It was always going to be a disaster. Tearing the service in two, giving the bigger chunk to private companies tasked with looking after “medium/low” risk clients; while “high” risk service users would remain under the watchful eye of the publically owned National Probation Service.
One thing Grayling and the Tory government were right about: it really did transform rehabilitation – but for the worse.
Not only do we now have a two-tier service, we also have a two-tier workforce operating under different employment terms and conditions with striking pay disparities.
It’s been a long hard slog to get anyone outside of the justice sector to understand why TR has been such a huge problem, even though the evidence was stacked from the very beginning.
How does it even make sense that despite being qualified and having already done so for years, those working in the private companies were instantly barred from writing court reports, attending oral hearings or managing high risk offenders?
It’s no wonder this situation has left people feeling as though their skills are not being utilised and creates anxiety about career development and job security.
Since the split it seems that professional development has also taken a back seat, with even Dame Glenys Stacey, outgoing chief probation inspector commenting: “The future arrangements for probation services should provide for the learning and development of staff, and the arrangements for delivery of the strategy should be practical and engaging for staff”.
We guess the mandatory basic training or “briefings” delivered via email was not going to cut it in an environment where reducing reoffending and community safety is paramount.
Staff now also have the potential to become “burnt-out” far quicker than they may have done under the previous arrangements. Why? Well, in the words of Dame Glenys: “workloads and the overriding need to meet transaction-based performance targets have led to professional standards being compromised in at least one CRC.”
It’s happening in the NPS too. Imagine the mental toll that only dealing with high risk cases must take. No matter where you work in the probation service there just is no reprieve. To quote Dame Glenys again: “Professional ethics can buckle under such pressures.”
To top it all off, probation staff have actually been treated differently since the split.
NPS staff – now civil servants – have better terms in many areas including maternity leave than their private company colleagues. Napo led the charge in securing a satisfactory pay increase for them and a commitment for an improvement in pay structures going forward.
These are the things that help boost morale: valuing the profession and paying “the rate for the job”.
The private companies – ruled by budget constraints and profit margins – are unable to even think about matching the offer. How can you convince the staff employed by them that they are not second-class professionals when compared to their colleagues on the “other side”?
Napo will be hosting a drop-in session for MPs on 1st of May to put this, and seven other reasons to reunify the probation service to MPs.
If you haven’t already done so, complete the postcard and send it back to your local MP encouraging them to join the fight to make sure the probation service is able to rehabilitate clients, keep the public safe and to protect your profession.
Need any materials to be a part of the campaign? Email firstname.lastname@example.org