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03/11/2011
  FCS Professional Session Ministers speech
Here is the full text of Tim Loughton's address to the Fasmily Court Section Professional Slot on the Friday morning of the AGM.

Please check against delivery.

I would like to begin with some thank yous, if I may.

First, thank you for your kind invitation to speak here today. I know that we may not always agree on every issue but robust discussion and constructive criticism are an important part of the political process, so I thank you for providing that service with such enthusiasm.

More seriously, I would like to thank you all for your fantastic work with Cafcass on behalf of vulnerable children and families. You make a real difference - a massive difference - to young people going through the most difficult time of their lives, and I am very grateful for all your hard work.

I know that what matters most to you, to me and to all our colleagues, is achieving better outcomes for every single child in the family justice system.

But I also know that, day in, day out, hard-working professionals are up against a system that simply doesn't help them to do their best for children and families.

This Government has made the reform of family justice and child protection one of our top priorities.

Among my very first actions in this job, less than a month after the Government was formed, was to launch the Munro Review of Child Protection.

One year later, we are looking forward to the final report of our Family Justice Review in a matter of weeks. We are already implementing real reforms based on the Munro Review's recommendations; and we're continuing to work in detail on improving the systems for adoption and children in care.

Over the past year, I've personally sat in on family courts, adoption panels and Cafcass meetings all over the country.

And time and time again, dedicated, hard-working professionals have told me of poor communication between different organisations; or unnecessary duplication of work across agencies. Some organisations have blamed others for imposing excessive bureaucracy; others have pointed the fingers at colleagues for exacerbating delays.

As a member of the Coalition, I do understand that joint working between different organisations, each with their own separate processes, timelines and priorities, can be challenging.

I also understand that some of you may be thinking that "challenging" isn't necessarily the word you'd choose.

But you know, as I know, that we all share the same goal - to help vulnerable children and families.

And whether in a public or private law setting, the only way that we can achieve that goal is by working together.

Partnership working across professional divides can be the key to achieving the best result, or can lock up the process in longer and deeper delays.

Every 2 month delay for a child represents 1% of their whole childhood, and that is something a child can never get back. Yet the average care case now takes seven times as long to reach completion - 56 weeks - and many cases take a good deal longer. I don't want that. You don't want that. Vulnerable children don't want or need that and it is essential we get the system working better.

Through initiatives like Local Performance Improvement Groups and the National Performance Partnership, the Government is supporting professionals on the ground to take responsibility for tackling delays in their areas.

I'm a big supporter of pre-proceeding meetings to iron out potential problems and make the court process more efficient. Cafcass is currently running a pilot in Coventry and Warwickshire to test new ways of strengthening pre-proceedings work by councils, and I will be studying the results of this pilot closely.

I also saw one good example of effective partnership working just a few weeks ago when I sat in on court proceedings in Holborn. A Cafcass officer sat alongside the judge on the bench, and they both worked together to achieve the best result for the child. We all need to remember that we are on the same side trying to do the best thing for the child and we should not be afraid to look at whatever informal pre-proceedings collaboration/measures can help make that easier.



But beyond working well together, we know that getting the right result for families means radical reforms.

The Family Justice Review is now looking in detail at the changes that should be made for the benefit of children and families involved in court proceedings, and I will come back to this in just a moment.

But there is also much more work to be done before a case even reaches the courts.

Thankfully, the vast majority of children in this country do enjoy a safe, happy childhood.

But too many of them still do not. Some of their names are sadly familiar to us - like Victoria Climbié, Peter Connelly, Khyra Ishaq - while many others are not. But whether a case is splashed across the media or goes unnoticed by the wider public, there is always, always an individual tragedy at its centre.

In the past, these individual tragedies have acted as triggers for kneejerk reviews and inquiries into the child protection system.

Every one of those reviews has resulted in more legislation being passed; more rulebooks being expanded; more procedures and processes being introduced, more structures being restructured. All of these attempts at reform made further demands on already overstretched professionals; but none of the changes worked as well as they were supposed to. Many made the whole process more complicated and less geared to the quality of outcomes.

From the start, the Munro review was different. We asked Professor Eileen Munro and her team to conduct a holistic review of the child protection system, guided by four key principles:
. Peacetime

. That we wouldn't be adding further unnecessary layers of bureaucracy, rules, structures or processes; a few 100 extra pages to the instruction manual.

. That we wanted to put trust in front line professionals, giving them the freedom to make decisions based on relevant evidence and their own judgement;

. And that the system would be absolutely focused on improving outcomes for children and young people.

Professor Munro's recommendations rightly address every aspect of the system; focusing on the child and on the child's journey from needing help to receiving it.

We are now moving quickly to translate these recommendations into real-life improvements which will work well and achieve results.

And not knee jerk but implementation group. Health & Education.

As champions for the interests of children involved in family proceedings, I'm sure that many of you will be wondering how the Munro reforms will affect you.

Well, I hope and believe that making the child protection system more efficient and more effective will bring corresponding benefits for your day-to-day work.

Prioritising early intervention in the lives of vulnerable children; improving the quality of early help; and better joint working between professionals and organisations will hopefully find solutions for many child protection cases so that they never need to reach court.

Some local authorities are already trialling new ways of working, setting more flexible rules about timescales and reducing excessive bureaucracy. So far, they have reported that they have been able to spend much more time with children without weakening the system or compromising outcomes.

When cases have entered the family justice system, slimming down bureaucracy and reducing delays will enable cases to be better prepared, helping you to advise courts on what you consider to be in a child's best interests.

And, of course, presenting stronger, more robust LA assessments to judges and magistrates will reduce the need for further assessments and help to cut delays still further.

I am confident that the three principles behind Munro - reducing bureaucracy, trusting professionals, focusing on the child - will help us to achieve radical improvements in child protection.


These principles will likewise guide the reforms in the Family Justice Review and any future changes to Cafcass.

Whether in a public or private law setting, the family justice system needs to work quickly and efficiently during times of considerable difficulty and distress for families. In cases where parental relationships have broken down, or when the decision has been made to take a child into care, it is essential that the system can respond swiftly and effectively.

That is what we hope the Family Justice Review will help to achieve. As you know, the final report is due to be published later on this autumn, so I cannot anticipate its findings or the Government's response just yet.

But we can take a steer from the proposals in the interim report, and I would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude for all contributions during the consultation phase.

In particular, I would like to thank Napo for your supportive and considered response to the interim proposals. Your comments will be immensely helpful in making a better document at the end of the process.

I was particularly pleased to see Napo's comment that the Munro Review will bring a culture change in social work which is needed in family justice: "moving from a system that has become over-bureaucratised and focused on compliance to one that values and develops professional expertise and is focused on the safety and welfare of children and young people".

Well, that shift is exactly what we hope to achieve in the Family Justice Review.

Our reforms for a more productive and effective family justice system will put greater trust in professionals, reduce the burden of excessive bureaucracy and focus on the best interests of the child.

For now, our job is to make sure that every family justice case receives the best possible service from Cafcass, the courts and all partner agencies as quickly as possible.

In particular, as Children's Minister, I have a responsibility to make sure we do a lot better for the thousands of children in care.

For some looked-after children, adoption can be a lifeline, offering the hope of a second chance at a loving, stable family - something that every child deserves.

But despite lots of hard work by adoption services, despite children waiting for adoptive placements and prospective adoptive parents waiting to be matched with children, overall adoption figures have fallen again this year. Still only 74 per cent of children are being placed within 12 months of their adoption decision.

Over the past year we have been working to reduce delays and change guidance, practice and mindsets to create a more effective, user-friendly adoption system.

I've also appointed Martin Narey, the former Chief Executive of Barnardo's, as the new Ministerial Adviser on Adoption, and I look forward to hearing his findings very soon.

But beyond the broad sweep of the Family Justice Review, I know that the future of Cafcass is of particular interest to all of you.

As far as I'm concerned, the guiding principles for future changes to Cafcass are the same as those for our radical reforms to family justice and child protection - asking ourselves at every point and in every decision, whether our changes will achieve a better result for the child.

As you know, Cafcass has been a focus of criticism for some time. I hardly need to tell you that despite significant improvements and lots of hard work from those concerned, the service remains very stretched.

The system as a whole is under exceptionally high pressure. The number of children under an application to be taken into care has reached record levels in every single month in 2011 except one.

While greater emphasis on mediation has eased private law demand, there is still an urgent need to ensure that the family justice system can cope.

I do appreciate that huge efforts have been made to increase efficiency at Cafcass. By the end of July 2011 Cafcass had just four unallocated care cases, compared to 143 in July 2010. The timeliness of filing welfare reports to the court improved - with 98.9% filed on time in March this year.

But I am not convinced that these achievements will be sustainable. In places it is still falling short of what I regard as acceptable and there are still question marks over the sustainability of the improvements we have seen, with or without the continuing high levels of casework. Over and over again, front-line practitioners are telling me that high levels of bureaucracy are impeding the ability of Cafcass officers to make well-informed judgements in a child's best interests.

As I've already said, we can't anticipate the Family Justice Review at this stage and we'll have to wait for the final report before we know what will happen to Cafcass.

One possible outcome (which was mentioned in Norgrove's Interim Report) is that responsibility for Cafcass could move to the Ministry of Justice. In that scenario, I would be keen to ensure that Cafcass retains its identity and its special expertise, and my Department would make every effort to ensure a smooth and successful transition.



Of course, none of this is going to happen overnight. Huge numbers of children are still coming through the system, and Cafcass and Children's Services Departments still have large volumes of cases needing urgent attention.

Resources are going to remain tight for the foreseeable future, and we will all need to work hard to marshal and manage the skills at our disposal so that we can achieve the best possible results for vulnerable children and families.

But I feel confident that our reforms to the family justice system can and will deliver real improvements.

With every day that passes, with every child who is protected, hard working professionals across all our partner organisations will be moving closer to a reformed system. A system which helps them to achieve the best result for vulnerable families, as efficiently as possible, whether in a public or private law setting. Not reform for reforms sake, and certainly not based on huge structural changes that have brought such upheaval across the whole of safeguarding over the last 10 years.


We can't expect to see the results of these reforms immediately, while all agencies are busy trying to tackle the current immense workload.

But we are not planning a sticking plaster for the short term, something to help us all muddle through just a little while longer. We are designing radical reforms for long term improvements.

Once the reforms have taken effect, the system should be more streamlined, more robust, and better able to cope with any future fluctuations in public or private law demand.

We want a child protection system that protects the child, not the system. We want more freedom for hard-working professionals to make decisions based on evidence, experience and their own judgement. And we want to reduce intrusive micromanagement, unnecessary delays and excessive bureaucracy.

Apparently the term "red tape" derives from the traditional filing system in the Vatican archives, where the eighty or so petitions from Henry VIII to Pope Clement VII, seeking to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, can still be found sealed and bound. If we are to learn any lessons from history, one of the morals we could draw from that particular story of family breakdown is the futility of excessive red tape.

Five hundred years later, vulnerable children and families are still subject to unnecessary bureaucracy. Yet as the Munro review stated, "helping children is a human process. When the bureaucratic aspects of work become too dominant, the heart of the work is lost."

In public and private law, I want to help every front line worker in the family justice system, at every stage of the process, to achieve the heart of the work - to put the child first.

That's why we're all here. And that's what we will work together to achieve. Thank you.

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 03/11/2011 01:46 PM     General     Comments (0)  

24/10/2011
  Napo Financial Report 2010/2011
National Treasurer Keith Stokeld addressed AGM. Here are the key points of his speech

Introduction to A G M /11

Treasurers Report


In preparing my introduction to the treasurer's report in respect of 2010's accounts to the AGM I reflected on the themes of last year's conference at Scarborough. Our budget has been set for the last two years against the background of cuts and the constant threat of Privatisation. So now we have moved from Hard Time to one of Resistance. When we set the budget later this year this theme will dominate our thinking. While we retain some buoyancy in Napo's finances, how we organise as I have outlined in my report will become one of the cornerstones of retaining a sound financial structure. I am sure members will wish to ensure we have the financial means to resist the moves made on our pension's jobs and conditions.

Therefore, I am looking forward to the debates and contributions from guests and others as we explore the theme of this years AGM

All of these should galvanise us as we focus on the job in hand and it is for this reason that I am pleased to report that Napo's finances remain sound.

Income as reported in the accounts was healthier than anticipated with subscriptions £75,551 higher than they were in 2009. This was supported by bank interest of £11351 and Royalties from the Probation Journal of £22745.

Expenditure was lower by £122,744 on 2009 although staff costs were £56647 higher.

Our surplus for 2010 before taxation and other costs for 2010 was £334,526 and as a result we were able to transfer £163,304 to the accumulated fund.

Hopefully you will have had time to read my report around some of the developments that have been the focus since we last met.

Following reports to the NEC in respect of the advice provided by the Auditors we have made progress on written procedures for the management of Napo's finances within the staff group. These include developing discipline around the way we deal with suppliers of goods and services to Napo. I am grateful for the work of the officers in developing these and they are now being given a final scrutiny within the staff group to ensure they meet the standards necessary to make them effective. These will then be brought back to the N E C for final approval.

Part of this process has been the review of those who supply goods and services to the union so we can run our business. These as referred to in my report include our relationship with the Publishers of the Probation Journal, the website and auditors. Each will be reviewed against a background of value and delivery in line with Napo's values. Cost will be measured against their capacity to ensure Napo continues in its ability to promote members interests.

In addition we are currently looking to move Napo's office from the outdated accommodation at Chivalry Road. For those who have not had the chance to visit the offices it is a rare treat to marvel at the design of quaint building with a charm all of its own. Conveniences do not include a gym there is no need. Exercise is provided by running around the many levels of the building. In all seriousness the property is proving costly to maintain and does not meet the requirements of the Equality Act. Options will be reported on to the NEC in due course.

In addition to examining our contracts we have been developing a range of member's services which have seen a number of direct and less obvious benefits to the union. I must take time to thank Ian for his hard work in respect of the development of these contacts.

These include offering tax and legal services as well as options around health care and insurance. Each has been selected for their mutual status and ethos which has been seen to be sympathetic to the union movement. We welcome representatives of these organisations to this year's conference. The relationships have been more than just commercial as members attending from the Cafcass section will note in their debates around family law. It is hoped reps from Simpson Millar will enrich the debate around practice.

These services are there for you to consider and as well as providing options for members there are a number of direct benefits to the union as each supplier has offered support for union events within the next year. These will depend on take up by members but the options are encouraging and I am happy to discuss these with members during the AGM.

Although member's subscriptions will continue to be our main source of income looking for other source of finance will and need to be considered. Last year I reported on how increasing the band at which rates are collected helped to support our income. Repeating this success story could have been a tempting option.

Doing so may reflect the idea that those on higher incomes would be in a better position to share the cost than a blanket increase across all grades. At a time when most are under financial strain and our reasonably healthy financial position this was not considered to be appropriate for this year. Instead we hope to continue our trend of retention and recruitment as a means of maintaining our income.

Exploring other income options will be a feature of next years work as outlined in my report. Currently our investments are with Unity Bank and this does not yield a high return. Finding higher income streams while meeting the requirements of a sound and ethical investment is proving to be a challenge. It is one we will continue with and as advised any developments will be reported in due course.

Some of the conference business will be about how we organise and meet the challenges of the future. Retaining our life blood of activism at a local and National level is one of the challenges we face. These include examining what we can afford and what provides us with the most effective platform for out work. I expect these will continue to be debating points long after AGM. Our committee structure and Branch funding will be a part of the coming year's considerations. These will require firming up this next financial year.

Finally as in the past I wish to express my gratitude to the staff at Chivalry Road in enabling me to undertake my role as National Treasurer. It may seem these are regular and sentiments almost taken for granted. However I can assure you as an officer this is not the case. Their dedication is clear and evident. Napo is fortunate to employ a staff group who have seen us through some difficult times. The staff does not just turn up for their wages but show a dedication that should not go unnoticed

One of these members of staff is our newly appointed Finance Officer who after years of verbal accolades has been finally recognised for her role. This follows years of developing the position beyond the one she was appointed to. I would like you to join in congratulating Theresa who was this year recognised for her dedication to the work of the union. Theresa has helped us navigate the minefield of all matters financial. Some times at a personal cost to her self. After many hours of hard work I am pleased to acknowledge these have finally been recognised with her promotion.

All that is left is to ask the AGM to approve the accounts and the recommendation of the Treasurers report.

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 24/10/2011 01:19 PM     General     Comments (0)  

14/10/2011
  Crispins Blunts contribution - I almost forgot (to include it)
No ovation this year as Minister sticks to his guns

NAPO AGM & CONFERENCE 7 OCTOBER 2011

At times of economic and political uncertainty, we should remind ourselves what really matters, those things that define our values. One of those things is the justice system. I am honoured to be one of its Ministerial custodians. And as Minister for Probation I'm proud of and impressed by the role that probation officers play in delivering justice and keeping the public safe.

That role has been on display as never before during and after the riots this August. I'd like to say thank you for your commitment, hard work and professionalism - without it (and that of the Prison Service, the police and the Court services) the system could not have coped. And the hard work for probation is not over of course. Long after the cameras are gone, it will be your efforts that help to determine the long-term outcomes for those arrested - the delicate business of managing relationships, helping offenders see the need to change, encouraging them to go straight.

I know what you do is really important - a vital service - and one that is sometimes unfairly overlooked or misunderstood. I want to use my remarks this morning to talk about the future of the service and how I see it developing at what is a crucial time not just for the people in this room but the whole CJS. Since I spoke to you last year there have been a host of developments and, I know, no small anxiety as the Coalition seeks to deliver a programme of tough spending reductions and radical reform.

Let me start by returning to the basic thinking underpinning our plans which, as you know, are designed to reorient the system so that it works for the long-term.

The public's basic expectations of the justice system are simple to state: they are that it punishes offenders properly, that it protects against crime effectively, and that it is affordable and efficient.

Yet the system we work in is very far from living up to these ideals.

On punishment, our jails are places of idleness, with drugs too often readily available. Equally, community sentences don't fully command public confidence.

On protecting the public, reoffending rates remain stubbornly high. Within a year of leaving prison, half of offenders (49%) have been reconvicted, in part because the system is not tackling underlying causes of their criminality like drug abuse, poor mental health and inadequate skills. The consequence is new victims of crime every day. A key lesson from the events of August this is a central social challenge, not some peripheral issue for other people to worry about. Three-quarters of the rioters has convictions, and one in four had ten or more.

And on the way the system is organised, you don't need me to remind you that it's too often bureaucratic, expensive and inefficient - something that gets in the way of effective work, rather than supporting it.

We have not yet published the MOJ response to the Justice Select Committee report on the future of but I think the committee was right on this point: the system has for too long impeded professional discretion and substituted the ticking of boxes for the real work of managing offenders; all of which is reflected in low contact times. We take very seriously the concerns of Napo and others in this area.

Our reforms, at root, are about tackling those problems. Their strategic intent is very simple.

First, more constructive and effective punishment. That's why we're introducing a 40 hour working week across the prison estate: so offenders are doing productive, hard work, not sitting idle. That's also why we want to make community sentences more robust. The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, currently before Parliament includes plans to increase the maximum curfew hours per day and the maximum length of a curfew under a community order, as well as a new restriction on foreign travel.

Second, putting effective rehabilitation at the heart of the system. That's why we are putting tackling reoffending centre-stage, including the introduction of payment by results, about which I'll say more in a moment. We also want to make it easier for sentencers to impose treatment requirements so that more offenders can address drug, alcohol and mental health problems in the community.

Third, reorganising services so that they are more flexible and staff have more discretion. Our commitment is to move away from a prescriptive and heavily monitored approach to managing performance, liberating you to use your judgement and professional skills. That's why in April we reformed National Standards, reducing the guidance from 60 pages to three.

Inevitably, it will take time for the effects to work through the system. But the evidence from the Surrey and Sussex Professional Judgement Project is that this should deliver real change. Staff there were able to have more purposeful and better focussed contact with offenders, reporting that they had been able to increase home visits and tailor their work.

The provisions in the Bill also support increased discretion including when requirements need to be imposed and what happens on breach. We also want to increase your discretion with offenders whose sentence includes a programme requirement. Contrary to rumours we are not abolishing accredited programmes - instead we are giving probation staff more flexibility to choose and match the right accredited programme to the needs of the offender.

Of course, these changes are just the first step, and our reforms need to go wider than making existing arrangements work more effectively. Let me turn to the longer-term structural changes, on some of which I know there have been concerns.

First, Payment by Results. Since the publication of the Green Paper, we have been working towards fulfilling our commitment to deliver at least six pilots to test payment by results across community and custody. Two of these pilots will target offenders serving community sentences and we are pleased to be working closely with Probation Trusts on their development.

Re-offending rates in community remain stubbornly high. Simply increasing input spending by the state on rehabilitation is not an available option in the current climate. The idea of payment by results is to allow us to look at what we can do better. The pilots provide an opportunity to explore how we can bring new ideas and new ways of working into the criminal justice system; to motivate and empower frontline professionals; and to test potentially ground breaking commercial partnerships with private and voluntary sector organisations.

Let me stress, this is not about the public versus the private versus the voluntary sector. We want to release all our capacity to bring about a radical change in how we provide for the rehabilitation of offenders.

I also want to stress: this is not about contracts being awarded to the lowest bidder, but introducing an improved system which protects the public and cuts re-offending, while also offering better value for money to the tax payer.

Far from being disadvantaged by this process, I believe that Probation Trusts are well placed to respond to PBR. That is reflected in the fact that trusts have been and will continue to be at the heart of the design process for these pilots. We will work closely with Trusts and the recognised probation trade unions to consider all implementation issues before any delivery model is finalised.

We expect to select the two pilot Trusts at the beginning of November and I wish to be in a position to commission and implement the pilots by April 2012.

The second area I want to address is NOMS' ongoing work to review the future shape of probation and community based offender services in England and Wales.

The background to this is twofold - deficit-reduction, and the need for reform.

Like other aspects of government activity, no area of justice policy can be immune from the need to make an ongoing contribution to spending reductions. This means both identifying areas of waste, and asking the basic question: are services set up in a way that delivers the most bang for the taxpayer's buck? That includes the structure of services, how they are commissioned and delivered, and the functioning of the back office.

Savings are important - both in the short-term and long-term. But the review is not just about money. It's also about the quality of services. I meet hundreds of people working on the front line in my job and I regularly hear abut the frustrations and the barriers that both get in the way and waste resources. This is our chance to tackle those barriers, to think quite radically about how things can be done differently. By using resources more intelligently, by improving incentives to spread best practice, can we deliver better for less? The truth is we have no choice but to think and innovate.

Some of the tools that are under consideration will be familiar to you. I've already mentioned payment by results and we have high hopes for much greater use of this. A second tool is greater competition which is now well-established as a means of broadening the range of providers. We have been clear that the current work will involve considering the scope for further competitions.

I should add: this is a genuine review looking at a wide range of options for service improvements - it will be evidence based; no options have been decided upon, and nothing has been ruled in or out at this stage. Equally important, public safety will always be of paramount importance in considering how probation services are delivered.

This is also an inclusive process. In order to gain a better understanding how Trusts are planning to improve their service delivery and realise efficiencies, the project team has already visited the Chairs and Chiefs of 12 Trusts. They have also discussed how to build on existing good practice and innovation. I understand that the nature of these discussions so far has been generally positive and constructive. I have also discussed this review with Jonathan [Ledger] at our most recent regular meeting. I have stressed the important opportunity that Napo and the other trade unions representing probation staff have in being able to influence the review's outcomes and have invited Jonathan and his colleagues to make sure that your voice is heard. And I have undertaken to listen to a presentation from Napo and the other probation trade unions on your ideas for reform.

Whilst listening another thing I'm keen to do is take on board the lessons of Community Payback, where we've been letting new contracts as part of the Green paper's commitment to make it more intensive and immediate. This is in some respects a forerunner of the ways we could open up the future delivery of community sentences.

We've seen from that experience of Community Payback that the bidders for contracts are made up of a combination of private, public and voluntary and community sector, all bringing an imaginative mix of experience and expertise to partnerships in delivery. Far from being a crude privatisation exercise, as some have claimed, Probation Trusts are coming together to either bid for future lots, or work in partnership with other framework providers. It is obvious that no single agency or sector has a monopoly of good ideas, and I am encouraged that we have an excellent prospect of imaginative bids which will bring together the best ideas from all sectors.

A further lesson is that local involvement is really important. It is a feature of the specification that we require an increasing engagement with local communities, making sure that the good work that is done is more visible to them as well as valuable to them. We expect local communities to have an increasing opportunity to nominate work to be done.

The final lesson is that we must manage change carefully, not delaying it but not rushing it either. NOMS recognises that it needs to get this right and apply lessons from the first competition to future community payback lots and more widely. It is critical that we maintain the confidence of staff, the courts and a range of other stakeholders, as well dealing with all the usual myriad of legal, human resources, and technical issues.

I know there is always a degree of scepticism about reform programmes. And I am conscious too that probation has been subject to a lot of changes over the past decade - not always productive ones.

But I want to make a fundamental point about our direction of travel. The public services as a whole are at a bit of a crossroads. Doing nothing or stalling is not an option. But the good news for probation is that, however services are organised, the Coalition's fundamental approach puts the goals of your work at its heart. Tackling reoffending is the MOJ's key priority. That means profile and prospects like never before for professionals who are committed to working with offenders and skilled at changing their behaviour.

Conclusion

So, while getting the future of probation right is a real challenge, I would encourage those working in the current system to see it an opportunity.

For too long criminal justice in this country hasn't functioned as well as it should. We want to make it better.

We've already made some tangible changes to give probation staff greater freedom and discretion. If we get the bigger journey right, the prize is a great one.

A world in which, rather than just putting a sticking plaster on the social ills, ameliorating the worst of social problems, we help to really cure them. As the title of our consultation said, it's about Breaking the Cycle.

Not an easy journey, for sure. But one where the kind of work you do will always be central. And one where your voices matter.

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 14/10/2011 04:25 PM     General     Comments (0)  

13/10/2011
  Till next time
That's it then!

Another year of struggle behind us and another year of resistance ahead.

This AGM was significant in that it produced a raft of first time speakers who performed quite wonderfully and a range of newer activists signal their arrival on the scene including one who had not been back to AGM for 27 years (bet we see you next year). It also brought some new faces in the form of Napo's providers of services for members: The Beneneden Healthcare Society, the Tax Credits Refund Service, Endsleigh Financial and Insurance Services and Simpson Millar Complimentary Legal Services who join our already established and esteemed friends Thompsons and UIA insurance. We may be a small Union but we certainly believe in offering our members choice so do check them out.

Oh and the speeches. The skill, the passion, the wit behind the many contributions from the Family Court Section AGM, the two 'professional sessions' and Conference itself demonstrating what a skilled bunch of orators we have in our ranks. Persuading, positing, arguing, campaigning. People who stand by their beliefs and principles no matter what, in marked contrast to the generally witless bunch of politicial chamelions who preside over us from Westminster. It's been invigorating stuff down in Eastbourne for sure.

Big battles to come then; and very soon too. And people ask me: Is Napo ready?

It sure is.

Ian Lawrence

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 13/10/2011 06:40 PM     General     Comments (0)  

11/10/2011
  Tim Wilson AGM speech
Introduction:

Good afternoon, conference; I'm Tim Wilson, Napo's national Chair, opening up AGM with a look at landscapes - professional, practice and political - from my Napo point of view.

The theme of our Conference did not take long to think up when we began planning this year. It had to be 'Resistance'. In Cafcass and Probation, it's time to take a stand and defend all that we stand for - and that we believe in.

When I think of the term 'Resistance', it's generally in the form of action which is taken, so as to shorten the war against the occupying force. Now whoever you think might represent our "occupying force", in our case, resistance must also involve winning more time - time for reflection - on government's scarily ill-thought-out policy whims which are seemingly being dreamed up every month; time to rally our allies and marshall our arguments and action against the erosion of working conditions; time to put the wind up those predatory transglobals who would seize our work and jobs from us.

Whichever way I look at it, Resistance is honourable action, and it just happens to contrast with "Collaboration" which is the giveaway Freudian slip used by at least one Probation Trust which is joining the transglobals...
Of course, Napo is never negative. When we resist or obstruct, it's for a sound reason - and we always have the other card up our sleeve - it's the card with the solutions to dogma and the closed mind, the creative and imaginative alternatives to the dead hand of centralism and micro-management. This conference will reflect what Napo does the whole year round - engaging locally and nationally with Senior managements and the employers; debating and discussing; listening and opting for alternative ways forward.

I'd like to take stock and look at themes of last year's speech to compare with my focus this year:

Workloads -

First in Cafcass, where the Workload Weightings system could provide some respite and protection for members, but whose deployment has been denied. As the result members are immensely frustrated - and this is the background which led to their cry of "enough", at the indicative ballot in April. Napo's skilled negotiation since then has shown Cafcass management's responses to be morally unsustainable; they have been warned...

Probation finally has a national jointly approved basis for calculating workloads and protecting members, using Health & Safety Stress management Risk Assessment. More work is still to be done to enable universal measurement of PSO and SPO workloads. But the methodology has been established and we will be keeping momentum on these issues.
Role Boundaries in Probation: this year has seen the implementation of Probation Instruction 05/11. Clearly drawn up by someone in NOMS who has not the slightest knowledge of nor interest in, how Probation works, it is the bureaucrat's equivalent of the bull in the china shop, with its diktat to Trusts to ensure that regardless of Risk issues, at least 70% of Court reports must be of the corner-cutting variety (even though they are now to be known as "Standard delivery"). We are now experiencing the knock-ons in terms of increased but not impact-assessed workload demands as well as Role Boundary travesties.

Napo is resisting this ignoramus approach - through its current Professional Committee paper to the NEC; in addition Officers and Officials together with Napo practitioners are working up an up-to-date version of the old TR08/09 document on role boundaries, training and levels of work complexity.

What of the more global threats?

Gov't U-turn on sentencing reform - after all the effort which we and others put into responding to the gov't Green paper (5,000 responses), the end of June saw the defeat of Clarke's more liberal sentencing policy by the Right wing of his party.

This has reduced the Green Paper to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill, which as well as denying affordable legal help to more, and poorer people, prepares the ground for replacing Programmes with pale, privatised substitutes, and trumpets unresearched, half-baked experiments worthy of a scene from the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

And oh yes: there has been a call for tougher community sentences to win the public's confidence in Probation... Have we heard this before? We have, haven't we? Hundreds of times, from past Home Secretaries and Justice ministers since 1987.
And here, I want to refer you to a recent address by Andrew Bridges, retiring Inspector of Probation, in which he says: 'the one thing which rhetoric about "tougher community penalties" has achieved, is an increase in the prison population'. August saw the numbers in jail increase to a new record level, as moral outrage over the riots, ramped up by the government's intemperate, dehumanising language resulted in a surge in custodial remands.
Crispin Blunt's body language gives every semblance of listening mode as he meets Probation staff on his visits around the country - but does he, in the end, hear anything other than Cabinet Office mantras?... Evidently not - but I'm on the edge of my seat in advance of the debate tomorrow!
And here I need to comment on The 'Future Shape of Probation services' review, announced by the gov't in June. Make no mistake about it whatsoever: this review is the single biggest threat to Probation which has ever faced us. MoJ civil servants who have been displaced within wider government as a result of the cutbacks - are given job titles which have 'Probation' in them, know nothing about Probation, but nevertheless brief Cabinet Office with 'solutions' which government wants to hear. We are having to second guess on a lot of this, as so far, little concrete is emerging from the review - though in fact we gather that ministers are going to choose fairly quickly from a menu of 'costed options' - and they are likely to involve more competition and thus more fragmentation of Probation.
And yet, already, Trusts have cut their resources down to the quick. No big "efficiencies" (I'll use their euphemism) can be achieved by screwing further cuts out of Trusts. So, as with the UW competition, the playing fields won't be level.

Here are some bullet-points we hear being mentioned in the review:

Estates and IT: the chaos here doesn't actually make Probation appetising to new privateers - but who knows? - they could perhaps absorb such albatrosses. However, we know it makes no sense to continue with the bonfire of money which the outsourced Estates and Facilities and failed IT projects have leeched from our frontline resources. The criminal waste must be brought to order and further haemorrhaging of cash, curtailed. Trusts could provide these facilities and money be saved accordingly.

Reducing the number of Trusts to an apparently arbitrary figure - 6? 20? 156?! - now there's an exercise to show that the government has learned nothing in terms of what this would demand in the form of bureaucracy and added expenditure.

Privatise Probation because privatising Prisons 'worked': private prisons haven't worked - they are a tinderbox of inmate unrest.

Payment by Results - I'll try not to be too disparaging here, but with PbR we are dealing with snake oil as methodology. Recently we have learned of the 'Baden-Wuerttemberg experience' of privatising Probation in one of the German federal States. Our government know the findings of this, which conclude that if you embark upon such a venture, you determine before you start, how you intend to define and measure 'success' when you compare public with private sector achievement.

But in any event, if you are going to look at the 'future shape' of Probation, why pre-empt any conclusions by embarking upon the piloting of PbR? Surely you save money and effort by first identifying what design you cut your cloth to? Otherwise the public - whom the State should by rights be protecting - end up being guineapigs in these deluded social/penal experiments.

Napo has begun a series of responses to NOMS and will do the same for Crispin Blunt and we are meeting with the Probation Association, a number of whose ideas on keeping Probation public and independent, are close to ours.

Resistance to Privatisation:

Conference: this cannot just be about money - all these intiatives cost millions of £s (we calculate that the UW privatising has so far cost £20m). No - it's about the greed of privileged individuals within gov't pleasing the transglobals - and in the process knifing democratic principles in the back. Do you think that Serco is going to reap loads of money from its London UW adventure? NO - it's about getting its foot in the door and infiltrating the state mechanisms, to the diminishment of democratic process - that is the right of you and me to speak out and make a difference; the right of local people to see justice dispensed by accountable authority through properly qualified experts.

And so we say: shame on the lackeys and cop-outs; shame on those individuals within Trusts who have moved with indecent haste to align UW bids with the likes of Serco, Sodexo and Mitie: "Shame on you, for letting down your staff and caving in to the greed instinct of the artificial - and unworkable - market economy in Criminal Justice. You need to value your workforce; trust and work with your branches - and show some belief in who you are and where you came from; Napo will work with Trusts to keep justice public."

Look at the record of transglobals like Sodexo and Serco - some of their business and HR records are the most unethical and environmentally damaging of all the favoured government contractors.
So, to the gov't we respond: 'you say Serco - we say "oh no"; you say Sodexo: we say "Fiasco!". And I'll leave it to you to invent something to go with "Mitie"...

Which is why Napo's Campaigns to champion the professional skill of what practitioners do in their difficult and demanding work, are so important - and are beginning to produce results. As they hear about the demanding clientele whom we supervise, the security Corporations are beginning to understand the benefits of being 'risk averse'! We hear that they don't want to take on high risk cases; well just in case they think they can merely get away with holding the contracts and letting the experts cop for the risk management, there is one thing which they overlook - and that is:
that Risk is managed by comprehensive communication (which Probation understands);

the privateers will not understand enough to communicate - communication does not easily fit with commercial siloing of our work;
and the wheel will come off accordingly, to their huge embarrassment and detriment.

So instead, I'd like to make a case for alternative ideas for a future government policy on Criminal Justice. And I make no apologies for the short history lesson!

Successive governments have been massively disappointing in seeming unable to imagine a CJS which answers social and criminological problems without (in the main) building more prisons in a knee-jerk, piecemeal response to populist press editorials.

However, once upon a time, there was an alternative view, which offered a social context to inform part of Labour's CJ policy. Such a perspective was potentially liberal and imaginative; its one failure apparently being that it was unappealing to the king-makers among the tabloids of the time...
To quote from research papers (from criminologist Tony Bottoms) on Labour's CJ and social policy, in the context of its defeat at the 1992 general election -
"the Party recognised the springboard was a different approach on key social issues - if they were to become electable. In Britain accordingly, it is only since 1992 that both major parties have engaged in populist punitiveness"; OK, that's nearly 20 yrs. ago - but there again, in all that time we've only had 4 governments.

While Labour had, prior to '92, pursued the alternative case that rising crime was largely due to social causes... this was no longer palatable to a party intent on and desperate for, acquisition of power. And, as we subsequently learned, the subsequent retention of that power.
Correspondingly, Labour's CJ policy was morphed to frame a politically distorted representation of public opinion. Labour got "Tough on Crime... and tough on the causes of crime" - and Blair did set up his Social Inclusion Unit - which was in due course quietly sidelined. What Labour developed, then, was an incarcerative solution to the problems of poverty, welfare and education. And so, we have the current race to the bottom of the gutter.
Today, with little more than a cigarette paper separating the two English parties' approach and Criminal Justice in crisis accordingly, it does our reputation as a civilised society few favours when we compare it with Wales, which is anxious to develop its own CJ policies, with Northern Ireland, which takes a decarcerating, social overview and with Scotland, with a similar outlook and which, to its immense credit, has now legislated a presumption against any imprisonment of 3 months or less...
Conference: such contrasts, where genuine "community-aware" solutions appear as major policy planks, put England's petty-minded, vindictive justice to shame; they give the lie to the English weasel-word 'localism'! We as a society have to do better than this!

Which is why, conference, we need to broadcast the moral repugnance of creating a market for the dispensing of CJ - making millionaires out of shareholders on the back of the misery of victims and the poverty and powerlessness of the Service Users whom we supervise. The August Riots were a terrifying experience for the communities in which they took place, and in some cases, for our work colleagues also. But the indecent haste with which gov't wrote off these events as the greed of a criminal, feral underclass, dealing with rioters by way of summary, savage prison sentences, demonstrates how they rationalise the licenced behaviour of their feral Uberclass, rich without responsibility, privileged without conscience. We know, therefore, that they are in denial! - that the disturbances have hit them just above the subliminal waterline - and we also know that they will not, if they can get away with it, admit our English society is becoming a variant of us-and-them - 'protect the few of them and to hell with the rest of us'. Well, we'll resist that one, Conference!

Moving on, now to

Cafcass: which, while not subject to the imminent threat of being cut, dismembered and thrown to private vested interests, remains afflicted with micro-management coupled with a management attitude of denial; there is a constant trend to de-professionalise the Service which FC members provide.

In addition to the Workloads problems, the issue for FC Section has been the Family Justice review, which offers potential for the Service provided by our members for children and the Courts, free of the crass managerialism which has increasingly dominated the service over the past ten years. It has still to make its final report, but we can hold out some hope for a better situation for our FC members.
Then, of course, there is the recent Ofsted inspection report on Cafcass: If this had been provided three or more years ago, when members had more reasonable caseloads and were more able to do a good job, we could have had some cause for feeling satisfied. Today members have extremely unmanageable workloads and are constantly anxious about a tragedy occurring because they do not have time to do what they regard as a good job.

All this merely suggests that Cafcass has got much better at ticking the boxes for a good report - but it does not reflect any reality in the service. At the time Baby Peter was being killed, Ofsted awarded Haringey Children's Services three stars. We can have no faith in Ofsted reports !!!
This is, though, an interesting time for members, because decisions will made over the next few months about Cafcass and these Ofsted reports may suggest that all is well and there is no need for any change. Beware! must be the watchword...

Coming towards the end of this address, I want to mention some credits - first to:

Officials and Officers and their contact links with branches - listening to members, providing advice and support and staying in touch; there's been a bumper attendance from Napo Head Office at Branch AGMs this summer - and I know that was appreciated by members. Praise for individuals from Branches, too: a good number of attenders were at our recent activists' 'Next Generation' event; and 32 Napo members came to Manchester last Sunday for the TUC rally against the Tory Party policies.

Napo's commitment to Diversity - and our members in the Staff Associations, which, while independent of Napo, have continued to involve and work with us, striving to remind NOMS and the employers that the Associations provide the crucial 'added value' ingredient in supporting colleagues and issues around the protected characteristics, and that cutting the Associations' funding is a hugely regressive and short-termist mistake. Napo will continue to support the Staff Associations in their sterling work!

Then there is Napo's ongoing campaign against the far-Right - the BNP and the EDL. We have had more good results this year and we will build on these. It has been great to see members from Branches present at key anti-fascist rallies. Nevertheless the horrifying threat from racists and Islamophobes continues to threaten our communities and we will remain vigilant. It is the duty of us all here and back at home, to spotlight the corrosion of neo-Nazism and challenge it wherever it raises its foul head.

Napo Office staff and our Officers - Napo's staff deserve a mention here; it has not been an easy year as we have been down on establishment and everyone has had extra to do to keep the Napo show on the road; our staff have pitched in with commitment and determination and have really put themselves out. Thank you, everyone at Head Office!

As for Officers, we have new blood joining us tomorrow, as Paul Bishop and Mike Quinn stand down as v/Chair for Cafcass and Probation, respectively. My thanks to you both for your hard work, enthusiasm and dogged determination - and good luck as you continue the good fight, no doubt in other Napo capacities! We have three new national Officers starting tomorrow, two job-sharing, which is the first time this has been done since the mid-90s.

Conclusion: so, as we muster our Resistance, our energies and our campaigns for the fight ahead: are you up for it, Conference? I know you are! We've a lot to challenge, a great deal of patent nonsense to resist and everything to fight for - our services of Cafcass and Probation, our public sector and Equality values, our jobs, T&Cs - and our Service users. But also in the wider realm, as we join the struggle for the Alternative, for our ideals of fairness and equity for our TU colleagues and for the "Real" Big Society - that is the majority of decent, ordinary people who ask only for a fair deal; not the privileged, volunteering to help the government's view of a "deserving poor" - but for the millions represented by over 200k folk who joined the March for the Alternative and the 35k who marched and rallied in Manchester last Sunday, reminding the government that we won't let them abandon public service ethos and the welfare state, who are concerned for our communities and the wider sharing of the monopolised wealth of this country.
Napo, its staff, Officers, Officials, Branch activists and rank and file can fan the flames of Resistance and our AGM is all about this. Please - enjoy conference.

Tim Wilson
National Chair

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 11/10/2011 11:55 AM     General     Comments (0)  

08/10/2011
  2011 Draws to a close in Eastbourne
A hugely successful and uplifting Conference was brought to a close by National Chair Tim Wilson this afternoon.

Conference was able to complete nearly all of its tabled business with the main feature of the final session seeing the defeat of a motion seeking to align Napo with TUC policy on Palestine

Saturday 8th October

Conference Business

Conference reconvened for its final session and carried the following motions:

22: Probation employers should defend our service

19: Punitive employee Relations

3: Confidence and Professionalism in Probation Practice

2: Organisation of the parole Board and timeliness of hearings

8: Potential exploitation of PSO learners

4: Specified activities a public race to the bottom

21: Napo rejects biometric testing

12: Stalking Law reform

29: Organisation of the Family Court Service within the MoJ

13: Napo supports Pride

Defeated Motions

7: Recognition of services to Napo award

Composite D: Palestine - Napo's alignment with TUC policy

Thank you for visiting the 2011 AGM Blog which I hope you have found to be informative

Ian Lawrence
Assistant General Secretary
8th October 2011

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  General Secretary's address to 2011 AGM
JONATHAN LEDGER AGM SPEECH 2011

You may be aware that in the Chinese calendar 2011 is the year of the rabbit. As a result of some painstaking research on Google, I'm reliably informed that this is the year in which people should catch their breath and calm their nerves. In reality the past 12 months have been anything but calm or reflective. This has been the year of protests, as the Arab spring has bloomed across North Africa and the Middle East, and turmoil in Europe as the Greek economy (amongst others) imploded, a consequence of the prolonged tsunami wave effect of the global banking crisis, now some 3 years old, which continues to threaten the livelihoods of ordinary people around the globe.


Closer to home, people have been taking to the streets across the UK starting with the student demonstrations against the increases in university fees last autumn, and culminating in the summer rioting, where social unrest found an expression which was as challenging to our society as it was at times frightening.

And upheaval of a different kind brought surprise and, it must be admitted, delight, to many of us. The phone hacking scandal brought down, or at least destabilised, the News International empire, as the once invulnerable corporation was found to be riddled with malpractice. Perhaps one of the most bizarre elements of the whole rotten business was the appearance of Rupert Murdoch in front of the Commons Culture and Media Select Committee. There were many attempts to explain his confused and sprawling presentation.

Personally I think that this was a man who knew he was required to apologise but had long since forgotten exactly how to do it. The whole sorry episode, which may yet have more to reveal of the state of the body politic of this country, offers some encouragement to all of us. It was a reminder that no matter how powerful and seemingly untouchable an individual or corporation may appear, good people determined to reveal the truth in the face of opposition and persecution can gain justice. All of us should take inspiration from the MP Tom Watson and others who fought so hard against overwhelming odds to right some very profound wrongs in our society.

This is also a year in which the trade union movement took to the streets. I was very proud to be part of a turnout of hundreds of Napo members who joined more than half a million people marching for the alternative in the spring.

The March sent a message, making the argument for an alternative to the cuts to public services which this government made a central plank of its economic policy, and demonstrated the determination of people from every section of our society, standing together, to defend the rights of all citizens, particularly those most vulnerable and in need of state support and help. This was a coalition based on a commitment to universal health care free at the point of need, state education and human rights. Contrast that with our current coalition government, getting itself in a pathetic 'cat flap' just this week, a coalition based on self-interest and a determination to undermine fairness and justice in our society as it wrecks communities and destroys jobs.

The March for the Alternative was, of course, only the start. On the 30th of June this year teachers and civil servants struck in defence of their pensions rejecting the government promoted race to the bottom. But they were just the vanguard. Negotiations between the Treasury and TUC have demonstrated that the government intends to continue its assault on pension provision across public services. In the case of members in Cafcass and Probation that relates directly to the Local Government Pension Scheme. It is simply unacceptable that this scheme, which is financially sound, is being threatened by this government's determination to put more money into the treasury's coffers via unjustifiable increases to employees' contributions. In the past few months unions have demonstrated our willingness to negotiate a fair and just settlement in relation to pensions. The government has ignored the reasonable demands that have been made and has brought this dispute, and the potential action, upon itself.

Trade unionists across the movement are making it clear that, having kept to their side of the bargain and worked hard to earn the modest pension to which they are entitled after years of service, they will reject attempts to make them work longer, pay more and get less when they finally do retire.

At this conference Napo has taken the opportunity to add its voice to those of our sister unions determined to resist the unfair and unjust assault on pension provision. I am proud that we have passed the emergency motion which will form the dispute between Napo and the Secretary of State and enable us to move to ballot to join the industrial action planned to begin on the 30th November. Let's add our voice to millions who are telling this government that, when it comes to pensions, enough is enough!

Criminal Justice

The government's self-styled 'Rehabilitation Revolution' was not robust enough to survive a couple of Ken Clarke blunders, combined with the collective fear of this right-wing administration of being accused of being soft or liberal in the tabloid press. Hence the bill currently before parliament includes reference to the punishment of offenders. Measures such as the deregulation of accredited programmes, included within the bill, are indicative of a lack of belief in the Probation Service and a willingness to allow the already scandalously high prison population to increase further. I have noticed that Crispin Blunt is in the habit of referring to probation services. The use of the plural is significant as it implies that the Service is simply a set of component parts easily auctioned off to the highest bidder. The Minister would do well to understand that we are a unified Probation Service and that whether staff are working in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, they carry a united conviction and belief in the work they do. Earlier this year during a visit to one Probation Trust, Crispin Blunt commented that he hoped to be remembered as a 'hero' of the Probation Service on completion of his time as a minister. On current form it is indeed likely that Mr Blunt will be remembered in the form of a four-letter word but 'hero' is not the one that comes immediately to mind.

We have been experiencing what we anticipate is the initial stages of the government's commitment to privatisation, euphemistically described as the mixed economy approach to justice provision. And what a start it has been! The decision to redesign the map of England and Wales in order to facilitate the tendering of Unpaid Work was an early indicator of the motivation behind the whole miserable process. Whilst increasing the autonomy of Wales via the Welsh government has been a generally accepted political approach for some years the Ministry of Justice thought it would make sense to link Wales to parts of the north west of England. Meanwhile South Yorkshire discovered that it was part of the Midlands and various parts of the west, south west and east of England are clumped together in lots that defy practicality or common sense. The true reason for this bizarre organisation of Unpaid Work has never really been denied within the MoJ. It's all about volume and has nothing to do with the good organisation of the work itself. It is part of a commitment to ensure that the lots were a sufficient size to be attractive to the predatory corporations approved to compete for the work.

And what a 'lot' they are. About a month ago I blogged a report by the Ethical Consumer Magazine which conducted a survey of 20 private companies involved in taking over various parts of the public sector. Measured against a range of criteria including human and workers' rights, environmental reporting and political activity, Sodexo and Serco came 18th and 19th respectively. Sodexo was reported as managing its finances in such a way that it actively avoids paying tax in the UK.

Tim has already spoken about our misgivings in relation to the behaviour of some Trusts who have, for whatever reason, found it necessary to enter into partnerships with these companies. However, we should not ignore the individual rats who believe they are escaping a sinking ship in order to join the private gravy train - if you'll forgive the mixed metaphor. In this context the king rat is undoubtedly Roger Hill, former director of the Probation Service of whom, as many of you will know, I have been a long-time admirer. On leaving the Service he sent an email to Chiefs stating that he was 'proud to be joining a company (this is Sodexo we are talking about remember) that has strong values including a policy of not working in countries where there is the death penalty or where staff are required to carry guns'. Brings a tear to the eye.

I am sure it came as a relief to us all that Mr Hill would not be carrying any form of firearm in his new job! I have a message for all those who have so ignominiously left the service which nurtured and supported them through many years of lucrative employment. HMS Probation is not sinking. While it may be steering through some choppy waters it remains shipshape and served by a crew determined to ensure its survival long into the future. Ultimately, we are stronger for being without those whose loyalty and values can be so easily bought.

We continue to work closely with the employers via the Probation Association and senior management through the Probation Chiefs Association. The Probation Association has maintained a low profile for some years and I have been critical of this at previous conferences. However it does have a key role to play and its promotion of a more localist agenda giving individual trusts control over the commissioning process is probably the least worst option of the mixed economy approach this government endorses so enthusiastically. However, we do need the employers to speak out and it is welcome that recent signs have suggested there is a willingness to do so. Whilst the PA's first responsibility is towards its members, that is the Trusts, it also has a collective duty of care towards its staff. And staff have a right to expect their employers to stand up publicly on occasion in pursuit of their best interests.

In what has been a difficult and challenging year, the Justice Select Committee's inquiry into 'The role of the Probation Service' was a welcome source of encouragement. Whilst some of its observations were essentially a rehash of old news for Probation staff - the 24% contact time with Probation supervisees, its rather fuddled analysis of payments by results schemes and tentative support for the mixed economy approach - there was a clear acknowledgment of the central role of the Probation Service in the provision of offender management. In relation to NOMS it raised profound questions about the effectiveness and relevance of the agency and its specific criticisms of the Unpaid work tendering process were spot on. Describing the process as 'flawed' and 'incoherent' directly reflected the view of Napo itself.

That being said, in relation to past performance being described as flawed and incoherent is probably about as good as it gets for NOMS!

Family Justice

Over the course of 2011 Cafcass reached the tender age of 10. It has been an eventful decade. I know from direct personal experience of working with the organisation that its highs have tended to be outnumbered by many lows. As has been reported at recent AGMs, the shift in the organisation's focus, following the tragic death of Baby Peter in 2007, towards a more performance management and monitoring culture resulted in an increasingly unsettling and oppressive working environment for family court section members. Napo's National Reps Panel, which had previously had very little contact with Cafcass in formal proceedings, has reported increasing concerns about the style of approach of the organisation in dealing with disciplinary issues.

It is good, therefore, to report that there are some encouraging signs in relation to the future of Cafcass. An intervention earlier this year by the President of the Family Division effectively overruled a contentious senior management decision, that where there was a dispute between a practitioner and senior manager over the conduct of a case, the senior manager's view should always prevail. The President assessed matters differently and required that where such a conflict existed the matter should be referred to the Court for a decision rather than being resolved through the organisational hierarchy. Not world changing perhaps, but indicative of a shift in thinking in Family Law in relation to the key role of practitioners and front-line managers. We have also welcomed Cafcass' decision to reduce by some two thirds its Quality Improvement teams. Whilst it is likely that this decision was a response to budget cuts and the need to make savings, it did signal the apparent acceptance by the organisation that the constant performance checks on staff are having a counterproductive impact.

It is likely that two external reviews into social work and family court practice have had some influence over Cafcass' attitude. Professor Eileen Munro's report on Child Protection work which reported in the spring of this year highlighted a range of concerns about the pressures on social workers. These included the climate of fear that permeated social work organisations following the Baby Peter tragedy, overregulation and constant inspection of staff's work and the fixated commitment to a target culture by which all staff's practice was being remorselessly measured. Sound familiar? Professor Munro made 15 recommendations to the government, all of which were accepted. The ongoing Family Justice Review which presented its interim report in March referenced the Munro report as a significant influence in its own thinking. Its initial report suggested a radical overhaul of the Family Court System, the creation of a Family Justice Service seemingly incorporating Cafcass at the heart of its structure.

This does throw up the possibility of members moving from the Department of Education to the Ministry of Justice, which at best would be a mixed blessing but overall Napo has broadly welcomed the direction the Family Justice Review has taken. Its final report is out imminently and following the adoption of Napo's motion on the review at last month's TUC the General Council will be writing in support of a new Family Justice Service based on the recommendations set out in the Munro report.

The creation of a new family justice service is a long-term issue, in the more immediate circumstances problems remain for family court section members. The resolution on workloads adopted by the section at last year's AGM was translated into action when an indicative ballot of members was held a few months ago. It achieved a 62% turn-out and a whacking 94% vote in favour of strike action. It constitutes a massive vote of no confidence in Cafcass by Napo's members.

Negotiations have resulted in potential improvements in the workloads situation within Cafcass but they have not made sufficient progress to end the dispute. Cafcass has been warned about its conduct. In its own parlance, it is effectively on an action plan. If it doesn't do better soon, we may be forced to issue a performance improvement notice.

Pay and Conditions

The situation with pay has been testing of the patience of members and negotiators alike. As members know pay in public services covering both Probation and Cafcass, has been frozen for two years with many commentators suspecting the freeze will be extended as the economic upturn fails to materialise. As a result our options in relation to pay have been limited but our claim in Probation this year was a reasonable and focused one, targeting incremental progression, the harmonisation of working hours and the protection of jobs. We had not anticipated of course that the employers would make a claim of their own, effectively seeking to finance any improvement in pay by a reduction to national terms and conditions. It is this development that has stalled the negotiations for many months and we have found ourselves effectively running to stand still in the context of negotiations.

There continue to be successes in our work to protect jobs especially via the Management of Change agreement. However, the number of voluntary redundancies and early retirements are taking a toll on the overall staffing of the service and, to a lesser extent, the membership of our union. We are also working hard to maintain our commitment to national collective bargaining enshrined in the resolution to Conference last year.

It is clear that there are some probation employers who would welcome the opportunity to undermine national agreements and negotiate at a local level. This is misguided, based on the view that it will help make the Probation Service more competitive. This union rejects the notion that driving down hard earned pay and conditions of staff will enable employers to see off the privateers. Cheapening the value of the Probation Service and the modest rewards of the skilled and committed staff it employs helps no one except those who are threatening to take it over in pursuit of profit, their interests focused on driving down cost and delivering quantity rather than quality.

Probation pay negotiations are ongoing and I hope that we will be able to report some progress soon.

Napo

As I draw to a close I want to reflect on Napo's position and our immediate future in uncertain times. It has been a tough year with a range of external battles to fight across not only criminal and family justice but in the broader public sector. And it has been a tough year in the office too as we have dealt with staff shortage and reorganisation. I want to place on record, as I do every year, my sincere gratitude to all the staff in Napo and the Officers Group who work so very hard to ensure that our union remains strong and united for the fight ahead. We are lucky to have such dedicated and loyal colleagues working in Napo members' best interests.

There are many positive signs for us as we go forward.

Napo recently held its first Next Generation event in Birmingham. Having attended some of the event I was greatly encouraged by the commitment and the creativity shown by the members attending, many of whom will become future leaders of this union. In this context we should also be encouraged by the recruitment we are achieving across the union. Unavoidably, as I mentioned previously, membership is falling slightly but nothing like in proportion to the number of staff actually leaving the Probation Service and Cafcass at this time. The true measure of our success is in the density we are achieving in terms of overall staffing numbers. The latest figures show that we have seen an increase in density up to 42%. Everyone in the union should be congratulated for this achievement.

Next Generation events and other collective endeavours that we are pursuing send a strong message of inclusivity across the union as well. We are strengthened by the diversity of our membership, we are strengthened by being representative of our membership at all levels of the union structure. At a time when the cuts fundamentally undermined employer commitments to equality & diversity, resulting in the staff associations struggling to survive as their resources are radically reduced, it is vital that this union maintains its traditional and profound commitment to equality. Adopting the Women's strategy earlier this year is just one example of the way that commitment is being developed and seen through. There is much more to do but this union remains committed to becoming fairer and more inclusive in every part of our work.

It is good to report that Napo's finances remain sound and this has enabled us to plan for a potential move from Chivalry Road to better accommodation. It is vital that we remain careful in our use of our resources and the NEC has recently approved further savings that the union can usefully make to maintain our focus on the delivery of services to members in every aspect of our work. And we can look forward positively to 2012, Napo's centenary year. It is a sign of our confidence that we have been able to begin planning for a number of events next year where we will celebrate 100 years as a professional association and a trade union supporting members in the Probation Service and Family Courts, promoting best practice and fighting against the many external threats to our work in the field of justice.

Conclusion

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 08/10/2011 12:38 PM     General     Comments (0)  

07/10/2011
  [B]Friday 7th October [/B]
Conference Business

Motions carried today

Composite A: Putting opportunity back into the Equality Agenda

Emergency Motion 1: Ballot for Industrial Action on Pensions

Motion 16: Promoting the importance of Private Family Work

Motion 17: Office closures and relocations and Health and Safety implications

Composite B: The fight for Probations Future

Composite C: Defend the LGPS!

Motions defeated

CA1: The case for reforming the National Executive Committee

Ministerial Sessions

AGM split into two professional sessions for the end of the morning session as Probation Minister Crispin Blunt and Andy Slaughter (shadow Minister) debated current government policy and answered a range of questions from the floor.

Napo's Family Court Section heard from Children Minister Tim Loughton and received a presentation on the Family Justice system from Emma Pearmaine and Emma Hopkins, Family Law experts from one of Napo's new membership service providers Simpson Millar.

The Minister acquitted himself impressively to a critical audience who asked him a range of testing questions. The visiting Cafcass Senior Management team were also put on the spot when asked what they intended to do to find a solution to the ongoing Workload dispute. More details of these events will be posted on the Blog if they become available before the close of AGM.

Jonathan spells it out

In his keynote annual speech to Conference, General Secretary Jonathan Ledger gave a wide ranging address on the state of the Probation Service, the Pensions dispute with Government (following Napo AGM carrying an Emergency Motion authorising a ballot for Industrial Action)

Jonathan's speech in full will follow shortly





Accountability Session

Questions from the floor were fielded by Tim Wilson (Staff Associations) and Ian Lawrence (Current state of play in the Pensions LGPS negotiations and the amount of compensation secured via Thompsons Solicitors). Ian reported that £250,000 had been paid out to Napo members with Greater London Probation Trust being the biggest compensating Employer (£85k).

Other speakers

Gerard Horton - Defence of Children International addressed Conference. He provided a damning report on the abuse of Children's rights in a number of countries and the campaigning work undertaken by his organisation.

Tricia Bernal - Protection against Stalking. Harry Fletcher introduced Tricia who graphically and poignantly described how her Daughter Clare was murdered by a Stalker in Harvey Nicholls in 2005. Tricia described the struggle that she has been engaged in to strengthen the law and the campaigning that she had been involved in especially with Napo's assistance.

Tricia received a standing ovation from Conference.

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 07/10/2011 05:14 PM     General     Comments (0)  

  Haary Fletcher Address to 2011 Conference Session - RESISTANCE !
AGM 2011 - Thursday 6 October - 4pm

Resistance

Sadly the Probation Service and family work in England and Wales faces the biggest threat to its survival in my 20 plus years' association with it. The Coalition Government has announced quite clearly that it's cutting probation budgets by up 15% over the next three years; is putting unpaid work out of competitive tender and we thoroughly expect programmes and work with lower tiered offenders will follow suite. Social work is no longer guaranteed as a public service.

Over the last three weeks, on your behalf, I have spoken at meetings of first the Liberal Democrat, then Labour and then, this week, the Conservative Party conferences. All three parties are wedded to the introduction of competition into delivery of offender services and the rest of the public sector.

At the Liberal Democrats I was on the platform with Lord McNally who is a Minister in the Lords.

Tom McNally, who is a fairly honest politician said that the way forward was the mixed economy but when I asked him what that would look like he said he didn't know.

At Labour it was very clear from the platform that the private sector would continue to have a role in the delivery of probation and social work and remember it was Labour that privatised facilities management and brought in ClearSprings to run bail beds.

At the Tories last week I was on a platform with Ken Clarke and he said unequivocally that he didn't care who ran justice services so long as it was value for money and effective. All the contributions from the floor however were completely in favour of the use of the private sector and fiercely critical of state monopolies.

WE THEREFORE HAVE AN ENORMOUS FIGHT ON OUR HANDS.


So what we have to do is three things:

. Continue to point out that the private sector has failed.

. Promote the success of probation and social work and its programmes, and

. Highlight the disastrous consequences of cuts for public safety and public protection.

FIRST - the private sector so far.

Facilities management! At the Conservative conference on Tuesday I made a new best friend. His name is Councillor Sid Lloyd. He's Conservative councillor for Redberry Green and he also sits on the Greater Manchester Probation Trust. He berated Ken Clarke for the farce that facilities management has become. On your behalf I have produced three dossiers of blunders and sent them in to ministers - all to no avail.



They know it's a shambles and Ken Clarke on Tuesday admitted it might be a shambles, but their stock reply is it's difficult to change or terminate the contract because it is held by the Home Office and was not transferred to the Ministry of Justice when that Ministry was created in 2007. The press have loved the stories and it has caused humour and mirth.

Let me tell you some again. First staff report a blocked toilet. They ask for a two hour response. 28 days later nothing has happened. The complaint goes up the management chain. Finally an electrician attends but is unable to do the job because it requires a plumber. Secondly, a different plumber to the one in the first story travels from Birmingham to Bristol to mend a toilet seat. In Leicestershire another toilet gets blocked. This time the plumber doesn't come from Birmingham but from Norwich!

And how about this one - staff in Wales report that helpdesk operators don't seem to understand what they are saying. Here we go. Probation Officer: "the cold water tap in the kitchen on the first floor is not working".


Private operator: "where is it located?" Probation Officer: "on the first floor". Operator: "Is that in the kitchen?" Another exchange a few moments later. Probation Officer: "The manual security keyboard on the door is not working". Operator: "Is it electric?" Probation Officer: "No it's manual".

The stories go on and on and on. Money thrown away whilst investment in local plumbers and electricians would be a boost for local jobs and local economies.

Let me look at ClearSprings. In 2007, the Labour government realised that too many people were on remand awaiting trial. Something like half of them don't get a custodial sentence. So they look at a cheap and cheerful alternative -bail beds. ClearSprings gets the contract despite better tendering documents from the third sector. ClearSprings defies planning laws by opening up units of four or less. Within weeks MPs and Napo are flooded with complaints of incompetence, noise, criminality and lack of supervision. The only experience they have is running caravan sites in Essex. By Spring 2010 the contract is taken away and given to Stonham.

And tagging -still 15 years on absolutely no evidence that tagging cuts crime yet the government is about to go out to tender in January for an eight year new contract worth £1 billion over England and Wales. Surprise, surprise over 30 companies at home and abroad are putting in bids.

I have little time to talk about payment by results but again it will be impossible to measure, difficult to monitor and I am absolutely convinced that the private sector will not be able to raise sufficient funds through social impact bonds to cover any national roll out.

Turning to the second issue - probation and family court success stories.

I have been asking you as members to send in examples of probation and family work success stories for several years. And on every single occasion you have responded fantastically and given me the ammunition I need. Until very recently most of the material I had about programmes, for example, was fairly anecdotal but nevertheless was very useful.

And then earlier this year I discovered via a nameless member that there were a dozen documents that had been researched by the Ministry of Justice. I doubt whether ministers are aware of their existence. They all show that if an offender goes on a programme the reconviction rates fall by a third. That's tens of thousands of less crimes per annum. Those documents are called, for example, "What Works in Offender Rehabilitation?" - Ministry of Justice May 2010 and "Do Cognitive Skills Work with Offenders?" - again Ministry of Justice May 2010. I have discovered other papers from May this year that point to similar results. We therefore have to ask a question - maybe of Crispin Blunt - "Why haven't these been published and made widely available to probation areas and to the press?"

It seems to me that the private sector is blissfully unaware of who lives in probation hostels. Again because of material you sent to me I was able to do a survey of over 450 residents earlier this year. That showed that 80% of residents were deemed high or very high risk and 90% were, at the time of writing, being monitored by MAPPA.

Today I asked at the Cafcass AGM for examples of harassers using the family courts to bully and destroy female victims, again the evidence will show that skilled, trained staff are needed to do the work.

Unpaid Work - again you sent me material about unpaid work to show that offenders were not a compliant, willing workforce but extremely difficult to work with and supervise and it requires staff who are highly committed, trained and experienced to make it a success. If the private sector gets its hands on it we will see larger groups, less supervisors, more breaches, more imprisonment and more crime.

Thirdly, cuts. And again I haven't got much time to go into this in detail but we are looking at cuts within the region of 15% by 2014/15 against 2009/10 figures. We all know that this is only going to be reached by reducing staff numbers and merging and closing offices, making it more difficult for people on probation and in family proceedings to attend appointments and again more breaches and failures.



I have been making it absolutely clear now for many months that if there 15% fewer staff then expect the caseload to fall by 15% - don't expect the staff that are left to take on more and more cases. A point will be reached when courts are told there's no programme, there's nobody to supervise this person or prepare family court reports. The courts aren't fools. I've had many discussions with the leadership of the Magistrates' Association and the judiciary. It will result again in more people going into custody. So irony - as a result of all I've been talking about expenditure in justice rises it doesn't fall.

Cuts to family courts put children at risk so expect more conflict and children safeguarding being undermined.


So finally, what are we going to do? The answer is clear. Continue fighting - we're not giving up. We'll be seeing ballots for industrial action, support for brothers and sisters in other unions on pensions, mass lobbies of parliament, continuing to work with other criminal justice and family court unions including the Police Federation to expose the fact that the justice system and our courts are in meltdown, continuing to highlight - as I have said - the consequences of privatisation, the success story of probation and social work and the consequences of cuts on public protection. Thank you so much for the work you've done supporting me in fighting our corner.

Harry Fletcher

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    Posted By: IanLawrence @ 07/10/2011 12:39 PM     General     Comments (0)  

06/10/2011
  CONFERENCE OFF TO A FLIER!
Napo AGM 2011 gets underway Eastbourne

National Chair Tim Wilson welcomed attendees from across England, Wales and Northern Ireland as the Napo Annual General Meeting got underway in the Eastbourne Conference Centre this afternoon.

Tim Wilson speech in full to follow.

Family Court Section vote in favour of Industrial Action Ballot
over workloads


Napo's Family Court Section held its extremely well attended Annual General Meeting earlier today where outgoing Section Chair Tony Mercer expressed his appreciation for the work that has been undertaken by Napo representatives within the section and to Paul Bishop for his work as one of Napo's National Vice-Chairs over the last two years.

The FCS also elected Anna Markowycz and Steve Hornby as the Section Chair (job share) for 2011/12.

A full list of appointments to the FCS Executive and Negotiating Committee and Regional Convenors will be published to all FCS members in due course

Tony Mercer speech in full to follow

Paul Bishop speech in full to follow


Napo Assistant General Secretary Ian Lawrence gave an overview of the negotiations that have taken place over the summer between Cafcass, Napo and Unison on the current workload dispute.

Whilst giving credit where it was due to the constructive atmosphere in which negotiations had taken place, and the fair amount of progress on a number of fronts including HR issues and the developing but still far from perfect workload weighting management tool, Ian was critical of Cafcass Senior Management in terms of their strategic handling of the crisis on workloads as 'lacking in real urgency.' He also suggested that Chief Executive Anthony Douglas and his acolytes had really failed to 'get it' when it came to recognising the impact of a blanket allocation policy on their staff.

He was also especially critical of an approach which purportedly set Cafcass apart from other non-departmental public bodies in defending their spending regime against the Coalition's cuts agenda, yet at the same time being guilty of an appalling 'dereliction of duty' in masking the extent of the workload issue in a way that only served to conceal the true extent of Government underfunding. Urging all present to ensure that the Minister for Children Tim Loughton was reminded of the position at tomorrows Professional Session, Ian also paid tribute to the loyalty of Napo members for the way in which they had supported their union in the indicative ballot earlier in the year and for their collective patience in not pressing for regular updates while their negotiators had tried to make headway in the confidential discussions that have been taking place.

Challenging Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas to accompany him on some visits to a selection of teams in the 'High Red' workload category, Ian called on Cafcass Senior Management to show the same backbone and energy in defending their staff against criticism from politicians, Ofsted and the DFE as they do in papering over the cracks of an incompetent and insensitive management regime.

Ian also contrasted the relentless attempts by the employer to cut back on Trade Union Facilities time against the exorbitant amount of public money being spent on a cadre of Agency Managers.

Turning to the motion due for debate about balloting Napo's FCS members for Industrial Action on workloads, Ian said that 'he would do all that he could -in the same way that he had done with countless employers- to find a way to avoid strike action, but was fast running out of options.'

On the issue of threats to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Ian exhorted all FCS members to stand four square behind Napo's campaign, outlining the immediate threats to the LGPS and the approach of the government Ian hoped that FCS members would take all opportunities to hear and take part in the AGM debates.

Ian Lawrence Speech in full.

Tony, many thanks for your warm comments earlier. I don't think you are irritating; it's more about the 'dog and bone syndrome'. No matter how hard the employer pulls, you will just not give it up! Your tenacity is an attribute.

But Welcome to all of you for making this pilgrimage to Eastbourne. And a massive thanks to Paul Bishop and Tony Mercer and Napo National Official Mike McClelland for their support and comradeship in what has been the most testing year for the FCS and its loyal Napo membership. I also pay tribute to the loyalty and sheer hard work of our Local and National FCS representatives and Napo members for the way in which you supported your union in the indicative ballot earlier in the year and for your collective patience in not pressing for regular updates while we have tried to make headway in the confidential discussions that have been taking place.

Over the coming months this resolve and loyalty are likely to be tested to the full on two fronts: The Workload dispute and the wider National battle to defend your pension, your future prosperity and that of your families for generations to come.

But first a little story to lighten the mood; and I must tell you of a discussion I had the other week with one of our FCS members who phoned me up in a state of high excitement. No they had not had their caseload reduced to normal workable levels but had heard the news that a new planet had been discovered a few weeks back, I think it's called Sedna or some such.

Anyway, this FCS member is a keen part time Astronomer (presumably finding time on the odd weekend when he is not working on cases) and he told me of an astonishing rumour involving your Chief Executive which was that Anthony had in fact discovered Sedna long before Nasa! Indeed he frequently travelled to this parallel universe in his own custom built spaceship. Moreover, Planet Sedna has some unique environmental characteristics including two, yes that's two sunsets.

The amazing story continued along the lines that after a while AD soon got fed up missing out on the extra sunshine so arranged for another inter-galactic dacha to be erected - with the help of expensive Agency Labour of course, and has thereby ensured that he enjoys the full fruits of this newly discovered paradise.

Like you I sat there quite amazed that such a seemingly nonsensical tale could even be doing the rounds let alone have any credibility, and thought I should ask our Astronomer friend the obvious question: Are you sure he only has two houses on Sedna?

Friends, as I said we face two massive tests in the coming weeks.

You have already heard from Tony about the difficulties we have encountered in the negotiations between Cafcass, Napo and Unison on the current workload dispute. While I stand by my assessment that we have made considerable progress on a number of fronts as reported in the latest edition of Napo FCS news, there remains much to be done in terms of the managerial strategy around individual case allocation and refinement of the developing but far from perfect Workload Weighting Measurement Tool.

Later today your negotiators will have the opportunity to engage with senior Cafcass management on an informal basis and we will be making it very clear that the time for merely talking has almost reached an end and that (hopefully) you will have mandated us to institute a ballot for industrial action if necessary and if the organisation refuses to cut our members some slack.

So I will give credit where it is due in terms of the constructive atmosphere in which negotiations have taken place, we have thankfully avoided any actual punch ups but I can only simply say to you that Chief Executive Anthony Douglas and his acolytes have with one notable exception really still failed to 'get it' when it comes to recognising the impact of a blanket case allocation policy on their staff.

So my message is clear. Sort this farce out once and for all or reap the effects of the misery and distrust that your inept management strategy has created!

Our members are tired, angry and exhausted at being treated with such disrespect and it is only a matter of time before this union reluctantly but probably necessarily launches a campaign that will have a major impact and corresponding public profile.

But it's not just workloads that are the problem. It's the inescapable and quite disgraceful fact that the Cafcass SMT do not appear to be batting for their side with much enthusiasm

For I have to ask why it is that Cafcass can portray itself as being apart from other non-departmental public bodies in defending their spending regime against the Coalition's cuts agenda, yet at the same time being guilty of an appalling 'dereliction of duty' in masking the extent of the workload issue in a way that only serves to conceal the true extent of Government underfunding.

So I hope that you take the opportunity tomorrow to ensure that the Minister for Children Tim Loughton is reminded of the position at tomorrows Professional Session. Cafcass Senior Management will be attending and are most welcome, and will no doubt take the opportunity to defend their position if they choose to. But I know you will not hold back with your questions.

So I challenge Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas to accompany Napo to some visits to a selection of teams in the 'High Red' workload category, start showing some backbone and energy in defending your staff against criticism from this maverick Coalition government, Ofsted and the DFE with as much gusto as you do in papering over the cracks of an incompetent and insensitive management regime that still sees too many Agency appointments ironically (at great expense to the Taxpayer) of people who from many reports I receive seem 'intrinsically clueless' about life in general let alone the staff that they should feel privileged to have working for them.

And while Cafcass is at it I will urge them to reflect on the relentless attempts cut back on Trade Union Facilities time against the exorbitant amount of public money they are spending on a cadre of Agency Managers many of whom it seems to me hardly have an ounce of decency or compassion in their bones when it comes to understanding the needs and aspirations of our members.

Turning to the motion due for debate about ballot Napo's FCS members for Industrial Action on workloads, Ian said that if this was passed he would do all that he could -in the same way that he had done with countless employers- to find a way to avoid strike action, but was fast running out of options.
On the issue of the key threats to the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) which comes amidst economic gloom where George Osborne's and his 24 millionaire friends solutions are for us to drive faster and to pay off our credit cards which have been racked up purchasing petrol to fill up your tank!

I exhort all FCS members to stand four square behind Napo's Pensions Campaign of which much will be said and decided over the next two days. Napo has played its part via the TUC Public Services Liaison Group on the central negotiations with Government and the scheme specific discussions on which I hope to report to the AGM tomorrow.

Whilst you will hear much about the specific threats to the LGPS during the lunchtime seminar here tomorrow and at the AGM Conference debate, I just want to focus those which all our members face, so I have to mention the proposals to alter accrual rates, changes to the final salary calculation elements to a Career Average basis, and the already implemented change of indexation from RPI to CPI which has saved the exchequer (not the LGPS) £400 million already.

And then there is the punitive 3.2% 'tax' on scheme contributors of course which again benefits the exchequer.

I want all FCS members to return from Eastbourne with a fresh vigour in terms of recruiting their workplace colleagues to Napo and to support your union if and when the call for direct action comes about.

It's again been a privilege to work with you and for you and I want you all to come away from conference with your heads held high as you play your part in your union's ongoing campaigns for justice and equality and to secure respect for our members.

Thank you.

Conference Business (see website for AGM Notice of Proposed Motions and Constitutional Amendments)

The AGM made the following resolutions:

Motion 1: A licence to practice in probation

Motion 5: No confidence in indicative tiering

Motion 6: Reform of Branch Funding

Motion 11: Cuts to funding for accredited domestic abuse programmes

RESISTANCE!

Conference swiftly picked up the theme of Tim's speech during the afternoon session on how Napo can combine with our sister Union's in the fight against this Coalition Governments economic policies and cuts to the Criminal Justice system.

Harry Fletcher introducing the debate, made reference to the continuing waste and inefficiency in the way that facilities management contracts have been managed and the failure of Electronic Tagging to actually reduce crime.

His theory is that unless there is concerted action by the Public Sector in response to the Governments economic and privatisation policies, then there would be no public sector to speak of.

Harry also paid tribute to the work of the All Unions Justice Parliamentary Group for their high profile activity and especially Simeon Andrews (who Harry introduced to the debate later on).

Harry pledged to continue working closely with Branches in the coming campaigns

Sally Hunt General Secretary of the University and College Union, gave a rousing speech to AGM which dissected the logic of the Coalition Cuts agenda and rallied Napo members to the likelihood of Industrial Action on 30th November

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