Ian Lawrence moves motion at TUC Congress

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Ian Lawrence on behalf of Napo - Moving motion 69 and welcoming Unison’s amendments.

Chair, Congress

The probation service is broken, and as Yvonne has said, we know why. We also know what’s not working such as:

The collapse of Through the Gate services for short term offenders (the flagship of Graylings ill-considered reforms) now identified by Probation inspectors as a spectacular failure which could be wound up tomorrow and nobody would notice. Through the gate to nowhere.

Inadequate (and bordering on non-existent) supervision of clients especially Domestic Violence perpetrators with huge cuts in the provision of support programmes. Evidential linkage to a 26% rise in Serious Further Offences across England and Wales including a number of murders with more recent cases currently under investigation. Yes, Congress, this what a so-called ‘safe’ system looks like. And let’s not forget the impact on victims of such awful crimes where support for bereaved families is often just not up to the required standard.

Massive and unmanageable caseloads faced by our members across both arms of the service because, let’s not kid ourselves that the state run NPS is problem free,  with staff shortages and a litany of administrative problems over pay and pensions and, as you will hear more about shortly from UNISON,  the outsourcing of night supervision in Approved Premises.

The privateers haven’t brought much by way of innovation but they have given us unsafe operating models, job cuts averaging 40% across the sector, shambolic community payback in some areas where sessions don’t happen because too many clients turn up, or because not enough have shown up, or as we heard earlier this year in the Working Links empire, because the vans used to transport clients and supervisors to their assignments hadn’t been insured for several weeks. Working Links - the subject of that damning report from inspectors last week. Working Links, who by the way boast about their successful education contracts with the Saudi government but can’t run a whelk stall over here.

Why, even a colony of rats that I am told occupied one of their decaying buildings last year, left pretty sharpish when they realised who actually owned it. A kind of Rodents’ revolt against privatisation.

So to all failing providers such as these I say this: our members care about their profession, and stand ready to help you mend the chaos you have created.  But if you won’t engage and won’t listen, if you can’t show your staff the respect and dignity they deserve then for goodness sake - go; do everyone and yourselves a huge favour, hand in the keys and go, and lets have probation returned to the professionals who know what they are doing.

Congress, you well know the history of how it has come to this, but insult has been added to injury as we learn that failing providers have had more taxpayers cash thrown at them, such as a recent £22m bailout including a waiving of service penalties, known as a ‘reconfiguration of the contracts’.

Worse still comes news that a further £277m pound ‘reconfiguration’ has been signed off by Ministers over the remaining 4-year life of the contracts, supposedly to provide reassurance to the market, but I will tell you what it is: it’s a bung from the magic money tree, a huge promissory note to reward abject failure; and it, along with this whole disgracefully inept privatisation, must be called in for Parliamentary and public scrutiny.

Congress, the Probation Service, a once gold standard award winning Probation service, an institution over 100 years in the making is broken; and we ask, who will fix it?

Not Chris Grayling the architect of this disaster, aided and abetted by spineless advisors and a gutless Lib Dem partner in that dreadful Coalition, but a Labour Government committed to reversing this disastrous piece of social engineering, a Labour Government pledged to restoring the service back to where it belongs that’s full public ownership and control.

So while Government Ministers prevaricate and fail to publish their own review into this mess, what is desperately needed at this juncture is local accountability; so that we know how much these contracts are worth, so we know what the kickback is for shareholders, so we know the truth about commercial transactions funded by the taxpayer but conducted in secret.

So Napo has a plan to try and resolve these fundamental anomalies, and that is to press for City Mayors, the London Mayor and Police and Crime Commissioners to be given oversight of these contracts and bring some much needed transparency, and we seek support from Frances and the General Council to engage with these people to help us ramp up the pressure on failing Privateers which will supplement the Parliamentary campaign that Napo and Unison have been running and which is gaining increasing political traction.

Finally, to every union represented here today, we need your help in publicising what’s happening in probation amongst your members. Your members, who form part of our communities whose public safety is being jeopardised, your families, your children, put at risk of harm because of the quest for profit and the failure of this inept government to take appropriate action.

Congress, I move.