I sincerely hope Professor Paul Senior of Sheffield Hallam University will not mind me pinching the wonderful notion of 'policy-based evidence' rather than 'evidence-based policy' to describe Chris Grayling's recently announced dogma-driven dismemberment of the Probation Service.
In a most thoughtful and reflective blog post entitled 'An emotional response to Grayling's consultation' he says:-
Having spent 37 years in and around the probation service I have become used to dark predictions about its future. But when respected commentators such as Rob Allen tweets simply ‘RIP Probation’ and Tim Newburn talks about the ‘death knell for probation’ and a whole host of communications in the social media replicate that sense of despair that these new MOJ consultation proposals on probation have generated, despite my personal commitment to optimism, I do feel somewhat downhearted about the future for probation. Therefore I thought I would write this blog not as a carefully worded academic response to the consultation I have six weeks to produce that, though the track record of the current government actually listening to evidenced-informed practice is woefully poor anyway. But rather I want to focus on my gut level feelings as I strongly identify with those who spend their lives supporting, defending, promoting, working in and with probation and occasionally berating the probation service in all its successes and failures. Is time being called on the careers of so many dedicated and exceptionally skilled probation staff?
Probation has been described today as the cinderella of the criminal justice system. It has always had, either an achilles heel, or a genuine difficulty in describing itself effectively to the public. When I started as a probation officer circa 1977 I would be approached on the streets of my patch to be asked all sorts of questions about crime and disorder. Instinctively the public knew what probation was about then – individuals dedicated to sorting out as best it could, societies misfits and strugglers. It felt as if, though not easy to articulate, the public just knew what the probation service stood for in ways which was less clear for social workers, community workers or educational welfare officers for instance. We have lost that community awareness and support in the subsequent thirty years.
I would highly recommend reading the complete post here.