National Chair Helen Banner and General Secretary Ian Lawrence were among the Probation Trade Union delegation who met with Alex Chalk MP this week.
This was a long overdue meeting with the Secretary of State for Justice, and it presented an important opportunity for the unions to engage with him on a range of issues.
Top of the priority list was the capacity crisis in the prison estate and the recent announcements by Government of measures to allow certain categories of prisoners to be released earlier from their sentences.
This, along with the possibility of policy or legislative changes that could positively impact on the workload crisis in Probation were especially useful, following a number of high level meetings between unions and senior HMPPS officials in recent weeks. It was very clear that the Secretary of State had been well briefed on this issue as well as the letter from the joint trade unions which set the agenda for Mondays meeting.
As members would expect, especially following the Emergency Motion carried at the Nottingham AGM, the unions vigorously pressed the point that the prison capacity crisis was another reason why we believe that pay negotiations should be urgently reopened on a claim that we submitted in the summer.
Other key issues that were discussed included the plans to phase out Divisional Sex Offender Units and the impact of this retrograde step on public safety. Here we called for the Minister to call in the plans for review.
As is the case in all the Ministerial meetings that take place, the Secretary of State undertook to carefully consider what had been discussed and to receive urgent further information from the unions to assist his deliberations. This has already been supplied .
Whilst it remains to be seen if any of our requests will be actioned, the unions felt that the Secretary of State knew a lot more about the Probation Service than many of his predecessors, and appeared to be genuinely interested in the representations that we made.
More news will follow once this is available and a further detailed report will be made to the next meeting of your National Executive Committee on the 28th November .