Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Messages From the Top

Hello everyone,

Unfortunately my blog will commence with three areas of concern to our CRC this week but it is important that you are all aware of the issues and their implications.

Firstly, we have seen a significant increase in information security incidents recently and these do represent a serious reputational risk to the Company as well as creating understandable anxiety for the individuals whose personal details have gone astray. Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx, our Information Security Officer, is developing new policies, procedures and e-learning courses, but we have a few simple actions that we can all take to minimise the risk of information loss. These include

Using an email attachment sent to a secure email address to transfer personnel information in preference to paper documents and encrypt as appropriate.
Ensure that paper documents are securely packaged.
Send documents to a specific individual / team and double check that the address is clear and correct.
Use Royal Mail / courier delivery service that is appropriate to the sensitivity of the information.
Record how and when the letter /package was sent and keep an audit trail by email return receipts, mail logs and Delius contacts.
If a letter or package does fail to arrive, even after the measures above have been taken, please contact Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx immediately.

Secondly, our sickness rates are high, with August running at an average of 13.5 days per person — the same figure as July. The HR Department are currently analysing the August data and I am grateful to Xxxxx Xxxxxxx and Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx for their work on this. The impact of high sickness rates on our teams is clearly significant with staff who are in work carrying higher workloads. All managers have been asked to focus on our sickness absence by supporting colleagues to return to work where possible and by ensuring that you are all aware of our health and wellbeing initiatives which you will find here. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development) data for 2013 indicates an average of 7.6 days lost per full time employee across all employment sectors with 7.2 days in the private sector. Our sickness rate is clearly running very much higher than this and I believe that at share sale our Company needs to be viewed as a strong, well performing, 'Going Concern' with all staff working to the best of their capability and capacity. This will place all staff in the best position for the future and will provide evidence to the preferred provider of the effectiveness and commitment of the Cheshire & Greater Manchester CRC staff.

Thirdly, this year it has been a personal priority of mine to continue to invest significantly in the training of our staff to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge required to successfully undertake the work. Whilst I am very aware of the operational pressures that currently exist it is vital that once people are booked on to training events their attendance is prioritised in all but exceptional circumstances. Unfortunately we are seeing an upward trend in non attendance without notice which I find worrying. Not only is this a waste of money but, more importantly, those members of staff are not receiving the training that they need to better equip them to undertake the often challenging work of our organisation and to enhance their skills for the future. Therefore I would like all staff and managers to continue to prioritise attendance at training events.

On a positive note, programme staff across the CRC have focussed on aligning the suite of Accredited Programmes to ensure consistency of provision for all service users. This has now been successfully achieved and high numbers of programme staff are now trained and delivering Building Better Relationships (BBR) - the replacement domestic abuse programme. Additionally, from October Control of Violence for Angry Impulsive Drinkers (COV AID) will be available in Cheshire. The New Direction Activity Requirement (NDAR) and the Entitlement Specified Activity Requirements will also be rolled out across Cheshire, ensuring greater alignment across the CRC. These developments should not be under estimated and all staff in the CRC programmes team should feel proud of the significant progress achieved. The enhanced range of programmes and SARs better meet the need of our service users and our focus will now be on improving completion rates, enabling the programme targets to be achieved.

You may recall that some time ago I mentioned the development of a CRC practice forum to keep up to date with new research and innovations, share good practice and keep focussed on developing effective service delivery across the Company. I am grateful to Xxxxx Xxxxxx, for agreeing to take this forward — she will work with local change managers and any interested colleagues to get this initiative up and running. If you would like to be involved please do contact Xxxxxx, who will be delighted to hear from you.

Xxxxx Xxxxxx attended the Cheshire LCJB on Thursday, where he participated in discussions regarding domestic abuse, integrated offender management and violence against women and girls with our criminal justice partners. The CRC has been invited to work in all of these areas and both Xxxxx Xxxxx and Xxxxx Xxxxx will now be involved in these working groups on behalf of the CRC.

You may also remember that, when discussing the newly formed Probation Institute, I indicated that the CRC would fund a years subscription for anyone who wished to join. A number of you have done so and the offer remains open, please click here please use the special discount code of CGMCRC06201XXXX. I am aware of some cynicism regarding the Probation Institute, however, and in order for us to be involved in discussions about its future and influence the direction of the Institute, Xxxxx Xxxxx will be attending a round table event next week on our behalf. I will include an update of her attendance in a future blog. In the meantime the Probation Institute are arranging a conference on Personality Disorder and Offending Behaviour in Liverpool on 24 October 2014 click here to which we will send a number of delegates.

Last week I attended the Community Payback team away day in Cheshire and heard about some of the issues facing the team. As we know our CP colleagues spend many hours in direct contact with service users and are a source of considerable knowledge of the people we supervise. We discussed the importance of bringing the two CP teams in Cheshire & Greater Manchester together into a single, aligned unit to assist with staffing cover as well as reflecting the single company that is our CRC. It was good to meet CP colleagues, so my thanks for inviting me to participate in the day. I was asked specifically about two practical issues — how to record employment sustained on Delius here and how to log on to Compass Extra from home here.

Some of you may have seen the article in the Guardian this morning in which it states that the preferred bidders will be announced in December. We have not had any formal notification of this and I will be seeking urgent clarification. I will of course let you know once I have definitive confirmation of this.

Best wishes



  1. CRC officers not allowed to have the offender manager diary, this whole shit keeps stripping us down further.

  2. I'm afraid moderation of comments will have to be introduced for a period following a series of gratuitous and inflammatory comments posted and removed by me yesterday. This person has threatened to disrupt the blog by making certain demands, including that contributors including myself post under our real identities. This is either naive or deliberately provocative, but either way not possible of course given the very real threats from the MoJ.

    Should this disgruntled person decide to take up my offer to engage in a reasoned debate, but without deliberately inflammatory content, I will publish it and re-consider removing comment moderation. The offer remains for anyone to submit a guest blog for possible publication, including our disgruntled friend.

  3. The omnishambles is confirmed and acknowledged in the last paragraph.

    The CRC chief exec gets his news from The Guardian NOT the MOJ!

  4. Jim sorry that this individual feels he has to threaten this blog, in the past year or so this blog has been the only place where I have felt supported and I think many others have felt the same. So why would anyone want to disrupt this.

    1. Because so many of you appear unable to comprehend that what you do on a day to day basis has the high potential to cause serious reoffending. You use the same minimisation and denial as those offenders you serve and those managers you criticise.

      This is the "Abuse" that Jim is determined to cover up.

  5. A side issue, to be fair, but this was one of the advantages of the NAPO Forums. It allowed people to post legitimate concerns under the umbrella of a trade union organisation, thereby mitigating the threat of censure. The previous two or three 'rebbots' of that forum have resulted in it's near demise but it is still there if people wish to post.

    It is, nevertheless, important to acknowledge that, in a so-called free country, its citizens are forced to express their opinions anonymously because there have been explicit threats from the Minister responsible for the debacle they seek to criticise. This is what happens when the state defines the debate. It is one of a series of tragedies of which this coalition government should be profoundly ashamed.

    1. Well said & completly agree.

  6. I think this is great website and has helped external agencies such as mine look at Probation and say “no thanks”.
    Don’t undermine it! I use it now as a tool for other charities and say “if you want to know what’s happening probation read this blog” then make your decision.
    The people this web site is upsetting neither forgive or forget

  7. A message so uninspiring and lacking in energy and conviction that if printed out and left in a room the oxygen level might be observed to decrease noticeably.

    There is now a certain casual disregard creeping into many areas of work that appears to be a form of resistance. Lots of work that was undertaken with a degree of enthusiasm is now not being done and a kind of 'that'll do it' attitude is becoming the norm. There are those who would still be staring at their screens even if there was a 3 minute warning of a nuclear strike in some vain effort to meet a target but many practitioners just think 'F**k em' and are doing the bare minimum to keep management off their backs. Colleagues in my office are certainly doing the minimum to scrape by and our line manager (only a few years from retirement) has taken to muttering things like 'more corporate cr*p from above' at our briefings and when they return from meetings 'another round of hot air and bol***ks' echoing both our thoughts and confirming the whole she-bang is a pile of guano. We used to have an office saying of 'onwards and upwards' whenever new targets or something was announced now it might as well be 'slippery slope downwards'

    No one has any loyalty to 'the Company' or maybe more accurate to call it 'The Firm'. Most are looking for new jobs and if they could get out they would. This is after all ultimately Grayling's folly and every effort we make to try to make a silk purse helps him to ruin us. Of course sickness rates are higher than when probation was united in a Trust and perhaps some expression of surprise at the low level of this figure might be more in order in the circumstances. Sickness policies are now designed in favour of employers to bash staff with so many come back before they are well and spread germs in overcrowded open plan offices that invariably smell of the last microwaved takeaway being eaten at someones desk.

    Training for what? CV training or job interview training might come in useful or training for another career.

    Less said about the PI the better. Too many flies hovering.

    Spare a thought for the CP people who in London who were part of the first failed probation privatisation attempt. They will soon be returning to the CRC in time to be sold off again to to one of their present employers rivals. No doubt a very stressful time and frying pans and fire come to mind.

    This is undoubtedly the lull that is supposed to convince everyone that everything is OK and nothing to worry about before the election before the reality of the share sale and planned budget cuts bite and everyone will have to cope with the screw being tightened further, public sector redundancies, less money for services we rely on and chaos.

    Don't swallow the propaganda and don't believe the 'business as usual' patter spewed forth by the MoJ and their imps and minions who are desperate to hold on to their jobs too.

    Recently it was said that the entire criminal justice system runs on goodwill, unpaid overtime and more luck than judgement. Lets hope that Grayling's luck is finally running out and that his extremely greasy goose is well and truly cooked by December because if not then it'll be a slow and painful death of a thousand cuts as far as the probation service is concerned.

    Last one out turn off the lights

    1. I'd urge you to jump ship now and whistle blow to local media whilst you're at it. Otherwise you are simply complying with those whom you criticise and implementing their punitive policies.

      You say that statistics can be falsified in order to achieve the desired outcome, well I'd suggest that this is the case for many of the interventions that you and your colleagues implement.

      Nobody on here appears to have the ability to admit that what they have done in the past and what they are continuing to do now has the high likelihood to cause reoffending.

      Head in the sand time.

    2. I'd urge YOU to take some responsibility for yourself and your past offending and for where you find your self in life. You can keep trying to pretend the Probation Service - or any other convenient scape goat - is somehow to blame for your lot, but sooner or later you'll need to face the fact that your decisions in life are down to you.

      Simon Garden

    3. Nicely put Simon Garden. Everybody knows that. I am saying that anyone who puts themselves into the Probation Service also offends by implementing abusive policy on a daily basis. Do you fully understand what I am trying to say?

    4. I think before i can understand what you're trying to say you might first need to understand what you're trying to say

      Simon Garden

  8. " this was one of the advantages of the NAPO Forums. "

    They really are still as available almost as ever, to login one is sometimes expected to know a word or two related to probation - hardly top security: -


    If people collectively had the courage of their convictions and used their true identities in great numbers - they would not be disciplined - a reverse Spartacus.

    1. I'm not Spartacus

      (Doesn't quite have the same ring to it)

  9. I do not know how Blogger works - there are forums - that enable - posters who need to be pre moderated or banned altogether to have more restrictive access than others.

    I cannot see how here but someone more IT literate maybe able to fathom it out or if concerned enough to post a question in the Blogger Help Forum.


  10. "Because so many of you appear unable to comprehend that what you do on a day to day basis has the high potential to cause serious reoffending. You use the same minimisation and denial as those offenders you serve and those managers you criticise.

    This is the "Abuse" that Jim is determined to cover up."

    Our disgruntled friend is back online and the above gives a flavour of the diatribe. I refuse to allow the blog to be hijacked by anyone who seeks to flood the blog with multiple comments, but the offer remains to publish any reasoned argument. Until such time as a cogent argument is forthcoming, comment moderation will remain.

  11. Ban me if you can, the reason I would be banned is because I post questions that nobody is apparently comfortable in answering.

    1. You are anonymous so can't be banned! Comment reasonably and your contribution will be welcomed.

    2. Jim, first off, sorry you (and the rest of us) are being subjected to this behaviour. Comment moderation is not an issue for me. It is your blog, please do as you see fit.

      I am tempted to say that the best thing to do with this person's posts is to ignore them, but clearly there is an agenda behind the apparent attacks (ooh spot the PO eh?)

      For me, it is simple. If I post an unsubstantiated vague allegation I don;t think I can expect it to be left visible.

      So dealing with the most recent post, which says: Because so many of you appear unable to comprehend that what you do on a day to day basis has the high potential to cause serious reoffending. You use the same minimisation and denial as those offenders you serve and those managers you criticise.

      This is the "Abuse" that Jim is determined to cover up.

      This is a meaningless statement. It offers an opinion, that refers to no specific subject, has no evidence to support it. Be quicker to type "blah blah blah, I hate Jim, blah blah etc" and then complain because it gets moderated.
      If someone (yes, you) has an opinion about something specific with reasons to suggest it is accurate, then say so. Please explain:
      1: What is is that we do that you object to
      2: How it has potential to cause serious offending.
      3: Supply examples of denial and minimisation.
      4: Outline the ways in which is is similar to the denials offered by the other groups you refer to (offenders and managers)

  12. It's ok Jim I'm not the first person you would have hurt in the line of your business.

    As said above, the CJS runs on more luck than judgement. Those who find themselves thinking that working for probation is a good move probably have factors towards this that they themselves cannot fully comprehend.

    So continue to uphold and implement those policies of those Managers whom you serve. It's more luck than judgement if they work for the best.

  13. Re-offending, interesting area, I did a dissertation as part of MA on key factors in reducing reoffending for clients on probation. I contacted a significant group of ex-offenders two years after they had completed their probation orders and then interviewed about what stopped them
    offending. Interestingly the top factor and statistically significant was the relationship with their Probation Officer. Of the 90 or so ex-client I interviewed certain probation officers names were repeated as making the difference.

    When I fed this back to the management team of the Probation service I worked for they were not interested, psychology was king and people didn’t matter, the mantra was just follow the manual.

    I left when I had to assess all PSRs in my teams , press F7 on my computer for acceptable and F9 for unacceptable.

    Most of the great chiefs I have worked for have gone. John Harding former CPO of Hampshire & the Isle of Wight would never had accepted what most of the current tranche of CPO and senior managers accepted. He was a great believer in people and believed in his staff, he would never have had anything to do with this disaster in the making. People help people change not systems not IT not manuals, they can help but they can`t change anyone. Only a person can do that and that’s what the best Probation staff do and have done.

    1. I agree. I worked for John Harding in Hampshire. I don't think he'll mind me mentioning him in dispatches this way. Many many years ago I was a PO in an urban area in Hampshire. One day there was a senior management away day and a massive child protection crisis reared its ugly head. Due to a middle management cock-up I had no SPO's available, and could not get anyone at social services to listen. So needed to speak to the ACPO for my region to start pulling strings. This was a serious situation and the clock was ticking. I rang our HQ to be told no-one was available, but I insisted, then I heard a voice in the background wanting to know what was happening. John Harding then took the phone from the admin person who was failing to appreciate my dilemma and just giving me the standard 'sorry you'll have to call tomorrow' line. Once John had heard what was happening, he told me to ring Social Services immediately and demand unconditionally to speak immediately to the area manager and that if I did not succeed I was to ring him straight back and he would then contact the Director of Social Services himself directly. He told me he was not returning to the management conference until he knew things were sorted.

      That's leadership. Not "management".

      No, I don't think he would have been a part of this current debacle....

  14. Hmmm, who, how often and how deeply might I have hurt those I've worked with? An interesting question and probably not one I could answer with any objective clarity. In over 20 years I must have upset a few people; and its likely I've caused some to be angry or left others in a state of wanting to punch my lights out. Some openly told me what I was saying or doing during our appointments was naiive, pointless, a waste of time and/or "pathetic". They kept on coming to appointments until their time was served, and we agreed to disagree. Some haven't been seen or heard of since. Not been caught? Relocated? Stopped offending? Died? I've no idea. Some prop up our IOM statistics. Some pop up every few years, then disappear again.

    There have always been individuals who didn't believe they were 'in the wrong', or who didn't care if they were 'in the wrong'. I doubt any time spent with me would have "hurt" them. Those whose offences involved exploitation or issues of power & control (esp sexual offending and domestic abuse) were invariably reluctant to engage - again, not sure I 'hurt' any of those people. I can't see how my efforts to work with them would constitute effecting managerial diktat or implementing damaging policies.

    I don't want to encourage unhelpful posting, but would rather that (as suggested already) specific issues and concerns are raised. Maybe its the impact of an accredited programme? Or enforcement? Perhaps a recall? Or breach & re-sentence resulting in imprisonment? Maybe someone doesn't feel their concerns or story had been heard? Feeling ignored or dismissed is painful - especially when in an environment where people claim they are there to listen.

  15. Someone above mentioned the serco CP privatisation being a failure. Something that has consistently performed well and where the staff are supported by managers who obviously have far more of a backbone than those in the crc. Don't assume you know what is going on for us unless you work for us.

    1. Serco and G4S fleeced the public purse for millions during the tagging scandal. I imagine that some G4S people think that they did a good job during the Olympics, in the same way you like your corner of the Serco empire. Some people thought the Kray Twins kept very good law and order 'you were safe to walk the streets then, Guv'. Well done on the one CP success. So much better than all those publicly funded 5 star performing trusts.

  16. I suspect somewhere the order has gone out to tackle this blog, well let them speak,let them come and we will answer them

  17. Stop sniping at your Superiors.

  18. Perhaps Probation officers can tell us about the most serious further offence contribute in causing such offence?

    Or is it just a Job?

  19. I know I was put through Probation because I offended others, they did not deserve to be offended in such a way, they did nothing to me. I made it OK for myself and I was selfish to do so. I know that. No intervention ever needed to attempt to explain that to me.

    The only problems I have is with those officers that I have come into personal contact with. I know their names and what they look like and I shall not forget them. No threats from me I am merely saying so. It's not even a point of forgiveness either. They hurt me by implementing the policies, as I hurt my victims by implementing the offence. Abuse perpetuates abuse. It was my Life but it is only your Job.

    I'm not saying I couldn't implement it myself, I'm only saying that I wouldn't. You're all braver than I. You obviously have much better reasons for doing what you do and I can so obviously fail to see that.

    I'm not blaming anyone else outright, I'm only asking why you see fit to do what you do? That's the dichotomy that we live with each day.

    You can pass this on to your Seniors if you like.


  20. A few years ago I met a young man who came to his appointments with his face covered with a hood. He seemed surly and uncommunicative. I simply listened to him, now and then queried the very negative views he held of himself, the world around him and the point of his life. Then came a day when he said "Ì like chatting to you." Towards the end he was making plans, and making me laugh with his intelligent humour. We found a rehab in another part of the country and that's the last I saw of him. I do not know whether he made it through that time - his order was transferred and I have heard nothing of him since. I too remember his face and his name, and everything I learned from him.

  21. Some offenders have thanked me for my help, some have called me a w***er. It's the nature of this work.

  22. While we're on the subject of probation officers, so far, I've had three POs - all female - dealing with me during my period in prison and on licence. All three of them have been absolutely brilliant: supportive, helpful and pleasant to talk with. Not one has behaved unreasonably or unfairly.

    Maybe I've just been very lucky in the POs who have dealt with my case file, but when I hear so many complaints from other ex-cons it does make me wonder whether it's a case that being negative and hostile breeds a negative and hostile response in return. BTW, I'd never want to do this job myself!

  23. Hello there!
    Excellent blog post. You are right it was no coincidence that attacked MN when they did. And let's not be mistaken, they took the fight to Mumsnet, not the other way round and then whined when they were given.