Has Probation a future?

Mike Guilfolyle

copyright citizensheep`s photostream

The modern Probation Service in England and Wales was accorded formal statutory footing in 1907 by a reforming Liberal Government having its embryonic Victorian antecedents in the appointment of Police Court Missionaries who worked in local Magistrates courts to redeem or act as guardians to many of those deemed by society as incorrigibles, inebriates and the socially excluded. The primary duty to ‘ advise, assist and befriend’ was enjoined on new entrants in what quickly became a more professionalised, welfare -oriented community based statutory agency. The union representing Probation staff Napo (National Association of Probation Officers) was formally established in 1912. The social work ethos that informed and shaped the widening casework responsibilities of Probation Officers was facilitated by the development of what was widely seen and lauded as the pivotal role of the professional relationship that the client/offender had with a Probation Officer( and later Assistant Probation Officer grades) . This role was strengthened with additional responsibilities that including work in prisons, parole supervision and aftercare, the provision of social enquiry reports( now known as pre-sentence reports ) to courts on Adult defendants found/pleading guilty to a range of middle ranking offences, as well as the setting up of Bail Hostels. Another significant statutory task which became integral to the Services work was the introduction of Community Service in 1972. Read more of this post

Workfare vs. Community Sentences – Incoherent Government

Nikhil Venkatesh @ Edinburgh Against Poverty

Notwithstanding the plethora of consultants currently on government books, there remains a gap that needs very much to be filled. Employing what I describe as a ‘freelance philosopher’ may not look like the smartest move in a time of austerity, but it would have some tangible benefits. The philosopher would not be there to make decisions; I am not prescribing some sort of ‘philosopher-king’ from Plato’s The Republic; her job would be merely to examine government policy to make sure it was not contradictory. A good example of incoherence in Coalition thinking comes to mind from the news this week.

The government line on ‘Workfare’ – unpaid internships for job seekers, which, if refused, see the unfortunate claimant lose his benefits – is that work experience is a good thing. They believe that, in the words of Chris Grayling MP  “All of the evidence we can see is that this does better than simply leaving people on JSA, it actually helps more young people get into work.” This is despite a DWP report from 2008 finding that Workfare can ‘reduce employment chances’. The report studied how Workfare programmes had worked in other countries – the USA, Canada and Australia – and found that paid placements, and subsidised jobs ‘can be more effective than work for benefit programmes’ and that ‘there is little evidence that Workfare increases the likelihood of finding work’. This is partly a matter for common sense: if there are no more jobs in the economy, how is giving free labour to companies going to help? Shouldn’t a job seeker spend their time looking for actual jobs, rather than spending two weeks stacking shelves? How does a fortnight of low-skilled, forced labour make anyone more employable? Read more of this post

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