Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Trusts - Good Riddance?

With less than two months before Probation Trusts are abolished, one recent commentator speculates on how history might record their demise and whether we should lament their passing:- 

Was away yesterday so only just catching up. Cagney and Lacey !!!! Do they have any idea how offensive this is to staff ????? NO, because they don't care... bet they all laughed uproariously at that one! Utter bloody fools.......

Having reflected on where we are I actually do not see the existing trusts as worth preserving. Looking at my own area I see a management team utterly detached from its staff, with the first rule of management being identify only with only managers as this is now where your loyalty lies.

I have watched patronage flourish as the means of attainment and the promotion of people "like us". This restricts intellectual rigour and allows for little challenge of a Chief Executive in cases where virtually the whole staff body feel poor decisions are being made. It allows a Chief Executive to become despotic, when perhaps that was not the original aim. Staff then dare not speak out.

In my experience any sense of governance by a Trust Board is ill-conceived, look at the example of TR, where was dissent given how obvious the risks where from the very outset? Where was protection of the public or indeed protection of the staff who attain all targets sets for them and still manage to uphold probation values? Where were the clients in this utter capitulation? This is a system not worth saving.

I have seen managers resign from NAPO (not representative of managers needs, as they are no longer POs, really!) I no longer have any respect for managers in my trust at any level although, now all seems lost in terms of their careers, some are starting to speak up but sadly it really is too little too late.

I really believe that there is an argument for probation wholesale to become the NPS to promote more professional management. The sad truth is that those CRCs that may get through as staff mutuals are not what it says on the tin, but rather a continuance of the existing management structures with real risks in terms of the continuance of the business.

There is a strong argument for better governance of probation but the services we offer must remain a unified core for all clients, for the sake of the communities we serve and so that justice is delivered uniformly. NOMS is not the vehicle for this and has never delivered good governance for probation given the dominance of prison staff who understand containment but not rehabilitation where the risks move to the community.

So, when the primes fail to deliver, when SFOs create public dissent, when more and more clients move back to the NPS and stay there due to risk management, the government of the day will have no choice but to unify service delivery and take back into the NPS what should have moved across from the outset. Then, from a unified consistent core, with the confidence of partners in the criminal justice system such as police and courts, appropriate planning can be made.

As it stands, TR WILL FAIL.

Employing Trusts still have a duty of care towards staff, and yet this is going on:-

I have arrived home distraught about my behaviour today. I am a CDO and I can only describe today as fraught. I literally had to run along between courts trying to provide updates, takes results and explain to clients what their sentence entails and book first appointments. A warrant produced a problematic breach with little time to liaise with the OM about what was going on and I fear my lack of time to talk in detail must have sounded awful, but how to explain? The client was waiting in the dock already and the court is clearly losing patience with probation now.

I have always believed that it is the first interaction with court staff that starts the supervision process and relationship between clients. I couldn't answer the questions of one bewildered man and he became increasingly angry until security staff were called. This never would have arisen in the past and although I was able to prevent matters getting further out of hand, I feel very uncomfortable.

When I tried to explain to a colleague how I was feeling, she just shouted at me to get on with it and in effect, stop moaning. I have been in tears and do not want to go back. That's the reality of what we are becoming under the weight of this TR crap.

At the moment I feel exhausted, drained and to he honest destroyed by this job. As a CRC Officer, I'm being allocated more cases than I know what to do with, yet all my time is taken up with my NPS caseload and PSR's. I can barely face going into the office, I feel physically sick every morning, I'm not sleeping and am suffering from excruciating headaches. I don't feel well enough to be in work, but I'm too scared to see my GP. Being nowhere near retirement age VER is not an option. If I see my GP and am signed off will this be held against me by my future private sector employers? If there's a chance of moving into NPS, will a previous GP note go against me? All I can do is haul myself into work every day and pray it gets better.


Cagney and Lacey - where are you? 


  1. As a London P O I can advise you that our Chief has many fans and many napo members (self included) are upset at the way our branch keeps making personal attacks on her. She is someone who has pushed hard to get out to speak to staff, meets with service users, agreed we should use our professional title ( not o m) and asked us to stop calling clients/service users - offenders. I am sure many will respond to disagree with me - but probably the same people who criticised management for the same things. I also see probation crumbling at the moment and not coping - the blame for that lays with Grayling and the Government.

    1. I am a big fan of Heather Munro and I am certainly not against managers - there are many good ones in London some of whom are stalwart Napo members standing up for their staff and sticking to their principles. I think Heather is far too nice a person to be involved in the TR shambles that is clearly contrary to all she has ever stood for and it must therefore be agonising for her to see the organisation she has personally associated herself with being destroyed and to risk being ostracised by all and sundry and remembered as the person who presided over this mess without being able to say that they did their best to resist it.

      Many might say that it would be far better perhaps to resign and write your real thoughts in an article in Probation Journal (I'm sure the editor would be understanding ;-)) or The Guardian as one of her predecessors David Scott felt able to do sending a powerful message to the establishment that she was not prepared to collude with the demise of the probation service. The problem is though if she takes the golden handshake that is no doubt on offer to her she will have to sign a gagging clause. So it may be a choice between money and integrity.

      We know a lot about Heather as she has shared her personal life with her staff via her blog and many staff feel that they have little in common with her in terms of their daily struggles. There is no doubt that she may feel the pain of her staff and says that she empathises with their current predicament but actions do tend to speak a little louder than words.

      However there are some very practical things that are within her gift that she is not choosing to do and this makes some members of Napo quite angry when they see frivolous activities taking place where the same people are the very next working day involved in members of staff being disciplined for bringing the organisation into disrepute. The message to staff is clearly that they are above the constraints imposed by the organisation on others and are free to choose whether they want to move easily from one well paid post to another or retire with a generous enhanced package with an all expenses paid party.

      I do not blame Heather for what is happening but what would she have to lose if she joined with those who are against

  2. We're sitting in clover, resting on our laurels Jim. Its lovely here, occasionally we can hear the cries and bleats and wailing wafting up from the street, but all-in-all we're doing just fine up here in our ivory tower. Thank you for asking. Now if you don't mind we've some new lines to learn for our next TR-iffic performance.


    Cagney & Lacey.

  3. Looking at the process maps and guidance which is now emerging in my trust all i can say is oh dear. Like to see this recall process work in 24 hrs.

    the clear addition of further layer of bureaucracy is a major weakness.

    PPO medium risk cases managed by NPS if scoring 6.9 or more (which most ppo's will) seems to put those most in need of crc type intervention in the hands of nps officers who will automatically have to relegate them to the bottom of the pile due to their high risk cases taking precedence. This will drive the police mental as ppo's are their BIG concern. Shambles.

  4. Interesting - allegedly PPOs and IOMs are under threat as concepts in our CRC - its believed the argument is that ppo's are inherently a risk to profit and pbr, so the best way of dealing with them is force them into NPS-shaped criteria and pass them on, IOM will be disbanded and police left with catch-and-convict.

  5. Does the commentator work for Hertfordshire Probation Trust as the comments describe our situation since the formation of Trusts? A despotic CEO, senior managers obsessed with power, a probation board in the pocket of the CEO, middle managers with little ability or desire to challenge decision, powerless unions seeking CEO favour, staff too scared to speak up.

    Probation Trusts brought in the never-satisfied quest to meet targets, and other fanciful ideas, and increased the divide not just between staff and managers, but between the different staff groups. Probably the same situation up and down the country.

    With the end if Probation Trusts, now we see they had little purpose except to help drive in the plans of the MoJ to secure our demise. Now many of our plastic CEO's and directors have had their just desserts in being assigned to CRC's where they will sink or swim based on their performance. It won't be long until their true characters are revealed, and I feel sorry for my CRC colleagues forced to work under them.

    The NPS is the way forward out of this mess for probation, and would have been perfect if it were not for the splitting of offender management caseload.

    1. I'm surprised that anyone thinks that the NPS is a good way forward. From my perspective it brings services under more centralised control, and so further away from local needs and variations and more subject to political whim. I tend to agree with Paul Senior's view that the "soul" of probation will be with the CRCs - though I also think that soul is going to be pretty twisted and withered within a couple of years.

    2. Yeah, I think you are absolutely right. The problem with Trusts is they were set up to be more autonomous and competitive but MoJ/NOMS kept too much power at the centre to allow them to function properly in this way. The idea of Trust's was a good one, it's implementation useless (I mean, no means of keeping any surplus generated across tax years, wtf?). Some Trust's have made the best of a bad job, competed well and won plenty of large external contracts to deliver complimentary services (and helped plug NOMS' year end overspend with our efficiencies along the way). This is the irony of TR, the answer to more efficient, better services lies right beneath Grayling's nose in those Trusts that really took advantage of the very small freedoms they had to do more for less.

      I'm certain Grayling would rather sell off the whole lot as one concern but the idea that murderers and sex-offenders would be supervised by private sector was one he felt the public wouldn't stomach. The NPS will, no doubt, be outsourced though, probably at the next round of TR competition in 7-10 years, but I can imagine high performing CRC's being asked to trail run some of the NPS services during the lifetime of the current TR contracts.

      Anyway, fuck it...I'm off to the CRC, I'll see you NPS lot in five years or so...private sector can't be all bad... right? :-/

    3. I think many of the Trusts failed to appreciate the magnitude of the planned destruction of the probation service. My Trust (SSPT) adopted the naïve approach that Grayling was someone with whom one could negotiate and persuade (dissuade). Add to this a lame and hopeless leadership team, and a board which includes ex-private sector (SERCO et al) vested interest and defeat was inevitable. RIP probation, but God rot the Trusts.

  6. Further delays to TR are inevitable. It's in such a shambolic state, and the recent publicity created by strike action frim probation and laywers, critisisms from police forces, over crowding and rioting in prisons, protests by authors, actors and civil rights campaigners all serve to focus unwanted attention on Grayling and the MoJ.
    The Nigel Evans case has also now created a high profile headache for Grayling. Change the law again and risk being accused of looking after your Etonion fellowship? Leave things as they are and risk causing division or even revolt within your own party?
    Uncomfortable times at the MoJ for sure and they have to tread carefully to not attract anymore serious negative attention.
    But the european elections loom only weeks away, and on the back of those comes a cabinet reshuffle.
    Will Grayling be justice minister come June? I think maybe not and if not how will that delay TR?

  7. IOM just doesn't work in the context of TR. Ask any Trust and they will tell you. Our Trust is holding it together at the moment just keeping their fingers crossed that something will come up to enable them to make it work. It won't because it can't.

    1. Same as in mine.

      The Chief Constable was off on a right one last week when I informed her of our new 'working practices' and the fact that T4's will now be seen as/when, with her staff (Police) now having to pick up the majority of appointments. Suffice to say that her view of both TR and our Trust is very much jaundiced. Still, she cannot say she was not warned.

  8. Off topic, but interesting I think.


  9. The UK justice system will be modernised through a number of new digital services, Minister for Criminal Justice Damian Green has announced.

    He promised that by July 2016, every magistrates’ court in England and Wales will adopt videoconferencing and cloud storage solutions. Meanwhile, police officers will get access to online tools which should enable them to collect evidence using smartphones and tablets.

    The changes were unveiled as part of the Criminal Justice System Digital Business Model, published on Friday.

    Last year, the government announced the intention to completely transform courts in England and Wales. The changes are expected to cost £75 million a year, in addition to £44 million already earmarked for upgrades of IT infrastructure. On Friday, Green published more details about what exactly this money will be spent on.

    As part of the reforms, the Ministry of Justice will introduce Wi-Fi connectivity and digital presentation equipment into courtrooms across the country. Written evidence and legal submissions will be stored on secure central servers, and legal professionals will be able to access them on any device. In addition, prosecutors and defence lawyers will be allowed to use tablets and smartphones in court, instead of traditional paper files.

    Police officers will be equipped with new mobile tools, which will enable them to upload evidence and statements directly from the scene of the crime, without the need to return back to the police station.

    Meanwhile, defendants in custody will be able to participate in pre-trial hearings though a video link, eliminating the cost of transporting them to the court and back, and making the process more time-efficient.

    “I want to see a Criminal Justice System where information is captured once by a police officer responding to a crime and then flows through the system to the court stage without duplication or reworking,” said Green. “Many forces are already using digital technology like body-worn video, which can be used to collect compelling evidence at the scene of crimes.”

    The government claims that these changes will help victims and witnesses by increasing the speed with which cases proceed through the court.

    Bromley Magistrates’ Court, where Green made the announcement, will be the first in London to be equipped with new services. The ‘digital court’ concept had already been tested at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court since March 2013.

  10. TR is a two tier system. We know it can't work, and evidence is already emerging within the first week of operating the systems in out Trust that it's not just about refining the processes given, but that the processes won't work in any way. The PPO issue is a very interesting one, as all PPO staff in our Trust were sifted to CRC.
    So, NPS will have all MAPPA, most PPOs, large number of IOMs, High Risk, ALL reports (every single existing one, plus some new ones especially for TR), all Court and enforcement work, risk escalation decisions and takeovers, all prison secondments and all YOS secondments, public interest cases, approved premises. Clearly it isn't going to work. It's madness. CRC are left with interventions (UPW, Programmes and Skills4Work), low and medium risk cases and head office and back office functions. In our Trust the operational CRC functions have already been pared to the bone. It's only the 'back office', non frontline services which our Trust has sought to protect. So, although I'm not looking forward to TR and don't think it could work, or will happen as the govt want it to, I will certainly not be mourning the end of my Trust, and to be honest I don't want their head office led enterprise (sorry 'mutual') to win the contract for our CPA - an existing outsourcer would protect the frontline better. And I think that will be the obituary for the Trusts - "should have thought about services, could have done better".
    However, unlike others on this blog, I am full of admiration for the SPOs in my office. They are in an invidious situation and doing exceptionally in such difficult circumstances. There is little wrong with the front line, only hat we have to work with terrible systems - OASys & NDelius - the systems that made us so inefficient, and remember the creation of these came from the same people who lead our Trusts.

    1. Ha! You lucky town dwellers! In the rural area I work in, there is still very little mobile coverage and broadband hasn't made it to the villages. It's not unusual for a client to rock up on a horse here, bare backed and bare chested. Seriously.

  11. IT never speeds anything up. It's like a baby cuckoo that just needs feeding until it doesn't need you any more.

  12. I am the author of the post quoted by Jim today and I do not work for either London or Hertfordshire PT, but there speculation should end because in my Trust I would be disciplined for that post for "bringing the Trust into disrepute".Sad but true.
    Perhaps the acid test of governance in each Trust should be how many Grievances were actually won ? I can not think of a single one in my Trust and on the balance of probability and the principles of natural justice that can not be right, surely? Go on, ask the question......

    1. The trusts have brought probation into disrepute by supporting and sanctioning TR-they know that it wont work yet press on regardless

    2. Most trusts have had such a low public profile during their time that there's not a lot of repute to dis.

  13. In some areas grievances weren't even heard never mind won!!!

  14. not just TR grievances, in my Trust not a single grievance has EVER been upheld that I know of.

  15. My grievance has been partly upheld, I go before a panel soon.


    1. Is that a grievance or an appeal against allocation?

  16. Got into work at 8.50am. Saw 12 cases today - 5 newly allocated inductions (3 of which I wasn't even aware of until they arrived because newly devised system didn't allow for notification of sentences out of area), 6 existing cases who I had to see to break the TR transfer news to, and 1 duty call. Also had to squeeeeze in a hurried oasys for an emergency transfer, complete a written witness statement regarding a police investigation, deal with an inbox of 75 overnight emails (mainly crap), wrestle with delius to try & input what had happened that day - plus I spent 45 mins of my lunch hour with IT support trying to locate an oasys that it turns out never existed. Got home at 7.45pm, fell asleep within minutes. Just woke up after dreaming about work. Haven't seen or exchanged a single word with partner this evening - I'm just about to tiptoe into the box room so I don't wake them.

    TR has fucked up everything, even the simple existing and very basic allocation of cases, because some daft *#%$ has decided they have to redesign everything to meet the TR brand. "Fit for purpose" was one of those bullshit made up phrases of the 90's used to excuse poorly designed, expensive packages. Then we had "it'll do" solution-focused ideas. Now we seem to have "make it work regardless, stupid".

    TR is just crass stupidity. Its been an oft- used analogy, the emperor is bollock naked yet everyone is fawning over the platinum threads in the finest golden weave. Meantime the charlatans, the snake oil salesmen and the corrupt are filling their pockets. Those who should have raised the alarum, i.e. The Trusts, have been guilty of dereliction of duty.

    Time for bed said Zebedee.

  17. Bidders take note - at £15/hour I'm a cheap, experienced and highly trained therapeutic interventionist who works with some of society's more complex individuals, but at £15/hour I'm an expensive, untrained and barely competent data inputter. What do you want me to do for £15/hour?

  18. Self-seeking, self-serving, greedy, corrupt, dishonest, wilfully blind, destructive, manipulative, ignorant, oppressive, morally bankrupt bloody politicians who have absolutely NO IDEA of the mess we are in.