GS Speech to the Forum Conference – London 24th November 2017
Welcome to everyone who has taken valuable time out to be here today and especially those contributors who have offered to share their knowledge and experiences with us it is hugely appreciated.
We meet with the theme of the conference being Professional Training in a changing landscape, and so this is an opportune time for us to reflect on what has happened in probation, what is happening and what Napo’s agenda for improvement actually looks like.
The reasons why we are in the post-TR situation have been well rehearsed and its why I hope to be able to provide further evidence to the Justice Select Committee following that which I gave in person in March about the current problems being faced by our members.
Because it’s you, the lifeblood of the probation service whichever employer you work for, who tell us that probation isn’t functioning anywhere near the standards prior to the introduction of TR in 2013 when we had uniformity of standards and training programmes that were far more effective than this government is prepared to make available now, all of the probation service in England and Wales were performing to a high quality. NOMS own ratings in July 2012 showed 31 of 35 Probation Trusts were in Band 3, ‘showing good performance’ and four were in Band 4 ‘exceptional performance’. Its glorious history now, to recall that in October 2011, the service won the British Quality Foundation Gold Medal for Excellence, hardly a word I would use to describe the outputs offered by all too many of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies despite the dedication of our hard working members in sometimes desperate circumstances and Alex, (Alex Osler Essex CRC) who we especially welcome today, let me say that I have made it very clear in countless media and TV interviews that not all of the problems are of the CRC owners making, having been put into difficulties that were not made clear by your contracting body.
But for anyone who says, well he would say that wouldn’t he. Then check out the fact that the HMI Probation has produced 14 Quality and Impact Inspections of probation areas since April 2016, with all bar two being pretty damning in their assessments of the private sectors incursion into interventions. Napo absolutely applauds the critical role that HMI Probation has played in independently assessing the performance of the NPS and CRCs.
And as we have seen, the overwhelming majority of the HMIP reports highlight significant operational problems in the CRCs, particularly in those areas raised by Napo as not likely to work from the outset, which remain a cause for serious concern.
I don’t want to dwell too much on specific examples of operational failures of certain providers otherwise this speech would last 15 hours instead of minutes, but Napo’s central message which we are taking to politicians is that the taxpayer cannot be asked to continuously fund failure and I am proud that we have been able to secure commitments from Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Labour front bench justice team that when we have a Labour Government then steps will be taken to restore probation where it belongs and that is firmly back into public control and ownership.
And for those failing contractors who don’t much like that prospect then we say that’s ok , we get it, probation practitioners are trained to recognise that people make mistakes so if it isn't really your bag do us all a favour and pass the keys back.
Not that the NPS is anywhere near to being out of the woods, where performance has been seen by the Inspectorate as mostly “satisfactory” with common references to staff doing beyond what could normally be expected. Napo believes that this state of affairs is neither stable nor sustainable. And Yannick (McKenzie HMPPS), please don’t take this personally as I know how committed you and your team are to a progressive agenda but you also suffer from the current malaise in the NPS.
Napo has predicted much of this and have identified a number of factors underlying these problems, including:
Poor financial planning where it was originally expected that the workload split would be 70:30 in favour of the CRC estate, but where in fact it is nearer 54:46% the other way, and despite having a greater staff need, the NPS has consistently suffered from serious problems in respect of unfilled vacancies and excessive workloads, amplified by consequential increases in sickness absence and staff turnover
And then there are the shared services problems in the NPS where desperately poor HR processes and failings in service delivery have been as comical as those videos of Eddie the Eagle (remember him?) gallantly traipsing up to the pinnacle of the Ski slope and slaloming down to perennial crash followed by hospital mode. Very funny, unless you are among the 1 in 5 staff who have either not been paid accurately or are still awaiting what you are owed in allowances or holiday pay or, as in the case of scores of new starters this year, were not even paid for several weeks. Oh yes Pay, let me not go there, except to say that my mail out to NPS members this morning gives you news of an NPS Zero pay offer for 2017, yes brothers and sisters that’s nil, zero, diddly squat. So much for the appreciation of Ministers for the hard work of staff.
Her Majesties Prison and Probation service? For to me it looks like Prison, Prison, and Prison. Someone is having a laugh at our members’ expense, but it’s not funny. As you will see we are making high level representations but essentially the message is pay our members and pay them now!
All this of course compounded by pension contributions not being collected for over 1,500 staff; contractual sick pay and maternity pay processes being bungled and the approach to paid notice and ill-health early retirement being utterly shambolic.
Of course you can always phone a friend in such situations, but news that the taxpayer is now subsiding this incompetence by paying for a premium help line at up to 55p a minute is akin to seriously kicking that poor but much loved Eddie the Eagle even harder when he is down, and it will be Napo who intends to call this shambles to account before the ongoing Justice Select Committee inquiry.
So why does all this matter in the context of the need for high quality professional training?
Well it does; and desperately so. Because while our members struggle in the morass that useless, no nothing politicians and some privateers who saw probation as the new Klondike gold rush created, little time or consideration was given to the challenges around organisational design and training that ensued.
In addition to the deleterious impact on standards and delivery as a result of failing Graylings meddling, it is also Napo’s view that the logistical, structural, organisational and cultural impact of the Offender Management in custody model has not been fully understood or addressed. Many significant questions remain unanswered such as where will the experienced probation staff come from when there are still swathes of staff shortages and workload challenges; how will the Prison service and NPS teams be managed when their HR systems are misaligned and so dysfunctional; and increasing and well-founded fears amongst our practitioners about prison safety and the impact on our work in community rehabilitation. And our brothers and sisters in the POA have their own understandable priorities in the form of personal safety, numbers on the floors and the prevention of psychoactive substances.
In the Courts, Probation Services which remained with the NPS at the implementation of TR have also suffered following the impact of E3, causing huge pressures on court staff which in turn has impacted on the quality of reports. This, in parallel with everyday staffing pressures, and cuts in court funding.
The corollary to this is that Probation training and professional standards are seriously suffering and whilst a national training programme remains in place for a variety of grades of staff in both the NPS and the CRCs there are major concerns about the effectiveness of this training, how accessible it is, and whether the perennial quest for cost savings has overridden quality. The lack of any national oversight and the unwillingness of some CRC owners to sign up to national standards also increases the risk of further fracture.
A lack of clear, national, professional standards developed in partnership and monitored independently to empower staff to protect themselves and assert their professionalism is also undermining staff confidence across both arms of the service. Napo members constantly feel they are being “de-professionalised” and that’s why Napo supports a national license to practice and are willing to explore opportunities to work in partnership with Helen and her team at the Probation Institute.
Look, and not withstanding our principled opposition to the disgraceful carve up of your profession, Napo must still stand ready to work with NPS and CRC providers to explore ways to improve service delivery, capture those examples of good practice and utilise the considerable skillsets of our members to try and improve the operational landscape that has developed since the implementation of TR while the politicians hopefully come up with the right answers for once.
For this to happen, we will need a huge increase in investment in the reward package for staff and improved engagement with trade unions under a Professional Practice Forum as well as the joint development of a Licence to Practice.
Finally Chair, I want to also set out why these aims and objectives need to go hand in hand with Napo’s own growth strategy.
For despite the unfortunate propensity of Napo’s enemies to talk us down to the effect that Napo is broke and rudderless, the truth is entirely the opposite.
Sound financial management and a now stabilised membership base, showing encouraging signs of recovery has created a platform for us to now look seriously at investing in state of the art communications and ICT to improve our ability to reach you collectively and individually. To better inform you and, just as importantly, seek your views about professional as well as bargaining issues. Better ways to generate safe and constructive debate between you and your colleagues about the issues that matter and an investment in the way that Napo central, under my and the Officer Groups leadership, can better assist our loyal and highly valued activists and members to get involved in the campaign for a stronger Napo.
But for that to be successful we need to grow in density across the NPS and CRC ‘s because if we want to raise professional standards alongside the imperative to improve our members pay, terms and conditions, we need to influence the employer more effectively.
And yes of course we can use the flowery language of partnership as a key driver for the delivery of our agenda and I have secured more agreements in this respect than anyone in this union, but you know its a fact of life that partnerships break down, (and relying on partnership alone can cause complacency) and when they do you need something else in your locker, which is unity of purpose and determination to stand your ground, so that any employer who takes you for granted knows that they run the risk of a strong collective response from their workforce (not necessarily by way of industrial action but we must always have that option) as we take steps to secure the respect and dignity and fair reward for your efforts that you deserve.
So lets move forward today with a commitment to work together to achieve that. For my part I made it very clear at the recent Napo AGM that, subject to the will of the membership I am fully committed to serving another term as your General Secretary, a position that I am very proud to hold and one that I want to continue doing, working with you as well as for you in the challenges ahead of us.
Thanks for listening, but most of all thanks for being part of Napo.
Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary
Statement issued today by Napo and Unison:-
Statement issued today by Napo and Unison:-
NPS PAY TALKS BREAK DOWN
It is with great regret that we have to inform you that talks over the 2017 NPS pay award between NPS and the probation trade unions, broke down this week. This was because the NPS negotiators stated that they were unable to make a pay offer to staff this year. This week’s discussions followed the earlier meeting on 2 October when consideration was at last given by the NPS to the unions pay claims for this year.
As members will be aware, the NPS awarded all eligible staff their increment back in April. This is a contractual entitlement and was not subject to negotiation.
WHY HAVE TALKS BROKEN DOWN?
At the pay talks on 22 November, the NPS informed the two unions that:
• The cost of the prison pay award this year means that there is no money available for anything other than the contractual increment to be given to probation staff.
• If this remains their position then:
- NPS staff on the top of their pay band will get nothing, whereas in previous years they received a non-consolidated payment to reflect the fact that they are not eligible for increments
- There will be no increase on London Weighting, or any other NPS allowances and,
- Pay points will not be increased
WHAT DID PRISON STAFF GET THIS YEAR?
HMPPS paid the recommendations of the Prison Pay Review Body in full, which amounted to:
- £400 minimum increase in the pay of most Prison Officers, including those at the top of their pay bands
- Plus at least one pay increment
- 4-6% pay progression for Prison Managers
In announcing the pay award for prison officers, Michael Spurr said that the pay deal addressed the ‘...challenges the Prison Service is currently facing in relation to motivation, recruitment and retention, and the competitiveness of the remuneration package, at a time of significant operational challenges.’
Napo and UNISON made the point that the NPS faces exactly the same challenges and yet our members have been offered nothing by comparison. It seems evident from the pay talks what value HMPSS places on the NPS workforce compared to the HMP workforce.
UNIONS DEMAND URGENT MEETING WITH THE SECRETARY OF STATE
As members would expect, the Unions have reacted with serious anger to these developments and immediately demanded a meeting with the Secretary of State David Lidington. We will be following this up in writing.
Meanwhile, a meeting was arranged with senior HMPPS management in the form of Michael Spurr, HMPPS CEO, and Martin Beecroft, HMPPS Executive Director HR, on 23 November. They have undertaken to take a number of our very forcibly made points to the appropriate decision makers in the Ministry and wider Government.
Given that we await the outcome of these discussions, the unions have agreed that for now we should update our NPS members about these difficulties, which we will also be reporting back on in detail to our respective NEC and Probation committees.
We appreciate that members will be particularly angry at what has transpired, and further updates will be issued to members about the response to our representations as soon as they are available.