Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Guest Blog 37

Bleak Futures

I am prompted to write this by Jim’s latest blog. I am a PO in the NPS side and if the past few years haven't been bad enough I dread the future! Not just for my job security and employment but for the effect it is likely to have on me, my colleagues and the client group we work with. My day to day experience is horrendous and seemingly the same for all the staff who work in my office ( around 60). 


We try to put on a brave face and shrug off the incompetence of those who are dictating our practice without providing us with the tools to do so. But it's just a falsehood and once strong individuals are regularly reduced to meltdown and tears. Most of us keep going by living for the weekends and leave. Some colleagues have succumbed to stress and long term sick leave. A good majority are seeking a way out; it seems the only ones who want a job in Probation are the trainees.

We are fortunate that our Team Managers leave us alone for the time being but this in itself adds to the stress for some. All staff are struggling and trying to support each other as all our previous support networks have gone. There is no effective TU consultation or representation any more and all previous management/staff consultative groups have gone as a result of TR.

My excessive workload as identified in a flawed WMT which does not measure a lot of what I have to do means that I spend most of my time firefighting. I struggle to get the time to undertake the effective casework which all the research confirms does reduce re-offending and no one really cares anymore. I do still focus my efforts on this part of my job and try to ignore that computer stuff and the constant emails telling me what I should do. But I know this will catch up with me eventually and Oasys, CAS, and other endless form filling will become top priority again.

I am having to work with organisations who don't seem to have a clue and I haven't the patience to enlighten them. However for the sake of my clients I have to continue to try and get them the support and services they need to bring about changes to their lives.

From what I see around me all the hard work gone into improving the quality of our work and consistency has fallen by the wayside. I see daily examples of the effects of this on our client group, an increase in unfair recalls and breaches at one end of the scale to complete absence of any work undertaken on cases. My colleague was recently allocated a case which had spent 3 post sentence months bouncing back and forth between CRCs and NPS without any contact with the client. This was a very serious domestic violence case and it transpired that the client had been living with a women and her 2 children throughout this time. I'm sure many other cases like this are coming to light.

Court reports are another casualty in our area we are so overworked that we are getting 3 days to turn around reports on serious matters without doing public protection check. This will only get worse for us shortly as many of the reports have been outsourced due to lack of resources but this is about to stop. We have already been warned that savings aka cuts need to be made. As a past staff rep I know that there is nothing left to cut except staff! I also know that we will struggle to save time on our workload through changes in practice because the client group we are working with need a lot of attention to be managed safely. 


This change in the intensity of my workload and the lack of time to consider my practice is another factor which makes me dread the future in the NPS. It has the potential to have a significant effect on my health. Too often I have to wing it and hope for the best but I am constantly aware that it could only be a matter of time before I could be facing disciplinary action for some piece of paperwork I haven't completed. I know a lot of my colleagues feel the same and those that don't take the easy punitive option to cover their backs. Again the impact of this on our client group is unfair and inconsistent treatment. It really is the luck of the draw now and clients are increasingly dis-engaging with Probation.

How on earth we are going to cope with the ORA cases fastly filtering through I don't know. We are struggling what to do with them when they breach time and again because they don't want 12 months supervision after a 2 week sentence. It seems like it's going to be a never ending cycle of court appearances and Breach paperwork for those that are hardest to work with .The financial cost of this must be enormous.

Our admin support staff have been indispensable and the thought of them being housed away from us is another future dread. They have patiently sat alongside us helping to deal with the unworkable IT systems we have been landed with. Colleagues are constantly having to redo forms that are lost and reports that disappear. Recently my close colleague reached breaking point with the computer and had to leave the office to regain her composure. When she complained to her manger, his unsupportive response prompted her to redo it . Needless to say she couldn't!

I apologise if this all seems rambling and too negative, I'm generally a positive person and willing to roll with the punches. But this time all I can see is a very beak future! I hope Jim’s blog continues because I know for some of us who feel abandoned by our managers and our unions it provides support.

37 comments:

  1. There are also many middle managers who continue to struggle to get their head around TR and the lack of morals and ethics associated with it. TR has proven decisive amongst staff grades....just what Grayling ordered....rather than continue along the lines of a blame culture surely the focus has to be on supporting one another to complete a very difficult job in extremely difficult circumstances. We seem to have diverted from this and are, in effect, playing right into the hands of govt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apologies I didn't intend to be divisive. I very much appreciate the struggles middle management face. I try to be supportive to my manager colleagues and encourage others to consider the mangers situation when they complain.

      Delete
    2. Anon @ 07.04 You argue that the tensions created by Grayling's divisive split of probation should not degenerate into a blame culture between staff grades and I suppose your advice could be extended to potential rivalries between NPD and CRCs. To engage in such blaming, you suggest, merely plays into the hands of the government. Instead you advocate that managers and practitioners should support each other to do a difficult job in trying circumstances.

      In reading the Guest Blog I did not get a sense that other staff per se were being blamed (in fact the Blog referenced examples of mutual staff support), rather it was the whole system that was under the spotlight – lack of support from both TU and management, excessive workloads, dysfunctional workload weightings, communications problems caused by the split, a lack of organisational direction and confusion about ever-changing procedures and protocols; a workplace that is making staff ill. Overall, a sense of a broken service.

      This will not be fixed by grades supporting each other or by looking for workarounds ad nauseum. I would suggest that this plays more into the hands of government and senior managers in probation. They would love everyone to look on the bright side and stand shoulder to shoulder. The ones who do not play into the hands of government are those continue to criticise and publicise – through Guest Blogs, for example - the sorry mess that probation has become.







      Delete
  2. It is not "rambling", just a genuine day to day narrative. One question-maybe its a set of typos but I dont get the sentence towards the very end that reads "When she complained to her manger, his unsupportive repose prompted her to get her redo it . Needless to say she couldn't!" Does this mean that "When she complained to her manager, his unsupportive response was to tell her to redo it . Needless to say she couldn't!"? (I am not being picky, I would like to understand as the author took the trouble to tell us so I think we should take the trouble to enquire). I can't quite follow it (and I also seem to develop random fingers as soon as I am within reach of a keyboard!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was a typo the manager was unable to complete the form!

      Delete
    2. Thank you

      Delete
    3. Now amended - the editor was pushed for time in a rather sad Travelodge and didn't notice.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for a useful guest blog. Sounds way too familiar, I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for taking the time to write this guest blog. As a CRC PO, I genuinely appreciate having a comprehensive understanding of the 'flip side'. It's deja vu and a perfect account of the struggle I face daily, albeit slight variations due to caseload types. I hate to admit it, but for the sake of my own sanity, the prospect of VR is the only factor that keeps me going.

    ReplyDelete
  5. great guest blog - of late it seems practitioners have refrained from posting daily ongoings here and I've wondered how people are getting on. If anyone can shed any light on the ongoings up in the NorthWest and roz Hamilton's blog? What happens in one area inevitably ends up happening in others so it would just be good to have an idea about current developments.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I don't have the link to hand and not sure if this has been mentioned before, but has anyone seen the Chief Exec blog of Phil Andrew of Wales working links? It was sent out to CRC staff in the aftermath of the election and basically states how delighted he is that the Tories are in as it gives them ongoing carte blanche to keep going as they are. i don't give the article justice here, it was scary in it's openess as to hoe the Tories will facilitate their direction of travel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. He was formerly chief executive of Sodexo justice services, The probation service is an occupied territory!

      Delete
  7. As a PO in the NPS I was starting to wonder if I had written the guest blog it is so close to my / our experience.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Same here .. Another PO in the NPS

      Delete
    2. Me too, thanks for the guest blog, you exactly describe my experience.
      yet another NPS PO

      Delete
  8. Not clear why none of you appear to be enlisting opposition MP's who represent you to address all of these issues. Where are the journalists who love a good expose? I'm sure some enterprising hack could find dirt on NAPO etc and bring it up. There are actually plenty of ways of bringing all of this to the public's attention so why aren't you employing these methods?.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Seems to me there two ways out of this situation, you leave or you fight. Industrial action happens when people get angry. All we have got to look forward to is reduced terms and conditions, reduced pay and insanity.
    We are seen as commodities only to be squeezed and oppressed regardless of the health implications. The manager and the miser see only power and profit. I know there are good managers out there but they will be off soon to be replaced by bean counters and zombies.

    Papa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm all in favour of industrial action. But what form should it take?
      Taking strike action for probation, to my mind anyway, achieves nothing unless it's a lengthy and protracted walk out.
      There's no real loss to production if probation strike for a day or two is there? Appointments are rearranged, and then everybody plays catch up with their work loads.
      A two day strike only achieves a two day loss of pay and a paragraph or two in the local paper (if they haven't anything better to print).
      And this is where the union fails methinks. Strike action is ineffective, so it should be about what's happening in house. Case loads, conditions, good practice etc. They all need to be clearly defined, and if not adhered to then staff should 'work to rule'.
      Don't take caseloads over and above. Don't use IT where traing hasn't been given or hasn't been comprehensive enough. Don't do home visits on your own if risk assessments suggest you should be accompanied.
      To my mind, the union should be all over these things, and not least because they are part of the 'centre of excellence' more commonally known as the P.I.
      TR has come to pass. That no longer is the fight. It's the unacceptable conditions, excessive caseloads, and the expectation that you've just got to get on with it that needs addressing now.
      Striking won't achieve anything I'm sorry to say, so attacking the processes from within and holding those to account for what they're trying to implement can be the only way forward.

      Delete
  10. Nonsense talk of striking again. Yawn!!! What will it achieve? Where was you when it mattered? A better solution maybe embracing the changes and helping ease them into practice? I have a feel a lot happier x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah!! Lets embrace it and ease the changes into practice.
      We all want higher case loads, worse working conditions and less pay don't we?

      I think annon@14:51 you may be management- or fancy you're on the ladder there if not?

      Delete
    2. "embracing the changes and helping ease them into practice"
      err yup if the f***ing IT was fit for purpose, if anyone understood the f***ing reams if email instruction that have replaced training, if managers were EVER in the office, if colleagues were not made ill with stress, if we just f***ing knew how the hell to do our jobs anymore...SURE WE WOULD IDIOT !

      Delete
    3. Suspect 14:51 is the person proud to have a Diploma, a little knowledge is such a dangerous thing. Where ' were ' we , maybe not the same place you ' was' . Frightening that others seem to think you may be or will be in management, but then they are on the look out for people who will do what they are told because they are told to and then justify themselves with that infamous phrase, I only did it because I was told to !!!

      Delete
    4. Anyone that would want to assist ease the current model of probation into practice has no professional ethic or interest in the wellbeing of others.

      Delete
    5. to Anon 19:11 naw, definitely a Certificate person...just like you I suspect, you know a certificate that says you are a qualified etc.....and it's better than a (yawn ) diploma blah blah blah.....here we go again kicking the life out of this blog "my qualification is better than yours...."

      Delete
    6. We are used to change but how can we embrace change that is destructive divisive discriminatory and will have dire consequences for us all in society! I will continue to fight for all the values which underpin my work with our client group until they get rid of me !

      Delete
    7. Well said 15:06 that author is one of those F******* Middle manager spo CRC Sh***** sliming their way into a keep me ill do and say anything role. Its too late for us now though more Tory power and Tory cuts the slimes can have it !

      Delete
  11. Thanks for writing the guest blog. I too am a PO in NPS and we have the same issues. It's good to know we're not alone. I recognised all that you have said.

    I spend 15% of my working week dealing with failed IT issues.
    Another 5% dealing with failed HR systems (things as basic as contracts and annual leave entitlement).
    Another 5% trying to decipher working practices between NPS and CRC (no blame attributed to either organisation, just difficulties for example because of a lack of access to records, reception staff can't figure out who someone is here to see OR figuring out how to give access to CRC to facilitate a licence condition etc.)
    Many excellent colleagues have been off with stress related illness in the past 12 months, some for weeks or months at a time.
    Despite having 10+ years experience working with all categories of offences, I think that with the sheer amount of high risk and very serious cases I now have I will approach burn out fairly soon. I love my job but am considering other options in order to protect myself and I think perhaps another 2 years will be my limit. Has any consideration been given to clinical supervision of staff? This is something that is definitely needed at the moment. NHS colleagues are amazed that we don't get it.

    Oh, and how do I know all the % noted above? I keep a record each day! I feel that I have to protect myself for when things go wrong. Now what a sad state of affairs is that?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I emailed Sadiq Khan directly a month before the GE ... no response. That despite a reminder to all staff wihin my CRC not to engage with journalists directly "to avoid anyone finding themselves in a difficult situation".

    ReplyDelete
  13. Only the union can galvanise the membership, perhaps a radicalised union can give some hope and fight back to the membership. Perhaps fund an independent report by an academic on how best to reduce offending and how to employ the most effective methods. What is an optimum case load and lets enshrine a work life balance. Lets take our profession back no more targest and no more running it from the center, lets move back into the communities, the localities we understand.

    Health and Safety should be used to to protect workers and service users, When we have the report we as a collective work to its recommendations. It will be difficult but if we put up a fight the media may think it worth reporting and the public just might support us. Can we radicalise NAPO and fightback from the workplace and the community? Or is pie in the sky? I think if people are pushed far enough they will resist, have we gone far enough?

    Papa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Take a long cold look at the players in napo. Radical your splitting my sides Papa ! Now I am crying with laughter. Your a brilliant comedian got any more ?

      Delete
  14. The tragedy is that the media will not be interested until we have a spectacular SFO.. Then watch them light up like a Christmas tree.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Really there are some not a flicker !!

      Delete
  15. Probation Officer jobs advertised on i-grasp list essential criteria as DipSW, CQSW, DipPS, Graduate Diploma or BA Honours in Criminal Justice. I think the graduate diploma is the new qualification, but a BA in Criminal Justice is that also a PO qualification?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Training really there are PSOs in the NPS my region we are doing PSRs and oral reports the whole bit.

      Delete
  16. With effect from 1st June all sdrs are being written as fdrs therefore allocation per month is doubled exception is where the court asks for assessment on dangerousness. Is this happening any where else. What are other POs comments.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In my area only FDRs have been produced for all CRC cases since 1st Feb, including cases where the victim is a child. Can't comment on NPS cases. I believe this is due to pressures on NPS staff.

      Delete