It made me chuckle the other day reading a tweet by Sara Billiald, CEO of Kent Probation Trust and media lead for the PCA. The plea went as follows "in Kent not happy with early days of N Delius - can others reassure me things get better or is this it!? #delirious". As far as I know the plaintive plea only received one response from UnderCoverTweeter "sadly not. Everything takes longer even when more familiar. So many bugs in system. Lots of suggestions for improvement fed back."
Isn't it utterly shocking just how out of touch with reality our Chiefs are? I suspect she's probably blissfully ignorant of how crap OASys R is as well. Difficulties include, being locked out after only 5 minutes, locating records, losing reports, delayed reports, poorly presented reports and incompatibility with AT systems. It causes extreme stress and has been known to reduce the most experienced officers to tears. In London things were so bad, the Napo branch managed to obtain this response from CEO Heather Munro:-
SMT acknowledge the difficulties staff faced in using OASYS R during the introductory phase and that this impacted on staff morale and stress levels. LPT did everything in it's power to get these initial problems addressed at a national level. I want to assure NAPO that where staff have had difficulty with OASYS R that has impacted on performance and where this can be evidenced e.g. in Delius or where the line manager verifies this then this will not be held against them in any performance reviews.
Concerning N Delius, UnderCoverTweeter had previously observed on August 1st "National data centre falling over again today. Nothing to do with #ndelius migration this coming weekend?" There have been huge problems with both systems and there's more grief to come as the following from a memo referring again to London makes clear:-
..."from 5 pm on Tuesday 20th August until 8am on Wednesday 28th August Delius will be made "Read Only" and that LDU ACO's have been asked to develop their own local Business Continuity Plans as it will not be possible to record any information in Delius in this period."
A dickie bird tells me that the two senior posts at the new National Probation Service have been filled. It's no great surprise to see that Mike Maiden has got the top job as Director England, having placed his feet nicely under the table down at MoJ/NOMS HQ as enthusiastic Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles Implementation Deputy. There's no surprise either to see that Sarah Payne gets Director Wales.
It may not be surprising, but it's still utterly depressing that two ultra corporates get the top jobs, supposedly as custodians of the probation ethos. In reality NPS is just a fig leaf and I notice that a recent tweet from Prof Paul Senior describes it thus:- "NPS is symbolically important. Assists pretence to sentencers they have public probation. Useful scapegoat for failure of risk."
As to a flavour of where Mike Maiden, the former chief of Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust is coming from, here is a short piece he wrote a couple of years ago entitled 'balancing benefit and risk in probation services' :-
There is a sense of “reform or die” within probation organisations. The questions
posed about our 104 year old service sometimes go so far as to challenge the
existence of a “probation service,” describing our activity more in terms of discrete
packages that might be delivered by a whole range of providers.
The argument is that both effectiveness and efficiency will be improved
through competition, and I am sorry to have to observe that this is true. Sorry in
the sense that it should not be true. There was no reason why SWM could not have
thought through the improvements to supervision that we are now planning in
the face of competition, but we didn’t do so to anything like the right scale of
At least Mike Maiden was in theory a probation officer once, unlike Sarah Payne, who has had an interesting career path from prison officer:-
Sarah Payne joined the Prison Service in 1979. She was Deputy Governor of HMP Pentonville and Governor of Bullingdon and Oxford prisons, before becoming the area manager of the 12 prisons in Thames Valley and Hampshire.
On transfer to the Home Office she led the unit responsible for policing policy, including the establishment of the Independent Police Complaints Commission and Sir Michael Bichard’s enquiry into the Soham murders.
In 2005, Sarah became one of the newly created NOMS Regional Offender Managers, with responsibility for commissioning prison and probation services in the 27 prisons and 5 probation areas in the South East of England, and whilst there, led the development of multi-agency partnerships aimed at reducing reoffending across the region.
In November 2008, Sarah joined YWCA England & Wales (now Platform 51) as its Chief Executive. Sarah took up post as Chief Executive of Wales Probation in December 2010.
Along with Frances Crooke of the Howard League, my heart sinks to discover that NOMS have set up a trading arm, Just Solutions International:-
JSi is owned by a range of stakeholders including NOMS; Academic institutions, Ex-Offenders; the JSi staff and independent Trusts. This ensures that we are able to look at future needs as well as current challenges as we try to produce new solutions to the problems that offending and re-offending bring to all societies.
I'm grateful to Tim for pointing me in the direction of a Guardian Partnership Hub discussion recently that generated the following interesting observation by Alexander Stevenson, author of The Public Sector:- managing the unmanageable:-
Public sector staff are easier to motivate: The activities in a public sector organisation are all directed ultimately towards making society better; in a private sector organisation ultimately towards making profit. The task of motivating people within such an environment - even at middle/low levels - should be approached differently to reflect this. Ironically, in this area, public sector managers have an advantage which they must exploit.
To which Tim responded:-
I think we can all agree with that summary. But at the moment it seems to me that the precise opposite is happening. Senior managers in all trusts would do well to remember that, whatever ends up happening with TR (and I'm one of those who still thinks it can be resisted) they will have an angry and severely disillusioned workforce on their hands. The service has run for many years on the goodwill of staff, putting in many hours of extra work and going far beyond job descriptions to help people, and covering the true impact of ever-dwindling budgets. I simply cannot see this continuing for much longer, whether Grayling gets his way or not.
Finally, I'm grateful to Tolkny who I notice has been quick to spot an announcement concerning the future of the 35 separate probation pension schemes that the MoJ intend to merge into one. Napo gets a mention:-
National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) general secretary Ian Lawrence said the trade union has "major concerns" about the high risk nature of minister Chris Grayling's "madcap" reforms.
He said: "Pensions is one of the aspects [where] they're trying to rush through a solution. We're extremely concerned about that, and members are very worried about the future.
"While we've been receiving all sorts of assurances from the minister and his officials at the MoJ, we've yet to see a final proposed solution to this in terms of the split in service, what happens with people who are being retained at NOMS and what happens to people at the CRCs."
Lawrence said there were concerns over what happens to employees entering a newco or joining a provider, as well as what will happen if the CRC is sold on.
He added: "I don't believe there's anything I've seen that there's any guarantee for people that LGPS membership will remain. There is still a real lack of clarity about what happens down the track."