Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Beware 5th Columnists!

Well, here we are with only a few days left of the 'phoney' war before we find out exactly what the shape of probation will look like in the future. What, if any, changes or accommodations Chris Grayling has been persuaded to make on the advice of his hard-pressed civil servants desperately trying to make sense of the whole daft idea. Unfortunately no sign of a u-turn as yet, but the battle to save probation is far from over, despite the unmistakeable signs of '5th columnists' beginning to appear.

There's been much speculation as to who exactly is behind the grandly-named Centre for Probation Reform and a series of three blog posts published in 'their' name over recent days. The first is entitled Transforming Rehabilitation and Probation Reforms: Can it Work? It begins thus:-

"With the response to the Governments consultation soon upon us it is apparent we need to begin to embrace the coming changes. This does not mean we should ignore the feelings and sentiments of the majority of probation staff that find it impossible to envisage a privatised Probation Service. This does not mean we should expect the staff and users of probation services to agree with the changes ahead, and we will all be affected in different ways, some positively and others negatively. Probation is one of many services facing privatisation and we cannot ignore the reality of the current financial climate or the aspirations of the current government. On this basis it is important that we all consider the real impact of the coming changes and must separate the facts from the opinions and guesses."

All attempts to discover authorship have so far failed and Professor Paul Senior, Director of the Hallam Centre for Criminal Justice has felt compelled to pen a forensic rebuttal of the first post's contents. I thoroughly recommend reading what Prof Senior has to say in full, but he concludes saying:-

"The use of the pronoun 'we' is interesting in this blog. Who is the 'we' the blogger is calling out to. Its not the probation practitioner I know. Its not the probation researcher who understands the evidence base for good probation practice. Its not the representative organisations Napo, PCA and PA who have questioned the central tenets of this change. So who is the 'we'? Given the corporate silencing of the probation voice in recent weeks is this another, more sinister turn, in providing an almost unplatable 'probation speak' to soften the package of changes to be announced this week. If the Centre for Probation Reform can be less coy about its credentials and show its no doubt in depth and evidence-led understanding of the probation world I will have to accept that my own 38 years of study is lacking credibility. There again maybe the game is up for this softer tactical ploy. I will be back to deconstruct its two further blogs if people still need convincing." 

Things are clearly warming up because the self-styled 'Centre for Probation Reform' have swiftly issued a rebuttal to Prof Senior's rebuttal. Make of it what you will, but I guess as with any war, it has to be fought on many fronts by fair means or foul. Who was it that said that the truth is usually the first casualty in war? Continuing the war metaphor, battle lines are being drawn up, positions are being prepared, the first salvo's have been fired and even 'fifth columnists' spotted. Time for the tin hats I think. 

Take Cover!!

Oh, and sign the No10 petition here.   


  1. I see that the blog still talks as 'we' without further divulging who is involved, what status they enjoy in the penal or judicial worlds. I also note that the blog was launched in May 2013, and appears to have one member, so perhaps the 'we' is royal and HM is thoughtfully not seeking to pull rank.
    The rebuttal contains enough patronising and condescending language to lead this cynic to suspect someone over on the right of the Conservative party is responsible.

  2. well no real details about who set it up, no feedback or comments section so no possible response, they have a twitter account but never heard of them and uncanny that they appear just as more announcements are going to be made, very underhanded but nothing new.