With the clock ticking inexorably towards a decisive NEC vote scheduled for 17th September, it doesn't take a genius to see that the membership are not going to have long in which to absorb the details and voice an opinion. Apart from questioning the wisdom of going down this negotiating route in the first place and whilst supposedly fighting the TR proposals at the same time, I just don't understand why somebody doesn't tell Grayling to fuck off with his daft bullying timetable.
Anyway, one result of the meeting on Monday is that the cat is out of the bag regarding the indicative ballot turnout - it was 34%.
Moving on to other matters that have caught my attention, I suspect I might not have been alone in having professional reasons for tuning in to watch the first episode of the Channel 4 series 'Burgled' set in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The city apparently remains a burglary hot spot and the series follows a dedicated police team tasked with catching those responsible. I found nothing particularly surprising from the first programme, apart that is from absolutely no mention of probation involvement in what is clearly an Integrated Offender Management initiative.
It would seem from twitter conversations that such is the determination of Chris Grayling and the MoJ to win the TR omnishambles war that orders have been issued prohibiting footage of probation staff involvement being aired. It would seem that our involvement is to be airbrushed out of the picture, bringing to mind similar propaganda tricks in Communist Russia. Utterly disgraceful if true, as we all know probation is a key element of IOM.
The Parole Board authorised the release of Jon Venables recently under yet another identity. I've been reading the very thorough report on the case as part of the Serious Further Offence investigations and it's particularly encouraging to read of the praise given to probation, and especially for a case that had no probation involvement from the beginning due to Jon's age.
I've always felt this was most unhelpful in a case which we all knew would eventually end up on our plate and result in a very unsettling transfer at an arbitrary age-related point. I find this revelation so shocking that I think I would have refused to take the case on:-
The assessments and work done during Jon Venables’ time at
Redbank were not shared with his subsequent supervisors to
inform their understanding of the subject. The reports seen by the
Parole Board, including the several psychiatric evaluations, do not,
however, contain any indication, even indirectly, that there was a
sexual motive on the part of Jon Venables in committing the
original offence or other warning that might have alerted his
supervisors to potential abnormal sexual interests. (para 102, 104)
There is much in the report of interest, but I particularly noticed this other bit:-
No suitable individual was identified after 2004 to establish a long
term mentoring arrangement that might have helped him cope
better with the strains of living under his changed identity, his
problem in balancing study and employment, and his issues with
establishing a ‘normal’ lifestyle for a young single man of his age
and social background. Such support could also have eased the
load of his offender manager in maintaining the appropriate
boundary between offender manager and mentor. (para 97, 199)
Without doubt there has always been a role for skilled volunteer input in probation work and it was most unwise for many Service's to take the decision some years ago to dispense with them. Of course their benefit has been rediscovered once more in recent time, raising the suspicion that it's resource-driven and politically-motivated as part of the 'Big Society'. Yes whatever happened to that big idea?
A great shame because volunteers carefully chosen can add so much to help achieve positive outcomes for clients, whilst giving a sense of purpose to many people with lots of spare unproductive time on their hands. As the report says, it also helps the PO enormously.
Of course an excellent example of the volunteering ethos is provided by the increasing profile of Circles of Support and Accountability, a specialist charity closely linked to probation that works with sex offenders and their re-integration within society. The work was highlighted at the weekend in an article in the Independent:-
Circles UK has been running these groups quietly in Britain for more than 10 years, but is so concerned about the hysteria around the subject that it usually shies away from publicity.
While befriending paedophiles may be a hard sell to the tabloid press, the statistics show that it works.
A review of a Circles project in the South-east found that none of its 71 past clients had made another contact offence over a four-and-a-half-year period." A control group of 71 criminals with a similar offending history committed 10 new offences in the same period.
The latest man Paul has agreed to help is Barry, a 69-year-old who is on the sex offenders' register for life after sexually assaulting young children, including his own son and stepson, for more than three decades.
but for me this quote from a volunteer serves as a warning that selection and training are extremely important and must have made the organiser cringe just a little:-
Despite his disgust at Barry's actions, Paul is one of five volunteers who meet up with him every week to talk about his life. "I hate do-gooders and I don't usually volunteer for things, but I felt so strongly about this," Paul says. "He's a bastard and what he's done is awful and I'd love to wring his neck. But we can't kill him and we can't lock him up for life, so what are we going to do? The only answer is you try to help him not to do it again. To me there's no alternative."