Justice Committee seeks Napo's views

Yet another sign that Parliament is showing serious interest in the shambolic state of the probation landscape arrived yesterday. The Justice Select Committee (JSC) have sent me a personal invitation to speak to them on November 1st  on the implementation of reforms to the delivery of probation services under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

My experience of appearing before various parliamentary committees over the years leads me to believe that the JSC have decided that the recent reports on the implementation of the programme, including those from the Public Accounts Committee, HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the range of challenges that have been identified require their attention.

In the invitation the Committee say: "That having been advised by the Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss MP, at her inaugural session with us in September that the Ministry of Justice is reviewing how the reforms are operating, the purpose of this seminar is to consider the key issues and opportunities surrounding arrangements for the provision of probation services. This will help the Committee to ensure it is sufficiently well informed on these matters when the Ministry reports on its review."

It's a great opporunity for us to publically highlight the key issues being faced by our members and turn the spotlight on the failure that TR was bound to be and the chaos that is out there.

Probation System Review

We continue to track the progress of the review and understand that a report to Ministers is due very soon. We hope that the evidence we have submitted and our representations to the Project lead at the Probation Consultative Forum will be factored into the final report. Our hope is that it may suggest some changes which are designed to bring clarity and or confirmation about how and what the 21 CRC providers are actualy supposed to be doing, and how steps might be taken to help them do it.

Ultimately, we will want to see things which will bring some relief for our hard pressed members and hopefully some outcomes which might allow some CRCs to step back from their plans to press on with staff reductions.

Early Day Motion tabled on Through the Gate shambles

As I indicated during my speech to the AGM, we are in regular touch with the Labour Shadow Justice Team who are submitting a range of parliamentary questions on the state of probation.

We have also been notified of the following Early Day Motion (EDM) which, if it secures enough signatories, will force a full Parliamentary debate. This means that some pressure on your constituency MP to support the EDM would be very timely.

Here is what it says:

"That this House notes with concern the recently published inspection report, Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Short-Term Prisoners by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons; further notes that Through the Gate is a flagship rehabilitation policy of Government which aims to reduce reoffending rates of those serving under 12 months; is aware that Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are responsible for this provision yet due to lack of incentive from Government contract arrangements, are failing to give priority to this work; is concerned that the report highlights that of the 86 cases inspected, not one client was helped into work, a third were released with nowhere to live and limited provision was given to those in debt; notes that in 61 per cent of cases inspected, the CRC had taken insufficient account of public protection, most notably in cases of domestic violence; is aware that, since the introduction of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, probation services across the UK have seen a reduction in service quality and low morale within both CRCs and the NPS; and urgently calls on the Government to rescind the CRC contracts immediately and launch a review into the Transforming Rehabilitation Agenda and its impact on offenders, victims, the public and staff."

Together for Children

Our recent AGM carried a number of important motions and it was great to see our members from CAFCASS playing a full part in the proceedings and securing support for a very timely piece of policy making.

Here is what was agreed:

'"This AGM is extremely concerned to learn, only yesterday, that Clause 29 of the Government’s Children and Social Work Bill published last week in committee will give powers to exempt local Councils from their current legal duties affecting all social care services for children, including Child Protection, family support, the care system, the leaving care services and services for disabled children. It would expose children to a “postcode lottery” of protection.

This motion will impact on all Napo members in both probation work and the Family Court Section. This AGM instructs:

The Napo Professional committee and Campaigning committee to work together with the Family Court Committee, to join the Together for Children Campaign to oppose the Bill which is before the House of Lords in October.

To campaign with the Parliamentary Family Justice Committee to highlight the dangers inherent in this proposed change and to oppose the Bill."

In her excellent speech to Conference Nicky Kenney said:

"That the proposals in Clause 29 of the Children and Social Work Bill will provide for Government to exempt local Councils from their legal duties. The very system which should protect children from abuse will be open to abuse of a different kind from the private profit- making companies who are likely to be the same companies who have stolen the work of the Probation Service.

The essential protection for children which our current laws enshrine have developed over the last 80 years from learning, public consultation, parliamentary scrutiny and sometimes the tragic consequences of failure by the state to keep children safe from harm. With no consultation, this government has decided those protections are dispensable.

This Bill goes to the House of Lords on 18th October. If we don’t secure opposition, the Education Secretary will allow local Authorities to be excused from their statutory duties under the Children Act 1989, the Children Act 2004 and the Children & Young Persons Act 1933. Imagine a child in the most needy situation possible, who needs shielding from abuse or neglect within a family situation being exposed to the profit making organisations which Probation clients have become vulnerable to. You here all know what this means and what could lie ahead.

Interfering with laws passed to protect children “could be taking away children’s first sight of freedom from abuse”. We should be making children’s rights and child protection stronger so that children in care have a good future and can enjoy the rest of their childhood with a plan for their future.

Lord Warner, former commissioner for children’s services in Birmingham, said the government had provided “no evidence that primary or secondary legislation is impeding innovation in children’s services”. We all know that this clause (which has been slipped in at committee stage) is not about making improvements in services but about farming-out the resource-intensive difficult work that social work staff do. It will make the work of FCAS in private and public law work very different; extremely difficult and there can be no doubt that children will lose out.

Imagine children being removed from parents’ care by companies like Sodexo. Where will they be taken? However can we be sure they would be safe when we have seen the shambolic unsafe practices of private companies? What if fostering services have been privatised?! Oh I know, they could all go to profit-making children’s homes and foster carers who have not been properly assessed and trained where children would be exposed to risk of further abuse and neglect.

More than 20 concerned campaigning services and organisations have got together to form “Together for Children” to campaign against these outrageous ideas.

This AGM instructs Napo Professional committee Campaigning Committee and the Family Court Committee to work together with the “Together for Children” campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of these proposed changes, to campaign to protect and improve existing statutory services for children provided by the public sector and to fight the introduction of private companies doing public sector work."

This is a great example of how all of Napo can combine in support of a hugely important social issue. I urge all our members to do all they can to get behind it.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog