Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Blog to Continue

Graph of Blogger page views

As we approach another significant milestone - the blog will hit 3 million well before Christmas if the present hit-rate of 90,000 a month is maintained - I thought it was worth reflecting a bit on what was happening and where I think things are going.

The graph rather nicely confirms what I already know anecdotally that readership has been in steady decline since project TR began and the blog went into campaigning mode as part of the attempt to fight it. As the predicted slow train crash continues its agonising progression, many excellent, highly experienced staff, continue to jump ship having become utterly demoralised by the whole omnishambles so ably concocted by Chris Grayling and his weasel Liberal Democrat colleagues.

It's quite understandable that with morale so low and depression widespread, the blog has lost much of its former lively atmosphere and content. I'm sure many former probation staff find it too much of a painful reminder to look at the blog, let alone have the energy to contribute any more. Even those that are left, mostly in NPS, are effectively 'gagged' from any open comment on social media by virtue of the command and control nature of their civil service status and remain fearful of possible identification even through anonymous contributions. 

Despite this some brave souls are prepared to speak up and the following contribution highlights the dilemma many are facing:-   

"Our divisional director dropped in unexpectedly the other week and held an informal Q and A. She was open to any input and was inevitably asked about prison visits and attendance at oral hearings. She trotted out all the usual stuff about phone and video links being acceptable alternatives. It seemed apparent though that she, like me, didn't really believe it. What she clearly does believe is that having to live in the real world is our new reality. Like many of us I have thought about getting out and if a good enough opportunity became apparent it would be hard to say no. But I, and many like me stay. We stay to try to help new PO's understand and embrace values that put people first, values that protect the public and values that will be needed when we achieve some sort of normality, whenever that might be. We are in a shitstorm not of our making and it is one that looks likely to carry on for some time. It's up to those of us who are in it to make the best of a bad lot. Not to moan about how awful it is or to hark back to some halcyon days that never really existed. Suck it up people and do what you can to help make our communities safer."

Just as many good contributors have faded away, for whatever reason of late we seem to have attracted some particularly moronic comments which add nothing to discussion and debate but rather are designed to wind me up. They are routinely deleted if they come to my attention and if certain people feel that counts as 'censorship', so be it. It all reminds me of a particularly famous landlord of a very well-known Soho pub who gained the title of Britain's rudest landlord. In one famous incident he was reputed to have barred a drinker 'for being boring' and I feel similarly in relation to some recent particularly crass one-liners. 

In addition to the recent moronic comments, it's also been a bit of a surprise to discover how many Tories read this blog, feel that the election of Jeremy Corbyn is not the most exciting thing in politics for ages, believe the free market economy is working just fine and that TR is proving to be a runaway success. If you believe in conspiracies, it could all be the product of dark political forces, or it could be relatively new staff who don't know or care about our probation ethos. It could be some seriously deluded people, or just some plain-old mischief-making. I don't know, but I do know readership is steadily declining.

I think the following unpublished comment quite neatly sums up a particular view:-
Dear Jim, 
The blog no longer serves any meaningful purpose. It informed during the TR "omnishambles" but no longer. It's just become a platform for Probation staff venting their woes and frustration, and if your morale is rock-bottom or if you've had a shit day, it's hardly uplifting. Probation, as was, is dead. Time to move on. Hankering for the past is futile, embrace the present or seek other avenues. Life's too short. I've ended up in a CRC against my will and, although procedures are far from perfect, new ways of working are making a difference. Anyway, I expect buckets of venom for my comments. Onwards, ever onwards.
At various times of late I've pondered long and hard on whether the blog continues to serve any meaningful purpose or not and uppermost in my thoughts is the fact that in certain quarters its demise would be very welcome indeed. I have no doubt that down at Chivalry Road, Napo would be only too delighted to see the back of it, especially the General Secretary. So would the MoJ and NOMS. The privateers wouldn't mourn it's loss either. Interestingly, all monitor its content closely and they wouldn't do that if it was felt to be inconsequential, would they?

To say the least, we have an interesting situation developing in relation to the privateers that now own 70% of the probation service in this country. The so-called 'cooks and cleaners' who know nothing about what we do, such as Sodexo and Interserve, were warned about a number of things during the bidding process, such as the scope for reputational damage.

These global companies have their fingers in all kinds of pies, all over the place and are very much concerned about their public image, not least because they have shareholders and worried investors can affect share prices. Despite all the warm words, these companies exist primarily to make money and in our case, make money out of supervising offenders more cheaply than the previous gold-standard public service they replaced.

Even though the blog has recently been attracting some surprisingly flattering comments regarding how well project TR is progressing, most of us are sensible enough to know that the omnishambles is in fact getting worse by the day as the 'cooks and cleaners' begin to realise they were sold a pup by the MoJ and that there's very little likelihood of making any money, any time soon. 

Sodexo, the 'cooks', seem happy to be blazing a trail and take all the flack with their deliberate policy of flouting agreements regarding redundancy payments and now have dangerous plans for putting all staff and clients in open plan offices in total disregard for safety and confidentiality.  

In contrast the 'cleaners', Interserve or Purple Futures as they are branded, although having decided to take a rather more softly, softly approach, nevertheless their PR machine is hard at work in the background and interestingly decided to respond on the blog to negative publicity that surfaced recently over their shabby treatment of 14 government cleaners in London:- 

"FYI I am responding from Interserve. As stated previously, we will only comment to correct errors. The assertion that people who ask for better wages are subjected to a disciplinary action is incorrect. No disciplinary action has been taken against these employees and none will be. The matter you refer to was investigated, with each employee interviewed, and has now concluded. Interserve is committed to paying its employees a fair wage and our personnel will benefit from the new National Living Wage when it comes into effect next year.

It’s important to us that everyone has a voice. Currently we are seeking our people’s views on proposals for organisation design and welcome all comments and questions via the channels made available to all our CRC staff."

This drew a number of responses:- 

I don't understand Interserve's statement denying any disciplinary action. To me, the format of Interserve's letter alone was a 'disciplinary' action. They sent 14 people a very scary threatening letter, attaching a copy of the employees' letter to Philip Hammond, just so the cleaners would know what bad deed they had done, while informing them that they were under investigation for bringing Interserve into disrepute, and then told them that their action could lead to suspension or punishment. That is pretty strong stuff and sounded like a nasty threat of disciplinary action to me. Then, surprise surprise, what a coincidence that 3 cleaners did then lose their jobs..! Let's assume it was a coincidence then, was there any need to react so viciously towards 14 people who were politely making a valid point? I think Interserve have done a brilliant job in bringing themselves into disrepute, in that letter alone!

******
Assuming that (the comment) is truly an Interserve body, "Hello!" 
Note that the careful wording of the post makes it clear that no disciplinary action has been or will be taken in THOSE cases. It does not say that anyone else breaking rank won't face action viz - "The matter you refer to was investigated, with each employee interviewed, and has now concluded." So, if nothing else, everyone was interviewed & exposed to the stresses described. Be smart. Be careful. Stay safe.

******
As a matter of information, Interserve do not pay any sick pay. Employees only receive statutory sick pay. Low paid employees being taken advantage of.

******
Why were cleaners made redundant - Purple Futures aka Interserve have been at pains to tell probation staff (as recently as 2 weeks ago in my area) that there should be no redundancies and I'm guessing backroom staff will be offered other jobs, albeit probably not on the same salaries. Why then, if Interserve can find jobs to avoid probation redundancy, could they not redeploy a handful of cleaners? 

--oo00oo--

Regular readers will be aware that the likes of Napo, NOMS, the MoJ and privateers normally have a policy of never acknowledging the blog directly, only obliquely if at all, but the privateers are very sensitive to negative publicity because they have investors and shareholders to worry about. Every word on this blog is monitored closely by all the major players involved in the present and on-going TR omnishambles and it will be interesting to see if the likes of Interserve are tempted to respond again in future. And there is going to be a future because the blog will carry on ticking over on less readership and less in the way of comment. 

I will only publish if I think there's something worth saying or highlighting, but most importantly, it will remain as a platform ready to publish details of the next crisis, scandal, cock-up or shenanigans that develops and as the Grayling legacy continues to fall apart. It's important for the historical record as much as anything.  

53 comments:

  1. Glad to hear it Jim. Keep on blogging...

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  2. Keep going Jim, great blog

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  3. With the E3 "blueprint" about to be published, I am glad to hear this blog is continuing.

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  4. Yes please keep going and full marks for persistence when many, especially of the original boss Tweeters gave up as soon as Grayling said they were gagged and have not tested Gove.

    I see that the company, latterly trading as THE PROBATION ASSOCIATION LIMITED was dissolved in July, having begun in 1983 as a registered company, then called CENTRAL COUNCIL OF PROBATION COMMITTEES.

    I shall not be surprised to see the MOJ renaming The National Probation Service before very long and to exclude the word probation, so I hope this blog continues to be ON PROBATION into perpetuity.

    It is interesting to see that Russell Webster offers encouragement, he seems back as a reestablished blogger despite his wish to deny me access to him on Twitter, it is not quite as encouraging as the time I realised the top MOJ Security bod had looked me up on Twitter, but cheers me a little right now.

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    1. I meant to say looked me up on Link'd In

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  5. It was Einstein who said. 'Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts'. Even so, with tens of thousands of monthly hits this blog is a long way from being a dissenting voice in the wilderness. We need dissenting voices when we now have Napo saying 'we are where we are', and assorted 'good news' postings that are planted by company spinmeisters, telling us that Tomorrow Belongs To Me. As for the other trolls, they are merely the clowns and court jesters, sub-plots to the dominant narrative.

    Someone has to monitor – not 'move on' from - the decline of TR, publish all the embarrassing details and puncture establishment egos. We cannot afford to let the TR victors and the other vested interests of the present write history. Let others forget, while this blog remembers and reminds readers that knowledge and information, as elites throughout history have known, is power. Unlike Edward Snowdon, Jim, you are unlikely to end up in Russia, but if you did you would be in good company.

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  6. think it's pertinent to say that a friend has just left one prison where they were working as a PO, for employment in another. The first prison had allowed access to the blog on their computer system. This other prison has blocked access..hmmm.. will this spread throughout the system? What is happening elsewhere?

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  7. Long may this blog continue! It is a welcome forum for many in my office to gain support in the madness we are trying to work in. It is also a valuable source of information and a place to spread the word about Travesty Reality!! Thanks for all your hard work Jim

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  8. A House of Commons Adjournment debate about Probation TR has now finished after an hour and a half.

    Very, very disheartening - the ignorance would be a shock if it was not previously known - however the Minister is either devious or daft because he seems not to understand the basis of such issues as PSRs which he seems to think depend on a load of scores from a computer.

    The text will be available later - however the debate can be seen and heard here - it began at 9.30 am

    http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/f6b09b24-5e5b-404b-b7f5-88d5e5fdff60

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    1. I hope the text of the TR debate in parliament this morning follows: -

      http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/hansard/commons/todays-commons-debates/read/unknown/399/

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    2. The Minister seems to think a risk of harm screening is sufficient to validate oral reports - he is as deluded as Grayling himself

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  9. Were there any other highlight?

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  10. Those facing redundancy WILL be entitles to Enhanced voluntary redundancy. hats what Selous said.

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    1. Trouble is, no-one will be made redundant. They will be offered voluntary severance which is NOT redundancy. It may be grey, have big ears and tusks, but it is, in any way, an elephant.

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    2. Anything above statutory levels is 'enhanced'.

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    3. No one challenged that difference in wording which is disappointing. Clearly those speaking about the mess TR were not clearly briefed by NAPO that the words voluntary severance as opposed to voluntary redundancy is being used by SODEXO as the get out clause and therefore this went unchallenged.

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  11. An aside, Jim, but an important one for your blog activithy monitoring.

    I was a very regular contributer a couple of years ago but, somewhere in the dim and distant, NOMS/MoJ got Steria to block the blog and so I was unable to post in work so would only be able to do it at home. This I did for some time because I was regularly on my PC checking emails, shopping etc so a quick read and a quick response was always possible.

    About a year ago, however, I got an Windows/iphone and now I can access my email on the go, shop for the couple of items a month I buy on-line (books mostly) and read the blog 'on the go'. Initially, I was able to continue to contribute regularly although typing on a touchscreen was never as easy as using a keyboard so my posts got shorter and shorter. A few months ago, the anti-robot screening software you started using, after working for some time, randomly began to refuse to accept my choices of pizzas, street signs or bicycles and posting on my phone became almost impossible. I kept typing long posts on the touchscreen but then lost them as the security software kicked me out etc. I got frustrated and posted less and less. So now I only post when I am at a PC which is increasingly rare as I am relying on mobile technology. I guess I should have brought this to your attention earlier as it may have allowed us to address the issue but now I am no longer a Probation employee and have less and less to say that hasn't already been raised (i.e. TR is stupid and dangerous etc etc). I opo in a couple of times a week just to catch up but that's about it.

    My point is, the fall off of visitor numbers may be partly the 'developing picture', partly the reducing workforce, partly the upgrades (!!) in technology and other potential factors etc etc.

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    1. I also struggle with the comment verification on my phone and can usually only post from home. It tends to mean my comments are more thoughtful and less reactive - not always though!

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    2. Me too. I think this is a bigger than imagined, as more people go online via mobiles!

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  12. I have absolutely no excuse for not posting, except that I'm so often speechless at what I learn from the blog! Really glad Jim's hanging in there.

    I do appreciate your point about the deterrent effect of a touchscreen. Sorry I'm not techie enough to comment on iphone security, but as an Android phone and Windows laptop user I've only ever had a problem with disappearing text when I've tried to post adverse reviews about hotels or faulty goods. Funny that...

    So now I copy all text before posting and then repeat if refused. Never been refused twice. Works a treat. Funny that ...

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  13. Good to see that Grayling is struggling in his new job, as observed by the Guardian's parliamentary sketch writer.

    'If there is an argument that cannot be lost, Chris Grayling has yet to find it. Ask him to prove the Earth revolves around the sun, and everyone will inevitably end up believing the exact opposite; as an intellect, he barely registers even at the lower end of the IQ scale. So it can only be an act of pure sadism on David Cameron’s part that the leader of the house is invariably left to deal with the problems the rest of the cabinet don’t have a clue how to solve.

    In the immediate aftermath of the government’s defeat in the House of Lords on Monday, the prime minister’s kneejerk response was to announce a “rapid review”, whose implied purpose was to conclude that a parliamentary timetabling cock-up was actually a genuine constitutional crisis. On reflection, Dave might now be wishing he had made this rather more explicit to Grayling.

    Faced with an urgent question from Labour’s Chris Bryant about the exact nature of the review, Grayling seemed genuinely confused by the whole issue. “The rapid review definitely won’t be rushed,” he insisted, unaware of any inherent contradiction. That, though, turned out to be the high point of his coherence. Tasked with trying to explain why the cuts to tax credits were really a financial rather than a welfare issue, he put forward an argument for why they weren’t that was so compelling, he even managed to convince MPs on his own side that the Lords had acted properly.'

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  14. Come on guys. No one important gives a shit about this blog. I bet most top brass read it for a laugh. I no I do listening to people drown on about the same things instead of letting go. I personally blame all your managers for being in this situation as they should have done more to motivate you for the future or help you exit your respective organisation. Things will never be as they were. Never! So you need to let go of the past and look forward to the future - whatever that is for you!!! I love TR. Othrrs dont... regardess, we're in a new world now so turn over the page and embrace the new chapter of probation. Enjoy it as your part of making probation history :)

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    1. Woooow. 18.13 I hear you but you said you love TR and folk do not like that round here. Your comment will be removed shortly by the blogger police for saying you love TR

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    2. Na. More like 18.13 will be called a troll or vermin for having a different take on things!

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    3. Comments like 18:13 are liable to be dismissed by most unless they can actually explain why they "love TR". That's not "having a different take on things", that's just making a bland, corporate-sounding statement.

      Come on Anon 18:13, tell us why you love it so much! You might even convince me!

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    4. I love the following about TR. TTG, better outcomes for service users, new staff in and old hat, innovative ways of working, CRCs and NPS making things happen. Promotion. The list is endless 19.11

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    5. *old hat out

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    6. Thank you Anon 19:31 for your response. Now, could you manage something a little less vague? Perhaps drop the buzzword bullshit and tell me something specific and concrete that is better?

      For example: what innovative ways of working have you experienced? How are CRCs and NPS making things happen? What's good about TTG? Please give us the benefit of your experiences.

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    7. Eh, nothing!

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  15. Most of us hate TR and what it has done to our award winning service. I will continue to highlight the flaws as they arise . I wish this blog to carry on as it's important to see what is happening elsewhere in England and Wales

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    1. Why stay in a job your unhappy with? You could probably get another job under 30k elsewhere. Why also focus on the flaws. Isn't it tiring being so angry? Why not focus on the positives and how you can still make a positive impact on the people you help?

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    2. Difficult to be positive about a profession which is falling apart and £££ come before people.

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  16. Don`t feed the trolls!

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  17. 18.22 called it. Well done 18.46

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  18. E3 "blueprint" about to be published, can someone tell me what this refers to

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  19. WTF is blueprint E3

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  20. E3 is the latest attempt at reinvention of the wheel......we're just working our way through the alphabet as we try to be more efficient and effective.....come to think of it just as we were before TR...........

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  21. As a Manager, I can report that all managers, even those who are staying (I am not) have no confidence in TR. It is a disaster. Remember, 'innovation' is not improvement. Innovation is an ambiguous concept. It is easy to 'innovate', it is harder to improve. What we are seeing is a weakening of relationships internally and externally. I see nothing that I would consider an improvement, only a thinning out of process and content. Doing less at every level; less contact and less content. Innovation? Nope. Just the same old watering down of public services by privateers. They have done it all before. Nothing innovative about it.

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  22. I personally have yet to witness innovation. I just see NPS colleagues at breaking point and CRC colleagues just trying to sort out what they are supposed to be doing and trying to paper over the caverns. Nothing is working. TR is a disaster. So many trained officers have left and the rest are either being de-skilled or blinded with futile cycling in the form of repetitive, duplicative paperwork.also orders not to talk to press and not allowed to tell the press that if they make contact. A large mess.

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  23. I'm not having this. TR will prove to be a runaway success as are most public services becoming private. Private companies simply provide a better service. A free market economy provides competition and competition is good for the wider audience

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    1. Just keep telling yourself that sonny. If it helps your day...

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    2. 21.07 what are you talking about 'private companies simply provide a better service' ...for who exactly? certainly not in my neck of the woods we're in utter shambles here- no resources and hardly any staff-
      free competition my arse-all privatisation provides is a funnelling of funds from the govt to a bunch of their mates - its a total stitch-up- but I guess you probably know that really and just get off on winding the rest of us up - haha very funny

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    3. Yawn- private companies very often don't pay taxes - I and my colleagues do -we want our hard earned cash to go towards funding public services for all not syphoned off to pay for toffs to maintain their ridiculously lavish lifestyles...

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    4. 'TR will prove to be a runaway success as are most public services becoming private. Private companies simply provide a better service. A free market economy provides competition and competition is good for the wider audience'
      This is absolute rubbish! I am witnessing 1st hand the total disintegration of a professional service that used to care about its staff and clients. CRCs are putting peoples lives at risk. Offenders are now commodities and all the CRC can see is
      £££ signs.

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  24. Private companies pay tax and tax pays for your public services. remember that

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  25. RRP SWM DLNR still hasn't released TOM

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  26. 21.19 back off. I'm schooling these socialists

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  27. Without socialist there would be no society ergo no money in privateers coffers, as all your toys would have already been stolen from your pram.

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  28. Ok all very tiresome, so moderation back on. I refuse to have this blog hijacked.

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  29. E3 stands for Efficiency, Effectiveness, Excellence. The "blueprint" is, so far as I understand it, the first publication of the new NPS operating model. The unions are already involved and once published we will move into a "consultation" or engagement phase. I have not heard how long that will last but from what I have heard it is anticipated that some changes are likely to be brought in for the start of the new financial year.

    I suspect the timing, in relation to the sending review, is not coincidental and I think most people know that the MoJ is not a protected department.

    NAPO has contacted members about the publication already.

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  30. Probation Officer29 October 2015 at 08:57

    Keep up the good work Jim.

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