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COMMENDEE 2013-14: Senior Probation Officer: for contributions to public protection through the management of high risk offenders.
[Angie Batham gives her account of the work for which she won her Commendation]
As the MAPPA Coordinator for a large area which incorporates 7 local authorities I am committed to multi agency working and continual improvements in risk assessment and risk management. I aim to be thorough, consistent, inclusive, energetic, challenging but flexible and supportive, with the ability to work through complex situations in partnership with other agencies by looking beyond the obvious. I am passionate about and committed to promoting best practice in public protection through the delivery of training; questioning whilst offering advice and guidance; setting high standards but equally supporting and developing excellent relationships with others to manage the most dangerous offenders.
With 30 years experience in public protection I specialised in working with high risk offenders and was able to consolidate my experience into my current role.
In 2010 I was appointed to the role of MAPPA Coordinator for an area which incorporates 7 local authorities. This role is unique in that it spans all agencies and variations in how services are delivered across different local authorities. MAPPA is a set of statutory arrangements which formally require agencies to cooperate with one another in managing complex individuals.
Upon taking this role in 2010 I identified a number of areas for improvement as follows:
I sought to address the above by delivering on the following 3 main areas
A) Identify and implement a Training Programme:
To ensure all Chairs and Minute takers were trained. Along with my Senior Mappa Administrator we adapted and combined the National training materials for chairs and minute takers into one day and delivered the same to a combined role and combined agency of Police and Probation. The feedback we receive is very good with all indicating they find he combination very useful in being able to hear from each other about their expectations and requirements and has enabled a greater understanding of one another improving communication and quality of our MAPPA minutes. This has led to consistency of approach across the 7 local authorities in the way MAPPA meetings are conducted and recorded; has developed a collaborative approach to multi agency working and allowed for improvement in quality of risk assessment and risk management whilst taking into account the diverse and individual needs and human rights of both offenders and victims. Demonstrates evidence based decision making and chairs are appropriately reviewing and holding agencies to account for their actions.
In addition I immediately trained large numbers of Police staff in an adapted version of the National Foundation MAPPA training; delivered district multi agency events and separately to Mental Health and YOS teams; whilst contributing to Regional conferences on Prisons and Mental Health and YOS. Along with my Deputy prepared visor briefings to Probation staff and offered one to one support and mentoring where necessary. The training focuses on quality referrals and preparation and presentation in panels.
I sought to involve all staff within my small team in delivering training or mentoring in order to bring their knowledge and expertise to bare but also increase their skill and confidence and empower all grades within my team to quality assure notifications; referrals and minutes and offer constructive feedback and support to others.
Modelling high standards and working as team and utilising the skills of each grade within my team to include: coaching and mentoring; quality assuring minutes daily and offering constructive feedback and support has contributed to a gradual improvement in the KPI’s; quality of MAPPA minutes and cooperation amongst agencies.
B) Developing communication increasing knowledge and understanding of MAPPA arrangements with other agencies
I updated the Duty to Cooperate Memorandum of Understanding for all agencies in 2010 and 2012 in consultation with senior representatives from all agencies which forms the basis for cooperation with the MAPPA arrangements. I sought to make this document easy to read limiting to one page per agency where possible, outlining simply and clearly each agencies roles and responsibilities within MAPPA. A senior representative from each agency has signed up to the agreement; thus committed to the MAPPA arrangements.
Where we have had particular difficulties or tensions in agency cooperation I have tackled this in a number of ways: by training but also meeting face to face with staff and advising, guiding and offering reassurance; looking beyond the obvious and being solution focused. Being able to identify ways to overcome any barriers by increasing my knowledge of the agencies own strategic role and responsibilities and then to identify alternative solutions; suggest ways forward and support that agency in doing so. Some examples of this are in Accommodation and Mental Health.
Accommodation – a significant factor in supporting offenders to desist from crime. One Local authority was concerned with housing the most dangerous and refused to house a certain category of offender. In addition due to the system they had in place for housing all levels of MAPPA we had a backlog of offender, bed blocking approved premise or housing association accommodation. So through developing relationships with them, meeting on a one to one basis; delivering briefings to representatives from that department and offering calm reassurance I was able to identify that they are not alone in managing risk and gain their support to house that category. In addition we were able to re write the referral; risk assessment forms and process producing positive outcomes for MAPPA and the local authority with timely DPA compliant risk assessments; a reduction in bed blocking of RSL accommodation and successful placements into independent accommodation of all levels of MAPPA offender. We also conducted joint briefings prior to implementation in order to ensure all referrers from Probation were aware of the change in process. Feedback has again been extremely positive.
Mental Health is a complex area and upon taking up post one of my first tasks was to meet with the clinical lead of local secure units where we discussed and acknowledged the difficulties experienced but also agreed ways to overcome this by setting up quarterly meetings with Responsible Clinicians to discuss any issues early on and through negotiation and compromise (whilst maintaining health strategic roles and responsibilities to the patient) has led to much improved communication and processes with early identification/notification and referral. We have been able to resolve areas of potential tension swiftly and calmly at an early stage with a renewed commitment to MAPPA arrangements. We have been able to acknowledge that mental health patient’s needs are to be met in their own right but equally how MAPPA arrangements can support the patient and Responsible clinician in a unified way to manage risk to victim; patient and the public.
In addition my Deputy is the lead for all notifications and has continued to work on improving our database. At the same time local health trust has identified a SPOC and renewed its own MAPPA policy in conjunction with myself as coordinator. We also now continue to deliver joint training events.
C) Support to Staff and others:
When dealing with the most complex and dangerous offenders staff and agencies clearly need to feel supported and not isolated. This is a major benefit of the MAPPA arrangements and as the coordinator I always seek to support staff by responding promptly to queries; referrals and when seeking advice and guidance. If a referral does not meet the criteria I will advise of any alternative risk management tools/processes. On one occasion following an incident with community reprisals at one of our Approved Premise I spent most of the weekend at the premise to support staff and residents; followed up by attendance at a public meeting to offer the community reassurance and confidence in the MAPPA arrangements. During this meeting a local Sgt and I worked closely to produce and deliver a case study demonstrating the sentence and experience of interventions within custody and release on Licence with available additional licence conditions which we were able to present to the public meeting receiving positive feedback. In doing so we were able to allay community fears and promote MAPPA arrangements reducing the fear of crime. Again an example of offering calm reassurance. I will assist in operational matters if necessary, on one occasion taking on the offender manger role myself due to risks to staff.
In summary I am very grateful to my team and all agencies involved in the MAPPA arrangements without their commitment and dedication to MAPPA we would not achieve the quality we do. I consider my role as one to lead; facilitate; encourage and develop excellent working relationships with all grades of staff and agencies. To support and offer advice and guidance; work through complex situations; be thorough and pay attention to detail; empower others and instil confidence in others ability to manage those most dangerous offenders in the community. I am respectful of the constraints of agencies but pivotal in ensuring they find a way to work effectively together.
[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]
Angie Batham’s outstanding contributions to public protection in her role as a Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) Coordinator in Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust have earned her a Butler Trust Commendation.
Her nomination was a popular one, garnering support from a wide range of professionals who have appreciated the impact that Angie’s work has had on public protection and dangerous offenders across the West Midlands.
Working for Probation since 1984, Angie has built up an impressive portfolio of experience, developing her initiatives in public protection until she has become recognised as a core resource for advice and guidance on these issues, across the Trust. With a reputation for consistently meeting and exceeding performance targets, she is known for always ‘going the extra mile’, working well outside of her hours to provide advice and support whenever it is needed.
Angie’s enthusiasm has been infectious and inclusive, supporting everyone in the team, from admin staff to frontline staff, to be actively engaged in effective work with offenders. All those involved in the MAPPA process have benefited from her drive and enthusiasm. There has been significant improvement in performance indicators and agencies have become much more willing to engage with some of the most difficult and complex individuals, according to Nigel Byford, Head of Public Protection at Staffordshire and West Midlands Probation Trust, who praised her ‘consistently outstanding work’. He particularly noted Angie’s efforts in relation to extremism, managing Terrorism Act (TACT) offenders, mental health and youth offending.
Angie’s personal qualities are summed up by Judith Sawbridge, the Trust’s Knowledge Manager, who commented: ‘She is generous, lively and well liked by her colleagues, and as a Probation Officer she is committed and completes her tasks with consistency, flair and imagination.’ Many of her colleagues highlighted the impact of Angie’s work on public protection and credited her thoroughness, eye for detail, and commitment to high standards, as well as her drive and passion.
‘Angie has been a pivotal influence… working closely to deliver a joined-up approach to ensure public safety and crime reduction,’ said Gurrinder Nijjer, Service Manager at Birmingham City Council. ‘Her influence on those around her is one of calmness and efficiency, and despite her heavy commitments, she will always find time to guide and advise.’
Jacqui Francis, Lay Adviser to West Midlands MAPPA, credited Angie’s excellent interpersonal skills in working so effectively with Probation staff and partners, and summed up why so many colleagues held her in high regard:
‘She is uncompromising in her commitment to upholding the robust principles needed to protect victims and the wider public. She shows that one person can make a genuine difference. Like everyone working in this demanding are her thoughts are always – “how and what can we do better tomorrow?”’