The question of identifying optimum caseloads and workloads for probation staff has, of course, always been a thorny one as governments have consistently sought to reconcile the competing aims of maximum effectiveness and value for public money.
There has been additional focus on this issue since the split of the English and Welsh probation service under the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme. In addition to the high workloads repeatedly identified by HMI Probation, particularly, but far from exclusively, among the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the changes occasioned by TR have led to a number of contentious discussion points amongst the probation community including such issues as:
- What is the long-term impact for National Probation Service (NPS) staff of managing a caseload solely comprising those who have committed offences causing high levels of harm to the public?
- What is an appropriate caseload for responsible officers in CRCs who are operating to very different models and expectations, depending on the approach of their owner?
- Should caseloads be lower for NPS staff supervising high-risk offenders or are the demands of supervising more low/medium risk offenders within CRCs actually greater in terms of time and resources owing to the fact that a greater proportion may have more complex needs and/or are more likely to be perpetrators of domestic abuse with the associated public protection requirements and expectations?
With the re-design of probation and the return of all offender management responsibilities to the National Probation Service – plus the creation of 12 new Probation Delivery Partners who will be delivering Unpaid Work and accredited programmes in the new probation regions – the topic of the size of probation caseloads is very much under discussion again.
So I am very glad to report not only that Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has commissioned a rapid evidence assessment (REA) into probation caseloads but that Chris Fox’s team from the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit at Manchester Metropolitan University and myself will be undertaking the REA.
We will, of course, be interrogating all the normal academic databases and specialist probation journals for the best research evidence. However, we already know that there is relatively little formal research on probation caseloads.
Therefore, the main purpose of this blog post is to ask readers whether any of you know of any unpublished studies or research on probation caseloads and/or workloads, including links to related factors. We are particularly interested in evaluations which look at the impact of changing caseload figures, whether that be on reconviction rates, sentence completions, staff sickness and/or wellbeing levels or any other indicator.
If you are aware of any of this “grey” literature, Chris, myself and the rest of the team would be very grateful if you let us know. Please get in touch via this email link: I’d like to share information for the probation caseloads research
As befits a Rapid Evidence Assessment, this piece of work has a rapid turnaround and we expect to complete it in early 2020 with the expectation that HMI Probation will publish the findings later next year.
Thanks to Muscle and Brawn for the header image.