Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Free Labour

I'm grateful to the NAPO discussion forum for highlighting a current job offer by the Hampshire Probation Trust on the Isle of Wight for a receptionist/admin officer. The only problem is the level of pay - there isn't any! :-

"Volunteer wanted - on the Isle of Wight (Newport Office) Ideal for Graduates/Job Seekers who wish to broaden their work experience. Duties will include: General reception duties; answering the telephone, taking messages, dealing with questions/queries from offenders, dealing with petty cash and offender travel claims, etc. General admin work including filing. sending letters, dead filing/archiving. Ad hoc court administrative duties."

Now most of us with long memories are very familiar with the use of volunteers within the probation service. Traditionally this was seen as a route for recruitment, not just another avenue for the mostly middle class to do something useful within their community. I know many officers started their careers as volunteers and they were a very useful resource, particularly in helping to provide for the welfare needs of clients. 

Sadly, with the move away from our welfare orientation, many services gave up on volunteers completely, only to rediscover the concept in recent time with a new focus on mentoring and former offender engagement programmes. There's also a growing realisation that retired officers can be a valuable resource, skilled and able to undertake some supportive work with clients that 'adds value' to the limited amount of time hard-pressed officers have for each case.

Again, those with long memories will remember the days when probation used to regularly take part in YTS and Work Experience programmes when school leavers were encouraged to gain their first taste of the work place over several weeks. But this is very different. 

There's no doubt that volunteering is definitely 'flavour of the month' once more in probation circles and I guess if you were cynical you would notice that it happens to coincide with a period of economic stringency and a government keen on fostering a 'Big Society'. But it takes macho Hampshire HR to take the concept to a whole new level and just blatantly try and fill real jobs with free labour

Absolutely disgraceful and I think we can expect an emergency motion at the impending NAPO AGM in Torquay.   

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