Following a spate of suspensions of staff in premises across the North West NPS Division in connection with a new policy on the handling of medication, Dean Rogers and myself went to see Sonia Crozier last week. Here we expressed our serious concerns at the apparent inconsistency and confusion surrounding the introduction of the policy and the lack of progress in talks between divisional union reps and management. As so often is the case our manager members are also being put under pressure along with everyone else, and this situation needs sorting.
I have also written to Sonia seeking her urgent intervention, pointing out that Napo will take protective measures if a solution to the difficulties is not found quickly. Aside from the individual issues the whole episode suggests that a root and branch national review of medication handling is required. Napo is seeking this as a matter of urgency and has said that this must be informed by the relevant legal and medical experts so that risk to clients and staff can be minimised.
Members concerned about their situation should get in touch with their Napo Branch who, if necessary, will liaise with National Vice-Chair Katie Lomas or myself.
That dreadful attendance management policy
The reply from Michael Spurr to Napo's objections about the implementation of this woefully ill-considered policy is reproduced below. I would be less than honest if I didn't say that the letter was well short of the standards expected from Michael, so maybe it got past his inbox on an especially busy day.
You and I could write an essay about the draconian and downright inept construction of this policy which for the record (again) was never agreed and was never the subject of any meaningful negotiation. In my view the decision by Michael Spurr to push it through in NOMS is a clear example of a failure to bat robustly for the team, and even if he was unable to face down the Minister, why was it issued in the absence of coherent instructions to managers? Many of those managers have contacted Napo to say how helpless they feel given the earlier directive not to use discretion, which now seems to have been subsequently countermanded. Confusion abounds.
Our own efforts to try and make some sense out of this senselessness has been hindered by the huge delay in actually receiving the 18 sets of official guidance that were eventually issued to managers and staff, and which I am told are somewhere to be found on the NOMS Intranet and/or MyServices. We are now ploughing our way through these to try and get our own interpretation out to you but as 'dogs dinners' go this is one of the biggest that I have seen served in quite a while
A summary of the anger out there is best reflected as follows:
In addition to the change in trigger points the removal of exemptions re serious underlying medical conditions and disability absences is contradictory to the supposed concept of NOMS. Also, as an equal opportunity employer, how can NOMS justify what has an obvious impact on staff with a disability, women of a certain age and staff from BAME backgrounds, as well as everyone else.
Using sanctions against staff under the disciplinary policies after a 12 month period following the lifting of a formal warning effectively means that members dare not be sick within a minimum of 15 months after an absence that triggers the process. Hardly a caring approach is it?
Advice to members and managers
While we work on detailed guidance I am aware of the additional pressures being placed on our local reps who are trying hard to help members. We are also waiting on news of a joint event for trade union and divisional NPS leads to try and establish some dialogue and I am grateful to Jude Gray for trying to get this underway hopefully soon. Meanwhile the policy and guidance should be followed and reps and manager members should take particular note of the most helpful section in the letter from Michael Spurr which reinforces that Managers absolutely have discretion when it comes to issuing warnings and they should use this when they can properly explain their decision making. This coming from the director of NOMS/HMPPS can be used to challenge any local misinterpretations of the policy.
Reps and managers should ensure that they read both the policy (contained in the PI on the intranet) and the raft of guidance for staff (in the “working here – being away from work” section of My Services and for managers in the “I need to manage” section of My Services). Napo will be issuing more advice and guidance for both reps and manager members soon but in the meantime please make sure that you contact national link officers and officials if any verbal instructions are being given that prevent managers from using their discretion in issuing warnings.
Cafcass Work in numbers, no let up in pressure
Latest figures reported by Cafcass indicate that in January 2017, Cafcass received a total of 1,119 care applications. This represents a 7% increase compared with those cases received in January 2016.
In January 2017, Cafcass received a total of 3,356 new private law cases. This is a 17% increase on January 2016 levels.
The Governments 'more for less' policy is bursting at the seams. While that's no surprise to any public sector worker who, despite massive cuts to staffing and funding, should in the opinion of most of the 'red top' media, simply work harder? So that is even more reason for FCS Members to have a good look at Napo's 3Cs workload campaign
I will be heading up to Manchester next week for the retake of the Family Court Sections AGM from last year.
Thursday 9 March
People's History Museum
Manchester M3 3ER
I hope to see as many as possible of our Cafcass Napo members (and prospective members).
Rats spotted in Working Links premises
No laughing matter if that happens to be your workplace, and following the detection of said rodents in yet another of Working Links unfit for purpose buildings, I am in receipt of speculative suggestions that the austerity regime introduced by Aurelius/Working Links (WL) means that funding for office Cats has been severely pared back.
Truth is that WL have much bigger problems to worry about with increasing media interest in the SFO situation across their three CRCs, ongoing discussions with the MoJ over their funding and a long running dispute with the unions over their staff reduction programme and an operational model that we believe is unfit for purpose.
Perhaps we can add pest control to the long list of issues that need a resolution?
International Women's day
Is next Wednesday 8th March, and Katie Lomas and Sarah Friday have written out to Branches to encourage lunchtime gatherings of members with photo ops to highlight the disgraceful scenario in which NOMS are seeking to only implement the long outstanding Maternity policy in return for some other considerably detrimental policies, annual leave reduction being one.
We have made it inescapably clear that this is unacceptable. The fact is that members were mis-sold the 2008 pay deal by NOMS on the basis of giving up leave for faster pay progression and we all know how that fell foul of the coalition inspired pay freeze of 2010 which has continued up to now. This is one of those 'lines in the sand' that emerges from time to time, and which I would be pretty confident of securing an industrial action mandate on from members.
So lets get out in force on Wednesday and show what we think of this disingenuous tactic. Napo agreed the maternity policy ages ago and we say that it must be implemented as a 'stand alone' independent of anything else.