Whilst I was on my sojourn to the wonderful city of Berlin and enjoying the very agreeable relaxed urban cafe lifestyle, many of you were hard at work as usual finding time amidst this omnishambles to write wise and thoughtful words of insight. Thank you all for keeping the blog going and here's a selection of contributions that particularly caught my eye.
We need a focused push on the main issues to alert the players that they are bidding for Pandora's Box. Only this time, we all know what is in it. Volunteer mentors are NOT going to replace trained Probation staff. It will never get off the ground because there are not enough committed, reliable and competent people available for FREE (it's so obvious, it is ridiculous). All but a tiny number of 'Old lags' will be at considerable risk from those they are supposed to mentor and the lay mentor will be an open target for 90% of the offenders they meet.
The skill set for managing a prisoner in a secure environment is of limited use in transferring to the managing offenders in the community where the absence of locks, keys, cameras, alarms, regimes etc means that the only resource available is the skills of the practitioner. My 24 years experience in this field leaves me fearful of the impact on staff of the work that will be expected of the existing staff. The idea that others will be entering this field in the long run with inadequate training and skills fills me with dread.
Community based Probation work is HARD! It is complex, demanding and profoundly nuanced and will not thrive against two dimensional target setting and simplistic performance measures. Meeting the contract specifications will not be enough to secure change and the risk of failure to businesses at every level is obvious to those of us already doing the job.
It is bad policy, badly implemented hastily and with arrogance and unconscious incompetence on the part of both NOMS management and the MoJ. Any businesses that see a profit in this are allowing themselves to be deluded by the sales pitch of the equally ill-informed.
This TR debacle will be one of those stories we read about for decades to come, along with the shaking of heads and comments like 'how did we let this happen? how did we let them get away with this?' We need our union to mobilise its resources to secure the support of those already willing to help - we can win because we are RIGHT. The privatisation of Probation is a mistake that will prove catastrophic. And quickly.
Happy May Day to all. We've been well & truly shafted, but many of us still have our integrity and humanitarian values intact. Those who have done the shafting will be variously unashamed, uncomfortable or unrepentant. They know who they are. Some will feel triumphant, some will be defensive, others avoidant. Leave them to stew in their own conscience. TR (the concept) is wrong and dangerous. TR the Chair has, I believe, made a poor call. But the conditions have been right for these things to happen - an unrestrained right wing government following the most right wing, self congratulatory Labour government ever known; and a dysfunctional napo structure that has mirrored that destructive self-centredness.
Don't be drawn into being abusive or losing integrity. Challenge, highlight the flaws, use this and any other outlet to expose and criticise, but please don't undermine your valid arguments with cheap shots. Once starved of the oxygen of publicity Chair TR's email will probably see him hoist by his own petard, and it may well haunt him for years to come.
We have a difficult and critical campaign we need to win - for our own sanity, for our professional integrity, for the work we do with our clients and for the safety and well-being of the public in England and Wales. Grayling's TR is a travesty of justice. Its a dangerous, myopic and deluded project forged out of ideology and greed. Focus, people, and kick TR into touch.
No its not just you, I am still holding all my high risk cases and doing PSR, attending oral hearings, doing parole reports and sentence plans for high risk clients. At our office in Manchester it feels like business as normal, only person that seems to be trying to get the TR thing going is the admin manager who is trying to split cases, do separate office duty rotas etc. But no one seems to have the time to help her in her grand plan and are carrying on as normal (its great).
Also I don't know if other services feel like Manchester there seems to be no staff its like the service has been deserted. Furthermore, it feels like everyone's gone quiet, its like the calm before the big storm on 1/6. I don't even know how they are going to manage the change we can't even agree to a separate office duty rota (which we are refusing to do because we state that we are all still one service until 1/6) never mind split the work. IT WILL BE TOTAL CHAOS, ONLY HOPE THAT IT WILL NOT HAVE AN IMPACT ON OUR CLIENTS.
"We've had to make some tough decisions" usual Grayling, Osbourne and Gove mantra - however, we know and our clients certainly know, "they ain't seen nothing yet". An earlier comment about the calm before the storm, I have felt much the same way....people assigned to different parts of the building, caseloads..almost separated out, and today...we are all treated to a free photography sitting; in order to get our new badges, because come 1.6.2014 the old one will be null and void.
It fills me with joy that all the i's have been dotted and t's crossed, just the small matter of job descriptions, duties and responsibilities; accountability, transparency and actually delivering a service, to hammer out in the next few weeks. I am with colleagues in Manchester, just carry on as normal and let all those with vested interests lose sleep.
Oh, nearly forgot, our Trust doesn't have enough CRC staff and have asked for volunteers, ............now, when you've stopped laughing, there is a serious point here. It involves non cooperation; don't volunteer, don't apply for those poisoned chalice jobs in HMP and certainly do not move your own work station, insist the lovely people from mitie/contractors do that.
We know the vast majority of serious further offences arise out of the low to medium risk of harm group - murder, rape, manslaughter, armed robbed etc. With a reduction in statutory contact under the CRCs (indeed if one to one contact is even going to continue as we know it) and if the use of volunteers is to extend - how are the 'risk indicators' to be picked up and managed - especially once skilled and disillusioned CRC staff unfortunately move on? And even if they are, a referral to NPS seems to me all about 'scores on the door' - a ridiculously tautological process and an utterly shameful waste of time and money.
For example, it seems än increase in drug use and police intelligence of aggressive
behaviour on the streets of an individual assessed originally as low risk would not pass through the iron gates of NPS. Now put a knife into the mix and you have a potentially serious outcome of life threatening injury or death. MoJ do not understand what they are doing. SFOs will increase. Bidders look into the stats. The current service isn't perfect but at least at the moment staff can take swift action to transfer cases where necessary without having to fill another form.
Things are not clear cut in this work - it's the light and shade of matters in the risk assessment process that will disappear over time once probation officers are gone (and in my opinion that's CG's sole aim he does not give a toss about victims or those who commit offences) crime, victims and serious further offences will increase.
I have had sight of 'CRC Contact Levels on Licence'.....
Low ROH & Low risk re-offending: Contact on day of release; no ISP required and contact levels to be determined by professional judgement. Contact can be with allocated OM or designated other.
Low ROH & Med risk re-offending: Contact on day of release + ISP within 20 working days. Contact levels: Fortnightly contact for 8 weeks, thereafter as determined by professional judgement. Contact can be with allocated OM or designated other;
Low ROH & High risk re-offending. Contact on day of release. ISP within 20 working days. Contact levels: Fortnightly contact for 8 weeks, thereafter as determined by professional judgement. Contact can be with allocated OM or designated other.
Med ROH & Low risk re-offending. Contact on day of release. ISP within 20 working days. Contact levels: Fortnightly contact for 8 weeks, thereafter as determined by professional judgement. Contact can be with allocated OM or designated other.
Med ROH & Med risk re-offending. Contact on day of release. ISP within 20 working days. Fortnightly contact for 8 weeks, monthly thereafter. Contact can be with allocated OMM or designated other.
Med ROH & High risk re-offending. Contact on day of release & ISP within 15 working days. Contact levels: weekly for 8 weeks, monthly thereafter. Contact can be with allocated OM or designated other.
Contact levels on all Community cases: as above however all inductions must be carried out within 5 working days.
The above demonstrates that yes, people will be put on 12 months supervision but the reality is that they may only be seen a handful of times, if that, and it's all at the OMs discretion.
interesting..... "designated other" = non qualified inexperienced cheaper staff
Err, nope, Doesn't have to be staff at all. Unpaid volunteers can be used. Read between the lines.... mentor... designated other... join the dots guys ;)
Or appointment with a drug worker, housing officer etc, etc will all constitute contact.
Indeed, I feel the 12mth and under group will have about as much supervision as they have now under TR. The only real difference is the threat of return to custody for breach of licence if caught reoffending. They'll have little more in this new world of Grayabilitation, than their present £46, which they'll have to pay towards their court costs. Utter shite.....
Oh my, who will then be accountable for the SFO's - the OM, obviously, for not seeing often enough, or not re-directing to NPS on first sight of increased risk, which of course, will only be visible with 20-20 hindsight. Still a crock of shite!
As we enter the most critical phase of TR, that of implementation, we must search our souls and reflect upon what we should be doing. My view, which I share with you here, is that this is the most important phase, that of resistance. I can not, in all conscience, endorse what is happening in my trust for reasons of public safety and for the service users for whom I may be the only one who can make a difference.
Regarding service users, I can see my availability for them reducing alarmingly. The mentality of "here is a work sheet, it is evidence of what work has been done, please ensure it is dated and recorded on the file". For sex offenders, but others too, time to discuss what is happening in their lives is critical to promote their self management but also to promote safety, I no longer have this time and neither do any of my colleagues. Previously I would have given at least 2 hours daily free to my employer (toil could not be taken because there already was no spare capacity to do so in my trust, it was altruism that motivated me to do a good job). So now, the only person that an offender could encounter for advice and guidance has been removed from their lives.
Regarding public safety, I honestly believe this is now compromised by the changes in probation service delivery and we will see a rise in victims. The crass disposal of the wonderful IOMS model in my area is simply a mistake. I had always felt that I served the community in which I work and was proud of this and felt my profession really made a difference. This too has gone and I actually feel alarm at the prospect of working within the new models which are not even fully developed yet but start on 01 June.
So what is to be done?
I will continue to work as directed as where there is no direction ( a real issue as manager colleagues know) I will not develop practice as this is not my role. I am taking leave over this period ( two weeks) and would suggest colleagues look at doing the same as a means of resistance, days or weeks it does not matter as it will all add up and put pressure on the delivery of TR within the already unrealistic timescales. Then of course the main annual leave period will start over the summer. Do not allow this to bed in first, put the pressure on now. I am also working within my allotted hours, it is making a difference.
My future has been removed from me Chris Grayling, the MOJ and NOMS. I was a loyal public servant and am now watching my honourable profession being destroyed. I refuse to be complicit in this and advise passive resistance as a laudable way forward.
Sadly those who ought to feel crap about this TR uberbollocks have no conscience, so cannot be guilt-tripped or otherwise 'touched' by comments here or elsewhere, or so it seems. If it becomes personal, close to home and the pain starts to cut through the facade, then they'll start to listen. Just look back at the brass neck Grayling had during the expenses fiasco. As a result of manipulating MPs expenses rules Grayling has profited personally to a significant degree (some say six figures, others say it crosses into seven figures), but there's no sense of guilt, shame or remorse. That's the level of pathological liar we have to reconcile ourselves to dealing with. He creates a reality, he believes its real, others have to cope with the consequences.
Its not a way of being I'd be proud of, and it mirrors the damaged and damaging behaviours of many on my caseload (ironically those he's paying me to work with - now there's a film script waiting to be written. Copyright 2014 to me). But for his own reasons Grayling thinks he's right, thinks he's invincible and thinks we're low value chips in his high stakes poker game.
I think that, like many MPs, he's a sad, deluded cock-on-a-stick who'd sell his mother, grandmother and/or children down the river if he thought it would raise his profile or advance his 'career'. I despise him for the pain and devastation he's imposing upon so many professionals, and upon so many others, but I also feel sorry for him.
Is that it, Chris? Is profiteering really your life's ambition? Fuck up a perfectly respectable profession (probation), rip apart the legal aid system for criminal and family matters, sell off everything to your mates for a song. And then you and your mates can parade your bank balances, dine in fancy restaurants, send your kids to posh schools, blah blah blah blah blah.