Ian Lawrence Writes:"Irredeemably flawed" - but probation is repairable

Given the hundreds of positive messages that are coming into Napo HQ and via  social media it is clear that Thursday 16th May 2019 will be seen as one of the most pivotal days in Napo’s long and proud history.


The climb down from the rubble of Chris Graylings catastrophic Transforming Rehabilitation programme is certainly up there with any recent union victory in the campaign against the privatisation of vital public services. I hope by now that every Napo member will have acknowledged the fact that while this is a significant turnaround, it is one that is still qualified. Yet such a scenario was not even on the cards before the turn of the year, where we established real traction with Rory Stewart and David Gauke on our future vision for probation. From there we have worked long and hard to try and persuade said Ministers to move to complete reunification, but that was always likely to be a political step to far for them as they and their Cabinet colleagues continue to breathe life into their flagging ‘‘mixed market” monster no matter what the cost. I nevertheless commend them both for taking this considerable step forward.

Seizing the day

Our preparation in advance of the embargoed news from the MoJ, led to us dominating the media arena from 6am through to 6pm. It entailed swinging into immediate action to get our media releases out to all the right people on Wednesday, and saw some of us operating into the small hours of Thursday morning so that we were primed and ready to engage with the many media opportunities that broke at first light. This work reflects great credit on National Chair Katie Lomas, our media lead Tania Basset and the communications team here at Napo HQ.

It meant that many members woke up to see Napo offering our immediate perspective on the news of the decision to transfer the supervision of clients to the NPS by the time that the CRC owners are out of their current contracts.

Just as importantly, we were able to talk about the reasons why TR has failed, its impact on the lives and wellbeing of our members as well as clients and victims, and how it’s not been the fault of our members that reoffending rates have remained so stubbornly high. All this and more, whilst referencing the gratuitous self-aggrandisement of the wretched Grayling and his capacity to screw up on everything that he has ever allegedly been in control of.

So where next?

We are already making arrangements to create communications structures that will provide updates to members on the likely shape of the transition programme for the movement of Offender Management work from the CRCs and the terms of the staff transfers. Obviously, we have made it clear that we expect those impacted by the government decision to move immediately to NPS pay rates.

There is a lot of work ahead of us, and there are many still to be answered questions that we will now be consulting on with senior MoJ and HMPPS leaders. Meanwhile we must ensure that the plans for Wales are sufficiently robust to enable the scheduled transfer of CRC staff into the NPS by this December.

As well as these priorities, it is imperative that we pick up on the offer of engagement from Director General Amy Rees on the professional development and regulatory body issues as well as continuing to press for the abolition of short-term prison sentences. We also need to engage with our sister unions and the POA on the future of the Offender Management in Custody model.

It is a huge agenda for Napo and that’s just in terms of the implications from the big decision yesterday.

We will not forget our CRC members 

Our members in the CRCs will undoubtedly be looking to us for further support and guidance, and you will have it; you will want us to intensify our fight to see you receive the same pay as your NPS colleagues and for Intervention and Programme work to also return to state control and we will do just that.

Elsewhere in Napo, in Northern Ireland we have the double problem of a stagnant public service pay situation and threats to existing terms and conditions. Yesterday, and again following substantial input by Napo, we saw dramatic developments around the call for an inquiry into CAFCASS after a major report by the former Head of the Family Courts Sir James Mumby. These are also important priorities along with many others.

What you can do to help

Napo has worked long and hard to help achieve this victory but the struggle is far from over.

Huge political developments such as this do not happen very often. They serve to demonstrate the value of trade unions to speak up when others seek to denigrate or ignore us, to maintain faith in a so-called lost cause and continue to fight back with tenacity and belief; and to show ourselves to millions of people in a highly professional and focused manner through the media whenever we get the opportunity.

Many of you have sent me personal messages to say how proud you are of Napo and I absolutely reciprocate your often quite moving tributes; I feel highly privileged to do this job working with you as well as for you.

In order for us to build our collective strength, now is as good a time as any for Napo members to open up conversations with workplace colleagues about why trade union membership is so vital, and explain what Napo has achieved in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. You may want to know that even as I write, I am receiving encouraging reports of staff wanting to join or return to Napo.

Finally, anyone currently paying their subscriptions via their employer by ‘Check Off’ are reminded that its cheaper to pay by Direct Debit and very simple to make the change by clicking here. Once you change to DD you must advise your payroll so that they cease to make deductions.

Look out for more news via our usual postings and HQ blogs; meanwhile do enjoy the moment and the weekend!

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog