Monday, 17 December 2012

The End Really is Nigh!

Assuming the apocalypse doesn't occur on Friday this week, it seems that HM Government will be announcing the demise of the Probation Service as we know it before Christmas. Sufficient rumours are swirling around for NAPO to take the unusual decision of writing to all members along the following lines:- 

"Probation Review

You may have been informed that the Government will make an announcement on the future of the Probation Service this week.

The details are not yet known but are likely to involve plans to privatise up to 70% of our work.  The only work to remain in the public sector will be advice to the Courts and Parole Board and the management of high risk cases.

Please be assured that Napo is opposing these plans unequivocally and we are not alone.  The Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association are voicing their concerns as well as Napo’s allies in the Houses of Parliament.  

Sadly we have already had a taste of what’s to come.  When Serco won the Community Payback competition in London, they offered warm words to the staff and senior management team.  Minutes after the contract was signed, they made a third of the staff redundant.

The privatisation of justice will be a disaster: unaccountable, expensive and run in the interests of shareholders, not for the public.  Take a look across the Atlantic and shudder.  The big security companies have shafted the taxpayer out of millions in the tagging contract and are salivating at the prospect of more.

The shrinking pot of money for criminal justice will all be spent on overseeing contracts and complex procurement processes.  The G4S fiasco at the Olympics and the West Coast mainline debacle tell you all you need to know about the Government’s competence.

Probation is a fantastically effective and efficient public service, as proved by our British Quality Foundation Award.  Here’s what you need to do immediately to save it:

           1. Write to your MP with your concerns about the privatisation of Probation and ask them to raise the issue in Parliament. 

            2. Recruit a colleague into Napo - strength in numbers really works and provides the resources for       Napo to oppose the privatisation threat.

Meanwhile, at Napo HQ, we are working hard to get as much publicity behind our campaign as possible.  We will always work constructively with Government but we are certainly not prepared to see Probation go down the pan on the back of a lazy and ideological whim.  

Best wishes," 

The timing, if correct, must be seen as nothing but utterly cynical being so close to Christmas. With the Nation gently winding down for a well-deserved break and celebration, there is absolutely no hope of doing anything constructive by way of lobbying or organising any form of opposition until early January. All I can do is draw it to your attention readers.


  1. Thank you for letting us know. I for one had no idea. It's shocking of course, but what can one do!

    The lie somehow stuck about Labour causing the financial crisis, and Clegg enabled this lot.

    They're ideologues, and they're in.

    That's it!

  2. And now some recognition for your work here, Jim.

    I suspect, that like many people, I'm a keen reader of yours, but just never commented (not being in the profession, and knowing no one who is).

    I often think that, thanks to you, I have a framework of reference to your field.

    Much appreciated indeed keep going (in the interests of the great silent majority ....

    1. When you embark on a mission like this, you really have little idea whether it's having any effect or not. Whether indeed anyone is reading it. Ok you look at the 'hit' counter, but to be honest numbers don't really mean much. I suspect feedback is what all blog writers really crave - some recognition that the words have registered with someone, somewhere.

      So, thanks 'keen' reader, who ever you may be, for taking the trouble to comment. I'm really touched that you feel that you now have "a framework of reference to your field."

      That was always one of my main aspirations - to tell a largely ignorant public what a fine service they have working on their behalf - a truely secret service, but sadly so secret that an ignorant government now feels confident that it can be destroyed with impunity.

      Thanks for commenting - it really does help keep me motivated!



  3. Don’t hold your breath for an announcement this side of Christmas.

    Napo will be as marginal and ineffective as ever they were. Unison looks like a better bet if you want professional TU representation.

    This is more than a threat, it is a plan. Chris Grayling is bullish about getting this done before the next election. Progress might be slowed by resistance, but ultimately it will be the market that will decide what shape this takes on. Remains to be seen how much appetite for PbR is still out there – less than there was previously I would guess.

  4. I think this is the equivalent of rail privatisation, a complete farce which will end up costing the tax payer more money but no way back even if Labour wins the next election sadly. They daren't do this to same extent to the police because of the public outcry and the prison service because of the strong union.

  5. I have been a probation Officer for 20 years. What a fantastic, interesting and fulfilling job it has been. Sadly things have now changed. Caseloads are so high and form filling so immense we no longer have sufficient time to see clients, thus having little sway over their future behaviour. We just about have time to 'monitor'. I believe that at one time due to the face to face work we did there was opportunity to influence behaviour and reduce the amount and severity of offending. I have very rarely had any time of sick, but have now been off for 4 months with stress. whilst I am looking more healthy my work mates are looking more and more unwell. Out of a relatively small team I am one of four absent from work in similar circumstances. I feel that before making any announcements regarding policy changes the government and determined to 'break' staff. I am at the point of deciding not to go back at all as whilst it has been a much loved job I no longer wish to be associated with an organisation that does not care about its staff, the offenders or indeed victims and the public in general. I would rather have no money. I wonder if others are in a similar position to mine. Nice to see there is a Probation Officer's blog. I've never been on it before and now I've just gone on and on!!

    1. Colleague,

      Thanks for taking the trouble to share your thoughts, especially at a time when you are off work with stress. It crept up on me a few years ago too and it is not a happy experience. I got angry eventually and found a degree of catharsis in writing. Management also 'put me out to grass' for a period in a court team. But as we know, PO's are too expensive for court and only PSO's are deemed suitable now..

      I'm really pleased you've found the blog. Feel free to comment a bit more - or write to me privately if you so desire - the e-mail address is on my profile.



  6. I'm sad to see another colleague off sick long-term. I've just returned after nearly 2 months off, after suffering panic attacks that I suspect have been bought on from stress/anxiety around work issues. Work issues that have arisen as a result of all the policy changes and piled-on pressure to achieve more, whilst being given less to do so. (it's been felt heavily by those of us involved in the Court.)

    I feel for our YOT colleagues who are likely in a similar situation & have the HIMP review report in the media at the moment, showing their "failings". (although I am somewhat irritated to see the following, inaccurate, comment on the BBC page: "The real victims in all of this are the members of staff on the YOT Teams who do a thankless job day in, day out, with scarce resources and are barely able to contain the situations they deal with. Given probations lamentable record I think it is a bit rich of them to criticise other parts of the criminal justice system").

    My (mere) 7 years in the Probation Service will be coming to an end very soon; I'm moving to be a drugs workers in a prison. With on of the large charities that keeps winning these contracts and I *hope* will be the sort of organisations who will the privatised contracts, rather than the dreaded G4S/Serco/Sodexo clan.

    Interestingly, a man I supervise who has just been released from custody is talking about setting up a company to run recruitment for ex-prisoners, with a view to finding them work whilst they’re still in custody & picking them up into a job (or starting a business) from the very day they’re released. He’s been approaching the right people and, should he be successful, would look to get a “payment by results” pilot contract. It’s given me some hope that it’s individuals like him and companies with a similar ethos, that might win some of the privatised work of the Probation Service. As well as the existing Probation Trusts. Then maybe a larger percentage of the tax-payers money will go into successful rehabilitation, rather than the exaggerated “results” and successful huge profits we’d be seeing if/when Serco and co get the contracts.

    I will be extremely sad to leave the service, but in the time I’ve been here it’s never really been what I had hoped when I decided to become a PSO. I’ve never felt I’ve had the opportunity to really deliver excellent 1:1 work with our clients, to really offer them the support I want to give. (simple things, like visiting their families, their homes, helping them get to appointments etc). Once upon a time I thought we were doing some good, but more and more I can see why the Social Work qualified amongst us look to the “old days” with misty eyes.

  7. A177,

    Lovely to hear from you again and I really hope things work out for you in your new prison drug project job.

    I and many of my old colleagues all say the same thing pretty much - probation used to be the most fantastic job imaginable years ago - you would definitely have enjoyed it - but it's gone and here I am all misty eyed and still going on about 'the good old days.' You leaving is the probation service's loss.

    Best wishes,


  8. Kind words, thank you Jim