Tuesday, 6 December 2022

Houston, We Have a Problem.

Regular readers will be very familiar with the notion that this blog regularly highlights relevant research and articles from various professional journals with the intention of bringing them to a wider audience. I'm happy to say that this practice has developed over the years and I believe helps stimulate discussion and debate. 

When publishing extracts from the research into the role of SPOs, I must admit I was somewhat surprised that it should re-ignite such an outburst of pent-up feeling and largely negative testimony from contributors. Of course I should have known because for some time the blog has been charting what seems an inexorable decline and dysfunctionality, somewhat speeded-up since reunification. It strikes me that things are now so bad that I've been tempted to pose the notion that the whole endeavour is becoming toxic. 

But an even bigger surprise has been the reaction on Twitter, much of it seemingly to deny the validity of much anonymous testimony - no attempt to engage with it, just deny it. But then that's the official MoJ/HMPPS civil service mindset all along isn't it? Amongst everything else, we clearly have a disconnect. Anyway, from Twitter:-

"Lots of SPO bashing on here over last few days. We're never going to get through this difficult period if we start turning on one another. Let's get back to being a supportive community & sharing ideas etc - that's always been the #Probation twitter I've enjoyed."

"Strange how people sling negativity on Twitter. Love to see them say it out of the safety of their keyboard. I have only had positive experiences with my SPOs. IMO, the entire structure needs to change!" 

"Me too, before becoming an SPO myself, I think I had about 6-7 different SPOs throughout the years. All very different, some I got on better with but all of them were decent, hard working and supportive."

"Noticed negative SPO comments on here. My PQiP SPO is amazing. She is thoughtful, protective of my role and really listens to my perspective. She always makes time for me, even when I can tell she hasn’t always got that time. Although, I accept that not all SPOs are the same."

"I don’t doubt any SPO isn’t passionate and wanting to support their team-I’ve had some pretty amazing SPOs and unfortunately some not so amazing. Probation in general is difficult at the mo but those who have a different, negative experience shouldn’t be overlooked too."

"My PQiP SPO has been fantastic, gutted she’s leaving but excited to gain different knowledge from our new SPO. Haven’t had much experience with the other SPO’s in office but they have all been nothing but friendly and approachable. It can’t be any easy job!!"

"I’ve seen some negative posts recently, I’ve only had the pleasure of working with passionate and supportive SPOs that drive good quality practice and support the Offender Managers. They do a hard role…"

"Our article on the emotional labour of SPOs has resulted in a lot of negativity towards SPOs - this was never our intention. I’ve come across great SPOs, and less great ones. All organisations have difficulties and problems; SPOs aren’t responsible for those we see in probation." (Jake Phillips)

"I guess I'm partly responsible, but I think it's pretty clear to me that it's symptomatic of widespread malaise within the organisation, something which senior management and policy makers seem to refuse to acknowledge. Surely there needs to be some serious internal reflection." (Jim Brown)

"Yes, agree that the response is symptomatic of wider problems/malaise." (Jake Phillips)

"It’s funny as those at the top with the ability to make change seem to ignore it and just want to load staff with more pointless tasks."

"So difficult trying to highlight issues without ppl blaming individuals. In my BBR research I tried to make clear this is issue of policy, not workforce. My report specifically points to similar HMIP inspections as evidence. I still heard rumblings this is likely 'localised'."

"I muted Jim Brown a while back. Anonymous complaints tweeted without context or reference just add nothing. Much as I loathe the mismanagement of the Probation Service, SPOs are not the problem."

"It’s not very nice is it, seems to be coming from one account determined to cast doom and gloom at every post they make. The SPO’s in my area are so supportive and are integral parts of the team. It’s a rough time atm but we are all in this together."

"The account referred to may well be mine, but of course is quoting largely from well-articulated commentary on the blog. It would be helpful if the issues raised were engaged with by all who still value what many still feel is a very worthwhile endeavour." (Jim Brown)

--oo00oo--

Over the years that I have read this important blog, I have found solace in the knowledge and wisdom of other contributors, and found comfort in the entries of other colleagues far and wide whose shared experience of the service resonated with my own throughout difficult times and through specific service issues. So thank you for the Blog Jim. The blog on SPO's is timely to me in many ways as I approach retirement at the end of this year. I would be lying if I said I was not counting the days.

It is timely also because last week, and in reflective mood, I felt an overarching sense of disappointment with myself. Had I failed in my role as a front line PO for all these years because I did not attain the role of an SPO? I gave myself a good talking to and so did my partner. The onlooker always sees more of the ball game. 

The focus of my professional life has always been to attain knowledge and experience. So I took on some extremely difficult but ultimately rewarding secondments instead of climbing the greasy pole. Some of these opportunities I don't think are open to colleagues today, but I write under correction for that. The downside of that is that, I missed opportunities to go for the SPO role in the community because of contractual requirements in secondment posts. It tended to be dead men's shoes so SPO roles did not come up that often, unlike now. I left the service to go elsewhere and when I returned the calamitous TR had happened. I returned to the service to find it unrecognisable. However, I am not going to rehearse all that here, but to say that I agree with most of what has been said on these posts for the SPO role. 

Not that long ago, I applied for one of the plethora of SPO posts which appealed to me. I had all the experience and knowledge they said they needed and the backing of my own SPO. Did I get it? Nope. Not even an interview. It became clear to me that my face no longer fit and they did not want lengthy service, experience, ability and competence, but inexperience, pliability and 'yes' people who would support those above them but had little idea of how to support the teams they would be expected to manage. 

I found out later that those chosen for the role were urged to apply. I admit I felt angry and disappointed and applied again for another SPO post and got an interview. I then withdrew my application because I knew at the 11th hour I did not want to be a part of the management structure as it is today. I don't know why the hell I applied other than to prove to myself that I could at least get an interview. I felt I was better placed in the PO role to use my experience and knowledge to help and mentor trainee staff in whichever role they were in and resign myself to that where I have felt appreciated and valued. 

In the area in which I work management have recently withdrawn the mentoring role and I am not sure if this is throughout the service. I find it a grave and short-sighted mistake. On-Line learning is one thing, but it does not teach you how to handle those whom you are entrusted to supervise or what to watch for in supervision and on home visits. Not a chance.

So to finish, over the years I have had some wonderful SPO's who knew more than I did and had my back which is all I require of a manager. While it was not perfect, I did think we had the best days before TR and most may disagree but that is my experience and my opinion. On the downside, I have had one or two truly dreadful SPO's whose damage is still legendary and should never have been within 40 miles of managing a team and who stand as a example of how not to do it. Most SPO's have to walk the difficult line between senior management. Most do it very well.

So there you have it.

*****
“SPOs are positioned in the organisation as ‘vital and loyal lynchpins’ … SPOs are required to use various emotional labour techniques to sanitise directives and persuade frontline staff to accept them.”

The only bit of the research I do agree with is that SPOs get very little support for doing a lot of work. We don’t earn much more than when we were POs either.

I’m an SPO with over a decade of probation management experience, much more as a main grade PO. I can tell you this research does not reflect my experience but some of the comments do. Yes, managers can be hand-picked and coached to be ‘yes people’ to senior grades. Many are happy to do so too, or know no better because it’s how they were managed as POs so know no different. Others can be flakey, collusive, bullies, incompetent or just sit with the door closed because they don’t care. I’d like to believe I tread a fine line between doing right by staff and pleasing the senior management. For me I’m lucky they immediate SPOs around me are similar and we have good teams. It’s not always an easy task and you really have to avoid the barbed wire on both sides of the fence.

I agree with 19:08’s 6 points and I’ve seen all those horror stories too. You learn to be like the wise owl.

There was an owl liv'd in an oak
The more he heard, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard.

O, if men were all like that wise bird.

*****
pso, po, admin, cso, spo, aco... whatever role one has there are some basic skills & attributes that would make the workplace bearable:

1. Don't be a bully
2. Support those you work with
3. Respect each other as human beings
4. Respect each others' strengths & weaknesses
5. Communicate clearly with everyone
6. Be honest & have intergrity

For my money you could have 200 years' or 2 months' experience in the probation role, but... you have to demonstrate the above in spades to get my vote.

Sad to say my experience is that for the last thirty years or so such attributes have not been valued, that nepotism & self-serving power games have driven many key appointments and this is why - in my humble opinion - the probation service has been actively disassembled to align with NOMS/HMPPS & to become the shitshow we currently have to endure.

I was involved in personnel selection panels in the 2000's. I saw how candidates for a range of roles were 'filtered' to suit the agendas of certain senior managers, how selection matrices were doctored. I challenged those practices & paid the price many times over. I raised the issues with Board members, Trust members & NOMS. I was, in essence, told to shut up. No illegaity was proven (what a surprise) & I was subsequently ostracised, bullied, targetted & eventually manoeuvred out of the organisation.

I saw excellent candidates excluded. I saw excellent people in-post being hounded out of their roles to make way for the cuckoos. I saw excellent people being broken by the bullying of an organisation which was developing what I believed to be an unpleasant agenda of personal gain, & profit. Looking at the puddle of shit that lies before us in 2022, I don't think I was too far wrong in 2006.

*****
Ha, the recruitment process is you fill in an interview form then you attend an interview, it’s not that difficult. Too many times we hear of SPOs getting jobs we all knew they were tipped for, the ones already in favour with managers and senior managers. Interview processes are never objective when the interviewers know the applicants.

I agree the SPO job can be a difficult one. I’ve seen many a SPO brought down by nasty disgruntled practitioners within their teams, usually they’re the bullies and those that felt they should have got the job instead. Likewise I’ve seen many SPOs prosper because of the fabulous practitioners within their teams.

I do not agree with this research and I doubt the right calibre of SPOs were interviewed. SPOs are not the link between practitioners and the organisation, we all are, and any who think they are have become delusional on their grade status. If we relied on managers to interpret everything for us then we could not possibly claim to be professionals.

*****
I personally know at least half a dozen probably more front line Probation Officers that would not, in a million years, agree to becoming a SPO. They know full well the pressures from Senior Managers to confirm to the Command and Control rigid Civil Service way. I also know of a very few SPOs who somehow have managed to retain their integrity despite these pressures. My observation is that a whole swathe of potential SPO Managers has been cut out of Probation and this is so detrimental not least because these individuals are now at or near retirement. What a waste.

*****
And that’s the problem. Many become SPOs and take other manager roles because they don’t like the Probation Officer job, don’t like working with offenders or just aren’t very good at it. Instead of moving on they take managerial or specialist roles and then proceed to tell others how to do the job that they couldn’t do. These are not difficult positions for them to attain because their like-minded manager friends sit on their interview panels. There’re too many managers that are so past their sell by date they should not be advising others, yet they hang on to the job until retirement. There’re too many others that have been in the job such a short time they don’t understand who they are let alone understand what probation is. They shouldn’t be left alone to manage probation staff, and I’d estimate there’s no more than 1-2 decent SPOs in each Probation region. You’d think this is all made up but it’s really not!

*****
Probation is toxic, I believe the JFDI culture from senior managers in Trust days pervades in senior managers still. Add the dead hand of the Civil Service with its dreadful HR process-is-all “we are here to support the managers not the staff” functions and the disconnect between front line practitioners and managers is explained. Staff working under workloads they can never successfully manage leads to behaviour issues too. The very worst behaviour I have experienced has been between staff, not from the clients/ service users/ offenders/ People on Probation. Face the truth, the service is no longer aligned to the values those of us who cling to this blog believe it should be.

*****
I think Interim SPOs are a problem if they're being promoted within the PDU they've already been a PO at. There's a glaring conflict of interest. A tendency to support wholesale (often poor) behaviour of other POs that they've had existing relationships with, without critically thinking and encouraging bias and not best practice. They also won't criticise more senior SPOs. Again, this creates a conflict of interest and a culture where things are swept under the carpet or other POs who don't have the existing relationship with said interim SPO feeling undermined and fobbed off. You're not supposed to have bias - unconscious or not - as a PO dealing with POPs, but it seems fair game for this to occur between PO and SPO. 

Depending on their emotional intelligence and ego (or lack of the former, exaggerated in the latter) many of them let the power go to their head or use new staff or POs they don't have a relationship with as examples to use to exemplify their competency in the role to their bosses, exploiting newness or the power dynamic. Again, this is not good for the PO, PQIP, NQO who has been singled out. Yes, this happens. It's not human nature. It's a choice. But it's condoned through the dreadfully tedious and often toxic world of office politics, despite rules and safeguards and ratified literature to prevent it happening.

*****
My biggest issue is SPO’s are given, by all accounts, very little training and are not aware of current case management practice which makes it very difficult to be managed by them. I have now got to the point whereby every new SPO appointment made is not a surprise and I sit there in despair as you know full well they will not be able to cope or their previous practice is poor. The amount of SPOs promoted whose case management I’ve had to clear up is ridiculous. It’s this in my opinion that makes it difficult to foster effective working relationships between SPOs and their team.

*****
The training for POs isn't up to much either and is glaringly inconsistent, as are offices: many poorly run with outmoded operational agreements that aren't efficient or supportive of new staff. Choose your PDU very very wisely. Most are very badly run, even though it's within the gift of the 'team' (yawn) to work together and not to single out or discriminate against others. I've seen better team work in a silo of separate offices. In my experience, Inclusion is an aspiration, not a right or the natural order of things. Oh, and don't be a hard worker - you'll be exploited for all you're worth, whilst others' are picking scabs off you to cut corners so you do more of their work. The cliched "Welcome to Probation" refrain reared its head the other week. I've been in Probation 3 years. Ever the dim-witted condescension and foolishness that pervades the thinking of singular ambitious half-wits only too happy to use you to advance their career. Three years is a long welcome. Twit!

*****
I think many on Twitter are those in past or present management and specialist roles, or are management-pleasers. They will obviously say how great probation is when all the reports say it is not. The rest of us comment anonymously on this blog as if we revealed ourselves we’d have some difficulty in the morning.

30 comments:

  1. There are good and bad staff at all grades, and a lot of SPOs who comment, agree and share concerns with some of the commentary on here. 20+ years in the service, 5 as an SPO, I try and be considerate, empathise and support the team. Leadership is definitely a tension for SPOs when you see that the direction of travel doesn’t fit probation values. And therein lies the problem, the value base of probation now is so far removed from the vocation, staff morale is at an all time low. HMPPS and the civil service have no solutions, just more of the same rhetoric and mandated tasks. Be kind to your SPO, as you would a colleague, and you may see more of the person behind the title.

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    1. Isn't a big part of the problem a conflict between trying to deliver a socially oriented public service model from the shop floor, whilst a business oriented model is being imposed from above?

      'Getafix

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    2. No the problem arose when budget cuts swept through standards went and lowest denominator of low skill high demands failed to reach any stainable level. Since then the most incompetant staff have taken most senior roles and the previously corrupted took deals. In probation you just have to be quite deviant and nasty to survive in a managerial role and it has plenty of senior figures who are worse than this description. Some of them actually need to be gotten rid of and the senior leaders will have their eye on the least able or the failing senior authority will be those who generate negative pr like twatter here's my dinner pic or been to a wonderful team meeting with my talented staff all shite. What's really being communicated is I have not got much about myself so I will tell all the plebs how great I am and the things around me I make wonderful. When we all can see just what a crash that is .

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    3. So true getafix, as always you hit the nail on the head. Regards Mushroom

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    4. I agree with Getafix: there is a clash of models - and in the main the middle managers (SPO) belong to the business model. Instead of SPO romanticism, how they are lovely people, much misunderstood, more Us then Them, I think we should be realistic. Probation is like any other organisation - with workers and managers. Employers may prefer to call their workers associates, partners, colleagues - whatever. It's language that seems designed to mask differences and inequalities. SPOs are managers, not consultants. These days they operate in a command and control structure. They are no different functionally to supervisors, sergeants, etc. - and for carrying out the orders of their superiors they get some status and extra money. If they stray too much from script, become 'unreliable', then they don't last. There's no room in probation these days for too much personality or independent thought. So, let's not get too misty eyed about the SPO role.

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  2. Wow - Good blogging JB - you put in a lot of work to assemble such a range of views. In my career 1973'-03 I lost count of the number of SPOs I served most were generally supportive - some were truly dreadful causing danger and harm, just one or two were excellent and life savers for staff and clients

    I am astounded anyone sticks the job nowadays

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  3. Out of that 1-6 schema, my SPO failed on about 4 of them. My PTA was a ball-buster and despite valid concerns outlined through the correct mechanisms they remain in post and dealing with even more PQIPs. Bullied with co-working cases. Stood up for myself- was slapped down and those individuals still don't talk to me- again, made through the correct mechanisms with reasonable use of language and being constructive and clinical. I expected Probation to be the more compassionate end of the Criminal Justice System. I read the literature and the governance about bullying and being protected with caseloads and this and that and the actual reality is vastly different. It's a pity that organisations can't be taken to task for fraud for not adhering to their own polices and procedures in the same way that employees can be if they've been shown to have committed falsehood on an application or been left wanting whilst in post. I find the POPs actually a blessed relief from colleagues and managers who don't seem to be adhering to 1-6 of the above.

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    1. You evidence the nature and behaviour of low standards 8n people. Still not talking to you is bullying. Covert and nasty methods will also exist. This is the low skill level of the nature of staffing today. The lack of adherence to policies is the extent to which those who want to climb would not be aware of how to treat people properly.

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  4. Couldn't help myself in comparing the ability of Mick Lynch from RMT Union to defend his members from cost of living pay increases and Government imposition of new conditions WITH the leadership of NAPO. NAPO accepted a derisory 3 per cent increase which it would neither recommend nor endorse to it's own members. Mick Lynch on the other hand has asked to negotiate directly face to face with the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Regardless of political affiliation, I know which Union I would want to defend me...

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    1. It’s sickening that Probation Service unions (Napo, Unison, GMB) encouraged and accepted such a bad pay deal. They should be ashamed. I wish we had the RMT too as we’d have got more than 3% of nothing!

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    2. Your right 123 . The Napo sec is just not adequate on any level Napo has been his play toy as long as he established his small group of converted acolytes. The big problem is Napo is run by a small few who take no real knowledge or squire any real trade union education. It is seen by the same old faces hangers on for time off from work already the lame or the useless. The recurring treasurer and best mate rubbish of their bromance. The inadequate past 3 chairs . The brazen money taking of the secretaries allowances pension and incredible pay hike. All against the backdrop of a man who has no skill in representation . He has sold out behind the backs of members to keep his errors quiet in collisions and yes there is plenty of evidence for the failures yet Napo elected officers have no skills or ability to actually take account and manage the fool. Instead we are shafted by his inabilities and our failure to hold him out to account. Its time he was replaced where's the job advert let's get a new general secretary when can we do, it now.

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    3. Any general secretary who formally agreed to dismiss staff by way of redundancies in that national agreement on transferred should have been dismissed himself . It remains an act of treason to our membership. Mr lynch by polar contrast is not signing up to any arrangement other than his members jobs are guaranteed. If the Napo GS had either an ounce of intelligence and or integrity then there could never have been the destruction of our service. I echo he should be gone.

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    4. I still find it astounding there was no outcry from either the Certification Officer or brothers & sisters in the TUC when (1) NAPO signed the 2014/5 staff transfer agreements which incorporated swathes of job cuts, (2) when Govt stumped up £80million from the Cabinet Office's mysterious Modernisation Fund to cover the cost of mass job losses & (3) the CRCs pocketed that money, a scam which the Govt sanctioned (which merely proved it was the stuffed brown envelope the bidders had been promised - probably by Grayling - after taking a gamble with CRC ownership).

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  5. My experience over the last two years as a returnee PO (a long time ago I was an SPO) has been brutal. Watching SPOs protecting their own as** at all costs, at MAPPA meeting dumping on POs, of overloading POs, seen one with 221% caseload and wondering why staff go off with stress, being told everything is a priority. Caring SPO are an exception. Most SPOs I`ve met do not have an understanding of leadership or management . It is grim to watch teams collapse and the costs to staff is immeasurable

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    1. Nothing to do with SPOs, they do what they’re told. SPOs have to allocate the cases. MAPPA actions part are parcel of holding those cases. We saw what happened in London Probation HFKCW when the cases were not allocated.

      It is the Heads of PDU and Heads of Operation responsible. They let the WMT and workload build to unmanageable levels. PDUs become red sites and reporting centre functions are rolled out. This doesn’t resolve the problem for the allocating SPOs and allocated Probation Officers on the frontline.

      What they should be doing is pulling all frontline staff out of Prisons, OMiC and all other probation non-frontline roles and putting them in PDUs. They did it in the lockdown and can do it now. If we don’t have staff then we don’t need performance, investigation and enforcement teams.

      Regional Probation Directors will need to risk put their neck on the line of Amy Rees chopping block!

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    2. 1542 great well pointed out and it has been understood by any practitioner. Our collective problems are these issues are not fought for nationally . A single national agreement on workloads was once agreed and the current secretary of Napo has run away from protecting our position. Overworking and workloads were protected under health and safety legislation. He has failed to take any action to counter or situation. Failed to lobby for members to dispute failed to direct members to reject work until something is properly agreed and failed to organise working models that should be taken forwards to protect us. He is a failure but we need to instruct Napo to return to the national workloads now and get a dispute going so we use the legislation. A leader who remains as cowardly as this one we pay the price.

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    3. "I was only following orders".... historically that hasn't proved itself to be a good defence thus far.

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    4. So SPOs refuse to allocate the cases? I don’t think that’d end very well.

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  6. I think it's fair to say that SPOs are up against it along with every other level of frontline staff. My own experience is that I couldn't have made it through the day without my SPO or the support of others in the office on any given day. They are hit upon from above and below and the role has to be one of the worst and unappreciated jobs of our time. It is the organisation that is broken beyond repair, and SPOs alongside POs and PSOs of whom are all doing their best to make a difference and hit all the meaningless targets.

    We were once about providing support, assistance and befriending offenders in the hope of making a difference to them and their victims. Alas, todays probation service is nothing more than an extension of the police and prison service and frontline staff of all grades are helpless in their ambitions of making a difference.

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  7. This says a lot sadly of the quality of probation staff and their value. No better than the murderous corrupted police. Your standards in probation obviously despicable .let's see what you make of this .

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11520921/amp/Female-probation-officer-partner-admit-conning-men-200-000-romance-frauds.html

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    1. “Female probation officer and her partner admit conning men out of £200,000 in Gaydar and Match.com romance frauds - even taking one victim for £100,000 in 14-year scam as they claimed to need £1m to be freed from kidnappers”

      What an awful pair. More evidence that vetting is pointless. I say it all the time. Better to employ the offenders as probation officers. At least they’ve already made their mistakes.

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    2. A female probation officer and her partner have admitted to conning men out of more than £200,000 in a series of romance frauds on Gaydar and Match.com - with one victim shelling out at least £100,000 over a staggering 14 years.

      Racquel Johnston, 42, and Fredrick Diji, 37, changed their pleas to 'guilty' at Guildford Crown Court after hearing evidence against them.

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    3. The extent is not clear and it is the Mail . One or two bad apples is not all is it.

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  8. I’m not sure how I feel about this prospect. I can’t say I’d want to be speaking or cross-examined at a public parole hearing. With high profile cases this will mean the press sitting in the gallery.

    “The first public parole board hearing in the UK will take place later today.”

    https://news.sky.com/story/murderer-russell-causleys-parole-hearing-to-be-the-first-held-in-public-12766494?fbclid=IwAR3oFgHtoGI-1Zf9YkP0Wv_wxbMDDFZC9QDEQ3Ar2b7hRTdEgNXvXHPOmdA

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    1. *You* won't be seen or heard as a probation person. Raab & co have seen to it that *your* views are irrelevant to their agenda.

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    2. Finally, the full suite of guidance issued to HMPPS staff on *not* making recommendations at parole reviews

      13 December 2022

      I have written extensively about the requirements imposed on HMPPS staff not to make recommendations about whether people going though parole should be released or progressed from closed to open conditions. The changes have been confusing for people going through the process. It is difficult to fully explain the position to clients without seeing the guidance that has been issued to staff. 

      In the course of a number of freedom of information requests I have managed to obtain and publish on this site much of the guidance to assist practitioners and those on parole to understand the new system. In my last blog, I noted that there was some guidance I had been made aware of that had not been disclosed and I sought an internal review.

      That review was successful. The reviewer concluded:

      “I can confirm that a document titled ‘Prohibition on report writers making a recommendation to the Parole Board as to whether the statutory release test is met: Guidance for Oral Hearings’ was issued by PPCS to HMPPS colleagues via an online information portal in October 2022, which was not shared with you as part of our original response or the subsequent Internal Review. This document provides information on the role of report writers within oral hearings and has now been annexed to this letter. I apologise for this not being shared with you.”

      The guidance issued to staff on 4 October 2022, Prohibition on report writers making a recommendation to the Parole Board as to whether the statutory release test is met: Guidance for Oral Hearings is available here. It sends a very clear message to HMPPS report writers that they must not offer a view in oral evidence before the Parole Board despite the Rules only covering written reports and the court in Bailey agreeing with that position.

      https://laurakjanes.co.uk/blog/finally-the-full-suite-of-guidance-issued-to-hmpps-staff-on-not-making-recommendations-at-parole-reviews

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    3. "There is no sign that the interim judgment in Bailey has been taken on board: that decision made it clear that the rules don’t cover oral evidence, a point the Secretary of State appeared to concede. Yet the Rules have not changed and the FAQ does not clarify that the new Rules do not apply to oral evidence... The guidance issued to staff on 4 October 2022, 'Prohibition on report writers making a recommendation to the Parole Board as to whether the statutory release test is met: Guidance for Oral Hearings' is available here*. It sends a very clear message to HMPPS report writers that they must not offer a view in oral evidence before the Parole Board"

      * https://laurakjanes.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/5_Oral-Hearings-Guidance-Oct-2022.pdf

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  9. Not surprised!

    Thematic review
    The experiences of adult black male prisoners and black prison staff
    by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons December 2022

    The over-representation of black prisoners in a number of critical areas such as the use of force, adjudications, assaults, segregation, and their experiences of discrimination that are described in this and in other studies suggest that the prison service needs to take meaningful action.

    What did black prisoners tell us?
    They described persistent race discrimination as well as mistrust and unease in their relationships with white staff. They told us that staff often associated them with gangs.

    What did black staff say?
    Many described experiencing high levels of stress at work and discrimination that hindered their career progression. They were worried about being viewed by colleagues with the same suspicion that affected black prisoners and being accused of collusion or corruption.

    What did white staff report?
    Most white prison staff we spoke to did not recognise these findings and did not accept them. Many were adamant that they went out of their way to treat all prisoners fairly, and felt confused and frustrated that this went unrecognised. Many had not regularly interacted with black people before working in a prison, and wrongly assumed links between black prisoners and gangs or violence.  

    https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons/inspections/the-experiences-of-adult-black-male-prisoners-and-black-prison-staff/

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    1. Staff went out of their way to treat all prisoners fairly. Yet still the report ranges across the structures of delivery discrimination complaints. I suspect this has become a standard of complaint beset the workplace and actually becomes the barrier to delivering good practice.

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  10. SPOs and POs have to deal with many of the newly created Deputy Head of Service, many of whom have very little experience. We have one who means well and is a nice person but has no clue and compensates by waffling and double speak. Qualified during CRC and was SPO after short period. When the unification happened they automatically transferred. Never managed high risk cases or mappa cases. This same person is countersigning recalls, PAROM 1 etc. Crazy shi**.

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