Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Memo to Ministers

I really don't know what to say following the debate in the House of Commons yesterday, so I'll just let some of the comments speak for themselves:-

I have to say that my intention is to walk away if this omnishambles goes ahead. I will not work for either a CRC or the new NPS. I think they are a disaster waiting to happen and frankly I would rather be unemployed.

I'm thinking along similar lines. I think the new NPS looks appalling - constant work with high risk leading to burn out, conveyor belt of PSRs and risk assessments on people you'll see once if you're lucky, and enforcement on cases you've never worked with.

I've been a PO nearly 10 years, and for over half that time was in a PPU. I changed to do programmes, and so in the 'qualifying period' for the NPS I've had little MAPPA 2 experience. So I can see myself sifted into a CRC. In a way I think that might be a lucky escape. But as soon as it becomes financially viable I'll be jumping ship into something else.

With 30% of whats there now spread across England and Wales, carrying out ALL offender risk assessments (which will always be wrong when a private sector punter messes up),
"I only work with him, and his risk must have been a lot higher then the NPS led me to believe", supervising the most high risk offenders etc etc......
The NPS (or rather those who work within it), are going to become the real whipping boys in this tragic fiasco.

I love being a probation officer and am really proud to tell people that's what I do. Now? I too just want to get out before, God forbid, the SFO's start reigning down.
I am watching BBC Parliament and can not believe the drivel "centre piece rehabilitation" yup that's what David Burrowes just described PbR as......

let the nightmare begin

I've been a PO for around 12 years, and I really have gave it 100% the majority of the time, always trying to do what is best, not just for my clients, but also for the wider community and victims. Like many others I neither wish to work for the NPS nor CRC's, both having major drawbacks and very little (if any) positives. Having just watched the debate, the defeat and understanding of what is most likely going to happen to our profession, of which many of us have gave so much, I've come to the conclusion that the best way to approach any future work is by simply following this mantra; fuck it, that will do.

Who cares when no one cares?

I am so saddened that probation will now be all about profit. It can't be happening, except it now really is. It's just time now. Big corporations have won the day and the public, of which we ourselves are members, have lost. As a mum, I am terrified of the future. As a PSO I now have to leave my job which I care deeply about or work for a CRC. Very sad day.

I'll be discussing my career with our ETE advisor tomorrow & signing up for a plumbing course. Or bricklaying. Or shelf-stacking. Or forklift truck operating. Or dumper truck driving.

Risk assessment - now a paper exercise only. No opportunity to review an early assessment following meeting with an actual individual - body language, attitudes, info disclosed etc. I can understand CG and his mates not getting it. But being let down by those who DO know better by being led willingly into the dark by this 'government' - that I do not understand at all. After 15 years enough is enough. I will leave a job I have believed in rather than witness things descend into farce first hand.

I watched and listened last night too - it beggars belief that all the hard work, all the insightful comments/speeches made from the opposition benches, were duly ignored, misconstrued and packaged up by the Government spokes people and that insipid Lorely Burt, for party political dogma and childish point scoring. It is truly a sad time for the country being led by such a blinkered, and uninformed Government.

I too feel like the contributor before me, but I am also keen to stick around to do what I can to limit the damage.


  1. Its enough to make you sick.


    1. Two of the country’s biggest private contractors paid no corporation tax in Britain last year, despite carrying out billions of pounds of taxpayer funded work for the Government, an official audit has found.
      A report by the National Audit Office, published today, disclosed for the first time how much Government work is now outsourced to the private sector.
      It found that the four biggest suppliers - Atos, Capita, G4S and Serco - carried out £6.6billion-worth of work for the public sector and central Government last year.
      Yet two of them – Atos and G4S which carried out £2billion-worth for work for the Government and public sector – paid no corporation tax at all in the UK in 2012. Capita paid between £50million and £56million, while Serco paid £25million in tax.
      Atos and G4S were criticised by Margaret Hodge MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee.
      She said: “Everyone has a duty to pay their fair share in tax, but there is something particularly galling about the idea of company who gets its income from the public purse not putting its rightful contribution back in.
      “Of course, we don’t actually know how much profit Atos and G4S made in the UK last year because this remains an area where there is a total lack of transparency.
      “We need to lift that veil of secrecy – and again, that duty of transparency should apply particularly to those who derive their income from taxpayers’ money.”

  2. http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24901566

    1. Ministers must ensure openness over the performance of private contractors or face a "crisis of confidence", the National Audit Office has warned.

      Firms such as Serco, Capita, G4S and Atos were being paid hundreds of millions of pounds each year, it said.

      But the spending watchdog called for more punishments - such as fines and exclusions from future contracts - where "problems" were reported.

      The government said it was working to create better value for money.

      The National Audit Office (NAO) has published two reports looking at major public service contracts.

      It said Serco's were worth £1.8bn, including £611m with the Ministry of Defence and £382m with local government.

      Capita's totalled £1.08bn, while those for G4S and Atos were £718m and £683m respectively.

      'Political fallout'

      The NAO said the Cabinet Office, which oversees much of central government, often lacked "commercial experience and expertise below senior levels", and information on its 40 strategic suppliers was "inconsistent and incomplete".

      The public sector profit margins for Serco appeared to be between 0% and 9%, between 1% and 10% for Capita, and between 3% and 22% for Atos.

  3. I'm shocked at the lack of coverage given to yesterdays debate by todays press. It's almost as if nothing happened at all.
    I do however believe that the Omnishambles TR Express bound for Whitehall is now traveling at such breakneck speed that it can only crash.

  4. I agree with the comment regarding the 30% remaining in the NPS being the ones that will carry the can for all the cock ups made by the private sector. However, does anyone know how that 30% will be deployed nationwide?

  5. So NAPO tell us at less than a weeks notice to work to rule from 14th and that guidance will be issued 12th. So where is it NAPO? Not good.

  6. MOJ Offender Engagement Research Bulletin, Making Offender Assessment Meaningful, the three key strands for practitioners are; holistic and individualised assessment and intervention plans: engagement and motivation of offenders to comply and change: and using a 'strength' based approach to achieve more positive outcomes. So how will that work post PbR then ?

  7. Ex Po 1979-96 here... got to act up in management sometimes... and this post won't encourage anyone.

    No-one actually knows what we do. That's the problem. A minority of Labour MPs say they do (its expedient for them... right now...) and a lot of Lib Dems do too (but they don't vote that way (its not expedient,right now and they are to scared to stand up for anything/to anyone). If someone said that nurses were being removed from hospitals and replaced by WRVS volunteers with a passing interest in First Aid there would be a riot. It's the same thing happening here though. However, in this equation it is offenders (not patients) and no-one thinks they could ever be an offender (though everyone accepts they could be a patient). Most people don't identify with the "offender managers"(ugh) or the service users (more ugh, they are clients). See? If you doubt the veracity of my point about public perception, ask yourself a question; tell me a probation officer joke. Go on, I dare you. "A vicar, an artist and a probation officer walk into a bar".... Google it. You won't find a thing. Why not? Because most people know what a vicar does (oh, I know-I used to be one). Most people know what an artist does (I am one, part-time.) But just about no-one knows what a Probation Officer does. That's the issue. Ex PO here. 11 O levels, 3 top grade A levels, a Law degree, and a CQSW, and nearly 20 years dealing with high risk offenders. Now I drive a van. Van driver? Yep, people know what that is.... QED...

    Cheers NAPO. Cheers senior management. In fact, well done every bl**dy man/woman Jack/Jill of us. We have successfully kept the public bemused about what we do; now they are bemused as to why it matters that we won't be doing it any more.

    Nice one everyone. Now where are the keys to the truck? I have to go to work...

    1. PS Before anyone asks about the dates, (96 was, lets be fair, a while ago) I chose to step out in '96 after 17 years graft to do something vocational, and after a long happy break decided to try to come back 12 months ago... then realised what was happening. Hence the 'head of steam'...

    2. I agree entirely! But who do we blame? Who's fault is it?

      "We have successfully kept the public bemused about what we do; now they are bemused as to why it matters that we won't be doing it any more."

      Are you saying we deliberately set out to bemuse the public? I used to give loads of talks to groups of professionals and the public, had police and prison officers on exchanges, had youth work students on placements etc etc.

      This blog started out as a mission to explain - but as you say, public ignorance is legendary. I'll be honest - I blame the absence of a decent TV drama series. There's been loads of media people expressing interest - but zilch!

      When you get back in from work, can you say who you'd blame?



    3. Jim. you ask "But who do we blame? Who's fault is it?"

      As a PO I used to work with clients to see the difference between "blame", "fault" and "responsibility". Responsibility is a much more useful word, as it means we can take our share of credit for doing well, in addition to accepting where we got it wrong, Facing clients with 'responsibility' was always more effective than blaming...

      So please let me amend the question: who is responsible? Me. You. All of us. I gave talks too, had magistrates and judges on placements, etc etc etc. But we all MASSIVELY underestimated the task of public education.

      Linguists say that there is only one word known in every language on nearth. Its not 'mamma' or 'dadda', or anything so basic.

      It is 'Coca-Cola".... Yes, really. Given this, we might think that the makers have no more need to advertise. After all, they have reached every single person on earth. But they spend untold millions of their money advertising, promoting and pushing their message. This is what we didn't learn. We needed several TV series, (not just that awful 'Hard Cases' blip in the 80's) and much more. We needed to be in the public's face almost constantly, and we weren't. Public meetings were usually attended by the already converted, and we din't project the reality.

      So who do we blame? Who's fault is it?
      Mine, my colleagues, ours. Our managers. Our service organisations. Napo. The collective entity that was the 20th Century Probation Service.

      We are the victim of our own unassuming collective modesty.

    4. Thank you for highlighting my intemperate use of language, but it's a sign of how pissed off I'm getting. In truth I'm very angry and I do feel like blaming someone - a scapegoat would be very handy right now - but I do agree with what you say in my more controlled moments.



  8. Our problem is that in order to achieve our outcome, which is, of itself, the ABSENCE of a thing ( re-offending), we have to deliver a needs led service tailored to the individual and based on complex and dynamic psychological factors. We maintain professional confidentiality and our customers, at their best, would prefer to remain anonymous.

    To be blunt, I did not become PO to bemuse or educate the public snymore than a dentist trains to tap dance. Leave us alone to fo the job we have evidenced our ability to do well. Isn't that enough?

    1. Ok point taken - it's just that public ignorance has allowed the bloody politicians to get away with it.

  9. It is with great sadness and regret that we announce the sinking of HMS Probation, one of the country's least known yet greatest assets, and the possible loss of many of her dedicated crew. At approximately 10.16pm, 11 November 2013, it was confirmed that the rogue Captain Grayling had scuttled HMS Probation in the stormy seas. It is reported that many of the crew were preparing to remain at their quarters, regardless of the dangerous waters, but Grayling had instructed his officers to refuse any and all access to workstations, leaving the stricken vessel to its fate.

    Indeed, some survivors reported seeing Grayling leaving the ship in his finery as the charges were being primed, claiming he had a pre-arranged meeting with a Vice-Admiral. In his absence, a situation which will inevitably be remembered as a deeply cowardly act, the remaining officers loyal to Grayling ensured the successful scuttling of the ship by pulling the plug completely.

    We have it on good authority that numerous souls have made their way ashore with vengeance in their hearts. Curses and oaths have been heard across the land.

    Grayling & his rogue officers are believed to be sheltering somewhere just up the Thames, whilst a Committee hastily examines their actions.

    There are many cries levelling accusations of piracy, cowardice and treason at Grayling and his officers; the latter because HMS Probation was a Crown property. Whispers reaching this office are of calls for the association between the treacherous Grayling and alleged pirate accomplices - named to us as Sir Coe & Geefor Ess - to be publicly exposed, with a suspicion that they have waylaid the Crown gold and stored it offshore.

    They may hang yet. God Bless HMS Probation.

    1. Ok - we have a naval theme developing here and an RAF theme over on the Napo forum -


      "Wing Commander Grayling has one engine feathered and another is blowing oil. Not sure his crate will reach the April coast before having to ditch in the drink. Should we guide him to a soft landing? OverI"

      I guess it might be time to dust off that of the army - you know, trenches, dugouts, shells, assaults, retrenchment, taking cover......

    2. careful what you wish for, Jim

  10. http://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/10801415.Report_warns_dangerous_offenders_could_potentially_have_t/

    1. THE NORTHERN Echo has learnt that offenders who posed a high risk to the public could potentially have to meet with probation supervisors in public buildings such as leisure centres if probation reforms go ahead.

      Under the Justice Secretary’s proposals to part-privatise the probation service – which are being debated as part of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill today (Monday, November 11) – the supervision of low and medium risk offenders will be supervised by a mix of private firms, charities and voluntary groups.

      The supervision of high risk offenders would remain in public hands, being transferred to a smaller, centralised, national probation service.

      The Northern Echo has been told that the Ministry of Justice’s own Risk Register, a risk assessment of the proposal, warned the changes could potentially result in offenders convicted of serious sex offences or violent crime having to visit probation staff in public buildings such as leisure centres and libraries.

      It warned that the new national probation service would almost certainly have to close offices, meaning it was likely that offenders who posed a risk to the public would have to attend appointments with supervisors out in the community as there would no longer be enough designated probation buildings.

      Speaking to The Northern Echo, Ian Lawrence, general secretary of the probation services union, NAPO, said: “High risk offenders who have been managed by probation staff will be expected to meet their probation officers in community-type offices such as leisure centres, as there wouldn’t be offices for high risk offenders to report to.

      “So we could have sex offenders hanging around a leisure centre or library or swimming pool, waiting to meet their probation officer in an anteroom somewhere. Plus, we wouldn’t have the right number of officers in the right place to manage these people.”

      Under the proposals, the management of low and medium risk offenders will be taken over by private companies. Those bidding for the contracts include G4S and Serco.

      But NAPO has warned that many of the Probation Service’s offices in the region, such as Stokesley, Newton Aycliffe, Bishop Auckland, Middlesborough, Durham and Northallerton could close as many of those bidding are proposing to centralise services in order to make them profitable.

      Liz Askins, Durham Tees Valley NAPO coordinator, said without seeing clients face-to-face it would be extremely difficult to prevent offending: “A lot of this work will have to be done from call centres, so we will not be able to work with them face-to-face.

      “Our work involves building up a relationship with that person so we can challenge their thinking and behaviour. It’s work based on theory and experience and practice.

      “If I’m speaking to a client on a phone, how would I know if they were suicidal, or had a black eye, or were drunk? We wouldn’t be able to smell the alcohol.

      “We’re absolutely petrified at the risk to the public because we fell there will be preventable crimes, preventable victims and possibly preventable deaths.”

      Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "We currently have a situation where each year thousands of crimes are being committed by offenders who have already broken the law.

      "It is little surprise when those on short sentences walk out the prison gates with little or no support. Unsupervised, some of them are going on to commit some of the most horrible crimes, with innocent victims paying the price.

      "We have to stop this depressing merry-go-round of crime, offending and reoffending."