Napo responds to Jim Barton

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Jim Barton


Probation Reform Programme

By E-mail only

4th August 2022


Dear Jim,

Napo response to ‘One HMPPS’ announcement

While Napo intends to issue a report to our members this Monday to align with the release of the employers communications, I did indicate that Napo would offer our perspective on the ‘One HMPPS’ initiative.

Before doing so, I thought it would be helpful to reflect on some recent history to explain the basis of Napo’s antipathy to this project which, as you will see, we believe to have grave consequences for the Probation Service.

As a result of the disastrous Transforming Rehabilitation Programme in 2014, That part of Probation which was not subject to privatisation was brought into the Civil Service as the National Probation Service.  This shadow of its former self was markedly different to the Service that existed before, with the Probation Trusts being abolished despite all having performance assessed as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ and many having externally assessed marks of excellence.

The cancellation of the CRC contracts in 2021 moved the final elements of Probation work into the Civil Service and now all of the Probation System exists  either as a direct provider, or in small regionally managed contracts for specialist support services. While reunification was obviously welcomed, the centralisation into a Civil Service culture has been a disaster for the profession.

The move away from Trusts that valued and supported the professionalism of their staff into the top-down command and control mechanisms of the Civil Service has stifled Professionalism so much that there is now a move, (led as ever by Senior Moj and HMPPS Leaders) to introduce even more unwanted initiatives, purported to ‘professionalise’ Probation staff. As Napo has continually stated, this is an insulting term to highly skilled and committed professionals who have struggled to deliver a service in the face of cuts to budgets and staffing, following the previous disastrous and dangerous split in the system under TR, and its long term damage simply cannot be under estimated. It is unlikely that the decision makers in the Ministry of Justice will ever hear the true voice of the profession however, as they are so far removed from Probation, a tiny but hugely important part of the bigger machine that delivers Justice across England and Wales.

Now we are told that, in response to the announcement made by the outgoing Prime Minister about Civil Service Job Cuts, Probation will be subsumed into HMPPS and no longer exist with a separate framework to support it. Early versions of the communications about this move promised that decisions would be based on evidence and data which we have yet to see. It is not clear if this information will even make it into the final cut after Napo pointed out that this is the latest in a string of harmful decisions made on the basis of political whim with no appreciation of the facts.

Probation is different and must always be

The Probation System is markedly different to the Prison System. That does not mean that either one is better or worse, they are fundamentally different. The Prison system works on strict rules, security and hierarchy. These are necessary for the safety of staff and those in prison. The Probation system works on transparency, constantly questioning everything including instructions and rules. Probation training encourages the professional to question the system in which they, and their client, exist and to seek to understand and explore issues relating to power and control in their working relationships. This inevitably affects the way that those professionals respond to their own working relationships in their own supervision and management arrangements. Probation professionals should be expected to ask for evidence and data, to scrutinise the motivation for instructions and policy changes and, above all, to have an active voice in their own management.

For many years Napo has been warning that the move into HMPPS was a risk to the profession; the ‘One HMPPS’ programme is likely to realise these fears.

Probation as a profession will be under threat due to the needs of our larger and more costly partner in the prisons. Senior leaders will continue to struggle to make the voice of Probation heard and, in order to survive, will adopt more of a command and control approach, discouraging questioning and becoming more remote. The mantra of: ‘that’s not how Civil Service/HMPPS/Prisons do it’ will continue to be the stock response when those who retain Probation values and approaches try to be heard. It is important to note that in all the work done since 2014 to rebuild Probation in the Civil Service you never hear anyone say ‘that’s how Probation do it’. It is a great shame, there is much that our colleagues in the wider HMPPS and Civil Service could learn from the former Probation Trusts, especially those who were outstanding performers with externally verified excellence standards. 

If the Civil Service headcount needs to be reduced, then Napo have the perfect solution which is ‘oven ready’. Move the Probation Service out of the Civil Service into a non-departmental government body. In the public sector but freed from prison and removed from the Civil Service. Give Probation professionals the freedom to practice, give senior leaders the freedom to truly lead. Make the Probation Service locally accountable, enabling partnership working while retaining its unique culture and values.

As previously stated, and for the formal record in all our future discussions about ‘One HMPPS’, Napo is implacably opposed to what we believe to be a direct threat to the profession, it’s staff and it’s vital role in the justice system and wider society.

In light of the foregoing you will not be surprised to hear that Napo will vigorously campaign in and outside of Parliament to achieve the aims outlined above.

Yours sincerely




Ian Lawrence

General Secretary 


CC: Amy Rees

       Sonia Crozier

       Ian Barrow

       Francis Stuart