“This is to give formal notice of my resignation.I posted that off, then I had a little cry, went for a walk, and then - comme d'habitude - logged into NAPO news, Jim's blog, and twitter.
This is one of the most painful decisions I have ever made, and definitely the most prolonged. Thank you for your efforts to secure me a transfer within the NPS. Today would be the last moment for you to communicate the terms of the proposed transfer and I have heard nothing, but this has given me one last chance to reflect on my situation.
In February of this year, I wrote to Lord Ramsbotham and in a long letter, (which he quoted in the House of Lords), I said “…both NPS and CRC look so bleak, so awful in prospect, and neither constitute that to which I committed my career and loyalty” Sadly, that statement holds as true now as it did then. I hope with all my heart that the Judicial Review finds in favour of NAPO, and that the next government takes steps to repair some of the damage wreaked so recklessly by this one, but I am weary, I am within five years of the time I planned to retire from Probation, and I am in the fortunate and privileged position of having an option to leave.
I am and will always be a “Probation person”, it has shaped me and I am enormously proud of my time in the Service. I will miss working within it, and with the practitioners, administrators and support staff with whom it has been such a privilege and honour to serve our communities.
There is now a hiatus while we wait for the outcome of the Judicial Review. We are now at a point where the MoJ defence looks likely to be that the “transformed” service is not quite as much of a mess as NAPO states. It is worth noting at this point that our Probation Service as constituted by the independent Probation Trusts, was a highly rated, proven successful, efficient and effective public service. And one which had already offered a cogent alternative plan to take on short term prisoners without any need for this wanton destruction.
TR puts the public at increased risk. It was my concern about the increase in risk to victims of domestic violence that formed the main theme of the long letter to Lord Ramsbotham I mentioned in my resignation. I continue to believe, and will continue to say, that Domestic Violence is the most heinous fault-line that runs through the whole morass of TR. A while back I heard William Hague challenging Chris Grayling and Theresa May to address seriously the issue of violence to women and girls in this country. Grayling's so called “reforms” in the criminal justice system have arguably impacted most severely on women and children, and TR is no exception.
A good few years ago I took part in a working party assembling the data for a submission for European Excellence rating for my Probation Trust. At the close, the independent consultant/chair of this exercise observed that the one great weakness of Probation was that it failed to articulate its own values and identity and instead made a specialism of jumping through all and any hoops set externally by Government. An organisation with a clear identity and values, he continued, would on occasion choose not to execute directives which ran counter to its identity and in so doing would in fact strengthen its position. I thought it was powerful at the time, and I am reminded of it now.
In contrast to the inability of their leadership to achieve a clearly articulated professional ethos (and then to defend it) Probation workers - and many partnership workers - have an ethos and values-base that has proven extraordinarily resilient in the face of many challenges. As their organisations demanded jumps through every hoop, the show went on: skilled, dedicated staff engaged with their clients with respect and attention in order to forge positive relationships, affect change, manage risk, reduce harm, lower re-offending and protect victims. I have no doubt whatsoever that this values base will survive and that a unified public probation service built on this will be a prize worth winning and won. Whether we win it sooner or later is the issue.
I am hanging up my Probation Officer hat, but not my campaigning one. Over the next months and onwards I will continue to campaign with NAPO. You can take the girl out of probation but...