Monday, 7 May 2018

Pick of the Week 52

I don't think we can afford to be too purist about professional judgement. Sure, it's important that probation officers are not mere automatons, but sometimes the problems in the system need social fixes and policy changes that are beyond the individual officers, however well-intentioned. There is evidence of institutional racism in sentencing: Asians and blacks whose rate of imprisonment is 20% greater than their white counterparts. There is also decades-old evidence of a postcode lottery in sentencing practices across the country. Given a choice, a black offender would have a better chance of a non-custodial if sentenced by a bias-free robot rather than a free-thinking, unbounded professional. The independent, wise professional is a myth anyway, as the criminal justice system has never been a bias-free zone, as social psychology is replete with examples of non-legal variables impacting on sentencing.

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I think that's a point very well made. Sometimes professional judgement is bound by professional judgements made by others from other agencies with different agendas, but once the direction of travel is set in motion then professional judgement becomes tied within particular parameters. This case reported today interests me a lot. A judgement has been made that directs a person into the CJS. I personally feel that is the wrong approach, and a direction towards mental health services would have been more suitable. The professional judgements made on this person from those he meets in the CJS, are likely to be quite different from those he would have met in mental health services. I find the case upsetting.

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Anybody that's likely to breach the terms of a suspended sentence is to my mind just as likely to breach the terms of a community order. I wonder how much of removing suspended sentences from the sentencing options is about reducing the prison population, and how much of it is about increasing the 'supply chain' for CRCs? Whatever it is, people are now being sentenced on the basis of systematic government failings and not on the basis of the most suitable or appropriate sentence available. I'm actually pretty impressed too that probation officers can sit with judges and agree to remove sentencing options. They've obviously got more clout then I've gave them credit for!!

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There Is something fishy about all this Suspended Sentence stuff. Seems as if probation rolled over to appease magistrates. They can’t really be saying that probation are proposing Suspended Sentences illegally AND the Courts are therefore imposing them illegally? I think the issue is that probation are proposing Suspended Sentences appropriately. Magistrates do not like feeling obliged to invoke the custody if the sentence is breached because they’re then blamed for prison overcrowding. If they don’t invoke the custody and the person reoffends then the Magistrates are blamed for being soft. Probation should have instead been telling Magistrates if they don’t like our proposals then don’t request a PSR. This is what happens when we have directors whipped by prisons and politicians.

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I don't bother with an alarm clock these days, I just get up when the pinging of notifications of emails from recruiting agencies looking for POs flatlines into a whine.

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Seems like the agency has been told to vet the competence of their agency staff. I'm sure it's not their idea.

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What a load of shite. An agency delivering OASys training.

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Probably ex-probation senior managers who, having been the privileged few who voted themselves eligible for EVR, are now casually pocketing more public funds as sessional trainers for RSG. Wonder if they'll come face-to-face with those they shafted into unemployment? Might be worth going just to witness the fighting...

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Rory Stewart gave a peculiar contribution to the last TR Justice Select Committee, in which he said in effect that the CRCs were victims of their own success, (it was convoluted, but that was the argument) and then went on to say that, yeah, TR hadn't been a success, it was all a bit of a mess, but it had been such a traumatic and expensive upheaval that it would not be a good idea to do much in the way of major re-upheaval.

“I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er,” (Scottish play)

What Rory and the whole sorry bunch at the top end of probation fail to grasp (they never did) is the scale of energy and talent that would be released if they pulled the plug on TR, tore up the contracts and got to fixing probation. What they fail to grasp, (they never did) is that there is a huge well of expertise and knowledge to draw on. All they have to do is demonstrate they have the bottle to do it

"But screw your courage to the sticking-place, And we’ll not fail" also from the Scottish play.

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Boiling frog syndrome. Spot on. I am leaving as soon as I can. I will mourn, but then the bereavement process started in 2014.

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Advice from one boiling frog to another: leave before you croak. Heavens, temping used to be the poor relation of stable permanent posts, insecure and unsupported: not the safer healthier option.

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I am a great professional, highly qualified and experienced, dedicated and hard working. However, give me 90 mile an hour work to do, with no time to take a break, heavily targeted and electronically whipped then I will fail or leave or both. I left.

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Probation has a high sickness and mortality rate. NPS and CRC, both drive you into the ground with overwhelming work, targets, managerial abuse, toxic and dirty work environments, and a general lack of care for staff. And the moment you’re long term sick or dead they’ll replace you within 3 days. No matter how good or bad a Probation Officer you think you are, whether a sheep, complainer, rebel or brown-noser, what you really are to probation management is expendable, replaceable and easily forgotten. So remember this next time you’re asked or compelled to do more than you should and learn to say no. There are many jobs better than probation.

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I think the workplace across most sectors is now a toxic mixture of stress and relentless target driven exhaustion. The workplace has become a galley ship, with employees manning the oars whilst the privateer masters bang the drum ever faster and demand more and more. It's profit that matters. Professionalism is just an expensive obstacle to reaching targets, signing off and claiming payment. The workforce are mules, a necessary evil the corporations must endure in their pursuit of ever greater profits. The employment market in 2018 is just another government created crisis. It's unhealthy, and quantity driven, quality means less dividends for shareholders. It's just a dirty world we live in where there's no trust anymore, and the only thing that matters is profit.

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Bullying & abusive behaviour by management began escalating when the pre-privatisation Trusts were created. I had several months' sick leave shortly before the TR debacle kicked off. I saw my own GP but her reports weren't good enough for the Trust so they commissioned a new report from their own Occ Health GP. The OH GP was initially very hostile, had clearly been briefed against me & was dismissive of my own GP's views.

After two lengthy & very tense meetings the OH GP wrote a report which was factual, but with a clear bias against myself & my situation. I felt utterly crushed, and when OH GP asked me back for a further meeting I was guarded, angry & very anxious. His opening gambit was to show me a letter he'd received from the Trust which stated that the Trust wanted him to "tweak" his report saying it was "not strong enough for their needs". He told me he realised he had been 'played' by the Trust, was led to believe I was "a malingerer and a troublemaker", that he was sorry he had not previously believed my account of the bullying & abusive practices, that he now had "a much clearer appreciation" of my situation and that he would be taking "appropriate professional action".

The following week I was offered a generous return-to-work package which allowed me to keep all of my accrued annual leave (as opposed to using it for the RTW). I was in a union. I did have a union rep. They were fucking useless. I complained to the branch, region & HQ - never got a reply. The rep was subsequently promoted & went on to become the 'fixer' for the Trust's primary bully. Who knows, perhaps they are still enjoying shitting on people in NPS or CRC? Along came TR, the shafting process and the non-EVR omnishambles.

I left. My GP says I'm no longer at immediate risk of, to use Jermey *unt's compassionate euphemism, "a shortened life".

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If the caseloads and constant grind won't change we need to push for something that will extend careers. Only this week there was chat about teachers being allowed to apply for 12 months paid sabbatical. I'd like a 3 month break every 3 years, either a sabbatical taken from accrued leave or placement in a non operational/ non-client facing role. In the meantime we need meaningful clinical supervision rather than line management supervision.

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No you need managers to stop making the work environment so demanding. No amount of supervision, therapy or leave is going to change this.

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Nothing more stressful than having urgent reports to write and the IT system isn't working. Not for a couple of hours but days! Told at 8am when only 4 people in using laptops that too many users making the system slow!!! Get a grip Working Links!

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But why are you stressed, it is not your problem. Record on ND every day “IT system not working, report cannot be started/completed”. When the deadline is imminent you email your manager, stating the problem and how they intend to resolve it. This is what managers are for.

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Joint announcement - let's peer through the smoke & into the mirrors...

- explore the prospects: there's nothing to see
- independent of the dispute: the dispute is sidelined
- reassessment around funding streams: we're changing the rules
- capacity to meet costing implications: there is no capacity
- series of further meetings: stalling, delaying, obstructing
- as soon as more news becomes available: there is no more news

The Message: "you ain't gonna get jack, folks"

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"The employer reported that they are currently involved in talks with the MoJ and explained the work that they are undertaking as a result of the recent findings of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee. This has led to some reassessment by all CRC contract holders around future funding streams and their capacity to meet the costing implications of the unions likely pay claims "

Napo is doing what it must do ask for more pay in line with any Union function. The dispute me well be on going but pay is a matter of all sides to attend to. What the report says is there is no money for pay claims and the MoJ are in talks. What does that really mean Working Links Cant pay staff so what?

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So will the majority of PO's who left in the last year to go to NPS etc get any back pay? Seriously folks there are virtually no non agency PO's left in Working Links now. It will take more than a miserly few quid to sort that problem out. Sooner they fold the better. You can't run a service like this on agency staff. No offence but it is bad economically as well as in terms of overall commitment to the service users and employers. Or do I misunderstand the meaning of transformation?

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Can you see WL tracing ex-employees to give them money? Sadly the 'joint statement' bears no resemblance to previous slash, parry & riposte of Dino; sounds like another Napo HQ fudge-up. Are we sure HQ aren't in the pocket of Spurr & MoJ? They seem determined to take everything down a cul-de-sac, leaving members in the shit.

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No we cannot be sure if a Napo Spurr MoJ allegiance is a factor but there is no way Dino would be any part of that not a chance he is pro member pro rights pro union full stop.

15 comments:

  1. Extract from [undated] blog by Ian Lawrence:

    "If further proof were needed of the total shambles that Transforming Rehabilitation has caused, than look no further than the news revealed over the last day that the Community Rehabilitation Companies owned by Working Links are about to put forward plans for swingeing cuts in the region of 40%... Urgent talks are being convened between the national probation unions, local reps, senior CRC management and their owners... As always Napo will issue more detailed news once it is available but during my visit to South Western Branch members in Exeter recently I made it clear that Napo stands ready to assist them in negotiations with management"


    From Unison website (also undated):

    "the unions will be demanding that the employer immediately pays out the 1% incremental progression to all eligible WL staff to match the award made by the NPS earlier this year. Moreover, we now expect urgent ‘no strings’ talks to take place about 2017 pay and beyond and future arrangements for securing jobs."

    Does the joint statement represent 'NO STRINGS' talks?

    "The Probation Trades Unions and Senior Working Links Management met last week to explore the prospects for establishing some continuity in talks about pay and reward, contractual incremental progression... The employer reported that they are currently involved in talks with the MoJ... this has led to some reassessment by all CRC contract holders around future funding streams and their capacity to meet the costing implications of the unions likely pay claims."

    Sounds like the employer brought a ball of string with them & proceeded to tie the union reps in knots.

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    1. Many sides to a story let's wait to see what Napo says and unison when they have had their pay talks meetings.

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  2. Reinventing the wheel perhaps?
    I wonder where the £1,8m has come from.

    http://www.kentonline.co.uk/gravesend/news/pioneering-probation-scheme-launches-182514/

    'Getafix

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    1. In an office just outside Gravesend town centre the justice system is changing.

      For the first time probation officers are working with academics to revolutionise rehabilitation and in the process cut crime.

      Kent, Surrey & Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company’s (KSS) goal is as ambitious as it is honourable.

      Adults sent to prison re-offend at a rate of around 49%, rising to 65% for those sentenced to less than 12 months. People handed a community sentence reoffend at a rate of 33%.

      The company took over supervising low and medium risk offenders, of which there are 4,500 in Kent, in 2015 as part of the part privatisation of the probation service – high risk offenders are still supervised by the publicly-funded National Probation Service.

      Now, following a £1.8 million investment seven new purpose built hubs have been created in town’s across the county in an effort to get a hold of the reoffending issue.

      Facilities have also opened in Ashford, Chatham, Maidstone, Ramsgate, Sittingbourne and Tunbridge Wells.

      Head of intervention Carl Hall says the new spaces allow for a much more holistic approach to rehabilitation.

      He said: “We have job clubs which teach offenders about getting back into work, how to interview, how to dress and how to discuss their crimes. We also have people coming in to discuss substance misuse and housing problems. If you can get someone a job and a home you’re half way there.”

      And he says the autonomy to create the new centres is one of going private.

      Currently Dr David Coley, an experienced officer and now a probation practice researcher, is the only academic working with the company, but soon he’ll be joined by senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Portsmouth, Kerry Ellis-Devitt.

      He says the changes being made by KSS, which is owned by Seetec, are sorely needed not just by the probation service but by the entire justice system.

      “There’s been a fall in public confidence both in magistrates and in community sentences in recent years,” he explains, adding part of that problem is magistrates themselves lack faith in rehabilitation.

      He added: “Community sentences are a much cheaper option than prison and statistically a better option.”

      Community payback also falls under KSS’ remit. Head of that department Emma Vecchiolla is happy to report in the past year 390,000 hours of work has been carried out equating to £2.9 million of free labour.

      It’s traditionally seen as the punishment part of probation, but it is all part of the road to reformation and 20% of the hours imposed on offenders at court can be spent developing skills.

      Some of those doing community service even get employed off the back of it, other offenders are now working for KSS.

      She said: “Some people in my sessions have never had to get up at the same time every day. Unemployed offenders are made to work up to four days a week.”

      They work with charities, have created a memory garden in Rochester for Making Miracles and are in talks with nine other charities to make wooden items for them to sell.

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    2. Chief executive Suki Binning says the investment means KSS can stay at the heart of communities.

      She added: “This will help us to preserve and strengthen the vital links between our probation officers, offenders and partners from police and other agencies.”

      KSS will now develop a research unit to test, trial and evaluate new programmes to reduce reoffending.

      All building towards an end goal, says Mrs Binning, of “cutting the number of future victims of crime and improving the quality of life for communities across the region.”

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    3. Fuck me! That's amazing!! Why has no-one ever thought of these things before? Why did Grayling spend £800M on CRCs when just £1.8M was all that was required? Can we make Suki Binning the Prime Minister? Or the Chancellor? Or the SoS for Justice? Its beyond brilliant (ok, that's enough sarcasm for a Bank Holiday)...

      * For the first time probation officers are working with academics to revolutionise rehabilitation
      * a much more holistic approach to rehabilitation
      * We have job clubs which teach offenders about getting back into work, how to interview, how to dress and how to discuss their crimes
      * We also have people coming in to discuss substance misuse and housing problems
      * “Community sentences are a much cheaper option than prison and statistically a better option”
      * Community Payback... 20% of the hours imposed on offenders at court can be spent developing skills

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    4. Balanced with some questionable stuff:

      * KSS's goal is as ambitious as it is honourable - hmmm

      * Adults sent to prison re-offend at a rate of around 49%, rising to 65% for those sentenced to less than 12 months. People handed a community sentence reoffend at a rate of 33% - NOT according to Grayling

      * autonomy to create the new centres is one of going private - after closing the previous offices

      * Emma Vecchiolla is happy to report in the past year 390,000 hours of work has been carried out equating to £2.9 million of free labour - 'free labour'

      * it is all part of the road to reformation - so its not rehabilitation then?

      * Some of those doing community service even get employed off the back of it - are they really so different from others in society?

      * Unemployed offenders are made to work up to four days a week - surely 'required' would be more appropriate?

      Lazy journalism simply reprinting the KSS press release without questioning a single aspect.

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    5. Rehabilitation is for people; reformation is for religions.

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    6. There is no wheel being re-invented. It is a process designed to maximise profit.
      The hubs will be filled to the rafters with unwilling participants who will benefit very little, but will allow the privateers to sign off on outcomes at record speed.
      There is no incentive for the private market to reduce reoffending or assist offenders with their problem. Doing so would be akin to commercial suicide.

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  3. This struck me

    "For the first time probation officers are working with academics to revolutionise rehabilitation and in the process cut crime."

    So the forerunner of OASys (ACE) was not piloted by Probation Areas in collaboration with Oxford Uni?
    There is not a tradition of research in the NAPO Journal?
    In fact I have dreamt all of this up or imagined it in the last 25 years.

    How do people get away with this crap?

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  4. “We also have people coming in to discuss substance misuse and housing problems. If you can get someone a job and a home you’re half way there.”

    Wow that’s so innovative. Why I’ve never thought of that before. In fact 100 years of probation and they’ve just thought of this now!!!

    Wait a minute, helping with housing, employment and substance misuse, giving advice on job interviews, err isn’t this what every probation office in the world already does?

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  5. Methinks Suki Binning, David Coley and KSS CRC Probation have been reading The Emperors New Clothes.



    "The Emperor's New Clothes" (Danish: Kejserens nye Kl├Žder) is a short tale written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, about two weavers who promise an emperor a new suit of clothes that they say is invisible to those who are unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent – while in reality, they make no clothes at all, making everyone believe the clothes are invisible to them. When the emperor parades before his subjects in his new "clothes", no one dares to say that they do not see any suit of clothes on him for fear that they will be seen as stupid. Finally, a child cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"

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  6. KSS £1.8m investment and opening several hubs.
    Working Links cutting staff numbers and working out of public libraries.
    Cant beat consistency of service delivery.

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  7. 390,000 hrs free labour? By my maths that equates to nearly £5.5 million cost to taxpayer as per rate card.

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    1. So nearly £600,000 lost in tax revenue at basic rate (£2.9m x 20%) + rate card charges of £5.5m means UK taxpayers have footed the bill to the tune of £6m for KSS's community payback.

      "All building towards an end goal, says Mrs Binning, of filling our boots courtesy of the UK taxpayer. Hurrah!"

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