There have been many past posts about the impact of TR changes upon the probation court role and the production of court reports. A colleague PO told me this week about her court team manager informing the team that their purpose was “purely to assist the court with its sentencing exercise nothing more”. This was in response to a discussion at their team meeting following staff raising concerns about criticism from the LDUs about the assessments made in reports prepared by court officers. They were told that it is up to the officer who gets allocated the case in the LDU to get the information they need, not court officers to provide this.
This team was also told that their priority is to deliver 90% of reports as oral reports with a time allocation of 90 minutes (interview, delivery in court plus completion of the CAT and RSR). A colleague PSO told me “we are now working like battery hens churning out report after report”.
The impact of this is being felt in LDU teams, both NPS and CRC and it is not without a significant financial cost to each ‘business’. NPS colleagues can no longer rely upon information from court colleagues’ assessment to complete Initial Supervision Plans and have to gather even basic information for assessments that previously would have been completed by CDOs. This results in either poor quality assessments to meet the ISP deadline, or extra pressure and time constraints on case managers to get the information for a good assessment and risk missing ISP targets. It could even mean duplication of work as OASys will need reviewing again when you do eventually get information which would have been routine in a good PSR.
If you think this doesn’t matter, I can assure you that a colleague interviewed for an SFO investigation very recently told me the focus was upon her OASys assessment. It appears to me that we are being forced to work to new lower standards but will be measured, should something go wrong, on the previous higher standards.
The CRC team has the same issues of course but they have another dimension too. They have concerns about sentencing not being targeted to suit their business model. I understand representations have already been made to the court managers regarding proposals given in reports. A business model has been constructed to show how ORA sentences should be as the CRC now operates in the world of income minus costs, to survive. It appears that the CDOs have their part to play in the viability of the CRC.
There are too many unintended consequences of TR to measure but, my concern is that all of our jobs, CRC and NPS, are inextricably linked to the court process and it was always thus. What seems to be happening is a change in focus from a cohesive system flowing from the courts to a system of probation court staff being instructed to deliver piecemeal work disconnected from practice.
You will note I have not mentioned the client/service user/offender. That is because in this process they are now just the raw material of TR….. aren’t they?