THE quality of the probation service across the county is being put at risk due to difficulties in the recruitment of new officers and financial pressures, a report has revealed.

Inspectors have given Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC) an overall Good rating, meaning that the CRC – which supervises low and medium risk offenders – is the first organisation of its kind to attain the second-highest grade.

But the report  issued by HM Inspectorate of Probation raises concerns over the quality of the service and says that efforts to recruit new members of staff have proved to be more difficult than anticipated, resulting in a delay in building up the capacity needed.

Consequently, average caseloads rose greatly in January 2019, the report says.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said in her opinion the CRC no longer has the quantity and calibre of staff to deliver an effective service.

But Interserve, the owner of Purple Futures which owns the HIOW CRC, hit back saying they remain committed to protecting the public and are recruiting new staff. 

They said 10 members of staff were seconded to the National Probation Service as part of the operational changes and two are already in the process of returning to HIOW CRC.

They also said they currently have five vacancies and are actively recruiting to fill this gap.

But HM Inspectorate of Probation said it is likely that the new starters will not be fully in place until autumn 2019, leaving probation staff managing around 70 cases each in the meantime. 

Prior to the secondment arrangement, there had been 38 senior case managers in the CRC.

Inspectors said staff, implementation and delivery of the sentence of the court and the Through the Gate services which address service user’s resettlement needs, require improvements.

Reviewing of cases also needs to improve, according to the report while the management of information and facilities was outstanding. 

Inspectors praised the staff’s leadership, the initial work to assess individuals’ circumstances and to plan activity to improve these and the HIOW CRC’s unpaid work scheme. 

Dame Glenys said: “Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC has the essentials in place to deliver a good probation service that supports people to move away from further offending and protects the public. It is laudable to see the CRC has evidence-based plans and is working with leading academics in the field to improve their work still further.

"The quality of its work is at risk, however, as the owners have decided to reduce the professionally qualified proportion of its workforce and there have been delays in recruiting new, less experienced staff.

"Regrettably, the ability of the CRC to sustain the quality of its work is being put at risk because of the financial pressures that this and other CRCs are experiencing.”

A spokesperson for HIOW CRC said: “The changes made to our staffing model were implemented because we firmly believe they will deliver a better service to offenders because it equips our organisation with a broader mix of skill sets.

"The HMIP report also acknowledges that changes were made in part due to the financial pressures faced by all of the country’s CRCs.

"We have training procedures in place to ensure all staff are appropriately skilled to carry out their work and to maintain the high standards which HMIP observed during their inspection.”