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.
Courtesy of The Probation Officer