Probation work on risk offenders pose to public ‘consistently poor’

Safety checks carried out by probation officers at a rehabilitation service to see if offenders pose a danger to the public are “consistently poor”, according to a watchdog.

“Major improvements” are needed at the West Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) to make sure staff are using all available information to check risks, a report said.

The organisation – which supervises 5,239 low and medium-risk offenders – was rated overall as requiring improvement after an inspection in October.

Its work on supervision was rated as inadequate.

A large proportion of the cases have domestic abuse and child safeguarding concerns, according to the report.

Chief inspector of probation Justin Russell said: “We found the management of risk of harm was consistently poor.

“Major improvements are needed to ensure staff use all the available information to assess risk factors.

“They should also work with other agencies, such as the police and children’s services, to manage potential risks of harm.”

Although bosses had put an improvement plan in place since the last inspection, this had not resulted in better quality supervision, the report said.

It said too many assessments “failed to identify victims and potential victims clearly” and planning about risks in each case was “weak”.

It added: “In too many cases, assessments of the risk of harm that individuals pose to others are insufficient because responsible officers fail to take account of information available on file or from other agencies that can identify risk factors.

“The caseload includes a large proportion of cases where there are specific risks to partners and children from domestic abuse and inadequate safeguarding, and therefore the greatest priority for improvement is the need to address risk of harm to others effectively.”

Urgent action is needed to address staff shortages, the report said, after the number of probation officers was cut since the last inspection in 2018 when staff had already reported being “overwhelmed”.

Mr Russell said: “Since then, the CRC has restructured and reduced the number of qualified probation officers.

“This has resulted in staff at a lower grade taking on larger workloads – even though some of them lack the necessary skills and experience to undertake complex work.”

Inspectors did praise some work which supports offenders as they prepare to leave prison.

The CRC is owned by the Purple Futures, a consortium made up of service and construction company Interserve Justice, public service contracts company 3SC, as well as the charities Shelter and P3 (People, Potential, Possibilities).

Purple Futures also runs probation services in Cheshire and Greater Manchester; Hampshire and the Isle of Wight; Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire; and Merseyside.

The CRC said the inspection took place when the contract was “being run at a loss due to the well-documented contractual issues that existed between all of the CRCs and the Ministry of Justice.”

It added: “We have recruited but finding the right candidates for such an important job takes time, and it also takes six months to train someone to the required standard for them to hold a full caseload.

“Considerable work has been carried out to improve staffing and we believe good improvements have been made since the inspection occurred.”

Chief executive Martin Davies added: “We welcome the report and have implemented a series of measures to improve practice where issues have been found.”