Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Teaching Granny How to Suck Eggs

Dear Jim,

Quite rightly your blog has focused on the terrible situation colleagues in Sodexo CRCs find themselves in, but if you ever find yourself short of something to publish, you might want to consider the following from the Working Links CRCs.

Each Friday, around lunchtime, we are treated to a 'Transforming Rehabilitation Together' briefing, published on our intranet. This gives us all the latest news from the top brass, and some little snippets from local areas - I assume it's more or less the same across the three CRCs, although the local 'good news' stories might vary.

So far, so corporate, I hear you say. Well, heading up each briefing is an 'Update from Paul Hindson'. Paul Hindson is the Managing Director for UK Justice in Working Links - you can find his bio here:

"Paul Hindson joined Working Links in May 2015 as Managing Director for UK Justice. Paul comes to us with a wealth of experience, having worked within the probation industry for the past 30 years.

A trained probation officer and former lecturer, Paul has held posts with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) including as Head of Offender Management Implementation and Head of Offender Management and Assessment, where he was responsible for the management and development of the Offender Assessment System (OASys).

Paul was Director of Community Solutions with Interserve and was responsible for the operational design and costing of Purple Futures' delivery in the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme.

Paul is responsible for the operational delivery of all services within the Justice arena."

(note especially his earlier career with NOMS and involvement with OASys...) Although it's billed as an "update", there's rarely anything of substance there - we're not promised our operating model any earlier than next April. Instead we are given a glimpse into Paul's views on various subjects to do with 'probation'. A couple of weeks ago he was telling us how our approach to risk management is all wrong, because apparently we don't try to rehabilitate those who are seen as a higher level of risk but just try to control them (news to many of us at the coal face!). 

Last week there were favourable references to how quickly the branding has changed at East Coast trains after their takeover by Virgin, with news that soon Working Links and the CRCs will soon be "one company", seemingly integrating the CRC with the Work Programme (again, news to those of us who thought that the CRCs were separate legal entities and the Government still held a golden share!). This week's edition really took the proverbial biscuit, and it is worth me typing out for you in full:

"Working on the Transforming Rehabilitation programme has caused me to reconsider some of the core elements of the work we do. I have previously talked about the outcomes and risk and I wanted to share with you my thoughts on both of these key subjects.

I strongly believe that desistance tells us that we can be more effective if we focus on the issues that enable people to change rather than solely concentrating on what causes negative behaviour.

The concept of needs seems to be rooted in this focus on negative drivers. Through OASys we tend to look at what is wrong with people and then spend our time trying to resolve their issues. Psychologically the message is that a person is inadequate because they don't reach the required standard for society.

The other problem I have with this approach is that it tends to generate a passive service user who needs expert help to understand what is wrong with them. It also means the service user has limited options to help them set their goals and make their own opinion of what their journey to improvement should look like. We are fully aware that sentence plans cover interventions which focus on the weaknesses identified by OASys this then reduces the service user's ability to take responsibility for their own future. Personally, I think I would find it hard to get motivated in these circumstances and am sure there are service users that lack motivation due to this.

Of course the majority of probation officers overcome this problem by building strong and empowering relationships with service users and I believe that this ability is an enormous asset to our organisation. However, I have wondered how much more effective it could be if we had the tools which assisted our people to empower service users. For instance, my understanding of the Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation is a strength-based approach assessment tool to help people make the transition into society. It uses positive language such as: place in society, healthy lifestyles and hope and motivation which is more engaging to the service user. We still need to focus on the areas where strengths are low so we need to work on building their strengths rather than solving their weaknesses. I think this can also help service users feel a greater sense of ownership when setting their goals, when working with their probation officer to look at how they can reach them. I know that our employability and justice colleagues who are looking at the design of new services are taking this into consideration.

You can read more about the Good Lives model here."

"Over the past decade, the Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation (GLM) has been systematically developed by Tony Ward and colleagues, and has been adopted by many different jurisdictions both locally and internationally. Its ethical core is that of human rights and it starts from the assumption that while offenders have obligations to respect other peoples’ entitlements to well being and freedom, they are also entitled to the same considerations. This is particularly so when it comes to the implementation of punishment and reintegration initiatives. Two fundamental intervention aims follow from this ethical starting point, the enhancement of offenders’ well-being and reduction of their risk of further offending. According to the GLM, these goals are inextricably linked and the best way to create a safer society is to assist offenders to adopt more fulfilling and socially integrated lifestyles."

I will refrain from passing further comment on this, other than giving thanks that the rehabilitation experts have finally arrived, because clearly I have been doing everything wrong for years. Oh, and if you know anyone whose grandmothers need lessons in how to suck eggs, let me know, because I know where to send them.



  1. Innovation, my arse..

  2. I wonder how Hindson was describing needs/risks when he was promoting OASys. It seems to me that he is dismantling theoretical and pathologising frameworks that were part and parcel of the enforcement and target agenda that was encouraged under managerialism, but was never embraced by the wider workforce who always knew through their interactions with clients that whilst issues of control and boundaries were sometimes vital factors in supervising clients, the key to change was always through rehabilitation. The frontline always cared about outcomes, shaped by professional judgements rather than management diktats.

    Hindson does deserve some credit for his gymnastics. His criticisms of need as a 'negative driver' is disingenuous. Identifying needs seems a good starting place for any subsequent work. It was the over-interventionist OASys obsession with needs/risks, defensive decision-making, data collection ad nauseum and the bureaucratic funneling of clients into this or that programme on the basis of a crude scoring mechanism, that converted clients into target fodder, rather than respond to them as individuals with human rights. I would like to think that Hindson has seen the light, but I suspect he has simply found a new angle.

  3. You should trust this man less than the distance you could throw him

  4. All this angst from the man who, whilst a power jockey at NOMS, reduced PSRs to a tick box exercise much to the bewilderment - and ultimately utter frustration - of our local bench.

    1. I can't remember how many years ago it was (a long, long time) that I was actually involved in some forum or other where Hindson was voicing an aspiration to make the PSR a template that, with certain information entered, would be produced automatically. He wasn't joking and eoasys, left us with a situation that a legal document that could be produced with a typewriter, or even freehand, became the arcane, rolled back, won't lock, no countersigner available, last minute fucking panic fest, courtesy of someone who spent too long avoiding rehabilitating real, live offenders or talking to front line staff.

  5. The ability of naked ambition to cloud judgement. Anyone, and I mean ANYONE, who still thinks one model of intervention is applicable universally is, to my mind, an idiot. The truth is, the Universalists are usually selling something, even if only themselves.

    1. So true. It is always sensible to 'follow the money'. This is about selling a model, in this case the GLM which has been 'systematically developed' by his mate in New Zealand and is being promoted across the globe. These things are always 'systematically developed', just like OASys was!

      A forthcoming GLM event is charging £280 per delegate. They offer a myriad of programmes covering all offences for community and custody. However, GLM doesn't seem to have provided much desistance to indigenous New Zealanders:

      Māori made up 50 percent of the prison population; by comparison, Māori comprise about 14 percent of the general New Zealand population and it's even worse for women who made up only six percent of the total prison population but Māori women made up 58 percent of that female prisoner population. GLM doesn't have anything to say about institutional racism.

  6. Its a pity these enlightened chameleons & shapeshifters didn't apply GLM principles to structuring their CRCs, preferring to use financial risk & need & TR as opposed to building on the existing strengths of an experienced, dedicated workforce.

    Perhaps Sodexo, Working Links et al could also make some effort to exercise their own "... obligations to respect other peoples’ entitlements to well being and freedom..."

    But no, same old same old 'do as I say, not as I do'; 'my way or the highway'.

    Hypocrites, liars, cheats, self-serving bullies & greedy bastards.

    1. Hmmm...

      "The cross-government definition of domestic violence and abuse is:

      - any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse... The abuse can encompass, but is not limited to:

      - psychological
      - physical
      - financial
      - emotional

      Controlling behaviour
      Controlling behaviour is a range of acts designed to make a person subordinate and/or dependent by isolating them from sources of support, exploiting their resources and capacities for personal gain, depriving them of the means needed for independence, resistance and escape and regulating their everyday behaviour.

      Coercive behaviour
      Coercive behaviour is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten"

  7. Glad I'm not in that . I'd be very vocal on what I thought of him

  8. Of course any intervention only works if the client turns up; the news from our CRC is that if clients don't attend then they can't be breached for failing to comply-cos that is a fail! So Mr Hindson's posturing is all for nothing!

  9. to Anon 11:45 I love the expression above! "Shape shifter" should become the description for those who have prostituted themselves at the altar of TR.....saying one thing then when it suits saying another....developing buzz words and and mission statements...blah blah blah....what an idiot!

  10. Ha ha I laughed out loud when I saw my copy of that newsletter .. Sigh :p

  11. Although people who flit from one thing to another, usually before they get found out or anyone checks their account of what they achieved ..does anyone ever check the substance to the polished presentation with every word that gains a point carefully placed but barely understood, are best avoided.. isn't it good that that there is a move away from the 'us and them' culture that has pervaded ? isn't it good that people are starting to question the vile practice of many who trotted out that someone has this that or the other deficits etc without any consideration of the negative impact this would have, writing horrible , often inaccurate stuff in Oasys, not a care or thought for the person it concerned. isn't it good that there is finally a move away from the arrogant and totally ineffective belief of many that identifying this that or the other risk and then imposing numerous restrictions, whether or not legally justified, was job done ?. isn't it good that things are changing ?

    1. Anon 22:43 I admire your attempt to see the positive from the situation but I think you are mistaken if you think that "things are changing". There is no sense from Hindson's piece that he is acknowledging his role in the 'risk and control' culture - it has the air of a man idly leafing through an out-of-date criminology textbook looking for new buzzwords.

      We have spent the last three years being told by the Government that we weren't good enough and we need the wonderful private sector to come in and tell us how we can do our jobs properly, paying us less money (for more work) for the privilege. When this disingenuous, reinventing-the-wheel, patronising bullshit is the best they can come up with, we're entitled to feel angry.

      The first commenter had it right: "Innovation, my arse".

    2. Cynical is fine and maybe applicable, however, when desistance and all that is now applied to this, pretty much exactly what Probation was before the enforcement 'model' set the rot.. then it does come down to the frontline' to either grasp that and run with it,, it's all over practice guidelines both sides of the divide, or take the position that 'they don't really mean it and so not bother. Whose fault will it be then, theirs or 'ours'

  12. it seems that people who start but don't finish programmes, are more likely to go on to commit further offences than people who never start one.

  13. Now ain't all that the truth, breadth and width CRC future, TR tantilising ridiculous and with only one goal - profit.

  14. i only took an interest in the CJS at 70. When I was a boy there were 20,000 people in Prison of whom 1,500 were homosexuals whose sexual orientation was expected to change in an all male environment. Now the prison population has quadrupled. Norway has a re-offending rate a quarter of the UK's, clearly something is wrong.

    From my Internet studies I have learned two facts.

    You cannot make someone into a better person only help them or lead them, but not push. The failures of "Scared Straight" and "Short Sharp Shock", are examples of trying to force people to reform.

    A second observation is how very few English Language Criminology Papers quote from none English language sources. No wonder we don't know what works, and our pathways are so few. A Swedish scheme for delinquents requires them to join a club, of their choosing to widen their social contacts. Also a mentor who they choose from their circle has to attend courses with them, so the family know the course message to. There is so much to learn and think about, Traditionally Inuit culture puts helping the victim recover as more important than punishing the villain, perhaps that is right.

  15. Another armchair internetter eh? Well look up 'motivational interviewing' , we are already doing it. And using mentors. Sweden doesn't have the levels of inequality we have in UK. Also theydontlive in match boxes, crammed in problem estates. Start there.

    1. Thank you for "Motivational Listening". I have been searching the internet mainly in vain, for help on re-integrating a prisoner into society. I sent letter with what in my day was called a "Pep talk" about making future plans and got back "its to soon", I see now I should have painted a Rosie future, and asked how we could get her there. About the only other thing I learned from the Internet was a Danish mentor will lead a conversation so that the client discusses his day, maybe discovering problems that he can help with. Generally although it is recognised that family and friends can be a big help to a succesful re-integration the only advice given is to “be supportive”, this is probably because no one has thought about it. As far as I can tell about the only country that involves families in re-integration is Vietnam, the “Scared Straight” program had an expert on family relationships but no family involvement.

      Every country has its own problems. I spend my summers in a beautiful but remote part of Eastern Canada. The Inuit were displaced from their traditional hunting area's and resettled in “urban areas” were unemployment was already high, for administrive reasons, cheeper medical care and schooling. Thus creating a culture of well fare benefits, drink and drugs, followed by an over representation in the prisons. Some communities on a popular vote have banned alcohol and its helping. (completely off subject, but of interest to sociologist, women tranfer fron traditional Inuit culture to Western culture more readily than males, they are over reprented in the Canadian Government, hasving risen to the top in two generations).

      My points in writing was too point out something is wrong, I don't apportion blame to Society or the System they both must change.

      If you look at other countries, you can learn, there might be a better egg sucker out there.

      Family and friends are almost totally ignored by the professionals This is the best evidance I found to form this view, I have had no involvement with CJS my entire life.


      Resettlement provision for adult offenders: Accommodation and education, training and employment A joint thematic review by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Probation and Ofsted

      The findings of this report are striking. Most importantly, it absolutely confirms the central importance of an offender’s family and friends to their successful rehabilitation. Of course, sometimes an offender’s family may be the victims of their crime and sometimes they may be a negative influence that contributes to their offending behaviour – we found a small number of examples of this in this inspection. However, overwhelmingly, this inspection confirmed our view that an offender’s family are the most effective resettlement agency. More than half the offenders in our cohort returned home or moved in with family and friends on release, even if this was only a temporary measure. The few who had a job on release had mainly arranged this with the help of previous employers, family or friends. …........ What should happen, where possible, is resettlement work which helps the offender and his or her family to maintain or rebuild relationships; an assessment of any offer of support; and, where appropriate, Introduction 6 Resettlement provision for adult offenders involvement of the family in plans for release. We are concerned that work on family relationships that will continue to be provided, if at all, directly by the prison will not be integrated with work done by resettlement service providers.

  16. Nothing will change for the better in the uk if we insist on valuing & prioritising profits for providers over positive outcomes for victims & perpetrators.

  17. 2 days until I sign off my career and not a single squeak from the unions since 28 Aug. "Watch this space" they cried... I did, I still am, my eyes are bleeding! In the meantime everything else seems to have frozen in time.

    The Omnishambles was just the hors d'heuve.

    The Great Calamity starts here.

    1. Best wishes for the future and really sorry things turned out like this. If you feel able, please stay contributing.

  18. I'm with 22.43. And good to see someone looking outward and onwards rather than joining the 'lets all join in nibbling our own tail' fest.
    Things needed changing and it was never going to be easy to shift the entrenched controlling culture old probation had become. Right indeed for a relatively small number of offenders, but for most something much less patriarchal and equal and motivational and positive has to be the way forward in the long run. Its a very different world for everyone and we all need to move on and live in the the world as it is not how we feel 'comfortable'. Attitude is everything.

    1. Knock yourself out, kiddo. I'm out of here & leaving it in your capable hands. Don't go disappearing or blaming those that went before as & when someone gets hurt in your new utopian rehabilitation revolution.