Tuesday, 9 September 2014

In a Spin

For various reasons I haven't got around to preparing much for today, so in order to fill the gap, here's something I put together over the weekend.

I find myself in reflective mode. One thing this blog has taught me is that you can sense the mood of readers out there. As one person pithily put it recently:-
 you can hear the tumbleweed blowing through the blog. 
The recent results from the Napo and Unison opinion poll amply confirm all the anecdotal comment that's been flowing through this blog for weeks. People are seriously pissed-off and many are just 'giving up'. Not giving up in the sense of accepting the TR bollocks and deciding to 'just get on with it', although some clearly might. No, giving up spiritually or intellectually like this from saveprobation on the Napo Forum:-
I'm done too, and I mean not just here but with the entire campaign/situation. I'll sit back and see what happens, and move on when the time is right
or giving up literally and joining increasing numbers packing the job in and just leaving without even hanging around for the so far elusive redundancy package. Interestingly, there are also signs that low morale is causing NPS to have difficulty signing up enthusiastic new recruits to the Probation Graduate Diploma:-
 Allegedly interviewed 1000 for 300 places - but have only filled 1/4 due to lack of suitable candidates (twitter)
There is talk everywhere of 'exit' strategies, as confirmed by blogger PoOfficer:-
I can vouch for this. Many colleagues have left or are working on exit plans. What a waste of talent!
It's all understandable and I guess a result of battle fatigue as much as anything. As Sarah Champion MP said last week at the Rally, 'the trouble is you can't fight ideology with reason' or as 'The Slog' puts it:- 
the sad truth is that there is a 100% negative correlation between faith-fuelled belief and fact-based discernment. 
Which brings me on to the current leadership of Probation and what kind of people they are. It strikes me they are compounding the situation by continuously defying gravity and pretending everything is just fine and dandy. In my experience probation officers are pretty adept at telling the difference between truth and bollocks and they don't take kindly to being treated like idiots:-
There is a generation of Probation staff out there that earn their living unpicking the flawed thinking of deviant others. They DO NOT fall for spin. I advise management to stop trying to bullshit us. It belittles them and it belittles us.
What is it with people like Mary D'Arcy CEO of Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC that tweets stuff like this:- 
Another excellent week in Hampshire CRC, Making a Difference through mentoring & service user engagement. Have a great weekend all  
When the reality is like this:-
 grinding through innumerable tedious emails full of ersatz enthusiasm for a lost cause
And not just emails either. There are also those dreadful upbeat management blogs, Manchester providing particularly good examples. As the Service goes into 'meltdown' and the tide laps around their feet Canute-style, the Chief writes breezily:- 
Our Cheshire & Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company is now two months old and I believe that we have made good progress in developing our vision, mission and the principles that we will work within. We have completed our business plan and undertaken some training needs analysis which is being developed into a robust training plan. Governance arrangements are in place and we have held two directors meetings and been involved in two Relationship Management meetings to report on our progress against the CRC interim contract. As noted above, we have also published our first performance data. While I am well aware that the transfer of cases was difficult in some parts of Manchester in particular, and that staff vacancies have placed pressure on remaining staff, I have been impressed by your determination to find solutions locally so that our work with offenders continues to be effective. I know that you are all working hard to embed the new processes and our work at the interface with the NPS must remain central to our work. I continue to raise IT issues nationally; they are largely beyond our control and really do represent the biggest risk to the work we do.
It is important that we continue to develop our corporate brand and identity over the forthcoming months – we need to be viewed by our partners and communities as an organisation that delivers world class offender rehabilitation across Cheshire and Greater Manchester. 
And now even more bullshit opportunities present themselves as house magazines start popping up, such as the unfortunately-titled 'Northumberland Crack' and 'The Bench Press' from BeNCH (Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire CRC). The latter seem to be having difficulty getting copy, according to this contributor:-
 I hear that due to a short take up of contributors, staff are being instructed - on a rota basis - to submit contributions.
Doesn't it all make you want to weep? Whatever happened to 'Probation'?

PS Since writing the above, it looks like a listener to Radio 4's PM has been moved to contribute the following to Eddie Mair's IPM:-
"My probation career has been devastated by the imposition of the coalition government's disastrous Transforming Rehabilitation programme."


  1. Jim I think you are absolutely right on this one. The part I can't bear is all the sniping between us all, having a go at colleagues because you're angry at someone or something else...again pretty easy to explain thanks to the benefit of our training, but doesn't make it any easier to bear. I desperately want to focus on the real work but my eye keeps being taken away when I am repeatedly reminded how little anyone other than people directly involved with the service actually cares one way or the other about probation...last night's programme Cops and Robbers was a perfect example...the police seen as the only people getting alongside persistent offenders to try and change their lives. Any mention of us ( bar one reference to a community order) was edited away. The only thing I did take away was that if I was involved in bidding for the joy of working with this group I might see that it is really not a simple task of helping them sign on/ apply for housing/ get a script....anyway, thanks again Jim for a state of the nation blog

  2. I think all CEO's have a buzzword handbook by their desk before writing their blogs! They all spout the same nonsense. One can see the similarities between politicians, next we'll be hearing "we're all in it together"

  3. In Kent we've got two magazines Insight and Inbrief, we must be special. Don't know that anyone bothers reading either of them.

  4. A good while ago I either read or heard that MoJ suits were bemused that probation staff were taking so long to move to the "acceptance" stage in the change process. And those same suits will interpret low turn outs to lobbies, disgruntlement with Unions, and things going "a bit quiet" as the start of a belated acceptance phase.
    Of course, in our own bubble of communicating activists, it is possible that it is us that is stuck in a state of denial, and probation staff are indeed starting to "accept" and will soon be "moving on" and looking for "opportunity" in the new regime.
    If that is the case then we "deniers" are a minority bunch of rigid-thinking saddoes who are just making life difficult and more painful for ourselveas everyone else, and hampering the sterling and skillful efforts of our realistic, ethical progressive and supportive leadership to forge the best possible path through challenging times for the staff and the service. No I cant keep this up.

    1. Brilliant :)

    2. Yes brilliant Off Sick! If you are off sick, then I sincerely hope you are taking good care of yourself and that things work out ok for you soon. Thanks again for contributing and I'm fairly sure your point will turn up in a blog post sometime very soon.



    3. the good old 'cycle of change' You can lead a horse to water.....

    4. In considering the cycle of change and the goal of acceptance, there are some key variables such as legitimacy and justice. If the actual changes you are being required to adapt to are seen as illegitimate and unjust, then it's these elements that are being denied, not change per se. I think of the Hillsborough families and those who fight miscarriages of justice. There is nothing pathological about not 'moving on' when it entails the abandonment of what one values. In fact, moving on and accepting injustice is not going to lead to healthy acceptance, because injustice gnaws away in the psyche. The healthy response is to fight those forces that are denying you the option to move on; campaign against them and expose their failings and pathologies. It would be better if there were more signs of active opposition to TR, but a determined minority can be a constant thorn in the side and a sower of doubts in the wacky and weird world of TR.

      There is a PR effort to make TR acceptable. The flurry of in-house magazines and pollyannaish tweeting is propaganda. There will always be those who go in for collaboration horizontale to promote, not a coherent, legitimate, evidence- based cycle of change, but, on the contrary, a cycle of misinformation and bullying indoctrination.

  5. In Derby Leicester nottingham its Compass, not sure what direction the managers are going as it seems they are lost but keep saying they know which way they are going.

  6. Bit off topic, but thought I'd share my attempts to get on Nick Clegg's radio phone-in. Honed down my question to one tiny box and then spent ages trying to prove I wasn't a robot, only to be told I would be contacted if Nick chose my question! So much for real and meaningful dialogue with the public!

  7. Off Sick I think you may be right.Many people have indeed moved on, they think the struggle is lost the bullies have won. However this managerialist push for the three E's of economy, efficiency and effectiveness can work if you are making widgets but not when you are working with people. In America managerialism has been going on for much longer, millions are locked up doing programme after programme and tagging and the likes of Serco have been making millions administering them. But that may well come to an end soon because people and politicians realise the the "War On Drugs" has failed and many States are starting to legalise cannabis. The money men now understand that prison numbers will reduce drastically and the share price of the likes of Serco is falling. If money cant be made out of locking up people they will pull out and what happens in the US of A tends to happen here too. I think the big corporations are starting to understand that the people we work with aren't compliant widgets, they are people that will resist or at least will not willingly comply.

    Take a look at the video of the Public Accounts Committee posedt on here yesterday and you will see the the Civil Servants haven't got a clue; the big corporations have and will make fools of them. Governments in bed with corporations will be cheated on they have not got the brains to cope with them and the committee said so. Managerialism and neoliberalism are failed ideologies they will fail Probation; look at the way the Scots are energies by their chance to break away from the madness of Westminster and the hell on Earth they are creating south of the border. Off Sick the bigger picture gives us hope and if the Scots make a go of it others will follow but I know the daily grind if horrible at the moment.


    1. "I think the big corporations are starting to understand that the people we work with aren't compliant widgets, they are people that will resist or at least will not willingly comply." That makes our clientele rather heroic, which, by and large, I think they often are.


    " Know The Danger
    7 mins ·

    Please post annon. Major disturbance at south east cat c last night. General alarm raised then all available staff called for twice over the net. One prisoner on floor having his head kicked and stamped on, chairs being thrown, pool cues being used as weapons, staff being hit with flying pool balls and batons drawn by several officers. No crisis though according to Mr Grayling. I beg to differ! "


    My comment : - Having worked in a prison for five years when my attitude to prison staff became very much more positive than previously - I am really concerned for all involved on a daily basis, it seems it will be ever more difficult to retain staff over the long term as in days gone by.

    The prospect of the Resettlement Prison idea working, with prisoners being smoothly moved near home for the last three months, to facilitate a preliminary visit from the actual 'old lag' mentor, who will where necessary escort the released prisoner to his new home on the day of his release, or just turn up at the gate to travel home with him anyway as a prelude to finding the ex-prisoner a job/training/drug/ angry man/ child care/ treatment (or whatever specialist help is required, including psychiatric and other medical support) as well as where necessary registering them immediately for Benefits - is a pipe dream.

    We were shown how difficult it is engaging with prolific addicted offenders in that excellent Channel Four Prog last night "Cops & Robbers" - which reminded me of what advances have been made as a consequence of MAPPA, I recall the nightmare stress I experienced in the 80s trying to supervise parolees in a semi rural area - in one case where there was a fear an 'east London gangster informer' parolee was at risk of being shot!

    He was released a day early - escorted to the Dartford tunnel (he had been in a Kent prison - home was in Essex) and left - without the local police or me his parole supervisor being told of the day early release or manner of escort - lying on the floor of a prison/or Kent police van (I can't remember which) - the local police told us it would take 90 minutes to get an armed response to his home, but an SPO used the 'old boy network' to get a special discretionary payment from the DHSS, that enabled the whole family to be relocated to an hotel in the town where a parliamentary by election is now under way - he completed his parole without conviction despite a return to heroin addiction!

    TR will fail - there will eventually not be enough PR 'spin-doctors' for hire to prove - all is going well.

    The best probation people can do - is nothing to prompt the false belief that TR has a cat in hell's chance of being a success.

    If you have any doubt that donkeys are being led by fools, with even bigger fools looking on and ridiculing - just see the performances in the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons yesterday - there are several links elsewhere and on Twitter, if you cannot otherwise find it.

    I imagine the Minutes - when they appear will need very little editing to be adapted for a "Yes Minister" / "Twenty Twelve" / "W1A" political spoof situation comedy type TV programme

  9. The whole CJS is in chaos and its because those that have decided to restructure it have no idea how it works, no qualification, experience, or knowledge of whats required, needed or how it needs to 'fit together'. And of late I have come to the conclusion that they neither have any interest.
    Just have a quick look at whats happening in our court rooms, another of Graylings messes (never mind prisons).




    " Probation Graduate Diploma

    September 5

    Our apologies for the delays. We are currently working on getting back to everyone that applied. We will be sending out the emails today and hope to get back to everyone by Tuesday. If you haven't heard from us yet, please bear with us, we will get back to you as soon as we can. "

    - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - -

    TUESDAY September 9th
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    Probation Graduate Diploma

    15 minutes ago

    Thank you all for your patience. As an update, the results of the campaign to recruit PQF learners will be sent out this week and all applicants will receive an individual e-mail giving them their result. 300 places will be offered to start on October 20th 2014 and in addition to this, some additional places will be offered for a January 2015 start. Applicants who receive an offer will be asked to complete security vetting applications immediately to ensure that they can start on time.

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    Top Comments

    14 people like this.

    Abi Pettit Thankyou for this clarification!

    Like · Reply · 1 · 11 minutes ago

    Daisy Blu Finally some news!

    Like · about a minute ago

    Write a reply...

    Daisy Blu Yay! We have news!!

    Like · Reply · 7 minutes ago

    Danielle Walker exciting!

    Like · Reply · 8 minutes ago

    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

    BUT SADLY - for the folk involved - it is REAL LIFE!


    1. I may be obtuse, but I think not; however I do not understand what the cross references to "The Thick Of It", the Facebook page etc is all about. I understand there's a FB page about the Probation Qualifications. I have read it. The Thick of It was a political satire drama. i get that. I don't at all get the rest of the post above-it is just a cut and paste of the texts of a set of FB posts by people waiting to hear something about applications, is all I can figure out. Am I missing something?

    2. No Anon at 13.45 my sad suggestion that what is going on could make a script for a programme LIKE "In the Thick of it."

      I missed the Justice Select committee this morning considering prison planning.

      It starts with the former chair of the IMB at Wormwood Scrubs talking about the cuts .

      The only thing that surprises me about the chaos in Criminal Justice is that the social consequences in the wider society are not more severe.


  11. http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-2d83-The-madness-of-Chris-Grayling

  12. This is the link to the Public Accounts Committee. from yesterday.


    the MOJ have Deloits and other massive accounts to oversee their many contracts; as others have said its like letting Dracula in to manage a blood-bank. Are they fools or are they corrupt??

  13. Or corrupt fools?

  14. They cant be either because all civil servants are now sent on a " one day Master-class" in contract management. That'll sort it then; you really couldn't make the rubbish up.

  15. I don't know anyone who's given up but I do know many who recognise that all our fine words and common sense suggestions of what might work are getting us nowhere but more frustrated. I personally am exhausted with it all and don't see the point of repeating myself over and over to simply hear/read the same old rubbish being bleated at me. From the ground floor it's clear that TR isn't going to work but, as with a particularly entrenched service user who has always done it this way so needs no reason to change, sometimes you know you have put your resources where they will best used and patiently wait for the penny to drop. Its time to use our resources wisely, a comment here, a bit of pro social modelling there, a dignified silence in the right place can be appropriate - particularly when the placard waving and ignored strikes have exhausted everyone involved. If anyone's listening, napo, now might be the time to do a bit of reflecting on what your members have been telling you (or not telling you with their dismal turnout for votes. ..) and some honest discussion without the frenetic backbiting and blaming would not go amiss right now. I would suggest that we all need to be talking on these forums about the real impact these changes are having and how this is likely to impact on those organisation's planning to make big bucks from the misery of other people (clients, victims, staff and yes, tax payers) because we know they read them. You never know which comment will hit home. But will I be spending my hard won evenings writing yet another letter to my MP who clearly doesn't care (labour MP) or calling grayling names on my secret twitter account? No I will not. 'Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.'

  16. The Path of Resistance
    1. appear compliant and "in the acceptance phase"
    2. promote endless discussion in the office about what each new PI means
    3. try to get a consensus, then refer to manager for clarification
    4. call IT support as much as you need
    5. record your actions in your diary
    6. discuss in supervision how you feel unable to cope
    7. do what you can in the time left
    8. take your lunch break
    9. make sure travelling time to other offices/prisons/meetings is business time
    10. take no work other than your own as you can now barely manage that with all the
    They should never have taken us for fools. We all encounter disguised compliance in our day to day work, now many of us are actually employing it but go on try and prove it Grayling.