Saturday, 12 August 2017

Guest Blog 66

Life on Licence

Some months ago I finished the licence portion of my sentence after a three year prison term. The licence started in 2014 so it spanned the changes between the old system and the new supposedly shinier, all singing, all dancing privatised probation service brought in by Chris Grayling in his term as SSJ. This post is about my experiences of probation over that time.

Purple Futures aka Interserve took over from the former probation trust in my area in February 2015. This was lauded as “a really good thing”, or so I was told by my OM, because allegedly Interserve had been incredibly sensible and had hired former probation staff to run the new CRC. So, in contrast to what was happening in other areas under other providers who hadn’t been as foresighted, this was going to be THE model on how to run a privatised probation service. Imagine a drum roll at this point, followed by a marching band playing hail the conquering heroes.

I was highly sceptical of these claims given Interserve’s chequered history of running anything, anywhere, as a quick Google search makes abundantly clear. But the OM had the fervour of the recently converted religious acolyte and could only spout endlessly about how absolutely marvellously things were going to work out under the new corporate overlords. Maybe I’m just cynical, but detail on exactly how they were going to do this wonderful thing seemed to be conspicuously absent. Apparently one was just supposed to believe in fairies and unicorns etc.

Privatisation of public services in the UK, despite being lauded as the panacea to all ills for politicians from Thatcher onwards, has pretty much been a uniform failure as the privatisation of rail services to utility companies to private prisons etc. has made abundantly clear. So it was highly unlikely the privatisation of probation was going to be a rousing success. And let’s face it; Chris Grayling’s track record ain’t exactly stellar. But to be fair, all of those I knew in prison released around the same time I was decided to give probation the benefit of the doubt and approach things with an open mind and to judge what happened next on our personal experiences.

I’d pretty much served a year of the licence under the old system before it became the new all singing all dancing one. Additionally I had also had contact with the pre TR system whilst still in custody. In other words, I had a pretty good basis of comparison upon which to judge both the old and new systems.

To be blunt: probation pre TR, in my opinion, was pretty dysfunctional and this mainly seemed to be due to both quality of staff and the attitude of staff and management towards clients. By the time of release I was on OM number 4. Numbers 1 and 2 did little more than send out the obligatory yearly letter and failed to answer any letters I sent to them (apparently far too busy to answer correspondence from prisoners even before staffing numbers were decimated by TR according to a response to a complaint I filed about their rudeness in not answering my letters). This astounded me as professional courtesy should at the very least dictate you send a response to all correspondence received. But apparently the old probation system didn’t believe in such things.

Number three seemed to delight in needlessly causing complications for some unknown reason and her decisions ended up being struck down in a judicial review for having breached my legal rights as well as breaking a number of legal obligations under several Probation Instructions. She vanished shortly thereafter on maternity leave and as far as I’m aware never resurfaced. So not exactly the most productive working relationship.

Number four showed up some time after this and this is the one I was stuck with until the end of the licence. I’ve never quite been able to come up with an appropriate label for Number 4 who veered between jobsworth, ragingly incompetent, completely disinterested and spiteful. But I’ve always been struck throughout every single interaction I had with her, how completely unsuited to the job she was. Every interaction we had was about her and not me and on the odd occasion when things were about me it was always about her, if you get what I mean. She had absolutely no interest in any developments happening in the world or the criminal justice system that may have an impact on her job or me; she refused to look at any documents such as court papers I had that would have corrected the many many instances of incorrect information in my probation records and her decision making seemed to be lacking in both rigour and care. She got really pissed off if I complained about her to management no matter how justified the complaint might have been (interestingly every one was found in my favour). My philosophy was, if you’re going to hold me to account for my failings then it is not unreasonable for me to do the same to you, especially when those failings can impact hugely on me. The whole do unto others thing. But apparently people get really upset when you treat them as they treat you.

There were a number of specific areas that came up as particularly unsatisfactory during the term of the licence. These were:

Accommodation

Despite being offered suitable (and free) accommodation by a friend which would have allowed me a secure roof over my head whilst I got my life back on track after release and the other probation trust agreeing in writing to accept me if the OM put in a request, my OM refused point blank to even entertain the idea. So I got released back to an area I had no connection to but was merely where I got arrested with nowhere to live and no support network. She did, grudgingly refer me to the local homeless hostel where I spent a truly awful four months living in a worse environment than prison (more drug addicts openly using, more crime etc) with the only advantages being better food and the fact you could come and go as you pleased. I also ended up with less money than I’d had in prison as the hostel took over half of my weekly benefit amount.

It’s not just me who has had these issues regarding accommodation on release. I regularly talk to a homeless guy in our town centre who spent time in jail and ended up on the streets on release despite being offered accommodation with his family in another area of the country (his OM also refused to let him move away from the area he was arrested in). His view of probation is about as positive as mine. He has had even less help or support from his OM than I have, which is saying something. Despite there being a number of emergency beds in the homeless shelters in town available every night the OM didn’t even bestir herself to refer him to any of them or even to the local homeless team when he got out and without a referral you can’t get in to them and you can’t self refer. She has done absolutely nothing for him since his release seemingly quite happy that he is living on the street, regularly beaten up by drunks on the weekend, begging for money for food and with his mental and physical health visibly deteriorating week by week

Grants

Many grants available to people in desperate need of money, such as ex prisoners, can often only be accessed through a third party such as probation or a social worker. Some of the easiest to get funding for, for ex prisoners, is only through probation submitting an application on behalf of the ex prisoner.

Probation, prior to TR, was reluctant to do even the simplest of grants for even the most basic necessities. Post TR, there was an absolute refusal to even consider this despite it being clearly explained, with supporting documents, how important it was for probation to help because it may often have been the only source of funds available to meet basic needs.

Charities and grant funding trusts would be more than likely unaware that probation were now refusing to help needy applicants apply for funds so would have been very unlikely to change the application terms so another referrer could be sought and utilised such as the CAB (not every ex prisoner has or is eligible for a social worker for example). This refusal by probation was deliberately and knowingly cutting vulnerable people off from accessing funds that could help them get their lives back on track. I’d also add that these grant applications were simple and straightforward so would have taken little time to complete.

Jobs

The major thing that really struck me about how dysfunctional probation was, was in relation to working or volunteering after release from prison. Study after study has shown that getting a job after prison is one of the main things that helps reduce the possibility of reoffending. So you’d think that probation would be only too supportive of someone wanting to get a job and having the skills and experience to do so and who was a very low risk offender unlikely to reoffend. But the reality is weirdly quite different.

I wanted to get a decent job that would allow me to use my skills and experience and give me a liveable income or at least do some volunteering until I could secure a reasonable job after a being unemployed for three years languishing at Her Majesty’s pleasure. There was nothing in my licence that would have prevented me from working or even volunteering but oddly, obstacle after obstacle was put in my way. At one point I was threatened with recall for even enquiring about volunteering placements.

In fact the only thing she would let me apply for was Timpsons’ training programme for ex cons (and this only after I filed a complaint about her refusal to let me work or volunteer). But as I have never had the slightest desire to do shoe repairs, would be unlikely to be considered for any such role being vastly over qualified (i.e. Timpsons would consider I wouldn’t stay so it would be a waste of time and money training me) and had a medical condition that affected my manual dexterity so wouldn’t have been able to actually do the job, this was a non starter.

I wasn’t allowed to go down the self employed route either. Apparently this was a sure fire way for me to start prolifically reoffending despite a total lack of evidence to support this assertion (my offence had nothing to do with my previous employment for example).

I wasn’t even allowed to do any voluntary work which would have polished up my skill set and given me a good reference for when I was allowed to work again. From what I was able to dig out of an alternate and fifth OM who subbed for number 4 when she was away on holiday or off sick, it boiled down to the fact that the OM simply couldn’t be bothered to do the necessary paperwork for volunteer or paid employment and routinely refused permission for anyone she was supervising to do either.

Mind you, talking to other people who I was inside with who were on licence at the same time as me or who still are, this is very common amongst OM’s as only one of us has actually been permitted to work during their licence period. Everyone else was, let’s say, “strongly discouraged” from doing so. Give that we’re all in different areas under different CRC’s or different bits of the NPS it’s clearly an issue across the board and not just limited to one OM in one CRC. It seems that consigning those released from prison to a life on benefits whilst on licence is much preferred by a substantial number of probation practitioners in all areas simply because it’s less work for the OM. The fact that it’s potentially very detrimental to the ex prisoner and counter to the stated goals of rehabilitation and probation seems completely irrelevant.

So basically I was stuck on benefits for the entire licence which was just so much fun though at least the DWP couldn’t sanction me because it was probation preventing me from working and not anything I was or was not doing. Now I’m off licence, I’ve been out of the work place for so long, I’m verging on unemployable. Trying to get more up to date qualifications has proven to be a non starter as you simply can’t get funding if you already have a degree qualification and having been on benefits for over three years and losing absolutely everything I owned whilst inside, I cannot self fund. I’ve started doing some volunteer work in a local charity shop just to get myself out of the house as much as possible and back into the real world. All of this could have been so easily avoided and makes me wonder why probation is allowed to get away with doing things like this.

Reporting/Supervision

One thing that did noticeably change was that reporting went from face to face meetings to phone calls immediately after February 2015. I’d gone from weekly meetings to fortnightly meetings after three months to monthly meetings after 6 months. But the moment things got handed over to the privateers the monthly face to face went to monthly phone calls with face to face meetings scheduled only once in a blue moon. This is true for all of those on licence I know no matter what our risk level. I’m not sure how you can properly supervise anyone over the phone especially in this day and age of mobile phones because the supervisee could literally be anywhere doing anything but as long as they answer the phone at the scheduled time that’s apparently fine.

Every single reporting session was a complete waste of time. I learned very quickly, as did just about everyone else I knew on licence, that it was simply not a good idea to talk about anything personal, good or bad with your OM because it only led to trouble. You got in and out as quickly as possible, said as little as possible and never discussed anything personal. One of the few people I know who didn’t stick to this rule got recalled for bursting into tears in front of their OM after getting some bad news about a death in the family and was promptly recalled as apparently crying means you’re emotionally unstable and immediately going to run out and commit a crime (she wasn’t, she just had a perfectly normal reaction to some bad news).

Supervision suggests an active involvement with the offender and working with them to help them understand what caused them to commit the crime in the first place and what would stop them reoffending in the future and providing the help necessary to facilitate that. What you get in practice these days is a tick box exercise of a monthly phone call lasting no more than five minutes and zero help. In most cases, not even a leaflet.

The legal stuff

One thing that has always struck me about both prison and probation is the sheer disregard for the law most prison and probation staff have. Trampling over inmates’ or those on licence’s legal rights happens on a regular basis and with seeming endorsement by management who consistently fail to either provide proper training to prevent it or police those breaking the law in their organisations. This always strikes me as completely hypocritical. Surely both prison and probation staff have a moral and ethical, if not legal, obligation to set a good example for those they supervise to help those convicted of crime lead a law abiding life? It really doesn’t inspire anyone trying to go straight to constantly see people regularly and with seeming impunity break the law. The law, it would seem, to a casual observer of such things, only applies to those society have deemed to be on the receiving end of it.

I was lucky enough to have sufficient education, intelligence and strength of character (which no doubt some would label “bloody mindedness”) to be able to inform myself of my legal rights and to tackle a dysfunctional system that ran roughshod over those rights on a regular basis. I was also not what one would deem vulnerable having no mental health issues, no drug or alcohol issues and had not been exploited by anyone and forced to commit crime. If I had been vulnerable, as so many are who end up in prison, I would have received no help or support from a system that is supposed to provide such things and would probably have ended up back inside as no doubt many who I knew inside did simply because they failed to get the help and support they needed to turn their lives around. Probation, in my experience, never really seemed to care about those it supervised and now simply doesn’t give a toss about anything other than ticking all the boxes to collect all the money.

Another thing that changed noticeably between pre and post TR was the whole data protection thing which, as anyone who has read Inside Time on a regular basis will know, is a major issue for prisoners due to their records being riddled with inaccuracies which cause huge problems with progression and release. Pre TR you got a copy of your records for free under a data subject access request and it was pretty straightforward to get inaccuracies amended. After TR you had to cough up a tenner despite the fact they are basically the same records written by the same people. Which if you’re on benefits is a lot of money and would put most people off asking for them no matter how badly they were needed. Another clear sign that the CRC’s are not providing a service for the benefit of anyone.

My OASys reports were consistently done late and, for the most part inaccurately completed (wrong offence, wrong date of birth, incorrect name spellings to name just a few issues). It turned out these issues weren’t just limited to the OASys but were also throughout every record held by the Trust/CRC. This is despite the fact that the Data Protection Act 1998 is very clear that anyone putting any personal data about you into their organisation’s records has a legal obligation to ensure that what they are entering is factually accurate. With any data received from third parties there is also a legal obligation to verify it for accuracy before it is entered into your records. You also have to record the source of the third party data. Professional opinions are allowed to be included in your data BUT they must be clearly shown to be just that and cannot be presented as fact.

Unfortunately my OM was blithely unaware of her legal obligations re the DPA until I tackled her about why she was stating so many factually inaccurate things in my records and passing off her professional opinion of me as fact. Not only was she unaware of her legal obligations, it also turned out she simply didn’t care. She even stated on a significant number of occasions that it “was not her job” when the law states it is. This is a massive failing in training staff by management especially where companies and organisations can end up with some pretty hefty fines for data protection failings. It is not enough to appoint a Data Controller in head office and assume your legal obligations are done and dusted; you have to thoroughly train staff in their legal obligations as well in this area. I can only assume it’s because management assumes all offenders are stupid and/or uneducated with no interest in or understanding of their legal rights so they can get away with it.

My OM seemed to also be blithely unaware of my licence conditions despite the fact she’d actually written them. She’d stuck me with some special licence conditions which were ludicrous and completely unnecessary as the standard conditions would have easily covered things and I was about the lowest risk offender going (according to all analyses). But even though she had actually drafted these conditions, she seemed to be completely unaware of what they actually said and on several occasions she alleged I’d breached the terms of my licence when I hadn’t simply because she had misinterpreted what she herself had actually written. It took a formal complaint to the Chief Executive to resolve the matter which seemed a ridiculous way to have to resolve things.

So what have I learned from my time on licence? I cannot in all conscience say that I learned anything from being in prison or on licence except that the entire system is completely dysfunctional and not fit for purpose. There is absolutely no benefit whatsoever for most people of being supervised by probation as it currently stands. In fact, for most people, probation seems to be a horrendous waste of time and money that could be better invested in things that might actually work to help reduce reoffending.

It’s also clear that an awful lot of people employed in the service are, like a lot of prison officers, simply not suited to the job. I have no idea if my OM is typical or not of the average probation officer in the current system – she may well be to some degree from what I have gathered from talking to others on licence. But it seems from the experience of all these people that the average OM leaves a lot to be desired. This cannot all be down to a flawed system that has decimated any help there was back in the good old days but must have something to do with those working in probation at all levels. You do hear the odd encouraging story of a decent OM but sadly they seem to be in the minority. The best things I’ve heard from people about their OM was that they kept out of the way whilst people got on with their lives and they didn’t impose stupid shit on their supervisees. In other words, they were better than most simply by being pretty much absent from the equation.

I struggle to see how things can be fixed without throwing the entire current system out and installing a completely new one based on a system that actually does what it says on the tin like the Nordic or Dutch systems. Though there is unfortunately zero appetite from government for such things as has become increasingly clear over the past decade or so. It might help if the SSJ was someone who had courage, convictions and actually had a clue but no Tory seems to possess such qualities.

There also needs to be root and branch wholesale look at the entire criminal justice system in the UK. If other countries can get it right, or at least do a lot better than the UK is, why are those in charge in this country so reluctant to introduce practice that actually works? It needs to start in the police station after someone has been arrested and proceed through the entire court system, into prison or probation.

I suspect that practitioners who still have pride in their profession will strongly disagree with what I have said but this is my experience of life on licence and not so very different to experiences of others on licence during the same time period.


Anon

34 comments:

  1. I don't know what to make of this blog. Seemingly 'low risk' but with special licence conditions. It stretches credulity to accept that someone could be breached for crying! I know there are flaws in probation, both pre and post-TR, but this screed is too much of a diatribe, that rings curiously hollow.

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    1. I thought that too. Whilst it does appear the the OP has not had the best of times on Probation part of me feels that the post was written by someone in denial.

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    2. which makes you part of the problem. People can and do get breached for crying when being informed of a death in the family as they are viewed as mentally unstable. You may not have breached anyone for such things but others have. just because you don't personally know any doesn't mean it ain't true

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    3. @11:59

      I don't know of one Court who would punish for such a breach or one SPO who would sanction a recall for 'someone crying', more so given your claim that it was due to them being informed of a death in the family. Whilst I thank you for your post I really do feel that you had more of a motive than simply telling everyone of your negative feelings/experience on Probation.

      I'm confident that this is a view shared by many on here.

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  2. If only the OM had a right of reply

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    1. Sounds very true of all probation practice as you rush to defend a first hand articulated view.The professionals covering up for each other exposed as crap.

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    2. It may be true of some probation practice, but to assert it as true of all points to bigotry. Yes, it's well-articulated – the devil has the best tunes variety - but that adds nothing to its actual worth as a testament.

      The writer claims to have been successful with a judicial review. These are expensive and you would think out of reach for someone on benefits. I think this blog is fake news borne of a grievance.

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    3. Judicial review undertaken whilst in custody and qualified for legal aid due to nature of breach of legal rights and before Coalition brought in LASPO. You need to read things more carefully as it's quite clear in the post that the JR was done whilst in custody.

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  3. Probation Officer12 August 2017 at 10:29

    I don't know what to make of this either. I doubt any probation officer would have promoted privatisation by Purple Futures / Interserve as a good thing. Likewise it makes no sense to block suitable accommodation and employment. And nobody in the community refers to probation officers as an "OM", or do they? Of course there are many moronic, inexperienced and poorly trained probation officers out there and those unsuited to the job, but there's so many problems with this one I'd have to say the writer is either exaggerating or perhaps not on probation in the first place. "Recalled for crying", "special licence conditions" and "I was the lowest risk" .... really!!

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    1. Actually virtually everyone on licence from 2010 on refers to their probation officer as an OM because that's what we were told to refer to them as when we were inside. OS in custody, OM in the community. Simply because they have now been relabelled by management doesn't mean those on licence still don't refer to them as OM's. Plus I'd also add that it is perfectly possible to be low risk and have special licence conditions. Stranger things have happened but you clearly have a closed mind about what is or is not possible and dismiss anything outside your own experience as some kind of fake news.

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    2. When you write something and post it on a public forum, particularly when that forum is dominated by readers that have both a professional interest, and personal opinion on the subject mater that the forum debates, then you have to be prepared and accept whatever response your comment attracts.
      There's no point in getting upset or defensive, and replying with comments like 'you have a closed mind' isn't very informative, and to my mind anyway, damages the credibility of your original comments.
      Say what you want to say.
      Stand by what you say.
      But don't shoot down those that disagree with you, or even disbelieve you.
      Their comments are just as valid as your own.

      'Getafix

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    3. "virtually everyone on licence from 2010 on refers to their probation officer as an OM".

      No this is not true.

      Fake news!

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    4. I'm still on licence and I still refer to my probation officer as an OM as I've never been told that he's anything else

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  4. On the whole I don't really read or comment on blogs by ex cons. I rarely find them objective, and negative rethoric isn't necessary as the system is so broken that the reality is bad enough by itself.
    I think today's post is a mixture of both rethoric and reality.
    My first contact with probation was in 1978, and it so very different to where it is now that it's hard to even make a comparison. I'd even advance an argument that probation no longer exists, and that probation officers are now really only parole officers enforcing licence conditions. I don't suggest that's come about by choice.
    Much has been said over the last few days on here about the importance of the relationship between PO and offender, and I agree that's vital. But so is continuity with that relationship and most vital is access. If you can't get access when you need it, it's often to late when you can.
    In 1978, my probation officers was almost an extended family member. My mother had as much access as I had, and I've even walked in the house to find my mother and PO discussing my many faults and few successes over a cup of tea and biscuits.
    I didn't particularly enjoy the scrutiny, but I always knew my PO would lend support and assistance and they weren't the enemy.
    That isn't the truth in today's probation.
    Driven by a prison service ideology, legislation and privatisation, the service has morphed into a controlling model. It's comply or sanction. The possibility of sanction (recall) creates a barrier to that all essential relationship. I'd never dream of being as open and honest with a PO today as I was back in 1978. I might not view you as the enemy, but honesty and openness has the potential of becoming a process of self harm. Why would you risk it. And anyway, the assistance that can be given is so limited it's a pretty useless exercise putting your problems on the table.
    Where once the offender was the primary focus of services, the primary focus now is on making sure all the box's are ticked, negate any fallout, and keeping the MoJ happy with statistics data.
    There is actually very little that probation services can do anymore for their clients, and really provides no service at all to the offender.
    Question. "From an offenders point of view, what support and assistance can they expect to be afforded by the modern day model of probation?"
    I really think it sad it's gone the way it has, and I feel sorry for those that are now trapped within a service that bears no resemblance to that which they joined.
    Maybe just maybe, in order to achieve their £20,000 bonuses next year those at the MoJ will reinvent probation again where the offender actually gets 'some' benefit from it? Perhaps not eh?

    'Getafix

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    1. How in comparison this rings true, so neatly encapsulated in citing relationship, continuity and access as foundational principles in building rapports conducive to helping someone to change and channel their energies constructively. It was the culture of advise, assist and befriend – and it was destroyed as probation practice became dehumanised and fragmented. It is no wonder that probation clients these days are more inclined to distrust rather than trust low morale probation staff who are enmeshed in a a bureaucratic spider's web.

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  5. Today's headline blog is extensive, well written & someone's experience. Why rubbish it? It is as valid as any other observation, however uncomfortable or subjective it may feel. Allow the criticism to generate discussion around the wider issues of (1) Trusts were the first casting of the target-driven NomsNet & (2) TR is a clusterfuck.

    There's no need to take offence & attack the author. They've already made it clear they don't trust probation so why step into the shoes they've cobbled together for you? Unless those shoes fit just snug...

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    1. That's a two way argument.

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    2. It's a dubious piece and I say this because I think this having read it. Yes, it's well-written, but so what: it's not being responded to for its grammar and construction. It's simply an attack on probation by someone who is disgruntled. Beyond this it says nothing that enlightens or informs the debate about TR – and even if all the experiences described are true, so what: there are limits to how far you can reasonably extrapolate from the subjective.

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  6. As a PSO (now CM in new money for a CRC) with 19yrs experience within the CJS - I read the guest blog with interest and not total disbelief. Some of what's described is most certainly eyebrow raising as you'd like to think of your colleagues as forward none discriminatory thinkers - however I have experienced said professionals behaving badly and have questioned why they have choosen to work with people that obviously annoy and upset them in a day to day basis - I have seen those people rise to the dizzy heights of management and question those that have deemed them fit to do the job !! - but hey ho that happens in Government and every profession all we can do is call them to task. I have in th main worked with and continue to work with dedicated individuals who stand between the devil and the deep blue sea of offenders they supervise and management trying to do their upmost in keeping everyone happy - you can please some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time (a Bob Marley quote me thinks !! ).

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  7. You sound like hard work, if not delusional. The first two probation officers didn't respond to your letters and you filed a complaint "about their rudeness". The third you challenged with judicial review and later "vanished". The fourth "veered between jobsworth, ragingly incompetent, completely disinterested and spiteful".

    I'm not surprised probation is failing with all the time spent on your bloody complaints!

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    1. I 'm not surprised that a PO is claiming that the writer of this piece is delusional because I've yet to meet a PO who likes being told that they and their colleagues are not up to the job. I'm just glad you're not my PO. The post details one person's experience of probation and they are entitled to own that experience. As for complaining about people failing to meet professional standards, why not? Are PO's somehow exempt from good practice and professional behaviour? Should they not be pulled up when they fall short? If someones legal rights are being abused should they not challenge this? Pretty sure if someone was trampling over your rights you'd be screaming blue murder because those who complain about someone standing up for theirs will always scream the loudest for any infraction of theirs. I'd also note that management will be the ones dealing with any complaints not PO's

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  8. Looking in from outside the probation world many comments in response to today's blog-piece are extraordinarily defensive verging on aggressive. The blog is a point of view. It might not be accurate, it might be a pastiche, it might be a fabrication. So what if its a fictional critique? The motivation to be so critical comes from somewhere, even if the facts might be inaccurate or elaborated upon. The author clearly feels he/she has not been heard.

    There's a level of arrogance & high-handedness in some of the responses (presumably by probation staff?) that lends credibility to the blog-author's view about self-obsession in probation: "Every interaction we had was about her [the OM]..."

    There have been other guest blogs involving elaborate navel-gazing. Few, if any, seem to have attracted the barbed responses of today.

    Please don't forget that the overwhelming caseloads supervised by overworked, underpaid probation staff are made up of people who will be variously vulnerable, compliant, unwell, angry, difficult, grateful...

    They still deserve a voice; just as plenty of probation staff have used this blogspace to voice their anonymous opinions.

    Probation - you've changed.

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    1. Maybe so, or maybe it's that those working in probation know a lot of what's written here is not realistic.

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    2. And you know this how? Do you know the details of every single interaction each of your colleagues has with everyone they supervise? Thought not. You have absolutely no idea what a PO will say to someone they supervise unless you are actually present in the room as well. So therefore you cannot state that the post is unrealistic without hard evidence that it is. Simply because something is outside your personal experience does not mean that it has not happened to someone somewhere. The world is full of people experiencing things every day that you do not experience and maybe never will. Does that invalidate those people's experiences or make them fake simply cos you've never personally experienced those things? Not it does not.

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  9. Even though the blog sounds unbelievable I think this is what the service will look like in the future. I work for interswerve, and there seems to be no focus on good quality work it all centers around targets. Sadly we have too many cases to give everyone the time they need so this sort of practice will be common place and interswerve don't care as long as the boxes are ticked and the money keeps rolling in. Its disgusting that they have been given more money to continue, we are no longer a service but a business.

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  10. A few thoughts:

    The OP uses language that is insulting, demeaning, dismissive and implies entitlement and a superior attitude whilst at the same time making no mention that he/she created the situation they were in by their own offending choices; some acknowledgement as to their personal responsibility would be something. It reads like this particular individual is less interested in a collaborative working relationship but one in which he/she called the shots.

    The OP comes across as eminently capable, we have to be judicious sometimes and not spoon feed or pander to those who are already fully equipped to rejoin the community.

    Recall for a grief stricken emotive out pouring in isolation is guff. Factor in complex mental health problems linking to volatility and some dysfunctional coping and it's another story.

    Licence conditions and restrictions on employment are almost always risk related.

    Frankly I don't have the energy to sustain the same professional stoicism, tact and diplomacy outside of the working week. It's hardly surprising the responses here are less than might be expected when in front of our own caseloads

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    1. "Frankly I don't have the energy to sustain the same professional stoicism, tact and diplomacy outside of the working week."

      Amongst the shitloads of vitriol & "guff" this for me is the most honest comment today.

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    2. Agreed 19:04 and 19:46 entirely.

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  11. I think that most probation professionals will know colleagues who could have been that OM. In my office there are are a few officers who are simply in the wrong job and I have no idea of how they got there. They tend to moan about everything, and especially about their managers. They turn up late, leave early then ask for 'condensed working hours' when they know nobody is watching their hours properly. Despite all this they take home just as much money as the really professional officers, do a third of the work and complain that they haven't had a pay increase for x number of years. It is very very sad to see a once proud profession not be bothered to deal with such people.

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  12. With reference to employment...I agree. My probation officer suggested I get married, have children and sit at home instead of trying to find employment as according to her it's impossible to be employed with a record. She also actively discouraged my starting a self employed business (which I did anyway and didn't tell her).

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  13. Synonymous of new breed robots ...poor criminal justice degree from a poor new university. That's what's the government wanted and got . That's why no pay rise in a hundred years ...

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  14. As a former PO ( now retired ) after 33 years, TR destroyed what was a highly performing, professional Probation Service. Purple Futures is/was a joke. I lasted only 2 years working for them. However, having spent my last few years trying to understand the dubious world of " Performance " I know you would get "ticks" for finding a Service User accommodation and or employment. In fact this was measured for years- codes on Delius etc . I therefore find it difficult to believe that any CM working for PF would not see this as a priority even if they were clueless about quality supervision.

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  15. This is in no way a reflection of my experience spending 10yrs working in Probation, including as a PSO.
    Whilst unsuitable colleagues surfaced from time to time, they were few and far between.
    Late OASys etc I can believe. But the description of people who don't want to offer any support to any of their clients just doesn't ring true to me.

    However skewed this may present to us however, we must recognise that this is how things can be experienced by those using the service. Bringing together the two realities to something better is realistically what needs to happen.

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