Probation and After-Care Service

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th February 1972.

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Photo of Miss Irene Ward Miss Irene Ward , Tynemouth 12:00 am, 9th February 1972

I am glad to have had the opportunity to serve on this Committee and to thank the Clerk to the Newcastle-upon-Tyne Magistrates, on whose Bench I have served for many years. I have consequently had wide contact with the probation service. The Chief Constable of Northumberland also gave evidence to the Committee. We in the North of England sometimes feel that little attention is paid to our views and I am glad to have this opportunity of raising certain matters.

I hope the report will stimulate the Secretary of State to go forward, argue with the Treasury and ensure that the important recommendations within it are put into operation within a reasonable time. There has been a great extension of crime in Newcastle and we know the value of the probation service and of its advice to magistrates. The probation service has been referred to as the Cinderella service, and it was a little unfortunate that the Home Office had to wait for a committee to draw attention to the services which probation officers render.

I well remember that when it was decided to extend the social services and link them with local authority services, many of the best probation officers came forward, attracted by the higher salaries, and took up posts in the new service. Because of their training and reputation the local authority services were only too glad to take them. We wish them the best of luck, but I have to point out that that took away many valuable officers from the service. I trust the Minister realises how unfortunate it was for the service to be left like this for so long.

We recommend the payment of realistic salaries. It makes me sad when I consider the services which probation officers have rendered in looking after the community as a whole and realise that they have had to wait until local authorities established this new service before the Home Office was sufficiently interested to pay them proper salaries. I understand that they have had a recent increase but it has been difficult to find out whether that has been paid. I do not know whether the new salaries are in line with those in the social service set-up. There are so many dedicated men and women in the service that they think more about helping and advising people than they do about their own position. It is therefore up to this House to see that those who carry out such valuable and dedicated work are given realistic salaries. We should not have to wait for the creation of a new service to draw attention to the poor salaries paid to these people. If the evidence given by the Clerk to the Newcastle Magistrates is read it will be seen that he agreed with me that it was this movement in salaries in the social services which made the Home Office get its skates on. I hope that the probation service will not remain the Cinderella service. I like everybody to be realistically paid.

There are a great many other recommendations which have been made and which I think are of vast importance, and I hope, and I am sure our Committee hopes, that we shall be told that the very wide-ranging recommendations which we have made will be accepted with great speed and put into operation by the Home Office. One of the tragedies of modern life is that we need dedicated service from this group of people, and yet it is very difficult to get their position established in a Government Department. The people whom the Department ought to be looking after always seem to go to the bottom of the list. I very much resent this, and so I am looking forward to hearing tonight that our recommendations will be accepted and acted upon. Then those who have served their country, the probation service and the Home Office so well will feel that at least they have the support of the House of Commons and of the Home Office.

That is all I want to say. I am not commenting on any other of the recommendations, but we must put on record that we demand action, and I hope we shall hear that we shall get it. We hope that these recommendations will be put into operation straightaway and that our probation service will have the same status and the same consideration from the Home Office as other departments have been able to get for those equally serving it very well indeed.