Sunday, 26 February 2017

Pick of the Week 23

Okay, so now what? Sentencers in both court arenas ought to be kicking up a stink about this, but are quietly complying. Jezza Wright & Grayling seem to have been the perfect tag team when it comes to fucking things up.

Judges & magistrates - you have been hoodwinked, disarmed, humiliated & criticised during the last few years of (essentially) Tory "justice" policy. This RAR nonsense removed your access to intelligent pre-sentence information and thus left you sentencing blind & both arms tied behind your back. Alongside the equally stupid PSS the RAR has handed the power of the sentence to Grayling's chums in the private sector who, by running both community & custodial businesses, benefit all ways round. The NPS are allegedly the gatekeepers of this new procedure but, as far as I can tell, they don't have the staff - or the motivation to give a shit.

Once over you, as sentencers, could request a detailed assessment of the defendant such that the professional, independent informed view of a Probation Officer could be considered in the context of the adversarial (& thus unforgiving) opinions from prosecution & defence. That might also include a professional opinion from a relevant specialist. At least then, as sentencers, you were handing down a sentence based upon known information.

Now, it seems, you look at a series of tick boxes, ask a member of probation if the calculations are about right, get a nod of approval &, if I can directly quote a local court clerk who remains nameless, you "impose an order that requires someone to do stuff that has yet to be worked out, so when they come back here in breach we haven't a bloody clue what's happened."

The politicians have neutralised the judiciary. Just look at Truss's contemptuous silence when elements of the press were lambasting the judges & inciting hatred.

Sentencers, Rise Up and Be Heard!!!

It is depressing & heartbreaking when those you work alongside & trust turn out to be those who have undermined everything - more so when, after creating havoc, they disappear, pockets bulging. It turns all of history on its head & starts generating retrospective anxiety - for example, when you spoke with them at length about your fears for the service, or that meeting you had about court work, or the email you sent them about your workload capacity. They gave nothing away & more often than not agreed with you, but in fact they were constructing the wooden horse in the knowledge it would crush you but they didn't actually care about that because it suited their own agenda.

It's not news, nor is it rocket science. If one reduces or removes the ability to produce quality pre-sentence assessments then you lose the information previously available to sentencers. If at the same time one significantly changes the sentencing framework but fails to provide adequate guidance or infrastructure to support those implementing the changes, the system becomes untenable & impossible to operate or monitor.

It is an even more serious clusterfuck if the infrastructure (IT) was never fit for purpose in the first place, if the previously resilient organisational structure is dismantled at an unprecedented rate of knots and if people with no experience or knowledge of implementing rehabilitative interventions are given free rein. Jim had it on the nail aeons ago - Omnishambles.

In their haste to shed jobs and make money most CRCs have totally failed to plan or develop any delivery of RARs (or other aspects of the job to be honest). In a local CRC the grand plan is to move implementation of RARs from Responsible Officers (!) to the Intervention Team. Slight problem that they do not have enough staff in the Intervention Team to even run Accredited Programmes having got rid of so many staff. So Responsible Officers still continue to have to try to deliver the RARs. This, despite an ever growing caseload which a very out of touch senior management team decree will only be limited by infinity. Innovation my arse its a durcheinander (the German language always has a great word for such mayhem). 

As a taxpayer I want answers why an award winning service has been dismantled and destroyed by NOMS and this government. Also, why experienced and skilled practitioners have been allowed to leave when there are not currently enough staff to run a viable service?

A veritable dogs breakfast. The previous CEO of CGM and MCRC in late 2015 decided in her wisdom to set out the 60% figure, whether that was on NOMS advice or just an arbitrary figure she decided on, who knows? We were instructed to put in a 'professional judgement' entry towards the end of the order if we did not hit the 60% as to why they were not completed. The termination of the order and its satisfactory completion depended on it being classed as a successful order.

Now, 15 months later it transpires the 60% was wrong. Now we are being told that at ISP stage we are to make reference to the number of RAR days we are to use and how they are used. If I have someone on a SSO with an accredited programme, an UPW requirement to satisfy the punitive element, and then sprinkle in 20 RAR days and to top it off they are in F/T work.... By its very nature, the number of RAR days becomes just about redundant.

Since the Great Shafting of 2013 & subsequent threatening letter from Trust CEO ("my way or the highway, sunshine") I have been committed to pursuing the argument of constructive dismissal of Probation staff. Mr Hughes' words, published at the time I was being paid off, have made me quite upset.

1. I was employed as a Probation Officer by a specific employer and had continuous employment status as a PO for many, many years.
2. I was re-deployed against my expressed wishes, outwith TUPE regulations and on undisclosed data I was not allowed to challenge, and assigned to a pseudo-independent artificial organisation, created by the government solely for sale to the private sector - all in the hands of one man whose sole aim was to force through the sale as quickly as possible.
3. My one & only chance of appeal against this redeployment was dismissed without any further explanation or justification beyond an arbitrary comment about caseload snapshots on 11 Nov 2013.
4. I was sent a letter by my Trust CEO telling me that if I tried to appeal the sifting decision a second time it would be regarded as tendering my immediate resignation.
5. The organisation I was re-deployed to refused to consider my request for redundancy (made within the specified timescale) telling me I wasn't eligible...
6. ... they went on to place me at risk of redundancy 3 months later, but they refused to co-operate with the national terms & conditions agreed pre-sale and, by applying undue pressure upon staff, the organisation enforced a voluntary severance scheme to rid themselves of 35% of existing staff. After a painful fight, with no union support & under threats from bully managers, I felt I had no option but to leave.
7. A number of "privileged" individuals were not only deemed eligible for the enhanced redundancy package but were also subsequently re-employed by the new organisation.
8. I would suggest that the above represents a clear strategy to enforce changes to individuals' employment rights - outwith the TUPE framework - that couldn't otherwise be implemented & which led to inevitable loss of employment; an inevitability which was known in advance by virtue of the national agreement for job losses which the MoJ signed up to, i.e. the EVR scheme.
Hughes admits there was "the strategy of how we dealt with the unions, [and the] strategy of exactly how it would be implemented and when." A strategy of dismissal, constructive dismissal, to allow for the implementation of a single-minded political ideology, i.e. the sale of public services to the private sector.

So far there have been nine HMI Probation reports about TR covering seven geographical areas plus an early overview & a look at TTG.

All seem to have suffered from the same fate, i.e. they identify significant failings but (as identified by others) are coated with a thick rose-tinted sickly-sweet sauce which negates any sense of urgency, concern or outrage.

These reports are expensive to produce. They involve many hours of travel & subsistence of HMI staff; and many hours of preparation, shredding & data inputting by the inspected area. But however costly, what is their value? And what is their purpose? Just taking examples from the blog above I find myself utterly bemused. Firstly, what I assume are three definitive tasks for probation service providers:

"The CRC had not made a sufficient contribution to protecting those at risk of harm."
"The CRC was not sufficiently effective in delivering interventions to reduce reoffending."
"The CRC should also improve the effectiveness of the management of unpaid work."

Yet this is followed by "Overall, inspectors found the quality of the Cheshire and Greater Manchester’s CRC’s work was mixed." Surely the CRC's failure to effectively provide or manage three core tasks cannot lead HMI Probation to offer such a saccharin overview?

The CRC providers have been given red carpet treatment from the start - they've been handed vast sums of public money as sweeteners, they've been gifted experienced staff and the Govt are protecting them as far as they dare. So how can they ALL be failing to provide core services yet ALL continue merrily on their way? Presumably hoying all the expensive frontline staff overboard helps. Presumably cashing in the assets and replacing them with the cheapest possible alternatives helps. Presumably having malleable chums in convenient, lofty places helps.

Yesterday it was asked if anyone could confirm that, as promised, TR has brought us:

1. fewer people in prisons? No. In fact Truss wants more locked away.
2. lower reoffending rates? No. See HMIProbation reports.
3. substantial £public savings? No. In fact its cost tens of £millions more from the public purse, including an estimated £80M cash handout to the 21 CRCs, £12M in selected prison officer pay rises, etc.
4. an open market not cornered by big players? No.
5. retention of the skills & expertise of probation professionals? No. Most have either been pushed or have jumped.
6. national transfer framework built on fair processes & protection for staff? No. Utterly skewed, totally unfair with widespread concerns that the union were either utterly hoodwinked (?) or somehow complicit (!).
7. no different systems for NPS & CRC? Who knows?
8. co~location of agencies? No.
9. a simple process? Certainly not.
Isn't that enough of a pre-meditated disaster to make anyone sick?

Why high sick rates? Here's a few possible reasons!!

* high case loads
* high number of RAR days imposed by the court's with little community based resource to refer people into resulting in front line staff completing the work (RAR days were again supposed to free up staff as offenders were supposed to attend with partnership agencies, however most of these were culled way before we were with massive finances/funding cuts)
* mindless procedures to follow
* useless IT systems
* hot desking (staff having to pack up equipment at the end of everyday and put together every morning) not being allowed to personalise desks resulting in staff feeling disjointed and disaffected/not belonging - this also has the opposite effect of productivity
* being moved into new offices that are not fit for purpose (no initial security, health and fire safety are massive issues, interview rooms offer no privacy with paper thin walls, but the higher powers that be feel that because the buildings look pretty, all's well with the world
* all case managers being pressured to be group facilitators which is in the new job descriptions for staff owned by Interserve Justice - group tutors being forced to case manage - these decisions are due to the Interchange model, you know, the one that's struggling to be embedded!!
* staff being managed by IM's that have no Probation Officer qualification or case management experience
* staff constantly being reminded how we need to meet all the service level measures and if we don't, how much money we will loose
I'm sure others will be able to fill in the gaps!!

I'm NPS, just had a weeks leave and don't think I can face going back tomorrow. Been struggling on since the split at 130% workload with no prospect of any let up. I'm completely burnt out and can't think straight anymore. No hope of redundancy and not in a position to just walk. It's a nightmare.

Same here. NPS is a horrible place to work and like everybody else in my office, I put up with it as I have no choice. We don't do "good core work" as there's no resources. What we do have is high caseloads, treated like crap by managers, no respect from anyone. I read a senior management email today instructing how a Delius contact record should be done, because that more important than all the staff that are stressed, bullied and off sick. I'm unwell but not off sick as the new sicknesss policy doesn't allow me to!!

Where does this notion that CGM, or indeed any Interserve CRC is applying an 'Innovative way of working' come from? They can't seriously be talking about the so-called 'Interchange' model? Cobbling together a couple of random lines from the Good Lives model with a rephrased 'Simple Wikipedia' outline of Desistance Theory, and particularly when you've apparently not really understood either, does not make a 'model' for working with the troubled, alienated, largely destitute and disenfranchised Probation clientele - even if you do give the 'model' and it's supposed 'modules' (each element has a name but no content to speak of) otherwise meaningless names that sound a bit like 'Interserve'. 

The 'Interchange Model' has no more meaning than the farcical statement of 'Vision and values' that Interserve seems so unaccountably proud of. 'Do the right thing'? Pull the other one! And as for 'Bring better to life'? What does that even mean?? Interserve CRC staff CAN'T apply the 'Interchange' model because there's nothing to apply.

Just One of the many reasons I chose to retire early (former SPO/IM). The promises of the Interchange model would bring, including new ways of working and innovation, were not backed by the resources, time and commitment required to allow staff to understand and apply. Focus was on targets linked to cash and NOT ON IMPROVING PRACTICE AND PROTECTING THE PUBLIC by working effectively with service users. I am waiting now for the new dawn of NOTHING WORKS, which if you ask me and from what I can see and hear, is not far away.

Frontline staff are the ONLY reason this shambles is held together. I value my job but despise everything around it, the destruction of the service, the crap IT, the bollocks and bullshit, the shabby treatment of staff, the ignorant management, the stupid newsletters by email that don't even open, the scary personal emails that say "we've noticed that you haven't clicked on (some bloody headache of a system) for a while..." Talk about Big Brother... Could you all just F OFF I'm trying to work.

Frontline staff, the easy target as always. In our team we had 6 cases allocated in one week with less than 1 day notice of release from custody, that's obviously plenty of time to follow procedures! It's a disgrace and if it wasn't for the dedication of frontline staff, believe me, things would be a lot worse

So, in summary, on a blurry Sunday morning, can we therefore confirm that, as promised in the hallowed halls of parliament & democracy, TR has brought us:

1. fewer people in prisons?
2. lower reoffending rates?
3. substantial £public savings?
4. an open market not cornered by big players?
5. retention of the skills & expertise of probation professionals?
6. national transfer framework built on fair processes & protection for staff?
7. no different systems for NPS & CRC?
8. co~location of agencies?
9. a simple process?


  1. Given that Liz Truss has just announced the greatest reforms to the CJS in a generation,(even though we're only a couple of years on from Graylings Rehabilitation Revolution), I find this lecture given in 2005 very interesting indeed.
    If it's featured on this blog before please delete my comment, but some may find it interesting to compare whats being said then, to what's actually come to pass.

    ' Getafix

    1. Thanks Getafix - never seen that, but well worth covering in a forthcoming post. Keep on ferreting around!

  2. So enjoyed catching up with everyone on the blog today, I feel just as hacked off as everyone else! The one thing that really bothers me, and others who have been around a while in the NPS is that, everything is done on line and it is our personal responsibility to ensure, your records are kept properly,checking, NESSI and EPIc on a daily basis, you upload all your own templates and referrals, you have to look up what training they expect you to do, and organise yourself to do it! It's been a bit of a joke in our office, we have manadory training to do on Parom 1's and Oral Hearings but none of us can access the learning sites, justice academy or civil service learning from our Computers, or the free standing PC. This has been a bone of contention for about 6 months, and presumably we are all failing somewhere, as the work isn't signed off. A possible solution was found in that out team acquired a laptop in November, however, initially our manager said someone needed to set it up, but more recently when asked, the problem is inconsistent connectivity, and it would be a shame, to get half way through an hour's work, to then lose it! But we do that with all other systems, where work is not saved, uploaded or sent somewhere it cannot be recovered from, so we're used to this sort of thing and have got past the frustration and demoralisation involved! Since E3 seems PO's doing more admin tasks, whereas admin officers doing management tasks! As the late great David Niven once said, "the Moon's a Balloon"! In short, it's all bollocks and whereas the front line keep the organisation afloat, the clients are keeping me afloat!

  3. Everything is farcical. More 'management' posts created yet the front line are on their knees. The job is a joke and not what I signed up for. Amongst all of this bullshit we have offenders. Some are vulnerable, some are manipulative, some just want help and others want support. Sorry folks, cant help because I have to fill in some bollocks form to tick boxes and keep the corporates happy rather then actually meet your needs. You Mr Offender are way down my list of priorities now. Like I said, not what I signed up for and the job has now become farcical. NAPO - what a joke, you've allowed this to happen. I'm off - absolute bollocks and wont change. Good to see Grayling and Chums in private sector have still not been held to account - says it all.