Napo calls on NOMS to put the TOM on ice

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Last Friday, Napo expressed serious concerns around authority to practice and access to information as a basis for halting the Target Operating Model.

Napo wrote to the Directors of Probation in England and Wales as follows:

As the first week of the new arrangements for the provision of Probation services draws to a close, we are doubtless all taking stock.

Members have been contacting us through the week with concerns about the new systems and operating arrangements. I would like to draw two specific issues to your attention.

The first concerns the basic authority to operate as Officers of Providers of Probation Services and in particular in the context of staff being asked to operate across the new divide between the two organisations. Napo is seeking to provide its members with advice and guidance but this is proving difficult in the absence of certain key pieces of information. We do now have the NPS SLAs and have seen Schedule 28 of the CRC contracts ( though not the contracts themselves, despite having requested them on several occasions). What we do not have are what appear to be two critical Probation Instructions - The Role of Court Duty Staff & Authorisation of an Officer of a Provider of Probation Services - the latter expected to be PI 31/2014. Both are trailed elsewhere and we are aware they are in preparation but, considering the requirement for consultation and authorisation, it seems unlikely that they can be issued in anything less than six weeks. Existing Probation Instructions on these matters have effectively become null and void with the advent of new employers and as such we would question whether staff are in fact operating ultra vires. Both of these Instructions should have been in place on June 1st.

The second concern is around the (in)ability of staff to access key information on offenders across the divide. As you will know, restrictions have been put in place notably within NDelius and OASys. Many members have contacted us about this. They are concerned that these restrictions hamper their ability to properly assess and manage risk. In our estimation, these restrictions pose a high if not very high risk of serious harm to service users, staff and third parties.

In light of these two very significant issues associated with the new operating model, we would ask you to confirm, by return, that the model will be put on ice. If you feel unable to comply with this request, then we will feel bound, as a public duty, to place these concerns before a wider audience.

Mike McClelland
National Official

Not unexpectedly, NOMS did not acquiesce. In their response, Colin Allars and Sarah Payne, asserted that the Offender Management Act 2007 provided the basis for authorising individuals to act as Officers of Providers of Probation Services. They said that they we're reminding both CRCs and the NPS that they should confirm to staff that these authorisations are in place. The referenced PI will provide further guidance on this once it is issued.

As regards Napo's expressed concerns about access to information, they said "we are now making good progress in embedding and stabilising the new organisations and associated operational processes."  They went on ...."with a programme of this size, there will also be a period of stabilisation relating to the transfer and whilst we recognise that this is a challenging time for NPS and CRC staff, the introduction of some of the operational processes from 1 April allowed the transfer to take place in a phased and controlled way. Whilst there have been some local ICT issues with individual role based access (RBACs) profiles we along with local ICT support managers are continuing to address any issues as they arise." They conclude, "Transition to the new working structures is now well under way and good progress is being made, as you are aware our top priority is to continue to support probation staff as they work to embed new working structures."

Napo will be replying and our response will be posted here shortly.