05 June 2009

The Probation Service - My View

The horrific murder of Dano Sonnex has highlighted some issues with the Probation Service.

Until recently I was a Board Member of Cambridgeshire Probation Area.   It was a role I enjoyed, but one that I found really, really frustrating - I enjoyed it because I always enjoy working with dedicated and committed people, and Cambridgeshire had no end of those.  Butthe job was always absolutely undermined by the poor political management at a National level.

The Probation Service is the most centralised, the most socialist, public service I have worked with.  It is totally, totally underfunded, not just in London, but across the Country; and this means that the role they carry out is inevitably undermined.  But it is worse than that, they have centralised IT contracts, centralised estate management etc. etc.  I remember coming across one example where an office could not move a filing cabinet because of the estates contract, but the worse aspects were that staff are working in poor accommodation that is not fit for purpose and which, again, undermines there ability to get the best out of the people they work with.  

For me, what I saw of the Probation Service was a total reflection of everything that is wrong with New Labour - always failing to get the best out of people because its structures controlled people instead of trusted them, and those structures cost money that should be reaching the front line.  

I am as horrified as everyone by the murder of  Dano Sonnex, but when we criticise the fact that one of the murderers was only present because the Probation Service let the system down, we should do so in the light of the fact that the cause of the Service's failings are absolutely rooted at the very top.



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