#NQ6: Professional values and workload pressures

Staff in probation and family courts have long been recognised for the excellent services they deliver. Increasingly however, members are reporting that excessive workloads are becoming a problem.

As part of Napo’s Workloads Campaign, members were surveyed to find out the true extent of the problem. The response was overwhelming and the message was clear: the physical and mental wellbeing of members is suffering, as is their ability to deliver professional services.

Buckling under the volume of work

Members are buckling under the sheer volume of work they are expected to undertake.

For those who have workload management tool (WMT) facilities, ranges from 100% to 210% are not uncommon.

Administrative, managerial and unpaid work staff who do not have WMT facilities are also feeling the strain, but have no real mechanism for recording and evidencing this as being the case.

A CRC member offered the analogy of having a “finger in the dam with more holes opening up everywhere.”

Not surprisingly, many members feel the need to resort to working 10-12 hour days, skipping lunch and even coming in on the weekends just to cope with the increasing demands.

“I work far too many hours, 50 plus hours a week to stay on top of things,” said one family courts member.

Professionalism is suffering as a result.  “There is no time to reflect and consider my practice. I feel totally frustrated that I cannot spend the time needed with the service users meaning that I am unable to properly provide the support necessary to enable rehabilitation to have the best chance of a positive outcome,” explained a member in the NPS.

Working in a pressure cooker

Survey results indicate the situation is near boiling point and the health and wellbeing of members is evaporating. As one PBNI member said: “This cannot continue, it’s like working in a pressure cooker.”

High levels of sickness, deteriorating home life and feelings of professional inadequacy were common themes in the feedback from members.

“It affects my confidence because I don’t feel as if I am achieving as well as I should be or that my performance reflects my ability or the standard of practice I deliver every day I am at work,” said a family courts member.

More worryingly, a member in a CRC reported: “I work in an office where four out of 10 case managers are on long-term sick as is the manager… Three colleagues have broken down in tears, one is drinking heavily and two have caseloads over 90.”

Stress and anxiety is widespread. “I am so unhappy coming into work that I have panic attacks,” said a member from a CRC.

“I am desperately trying to remain at work but my mental health is deteriorating after such a long time under significant stress and it has led to problems in my relationships at home,” explained another working in the NPS.

Worryingly, a number of members cited work related issues as being directly linked to serious health complications including heart attacks and strokes experienced by themselves or colleagues.

Doing more than hoping for change

A CRC member said: People dare not complain publicly. It’s heads down and pray for a change.”  However, members are already doing more than just hoping for change.

Survey responses have allowed us to collate and evidence the issues which we will raise formally with employers and publicise wider as part of our campaign for change.

As part of the Workloads Campaign Napo has developed the 3Cs Campaign.

Napo’s 3Cs Campaign aims to:

  1. Confront the issue of high workloads
  2. Challenge the employers to address them
  3. Champion professional standards

There are five campaign demands:

  1. Implementation of an effective workload management tool based on realistic timings by all of our employers.
  2. Training and guidance for managers on managing workloads and how to support frontline staff.
  3. Workloads to be a standing item on all consultation and negotiating bodies and the establishment of local Workloads Committees.
  4. All employers to acknowledge a duty of care for staff wellbeing and to carry out workload/stress audits regularly and also take remedial action.
  5. Probation Operating Models to be audited to ensure they are fully resourced and properly staffed to allow client focussed work and maintain professional standards.

For more information on Napo’s Workloads Campaign go to https://www.napo.org.uk/workloads

Members with specific concerns are advised to contact their local Napo branch for support and guidance.

Tina Williams

Napo Vice Chair

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