Goodbye Probation Trusts
I wanted to write this blog ahead of June 2nd, which will mark my first day working for the new National Probation Service.
I am deeply saddened to be writing this blog and to the end of the Probation Trusts. I currently work for a very high performing trust and although I have not always agreed with the direction the trust has gone and the leaders selected to lead us, I have felt a sense of belonging and I am proud to work for my trust.
I remember my first day working for Probation. 21 years old, straight out of University and thrown into an Approved Premises. I was chucked in at the deep end but it was the best learning experience I could have ever wished for. I am constantly asked on twitter from people who want to work for Probation "where do I start?". I always tell them to try and get into an Approved Premises.
Anyway, aged 21 I never envisaged becoming a Probation Officer, I never really fully understood what they did but from working closely with them in the AP, I soon realised that this is something I wanted to be doing - it felt right.
I was encouraged by my senior at the time to give it a go and apply to become a Trainee Probation Officer. Many applied and I never expected to get through, but to my amazement I did. The two year degree course and learning 'on the job' was the best two years experience I could have ever wished for. I was primarily based in two large offices with placements in Prison, Courts, Unpaid Work units and back in the AP. I was mentored by some truly gifted and well respected Probation Officers who I learnt a lot from - mainly to never forget that 'offenders' are people first.
The two years training course went by so quickly and I was offered a full time Probation Officer contract. I have never looked back since. I have had a few different responsibilities as a PO and enjoyed every one of them (I don't want to go into to much detail as I still want to retain my anonymity). What I have enjoyed most is the camaraderie of staff. I work in a lovely office (management may not agree - we are a difficult bunch to manage!) which is one of the biggest in my trust. We have a very eclectic bunch of staff which I see as a positive. We look out for each other and I know if I am every struggling, one of my colleagues will help me. They are all very talented people and I know that the majority of the work they do with clients is never acknowledged or even spoken about - but it is incredible.
The other main reason I do what I do is because of my clients and for the sake of the local community. I have worked with some of the most dangerous people you could imagine but thankfully they are few and far between. Mostly we work with people who have made poor decisions and who just need some help and support and a gentle push in the right direction. I believe that doing this job makes a difference, not only in the lives of the clients we work with but also victims.
Those of you who follow me closely on twitter will know that I have been very close to leaving Probation. I do not agree with the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda and I don't see any benefit from it. Dividing an awarding winning service who the Ministry of Justice itself rates every Probation Trust as either good or excellent, will only cause chaos and harm. I don't want to say to much on this, there are masses of opinions out there on this topic (I just wish Grayling would listen to them!).
What I do want to say is that we cant forget we still have a job to do, regardless of being allocated to the National Probation Service (NPS) or the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). I'm not suggesting that we roll over and help the Government with the destruction of the service, but we have a responsibility to carry on with the values and ethos of what we hold so dear.
Like every single one of us, I am going to a new organisation; I have been allocated to the NPS. Whilst I was fortunate enough to get my preference, this still fills me with some concern. I don't necessarily wish to become a Civil Servant or be responsible for a caseload of purely high risk clients. What I will do though is make the best of this situation and take everything that is offered to me.
So as this coming week marks the last one working for Probation Trusts, I just wanted to wish you all well. Remember to stick together; the Government have sought to divide us but we don't have to allow that to happen. Regardless of NPS or CRC we are all still colleagues and friends first and I hope that we never forget this.
(Note - by a strange twist of fate, if things continue as they have been doing, this blog will reach another significant landmark with 1 million hits at or roundabout the demise of Probation Trusts and emergence butterfly-like of NPS and CRC's on June 1st)