Whilst officially the Probation Chiefs Association remain silent, I notice that the Probation Association have recently been making pleas for help from both the government and the 'third sector.' In what I think might be a bit of a high risk strategy they have appealed to the government to consider reducing the vast burden of regulation, monitoring and bureaucracy that has been imposed on Probation Trusts in recent years.
Their report 'Hitting the Target, Missing the Point' serves to graphically illustrate a common problem throughout public sector organisations, namely the shear weight of time-consuming micro control nonsense that was so dear to the heart of the last Labour governments control freak philosophy. In doing this I guess they think they are pushing at an open door in view of the much vaunted intention of the new government in wishing to lift the bureaucratic burden from public sector organisations.
This initiative would seem to go hand in hand with the Offender Engagement Programme currently being rolled out to some Trusts by NOMS. "Moving from a high level of prescription and input-driven mandatory standards, towards a more flexible and outcome focused framework." It sounds absolutely great and exactly what probation officers have wanted, namely a return to having some discretion in how they deal with clients. However, as has been pointed out recently on the NAPO discussion pages, this sort of relaxation in regulatory regime is exactly what commercial bidders for probation contracts have been looking and lobbying the government for. Now we have the Trusts making a similar plea for lighter regulatory control, an absolute gift for the private sector I'd say.
In another possibly more considered move, the Probation Association obviously feel it's time to start making overtures towards the third sector in the hope they can strengthen the case for hanging on to work in readiness for the impending bidding war. Their Chief Executive recently addressed a Social Enterprise conference specifically in order to make a pitch at not-for-profit organisations as being an excellent fit with Probation Trusts in terms of ethos. She suggested it might be mutually beneficial to be in partnership rather than competition in a big bad world of circling commercial predators. Unfortunately it seems that it's already too late in terms of Unpaid Work as the government have reportedly decided that only commercial firms are left in the running for these contracts.