Probation: Standards

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 6th July 2021.

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Photo of Ruth Jones Ruth Jones Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the probation service in England and Wales.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk Assistant Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We have demonstrated our commitment to deliver an effective probation service despite significant challenges over the past years. Throughout the pandemic, the Probation Service has prioritised public protection and risk management, as well as delivery of advice to courts, whilst ensuring staff, people on probation and victims remain safe.

Exceptional Delivery Models, which set out how we operate during the pandemic and ensured services could be continued, were implemented across England and Wales. Guided by public health advice, we took immediate, decisive action to implement a suite of measures, moving to a mixture of face to face and remote methods of supervision. Our staff have worked tirelessly to fulfil their public protection duties by adapting their ways of working to continue to deliver key services. In-person, socially distanced, offender reporting continued to be the default for those people on probation who posed a higher risk, for example Terrorism Act offenders. HM Inspectorate of Probation thematic reviews of our recovery and these Exceptional Delivery Model arrangements both praised our response to the pandemic.

In the longer term, we recognised the need to transform aspects of our probation service. On 26th June, we took a key step forward with the launch of a new unified probation service for England and Wales. The additional investment of an extra £155 million both last year and this year has been key to making these changes happen.

Having completed the transition to the new organisation, my priority is now to deliver improvements in the services probation delivers. There are now twelve probation regions across England and Wales, each overseen by a Regional Probation Director who will closely monitor the effectiveness of their service, enabling more local accountability, partnership working and services that more closely meet individuals’ diverse needs. We have recruited a record 1,000 new trainees last year and a further 1,500 officers this financial year to supervise offenders. This will reduce the average case load size for probation officers so that the public can be better protected. As we move forward with the new probation service and away from the difficulties caused by the pandemic, we are committed to evidence-informed practice. In addition to a robust performance framework for the unified probation service, we will be evaluating these reforms to probation to ensure we are delivering the best possible service.

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