With Ian away on annual leave I’m filling in for his blog with a quick overview of some issues we’re engaged with nationally and an invitation to all Napo members to join a big conversations on professional issues, informing issues that will have a huge impact for all of us.
National discussions about pay reform across probation has restarted, after stalling for a few months due to the NPS team being swamped by day-to-day pay and reward breakdowns. A strengthened NPS team are now picking up where we left off and the aim remains to have something that we can discuss in detail with members ready in the early Autumn.
The importance of the timescale has been amplified in the restarted talks. Pay reform is one of two critical pillars needing to be in place to provide firmer foundations for however probation is structured in the future. The other critical pillar is a national professional skills, knowledge and development framework for all staff. These two are also interconnected as a sustainable pay system must reflect what people are and need to do; and reward them at appropriate, competitive levels. Napo’s claim recognises and highlights this link.
The urgency to address the broken probation pay system and help stabilise things is increasingly evident on numerous fronts –
- MoJ can’t credibly push on with prison reform plans that require probation teams to have a more leading role in custodial settings, whilst there is a likelihood that prison staff are earning more than the probation staff who are expected to mentor, train and even manage them;
- uncompetitive pay rates are one of the factors undermining the NPS recruitment drives;
- the outcomes and costs of the Probation Services Review can’t be finalised until the going rate for staff is settled, as CRCs will be uncompetitive and doomed if the contract price isn’t adjusted to allow them to compete for experienced staff;
- and these instabilities make it more likely that a CRC fails an inspection or decides to walk away from a contract - with the NPS, still struggling with E3 delivery on the ground and PAYE processing failures and therefore in no position to take any area back-in, even for a short term crisis.
In the meantime, we have had one breakthrough this week. At the National Trade Union Engagement meeting on Wednesday, Yvonne Pattison and I secured agreement from the NPS to issue a joint-statement recognising the scale of the PAYE and SSCL problems in recent months and setting out clearly how staff and managers can make sure problems are being addressed with increased NPS HR input and accountability. We hope this can be finalised and issued next week.
Join the Professional Conversation
I’m in the middle of what feels like a National Tour of Napo Branches during the AGM season. It is always a great opportunity to get out and meet members across the country face to face, and say more about Napo’s plans and visions whilst listening to the realities and priorities in workplaces.
Napo is unique in that we have at our heart the principle of direct member involvement and engagement, underpinned by our Plutocratic structures, constitution and AGM set up. In truth though, we’ve recognised that at least since the TR War broke out, we’ve not been making the most of our potential to facilitate and lead professional discussion across probation.
The need for us to do so is greater than ever before – not just in terms of Napo needing to know and reflect members’ feelings, priorities and ideas on critical professional issues across the more complex post-TR environment, but because the complexities, complications and uncertainties in the new environment means the everyone from the HMI Probation to Ministers to CRC owners and Prison Governors are desperately in need of our input to know what works. We are their only organised, credible collective source of knowledge.
This means we have a great opportunity to really influence the shape and content of the big debates that are and will be happening across probation – pay; training; professional standard and role boundaries, and professional pathways; management numbers, support, development; professional development and accountability.
We can’t do this in isolation from Napo HQ. To do this effectively we need to make sure as many members (and potential members who haven’t yet joined) are directly involved and telling us what you think.
Napo is current consulting through the National Executive Committee (NEC) about a strategy with proposals that review how we support branches, talk and engage with members and pretty much everything we do. With what our members do and how you work having changed so much Napo has to consider how we change and adapt, but in ways that are anchored to and strengthen our values. The paper is called, ‘Pride in Napo – A Strategy for Growth’. You can get a copy from your local NEC Rep, BEC members or by asking for a copy from Napo HQ (info@Napo.org.uk). Branches will also be looking at how they can broaden the professional conversation locally. Let us know what your priorities are and what you think.
And Finally – STAY POSITIVE
One of the most consistent themes in all recent Inspection reports and feedback from employers across the NPS and CRCs, is a growing recognition that it is only probation staff’s commitment, dedication and determination that is stopping the service from collapsing.
The crisis is evident and obvious. Napo is, locally and nationally, challenging on numerous fronts to address people’s fears and help stabilise things. But we must also draw upon this commitment, dedication and determination. However difficult things are probation is still vital, important work that deserves to be celebrated and rewarded. If we aren’t celebrating and shouting about the importance of probation then no-one else will be either. Napo needs to be a positive champion for probation and everyone involved in delivering it. Part of our strategy is looking at ways of bringing ‘being proud of probation’ to the fore of our campaigning, messaging and activity, with the P in Pride in Napo standing for Positive. You can help us now, locally just by telling colleagues who may not be in Napo what we’re doing, what our ambitions are and by inviting them to add their voice in championing probation.
Thanks for taking the time to read this,
Assistant General Secretary