Friday, 20 February 2015

Guest Blog 25

To engage or not to engage!

I have deliberately allowed a number days to elapse, before writing this, as following the Staff Engagement Event (Support, Health and Well Being) I was delirious with confusion, not around the subject matter, but at the sheer inane, ill advised and misdirected content. I know we (in my team) wanted to give it a chance and went with an open mind, and the pleasant venue and blue skies helped diminish that feeling that I have x, w, and z waiting for me back at the ranch.

However opened minded you are, you always have certain expectations that such a lavish event, with up to 300 people in attendance in one of 4 sessions; taking time out of their pressing duties, would provide something tangible. Particularly as some colleagues must have left very early to get there and there were no biscuits; Mr Graylings ban on ‘hospitality’ in common with so many of his ideas - mean and miserly. The very word Engaging, according to the dictionary is pleasing, attractive and this event was neither pleasing or attractive. I would have thought engaging was by it’s very nature interactive, but no room for questions, just post it notes upon which to write appropriate comments and or raise questions, concerns.

Lets start with our directors attempts to engage what is and always has been a group of people, the majority of whom came into the Service to work with people. There was a bland passing comment about ‘nobody wanted this and I/we did what we could to advise the MoJ/Noms’ before what appeared to be an attempt to account for what her team have been doing since 1.6.2014 and trumpeting the “achievements” that had been secured. The oration was supported by a power point which anyone sitting more than 5 rows away, could not read and she repeatedly apologised in advance for each slide. There was more than a passing nod to JFDI throughout.

We were advised of our purpose, ‘to protect the public, prevent reoffending, reduce harm’ and that we are always accountable. Lots of frothy management-speak about being professional. Interestingly, our clients were mentioned, only in the context of our Core Values, that “people can change”. Our identity was described as “managing offenders in the community and keeping our communities safe.”

So the achievements, I scribbled down those I caught:

A Divisional Hub
A Directory of Services
A Workload Management Tool (the National Tool will be coming to an office near you in the next month.
An Equality and Diversity Committee
A Health and Safety Committee
A Reward and Recognition Committee
Hub Business Partners
A Budget
NPS Delivery Plan
The Recruitment of 100 new PQF learners, although it was also acknowledged that we do not have “desks”, “work” or “managers” in place to support them.
A Business Risk Register
A HMCTS (Her Majesty Courts Service) Working Group
A Stakeholder Engagement Strategy
Key Processes i.e. Mappa and SFO/ Complaints Team etc

You will be pleased to know that within a year, all these ‘process management systems’ will be in one place. There was the usual smattering of jargon, management-speak, talk of “captive workshops”. Cor blimey, hope that isn’t about control and restraint techniques, but nothing surprises me anymore. The fawning over the achievements was inappropriate, as it is not like there were not blue prints in place for these polices already and the attempt to sound empathic regarding 'no work, desks or managers for newly appointed PQF’s’ was insulting, not least to those PQF’s in attendance.

There I was thinking I came into this job for multiple motives, including:

  • To reduce the harm caused by social disadvantage
  • To increase the opportunities for people to live better lives
  • To advocate, encourage and cajole
  • To locate all the decent people, hidden by the air brushed label “offender”
  • To help those flawed individuals view themselves and the world around them in terms that meant something to them, and 
  • To promote personal responsibility
I always thought get that right and you reduce crime, make safer the community and address victim issues. It’s naive I know, but isn’t the job of protecting the public one for the Police?

Two Noms colleagues gave a presentation, which I still have no idea as to why? In discussion with others we accepted they were trying to lighten the mood, but effectively alienated everyone by speaking to us like we were a CBBC audience and trivialised the plight of practitioners, by dwelling on the success of the Staff Engagement Survey, missing the point that whilst 42% completed it, 58% didn’t – they later told me their excitement was borne of the response they received to a similar exercise in Noms, where the response was only 9%. Nor was I appeased by their attempts to welcome me into the Noms family amounting to some 900,000 people, I was perfectly happy in my family of 5,000 as a Trust.

Alongside the engagement event was a “market place,” stalls, selling admission to gyms, weight watchers, the Civil Service Club and other organisations to help you stop smoking, check your blood pressure and gauge your susceptibility to diabetes; and other essential numbers, Samaritans etc. There were representatives from a Cycle to Work Scheme and a Fostering and Adoption Service; one colleague referred to the market place initiative as ‘alright, if you wanted to adopt a child or buy a bike’. As for Weight Watchers, I can give my children a fiver a week, and they’ll tell me I’m fat!

Some of that there Bollocks previously referred to and swiftly followed up by more bollocks, in the guise of ‘ORA Training’ – left me feeling that Noms have all the answers, but have no clue as to the questions!

30 years in


STAFF ENGAGEMENT EVENTS

The Pavilions, Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate

Thank-you to everyone who attended the events earlier this week (all 1200 of you!)

I understand that there has been a mixed response to the events and we will be sending out an evaluation form in due course to get your feedback. However I do hope that you will appreciate not only the positive intention behind the events, but also the hard work of your colleagues who organised everything. It is no easy task to coordinate an event of that scale.

We are all familiar with the saying “you can’t please everyone all of the time” ... but regrettably, it does seem from some of the feedback I have received that, “you can’t please some people any of the time”!

So … it would be really helpful when providing your feedback if you could be constructive in your comments in order for us to understand how we can improve for any future events.

For those of you who were unable to see the PowerPoint presentation, please find it attached. 

I am due to come out to LDUs over the next couple of months on my ‘Back to the Floor’ visits so I look forward to seeing you all then. I would be more than happy to hear your feedback/views on how we can continue to develop the NPS (NE)

Lynda Marginson
Deputy Director NPS (NE)

61 comments:

  1. One positive- no mention of or attempt to recruited to the Probation Institue-odd given the number of times the word professional was used!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As someone who drove for 2hours to get there and for 2 hours to get back I totally concur with this blog. The patronising tone of the whole thing, the egotistical blowing of ones own trumpet and the pitiful couple of muppets we were subjected to demonstrated that none of those people had the slightest idea of the amount of anger that was in that room. Lions led by DONKEYS doesn't cover it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just be grateful that you're not an NPS NE manager - they had the double whammy of a similar, but all-day, event late last year then had to calm the anger as the grunts all returned from Harrogate last week. Everyone is very busy and everyone knows there's not much money about. All the more galling to see such wastes of time and resources.

      Delete
    2. "grunts",,, really ?? FFS

      Delete
    3. "grunt"
      The warriors on the battle field, the men in the shit.
      There is no higher honor than being a grunt in the Marine Corps infantry

      Delete
    4. yup well long may they own that term, just who do not apply it to me
      a PO

      Delete
  3. Thanks for this insight into the event. The 'achievements' quoted are a regurgitation of processes that were already de rigueur. An event where those in the audience cannot even see a powerpoint is symptomatic of either incompetence or indifference. The hostility of the assistant director comes across in her distortion of Abraham Lincoln's words. He did not speak about 'pleasing' people - all the times or never pleasing them. He said: 'You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.' It's clear who the fools are.

    As for 'we' are all accountable, this mantle is always directed at practitioners. But invariably it's systems' failures that lead to tragedies. I recall in two notorious SFOs – Rice and Sonnex – it was either 'collective failure' or 'cumulative failure' that failed victims.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Netnipper I concur with yr views but understand it was a 14th century poet John Lydgate who write lines about pleasing people etc.

      Delete
    2. Thank you. What a philistine I am. Of course, the assistant director had a 14th century poet in mind. All the inspiration, it would seem, for TR, comes from medieval times.

      Delete
    3. And no doubt another Conservitave term would see the reintroduction of the stocks and witch trials for anyone caught using left wing sorcery?
      Medieval times indeed.

      Delete
    4. where would management be without Google, you should've seen the muppets from Uservoice who attended the CRC one - embarrassing does not cover it - sounded like proper scallies and loved the sound of their own voices, crowed and crowed about how they'd turned things around etc - they are now hi-jacking people in the waiting room trying to drum up business, as far as I know nobody's bitten the bait yet.

      Delete
  4. I wonder how much it cost to stage this event? I also can't see what the point of it was apart from an apparent opportunity for management to pat themselves on the back.

    I'm also not sure what the purpose of ANY of these is going to be:
    A Divisional Hub
    A Directory of Services
    A Workload Management Tool (the National Tool will be coming to an office near you in the next month.
    An Equality and Diversity Committee
    A Health and Safety Committee
    A Reward and Recognition Committee
    Hub Business Partners
    A Budget
    NPS Delivery Plan
    The Recruitment of 100 new PQF learners, although it was also acknowledged that we do not have “desks”, “work” or “managers” in place to support them.
    A Business Risk Register
    A HMCTS (Her Majesty Courts Service) Working Group
    A Stakeholder Engagement Strategy
    Key Processes i.e. Mappa and SFO/ Complaints Team etc

    Are any of them going to help prevent people reoffending? I think not. They appear to be nothing more than a way for management to appear to be doing something constructive. But all of these "initiatives" will simply suck up money that could be used for more productive things without actually contributing anything worthwhile. The rewards and recognition committee: who is this actually for? Clients? POs? PSOs? Management? Aliens? Grayling? Purple Futures, Sodexo etc executives?

    This waste of public money should be reported to the media.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'A Divisional Hub
      A Directory of Services
      Hub Business Partners
      A Budget'

      From what I understand all current Partner contracts are coming to an end and it will be up to the officers to direct offenders to various services ie accom, ETE, basic skills etc. These will be based in the local hub and the services will be paid for out of the budget. At the moment referrals to partner agencies don't cost NPS but they soon will

      As an aside I believe Lurking Winks are going to provide employment opportunities for offenders through the work programme, which is interesting because at the moment they 'park' them
      http://www.walesonline.co.uk/business/business-news/how-work-can-help-stop-8668188

      Delete
  5. When will it hit home that these futile, cheapskate attempts at corporate razzamatazz have no impact, meaning or relevance? Stroking yourself or your corporate colleague is just messy and produces nothing but resentment & ridicule. Not even Grayling - a MeisterWeasel - could pull it off (!?!) at the MoJ.

    I previously worked in the private sector (eventually shuffled out after a corporate bidding war) and was involved in true 80's-style corporate beanos at highend venues with (however cheesy it now sounds it was extraordinary at the time) charismatic motivational speakers, powerful workshops, professional development sessions accompanied by pampering to the extreme, e.g gourmet food & drink, live music, nothing too much trouble.

    That inspired people. No-one was humiliated, everyone was included. But it was bleedin' costly. One conference in 1985 (100 people over a weekend) cost in excess of £50,000. It was estimated we generated an extra £1M in revenue that year. BUT...

    ... We aint selling widgets. Its about working alongside damaged, angry & disenfranchised human beings.

    Anyone who knows their onions will be pissing their pants laughing. There is scope for a professionally produced conference. But it has to be properly funded, properly managed, and delivered at an appropriate venue.

    Would you drive 2 hours to attend a mandatory event where smug eejits give wooden performances, leaving you confused & angry - knowing you had a 2 hour drive home?

    Its always the problem with half-assed ideas... Privatisation-lite; half-fat; vanilla-probation.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have always said that Probation Officers are trained from day one to recognise bullshit when they hear it. We smile and nod but, when the chips are down, we recognise the smell.

      Delete
    2. The thing is, prior to the split, in probation we knew exactly what our job was and we got on with it - we didnt require a lot of pizzazz or expensive 'pampering' to motivate us. I for one am struggling with what is now being put forward as a fundamentally different model of working (in the CRCs) when a) no concrete evidence is being provided that the structure is in place (or has even been conceived) to deliver said model and b) our core role hasnt actually changed - that is, to supervise those who have been given a sentence in the criminal courts and which comes with statutorily enforceable requirements for the Probationer. How this then will equate to being on a 'customer journey' is completely beyond me TBH. S'pect next we'll be being directed to thank the Probationer at the end of their Order/licence for allowing us to share their journey......pure psychobabble
      Deb

      Delete
    3. Not psychobabble, Deb. Good old fashioned turd polishing!!

      Delete
  6. I have to say that one of the factors that is making me seriously consider a change of career is the extent to which I am finding all of this increasingly embarrassing. Emperors New Clothes doesn't go anywhere near it. Chaplin's The Great Dictator maybe? It just gets sillier and sillier.

    ReplyDelete
  7. This makes a very interesting read. Especially when you get halfway through and get to the probation manager bit.

    http://www.managers.org.uk/insights/news/2015/february/you-are-blind-to-your-bias

    ReplyDelete
  8. Meanwhile via Twitter Sodexo the CRC boss company are publishing pictures of meals about to be served - obviously not on offer to Probation bods at Harrogate or in any of the gaols they manage.

    In bad "bad taste" I say!

    https://twitter.com/SodexoUK_IRE/status/568758577399263232

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am reliably informed that, as attractive as they look, they are stone cold.

      Delete
  9. I can predict now that when Lynda Marginson visits the LDUs she will not hear one word of dissent ! She will also fail to acknowledge that this is because staff will not speak the truth unless it is anonymous. Her comments have an edge of shock to them and responsive threat.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can give her some ideas about how we develop the NPS, how about joining it back up with the CRCs and funding the resultant organisation properly so that committed, decent people can get on with achieving what all humane and civilised societies want - the rehabilitation of people who offend and assisting those victimised by society. But your right no-one will say that to her because her and her cohorts know that the whole thing is a complete fuck-up and the only way they can keep their fat snouts in the trough is to threaten anyone below them if they point it out.

      Delete
    2. I was at one of these events. It was a huge long room and everyone sat at the back. The first dozen or so rows were empty. That said something about how happy people were to be there. To be honest, I was impressed with Linda, and I know most people I spoke to were also. But my god, two blokes got up who are employed as 'staff engagement' facilitators and began the most embarrassing and humiliating double act you are likely (or unlikely) to see. Gob smackingly awful and ill-pitched.
      This blog was spot on - a staff engagement event with no credible attempt at engagement - a ridiculous room in a terrible location, no opportunity for questions and answers, powerpoint slides that were too small even if you were two feet away, the buffoons, then a 'market place event that looked incredibly well organised but was completely irrelevant. We weren't allowed in without a ticket because of health and safety reasons - for health and safety reasons it would have been better had I forgotten my ticket! Quite puzzling and infuriating in equal measure. I'm not surprised the feedback was terrible - that is exactly what it deteriorated into.

      Delete
    3. You are right no one will speak up as they can be sure they will be victimised if they date to criticise anything Lynda promotes . She likes to surround herself with those who outwardly worship her!!

      Delete
    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
  10. In a private prison this morning and it is clear that staff on the ground are no wiser about TTG than we are-it might be a May start but not in 2015 or if they do it will be usual headlong rush just to parrot that its been done with no thought about the consequences

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The start date was 1st February, the day the ORA 2014 was implemented.

      Delete
    2. May 2015 for TTG which relates to the twelve weeks of planning prior to release followed by post release work. Fe1st relates to extension of supervision to 24m and under (including those under 12m) and the introduction of Rehab Activity Requirements and ending of Supervision and Activity Requirements.

      Delete
    3. Feb 1st. Apologies for typo.

      Delete
  11. Can anyone confirm if this lady used to have a connection to Doncaster prison?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. re 16 50-I googled Lynda Marginson - there are a few sites - she was Chief exec of South Yorks Prob Trust and is still Director of a company based in Warrington - North of England Excellence Ltd - still current. She also has a Twitter site, nothing on it since she got the NPS job, but interestingly , she has re- tweeted the NAPO video - South Yorks version of 'I will walk 500 miles'. Make what you will of that.

      She also has a Facebook site, but no open access..


      Delete
    2. re 1730 - the Save Probation video is called - it's criminal, with much criticism of other related issues - Serco, G4S, Work Programme...worth a viewing.

      Delete
  12. http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=45c161a5b068f45e640606f58&id=03f64348d0

    Have you been blocked from working in probation/prison because of your criminal record? February 2015

    ReplyDelete
  13. And what about the ORA briefings. Clearly written by someone who hasn't been anywhere near a service user in many a good year. Just the sort of shambles in which the private sector will run rings around contract managers.

    ReplyDelete
  14. A solution for staff shortages regarding TTG. Close down Programmes teams and move the PSOs into the prisons. Simples, and seemingly will be done in some places. And to be honest, it makes sense to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Taking staff out of the arena they work in - presumably out of choice - and directing them to work in a totally different way is NEVER going to be a good idea.

      In my area this would mean taking PSOs out of the programmes team who live in West Cornwall and making them work two hours away from home at the nearest resettlement prison, HMP Channings Wood, 100+ miles away. Nothing simple about it. Yes you might have vacancies filled, but with deeply unhappy people.

      Delete
    2. Always simples.....when it's to someone else!

      Delete
    3. Thank you probationrelic. I am a programme facilitator and have seen for the last ten years how we are almost seen on the fringes of the service and "not doing a real probation role". We seriously need to get out of this "my role is more important than yours" mindset. While we do this we are not focusing on the real issues hitting the service. I chose to be a programme facilitator because (as I see it) it is one of the very few areas of the profession that one can still actually sit down with the people we work with and actually dig deep and explore what is going on for them without the nagging thought of "Oo I need to go and finish that Oasys" etc etc.

      Delete
  15. I thought it was a productive event..... I got a stress ball from the HELP stall. As for dumb and dumber, it was totally pitched wrong. Did nobody see them in action and think, "they'll go down like a lead balloon"? It's no point bleating on about how hard it was to organise if you get something so fundamentally wrong.....

    ReplyDelete
  16. It simply is not good enough to use public funds to stage an event that is so inadequate. If, as a PO, I did my job so poorly these very people would be on me like a ton of bricks - who bloody holds them to account?
    It was embarrassing.

    ReplyDelete
  17. After hearing all of the pitiful comments above regarding the Staff Engagement Event I wonder how many of you challenged the speakers /presenters? I never thought I would ever say this but I am so glad I opted for the CRC.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too.........

      Delete
    2. Clearly many staff did, hence her comments about "mixed feedback" and btw I hear staff in CRCs dare not speak out too...I know union reps have been advised to "prove you are on board" so let's not start a pissing contest again please. We are all in a dreadful position that is not of our making NPS and CRC

      Delete
    3. I think the comment by 19.44 opens up another debate around having the nerve to challeng those higher up. This is certainly not about any 'contest' taking place as you put it, but rather colleagues getting on with the job. Clearly staff on both sides are struggling but dont critise colleagues who openly claim a preference to where they work . The more the CRC s hear about the NPS and their incompetence from on high you really cannot blame readers voicing their thoughts and preferences for being in the CRC.

      Delete
    4. Whoever you are 18.47 you should be ashamed of yourself for that comment, I'm sure you would have stood up and questioned those idiots at the rostrum, let's see how you do when your faced with the CRCS movers and shakers! Hypocrite!

      Delete
  18. I am totally furious at Lynda Marginson's patronising tone "back to the floor visits" does she have any idea how she sounds? Shouldn't she go the whole way and describe herself a "descending from the board room" yup I get it YOU SEE US AS BENEATH YOU....FFS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry. I don't agree. I thought her tone was fine during the event and in the email. I don't get a sense she is shying away from the poor feedback.

      Delete
    2. Then you need medical help!

      Delete
  19. Thank you for producing this guest blog it nicely sums up what the majority thought about the event. As for the nonsense of saving money the expenses claims are likely to be much more than the cost of a buffet especially as some had travelled far to attend. We were starving after the performance some of which was excruciating so didn't bother with the market place! What a shambles and very fitting with the rest of the TR debacle .

    ReplyDelete
  20. Dear XXXX

    February Pay

    You have been appointed to a role in the National Probation Service (NPS) on or before 31 January 2015. I am writing to make you aware that we are still processing your appointment and as a result we have been unable to get you onto NOMS payroll before our payroll cut-off date in February. As a result I need to make you aware that you will be paid an advance of your salary at the end of February, this will be 70% of your monthly gross salary and will be paid direct into your bank account on Friday 27 February. We will continue to work to ensure you are paid in the usual way from March onwards. You will not receive a payslip in February, but your February pay will be reflected in your March payslip.

    If you have any questions regarding this please e mail TRIP@noms.gsi.gov.uk
    Regards
    NOMS HR

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is this allowed? I mean, where else would you work a month and then only get paid 70% of your wages? Surely that can't be right!

      Delete
    2. Even worse if you were employed before 31\1-this well oiled machinery, not working too well LM also said that NE NPS now have a voice in Noms, so excited, get off you beaurctratic are and get these people paid!

      Delete
  21. Strange, I know but another things they are trying to remove from us...dignity...the language people use is so important and we see this in LMs phrasing...she sounds affronted not ashamed...she sounds defensive not apologetic....she sounds autocratic not team.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Posted on behalf of a third party:-

    A few observations on many posts on here -

    1) why don't people say what they would have preferred the event to have covered, this would be a positive response instead of all this negative unhelpful criticism.

    2) it seems to me it is oh so easy to criticise, in the spirit of your blog jim what's the positive response people want? Negativity never wins out..

    3) paying people 70% of their GROSS salary will b close to their NETT pay for the month and is a sensible stop gap option until the matter can be corrected and adjusted in next months salary. No one is getting paid 70% for working 100%. Are some of your contributors just not trying to understand matters and just firing off any old criticism, without seeking to understand the issue.

    4) the NPS NE in my opinion is a great Division to work in, some inspiring leaders working hard in difficult circumstances.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Third Party

      1 - I've read the comments above & despite the currents of fear and anxiety about speaking out, I thought people had effectively said what they wanted an event to be, i.e. inspiring, professional & useful. It feels like you want someone to prepare a whole new conference itinerary for you... well good, that's a start. In a previous incarnation (media) I co-designed conferences, written speeches, prepared workshops for a range of clients - some worked (lots of notice, clear brief), fewer worked well (realistic budget), many were mediocre to piss-poor (trying to make a silk purse...) I've been to a few inspiring events but they are few & far between, and rare beasts. They require time, commitment, funding & very specific skills. In my experience Probation events have never hit the mark.

      2. Don't be dismissive of others' experiences. Its hard to be positive if there's nothing to be positive about. People have lost heart and many still cannot fathom, accept or understand the TR agenda. Those that can & do - & embrace it - seem to be the higher paid in the higher echelons.

      3. Erm, why not just pay people 100% of their salary? I've never started work anywhere in 40 years' worth of employment & only been paid a fraction of my pay. Its a whole new concept to me. Or are we being punished in a creative manner for the amusing references to the 70% Inspector?

      4. I'm not in a position to comment, but others clearly disagree with your opinion.

      Marjorie D'or

      Delete
    2. It reminds me of a medley of comedy sketches:

      "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream."

      Now all we need to determine is:

      What flavour?
      Do you get wafers with it?

      Delete
    3. Re: 3). OK, so now I understand the interim arrangement. I am trying to understand the issue; which for me is, how has this situation even arisen? Irrespective of how slight the variance between what people may have expected to receive in their pay and what they will get, it hardly inspires confidence in the system. Unfortunately, from my experience, it is not the first time there have been pay errors either for both contracted and "service provider" (sessional) colleagues.

      Delete
  23. "Inspiring Leaders" ??? Pleeeeaaaase.....people are clearly not inspired - perhaps you leaders simply inspire each other and that's enough....never mind about the "back to the floor" types or how they view you eh? Just remember this, it is the "back to the floor" types who deliver productivity.

    ReplyDelete
  24. On behalf of a third party ! Unbelievable and clearly demonstrates an unwillingness to listen! There is nothing positive in my division of the NE the atmosphere is toxic causing stress and as for inspiring leaders where are they ?? Somewhere in the hub I think

    ReplyDelete
  25. ROFL ! Clearly at least 2 NPS NE staff feel the same!! Just imagine how many must feels this way if on one blog in the same minute there are 2 so similar posts!

    ReplyDelete