Saturday, 14 September 2013

Probation in Crisis!

It's becoming ever more clear that thanks to the unremitting efforts of ministers Chris Grayling and Jeremy Wright in driving forward the Transforming Rehabilitation omnishambles, normal probation services are breaking down. They have done such a brilliant job in their aim of destroying a well-performing public service that staff are hemorrhaging at an alarming rate, putting intolerable strain on those remaining.

In order to try and 'keep the show on the road' Trusts are having to resort to ever more extreme and innovative measures such as giving caseloads to unqualified and untrained admin staff, getting PO's to undertake OASys assessments without going to the bother of interviewing clients and considering the award of emergency 'retention' payments for key staff.

Thanks to the ongoing TR onslaught by arrogant Chris Grayling and the stupidity of Jeremy Wright who keeps talking about the new NPS being staffed by 'experts', morale is at absolutely rock bottom. Many colleagues have reached the point where they cannot even wait to hear of the redundancy payment proposals and are 'jumping ship' now. The internal intranet EPIC is already carrying advertisements for key roles with CRC's, offices are being measured up by property agents DTZ and yet the MoJ/NOMS people still blithely think that it can be 'situation normal'. 

It's vitally important that the public understand what's going on here and that it's all going pear-shaped. Sickness levels are rising and senior management are too concerned with their own future to be spending time looking after the well-being of staff. Thanks to probation tweeter and blogger Poofficer, we know what the strength of feeling is on the shop floor, and I hope they don't mind me quoting from a recent post:-

"My Chief appears to champion everything else but Probation.  She is silent when it comes to Probation"

"My SPO has given us a list of questions we are NOT allowed to ask the chief when they come to visit the office. I feel like we have been gagged."

"Staff are leaving and are not being replaced.  Workloads are increasing and those left are struggling to cope.  One PO in my office has been issued with capability procedures as she can't keep up.  Our workloads have doubled!"

"We have SPO's in my office who spend all day devising new rotas, I am tied to a rota!  They have increased my caseload, practically chained me to my desk and still continue to tell me I need to be creative in my supervision sessions with offenders..... I tell them I don't have time and they tell me I need to make time! how do you make time?"

"I work in admin and we have lost a lot of staff already.  My workload has increased and I find myself making mistakes as I have to rush most things.  This upsets me as I used to pride myself on doing a good job.  I have children so I cant stay late in the evening to get things done.  I have told my boss who appears to be understanding but she just told me to try my best"

"Everybody needs to remember that this is not Probation's fault.  It is ideology driven policy by an out of touch Government.  It is easy to point the finger at CEO's and other managers but I haven't met a CEO yet who supports these changes.  You also need to remember that they are civil servants and can only say so much" 

"I manage PPO's in my office and I'm concerned whats going to happen to those.  Are a company who only get paid by results going to want to take on the most prolific offenders?  Also some are high risk of harm so will the PPO's be split? This is very dangerous in my opinion."

"Did you know the link between the chair of the Probation Association (who appear to be silent) and the privatisation of the Probation Service?  Serbet Cox is the Chair of the Durham Tees Valley Trust AND the Probation Association.  I would like to think this isn't a conspiracy, but who knows? click for link  link two"
"You know something is fundamentally wrong with our 'leadership' when you rely on updates about your future from twitter and Jim's blog!"

"Some days Im working 12 hours to keep up as lots have left in my office.  I have no energy to do anything else when I get home.  I used to love doing this job, now I hate coming to work.  Its not the work that I hate, but the politics"

"Probation Managers are in the same position, if not worse, than Offender Managers.  I think sometimes people forget this"

"I hate all of this and I hate the fact that decisions about not just my employment, but also the safety of the community and the rehabilitation of offenders is put in the hands of a man I wouldn't let look after my dog!"

"Transforming Rehabilitation may not be a bad thing.  Probation is full of bureaucracy and the focus has shifted from the work we do with offenders to completing unnecessary paperwork.  Hopefully the focus will now shift back to the work we do with offenders given the driving force will be to stop them offending.  Don't get me wrong, It does come with its downfalls but Probation only have themselves to blame.  For years it has been like a secret organisation and nobody has any clue what we do, we have rolled over to Government and NOMS requests and have lost our backbone"

"Offenders and communities are going to suffer.  It is like what they are doing with titan prisons.  Localism is going to be lost and we will have no community links.  Rural and smaller offices will close and offenders be made to ravel for hours to attend for Probation."


  1. Chris Grayling is intent on pushing his reform agenda through despite major concerns being raised by civil servants. I feel so sad at what is happening and I just want out. I have almost 30 years service in a job that I loved and was proud to do. My chief and chair have not had the cojones to raise one objection to this debacle and have rolled over. Where is the resistance? Are we an organisation full of apathy now?

  2. Those who are left need to bear witness to those who destroyed the service lest future officers forget...Messrs Grayling and Wright and when the future of this debacle comes to be written let also the heroes such as Joe Kuipers be remembered as those who tried valiantly to prevent the disaster that is soon to unfold

  3. I think it depends in what circles we move whether or not we are overwhelmed with apathy.

    In the Twittersphere I see lots of signs of intelligent argument against Transforming Rehabilitation including reports from parts of England that suggest there is significant activity challenging this flawed nonsense.

    Soon after a successful public meeting in Brighton - with speakers from Doncaster, Chorley, Lancs as well as national figures like the only Green party MP and Napo's energetic General Secretary, - the local Napo Branch - Surrey & Sussex(or vice-versa) are holding a public gathering in Epsom NOW - where they hope to confront the local MP - none other than the Lord Chancellor himself. That does not sound like apathy. And it comes soon after another 'fun' event on the seas off Brighton -

    Then there are the Yorkshire choristers who have also left their musical objection on You Tube

    So if your downhearted - bookmark these links - at at least give yourself a smile as you reflect on what you might do - probation was for me much more than a job and I think its spirit can be kept alive even if the government effectively abandons it.

    Then yesterday our Napo Chivalry Road (I have never been to that Battersea hub of probation) friends were in a position to post three bits of news on their own website and an informative blog from the General Secretary - who must be living 25 hour long days right now, so I hope he is having a break this weekend as there is much to come next week.

    I noticed also there are plans to update the whole Napo website in the coming week - hopefully something will be done about the forum - which members seem to have collectively abandoned.

    I think we are right to be majorly concerned but downhearted?

    There is a fascinating programme on Radio 4 (listen again ) about that 1963 musical play (and film)- 'Oh What a Lovely War' (having its centenary(WWI - the show is just 50 yrs old) two years after Napo's) next year and apparently a new version of the musical play at my favourite theatre (Theatre Royal -Stratford (East)

    Available to hear for until about 19th September

    The Show to End All Wars -

    Quite a dyspraxic ramble - if you are still reading - I anticipate Jim will delete this or at least edit it - have a great weekend - I do not feel the war in defence of public probation is anywhere near over or that defeat is the most likely outcome.

    Andrew Hatton

  4. I work for a trust where the chief was very obviously keen to push the TR agenda well before it was officially announced. The phrase ' business as usual' seems to have become the trusts mission statement. Meanwhile there's no recognition of the how the uncertainty and constant change of focus, targets and future direction effects people's ability engage with the job at hand. Or the impact that changing every major computer system has had on productivity, just regular emails saying we need to improve the quantity and the quality of everything immediately. Offices have been completely restructured for no apparent reason and people who have been doing the job for years with no apparent problems are suddenly no longer fit for purpose because they didn't get enough points on an interview for their own job that they were given 3 days notice for. Meanwhile, even though they have been told they are not capable of doing the job, they are told to carry on as normal while we find someone who is good enough. People who have been working regular hours which were agreed to accommodate childcare or protected characteristics are suddenly told they have to work evenings/ change their hours and no, you don't have a choice. and, you know what? it's working. People with no job security do what they're told because they have debts to pay and families to feed. People who have lost trust in their leaders to provide them with things they need to do the job, keep their heads down and look for an exit strategy. It's the biggest case of institutionalised bullying I've ever encountered, it's an entire workforce, one which is demonstrably excellent at what it does, being systematically beaten down for the sake of one man's ego and other people's greed. and it's a disgrace.

    a senior manager dealing with a complaint I made once told me that what I saw as management complacency and mistakes were more likely to be a cock- up than a conspiracy. I actually agreed with him at that point. Now I do not.

    1. If this is not happening in every work place , it soon will be !! This is the private company way for many ,bar a few ethical companies. I read all those "mission statements" and "Trust values" statements with a very wry smile , they mean nothing now , if ever they did...I have been advised that I will be tested for my business accumen...I did that many years ago , I can find my way round P&L accounts and cashflow sheets no problem but I left that work to follow my conscience and work with people.....difficult,vulnerable individuals who are impacting on their own lives as well as many others. I didn't enjoy the commercial world and the probation "service" seemed ideal and a place where I thrived and my clients did too. I wish I could go back and commercialise my work work over 15 years , because I think my community is still in credit from my work and the P&L account is soundly in the black!!

  5. just to clarify. when I refer to managers I am talking about the senior management team which has been hand picked to evidence the ' correct' corporate brand and double speak. The majority of middle managers are in a very difficult position and are not happy about it either.

  6. So are staff interviews being conducted already when the appendix B setting out staff transfer terms are not to be released until 19/09. Then there is supposed to be the 28 day consultation period?

    1. You folk are really having it tough - stick together via Union membership - The Government needs you to run probation - eventually they WILL realise they cannot do it successfully without skilled professionals.

      Meanwhile - interviews for your own job - Napo postings say - if such interviews are connected with the expected upcoming split of probation workers - they are not contractually allowed to happen before there is an agreement on the National Conditions.

      Such national agreement CANNOT happen before about October the 18th at the earliest - so there may well be grounds to use the grievance procedures regarding such interviews. I suggest speak to Branch Officers on Monday and if you are not a member of Napo or Unison - JOIN - you will get collective representation immediately and individual in 3 months time.

      I cannot locate the email with the advise about NOT doing anything locally by way of discussing or negotiating future arrangements - I hope someone else will provide the exact quote.

      Andrew Hatton

    2. From the Chair of Napo Greater London Branch in an Email sent on 12/9/13

      "NAPO and Unison are very clear that, UNTIL the National Agreement on Staff Transfer and Protections has been agreed at the NNC (which will not happen before the end of this proposed local consultation period) it is not possible for Trusts to have any detailed conversations with unions (or staff) locally on the split of staff into NPS or CRCs, because the methodology for the split WILL NOT have been agreed."

      It came with an attachment from National Napo with info about the dates - but I cannot open that right now - sorry.

      Andrew Hatton

    3. That 'attachment' of advise to members from National Napo begins:-

      "Napo and UNISON branches and activists are likely to be invited this week to attend consultation meetings with their Trust from 19 September regarding the proposed split of the Probation Service into the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies. The Justice Secretary has initiated a 28 day consultation period from this date. This joint Napo/UNISON bulletin sets out advice on how the unions should approach this consultation locally."

      AND INCLUDES with much other info - members either will have already or can obtain from their Branch Officers - or presumably Napo HQ -

      "Members should not enter into any one-to-one discussions with their Probation Trust in relation to the impact of the workforce split on their own circumstances during the 28 day consultation period, or give any undertakings to their employer in relation to the proposed split of the workforce This is simply because, until the split process and protections have been agreed at the NNC, neither employer, nor employee, will have the full information on which to base an individual discussion."

      I hope that helps at least one person.

      Andrew Hatton

    4. well, as I said this agenda started before the official TR announcement ( we were going to be a pilot area) so the prep work was already done. The restructuring is therefore NOT part of the TR agenda ( who do they think they are kidding?) and therefore they can joyfully announce that it's the trusts independent decision to have a restructuring exercise, knowing full well they intend to do it all over again when Grayling tells them to and by then the staff will be so demoralised we will be grateful to be given a job with zero hour contracts.....

    5. and they cleverly have done this with almost every post except PO and PSO.........

    6. Well my reading of that message sent out by Napo (and Unison), is that it equally applies to non PO & PSO posts as well, because they are all subject to national negotiations about which Unison or GMB(SCOOP) have a legal right to be consulted.

      I think the Secretary of State has reserve powers to impose pay settlements in some circumstances without agreement, but am not sure about that, or whether such imposition applies to other terms and conditions. However, such 'imposition' is irrelevant at this stage because the negotiations are ongoing at a national level and apparently there are plans for local consultations to take place, from Thursday 19th September over a 28 day period - by which time (presumably) the national negotiations will have been completed and the unions will be made an offer that they will put to members.

      I hope I am accurate here and not muddling the issue - which I think is rather complicated.

      Andrew Hatton.

      Andrew Hatton

    7. Restructuring has been going on for the last 18 months or so at least - most if not all Trusts have divided the work into high and low risk already with all PO and all PSO teams. Not sure Napo had much to say about it at all.

    8. That's correct Jim. There were some limited protests from NAPO which were roundly ignored but the divide and conquer techniques have been very effective. Anyone who thinks that these activities were not done with TR in mind are fooling themselves I'm afraid.

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  8. I would like to start looking for new jobs but still have 6 months of my PQF left. I am very demotivated and feel there is little point continuing. I have heard PQF staff will stay with NPS till training finished but then what. I have heard that you have to have at least 2 years experience to express interest in staying with NPS but all of my training has been on MAPPA team and PSO prior to that so I have some good skills already, but not 2 years qualified. How will CRC staff be able to apply to move into NPS in the future if they are not getting experience of high risk cases and lets face it there will be staff attrition in the future so how will they replace staff.

    1. You sound like you expect the HR processes to be considered and fair.
      ? It will be blunt, brutal and ill-conceived.

  9. I guess I am just used to working with companies who do know how to restructure by playing the by the rules. Don't you just love ring fencing :(

  10. I was a middle manager in a high performing area until quite recently but took early retirement. Having many friends who are senior managers I believe they know they have been set up and that they are dispensible. Many are struggling with having to sing the party line, want to protect the staff for whom they feel responsible as well as keep their own employment.They are looking for some hope for the future.I left because I could not cope with the stress of watching standards fall, staff struggle with impossible workloads and still keep mouthing the party line
    I don't believe the government give a damn about quality or the consequences of this policy.It will go ahead and I for one am very angry.I now work in a hostel for low pay for a private housing provider quality is poor, risk assessments a joke...but they are performing well.

    1. A sobering tale - thanks for sharing it and welcome to the club - the angry probation club.