I'm all too aware of the danger in repeating myself, but the blame for all this time being spent doing other stuff was not placed firmly at the door of OASys, the Offender Management System that makes grown men and women weep and drives them to drink, or worse. It's not just me that thinks this. Take a look at this article from the Guardian yesterday by a colleague with 10 years experience and their thoughts on it. The Justice Affairs Committee really don't understand what OASys is in reality and the damage it is doing to the Service. The trouble is that words are really insufficient to adequately describe the futility of the whole damned thing. Not only does it take hours and hours to fill in, it really doesn't deliver what it is supposed to: -
"It's remarkable that the justice committee largely confines discussion of eOASys to a single section, bizarrely entitled "the management of risk". eOASys do not provide a statistical calculation of the risk of a person causing serious harm to others, merely a "rubber stamp" of reliability for an officer's own comments, entered repeatedly under pages of headings. Seeing eOASys and risk assessment as synonymous does practitioners a disservice: it's a demoralising sign of how little trust is placed in our judgment and experience, and can rob us of confidence in our own abilities by institutionalising reliance on a limited tool."
On occasion I have been accused of being an old stick-in-the-mud, a dinosaur unwilling to move with the times and embrace change. The other day I had reason to read a file on a case that I was unfamiliar with. This happens all the time and it can be important to get up to speed quickly. The age-old method is to pick up a PSR. On this occasion I forced myself to resist and read the OASys instead which helpfully, if in unfriendly environmental fashion, had been printed out in it's unumbered entirety, including full risk assessment. I'd estimate over 60 pages in total, not of narrative - if only - but confusingly laid out pro-forma question boxes with associated text boxes varying in position, size and length. At every stage it's not always clear what is pre-printed text and what is a response.
This OASys had been prepared by a very experienced and capable officer of many years standing, initially for the purpose of preparing a PSR for court. It had subsequently been updated as the person progressed through their prison sentence, thus adding further layers of text to the original. One of the things that hits you is the sheer repitition. Every entry beginning with 'Mr X this or Mr X that'. It has to be like this because each answer to a question is written in such a way that it can be stitched seamlessly into the finished Pre Sentence Report when the 'create report' button is pressed. Now if you believe in fairies, this might be a reasonable view to hold.
The author later confirmed to me what I know to be true. That in reality the computer-generated text is not fit for purpose and has to be redone. But I digress. In essence, was it possible to understand a case effectively from reading the OASys? Answer 'No!' Not in any reasonable time frame and not without taking notes as part of a forensic search of the document for key information. So, can someone please explain why we are all wasting our time, silting up vast computer data-bases with almost meaningless crap that almost certainly will never be read from end to end, except by inspectors when the shit sometimes hits the fan? Until this elephant in the room is dealt with, until the Emperor is recognised as having no clothes, we will still be spending 76% of our time not seeing clients.