Suffolk probation services are 'nowhere near good enough'
PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 June 2017
Suffolk's probation services have been accused of failing to rehabilitate potentially dangerous offenders leaving victims at risk - particularly in cases of domestic abuse and children.
A damning report published yesterday by HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) found services in Suffolk were “nowhere near good enough”.
The report found while staff were “working hard”, case loads were “very high” and morale low, with “chronic” shortages.
Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said the two organisations responsible for providing services “needed to do far more to protect the public, reduce re-offending and make sure people service sentences handed down by the courts”.
The inspection was the first in Suffolk since the nationwide Transforming Rehabilitation programme in 2014. Under the programme, supervision of high-risk offenders remained in the public sector with the National Probation Service (NPS), while those deemed lower risk were outsourced to private Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC).
The transformation has been criticised for failing to support ex-prisoners and leaving the public at risk.
The Norfolk and Suffolk CRC, which is owned by Sodexo Justice Services, in partnership with Nacro, was said to have been “wrong-footed” in the transition, and left at a “standstill” by unresolved financial matters with the Ministry of Justice.
Dame Glenys said its overall model was “sound” but raised concerns some service users’ main contact was by telephone. She raised further concerns with the way face-to-face supervising was often carried out in open booths, which “does not provide sufficient privacy”.
The NPS’s work was also said to be “poor overall”.
Across Norfolk and Suffolk, the CRC supervises more than 3,000 offenders. However just 62% complied with their sentences compared with a national average of 75%.
An offender with a lengthy criminal record of violence, including arson, assault on a child and unprovoked attacks on strangers was highlighted as a particularly troubling example. The inspector said it showed “total failure to support and rehabilitate a difficult and potentially dangerous person”.
Dame Glenys said: “Suffolk is not being served well enough by probation services.
“Staff are working hard but still, the quality of work is poor overall.
“I am particularly concerned that neither organisation is protecting the public enough in most cases and that domestic abuse victims and children are particularly at risk.”
Inspectors made recommendations, which included the CRC taking enforcement action against those not complying with their sentences and ensuing people can be interviewed in private.
The organisations responsible for probation services in Suffolk say they are making improvements.
A spokesman for the Norfolk and Suffolk CRC said: “We have taken on board the chief inspector’s recommendations in the inspection report and have an action plan in place to address these.
“The inspector recognised that NSCRC staff were working hard during a large-scale and complex transformation, and it should be noted the cases inspected were from May/June 2016 when the transformation was at its height.
“Since that time we have made significant improvements and progress on the HMPPS IT Partner Gateway has been encouraging which, when made available, will support the full delivery of the innovative operating model that the report refers to.”
A spokesman for the MOJ, which runs the National Probation Service, added: “We are grateful for HMI Probation’s report and we recognise that there is more work to do in Suffolk to ensure probation services in this area improve as quickly as possible.
“The National Probation Service has put immediate measures in place to improve its performance, including additional training and support for officers. Additionally, Sodexo has implemented a comprehensive action plan to address the issues raised in this report.
“We are confident that these steps will help improve the outcomes for offenders in Suffolk and we will be monitoring progress very closely.”