Monday, 28 July 2014

Is It Safe Ursula?

Just like many of our clients for whom denial is the natural default position, the MoJ appears to be in total denial mode in relation to the 'safe roll-out' of TR. Despite mounting and over-whelming evidence of chaos everywhere, the MoJ just buries it's head in the sand hoping all the 'teething troubles' will get sorted and everything will be fine. Well, it looks like we may well have the first SFO involving the death of a woman at the hands of a man that should have been under supervision.


This from the Mirror:-
A woman was murdered by her ex-lover because of Tory changes to the probation service, leading Labour politicians claim. The man said to have carried out the attack had already been convicted of domestic violence and was thought so dangerous he should have been under constant surveillance. But his file went missing for a week as the service struggled to cope with being privatised. It was during this time “off radar” that he killed his ex-girlfriend.
Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said he had warned that the new system would pose a risk to the public – and demanded an inquiry into the tragedy. He added: “I wasn’t alone in warning the Government that their probation privatisation would create a confusing system for supervising serious and violent criminals. “This is a terrible tragedy which might have been avoided if probation wasn’t in utter meltdown.”
Under the changes, 70 per cent of the service is being privatised with firms taking over the supervision of all but high-risk criminals. Sources claim the man was first categorised as high risk but downgraded because of a lack of staff in the remaining state service. And because his files weren’t transferred with him, the private firm wasn’t able to keep tabs on him for a week.
Ian Lawrence, head of probation union Napo, said: “We have repeatedly warned Justice ­Secretary Chris ­Grayling that splitting the service will turn simple processes into time-consuming exercises. “There are significant staff shortages in parts of the country, an IT system that is not fit for purpose and a lack of basic infrastructure in place for these reforms to be anywhere near safe.”
But Justice Minister Andrew Selous said: “It would be irresponsible for the Labour Party to jump to conclusions when there is no evidence our ­rehabilitation reforms have undermined public protection.”
That comment by the brand new unpaid minister prompted this from a named Probation Officer yesterday:-
The response of Selous reported in the Independent was risible. There is not enough information in the press reports, and in any case, such a tragedy deserves full review. However, I have been minded today of the meeting I had with Mr Grayling and my local MP in June, when I voiced my concerns about the risks inherent in the TR programme and specifically with reference to DV cases. I told him that there was a cupboard full of unallocated DV cases in a local office and that this was dangerous. His response was that this was a local leadership issue, and that we should expect "teething problems" in the project. Outrageous. We have spoken out about the risks, particularly in DV cases, till we are hoarse, and it has felt like banging my head against a brick wall. The PCCs have voiced the same concerns. The TUC women's conference was unanimous in expressing concern. Selous trotting out the same old same old is just plain offensive. 
This article by Mark Leftly in the Independent on Sunday provides yet more evidence of widespread chaos:-
 A damning dossier of evidence and interviews compiled by The Independent on Sunday reveals the extent of Britain's probation crisis, as Labour calls for an inquiry into whether the reforms meant a preventable murder took place this month.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has repeatedly denied that the service has nearly ground to a halt as a result of changes introduced at the start of last month. Justice Secretary Chris Grayling split the probation into two ahead of privatising 70 per cent of the service that deals with low-to-medium risk offenders, as 35 trusts become 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs). High-risk offenders are overseen by a new National Probation Service (NPS), a separation that has infuriated experienced senior officers.

The dossier reveals:

*A backlog of 75,000 unseen emails, many containing vital information about offenders, to and from probation officers built up in London alone, with similar problems in Norfolk and Suffolk;

*Overworked probation officers: in May, the Gloucester office had 23 staff who wrote 35 pre-hearing reports for adjourned cases, but after the split only six staff completed 27 last month;


*A trust chief executive from Somerset said she has quit because she feels the "fragmentation" of probation is not the "best framework for public protection";

*Former coalition justice minister Crispin Blunt said Mr Grayling should have tested such "revolutionary" reforms rather than just transform the whole service overnight.
The MoJ has repeatedly argued that the probation service has not descended into chaos, despite officers and unions complaining of IT failures and lost files. In an email to the new London CRC, a service desk manager said last week: "[IT provider] Steria has advised there are lengthy delays in the receipt and delivery of external emails. There is a backlog of 75,000 emails to clear." Insiders warned officers were not receiving vital emails from the police, who might be advising that an offender has been arrested. The MoJ said that this was a wider problem that had "nothing to do" with reform.
In Norfolk and Suffolk, a manager warned staff last week that there were "serious performance issues" with critical software, which could result in data being lost. In Hackney, east London, there were 65 offenders given probation from 17 June to 16 July. These offenders should have been allocated an officer within three days; 13 had not by last week. A London man found to have hurt his young child has been allocated as tier two – low risk – when such an offence should have seen him made a tier four, a high-risk offender. This means his supervision could be very different to what is recommended.

Joanna Hughes, a probation officer who quit in May, said that she had been told that Gloucester officers had seen their workload shared between far fewer staff. She said that officers were scared by "implied threat of disciplinary action if they speak out". Sue Hall, chair at the Probation Chiefs Association, said: "Day after day, time after time, there seem to be big new challenges that are testing the new system. Because the reforms were brought in too quickly it would be surprising if there weren't any problems."  
Mr Blunt said that if he was still a justice minister he would have advised that the reforms were tested in two areas before being rolled out nationally. He argued: "You make your mistakes, but then show that you've learnt and then show that it works."
With the extreme heat of the last few days combined with reduced prison staffing levels, we've seen the first breakout of serious disorder at HMP Ranby and with the prison suicide rate increasing, Frances Crook of the Howard League has speculated that the Tories appear to have reintroduced capital punishment.

Some time ago Dame Ursula Brennan, the MoJ Permanent Secretary, promised Parliament that TR would only proceed if it was safe to do so. Is it safe Ursula?

56 comments:

  1. And so, sadly, it begins. Now's your time NAPO. Don't let us down again. You should direct the press to this blog, don't piss around at a time like this. Do it right this time

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  2. It clearly isn't safe to proceed but they will carry on regardless.

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  3. The one truth in this whole damn mess is that THIS IS NOT SAFE but sadly no-one who could stop this is listening. The worse thing a victim's family can hear is "we told you so" that really would add insult to injury. So colleagues and others reading this PLEASE PLEASE do everything you can to make "them" listen because only "they" can halt this. We are reaching the point of no return but there is still that vital window where we could all be taken into the NPS and whole agency status resume.
    We who know MUST act and that includes those from MOJ/employer side who read this blog, if you know and don't act that makes you responsible. Do not think that it is only practitioner's who are responsible for service users, those who are pushing through the changes are perhaps most responsible of all. I am sure you could use Jim's email to raise issues and take some responsibility for this.

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    1. What is Jim's email address.

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    2. My email address is on the profile page at the top.

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  4. It won't be long until Grayling and his side-kick use this opportunity to suggest the risk register did indicate a reduction in professional effectiveness - or something like that - so we'll be blamed.

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    1. This is an awful situation. We know the risk assessment undertaken by the MOJ had in part had been leaked to the press. It made things very clear this Government were embarking on a dangerous course.

      This quote in the Guardian article from Jeremy Wright;

      "Public safety remains our top priority and the department is working with probation trusts to ensure this will not be compromised"

      Can we ask how did they ensure there were no compromises on Public safety?
      What specific and additional safeguards did the MOJ put in place prior to, and through the split?
      What operational oversight was planned into the de-structure to ensure no drop in Public safety protection?
      On the current staffing crisis what information was available and how was this managed to ensure any assessment would have addressed staffing issues that would not compromise public safety ?
      In light of this potentially avoidable tragedy what are the MOJ doing immediately to ensure all TR risks are reversed ?

      I am confident many readers will be forming similar questions and as the current crisis in probation develops how these and many more should form parliamentary questions to get some answers .

      Article Guardian
      http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/dec/15/probation-reforms-put-public-at-higher-risk

      Dino

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    2. Well put Dino! If you get elected will you ensure more regular,concise updates are sent to members that clarify what Chair/Exec are doing and put someone in charge of social media to make better use of Napo Forum and twitter account for example ?

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    3. The Officers influence positions, policy and how it is implemented, but surely it should be set by the General Meeting and NEC with tasks delegated to Committees, staff and officers?

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    4. I am applying for national campaign committee
      Jilln

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  5. Don't worry, Serco's coming to the rescue.

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  6. The people who need to tell Ursula it's not safe are the senior managers and they are not doing this because they have their eye on their careers or on their belief that they can make this work. If they are saying it's safe to proceed then proceed MOJ will.

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    1. Absolutely spot on. The corrupted management of probation is to blame for the death of this person, along with Grayling and NOMS. Basterds all of them.

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  7. The worrying thing about all this is that 99% DV cases area going to CRC, there is no way for us to check out previous oasys assessments read delius to make good sentence plans to mange these clients. In the last 2 weeks I have had 7 new DV cases, due to being pulled here there and everywhere I have not been able to make contact with social services, complete DVU call outs or oasys, I am getting very scared to go to work, especially as one client is coming in with his child and to date I have not had the time to check out information on him. On the other hand I am being pressured to transfer NPS cases, this is putting additional stress on me as once these have been transferred I will get a bucket load of DV cases. If there is an SFO I do not want to spend the rest of my life feeling that I was responsible, I couldn't handle that burden. PLEASE SOMEONE HELP STOP THIS MESS.

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  8. Other parts of public services are debating issues relating to data sharing, maybe someone soon will realise all is not well in the criminal justice ajencies?

    "Round table: Data shared, problem halved
    Written by Stuart Watson on 28 July 2014 in Feature

    How can civil servants unlock the value of government data? Stuart Watson reports from a debate on the benefits and challenges of data sharing"

    http://www.civilserviceworld.com/articles/feature/round-table-data-shared-problem-halved

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  9. If you dont get your passport your dont go on holiday; if DV case is not checked someone is dead. We should be on strike again what's the bloody union doing??
    papa

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    1. I totally agree, papa. I heard Mark Sewotka on Radio 4 this morning, giving a very focussed account of why his members were on strike - staff shortages and target drive pressures. The interviewer tried to bring it round to a pay claim (in order, I think, to then take a swipe at the greedy public sector),, but he neatly acknowledged that then batted it off and stayed 'single message'. I couldn't help but compare this with the quotes from IL in the press ref the latest tragedy- lots of waffle about IT processes/the time they take rather than something snappy about the pressures on the overworked, under resourced staff or the mounting risks to the public. For me Mark delivered the goods by remaining people centred.
      Deb

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    2. Sorry, meant to add. The general public won't care if we have a crappy IT system but they will care if they believe the systems are placing them increasingly at risk and this is where the emphasis should be in all our campaigning. Time for another strike, to highlight the professionals concerns which include the under resourcing of staff with resulting resignations and sickness absence.
      Deb

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  10. At our office in Manchester cases seem to be allocated when the client comes in for their initial appointment, prior them arriving we have no idea of there being a case that needs allocating. Its embarrassing and terrible.

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  11. Received a phonecall today, from Mr X. He said 'do you remember me, you came to check my address for my sons HDC'? yes - I remember, you do know that your son is nothing to do with probation as he is an U12 mth case? 'yes he said, but I went into see him on Saturday and i'm very worried, his eligibility date has been and gone and nobody can give him any information - he's just sitting there and each day feeling worse and worse like he's been forgotten about'. I apologised and explained about how eligibility date just equals it being the first possible date of release and that it could be anytime from thereonin. Mr X replied, i'm concerned it really is a cattle market in there. This is in reference to HMP Liverpool.

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  12. I am a PO in my mid 50s and have always managed to keep up with IT - I use a mac at home So how come I am left feeling so distressed because I cannot manage the IT changes and systems? I need training not a P I to just read and then be expected to do it. I am having a discussion with my solicitor to see if this is age discrimination because I feel humiliated as if I can not keep up..

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    1. I am a 48 year old PO and a self confessed geek. I had my first computer a Sinclair ZX81 when I was 15. I got an O Level in Computer Studies in 1982. I am an accredited Trainer with the British Computer Society. I can programme in BASIC. I can take a PC apart and put it back together. I can't make head nor tail of Delius, I simply cannot fathom what it is wanting me to do, and it's so cumbersome, clunky and unergonomic. I also feel humiliated and bewildered. It's like being in a massive Escher painting; running up and down endless stairs that go nowhere and you don't know why.

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    2. I don't have any of your skills so can you imagine how hard it is for me. Most days I try not to use it and try and remember everything in my head or write it down in case I am asked anything.

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    3. Unfortunately I can. It must be truly awful.In my life before Probation, I have had so much experience developing user friendly IT systems and training people with limited IT skills. I once had to explain to a highly skilled health professional why you can't speak into a mouse... I've offered my skills several times to our old Probation Trust; they have never even let me be a 'floorwalker' when we get a new system. I've given up trying now. I hope Delius disappears in an almighty crash.

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    4. You all make me feel so much better, it makes no sense to me either. I kept a log a few months back about what I did in my working day and was surprised how much of my day was spent trying to get Delius to work.

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  13. What's happened to the WMT it looks like they've stopped using it so they can allocate us endless cases without challenge or is it that they don't want any evidence to show that we are all probably working at 200%. Also without a WMT those with Protective Characteristics won't know if they are getting their workload reductions is this legal.

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  14. The system is broken. I have this image in my mind of two YTS trainees in the MoJ, trying to stick it back together before anyone notices. Probation IT has always been a weak link but OASYS R and N Delius are beyond poor. They are retrograde. Scrapping something to replace it with something worse is crass. Bit like TR, really.

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  15. I wish delius would have one almighty crash never to be seen again.

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    1. Great minds!

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    2. I wish someone would infect the IT systems with an IT version of the clap.

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    3. I thought it already had that!!!!

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  16. Before delius came along back in the good old days we did part c's etc. and we never had any of the problems we have now. We had index cards for every offender all filed alphabetically and updated any time anyone re-offended and you could just put your hand to information you needed. Now in the new world it takes 3 clericals NPS and CRC's one SPO, helpdesk,Probation officer and 37 clicks just to enter a case onto the system at a daily cost of about 7 staff. Add to that the confusion of TR and you have a recipe for disaster and a very very stressed out workforce that's going around in circles only to get back to the start. Well done Grayling, and "its going well, teething problems" I don't think so, more like a monumental crash.

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  17. Bidders beware most cases in the CRC will be domestic violence, only the headlines in the future will be directed at your company and reputation. Don't sign anything, walk away whilst you can.

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  18. Mental Health is more prominent too - I have a man who wants to chop his own legs off and I have a couple of people who brandished machetes at people they thought had 'wronged' them - but actually hadnt. These offenders should be in the NPS closely monitored. Whilst I think they are a potential risk I am not seeing them anymore frequently than I would any of my other cases. This is what Grayling wants - CRC to continue as per Trust national standards reporting when caseloads were smaller - well he can go swivel.

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    1. I've got a guy with a previous Manslaughter and Threats to Kill, all domestic related. His new offence is Breach of Restraining Order. Computer says Tier 2 CRC case. OK then....

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    2. he should be in prison end of - how many chances are courts giving these types of people!!

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    3. That RSR tool is the biggest load of shit I have ever seen, I think you have to murder three people before you can get a score of 7 and go to NPS. Another load of crap devised by some stupid civil servant who knows nothing about risk. The job is becoming a joke. The word risk is branded about without all those in power knowing how you assess it or what it means.

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    4. in the early days I heard that local managers could amend the score to suit their needs ie if not enough new cases to justify all staff in NPS then lower the %. Who sets this percentage? Staff in our NPS are definitely going to lose their jobs on the current allocation.

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    5. What the feck does 'Risk of Serious Recidivism' (RSR) mean anyway? Risk of lots or crimes or risk of hurting somebody a lot again. I have no idea. In the CRC we can't even see the NPS RSR assessment. We just have to accept that its right. The only way we can send it back is if something terrible happens and we can justify doing a 12 page Risk Escalation assessment that needs to be signed by several managers. I used to be able to do my job.

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    6. I can't even say 'recidivism' what a stupid word to use

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    7. In CRC we can do RSRs and in my opinion should be doing them on all our cases to make sure they have been allocated correctly.

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    8. Not in our area. No training and no access to the RSR tool by CRC staff.

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    9. I disagree. Why should CRC staff use that fucking tool? It is an NPS task to allocate the fucking cases!!!

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  19. Since oasys-r came in my team of seconded pos in open prison have not been able to request control of oasys. Apparently it is because a remand box is ticked, and the only people who can remove the tick is the hp help desk. My colleague phoned last week about a particular case and was told no, you can't have control, he is a determinate, the oasys belongs to the community. In the meantime lifers are waiting longer and longer for their rotl, oms in the community are too flat out to do the extra reviews that are now compulsory before rotl is approved (less than twelve months is no longer good enough, has to be done after their arrival in open even if one was done the month before). Yet more workload pressure and I won't be at all surprised if we see more absconds as indeterminate prisoner get more and more frustrated with lack of progress. Oh and how much are we charged to call hp help desk?

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  20. " Serco Watch
    7 hrs ·

    Once again it is individual employees who are made the scapegoat for Serco's systemic failures, its mismanagement and contractual failures and its corporate plundering and exploitation.

    "TWO Serco guards at Acacia Prison have been suspended after an inmate today escaped by breaking through two locked doors and four barbed wire fences". "

    https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=792141904154002&id=211959242172274

    http://www.perthnow.com.au/news/western-australia/prisoner-brett-shannon-klimczak-escapes-from-acacia-one-week-after-michael-james-hayward/story-fnhocxo3-1227004025903?nk=9326a74f56e500bb2db323df7d67cd1d

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  21. I can’t believe this. I’ve been away since Wednesday to get a little respite from all the shit that is TR, and returned back to work this morning. Went in feeling slightly refreshed but noticed my anxiety levels increasing as I got nearer to the dreaded office. Once outside the office I parked the car up and just sat there for a few minutes just thinking about the pile of shit I will be walking into. I found myself cursing senior management. I have never ever had such bad thoughts until this shit came into my life which I did not choose. I would what you call been ‘properly shafted’ into CRC.

    I managed to drag myself into the office and no sooner I walked through the door, someone said “have you heard the news, someone has been murdered under TR”. At that point, I could have fucking collapsed. Thought it was one my cases. I was somewhat relieved having discovered that it wasn’t but worried at the same time, as it could easily have been. If someone asked me to risk assess my work for a possible SFO – I can say with absolute confidence that there is an 80% chance that someone on my caseload will go onto kill someone. You might ask, why I am so confident. The answer is very simple, 90% of my caseload is made up of domestic violence and child protection case. The majority of these cases have been transferred to me. There is no file, no information, there was no hand over, no management oversight. There has been no support, no advise, no direction, no contingency plans in place, no proper risk assessment. There has been no time allowed to even talk to colleagues, no time to work out the shit IT system. Delius doesn’t work, can’t access OASys. Can’t get hold of my manager despite sending 100 emails all which have gone unacknowledged. I’m getting the feeling that I’m being stitched up, to fail.

    It’s a fuckin nightmare.

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  22. Are you listening MoJ? We are trying to stop people from killing other people. We work with the most difficult, chaotic and dangerous people in our communities. We care if it goes wrong, we consider ourselves somehow responsible. We try our best. We are compassionate, caring human beings using our skills to keep people safe. You are not helping, you are putting people in danger, you need to stop this. This is not safe.

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  23. And the Trusts allowed this to happen.......That they were forced to is unacceptable and hogwash. They had an obligation to warn the MOJ and what did they do, rolled over and ran behind an ethical wall as fast as they could to design a model and write a bid. The Trust has a lot to answer for.

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  24. Do you really think MOJ give a shit? We need back up. I remember a time when we used to call NAPO the ‘A Team’. I’m now going back some 15 odd years. As a practitioner no manager would dare speak to a NAPO member without being extremely careful about what and how they were saying stuff. Practitioners were protected and practitioners felt confident that someone was covering their back. What the fuck ever happened to this (scratching head). Why are we left in a situation that staff feel so vulnerable. How can staff expect to safely manage risk when they constantly thinking about being shitted on by the employee and NAPO who will not hesitate to collude with managers and say “well you should have done your job right in the first place”. What the fuck is going on.

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  25. Large urban area in the North is in meltdown, and I don't mean Manchester. It's utter chaos, but staff have a realistic approach........do your hours and leave. In many ways I think TR has given them a lot more freedom to do this. Before they felt responsible for their caseload. Now they feel they can't do their jobs the way they want to or safely, so why bother. Better to do the hours and leave. Quite a few are leaving and not coming back, and lots of the younger female officers have decided it's a good time to have a baby.

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  26. Dame Ursula Brennan should be ashamed of herself of the mess of TR..

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  27. I have used OASYS and Delius. Can someone please EXPLAIN what OASYS R and N Delius is. Many thanks guys, retired PO

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    1. Basically 'upgrades' that have made both systems much worse. I think that's as simple, fair and polite as I can put it.

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    2. Oasys R is a risk management and sentence planning tool, n Delius is for day to day contact logging. Neither is very good and both have been compromised by the TR related updates. Neither are currently reliable and data has been compromised by MoJ splitting NPS and CRC cases.

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    3. Think chocolate fireguard & teapot respectively.

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    4. Guys, thanks for your replies. Guess it's a piece of software that was once cumbersome to use (putting it politely), but has now been made totally redundant by the changes to it.

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