In terms of media coverage, the lead stories on BBC and Sky news on Saturday following Rory Stewart's suggestion that under six-month sentences could be a thing of the past, was a huge boost for our campaigns.
It’s the lot of a General Secretary to try and be available for media opportunities at some unearthly times, but receiving a call from the BBC whilst out shopping in dress down Saturday mode with 30 minutes notice of a Taxi, was a test in itself. Worse followed with said taxi being involved in a fortunately minor (and injury free) traffic accident on route. Anyway, having made the 4:00pm TV and Radio interviews at Broadcasting House by the skin of my teeth, I hope that my contributions helped give probation and the role of our members some significant profile at a very handy time.
Here is the link to the BBC news feature https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46852559
The key question from commentators was whether, if the plan came about, Probation would be ready to cope? It’s something that our members have proposed for years and if politicians have the courage to see it through, then it might just be a catalyst to help put the service back together again. The significant savings that would be realised could be reinvested into a range of activities and fund harmonised pay for our CRC members.
As you would expect, this issue will get top billing on our agenda for the meeting with the Secretary of State later this month.
Napo delivering our mandate to protect members in SFO cases
It was quite a weekend media wise, with a major article in the Observer focusing on the statistics showing a rise in Serious Further Offences over the last two years.
It put Grayling’s disastrous and divisive reforms under the spotlight yet again, and highlighted the correlation between these depressing statistics and the workloads of practitioners (in the NPS and CRC estate) which have gone through the roof since Transforming Rehabilitation was implemented. Read the Observer here.
Our members who have been involved in a SFO review often tell me how difficult it is to cope with the process and the conclusions arising from it. Over the last 12 months we have assisted a substantial number of members in the subsequent disciplinary proceedings that have been instigated.
I have written before about our zero tolerance policy against the ‘scapegoating’ of staff following the mandate that we were given at AGM 2018 which the Officer Group and HQ Team are actively pursuing. In response to what is now becoming a regular occurrence, we are currently providing assistance to several members who have been called to give evidence at Inquests, where the Coroner and the families of victims are understandably demanding answers to some uncomfortable questions. We are not prepared to see our members hung out to dry while those responsible for creating a fragmented service run to the hills.
One question that ought be asked is: why did so many senior people in the higher echelons of the former NOMS and MoJ testify in evidence to the High Court that TR would not have a significant impact on public safety? This despite the conclusions to the contrary in their own unpublished risk assessments.
Probation Alliance seeks supporters
As was also reported in that Observer piece. Napo and the probation unions have joined forces with a number of organisations who share our view that the plan to re-marketise probation should be halted.
The letter below suggests that, among other things, the timeframe for the award of new probation contracts is simply unrealistic (a view shared by a number of senior CRC managers whom I have been in touch with recently) and that there are considerable risks in pushing through a procurement exercise that will merely repeat the mistakes of the past. All the stakeholders to this correspondence are unanimous in their belief that whatever the future holds for the service, it must be returned to public ownership. Its another timely reminder to Ministers that I hope they will consider carefully.
Brexit deal still falls short on workers’ rights, says TUC
News that Theresa May contacted leaders of Britains largest trade unions last week to seek their support for the claimed breakthrough on the protection of worker’s rights, took the biscuit big time.
Given that the Prime Minister and the Tories have adopted positions about trade unions which have veered from indifference to sheer contempt, I had to blink twice when reading the media reports of an ‘offer’ to give extra protections to worker’s rights in order to win support for the withdrawal agreement which as I write looks destined to be hugely defeated tonight.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has written to all affiliates saying: “This amendment makes no change to a bad deal for working people, their jobs and rights.
We’ve been clear that what working people need is a long-term, binding guarantee that their rights will keep pace with those across Europe. This doesn’t deliver that. It doesn't even provide an adequate guarantee for the rights we already have.
And since the political declaration isn’t legally binding, there’s nothing to stop a future government from ignoring it altogether.
The prime minister has talked a big game on workers’ rights all along, but once again the reality falls short.”