Sunday, 25 February 2018

Pick of the Week 44

Michael Spurr has said no to any pay increase for Probation. Surely it is now time to strike in the NPS and if the CRC employers offer nothing then all out in the CRC also. Strike action needs to be long and sustained to have an impact. Let’s get everyone out and stay out. Let them bring the army in. The prison officers will be there too.

As someone working in a Northern office who went on strike several times in the last few years I would suggest that there is no stomach for a strike and in my office we have a predominantly non union workforce. Should a strike be mooted you'll hear all the same excuses..."I cant afford it"...."CRC is nothing to do with me"..."I'm alright"..."It'll damage my chances of promotion".."I'm a single parent"....with the expectation being that there will always be someone else to do it...."Ill sit back and accept any pay rises that are offered."

Transition into the Civil Service has led to a culture that is bullying in everything but name and it starts from the top. If you dare e-mail an ACE - god help you - they're too busy to deal with the likes of us - they get onto the SPO to demand an explanation. Then of course the SPO being one of the 'Competency based' new lot is so full of their own self importance, they rollback Oasys on the basis of "they don't think it should be like that" and then in the next breath tell you that "it's YOUR assessment" FFS. The only glimmer of mild resistance came in the recent survey of MO that dictatorial agenda created "just in case there's an SFO." Fear now stalks the halls of probation were once there was reason and understanding.

But the managers of yesteryear have now been usurped by the Civil Service lot and their sense of uber importance. I agree with [above], but it just wont happen. Joining up with the POA may be the only way in which we will achieve some changes to the current pay scales and have some real change. Real change in terms of the campaign to reunite the service from the disastrous (but not unseen) impact that TR has. At least the Labour party has made a commitment to re-unify the service.

1. I am a probation officer so I am always right.
2. The person on the other side of the desk must always listen and agree.
3. ‘Breach’ and ‘recall’ are the names of my whips.
4. I always recommend custody and never recommend release (except for cute white/blonde guys and gals that agree with me).

There have always been probation officers like this, old and new, usually lacking intelligence and unsuited to the job. This worsened when we were told we were an enforcement agency and buddied up to the police and prisons. The increase in inexperienced and poorly trained probation officers employed over the past 10 years perpetuated this problem, cultured by a management that embraced being puppets of the prisons, NOMS and the MoJ/Civil Service. These trainees are now the directors, managers, trainers spreading this foul practice, and reinforce their culture by employing their like-minded colleagues in vacant positions of authority, SPO, Director, etc.

"Cameras do not work either and prisons already have cctv. The police were more mindful of their behaviour because they knew they were being cctv monitored." Yes prisons theoretically have CCTV, BUT a lot of the time it doesn't work and everyone, both staff and prisoners know exactly where the "blind spots" are where the CCTV doesn't reach so inevitably stuff happens in the blind spots. Body worn cameras would certainly do away with he said/she said and give an accurate recording of incidents so those truly at fault could be hold to account be those officers or prisoners.

Why is it that we’re always interested in these ex-prisoners providing eye witness accounts and being mentors, volunteers and set up rehabilitation companies, but never do any seem to work in prisons or probation? Many are educated and work experienced, so why isn’t there more probation officers that have been to prison/have criminal records? They would be more understanding and less prone to recommending prisons sentences and recall as if it were sweets. The same with prison officers, would they not be more able to understand and prevent some of the problems caused by the failing prison system? Go a bit further, solicitors, police, magistrates, judges. Instead we have a system where criminal records follow people forever and render them lepers in the workforce. I’ve never heard the HMPPS, POA and NAPO comment on this either!

Was ever always thus - I have a lively 'history'. When I was interviewed in early 1990's for DipSW we had a lively discussion about my disclosure form. The biggest issue for the Home Office representative on the panel (now a 'grand fromage' within HMPPS) was the fact I wasn't wearing a suit & tie to the interview, which was the only basis used to decline my application. That was overruled, I was cleared by Home Office vetting & completed the DipSW.

I found my 'history' became increasingly valuable in informing my work as a PO. Ten years later I was on a panel selecting TPO candidates & one of the more senior members of the panel simply refused to accept candidates with ANY criminal convictions. When I enlightened them about my 'history' they demanded that I was removed from the selection panel (I wasn't) and continued "You shouldn't even be employed by us." That person soon became a leading light in the development of probation policy & implementation of - and cashing in on - CRCs.

But the vengeful fuckers have long memories. They don't let anything go until they have exacted their revenge...Fast Forward to 2013 & I was eventually punished for my sins against The Establishment - sifted into, then discarded by, the CRC. Now its my turn*:

"The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he, who in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers."

* rest assured I don't intend to shoot them.

Truth be told, I had a ‘history’ myself in my teenage years. I disclosed in my TPO interview during the question “give an example of something you’d do differently”. Jaws dropped, but they let me through because I had the education and experience. I believe the panel stood by their belief in rehabilitation and change, and gave me a chance. Back then employing a percentage with criminal records was encouraged. I recall a visiting home office minister commenting on it as an action that needed to be increased. Fast forward many years and I’ve proven them right, I’ve been an asset to this job but sadly, I’ve seen both colleagues and offenders oppressed by colleagues, managers and the system for having criminal records. I’ve sat on those very same recruitment panels and the comments have been shocking. I’ve watched it all quietly, with my cards close to my chest.

When I was a teenager my own social worker disclosed being in prison, one of my uni lecturers was once in prison too. They didn’t have to hide their past and were encouraged to draw on it, whereas probation management told me to keep it hidden with the threat it ‘could’ be used against me should I not tow the line. Experience of many walks of life is useful in this job, and I know a few other colleagues that benefit from both theory and practice of being a prisoner, some overtly and some covertly. 

In my book these have always been the best probation officers and social workers, sometimes the best of citizens too. It doesn’t matter though because there’ll always be jobs I’ll never get and countries I’ll never visit because of something that took place many years ago. I made the NPS. I think I’ll be vetted out at some point too, and I’ve already heard of colleagues with past convictions being forced in to lesser roles and locations because of new vetting processes. This is the hidden discrimination within our workforce which nobody cares about, not the unions, not the management, nobody. The pinnacle of justice rehabilitation is to employ those with past convictions in the very fields that provide rehabilitation. Instead our prisoners receive inhumane treatment and are discarded on release, those with criminal records forever trying to catch up with the rest of society but never quite getting there.

There was an excellent award winning ex-offender engagement service in London that sought to employ ex offenders to offer peer support to needy offenders. MTCnovo weren’t interested in it continuing and made the inspirational leader - an officer of 40 odd years service - compulsorily redundant.

These services are not enough, mere gimmicks. If ‘ex-offenders’ can be overtly employed for ‘peer support’ then why are they not being overtly employed as probation, prison, police officers and social workers? Hands up every probation officer that’s encouraged an ‘ex offender’ to become a probation officer? How’s about that for a future blog post title?

I get pretty fed up with the argument of drugs drones and phones. They're not responsible for staff shortages. They're not responsible for budget cuts. They're not responsible for the lack of purposeful activity. They're not responsible for shortages of clothing and food. Chris Grayling is. It's an uncomfortable truth for the authorities, but they can't stop drugs entering prisons, and the drugs of choice getting in are causing significant problems with violence, selfharm assaults and suicides.

If you stick a notice on the end of every prison landing saying that for whatever reason drug testing is to be targeted on psychoactive and class A drugs and as a consequence no one will now be tested for THC until further notice, you will change the whole supply and demand of the prison drug trade. Herbal cannabis will become the drug of choice solely because it attracts no penalty whilst other drugs do. It doesn't solve the drug problem by itself, but I would argue that it would significantly impact on violence and self harm and the day to day good order and discipline a prison depends on to function properly. I know the notion of turning a blind eye to cannabis use would rankle with politicians, but you have to use the tools you've got, and if politicians hadn't created such a mess in the first place it might not be something that would need to be considered.

Correct in every respect. I seem to recall you have previously posted about the impact of MDTs on drug use in prisons, i.e. the shift from cannabis to opiates to New Psychoactive Substances (amusingly the acronym is NPS). The means of testing & the half-life of the known/proscribed drug inform the results. I guess there are no known figures for the half-life of the NPS, e.g. spice.

The drug’s half-life = how long it takes for the liver and kidneys to break down and filter half of the amount of the drug in your bloodstream. As with calculating alcohol units. So if a drug’s half-life is one hour, after one hour you’d have half as much of the drug in your blood as you did when you first took it. After two hours its a quarter, and after three hours, an eighth, etc. Most tests aren't overly sensitive so a drug has probably effectively 'cleared your system' after five half-lives.

THC’s half-life for infrequent users is about 1.3 days. Because THC can dissolve in fat, it will soak into the body’s fat stores and then slowly release over time back into the blood, prolonging its effects. Regular users can expect a half-life of five to 13 days, hence the 28-day rule-of-thumb many quote (five X 5 days, etc). Morphine is 1.5 to 7 hours - even compared to 1.3 days there's no competition! Methadone is 10 to 60 hours, still considerable less than cannabis.

So the fear of MDTs drove people to move from relatively benign cannabis (not true for everyone, I know) to Class A & the totally unknown NPS options. Many moons ago I remember a Cat A prison governor telling a meeting "off-the-record" that he was happy to let the remand wing "smoke itself daft". He said it was the only way he could make the prison a viable, manageable environment. He was furious about the MDT policy and added he was so concerned he would have to consider early retirement - which happened soon afterwards.

The Home Office research paper in March 2005 concluded "The prison service has invested heavily in MDT and the staff have shown high commitment to the proper implementation of this drug control strategy within the prisons. If the key aim has been to reduce all types of illegal drug use within establishments, then it is possible to say that through the reduction in cannabis use it has been a relative success... Overall the MDT programme has had a significant impact on cannabis but little impact on heroin use."

Sadly neither Napo HQ nor Napo members who refused to strike did the profession any favours 2009-2017. Since the SW branch stood firm there seems to have been a more robust stance from Napo but Gen Sec still seems out of his depth. And in the meantime as someone observes above, the T&Cs have been haemorrhaging annual leave, allowances, pay rises, etc. Night shift shelf stacking at a supermarket pays £12ph: Sun - Thurs at 10 hours a night = £600pw, or £2400pm.

I can fully understand why many would call for strike action. But, I find it difficult to see what that would achieve. In the public sector there's no real productivity lost. People prepare for the strike days by doing a bit extra before, and catch up on rest afterwards. In fact because of the loss of pay its a process of paying to demonstrate your discontent to organisations and government that are fully aware of why you're so angry but couldn't give a shite. 

You also risk getting the spin doctors busy and make strike action more damaging than good. A protracted national public service strike may bring better results, but the same risks remain. It's not the amount of people that can be mustered that's important, it's the amount of public support that any action brings that's crucial. 

I think the public sector is very frayed, and the bit that stops it all unravelling is the goodwill shown by those who work in it. For me that's the key. The removal of goodwill would be far more effective then strike action. Not doing overtime. Not covering for those off sick. Not coming in those extra days even if you're offered payment for doing so. Not doing anything other then what you're contracted to do. Apply that across the public sector, it can be as protracted as necessary, and with no one sewing up the frayed edges because it keeps everything else together, the government (to my mind) would be far more concerned and willing to listen than they would be with a couple of days strike action.

Very true. What is lacking is employee ability to see that together we have clout and there is a lack of courage to try it. Many of the managers are turning trigger happy with their threats of disciplinary and capability proceedings. A very significant issue in all this is that everyone has many more duties than can be covered in a day or a week. The "not doing anything other than what you're contracted to do" is becoming a "how long is a piece of string". New duties and activities for employees have been added sometimes on a daily basis, not just bureaucratic ones to accommodate the new pay structures for CRCs, but also duties no longer covered by facilities staff (done away with), admin staff (drastically reduced and moved away from their localities) or managers (the latter of which as mentioned above are now too busy managing to allow for their attending local partnership meetings). 

All these functions have been imposed on probation staff. Thus staff on the ground cannot possibly cover all that is required of them. All manager therefore has to do is tell anyone he wants to get rid of: "I can see you are not meeting all your requirements. You must be too slow/unable to manage your time properly etc". The person under scrutiny is then presented with a set of tasks to improve his/her "performance " and extra work in accounting for how this has been done. The subject of the proceedings has the choice of working all the hours, literally, to get the manager off their back, or alternatively enter an arena where they could potentially lose their job. If that happens to someone in a team, the other team members should then ideally rush to the person's aid pointing out to the manager that they themselves are not doing their job as fully as they "should" either. 

Even if that happened, it would be important that the whole team chose to not do those particular tasks properly which the person under scrutiny has been instructed to improve on. In that way the team can go to the manager and ask him/her to put them all on capability. But this all takes a lot of cooperation, loyalty, courage and staying power. By which time the managers will have worked out that they would split the team and relocate its members.

I'm not sure what union support is there to be had these days anyway. Some managers instruct their 'victims' not to talk to their team about what is happening to them. Some staff under proceedings feel ashamed so bear the burden themselves. I agree that much disruption could fruitfully be caused just by playing these games, but as I say it requires a togetherness and a unity and shared vision which I am less than sure the average probation team would muster. In order to up the team's confidence and sense of the clout they do have as a group by properly sticking together one small topic for change to which no or little risk would be attached could be tested out. However many teams, certainly in the CRCs, are becoming less like teams and more like a collection of individuals with fewer and fewer things in common and little investment in the job, in each other or their work place. Time to scrap the whole thing and start again.

Wages in probation are unlikely to recover. Probation should be regarded, like nursing, social work and child care, as a female profession. It seems there is no shortage of new recruits. The decline in probation continues unabated, talk about strikes are empty threats which merely underscore the sorry state of the powerless workforce – except of the course the SW Napo Branch which lives by its own set of illusory achievements.

What do you know? Nothing I venture. There are some good advisory posters on here and that is the form of rejection of the privatisation. Sadly the Napo leadership do not appear to understand the relationships of saying something and delivering on it. Nor deliver the test of challenge. Perhaps you're a senior manager? A cowardly attack. Are you a leaver and pension grabber with the extra funds?

The south Western branches are in combined disputes. They have agreed nothing and retained the protections under the legitimacy of their policies. It has been well publicised as you draw attention to it and their situation goes on and with the support of NAPO Ian Lawrence and unison. There are many things happening of which you appear to indicate do not possess the capacity to understand the significance.

Criminology and media degree three weeks training on enforcement equates to low pay and lack of professionalism totally at odds with teaching, social work and nursing who have increased standards and get more money than us ... that's the rub.

I do think that there is something in action short of a strike. Using the Workload Management Tool more effectively and refusing additional work over and above what is actually measured will not put you in breach of contract. I doubt colleagues will vote for a strike but a well co-ordinated work to rule and withdrawal of good will, may have an effect. The thing that strikes me about NPS/HMPPS is how top heavy it all is, and inevitably direct action will initially only impact on middle managers. It will need to be sustained but working in a manner that impacts directly on target outcomes will at least make life uncomfortable for more senior managers. 

I do not call them leaders as they clearly fall some way short of that title. The other thing to bear in mind is that a large number of SPOs are as fed up with this shambles and haven’t failed to notice that the only financial beneficiaries from TR have been ACOs upwards. Which follows a similar pattern in other public services. So if a strike is out of the question a form of work place disobedience may have an impact. Do not extend good will, do your hours and go home, do not take work that is not measured, when the IT packs in don’t faff about trying to complete work to hit targets. Do your hours and leave. They can not discipline everybody.

'As new potential recruits to NPS get excited on Facebook as to whether they've passed the online test and can move on to an assessment centre for the PQiP...' I don't think we should overlook the motive of new recruits to arrive well intentioned and keen to make a difference. What is the difference they should make and what does the evidence say about how it can best be achieved?  I say good luck to them, I remember how excited and daunted by the prospect I was.


“There's a wide variety of programmes on offer such as TSP and BBR priced at £2,596 per start. Yes that's right - turn up for the first session and no more and the full fee is payable.” £2596 per start! This is scandalous! The NPS is being fleeced by the CRC’s to keep the CRC’s afloat and probation staff are being bullied into making it happen. Bottom line, “purchasing” is not in my job description!

If there was any credibility in this the rate card, budget would be for purchasing services from a range of providers not just from the CRC. Many of my offenders are on crack and heroin, do we use the rate card to purchase this for them too?

This funnelling of clients into programmes pre-dates the rate card. In the Probation Trusts it was targets rather than rate cards which compelled practitioners to allocate to offending behaviour programmes on the basis of an OASys score – it was an arbitrary score as it would be adjusted lower if programme referrals were considered too low. The process was driven by bureaucratic micro-management, not personal need.

‘Man down the pub’ says push for increased Rate Card/programme referrals to secure revenue for CRC’s to keep CRC’s afloat. MoJ forced by likes of Interserve Justice and MTCnovo have warned of pulling out of financially unsustainable probation contracts. MoJ and NPS Probation directors complicit in “fixing” financial sustainability of CRC payment mechanism and operating models. All NPS PO’s / PSO’s to expect rigidly enforced appraisal objectives to procure x number Rate Card interventions from CRC for x number of offenders.

"There's a wide variety of programmes on offer such as TSP and BBR priced at £2,596 per start. Yes that's right - turn up for the first session and no more and the full fee is payable." If someone on a programme is recalled before its completion would the programme remain 'live' for that person upon their release or would another £2596 need to be paid to restart the intervention? Recall could become very profitable.

Classic Tory 'logic' at work: You can't possibly interfere with the workings of the market, that would be a horribly socialist thing to do - but if the 'market' isn't doing what you want it to do to fit your ideology, the thing to do is to compel people to do things!

A market with one supplier is a monopoly. A market with one supplier whose goods you are forced to buy is called a racket. I do not know what you call a market where the services you are forced to buy were previously owned by the buyer but subsequently given to the seller by another party to sell back to the buyer?

The rate card was a key component of how TR was meant to work. The NPS resisted using it despite a portion of taxpayers money being allocated for this purpose. The argument that they are understaffed and overworked doesn’t wash as they have been depriving offenders of services. The CRCs have been compensated for the fact the NPS have not been doing what they as public servants have been instructed to do. Staff mutuals such as RISE in London that are not ‘shit’ have been decimated by public servants in the NPS short changing them. Money is available for staffing in the NPS it simply needs a decision to allow the NPS to allow staff to be employed from the CRCs at the same salary point they are on now instead of the ludicrous temp situation we have now.

I'm of the opinion that there isn't much else out there than the wrong kind of help. It's because help has become a formula, it's not individually tailored, it's a corporate model, designed to achieve targets and outcomes more then suit the recipient of the help being offered. 

I find it very disturbing that most help extended by any organisation carries the possibility of sanction or punishment if the individual fails to respond to that help. In probation it may mean recall. At the job centre it may mean sanction and benefit loss. If you don't respond to the mental health remedy on offer you're often just signed off and left to get on with it. Failure to respond to the help on offer makes you difficult, unwilling to accept that help even, or just a nuisance. 

Everything's quantitative, designed to reach the minimum standard which has become the target where you can sign off, claim an outcome, and get paid. The quality of the help on offer is sadly missing, but public services have become the Aldi of private enterprise, if you want quality you go to Harrods and pay for it. Even the charity sector are at fault here, they've become businesses and operate under corporate models of delivery, and if that model doesn't suit the people you target, hayho, as long as there's outcomes we still get paid. 

There's many good people in our society that want to help others, but they're hamstrung by corporate sentiment and competition. Don't give the homeless money, give it to us, we can put it to better use, (or at least the 5p that's left from every £ after processing and admin costs). If you're giving the homeless something to eat that you've cooked at home, then remember about allergies - you may find yourself in bother if someone becomes ill. Real help is qualitative, and quantitative corporate models are just looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

That the voluntary sector can offer forms of help and work in ways that statutory services cannot, is axiomatic and it also shows why it's misleading to compare the two services. When things go wrong, it's not the voluntary services that gets it in the neck. The remit of the statutory is broader and deeper as it has to balance needs and risks, it has to manage boundaries and various accountability's. Take transparency as an example: having open adult-adult relationships and sharing data would in some situations be naïve and potentially dangerous.

I don't know where the head of the parole board gets his reoffending figures from when he says 99.5% of those released don't reoffend.

This is the type of method CRC’s use;

Soft targets (small payment):
TTG plan
Programme referral
Programme start
Housing referral
Employment referral
Education/vocation referral

Medium target (medium payment):
CV completed
Basic numeracy and literacy assessed
Housing advice provided
Employment and disclosure advice provided

Hard target (larger payment):
Programme completion
Housing gained
Employment gained
Qualification gained, eg health and safety, or basic numeracy and literacy.

Eg, offender referred for housing, education and employment. Targets met, payment received, even if never turned up. Or referred but found to not require services, payment triggered. Or get home and job himself, payment triggered. Or turns up to referrals triggering further medium payment, and completed triggering further payment. Win win for CRC’s and TTG services.

Reading between the lines you’ll see it’s lucrative to refer every offender to housing and employment services. Whether they need or receive housing and employment does not really matter as the pay target is already triggered.

In reality; The NPS will provide a leaflet with details of benefit entitlement, local night shelters, private landlords and hostels, and refer to local authorities housing. The CRC’s will do the same and get a payment for doing so. It’s what we already do. Lots of advice but nobody extra actually gets housed.

Most people on probation will have gone through numerous PO's both in and out of prison and so will have a pretty good idea about the quality of the average PO. And unfortunately most people's experience of those working in probation these days is far from positive with the best of them being uninspiring and the worst who should probably be locked up themselves. 

People will have been able to draw their own conclusions about the standard of PO's from their interactions with those numerous PO's. Therefore to claim that anyone who has been a "client" of probation is "generalising" about PO's when they comment, is both ridiculous and patronising in the extreme. We comment based on our personal experience and if your personal experience, plus that of numerous others we know also on probation is all basically the same, that's not generalising but being accurate about what we have experienced. You may not like what we have to say, but you certainly have no right to dismiss people's genuine experiences of probation.

Thousands of people work in probation. Hundreds of thousands of people are on probation at any one time. No matter how many "numerous others" you've spoken to, it's still only a tiny percentage of the whole. So to extrapolate this into making claims about "your average PO" or "99% of POs" are gross overstatements - and only based on opinion, not fact.

I'm not dismissing your experience. I (probably, given the odds) don't know you, so I have no reason to do so. I'm merely pointing out that making rude, deliberately inflammatory comments here is unlikely to get you taken seriously. If it helps you feel better, then go ahead, knock yourself out. But don't expect me to not call you out on your trolling of this blog.

As a probation officer, I think I’m well placed to say many probation officers are not very good. Reasons can very from poor character, discriminatory views, not suited to the job, poor training and support, bad line-management, stress, toxic work cultures and practices, and lack of resources. This is no secret, it is not new, and many offenders are right to take this view. One of the signs of a not very good probation officer is one that refuses to acknowledge the experiences and concerns of those under supervision, just as were seeing here.

If that is their view about "your average PO", then that is their view. I'd agree about the “average PO”, the good ones old and new are in the minority. There was a time the “average PO” was very good, but I do not believe this is the case any longer. To the frustrated client, vent your concerns, get it out, but it will not amount to anything accept wasting time that you could spend doing something else, reading a book even.

“Let it go, let it go
Can't hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don't care what they're going to say
Let the storm rage on
The cold never bothered me anyway”

Well I think the 'average CRC PO' is pretty crap and yes it can be for a number of reasons. Too much pressure and a toxic culture seems to be pretty much the deal. I think actually some of the CRC POs (not all of course) wouldn't have the life skills to be able to appreciate what the 1-7 actually mean or the interpersonal skills to deliver them. Some would, but then with zero support structures and zero on offer, how can they back it up anyway? And btw, being judgemental and being a good judge are different things. He/She didn't get ignored did they? So your little playground tantrum had the opposite effect.

There are three universal lies:
1. The bank are processing the payment and it will be with you soon.
2. Of course I'll still love you in the morning.
3. I'm from HR and I'm here to help you.
And therein sits a suggestion, what happens if you replace HR with Probation Officer. Harsh I know but begs a question or two at least. (Contrasted with knowledge that many many pass through your offices relatively unscathed and indeed helped :))

You’ve hit the nail on the head. “I'm a Probation Officer and I'm here to help you”. This statement was once true, but has long been replaced with; “I'm an Offender Manager and I'm here to enforce your compliance and manage your risk”. This statement is true and those that state it with pride (the majority nowadays) are not individuals I’d want to be ‘supervised’ by. Still, many indeed pass through our offices relatively unscathed and helped (contrasted with knowledge that many are not helped, breached, recalled, and are blocked at release stage).

“The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.”

Wryly amused that Probation Staff are, by and large, unified in chanting "this is shit" at the architects of TR, and then unified in their own defence when any of their clients whispers "this is shit". That aside, it is extraordinary how positive and animated the debate is as soon as the topic becomes how to do The Work well, rather than how appalling the current state of Probation is. Seems there is a groundswell of progressive, intelligent, values-based, evidence-based agreement on the part of academics, practitioners, community organisations, clients, oh just about everybody bar the Big Private Sector "providers" and their sponsors. If you chucked out the HMPPS top brass and the CRC owners, and put everyone in a room, they would have this fixed in a nano-second. Probation, CRC and NPS are SO in the wrong hands.

From what I’m reading there’s probation staff here agreeing with the clients “this is shit”. The problem is not the HMPPS top brass, it’s the NPS and CRC Probation directors and managers that dance to its tune without question, and while doing so bully and coerce probation staff to comply.

I'm happy to agree with the clients who whisper "this is shit". My objection is against those who make it a personal attack on all probation staff (ok, 99%, how reasonable of them) based on their own experiences. I also object to the way they loudly protest that their views are being dismissed, when actually if they took a slightly different approach they might actually get somewhere.

No wonder the staff bully the clients. #learnedbehaviour.

Probation was corrupted as soon as it was placed in the grubby hands of politicians, then passed across to the command & control crew at NOMS, now HMPPS. The learned behaviour has been accumulating over the last 20+ years. It's been interesting to see how quickly the sharks sensed the blood of a wounded organisation & rapidly moved in, sadistically toying with it & s l o w l y tearing out its heart. Spurr & co in particular have enjoyed the sport of the last 7 years or so, with green lights on all fronts offered by the mendacious Tories. 

Now the 'sexy' so-called high risk work of the NPS is firmly in their grasp, while the 'tedious' bread-&-butter work has been farmed out. No sense of respect for staff or those subject to court orders, no sense of breadth or depth, just a perverse desire for power & control - & personal advancement. None of the arrogant selfish fuckers would ever consider that being a PO or PSO was a valid lifetime career choice... they'd always be the first to look for the next opportunity to scramble & cut someones throat for their own advantage. So, agreed, : learned behaviour.

Desperately trying to delete enough emails to free up my backlogged account to send Licence requirement recommendations. Get email alerting me to new WMT with pages of process instructions and screen shots. 7 million bytes. F**k it.

I feel exhausted all the time. Weekends are just a respite and mostly I'm asleep. I've given up alcohol, just work my hours and no more. Eat well, exercise when I can haul myself off the sofa. I'm busting a gut doing a job which is just insane form filling. I'm not making a difference. If one more wellbeing sunny email urging me to sort myself out pops up I swear I'll go completely nuts.

Emails are relentless, all wanting something or other with not even 24 hrs notice. Management now have software that can drill down into minutiae and spreadsheets are regularly emailed asking us for answers. In Interserve any 3rd acceptable absences has to be authorised by a manager, we can't do home visits without a form to do prior to the actual visit. My concern is that we're being put under so much pressure it's affecting our health but management say spreadsheets are there to help us keep an eye on our cases. Interserve was ok but the last month it's gone like London by the sounds of it.

Just read the “Five signs you could be suffering from burnout”. I think every probation officer in England and Wales probably meet the criteria. I’m not counting probation managers because they’re paid more and generally part of the problem and rarely have any solutions.

This reflects the state of NPS & CRC probation in my area 100%. High sickness rates, increasing disciplinaries and every PO looking for a way out. Shocking that probation middle managers are willing conduits for their senior masters and bully staff into fixing the unfixable mess at ground level. Probation directors bow to their MoJ masters relentlessly sending down threatening directives alongside ideological sticking plasters from the ivory tower. The public still don’t know what we do. The Probation Institute, the “voice of probation” is dead, the HMIP is now inspecting farms and probation director Sonia Crozier has been on tv apologising for probation instead of standing up for it! The outlook is very bleak indeed. For anyone thinking about a career in probation, think again!

A sad but accurate reflection of probation service provision in England & Wales in 2018. And, like so many Tory projects in these times of austerity, it's costing the taxpayer £billions more than anything ever cost before. The handful of privileged self-styled 'elite' who steer the Tory ship are far wealthier now than they have ever been, and they aren't going to hand over the cash-cow they've created anytime soon. They are well-defended.

Shouldn't the reluctance of CRCs to provide information under the excuse of corporate confidentiality, and the MoJ trying not to provide information when it's requested be of very serious concern with any inquiry into the privatisation of probation?

In our local area CRC staff no longer even bother to make a referral to the local homeless team for people leaving prison with no address to go to, so they end up on the streets rather than in a hostel.


Thank you JSC (I suspect much credit lies with Bob Neill) for recognising, accepting the necessity of & enabling anonymised evidence in the current climate of victimisation & McCarthyism within organisations who seek to hide their own incompetence & greed under the 'commercially sensitive' cloak of invisibility.

Every day I am also witnessing too many of my colleagues suffering but I wouldn’t include managers (NPS & CRC). Senior Probation Officers (aka middle-managers) don’t supervise 70 and 90 cases and in my region they are well known as part of the problem. They sign off a few recalls every week and write a few staff supervision notes. The rest of their time is spent barking by email, bullying staff over targets, grassing staff up to HR and making themselves look good to senior managers, hoping for that next promotion. Senior Managers (aka assistant directors) are no better. They attend meetings for the sake of meeting and plot new ways to use staff to make themselves look good to the director, hoping for that next promotion.

I'm going to give shout for many managers. I know them personally. Even the go-getters and ambitious have struggled. Many loaded up on anti-dep and anxiety meds or downing a couple of energy drinks before hitting the day and then collapsing at night. Not unsurprisingly many have managed their exit or are actively planning to do so. Management has always been challenging, trying to meet often conflicting demands.

Never met any manager like that, but I have met many managers past and current who have acted like they’re on meds or should be. Mostly the type that lock themselves in their offices, and those that get a kick out of micro-managing staff, and too many have been horrible individuals not fit for purpose some still clinging on for their pension. The few good managers I’ve known did not need energy drinks or pill, and they have long been replaced by the new breed managers the NPS nodding dogs and 21 year old CRC go-getters!!!

I’ve a lot of respect for John Bensted, Retired chief probation officer. Pity he didn’t say all that when probation was about to be hung, drawn and quartered in 2014. I’ll still put him above the likes of all current chief officers or directors as they’re now called. Particularly when most are silent or invisible, excepting the one that recently went on TV and blamed probation for John Worboys!

A lot of people didn't get their act together to challenge TR. I was particularly disappointed with Chief Probation Officers as a collective. I think ultimately they were signed up to Public Sector ethos of respecting that parliament had a mandate to act and having stated their plentiful reservations subsequently came to heel. I think our gaze ought to be directed higher than our former chiefs. Speaking out now, well better late than never?


  1. Q: What do you call a market where the services you are forced to buy were previously owned by the buyer but subsequently given to the seller by another party to sell back to the buyer?

    A : Grayling's pension fund.

  2. I decided last week that, in order to prioritise my own health, I must stop straining to do a decent job for my community and my clients, and just do the basic minimum, which is of course to tick boxes and pound a keyboard entering repetitively, stuff into crumbly IT systems. Clock off when my hours are worked. No thinking. Keep client contact to absolute minimum.
    Then it hit me : what is in effect "working to rule" is what I am being instructed to do by HMPPS.

    1. I agree 9.23. The work to rule is not doable without departing from every valuable aspect of the job. Proper resistance will require sacrifice and risk and uncertainty. And not many are prepared to go down that road.

  3. TheresT been calls this week in the RepuRepu of Irelands Parliament to strip Interserve of its back to work programme.
    InteIntersehave alsa sold off some of its contracts in construction and engineering.
    The MMoJare said to have drawn up contingency plans if they should collapse.
    They have only until the end of March.


    1. Interserve is struggling to put ­together a crucial debt refinancing deal after the collapse of Carillion spooked its lenders.

      The troubled British outsourcer, which cleans the London Underground and manages the Ministry of Defence’s UK estate, is racing to raise fresh funding from a syndicate of eight banks by the end of March.

      However, some of Interserve’s main creditors suffered big losses when Carillion went under. Write-downs on lending to Carillion stand at about £1bn across the banking industry, dampening the appetite to provide financial support for the troubled outsourcing sector.

      Sources close to the talks say ­Interserve has been desperately ­unlucky – its rescue plan was presented to the banks the day after Carillion went into liquidation.

      Ministers will be alarmed by the ­latest developments. Interserve has been on the Government’s watch since Carillion went bust. However, the Cabinet Office has rejected suggestions that ­Interserve’s position is comparable.

      The company employs around 80,000 staff worldwide, ­including 25,000 in the UK, providing cleaning, security, probation, healthcare and other vital services.

      The uncertainty raises the prospect it will have to plug a funding gap via other sources. Bankers say it may be forced to turn to shareholders, though that could be difficult because its shares have sunk in value.

      Or the company may try to raise ­additional capital privately, though again that could be challenging given its strained finances. Interserve’s banks include Barclays, Lloyds, RBS, Mitsubishi UFG, Sabadell and HSBC.

      Of those, Lloyds lost £108m on ­Carillion, RBS took an £187m charge on the construction industry, Barclays ­reported a £127m impairment, and HSBC took a hit of several hundred million pounds.

      Net debt at Interserve rose from £274m in 2016 to £513m at the end of 2017 and some analysts forecast it will reach £600m by the end of this year.

      The company is hoping to persuade its main creditors to agree to provide new borrowings of between three and five years. The extent of Interserve’s problems emerged via a September profit warning.

      The following month, the company warned on profits again and said it was in danger of breaching its financial covenants. Lenders agreed to provide £180m of additional short-term funding until the end of March.

      Interserve’s shares have sunk more than 70pc in the last 12 months, leaving it with a market value of just £94.7m.

      A spokesperson for Interserve said: “All parties remain fully engaged in the process to provide long term financing and a stable capital structure for Interserve. We are making good progress with, and are confident about the outcome of, these discussions.”

    2. "Sources close to the talks say ­Interserve has been desperately ­unlucky"

      More accurate if 'sources' had said Interserve has finally been caught with fingers in the till and those who have been bankrolling the thieving bastards are no longer able to hide their complicity in this corporate free-for-all.

    3. Unless UK government (read taxpayer) is prepared to underwrite the liabilities (more than just their debt) of outsourcing giants then the outsourcing game related to important public services is busted. I don't think the government can stitch together a rescue package as it would be political suicide. I think the banks are shy, the numbers don't add up, add in some economic and political uncertainty and hey presto the magic outsourcing tree is not an attractive investment. Or do those that are still standing pick over the pieces and ask for a premium? The provision of important public services increasingly looks like market competition in extracting profit from the UK taxpayer rather than anything remotely about delivering quality public services.

    4. There's an interesting little tool that can be used to 'sort of' work out just what Interserve are juggling at the moment, and how much money they have got from winning government contracts.

    5. Interserve Bingo! From 2014:-

      The contracts, which will run for seven years will not only see Purple Futures taking over the delivery of all probation and rehabilitation services to low and medium risk offenders in these geographical areas, but will for the first time provide support to offenders who are released after serving prison sentences of less than 12 months. This group, which numbers around 50,000 nationally, currently receives no supervision or rehabilitation support after release despite accounting for the highest rates of re-offending.

      Interserve CEO, Adrian Ringrose, said:

      “The Purple Futures partnership brings together the best of the private, voluntary and not for profit sectors. Interserve will bring its business expertise, investment capability and public service delivery pedigree. Our four partners, 3SC; Addaction; P3 and Shelter, will bring a wealth of service delivery and community engagement experience. It’s an exciting prospect.

      “Probation and rehabilitation services have always been embedded within local communities. By working closely with local businesses, voluntary agencies, local authorities and the police, which are all critical to successful public protection and rehabilitation, we believe we can make a real difference.”

      Interserve and its partners have spent over 12 months co-designing services to reduce re-offending, working with local voluntary sector groups who will provide a range of specialised services in local communities designed to improve the life chances of offenders and help reduce reoffending rates.

      Proposals include measures such as the setting up of new social enterprises, to provide employment opportunities for offenders and ex-offenders. Purple Futures will also continue to use the well established Community Payback model.

      Interserve's 'Charity Charter' sets out the principals of what it, as a substantial commercial enterprise, can offer and what it expects from its voluntary sector and social enterprise partners.

    6. That should read,

      Once upon a time, Chris Grayling whilst taking the taxpayers money to market swapped it for a a bag of magic beans.
      The beans never grew, there was no golden goose, and the man who gave Grayling the beans can still be head loudly laughing in his penthouse on top of his ivory tower.
      No one else lived happily ever after.

    7. Correction.
      Its working links that have the work programme contract in the Republic of Irelands not Interserve. Sorry.


  4. Part time (18.5hrs) job might be interesting for probation officer in Truro looking to get out. 'Safeguarding Governance Manager' with local diocese.

    Seen just now on Money not great (28-30K) but if you negotiate to start at top of pay band, could be worth it for someone.

    1. "Money not great (28-30K)": Try living on non-negotiable universal credit.

  5. Above is pro rata.

    What is the Security Risk Team at MOJ? Looks like they're recruiting too. Never heard of them. Has anyone else?

    1. "The directorate has bases across the country making us a truly national organisation having a significant impact on the prison and probation system across England and Wales.
      The objective of SOCT is to support the operational field to recognise, understand and manage threats to operational and national security, prison order and safety, and to support our partners in upholding the rule of law. In so doing this Directorate contributes to the aims of HMPPS by providing a sound and secure base for a rehabilitative culture that helps change lives."

    2. Who are we?

      The Security, Order and Counter Terrorism directorate (SOCT) exists to support HMPPS in its mission to prevent victims by changing lives. We do this by creating the conditions for a firm, stable and secure base on which decent regimes, relationships and rehabilitation can be built.

      SOCT is currently formed of two groups of staff, the Operational Security Group and the National Security Group. The directorate has bases across the country making us a truly national organisation having a significant impact on the prison and probation system across England and Wales.

      The objective of SOCT is to support the operational field to recognise, understand and manage threats to operational and national security, prison order and safety, and to support our partners in upholding the rule of law. In so doing this Directorate contributes to the aims of HMPPS by providing a sound and secure base for a rehabilitative culture that helps change lives.

      To be effective we must operate in the context of a cross-Government alliance for security, safety and law-enforcement. To do so we will understand the drivers for our partners and stakeholders, build relationships and alliances in the common interest, establish our credibility and earn the right to be taken seriously as a trusted partner. As a new directorate that has been finding its feet during 2016-17 we must now establish SOCT as a centre of excellence in all the areas we cover, and develop a cross-government reputation and operational practice to solidify our value across the prison estate and beyond.

      Security Risk Unit (SRU)

      Over the past year, there has been an unprecedented increase in violence, deaths, self-harm and assaults on prisoners and staff within our prisons. HMPPS needs to be resilient to ongoing and new operational security risks in order to provide assurance of safety, service delivery and reputational integrity. This newly developed Unit will ensure this is done in a coherent and robust manner by providing strategic risk, resilience and practice management. The Unit will work in close collaboration with public and private establishments, and Approved Premises in the community, providing them with the tools required to ensure live and new strategic risks are rigorously assessed, appropriately prioritised and robustly managed.

      This is a unique opportunity to help shape the design and establishment of three new functions within the Unit.

    3. Security Practice Team

      The security practice team will ensure HMPPS becomes a ‘learning’ organisation by acquiring, sharing and applying corporate knowledge. The Security Practice Leads will each own and develop a specific workstream including a) current/developing operational practice and b) staff engagement/ communications. Some of the key responsibilities will include:

      Being a point of contact for secure settings under HMPPS with regards to current and new security practices.
      Lead on identifying, researching, assessing and building security practice standards across HMPPS.
      Creating and maintaining a knowledge bank of all security information sources in order to identify key trends, review recommendations and share procedural or thematic learning with senior managers.
      Providing advice and guidance across the estate on various areas of security practice, working with other colleagues in the Directorate and HQ.
      Establishing links to HMPPS subject matter experts and liaise with these partners to offer good practice advice to the operational frontline on live and future risks.
      Engaging with and building a network of security experts in order to effectively deal with queries from operational staff.
      Successfully communicating security practice to different target audiences through varying tools such as digital tools, bulletins, workshops, learning days etc.
      Leading on projects and bespoke pieces of work on behalf of SRU and SOCT directorate.
      Managing a small team of development and support staff.
      An understanding of criminal justice is desirable for the Security Practice Leads but not essential.

      Risk Resilience Team

      The risk resilience team will ensure the organisation is successfully identifying and prioritising new security risks, enabling the service to become more proactive in its approach to managing security. Some of the key responsibilities will include:

      Identifying, assessing and reporting on new and emerging risks to HMPPS security.
      Defining current operational resilience and tolerance to emerging risks.
      Building HMPPS resilience to prioritised risks, through engagement with the relevant stakeholders and provide recommendations on response plans.
      Becoming a subject matter expert in prioritised risk areas and provide advice and guidance across the estate on various risks, working with internal and external stakeholders as required.
      Being responsible for monitoring the impact of the resilience measures implemented to reassess the trajectory of the risk.
      Engaging with and building a network of security risk experts to support the identification and assessment of new risks.
      Successfully communicating identified risks to different target audiences through varying communication tools and, where necessary, influence senior decision makers to support resilience building activity.
      Unit Capability

      This role will support the whole Unit by designing business processes to increase productivity and quality of work, reduce duplication and ensure SRU is delivering organisational benefits. Some of the key responsibilities will include:

      Supporting the development of the new infrastructure of the Unit.
      Building the governance structure of the Unit ensuring alignment with the SOCT Directorate and wider HMPPS/MoJ.
      Engaging with and building relationships with senior leaders to understand the business needs from SRU and identify what products and support the Unit can offer.
      Managing the Unit’s assignment portfolio, resources allocation, new commission pipeline and financial obligations.
      Setting the vision and direction for the Hub, ensuring that staff take a proactive approach to managing the Unit’s programme of work and benefits realisation;
      Seeking out opportunities to continuously improve processes for the wider Unit.
      Managing a small administrative hub.

    4. Jobs created for the boys/girls, very unlikely to be appointees from outwith the known quantities aka chums network. Troubled Families has gone tits up & Louise might be in need of a new project? Or maybe some CRC Compliance Managers need saving from embarassment? Or perhaps some ex-Chief Inspectors are in need of a regular income?

    5. Alternatively, if looking for a total charge of career but still want a connection to the CJS

    6. A part-time Pagan is being sought to lead religious rituals at Dartmoor Prison.

      The £29k position is being advertised for a Pagan to offer Rites of Passage services in HMP Dartmoor, Channings Wood and Exeter.

      The successful candidate will also be required to offer religious advice and support to Pagan prisoners and Prison Service staff.

      Paganism encompasses a diverse community including specific traditions, practices s such as ecology, witchcraft, Celtic traditions or certain gods.

      Wiccans, Druids, Shamans, Sacred Ecologists, Odinists and Heathens all make up parts of the Pagan community.

      Paganism is one of Britain's fastest-growing religious sectors, and prisoners have their right to practise their religions while behind bars enshrined in law.

      "This is a chaplaincy job in an establishment which provides pastoral and faith specific care to prisoners and staff," the job description reads.

      "The job holder will provide for the religious care of prisoners and staff in the Pagan faith tradition and appropriate pastoral care for all irrespective of faith or tradition.

      "The job holder will work with colleagues to ensure the delivery of the specification
      "Faith and Pastoral Care", and also the broader work of chaplaincy in delivering faith and non faith based courses.

      ''Will contribute to the process by which the Governor and Head of Chaplaincy/Profession at HQ are assured that the specification is being delivered.

      "The job holder will engage with, and build contacts with their own faith community towards aiding the resettlement of offenders.

      "This is a non-operational job with no line management or supervisory responsibilities."

    7. Oh that’s my local prison.

    8. "This is a non-operational job with no line management or supervisory responsibilities."

      How good does that sound?

    9. Sounds like a great way to pocket £29k

    10. Security Risk team. Sounds like a contradiction in terms.

  6. Sad that there's no mention of Pastafarianism there. What's to become of those of us who follow the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Pesto Be Upon Him).Do not despair though - plenty of time to remedy this omission before the next International Talk Like A Pirate Day on, as always, 19 September.