This is a guest post by Jim Barton, Senior Responsible Owner – Probation Reform Programme and Electronic Monitoring Programme, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, Ministry of Justice
Today marks an important milestone for our Probation Service. As announced in Parliament, we are now one unified probation system, and have officially welcomed over 7,000 probation professionals, either directly into probation services or employed by one of the organisations we have appointed to deliver commissioned rehabilitative services to offenders. I believe our new organisation brings the very best of the NPS, CRCs and our partners together.
It’s significant progress for Probation and as Programme SRO I am immensely proud of the team that has delivered a big, very complex Government programme on time, to budget whilst in a global pandemic.
Programme achievements aside, ultimately, this is about protecting the public and changing lives and I believe the changes we have already started to implement give our staff the opportunity to deliver the best outcomes for victims, communities and people on probation. So, what will you start to see?
From today, our focus will be on ensuring a smooth transition phase and embedding the changes we have made to bring stability across the organisation against the backdrop of Covid-19. We will soon move to implementing the reforms set out in our Target Operating Model published in February.
A key part is local knowledge and experience. Our aim is for more regional accountability, partnership working and delivery of services that more closely meets the diverse needs of communities and people on probation.
In sentence management our focus will be on more consistent management and delivery of sentence plans, better assessment and management of risk and more balanced caseloads with an improved case allocation process to support this.
For Unpaid Work, Accredited Programmes and Structured Interventions we want to drive up completion rates and deliver better outcomes. We’ll do this by making programmes available locally, making improvements to the assessment and induction process and more regular reviews of active cases.
We also have ambitions to put Unpaid Work hours to even better use, establishing more partnerships with national organisations to help improve the visibility of the punishment in local communities.
Our commissioned rehabilitative service providers will be crucial in delivering other interventions. I’m sure you would have seen last month the government announced an initial investment of £195 million, awarded to 26 organisations across England and Wales to provide vital support services in Employment, Training & Education, Accommodation and Personal Wellbeing and Women’s Services. We have been busy working with our new providers to ensure we’re ready to start delivering services from today.
Of course, our staff are critical to the delivery of the new model. We are continuing our recruitment drive and earlier this month announced the record recruitment of more than 1,000 probation officers, meeting a government target set last July – a record we plan to beat by recruiting a further 1500 in the year ahead.
Once recruited, a big part of our efforts will be to ensure they have the skills, capabilities and ways of working they need to do their jobs to the highest standard. We set out how we’re going to do this in our Probation Workforce Strategy, published last year. It includes a professional register, underpinned by ethical and training standards, to ensure probation practitioners receive the training, qualifications and recognition they need and deserve.
From today, we will simply be known as the Probation Service. We feel the new name is not too far from the service’s roots but also responds to feedback from staff in NPS and CRCs who felt the new name would be a strong signal of us as a new organisation.
Finally, If you are interested in finding out more about our reforms, do sign up to our Probation Changes Bulletin.