It's time to reflect on another year cataloguing the travails facing our once-proud profession. Having sailed past 3 million, even with readership falling steadily as many highly-experienced staff are forced out, it's interesting to note that as soon as something 'kicks-off', as with Working Links this week, the hit-rate returns to 4,000+ a day. What this says to me is that there remains a need for discourse and information-sharing especially as we enter the terminal phase where full implementation of TR begins to have the predicted result of widespread service collapse and eventual contract failure.
As I write this there are rumours of other CRC's following South Yorkshire into 'special measures', some contract winners and possibly a loser considering legal action against the MoJ and all wondering how any money can be made from smaller than predicted 'throughput' and a shrunken but totally pissed-off workforce. In all this Grayling-created mess it's incredible but true that the MoJ architects of this whole omnishambles won a Civil Service award.
One thing seems pretty certain to me as we enter the New Year and that is Gove will have to do something and quite quickly because as all the other CRC's start ruthlessly following in Sodexo's footsteps in getting rid of staff, targets will be missed, audits will be failed and the whole lot will quickly fall over like a line of dominoes. What's needed is a fall guy; an explanation; someone or something to blame in order to move on, preferably in conjunction with a Brand New Idea. I'm sure they're working on it down at MoJ HQ. The question is, will it be better?
In my view 2016 is going to decide whether Napo and the Probation Institute have a viable future or not. I'm clear in believing that both organisations ought to be at the heart of what probation should be about, but in the current shambolic TR world where both CRC's and a prison-dominated NOMS are intent on airbrushing the name out of existence, readers regularly voice their dismay with both. Napo, under deeply uninspiring central leadership, appear increasingly at odds with local activists and give every impression of just treading water and 'going through the motions'.
The Institute on the other hand remains largely mute in the face of privateers going about their business of purging the Service of many experienced staff, whilst earning a fee from handing out Fellowships to the very same people. Despite all the reassuring words from much-respected individuals, readers appear resolute in calling it humbug and many would be happy for Napo to come off the fence and withdraw their obviously half-hearted support.
I wish I could be more upbeat about things, but in reality we all know it's just shit. But the show will go on for as long as it looks like there's a need and we prove beyond any doubt that TR was a huge mistake. As ever, the blog will only work if people contribute and supply me with those nuggets of information that make the thing worth reading.
Here's to hoping that 'probation' gets treated better in 2016 and thanks for being part of something that's very important to me. Rest-assured I shall raise a glass to all colleagues and friends of probation later tonight.
Happy New Year!