Friday, 1 January 2016

New Year Reflections

Will this be a happy New Year for probation? Well we're hearing a shambolic state of affairs exists in CRC's from Devon to Carlisle, from Dorset to Tyneside and all points in between - we're hearing that breaches are not being done and in some cases CRC's don't have working printers or photocopiers...the phones work intermittently and in some areas of the North a mobile signal is hard to obtain...

So colleagues the answer to all of this lies in the science of upward allocation...we did not make this mess and we should not try to fix it....the way forward is to document every problem to your line manager (the role itself likely to be extinct very soon if what I am hearing is true) and for every line manager to stop being scared of your ACE (amazing how many ACE's are deemed excellent by SPO's as if by repeating the mantra often enough and to enough different people they'll get to hear about it and bestow favours) and to send the problem upwards....managers are used to bullying tactics (not all granted and there are a lot of good managers who are trying to do what they can against impossible odds)...

You see I know that Sodexo et al do not want to hear any of it for what they don't know can't be laid at their feet so as we enter the next turbulent few months we are going to hear about 'remedial action' or 'special measures' which is the Snr managements way of blaming staff - of course their un-preparedness was not to blame in any way...just as their bids designed for conurbations have tried to be shoe horned into shires.....we know it's not working (cue the everything is all right in my neck of the woods brigade - well for you I'm glad to hear it but you are the exception rather than the rule it would seem) and will not work as other commentators have testified, but it's not our fault and its time for our managers to JFDI.....complain upwards that is...


While I admire all the efforts going in to protect staff, I fear Working Links will just use the tried and tested tactics of Sodexo. I work as a PO in Northern Town Sodexo run and can confirm that all tactics were used to fight against Sodexo and in the end Sodexo won as laws are heavily weighted in favour of the employer.

Staff in our area predicted that once Sodexo had completed their cuts (as they could probably afford to make any initial mistakes) then other areas would follow suit. It looks like WL are trotting out the whole vol redundancy scheme and compulsory redundancies would not occur. Please be aware WL area that anyone getting excited at the thought of leaving on EVR will need to think again. We too did the calculations and got excited and thought that it would be a case of over subscription to leave on EVR. What happened next was that Sodexo stated they could not afford to offer vol redundancy and instead ask for volunteers to leave on severance. 

While I don't wish to patronise anyone (probably not though as it took ages for this whole concept to sink in with staff in our area) this is when an employer wishes for an employee or employees to leave a company and is willing to pay them a certain amount (severance pay) so that the employee will contractually agree not to sue the company for any claims they may have against the company. This is perfectly legal and is used in may businesses and organisations - sometimes referred to as a compromise agreement. This is not only cheaper than redundancy payments but for the employer gets them completely off the hook when it comes to any breaches of the redundancy policy - they are not invoking the redundancy policy by offering severance so do not have to abide by anything in the policy.

I suppose one good bit of news is however that enough staff in our area did take the severance offer and no compulsory redundancies were made - some were close to retirement and some had already applied to NPS so the timing for them was good as they got a nice lump sum to transfer to NPS. Others however who could not afford to take severance have now been left to pick up the pieces. Case loads are ridiculously high, stress levels are through the roof with sickness levels going up as a result - vicious circle.

It seems most companies who have taken on CRCs are based on same model - shut local reporting offices and have one central office or not so central as we are finding out as the most convenient/sensible places are too expensive for Sodexo. Trust me, I work in what is a fairly cheap city for buildings but Sodexo have a virtually non existent budget,  plus they did not take into account that some landlords/agencies and co-locators did not want probation in their buildings so has limited even further the few options available in the first place.

Another familiar theme is the centralised admin hub, which will also be base for CEO etc. In our area this is located somewhere entirely unsuitable for most staff to get to if they live in certain part of the area, which forced some to take severance and others having to put up with what will be 2 hour commute. 7 staff have already left that were due to work in admin at the hub (excluding severance) so only 8 remaining to cover phones and do all admin work for what is a very large northern area. I say "will" as it has been put on hold due to the problems faced by South Yorkshire and also rumours that the internet connection just isn't up to scratch (which is similar in our office).

Every day staff repeat the same comments about what a joke probation is now...that it feels like a micky mouse organisation...not proud to work for isn't probation...standards have dropped...morale extremely low...fed up of targets clearly taking precedence before everything else..and the list goes on and on and on. To sum up, probation is fucking shit now - sorry to use such language but there is no other way of putting it. We were one of the top performing areas in the country and we are just a joke now.


Sodexo played fast & loose with the politics of fear, and the unions were out of their league. Staff were so misled & frightened by Sodexo's goons that before any union advice was eventually disseminated, the numbers required by Sodexo had been achieved. I eventually put my hand out for the 40% of EVR because (1) independent legal advice told me I was unlikely to achieve what the unions had failed to achieve & (2) I knew from experience that anyone "off message" who remained would be managed out using capability or similar. Oh, and the unions were crap - they did nothing to counter the bullying management or the threats, or to challenge the lies & misdirections.

The situation seems different now in that the unions appear to be challenging the management position. But if anyone were to ask me what I would do... take the EVR & leave them to it. There are plenty of opportunities to exercise your skills with other agencies. Just walk with what they owe you, lose the stress & reclaim your life.


I suspect any EVR scheme would be over-subscribed if extended to all staff. There are many (myself included) who'd be tempted to take EVR, wait out any period of gardening leave, then come back on an agency basis at a higher rate of pay, as it's abundantly clear that WL can't run any kind of service on the numbers quoted above. This will leave them in all sorts of trouble.

Sodexo might be looking at remedial action in South Yorks and potentially other areas, but at least it's a massive multinational company and can absorb the costs. In the case of Lurking Winks, we could be looking at the collapse of the company within a couple of years.


In probation our employers stab us in the front and back. As I said yesterday, it's such a pity there's no credible leadership or voice for probation. Our senior managers are snakes, our Napo Union is weak and our "professional" Probation Institute represents the enemy within. So whether by E3, BIONIC or whatever other nonsensical strategy they force upon us, our probation service aka NPS and CRC will continue to be decimated by those in charge.

On the positive, I spent this week wishing clients the best for the coming year, those in custody and the community, the highly chaotic, complex and damaged included. Every single one was positive in response and felt 2016 would be the one for them, and for once there were no end of year breaches or recalls. Even though I've not had contact, I'm even positive for the few currently locked in prison segregation and strapped down in hospital beds under section. So while probation is coming apart at the seams I'm glad I'm still able see it's worth, but even though the shit has well and truly hit the fan, it does seem like our time is up!


I started the year 2015 enjoying my work, proud to work for the Probation Service. Hoped against all hope that the "train crash" would happen soon and derail this nightmare. Everyone helped each other, TOIL hours got ridiculous. There appeared to be an almost Wartime camaraderie. It won't happen, we will survive this.

Fast forward 12 months, staff have been leaving in droves, stress levels through the roof, workloads unworkable, just waiting for the final last few screws in the coffin. Probation is finished, NAPO too. Those left are floundering, still helping each other, as we have always done. That is what we do. Those left will become Responsible Officers, on lower terms and conditions, those of us that have mortgages, children etc cannot always just move on.

But the way forward will be to de-stress yourselves, work your allocated hours, do not stress at home about workloads or recalls, a Responsible Officer does not get paid enough to worry about such things. Charge for overtime, petrol. Take time out due to work related-stress. Laugh at the way Community Payback becomes Community Cashback (good term Jim). Enjoy the fight back from the Service Users/Clients, who refuse to work to make money for the CRC's, knowing that the chance of being breached is almost non existent. But above all, be proud of what you stood for as a previous PO or PSO, stay in touch with each other for they can shape the future, but they cannot shape the past. Take care all.


It's been a bad year for the word transform. Like the word reform you hope that its use will augur something for the general good. In the case of probation, as the saying goes, the ideologues have stepped over a dollar to pick up a dime. Probation has been traduced, not transformed. In the hands of such ideologues, as Orwell observed: 'Political language... is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.'

As for the Probation Institute, its credo is that of the three wise monkeys and it's full of hail-fellows-well-met. A bunch of 'useful idiots' for the MoJ and a franchise extension for some fellows who have feet in other income streams. How it must dream of 400 never mind 4,000 hits daily to its blog.

It's been a bad year for collective bargaining. The days of punching above weight are now the stuff of bedtime stories for the innocent. We now have sad sights of a seven stone weakling being serially bullied into submission and no signs of a collective fightback.

The year has ended on a good note with news of South Yorkshire's audit and we saw a changing of the guard at the probation inspectorate as the former was sleeping with the enemy.

Happy New Year, Jim. 'Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition'.


  1. Happy New Year Jim (plus all the Posters and Readers).

    Please keep up this excellent, important and informative Blog during 2016.

  2. Colleagues help please - I am reading some astounding Tweets about Napo - hard to believe - I cannot make sense of it can you?

    " Michelle ‏@wavemich43 8m8 minutes ago
    @Andrew_S_Hatton NAPO where in it that's why they screwed Judicial review I will be initiating prosecution against them 2016 "

    I really wonder if it is some sort of spoof

    1. I'm not clear what she means Andrew

    2. Thanks anon - at 19.36 - I am not going to reply further unless there is something substantive - I don't want to add to any confusion.

    3. Yes probably good idea.

    4. Reads credible to me. Might want to look at the spelling issues there Andrew and I think the original posts would help clarify. There is nothing stopping individuals or groups pursuing the Union for any malpractice or incompetence where the allegation or legal counsel might pursue a case on behalf of those affected. I think Napo has enough water on the decks so to speak let alone the threat of angry litigation. I would hope the activists might look to help napo at this time not disable it further we need the recognised negotiatary body. Perhaps there may be some questions around individual failings or poor legal advice ?

  3. Just heard an interesting discussion around the strategy by which capitalism-orientated governments are knowingly expediting the handover of public owned resources to private sector individuals who are then promoting themselves & their businesses through 'philanthropic' activities, thus hyper-accelerating the gap between have & have not.

    To Mr Hatton - the message you quote at 19:24 is nonsensical, so
    I wouldn't worry. I don't access the twatisphere so no idea what's being referred to on a wider scale.

    1. Link to article by Chris Bryant:

  4. Link here to 2001 published article, esp Ch.4. Good for reflection: