Last week Napo were told of changes to the Parole Board process whereby it is intended that there will now be singular intervention by the Secretary of State for Justice. This means that Probation practitioners will no longer be required to make recommendations in their reports to a Parole Board.
It’s clear from the feedback from Napo members that there is widespread outrage and disgust at these plans. It is a further significant assault on the integrity and professionalism of Probation staff by planning to deny them the long-held ability to make their own independent, expert recommendations on progression and release to the Parole Board.
It is clear, in fact openly stated in the communications we have seen, that this is a decision which rests at ministerial level. That this is being justified by the Deputy Prime Minister on the same day as a Parole Board decision which has generated media interest, smacks of political opportunism by a senior member of a wholly discredited and dying Government. After this week’s events it remains to be seen whether those involved will still be in place to own the coming problems.
It is all too apparent that this is a politically motivated decision intended to further subsume our professional identity within the Civil Service. The contemptuous, and frankly cowardly, manner the employer has pretended to engage in a consultation period best counted in days has not gone unnoticed. The logical conclusion we draw from this is that there is at least some basic level of recognition that these plans are riddled through with contradictions and flaws that are all too apparent to even the most basic level of scrutiny by the briefest glance. These are so severe and glaring that it calls into question whether those responsible have any relevant experience or expertise in this crucial area of practice, certainly the risks to public posed by this less than half-baked plan suggests not.
We cannot find any evidence in the Government’s recent ‘Root and Branch Review’ of the Parole Board to support this drastic, fundamental change of practice, or even any mention that this as a potential outcome of this process. This suggests to us that these proposals are an opportunistic and malicious attempt to silence an independent voice in the criminal justice system, imposing the diktats and whims of career politicians on our members through the suffocating conformity of the Civil Service.
The Joint Trade Unions will be communicating our concerns to the relevant Minister and Senior Officials and demanding that this ill thought out proposal is abandoned before any damage can be done.