Monday, 4 May 2015

Probation in the News

As we have often complained bitterly, the plight of the Probation Service hardly ever gets any airtime or decent press coverage and ignorance of our situation is pretty universal. 

So, with only 72 hours to go before the polls open, it's particularly good to hear a powerful piece in the Independent get a mention on the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme 'what the papers say' slot. It's also worth adding that it's largely your testimony on this blog that is helping keep at least one national newspaper's interest going - so keep it up guys.    

Probation service 'staffing crisis' leaves public at risk from violent criminals

A “staffing crisis” in the probation service due to cuts and reforms is leaving the public at danger from violent criminals – with women who have suffered from domestic violence among the most vulnerable, unions and campaigners have warned.

At least 1,200 staff will have left the probation service by the end of this year and the skills shortage means lower-grade employees are being asked to pick up the slack, taking on complex cases involving sexual and domestic violence. Rules to make sure only the most-experienced officers work on domestic-abuse cases are being disregarded as the service fights to stay on top of rising workloads. The losses are a result of planned redundancies and hundreds of staff retiring or changing careers due to disillusionment.

Frances Cook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the rapid loss of experience could have a devastating impact on women. “There are only 9,000 probation officers to start with, and I think domestic violence is a particular worry. If somebody has already killed someone you know you need to treat them very carefully, but we know that domestic violence can escalate very quickly. Two women a week are killed by their partners.”

Around 500 probation officers have chosen to take early retirement or leave the service since the Government split it into two, outsourcing the least-complex work to privately run groups known as community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). Ministry of Justice figures confirm that more than 200 had already departed by late 2014.

An additional 700 redundancies have been announced by Sodexo – one of the largest private companies to win a contract to manage offenders, and which is now operating six of the 21 CRCs across England and Wales. Many of the employees transferred from the public sector to private firms as part of the reforms are also considering leaving.

“We have already got a staffing crisis. With the redundancies as well there are significant staff shortages around the country,” said Tania Bassett, head of press, parliament and campaigns at the probation officers’ union, Napo.

Napo reports 375 probation vacancies in London which are being covered by agency workers, but agencies are struggling to find sufficiently experienced staff. New staff being recruited into probation will not be fully trained for at least another 15 months. To keep on top of the workload, jobs that should be carried out by highly experienced officers – those holding a degree and earning up to £37,000 a year – are being passed on to “probation service officers”, an entry-level job which pays as little as £20,000.

Ms Bassett said the situation was not only dangerous for the public but damaging for staff too. “If you haven’t got the training to work with sex offenders it can have a very emotional impact on individuals.”

One senior probation officer, who did not wish to be named, said: “Collectively the service is having a nervous breakdown and my guess is at least 80 per cent of staff are just looking to get out by any means. The damage is done; there’s worse to come and there’s absolutely nothing that can stop it. I’m pessimistic about the future and it will take a couple of serious murders, prison riots or similar for politicians and the public to take the slightest notice.”

Under the new probation system, low-grade cases of domestic abuse fall under the remit of the CRCs. Plans for private companies to computerise much of the job, requiring offenders to log attendance on a screen rather than meeting an officer face to face, mean years of experience in how to help prevent an escalation of violence may be lost.

Polly Neate, chief executive of Women’s Aid, said she was “very concerned about the implication for the safety of women and children” due to the loss of experience. “Specialist knowledge is of the utmost importance when it comes to working safely with perpetrators and survivors of domestic violence,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said the number of people working in the National Probation Service – the part of the service that remains in the public sector – was rising.

“Staffing levels in the National Probation Service are closely monitored to ensure public safety. We are on track to have 1,000 officers in training by the middle of this year. The community rehabilitation companies allocate staff as appropriate to ensure medium and low-risk offenders are safely managed.”

Yvonne Patterson, 49, is a probation officer in Scarborough. She has been employed in the sector for 13 years and now works within the National Probation Service.

“There have been a number of people who have left in my area of work. There have been big numbers in other roles. Some staff have chosen to leave, some have taken early retirement when they would have worked on longer but they said, ‘we have had enough’. They don’t want to be part of it. A number at chief officer grade have said they won’t play any part in what the Government’s chosen to do.

Some were really, really good people who have been there for 25 or 30 years. They chose to leave because they could see what it’s turned into. Since the split happened, it’s a very different environment to work in. People that ended up in the community rehabilitation company side were made to feel like they weren’t good enough. They felt very under-valued. It’s not a nice place to be anymore. I used to like going to work, but if something else was to come along I would certainly seriously consider it.”

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Bleak Futures Week 18

Yet another upgrade to N-delerious and worse again - its a fecking joke.

*****
Unable to get on Delius all day. Seems like even the system realises how fucked up things are at the moment. Yet when the pressure starts to build re missed targets managers will not want to know. To anyone in the same position, make sure that when the system decides to return make sure that you enter a detailed explanation re the delay.

*****
After 2 days off, enjoying sun, I returned to work today, dreading the upgrade, something always goes wrong or we have to re-learn how to access and use the IT systems. I was not disappointed, got a an email from Crown Court asking for the case allocation document! I checked and it was there in n'delius, uploaded when it was done in Feb! Oh no, would you believe it, its a blank doc! I always put a hard copy in the file too, so faxed it over.

Not 10 minutes later, I was advised the FDR was also blank! I don't make a habit of uploading blanks, and I was a little put out by the inference that I hadn't done it, as I did and offered to fax a copy, but was reminded by court staff that I will have to do them again in nDelius to complete the record!

Well no, I completed the work once and have the evidence, actual hard copies so, I won't be re-doing it all again anytime soon, been allocated more reports since then. So it looks to me that the upgrade erased some text, another colleague sent a blank recall report to Noms yesterday, unaware it had been erased! You really couldn't make it up. I will be entering a complaint to my SPO.

*****
'Upgrade' has been a disaster in our northern office. People seem to have lost access to records, whilst some offenders and their records seem to have become invisible and impossible to find. We know they should be there but we can't find them. And then the computers are crawling for some and completely stopped for others. I'm in NPS but god knows how my CRC colleagues are coping with their increased OASys demands. Must be pulling their hair out. Interesting how CRC colleagues no longer have time to see clients. Too busy fudging OASys stats.

*****
Six times yesterday I tried to make an entry on same individual and six times got exception error - three times tried again on same offender this morning. Finally cracked it when I did not use next appointment but that meant I had to put this in separately. It's beyond a joke now. 2 staff in my office covering 5 caseloads - I am on the verge of breakdown without N-disastrous.

*****
Don't know which northern office you are from my friend, but same state of play in my northern office too.

*****
Some northern offices completing basic level one OASys to save time but not being told this is officially allowed. Staff at breaking point with others shipped to TTG, leaving rest to pick up the caseload. Nightmare continues.

*****
It won't let me change the screen colour - its dark blue and we can't read the top of the screen - there's a facility to change colour but it doesn't work unless it will upgrade overnight. And don't get me started on it kicking me out when I've not used it for like a minute aarrgghh.

*****
Horrendous IT day yesterday with loss of capacity for hours both Citrix and Delius. Whole day without everything working, really, really, shameful. Heading in now hoping to do some catch up, I really cannot go on like this.

*****
Yet more problems with N-disastrous. All day long I have had exception or time out errors, repeatedly having to make the entries over and over. With only two staff and a caseload of five staff - a trying day to say the least. We were told this upgrade would improve the system - it is worse than ever and takes even longer to find something.

*****
Durham Tees Valley have people starting training this week. Unsure what it consists of as there is no one in my office who has been selected. I'm sure it will all work out though and the Prison officers will make them feel really welcome.

*****
I said this wasn't going to work when we first heard of it inside. How are they going to get people into their local resettlement prison when the prisons are so full? There's nowhere to transfer the current occupants to in order to make room for the new influx. There's 2 people in Leicester as far as I know. They won't have a chance of getting everybody. TTG and the new RAR system need a huge investment of money and people and all we get are cuts. How can it be said that people will be provided with accommodation when local councils are making it harder by the day to apply and hostel places are disappearing overnight?

*****
Surely TTG in concept should be about providing support for those leaving custody that only have £46 in their pocket (and a £1000 debt), and in most need? That would be those that need help with accommodation, employment etc that don't already have any support networks to turn to? These however, are the most time consuming and expensive people to extend the service to. Making it voluntary is just a sneaky way of cherry picking those that will need the least assistance and therefore cheaper and easier to acquire the 'outcome' required for payment. 


Something that hasn't been mentioned of late is that TTG is to work in association with the creation of 'ressettlement' prisons, where prisoners are released from their local prisons after being transferred there a month or so prior. I'm a little perplexed as to how TTG can actually start running until the resettlement infrastructure has been put in place?

To my knowledge, no prisoners are yet being transferred for local discharge, and people living in London are still being released from areas such as Durham or Liverpool. How can TTG work whilst that's happening? TTG is a concept that sounds good to politicians and the public that have no real knowledge of the issues that exist within the CJS, and a half baked notion from a SoS that has even less of an idea.

*****
On 1st May we just got an A4 notification to say Shelter were doing the TTG. It also says 'the other TTG services, emergency 48hr post release accommodation and support to prisoners who've been subject to domestic or sexual abuse and those who may have been sex workers will be introduced later in the year and will be delivered by OTHER commissioned providers'. It further says 'NOMS have created a number of resettlement prisons & it's ANTICIPATED prisoners will be transferred to these - if they're not, the prison will liaise with the Responsible Officer to agree support (I'm guessing this will happen a lot - can't see resettlement prisons taking off tbh).

*****
I had a conversation with the department that organises Through the Gate in a Northern prison and was informed that despite them being one of the designated prisons they have no-one in post and no training planned at this time - perhaps Mr Grayling could suggest why this would be?

*****
I hear that a northern prison had a big issue with TTG and conflict between Sodexo-based CRC and another CRC both of which cover that prison. Because info is commercially sensitive they are watching each other carefully but have requested separate offices in that same prison. Now this is likely to be replicated in other areas too, isn't that interesting?

*****
Another prison visit and another sea of blank looks when I asked how the plans for TTG are going? Now some prisons are shanghaiing admin and support staff into roles without any formal training. Message to those staff who see this as a career move, if something goes wrong in between picking your old lag up before transporting them to their new pad, please make sure that you are in a union. Those that aren't can expect to get picked off one by one.

*****
An IT technician with Gwalia Housing has just started working as a TTG peer mentor trainer with St Giles in a prison in Wales. I give him the benefit of the doubt!

*****
TTG Cardiff prison still not up and running. Community part of the contract not being awarded until June.

*****
Interesting thought. A lot of people used to do Criminal Justice related voluntary work because they wanted experience that would help them to get into Probation. Now there IS no Probation, what's the incentive?

*****
It used to be a befriend and assist job. If you had life experience, you may be suitable as long as you could show you could relate to the clients. Now you need a degree and the ability to enforce punishment for non-compliance. Some colleagues' whole life work trashed and maybe facing unemployment in their 50s. Lost career and vocation to make way for profiteering from crime. This is the new future of the Probation Service. Oh and don't forget the devalued pension pot they have robbed as well. RIP

*****
A prisoner released after 5 yrs in prison, never used the internet, told by Work Programme to go to his local Hub to enrol on an IT course so he can upload his CV to emails etc. Course was full. He has to try again for next months course. He wants a CSCS card so he can work in construction but WP won't pay the £180 for it unless he has a firm job offer. He attended ETE in Probation, run by longstanding partnership, who have sorted all of this for him apart from the CSCS as they don't have a budget. The Work Programme fails and parks prisoners. This guy is trying to go straight after supplying class A. He can easily make some money but chooses to go straight. He needs professional help to do this, not volunteer mentors who don't have the expertise.

*****
At this moment in time, I am actually spending more time behind a PC than I was pre-TR - not what I expected in CRC - man down pub tells me it's going to get better - if and when it does I may buy that man a drink but I cannot see it being achieved in my CRC lifetime.

*****
We spend more time at a PC than ever before, the systems are less efficient and detrimental and duplication is running rife.

*****
In our offices (joint CRC and NPS) the receptionists can't see delius for NPS. This causes a whole heap of problems. Anyone else in the same boat?

*****
Yes same in my office/area - causes heaps of problems. Recently Social Services were after information on a case not long finished - CRC staff unable to access - once terminated goes back to NPS - had to ask them to look up information - swamped by bureaucracy.

*****
Only going to get worse, wait until you are not even working in the same building and everything is fed through and out of the central Hub..

*****
I work as a joint CRC/NPS receptionist and can still see NPS front screen records just not full functionality. A lot of it is interpreting the information we can see which boils down to experience in our particular field. Safeguarding and Prison checks on the increase. We are a small cog in the big wheel, but important front line staff and if it causes a whole heap of problems now, wait until we are not there anymore which seems to be the plan!!!

*****
I'm aware of central hubs for CRC but what will happen at the few NPS offices that are left? Will there be any receptionists there? Receptionists are indeed an important - if not the most important - cog in the wheel and I for one would struggle without them!

*****
The fact is that the default operating models are not fit for purpose in the real world. In my opinion, they have been designed without any comprehension of the environment in which they will be delivered. Every offender has a phone, none of them are mentally unwell or suffer from substance misuse issues, public transport is universal, everyone has good reception on their mobile phone, no-one ever turns up late or early, no-one misses a group. The list of factors is endless. Receptionists are the gatekeepers. Without them there will be chaos. The CRC management know this and are still arguing the point with Sodeveryone.

*****
Excellent points well made. Reception staff - I am sorry you've been taken for granted for so long. Your hour of recognition is now here. Similarly case admin staff - the prospect of losing your knowledge & experience makes my blood run cold.


*****
When we first split the Courts were not ringing OMs for updates to aid sentencing, however today I've been emailed to send court a progress report to aid sentencing. Never heard of these reports - I'm happy to fill it in as it will mean someone getting sentenced right (hopefully) but the whole NPS/CRC is shifting sands.

*****
Unpaid Work is a disaster - only one supervisor as the other on training, no sessionals anymore. 16 turned up as per signed instructions and 6 of them were sent home. Offenders arguing about who went home last week (cos of the same problem) and who's turn it is to go home this week; others arguing to stay as it's not their fault we've no staff; OMs arguing for their clients to stay. But never mind, Sodexo saving £18k pa in staffing.

*****
This situation can have serious consequences for any offender doing unpaid work and claiming benefits. If your contract with the Job Centre has the time you spend weekly on unpaid work factored in, and the Job Centre get wind that you haven't actually done those hours of unpaid work for any given week, then you run the risk of being sanctioned. It matters not that it isn't your fault, you just haven't fulfilled your agreement. Harsh, even cruel, but true!

*****
Couldn't agree more. Our UPW vans are off the road cos no one has a PSV licence. Now have hire vans but can't take the tools out cos no tow bar to carry the trailer.

*****
Not sure what area you are in, but in our CRC Unpaid Work we have had 4 supervisors to 6 service users today. We are twiddling our thumbs here. Maybe I can suggest coming to give you a hand?

*****
Staff do not need a PSV licence. It is CP card that Sodexo are refusing to let the staff get. They will not put staff through this training, thus resulting in only being able to carry 8 passengers. Vans are off the road because they do not know what they are doing, they do not understand how unpaid work, works. This is another way of cost cutting. They think that by refusing the CP card to the supervisors that they will save money. Really more money is being spent on hiring brand new mini buses.

*****
It's a bit worrying that they can't arrange transport for their offenders. It makes me wonder how they deal with real problems that involve risk?

*****
Our CRC not very good at maths. We are expected to take 10 offenders with only 8 available seats on the van.

*****
What is so disheartening about all of this is that, despite all the evidence on here and tweeted etc elsewhere of the disintegration of the Service, none of it will make a blind bit of difference to those with decision making powers. We have HMI in at present doing an 'audit' of how things are working post TR. Assured of anonymity, all questions are being answered honestly by those of us whose cases are in the sample. But will what we say have any impact - I doubt it. Still, I await the HMI report with interest, as I was told by an Inspector that it won't go to the CEO (for tweaking) before publication, as is the normal practice with inspections, apparently.....

*****
Whilst a deterioration was expected, that it is happening so fast is frightening. It seems people have regressed and lost all sense of what had been learned, supposed to have been put in place years ago and have reverted back to systems and process that applied to very dark times. Whilst 'service user' feedback is now derigeur, engagement, effective practice, for those who knew what that was, seems to have flown out of the window. Restrictive punitive measures and approach abound, law, policy and guidance is disregarded as back covering and so called risk management, predominates. Half a day training or do it yourself IT training, easy enough to cheat and falsify, resulting in.. the horrors are too many. People died, were abused, treated unfairly because of exactly this type of behaviour in the NHS. It's only a matter of time before it all crashes down on them. In many ways am beginning to see the value in kiosks, at least that will mean some people will not have to suffer.

*****
Anyone in Northumbria want to add to this list of the impossibility of getting breach papers past the Enforcement Team in NPS?

Your breach is rejected because:

1. You haven't tried to do a home visit (offender is known to stab people)
2. You haven't checked if they have outstanding fines (I was asking for 7 hours additional Unpaid Work)
3. You haven't sent warning letters (he doesn't have an address)
4. You haven't ruled out a curfew (I wasn't asking for a curfew I was asking for more Unpaid Work)
5. You haven't provided witness availability for Unpaid Work staff (I would if he denied the breach, we're not at that stage yet)
6. Your Delius entry from 3 months ago says someone rang and said she was sick (I don't have a sick note, I don't know who the caller was)
7. You need a letter from his employer (his employer doesn't know he's on Probation)
8. Your word is just hearsay, not evidence (I'm his Probation Officer!!)
9. You haven't said whether you have tried to phone him (He hasn't got a phone)
10. You haven't got a signed agreement to say that he understands that he has to come to appointments (He hasn't attended at all. He hasn't been signed up yet)

*****
NPS in the northwest are also doing a fine job of knocking everything back. They simply loathe requests for WWOB; they'll eat hot gravel rather than apply for an arrest warrant.
What's the story, NPS?

*****
You're making a single fatal error, you had the client at the centre of things, the breach procedure has targets at the centre of all things!


*****
As far as I'm aware in the NorthWest and using Merseyside as an example, the warrant team is tiny and so anyone on 'their toes' has minimal chance of being hauled back before the courts. Warrants only tend to get executed when they are arrested on new matters. Stay on your toes for 3 years or so and Probation Court officers will re-apply to court to have the warrants cancelled.

*****
Who are the breach officers in Northumbria? Are they the ones transferred over from G4S as part of TR? Remember, they didn't get asked just like we didn't, and may not have been given suitable support and training. If not, then I have no idea what's going on!

*****
If it's any consolation in another northern office close by Northumbria, breaches are also being rejected for ridiculous reasons.

*****
I cannot stress how much sympathy I have for PQF learners. I have never seen entrants into probation treated this way. We all know how their salaries were messed up at the outset with many having no income until the mess was sorted, they have also been auto enrolled into a pension scheme without even basic information provided - a clear breach by NPS of pension regulations.

But by far the worst part is their training, often hitched to over-burdened PO "mentors" who can't keep up with their own case loads let alone training others, managers with no time to spare....and who cares???? I have tried to help a lovely person in our team to the detriment of my own workload and having to catch up out of hours. She tells me she is in despair because she was promised a rewarding career with decent training and she dare not speak out. Isn't that a shame?

*****
It's shocking but the same right across England and Wales. I went to a conference the other month when a man from NOMS asked our opinion on new learners asking, should their caseload be protected and if so for how long? We stared blankly at him for a long time. Of course they should be protected but we're so short-staffed how can that be possible and with highly qualified staff being dismissed on the other side, didn't know what to say! Speechless. We eventually let him know what we thought.

*****
I also really feel for the new PQF trainers. Last week I reluctantly refused a request to act as mentor for a trainee due to start tomorrow. This decision came about owing to the failure of management to date to rectify my unmanageable caseload and bring it in line with comparable role PO's elsewhere in the 'business'. A number of us commenced grievance proceedings 6 months ago on this matter and yet again we hear today the hearing date has been delayed, so we have informed management we will not take any 'new' work for the foreseeable. It goes against the grain to refuse to help a colleague, especially a newly-appointed trainee, but we are on our knees here with no end in sight.

Day 3 of the HMI inspection and the inspector I saw today probably wasn't anticipating the response he got when he told me that our teams decision last July not to do any more Oasys or ISP's (after requesting direction on prioritisation of work and been told by Snr Management that 'everything was a priority') had been 'indefensible'. He spent the next 10 minutes heavily rowing back on that one, saying it wasn't personal and hopefully their report will make a difference in terms of resource allocation. Well, as I told him, I'm not holding my breath on that one. It couldn't get any worse here than it has been today...

*****
Well it's an absolute certainty that no TPO is going to be failed...at least they know they will have a job.

*****
I am a TPO and worked for a significant period in AP's and programmes beforehand. I joined a Trust. I am thriving and absolutely adore being a TPO. Sorry to go against the grain of this post but I just feel I should share my experience.

*****
I think there's a gulf between those who have grown up (professionally speaking) in recent times, and those who have longer memories & experiences. Neither is right or wrong, but times and practice are significantly different. My DipSW Learning/training experience bears no relation to the current TPO experience. My time as an assessor didn't have any resonance with my practice teacher's efforts to knock me into shape. It shouldn't be a case of going against grain, it is just different for so many reasons. Grumpy old gits sometimes find it hard to be eclipsed by young pups, whilst fresh blood can be feisty and enthusiastic and blind to the priveleges that experience brings.

*****
I "absolutely adored" being a PO...and then along came TR...

*****
I have been qualified 9 months, was a PSO before. I had to fight for protected caseload and someone to support me with my first parole report before I even qualified. I now have a caseload of 47 mostly high risk. For the first time in my life I am now on anti-depressants.

*****
Everyday in the CRC gets worse. You can see the stress etched on colleagues faces. We were recently given a week to transfer cases. Today we got learning point from a recent SFO - when cases are transferred there must be a handover between staff. Staff being sent into prison without risk assessments or proper training. Message being sent out from management that we must divert from recall.

*****
There was a big performance metrics meting for NPS this week. Apparently a recall will count as an unsuccessful completion. Wonder if same for CRC and that's why being advised to divert? It's all about the targets and profits. I guess the instruction will be risk escalate before recall? Just had a SFO for murder - risk escalation.

*****
If there's a message being sent out that states 'divert from recall', then that really needs to be published. Such an instruction takes away the individual (and trained and experienced) judgement from the probation officer, and puts a management decision focused on meeting targets way above concerns for public safety. Recall should occur only when necessary, and being instructed to refrain from doing what is necessary when public protection is concerned is just frankly shocking. Print it off and send it to Sadiq Khan with your anonymous concerns about what risks such advice may have on public safety.

*****
If there's another "dinosaur/old git" comment in our shared building today I won't be needing my redundancy, but I will need a PSR after I've given one of the smug NPS newly-qualified POs a good slap. NPS manager isn't interested in addressing it. CRC manager says it's not his staff member so he can't do anything about it. Looks like it'll have to be 2 falls and a submission a la Mick McManus, or a thick ear a la Frank Bruno. I haven't a fucking clue what happened to professional standards in the probation service. Where did they go?

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Through the Gate Special

Yesterday was the day for TTG, is it actually up and running ANYWHERE??

*****
Not in my northern area. No clearance so sat thumb twiddling whilst colleagues trying to pick up the pieces are left pulling hair out, their own that is.

*****
I thought that too, TTG roll out. Not heard a peep. I guess the first thing we will hear is trying to direct a lifer or RSO to AP and finding they have a nice shining new flat or B and B with vulnerable people and children.

*****
It's up and running in Wales with CRC staff seconded in, including trainee TPOs, while St Giles get their act together.

*****
I thought Catch 22 were comissioned for TTG in the Working Links CRCS?

*****
In Mersyside, OMs in prisons do the BCST within 72 hours of arrival and shelter will review it by day 5 and create a Resettlement Plan comprising of either debt/accom/ete advice.I won't hold my breath, but so far no CRC PSOs directed there, which is a positive.

*****
St Giles will be in some of the S.Wales prisons. New staff were taken on after Easter so I guess waiting to work their notice and get prison clearance. The current CRC TTG staff do the BCST and run the in house programmes. 25 new prisoners every day into Cardiff prison with 5 TTG staff, 3 are p/t.

*****
Heard a lot about resettlement plans they are going to create, not entirely sure what that amounts to. How are they going to resettle Mappa 2 and 3 with 12 weeks notice?

*****
New CRC staff aren't trained to work with high risk offenders. Some TPSOs are doing TTG in the prison. Even worse to think about new inexperienced St Giles staff working with them.

*****
They are all gradually beginning to find out that what they have got is not what they thought they would be getting and that this business is a lot more complicated than they were led to believe.

*****
St Giles is a phoney organisation. They marketed themselves as this lovely, organic, holistic, cosy little bunch of ex offenders who knew the ropes and could show the young uns where they'd gone wrong. They went wrong by saying they could scale it up. A project like that will have so many false starts, but they portrayed it as shelling peas. Shame on them.

*****
I was told that TTG is not compulsory for prisoners. It is compulsory to offer it but if they prefer to go to the gym etc., they can. This was from someone who has just finished their 1 week TTG training.

*****
That's just a cop out. Can't deal with the numbers involved, so we'll 'select' volunteers.

Friday, 1 May 2015

TGI Friday Again

It's Friday, a Bank Holiday is nearly upon us and I want to say two things. Firstly, thanks for keeping the blog running whilst it's been on autopilot and I continue to be necessarily involved elsewhere. 

Secondly, with less than a week to go before the Election, judging by the comments coming in over the last couple of days, it's abundantly clear that all our fears regarding this TR omnishambles are more than proving to be correct. You don't need me to tell you to remember who is to blame come next Thursday and time to wield that strange stubby black pencil on a bit of string. 

Please keep supplying the testimony, sending in the evidence, sharing your thoughts and concerns, but above all, carry on looking out for each other. As always, those moved to pen a Guest Blog will be more than welcome. 

I'll close this holding post with an article in the latest edition of Private Eye:-  

Embedded image permalink

Postscript

This from the Bradford Telegraph and Argus is worth pondering on as well:-
A PERSISTENT Bradford burglar, with no home and no income, was ordered to pay more than £1,000 in court charges under new rules, after admitting his latest offence. Nathan Simpson, 30, was jailed for four years by the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Roger Thomas QC.  
It is thought to be the first time the Courts Charge has been imposed in Yorkshire and one of the first cases in the country. Under new legislation, which came into force on April 13, Judge Thomas had to impose a £900 Criminal Courts Charge on Simpson, as well as a statutory £120 Victim Surcharge. He ordered the defendant to pay at £5 a week when he is released from his sentence.
The Criminal Courts Charge was introduced by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to make offenders contribute directly to court costs. It is in addition to fines, compensation orders and the defendant's own legal charges. His barrister David McGonigal, of Broadway Chambers in Bradford, said after the case that Simpson had no income whatsoever, but the judge had no discretion when making the Criminal Courts Charge.
Mr McGonigal said: "I suggested the charge was wholly unjust, but the judge had no choice in the matter. Simpson does not have any means, no income, no benefits, and is of no fixed address. When he was asked how he was going to pay, he just laughed.
"This is the first case of its type I have dealt with, but there will be plenty more to come. It doesn't seem right to impose a penalty without considering the financial or personal circumstances of the defendant, but that is the new law."
Postscript 2 

Richard Monkhouse, Chair of the Magistrates Association, commenting on the Criminal Courts Charge on BBC Radio 5 Live on 27 March 2015 (from article in current MA eNews) 
I would like to correct some misapprehensions about the activity of the MA concerning the newly introduced Criminal Courts Charge.
The principle of the Courts Charge was announced in the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in February 2014. It was fully and widely consulted upon. We have made this known to members in various communications. That Bill was given Royal Assent in February 2015.
The MA submitted its response. We said that even without any knowledge of the proposed levels of charge, judicial discretion should be allowed in its application. We submitted evidence to the Public Bill Committee and amendments were tabled. The MA Policy team also briefed MPs and members of the House of Lords about our concerns. During the Bill’s passage, at meetings and events, we argued for judicial discretion and asked repeatedly about the anticipated levels of charge. The charges were only revealed on 23 March 2015 without public consultation and following this announcement, I was invited and appeared in various media outlets and repeated our concerns.
Members have raised this issue at visits that I and others have been making recently to branch meetings. Some members have jumped to the conclusion that because they have only just heard about this, it has also taken the MA by surprise. That is just not true. This matter has been the subject of discussion for the last 12 months at least. The main, but not the only concern is, as we have been saying over that period, that there should be judicial discretion in its application.
I understand members’ views. I have the same concerns that the charge will have a detrimental impact on the justice system. However, we have to remember that we are judicial office holders and cannot pick and choose which laws we like. We have no authority to tell the government which laws they should enact and which they shouldn’t. We can only advise them of the likely effects of their laws, and we do, repeatedly.

It is also worth mentioning that when arguing a case with anyone, particularly politicians, we may have strong belief in our own arguments, but so will they. If their proposals or actions are based upon ideologically held views, then no argument however logical it may seem to us, will win the day. In this case it was not only the MA but also other organisations within the Criminal Justice System who voiced the same concerns and yet collectively we could not shift the principle of a mandatory charge.
Of course, neither the MA nor any other organisation which seeks to influence policy will get its own way all the time. Sometimes we do, as in the changes brought about in the same Act regarding Cautions. Sometimes we don’t, as in this case. That doesn’t mean we will stop trying. We will be making the same arguments with the incoming government after 7 May and we have proposed that at the very least, the three year review of this charge should be brought forward to a six month review.
As judicial office holders, I am sure we all understand the need to be aware of the relevant facts before we draw our conclusions. As such, we will continue to keep you informed.
Richard Monkhouse

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Guest Blog 36

Dispensing With The Baby Boomers

For more than 30 years ‘Baby Boomers’ (those currently aged 51 to 69) have been a driving force at the ballot box. They are more likely than their younger counterparts to have an allegiance to a political part and they regularly turn up to vote. As a result, those canvasing for such votes have been careful not to upset Baby Boomers… that is until now.


In the lead up to the 2015 general election the ‘Millennials’ (aged 18-34) have finally come of age. Making up 23% of the UK population, Millennials are starting to be noticed by political parties who are realising that they need to begin shifting their attention towards the next generation of voters.

It is with this in mind that Baby Boomers working for the public sector who have previously been left alone are now being attacked: firefighters being told to work until they are older whilst at the same time meeting new fitness standards means that many will either leave with a reduced pension or face dismissal from the service


With forces in England and Wales now facing compulsory fitness tests (where in the event of failure formal steps may be taken) and the retirement age for police officers having already increased to 60, it won’t be long before Police Officers find themselves in the same predicament. And it is not just ‘Bobbies on the beat’ who face this test, it is for ‘all ranks, all roles’. 

For all you Millennials out there, imagine your 55 year old mother who has worked hard as a public servant for the last 25 years and who continues to do an important, professional, yet fairly sedentary job within the force, faces the stress and worry of having to achieve a pass in the bleep test in order to hang on in there for the next few years and finally reach retirement. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s a disgrace that our public servants are being treated this way.

So what does this have to do with Probation and Transforming Rehabilitation? An excellent service was split in two (effectively and in some cases literally by names out of a hat). Now those in Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are facing redundancy, whilst hundreds of new learners are being rushed through their training to make up for staff shortages in the National Probation Service (NPS). 

If the Ministry of Justice were determined not to lose such dedicated and experienced staff they would find a way of moving them over to the NPS. Instead, centuries of knowledge and experience is being wilfully dispensed with to be replaced (IF the learners pass their training and decide to stick around) by new blood.

Why?

If the best predictor of future behaviour is indeed the past then the answer is clear: as with the Baby Boomers in the Fire and Police Services, the public sector pensions of the past are deemed by those in power to be too expensive and so the more people who can be dispensed with before achieving a full pension the better. 


What about the impact of this decision on the lives of those public servants who have worked their whole lives to protect the public? We will be told to believe it is their own fault for being part of the ‘selfish generation’ who put less in than they will be taking out. So that’s okay then… is it?

Monday, 27 April 2015

Bleak Futures Week 17

Stockton office in Teesside losing six staff to TTG. Two Admin and four practitioners. AFAIK none have been given security clearance so I'm unsure how they are going to work in the Prison(s). Caseloads shared between remaining staff who are already buckling with post TR and ORA cases. I heard one staff member was holding over 70 cases which I feel is quite dangerous (obviously the findings from the Sonnex/Monckton review have been disregarded). Most of her time is spent completing Oasys to make sure targets are hit. Sad times :(

*****
Do we know how many from other offices around the country have lost staff? It's turning into a right dogs wotsits. Given that 80% of the caseloads went to the CRC's, who had 40% of the staff, I'm not sure how much more can be shared out without the whole things becoming a debacle!

*****
CRCs had 40% of the staff? How is that figure arrived at? Surely most staff went to CRCs and NPS is smaller?

*****
It varied. 45/55 in my area, NPS/CRC

*****
One CRC missed its ISP completion target - got 0% simply because they changed the way they gathered the stats and didn't tell practitioners who should've been putting a delius entry 'oasys completed'. This failure potentially could have resulted in fines amounting to thousands of pounds - I think but am not sure that no penalties were enforced this time.

*****
Having experience with the Work Programme, one of the major issues (and it creates the capacity for fraud), was the constant (almost weekly) changing of how data was recorded and presented. It's a nightmare for those working within the primes, but for those further down the food chain it's hell and many subcontractor organisations went to the wall when they failed to be paid by the primes month after month on the basis of submitting uncompliant files to support invoices.

This could be one of the issues with Purple Futures and Addaction at the moment. I hate to say it, but there will be many days where some will feel unfairly reprimanded because you've been pulled over the coals for not doing things in the way the big bosses want it done, but no-one bothered to tell you! And a lot of the time even if someone does bother to tell you there's a change, what you're advised to do doesn't work anyway, and it's all changed again the following month. Those that rely on the primes for payment will find themselves going hungry pretty often I fear.

*****
It's been alluded to, quite often, that failed targets means lost jobs. I think out Chief has been taking tips from DV perps!

*****
Not entirely true! Many of the smaller fish feeding off the primes struggle to produce the 'paper trails' and outcome evidence that are required by the primes to release payment, and are therefore pushed into recruiting more admin staff to deal with the workload. Extra cost to them, but the primes still pay the same agreed amount per outcome.

My experience with the Work Programme in no way makes me an expert on the cut throat world of outsourcing, but I do predict that pretty soon tier 2 and 3 of the 'supply chain' will be heard squealing very loudly (and hopefully very publicly), about the unfair and unworkable demands imposed on them by the primes. Purple Poopers and Madaction are I think only the first of many 'relationship' breakdowns that TR will experience.

*****
It is my understanding that once ISP signed and locked, within 24 hours it automatically uploads on to Delius - no one in my office is recording ISP completed manually onto N-Delius.

*****
Well there must be something going wrong cos ours definitely came back at 0% and there is only one way to sign and lock an OASys - why one Area's automatically uploads to Delius and anothers doesn't is a mystery.

*****
Well we are talking N-Delius my friend and OASys is now worse than it ever was and it was bad enough before. It's a complete load of you know what.

*****
OASys and Delius only talk to one another over night so whilst you might believe you have 10 days to complete the ISP, you only have 9 and so in some areas you have to put in a manual entry that it has been completed just to make sure nothing is missed.

*****
In response, when creating an ISP assessment in Oasys you have to link this to Delius so that when it's locked it sends an update back to Delius. If the OAsys assessment is locked on day 10 the system doesn't update until early hours of the next morning making it look like it's been completed on day 11. Therefore you have to put a manual entry into Delius to replicate the date on 10 to hit targets. We have been doing this in our area and are hitting this target with relative ease.

*****
No-one's told us how to link anything to Delius - the whole CRC has not been doing this so it's not like some of us were doing it and others weren't. We've now been told to just put the delius entry 'oasys completed' on.

*****
We have been told not to make entry manually. Told to do ISPs in 8 days to allow countersigning where required and 24 hrs to upload from OASys to Delius. Every upgrade makes it more flawed, perhaps that is causing issue now.

*****
I think you'll find that this all relates to the DOG'S BREAKFAST THESE AMATEURS HAVE CREATED. I have met a stream of providers over recent weeks and they are all remarkably unimpressive and equally ill-informed. They were warned but knew best. Watch the farce unfold.

*****
I fear when the penalty of not meeting targets for ffs or PbR, it's our jobs, those that are left, which if others go down Sodexo route won't be many. It is a shambles just as we all predicted but still we have Senior and Middle Management trying to tell us it's a wonderful opportunity - clueless.

*****
No surprise in seeing the payoff figures for the so-called senior executives. That's what happens when you keep your mouth shut, or if you keep it wide open with platitudes. And, of course, Napo paid off JL handsomely when a lesser mortal would have faced disciplinary action. It isn't fair, but it's the way ALL the establishments work. And they don't give a ****! And there ain't no God in heaven to put things right. 'Everybody knows that the dice are loaded....The poor get poor, the rich get rich/That's how it goes/Everybody knows...'

*****
Look it was worth every penny to be rid of Russell Bruce....many of you would be astonished as to how he treated staff, the 'new' management all seek to distance themselves from his management style "let's just say things will be done differently" is the phrase being used.

*****
Cheshire have been told that there will be no more Education Training and Employment (ETE) staff in the community. They will either be made redundant or be sent into the Prisons to try and make 'through the gate' services work. When asked what our clients will do who need their assistance in the community, we were told "direct them to the job centre". Great!

*****
I had the misfortune of having to attend the job centre mainly to get my stamp paid. It is run by people who started there at 16 on apprenticeships and have never had to look for work. Some of our Clients wouldn't stand a chance of gaining employment, they need the encouragement and one to one help. Not everyone has the ability to just apply for hundreds of jobs which is what it takes now and hit on the right job instantly. The ETE staff are needed in probation another resource that will be lost.

*****
Bidders chose to ignore voice of frontline probation, preferring to trust in & believe Grayling et al. They're now finding out the truth but refuse to publicly acknowledge this. They'll take out their frustration on frontline staff, e.g. resisting to honour the redundancy agreement. As has been highlighted on this blog many times, it yet again mirrors the abusive behaviours we (as probation staff) have to challenge on a daily basis, i.e. the bullying, irrational & power-base abuse exemplified in DV & sexual offence perpetrators. Not enough peas on your plate? So spend the evening terrorising your partner before beating her to a pulp. Someone has to pay... Pass it on.

*****
We fought and lost....we struck and lost....we challenged bad managerial practice and lost....every TR battle the workforce fought we lost while senior management ensured that their nests were well feathered and yet the sell off went ahead and yet.......The man in the pub tells me that alarm bells are seriously ringing now with the realisation that TTG is a cobbled together disaster in the making. The Secretary of State is now looking forward to his next posting and Messrs Allars and Payne getting ready to carry the can to allow the next government to try and modify the contracts that have been awarded. Could it really be true that it's always darkest before the dawn?

*****
So they're putting job cuts on hold... until when? Until September when they can use compulsory redundancy? Until they have trained tier 2&3 providers to do TTG? Until after the election so we're not causing a fuss? It suits Sodexo/ Nacro's timeline to delay.


*****
I am appalled by the statement. Throughout all of my TU Reps training the message being hammered home was that the ultimate role of the union is to prevent job losses. Therefore, in my opinion phrases like 'unavoidable job losses' should NEVER be uttered by a Trade Union Rep involved in redundancy negotiation processes. It signals collusion in the process and plays right into the employers hands. Someone (later) in this thread poses the question - who do we think we are - the NUM? Well, at this point I wish we were - NAPO presents as just a toothless lion by comparison..

*****
Everyone knows it is the hard working local reps who advise members if they are facing issues including redundancy not the GS or the weak symbolic Joint Chairs or in fact anyone on the top table. People need their union for support and guidance when they are feeling at their most vulnerable so let's recognise and thank the people who do the hard work everyday.

*****
It will be those with union association that will be first through the door. No room for opposition in private enterprise. NAPO need to realise that apart from its membership concerns, it's in a fight for its own existence.

*****
"As you would expect we have fully briefed politicians about these developments, and while it is difficult to secure as much media coverage as we would like during an election campaign that is focused on anything but law and justice, be sure that in the event of a different colour administration being returned, we will be knocking on doors very loudly."

1. Who have you briefed? There are no MPs until Parliament is reassembled. Until then, who gives a fig? 
2. You never secured media coverage when numerous opportunities were handed to you on a plate.
3. I would expect my subs to fund you knocking loudly on those doors REGARDLESS of the colour of administration, not just if there's a change of colour.
4. This is my professional career, 30 years of my life. It's already been diluted into probation-lite, its now being reformulated into a 'just-add-water' version. No depth of flavour, no nuance, no character; just a bland, one-size-fits-all product wrapped in a shiny box. "See ya down MaccyP's, yeah?"
*****
With very few notable exceptions, no MP stood up for us before, when TR could have been stopped. Briefing prospective candidates & getting their lame words of support ain't going to stop Sod-U-Co getting rid of staff.

Isn't there something called employment law which protects employees from being exploited? Where's the legal advice about contracts that have been signed? How can our union on one day talk about staff protection being "enshrined" in the national agreement, then the next day be sharing skinny lattes with Sod-U-Co and releasing statements to the effect that "some losses are unavoidable" ?

What do I think this is? I thought I was paying into a trade union & professional association who were committed to protecting my interests as a professionally qualified Probation Officer, not financing my own professional funeral. I thought I was contributing to the not insubstantial salaries of trade union activists, not apologists for bullies - whether ministerial or global enterprise.

*****
A company can terminate all employees contracts and immediately re-employ them on different terms. If employees don't like the new terms and don't sign they will have deemed to have resigned. The Unions can do nothing about it. Employment law isn't worth the paper it's written on. It happened to Probation Partnership workers. Some had their salary cut by 5k per year.

*****
There may be job losses, but IL emphasises that they be on the EVR terms. There is no green light here for compulsory redundancies. And, on job losses, there have been hundreds over the past four or five years in the form of voluntary redundancies and there has never been a shortage of takers, though there have been many who were disappointed not to get VR. So those who bemoan job losses need a bit of historical perspective in their thinking. A respite is a good thing.

*****
I don't read it as this at all. I read it as no redundancies for now (not even enhanced) then compulsory redundancies in September. Given that most people want to leave if they get enhanced, this is just a way of stringing staff along until compulsory redundancies can be made.

*****
Who are they trying to kid? They don't have 'colleagues' in Sodexo – they have bosses. They don't 'discuss' – they follow orders. It was agreed on Monday between unions and Sodexo to pause. The CEOs are merely ciphers with no volition of their own.

*****
But this is the consequence of the unions getting into bed with Sodexo; Sodexo play them like a mandolin, then issue scripted instructions to local CRC management, effectively regional puppets of the Sodexo imperial commanders. This is why your view of "its okay" is being challenged.

*****
Yes Essex received a similar email today, but making it clear that this had been an agreement between all parties after union talks. Essex hasn't started consultation yet over potential redundancies. It's still very much mushroom management at this stage.

*****
Same email in Cumbria and Lancs CRC - in fact the intial paragraph is exactly the same as above. (Looks like a pre-planned approach) The email also points out that this only applies to Corporate Services staff at the moment as they have started with formal consultations since the 2nd April.

*****
Very similar email in Northumbria also.

*****
Thanks to Chris Grayling, collaborators across all Trusts, Sodexo and the weasels managing the CRC, and what seems to be meltdown by the unions. There will be several more CRC months of misery, ill health, long-term sickness, uncertainty, stressful work environments. - whilst enduring the crowing from an insensitive core of NPS staff with their new cars in the car park, loud conversations about holiday plans & voting Lib Dem "to get the pay increase for public sector workers". Can't fucking wait. Thanks a bunch. The torture never stops.

*****
There are some nauseating NPS staff in our office doing the same thing. They haven't worked for probation for 2 mins. Administration especially rubbing their colleagues noses in it. I don't know how I am still going into work!

*****
I am so so sorry. I am NPS and will do anything I can to see us reunited in the public sector. I have heard an NPS colleague 'crowing' as you put it and it disgusted me, she reported me to management when I protested. BUT the vast majority of my colleagues are not crowing, we know we are not safe and the axe will fall on NPS in the next round of cuts post election. I just wish we could all stand together.

*****
How can courts have so many report writers and yet the quality of them be so poor? Brief outline of offence: stole 5 packs of bacon. No more the time and date of the offence etc. Oasys used to be one of the easiest parts of the job as it mainly contained of transferring info from PSR to oasys but not anymore. Every line I read of an FDR raises questions as they are making statements but not expanding on the reason for said statement. I hate oasys it's a millstone round my neck.

*****
My personal favourite NPS gem: "OASys completed less than 6 months ago so no requirement to undertake rosh or OASys at PSR stage." Lost so deeep in the grass.

*****
The IT is such a massive part of the problem. It's so overly complicated that we can't even do the most basic assessment in less than half a day. How the new contractors can even think about building an interface to bridge two ridiculous systems that won't stand still for five minutes is beyond me.

*****
It's a joke. The CRC chiefs don't even have the balls to write an email in their own words. It's utterly pathetic that these people, most of whom have already lined their own pockets, are still trying to sell us the myth that they are in control! If they had opened their greedy eyes or had any degree of care/loyalty to their staff, they would have stood firm years ago but no, they chose to sell us down the river and that will never change.

*****
The wrong choices Napo members made was not to strike. 20% of my Trusts Napo members took action, the rest bottled it. No-one to blame but themselves.


*****
I am sorry to be so confused but I do not understand anything. If SOD exo have to make voluntary redundancies on enhanced terms for the life of the contract, surely this would obviate a compulsory redundancy situation from arising? Why then in the agreement is there reference to 'no compulsory redundancy in the first 7 months'? Can anyone explain, in simple terms? Thanks in anticipation.

*****
So I see it as this - figures released by MPloy indicate (for example) 30 x PO, 19 x admin, 15 x management posts are to be lost. Phase One = announce & consult with those 'at risk'. Redeployment or other options are considered, figures re-visited then requests are for indications of those wanting to take VR. Phase Two, assuming figures aren't met, compulsories are chosen. If too many volunteer then I guess they have to use selection criteria? How does that sound?

*****
As I understand it, it would not necessarily be the case that the organisation's need to re-organise (reduce staffing levels) would totally be met by those who might want to go. It could be "wrong" grades etc who wanted to go ie people the org wanted to keep so would not grant those applications. Hence you could end up with situation when org argued it needed less staff, had allowed EVR where it deemed it feasible and redeployed those it could and still had view it had to reduce staff complement. In which case it's left with compulsory redundancies ie saying we need so many who fit this criteria and then they assess all staff in that group and determine who scores highest on the agreed "eligible" criteria (eg worst capability or disciplinary or attendance record etc).

*****
So does it have to offer voluntary redundancy before compulsory?

*****
Yes but just because the org says it needs to lose 50 staff that doesn't mean it pays out 50 VRs; (see above) as may be staff who apply may not be deemed suitable.

*****
This is understood. Thanks. However, what I still don't get is why, given EVR lasts the 7 years, SOD exo don't have to just offer this again in the scenario you describe (ie get rid at one point, then want to shed more a few months later). I am clearly no good to them as I have no business brain, and am a wooly thinker!!!

*****
Because businesses (including the old Trusts) typically work to annual budgets. They'll want to streamline sooner rather than later (when Serco took over Unpaid Work in London they began consultations on redundancies within a month of starting) If Sodexo or whomever, say the org needs to lose staff their estimates will be to lose this year rather than next (although they could revise their business plans again next year. This is not new. For example, we had about 3 "revisions" of staffing levels for Unpaid work in Lancs over about 5yrs).

*****
Thinking about this a bit more, I speculate the Sodexo will back track a little in order to seem reasonable. EVR will go to large chunks of CRC senior staff such as ACO grades and their friends in finance, PA's, etc, maybe a few select SPO's that were good at brown-nosing over the years. We all know this is how probation trusts worked and they created policies to enable this. This is how Chiefs and their friends left with tidy nest eggs. Operational staff from PO grade downwards will not get a sniff of EVR and instead be on the compulsory redundancy list, actually they are already on the list and they just don't know it. Some PO's will be offered alternative roles as PSO's. PSO's will face changes in job descriptions to justify pay cuts. Admins will be shown the door. I suspect job titles will change to justify the above.

*****
What this blog shows to me is that partner agencies are confused about the new structures and don't know which AGENCY to call, never mind which officer. The simple truth is that PROBATION' the brand has been compromised and no-one knows or trusts the new structures. Historically, this provider would have been supported through their enquiry by a single agency with a professional and emotional commitment to service delivery and public protection. Now we have confusion, buck passing and poor quality information. A bad idea badly executed.

*****
I have trouble catching my SPO and I work in the same office so as an outsider you were always on a hiding to nothing.

*****
In our area the housing providers would have determined him as not suitable for housing because, with a criminal conviction, he immediately represents a risk of anti-social behaviour. Problem solved before it arises. Next?

Seriously, folks, that is what we have to contend with. Local Authority homeless, housing providers from ALL sectors and police all hold on to this approach. It's a friggin nightmare getting anyone housed, CRC or NPS. Shelter have closed their offices here and baled out, which doesn't help matters.

*****
I'm a CRC officer and if I had received this information, I would have actioned it. No matter which side of the divide created by MoJ we still have a responsibility. As repeated numerous times here, any MAPPA eligible cases should be NPS. I previously stated we have had a number in my area incorrected allocated - but once this has been raised by Officer allocated case, a reallocation has taken place. I oppose TR and everything about it, but if as individuals we do not take responsibility to action RISK then we just add to an already dangerous environment.

*****
The real problem is that profit rules. Whatever situation arises, if there's no pennies to be made from it, then leave it alone and fingers crossed, it'll just go away. As for the MAPPA issue, I think you'll find that quite a few MAPPA 1 cases will have been allocated to CRC on the basis of being medium risk regardless of whether they are subject to MAPPA or not.

*****
There are plenty of violent offenders who are MAPPA Level 1 by virtue of serving a 12 month sentence, don't forget them. The division is very clear - all MAPPA nominals, whatever level, go to NPS. It astounds me that we're nearly 12 months on from the split and this practice still isn't consistent. I'm not saying it makes sense - I have plenty of 'medium risk' cases on my CRC caseload who are one hell of a lot more dodgy than at lot of the MAPPA 1 cases I used to hold - but the dividing line is very clear.

*****
Well I work on reception and this would have been put through to NPS duty no question. It's standard practice to ask an outside agency which part of the business they need to speak to and if they do not know then a quick conversation would have signalled this as being NPS. We have it all the time, in that for some reason they have been given a name, ask for that person who now happens to be in a different side of the the business and they end up going around in circles. The phone systems are also a complete nightmare, for every one call we need to hang onto another 4 go onto the answer machine so it may be that this was just put through unannounced as a specific officer was asked for and it went onto someone's voicemail who wasn't in the office that day which probably includes the SPO on this particular day. I cannot see anyone ignoring this at all.

*****
Let's reflect a bit here. I am left to conclude that business as usual (pre TR) is not being delivered, yet that is the standard by which probation is being judged. Yes everything the guest blogger needed from probation would have been delivered, in the past. Staff are now exhausted and blighted by change. Sadly, the world has moved on and I believe effective communication is the single most crucial failure of the confused probation world I now inhabit.

As a PO in NPS, I am simply unable to process the volume of and means by which I am communicated at. I simply cannot read the daily lengthy and voluminous emails from the Hub. Probation Instructions remain unread until I need them because I cannot afford the time to read them and am now unable to retain the volume of instructions. I no longer know the information exchange protocols and my manager is available to the team approx 20% of the working week and frankly is in the same position. You see, the agencies we deal with have changed and I do not even recognise some of their organisation/business names. So I have decided I will use my professional judgement and if the risk issues justify information being exchanged I will do so.

I often google phone numbers of people leaving messages for me because at least it is a cursory check of sorts. I remain acutely aware that if I am later deemed to have disclosed inappropriately, I will be blamed and possibly disciplined, that is the world of new probation. It is not good enough, I agree with the guest blogger, but it is what has been imposed on us and we are all trying to muddle through. Now, how safe is that?

*****
Alongside all of this, what is being said about the unreasonable and unmanageable demands being placed on staff? Increasing duplication and bureaucracy. Managers and admin organising everything to meet their own needs, changes and more change to right errors in the first change. The list of error and incompetence is almost endless.

IT upgrades and shutdowns with hours notice, none of it actually improving anything, much of it detrimental. Stress and exhaustion rife. Meanwhile the Prison Service is storming on, accorded priority, promised increased income, people with a dangerously limited knowledge of what they are doing and having little if any understanding why they are doing it. Not that Prison didn't need one heck of a shake up. Who knows, perhaps they will get so good at sorting people out whilst they are nice and cozily locked away, that they won't need anyone to see people through 3, 4, 5, 6 and longer years of licence.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Redundancy Debate

Every now and then the blog generates quite a spirited debate between certain individuals. Given the seriousness of the redundancy issue, I thought it worthy of putting these exchanges together and republishing:-

A joint statement isn't a damn Munich Agreement. Those who reject one as a matter of principle should really spell out why, as I don't see the fundamental objection. Surely, all that Napo is seeking to do is uphold the framework agreement, which like it or loathe it, is part of the furniture.

*****
Right lets be blunt, wake up! No union can agree to redundancies on any ground. It may well be a process of employment law but in our industry it has always been an avoidable process as redeployment, retraining and development in many areas has been a way of staff movement and re engagement.

Naively you might. A joint statement saying anything will actually change the what has to all unions a fundamental position OF NO TOLERANCE TO ANY COMPULSORY MEASURE that leads to a dismissal. We are not interested in voluntary terminations as these are generally agreed matters with the individual and the employer. 


Any agreed compulsory process or staff reduction in number will both betray our members jobs and most certainly render any unfair dismissal claims at an ET unlikely to succeed. Now if you don't get the rest of the implication from this, you really don't get it!

*****

"but if some losses are unavoidable" Well there you are! He should be saying we will fight any proposed compulsory job losses! Sold out already and I guess the statement will read it's not a question of preventing staff dismissals, it's just making sure we get the extra pieces of silver in their pockets before the sackings cull begins. Loss of status, career, job and security. What's that all about then? Good luck!

*****
There may be job losses, but Ian Lawrence emphasises that they be on the EVR terms. There is no green light here for compulsory redundancies. And, on job losses, there have been hundreds over the past four or five years in the form of voluntary redundancies and there has never been a shortage of takers, though there have been many who were disappointed not to get VR. So those who bemoan job losses need a bit of historical perspective in their thinking. A respite is a good thing.

*****
I don't read it as this at all. I read it as no redundancies for now (not even enhanced) then compulsory redundancies in September. Given that most people want to leave if they get enhanced, this is just a way of stringing staff along until compulsory redundancies can be made.

*****

Green light for EVR, red light for compulsory redundancies. But we are on amber at the moment. I agree that the Napo leadership should not, under any circumstances, condone compulsory redundancies. But it is important to note that the Management of Change protocol which was agreed between the unions and the former trusts, allowed for compulsory redundancies as a last resort. The line I would take is that post-transfer there is unlikely to be any grounds for justifying compulsory redundancies and I doubt that Sodexo will have compelling arguments to the contrary.

Sodexo wanted to get the process going on compulsory redundancies, but they have pulled back – for now admittedly, and maybe it's only a tactical retreat but it's still a retreat, which is not the Sodexo way. Sodexo continues to defy an employment tribunal which found that they victimised and unfairly dismissed Petrit Mihaj for his RMT trade union activities. No one, I would hope, can be under any illusions about Sodexo's contempt and disregard for trade unionists, because they know the weaker the union the stronger they are. If anyone in the union membership does not fear the intentions of the likes of Sodexo and their ilk, then they are sleepwalking into an abyss they have themselves dug.

It should not be construed from Ian Lawrence's comments that the Napo leadership, when accepting there be be job losses, is implicitly giving the nod to compulsory redundancies, especially as IL goes on to emphasise that any voluntary redundancy must be on EVR terms.

Ultimately it may come down to a battle of wills. And the union leadership should be seeking to ensure that the membership understand what is at stake in the event of Sodexo seeking to force through redundancies. There has been a lack of solidarity in the past on the TR omnishambles, but this time around, if there is a need for industrial action, then hopefully there will be a collective will to fight and I believe a united membership could win. We are in a phoney war at the moment but during this period we must get ready to fight the real one is it comes to pass.

*****
Thank you, you now appear to be getting there. The MOC was meant for small numbers in isolated and duplicated roles coming to difficulty in mergers. Drawing on this as an indicator for legitimising compulsory dismissal makes me wonder who’s side are you really on?

The Sodexo plan is set to maximise a profit from the vacancies. This management role deletion allows them to profit the salaries. Some will fund their machines and increase public risk. These cuts are against hundreds of our workers. The nonsense you make over the Management of Change does not agree any redundancies on a compulsory level are acceptable. That would diminish any members ET claim for unfair dismissal. Now you really need to understand this point!

Nevertheless, you may have thought through the wider implications and I hope members lead properly at the next NEC. They have to ensure the current toothless officers do not allow for any agreed position on compulsory sackings. Having seen the interference from the Chairs and officers at the last AGM whereby members calls for Judicial Review spiralled into a bland forced statement by the General Secretary, one can only wonder?

Napo has to ensure member’s legal protections are maximised. You can see Sodexo claiming the sackings were borne from agreements reached. It is foolish not to realise a joint statement on this subject illustrates a consultation process and at the earliest. Napo officers need to understand they are not playing a game this is people’s lives and careers they may well be affected in role too. They need to toughen up. NEC need to make sure they have the confidence to do the NEC bidding. Sadly previous behaviour may well be a predictor!

*****
I am glad I am getting there...but are you? The MOC was not about dealing with mergers and duplicated roles – it was about dealing with cuts and restructuring within Trusts. It existed long before TR was on the agenda. Pre-TR hundreds had already departed probation via local voluntary redundancies over a four-five period.

To talk about diminishing claims for constructive dismissal is wishful thinking. If the legal consultation process is followed on compulsory redundancies there is no legal remedy – that's employment law as it stands. To borrow from you: 'You really need to understand this point.' There is much myth around constructive dismissal claims. They are the hardest to win and just feeling shafted by your employer counts for nowt in law.

To claim that a joint statement is somehow tantamount to engaging in consultation on redundancies is naïve. And to relate this to the JR débâcle is mixing up your apples and oranges. Where we agree is in opposition to compulsory redundancies. But for this to have any traction, the overwhelming majority of the workforce will have to share this conviction. 


*****
Thank you. Clearly you are not where you could be but we do agree some things. MOC was for merging trusts not far back and never agrees a position on compulsory. It was not written for the mass exodus in numbers planned. I never mentioned constructive dismissals and realise their employers have not made it impossible for staff to do their jobs. We all recognise this is a red herring issue.

Your analogy works in that both apples and oranges are fruit. The point needs to be spelled out! Napo got into full TR talks and were part of the deeper discussions foolishly in many peoples view. The failures at JR was because too much was lost by delay on timings they had already been aware and involved so could hardly get a legal and worthwhile challenge on having been part of it. They hid around any story that avoided the facts and many writers on this blog including yourself made some critical observations.

Repeating the same disastrous recipe of getting involved with Sodexo and issuing joint statements on compulsory dismissal will have the same effect on individual claims at ET when a member of a union has had their terms negotiated. Now why would a union want to make that mistake is what you need to ask? There! The obvious is out, and despite these few exchanges you still don't have the insight for this one Pal.

*****
True, you referred to unfair dismissals. But this route is also blocked if a proper consultation is followed.

On the MOC, it was not just about restructures following mergers as it was used in areas where there were no mergers, but there were restructures in light of the formation of LDUs. The MOC protocol did not envisage high numbers of redundancies, but whether it's one or a hundred it is probably fit for purpose and what you overlook perhaps is that the protocol offers more protections than the statutory redundancy process.

We agree on the framework agreement. I always believed Napo were too quick to negotiate and, yes, it did open the door to compulsory redundancies and Napo. I have already written:

"When negotiating the framework agreement, I wonder if the union side asked the MoJ why they wanted a sunset clause of a mere seven months when the unions foresaw no compulsory redundancies? It seems to me that any reasonable person would think that there was a clear intention to plan for redundancies. There was no sleight of hand by the MoJ – reading their intentions required no clairvoyance. And yet Napo, unable to grasp this nettle, grasped at straws of hoping it would not come to pass – and it has. September is early this year!

Why did Napo sign the framework agreement believing there would be no proposals for compulsory redundancies? Whatever, it was a major misjudgement and you have to wonder if they were up to the job. If this has caught the union leaderships on the hop, they have only their myopic selves to blame. I hope they don't ask us to write to our MP's on this one. They need to build and organise, quickly, for industrial action."
To an extent Napo have painted themselves into a corner on this one and it's anyone's guess what was in the mind of the union negotiators. But that's yesterday's news...

The unions are talking to Sodexo. But, for you, this is all part of history repeating itself that will leave you disappointed. But you don't set out what the unions should do. There was no joint statement of any substance. We now know there has been a halt – that's all. But you are inscrutable on what the unions should do next. If you don't want the unions negotiating, what does your oracle tell you they should do next?

*****
“True, you referred to unfair dismissals. But this route is also blocked if a proper consultation is followed.” Now it is spelled out and you get this point, so will the readers? Nothing is actually blocked but the chances of successful claims and the proportion will be severely limited, making action pointless.

Come on stop arguing the merits of the MOC we understand its value then, it has no real teeth now. Your point “it is probably fit for purpose”. The leadership of Napo for its members I hope would not be as confident or Cavalier to rely on a Protocol. The legal status will be scrutinised by the new employers.

We agree it was not designed for this onslaught in terms of numbers or mass reorganisation. Indeed the work basis has changed with the NPS split. 70% outsourcing or more and you will understand now at least the protocol will be sceptically regarded. Agreed at a time when the current implications were not known, do we need to strain this aspect further?

Your comments on the sunset clause of a mere 7 months have been noted in the blog. It was said ET claims have time limits. 3 months to make claims 6 months under extended circumstances and 7 placed claims completely out of time. The longest they could give it then! I take the cynical view that is why the period was agreed as neither side would have to fund claims nor defend any. Now are you getting there?

In the main I agree with the rest of your critique. The timing through Christmas and the rush to get EVR agreed. This cash bonanza for the few may well have been a carrot to entice and confuse. Hindsight, perhaps, but I was one of the many, who was clear that Napo should not have agreed anything. No member should constantly swallow the line from Napo claiming to be negotiating the difficulties as members expect and you require us to do, accountable to the NEC. The NEC fits your descriptor of myopic if not then blind!

I doubt any industrial action can be brought about now the split has divided the workforce. A united dispute from which aspect? All staff facing redundancy certainly, but this will not have resonance with those happy with their new titles and those who feel safe having assisted the split. From the situation so far, I am as are many, disappointed and does not go anywhere near my feelings. Watching the Probation Service get shredded assisted by the career hungry and naive. Just a hundred years of wisdom tossed!

This blog provides for all to comment anonymously. This makes us all inscrutable and the same applies to you. We might progress our views and understanding more easily in conversation, but we have only this medium to encourage readers to take a position. In relation to an Oracle I do not think we need one to have predicted the mess we have all experienced. Whatever happens next it is up to those in authority to change the way things are being done. I think they will follow what now, sadly, is a very limited route given where we have arrived.


*****
"We intend to fight to ensure that Sodexo complies with the national agreement, and that EVR is the only route that is available for people to exit a CRC on redundancy grounds. Any other approach would leave our members at a disadvantage, and will be seen as unfair and unjust."

The only other approach is compulsory redundancies. Why did the unions agree to wording in the framework agreement that specifically addressed compulsion? It states, in Key Principles, para 5, bullet point 2:

'No compulsory redundancy in either the NPS or CRCs for a period of seven months post share sale.'
I cannot think of any reason for this clause other than one of the parties to the agreement had something in mind. Now the unions want EVR to be the only exit from a CRC on redundancy grounds, in other words they want all redundancies to be voluntary because EVR only applies to voluntary redundancies. Given that this is their position it is weakened somewhat by their earlier agreement to compulsory redundancies, seven months post share sale.

*****
"Subject to any amendments to such terms being negotiated with the relevant employee representatives and in accordance with applicable employment law" This is the next hurdle a variation of contract notice being planned no doubt! The answer to your question is obvious re read all your replies the answer is there!

*****
The real issue is there is no cost to Voluntary Redundancies, whereas legal challenges in relation to Compulsory Redundancies have to be funded by the unions. Napo will be fighting for its financial life and risk ruin if many claims are lodged, and requiring representation. That's why they will 'agree away' so that members will be shafted by not being able to lodge any challenge at an Employment Tribunal. It's basically the same policy as Napo implemented with TR and the sifting/shafting.

*****
On what basis could someone challenge a compulsory redundancy? As long as the employer follows a fair procedure in accordance with employment law – which is not difficult, then I don't see any grounds upon which Napo would be funding a plethora of claims for unfair dismissal. The tribunal system is not clogged up with claims about redundancy and that's because in the UK it's a fairly straightforward matter for employers to do it. Why Napo 'agrees away' is a topic for debate, but it isn't to avoid the costs of funding employment tribunal claims.

*****
Employers fair? Sodexo Fair? Tories Fair? Employment law fair? TR Fair? You're naïve. If things were fair we would not be in the crisis we all face. You write a lot but now your understanding of the situation is worrying. Unfair redundancy claims may well be on the decline because jobs are with the use of Zero hours and shifting weak employment laws. Oh yes, introduced by this government in the last 5 years. How long before the temporary staff get slung out in favour of the same? Zero hours zero rights that's fair?

*****
You must try to understand the difference between 'fair' in law and 'fair' in life.

*****
Thank you for this life education. Your statement of the obvious is amazing. However patronising, this is the end of a reasonable exchange of views. The readers understand you appear to be advocating it is fair for us all to face redundancies so long as a process is in place. Encouraging a position whereby members should expect to be got rid off within the current context as long as EVR paid a dividend. Somehow Napo should not have to spend all its reserves, and take timely adequate actions in challenging and preventing our demise. When I read you again in the future, it will be sceptically.

*****
I really do hope you read me sceptically, as that's a sign of an intelligent mind. However to distinguish between what is fair in law and in life generally is not to state the 'obvious' otherwise why would you rabbit on about what's fair in your earlier post? You missed the point – that is what is obvious. Which seems odd given that you claim to have your finger on the pulse.

The law is narrow and its findings may not seem fair and just – merely an interpretation of existing law. To the enquiring mind the legislation on trade union activities should make this perfectly apparent. I am more than happy to see the end of these unproductive exchanges.

*****
You're having a laugh! You introduced the heady romance of life having a fair process so all should be happy. Take ownership. We all know there are many examples in life and law which are just not fair you re-state the obvious.

Rabbit has been your domain, still going on. At no point do I claim to have a finger on the pulse as you put it. You venture too far. Pettiness can have the last word so please repost as I expect you'll have a overwhelming need to be. Your generalised view of the law in TU matters is narrow. Many will realise the law has many quirks and cases are unique to individuals. Outcomes are often varied and changes case law over time. I am feeling less sceptical about you now and perhaps a bit sorry for your dogmatic naivety. Even a little comical!

*****
You promised to end these exchanges and like a bad penny you have come back with another little rant. However, good to see that you now contextualise the meaning of 'fairness' in the law.

*****
Haha comical as I said! I never promised anything, it is petty. Now I promise to stop here as we have a better insight to you. Mind your ego, it reads fragile.

*****
'We have a better insight' ??? I do hope that was only a syntax error and not symptomatic of having more than one mind!

Guest Blog 35 part 2

Is this the future (part 2)

So what happened?

Thank you for so many interesting comments on my “Is this the future”. My aim was to highlight through a real case my concerns about the split in the Probation Service and the potential for miscommunication and the impact that could have on a number of people in the community. In this case fortunately the alleged offender was remanded in custody and from this housing provider’s point of view, the end of his tenancy with us.

So what lessons have we learnt, well my staff are confused about the difference between the CRC and the NPS. The two staff involved in the case were convinced that the Probation Officer was a CRC Probation Officer. My initial surprise at this was to suggest that only the NPS managed this type of offender. However my attempt to clarify the situation by telephone went like this …

Call to the Probation service

q. Can I speak to X Probation Officer?
a. They are not available

q. Can I speak to their Senior Probation?
a. Yes I put you through

a. Sorry they don’t seem to be answering their phone 


q. Can I have their email address?

a. yes its ………….@crc……….

So naturally I think the CRC section must now be holding a MAPPA 1 case. Not what I understood however, with so much happening, maybe they have changed the rules or regulation, who knows. I sent the email to the address given. 5 days later, we have heard nothing from the SPO in the CRC who I wrote to, to say sorry wrong person, the right person is Z. Nothing from the NPS because the officer is on holiday.

This case was a best case scenario as the tenant was remanded in custody. However the worse case scenario, tenant released from custody without our knowledge, goes back to his flat and the people who attacked his flat are waiting for him, who knows what happens.

In all the enquiries involving critical incident one of the major causes of failure was “failure of communication between different staff and agencies”.

The split between the CRC and the NPS exacerbates this situation. Although some doubt it, I did spent 13 years in the probation service, but this highlights the difficulties in finding out who is doing what. This in my opinion was a relatively straight forward case with a poor service from both the NPS and the CRC. Now imagine it was a very complex case. 


It does not bear thinking about.