Rapid Evidence Assessment on caseloads and workloads in probation services

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has commissioned a rapid evidence assessment (REA) into probation caseloads.

What is the need?

The question of identifying optimum caseloads and workloads for probation staff has always been a thorny one as governments have consistently sought to reconcile the competing aims of maximum effectiveness and value for public money. There has been additional focus on this issue since the split of the English and Welsh probation service under the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme. In addition to the high workloads repeatedly identified by HMI Probation, particularly, but far from exclusively, among the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the changes occasioned by TR have led to a number of contentious discussion points amongst the probation community including such issues as:

- What is the long-term impact for National Probation Service (NPS) staff of managing a caseload solely comprising those who have committed offences causing high levels of harm to the public?

- What is an appropriate caseload for responsible officers in CRCs who are operating to very different models and expectations, depending on the approach of their owner?

- Should caseloads be lower for NPS staff supervising high-risk offenders or are the demands of supervising more low/medium risk offenders within CRCs actually greater in terms of time and resources owing to the fact that a greater proportion may have more complex needs and/or are more likely to be perpetrators of domestic abuse with the associated public protection requirements and expectations?

With the re-design of probation and the return of all offender management responsibilities to the National Probation Service – plus the creation of 12 new Probation Delivery Partners who will be delivering Unpaid Work and accredited programmes in the new probation regions – the topic of the size of probation caseloads is very much under discussion again.

What are we doing?

The project will consist of two elements.
• A Rapid Evidence Assessment that focuses upon UK and international evidence on probation caseloads.
• A review of evidence from other, relevant policy spheres that will focus on findings from existing Systematic Reviews and Rapid Evidence Assessments.

What will be the outcomes?

Our review will be completed in February and feed into the Inspectorate’s larger project on caseloads.

What are the timescales?

We started in December 2019 and are scheduled to complete by February 2020.

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