Napo Magazine - The Trade Union, Professional Association and campaigning organisation for Probation and Family Court staff news.
National Official, Annoesjka Valent, gave a rousing speech at the NSSN conference on 22 June. 

National Official, Annoesjka Valent, gave a rousing speech at the NSSN conference on 22 June.

It was an excellent conference with a rep from Tata Steel, President Ian Hodgson from BFWAU, National Officer from Unite on behalf of Sharon Graham, speakers from the floor from Unite Housing Workers over a dispute and more.

Annoesjka’s speech was as follows:

Comrades, first of all, I bring you solidarity on behalf of Napo and apologies from Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, who wishes for it to be another very successful conference today.

Last year, when I spoke, I told this conference, we were in negotiations over a 3-year probation pay claim for members in England and Wales.

The offer that came back, though it fell far short of the claim we submitted, with UNISON and the GMB unions, was accepted by each of our respective memberships, but due to the cost-of-living crisis, we submitted a claim to re-open that pay award.

Since then, we have been in intense negotiations for about a year with HMPPS (the Prisons and Probation Service in the Ministry of Justice) over this but just in April this year, they confirmed they were refusing to re-open that pay award.

Also, since then, we have seen even more pressure heaped on our members because of this Government’s mismanagement of the Criminal Justice System, for example the dangerous and flawed End of Custody Supervised Licence Scheme.

This is all about Prison overcapacity – and we have also been in talks over this – but this recent End of Custody Supervised Licensed Scheme, going up from 30 to 60 and now 70 days, all to reduce the huge prison overcapacity, has thrown Probation again into an even deeper crisis.

And there has been no recognition of this by Ministers.

Whilst huge amounts of money seem to can be found for the Prison estate – and just recently we got sight of figures showing the disparity in the numbers of staff employed in the Prison system compared to Probation – there does not seem to be any recognition of the impact of this on Probation and for our members.

The fact of not wanting to re-open our pay claim, along with a number of other disputes that have already been lodged with the Employer by the probation unions, and, together with the lack of meaningful progress around our Workloads Campaign (called Operation Protect) and which we launched last June, are the key reasons for us being where we are now.

This is why Napo together with UNISON and GMB have embarked on an indicative ballot – the closing date for Napo is 5th July, after which we will be consulting with our sister unions in Probation and our National Executive Committee over the next steps to potentially move to a formal industrial action ballot in the Autumn.

Napo very much endorses the NSSN manifesto.

Our Napo Manifesto Asks are:

FOR PROBATION ENGLAND & WALES

1.We want a Royal Commission into the Criminal Justice System. This is, as was proposed in our joint motion with the POA – the Prison Officers Association and as passed at the TUC in 2023: we call for a commission across the whole criminal justice system to fully review and evaluate what has gone wrong and develop solutions to the current crisis.

2.We want to take Probation out of HMPPS and out of the Civil Service. Napo AGM policy is to get probation out of the civil service and free from prisons. We need a probation service that is based in the local communities it serves and not run by policy makers in the Ministry of Justice.

3. We want devolution of Justice in Wales. Napo AGM in 2023 passed a motion to support the devolution of Justice in Wales. This would be a step towards a locally run service and for Senedd scrutiny over its own probation service.

4. We want Emergency funding for front facing services and staff in probation. Our Operation Protect Campaign has highlighted the chronic staffing and workloads crisis in Probation. So we are calling for urgent emergency funding to invest in staff carrying out additional work to ease the prison crisis.

5. And we want a future government to engage with Napo. Whoever forms the next government must engage with us as a matter of urgency to fully understand the probation crisis and work with us to develop a long-term strategy for solving the many problems probation faces. Our members are the experts and can play a vital role in finding solutions whilst maintaining best practice.

On PROBATION IN NORTHERN IRELAND

  1. Again, we want to see: Investment in the Probation Board for Northern Ireland

Historically PBNI has always been under-funded by central government. So, we are calling for increased investment to ensure the effective running of the criminal justice system. Funding is vital to enable probation to retain skilled staff and interact

effectively with other agencies such as health and social care and prisons.

On the FAMILY COURT SECTION

  1. We want to get Family Courts out of the Ministry of Justice

Like Probation, Cafcass has been chronically under-funded for a number of years that has resulted in stagnated and uncompetitive pay with many staff leaving and has prevented the service from developing its good practices.

  1. We want Additional Funding too here:

Additional funding would enable Cafcass to develop policies for the benefit of families and children. An independent service would focus on improving the services available to all, especially those that are not able to financially afford access to legal advice. It would also ensure our members were no longer held back by the civil service pay remit.

Now on Panorama:

Some of you may have seen the Panorama programme ‘Can the Probation Service keep us safe?’

An undercover reporter managed to get a job at an Approved Premise in Kent.

I can only say that staff and members I’ve spoken to felt very violated by this programme, a bit like, someone had just broken into your home.

This is under investigation now with the Employer as a result, as there are rigorous vetting procedures, and plenty of staff are being ‘punished’ for failing so we do not understand how this reporter managed to get this job without failing these vetting procedures. That by the side.

What it did point out was the state of Probation and how badly under-resourced the Service has been, such as not having had the money for this one Approved Premise to buy more drug and alcohol testing kits and keep those high-risk offenders under check.

It showed how changes made by the Ministry of Justice – something done now by a central referral unit, – again shows how the Probation Service needs to be taken away out of the Civil Service – our members are telling us, under this Early Release Scheme also, they haven’t got the capacity and moreover, they are feeling: undermined, undervalued, and de-professionalised and basically like they are just running: a ‘Travelodge’ …

Around Operation Protect

Last year when I spoke, we were just about to launch Operation Protect around extreme Workloads in Probation.

Public Safety is really at high risk as a result of this; the extreme under-staffing and retention rates, linked to the pay rates for the job, that brings such extreme demands on our members is our main focus.

That’s why we have been taking our campaign to the public also with regional rallies launched first this February. We had one in London and in Sheffield in May and just a couple of weeks ago in Cardiff. We were joined by PCS members and supporters by the NSSN also. We are looking to hold one in Manchester and Birmingham up next. I have leaflets here with me to take away if you come and see me and I will keep the NSSN informed as it will be good to get solidarity out with us on these lunchtime rallies as we try to inform the public of this acute crisis and help us put pressure on the Employer and a next Government to look after and show some respect for the daily job our members do.

If this is not forthcoming, action surely will be unavoidable for us.

Thank you and Solidarity.

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