Napo, alongside colleagues from our sister unions, met with Justice Minister Lucy Frazer this week. The meeting was overshadowed by the terrible incident in South London last Sunday, and it became quickly evident from the flurry of activity going on in MoJ HQ that we would have less time with the Minister than is usual. .
Nevertheless, the delegation which included Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence and National Vice-Chair Ikki Bhogal, was able to effectively engage with the Minister on a range of important issues on behalf of our members working in the NPS and CRC’s. Here we left Ms Frazer in no doubt that if Probation was already in need of a serious increase in funding to allow it to reach the standards expected of it, the Manifesto commitments of this Government in respect of the criminal justice system and the well documented events over recent weeks, made that even more of an imperative.
The discussions focussed on three key areas namely: Pay and the problems around the non-delivery of the pay protection agreements on E3, the ramifications of the latest report by the Chief Inspector for Probation and the Governments policy on privatisation. Here, the unions again urged a rethink on the re-marketisation of Interventions and Programmes and demanded the cessation of the failing contracts for the provision of double waking night cover in Approved Premises.
On pay, we made strong representations to the Minister and Amy Rees Director General of Probation, that unless serious action was taken to improve funding then there was no chance that it would be possible to re-stabilise the service which is still in recovery mode from the disasters of the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme, or incentivise new recruits to see Probation as a worthy career that paid its staff a decent wage.
The Minister responded positively, in that it was clear that serious dialogue is going on inside HMPPS and with the Treasury on a number of priorities and it was acknowledged that the Governments plans for more police officers, more prison places and longer sentencing would need an increase in probation practitioners as well as the resources to support them.
Ms Frazer agreed to formally respond to the unions joint letter that had been sent in advance of the meeting and welcomed the publication of the correspondence. It is hoped to meet again once decisions have been made around the Governments ongoing Comprehensive Spending Review.