AGM 2012 Blog
AGM closes with plea for a massive turnout on 20th October
Right here, right now!
National Official Ranjit Singh urged all those at Torquay to get along to one of the three planned national demonstrations on Saturday 20th October as he introduced the TUC promotional video at the last session of AGM.
Napo members showed massive support when asked if they were going to fly the flag in London that day and bring their families and friends. The planned meeting point will be Embankment Tube station.
Conference came to a close with heartfelt thanks being expressed to everybody who had attended by new National Co-Chair Tom Rendon who also paid tribute to Napo's administration staff for their hard work in organising and servicing the AGM.
See you in Wales (Llandudno) next year!
Edited: 09/10/2012 at 11:04 AM by AGM 2012 Moderator
Tim Wilson speech to AGM
Good afternoon, everyone - and welcome to the big one - Napo's centenary conference, here in Torquay!
I'm Tim Wilson, national Napo Chair.
In considering the theme of this year's AGM : 'Napo Centenary - Past and Future' I have, traditionally, to combine a reflective overview of the past year's activity and campaigns, while signalling the way ahead for us - but of course celebrating 100 yrs. of Napo actually requires a summation of a century of Napo's achievements. Some challenge! This year's events, including our two professional conferences, the House of Lords reception and a number of branch birthday parties, have demonstrated the way Napo has become a hugely significant institution - in parliament, with the Press, with academics and among our peer agencies. All this has been achieved through our experience as practitioners, translated through political nous into decades of hard Napo campaigning; always fearless, always tireless, always avoiding the cop-out - doing what was right for our work, our members and their jobs.
So first, in looking back, I'll highlight a few snapshots from down the last century which serve to illustrate that what Napo has always done remains key today; there is indeed a consistent theme to our campaigns.
1915: Napo added its support to condemnation of corporal punishment. In fact, birching as a court sentence was not abolished in this country until 1948. Napo has consistently been a leader in promulgating the humanisation of penal policy.
1925, at the Liverpool Napo conference: on what workload a Probation Officer (which is all you had in those days) could carry; mention was made of the figure of 80 as a maximum. This will still resonate with PSOs, of course.
1930: Napo president, the Earl of Feversham, declared: 'the most pressing need of Probation at this time is for active propaganda amongst judges, the police and officials of all contact organisations - essential, if best results are to be obtained by the Probation system.'
1937: statutary provision was made for the first involvement of Probation and thus Napo members, to carry out what became Family Court work.
1947: on Equal pay. Discrimination in the incremental payscales of the time was highlighted; Equal pay issues due to length of Probation payscales remain high on the agenda at our current pay talks with the employers.
1952: A United Nations European seminar on Probation. Napo reported that the papers given out at this event remained the property of the UN and could not yet be reproduced. We still don't break embargoes! But this demonstrates the longstanding relevance of our international, outward-looking attitude towards the dissemination of the Probation ideal.
1976: Napo joins the national campaign to save jobs and fight the cuts to public services.
1984: it was not until that year that Napo's application to join the TUC was accepted.
1996: Napo lobbies parliament against government plans to abandon the requirement for Probation Officers to achieve the Social Work diploma. We fought for and won the DipPS and have since remained an important stakeholder in the PQF, which defends the crucial blueprint of the Probation ethos.
From such examples we can see that many of Napo's campaigns are well seasoned; I might say that the challenges have not changed - well, perhaps with one major exception for us today - that is the looming prospect of having Probation work forcibly wrested from Trusts, practitioners and the domain of public provision. After Napo's successful resistance against this threat for twenty years now, I repeat it is public, not privateer, which will always remain the rightful sector for any Criminal Justice agency wishing to retain the confidence of the public, our communities and the judiciary. We're not stupid; we recognise the fundamental threat to Probation when we see it: Therefore, coalition Government, Labour opposition, privateer lobbyists: be warned - Napo will never give up on this!
Accordingly, our centenary AGM launches Napo's campaign to combat Probation privatisation - a campaign to resist Coalition government plans to privatise up to 60% of Probation's core work.
The government announced as part of its 'Review', that supervision of 'lower risk' cases will be opened up to competitive tendering - perhaps through the re-Tiering initiative. A number of private security firms have already indicated that they will be bidding for this work. As things are currently, competition will be based on Payment by Results.
Now we know that the two PbR pilots prove only, that Alice in Wonderland absurdity has nothing on the government's tortuous machinations and flawed constructs, in creating a methodology for the impossible - namely that a system of PbR will save the taxpayer millions, while reducing crime. The government is doing the equivalent of trying to convince the country that levitation is a good way of air travel from Torquay to Newcastle. Look out for an Emergency motion on this, during the conference.
NOMS/MoJ have 4 bands to grade the quality outcomes of Probation Trusts' work. The latest 2011/12 statistics place all the Trusts in the top two performance bands. When the Probation Service, according to the government's own reckoning, is performing to an extremely high standard at present, what evidence has the government got to show that the competitive tendering of our work will match these standards - let alone improve on them?!
We know - and the government should be all too aware - that the privatisation of Probation-related tasks over the last seven years has failed dismally - and expensively; and that the next wave of competition will be a bureaucratic and costly nightmare; from past experience we know it will be pushed through - a la Peterborough prison/St. Giles Trust pilot - by means of statistical sleight of hand and 'binary' tick-box responses which superficially flatter to deceive at inspections, while evading the nuances which are needed as evidence to prove what is really working.
It might be that the government will table a series of amendments to Clause 23 of the Crime and Courts Bill in the House of Lords, to enable the privatisation process to commence; announcements on competing Probation may be made as early as next week at Tory Party conference. Probation commissioning might even be handed to Police and Crime Commissioners at some point after November this year.
Whichever, Napo will campaign vigorously to oppose these hare-brained schemes which provide no safety net for the general public if policy goes wrong. Tomorrow we are releasing a series of parliamentary briefings, which will argue that the privatisation process will undermine quality of individual and inter-agency work, lead to a reduction in the levels of supervision and put hard-won public confidence at risk.
Conference: with public protection representing such high political stakes, rather than wilfully ignoring the lessons, the government needs to learn from the mistakes made with G4S and the Olympics security contract - when the public sector had to be brought into the breach and save the day. Note: we still have an Army; we must all make sure that we have a Probation Service, when the government lack of a 'Plan B' ends in the Criminal Justice debacle we know it will be!
Since the cabinet re-shuffle of 5th September we have also of course, been aware of the marked shift to the Right into which Cameron has been manoeuvred. Grayling, the Secretary of State for Justice, is apparently of the persuasion that prison is the answer to most of society's ills. The new minister, Jeremy Wright, is no longer 'Under-secretary for Prisons and Probation' and we are taking vociferous issue with the Ministry of Justice over the huge and negative symbolism of the fact that 'Probation' has been dropped from the title. We are now not certain where the re-shuffle leaves the Review's conclusions, although we can draw some comfort that there is likely to be more delay - which suits our campaign. But we can certainly expect more determined efforts by this government to dismember Probation.
In the light of this starkly unimaginative government initiative, one thing is clear to Napo: while we watch with dismay as the new Sec. of State turns his back on community sentencing - opting instead for the lunacy of shoring up imprisonment as a solution, there is now clear space somewhere to the left of Tory policy, for a more liberal Criminal Justice policy agenda which, if boldly and confidently adopted by the opposition, can be used to emphasise the benefit to our communities of genuine rehabilitation for those who fall foul of the law.
Our challenge to Labour is therefore this: if you are truly interested in achieving and sustaining a fair and balanced Criminal Justice system, then believe, not in the supremacy of the market, but in the electorate's ability to make mature judgement; then seize the innovating, liberal ground and build a CJS which turns away from an incarcerative solution to the problems of poverty, welfare and education. What we need is a reasoned, proportionate, layered system of social justice which instead of finding more ways of and I quote 'making bad people worse', filters out thousands who can be dealt with by non-penal means.
The Scottish system of cooperation between local authorities and other agencies has shown the way ahead since 2007. Observe it and learn some lessons; its policy is liberal and bold, yet it hasn't
antagonised the nation; it preserves and builds communities while avoiding the costly and risky doctrinaire experiments which are threatening to blight efficient Probation work in England and Wales.
Turning to Family Court:
As with Probation, there are now threats to Cafcass - including uncertainty over the future position of the service, post Family Justice review, the Family Support Worker redundancies and relentless budget cuts.
But there is a present threat which is totally avoidable and which comes from within. I was particularly struck by this fact when I attended the Napo centenary Family Court conference in May. Talking to our people at the York event reinforced for me the commitment and enthusiasm our Section members have for doing the job properly, with a child-centred social work based focus.
During the conference inputs and Questions, the challenge to Senior Management was clearly set out - and sadly not taken up; and it concerns organisational culture: namely that Management should believe in, support and fight for their staff in their work to sustain high quality professional standards - not lose the plot in a thicket of managerialist edict about meal or mileage allowances, or presentational gloss at inspection time.
Cafcass should be proud to be the employer of such calibre of staff. Cafcass needs to be poised to safeguard their working conditions and their well-being in the job, for example by acting to the workload weighting tool protect staff from overwork.
But above all, what is needed is for Cafcass senior management themselves to have the assurance and self-confidence to be able to trust their staff and champion their integrity in the face of excessive outside intervention.
It should be so easy for a relatively small organisation to achieve. Cafcass: have the good sense to believe in your people!
Returning to Probation, there are just two points today on which I wish to focus when talking about Napo and NOMS. Both serve to illustrate the importance of full and timely consultation with Napo, now and into the future. I could easily mention the PQF, too - but we'll leave that for an Emergency motion which looks likely to emerge a little later in this AGM...
First, I mention ViSOR, which has brought controversy and confusion to Napo members ever since it was first unveiled to an astonished public in 2008. We know the principles behind a ViSOR-type software system to be well grounded. But ViSOR was created and intended for use primarily by the police, who have both similar and - what is important - different ways of working from Probation. Last year NOMS deemed it appropriate to extend the use of ViSOR to a much wider section of Probation staff - and to make it more uniform - and consistently applied. No problem there, you'd have thought. Except that it turns out that there won't be full consistency or uniformity; and that's just for starters. The decision once made, the rest began unfolding, with some Trusts unaccountably rushing to be in the vanguard of the changes, much to the chagrin of their staff.
Note: Napo was not involved in any information-sharing or consultation with NOMS until members in branches began to inform us of the development, with its contractual implications for staff. This comes from the intrusive vetting process which, whether it is applied or not, could leave members without a job and with little recourse to transparency around a process which might cost them their career. Suffice it to say that NOMS' inflexibility and tunnel vision are still the order of the day on this; unbelievably, for example, they have been trying to convince themselves and Trusts that the impact assessments have been done properly (which is a complete whitewash) - for our part, we are querying many aspects of the ViSOR initiative and hope to win some protection for all members. And, hot off the press: Mike McClelland and I met with ViSOR project managers at NOMS two days ago. As a result we believe we have made progress in convincing them that the need to alter their approach. We have agreed a list of improvements to their guidelines to Trust which will remind Senior Managements to consult meaningfully with Napo Branch Reps on local Equality, Resource and Privacy impact assessments before making changes. Our talks with NOMS continue on the draft Probation Instruction, to ameliorate more of the oppressive effects of the vetting.
But all the kerfuffle could have been avoided; and the moral? Always start by consulting with Napo. The process will cut straight to the chase and iron out many of the flaws in any initiative!
Then we have the Staff Associations' review. This concerns the future funding and governance of the four Associations, ABPO, LAGIP, NAAPS and NDSN. Here we have stressed that, it will be absolutely crucial for NOMS in the interim, to sustain its umbilical cord with the Associations; to farm them out at present when consistency of treatment is vital and many Trusts have limited grasp of their equality duty, would effectively be to sign the warrant for their demise. Here there has been consultation; but with a perception around, of NOMS' ambivalence regarding their responsibility, is that enough?
No, there will need to be continuing and meaningful consultation - primarily with the Associations themselves - but drawing in Napo, too. In both cases what is key is the need for open and truly meaningful discussion between NOMS, its Trusts and the Unions - not the imposition of policy diktat from the centre. NOMS: please note!
As I prepared this speech, it occurred to me that it is exactly 40 years ago that I began my Home Office sponsored training in Probation, having applied one Sunday afternoon during a rather aimless post-graduating sojourn in Hamburg. At the central station I had bought a copy of The Observer; a recruitment article inside carried graphics of youths on street corners and the enjoinder was: 'could you see yourself working with people like these?' I thought - yes, I could, and filled in the form and sent it back to Marsham Street - and things just progressed from there. I was always a footslogger, always utterly devoid of ambition - and just loved colleagues and the job - its variety, and insight into all sorts of people's lives and institutions were compelling - I was hooked, and have always remained a Probation junkie. I even tried to cold turkey by joining Social Services for a couple of years - but it was no use - Probation won out on every count.
I suppose my attitude was, if anything, closely related to that reported by Geoffrey 'Tailgunner' Parkinson, ex-RAF, lecturer - and a former PO whose comment used to appear in the weekly centre-left magazine 'New Society' at the time. Some quotes from Tailgunner which reflect my motivation and, I suspect that of many other Napo members, include: 'somewhere or other the principles of social work will have to come back because the present emphasis on social care and on the institution is going to be found to be inadequate - which is why the climate of social work developed as it did in the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties'.
He said: 'It is this willingness to listen to detail, being receptive to the vibes, this openness which I learned doing fieldwork practice, which was absolutely essential to being a PO.'
Let me rush to say that I wasn't what might be considered a particularly exemplary Probation Officer - but I was keen and worked hard.. I started off as a rookie in a Sunderland team in August 1974, along with 5 others, all of us fresh out of Applied Social Studies courses. It was just like the battle of the Somme in 1916; we were being pressed into service to replace the previously fallen...
Delinquents' glue-sniffing was the current moral outrage in the press; we'd go chasing school truants under our Supervision across the waste ground above the outlying estates of Downhill and Town End Farm (literally in the long grass while at the same time feeling that this was what it was all about); I remember one of my rookie colleagues saying to me: 'so this is what 'fieldwork' means!' Almost all of us struggled to complete case records (because of my individual guilt over this I didn't submit for 'B-grading' [the Probation 'developmental point' at that time]); One night the Probation building in town caught fire, suffering major structural damage and the loss of an unknown number of case files; for years after, if there was any cause for Head Office to look into the team's case records, the request was airily brushed off with: 'I can't locate the documents - they must have gone up in that blaze!'
Anyway over the years I've watched and participated as Probation necessarily came to be more accountable and rightly grew into its position of measurable effectiveness as a Risk Assessment and public protection agency; the work has become vastly more precise and intense.
On a more personal level back then, like Tailgunner, I was very conscious that in my work I was driven by a sense of anger about the lot of powerless people who were victims of Authority and the Establishment. Said Parkinson: 'I was a revolutionary without a revolution'. I hesitate just a little before saying that I am not a revolutionary now - I'm possibly still a believer - just not a believer in the 'Rehabilitation Revolution'...
And then came that road to Damascus experience: I found... Napo. I started off as branch ARO. Still sorely lacking in ambition, I was rapidly promoted through Secretary, Chair and to branch Convenor and then on to the national scene, where, four years ago and still not having received the requisite training in 'how to be ambitious' I found myself ushered onto the stage at Llandudno AGM and already coming to the early attention of the monitors - with whom, incidentally, I continue to have lively dialogue during the course of each Napo year...
Conclusion: in drawing to a close I want to say briefly, that at the end of my four years as national Napo Chair, I look around and see Napo functioning and achieving more strongly than it has ever done. In recent years Napo has changed, adapting to fresh circumstances, cutting back on some aspects of our organisation and developing others. Our teamwork is close and dynamic; we are more than a match for the opposition in thinking through, presenting and winning the arguments.
It has been an absolute privilege to have been your Chair through a challenging time, working with many of you in our local, regional and national endeavours. As a seconded Trust employee operating outside the reach of my HR department, I have at times ruminated on the thought that as Chair, no-one tells me any more what I should do... but of course, that's not true; the one thing that I have been mindful of above all is that the Chair is answerable to you, the Napo members; and you, your circumstances and views have always been at the forefront of my thoughts.
But my four years as your Chair have allowed me to be told what to do by another august body of people -
Napo's Officials - and Napo Administrator colleagues! There is no finer, more hard-working and committed group of employees. Singling out individuals is perhaps invidious, when I am so fond of all of my comrades at Chivalry road. Thanking them all for their energy and comradeship I want in particular, though, to express gratitude to the Officers' and NEC Administrator, Alison Bonner, for her dedication in the face of adversity - and that's not just the problems of managing my and other Officers' workload demands.
The roller-coaster ride seems set to continue, conference, but in closing I'd like to steal a quote from one of the original guardians of Napo - its first Chair, Sydney Edridge, on his retirement back in 1928. He said, looking back over his 16 years of involvement with Napo - 'I have been utterly dominated by one thought: the Cause'. That has been very much the nature of my four years' activism as national Napo Chair; now please remain true to the Cause - that of humanity, reason, solidarity and the vital community which is Napo.
As I prepare to hand over to the next co-Chairs, I wish you all the very best in the coming struggles.
Jonathan Ledger AGM address
Chair, Conference, Jonathan Ledger, General Secretary, proudly presenting Napo's Annual Report, in this our Centenary year.
2012 has proved to be a year of celebration with the stunning Olympics and Paralympics just part of an extraordinary summer of sporting achievements and surprises. Whilst sporting endeavour took centre stage, many of us were overwhelmed by the powerful and moving opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Danny Boyle's utopian vision of a Britain characterised by equality, diversity and eccentric good humour also highlighted the central importance in our society of a commitment to public service. It was a reminder of how much we have achieved and of what is at risk if the forces of the market and competition have their ideological way.
In contrast to our long, collective history, the Condem Government has reached the ripe old age of nearly two and a half looking distinctly past its sell-by date. As it creaks along there is no disguising the fault lines running through the very heart of the administration. The sight of the Tories and Lib Dems cancelling each other out during the summer over House of Lords' reform and electoral boundary changes provided all the evidence, if any was needed, that this regime lacks integrity and unity of purpose. However it is still capable of doing enormous harm and in the past few months we have experienced the damaging effects of so called NHS 'reform' and a budget which launched a sustained attack on the elderly whilst rewarding the top 1% of income earners. More than just warning shots from the ranks of those the Jam once astutely described as the 'Eton Rifles'.
Whilst we should not be surprised about the behaviour of a right-wing Government, we should be keeping a close watch on the Labour Party and the promises and commitments it is making in opposition. At its Conference this week I was pleased to hear Ed Milliband confirm that a Labour administration would reinstate the 50p top rate of tax and repeal harmful NHS legislation as part of his interesting update of Disraeli's "one-nation" politics. But questions remain about the status of free schools and academies, policy on private finance initiatives and attitudes to pay and pensions. It is right that trade unions maintain pressure on the party to remember its roots and those from whom it receives support when drawing up its plans for government.
During this past year trade unions have shown that they remain a force to be reckoned with.
I was very proud of Napo's participation in the strike on the 30th November last year in defence of members' pensions.
That action, involving millions of public sector workers across the UK, was the biggest coordinated trade union strike in over 80 years. Napo members turned out in force and I spent the day of the strike in Devon joining members striking in Plymouth. There were many inspiring stories from the picket lines and marches that day but I was particularly taken by an incident involving a Family Court Section member in London who was picketing the Royal Courts of Justice. An uppity barrister who walked past was heard to refer to the strikers as 'scum'. Our member followed the barrister into the Courts and called out to police officers to detain him on the reasonable basis that he had committed a public order offence. The police and court security duly intervened and the now sheepish barrister offered an apology for his behaviour. That's the sort of determination and commitment that should make us all proud to be a part of Napo.
We should also take pride from the outcome of the strike for the Local Government Pension Scheme which members in Probation and Cafcass are part of. The negotiated changes radically altered the Government's original position and the removal of the threatened 3.2% increase in contributions for staff earning less than £43,000 was a significant victory. I think that Napo members and the other unions covered by the LGPS, who voted overwhelmingly in favour of the revised proposals over the summer, recognised that through collective action we had achieved a decent settlement which will protect members' pensions into the future. Debate will continue in the movement about the need for further collective action but the pensions strike demonstrated that union members can and do make a difference.
The solidarity between trade unionists in the UK in this past year is, of course, part of a wider movement internationally. As you will know, I had the privilege this year of joining a delegation of senior trade unionists, MPs and lawyers on a trip to Colombia organised by the campaigning group to which we are affiliated, Justice for Colombia. Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist with hundreds of trade union activists having been murdered, tortured and imprisoned in the past few years alone. We met with trade unionists, human rights activists and peace campaigners. But we also spent time with ordinary Colombians, people who, for example, have lost their children as a result of Government prompted disappearances.
As I sat in a crowded and cramped flat in a poor suburb of Bogota listening to a succession of mothers describing the disappearance and subsequent murder of their young sons, I went through what I can only describe as a life-changing experience, much as I had when I stood in the streets of Hebron in the West Bank during my visit to Palestine last year.
Since we returned home we have learned that a trade union comrade who organised a trip to Putumayo in the south of the country where we heard from many victims of violence and oppression, has disappeared and is feared dead. Such is everyday reality in Colombia. Later today we will hear from Mariela Kohon, Director of Justice for Colombia, and she will talk about JfC's peace initiative in Colombia.
It may seem a long way away but I know from my contact with trade unionists there that the support of the UK trade unions and our members has made a real difference to their lives. In some cases it has brought security but, more generally, the knowledge that their plight is being heard and responded to gives our comrades hope.
Closer to home, the recent Government reshuffle of the Ministry of Justice ministerial team saw a move to the right from 'cuddly' Ken to Fifty Shades of Grayling (I know my popular culture). The early indicators from Chris Grayling have been less than encouraging with his pronouncements on reversing prison closures and reducing what he appears to characterise as prisoners 'perks'. That he chose to give his first interview as Secretary of State to the 'Sun' reinforces the underlying message of more punishment and less rehabilitation.
Which brings us to the issue of Jeremy Wright becoming the Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister, discarding Probation from his title. It appears that the political intention behind this was to reinforce the Government's commitment to its 'Rehabilitation Revolution' - presumably calling Mr Wright the Minister for Prisons and Revolution would have caused confusion. No matter the intention, the effect for all Probation staff, regardless of their position or responsibility, is the same. It is an insult to the Probation Service, it is an insult to its staff and it is an insult to the long history of care and protection given by the Service to our communities. I call on the MoJ to reinstate 'Probation' to the Minister's title and ensure parity between prisons and probation.
The new ministerial team is apparently taking stock of Government plans for Criminal Justice and progress of the Crime and Courts Bill has been delayed.
Sadly, but unsurprisingly, any re-thinking that is taking place appears to be focused on punishment and privatisation. Some of you may have seen in the past week reports of a new approach to sentencing in some courts in the United States. They have learned from hard experience that imprisoning people, in particular for low-level offences, results in a high rate of reoffending. The focus is now on community intervention and treatment, where appropriate, and reoffending has fallen steeply. Incredibly, this progressive approach is being promoted in Texas and it is a Republican conservative who is introducing the sentencing changes. Once again, I find myself imploring a Government to act bravely in the face of public opinion, acknowledge the failure of sentencing policy and properly resource the Probation Service which has a track record of success in changing the attitudes and behaviour of those who commit offences.
Ministers come and go, of course, but NOMS like a bad smell, lingers on. However the signs are that its impact and relevance is growing weaker by the day. There have been times during the past year that it has been tempting to put out a 'Have you seen this government department' request on Twitter. The Chief Executive, Michael Spurr has effectively disappeared as far as the probation trade unions are concerned and our last formal meeting with him was some fifteen months ago. In fairness, there continue to be good people in NOMS who work hard on behalf of Probation but their impact has as the MoJ cuts hit home.
NOMS is responsible, however, for one area of work which has major implications for Probation. The Probation Review, consisting of two consultation papers, supposedly reflected the input of officials with a strong Probation background. Reading the papers you would have struggled to believe that possible.
Its chaotic mix of professionally unsound concepts such as higher and lower risk assessment, confused messages about the potential role of Police and Crime Commissioners and the definition of a purchaser-provider split within and between Trusts, plus the proposal to put out to tender up to 60% of the Service's budget created bemusement and anxiety in equal measure. Napo along with over 200 other individuals and organisations provided a comprehensive response to the Review. The arrival of the new Ministerial team has led to a delay in the counter-response of the Government.
At the heart of the Review, of course, is this Government's driving desire to privatise as many public services as possible. How ironic then that a Service which has been successfully changing criminal behaviour for so many years should find itself under threat from privateers such as A4e and G4S whose long record of failure, we have discovered, is no hindrance to further opportunities to take over parts of the public sector. The debacle over G4S's inability to provide sufficient security staff for the Olympics suggested that the company couldn't facilitate inebriation in a licensed hostelry. Indeed, the fact that it even approached Napo earlier this year to seek assistance with recruiting probation staff indicates that it is also having difficulty distinguishing its posterior from its elbow.
Notwithstanding these inadequacies, a number of Trusts have chosen to hook up with various privateers -presumably in the belief that such relationships are the way of the future. Hence Durham Tees Valley has formed an association with Interserve, a company which has to be strong-armed into respecting national pay agreements for contracted out staff every year by UNISON. We have the unedifying and nonsensical prospect of a Probation Trust in the North-East trying to bid to take over a prison in Northamptonshire.
South Yorkshire's partnership with G4S had an immediate and disastrous impact as the Governor excluded probation staff from a number of prisons. In its halcyon day - day being the operative word here - NOMS was formed in order to ensure joined up Probation and Prison Service delivery.
How ironic then that the introduction of what is perceived as 'healthy competition' has caused nothing but division, distrust and demoralisation. Our Service, our communities and the people we supervise day to day deserve better than this. The withdrawal of the West Yorkshire and Avon & Somerset Trusts from the Probation Association in the past few weeks has been unwelcome. We need less preoccupation with business and profit and more consideration of people and principles.
This point was reinforced to me earlier in the year when I had a conversation with a senior Probation figure, who shall be nameless, about the future of Probation.
I began to talk about the National Probation Service and he interrupted me and said 'there is no National Probation Service'. This led to a sharp exchange of views as you can imagine. But gathering here in Torquay for our annual Conference I am reminded of the foolishness and inaccuracy of his point of view.
Of course there is a National Probation Service. That Service is here in this room today. Members of Napo, working in Carlisle and Dover, Cardiff and Belfast, share common beliefs, values and a collective commitment to the fundamental principles of good probation work. Shame on those who would sacrifice our common identify on the altar of greed and self-aggrandisement.
Turning to our work in the Family Courts, Napo's Centenary year also marks the 75th anniversary of the Summary Procedure (Domestic Proceedings) Act of 1937 which formally involved Napo members in matrimonial conciliation for the first time. This was the beginning of private law family court work. It is perhaps tempting for members in Probation to think of the Family Court Section in the context of Cafcass which has a relatively short, if somewhat tortured, 11-year history.
However, Family Court work has been at the heart of Napo members' professional practice for the best part of Napo's existence.
It may appear that members in Cafcass are relatively protected from some of the worst excesses of public sector attacks such as privatisation. But we cannot assume that such threats will not emerge in the future.
Cafcass is certainly not being protected from the impact of the cuts. It has stripped down its management layers, removed the vast majority of Family Support Workers, and embarked on a programme of office closures in response to the scale of the cuts it has received.
Last AGM we were discussing the Family Justice Review and its potential impact on Cafcass and the work of members in the Family Court Section.
The Review duly reported and set out a vision of a new Family Court Service as part of the Ministry of Justice into which Cafcass would be absorbed.
In its response to the Review the Government appeared to accept much of what the Review had put forward but it now seems that the potential cost of such a reorganisation and restructuring has pushed these proposals into the long grass.
And so Cafcass lumbers on. Workloads remain a significant problem and the Section is engaged in addressing the issue and challenging the organisation. Our concerns regarding the culture within Cafcass, particularly in relation to performance management, continue to dominate the agenda.
During this past year six district judges in the Hampshire area highlighted concerns about the excessive use of disciplinary processes in Cafcass and previously the President of the Family Division ruled on a case in which he supported the priority of practitioner autonomy over managerial oversight and control.
Perhaps, just perhaps, Cafcass has been getting the message. Its quality inspection teams have been reduced and it is making commitments to refocusing on staff care. We remain to be convinced but if the organisation is to maintain its primary responsibility for the welfare of children and families in the family courts it needs to prioritise supporting staff engaged in difficult and demanding case work.
The Probation Journal is rightly recognised as an outstanding publication in the field of criminal justice. But we should also be recognising the superb work that is taking place on the Family Court Journal under the careful and skilled stewardship of its Editor, Brian Kirby. The Journal has had something of a chequered history and editors have come and gone with alacrity. But Brian is turning the Journal into a contributor of excellence in the field of family court practice which supports the work of members and enhances the good name of Napo as a professional association. Congratulations Brian.
In recent years and in a time of austerity and pay freezes, my comments about pay negotiations both in Cafcass and Probation have been limited. There has been no shift in our focus on preserving jobs as a first priority in negotiations and in this respect we are no different from any other trade union working in the public sector at this time. Pay negotiations in Probation are making slow progress but, as ever, the room for manoeuvre is small. However, we anticipate in 2013 that the albeit slight relaxation of pay restraint by the Government should enable us to work more creatively on terms and conditions. Our aspirations for equal pay via shorter pay bands which is a key issue for Probation, especially when compared to the pay structure in Cafcass, remains a strong focus of negotiations. The employers have expressed a desire to reduce the length of the pay bands and we are determined to turn those good intentions into reality.
Across the public services the threat of regional pay remains a concern for all staff. It was encouraging to see that the Probation Negotiating Committee's motion on regional pay came top of the ballot of members and it is good that we have set out our position so clearly and with the full support of this conference. We must continue to resist attacks on our national collective bargaining arrangements and also challenge those who, as a result of ignorance or bigoted ideology, attempt to undermine long-established and effective industrial relations.
As I draw to a close I want to reflect upon Napo's Centenary year. We've held two excellent conferences for Family Court and Probation members both of which I attended. I was struck by their focus on innovation, invention and cooperation. Our birthday reception at the House of Lords was a reminder of how many friends we have.
One of those friends reminded me that Napo was actually created in 1912 at the behest of the Home Office. Of course it was also the Home Office that created NOMS. I can't help thinking it should have given up having any more bright ideas after it peaked in 1912! I have had the privilege of attending many branch Centenary events across England, in Wales and Northern Ireland and I have been struck by the devotion of members to our union and the determination to ensure that we continue our central role as both the defender and promoter of probation and family court practice.
And although we may have reached 100 we show no signs of aging. A read of the Annual Report shows the success and the growth of the work of our two Union Learning Fund projects covering England and Wales and the range of training and development for reps in trade union and equality based courses.
At this AGM you will receive a plethora of handbooks and practice guidance covering Napo's structure and organisation, representing members, health & safety, member services and best professional practice.
All this is testimony to the hard work of members and staff at local and national level. Napo is blessed with a level of member engagement which, in my opinion, is second to none. And our national Officers set a magnificent example by their commitment to the Union's work.
Sadly, we have to say farewell today to Dino and Tim as they complete their terms of office. I pay tribute them both.
Tim has been an outstanding Chair of Napo, as much for the work he has done which is unnoticed but crucially important.
As you may be aware, I am close to completing my first term of office as General Secretary. Looking back over the past 4½ years I have been filled with pride reflecting on what Napo and members have achieved. I won't deny that there have been some tough times, but leadership requires a willingness to make difficult decisions and have a thick skin!
I can't predict what the future holds for Napo, Probation and the Family Courts, but I can tell you this. Napo is an integral part of who I am, heart and soul, and I intend to continue to give everything I have to serving the interests of Napo and our members. If you will have me, I am pleased to announce today that I will be seeking re-election as your General Secretary.
Conference, Napo is well. Napo is strong. And Napo is ready. Ready to face any challenge that is thrown at us and ready to respond with determination in support of the work of probation and family court staff and in defiance of those who threaten our principles and values. That is why I know many of you will be joining me in London on the TUC march 'For a Future that Works' on the 20th October. We will wave our banners with pride and we will join hands with other trade unionists as we proclaim our unity, our solidarity and our strength.
The first 100 years of Napo is done. It's time to start working towards our next Centenary. As the song says, 'Let's work together'!
Conference, I give you the Annual Report.
AGM DAY TWO
Despite a memorable 100th Birthday Karaoke party last night, where various individuals displayed their vocal skills or otherwise, the AGM got underway for a second day of business bright and early, debating a range of diverse motions
Decisions taken so far
Motions from yesterday and today have been carried as follows:
3. Probation Practice balancing engagement
7. Training policy
13. Napo and the ageing workforce
16. New office layouts
Composite A (11 & 23) Combatting the threat to Probation
25. Defending National Pay rates
26. Workloads in Cafcass
28. Probation Training
24. Protecting our members
8. Restorative justice
10.Employment of Ex Offenders
Emergency Motion 1 PQF
John McDonnell in scathing attack on Condem Coalition approach to Probation and Privatisation
A packed AGM was enraptured by a scintillating address from Labour MP John
Mc Donnell this afternoon. John had arrived directly from the Labour Party conference where he had apparently been bemused by the transformation taking place within his party.
John explained that he had first joined the Labour Party; but had seen it transform itself to 'New Labour' and now become (according to Ed Milliband) 'One Nation Labour!' To much amusement John explained how he had witnessed the bizarre sight this week of leading Labour party figures aligning themselves with Disraeli, John Peel and even Lord Wellington!
Reflecting on Napo's relationship with Ministers, John had noticed that any Minister who had taken up the offer of speaking at a Napo AGM had usually been sacked within 18 months and encouraged Jonathan Ledger to persist with his invitations. He also claimed that Crispin Blunt had revealed that his (ironic) standing ovation at a previous AGM had been the highlight of his career.
John exhorted Napo members to fully support the excellent Parliamentary briefings issued by their union by carrying the fight to politicians in their constituencies. He believed that this government were vulnerable and that one look at the people who were in charge of the approach to probation ('some who he thought had died some time ago') spoke volumes.
John cited the facts behind Napo's campaign in terms of Probation being an unrivalled success story, and that while the aim must be to frustrate the legislation proposing 60% privatisation, it needed to be recognised that other action may be needed and all trade unionists needed to be ready when the call comes.
In closing John said that 'We are all in this together' ....against them; and that he wants to see a Labour Government finally end privatisation and protect trade union rights. He urged Napo members to work within their communities to secure support for the alaternative economic strategy and the TUC demonstartion on 20th October. He urged the AGM to believe that: 'together we can win by showing determination, courage and solidarity.'
[B]The Centenary AGM gets underway![/B]
Tim addresses AGM
National Chair Tim Wilson welcomed all visitors and guests to Napo's 100th Annual General meeting at Torquay this afternoon.
After a boisterous roll call which fully reflected the geographical diversity of the assembled attendees, all Napo Branches were reported as present and correct. The AGM got down to serious business with a robust and impassioned speech by Tim Wilson.
Tim spoke about Napo's many achievements over 100 years and those events which had specifically taken place over the last 12 months.
In a withering attack on the role of privatisation Tim pledged Napo's commitment and intent to resist Government policy, mentioning the massive waste of taxpayers money on grandiose 'hair brained' projects that failed to deliver what the contractors claimed.
In regard to Napo's FCS members in Cafcass, Tim implored senior management to trust their staff and protect them against the pressures of excessive workload and excessive 'managerialism'.
On the introduction of 'Visor' Tim criticised the way in which the system had been introduced and the threat that it presented to members employment should they fall short of the vetting process. He hoped that recent talks would bring about an improvement in the situation.
The lack of consultation in respect of the Staff Associations review was also a source of criticism where Tim suggested that NOMS should listen to the message that consultation with all parties was key.
Tim reminisced about his formative days in the Probation Service and how despite all other attractions in his youth, probation won out! In closing Tim hoped and believed that Napo would go on to develop and how proud he was to have had the privilege of being National Chair over the last four years. Thanking the staff, officials and officers for their tremendous support Tim asked that Napo share his most compelling thought: 'The cause.'
Tim's speech to appear in full shortly
All set for the Centenary AGM!
Final preparations are now being completed for Napo's Centenary AGM at Torquay 4th-6th October.
Members will be able to follow proceedings on the usual AGM Blog and also for the first time ever on Twitter:
Best wishes to all those who are coming down to Torquay.
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