Saturday 13 January 2024

A Can Of Worms

Yes, a bit late in the day, but with the Post Office scandal growing in size and scope daily and both the media and public keen to hear a lot more about other scandals in election year, there's growing evidence the spotlight is beginning to turn on our own scandal. Questions in the House and particularly regarding the disgraceful OneHMPPS takeover of probation, is quite likely to put the MoJ under close scrutiny and even re-energise the unions, including of course Napo. Richard Burgon MP helpfully reminded everyone of the registered trade dispute over OneHMPPS and wondered why it was being implemented anyway? Just like the Post Office scandal, it could begin to open the whole can of worms, as helpfully this contributor has reminded us:-      
  • Yes, they knew TR wouldn't work but they didn't care because it was not what it seemed
  • Yes, it was a distraction technique to wrest control of probation services from independent minds
  • Yes, target culture was a blunt tool designed for simple-cell bullies with not a scintilla of intelligence
  • Yes, the bullies were mostly ignorant of the profession, the tasks, the ethos & the skills involved
  • Yes, it was a politically ideological outcome initiated by blue labour & expedited by tories
  • Yes, it was a horrible & protracted experience for many staff to live & work through
  • Yes, the end game was faux privatisation & collective punishment of staff, not least being theft of 60% of staff redundancy entitlements by corporate bandits.
  • Yes, they knew what they were doing
  • No, they don't give a fuck for anything except themselves
Add to this the staffing crisis, low morale, high sickness rates, toxic work environment, poor training, inadequate supervision, wage erosion, terrible HMI reports, tragic SFO's, crap IT, uncompleted UPW, inadequate PSR's, tick box supervision and endless bureaucracy, the time has come to get probation set free from the clutches of HMPPS and let it fly again!   



SSCL hold a particular position of universal dislike and mistrust within probation circles. 

Driving efficiency and modernising ways of working

Fujitsu has been at the forefront of the Government’s Shared Services strategy as the technology provider for the Single Operating Platform (SOP) providing back office services to over 350,000 users, currently the largest Oracle deployment in EMEA. We have also delivered both Oracle eBusiness Suite and Oracle Cloud services to other government departments and local authorities alike to digitalise HR processes and accelerate public sector transformation.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

New Probation Scandal

OK it's not 'that' new, but because we've all watched ITV's Mr Bates vs The Post Office and been suitably appalled to the extent there's zero chance of it slipping off the news and political agenda anytime soon, other command and control bureaucracies are shitting bricks lest their dirty laundry sees the light of day. To put it bluntly, there is alarm and despondency at HMPPS HQ lest the media and the public get a taste for digging up dirt, after all, this is about possible 'reputational damage' to the probation brand and it's election year.

So, let’s review the situation. For months, this blog has been highlighting lots of testimony as to the toxic workplace environment that is becoming widespread and resulting in already hard-pressed staff old and new experiencing a great deal of unhealthy pressure and in quite a few instances exiting in droves. I've personally received many examples of harassment and bullying that management not only ignore, but as often as not complaints are not dealt with, and some well-known repeat bullies remain at liberty to bully others and in some cases even promoted.

Regular readers will be very familiar with stories of staff being induced by any means to fill in the annual staff survey, thus ensuring claims of legitimacy, but many staff refused to comply knowing that the results would be 'massaged' in the interests of avoiding reputational damage to a fairly well-trusted brand. Well, judging by widespread rumours, it would seem the staff survey has indeed highlighted widespread bullying, thus confirming the anecdotal evidence submitted to the blog and the TUBU, Tackling Unacceptable Behaviour Unit. This is of course potentially all very unwelcome at a time when presumably OneHMPPS plans are being shared more widely, and the public may remember that it was senior MoJ staff that complained about a now ex-Justice Secretary regarding his unacceptable bullying behaviour.

Like all Command and Control bureaucracies, HMPPS have been in denial for some time and used any number of wheezes in order to cover things up, but a la Post Office, things are highly likely to unravel for the deeply flawed and toxic OneHMPPS project and Probation Operations Directorate where it is rumoured bullies are now firmly ensconced. It would be highly embarrassing for yet more evidence to be flushed out via social media and in the wake of the public getting a thirst for seeing wrongs being righted.

Remember, all this comes on top of persistent examples of racism, failure to make appropriate provision for staff with disabilities or other protected characteristics, poor IT systems, office accommodation and HR. Add this to poor pay, high caseloads, inadequate training and supervision, bad HMI reports, shocking SFO cases, UPW hours routinely uncompleted, there is a perfect storm brewing and case building for a reversal of the OneHMPPS plan and recreation of a distinct and separate Probation Service, locally controlled and free of the civil service.     

Saturday 6 January 2024

Remembering Jeremy

In my experience, probation has always produced rather more of its fair share of 'characters' and none more so than Napo legend Jeremy Cameron. No AGM was ever complete without a witty and incisive contribution from this remarkable man and sad news of his passing will generate many anecdotes I'm sure.  

The following has been shared by Napo London Branch:-

It is with great sadness that we have to inform you of the sudden death of Jeremy Cameron on New Years Eve. This wonderful tribute comes from our own Cyril Cleary, long term colleague and friend of Jeremy’s:

Jeremy had been in very poor physical health in recent years, but, as we know, this did not stop him living an immensely active and varied life which was both unique and inspirational to many of us.

In that spirit, he was in Tobago, where he had gone as usual to watch his beloved test match cricket, where he was taken ill unexpectedly, and passed away doing what he loved, in a place he greatly loved.

Jeremy remained super active in Napo up to and including our last recent AGM. He recently proposed a motion setting up the Retired Members' Network, and, at our last AGM, proposed a Motion deploring the catastrophic cuts to Foreign Aid - one of many international issues very close to his heart, and, of course, his speeches to Conference over the years often brought the house down.

Those of us who knew him over his decades of immeasurable service to Napo and the Probation Service will have a ton of special memories of the way in which he touched and changed the lives of countless people over the years. However, some may not be so familiar with other aspects of his life as an author, traveller, friend, partner, sportsman, allotment holder and village community librarian- the list is endless.

Jeremy was one of the most compassionate, selfless, empathetic, principled and loyal people you will meet in a lifetime, and his untimely passing has profoundly affected all who knew him.

We will inform everyone of arrangements in due course. You can be certain we will organise a celebration of Jeremy’s life and legacy in the coming weeks.

We also hope to put together a permanent record of personal recollections, stories and memories of our dear friend, to ensure that they are not forgotten, and hopefully future generations will be inspired by his life and socialist values in the way so many of us have been.

NAPO London Branch would just like to add, our sincere gratitude and thanks to Jeremy for all of the hard work he did for our Branch and beyond. He worked tirelessly as a National Rep for National NAPO and many of our members were supported by him over the years. London Branch were privileged to have first sight of his motions to Conference and the pithy speeches that went with them.

His deep passion for Social Justice combined with his sense of humour and his gift of oratory, meant his speeches were the event of Conference. He was an inspiration and a friend to many and will leave a large gap in our Branch with his passing.

Rest In Peace Jeremy ❤

Tuesday 2 January 2024

New Year Wishes

A New Year and it's pretty likely there will be a new government by May, so the pressure is on to try and influence things. This from Rob Allen:- 

Will 2024 be the Year of Prison Reform?

There’s growing recognition across the political spectrum that radical change is needed in criminal justice. This year’s converts to the cause include John Major who argued in May that “we over-use prison and under value alternative sentences; ” former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett “struck by the genuine meltdown in the criminal justice system”, and perhaps most surprising of all, leading Brexiteer Lord Frost who recently wrote of a duty to revamp our disgusting prisons.

But how should a new government set about addressing the myriad problems facing the penal system?

Some, like Justice Committee Chair Bob Neill think we need a “proper and honest debate about what prison should be for, who should go there and the costs”. While it might be tempting to try to persuade the public that the approach we’ve been taking for decades is not working, there’s no guarantee what conclusion they’ll reach.

After all, for Frost, getting a grip on the crime problem means sending more people to prison, not fewer, for short sentences and “minor” crimes. Neill himself supports a proposal from think tank Policy Exchange for mandatory minimum prison terms of at least two years to be imposed on ‘Hyper-Prolific Offenders’ a measure which could overwhelm prisons with people convicted of theft. There may be little evidence behind Frost’s view that unless people think they might actually end up in prison, there will be no deterrence - but many probably share it .

Instead of a debate, what’s needed is some systemic change to drive and oversee reform. As former Lord Chancellor David Lidington put it, the politics of prison reform “is horrendously difficult for governments of any party”, if it means spending more on prisons at expense of other, more popular public services and/or reducing significantly the numbers we send to prison.

So, let’s find ways of taking the politics out of it.

One way is to look at New Labour’s post 1997 reforms. They inherited a slow, cumbersome, and inconsistent approach to children in trouble, both in custody and the community. They set up an expert Task Force to establish priorities, subsequently creating the Youth Justice Board to oversee local multi agency work with offenders and to commission and set standards for secure establishments.

Outcomes haven’t always been perfect by any means, but it marked a major structural overhaul which remains in place, focusing attention and investment on a neglected area and keeping politicians at arm’s length. The prison and probation service arguably now needs this kind of external supervision and oversight if they are to have any chance of overcoming the current crisis and adopting a genuine rehabilitative agenda.

A new government should immediately commission a Criminal Justice Task Force to establish what changes are most urgently required. In prisons these are likely to involve action on training and recruitment of staff, the development of regimes and improved reintegration. Reducing the 600 people who leave prison each month without a home seems an obvious target.

On the community side, restoring probation’s place as a primarily local agency looks inevitable. While a recent report from the House of Lords Justice committee cautioned against yet more large-scale restructuring in the coming years, it’s call for much stronger links between probation and local treatment and other social services in fact argues for just that.

A new government could also alter the ways funds are made available for criminal justice services in order to create stronger incentives for local agencies to prevent crime and reduce imprisonment. At a macro level, with two proposed new prisons struggling to get planning permission, some of the funds earmarked for more custodial places could be switched to strengthen capacity in the community – hostels, restorative justice programmes and women’s centres would all benefit from expansion.

At a micro level, if localised multi agency probation services succeed in keeping people out of prison, a proportion of the costs they have saved could be transferred to them. Creating such a virtuous spending cycle would help further enhance the way local communities can safely supervise and reintegrate people outside prison. A new Criminal Justice Board could be set up in law to monitor the system as a whole, working alongside the current inspectorates.

A further measure would be to revisit the role of the Sentencing Council whose guidelines were in part originally intended to keep a lid on the prison population. It hasn’t achieved that in part because New Labour backtracked on explicitly linking sentencing levels with available resources, in part because courts have found ways to sentence more and more harshly. Requiring government to submit its criminal justice proposals for independent scrutiny by the Council could bring down sentence inflation as could a more rigorous obligation on courts to follow the guidelines.

A College of Policing review published last month found that on average, custodial sanctions increased reoffending compared to noncustodial sanctions. It said that “it is likely that individuals who are in custodial settings are more exposed to risk factors associated with criminal activity and behaviour and have less access to protective factors to protect them from this behaviour”.

There are strong reasons for looking to drive down the numbers who go to prison and drive up the standards for those who do go. Let’s hope a new government has a plan to make it happen.

Rob Allen


It's also worth noting what is number one the following wish list for politicians posted on Twitter by former Governor John Podmore:-

If any of the political parties need some policies for their manifestos here’s some to be going on with:

1.Take probation away from prison & localise it 
2. Implement the Corston report.
3. Redeploy HQ managers to prisons to support Governors.
4. Give prison officers 6 months training 
5. Stop building new prisons and invest in community punishments. 
6. Transfer resources from HMPPS to HMCIP and increase his powers 
7. Create proper local prisons managed by local communities/ separate off a nationally managed long term high secure estate.
8. Import new leadership 
9. Open more approved premises & invest in move- on accommodation 
10.Tackle corruption & SOC in prison like you really mean it 
11. Allow wings/parts of prisons to be fun solely by drug & alcohol service providers 
12. Allow pre-release prisoners in open prisons mobiles & computers