Napo National Official, Tania Bassett, reports back from the Westminster Hall Debate on Sentencing Repeat Offenders.
The debate, which took place on 21st June 2022, was tabled by Grahame Morris MP for Easingham.
Grahame had to declare his own interests at the start of the debate including that he sits on the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group alongside Napo to name just one. Grahame has been a strong supporter of Napo for a number of years and has paid close attention to our campaigns.
The debate was specifically structured to include all agencies of the criminal justice system. Attempting to link up all aspects of “the mosaic” with probation being a vital part of that. Very timely for members who await an outcome on pay talks, are carrying dangerously high workloads and covering for enormous staff vacancies across England and Wales.
“By introducing a profit motive into probation—a mistake since acknowledged—the previous Government betrayed the highly skilled and priceless work done by probation officers with many years of experience, leaving their pay, terms and conditions at the mercy of private firms, which tried to reduce their role to little more than a tick-box exercise. That led to a flood of resignations, with people leaving the system, and all the problems we saw as a result.
Even now, two years after the Government admitted defeat and announced a full reintegration and renationalisation of probation, the service is still in the midst of a recruitment and retention crisis, very similar to the one in prisons. Napo has told me about the workload crisis facing its members. Many probation officers are working over their recommended offender management levels—the number of cases they have to look after—by between 20% and 50%, and in one case, by over 90%. The staffing and workload crisis in probation have had terrible and tragic consequences in the past. It is no wonder that the mental health of many probation officers is at breaking point.
The Government have put the public at serious risk from reoffending by trying to run prisons and probation on the cheap, and undermining the pay and terms and conditions of those critically important workers in the process.”
It is also timely that on 21st June the CBA announced that their members had voted in favour of industrial action as part of their fight for an increase in legal aid pay. They are set to strike on 18th July 2022 as they still have not had a full response to their requests for their pay to be reviewed and increased.
The debate, for which there is a link below, covered some interesting areas and highlighted a few shared visions from both sides. Sadly any viewer of the debate will notice immediately the complete lack of diversity of MP’s taking part in the debate.
Conservative MP’s were not interested in probation terms and conditions which is a shame. It is sad that the link between terms and conditions and the effectiveness of the service to deliver was not obvious to some. It is clear that with this and a number of other issues Napo needs to do some work to reach out to MP’s that may be a natural friend of the union or in fact probation.
Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab)
“The rate at which probation officers are leaving the service has increased by a quarter since 2015. Resignations have consistently outstripped retirement and other reasons for leaving the service over the past five years: 60% of all leavers are choosing to walk away. The causes cited by some include high workloads, stress and poor pay, given the nature of the work and the rising cost of living. My hon. Friend the Member for Easington talked of some of those issues.
The workloads of existing staff have now reached unsafe levels. That is reflected in the alarming growth in certain serious further offences in recent years; that is, offences committed by repeat offenders who are the subject of probation supervision. I am sure the Minister will tell us how we are going to reconfigure the probation service, to ensure that we can put that right. SFOs for murder were higher in the three years to 2020 than they ever have been—surely, the most severe form of repeat offending that there is.”
Going forward, Napo will be working alongside Solidarity Consulting, the Justice Unions Parliamentary Group and the Labour front bench to raise members concerns. Whilst we are building momentum it is clear that we still have a long way to go to get our message across.
What can members do?
Watch the debate here:https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/f8695240-144f-45ea-ab63-64631f06ca0e