Wednesday, 30 July 2014

An Appeal



We clearly have a problem. For months and months, with the help of thousands of probation professionals, we've been cataloguing and collating the mounting evidence as to the scale and scope of the dangerous TR omnishambles that is destroying our service and profession, and the effect it's having on the criminal justice system, our clients and the public. 

Hundreds of staff have left in despair, hundreds more are on long term sick, cases go unallocated, emails go missing, IT systems collapse and now at least one woman has been murdered - all because of Chris Grayling's refusal to admit that TR is an unmitigated disaster and should at least have been rolled out slowly, road-tested first.

The problem is that nothing so far seems to have had the slightest effect in bringing home the seriousness of the situation to our elected representatives or the public. Apart from some notable exceptions, the mainstream media do not seem to feel there is enough of a story here. This shouldn't surprise us that much because the general public never really knew what we did anyway and the media have always had the greatest difficulty in portraying us in any meaningful way, especially in drama. We really do appear to be up shit creek on our own.

August is just around the corner, the time of year universally known by journalists as the 'silly season' because 'news' is normally in short supply. But this creates an opportunity for us to get some headlines and grab some airtime. There is a very well-known TV news programme that is interested in doing a piece about our situation, but we need people to come forward with those horror stories we all know about and ideally be willing to go public on.  We need named CRCs and specific NPS offices where it's all falling apart, risky things are happening and tragedies occurring. 

This is a very big ask indeed given the climate of fear Grayling has instigated across NPS and CRCs, but depending on the circumstances and the nature of the information, my guess is that anonymity may be the only way to proceed in order to get the stories out. Unless we ask, give it a try and see what comes in, we won't know.

I suspect Joanna Hughes is not the only one who is simply not prepared to roll over and see a service and profession destroyed before our very eyes without first having tried absolutely every avenue to try and halt it. If you agree and know something and want to try and help, then contact this blog using the email address on the profile page, anonymously if you prefer. We've got to do something and there can be real strength in numbers and sheer weight of evidence.

jimbrown51@virginmedia.com    

PS I can't resist mentioning the latest blog post by the supremely smug and self-serving Sir Stephen Bubb - at long last it seems to have attracted the attention it so richly deserves!  

38 comments:

  1. As a Manager in NPS I have been asked repeatedly what is happening ref Trainees, SDOs and IV, response nil other than there will be Regional Training provision, details still to be confirmed. My staff still do not know who they will be reporting to, whether they will have a choice to accept new arrangements ie currently split post, part PSO/part SDO, at what point will they be consulted on their role changing? There is reference to new Trainees currently being recruited for Autumn start who will be seconded in CRCs, no one has a clue how this will work; what a nightmare for any new recruit being placed in the current fractured services! I now find my staff have been invited to Regional Training meeting planning the provisions yet no one has decency to inform me as Line Manager or even my Line Director. What a shambles! I recall something about Regional Training provision being dismantled in recent years and staff feeling let down by NAPO at that time, does this ring any bells?

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  2. Mike McClelland a Nationsl Offivial wrote a summary of training issues in Napo News found online at Nspo website.Its clear Napo object to the current mess. If you need furthrr advice./update and are a member ask your Branch Chair to ask him for an update or send him an email mmcclelland@napo.org.uk . He is a very sound and hardworking Official. Shambles sounds about right but all these TR related issues cannot be attributed to Napo.If you have ever met Chris Grayling or his MoJ reps you'll know they are arrogantly dismissive of professional concerns.

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  3. Thousands of probation officers??? Really? Beyond stupid that you are trying to encourage people to come forward on their own and outside of their union.

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    1. I am an ex PO with a subsequent career in social policy research. Empirically verifiable data sets are important when validating hypotheses. From the blog hits counter (see above) the maximum number of probation officers involved could be as high as 1,221,424 (a little under 1.25 million) as of today. By way of definition, the term "thousands of probation officers" requires that the number of units involved is higher than 1,999 officers. Although we may for present purposes take is as given that many of the 1,221,424 (1.25 m) visits to to this site will have been non-probation staff, or from other grades, and that there will be a significant number of repeat visits, it seems reasonable to postulate for further analysis that:
      a: a high proportion of the 1,221,424 (again, for clarity, 1.25 million) visits have been from probation officers, and also that
      b: notwithstanding the MoJ's evidenced limitations in observing facts and drawing conclusions, 1,221,424 is at present still considered to be a higher number than 1,999.

      Ergo, I consider Jim's comment to be within the parameters of acceptable observation, and invite you to withdraw your comment on the grounds that it is statistically, empirically and logically unsustainable in the light of the evidence.

      I remain, Sir, your obedient servant....

      QED.

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    2. In the absence of an effective union desperate times will call for desperate measures.

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    3. Anon social policy researcher at 08:26 - I haven't laughed so much for ages - thank you for saving me the trouble of responding and putting the case for the defence so much better than I ever could!

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    4. Who looks beyond stupid now?

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    5. Anon social policy researcher here....
      My pleasure Jim. I cannot abide ill thought out, muddily expressed "opinions" put forward in a serious debate with all the authority of a sentence that might as well begin with "a bloke down the pub reckons..." (Which is about the level of the existing arguments underpinning TR....)

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    6. I agree with the point that it is ill advised to act outside the umbrella of the union especially at this time. Whilst this blog contains a range of views the idea that one or two talented individuals can have more clout than an entire union who have legal recognition and are at the negotiating table beggars belief. Most of the major hits against Graylings plans have been achieved either directly or indirectly by Napo. It is starting to sound tedious when people constantly call on Napo to do something. Perhaps they could get off their backside and join together with their colleagues and support Napo's efforts locally instead of expecting everything to happen from the centre. They are attending all the meetings and fighting our corner so before criticising consider what you might have done and could do. As for all these people saying why they didn't strike etc unless there was an extremely good reason you effectively helped Grayling and undermined your union so all these I didn't strike because xyz don't mean zip

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    7. Anon social policy researcher here again. The above point is well made and is an excellent example to my mind of a properly argued and reasoned point based on careful and sound thinking-which is what PO's do when we are writing reports, talking to clients etc. It was the "un-probation-ish" (no, not a word, I know...) attitude of the poster earlier today that I was objecting to when I rebutted the 'beyond stupid' comment.

      Irrespective of the conclusions drawn re "inside union" or "outside union", the above post reflects the approach we take so well as a profession. We are experts in insisting that the reality of life be acknowledged in the teeth of distorted denials, self-serving minimisation of risk and blame-shifting by those who are both legally and morally responsible for the consequences of their actions. Now is no time to change our stance. Well said.

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    8. the notion that calling on 'Napo to do something' is 'starting to sound tedious' is no argument at all, let alone a well reasoned one. It wouldn't be necessary for members to 'constantly' call on Napo to do something if there was any evidence of Napo, well, doing something. Calling critics names doesn't alter this fact. The following suggestion that people 'could get off their backside' is then predicated on a self serving presumption that criticism is being levelled solely by an inactive section of the membership. There is no evidence for this presumption. As for 'expecting everything to happen from the centre' Napo has a national structure. The 'centre' calls - or, more accurately doesn't call - the shots when it comes to taking collective action on a national level. We can't call a national strike locally.

      Simon Garden

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  4. Thank you to Anon 07:41 blame well and truly lies in Grayling's mess, I mentioned the NAPO incident as recently when I was on strike, a couple of members said they didn't strike and referred to Training Consortium being led down by NAPO, I was using the example to trigger any reflections that probation staff had. Thank you again.

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  5. Did those people who whistleblowed on Newsnight do it with union protection or off their own bat?

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    1. Those who participated in Newsnight did so under union protection and therefore there were no repercussions. However there have been and continue to be a number of cases of probation staff facing disciplinary action as a result of going it alone on social media and elsewhere. Collective action under the union banner is therefore not only a lot safer but a lot more effective. Though Joanna Hughes resignation might be seen as honourable it effectively meant she could not obtain a position for instance as National Chair of Napo from which she could attack Graylings plans other than self appointed spokeswoman. I have been in meetings with Dino and his opening line is usually 'I haven't got a clue' and most of the time this is entirely accurate. MoJ staff would be rubbing their hands together with glee if he were elected and unfortunately Napo would once again be led by the boys club.

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    2. Seems like Napo is fighting back through these pages. Good, it balances and enriches debate. Agree on Dino - more rabbit than Watership Down.

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    3. The people who whistle blowed in newsnight lied. Also it was obvious who they were and their cards have been marked at HQ.

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    4. What are you saying they lied about then?

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    5. the newsnight programme was a nail in the coffin for the public sector probation service. mainly because the person representing us came across so badly. she was awful and they wiped the floor with her. made us look like we didn't know what we were doing.

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  6. Debate about elections and strategy is really really healthy, as is constructive crticism (eg of the performance of individual or committees of the Union.) The MINUTE we start to blame each other/the Union ...we- NAPO members- ARE the Union, for heavens sake, we score an own goal. Of course collectivism is key, and within that individuals will take individual actions that contribute, as well as particpate in orgnaised group actions. I am totally for recruiting to our Union, and for maintaining the commitment of existing members. I am also for embracing the contribution of others, eg Joanna Hughes. also eg, other Unions, with whom we should be making the strongest possible links, both as individual workers, and as organisations We are all gunning for the same target, it isnt a competition. When we start to fight each other, inside and outside NAPO, it is mainly, imho, to do with ego's, and always to the benefit of The Enemy. Anon at 10.28 Are you linking Napo fighting back, with your comment about Dino? I thought it was a healthy debate about candidates for the Union election.

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    1. Collectivism is the key but it is more imagined than real in the present context. There is opportunity in these elections for a high turnout, but what if turnout is derisory - will this not mean that collectivism is wishful thinking? Would it be fair to conclude that Napo has a weak mandate? And maybe better to encourage and support all opposition to TR even if it has not been initiated by the Napo leaders.

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  7. I am the poster of the 'beyond stupid 'comment earlier on in the day. I have no broadband and limited signal on my phone as I did when posting that. I have just seen those fucking patronising comments from social researcher and it has topped off another fucking great day at work. I will have access to a pc later on tonight so will give a lengthier reply. Hopefully give you more to laugh at Jim later on.

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    1. Look forward to that.

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    2. Anon 19:52 I hope your day gets better.

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    3. Anon Social Policy here-bring it on...

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    4. It's late and I don't have access to a PC so have to write on a small phonr screen. I was questioning the 'thousands of professionals' that have catalogued their experiences, I had put Probation officers instead which I apologise to other grades and colleagues as it highlighted my Probation officer centric thinking (which was not consciously done) I was asking is it thousands? which it might well be or not. In regards to empirically observed evidence, I'm not sure that you can reasonably go beyond the data ie that there has been getting on 1.25 million hits on this site..I'm not sure you can empirically break down anything further than that...after all you might be a probation proffesional and not a social researcher and I might be the 'bloke down the pub'. My second comment was a separate point that anyone giving info outside of the protection of a union would be beyond stupid. I note that you responded to another commentator that you rebutted the 'beyond stupid comment, you never mentioned that in your original, offensive, sarcastic and totally demeaning comment you just spoke about the first part You said that you are an ex po, I would hope that next time you decide to take the piss, that you perhaphs show some empathy and a realisation that a lot of people are running on empty and may not see the funny side of being so patronised. This blog has been and will continue to be invaluable I will continue to voice an opinion or question a statement if I choose, we are all anonymous on here (apart from a few brave souls) and comments and opinions will engender debate which as a lot of people have said is healthy. I don't agree with a lot of what Jim is writing at the moment and in particular feel that attacking NAPO at the present time is un healthy and is counterproductive but respect differences of opinions. I can only see about three lines in this box and cannot scroll up and down, so I have to hope that what I have written makes some sort of sense.

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    5. Anon social policy researcher here... again...

      Thank you for your response. You are right, I was deliberately sarcastic for two reasons. With respect, if your original post is re-read, it can come across in an unfortunate (and unintended, I trust) fashion.

      As a direct result, my words were aimed at what was said, and how it was said, but not at who said it.

      I too have had the experience, a long time before TR was ever dreamed up, of that "running on empty" scenario, inner city caseload of 85 plus cases, many high risk, rubbish slope shouldered middle management, waiting for an SFO. It is one reason I left. Nothing in what I say demeans that, nor you.

      Also, for the record, I had 18 years a PO, and am immensely proud of what we have done over the years and I am bl**dy furious at the ideologically driven vandalism that has shattered the service.

      I have no interest in starting an argument, but in asking us to stick to the facts in the debate. The two reasons were that although you say "I was asking is it thousands? " your words as posted do not read as asking about of Jim's point, but a flat rebuttal of it. "Thousands of probation officers??? Really?" sounds like "yeah, right...". I deliberately wrote a silly stylised answer steeped in pompous OTT terms to highlight that it is not reasonable (in my view) to deny flatly Jim's point in the way your comment seemed to do.

      Your "second comment was a separate point that anyone giving info outside of the protection of a union would be beyond stupid." However, (agin with respect) that is not what was said. Your post did not say those people would be "beyond stupid" to do that, but that Jim was "beyond stupid" to raise it.

      I do not for one second think Jim needs me to fight his battles for him, any more than you need a lecture on statistics or syntax. However I felt your post was negative in an unhelpful way so I chose to write my response in an exaggerated manner.

      I hope you have a better day today.

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    6. Fair enough, and thank you for the reply. Maybe I should not try writing on a phone that i cannot see clearly what i have put.

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  8. I don't really care about who is voted in my concern is that who ever it is needs to have direct action and get aggressive in fighting TR. Before, we know it will all be over and waiting for someone to be elected maybe to late, we are at the end of July and Sept is upon us the ink is drying on the contracts. Whilst it may be healthy to have this debate its not going to stop TR, we need action just hurry up.

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  9. I can assure you that Dino is the best to get aggressive with TR etc. Despite the above . He does fully know whT he is doing and is very knowledgable experienced ... He has repped me and his knowledge was clearly evident I can tell you .
    Jilln

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  10. Read the blog -interesting but im finding it a bit annoying that Probation Officers are only caring about themselves. I have seen this in my trust when we had our first consultations about TR with a CEO & Board Chair -I raised this issue that in Probation Service there are other grades apart from Probation Officers. What will happen to the Service if all Admin & court PSOsleave? Will so highly regarded POs be able to do their day to day job on their own?! Some are struggling with NDelius & logging into Oasys...
    Dont start me on a new training programme that discriminates all the staff that dont have a criminology degree from applying to become a PO... in my 10 years working in Probation one thing always shocked me that is no interest at all to give staff a promotion and in the interviews always select the outsider over internal candidate... despite the fact outsider has got no idea what the job involves and how it is done properly...

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  11. When I first joined the service in 1990 I started as a Probation Ancillary and there was an expectation that you would go on to train as a PO after a couple of years through home office sponsorship or self funded. I agree there is no longer any route for PSO and admin grades to progress if the want to which is an absolute disgrace. In my experience PSO often have far more experience than PO in doing the work including supervising high riskers....it's about counter signing and that's all!! There should be route for experienced staff whatever grade to prgress

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    1. There is still (just!)the PQF route if you have the right qualifications..if PSOs in your area have more experience of supervising high risk cases th a n POs something seriously wrong!

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  12. Jim

    I have read your blog for a long time now – certainly since well before TR stood for anything nasty. I have seen your blog change from the musings of a grumpy PO to something of a focal point for trying to turn the tide as a campaigning blog. I admire your dedication in doing a daily blog and the visitor figures speak for themselves, but I wonder if the content of this blog is doing more harm than good. I don’t think TR is a good idea, but I come at this from the perspective of an ex probation officer who has also worked in the private sector, and Westminster. I don’t have an ideological problem with the private sector delivering probation services – anymore than I have a problem with my dentist being in private practice (I would prefer it if he wasn’t though). This means that I am in the majority. As many of your contributors are aware we are in a political neo-liberal consensus just now, and however much you may disagree with it, I see no real signs that is going to change anytime soon. Certainly not at the next election.

    I don’t say I’m right and you’re wrong but maybe it is healthy to have another perspective, and this might help explain why more of the same is unlikely to turn the tide on TR. If nothing else the following may at least cause some debate. So a few points:

    1. Most of the comments on the blog will not be taken as evidence that TR split is not working. They will be dismissed as teething problems, and self-interest of staff who can’t accept change. Talk of lots of staff leaving will be taken as a positive by your opponents (less redundancy to pay). From the outside many of the comments that this blog attracts will be taken as confirmation that probation is indeed stuck in some kind of time warp badly in need of a shake-up.
    2. In Westminster NAPO is seen as a bit of joke and certainly very amateurish, the comments here support that view.
    3. Most staff who survive the outsourcing quickly adapt to their new ‘brand’. We all seem to have a need to belong and feelings of disgust for NOMS and MoJ and previous senior management all help secure staff loyalty to the new organisation that emerges. I saw this at HMP Birmingham who shifted their loyalty to G4S very quickly.
    4. In my view the best tactic for stopping TR is to help disgruntled unsuccessful bidders appeal the procurement process. Grayling’s weakness is that he has very little contingency in letting the new contracts. Delaying tactics – especially if they can slow down the letting of any contracts until Feb / March 2015, mean that he could run out of time before the next election.
    5. Ironically the more your contributors are successful in making probation look like a risky proposition, the less the unsuccessful bidders are likely to appeal (they might start to think they had a lucky escape).

    Good luck with the fight. But maybe reflect that trying resist by shouting is unlikely to be successful – unless you think that your colleagues can suddenly become universally militant.

    Don

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    1. Your dentist has made an informed choice and as a customer so have you. Leaving ideology aside, the illogical bureaucracy introduced by TR and the cumbersome processes involved where they were once fast, streamlined, efficient and effective would leave genuinely 'innovative' entrepreneurs laughing their socks off. With experience in both the private and public sectors, this is the most ineffective and counter productive idea I have experienced. That is not a slur on my colleagues who battle daily with unfit for purpose IT which is not designed with public protection in mind. Commercial interest has its place but this is not it and with respect I don't think you understand what is happening.

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    2. 00:13 can tug his forelock to the neo-liberal consensus all he wants, some if us though will continue to resist. If yet to see a service that was improved through the con of privatisation, and doubt I ever will. This whole ideology has been a busted flush since they hurriedly binned the "cant buck the market" crap by bailing out the banks.

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  13. A crc office severely hampered by staffing crisis. A po is asked to complete a risk escalation procedure for a case they've never seen and know nothing about (supervising po off sick). After research to ascertain the details of what was turning out to be a blindingly obvious escalation of DV risk, the po then spent hours working out how to get the document to appear on the easy-peasy IT, completing the document, discussing with crc manager who then spent an hour trying to locate a nps contact in the relevant risk escalation team... it was finally submitted within the specified timescale. The hours spent were, incidentally, invaluable hours out of the working day of a highly stressed & overloaded po who feels they haven't got a minute to spare in any given day to complete their own tasks, let alone cover other tasks. But it was evident this case needed to be reallocated per the increasing risk criteria and the responsible thing to do was complete the onerous, stupid process.

    The iron dome that is the nps gatekeeping system blew the application out of the sky. After a lengthy & heated telephone conversation where the stressed crc po repeatedly reiterated the perfect storm scenario that lay before the uninterested nps gatekeeper, it was finally agreed it could be looked at again. "A new risk escalation application will need to be submitted."

    Someone somewhere is just taking the piss.

    The crc po might just be off sick today; and tomorrow; and next week.

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  14. Dick Dastardly31 July 2014 at 07:11

    Is it true that dark forces are afoot and have been advised to introduce elements of mild support for TR as a means of causing a rift and split between grades and shift the focus away from the battle front??

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    1. Sounds right to me. There will always be quislings who will take the shilling.

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