A new deal for probation and family courts and fair pay for all

Saturday’s TUC march saw a number of trade union members and those from political parties and community groups join up in Central London.

I was proud to take part alongside Napo members, many of whom had travelled considerable distances to support the event. I was not alone in having reservations about the TUC selecting a date for such a huge enterprise so soon after the local elections, which had no doubt seen many political activists working hard in their neighbourhoods in the weeks before.

Whilst a respectable turnout resulted, there is a compelling argument for organising a series of regionally based events throughout the year that can help maintain the focus on the key campaigning issues.

Speaking of which, do not forget the events that we are asking members to take part in alongside UNISON colleagues on this Friday’s Day of Protest over probation pay. More news on the unions’ joint pay claim that we expect to issue to all probation employers will follow shortly.

Justice Alliance campaign gains traction

Whilst by no means comparable in size to the ‘new deal’ March, the ‘Time for Justice’ Vigil last month was a great example of targeted campaigning. With financial support from the TUC, Napo (through Tania Bassett) helped to organise an impressive event with some old-fashioned rousing speeches in an open-air demo. The patrons of the neighbouring ‘Old Star’ seemed to enjoy the free entertainment even if it was lost on senior MoJ management within 102 Petty France Street.  

Great credit also to Kam Gill from the TUC and the likes of Matt Foot, Rhona Vale, James Davies and Sue James among others, for the work they put into a series of short films highlighting the shambles that passes for a UK justice system. These are easy to post or retweet across social media, and I was pleased with the outcome of our contribution. This focuses on the damage to the probation profession and my views on how service users and the general public are being failed by both arms of the Probation Service post TR. #Time4Justice https://vimeo.com/264411932

New chair of Cafcass attracts mixed reviews

Edward Timpson CBE has succeeded Baroness Tyler of Enfield as chair of Cafcass commencing a term of office that is due to run until 8th April 2021.

Family court members will recall that the former MP for Crewe and Nantwich (2008-2017) held roles as the minister of state for children and families (2015-2016), minister of state for vulnerable children and families at the department for education (2016-2017) and was also the parliamentary under-secretary of state for children and families between 2012 and 2015.

Before entering parliament, Mr Timpson spent ten years working as a family law barrister specialising in children’s cases. Reports indicate that his family has fostered 90 children over 30 years and that he has two adopted brothers.

The view from the Cafcass leadership hierarchy was predictably gushing; this from Chief Executive Anthony Douglas: “We are looking forward to working with Edward on issues affecting not just Cafcass but the whole of the family justice system. It was great working with him as a Minister and the whole of Cafcass is delighted with his appointment, coming on top of our outstanding rating from Ofsted. Edward’s personal and professional background, added to his political nous, will help us to keep growing and developing as a voice of the child-based service.”

Not everyone agrees it would seem, as evidenced by some of the postings on the official Cafcass forum. These suggest that the appointment has sparked some controversy amongst staff and clients especially on the back of the raging debate about parental alienation.

Other contributors expressed concern that Mr Timpson’s experience of the fostering system and the money that he has (allegedly) made from the system may lead to an unhealthy emphasis on this becoming the default position in certain cases of family breakdown.

Views from other quarters reveal dissatisfaction with Mr Timpson’s appointment claiming that he was ineffective in his ministerial role as borne out by his short tenure where he failed to engage and respond. Some believe that his appointment is an opportunity to press for serious change, citing the breakdown in the family justice system and the way in which parents find themselves locked into the court process for years.

Welcome to the new role Edward.

Napo General Secretary nomination process is under way

Napo branches have been advised that following the Napo General Secretary shortlisting process, two candidates will be interviewed at the next meeting of the National Executive Committee on 5th June.

Before that, all Napo Branches will have the opportunity to nominate one of the candidates, both of whom have now submitted electoral statements. This is an important step in the timetable, with the possibility of a member’s postal ballot between the 7th and 28th June.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog