Saturday 22 April 2023

Latest From Napo 235

Here we have selected highlights from yesterday's Napo mailout to members:- 

Unions to appeal outcome of Enforcement Officer (Trials) Job Evaluation

The job evaluation process for the above role has been fraught with difficulty and delay over a number of years where it has not been possible to reach agreement with the employer as to the appropriate pay band for this work.

Disappointingly, a recent job evaluation exercise has determined that the role has been scored within the range for Band 3. This is despite the fact that in many areas of the service contested breaches were previously undertaken at Band 4. As you would expect, the trade unions are seriously unhappy with the outcome for a number of reasons. These will be included in a formal appeal under the agreed Probation Joint Negotiating Council procedures where we will be using the feedback received from our members and also referencing the considerable anger that has been relayed to us as we seek to overturn this retrograde decision. You can read the full submission that was made by Napo here.

Meanwhile, the unions initial advice to members asked to engage in breach work is that you insist on receiving the appropriate training before undertaking this work and that you make that clear in writing to your line manager.

Further news will follow on this issue as soon as it becomes available.

Details of Proposed Change: 

As a result of a commitment to re-review the Enforcement Officer (Trials) Job Description, a new Job Evaluation Scheme (JES) process was commenced in early 2022. Four focus groups were held with Enforcement Officers, with support from Enforcement Managers, and Union Representatives to update the Job Description Questionnaire (JDQ) prepared during the equivalent E3 process. Although the process was lengthy, all involved approached the work positively and constructively. The JDQ and JD were shared with Enforcement Officers and the final versions are reflective of feedback received from staff. 

We recognise that there is currently mixed practice across the country in the prosecution of contested breaches. This revised Job Description captures our ambition for wider implementation of an existing national strategy to pursue the in-house delivery of contested breach Trials in all Magistrates Courts, with the exception of those cases deemed to be ‘highly complex and contentious’. The definition of complex cases is being developed by the National Enforcement Group and will be subject to staff and union consultation in January and February 2023. 

The in-house prosecution of the majority of cases will realise some cost savings as it will reduce the requirement to commission external counsel. The strategy will also support a better quality of prosecution, which will be delivered by practitioners with expertise in the enforcement of community disposals and sound understanding of the of the nuances of sentence delivery. 

This will result in a better quality service to the judiciary in all breach cases, building our reputation with our in-Court stakeholders. In practice, we should see breach proceedings resolved more quickly on average (and in line with the desired disposal), avoiding unnecessary adjournments for Trial. In-house responsibility for Trial prosecution will create natural accountability in the overall enforcement process, promoting appropriate negotiation with the Defence to arrive at an acceptable plea and thus avoiding unnecessary Trials. Where the specific facts of a case make a Trial unavoidable, staff will have the knowledge and experience of contested breach work to inform case management discussions with the Defence and the Court to reduce the number of live Witnesses, saving time on disclosure and Witness attendance at Court, allowing the Trial to be heard as soon as possible after the denial. 

To support this strategy, in March 2022, the first contested breach training sessions were delivered following work to create the package by the Design Faculty, Learning Services and the National Enforcement Group in 2021. Target learners for this package are PSOs and those staff subject to the Enforcement Officer (Trials) JD. This strategy relies on individual regions being responsible for ensuring appropriate roll out of this learning to their staff. Work is ongoing to ensure this product delivers the best value and impact for learners. 

We would welcome comments from Trade Union partners before we submit the job description to a JES panel. We are keen to avoid pre-judging any panel result, as such we invite comments at this point on the job description specifically rather than discussion of the implementation of any resulting band. We do however recognise the complexity any change in banding would cause given the mix of job descriptions being used for colleagues carrying out an enforcement role (PSO and EO Trails both at PB3). We would like to offer assurance therefore that we would work closely with you on any implementation should a change in banding be indicated, including any required modification to our strategy to in-house delivery of contested breach Trials.

Response to Proposed Change: 

Within the detail of proposed change is an outline and expectation that there will be less Trials due to the change in PSO leading the prosecution of contested breaches – however no outline on how this is to be achieved, other than to state good negotiation. It was clear in the meeting held on 15/02/23, that any re-banding of grade from this would result in a review of the practicality of delivery of contested breaches through EO. This clearly does not consider the prefixed position of those currently employed with the EO job description. It also does not consider those currently employed (vast majority) under the remit of the PSO job description. We requested in the meeting of the 15/02/23 that these figures would be provided, this was actioned to of happened by COP 20/02/23. No information has been facilitated in this regard to date – therefore the ethos of consultation and agreed actions has not met the minimum threshold for appropriate engagement and consultation cannot be fully achieved as this information has to date not been forthcoming. 

We have outlined throughout any form of engagement that our interaction with members thus far has resulted in an overwhelming outcome that the training is insufficient, especially as the face to face sessions are facilitated virtually and does not give any real form of experiential learning. 

The job description suggested clearly outlines that the EO will not undertake the necessary training/ learning and experience of the PSO training route/ or as previously employed EO, had previous legal training for their roles – this is considered to be a situation , whereby there is a potential that staff with little experience/ understanding of the Legal frameworks, of the PS will be in Court, alone without the adequate knowledge in what could be quite challenging situations without adequate training/ experience or knowledge of the PS – this could result in reputational damage and undermining of the personnel involved in these scenarios, especially without what the members feel is adequate training and experiences. 

We are aware that where the ‘trials’ have been undertaken in some regions, this was on an optional basis for staff and the staff who were not confident in the training facilitated do not .undertake contested breaches. We are concerned that there are valuable members of staff with many years of experience within the Court Officer role, who will become further disenfranchised by the expectation to deliver contested breaches and have outlined within our discussions that they are likely to leave, rather than be put in an embarrassing situation in the Court, where they have previously felt respected and valued by the Courts. 

In light of the more recent HMIP SFOs (2023) and the information facilitated at Court – we are of the understanding that the EO will be expected to address any new information within the contested breach and effectively risk manage the situation within the court at that time on the day – this includes Bail applications, we question whose responsibility is it to undertake the safeguarding and Domestic abuse checks at that time and make active decisions about suitability of any bail application. This would effectively mean that this is risk managing and prosecuting at the same time – this is a conflict of interest. Due to the recent HMIP SFOs – this is an imperative responsibility which would be expected to ensure that risk is effectively managed at every juncture. 

We have added post it notes to the JD, with questions still left outstanding. Please could they be responded to. It is disappointing that the employer through a narrowed viewpoint cost savings exercise is further jeopardising retention figures, especially with Band 3 workers – who are the largest exiting cohort of staff, this is alongside the potential reputational damage that could result due to what staff describe as inadequate and inappropriately delivered training, that does not imbue confidence in delivering this work in the Court arena.


The latest news on Programmes

On Tuesday Napo held an all programmes members briefing to update on both the Target Operating Model (TOM) and the Next Generation of Programmes (NG). It was clear that there is a lot of anger amongst members affected as well as amongst the wider membership. This was echoed on Wednesday when the employer held the Job Description Questionnaire (JDQ) Workshop. Members very articulately made their feelings known about a number of issues not least the way the whole process has been managed from the outset. Members feel utterly devalued and angry by these proposals.

The JDQ workshop did eventually go ahead. There is still a lot of work needed and as such representatives at that workshop have been given until the Close of Play on 21st April to get their submissions in. The biggest issue appears to be the employers refusal to acknowledge current aspects of the role such as consultation, learning and development. The employer has written to staff informing them that this aspect of their work is not part of the job and should not be carried out, further angering members.
Key areas of disagreement

Napo, alongside our sister unions, Unison and GMB, are in disagreement with the employer on their proposals in a number of key areas.

Horizon: The future of the work of the regional sex offender units, the proposal to disband them and the future role of those currently carrying out this work is a red line for Napo. We have made, and continue to make, very strong representations that disbanding this critical specialist work poses a risk of harm to the public and completely de-values the work of the staff.

All three unions believe that this is vital public protection work that supports people not only on the programme but also sentence management staff, Court advice and training of new staff.

The TOM proposal will see this work being carried out by all programmes staff irrelevant of previous experience and will very little training in this complex work. If the Job Evaluation for the new Job Description comes out at a Band 3, this will mean that staff will be expected to carry out work that would previously have been paid at Band 4.

No career progression: Despite one of the key drivers for the Tom being career progression, the proposed model does the exact opposite and will leave programmes staff unable to work in other areas of the business as they will have a specific job description for programmes and limited Treatment/Programme Manager roles to progress to.

The Unions have proposed a two grade model that will allow staff to progress through the different programmes as they develop the competencies and experience. Starting as a new starter with core competencies, moving on to general offender behaviour programmes before being able to develop their learning and progressing on to BBR and Horizon. These two latter programmes should, in our view be Band 4 to reflect the complexity and risk management needs of the groups and individuals.

Training: As stated the proposal offers limited and inadequate training for programmes staff. Under the TOM, new starters to the service could be delivering BBR and Horizon in just 7 months of service. In light of the recent SFO reviews and the complexities in this area of work, Napo do not believe that this is sufficient to protect staff or the public.
Next Generation

Napo is slightly more positive about the NG proposals having now attended a number of design workshops and presentations. Those leading on this project are very experienced in the development and delivery of programmes and have engaged well with unions. Most notably it has now been confirmed that any future programmes will not delivered to a mixed cohort of clients as was originally suggested. There are a series of design workshops planned over April and May that Napo will be attending to look at specific cohorts of offence types and how the programme can focus on the needs and participants.
Next Steps

Napo will be scheduling more briefings going forward and we are currently speaking with Unison and GMB with a view of holding joint meetings.

The three unions have written to Amy Rees asking for an urgent meeting on the future of programmes and will raise all of our concerns with them directly.


Parole Board intervention by SoSfJ latest news as Dominic Raab resigns

The announcement that the Secretary of State for Justice has resigned today means another change in this pivotal Government position and we wait to see who will be appointed.

Meanwhile, members will be aware that the outcome of the most recent Court hearing regarding the changes to the parole system imposed by the just-departed Secretary of State for Justice was that the guidance and training issued to staff from July to October 2022 was found to be unlawful. The Court is awaiting further evidence, to submitted by the parties by mid-May, to determine whether to initiate contempt proceedings against any person(s) – for instance, the then Secretary of State or senior figures in HMPPS – and/or whether to give further directions.

HMPPS have responded by issuing further guidance and holding several online briefing events on their latest instructions in recent weeks. Significant questions of professional practice and the impact of these latest changes on member’s workload remain and we will continue to take forward with HMPPS. These include, but are not limited to, the additional workload resulting from further reports staff may be expected to provide the Parole Board with, the change from previously providing a recommendation to the current “professional opinion” and that this should now only be given if the member of staff feels able to do so.

On a separate issue, Napo is also concerned regarding an aspect of the press coverage of two ‘public’ Oral Hearings that have taken place so far, in terms of the use of selective quotes taken from the evidence offered by workers to the Parole Board. We will continue to take make clear our belief that such selective quoting fails to consider not only the wider context but also the fuller evidence provided by the worker involved.

Feedback from Napo members has been vital in raising issues and concerns relating to the parole changes with HMPPS since we were made aware of these changes last summer. As ever, we would be grateful if members could continue to keep us updated with their experiences of the parole system as this new guidance issued becomes part of our practice in the coming weeks and months.

Friday 7 April 2023

Latest From Napo 234

This from yesterday's mailout to members:-

BBC Radio 4 lays bare the state of the Probation Service

This week saw the launch of a major feature by the investigative journalist Danny Shaw. This covered the tragic events of a Serious Further Offence in Killamarsh, Derbyshire, in September 2021 and the current state of the Probation Service (England and Wales) following its reunification into public control in June 2021.

Various interviews are featured in the 31 minute Podcast entitled: ‘Probation in Peril’ . These include comments by H.M. Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell, Chief Probation Officer Kim Thornden Edwards, and Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence along with some harrowing contributions from the families of the victims and a number of Probation Practitioners, whose testimonies were anonymised. We would want to express appreciation to those Napo members who agreed to take part in the programme.

Napo Survey yields startling results

Some months ago, Napo were contacted by Danny Shaw to explore whether we would be willing to launch a survey of our members working in the Probation Service to ascertain your views about the levels of staffing, the size of caseloads and whether it is felt that Probation provides a good service. As can be heard in the programme, over 900 members responded and the results make for stark listening. Some two thirds of staff surveyed said that their workplace was desperately short of staff and that 50% of respondents felt that Probation was not providing a good enough service. Napo will be publishing the full results of the survey in due course.

Chief Probation Officer agrees that TR ‘failed.’

A notable contribution also came from Kim Thornden-Edwards who, in response to a question about the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme implemented by former Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling, called it an ‘interesting part of Probations history.’ Whilst Napo members would take issue with that description it was good to hear the Chief Probation Officer quickly confirm her agreement that ‘TR had failed.’

Napo’s conclusions

Ian Lawrence comments: ‘Much of the ground covered by Justin Russell will be all too familiar to our members facing excessive workloads, huge numbers of vacancies within their PDU’s and sickness rates which would be a lot worse were it not for the dedication of staff who often present for work when they should not. Adding that: ‘Make no mistake, this excellently produced programme is a sombre and at times traumatic reminder of what happens to public safety when Governments do not listen to the warnings that were made before the disastrous part-privatisation of the service. It seems pretty clear to me that we will need a new Government with a serious pledge to re-invest in the Probation Service before things start to change for the better.’


VLO and Interventions Updates and a request

The VLO job descriptions are now (finally) with the trade unions for consultation. All those who attended the workshops will also have a copy of the document, so please send all comments to Carole Doherty for collation in Napo’s formal response. We have also requested a copy of the job description questionnaire but have not yet had a response.


The employer unfortunately issued a communication earlier today to all programmes staff, to which Napo immediately objected as it did not accurately reflect the position of the trade unions. Management have subsequently apologised for this error and have now reissued the communication. To be clear, all three trade unions do not agree with the proposed removal of the DSOUs teams (and not just the future direction of programmes to men convicted of sexual offences). Management also identify their intention to operate with just one facilitator job description. This is of course a disappointing result, though we are still arguing the case that more training is needed to equip facilitators with the skill and training needed to work with people convicted of domestic and sexual abuse and learning disabilities and with neuro diversity, and that people should be properly rewarded for it.

Since the last JES workshop we have had 3 all day meetings with the employer which sadly, hasn’t yielded much movement, though it is good to report that the training team has made some adjustments in relation to their proposed training package for new employees, though we are still questioning the robustness of it. The material for the job descriptions has been collated and is with the trade unions for comment, and there is due to be a further joint workshop later this month to discuss the job description questionnaire, prior to it going to the JES panel and we would hope it would be evaluated at Band 4.

Could we ask if anyone has an electronic copy of the previous community programme ‘The Thames Valley Groupwork Programme’ (management manual) and any job descriptions where it describes the role of the facilitators delivering programmes for men convicted of sexual offences. Together with any documentation which highlights the consultancy and/or the training element of their roles, could they send to Carole please.

The Next Generation Programme will be discussed at a meeting later this month, and some workshops are being set up to discuss in more detail with facilitators, TMs and PMs . Due to the strong concerns raised by Napo and the other trade unions, communications have gone out clearly stating that the Next Gen programmes will be separated into offence types and with further separate groups for people with neurodiversity and others for those with intellectual disability.


We have been made aware of some issues in restricted accommodation in some PDU’s for our Unpaid Work Colleagues, please share details with Carole if this is happening to you. As you will be aware, there are ongoing issues with the pay and Unsocial Hours Payments and, as previously reported, all three unions have registered a National Dispute with the employer in relation to this.


It is really good to hear from members that the DASO away day was a really positive experience, and the confidence that the rewriting of the manual will be a truly collaborative exercise.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

More Men Needed

According to the billing, it looks like we finally hear from the new Chief Probation Officer in File on 4 tonight 8pm BBC Radio 4. It seems Kim Thornden-Edwards will be calling for a recruitment drive to find more men to become probation officers. Should be interesting.

Probation in peril

The Probation Service is meant to protect the public by monitoring released prisoners and offenders on community sentences - helping them to stay out of trouble and rebuild their lives. But a series of catastrophic failures have led to the murders of two women who were killed by men who should have been monitored more closely.

File on 4 analyses the case of Damien Bendall who killed his pregnant partner Terri Harris and three children in 2021 while on probation. The Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell has said Bendall’s supervision “fell far below the quality that the public has a right to expect”. The programme hears from the families of Bendall's victims and from those probation officers on the front line who say the service is at breaking point.


From BBC website:-

More male staff could help with violent offenders - probation boss

The new head of the probation service in England and Wales has told BBC News that more men are needed in the profession. Kim Thornden-Edwards said it would help to bring a male perspective in some cases involving violent offenders, including cases of domestic abuse. Its workforce has been "stuck" at 75% women for 30 years, she added. She also said older people with life experiences are needed, including those who have been on probation themselves.

The probation service is responsible for supervising 240,000 former prisoners and offenders serving sentences in the community. However, it is facing intense scrutiny after a series of men committed murders while under probation supervision, among them Damien Bendall. He killed his partner, Terri Harris, 35, her two children, John, 13, and Lacey, 11, along with Lacey's 11-year-old friend, Connie Gent, at Terri's house at Killamarsh, Derbyshire, in September 2021. Bendall, who raped Lacey as she lay dying, is now serving a whole-life sentence. An independent review said probation staff had underestimated the risk Bendall posed, that they failed to carry out adequate background checks and did not display enough "professional curiosity".

Masculinity issues

In her first interview since taking up the role of chief probation officer in February, Thornden-Edwards told BBC's File on 4 programme that senior staff needed more options when assigning officers to cases. "Sometimes it's really good to be able to allocate a case where they think the gender will be important," she said. "It might be really good for a woman to be leading on a domestic abuse case - but also, it might be good for a man to be challenging those kind of issues around masculinity and power from a male perspective."

Thornden-Edwards, who has spent her career in the criminal justice system after qualifying as a probation officer in 1996, said the recruitment of men was an issue the service had always been unable to crack. She said: "It's been suggested in the past that associations of the probation service with social work has leant it to be viewed by women as more of an attractive career than men."

Two reports, carried out by an external company for the Ministry of Justice, support moves to broaden the mix of gender, ethnic diversity and experience in the probation service. The findings of the unpublished research - seen by File on 4 - said the service needed to hire more "career changers" in their 30s, 40s and 50s, who could bring skills from different sectors.

Thornden-Edwards said that later this year, the probation service was opening a non-graduate route for trainee officers - with GCSEs the only qualifications needed. The probation union NAPO has highlighted staff shortages and huge caseloads as the main problems facing the service. A survey of more than 900 members, conducted by NAPO and passed to the BBC, suggested that more than a third of staff are considering quitting.

File on 4 is on BBC Radio 4 at 20:00 BST on Tuesday 4 April and afterwards on BBC Sounds.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Latest From Napo 233

Here we have the second part of the bumper Napo mailout to members this week:-

Victims and Prisoners Bill

It’s difficult to believe that a Secretary of State for Justice could have less of a basic grasp of the criminal justice system than Liz Truss but the current incumbent seems determined to prove us wrong.

The latest proposals in the Victims and Prisoners Bill are the usual offerings of bluster, ignorance, headline-grabbing and distraction from Ministers fresh from a humiliating and entirely foreseeable defeat at the High Court in relation to the so-called Secretary of State’s Single View as regards the parole process.

The Government’s reported commitment that “victims’ voices will be cemented at the heart of the justice system” ring hollow given the Secretary of State and his political party have fought to ensure that statues have greater protection under the criminal justice system than some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. The lengthy list of failures of this Government and its predecessors from 2010 in relation to the victims of crime is the obvious consequence of their assaults on the criminal justice system, be it through the starvation of public services under ‘austerity’ or the repeated – and fascistic – comments by Ministers that question the legitimacy of the Courts and members of the legal profession. While the Secretary of State claims to want “to ensure dangerous offenders face the strictest scrutiny” it remains the case that he and others have presided over the wholesale devastation of large parts of the criminal justice system in their thirteen long years in power.

In relation to the parole process the bill is to include the following measures:-
  • Enshrining a new release test for the Parole Board into law, leaving no room for confusion over whether public safety should be the only priority when making release decisions
The evidence, from their botched interference in the parole process last year, suggests the only confused person as regards the ‘release test’ is the Secretary of State for Justice. Unfortunately they’re also the person with the power to inflict further havoc through their ignorance on others in the criminal justice system.
  • Creating a new tier of the most serious offenders including murderers, rapists and terrorists and giving the Justice Secretary the power to veto the release of those offenders in the interest of public safety. It will also be available in cases where the Parole Board cannot confidently decide the release test has been met.
While a more detailed examination of the provisions of the Bill is ongoing it’s apparent that this represents a further attempt by the Secretary of State for Justice to engage in a power grab and undermine a fundamental power of the Parole Board, similar to what we saw by their behaviour last year. Given what we know of their intentions it’s apparent this is a means to increase their own control over a part of the criminal justice system while trying to generate favourable headlines in the right-wing media, especially given the likelihood of a further legal challenge to these provisions through the domestic Courts or the European Court of Human Rights.

There is current evidence of the chaos the Secretary of State has created with their political interference in relation to the overcrowding of prisons, contributed to by the refusal of the Secretary of State to accept the vast majority of Parole Board recommendations for progression to ‘open conditions’. If they receive powers to veto release it’s clear, from their past behaviour, that they will use this enthusiastically and in doing so increase the prison population.
  • Making it a legal requirement for ex-police officers and detectives to sit on parole panels for these ‘top-tier’ cases. Their first-hand experience of managing serious offenders and the risk they pose will help place an even greater focus on public protection in parole hearings.
With respect to those Police Officers who have a role in managing individuals in the community subject to MAPPA, it’s an ongoing grievous insult to Probation staff to suggest that we do not have the greatest level of expertise, training and experience to “manage serious offenders and the risk they pose”.

Members will be aware from significant media coverage, especially in recent months, of the extent of serious misconduct – including the commission of sexual and physical abuse of vulnerable members of the public – by a minority of Police Officers in England and Wales. The Secretary of State must provide assurances to the public that any ex-Police Officer who is a Parole Board member – including those currently appointed – are subject to the most stringent vetting possible, involving an examination of any prior allegations of such misconduct during their time as a serving Police Officer, to properly assess that they are entirely suitable to fulfil this crucial role.

In the coming weeks and months Napo will work with those in the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group, as well as other campaigning organisations, to inform the Parliamentary debates on this Bill and make clear our opposition to the plans of the Secretary of Justice in this regard. We will keep you updated with this work as it progresses.