I was therefore keen to start on this issue where I was. I was a professional. I was paid to work on behalf of the powers that be to change the behaviours of offenders. I was middle class with an academic turn of personality. I was of an introverted nature and not at ease in unstructured social situations. Forgetting more radical ideas, it remained true that a range of public and voluntary agencies were working with the offenders or their families or would wish to work with them. It was obvious therefore that those agencies would be more effective if they worked together, shared understandings and drew on each others’ strengths. To that extent, what we were doing in the Sheffield office was needed – we just were far too tentative and inward looking. We were too concerned to find ways in which other agencies could help us, and insufficiently interested in how we could help them.
I felt unapologetic therefore about investing time in what was seen as rather traditional and unambitious activity in Sheffield, and later would be regarded as peripheral to our task by some probation staff and managers. It has always seemed to me that unless we were clear about the professional skill and knowledge being made available to people in trouble, and about how to make that available in the most effective way, we had no business intervening in people’s lives. The first job was therefore to get the ‘professional’ house in order before we sought more ambitious pathways. This also meant learning about organisations. How to work in partnership with other organisations therefore became a theme that dominated the rest of my working life, and will form a significant part of the latter sections of this account of my professional learning.