Even those people who boast of their preternatural ability to predict events well ahead of them happening, would surely have had some difficulty with their forecasting for 2019.
Napo entered this year in the hope that our impressive campaign, which has exposed the folly of the Transforming Rehabilitation disaster, might at last find some traction with Government Ministers who actually seemed to have a clue about the role and value of the Probation service. Our request for a drastic policy U-turn began to gain momentum after a pivotal meeting with then Ministers David Gauke and Rory Stewart in January. For it was they, unlike the useless incumbents who had previously filled their positions, who sent some important signals that they wanted to do some serious business with Napo as they looked for face saving solutions to the shambles they had inherited from Grayling’s woeful social experiment.
Granted we already knew of the plan to move Offender Management (OM) work from the Private Sector into the NPS Wales later in December this year, but until this point we had not seen any sign that anything other than a wholesale re-marketisation of Probation services was on offer.
Goodbye Working Links
Once it became clear that Ministerial top cover had been approved for senior MOJ/HMPPS leaders to engage in exploratory discussions with the unions, we proceeded to examine how we could arrive at a similar position in relation to OM work across England. As we have subsequently reported on numerous occasions and despite every effort, it was a step too far for the Government to agree to do all of the right thing and bring everything back in house.
Our approach to these negotiations was given a timely boost in February when the widely predicted demise of the Working Links Community Rehabilitation Company came to pass as they entered into Administration. This, following months of blatant lies by their diminishing band of hapless Directors, whose denial that there was any sort of operational problem that yet another taxpayer bail-out would not solve, was staggering even by their disgraceful standards.
Fortunately, the above Ministers denied Working Links that luxury; calling time on the contract of this most inept private provider whose corporate incompetence was to feature in a number of Serious Further Offence reviews (and which is very likely to be brutally exposed in at least one forthcoming Coroners Enquiry next year).
Whist the hard working CRC staff would not have shed any tears at their employer’s departure from the scene, the decision to invite SEETEC KSS CRC to fill the void was quite extraordinary. Coming as it did at a time of more uncertainty for employees and in the face of numerous logistical and operational challenges for unions and senior HMPPS management alike.
The media exposure around the Working Links debacle and the release of further reports by Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey and her team, and our many friends in Parliament helped us to maintain pressure on Messrs. Gauke and Stewart that a major change in direction was required.
‘Unified Model’ announced
On May 16th 2019, a date which must surely feature forever in the annuals of Napo history; we saw a remarkable U-turn in the form of an announcement that 80% of the roles associated with OM work would be transferred to the NPS from the private sector along with the staff undertaking these functions, once the termination of CRC contracts had taken place.
As I said in my speech to Napo’s AGM in Cardiff, this was a significant victory in the sense that Napo with our limited resources, could have helped to secure such a climb-down over a high profile flagship Privatisation policy that had been engineered specifically to divide and conquer the profession and turn it forever into a commercial commodity.
That day also saw the most remarkable media engagement that this union and professional association has ever seen in our history, with over 30 national and local interviews taking place between Midnight 15th May and 7:00 pm Thursday 16th May. I was proud to be part of that, alongside National Chair Katie Lomas and Press and Parliamentary lead Tania Bassett with the support of the Napo Communications Team.
Negotiations still to be concluded
Since May, Napo has been engaged in intensive and complex negotiations around the transfer of Offender Management work to NPS Wales and beyond. This work has been focused on trying to secure a new Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement relevant to all of our members in the NPS and, if it does not prove possible to prevent new provider contracts for Interventions and Programme work, for our members who will work for new commercial enterprises.
We await news on some important unresolved issues and will be in touch with members again in the New Year.
These included the appointment of new Legal providers Morrish and major progress in the implementation of our new data base and the development of our Members Helpline. We also saw the successful transfer of Offender Management work into NPS wales from KSS CRC where our Napo Cymru reps have excelled themselves. We have seen the launch of a new and bespoke reps training programme which has helped bring new activists into our ranks, and following a highly productive session with our Family Courts Section we warmly welcome a new Co-Vice Chair in Nicola Ebong-Taylor.
We bade farewell to Dean Rogers our former Assistant General Secretary, with massive thanks for his contribution to Napo and its members over six years, especially the victory through the courts on the policy relating to pay in Lieu of Notice (PILON).
Membership has seen a promising increase as we launched our ‘big conversation’ initiative to get Napo out into more workplaces. We intend to do much more of this next year. Napo officials have also done a sterling job in our campaign to maintain pressure on CRC owners to move towards pay parity with the NPS; and while there is clearly more to be done here, I expect to be able to report a major breakthrough in negotiations with one of the CRC owners in early January which I hope will have a significant ripple effect elsewhere.
Our track record of defending members collectively and individually via our National Rep Panel and through numerous SFO reviews and Coroners Inquests is unparalleled, and we have built a high quality relationship with senior HMPPS leaders in marked contrast to that which has gone before and have materially strengthened or collective bargaining mechanisms.
We have secured automatic pay progression for NPS members in 2020 despite the delay in negotiating the Competency Based Framework and have taken some important steps towards Professional recognition in our engagement over a future Licence to Practice. Additionally, we have made some important progress on behalf of members in the areas of ViSOR and OMIC and have established new arrangements for taking forward issues for our members working in Approved Premises.
All of this still doesn’t give the full picture of all of our work this year, but it indicates why it is so important that staff belong to a trade union. In my considered view that should be Napo.
Finally, my best wishes to all of our members and your families for a restful Xmas holiday as we get ready for the major challenges ahead of us, and which I will talk about in my first Blog post of the new year.
The next five years
Once again, the UK is to be governed by a party that most voters rejected at the ballot box. The UK desperately needs Proportional Representation to level the playing field, so Parliament reflects the people and all votes count equally. Regardless of how you vote, a system which produces a ‘majority’ government most people didn’t vote for is just wrong.
Ian Lawrence, General Secretary