However, staff have now been sent emails with an attached pro forma letter that indicates a rather more sinister intention might be involved. I understand Napo were not informed that this letter was going out and there have been a number of complaints from all grades as a result.
This is apparently the approach Helga Swidenbank wants to take and managers have been left in no doubt that they must take action against staff on the basis of their self reporting. There is no acknowledgement of the large scale reorganisation that has been taking place or the problems with IT systems. Staff have been further irritated that this is part of a supposed performance improvement project called 'Building for best: Building together.'
Staff are now speculating who Helga will target next as I gather it was announced last week that one of the more reasonable probation-minded directors would be leaving. Equalities and Diversity would seem to have no place in her leaner operation either as apparently staff involved in this area are due for the chop. I'm told a significant number of staff who were on temporary contracts have either gone or are going shortly and about 70% of staff would very much like to go if they had a good deal or a job to go to.
Staff retention and recruitment have long been challenges in London and the need to now make profit would seem to require that the organisation is run down to the point that some feel it's ability to function adequately will be called into question.
London Community Rehabilitation Company
9th Floor, Hannibal House
New Kent Road, Elephant and Castle
London, SE1 6TE
Caseload Validation: May – July 2016
Name of Offender Manager:
Name of Senior Probation Officer:
Name of Cohort Lead:
As outlined in Directive 104 concerning Building for Best, during May 2016 I undertook a caseload validation exercise. The purpose of this exercise was to validate, prioritize and plan work with my cases through tagging cases as either red, amber, green or blue, utilising a spreadsheet detailing all of my cases. The validation focused on OASys, enforcement, future appointments as well as highlighting cases where there were significant issues and risks. Following the exercise I was issued with guidance detailing the actions to be taken with red, amber and green cases, with the red cases being of most concern and green being up to date.
I confirm that I have undertaken the required actions in relation to my cases that were on the caseload validation spreadsheet (please see attached spreadsheet).
Signature of Offender Manager:
To be returned to your SPO by 28th July.
(Editor's note - two spelling errors have been corrected because it irritated me)
Of course Helga perfectly represents the new breed of top probation management who know nothing about the work and treat it just like any other commercial endeavour. What do we know about the fairly new CEO of the London CRC, by far the largest provider of probation services in England and Wales? This from the corporate website doesn't give much away:-
Helga Swidenbank graduated with a Masters in Criminology and joined HM Prison Service’s graduate scheme at 23 years old.
After working in the public sector for 15 years in a variety of operational roles in London prisons, she joined Sodexo in 2007 as Director of HMPYOI Bronzefield. From 2013 Helga also held various senior corporate roles within Sodexo.
Helga was appointed Director of Probation for the London Community Rehabilitation Company in late 2015.
Here she is speaking at a Sodexo WomenWork conference in 2014:-
Meet Helga Swidenbank
Following on from the successful Women Work conference in Birmingham last week, we continue with our series of interviews. Helga Swidenbank is our next female colleague who took time to talk to students about her role…
What’s your role at Sodexo and how long have you been doing it?
I’m an account director with the international large accounts team. The client is new so most of my work so far has been to mobilise the account, where I’m working alongside the client to deliver what we promised as part of the winning bid. We’re doing everything for the client from waste management to security to food, across 26 sites in the UK. We have 200 employees working on the account, from cleaners to horticultural workers. At the moment it’s very challenging, because we’re all hands to the deck and trying to ensure a steady transition of the contract to Sodexo.
My current role is new: I’ve been an account director just over three months. Before that I was seconded to Sodexo Education for three months, and before that I was director of HMP Bronzefield for five-and-a-half years.
When I was doing my undergraduate course I didn’t know that I would work for Sodexo. After 20 years of working in prisons I wondered if there was anything else I could do. Sodexo took a leap of faith and it’s allowed me to do more.
What qualifications or experience have been most useful in your career?
When I was working in Sodexo Justice Services my most useful qualification was the Master’s degree in Criminology. It helped me to understand the theory behind prisons and imprisonment, and also allowed me to adopt a functional view.
The experience of working in highly complex prison establishments, which are very good examples of an integrated facilities management model, prepared me for the role I’m doing now.
What are you like outside of work, compared to how you are inside of work?
What I’ve learned is that I need to be authentic and need to be who you are. It’s really important to be true and be yourself in the workplace.
Do you get the work life balance right? And if so how do you do that?
Outside of work I’m a mum. I work really hard so the time outside is precious to me: my children are growing up very quickly so I try to spend as much time with them as possible. When they have holidays we go away so we spend more quality time together. We have a Volkswagen camper van so we go away camping.
Who is your inspiration when it comes to your career?
There are an awful lot of women who are great role models at Sodexo. Janine McDowell, who was director of HMP Bronzefield before me, is very good at what she does, but she’s still compassionate, behaves with integrity and is a good ambassador for Sodexo internally and externally. It was a tough job to follow her at Bronzefield.
Jane Bristow (managing director of Sodexo Education) has been very helpful. Having gone to the managers’ conference last week it’s great to see senior women in the organisation, and good to see a female finance director on the stage giving a confident performance.
How have you seen women’s work roles change in your career?
I started in the public sector prison service in the early 90s at Wormwood Scrubs as one of only four women employed. It was really tough and there were lots of stereotypes. During the course of my career I’ve witnessed the gender balance change, particularly within the justice sector. Flexible working and maternity leave, which were frowned upon in the early 90s, are now accepted practice. Even paternity leave is becoming more accepted now.
What advice would you give to a sixteen year old now?
Be yourself and be authentic. Find something that you care about and that you’re passionate about, because we work too hard to do jobs that we’re miserable in.
It’s really difficult for young people now to make a choice about higher education. When I was younger it was seen as going to university for experience. I see my 13-year-old under pressure to make vocational choices. It’s a bit sad that a 16-year-old can’t be that free anymore.
What did you want to do for a job when you were a child/teenager?
I wanted to be an airline pilot. But they said I had to study maths and physics, and I didn’t want to.
If you’re not doing that, why not?
I worked out what I was good at, which wasn’t maths or physics, and I went into arts. I went to university and studied sociology and anthropology.