Right up until dissolution, both the Probation Association and Probation Chief's Association studiously avoided any acknowledment of the blog's existence either and I guess all these bodies would cite the 'unaccountability' through anonymity as reason enough to ignore it publicly, but at the same time read it avidly in private. It's a strange world isn't it, but how big does something that's 'anonymous' have to get before it can be talked about in any official way? As big as Banksy?
Even the mainstream media have generally given me a wide berth and almost invariably contact with journalists has been a futile exercise I'm sorry to say. Until now, the only exception in openly mentioning the large elephant in the room has been academia, and I guess that's only right and proper in recognising and referencing a useful source of material for when the time comes for the inevitable post mortem on the whole TR omnishambles.
Happily bloggers as a group are not at all churlish in highlighting each others work and in this context it's pleasing to note that Russell Webster has chosen to cite this blog as a key resource on his contribution 'Should We Reverse The Privatisation Of The Probation Service?' on a brand new discussion website called ShouldWe. I wish the site well in being able to spread the word and distill sometimes complicated issues into easy to read bit-sized chunks.
On the subject of recognition, following his recent election to the Probation Institute's Representative Council, I'm grateful to Mike McClelland for putting his head above the parapet over the weekend and making the following contributions to the discussion:-
Just for the record, I applied as an individual. Napo haven't yet decided whether they want to engage in the PI going forwards. I have written to the Officers/GS stating that they need to do this but they've missed the boat re these elections. My election allows them an option. If they decide against further involvement then its my own time going forwards.
Mike McClelland Not anonymous - just don't know how to operate in the blogosphere & not very keen to find out!
Now that I seem to have figured out how to do this blog thing, just a few more thoughts on the PI. See above as Anonymous for earlier comment.
I've been involved since before its birth and have been on the Steering Group since the outset. The others on the Steering Group, from the PA (now no longer in existence) and the PCA (also now no longer in existence) - that's the Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association, and from UNISON are all people who I believe have the best interests of Probation at heart.
The Code of Ethics that we developed are largely based on European Probation Rules and Napo's own Professional Practice Book is sound in my view.
I have always favoured a Professional Register operated independently rather than what we have at present - operated by NOMS and the Prison Service ( see PI 31/14). This is hugely unsatisfactory in my view though nothing we are likely to change this side of the Election and/or the back of Mr Grayling. Then, we might have a chance and the PI is the obvious candidate for operating it. Napo couldn't because of conflicts of interest in the event that we had to represent members faced with being de-barred.
A word more on training.
NOMS are undertaking a review of the PQF. The current contracts with Higher Education (HE) providers expire in March 2016. It is now urgent to plan for a successor training structure to ensure there is no training gap. A Review Group has been convened and has started work . Napo and the PI are represented on this group as are some of the CRCs. But primarily this is aimed at ensuring continuity of training within the NPS to Probation Officer level.
What the CRCs do is up to them - so they can buy into the (son of) PQF if they wish. But the Secretary of State's new training and qualification guidelines, issued under the 2007 Act, are at pains NOT to fetter the CRCs in any way in this respect. It is true that some if not most of the CRCs, in the shape of training staff transferred from Probation Trusts know that training for staff is required and some plans are in place but they have also been waiting to see what the new owners want to do about it. It is fairly evident that the new owners mostly haven't even begun to think about training - other things to think about. We also know that CRC staff, notably PSOs, are feeling very much "second class" in this respect - the longer route to PO qualification having been closed off to them. In fact, the CRCs themselves are pretty fed up since NOMS/NPS staff did not, indeed were not able to, talk to them about training issues until the new owners were in place. They were thus effectively shut out until February.
So yes, the CRCs should be arranging their own training, but who will ensure consistency, accreditation, portability etc? Is it a good idea for the new owners to all plough their own furrows in this respect, or should there be some national co-ordination? We think the latter and see the PI as the obvious vehicle for doing this. Again not something I think Napo could possibly have done. So the PI is planning a workshop later this month to talk to the CRCs about their training requirements and maybe help and guide them to achieving a consistent national framework that works for everybody.
Maybe there is a view that one shouldn't seek to breathe the oxygen of life into the CRCs because we are still completely agin their very existence as private/voluntary sector providers in what we hold as being public sector work. But, like it or not, they are now a fact of life and i believe we have to do our best by their staff, our Napo members, and indeed the service users who should expect properly trained and qualified supervisors.
That is why I, personally, thus far on behalf of Napo, have been actively working to promote this work alongside what has at times seemed a one person crusade against PI 31/14. So having given my 'take' on training and the PI, if nothing else, I encourage you now to read that Probation Instruction to see what we are up against in terms of a professional register. If you work in Probation - NPS or CRC, it affects you. And if you don't know where to find it - MoJ website - NOMS - Homepage - Probation Instructions.
Alongside this, I have been working with others whom I greatly respect, from HE and other places, under the umbrella of the PI, to develop a training framework mainly for CRC staff (who else would do this?) both basic qualifying and CPD. I don't give their names because I don't think it's appropriate and nor do I have their permission.
I'd be sorry to leave this work if Napo chose not to support the PI going forwards, but I would have to - I work on Napo's Training & Professional committees, but sadly I don't think we have the resources to progress this work. Moreover, I don't believe other stakeholders, such as the new CRC owners would entertain Napo holding such a pivotal role.
I think that Napo and the PI can co-exist and work to the same end - protecting and promoting Probation but in different ways. But you'll need to make up your own minds.
Does it have the ear of Westminster? Not particularly. Certainly not Chris Grayling. Andrew Selous has made positive noises but not much more. It's still all to play for on this front.
Was the election fixed? I doubt it very much. Not a clue how you'd do this. Was it independently verified? No. It's early days in developing democracy within the PI but I think it's moving in the right direction.
Mike - I think I'm right in saying you are the very first Napo official to come on this blog openly and make a contribution - so thanks for that. Any chance you can encourage any of your colleagues to do the same, or at least acknowledge the blog's existence?
I rather doubt it on either front. I responded because you questioned my mandate (understandably). However I like the record to be straight when my motives are questioned. What i have shared with you here is largely about the PI rather than Napo - and of course training.
Until quite recently I have used TR Briefings as the outlet for most of my information sharing with members. Now that TR as a programme is over, I guess we need to decide on a different vehicle and I have raised this issue. It's difficult to get the balance right - not too much info' and not too little. But, so far as Napo is concerned, I should probably confine myself to official channels - though it is possible I have appeared in other guises over the months past.
I'm sorry, I'm not well engaged with social media - it's just taken about 3 hours of my holiday to figure out how to respond here! I do keep an eye on your Blog but not every day. I'm confident we both have the best interests of Probation at heart. I fear we have entered a dark period which may last for many years. That isn't even necessarily a criticism of new CRC owners, though if I had my way, it'd still all be in the public sector. The worst of it is that we have had a crazy operating model foisted upon us which will be damaging and difficult to operate. But we have to try to make the best of it for everyones sakes - and primarily that means trying to counter the impact of the fundamental split. I believe the unions and the PI have a central role to play in seeking to achieve this. It's pretty evident, talking to NOMS civil servants, as they shuffle uncomfortably in their seats, that they realise that having no means of talking collectively to CRCs could just be a rather big problem. There is a whole new empire of contract managers with each team managing one of the 21 contracts. I have heard that they are setting up some sort of collective interface but so far details are scant. Competition - v - cooperation. Bit of a tricky challenge.
Well, a guest blog will be welcome any time you fancy Mike.
Well, a guest blog will be welcome any time you fancy Mike.