A new beginning for probation
This morning HM Prison & Probation Service published the new probation workforce strategy. The strategy was accompanied by a press release from Prisons and Probation Minister Lucy Frazer which promised to recruit an additional 1,000 probation officers.
The strategy sets out five key objectives, updated from the previous HMPPS people plan created before the decision to renationalise the service was made. I have set all five out in full below:
Promoting wellbeing for everyone
The pressures of your job, amplified by the impact of COVID-19, has a significant impact on you and your wellbeing. We are committed to ensuring our workforce has the right structures, support and encouragement to maintain your mental and physical health.
Attracting and retaining talented people
We want the probation service to be a rich, fulfilling and rewarding place to work. The workforce has adapted to and absorbed a very different way of working to keep staff and service users safe from COVID-19. Our aim is to absorb the best aspects of these new ways of working into our everyday working practices and, in doing so, create more compelling reasons to attract and retain talented staff.
Supporting and developing our people
Your skills and expertise are unique and are the core of a safe and effective probation service. We are transforming our model for learning and development to provide a comprehensive and modernised learning offer that delivers engaging content at the point of need. This will support you throughout your career in your role at the heart of the Criminal Justice System. This embraces new digital and flexible means of learning and development and qualification while providing valuable face-to-face and
reflection time for the highest value learning opportunities.
Creating a more diverse workforce where everyone feels included
We are building an environment that creates diversity and promotes equality to help support a unified and purpose-driven culture for the probation service. We will tackle racism and other forms of discrimination where it exists in the service and we will ensure the workforce is equipped and supported to do the same. The probation system has come together and delivered such extraordinary work over the
past few months. We have tried and tested new ways for people to deliver their work in a more flexible and diverse way, and our aim is to retain the positive ways of working that have emerged, shaping our culture through many voices.
Fostering confident leaders who inspire and empower others
Now more than ever we are reliant on innovative, confident and diverse leadership. Leadership is demonstrated at all levels and we are committed to nurturing this throughout your career. All of these measures are intended to progress our diversity and inclusion objectives. We will conduct equality impact assessments on these measures as they are further developed and implemented to ensure that we are doing everything we can to support staff with protected characteristics and ensure the right safeguards are in place.
The strategy, while admirably, short does set up some key action points to deliver on these somewhat generic objectives. I have picked out some of the principal ones below:
- The development of a wellbeing action plan by the end of the current financial year.
- A commitment to adapt HMPPS digital services to “provide staff with modern, fit-for-purpose tools that allow them to perform some of their work remotely.”
- Use data analytics across the system that will enable staff to better target interventions, support more strategic workforce planning and use artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that will provide data which aids professional experience and judgement. (Get ready for an OASys generating algorithm?)
- Improve the existing Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) and test an accelerated progression pathway from Probation Services Officer to Probation Officer launching this financial year.
- Improve remuneration (this is described as “pay modernisation” with an aim of improving the “overall reward offer”).
- Introduce new practice standards and create an internal professional register for probation qualified practitioners by the end of next financial year.
- Develop a new diversity and inclusion strategy.
- Launch a service user and prisoner BAME engagement package and Race Action Programme and introduce Race Ambassadors in all NPS regions. by the end of the current financial year.
- Launch a new programme of leadership training.
It is positive to see such a concrete list of action points with many scheduled to be achieved in the next couple of years. However, the success of the strategy will be measured on how well it integrates probation staff currently split across the NPS and 21 CRCs, succeeds in recruiting and retaining staff and develops a more diverse (including people with convictions) workforce.