Wednesday 30 June 2021

Victory and Demands

To coincide with the launch of the new Probation Service, Napo published a bumper 'Reunification Special' and this is what the leadership has to say:-
Reunification leaves little time to look back

A new era for Napo 

In decades to come let us hope that the 26th June 2021 will be writ large in the annals of Probation Service history. It’s a date that signifies the final victory over a disastrous privatisation policy perpetrated by a Government whose Ministers believed that they knew the price of everything but, in reality, appreciated the value of nothing. The egregious politically driven attack on a gold standard public service against all conventional wisdom, was destined to cause our members much pain, the British taxpayers a fortune, and see the fragmentation of Probation into a parody of its former self. But it’s time to recognise that the brave campaign by Napo members is over; now recent history that we will celebrate one final time when we hopefully meet in Newcastle at our 2021 Annual General Meeting.

A new build in progress 

That is why this special edition of Napo Magazine will rightly focus on the long road ahead for Napo and our members as we take the rebuilding process that has been underway for nearly two years into its next phase. Putting the new foundations in place will be no easy task; as we seek the necessary investment in people and training, and the money to pay Probation service staff the salaries that properly reflect their professionalism. In the many engagements to come with senior leaders and politicians on these and many more issues you can be assured that we will never lose sight of our ultimate objective: a fully funded public Probation service, freed from the constraints of the Civil Service and restored to local control and accountability. As the next big campaign goes, it presents something of a test; sadly, it will not end in another victory any time soon, or before a great deal of hard graft has been put in.
Given that Napo and our loyal members, have come through the right side of the biggest challenge that any of us could ever have imagined, you can be rightly proud of what your collective efforts have achieved. It’s now time to look forward and embrace the future.

Ian Lawrence
Napo General Secretary



In July 2019 Napo, following the first announcement about reunification (which still allowed for letting of contracts for the provision of unpaid work and programmes) Napo set out our demands for the future of Probation. Now that we have moved even further than this we re-visit those demands to see what has been achieved and what we have yet to work on. 

Fully integrated service provision 

Reunification delivers on this demand; core functions needed to deliver and manage the sentence of the Court will be now contained within one unified service. Let the folly of TR be a salutary lesson to guard against any future attempts to split the service and make profit from this vital area of work. 

In the public sector and never for profit but out of the civil service and released from prison

Removing the profit motive is a crucial step for Probation but the contracts for ‘commissioned rehabilitation services’ retain a risk that some of the organisations losing CRC contracts will see the new contracts as a way to recover losses. 

The new unified Probation service will be in the public sector but remains in the Civil Service and deep in the shadow of the Prison Service. Being in the Civil Service brings its own challenges, as does the seeping across of the prison service ‘command and control’ operational style. In an organisation with a strict hierarchy this may well be warranted but Probation people should be constantly questioning and be free to criticise the system in which they work. 

Most crucially Probation people need to be able to take an approach to work with their clients that recognises and names the structural inequalities that they face – including racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism and all other forms of oppression that exist in all of our societal structures. Unless we can recognise the oppression that our clients face, and unless we can work with them to understand it’s impact on their lives, we are doomed to perpetuate that structural oppression. Being Civil Servants limits freedom to criticise the state and the command-and-control hierarchical structure places all of the power in the centre with those on the frontline unable to question why they are being instructed to work in a certain way. Add to this the endless bureaucracy that frontline workers face for even the most simple of tasks and Probation work becomes more about ‘feeding the machine’ than working with people. 

Being part of HMPPS is a little like having a very famous sibling. When people talk about your family your name is forgotten and everyone wants to know more about them than you. How many times do those working in Probation mutter “and Probation” when HMPPS is described as “HM Prison Service”. How many times to we shout “and Probation” when the Minister tasked with overseeing Probation is described as “Minister for Prisons”. How many times do we despair when senior appointees to the department have to start from scratch to learn about Probation because they have come from a Prison background.

Probation is a key part of the Criminal Justice System (CJS) and works in conjunction with other departments such as (and not limited to) Police, Courts, Prisons, Youth Justice, Secure services, the OPD pathway and the Parole Board. Our work with each element is no more or less important than others. The work that Probation staff do has a positive and beneficial impact on all of the other elements of the CJS but should never be seen as part of any one of them. Freedom from the prison service would not diminish the important link between the two services or the value that each brings to the other. Instead separation of the two services would enable Probation to have a voice and profile distinct from prisons ensuring that each organisation has the priority and focus needed. 

Built on evidence based practice 

Sometimes developments are based on evidence of best practice, sometimes they are based on saving money, sometimes they are based on a whim. It will come as no surprise that the first of these options is preferred. In the first version of Napo’s Demands we noted that staff were leaving due to pressure to work in ways they felt were wrong or even dangerous. We highlighted that the Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) model builds in multiple changes of ‘Offender Manager’ contrary to everything we know about consistency of worker relationship being key to desistance. Similarly recent changes outlined in the new Target Operating Model (TOM) for the unified Probation Service appear to be contrary to what evidence suggests is best practice, especially in terms of work with people convicted of sexual offending. 

It is yet to be seen if the new commissioned rehabilitation services will adopt models based on evidence and if they will integrate with the new Probation Service in a way that supports best practice throughout the system. It is crucial that all future plans are developed with evidence based practice at their heart. 

Rooted in the local community and partnering with local specialist providers 

The move to a regional structure is a step closer to a local focus. Splitting some of the largest divisions down into smaller chunks is welcomed however many regions are still very large, with one (Wales) covering an entire nation. While contracts for Commissioned Rehabilitation Services (CRS, the new name for the dynamic framework providers) are split down into PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner) level some organisations have contracts for several services across much larger geography. Letting contracts centrally does not meet our demand for partnership with local specialist providers and so far there is little sign that Probation regions will be rooted in local communities. 

We have a long way to go to rebuild the connection to community that is so important for Probation practice. This goes much further than the contracts for the CRS providers. The Probation Service must become a service which is visible to the communities we serve. We must break out of the centralised structure and make sure we are accountable to those communities. Probation practitioners work to support people to change their lives, and by doing so to protect the public and prevent further victims. All of the parts of the Probation system should be working towards this aim, whether they are working with people on probation or with people who are victims, whether they are in support functions or leadership and management functions. If you have no connection to the community you serve, how do you know what they need? How can you support someone to change their lives if you have no understanding of the context in which they live? This demand is possibly one of the most difficult to move forward on. Perhaps if we move out of the Civil Service and away from our colleagues in the prison service we will have more success at re-localising? For now there is much more work to do to repair the Probation system, and more work for Napo to do as the voice of the profession.

Katie Lomas 
National Chair

Tuesday 29 June 2021

'Tone Deaf' Excellent Leaders

So, the 'bigger, better' Probation Service was duly launched to much enthusiastic tweeting from the 'excellent' leaders, one of whom had the pleasure of hosting Robert Buckland to Chippenham yesterday and who just couldn't avoid offering proof as to why the Service must break free of political control if it's to be of any real use once more:- 
The new unified Probation Service will better protect the public and will help us cut crime. This morning I visited the Chippenham Probation Service to thank our unsung crimefighters and see the benefits of the £300m of extra funding we have invested since July 2019. There are already 1000 new probation officers helping to prevent reoffending and we plan to recruit 1,500 more this year. Read my article in Daily Mail to see how the new Probation Service will keep our streets safe:-
Probation system WILL work better for victims

I share the frustrations of many Daily Mail readers that Colin Pitchfork could soon be out of prison. His were the gravest of crimes which left two families in unimaginable grief.

Three decades on, Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth’s loved ones still live with the pain, and they have been front and centre in my thoughts in recent weeks. If convicted today, he would almost certainly have received a whole life order, behind bars without any hope of release. That will become the default for any premeditated child murder under our new Sentencing Bill.

But such a power was not available then, and so it fell to the independent Parole Board to decide, not if the original punishment was right, but if he is now safe to release.

My role as Lord Chancellor here is limited. The Government cannot overrule the Board’s decisions, but I can ask them to reconsider if it looks like the way they reached a decision was wrong or if it’s out of step with the evidence. After careful consideration, I will be doing that with the Pitchfork decision today. And while I can’t control the outcome of that review, we can control the level of supervision he would be given by the Probation Service if released.

He would face strict controls on his movements, have to wear a GPS tag and undergo regular polygraph testing to make sure he is being honest. If there’s any sense he poses an increased risk they wouldn’t hesitate to put him back in prison.

Probation staff do amazing, difficult work every day keeping the public safe, but it’s rarely spoken about. They are unsung crimefighters with eyes trained on offenders released from prison to prevent reoffending. We’ve invested an extra £310million in probation since I took office so they can do that even better.

We’re recruiting record numbers of probation officers, with over 1,000 trainees employed last year and plans to bring in 1,500 this year. That will mean staff can spend more time supervising offenders and working with the police to share intelligence. They will carry out more visits to offenders’ homes to protect children and partners from domestic and sexual abuse.

Three-quarters of the decisions the Board makes are to keep prisoners inside for the public’s protection. But, occasionally, decisions like the Pitchfork one rock public confidence. We are conducting a review of the system so it works better for victims and to restore people’s faith in its ability to keep them safe. It will report back later this year and, in the meantime, you can rest assured that the Probation Service will now be protecting the public even better than before.


If someone is not going to get some benefit from being subject to probation, what's the point of imposing it on them? What's gained? 'Getafix

Well there's a conversation starter, 'Getafix. It depends what the point of it all is. Punishment. Never been a fan of punishment for its own sake but I see our Sec of State extolling the virtues of visible Community Punishment. Or Community Service when I was starting out there. Service such a more attractive notion. So that is one tussle to be tussled with. Then there is Risk Management, now a neurotic exercise in risk avoidance. Risk is risk, you can narrow the odds but it doesn't go away, and if you had an ethical bone in your body you would have to balance that with (trigger alert for Daily Mail readers) human right. 

And then we get on to rehabilitation, the poor relation of current probation priorities, when it should be shining front and centre, (in my view) of everything we stand for. Strange times. First day at work in the "new" reunified in the public sector Probation Service. The more our hashtag leaders bleat excitedly about this brave new world, the more I feel angry and bereaved. Not as bereaved as those who have suffered the loss of loved ones as a result of this fiasco. The upbeat 'here we go' announcements are utterly tone deaf to the misery and exhaustion, the loss, experienced by so many. It is a step in the right direction, but oh lord we are all so weary. It takes minutes to demolish something, a lifetime and lots of skill to build it back. Pearly Gates

Friday 25 June 2021

CRCs - The End

This from Katie Lomas, Napo Chair:-

Thoughts on the last day of Probation Privatisation…

The last day of the CRC contracts will be a poignant one for all of us. Today marks the last day of the failed and dangerous “Transforming Rehabilitation” (TR) experiment. Breaking up Probation and selling contracts to allow companies to make profits from criminal justice was reckless and we fought it all the way. I am sure many will today be remembering the rallies, the marches, the strikes, the legal action that we threw ourselves into in a desperate attempt to protect our clients, the communities we serve and our profession.

We didn’t win the fight and TR went ahead in 2014 followed in early 2015 by the sale of the contracts. We didn’t stop campaigning but the wonderful Probation People who work in the system did everything they could to continue to support clients to change their lives, to ensure victims were heard in decision making and to protect the public by preventing future victims. Our campaigning slogan was ‘One Probation, One Profession’ and I am wearing my T-shirt with this on today, hoping to strike a pro-social tone about the future and avoiding saying “we told you so”.

As time went on it was clear that the contracts weren’t working, there was no money to be made from crime and the contract owners faced a stark choice. To satisfy the need for profit some cut services back as far as possible, got rid of as many staff as they could and introduced dangerous operating models. Others continued to try to deliver quality services and invested by bearing costs relating to this but there were tough times all round. Throughout all of this Probation People continued to do what they do best – to deliver a service despite the system around them, to find ways to do what was right for their clients and communities regardless of the obstacles put in their way.

Life hasn’t been much better for those moved into the National Probation Service during this accidental nationalisation project. Probation was never a centralised service and never in the civil service. TR brought both things about, removing the localised responsive service that was so vital in serving communities and individuals. Being a ‘non-departmental government body’ allowed Probation Services to be delivered in the public sector but at a remove from the Civil Service, ensuring that practitioners had freedom to think critically about the work they were doing, and the system and context in which they were doing it. The initial drive to fill the CRCs with as many staff as possible saw all of the support infrastructure from Probation Trusts arbitrarily allocated to CRCs. This left individuals facing redundancy in CRCs and NPS areas completely unable to cope.

Some CRCs did a good job in really tough circumstances, but the reality is that the premise of TR was flawed from the start and a fractured service could never work. Both CRCs and the NPS failed to deliver. The consequences have been tragic. An exodus of staff taking the opportunity to retire or leaving due to burnout or simply because they could no longer face working in such a dangerous way. Clients not receiving the support they needed struggled to make the changes they wanted to make to their lives, or to navigate their sentence successfully. Victim Liaison Officers with several hundred cases to oversee struggled to ensure that their clients got the service they deserved, leaving victims struggling to understand complex processes and to have their voice heard. Most tragically serious further offences increased and this means that there were more victims of devastating crimes committed by people who were under Probation supervision at the time. The stress, and distress, caused by knowing that you are working in an unsafe way and that more people will suffer such devastating consequences is immeasurable and the damage to people, to their loved ones and to communities can never be repaired.

So now the CRC contracts have ended and core services will be delivered by the new Probation Service with specialist support services contracted out. The process of transition for those staff who are moving has already been stressful, distressing and at times completely confusing. We face months more of confusion, distress and stress as the Probation Service reforms itself to fit the new scope of it’s work.

We have achieved one of our goals – to have all Probation Services delivered in the Public Sector but we must strive for more. Napo’s demands for the future of Probation will now continue to be to release Probation from Prisons and the Civil Service and to bring local responsivity and accountability to delivery of services. Finally we demand that Probation Practice be based on evidence not whim or cost. Napo will continue to be the voice for Probation People and our Profession and will continue to fight to restore and repair Probation.

Katie Lomas

Thursday 24 June 2021

More Trouble at MoJ

Ever since the writing was on the wall for the CRCs, US company MTC Novo must have had their eye on forthcoming lucrative MoJ prison contracts, but the Rainsbrook omnishambles has surely put paid to that? Of course we are talking of the MoJ here, their legendary contracting skills and the dysfunctional outfit run by Antonia Romeo of TR fame and currently in the process of wresting total control of the Probation Service. 

Sir Bob Neil at the Justice Committee has clearly lost his patience with both MTC Novo and the MoJ judging by this terse statement issued today:- 

Ministry of Justice still has questions to answer over Rainsbrook

The Justice Committee calls on the Ministry of Justice to explain why prison operator MTC was granted a two-year extension in 2020 to its contract to run Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre despite long-term concerns about its performance.

Read the Report: Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre

On 16 June, it was announced that all children would be removed from Rainsbrook amid serious concerns for the safety of those housed there. The facility had previously received a catalogue of negative inspection reports by Ofsted, the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission, and also issued with two Urgent Notifications in less than a year. The Justice Committee’s own report, published in March this year, called for the running of the facility to be brought back in-house, should MTC fail to deliver the improvements necessary.

In a follow-up report published today, the Committee has set out a series of questions about the decision making process that led to the contract to run the facility to be extended despite repeated criticisms from independent inspectors, two improvement notices being issued and financial penalties levied.

Questions also remain over the financial cost of extending the contract and what termination costs may now apply, as well as what the future use of the Rainsbrook facility will be. The Ministry has been requested to disclose this information.

The Committee expects to receive a reply in two weeks.


This from BBC website 16th June:-

Rainsbrook: Children to be removed over training centre safety fears

The Ministry of Justice is removing all children from a key institution detaining young criminals in the UK, amid serious concerns for their safety. All 33 children currently detained at the Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre will be transferred to other institutions. Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said private contractor MTC had "failed to deliver" vital changes. The company said it was surprised by the move and challenged the findings.

During the peak of the pandemic last year, detainees were being locked up in near solitary confinement as a quarantine measure. Three watchdogs were so concerned to find that children were still being held in those conditions in December, despite an order to the centre's management to stop, they ordered ministers to take urgent action. That prompted Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to order major changes to how private contractor MTC ran the facility in Northamptonshire, including new managers responsible for more closely monitoring how the young detainees were being cared for. But in a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry of Justice revealed that a further inspection by the education watchdog Ofsted had rated the centre as "inadequate", despite attempts to turn it around. It said that the most urgent concerns about the time children spent locked up had been addressed - but the government did not believe that MTC had done enough to resolve "wider long-standing issues".

Mr Buckland said: "Six months ago, I demanded that MTC take immediate action to fix the very serious failings at Rainsbrook. They have failed to deliver and I have been left with no choice but to ask that all children are moved elsewhere as soon as possible. This move will help protect the public by ensuring often vulnerable children get the support they need to turn their lives around - ultimately resulting in fewer victims and safer streets."

The 33 current detainees will be moved out of the facility to other accommodation within the youth justice system. In practice that means the only other operating secure training centre (STC) or secure children's homes that are dotted around the country.

In a statement, MTC said the welfare of children had been its priority and it had been working in close partnership with officials from the Ministry of Justice since late last year.

"Given the previous positive assessments, including Ofsted's follow-up visit in January, we were very surprised to receive Ofsted's feedback at the end of last week's inspection," said the statement. "We have a number of concerns about their approach and ultimately the conclusions they have reached. We plan to vigorously challenge this as we go through the fact-checking process."

Rainsbrook will be mothballed while the MOJ considers its future, including its contract with MTC. It's not clear whether the contract can be automatically terminated. The potential complete closure of Rainsbrook would mean that two of the three STCs in England have been emptied after serious allegations of poor management and care - the other being Medway in Kent.

Tuesday 22 June 2021

"Well, I wouldn't start from here!"

As the reunification of the probation service draws nearer, Napo and the Probation Journal teamed up to produce a webinar series. Andrew Nielson, Howard League:-

"Probation transition week, let’s go." Senior Probation Manager

"Important week for probation! Big challenge for everyone. Good luck and keep your professionalism at the centre of the unification." Probation Institute

"A time to celebrate, but also a time to reflect on all the money, resources, and time wasted on the absolute folly of probation privatisation." Probation Practitioner

"I was volunteering for CRC and the scheme was working, and it’s been taken away. 18 months of hard work! My service users potentially will relapse and re-offend." Probation Volunteer

"Recognition has obviously come home, top down, that TR was a catastrophic disaster. So now its full astern to reverse the tanker. Claxons, commands, utter chaos has now ensued. While the command to reverse all engines is shouted, a gaggle of ambitious and over-promoted young officers with no idea whatsoever of how the engine works, what a rudder is, and their port from starboard, are mustering all troops to rearrange phalanxes of deck chairs. Having seen this coming for a while, older crew are literally jumping ship. Fresh faced junior officers and pressed (wo)men are eagerly rearranging deckchairs in the hope of promotion when the ship reaches port – a hopelessly optimistic projection. 
Plot twist: epidemic on board. Captain now pacing the deck inspecting each and every deckchair. Able Seaman Jim Brown, sole dignified figure, is playing a mournful ballad on his violin.Probation Lifer 

Sunday 20 June 2021

What Has Happened To This Blog?

What has happened to this blog? I keep hoping a thread will yield a discussion but all I see is disjointed crap. Can we all make the effort - the effort to contribute to support the blogs independence and external voice. Can we get on topic; can we make this blog lovely again please. It was so informative and a help. What's the matter with us, are we all surrendered?

How are things going? Inference from the silences & the few tales of woe emerging, it's as shit as ever, if not ever more shittier. Staff having the piss taken out of them & 'excellent leaders' failing to lead anything or anyone anywhere - except down the garden path. But they do have a million new recruits.

Unison taking pay deduction matters forward and possibly to law. Doing the calculations for members lost pay and re-engaged conditions. Napo running a less than probable view of what is to come. A vanity skit for the blowhards that will do nothing for our pay. When are Napo to collapse so we can unify to alternate do something real opposition.

I agree. I would welcome the collapse of NAPO, not out of vindictiveness but because it is a "Sweetheart Union". In my view this type of Union sucks up resources and energy that should be properly put towards opposing the relentless Management attacks on working conditions, pay and the physical and mental wellbeing of the frontline workers. Probation badly needs principled opposition to this nonsense and NAPO does very little. The outcome is that experienced people are leaving Probation, which admittedly will have over a thousand new Probation Officers very soon...what worries me is what will happen to this new cohort of a thousand inexperienced Officers? How will they be able to deal with picking up very serious risk of harm cases far too early on in their new careers. Silence or near silence as ever from NAPO.

I think [above] is right to be concerned. The new raw first generation civil service PO cohort will have to do as required. The Napo contribution is now surely out of date out of touch and not in any way able to negotiate terms they have already traded away for 5 beans. [above] forecasts the prospects of a thousand recruits and that is right, who is going to support them? We need a real union with real clout. Intention and power to act, not a mealy mouthpiece in the form of the door mouse. Napo has long since had it best days.

The millions of new staff will be just fine. They'll have had excellent training overseen by the excellent leaders. The shit work of the past will be eclipsed by the excellence of the new. Nothing will be the same again! The work of the new NPS will put the past to shame. Or... It will be a fucking shitshow. Whaddya reckon?

What has happened to this blog? I keep hoping a thread will yield a discussion but all I see is disjointed crap. Can we all make the effort - the effort to contribute to support the blogs independence and external voice. Can we get on topic; can we make this blog lovely again please. It was so informative and a help. What's the matter with us, re we all surrendered?

  • Nearly all the independent-thinking CQSW-trained officers have been seen off
  • Centralised civil service command and control has been established
  • Napo have been mesmerised, cowed and plain shit-scared by civil service control
  • Automated recruitment process only accepts conformist functionaries
  • Staff no longer willing or able to contribute through fear, disinterest or dissonance
  • Unhelpful, misguided and deliberately disruptive contributions
  • Ending of unmoderated contributions
  • Lack of free-flowing, on topic and erudite contributions
  • Increasing lack of motivation by blog owner  
I'll end by passing comment on the recent brilliant BBC prison-based drama 'Time' which not only drew record-breaking audiences, but the hope of prison reformers that its graphic and realistic portrayal of prison conditions might generate some public concern and discussion. Probation never got a fucking mention with the author deciding instead to give the star role to the chaplaincy. 

Probation, as some of us once knew it as a vital and useful public service, is all but finished, but this platform will remain both as an audit trail and to prevent its record and ethos being completely air-brushed from history. If you are a dissident, a confused newbie, or just want to be part of recording an alternative truth, you've still got a chance on this blog.  

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Probation - I Wonder How Things Are Going?

Only a few days to go before the next big probation shakeup. Now everything is going to be tightly controlled by the civil service, I wonder how things are going? In particular, I wonder how recruitment is going? This from Facebook yesterday:-

Probation Jobs

People from all backgrounds end up in prison, so we need a diverse range of probation officers that reflect society and can engage with ex-offenders on many different levels. To celebrate Pride month, we asked Lisa, a probation officer in London and regional lead for HMPPS Pride in Probation and Prison (PiPP) network, to share her experiences:

“I’ve wanted to help the public and prevent crime since I was 16 years old. I studied criminology at university and then started off as a probation service officer before becoming a PQiP learner. I was a bit worried about being ‘out’ at work, but I was placed in such a welcoming office, that I put myself forward as the LGBTQ+ lead. I am a probation officer, and I am an LGBTQ+ advocate for HMPPS. I am a busy bee, but I would not change it for the world. I’m doing two wonderful things.” 

Train to become a probation officer – and bring your whole self to work.

Can you just apply to be a probation services officer? Is their currently an intake? I didn't get into the PQiP in April.

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxx, applications for the next round of recruitment are expected to open up again in late Summer. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for any updates. Thanks.

It’s funny that because when you go to the interviews, the candidates are predominantly white and seem to be perplexed that ethnics are in the same interview queue. Applied once and it was the worst experience of my life. If I was made to feel that way can you imagine how many other ethnic people your employment process does not favour? Food for thought. If you mean it and you want people from all backgrounds to apply then TRULY accept people from all backgrounds.

Exactly. I was declined few weeks back also as a black British citizen.

Anyone ethnic that I know has applied has never got the job. Honestly I was looked at as if I was something out of space. Absolutely abysmal.

If there were a few more people that people could relate to, maybe there would be a better chance of rehabilitation. But I don’t think they have thought that far, sadly.

A few more people of colour*

In my office we have a diverse culture of PSO’ s and PQiPs which works well. Please don’t give up trying as it is quite a hard route and probably depends on what calibre of applicants apply on that day. There are many diverse offices around the London areas. Think it depends where you go.

I have applied every intake for this for the past 3 years and I always fail the psychometric test and it annoys me as we get no feedback whatsoever on how our applications are or how we haven't done well on the test Annoying when you have all the degrees and experience necessary!

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxxx, In line with HMPPS recruitment policy, feedback is provided only to candidates who reach the Assessment Centre (or Virtual Assessment Event) stage. We are unable to provide feedback to candidates who are unsuccessful at the online test stage. The majority of your scoring will have been made up from the competency questions, so you should focus on those on future applications. We do not have practice tests we are able to share. However there are practice tests available online for psychometric testing, which are free of charge to use. Thanks.

Okay thank you. Is there any guidance at all on what should be in the competency questions as I worked very hard on them and have tried every time for 3 years now and never get any further.

Drop me a message, I should be able to help.

I always fail on 1 aspect too, as if studying 3 years in Uni wasn't hard enough.

I’m the same. I applied, did the psychometric test and didn’t get through selection after but no feedback whatsoever. It would really benefit to see what areas actually need improvement if that’s the case.

Absolutely well when I failed twice they told me which part I failed at but then when I used the same information for the application on attempt 3 I didn't even get to the next stage, absolutely ridiculous. MI5 would have an easier selection process lol. I've given up now.

It’s so annoying isn’t it! I actually phoned them to contact them about it and the man I spoke to was lovely and said my application was great but I’m failing the test. So I have no idea what I am meant to do.

Exactly, to me a degree and in house training etc should be enough after an interview, but there we go.

I know! I have a bachelors and masters degree and work with offenders in my full time role at the moment.

Absolutely unbelievable, well who knows maybe something even better will come along for you.

Sorry to jump in on this message but I also failed and would like to find out if it was the test or my application. Who did you phone to find out which one please. It's the second time applying for me.

I put in a complaint about having no feedback, and I heard nothing in return. Not very nice when you've shown an interest, its almost like you've been dropped like a hot potato.

That’s exactly how I felt. I took me so long to put together my application. The application form isn’t easy and takes a lot of time and effort, then the have to sit the test too. How are you supposed to know where you need improvement if they don’t tell you. It beyond baffles me.

Same. I'm a PSO as well and can't even get through to assessment centre.

How can it be a fail on psychometric test, it's a strange recruitment process. The balloon money test made me laugh. Don't burst a balloon you'll be classed as impulsive for clicking too many times. Then having to0 many attempts at the code breaker makes you obsessive, not driven to succeed. My weaknesses are what give me my strength, ability and drive. Personally feel I know myself well enough to know the results of the test didn't much reflect my personality.

Completely agree! Be nice to get some good feedback on it but it’s just a shame when you want something so bad and do what you can to prepare and it doesn’t even get looked at.

Also that face one, where you have to make a judgement on what how the person was feeling, angry etc. What if someone has a resting angry face (does this mean they are angry) or someone who likes to smile a lot while they are actually angry or upset) thought that one was a bit silly to be fair.

I hear you on this. x

I got sifted for the assessment day, got asked to upload proof of ID etc, attempted to but the applicant portal got stuck on a date it didn't like and wouldn't let me proceed further. I emailed and phoned the recruitment team and vetting team to ask for help.

I guess nobody knows how to fix the glitch in the portal, so my emails have just been ignored. Quite disappointing.

Was wondering if those waiting on the merit list are likely to hear anything regarding a possible November placement?

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxx, If you were successful last year and are on the merit list, then you will be contacted and will not need to reapply. All candidates who remain unallocated are carried forward to the next intake where they are usually offered a placement. Unfortunately we are unable to disclose merit list position, as this frequently changes for example, as candidates are successfully placed, or perhaps withdraw.

Can I ask when the next intake is please? Unfortunately I did not get further then the psychometric test this time round.

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxx, there will be future opportunities to apply for the PQiP role in the next few months so not to worry if you couldn’t apply for the April intake. Please register your interest to be kept up to date when applications re-open.

I got through to the psychometric test , then didn't get through. Does this mean I cannot apply again ? How do we request feedback?

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxxx, In line with HMPPS recruitment policy, feedback is provided only to candidates who reach the Assessment Centre (or Virtual Assessment Event) stage. We are unable to provide feedback to candidates who are unsuccessful at the online test stage. The majority of your scoring will have been made up from the competency questions, so you should focus on those on future applications. Thank you for the interest shown.

Hi I'm year 2 of my criminology course should I wait to apply when I've completed the course? Thank you.

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxxx, candidates need to provide evidence of their level 5 qualification at the assessment centre (or virtual alternative). If your graduation certificate is not yet available, then a transcript from the university evidencing completion of your degree/level 5 would suffice. However, at the time of completing your application form you must be confident that you have obtained a level 5 qualification. Thanks.

How do you know what you failed on I just got a email saying unsuccessful.

Probation Jobs Hello Xxxxxx, In line with HMPPS recruitment policy, feedback is provided only to candidates who reach the Assessment Centre (or Virtual Assessment Event) stage. We are unable to provide feedback to candidates who are unsuccessful at the online test stage. The majority of your scoring will have been made up from the competency questions, so you should focus on those on future applications. Thank you for the interest shown.

When is the next recruiting please? Xx

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxxx, applications for the next round of recruitment are expected to open up again in late Summer. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for any updates.

Thank you so much! I will keep an eye on it. 

Too old now as 55 and training takes 18 months so won't get looked at.

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxxx, as per our equality and diversity policy, we would encourage everyone to apply if you have the required qualifications and experience, although for HMPPS operational roles, including Probation Officer you must be aged 18 by the start date. 

The probation service employ a diverse workforce, age is often an asset.

This story is so close to home for me. Just finished my criminology and Psychology degree and waiting patiently for the next intake.

Got through to interview stage last year and got cancelled and rescheduled repeatedly due to lockdowns, now would have to go through the whole process again. CBA.

How do I apply?

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxx, applications for the next round of recruitment are expected to open up again in late Summer. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for any updates.

I would like to train? Are the training posts been advertised again.

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxxx, applications for the next round of recruitment are expected to open up again in late Summer. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for any updates.

I have over 20 years experience of working with high risk offenders, but I don't have a level 5 qualification so I am unable to apply.

I would didn't get through the PQiP this time look at PSO and there's nothing near me!

Currently recruiting for PSO roles.

Are the training posts being advertised again?

Probation Jobs Hi Xxxxxx, applications for the next round of recruitment are expected to open up again in late Summer. Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for any updates.


A reminder of this press release from HM Probation Inspectorate dated 16th March 2021:-

Probation service must ‘reset and raise’ standard of work with ethnic minority service users and staff urgently

Probation services must show greater consideration and confidence in their work with black, Asian and minority ethnic service users and staff, according to a new report.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation found the probation service’s focus on racial equality has declined since Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were introduced in 2014.

Inspectors also found the service has no specific strategy for delivering activity to ethnic minority service users.

More than 222,000 people are supervised by probation services across England and Wales. Around a fifth of people on probation are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “This has been a challenging year for probation staff and I pay tribute to the way they have pulled together to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. But the service faces other major challenges too – not least, ensuring that every service user, whatever their background, gets proper support and supervision.

“In this inspection, we found very little evidence of probation officers speaking to service users about their race, ethnicity or experiences of discrimination. Some officers – by their own admission – avoided talking about these issues altogether.

“Data about race, ethnicity and religion was missing in almost one in 10 inspected cases. Sometimes staff met with individuals who had experienced discrimination or trauma, but no issues were recorded on their file.

“These are disappointing findings. We have concerns about every stage of probation supervision from the quality of pre-sentencing reports – we found 40 per cent were insufficient in considering diversity factors – to the way that ethnic minority service users were involved in their assessment and sentence plans.

“Probation officers need to find out as much as possible about individuals to support their rehabilitation. How can you help someone if you don’t know what their life is like?”

Some individuals cited it was difficult to engage with probation because of previous negative experiences with the police, prison staff or with white people in other positions of authority.

Some service users reported their probation officers were kind and well-meaning but did not understand their heritage, culture or religion.

Links with local community organisations are poor and culturally-appropriate services are rarely commissioned. There are also few programmes to address racially-motivated offending.

The report also explored the experiences of ethnic minority probation staff. Key findings include:
  • inspectors heard distressing stories of inappropriate behaviour towards ethnic minority staff including instances of stereotyping, racist and sexualised language, and false allegations
  • ethnic minority staff were not always consulted or supported to work with individuals who had committed race-related offences
  • many surveyed staff did not feel it was safe to raise issues of racial discrimination at work and lacked faith that complaints would be handled appropriately. Inspectors heard serious complaints had been repeatedly downplayed, ignored or dismissed
  • of the 30 staff from our survey who had raised an issue of racial discrimination, only two felt the process and outcomes had been handled fairly
  • some ethnic minority staff felt recruitment and promotion practices were not open and fair.
The Inspectorate’s report includes 15 recommendations for HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the National Probation Service (NPS).

Mr Russell said: “In a little over 100 days, probation services will be unified in England and Wales. This is an important opportunity to reset and raise the standard of work with ethnic minority service users and staff.

“At a national level, we want to see a strategy that sets out how the unified service will work with ethnic minority service users. Data should be gathered and published to identify and address trends, for example if particular ethnic groups are breached or recalled to prison at a disproportionate rate.

“Training gaps across all grades need to be addressed. Training senior leaders and managers will lead to improved understanding and behaviour change. Training probation officers will ensure they understand the impact of racism and discrimination on service users’ lives and on their own practice.

“There is also an urgent job to do to rebuild trust with ethnic minority staff. It was painful to hear stories of discrimination and this was made worse by the fact that staff did not feel heard or believed and were considered ‘trouble-makers’.

“There is a critical need to review the complaints and grievance process and train managers to deal with discrimination confidentially and sensitively.”

In an unusual move, Mr Russell announced his intention to reinspect this work again in two years. He concluded: “HMPPS and the probation service are now paying attention to this issue but need to keep up the momentum. This work needs to be taken forward at pace, and real and rapid progress to further race equality in probation.”

Saturday 12 June 2021

Latest From Napo 224

Since the demise of the General Secretary's blog, communication from Napo has become noticeably sparse, but this went out on Thursday 10th June:-

Dear Xxxxxxxx

Members will have received an all staff email from the NPS in respect of the new banding of some of the Interventions roles transferring into the NPS, these include but not exclusively Unpaid Work Manager, programmes Treatment Manager and the Programmes Manager.

Napo are aware that this has (as we knew it would) caused a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty amongst those affected. We contend that the job descriptions used for the evaluations were written by a team in central HMPPS that could not have possessed the knowledge and understanding of these roles to fully encapsulate them in a job description. This has, at least in part, been a significant factor in the outcome which has led to a number of roles being evaluated at a level below expected.

Appeals to be submitted by NPS

As the NPS communication stated, this outcome has been appealed by the NPS themselves. The Trade Unions feel that had we been consulted on the whole process from the beginning these situations wouldn’t have developed in this way. Needless to say, this failure to follow process and policy has been directly challenged and the Trade Unions and the NPS are now working jointly to rectify this.

Staff working in DSOU’S

The current communications do not include a reference to staff working within the DSOUs with individuals who commit sexual offences. The reason for this is that the proposals for this group of staff are far more wide reaching. As you would expect, the trade unions have challenged these situations and have successfully agreed a consultation process before some of the proposals come into effect, and a lengthy consultation paper has been presented to the employer from Napo. This will give us an opportunity to feed into the new model, make representations on behalf of members and ensure that high quality and effective practice are the drivers for any reform.

Pay protection pending appeals

The email that staff have received outlines the temporary work around while we wait for the job evaluation appeal process to run its due course. The NPS have stated that they are hopeful that the appeal outcome will be reached by August. In the meantime, they have also committed to adhere to the job evaluation process, as to ignore it regardless of the outcome would set an unwelcome precedent. As such, staff affected will now transfer and be assimilated to their new band but will have pay protection guaranteed for three years until the appeal and consultations are completed.

Napo will continue to press the employer on resolving this issue as soon as possible and highlight the significant impact this is having on members during what is already a very difficult time for many of you. More news will follow as soon as it becomes available, but meanwhile If you have any urgent queries, then please contact your Branch in the first instance who can feed your concerns through your Link Officers and Officials into Napo HQ and assist us with our approach to the Job Evaluation Appeals and subsequent negotiations.

Best Wishes

Ian Lawrence
General Secretary


These are some extracts from 28th May and a long mailout just before Bank Holiday with all the hallmarks of 'we must get something out before the weekend'. I couldn't be bothered to share it then but might as well use as padding today:-

Napo standing up for members across a broad front

As we enter the final few weeks before Probation reunification on 26th June, it’s a good opportunity to reflect again on the incredible efforts of our members in the NPS, CRCs, Cafcass and Probation Northern Ireland during the National pandemic.

Our members have been maintaining vitally important public services in the face of appalling mismanagement of the Covid Crisis by this Government. This has again been laid bare during evidence to a Parliamentary Select Committee this week. Napo fully supports the need for an independent public enquiry and will be making our voice heard at every opportunity.

Probation Reunification

The run in to reunification has seen twice weekly meetings taking place between the unions and the Reform team. These have covered a wide range of issues including role matching, pay protection, job evaluation and matters that have been escalated up from the nearly all completed measures discussions that have been taking place in the CRCs and where Napo members interests have been ably taken forward by your Branch representatives working in partnership with our National Officials. Further information about these exchanges and outcomes can be routed through your Branch who will liaise with the appropriate Napo National Official.

Health and Safety

Despite the relatively successful implementation of the national Covid vaccination strategy, there is no room for complacency when it comes to the delivery of services across all employers where Napo is represented. This is why we are engaging in twice weekly meetings with senior NPS leaders to discuss the NPS recovery strategy in addition to our regular contact with the Director General. Similar engagement is also taking place with Cafcass and PBNI.

Whilst there has been a lifting of the pause on some activities, all of the joint recovery work with employers is set against a background of continuing to monitor local case rates and the national road map announcements from Government.

We have been informed in recovery meetings with the NPS that Regional Directors have been reminded to take account of case numbers in their local area adjusting the type of activities to any increase in case numbers or the emergence of any Covid variant of concern.

This consideration should also be reflected in all associated risk assessments. Therefore, should members have concerns about any activity they are being requested to undertake, they are encouraged to approach their Napo Branch for advice who will be able to escalate.

Update on NPS pay discussions including pay progression position

Following the submission of the joint unions multi-year pay claim for 2021-23 we expect to enter into formal negotiations next month. As members know the situation on pay is not looking good because of the punitive pay freeze that has been imposed by Government. This is obviously opposed by the probation unions and we have made it clear that it is simply untenable for our members who have worked so hard during the pandemic to be treated this way. We have also said that Probation reunification could never have happened without the massive efforts of NPS and CRC members and this must be recognised.

Members have understandably been asking questions about when contractual pay progression (due from April 1st) is to be paid out by the NPS. Given the experiences of last year we have obviously been pressing the case at every opportunity for this to be implemented. The position is complicated by the insistence of the HM Treasury that they must give authority for this to happen as is the case for similar payments that may be due to staff in other government departments. There is a delicate balancing act for us between early payment of contractual progression and closing the door to any applications that may be made for other pay related matters.

More news on these and other pay issues that Napo is pursuing will follow as soon as it becomes available.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Best of the Week 3

“So instead, we stay in our self-imposed madness, keeping the curtains locked down tight, patrolling the light switch, and dismissing anyone who speaks the truth.”

Sounds like a normal day working at the probation office. This is exactly what civil service ‘parrotism’ has done to us.

The senior executives of UK plc like to maintain a significant level of control over the proles. One sure fire method is ensuring that crime, substance use, inequality & unrest remain issues of concern, thereby reserving the leverage of political power & the illusion of addressing the public concern.

Our incumbent CEO, the erstwhile durty shagger, career fantasist & serial liar Johnson, is very happy making empty promises while emptying the public purse & fomenting the necessary divisions that suit his selfish agenda. And while his tenure is supported by equally self-serving fuckwits, wannabes & lickspittle acolytes, UK plc will continue spiralling into the abyss, dragging all but a privileged few down with it.

At least this blog, the comments & the commentary might remain in a digital form, waiting for a future historian to trip up over it & discover there WERE dissenting voices, some people did disagree, it was NOT the time of harmony & shared wealth as portrayed in the 2025 best-seller & multi-prize winning book that underpins the New History curriculum: "Boris's Book of Brilliant Britain - How I Built Jerusalem on England's Green & Pleasant Land".


"out with the old, in with the new" - but should we be careful what we wish for? The NOMS/HMPPS legacy was always going to be the dissolution of the formerly independent Probation Service & absolute assimilation of its duties into the civil service penal estate.

Aided & abetted by a carefully selected, focused & ambitious senior management team, a trade union missing-in-action & the invited interim 'muscle' courtesy of the privateer CRCs, a once proud, professional independent Probation Service has had every last gasp of breath squeezed out it. Wrapped in the HMPPS flag, the broken body of the Probation Service is lifeless; just days away from being lowered out of sight, out of mind; forever.

The NOMS/HMPPS legacy was overseen by, in date order:

Martin Narey (2004 to 2005)
Helen Edwards (2005 to 2008)
Phil Wheatley as Director-General (2008 to 2010)
Michael Spurr (2010 to 2019)
Jo Farrar (2019 to present)

If you have the chance, pocket your £40,000+ & clear off before (1) you make yourself even more unwell &/or (2) they change their minds & give your EVR to someone else (again). NPS is a disaster-in-progress. Bale out while you can.

Beautifully put, I have been advising younger Officers (I am about to retire) to leave Probation which is entirely and utterly compromised. I say this with much sadness as this was not always the case. Anyone able to either retrain or have a career elsewhere as a valued Professional should consider doing so in my view. I do also take the long view that maybe in 5 or 10 or 15 years time things may change for the better... I just can't afford to wait for that (maybe) positive future for Probation.

"She was released the following year but recalled a few months later after criticising her probation accommodation and support workers in a tweet." This fragment of the story tells you all you need to know about post-TR probation & the priorities that motivate NPS.

"She was released the following year but recalled a few months later after criticising her probation accommodation and support workers in a tweet." Yes that leapt out of the page at me. I am not sure how much longer I can keep drawing the pay check. I was so proud of and inspired by the Probation Service I joined last century. I am counting down to retirement and hanging on in for the wages and pension but I find myself embarrassed to say that I am a Probation Officer these days. Ashamed. It's not good for mental health. I have flagged this up before, but it is traumatic: it has been identified as "moral injury" which is at the root of the burnout I and other old moaners are experiencing. My best bud colleague is about to retire early in a couple of months time, for this exact reason, as are other older experienced colleagues, who have managed their financial planning better than me. I am coming to the conclusion I will have to get out early, and subsist on ships biscuit, rather than peg out in harness. I can't find answers to two questions: 1. What to do about the damage to our institution and profession 2. How to do any of the precious work I want to do, which no longer seems to be what my paymaster requires.

I'm sure there was much more to it than simply posting a critical tweet. She would hardly be the first recalled service user to downplay the reasons for her recall.

Coming to this late as I've only just seen this thread. But yes, I too was struck by the readiness of posters here to accept - without question - the account given by this woman and her legal reps. Not saying there might not be a kernel of truth but seems unlikely to be anything like the full story. Perhaps this is at least part of the reason why the profession is so often under scrutiny.

Everything has an angle; everyone can be criticised for taking 'a view'. Perspective & context is everything. Who will know the truth of that recall? Probably no-one. The basis for any recall, in my experience, is down to whether the 'decision-maker' wants the recall to happen.

I've had recall requests refused, only to see more serious events unfold & the subsequent investigation find that my original request went 'missing' - "there's no evidence of such a request"; and had other recalls imposed upon cases in circumstances where I was trying not to recall for, in my view, sound professional reasons. "Over-ruled".

So, I can understand how/why someone might be left with the impression that a simple text/tweet was the basis for their recall; or, in fact, that that was enough to inspire a wounded decision-maker into making that call.

"Perhaps this is at least part of the reason why the profession is so often under scrutiny."

Profession? It's long gone. Scrutiny? What scrutiny?

MoJ/HMPPS/NPS have gotten away with murder, both metaphorically & literally; they have thrown £billions of public money at their chums. The only scrutiny seems to be when frontline staff are crucified for management's failure to manage.

The inquest into the Fishmongers’ Hall attack, as well as finding that the killings of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were unlawful, has revealed that this was a wholly preventable tragedy. The attacker, Usman Khan, wasn’t so much cleverly exploiting loopholes of the system as taking advantage of one that was wide open. A deadly mix of catastrophic naivety and a woeful lack of co-ordination between the police, MI5, prisons and probation services contributed to the awful events of November 2019.

Here was one of the most dangerous offenders in the entire prison system. Yet after release he was put under the supervision of police and probation officers who lacked the training and experience to deal with someone who was deeply ideologically motivated and deceitful.

"But treating offender management as a service in its own right, a service delivered by a probation system which is invested in, nurtured and valued, will undoubtedly reduce the risks and help save lives."

Danny Shaw will no doubt be aware that no-one listened to that argument in 2000; or in 2007; or in 2010; or in 2012/13/14/15...But at least he's trying to get the word out.

Two glaring issues raised by Danny's piece:

1. "From 31 March 2014 Probation Trusts will cease to operate and be replaced by a National Probation Service dealing solely with the highest risk offenders" (Probation Journal, 2013); but Grayling's favoured child, the 'new' NPS, seems to be the service that has failed most spectacularly.

2. Resources.

"the system for rehabilitating all offenders, for managing them in the community, for protecting the public has been severely stretched to the point where, in some areas of England and Wales, it is all but broken... “There will be inherent risks,” the chief inspector warned, citing “acute” staff shortages in some places... the reforms are not a “magic bullet” and must be backed by extra resources, particularly so that vacancies can be filled and staff receive the training they need."

Lol Burke, Probation Journal, 2013: "...the skills of appropriately trained practitioners in supervising offenders and delivering interventions can contribute to reducing reoffending and improving other outcomes. This is supported by international evidence (Raynor et al., 2013) that more skilled probation staff produce better results from the supervision process."

The Govt response in 2013/4? Sign contracts with private companies which had substantial job losses built in - primarily targeting the 'expensive' longer serving, more experienced staff - to improve CRC profitability.

The Govt response in 2020/21? Once again use public money to cut jobs by budgeting for an Enhanced Voluntary Redundancy scheme, i.e. lose the experienced & knowledgeable whilst replacing them with newly indoctrinated on-message recruits.

But look where reinventing the NPS got them... understaffed, under-resourced, over-stretched, tied up in redtape, burdened by bureaucracy, with shit or non-existent IT & aspiring bullies in managerial posts. Why would anyone listen now?

Probation has become a police force pure and simple. It's really no longer an agency of "rehabilitation" in the context of what I consider 'rehabilitation' to mean. For many offenders, particularly those leaving custody, being subjected to probation is just part of the sentence that needs to be navigated through, a time bound period to jump through the hoops, keep your problems to yourself, keep your head down and just get to the end.

I think today's probation officer, in the eyes of the offender, is seen as just another authoritarian figure no different then the landing officers waved goodbye to on discharge. All part of the same system. Probation no longer represents new beginnings, it's become the arse end of the penal system. Really it's become a process where whatever side of the desk you're sitting, both parties just want the probation period to reach its end date without any problems. Time served! No SFO and no recall. Success! Not sure if that makes for better people though.

The reality is that real rehabilitation does not gain votes or profit. Private Prisons and Probation don’t go out and find income sources, they make profit by cutting cost or people returning.

Liz Truss is known as an ex-environment secretary and current trade secretary, few remember that she was ever a justice secretary. Michael Gove is remembered as a Education Secretary, stabbing BJ in the back and as a pro leave campaigner, few remember that he was ever a justice secretary. Even failing Chris Grayling is remembered as the transport secretary clown, few remember that he was ever a justice secretary. The brief of Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary does not have any impact on them, few remember that they were ever justice secretaries.

I know loads of nice good people who are very caring in life but who turn when you discuss Rehabilitation. The feeling is that “layabout criminal scum” are allowed to do what they want to society and are rewarded with a bedroom with bed, TV & Xbox’s and 3 meals a day at worst. They feel that the way to reduce crime is, minimum sentences only with no end date. Lock them in a cold dark dungeon type cells, with no heating, bed or blankets. Leave them there for years. Maybe if they beg to be allowed the utmost privilege of working towards their rehabilitation they may eventually earn society’s ultimate mercy of being released, but only once they have proved beyond doubt to a sceptical panel that they are fit for release. Then let them be on probation for life scared that a officers whim could recall them back to prison where the journey starts all over again. These opinions are from a wide range of demographics that I know, including teachers and nurses.

If Liz Truss, Robert Buckland or anyone else was to suggest “rehabilitation” methods to the public they would be horrified. The “rehabilitation” approach could easily be used against people in power. The days of tackle the causes of crime are long gone. Members of the public truly believe that harsher prison and probation methods will yield lower crime, they want to believe it and are determined to believe it no matter what. Those in power, profit and professional management know that the only way to lower offending is through unpopular and somewhat costly methods that serve no benefit to them personally.

Many people in this forum argue, understandably, for more second careerers, more life experience, more lived it experience PO/PSO’s. The forum wants more people who will want to make a difference for the next 20 years as a main grade officers rather than trying to raise the ranks or to develop new career opportunities. The sad truth is that the longer term committed will want to usher in a rehabilitation approach and ask difficult pro rehabilitation questions while challenging anti rehabilitation approach. The ambitious, short termers will happily fill out the data in an office because they hope it won’t be their problem in 5, 10 years and it's good for their CV. There is some benefit in data collection and data managing. Those that are in a dominant position look adequate and not negative, and so it removes a negative impact from their portfolio.

Is it therefore better all round and overall that we have a probation service that is data collecting, management controlling with some good rehabilitation work rather than no rehabilitation at all or worse still no probation service.

Probation is no longer a long term passion and career where we undergo the challenges to protect the public and change people’s lives. It is a run in the life career ladder which demands that in order for us to increase our income, and through that move forward with our private lives, we must constantly find new ways of making ourselves more attractive to the market of better pay.

To all those reading this, is it not that short term is good, you must now move on to new pathways so you assimilate to the new ways of doing things and do not try to hold back the tide of progress. (No, don’t you dare say the powers that be progress only).

"Is it therefore better all round and overall that we have a probation service that is data collecting, management controlling with some good rehabilitation work rather than no rehabilitation at all or worse still no probation service."

No, it isn't. I always tried to work on the principle of 'do a job right or not at all'. We've already seen the evidence (evidence the MoJ tried to hide) that well-meaning amateurs tinkering with behaviour-change programmes doesn't work, e.g. SOTP & other OBPs. We know that people engage with skilled professionals, and equally that they 'play the game' with those they know are ticking boxes.

No probation service would, in my view, be better than the bastard hybrid system we're having to manipulate in order to survive. It's like watching a Gallagher brother eat soup with a fork.

The saddest part is that the incompetent selfish numbskulls in charge don't really know what they want the service to be - they just want to please their political masters & reap the plaudits every time HMIP dubs them "excellent leaders". That they are not. They are accomplished bullies. They excel in acquiring adoring acolytes who they reward handsomely to shore up their egos, justify their misplaced ambition & applaud their non sequiturs.

If any meaningful form of Probation Service is to exist again it needs a team of leaders who are prepared to fight for freedom from political interference, who have a knowledge of & commitment to professional standards, and who can demonstrate a collective understanding & clear argument for an independent professional Probation Service. The work of the Probation Service is too important to be driven by political whimsy, by electioneering chancers or casual racists.

As for Circles - my experience of working with them has been nothing short of superb. The recruitment & training of volunteers to work with the case I nominated was excellence in motion; the supervision those volunteers received from the area co-ordinator was second-to-none; and the work they did with the case was far beyond anything I could have hoped for. The removal of funding was a complete travesty, and the subsequent damage it did to the person at the centre of that circle was irreparable.

There's a 'culture' that's developed over the last twenty years or so around 'risk' & 'dangerousness' that I feel has proved to be deeply unhealthy in so many ways. The change seems to have been the high state of kudos attached to being 'chosen' to manage a high risk/high profile case, the excitement of secrecy where case notes are 'need-to-know', the privilege of restricted access, the mystery meetings with 'special branch' or similar.

In my experience all that has led to is a toxic combination of the monetisation of 'risk management' and the weaponization of privilege, of being a chum, of being 'allowed to play'. Time was when experienced staff, managers & main grade alike, supervised a series of very high risk cases with no drama, no fanfare, no wetting of underpants. There was no 'sexiness' or sense of excitement; it was the job.

I noticed a general trend (not applicable to all, of course) that as the experience & age levels of management reduced, the trend towards overt expressions of excitement, of intrigue, of thrill-seeking, increase around the management of the more serious cases.

It was as if the case work, the professional day-job, had been transformed into a series of exciting tv thrillers for a handful of subscribers (aka chums). Not a very edifying image for the probation profession, not very respectful of the victims & their families, not very helpful to the case being managed.

A brief example - Some years back I was managing someone who I saw as a very serious threat to the public. It was transferred in as a medium risk case but, after some brief reading back through the bundle of paper files that followed, it became apparent that concern for the obvious risk was missing. I escalated the risk & meetings were held. About a month later, at one particularly large gathering with many faces I had never seen before, I was asked how & why I was concerned. I waved some old papers at people & explained my thinking... after some frowning & glances being exchanged around the table the case was taken off me & reallocated to the team manager's 'number one officer' (a far less experienced but wholly on-message member of the team) there & then. I was told I had to be 'de-briefed' & whisked away to another room. The case became invisible & I've no idea what happened to this day.

Within a few months of that meeting the manager's 'number one officer' became a senior manager. Echoes, perhaps, of the chumocracy we now endure as a nation where a privileged few - privileged by dint of birth, schooling & financial advantage - enjoy even greater privilege as they 'cash in' on their chumminess, leaving everyone else to pick up the tab.

Hands up those who have an ennobled family sending a butler to your house to deliver paid-for takeaway food? Clue: Boris Johnson's fast food is delivered & paid for by Lady Bamford, wife of Lord Bamford, provider of the private jet registered tax free in the Isle of Man to whisk the PM around the UK free of charge - also the same Bamford family (JCB) who supply the Israelis with vehicles to flatten & clear Palestinian houses, to build illegal Israeli Settlements & [accidentally?] run over Palestinian protesters.

It seems everybody's silent, bar the odd one or two, e.g. "counsel for the coroner, Saskia, & Jack’s family @njbarmstrong"; no-one else gives a flying fuck, no-one else feels they owe anyone anything. Probation & local police were excluded from MI5 intel; and MI5 were (if its at all possible to accept) seem to have been excluded from probation & local policing intel.

Hancock & Johnson & Gove & Jenrick & Patel & the rest of the cabinet were complicit in the unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of UK citizens. Despite the outrage & the outcry & the evidence, you'd be forgiven for thinking no-one gives a flying fuck.

"A butler secretly brought around £27,000 of luxury organic food into Downing Street for the prime minister, it has been claimed. The food was said to be ‘smuggled’ in unmarked bags which included pre-prepared meals and wine after being delivered on a Boris Bike. The fancy food was first delivered in May last year, and the drop-offs continues until February." Hands up those who have spent £27,000 on 'fast-food' deliveries in the past ten months.

People are dying. People are struggling to survive on benefits. People have been refused furlough or business grants. But the Fat Fuck that is squatting in No.10 with his bit on the side thinks that £27K of fast food paid for by someone else is a perfectly acceptable lifestyle.

And, generally speaking, no-one gives a flying fuck. What a nation. What a world. For me, the shame is painful beyond comprehension, and it's nothing to do with me! For others it seems it's all perfectly normal & they have no issue whatsoever with the lies, the deceit, the theft, the bullying, etc.

Think on... if you're ten years in & more, why not just take the EVR. En Masse. Leave the immoral fuckers to their own devices. They've publicised their massive recruitment campaign. They're all very pleased with themselves. Leave; and leave them to it. Spend the £EVR on developing a new career - something that isn't tainted by or involved with the lying scumbags, something that you WANT to do, that you've ALWAYS wanted to do.

It will only get worse.

Sunday 6 June 2021

Probation and Drug Policy

Continuing my lonely mission of highlighting the incompatibility of probation being part of HMPPS and civil service control, here's a timely piece on the website reminding us of the utter folly of our drug policy:-   

50 years in, the war on drugs is an unmitigated disaster

There’s arguably no piece of legislation in the modern era which has been more ineffective, needlessly cruel or morally insane than the Misuse of Drugs Act. Last week saw its 50th anniversary. And over the course of that half century it has maimed and mutilated countless lives, thrown hundreds of thousands of people pointlessly in prison, and accomplished the square root of absolutely nothing at all.

The facts speak for themselves. Dame Carol Black’s review of drugs for the Home Office last year found that 3 million people took drugs in England and Wales in 2019. Drug use has shot up since 1971, when the Act was passed. Less than 10,000 people took heroin back then, whereas over 250,000 do now. Cannabis use has gone from under half a million to over 2.5 million today. Around one per cent of adults had tried drugs in the 60s, compared to around a third now. It’s fair to say that the legislation has not worked for that which it was intended to achieve.

The illicit drugs market is worth an estimated £9.4 billion a year, most of which is directed towards sustaining criminal gangs. In recent years, the ‘county lines’ system has begun to supply drugs from an urban hub towards rural or coastal towns, displacing local dealers. One of its marked features is the exploitation of children, typically aged around 15-17, who are deployed as ‘runners’ transporting drugs and money.

On any given day, a third of the prison population is there for drug related crime – around 40% for convictions on the basis of specific drug offences and 60% for crimes related to drug addiction, like theft. In prison, they continue to use drugs. Random drug test data suggests 12,500 inmates – about 15% of the total population – are using drugs on any given day. Most users entered prison with a drug problem, but eight per cent of female inmates and 13% of males developed their problem with drugs while they were incarcerated.

These figures do not include the people who are given a caution for drug possession, many of them teenagers. We rarely talk about this, because it doesn’t involve a prison sentence, and therefore seems fairly small-fry. But cautions involve an admission of guilt and therefore constitute a criminal record. They freeze countless thousands of young people out of many of the professions and kneecap their career before it has even begun.

Under any possible analysis, the war on drugs has been an unmitigated failure. More people take drugs, more people die of them, more people end up in prison, and more money is funnelled into criminal gangs. For half a century we have tried to accomplish something which cannot be done. We have legislated for what is inconceivable. And, in reality, we have fuelled the worst possible side-effects of drug use: broken lives, dead bodies and rich criminals.

If the world made any sense, the political class would accept that the legislation has failed. It would acknowledge that people are clearly going to take drugs regardless of whether they are banned or not. It would prioritise their protection rather than their criminalisation. It would read the data, recognise the endless wave of needless suffering it reflects, and do something to change it.

But the world does not make any sense and therefore the political class has done something else, which is actually quite startlingly insane. It has drawn the curtains, turned off the lights, and pretended that reality does not exist. It has closed itself off from expert opinion and the basic facts of narcotics use so that it can justify continuing with a demonstrably failed policy.

In many ways, drug policy was an early forerunner of post-truth politics. Anyone who tried to point out what was really happening was ignored, or, if they refused to keep ignoring reality, punished. In 2009, David Nutt, chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, a statutory body which reports to the government on drug harms, contributed to a paper assessing the damage of various narcotics. His analysis of nine “parameters of harm” suggested alcohol was the fifth most harmful drug – after heroin, cocaine barbiturates and methadone, but ahead of LSD, ecstasy or cannabis. The response of the then-home secretary, Alan Johnson, was to dismiss him.

This is the standard operating model which successive governments have used. For decades now, parliamentary select committees have called on the government to investigate drug law reform, only to be ignored by whoever was in No.10. And that approach remains in place today. Dame Carol Black’s review of drugs was explicitly barred by the government from considering “changes to the existing legislative framework”.

It makes no difference who is in power. The policy is the same under Labour or Conservatives. There isn’t even any distinction within the parties. For all their differences, and the ferocious infighting that goes with them, you could fit a thin blue Rizla paper between the drug policy of Gordon Brown, Ed Miliband, Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer. The closest we ever got to sense was Tony Blair downgrading cannabis to Class C – a decision that was soon reversed.

It doesn’t even matter what politicians’ views were on drug reform before they took office. In 2002, David Cameron was part of the home affairs committee when it recommended a discussion on “the possibility of legalisation and regulation”. Ten years later, when he was prime minister, he ruled out a suggestion from the very same home affairs committee that there should be a royal commission on drugs. No matter who sits in No.10, the view never changes. People who saw sense magically became impervious to it when in power. And then, like former home secretary Jacqui Smith, rediscover their sense after they have left it.

The curtains stay down, the lights stay off, the war on drugs continues, and all evidence discounting it is rejected.

If we were going to be honest about drugs, we would admit the following six things.

First: you cannot stop people using drugs. People have used drugs for millenia. As far as we can tell, they have done it since the dawn of man. Wherever you find a human activity that cannot be stopped, you are best off trying to regulate it, so that you can minimise harm, instead of trying to outlaw it, which will merely drive it underground.

Second: we should not try to ban drugs, even if we did have a chance of succeeding at it. It is up to people to decide what they want to put in their body. Many drugs are harmful. Even relatively harmless drugs like cannabis can suck the dynamism and ambition out of people. Other drugs, like methamphetamines, are much more dangerous. But in every case, it is people’s right to choose to do it.

Some people find that opinion shocking. And yet they at the same time believe alcohol should be legal. This simply makes no sense. Alcohol can make people violent, damage the body, and be addictive. We respond by helping those who struggle with it, while respecting the decision of those who choose to consume it. The same applies to other drugs and there is no morally consistent position to claim otherwise.

Third: our moral duty as a society is to help people who decide to take drugs. That involves providing addiction services for those who cannot stop, advice for people experimenting, and regulating the market so that drug dealers are prevented from mixing dangerous ingredients in with the active ones.

Fourth: the war on drugs has created a ceaseless grind of broken lives, in which tens of thousands of people are funnelled into prisons for a non-violent crime, where they are brutalised all over again by an under-funded system, and then become more likely to take drugs and commit crime in order to buy them. Even the caution system, which devastates young people’s professional prospects, constitutes a cruel and needlessly vindictive response to a perfectly normal youthful curiosity.

Fifth: the war on drugs ignores the rich while punishing the poor. Look at the government. Around the Cabinet table, prime minister Boris Johnson and minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove have admitted taking cocaine, while foreign secretary Dominic Rabb has admitted taking cannabis. Why are they any different from the people currently languishing in prison? Why should they be allowed to treat drugs as youthful high-jinks, when others have their lives ruined by the police response? The answer is because of their class. Overwhelmingly, people from more elevated social backgrounds avoid the brutality of the system, while those from poorer backgrounds do not. As Barack Obama said: “Middle-class kids don’t get locked up for smoking pot, and poor kids do.”

Sixth: the war on drugs is racist. It was from the beginning and it still is today. Black people are stopped and searched for drugs at almost nine times the rate of whites. They are convicted of cannabis possession at 11.8 times the rate, despite having lower rates of self-reported use. As a UN group of human rights experts said in 2019: “The war on drugs has operated more effectively as a system of racial control than as a mechanism for combating the use and trafficking of narcotics.”

The cruel irony is that the world around us is realising the insanity of the war of drugs, even as Britain stays trapped in its curtains-down, self-imposed blindness. In the US, state after state has experimented with drug reform. The pressure is now building at the federal level, with the House of Representatives voting to pass a bill to decriminalise cannabis late last year. In Europe, several countries are pursuing liberalisation to various degrees, including Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, the Czech Republic and Germany.

Britain stands increasingly alone, pursuing a deranged fantasy agenda which drives users into danger and money into gangs. The war on drugs cannot be won and it should not be won, even if it could be.

We can’t put up with another 50 years of this deranged masquerade. The price in human lives is too steep. But where is the political leader with the bravery, the insight and the backbone to say so? At the moment they are nowhere to be seen. So instead, we stay in our self-imposed madness, keeping the curtains locked down tight, patrolling the light switch, and dismissing anyone who speaks the truth.

Ian Dunt is editor-at-large for His new book, How To Be A Liberal, is out now.