Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Some Observations 18

I thought I'd better try and pen something in case people thought I'd been gagged. In truth I'm waiting, like many in probation I suspect, to hear exactly what Napo and the other unions have stitched-up with the Ministry of Justice. I gather the NNC meeting on Monday was unsatisfactory for a number of reasons, mostly to do with absences, that of delegates, the Napo General Secretary and crucially appendices B and C that deal with transfer of staff and pensions respectively.

With the clock ticking inexorably towards a decisive NEC vote scheduled for 17th September, it doesn't take a genius to see that the membership are not going to have long in which to absorb the details and voice an opinion. Apart from questioning the wisdom of going down this negotiating route in the first place and whilst supposedly fighting the TR proposals at the same time, I just don't understand why somebody doesn't tell Grayling to fuck off with his daft bullying timetable.

Anyway, one result of the meeting on Monday is that the cat is out of the bag regarding the indicative ballot turnout - it was 34%. 

Moving on to other matters that have caught my attention, I suspect I might not have been alone in having professional reasons for tuning in to watch the first episode of the Channel 4 series 'Burgled' set in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The city apparently remains a burglary hot spot and the series follows a dedicated police team tasked with catching those responsible. I found nothing particularly surprising from the first programme, apart that is from absolutely no mention of probation involvement in what is clearly an Integrated Offender Management initiative.

It would seem from twitter conversations that such is the determination of Chris Grayling and the MoJ to win the TR omnishambles war that orders have been issued prohibiting footage of probation staff involvement being aired. It would seem that our involvement is to be airbrushed out of the picture, bringing to mind similar propaganda tricks in Communist Russia. Utterly disgraceful if true, as we all know probation is a key element of IOM.

The Parole Board authorised the release of Jon Venables recently under yet another identity. I've been reading the very thorough report on the case as part of the Serious Further Offence investigations and it's particularly encouraging to read of the praise given to probation, and especially for a case that had no probation involvement from the beginning due to Jon's age.

I've always felt this was most unhelpful in a case which we all knew would eventually end up on our plate and result in a very unsettling transfer at an arbitrary age-related point. I find this revelation so shocking that I think I would have refused to take the case on:-

The assessments and work done during Jon Venables’ time at
Redbank were not shared with his subsequent supervisors to 
inform their understanding of the subject.  The reports seen by the 
Parole Board, including the several psychiatric evaluations, do not, 
however, contain any indication, even indirectly, that there was a 
sexual motive on the part of Jon Venables in committing the 
original offence or other warning that might have alerted his 
supervisors to potential abnormal sexual interests. (para 102, 104)

There is much in the report of interest, but I particularly noticed this other bit:-

No suitable individual was identified after 2004 to establish a long 
term mentoring arrangement that might have helped him cope 
better with the strains of living under his changed identity, his 
problem in balancing study and employment, and his issues with 
establishing a ‘normal’ lifestyle for a young single man of his age 
and social background.  Such support could also have eased the 
load of his offender manager in maintaining the appropriate 
boundary between offender manager and mentor. (para 97, 199)   

Without doubt there has always been a role for skilled volunteer input in probation work and it was most unwise for many Service's to take the decision some years ago to dispense with them. Of course their benefit has been rediscovered once more in recent time, raising the suspicion that it's resource-driven and politically-motivated as part of the 'Big Society'. Yes whatever happened to that big idea?

A great shame because volunteers carefully chosen can add so much to help achieve positive outcomes for clients, whilst giving a sense of purpose to many people with lots of spare unproductive time on their hands. As the report says, it also helps the PO enormously. 

Of course an excellent example of the volunteering ethos is provided by the increasing profile of Circles of Support and Accountability, a specialist charity closely linked to probation that works with sex offenders and their re-integration within society. The work was highlighted at the weekend in an article in the Independent:- 

Circles UK has been running these groups quietly in Britain for more than 10 years, but is so concerned about the hysteria around the subject that it usually shies away from publicity.
While befriending paedophiles may be a hard sell to the tabloid press, the statistics show that it works.

A review of a Circles project in the South-east found that none of its 71 past clients had made another contact offence over a four-and-a-half-year period." A control group of 71 criminals with a similar offending history committed 10 new offences in the same period.

The latest man Paul has agreed to help is Barry, a 69-year-old who is on the sex offenders' register for life after sexually assaulting young children, including his own son and stepson, for more than three decades.

but for me this quote from a volunteer serves as a warning that selection and training are extremely important and must have made the organiser cringe just a little:- 

Despite his disgust at Barry's actions, Paul is one of five volunteers who meet up with him every week to talk about his life. "I hate do-gooders and I don't usually volunteer for things, but I felt so strongly about this," Paul says. "He's a bastard and what he's done is awful and I'd love to wring his neck. But we can't kill him and we can't lock him up for life, so what are we going to do? The only answer is you try to help him not to do it again. To me there's no alternative."      


  1. We (employees of West Yorkshire Probation) were told via our intranet that the MOJ had prevented us from taking part in the programme. Shocking.

  2. because of course the Police aren't part of the MOJ?!!?

    1. I think the police are still within the Home Office. Not that this makes the decision any less barmy.

      No doubt it would be very inconvenient for TR if it became wider knowledge that we actually do a good job, and that the process of R doesn't need to be T'ed.

    2. "No doubt it would be very inconvenient for TR if it became wider knowledge that we actually do a good job..."
      I,ve just posted below, and Tims point hits the nail on the head for me..
      Wider knowledge has been a masive failing in the probations cause.
      Infact its so important the powers to be wont even allow participation in a documentry!

    3. Re the burglary programme. The producers did contact WYPT and as it was a national programme, such requests have to go to MOJ/NOMS. They refused to take part (don't want to showcase how the PS in Leeds has contributed to the reduction in burglaries through IOM/PPO etc given these cases will go). So the producers had no alternative that to sing the sole praise of the Police when in reality it is and remains a multi-agency approach that had assisted in the reduction of burglaries. Pity they did not mention in the credits the refusal of big brother to take part.

  3. It's Orwellian. These people are a disgrace.

  4. Yesterdays 'Belfast Telegraph' announced the promotion of Cheryl Lamont to acting director of the N.I probation service.
    Interestingly, it also noted that in this coming year aswell as focusing on corporate interests, the N.I service will be engaging with the public more to raise their awareness of the important role probation plays within the criminal justice system.
    It strikes me that since Graylings proposals for TR were announced, nothing what-so-ever has been done to raise public awareness with regard to the particular nature of probation work, its importance to the criminal justice system and its necessity to remain in the hands of state ownership.
    Even with the tabloid exposure of multi million pound frauds such as tagging and prisoner transport, (all parts of the criminal justice service), the disgraceful way that privately run prisons and immigration centres opperate, theres hardly been a peep (unless you read this blog) regarding the signifigant, specialised and important nature of probation service work.
    TR has I agree been covered in the press, but in my opinion only in a fashon that draws those interested in political issues.
    Much more of the nation will read articles regarding Jon Vennables then TR, and as an unfortunate consequence of that, notions of the signifigance of a state owned probation service, will by those disassociated with the CJS, be shaped and formed by momentary interest and not informed understanding.
    I feel to some extent that probation have become very isolated with regard to the TR struggle, and feel a lot more could have been done to raise awareness of the need to keep the service in the public sector.
    Whos to blame? Its not really the point. Maybe everyone could have done better.
    But I do think engaging with the public as seems to be on the N.I agenda for the coming year would have been very advantagous to the TR struggle.
    Hindsight however is a wonderful thing.

    Pleased you're ok Jim, thought you may have been thrown in the tower!

  5. Grayling has announced the site for a new super prison in north wales.
    4 prisons will also close down by march next year, Reading, Dorchester, Blunderston and Northallerton. Feltham YOI is also being replaced.
    Ever get the feeling that David Blunket somehow lost a few pieces of the criminal justice system jigsaw during his time at the home office, and somehow managed to put the remaining pieces into the wrong box?
    Check the box please Mr Grayling, I have an awful feeling you're constructing the puzzle with the wrong picture on the front.

  6. I know you've said moaning about the membership is arbitrary at this stage Jim, but 34% turnout, that's embarrassing. No wonder NAPO feel they have no option but to cut straight to the chase and negotiate redundancy terms.


  7. The feed back from the meeting on Monday appears to much of what Jim predicted. UPW, Programmes except TV SOGP, PSO,s and all PO,s with less than 2 years experience will go straight to the CFC.

    MAPPA, PPU, and Court Staff will remain in the NPS, all other staff will have to show an expression of interest, scored on a points basis.

    I fail to see how this is both fair and equal. Some will remain, others have no choice but to go, whilst those left will be thrown into the bear pit left to tear each other apart. It seems that we are all paid equal, and all trained equal, yet some officers through circumstance are deemed more equal than others. This therefore does not take into account training, experience, sickness, or competency, only role. The person who holds years of experience managing mostly MAPPA cases in a small generic team is not allowed to contest the PO just starting out on their MAPPA career, or the person directed to Court due to competency. They are also not allowed the playing field offered to those areas with all generic teams. The same would apply to PSO who finds themselves out of Court.

    If fair and equal is treating those who are the same differently, denying others opportunity and random chance or circumstance playing apart in the fate of an individual, then these proposals must be rejected, and NAPO should wonder why they thought to propose it. For shame.

    1. Am I right to presume that, after the split, each camp should only continue doing the work that defines its parameters for the new employer? But what if both 'companies' still co-locate? Could PO's that currently work generically (you remember, the gold standard of end to end offender management we turned ourselves inside out to put in place) end up being 'put upon' to continue helping out with work now allocated to the other side (as per recent example of Serco and LPT)? The perfect opportunity to bring TR to its knees, I reckon, if everyone only does work specific to where they end up -either the NPS or the Newco.

    2. Do you know it's a good point - I'd never thought co-location was ever possible or likely though. But, in this omnishambles, I suppose anything is possible.

  8. Any news on support staff in a non OM supporting roll ie. Admin Managers or Support Services at HQ depts?

  9. The despair above is clear - this will be reflected thousands of times as staff wonder why they are going one way or the other - perhaps believing the NPS is best ( Will it?). What is clear from the Omnishambles is that so far the process is London centric and has not yet got to the shires , as Jim has shown there is delays and set backs from the mandarins in MOJ - so if the willing are struggling with it , there is opportunity for all of us to put the proverbial spanner in the works ...Every decision must appealled, every timescale stretched , every decision questioned, take the fight out to local papers , highlight the farce on local radio. This fight can still be won. Challenge , appeal , collectively or individually - there is such a tight timescale that weeks will make a difference .....and WHATEVER you do , DO NOT turn on colleagues , in fighting will play into Graylings hands. Even as the service seperates there is still chance that it will be too unpalatable for some prime providers and who knows , there may be 21 CRCs without an owner!!!!

  10. When do the voluntary redundancies come into this process? I for one have had enough of this charade.

    1. As Churchill once said, never in the field of Probation work have so many thought of doing something else.

      Or something like that.

  11. As tough as times get, you cant help but smile a little when you open your paper and see another u-turn on the legal aid bill, and Graylings work programme coming under heavy fire once again!

    PbR isnt working anywhere else. Why should it work in probation.

  12. 34% is way above the 19.6 turnout that elected the curent general secretary, but below the 45% turnout that voted to strike over pensions in 2011.

    What did Napo do to get the vote out for the indicative ballot? Has Napo concluded that it's futile to resist to TR? How can they realistically consult the membership when crucial information is lacking?

    This is what Ian Lawrence wrote about the indicative ballot:

    'This follows the highly encouraging indicative ballot results from Napo and Unison where it is clear that there is overwhelming support amongst our respective memberships about embarking on Industrial Action. I never doubted this, (and word is that the outcome - without us telling Ministers what the healthy turnout was, has ruffled some feathers) but it's important in any campaign of this nature to feel the pulse and examine where our messages are getting through more strongly to some members than others, and for us to take steps to address the gaps.'

    Is this a Ealing Comedy or a Hammer Horror?

  13. "Paul says. "He's a bastard and what he's done is awful and I'd love to wring his neck."

    Sounds like Paul shouldn't be anywhere near him, and needs removing from the program asap (perhaps some kind of anger management intervention is in order as well).