What’s Next for the Probation Service? Our Expert Speakers Discuss

Pips Houghton
February 16, 2024

In the run up to Modernising Criminal Justice 2024 we’ve asked our expert speakers from the 2023 agenda to share their thoughts on the future of probation and the effectiveness a unified Probation Service.

Speakers were asked ‘Where is probation now, and where is it headed? Is Unification of the Probation Service Working?’

Simi O’Neil, Head of Probation Inspection Programme, HM Inspectorate of Probation

'Between 2021 to 2023, we have inspected 36 PDUs of which we have rated 16 inadequate, 19 requires improvement and only 1 as good. A key theme that was that the quality of work in relation to public protection has been insufficient. Often this related to insufficient practice surrounding domestic abuse and child safeguarding arrangements. The key concerns that we raised linked to obstacles with recruitment, retaining staff, providing access to relevant and timely training, insufficient management capacity to provide increased oversight given the increase in training needs and their ability to provide mentoring and support.'

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

'Reunification of the Probation Service in 2021 was critical to the strengthening of probation services to respond to future challenges. Those changes were and still are welcomed by key stakeholders including the judiciary.  

There is much progress that has been made since reunification, and much more to do. We have seen record investment in recruitment to address the significant staffing gap between the inherited position and that of the target operation model – stabilising the staff position has been the first step to overall service improvement. We are now focusing on strengthening the capability and expertise of staff to improve performance and the quality of delivery, alongside improving HM Inspectorate report outcomes.  

The Chief Probation Officer’s top priority is to improve the delivery of risk management and she is personally leading a task force geared to drive central and operational focus on this. Our other key focus is on investment in first line management who oversee and support the quality-of-service delivery. Delivering this well will help continue to strengthen the service.' 

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

'While Napo is delighted that Probation has been returned to State control, our members are disappointed that insufficient investment has been made to restore the service’s disastrous Transforming Rehabilitation programme.'

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 and the latest technological advances in the field.

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