Just as was predicted at our recent AGM, the news of the current NPS pay offer has spooked CRC owners who are understandably worried that they will lose staff across to better paying employers, (well actually, the NPS to be precise). News reaches me of NPS vacancy pages on the internet receiving record numbers of hits, and examples already in of CRC staff voting with their feet despite taking a hit on continuity of service and deciding that reaching their pay maximum in a lot less time than they would have, is simply well worth it.
This is another example of the "pay war" that now blights the fragmented probation landscape and it's yet another scenario that Napo predicted ages ago once the idiots who perpetrated TR created a "free market".
Sodexo are of course one of the two big players in CRC world and the size of their organisation means that they could easily match the going pay rate (subject to the NPS offer being accepted by the unions). This is the same Sodexo who I remember asking us in the spirit of partnership some months ago to keep them posted on developments on NPS pay. Not unreasonably the unions asked for an urgent meeting to consider the implications of the NPS offer, but heard last week that this employer has just gone and done what it has always done (remember the great EVR avoidance scandal) and imposed a sub-standard award. Presumably, they hope that their employees will be so grateful to receive anything that they will not shout too loudly.
Cynical does not even begin to describe it. By the way, I am told that there are quite a few vacancies in the NPS within some of the areas where Sodexo is operating.
Below are a few key headlines from the excellent response by the Magistrates Association to the MoJ "Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence" consultation that sits well against some of our key objectives in our reunification campaign.
To see the full document click HERE - but a number of key themes catch the eye:
Continuity is viewed as vital for successful rehabilitation and release. The MA stresses that ontinuity of the Probation Officer from sentence to release can improve desistance and help prisoners resettle. This runs contrary to the plans under the OMiC review to diminish the role of the community based practitioner.
It’s also suggested that Benches must write a report every time they sentence someone to 3 months custody or less which is especially supportive of our own and others campaigning to bring about the reduction or abolition of short term sentences.
Following on from one of the key aspects that featured at our professional session at AGM this year, the MA also says that Probation must provide bespoke interventions for vulnerable and minority groups such as women and BAME clients. Given the reluctance or inability of CRC providers to invest in this area it is something that the state must move to provide if it is serious in trying to move the recommendations of the Lammy Review into real actions.
On the need for a Licence to Practice, the Magistrates support the concept and point out that it should be mandatory for all providers, saying that it needs to be an assurance indicator of quality for the CRCs .
The National Audit Office is another independent body who monitors the use of public money by our elected politicians. It never stops short of telling it like it is in terms of its findings about which particular drain the taxpayers money has gone down, and yet again it has come up trumps in identifying the mysteries of the bung money that has gone the way of the underperforming CRCs.
Coming as it does on the back of a raft of HMI Probation reports, and the strongly worded rebuke letter from Bob Neill and the JSC to David Gauke’s consultation, it is even more incredible that anyone seriously believes that a new round of CRC contracts will repair the damage.
Seems like it’s a long queue then, as news reaches me of the debate in last week’s plenary session at the Welsh Assembly where the Government called Probation a “national embarrassment” but its staff “heroic” as the Senedd debated the future of probation in Wales.
The decision to put Offender Management work back to the NPS is obviously welcome but anger over the apparent plans to leave interventions and programmes out there to some other bidder is as unpopular in Wales at is this side of the border.