It was great news to see the initiative by the Guardian this week in seeking the views of the public as to their opinions on the current state of the probation service. We constantly send them our media releases and other information and it was good to see that they feel it’s an important enough subject to add to their online survey features.
We have separately mailed the link out to members to try and give it maximum promotion, and it is hoped that it can be recycled via social media links to wherever and whomever you can.
Meanwhile, we await more news from the Probation System Review which is taking an in depth look at the state of play in terms of operational performance within the CRC estate. At this stage it’s just speculation about what may emerge from the review but it seems likely that it will, like all these things, need to go through a number of hoops including final Ministerial sign off before we see something tangible appear in the public arena.
It’s an easy guess to say that it will have to start to address the lamentable track record of ‘Through the Gate’ provision; and the fact that the project managers were asked to obtain additional data to better inform their interim report to Sam Gyimah is significant, in that it looks as if the issue about the payment mechanisms being out of kilter with actual activity has been taken seriously at last.
But It’s doubtful that this will result in a miraculous cash injection for the CRCs, although it might mean them being asked to do things differently and maybe free up the availability of some of the resources that have already been set aside for payment by results which was not due to kick in until late 2017.
We will monitor progress and report further when we can.
I was at the House of Lords yesterday afternoon for a reception organised by the POA on safety in Prisons and hosted by the indefatigable Lord David Ramsbotham, who continues to be the scourge of officialdom, and who I had the pleasure of renewing acquaintance with at a keynote legal seminar on probation that I addressed alongside him just over a week ago.
It was clear after having spoken to a number of cross party politicians, members of the Justice Select Committee and the new Labour Shadow Secretary for Justice Yasmin Qureshi, that they have a pretty dim view of the great Transforming Rehabilitation experiment. We will be using all avenues to keep up the pressure against this background, and just a few minutes spent in completing the Guardian survey and/or contacting your constituency M.P. will certainly not be wasted.
Napo meets with Sir Oliver Heald QC
A really positive introductory meeting yesterday with the Rt. Honourable Member for Hertford North who happens to be the Minister of State for Courts and Justice which incorporates Cafcass.
Our delegation, which also included: Dean Rogers, National Vice-Chair Jay Barlow, and Family Court Section Chair Olivia Fitch, thought it was a highly productive session. Here Sir Oliver demonstrated a real grasp of the key issues and massive operational pressures being faced by our Cafcass members across public and private law cases where the system has not been designed to cope with increases in caseloads of the order of 24%. Encouragingly, he also acknowledged the need to replicate best practice, especially around dispute resolution and the interface with Litigants in Person which show no sign of decreasing.
He was also left in no doubt about the commitment and knowledge that our expert practitioner members offer to society, after some excellent contributions from Jay and Olivia about the realities at the front face of the business and we hope that the Minister will take up the invitation to visit our members in a couple of locations very soon to see that for himself.
A good start but, as always, we await some positive outcomes down the line.
Your NEC is back in business
A really positive and quorate meeting of Napo’s National Executive Committee took place earlier this week, where consideration was given to a host of big ticket issues including the sale (subject to contract) of Chivalry Road, our temporary relocation to new premises at nearby Falcon Road, Napo’s estimated budget for 2017, our developing recruitment strategy and a range of negotiating issues such as the future of the NNC, pay system reform, our operational plan for next year and the development of a strategy with other stakeholders to secure a Licence to Practice for Probation practitioners.
The NEC asked that I arrange to issue a more detailed note of what was discussed and I will be happy to do as soon as current pressures allow.
It is well worth mentioning how appreciative the Officers and Officials were of the collectivism and support shown by the NEC, and the seriousness with which they treated these and other issues.
It portends well, and it was another demonstration of the synergy and enthusiasm that has continued since we all came away from that fabulous AGM in Cardiff.
Carolyn Mack attended her very last meeting of the Napo Steering Committee today, where I was able to join with her colleagues in offering her a well-deserved tribute for her continuous and distinguished service on the Committee since the early 1990s to date.
I am sure that members from every part of Napo will join me in wishing Carolyn every success for the future, and I cannot believe that we have seen the last of her in terms of her involvement in the life and fabric of this union.