Thursday, 12 February 2015

Time to Reflect

This wasn't the original title and the observant amongst you will realise that another significant milestone is rapidly approaching for this blog. At some point in the next few hours a reader will become the 2 millionth hit, which is astonishing given that it took 4 years to get the first pesky million, but only 9 months to get the second. 

By rights I should be celebrating, but in truth I don't really feel like it because my mood mirrors that of the blog. It perfectly reflects the mood of anger, sadness and realisation that we lost the fight and now have to come to terms with what can only be described as a fucking disaster. Please excuse my language, but TR evokes strong emotions and we all know the horrors we warned it would bring are already happening. 

Despite what was said at the self-congratulatory MoJ love-in last week, we know the Cabinet Office were right all along - TR is not deliverable - but it's going to take a few months for that fact to become all-too-painfully obvious to the MoJ. 

Anyway, back to the blog. If I'm honest, I'm hugely proud of this little effort, run as it is from the comfort of the living-room sofa. Like all things, it may have had humble beginnings as a collection of self-indulgent rants of a disillusioned, middle-aged Probation Officer, but it's long-since morphed into a platform that eventually played a not-insignificant part in a battle to try and save the whole bloody profession.

It's clearly been able to fill a vacuum and satisfy a need and that's borne out by the figures. At significant moments in our battle with TR, viewing figures have rocketed, the high point being reached towards the end of last year, but with a steady decline ever since:-  
Graph of Blogger page views

Graph of Blogger page views

I think it's interesting to note what the 5 all-time most popular blog posts have been about. The first, 'A Break in Transmission' doesn't really count because it's when I went awol in Berlin for a week and decided trying to post would be just too difficult. So that makes 'A Turning Point' the most popular blog post ever from last May about Napo's decision not to renew Harry Fletchers temporary contract. Had I known that 'Latest From Napo 50' would be the second most popular, I'd have given it a snappier title.

I'm really pleased that the remaining two most popular blog posts '5 Grayling Lies' and 'Guest Blog 9' were both written by Joanna Hughes. It's been an absolute pleasure working with Joanna over the last year or more and I'd like to record my best wishes as she embarks on a new career, sadly outwith probation.  

And that nicely enables me to confirm what should be obvious to all; namely that this blog has long since ceased to be the work of one very grumpy individual and has instead become an amazingly collaborative venture. It's continued to evolve, educate, inform, infuriate and hopefully support and entertain in equal measure. Whether it reaches 3 million hits will depend entirely on whether people still feel it's useful and whether there's an appetite and willingness to contribute. 

The campaigning mode has been left behind; the audit trail has been prepared for historians and the task of recording TR mayhem is well underway. Without you scouring newsfeeds, sending stuff in, writing guest blogs and leaving witty, erudite and informative comments, there would be no blog and no 2 million hits nearly under our belt. So, I will be raising a glass tomorrow and sincerely, 

thank you all!    


  1. My thanks to you, Jim. I would feel a lot more lonely in my shaking-my-head-at-the-absurdity-of-it-all without you, and everyone else who contributes.

    And thanks for posting the graphs - I wondered what the stats might have looked like in visual form.

  2. Updated - Congrats to the blog for imminent 2M whatever's. As I type this it now reads 1999838. Still no idea how to screenshot - sounds like a dodgy 70's movie direction.

  3. I want to thank you for this blog Jim, it has been a source of information (sometimes ....actually make that often....before we even get it from above) and in reading it I have experienced sadness, anger and frustration with some laughs along the way. It's almost become part of my day, to just check the blog now. Im in one of the 6 areas where Sodexo have taken the reins and I can see that they are already wobbling in the saddle. What I love about the colleagues I work with though is the continued support we give each other no matter what shit gets thrown our way and there's some shit being thrown with more to come. Those at the top have no clue what us on the ground do and take a blinkered approach, protecting their own along the way. Hopes of EVR seem to be slipping away with the departure of colleagues to NPS and I hear there's another recruitment drive coming. Here we are less than 2 weeks post share sale and already staff in my area are being told they will be moving to different offices as a result of the mass exodus to NPS. I dread the future in the CRC but I'm not confident the future in NPS is going to be any better or indeed more secure. I'm surprised Madam Justice hasn't climbed down from the Old Bailey and thrown herself in the Thames at the shocking state that Grayling and his cronies have left the entire criminal justice system in!

    1. As the HSBC fiasco will no doubt prove, only poor people commit crimes. The rich just play by the rules THEY make!

  4. Thanks for everything Jim and congrats on the impending 2M page views xxx

  5. Damm!!!

    I was the 2m visitor and when I went to do a screen grab with my iphone I only went and switched it off!

    Still, I can claim victory.

    Well done Jim and long may this blog continue. Whilst the readership has dropped post TR, with the inevitable car crash I can only see it increasing again.

  6. Raising a glass to you Jim. Sterling work, thank you. Love from your first million hitter x

  7. A fabulous effort Jim and you deserve the attention this blog receives. Even though my departure from the Probation Service is coming up for 6 months and I have been busy getting to grips with a new job, the blog has been one of the constants in my day.
    What has happened to the Probation Service has been an act of vandalism, so like similar acts committed to other public sector organisations- if it works well, flog it off and give it to your chums. The Royal Mail, British Rail , Careers Service, Forensic Services etc have all been victims so the Probation Service is not alone. When I read what is happening I know how that must feel like for colleagues left behind who have to cope with all this mess. Revenge can only come now through the ballot box so if you have a vote use it.

    Anon ex SPO No 2

  8. Well done Jim, this blog is part of my day now as it is for many of us struggling with the mayhem TR is throwing at Probation and the rest of the criminal justice system. The lies, the chaos, the sadness, the wreckage all documented here but so is the spirit, the passion and the humour of those bearing witness. Down but still kicking!

  9. In agreement with other colleagues looking at the blog is part of my daily life. I feel it provides mutual support and reminds me I am not alone in my everyday day frustrations knowing what the government has done. Although I continue to do what I came into probation to do. Support individuals to make positive lifestyle changes. Protect the public and manage risk. Be strong colleagues whilst we care for each other. Thank you jim for your shoulder to cry on.

  10. Hi, I'm Chris Grayling and 2 million people want to hit me. Is that the way it works?. I challenge you, you ARE Jim Brown!. How do I claim my tenner?. Send it to my PPS. 5 pounds will have to go into the register of interests. Keep up the good work, what, what!.

  11. although retired, kicking and screaming all the way, I never let go of Probation, hanging on to years of Journals, magazines, bulletins, Probation Service Guides for new officers, Blackstones Guide, NAPO News, office staff lists from years ago (so nostalgic, and that includes the pre-computer typing, looking so charming and dated)

    Discussion of privatisation was tainting the air when I left in 2011 but I don't think anyone thought it would be THIS BAD. I voraciously followed all the changes via the internet and contact with old colleagues, but somehow I missed your blog until last summer, when the death knell was rung loudly, and I became hooked. But it wasn't until Oct before I ventured thro' the complexities of IT technology to make a comment, and another.. and.. and then my Guest Blog -'Shakespearean Tragedy' in Oct, and a few more since. Thank you for giving me that opportunity.

    And since then, thanks to you Jim, my world opened up, having direct contact with the press, radio, politicians, Ministers, NAPO, Joanna, and you, and many many other people with a desperate cause to fight for, who I will never meet. An old colleague, now in CRC, emailed me last week, asking me to keep in touch with info for her, as I knew more about NPS than SHE did!

    Thank you for starting this snowball rolling - not knowing you were creating an avalanche of responses, most of them appreciating your support, but also giving clients a chance to air their views, and anyone else with an interest, sadly some going over the top.

    Great stuff Jim, I'm sure you must be unnerving and infuriating NOMS/MoJ. Keep it up. Your Blog is clearly needed - like a club, all affiliated to each other.

    And damn! I just missed being the 2 millionth! (Like my son in the Great North Run last year, who was a couple of min behind the 1 millionth runner since it began! How do you hand out champagne to 'anonymous'?

    Cheers Jim, long may you provide a very necessary, informative and appreciated outlet for all sorts of needs. x

  12. As a PO still in the thick of it, I want to say a big thank you to Jim for a brilliant blog.....I too visit daily and find this interesting, informative and yes, at times, infuriating.
    This blog has sustained me through dark times. I became active in NAPO, campaigned locally and nationally and couldn't begin to count how many letters and emails sent to anyone I could think of, sending 62 letters one weekend with daughter in supporting mode. I spent hours collating facts and figures to challenge my (Tory) MP and did so 3 times in surgery meetings. I accompanied other colleagues to meet their MPs too. I was placed under formal investigation ( and was easily cleared) after a non union colleague made accusations that I was scaring other staff about TR.
    I once stopped visiting this blog after becoming really upset about the 'social work trained staff are better and have the moral high ground' issues.The patronising tone of that argument always strikes me as inconsistent with social work values and disrespectful in its very nature. I am Dip PS trained and am not a lessor being please note!
    However, the true value of this blog will be as a place of testament and we already know that a significant number of service users are not being seen at all directly as a result of TR chaos. We know TTG has NOT been developed and is not available to implement so the reason that Grayling used to justify TR was a big lie. We need to share and record what is happening, the truth WILL out.

  13. No, thank YOU - this blog has been a lifeline.

  14. From Keep Probation Public, not Private facebookpage

    We have received news that Sodexo have ordered the CRCs they own to freeze recruitment. In at least one CRC, Probation Service Officers (PSO) have been asked to volunteer to go to the prisons to do the pre ‘Through the Gate’ work as St Giles Trust and Sodexo are not ready to deliver. Can anyone confirm these reports.Thank you

    Confirmed. 12 PSO's have been asked to transfer to prisons for TTG. What will happen to their caseloads? Oh yes, shared out between already stretched staff!

  15. Don't think I could have gone/going through this nightmare without this blog!
    Thank you!

  16. I have heard that if an offender legs it during PSS and does not get caught until after PSS end date they will not get punished.

  17. What a surprise - anybody thats worked within prisons knows that establishing new services takes ages. For established orgs 3 months is pretty fast to set up a new project, not forgetting it can take months for staff to get security vetted, cleared and trained. In London the ttg is still advertising for staff en masse , add to that interviews, notice periods induction etc it would be impossible to have team in place by May. The only possibility is existing prison staff take on these roles or probation staff who already have the clearance.

  18. re 8 16, 2 weeks ago in Nbria, 14 CRC PO's applied and were accepted for transfer to NPS, with the expectation that PO's in other 'divisions' would be moved to those CRC offices which had been left with little or no PO's! And now I am reading that PSO's are being asked to transfer to prisons!

    It would seem that the CRC's are just being used as carriers of reserve staff to be moved anywhere at any time, with offices topped up by new, unqualified, unskilled (in that area of work) even voluntary, staff, or not topped up at all!. How demoralising can that be? And given that there are high risk offenders in CRC's too, whatever Mr bloody G might say, as well as often difficult and time-consuming middle and low offenders, how dangerous and irresponsible can that be. And how unsettling for clients, with supervising officers coming and going . Or will it even end up like admin?- officers picking up the next one as 'it' comes to the top of the in- tray; or the detached voice behind the screen in the Job Centre or Benefit Office - a different one every time. What a recipe for total disaster. I fear for the mental and physical safety of staff, victims, and clients.