The child care services were key partners for the Probation Service, especially because in my early days Social Services were responsible for young offenders. At that time, the relationship between the agencies was characterised by a degree of suspicion. Again to oversimplify, probation would often see Social Services as a rather chaotic and even unprofessional environment without the structure of working with their clients that we saw as essential. They on the other had tended to see us as rather remote authority figures inadequately engaged in the complex problems of families and sheltered from some of the realities of life for poor families. On the whole, probation tended to work with men and Social Services with women and children.
As I became more confident, I saw more positive aspects to the underlying themes of this dynamic – some good joint work was possible taking advantage of the structures to which probation worked, and using the different kinds of engagement that we each could have. For example, when a family was evading contact with their social worker, the fact that probation supervision required people to attend for appointments gave us opportunities to help social workers to re-engage. Also, where our meetings with male offenders sheltered us from aspects of their life that they may not readily reveal, such as domestic violence, social workers working with the partners could give us some enlightening information. This re framing of what seemed to be problematic, into something of positive value informed my approach to partnership working thereafter.