General Secretary's Blog
General Secretary's Blog
|General Secretary's Blog|
A MESSAGE FROM MARS?
Just trying to clear the decks as best I can before some leave, and it's been another crazy day at the ranch and outside of it too with meetings on Measures where we have since heard of a bit of a kafuffle over facilities time (which we are trying to reach an agreement on), which someone, somewhere in the Noms Labyrinth decides that they would issue a Probation Instruction about. It's started to cause even more confusion if that were at all possible, but I have left word that I expect this to be sorted very soon, or we may have to invite our friends in ACAS to get involved.
I am never short of material to write about, just the requisite amount of time that I would like to do it in, but my task tonight has been made that much easier by the reply from the Ministers (via Amy Rees) to the letter that I asked should be read into last week's TRCF minutes as reported in the last mail out.
I think for once I will leave it to members to draw their own obvious conclusions as to its contents, but if you leave a comment on this site that you would like me to forward back to the Moj (and sorry, but it must be printable and not abusive to the individual) I will gladly do so. Meanwhile I will just say: how many times can one spell out that.... IT IS JUST NOT WORKING... FULL STOP.
Normal blog service will resume on 28th April. Have a good Easter.
Deputy Director, Core Delivery
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ
T 020 3334 4994
NAPO STATEMENT AND FEEDBACK ON ASSIGNMENT
Thank you for your letter of 09 April setting out some of the concerns that Napo hold with the Programme. I would also like to take the opportunity to thank your National Officer, Mike McClelland, for taking the time to write to the Programme setting out some of the feedback you have received from your members on the assignment process and more broadly on the changes being introduced under Transforming Rehabilitation.
I would first like to reassure you that we take very seriously our commitment to engaging with you on the changes we are introducing and to listening to your views and the views of your members. Your feedback is an important part of understanding how we might refine the approach we are taking to implementation of the new working structures and these discussions have enabled us to agree a National Agreement that offers a good deal for staff transferring to the new structures on 01 June.
I have ensured that your letter and the comments provided by Mike McClelland have been put to the Justice Secretary and he has asked me to reply on his behalf. The Justice Secretary, along with his Ministerial team, have asked me to reiterate that they do understand that these changes can be both personally and professionally challenging for probation staff, but by putting them in place the Government can create a system that will have a positive impact on our communities by further reducing reoffending rates.
Looking ahead, as we enter mobilisation we will be continuing to monitor the implementation of the new operating processes and working to finalise preparations for transfer on 01 June. This will be a challenging period as there is a great deal of work to do, and we are grateful for the efforts of all Probation staff are making whilst continuing to deliver a critical service.
As part of these preparations we will continue to discuss the issues you raise through the TRCF, and would welcome the continued referral of your members concerns to us so that we might understand how to further refine the work we are doing.
Both the Department's Ministerial team and its officials take their responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty very seriously and give careful consideration to the equalities implications of any activity they undertake. If you have any evidence of where we may not have taken on board potential equality impacts, issues of discrimination, or indeed any other specific issues mentioned in your letter, you are invited to send these to us and we will give them our full attention.
TESTGATE - A NEW SCANDAL BECKONS
I have been to so many, so called 'high level' meetings with senior management across the public and private sectors over the years that I thought I had seen and heard everything. You will appreciate that I don't have the same licence as others to use inappropriate language in written publications but if I did, this report would be riddled with expletives deleted.
The reason for the exasperation? A session with the Transforming Rehabilitation Consultative Forum yesterday where we had one presentation from a 'high flyer' about the reoffending rates from the HMP Peterborough and Doncaster pilots and the justification for closing Doncaster down before anyone had had an opportunity to take a forensic look at the much heralded success figures continually claimed by Ministers. If the sheer economy of the truth that was on display was not bad enough then the use of distorted language was in a league of its own as in: 'We will do our best to present these figures to the public in as accurate a way as possible, but one has to understand that these are difficult figures to present.' Well that's clear then.
Moreover, the revelation that a 9% dip within the cohort being assessed was thought to be a good indicator of success immediately drew a response that suggested it would not cut the mustard under the proposed payment by results TR formula. And crucially, that it was absolutely pathetic against the average 34% reductions achieved through IOM programmes. It was absolutely unbelievable, it really was.
Exit left for the hapless messenger, after which they were followed by a colleague who is a key sponsor of 'Testgate'. Yes, I thought you would smirk at that one. It has all the intrigue of a 70's era Nixon-esque scandal, but it's actually the new 'corporatespeak' description for asking structured questions. As in: the ones that elicit precisely the answers you want to get, so that you can try and convince a wider audience of your shambolic project, from as many obsequious lackeys who are falling over themselves to find favour with the establishment.
We listened patiently to the well-rehearsed mantra that may as well have been written by someone in the parallel TR universe which, inter-alia, said that all the MoJ testing outcomes for things like the serious risk of recidivism tool and IT support structures led the department and Noms to reach the conclusion that they will achieve a smooth transition to the new operating models on 1st June, albeit that this will still be within 'a challenging environment.'
Now Mike McClelland and I were not entirely sure whether to laugh or cry at this stage, but it gave us another heaven sent opportunity to show the letter summarising the TR train crash that is already out there and rehearse our earlier broadside to another messenger (Tom and I have mailed this separately to members but below is the attachment: letter to Amy Rees.
Oddly enough, there were no laughs from the other side on sight of this but another admission that these were indeed 'challenging times' etc. etc, yawn, yawn.
More on 'Testgate' to follow, but perhaps we are being a bit hard and should merely treat the concept as just an alternative description for the real world that you are all struggling with. That one is called Planet Chaos.
If anyone over in the MoJ thinks we are the ones making it all up then have a look at this gem just in from a London activist: 'Our court team now has no space to take on *any* new reports for next 2 weeks. No stand-downs, no same-day FDRs. Thanks, new MoJ bureaucracy.'
Letter to ACPO
Also below is attached a letter that Tom and I have written to the President of the Association of Chief Police Officers in our continuing attempt to engage with as wide a range of stakeholders as possible.
We will keep you posted as to progress but we hope it strikes a chord about the continuing risks associated with TR.
Hope you have all been queuing up in droves to get your questions in to Colin Allars and his merry crew at NOMS in advance of the Web chat non-event that is taking place next week.
I thought these things were supposed to be a bit spontaneous and that the 'chat' took place around current and immediate questions, but not this one. Apparently all questions have to be submitted in advance and you can only access the site via Firefox. So no problems if you are AT reliant, don't have that portal on your web page or that your keyboard may still be stuck in a crate on the next floor up somewhere along with your favourite pot plant.
Anyway I expect that the hardy souls who can actually be bothered will get their questions through and that the exchanges will be presented to Grayling as further evidence that its all going rather swimmingly Sir. How sad does it get?
Run faster please Sadiq?
Well we all echo that I know in terms of Labour's reluctance to pledge the ripping up of CRC contracts if they reach Government next May. But a svelter Sadiq has asked if I can plug his efforts in this weekends Marathon in aid of the Dispossessed Fund charity.
I gather he has trained hard and hats off for the discipline required. In fairness he has set some realistic targets such as not expecting to beat Mo Farah and reaching the finish line before Ed Balls so anything you can do by way of a contribution would be very welcome. Here is the link: Sadiq Khan sponsor
Edited: 15/04/2014 at 07:10 AM by IanLawrence
Rumours of our demise are very premature
A week after a strike that showed there is still considerable life in the Napo Campaign we are now planning the next stages which will help us to maintain pressure on the coalition.
This work crosses several strands of activity and anyone who mistakenly thinks (or claims) that we have run out of ideas or energy are seriously misinformed.
I have just returned from a very constructive strategy group meeting where we have had a detailed look at the hundreds of submissions that have been sent by members to the recently launched email@example.com inbox. This is providing us with vital information as we develop our ideas across the parliamentary, industrial, legal and media landscape.
I have been especially impressed with the level of knowledge displayed in many of the contributions and the often principled positions that have been taken by our manager members to try and defend the PO's and PSO's that they manage in what is undoubtedly a TR horror show of the highest proportions. All the incoming evidence exposes the facts that the wheels are coming off already and that's even before the NPS and CRC's are formally created.
This evidence (and we want more of it please?) will also provide some juicy stuff for the media and we are already working hard to see how we might secure some exclusive programme coverage on the mainstream TV channels.
Industrial Action continues
We will be issuing more direct mail-outs in the next few days so I will keep this posting brief, but it's already clear that the action short of strike action is starting to have an operational impact, admittedly in some areas more than others but a big push by members throughout the remainder of this month will make a huge contribution to this part of the struggle. We will also need to meet with the industrial action sub-committee soon to consider the further ballot that we must organise in order to keep our dispute live after the 31st May and we will be putting proposals to the next NEC.
The search for JR
Tom and I have written quite a bit about the quest for Judicial Review and we announced this week that we have taken second opinion on whether Grayling is empowered to act under the authority of the Offender Management Act 2007 or not. Well he can; but that frankly was never the key issue in itself, and the early exchanges between us and the SoS which I first started running just after the last AGM were the first part of what was always going to be a process of attrition and that's why we have been carefully building evidence about what he has failed to do despite his powers in the months since.
We will soon be sending pre-protocol letters spanning a number of other areas of challenge and are already gathering statements from key individuals that we hope to use down the line. All our expert legal advice (and that includes two eminent QC's) has said that this is the crucial period for the JR campaign and that had we gone on a wild goose chase for JR at the first seemingly obvious opportunity and failed, then our whole campaign would have gone down with it. I call that good judgement on Napo's part.
Finally, the Parliamentary angle does not close down just because of their extended holiday and we are now building on the findings of the Justice Committee and the Public Accounts Committee whose excoriating criticism of Messrs Wright and Grayling will not be allowed to rest. Just because the government have won all the previous debates on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill by sheer weight of numbers does not mean that this part of the campaign is over. There will be a plethora of awkward questions coming the way of the government and more debates to come as this sad and sorry bunch try to defend the indefensible.
More to follow very soon.
MINISTER ADMITS THAT NAPO HAS NOT AGREED TO TR
Another significant (and frenetic) week in our campaign as we head for the strike alongside the Justice Alliance.
Its highlights have included some extraordinary exchanges between the Justice Committee and Jeremy Wright. We also took another important step forward in our continuing quest for Judicial Review, and met with the Probation Negotiating Committee (PNC) to report progress on the campaign and other important work. We also linked up with Penal Reform International, who seemed very interested in exploring how we might work together to promote our respective causes.
We also attended the ongoing Transforming Rehabilitation Consultative Forum (TRCF) to again formally record our objections and concerns over a number of developments.
As you would expect we have been pulling out all the stops to bring you the facts about the campaign and why we are asking Napo members to support their union. More details below.
Monday 24th March
I joined with hundreds of other trade unionists and political figures in chilly Wanstead to line the route of the funeral for Bob Crow and the magnificent turnout was symptomatic of the sense of direction that Bob's life gave to so many. It was especially touching to see his hearse and horses bedecked in Millwall FC's colours as the procession regally made its way through West Ham country. Bob would have liked that I reckon. He will be a big miss for sure.
Labour's emerging policies
The afternoon was spent at a very useful meeting at the headquarters of Prospect where so called non-aligned (that's politically independent) Unions engaged with two of the Labour Party's key policy shapers in the form of MP's John Healey and John Cruddas. They are pulling the threads together from a number of reviews that Ed Milliband commissioned some time ago to lay the foundations for the Labour manifesto for next year's general election.
In general terms there look to be a number of interesting socio-economic ideas emerging which will hopefully captivate the voters next May. While I personally found many of these attractive, I was critical of what I described as a weak 'forward' to what ought to be a best seller, suggesting that while the electorate certainly need to be told what Labour is against, they want to know (and soon) what they are actually for; and that must surely include an admission that privatisation has failed the taxpayer, as has the failure to close the £120b a year 'tax gap'. While the low paid struggle for a living wage and a significant proportion of the population struggle with the 40% higher tax rate, who is going to bring the likes of tax evaders Starbucks and Amazon and many others to book? These are things which the public want to see firm policies on before they are prepared to suffer another increase in personal taxation; otherwise it's just more of the same old: let's pick on the easy (PAYE) targets to boost the coffers.
There were a couple of uncomfortable faces when I also implied that this might mean Labour admitting that its tryst with the privateers when last in power was a bit of a mistake. Beyond that, my focus was primarily on those areas of direct interest to our members in the area of crime and social justice.
More work needed
It's easy to shoot the messenger at events like these, but the IPPR think-tank presenter was honest enough to acknowledge my observation that if the Probation Service is pulled to bits by Grayling's sell off plans, there will not be the infrastructure in place to deliver all the socially desirable and ostensibly community based initiatives to befriend, direct and rehabilitate that an incoming Labour Government (and the public) want to see, and that it will just not happen in a privatised landscape.
We had an interesting forum discussion around my analysis that the developing policy, while promising, is not yet robust enough. This found support from the other contributors and it was agreed that the IPPR and Napo will hold a special session where we will field some of your elected professionals to try and put some meat on the bones as it were.
Tuesday 25th March
A testing morning for those in and out of Chivalry Road, with a number of us either working on the final planning and leaflets for Tuesdays London strike rally, preparing for the PNC and finalising a briefing for the Justice Committee.
Then off to see the Lawyers with Tom Rendon to see how we can move the Judicial Review campaign forward in light of recent developments and the recent evidence that has been coming through to us. It was an encouraging and constructive meeting and while I make absolutely no apologies for repeating once again that this is a difficult path to tread, I have been really encouraged with the patience and understanding of our members over this issue. The positive responses not only acknowledge the obvious fact that we must reveal what we can, when we reasonably can, but also that members expect us to have the evidence we need to proceed. To do otherwise would be foolish in the extreme.
The Grayling letter
The PNC was interrupted as we heard that John McDonnell had tipped us off about the latest wheeze from Chris Grayling who had written to the Justice Committee in very misleading terms about the position of the probation unions to TR. The letter was apparently one of those classic 'ships I see no ships' denials that so many politicians are famous for, but there was just enough time for our response team to help me set the record straight in an urgent letter to Sir Alan Beith. I also wrote to the two Ministers on behalf of the three unions seeking a meeting (see subsequent members mail out on this giving a flavour of the exchanges that took place at the committee session)
Wednesday 26th March
An uncomfortable morning for Jeremy
Our group could hardly wait to get in to the Wilson Room to see what the Justice Committee would make of Graylings TR claims and my reply. Jeremy Wright, in bidding me good morning beforehand, said he had just received a copy of my letter to the Committee. It would have been easy for me to say that's a good deal more notice than we got of his bosses letter of 16th March (which was precisely none), but I decided to bide my time on that one.
Anyway, the majority of the session also involving Norman Baker was a tad tame, until the issue of those letters came up. The at times Kafkaesque tenor of the closing minutes which saw Sir Alan repeatedly calling 'order', 'order', reflected the fact that the Committee felt that they had been misled; and the embarrassment suffered by the Minister is bound to have been a subject of some discussion behind locked doors back in the MoJ.
We have now been offered a meeting with the Minister and more news on this will follow.
Straight out of the Justice Committee and straight into the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group, where we were able to give a real time report as to what had just gone on over the road. John McDonnell was in fine fettle here, just as he and colleagues Jeremy Corbyn and Elfyn Llwyd had been a few minutes earlier. This is an important additional forum for Napo to try and get our message across to a wider audience of unions and parliamentarians.
The afternoon brought a meeting with Penal Reform International which I had postponed several times previously. They were appalled to hear the real truth about the TR agenda and have been doing some really interesting work in East European and African countries in helping them review and restructure their justice and especially probation structures around the UK (including Scotland) version. Napo invited them to set up at the Scarborough AGM and talk to us again about ways in which we might be able to promote our respective agenda's.
Civil Lawyers now getting angry
Still work to do before the close, as Tania Bassett and I popped in to see Unison to update Ben Priestley on the Justice Committee exchanges and then went off to a meeting of London based civil lawyers who want to get aboard the ever lengthening anti-Grayling campaign train.
Some useful contacts were made and after a couple of hopefully rousing contributions about standing together and building their campaign from the grass roots, it was time to think about Thursday.
Thursday 27th March
An early start for some precious (but still not enough) time in Chivalry Road to deal with a queue of issues and people before heading off to the TRCF where we made sure that we recorded a whole host of objections to add to the ones we have been making for months, about this shambolic programme.
As you would expect these included making our position clear about the fact that we never agreed the disastrous split which Mr Wright had eventually admitted the day before, and having a rant about the farcical written and verbal representations to the Justice Committee, and the glaring holes in the contract procurement process. We also reminded the MoJ of the mess that they have made of the proposed Early Departure scheme and the impact of this on senior managers and corporate services staff.
Friday 28th March
We have today sent two more campaign mail outs to add to the ones that have been issued this week as well as the personal letter from Tom and I that should now have arrived at your home addresses.
Next week is another pivotal one for our campaign. I can say no more other than to give you my personal view that standing strong alongside your colleagues at a time of crisis is one of the proudest things anyone can ever do.
Have a great weekend
TR under increasing pressure from Parliament as panic sets in
As Napo news is about to go on line I will spare you even more overload from me on top of the numerous mail outs that we have been sending out this week.
But by way of illustration as to how Napo's campaign is resonating within Parliament below are some verbatim extracts from Hansard to a number of well placed questions that were raised this week. Judge for yourselves whether you think that the Ministers have it all under control.
2. Chris Williamson (Derby North) (Lab): What progress he has made on his plans for changes to the probation service. 
12. Mrs Mary Glindon (North Tyneside) (Lab): What progress he has made on his plans for changes to the probation service. 
15. Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab): What progress he has made on his plans for changes to the probation service. 
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Chris Grayling): We are making good progress with our transforming rehabilitation reforms, which will realign current probation structures to address the gap that sees 50,000 short-sentenced prisoners released on to the streets each year with little support. The new structures will come into effect on 1 June. The process of reallocating staff to those new structures is now complete.
Chris Williamson: The Secretary of State has a reputation for making policy based on ideology rather than evidence, as we saw with the shambolic Work programme that he bequeathed to the Department for Work and Pensions. Now his own officials have warned him that
"an unacceptable drop in operational performance"
"delivery failures and reputational damage".
Why is he continuing with the reforms when all the informed opinion is shouting at him to stop?
Chris Grayling: The Opposition continue to refer to the planning document at the start of the project, and they cannot explain what they would do instead. Their policy is to leave 50,000 people walking the streets and likely to commit serious offences again with no support post-prison. Until the Opposition tell us what they would do to address the problem, which they identified when in government and did nothing about, they will have no credibility.
Mrs Glindon: In some large areas, there have been only a small number of bidders for the service, and the award-winning Northumbria probation trust is down to three bidders. Can the Secretary of State tell us exactly how many bidders have dropped out since the process started?
Chris Grayling: We have a strong slate of potential bidders in every part of the country, with a good mix of private and voluntary sector expertise and some attractive partnerships that can deliver real results for us. We will see later in the summer who emerges successfully from the bidding process, but I am completely confident that we have a strong candidate in every part of the country.
Grahame M. Morris: The Minister accuses us of looking backwards, but his transforming of rehabilitation services programme is controversial and fraught with difficulties. Does he agree with his permanent secretary, Ursula Brennan, who told the Public Accounts Committee
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last week that if the Ministry of Justice was not ready to take the next steps, it would not do so - or would he press on regardless?
Chris Grayling: It is precisely because we are confident in the process that we are moving to the next stage. We will take it a step at a time, and we will always take steps to address issues of public safety. The Opposition, having identified the problem of offenders going without supervision, and having legislated to deal with it while in government and then done nothing about it, are now attacking us for wanting to do something about it. They have no ideas themselves.
Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed) (LD): Will the Lord Chancellor clarify what the procedure will be if a bidder fails, withdraws from a contract or has to be replaced?
Chris Grayling: The benefit of having a national probation service that sits under the umbrella of the Department is that, were a bidder to fail, it would be possible for the Department to take operational control of that area while we retendered the contract. There are proper mechanisms in place to ensure that coverage would continue.
Stephen Mosley (City of Chester) (Con): Each year, about 600,000 crimes are committed by people who have already committed criminal acts. That is a shocking level of reoffending. What is my right hon. Friend doing to bring that number down?
Chris Grayling: My hon. Friend is right, and this is at the heart of our reforms. Crime in this country is falling, which is good, and the number of first-time entrants into the criminal justice system is falling, which is also good. Crime is increasingly being committed by those who are going round and round the system. My hon. Friend has put his finger on the rationale for our reforms. If we do nothing about this, there will be more and more victims of crime. I do not want to see that happen, although the Opposition are clearly happy to do so.
Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): The Government support a greater role for mutual organisations in the provision of public services, and there has been welcome interest from mutuals in the rehabilitation contracts. What steps is the Secretary of State taking to ensure that mutuals will be well placed to participate in the provision of those services?
Chris Grayling: We have had some strong bids from employee groups within the probation service, and we have sought to provide them with as much support as possible. There is a unit in the Cabinet Office that has provided financial and professional support during the bidding process. I have no say in the final decision making process, but I have every hope that staff groups will be involved when those decisions are made in the summer.
18.  Nic Dakin (Scunthorpe) (Lab): My constituents cannot understand why the Government are seeking to use unproven, untested people to carry out this work when Humberside probation service does such a good job. What guarantees can the Secretary of State give to my constituents that he is not taking a risk with public safety?
Chris Grayling: The guarantee I can give the hon. Gentleman's constituents is that we are not removing the people who are doing the job at the moment. We are freeing them operationally to innovate, and we are bringing new skills to the task of rehabilitating offenders. A much greater danger to his constituents would be to do nothing, and to leave all those thousands of offenders with no support or supervision, walking the streets, including in his constituency, and able to commit more crimes.
Jenny Chapman (Darlington) (Lab): The fact is that the Secretary of State has had to delay his plans already. His work force are going out on strike, he has a payment-by-results model that pays regardless of results, and 200,000 offenders do not know who will be supervising them. Has he not become so enamoured of his project that he can no longer see, let alone deal with, its many serious flaws?
Chris Grayling: What a load of complete nonsense! The reality is that the Opposition have no idea how to deal with the problem of reoffending. They are in opposition, and we are now less than a year away from a general election, yet I have not the slightest idea of what they would do in our place. I am not prepared to allow a situation to continue in which people are left to walk the streets with no post-prison supervision, resulting in thousands of them reoffending, when we know from the experience of the pilot that we set up in Peterborough that mentoring those offenders can bring down crime significantly.
4. Steve Brine (Winchester) (Con): What steps he is taking to reduce reoffending by persistent offenders. 
6. Charlie Elphicke (Dover) (Con): What progress he has made on his reforms to rehabilitation aimed at reducing reoffending. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Jeremy Wright): On 13 March 2014, the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 received Royal Assent. This Act addresses the gap that sees 50,000 short-sentenced prisoners - those most likely to reoffend - released on to the streets each year with no support, by providing those offenders with supervision in the community for the first time in recent history.
Steve Brine: The Minister will be aware that a major reducing reoffending conference was held in Winchester earlier this month, organised by the high sheriff of Hampshire and the police and crime commissioner. Does he agree that although we must bring short-term persistent offenders into supervision, as we are doing, we must also invest heavily in treatment and give sentencers some real options if the system is to work? That has been done, and successfully, in the Right on Crime initiative in Texas.
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Jeremy Wright: I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that we give flexibility to rehabilitation providers to do what they believe will work in turning someone away from crime. He is right that if someone is addicted to drugs or alcohol, giving them the treatment that they require will help in that task. He will also recognise that for those with a mental health problem, it is better to divert them from the criminal justice system in the first place, and that is what we seek to do.
Charlie Elphicke: At my surgery on Friday, I met John who has just been released from prison after serving 20 years for murder. He wants to turn away from crime and do well in our society, but he needs a job. Is it not important that we look at this matter as a cross-departmental issue to get people back into a life where they do well and are really productive?
Jeremy Wright: My hon. Friend is right that more than one Government Department needs to turn their attention to this. Of course he will know that we have allowed for changes to be made so that people can have access to the Work programme as soon as they come out of custody. As he says, it is important that all Government Departments work together with us on the rehabilitation agenda, as they have so far.
Mr Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Reducing reoffending is something on which Justice Ministers right across the United Kingdom are working vigorously. Will the Minister ensure that discussions take place across the devolved regions to ensure that best practice is replicated right across the entire nation?
Jeremy Wright: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that working together to share best practice is important, and we will certainly seek to do that. There are good examples of rehabilitation to be found across the United Kingdom.
John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab): At the heart of the Government's reforms is the large-scale tendering of services. Does the grotesque debacle of the electronic tagging contract with Buddi not demonstrate that the Minister's Government is incapable of managing this process efficiently? This is yet another contract where the competition has been ended. A Ministry of Justice statement says that it has had to retender the contract for the supply of new tags.
Jeremy Wright: Perhaps unsurprisingly, I do not agree with the way the hon. Gentleman has represented the situation. The position is this. We will work with a preferred bidder to try to ensure that our needs are met and that we can reach agreement in delivering what will be impressive new technology to help us keep better track of offenders. If we cannot reach agreement with a preferred bidder, we must move on to another provider, and that is what is happening here. Four lots are involved in this particular process. On three of them, things are working as well as we could possibly have expected. In relation to the fourth, there are difficulties, but we are resolving them. What I hope the hon. Gentleman will welcome is the use of the technology.
21.  John Glen (Salisbury) (Con): Given that one in four prisoners has a mental health problem, I welcome the news that the Government are providing
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£25 million to host mental health nurses in police stations. Will the Minister outline how the progress of that pilot scheme is being monitored?
Jeremy Wright: My hon. Friend is right that the scheme operates from more than one Government Department. It is important that we work together with our colleagues in the Health Department to deliver what he is describing. We will monitor that progress, as will the Health Department. It will be monitored across Government because we want people with mental health problems to be diverted from the criminal justice system.
Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): Under the transforming rehabilitation reform programme, there will be 21 contract package areas but 12 reducing to 10 women's prisons, so not every area will have a women's prison, but every area will receive women when they are released from prison. What arrangements will be in place to ensure continuity of support through the gate when a woman returns to a different area from the prison in which she has been incarcerated?
Jeremy Wright: The hon. Lady is of course right that there are fewer female prisons than there are contract package areas, but that is in many ways a good thing because it means that we have fewer women to incarcerate. She is right that we need to think about how the new system will work. The way we will do that is to ensure that rehabilitation providers have the opportunity to be located in a prison. It may not be a prison located within their own contract package area, but they will have a presence so that everyone coming through the custodial system and being released out of it will have the opportunity to speak to a rehabilitation provider and to make the necessary connections while in custody.
Napo and Justice Alliance 1st April
We are finalising plans for the central London strike rally on 1st April with the Justice Alliance, and as you would expect there are many logistical considerations to go through so that we are able to demonstrate without police interference and ensure a maximum turnout from Napo and Justice Alliance members.
At the time of going to press it seems more likely that we will now be staging the demo during the afternoon of the 1st April rather than the morning as we had provisionally planned, so as to allow those Napo members who are travelling into London from picket duties to arrive comfortably. We hope to be able to announce the details and venue on Monday and get leaflets and posters out to you soon afterwards.
We will also circulate details of local Justice Alliance contacts to all branches to assist with any planned local activities.
POA Rally acknowledges the need for joint action with Napo
I attended a really uplifting rally with the POA this week where a panel of top quality speakers lined up in support of their campaigns on Pay, Pensions, Health and Safety and Privatisation.
Avid readers of the TR Target Operating Model version 2 will have seen the quite frightening proposals which will have a considerable impact on prison and probation staff and the delivery of the much vaunted (by Ministers anyway) 'Through The Gate' service.
Your National Vice-Chair Chris Winters and I are working closely with the POA on a joint policy paper which will further highlight the the size of the dogs dinner that Grayling is serving up in respect of resettlement prisons and the interface with probation and other agencies.
As I often say: you couldn't make it up; but he obviously can and frequently does.
Bob Crow - Class Warrior
Tuesday 11th March 2014
News reaches me whilst on the train to London that Bob Crow had died suddenly in the small hours of the morning. I thought that next to nothing would surprise me after all these years in this movement of ours but even I was speechless for quite some time until I arrived into Victoria.
I never knew Bob as a friend and our personal acquaintance was fairly recent, starting when I shared a platform with him at the National Shop Stewards Network rally immediately before the TUC last year. I then had the privilege of spending an afternoon with him at his beloved Millwall in the fixture against Barnsley in November where the freezing cold and dire quality of both struggling teams was at least relieved by a late winner for the Lions. Fortunately, the ordeal was punctuated throughout by Bob's wit and plain speaking, especially on the subject of our shared views on Boris Johnson and our neighbours and ancient rivals West Ham United.
More importantly, he agreed to speak at our next NEC meeting and rekindle the relationship that Napo and the RMT had previously formed via the Trade Union Co-Ordinating Group, but ironically it was his own union's dispute with Transport for London in April that quite understandably prevented him from attending. My last contact with him was receiving confirmation that he would come to the April NEC and tentatively our AGM.
Unfortunately we will now miss that treat, and his loved ones have tragically lost a partner, Father and Grandfather who never got to see his children grow up. The union world and wider society is diminished by the absence of someone who always placed need before greed, people instead of profit and who proudly stood up for, and by, his members. Some may speculate that he privately relished the media's relentless and ridiculous demonization of him, but hopefully he will be remembered more for his socialist principles and genuine regard for the wellbeing and safety of his members and the travelling public, together with his passionate desire to see a fairer and just society.
A lively exchange on policy
Little time to dwell on such tragic news, when it was time for a rare tilt at our own favourite 'Panto Villain' Chris Grayling. This took place at the free market think-tank: Policy Exchange who had organised a seminar on Privatising Justice. They had eventually agreed to a Napo presence after I had complained to their Policy Director Max Chambers a few weeks back about the pro-TR composition of their panel. Especially in light of the fact that Grayling was the only keynote speaker.
Anyway, once the Secretary of State had finished regurgitating the same old same old speech that he has trotted out everywhere else, it was down to Tania Bassett to put Chris on the spot about his non-existent knowledge of contract management and the lessons that he has clearly still not learnt about past disasters with Serco and G4s. I then took up my prior invitation to join the panel alongside Juliette Lyons from the Prison Reform Trust and representatives of Sodexo and Home Group, but sadly Grayling had decided it was time for him to leave the building. Perhaps it was something we said?
Suffice to say that an audience, who had been invited primarily because of their commercial interest in TR, looked distinctly uncomfortable as the Napo contingent in the room spelt out the flaws in the bidding process, the unknown elements of the product on offer (which is still being worked out) the operational shambles that they would be inheriting and the fact that staff are seriously angry at what is going on. The not insignificant matter of contractors being unlikely to make the profit that they think they will under PbR, prompted some serious scribbling in notebooks.
I got the impression that Max was pleased to bid us farewell by the end, but little did he know that I don't tend to walk away from a good debate for long (see down the page).
ORB gets the nod from the Lords - but its close
Last summer we helped to deal a significant body blow and a delay to Graylings TR plans after a campaign that was spearheaded by the intrepid duo Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Beecham. This resulted in the Lords bouncing the Offender Rehabilitation Bill as amended, back to the Commons.
I recall seeing a letter from Ian Porrie a day or two afterwards, which arrogantly claimed that it was no big deal, and that it (the ORB) would be waved through next time in 20 minutes.
Nine long months has passed since, and the Bill was finally back in the Lords this week having been through two Commons debates, and was once again the subject of a Lord Ramsbotham sponsored amendment seeking proper Parliamentary and public scrutiny of the TR agenda and the plans to fragment the Probation service.
Sadly, for our Lordship, the Government had clearly learned from their earlier humbling defeat and had since created 20 new Peers to boost their numbers and dispensed with the services of their previous Minister Lord McNally. His replacement in the form of Lord Faulkes, is by contrast something of a smoother and younger operator, yet even he occasionally struggled with the script as he trotted out some of the same platitudinous 'evolution not revolution' claptrap as his predecessor had done and the blatant lie that the unions had agreed the staff assignment process.
Sitting high up in the Gallery allowed me a great view of the individual and collective body language of the inhabitants of this establishment, which ranged from avid attention by some and post- lunch torpor for others and anything somewhere in between from the remainder.
In fairness the debate was of a standard that you would expect, with the amendments supporters deploying a range of well-informed arguments as a result of our excellent briefing material, but I and others had a nagging feeling that this was going to be about the scores on the doors, pure and simple.
The vote when it was called resulted in a huge turnout where the 'Contents' (with the amendment) and' Non-Contents' filed through into the Lobbies as the government whips literally dragged their supporters out of the bars and restaurants to avoid another cataclysmic defeat.
Of course the 20 vote margin was disappointing and not unexpected, because of the numbers game, but also for the fact that many Labour Lords are currently unwell or in some case too ill to regularly attend at the House. That matters of serious public interest are often decided by such a fine line is one of the flaws of democracy.
I want to record Napo members thanks to Lords Ramsbotham and Beecham and all those who supported their amendments, for actually boosting the vote against these plans and helping to keep what this Government is doing to the Probation service as an issue of high public profile. The campaign continues.
Wednesday 12th March - BBC pick up the threads
It's often said that the best way to get over a knockback is to get straight back and re-engage, and that's exactly what Lord Ramsbotham and I were able to do as we took part in a live BBC Radio Five programme on TR the next morning. We were joined by Kathryn Ball a PSO and Napo member from West Mercia, who did a great job spelling out what life is like out there and the demoralisation that has been caused by the TR programme.
I am not sure who Max Chambers must have upset to find himself alongside the learned Lord in the Millbank studio and receiving another tongue lashing from me from my Broadcasting House microphone, as he walked haplessly into the firing line again. This time for claiming that TR had been 'piloted and tested', and that reoffending would not spike because there were going to be enough experienced staff in the CRC's!
Max's script was no better than it had been on Tuesday, but the conspicuous decline by Messrs Grayling and Wright to Victoria Derbyshire's invitation to take part in the show suggests that they have decided that their best approach is to peddle lies to Parliament that the unions have agreed the split and that TR is all on course. They now seem happy to use organisations like the Policy Exchange to act as their mouthpiece instead of engaging with us in open public debate.
PAC peel a strip off the Mandarins
I expect that we will shortly publish a detailed account of the Public Accounts Committee hearing into TR that took place on Wednesday afternoon. Meanwhile it is being repeated on the Parliament TV website: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/M...r.aspx?meetingId=15101
where you can see the fearsome and well-honed interlocutory techniques of Margaret Hodge being directed at the hapless representatives from NOMS and the MoJ.
The hearing had been convened following publication of a report by the National Audit Office entitled: 'Probation a Landscape Review' (available on the NAO website). It says all the things that we know to be true and it gave us another opening to ensure that we got top quality briefing material and some clarification about the NAO findings into the right places.
The result was a seriously uncomfortable afternoon for Antonia Romeo, Ursula Brennan, Sarah Payne and Michael Spurr as they struggled to answer some pretty bog standard PAC questions. Crucially, they were all at sea over whether TR would cost the taxpayer more in the CRC world and were short of a view about what would happen in the event of a CRC going bust or not actually being sold off. Their justification for the plan to award contracts in the autumn before anyone is absolutely clear about what they are buying and the ambiguous response as to whether contracts will start before or after the next general election, was one that will no doubt be pursued further.
The most depressing answer of the afternoon was the revelation that the cost of consultancy support for the TR project is a staggering £9 million pounds so far. Even with VAT that is likely to be small beer against the total cost of TR that Napo is pursuing questions over, and which the MoJ have asked for more time to answer, assuming that is that they have any intention of doing so.
Thursday 13th March
Not enough time to get to Chivalry Road as a full day of meetings beckons including those with union colleagues and the PA about the intended service agreements that are to be put before the TR bidders. This was followed by formal engagement at the TR Consultative Forum over pensions and the procurement process, where Napo made it clear that we had heard nothing in the Lords or the Commons this week that changes our view about the corrupt and reckless process that Grayling and others have foisted onto the taxpayer, and that we wanted to see the Minister to make that point and formally challenge the lies to Parliament that I referred to earlier.
Friday 14th March
Breaking news just in that Tony Benn has passed away has compounded what has been a tough week. Another immense character whose views and actions divided public opinion but someone who said what he meant and meant what he said. I do not think we will see his like again.
POA Rally 19th March
I will be showing solidarity and speaking at the Central Hall rally with our POA comrades next week as they seek to highlight many of the issues that concern their members and ours and which will feature in joint campaign literature that we are working on right now.
Edited: 14/03/2014 at 02:07 PM by IanLawrence
GRAYLING LOSES HIS BUDDI
No surprise there you may think, but this time it's one his erstwhile mates in the form of the hi-tech company called Buddi. The fall out appears to be over the intellectual property (IP) rights between the provider and the Mo's specification requirements for the beleaguered tagging contract and the age old dilemma of who pays for what, and most importantly, who specifically owns it.
Anyone who has experience of this type of occurrence (as I have after dealing with untold numbers of utterly incompetent private companies in another life), won't be at all surprised at seeing a potential provider duck out of a major project after coining it off the taxpayer for as long as they can manage it.
It's reported that the project, which Chris Grayling has hailed as "the most advanced tagging system in the world", has already been delayed by 14 months. One report says that rivals 3M and Steatite, missed out on preferred bidder status when Buddi won its part of the EM contract in August and will probably be invited to bid again. Buddi's piece of the action so far from a deal allegedly worth £1bn is believed to be worth around £300m.
The moral of all this? Be ready for a litany of similar sob stories if the TR cowboys get their mitts on a CRC near you. The victims of such misfortune in the long term will be you, and your jobs, and your terms and conditions as the 'innovation agenda' (how sanctimonious does that sound by the day) falls apart on the back of all sorts of promises made by the privateers bid teams compared with the reality of actual service delivery as seen in the London Serco CP fiasco.
This type of scandal -once again at the taxpayers' expense- is just one of a number of reasons for the escalation of our industrial action. It's really a case of you and your buddies today and someone else next if we don't stand up and fight.
But he may gain another
In the form of those ever such nice people called 'Sentinel'. I blogged about these with a link to a quite horrendous video a couple of months ago, and Napo's tenacious researcher Margaret Pearce alerts me to this latest story. This features the plight of a recipient of their unique and 'unusual' business model: the offender pays probation costs!
Now like most citizens I believe in a bit of reparation in amongst the befriend, direct and rehabilitate agenda but Sentinels 'innovative' (that word again) has caused such a storm over conflict of interest in the United States where civil liberties websites have picked up the story, about them illegally extending probation orders. It also featured in Google Alerts some time ago. Of course, it could never happen here, could it? http://thinkprogress.org/justi...sentences-judge-finds/
Well if you missed the announcement, here Sentinel are, having passed the first round of the bidding criteria for the great TR sell off.
But a moment's sober reflection yet again confirms the point Napo is making about all the dangers of untested models: it seems obvious that passing financial costs on to people caught in the justice system is exactly what will result in an increase in crime and more people coming out of prison with Graylings legendary £46 quid in their pockets. Back in the day when the justice system had extensive fines: "Do the crime and pay the fine", was a common saying but because it made next to no difference on reoffending figures it was one of the key factors why fines have been used much less over in recent years.
And before you wonder who the Managing Director of Sentinel (we are watching over you) is, its...yes, one David Griffiths who used to be with G4S......and the MoJ..... and London Probation.
Comforting isn't it?
M'Learned friends are a bit miffed
A rip roaring day of strike action last Friday which seriously impacted on the court system showed how out of touch this government is when they can seriously upset people who once upon a time might be seen as natural constituents of the two parties who make up this unholy alliance.
The sight of hundreds of fully robed silks (and Maxine Peake of Silks TV fame) plus lawyers as part of the brilliant demo organised by Matt Foot and friends from the Justice Alliance had more than its fair share of laughs as well as proper seriousness.
Speaker after speaker lambasted the coalition about the assault on legal aid and that new Minister Simon Hughes, who was noticeably absent presumably because he is so clearly under manners from the Secretary of State.
In my contribution where I expressed fraternal greetings on your behalf, I made mention of the new revelations from the Ellison report about suppressed evidence that would have made a big difference to the lines of police enquiry into the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence and the subsequent McPherson and IPCC enquiries saying that this cast a grave shadow over the British Justice system.
I also announced the strike dates we have now served formal notice of, which was greeted with acclaim, as was my hope that he Justice Alliance might feel able to co-ordinate their next stoppage at the same time as ours.
Biggest 'giggle of the day' award had to go to Parliaments Black Rod, who was apparently very disturbed by the inordinate din from the assembled masses who were aided by a top dollar mobile sound system. Black Rod despatched the local constabulary to tell us to turn it down, but the message kind of got lost in translation as Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six launched into a decibel enhanced tirade against the establishment.
My quip that Black Rod should just do what all too many people in Parliament do, and that's put cotton wool in his ears and pretend nothing's happening, made a few folk laugh too.
More later this week on the Lords and the PAC but meanwhile let's start gearing up for the next strike and action short of strike. It's about belief and it's about our future.
Members agree new focus on the campaign as further strike action announced
This weeks Special General Meeting has attracted a wide range of comment about what was achieved and not achieved by way of constitutional amendments and as always not everyone got what they had hoped for from it.
The idea of mixing up the agenda with a range of speakers was designed to relieve what can admittedly be something of a confusing process and some have doubted the value of it overall. Fair enough, we are all entitled to an opinion, and as you will have seen I am always happy to stand by mine and air them in public (as you would expect) so let me say that the SGM presented us with a great opportunity to bring all those members who made a tremendous effort to get to Birmingham up to speed with where are, and are heading in our campaign against TR, and to make important announcements during the closed session.
The response to the lunchtime demo outside the Town Hall was spectacular and as you know now, very newsworthy.
In my address to the SGM I announced that the Industrial Action Planning Group (appointed and accountable to your National Executive) had decided to recommend further strike action over 31st March and 1st April.
It won't be universally popular to everyone, strike action never is and it's actually not a very pleasant task to ask members to make that sacrifice, but we need to do it and I have reproduced my (abridged) speech below if you are interested in why I believe so.
SGM SPEECH 5TH MARCH 2014 (abridged)
Chair, Conference: Ian Lawrence - General Secretary, with a statement concerning our industrial and legal strategy which for obvious reasons we have had to organise at the start of this lunchtime break.
Let's quickly reflect on what has happened since last October and that ballot result
You had a strike on 5/6 November, a magnificent show of unity that put probation and Napo on the map again - you made that difference and gave our industrial campaign the kick start that it needed
You were then asked to take part in action short of strike action and that too was a big ask because of what you do and the way that you do it: commitment, professionalism, dedication compassion,
And while I understand peoples reluctance to not undertake or finish a task that might impact negatively on a client, remember that every non- essential minute given for free is one credit more in the pockets of the would be privateers
Later into the autumn the Moj then imposed a sifting and assignment process thus wrecking the prospect of an agreed process for the insidious split which I have regularly highlighted as some perverse form of professional apartheid
All this eventually meant that Unison had to move to register a trade dispute (more about that in a moment)
ACAS were called in and then further negotiations with Ministers secured further concessions and we signed up to a new NNC Framework agreement - you helped make that difference and I reject the assertion that we have somehow heralded this as the greatest thing since sliced bread! It's an agreement that affords members more protections than they were offered before, and more protections than I have seen for any set of workers in similar circumstances.
Moreover, it is an agreement that will cost the would be contractors money that they will not have accounted for, in the areas of pensions, continuity and early severance should that be members choice
At times of struggle and the pain that accompanies it, it's entirely understandable that some members might want to lash out at Napo; but remember this is not a disaster of our making and let's not dismiss the collectivism and comradeship that has seen this union pull together in a way that many thought was not possible
So let me make it clear - this is one union, with one shared objective which is to try and defeat the greatest and most sinister threat to our members and their livelihoods that we have ever faced and will face in our history. So let's all get with the script, get our collective shoulders behind the wheel and let's move forward together!
Serco and G4S and the whole shambles
At around the same time as reaching the NNC framework agreement we saw Serco and G4s decide to not take part in the TR sell off as Prime bidders. Great news and not before time but of course they should not have had the option; and ought to have been suspended and indeed barred from involvement in current and future contracts, but in the corrupt world of contract management and procurement it seems that the rules are made up as people go along, and that Great Satan's like Serco with £17billion on their order books while bidding for £12 billion pounds worth of Government contracts can do what they please. The fact that this great conglomerate has been scared off the probation pitch and that they are out of the picture and soon to be out of London CP as well....is yes, good riddance; but we can also say that it was your efforts through our campaign that helped to heap the pressure on these people - you made a difference
So the bid process is a shambles as the government scurries around looking to save face (as Dean will explain in a bit more detail later on)
The MOJ are throwing pots of money to set up marketing events to teach providers how to be entrepreneurial in a day, and yes if you had not heard there is such an event taking place across town in Birmingham today at the Thistle hotel. How shameful?
Sadly it clashes with our important business but I think we can send a loud enough signal from our seats which says:
You are not welcome in Birmingham
In fact you are not welcome anywhere and certainly not in probation and when you start to arrive through the door in Offices to check out the goods and the staff you may find that people decide to spontaneously walk out to show their disgust. Of course I cannot condone such action for reasons with which you are aware.
So we now need to ramp up the pressure
Bidders hinting already at dropping away as our research indicates that the likely future average unit cost for 'advisers' (not even practitioners) in privately run CRC's is reckoned to be around c£20k, or otherwise contracts are not likely to be awarded as commercially viable, ergo they (and that includes those nice smiley friendly people from organisations like Working Links) will have to sack you in the long term to save money
So we now need to ramp up the pressure
As we are doing in Parliament and you will hear more later about the Parliamentary campaign but a word about the shift in Labours position where before Xmas Sadiq Khan made a statement on tearing up contracts if they are awarded in dubious circumstances and that Labour are now saying that they don't see a place for the private sector in rehabilitation programmes.
Ok it's good; its welcome but it still does not cut it for our members who want to see a firm 'there will be no privatisation of probation' pledge writ large in your election manifesto!
On the back of the Serco CP disaster Napo unison and GMB have made a submission to the ILO which Grayling contemptuously waves away as silly (he would) but we will see what the ILO have to say about the use of forced labour for profit and the articles that preclude the use of the private sector.
So where do we go from here?
Let's firstly clarify the position on Judicial Review otherwise known as the 'search for Spock' and let me firstly make it clear that this still remains a live option but one that is just as tricky a path to tread as when we first started out, and I hope from what I have to say you will understand why.
As you know, we and Leading Counsel have explored the potential for challenging the procedures adopted under the Offender Management Act 2007.
We have, through a circular to Napo Branches, encouraged Branches to prompt their respective Probation Trusts to undertake further risk assessments in respect of the rehabilitation process and secure a copy of the same, with a view to identifying whether there may be scope to challenge the timetabling by the Secretary of State as high risk.
This can only be explored further on the basis of up-to-date information from each Probation Trust (or as many as practicable).
So we need your help
Information has been received from a number of Trusts regarding the assignment process, and these are being examined. There may also be a route here in the case of those Trusts where they are refusing to implement the grievance procedure in response to the assignment process, where those grievances raise equality issues. This might be challenged as a breach of the public sector equality duty.
In order to progress this further, I am also awaiting details of what are described as the "vulnerable" Trusts, because it may be more effective to challenge the approach in relation to those Trusts than others
So again, I need your help
In so far as the tender process and the current approach to "payment by results", is concerned our legal advisers will be reviewing this on receipt of the hard copy of the invitation to tender ITT (as yet to be received).
Finally, Napo is submitting comments on the draft Staff Transfer Scheme, and in the event that some of these issues are not taken on board in the next following draft version of the scheme, this might also give rise to legal challenge.
Turning now to the need to maintain our industrial strategy
Let's first consider the realpolitik of what we can deliver in the way of sustained industrial action
Look, we have never been in a position to order weekly strikes and cannot put you in a position where we could see hundreds of suspensions;
For the record that's not because of a lack of leadership but its recognition of the fact that laws governing strike action were not written for our benefit
But let's also recognise that our campaign has always sought to maximise its strengths and use strategic opportunities to raise our profile and we have I believe done that very well as you will hear later from Tania Bassett.
In the same way when we launched our industrial campaign we have been honest in saying that further strike action would have to be invoked at a time when it was likely to secure greatest public attention
Some have said that our strike action ought to have been about the split alone but sorry, as painful as it is, the public don't understand the nuances of that particular journey of pain that you are going through; they don't get the fact that for many of your clients your interface with them is a little bump on the tough pathway of life; but a critically important one that hopefully prevents them stumbling your way again in the future. They (the public) don't sadly get that as they should, and we have to occasionally remind them and the politicians as well in terms of the risks posed by TR and that now has to be the prime focus of the campaign
But they do get the madness of seeing important work such as client management, intervention and rehabilitation going into the hands of privateers such as Serco and G4s and although they are out of it for now, there are others waiting to take their place by way of the Carillion's, Sodexo's and GeoAmey's of this world so with that in mind and the need to ramp up the pressure on the market, it's why your industrial action planning group have recommended to the officers that we now ask members to step up to the plate again
So I will therefore shortly be issuing notice to each Probation trust that we will be asking our members to withdraw their services over the period 31st March to the 1st April (the 1st being Chris Graylings Birthday wouldn't you just know it) now to be forever known as 'Grayling day.'
So it's us yet again and you'll rightly say where is Unison again? I made my position on this clear in one of my recent blog postings, but the fact is their original dispute was decided upon by their democratic processes and it's for them to decide where they go next not us
But I have positive news
The NUT strike on 26th march
Our learned friends from the Justice Alliance - out this Friday where I will be addressing a strike rally and from the discussions we had with them recently they are well in line to take further action on a co-ordinated basis with Napo so if you can get along to any local demos this week in your area and show solidarity it may help that cause
Then there are our old friends from the POA who have also said that they are hoping to stage demonstrations at the same time as our next planned action.
So we are not alone and we are seeking to co-ordinate action (it's like herding cats mark you) but we are getting there
Yes I know another strike in itself will not destroy Graylings plans but it will represent a show of strength to those vultures hanging on them trees
There are a number of reasons why well supported action is strategically important and the messages to bidders goes something like this:
Your future workforce are well organised, well unionised and will be a perennial pain in your backside
When it all starts to go pear-shaped don't say you weren't warned
When you don't get the profit you expected from the PbR scheme that won't work don't say you were not told
And when those cases of serious further harm come in don't look at our members and ask why!
But as well as promoting these things we need to make sure we strengthen the Napo presence in the CRC's. If we are the union of choice in Probation that must extend across the NPS and CRC environment and as I have said before there's nothing like a strong union majority among the workforce to scare the pants off any prospective bidder and you are our best recruiting Sergeant's when it comes to why people should be in NAPO so if there is a non Napo member near you then engage them and let's see our numbers start to spiral upwards!
As part of our action short of strike action we are also looking closely at sessional work and how the government relies on this to keep up appearances while you and I know that if it was not done in the volumes that it is, it would cause operational chaos. Tom may want to say a few words about that a bit later.
So there are just a few reasons why we are heading to the ramparts again, but I acknowledge that we will encounter the 'why bother' question back there in the network
So why bother? Why not just let it all wash over us? Why not as I saw in one really amusing but clearly misinformed offering the other day, why don't we have a ballot?
Err because we don't need one! We already have a mandate, it's the mandate that our members voted for last Autumn and a mandate that we need to pick up on and step up to as and when needed, acting as we always have done as a responsible but principled trade union
Essentially the affirmative to that negative is this:
We cannot afford to let it wash all over us; we cannot afford to sit back while this inept, incompetent, perniciously ignorant bunch called the coalition gets about systemically destroying the social infrastructure of this country, looking for the quickest fastest cheapest buck that it can and lining the palms of their mates with pieces of silver
And we can't sit back because we are in a struggle of massive attrition and you feel the pain and we feel the pain and any notion that Napo centrally and the staff you employ are somehow free from the implications of our campaign collapsing is not only fanciful but downright insulting
If we allow ourselves to fall apart without a fight then it's all our futures that are at stake and I bring you a message from each and every one of your employees, this struggle is our collective struggle and we stand together or fall together... that has to be the rallying cry from here on in as we seek to show society and Chris Grayling what we are truly about
For this ladies and Gentlemen is Napo.... And they who want rid of us be they government or privateers had better believe it!
We are here now we will be here in the future until such time as we are carried off on our shields
So let's get out there after today and spread the words loud and clear
This isn't over yet by a long stretch....so let's take that message forward
More news next week including an account of the Justice Alliance Rally. Have a great weekend all.
FACING SEVEN BIG DAYS TOGETHER
Preparation for the Special General Meeting in Birmingham tomorrow means less time than normal for this posting, but we are about to embark on another big week of activity during which Napo members will be asked to step up to the plate again as we seek to find a new direction to our dispute.
We start with the SGM and the key constitutional debates that we need to have to ensure we are well placed for the future bargaining structures that we are currently negotiating (see BR/28/2014 issued today). Then there is the run up to next weeks Offender Rehabilitation Bill debate in the House of Lords on 11th March, where we will see if all those 'Crossbenchers' are still onside in the face of the Tory lie machine that is spinning out all the old claptrap about TR having gone so far it is madness to turn back now. Irrespective of the outcome there, this campaign is still not over by a long shot, and this will be followed by a drop in/lobby event on the 12th aimed at potential LibDem and Tory MP's who are increasingly sharing our concerns. Then there is the powerful evidence put together by the campaign team here at Chivalry Road for the attention of the influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) who will meet soon. This will of course be published widely once we have observed parliamentary protocol by letting the Committee see it first.
Among other things the PAC will no doubt be interested in the continual obfuscation displayed by the Moj to our Freedom of Information request as to just how much this pile of garbage (you know what I mean but I don't have the journalistic licence as in other blogs) is actually costing the taxpayer.
Your money no object
But filthy lucre is of no consequence when it comes to the to the megalomaniac zeal of Mr Grayling and his minions, who have never found a problem in securing whatever resources they need to persistently shove this odorous TR thing through your letterbox. One rich seam that they have continued to mine come what may, is of course your goodwill in doing stuff like sessional work, which if it were just not done, would put a hefty spanner in the works.
Still in the struggle
We will also be having a closed lunchtime session tomorrow where I will be bringing members up to speed on industrial developments and why we need to gear up again to demonstrate at what is a critically important time in the sell off process just why the TR agenda poses such a monumental risk to public safety. Oh, and I will be making a statement about the scope for Judicial Review which I am happy to confirm is still a live possibility, but just as tricky a road to negotiate as it was some months back.
More later this week then. Meanwhile, I hope that we can come away from Birmingham tomorrow with a fresh focus and renewed energy for what is the start of the critical point in our campaign.
Finally, I know its tough out there and your patience is at its limit but we cannot afford to weaken or turn in on ourselves now.
That SGM next week and why it is important
Napo members meet again en-masse on Wednesday 5th March in Birmingham for what is a critically important gathering. On the face of it, constitutional changes are not exactly the stuff to make the earth shake, but changes to keep us legal and effective are nevertheless required. So our own 'Town Hall' will be asked to give us a clear steer of direction and there will also be a number of top quality speakers on topical and professional issues who I am sure will enliven the occasion. Those attending will also hear news about the TR campaign in a closed lunchtime session, and we hope that there may also be an opportunity to hand out material to the passing public as well.
You can register online for free on the home page of the website and avoid a bit of a queue if you do decide to turn up on the day. It's unusual for us to meet mid-year, but then these are unusual times; and it will be a pleasure to see you all again.
Justice Alliance and Nut gear up for action
News from a meeting of the Trade Union Co-ordinating Group today, where the 'withdrawal of labour' by our learned friends in the Justice Alliance on the 7th March featured prominently. They are also exploring the possibility of further action beyond this. Meanwhile it also seems clear that the NUT is at an advanced stage of planning for Industrial action (as are we). Watch this space.
A Social Work Qualification?
As reported in Napo news a while ago, it was not possible to secure funding for an extension of the Learning Fund (ULF England) and its activities will cease at the end of April. Meanwhile, Project Manager Marilyn Owens has done a great job in securing the services of a number of Universities to promote an introductory course to becoming a Social Worker which, in a sign of the times, has seen nearly 700 expressions of interest from Probation staff.
One of the objectives of the ULF is to open up routes for staff to explore all sorts of additional skills and alternative career opportunities, but even those who might want to seriously consider a career in social work should be aware of the fact that many local authorities have been shedding jobs around the country, and a leap into the dark may be even worse than the uncertainty before you.
So while we are happy to draw your attention to this initiative I thought that I ought to add this caveat to avoid any misunderstanding about our position on this.
Some facts about the bidders
Lots more to come about the privateers on the bidding list and why they should not be let within a country mile of a probation office; but as a taster we have resurrected some material about Sodexo that was put out a while back: cleanupsodexo.org. The passage of time has not diminished the facts about who these people are and I hope that all those establishment leaders and lackeys who are falling over themselves to crawl around this bunch might just take a deep breath and wonder exactly whose interests are going to be served if they get their ugly foot in the door.
Meanwhile we are working with Unison and GMB to press the MoJ to give us access to the bidders so that we can try to convince them that this seemingly attractive proposition has two fundamental problems. One is that it won't do what it says on the tin and therefore you really ought not to go there. The other is that Napo and its members intend to be around a lot longer than you think we might be.
File on 4 gets stuck in
This week's brilliant Radio documentary by Danny Shaw did a real number on the walking disaster, otherwise known as the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. File on 4 programme link
Thanks go out from Danny and Chivalry Road to all those Napo people who took part in the production.
The mealy mouthed and self-satisfying contribution to the programme from that well-known 'repeat offender' Chris Grayling, once again demonstrated how little he actually knows about what you do despite his untold visits to Trusts and the potential impact of what his 'rehab revolution' will actually mean for the communities you work with. Of course we expect no less from a politician who bases his whole approach to life on ideology and his (by now not even thinly veiled) personal ambition to eventually depose Cameron. But what is really galling is the fact that so many intelligent people within Noms and the Moj who have forged their reputations and careers in the public service can actually bring themselves to defend this recklessly flawed and highly dangerous social experiment. There are a few senior Trust leaders who have done their bit for the cause, but on the whole the establishment response has been at best supine, and typically downright pathetic.
Campaign will intensify
Fortunately nobody can say that about the Napo campaign which goes from strength to strength without having to repeatedly call on our members to take strike action. Our submission to the International Labour Organisation over the use of 'forced labour' by this Government has been waved away as 'silly' by the Secretary of State, but that won't put us off pursuing what is right. Likewise, we have not yet exhausted our legal options but the nature of public law applications means that it is a complex and expensive process. So before we launch into a judicial review application on the back of your money we need to be sure that we have maximised our prospects. See the Napo Campaign Bulletin for further details of planned parliamentary activities.
The next critical phase of our struggle comes in the form of the Invitation to Tender (ITN) which I referred to in the last posting and the continual public safety risk presented by TR. There is considerable mileage in flagging up these issues again to the public at a strategically opportune time and that's why planning is now well advanced for further industrial action, ideally in co-ordination with others.
As always, it won't come easy to make that call to you, but nobody said this would be anything other than a long and hard fight; one in which we would need to use occasional industrial action to maintain the profile of our campaign and what we believe in.
No to a Children Super Prison!
Spoke at an event at the House of Commons recently alongside Frances Crook of the Howard League, Peter McParland (POA) and Keith Mallinson (MIND), organised under the auspices of the 'Peoples Parliament'. This is an initiative started by our comrades John McDonnell and Elfyn Llwyd, which opens up unused committee rooms for a series of evening debates about issues that rarely get the debating time in Parliament that they ought to.
The subject matter of future prison reform provided a welcome opportunity to meet with members of the public to explain and debate the impact of current policies on wider society and the infrastructure that supports the prison and probation regimes, together with the threats posed by Government policies in respect of both.
What was especially encouraging was that the audience comprised a number of young people who in some cases were starting out on their political journey and who I hope came away knowing a lot more about the realities behind the continual 'get tough on crime and the causes of crime' rhetoric spouted by successive generations of politicians who have always sought the quick fix.
During the meeting Frances Crook announced the campaign that the Howard League were due to launch against the latest Grayling wheeze, a super prison for Children.
Can you help promote the petition against this positively dreadful idea by asking your friends to sign too? It's also very easy to share on Facebook I am told.
Here's the link:
'Cossack thuggery' speaks volumes about Putin's Regime
There is never a day that passes without some form of brutality featuring on our TV screens which usually invokes a feeling of utter despair and helplessness against the enormity of it all. Nor it seems, is there a country anywhere in the world that unfortunately doesn't have some kind of track record of human rights abuse.
In a week compounded by the terrible events in Kiev, the scenes from Sochi of young women being whipped, kicked and abused by a posse of Cossack 'hard boys' for having the temerity to stage a noisy but non-violent protest against their Government's own violations were of course outrageous. That not one male was willing to assist them against these gutless thugs who are not even an official agency of the state made my blood boil, but perhaps it was also the realisation that twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union it is clear that totalitarian intolerance and blatant sexism are still alive and, as all the world can now see, still literally kicking. Putin and his merry men staked their reputation on the Winter Olympics, hoping they would present Russia's modern face. Yes we have noticed Vladimir.
The address of the Embassy of the Russian Federation is:
6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W8 4QP
Or try: Russian Embassy London
What the papers say
Whilst on the subject of bullying, a tip off from Sadiq Khan's political adviser alerted us to these stories that were run by the Guardian. One accuses Chris Grayling of completely ignoring conventional opinion as he seeks to steamroller his justice reforms through no matter what the cost or the collateral damage that may follow. But then you knew that already.
Guardian Article Chris Grayling
This followed the also unsurprising news this time from a MoJ 'whistle-blower', which exposed the deliberate strategy of Chris Grayling to block Sadiq's legitimate right to access information through parliamentary questions
Guardian Article - parliamentary questions
Kind of strikes another chord does it not?
Edited: 21/02/2014 at 02:58 PM by IanLawrence
Getting things in perspective
A 20 minute gap before a meeting of the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group gives one something to think of up here in the hermetically sealed waiting area in Portcullis House. Down below, there is the usual throng of Parliamentarians, interns and researchers and young students scurrying about looking for answers.
Such energy is hugely impressive but it's a constant refrain from many of the electorate, and those who just can't be bothered to vote for anyone, that this dynamic is all too often not found where it is most needed.
The sight of thousands of families in despair as they are engulfed by floods that might have at least been lessened dramatically (and maybe prevented) had sufficient money been invested in dredging riverbeds and sinking more boreholes, is all the more galling when one reads of a major debate that took place in one of the sanctums of an in-house Commons Committee recently.
The big issue? The quite outrageous idea that there should be a rise in the cost of a Commons cuppa. Good to see that this is being challenged at the highest levels and I am sure we wait with baited breath for the outcome.Were it not so seriously perverse it would almost be kind of humorous.
Fortunately it's not reflective of the tremendous work that many MP's undertake especially those who are helping the Napo cause.
The great CRC give away now underway
No matter what spin the MoJ are placing on it, all the information that has so far been shared with us does nothing to reassure me that the intended CRC share sale is anything but a cosy little arrangement between the MoJ and the would be contractors, who we understand have been invited to come in and set out what they want to see in the contracts.
Oddly enough I thought it was the purchaser of a service that determined the specification, but hey, why not just use more taxpayers money to smooth the path for the Sodhexo's, Carillion's, and Sentinels of this world who see nothing but profit as their prime motivation for showing an interest in the 'Rehabilitation Revolution.'
Serco London - Goodbye and good riddance
Last week's news contained in the small print of a Grayling statement to Parliament, announced that time has at last been called on the disastrous Serco London CP contract, (which Napo helped to expose last autumn on BBC Newsnight) and which we understand will revert back to CRC control by December this year. We will be offering our full support to London Napo Branch as we get ready to welcome Serco members back into the Probation service, but to coin a phrase from 'Probation speak': past performance is a good indicator of current behaviour, and those who think that TR is a really great idea (Messrs Wright and Grayling) might usefully remember that it took three years to let the London CP contract and even less time for the MoJ to eventually realise that they were sold a dud.
At last year's AGM we heard from John Whitefoot, the former Serco industrial relations chief, about the disgraceful bonuses (paid for by the taxpayer from the contract savings) that were handed out to some of their bid team executives when they secured London CP. Why are we supposed to believe that things have changed since then in terms of value for money and a transparent procurement process? Obviously we have made our views clear and demanded access to the prospective bidders, but I cannot see how we can believe a word of the latest utterances in last week's MoJ press release that tried to reassure the world that all of the potential probation contractors would be held to the highest standards of financial probity and demonstrate a proven ability to deliver rehabilitation services.
The privateers are probably having a quiet giggle and hoping that Grayling is so desperate to save face and walk into the next election with a 'success story' that the bid process will once again be nothing more than a sham.
Don't let them get away with it
That's why Napo has already started to undertake some due diligence of our own and commence some in depth research of all those commercial companies on the bidders list. It's why the Probation unions will also be writing to all of them to let them know that: we are here; we are watching and we won't be going away any time soon in the event that any of them are successful in buying contracts.
There are a number of things that we are starting to do in terms of ramping up the pressure on would be purchasers and publicly exposing this cesspit of political subterfuge.
Conflict of interest or what?
Jeremy Wrights optimistic (or was that arrogant) reply to a question at the recent PCA Conference that' there was no problem with the market' comes the news that CRC Chief Executives have been asked to become Chairs of their CRC Board of Governance!
My limited knowledge of company law aside, this surely smacks of a clear conflict of interest, and I gather that Napo are not the only organisation registering our disquiet at this notion.
Anyway, have to scoot up to London now to see the Lawyers, but more next week on a range of hot topics. Meanwhile, please keep reading the regular e-mails from Tom and myself as well as our Campaign bulletins and encourage others to do the same.
Edited: 14/02/2014 at 04:40 PM by IanLawrence
Members to lead the way
Firstly apologies for the unusual delay since my last blog post, partly due to a technical error at my end. Anyway normal service is now resumed and, together with the other regular communications issued to members provides further proof if it were needed that nobody at Chivalry Road is running out of steam.
The National Executive met yesterday to receive updates on a whole host of campaign and negotiating issues and to endorse the steps that the Officers are taking to invite members to consider some crucial constitutional proposals at a Special General Meeting to be held in Birmingham on 5th March. This will allow you to make key decisions to ensure that we continue to have a strong national leadership structure to help manage the union on your behalf but to also create the environment that will mean we have teams of branch reps in place within the NPS and CRC's so that we hit the floor running in terms of continuing to promote and protect your interests. There are options on the table and while we will be suggesting a preferred route forwards we will need our members to turn out and give us the direction that you are renowned for and which make us the envy of other unions in terms of internal democracy.
The framework agreement and the 'split'
Surprising how, after months of turmoil and drama in getting back to the table at the National Negotiating Council, the ratification of the National Agreement on Staff Transfer took all of 10 minutes at last week's meeting.
We will be issuing a detailed commentary on how we got to this stage and how we see the Agreement developing, but while I share the palpable disappointment that we have not been able to secure the same seven year protection of continuity of service for members who may want to transfer from a CRC to the NPS (which legislation has made impossible), we are now in the midst of the crucial 'Measures' negotiations. These are aimed at putting actual substance to the overarching principals that are contained in the National Agreement and we have left no doubt that we expect delivery of an alternative bargaining structure, proper professional training, union recognition and an interchange agreement that can afford some additional safeguards for members. This is why the unions qualified our acceptance at the NNC with a joint statement to that effect.
What this agreement does not do is sign Napo up to accepting the professional apartheid that has been shamefully imposed on the Probation workforce by Grayling. Napo does not, (and never will) accept the fact that the 'split' is anything other than a deliberate and perniciously disrespectful assault on your profession and integrity.
The reports we are receiving from around the country show that this exercise has been a farce of the highest order and that it has left the would be CRC's in a desperate position in terms of starting their journey with not enough staff or staff with the required skill sets to deliver the required services. We are urgently getting this news out to our key contacts inside and outside of Parliament.
The Unison position
The decision by our sister union to not go to an industrial action ballot is disappointing, but it will not impact on our willingness and ability to do what's right for our members in terms of stepping up action and thinking of new ways to enhance our campaign of continuing resistance. Meanwhile we will continue to find common ground and urge Unison to find another way to get back into the industrial scrap. Ultimately that's a decision for their members and their leadership.
Lies and even more damn lies
Over the last fortnight we have had to evaluate some amazing developments and revelations that show just how desperate this Government and its Ministers are to defend their TR con-trick.
There are many but these include: telling us that the Trust termination timetable was still set for 1st April just hours before the infamous climb down, telling their Lib-Dem partners that a TR pilot won't work because they have gone too far down the track, and that the 'new' NPS/CRC structures will be in a position to seamlessly transfer functions and cases from 1st April.
Essentially they must think that you are stupid, and that they believe that this approach will vindicate their strategy of trying to demoralise you. Be assured that I will be making it very clear that you are not and it won't.
More news to follow very soon as developments are moving with speed
Edited: 06/02/2014 at 08:26 AM by IanLawrence
THAT NEW YEAR MESSAGE TO PROBATION STAFF (OR WHAT CHRIS GRAYLING MEANT TO SAY).
Hello there, can I start by thanking all of you for carrying on doing the jobs you're doing and looking after and supervising offenders, before I do my darndest to sell many of you off somewhere in just a few months time. I know very well that these are difficult times in Probation as my policies have helped to create massive uncertainty.
What I wanted to do was give you a chance to hear a bit more about why we're doing this and what we're trying to achieve, and I promise not to let a few facts get in the way of a story.
First of all you have to understand the financial background against which we're working. Our austerity measures (remember we are all in this together) means that my Department is supposedly facing huge cuts to its budgets over the next few years and we're having to take really tough decisions in the level of staffing in prisons, in the level of Legal Aid we pay, in what we do within the courts and make big cuts to the Department's head office as well.
That said, it fortunately hasn't stopped me garnering a veritable army of nearly 200 staff at the MoJ, authorising shedloads of additional cash to Trusts in extra Honoraria payments and yes, overtime as well, as I seek to push my challenging changes through regardless.
You should also know, as I am sure you don't already, that I have also shelled out untold amounts of Taxpayers money on Ernst and Young Consultancy (since they can always be relied upon to tell me what I want to hear rather than those pesky Trusts that I am seeing off in a few weeks).
But we're treating Probation a little differently, and I've won a little battle with my mate George at the Treasury (during a poker session at the RAC club) to treat Probation differently. That's not to imply that I have any actual treats in store for you, you must understand, but if we're going to carry on bringing down the cost of the Criminal Justice system in future, we have got to improve our performance on tackling reoffending and someone has to pay for privatisation and that's you and the wider public.
Now I know that you have helped to contribute to the lowest reoffending figures since 2007, and if you look at crime in Britain today, the number of people entering the Criminal Justice System for the first time is coming down, with fewer crimes overall being committed. But as I said earlier, we don't have to mention the important fact that you don't get to see those clients serving sentences of less than 12 months so I have conveniently decided to ignore this when making my plans to decimate the one service with a proven track record in making a real difference.
But more and more of our crime problem is about people who are committing crimes again and again (no I don't mean my fellow Ministers), going round and round the system and what we're doing, rather than giving resources up front to tackle this which would bring real value for the taxpayer, is to close Trusts, split the core functions in two and eventually make people redundant to meet a tough budget settlement, so that I can weigh off the privateers who want to cream off the top. So what we're actually doing is spending more money on creating a bidders market to bring their still to be proven skills to supervise those people such as my mate Jeffrey once did, who go to jail for 12 months and less, who at the moment walk onto the streets with £46 in their pocket, get no supervision and are more like to reoffend than anyone else.
Now you know and I know that the rate of reoffending for those people who are not supervised post prison is much higher than for those people who are, and that is something we have got to change. So the obvious question is why not just do it within the current system?
Well there's a number of answers to that. To start off we have a system that is much too bureaucratic. I mean you all went into the Probation Service with this over inflated idea of spending more time working with offenders, and all of the evidence I see is that the processes that we have in place means that much too little time is spent working with offenders, and too much time just dealing with the systems. So what I want to do is to create a Probation system where the professionals working in the front line have got much greater freedom, don't have the interference of central bureaucracy and have got much greater freedom to innovate and do things completely differently. Well we can all dream cant we?
Unfortunately for you and your colleagues, we have no intention of addressing the underlying problems that are the root cause of all this, such as inadequate IT systems, under resourced training programmes and the centralist bureaucracy of Noms, so I intend to fragment the service and hope for the best that the new IT systems that will be introduced by the private sector will do the job, even though they won't be joined up so to speak.
Anyway, (and hoping you are all still awake out there?) we looked at whether that could be done across the current system of 35 trusts and actually the last government looked at whether we would provide supervision for the under 12 month group, using the current system. They, like us, came to the conclusion it wasn't affordable (despite the hundreds of £billions spent on managing reoffending that you keep telling us could be better invested) and that we would need to do things differently. I don't think we can afford to carry on with a situation where we're not supervising those 'under 12 month people' (I know you all prefer to call them 'clients'). And the other thing, what was it now? Oh yes, I don't think we can carry on with a situation where we don't have a proper, through-the-gate service. So that means I have decided to not include you in any transparent bidding process because the bottom line is that I need to make savings. There is absolutely no reason why several hundred 'Old Lags' can't help turn people's lives around and lead by example. I just need to find them from somewhere!
So let me explain to you briefly about the two new organisations.
The Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service. The CRCs are going to have much greater freedom than has ever been the case before for front line professionals to do things completely differently, and they give a real opportunity to all of you to think about new ways of providing support to offenders. You will have to muddle through a bit between 1st April and share sale when the cavalry arrives, as I am a little short on detail right now about how this will actually look, but I am sure it will all be sorted with hopefully no risk to the public.
So for example, if I was running a CRC one of the first things I would do is set up a housing operation. I'd probably negotiate deals with landlords, so that you knew when somebody comes out of prison that you've got somewhere to place them like a 'third bedroom' or some such. Let's ignore for one minute the fact that many landlords won't touch social tenants with a bargepole and see them as bad for business let alone ex-offenders. For the truth is that Treasury rules just don't allow us to do that kind of thing in the public sector, but the CRCs will have that sort of freedom in the future and I think that can make a real difference and I think there'll be real opportunities to build on some of the things that the trusts do at the moment, for example in tying in with Welfare To Work Services and the success of my 'Work Plan' experiment.
And there is a really important point to make as well. I know there's been a lot of chatter around the system (that bloody pain in my a**e Napo has not stopped wittering on about - G4S and Serco, who as you know have decided that they are not going to be involved in the bidding process to take over CRCs) and yes, I know that you say I should not have even given them that option, but let's try and draw a line under their activities shall we? Instead we've got a list of partnerships very often between private sector organisations and voluntary sector organisations. Some of the biggest charities that work with offenders, coming together to hopefully take up the partnership role with the public sector that will exist in the new system. And I think there's a really exciting opportunity for people to build their careers, working with different organisations that offer not only the opportunity to do more within the CRCs, but also a wide variety of different and positively inferior terms and conditions giving them the opportunity to do more, for less, more broadly in future.
The world we're ultimately trying to create is one without you, where we have a partnership between public sector, voluntary sector and private sector: Private sector to help us run our systems and our processes and our organisation more efficiently as has been consistently shown in many outsourced IT and procurement contracts across many departments (according to my 'Spin Doctor).' The Voluntary sector will add mentoring skills to the work our Probation professionals already do once they find the people, and of course we will continue to use the risk management skills and expertise that already exist within the public sector, but you will just have to whisper to your colleagues in the NPS or CRC between yourselves when you need to.
And the other point to make, which I think is also very important, is the process of bringing in new partners is not going to be about price, we're not about selling the operation to the lowest bid. That is not what this is about. This is about improving quality, it's about innovation. So what we're going to be asking the people who bid to take on the CRCs to do, is to demonstrate to us that they're giving us the best value in terms of improved reoffending outcomes, for the work that we're doing with them and for the money that we're paying. *Unfortunately, as you all now know since I made the DVD, not as many bidders as as I thought would do so made the first cut so I may have to review that statement as we go along.
And then there's the National Probation Service, which is going to have a very different focus to the CRCs. Looking after the most challenging offenders, working on a multi-agency basis to supervise people who are a real risk to our society (unlike the 25% of low and medium risk offenders who move across tiers over the course of the year), and having responsibility for risk assessment, for allocation of offenders to different risk categories, for decisions about recalling people to court and I think increasingly operating in new areas as well. Unfortunately, I am not able to substantiate the risk factors behind all of this as I am not prepared to release the risk registers previously prepared by my department.
I'm for example very keen to see the National Probation Service much more involved in decisions about release on Temporary Licence, so that we've got real expertise in taking decisions in an area where we've had problems in the last few months. So let me tell you a bit about the process going forward. We've already got the new leadership teams of the two organisations in place, and we're moving quickly to shove people into their new teams despite not having much in the way of facts (told you that earlier) as I don't want there to be a longer period of uncertainty, no honestly, I don't. But then after that there is going to be a long period of bedding in, in the public sector, making sure all the new systems are working such as being able to pay you on time. We're not rushing to move problematic cases from one part of the future to another as we don't yet have a clue about how can do this safely, so mark my words we're not going to take risks with public safety. We'll take most of this year to continue bedding in the new systems, long before we ever actually involve any of the new partners who are going to be coming in and working with us.
Now I know that all of this is disruptive and unsettling, and there are of course going to be changes so you will just have to get on with it. We are inevitably going to be merging back office operations, we'll be simplifying systems and there's no doubt there'll be some changes in the organisation as a whole and I'm pleased to say we've now reached agreement with the unions on the transition arrangements, on the voluntary redundancy package, on issues around continuity of service, and I think there's now a really good package for everyone that I hope will give you greater confidence going forward. There are small issues such as new collective bargaining arrangements, interchange agreements and recognition that could still make the whole thing go south but let's be positive shall we?
So (finally) what does the future look like? Well my vision is of a network of CRCs, working in the resettlement prisons, preparing people for release, meeting them at the gate, mentoring and supporting them for 12 months after they leave prison, with a particular focus on that new group of people who will be supervising the under 12 month people, really bringing down reoffending rates and doing it in new ways, finding innovative ideas to help them get their lives back together. Sadly, as the years go by and even supposing that this will work, that won't involve many of you whether you soon find yourself in the NPS or a CRC.
Thank you and HNY
SOME YEAR THAT WAS
I am doubtful whether there has been a more action packed year in Napo's proud history but if so I stand to be corrected. Nevertheless, as we approach the end of 2013 we do so on a high note in terms of our campaign against Transforming Rehabilitation.
Putting aside the last 12 months for a moment, let's just reflect on where we were this time last week, as the Napo negotiating team left the offices of the conciliation service ACAS after nearly 8 hours of some very difficult contemplations for the three unions and late talks with the PA and MoJ that were anything other than full of festive cheer. The possibility of us entering the winter holiday in good spirits was as fanciful as a visit from Santa Claus in daylight hours.
By the end of the day we had insisted on being granted an urgent audience with Chris Grayling, which we were repeatedly told was going to be a waste of time, as the best offer from the employers on a Staff Transfer agreement had to be signed on the dotted line there and then.
Fortunately, we decided not to blink first in the face of such a provocative ultimatum, reckoning that for there to be any chance of this wretchedly misconceived programme actually being implemented then the Secretary of State needed an orderly agreement. More importantly for us, we owed it to our members to secure all the protection that we could against the impact of privatisation if it comes to it.
As things turned out we saw Jeremy Wright last Thursday and in what was a short and sharp but ultimately constructive exchange, we walked away with an improved offer from the one that we had faced just a few days before. The extension of protected continuity of service from 9 months to seven years represents a climb down of major proportions in any analysis, and one that will be written into the commercial contracts that will be offered to bidders (more on them below).
That, among other reasons, is why Napo and Unison are putting the recommendation to accept the framework agreement to our respective Negotiating Committees. We will be issuing a detailed commentary on what it will mean to you if the National Negotiating Council give it the seal of approval, but meanwhile I want to thank all those involved in helping us to get this far. That includes Peter Heywood and John Woods from ACAS, Mark Ormerod, Norma Beechey and Malcolm Fearn from the PA and, at great risk to my grossly unfair reputation as an uncompromising attack dog, Amy Rees and Iain McIntosh from the MoJ, and yes while I am at it, the two Ministers for at last seeing some light amidst the gloom that they have helped to create.
That said, all should of course be assured that Napo will be re-engaging in vigorous hostilities over the TR programme in 2014 come what may; and that the lifting of local JNC disputes makes not one jot of difference to our industrial action mandate, the ongoing action short of strike action, the myriad grievances submitted by members and the ferocious political campaign which we are waging.
Famous names come a cropper
The breakthrough on the staff transfer agreement was welcome but the announcement by Chris Grayling in the same week that G4S and Serco had decided not to take part in the bidding process for the intended probation sell off, reminded me of the adage that one can wait ages for a bus to then see two of them arrive in tandem.
The SoS's statement to Parliament makes it crystal clear that following investigations these companies are seriously under manners for tagging the dead and not delivering prisoners to the right place or at the right time, or hey - even at all.
That we now have a very short, short list, of prospective purchasers who from what I can see know even less about probation than these people, speaks volumes about the farce that has been engineered. It's not even two bidders per CRC which aside from the issue of whether the privateers are fit for purpose or not, raises a serious question or two about the 'competitive' process.
We will now adjust our approach accordingly as we take our reasoned arguments and briefings to the increasing number of influential politicians who are indicating their misgivings about this 'rehab revolution' which, interestingly, is now being described as an 'evolution' by its beleaguered architect.
Two big cheeses down then but no time to get complacent; there is still all to play for.
2013 a year of achievement
We have certainly crammed a lot in these past 12 months and as we use the winter holiday to 'recharge the batteries', we can afford to congratulate ourselves on our capacity to have stuck together in hard times. This includes the willingness to take strike action in defence of your jobs and futures and to launch a political and media campaign against the madness of privatisation that has resonated well beyond the expectations that a union of our size might reasonably have. Make no mistake, you have helped put probation on the map more than ever before and we have also orchestrated a House of Lords defeat for the government on its flawed Offender Rehabilitation Bill and are not done with that either.
We have rebuilt the Napo team infrastructure and have a new General Secretary, Assistant General Secretary and a Press and Campaigns Official and your Officers and the Chivalry Road team have, just like you have, been working flat out at a time of great uncertainty.
Take heart from where we are and what we have collectively achieved, and enjoy a great holiday alongside those whom you care most about.
Edited: 24/12/2013 at 07:46 AM by IanLawrence
The blame game intensifies
Napo people are a reasonable bunch; not the sort of folk who seek confrontation or play awkward for the sake of it. For starters you are way too intelligent and very well trained in dealing with difficult clients.
Unfortunately, and as I have said before, the struggle in which we are engaged over the Transforming Rehabilitation 'revolution' is not one of our choosing. For the way in which the Ministry of Justice (or ought that to be the Ministry of disinformation) are trying to implement the split of the workforce in preparation for the great probation sell off speaks volumes about the chaos that has been evident right from the get-go of this wretched example of flawed ideology. Its enough to make anyone livid.
Regrettably the Secretary of State is not a person who lets a few facts get in the way of a good story, and Mr Grayling's latest performance alongside sidekick Jeremy Wright, at today's Justice Select Committee (JSC) had all the style of those fabled 'snake oil' salesman that touted their wares during the heyday of the Wild West. Reports from the time suggest that the expensive potions that were claimed to be the cure for everything not only had a hideous taste but failed to produce the much hyped results.
The analogy is not so far off the mark when considering the way in which the Secretary of State told the Committee members that his project was not risking public money; had already shown through the HMP Peterborough reoffending pilot that engagement with short term offenders worked, and that the current staff assignment process would provide certainty to staff. If these were not enough to make you want to put your fist through the computer screen or worse; then the bare faced lie that it was the unions who are responsible for blocking the Voluntary Redundancy scheme and the claim to not understanding why the NNC talks on 20th November had failed to reach agreement were quite astonishing.
Here is what I had written into the minutes of the TR Consultation Forum the day after that fateful NNC meeting:
"As members of the Programme Team and TRCF will be aware, Napo, Unison and GMB* yesterday (20/11/13) registered a failure to agree following a meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) in London last night. The unions will now be approaching The Advisory and Conciliation Service (ACAS) for assistance.
Napo wishes to formally complain at what we believe was a cynical attempt to de-stabilise the NNC negotiating process yesterday, and to make it clear that we found the contribution from the Secretary of State's representative to be extremely unhelpful and indeed unnecessary. This intervention follows the previous act of bad faith last week where contradictory documentation was distributed to Trusts outwith the NNC negotiating machinery. It is also Napo's view that to compound this situation by presenting the employers and unions with a series of eleventh-hour and highly detrimental pre-conditions, which reneged on previously agreed assurances, was a total disgrace.
These actions prevented any discussion on the substantive material and have severely jeopardised the prospect of the NNC parties reaching an agreement on a comprehensive Staff Transfer Agreement, and Napo has no hesitation in laying the responsibility for this situation firmly at the door of the Secretary of State. As you may be aware, Napo has instructed our Branches to prepare to register local JNC disputes in the event that the Moj version of a staff assignment process is implemented by Trusts. Napo's National Executive Committee meets next week to consider the situation and to receive reports about the next steps in the Union's current Industrial Action Campaign."
(*GMB clarified that they had reserved their position on a failure to agree)
The key point is that even if Grayling did not agree that his department was at fault for the breakdown in talks he cannot reasonably claim before his peers that he was unaware of why the situation had occurred.
More news about the JSC hearing will follow, but meanwhile all of you who are trying to do your day job in the midst of the stress and confusion caused by the staff assignment debacle will no doubt be consoled by one of the other inflammatory contributions this morning from the SoS. In essence he said that: 'the split is just about organising staff into two teams!' The subsequent attempt to explain this suggested that if (as Grayling said was highly likely) that case migration has not happened by 1st April, then it is entirely possible that clients may stay with the Offender Manager that currently runs their case irrespective of whether they are in the NPS or a CRC.
Well there you have it then, and surely even more reason to get those grievances in, just in case you are still wondering why it is so necessary.
Thanks to our friends
Now is an opportune time to publicly thank MP's John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Elfyn Clwyd for their continuing efforts and support for Napo and its members. Their commitment to our cause is an inspiration.
WHO SAYS WE ARE NOT MAKING A DIFFERENCE?
As we start a week in which the desperate Coalition seek to push their Offender Rehabilitation Bill (ORB) through the Commons Committee in an unprecedented two days, it's worth reflecting on a variety of events that took place last week which are a result of, or have a direct bearing on, the Napo campaign against TR.
Last Monday the Tory dominated Human Rights Committee had some strongly critical words about the implications of the Governments proposals in regards to the disproportionate sentencing regime as outlined in the Bill and the strong likelihood that it will lead to more breaches rather than less.
On the same day we received reliable intelligence that Napo's efforts to target the Libdem leadership may be starting to bear fruit with separate reports that Deputy Leader Simon Hughes has asked to see his leader Nick Clegg to express severe reservations about TR generally; and that Clegg himself, during his latest meeting with the tenacious Napo South Yorkshire reps has for the first time conceded that this TR concoction may not actually do what it says on the tin.
Tuesday revealed the (almost comical if it were not so serious) fact that G4s had graciously decided to offer a £24.1 'credit note' in reparation for overcharging the taxpayer in the 'tagging the dead' electronic monitoring scandal. That even the beleaguered Chris Grayling could not find it in himself to accept this patronising offer speaks volumes about the yet to be revealed true extent of the scam, which NAO sources are said to have put at more than three times that amount.
Wednesday was fully taken up by what were supposed to be substantive negotiations between the National Negotiating Council (NNC) and the Probation Unions to try and tie down a final framework staffing agreement which would have subsumed the recent concessions offered by Michael Spurr. It was felt that even the MoJ had surpassed itself in standards of ineptitude when it decided to publish the contradictory and quite unnecessary instructions to 'get on' with the staff split the week before; but the performance of their emissary to the NNC represented something of a gold standard in terms of grand-guignol farce.
Conventional wisdom over these testing last few months has been that when it comes to the litany of errors emanating from the MoJ it's all about confusion rather than conspiracy (not quite how I would like to put it but this is a family publication) but now I wonder as you will see below.
Heaving ourselves towards the long journey home at around 7:00pm without an agreement was a pretty miserable experience but at least it brought the three unions closer than before and the subsequent news that Unison are heading towards a trade dispute will be music to many members ears.
'Newsnight' hits the spot
Thursday evening and the long awaited expose of the shambolic London Serco CP contract was there for millions to see. The combined hard work of a number of people -who know who they are- helped to ensure that National Chair Tom Rendon gave a very articulate performance on behalf of Napo, in a programme which also featured West Yorkshire Probation Chief Sue Hall who hit the right notes and a guy from some policy exchange who tried to defend the Government's privatisation agenda but simply did not know what he was talking about. No change there then?
The week for me was then rounded off on Friday with the news that Grayling had abandoned the competition for three Prisons in South Yorkshire where yes, Serco were prime bidders, and signalled their reversion to public sector control.
Who says we are not making a difference?
Local JNC Disputes, someone's bothered
As I write it has become clear that the MoJ are rather unsportingly claiming that Napo and Unison are unable to enter local JNC disputes as there is no need for the MoJ to negotiate with Trade Unions on the imposed staff transfer assignment process.
We will issue more advice tomorrow but this blatant attack on our rights to represent our members is desperate even by the MoJ's latest standards. It won't intimidate our members and it's simply likely to add fuel to the fire.
Who says we are not making a difference?
Huge decision beckons
Our superbly determined, and highly effective campaign against the combined might of the Coalition Government and Chris Graylings' army of Civil Servants as they go about their mission to fragment and destroy the Probation Service, has to be the most exciting, as well as the biggest challenge that I have faced in my career.
The courageous stand that Napo members have taken in supporting their union and the sacrifice made over 5/6 November has directly helped us to secure recent significant concessions on the proposed staff transfer agreement that has been the subject of hundreds of hours of often tortuous negotiations. This proves that our decision to enter into an industrial dispute was not only bold but the right thing to do. We are still awaiting Unison's verdict on the above agreement and whether they will move to join us in dispute over the wretched TR agenda. Meanwhile I urge your support for our action short of strike action which we launched last week.
This week your elected representatives from Napo's Probation Negotiating Committee and your National Officers and Officials will need to decide whether the offer from the MoJ that will underpin the intended staffing restructure, affords our members the maximum protection possible against compulsory redundancy, continuity of service in the event of future interchange transfers, guarantees of future membership of the Local Government Pension Scheme and provides a worthwhile voluntary redundancy scheme. We have continued to negotiate in order to protect members from the worst that the owners of the proposed CRC's will throw at them be they private, third sector or a mutual, when they no longer need you.
Wednesdays meeting of the National Negotiating Council (NNC) will reveal the decisions of the three unions as to the offer and will define the next steps in terms of whether there is a consensus or a situation that will result in Grayling carrying out his threat to do something even sillier than anything he has managed so far.
Unfortunately at the time of writing we are still trying to understand exactly what it is we are being asked to agree to, as yet again the MoJ have sought to interfere in the negotiations and have issued instructions to Trusts which are at some variance with the position that we reached with the NNC last week. A testing few days is guaranteed.
He still doesn't get it!
I often ask myself how Chris Grayling, who has already been tainted by the spectacularly unsuccessful and equally inappropriately named 'work'' programme (because it didn't work and not too many of those on it did so either) can be so surprised and smitten by the fact that we are so hacked of with his much vaunted 'Rehab Revolution' which, under his version, is more likely to see more people return to Prison.
If he and Jeremy Wright would take a break from destroying another gold standard public service, then they might start considering what they will do when their master plan comes a cropper because of the ridiculous timetable or because Serco and G4s get barred from competing for the CRC (Ok, I'm getting ahead of myself) or the companies themselves have concluded, as we hear other players have, that the market is a busted flush already.
This is why we are stepping up the pressure in and outside of Parliament and with academics to convince politicians that we have the solution to reduce reoffending rates from the under-12 month custodial community.
Those who believe that an agreement on the staff transfer scheme (if that becomes possible) will somehow signal an end to our industrial dispute, should think again. Our cause is just; our arguments impeccable, and our resolve to consign this disgraceful and cynical TR con-trick is altogether greater than the ideologues standing against us.
PAC to turn up the heat on Serco and G4S
Great news this weekend as we hear that the two privateers are being summoned to appear before the Public accounts Committee who I am told are straining at the leash at the prospect. Let's hope that by the time they arrive at this very unwelcoming party, their share prices have dipped even further than they have over the last few days.
STANDING UP FOR OUR COMMUNITIES AND FOR YOURSELF
Today sees the launch of our industrial action campaign against this Governments TR plans.
Our Probation members across England and Wales are being asked for only the 4th time ever to take strike action. This comes after every effort by your Union to persuade Ministers that their plans to deal with re-offending rates are fundamentally flawed and operationally dangerous, and after pleading with the same Ministers to retain what currently works within Probation, and at least trial their scheme in a structured and measurable way.
Their predictable response is that they can no longer delay implementation because the issue needs to be tackled now, and that TR is necessary because (as stated by Jeremy Wright on Radio 5 yesterday), 'it makes common sense'. If this were all about common sense then the likes of G4S and Serco would have been ruled out of any involvement in the contract bidding process. They have already shown by 'tagging the dead' and lying about prisoner transportation, that they are unfit to be trusted with Taxpayers money.
If common sense was being applied anywhere then Chris Grayling and Jeremy Wright would have found a way to ensure that Probation was involved in the management of the under-12 month custodial community straight away, alongside additional providers that we and the public could have confidence in. We would also have a Payment by Results (PbR) mechanism which will not subsidise would be providers for failure while still receiving fees for service. A 'Rehabilitation Revolution' sold to the British public as a scheme based on real evidence, instead of a farrago of inconclusive statistics from two prison pilots that cannot be compared with what could be achieved with the right offender intervention strategies that you know that you can offer.
But common sense is not what this is all about. It's about political vanity and free market ideology and the fragmentation of a service that has proved over 100 years that it has the professional expertise, the commitment and the appropriate values to make a real difference to peoples lives.
The price of being divided
Napo is a responsible member led union which does not take industrial action lightly. The Government have called our action unnecessary (as if they have been serious about negotiations), but who have shown by the chaos of the so called consultation period that they have been anything but.
A Government whose flawed and reckless policies are being shored up by a Liberal Party who lost any semblance of respectability a long, long, time ago and whose Leader has signed of TR without a clue as to its consequences.
These, and a whole range of other reasons are why Napo is asking you to stand strong today and tomorrow and thereafter. For now is the time to show unity and common purpose, but to also demonstrate to the public that you care about what happens to them as well as you.
This is the biggest test in Napo's proud history; I know that you will face it with courage and resolve.
Edited: 05/11/2013 at 06:35 AM by IanLawrence
Getting ready for AGM
If last years Conference was a piece of history then the events that will unfold in Wales later this week will be pivotal to our future and the career paths of our members in Probation. We have an array of interesting speakers and fringe events and I know there will be a strong feeling of collectivism as we face our strongest ever test.
For those who are heading off to AGM I wish you a productive conference and for those members unable to join us this year, I would urge you to log in to the AGM blog which will be administered by our newly appointed Assistant General Secretary Dean Richards who we welcomed to Chivalry Road last week. Dean is looking forward to his first AGM
Drama at NOMS
There is never a dull moment in this job I can assure you. For near the end of another busy day at the office yesterday which included a meeting with TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady to discuss the situation around Transforming Rehabilitation, I emerged to see that Mike Maiden had tendered his resignation as Director of Probation for what have been reported as 'personal reasons'.
If these are truly private then its not for us to ask why; but the news has been released not long after a certain Mark Reid (NOMS Prison Service) was put into the TR transition team. Probably just a coincidence I am told, or there again maybe it isn't?.
Ballot result beckons
Just in case anyone reading this has forgotten or not yet decided whether to vote in the Industrial Action Ballot then it is not too late. So have a look through your piles of unopened envelopes and fill it in now please! We are asking you to vote 'YES' and 'YES' to both questions. It's a pretty crucial issue and every vote counts.
The post-AGM blog will appear next week.
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