Tackling Staffing and Workforce Issues within the Probation Service

Pips Houghton
Feb 27, 2024

As we enter the penultimate year of the Probation Workforce Strategy, we’ve asked our expert speakers to share their thoughts on how the workforce within the Probation Service can be supported and outcomes improved.

We asked our experts: ‘Are the right staff in place? Do they have the right professional integrity? And what can we do to improve this?’ and ‘Considering HMIP reports, how can we jointly arrive at a strategy to monitor and control excessive workloads?’ 

Matt Grey Executive Director for Reducing Reoffending, Partnerships and Accommodation at HMPPS

'We are beginning to see the results of our relentless focus on recruitment and retention. The Probation Service saw an increase of 2,170 FTE (Probation Service grades) between September 2022 and 2023 but we recognise there is more to do. This year we are taking a more concentrated approach to prioritise recruitment in ‘hard to recruit’ locations. 

Our focus is on having the right people in the right place with the right skills to deliver excellent probation service. Our learning and development offer has been redesigned and refreshed to respond to regional training needs analysis, HM Inspectorate findings, and best practice in areas such as risk assessment, safeguarding, and engagement skills.  


We’re also developing a Probation Professional Register which will provide assurance that those in critical public protection roles have and are maintaining the required knowledge and skills, as well as providing recognition to staff for their expertise.   


We have injected extra funding of more than £155 million a year to deliver more robust supervision, recruit thousands more staff and reduce caseloads to keep the public safer.We have implemented a Prioritisation Framework to support demand management on priority areas of delivery where there are workload and staffing challenges. The framework enables Probation regions to re-prioritise tasks for front line staff to ensure staff workloads are controlled as and when adjustments are required. We welcome the ongoing engagement of HM Inspectorate of Probation and Probation Trade Unions in informing helping us consider how we can continue to free up capacity.'

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary at Napo (Probation and Family Courts)

'32 out of 33 Probation Delivery Units are deemed to be inadequate or in need of serious improvement by HM Inspector of Probation and despite the efforts to recruit more staff vacancy rates remain at alarming levels in nearly all the Probation Regions. It’s not the integrity of Probation Staff that is a problem but current Government policy to ignore the issues.

Napo and our sister unions have launched Operation Protect to jointly explore the issue of excessive workload and stress on staff and several task and finish groups have been created. We are also engaged in high level discussions to look at how certain aspects of existing work might be changed to accommodate the presumption against the use of short-term prison sentences if this policy is enacted.'

Join us for Modernising Criminal Justice 2024 on the 6th of June at the QEII Conference Centre in London, to hear further discussions on the future of probation alongside other key topics.

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