Monday, 26 May 2014

Goodbye Probation Trusts

I wanted to write this blog ahead of June 2nd, which will mark my first day working for the new National Probation Service.  

I am deeply saddened to be writing this blog and to the end of the Probation Trusts.  I currently work for a very high performing trust and although I have not always agreed with the direction the trust has gone and the leaders selected to lead us, I have felt a sense of belonging and I am proud to work for my trust.  

I remember my first day working for Probation.  21 years old, straight out of University and thrown into an Approved Premises.  I was chucked in at the deep end but it was the best learning experience I could have ever wished for.  I am constantly asked on twitter from people who want to work for Probation "where do I start?".  I always tell them to try and get into an Approved Premises.  

Anyway, aged 21 I never envisaged becoming a Probation Officer, I never really fully understood what they did but from working closely with them in the AP, I soon realised that this is something I wanted to be doing - it felt right.  

I was encouraged by my senior at the time to give it a go and apply to become a Trainee Probation Officer. Many applied and I never expected to get through, but to my amazement I did.  The two year degree course and learning 'on the job' was the best two years experience I could have ever wished for.  I was primarily based in two large offices with placements in Prison, Courts, Unpaid Work units and back in the AP.  I was mentored by some truly gifted and well respected Probation Officers who I learnt a lot from - mainly to never forget that 'offenders' are people first.  

The two years training course went by so quickly and I was offered a full time Probation Officer contract.  I have never looked back since.  I have had a few different responsibilities as a PO and enjoyed every one of them (I don't want to go into to much detail as I still want to retain my anonymity).  What I have enjoyed most is the camaraderie of staff.  I work in a lovely office (management may not agree - we are a difficult bunch to manage!) which is one of the biggest in my trust.  We have a very eclectic bunch of staff which I see as a positive.  We look out for each other and I know if I am every struggling, one of my colleagues will help me.  They are all very talented people and I know that the majority of the work they do with clients is never acknowledged or even spoken about - but it is incredible.  

The other main reason I do what I do is because of my clients and for the sake of the local community.  I have worked with some of the most dangerous people you could imagine but thankfully they are few and far between.  Mostly we work with people who have made poor decisions and who just need some help and support and a gentle push in the right direction.  I believe that doing this job makes a difference, not only in the lives of the clients we work with but also victims. 

Those of you who follow me closely on twitter will know that I have been very close to leaving Probation.  I do not agree with the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda and I don't see any benefit from it.  Dividing an awarding winning service who the Ministry of Justice itself rates every Probation Trust as either good or excellent, will only cause chaos and harm.  I don't want to say to much on this, there are masses of opinions out there on this topic (I just wish Grayling would listen to them!).

What I do want to say is that we cant forget we still have a job to do, regardless of being allocated to the National Probation Service (NPS) or the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).  I'm not suggesting that we roll over and help the Government with the destruction of the service, but we have a responsibility to carry on with the values and ethos of what we hold so dear.  

Like every single one of us, I am going to a new organisation; I have been allocated to the NPS.  Whilst I was fortunate enough to get my preference, this still fills me with some concern.  I don't necessarily wish to become a Civil Servant or be responsible for a caseload of purely high risk clients.  What I will do though is make the best of this situation and take everything that is offered to me.

So as this coming week marks the last one working for Probation Trusts, I just wanted to wish you all well.  Remember to stick together; the Government have sought to divide us but we don't have to allow that to happen.  Regardless of NPS or CRC we are all still colleagues and friends first and I hope that we never forget this.




Thursday, 20 March 2014

A week in the life of a Probation Officer 2

Last year I posted about a week in the life of a Probation Officer and it was a popular blog post so I promised to do another one.  A little later than planned, but better late than never eh?  For those that did not see the last one, click here

This does not include everything I completed in a week, their would have been countless forms filled in, telephone calls made and received and e-mails exchanged.... but nobody wants to know about those do they? 


Monday

I'm in the office for 8am. Breakfast and a read through of the emails.  Heart sinks when I see an email from the on-call weekend manager to say they have emergency recalled one of my high risk clients from the Approved Premises over the weekend.  He has absconded and they were unable to locate him.  My morning is spent completing the rest of the paperwork, updating his OASys, liaising with my senior and keeping updated with the Police.  This all takes a few hours so I had passed my diary to the duty officer who saw some of my clients for me.
12pm - Lunch time (Trying my best these days to have a break away from the computer).
12:30 - I have a video link with another client I have in Approved Premises.  We are completing a video link because of his restrictions as he is unable to enter into the county.
1:15 - I complete some delius entries (for those not in Probation, Delius is our recording document).  
2pm - I start prepping for a pre-sentence report interview that I have booked in for 3pm.  I make a few phone calls to Social Services to establish that the clients children are an open case to social care.  
3pm - Client arrives for his pre-sentence report interview.  I have never met this guy before, offence is Section 47 Assault against his partner.  It is his first recorded domestic assault but there is evidence of numerous police call outs to the address over the last six years.  He is clearly nervous in the room with me.  The interview went ok(ish), he meets the criteria for an Accredited Programme as there is an established pattern of domestic abuse which needs to be addressed.  He admits that he has caused harm, but not the extent his partner is claiming.  Regardless of this, it is something for us to work on.  
4:30pm - I complete a couple more delius entries, cross off a few things on my to do list and add about another 10 things to do!
5:15pm - update time sheet and go home.  

Tuesday

Today I spend the morning travelling to a Prison in another county.  The purpose of the trip was for sentence planning.  He is a high risk client who has recently been sentenced for the manslaughter of his daughter.  It's an emotional meeting and I spent a couple of hours with him discussing the offence and his life in general.  The Prison Probation Officer (Offender Supervisor) also joined us and we discussed targets for the year ahead for him to complete. The focus initially will be supporting him through drug detox and working around that first. He is on a long sentence, so we have plenty of time to address the offence, but we need to build him up first so he is mentally strong enough to do this, otherwise he will fall at the first hurdle and potentially relapse back into drug misuse. 
3pm - I arrive back at the office for a quick check and reply to my emails.  Thankfully all has been quiet(ish).  I spend about an hour or so writing up my notes from the meeting today and recording chunks of info in his OASys document. When I have more time I will go back and edit it, I just want to get it out of brain for the rest of today.  
5pm - Leave the office but I call into see a client on the way home as he said he needed some help filling in a job application form.  
6pm - Arrive home.  

Wednesday

I have supervision with the boss this morning.  I have an observation booked in for 10am and I have chosen an unpredictable client, which should be fun!  Myself and the senior have a discussion about what I have planned for the session.  I inform it will be based on mental health and encouraging him to re-engage with services and to take his medication.  
10am - Client turns up, he gives permission for my boss to sit in the room with us and we began to talk about his mental health and how I have noticed it deteriorating over the past few weeks.  He agreed.  We spent some time looking at the pros and cons of engagement with mental health services and I used some good old fashioned motivational talk to try and engage him in services. He declined to engage with services on this occasion.  I don't see this as a failure, rather it just being the foundation for further motivational work.  Session lasted about 30 minutes and then myself and my senior spent about 30 minutes reflecting on the session and they provided me with some good, constructive feedback.  
11am-12pm  - Three clients report in for supervision sessions, one is on weekly reporting and we complete some pre-programme domestic abuse work to get him ready for the Accredited Programme.  The other two are on monthly reporting as we have completed all work and they are fairly stable.  I check with them both that no circumstances have changed and they are doing ok.  
12:30pm - Lunch
1pm - I sit in with a colleague who is completing a session with a very angry young man.  We both have a panic alarm and reception staff are aware of the situation.  Session went ok, he called me a c*&t but other than that it seemed to go ok!  Colleague is very tired of this ongoing battle with this lad.  
2pm -4pm - Four of my own clients report in during this time (as well as taking phone calls etc).  Discussion with client one was about access to his son, which had just been approved by social services.  He was due to go and see him next week so we discussed this and how he was going to manage his emotions. 
Client number two reported in and we had some pre-planned work to do looking at sexual fantasies and how he manages these.  Client three reported in and the focus of the session was exploring anger with him and ways to manage it.  He worked well which I was pleased about as a couple of months ago he said he felt like punching me!  Client number four came in to tell me he has a job interview in a few days so my session plan kind of went out the window.  Instead we looked at interview skills and did a little bit of a role play of a mock interview.  
4pm - Type up my notes into delius of todays sessions.  Had a good chat with a colleague who is feeling really low at the moment and as if she cant cope with her workload.  By the time I look at the clock its 5:30pm and time to go home.  

Thursday

8:30am, I attend an address check with a PSO who has been allocated a Home Detention Curfew (HDC) report to complete.  We introduce ourselves to the clients mother, who he would like to live with, should he be granted his early prison release.  Address seems fine and mum is willing to allow him back.  
9:30am - back in office, emails checked, a few phone calls made.  I am referring somebody to MAPPA level 2 so I spend some time filling in more of the referral form (about a days work if you make a good job of it).  For those that don't know, MAPPA is Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements.  It is reserved for our most high risk and complex cases and involves multi agency meetings to manage that risk / complexity.  Im not a massive fan of MAPPA, I don't think it can bring that much added extra to the table, especially when you consider the benefits of Integrated Offender management (IOM).  Anyway, that debate is for another blog.  
12pm - Lunch
12:30pm - More phone calls made - Im trying to persuade the mental health team that my client is very unwell.  They are telling me this is all alcohol and drug related and there is nothing they can do.  Will put all my concerns in a letter, including details of my phone calls and get this posted to them this evening.  
1pm - Client reports in - I have reserved an hour for him as he is particularly challenging. He thinks if he kicks off and is nasty to me I will just let him go (he has learnt this from having many other Probation Officers) but I don't allow him this option and we engage in something meaningful each week.  I'm hoping one day the consistency pays off.
2pm - A Social Worker comes into the office to see me.  He has asked for access to my clients records and my Probation Trust have refused him copies of these but has said he can come into the office and read the file.  I make him a coffee and give him the three files I have on this particular case. As he is reading the files, I get on with making phone calls and answering emails.  Today so far I have received about 30 emails.  
3pm - Social Worker leaves and I pop out of the office as a client phoned me earlier to say he has no way of getting into the chemist to pick up his methadone today.  I agreed I would pick him up and take him, only takes me 20 minutes and its piece of mind for me that he wont relapse.  
3:30pm - I spend the rest of the day completing an OASys (Probation's risk assessment document) on a high risk case, he was released last week so I need to get this done and sent to my senior to countersign.  
5pm - Home time.

Friday

I am on Court duty today so I base myself in the local Magistrates Court and I am ready to complete on the day reports.  Before getting called to complete one I spend some time completing some delius entries and also making phone calls.  11am comes around I have my first report to complete, drink driver who was four times over the legal limit to drive.  I recommended unpaid work which the Court agree too.  
Second report was for a Section 39 Assault and Theft.  The Assault was against a security guard.  I recommend Supervision and Unpaid Work and again the Court agreed.  
3pm - I go back to the office as the Magistrates wont be asking for any more reports from me today (they always want an early finish on a Friday afternoon!).  Caught up with my colleagues about the days events and it would appear I missed a fight in reception!
4pm - I go home.

This was based on a real week for me and I hope it gives you non Probation staff some insight into the varied work that we do.  

Thank you for reading, if you would like to know more about the world of Probation and what us Probation Officers actually do, please give me a follow on twitter @PoOfficer

nDelius

**WARNING - This is an extremely boring blog, especially to those who don't use delius!**

I was asked by a few people on twitter to write a piece on delius and how I find it.  I soon realised when I started to write this post that my experience of delius is very different from that of some of my twitter followers as it would appear different Probation Trusts are using delius for different things, which makes blogging about it difficult.  When reading this you may feel as if I have missed out a huge, and obvious frustration of delius but please remember that where I work, we may not be using that function (yet).  Please feel free to comment on this blog post with your frustrations, and you never know, the MOJ may be reading and could implement some of your suggestions?

For those lucky enough not to know what Delius is, it's what the Probation Service currently use to record their work e.g following a supervision session with a client, we will write up what was discussed.


In my Probation Trust we call it Delirious.  

So here are some of the issues;
  • Click click click click BOOM! - far to many clicks.  I recently tried to find a piece of information about a client - his release date.  I clicked 11 times to get this date. Surely we could have an easier more user friendly way to find out key information.  
  • Searching for a case - I have lost track of the amount of clients I have been unable to find when searching for them as their name has to be accurate.  I remember back in the old days of CRAMS when we had the 'fuzzy name search'... oh how I miss that!
  • Documents - It has a document section with some pre-loaded templates.  Now Im all for having electronic copies of templates on the system so we can all have access to them, but its like jumping through hoops to make them work.  You have to create a document, save it to your folders (remembering you cant change the file name, which is usually something like this; "464385498u75///mappaReferral"dff[[,mvvsabfv...copy1") and then once completed you have to then 'upload' this back onto delius. I find that the upload function only really works when you shut your eyes, cross your fingers and the moon is full.  
  • I would like the option to upload whatever document I like.  I have masses of important documents such as mental health reports and documents about lifers that I would want to add onto someones electronic record, but I cant.  This would also be good to scan in newspaper articles etc? 
  • Wouldn't you think that in this day and age we would have some technology that is designed to make our jobs a little easier? 
  • Hot keys - a twitter follower suggested we should have hotkeys which make it easier with just one quick click to upload a contact for example.  
  • Next appointments - Now this is a pain in the backside as you have to create a whole new entry to schedule someones next appointment.  I think it should just be a box you fill in when you're writing their current appointment notes, you just type in when their next appointment is - not having to open up a whole new entry.  Plus if you are anything like me, my clients never have the same appointment week after week, I have to fit them into my diary when I have time as I am on so many different rota's and have other responsibilities in the office.
  • I think it should have a photo attached to the clients record - much like VISOR does.  
  • Trying to breach somebody is a nightmare - for example figuring out how many appointments somebody has attended for each separate requirement of their Court Order is near impossible without counting on your fingers.  Is this really a good use of staff time?
  • My colleagues in Court are telling me its added pressure to their role as a simple check to see how somebody is doing on their Order takes twice as long.... even to establish if they are on an Order in the first place.  
  • Officer Diary - I have no idea what this even is.  Does anybody use it?  

Things I like;

I don't want to be all doom and gloom, it does have some benefits;
  • You can have whatever colour screen you like! 
  • The DSS (no idea what it stands for) / Throughcare function is nice, you can see all release dates etc at a quick and easy glance. 
  • You don't have to have a password to log in.  
  • I like how it tells you which Prison your client is in - but Im guessing this relies on the Prison updating this?
  • The system being national is a good thing.  I had an example of this recently when a lifer from another trust was working in our area.  I was asked to see him for a few weeks and I was able to record my sessions with his easily onto his record.  
  • I also like the personal contact section, so you can add details of clients family and their contact information.  

So let me know what drives you mad and also what you like about nDelius. 

@PoOfficer

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Views from the frontline - December 2013

It has been some time now since I last blogged and whilst I always saw this blog as a practitioners blog with the focus on Probation work, I can't help but talk about Transforming Rehabilitation and the impact this is having on us all.  

I am getting so many tweets about the upset staff are experiencing upon receiving their letters either directing them to the NPS/CRC or asking them to make a decision.  Never did I imagine a time would come in Probation where we would be asked to do this.  At the time of writing this, I have not received my own letter, but I expect it to be similar to most Probation Officers in that I will be invited to make a decision.  This decision will be more of a guess as we have insufficient information to make any sort of informed decision about the NPS or the CRC's.    

I am taking NAPO's advise and considering a grievance to accompany my response letter, but again this raises concerns for not just me but also a lot in my team and also on twitter.  Some really tough decisions are ahead of us.  

What I wanted to focus this blog on is the concerns that I have about Transforming Rehabilitation.  Already the vultures are swooping in and my Trust is inundated with mentors and 'coaches' wanting access to our cases and to work with us.  Whilst I accept that they do have a place in the Criminal Justice System, taking over my job is not one of them. You can imagine the look a mentor got from me when he said "I could easily do your job".  

I am concerned about the splitting of staff and not just in terms of fragmenting services [Mr Grayling - if you are reading this please note somebody is going to die as a result of your TR agenda] but also in terms of what this looks like and feels like to staff.  I would hate for the National Probation Service staff to be seen as some elitist organisation with "specialist risk experts" at the helm, whilst those in the Community Rehabilitation Company being referred to as the 'Plebs'.  Already I am hearing about staff feeling devalued by going into the CRC and the NPS is already seen as the preferred option.  I almost gagged on a recent training event when a colleague from another Probation Trust referred to himself as a "MAPPA Sex Offender expert"! what the hell is that? He seemed so smug and pleased with himself that he was in a specialist MAPPA team - I have no time for people like this.  

Staff are already feeling demotivated, deskilled and anxious about the splitting of the workforce and how unfair this is by using a random date to analyse our caseloads.  For those of us in generic teams, the allocation of new cases is out of our control and we all supervise a mixture of different levels of risk / MAPPA.  We also have some staff who are very highly skilled and excellent Probation Officers but are currently in non offender management type roles, what will happen to them?

We are also anxious about potential new terms and conditions and what this means.  Are we going to be paid less, will we lose some pension, will we have less annual leave, will we have less rights? Also if we switch between the CRC and NPS will we lose our continuation of service?

Many of my team, myself included, have been looking for other employment but there is little out there.  I really don't want to leave, I love my job but from the little I do know about the NPS and CRC, I don't think I would like to work for either.  Some colleagues are also so concerned about how we are being treated, they have left.  I completely respect their decision, but they are not being replaced and the work still needs to be done.  This is raising the workload of those left and already I am seeing staff having to take work home to complete or go off sick with stress and exhaustion.   
Work to rule - NAPO have told us we should be working to rule and I have to say I have seen evidence of this in the office as people taking lunch breaks and trying to leave on time, but it is not always possible.  Many staff saying the only impact this is having is on their own well-being. I am trying my best to work to rule. 

Rumours and scaremongering are also impacting on us all.  We know very little information about the CRC or NPS and the implementation dates appear to be changing.  Having to make a decision about who you would like to work for, with no information being provided about what your job will look like is difficult enough.  We also have to hear all the speculation about staff splits, will this be 50/50 70/30 60/40? I don't think anybody knows. 

Another concern I have is about the reputation Probation will have in the future.  I know that a lot of people don't really know what we do now, but those who are in the know respect our work and we are seen (including by the MOJ) as a very highly successful organisation.  I am worried that after the split, when standards start to drop and profit making takes over, will 'Probation' lose its reputation as an excellent performing service? How hard will it be to regain this reputation and public confidence when somebody dies as a result of TR? Mr Grayling won't be anywhere to be seen then.

On the flip to the above concern, I think we may see re-offending rates go down further as TR progresses because those subject to under 12 months custody will now have some sort of supervision and intervention.  I do see this as a good thing but I can imagine how this is going to be portrayed by the Government; "we told you so, TR works, reoffending rates are down".... but what they won't admit is that Probation never had responsibility for supervising under 12 month custody cases in the first place.  

Whilst I write this blog as a Probation Officer I must not forget other colleagues; PSO's, CA's, Receptionists, HR etc and also managers,  they too are in a similar position. Admin are very concerned in my office as they are having more and more work taken off them and being put back in the hands of the Probation Officer.  To quote one of them "whats the point of a CA?".  

Sorry to be so negative, but I feel it is important to get this message out there.  Also, to all of my colleagues, you are not alone.  We are all scared of what is to come but please don't give up or feel devalued.... easier said than done, I know!


Ps - Please keep on tweeting about the good work we do in Probation.  Tweet me if you want me to follow you and promote the work you are doing.  

Sunday, 20 October 2013

NPS vs CRC - Some thoughts from the frontline

This blog is going to focus on some of my thoughts and some of the conversations which have been occurring in my team.  Before people start pointing out that these changes will impact clients too, I know this.  This blog is just from staffs perspective.  In that respect it is a little selfish, I admit.  I would also like to point out that I have not given up, I am still fighting to save Probation.

Firstly I have been told that my role sits between both CRC and NPS so I will be invited to put in an expression of interest and my trust will see if they can accommodate this.  If not, they will have to go to the sifting process. The funny thing is, every PO in my office meets the sifting criteria... so they will have to come up with something else to separate us.  I work in a very large team, so this will be tricky.  

My CEO and various members of SMT have been conducting briefings around the county keeping us regularly informed.  So I do feel somewhat privileged as I know some of you have not had this luxury.   

So, I will have to pick between CRC or NPS and this is what I am thinking;

National Probation Service (NPS)
  • This will be a tiny organisation with little scope for progression. 
  • Big focus will be in the Courts and more PO's working from Court and allocating work to the teams directly from Court.  I don't want to work in a Court.  
  • What will be left will be Public Protection work.  Whilst this is fascinating and vital, I don't want a whole caseload of high risk clients where I am unable to be as flexible as I currently am.  I do not want to be confined by MAPPA restrictions.
  • I wont be delivering any interventions.  Apart from sex offender work all other interventions, including Specified Activities will be implemented by the CRC. 
  • From what I have read, if I am NPS my main duties will be to risk assess, mainly from a computer and have little scope to deliver an intervention or work with clients on a one to one basis. 
  • We are merging with another area so will I be sent there to work?  Miles away from home. 
  • Will this become an 'elite' service? Do I really want to be part of this? 
  • I know the documents state that CRC and NPS will office share initially but I am sure this will change in the future.  I can see my trust having tiny NPS offices around the county as a base and then they will 'rent' rooms from children's centres, Police Stations, Courts etc.  Do I want to be co-located and not in my Probation team? Will I lose the camaraderie of my colleagues? 
  • I will be doing what I trained to do - risk assess, write reports and manage high risk clients.  Will I have time to complete bespoke interventions with clients or will I just send them to the CRC for this?
  • Will we be a civil servant? If so, It feels as if we will lose our voice and will have to roll over every time the Government says so.  

Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC)
  • We don't know who this will be, so we could end up working for an organisation we don't want to.  
  • Likelihood is that our terms and conditions will change.
  • A positive that I can think of is that it will cut all the red tape that Probation currently insist on.  Hopefully it will move us into the 21st century and I will be able to email a Social Worker without being told it breaches data protection.   We may have better use of technology, thinking outside the box, more resources etc etc.  This does sound appealing.  
  • I wont be writing parole reports, pre-sentence reports or advising the Court about sentencing.  I trained for two years to be able to do this, I don't want to lose it.  
  • If I do go to the CRC and manage medium and low risk clients - will the new provider eventually realise that they will be paying me a PO wage to do the same work that a PSO can do?  Will I take a pay cut or just be let go?
  • Working for a CRC may provide more of an opportunity for progression.  Some of the companies bidding are multi-national and other roles may frequently come up.
  • Do I really want to work for a company who's number one priority is profit?

How can we be asked to make a decision between the NPS and CRC when we don't know the full details.  We don't know who the CRC's are yet.  We don't know what the new NPS will look like and what 'team' we may be allocated into.  We really don't know anything.  It will not be an informed decision, yet I will get my letter in November asking me to make a decision.  What if I refuse? Will it then be made for me?


Colleagues

I have been tweeting lots about this, but it is so important.  YOU have to keep informed.  You need to get your head around these changes and how they will impact you.  

Please read;

Joe Kuipers Blog

Jim's Blog

Target Operating Model

Also, if you are not already in it, please give consideration to joining the local Government pension scheme.  I have heard that once these changes take place, the scheme we have now will no longer be available.  

Join the union and keep updated! Read the NAPO website and join the fight to save Probation.  Loads of activity on twitter. 

Follow me on twitter for more news and views from the front-line - @PoOfficer

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Dear Mr Grayling

Dear Mr Grayling

This blog is not going to be full of hate, it wont seek to discredit you at every opportunity but I just wanted to say a few things before you dismantle a service which has not only given me a career, it has also saved lives.  

I truly hope you understand the gravity of the changes you seek to make and those that you assess as suitable candidate to take over our work, are up for the challenge.  Those who work for Probation now do a fine job, in fact the Ministry of Justice say all Probation Trusts are either ranked good or excellent.  We are not failing.  This service relies on is the goodwill of staff who, on the whole, go above and beyond because this is the type of people that Probation attracts.  I have witnessed staff coming into work the day before major surgery to make sure a parole report is finished, I have seen them give up their lunch for a hungry client.  I have also seen them get into trouble with their manager for missing deadlines, all because they go above and beyond for the men and women we work with.

When I joined the Probation Service, I joined thinking that this would be a life long career for me.  Something to sink my teeth into and something that would not only allow me to do good for other people but would also bring me happiness in knowing that I had truly helped somebody to change their life around, or I had prevented somebody from being hurt.  Us Probation Officers are not glory hunters, this job is not glamorous and to be fair, nobody really knows what we do (and to some extent we need to take the blame for this).  We are, in a way, a silent agency, heads down and getting on with the job.  Sometimes I have to admit that whilst we may look calm on the outside we are frantically trying to figure out how we are going to get all of our work done, where our soon to be released client is going to live, if our homeless client is going to freeze to death or if the man we just challenged about his domestic abuse is going to go home and take his frustrations out on his wife.  This is a truly difficult job and I hope you understand that.  

We often take a lot of our work home with us, and I don't just mean physical work.  Sometimes I admit that it takes time for me to switch off.  My family and friends say I am work obsessed, but this is not the type of job you can easily switch off from.  I was recently sat on a lovely beach over the summer and felt as if work was a thousand miles away, but still, I knew that one client was going to be released from prison, homeless.  I hope that the new providers recognise the importance of employing staff who care and offer them a decent wage and some job security.  

With all of these benefit cuts, bedroom tax, zero hour contracts, cuts to legal aid etc, I genuinely feel that those most vulnerable in our society are being made even more vulnerable.  Offenders themselves are often stigmatised and fall into many of the sections of society that you seek to marginalise further. I really hope that you don't lose sight of the fact that offenders can be victims too.  

I'm no politician or academic, I'm just a Probation Officer, but to me it seems as if Probation are the experts in managing 'offenders' but we are the only people excluded from bidding for our work.  Instead you invite multi-national organisations who have a proven track record of failure and fraud to bid for millions of pounds worth of work.  It does not make sense.  Also; whilst we are talking about sense, what does not make sense to me is allowing somebody to profit financially from crime.  Maybe we are just two very different people, but this kind of goes against what I believe in.  

Anyway, I really hope you have read this.  These are just a collection of thoughts I want to get off my chest before it's too late.  Please remember it is never too late to stop Transforming Rehabilitation.  Lives are at stake Chris, it really is serious.  

Yours,



Thursday, 12 September 2013

Things you wanted to say....

This blog post follows numerous offers I made to my twitter followers, to say what they felt they are unable to say in relation to the current climate in Probation and also in regards to the Governments Transforming Rehabilitation agenda.  I would like to reiterate that these views are not that of my own, I may support some of them but they are all from my twitter followers.  

here goes.....


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Did you know the link between the chair of the Probation Association (who appear to be silent) and the privatisation of the Probation Service?  Serbet Cox is the Chair of the Durham Tees Valley Trust AND the Probation Association.  I would like to think this isn't a conspiracy, but who knows? click for link  link two"

"You know something is fundamentally wrong with our 'leadership' when you rely on updates about your future from twitter and Jim's blog!"

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

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

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

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

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


Well there you have it.  It makes for difficult reading but I think it is very representative of the feelings from the Probation workforce and its important that we recognise this.  

@PoOfficer