Friday, 3 July 2015

Latest From Napo 64

Dear Colleague,

News on the NNC disputes in South Yorkshire and Northumbria CRCs relating to the Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy (EVR) terms

Background

Despite recent announcements by some of the Sodexo owned CRCs, national discussions with Sodexo and the trade unions over the company's intentions to launch an enhanced voluntary redundancy scheme (EVR) across their contract areas have taken place on a 'without prejudice' basis. The reason for this is that Napo must act in the best interests of all our members and we are therefore insisting that Sodexo respect and understand that the National Agreement on Staff Transfers and Protections must be the vehicle that governs any attempt by an employer to vary nationally agreed terms and conditions. This means that such issues must be discussed as part of the national collective bargaining machinery, in this instance the National Negotiating Council (NNC).

The protections contained in the National Agreement on Staff Transfers and Protections prior to the share sale were (and still are) underwritten by the Secretary of State for Justice. These were designed to prevent a ‘free for all’ situation developing on key industrial issues, such as the terms of the EVR scheme.

Where are we now?

The NNC Joint Secretaries have considered two disputes that were referred to them by the trade unions in South Yorkshire and Northumbria CRC. These followed attempts by the two CRCs to vary the nationally agreed EVR terms. The Joint Secretaries have now made a determination (as attached), which makes it clear that this should not have occurred. The NNC has agreed that upon receipt of a formal proposal to vary the EVR terms, urgent consideration will be given to creating a mechanism for further discussions to take place between the unions and the CRC's whilst at the same time providing an opportunity for the trade unions to urgently consult with their members.

Napo, along with Unison and GMB, believe that on the basis of the information provided by Sodexo, their proposals for an EVR scheme still requires further clarification before they can be issued to CRC staff. Work is currently ongoing to ensure that the requisite information will be available to members so that they can take an informed view of the situation. At the moment the unions believe that the EVR proposals fall well short of the terms available under the National Agreement, and the unions are also questioning the rationale and justification behind the proposed 600 job cuts across the Sodexo owned CRCs.

Napo and our sister trade unions fully appreciate the uncertainty that many members are facing about their future employment and the nature of the EVR offer that will be on the table. We have made it clear to all of the parties that we want to engage on this hugely important issue but such engagement can only take place under the auspices of the NNC.

The Joint Secretaries have now stated in their determination very clearly it is not open for a CRC to seek to amend an NNC national agreement at local level. This decision in relation to South Yorkshire and Northumbria applies equally to the four other Sodexo-owned CRCs, which are also covered by the NNC.

Napo, UNISON and GMB colleagues will be in further discussions with Sodexo tomorrow morning. We hope this discussion will lead to an agreed way forward in line with the attached NNC Joint Secretaries’ decision.

Branches and representatives are advised not to enter into negotiation on EVR with their CRC, and advice issued previously that members do not enter into any individual negotiation with their CRC in relation to redundancy terms remains in force.

Napo hopes that the parties will now enter into meaningful discussions and it is important that Napo members demonstrate their resolve, firstly by supporting your unions position that this issue is one that must be negotiated through the established National Collective Bargaining arrangements, and secondly that you make every effort to attend members workplace meetings on which more news will follow from your Napo reps.

More news will be issued at the earliest opportunity.

Yours sincerely

IAN LAWRENCE 

General Secretary                

RANJIT SINGH 
National Official         

YVONNE PATTISON
National Co-Chair

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Shape of Probation 2015

Anyone struggling with this NPS 'paperless office'?

*****
YUP. I cannot understand the massive amounts of instructions telling me where to find stuff on the system, and neither can anyone else in my office. There is a real diversity issue with the one size fits all instruction system which has replaced actual training. I keep bleating on about it, but none of us understand our jobs anymore.

*****
I can say I feel exactly the same in a north east CRC office. Diversity no longer recognised.

*****
We're struggling with the CRC officeless office, soon to be a staffless office, whilst we're all jobless. Its priceless!!!

*****
Professionally I don't who I am or what it is I do any more - Delius, CAS & RSR are unintelligible flim flam - OASys sucked the life out of the job & made it mind numbingly boring - senior management are slaves to targets - it's only my colleagues who help me retain my sanity - the world around me is going crazy. Another job is not that easy to find in a ruralish area when you're pushing 60 & can't retire for another 6 years. And yet weirdly I don't feel as stressed as perhaps I should. Think I've broken through the stress barrier cos I just can't take the job seriously anymore which is perhaps the worst indictment of the mess Grayling wreaked - what a bloody shambles...

*****
I think I have broken through the stress barrier too. Do it this way err wait no, do it this way, err oh no we forgot this (didn't know this) do it this way oh, and here's a weeks notice, just so you have time to reorganise your diary. What you don't have a diary manager? He ho, never mind you have loads of time. You don't have loads of time? Well that takes 5 minutes, this takes 3.5 hours, talk to people who commit offences. Nah you don't need to do that, just tell them this, oops no tell them that, hang on don't bother to tell them just give them a ring once in a while, got it? Okay here's another 40 page policy doc, it's a draft. No it's not, it's the final document. What, it contradicts the one sent out last week? Never mind, just get it done, we'll change the law tomorrow. Stressed? Nahh, not any more.

*****
As good an account of the shapeless deepshit omnishambles we're in as any I've seen or heard anywhere. Thank you.

*****
Thanks from me too. I have no idea how to do anything anymore. I've got a new tactic, I just see the customers like I always used to and do my best to put some kind of contact on Delius. I don't breach or make referrals cos I don't know how. No one's noticed yet.


*****
It's a depressing time to be a PO at the moment and it seems that only the trainees want the job any more! But it must be a very poor experience for trainees in the current climate where PIs change daily and no one knows what they are doing any more! The 2 young graduates in my office don't seem to have a clue or little interest in finding out. But in their defence they have been treated badly and just left to muddle through.

*****
As a past Practice Development Assessor I would concur with your observations about the eagerness, bravado or even arrogance of trainee staff. Enthusiasm is positive, ambition is an energy, but over-confidence is dangerous. The culture of the workplace has changed beyond recognition from my days as an apprentice PO. Humility, deference & ever-open ears were the watchwords for new & trainee staff back then - "if you're talking, you're not listening". I currently find the raw aggression & petulant attitudes that come with some new staff, PSO or Trainee, quite disturbing. Even more disturbing is the fact that most of our management groom them, protect them & will not challenge them. Fear? I'm more inclined to think it's because they recognise them as kindred spirits.

Advice? Do what's comfortable for you. Life's too short & unpredictable. Don't get stuck, bitter & sour like me - enjoy everything, including your young family. In doing what I believed to be "the right thing" - abandon the greedy deceitful world of commerce & develop a professional career with meaning & honour - I find I've sacrificed:

1. My time with my children as they were growing up, (impossible to recover),
2. A marriage (irreparably damaged),
3. My health (work related stress) -

- and now Grayling, Spurr, et al have taken away my professional career & status, and sold me into commercial slavery. But they haven't taken my life, my spirit or my EVR just yet...

*****
I am mentoring a TPO and their experiences reflect yours. From my point of view the lack of PDAs add mounting pressure on me to cover the basics of the job, which I am acutely aware I have not got the time to give.

*****
The simple truth is:

1. This training has been rushed through as contingency planning under the Business Risk Register (remember that?) to ensure service delivery in any eventuality.
2. This will provide a pool of staff able to be employed on different contracts meaning staff costs will be driven down ie expensive/experienced POs out cheaper new starters in.
3. This will provide a mobile staff group given the number of young graduates employed who as young people are today, will become increasingly desperate for work.
4. The shortfall in training will be met by existing practitioners helping colleagues out as we always have done.
5. This was the cheapest possible training to plug potential gaps, not actual.
6. (re) employing POs from CRCs would be more expensive.

That is just my view and I realise how this may look to TPOs but I do think you will have jobs. The world is moving on and new recruits meet the business model. I wish you all well but most of all I wish you could have trained at a time of integrity.

*****
"They want the cheapest not the best" - that's exactly what this is about. The quality of TPO's that I have come across lack personal intuition, understanding, experience, insight and most of all values. They are there designed to model the new world of corporate image. No concept of reality and never ever visited areas outside of their own nice cushy middle class bedrooms. If this is the next generation of offender managers I hate to think what the experience of offenders would be like.

*****
To be fair, that is not my experience, we have 2 TPOs and they are great enthusiastic people eager to learn. That sound a pretty good basis to start to me. Good guest blog and the best of luck to you.

*****
I read your post with mounting dismay at your experience and your grasp of reality of the situation. I qualified in 2002 and my experience was of course totally different. I had four years out of the service from 2011 and live abroad returning to work in a CRC - an alien concept to me if ever there was one - earlier this year. I hit the ground running with a full caseload and after a few weeks was asked to mentor an NPS trainee. I personally felt it was an honour and a privilege to be asked to do so and was aware that other CRC colleagues looked at me with a jaundiced eye for doing it - data protection and all that was part of it, but I suspect that it was also because of tensions between NPS and CRC.

My advice to you is the same as it was to my mentoree - to hold on to the job for all the reasons you say. They are the right ones. When I was a trainee, an old salt of a probation officer gave me the best advice I had ever heard and it has served me well. 'Always tell it like it is' (for an occasion when I was stuck with what to say in a PSR and 'never get out of the lifeboat'.

Sometimes you might have to but stick with this job, the dust has not yet settled from all this dreadful upheaval and good probation officers are born not made and the love of the job goes with the territory. Others may dismiss my views but that is their indaba. I am about to start a contract with an NPS office and if I am asked to mentor a trainee again I will be pleased to do so. So head up, give it your best and every success to you.

---oo00oo---

With these reflections on Grayling's new-look Probation Service Omnishambles, I'm off on holiday for a couple of weeks. I'm pretty sure internet access will be available at various times, but the blog may have to just coast along for a while. Please keep the info coming in and scouring the media for relevant stuff and get writing that Guest Blog you've been promising yourself. Above all, be considerate of colleagues in this mess and look out for each other.     

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Lawyers Take Action

It looks like the legal profession is determined to take on the Government over Legal Aid cuts:-

Urgent Information for Members further to Ballot

Dear Colleague

As you will be aware there have been a series of meetings across the country to discuss action against the 8.75% cut which is effective for all new criminal legal aid work commencing tomorrow. These took place in conjunction with the on line ballot.

There was a meeting of London practitioners last night at which over 100 practitioners and over 100 members of The Independent Bar attended. The meeting overwhelmingly supported the motion that solicitors cannot take further instructions on new starts after midnight tonight. To do so would place us firmly in breach of our professional duty. Many of us signed a pledge in October 2013 in which we declared just this. In January we face a further cut on litigator fees, in some cases more than 50%. This means that we will be having to make choice in many cases as to whether we visit clients in prison and make a loss, or make do with limited instructions and the consequences that follow.

We are opposed to Dual contracting, and seek to persuade the MOJ, as we have consistently done that the cuts which give rise to this program of forced consolidation is not necessary and dangerous for the fragile system within which we operate. Mr Gove cannot say on one hand that he wishes to move away from a two tier justice system whilst also implementing this programme.

At the meeting last night we received strong indications that some firms would withdraw their bids. We are interested to hear from firms who wish to take this step, in order to assist our research.

Firms individually decided that they would decline new instructions from midnight 1st July in respect of all legally aided matters save for discharging their contractual obligations as duty solicitors.

Whether a client is represented as duty solicitor or not, no legal aid certificates will be applied for.

Firms are entitled to take the view that whilst there are short term concerns over the vulnerable and those accused of serious offences, they cannot be represented to a professional standard under the new rates.

The duty solicitor will be available to assist these clients, during the time they are detained in the police station. For this to be effective, the duty solicitor or representative might want to cover the slot without relying on back up.

The view of firms at the meeting is that they will not be accepting back up calls during this period.

We understand that the Ministry of Justice may be preparing to brief journalists with regards to such cases where clients have been left without representation. If any of you have counter takes of clients that have suffered under the existing system please forward them through.

Most of the Big firms have agreed to support this action and a few that haven’t have agreed to a “no poaching “policy.

This really is the last opportunity attempt to protect what we have been fighting for over the past two years, please don’t be out off by the “what ifs”, which have allowed the MOJ to do whatever they want to us.

See documents below that may assist together with a letter to Mr Gove from LCCSA & CLSA.

1. Protocol for the action

2. Note to duty solicitors as to how they can help

3. Note to advocates to hand to others at court who may be unaware of what do are not acting

4. Leaflet to client explain the action

5. Statement from LCCSA

Please let other firms in your area know about this action, and if you can arrange meetings.

LCCSA is not seeking to encourage any breach of contract. You have each signed your contract with the LAA and it is your responsibility to comply with your obligations under the said contract and you must ensure that you do so notwithstanding whatever decision you have reached as an individual.

AS SOON AS WE START WORKING AT THE NEW RATES WE ARE ACCEPTING THE MOJs DECISION TO IGNORE OUR REPRESENTATIONS AND PRESS AHEAD WITH THE CUTS IN THE ABSENCE OF THE PROMISED REVIEW.

Guest Blog 41

I am a TPO who started as part of the big graduate recruitment onto the PQF. I had already been working as a PSO in Probation prior to this for 3 years, and before that worked in programmes in a Prison for 2 years so consider myself to be slightly different to the majority of my TPO colleagues. 

Our experience has been a frustrating and confusing one thus far. Aside from the recruitment process being shambolic with last minute interview dates given, having to wait nine weeks to find out if we were successful, finding out where we would be located two weeks before we were expected to start, I also had the added rigmarole of having to transfer from the CRC to NPS. Cue approximately 50 phone calls to shared services to prompt (and in the end push) them to correct my contract to acknowledge my continuous service and terms and conditions.

Since training has begun, I have to say management in my area have tried their hardest to help make this a positive experience for us. They were completely left out of the recruitment process and were given little to no guidance as to what should be done with us as we embarked upon a 15 month programme to become a qualified probation officer. Training events have been organised giving us sometimes only 48 hours notice that we need to travel a significant distance, they have also been cancelled sometimes on the day(!) via email when we have all already been on our way to the location. Getting cases has been a nightmare as very few of the NPS caseload are suitable for TPOs; I am only lucky with my previous PSO and programme experience that I have been allowed to have more 'meatier' cases than my fellow TPO colleagues.

I am so grateful to be finally training. It is what I wanted to do when I graduated in 2010 and it is what I have had in the back of my mind through my career so far in that I feel I have tried my hardest to get as much relevant experience as possible. I worry for my fellow TPOs. There is a sense of naivety, and with some perhaps a complacent bravado attitude of 'I can handle anything'. There seems to be a reluctance to ask for advice and a desire to push ahead with making decisions without consulting more experienced colleagues. This is all well and good, however training events thus far have focused on theory with little advice as to how to complete the more practice elements of the job, such as assessing risk of serious harm, completing MAPPA referrals, assessing for HDC etc.

Unfortunately the way training was sold on the website highlighted the starting wage of a Probation Officer and some seem to be using this as their main focus to succeed. Well, what 22 year old wouldn't want to be earning near enough £30,000 a year after graduating from University? What some of my fellow TPOs fail to realise is the true demand of the job. Most only have a handful of cases, have yet to work with the most serious of NPS cases and experienced the stress and difficulty involved in this. I have yet to experience this either, but know from my experience thus far not to go in with rose tinted glasses.

They estimate that there are 750 trainee probation officers as a result of this recruitment drive. A meeting with our regional head last week informed us that they were not clear what would happen with all of us when we qualify. When asked if we would get the PO role they have stated we would be 'transitioned' into, the response given was vague and went along the lines of 'you will need to be very flexible with regards to location'. When there are TPOs training across the country, I cannot see how there will be vacancies in other areas if there are no vacancies in the area that we are training in. It's also all well and good saying be flexible, but that isn't so easy with a young family to think about. I fear there will be a number of floating qualified POs kept in PSO posts with attempts to make them hold PO cases. I certainly will not agree to that.

I find myself feeling anxious and uptight every day, having to remind myself why I am training. I love this line of work, I love working with offenders and coaching people to make even the smallest of changes to their lives. But I look around and see stressed and tired colleagues, I read this blog and feel for the experiences of POs and other NPS staff around the country and wonder what I am doing.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If anyone has any advice for me (I am expecting a number of leave whilst you still can!), I would be most grateful.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Third Sector Blues

It was always said that the Third Sector were only involved in TR as 'bid candy' in order to make the 'big boys' look better. Grayling said it was to make sure we got 'the best of the best'. Here are some edited highlights from a long article on the Third Sector website indicating all is not well:-   

Transforming Rehabilitation: Will the sector be properly involved?

When the Ministry of Justice announced the preferred bidders for its Transforming Rehabilitation programme in October, the voluntary sector featured prominently. Sixteen voluntary organisations were named in the successful partnerships for prime contracts and about 75 per cent of the 300 subcontractors included in the winning bids were not-for-profits.

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary at the time, hailed the programme for bringing together "the best of the public, private and voluntary sectors to set up our battle against reoffending. I am pleased that we will be deploying the skills of some of Britain's best rehabilitation charities to help these offenders turn their lives around."

Eight months on, the programme has begun, but there are doubts about the actual scale of the sector's involvement and whether the subcontracting issues that blighted the Work Programme are being repeated. One large charity in a prime partnership has withdrawn and many smaller voluntary organisations that expected to be involved have not yet been given any work.

Clive Martin, director of Clinks, an umbrella group for charities that support offenders, says the sector's involvement appears to have been oversold. "This was paraded as a big opportunity for the voluntary sector to transform services, and the sector bought into it," he says. "It begs questions about the future of the sector in public service reform and the use of charitable money to bid for it."

Martin wants greater funding transparency and also expresses concern about the reluctance of charities to speak out about the programme for fear of upsetting prime providers. "That doesn't bode well for the sector's role in advocacy," he says.

Clinks and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations began monitoring the sector's involvement in Transforming Rehabilitation in May in order to get some accurate data. Nick Davies, public services manager at the NCVO, says this will lead to the creation of a special interest group to represent subcontractors, similar to the one the NCVO created for the Work Programme. "This is a very large flagship programme and all eyes will be on it to see if it becomes a successful model," he says.

Davies is encouraged by the greater emphasis on fixed-fee payments than on payment by results. The NCVO has accused private firms in the Work Programme of "creaming off" easier clients and "parking" the remainder with the voluntary sector.

But in TR there is widespread anger among subcontractors who have yet to receive any work, let alone payments. One chief executive, who does not wish to be named, was informed last year that her organisation would be involved, only to be told five months later that its services might not be required until some time in the future.

"It's ridiculous," she says. "The government rhetoric about the voluntary sector being involved is a load of rubbish. We and many like us were totally hijacked last year into engaging with the TR roadshow, which involved many meetings all over the place and taking time to engage with the possible primes. They required much paperwork.

"Meanwhile, other large mainstream funders seem reluctant to risk supporting small criminal justice system organisations involved in TR, either because they fear they will not survive it or they do not want to fund activity that is contributing to a large private sector organisation's profits, or activity that is seen to be mainstream statutory activity."

Another chief executive of a small charity, speaking anonymously, says it has received no work yet, despite assurances. "Our experience has been appalling," she says. "I feel extremely let down. All the messages were that local organisations were key to the delivery model."

Matt Wall, national secretary of the Community Chaplaincy Association, says the transition from a publicly run probation service has caused massive upheaval and consequently "charities have fallen down the list of priorities".

Wall estimates that between five and 10 of his organisation's 21 members that provide prison projects are in contract talks, but adds that urgency is needed. "Small charities don't have many reserves and, if they have to wait another three to six months for funding, it could cause significant strain," he says.

Wall also fears that some traditional funders, such as local authorities and trusts and foundations, will withdraw support because they mistakenly believe the CRCs cater for all services related to criminal justice, and he is anxious about the bureaucracy associated with offering enhanced support to 45,000 people, however laudable the goal. "I hope it doesn't lead to a universal, mechanistic support for everyone," he says.

Meanwhile, the spectre of the Work Programme, which was widely condemned for contracts that loaded risk onto charity subcontractors, looms large. Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, says: "There are concerns that it's the Work Programme all over again – but it's potentially more complicated because it's more difficult to measure people desisting from crime than getting into work."

Some CRCs are said to be working better than others. Helen Attewell, chief executive of Nepacs, which helps prisoners in north-east England, says it has had contrasting experiences with its two primes: Achieving Real Change in Communities, which won the Durham Tees Valley contract, and Sodexo, which leads the Northumbria contract. Attewell says that because ARCC is a voluntary sector organisation and is used to working in partnership with charities "it feels like a more organic relationship". The relationship with Sodexo, she says, hasn't been as smooth, but she adds: "The problem is not Sodexo. It's the legislation. Providers are scrabbling to do the best they can in a timescale that's too short."

Companies and charities that run primes are reluctant to discuss their experiences. A spokesman for Interserve says it does not want to comment at such an early stage. Sodexo is consulting unions on plans to reduce staffing levels and a spokesman says it is reluctant to discuss matters while this is going on.

A spokeswoman for Nacro, the charity partnered with Sodexo in six CRCs, says it is too early to tell how things are working. "We should know more in six to 12 months," she says. Mark Simms, chief executive of the social exclusion charity P3, which is also part of Purple Futures, acknowledges it has been hard work so far.

"The private sector has had to learn to understand the voluntary sector, and we have had to learn to understand the commercial world, but the relationship is solid and based on absolute honesty," says Simms, whose charity has taken on 60 staff to provide services. "You don't get a brand new service one day and 100 per cent change the next. I understand the frustrations, but we have to get this right."

CASE STUDY: PACT

Pact, the prison advice and care trust, was named as a subcontractor in 14 CRCs at the preferred bidder stage. Its chief executive, Andy Keen-Downs (right), says no contracts have materialised yet, but it hopes to finalise three or four in the next two months.

"We invested heavily to be ready for contracts," he says. "It's not great for our budget-setting, but we expect things to happen in the next few months."

Keen-Downs says the complexity of remodelling a probation service that still retains a public sector element has caused all manner of problems.

"There have been some Kafka-esque situations," he says. "There have been stories of the probation service and CRCs falling out over who owns buildings and in some cases dividing them in half, like in Steptoe and Son."

He says some prime contractors have found the MOJ's Industry Standard Partnering Agreement, which promotes subcontracting fair practice, to be "cumbersome", putting them off engaging with charities. Charities, he adds, are unhappy about prime providers inserting clauses that say they own and can license the intellectual property of services.

"There's no way we are going to agree to that," says Keen-Downs, who fears it could lead to companies eventually hiring their own staff instead of using charity subcontractors. This was about transforming services, and we have yet to see it happen. We haven't given up on it. We think there is real potential for the sector to deliver fantastic solutions to reduce reoffending. But it could end up as a repeat of the Work Programme."


---oo00oo---

One particular Third Sector partner featured on here during the week:-

Spent hours last week with our 'supply chain partners' Shelter helping two hard to place young men into accommodation. Two days into this week they've both abandoned their housing projects.

*****
I've been dealing with Shelter. I've someone due for release in July and in March I rang Shelter in the prison to advise the guy would be NFA so needed helping - they told me to ring back closer to his release date. I therefore rang twice a week for about the last 3 weeks leaving messages and in the end wrote to the prisoner to tell him to go and tell them I'd been ringing and wanted to know what they were doing to help him - feckin ridiculous having to go through prisoners to get agencies to answer my flaming messages, anyway next thing a phonecall off Shelter to say that they had referred my guy to a housing agency but cos they knew he and a member of staff were 'connected' (I'm unsure how) they couldn't help him and so all they could do was fill in a Mainstay form with him. Now this is the interesting bit, they said that they will fill the form and send it off but won't be ringing around any hostels etc as they've not got the time etc to do that.

If Shelter read this and want clarification of prison and people involved I am happy to give them. What a load a bull!!

*****
I've got someone coming out in a few months and the prison tell me they have no resettlement support, absolutely nothing they can offer him.

*****
Is that Shelter as well? I am absolutely hopping mad at the way they have ignored me. I feel quite angry an agency such as theirs are being paid a lot of public money to provide a service and to have the balls to actually tell me they'll do a mainstay form and that's it - worst of it is I knew this would happen and I was particular when I was fobbed off in March to make them accountable in June.

*****
The extent to which CRC staff know what Shelter are doing is that they'll do something on Delius, an NSI, which at the end of the day is what they'll be using to get paid.

*****
I have spoken recently with several people (all substance misuser's) that have recently been released from short custodial sentences. All are currently on the streets, and it seems that the normal avenues of being able to get short term or emergency accommodation is drying up and becoming much more difficult obtain. So much for through the gate!

I know many agencies have had their funding cut, or even stopped, but I also get the feeling that some agencies no longer want to, or at least feel uncomfortable engaging with Probation services.

Earlier this week someone posted on this blog that they had difficulties engaging with Shelter and finding a client a placement. I've heard several tales of late where people have found placements with agencies from other avenues where those same agencies were unable to help prior to release, or through negotiation with probation. This seems strange to me, and wonder why relationships between certain agencies and probation don't seem as harmonious as they used to be? Is there any identifiable reason? Or is it just the sign of the times?

*****
Hi. As the National Contract Manager responsible for the mobilisation of the new Transforming Rehabilitation Through the Gate service, I am disturbed by the experiences outlined in the blogs above. Shelter takes all complaints about our service delivery seriously and with that in mind I would be grateful if you would contact me directly to discuss further - contact details John_Ryan@shelter.org.uk Mob: 07581785521

*****
Are you serious Mr Ryan? Do you honestly think an employee of a privately-owned CRC, or a former publicly-run Trust would be stupid enough, let alone authorised, to make such a complaint? You are deluded if you think it possible!

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Information

Dear Jim,

Hope you are well - it is now 10 months since I left the Probation Service for the world of Adult Social Care - it is all very busy and I am still on a massively steep learning curve with loads of new legislation to learn. There is life in this old dog yet. Anyway, please find below a non-too reassuring email from GMPF. Having gone from one LGPS scheme to another without a gap, I have been anxious that my pension statements do not show an apparent space for the time I was employed by dear Xxxxxxxx CRC, because the role of administering the pensions was transferred to GMPF - it would seem that that will be at least the case because they seem to be still struggling with the number of early leavers.

That I left 10 months ago and the fact that my leaving Xxxxxxx CRC has not been processed yet has to be cause for concern. Sodexo's intentions are going to put them in a tail spin. You may want to share this info with your readers with the additional warning that before anyone thinks of leaving their Probation employer on either side of the divide, they ensure they have copies of all the transfers experienced as the Probation Services morphed into Trusts and then NPS/CRC. On a standard Pension statement it looks as if someone has been swapping employers, so any terms and conditions related to length of service that can be transferred will be lost, unless you can prove you did not move, it was just your employer who changed legal status. For that you need those transferring letters. For once I was glad of my squirrel tendencies.


Yours,

Dear Mx Xxxxxxxx


Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) – Transfer

I can confirm that we received your leaving form from your employer, Xxxxxx CRC, but unfortunately, due to a large volume of these, it’s still waiting to be processed by our Early Leavers Team. As you have stated that you are interested in transferring your pension benefits from us to your new employer, Xxxxxxx Council, to avoid any further delays, I have asked our Early Levers Team to process the leaver as soon as possible.

Once this has been processed you will be awarded deferred benefits, which means that your benefits will be kept ‘on hold’ with this Fund until either you reach retirement or until you transfer them to another pension provider. Once your benefits are deferred, our Transfers Team have confirmed that they will send written confirmation of your membership details to Xxxxxxxxx Council and will also write to you to confirm that this has been done.

They have also advised that once Xxxxxxxxx Council receive the details of your membership from us, they should contact you directly about combining your benefits.

You may wish to discuss this matter further with Xxxxxxxxxx Council.

If you have any further queries, please contact us again.

Regards

Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx - Pensions Officer
Pensions Office - Helpline
Greater Manchester Pension Fund


--oo00oo--

To: Branch Chairs, Secretaries & Treasurers

Dear Colleague,

Branch funding arrangements and assisting membership participation in Napo

At the November NEC last year, a decision was taken as a result of a large deficit forecast for the 2015 budget to reduce the Branch grant from 6% to 3% for 2015 to assist with deficit reduction.

This followed a decision taken by the NEC in February 2014 which required that Branches must return 50% of any surplus funds held in the branch account on the 31 December into the Napo Organising Fund by the 1st May of the following year. This was accepted as an amendment to the operation of the fund and the rules of the fund were updated accordingly in the Annual Report for 2014. The terms of this formula can be found in that report in section 4 of the Napo Organising Fund (page 57). Essentially, this sets out the arrangement where Branches must return their surplus before making an application to draw their new Branch and AGM grant.

Whilst it is acknowledged that this has not been a universally popular decision, Napo continues to face a number of challenges to the way it organises and finances its activities as a result of the fall in income from subscriptions which has largely been caused by members leaving the Probation or Family Court Service. It is hoped to restore the Branch grant to its former level ideally in 2016 or as soon as the Napo consolidates its financial position. Meanwhile, the National Executive Committee and Napo Finance Sub-Committee are constantly keeping the situation under review.

Contingency arrangements

If any branch are experiencing financial difficulties they may, on presentation of a business case and a copy of the branch accounts, make a claim for additional funding in support of their activities. This would be in keeping with the purpose of the contingency funding arrangements which includes supporting activities designed to encourage attendance by Branch members at Napo’s AGM. This is in keeping with the previous decisions of Conference and NEC Meetings to facilitate a more equitable method of supporting members to fully participate in their union.

Enquires from Branches about the contents of this circular can be directed to Keith Stokeld National Treasurer who will be pleased to try and assist you.

Yours sincerely

The Napo Officers’ Group


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TO: CRC CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICERS CRC HEADS OF HR By email only

22 June 2015

UPDATE: PLEASE CASCADE TO PAYROLL MANAGERS 

Dear colleague, 

PAY AWARD 2014/15 

I am writing to inform you that the Employers have presented the following as the full and final offer to conclude the 2014/15 pay award. This resulted from negotiations in December at the NNC between Probation Trade Unions and the employers’ side, representing NPS and the CRCs: 

A non-consolidated and non-pensionable lump sum payment will be made to eligible staff as set out in the table below. 

NPS Band/Non consolidated and non pensionable payment 

Band 1 £300.00 
Band 2 £300.00 
Band 3 £300.00 
Band 4 £330.00 
Band 5 £345.00 
Band 6 £385.00 
Band A £415.00 
Band B £470.00 
Band C £510.00 
Band D £590.00

Staff eligible will be those on the maximum of their pay band range on 31 March 2014 and in post on 31 March 2015 Payment will be pro rata to an individual’s contracted hours. NPS will be implementing this in June. 

I would be grateful if you could arrange for this payment to be made to eligible staff at the earliest opportunity. I very much appreciate your co-operation in supporting the request for you to make this payment to staff in respect of the pay award for 2014/15 under the national agreement.

Ian Poree Director, 
Rehabilitation Services - Commissioning & Contract Management

Friday, 26 June 2015

Latest From Napo 63

This from the latest blog from Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence:-

SODEXO AND THE NNC DISPUTES

I reported earlier this week that the two disputes registered by Napo and Unison reps in South Yorkshire and Northumbria were to be considered by the National Negotiating Council (NNC) Joint Secretaries (of which I am one, and Francis Stuart of NOMS is the other).

Whilst I am in discussion with my Employers Side counterpart about the wording of a possible determination of these and one other unrelated dispute that we looked at yesterday, I am naturally limited in what I am able to say about them right now.

Meanwhile, it is reasonable to reveal that the genesis of these two disputes and the six others that have been served over the last fortnight or so, is that the unions believe that any attempt to vary a National Agreement cannot, under the terms of the protections that were secured from the former Secretary of State, be a subject for local discussion unless first referred to the NNC.

I am sure that many members in those six CRC’s, who are anxious to understand what it is they might be offered if they apply for EVR, may see this as a side issue but please read on.

During the many discussions that have been going on between NOMS, Sodexo and their six CRC’s it has become inescapably clear that Sodexo are not used to collective bargaining arrangements such as the NNC, and that we are not used to having to deal with them; but nevertheless we need to find a solution that accommodates this fact of life.

As I write, we have just had another full and frank discussion with Sodexo, but one which I hope has produced some constructive outcomes. I believe we can find a way to enter structured discussions about the EVR issue, whilst at the same time being able to assure members that we will be seeking a mandate from you and acting upon it. The unions are also asking that our national collective bargaining machinery will be respected at the same time, and that such a process must also allow the unions the normal opportunities to properly consult with those members most likely to be effected.

I appreciate that everyone with a potential stake in all this wants to know what is going on by the minute; but be assured that your negotiators are doing the right thing for you and all those Napo members in other CRC’s who may find themselves in a similar situation in the near future.

It’s very likely that more news about the situation will emerge early next week.

Guest Blog 40

Grace Under Pressure

Rather than offering a polemical post, here are a few brief jottings that hopefully will engage the wider interest of probation colleagues and other readers who may not be so familiar with this much lauded lecture series on the changing shape and direction of the Probation Service held in memory of Bill McWilliams. Having just attended the above lecture I aim to share with readers of Jims Blog some edited highlights! 

It was a particular delight given the tumultuous events over the last year which have seen the fractious fragmentation of a once unified and public Probation Service, to be able to attend The Eighteenth Annual Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture - Grace under Pressure :The Role of Courage in the Future of Probation Work which was thoughtfully delivered by Anne Worrall (Professor Emerita of Criminology Keele University) and which was held at the Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge earlier this week on Tuesday 23rd June. The format of this years lecture was enlivened by the inclusion of practitioner/academic interlocutors in the second half of the afternoon in the shape of Morgan O'Flynn (Probation Officer) and LoL Burke (Editor Probation Journal) and proceedings were impeccably facilitated by Professor Mike Nellis.

It was perhaps understandable, given some of the toxic fallout occasioned by threats of mass redundancies, real risks of de-professionalization, technological mishaps and the oft-cited associated farrago of morale sapping foreseeable organisational difficulties which pepper many of the contributions to this Blog from colleagues now working in the NPS/CRC divide as a result of TR, that the lecture started with a coy request that attendees should 'suspend justifiable cynicism' when listening! 


My immediate impulse was no 'tell it like it is', but with wry historical references to earlier premature announcements of the 'death of Probation' (ie SNOP 1984), the media stereotypes of probation presented in the TV Series Hard Cases (1988/89) and the illusive notion of a 'golden age nostalgia' shaped by unfettered professional and organisational autonomy faced critical scholarly scrutiny, but were balanced by snippets from the burgeoning ethnographic literature (including Anne Worrall's co-authored text 'Doing Probation Work - reviewed in the Probation Journal 2014) on how front line practitioners endeavour to 'make sense and order' of endless systemic change, ossified managerialism, privatisation and rancorous political interference. 

Rather a bolder narrative, based on extensive fieldwork and research, offered an account of workers resilience, refashioned occupational identities,optimistic practice and working courageously against the flow of centrally imposed risk-saturated diktat was advanced. (recall these insights are based on recent fieldwork in a fast changing work environment).

It was instructive to note that the newly appointed Justice Secretary Michael Gove was making his first major speech on the same day, although I doubt that even the most cynical would suggest that this was as a spoiler! The adage that framed the title of the lecture was taken from writer Ernest Hemingway's definition of courage 'as grace under pressure (or fire)' and Anne Worrall continually drew on this notion of 'civil courage' as part of the working credo of probation workers seeking to find meaningful spaces in which to undertake 'edgework', that is working at the boundaries of practice to ensure effective engagement with clients in an 'emotionally literate' way in the chaotic landscape of contemporary probation. The focus remained very much at the front line, although the scattering of now 'ungagged' former Chief Officers in the audience did not elicit much in the Q&A session by way of revelatory 'grace under pressure' moments in the lead up to TR! 


There was much mirth at the mention from one practitioner at the distribution in one CRC of 'BIONIC' badges (believe it or not I care!) as part of what appeared a misguided and facile organisational rebranding exercise, although there were some considered contributions about the scope for 'innovative' practice mainly drawn from CRC colleagues. This 'search for excellence' is of course partly offset by the problematic cash/target nexus enshrined in many of the CRC contracts! (contained in sobering outline in a recent NAO interim report on TR).  The vexed and much debated hot topic of the role of the Probation Institute and in particular how its 'code of ethics' could be better integrated into the practice arena, informed the latter part of the lecture and my reference to the cautionary demise of the College of Social Work in the Q&A slot, whilst noted, did not seem to presently unnerve many of its proponents in the audience.

I was struck by Anne Worrall's references to the Stand Up for Social Work Campaign (re launched by Community Care 2015) whose central messages of Taking pride in the great work that you do and talking about it to inspire others, Being honest about the challenges you face, Having the support you need to protect vulnerable people. Clearly demands the need for strong collective voices, making the right noises, shaping as well as responding to the political agenda, taking the public with you, and the need for strong collective voices (user voices did not merit much attention!) and alliances to create public awareness and debate (in/out of Parliament?) 


The imminent demise of the College of Social Work and governmental threats to jail Social Workers who fail to act on allegations of abuse suggest that these voices certainly need to hold fast to 'civil courage'!! There were nodding acknowledgement to what was denoted as the 'great unspoken' in terms of the 'feminisation of probation work' an unbalanced gendered workforce, the choking off of entrants from more diverse backgrounds in the labyrinthine qualifying regime, and the current gender split in CRC/NPS.

The centrality of the professional relationships, the demonstrable benefits of partnership working (IOM's) core values as encapsulated in the Probation Institute, looking outward towards workable organisational models of supervision in Europe, as against some of the macho-correctional cross-overs from the US, were also canvassed in the broad sweep of the lecture with the ever recurrent theme of civil courage undaunted by organisational changes but evincing a bold embrace of proven and valued driven evidence led practice, left the audience with many ponderables to take away. 


The full text of Anne Worrall's lecture will appear later in the year (Howard League Journal?) and the enduring worth and success of the Bill McWilliams Lecture (now surviving without former financial corporate support from the PCA/PBA) and whose continuing viability will it seems rely on the wider support of all those with an indelible commitment to the best of what probation has to offer. I later had the bibulous pleasure of informally meeting up with some of Bill McWilliams family in one of the popular hostelries overlooking the River Cam before catching the train to London with my estimable colleague Chris H. As a fitting tribute to Bill McWilliams legacy to probation, for those new to his life and work, I append this excerpt from the invitation to the lecture:-

Bill McWilliams, who died in 1997, had a prestigious career as a probation practitioner, researcher and writer. His quartet of articles on the probation service’s development up to the point at which the “punishment in the community” debate began, is now widely regarded as its definitive history of ideas. He was a staunch advocate of the need for rigorous evaluation of probation practice – but an equally staunch critic of the excesses of the management ideal. He had an independence of mind – irritating to more timid souls – that won him friends across the spectrum of political opinion in the Service. There are many who would say – as W.H. Auden said of George Orwell – “how I wish he were still alive, so that I could read his comments on contemporary events”.


Mike Guilfoyle

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Latest From Napo 62

Blog post today from Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary:-

SODEXO DISPUTES REACH THE NNC AT LAST

Our top priority over the last few weeks has been the ongoing dialogue with senior Sodexo management about their offer of an Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy Scheme (EVR) which was supposed to shield the 600 staff who have been deemed as surplus to requirements from the possibility of being made compulsorily redundant (that’s sacked in everyday language).

Surplus to requirements: it has a dreadful ring to it doesn't it? Being in the frame to no longer be able to continue the career you entered many years ago which, through no fault of your own, is quite likely to be taken away because the new contractor who now owns your employer a) did not know how many staff it was inheriting and b) claim they cannot afford the terms of voluntary redundancy. Leaving aside the incredulity factor, both of these are fundamental issues that would have been very clear to anyone with half an idea about how to structure a competitive tender. What we now have is a classic blame game between the contractors and the MoJ about what they were being sold (see earlier posting: 'Salting the Mine') which again highlights another aspect of why TR has been and will continue to be an unmitigated disaster.

I will leave it there in advance of tomorrow’s meeting of the NNC Joint Secretaries where the parties will be discussing the two disputes that were registered earlier this year in South Yorkshire and Northumbria CRC's over EVR and the job cuts. The outcomes will be reported to Sodexo reps next week and we are currently considering how we can best consult with our members in all the Sodexo owned CRC's at the earliest opportunity.

Of course the whole farcical situation has been brought about by Graylings ideological reforms that have not only caused such serious uncertainty among Sodexo owned CRC staff but which were the genesis for the creation of the NPS which is creaking at the seams and which, one year on, still cannot demonstrate that it knows whether it is paying its staff correctly, and, as all too many members can claim from bitter experience - sometimes not at all.

Shared Service Problems

A good opportunity then to ask frustrated Napo members who have been suffering with pay problems to appreciate that these are not Napo's fault and that we have been (and are) throwing as much in the way of resources as we can into trying to get involved in personal cases that have been referred to us. Dean Rogers has a substantial number of members on his books in addition to his other equally important responsibilities and is working extremely hard to assist.

The reality is that this commitment of resources to helping people in difficulty is unfortunately no longer a shared one; since the NOMS specialist who was working with us on these cases has not had their contract extended. The other major factor is that the Shared Services division is in private ownership following its outsourcing to Steria (another wizard decision by the unlamented former Secretary of State for Justice) and guess what? They also plead that they didn't know what they were buying which also has a familiar (as well as dreadful) ring to it.

We will be issuing a separate update next week on the current situation and how we have been raising these problems at the highest levels.

More news to follow on Friday.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Sodexo News

E-mail to staff in Northumbria yesterday:-

Good afternoon everyone

In my previous email dated 11 June part of the agreed statement included that 'We expect to be in a position to communicate the outcome of those discussions and the offer to staff during the week commencing 22 June. As part of that announcement we will also provide you with supporting information and facilities to raise any issues.'

Unfortunately despite a great deal of discussions at national level we still aren't as far ahead as I would have liked. Below is a further agreed statement released across all six of the Sodexo-owned CRCs providing an update on where we are.

You will be aware from recent communications that Sodexo has, on behalf of its CRCs, made a formal voluntary redundancy package offer to the national unions and that the details of that offer are currently being considered by union representatives.

We had hoped to be in a position to communicate the outcome of those discussions this week, however as discussions remain ongoing we have decided to grant the unions a short, one-week extension to enable them to consider the proposal in more detail.

We appreciate that this undoubtedly a challenging time for all staff and that many of you may be disappointed not to have received details of the offer in the anticipated timeframes. We wish to assure you that this extension is a temporary arrangement and that we will seek to publish details of the staff offer at the earliest opportunity after 1 July 2015.

Thank you for your cooperation and ongoing commitment during this time.

I recognise that this is extremely frustrating for everyone and am pushing hard to get us to a position where we can share clear details with you about our restructuring plans. I'm as hopeful as I can be that this will be possible by the beginning of July so as soon as I can I'll be in touch.

Thanks

Nick Hall
Chief Executive
Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company


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Comment from yesterday:-

The unions have already rejected the offer you haven't seen yet. The six branches linked to Sodexo owned CRCs have all gone into dispute because of the company's intentions to put the offer to their staff when it has not been agreed at the NNC, something that is ALSO against the National Framework Agreement. In short, watch the unethical behaviour of this notoriously unethical company unfold over the coming days. This is why we were fighting to oppose outsourcing; because these companies are interested in only one thing and will achieve it at all costs including breaking agreements and even, if they think they can get away with it, laws. The only defence is to hold them to account in the way that Serco and G4S were held to account over electronic monitoring.