Saturday, 25 April 2015

Guest Blog 35 part 2

Is this the future (part 2)

So what happened?

Thank you for so many interesting comments on my “Is this the future”. My aim was to highlight through a real case my concerns about the split in the Probation Service and the potential for miscommunication and the impact that could have on a number of people in the community. In this case fortunately the alleged offender was remanded in custody and from this housing provider’s point of view, the end of his tenancy with us.

So what lessons have we learnt, well my staff are confused about the difference between the CRC and the NPS. The two staff involved in the case were convinced that the Probation Officer was a CRC Probation Officer. My initial surprise at this was to suggest that only the NPS managed this type of offender. However my attempt to clarify the situation by telephone went like this …

Call to the Probation service

q. Can I speak to X Probation Officer?
a. They are not available

q. Can I speak to their Senior Probation?
a. Yes I put you through

a. Sorry they don’t seem to be answering their phone 

q. Can I have their email address?

a. yes its ………….@crc……….

So naturally I think the CRC section must now be holding a MAPPA 1 case. Not what I understood however, with so much happening, maybe they have changed the rules or regulation, who knows. I sent the email to the address given. 5 days later, we have heard nothing from the SPO in the CRC who I wrote to, to say sorry wrong person, the right person is Z. Nothing from the NPS because the officer is on holiday.

This case was a best case scenario as the tenant was remanded in custody. However the worse case scenario, tenant released from custody without our knowledge, goes back to his flat and the people who attacked his flat are waiting for him, who knows what happens.

In all the enquiries involving critical incident one of the major causes of failure was “failure of communication between different staff and agencies”.

The split between the CRC and the NPS exacerbates this situation. Although some doubt it, I did spent 13 years in the probation service, but this highlights the difficulties in finding out who is doing what. This in my opinion was a relatively straight forward case with a poor service from both the NPS and the CRC. Now imagine it was a very complex case. 

It does not bear thinking about.


  1. All sorts of micommunications going on. I was particularly irked to hear the head of CPS whilst explaining their decision not to prosecute Lord Janner, she said, several times he no longer presents a risk! Who made that assessment? Is he being keep in a cupboard under the stairs, being fed through a little hatch and having no interaction with other people! I think this was the wrong message to give the general public, just because someone is suffering from dementia dose not mean they are incapable of causing serious harm!

  2. i'm always straightforward when i try to explain the difference between NPS/CRC, i am not hear to dress things up. The bottom line is that people supervised by the NPS are high-risk and if they want me to explain further what that means then I tell them sex-offenders, violent and dangerous offenders and all others are supervised by the CRC.

  3. There are LOTS of violent and dangerous offenders supervised by CRC.

    1. There are also lots of sex offenders supervised who are no longer on sex offender register and have committed other non sexual offences. They clearly are no longer sex offenders!
      Flawed through and through the Public being fobbed off by a Government and minister out of their depths

  4. Probation Officer25 April 2015 at 09:24

    From what I understand your concern is that you provided information regarding the man to probation. At some point you also became aware he had been remanded which raised further questions and concerns. It was unclear who his probation officer was and you was given the wrong PO name initially. To date you have had no contact returned from probation. This you attribute to TR confusion and a failing from the NPS/CRC.

    To be honest I think you need to take responsibility for this one. I don't know the specifics but you could have established who his PO was from start of tenancy and kept updated rather than trying to do this when things went wrong. You could have called back rather than waiting 5 days for the PO/SPO to respond to your email over what you considered to be a "critical incident". You could have challenged the information that he was supervised by the CRC are you're a ex SPO and it seems knew he would be with the NPS. I also think you could have demanded to speak with someone else, a colleague, duty worker, manager, senior manager, etc.

    Yes the receptionist could have got the right PO/SPO contact details right first time. Yes the PO could have updated you in real time or thereafter. In any case the man was remanded and I'd expect recalled and you seem to already know this. In terms of "what if it was a very complex case?", I think a sex offender that has just reoffended and is also at risk of community reprisals is complex enough.

    As you're are an ex SPO of 13 years I would expect the above to be straightforward for you. While it may sound a tad harsh, I think you're the one with a struggling service which you're trying to excuse by leaving bad reviews about probation.

    It's also a bit of a concern that the offender's accommodation has been removed before you've even established if he's been recalled alongside his remand. More of a concern because you've a inkling there's a chance he could be bailed at a moments notice. Housing benefit can be paid for a lengthy period while on remand and a recall period can be covered by the 13 week rule for sentenced prisoners as long as it doesn't exceed it (you have to argue a good case for this). I expect if you've acted unlawfully it will be "probation's fault" too!

    I'd suggest contact the Daily Mail as that's the place for silly trash stories with little substance. I'll now get back to my Saturday morning tea and toast.

    1. I have read as far as

      " To be honest I think you need to take responsibility for this one."

      As a former probation officer I consider the only responsibility of a residential Landlord is as a Landlord it is a courtesy if a Landlord provides the probation service with information and due to issues of confidentiality as a probation officer - I need to be cautious about sharing information.

      Obviously, in some circumstances a housing provider may also be involved in wider rehabilitation and so be party to information, with the client's consent - that changes the situation, but basically a Landlord is responsible ONLY as a Landlord, which includes an employers responsibilities to staff the landlord may employ and other tenants.

    2. Wow, this response to the guest blog really is typical of the average PO's attitude towards everyone: we have done nothing wrong and it's all your fault for not doing what you should have done even if you didn't know you should have done it in the first place!

      In this case it is clear that probation are to blame for the failures in communication and not the housing association. As other posters have noted, manners = professionalism. If probation got a call from any housing provider someone should have responded to it within 24 hours at the outside. It is irrelevant that the PO was on leave. IN any case the PO should have informed reception that they would be on leave and who to contact regarding any client in their absence. This is clearly a major failing in professionalism of the PO in question as they should have nominated someone to deal with any issues in their absence and to ensure that the switchboard was aware of this. Likewise emails should have been forwarded to an alternate so things could be dealt with in their absence.

      I find it rather disheartening that if anyone dares to criticise probation in any way over any issue that certain people attack them quite viciously instead of standing back and realising that there are actually PO's who are simply bad at their jobs/not professional/failing to do what they are paid to do. This is clearly an instance where probation failed and it is irrelevant what you think the housing provider should have done and didn't. Suck it up and admit that probation officers can and do fail and are not superhuman and do not walk on water as your post clearly suggests.

    3. I have now read the rest of what "Probation Officer25 April 2015 at 09:24" wrote.

      I think the guest Blogger is being VERY helpful and should be read by EVERY CRC commissioner of probation services and every MOJ/NOMs contract supervisor and a few policy makers at places like Policy Exchange/ Duncan Smith's Centre for Policy Studies and would be MPs & members of House of Lords who take an interest in penal policy,.

      The guest blogger is giving real information about the confusions that actually do occur and are more likely when communications are not personal, but institutional - hence the traditional model of probation practice gives a better prospect of minimising problems.

      What I mean by traditional - is one worker from allocation of court report request to conclusion of probation service contact UNLESS the client's supervision can be enhanced by specialist or additional interventions or there is a change of probation personnel or other professional reason for changing officer.

      As far as I was concerned I saw that model work, normally successfully from when I began training in 1973 until well after the introduction of 'automatic conditional release' in 1992, when the extra supervisees - without sufficient extra resources - brought in the need for - reporting in schemes - some had existed before but more as a way of 'shared working' than because the status of any client was institutionally downgraded as a way to cope with extra numbers of clients.

    4. @Anon 9:42 I am a PO and I often find "Probation Officer"'s comments to be arrogant and dismissive - as on this occasion. I hope, and expect, that he or she isn't like this in person - anonymity on the internet can do funny things to people.

      I don't, however, recognise this as a picture of the "average" PO or PSO's attitude - or certainly not the majority of colleagues that I've worked with over the last 15 years. Of course our clients may experience us differently, but I believe that none of the people I work alongside set out with that sort of approach.

      On the subject of the guest blog - I think you're spot on, this sounds like a failure of communication on the part of the probation office. The housing association's call should have been dealt with far better. But it's important to remember that there's no such thing as "probation" any more: in most places there are now two different organisations, with different client groups, but sharing the same receptions and interview spaces. For all Grayling's weasel words about the wonders of co-location, finding the right person at the right time is now much more difficult than it should ever be.

      In our office we have recently been grappling with the CRC's targets for HDC and ROTL assessments, as the way the target is framed suggests that all such requests need to go via the NPS for them to set up on Delius - even repeat ROTL applications. Whereas once (in an ideal world, at least) the prison would know the identity of the OM from the start of the sentence, and send the paperwork direct to them, now we're going to have to say, "Yes, I know this is my case, but you can't send me the paperwork directly, it has to go to the NPS for them to allocate it to me all over again. Yes I know I dealt with his ROTL application last month, but it still has to go back to them." Yet another shambles to add to the omni.

    5. If the 'Probation Officer' who penned this response were a police officer or a judge s/he would no doubt be telling rape victims that they should 'take responsibility for this one'

      Simon Garden

    6. Anon 11:18 HDC/ROTL reports are not going via NPS in my area - they come directly to CRC and officer allocated case. Just shows how differently things are being done across the country.

    7. @Anon 13:19 It would make much more sense if they did. However we've been shown performance stats that show 0% of HDC/ROTL requests being done within the 10 day time frame, with only 1 or 2 requested per month. This means all the others in that month aren't being recorded so aren't being counted - they need to go via NPS to record on Delius and then send on. It's another example of a process being designed to fit the needs of a contract, rather than the actual job.

  5. Poor communication and non-communication, as the Guest Blogger notes, have often been identified as being one of the main factors in things going tragically wrong. This may be exacerbated by the split, but as another poster observed in relation to the initial blog, in his area, Hampshire, the job goes on as before, but that 'some individuals fail to do their job properly'. But as we know from some shocking SFOs failures are invariably adjudged to be either cumulative or collective in nature.

    When you consider the Janner case, given the missed opportunities attributable to both the police and CPS, sometimes forces, maybe malign forces, may be at work.

    We know from the inquiry into the Mid-Staffordshire hospital scandal that while some staff were found to be unfit to practice, the hospital overall was dysfunctional, being preoccupied with cost-cutting and target setting, within a culture that deterred staff and patients from having their concerns addressed.

  6. Probation Officer25 April 2015 at 09:59

    Personally, if I need to discuss a critical issue I would not send an email and wait 5 days for a response. Nor would I then await to hear from a person on leave. Nor would I then go online to complain about anything I failed to do. That being said, the valid point has been raised that confidentially may have meant info could be received from the housing charity but not provided. It is possible that in this case the housing charity was merely just a landlord whom we legally cannot provide confidential info to on an offender's recall. The guest blogger could have asked to speak to an PO for general advice but then he does have 13 years SPO exp allegedly. Many learning points for the housing charity here, such as how to chase up information, interagency working arrangements, disclosure agreements, preventing unlawful evictions, etc.

    Il now get back to my next Saturday morning activity of "walking on water".

    1. That seemed what I consider a 'politician's response' from "Probation Officer25 April 2015 at 09:59"

      Comment about the superficial, ignore the substantial and demean the informant as a way of trying to appear competent, important, in charge and superior to other human beings.

    2. Well said, Andrew.

    3. I'm glad you're not my Probation Officer 'Probation Officer'. Attitudes like yours - disparaging, blaming and contemptuous toward the other party while deflecting and disavowing any responsibility for their legitimate grievance- are the reason a substantial proportion of our client group understandably hate what you make them think Probation supervision is. You should leave. I expect you'd be happier, and certainly be better suited to working as a banker - or perhaps in a slaughterhouse

      Simon Garden

  7. Too easy and lazy to complain about our colleagues actions in this instance, what about the failure to have a robust duty system in place for when staff are unavailable?

  8. If telephone or e-mail isn't a method to obtain an effective response to a situation that may require action that could be deemed urgent, then what fucking hope has a service user/client got of attracting assistance when communicating by means of a bio metric kiosk?


  9. Let's reflect a bit here.... I am left to conclude that business as usual (pre TR) is not being delivered yet that is the standard by which probation is being judged. Yes everything the guest blogger needed from probation would have been the past.
    Staff are now exhausted and blighted by change. Sadly, the world has moved on and I believe effective communication is the single most crucial failure of the confused probation world I now inhabit.
    As a PO in NPS, I am simply unable to process the volume of and means by which I am communicated at. I simply cannot read the daily lengthy and voluminous emails from the Hub. Probation Instructions remain unread until I need them because I cannot afford the time to read them and am now unable to retain the volume of instructions.
    I no longer know the information exchange protocols and my manager is available to the team approx 20% of the working week and frankly is in the same position. You see, the agencies we deal with have changed and I do not even recognise some of their organisation/business names. So I have decided I will use my professional judgement and if the risk issues justify information being exchanged I will do so. I often google phone numbers of people leaving messages for me because at least it is a cursory check of sorts.I remain acutely aware that if I am later deemed to have disclosed inappropriately, I will be blamed and possibly disciplined, that is the world of new probation.
    It is not good enough, I agree with the guest blogger, but it is what has been imposed on us and we are all trying to muddle through, now how safe is that??

    1. I commiserate with all remaining probation workers and am glad I am no longer one of your colleagues

    2. I'm glad you are no longer one of our colleagues also.

    3. and i'm sad that an arsehole like you 'Anonymous25 April 2015 at 12:16' is still one of our colleagues

      Simon Garden

    4. Please describe your ideal colleague probation officer Anon at 12:16?

    5. Simon you're an idiot!

  10. Interesting article in the Daily Mirror about Sodexo and probation:

    1. A senior Tory cabinet minister has sparked fury after he was secretly recorded showering praise on a company planning hundreds of redundancies in the newly privatised probation service.

      Cabinet office minister Francis Maude let slip the Tories' plan for a "flood" of further privatisation - saying some services will "not be delivered by the public sector at all."

      He praised the French outsourcing company Sodexo for it's "public service ethos" while speaking at an event sponsored by the company.

      But it recently emerged that Sodexo is planning to make up to 700 workers in the probation service redundant - replacing them with a series of "self service" kiosks.

      The plan would see offenders check in using unmanned computer terminals rather than seeing an officer in person.

      It comes as new figures reveal almost half of new contracts in the NHS have gone to private firms.

    2. Maude has also previously been at the centre of controversy when he described 80,000 public sector job cuts as “good” and “popular”.

      In his speech, he described the privatisation brought in during the last parliament as "the beginning of a journey."

      He continued: "But there is much more that needs to be done and much more that can be done. Now that we know so much more about the possibilities, the way is open I think in the next five years for a flood of innovation, a flood of new ways of doing things. And come one, come all, let there be much to do.”

      The Conservative Party declined to add anything to Francis Maude's comments.

      Labour's Ian Mearns said: "Francis Maude has made clear that five more years of the Tories means increasing redundancies and increased privatisation of our public services.

      "For a Minister to celebrate people losing their jobs underlines that the Tories simply do not understand that our country succeeds when working people succeed.

      "Time and again, the Tories want to put private profit and the interests of their donors before the public interest.

      "The Tories stand up for the wrong people and believe that the wealth of those at the top will benefit all others. In truth, trickle down doesn’t work and all the while working families are struggling to make ends meet."

      Francis Maude has been minister of state for the Cabinet Office since the 2010 general election. In February he announced he was stepping down as an MP, but will be elevated to the House of Lords, so he could remain a minister in the next parliament.

    3. God Bless Wikipedia:

      "While in the Shadow Cabinet Maude was accused of hypocrisy by promoting a "family-friendly" image while being the non-executive chairman of Jubilee Investment Trust plc, which held 21% of American pornographic actress Jill Kelly's adult DVD business, and chairman of the Mission Marketing Group, which has advertised for WKD drinks and Playboy. Maude, "who has railed against irresponsible lending by banks and mortgage companies", was accused of hypocrisy for receiving more than £100,000 as a director of a company that has profited from sub-prime mortgages...two years after the Fees Office rejected a claim for mortgage interest on Maude's Sussex home, Maude purchased a flat in London, close to another house he already owned. He rented out the London house and claimed £35,000 mortgage interest on this flat. According to the Legg Report Maude was not asked to repay any money...On 28 March 2012, during the 2012 United Kingdom fuel crisis, Maude "foolishly" advised people to fill up their vehicles and to store fuel in garages in jerrycans...On 30 March 2012, the Labour peer Lord Harris called for Maude's resignation, after a woman suffered severe burns during an attempt to decant petrol next to a lit gas cooker. Harris believed that Maude's advice helped cause the incident...His personal net wealth is estimated at £3M."

  11. What is it with the masochism in Probation? We are overstretched, underresourced, deprofessionalised, and usually dead on our feet. I'm with "Probation Officer" on this one. As. for the Jenner case...sick of this. This guy has long been active in the pursuit of holocaust
    perpetrators, and very clear that age/infirmity is no excuse. I agree, and same goes for paedophiles. As for his "dementia", the Evening standard notes he was quite capable of transferring his house into his childrens names- to protect it from civil action- after police investigations began. This is just another cover-up. This country is nauseating.

    1. As someone who had a very close relative who developed advanced dementia I am not entirely surprised those a dementia sufferer trusts may have little difficulty in organising for the signing of official documents by a person with dementia.

      It was how my wife and I went on, in order to look after the best interests of our relative during the period we were waiting for the then Lasting Power of Attorney process (which has since changed) to be completed - (several months - due to notice periods)

      That is NOT to say I agree with Janner signing documentation that enables him to continue to act as a Member of Parliament (House of Lords) - but as for most legal purposes in the UK a simple signature is sufficient authority for most transactions, that itself maybe an issue for legislators to reconsider. The expectation is that about 25% of those of us who survive to be 80 years will become demented. Sadly there are also some significantly younger folk who also develop diagnosable dementia - so maybe - the law of authorisation should be reviewed?

    2. The post by 'Probation Officer', I thought, raised a valid point on the issue of responsibility. Of course, once informed, the probation service had a duty to provide a timely response. But to wait five days when the issue was important to the housing provider is also a dereliction of duty. It is not an unusual experience in probation itself not to receive timely responses. You don't see back and wait, thinking I have done my bit. (The police, for example, can often be slow in providing DV call-out information). What to do? You press for a reply and if you believe there is some urgency to to your inquiry you push it up the chain until you get a satisfactory response. It's about being conscientious.

  12. Okay, lets get this straight from the receptionists point of view. In our office we still work (take calls) for both CRC and NPS at this present time. The above conversation that the blogger indicates that took place with reception, did not expand on the importance of his call at all. So in defence of all reception staff... if you don't tell us what you want then we cannot deal with calls in the right way. With respect, if the receptionist had been given a bit more information then she/he would have tried to get the call to someone who could help. Communication works both way. We have a very good Duty System in place and some very dedicated Staff even under the exceptional circumstances we work under.

    A hard working sometimes very frustrated Receptionist.

  13. @9.24 proves there is no way this guest blogger was a senior probation officer let alone a probation officer. Or if he/she was a senior probation officer, I'm glad he/she wasn't my manager as their practice is shocking. Probably telling why the guest blogger is no longer in the service....

  14. Meanwhile suggestions have been circulating that deputy directors have just pocketed a £15,000 pay rise as a result of role evaluation. Needless to say this is well deserved and I am pleased that the 1% pay rise enjoyed by the rest of us will help towards this additional cost to the public purse.

  15. Final thoughts

    Within 4 hours all the information we needed was supplied by the Police. This was the result of excellent work by the Housing Association staff and the local Police.

    However the point I am making is not to criticise NPS/ CRC staff but to point out potential problems of the split agencies. Before the split I would have expected this quality of work to have been done by the Probation Service.

    The service that covered the area where this incident happened was an outstanding service and incredibly reliable. At first glance this quality of work appears to have disappeared. This is not the fault of the staff but of the politicians who decided to implement this poorly thought out policy.

    The split between CRC and the NPS will not make communications easier but will make it far more difficult. This was a simple case but between them neither the NPS nor CRC responded. My concerns are what will happen when it is a complex case. What are the chances of successful communication when agencies working with the CRC and NPS are unsure of protocols and who they should be speaking to?

    In terms of the future the Housing Association I work for houses a great many low level offenders including those serving less than 12 months in prison. Please can anyone tell me how the Housing Association will find out any information about clients when they are being supervised by bio-metric machines?

    What will be the protocols for information sharing? How does the client apply for housing? If you think finding community resources are bad now just wait till the bio-metric machines are being used to supervise offenders, those resources will disappear

    1. Thank you - in other words - when push comes to shove - the anticipated failings presumed from the moment Grayling announced the split at the local level have come fully to fruition.

      If only one could get a sense of satisfaction, from saying 'I told you so' - there maybe some consolation, but for those of us who have been, or are at the front-line of probation and have understanding of all that is involved - truly know the extent that individuals are in peril as a consequence of poor governance, which those of us in the know were incapable of alerting the public to, so they demanded better using their democratic system.

      I heard an interview with Miliband yesterday and gained slight hope of him having integrity, however my local Labour candidate seems naive and stupid so will not be getting my vote.