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2023 Police & Justice Service Group Conference
6 June 2023

Conference notes with concern that the Probation Service is now affected by an on-going workloads crisis and that the following problems continue to negatively affect our members’ health, safety and welfare, such as:

1)Probation is full. Caseloads continue to rise inexorably. There are large backlogs in unpaid work orders. Unlike the Prison Service, which in February 2023 invoked Operation Safeguard to ask police forces to accommodate remand prisoners for whom there is no longer room in the Prison estate, Probation has no means of laying off its work to other agencies;

2)A recruitment and Retention Crisis The fact that there is just too much work for the Probation Service to undertake is compounded by the failure of HMPPS to recruit and retain sufficient staff. Successive reports by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) shine a light on the recruitment and retention crisis in which Probation finds itself. On average, probation regions have 30 per cent fewer practitioners than they require to carry out resettlement work with prison leavers. This situation is compounded by shortages of probation services officers and administrative staff;

3)Probation isn’t working because there are not enough workers in Probation. Cumbersome civil service recruitment procedures and relatively low wages offered to key probation workers mitigates against effective recruitment;

4)The Workload Measurement Tool shows that a majority of Probation Officers and Probation Services Officers in offender management are expected to cope with workloads above 120% of capacity. No organisation can ‘run hot’ like this for any length of time and not expect service failure. There is a need to review demand management for Probation including a long hard look at whether the current legislative framework for probation places too many unachievable tasks on the Service.

Conference therefore calls upon the Service Group Executive to liaise with the Probation Service Sector Committee to:

a) Work with our sister Trade Unions in probation to develop a comprehensive workloads campaign to seek to protect the health, safety and well-being of UNISON’s Probation Service members, protect communities and protect the integrity of the profession of probation.