward, if successful, to working closely and proactively with Napo’s NEC to achieve the goals that have already been set and bringing fresh thinking to how these aims and objectives can be successfully achieved. I hope that members can see that my past achievements could be used to benefit Napo’s membership and I hope that they will take time to consider carefully their choice in this election with only a short window in which to give those members opportunity to understand what Mike Rolfe can offer and what I also stand for.

Thanks again for giving me opportunity to supply a piece for your blog and I look forward to hopefully engaging more in future via such forums. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, and to pass my email address onto other Napo members / potential members should they wish to know more.

Mike Rolfe

Thursday 24 May 2018

Napo at Work in the South West 14

Branch Report 17
May 2018

Dear Members,

Since the last report in March and the Labour motion to Plymouth City Council, the City is now Labour controlled post the May elections. This could well see an amended or new motion and a return to that forum on the state of things so far on the model and public safety issues we assert Working Links present.

Pay Issues

Members will be aware, excepting those at the top of their grade, that all staff are entitled to an annual incremental pay rise which is contractual. This is not a luxury or an option and the contract holders are obliged to pay the sums on time from the payroll at the end of April. Already May, yet it is unlikely members who are entitled to the increase will see it until the end of June.

Napo on the 24th April attended a special meeting with the General Secretary Ian Lawrence and our Unison colleagues. The approach was made by Working Links to talk about pay issues. To our surprise it became a meeting on the continued finances. The subject has now become controversial as the meeting generated a series of exchanges given our rising concerns. Before formal letters could be drafted the General Secretary had agreed to confidentiality pending a further meeting. The further meeting was promised to include the Directors of Working Links including at least 4 of them. At the meeting on the 24th April the unions heard a lengthy presentation by Finances Director. While part of this was on pay, which is important to improve our members working terms, we were concerned at what was stated that sort of detracted the point. Pay claims are expected to be lodged annually as part of the national arrangements. The long running and continued dispute with the Working Links model, the structures, and the failings on workloads and health and safety are all part of the continued mess of the Working Links way. However, finances have now become the dominant issue.

Members will also be aware of the joint circular that was sent out to all staff on the 3rd of May 2018 and copied below.

JTU 14-18
Dear Colleague,

The recognised Trade Unions across the three Working Links CRCs met with senior management in London last week. This meeting was separate from the ongoing dispute with the employer and was an exploratory discussion around pay and reward and the relevant financial issues.

It was agreed that the parties would meet again at the earliest opportunity, and that the following joint statement would be issued by the employer and Unions today. More news will be issued by your union representatives as soon as it becomes available.

Joint announcement from the Probation Trades Unions and Working Links on behalf of the DDC BGSW and Wales Community Rehabilitation Companies

To: All staff in DDC Wales and BGSW CRC’s

The Probation Trades Unions and Senior Working Links Management met last week to explore the prospects for establishing some continuity in talks about pay and reward, contractual incremental progression and the areas which the unions would want to take forward as part of a future pay claim.

It had been previously established that these talks would be independent of the ongoing dispute between the parties.

The employer reported that they are currently involved in talks with the MoJ and explained the work that they are undertaking as a result of the recent findings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. This has led to some reassessment by all CRC contract holders around future funding streams and their capacity to meet the costing implications of the unions likely pay claims.

It was agreed to establish a series of further meetings at the earliest opportunity where Senior CRC Management as well as the directors of Working Links would meet with an equivalent number of union representatives to exchange information on a range of issues relevant to future pay and reward. Further announcements will be made as soon as more news becomes available.

Once the broad information of that meeting was made known to members, and given the seriousness of the implications contained as stated to the Unions, I was tasked by the General Secretary with responding directly to the new justice lead Ms D Blower and lead of the Wales part of the Working Links held contract.

The response from the lead of justice in an E-mail dated the 3rd of May 2018 included a challenge to what had been understood by the unions in the meeting. However, when a contract holder declares they want to exit the contractual agreement that can only trigger a particular response from the unions in order to secure all posts held by our memberships. There was no alternative explanation for what had in fact been offered. For members following the current situation I have copied in the correspondence below.

Dawn Blower Head of Justice Service
Working Links CRCs

3rd May 2018
Ref Meeting 24 04 18 London Unison building

In Confidence
Dear Dawn,

I am writing in my capacity as the Chair of the SSW branch of Napo. I have specific responsibilities to the members under all terms of their employment contracts. I am particularly concerned given the release of certain pieces of information from yourself and Mr R. Patel finance director of Working Links.

In order for Napo within the DDC area and the General Secretary for the regions to undertake appropriate actions, we seek that you make available certain pieces of data and material which relates directly to the total number of the Justice staff employed. How many of these in each of the CRC areas, the basis of their employment contracts whether they be Justice appointed under working links terms or NNC terms. Full time, part time, and sessional post holders. Those engaged on contracts Pre 2013 and who will be subject to the appendix B protected terms and conditions. If you are considering early retirement offers to assist the reductions of risks and voluntary redundancies to mitigate the seriousness of the situation.

Whether at this stage you’re contemplating potential redundancies and to understand that I wrote to Mr Wiseman on the 10th of April 2018 and copied to yourself

“However, our records indicate the last formal position of Working links and your own notice was that you would not be withdrawing section 188 notices. In fact you issued an update which notified an amended position and the last recorded file entry from yourself is dated 3 February 2016.”

Given the above quote from that letter and your dramatic announcement that had nothing to do with pay talks, it can be of no surprise to you that we require reassurance on the future security and protections of the jobs of our members. That, you will adopt formally all the appropriate requirements incumbent upon the contract holders and that you will notify the recognised Unions immediately, at risk measures for staff within the employment of the DDC area, become contemplated. You will need to reassure us that you will undertake notices to the appropriate authority should any DDC staff be placed at risk. You will need to publish in line with our terms and conditions the appropriate redundancy procedures for DDC staff.

Also where other engaged staff from the Working Links companies who may be at risk but will not be covered by DDC polices and could not be job slotted or transferred into justice area work. Whereby vacancies have to be ring-fenced for original transferred staff only. This follows the formal assurances that you gave the Unions when it was raised in the meeting.

I am sure you will be aware of the fact that the information required in this letter is a standard entitlement in these circumstances.

Although this is SSW branch correspondence you should treat this as the model letter for all Working Links controlled contract areas.

Yours sincerely,
Dino Peros Napo SSW Branch Chair.

This letter clarifies the union’s position as we understood their news. Effectively Napo is seeking to ensure what was clearly reported in the presentation and in a question and answer process from the Finance Director for Working Links, they actually did want to find ways to end the contract. To be fair, and not wanting to generate a who said what exactly debate, what was certain enough that the current arrangement of underfunded CRC costs could not continue on into the future. The risks of loss were too great and while the key arguments of financial borrowing service fees and credits continue the talks with MOJ shall be decided by the end of June.

In that news then there will certainly be no pay increase talks and this encourages a dissatisfied work force when you consider that other CRCs have already done significant deals in other areas. The response to the letter by e mail from the lead of Justice Working Links followed on the 03 05 18 below.

Subject: RE: Dawn Blower letter for information ref contractual notice 02 05 18

Good afternoon Dino

During our meeting on 24th April we were clear there were to be no reductions to CRC staff and I would be disappointed if the message to staff from unions was anything different to that. For absolute clarity:

CRC staff have not been put on notice of redundancy and there are no plans to do this. I trust this is welcomed.

This includes CRC people working within Corporate Services whose roles remain and they will now work specifically on CRC business except in a few cases where they may straddle both CRC and Employability services.

Should there be a situation where CRC staff positions are at risk at some point in the future then this would be raised with the unions. I stress again that this is not the current position.

There is no plan to "slot in" employability staff at risk of redundancy to CRCs although they will of course be eligible to apply for vacancies and we would welcome applications from our colleagues provided they meet the skill set requirements.

The circumstances are not as you describe and whilst we do not wish to withhold information there is no obligation to provide this. Happy to discuss what might be helpful at the next meeting on 15th however we are agreed that we will be keeping talks separate from the on-going dispute and will be keen not to stray in to these areas as per the current agreement.

I hope the above clarifies the situation and provides reassurance. Your interpretation of the information we shared isn't a true reflection of what was discussed and I do not expect any suggestion of CRC redundancies to be shared with our people, as there was no suggestion of this.


Dawn Blower
Cyfarwyddwr Prawf
Probation Director

While this response was a reassurance and a small rebuttal to the bigger finance issues coming to surface in the earlier talks it did not go far enough to satisfy the unions concerns. When any company reports no money and no prospects on pay with delayed incremental entitlements while in many other parts of the contract areas there has been a cost spending reductions bulletin. In Working Links controlled areas many staff have just not been paid and many usual payments are all being held up. It is not surprising many staff become increasingly concerned. Obviously to re-engage the issues I followed the e mail with a second formal letter. It makes the position clear and the responsibilities for Companies in Contract with the MOJ that in fact they are not allowed to end their contracts. If this is a discovery to you reading this it is a real concern to think that the figures paid out to Working Links in their annual accounts is breath-taking when you look at the administration fees. I doubt there are any real losses just a less than desirable higher end profit margin than was understood in their clamour to grab at contracts. Despite this they could not realistically be allowed to leave for at least another 12 months from the agreed dates of the termination MOJ controlled process so the picture really is bleak.

I never heard Working Links whining or bleating when they waded in and altered members’ financial terms as they cut down their entitlements to a severance trick. Ok to be fair all those takers were volunteers. More fool them then and the arrangements are outlined in the management of CRC plans. You decide.

Dawn Blower Head of Justice Service
Working Links CRCs.

8th May 2018
Ref E mail response

Dear Ms Blower

Thank you for your reply to the letter dated 3rd of May 2018. I am surprised at your coverall response without substance or detail considering the seriousness of the facts put to the unions by yourself and the Working Links Finance director during the meeting of the 24th April.

In relation to any staffing reductions, the unions welcome such a reassurance but it was made clear neither you nor Working Links would be in a position to make any forward lasting decisions. For your clarity, at no point have I indicated a view that there would be staff reductions. I have a responsibility to ensure all members receive assurances that their jobs will be retained. You say

“CRC staff have not been put on notice of redundancy and there are no plans to do this. I trust this is welcomed"

Your statement is welcomed, however, you must appreciate the contradiction you go on to make.

"Should there be a situation where CRC staff positions are at risk at some point in the future then this would be raised with the unions."

It is the trade unions’ responsibility to ensure you have been approached in writing and to seek to guarantee protection of member’s jobs.

Having such a meeting on 24th April, claimed to be based on pay and rewards but which turned out to be a financial forecasting meeting where it was announced in fact, Working Links want to terminate or exit the contract based on the finances and profits.

What this means to us, is in your own current role under Working Links auspices any assurance will be worth nothing in a little over six months’ time, providing you follow the exit contract requirements. The threat that members will be at risk cannot be ignored for this reason. Working Links have to reconcile roles and the separation of the CRCs duplications and cross dependencies in jobs and other major strands.

Critically, financial issues that your Finance Director stated meant that you were not able to hold meaningful pay talks. In fact colleagues had asked if you could make the current pay bill. With these concerns and what is obviously a lack of genuine and full information from yourself, the notion that you assert that staff will not become at risk is just not credible.

Our understanding of staff employed under Working Links adjusted contracts within justice services, and who have less than two years employment, could well be dismissed, without any entitlements to a redundancy payment. Therefore, at no cost to Working Links and with reduced need to consult the unions to some degree. Save to say you still have to consult meaningfully on the procedures to be adopted in relation to such a process. This has been raised in my letter. You have ignored the critical questions.

In relation to legacy and full rights of protected staff you had no idea where the remaining contractual period will be passed on, other than a suggested return to Authority. Resale was ruled out and it was spoken of as the return to public ownership by your Director. Will you now categorically state what will happen to the staff who are outside of any protected legacy appendix B arrangements? What assurance can you provide for their jobs to be taken forwards after Working Links exit? It is only under a termination by the Authority whereby they would pay dismissal costs as stated

"redundancy payments for employees of the Contractor that have been or will be reasonably incurred by the Contractor as a direct result of termination of this Agreement;"

If you do not have sufficient finance currently for your obligations, then how can you manage the pay claims and other financial information above which extends beyond what you told the unions in April? What evidence have you to support any funding streams to exit on the required contractual terms? Keep in mind the contractors of the CRCs have no contractual basis by which you could exit the arrangements without all liabilities being settled.

The Contractor shall have no right to terminate this Agreement at law or under the terms of this Agreement.

This is the situation. Either Working Links retain as an obligation, or indeed is it Aurelius who should respond to this question?

In good faith the General Secretary extended a period of confidentiality whilst talks would start on the finances situation and how the membership should rightly have a pay claim met as well as the legal incremental entitlements.

However, despite the small and limited responses that were given to a series of important questions at that meeting, on the 1st of May the management released significant details of the finance situation to all staff. This reflected much of what was said to the unions and prior to the agreed joint statement publication. It upset many members who expressed concerns over the future viability of both Working Links and to the jobs they do.

You went on to state

There is no plan to "slot in" employability staff at risk of redundancy to CRCs although they will of course be eligible to apply for vacancies and we would welcome applications from our colleagues provided they meet the skill set requirements

What is clearer now is that you acknowledge in fact Working Links staff are at risk of real redundancy. Those staff on notice of risk can now apply for a DDC justice job or reasonable alternative redeployment. On what lawful redundancy process are these potential redeployments being offered? Why have you not consulted the unions on the process you intend to use? You will potentially now put DDC contracted staff at risk themselves in the short term. This cannot continue. We again ask what legitimate procedure are you engaging staff to DDC? It is inconceivable that you would not know that some Working Links staff have been offered alternate roles in DDC, without any process, in the past four weeks. This fact makes your claim above just not true.

We appreciate your attempt to reconcile concerns quickly, however your response is misleading and does not give me confidence that you will consult meaningfully, or release appropriately required information. These are not usual times however the rights to information to protect our members for negotiations is an obligation.

Yours Sincerely,
Dino Peros Napo Representative.

I am not expecting a response to this. There has been none to date. Membership shall be comforted to know that NAPO are continuing to ensure the protections are well managed and that all posts in justice Probation are ring-fenced to secure all staff protections should the continuing issues generate an influx of Working Links staff many of whom have received their consultation notices for redundancies.

The Meeting of the 15th May 2018

This was only scheduled for the unions because we were promised it would include the directors. Mr Bell the architect of the Working Links way. By the morning of the meeting in London all the reduced trade unions sides were present but by the 11th hour all the promised directors except the Financial Director had all bailed out. Mr Bell had only managed to make a tele-conference call. Claiming the rail fare was too expensive and that despite all the millions in the Working Links Aurelius accounts recently published that we are supposed to agree attendance is an option. There was some minor aside discussion on whether not attending is discourteous to the Unions and to the staff we are focused to represent protect and ensure you get the best terms and conditions. Mr Bell did not in his physical absence appear quite as on message as those present but you decide.

During the meeting we heard the contract holders state the same old same old. Their side offering nothing new whatsoever. Even worse nothing from Mr Bell that made the journey worth anything to anyone. Nonetheless we did establish the “in Confidence “arrangement was now ended and this report is as candid as it can be. There was some exchange on their desire to continue with the contract albeit dependant on further talks with MOJ. Coded speak for we are trying to get yet more money to run an unsafe model of offender management. They wanted a principled union agreement to assist that process. While we remain in dispute on the many issues this something the SSW branch could not support. The bottom line for them, Working Links, is that they realise their impossible situation they have placed staff. Less pay, poorer working conditions, fractured working structures, a general decline in morale and well being of many members. Disputes, grievances, and inappropriate use of disciplinary procedures at an unprecedented record high and still climbing. Hardly the recipe for a successful working partnership. The truth is they seem oblivious to the issues as they only want to talk about getting more money from the MOJ.

Despite this Working Links were informed by Napo, and they accept the realisation, Working Links have no power to rescind , end, or terminate, give any notice, in any walk away ideas from their toxic management and attitudes to a contract they have with the MOJ. It means we are stuck with them until the MOJ realise the future is not likely to develop anything and this is well evidenced by the failing metrics of the rising repeat and offender caseloads. The Finance Director painted the best picture he could from the failing caseloads figures.

We had already informed Working Links Senior management of the likely imposition on their failing and appalling case management model that deals with caseloads via telephone call. Regular branch report readers will recall the origins of the dispute with Working Links started over their obviously distorted in house certification process by Innovation Wessex. The small internal company that was supposed to check on quality and performance then verify a safe model. This was disputed as they were internal staff funded by Working Links doing whatever the paymaster required.

Napo objections to that model have all been borne out to date. The failing metrics and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee making some direction on the way things have continued, downwards. From here it is now confirmed that the working models will need to be changed to include minimum actual offender and officer face to face meetings. The Working Links model on workloads and staffing does not provide anywhere near enough staff for this new arrangement. Not to mention a whole new training programme and that of the minimum time we should see some skilled Probation Officer facility back into the caseload. Last point on this work issue is that of the required workloads for the full OASYS. Simply put all members should resist incalculable workloads

Napo is on record in branch reports and correspondences seeking early explanations when we were in the JNCC meetings about where the Justice budgets were to be spent. It was made clear to Napo in the recent meeting that some of the pressure on the Working Links spending has been for them to satisfy the Paymaster MOJ\PAC that all the staff being for or funded by public monies actually pays for the justice staff. I suspect the 4.23 million pounds additional payment Working Links received last year was not well regarded by the PAC inquiry as we discovered not 1 penny had found its way to support frontline staff. It had most certainly been reclaimed into the privateers, bank accounts. Can anyone honestly see the MOJ bankrolling another barrow full of cash without stipulations or a clear plan of spending? I don’t.

The point is that since the notice to define the staffing and who gets paid for what where and how, the Working Links response was to put their other contracted staff on immediate redundancy notices for consultation. What might the average Clapham Omnibus passenger deduce from that turn of events?

It struck a chord with me as it was this branch that raised questions and concerns in 2014 that the monies should only fund DDC staff who actually work in the DDC area. It was our fear that in fact Working Links would syphon and funnel monies to external parts of their other company activity. In fact it has now been admitted during that meeting justice monies public services monies has been directed to funding Working Links Middlesbrough other staff who deliver some back office functions for the CRCs. How much work and the detail remains to be examined and for what costs. Whether the reductions in DDC in light of this could be justified when you add the costs of the redundancies \ severances that were made.

Following this through we need to understand the costs of spending which now impacts on their flawed calculations. No further money and no prospects of more cash from the MOJ means a funding bail out nightmare. Napo starts to ask where has the money gone? Is all the spending and previous bonanza of funding staff cuts been lost in inappropriate refunding streams to external staffing? Now that the PAC have asked difficult questions has the stewardship of Working Links now put the whole of the CRC at some risk for which they are not telling.

So back to Pay. The news is there is no reward on offer as they claim no money. The accounts do not bear this out in an assessment of the books although Working Links continue to hide the real profits and losses in a coverall clause under the Aurelius parent company accounts on profit. One point noteworthy of their administration costs shown as a loss of upwards of a million pounds each year to run a CRC. Really? Come on really?

There we are then arriving at a place whereby the Contract holders have known all the time that incremental pay is due on the April 1st start date and pay should be adjusted but when it comes to staff pay entitlement they hold onto your money to pay off the bank loans and interest. When it comes to a pay increase oh look no money for the Workers. When it comes to anything like the terms and conditions of decent and fair treatment Working Links policy is to avoid change and pretend things are not as they really are. On that members continue to reject over work do not provide continued goodwill. Deliver your contractual obligations only. Ensure you maintain your terms and we will continue to support you. All credit to members who have steadfastly stuck by the principles and protections of their employment rights and we will continue to support those ends.

Dino Peros Napo SSW Branch Chair.