Tuesday, 5 August 2014

In the Public Interest

This comment from Sunday really resonated with me:-
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” ― Desmond Tutu
So, TR week 9 looms and IMO it is essential that the truth gets out and this blog is the means of doing that. We have the testament of practitioners and yes, we will use that in defence when they come for us. I just want to warn colleagues that there are signs that Senior Managers both CRC and NPS are starting to clamp down on dissent and that this can only have come as direction from the very top.
So, Grayling and Spurr appear to have woken up to dissent of staff and realised what a significant risk to TR this is. Signs are that staff are being spoken to so they have "advice regarding their future conduct". What is "acceptable "is starting to be discussed with staff in a sort of are either with us or against us way.
GREAT!! This should not intimidate us or silence us because it demonstrates that we are at last having some impact, so please keep on telling the truth, there is no place for collusion and cover up. We have all seen Grayling's and Spurr's capacity to re-frame the truth ie LIE to Parliament, to the public and to staff.
Given the sheer number of contributions and readership of this blog, it would be naive to think it was having no effect down there at MoJ HQ Petty France. I think this is a well-informed comment and and fits perfectly with the current policy of total denial regarding the evolving crisis in all parts of NOMS and which is all too clear to those involved on the frontline. As another comment put it, in answer to what Colin Allars was saying:-
Try this for size: "Major change programme" "On track" "Teething problems and glitches" "Minority of staff complaining" "NAPO would say that" "Public protection is our highest priority" blah blah effing blah
It's worth spending a bit of time pondering on what's going on down in London and I'm reminded of this tweet a week or two ago by Harry Fletcher:- 
Just how 'legal' is the contractual process? The MOJ must be put under pressure to make public its own lawyers advice!!
and remember what he said in his blog of July 11th:-
One MOJ official expressed surprise to me last week at the lack of a real fuss about the sell off, another said that aspects of the contracting process and of tagging would not hold up to legal scrutiny.
Now we all know Harry is very well connected and it's obvious he smells a rat and is hinting strongly that there's something up with the bidding process. It's a line that this contributor feels is worth exploring:- 
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. 
We know that the MoJ is determined that the share sale will go ahead, whatever, before the end of the year, because there is a political imperative. But we know Chris Grayling is between a rock and a hard place because so many bidders have dropped out and those remaining are driving a hard bargain, precisely because they know the electoral clock is ticking. They are ditching all that PbR nonsense and wanting a premium for taking on a poisoned chalice full of pissed-off staff.  

I notice from the latest edition of Napo News online that Assistant General Secretary Dean Rogers has been speaking with a number of the bidders. Well, I wonder what they might think of news that's been coming in to blog HQ over recent weeks? There's definitely shenanigans afoot confirmed from a number of sources, including bizarrely a telephone conversation heard over a garden fence. Basically, an MoJ employee was being instructed to revisit the scoring of potential bidders because the scores were not high enough.

You know all that MoJ PR spin bollocks about Simon Hughes not being allowed to visit womens centre's in case it jeopardises the bidding process, as outlined here in the Guardian:-
The justice minister responsible for reducing the population of women's prisons has been banned by his civil servants from visiting the women's community centres that offer an alternative to custody because of commercial considerations.
Simon Hughes, the Lib Dem minister, has been told that an ongoing privatisation of the probation service could be jeopardised if he made a visit to the centres, where women who have been convicted are made to work out their community sentences.
The Ministry of Justice fears that by visiting a centre run by a provider seeking to take over probation services, or which may in the future want to bid for services, the minister could be seen to be showing favouritism. Hughes has been told that the controversial privatisation of the probation service could then be subject to a judicial review, with all the expense and delay that this would involve.
well I think that's just designed to deflect attention from the fact that in reality the bidding process has been tinkered with specifically to give some bidders a better chance and amend their bid. Now I'm no lawyer, but I think that's very naughty indeed and will get some bidders with very deep pockets just the excuse they need to cry foul and ring the lawyers. It's happened before remember with the West Coast Mainline and Virgin Rail.    

At this point it's probably worth mentioning what Margaret Hodge MP and her Public Accounts Committee have been saying recently about the duty to serve the public interest, as reported in the Guardian:-
Whistleblowers who risk their careers to uncover wrongdoing within public services are being victimised by managers who nearly always escape sanction, a public accounts committee report will say on Friday.
MPs were told that only one senior manager who has victimised a whistleblower has ever faced disciplinary procedures, while many government departments are still failing to support employees who come forward in the public interest. The report also accuses ministers of failing to put in place effective policies to protect whistleblowers despite their role in exposing a series of major scandals including avoidable deaths at Mid Staffs NHS hospital trust and policing of the Hillsborough football stadium tragedy.
Margaret Hodge, the committee chair, said she had been dismayed by the way ministers and senior managers have failed to protect the public interest.
"A positive approach to whistleblowing should exist wherever the taxpayer's pound is spent, by private and voluntary sector providers as well as public bodies. However, far too often, whistleblowers have been shockingly treated, and departments have sometimes failed to protect some whistleblowers from being victimised."   


  1. More mayhem, yesterday I tried to book a very well motivated client into our ETE service, they keep changing name so I will stick with what we all know. Anyway, managed to get into Oli - many haven't, and got the booking form, the process is that a referral form is then sent to me by email. I managed most of the boking form, but couldn't complete, as I was not among the recognised staff members in the drop down and I couldn't manually override it.So just picked a colleagues name out and asked her to forward me the referral, when she gets it...what a palava, and I couldn't get access to any letterheads, and so had to hand write letters and pass to case admin to type up - I have been doing my own letters for years and I find it productive and satisfying, as it is one piece of work I can do and see the result almost instantaneously. The IT systems have caused so much wasted time and energy, it really is beginning to irk me.

  2. Here's a scandal. My SPO spent all day sorting out HR stuff with the symbolic Shared Services. My LDU Director estimates this is currently taking up about 70 percent of her time. All this means that operational issues are being left undone. Morale before the split was good. Now, it's at an all time low. People who saw their career as being in Probation are now openly talking about leaving. It is galling beyond belief to hear senior MOJ managers and ministers to say everything is fine when we know it's not. That is influencing people to be even more frustrated and want to leave more. We were a good and effective service but are rapidly becoming a disorganised mess. And don't get me started on Delish and OASys. Commenting as Anon btw to avoid negative consequences.

  3. We all know that we have in the past continued to offer information to Children's Services six months after termination of a case. I had such a request and was unable to access my own report (due to cases defaulting to NPS on termination). I was informed by a manager yesterday that in order to 'work around' this they had come up with the idea that I should copy and paste my entries and reports and contact a person I had never heard of who would open a folder in a shared directory to keep the information for future use. I asked if this was a national or local idea and they said it local as it was something no one had accounted for.
    I cannot believe that our practice has now come down to making things up as we go along.

  4. Here in derby we are desperately short of PO its getting quite bad

  5. Wot, no torrent of comment? I drive to work listening to an incomprehensible, unsure and embarrassing Ian Lawrence on R4 talking about parole vs. victims. Or was it a dream? Or is my handheld device broken? I get home, and after radio gaga there's radio silence!

    1. To be fair there was that story about the bomb hoax which would beat most other stories.

    2. I didn't hear IL but read what he had to say about victim statements on the Napo website - not a good idea and of course he's never been a PO. In my experience victim families just say throw the key away so the Parole Board Chair is quite right - not much use really in coming to any sensible decision. His mistake was being heard on the bloody video link.

    3. It starts @ 2hrs 37mins into this morning's Today programme.


    4. Harry fletcher wasn't a PO either but he is described as a criminal justice expert !!!!

  6. As Jim has stated it is imperative that we continue to log all of the nonsense that is currently passing off for practice at the moment.....no official letter heads in NPS....CRC poaching temp staff....and most importantly Senior Managers telling us that its just teething troubles....keep up the logging folks it might just work and potential bidders keep tuning in....

    1. I'm a probation officer, not a lumberjack.

    2. Lol - we're all showing our age.

    3. oh crikey, I am listening to this on i-player. jeeeeeeeeepers. Cringe

    4. The sad thing is IL feels he ought to be the media presence for Napo. Who is going to disabuse him of this view?

  7. If HP have got the it contract, and we know many case records have disappeared, maybe some historical advertising campaigns predicted this?

    "Everything goes with HP"

  8. Courtesy the Romford Recorder:

    "Probation officer, Stephanie Gibbons, tells the Recorder about helping to reform those convicted of domestic violence, sexual offences and other crimes. She has worked for the Probation Service since 2005 and is based in Romford

    Working with domestic violence offenders when you’re a woman can actually be an advantage.

    There’s no place for banter or collusion, which the offenders might think they could get away with if they were supervised by a man.

    What I do in probation supervision meetings is try to unpick some of these men’s attitudes to women.

    I have to tread carefully, otherwise there’s the risk I could get their hackles up.

    More often than not it’s something in their past that has made them think they can behave that way, or their need for control has created anger management problems. In other cases, it is pure misogyny.

    I guess with the World Cup now over we’ll see a spike in domestic abuse cases coming through the system.

    There were almost 1,500 domestic crimes in the borough last year – 200 more than the previous year.

    Whether that’s because more are happening or more are being reported, it’s hard to tell.

    Particularly because on average 33 incidents of domestic violence will happen before police are first called to an address.

    I was working with one offender who would tell me: “I hate women. I don’t like women. I can’t relate to women.”

    I would just patiently say to him, but I’m a woman, and you’re managing to relate to me.

    Picking away at their attitudes and developing discrepancies in their arguments often leads to a breakthrough.

    I don’t only work with domestic abusers. I also assist people convicted of driving offences, sex crimes and those with drug or alcohol problems.

    It’s important to remain objective in this job. Sometimes I read a case file and think to myself, Oh no, this one’s going to be a nightmare.


    Then you get to the interview room and you’re presented with a human being, admittedly one who’s committed an offence – sometimes not very pleasant, but they’re still a human being.

    There’s a reason why they are sitting there, and my job is to help them to understand and acknowledge why they did what they did, so the chance they will do it again is minimised.

    I recently had a case involving a man convicted of internet sex crimes.

    His denial and self-loathing was hard to get around, he felt stigmatised, didn’t trust me and was convinced I was out to get him.

    I wasn’t – but nor was I his friend, nor was it my role to do everything for him.

    My role was to help him make the changes necessary so he doesn’t make the same mistakes again.

    Supervising people with drug and alcohol problems is a real challenge, sometimes they will fall off the wagon, sometimes not.

    If I can plant something in their minds, something might click the next time around.

    I have one ex-offender who was the most terrible alcoholic, but he’s been sober for three months now. When I test him and it’s negative, I always tell him, Well done and he responds – almost timidly, “Thank you.”

    People with addiction problems need constant reassurance that when they’re doing well, they are worthy of praise.

    Their addictions have badly damaged their self-belief and I use praise as a motivational tool to keep them on track to a drink or drug-free lifestyle.

    It’s a stressful and challenging job, but it’s not hard for me to wind down at the end of the day. I have a baby daughter and when I get home it’s all about her."

  9. I didn't hear what Ian Lawrence said on the radio but I have read what is in his blog on the NAPO website which made me uncomfortable. I'm more in agreement with Francis Crook's blog (near the top of the list on the right hand side of this page) which ends..."For years successive politicians have exploited victims to get a good headline. Instead of making the system supportive and generous to victims, they have used victims only to increase the severity of punishment. Impact statements are only about using their misery to increase a sentence. These impact statements were opposed for decades by Victim Support but sadly it has reversed its stance and now without any appreciation of the distress it causes to victims, the organisation is supporting it.
    I hope Victim Support will review its support for impact statements at parole hearings. I hope politicians will take care when tempted to exploit victims. We need a system of justice that seeks to heal the harm done by crime, what we have is a system that exacerbates distress.",,,Bobbyjoe

    1. I agree - not a good idea for IL to talk on a topic he clearly knows little about, not ever having been a PO and all.

    2. Hmm could say the same about Harry...know what I mean !

  10. Agree with anon 22.18.If you have no current practical experience its best to keep quiet if asked about practice issues and use an appropriate practitioner to speak.Ideally one of National Officers?

  11. NAPO has a Professional Committee- perhaps the chair of that could comment on professional issues. We also have a press officer (who was a probation officer) - is she acting as IL PR instead?

    1. A good point - but who at Napo briefed IL and signed off the statement about victim statements? Any PO will tell you that it is cruel to allow victims and victims families to believe their statements affect Parole Board decisions. The woman being interviewed alongside hapless IL was absolutely clear - she thinks most who murder should never go to open prison and never be released. In reality such a view can never be allowed to affect any decision by the Parole Board, or the key is indeed thrown away.

    2. The relatives described the judge as an honourable man. He was telling the truth. The victim view is one factor amongst many - not least current risk. The victim view is not a veto. IL's comments were naive, but on subjects of risk, Napo too often is populist.

    3. Please would anyone be able to tell me what F P O meant in the 1960's, regarding The Gables in Epping ?