“Fifty ways to leave the Probation Service” - with apologies to Paul Simon
People are leaving the Probation Service, both physically and emotionally - that is what has happened. Thinking about Sally Lewis' comment about how she felt she had not left the Probation Service, rather it had left her, I began to think about the number of ways staff are departing stage left. There may not be 50 ways, as listed in the Paul Simon song, but all the ways, no matter how many, have a finality in themselves and add to the overall demolishing of the service.
The Probation Service was renowned for its low staff turnover for decades. I am now in the situation where I see people in the office I do not know the names of - new receptionist? New to a partnership agency? Visitor? I then find out they are responsible for 60-70 cases from the office's workload and they are known as a “temp”. How did that happen? Like dementors from the Harry Potter stories TR seems to be sucking the lifeblood and soul out of the Probation Service I knew and worked hard for over many years. Certainly it was not perfect but staff were there to try and do their best with the tools they were given. That sense of togetherness and goodwill is being lost as the people who have that folk memory, if you like, leave either physically or emotionally.
Even if a person does not leave, the existence of an exit plan, however tentative makes a difference to how you view the job you are currently doing. The thought of a possible way out of the situation you are finding difficult changes how you approach everything to do with your work. Those around you may not notice the difference and it just might manifest itself in a number of ways; making sure you work your contracted hours and nothing else; not getting involved in union activity; not volunteering for an activity you might have seen as possibly interesting in the past; not joining the PI even though the CRC you are working for is offering to pay for you; sitting in silence as you listen to yet another “dialogue” with senior management about the TR changes; seeing problems as not something shared but belonging to the CRC or NPS; taking sick leave (my local observation, for what it's worth, is that the number of days taken as sickness absence will rise noticeably). Over time - and it seems to be happening at a rapid pace - it will change the nature of the organisation and it will become unrecognisable to those who know the service as it was.
I am sure that the Ministry of Justice will be cheered to hear the effect their attentions are having to the service. The bidders, however, will not want to inherit a group of staff with a large number of temporary workers. The freedom to just up and go if you do not like what is happening will give some of our temporary colleagues a lot of bargaining power, if the current drought in this direction continues. So becoming a “temp” is another way to leave the Probation Service. I think I am up to about eight ways to leave so far. Perhaps not fifty then.
There is, then, the physical leaving. Mention has been made before of Probation babies. I am sure that HR and the like will say it is inevitable when employing so many young women,but we have employed a lot of young women for decades now. Again, I am sure it will be dismissed as senile musings but I am sure that some colleagues are timing their pregnancies now - because, why not? - see what the landscape looks like in 12 months time. It will be interesting to see how many return and, if they do, for how long.
There is applying for other jobs - I went outside the service to seek another job - but I am aware that a significant proportion of POs in this CRC are starting the process of applying to the NPS - it might be frying pan and fire but CRC PO workloads appear to comprise of scores of domestic abuse cases and little else. Many are missing the writing of court reports and the sheer variety the average caseload presented - that discrete piece of work, in writing reports, involves using and honing assessment skills. It is a real loss to many a PO, along with the challenges a mixed workload presented and it hurts.
My physical leaving has yet to happen - when it does it will hurt. I do not want to go but I can see what is round the corner for the service and it will hurt even more to witness it and stay. I do hope I am so very wrong.
Anon SPO 2
Anon SPO 2