The ‘potent’ manager

This characteristic anxiety about potency kept becoming apparent at all levels of the probation service, and a variety of forms. I was later very struck by the comments of the senior civil servant responsible for probation when I was a new Assistant Chief officer as she effectively complained about her lack of power to make the probation service do what she thought should be done. This was in part an age old conflict between officials and professions, but it seemed that the civil servant had bought into the fantasy that she would be effective if she had more control of the service. This fantasy was a driving force in probation for the subsequent years most obviously through:

  • The establishment of a complex structure for accrediting supervision programmes and attempts were made to ensure that only these accredited programmes would be run by probation officers, in the belief that these programmes were evidence based and probation officers needed to be prevented from pursuing ‘hobbies’.
  • National Standards were the ultimate attempt to control the service – and they became more and more detailed and specific as new layers of ‘professional’ discretion were uncovered and stripped away.

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