HMI Probation pull no punches

Dame Glenys Stacey, the new HMIP supremo has wasted no time in stamping her forensically impressive style on her new department’s activities.

While I have always been impressed by the work of her predecessors, this week’s fifth post-Transforming Rehabilitation report from the inspectorate provided a particularly clear and well-constructed critique of the many continuing issues that we have been raising with politicians and stakeholders within the criminal justice system.

Essentially, Dame Glenys and her team have found that whilst there has been some progress in the interface between the National Probation Service (NPS) and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) there are continuing deficiencies in the areas of risk management, court reports, non-application of breaches and the woeful provision of “Through the Gate” rehabilitation services by a number of the 21 CRCs.

Not exactly ground breaking news in itself some may say, which is probably why the media largely ignored the issue in favour of more and more on the Euro referendum, and Jose Mourinho's image rights, but it provides us with plenty of material to take into our meeting with Michael Gove next month and before that senior NOMS and CRC Managers.

While anyone can say 'we told you so' about TR, its solutions we need and fast; but anyone who thinks we have given up the ghost on the idea of seeing underperforming CRC contractors placed under the responsibility of local Police and Crime  Commissioners, or better still being stripped of their contract for non-delivery has not really been listening.

As always we will pick up these findings along with those from the recent NAO report and maintain pressure wherever we can. It is also important that we use the local conduit of NPS Divisional JNCC's and contact with senior CRC management to ask uncomfortable questions.

Family Court Professionals meet to consider the safeguarding of vulnerable young people

It was a privilege to spend a day with Cafcass practitioners and guests yesterday in Birmingham for what was a well-attended and thoroughly absorbing professional conference.

There will of course be a comprehensive report in the upcoming Napo Quarterly; but I was especially struck by the in depth knowledge of the contributors as well as their, on occasions, quite harrowing personal experiences as victims, or their recounting of incidents in which they have been involved.

The key themes included the societal challenges posed by forced marriage, modern day slavery and honour based abuse, and how professionals can try to increase reporting, reduce isolation and, ultimately, save lives.

E3 statement from Napo

We have today issued as comprehensive a statement as possible about the up to date position on E3. It’s going out to the email boxes of all NPS and CRC members but here it is if you want a preview.

Mike McClelland retires from Napo

Many members will already be aware that National Official Mike McClelland has announced his retirement from Napo effective from the end of this month. A Branch Circular has been issued today (click here) which records much deserved appreciation for his considerable efforts to the life and fabric of our union and professional association. It also lets members who have worked with Mike know how they can send their personal best wishes to him.

If life and work are getting you down then just...relax!

Finally, I have been alerted to some advice which was issued earlier on the NOMS Intranet. Not surprisingly someone has totally misrepresented the well-meaning message and has asked me to share it with you. I am more than happy to do so, especially after experiencing two separate but somewhat testing engagements with employers today:

Relaxation can help to relieve the symptoms of stress. It can help you calm down and take a step back from a stressful situation (such as a teleconference comprising a mixture of a dozen or so often incredulous and difficult participants).  Good relaxation always starts with focusing on your breathing so try this relaxed breathing exercise:

Find somewhere that is (a) not a hot desk (b) an interview booth or (c) anywhere near to where a programme is taking place, and if you are lucky enough to find such a quiet spot, get yourself into a comfortable position.

Sit in a chair (which for once actually supports your head)  or better still lie on the floor (but watch out for the pre-bank holiday stampede) or on a bed (ah yes, no room for first aid facilities these days of course). Place your arms on the chair arms, or on the floor or bed (well you never know what came across in that last office closure) lie a bit away from the side of your body with the palms up. If you’re lying down, stretch out your legs; if you’re sitting in a chair, don’t cross them as you'll likely cause your colleague to trip over them resulting in an expensive PI claim against your employer in this age of austerity

Try this exercise by breathing in and out slowly, and in a regular rhythm as this will help you to calm down especially when the latest communication from management (about how valued you are) hits your desk.

  • Fill up the whole of your lungs with air (fresh, ideally) without forcing. Imagine you're filling up a bottle so that your lungs fill from the bottom (it is appreciated that this might be somewhat anatomically challenging)
  • Breathe in through your nose but dont forget to then breath out through your mouth (or you may go giddy, or faint on your workmates and they have enough to do already)
  • Breathe in slowly and regularly counting from 1 to 5. *(You may want to ask a friend to count out loud for you as obviously this will be a tad difficult).
  • Let the breath escape, counting from 1 to 5 *
  • Keep doing this until you feel calm, but don’t overdo it as you have 3 PSRs to clear by this afternoon. Breathe without pausing and don’t hold your breath (see above)

Practise this relaxed breathing for 3 to 5 minutes whenever you feel stressed, note: this could mean that you have to undertake the exercise very very frequently which might mean that your colleagues start to show an interest.

Although the cause of the anxiety (be it E3, workloads, difficult clients, missing information, rubbish ICT or the threat of job losses in your CRC) won’t disappear, you’ll feel more able to deal with it all (honestly, you will) once you've released the tension in your body and cleared your thoughts.

I have seen a few things in my time; but I seriously hope that all of you enjoy as relaxing a bank holiday as is possible.

Blog type: 
General Secretary's Blog