News broke earlier today that the long awaited £3.5 million Female Offender Community Investments Fund competition is being launched as part of the MoJ Female Offender Strategy. The media release from the Ministry claims that this is a new programme of work to improve outcomes for female offenders and make society safer by tackling the underlying causes of offending.
Cynics may claim, having had a good look at the full report that the strategy sets out a fairly basic objective that custody should be a last resort, reserved for the most serious offences. Where we can be hopeful is around the welcome assertion that women should be given the support they need to address their offending behaviour in community settings. It’s what several generations of our members have been saying of course, and those in the service now will testify to the benefits of early intervention if any government is serious about reducing the number of women entering the justice system.
The report is a good read in the sense that Sonia Crozier in her role as the senior leader with responsibility for the female prison and probation estate is clearly having an influence on Government thinking. I am sure that Napo members will want us to offer expert insights into what is required to help deliver some important objectives going forward such as:
- empowering local areas to build on the early success of models such as the multi-agency whole system approach (WSA), to meet the needs of female offenders and women at risk of offending
- a greater focus on partnership working, with a joined-up approach across government at a national level and between agencies and services at a local level to deliver a holistic response
- an evidence-based approach to what works, and pilots (ah yes, pilots) to test potential solutions and to ensure scalability
These are prime professional issues where our members can offer vital opinions, and in that regard I can only endorse our plea for members to step up and consider becoming a member of Napo’s Professional Committee.
I will report on developments centrally once we have had an opportunity to receive a detailed presentation from senior HMPPS leaders.
A useful report has been issued by AGS Dean Rogers for those members affected by the ongoing saga about reduced notice pay where someone has been dismissed on half or zero pay, and relevant additional compensation for loss of earnings in cases where an application for Ill Health Early Retirement has taken so long that someone has lost pay. The cases concerned will fall into either or both of these categories.
To recap, Napo registered a formal dispute with the NPS in March about their collective failures in these areas. They took until June to respond and organise any meetings. Once we eventually got round the table the dialogue was helpful and constructive. We also discussed the processes around progressing IHER claims where there have been some pretty awful breakdowns in communication and have since seen new plans put into place, including dedicated staffing and improved HR support for managers, which should minimise the risks going forward for other staff.
If you have a case in one or both of these categories, then pursuing it will be at no cost to yourselves. Dean says that we do not anticipate members having to attend court (though I am sure some people would just love the opportunity). You will continue to be closely informed about developments and consulted further if there is a change in strategy.
Unfortunately, the discussions about addressing the compensation and PILON issues did not progress well. Indeed, the NPS position has seemingly become more entrenched. On this basis we are now in consultation with our legal advisers about our strategy from here and again Napo will be in touch with individual members about the steps they may be asked to take.
Meanwhile we have asked the members involved to let us have some important specific information, and it would be especially helpful if you can get this back to us at the earliest opportunity.
Serious concern and anger has arisen following the instruction last week about the sinisterly titled HMPPS Exclusion List. This strategy has apparently been designed (note: without the agreement of the unions) to prevent individuals dismissed or excluded from one business unit within HMPPS being appointed elsewhere in the organisation.
So, according to the missive from HMPPS, if someone is dismissed or excluded from any part of HMPPS (including from a CRC), their name will be added to the list. This, we are told is because they are considered to present a safety and/or security risk. What follows is an extract from the instruction, but I expect it will raise your temperature even higher in these hot afternoons we are experiencing.
"This covers both directly employed staff and non-directly employed workers barred from working in:
HMPPS – prisons and probation
Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and it includes both contracted and agency personnel.
All cases where an agency worker’s contract is terminated due to safety and/or security concerns are also recorded.
Anyone added to the list must be told the reason why, and the length of an exclusion and dismissal cases relating to performance management or capability issues (which do not pose an underlying safety and security risk) are not recorded on the list."
We will be raising some obvious questions at this week’s Trade Union Engagement meeting, the first will be that this looks to be tantamount to an HMPPS blacklist
Someone high up the MoJ "food chain" needs to convince us to the contrary, and quickly.