Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Shape of Probation 2015

Anyone struggling with this NPS 'paperless office'?

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YUP. I cannot understand the massive amounts of instructions telling me where to find stuff on the system, and neither can anyone else in my office. There is a real diversity issue with the one size fits all instruction system which has replaced actual training. I keep bleating on about it, but none of us understand our jobs anymore.

*****
I can say I feel exactly the same in a north east CRC office. Diversity no longer recognised.

*****
We're struggling with the CRC officeless office, soon to be a staffless office, whilst we're all jobless. Its priceless!!!

*****
Professionally I don't who I am or what it is I do any more - Delius, CAS & RSR are unintelligible flim flam - OASys sucked the life out of the job & made it mind numbingly boring - senior management are slaves to targets - it's only my colleagues who help me retain my sanity - the world around me is going crazy. Another job is not that easy to find in a ruralish area when you're pushing 60 & can't retire for another 6 years. And yet weirdly I don't feel as stressed as perhaps I should. Think I've broken through the stress barrier cos I just can't take the job seriously anymore which is perhaps the worst indictment of the mess Grayling wreaked - what a bloody shambles...

*****
I think I have broken through the stress barrier too. Do it this way err wait no, do it this way, err oh no we forgot this (didn't know this) do it this way oh, and here's a weeks notice, just so you have time to reorganise your diary. What you don't have a diary manager? He ho, never mind you have loads of time. You don't have loads of time? Well that takes 5 minutes, this takes 3.5 hours, talk to people who commit offences. Nah you don't need to do that, just tell them this, oops no tell them that, hang on don't bother to tell them just give them a ring once in a while, got it? Okay here's another 40 page policy doc, it's a draft. No it's not, it's the final document. What, it contradicts the one sent out last week? Never mind, just get it done, we'll change the law tomorrow. Stressed? Nahh, not any more.

*****
As good an account of the shapeless deepshit omnishambles we're in as any I've seen or heard anywhere. Thank you.

*****
Thanks from me too. I have no idea how to do anything anymore. I've got a new tactic, I just see the customers like I always used to and do my best to put some kind of contact on Delius. I don't breach or make referrals cos I don't know how. No one's noticed yet.


*****
It's a depressing time to be a PO at the moment and it seems that only the trainees want the job any more! But it must be a very poor experience for trainees in the current climate where PIs change daily and no one knows what they are doing any more! The 2 young graduates in my office don't seem to have a clue or little interest in finding out. But in their defence they have been treated badly and just left to muddle through.

*****
As a past Practice Development Assessor I would concur with your observations about the eagerness, bravado or even arrogance of trainee staff. Enthusiasm is positive, ambition is an energy, but over-confidence is dangerous. The culture of the workplace has changed beyond recognition from my days as an apprentice PO. Humility, deference & ever-open ears were the watchwords for new & trainee staff back then - "if you're talking, you're not listening". I currently find the raw aggression & petulant attitudes that come with some new staff, PSO or Trainee, quite disturbing. Even more disturbing is the fact that most of our management groom them, protect them & will not challenge them. Fear? I'm more inclined to think it's because they recognise them as kindred spirits.

Advice? Do what's comfortable for you. Life's too short & unpredictable. Don't get stuck, bitter & sour like me - enjoy everything, including your young family. In doing what I believed to be "the right thing" - abandon the greedy deceitful world of commerce & develop a professional career with meaning & honour - I find I've sacrificed:

1. My time with my children as they were growing up, (impossible to recover),
2. A marriage (irreparably damaged),
3. My health (work related stress) -

- and now Grayling, Spurr, et al have taken away my professional career & status, and sold me into commercial slavery. But they haven't taken my life, my spirit or my EVR just yet...

*****
I am mentoring a TPO and their experiences reflect yours. From my point of view the lack of PDAs add mounting pressure on me to cover the basics of the job, which I am acutely aware I have not got the time to give.

*****
The simple truth is:

1. This training has been rushed through as contingency planning under the Business Risk Register (remember that?) to ensure service delivery in any eventuality.
2. This will provide a pool of staff able to be employed on different contracts meaning staff costs will be driven down ie expensive/experienced POs out cheaper new starters in.
3. This will provide a mobile staff group given the number of young graduates employed who as young people are today, will become increasingly desperate for work.
4. The shortfall in training will be met by existing practitioners helping colleagues out as we always have done.
5. This was the cheapest possible training to plug potential gaps, not actual.
6. (re) employing POs from CRCs would be more expensive.

That is just my view and I realise how this may look to TPOs but I do think you will have jobs. The world is moving on and new recruits meet the business model. I wish you all well but most of all I wish you could have trained at a time of integrity.

*****
"They want the cheapest not the best" - that's exactly what this is about. The quality of TPO's that I have come across lack personal intuition, understanding, experience, insight and most of all values. They are there designed to model the new world of corporate image. No concept of reality and never ever visited areas outside of their own nice cushy middle class bedrooms. If this is the next generation of offender managers I hate to think what the experience of offenders would be like.

*****
To be fair, that is not my experience, we have 2 TPOs and they are great enthusiastic people eager to learn. That sound a pretty good basis to start to me. Good guest blog and the best of luck to you.

*****
I read your post with mounting dismay at your experience and your grasp of reality of the situation. I qualified in 2002 and my experience was of course totally different. I had four years out of the service from 2011 and live abroad returning to work in a CRC - an alien concept to me if ever there was one - earlier this year. I hit the ground running with a full caseload and after a few weeks was asked to mentor an NPS trainee. I personally felt it was an honour and a privilege to be asked to do so and was aware that other CRC colleagues looked at me with a jaundiced eye for doing it - data protection and all that was part of it, but I suspect that it was also because of tensions between NPS and CRC.

My advice to you is the same as it was to my mentoree - to hold on to the job for all the reasons you say. They are the right ones. When I was a trainee, an old salt of a probation officer gave me the best advice I had ever heard and it has served me well. 'Always tell it like it is' (for an occasion when I was stuck with what to say in a PSR and 'never get out of the lifeboat'.

Sometimes you might have to but stick with this job, the dust has not yet settled from all this dreadful upheaval and good probation officers are born not made and the love of the job goes with the territory. Others may dismiss my views but that is their indaba. I am about to start a contract with an NPS office and if I am asked to mentor a trainee again I will be pleased to do so. So head up, give it your best and every success to you.

---oo00oo---

With these reflections on Grayling's new-look Probation Service Omnishambles, I'm off on holiday for a couple of weeks. I'm pretty sure internet access will be available at various times, but the blog may have to just coast along for a while. Please keep the info coming in and scouring the media for relevant stuff and get writing that Guest Blog you've been promising yourself. Above all, be considerate of colleagues in this mess and look out for each other.     

41 comments:

  1. Have a lovely holiday Jim, and yes we will play nicely while you are away !!

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  2. I was saying last night, every step forward seems to place the whole omnishambles deeper into the mire. Nothing feels like an improvement, just more disruption, distress and misdirection. I get more and more embarrassed by the developing debacle. The slowest train wreck in history is hitting the buffers.

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  3. Not only has it become chaos, but partners and services seem to be withdrawing at a depressing rate. The CRC I work in has scored an enormous own goal by letting a couple million pounds of ESF funding for ETE provision slip out of their grasp. Meanwhile previous partners aren't willing to offer their services anymore using the excuse that the Prime Provider already have their partnerships within their consortium colleagues from the voluntary sector, so they don't need to be paying for them. In other words, they don't want to be taken advantage of by a private outsourcing company.

    Someone mentioned about waiting for the dust to settle, but to me it seems that each week brings a new box of escaping frogs, and the CEO (who had previously been in NOMS too long), has no idea how to put them back in. All semblance of 'business as usual' has long gone and the new operating model seems to be "f****, we didn't know about that".

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  4. An experience of UK Government Spending: -

    " At first I thought this is irrelevant to the probation experience - but actually - it is , it really is -

    Government getting rid of in-house expertise, then hiring them back via employment agencies.

    Targets of activity measured rather than actual outcomes - which may not be completely measurable because the spend affects not only physical measurable 'things'

    The hand of the Cabinet Office.

    Charities, running like commercial businesses, with high paid senior executives, whilst the doers are on low paid contracts and much more similarities. "

    File on 4 - Available now 38 minutes

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0608h81

    Comments also welcome -

    http://www.napo2.org.uk/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=1020

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  5. Yesterday Wales CRC/Working Links gave out a 2015 Diversity A4 calender to all WL staff, yes in June! It listed all the religious celebration dates. Font was about size 6 so no one could read it. NPS 'stealing' paper from CRC offices 'cos they are short. What exactly are NSIs? Mayhem?

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  6. if you find of what NSIs are do let me know
    A PO (NPS)

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    1. A doctor writes: Non-specific infection

      A Doctor

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    2. NSIs are something to do with FFS, I think

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    3. ohhhhh, now I understand, thanks!

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    4. No Sodding Idea.

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    5. Non statatory intervension pardon the spelling

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    6. Non Statutory Intervenison. Oh deer. Staggering!

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  7. OMG!! The SPO in the DRR Unit of LPA's CRC had to write an FDR on a PPO because the IOM team were all AWOL with IBS, LMFAO!!

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    1. WTF! IMHO it's FUBAR!

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  8. I also qualified in 2002 and had the courage to leave when expectations fell short. I returned because the local authority job was short-term funded. It's a peculiar experience being part of a once internationally lauded public organisation that has gone down the toilet, as it were. I cope with wry cynicism.It makes me believe that I am no longer part of the car crash, I watch from the pavement avoiding the flying debris and I get irritated by practitioners lamenting a lost cause. Stop needlessly bitching. the Utopia of public ownership well resourced can never be regained. It's just a job and I guess we conned ourselves that our "professionalism" ever mattered to government. And if your utopian ideals have been dashed, move on. Look after yourself, for much as I love Jim's blog, dissent or its expression won't make the slightest difference to the emasculation of a once great public service.

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    1. So true & well said.

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    2. Just watched an inspirational documentary on bbc4: "live at least one day like a tiger, not the whole of your life like a mouse."

      Some took the tiger option to help others make changes, to help make a difference, to help make things better - even if it was for one day for one person. Almost without exception, that one person was someone else other than the tiger.

      The mice. They cosy down in safety, keeping quiet, not wanting to be seen or heard, occasionally whispering "I can't". But they still do amazing things, just quietly.

      Polarity exists, and both are vital.

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    3. The panic with regards reaching targets 5 days for first appointment than 10 days ISP indicate that many CRC have gone in over their heads with PBR. They didn't understand the work when they bid and are slowly getting to know what they have taken on. As said previously the well resourced service will not happen again as they seek to wring their profit from the CRC. The shenanigans going on with Sodexo at present are I fear just a stalking horse for the other CRC who will in time follow suit (they will all have gone in or been directed to a certain value of bid). Scandalous already we are left with two skeleton services

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  9. WL are still trying to work out how much to charge NPS and for which services when they don'y know what services they have and for how long and who delivers them. Confused, you will be!
    The yours/mine mentality is working its way through the offices, Reception staff can only access CRC IT so if any NPS offenders come into reception they have to call admin. It's all getting very silly.

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  10. Http://m.youtube.com/results?q=yvonne%20interserve&sm=3

    Presentation by Yvonne Thomas (MD of Justice) | 2015 Capital Markets Day


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    1. Thanks for posting - it is 17 minutes long - she starts by trying to explain what probation is the her audience.

      I stomached the first 5 minutes - I may go back for more later if it stays accessible - 38 people had viewed the You Tube video before me.

      It seems she does not understand that probation is about firstly protecting the public by monitoring folk who have previously been convicted and taking action - when possible - if the risks to the public seem to be escalating.

      Secondly it is about engaging in honest ways with integrity with those people the courts have directed be supervised, by creating meaningful professional relationships with those clients, as a consequence of the contact that the court order requires and then aiding those clients enhance what skills and motivation they have to minimise the likelihood of them offending in future.

      Yvonne Thomas then begins talking about systems and processes and contracts and I felt she was implying that it is the activities that invoke the change rather than the activity that can come from the professional relationship, additional to the main 'material' which is the client's desires and wants.

      Others may disagree and ridicule me - so be it.

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    2. So according to Yvonne by offering ' a bundle of services that are high personalised to an offenders needs in an advanced way. Her forecast (where is the piloting and proof?) of a group of 35000 clients prior to this way of working 16500 would stop offending while after the new bundle 19,100 would stop offending a difference apparently of 15% to 20%.
      Well there you are the wheel reinvented. We clearly were not personalising our approach before! That was the answer all along. Hope your not counting on PBR for your bonus Interserve.

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    3. Exactly Andrew. People are not going to change their attitude because some clever clogs with a degree, a DIPSW or a CQSW, (that's how many see us), tell them to do so. People will only change when they are ready, and it is Probation's role to listen,and encourage them to explore their life experiences before they arrived where they are now, and try to get them to understand how and why things need to be different, and then assist them in accepting responsibility for which road they will take to improve things for themselves and for others. And then, when you have gained their trust - help them work with appropriate agencies, to improve their lives - that is, if there are any left....

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    4. Has there been any information by CRCs on the percentage of PBR they have taken on?

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    5. Andrew, thanks for posting. I have watched the clip in full and would encourage others to take a look. Yvonne Thomas' style of presentation won't be to everyone's taste but go with it if you can. I was struck by a number of things; the confidence about doing "everything" and the fact that Interserve seem to be involved in a staggering range of services and are clearly banking on the future direction of outsourcing opening up even more public services (Community Mental Health was cited) to the market. I was struck by the statement that they can further reduce re-offending by 15-20% based on research apparently. Interestingly the only case example given related to someone on life licence. So far as actually working with offenders, a new model was introduced. Interchange. In a nutshell it appears that the model of Interchange is based around principles such as recognising that individuals need to be supported to engage, that the relationship between client/ offender/ service user and worker is critical, that the work done needs to be relevant to the individual, based within their local community and, if as a consequence of those interventions, a person can find a stake in that community and contribute then change is likely to last. A revelation indeed. For a moment there I was under the impression that the public sector Probation Service had been bee working on that basis all along!

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    6. Thanks for the comments BUT I did not post the link to the video, it was Anon at 13:19 - who made no comment but knew of its availability - maybe a 'friend' of Interserve trying to impress us, rather than expose Yvonne Thomas to ridicule.

      Just after Interserve got involved - I had an extended Twitter exchange with her, when I concluded that as far as social work was concerned she knew very little despite some exaggerated enthusiasms. The five minutes I saw of her video, confirmed my earlier impression.

      It puts me in mind of Debbie Ryan, being friends with everyone when she worked for a predecessor outsourcer and tried several times to invite me to a face to face meeting - but ultimately seemed not to understand the complexity, subtlety and doggedness that sometimes makes a little progress - though it is almost impossible to measure what precisely does influence desistance in any particular person.

      I thought it was rather well explained by Anon at 19:18 and that furthermore, social work in general and definitely the specialism of probation officering is a blend of applied social science, art, basic abilities to relate constructively with angry people and a heavy dose of luck and persistence. Of course activities such as are described in that video can play a part and even be the spark, but only if they are done sensitively at what is the RIGHT moment for any particular client.

      When I worked for a short-while in the Merseyside & Greater Manchester Neighbourhood Borstal scheme, for a few months I ran an evening Group at the Borstal - for my resident clients - who were allocated on the basis of postcode. It was semi social and I was carrying on from what predecessors had found helped them build relationships with SOME. A lure was the Liverpool footballer (no good for the Evertonians) who hinted he would consider an invitation - but in the end did not - so clients were let down - not by him but me - or the certainty that I issued two cigarettes to each member during the session to smoke whilst they were in the group - (hardly clever groupwork skills).

      However, I doubt that anyone thing was critical - my Borstal Boys seemed to have an exceptionally high rate of reoffending - but in my career, I sometimes heard long time repeat clients remark on such things from years back - saying that somehow they felt the PO really wanted what was best for them. So I just hope the free fags and the time I committed may have had an eventual long term positive impact on clients.

      Sadly, as I was discovering in the late 90s when ACR recalls were a prominent feature of my work as a seconded officer in a prison - much of the goodwill that had been generated down the years was being lost by the consequences of enforced parole - I fear it is very much worse now - though I am sure individuals are still able to do & say things that impact constructively though suspect it is harder than in the fag issue days!

      Incidentally - is there any 'groupwork training' done nowadays?

      It was a feature of my early career but ETS apart had pretty much fizzled out by the 2,000s apart from what then went on at 'probation centres' in London - which was rather different to the stuff I was involved with earlier, including Family Group work.

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  11. They are also sending my Grandma on an egg-ducking course next week. NVQ level four (fcuks sake).

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    1. Sucking! I meant sucking!! :)

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    2. Careful... ;)

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  12. Know The Danger: RIP Lorraine Barwell

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    1. Awful for all concerned and so little publicity - It seems unbelievable.

      " Family of prison guard attacked outside Blackfriars crown court ask doctors to end life support "

      http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/family-of-prison-guard-attacked-outside-blackfriars-crown-court-ask-doctors-to-end-life-support-10360799.html

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  13. Andrew myself posted interserve video but definately no friend of the private companies. A lot of bullshit flying around so was sharing and hoping to get some comment.

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    1. If you want the slides, they can be found on the Interserve public web site in the investor relations section. Yvonne Thomas .

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  14. recently been to a NAPO agm, had a couple of guest speakers - Darren from RMT and a London NAPO rep. Not a good word to speak about private companies - interserve especially came in for a scathing attack on their hatred of unions and their petty attacks on staff that have resulted in dismissals. Many private companies beginning to become interlinked and so staff dismissed from one company effectively barred from working from other companies. Purple Futures sitting back & waiting to see what happens with Sodexho. The AGM actually made me feel very fearful that if your face doesn't fit your out and there's nothing you can do with it - managers are ruthless apparently.

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  15. Didn't see this on the news. So sorry for Lorraine and her family.
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/blackfriars-crown-court-guard-lorraine-barwell-dies-after-killer-assault-outside-london-court-1509058

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  16. Any news about EVR? Wasn'there supposed to be an update on 1 July? Can anyone assist with info as I'm not at work for a wee while. Its lonely out here.

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    1. There isn't any.

      News, I mean. Although it might end up there's no EVR?

      Then, as someone posted a while back, the headlines in the Daily Vitriol ought to reflect the fact that the UK Govt gave a French business several tens of £M's as a sweetener to cover redundancy payments to 600 UK staff, but the French company decided to pocket that Taxpayer cash for itself.

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  17. Are paid jobs no more in Wales CRC?
    Wales Community Rehabilitation Company is keen to encourage volunteers and work placements.
    If you are interested, please email your request to walescrc.info@wales.probation.gsi.gov.uk

    Surely this is plain dangerous?

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    1. Absolutely, 23:46. Similar position in my CRC (same overall employer - WL). Lots of emphasis on using volunteers, dubious task list drawn up (of basically employee tasks) that has been queried by Union reps to no avail, PSO's now tasking a volunteer to run the open reporting session as 'they dont know what else to give her to do'. Reminders that they may be effectively writing their own P45 in the long term fall on deaf ears. Very worrying.
      Deb

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  18. Whilst uncertainty places a significant strain on individuals and the service alike I can't help but think that in 2015 people find it hard to deal with a concept of no paper. There are some true bastions of public service that desperately need innovation and shaking up.

    There's an awful lot of energy being expended here by people who are so busy they don't know what their role now is and how they do it.

    Time for some careful questioning here of motivation and why people are seemingly resisting change. I'll leave you with some quotes from Charles Darwin who knew a thing or two about evolution....:




    “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”


    "A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life."

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