For NPS staff this programme (Effectiveness, Efficiency and Excellence) aimed at standardising practice across a unified service is moving slowly towards reality, with a target implementation date for staff selection associated with the new NPS Operating Model sometime this summer. At the end of January, Napo submitted its formal response to the E3 Blueprint and UNISON has done likewise. To date we have had no substantive response from the NPS. Our comments covered all of the various workstreams.
As already reported, NPS has been developing a number of standard job descriptions which have been job evaluated. These have now been supplemented by a selection of more specialised job descriptions and discussions around these continue. These discussions are held within the regular fortnightly meetings which have finally got under way between NPS and the unions. Formal consultation with the unions is then scheduled to start on April 11th (We’re not entirely sure what the difference is between what we are doing now and formal consultation).
Once the job descriptions and evaluations have been completed and agreed, a selection process will commence to move staff into roles in the new NPS Operating Model. The NPS is committed to avoiding redundancies and one would imagine that most staff will move seamlessly into new roles as most will reflect what they are currently doing. The selection process, insofar as it is required, will involve job matching, ringfenced selection, closed competition and open advertisement of posts as appropriate. The details of this process have yet to be agreed.
Redeployment will be considered across divisional boundaries and this may suit some staff and cause problems for others. What is undoubtedly a problem is that as yet there is no standardised mobility policy across the NPS and to date, trust legacy policies still apply. NPS are seeking to achieve a standardised policy which will be issued in due course as a part of a Probation Instruction entitled ‘Staff Resourcing’. This is currently under discussion with the unions as indeed is the issue of pay protection (flowing from the job evaluation and standardisation of job descriptions across the NPS).
Where staff are moved into new roles, training will be given as a minimum requirement and this will affect implementation dates in some areas. An example of this would be where PSOs are moved into court roles (report writing etc) that have not traditionally existed at that grade in their area.
One significant area for concern is that of workload measurement. In the recent past, the unions have always played an integral role in the development of workload timings. The ongoing redevelopment of timings associated with E3 was subsumed into the programme in the middle of last year, since when, we have effectively been shut out of this work. Prior to that, this work had long existed as a stand-alone project culminating in the work of the Specifications, Benchmarking and Costings (SBC) project. The proposed plans to introduce a new tiering model as an element of E3 are a good example of where these concerns might be founded. A refined tiering model will inevitably impact on the timings associated with each type (tier) of case. This in turn will dictate what a reasonable caseload is. This is of even more concern since the intention is to extend the scope for PSOs to manage cases up the risk ladder.
This then links to another area of concern that so far has been the subject of insufficient consultation – role boundaries. At the heart of E3 would appear to be an intention to produce a significant shift of work from Probation Officers to Probation Services Officers. Case management and report writing are good examples. No doubt such a shift is attractive because if implemented, it makes the service cheaper to run. Together with workload measurement, this is an area covered in Napo’s response to the E3 Blueprint.
Most of the work associated with the E3 programme is consultative where the unions are concerned (rather than negotiable) but we will seek to have our collective voices heard on behalf of our members. Any such fundamental re-organisation of work is likely to progress more smoothly to a successful conclusion if staff members and their representatives are listened to and their views heeded.