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Suffolk Probation Delivery Unit handed requires improvement rating by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation





Changes are needed at Suffolk’s probation service to help support offenders to stay away from crime, a report has said.

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) gave Suffolk Probation Delivery Unit (SPDU) a requires improvement rating and said some staff did not have the experience or capacity to formulate an effective risk strategy.

Suffolk's probation service has been handed a required improvements rating. Picture: iStock
Suffolk's probation service has been handed a required improvements rating. Picture: iStock

The service had a high number of staff who had been in the role for less than two years, chief inspector Martin Jones said.

Despite this, officers fully understood and supported the vision and strategy of the leadership team.

A probation service spokesman said it was aware improvements needed to be made and has taken urgent action to address these concerns.

Mr Jones said: “Staff describe their leadership team as approachable, visible, and supportive.

“However, while we did see a core group of staff able to appropriately manage risk, there were others who either did not have the capacity, due to workload or appropriate knowledge, or the experience required to formulate an effective risk management strategy.”

The report highlighted significant workload pressures on senior probation officers, in line with national trends.

Suffolk’s workload was particularly demanding, he said, and managers spoke of difficulties supporting new staff members while undertaking tasks relating to human resources.

These burdens also make it difficult to oversee, the report said.

Despite this, Mr Jones said the probation service’s relationship with partners such as Suffolk Police and the youth service were proactive.

However, data relating to people on probation through these bodies was available to staff but was not routinely used to shape practice at the time of the inspection.

It also found that, while there were positive examples in understanding the motivations of people on probation in complying with their sentences, there was not adequate planning to help them abstain from committing crimes.

Mental health and trauma were observed but were not addressed to help prevent reoffending, Mr Jones said.

He added: “While the right foundations and culture are in place at Suffolk PDU, a clear strategy to implement these necessary changes will be central to supporting future improvements."

The probation service spokesman said: “We are pleased that the inspectorate has recognised the strong leadership in Suffolk and the positive relationships with our partners such as the police and youth services.”

Since the report, SPDU has seen an upward trend in staff recruitment, retention and levels of experience while workloads have reduced, the spokesman said.

Workload levels are expected to continue to decrease as it seeks to recruit six new officers over the next six months.

Nationally, 4,000 officers have been recruited since 2021, with about £155 million per year being invested into the service, he said.

The spokesman added: “However, we know that improvements need to be made and we have taken urgent action to address these issues.

“This includes increasing the number of probation officers in the region, delivering additional training to staff and improving access to services.”