It remains to be seen whether Friday 22nd June 2018 will be remembered in future years by those members who have suffered the impact of Transforming Rehabilitation as ‘Vindication Day’. A day which saw the publication of probably the most damning report of its kind by a parliamentary select committee into what is undoubtedly the most ill-conceived social experiment that I have ever seen.
The Justice Select Committee has left no stone unturned in its almost forensic analysis of Chris Grayling’s masterpiece of a disaster, and I intend to write personally to the Chair, Bob Neill, l to thank him and his colleague members for their work and the two opportunities afforded to me to provide verbal evidence. If you missed it before you can catch-up on what I said on Parliament TV
The extensive media coverage that we played a major part in generating gave a fair wind to the JSC conclusions, which strongly mirrored the evidence that we and other stakeholders had submitted. But, the key recommendation that the MoJ must initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation, is the pathway to bringing about the reform that our members have been desperately seeking.
We knew already from contact with some CRC owners that they have been engaged in talks with the MoJ about the possibility of shortening contracts which itself was one of the sources for the speculation in the Times article.
This was also confirmed in an answer to Parliamentary question that was tabled last week through our friends in Union Services
The worst case for our members is that the Minister orders the shortening of CRC contracts and parcels up even bigger lots to sell off, but the JSC recommendation that any alternative must be properly planned and tested would seem to rule out merely repeating the same mistake in an enlarged landscape. This presupposes of course that any privateer would be willing to risk stepping into that landscape given the outcomes from the JSC report.
Our task now is to do what I said we would in the film we made as part of the Vigil for Justice, which is to seek to work with all political parties to find a way out of the TR shambles. It will also require us to firm up on our thinking over the summer Parliamentary recess so that we are in a good position to seek the input into the MoJ review that has been asked for by the JSC
Standing by our Members
We will also step up our engagement with CRC owners so that the interests of our CRC members are prioritised over the months ahead. I totally understand that while many of you will have taken great heart from the publication of the JSC report, there will be some who may be worried about what lies ahead. One thing is certain, Napo will stand by, and be there, for all members in the lead-in to what we all want to see: a reunified, publicly owned and desistance driven Probation Service. We have a lot of work ahead of us and at long last we have a big political steer to build on. Let’s do that in unity and the belief that one day we will prevail.
It was a privilege to address the recent Family Court Professional Conference in Birmingham, which brought together a good number of Cafcass Napo members and expert contributions from academics and stakeholders.
Cafcass is fortunate to have such high quality practitioners in their organisation and the conference theme of ‘Hearing Children's voices’ was especially appropriate given unfolding events across the world, where yet again we see the interests of the child coming last.
A real pleasure then to hear from Nikki Disney, drama therapist and writer, speak with such passion about the ability of art to evoke change. We heard an absorbing and wonderfully entertaining lecture entitled “Creative Force” – how to utilise the power of creativity to understand children and young people’s whole experience.
It was also good to hear from young people who have had direct contact with the family court system. Jennifer Gibbon-Lynch and Bethany Shepherd from the Family Justice Young People’s Board, talked about the Voice of the Child in Family Law Proceedings.
A series of workshops was held over the course of the day and one of these featured a strong diversity theme with Nasra Ahmed and Shamil Ahmed (Integrate UK) offered their perspective on how to counter the negative labelling of young people from the Islamic community. It was very clear that both are hugely passionate in their campaigning work, which involves high-level contact with ministers and raising money for Syrian refugees through Islamic Relief in addition to delivering workshops nationally.
Dr Gillian Macdonald ran a workshop on: “Wishes and feelings - work with children in domestic abuse cases”. This explored how dominant ideologies around contact may shape constructions of children’s wishes and feelings in domestic violence cases.
The FCPC was one of a number of Professional Forums that I was pleased to attend over recent weeks. These types of events point the way for effective member engagement and are very much a part of our growth strategy.