May Day is as good a time as any to dream a little. So imagine if you will a Probation landscape devoid of Community Rehabilitation Companies. One restored to public ownership as part of a Rehabilitation Counter-Revolution as politicians from all parties are left with no choice but to roundly condemn Grayling’s follies which transformed a once gold-standard service into two dysfunctional entities far removed from their former selves and where quality and professionalism are all too often the exception rather than the rule.
A Probation world where those CRC contract holders (maybe with the exception of those who opted to convert into genuine ‘privateer free’ mutuals) have been consigned to the huge dustbin of failed social experiments that have wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers cash without any discernible improvements to show for it.
Probation, freed from the clammy tentacles of HMPPS and the beauracratic quagmire that has caused serious pay and pension related problems for too many hard working staff who have been the victims of austerity policies that have denied many any sort of pay rise for seven years. A Probation service that will reshape the all too often calamitous operational models introduced by profit driven oligarchs who thought that Transforming Rehabilitation would bring them treasure chests overflowing with bountiful riches once they sacked upwards of a third of their staff. Private owners who may be experts in the fields of catering, industrial cleaning, asset stripping and selling contracts to despotic regimes overseas but who have been found seriously wanting in delivering rehabilitation. Contractors who have introduced standards of supervision that are co-terminus with the last set of figures showing an increase of 23% in Serious Further Offences across England and Wales.
Dame Glenys Stacey has said that the CRCs can’t deliver and the statement by Rory Stewart to the same Justice Select Committee that he has ‘not ruled out terminating CRC contracts’ is significantly more threatening than anything I have heard from a Tory politician to date.
While the tide has shifted let us not delude ourselves that Probation will simply be glued back together again. Belief that it can be reunified around its cherished values and traditions and offer genuine community engagement is allowed though, working alongside various agencies and stakeholders and regional politicians and third sector providers who can combine as community justice experts to create something new from the ashes.
Probation, with a desistance driven agenda at its core, removed out of HMPPS as a ‘next steps’ Agency. That would mean responsibility for its own budgets, payroll, HR and professional standards under a Licence to Practice and the restoration of collective bargaining for all staff. A service working as a genuine partner - and not just an appurtenance- in the quest for prison reform. Committed to reducing the disgracefully high numbers of short term prison sentences (and especially the numbers of female prisoners) whose incarceration is out of proportion to the offences they have committed and whose exposure to the daily threats of violence, drugs, and despair besmirches our Justice system and, come to think of it, Britain as a whole.
Must we wait for a Labour administration to deliver this vision? Or, are there sufficient politicians with the courage to ditch party loyalties and implore this Government to accept the mistakes of the past and steer a new path forward?
Imagine what might happen if they did just that?
While we wait for news that pay reform negotiations can recommence, UNISON and Napo are organising a day of Protest over Pay in the NPS and the CRCs on Friday 18 May 2018. All members in both arms of the service are asked to take part in protest activity on the day to show their anger at the totally inadequate 2017 pay awards and delays to pay reform going forward.
The protest is part of the unions’ collective approach to probation pay across the NPS and the CRCs. It is not industrial action and this is made clear on the flyer.
Further information regarding the Protest and a joint pay claim for 2018 will be sent out shortly, but branches and activists are asked to liaise with their local UNISON counterparts. The protests will need to be organised in non-work time: before work/at lunchtime/after work. We hope to involve local media in covering the protests and invite local MPs to visit the protests to show their support for probation staff. Further information and advice about planning for the day will be sent out shortly.
Please emphasize to members that this is NOT a call for industrial action.
My social media alerts suggest that there are a considerable number of Napo members standing in this weeks’ local government elections. So my best wishes to the following candidates: Carole Doherty, Natalie Dimbelby, Jill Narin, Kelly Jane Llew, Andrew Resnik, Ranjit Singh and anyone else in Napo who might also be stepping up to the plate.
More from me next week, but meanwhile do take a look at that fabulous latest edition of the Napo Magazine complete with the John McDonnell interview and watch out for our Friday mail outs on a range of vocational and campaigning issues.
Solidarity to workers everywhere