Monday, 6 October 2014

TR Week Eighteen Part 2

I become angrier by the day, it's eating me up. As a PO in the CRC I feel continually undermined by the system and former colleagues. I recalled someone last week who had become psychotic. When I requested info from psychiatric services who had seen him 2 days before, I was told I had to go through information security even though it concerned risk. Once we are privatised who will share information with us to enable us to assess and manage risk? Found out today that the psychologists will not be able to help us with CRC cases.

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Please try to understand why staff go sick. There are frequent references in this blog to this becoming an increasing problem. My GP told me that I am suffering from work related stress and was unfit for work because I have an erratic heart rate and other physical and psychological symptoms. I am not off because I need a rest. I have never felt like this but to say work has affected every aspect of my life is an understatement. 

I am a competent employee, not dead wood as someone referred to in recent days and have made genuine attempts to remain in work. I am acutely aware of the pressure placed upon my colleagues and think about this every day. When I told my doctor I couldn't take time off because of this, he pointed out that it was up to my employer to ensure staffing and workload levels and I should not have had my health affected by work in the first place.


I had been working longer and longer hours (sometimes at weekends too) and truly became more ineffective as I started to sink. The IT systems became a real problem occasionally costing me up to three hours a day to resolve, time I simply did not have and could not go on absorbing. I just want to make a plea not to blame colleagues who are unfit for work due to the actions of the employer.


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As a trained manager and 15 year SPO, I am appalled at the approaches to stress and sickness described here. It is just bad management. Bad and ineffective.

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Grayling thanks Vichy probation during speech at Tory conference:

'And I want to put on the record here my thanks to the probation staff who are working so hard on the ground preparing the way for these changes.' 

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Yet another offensive remark which suggest two things to me. 1 You are not doing you job, burdening your colleagues with your workload and failing in your duty to protect the public.. or 2. You're actually doing your job, collaborating like the rest of us.. you are like so many on this blog, an anonymous hypocrite.

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I would say many contributors to this blog are saying that TR is ideological destruction of the probation service. They have as much right as you do to earn a living - they just happen to have a different vision of probation. You may enjoy being whipped into line by your rulers, but to express resistance is not hypocrisy and it isn't collaboration. Your support of Vichy probation is not hypocrisy, it's sycophancy. Will TR protect the public? Is it in the interests of the public good? How does TR sit with your principles?

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More like working hard to stay in a job, no one is doing it to support TR, doing it under threat. Get it right Grayling. Thank us all you want, but work is being done for our clients, not to support your shitty TR.

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When you see the rationale for an integrated probation service in the public sector, you know that TR has nothing to do with what is best for the public good.

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Word is 46 staff will be leaving DLNR by march 2015, lots of people going for EVR.

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Our CRC have been told that no more ISPs can be late and no more professional judgements can be used for an extra weeks grace UNLESS there is information missing directly linked to risk. We've been told that from early November all of our backlog of ISPs must be completed and that the CEO is monitoring this and will be getting feedback from managers.

NAPO have been in touch to say a WLMT for NPS is being piloted in Wales and then rolled out from October. Whilst this is encouraging news NAPO have not had access to the timings. Workload pressures in the NPS remain high and a further recruitment exercise across the area is expected. The PO compliment in the prison estate is also expected to grow albeit with a completely new job description. The flip side to this is that PSOs will be withdrawn from prisons. The time-scale for the latter is not yet known (presumably once the PO recruitment drive has finalised).

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A WLMT for the CRC is due in November, this will be a new model and will, we understand, take into account a complexity rating for cases and a social capital weighting. Again this is encouraging news, but we have stressed to local senior managers that volume remains a key problem. As with the NPS the CRC is hoping to recruit POs. Clear concerns exit about the availability of POs to recruit and the potential for current CRC POs to apply for NPS jobs prior to possible privatisation.

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With growing evidence that the RSR/case allocation (courts) is diverting a greater share of work to the CRC than initially expected and the 'new' risk category of 'medium high' cases being allocated to the CRC by the end of the year, it is clear that workload pressures will remain very high and potentially volatile.

Future work will also be generated as a result of Through the Gate (activity requirement) and under 12 month cases. CRC management are undertaking workforce planning around a number of these activities but it looks highly unlikely once the latter work starts to come through that sufficient internal resources exist to manage the work.


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Told today I (CRC) am unable to recommend a curfew in a breach for commercial reasons?? Surely the other recommendation of extra hours on UPW is also providing extra work for a private company!

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So the privatisation has already compromised sentencing. I hope the offender's solicitor gets wind of this and appeals. It is an outrageous situation to have the choices of disposal determined by the commissioning of local providers by the MoJ and not by the legal process.

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I cannot stress enough the problems with the (new with TR) case allocation system (courts) - word is each area is doing it differently despite being the proviso of NPS (emphasis on National and therefore consistent you would assume). Guess that's down to lack of training...or inadequate training .....Also the risk escalation is a nightmare and God forbid you have suggested a case close to the cut off score is referred for a review...The IT system is a disaster and makes each side of the task (CRC and NPS) a bureaucratic nightmare. In some areas a whole new role of case allocator (courts) has been created - completely new tasks - and where is the job description???

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Look, new roles are being created piecemeal and where are the job descriptions? We were supposed to 'transfer' on our existing T and Cs and that includes our job description, I have read here of a new role of case allocator created in NPS and the main duties of POs appear to have been removed in CRCs with PSOs in CRCs crossing role boundaries. What are the unions doing? I know Unison does not fully understand probation but surely they understand T and Cs?

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Risk escalation refused in one area because, whilst the NPS acknowledged that the risk HAD escalated, 'there was nothing they could do that wasn't already being done'! WTF?

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The key point is the CRC manager had to review this and agree the case was high risk before contacting NPS - this case should then have been allocated to NPS - are rules being made up as we go along different in each area??? Just what is going on?

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I feel more desperate as each day passes in the CRC. Some colleagues have applied for NPS. God knows where that will leave us.

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I would think very carefully before applying for NPS, do not make the mistake of believing it will be like prior to the split. NPS is where the greatest change has occurred to date and the IT is just shocking, issuing PI's have replaced training and the Tories have just announced further cuts to public spending - where do you think savings will be made????

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For at least 13 years (post new choreography) there hasn't been space for anyone to draw breath during the rapid rate of change; To quote someone, "the only constant has been change". The analogy I'd like to bring to the attention of those who are (allegedly) "responsible" is that, were we a restaurant, would you allow the crockery & cutlery to be re-used over and over again without taking time & care to clean it? 


This is what happens with staff being overloaded with too many cases, with too many high risk or complex cases and not provided with any professional means of "rinsing off". Re-use of dirty plates, cups & cutlery risks compromising taste and health. Fail to provide staff with appropriate support (esp in the newly segregated probation provision) and they will find cases begin to blend into one another, that issues become bland and over familiar, and that assumptions start to contaminate assessments.


Food poisoning is life threatening. So is stereotyping. "Nutter & Nonce" isn't a cute new name for a branch of Wetherspoons; It's a very distressing, scary reference to cases who are at risk of being targeted by violent & unforgiving factions in the community.

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That's the second time in two days that I've heard NPS described as Nutter and Nonce. Our NPS agency admin worker won't walk around the building on her own.

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From Sept NPS staff have to contact a call centre for IT help. I phoned the number, went through the automated menu, pressed no 5 for NPS Wales, wrote down an email address, emailed the problem - only to have the email returned saying the email address wasn't listed! Prior to this I spoke to IT who were in the same building.

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I also am concerned about the new CRC trainee PSOs who seem to be a group of immature giggly females in their early twenties. What happened to diversity?

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What happened to respecting and valuing colleagues rather than undermining them in a public forum?

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I am a PO and have spent significant time trying to find another job, I do not have the social work qualification but Dip Probation Studies. I admire people who have voted with their feet but I am unable to find work and need income to support myself and my family. The stress of trying to work within the new system, I am NPS, is intolerable. I am really struggling with the IT and have repeatedly asked for training, none is available. I am a wasted resource, how long before I face capability because I can't work the damned IT? My whole team feel the same we simply do not know what we are supposed to do now the old Trust IT support has been withdrawn. My manager doesn't know how the systems work either. 

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CRC - From having a diverse caseload with a mixture of lifers, IPP's, MAPPA cases and Domestic Violence, I'm now a DV specialist. The knock-on effect of this is that I now have 13 families with active Child Protection Plans. That's 13 core groups every 6 weeks, 13 Child Protection Reports to write and 13 Child Protection Conferences to attend. None of this is measured in my workload weighting. 


We all know that poor communication between agencies is the most frequently cited area for improvement when things go tragically wrong. I can't remember the names of all the Social Workers, let alone the children. I've lost count. I think I've got around 35 individual children subject to plans ranging in age from unborn to 15. This is even before I start my normal Probation work. It's impossible and it's risky.

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Similarly 30 years plus, having chosen to continue as a PO, more than capable, resilient and easily able to adapt to change...this is now untenable...it is impossible (NPS). Having awoken to exhaustion and despondency.. feeling trapped and unsure where to go...but go it has to be...you have helped raise a glimmer of hope. What to do...what is available....who knows...but my time is now to be spent finding out....Thank you.

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CRC managers are going on leadership courses and saying buzz words in the hope that they will be taken seriously by the private sector. Ha! they will be eaten alive.

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Constructive dismissal on a grand scale - because this govt (ha!) know full well that it's mainly the long-serving, experienced officers in whichever profession who will give up in disgust and despair and move on in order to take control of their futures. The future will consist of a wealthy and powerful elite with the rest of the population trapped in low paid, de-professionalised roles and eroded terms and conditions. They aren't too concerned about the consequences - all easy enough to lie about and cover up.

8 comments:

  1. This TR 'battle' comes on top if the daily efforts involved in delivering a professional service. Much has been said about work-to-rule etc, but regardless of such action the job still takes its toll. Grayling, napo and others don't seem to have any concept of what it is frontline staff actually deal with day-in-day-out, every week, every month. DV, child abuse, random violence, sexual offending, mental health, victim liaison. The combined impact is increasingly evident in comments posted - irritability, impatience, despair, low mood, lack of confidence.

    I've borrowed the following from the NSPCC:

    "The damage felt by professionals empathising with those they are trying to help is referred to in a number of different ways: vicarious trauma, secondary trauma, compassion fatigue and burnout.Even though these terms mean broadly the same thing and have similar outcomes they are treated differently in the literature.

    Conrad (2011) describes both vicarious trauma and secondary trauma as the stress and personal damage caused by helping or wanting to help a traumatised person. Other authors (Conrad and Kellar-Guenthar, 2006; Baird and Jenkins, 2003; and Richardson in Tehrani, 2011) group these terms in other combinations but all agree that there are long term consequences to reliving a client’s experiences, especially when those clients are abused children.

    The key concept is that by working with people who have experienced trauma and in trying to help them, professionals take on part of their client’s emotional trauma for themselves."

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    1. A very good point and it's prompted me to rummage in the archives for these three blogposts from the early days 2010 and 2011:-

      http://probationmatters.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/probation-retreats.html

      http://probationmatters.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/burnout.html

      http://probationmatters.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/coping-is-more-difficult.html

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    2. Off topic, but thought this was worth highlighting, if only because I find it a refreshing sentiment to find in the press, and the torygraph at that.

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11139520/Could-Britains-prisons-soon-be-as-bad-as-Americas.html

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    3. Forget jailbreaks, jail is broken. Completely and utterly broken.
      Some figures for you. The average cost per prisoner per year is around £35,000. This is, famously, more than Eton and more than Oxbridge. The total criminal re-offending rate is about 25%; for criminals released from jail, it’s nearly 50%; for criminals released from jail after prison sentences of less than a year, it’s almost 60%. The UK prison population is currently about 87,700. It has doubled in the last 20 years. And the UK has the highest prison population in western Europe.
      It’s not hard to see that we’re doing something wrong. If the UK prison system was a company you’d be shorting its stock like there was no tomorrow.
      Meanwhile, over in the Sweden, things are a little different. In late 2012, the head of the country’s prison service announced that it would be closing four jails because there aren’t enough prisoners. Sweden’s prisons are pretty decent places and Sweden’s approach to sentencing is well-known to be humane; pictures of cushy Swedish jail cells are regularly splattered with blood-flecked spittle from enraged Mail readers. But Sweden jails less than half as many people per head as we do and its re-offending rates are half ours. It’s pretty obvious that the Swedish prison works quite well and British prison doesn’t. We should be emulating those good-looking, well-balanced Swedes.
      OK, but let’s backtrack a bit and start with something even my most rabid UKIP fans will like. I think that some people need to go to jail for a long time. Murderers, sex offenders, and certain incurable recidivists present such a danger to society that the options have run out. So jail them – and, while I can’t bring myself to support full life sentences, I am OK with the idea that subject to restrictions and reviews, there are a few inmates who, sadly, have to be detained indefinitely.

      But even here, I can’t bring myself to go full tabloid. We define ourselves by how we treat the most vulnerable – and the most despised - in our society. People who form the incurable rump of our prison population will have often suffered horrific abuse and deprivation themselves, or have learning difficulties. So we should do everything we can to help them live the most productive lives possible. Why? Because it is simply the right thing to do and the hallmark of a civilised society. It is what makes us not Russia and not ISIS. And as for the tabloid mobs who bay for “justice,” well, a good start might be learning the difference between a paedophile and paediatrician.
      With that important caveat out of the way, I’d be looking at doing everything I could to keep people out of prison, just like those Eurosofties do. We could start by closely examining the notion of danger to society. Drug offences should be number one on our lists. These are the reason 15% of both sexes are banged up and, worse still, around half of all prisoners said they’d committed offences connected to drug taking. We all know the war on drugs is a miserable, God-awful failure. So legalise the lot, tax and regulate them, and sweep away a whole raft of ridiculous “crimes.” This would also eliminate those fun discrepancies where black kids with a few rocks get hard time while middle-class media types with a couple of grams get a slap on the wrist.

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    4. Even if you can’t bring yourself to do this (because US policy trumps scientific facts) you can achieve the same result by making virtually all drug punishments non-custodial. Drug use itself is pretty much a victimless crime. I know the smart answer to this is, “What about the FARC rebels in Colombia?” But the smart answer to that is: “What about the rare earth metals in your phone and the petrol in your car?” Anyway, virtually all drug users should be rehabilitated, not jailed. And as for dealers, I’d go pretty easy on them too. After all, drugs probably will be legalised at some point – and we don’t want to jail the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.
      Drugs point the way, really. There’s a whole raft of minor offences where no custodial sentence really fits the crime. By sending people to prison in the first place, you breed greater criminality and set yourself up for more of those £35k places down the line. People go into jail with a couple of GCSEs in wrongdoing and come out with a PhD in crime; users become dealers; and robbers become armed robbers. Prisoners get brutalised, they become less employable, and so on.
      If this is true of your average prisoner, it's ten times truer of young offenders. The institutions we send them to have become badly run, violent, sexually predatory and so on. What good could possibly come of putting someone in their teens who has been convicted of a relatively minor crime in here? Even if you belong to the "hang ‘em and flog ‘em" brigade, even if you think prison rape gags are funny, just think of your taxes and insurance premiums.

      While we’re here, this is something I just do not understand about certain elements of the right wing. If you can spend £1 on prevention or £20 on cure, why, for God’s sake, why don’t you spend the £1 on prevention? Surely this is the great lesson of the London riots. Cut front-line youth services to the bone and save a few million quid. A year later, pay out a couple of hundred million quid when people riot - and then call for harsh sentencing, because that’ll solve everything.
      There’s a strong moral element to this too. Why the focus on retribution and revenge? Why do you want to further punish people who’ve often had pretty dreadful lives? I’m often amazed at the total lack of empathy displayed by the one-per-cent types who conveniently forget just how much harder it is to become an entrepreneur or a top lawyer or a CEO when your life starts in a towerblock in Stockwell. Why are people who are given everything so upset that others might get something for nothing? Whatever happened to noblesse oblige?

      But again, even if you don’t care, think of the bottom line. Surely, you tell yourself, OK, perhaps I’d like to see them in stocks, but if we spend a bit of money on rehabilitation, or send them to a decent jail which halves their changes of re-offending, then it’s money well spent. Perhaps ten years down the line they won’t steal my Mercedes or knife me for my wallet.

      In a funny way, I think the way we treat a lot of white-collar criminals is probably about right. A few grams of coke should get you a slap on the wrist or nothing. Community service or non-custodial punishment should come first while jails should be a last resort. Fairly nice open prisons shouldn’t just be for the Andy Coulsons and Jonathan Aitkens of this world. Offenders should get points for agreeing to attend educational courses and gaining qualifications. Perhaps, in a rather wonderful win-win, we could sentence some of our criminal bankers and financiers to work with society’s most vulnerable offenders.



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    5. But all these sensible, money-saving ideas are pretty much off the table. No-one in the current government is going to touch them. Instead, our politicians seem hell bent on out-toughing each other to impress the tabloids while importing ideas like private, for-profit prisons from the US. Again, right-wingers please telll me, why are so you in love with America? America’s prisons are a disaster of gulag proportions. America’s prisons make the UK’s look like Sweden. There is nothing to learn here, except how not to do it. But God forbid you could learn something useful from a Scandinavian country and save the taxpayer money.

      In the Tory party only Ken Clarke and few increasingly marginalised wets seem to understand this. Or perhaps they all do. But they’re so scared of the Mail, of Murdochs tabloids, of UKIP and of their corporate donors that they just reflexively say “Stiffer sentences.” I don’t know, perhaps I’m an idealist, but if I knew that upsetting one of these groups would cost me my seat, then I’d also know that my seat wasn’t worth having.
      That said, I suspect any politician brave enough to speak out wouldn’t be risking their seat. The UK public is generally pretty good with those who champion unpopular causes. They sometimes even have a bit of time for politicians who treat them like adults and do the right thing.

      So who knows. It might even be one of those lovely moments in politics when an MP dares to say what everyone has known all along and is cheered. Although I’m not holding my breath, I hope someone does this soon. Prison is such an easy win. We can save money, we can reduce crime and human misery and we can all feel a bit better about ourselves for having lived up to the values we’re so keen on espousing. But as I say, this would take a bit of moral courage and there’s not much of that on the front benches these days.

      It’s funny-awful really. In a world of ISIS, Russian thuggery and Chinese repression, this sort of thing is a high-profile way the UK could lead by example. But instead, our brave “leaders” are busy grandstanding about withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. Because, as we all know, if you give the Mail and Nigel Farage what they want, after that they’ll leave you alone.

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  2. Grayling "will not meet with Napo until we mature"!

    https://www.napo.org.uk/campaign-bulletin-55

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  3. I've just looked at that Probation Chat that went on today and for me, one of the biggest travesties is the way POs in CRC cant move across to NPS even tho there are to be posts advertised. It is disgusting the way they've been treated. To make the share sale attractive MOJ have had to throw some experienced POs into the sale which is the real reason they're not allowed to move across. It is rubbish of Allars to say both sides need POs cos CRC do not.

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