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Frank Hovis

Underpaid Overworked Frontline Probation Staff

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Following the Baby P case from 3 star (top) rated Haringey Council I have a tremendous sense of deja vu here....

The New Cross murder coverage highlighted quite how stupid the workload is for frontline probation officers. How the hell are they meant to cope with handling and doing the paperwork for 90+ crims?

Anyway I presumed (from my experience) that this will be because of the NuLab targets culture and systems reforms which, as per usual, means all the money goes on box-ticking and management waste whilst the frontline staff have an impossible job.

After a quick google I came across this typical, and wholly expected, example of pouring money down the drain. I'm sure there are plenty more. The public sector is being ruined by the government, it gets worse and costs lots more every year.

What happened to £161m on prisons IT? NAO isn't sure

Tucked away near the back of a report published this month by the National Audit Office are some remarkable words.

They refer to £161m that was spent on a Home Office IT-based project, C-Nomis, which was to provide a single database of offenders, to be accessed by prison and probation officers.

The NAO said: "We have not been able to ascertain precisely what this money spent on ..." The Home Office had not kept proper records on the C-Nomis project, said the authors of the report.

Any disinterested reader of the NAO report is entitled to ask whether the Home Office has opened the door on anarchistic accounting practices and even a risk from potential corruption.

How it is possible, within the age-old machinery of government, for £161m to be spent without proper records being kept, such that auditors have to speculate on where the money went?

We "believe", said the NAO, that "most" of the £161m was spent developing the software and testing it in prisons. But it does not know for certain.

The report's authors were unable even to "determine the full value of the waste and inefficiencies associated with the failure of the C-Nomis project with certainty because of NOMS' poor recording of costs". Noms is the National Offender Management Service.

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The audit office found that "major decisions" were taken without proper authority; there was no specified budget for the project; roles and responsibilities were blurred; there were no formal controls on changes to the contract and initially no penalties on the supplier for late delivery.

Crikey! What a way to run a project? I could have pocketed a shedload, for not doing all that, in no particular time period! ;)

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The audit office found that "major decisions" were taken without proper authority; there was no specified budget for the project; roles and responsibilities were blurred; there were no formal controls on changes to the contract and initially no penalties on the supplier for late delivery.

Crikey! What a way to run a project? I could have pocketed a shedload, for not doing all that, in no particular time period! ;)

Indeed, where to apply? ;)

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Anyway I presumed (from my experience) that this will be because of the NuLab targets culture and systems reforms which, as per usual, means all the money goes on box-ticking and management waste whilst the frontline staff have an impossible job.

Nice to hear someone making the distinction. The usual HPCian approach to this story would have been to assume the probation staff had had their wages increased by 161 million.

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Nice to hear someone making the distinction. The usual HPCian approach to this story would have been to assume the probation staff had had their wages increased by 161 million.

Marginally unfair, we all notice the extreme views more than the reasonable ones.

Still, it is nice to see that given the probation service has been proven to be underfunded and unable to cope with its workload that you get the following reaction. Time to buy that crossbow?

EXCLUSIVE: Probation Service cuts jobs

Wednesday, June 10, 2009, 10:00

Comment on this story

THE agency which monitors offenders in the Westcountry is to shed 70 jobs over the next three years because of Government funding cuts, it has emerged.

The budget for the Probation Service in Devon and Cornwall is being slashed from £21 million to £17 million by 2011/12, writes the WMN's chief report Andy Greenwood.

It is also facing a financial double whammy because of falling "business" – fewer people going through the courts because of effective use of other punishments like fines and cautions – which is costing the service £600,000 a year.

Chief probation officer Rob Menary admitted that the current 500 staff would have to be reduced but pledged to maintain "front-line" services.

"Government will describe it as a flat budget but because of the way pay structures are, we could argue that we need more money just to stand still," he told the Western Morning News.

"Essentially, it is a cut. Around 80 per cent of our budget is spent on staff, so a significant cut in our budget is going to have a significant impact on staff.

"But when we are faced with adversity, we have to be creative and innovative in the way in which we do business. That is the driver for doing things differently."

Mr Menary said savings were being made by reducing bureaucracy and overheads. Any job losses would be through "natural wastage". The service also had a freeze on recruitment.

He stressed that it would "protect the front line as much as possible", pointing to the cuts in management posts as an example. He added: "There are 10 senior managers in the organisation at the moment. By next April, we will have six."

The chief officer said the service would be working with other agencies which were able to attract funding from other areas – such as charities. The service would also be looking to joint funding arrangements with local authorities, among others. Staff were also facing changes in the way they work.

Mr Menary said: "Over the next few years, if we need to deliver change, staff need to want to do that and we'll look after them as best we can."

He stressed that the reorganisation would allow it to continue to "deliver quality service" and may enable it to "expand the range of services" by cutting "duplication or wasted effort".

Nationally, the Probation Service budget is set to shrink to £794 million in 2011/12 – a reduction of £120 million. Major concerns have been raised that the cuts will damage the service's work with criminals, and result in greater re-offending.

Probation officers perform a number of roles from preparing pre-sentence reports for the courts to supervising community sentences and running hostels for those on parole.

Dino Peros, Devon-based national vice-chairman of NAPO, the union for probation and family court staff, said it was "impossible" to assess what impact the cuts would have until it was known where the axe would fall.

He added: "Of course, we will vigorously defend all of our front-line working members of staff against cuts from management because those are the people who engage positively and effectively with offenders."

Mr Peros said there was concern at greater use of short-term contract workers instead of a full-time, professional trained staff. Where there were job losses which were "inappropriate or without proper cause", he said, the service would be taken to an industrial tribunal.

http://www.thisiscornwall.co.uk/homepagene...il/article.html

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All probation services across the country are having to make cuts due to flat or reduced funding from Whitehall. As with most government services the wrong business plan has been adopted over the last ten years.

I.T. systems have been introduced that are intended to deskill the business of offender management and detract from the individual judgement of the Probation Officer responsible for offender management, leading to an increase in cases as I.T. is supposed to make it easier to manage a larger number of cases.

These I.T. systems do not work adequately and are no substitute for qualified Probation Officers making judgements based on their own experience in doing their job.

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