Changes - By Jim Brown ( Probation Officer )

"It is absolutely true to say that probation has changed dramatically over the last 10 years or so and this has never really been explained to clients. When I joined you had to have a social work qualification in order to become a Probation Officer and our mission in those day was to 'advise, assist and befriend'. All this changed when government decided that the Probation Service would become a Law Enforcement Agency that concerned itself mostly with punishment, public protection and risk reduction. Whereas in the old days many people became Probation Officers later in life, in the last 10 years or so officers have become predominantly young and female. It is recognised that there is no longer a balance in terms of gender with very few men now being attracted to the job and the average age of officer has dropped dramatically. Most people accept that none of this is particularly healthy, but the change in training and qualification probably made it inevitable. More recently qualified officers have never been used to exercising the degree of discretion or judgement that older officers were allowed and if truth be known older officers have probably kept doing things the way they always did. I agree entirely with the inadequacy of the 5 minute tick-box interview - but the sad thing is all officers are under pressure to fill in loads of forms on the damned computer. However, there are signs that government understand this and things are changing in terms of allowing officers more scope for varying how they do things. I'll end on MAPPA because it's been mentioned. 'Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements' is a serious business and only involves people who are regarded as posing a risk to the public in some form or other."