Working in the field that I do it's a tad embarrassing to have to admit that maybe leopards don't change their spots. From as far back as I can remember, things have always been put off to another day; homework was always late; essays were invariably submitted at or shortly after the deadline at university and some PSR's have been so up-to-date that they've been hand-delivered to court.
I don't think I can put it off any longer - the time has come to say something about the current consultation exercise initiated by the government into the future of the probation service. Responses have to be in by June 22nd, but what do you say when you simply don't agree with the basic premise that virtually every part of our work has to be put out to competitive tendering? The only exceptions are advice to courts and supervision of high risk offenders.
The ironic thing about keeping high risk offenders of course is that evidence shows that 80% of Serious Further Offences are committed by low or medium risk offenders. Potential private bidders should bear that fact in mind before thinking of taking on the supervision of so-called low risk clients - do they really want to play our version of Russian Roulette and take the inevitable opprobrium when one of them murders someone "why didn't you know they were going to do that - they're being supervised aren't they?"
The sad fact is that probation is in disarray - a bit like the proverbial rabbit caught in the car headlights - and doesn't even have any effective national voice. As we know, several Trusts have already broken ranks and jumped into bed with private contractors and the Probation Association and Probation Chief's Association have yet to decide on joining forces. With staff being locked out as part of the prison tendering process, it's tempting to suggest that things are descending into farce.
I've tried reading the consultation document with the view to crafting a considered response, but I can't. I fundamentally disagree with the whole ridiculous case for 'reform', privatisation, and competition. This is a public service for goodness sake - one that won a bloody gold medal last year from the British Quality Foundation (I hadn't heard of them either) - apparently the first public service ever to have won such an award. There's Crispin Blunt all smiles and coming out with all the usual meaningless and platitudinous boll**ks, whilst at the same time quietly working on our demise.
In short I don't have the inclination or energy to spend much time on this 'lets-go-through-the-motions' consultation exercise. Lets hope that great minds in NAPO, the Probation Association and Probation Chief's Association think differently though.