ESCL Joint Trade Union Statement

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8th March 2024
ESCL – To be Extended
On 7th March 2024, the employer met with the probation Trade Unions  to give them an  emergency briefing on prison capacity and the resulting emergency measures they will be taking in an attempt to get some control over prisoner numbers. Currently the ESCL scheme allows prisoners to be released 18 days earlier. This will now be extended to 35 days.
The unions were clear with the employer that this news will have a devastating effect on a workforce who are already overworked and where there is also a capacity crisis. The Early Release Scheme will leave many staff anxiously trying to arrange or re-arrange release plans, liaise with victims, find accommodation and ensure public safety. On top of the workloads crisis this will be devastating news.
As part of Operation Protect, the Trade Unions have engaged with the employer over a number of months to develop workload relief either via primary legislation or through internal policy changes. These talks and agreement on some measures would have had a significant impact on staff workloads and would alleviate the current pressures and those bought about by the anticipated Sentencing Bill. However, Prison Capacity has yet again taken precedence over the capacity of probation. The ESCL announcement and the expected work it will generate, alongside changes to Fixed Term Recalls, will cancel out any benefits we have achieved from the joint union Operation Protect campaign so far.
Trade Unions will be going back to the employer to continue talks and to demand urgent measures to address this situation. Through feedback from our meetings with members, we have developed and shared a suite of measures to fix the workload crisis. These go much further than those already agreed with the employer and we will be pushing HMPPS to implement these as a matter of urgency. Our Operation Protect campaign remains the highest priority for the unions and we intend to press on with our efforts to bring down workloads and the stress and dangers that this brings to staff and communities.
The Trade Unions note that it is disappointing this only applies to the male estate. Whilst overcrowding is more acute in male prisons, the disparity in how women are being treated in the UK prison system does not sit comfortably with the need for the equitable administration of justice.
Not a mess of our making
This crisis has been long in the making and we have given the employer every opportunity to listen to the feedback of our members. Without urgent measures for Probation this scheme will not only not work but we are deeply concerned as to the potential impact on our members, on communities, on victims and on those who we supervise.
The Probation Unions will be reiterating that we put our ideas of a rescue package for Probation directly to the Lord Chancellor in November. The above developments are further evidence as to how important Probation is to alleviating the chaos that has followed this Governments mismanagement of the Prison estate.
It’s time that Probation is given the respect it deserves.
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Ian Lawrence                         Ben Priestley                         George Georgiou
General Secretary                 National Officer                     National Officer
Napo                                       UNISON                                  GMB/SCOOOP