With speculation rife over the weekend that the new Secretary of State has had enough of the prison safety situation and that changes may be likely at the top of HMPPS, I expect that it’s not just a number of football managers who face an uncertain future following the weekend results. It may be just rumours of course and its likely they will be denied by the MoJ but, as history shows, it’s unwise to welcome that 'we have every confidence' missive that usually presages a dismissal.
Meanwhile, our focus is very firmly on the pay situation (or to be more precise, the lack of) and the probation unions met last week to consider the contents of our latest letter to David Gauke which is calling for an urgent meeting and seeking his authorisation for the opening of negotiations on longer term pay reform. We have also made the rather important point that when the Prime Minister talks of a genuine commitment to address pay inequality, it is hard for the Probation services’ majority female workforce not to look on with some resentment, as they get nothing, whilst a majority male populated prison workforce have their pay prioritised by the MoJ.
The unions are also putting plans in train for a series of public and parliamentary events designed to highlight the disgraceful treatment of our members and we will also be running a consultation exercise to test the feelings around industrial action as a possible means of increasing pressure on HMPPS senior leaders and the MoJ to properly address our issues.
More details to follow once we know whether or not we are into pay negotiations.
Ellie Reeves MP secured a timely debate in Parliament's Westminster Hall last week on private probation services. Here are the links which you may be interested in. The first being the transcript in which the Chair of the Justice Unions and Family Court Parliamentary Group Liz Saville Roberts's main contribution starts at 9.51am:
The above debate along with the ongoing work of the Justice Committee who are now conducting their second evidence session illustrates that the future of Probation is now high up on the agenda marked 'anything but Brexit.'
In addition the Committee for Public Accounts is turning up the heat on the MoJ Mandarins and Ministers over the great CRC bail out.
If anyone needs a reminder Transforming Rehabilitation has attracted serious criticism since its implementation, including in reports by the National Audit Office, the Public Accounts Committee, and by HM Chief Inspectors of Probation and Prisons in reports on resettlement services for short term prisoners and for prisoners serving 12 months or more.
The latest evidence session by the Justice Committee's is seeking to find out what needs to be done to improve the probation system and I have just signed off a detailed reply to their follow up letter to the points that I provided in person to then on behalf of Napo a few weeks back. This session is expected to cover a number of issues including:
- Voluntary sector involvement in probation;
- Through-the-Gate, including specific services provided to offenders;
- Rehabilitation activity and support; and
- The role of Police and Crime Commissioners.
As you might expect we have had quite a few requests to comment on the current debate concerning an individual currently residing in the HM Prison Estate, and the possibility of what happens next if they should be released into the community.
When agreeing to do a media interview I always ensure that I don't get us dragged into the sensationalist aspects which on occasions have masked or ignored the wider picture about the probation service and its capacity to do what is expected of it.
As you know, I occasionally have reason to criticise senior HMPPS leaders for not batting sufficiently robustly for the team, but given that I did not see the recent ITV feature on the above case until afterwards, I thought that publishing this feedback from a Napo member who did might be viewed constructively in some quarters.
'Extremely disappointed in our Exec Director's portrayal of the Victim Contact scheme and the role of probation in a no doubt heavily edited interview.
Will Napo be challenging our management about the implications of this and start asking the more serious matter of how under resourced Victim Contact units are? Sickness levels, workload stress, high profile cases while scapegoating Victim Contact. Please can Napo be aware that the review into Worboys is causing huge anxiety for VC staff. I have serious concerns that the review will paint a devastating picture of the VC scheme and it will leave us vulnerable to it being sent off for competition. The Victim's Commissioner seems intent on wanting a idealistic "end to end" service. Fills me with horror! Please help save our reputation in this and possibly our jobs. Also we were assured directly by e-mail from our Exec Director that she explained in the Worboys documentary that VLOs acted promptly and went 'above and beyond.' This did not come across and looked apologetic at best.'
The unions have been engaged in discussions about the outsourcing of Waking Night Cover for some months and managed to persuade the Minister to postpone the original 'go live' date to 1st March.
We have never been (and are definitely not now,) confident that suitable staffing and operational arrangements are in place to ensure acceptable safety standards and this news piece from the BBC just about sums up why that is the case:
For avoidance of doubt the letter it references asking the SoS to cancel the project even at the last minute was signed by both unions. I will publish the exchanges shortly, but I hope nobody says that they were not warned about the dangers. Farcical and ill-judged are two of the more polite descriptions I would offer.
So what did you make of our new bi-monthly magazine which was mailed out to all members last week with news and features relevant to all the areas where Napo engages with your employer? Reactjon so far has been really good.
For this important aspect of our improving communication strategy to grow we need your contributions and feedback, and would still want to hear from members who can distribute hard copies in your workplace.
If you missed it here it is again: http://www.napomagazine.org.uk/
Simeon Andrews RIP
Finally, it was with much regret that we received the dreadful news last week of the sudden death of Simeon Andrews. Simeon was the provider of secretariat services for the Trade Union Co-Ordinating Group and the Justice Unions and Family Court Parliamentary Group and was known personally by a good number of our members from his many visits to our AGMs.
The Officers and myself have forwarded our condolences on behalf of Napo to Simeon’s partner Cathy and their Daughter Lily, but I am sure that any direct messages that members wish to send can be forwarded through Simeon’s colleagues at Union Services c/o Michael Calderbank 160 Falcon Road, London SW11 (firstname.lastname@example.org) who will gladly pass these on.
It’s perhaps symbolic that our comrades in Union Services worked through an especially busy Parliamentary week in their usual dedicated fashion, despite obviously being shocked at the loss of their comrade, confirming what we all suspected that Simeon would have expected nothing less. As well as being a committed socialist Simeon was a fanatical supporter of Liverpool FC and the heartfelt stock in which he held their anthem You’ll never walk alone. He walked with us whenever he could and we shall not forget that.
Napo HQ will pass on details of the funeral arrangements as soon as we can.