The signs were clear at last year’s AGM in Nottingham that the political tides which have revealed the wreckage of privatisation were turning back in our favour. We heard keynote speeches from both ends of the political spectrum in the form of Shadow Justice lead Richard Burgon, and the Justice Committee Chair Bob Neil, both of whom pulled no punches in denigrating Chris Graylings dreadful social experiment.
Since then we have maintained high level contact with the Labour party and are assisting them with their planning for the development of a strategy to return the service back to public ownership when they form the next Government. More on this in the exclusive interview we have set up for a future edition of the soon to be bi-monthly Napo News. We have also stayed close to the current Parliamentary inquiries by providing briefing material for the Committee for Public Accounts and the oral evidence that the unions presented to the Justice Committee.
Since then we have been on a heathy roll media wise, with a bumper day last week in advance and immediately after the big conversation that Napo Cymru organised at the Welsh Assembly last Wednesday and coverage last Saturday in the Guardian and more TV interest in the pipeline to follow the expose by Sky News.
Nobody ever said that the campaign to reunify Probation would be easy, but many members have taken the time to contact Napo recently with positive feedback about our efforts here and elsewhere on behalf of members.
I was delighted to have been invited to speak at last week’s brilliant Stand Up to Racism Trade Union conference on Saturday.
There was a huge turnout and the range of issues covered made it quite clear just why nobody should believe that racism is on the retreat. Speaker after speaker offered insightful perspectives of society’s big problem and at times some highly emotional accounts of their own experiences be it of directly suffering Neanderthal hatred and violence through to the passive-aggressive covert variety, still tolerated by too many employers and politicians and usually the same ones who think a bit of misogyny and homophobia is game for as laugh as well.
There are major rallies planned on Saturday 17 March in London, Glasgow and Cardiff and Ranjit Singh will be publicising full details shortly.
You will find a brief report of Saturday here, please forward it on through your social media contacts.
Napo reps have been made aware of some difficulties being experienced by members in the NPS who need assistive technology. It seems that where this involves ordering new ICT kit some members are being told that laptops cannot be ordered because of the new NPS IT upgrade that is being rolled out. While this may be the case for general requests, any laptops needed for assistive technology will still be prioritised. We recently discussed the issue at the NPS AT user group and we have been assured that assistive technology remains a priority. Any members experiencing difficulties should contact their local Napo rep for advice and reps should seek assistance from Katie Lomas firstname.lastname@example.org if they encounter significant delays.
Napo alongside our colleagues in NIPSA are continuing discussions with the Probation Board of Northern Ireland (PBNI) to reach an amicable resolution on how we manage work with Terrorist and Politically Motivated Offenders (TPMOs).
Last year’s AGM heard that since the 15 September 2017, PBNI staff have been working under an increased threat level, which was a direct consequence of PBNIs obligation to work with TPMOs.
Napo have made our views known to PBNI and have met with the Department of Justice and highlighted our concerns about the situation. That’s why a detailed briefing had gone out to our members in PBNI seeking their views about the following major concerns:
- Personal Security Risk
- Risk to family and friends
- Risk to property
- Risk to Colleagues in exercising their work
Napo and NIPSA have made it very clear that we wish to continue working closely with management to resolve these issues, but now feel that we must consult members for a steer on where might go next. PBNI members have been sent a survey with a closure date of 28th February.
Cafcass has published some alarming research which goes some way to explaining why private law cases come back to court and how it is felt that some of these may benefit from alternative dispute resolution. I do not suppose any of this will exactly be a revelation to practitioners of course who regularly lament the lack of resources for ADR and how it might make an impact on workloads.
The research indicates that 30% of the 40,599 private law applications involving Cafcass in 2016-17 had been to court before. The majority returned within two years, and almost a third had been to court at least twice before.
100 of the returning cases were explored in detail to find out why and four principal causes for returning cases were identified: safeguarding concerns raised by the parties; high conflict between adults; changes in life circumstances; and the child’s wishes and feelings.
It is hoped that the research outcomes will contribute to the ongoing improvement of Cafcass’ response to complex cases, including its new High Conflict Practice Pathway and its Positive Parenting Programme.
All worthy objectives, subject as usual to suitable investment and support from the new Minister.
We met with senior NPS managers yesterday for what was by any standards a marathon session as part of our regular engagement meetings.
I intend for us to issue a comprehensive mail out to members and get some detailed reports up on the website, after we have written letters to the Secretary of State on a number of issues including the lack of progress on Pay and to also seek an urgent meeting. Meanwhile here’s a taster of the areas covered and the union narrative.
- Pay 2017-18: ‘Where’s our money please?’
- Pay Reform: ‘Where’s the money please?’
- Payment of Market Forces Supplements to existing staff: ‘Where’s the money please?’
- Shared Services fiasco (continued): ‘Why are you taking our members money without telling them why, despite the agreements we reached with you?’
- AP Double Waking Night Cover outsourcing: ‘It’s a shambles and neither of the contractors (OCS and Sodexo) seem to know their backsides from their elbow. It (the whole project) needs to be ditched as it poses a serious risk to community safety.’
- Workload Management Tool: ‘The proposed change to non-attributable time (16%) in the Workload Measurement Timings is worrying. The NPS tried this last year (or the year before?) and when they did a time and motion study the figure was actually higher than the 16% allowed for. Still work to do here.’
- SFO investigations and suspensions: ‘We are receiving disturbing reports about over-zealous responses by Divisions to SFO’s and the way in which investigations are being conducted. We need a high level view and discussion about the expected process.’
- OMIC: ‘The positive slant being put on the progress so far is likely to be viewed with scepticism by our members, who have serious concerns over the intended management structures inside Prison OMU’s and this has not been helped by some rather dodgy needs figures for community based intervention.’