Portsmouth Coroner’s Court heard how the consolidation of 35 probation trusts across Britain in 2014 to form the National Probation Service, a move ordered by then justice secretary Chris Grayling, saw a ‘delay in the national service being able to commission and arrange training’.
Giving evidence to a jury, Mark Benden, who oversees 200 staff at 18 bail hostels in the south, said: ‘It took a couple of years, more than a couple of years, to use the systems in the civil service to access the training that was needed.’
He said: ‘There was some difficulties with training, and learning and development opportunities. In the days of trusts each of the individual 35 trusts all would have arranged, set up and paid for first aid as each one of those.
‘In the situation there was a gap in the procurement, a delay in the national service being able to commission and arrange training that was necessary for staff.’
Mr Benden was giving evidence at an inquest into the death of 66-year-old Anthony Walker, who died at an approved premises run by probation.
The pensioner, who had warned he would kill himself if sent to a probation hostel, was found hanged in his room at The Grange approved premises in Waterlooville just 13 days, on November 16, 2017, after being released from jail for assault.
Jurors heard Mr Walker was not cut down from a ligature by staff and there was a 10-minute delay in calling an ambulance.
Mr Benden said improvements had been made since his death but these were planned before the incident. He said a watchdog looking into Mr Walker’s case had made two recommendations.
A one-day training course on self-inflicted deaths was rolled out in February 2018 - with 60 per cent of staff having completed this - with a new two-day course being run by the national service, Mr Benden said.
Area manager Toni Shepherd, who supervised The Grange’s own manager, told the inquest there were ‘significant challenges’ with training, including when ‘people’s first aid qualifications were starting to get towards the end of time we would usually be waiting... that was very difficult’.
Ms Shepherd said Mr Walker, from the Isle of Wight, was monitored by staff and he had been checked four times between the evening and discovery of his body.