Magazine article Public Finance

Probation Service 'In Crisis'

Magazine article Public Finance

Probation Service 'In Crisis'

Article excerpt

Cash and staff shortages are threatening to plunge the probation service into crisis, experts said last week.

Research from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, published on April 24, paints a picture of a service struggling to cope. Although budgets have grown by 21% in real terms since 2001, this has been coupled with an increased and more complex caseload and a shortage of qualified probation staff, the report states.

The service also faces budget cuts of 3% in each of the next three years. New funding of £40m to replace short-term prison sentences with community orders is unlikely to compensate for the cuts, the report concludes. It also identifies a 'vacuum of knowledge' about how much needs to be spent to meet the shift in emphasis.

Between 2002 and 2006, the number of both qualified and trainee probation officers fell by 9%, while the ratio of offenders to qualified probation officers increased by 28% over the same period, according to the report. There are now 39 offenders per officer, compared to 31 in 2002.

Roger Grimshaw, research director at the centre, which is based at King's College, London, said: 'The statistics show there is no room for complacency about the probation service's capacity to meet the expectations of the courts and of the public. …

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