Eavesdropping on peoples twitter conversations continues to amaze me and just recently has served to highlight the almost complete gulf in knowledge between Chiefs and frontline staff. We've always know this of course as Head Office's became ever-larger and distanced from the realities of practice. Gone are the days when the likes of a former chief such as Sir Graham Smith carried on seeing clients even when he reached the top. Why, we even have chiefs now who have no probation background at all, so a certain disconnect is likely, is it not?
I'm aware that Chiefs often make a big thing about getting round to see staff in field teams, and by the way I hate that bloody awful term Local Delivery Unit. Who thought that one up? It sounds like a Tesco home shopping depot. Anyway some Chiefs make an even bigger thing about spending a day on the 'shop floor.' A whole day FFS! At least in the excellent BBC 'Back to the Shop Floor' programmes we saw Chief Executives spend a number of weeks actually trying to understand what really goes on in their business's.
Unless Chiefs go through every stage of preparing a full Standard Delivery Report for court, right from first interview with the client, through brain-numbing completion of the OASys and then soul-destroying attempts to get a half-decent report ready for court, in my view you have no authority to say that you know what the hell is going on in your Trust.
The imposition of OASys has been the biggest disaster for probation practice ever, without doubt, and OASys R, the supposed improved version, has simply made things intolerable. Guys, it is impossible to get a half-decent-looking report fit for court through OASys R!
But all is not lost because news reaches me that in one Trust at least, North Yorkshire, hard-pressed colleagues have resorted to extreme measures and reverted to writing reports on blank sheets as word documents, just like we used to. Oh what bliss that must be for those lucky people, and the sentencers who will be reading the finished result! I defy anyone to say it is nothing less than a 100% improvement on anything OASys-generated. Psychology and Psychiatric reports are not prepared in this way, so why are ours?
If I listen carefully I might be able to hear voices asking how the hell we got into this situation? I guess the answer is quite simple. People who design this crap are not practitioners, not the end-user as the jargon would say and hence have absolutely no idea what is needed and how it works. I suppose a 'disconnect' is present to use more jargon.
It's been some time since I ranted about OASys, but the subject is now very much 'alive' as they say following national roll-out of OASys R. Why Heather Munro and Sarah Billiald to name but two Chiefs are now fired-up to take the unwelcome message to the bosses down there in London. But there has been serious misgivings about OASys ever since it's imposition upon us. Why is it that NAPO some time ago highlighted the fact that only 25% of our time was spent productively on client contact? Answer - OASys.
OASys is a vast, cumbersome and time-consuming assessment document that probation staff are forced to fill in on all current clients. It has to be updated regularly and 'shared' with prison staff if clients are serving prisoners. But it's not just a pain-in-the-arse to fill in. It's also pretty useless as a method of getting information out and quickly. If you really want to know about a case without losing the will to live trawling through endless pages of formatted text boxes on screen, you have two choices. The first and best is to have a word with the officer who has or had the case. The second and still better by miles than trying to look at bloody OASys, is to look at the file. There you will find the primary sources for much of the OASys content anyway, but more importantly all the bits that have been left out.
Yes I know I'm antediluvian, but seriously there will always be a place in my view for a good old-fashioned Part B summary, but not necessarily on pink paper. In effect when you get a call from a colleague needing information quickly about a client, what you give them in no more than 20 minutes is a verbal Part B summary. So why don't we commit that to paper, or electronic equivalent guys? Now how about that for a radical suggestion to take to NOMS HQ Heather and Sarah.
The No10 petition is still available to sign here.