Hampshire’s community probation service faces ‘significant’ funding problems – and could see higher rates of reoffending without cash boost
PROBATION inspectors have launched a broadside against the government, saying: ‘Fund services properly or people will reoffend’.
That is the view of inspectors who recently visited the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), which supervises low and medium risk offenders during their probation period, which is often spent doing community work.
The CRC became the first of its kind to receive a Good rating, but inspectors have warned of tough times ahead due to a lack of cash.
All CRCs supervise people to complete unpaid work in the community and deliver ‘through the gate’ services to support individuals leaving prison.
HM Chief Inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: ‘There are almost 4,000 people under probation each year, so it’s crucial that these services are delivered well.
‘The report helps us to identify areas that require improvement in order to drive a better public service.'
For Hampshire, inspectors found a generally good service, with supervised placements and a firm focus on rehabilitation.
However, it has been noted that the CRC’s ‘sweeping changes’ to staffing has led to fewer senior members of staff – putting more pressure onto junior employees.
But Dame Glenys insists that although Hampshire CRC may want to reconsider this change, the funding simply isn’t there to support it.
She said: ‘It is well-recognised that the contracts for probation services are under-funded, meaning there are difficult decisions to make.
‘They are managing a difficult situation – the government has put £500m into these contracts but it’s not enough.
‘I have given a full report to ministers and my view is that this system is fundamentally flawed. It needs a substantial rethink.’
If standards drop, and offenders aren’t given the plans needed for rehabilitation, there is a higher chance of them reoffending in the future.
With a current staff shortage, probation staff are managing around 70 cases each.
But with Hampshire being one of the better performing CRCs in the country, hopes are high that this can be avoided.
Dame Glenys said: ‘Hampshire has been performing very well compared to all the other probation services we have inspected.
‘But the quality of its work is at risk, as the owners have decided to reduce the professionally qualified proportion of its workforce and there have been delays in recruiting new, less experienced staff.
‘In my opinion, the CRC no longer has the quantity and calibre of staff to deliver an effective service.’
A spokesman for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company said: ‘We refute the claim that recent changes to the service could put that at risk.
‘The changes made to our staffing model were implemented because we believe they will deliver a better service to offenders because it equips our organisation with a broader mix of skill sets.
‘The HMIP report also acknowledges that changes were made in part due to the financial pressures faced by all of the country’s CRCs.
‘We currently have just five vacancies and are actively recruiting to fill this gap.
‘We remain committed to protecting the public and have training procedures in place to ensure all staff are appropriately skilled to carry out their work and to maintain the high standards which HMIP observed during their inspection.’