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.