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Probation service must do more for pubic safety in Cambridgeshire

By Adrian Curtis

A probation service that operates across Cambridgeshire and three other counties has been told it needs to improve the quality of its work and take urgent steps to keep people safe.

HM Inspectorate of Probation was impressed by the commitment of staff at all levels at Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BeNCH CRC), but warned the probation work was not up to scratch. Inspectors found some areas of work required improvement, and rated others as inadequate – the lowest rating.

HM chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said: “BeNCH CRC’s greatest asset is its workforce. It has a strong leadership team, and staff are committed and motivated to support people to turn away from crime.

“Unfortunately, our inspection found the management of cases is poor.

“In particular, domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues were not always investigated or recorded properly. Probation services should prioritise both rehabilitation and public safety, so BeNCH CRC needs to give this matter its urgent attention.”

Inspectors looked at a sample of cases and concluded staff need to do more to protect actual and potential victims.

The inspection also found that some meetings with individuals under probation supervision took place in open booths in the CRC’s offices. The inspectorate has previously raised concerns about the impact of this on work to support rehabilitation and public protection.

The CRC’s work to support people leaving prison, known as ‘Through the Gate’, was found to be inadequate. Resettlement plans did not always fully consider the individual’s personal circumstances or manage the potential risk of harm to other people.

Dame Glenys added: “The quality of ‘Through the Gate’ work falls short of expectation in so many respects. It needs to improve, from start to finish.

“Individuals need support when they leave prison: a roof over their heads, help to write CVs and find employment, and specialist support for issues such as mental health or substance misuse. These things matter to individuals and can help or hinder their prospects of moving away from further offending.”

Overall, inspectors said BeNCH CRC ‘requires improvement’. BeNCH CRC said a substantial programme was in place to drive up standards.

Over the last year, the CRC has worked hard to fill vacancies and cut down on agency staff. At the same time, it is supporting staff to gain professional qualifications.

BeNCH CRC is one of six probation services managed by Sodexo, a multinational private company. The CRC supervises more than 7,000 low and medium-risk offenders across the four counties. Individuals are either in prison or have been released, or are serving community sentences.

Dame Glenys added: “The CRC has put a foundation in place to raise the quality of its work and it has drawn up improvement plans to support this ambition. I hope this report and its recommendations help BeNCH CRC to further improve its services across the four counties.”

A spokesperson for BeNCH CRC said: “We are pleased that the recent inspection report findings recognised the commitment of our staff at all levels and that we have a strong leadership team in place which is committed to reducing re-offending and protecting the public. It was acknowledged that a substantial improvement programme had already been initiated at the time of the inspection and we have continued to drive this action plan to make further improvements and address the recommendations raised in the report.”

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