Hard on the heels of last week’s revelations that at least £22 Million has found its way into struggling CRC’s to see them through this financial year (and still we await news of Sodexo’s hand out), comes an eye watering report that £277 million will be found to provide further funding for them over the next 4 years.
The intrepid Private Eye publication seems to be on the case in a big way for this one; and their story today that the European Journals record the pay-out that was never actually specifically announced to Parliament, will cause considerable anger to all of our members, but especially those in CRC’s who in some cases (Working Links take note) have yet to receive the 1% contractual pay increment as paid out by the NPS. Yet they are shoring up their employers activities with increased caseloads, hours and hours of often non-redeemable TOIL within operating models that have been deemed as sub-standard by any number of HMIP reports. (Click this link and then click the article again to open all of it).
I have yet to see a denial from the MoJ about its contents and we are fielding media enquiries by saying that on the balance of probabilities it won’t surprise us to learn of its authenticity. If so, it won’t have been the first or last time that Ministers have slipped controversial news under the Parliamentary radar.
As you might expect we, in concert with UNISON and GMB, have already raised questions about just what the Probation System Review has recommended and which money tree has been shaken this week, with letters fired off to the Secretary of State (see extracts below), the Chair of the National Audit Office and the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
Once the Justice Select Committee members have been confirmed on the resumption of Parliament next month we will be knocking on their door as well.
Rt Hon David Lidington MP
Secretary of State for Justice
Ministry of Justice
7 August 2017
Probation System Review
Before the last election, the probation unions were invited to a meeting with Justin Russell, Director General for Offender Reform & Commissioning Group, on 3 May to discuss a Green Paper on improving the effectiveness of community sentences and delivery of probation services which Liz Truss was proposing to publish later that month.
We understood at the time that the proposed Green Paper would tie in with publication of the outcome of the Probation System Review, which had been delayed on a number of occasions previously.
The General Election intervened, but it appears from your MOJ intranet statement published on 19 July, and Sam Gyimah’s written ministerial statement of the same date, that it is no longer the Government’s intention to publish a Green Paper, nor the outcome of the Probation System Review. We have to put on record our extreme disappointment if this is indeed the outcome you intend.
In your intranet statement you state that the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms have ‘...encountered unforeseen challenges.’ On behalf of our members, who, alongside ourselves, very clearly foresaw and warned against these challenges when your predecessor Chris Grayling was pushing through his reforms in the teeth of almost unanimous opposition, we have to say that the government was well aware at the time of just how controversial and risky the reforms were. The reforms were forced on the probation service against the advice of just about everyone.
You state later in your intranet statement that ‘...transparency is key to effective public service reform...’ We could not agree more. We assume that your commitment to transparency will see the following published without further delay:
- The full findings and recommendations of your Probation System Review
- The measures you have taken to ‘adjust’ the CRC contracts ‘...to reflect more accurately the cost of providing critical frontline services...’
- The full details of the additional money which you have apparently made available to the CRCs in light of the Probation System Review
We welcome the additional funding for the Probation Inspectorate. However, we ask you to accept the possibility that, if the Inspectorate’s reports into the functioning of the CRC contracts continue in the vein of the last 12 months very critical reports, you must seriously consider whether your predecessor’s reforms can ever recover the credibility which they have lost with most stakeholders in the world of police and justice, or whether the time has come to take the failing contracts back into public ownership and control. The reforms were ideological in their conception and we hope that ideology will not hold you back from making sensible decisions in the public interest…..
FM and WNS in Approved Premises
The Probation unions have again raised our serious concerns about the decision to contract out the night security provision and monitoring work in Approved Premises.
We also included this passage in our letter to the SoSfJ this week:
‘It is ironic that at the same time as you have had to publically accept the failures of the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms your department is continuing with the dangerous and ill-thought out privatisation of night waking supervision in the Probation Approved Premises. The unions have opposed this risky outsourcing since it was first proposed. No business case has ever been presented to justify the privatisation, and we suspect that none exists. As you are well aware, approved premises look after some of the most dangerous service users supervised by the NPS. Night working at approved premises is just not the type of work which anyone who understands risk and public protection would think suitable for handing over to contractors who will employ poorly trained staff on the national minimum wage. We urge you to do the right thing for residents and staff at approved premises and for the safety of our communities by cancelling this dangerous privatisation now.
The tragic events at Burdett Lodge Approved Premises in Derbyshire last weekend (the second murder of an AP resident in the last 12 months), has exacerbated our fears about the safety aspects of this project. As I have said in a letter to Michael Spurr this week, this worrying incident (even while the full facts are obviously being established) comes in addition to our principled objection that the outsourcing of work with high risk clients was not even considered to be a sensible proposition within the overall framework of Transforming Rehabilitation.
I went on to say that this is another project that does not appear to have been the subject to Parliamentary scrutiny and that the unions will be raising our concerns directly with Ministers and the Chair of the Justice Select Committee.
Even at this late stage the unions are seeking a moratorium on the award of the contract but don’t all hold your breath will you?
Hardeep Mathura wants to hear from you
As I said last week, the prison and rehabilitation agenda and the role of the probation service are receiving some welcome conventional coverage as well as that from an increasing number of social media outlets. I was therefore delighted to hear from Hardeep Mathura again, who did some work with us during our TR campaign, and is now especially interested to get Napo’s take on the situation three years on.
We will do all we can from the centre obviously, but Hardeep wants to hear from our members and their personal testimonies of life at the front face whether you work in the NPS or a CRC. Hardeep guarantees anonymity for anyone who wants to contact her and you can do so by using the link in to her latest article below in ‘Byline’ to arrange this.
Attendance at Napo’s 2017 AGM and Annual Conference
Some good news to report for a change as Sonia Crozier has written to me to confirm that once again Napo members working in the NPS will be able to request a day’s professional development time to cover part of their attendance at the AGM (13th & 14th October).
This has been agreed with HMPPS on the basis that Napo is a professional association as well as a trade union, and both Sonia Crozier and Jim Barton in his new role as lead for Contracts and Commercial will be in Nottingham as well.
The usual caveats apply of course but we would advise members wishing to make use of development time to attend the AGM to make an early application through their line manager for logged development time plus any TOIL/Annual Leave that you might need to take as well.
You will of course also need to make sure that you properly record any professional development time granted on development logs, but you will not be able to claim any travel or subsistence expenses from the employer. You should contact your branch to find out about support with travel/accommodation etc. at AGM.
NPS Directors and the Director of HMPPS in Wales have been made aware of the above arrangements, but in case of difficulty please direct queries via your branch Chair to Kath Falcon firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can register to attend AGM online or download a paper registration form by CLICKING HERE
I have gratefully acknowledged Sonia’s decision and will be writing to all the Chief Executives of the Probation Board NI, Cafcass and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies to ask them to also afford the same facility to their staff.
A miserable summer
I am hard pressed to remember as gloomy a July and August as these. It’s been made worse by the daily sabre rattling rhetoric and sheer bellicosity emanating from Messrs Trump and Kim Jong-Un about the size and capability of their missiles. I guess we should hope that even if they decide to press some button, then their Chiefs of Staff may have changed the codes without them knowing.