Feeling pleased that I have remembered to get a blog on today with but a few hours remaining in July.
Since my last post we have had our AGM. A big thank you to Ranjit Singh who took the time to come and speak to us. Also thakn you to Wortley Hall who provided th evenue and the usual excellent pie and pea supper. We were able to pass a couple of motions to go forward to Eastbourne, we are hopeful that there will be time for them to be heard.
We had a very good turnout in terms of volunteers for the varied branch positions, with some welcome new faces. Our sincerest thanks went out to those members who, having served the branch, so well for the past years decided to stand down.
Looking forward, it appears that workload may become an issue once more. With the abandonment of WMT, staff are left without a means of accurately measuring their workload. Unless a suitable repleacement is found then successful grievances over workload, such as one recently won in Barnsley will be almost impossible to prove. Make of that what you will. I for one am keen to see that a ceiling is placed on the work we can be reasonably expected to do and not be expected to put up with 'average scores' based on a resourse model that predicts future workload.
Well there went one of my resolutions for this year, I find that I have not posted here since the end of March! Today is perhaps a good day to write, having seen the crowds of marchers in Sheffield City Centre this lunchtime protesting against the Government's proposed cuts to our pensions. It was especially good to see our branch banner flying proudly as my collegues showed their active support for the cause and those who were on strike today.
On the local front things appear quiet as management and Napo work through a number of revised policies, and also look to explore options for the replacement of WMT as it will be come defunct in the near future.
Edited: 30/06/2011 at 08:09 PM by AndrewGreen
I and perhaps 499,999 others had a great day out in London yesterday. The "March for the Alternative" demo was, for me, a memorable experience. Being handed the number of a good solicitor at the outset seemed ominous but it all passed off peacefully. Unfortunately later that day a small group of vandals (I will not insult geniune anarchists) yet again aided the right-wing media's efforts to marginalise the purpose and message of our protest. This was not simply an 'anti cuts' march as some have tried to portray it, we were objecting to "unfair and unnecessary cuts" and suggesting closing tax avoidance loopholes would be a fairer way of getting the country back on a sounder financial footing.
In local news much has changed since last I wrote. The threat of compulsary redundancies is off for now, however there will be some disruption as a number of PSOs are to move to new roles, some are going voluntarily; hopefully all posts will be filled in this way. The alternative is that our Redundancy Policy will be used to determine who is to be directed to move.
Whilst this is clearly better news in the short term, we have been told that in order to meet our demands the Trust will have to run up a deficit which could have more serious implications next year.
There has been an excellent response to our request to take part in the TUC demo on 26th March. We have filled one coach and are looking to share another with West Yorks. We shall be marching behind our new branch banner, hopefully we shall be easy to spot amongst the gathered multitude.
The official period of consultation is coming to a close tomorrow, unfortunately compulsary redundancies are still being proposed. Over the last 30 days though we have been able to set up good links with our Unison colleagues and have, though a successful grievance on workload, been able to debunk the notion that reductions in workforce are justifiable to due a lack of work.
Once SYPT set out their firm intentions about where the axe is to fall we can begin our fight, at the same time supporting our colleagues who will soon be entering the process of competing with their colleagues for their own jobs.
Happy New Year to all and I am resolved to make sure I do post every month, things got rather slack toward the end of last year.
After so much speculation last year about the impact the cuts might have we got an indication this week of what may happen to SYPT. Faced with a cut of approximately £2,000,000 reductions in staffing levels are one way of balancing the budget. Unfilled posts, voluntary redundancy and voluntary early retirement have accounted for most of what management are seeking. Despite previous comments about avoiding compulsory redundancies and protecting the front line, PSO grade and Admin staff are to be put through an assessment process to select those who are to go.
Relief that PO's are being spared (at least for this year) is tempered by the knowledge that the work carried out by the PSO's who are to leave is to be handed over to the remaining staff, some of whom are currently in grievance regarding workloads.
In addition to the justification that we cannot afford to retain so many staff is the assertion that in fact these staff are surplus due to insufficient work and that a reduction in PO leave means we can pick up the hundreds of cases managed and dozens of PSRs completed each month by the staff earmarked for the chop.
South Yorkshire Branch are resolved to fight any compulory redundancies and will once again be working closely with our Unison collegues to protect not only jobs, but also the terms and conditions of those that remain.
Just made it for this month, with the clocks going back and a steady stream of 'trick or treaters' queuing up for Haribo (other jelly sweets are available). This month has seen the much advertised or leaked comprehensive spending review, whilst nothing has been confirmed yet (just for a change) Probation may escape the worst of the cuts and 'get away' with a 10% reduction. This may be achievable through natural wastage but the clientele are not going anywhere leaving the rest of us to pick up their caseloads.
Having spoken of my relief at the scale of cuts I must also acknowledge the cuts that are going to be felt across the MOJ and the rest of government. Whilst we on the 'frontline' may clamour for the resources we need, the good folk at NOMS etc have mortgages to pay too. No Probation quango is an island and I forsee cuts to prisons and the Courts impacting on our work too.
Firstly apologies for the absence of a blog for last month, I can only put that down to time flying whilst I am having fun, that or being too busy to think. We are coming to the end of what is popularly known as "silly season" when officers who are brave enough to contemplate taking leave depart the office leaving the SCA's scratching around for people to allocate work to.
The summer recess for Parliament has left it all quiet on the doom and gloom front, though the thought has occurred to me that with the anticipated cuts it could be 'silly season' all year round, what fun.
Our AGM went well, I rather thought the chair did a good job of conducting matters for his first time at the task and his intro was highly eloquent. Everyone who volunteered for the various roles within the branch, I thank for their continued support and dedication. Matters were closed with discussion on motions to be put forward to conference. If your ballot form has not already gone in the recycling please give the paper a good read and perhaps even tick a box or two.
I am writing this half an hour before the England - Germany game and thinking of ways to avoid watching or listening to said match as I dont want to be emotionally involved in our inevitable demise.
Taking a break from the football, our team sat agog around the wireless to listen the budget. Knowing that the cuts were coming didn't make the news any easier to take. Apparently these cuts are managable because we in the public sector are so profligate with taxpayers money. What the Chancellor does not appear to understand is that 'low-profile' sectors like Probation have been on a 'diet' for years. For us it is not a case of trimming the fat; more like chopping off a limb.
Once more we await our fate; I feel I am saying this every month, perhaps there is a grand plan to keep us in a perpetual state of apprehension.
It's our branch AGM next month, I got the agenda and was delighted to discover I have a contribution to make. It will make a change from previous years, hiding out at the back, avoiding eye contact when branch vacanices were discussed and waiting for the pie and peas.
As a late addition, today (30/06) the news has been dominated by Ken Clarke's 'rehabilitative revolution'. At last a minister has seen the light and acknowledged that short prison sentences do nothing for reducing re-offending rates. It would have been nice if he had gone on to say that "therefore the offenders diverted from custody will be supervised in the community by a properly funded probation service." Alas not, he blathered on about the private sector and 'payment by results'. I take this to mean staff paid as little as they can get away with and huge bonuses for senior management. Currently we work hard to meet targets in order to demonstrate to an apparently uncaring Government that we are the best at what we do. I wonder how motivated I will be, working late to hit OASys deadlines in order to pay for a director's villa in Tuscany?
I find myself writing this blog just in time to mention the cuts announced by the new regime in Whitehall. £325,000,000 would appear to be the MoJ's share of the pain. I am given to understand that we in SYPT are possibly looking at a further 2.3% cut on top of the reduction in funding which had already been budgeted for. I also heard that the whole £6 Billion is only 10% of what is needed in the longer term by way of public sector cuts; so more pain is likely in the future.
On to branch business; at our meeting in Doncaster, support both moral and financial was pledged to a number of causes including UAF, a 'Defend Public Services demo, and the 'Love Music, Hate Racism' Carnival in Barnsley mentioned in my last post.
A motion to mention;
1. This branch notes:
That social work is being undermined and devalued by 'marketisation' and 'managerialism', by the stigmatisation of service users, the bullying of staff and by welfare cuts and restrictions. What this means for front line workers and services users alike is increased bureaucracy and workloads, the domination of care management approaches with their associated performance indicators and targets and the increased use of the private sector.
This branch believes:
That social work is a worthwhile activity that can be part of the fight for social justice and can help people address the problems and difficulties in their lives. Many of those difficulties are rooted in inequalities and oppressions of today's society and good social work necessarily involves confronting and exposing such structural and public causes of so many private ills.
This Branch will therefore:
a) Affiliate to the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), a coalition of practitioners, academic, service users, students and the unions which represent social workers, that campaign in many different ways to bring back a more radical social work practice.
b) Sponsor a SWAN event in our local area, distribute publicity about SWAN events, both local and national and encourage members of this Branch to attend.
c) Make a financial contribution to SWAN.
Issues also up for discussion were policies on a new code of conduct, working with dangerous and difficult offenders, workload, gate keeping, a new FDR template and the return of AP staff tupe'd out of the service and coming back to us; it's a wonder we managed to fit it all in.
I found myself ranting at the radio this morning on the drive into work. Lord Ramsbotham (former Chief Inspector of Prisons) had a report to plug. He was bemoaning an apparent failure by the Prisons to provide something constructive for inmates to do, thus reducing the risk of re-offending and the fact that Probation staff spend so little of their time in face to face contact with people they are supervising. Wheeled out to defend the old regime was David Hanson the former prisons minister, here was the trigger to the aforementioned rant. Mr Hanson was quite happy to claim credit on behalf of 'New Labour' for reducing crime, fewer victims and improvements in re-offending rates. Makes you wonder what they pay us and the Police for? He then went on to trot out the long debunked 'facts' about increases in Probation funding and 7000 new 'officers' under New Labour. I find that far too often politicians are allowed to spray out such 'facts' with their interviewer left unable to challenge until they have gone away and done some research and by then the moment has long passed. For the sake of my own health and that of other road users I may try something more soothing for the morning commute, perhaps Radio 3.
Hello again, thank you for all the feedback from last month's blog. This month I must fill without the aid of branch meeting minutes please forgive any waffling that may follow.
Change appears to be the predominant theme for this month; trust status has been achieved and SYP (see last month for acronym) has become SYPT. We have been told that trust status brings with it new freedoms and opportunities; it will be interesting to see what this brings in practice.
Further change is looming with the impending General Election and the realities of the promised cuts and efficiency savings will come out over the coming months. Napo's current campaign to highlight how Probation really is the best option, both in terms of cost and reducing re-offending, is a good way of trying to protect our resources.
I watched the first leaders' debate some weeks ago with some interest and it's subsequent impact on the election campaign appears to have vindicated the decision to go ahead with the scheme. I intend to keep this blog as apolitical as possible, beyond promoting Napo values and causes but I did note that during that first debate only one of the leaders spoke about something other than more Police on the streets (important though that is) during a question about 'law and order'.
'Love Music, Hate Racism is coming to Barnsley on 1st May; more details can be found here http://lovemusichateracism.com...y/carnival-2010
One last point for this month, at a recent team meeting we had, as a guest speaker, a current service user. To hear him speak about his experiences, being subject to a Drug Rehabilitation Requirement, I found it very thought provoking. We are very good at meeting our targets, but in the drive to demonstrate performance are the people we are working with getting lost in all the paperwork?
Welcome to the first 'blog' from South Yorkshire Branch. Having volunteered to be our resident 'blogger' I hope to provide monthly updates as to the work the Union is doing on behalf of its members and the wider community. My thanks go out to our resident branch meeting minute taker from whom I will be able to crib much of my material every other month.
On Friday 12th March during the 'World Tonight' programme on Radio 4 there was a 'behind the scenes' feature on the work of the Probation Service starring colleagues in Sheffield. I am not normally to be found listening to Radio 4 at 10 on a Friday night, however I had been signposted to the feature and I was interested to see how we would be portrayed.
The purpose of the programme appeared to be about providing some insight into what the Probation Service actually does; the recent recall of John Venables to custody once more turning the spotlight on our dimly lit corner of the Criminal Justice System. The journalist opined that criticism of 'probation' was partly due to a lack of public understanding.
Prison is an easy concept for the public to understand. Take an individual, put them in a small room, shut the door, lock it and walk away, "simples". The idea of working with an individual in the community to address their offending behaviour is much less tangible.
I felt that the programme was a good introduction with some appropriate political commentary on the perils of an under funded Probation Service. However at 15 minutes in length it barely scratched the surface of what we do every day. This further highlighted the sheer complexity of probation work and why, in my opinion, the Probation Service needs a higher profile to increase public awareness and support.
Discussions continue between Management and Unions as South Yorkshire Probation continues to adapt and adjust to a difficult financial climate. Funding secured from the DOM has reduced the risk of significant job cuts but we remain committed, as we were last year, to no compulsory redundancies.
We do like motions here in SYP (I think I will continue to use this potentially annoying acronym until a sufficient number of my colleagues tell me to stop.) The following were debated at our branch meeting on 8th December 2009
SUPPORT THE YORKSHIRE AND HUMBERSIDE Unite Against Fascism (UAF)
"This Branch notes with alarm the rise of fascist forces in the form of the BNP and the English Defence League.
It further notes that we have a particular responsibility in Yorkshire to do whatever we can to oppose the Nazis given their electoral success in the European elections in our area.
This branch therefore resolves to.
1. Publicise all mobilisations organised by UAF (and other anti fascist forces) and encourage Napo members to attend.
2. Publicise UAF meetings and encourage Napo members to attend.
3. Donate £50 to UAF."
This motion was supported unanimously
SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO WORK CONFERENCE
"This branch notes with concern the growing clamour from all main stream Political Parties to try and make working people pay for the current economic crises. Not content with giving billions of pounds of our money to the bankers they now want us to pay again by attacking our much needed public services. This will mean cuts, job losses, speed ups, attacks on pay and conditions and a general deterioration in the Services we all depend on.
This branch further notes that Napo nationally and locally recognises that we need to work together with other Unions, particularly in the public sector, if we are to stand a chance of defending our jobs and services.
This branch therefore resolves to;
1. Support all progressive struggles in the Trade Union movement by sending messages of support, inviting speakers from other unions to address our meetings, encourage Napo members to go to picket lines to show support and if sanctioned by the branch give financial donations to the hardship funds of unions involved in industrial action.
2. React positively to attempts by other unions to unite were possible, be it at joint solidarity meetings or coordinating strike action or attending cross union conferences.
3. Send a delegation of 5 (or less) to the Right to Work Conference whose main demands are:
FIGHT FOR EVERY JOB, ORGANISE TO STOP THE CUTS, DEFEND SERVICES AND PENSIONS, UNITY OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE SECTORS, DEMAND A MILLION GREEN JOBS."
This motion was also supported unanimously
ACAS was commissioned by management and the Union to investigate concerns as to whether BME staff were being discriminated against with regard to capability and disciplinary proceedings.
Given the problems with statistical analysis I will avoid comment on the results but rather focus on the suggestion, as I read it, that perhaps with additional training, line managers would be more comfortable in addressing capability and disciplinary issues with all staff. The report also suggested that as a first resort problems could be addressed through discussion and mediation before formal proceedings were initiated.
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