Saturday, 5 May 2018

Probation and Your Health

The following has been seen on Facebook and republished here, minus identifying information, as a warning to all staff:-

Does Probation Need a Health Warning?

“People need to choose their employer not just for salary and promotion opportunities but on the basis of whether the job will be good for their psychological and physical health. Business leaders should measure the health of their workforce, not just profits.”

Interesting chatting to a GP friend recently she told me that she and her colleagues had anecdotally noticed a surprising increase in Probation staff with serious work related health conditions and asked me if something had happened in the last few years that might explain it. She said that previously Probation staff had appeared to her and her colleagues to be some of the healthiest and happiest employees and were relatively positive about both their employers and job. Now it seems these protective factors have been eroded.

How your workplace is killing you

"The modern workplace can inflict dangerous levels of stress on employees. Jeffrey Pfeffer, author of Dying for a Paycheck, argues that these practices don’t help companies – and warns governments are ignoring an emerging public health crisis."

The evidence is unequivocal: job-related anxiety is a growing health crisis with repercussions for your mental and physical well-being.


I asked for sickness numbers recently (NPS) and was told that they can't get them. No idea if that is true, but my sense is that sickness absence, and in particular long term absences, are greatly increased, and staying high. One contributor may well be that - in my observation - staff are not taking short sickness breaks because of the draconian policy, which of course just stores up trouble and undermines health.

Just left CRC after 27years plus, ill health retirement due to anxiety, depression. Managed prior to privatisation by compressed hours and good SPO support and therapy. Post privatisation total disaster relating to work stress. High caseload, no support, unrealistic targets, too much to mention. Sad times I feel now and so oppressive.

I am so sorry. How crap. I hope you are building up your strength now. They tell me there is life outside. x

So sorry to hear that.

Slowly, it was harrowing to say the least. My GP, Occupational Health were amazed at my treatment to be honest. I left recently end of April, told it would be formal level sickness meeting but informal as I got retirement on health grounds. Checked equipment in, asked what I wanted staff to be told and sent on my way. No thank you for 27 plus years or nothing, amazing really. Yet at recent inspection I was so praised by inspectorate they wrote to me to pass on to management how impressed they were of my management of case. Old school practice shunned upon now though. So glad I'm out of it.

Good grief that is appalling. How are you working through it all now? Tough, because for the Lifers amongst us, Probation is such a big part of our identity.

To be fair I think I did a lot of grieving through the process. When I finally agreed with my GP and went for medical retirement, I knew it was the end for me. They drove me to suicidal thoughts and 2 major attempts at overdose resulting in time in hospital. I can't express how worn down, bullied and isolated I felt. I'm glad I have escaped with dignity this way because I feel it could of ended in either me being sacked or worse still, possibly dead. I'm not ashamed to post this, I hope others are mindful and look after their welfare because sadly this service will no longer support you. Once part of a family I felt, now you're just a number in a sweatshop .and this is the same for service users...

I also left CRC. I was going thru anxiety at a high level. Got signed off for six weeks. My GP saved my life she told me to leave asap. Stress kills and I want to live.

It's a widespread epidemic in public sector working. My GP said it's on the increase. Sadly you're powerless to tackle on individual basis even with union support, it needs to be addressed nationally  but I fear these company's do not listen. I may be wrong, I may be a bit paranoid, but I believe that the company I worked for systematically want people on top scale pay and high annual leave benefits etc to leave so they can employ people on cheaper pay and conditions. Also the fact 50+ year olds aren't so adept at technology isn't addressed and no allowances made. I've forgotten how many times I sobbed at my desk,  had panic attacks because I could not work the damn machine and couldn't get support readily as no IT dept - all got rid of. I could write a book.

Just read your other comment. So sad you went thru all of that. It's disgusting. The managers from band 6 upwards are getting away with a lot of things. Changing the goal posts. Implementing changes with no consideration or consultation. My SPO was sooo stressed as was the team. We were so stressed. Most people are so scared to leave and there is not much out there at the minute. Hopefully ur speaking up will help other colleagues who feel they are alone.

I agree very difficult times employment wise thanks to Tory government. Damn them. I just hope people stop working extra hours at home on laptops due to fear of not keeping up. My favourite saying at work to colleagues was "would you stack shelves free for Tesco" no well don't do voluntary work for Xxxxxxxxxxxx. Collectively speak to union and get this addressed. It's like being in a DV relationship working in probation they have all the power and control, wear you down, intimidated you have financial control etc ECT. I lost my mind with worry putting my head above the parapet to stand up for staff and service users, sadly seen as someone who couldn't accept change. No I couldn't stand for abuse. Anyway I am moving forward and licking my wounds from one hell of a fight. Best bit "I know management certain people are gutted I got this". He who laughs last laughs longest ... lol xx

I did the same. Sticking up for myself, colleagues and service users. Seen as a trouble maker and who does not like changes. Colleages take their laptop homes to keep up. Once I got two allocations in a week and a releasee. My colleagues are falling out with each other. The morale is ocean deep. I have a large mortage so I took a gamble to temp and decided to take that leap of faith. Best decision ever. I work three days in court now and feel so so much happier and getting my mojo back. One step at a time I have told myself.

Absolutely well done. Like you I'm sure taking back control is key to recovery. I thought to myself "enough is enough". I'm feeling stronger every day. I really hope things continue to work for you and hold on to the fact you took control, you made that big step which takes courage I so respect that. Sstay strong, safe and be happy again xx

Trust me I was so scared. I dreamt about handing in my notice a thousand times and never thought it would become real. I was sad as were my colleagues and service users. I did not even feel the sense of jumping for joy I envisaged. Just a sense of guilt as my cases were reallocated to an overstretched team but felt a sense of relief that the stress and anxiety were coming to an end. Thank you so much Xxxxxx. Those words mean alot to me. I wish you well on ur journey. It's not the end but the beginning of a new exciting venture. Take care and all the best for the future xx

My journey now is to get up, go to garden centre and plant plant plant, so my garden is beautiful to sit in and enjoy the sun.I will do something in time with people again. It's in my DNA but it will be voluntary and on my terms. xx

CRC claim it is commercially sensitive. I assume if matters had improved then employers would be saying so.

Just left London CRC and they have a high sickness rate. No guesses why.

My other observation is that at the end of my working week, I am absolutely shattered, and my working week is only three days long. I am older but then I am experienced, so one should balance the other. But I don't think I could manage the job (OM) full time and have any sort of work life balance. A full time colleague said that she just works and sleeps.

I agree - I now do three days and that’s enough! How sad!

I agree I’m always at work or asleep.

Fuck "Commercially sensitive". It's just short hand for "Embarrassing so we're not telling".

There should be sickness and well being league tables.

Very sad that Probation seems to be becoming an endurance test.

That's "working at pace".

I see. As Douglas Adams once said ‘I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.'

There is also a lot of boiling frog syndrome around - I didn’t realise just quite how stressed and unwell I had become until I retired early. Now feel like myself again.

I was asked to leave the CRC after12 years of service. Starting as a Receptionist in 2006. I then applied for the Community Payback role for 7 years. Unfortunately due to the TR Privatization of the Probation Service my role automatically, unqualified [changed] to Offender Manager. 5 days training and bam new caseload of challenges I knew nothing about. Consequently I was placed on Performance Management and failed miserably. The end of my career was goodbye you're not wanted. I was very bitter about my treatment, however I am relieved to have my life back and my health. I did nothing wrong and was treated worse than some of the service user's who I had good progress with. Glad to be out.

I’ve been out of the CRC for a week and my MH is slowly returning, so good. No standards in the CRC, leaves you feeling rudderless and under a looming threat of SFOs and feeling your standards going down. Traumatic.

"Now it seems these protective factors have been eroded." Too right they've been eroded but worse is that whereas historically I found the job energizing or oxygenating, now it's toxic. The carbon dioxide component has taken over. Hence looking for alt work.


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

    1. 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

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.
      Its 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. Its unhealthy, and quantity driven, quality means less dividends for shareholders.
      Its just a dirty world we live in where there's no trust anymore, and the only thing that matters is profit.


  4. 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".

  5. 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 12months paid sabattical.
    I'd like a 3 month break every 3 years, either a sabattical taken from accrued leave or placement in a non operational/ non-client facing role.

    N the meantime we need meaningful clinical supervision rather than line management supervision.

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

  6. 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!

    1. 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.



    1. Criminal barristers are in the grip of a mental health crisis caused by significant increases in the amount of digital evidence, the number of historical sexual assault cases and long hours, the body that represents them has said.

      Changes to the legal system, including to the fee structure and proposals to extend court hours, were likely to further damage a profession already struggling to cope, according to the Criminal Bar Association (CBA), which represents members of the bar in England and Wales.

      Data due to be published by the Bar Council and shared with the Guardian reveals that in the past two years workloads have increased for 40% of criminal law practitioners in England and Wales, while a third said they were considering new career options.

      Nearly 60% of criminal bar staff surveyed said they were working more than 51 hours a week; of those nearly half were working more than 60 hours. Only half of the 1,346 barristers questioned said they felt able to balance their home and work lives.

      A spokesperson for the Bar Council said: “A preliminary analysis of the raw data from our survey suggests life at the criminal bar is challenging, with barristers in criminal practice recording some of the longest working hours, highest workload and greatest levels of dissatisfaction with their working lives.

      “This is a cause for concern and is why we are campaigning for a better-funded system of justice.”

      Sarah Vine, a practising barrister who was appointed last year as the first wellbeing director at the CBA, said: “There is a mental health crisis in the profession and it is so insidious.”

      Many criminal barristers were feeling “completely despondent and overwhelmed”, she said.

      “I spoke to someone the other day who said in the last fortnight she’d done two all-nighters. That is two nights without any sleep at all and nobody bats an eyelid.

      “But that’s incredibly dangerous for your mental health. It’s absurd and mistakes are bound to happen as a result.”

      The CBA launched a 24-hour helpline in December.

      Vine said many of her colleagues had reported that their concerns were being ignored.

      “At the bar there is this fetishisation of overwork and the government exploits that. They must think: ‘Brilliant, here are a bunch of people who get their self-worth not from how much money they earn, but from how busy and close to a nervous breakdown they are.’”

      Vine said the rise in the number of historical sexual abuse cases had an impact on lawyers both prosecuting and defending lawyers.

      Self-employed barristers with a tendency to take on whatever work came their way could end up handling back-to-back cases involving allegations of a serious sexual nature for months.

      “It has nothing to do with whether the allegation is true or not – just listening to that stuff day in, day out impacts on your mental health,” Vine said.

      Gender representation is evenly split at entry level, the data shows, but a disproportionate number of women quit the bar in later years. The average age of those practising is also rising.

      An anonymous blogger known as the Secret Barrister said cuts to legal aid cuts were a major problem. “Initially you can be bringing home less than the minimum wage. This is leading to a succession crisis in criminal law. Increasingly, only those who can afford to supplement their income are joining.

      “It affects representation by income and social class, but in crime we are also seeing a huge flood of female practitioners leaving the bar after five or 10 years because the conditions are so family unfriendly.”

    2. Becky Owen, a successful barrister, resigned in March. “For me, it was the conditions, the sheer volume of work and the complete lack of respect for me as a human being,” she said.

      “I got sick of arriving home dehydrated, starving and having not had time to go to the loo. It takes its toll.”

      The 43-year-old blamed a lack of funding and support. “There aren’t many people who have to watch videos of two-year-old boys being raped before going home to sleep – and at times for less than the minimum wage.

      “That’s what we are being asked to deal with, yet the profession attracts no sympathy because it is assumed we make a lot of money. I think in 20 years’ time we’ll look back and recognise this as the point when miscarriages of justices started happening.”

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