Sunday, 11 December 2016

Probation and the Media

Some of the comments published by the Guardian:-

The rot started when the National Probation Service was created and the links with local sentencing bodies was lost. Then came the first of the Home Office computer programs for treatment starting with the prison sex offender program where bored Prison Officers who really despised their group members lead groups of equally bored prisoners. Both sides played the game, both learned nothing except how to tick boxes. We ended up with devious articulate offenders even better at offending. It extended into field work with a variety of "measurement" tools to assess risk. It didn't, naturally but it kept NOMS happy. The Home Office never realised or didn't want to realise that you can't create a "one size fits all" treatment plan.

Probation used to be a pretty good service with well trained, motivated staff who were able to establish a good rapport with offenders and often reduce recidivism. They were skilled at their interventions. Privatisation will only ever work in favour of those who make money out of it. The increased caseloads are though typical of pretty well all areas of social work which includes probation. Child protection would fare even worse in a privatised setting and would be utterly disastrous. Rather than move to full privatisation the opposite is required, a full move back to the public sector and better accountability.

Several friends, all very experienced with a wealth of knowledge of probation services, resigned or took early retirement rather than stay for the shambles they knew was coming with Grayling's maniacal privatisation. And so it proved. None are prepared to go back. Everyone said it was a disaster in the making but all were ignored. Because Grayling is a thick and uncomprehending as the plank in his garden gate.

Ah, but the point about privatisation is that now it's someone else's fault. If a service is public and it goes to shit due to underfunding/mismanagement then there is an elected politician who is directly responsible. If you privatise a service and it goes to shit then it's the fault of:

- The private company (who will have drawn up the contract so they can't pay any meaningful penalty)
- The regulator who had to be created to monitor the private companies and is also woefully underfunded

The thing is, if the likes of G4S or Crapita were actually held to account when they fuck up after a privatisation, then how many companies would actually bid for a contract? And if that happened then you wouldn't be able to privatise things and politicians would remain responsible and - worse still - wouldn't have any nice directorships to retire to.

Well, that is certainly a fucking disgrace. It's our money. Seeing some politician give the "commercial confidentiality" excuse as to why I can't be allowed to know how it's being spent does make my blood boil. And, of course, private companies running public services aren't subject to Freedom of Information. Not really a level playing field, is it? If I had the energy, I'd start one of them petitions.

Sounds like pretty much the whole of the Criminal Justice system. I work in a Magistrates Court and in all the years I've been in the service morale has never been so low. The system is falling apart at the seams but the powers that be don't care, we are constantly reminded that we work in a "Brilliant Civil Service" - say it often enough & it will become true. No wonder so many of my colleagues are leaving. I would happily go but am only a few years away from retirement.

The provision of service is now actually more expensive than it was because the govt pays the private companies. Even the treasury recognised that this would be the case before the privatisation took place. It was driven through purely on ideological grounds. Work that was previously done for free through arrangements with local voluntary agencies and charities is now charged for....and guess who picks up the bill....we do as tax payers. The govt have managed to turn a service that was working and cost effective, into one that is in chaos and costs more. Genius.

We had a genuinely progressive, effective and respected probation service with highly professional staff and an underpinning ethos of providing a fail safe service with both compassion and control. Then they decided to apply Taylorist principles to practice and put the bean counters in charge. It's now none of those things and nobody wants to work there anymore and the prison population is at an all time high. It costs on average the same amount to incarcerate one individual as it does to employ a qualified PO even with the on costs of pension etc. You work out the logic of what they've done to save money!

An interesting read albeit somewhat sensationalised. Just talking to staff gives a warped view. They've clearly only spoken to the disillusioned who have not given them the facts! For example, the West York's employee saying they don't breach or recall or put through programmes etc. That is actually completely inaccurate and may say more about their personal practice/performance than what the company is actually promoting. Yes there are problems and privatisation wasn't a good thing but the problems are not really the ones highlighted in this article which could be portrayed as staff moaning. The problems are more reputational, lack of access to some key information that is needed (but held by the public sector), the fact the private companies are loss-making etc.

Why is anyone surprised? Nobody but Failing Grayling even suggested this was a good idea, he refused to pilot it, awarded very long term contracts just before a General Election to make it impossible for an incoming Government to overturn, was done with no research and in the face of universal opposition from those involved in the field. It has gone utterly pear shaped exactly as Failing was warned and now Ms Truss wants a report on it. Perhaps Mhairi Black or Dennis Skinner could find 3 minutes every day they are in the House to remind Failing that he needs to come before the Speaker and explain himself.

Grayling giving charities and voluntary organisations peanuts to supervise 70% of newly released prisoners is a recipe for chaos. 20 contracts were given to the likes of Interserve (a construction firm) and they contract out to the next layer and so on until the likes of the YMCA here in Hull, calling themselves Turning Point, attempt to rehabilitate these men, setting them up to fail because they do not have enough money for enough staff to supervise and rehabilitate them. 4 men are placed in a small terraced house in a street of young families and elderly residents causing mayhem and misery with their alcohol and drug fuelled 24 hour anti-social behaviour. Turning Point have thrown in the towel through overwork and lack of money. The main contractors are reaping the benefit of millions of pounds. Typical Tory policy, and Grayling should have been given his marching orders years ago before being let loose on the population.

I don't know why the Guardian bothers to post these articles, as it is clear that people that vote Tory, are just not interested in such things. Even the ongoing reports of the privatisation of the NHS and Education, are completely ignored. The persistent Tory aim to put public services out to private companies, irrespective of past errors, and with little or no prior consultations, or risk assessments, is criminal, yet on they go, blinkered and dogmatic to the point of insanity, under the same failed ideology of saving money. Time and time again, they fail to see that private companies want profits, and it is blatantly obvious that private companies will end up doing the usual trick of employing less people, on lower wages. When the service deteriorates, they ask for more funding, or abstain from the contract all together. The lowest bidder, is all this government wants, and without any regular monitoring of services, they couldn't give a shit when it fails, as they will always have someone else to blame, and can just walk away and start the process again with another company, who think they can make money for a while.

Theresa May allows this to happen, and for all her self professed intentions to help people, she just does not know, or care what her ministers are doing. Cameron was the same, Gove and Duncan Smith, were given mandates to proceed with Tory agendas, and no one bothered to ask about the consequences. Right across the board, they have dabbled and messed with public services, cut budgets, and made workers lives a whole lot worse, all to reduce a deficit that has been so mismanaged, that their lunatic ideas, have not saved anything, but they cling to the lie, that it has. 

Any media attempts at highlighting the failings of these policies, is just met by government departments issuing scripted bullshit, noting what they plan to do and how much money they intend to throw at the problems, including the self promoted efforts they claim to have done. Efforts of only half truths that hardly ever get refuted by the only political opposition, that should know the truth.

The tragedy is that the Tories know they can get away with it, there is no effective opposition, and therefore no likely credible opponents in a general election. They assume the votes will always come their way, no matter what they do, and so, the madness will continue, the consequences will be blamed on someone, anyone else, it will never be their fault, and the party faithful will believe it. With support like that, what could go wrong?



Graph of Blogger page views

Firstly, I'd like to welcome some new readers to the blog and welcome back many who no doubt stopped reading as the TR omnishambles took hold and they bailed out of probation by various means. 

Since last Saturday when I highlighted the appeal for information from a journalist, viewing figures soared from the more usual 1,500 to over 4,500 on what was a mega Christmas shopping day for many. Even last Sunday readership was well up at 4,000 with the daily hit rate confirming a rising trend. With publication of the Guardian article late on Friday the hit rate yesterday was 6467, a figure not achieved since the height of the TR battle.

But this is just a curtain raiser before the big event on Thursday, timed just before the Christmas Parliamentary recess and the much-anticipated dreadful HMI report into MTCnovo's running of the London CRC contract. Politically, the stakes couldn't be much higher for an increasingly-embattled and lack-lustre Justice Secretary, so the MoJ spin machine will be into overdrive all this week in preparation. 

Expect a release of 'good news' stories every day as the highly-paid mandarins indulge in some media manipulation for an essentially lazy press and TV, who will just regurgitate the nicely pre-packed stories provided for them - in fact like this issued early today on a quiet Sunday morning:-
Justice secretary plans to put education at the heart of youth justice

Justice Secretary responds to ground-breaking review led by Charlie Taylor.
  • Two ‘secure schools’ to be launched – alongside new measures to monitor progress in English and maths, health and behaviour.
  • £15 million to boost frontline staff by 20 percent and improve safety
  • Head of Operations established for youth custody – to reduce violence and drive up standards and dedicated officers responsible for overseeing young offenders’ progress.
  • Bid to have every young person on an apprenticeship pathway that will continue even after they have left custody
Education and training will be put at the heart of youth justice, the Justice Secretary will announce in response to a ground-breaking review led by child behavioural expert Charlie Taylor.

Tackling security and safety issues head on, she will announce plans to invest an additional £15 million a year in youth custody - boosting front-line staff, reducing violence, and ensuring young offenders get the opportunities needed for a fresh start in life.

While the number of children in custody has fallen significantly, those who remain in the system have serious and complex needs. Tackling the factors that contribute to criminality and intervening at a young age is key to breaking the cycle of reoffending – making our streets safer and improving young people’s life chances.

Taking forward Charlie Taylor’s proposals to deliver an effective, education-led approach to custody, 2 secure schools will be launched; delivering core subjects such as English and Maths, as well as a range of work training and apprenticeship schemes to help offenders find work on release.

The majority of his recommendations are being taken forward, with immediate investment and resourcing aimed at improving safety.

The overhaul of the system will also focus on life beyond bars with a youth custody apprenticeship scheme being developed to build strong relationships with employers, ensuring that all young people are earning or learning on release.

Justice Secretary, Elizabeth Truss said:

"I am grateful to Charlie Taylor for his comprehensive and in depth review which sets out the stark issues we must tackle to help young offenders to live law-abiding lives. Prisons rightly punish people who break the law, but they should also be a place where offenders are reformed. While young people are in custody we need to make sure they get the right education and training so they can lead law abiding lives – and in turn make our streets and communities safer too. The measures I have set out today are the beginning of a series of reforms which will help us cut reoffending, make our communities safer and create a justice system that works for everyone."
Under the new system, the progress that young offenders make in education will be measured – as well as improvements in health and behaviour – to show how well establishments are doing in delivering the right teaching and training, and ensuring they are held to account.

A single Head of Operations will be established to take charge of youth custody; tackling violence, driving up performance levels and taking decisive action in the event of failures or falling standards.

Working across government, plans are being developed to ensure that when they leave custody, every child has the support of a mentor to help them sustain employment and training. This will help to ensure they do not return to a path of crime.

Charlie Taylor said:

"Education needs to be central to our response to youth offending. It is the building block on which a life free from crime can be constructed. I welcome the Justice Secretary’s plans to reform the youth justice system and focus on education and training. If children who offend are to become successful and law-abiding adults, the focus must be on improving their welfare, health and education – their life prospects – rather than simply imposing punishment."
The government’s response to Charlie Taylor’s review is the first step to reforming youth justice, with further plans to be set out in spring next year.

This response follows the publication of a comprehensive White Paper on prisons which announced 2,500 new prison officers and an addition £100 million to make prisons places of safety and reform where offenders get off drugs and get the education and skills they need to find work and turn their back on crime for good.

Plans to reform the way we manage female offenders under probation supervision will be unveiled in the New Year.


  1. Dear Jim. Sorry we refuse to read and comment on this post until David Raho is mentioned at least once giving us the opportunity to vent ourselves for and against whatever it is claimed he has been saying. I have tried to track him down but he seems to be elusive this weekend probably hiding in a pub eating a Sunday roast or some other lame excuse. Failure to mention him will result in a dramatic decrease in visits to this site. I demand to hear from him immediately or I shall resign from Napo again.

    1. I get the sarcasm, but why the talk of David Raho who props up the agendas of the crappy probation institute and the electronic monitoring brigade!!

    2. The facts figures add up. Like it or not whenever he is mentioned or contributes to this blog the traffic increases dramatically. We might call this the the 'Raho effect' On Probation. As soon as the moaners move in the hits take a dip.

    3. Or there is no such 'effect'. Perhaps some people here are a little too London-centric in their views.

  2. It is odd that Raho was always on here critiquing the employers. Since taking up post he has gone well rather quiet has he not?

    1. Maybe his bionic badge is watching his moves

    2. He is one of the few Napo leaders with personality and the skills to make a real difference. I think some of the previous comments on here have been a bit offensive so we shouldn't blame him for being human and going dark.

  3. David Raho is not enemy ask anyone of the hundreds of people he has represented? Ask anyone in London Branch post? He had the stamina of a teenager during the privatisation campaign and I witnessed this first hand. Haters gonna hate but let's unite and fight the real enemy.

    1. Agree with you. I'm a former NOMS secondee. I have known David for longer than I care to mention and alsways found him to be someone you can rely on for support. He has a good moral compass indeed he has had a long academic interest in ethics. He is a good friend to many and puts others before himself. He doesnt seek power or recognition. He always works hard for Napo members and as anyone will tell you he is a very good rep to have if you are ever in trouble. He is also very willing to explain his actions. He gives everything he does a lot of thought and I have been shocked by some of the comments made about him on here that are clearly made by people who do not know him or what he as done for others. For example together with Napo London Branch NPS Co-chair Patricia Johnson (another exceptional probation officer) he did a lot of work representing Napo in London on the new probation training framework which benefited considerably from his professional input. He and Patricia were some of the few practitioners actually involved in inputting into how this would actually look like in practice. Believe me it looks a heck of a lot better than it did as a result including being a lot more inclusive. He is a solid trade unionist who believes very strongly in collective bargaining and other trade union principles however he is also someone who believes in progress and adapting to changed circumstances. He is a strong advocate of traditional probation values and the probation profession. He believes in talking to others and maintaining dialogue with for instance the Probation Institute and also those interested in electronic monitoring. He should not be condemned for being interested in probation training and electronic monitoring. When I have required his expertise he has always been more than generous with his time. If he has a fault it is that he stretches himself too thinly at times.

    2. Surely the bigger issue is how some close to probation are determined to wreck what traditionalists believe probation truly is and should be encompassed in those four words from parliament in the early twentieth -"advise, assist and befriend"

      When I first encountered them probably in 1973 - I ignored them thinking they were old fashioned and naff but eventually I embraced them because although by that time probation officers also rightly had a role to be public protectors - which can mean advising courts and Ministers via the Parole Board, that at present - for one of a number of reasons a certain CLIENT presented unreasonable risks to the wider community - leaving the court or minister to decide the action.

      Maybe we got too hooked on giving recommendations rather than offering an informed professional opinion.

      All that and more is encompassed in the notion of “advise assist and befriend“, because ultimately humans only change their own behaviour in positive ways when they so choose to do.

      The current Government/Political/Parliamentary regime has set probation and prison up to fail giving them the responsibility to fix the criminal (a socially determined categorisation) & in consequence be held responsible when the fix does not work.

      Probation as a branch of social work (which continues to have more power and authority than probation - despite perhaps "appearing" soft and woolly) is nuanced and ultimately depends on the way its practitioners function ideally with compassion and integrity. Probation Officers were in fact officers of the court that body of humanity set up to regulate those bought before it when they offend in the terms of the laws set by parliament - that higher of courts established to represent the people to the sovereign with their "grievances" (please research the history) in return for agreeing that the sovereign may levy taxes to carry out that which the sovereign's government believes is necessary.

      Probation is a small part of the complex make up that was found in the early twentieth century to aid society to better function.

      Some thing we need other ways of functioning.

      Maybe Jim Brown Blog's publisher will delete this - it is not well formed or well written but it touches at the complex nuances that can improve the way a human society can function.

      Or maybe one of the wreckers who have been trying to ridicule David Raho will be along to have a routinised go at me, so be it - society still needs to balance the needs of individuals and and groups against one another - nonjudicial murders being carried out on behalf of the state in The Philippines. President Elect Trump does not want security briefings-he knows best.

      Are we in the last days/years of western inspired judicial civilisation where the likes of Grayling and Gove get unfettered hands on the levers of state - I don't know and suspect due to my age - 68 this week - I will not see the worst of it - but I REALLY do believe things can get worse.

      I am for advise assist and befriend and CLIENTS and David Raho and his ilk.

    3. EDIT

      REPLACE -

      "Some thing we need other ways of functioning."


      "Some THINK we need other ways of functioning."

    4. Happy birthday in advance, Andrew

  4. If tereza may wasn't too busy wearing the wrong trousers and promoting middle aged barbyism maybe she would actually do something to sort the mess out!

  5. This is exactly the type of publicity the Probation shambles needs. It's a total mess and the only progressive option is to revert back to how we were organised pre-TR. Liz Truss is not going to to this though unless a rich white banker is murdered or raped by somebody who is being badly managed on Probation as a result of TR.

  6. Can't help thinking that 'secure schools' is actually the reintroduction of Borstal. I don't necessarily suggest that's a bad thing, but..
    "I welcome the Justice Secretary’s plans to reform the youth justice system and focus on education and training. If children who offend are to become successful and law-abiding adults, the focus must be on improving their welfare, health and education – their life prospects – rather than simply imposing punishment."
    The process, the assistance extended to support the changes to life prospects has to continue after release from 'secure school'.
    Unfortunately, current government policies seem to stack up against the odds of young people changing their life's and enhancing their prospects. Housing, benefits, minimum wage are becoming a very real threat to the life chances of the younger generation.
    So secure schools could be a positive approach (though I'm already thinking about the old 'day care system'), but being sent to a secure school should be seen as the first step in a process, that will take considerabley more time and resources after a person is released.

    ' Getafix

  7. There's some awful bullies on this blog, and if I wasn't already put off Napo I would be by now. Unionism has a big place in my heart, and I do believe that in this day and age of individualism we have forgotten the power there is in acting together. But the constant sniping at each other will not get the recruits or the feeling of togetherness needed. If David Raho in your eyes is not the perfect specimin you are looking for, your response to him and the things you accuse him of tells me you are definitely not that either. Each bird sings in his own way. We have to find and act on the things we have in common. Telling each other and the world what we are experiencing in our working lives is one way. It keeps us thinking and moving and hoping.

    1. Agree. Particularly do not like personal slights on individuals be it NAPO hierarchy or Management or Government. However, I do want people called to account and my purpose in supporting this blog is the hogwash of TR.

  8. Borstals? How many offenders have i known who were abused in either borstal, residential school, carehome, religious school of sorts! Lost count! This is not the answer. Need to focus on early intervention and parental support. Eradicating child poverty rather than criminalising and further abusing the masses.

  9. A multy pranged/facetet approach covering all the angles would be good

  10. We've all watched the movie Scum!

    Nuff said!