Napo to start a national conversation about the future of Probation

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The leading union in the Probation service Napo, are launching a national conversation on the future structure of probation delivery and accountability at a panel discussion to be held at the Welsh Assembly on Wednesday 7th February.

Napo claim that Chris Grayling’s “Transforming Rehabilitation” (TR) revolution has been an unmitigated disaster – the subject of hugely critical reports by the NAO and HMI Probation at the end of 2017 and now the subject of parallel investigations by the Public Accounts Committee and the Justice Select Committee.

On-going risks identified by staff include:

  • Huge shortages of staff across privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), largely due to job cuts due to loss making contracts;
  • A staff morale crisis in the National Probation Service (NPS), run by the MoJ, arising from staff shortages, low staff morale, high workloads and payroll problems due to systemic failures in managing different pay and pension systems after the staff transfer;
  • Knowledge gaps between staff working for the different organisations about offenders when cases are transferred between the two separate organisations;
  • Fears about contract stability, especially following the recent collapse of Carillion.

Dean Rogers, Napo’s Assistant General Secretary who will be one of the panel members on 7th February said: “The current probation model is unsustainable so we need to start building a consensus for change now. That means promoting the debate and listening, as well as putting forward our own initial ideas, drawing from the lessons of Grayling’s failed experiment.”

At the Welsh Assembly Panel event, sponsored by Jayne Bryant AM, Mr Rogers will be joined by author Darren McGarvey; Dr Jill Annison from the University of Plymouth; Safer wales CEO, Bernie Bowen-Thomas and Clinks CEO, Anne Fox. The event takes place at the Media Briefing Room between 12 and 1.30pm.

Napo are campaigning across Wales and England saying that a new delivery model will need to reunite probation locally; increase local accountability and co-operation between local stakeholders; and remove the profit motive which skews commissioning and stifles local innovation.

Dean Rogers added: “Privatisation hasn’t worked in large part because there was never a market and no profit to be made to start with. Local CRC’s commissioning local providers isn’t working because CRC’s are making a loss and need to keep everything for themselves. But the nationalised bit doesn’t work either, because this is a local service that needs to be locally accountable and respond to local needs. Napo’s role is not to have all the answers but we should be generating debate and asking all of the right questions”

Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence, who provided Oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee inquiry this week: said: “This is an exciting initiative and Wales seems like the right place to start the national debate because people know about devolution and are well placed to explore possible options. Urgent consideration needs to be given to the key issues of probation funding and the impact on public safety of a fragmented service.”

Specific briefing note to Editors: With an emerging political consensus that the TR model will not survive past the current contracts which run until 2022, Napo is eager to move the debate from simply identifying what is accepted to not be working and towards what a new model could look like. In this they recognise that part of Chris Grayling’s problem was a failure to properly engage with professionals and stakeholders and build a consensus around reforms that could genuinely work.