Tuesday, 14 June 2016

News from Probation Institute 2

Here is the latest blog post from the Chair of the Probation Institute:-

A Comment from the Practitioners Conference – Paul Senior

‘It’s time to accept the reality of the new probation structure’

Or is it? This was the view, indeed challenge, of one of the speakers at the recent Probation Practitioner Conference held at Sheffield in conjunction with No Offence and the Hallam Centre for Community Justice. A very successful day with around 130 attendees from across the probation, community rehabilitation and community justice worlds. The debate was robust, enlightening and considered. Like any previous conference on probation it contained a mix of views, disagreements, different perspectives and challenge. It was refreshing amidst the doom and gloom which hangs over the probation world to find that probation trait for reflection, challenge and new ideas was still undimmed.

But what of the title of this blog and the challenge it contains. Whatever our perceptions of TR the argument goes it’s a done deal, we have to live with it and make the most of the new world we find ourselves in. There is no way back, no political resolution likely, so we have no choice. My own perception from the event was that this was not shared by the majority of the audience. Unsurprisingly the practitioners could balance the sheer unpalatable truths of TR and we heard many of the stories which illustrate its essential problems and how many remained in survival mode just about coping with the dislocation, bifurcation, de-professionalising, IT disaster with which we are sadly so familiar, but despite this, with a commitment to good professional practice. My view and that of the Probation Institute is we should not ignore that reality and seek to support all practitioners to maintain their professional aspirations in spite of this world and seek to challenge its tenets whilst simultaneously supporting all workers stuck in a catch 22 world where their livelihood, their calling, their aspirations remain even in such uninviting territory. And of course we saw at the conference some of those contradictions being played out.

So many at the conference held this duality in balance. Recognising they did not want to be where they were, nevertheless they remained committed to their service users and wanted to continue to deliver the quality service as best as they can. The workshops demonstrated good practices across the country and despite the tensions, practitioners still wanted to engage, develop and share their knowledge.

We had been nervous of running this event because of the dominance of the overall script about TR. but we had singled as one of our core targets that we would run an annual event for practitioners and once we agreed a date, secured a venue and workshop leaders, it was vindicated by the high numbers of attendees reaching capacity in the days leading up to the event. One of the PIs three core business imperatives is the development of a Centre of Excellence. I had wondered about the fate of the Offender Engagement Programme and the SEEDS training and was so pleased to secure Nigel Hosking as one of the keynote speakers. This practitioner led research project with its essentially bottom-up support in the field had been one of the most successful applications of research-rich approaches supporting the Risk, Needs, Responsivity agenda alongside findings from the desistance field. Nigel gave us a history, talked through his attempts to keep it alive in London but reflected on how it had struggled to maintain the momentum gained from 2010-2012. Maintaining such evidence-informed practices is key to future relevance and we will campaign for such an approach to inform all new changes.

We also saw in the workshops two examples of practitioner research in reports from two successful Graham Smith Award recipients, David Coley and Francesco Marco whose works focused respectively on reflective practice and peer mentors in TR. We will be launching the next round of these awards in the next few months and hope to get buy-in from NPS and CRCs for housing such important research. A project focusing on autistic service users and how to create a more positive working environment was another inspirational example of creative practice. At the heart of a good profession is a commitment to research and using evidence to inform practice. This appears to be alive in spite of the world of TR.

In the afternoon we saw the launch of the PI’s new Position Paper on Training and Professional Development. It is a lengthy piece of work with a number of key recommendations. It points to professional aspirations from case administrators, through PSOs, probation officers and advanced practitioners. Although it may feel an inauspicious time to focus on professional development, the challenge is to do so just at a time when it feels most challenging but for which the rewards are to give back some control over professional ambitions to the individual. The PI supports the Community Justice Learning programme for probation officers and are pleased to see some engagement from CRCs. But professional development is complex and multi-faceted and therefore investigating all avenues for development including trailblazer apprenticeships and post qualifying are part and parcel of being a profession. All workers should be encouraged to see CPD as a right and as a necessary part of updating and personal development. We are starting a dialogue about CPD in the next couple of months, join the discussion.

We know that time is increasingly precious for agency workers and they are not going to be released to attend conferences which were commonplace ten years ago. This pre dates TR though TR has no doubt made this more difficult. We have initiated professional networks on our website that you can join and consider the many issues which impact on practice. Each network has a moderator and they are highlighted on the website and can be contacted if you wish to get involved. And there are many more areas to develop. If you fancy being a moderator for a new network then get in touch, we are very responsive to offers of help and engagement this is at the core of our intentions for the future.

So to return to the opening quote. I am not happy with the TR revolution and will continue to raise concerns as appropriate. But we have thousands of workers who are making their living in the world of probation and community rehabilitation. We want to support their professional development even at a time of great challenge. I think the success of the conference shows us there is an appetite to do this. Join us in shaping the future for this profession. And put June 2017 and Sheffield in your diary for the Second Annual Probation Practitioners Conference or write to us with proposals for workshops or speakers.

Paul Senior



  1. Summary. TR is rubbish but life must go on. PS. If one deal can be done so can others?!

  2. Probation Officer14 June 2016 at 08:08

    Weak words from the Probation Institute. It surely is not the "voice of probation". More like the voice of the CRC! The argument that we should join it 'just because it exist' is the worst possible argument it could have.

  3. Between a rock & a hard place? Wanting it all ways round? Selective amnesia?

    I find the current probation situation analagous to the farcical nonsense surrounding the EU referendum debate, i.e. shedloads of unverified, unproven, unsubstantiated B/S spouted by overblown egos with personal agendas. But probation was delivered to it's current position in a very undemocratic & wholly unsatisfactory manner with incompetent/inadequate challenge to the process. There was no referendum for those probation staff who have now lost their jobs/careers.

    And this is where I find the PI's position unpalatable: "ah well, it is what it is; but lets just carry on & make it work." All well & good for those who kept their jobs (whether by the shafting lottery, by buying in to TR or the geographical lottery of location), those who have recently joined or those who continue to reinvent & peddle methods of practice.

  4. The reality is TR. It's dysfunctional, it's worse that its predecessor, its ultimate purpose is to extract profit. Something that was never consented to cannot be accepted, it can only be endured as all violations must be endured if you don't have the power to resist and repulse.

  5. Why should our taxes go to a poor and shoddy service and create profit for greedy organisation who make money out of people's misery. How the hell was the government allowed to get away with this.

    1. Aye, we never did get a proper answer:

      Question to Ministry of Justice re-Community Rehabilitation Companies: Redundancy4573
      To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, pursuant to the Answer of 9 June 2015 to Question 1763, what the total cash value was of the Modernisation Fund; and how much of that fund was taken and distributed to Community Rehabilitation Companies for enhanced redundancy schemes following the privatisation of probation services.
      A Answered by: Andrew SelousAnswered on: 02 July 2015
      Modernisation funding was allocated to the Ministry of Justice by HM Treasury in 2014/15 to bring about sustainable reductions in resource requirements across the Ministry. Some of this funding was made available for voluntary redundancies in Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). Of this, £16.4m was spent on voluntary exit packages in 2014/15 and the remainder was allocated to CRCs on a pro-rata basis, based on their size and estimated future staffing requirements.
      Each Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) is managed by a Contract Management Team (CMT), headed by a Senior Contract Manager and comprising staff with commercial, contract management and operational expertise to ensure a multi-disciplinary approach. The size of teams reflects the size of the contract being managed. While it is for CRC owners to implement and oversee redundancy schemes, CMTs are ensuring that CRC owners adhere to their contractual obligations in this area. CMTs are able to draw upon commercial, financial and legal expertise from within the wider Ministry in delivering this role.

    2. If rumours are true that the Modernisation Fund contribution was in the region of £80M, and Selous can account for £16.4M paid to a priveleged few, why did the Govt hand over more than £60M to the CRC owners to do with as the please at a time when "austerity" rules the Govt's fiscal policies?

  6. It sounds as though the penny has finally dropped and the PI have realised the need to support frontline practioners too little too late

  7. The PI could very easily get the support of all probation staff but it is more interested in romancing Sodexo and Working Links.

    Unless it really stands up for probation and specifically probation officers and our professional qualifications, the PI will always be "the lipstick on the TR pig"!!!

  8. And if it had any sense it'd go back to the drawing board, start small, get the support of probation officers and the rest will follow. But it won't as the PI only wants revenue.

  9. Disagree - there's profit in supporting practitioners!

  10. I think the PI has been relaunched as the the Paul Senior Probation Institute. The focus on training and CPD is a good strategic move and fills the vacuum left by Napo following the retirement of one of the smarter people they have had at Napo HQ in recent years. NOMS are happy to have PS's intellectual weight for free and dont care if the PI has 10 or 5,000 members.