Sunday, 27 May 2018

Don't Mention Probation!

Whilst we've been necessarily focused on the Napo General Secretary election, David Gauke is doing his best to continue the official MoJ line and pretend there's no problem with TR and probation by the simple expedient of never mentioning it. Official policy would appear to be that it's all far too difficult to sort out and I'm told some poor mandarin has been given the task of just trying to keep the show on the road until the CRC contracts end. 

It's ok to talk about prisons though and here he is announcing something that had already been announced - a classic distraction ploy, but again it's just about buying a bit of time until those pesky satellite tagging contracts kick-in next year when thousands of prisoners can be released. Never mind that the CRCs won't be able to cope supervising them on licence - it'll be ok, perhaps he has a hunch, a gut feeling:- 

From the wings to the workplace: the route to reducing reoffending

Secretary of State for Justice's speech at the Education and Employment Strategy Launch at HMP Isis.

It’s a pleasure to be at HMP Isis today to see some of the excellent work being done to help prisoners get a job when they are released. The impressive workshops being run here are helping prisoners to learn a trade and gain the practical skills and confidence they need to succeed in that trade beyond these prison walls.

The power of work
Why is that important? Well, I believe in the power of work to change people’s lives. As Work and Pensions Secretary, I saw how making work always pay supports people to take the right path in life and create a better future for themselves and their family.

It’s not just the financial security of having a pay packet, although of course that is important. It’s everything else that comes with being in work: purpose, structure, networks, having a stake in something. Nearly 400,000 more people have moved into work since this time last year; almost 3.3 million more people since 2010.

This sustained increase in employment and the strong jobs market that has supported it are great success stories. Indeed, the employment rate in the UK has been increasing over the last few years. At over 75% - it is now the highest it has been since records began in 1971. Yet, there is one group in society - former prisoners - where only 17% are in PAYE employment a year after they are released.

I want those ex-offenders who are committed to change to share in this country’s remarkable jobs story. Prisoners who come out of prison and do not get a job are a burden on our welfare state and on hard-working taxpayers. Without the focus of a job, they then often fall back into crime. That reoffending costs the UK economy £15 billion a year.

Ensuring ex-offenders come out of prison, not onto benefits but into work, reduces the financial burden on taxpayers and the welfare state. It reduces reoffending and, therefore, the number of victims of crime.

Prison as a turning-point
In my first prisons speech as Secretary of State in March, I set out what I saw as the purpose of prison: to protect the public, to punish by depriving liberty and to rehabilitate. I am clear that offenders are sent to prison as punishment, but they should leave with prison having been a turning-point in their lives. Delivering on that third purpose - rehabilitation - is at the heart of the education and employment strategy I am launching today.

Although prison cannot help those who are not willing to help themselves, for those offenders who see prison as a crossroads in their lives, as a chance to change, I want prison to provide them with the impetus and incentives to set them on the path to a better life. The foundation for creating that better life is work. This strategy will unlock opportunity and put prisoners on a path to employment. Because the evidence is clear: if a prisoner gets a job after coming out of prison, they are less likely to commit more crime.

As a window on the world of work opens for a prisoner, we often see the door to their criminal past close behind them. I want to make breaking through into that world a more realistic prospect for prisoners.

Education
The first step is education - as Dame Sally Coates’ 2016 report made clear. Over half of offenders assessed on arrival into prison have the English and maths skills of an 11-year-old. Now, we have made good progress over the last few years in improving the quality of education in prisons:

70% of the education provided by the Offender Learning and Skills Service is now rated by Ofsted as good or outstanding, That’s up from 51% in 2015. But we must go further. We need to ensure that offenders not only leave prison with the basic skills they need to enter the workplace, but with the skills that employers are looking for.

Frankly, there are too many low-level qualifications being delivered that reap little or no reward for prisoners and are of little relevance for employers. Education in prisons needs to be much more closely tailored to the skills that employers in the local area need.

That’s why our Prisoner Apprenticeship Pathway is helping link training with employment opportunities by giving a 12-month apprenticeship on release - that’s a guaranteed job and a guaranteed income. And governors know their prisoners and local areas best. I’ve said before that governors should govern. That’s why from April next year, they will be given full control of over how education is delivered in their prisons, able to tailor it to meet the needs of local employers and the local labour market.

From jobs on the wings to jobs in the workplace
Alongside education, it is also important to get experience of work. At any one time, thousands of prisoners are working in prison. A third of prisoners have a job of some kind. That could be a job working for one of the 300 businesses that have set up shop in prison, or it could be a job that directly helps with the running of a prison.

Whether working in a call centre, cleaning the wings, cooking in the kitchens or cutting hair in the prison barbers….prison work gives prisoners something purposeful to do and helps prisons run effectively. Prisoners can pick up some useful skills along the way.

However, that work has not been geared up in a way that properly prepares prisoners for employment or provides a clear route from a job on the wings to a job in the workplace. This strategy will build on the success we have had in getting prisoners doing jobs in prison and translate that into supporting prisoners into jobs when they come out of prison.

The Clink Partnership
We will be putting rehabilitation into the prison work routine by incorporating more on-the-job training and vocational qualifications into traditional prison jobs. In three prisons - HMP Bristol, Styal and Risley - we will work with The Clink charity to give make working in a prison kitchen more focussed on training, work experience, placements out of prison and ultimately employment and mentoring on release. I hope this is a model that can be adopted more widely.

Workplace ROTL
A key aspect of The Clink model is getting prisoners experience of work outside prison. That real-world experience from is vital. The evidence shows that it can reduce the risk of reoffending. So, for prisoners who have earned it, and who have been properly risk-assessed, we will get more prisoners out of their cells and into real workplaces.

We intend to do this by expanding and increasing the use of release of prisoners on temporary licence for work - or ‘workplace ROTL’. This will give more prisoners the chance to prove themselves to an employer, to build relationships and their CV, and to get that real-world experience before they leave prison.

Prisoners who go to work under ROTL are treated just like any other employee: they earn the same wages and have similar deductions made for tax and national insurance, as well as making contributions from their pay packet to victims’ funds.

So this is a foot through the door to work and to many of the benefits of being a real employee and it is an important step towards re-joining society and committing to the obligations that are required in doing that. Workplace ROTL is also a powerful incentive to promote good behaviour in prison. If you do not cause trouble, if you take the right path and play by the rules, that behaviour will be recognised and you will be rewarded with a more liberal prison regime.

In that sense, expanding the use of positive incentives like workplace ROTL, has an important role to play in reducing the levels of violence and disorder in prisons, alongside the other measures we are taking.

Personal prisoner stories
As part of the launch of this strategy today, you will see and hear stories of prisoners who have successfully taken that path, whose lives have been transformed from the opportunity workplace ROTL provides - and as a result of their own drive and determination. Let me give you just three brief personal stories.

Yasmin used workplace ROTL to start work at an engineering firm in the West Midlands. Since then, she has successfully applied for an apprenticeship and started full time work. She is now hoping to study for a degree.

Mikey got three months of work experience under his belt before being released from prison. He now works for Balfour Beatty. His advice to others if they are given the same opportunity he had is: “grab it with both hands”.

And Luke, whose story features in one of our campaign videos, went to a jobs fair in HMP Brixton. There he met a lady who signposted him to construction company Keltbray, who took him on. He says that if you have no prospects and nothing to lose, it’s very easy to fall back into what you know.

Luke says it’s a good feeling being self-sufficient. He doesn’t have to claim benefits. He can pay his rent. He is grateful to Keltbray for giving him a chance and now wouldn’t even consider doing anything that could put his new life at risk.

Employers
These stories show what is possible. But the fact is, half of employers wouldn’t even consider hiring an ex-offender. Beyond the prison walls, we need to change the mind-set of many employers. We also recognise the argument in favour of financial incentives and will balance this against wider government objectives. We will consider how to take forward a national insurance contributions holiday alongside wider work on employer obligations and incentives.

However, the basic incentive for employers should be that prisons provide a pool of potential recruits just like Yasmin, Mikey and Luke - hard-working and loyal. Some employers see that, including many of the employers here today. But I want more employers to look past an offender’s conviction to their future potential.

How do we do that? Well, we do it by working more closely with employers so they open their eyes to the benefits of hiring ex-offenders. Our New Futures Network will do just that. It will create stronger links between prisons and employers, championing prisoners and acting as a broker between prisoners and employers.

But this is not just about creating paths from institutions to employment, but about creating cultural change from within organisations themselves. I want employees, from the shop floor to the boardroom, to call out and challenge their employers if they turn a blind eye to attracting and representing ex-offenders in their workplace.

Fostering that cultural change will send a message that says: we believe in what you can contribute now and in the future, not what you have done in the past. And let me tell you why I believe now is the moment we can seize the opportunity to do that.

I think the public mood has changed somewhat in recognising that when an offender comes out of prison we, as a society, don’t want them to return to crime and reoffend. The public expects them to get a job and become law-abiding citizens. It makes good sense for society. It also makes good sense for business. In some ways, now more than ever.

Labour markets
As I mentioned at the start of my speech, we currently have a thriving jobs market. We know that demand for workers in some sectors is very high. Leaving the European Union is also likely to have an impact on the workforce in sectors such as catering, construction and agriculture. I see an opportunity here for both prisoners and employers, particularly those operating in these sectors.

By expanding the use of ROTL for work, more prisoners will not only be able to get a foot through the door to sectors like these, but employers will be better able to fill short-term skills gaps whilst also developing potential permanent employees for the longer term. That in my eyes is a ‘win-win’. Ultimately though, a lot of this is down to an employer’s mind-set and their recruitment policies. I want an employer’s head, as well as their heart, to be in the right place.

As a government, we are doing our part. We have already ‘banned the box’. That means we no longer ask about criminal convictions upfront in the recruitment process, which can put off ex-offenders from applying in the first place and lead to preconceptions on the part of the person recruiting.

We are also working with prisons to place ex-offenders into fixed-term jobs in the Civil Service. That way, an ex-offender can build up confidence and experience and have a good chance of being successful when they apply for a permanent role.

Conclusion
For those prisoners who are prepared to change, this education and employment strategy will help to break down both the barriers and the prejudices prisoners have faced. I say to prisoners: if you treat prison as a pivotal turning-point in your life, if you commit to change and to bettering yourself, if you are prepared to step up when you step out of prison, this strategy will work for you and empower you to prepare for, and move into, work.

I want prisons to be places of hope and aspiration that can propel prisoners into employment when they are released. In doing so, they will be able to start a new chapter in their lives, contribute to society and join their place in this country’s extraordinary jobs story.
Thank you.


--oo00oo--

This from yesterday's Guardian:-

Short prison sentences do not work, says justice secretary

David Gauke says he wants prison population to come down, with alternatives to short spells in jail for least serious offenders

Short prison sentences of less than 12 months do not rehabilitate prisoners and should be a last resort, the justice secretary has said, adding that the UK is now holding too many people in jail. David Gauke, who is overseeing an overcrowded prison service rife with violence and drug use, said that he would like to see the prison population come down, with alternatives to short spells in jail for the least serious offenders.

Gauke told the Times he wanted to start a wider debate about “what punishment means”, noting that prisoners held for less than a year have a recidivism rate of about 66%, higher than the reoffending rate of those handed non-custodial sentences.

“Twenty-five years ago the [prison] population was 44,000. Today it’s 84,000,” he said. “I would like it to fall.” He said efforts to cut the number of people incarcerated would depend on “how successfully we can build confidence in non-custodial sentences and how effective we can be in reducing reoffending”.

Gauke said the rise had been driven by longer and tougher sentences for serious crimes. But he acknowledged concerns about the role of shorter terms, saying: “There is an issue about public protection, but I think we need to look at the efficacy of short sentences.”

For some groups, there should also be a move towards alternatives to imprisonment. Female offenders – who are often victims of domestic abuse – have particularly complex needs, he said, while prison could be “absolutely the worst place” for people with mental health problems.

Gauke’s suggestions come days after he suggested that prisoners could fill gaps in the workforce caused by the UK leaving the European Union.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

General Secretary Election 9

Hi Jim,

Thank you for posting my blog and allowing your readers to know a little more about me. I hope to contribute regularly during this election process and if successful I will continue to contribute to the wider debate that your blog seems to stimulate. This is something I have done previously and I would plan to continue to engage with members on unofficial forums as I believe any leadership role creates the need to engage with opinion and with debate which in turns leads to healthy membership and a clear direction from the elected leader.

I have now been properly signposted to your blog and have had chance to catch up on some of the comments and entries which I will respond to within this post. I note that many of the comments centre around my past and my job role rather than what my aims and objectives are for taking Napo forward I will respond to these comments first and then future contributions will focus on what my priorities going forward will be if successful.

Firstly I see much has been made of my battle with the POA via the Certification Officer, much of what I have read is wholly inaccurate and I would urge any member that is unsure to read the decision of the Certification Officer in full for themselves. Whilst I would prefer to talk and plan for the future I realise it is important to Napo members to understand my past and my Trade Union Credentials. It is not my intention to get drawn into personality battles more to allow people to know what kind of person I am and what I can offer Napo members in terms of commitment, energy and enthusiasm. But as the query has been raised I cannot avoid giving the contextual detail.

In May 2017 I was selected as the Parliamentary Candidate in the General Election for my local constituency, as a Civil Servant I had to resign from my role as a Prison Officer due to the guidance which prevents those employed by the state from taking political sides. As a consequence I ceased to be a member of the NEC of the POA. I think it is important to additionally note that I believed my candidature in the General Election for the Labour party, which was supporting a manifesto recognised to achieve the political aims and objectives of the POA, would further enhance the standing of the POA in the political arena not weaken it.

The POA rules and constitution has clear rules on ceasing to be a member of the POA NEC and when I wrote to the NEC in May 2017 I set out these rules and the consequences of my resignation from the Civil Service. I have a text still to this date from the POA GS stating that he believed I did not need to resign.

Following the election campaign in June 2017 and on my return to HMP Elmley as a Prison Officer I was informed that the POA GS was informing members that I was banned from standing for Office for 9 years until 2026. I immediately wrote to the NEC to clarify their position. In a response the GS told me that I was banned from standing for Office. I knew that this was clearly a case of discrimination against me as both the General Secretary and one of the Assistant Secretaries had both stood for elected seats in 2015. The GS stood for Labour (same as me) and the AS for TUSC. There are no rules within the POA that prevented any member from standing for political positions of their choice. I requested that the POA reconsidered their position but they refused my request and offered me no avenue of appeal. I also discovered that the POA NEC had taken steps to cancel my membership and I immediately restarted my membership.

At this point I think it is important that I give some context to the type of person I am. I have and will never allow anyone to bully or intimidate me, many have tried but none have been successful. From before I took the Chair position I had been subjected to attempts to bully and intimidate me from an individual by denigration and undermining my work for members usually by email, again I still have copies. I had faced each of these attempts to bully me head on and I believed that I had sufficiently prevented that individual from attempting to do so ever again, however I was wrong. Whilst I will not name any individuals in this post it will not be hard for Napo members to work out for themselves who I am referring to and should they wish to read the endorsements under Ian’s election statement then they can confirm for themselves who clearly wants to ensure that I fail in this election.

As there was no avenue of appeal for me I was left with two choices, let this individual get away with not treating me fairly and accept a ban for 9 years or take my complaint to the Certification Officer. A weaker person may have chosen the former as I realised that this would most certainly up the ante, but I could not allow a person I have known to be a purveyor of mistruths time and time again to treat me or anyone else in such a way. The choice was a simple one for me and although there has been much stress and aggravation I have seen this issue through to ensure parity and fairness for the future of POA members.

Between me challenging the NEC decision and taking my complaint to the Certification Officer I was subjected to public insults and derogatory comments from the same individual that sought to bully me. Additionally when it became apparent that they might not win on imposing a ban for 9 years they tried to say that I was banned for 5 years as a lapsed member instead. This latter 5 year ban argument was withdrawn and as a consequence I was able to withdraw two further complaints on the day of the Certification Officers hearing in London.

I will add that I have not taken any legal action against the POA, I have challenged an unfair decision they made against me at nil cost to anyone. The POA could have defended their decision themselves at nil cost to POA members but instead they employed a team of Solicitors from Thompsons and additionally Senior Counsel from Deveraux Chambers to defend their decision. Regardless of the odds being stacked against me I defended myself in front of the Certification Officer and won. The POA as a result were ordered to lift the ban and allow me to stand for National Office, and it was proved that they breached their own rules.

For reference I could have taken the POA to employment tribunal, I could have sought compensation for the unfair dismissal, I could have sought damages for the degrading and inappropriate way that I was talked about and attacked but I just wanted to ensure that anyone in future would be treated fairly and in line with the rules of the Union. Equality and ensuring that individuals are not subjected to discrimination, victimisation or harassment are issues that are very important to me as is being fair to all.

I note that some have suggested that due to this battle a return to the POA would be impossible for me. I would urge anyone who believes that to add me as a friend via Facebook and read the many disappointed messages from POA members following the news that I have chosen to stand for Napo GS. I would make it clear that returning to the POA NEC would be a well supported and an easy choice for me to make, and that I have had a large number of Branches offering to nominate me should I decide to stand for a POA elected post in future. I can say unequivocally that I am standing for the Napo GS role because it is a role I am genuinely interested in and one that I believe I can bring a lot of drive; enthusiasm and unity to should members decide to elect me.

In seeking appointment whilst you can never 100% give clear assurances on your future, my intention would be to see out the role for the period I am elected if successful. Similarly I am not looking to further my future political aims and I am not applying for this role for financial reasons. I genuinely see major issues within Napo, issues that I believe I could provide strong and united leadership and defiance against. 


I have learnt many crucial things from my Trade Union work in the last 10 years, two key things that stand out are that personalities are key to leadership, direction and success and that you have to fight for everything that you want. There is no easy route to solving the problems that Napo members face and if successfully elected as your next General Secretary I will need your support, unity and understanding in order to drive those issues forward for which you most desire.

The position of Napo is not dissimilar to that of the POA when I took over as an area rep, defeatism, apathy and people suggesting that there was no fight left, however I already know how passionate you all are and how important it is that your profession is given the credence and respect that it deserves. Being in a trade union is about sticking together, fighting issues that sometimes only affect a minority, other times fighting issues that affect the majority, whatever the issue I will want to ensure that Napo members help each other and not just themselves and this will be my first issue to get to grips with.

I have read comments about me being the preferred option for Spurr and Crozier to have in discussion, this did make me chuckle, should you wish to do your homework on me you will realise that my relationship with Senior Leaders within HMPPS is not one of cosy cups of teas and biscuits, in fact during the protest action the POA took in 2016 I called Spurr, Copple and the SOS Liz Truss liars both via online video and latterly live on Channel 4 news. Calling them out for misleading parliament and naming me in the House of Commons as part of their lies led to a Government E-petition to investigate Liz Truss’s claims and Spurr and Copple spent many meetings arguing with me to try and retract my statement which I refused to do. I similarly told Liz Truss, whilst Spurr and Copple were present, that she had been misled by the incompetent leaders within HMPPS.

In seeking election I note that many are concerned that a Prison Officer may end up leading your Union. Let me say this, to underestimate me and my ability to lead a trade union is your own choice and you will be able to make your own decision in this election. Yes I will have many flaws and weaknesses, but one thing that I know about myself is that I will give this role my absolute all, that I do not understand defeat and that I am dogged and determined in the face of adversity. It will be your choice who you elect to the role of General Secretary and I will accept that decision regardless of the outcome as if unsuccessful I will continue to support Napo, its aims and objectives and retain my associate membership.

If you select me as your next General Secretary you will be electing an experienced Trade Union Activist and seasoned campaigner, you will not be electing a Prison Officer with a narrow view of the Criminal Justice Sector you will be electing someone that will go out of their way to listen to and understand members every concerns, someone who believes in Socialism but is not afraid to make tough decisions and be forthright when the situation dictates. You will be electing someone that will once fully up to speed take on your issues as if they were my own and use all and every means available to me to try and achieve the desired outcome.

Kind Regards


Mike Rolfe

Friday, 25 May 2018

General Secretary Election 8

Hi Jim,

Your email address has been passed to me as you had requested a contribution for your online blog as I’m standing for the role of General Secretary within Napo. I understand you have already sourced some information and so I apologise if this contribution repeats some of what you have already shared.

Personal information.

I am 40 years old and was born in Greenwich South London. I have two daughters and live with my partner Lisa a Psychologist who works at HMP Swaleside. I currently reside on the Isle of Sheppey where I also work as a Custodial Manager (Band 5) at HMP Elmley. I have worked at Elmley for 15 years. Before working in the Prison Service and after completing my ‘A’ Levels I worked as a Management Accountant for approximately eight years working for various large companies producing monthly management information and reports such as profit and loss and balance sheets. I also line managed a team of 15 staff. I decided to change career following my Father’s premature death from cancer at the age of 57 and wanted to do something more meaningful as I saw it. I am a strong believer in quality public services as being a vital part of the fabric to the wider functioning of society and I took the opportunity to become a Prison Officer to try and fulfil my own desire to do well.

Union Background.

Upon entering the Prison Service I had no hesitation in joining the POA and I saw trade union membership as an integral part of any career within the sector. As time passed by I recognised the importance of trade unionism in the workplace and became a strong advocate of promoting trade unionism activities and beliefs. Approximately 10 years ago I became a local trade union representative at Elmley having been very vocal at meetings for some time; this soon led to me taking over as Branch Secretary.

As the Government imposed more and more unrealistic cuts on our sector I started to feel increasingly frustrated with the system and I decided I needed to take a stand against these injustices. This came with great personal risks to my own employment by speaking out against cuts. My stance and the support it aroused with POA members led to my election onto the NEC. Whilst on the NEC I led several high profile revolts against management and Government including walking several individual branches out on health and safety grounds and taken control of HMP Pentonville for four days away from any management control. As a result I faced many threats, attempts to intimidate and coerce me but I did not falter in my commitment to achieve safe working conditions for my members. My reputation for being prepared to take management on at all costs led to my election as The National Chair of the POA in 2015.

Throughout 2016 I led the union through a turbulent time organising members to take various industrial action in the pursuit of longstanding issues around safety, pay, pension and terms and conditions. Several high profile meetings were arranged between myself and the then Secretary of State Liz Truss MP where I pushed for changes and additional funding for the Prison Service. The pressure placed on Government and the employer forced concessions and at the end of 2016, whilst the Government were still imposing cuts on public services more widely, £104 million was secured from the treasury for 2,500 extra Prison Officers and a pay and pension deal worth £13 million annually was offered to POA members which took the Government outside of their own imposed 1% pay cap. This additional funding from the Treasury to the MOJ was not money that was shifted away from other public sector unions pay claims.

During my time with the POA I led the union through some successful media campaigns highlighting the many issues within the mainstream media. I appeared on the national news almost daily including headlining the prestigious BBC 10 o’clock news on three occasions and made multiple appearances on a variety of topical shows, documentaries and news channels. In addition to raising the profile of the POA to undoubtedly its highest profile in its 75 year history I engaged members at every level by regularly attending branch meetings, arranging successfully and well attended public demonstrations and setting up the highly successful KTD (Know The Danger) Facebook page with over 30,000 regular followers.

Political Background/beliefs.

I have always had a keen interest in politics and I encourage everyone to take part in the debates and to understand the political landscape. I first ventured into standing for political positions in 2013 when I stood in the Kent County Council elections for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Following this I joined the Labour party after the 2015 defeat. I felt compelled to do so, that change was afoot and in hope that a Socialist Labour party would emerge.

In 2017 I stood as the Labour Party Parliamentary Candidate in Sittingbourne and Sheppey. Although unsuccessful in my campaign to become an MP in what was considered a safe Conservative seat, Labour moved from third in the area to second with a 62% increase in votes compared to 2015 and an 11% swing towards Labour, the swing to Labour was higher than the national average. Since that campaign the Labour party has continued to grow locally picking up a vital by-election seat. Although I have stood as a Labour candidate I fully respect and understand the varying views of members within a trade union organisation. My understanding of this means that I find it easy to ensure that my work as a trade union representative is not affected by my own political views and I understand the importance of cross party lobbying in order to achieve union objectives.

Why Napo General Secretary?

I am standing for the role of General Secretary of Napo as it is a role that holds great interest for me and I am excited by the prospect of tackling some of the major issues Napo members have faced over recent years such as Privatisation, pay freeze and unreasonable workloads. This extends to the various members that Napo represents such as Probation Officers, court staff, Cafcass and temporary workers and I look forward to potentially getting to meet many members and listening to their concerns, issues and problems. The activists within Napo have continued to work hard to address issues for their members and I would welcome the opportunity to complement that work with a more ambitious and proactive agenda for change. This would include attacking those stubborn issues with a clear strategy to achieve success. The financial position of Napo is an area of serious concern and I believe that urgent steps need to be taken if we are to ensure Napo is sustainable for the future, we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand over this issue and I believe small unions are the best at representing their members interests which is why I want to see Napo thrive independently not disappear.

I have maintained close relationships with some of your executive members, some of which stretch back 10 years and I have listened and talked to members about many of the issues that Napo have faced for a number of years. Whilst I have a good knowledge of the criminal justice sector and the difficulties that Napo members face I understand that I will need some time to understand those issues in depth to truly be effective in taking those issues on and helping to shape future campaigns and strategies. I look forward, if successful, to working closely and proactively with Napo’s NEC to achieve the goals that have already been set and bringing fresh thinking to how these aims and objectives can be successfully achieved. I hope that members can see that my past achievements could be used to benefit Napo’s membership and I hope that they will take time to consider carefully their choice in this election with only a short window in which to give those members opportunity to understand what Mike Rolfe can offer and what I also stand for.

Thanks again for giving me opportunity to supply a piece for your blog and I look forward to hopefully engaging more in future via such forums. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions, and to pass my email address onto other Napo members / potential members should they wish to know more.

Mike Rolfe

micalmus@yahoo.com

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Napo at Work in the South West 14

Branch Report 17
May 2018

Dear Members,

Since the last report in March and the Labour motion to Plymouth City Council, the City is now Labour controlled post the May elections. This could well see an amended or new motion and a return to that forum on the state of things so far on the model and public safety issues we assert Working Links present.

Pay Issues

Members will be aware, excepting those at the top of their grade, that all staff are entitled to an annual incremental pay rise which is contractual. This is not a luxury or an option and the contract holders are obliged to pay the sums on time from the payroll at the end of April. Already May, yet it is unlikely members who are entitled to the increase will see it until the end of June.

Napo on the 24th April attended a special meeting with the General Secretary Ian Lawrence and our Unison colleagues. The approach was made by Working Links to talk about pay issues. To our surprise it became a meeting on the continued finances. The subject has now become controversial as the meeting generated a series of exchanges given our rising concerns. Before formal letters could be drafted the General Secretary had agreed to confidentiality pending a further meeting. The further meeting was promised to include the Directors of Working Links including at least 4 of them. At the meeting on the 24th April the unions heard a lengthy presentation by Finances Director. While part of this was on pay, which is important to improve our members working terms, we were concerned at what was stated that sort of detracted the point. Pay claims are expected to be lodged annually as part of the national arrangements. The long running and continued dispute with the Working Links model, the structures, and the failings on workloads and health and safety are all part of the continued mess of the Working Links way. However, finances have now become the dominant issue.

Members will also be aware of the joint circular that was sent out to all staff on the 3rd of May 2018 and copied below.

JTU 14-18
Dear Colleague,

The recognised Trade Unions across the three Working Links CRCs met with senior management in London last week. This meeting was separate from the ongoing dispute with the employer and was an exploratory discussion around pay and reward and the relevant financial issues.

It was agreed that the parties would meet again at the earliest opportunity, and that the following joint statement would be issued by the employer and Unions today. More news will be issued by your union representatives as soon as it becomes available.

Joint announcement from the Probation Trades Unions and Working Links on behalf of the DDC BGSW and Wales Community Rehabilitation Companies

To: All staff in DDC Wales and BGSW CRC’s

The Probation Trades Unions and Senior Working Links Management met last week to explore the prospects for establishing some continuity in talks about pay and reward, contractual incremental progression and the areas which the unions would want to take forward as part of a future pay claim.

It had been previously established that these talks would be independent of the ongoing dispute between the parties.

The employer reported that they are currently involved in talks with the MoJ and explained the work that they are undertaking as a result of the recent findings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. This has led to some reassessment by all CRC contract holders around future funding streams and their capacity to meet the costing implications of the unions likely pay claims.

It was agreed to establish a series of further meetings at the earliest opportunity where Senior CRC Management as well as the directors of Working Links would meet with an equivalent number of union representatives to exchange information on a range of issues relevant to future pay and reward. Further announcements will be made as soon as more news becomes available.


Once the broad information of that meeting was made known to members, and given the seriousness of the implications contained as stated to the Unions, I was tasked by the General Secretary with responding directly to the new justice lead Ms D Blower and lead of the Wales part of the Working Links held contract.

The response from the lead of justice in an E-mail dated the 3rd of May 2018 included a challenge to what had been understood by the unions in the meeting. However, when a contract holder declares they want to exit the contractual agreement that can only trigger a particular response from the unions in order to secure all posts held by our memberships. There was no alternative explanation for what had in fact been offered. For members following the current situation I have copied in the correspondence below.

Dawn Blower Head of Justice Service
Working Links CRCs


3rd May 2018
Ref Meeting 24 04 18 London Unison building

In Confidence
Dear Dawn,

I am writing in my capacity as the Chair of the SSW branch of Napo. I have specific responsibilities to the members under all terms of their employment contracts. I am particularly concerned given the release of certain pieces of information from yourself and Mr R. Patel finance director of Working Links.

In order for Napo within the DDC area and the General Secretary for the regions to undertake appropriate actions, we seek that you make available certain pieces of data and material which relates directly to the total number of the Justice staff employed. How many of these in each of the CRC areas, the basis of their employment contracts whether they be Justice appointed under working links terms or NNC terms. Full time, part time, and sessional post holders. Those engaged on contracts Pre 2013 and who will be subject to the appendix B protected terms and conditions. If you are considering early retirement offers to assist the reductions of risks and voluntary redundancies to mitigate the seriousness of the situation.

Whether at this stage you’re contemplating potential redundancies and to understand that I wrote to Mr Wiseman on the 10th of April 2018 and copied to yourself

“However, our records indicate the last formal position of Working links and your own notice was that you would not be withdrawing section 188 notices. In fact you issued an update which notified an amended position and the last recorded file entry from yourself is dated 3 February 2016.”

Given the above quote from that letter and your dramatic announcement that had nothing to do with pay talks, it can be of no surprise to you that we require reassurance on the future security and protections of the jobs of our members. That, you will adopt formally all the appropriate requirements incumbent upon the contract holders and that you will notify the recognised Unions immediately, at risk measures for staff within the employment of the DDC area, become contemplated. You will need to reassure us that you will undertake notices to the appropriate authority should any DDC staff be placed at risk. You will need to publish in line with our terms and conditions the appropriate redundancy procedures for DDC staff.

Also where other engaged staff from the Working Links companies who may be at risk but will not be covered by DDC polices and could not be job slotted or transferred into justice area work. Whereby vacancies have to be ring-fenced for original transferred staff only. This follows the formal assurances that you gave the Unions when it was raised in the meeting.

I am sure you will be aware of the fact that the information required in this letter is a standard entitlement in these circumstances.

Although this is SSW branch correspondence you should treat this as the model letter for all Working Links controlled contract areas.

Yours sincerely,
Dino Peros Napo SSW Branch Chair.

This letter clarifies the union’s position as we understood their news. Effectively Napo is seeking to ensure what was clearly reported in the presentation and in a question and answer process from the Finance Director for Working Links, they actually did want to find ways to end the contract. To be fair, and not wanting to generate a who said what exactly debate, what was certain enough that the current arrangement of underfunded CRC costs could not continue on into the future. The risks of loss were too great and while the key arguments of financial borrowing service fees and credits continue the talks with MOJ shall be decided by the end of June.

In that news then there will certainly be no pay increase talks and this encourages a dissatisfied work force when you consider that other CRCs have already done significant deals in other areas. The response to the letter by e mail from the lead of Justice Working Links followed on the 03 05 18 below.

Subject: RE: Dawn Blower letter for information ref contractual notice 02 05 18

Good afternoon Dino

During our meeting on 24th April we were clear there were to be no reductions to CRC staff and I would be disappointed if the message to staff from unions was anything different to that. For absolute clarity:

CRC staff have not been put on notice of redundancy and there are no plans to do this. I trust this is welcomed.

This includes CRC people working within Corporate Services whose roles remain and they will now work specifically on CRC business except in a few cases where they may straddle both CRC and Employability services.

Should there be a situation where CRC staff positions are at risk at some point in the future then this would be raised with the unions. I stress again that this is not the current position.

There is no plan to "slot in" employability staff at risk of redundancy to CRCs although they will of course be eligible to apply for vacancies and we would welcome applications from our colleagues provided they meet the skill set requirements.

The circumstances are not as you describe and whilst we do not wish to withhold information there is no obligation to provide this. Happy to discuss what might be helpful at the next meeting on 15th however we are agreed that we will be keeping talks separate from the on-going dispute and will be keen not to stray in to these areas as per the current agreement.

I hope the above clarifies the situation and provides reassurance. Your interpretation of the information we shared isn't a true reflection of what was discussed and I do not expect any suggestion of CRC redundancies to be shared with our people, as there was no suggestion of this.

Thanks

Dawn Blower
Cyfarwyddwr Prawf
Probation Director

While this response was a reassurance and a small rebuttal to the bigger finance issues coming to surface in the earlier talks it did not go far enough to satisfy the unions concerns. When any company reports no money and no prospects on pay with delayed incremental entitlements while in many other parts of the contract areas there has been a cost spending reductions bulletin. In Working Links controlled areas many staff have just not been paid and many usual payments are all being held up. It is not surprising many staff become increasingly concerned. Obviously to re-engage the issues I followed the e mail with a second formal letter. It makes the position clear and the responsibilities for Companies in Contract with the MOJ that in fact they are not allowed to end their contracts. If this is a discovery to you reading this it is a real concern to think that the figures paid out to Working Links in their annual accounts is breath-taking when you look at the administration fees. I doubt there are any real losses just a less than desirable higher end profit margin than was understood in their clamour to grab at contracts. Despite this they could not realistically be allowed to leave for at least another 12 months from the agreed dates of the termination MOJ controlled process so the picture really is bleak.

I never heard Working Links whining or bleating when they waded in and altered members’ financial terms as they cut down their entitlements to a severance trick. Ok to be fair all those takers were volunteers. More fool them then and the arrangements are outlined in the management of CRC plans. You decide.

Dawn Blower Head of Justice Service
Working Links CRCs.

8th May 2018
Ref E mail response

Dear Ms Blower

Thank you for your reply to the letter dated 3rd of May 2018. I am surprised at your coverall response without substance or detail considering the seriousness of the facts put to the unions by yourself and the Working Links Finance director during the meeting of the 24th April.

In relation to any staffing reductions, the unions welcome such a reassurance but it was made clear neither you nor Working Links would be in a position to make any forward lasting decisions. For your clarity, at no point have I indicated a view that there would be staff reductions. I have a responsibility to ensure all members receive assurances that their jobs will be retained. You say

“CRC staff have not been put on notice of redundancy and there are no plans to do this. I trust this is welcomed"

Your statement is welcomed, however, you must appreciate the contradiction you go on to make.

"Should there be a situation where CRC staff positions are at risk at some point in the future then this would be raised with the unions."

It is the trade unions’ responsibility to ensure you have been approached in writing and to seek to guarantee protection of member’s jobs.

Having such a meeting on 24th April, claimed to be based on pay and rewards but which turned out to be a financial forecasting meeting where it was announced in fact, Working Links want to terminate or exit the contract based on the finances and profits.

What this means to us, is in your own current role under Working Links auspices any assurance will be worth nothing in a little over six months’ time, providing you follow the exit contract requirements. The threat that members will be at risk cannot be ignored for this reason. Working Links have to reconcile roles and the separation of the CRCs duplications and cross dependencies in jobs and other major strands.

Critically, financial issues that your Finance Director stated meant that you were not able to hold meaningful pay talks. In fact colleagues had asked if you could make the current pay bill. With these concerns and what is obviously a lack of genuine and full information from yourself, the notion that you assert that staff will not become at risk is just not credible.

Our understanding of staff employed under Working Links adjusted contracts within justice services, and who have less than two years employment, could well be dismissed, without any entitlements to a redundancy payment. Therefore, at no cost to Working Links and with reduced need to consult the unions to some degree. Save to say you still have to consult meaningfully on the procedures to be adopted in relation to such a process. This has been raised in my letter. You have ignored the critical questions.

In relation to legacy and full rights of protected staff you had no idea where the remaining contractual period will be passed on, other than a suggested return to Authority. Resale was ruled out and it was spoken of as the return to public ownership by your Director. Will you now categorically state what will happen to the staff who are outside of any protected legacy appendix B arrangements? What assurance can you provide for their jobs to be taken forwards after Working Links exit? It is only under a termination by the Authority whereby they would pay dismissal costs as stated

"redundancy payments for employees of the Contractor that have been or will be reasonably incurred by the Contractor as a direct result of termination of this Agreement;"

If you do not have sufficient finance currently for your obligations, then how can you manage the pay claims and other financial information above which extends beyond what you told the unions in April? What evidence have you to support any funding streams to exit on the required contractual terms? Keep in mind the contractors of the CRCs have no contractual basis by which you could exit the arrangements without all liabilities being settled.

The Contractor shall have no right to terminate this Agreement at law or under the terms of this Agreement.

This is the situation. Either Working Links retain as an obligation, or indeed is it Aurelius who should respond to this question?

In good faith the General Secretary extended a period of confidentiality whilst talks would start on the finances situation and how the membership should rightly have a pay claim met as well as the legal incremental entitlements.

However, despite the small and limited responses that were given to a series of important questions at that meeting, on the 1st of May the management released significant details of the finance situation to all staff. This reflected much of what was said to the unions and prior to the agreed joint statement publication. It upset many members who expressed concerns over the future viability of both Working Links and to the jobs they do.

You went on to state

There is no plan to "slot in" employability staff at risk of redundancy to CRCs although they will of course be eligible to apply for vacancies and we would welcome applications from our colleagues provided they meet the skill set requirements

What is clearer now is that you acknowledge in fact Working Links staff are at risk of real redundancy. Those staff on notice of risk can now apply for a DDC justice job or reasonable alternative redeployment. On what lawful redundancy process are these potential redeployments being offered? Why have you not consulted the unions on the process you intend to use? You will potentially now put DDC contracted staff at risk themselves in the short term. This cannot continue. We again ask what legitimate procedure are you engaging staff to DDC? It is inconceivable that you would not know that some Working Links staff have been offered alternate roles in DDC, without any process, in the past four weeks. This fact makes your claim above just not true.

We appreciate your attempt to reconcile concerns quickly, however your response is misleading and does not give me confidence that you will consult meaningfully, or release appropriately required information. These are not usual times however the rights to information to protect our members for negotiations is an obligation.

Yours Sincerely,
Dino Peros Napo Representative.

I am not expecting a response to this. There has been none to date. Membership shall be comforted to know that NAPO are continuing to ensure the protections are well managed and that all posts in justice Probation are ring-fenced to secure all staff protections should the continuing issues generate an influx of Working Links staff many of whom have received their consultation notices for redundancies.

The Meeting of the 15th May 2018

This was only scheduled for the unions because we were promised it would include the directors. Mr Bell the architect of the Working Links way. By the morning of the meeting in London all the reduced trade unions sides were present but by the 11th hour all the promised directors except the Financial Director had all bailed out. Mr Bell had only managed to make a tele-conference call. Claiming the rail fare was too expensive and that despite all the millions in the Working Links Aurelius accounts recently published that we are supposed to agree attendance is an option. There was some minor aside discussion on whether not attending is discourteous to the Unions and to the staff we are focused to represent protect and ensure you get the best terms and conditions. Mr Bell did not in his physical absence appear quite as on message as those present but you decide.

During the meeting we heard the contract holders state the same old same old. Their side offering nothing new whatsoever. Even worse nothing from Mr Bell that made the journey worth anything to anyone. Nonetheless we did establish the “in Confidence “arrangement was now ended and this report is as candid as it can be. There was some exchange on their desire to continue with the contract albeit dependant on further talks with MOJ. Coded speak for we are trying to get yet more money to run an unsafe model of offender management. They wanted a principled union agreement to assist that process. While we remain in dispute on the many issues this something the SSW branch could not support. The bottom line for them, Working Links, is that they realise their impossible situation they have placed staff. Less pay, poorer working conditions, fractured working structures, a general decline in morale and well being of many members. Disputes, grievances, and inappropriate use of disciplinary procedures at an unprecedented record high and still climbing. Hardly the recipe for a successful working partnership. The truth is they seem oblivious to the issues as they only want to talk about getting more money from the MOJ.

Despite this Working Links were informed by Napo, and they accept the realisation, Working Links have no power to rescind , end, or terminate, give any notice, in any walk away ideas from their toxic management and attitudes to a contract they have with the MOJ. It means we are stuck with them until the MOJ realise the future is not likely to develop anything and this is well evidenced by the failing metrics of the rising repeat and offender caseloads. The Finance Director painted the best picture he could from the failing caseloads figures.

We had already informed Working Links Senior management of the likely imposition on their failing and appalling case management model that deals with caseloads via telephone call. Regular branch report readers will recall the origins of the dispute with Working Links started over their obviously distorted in house certification process by Innovation Wessex. The small internal company that was supposed to check on quality and performance then verify a safe model. This was disputed as they were internal staff funded by Working Links doing whatever the paymaster required.

Napo objections to that model have all been borne out to date. The failing metrics and the Parliamentary Accounts Committee making some direction on the way things have continued, downwards. From here it is now confirmed that the working models will need to be changed to include minimum actual offender and officer face to face meetings. The Working Links model on workloads and staffing does not provide anywhere near enough staff for this new arrangement. Not to mention a whole new training programme and that of the minimum time we should see some skilled Probation Officer facility back into the caseload. Last point on this work issue is that of the required workloads for the full OASYS. Simply put all members should resist incalculable workloads

Napo is on record in branch reports and correspondences seeking early explanations when we were in the JNCC meetings about where the Justice budgets were to be spent. It was made clear to Napo in the recent meeting that some of the pressure on the Working Links spending has been for them to satisfy the Paymaster MOJ\PAC that all the staff being for or funded by public monies actually pays for the justice staff. I suspect the 4.23 million pounds additional payment Working Links received last year was not well regarded by the PAC inquiry as we discovered not 1 penny had found its way to support frontline staff. It had most certainly been reclaimed into the privateers, bank accounts. Can anyone honestly see the MOJ bankrolling another barrow full of cash without stipulations or a clear plan of spending? I don’t.

The point is that since the notice to define the staffing and who gets paid for what where and how, the Working Links response was to put their other contracted staff on immediate redundancy notices for consultation. What might the average Clapham Omnibus passenger deduce from that turn of events?

It struck a chord with me as it was this branch that raised questions and concerns in 2014 that the monies should only fund DDC staff who actually work in the DDC area. It was our fear that in fact Working Links would syphon and funnel monies to external parts of their other company activity. In fact it has now been admitted during that meeting justice monies public services monies has been directed to funding Working Links Middlesbrough other staff who deliver some back office functions for the CRCs. How much work and the detail remains to be examined and for what costs. Whether the reductions in DDC in light of this could be justified when you add the costs of the redundancies \ severances that were made.

Following this through we need to understand the costs of spending which now impacts on their flawed calculations. No further money and no prospects of more cash from the MOJ means a funding bail out nightmare. Napo starts to ask where has the money gone? Is all the spending and previous bonanza of funding staff cuts been lost in inappropriate refunding streams to external staffing? Now that the PAC have asked difficult questions has the stewardship of Working Links now put the whole of the CRC at some risk for which they are not telling.

So back to Pay. The news is there is no reward on offer as they claim no money. The accounts do not bear this out in an assessment of the books although Working Links continue to hide the real profits and losses in a coverall clause under the Aurelius parent company accounts on profit. One point noteworthy of their administration costs shown as a loss of upwards of a million pounds each year to run a CRC. Really? Come on really?

There we are then arriving at a place whereby the Contract holders have known all the time that incremental pay is due on the April 1st start date and pay should be adjusted but when it comes to staff pay entitlement they hold onto your money to pay off the bank loans and interest. When it comes to a pay increase oh look no money for the Workers. When it comes to anything like the terms and conditions of decent and fair treatment Working Links policy is to avoid change and pretend things are not as they really are. On that members continue to reject over work do not provide continued goodwill. Deliver your contractual obligations only. Ensure you maintain your terms and we will continue to support you. All credit to members who have steadfastly stuck by the principles and protections of their employment rights and we will continue to support those ends.

Dino Peros Napo SSW Branch Chair.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

General Secretary Election 7

Mike Rolfe's Facebook message posted on Monday:-

To all my colleagues, family and friends,

I write this post to confirm that I am a candidate in the forthcoming election for the General Secretary of Napo, the Trade union and Professional Association that represents the Probation and Family Courts staff.

I have left posting this message until I was 100% sure that this was likely to be happening, however the news has been broken by other sources last week before I was able to make this Facebook post from a definitive position. I apologise if you had heard rumours about this without my confirmation but I wanted to be certain that I had passed each stage of the process to ensure that I would be entered into the final election ballot.

This is an exciting opportunity for me to try and secure a role that will allow me to combine and continue to use in excess of 10 years Trade Union representation experience with nearly 15 years working within the Criminal Justice sector representing Napo members at the highest level.

I realise that this will require me to take a leap into an area where I will need to learn a great deal in a short period of time but also that there will be some disappointment that I am not standing for any current POA vacancies.

I want my colleagues both within the Prison Service and POA to be fully rest assured that if successful and I leave for this new role that you will always have my unwavering support for all of the struggles that we continue to face together. I will always seek to influence and support the causes that have been dear to my heart and I know that our sister Union Napo will continue to speak out in support of our combined struggles regardless of the outcome of this election.

You will see an increase in activity via my social media accounts shortly and I thank you in advance for having continued to place your faith in me. I hope whatever I do in future that I can continue to be a positive voice of reason and for much needed change within the criminal justice sector.

Many thanks

Mike Rolfe


--oo00oo--

With London Napo branch having got the bit between their teeth on Friday by refusing to endorse either candidate and demanding further information, it occurs to me that possibly many members have questions they'd like answers to before being tempted to make any endorsements at up-coming branch meetings. So why not either send them to me via my contact details on the profile page, or alternatively post them here to be combined in a special future blog post?

It seems ridiculous, but I understand the statements from each candidate had to be read out at the London meeting on Friday, so can I remind readers that both can be consulted here as I published them over a week ago.

This is going to be a tough fight with the incumbent being assiduous with his campaigning, even straying from his prepared text at the trainees conference on Monday I understand. Somewhat confusingly, it would appear from the above that the challenger has barely started. I think it behoves Napo members to be equally assiduous in relation to the selection process for what will inevitably be a make-or-break appointment for the union's very survival. Get your questions in now!  

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

General Secretary Election 6

I notice Ian Lawrence was out and about in Leicester yesterday for the Probation Institute's first trainee's conference and he made a speech:-

Probation Institute Trainee Conference Monday 21st May 2018 

Firstly, many thanks to the Co-Hosts in the form of the NPS and the Probation Institute for this opportunity and can I say how appreciative I am of the important work carried out by the Institute in what are incredibly testing times for anyone delivering Probation services in a Criminal Justice System that itself is beset by a number of major challenges. 

As Helen Schofield said earlier I am currently the General Secretary of Napo an elected 5 year term position for which I am approaching another election shortly, so I am rather hoping that this is not the first and last time that I have the pleasure of addressing this conference.

My duties range between being the senior elected employee within Napo with responsibility for our members in Probation and the Family Court Service, typically my work involves high level interface with Government Ministers and the senior leadership of the Official Opposition and senior NPS and MoJ departmental heads.

I am also the lead spokesperson for Napo in our regular contact with TV and media and I also have a negotiating role with the three CRC Contracts in Wales and the South West which keeps me well in touch with the types of issues being faced by our members. 

Can I also wish you all the best with your studies as you approach qualification and hope that you have acquired vital knowledge and experience during your time within either the NPS or a CRC. 

I will have a bit to say about Napo in a few minutes and why I hope you may consider joining us, and Tania Bassett our Press and Parliamentary lead is also here to answer any questions that you may have. 

So where next for Probation? 

I make no apologies for saying that you have committed to an especially challenging career path but one that performs a vital public service in assisting clients and safeguarding our communities. 

Having listened to Sonia Crozier explain that the NPS has been awarded an excellence rating, reminds me of the situation prior to the part privatisation of Probation under Chris Grayling’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) for short, when probation was the holder of Gold standard awards prior to establishment of the NPS and CRCs. 

I am grateful to Sonia Crosier for outlining the history behind TR and whilst Tania and I of course knew the answer to the earlier Quiz question about not being able to pilot a Revolution we couldn't quite bring ourselves to utter the answer. 

I wanted to spend a few minutes focusing on three specific issues which I hope will be of interest to you.

The Post TR landscape 

Well, whether or not TR is the much vaunted revolution that Mr Grayling said it would be, and you will gather that I could use a variety of adjectives to describe it from our perspective, there are a litany of problems facing staff wherever they work. 

Within the NPS there are still problems over staff shortages despite the excellent efforts by Sonia and colleagues to encourage recruitment, and there are pay and pension administration problems, difficulties over Market Forces payments and the outsourcing of AP waking night cover arrangements. I also echo concerns over the OMIC project and the need to better support victims of crime. 

And we need a less bureaucratic management structure in HMPPS and an improved interface between the NPS Divisions and the recognised Trade Unions. 

There is also a desperate need for Probation pay reform and we await the Ministerial nod for negotiations to get underway soon, which means ending gender discrimination, decent pay rises for all and quicker movement up the pay scales. This must also apply to our members in Cafcass and PBNI. 

We also need to return to genuine collective bargaining across the NPS and CRCs so that we have common standards of employment across the two arms of the service which will bring stability and certainty for staff and more scope for movement of staff across both parts of the service. 

But while Napo’s stated position is that we want to see Probation back in public ownership we will, as I said in the Oral evidence that I gave to the Justice Select Committee in March, work with all politicians for a community focused, desistance driven probation model, one which ultimately I want to see set free from the still Prison-centric HMPPS. 

We must also strengthen the Professional aspects of your work and that’s why Napo along with the Probation Institute are campaigning for a Licence to Practice across probation and prisons. 

All these issues will be important as we start the run in to the serious consideration of what happens to the CRC Contracts and how we will need to learn the harsh lessons of the TR Experiment. 

Look, let me be clear, I have always been opposed to the privatisation of public services, but I have gone on record before and will again, in saying that not all of the post-TR difficulties are the fault of the CRC Owners.

It was not their fault that the CRC contracts were insufficiently structured from the outset, it was not their fault that TR shut the door on meaningful engagement with third sector providers and they're not to blame for a flawed PbR model. 

Of course there are a few things some of them and this government are to blame for. But today my message is that of seeing how we can work with NPS and CRC employers to ensure that where service improvements are needed we can try and work together, but that this ought to be similarly matched by some CRCs engaging positively with the trade unions on the issues I have touched upon today. And by them recognising the imperative to deliver safe operational models, understand that people must come before profit, and treat their hard working staff with dignity and respect.

So what might the future might look like? 

I mentioned the objective of freeing Probation from HMPPS control but in Napo’s view we need to campaign for a publicly owned model that embraces the concept of Community Justice. 

A model that builds on the key principle that its governance structures must be founded and delivered by people who understand the diverse needs of their communities: probation, police, the NHS (especially in the fields of mental health and drug and substance abuse), the judiciary, regional and Metro Mayors, PCCs diversity groups and those organisations in the third sector who are desperate to make a meaningful contribution, but need the resources to do so. 

Localism was the bedrock of the pre-TR Probation Service and it should be the cornerstone of a new future which encompasses the proud traditions of your profession, one which engenders trust from our communities and does right by the clients it seeks to assist and redirect into making a meaningful contribution to society.

It’s a big ask, but I wish you all the very best in helping to achieve that transition. 

Finally, what is Napo and why be a member? 

We are, as the title says both a trade union and professional association for Probation and Cafcass staff. Membership of Napo brings with it access to the Probation Journal and our recently relaunched and if I may say excellent Napo Magazine and regular personalised mail outs on the issues that matter to you and it means that the union will seek to help you with issues relating to your employment and professional development. You will also have access to legal support depending on the circumstances, and through Napo Extra you can also access a range of lifestyle discounts and financial advice. 

More information and application forms are easily accessible on the Napo website.

Ian Lawrence

Monday, 21 May 2018

Politicians - The Problem and Solution

It's clear to all that something has to be done about our burgeoning prison crisis and I noticed this contribution to the Political Quarterly blog that succinctly covers how we got to where we are. Politicians caused the problem and now they have to fix it:-  

Total prison reform will take political bravery, but it's our only option

It is often said that there are no votes in prisons. This, I think, is largely true. Crime and justice has not been a prominent issue during recent elections, but that does not mean that prisons are not political.

Overtly political decisions are made about how people are expected to behave, the rules that they should abide by and what happens when they don’t. Prison is now regarded as the central column of the criminal justice system and not the ultimate sanction available to courts. But surely prison should be a scarce resource?

Soaring incarceration rates in Britain

More than 25 years ago I started working in penal reform when the dark days of the Strangeways riots were seemingly behind us. There was muted optimism following the publication of the Woolf report heralding a more humane, decent and effective prison system.

But the optimism I felt at the time was short lived. The use of prison as a sanction has been on an upward trajectory since the beginning of the twentieth century, yet since the mid-1990s since it has more than doubled with 83,216 men, women and children in prison in mid-April 2018. We have more people in prison than any other state in Western Europe, with an incarceration rate twice as high as Germany.

In the early 1990s, the Home Secretary Michael Howard’s ‘prison works’ mantra was underpinned by Tony Blair, Labour’s shadow, whose rhetoric of ‘tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime’ has become famous. This is the point at which prison numbers begin to steeply climb.

The political rhetoric and the concomitant use of prison has been shown to mirror public outcry over high profile crimes, not least the murder of James Bulger. I fear that though they cannot be ignored, such events have been co-opted by the political classes to steer the nation on a punitive path that may actually be counterproductive.

New criminal offences

Successive governments have relied on the criminal justice system to deal with a whole panoply of issues. Criminal justice legislation – and increased criminalisation – has until recently has been a regular feature of the parliamentary timetable.

In the Howard League’s evidence to the Justice Select Committee’s Inquiry into the Prison Population 2022 we suggest that between May 2010 and May 2014, 1076 new criminal offences were created in England and Wales, approximately two-thirds of which carry possible custodial penalties.

There has also been an increase in the creation of Acts of Parliament which are law-and-order related. According to our estimates, a mere 11 law-and-order Acts were passed between 1980 and 1989, with another 11 passed between 1990 and 1999. 31 such Acts were then passed between 2000 and 2009, and so far since 2010 there have been 26.

Longer sentences

However, by far the biggest impact is due to the fact that sentences have become longer. Over the past ten years, average sentence lengths, imposed by sentencers, have increased by 24 per cent across the board. For certain offence types the rise in sentence lengths is particularly notable. For example: over the past ten years, average prison sentences for fraud offences have increased by 54 per cent; average prison sentences for miscellaneous crimes against society have increased by 45 per cent; average prison sentences for criminal damage and arson have increased by 118 per cent; and average prison sentences for robbery increased by 51 per cent.

There is an over-representation of young men in from BAME backgrounds in prison, and a preponderance of poor health including high levels of mental health needs and addiction.

A further contributing factor is the use of recall (when an offender has been released on licence or parole and they breach a condition of their release). Since 1995 the number of people in prison due to recall has increased by approximately 4,000 per cent, from about 150 people on any given day in June 1995 to 6,186 people on 30 September 2017.

This statistic is indicative of the greater number of people who now spend a period on licence since the last government’s transforming rehabilitation reforms whereby short sentence prisoners are now liable to a period on licence. But this is only part of the picture as research has shown that recall occurs not because a person has reoffended, but following an administrative breach for instance being late for an appointment or any behaviour that worries an offender manager.

Should prison incapacitate or rehabilitate?

In these circumstances can we rely on prisons not just to incapacitate but to rehabilitate people? The evidence of the recent past makes this assumption at best questionable. The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, characterised prisons as being as in crisis and chaotic - indeed in recent months he has condemned the leadership at Liverpool prison and nationally, for its “abject failure” to provide a safe, decent and purposeful regime. While at Nottingham prison he triggered, for the first time, the Urgent Notification Protocol because the prison was “fundamentally unsafe.”

The Prisons Inspectorate is just one voice in an ever-louder chorus from Independent Monitoring Boards, charities and academics about the state of prisons. Prisons are dirty and decrepit. And they are full. The most severely overcrowded are Leeds, Wandsworth and Durham prisons each holding around 50 per cent more prisoners than they should safely hold.

Recent research by the Howard League showers that the number of officers fell by as much as 40 per cent when the prison budgets shrank. This means that there are fewer staff to unlock doors, take prisoners to work, education, training or exercise - so they have nothing to do, little purposeful activity and so it is not surprising that tensions will rise.

And violence does appear endemic. Incidents of assault and self-injury are at their highest levels since current recording practices began in 1978. If there is no purposeful activity, prisoners may well look to other ways to make the time pass more quickly; it comes as no surprise that there is evidence of increasing drug use in prison.

The public is not being well served by prisons. A crude measure of effectiveness is reoffending rates with 44 per cent of adults being reconvicted within one year of release. For those serving sentences of less than 12 months this increases to 59 per cent. The National Audit Office estimates that reoffending by all recent ex-prisoners costs the economy between £9.5 and £13 billion annually.

Reduce the number of people in prisons

We cannot build our way out of this mess. Building more jails only causes problems to grow; it does not solve them. The most sensible way to tackle the problem is to reduce the number of people in prison instead. Why is it that other western European democracies do not lock up as many of their citizens? I do not see their communities characterised by endemic crime. And it is not just in Europe, in the US some 35 states cut their prison rates between 2008 and 2016 and reduced their crime rates.

This does not mean that we condone crime. It means we need to think differently and find solutions elsewhere. In Scotland, for instance, the focus is on investment in community sentences. And some of the best solutions are to be found in welfare and social policies like Surestart schemes and public health approaches to knife violence.

If prison has such poor outcomes, surely it is time to take a different approach? The public – whatever that amorphous word means – want to feel safe, so there needs to be clear political leadership rather than the current Justice Secretary merry-go-round.

We need the kind of political leadership that supports people to be active citizens, and diverts them away from the criminal justice system. Politicians need to be brave and look away from prison as the answer.

Anita Dockley is Research Director at the Howard League for Penal Reform

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Prison Conditions and Suicides Linked

Last week saw publication of the full report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons into conditions at HMP Nottingham and the issuing of an 'urgent notification' to the Secretary of State. One wonders how Michael Spurr at HMPPS keeps his job, let alone earns a bonus. This from the press release:-

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, said:

“We published an immediate response to the Chief Inspector’s concerns on 14 February and have today published a comprehensive plan setting out the practical actions we are taking to improve conditions at HMP Nottingham. Drug testing has been increased, specialist staff are working with vulnerable prisoners and safety is the absolute priority for the Governor and staff every day. We have strengthened management arrangements, are providing external support and will monitor progress closely over the coming months.”

This from the Guardian:-

Prisons inspector condemns 'appalling' suicide rate at Nottingham jail

The chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales has expressed fears that inmates at HMP Nottingham are killing themselves because they cannot face conditions in the “dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail”.

In what the prisons inspectorate (HMIP) calls one of its most disturbing reports in recent years, Peter Clarke reveals he invoked for the first time a new “urgent notification” process during the inspection of HMP Nottingham in January, which calls on the justice secretary to publish an emergency action plan.

Clarke discovered there had been eight apparent self-inflicted deaths between inspections in February 2016 and January this year, and a ninth in the weeks after the most recent visit, part of what he called an “appalling and tragic” picture of suicide and self-harm in Nottingham. “The record of failure, as set out in this report, cannot be allowed to continue,” he said.

“For too long prisoners have been held in a dangerous, disrespectful, drug-ridden jail. My fear, which may prove to be unfounded, is that some could face it no longer and took their own lives.” The prisons minister, Rory Stewart, visited the prison after the urgent notification was issued and an improvement plan has been implemented.

HMP Nottingham is a category B prison that can hold about 1,000 men and young adult men. Between inspections, HMIP found eight prisoners had taken their own lives, with four of these deaths occurring over a four-week period during the autumn of 2017. Levels of self-harm were deemed by inspectors to be far too high with 344 occurrences recorded in the six months leading up to the inspection.

Reported violence had not reduced since the previous inspection and remained high, inspectors said. There had been 103 assaults against staff in the preceding six months, 198 incidents in which prisoners had climbed on to the safety netting between landings and 305 incidents involving prisoners under the influence of drugs. Combined, this led to “an atmosphere of tension and unpredictability around the prison”, the report said.

There had been nearly 500 uses of force by prison officers in the six months before the inspection, the report added. During the inspection, 40% of inmates told inspectors they felt unsafe on their first night, 67% said that they had felt unsafe at some point during their term in Nottingham and 35% said they felt unsafe at the moment they were asked.

More than half of prisoners said drugs were easily available and 15% indicated they had acquired a drug problem since entering the prison. During drugs tests, nearly 33% tested positive when new psychoactive substances (NPS) were included. 


The inspectorate found that the “inexperience of many staff” was behind some of the problems with about half of wing-based workers in their first year of service. The urgent notification protocol was triggered on 17 January to raise significant concerns regarding the treatment and conditions for prisoners in Nottingham.

At the same time, the acting prisons and probation ombudsman, Elizabeth Moody, who investigates deaths and complaints in prisons, raised similar concerns with the Ministry of Justice. She said: “The chief inspector is right to highlight the apparent inability of the prison to learn lessons and I agree that until it can demonstrate progress in this critical area the risk of future deaths will remain high.”

Stewart said:

“Through the new urgent notification process, we have quickly and decisively begun to address the very grave issues at HMP Nottingham. I personally visited HMP Nottingham immediately after the urgent notification process was triggered to see the conditions on the ground and to talk through the improvement plan. As the chief inspector recognises, there have already been a number of improvements – including increased staff support, new violence and drug reduction strategies, and specialist staff to tackle substance abuse. We remain absolutely committed to turning HMP Nottingham around.”

--oo00oo--

Rory Stewart looks like someone who might actually do something and was interviewed by Jon Snow on Ch4 News:-

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart: ‘I will be judged on whether I can demonstrate I can turn round a prison like Nottingham’