Thursday, 27 November 2014

Guest Blog 10

“This is to give formal notice of my resignation.

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.

Best wishes
Su McConnel“
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.

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...

47 comments:

  1. Congratulations and well done. I agree that Probation failed to establish your own values, ethos and identity and that that has gotten you to where you are now. Unfortunately you leave behind you a service that still has no established values, ethos or identity and any that remains is rapidly diminishing.

    Probation needed to decide whether it was Rehabilitation or Punishment. Not a fudge up of both.

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    1. Thanks.
      I remember saying in exasperation at a magistrates training event, where a magistrate complained that enabling offenders to better themselves and gain good employment was not a suitable punishment, "Bottom line is, the idea of punishment isnt what propels me to work every day"
      Probation values and identity is/was however a "fudge up" or perhaps "a complex balance" of control and rehabilitation. The CRC splits NPS and CRC between the two, which is catastrophic for our sense of identity (and why I believe it is so divisive for colleagues) and also so bloody dangerous.

      Delete
  2. I am someone who can't go until I'm wheeled out, never been very good at interviews and it seems that most of the jobs I know how to do are linked to this TRavesty anyway. So I am stuck trying to negotiate the hoops..im not going to jump them, that's for senior managers, but I am going to keep saying that this isn't working.
    And it so isn't working. Whilst senior managers worry about the RSR and case allocation tool, a rubbish bit of kit that no-one will ever look at again once the case has been put on one side of the divide or the other, (assuming of course that you can find it) , probation staff are struggling to manage their work as there just aren't enough staff to do all of the needless tasks that are now required as a result of the divide.

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    1. I admire those who on principle do what's right. And if what's right is resigning then that's admirable. What is not admirable are those who remain but wish it to fail. You either hold onto the reigns and get on with the changes, or leave with dignity.

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  3. Like Sue I have been privileged enough to escape this disaster we have had imposed on us - but I still can't help but to watch and listen in hope the JR will salvage something for those that have to endure the mess. Best Wishes to you all.

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  4. I have not had the pleasure to know Su personally, but her words, could so easily be mne. I wish her well for the future, whatever she chooses to do. As for Anon at 07:27, avoid all "needless tasks" and concentrate on the job at hand.

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  5. Dear Sue
    I wish you well for your future and in your campaigning work.
    I envy you being in a position to resign but I do recognise that this will have a significant financial cost to you. There is also the loss of colleagues and a profession you clearly have loved.So, you have given up a lot for your principles.
    Sadly I am not in a position to resign but would if I could. I have children to support so I have been looking for alternative work with no success. Given that every practitioner knows how dysfunctional our work has been made under TR, I try to muddle through like so many colleagues. Like you I despair about the impact this has upon Domestic Violence cases where probation had worked so hard with partnership agencies over the years to bring about holistic work with victim safety given prominence for the first time. However my main concern arises from our work with sex offenders.
    I have seen a trade off between the level of focus needed in this work and move ( in NPS) to our entire case load being all High Risk offenders. Previously a practitioner has been able to use their professional judgement to focus most intensively with the cases that needed it at any given time. A completely responsive approach to risk which worked.
    Now that professional judgement is lost, mired in a fog of cases all needing maximum attention - at a time when many were simply transferred en masse to practitioners who did not know the cases and had to try to catch up with speed being the only requirement due to limited work time available to do this amid all of the changes forced upon us. The scope for damage is immense.
    Good luck Sue!
    a PO

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    1. Just send them into SOTP's, eventually they'll be bound to get a place and then you'll solve their problems, or rather they will sort each others problems out, Facilitators standing in the background, listening to them sort each others lives out, lots of good influences. There's alot of evidence to suggest they work to reduce reoffending...

      http://forensicpsychologist.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/efficacy-of-sex-offender-treatment.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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  6. Good Luck Su. It is encouraging that some senior managers have the courage to make a stand. Had the former chiefs and Trusts been more vocal in their opposition to TR we may not be in this mess. We all know they were not allowed to raise a collective voice but they (and their Association) have to take some responsibility for what has ensued.
    As for risk, it interesting that CG has not published a 'nil return' for SFOs he was hoping for!

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  7. A report by Nick Hardwick published last week about North Sea Camp open prison noted:-

    He raised concerns that the prison was struggling with extra work especially with staff shortages - noting at least 20 vacancies in the offender management unit unfilled at the time of inspection.He said: “The offender management unit simply could not cope with demand and often felt as though it was under siege from prisoners who wanted help and advice about the completion of their sentences, but could not get a response from over-stretched staff.”

    TRs through the gate is obviously very well prepared then??!!!

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  8. http://m.oxfordmail.co.uk/news/11627797.Retiring_judge_fears_for_the_future_of_the_justice_system/

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  9. Thank you for your contribution ,Su.Like you I have resigned from the Probation Service because of TR but did not feel ready to stop work .I reasoned why should CG and his chums make me retire ahead of my own schedule? I have been lucky enough to secure work with a nearby local authority -back to social work. I have three months under my belt now- it has not been an easy transition for me but I think I am getting there.
    The casual manner in which the service has allowed expertise to walk out of the door amazes me and it is in some sense how the service,over the past decade or so, has lost its way. At my leaving "do "one of the ACO s said that it was not surprising I was going into social care and she mapped out my Probation career from her perspective,pointing out that I had always sought out the "difficult people to work with". Funny- I had thought that was what the job was about.Silly me.
    Like you,Su, I still follow this blog every day to see how my colleagues are faring in both the NPS and CRC. I am yesterday's news to my former colleagues ,gone without so much as a passing glance. At one of my last Leadership Forums one SPO said that staff were leaving because TR
    "wasn't for them" -as if this was a lifestyle choice.
    I am seriously concerned about how TR is dividing up the work and how in the short time I was there post the split I felt my ability to function as a front line SPO was compromised on a daily basis. The foolish way the resouces and workload were allocated have stretched the sinews of an organisation that was never over-staffed in the first place. Take front line staff away to do pointless deskwork,invented to cover the cracks in your new structures seems to me to be a lesson in how not to manage. In years to come TR will be up there with other classic Governmental howlers and folk will shake their heads and ask why it happened. The history of government is littered with many examples of waste and social vandalism and TR will be up there with the rest.

    Good luck to JR NAPO - I will be following its progress

    Anon ex-SPO no 2

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  10. Sorry to go off topic, but I felt it worth noting. Theres bound to be more trouble ahead with the laywers. Despite a successful JR, this is how the MoJ have responded to it. It's just two fingers really.

    http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/practice/breaking-moj-to-press-ahead-with-criminal-legal-aid-reforms/5045367.article

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  11. Supplied via twitter by Tania Bassett

    Breaking News - Judicial Review: Disclosure Hearing Success

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=868&p=3531#p3531

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    1. No doubt the bidders for TR will be just as interested in the contents of those testgate reports as everyone in the probation service are.
      And just a personal note:-
      I love it when Grayling is made to do something he doesn't want to do.
      It makes me feel that the bully is getting some of his own medicine back, and feeling the way he makes thousands of other people feel on a daily basis.

      Delete


  12. Anonymous 26 November 2014 23:07 wrote:

    "A pregnant Wales CRC officer was attacked and hit in the stomach today by a female offender. No cameras in interview rooms, no way of alerting anyone that you are in danger. This is NOT acceptable. Who is risk assessing the buildings where CRC staff are/will be working".

    I hope after a trip to the hospital, where everything is hopefully ok, her next trip was to a Solicitors to sue the arse off whoever is in charge!

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    1. I hope the fucking managers get their corrupted asses fucking whipped by a good claim for compensation.

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  13. Best of luck, Su. As one who has also resigned, I can only agree with anon at 11.16 that 'The casual manner in which the service has allowed expertise to walk out of the door amazes me and it is in some sense how the service, over the past decade or so, has lost its way.' I too, am moving over to social work, but my main focus is on supporting Napo and JR and getting rid of TR, and stopping this govt getting in again. Should we succeed, I'll go back to Probation because, as anyone who works in the profession knows, it's in the blood. That the new guard can casually say goodbye to those of us who have worked for years, and can treat those who stay with such utter disdain, shows their utter disregard for humanity and their contempt for professionals. I've been thinking recently that most people in power are bankers, politicians, CEOs, those in right wing think tanks and the media. None of these jobs need any kind of professional status and they hate those of us who still believe in it. Great news from Ian's blog - GOOD LUCK NAPO

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  14. Plebs 1 - Arrogant Bastards 0

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  15. 'Mad' Frankie Fraser and Mad Chris Grayling both wreaked havoc in the Criminal Justice System. What's the difference?. Quotation marks.

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  16. Su McConnel, in you, we have lost one of the best, most compassionate, ethical, trustworthy SPOs and NAPO activist. I understand your reasons and motivation but feel sad and tearful at this news. I may only have met you once, at this years NAPO AGM, but you have inspired me throughout this horrendous journey. I wish you and your family the very best as you start a new chapter. The Service is poorer for Grayling's idealogy and this is only excerbated by good people like yourself taking the decision they can take no more. Hope you remain a NAPO member and our paths cross again in the future. Best Wishes Su - Jacqui

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  17. Please watch the Wales Report on BBC iplayer- i hope its available outside of Wales. Well done to NAPO Cymru for their hard work in getting airtime, and have your suspicions confirmed by seeing Selous talking out of his arse!

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  18. ITV now (7.30pm) Who Owns Britain?"
    looks at foreign shareholders becoming richer and British jobs lost as cost saving measures due to British institutions and brands being foreign owned, wonder if they will mention this includes even the criminal justice system and probation and prisons in particular?

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  19. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11258911/Prison-numbers-could-push-100000-by-end-of-decade.html

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    1. Speaks volumes for the 'new & innovative' ways of working in Probation. If there is going to be an increase in prison numbers, it stands to reason this is due to an increase in crime, soon after we are privatised as the figures clearly show that crime if falling at the moment.

      I swear, this bunch of feckers just keep shooting themselves in the head every time they open their mouths. Why don't they just all feck off and die. Painfully.

      Delete
    2. it does not "stand to reason" that an increase in crime is the cause of the increase in the prison population. The prison population has increased inexorably since Michael Howard's "prison works" speech to the Tory party conference, despite the fact that crime has fallen steadily since 1994 and fewer offenders are being sentenced by the courts. There are two factors driving the prison population: longer sentences and recalls, with the former being by far the most significant. Average prison sentences have got significantly longer in the past 20 years, hence the prison population has rocketed

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  20. Goodness, change all in. I have just been offered an NPS post, following a frustrating 'sifting' process earlier in 2014. The offer was subject to medical clearance by ATOS (!) - unless applicant is employed by NOMS. In my confusion, I can't work out if the CRC's are still part of NOMS!!! Shows how disorientating things are. Thing is, I have dusted off my Diploma in Social Work and recently applied for a senior social worker post in a local CMHT, and if I get offered the post, I shall be off like a shot, after 14 years. What an exodus, so very sad.

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    1. do you start afresh - ie as a new starter or do you have T&Cs transferred?

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    2. If you transfer to a local authority you take with you the ts and cs related to length of service e.g maternity pay,sick pay

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  21. I'm amazed anyone with a Social Work qualification has anything to do with NPS/CRC, it can only be an income related choice, surely they have skills that can be properly utilised outside of Probation? For in Probation they are wasted...

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    1. Apparently things not good in social work and social workers eager to leave and apply for Probation posts.

      Delete
    2. Haha. Yeah, maybe there's a few more quid in Probation. You'd have thought that the potential consequences in Probation for screw ups was a bit more dangerous but hey ho. The clever ones will remain equanimous and not even give a toss.

      Delete
  22. Staffing crisis as NPS + CRC's compete for staff - concerns about CRC's losing OM's and newly trained PSO's eager for TPO recruitment opportunities. More chaos ahead?

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  23. In all of the recent baking & Masterchef hysteria I found this recipe for TR:

    "De-professionalise by givIng power to eager beavers who want to please & climb the ladder of power; marginalise, ease &/or shove seasoned experienced professionals out the door; rubbish &/or rewrite history. Allow to simmer."

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    1. There was a final, crucial stage on the next page:

      "Season with lashings of Troll."

      Delete
  24. Following on from the above post re the wales report. Not much discussion of it on here but it was a great piece by Napo Cymru! I live in England and can access it via this link
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04pv52c
    I think its worth mentioning Jim. Andrew speaks total crap, looks like a rabbit in head lights! He must have thought there would have been a welcome in the hillside for him! He has no real clue what probation is all about.

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  25. Can I just ask? For those of you switching or going back into social work, what has been the position over not being a registered social worker? Did you keep your registration active (from when we could have signed up for free or at minimal cost... didn't think then that I would ever consider going back to social work!) or have you been able to register on the offer of a job or after appointment? It is just that when I've looked I've been led to believe that as a CQSW holder who has been out of social work (but in Probation) for many years, I need to be a registered social worker in order to apply for jobs. Thanks.

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  26. I applied for a job as a senior social worker and when offered it applied for HCPC registration.I had got a list of the training I had done in Probation for the past ten years or so and sent off my application.I received a response very quickly and that was that.I have a CQSW and a Diploma in Social Studies.
    Hope that helps
    Anon ex-SPO No 2

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  27. Like everywhere else TPO's being given High Risk Offenders especially Mappa cause so many NPS left or of sick thru stress. I fear it just goes over the heads of TPO's

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  28. After reading the blog tonight I think I'm going to re-register my CQSW and get on the look for social work jobs. There is an alternative to the NPS!

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    1. Jim has my contact details so if I can help in any way do ask.My personal experience is limited but I do have other ex Probation friends who have found employment outside.
      Anon ex SPO No 2

      Delete
  29. Anonymous 26 November 2014 23:07 wrote:

    "A pregnant Wales CRC officer was attacked and hit in the stomach today by a female offender. No cameras in interview rooms, no way of alerting anyone that you are in danger. This is NOT acceptable. Who is risk assessing the buildings where CRC staff are/will be working".

    The Officer was working on the women's Pathfinder project supposedly with low risk women supported in the community as an alternative to prison. All offenders have the potential to become high risk and you never know until it happens

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  30. I have made the point repeatedly that most SFOs come from medium and low risk cases because probation have always managed the high risk cases well. One of the most dangerous consequences of TR is to introduce mass reporting centres to reduce costs NOT to offer a more suitable service catered to offender needs. This will mean no-one can monitor safety or risk. One of the things we know is that stress raises risk of both harm and re-offending for most offenders.So let's stop responding to them as individuals and treat them like cattle - processed in large centres by stressed staff with targets to meet rather than service to provide to their fellow human beings. The alternative which seems to have developed is lone working with no-one monitoring staff safety.
    One of the precepts of my own practice has been "there but for the grace of God go I" it is often easy to see how people's back story has sowed the seeds of their criminality and to see how you might have ended up the same in their circumstances. This leads you towards developing insight into what could possibly bring about change for that individual. All of this is being blown to the wind by TR.
    I hope the CRC officer in Wales recovers and lessons are learnt.

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  31. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/brutal-coalition-cuts-putting-justice-4710220

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    1. A top judge has slammed the Coalition for putting justice at risk with its brutal programme of cuts.

      Judge Gordon Risius said “almost every part of the system” has been damaged by cuts to legal aid, the Crown Prosecution Service and probation.

      And he tore into the “almost daily” problems caused by private contractors failing to provide enough dock officers to guard defendants.

      Judge Risius, who retires as the top judge at Oxford Crown Court in a few months, raged: “The rule of law and the criminal justice system is very much under threat.”

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  32. http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/nov/27/on-call-contracts-for-criminal-solicitors-to-be-slashed-by-two-thirds

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  33. I've resigned too, as i have to work & trained after POs were social workers have joined an agency. 4 people have resigned from my office recently. One to be fair to do something she always wanted to do but TR did make her bring it forward. The others are 2 agency, one social work. It's sad.

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