December 2nd saw the reunification of Offender Management in the NPS in Wales. Or rather, the reunification of case-holding staff. Napo Cymru has fought, and continues to fight, for the full reunification of Probation, including Unpaid Work and Interventions. The term “offender management” as well as being just generally horrid, helps to maintain the erroneous distinction between “Offender Management” and “Rehabilitation” which runs through the so-called reasoning behind the MoJ’s decision to re-marketize unpaid work and interventions. So, this is only a partial reunification. So far.
And we are only partly partially reunified. The organisational strategy has been to “Lift and Shift” staff transferring from the CRC: they moved as teams, with their team managers, with their cases. “Onboarding” staff now have some three months to complete training in NPS systems and processes, while “Legacy” staff pick up new cases. The onboarding staff form, in this interim period, an extra LDU. Come April the full reintegration will commence. So it’s not done yet.
Union officers have met regularly with the project managers to highlight concerns and issues, and this continues.
The backdrop to this upheaval has included: a damning report from HMIP about the state of the NPS, highlighting high workloads and shoddy working conditions: the awful attack in London: the inquest into the death of Conner Marshall: the general election now followed by announcements that increased numbers of Probation Officers will be trained in counter-terrorism work. Napo has seen a sharp rise in new members over the last couple of months, as the need for the protection and support of membership of our Union is recognised
Throughout this period of upheaval, a very clear expectation has been conveyed to staff that Performance must be maintained at existing good levels. High workloads, organisational upheaval: Something’s gotta give. Napo Cymru has suggested a prioritisation of performance targets, proper renumeration for staff able to work extra hours, and a pragmatic “moratorium” on low-level discipline and capability processes. This latter has gained some traction and is up for further discussion with managers.
Napo Cymru held lunchtime office meetings through February in order to listen to members experiences, concerns and ideas, and to harness the increasing commitment to activism.
Napo Cymru is inviting members to apply for the Union training course in April this year, we are looking for potential reps, potential activists, and for any members interested in finding out more about how our Union works.
Branch officers and activists are working pretty much flat out: supporting and advising individual members, representing individual members in formal processes, lobbying and liaising with politicians and the media, providing regular information to membership, and contributing to the Union Transition Project meetings and Health and Safety inspections.
Napo Cymru continues to make the case for full reunification. The branch contributed to the Wales Justice Commission making this case and has pressed this point in both Westminster and the Senedd. By and large, we are pushing at an open door: our impression is that, bar a few ideologists in a small room in Petty France, absolutely nobody else thinks that a local, reunified public sector probation service isnt the best thing to go for.
Overall, the transition so far has been smoother than it might have been. Staff are already bruised and battered after TR1 and while overall the partial reunification is welcomed as a positive development, the split is now in a different place, but still there. Probation staff are change-weary and cynical. The transition would have been better managed if “onboarding” CRC staff had been given access to training and briefings in advance of the date of transition and this point has been made with an eye to the future in England: we note here the postponement of the date for reunification in England.
It would be churlish not to acknowledge some good management and leadership in this transition, not least the willingness to engage with unions and staff in ironing out issues as we go along. However, Employers are having their cake and eating it: Expecting staff to shoulder high caseloads, more turmoil and reorganisation, and to maintain dashboard performance figures is a bit of a cheek, and as noted above, something’s gotta give. If the giving came in the shape of a deserved and overdue hefty pay rise that would help.
Su McConnell, Napo Cymru