Wednesday, 18 February 2015

A PO's Musings

The musings of a soon to be retired PO;

1) Why do all the SPO's believe that TR 'must work' despite all the evidence to the contrary?
2) Are all the newly recruited managers lap dogs who believe that TR is a good idea?
3) Whatever happened to the radical voices at HQ - the maverick thinker of yesteryear has long gone - progression to SPO seems to be how well you can promote the TR agenda.
4) In the 1990s they decided that the admin role was not required - got rid of a lot of them and then realised that this is the grade that oils the wheels of the service.
5) Why do people who have never done a breach in their lives now tell us how to do it, adding unnecessary layers of confusion?
6) PO's who have never stood on a picket line - never lost money for the cause - never supported NAPO, now having the audacity to tell those of us who did stand up to be counted where we went wrong in fighting TR.
7) Those staff who tell us to forget it, it's happened, just get on with it, just don't get it.
8) I supported NAPO for many years - didn't always agree with them, but believe in the collective power.
9) I'm sick of the platitudes from CEO's who praise us to the heights, then talk down to us as if they know how to manage our clients better than we do.
10) I'm sick of ministers who praise us to the skies - say they couldn't have done this 'without us', then offer us 0% pay rise.
11) I fear for some of my younger colleagues that they won't have the rich exciting career that I have had because of the way in which the service is going.
12) I fear that those punitive PO's will think all their Christmases have come at once with the advent of polygraph testing, but this will only ever be fair when they apply it to those maintaining their innocence inside.
13) HMPS do not seem to have any concept as to how ORA will impact upon their slice of the business.
14) I hope that when this 'working in the community' idea (not new by the way) takes off sufficient importance is placed on staff safety.
15) CAS and RAS are totally unnecessary - a good SPO could allocate in minutes.
16) Court teams are swamped already - now they want 100% of all court reports written on the day - can someone tell me the name of the person who thought this up and why?
17) Staff need to protect themselves from the explosion of LH SPO's (Little Hitler) who carry out their masters bidding without ever asking why, or saying this is a bad idea - is it just me or do they seem to have permeated every department?
18) The best organisations to deal with TTG and the under 12 monthers were always going to be the existing probation trusts, not these johnny come lateleys.
19) The pod system - seen as vital a few short years ago, lies in tatters as admin officers are returned to the pool systems.
20) Je suis Probation - the real version, not the PCSO (no offence as they do a good job) version we're turning into.


  1. Reading this struck me with a vision of lemmings rushing off a cliff . . . .

  2. My theory is thus : Staff are frightened of speaking out as there is a risk you may be punished..... We are all have mortgages to pay etc...

  3. Its official, the UK is fucked. According to Martin Lewis of MoneySupermarket: "the politicians aren't there to help you, the suppliers aren't there to help you. You have to be selfish and help yourself. That's all that's left to do."

    Save yourselves!!!


  5. A review of John Seddons new book The Whitehall Effect noted the following “governments have continuously tried to improve standards in public services while reducing costs but the claims for actual improvements are often “doubtful” while costly catastrophes have become commonplace. To deal with rising demand, governments have tried outsourcing, setting targets, increasing competition and choice, publishing league tables, using large-scale IT systems, and seeking economies of scale, to name but a few of the much-vaunted reforms. Most of the time, according to Seddon, this has resulted in higher overall costs, less efficiency, lower staff morale, an expanding public sector, and poorer quality of services”.

    Sound familiar

    Read the full article here

  6. Working Links leading the way??

    Or is it a statement saying they're going to put all their referals on the work programme??

    1. A blatant puff piece that could have been written by NOMS. All the usual buzzwords are there: "stubbornly high", "£46 in their pocket".

      Obviously employment is hugely important in someone desisting from offending. But can Working Links explain how the Work Programme, in many cases, managed to be less successful in finding someone work than if their client had had no support at all?

    2. Working Links gets a vast amount of money from the government to assist people back to work.
      If they use some of this funding assisting offenders refered to their CRCs to gain employment then surely they'll be getting paid twice?
      Once for the employment 'outcome' and again for a CRC 'outcome'?
      And the amazing thing is that it's all been government funded in the first place!!!

    3. There is unquestionably a view in this Government that everyone's 'criminogenci needs' are employment and accommodation. This view has clearly been transferred wholesale to the 'newbies' and they are consequently throwing everything into these areas. My experience is that many of our most vulnerable cases are not yet capable of employment or even of holding a tenancy with all the accompanying issues like budgeting, managing utilities etc etc. It's all too simplistic and amounts to one of those dumb approaches based on common sense when 'common sense' is anathema to evidence based interventions..

    4. Working Links 'park' offenders because they have complex needs and so take up a lot of time and effort to find work. An offender applied online to a well known chain and uploaded his CV on their site. He went to WL where the adviser asked him to take his CV by hand to the same company. He explained he had already applied 2 wks ago. He did as he was told and at all 4 locations was told to apply online. waste of time. There are ETE experts working in Probation who understand their needs and are able to give expert advice with very good results. These contracts will come to an end soon. Offenders will be referred to the WP and surely it is double funding for WL if they get paid for results in CRC and Work Prog.

    5. Every statement from Ministers about TR has muddied the waters for the CRCs - constant references to "providing services to offenders", Grayling's ludicrous ideas about working with local slum landords, and so on, have simply fed the idea that Probation clients are simply widgets to be worked on. Take one 'service user', add enough intervention, and hey presto, you have a shiny new compliant citizen. The Government evidently believes that rehabilitation is something that you can do to someone, not that they achieve themselves. My CRC's TTG plans involve workshops on accommodation, ETE etc. run on a rolling basis in prison, with a few of these fabled mentors chucked in for the more difficult cases. All well and good - and then the prison gates open and reality arrives. CRCs will put their efforts in the wrong place, achieve nothing but their narrowly-framed targets, and still be paid £millions for it.

  7. The Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Justice, delivered a keynote address at an event jointly hosted by the Prison Reform Trust and Centre for Social Justice on Monday 26 January.

    I simply love this section of Grayling's speech:

    "I am absolutely convinced that the arrival of NPS is a central part of the challenges we face in our prisons. They are causing major problems out in the community, with police reporting that they cause drug users to lash out in a way traditional drugs simply did not, and those in social services saying that they are causing self harm."

    And I'll leave it at that, just for devilment.

    Speaking of acronyms, who's heard of NOMS From their website:

    "Who are NOMS Co-financing Participants?

    The NOMS Co-financing Organisation works to improve the employability of Hard to Help individuals within the larger offender target group, with such individuals being currently unable to access mainstream provision, and are therefore unable to return to the labour market.

    Our participants are generally:

    Drug and/or alcohol issues
    Behavioural issues
    Debt problems
    Accommodation problems"

    Yet another source of more free money for the likes of Sodexo, Nacro, TMC, Serco, MTC Amey, etc etc - all of whom have submitted begging bowls for the next tranche of alms to the poor & needy.

    "During the first phase of the programme 2010-11, NOMS received £50million from the European Social Fund... A second phase of the programme with a value of £89million is now being delivered... and will run to December 2014."

  8. I have admired your dedication, persistence and determination during the TR debacle to 'tell it like it is'. You have often been the main, and sometimes only, source of reliable information delivered with a crtiical eye.
    The above article is another good example of the critical and sceptical analysis that TR deserves.
    However, as an SPO, I disagree issue with a couple of your points relating to SPOs. I know many good SPOs who are totally against TR who have fought the fight and continue to do so. Some of them are well represented on Twitter and FB albeit that they need to be less vocal on social media that they might wish. Particularly, SPOs and POs within NPS who have essentially been 'warned off' even being on there.
    As an SPO, I and many of my colleagues have stood on the picket line on a number of occasions in defence of the Probation Service and also our pensions.
    There is a difference between doing what you are told or begone and believing that all that goes on is the right way as that is signally untrue, disingenuous and an ideologically driven agenda.
    Nevertheless Jim, keep it up and we will continue to engage.
    Yours, a necessarily anonymous SPO.

  9. As an SPO I'm slightly disappointed with the tarring us all with the same negative brush approach. I believe 'some' of the concepts of TR have great potential but I also recognise the many flaws and associated risks. I am honest with my staff about my views whilst still presenting the NPS speech. I try to keep us focused on managing risk and reducing reoffending in our own units. I fully support staff to challenge appropriately, including taking out grievances so that we are heard. I also regularly chalkenge and question decisions and processes so please stop deciding we are all NOMS brown noses.

    1. Hear hear. As a former SPO I also was on the picket line,tried to support staff,was aunion rep and everyone knew what I privately thought about TR.I was never delusional enough to think I could do the job I wanted to do instead of the one I was being paid to so that is why I chose to seek alternative employment.The notion that all managers never said a thing against TR is just conspiracy theories gone bonkers .

      Anon ex SPO No 2

  10. Sorry but I cannot think of a single SPO in my area who thinks and behaves as you do, anon 18:39. I honestly wish I could. In my area behaviour has simply deteriorated into "do as I say you have to get on board now" but then I am from the former JFDI trust...

  11. Most of the activists in my area are SPOs. The anti-manager tone is not universal and can, at times, be a cliché.

    1. Less anti manager perhaps than anti managerialism.....but Kudos if where you are most of the activists are SPOs. I would be interested to know what activist means in your context. Sadly I no longer have any respect for the vast majority of managers in my area.

    2. There is now a vast gulf and considerable mistrust between staff and managers, it is sad but there we are.Really, this occurred prior to TR and is perhaps not recoverable imo.


    1. Media Release

      Wednesday 18 February 2015

      Revealed: £56m wasted on getting rid of prison staff

      More than £56million of public money was spent in a single year on severance payments as staffing in the prison system was cut to dangerous levels, a document seen by the Howard League for Penal Reform reveals.

      The Prison Service made payments totalling £56,487,250 in 2013 – almost 10 times the previous year’s bill – as prison officers were made redundant across England and Wales.

      The cuts came as the prison population rose – from 83,909 at the end of December 2012 to 84,392 at the end of December 2013.

      The Ministry of Justice has since spent millions trying to recruit officers to fill vacancies after a series of damning prison inspection reports.

      Details of the severance payments are included in a response by Prisons Minister Andrew Selous to a Parliamentary Question asked by Shadow Justice Minister Jenny Chapman.

      Mr Selous’s response includes the following table:

      Table: Annual amount spent on severance payments1 to prison officers
      April 2010 – December 2013


      Amount (£s)









      1 Severance payments include payments as a result of voluntary early departure schemes and also payments as compensation for medically related dismissals. Payments are allocated to the year paid, which in some cases may be after the leaving date of the officer.

      2 Spending shown for 2010 only covers 1 April 2010 – 31 December 2010 as information of severance payments prior to 1 April 2010 is held by a private contractor and is not currently available.

      Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The mismanagement of the prison system over the last couple of years is breathtaking and has resulted in a massive waste of public money.

      “Whilst prisons sank into an abyss of violence, gangs, suicides and criminality, ministers clearly panicked and are now desperate to recruit new staff to replace the experienced people they got rid of.”

    2. So thats why theres no evr left for probation

  13. Tories' probation disaster

    Chas Berry, Napo national vice-chair (personal capacity)

    The probation service as we knew it was broken up and signed away into history on 1 February. Workers in probation union Napo fought long and hard but were unable to prevent 50% of services being outsourced. Eight owners now run 21 separate Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).On day one of the new contracts, community payback teams were stood down in many areas because the new companies had no van driving insurance. The companies have shown they are also unprepared to deliver the new Offender Rehabilitation Act (ORA) that extends supervision to those with sentences of less than 12 months.Staff had no advance training and there is widespread uncertainty about how to, and who will, manage an estimated 60,000 additional offenders covered by ORA. One colleague described it to me as "like watching an approaching tsunami; you know a disaster is heading your way and you're wondering what to grab hold of to keep you afloat."Meanwhile staff working in the rump National Probation Service (NPS), who are now civil servants managing high risk cases, face the prospect of increased workloads and drastic cuts. New trainees are struggling with limited support and will not be ready to take on the extra work until 2016.As predicted by Napo, all this is placing unbearable stress on staff and may be putting the public at increased risk. Many will be asking, however, if the union can protect both our members and the public in an increasingly fragmented 'criminal justice market'.If Labour forms the next government we need to pressurise it to tear up the contracts signed by Tory Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. But any government is likely to carry on with the austerity agenda, so how can we achieve permanent change?Just voting for one of the established parties won't be enough. I appeal to all activists to get involved in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC- see page 5).Defend access to justice rally, 23 February, 1-2pm, Old Palace Yard, Westminster

    1. Anyone know the source of this or can provide a link? Cheers.

    2. Found it - Socialist Party

  14. I am a SPO. I do not and I doubt that I ever will agree with TR, accept it, believe it will work or feel any less angry at the decimation of my profession. I am Probation too. I am also in no more of a position to give up my job on a point of principle than, no doubt, almost everyone else irrespective of grade.

    I voice my opinions. I support my team to the best of my ability. I do this, as best I can and with integrity.

    For some that will not be good enough... both those I supervise and for those that manage me.

  15. Get real! In middle management there are too many SPOs who have taken up the TR mantle and are sucking up to hold onto what they think will keep them in a role. It might well do in the short to mid term but the variations to contracts are no doubt being muted around the MOJ planners office as we write about it. Worse still the NAPO campaign hardly cold yet as the election may bring some new dividend or avenue to pursue. Despite that SPO grade \ middle management still ran to the light of the TR fiasco as they see the butter there ! Of course there are many left with integrity and openly hostile as NAPO reps to the TR and for those brave few there is respect the rest of them will reap what they helped sow.
    The Musings a good post to trigger some debate and get us all to look at what we could have done differently.
    The Vice Chair Napo comment seems confused here too when your in office you speak for the Union I hope someone gets this gaff sorted perhaps an application in for and ACO role in a CRC next.

  16. Just catching up on the blog from the last few days. Important to remember with Sonnex that a lack of information sharing contributed to the SFO. Scary given the lack of information sharing now between CRCs and NPS:

    In 2008 Danno Sonnex was released on licence as part of an 8 year sentence for violence and robbery.

    The Youth Offending Institute did not share a report that highlighted that Dano Sonnex had the potential to kill: The medical report completed at the Youth Offending Institute did not transfer to the central file.

    A meeting between probation, police and prison to clarify confusion over risk level was arranged but did not take place: The multi-agency meeting did not go ahead because relevant documents could not be printed out.
    When charged and remanded for handling stolen goods it took 33 days instead of 5 to issue a recall warrant: The recall was delayed because probation required more detailed information from the police about the nature of the charges.

    When presented from remand prison to Court, Magistrates granted Sonnex technical bail. He was released from Court on 16th May 2008 and absconded: Magistrates provided technical bail because they believed that the licence had been revoked which would have meant a return to custody from court.

    Probation were not made aware that bail had been granted and Sonnex had been released: Probation took a further 4 weeks to formally revoke the licence

    Police delayed execution of the warrant while they gathered information about whether a firearms team was required: Police were then delayed in executing the warrant

    On 29th June 2008 Dano Sonnex tortured and murdered two French students living in London

    Each agency only had a partial view of the case and better information sharing could have given all of the agencies a whole view, providing an opportunity for better risk management.

    1. This, from 2009:

  17. My first encounter wit prison was in 1977. As a remand prisoner I could have a visit every day. My visiters could bring me up to 200 ciggies, a can and a half of beer or half a bottle of table wine, any amount of treats such as crisps, chocolate or fruit, and I could even have my dinner cooked at home and handed in.
    The staff were typically ex service men (there were no women then), and they worked 12 to 14 hours a day because after so many hours overtime was paid at time and a half, rising to double time after so many hours again. Staff weren't recruited locally, they were allocated a prison after finishing training, and they worked from hand written lists because there was no computers. There were good 'screws' and there was bad ones.
    By 1987 there was no beer or wine allowed, and treats, ciggies and your dinner was also off the menu. Staff were recruited locally, sat behind a computer on the desk, and worked far fewer hours as overtime had been exchanged for time in lieu. Promotion proccesses had also changed, and climbing the ladder had become more accessable for those on the shop floor. There were good 'screws' and there was bad ones.
    Those joining the service in 1987, found themselves in a very different place then those that were there in 1977, still prison officers, still making assessments and managing a population of imprisoned people with all the challanges that brings. Things were very different, but they only knew the job as it was when they came to it, and I imagine the thought of a prisoner being allowed to have his Sunday dinner and a bottle of wine handed in on a visit must have been a very strange concept indeed.
    All still prison officers, but some boarding the train at a later stop. Different terrain, different landscape, and not knowing the landscape the train had already traveled.
    That too is true of probation. Those thats been there longer will remember a longer journey and seen much more of the landscape. Those newer to the service will only know the job they came. You start your journey from what ever stop you get on.
    So for me as an outsider all this PO-SPO stuff is rather futile and unproductive. Its not come about as a consequence of TR, rather TR has created a platform for long held beliefs and ideals to be voiced.
    I think it would be more productive and cause less division in the ranks, if everyone accepted that they all just got on at different stops, and however the landscape changes from the last stop, your all on the same journey.


    1. Nice one, getafix. Simple, objective & clear commentary. In a bid to impress we often lose sight of simple clarity. I love the journey analogy.

    2. I like that :)

  18. Many managers could not do the PO role as it stands today, simple truth. I have been told by one manager (who I do respect) that what she fears most is having to return to the ranks if her role disappears because the role is so complex with many additional tasks added under TR ( CA RSR etc) and still the pressure that every case could be a SFO..

    1. Just an insy winsy little bit patronising, don't you think?

    2. nope, but "insy winsy" might be...

  19. What the author describes is managerialism, the choice du jour of neoliberalism. This is all our stooge politicos have to offer at present. If you dont like it, VOTE against it.