In a week which again featured major disturbances in Prisons with any number of politicians belatedly recognising that there are simply too many people within them, it was a welcome surprise to see the media spotlight fall on the state of the Probation service for a change.
The annual briefing with the MOJ Permanent Secretary Richard Heaton and his senior HMPPS management team last week was a fairly depressing 60 minutes.
I don’t suppose for one minute that any of our members will have been surprised to see the statements of intent from the Ministers with responsibility for probation that were issued on Wednesday evening.
Between now and the October AGM, our members are being asked to consider the future direction of travel for Napo.
My experience of organisation and structure reviews in the three unions I have been privileged to work for prior to Napo, suggests that these are not exactly the key issues on members minds as they face the perennial problems of inadequate pay, increasing workloads and the privatisation agenda.
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.
So much for ‘flaming June’, but at least the political scene has been running hot. Following a hugely dramatic week (featuring a farce of the highest order in respect of the public sector pay cap) which has revealed the 3.5 billion price we are all paying to keep the minority government in power. If this reversion to Keynesian economics is good enough for Northern Ireland, which nobody doubts desperately needs help for its social infrastructure, then its surely good enough for the other regions in the UK who are also in need.
As everyone who has suffered the chaos that has befallen probation knows, the Through the Gate (TTG) scheme was heralded as the main driver for Transforming Rehabilitation by the former and unlamented Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling.
His oft repeated boast that his reforms would mean that prisoners on release should get more than £45 in their pocket has been bettered; in that now its £45 and a leaflet.
Given the millions of pounds of taxpayers money that was squandered on his vanity project this is hardly anything to shout about.
For some time now we have been highlighting the appalling impact of the government pay freeze and the lack of cash to support the Probation pay agreement that dates back to 2008. I was not involved in those negotiations which were concluded just before I was appointed as AGS.
True to the run of political surprises that have occurred across Europe and America over the past year or so we now have a Hung Parliament.
The current halt to Parliamentary proceedings means that we must await the installation of a new Government to discover when the recommendations from the Probation Service review will see the light of day.