Regular readers will be aware that the blog has recently attracted the attention of some critics or apologists even for Grayling's TR omnishambles. Naturally there's a suspicion that some of it may be deliberate mischief-making by agents involved in the rapidly-evolving TR industry, but of course there's nothing wrong with genuine debate. I've hardly ever had cause to reach for the delete button, unlike the Napo Forum.
Things were kicked-off by a comment from Jackart, a very popular and successful blogger who has in the past done me the honour of quoting positively from this blog. Before we get to what he said, I guess it would be helpful to know where he is coming from:-
Jackart is a 30-something stockbroker whose main interests are Rugby, cricket and being rude to Lefties. Being a Libertarian, he loathes all impositions of state and bureaucracy. The blog was started as a way to let off steam, and remains a way to let off steam, otherwise his head would explode in rage at the sheer mendacious idiocy seen all around. Jackart has been posting here since 2005.
This is what he said, followed by some responses:-
You have some interesting stuff to say. The problem is I stop reading at "Omnishambles". You sound like the perma-outraged public-sector who hasn't worked out that after a decade of tax-and-spend, the money has run out.
You're right, the money has ran out. The question that needs asking is what can be cut further without running the risk of compromising public safety? One thing is sure is that it won't be the profits of the private companies as that makes poor business sense.
What does that leave. If a company can do a job cheaper than the Government and STILL make a profit you have to ask why and how they will do this.
Still, it's not as if there are going to be any other victims apart from us poor Probation Officers!
Probation folk are so 'outraged' that they carry on working positively with folk who have often been failed by society and consequently in turn do much harm to society.
In another age such people would have been exiled or exterminated - but what the core spirit of probation recognises is that we mostly - all have potential for good and bad behaviour and the experience of our predecessors taught us that determined, skilled, and persistent intervention can suppress the bad behaviour and stimulate the good behaviour.
Such work is demanding and frustrating - we rarely 'see' our successes, over a long period, but such is the response we get from folk - we know what we do can work.
It is cheaper than the alternative for our modern age of prison, but frequently needs using in combination with forced detention.
It is an operation that relies on building relationships, an activity that is frustrated by putting in loads of formalised processes, where the subjects of our attention - often aggrieved and angry, though they come to the attention of probation people, when they have been caught doing bad, need the best possible communication from the state, that recognises their basic humanness and potential. What is proposed by the Government does the opposite - we are admittedly trying to protect our jobs - but also to protect the public as when Grayling's plan fails - which it will - there will be much greater costs - both financially, in terms of criminal investigations, processing and ultimately imprisonment - let alone the costs that more victims of crime will experience as well as the secondary victims - family members of the criminals, especially their children.
If you add into the mix that many criminals have hidden neurological disabilities, like dyslexia and autistic spectrum conditions, as well as being mentally ill (sometimes a reaction to not fitting into society, as it is) and that they self medicate with illegally obtained drugs and/or legally available alcohol, it perhaps begins to become apparent that just catching, processing and punishing (by incarceration) criminals, is unlikely to bring about improved behaviour.
The number of probation workers are much less than the total involved in prisons, police and the courts and legal systems. By destroying the system of probation that has developed incrementally since about the 1870s, the public are going to get a very bad deal.
There must be some means of drawing an analogy between investment banking and probation? Is there a particular broking skill in investing in what others have written off or regard as rubbish such that there's a recovery and reward? Here goes nothing, maybe crass, but at least an attempt. It might help?
Probation involves the investment and application of professional and innate skills and knowledge in those who society have generally written off or regard as worthless. It demands skillful and careful reading of what investment is required, how the "commodity" is developing, and with a target outcome, i.e. some form of improvement or recovery from a downward trend. It is rarely possible to quantify the value of the investment of time, emotion and commitment.
The most successful 'brokers' never see any return on their investment, i.e. the 'commodity' never comes back on the radar. All that tomorrow brings is another portfolio of undervalued, discarded examples requiring similar levels of investment. There's no celebratory case of Bolli' or cash bonus. Its a relentless and tough gig on a salary scale between £25k to £35k when every day involves immersion in others' sadness, misery, despair or delusion. So much so that there's often not enough space for our own emotional lives, which takes its own toll.
The public money has generally been stolen by overpaid bureau-rats or syphoned off by unscrupulous, exploitative gits. Probation has never been an expensive public service until the 2000's, when a political empire began - NOMS. It is the numerous highly paid, self-serving civil servants brown-nosing around the ambitious politicians whose tax and spend policies have cost us our profession.
I'm so annoyed at things I don't know if I'm making sense anymore.
That's cool. Jackart - did it make sense to you? As an investment banker you'll perhaps have a different take? As a brother or sister surfer there must be a beating heart in there? If I take a stereotypical approach, you might make £25k in a week? Or a month? You might have all the cool things, i-this, i-that? But if you can sit for hours waiting, watching, then you'll know the beauty of little things, of the subtlest of movements. That's my place of work - where the joys of little things are, where in a single moment of realisation for one person the greatest change can be achieved. It might be one word, one phrase, one completed worksheet about emotional congruity. One wave, one tube, that one ride.
Ah, the swivel eyed loons of the reactionary right are here! Yet more dreary old right wing bigotry and fetishising of wealth masquerading as 'libertarianism'. And this one is what? An 'investment banker'? Now supposing this is truth rather than feeble aspirational guff well what a wizard wheeze to be told that 'the money has run out' by one of the scumbags who take it all and think they've achieved something!
Yesterday there was comment about the misuse of public funds and cost of public services. Look at this link.
Equally, think about the public/taxpayer costs associated with MPs expenses, prosecuting liars and cheats (Mr Huhne et al), special advisors, MPs family members' benefits, cash incentives in the form of PRP - including the alleged cash bonuses for Trust managers to get TR up and running regardless of the impact upon staff. Nice little nest-eggs for those also due 67 weeks' tax-lite pay pre-retirement.
So no, in principle most of the Probation Service does not cost the public much when compared to the invaluable intervention provided at cut-price rates. The costs are, as stated by t'other post, primarily NOMS staff on twice or three times a PO salary plus benefits, the artificial means by which rents for probation estates are nationally calculated at London City rates per sq.ft, and the pointless yet relentless publication of useless, expensive vanity documents, or regular seminars & conferences & buying of crap training packages and £Millions on IT that doesn't work and is quietly scrapped.
So, Jackart and others out there, please don't believe the hype about public sector WORKERS costing the taxpayer a fortune. Look closer to realise its the upper echelons of mismanagement filling their boots, layering their empires with innumerable strata of management to complete the smoke and mirrors. NHS is an excellent example - too many 'managers', not enough practitioners. And now the GPs are filling their boots on six figure salaries - that's the next scandal for health.
The faux corporate identity sits so uneasily with Probation workers because that is not what we are about. The irony is these faux executives wouldn't last two minutes in the world of 'proper' privatisation (ie a genuine product or service to sell in a context of customer choice). We have just had the lastest found of 'vanity' marketing for distribution to other agencies which contains factual errors. The whole situation is shabby and would be laughable if the inevitable consequences weren't so serious.