Sorry, but I just couldn't resist the title - 'resistance is futile!' It helps keep our film analogies going, and it also got a mention at the Brighton Napo public meeting last week by Professor Paul Senior. Oh, and we know it's what Probation Board Trust members think because John Steele told us recently. They also think it down at MoJ/NOMS HQ, so all very good reasons to completely ignore the instruction, take inspiration from Captain Kirk and, keep the shields up and boldly go!
There's no doubt in my mind that Paul Senior is rapidly becoming the significant and authoritative voice of dissent on behalf of the Probation Service. His speech at the Brighton public meeting can be viewed here and although only 24 minutes in length, it's a tour de force. He says it all and why this really is a dangerous omnishambles that has to be resisted by all available means.
He pours scorn on the lack of evidence, the ignoring of all reasoned and united professional opinion and the reckless speed of TR's introduction, despite an 80% risk of failure and possible harm to victims and the public. The boundaries of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies bear no relation to any other, nor do the six arbitrary English sectors of the new National Probation Service. This latter Service will be so small and stretched that 'Local Delivery Units' may well have to cover whole counties FFS!
Prof Senior reminded us that of course we've been here before. Despite the MoJ press release saying that Mike Maiden was the first Director of the NPS, he is in fact the fourth because we were nationalised in 2001 when Ethnie Wallis was appointed the first Director. Ok that might be splitting hairs because we were then de-nationalised when the present independent trusts were set up, but it does serve to remind everyone just how much the politicians have pissed us about.
In less than 13 years we've been nationalised, bureaucratised, regionalised, marginalised, de-nationalised, localised, and shortly to be split in two, abolished, part-privatised and nationalised for the second time. It's crazy, scandalous and an utter omnishambles! No wonder everything feels to be going wrong and many of us have started reflecting on just how the hell we ended up in this mess?
It's a long and complicated story with many players, and I suspect like so much in politics, elements of chance, personal prejudice and poor judgement have played their part. Prof Senior reminded us what Ethnie Wallis said to Home Secretary David Blunket the first time the NPS was set up and she unwisely signalled an ultra-passive stance:- 'we're here to do what ever you want'.
As I find myself cataloguing and commenting on the destruction of a job and profession I feel passionately about, I naturally dwell quite a bit on how and why its all gone wrong. It's so unfair and illogical, but it's happening. Is it cock-up or conspiracy? Is it deliberate or accidental? Is it structural or personal?
As part of the search for the answers I've read quite a few academic explanations and been made all-too-painfully aware of the political neoliberal context, but it still doesn't really help explain it, until that is some colour is added, and that colour comes from the individuals involved of course, like the Ethnie Wallis David Blunkett anecdote. I recall the apocryphal story of another arse of a Home Secretary Jack Straw going ape upon discovering a copy of Radical Non-intervention by Edwin M. Schur on a hapless PO's bookcase. He used that apparently as evidence as to why we needed reigning-in.
I well remember we were all horrified when, as a result of the shot-gun marriage between the Probation and Prison Service in order to create NOMS, we discovered that virtually all the top key management positions went to former Prison Service staff. Of course it was ludicrous to force two such differing cultures together, or possibly deliberate? But the effect was that 'nice' probation management stood no chance against that from the hard-nosed prison service.
It now transpires, through gossip that I gather was conducted in that very strange male bonding opportunity provided by the need to visit the gents, that the then Director-General Phil Wheatley was happy to confide that all the probation managers were basically 'wankers' and would only get top positions 'if they were up to it'. We never had any hope did we, once we'd been swallowed up into NOMS and put at the mercy of the Prison Service?
It's funny, but the urinal moment has happened to me once in my career when I found myself stood next to a particularly charmless and none-too-bright Chief who proffered the observation that 'role boundaries between PO's and PSO's were outdated and it was all going to change'. Of course the arse went on to prosper and rumour has it he's still influencing things at a high level.