|General Secretary's Blog - General|
A week in the life of Napo
Monday brought me my first encounter with Russia TV in an interview held on College Green. The English version of their 'news round' reaches a target audience of over 2 million viewers in the UK and they seem very keen to spread our message about the Government's attempts to dismantle the Probation service. A few hours back at Chivalry Road and then on to an evening meeting at the House of Commons where I met with the Labour Front Bench Commons and Lords Parliamentary teams, to discuss their proposed amendments to the Offender Rehabilitation Bill which is now at reading stage. Here I joined a number of committed academics and supporters of Napo to provide an updated narrative about the threats posed by the TR agenda, building on the excellent analysis of the draft legislation previously undertaken by Harry Fletcher and Tom Rendon.
Tuesday morning and it was up to Birmingham to address the Napo Managers Conference which attracted a really good attendance and a diverse range of guest speakers whose efforts were much appreciated, alongside those of Eve Chester and Annoesjka Valent for their organisational skills and for producing a thoroughly relevant and high quality Agenda. It's a pity that Ministers don't get to this type of event instead of the showpiece 'landscaping' tours that they undertake into Probation Trusts. They would have learnt much from the dedicated professionals present about the horrendous damage they are determined to inflict upon the service.
Wednesday saw Napo back at the House of Commons alongside PCS, POA, and The Police Federation where I was one of the speakers at the packed 'Justice in Meltdown' Parliamentary Summit. Napo Branches worked hard to lobby their MP's to attend the event and meet them afterwards and I understand that Napo's Gordon Jackson was able to engage with Chris Grayling on a chance Commons staircase meeting where he shared a few words!
Justice in Meltdown was also attended by National Representatives from Unison and I was able to formally announce that Napo will be consulting with our members in advance of a ballot for industrial action, and called upon all those organisations present representing members across the many strands of the justice sector to work with us to achieve some co-ordination. We have also found new allies in the form of the legal professions who told us how the Coalitions plans to cut legal aid are yet another recipe for chaos. Meetings are also scheduled to take place with our new found learned friends to see how their superb material and practical resources can be directed to the joint campaign.
Another speaking slot beckoned at the prestigious IARS Conference straight afterwards where Dr Theo Gavrielides and Sophie Blake jointly launched their excellent new book 'Improving Outcomes for Black and Minority Ethnic users of Probation. (IARS research £9.99).
The efforts of Greater London Probation Trust in this project were also rightly applauded, as were the stewardship of Janett Brown and a contribution from Heather Munro and Doreen Lawrence. Unfortunately my next engagement meant that I could only stay for part of this exciting event, but the willingness of my hosts to move me up the agenda (many thanks Theo) gave me an opportunity to immediately follow a contribution from Professor Rod Morgan who in my view was somewhat unhealthily supportive of the Rehabilitation Agenda.
I didn't need much by that time to make our case in response, but in the spirit of the theme of the conference I raised our concerns about the total lack of diversity within the Grayling and Clegg proposals both in terms of their impact on service users but staff as well, citing the disproportionate impact on BME personnel of Serco's redundancy programme after the award of the London CP contract.
Another interesting and unanswered question (among hundreds more ) is where the Equality Impact Assessment for these 10,000 voluntary 'meet and greet' mentors is going to be undertaken as they roll up in their droves to take Graylings great revolution forward, of course laden with new housing opportunities and job offers.
Back to House of Lords in the afternoon to meet Megan Elliot and listen to the opening stages of the Lords debate on the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, where Chris Grayling was spotted at the commoners end of the House until it was confirmed that a debate on his bill was actually going to reach Committee. Was it me or did he look a tad anxious?
Thursday brought an early morning breakfast meeting with Harry Fletcher and Simeon Andrews from the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group. Here we took stock of the political ramifications of Labours proposed Bill amendments and considered how they fitted in to our developing campaign plan which the Napo Officers will shortly be reviewing.
Back to base then for an action packed few hours before heading to Luton for an evening public meeting organised by Chiltern Counties Napo, where I spoke alongside local MP's Gavin Shukar and Kelvin Hopkins whose support for the Napo campaign is very much appreciated.
Friday And a not so quiet day in Chivalry Road wading through myriad issues and pulling together the start of a report to the Officers Group, followed by a meeting with GMB's Brian Strutton to look at the impact of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme on members of the LGPS. It's a bigger mess than anyone could imagine as the Government scrabbles around for quick fixes on pensions to allow their friends in the Private Sector to get their foot in the door. Watch this space.
You do your jobs please Chiefs and we will do ours
When it comes to the attempted implementation of the TR agenda there are a number of issues beyond the purely political that could see this plan come a cropper. Just a quick look at the those below, which are by no means exhaustive, show how complex the subject matter and the timetable actually is. This means that clear answers will be needed to these and the 60 or more Parliamentary questions that Napo has submitted. Relevant information will flow downwards to Trusts once they have been the subject of National discussion and negotiation NNC Circ 4/2013 refers (not that you can expect Union agreement on many of them).
. The proposed methodology for achieving the intended 70/30% split of staff
. How the 30% National Probation Service is to be established
. Governance and accountability within the proposed 21 contract areas
. Arrangements for winding down the 35 trusts and possible office closures
. Terms of reference for the handling of TR related issues at NNC and SCOG
. Sharing of critical path information
. Detail of any transfer process
. Pension liability
. Redundancy terms
. Strategy for staff communications
. Equality impact assessments
That's why many members have contacted me to kick off about the content and tone of a number of communications recently issued by certain Chiefs about the potential impact of TR.
OK, everyone knows that Grayling is determined to push his plans through. All Ministers are and that's why this one (just like his predecessors) is spending millions of pounds of taxpayer's money to try and disassemble the service, destroy morale, and give the impression that everything is inevitable. But while some people swoon in awe at this most obvious of observations, remember that political history is littered with examples of defeats, u-turns and fudges in the face of sustained intelligent and, occasionally ferocious, opposition.
Chiefs know that just as well as anyone; so while most are doing their best to impart news on a factual and neutral basis, there are sadly some who have taken it upon themselves to suggest among other things 'that it's no good wasting time resisting' or that 'it (TR) represents an exciting opportunity'.
No doubt some people will see TR as some kind of adrenalin fuelled and exhilarating leap into the dark, but I suspect that won't include many of the 70% of staff who are facing either redundancy or massive changes to their future terms and conditions. Treating staff to such patronising and downright poor communication is nothing short of shameful.
If I were cynical I might see it all as a positioning thing, but surely not?
Edited: 11/06/2013 at 01:33 PM by IanLawrence
Clegg accuses Napo of 'complacency over reoffending rates'
It is said that one should never write posts, blogs or e-mails whilst in a state of incandescent rage, but even a few hours after hearing Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announce another £7 million package of public money to help towards the decimation of the Probation service, I can hold back no longer.
I must have heard any number of politicians wax lyrical about being 'tough on the causes of crime' as well as the crimes themselves; and how the previous government provided rhetoric rather than substance on re-offending, but Mr Clegg's address on Crime, Victims and Rehabilitation at NACRO earlier today just about took the biscuit.
The DPM trotted out the same old mantra that 'new' ideas were needed to deal with the prolific rise in reoffending, whilst again omitting to mention that this applies to those in the short term custodial community who are not seen by the Probation Service, as opposed to the 5.6% reduction in reoffending rates by those who come through your doors.
Not many politicians would be comfortable coping with the inquisitorial but highly knowledgeable style of London Napo's Pat Waterman, who Nick unwisely chose to call on first during 'Any questions?' Pat's eloquent contribution put the DPM on the back foot and seriously questioned the Governments rationale for the great Probation sell off. Pat also reminded the DPM that he had spectacularly failed (just as his predecessors did) to mention the role of the Probation service in his speech as he did his level best to mimic Chris Graylings recent assertions that everyone other than the 30% 'high risk' caseworkers in the Probation service are just a saleable asset.
Worse was to follow as Mr Clegg accused Napo of being 'complacent about reoffending rates' and 'that we should not be opposed to every new idea that emerged on the subject'. This was a red rag to this particular bull, as I was eventually able to point out the facts about reoffending rates and ask the DPM to explain how sacking or privatising 70% of highly skilled Probation practitioners so that increasingly discredited companies such as G4S and Serco could take their place, was in any way sensible.
His riposte that he didn't have the money to spend on the 50,000 per year short term custodial's was something of a contradiction in light of the £7 million that had suddenly emerged out of thin air to help Mutualisation, and just a few days after the expose of the Electronic Monitoring excess charges allegation against G4S and Serco. Moreover, Mr Clegg ignored (or chose to avoid) the fact that the Probation service has an excellent track record of already working in partnership with voluntary providers.
I will be writing in more detail to the Deputy Prime Minister in the probably forlorn hope that the introduction of a few facts might help him understand the gravity and ideological recklessness of the Transforming Rehabilitation experiment. I will let you know how it goes.
We're doing our best to keep you posted
In the last week or so Napo has issued copious amounts of campaign material, campaign bulletins, press releases and rebuttal statements in support of our TR campaign. Your Officers, Officials and Branch activists have also undertaken scores of live media or press interviews in response to the 9th May TR announcements.
At the same time, Napo has regularly engaged with Government Ministers, MoJ and Noms and PA Officials and has had to assimilate reams of information as well as that relayed to us by members and branches (keep it coming by the way).
We have done this whilst we embark on finding a replacement for Harry Fletcher (whose pro-bono work with us is still vitally important) and while your Officials and Chivalry Road staff team (two positions light at the moment) work flat out on the campaign as well as delivering 'business as usual' for our members. What we achieve on this front for a union of our size is quite astonishing.
Whilst the pressures of your day jobs means it is not always easy to read everything we issue as quickly as you would like, we are increasingly moving towards electronic communication as a means of keeping you updated along with the traditional methods such as 'Napo News' by post for members who prefer it. The excellent efforts of the communications team here at Chivalry Road also sees 'Napo News' going on line and interactive, http://naponewsonline.org/ which means that it ought to be possible to make this a living document that we can add to as developments unfold.
No need to make decisions at this stage
As indicated in my recent memo to Branches, Napo and our sister unions have insisted that central talks take place within the National Negotiating Council machinery about the staffing issues that have emerged as a result of the TR agenda. Notwithstanding our continuing and implacable opposition to the Governments plans, we have a responsibility to ensure that we are able to give the right advice at the right time to Napo members.
That's why we are in the process of setting up consultative arrangements between all the interested parties as mentioned above, so that we do not have a situation where even more chaos and uncertainty than currently exists is heaped upon the Probation workforce. This is especially the case in respect of the deliberately divisive and despicable government strategy of wanting to segregate the workforce into a 70/30% divide. This has to be right up there alongside the myriad of professional issues that have just not been thought through, and so any precipitate action by Trusts is not only unhelpful but might genuinely be construed by their employees as being somewhat complicit.
Quality of experts in family courts
The Government recently announced new national standards to raise the quality of experts used in family courts and get rid of time-consuming evidence which they claim adds little value in helping judges reach a decision.
The consultation period lasts until 18th July after which the Government will decide on the next steps. Meanwhile, our Family Court Section experts (FCPCTC) will put together a submission, probably in consultation with the Parliamentary Family Court Group and in partnership with other interested organisations.
As always the Government makes it all sound so reasonable and plausible, but I am advised that some fear it is simply a covert attack on the quality and extent of the expert evidence given in Family Court Proceedings, merely in order to cut costs. If so, this will impact on the Court's ability to promote children's welfare and safeguard them along with vulnerable adults. It seems to me that this presents another useful opportunity to highlight the excellent work done by skilled Guardians.
Mutualisation: the debate rages on
Part of our campaigning work against the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) proposals includes the need to drill down beneath the Ministerial hype which says that Mutual's who 'spin out' from Probation Trusts under some fancy new title (to deliver risk and intervention management to the same clients that they have always dealt with and presumably the under-12 months custodial community by payment by results) are a positive move that will bring choice and a sense of ownership to the staff who might be involved.
That's why Napo is in high level engagement with MOJ officials and the Cabinet Office specialists who are currently assisting those senior Trust leaders who have expressed an interest in forming a mutual. Branches will soon be receiving information which should help our members better understand the concept and allow them to take part in meaningful discussion at events being organised by their employers about what mutualisation would actually mean for them.
Unfortunately, and just as we always suspected, the Government have devised this superficially attractive proposition as a bit of a smoke screen to mask the more sinister aspects of their plans to fragment and ultimately destroy the Probation Service as we know it.
This weeks meeting of your National Executive Committee (NEC) had a packed agenda to deal with, and a common theme running through a number of contributions was about the governments plans to categorise Probation staff into a '70% or 30% pot', to assist would be providers prepare their bids for the low and medium risk work that Mr Grayling intends to put up for grabs.
This insidious process speaks volumes about the so-called respect that Ministers claim to have about the professional skills of our members as they create a situation where 70% of probation staff are effectively marked out for auction. Overwhelmingly, the view from NEC representatives was that the Government is about creating even more fear and uncertainty than already exists in the hope that this will incentivise staff to leap desperately for the mutualisation lifeboat.
For while a number of Trusts combine to scope out the possibilities for mutual models which they hope would be able to compete in the great probation sell off against the shoals of well funded sharks circling the sea's, some disturbing questions remain unanswered including:
*Who is going to pay the redundancy costs for Probation staff who are either not selected for the 30% 'High Risk Work' pool and who may subsequently be deemed surplus to requirements by a new private sector or third party provider?
*Who will cover the pension liabilities of staff upon their transfer to a new private sector or third party provider?
*Will there be assessment centres and appeal processes to determine which category staff are placed in?
*Will many would be Mutual's realistically be able to win their bid without money from the Private Sector?
Conventional wisdom suggests that the first two scenarios will be footed by the Taxpayer; which totally contradicts the Governments claim that TR is about transferring risk away from the public purse.
So while all sorts of fluffy language will be used to convince staff and our member's that Mutualisation is a positive development, perhaps someone might explain why millions of pounds are being spent to dismantle something that already works?
Yes they are in the news again
Serco are likely to be one the big movers and shakers in the probation gold rush; they of London CP fame have latterly been hauled over the coals by Parliaments Public Accounts Committee over their handling of the privatised out-of-hours GP service contract in Cornwall.
Serco Article: Who will hold NHS contractors Serco to account?
The report suggests that MPs have apparently given Serco a roasting for 'lying and cheating', but the company is yet to suffer a penalty.
MPs were merciless in their judgment of Serco's behaviour and the failure of the Health Trust to hold the group, which has £2.4bn of public-sector contracts, to account. The PAC had previously commissioned the National Audit Office to report on the service provided by Serco.
Fills you with confidence doesn't it?
Justice for Columbia (JFC) ... a reality at last?
Napo's affiliation to and activities within special interest organisations has occasionally engendered fierce debate at our Annual Conferences, but Napo's support for the JFC campaign is one that all members can be proud of.
It is unfathomable to even think about a society that leaves those who share the same fundamental beliefs that we do about freedom of association and the right to campaign peacefully for a more just and equitable system of government to live under the daily fear of disappearance and usually the death that follows.
That's why I was pleased to attend a reception this week to support the work of the Patriotic March for Peace. This is a mass community movement who recently encouraged hundreds of thousands of Columbian citizens to mobilise in support of the latest attempt to reach a peace process. This will hopefully bring an end to the seemingly endless armed, social and political conflict that is taking place there.
The courage of the campaigners who spoke with such dignity despite witnessing unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty against their comrades and loved ones, were an absolute inspiration.
May is going to be another busy month in the Napo calendar with the expected Government response to TR and the next round of Branch Meetings starting next week. It is important that branches give Chivalry Road as much notice as possible if you require a speaker (contact Annoesjka Valent at firstname.lastname@example.org). Napo members are encouraged to get along and participate in the life of your union as well as hear news about what we are trying to do on your behalf. The election for Napo's next General Secretary will also be launched in a few weeks and it's important that any members who may have recently changed their address keep Anne and Tay at Chivalry Road up to speed with their new details (contact email@example.com).
Justice in Meltdown
Finally look out for news soon on the big event in London on 5th June where Napo alongside our sister Unions in the Criminal Justice System, will be holding a major lobby and rally in the House of Commons to highlight the governments attacks on the CJS.
Edited: 26/04/2013 at 03:51 PM by IanLawrence
Chairs and Secretaries in good form
Here's hoping that you are in the midst of a welcome Easter break or have come back refreshed after some half decent weather.
Just before the recess we had an excellent gathering of Napo Branch Chairs and Secretaries as well as activists from the FCS. It was an important opportunity to take stock of our priorities, especially the campaign against Chris Grayling's somewhat unpopular Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) plans along with other pressing developments such as the position on 'Facilities Time' and the imminent introduction of charges for the submission of Employment Tribunal claims. As if that was not enough we had a quick look at the legislation stemming from the 'Jackson Review' which will soon sever the commercial link between Unions and the lawyers pursuing Personal Injury claims on behalf of their members.
Obviously Napo will continue to provide advice in these areas and publish detailed information to you about the impact of these changes. The other key issue that we spent some time on was the need to step up our efforts to recruit new members and our aim to collect your personal e-mail details so that we can establish and then maintain direct contact with you when the Government decides to close down the normal routes.
The so called 'Gagging Order' recently issued by the MoJ to Probation Chiefs was also a bit of a talking point at the meeting, where many believed that Ministers and their apparatchiks in the MoJ are running pretty scared of the emerging truth (frequently appearing in a social media outlet near you), about TR and how it is increasingly being seen as one big ideological ego trip.
By the way, just a reminder that users of social media should always make it clear that they are posting either in a personal capacity or on behalf of Napo members by way of their Union position.
Are you with us Chief.....?
Further evidence of how desperate this Government is to not only destroy the fabric of the Probation service as quickly as they can while taking thousands of your jobs with it, comes with the news of the formation of an oddly named 'Sounding Board'.
This gathering of Trust Chairs and Chiefs, senior MoJ officials, experts in the field and others, had its first meeting the other week. Here it was revealed by the Minister that the purpose of the Sounding Board was to invite suggestions on the 'Nuts and Bolts' of the TR programme and to 'recognise the challenges ahead.'
I have to assume the latter comment includes those irksome Trade Unions who are irritatingly speaking out against the plans, and whose campaigning efforts have attracted some noteworthy support from many Trust Chiefs over the last three months.
This has been very welcome and I hope it continues notwithstanding the Orwellian attempts by the latter day 'Ministry of Truth' to shut them up. A key area of the Sounding Boards future deliberations will include the question of risk oversight in a privatised Probation service, but there would be no sweeter noise to emerge from this forum than a resounding: 'Minister, just don't do this.'
We have been promised transparency around the outcomes from this initiative (which predictably does not include the Trade Unions who actually represent our members), and there will be those on board the Board who will justifiably argue that it's better to be in the tent than out so to speak; but in the finest Orwellian traditions we should soon see who is with us, and who is not.
Parliament important but so is direct action
Elsewhere in the Campaign Blog, you will see the excellent support that we are securing from many politicians against TR, and what we are doing to ratchet up the pressure on Labour and Lib-Dems to move to a more visible and believable position of opposition. But the fact is (and this was very much evident from our Chairs and Secretaries meeting) that we are fast approaching a point where Napo and other Unions within the Criminal Justice System will be compelled to ballot our members to support industrial action in defence of jobs and to oppose privatisation. For we are in a meltdown situation in the CJS which needs to be highlighted to the wider public and who we will need to speak out at the next general election. Make no mistake, this will be a tough ask that we intend to make of you, but we are running out of options in the face of a government who are arrogantly defying public opinion whilst being determined to sell off everything they can.
Meet your Local PCC
I guess by what I have said so far that I will probably have upset a few people, so while I am on a roll let me reveal that I don't expect to be invited to another Police and Crime Commissioner Conference any time soon following my appearance at their event last week.
The PCC's whom I met with alongside a whole range of other useful contacts were not the problem and were very receptive to Napo's issues, (and it is vital that Napo Branches establish contact with them very soon). But it was clear that the Chair had an agenda which did not include the uncomfortable question about how Transforming Rehabilitation fits in with the PCC's manifesto pledges or not, as the case may be.
My reasonable contribution/question on this was in danger of being cut short by the Chair who glibly suggested 'that it was not pertinent to the conference' but I managed nonetheless to get my oar in, and before leaving covered every seat with our excellent A5 handout fluorescent Orange campaign leaflet (now available from Chivalry Road).
Anyone have a decent suggestion for my next disguise?
What's the use of the TUC?
Having just arrived back from a meeting of the Public Services Liaison Group (PSLG), which agreed its working programme for the remainder of this year, the answer is a categoric: "Very useful."
At a time when public service workers are subject to daily attacks about their value to society, it is somewhat reassuring to know that amongst the chaos that masquerades as a sensible political debate, the TUC is applying its energies towards a vision for the future that is designed to command widespread public support.
The key aim among many others is to reaffirm and promote unions and the TUC as champions of public services and high quality jobs for well-trained, properly rewarded and supported staff.
As always Napo tries to play a leading role in the deliberations at the PSLG, and I have briefed our sister unions on the real and present danger posed by Chris Grayling's 'Reforming Rehabilitation' agenda. I have also established contact with the TUC specialist on the concept of 'Mutualisation' as part of our ongoing work on the scenarios that we may have to deal with if our ongoing campaign fails to prevent our members' worst fears becoming reality.
The TUC is also very interested in hearing more about the 'Rehabilitation Revolution' in the context of its major research project into privatisation and especially how this might impact on the Probation Service and the wider aspects of risk management, intervention and community safety. The PSLG work over the next few months also includes the following:-
-a Manifesto for Public Services;
-campaign materials opposing privatisation and a major research project;
-gathering and sharing information about progress with 2013 pay claims and negotiations;
-a conference on 'Trade Union Organising Strategy' and the impact of reductions in Facility Time;
-campaigning material against further cuts and privatisation in the NHS and Education sectors.
More cuts are just a false economy
Lord Neuberger, the UK's most senior judge, has seemingly joined the anti-austerity bandwagon if his recent comments on Government plans to shave £350m a year off the legal aid bill are anything to go by.
Forget the headline stuff about making known criminals sell their Bentleys and country mansions to pay off their legal bills; this is ostensibly about more litigants in person tying up Court Staff on procedural issues and hearings that last longer and cost the taxpayer more as a result. Oh, and of course fewer courts than there were last year.
While it is probably going a bit far to expect Lord Neuberger to be joining you at an anti-cuts rally somewhere soon, his stinging critique of the Government and the controversial remarks reportedly made by Home Secretary Theresa May who is said to have attacked judges for 'ignoring' the rules on the deportation of foreign nationals, leaves little doubt about his ire.
News on the MoJ grapevine is that Ministers are getting a tad tetchy at what they see as unacceptable criticism from senior probation managers about the 'Rehab Revolution'.
Let us be honest, all governments are wary of internal revolts against unpopular policies, and the recent Michael Gove U-turn over his planned education reforms has probably made them feel a bit sensitive. But let us hope that the gentle reminder from the department to all staff to 'ensure that they are aware of their responsibilities' in terms of public pronouncements which are contrary to the Grayling proposals, does not lead to a new MoJ appointment of 'Witchfinder General'.
Good Practice in Family Proceedings
I have just signed off the excellent submission to the Family Justice Board Consultation on the above. This was drafted by the Family Court Professional, Campaigning and Training Committee and is available (also on the website news section) in the form of FCPCTC 05/2013.
Hopefully, the Politicos who have endorsed the legal aid cuts as described earlier will reflect on the commentary that our resident FCS experts in care and private law proceedings are saying about the current system, especially around the Governments false contention that care proceedings have not been well served by independent social workers, and how Cafcass staff are best placed to assist the parties in seeking resolution.
Appreciation to the FCPCTC for their work, and FCS members should also look out for news on the Family Court Professional Conference to be held in York on 23rd May.
THE TROUBLE IS...
They just don't get it. For having returned from listening to yet another 'same old, same old' keynote speech from Police and Justice Minister Damien Green (which had a remarkable similarity to those of his predecessors), I could not help feeling that we have an Administration that thinks they know the price of everything but in reality have no idea of well, the value of much at all really.
Fair cop to Damien who, as I pointed out to him in the open debate that followed, at least had the good grace to mention the Probation Service once in his address but also had a bit of a dig at the many 'vested interests' who oppose the 'Transforming Justice' and his own 'More for Less' project reforms. These essentially expect the battered and bruised Criminal Justice System to markedly reduce the time between the offence and the sentence overnight.
So, another 'new' Criminal Justice Board is to be formed; along with more joined up sentencing, extensive use of video conferencing by the police and other agencies, and all the other things that yes, we have all heard before.
But oddly enough no mention by the Minister of the deleterious impact of further Court closures, the decimation of support and interpretation services, staff not getting the time they need to produce high quality reports, and an over reliance on Oral reports for the Speedy Justice Courts that are regularly demanded of our practitioners. Add to this mix the 'Early Guilty Plea' scheme, on which many Napo members tell me the Jury is out in terms of its effectiveness, and the propensity of private companies to sometimes deliver the defendant or those due for sentencing, to the right place at the right time or even the right day for that matter. Not exactly progress is it?
Agreement reached on the Rehabilitation Agenda
Don't get too excited. I am talking about the one piece of common ground between Napo, and our sister Unions and the Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister Jeremy Wright, whom we saw again last week.
It was a constructive meeting which featured some pretty robust exchanges where we wasted no time in telling Jeremy how his proposals, (to which Napo is submitting an excellent response alongside many others) have whipped up a firestorm of opposition from unions, parliamentarians, professional associations, community groups and individual members of the public.
That we all recognise the need to assist the under-12 month custodial community is beyond doubt; but there is a huge ideological gap between the Government and ourselves as to how this will best be achieved. Napo argued strongly that early public investment in this group would pay massive medium to long term dividends if the Probation Service was allowed to design the requisite intervention schemes and have the up front resources which would ensure that the majority of the under-12 month custodial community did not appear on our books further down the line.
We also said that this 'reverse PBR' process surely represents better value to the taxpayer than Chris Graylings ill-considered social experiment, where the rehabilitation of this critical grouping is to be placed in the hands of untrained, untried and more often than not, already proven to be unworthy, private companies.
Ministerial meetings are just a small component of Napo's vibrant fight back against the Transforming Rehabilitation plans, so do look out for more news about these and the huge amount of activity being undertaken by Napo Branches and the Chivalry Road team in the Napo Campaign Blog over the next two days.
Edited: 21/02/2013 at 11:07 AM by IanLawrence
The struggle of our lives
Being entrusted with the role of Napo Acting General Secretary is a great honour, but events are moving at such a speed that there has been no time for the self-indulgence of celebration. I see my immediate objective as helping Napo through this temporarily difficult period by utilising the skills and the vast knowledge of all those around me, and my 40 years trade union experience, as we pursue the issues that matter to our members throughout Probation and Cafcass.
For if its' not already been made inescapably clear to all Napo members, we face the biggest singular threat to our survival at any time in our proud 100 year history as a trade union and professional association. The potential privatisation (around 70%) of core probation work, and a commensurate loss of Napo members' (and non-members) jobs by way of Secretary of State Chris Graylings' Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. It's a plan that has attracted diverse commentary ranging from 'ambitious' on the one hand, or having about as much substance as a beef burger on the other.
This is why your Officers and Officials and Staff have already turned all of our available resources into building and launching a major campaign of opposition that, for a union of our size, has already made a huge impact in the media and political circles; and its one which many local Napo activists have wasted no time in taking out to the wider public. One thing is already clear: and that is that this campaign will only work if we act in partnership at Branch and National level and support each other every step of the way.
Modern day campaigning methods demand that Napo takes advantage of new opportunities to get our message across; and last week I took part in a live 'on-line' debate hosted by the Guardian Public Leaders initiative. Here I helped to get our big messages across to a surprisingly large audience about the threats to probation. You can see the whole debate on #Probationinperil.
Further details of what we have done and when, appears on the Napo Campaign Blog and this will be updated as often as possible with fresh news. So please get everyone you know to sign up to the e-petition to stop privatisation and keep those stories and pictures rolling in so that others can see what you have been up to!
Out there... doing it for communities
Just how valuable our members work is, has been further amplified by last weeks BBC documentary 'Out of Jail and On the Streets'. I understand that some 2 million viewers were able to see the real deal in terms of what intervention and public protection actually means. I expect that by now many of those staff featured in the programme will be a tad weary of the accolades that have been flying their way; but their contribution to the programme surely epitomised the dedication and commitment that our members throughout the service demonstrate each and every working day.
Meanwhile in Cafcass
Whilst our Family Court Section members are not quite facing the potential meltdown scenario that Transforming Rehabilitation poses, we are at that time of the year when we wait with baited breath to see what the operational budget will be for the coming 12 months.
Put simply, its' about damage limitation with Cafcass senior management and ourselves trying to make representations to the Department for Education and its Ministers to make sensible decisions about resources. The withdrawal of legal aid and the still huge flow of private and public casework can only mean more pressure on practitioners, so a huge budget cut will spell more trouble.
The FCS Negotiating Committee will be monitoring the situation closely and further reports will follow as soon as there is more news.
The next six months
Is a long time in the world of politics and our members will decide (by way of a new General Secretary selection process) as to who will take us forward beyond that period. Whether or not that is me, you should know that I will give my all in trying to progress our members agenda with the same determination since being appointed as Assistant General Secretary to Napo some four and a half years ago. Thanks for logging in; and do make a habit of it won't you?
A message from Tom Rendon & Lisa Robinson, National Co-Chairs
You all will have been informed by now that following a difficult employment tribunal, Jonathan Ledger has decided not to re-apply for his job as our General Secretary and his employment has now ceased with Napo.
Lisa and I have been pleased to announce that Ian Lawrence has been appointed as Acting General Secretary until the substantive post is advertised and filled.
The last month has been an uncertain one for members and we thank you for your continued support. Members have organised a strong presence at the consultation meetings and the campaigning strategy is in full swing,. Check out the news feed, campaign blog, twitter @Napo_News for more information. Members will also receive campaign bulletins detailing all of the work currently going on and how you can get involved.
We are proud that on Monday 4th February 2013, Napo's NEC members voted unanimously in favour of considering industrial action as part of our campaign. While we will work constructively with the government in the consulation, they need to know that we are not willing to see 70% privatisation without a fight.
Lisa and I have been "care-taking" the General Secretary Blog over the past few weeks and will now hand over to Ian for future updates. Watch this space.
Best wishes to all.
Public vs Private - a message from Tom Rendon and Lisa Robinson, National Co-Chairs
The e-petition "Do not privatise the Probation Service" didn't come from Napo but, of course, we wholeheartedly endorse it and so do the 15,988 people who signed. We have seen that Gus Rankin (who?) has set up a rival petition called "Privatise the Probation Service" which has a grand total of 7 votes. Never mind Gus.
The consultation events have all been well attended by Napo members and reps and we are well underway in drafting our response to the consultation on "Transforming Rehabilitation". As we all know, introducing the profit motive and payment by results will skew accountability and impinge on decisions being made in the public interest. At the hugely successful MPs drop in session at the House of Commons, MPs who attended were horrified at the thought of Serco, G4S and the like running rehabilitation. Check out the Campaign Blog for more information.
We have it on good authority that the BBC documentary "Out of Jail and on the Streets" (BBC1 Tuesday 5th of February 2013 at 10:35pm) will focus on probation staff and portray us in a realistic light. At last! Hopefully a far cry from the drama "Public Enemies" which was a gruesome, if at times hilarious, master class in what not to do as an officer!
Message from Tom Rendon, National Co-Chair
Last week saw much campaigning activity- both face to face and over the blog and twitter spheres. A drop-in meeting for MP's at the House of Commons last Wednesday was arranged by Harry Fletcher and Kath Falcon. Megan Elliot, Nick Smith, Mike McClelland, Annoesjka Valent, Harry and I all attended to brief MP's on why they should oppose the government's plans. 25 MP's attended (you can usually expect around 5 or 6) and all were supportive and many were willing to ask questions in the House and support our campaign. When we raised the spectre of Serco, G4S and Sodexho lining up to bid for contracts there was palpable concern and a real energy to stop it. Many had been to visit their local Trust and spoke highly of the work they had seen.
We often hear that we have a lower profile than other public services and that's true, but we shouldn't overstate it. People know that we do good work with offenders and know that privatisation and transfer to global security companies is not a wise move. It's a decent basis for members to have a conversation and continue increasing our support. One of the risks in the consultation is that small, local charities will be washed away in the sell off and this prospect has virtually no wider support.
Meanwhile, electronic campaigning is well underway and the numbers of people getting involved is really encouraging. We would remind people that the official Napo 'line' is right here and on our campaign blog. You can also link to our facebook page from the website and follow us on twitter @Napo_News
Message from Tom Rendon & Lisa Robinson, National Co-Chairs
The Government has published its consultation paper, "Transforming Rehabilitation" which sets out how it plans to dismantle the Probation Service. Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Justice, told Chiefs not to worry; there will always be a "residual probation service". But to do what? The consultation documents states we would be responsible for the risk of harm in all cases regardless of whether we, or the private sector, are actually managing the case. I challenge the Minister to find a single practitioner who thinks it would work. Holding the public sector accountable for the private sector reminds one of the bank bail out or Olympic security fiasco. Interestingly, the word "accountable" only appears twice in the consultation document- both relating the public probation service. What about accountability for the private sector? Only a deafening silence from the MoJ.
Needless to say, Napo is dissecting the document and will be ready with a detailed response by the end of February deadline. It's not all negative, the Government has recognised that social need (poor housing, lack of employment) contributes towards offending and it is right to look at the disadvantages experienced by many of those who offend. Investment in our social fabric would yield vast savings from the criminal justice system later down the line- the idea known as justice reinvestment. The Coalition should look here to cut crime, save money and improve lives rather than continually waste it on the fetish of competition with its endless consultations, procurement, re-organising and re-branding.
A message from Tom Rendon, National Co-chair
Jonathan Ledger is on leave at present and here's our first blog entry of 2013.
The Government's announcement on the Probation Service is dominating all our thoughts at present. Napo will, of course, be providing a full response to the consultation document and is working closely with other stakeholders who believe in a public, professional and accountable Probation Service. The proposals, in their current form, risk public safety and we have seen that privatization and payment by results leads to poor performance, low morale for staff and fractured services. Click here to view our campaign blog for more information.
Meanwhile, we are dismayed at the manner in which the prison closures have been announced. That some of the old prisons need closing or rebuilding is a no-brainer but the timetable for this suggests little thought has been given to the impact on the prisoners or staff working there. Napo will have members in those prisons, please contact us if you are going to be directly affected. The prospect of a titan jail raises its head once more. This is simply the wrong direction for criminal justice. Smaller, local prisons offering continued community and family ties are the most conducive to rehabilitation and reducing reoffending- another no-brainer, will the Government listen?
Tom Rendon, National Co-Chair
Not the end of the world
The build up to Christmas is not the easiest time to organise pay ratification meetings for members but Napo's branches responded superbly to the challenge of receiving the Probation pay offer in late November. The outcome can be found here http://www.napo.org.uk/about/news/news.cfm/newsid/230 . A 3:1 acceptance ratio may seem relatively clear cut but that is down from about 5:1 last year. Before that a 10:1 vote in favour was not uncommon.
Public sector workers may have their hands tied by the Government's pay freeze but that doesn't mean that they will keep enduring enforced privation. The TUC is currently consulting unions about their views on a general strike which was an option for consideration in a Congress motion passed back in September. Continued attacks on pay and conditions whilst threatening job security via cuts and privatisation are making workers, at all levels, angry. A general strike may not be the agreed outcome but the fact that it is on the agenda highlights the growing employment relations tension.
The further delayed Government response to the Probation Review leaves us waiting for confirmation of the widely flagged up 'direction of travel' http://www.justice.gov.uk/news...-revolution-next-steps . I use this term advisedly as it was a phrase I heard directly from Chris Grayling in a phone conference with probation union representatives earlier this week. As ever, we raised our concerns about the implications of widespread PbR based outsourcing, practice implications around risk and the viability of a rump Probation Service focussed on high risk work across England and Wales (amongst many other things). No real response save for an acknowledgement of the issues.
I'm pretty convinced that the MoJ is still struggling to address a wide range of concerns arising from these plans and it's possible there is some political dissension within the coalition - good to see that the Early Day Motion in praise of the Service reached 100 MP signatories this week. Whatever the reasons, the next stage in our campaign to save Probation will incorporate our response to the formal Government announcement.
Napo ends its Centenary Year in excellent shape. Whilst the number of staff employed in Cafcass and Probation is falling we have seen our overall density in the latter rise by 3% over the past year. 86% of probation officers are members of the union. This is what makes our voice so powerful and so important. Probation and family work needs Napo as much as Napo needs them (to paraphrase my speech at the centenary reception!).
Whilst it appears that the much heralded apocalyptic Mayan prophecy for this week has not been fulfilled, we all face much uncertainty as we enter 2013. Fortunately, Napo and its many friends stand ready to face the challenges with strength and determination. And no little hope.
My very best wishes for the festive season and the year ahead to all readers.
November probably isn't the best time for elections though it works well enough in the USA (thank goodness it's not President Romney!). The turnout in the PCC elections this week did little to encourage the idea that this latest CJS wheeze has either engaged or enthused the electorate http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20352539 . Given the hard time unions get about turnout in strike ballots, it must be assumed that the new PCCs turning up for work have their work cut out if they are to gain credibility with those they serve.
For the moment the PCCs will not be an issue for prisons or probation. Last week's announcement confirming that the majority of the prisons up for privatisation will stay in public ownership brought some cheer tempered by a missive the same day from the P+R Minister confirming the Government's commitment to more PbR roll out in Probation. On the prison side the re-think (temporary as it may be) is welcome and the elbowing out of G4S as predictable as it was satisfying. Word is that all the privateers are seething and it may be that the ramifications are felt in any future probation contracting.
Messages about the outcome of the Probation Review are as prolific as they are confusing. An expected detailed announcement next week is now likely to be no more than a 'direction of travel' speech by Chris Grayling on Tuesday (which I will be attending). Indeed, there are growing indications that the devilish detail may not emerge this side of Christmas. It would appear that the practice penny is finally beginning to drop as Government ideology runs into reality. Not that we can afford to be complacent. Mr Grayling is convinced that PbR is the answer even if no one actually knows the question that supposedly prompted it. The future of Probation remains uncertain and the threat of it being reduced to a 'high risk' supervision rump is real.
Thank goodness there are top people in Government getting to grips with it all.... As we contemplate the sorry mess of the PCC elections, it is a healthy reminder of why politicans should spend more time listening and rather less time interfering.
Good to welcome Restorative Justice Week from Monday http://www.mojconnect.justice....12_comms%20toolkit.pdf It's genuinely pleasing to see the MoJ showing its commitment. I like this summary of RJ from the 'toolkit':
'Restorative justice can involve victims explaining to an offender the impact of the crime on them, seeking an explanation and apology from the offender or playing a part in agreeing restorative or reparative activity for the offender.'
Maybe we should be applying this approach to the treatment of public service staff by Ministers. They have a lot of faith, and trust, to restore.
Cam cant fails us all
The collective satisfaction felt by all those who attended the magnificent March for a Future that Works last Saturday was undermined for Napo members within a couple of days by the Prime Minister's speech on Criminal Justice http://www.number10.gov.uk/new...me-and-justice-speech/ . Full of cliches and prejudice the alleged 'tough and intelligent' approach sounded more rough and unintelligible.
On the same day Chris Grayling was talking up PbR claiming that a simple 'binary' approach to evidence gathering would provide a panacea to all supervisory ills. Bluff and unbelievable it is tempting to say. The PM's rant made only one reference to Probation in a throw away slight which dismissed the hard work of staff in a casually ignorant fashion. As one experienced Probation friend put it to me, the Service is effectively being 'airbrushed' from the CJS.
The penny is dropping for many working in or on behalf of the Service. There was much public and private anger at all levels in response to the Government announcements. We are still awaiting the response to the future of 'probation services' (sic) as part of the Probation Review but it is clear that this Government is set on a course that threatens to dismantle Probation as an entity and fragment its work. Sadly, there are many ready to grab a piece of the action, some of them former friends in the voluntary sector.
Our first meeting with the Prisons and Rehabilitation (sic again) Minister went well enough this week. We had a constructive and informed discussion on a range of issues. We cannot be confident, however, that there is a real debate to be had with NOMS/MoJ or whether ideological compulsion will drive decisions regardless of knowledge, evidence and reality. For an intelligent and insightful analysis of this point it's worth reading Richard Garside's take on the comminity sentence review this week http://www.worksforfreedom.org...as-long-as-theyre-ours .
Napo has kicked off its parliamentary briefings and lobbying this week ahead of the further progress of the Crime and Courts Bill. I have had some very good discussions with a range of colleagues all committed to the future of the Probation Service. I have made the call before but don't apologise for repeating myself. We need a broad alliance now of all those who believe in the Service and are willing to stand up for it.
In last week's blog I argued that Probation is approaching a crossroads. On Twitter someone suggested a precipice might be more accurate. Either way, we have to take control of our destiny - or have it dictated for us.
Taking the right path
I am currently reading Paul Mason's excellent book 'Why it's kicking off everywhere' http://www.guardian.co.uk/book...here-paul-mason-review and by happenstance have just reached the point where he analyses 2011's March for the Alternative. It may be the case that protest movements across the world have been less prominent in recent months but it is clear that global action has not happened by accident.
Good to read weather reports that suggest the rain falling on London today will clear overnight ahead of tomorrow's TUC March for a future that works. We have dusted off the megaphones, beefed up our supplies of Napo flags and issued our final bulletin to members (see the attachment). We are expecting several hundred Napo members to join thousands of trade unionists, community activists, families and friends making their feelings clear about this Government's austerity measures and treatment of the poor and disadvantaged.
This March may not be quite as big as last year's gathering (many people will be going to comparable events in Glasgow and Belfast) but it will still reflect the views of millions of people across the UK. There is a fight going on for the heart and soul of our nation and good people doing nothing simply won't cut it.
Napo has its first meeting with the new Probation Minister on Monday. Had a reply to my letter about his title which was friendly enough but made a justification which failed to convince. Rumours abound about MoJ plans for wholesale PbR roll out and greater cuts than originally planned. Probation is approaching a crossroads, it seems to me, and voluntary organisations, Trusts and many individuals will be faced with a significant choice: bow to the new orthodoxy or resist and hold on to the principles that caused the Probation Service to be created in the first place.
I know what I think is the right and decent thing to do. And I will be joining thousands of others tomorrow who feel exactly the same.
Edited: 20/10/2012 at 05:52 PM by jonathanledger
Private eye, public face
I had some fun at the CJS fringe at the Tory conference in Birmingham on Monday referencing a couple of recent media reports. The latest edition of Private Eye described me, along with POA and Police Fed colleagues, as being 'heavies from the law and order mob' who 'worked over' Lord McNally at the Lib Dems conference! Added to that was the Morning Star's headline last Friday that Napo had declared war on the coalition. The assembled delegates shifted nervously in their seats.
The declaration I made related to our campaign against privatisation launched at our Centenary AGM. The discussion at the fringe was constructive, as with all the meetings we have held, but the absence of a member of the Government MoJ team was disappointing. Mr Grayling did make it to a Prison Reform Trust fringe that same day where he flagged up his intention to roll out Payment by Results projects across the Service without need for the two Trust pilots which have been paused this past week.
This was, of course, one of the key announcements in his speech to the Tory faithful on Tuesday http://www.cpc12.org.uk/Speeches/Chris_Grayling.aspx . What a strange speech it was with its tough talk wrapped around some sensible observations about the background and difficulties faced by those who commit offences. However, the absence, yet again, of any reference to Probation was both telling and worrying. The speech gave the impression that no effective work is currently going on in the community and that there is a desert of delivery just waiting to be irrigated.
If only he had attended our Centenary Conference in Torquay Mr Grayling would have been better informed. What a success the AGM was. Napo did itself proud as we celebrated our history of achievements and looked forward with determination to the future. Over 500 letters were signed and sent to MPs setting out our opposition to privatisation. You can get a flavour of the event on the AGM Blog http://www.napo.org.uk/about/agmblog2012.cfm and on Twitter at #NapoAGM12. Our guests and speakers were full of praise for the event and members in both Probation and the Family Courts left Torquay empowered and united.
Next up is the Future that Works March on the 20th October http://afuturethatworks.org/ . All that has been said and threatened by Mr Cameron and his colleagues this week, impacting on every aspect of our lives, makes this march and demonstration ever more important.
I started the week at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton speaking at a fringe on the future of the CJS. On the platform with me were Steve Gillan, GS of the POA, Paul McKeever, Chair of the Police Federation, and representing the Government, Lord McNally.
It was encouraging to share so much common ground with police and prison colleagues as we expressed our dismay about the cuts and privatisation and their impact on practice across the CJS. Lord McNally did his best but there was little he could say, especially in the context of the political shift at the MoJ, which was encouraging. I was pleased, however, to hear supportive comments from the party members present. One council leader spoke positively about the new restorative justice scheme established in his area.
Meanwhile, we wait for the new ministerial team to find some equilibrium. There was something predictable about this headline http://www.justice.gov.uk/news...s#.UGNmobvEH78.twitter . The actual story is a reasonably positive one about unpaid work in the West Midlands which makes you wonder why the hook has to churn out the usual 'increasing public confidence' line. Probation has spent so many years being called on to increase others confidence it's a wonder we haven't got our own self help TV series. Still, at least Mr Wright was referred to as the Probation Minister. NOMS is aware of disquiet across the Service about the title change and the tiniest of diminutive birds is suggesting common sense may prevail.
The Justice Secretary has apparently pulled back on the Crime and Courts Bill delaying its progress for a few months http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19713944 . Sadly, this seems to reflect his desire to refocus on tougher sentencing and a harsher prison environment. More than one commentator has postulated that the likely consequence is a greater emphasis on privatisation to make savings in the face of increasing prison costs. Utter madness.
The BBC story also references the Policy Exchange report on tagging. The criticisms of private sector provision are timely but a challenge is laid down. Could this be an area in which Probation can claw in some work? We are all rightly sceptical about the impact of electronic monitoring but public sector ownership would enable some much needed values to be instilled. Those who attended the workshop about EM in Sweden at the York Conference in July will be aware of the positive model developed there. This is a debate which we might need to have both in the Service and Napo.
Will be a busy few days building up to our Centenary AGM. Much of my weekend will be given up to speech writing. Good to confirm that Anthony Douglas, Chief Executive of Cafcass, will be joining the Family Court Section professional meeting. No representative from Government, regrettably, at either Section's meetings but we will hear from the Labour Party on CJS in the shape of Sadiq Khan.
For those on Twitter you can follow all the action and reaction at #NapoAGM12.
What's in a name?
I started my blog last week considering the Hillsborough report which reflected badly on the police involved. By contrast, the mounting pressure http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19675297 on Chief Whip, Andrew Mitchell, following his alleged outburst at a bobby on duty at Downing Street is hardly surprising in the week in which two police women tragically lost their lives whilst on duty. Whilst I profoundly disagree with the Police Federation's call for a return of the death penalty for those who kill police officers on duty, we all understand the grief of their colleagues and loved ones.
The police are public servants doing a tough and, at times, dangerous job. They have a right to be treated with respect and courtesy by the politicians with responsibility for their work. As do all those working on behalf of our communities. Which brings me to the discovery this week that Probation's new Minister is to no longer bear its name in his title. Jeremy Wright is to be known as the Prisons and Rehabilitation Minister with Probation relegated to a bullet point in his responsibilities. It would appear to be a signal of intent from the new MoJ regime.
Don't get me wrong I have no problem with the term 'rehabilitation', and it is rightly applied to the work of the Service, but its use here raises many issues. Obviously, the absence of its name insults the Probation Service and all those who work for it by reducing its status - no matter its proud history of changing lives and protecting the public. Additionally, it suggests that the Prison Service has no role to play in rehabilitation which is frankly nonsense. Indeed, it is this type of limited thinking that has created so many problems for us in the past. Prisoners are released back into the community and they should be prepared and helped towards release not simply detained. We have been talking for years about having a joined up CJS - the message from this retitling is that this has been discarded and forgotten. The new tone was set earlier in the week, of course, by the Justice Secretary http://www.guardian.co.uk/poli...g-take-hardline-prison .
One other thing about this change. We have been served notice that the Probation Service is no longer centre stage in the provision of community supervision. That message is not new but this change reinforces it in no uncertain terms. Time for all good people in the Service to stand up and be counted. Forget about strategic alliances, mergers and teaming agreements. Speak out for Probation whichever way we can.
We lost an old friend this week in Napo. Charles Preece passed away at the ripe old age of 91 working for the benefit of others right up until the end. Charles was a familiar sight at Napo AGM and other conferences. I have attached a lovely picture of him with some of us at our Centenary Reception back in May. Charles understood the value and importance of the Probation Service and he exemplified its humanity and altruism.
I was back in Belfast this week for the Branch's AGM. As always, I was reminded of how well staff and the Board have done in preserving much of what might be described as the old ways of Probation. Community Service is still just that in NI and the idea of privatising the work a very distant threat. The social work link has been maintained and the focus remains strong on quality contact time between officer and supervisee. As a colleague very eloquently put it to me having recently visited the PBNI, it has the feel of Paradise Lost.
We should put our efforts to regaining the paradise that Northern Ireland colleagues have worked so hard to both achieve and preserve.
Edited: 21/09/2012 at 10:41 PM by jonathanledger
Sorry seems to be the hardest word
Probation and family work have the hope of change (redemption even) and forgiveness at their core. The religious and secular roots of the principles to which Napo members work run deep and a fundamentally optimistic view of people is key to the vocation that drives the professions.
I was reminded of this when watching the response to the shocking (if not entirely surprising) report into the Hillsborough tragedy http://hillsborough.independen.../report/HIP_report.pdf . Since it was published yesterday there has been a stampede of people and organisations rushing to apologise and, in some cases, point the finger of responsibility elsewhere. In order to be forgiven and to change, of course, there has to be remorse and acceptance. That it has taken 23 years for this to take place is shameful. The victims' families have set an example to us all as they have endured their grief whilst fighting for justice.
I have spent the last few days in Brighton at the TUC Congress. The sun shone throughtout but, predictably, the media focus was mostly negative. The greatest coverage was given to the POA motion calling for consideration of a general strike - note the qualification. It was passed comfortably following a really good debate on all sides of the argument. Napo supported it not because we anticipate a general strike taking place anytime soon but because we felt the principle was right. The treatment of workers by the Government is shameful. As ever we heard powerful speeches from international comrades from oppressed countries like Colombia and passed an emrgency motion condemning the appalling massacre of striking miners in South Africa http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-19551715 . We may not suffer as they do but we should not take our hard fought rights for granted. There are plenty on the right (and in the soft centre for that matter) who would happily remove them.
The Morning Star, always a great supporter of trade unions and Congress, published a shortened version of my speech proposing Napo's motion on LASPO http://www.morningstaronline.c...ntent/view/full/123747 . It was passed as was our motion about the privatisation threat to probation which was ably presented by Napo's Chair, Tim Wilson. On a personal note I met briefly with Aleida Guevara, Che's daughter, which was a thrilling moment. She is a tremendous political activist (and medical Doctor) in her own right and rather humbly comments that her revered status is based on a genetic accident! I hope to see her again when I speak at next week's Cuba Solidarity Campaign vigil in support of the Miami 5 http://www.cuba-solidarity.org.uk/ .
I am still reflecting on last week's reshuffle. The changes, as with the rest of the Government team, appeared to signal a move to the right but it is too early to assess how this might impact on justice issues. Suffice to say that it appears unlikely that common sense will prevail in relation to the privatisation agenda. Fair play to the new Minister who made me an early call of introduction. I find it difficult to get too excited about Ken Clarke's departure. He is portrayed as a moderate voice in the Conservative party but hardly showed any interest in probation during his time in office. I do have kind words to say about Crispin Blunt, however. He came into the job with very little knowledge of the Service but I found him engaging, interested and prepared to listen. There was much about which we disagreed but I did feel he was someone we could do business with.
I have realised that it is time to start getting my head around the Police and Crime Commissioners given the approaching elections. I have been sceptical about their relevance to crime in general and probation in particular and the debacles surrounding many of the selection processes has only served to reinforce that view. But the indicators are that the Home Office is determined to broaden their brief our way so the political make up of the commissioners could be significant. I just can't shake off the feeling that this is one of those ideas whose time will quickly pass.
Edited: 16/09/2012 at 06:45 PM by jonathanledger
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