Saturday 30 October 2021

A Manufactured Crisis


I've been a bit pre-occupied of late on domestic matters, but noticed that yesterday for no obvious reason the blog attracted 4,698 hits. I can only assume it was connected in some way to the budget, the ending of the public sector pay freeze and the possibility of more cash for the MoJ. Or maybe it was a probation officer turning up in Eastenders this week, or angst over not getting contractual increments? Meanwhile, this from labourlist confirms what we've known all along about courts:-      

Covid made a growing backlog of court cases worse – but austerity created it

In the 18 years I spent as a probation officer, things changed a lot. Like most people joining the profession in 2002, I was initially motivated by the idea of rehabilitation, but court work was an essential part of the job.

Each week, my colleagues and I would spend around two hours interviewing those recently convicted. This was for a document known as a pre-sentence report: a detailed analysis of their offence, background, circumstances, risk to the public and proposal of what sentence would be most appropriate. It provided genuine opportunity for rehabilitation of those convicted and justice for victims.

Also once a week, each of us would spend the day in the local magistrates’ court writing a quicker version of this report for people convicted of minor crimes and furnishing magistrates with information about the people appearing already on probation orders. We were part of a functioning criminal justice system.

This came to an end for me in 2011, when Woolwich Magistrates’ Court, a ten-minute walk from the Probation Office, closed and the building was sold. Gradually, we saw a decrease in cases being heard quickly. By 2017, Greenwich Magistrates and Woolwich County Court had also closed.

Greenwich wasn’t alone in losing its court. When I began working for the London Probation Area, one of many names I was to be employed by, there were 320 magistrates’ court in England and Wales. Today, there are 165.

The sale of these buildings generated at least £223m for the public purse, but of course we are now seeing the real costs. Defendants, witnesses, police, lawyers and justices now commonly travel more than 50 miles to access local justice. Cases are taking years to be heard.

In June 2021, there were more than 60,000 outstanding Crown Court cases, and more than 386,000 in the magistrates’ court. It’s not just the loss of buildings that caused the court crisis. A complete failure to appreciate those working in the criminal justice system has led to staff shortages.

In 2020, inspectors rated all of the probation divisions as requiring improvement on staffing, with none of the areas fully staffed. High rates of staff sickness averaged 11 days per person, 50% of which related to mental health difficulties, and there were 650 job vacancies nationwide.

Many of these vacancies are likely a result of the disastrous changes made to the service in 2014 by Chris Grayling, who split the service in two, with half run by private sector agencies. The ethos of the organisation was changed, and six out of ten probation officers had a workload over the 100% target. Earlier this year, the services were amalgamated – but it’s not easy to put a broken organisation back together.

It was not as if the problems were unpredictable: Grayling ignored significant warnings from within his department to push through his reforms in 2014. And since then, MPs on the public accounts committee have said the reforms were rushed through at breakneck speed, taking “unacceptable risks” with taxpayers’ money. The justice committee has described the overhaul as a “mess” and the cause of “serious issues”.

The government has had to bail out the private providers at an estimated cost of £467m. I am one of many experienced probation staff who left the profession in this era – no longer recognising the organisation as one that could change lives, but rather one that had lost its identity and purpose.

Other areas of the criminal justice system face similar crises. For example, the Criminal Bar Association has warned that clearing the backlog is being hindered by a shortage of barristers. Falling rates of pay, in large part due to cuts in legal aid over the past decade, have led to an exodus from the profession. In the four years to 2020, the pool of criminal barristers shrank by 11%, from 2,553 to 2,273. It has also become an ageing profession, with 45% of barristers who specialise in crime aged 45 or over.

Of course, it suited the government to blame this on the pandemic. But coronavirus exacerbated an already growing backlog of cases – the pandemic didn’t create it.

The new Justice Secretary Dominic Raab now wants people to be able to look up their local court online and check how quickly cases are dealt with. The new national register will give scores on the speed cases go through the system, and on the ‘quality’ of justice served, measured by the percentage of guilty pleas before cases come to court, as well as the number of cases rearranged because of problems with the prosecution.

The ratings will initially cover the whole of England and Wales, but it is understood the Justice Secretary is keen on introducing scorecards on a more regional level, so that in future members of the public would be able to look at the performance of local courts.

Now, in my experience, people don’t generally give too much thought to courts until, for whatever reason, they need to attend court themselves. What you are supposed to do with this information is a mystery. If, as a victim, you see your local court is a poor performer, you can hardly choose to take your case elsewhere.

This feels like an attempt to blame those working in the criminal justice system for the problems that were created by the Conservative Party and their Justice Secretaries playing games with the services until they could no longer function properly. A score card won’t change that.

Kelly Grehan

Borough councillor in Dartford and a county councillor in Kent, a member of the LGA Labour Women’s Taskforce and a member of the Fabian Women’s Network Committee.

Monday 25 October 2021

Newcastle Napo AGM 2021 Addresses

I notice the AGM addresses by the General Secretary and Chair have been published on the Napo website and I've selected what I feel are the most relevant parts:-.  

Good morning Conference, I’m Ian Lawrence General Secretary. Proud and privileged to be here with you all in person and to welcome those joining us remotely.


Lastly, what about the crises being faced by Napo members right now, and that includes the relentless workloads being faced by our members in Cafcass and Probation NI who have common purpose in terms of their pay lagging behind comparable professions and who also need urgent action to redress that imbalance. I will report further to members about the progress in negotiations at the earliest opportunity.

Meanwhile, today I need to address the Broken Promises on Probation Pay. You all heard the comments by new Minister Malthouse yesterday, and I could see that you were overwhelmingly underwhelmed. Sadly, it was full of promises but short on commitment; much about the 4 pillars required to help rebuild the Probation service and the money being made available for that, but no mention of the fifth pillar, namely paying staff a decent wage.

I listened carefully to the debate yesterday and I look forward to taking note of the questions that you could not put to the Minister yesterday. I can assure you that Katie Lomas and I will deliver these in person at our meeting with him in a couple of weeks. I can hardly wait!

Because its time for us to make that stand that speakers in the debates spoke of yesterday. To stand against low pay across all employers obviously, but to build on the confidence that has been generated by way of our recent indicative ballot to reject the pay freeze and to reject the Probation Pay offer that I will be telling Minister Malthouse is an abject disgrace And we will also ask the Minister why, if other departments can agree multi year pay deals such as the MoJ, HMRC and Crown Prosecution Service, why can’t probation?

And we will also ask why it is that the Treasury has such a downer on Probation Pay. There are many potential answers of course, but here is one in my opinion; and its that they don’t believe that Probation staff will stand up for themselves, they don’t think that you have the the stomach for that struggle if it should come to it. Well, for those in high places I have a big message, that for the first time in recent history all 3 probation unions have returned indicative ballot results of between 86% and 99%, all 3 unions pointing in the right direction for further direct action if push comes to shove. Because its pretty straightforward:

Probation workers have had it with low pay, Have had it being taken for granted And are not prepared to see workloads and attrition rates remain at unsustainable levels And who cannot stand to see promising young PQIPS fold after a week in the job, mentally scarred by their experience and cannot tolerate vacancy rates in probation delivery units reach an all time high, and we will ask the Minister - how can you let this happen and what are you going to do to redress years of hollow promises to address low pay in the profession?

But I have an obligation to point out that we have more work to do to prepare for this new frontier that’s ahead of us; more work in tightening up our contact details for members likely to be involved in a trade dispute if it comes, and more work with our sister unions to build on the indicative ballot results, but Napo’s turnout in the consultative process gives me every confidence that we can meet the challenges set by the pernicious Trade Union Act, for that result was the highest turnout in Napo’s recent history and you can be be proud of where we have got to.

I expect that we will talk more about pay before this AGM is done, but for now lets send a very clear message to this Government. Probation staff need a decent pay rise and they need it now; no ifs, no buts, not next year,….. but now! For If you fail to pay people who do so much to protect our communities and try to help people turn their lives around, they may decide to vote with their feet because they simply cannot take anymore. We want to avoid that, so - reach a deal with us, show us some good faith and stop taking your loyal, highly committed staff for granted.

This AGM has again demonstrates why this union has such a proud heritage, and again its given you the opportunity to showcase the value of the work done by our members, and why those members need to be afforded the respect and dignity that they deserve.

I will be led by your judgement and your decisions, and in return I pledge to offer every ounce of my energy to this new, urgent campaign on Probation Pay. It’s a struggle that has sadly become necessary but one that you and your leadership group will embrace and pursue to the best of our ability.

Thank you conference,

Ian Lawrence


Good afternoon to you all, whether you are in glorious 3D here in Newcastle or joining virtually from the comfort of your home or the relative discomfort of your office. I am so pleased that we are, yet again, trying a new way of delivering our AGM to make it as accessible as possible. The decision to run a fully virtual event last year was brave and while it wasn’t a complete success it certainly taught us something about how our AGM could become more inclusive. As you know it has been our practice for some time to move the AGM venue each year to share the burden of lengthy and costly travel around. This does mean that some people only attend an AGM when it is close by and some don’t attend at all, those with school age children or adult care responsibilities can particularly struggle. One of the things that struck me most after last year’s event was that some members said they were attending because the event was virtual and therefore accessible in a way AGM had not been before but another member said they felt more confident to speak at AGM when it was virtual. This told me something about the barriers to AGM attendance not being solely about the distance and staying away from home.

This year the threat of COVID has not disappeared and there will be members who aren’t advised to travel or mix with others, especially as we go into the winter season when many experts predict other viruses will delight in the depletion of our immune response due to lockdowns. So we decided to try something new – a hybrid AGM that would be more accessible and inclusive, that would allow more and different members to attend. Luckily our chosen venue for 2021 is pretty big and that allowed us to remove the restrictions on in person attendance allowing as many people as wished to attend in person. There are bound to be some hiccups with the hybrid format but we are absolutely determined to do as we did last year and learn all of the lessons we can to make future hybrid AGMs ever better.

For me personally nothing can beat the feeling of solidarity, camaraderie and joy that an in person event brings but I am not naïve and I know that this experience and viewpoint is not universal, for some being face to face is far more challenging, or the price that they pay for those good feelings is too high. So we will continue to try to make our events hybrid, and therefore more inclusive. As ever please give as much feedback as possible to help us develop and improve, we really value it. You may notice that we have focussed this year more on participation than fanci-ness and that is deliberate and as a direct result of feedback from last year.

It falls to me to open our AGM and conference and in doing so reflect on the forgoing year. I genuinely feel that each year I say “what a year it has been” and this year will be no different. I stood here last year and spoke about the unification process and how tough it would be. How foolish I was, how naïve! I thought it would be tough but in fact it has been far worse. The confusion and frustration around assignment and alignment processes were awful for members who faced uncertainty in the transfer process. That was bad enough but the weeks after transfer have shown just how bad things were in CRCs and the NPS. The coming together has exposed the weaknesses across all employers. Workloads have sky-rocketed to ever more dangerous levels and staff struggling to adapt to a new employer and new ways of working are bombarded with tick-box spreadsheets and demands to complete mandatory online training. Confusion and chaos reign in Probation right now, with pay problems that elicit at least 17 different responses depending who you ask, continuing confusion about the consultations on major changes involved in moving to the Target Operating Model and workloads so high that newly qualified officers leave rather than suffer the way they’ve seen their colleagues suffer during training. The whole system is in disarray but I just wanted to highlight a few areas that we are working on at present.

SPO Workloads are out of control. They have been a concern since 2014 but in the last year they have reached crisis point. SPOs managing a team of people with excessive workloads find themselves at the mercy of a resourcing model which says they can manage 10 people. That would be challenge enough but consider the number of staff working part time, the calculations use FTE (full time equivalent) so if the team has several people working part time in it the number climbs but the staff require managing whether they work full or part time. Then PQUIP trainees only count for a fraction of a full timer even though they arguably need more support and closer management than more experienced staff. So an SPO can have 15 or 20 staff to manage, all needing supervision, all needing input on their work around risk, all struggling with excessive workloads and all needing support to navigate massive organisational change. On top of this SPOs are the first port of call for pay problems which, we have discovered, can be so intractable that it takes teams of people months to resolve them. Every time a new process is introduced, every time an audit or case review suggests the need for practice improvement, more work is heaped onto SPOs. Our SPO Forum relaunched this year and Vice Chair Carole Doherty has created a space for SPO members to come together to offer and seek support and to make sur their concerns are raised. Sonia Flynn attended the last meeting to hear first hand the views of members and Carole is now working with the team who are carrying out the management review that we secured commitment for in our 2018 pay deal. It takes time to effect change but we are proudly making sure that the voices of our members are heard when decisions are being made.

ViSOR use and the police vetting required for it continues to be a huge concern. We now know that vetting failure rates are low but the impact on those who fail this vetting is huge. Movement to a different area of work has an impact on morale and potentially your career but more insidious is the impact on diversity of our workforce. Police vetting for ViSOR use is now part of the recruitment process and anyone who fails will not be employed in Probation. To understand why this impacts on diversity we must consider the known reasons for failure. You will automatically fail if you have live County Court Judgements against you, this is a situation that many people who have experienced financial hardship will face. If you are a Black or Asian man you are more likely to be stopped by Police, more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged and at Court more likely to receive a custodial sentence than if you are a white man. Police vetting looks at any convictions you have but also convictions of your closest contacts and any intelligence about criminal networks. It surely follows therefore that people in our society who are more likely to be convicted and who have families also more likely to be convicted will be less likely to be able to work in Probation. Next we consider another reason for failure of vetting – those who have been a victim of domestic abuse but remain connected to their abuser in some way, perhaps because they have a child or children together. This can be considered an ongoing link by Police and vetting would fail.

So, those who have experienced financial hardship and had no cushion to help them – poor and working class people are less likely to be able to work in probation, black and Asian men face far higher likelihood of failing police vetting and therefore ever more barriers to employment in probation, and victims who struggle to fully disconnect from their abuser, either because of the nature of the abuse or because of some other link between them are also less likely to work in probation.

At a time when HMPPS are proudly announcing the employment of 1,000 people with lived experience of the criminal justice system in the Probation P of HMPPS people with lived experience who already work in the system are being sidelined and recruiting new staff with such experience will be ever harder. Make no mistake, there are now, and have been for decades, people working in Probation at all levels with lived experience of the justice system, and probation practice is all the richer for their presence. Now however we face people with this invaluable experience being recruited only to special roles separate from ordinary probation practice.

Napo’s position is that people with lived experience of the justice system should be able to work in any and all roles in Probation. We know that careful consideration must be given and assessments will need to be made to enable this but external vetting by the Police for the sole purpose of using a computer system should not be a barrier to creating a diverse workforce. We have consistently taken a solution focussed approach to this, first suggesting that ViSOR is not the best way to share information given the complexities of processes – instead we suggested allowing other agencies restricted access to Delius instead. This was not pursued, then we suggested that those who fail vetting could be given a protected caseload that didn’t require ViSOR use – this was seen as not possible for NPS. When unification was on the table we tried again, a mixed caseload in the PS would surely allow for staff without ViSOR vetting to have a caseload that didn’t need ViSOR. Again our reasonable suggestions were politely ignored. We will continue to raise this and to carefully monitor the impact of vetting on staff who transferred from CRCs. We have raised the issue with Justin Russell, after the HMiP report on race in probation and are now working hard to raise the issue more widely.

Another ongoing and very tricky issue is OMiC, the movement of the supervision of clients during the custodial part of their sentence into the prison where a team of Probation and Prison staff work together to carry out all of the tasks formerly performed by an Offender Manager in the community and an Offender Supervisor in custody. We are told this is being done because “end to end offender management” didn’t work. But it wasn’t really given much chance, with community staff not being resourced to travel to prisons, bans on travel claims due to cuts and excessive workloads meaning custody cases were deprioritised. Despite the obvious solution being to fix these issues OMiC was apparently the answer. So now instead of the community practitioner being the consistent thread throughout the sentence, from custody into the community someone serving a custodial sentence will have a new offender manager every time they move prisons and only meet their community officer close to their release. OMiC moves the work formerly done in the community and adds it to the work formerly done in the prison. It therefore moves staff into prisons. There is at present no workload measurement tool for OMiC and so inevitably workloads are high, staffing too low and because the administrative support comes from the prison team it is taking a long time for them to adjust to tasks they have no experience of.

Most concerning is the plan to move prison based SPOs into the line management of the prison governor. This is due to happen soon. We are utterly opposed to this and have been since the start. Probation Service staff have different terms and conditions and different ways of working than prison staff, the experience of COVID showed us that these differences can cause tensions and we had to intervene in several regions where prison governors, even before line managing the SPOs were insisting that despite the PS policy being to work at home where possible they wanted all probation staff to be in the prison every day. SPO members working in prisons tell us they are looking to move roles to avoid the inevitable issues that will make their positions very tough indeed. We have yet to see the full guidance for the line management arrangements but we remain vigilant to the risks to our members.

Unification has meant that programmes work now all resides in the probation service. This is cause for celebration however there are many concerns about moves to alter programmes and delivery requirements and the potential for “dumbing down” skilled work. We await the promised consultation on the detailed plans for programmes, but we anticipate having to fight the move away from quality and towards economy as driver for the changes.

COVID has brought many challenges and it’s impact will resonate throughout the system for years. One of the challenges we face now is the backlogs of cases waiting to go through the Courts, we all know that the Court system was struggling anyway and closures of Courts, low staffing and lack of resources meant there were already delays but some now face a wait of years for their case to be heard, and members working in Courts face ever more pressure to produce their advice to the Court in the quickest way possible. Despite many reports reinforcing what we already knew – that a quality pre-sentence report cannot be produced quickly – the direction of travel is towards speedy justice, seemingly at any cost. Rather than reopening closed courts, or investing in the staff who make the system work, the focus now seems to be on extending Court sitting hours and pushing through cases, ignoring the warnings that speedy justice sometimes simply isn’t justice at all.

In Unpaid Work there are also backlogs due to the pandemic and Napo’s ‘safety first’ approach to recovery is being pushed past it’s limit by the fervour to ramp up delivery despite concerns about virus transmission. Alongside this we have the challenge of unification, with the chaos that has brought. Unpaid Work staff face uncertainty and the planned work with trade unions on the new operating model, which could have helped to deal with some of the backlog issues, have been forgotten about as senior leaders just try to deal with the immediate chaos facing them.

There are so many other problems in the system, too many to list – even though we have three days!

Does this all sound a little bleak? At a recent branch meeting we acknowledged it is all quite bleak and that much work is needed to get us to a point where practitioners feel that Probation is functioning again. The damage that has been done to the system is both broad and deep and will take many years to repair. Amidst this bleakness however there is a spark of hope. The hope is Napo, us, the members, the reps, the staff, working together not just to represent the interests of members in their employment rights but also to represent the profession, the idea and ideals of Probation.

Our reps, activists and members have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep themselves, their colleagues, their clients and the communities they serve as safe as possible. The haste to “recover” has been resisted at all levels and while we struggle to hold the line on this we must always remember that safety comes first. Keeping us safe in our work is a legal duty on our employer and whether the risk be COVID or work related stress the same duty of care is owed to us. If you feel unsafe at work, due to COVID or due to work related stress, please contact your branch reps, follow the advice we’ve issued, escalate concerns to the Link Officer and Official for your branch and make sure we all work together to fight these significant threats to our safety.

In many ways it may seem that we have lost some of our power since TR, the Civil Service approach is not always conducive to problem solving and the solution focussed approach we took when we were in smaller probation trusts. But we do have power – in our union. We have collective power, far greater than the sum of it’s parts. I am looking forward to spending these three days discussing and debating how we use that power, and how we channel and focus our efforts to effect real change.

If the situation for Probation members in England and Wales sounds a little bleak, our colleagues in Cafcass and Probation Northern Ireland aren’t faring much better. The organisational change issues aren’t there in the same way but workloads and pay are. In Cafcass our reps have been working tirelessly to protect members from the threats of COVID and work related stress. Dialogue with the employer has been established but there is much work to do and I know that will be discussed more tomorrow. There is, just like in Probation, no easy or quick solution to the workload issues. The work is there, and is increasing as a result of the pandemic. The funding provided to meet the need was a one off – so won’t continue and hasn’t appreciably made a difference. Cafcass needs serious investment, long term funding to increase staffing and reduce workloads to manageable levels.

In Northern Ireland workloads continue to be an issue and we are working hard to try to put in place processes to address workloads and to ensure that staff have a route to address them.

With all of this going on it can be difficult to take notice of what is happening around us, and to make space for things that we, as a professional association, should be involved in. That’s why I want to pay tribute to Emma Cluley as she steps down as Managing Editor of the Probation Journal. Emma has made an incredible contribution to Napo in this role and will be greatly missed. I know the recent Editorial Board meeting was her last, and the report to this AGM will also be her last, please show your appreciation for her dedication and commitment to Napo and to Probation.

Yesterday I was pleased to chair the women in napo fringe meeting where we launched a research partnership with long term member Becky Shepherd. Becky is looking at vicarious trauma in women who work with women and we hope that her findings will help us to secure better support for staff working with women on probation and women victims. This is a really important topic and I am looking forward to working with Becky on it. Women members will be receiving an invitation to participate and we hope you will share it with women colleagues who work with women to increase the responses.

I’ve been reflecting lots in recent weeks on the issues that women face in their daily lives. The sentencing of a Police Officer for the murder of Sarah Everard has sent a shockwave through society but the misogyny that enabled that heinous crime has always existed and we have always known about it. Even after the media was filled with people saying what must be done about the problem of institutionalised misogyny in my home area of North Yorkshire our Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, in interview, made comments that were textbook – worthy examples of victim blaming. He is still in post, for now, although widely criticised. He has apologised but the problem is not that he said the comments in public, where we could hear them, the problem is that he held those beliefs. The problem is that women are being told to use tracking apps, to avoid walking alone at night, to modify their clothing, to change their behaviour to keep safe. No one is telling the perpetrators to modify their behaviour. No one is intervening to remove people from positions of power and influence when they say or do things that demonstrate misogyny. We must - all of us - make ourselves free to do this, to call out misogyny, to demand better from those in positions of power.

Tomorrow at our AGM we will launch our race action plan, and dedicate ourselves to being anti-racist. Not just to say we will avoid being racist, but that we must ever strive to be anti-racist, actively and using all of the power and influence we have. We must do this collectively and individually, in our work, in our union and in whatever we do when we are not working or coming together in Napo. We must become the champions of anti-racism in our workplaces and our communities. I will be proudly signing my pledge and I hope each of you will too.

Together in Napo we can do great things, and there are great things to do. I hope you will leave here, after 3 days of being inspired by other activists, and spread the word to workmates who aren’t members. That they can and should join Napo, and share in the joy, the antidote to despair that is our solidarity. As I enter my last year as Chair I will hold those feelings close and use them as fuel – to fight the good fight and share as much of the antidote to despair as I can with others.

As I now finish I would like to read the message of solidarity from Unison, who are holding their own conference this week:
UNISON sends this message of solidarity to our sisters and brothers in Napo with best wishes for a successful AGM. We look forward to working with you on the many challenges which lie ahead. Together we can prevail.

Katie Lomas 

Sunday 24 October 2021

Police Talking Sense on Drugs


A week on, the AGM blog post continues to attract attention with total site traffic yesterday exceeding 3,100 hits. What it means is always an imprecise science, but I suspect something not unconnected to the long-standing Napo tradition of not saying very much about difficult issues. Whatever happened to the General Secretary's Blog?

Talking of difficult issues, politicians have always found drugs firmly in that category and best avoided. William Haigh raised the subject "Decriminalising drugs is the only way forward" back in August because it seems the topic can only be raised when your political career is over. Fortunately, the continuing independence of Chief Constables who hold office under the Crown, despite all the elected PCC nonsense, often can and do speak up on such matters whilst in post, as here in the Guardian:-

As a chief constable, I’ve seen enough: it’s time to end the ‘war on drugs’

I know addicts can commit odious acts. But treating drug use as a criminal justice problem causes thousands of needless deaths

When I first met Andy, I got the sense that he hadn’t been born at all but rather quarried out of a mountainside: a big man with a warm smile who, as we spoke, was injecting medical-grade heroin into a line in his lower leg. As a serving chief constable, this was one of the more unusual introductions I’ve made with a member of the community.

Andy must have sensed my confusion at his apparent health and physical stature for a person on the heroin-assisted treatment programme in Middlesbrough, the first of its kind in England and Wales. “Heroin doesn’t make you skinny,” he said. “It’s just that heroin comes first and last and there’s never any money left for food. That’s why addicts are thin.”

If the “war on drugs”, first declared a full 50 years ago, has an established fighting front, it’s Andy’s home town of Middlesbrough. The latest statistics from 2020 show that 123 people died from drug-related deaths on Teesside – the highest number since figures have been collated, and one of the highest rates in the country. Across England and Wales, there were more than 4,500 drug-related deaths in the same 12 months.

The vast majority of those deaths would have been entirely preventable. In 21 years of police service I have slowly, perhaps too slowly, come to the conclusion that framing this crisis as a criminal justice problem has not simply been unhelpful, but counterproductive. This nationwide epidemic is a public health crisis.

Having said that, if it’s to be labelled as a problem, perhaps it’s best characterised as a political one. It must be recognised how hard it is for mainstream parties to initiate a conversation on drugs policy reform when votes are often won by being “tough on crime”. I agree with the sentiment, but there are different ways of achieving this. Some early advocates for reform do exist across the political divide, including MPs Crispin Blunt (Conservative) and Jeff Smith (Labour), but there is a growing appetite beyond Westminster to fundamentally reconsider our response.

In my time as Cleveland’s chief constable, we have increased the number of stop and searches and seen a large increase in the amount of illicit drugs seized – I’m proud of this. Stop and search can have an impact and ensure that vulnerable people are safeguarded. Likewise, closing cannabis farms can work: not only are drugs seized and gang members jailed, we safeguard those left to “farm” the cannabis who are often trafficked into the UK.

However, working alone as a single agency has had little impact on the problem as a whole. The production of heroin in Afghanistan, and cocaine in South America, has increased; organised crime activity and violence is at an historic high; and deaths continue to rise.

If we are to be serious about tackling this crisis, a fundamental change of approach is required. The government’s response to Carol Black’s independent drugs review proposes a cross-departmental drugs unit and reinvestment in treatment services that were cut during the years of austerity. The reinvestment is a particularly welcome recommendation and is a prerequisite to reducing deaths.

Most of us have allowed the message on drugs being bad (which they clearly are) to be conflated with addicts themselves being bad simply for using drugs. Let me be clear: some of the most odious and evil acts I’ve encountered in my police service have been perpetrated by drug addicts; but this is not universally true. Many, like Andy in Middlesbrough, have made bad choices in their lives – but by helping people like him, we help ourselves.

Andy is now on the path to stabilisation, supported by Danny Ahmed, a visionary who runs the treatment programme in the town. Danny explains that it required a brave set of people two years ago to sign off on his plan to give “heroin” to addicts. But viewing drug dependency as a chronic health condition, as Danny does, allows us to view the problem through a different prism: we would not hesitate to help patients manage other conditions that require ongoing medication.

As Danny explains, the patients are given diamorphine, the same drug that pregnant women often receive during labour to manage pain. Most people feel differently about his programme when this is explained. While watching Andy’s syringe being prepared (during which time he’s not allowed to be in the room) I asked the nurse what would happen to me if I took the diamorphine. So high is the dosage, I’m told it would probably kill me.

Andy chats happily as he prepares to self-administer the diamorphine in what amounts to a doctor’s surgery. He doesn’t fall back in a stupor on to a dirty mattress, as depicted in Hollywood movies, nor does he lose consciousness. At all points he’s lucid and talkative. Andy and the others on the programme do this twice a day, every day of the year: a phenomenal commitment for people who are used to living chaotic lives.

Andy invites me to stay for a cup of tea. He talks about a difficult upbringing in one of the poorest towns in England but acknowledges that not all those who have a difficult start in life end up abusing heroin. The ruinous path to addiction started as a means to “fit in” and fill a void in his life.

The programme has meant his life has stabilised, he’s rebuilding relationships with family members, and can look with confidence to the future. “I understand that you’ve got a job to do,” he almost pitifully suggests, before tailing off from the sentence – with the futility of the police’s work to stamp out drug abuse all too evident.

The heroin-assisted treatment programme offers hope, if scaled up on a national level, that demand for heroin can be cut. When the state offers a meaningful alternative to the street drugs that can be bought from organised crime groups, the demand for them decreases. What remains to be seen is how organised crime groups will adapt to plug a huge drop in profits.

Middlesbrough, a town so often discussed as a “problematic” area with “problematic” people, could possibly represent the beginning of the end for the “war on drugs” that has already taken too many lives.

Richard Lewis is chief constable of Cleveland police


It's worth bearing in mind that, unlike the Police, as civil servants the Probation Service at any level is now completely silenced in terms of making any contribution towards social policy discussions, despite having an unparalleled wealth of experience and insight into such matters. Increasingly, it's the Police Service as de facto community social workers that we must look to for enlightened social policy making, a role once very firmly in probation's bailiwick.    

Saturday 23 October 2021

Latest From Napo 227


Since the AGM in Newcastle last week and the controversy revealed and discussed on this platform, it's interesting to note that the post has been viewed an astonishing 2,188 times and attracted 66 comments. By comparison the subject has not been discussed at all on another well known social media site, gaining just 2 mentions. 


Dear Xxxxxxxx,

Napo AGM authorises ballot for Industrial Action on Probation pay and workloads

At last week's hugely successful Napo Annual General Meeting, members instructed the General Secretary and National Chair to initiate a campaign of industrial action to reject the government pay freeze, the 2021 pay offer and excessive workloads.

Motions calling for a trade dispute to be registered and a statutory ballot of our Probation members should the employer fail to engage in further negotiations, were overwhelmingly carried.

In some highly emotional debates at AGM, members explained the impact of low pay and excessive workloads on their health and wellbeing. At a time when we are facing soaring fuel bills, the prospect of a hike in National Insurance and continuing inflation rates, a pay freeze is a pay cut and members deserve better.

These decisions followed the outcomes of recent indicative ballots across Napo, UNISON and GMB which recorded votes of 99%,98% and 86% respectively in opposition to the pay freeze and pay offer.

What next?

Napo and our sister unions will do our best to seek further negotiations with the employer, and next week we are due to meet with the new Minister for Probation, Policing and Re-offending. As things stand we are of the view that there is little scope for manoeuvre and that a trade dispute is all but inevitable.

If this happens it’s simply because the predicament of our members has been ignored and that the employer and government are banking on our members being unwilling to take a stand over pay and excessive workloads.

Napo will therefore be working with our sister unions in Probation, as well as those representing staff across HMPPS who are also facing derisory pay offers, to explore the possibilities of co-ordinated industrial action if this becomes necessary.

Preparing for a statutory ballot

As was made clear to members in the material that we issued in the indicative ballot, industrial action can only be invoked if certain legal thresholds under the Trade Union Act 2016 are met. These include stipulations around the turnout and percentage of members voting in a postal ballot in favour of action as well as identifying the intended action itself, but in Napo’s case we have a high level of confidence from the turnout in the indicative ballot that we can meet these challenges. Our result was the most significant of its kind in recent Napo history.

At the present time we have not agreed what a programme of industrial action would look like in the event that it becomes necessary, but if a statutory postal ballot is held, all members taking part will know exactly what they are voting for.

Where are you?

It’s absolutely vital that in addition to knowing the up to date home address and workplace for all of our Probation service members, we need to be able to contact you with news about the pay campaign via a private e-mail address or a mobile phone number for text messages. Please check that your private e-mail address is up to date and please encourage your colleagues to do the same. You can do this by logging into the member area on the website or contacting your branch membership secretary.

Look out for more news

You can be assured that your union will do everything possible to avoid having to enter into an industrial campaign but we will be led by the will of our members, and last week’s debates at Conference were a good indicator of the mood of determination that exists and that we have reached a line in the sand after years of injustice.

The employer has been advised of the situation and at the meeting with the Minister next week we will be asking him to intervene directly as we seek to avoid a damaging trade dispute.

We will be mailing out regularly to update members, but please make sure your work colleagues are receiving our emails and encourage any who aren’t members to join us – the only way to get change is to stand together!

Show Racism the Red Card – Wear Red Day 2021 (click for pics)

General Secretary Ian Lawrence and National Chair Katie Lomas are wearing red today to show solidarity with Show Racism the Red Card, working to stamp out racism in our local communities and wider society. Please show your support on social media using #WRD21 and visit their website to see how you can support them.

AGM Follow up session with Jim Barton, SRO for Probation Reform – save the date!

Our AGM speakers were all engaging but there was so much demand for discussion with Jim Barton he offered to hold a follow up session with members. Jim is the Senior Responsible Officer for Probation reform and Electronic Monitoring. We have arranged to hold a virtual Q&A session with him on 5 November 2.30 – 3.30. Please keep this free in your calendar and lookout for the full details next week.

More extensive news from the Napo AGM will follow in the Napo Online Magazine, likely to be published shortly. This will include coverage of some superb contributions from various speakers, and the key decisions that will impact on our members across all the employers where Napo are represented.

Best Wishes

Ian Lawrence 
General Secretary
Katie Lomas National Chair

Saturday 16 October 2021

Newcastle Napo AGM 2021 Part 3

AGM Day three

London walks out prompting statement from the chair.

There have been rumblings throughout Conference about the adoption by Napo of an electronic voting system for in person Conference attendees. Concerns about trust in those on the top table aside, this method has some advantages, especially when the result is close and in theory works well with those joining via Zoom who vote electronically. The issue arises from the fact that a simple card vote indicating a majority for or against is a transparent process and you can see who is raising their hand for or against, whereas pushing a button is not.

Some votes appeared to indicate for example that significant numbers of Napo members were apparently voting against motions, for example in support of anti discriminatory practice with no speakers in visible opposition. This led to London Vice Chair Patricia Johnson, who happens to be NEC black rep, to question the efficacy of the voting system. If on the one hand the voting system was working, then it is concerning that the day after adopting a Race Action Plan, significant numbers of members appear to be rejecting anti discriminatory practice. If it is not, then the voting system cannot be relied upon.

David Raho called for binary testing of the system in order to discover a percentage of error rather than the earlier food preferences test. Gordon Jackson pointed out that card votes had its advantages in terms of knowing voting was fair. Others expressed their views in a similar vein.

The top table rejected suggestions the voting system was at fault (of course they would otherwise it would have invalidated prior votes and caused a riot). It was the abrupt closing down of discussion and managerial type response from the top table regarding the implications of previous votes however that caused Patricia Johnson to walk out, followed by a significant number of other members many of whom were black. Patricia could be heard to say she no longer felt in a safe space at Conference and that when members highlight potential irregularities and possible discriminatory behaviour then this should be taken seriously - deeds not words.

Outside the hall a large number of members gathered clearly angry at the top table and completely in agreement with Patricia. Some urged her to return to the Conference floor stating ‘If you leave the racists win’.

It is significant that in all the time Patricia was outside the hall clearly angry and upset, no one from the top table thought to step outside to speak with her however later both Tania Bassett and Ranjit Singh appeared and there was obviously a degree of understanding and empathy of the situation, particularly from Ranjit.

Upon return from break, a statement was read out acknowledging that concerns had been raised about the voting system but indicating the top tables full confidence in it. Patricia returned to the Conference floor. Zoom messages not visible for more than a few seconds continued to flash up when online speakers were on screen, no doubt annoying the top table who clearly do not like to be questioned and are evidently overly defensive when this occurs.

The matter will rumble on.


Newcastle Napo AGM 2021 Part 2

As day two of the AGM got underway, more time spent exploring a great northern city bathed in beautiful autumnal sunshine. The Literary and Philosophical Society library proved the perfect spot for rest, research and recuperation prior to another evening enjoying the pleasures of meeting more readers and contributors new and old, and in some great pubs. 

My sincere thanks to everyone for such a brilliant evening, the welcome and lively discussion - it all serves to confirm my abiding love for the probation endeavour and the people who continue to keep the ethos alive, despite everything. I may be back home recovering, but very many thanks go to the loyal reader for again burning the midnight oil in order to produce the following reflections on proceedings.  

AGM Day Two

The day commenced with a surprisingly quick announcement of quoracy. There was the usual tub-thumping speech from the present General Secretary who it seems has been paying attention to recent news events but appears to have spent less time concentrating on the somewhat less easily regurgitated ins and outs of members concerns. This was surprising especially as one of the later speakers indicated that regular meetings take place between Napo HQ and the MoJ/HMPPS. It is the substance of these meetings that members want to hear about not a Jeremy Clarksonesque summary of the news.

A lot of time wasting by the top table.

It is true that though very worthy the Napo Journal report does not normally get a standing ovation. However, after 17 years of hard graft as managing editor Emma Cluley had Conference on its feet in recognition of her solid and unerring contribution to a publication that has grown in stature and made a real contribution to knowledge and practice in probation. Emma was gracious in her thanks to Napo and all those involved. An unmistakably emotional send off.

The redoubtable Frances Crook addressed conference reminding us why she has been such a brilliant champion for change in the criminal justice system. A staunch friend of Napo and probation she was the voice that punched through the fog on so many occasions and achieved a degree of respect across the political spectrum when speaking about prisons and probation that only Harry Fletcher came close to in terms of media interest and authority. Frances called for the final closure of STCs and women’s prisons calling for local facilities to support and reintegrate women back into their local communities. Napo would do well to take note and forge closer links with The Howard League who are obvious allies. Frances Crook was awarded lifetime honorary membership of Napo – too right.

The professional sessions couldn’t have been more different from each other and were both interesting. The first consisted of a panel discussion of domestic abuse and the family courts a year after ‘The Harm Report’. This reminded me for one of the discussions that we used to have at team meetings a long time ago when the discussion was about professional issues relevant to practice rather than slagging all and sundry off. Informative contributors Including Jack Harrison a family court lawyer and Jenny Birchall from Woman’s Aid. All good thought-provoking stuff and intelligent discussion. If only we had time for this sort of thing when back in the office.

The panel discussion on the impact of racial trauma on probation and the family courts that included Chief Inspector Justin Russell, author of ‘Labelled a Black Villain’ Trevor Hercules, Alison Lowe West Yorkshire Deputy Mayor and Criminal Justice Consultant Delphine Duff-Butler. Delphine would have been dynamite enough in the mix, but Trevor was in the mood to express himself and he must have sensed he was speaking to a receptive audience. He was honest and gritty to say the least, but you felt that he was well intentioned to help young black men (perhaps like he once was) and he had been on quite a journey (buy the book!!!). 

A lively exchange ensued with newly appointed Assistant General Secretary Ranjit Singh doing a good job as chair to ensure everyone communicated their points in their own way and was heard. I’d love to see this panel on Question Time setting the world to rights. I think everyone got the message loud and clear re service user/people on probation or whatever the current moniker is for the punters being used and to call racism out and encourage young people to go to the police if a crime has been committed rather than taking matters into their own hands and starting a chain reaction of retribution revenge and increasing violence. All good stuff with some challenge there to the usual expected messages.

The Race Action Plan was duly launched.

After a much needed break it was the turn of Lyn Brown to address conference. Lyn has been well briefed by Napo and as a former social worker had a bit of insight into current challenges. She seemed like someone who got why probation staff are fed up (even more than is normal) and had some idea how things could be fixed with greater localism and probation as a more independent player free from stifling bureaucracy and government toe punts. There was nothing she said that was in the least bit controversial given the audience and she pushed all the right buttons.

Sitting in the back of the hall mostly nodding in agreement was Jim Barton a civil servant who according to the latest MoJ organisational chart is Director Probation Reform and Electronic Monitoring at Ministry of Justice UK.

After some uncontroversial motions it was Jim’s turn.

Jo Farrar, Chief Executive of HMPPS, couldn’t make it so Jim Barton gave a reasonably good summary in 4 mins of where we are at. Most had heard similar before. It was interesting to learn that the MoJ has been reasonably successful at increasing funding. A further 1500 trainees were promised but no real undertaking re pay. Jim explained some of the situation around tagging but after Kit Malthouses techno solutions for everything spin ringing in everyone’s ears he was speaking to the unconverted and in some cases never to be converted. 

Probation staff need a pay increase of about £10k before they are being paid their market value. He attempted to deal with the sensitive issue of why we are not getting the cash. Jim took questions but then the chair messed up a vote that if successful would have allowed for more questions and hopefully some revealing answers but would on the other hand eat into time for motions that to be honest could be knocked out in an hour if chaired properly. The chair managed to confuse everyone, and subsequent explanations just made it worse. It was later announced that Jim had volunteered to do an online session where members could as him questions.

More motions then close.

Friday 15 October 2021

Newcastle Napo AGM 2021

Although in Newcastle, no longer being a Napo member means I'm not at the AGM, but it's been absolutely brilliant to meet readers and contributors. I made the journey because the profession means a lot to me and it's wonderful to hear first hand how the essential ethos survives even if practiced under the radar and despite all the civil service command and control shite. Thanks go to the reader for these reflections:- 

Day One of AGM

Hats off to Napo for hosting a hybrid conference, the speech by Katie Lomas quite rightly identified the benefits of this in appealing to members who wouldn’t or couldn’t make the journey. As early adopters, there will be glitches: those in the room can’t see those on screens etc, but it is the future and we should embrace it.

Game of two halves:

Half One: 

Malthouse: The minister for prisons and probation Malthouse zoomed in and then having cast a thrall of fury and despair, zoomed out again without questions. His chief repeated message was that he needed to see Probation “Driving Down Crime”. Driving Down Crime is a very dodgy strapline and he kept repeating it. Many in the room itched to remark that while his government relentlessly drive an increasing proportion of the population to poverty despair and desperation, tasking us with driving down crime is … pretty rubbish. But for a moment we had hope: having done a sparkling sales pitch for technology, tagging and surveillance, he went on to talk about The Psychology: but this turned out to be more of the same. I was quite taken with the idea that swift consequences reap rewards, (he was still selling electronic surveillance) but this is ashes in the mouths of victims, witnesses and those on remand, under investigation, whose cases are pending after years of waiting.

Second Half: 

Liz Saville Roberts MP socked it to us with a message of social justice. Not a blow-in like Malthouse, she has been soldiering away on criminal justice and is long serving co-chair of the Justice Unions Parliamentary group. She spoke eloquently and fluently about the need for Probation to be unleashed from the civil service and Westminster control. She made the case for the Napo Cymru motion – for devolution of Probation in Wales, specifically urging the AGM to vote for the Napo Cymru motion which is in fact so far down the order of motions it is unlikely to be debated. She was also off screen before we could question or participate, but it left a warmer and more positive vibe.

We finally got to some motions: pay us a decent wage, unify probation out with the civil service, address the retention problem, all of which passed without debate.


My thanks for this contribution from another reader:-

Day One

Napo Conference began with the now customary wait for quoracy despite this now being quite a low number. Once quoracy was eventually achieved after half a dozen late arrivals made their way into the hall then matters proceeded.

Now in the final year of her term as Napo Chair Katie Lomas gave a well-rehearsed, measured, and some might even say cautious speech, no doubt mindful of the civil service restrictions. This covered the usual bases that members expected to be covered. She mostly pursued the safe bet of drawing upon the concerns highlighted by the most popular motions to be debated, anticipating arguments, whilst carefully navigating between mentioning everyone and everything and avoiding anything that might be deemed controversial.

The minutes of the previous meeting were not adopted immediately despite the weird electronic voting system emitting a sound like a cross between a star trek style matter transporter followed by the sound of a flushing toilet. But then a moment of potential drama where you could almost hear solid matter thudding to a halt in the super smooth plumbing system as Gordon Jackson made an intervention questioning poor grammar in relation to the finance report section of the minutes. Chair was forced to abandon the vote. These were later adopted once it was established that the reported questions were reproduced verbatim – mischief managed.

The election of officers proceeded smoothly.

Napo stalwart Keith Stockeld gave his final finance report as he is stepping down. This was interesting particularly in relation to the payment of £308,110 corporation tax resulting from the sale of Chivalry Rd and purchase of Boat Race House. Members might be forgiven for wondering how that happened as at some point when deciding whether to rent or buy the need to prevent this loss swung those opposed to the decision to buy. £308,110 is not a sum to be sniffed at and although the new offices are reportedly nice, questions might still be asked whether buying property in London can be justified when organisations are finding more creative and agile ways to operate without the constant drain of accommodation costs. Wouldn’t all Napo staff prefer to work from home? In relation to the £308,110, Keith’s reply was to take it up with the government.

The Edridge report indicated that charitable need is increasing as more staff turn to charity, stressed to breaking point and in financial desperation. This message is of course a stark contrast to probation bosses upbeat saccharin messages assuring everyone that everything is under control and there is no iceberg. The Edridge Fund, like the Probation Journal, is something that Napo can be proud of.

The entertainment highlight of day one for many was when Justice Minister Kit Malthouse put in a virtual appearance staring down like Big Brother. A fan and supporter of Boris Johnson who he has served faithfully from County Hall to the House of Commons. Kit is an interesting character dressed in standard issue Tory blue pinstripe (rumoured to have Teflon like qualities) who is also evidently a huge fan of technological solutions of all kinds, the Tory version of Gadget Man. He did however misjudge his audience quite a bit as he waxed lyrical about apps, GPS tags and drug monitoring blah blah blah that he assured conference would all make the job so much easier blah blah blah. 

This sort of stuff no doubt goes down well in the boardroom but falls flat on the frontline now, particularly where former CRC staff are having to move from the Middle Ages to the stone age with the promise of progressing to the dark ages soon. Even dedicated fans of tech may have been left wondering if the last person left in their office could please turn off the light. It all felt a little like a 1950s advert for the latest household gadgets promising extra time to enjoy your life if only you were to buy a new thingummyjig wotnot cutting edge bling beep - just what you never knew you needed to get all those pesky jobs done. 

Those gathered were promised a further 1500 staff to add to the 1000 already delivered but rapidly departing staff fresh out of Uni to be trained by what remains of experienced non-existent hard-pressed staff already at their wits end being treated like political footballs. Can we have a gadget to remember the names of all those passing through? Conference was reminded by the chair to treat all guest speakers courteously as loud groans and mutterings were clearly audible to the minister as he blinked out on the big screen.

Sanity and reality were eventually restored with motions re: pay etc Give us more money you wotsits or we’ll walk.

A somewhat more humble Liz Sackville Roberts Minister of State for Probation and Prisons then appeared virtually on the big screen. She correctly gauged the mood of conference and basically made a very strong and convincing argument for a free and independent devolved locally responsive Welsh Probation Service in the public sector, ditching the deeply flawed English civil service-based probation model. By the time Liz had finished there were many no doubt contemplating a move to Wales and few who wished to remain working in the English Service when such good alternative is being considered. Go for it Liz !!!! You have our support. Other sensible models in Scotland and NI. English model = Thumbs down.

More motions and speeches urging an independent service and highlighting concerns about staffing levels. A particularly moving speech from one London PO working in one of the notorious career ending red zones slammed home with concerns that all those in the profession can identify with. Seeing newly appointed colleagues give up and experienced colleagues deciding they have had enough.

Pretty much day one. More fun and possibly one or two fireworks on day two.

Sunday 10 October 2021

Probation Reflections

Paul Senior took an active interest in the blog from early on and, as far as I'm aware, was the first academic to reference its existence in print. He was a towering influence in the probation world and although a long read, his message remains relevant today and just might help practitioners, both old and new, better understand our current plight.   


Editorial Comment 

On the 28th April 2016, on the eve of his departure from his Chair at Sheffield Hallam University, Paul Senior gave the final lecture in the Community Justice Portal series. A recording of this lecture has recently emerged, and we are proud to offer here an edited transcript of that lecture. The lecture was penned in the early days of Transforming Rehabilitation: Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) came into existence in June 2014 and probation as a whole was still in the throes of change. In this lecture Paul was looking to the future of probation, and given probation is changing once again with the recent demise of CRCs and the reunification of the National Probation Service, it is interesting to reflect on his thoughts at that time. 


Reflecting upon 41 years in probation as practitioner, researcher and trainer, this lecture discusses what Paul had learnt about the institution of probation. Despite the massive changes which had occurred during that time, probation was resilient, adaptable and innovative. The paper draws substantially on work of Paul and nine probation colleagues at a weekend retreat. There they considered their combined and diverse histories in probation to learn from the past and present a view of what was important in probation and how it might look in four years’ time (2020). Their work resulted in a special issue of this journal (BJCJ, 2016) containing a range of articles written by the contributors to this event. Paul’s lecture sets the context by highlighting ten significant points in his career and his reflections on that career before presenting insights, fears and hopes arising from those and the weekend retreat. 

A Probation Career 

I want to start with a few personal reflections about my 41 years around the probation world. I want people to know what I'm drawing upon. I've recently written a biographical account of my career for a book (Senior 2016a), probably one of the most difficult chapters I've ever tried to write. It took me back to my intellectual legacy which I picked up at York University way back in the beginning of the 70s. It reminded me of the people that I followed, if only in spirit: people like Paulo Freire, A S Neill, Ivan Illich, Karl Marx, and Antonio Gramsci, who I was particularly fond of. I had no idea I was going to be a probation officer, I was going to be a teacher, and yet the person I took most inspiration from was someone who wrote all of his work in a prison cell, in Italy, in the 1930s, under Mussolini’s regime. I want to start with a quote which I think sums up how I approach things. 
I hate the indifferent. I believe that living means taking sides. Those who really live cannot help being a citizen, and a partisan. Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life. That is why I hate the indifferent. (Gramsci, 1917) 
I will highlight just ten things that I think have been significant in my career as a way of rooting what I'm going to say. 

1. Being a probation officer 

I was a probation officer for only six years. I loved every minute of it. I found skills in myself, that I never realised I had. I worked with some of the most difficult and damaged people, and yet found it inspiring at times, and I loved the work that I did. 

2. Joint Appointment 

I came to Sheffield in 1982/3. I had a joint appointment, which I loved, between Sheffield Polytechnic as it was then and South Yorkshire Probation Service. Being a trainer of probation students, as well as a trainer of probation staff was enormously valuable. All the time you're sharing your ideas, you're thinking, you're being challenged. Everything about reflexivity comes out in that world. I think I honed a lot of my ideas with my students as we worked through things and made progress. 

3. National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) 

I sat on NAPO’s (National Association of Probation Officers) Probation Practice Committee for eight years, for five of which I was chair. I was very privileged at that time, because NAPO still sat at the Home Office table. I took part in lots of debates with the Home Office about good practice and ways forward. We were there when the first national standards were written in 1995. If you look at those, they're an educational document, a way of working to get people to think about their practice. Sadly, later versions where we weren't involved became more prescriptive. That was a great time, building policies, working with probation people from all over the country, and working at ideas and ways of operating. Probation is an immensely small world. If you go anywhere in the country, you meet like-minded people who are struggling with the same issues, and I did so much of that in NAPO. 

4. Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (CCETSW) Probation 

NAPO asked me to become the CCETSW Council Member, which I did between the years of 1986 and 1989. That's when I really learned about the educational world, regulatory frameworks and so on: that’s what CCETSW did then for social work. That's held me in good stead as I came to write the Diploma in Probation Studies, but also in my new role with the Probation Institute. 

5. Jarvis Probation Service Manual 

In 1992 we published the Jarvis Probation Service Manual. Alan Sanders and myself strove at this for many, many months. We produced three editions: the second one in 1994, and the third one in 1997. We had every intention of it becoming an online source for probation staff, but the National Probation Service (Mark One) had other agendas, and we never were able to carry that through. I learned a lot about the law, some of it very obscure. We expected the Home Office to be able to tell us the detail of the law but were disappointed. Alan was called to the Home Office to a session on supervision relationships of the British Army of the Rhine. He sat down thinking great, we can write this in Jarvis and will know what we're talking about. However, the civil servants said to him tell us what the rules are for supervising people in the British Army on the Rhine - they hadn't a clue. We had to do a lot of stuff from scratch, but we learned a lot, and that's always held me in good stead. 

6. Professor of Probation Studies 

In 1996, I became Professor of Probation Studies, the first Professor of Probation Studies. I’m very proud of that. I was worried though, as we got towards the millennium, because as New Labour decided that rebranding was their thing there was a threat to change the Probation Service to the Community Rehabilitation and Punishment Service - Professor of CRaPS would not have had the same ring to it. 

7. Diploma in Probation Studies 

From 1997 through 2002, we delivered the DiPS (Diploma in Probation Studies) from conception to delivery and continued with probation training. 

8. Hallam Centre for Community Justice 

In 2002 I created, with others, the Hallam Centre for Community Justice, the Community Justice Portal and the British Journal of Community Justice. The portal was opened by Hilary Benn MP, then Minister of Prisons and Probation, and Sir Martin Narey gave the first Portal Lecture in 2002 (Narey, 2003). One of the features of Portal Lecturers is that usually they changed job almost immediately after or slightly before giving the lecture. The only one to survive, actually, is John Collins from last year who amazingly is still in his job. But I wanted to stick with tradition, so tomorrow I resign from Sheffield Hallam University. 

9. Bill McWilliams lecture 

In 2013, I delivered what for me was a very important lecture about the future of the Probation Service (Senior 2016b). I had hustled Mike Nellis for a couple of years to be able Senior 8 to do this, and in the end I told him that my prognosis was not very good and if he wanted to invite me he had better get on with it, and it worked. It was right in the centre of that very exciting and problematic time, when probation was being torn asunder by the transforming rehabilitation movement from government. We tried very hard to continue to support the notion of a public sector probation service, and ultimately we failed, but we gave it our best shot. We worked as hard as we could, but whether we failed or not I shall come back to. 

10. Probation Institute 

And finally, in 2015, September, I became Chair of the Probation Institute which I shall carry on after I finish at Sheffield Hallam, and I will talk more about the challenges of that later.

Reflecting on History 
“Over the past decade, the insecurity of the probation service has intensified as a result of the pressures of economic recession and the authoritarian populist penal policies.” (Senior, 1989)
That was written in 1989 when the service was in an uneasy transition between a secure past and an uncertain future. It could have been written yesterday, it could have been written five years ago. If there's anything that's constant about the probation service, it's that it's under attack. It's always been a struggle to maintain a focus or direction which is wanted by probation people. It's very interesting that way back then we were saying the same sort of thing. 

I want to tell you briefly about how this paper came into being and in particular, how this, my final edition of the journal, came into being. 

In 1976, as a student who had discovered anti-psychiatry, I persuaded all my fellow students to go away for the weekend to enjoy the intellectual stimulation of R D Laing and David Cooper, and all the other people who were emerging at the time. We hadn't studied that on the course: we'd only heard about it when the minstrel from Sheffield Polytechnic, Roy Bailey, had come over to play his guitar and talk to us about these new ideas. All the students said great, let's go away. We didn't prepare any agendas. We just went away. I read all the books, all the articles, brought them all with me. We got to this place that I knew about from my youth work days, it's completely remote. I looked around and found a nice communal space where we could sit and talk about the works of anti-psychiatry. I said let's start at 3pm, yes everybody said. At ten to three it was eerily quiet. I went out into the garden. No one else was there. They'd all gone down to the pub. (This was social work students). They stayed in the pub till midnight. I stayed seething in the hostel. The next day they got up, they made communal breakfast, they went for walks, they chatted amiably. No one talked about anti-psychiatry. We spent three days there. Not one word was uttered about anti-psychiatry. Everyone pronounced it a wonderful weekend, and we all went back to our course. I was a little upset. I never went to the pub - I stayed stubbornly in this place all on my own. 

I was so angry and upset by this that it wasn't until January of this year that I tried to do the same thing, some forty years later. This time, we went to a slightly better place. I told my colleagues it was shabby chic, when in fact really just shabby. But it is a wonderful old place with big settees and big rooms with high ceilings. Nine colleagues came with me. The purpose of this gathering was to explore whether and what probation as an institution might look like in 2020. Most of what I'm talking about here is drawn from that experience. Maybe because they were older, maybe I was better at martialling the troops, but people worked, and all of them appear in various ways in the journal special issue, together with three others Wendy Fitzgibbon, Mike Nellis and John Deering who were unable to make the event but have contributed to the journal. 

We sat down with no agenda, no inputs, and explored the world of probation together. After all these years in probation, I still found it an extremely elevating and wonderful event. We were able to explore afresh some of the ideas, some of the worries, some of the doubts, and some of the difficulties. Within three or four hours, we were beginning to work in small groups, we were beginning to produce the articles that would find their way into this journal. It took only two months to produce this. Every promise was kept by everybody. The quality of the articles is excellent. I shall allude to some later. One thing that I shall always treasure is the fact that people came together who had never worked together before. We produced articles that simply would not have been produced before: one in particular on emotional literacy and emotional labour, the product of three people who had never worked together (Knight et al, 2016). It was a tremendous occasion. The result of those few days away is this volume (BJCJ 2016) It's amazing that we managed to produce it with of all of us working together to peer review it and get it out. 

We are I think, what Ann Worral would have called ‘probation lifers’, a term she produced in her book with Rob Mawby “Doing Probation Work” (Mawby & Worrall, 2013), which is one of the best reads in the last 10 to 15 years. They said probation was often regarded as being a vocation, a lifelong commitment, one main career. I do feel that describes me and many of the people who came to this event: we are probation lifers. There’s something irresistibly attractive about probation, even in its worst moments. It's a life sentence. I'm very indebted to Phil Proctor who drew for me a wonderful diagram which shows that if you were to cut me in half, you would see probation going all the way through the middle, like a stick of rock. I think that applied to the people at this event. 

Something we learnt was the importance of a historical perspective. One of my favourite books is by Kate Atkinson, “Behind the Scenes at the Museum”. It's an interesting study about how you use and work with and understand the past. This quote, I think, expresses an important element 
“The past is a cupboard full of light. And all you have to do is find the key that opens the door.” (Atkinson, 1995) 
To me, history is not about nostalgia. I don't look to the past thirty years in order to wallow in the golden era of the past. I've written negatively about probation, and often enough to gainsay that belief. But I do look to the history to help us in thinking through the present. History is about seeking out the continuities from the past, even as the specific organisational frameworks change, finding those continuities, working with them, modernising them, bringing them up to date, rather than just simply skipping. To me, there's an historical amnesia around, which serves only those who wish to destroy and remove the past. People will sometimes take it as axiomatic that we must draw a line: that was old school probation, now we're in new school probation and it's not going to look like that. We might even just change the name and actually do the same thing, so we go from community service orders to community punishment orders, unpaid work, and community payback. But when you talk to a client and ask, what are you doing? They say, ‘I'm on community service’. There is a needless rush to have historical amnesia, particularly by government. They reinvent the wheel that we know a lot about, they rebrand unnecessarily. They create new models of delivery, without the insights from the past and therefore make the same mistakes again. They rewrite what probation is about. 

I think also history enables us to understand our Achilles heels. Those parts of probation practice which may have caused problems, and with hindsight and correction should enable new practices to emerge. I've come across the phrase, ‘this is the Achilles heel of probation’ very often. We can draw on knowledge and experience and evidence from the past in helping us look forward. We shouldn't just draw a line, we need to work with those histories. 

Insights, Fears and Hopes 

I want to move into 2020: will we still have a recognisable probation institution and profession? I'm going to offer some insights, talk a little bit about some of the extreme fears we have, and then some hopes for the future. 


When I got up this morning and saw the National Audit Office report being published (NAO 2016) I thought I’d better include it, though I've not had a chance to read it in full. It says the Ministry has successfully restructured the probation landscape - really? - and avoided major disruptions in service - really? It also says the National Probation Service (NPS) is not yet operating as a truly national sustainable service and the Ministry needs to address operational issues, many of which are long standing, such as weaknesses in ICT systems. The Ministry also needs to have a deeper understanding of the risks associated with reduced business for Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). Achieving value for money will require the resolution of these fundamental issues. 

You'd expect an audit report to have this kind of balance. They have produced an infographic which contains some interesting things. It talks about the new arrangements, it talks about reorganising prisons to give more offenders support into the community but there's been very little happening on that score. And it says long standing operational challenges still exist. The first of its long-standing operational challenges is low morale in NPS and CRC staff. My memory is that there was high morale in the Probation Trusts prior to the changes. It's not a long-standing issue. Probation was proud of itself, performing well. Nobody thought that the changes were necessary inside the probation service. There are always problems in any organisation. There were better organisations but many worse. They had high performance, excellence and so on. It's not a long-standing issue: it's an issue that's come up since the changes. The legacy of severely inefficient ICT is a long standing one, made infinitely worse by the dislocation and the bifurcation of services, which means the NPS go down one route for ICT and the CRCs go down multiple other routes. Staff load and workload pressures are high in the NPS, and much lower in the CRC. The BBC reported there are over seventy cases per individual in the NPS, which comes out of this report. The NPS is supposed to be taking high risk people. When I was a probation officer, we had even bigger caseloads, not because we were superhuman probation officers, but because fifty were voluntary after-care cases that we saw once in a blue moon. Seventy high-risk cases is ridiculously large. One thing I want to highlight is that performance remains unclear. Worryingly the change took place in 2014 but the infograph says data on the impact of the new arrangements on reoffending rates are not available until late 2017. We're going to have to wait three years before we know anything about how they're performing, which is, to me, a very long period of time. 

My second insight relates to what the world is saying about what's happening. I picked out a few headlines. The Lyme Regis and Bridport News says the Union warns of probation service job losses in Dorset, and the Plymouth Herald reports concern over claims that the part-privatised probation service will cut staff in Plymouth. The Guardian reported that G4S were fined 100 times since 2010 for breaching prison contracts. The Northern Echo reports probation workers meeting offenders in community centres and Salvation Army halls due to cuts. This is an interesting one for me as I was a product of a probation service that had community-based practice. I spent most of my day in the pit villages that I worked in, I had reporting centres, and I went up to the pit and talked to the employment officers to see if I could get my lads work, and so on. I never spent any afternoons in my office, I always spent it out in the villages with no mobile phone, and no way of anybody knowing if I was okay until I went into work the following morning. You'd say great, the return of community-based practice, but they're doing this not because this is a positive choice but because there are no offices for them: they are forced into home working, or agile working as it's being called. The Guardian has said that privatised probation staff are stressed, de-skilled and facing job cuts. The Bristol Post fears severe cuts could see hundreds of probation officers replaced with call centres. In Cambridge the private probation service is branded reckless amid crime increase fears. Finally, Lord Ramsbotham, who's been a great defender of probation, said simply Grayling completed the destruction of the probation service. Just these few accounts show how difficult it is. 

Another continual theme you see coming out is the notion that no longer will you have a person to see: you might have a call centre, you might have something to report into, a kiosk. You might just put your finger in a machine to say you've been there and that personalised individualised relationship building will cease. Sodexo is ruining probation centres officers claim, saying there is no privacy. This is about office accommodation and the installation in not just in Sodexo, but in other CRCs, of the hub arrangement for interviews, which owes its design to McDonald's, rather than to good social work practice. It's been quite roundly attacked because openness with the officer is vital if meaningful work is to be done to address attitudes and behaviour. Will somebody who is vulnerable, and may be difficult, talk when just over in the next cubicle they can hear somebody having the same conversation. 

Yesterday, we published a blog on the Probation Institute site of a reluctantly retired member who had come to us to resign from membership because he was resigning from the probation service. He'd worked in the probation service for about 16 years. He said you wonder if the whole world has gone crazy. The What Works research has largely flown out to the window and been replaced by something else, this something else is little more than an eloquently worded fag packet design, or possibly the back of a used envelope variety. This is a probation officer trying to do his job, finding it too much, and after 16 years just leaving it behind. Without redundancy, without payment, he's just gone. He's not untypical. 

So, what do we find? How can we sum this up? What are the threats here? I think there are huge consequences of bifurcation, the splitting into NPS and all the different CRCs and dislocation of staff. The splitting of the NPS and the CRCs often set them against each other. They're not working together, office space is no longer shared. Distancing is going on. Swish office design which is not fit for purpose: I certainly do not believe that open plan alone can work in an office where you need private space to build relationships and work with people. You have to deliver both the open space that enables people to work together and innovate but also the private space to enable work to go on. Swish practice models may also not be fit for purpose. The Interserve Model (see e.g., Marsh, 2018) was published this week with lots of fine words and diagrams and arrows but I'm not sure there's anything substantially different there to what you might have designed before. 

What we're seeing, even if these reforms are correct, are defeated staff, loss of jobs, deep loss of morale, and a tragic waste of talent. Whatever else is happening, that is certainly happening, and we have to worry about that. We're also seeing the threat of de-professionalisation. We've spent a long time building up the profession of probation to see it being undermined not only by job cuts, but the downgrading of jobs to people less qualified. The allocation of more and more work to Probation Service Officers (PSOs) who don't get adequate training, don't get adequate support, but also to tasks that were once seen as the preserve of probation officers. NPSs E3 Blueprint (NPS, undated) proposes most stand down reports will be prepared by PSOs. We're also seeing administrators undertaking reporting centre functions with low-risk cases. We’re moving away from the kind of people that we'd expect to do these tasks. 

There's a lack of coherence in delivery. IT systems not speaking to others. We don't know what's going on. That's part of the problem because of the commercial situation. The communication between NPS and CRCs is poor and getting worse. This is playing out as was predicted way back in 2013. This isn't a surprise, but it is a problem. McDermott (2016) said the shortage of skilled staff would be a barrier to delivering the new and innovative services that the CRCs promised. So even where ideas are good, even where ideas are well worked out using the best of research, skilled staff leaving are going to make it increasingly difficult to deliver those until staff are trained again. 

However, as typical of probation, good practice continues despite this picture. I would not want to paint a picture of complete terror everywhere in the country. I've seen examples of good practice. We see it through the Graham Smith Awards where people are researching good practice. People, despite the world they're living in, are working hard to produce as good a practice in the circumstances as they can. The evidence base regarding probation practice has never been so strong. The difference between when I started as a probation officer in 1977, in South Yorkshire, was that we didn't really know what we were doing. We were earnest, we were bright, we were interested, we worked 10 or 15 hours a day. We did that so we could sit down with our colleagues and find out what was good and bad practice. We had very little to draw on other than psychodynamic casework, which was being criticised. It took a long time to develop the evidence base. When I began to read about the desistance theories, they seemed to me to give me answers to some of the things we were grappling with all those years ago. Very simple things: the building of relationships, trying to be positive in the way in which we work with our service users. Not difficult things, but things that research now tells us work. This was strong in 2012: this is not new. Given what I've said about change and continuity, history can continue to light up the route. 

Probation has a long history of resilience, adaptation, and innovation. The notion that innovation is only the preserve of one sector to me is laughable. Innovation can occur in any sector. There's good work comes out of public sector, the voluntary sector, and from time to time the private sector as well. Don't dismiss past work as being somehow non innovative. Let's look more towards Europe and the rest of the world, not always the USA. This is a continual mistake that we make as the USA has a different model of probation. We could go down some of the extremes of probation of USA if we're not careful, but we have much more positive models to draw upon in Europe. Consider, for instance, the recent work by Fergus McNeil and a huge group of academics across Europe. Offender Supervision in Europe, the COST project (McNeill and Beyens, 2016), has produced lots of extremely innovative ideas about supervision. It is wonderfully ironic that the NOMS driven work in Eastern Europe with fledgling probation organisations inculcates a rather more positive public sector vision of probation that we do in this country. At the time we're dismantling that in this country our ex-probation staff are going to Romania or Georgia or Russia or Bulgaria and helping them produce a positive modern probation service: the ultimate irony. 

I've said for many years that policy implementation is by definition paradoxical. We cannot expect policy to go in a single line: it will sometimes go well, sometimes badly, and it will conflict. If we start with that assumption we’ll not be disappointed if things don't quite go in the right direction. I also believe the straw in the wind is the introduction of the Probation Institute, dedicated to the support and development of a probation profession. 

The Essence of Probation 

I want to offer you an insight from the article that all retreat contributors put their name to, which myself and Dave Ward actually scripted (Senior et al, 2016). We asked ourselves the question on the first morning, is there something about probation that you can drill down and get the essence of, what's the essence of what probation is about. Whatever society you've got, whatever configuration you've got, if you said we want a society which has social justice attached to it, that looks after people who commit offences against the law, what would you do, what would you create, what would be that essence? And we found some of those things.

Probation exists in four huge worlds, the correctional world, the social welfare world, the treatment world, and the community. They are all big systems, they all have their own ways of operating. Probation stands related to all four of those worlds, stands independently of those worlds but it has a relationship at its boundaries with each of those four worlds. This we represented by putting probation in the middle, not to imply that probation is the centre of the universe, but as a heuristic device. We also reckoned that it must have boundary issues in each of the four systems. Over the years, those boundary issues have been played out in different ways. At times we have become more correctional and law enforcement oriented; at times we've adopted a more social welfare model, at times we’ve been more community-based (restorative justice), and at times we’ve been more treatment-oriented, and sometimes all four at once. Our argument is that if you go with one of those systems too far then you threaten the essence of probation. Let me illustrate this. The correctional world of policing, prisons, courts and legal professions, the one we most often associate with ourselves, that's the dominant system. They're better resourced, they're more nuanced to the political philosophy on criminal justice, and we know that legal enforcement has been a big issue over the last twenty years. Indeed, we'll remember Paul Boateng saying, “We are a law enforcement agency, that's what we are, that's what we do.” 

The move towards national standards and towards higher breach and enforcement was part and parcel of that commitment to enforcement. My argument would be that at some point, if we push too far along that way, we actually lose the essence of probation: the essence of probation becomes so dimmed that we're something different. Mike Teague (2016) speculates that what's happening in America, where probationers now have to pay for their supervision at such extraordinary rates, could end up being the situation in the UK, that people on probation will have to pay for supervision. Another model, in the article by Mike Nellis (2016), is the growth of techno-corrections and the increasing use of electronic monitoring, which again would take us to a very different supervision scenario. We could paint lots of different ones in all four systems, but my point is to say that this is a way of viewing whether this is a probation service or probation institution that we want to support or whether it isn't. If you don't maintain a balance between the core elements and these boundaries you lose what probation is about. In this article (Senior et al, 2016) we say when probation works the lives of service users change for the better, the creation of future victims is prevented, and the whole community benefits. It has become an essential component of our civic society, and the key cornerstone of our community justice system. 

What did we decide was in the essence of probation? I have to say we didn't agree fully on this. We debated this for a long time, having different nuances on it, but we think it represents the kinds of essence that we want to support. 

1. We started with a reframing of ‘advise, assist and befriend’, though the term is now a historical legacy. We came up with “support and enable through relational coproduction”. Not as easy off the tongue as advise, assist and befriend, but it expresses the core tasks that we do: supporting, enabling, and working much more in partnership with service users. The work that Beth Weaver has done in recent years is very important to that (see for example Weaver 2011). That was number one.  

2. We have to be bounded by values and ethics, including diversity and human rights: without that it's not probation. We adopted in the article the values that the Probation Institute has codified, but there are other versions of that as well. 

3. Reflective practice is at the core of the work that we do with individuals. Without having reflective practitioners, we would not get behind the front stories that offenders give us, and it would be far more difficult to work effectively. A recent Graham Smith award person, David Coley (2016) argues that reflective practice remains the cornerstone of good practice. 

4. We should maintain a clear occupational culture, which is an article by four members of the team (Burke et al, 2016) who talk about culture, and discuss the various elements of it. We need to go back to being more community based but in a way which is positive and enabling in local communities. We're not doing it because we've got nowhere to see our clients because that forces on us unsafe and unhealthy relationships, we should do it as a positive commitment. We have an established body of knowledge that we should use for good effect. 

5. Next, having emotionally literate practitioners, people who can work with the emotions of the situation they find themselves in. The article by Charlotte Knight, Jake Phillips and Tim Chapman (2016), who had never worked together, reflects the hours they spent debating its centrality and importance. 

6. Finally, and we did argue about this a little bit, probation is distinguished from social work by its symbiotic relationship with the court. That's where it gets its work from and that's where it should go back to. I do think it's a tragedy that the CRCs don't have that direct relationship, because they are supervising service users on behalf of courts. 

Those constitute our essence, we can debate and discuss them, but we think those are the bottom lines for deciding if probation can operate. 


I want now to talk about six fears of the future. 

1. We end up not with a probation service, but with a community surveillance service, driven by techno-corrections, cheap impersonal reporting systems, delivered by functionaries. That is a real risk. We’re going there, some of the things that we hold dear about that essence just simply won't be there. I'm exaggerating in order to illustrate that it is a real possibility. 

2. Fear number two, is that the NPS will be privatised. We're actually on a stepping stone here. My prediction is that to rationalise public commitments further, it will be privatised, and possibly NOMS might go as well. 

3. On the research side, we may find that probation researchers leave probation to pursue other themes. I talked to someone who's been working in probation and desistance for some years the other day, and he said he's no longer working in that field, he's moved on to something completely different in the crime field. He may want to have done that anyway, but there comes a point that if researchers can't work inside the organisation and help it understand what's happening, they will move into other careers, and then we start to lose that knowledge and evidence base. 

4. De-professionalisation continues and we're not left with anything we can call a professional worker. The politics of ignorance and despair undermines the Probation Institute and it goes out of business. I'm very worried about that because I can't seem to get beyond people's knee jerk reaction to what they thought the Probation Institute was about two years ago. 

5. Tragedies will occur. We are facing the possibility that given the dislocation, the bifurcation, the problems of sufficiency of staff, that a tragedy will occur sooner rather than later. And that will expose problems in a way that none of us would want. 

6. Probation has numerous Achilles’ heels. Around 2000 it was enforcement performance. We sorted that out, but actually it made no difference. Another one is about public protection, that we couldn't do public protection well enough; we weren't tough enough, we weren't policing enough. The implementation of evidence-based practice is an Achilles’ heel: the failure of What Works to work in 2002. Everyone was optimistic about it: the evidence base was, and is, good in part, but it was taken away from practitioners, it was imposed in a way which was unhelpful and it didn't achieve its goals. The late Barbara Hudson (2002) talked about the Achilles’ heel of partnerships. I think probation has always been a bit difficult in partnership, it's always preferred purchaser-provider relationship to real partnerships, until IOM (Integrated Offender Management) came along, and people realised there was something that could be partnership that is different to purchaser-provider. We struggle with after care, often seen as the Achilles heel of the service. Dave Ward in one of the articles (Burke et al, 2016) talks about insularity as the Achilles heel of the probation service: probation needs to get out of its bubble. We've heard that criticism so many times. Pragmatism is the Achilles heel of probation, something I said a few years ago, when talking about the willingness of the NPS in 2002 to say to David Blunkett , we will do whatever you want us to do, you tell us what to do Mr Blunkett and we'll do it. And finally, liminality is the Achilles’ heel of probation. Jake Phillips (Senior, et al 2016) talks about that, the notion that probation is never in control of its own life, it's always others. All these things are worth a study in their own right, because if you could get to resolve some of these, maybe you could be more secure as a probation institution.


Finally, I want to finish with three hopes. 

1. Hold on to the politics of paradox within criminal justice. 

I go back to Stan Cohen (1985) who said this about policies,
 “consequences, so different from intentions, policies carried out for reasons, opposite to their stated ideologies, the same ideologies supporting different  policies, the same policy supported for quite different ideological reasons.”
That statement to me is as fresh today as it was in 1985 when he wrote it. Neoliberal outcomes are not inevitable. We sometimes work on an assumption that we have to have a neoliberal society. I think we need to challenge that. I think we need to continue to look for alternative ways of operating, we need to resist its ideological hegemony, expose the inconsistencies in its work. New Public Management brought a style of targets, outcomes and standards, which were criticised. It was changed almost completely by the offender engagement programme just for a few years, as we opened out, and we said, let's not define in advance, what our practice is with our clients, let's ask them and develop a professional relationship. Where’s it gone now I'm not so sure, but certainly, that shows you can change things.

It seems to me that the job insecurity that we've been talking about earlier on, disturbs the relational context of worker-service user interaction: you cannot develop good relationships with people if you're only there for six months, if you're only there occasionally and then you moved into something else. One of the strengths of probation was that people stayed there for a long time, and they worked with people for a long time. Austerity is a policy and a dogma, not an inevitable response, there are choices, and if we don't make those choices soon we're going to see more problems as a result of that approach. 

We have to get ourselves ready for the fact that CRCs may fail and be repossessed by the state. We're not quite sure what they would do if they fail. It could be that another CRC or another owner will take them over, could be that they come within the flock of the NPS temporarily. But we know from what we see through SERCO and G4S that when private sector companies get into difficulties, they withdraw. They don't stay around as we would have done in the public sector even when everything was hitting the fan. They withdraw, they leave the sector behind. I think if they push, push the reduction of numbers further and further, there's going to be a CRC that says I can't make a profit here, I can't survive, I'm on my way. When it does, we need to know what to put in its place. So hold on to some of the paradoxes that are there. 

2. Hold on to the institution of probation. 

Can more be done than just salvaging the legacy and talking about the past that's gone? Can the institution of probation rise above the ashes of the recent past? I think we can and should maintain and support the occupational culture of pre-TR arrangements, keep the organisational memory which is so important. The voice of probation has been changing to something that Mawby and Worrall (2013) talk about, a more female voice, and, compared to the rest of criminal justice, a more black minority ethnic voice. Micro practices will change with the greater dominance of those populations. We need to continue that commitment to equality and diversity. 

The role of the physical environment may assist or hinder practice so if there are to be changes to the physical environment let's actually make them work. Community based offices I would welcome. We can dust out the NAPO papers written in around 1979 about community-based practice. Let's go back to the future because it's a positive way of working, not because we haven't got an office to go to. 

Let's maintain a set of bottom-line values and ethics and sign up to the code of ethics. Understand our Achilles heels, the paradoxes of policy and strive to maintain what we've described as the essence of probation.

It's interesting, that language is still resistant. That brand of probation still flourishes, tenaciously, holding on to the imagination. When we interview offenders on projects they talked to us about being on probation, and there hasn't been a probation order for about seven years. They don't understand it when they're asked are you from a CRC? No, I'm from probation. The language of probation has a lot of resonance to it and I think our service users get that as well as anybody. 

We have to recognise and build on the interprofessional nature of practice. One of the things we discovered when we researched Integrated Offender Management over a number of years was that it helped probation work out what it did in comparison to what the police did, in comparison to what the voluntary sector did. Working in partnership didn't mean that probation was no longer needed it said there's a distinctive space here, which is a probation space. I don't think we've ever invested enough in that. We've not seen partnerships as about exploring that, we've seen partnerships as a threat, we've seen partnerships are something that loses our very essence. 

3. Hold on to the Probation Institute 

I want to find a way out of the unproductive and self defeating arguments about its origins. I wasn't there when it came into being and I'm looking forward. However it came into being and it is where it is now. There is nothing else that can do that job. We need to use our voice for the profession of probation, and that's what I intend to do as chair of the Probation Institute. We've already started it. We're beginning to produce position papers, blogs, social media conferences: we're engaging the membership. We’re developing professional networks; we’re developing a centre of excellence with support in the profession. We need to recreate a sense that there is homogeneity of probation practice around a set of agreed values and ethics, not different organisations with different versions. We need to ensure consistency of qualification structures around a registration process. Ensure the profession has protected titles, which go beyond organisational boundaries, allowing people to move from CRCs to NPS or whatever the organisational arrangements. We need to support investment and continuing professional development at all levels. And we need to work in partnership, which is what we have been developing recently. At the end of the day the Probation Institute I think is about building a community of practice that maintains a probation identity. Anne Worrall (2016) said in a piece about the Probation Institute these following remarks:
 “standing back and seeing how it goes will result in the Probation Institute failing. The danger is that too many people will only realise that it might have been worth getting involved when it is too late to do so. So the challenge is to work with us positively. By all means criticise, by all means argue with us, but make a voice”.

I conclude with this quote, also taken from another article: 
“probation work might be unglamorous. But as Mawby and Worrall note, it is necessary work and someone has to do it”. (Burke et al, 2016) 
It is important therefore that those who do it in the future do so with the compassion and humanity that has been the hallmark of probation staff, both past and present. I hope I have persuaded you that the death knell of probation I anticipated in 2013 hasn't happened. We're still here, we’ve still got enough to hold on to and to fight for in the future. Over the last 41 years, I've sought to defend probation, to move with the times and the changes that have been instituted. I've tried to persuade people of that. I want to finish with a quote also from Antonio Gramsci from his prison notebooks, because this is what I think I've tried to do. And I hope I've tried to do some of it with you tonight. 
“The mode of being of a new organic intellectual can no longer consist in eloquence, but in active participation in practical life as constructor organiser, permanent persuader, and not just a simple orator.” (Gramsci, 1971) 
I hope that I’ve persuaded you to keep going a little longer.

Paul Senior : founder of the British Journal of Community Justice, Sheffield Hallam University