Power and control

This belief about power and control was not just an ideology that informed policy and management, but it was bought into by staff at all levels. Probation officers themselves started to believe that they were simply functionaries administering centrally determined processes. Even though the evidence was that the Service found it almost impossible to dismiss even the most obviously incompetent or inadequate staff, it was generally believed that to assert professional judgement was impossible and would render your career at risk. Thus the probation officers’ anxiety became a self fulfilling prophecy. On the introduction of national standards, I tried to encourage staff to approach them not so much as inflexible rules that replaced judgement, but as a framework within which professional judgement could be effectively exercised. This turned out to be a largely unsuccessful exhortation.

Many staff therefore ‘bought in’ to the controlling nature of national standards. It should not have surprised me and was the other side of the same coin that had led officers to be bewildered when trying to implement supervision orders with juveniles without the support of rules that could be enforced.

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