Probation service at ‘breaking point’

The probation service is at “breaking point”, according to findings in a study for Napo, the trade union that represents officers in the sector.

A report by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies published today found that, although probation caseloads rose by 23 per cent between 2002 and 2006, the number of fully qualified and trainee officers fell by 9%.

The study reported that the service’s budget declined by 9% in 2005-6 and by 2% in 2006-7. Yet, overall, it had increased by 21% in real terms since 2001. The report says further cuts of 3% are planned for the next three years.

The findings are based on interviews with probation staff and an analysis of the workforce and finances.

Napo assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said: “The research confirms that the probation service is beyond capacity. The government can’t expect staff to supervise soaring caseloads without accepting the consequences of more re-offending and more victims. The service is at breaking point.”

The report says new work by the service has proved to be “far more complex, time-consuming and staff intensive than its traditional work”, and it estimates that each qualified probation officer worked the equivalent of one extra hour a day in 2006. The researchers warn of the “risk of court sentences not being carried out because of resource shortfalls”.

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