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I joined the Probation Service in 2004. I started the application process way back in 2003 and at the time it consisted of an application form in the first instance. I applied with the same application form to both London Probation and Hertfordshire Probation and very quickly received a rejection letter from the Hertfordshire Service. With this being a National Probation Service i then just waited for the rejection letter to arrive from London. I was very shocked when a week later a letter appeared through the door to say i had been successful at this stage and i needed to attend London to undertake a written exam to assess my ability for the degree portion of the job.
I duly attended and the exam consisted of reading a piece on a credit union and answering an essay question directly linked to the article. This piece of writing would be looked at by somebody to determine whether i would be a suitable candidate to undertake a degree. I asssume they were checking grammar, punctuation, writing and analytical skills. Again, i sat at home for MANY weeks waiting for my rejection letter. It never came, instead i was invited for stage 3 - a scripted interview - a more free flow interview - a presentation and a discussion group type thingy.
The scripted interview was questions with short answers, the free flow had more open questions. The presentation could be on any subject i wanted as long as it showed a problem i was faced with, how i solved it and the outcome. My presentation was on weight loss (very funny later on......) my problem was i had got fat. I looked at all of the classes available and chose one suitable for me (padded out of course) The group thingy was 6 of us with a dilemma and we needed to work together to solve a problem.
Again i went home and waited for my rejection letter. MANY MANY weeks later i received my letter to tell me i was going to be a Trainee Probation Officer OH MY GOD!!!!!! I duly accepted the offer in August and the in Sept found out i was 18weeks pregnant due March and meant to start in the April ooooooops. (See i wasn't getting fat at the application stage i was already about 8-9weeks pregnant with 1st child ha ha)
The Service were fantastic and as they have intakes every 6mths they deferred my entry until the October. I started working in October 2004.
The training consists of being a Trainee Probation Officer for 2 years undertaking a degree in Criminal Justice and an NVQ 4 in Community Justice. This is spread over 2 years (yes a degree in 2 years) and sulminates in a Diploma in Probation Studies meaning you are a qualified Probation Officer and able to work as an officer!
I am unsure where to focus now. I could tell you about the degree (the subjects etc) which incorporates subjects such as psychology, sociology, criminology and soooooo much more. I could tell you about the 3 days in an office in which you do the NVQ portion studying 12 units and gathering evidence, I could focus solely on the work you do with offenders such as writing reports for the court or giving reposrt orally in court based on interviews you conduct with offenders or supervising offenders and examining their offending behaviour, or i could tell you about the pay/holiday and what it is like to work for the Probation Service etc. I really am unsure of where to go as each area will be another 300-400 words.
I have been a Trainee for 5 years. I have had 2 more children since (i never planned to be training this long) and am due to go back shortly after year off with third child. I cannot wait to qualify and get working properly and the amount of changes in the Service over the past 5 years have been amazing with 2 new acts affecting the work we do directly and changes to the training. Each Trainee is allocated a PDA (practice development assessor and i have had 3 so far) who helps determine the areas you need to develop. You must be able to take constructive critiscism, reflect on your practice and accept that you will change amazingly over the 2 years you train.
You start a journey of self discovery which can be very scary and you will need to look deep inside yourself to understand why you hold views and perceptions you do! You will need to study and write essays and you will learn the most amazing lessons of your life. It is a journey not to be taken lightly!
The Probation Service is a diverse and exciting service to work for and i would recommend it to anyone.
As per some great advice i thought i would add some information about the job once i have qualified. Basically it is everything you have trained for over the past two years! You will be writing reports for the courts based on interviews with an offender to include an offence analysis and your suggestion on the most suitable way forward (dependent on the court's idea of whether it be for punishment/rehabilitation etc) - you will supervise offenders who have been given community sentences such as working on offending behaviour or supervising any programmes they have been given, you may also refer them for other services such as alcohol/drug counselling. The only difference being you will have a caseload of 80-100 rather than the 20 you have been used to (this is working only 3 days a week in the office though and you will be full-time from qualification). The wages increase dramatically from about 23k (London only as i get waiting) to about 30 something (again London only) however these are pretty low wages considering the level of skill you have and the work you undertake. Do it for the love not the money or you will soon be heading for the door, or the door of the mental health unit!