The social media activity that followed this weeks Panorama expose into the state of the Probation service shows that the issues highlighted in the programme are attracting an increasingly wider and very concerned audience.
Feedback indicates that the BBC team did an effective job of nailing the key issues that Napo and others have been campaigning about. The same issues that we forecast well before the ink was dry on the contracts that were mis-sold to the CRC speculators and struck by the unlamented Chris Grayling, who can now add Transforming Rehabilitation to his spectacular list of abject failures.
As always it would have been great to have got more actual air time for Napo given the amount of time that we invested in briefing the team from as far back as May this year, but we have no editorial influence on what finally goes in to the end product. Suffice to say that I was very pleased with the fact that there was significant input from NPS and CRC practitioners who are at the sharp end of operations, which hopefully helped to convince a sceptical public that despite its problems before privatisation, the service is now in a much worse position and importantly, illustrate exactly who was responsible for the shambles.
A denial of the obvious
I don’t think I need to mince words in describing the response by the MoJ and Working Links to the two Serious Further Offences featured, as quite pathetic. As I said at our AGM, hideous things happen in society. Sadly, they always did, they are now, and they will in the future. But the combination of events ranging from the staff split, incompetent planning, political hubris and subsequent post-TR reductions in staffing suggest that there will be many more.
At this weeks meeting with Probation and Prisons Minister Sam Gyimah, where Napo were represented by Chris Winters and myself, we highlighted the dreadful track record of Working Links in seriously engaging with the probation unions on key issues such as staffing, workloads and their operational model which has seen thousands of hours of Unpaid Work simply not done; face-to-face supervision at farcical levels, caseloads and sickness levels through the roof and two high profile murders which I have been told by an anonymous source, were perpetrated by people who were ‘on the books’ The same Working Links that has seen two senior managers fall on their swords in the midst of chaos, and where the response by the CRC Chief Executive to the second damning HMI Probation report into their operations in Gloucestershire, was that there were too many Women on maternity leave and not enough staff available during the period covered by the report.
The Minister has invited me to write to him personally about this and the long list of other issues that, despite the best efforts of ACAS, remain unresolved. I will also be investigating alleged comments from a Working Links Senior Executive to staff that they don’t believe they have to talk to the unions. In the face of all this you might appreciate why I almost fell off my chair last night when Working Links (who declined to be interviewed by the BBC) stated that it was ‘highly committed to public safety’.
Not that MTC NOVO in the form of The London CRC, and London NPS emerged with much glory either, as they received some pretty negative coverage in the programme. You may also want to know that any members facing a backlash for whistle blowing and contributing to the programme will have Napo's full support.
Time for serious action
Underpinning all of this is the stark fact that while some CRC Providers and NPS divisions do better than others, standards of supervision have markedly worsened. This is why I was also pleased that Panorama especially highlighted the independent findings of Dame Glenys Stacey and the HM Probation Inspectorate. It was also very timely that the Justice Select Committee Chair Bob Neill MP spoke up. As an aside, I can tell you that Bob greatly valued the time that he spent at our AGM where he spoke with a number of members following his encouraging speech.
While we obviously welcome the Justice Committees inquiry into TR, it was made very clear at our AGM that the Ministerial inertia on taking action against failing contractors is quite unbelievable as much as it is unacceptable. Billions of pounds of public money has been (and is being) spent shoring up providers who are unfit for purpose. Who will step up and do something other than merely offer more of the same presumably in the hope that it will all be OK In the end?
Minister, its time to find some money for probation staff
As you might expect, the Probation Unions had a bit to say about the money that has been earmarked for the CRC’s over the next four years (£277m) as well as the £22m cash injection that has magically fallen from the money tree this year. It was one of a lengthy list of issues for discussion with the Minister, as was the need for some positive action on Probation pay, namely the conclusion of discussions on 2017 and longer term modernisation.
In fairness to Mr Gyimah he gave about as positive a response as his brief allowed; but it’s clear that he is relying on decisions elsewhere before we might see some new money on the table. We made it clear that we were uncomfortable with the current public focus on Prison pay and reform seemingly at the expense of Probation. This elicited a response which showed appreciation as to why we think this is the case together with a reassurance that it is not.
As these types of meetings go, it was reasonably productive and time well spent, but our members will need more than just warm words.
Mappa reports 2016-17
A plethora of Government reports has emerged in the last 24 hours and while we spend a bit of time analysing them, here is the link to MAPPA reports that are to be found on the GOV.UK Website.
See how your area fared: