Cafcass members help to engineer victory in the lords

One of the last actions from our enlivening AGM in Wales was the debate around the emergency motion that alerted conference to the fact that Clause 29 of the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill, published the week before in committee, would give powers to exempt local Councils from their current legal duties affecting all social care services for children.

This possibility would have exposed a range of areas, including Child Protection, family support, the ‘leaving care’ services and services for disabled children to the vagaries of a “postcode lottery” for the provision of these critical protections.

The Family Court Section’s EM instructed Napo to join forces with the ‘Together for Children’ campaign to oppose Clause 29. On returning from Wales Jay Barlow (National Vice-Chair for the Family Court Section) found she had already been contacted by the co-ordinator of the campaign, Carolyne Willow, who had heard about the emergency motion. As you would expect Napo joined ‘Together for Children’ on the same day.


Jay tells us that: ‘More than 105,000 concerned people signed the petition set up by Carolyne on the 38 Degrees website.  On 8th November this petition was heard by the House of Lords and the ‘leave out’ clause 29 amendment was passed by 245 votes to 213, a rare Government defeat by 32 votes. This is a fabulous example of what can be achieved when we pull together with other campaigners and it’s a profoundly important outcome for the children that our members work so hard to protect in both Cafcass and Probation.’

As is often the way, it’s an important result but not a full victory yet, and hopefully we won’t see Clause 29 back again at the third reading scheduled for November 23rd. meanwhile three big cheers for the Family Court Section please?

Drugs, Drones, Phones, Mannequins and Diamond Cutters too

As you would expect we sent over a message of solidarity to protesting Prison Officers this week who understandably decided that enough was enough in terms of getting someone to take their issues seriously.

Their willingness to ‘walk off the job’ when it becomes absolutely intolerable (despite the ban on industrial action) is both brave and commendable, although the injunction awarding judges obviously don’t agree. Anyway, it certainly meant that they got some valuable airtime as floundering Ministers struggled to get the governments supposed solutions across.

Naturally the action has sparked the usual wave of hysterical analysis by the likes of the Daily Mail and Express whose front pages are full of rump stake and video games exposes’.

In the real world these are the exceptions rather than the norm of course, and its drug fuelled unrest and the perpetual threat of and actual violence that are the issues regularly being faced by prison staff and service users within a system that has been left to crumble to absolute  breaking point by successive governments. The picture has been embellished by some recent escapes under bizarre circumstances including, as was first reported, the clever use of mannequins placed in the absentees beds. This led to a number of colleagues with experience of the HMP body search regime to seriously question how that might actually be physically possible? Now we know that part of the case was pure fabrication (sorry), there is a more pertinent issue as to how diamond cutters became part of the plan?  

Of course the absence of a structured approach to the rehabilitation question has fuelled the debate and it’s good to see any number of politicians belatedly hoisting their petards to that mast.

In terms of the obvious solutions of having less prisoners in prisons and more work with people best qualified to stop them returning there, I wonder if Chris Grayling ever stops to ponder how his flagship ‘through the gate’ policy has so quickly become a woeful cropper. His much vaunted boast that it was: ‘not good enough that short term offenders received £46 and no support.’ Looks a bit vacuous does it not?  Although perhaps that’s a bit unfair, as these days it’s typically £46 (depending on length of sentence) and a leaflet.

The spiral of despair and recidivism shows no sign of abating any time soon.

David Lammy issues his emerging findings

I have previously reported that Napo has met with the review team looking into racial bias in the criminal justice system, and if Liz Truss and Sam Gyimah didn’t have enough on their plate then David Lammy’s interim report would have done nothing at all to cheer them up.

The conclusions so far back up our and many others assertions that people of BAME origin are far more likely to receive harsher and or disproportionate treatment from the criminal justice institutions.

David will now be seeking to drill deeper into the reason for this and we are at the stage where our members can be of assistance in terms of feeding in their personal views or experiences as to why this is happening.

Send me any comments to marked Lammy Review please ideally by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, here are some statistics which pretty much speak for themselves

Research and analysis: Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales

Official Statistics: Associations between ethnic background and being sentenced to prison in the Crown Court in England and Wales in 2015


Why Donald should duck

So, the whole hideous cartoon show is now over and a new American President-Elect awaits inauguration (despite coming second in the popularity stakes by anything between 1 and 2 million votes).

It’s the USA; it’s their democracy and their business, but a few things shone through afterwards that cheered me up no end. First was the pathetic sight of a so called non-politician changing colour more times than a chameleon when challenged on how we was going to deliver on his hate fuelled rhetoric as if he had never said that he would make the Mexicans pay for a wall, ban Muslims from entering the country and that he didn’t really want to unleash a state prosecutor on (‘that crooked’) Hillary Clinton after all, as she was a ‘good person.’

Second came the dignified way in which Hillary and Barack Obama talked about the need for unity in the face of electoral defeat.

But Donald should remember that his disgusting misogyny has managed to stir up a considerable amount of resentment against him, especially amongst the majority of the American female population. I reckon it will rebound on him in the long term.

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General Secretary's Blog