Monday, 15 June 2015

Game Over

By nature, although probably a pessimist, in most situations I strive to look for the positive and that's generally been my approach to this blog, but I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that it's all over guys. The recent trumpeting of a professional register by the Probation Institute and the deafening silence from Napo in the face of a barrage of questions from members just serve to confirm what's probably been the situation for some time, probation is finished.

Despite having a huge amount of respect for the likes of Sue Hall, former CEO of West Yorkshire Probation Trust and Chair of the Chief's Association and now Director of the Probation Institute, she seems blissfully ignorant of grass-root feeling towards the PI. Ever since its launch jointly by the MoJ, Napo and probation employers at the height of the battle against TR, it's been viewed as nothing more than a Trojan Horse by many in the profession. Any attempt to suggest otherwise on this blog has meet with a resounding raspberry and all the indications are that this view persists - and there's a feeling the scheme is rubbish anyway:-  

It's a very confused register. For instance, an ex-client working as a peer mentor could join as an Associate Member for £10-40. Same goes for a volunteer or student. If either of these groups are employed by any organisation providing probation services but have no qualifications, for £40 they could become a Registered Member and add MPInst to their name. A qualified and employed probation officer has to pay £60 for the MPInst privilege which rises to £80 as an Advanced member if they declare a Masters degree. It's unclear where one has to be "employed" to meet the criteria of Category C MPInst, but managers also meet the Category D 'Advanced' criteria if they have 3 years management experience and a Masters degree but are not required to have a probation officer qualification. Managers of Category B who may not have probation experience also meet the Category D criteria if they have a Masters degree. For £100 nearly anyone can become a Fellow and use the letters FPInst, which is dependent on showing a contribution to the sector or expertise with two supporting referees.

Let's take Jim Brown as an example. He's a probation officer and wants to join the register. He pays £60 and becomes a Registered Member. He's not happy that the Sodexo managers that have barely seen a probation office are Advanced Members so he declares his Masters, pays an extra £20 and becomes an Advanced Member too. Not contented that the MPInst letters on his email signature are in use by volunteers and all of the PI linked UserVoice who paid £40 less. He decides to up his game, declare his blog identity and for a further £20 becomes a Fellow and updates his title with FPInst. He then realises that FPInst is more worthless than MPInst as it's been pimped out to not only current/former chief officers, but also academics, privateers, self-declared justice experts and others that have never stepped foot in a probation office but were not content with being Associate Members.

Even if we did need a professional register, this money grabbing format that was clearly designed to backslap our current/former leaders and romance the privateers, is definitely not the one! What says Napo?


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Love it! Just looked up the PI membership levels. If I'm reading it right, to be a professional member level C you need a professional qualification BUT for the higher level D you DO NOT need a professional qualification! I have many friends and associates with MBAs who have worked in various settings and it appears they can become a probation manager for 3 years then register at a higher level than me with my relevant degree, probation qualification, 15 years experience and continued professional development. Which other 'professional institute' would allow this?!

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I thought it was only dubious academic set-ups from which you could buy letters to put after your name. Seems not, as the Probation Institute is now in the marketplace. For your money you can suffix MPInst. I am not aware of any rules that govern this process. Anyone can set up a society, or whatever, and then charge a registration fee for the privilege of using what are called post-nominal letters. The PI needn't stop at letters, they could start flogging a coat of arms and then members could wear epaulettes and bits of gold braid. And there's always tattoos for the enthusiastic. Anyway, seems probation staff don't need any more letters in addition to what everyone already gets for free: JFDI.

--oo000oo--

I'm reliably informed that the NPS is currently putting 750 people through probation officer training, but there are nowhere near that number of vacancies likely within the Service and especially in the light of the impending budget cuts announced by the Chancellor. There are not likely to be any PO vacancies within CRC's because as we all know, redundancies are imminent and the role of PO will almost certainly disappear just as soon as the new owners can manage it. None of them understand probation, but they now make all the key decisions. It's utter madness.

In any event, as Saturday's Guest Blog 39 graphically outlined, even the infamous 'best of the best' NPS seems to be morphing into a bureaucratic nightmare, admirably confirmed by others on this site:-

Thank you for your guest blog. There you have it straight from the front line, a snap shot of what is undoubtedly replicated right across the country. I adopt many strategies in order to cope, but the best one is to keep my head down, in an attempt to avoid detection from above. I understand whilst this is effective for me, it is not always possible to adopt such a strategy. I too have seen my colleagues crying, being sick and then going off on long term sick. Amongst my colleagues there is still a sense of support and camaraderie and if I want anything I go to my colleagues first.

I too do not read any "communications" from central control. There is no time. I have one priority, my caseload. Paperwork, targets are a low priority. I will always help my colleagues and see people who come in for others. I ask myself above the coal face who is there for us? It feels like a void. Indeed if there can be "nothing" it almost feels like nothing.

NAPO I feel a loyalty to office reps and local officials, but it stops there. Again it feels like after them there is "nothing". Plenty of "communications", but PLEASE LISTEN NAPO, it feels like no one up there at the top table is actually doing anything to help us out down on the shop floor.

I have been in the service 20 years plus and feel exhausted with it all. I am a person that is super optimistic, but sadly I do not see this entire sorry situation improve anytime soon. I hope I will live to see the entire welfare state, health service, public transport and our service once again back where it belongs, entirely in the public sector. Until then I continue to fight against this rotten system wherever I can. See you in London on 20th June.

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NPS now have a system with process maps for every NPS process. All the relevant PIs are attached to each process. It looks good apart from there are about 300 processes to re-learn. Disciplinary threatened if you miss a step in a process.

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Yes - looks good so long as the (a) IT is working at all and (b) can load a page before timing out. Then there's the implicit assumption that each process map covers all eventualities. Additionally - I forget - does whatever workload measurement too in vogue this week have an allowance for the amount of time per day spent looking at the little Microsoft hourglass where the cursor used to be? If not, it needs to.

--oo000oo--

I think it's increasingly hard to disagree with the view often expressed on this blog that the Napo gameplan throughout TR has simply been to hang on to as much cash as possible in order to pay for staff redundancies and arrange a merger with another union. The leadership has been abysmal and structural deficiencies glaringly obvious to all but the Napo top table. They continue to fiddle as Rome burns as the saying goes. Membership is leaching weekly; legitimate questions from the membership go unanswered; check-off looms; cash gets divvied-up and the top table 'negotiate' with CRC owners over redundancies. Confidence is at all-time low, but they just carry on regardless at the top:-

I am completely fed up with NAPO. They have failed me and many more members. The best they can come up with is a survey. Everyone in our office was laughing. NAPO has absolutely no shame. It's fucking unbelievable. 

I have been a member for the past 9 years. I have never needed to call upon their help regarding disputes, thankfully. However, what I do expect is NAPO to represent my interest as a UNION. So far their whole strategy around TR has failed. NAPO are rapped up in secrecy i.e. Jonathan Ledger and we have a fucking union that is getting into bed with the Probation Institute. Has NAPO got any self respect or what? Disgraceful. Come Sept I have no intention of signing my direct debit mandate. I have paid them enough for what.... NOTHING.

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I agree with some comments made here, however I am anxious that all this NAPO bashing is doing us no favours. National NAPO are far from perfect. I'm a Vice-Chair on my local branch exec and we are all frustrated with NAPO nationally but slagging them off on a forum like this isn't helpful. We are the members, if we aren't happy with them lets do something about it and take back our union. We need to keep NAPO alive, I don't want to become part of PCS or god forbid Unison!! I want to be in a probation specific union. If we don't like how things are being run, lets get together and do something about it. As they say, talk is cheap! Our members in CRC and NPS are struggling, we need to be strong and unified. I can't carry on with this job the way it is, NAPO is the only way we can make improvements locally and nationally.

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Why do we need to keep the union that ballsed up the opposition to TR? Also, do you have any regard for admin colleagues (god forbid Unison!)?. 'Not helpful' is usually PC shorthand for 'you are telling the truth and it isn't what I want to hear'. Go back to the censored and manipulated Napo forums. This blog is not for the likes of you. God forbid!

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NAPO is not the only way and we don't need to keep NAPO alive. Don't flog a dead horse. Let's merge with Unison or PCS and be part of a proper union. Probation isn't big enough or important enough to stand alone. It's time to stand together as the wider public sector.

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In my view it's not even worth contemplating a palace coup at the AGM because who is competent and waiting in the wings to take the reigns? The cynic would say that member dissatisfaction is likely to result in a slow take-up for places at the AGM anyway and the possibility of inquoracy just plays into the hands of those at the top keen to see the status quo continue. 

It really pains me to say this, but I think Napo is finished because I see no sign of anyone emerging who is capable and strong enough to take on the General Secretary and instigate a root and branch revamp of internal structures from top to bottom. I mean look at this - just more of the same:-

OPEN LETTER FROM CHRIS PEARSON, NAPO MEMBER ESSEX BRANCH

June, 2015

Dear Branch Chair

I am writing to seek the support of your branch for nomination to the post of Vice-chair (with additional responsibility for finance). Our Union has been struggling against the most serious threat from a government that appears hell bent on putting the public as they drive ever onwards with their ‘public sector bad, private sector good’ mantra. 

As interim national Chair last year I was proud to take the fight against privatisation to the limit. Unfortunately, our small union just wasn’t able to take on the might of a juggernaut government determined to push through TR no matter the cost. Now more than ever our members need a union that will promote their interests in the most difficult of circumstances, defend public safety and ensure that jobs are secured for the future. 

This isn’t an easy time for Napo; organisationally, politically and financially the coming months and years are likely to be trying. This government has made clear its intention to assault unions through the limitation of facility time and the removal of check-off for subscriptions. I believe it is essential the union has an officer who:
  • understands finances,
  • will ensure that a deficit budget isn’t set (as has been again this year),
  • will properly account to the NEC for all expenditure,
  • has experience of managing budgets up to £millions,
  • recognises the importance of having comprehensive and fit for purpose financial regulations,
  • and will focus expenditure on protecting members’ futures
I joined Napo just weeks after starting as a Trainee Probation Officer, have held local branch positions and was a member of the National Executive Committee for a number of years. When the need arose last year I stepped up to take on the Chair’s role to steer the union at a critical time.

Our union needs strong leadership across the Officer group as we move into the new era. I offer such leadership, with experience of managing large finances. 

I would welcome a nomination from your branch.

Thanks

Chris Pearson

--oo000oo--

I really do sense a growing body of practitioners wanting to throw the towel in and it angers me immeasurably to have to agree with them. I can't see any hope of saving this once proud and honourable profession that shows every sign of imploding daily. This is not an untypical view:-

I am not concerned about TR anymore. They broke it. End of. Now I just have to engineer my departure for an employer who has some idea of what it is doing and a chance of actually achieving something of value. That used to be Probation. Then came Carter and then came chaos. Nothing to worry about. It is over. Probation, on both sides of the divide, is about to become a 'joke' service like the Border Agency, the Work Programme, Domiciliary Care Services, Court Translation Services, Local Authority Housing Departments (that offer no housing), NHS hospitals where people die of thirst or hunger.... you get the idea.

Anything outsourced is doomed to deteriorate. I cannot think of a single service where this has not happened (speak to the staff and service users, not the management or politicians). It's all gone to s*** because the politicians are corrupted by their own ambition. Nothing to worry about.


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Thanks you are so right, probation as we knew it has ceased, it is smashed beyond repair. Personally, I am working on my exit strategy. Public service as it used to be is consigned to the dustbin. MPs are the only people who believe themselves to be public servants now and look what a self serving shower they are, there's a gravy train and they and their cronies are the only ones riding it.

******
The astonishing truth is that there is no one who we can trust to speak authoritatively for the profession, let alone be in a position to try and save it. It seems to be left to a very grumpy PO at the tail end of his career to provide a platform for others to record the lingering death for posterity. What a sad bloody state of affairs this has turned out to be colleagues.....         

24 comments:

  1. The Probation Institute has strange parentage. Napo was present at conception, but seems apparently indifferent to its offspring – never a good word uttered and no encouragement to union members to join the PI. The PI provides a kind of happy hunting ground for those ex-probation functionaries and inspectors who were well-rewarded for their services dismantling probation. But they don't go away, they keep popping up on stages and have the brass necks to tell us glibly about the way ahead and how to paper over the TR cracks their self-serving actions in office helped to bring about.

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    1. Probation Officer15 June 2015 at 08:43

      30 pieces of silver wasn't enough for them. And now they'll be "honoured" by the Probation Institute that'll be begging them to write FPInst after ther names!!

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  2. Vote "Beancounter" - you know it makes cents!!

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  3. Well it makes sense to me that the PI will offer membership to any TOM, DICK or HARRY;there aint going to be any probation staff left so they are looking for a cash flow from anyone who fancies a few letters after their name...Hey someone has to pay for all their jollies!! Lets face it the CRC's who are so short of cash to pay legally entitled redundancy payments could stump up the money to pay for membership for their staff, me thinks there is a rabbit off somewhere, nasty smell about! I have not and will not be joining the PI: ...Perpetual Idiots.

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    1. Perpetual Idiots.......I like it.

      How about.....Performing Imbeciles

      or................Packaged Illusionism

      Bobbyjoe

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    2. Patronisingly Inept

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    3. To me PI stands for Probation Imposters !!

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  4. What we need is a full time propaganda machine aimed at boycotting PI. They will have to learn it the hard way.

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    1. Do we need a full time propaganda machine? Which practitioner is going to join it anyway?

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    2. What will we do without 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375... ?

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    3. Oh look!!! A squirrel!!!

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  5. The variety of post-nominal letters reminds me of a letter I once received from a Jill Hill, MPhil. I couldn't help adding 'Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb' as I read it to myself.

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  6. I think we should keep up criticising the Probation Institute and the union's roles as 'useful idiots'. There are those who will dismiss this as sniping from the sidelines, but the PI is a dodgy deal and everyone knows it, but, as with TR, they argue it's what we have and we should make the best of it.

    These are the same folks – the former HMIP, Andrew Bridges, being one, who now tells us that he does not mind about a public-private split in probation and is not hung up on budgets and actual resourcing. He offers a prescription for making probation work, but it's really snake oil. All he offers is yet more micromanagement complete with organisational charts.

    He says he was opposed to the TR spilt at the outset, but once a constitutionally elected government decided to act ideologically, well, his principles and values took on a new impersonation. It would appear that for Mr Bridges there are no moral limits to markets. There have been some notorious constitutionally elected governments in history, so I don't think this in itself excuses anyone from individual responsibility – but this is what they all tell each other, so in their world I suppose even truth can be rebranded or rebadged.

    Sniping from the sidelines is pejorative and it caricatures opponents who choose to campaign against probation institute and the TR swindle. Napo is quite content to invite the PI to its conferences, but has not got the nerve to actually recommend that union members join. So, I hope many will continue to question and criticise the new order that has arisen from the ashes of probation. Whatever it is, it ain't not phoenix.





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  7. Jim I agree it's the end of Probation, profit rather need is the new driving force. Like many I'm looking for an exit. If I'm lucky I might get early retirement , I can't do this job any more not just because its a crock of shite but because we will doing harm to individuals and communities at the behest of global corporations.

    Multi-nationals in competition with one another and at a time when demand is shrinking because wages are in decline, instinctively look to cut wages and conditions even more. CRC's and soon NPS are part of this logic and this process, there is no upside to global capitalism. No its more austerity, more pain and less representation.

    If we were united we could have put up a good fight and I think we could have won with togetherness and a little guile. But few were up for it and now they face a bitter and poorer future. I think that most will leave or retire like me. But make no mistake, austerity and job insecurity are the future.

    America and Europe were at the centre of capitalism 30 years ago but both are now rapidly moving to the periphery as the centre of global capitalism moves to where wages are low and profits high. The centre grows as the periphery stagnates and this means again for us that wages and conditions will be reduced further. In the end we will have to fight just to survive but it seems that things have got to get a lot worse before this happens.

    I say this because unless you can see the bigger picture you will not understand why our profession and livelihood have disappeared.

    Jim the situations will deteriorate fast from this point and as I have said before unless you document the demise others will control the narrative. You are needed still but I understand and wish you well if you decide to jack it in

    papa.

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  8. This blog has been the consistent 'go to' for information. We are divided by employer, location, union membership etc and get fragmented information. Generally all we get is NAPO's stance or the employer's drip feeding of updates that suit their agenda. I for one value the chance to have my say, hear what is going on elsewhere and listen to the views of those on the ground, not those who are sat in their Ivory towers. I hope the blog stays Jim as there is still a battle to defend our legal rights and we can keep each other informed. Information is power and no doubt the likes of Sodexo etc would dearly like to see the demise of the blog. Come on folks, you have been treated like crap, bite back and don't be afraid to have your say via this forum. The war may sadly be lost but the battle is still on!!!!

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    1. nobody's posted about the blog from Roz Hamilton and the closure of several offices in Manchester. Can somebody post it here?

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  9. NAPO Agreed the mess NEC agreed the NAPO mess making agreements. The best we could achieve at this time is the NAPO convince you all cat call. You would want me to doing this at this time members. You professionals out of Ian Lawrence all the time . we won the JR we have the members interest in hand yet we feel done in and paying up for what? They ignore any NEC challenge if they get any sense to try and yet they still carry on regardless. Its fine as soon as we all collapse so will NAPO . At the heart of it too many weak ill considered decsions . Rendon failed in London as they sold off staff in UW no challenge and led disaster as he applies for a job whilst being a leader in the bloody PI . It makes me sick as we now pay for the likes of Stockeld and Mclelland both napo officials taking our money for the other side no wonder members were totally screwed they are in the ranks but worse leading the at the top on our side. HA that's a joke but it is not funny . Motion to get napo out of the PI come agm.

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  10. You write like Manuel speaks. You learn 'eeet from a booook?

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  11. The Fat Lady is Singing, my friends

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  12. I say get all those of napo who associate with pi traitors. Come on member if you got a voice speak now or forever hold ya tongue. People if you want credibility for your profession take hold of napo I'm with you all will be revealed at agm! !!!

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  13. All above little confusing . I can read 15:16 sounds angry ? 16:25 is that a northern accent spelling ? 18:37 is being offence and sexist and 19:03 is there some hope in what your last says friend ? Please enlighten if possible. I hope we can all get back on message soon this blog was about the general perception on the real game over for Probation . I am hoping not.

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    1. to Anon 19:15 "northern accent spelling" REALLY ? I MEAN REALLY???

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    2. I guess anon 19.15 must be a young 'un from deep South who's never travelled or watched Fawlty Towers but (to be fair)post from anon 15.16 needed a re-write as made for very confused reading.

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  14. To repeat a paraphrase of a misquote: "its probation, Jim, but not as we know it."

    The 'good ole days' have gone forever: Okay, so it brought with it some questionable stuff like expenses fiddling galore (to make an MP blush, perhaps?), crime patrol (aka gone fishin'), drinks at lunchtime, reporting centres in pubs at night... But also some of the higest quality training I've encountered, some of the most dedicated & knowledgeable colleagues, some of the most extraordinary experiences (Prisons, secure hospitals, courtrooms, judges chambers, napo agm's, home visits) and some very special people.

    Now? Fast-track everything, no time to reflect or develop; superficiality; naked ambition; inconsistency, inequality & ignorance. Depth & breadth of knowledge replaced by capacity to spin, bully & re-brand. Notion of public service, of making a difference replaced by focus on profit at every level - toil, overtime, budget constraints, payment by results, hitting targets, pleasing shareholders.

    "Time for bed" said Zebedee.

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