Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pick of the Week 17

CRC probation officers are being told they will hold about 50 medium risk cases. Many unpredictable DV cases. Will also have to cover Marac and in addition assist PSO's or oversee some of their work and advise if need to pass to a PO. Basically doing some of the work of middle managers who will soon be reduced by 50%! 

In addition struggling with admin staff moving to hubs and some offices have no reception or admin to field calls so we are all doing that too, PO or PSO, we just muck in. Failing IT systems and waiting days to get IT problems sorted. In addition some CRC staff are having to interview in public buildings or share a single interview room with multiple colleagues. 

The general public will not be aware of this at the moment but may object if they knew or not take little jimmy to the creche there! I would like to see a staff survey perhaps tied in with a service user survey to build a picture of exactly what is going on and then publish the findings. A comparison with criminal justice social work in Scotland would also be helpful to see if things are any better there. They have been unaffected as separate system and social work qualification is still required here! The loss of this professional and relevant qualification seemed to herald a decline and undermining of our role.

******
As has been observed on & by this blog for some time now, the 'reality of probation' is that probation as a noble profession has been assigned to history, it has been fatally wounded & profits for privateers are paramount. Individuals are stoically fighting to maintain a level of service provision that is meaningful, but at huge personal cost.

Grayling, his acolytes & those who eagerly collaborated in this vile social experiment should be prosecuted for gross negligence in public office. They have damaged or destroyed careers, charitable organisations & peoples' lives. They should be required to make recompense from their own deep pockets - pockets filled with public money &/or gratuities from private companies. They should be exposed as the charlatans & fraudsters they truly are. They should be ashamed, but sadly they are without capacity for shame, they are without conscience.

******
A well written and recognisable piece by the Probation Officer in the Guardian. It communicated on a number of levels including an emotional appeal. It would be interesting to see such articles appear in a wider cross section of the media, in particular the more right wing press, where I imagine that readership might be less aware of the plight of many public service workers and those members of the public (all of us) who lose out as a result. The account is one that might have been written by any number of public sector workers. Maybe more articles could be submitted with an ambition to find a wider audience?

******
It was a good article, and I identified with much of it. And we do need more of similar in different places. Maybe we need more articles by or on behalf of those receiving the 'services' and how they came to need them in the first place. And how we criminalise people at the drop of a hat, sometimes from an early age. A sustained campaign would be good. We can't rely on the Howard league to do it all for us. And I don't think the public would respond primarily to the plight of probation staff. I think we would come across as feeling more sorry for ourselves than for victims of crime and service users put together. Sadly I don't think that those in charge at present will want the awareness they will need in order to be able to find it in their hearts to change things. They are hard - hearted.

******
There never was a golden age. If you take out TR from this article, you have a description of probation in the years leading up to the split, not least the 70% of time spent in IT processing on substandard systems. Compared to the costs of imprisonment, sufficient funds have never been invested in rehabilitation – or the causes of crime: poor education, poverty, drugs, etc... Structurally unequal societies manufacture crime and discrimination. Frontline probation work, especially since the cognitive-behavioural revolution, has always been about dealing with generations of failing individuals who are part of the fallout of the wider social failings. There will always be crime, but, as the evidence shows, it prospers more where there is economic inequality and lots of law and order rhetoric.

******
I would like to know how frontline staff are going to cope when we are reduced by 40%? What tasks can we let go of in order that we can keep up with the incessant demands upon our time? We are running at full speed. Working Links seem to think that the answer is to get rid of the 'troublemakers' and assume that newly qualified staff will be putty in their hands. I can tell you now that the newly qualified staff I have spoken to are no push overs and they are as appalled by the destruction of the service as anyone else.

******
For me the PI was born in unfortunate circumstances but that aside the concept is one I support. Professional standards and values, the idea of a body that seeks to protect, enhance and promote the gem and integrity that is the Probation ideal needs supporting in my view. To fail to put fear, grievances. appreciable as they be, aside will I believe be to the detriment of Probation as a recognised profession.

******
I'm afraid they aren't going to get much support from us broken band of POs. Unfortunately we've nothing left to lose and we realise no one cares that we've been destroyed. It seems to me we just keep trying our best to do what we can of our job until we find a way out.

******
I believe that had the PI developed prior to TR it would have flourished. I don't see how it can maintain professional standards when it failed to speak out against privatisation of probation services.

******
Privatisation and profit was and remains a huge contention for me too, particularly in our work. The modus operandi as Chris Grayling stated at the time was, 'I don't want to pay for a service I want to pay for results.' He is a, 'here today gone tomorrow politician.' I think the PI were likely in an invidious position, power as we know can be abusive and executive power is no exception. 'Probation' in my view, a hundred or more years in its history, will be here tomorrow. That is where my mind's eye is and PI can develop as a champion for the cause if given a chance. If it fails then we look elsewhere I suggest. I just do not see a credible alternative at this juncture.

******
Exactly, whatever the PI may say now, it has remained deafeningly silent over TR, the methods of implementation and the damage wrought to professional practice as a result. I will never join; not in a million years.

******
Why did NAPO support PI's birth if it does as you say it spells it's own end. NAPO surely saw some shared aims. They can co - exist and co - operate I would argue.

******
Dunno, possibly an attempt to be seen to be supportive of the directive labelled 'TR' (after all probation has always evolved to accommodate political and legislative changes of direction), without fully appreciating the ramifications of doing so on this occasion. A bit more clear sighted focus might have helped - and stronger representation of what the Members were saying.The rush to 'cosy up' to the idea made many Members feel they were being sold out.

******
Here's the thing. I am knackered, I have been at it all bloody day, trying to keep my head above water, my clients well-served and the public safe. During my working day I deleted Lord knows how many emails forwarded on by my manager "FYI" containing a plethora of training opportunities. I don't know if the PI is a good or bad thing, (starting to think it's a good thing) but we are drowning here in a sea of crap IT, lack of accommodation for our clients, a weekly round of contributions to the leaving present for a redundant colleague, the trauma of the departure of the redundant colleague, the effort of getting other equally shat on agencies to step up to MAPPA. Hell, this feels like an add on I haven't the time to engage with.

******
Sounds like my day! The only thing that keeps me going is my lovely colleagues who have gone through this experience with me. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer and the replacements seem to just want a job not a beloved career I hate what Probation has become.

******
The PI had every opportunity to speak out against TR and the destruction of a previous award winning public service, it failed to do so and I will not join for free, let alone pay. And perhaps Helen Schofield, you may wish to note that CRCs also work with ex veterans and not just NPS, have you consulted CRCs to ask about there strategy for working with this group of vulnerable adults? You may also like to consider that many of the staff working in the CRCs across this country are indeed staff shafted by MoJ. They are the very same people who helped probation trusts meet their gold standard service and who were credited with good or outstanding performance until Grayling destroyed our Service. 

It's not the staff doing the daily job that has resulted in the failure of TR, it's the models of delivery having to be run on a shoe string because the MoJ couldn't get their figures right and greedy profiteers put money before the needs of people, something the Tory Government promotes. Shame on Grayling, shame on Tory and Lib Dem government and MPs, shame on the majority of Chiefs Officers of Probation Trusts, shame on other public sector workers and indeed the public for allowing this mess to happen. The world was warned but no one listened and now we all pay the price, the disaster unfolds and everyone is now gasping.

******
"The use of the three terms "probation, rehabilitation and resettlement" is very deliberate in the Probation Institute. Although we have retained the name "probation" in our title (it would be a travesty to lose it) we are very clear in our wish to include practitioners, managers and leaders right across all the organisations working in this field".

This statement sums up what the PI is. Not for probation, not for probation practitioners, and the bottom line not a "probation" institute. Yes we have called for a professional association for many years (a role Napo should have filled) but this is not it. I know nobody that's joined and I'm not surprised.

******
Here lies a the very real dilemma of the 'Duty Of Care' which many of those reading this Blog would have hoped/wanted from PI. However, I also accept it was never going to 'stand against' TR or pro-actively campaign to highlight its impact on our Staff/Communities/Working arrangements. Although, I do value it drawing the public to a number of recent damning Inspections. Rather, it seeks to salvage some of the remnants of Probations Essence, Rich Legacy, Identity and Professionalism. I too echo many of the sentiments shared above and feel that sense of powerlessness and shame neither, to have the words and or the voice to consistently 'Stand Up/By a Much Loved Public Service. Many of whom, still firmly believe 'Unification' is the only way forward. 

I acknowledge that the PI is working on the basis of 'Moving Forward' and that of 'letting go' of the past and needing to embrace/work with something that many are still fundamentally opposed too. That's where our thoughts, feelings, heart and voice remain in an altogether different place and that's where for me the dilemma remains. Sending best wishes to all our staff/Unions and PI as we all continue in altogether different and increasingly divergent ways to try to make sense of TR. Also to ALL those staff we have and continue to lose along the way.

******
The government like to blame the use of psychoactive drugs for all the ills of today's penal system. But that's just spin. They certainly impact on daily life in prisons, but staff shortages and the impact those shortages have on daily routine and facilities for prisoners is certainly a far greater driver for the growth of violence and disturbances in prisons then drugs. There are far too many people in prison in the first place, and increasingly it's becoming a place to house those with mental health problems as mental health services in the community continue to be cut back. The number of people walking the landings with serious mental health problems is a far more dangerous concern then psychoactive drugs.

******
I agree, it's not the drugs, as the truism goes, it's the economy, stupid. The MoJ are going to provide a cash injection of 14m. In the last five years Noms have inflicted cuts of £1bn and the cuts to the public sector prisons were £334m. And they did it through fraudulent benchmarking which was the cover story for making the cuts. The reduction in prison officers and in particular the loss of experienced staff is what has plunged prisons into crisis. It was said at the time that cuts would be dangerous to health & safety - the death and harm statistics, neglect of the mentally-ill, are now bearing out those predictions.

******
Another knee jerk reaction? Problem solving courts would only work if all the relevant services are in place and can be accessed quickly! With offenders waiting months for counselling and scarce resources this will only flag up the deficiencies. What we need are better resourced services and more time with offenders. Magistrates are already sentencing without PSR's in many cases! I could do so much more to support my caseload and still try to make some time to take vulnerable offenders to appointments they may otherwise often miss or advocate on their behalf regarding housing or mental health services, but I am overstretched and this will only get worse with further cuts as part of so called transforming rehabilitation.

******
Article from the Howard League doing the rounds. The private companies whinging that they were misled and now they are losing money! Hey folks, this is not a game of monopoly. You gambled and were prepared to risk public safety for profit and now you are throwing your dummy out of the cot because MoJ is refusing to let you get away with it. End the contracts then and hand the keys back and do everyone a favour. Get on with what you do best. Selling brie, shoes or dodgy dealings in Saudi Arabia are much better suited to you than public protection. Stick with what you know and let the real professionals get back to work.

******
I work as custody probation officer in a prison and whilst am extremely busy as we all are, I will say that OMU across the disciplines are extremely stretched. Senior Prison officers who are supposed to be managing offenders sentences are always tasked out on the wings dealing with self harming, assaults on staff and offender on offender assaults, escorts to hospitals and covering staff shortages within the regime due to extreme staff shortages. This is not what they signed up too and in turn leaves administration staff to pick up work in their absence. Unfortunately, admin staff are briefed to request email as they won't know who they are talking to. If OM'S were able to get in with their contracted role, that line if communication would be possible and negate need for email request. 

As custody probation officer, I am in contact with all OM'S in community on my caseload so all know who to contact and deal with issues as they arise. That is because, although I am extremely busy, I am in the fortunate position to be on hand to deal with issues as they arise. The government led benchmarking exercise and fair and sustainable initiative was unrealistic and like TR and TTG has left absolute chaos within each establishment. Please don't think that requests via email are prisons being awkward but more a case of no resources. Prisons as are probation are in a right mess at the moment.

******
I was surprised to read the FT article yesterday, especially as it wasn't on the back of any particular event or incident. It was more the providers whinging, it was a straight forward accusation, the government misled us and sold us a pup. I expected more to be said in today's more 'lowbrow' press, but not a mention. So why yesterday and why the FT?
I have no idea really, but it leads to a lot of head scratching and pondering. It could be perhaps that the providers (especially with the Working Links saga posted above), that maybe the providers are arguing both ends, to create a space where they can simply step away from the contract with minimal penalty, or better still, have the government take the contracts back? I get the feeling that TR is being spoken about very seriously in quiet little rooms in Whitehall at the moment, and not just on this blog.


******
Probation in London has always been particular challenge to run even when it was being done by people who more or less knew what they were doing. It continues to have a transient offender population, higher risk offenders, lot's of prisons, and suffers staff retention problems that require you to constantly recruit. It's a special case just as policing is a special case in the capital and needs careful handling. LondonCRC is now a very unattractive and hazardous place to work with no light at the end of the tunnel and incentives to go the extra mile. 

I have not met one member of staff who can honestly say they wouldn't jump ship if they could get the same money elsewhere. MTCnovo and those they have appointed to run LCRC are a bad joke. The former senior managers all got their enhanced voluntary redundancies and some of them are now showing up cashing in on bits of work and clearing off again. But the rest of us are saddled with a ridiculous bunch of probation amateurs consisting of prison service senior job hoppers and assorted opportunists who seem to pop up when there's a job going and jump off the moving train shortly before it crashes. We didn't choose to work for who now blame us for the failure of their ridiculous untested operating model that we all told them wouldn't work. Unfortunately no one imagined it could get this bad.

40 comments:

  1. I remember having a caseload of 30 or more a year or so after qualification a decade ago. A mixed caseload with 14 IDAP cases (Domestic Abuse). A time when medium risk DV still had access to significant programme intervention and integrated working with Police and Women Safety Workers and others if MAPPPA. I remember having 14 such cases and feeling burden, sweating it a bit. It concerns me that caseloads of 50, likely high percentage DV and safeguarding with much less support than I had is fair, doable and safe for POs to manage.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probation officers are only required to fill in forms and tick boxes. It doesn't matter how many cases we have. NPS and CRC's don't require any meaningful work/support with offenders, all that matters is that the computer bleeps to indicate the cash-linked targets have been met.

      Delete
    2. Whatever difficulties private probation providers are crying about regarding their contracts, it's more compounded by the fall in the value of sterling.
      Sodexo, MTCnovo etc are foreign companies, and their shareholders will want their undeserved rewards in Euros and dollars.
      Guess it's a case of pay your money and take your chance!

      'Getafix'

      Delete
  2. 10.24 UNTIL there is a serious further incident and then Abracadabra, someone will suddenly want to know what work YOU did to reduce their risk to public! I work on this principle and despite all the i.t time I need to know that I have done everything I can. That's why I do the job and that is why we should retain our integrity to the job.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I heard that MTCnovo are now looking to throw in the towel in London and are concentrating instead on getting more prison contracts. Apparently there are some behind the scenes talks going on betweent the MoJ and MOPAC who are already a provider of probation services with their involvement with alcohol monitoring bracelets. This would be good news for London CRC staff who would return to the public sector and may feel like they are rejoining the criminal justice system rather than being part of a foreign owned business - less IBM more CJS. To be honest probation has more in common with the Metropolitan Police than large US corporations who are now losing their contracts with prisons over the other side of the pond after human rights abuses etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probation Officer16 October 2016 at 12:13

      There has been talk with Mopac and the London Mayors office for at least the past year, so this is not new. If the London CRC transfers this would not be any better for staff as the police have been trying to take over "offender management" for the past few years. It would be a shame to go down this road as probation has NOTHING in common with the Met Police.

      Delete
    2. Nothing in common at all!!

      "Met police routinely discriminate against black people, Scotland Yard diversity chief warns"

      http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/met-police-routinely-discriminate-against-black-people-scotland-yard-diversity-chief-warns-a3343506.html

      Delete
    3. Police are routinely discriminating against black people in stop and search operations in London as part of a misguided performance culture, Scotland Yard’s new head of diversity has warned.

      Victor Olisa said it was accepted practice to stop young black men to try and boost arrest rates for drugs such as cannabis – while officers turned a blind eye to white men who may be carrying cocaine.

      The chief superintendent said the discrimination was unwitting and driven by performance rather than racism but had led to a negative stereotyping of black people.

      Ch Supt Olisa, one of Scotland Yard’s most senior black officers, said police were more likely to stop a car with young black men on the chance of finding drugs than stop a car full of white men in suits, though they could also be in possession of cocaine.

      He said if drugs were found then the officer would repeat the same process to get results adding: “You end up building a process and a stereotype. The cop on the ground is just doing it because of what he or she thinks is right, they are not doing it because they are racist.

      “But when you look at the accumulated data you see massive disproportionality. I think that’s where we get lost.”

      He said officers should continue to carry out stop and search based on intelligence, saying: “You need to be able to explain as an individual why you stopped Joe Bloggs.”

      Mr Olisa, 57, who was the first black person to join Surrey police in 1982, said police discrimination based on stereotypes was much stronger when he joined, but it still existed.

      He said he had experienced racism in the police “some in subtle guises and other more overt, such as being called the N word by people in the street.”

      Speaking to the Standard he said the current ‘fairness at work’ and disciplinary records showed the system was skewed against ethnic minority staff, meaning “if you are BME you are less likely to get through the process.”

      Last week a report found that officers and staff in the Met expected to be victimised and their careers to suffer if they complained about racism.

      The Equality and Human Rights Commission launched the study after former firearms officer Carol Howard was awarded £37,000 after being hounded by her boss for being a black woman.

      Mr Olisa said part of the answer was to treat people fairly and with respect and with better communication.

      “People are sometimes afraid of being labelled as racist. If we start thinking ‘Oh my God I am talking to a black person I had better be careful what I say’ we get ourselves into a real mess. Managers become defensive, people feel excluded.

      “Let’s look at the qualities, the experience that people bring and concentrate on those and treat people fairly then issues about race become secondary.”

      Delete
    4. Probation in London would not be joining the Metropolitan Police or getting into bed with them but rather coming under the umbrella of the Mayors Office who are currently run by a Labour Mayor called Sadiq Khan who as Shadow Justice Secretary campaigned against TR and as a former human rights lawyer has a fair idea what probation is about and what we stand for. He would no doubt welcome the opportunity to take over probation in London. This might also be a good opportunity for the NPS.

      Delete
    5. From a recent PR piece by Cumbria Constanulary:

      "Sex offender management is an unseen side of policing but one that is crucial in protecting the public from harm. MOSOVO officers manage their RSOs through use of the notification requirements, civil orders which carry prohibitions, risk assessment tools and risk management plans.”

      “Protecting children and vulnerable people from sexual harm is a key priority for the force and partner agencies. We all work incredibly hard to manage the reintegration of RSO’s into the community and prevent them from reoffending.”

      No mention of the 'Probation' word.

      (RSO = registered sex offender)

      Delete
    6. This was the tweet from Cumbria Police & should provide the link

      Offender management: An 'invaluable tool' in protecting children from sex offenders goo.gl/ZZqPAf

      Delete
    7. Putting probation under the remit of the Mayor or the PCC would be a disaster, maybe not worse than the current situation but definitely not better!!

      Delete
    8. I disagree 23:28. The Mayor is committed to cutting crime in the capital. London CRC staff would rejoin the public sector and this would open up a lot more opportunities for them within the Mayors Office where their dedication and professionalism will be rewarded rather than punished. This is surely better than awaiting Helga's inevitable axe to fall. Probation trained staff are not wanted or appreciated by the private sector CRC employers and face the prospect that half of them are likely to find themselves without a job in the next few months simply because they ended up on the wrong side of an arbitrary split. MTCnovo have refused to deny that they are planning to cut 50% of the existing staff across the board. The CRC staffing in London is already a third smaller since the split as 20% of the staff were on temporary contracts have gone and when staff have left they are not being replaced.

      Delete
    9. Firstly the Mayor cannot significantly cut crime in London, I doubt anyone can, and especially not at a time of financial crisis. Secondly I've seen what Mopac does, check out projects like the Safer Gangs Programmes which is financed by Mopac and MTC Novo/London CRC. Utter rubbish which does not do what it says on the tin not by a long shot. Also anything that further links probation to the police is another nail in the probation coffin. The police is a protected agency and has been slowly poaching probation work for years.

      Delete
    10. We should also be looking to put the Courts in London under the Mayors office and also the prisons.

      Let London run its own criminal justice system.

      See P9

      https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/a_new_agreement_for_london.pdf

      'Improving the criminal justice system in London -
      The criminal justice system in London should be accountable just as is the Metropolitan Police
      Service. There is a strong argument that devolution would make the criminal justice system speedier and more cost
      -effective, through for
      example,
      co
      -locating Me
      t officers and Crown Prosecution Service staff, and
      through using the same IT systems. Devolution could make it easier to
      provide a ‘whole
      -person’ approach to commissioning, including a ‘beyond
      -
      the
      -prison gate’ package of services and support for all thos
      e who have been
      through the criminal justice system
      to more effectively reduce offending. '

      Delete
    11. Linking probation to the police will just mean offenders will distrust probation officers that little bit more!!! And too many probation officers act like police officers as it is!

      Delete
    12. What idiot would put probation, prisons and the CJS under the power of the London Mayor. Not so long ago this office was run by that idiot Boris Johnson.

      Delete
    13. 23:55 These are desperate times and we do not have the luxury of being picky. MOPAC could be expanded to include probation in the capital both NPS and CRC reunited as one seamless service free from the yoke of the prison service and NOMs. Ditch MTCnovo. The Mayors Office is already a provider of probation services and the Mayor has the power to do whatever he deems necessary to cut crime in the capital. Whether or not he will be able to is another matter. The fact is that a single probation service in the capital under the Mayors Office perhaps in a renamed Mayors Office for Probation Policing and Crime sounds good for me and far better than London CRC Ltd

      Delete
    14. And the current Mayor would give all our work to the police. Bad idea so can all the Mopac minions typing here go away as we're not interested!!

      Delete
    15. "Mayors Office for Probation Policing and Crime".

      Reading this suggestion at 00:17 sent shivers up my spine. What an awful thought to be aligned with the police. This would be a total reversal of what probation stands for.

      Delete
  4. Through the gate? What's that? Heard of it but it certainly doesn't happen in S Yorks

    ReplyDelete
  5. Would be better to be part of social services than police as is the case in scotland! Could bring back the social work qualification with added placements and on the job training. Scotland did well to avoid change!MOJ are you going to do sonething about this mess?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probation should have never been detached from social work, and the qualifying training should return to social work. Any politician, mayor or director talking on probation and failing to state this is not worth listening too.

      Delete
    2. Not going to happen. Sorry. Contracts have just been awarded to the universities etc Its all a competitive market now. It would take years of dedicated work to bring this about and there is no political will to do so on either side of the HoCs.

      Delete
    3. It may take 20 years but it will happen. These things always go full circle. Any time we have a half decent professional association (I don't mean the Probation Institute) it'll be even sooner.

      Delete

  6. From The Guardian

    "Work & careers

    Dear Jeremy

    My daughter's job at the probation service has become unbearable

    The recently privatised service employed her in a new post intended for ‘service users’ and she is given nothing to do"

    The below the line comments here will be familiar to readers of the "On Probation" Blog

    https://www.theguardian.com/money/2016/oct/14/my-daughters-job-probation-service-unbearable?CMP=share_btn_fb

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nothing to do? Does she fancy a job swap?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. MTCnovo effectively ended its offender engagement programme when it cancelled its contracts with User Voice and other service user initiatives. Apparently the ex-prison service managers now in charge didn't like the idea of a load of offenders hanging around up to goodness knows what. A little bit too much like rehabilitation for their liking.

      Delete
    2. Good I never liked user voice and u hate the idea of offenders being allowed into the staff area. An even more stupid idea is having an offender on interviewing panels

      Delete
    3. I remember having someone from User Voice along to add the User Voice to a piece of training. It provided a valuable insight and feedback from training group reinforced my view. Again it is about co - opting others in a thoughtful way so that we all benefit. We need to pay attention to our service user views along with others. There needs to be a space for staff to be by themselves and I take above comment to be about this at rather than hostile or pejorative reference to our service users.

      Delete
    4. Use voice PR Team working overtime tonight

      Delete
    5. Nope. Ex Probation and remain passionate about Probation, not a User Voice PR agent as suggested.

      Delete
    6. User Voice is not bad, apart when they start with that "we know better cos we're offenders" crap. In any case most mentors I've come across were recruited too soon and were not ready to be mentors. Some probably needed a bit of mentoring themselves!!

      Delete
    7. If we don't believe that ex-offenders can be rehabilitated and contribute positively to probation as peer mentors as a result of their experiences then some might question whether we should be working for probation. I would hope that we would all want offenders to lead positive and productive lives and if they want to help other offenders turn their lives around then surely we should be facilitating and encouraging this as we could do with all the help we can get.

      We should however be careful about unrestricted access to sensitive information (whether on computers or being discussed) particularly when someone is still struggling with past issues and many frontline staff simply do not have the time or space to to supervise or support them adequately as they are themselves struggling to cope.

      Delete
    8. There are many good mentors but the nature of the projects like User Voice means many recruited are not up to the job. As you indicate, if they are still "struggling with past issues" then they shouldn't be mentors.

      Delete
  8. I already work with a volunteer mentor who was supervised by a colleage a few years back, as an offender. As far as i am concerned he is an ex offender and i take him at face value. He is no replacement for a po but he is enthusiastic and helping to motivate some of my service users. I still believe people can change given the right support.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. All this talk of mentors, and some are good, but you can't beat the probation officers that were once offenders. We pretend they don't exist amongst us but there are many. Those that have been in prison or under supervision and then turned their lives around to become the professionals themselves. The probation service once prided itself on employing ex-offenders that had made huge and sustained progress since turning their lives around to have excellent qualifications, careers and lives. This is very different from many of today's mentoring projects like User Voice that take on mentors simply for claiming to have stopped offending, which in many cases can prove premature and this is why I rarely use them.

      Delete
    2. 23:38 I am an ex-offender who became a Probation officer. I had been out of trouble for three years having been convicted after trial of theft from an employer. I joined as a PSO and I was was really happy to be given a chance to undertake probation training. In my first office as a qualified PO I discovered that several other POs had criminal convictions. In fact one colleague humorously complained that we might think less of him because he had no form and asked us to suggest a minor offence he could commit. We had all come to terms with our experiences on the wrong side of the cell door and put the unhelpful bits behind us (such as a distrust of the police) and were able to look our clients in the eye when we told them it was possible to turn your life around. I used like it when a client stated that I had no idea what it was like to be arrested and locked up because of course I could say that I knew what it felt like and because of that I wanted more than anything for them to stop having that experience for their own sake and that of their family, friends, and everyone else. I have never felt tempted in nearly thirty years working as a PO in all kinds of jobs to think of myself as a better than colleagues who have not been convicted of a criminal offence. I know several colleagues over the years who were known by their own admission to have committed offenses such as excess alcohol, domestic abuse, assault, fraud, fiddling expenses, possession of drugs, using illegal drugs etc but were never convicted of anything and in some cases were promoted more rapidly than those who had probably never knowingly committed any offence or those that had previous convictions but learned from this.

      I've worked with ex-offender mentors too and some of them are far too raw and have not put any appreciable distance between their offending and working with offenders though with a lot of support they can work through this but it is sometimes like having two clients. I have also worked with a few mentors who are excellent and one or two of these have even gone on to join the probation service and eventually train to be excellent POs and good colleagues.

      It is an interesting approach to rehabilitation that has its place especially when dealing with younger offenders who will sometimes listen to peers rather than anyone too official.

      Delete
    3. Same story for me, and I also smile when I'm regularly accused of knowing the 'theory but not the practice'. The other side of this is that I'm not very sympathetic when offenders complain to me about the mundane prison life as I know it all too well and know they'll get through it as I did. When I joined probation I had over 10 years since being released from a YOI. I was asked about 'change' at the interview and used myself as an example. I had over 10 years of education and employment to back it up too. Since then I've had nearly 20 years as a probation officer / manager. I still have a distrust for the police and I never feel right walking into a prison, no matter how many times I do it. This I balance with my experiences of the many police that are trustworthy and real assets to the force, and also that prisons can and do serve a necessary purpose in many cases.

      Out of every 50 mentors I come across only one catches my attention for the right reasons, and I always encourage that one to train as a probation officer or social worker, the rest are just not ready to be doing this work yet. think the same of the PQF/PQuip trainees fresh out of college and university, but that's more because you need life skills to teach life skills. Every now and then I come across an offender on probation that I encourage to return to apply to probation in a few years time when they have significant progress under their belt. Unfortunately I've never known one to do it yet, but here's hoping!

      Delete
  9. PI = collaboration with ruin of probation.

    ReplyDelete