Friday, 16 February 2018

Probation Staff Sharing Thoughts

Facebook remains a relatively safe place for probation staff trying to survive in the TR omnishambles to share thoughts, concerns and seek advice. The following was seen fairly recently:- 

Currently in a court team working as a PO been told today as of 5/2 I’ll be a generic PO doing PSR’s and having a caseload. I’m told this isn’t the national model. Anyone else been put in this situation?

Maybe someone has seen sense and realised separating court work from offender management is unsafe, unworkable and deskilling. I live in hope.

Whilst I do not disagree that working in one particular area can be de-skilling, this can be said for any role.

As I say at work on a daily basis "stop talking common sense, it's no longer allowed".

Indeed. But combining casework and reports makes it less likely and also means the PSR writer continues to understand better the implications of what they’re proposing.

You’re more cynical than me!

That's because we are having to fill ridiculous amounts of RAR days by "padding" out programmes.

But only a little bit more cynical though.

Absolutely, and end to end management would be a fine thing. With the fragmentation of the service and not allowing the CRC an audience with the Court or the ability to make proposals, this can no longer be the case. The implications of TR and many area not having rate cards available have seen a move to recommending generic RARs. More importantly is the service users perspective, I’m sure they would want a report by someone that knows them well and it would also strengthen the “buy in” for the proposal recommended by the author of the report and client.

Hi, what do you mean “this isn’t he national model.” The Court PO role?

Under E3 this is not the model.

That generic PO roles isn't the national model endorsed by the MoJ.

In Xxxxxx.. those of us in case management don’t do any reports any more. Mostly PSOs in court now.

Ridiculous, So glad I got out.

I’m a Court PO and we are heading this way I think. Very annoyed as I moved areas specifically to do this role and I don’t want to go back into case management or prison as I’d be there now if I did! We are inundated with work btw!

We are inundated too it doesn’t make sense.

We are the top performing Court Team in our region and have been so consistently for months!!!

It’s like they think they’ll move us and magically those stats will improve too!

But we are probably gonna end up like you so I’d stay put if I was you lol!

Happily escaped the CRC by retiring early, was in Accredited Programmes, so was pulled into designing RAR nonsense, a load of shoved together bits from various programmes, with no evidence base for interfering with original content, (no evidence base at all as far as I could tell) and delivered by staff who don't want to do groupwork. Disaster, personally wouldn't pay a penny on a rate card for a load of shite... What works ha clearly not this model.

The problem with everyone’s understanding of a RAR is that it’s seen as a target fulfilment, and it is not at all. It simply gives agency to the Responsible Officer to use as they see fit. Expressed as ‘up to’ does not give a minimum obligation and yet people are told to fulfil the full term. Madness. It replaces Specified Activity where it was quite constricted what you could propose as the activity had narrow parameters. Now, if you find something outside of those parameters you can direct someone to attend and make it enforceable. You don’t have to use those days, however, if you don’t want to.

Sorry but RARs are a waste of space!!

As are PSS.

Noted, if I'm moved back to case management I will have to move on!

I cannot say I am massively surprised; they make changes and then it comes full circle and they change it back again... I remember when the model was the five ‘C’s’ (I can’t remember what they all stood for but one was consistency) I think one of the problems is that they don’t have enough PO’s so are trying to stretch existing PO’s as much as possible..(until we break).

Why would anyone want to avoid case management?

I came from a CRC and was doing 2 PO roles combined, vastly over-stretched. When I tendered my resignation they said they would split it back into 2 roles if this have any bearing on my decision. So I would say I am having a time out for that reason. 


These Facebook discussions are from last October following news regarding extra payments to the CRCs. Like much material, there never seemed an appropriate moment to publish it, but it still seems highly relevant and I'm loathe to just let it go and not be recorded somewhere:-  

Well they had better start using that money quickly then because from what I see the NPS recruitment campaign is without doubt going to nick all the staff and money to no avail because there will be no properly trained staff left to manage the crap they're dishing out.

Any chance of a pay rise after nothing in all these years?!

From what I hear NPS's reputation isn't one to want me to join - and don't tar all CRC's with the same brush!

I tend not to comment but some CRCs like the one in my area are doing a great job still after TR which shows true dedication to the most important part of our purpose "our offenders"!!!

Well it's not about the people who work in CRC at all, it's about the process and the way the service users are dealt with. Since when is it ok to manage someones problems over the phone. How many times have you tried to get an answer to a problem over the phone. How is justice served. It's about how to work with people not automated answer machines. I'm old school whereby I think people should be treated respectfully, service users and communities, so don't tell me about how CRCs are wonderful. The people may be working their best but the systems they work under are truly diabolical. Ask the courts.

I think you're missing the point here. I'm talking about the system not the process. You may not use telephone contacts but that is a fact it is used and it's not right to manage someone who has committed an offence by a telephone call or fail to recognise all the issues. So before you need to have CRCs I'm stating a fact as a member of the public plus an ex CRC worker that to get things right you can't do them on the cheap. It's about what's in front of you and how to go forward. Technology is being used not for the good and if you think it is then I fear there is little by way of movement is there.

Again my CRC doesn't do things on the cheap - we have no shareholders and have a not for profit ethos - the participant is the centre of our work. We have a working TTG - we have technology that supports face to face contact and although not everything is perfect - we are constantly evolving and adapting to provide participants with a service they deserve.

What area are you in if you don't mind me asking?

Durham area at a guess. They are not owned by one of the multi nationals. Maybe it feels different up there.

Okay that makes sense. Glad not everyone is suffering and things are going well. Would be great to share more and see if London CRC can adopt some of what is going well. We seem to be going round and round in circles

I'm jealous. As Xxxxxx says, our experience is staff working longer hours with bigger case loads and a hub which deals with people via telephone contact. It's very difficult to get any meaningful work in which encourages the service user to change. It was difficult enough before the split, now nigh on impossible. I think part of our issue which wasn't addressed at any point by the Gvt. is the rurality. If you add the rurality to the number of staff cuts through VR, interventions staff end up running around, travelling miles to deliver programmes and RARs

If you add to all of that with the NPS who aren't faring much better, advertising and then CRC POs jumping the fence as they see it as easier/more secure or what ever, it doesn't make for good reading.

Divide and conquer. No one service is better...we are now two different entities....guys let's get along if we don't....then...well we lose xxx Remember what we had and think what we could have if we stay true to the ethos of probation. x

Yeah we are DTV - and still work well with NPS - maybe because it's still all of the same colleagues we have worked with forever - it's frustrating when CRCs are talked about as one entity - I agree we were better off before Chris G got involved - but I work with probation CEO, operational director, managers and operational officers - we know we are very lucky to be where we are proud to be DTV!

The point here isn't it is no matter how hard you work no matter how much effort you put into staying proud, strong it's not your efforts that will take it higher, it will be the companies who make the decision about a service they know bugger all about. We as Xxxxx said have rurality to deal with. We don't have infrastructure that allows us the opportunity to have facilities which are easily accessible unless there is drive by the CRC provider to.

Also, I think, in terms of staff on the front line, in our area at least all still get on so well, because of rurality it still feels much like family to me. However, I have to say I have now given up the ghost and requested early retirement. :(


  1. An intrigued what Facebook group this is. It looks much more interactive or to generate more comments than Keep Probation Public not Private. Can anyone join?

    1. You can contact me via profile page for details.

  2. For CRC staff now remaining in their teams this must be an endurance and faith test, one I myself have recently failed. Endurance in the face of excessive workload, the knowledge that no matter how hard you work you still can't cover it to a standard that satisfies anyone. The knowledge that all your efforts still don't do any of the work you would love to do, ie support and rehabilitation. You're just a small dysfunctional misfiring cog in a massive mashine of nightmare nonsense. Your purpose becomes one of survival, how to avoid being taken for capability or disciplinary by manager with a ladder to climb ( or with his/her own survival agenda), how to preserve self respect and work life balance, how to explain to service users that the whole thing has gone to pot and how they themselves can best survive the joke that is now the criminal justice system. How to keep believing that if you hang in there for long enough change will come. What little signs to watch out for here in the deep midwinter that spring is on its way. Are the senior managers beginning to take cover? Are they moving from operational roles into administrative ones? Are edicts and decrees being issued with no authority, no insistence, no following through? Are the new senior managers looking younger and more inexperienced? Is there more awareness in the press, are private providers of public services beginning to go to the wall? Yes, these are all signs. But how long still? Will I last?

    1. Spot on Mate. what a crock of shit it the crc has become. The service users know this as well

  3. When I joined the service in 1990, one of the things that attracted me to the idea of training to be a PO was the variety. I worked out that the various disciplines offered sufficient variety to allow me to experience 2 years in each role without repeating myself for 16 years. Courts, Hostel, Prison, Programmes, Family Court Welfare, Community Service (then headed by a PO), Supervision and Throughcare. I then thought I would have had the option of being an SPO for the same teams. 32 years of variety! Fantastic. Since the creation of NOMS, however, the jobs have got smaller and smaller and most of these disciplines no longer exist. On programmes SPO in each team? Now there is only one in each region! One SPO per hostel? Now there is one per four hostels. One Court SPO per Court? Now it is one per county. The job, as a career choice, has lost a lot of it's variety and, consequently, it's job satisfaction.

    1. Not sure which division you are in but it's one SPO per AP where I am which is what was specified under E3

  4. This snippet from the Times would suggest caseloads are about to rise.

    Thousands more prisoners are to be released early under a government drive to relieve pressure on overcrowded and drug-ridden jails, The Times has learnt.

    The Ministry of Justice has acted to significantly increase the number of inmates in an early release scheme after discovering that tens of thousands of eligible offenders — including those serving sentences for violence, robbery, burglary and public order crimes — were missing out.

    Governors have been ordered to review cases of prisoners refused release under the home detention curfew (HDC) scheme, which allows them to return home with an electronic tag and curfew, according to a paper quietly released by the MoJ last month. The order is intended to lead to the release on HDC of most eligible offenders.

    1. "a paper quietly released by the MoJ last month"

      Anyone familiar or have a link?

    2. Eligible but not necessarily suitable. And released"home"? How many of them don't have one? Heal the whole system, not just a tiny corner of it!

    3. There's a link to the quietly released paper contained in this Guardian article (it's pdf)


    4. The government hopes to increase the number of inmates released early from jail under strict home curfew rules, it has emerged.

      The Ministry of Justice has issued revised guidance for its home detention curfew (HDC) scheme, which sees eligible prisoners released under strict monitoring conditions, including a tag and a requirement to be home between 7pm and 7am.

      No one serving a sentence of four years or more for any offence is eligible, nor are sex offenders.

      In a paper issued to prisons and probation providers last month, the prisons and probation service said: “The reason for the change is that the previous process had become overly bureaucratic and tended to frustrate the objectives of the scheme, meaning that only a minority of eligible offenders were being released on HDC.”

      As many as 35,000 prisoners could be eligible for the scheme but in 2016 only 21% – or around 9,000 – were released.

      The prison population stands at 84,255, according to figures released on Friday, and jails in England and Wales have space for 86,711 inmates.

      Violence in prisons has reached levels not seen for 25 years with three murders inside jails in England and Wales in 2017.

      The HDC scheme was introduced in 1999 to provide a managed transition from prison to community for offenders serving short sentences, according to the paper, which was first seen by the Times.

      The Ministry of Justice said it was not altering the rules for eligibility but was streamlining the process for assessing those eligible.

      A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We are not expanding the scheme to allow the release of any prisoner who was not already eligible and could be released on HDC. We are simplifying the HDC process, reducing the number of forms used in the assessment process and maintaining the strict eligibility and suitability tests.

      “This will mean governors can make well-informed, more timely decisions and ensure robust risk management plans are in place for offenders released under the scheme.”

  5. Bbc news - posted 2 hrs ago

    More offenders could be freed from prison in England and Wales with an electronic tag under government plans to simplify an early-release scheme.
    The Ministry of Justice says only a fifth eligible for "home detention curfew" are currently being released.
    The move may reduce pressure on prison numbers - but the type of offenders the scheme covers is not being changed.
    It applies to terms of between three months and four years and excludes sex, weapon and certain other offences.
    Foreign national prisoners and people convicted of violent offences, terrorism, or those who have previously breached a curfew are also excluded.

    The scheme - introduced by Labour in 1999 - sees prisoners freed between two weeks and four-and-a-half months before their automatic release date.
    They are made to wear a tag and abide by a curfew.
    'Not an expansion'
    Figures released this week show the total population of prisons and immigration removal centres remains high at 84,255, under an overall capacity of 86,771.
    There are currently 2,770 people subject to home detention curfew (HDC).
    The Ministry of Justice says simplifying the administration of the system will reduce delays, and increase the numbers released.
    In an instruction to prison governors the MoJ said only 21% of offenders eligible for the scheme are being released.
    The MoJ said it wanted the curfews to be "a normal part of release".
    It also wants governors to review cases where home detention curfew has been refused, often because the address inmates plan to move to is deemed unsuitable.
    The MoJ said: "We are not expanding the scheme to allow the release of any prisoner who was not already eligible and could be released on HDC.
    "We are simplifying the HDC process, reducing the number of forms used in the assessment process and maintaining the strict eligibility and suitability tests.
    "This will mean governors can make well-informed, more timely decisions and ensure robust risk management plans are in place for offenders released under the scheme."

  6. I largely accepted the message of tough choices given the dire straits of public finances in the wake of the financial crisis. I expected fewer public sector workers, building / office rationalisation and considered filtering to use resources to best effect. I expected a prolonged pay freeze. I expected to work harder. I expected areas merging and finding savings through efficiencies of scale and synergy. Tough choices are choices nonetheless and prior to 2015 those in respect of Probation were made hastily and recklessly. Significant problems were predicted over and over from the majority of expert opinion but dismissed as having vested interest, being old school and akin to 'the blob'. Now we have a wake of a different kind and it comes with a visceral sadness and anger at the predictable dysfunction that has emerged. It seems to me that the government is wedded to the idea of persevering with the fragmentation and incoherence of the privatised probation services. They appear to still believe that the problems are transitional, a tweak here and there, a few extra millions allotted forensically, will provide a foundation for the market in Probation services to flourish. It won't. The problems are systemic, any amount of lubrication, work arounds, extensions, unplugging and unblocking the connections, outlets and inlets will I fear always return more problems. On that cheery note, here endeth the sermon. Love and peace to all :)

    1. It is not a fincisal crisis it is tories rewriting the narrative. Its a period of austerity which is really recession. All said they have stolen billions to feed their private sector chums all ready for a labour take over while they lie in wait for their next boom time return safe on the billions they have already stolen.

  7. this is rubbish the paper work implies hdc release unless exceptional circumstances plus ask for what needs to address this before release

    1. The Revisionistas strike again. i.e. in the same vein as their Glorious TR-iumph of kicking fiendish social workers into the gutter, they have now re-imagined HDC as being previously a grey, onerous task that has been magically freed from red-tape & drudgery by the courageous, swash-buckling MuskeTories.

      Huzzah! Gins all round!!

    2. My heart goes out to those who will, in short order, be mourning the loss or mutilation of a loved one as a consequence of this crass political expedition.

  8. I am being told that a number of staff were ordered to attend an open day at a prison in Lancashire this week but after being bullied, co-erced and dragooned, not a single one expressed an interest in working there.
    Meanwhile, in another part of the area, rumour has it that some staff are being directed out of prisons so that others, who have mo interest in doing so, can be pushed or forced to take their places.
    Meanwhile, staff are leaving in droves and coming back on agency rates of pay whilst dictating where and when they will work.
    What say our great leaders?...,.Nowt!

  9. In other northern news, this from a news piece today about an absconded prisoner. I find it astonishing that (1) someone given 5yrs4mths for burglary & harassment offences in 2016 was at an open prison within a year of sentencing... and (2) is still at large! Who needs HDC paperwork?

    "Price. who was sentenced to 64 months in prison in 2016 for burglary and harassment offences, absconded from Kirkham open prison on 27 August 2017."

  10. Presumably if the MoJ released a paper last month on altering the HDC process that took immediate effect then why does no one know anything about it?

  11. “Facebook remains a relatively safe place for probation staff trying to survive in the TR omnishambles to share thoughts, concerns and seek advice.”

    Wrong. Many staff are being pulled up for social media comments, particularly NPS as they’re meant to be “impartial”. Managers use Facebook and twitter, some are in the Facebook groups too. I never comment in these groups because of this.

  12. “The Ministry of Justice has issued revised guidance for its home detention curfew (HDC) scheme, which sees eligible prisoners released under strict monitoring conditions, including a tag and a requirement to be home between 7pm and 7am.”

    Oh dear. Not another early release scheme!!! Yes it’s good people are being released and can get on with their lives. It’s not so good there will be no additional probation officers and resources to support/supervise them, no housing support, no employment support, nothing.

    1. Also not good that risk is not a reason to refuse HDC! Where previously supervising officers were asked their views on whether they support (or not) release this is no longer a question asked on HDC forms. The only issue is whether they have a suitable address. You can comment on risk but it's abundantly clear that release will happen if that address is deemed suitable. I'm currently on my 4th HDC report for the same high risk case. They really want every one with an address out asap.