Wednesday 24 April 2024


Things round here never fail to surprise me on occasion. When on Sunday I was scratching around for something to either say or publish, I never thought a few thoughts by a reader about their practice would generate quite so much activity and on so many fronts! As the thread was getting a bit long, the following seemed to warrant a fresh post and to remind ourselves of the command and control environment we find ourselves trapped within and so loved of HMPPS:-    

Those making up these terms really don’t care how they’re abbreviated or how they sound. Take a few recent terms for example. Recently I was on a prison visit and introduced the titles POM and COM. The prisoner started laughing because “COM sounds like cum, and isn’t a POM a fruit in France or a British immigrant in Oz”. Then take the person that recently came into the probation office announcing he’s “on the piss”. What he meant was he’s been released on PSS.

Person in Prison and Person on Probation are not that bad or “disrespectful”, they’re no worse than calling people convict or offender. Some smart Alec in the centre should have thought these would be abbreviated to PIP and POP which just sound ridiculous. The problem isn’t the terms and abbreviations, it’s the reason behind their creation that is the problem. For years the senior managers have been trying to close the divide between PO and PSO roles, which is why we’ve now been stuck with Probation Practitioner PP (Peepee!!!) to cover all practitioner grades. To differentiate between custody and community PPs we have COM and POM.

If consecutive governments hadn’t been obsessed with being ‘tough on crime’ and turning probation into an ‘enforcement agency’ we would have stuck with ‘clients’ or ‘Probation clients’ as we used to. The Ministry of Justice won’t be softening its style guide under this government. Who knows what Amy Rees, Barton & Co are planning call everyone under OneHMPPS. While we wait in anticipation, please all follow Prison Instruction 3533684.

“When referring to people in prison, staff are allowed to use the terms “prisoners”, “people in prison” or “offenders. They cannot use “residents”, “service users” or “clients”.

When referring to people leaving prison, staff can say “prison leavers”, “people leaving prison”, “people resettling in the community” or “ex-offenders”. They cannot say “service users” or clients”.

When referring to prison accommodation, staff can say “cell”. They cannot say “room”.

A footnote to the style guide states: “All staff employed by the Ministry of Justice, HM Prison and Probation Service and private sector prison providers will be expected to adhere to the style guide, and amend any new products that fail to do so.”


Oh look - a shed load more acronyms too:-

Workforce planning system (WPS) transitioning to 'business as usual'

From 1 April 2024, the Workforce Planning System (WPS) will transition from being a project within the Probation Workforce programme (PWP) to being business as usual.

The WPS name will be retired and the work will be separated between new teams in 2 directorates which will retain close links to ensure the best outcomes to support frontline staff and workforce planning.

A new function in the Probation Operations Directorate (POD) led by Kim Thornden-Edwards:

Central Operations support will be responsible for:
  • probation role reviews
  • job evaluation, design and improvement
  • governance including National Operational Stability Panel (NOSP)
  • operational and tactical response including current account managers
  • operational data reporting
A new function in Transforming Delivery Directorate (TDD) led by Dominic Herrington:
  • Workforce and Capability (prison and probation workforce teams) will be responsible for:
  • probation activity review and resource modelling
  • managing strategic change
  • digital solutions including activities and weighting database


  1. … I know it’s a bit radical, I call probation clients by their names and myself a probation officer.

  2. Some colleagues don’t realise that COM and POM are acronyms.

    Community OFFENDER Manager
    Prison OFFENDER Manager

  3. The list of acronyms used by the MoJ is pretty unbelievable.

  4. The Style Guide. FFS

  5. My sources tell me that they are scrapping PSS and ending licence at 2/3rd point (CP and MAPPA cases exempt).

  6. It’s no secret. They’re calling it Probation Reset. We don’t need a “reset” we need staff. Plans will scrap PSS and terminate case supervision at 2/3 point, excepting MAPPA and child protection cases. It’s a return to NPS caseloads. Probation focus will prioritise those in the first 2/3 of licence and orders, and those released 60 days early from prison. Brace yourselves for the increase in mandatory pre-release requirements.

    “From April, we will reset probation so that practitioners prioritise early engagement at the point where offenders are most likely to breach their licence conditions. That will allow front-line staff to maximise supervision of the most serious offenders. Similarly, for those managed on community orders and suspended sentence orders, probation practitioners will ensure that intervention and engagement is prioritised towards the first two-thirds of the sentence, as experience shows that that most effectively rehabilitates offenders. To be clear, none of the changes will apply to those convicted of the most serious offences, including those subject to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements.”

  7. so early release from Prison, followed by early release from probation. I wonder whether sentencers' views have been sought. Is the law to be changed to scrap PSS, or are we just going to ignore it?

  8. I call them Probationers. I can't think of a better term. It is not offensive, it doesn't stigmatise - like Offender does - and it doesn't suggest they are customers of services either, like Service User does, which is hardly the case when it is mandatory supervision not a choice. Furthermore it can't be abbreviated like Person on Probation can be.

    I can't believe no one had thought of this before. I guess its like hunting around for your glasses, whilst they are perched on your head.

  9. Like we never ever prioritised the order before this startling intervention from HMPpS … This double edged sword will show a reduction on your WMT , to then free up more space for the increased new licences and court orders you will get… Therefore no respite that those cases you had worked so hard on to get to a position of stability offered you …

  10. The new reset sounds panicky and ill thought out. To ensure frontline Probation Workers don't get viciously SFOd (Serious Further Offence investigation) I would recommend sending an email to your SPO asking for exact clarification on the details of the reset as well as making a detailed communication about your current and recent workload. This may be the only defence that you have if you get investigated via SFO for any future serious crimes commited on your caseload. Good Luck.

    1. Print off and retain each week your WMT and ensure at each supervision appointment with SPO this is discussed, ensure you have a copy of your supervision notes. Might seem another task but I promise you they will not be made available if there is an SFO so take copies and retain them. It’s the best defensible decision you’ll make and is irrefutable evidence a rep can use if you need this.

    2. One of my colleagues writes it in their diary every day but printing off seems less likely to end in a dispute about accuracy. Sad that we have to seek to cover our back for any future perhaps inevitable cock ups

  11. The Prisons and Probation Minister is forever referred to as The Prisons Minister. I see there is discussion going on about the need to reduce short sentences. Meaning short Prison Sentences. If Probation is a sentence of the court, as it has been for many decades now, then it needs to be recognised as such.