Saturday 15 July 2023

Latest From Napo 238

Here we have the latest mailout to members from yesterday and contained in the napomagazine:-

You set the agenda!

Napo’s AGM is a unique opportunity; every member can attend and set Napo’s agenda and policy for the year to come. This is done by the debate and passing (or not!) of motions.

Motions can be proposed by branches, networks or committees . Or by two individual full or Professional Associate Members.

So whether it’s workloads, training, buildings, pay, a policy that worries you, or something else, you decide on what you want to bring to AGM.

It’s time to get writing – a short title and 200 words to explain what you think Napo should be doing over the next 12 months. You’ll get 6 minutes to talk to it at AGM, as well the person seconding the motion and a right of response to those that may have questions for you.

Remember at AGM alongside debating motions, there will be professional sessions, fringe events and time to catch up with old friends and new. Most members have said, upon coming to AGM for a first time, you get to realise, you’re part of something bigger and that you are not alone and on your own.

The deadline for motions is the 16th August 2023 at 12noon. All the information is here at www.napo.org.uk/agm

What about us? Pay Review Bodies’ Recommendations

Following yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister that the Government are to honour the recommendations from the Independent Pay Review Bodies (IPRB) across a number of sectors, which will see an average increase of 6.5% for Police, NHS Workers, Junior Doctors, Prison Officers, Members of the Armed Forces and Teachers. Napo members across all the employers where we are represented, have already been contacting us to ask if this means better news for them.

The announcement by Rishi Sunak follows weeks of speculation that the Government were to renege on the PBR recommendations and risk a further escalation of the industrial unrest that has been taking place this year. Whilst the Prime Minister’s “take it or leave it” message will go down well with his fast-diminishing number of supporters, it may serve to harden attitudes elsewhere, especially among those trade unions who have been imploring the Government to negotiate in advance of the PBR reports in an attempt to avoid strike action.

Essentially, there are two ways of looking at the situation; one is that it represents a “fair” offer within the current economic climate. The other is that it’s a clear demonstration of panic by the Government , whose strategy to wait out the wave of current industrial action and rely on public disgust has spectacularly failed, just months before a likely general election which may come as early as the Autumn.

That £1500 award

This may also partly explain the rationale behind the £1500 pay award that was announced last month for workers falling within the Civil Service Pay Remit. As we have stated before, this was done without so much as an advance notification to the trade unions. The failure to do so meant that we were unable to influence the way in which this was to be paid and point out the negative impact that this so called “performance bonus” has caused for those members with families who rely on Universal Credit or other benefits to make ends meet. Many members have understandably been in touch to report that you will actually be in a worse financial position than before (so much for a listening Tory government). For those members not in that situation, this may bring some comfort, but the view of Napo’s leadership group is that this should be seen for the cynical ploy that it actually is, and that it won’t win as many friends as the government hopes.

So what’s happening on pay for our members?

In Probation we are in year two of a multi-year pay award, but in view of the dreadful economic situation the joint trade unions have submitted a fresh pay claim of 12% and for an award of at least £2500. Some may think this is unrealistic, but the official inflation figures don’t lie. Moreover, the average award for the majority of Probation Staff in year two of the above deal is around 4% . We have now been invited to a meeting with senior management as promised following the outcome of the IPRB reports and we will bring you news of their response as soon as we can. It would be unfair to raise members expectations, but be sure we will be engaging in these discussions in determined mood.

Our members in the Probation Board Northern Ireland are not covered by the pay arrangements above. Meanwhile, they eagerly await decisions on the negotiated business case for a Pay Modernisation Package, but the developments on public sector pay this side of the water will no doubt be viewed with interest in terms of how a separate pay claim should be constructed alongside our sister union Nipsa. More information on the above will be issued directly by your Napo NI Branch once it is available.

In CAFCASS we are engaging in talks on the joint union pay claim that is broadly similar to the one we have submitted in Probation, but senior management await a formal response from the Treasury and likewise, your union will be referencing the above developments as evidence that an imaginative approach needs to follow on pay which is well behind that in the social work sector across the UK. CAFCASS members should look out for the joint Napo/UNISON meeting taking place next Tuesday.

The above illustrates your unions efforts to campaign for decent pay for all of our members, and in the current climate it’s as good a time as any to approach colleagues who are not a member of a trade union and urge them to join in the struggle to see our members treated with respect and dignity by their employer and this government.

One HMPPS: Lack of Meaningful Consultation

The juggernaut that is the One HMPPS change project is continuing unabated. One HMPPS seeks to make efficiency savings of £37 million at HMPPS HQ. As members will already be aware, Napo (alongside our sister unions – UNISON and GMB) is implacably opposed to this initiative as we believe it will lead to the demise of our Probation identity and culture, and will inevitably result in the assimilation of Probation into the Prison Service.

Your National Officers and Officials have been inundated with a huge amount of documentation, and have been asked to attend meetings at short notice, so that the employer can maintain the fa├žade that they are engaging with the unions on this civil service-led bureaucratic restructure. It is a classic example of the Civil Service shuffling the deck chairs while Probation is sinking under the tidal wave of excessive workloads.

The joint unions have now formally written to the One HMPPS project to put them on notice that we do not agree with their arrangement for consultation through the use of multiple ‘Annex As’. Annex As are used to consult with the unions for normal day to day business between the employer and the Trade Unions. It is not appropriate for use on a major change programme like One HMPPS, which will have far reaching consequences for the Probation Service.

The joint unions have made repeated requests to find a more suitable way to influence and feed into the design of One HMPPS. The employer has responded by insisting that they intend to continue with an approach that is flawed and which does not provide the right environment for any proper meaningful consultation.

Napo will continue to fight for the Probation voice to be heard, and if necessary, we will share our concerns more widely if we do not see a change in approach.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Protect and Survive

I'm not sure why, but Operation Protect passed me by on Monday 26th June. No longer being a Napo member, I probably didn't get the email. I certainly didn't catch it on the radio or TV and it doesn't look like it made the news agenda that day at all. Of course this is always the risk when launching any campaign and it all depends on what else was going on a fortnight ago. It's also pretty obvious that unless HMI Justin Russell has a 'Dame Glenys moment' before handing in his staff pass in a month or two, bugger all is going to happen. After all, he's been talking about it since taking office. 

Unmanageable probation workloads putting the public at risk, warn unions

Soaring workloads in the probation service are putting the public at risk, warn probation unions today (Monday).

Napo, UNISON and GMB, which represent staff working in the probation service in England and Wales, say crippling workloads will lead to a catastrophic breakdown of the service if the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) does not intervene.

Probation workers are responsible for monitoring people on probation in the community. But a recent restructure and staff shortages are making it extremely difficult to keep tabs on some of the UK’s most dangerous individuals, say the unions.

Employees are buckling under the pressure and many workers are quitting, leaving newly qualified and less experienced staff to take the reins.

Unions fear overstretched staff are being scapegoated for the effects of an under-resourced service, prompting yet more staff to seek employment elsewhere.

Calls for immediate government intervention have gone unheeded, say unions. This has led to the launch of today's campaign aimed at reducing workload.

The three unions are hopeful that the campaign, Operation Protect, will raise wider awareness of the issue and the threat posed to the public.

Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “It would be all too easy for this much-needed campaign to be seen as a negative move from the probation unions. But among the key objectives is a call to senior leaders in probation and His Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to play their part by reaching an agreed workload reduction and management strategy with unions. This will allow the service to start to recover from the incessant and damaging changes it has gone through for more than a decade.

“Probation can and must do better with the right levels of investment, but our members need to see that this government is taking their concerns seriously.”

UNISON national officer for police and justice Ben Priestley said: "Probation staff are determined to keep the public safe and rehabilitate those on probation. But overwhelming workloads and staffing shortages have created a dangerous situation, which the government must address."

GMB national officer George Georgiou said: “The probation service has seen 10 years of underfunding and increasing workloads for all its staff. This campaign seeks to address the working conditions for our members who are being made unwell through high workloads. It will also protect staff, the communities they serve and their profession.”

The joint union workloads campaign is being launched later today (Monday) at the MoJ.

--oo00oo--

Dear Xxxxxx

Operation Protect to protect the public, protect our members and protect our profession

Today sees the launch of the Joint Probation Unions' Operation Protect.

It’s the start of a campaign that the unions will be conducting right through to the next General Election, before which we will be lobbying the main political parties to set out their blueprint for the Probation Service. There are five principle objectives to the campaign and members should be receiving material from your Napo representatives today to help you promote these.

1. Work with Ministers, HMPPS, HMIP, Probation Institute, Sentencers & Statutory Partners to agree a strategic probation workload reduction programme by:

Reviewing existing legislative demands which do not add value to core probation work; Identifying other upstream demand reduction; Eliminating or reducing bureaucratic demands which do not add value to core probation work; Identifying and addressing barriers to productivity; Surveying the workforce for their ideas on workload reduction; Agreeing a Probation Workloads Reduction Toolkit; Agreeing a Probation Service equivalent of the Prison Service ‘Operation Safeguard’ to allow the Service to declare to external stakeholders that it is full, and that normal service cannot be provided pending more resources.

2. Agree a safe workloads and case allocation system which will:

Be jointly agreed between the probation unions and the employer; Ensure that each employee’s workload is regularly assessed; Provide staff and managers with the tools to prioritise certain work and to agree which work should be suspended (temporarily or permanently); Respect probation practitioners’ professional judgement about workload capacity which if they were covered by an independent professional registration body might require them to declare any excessive workload which might affect their fitness to practice; Take contingency action when workloads exceed staffing capacity. 

3. Ensure that all staff have high quality supervision, when and how they need it, to manage workload effectively by:

Agreeing appropriate supervisor to staff ratios; Employing more supervisors as necessary; Providing training, support and mentoring to supervisors; Ensuring that supervisors have authority to reduce workloads via decisions on case allocation.

4. Give probation staff the confidence, tools and support to challenge excessive workloads by:

An employer pledge to prevent workloads above capacity – to be shared with external stakeholders; The right for staff to work contracted hours only – no quibble guarantee; Voluntary overtime to be offered to staff who wish to offer more time to the employer; The overtime seniority bar to be removed.

5. Reach an Employee Care Agreement with the Probation Service to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of probation staff by:

Undertaking the necessary risk assessments; Taking measures to remove stress; Taking measures to support staff to remain in work.

Help us to achieve the changes needed to restore Probation as a Gold standard service

Members in Napo, UNISON and GMB/Scoop are making it clear that they have had enough of the egregious damage that has been done to their profession over nearly a decade of interference and mismanagement by Government. Numerous reports from HM Inspectorate of Probation have vindicated the warnings that the union issued many years ago about the long-term impact of the disastrous decision to part-privatise Probation back in 2014.

While everyone welcomes the reunification that took place two years ago, and the tremendous efforts by our members to help make that possible, the subsequent failure to adequately reinvest, pay people a competitive salary and control unsustainable workloads, has led to a severe loss of morale, and serious shortages of experienced staff who can help mentor new entrants to the service.

Today marks an important start to our campaign and more news will follow about engagement events with members and other public facing events that will be designed to draw the attention of politicians and stakeholders to the importance of Probation within the Criminal Justice System.

Meanwhile, please spread the message, especially amongst colleagues whom you know are not currently in a trade union, to consider joining Napo and to play a part in this important collective campaign.

Visit the website for photos from today’s launch and access to additional leaflets if required.

Ian Lawrence              Helen Banner
General Secretary      National Chair

26th June 2023

--oo00oo--

I don't think we covered this Napo briefing from last January:-

Workloads and Staffing in Probation: A Briefing by Napo

The Probation Service has experienced serious staff shortages since the implementation of the privatisation reform programme in 2014. This has largely been due to the incorrect allocation of staff (too few in the National Probation Service and too many transferred into the private Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC). This led to the private providers making huge numbers of redundancies during their contracts. Since the welcome reunification of the service in June 2021, it has become very apparent that there is now a staffing crisis resulting in dangerously high caseloads, which in turn has led to a serious recruitment and retention issue. Despite the attempts to undertake a mass recruitment drive in the last two years, staff shortages and workloads have become critical. This briefing highlights a few key examples (but is in no way exhaustive) of the impact this is having on staff, public protection and the overall functioning of the service.

London:
In one Probation Delivery Unit (PDU) alone there are approximately 650 unallocated cases. Unallocated cases are put into a reporting system where they are seen, but usually by a different officer each time and clients/service users are simply asked if they have any issues rather than any meaningful offence focused work being carried out.

On average, staff in this PDU are on 192% of the workload management tool meaning that staff are being expected to carry out double their usual workload.

A newly qualified officer (NQO) was on 118% of the Workload Management Tool (WMT) just 2 days after qualifying, when NQO’s should be on a protected caseload for the first year of service. Whilst the target staffing for this area has yet to be worked out, it is clear from these figures that there are significant shortages.

East Midlands:
The BBC have contacted Napo to say that they have received an anonymous letter from a Probation Officer in this region stating that they were on 130% of the workload management tool. The practitioner was deeply concerned that this was unsustainable, and will lead to errors and failures in public protection. Napo is already aware of one Serious Further Offence (SFO) in this region and whilst the investigation into this is still ongoing Napo believes that staff shortages and workloads is likely to be a contributory factor with staff simply not having the time or capacity to properly assess cases and manage them appropriately. Napo is very aware that this will likely lead to individuals taking the blame for something that can be directly attributed to the wider organisational crisis affecting the service.

Napo are also aware of further reports that the region has numerous teams with Probation officers and Probation Service Officers (unqualified staff) at 130% plus on the WMT.

Staffordshire West Midlands:
Due to the Staffs West Midlands Region re-organising staff to try and combine legacy CRC and NPS staff, a number of colleagues have been asked to express their preferences for where they would like to work.. A large number of staff expressed a desire to get out of Offender Management (holding a caseload of clients) and have tried to go into Court teams or other areas of the business where the role does not require them to hold client caseloads. This has resulted in a completely new court team in Birmingham, which now contains many staff with inexperience of this important work. In addition, a lot of staff are unhappy about where they have been allocated and have appealed adding to the issues described above.

It is now becoming normal for practitioners to have caseloads of 130-150%. There is also at least one case of a PQUiP (Trainee Officer) being allocated a caseload between these figures. There is also some evidence to suggest some colleagues have 170% against the WMT.

Wales:
Napo has seen evidence that staff are on over 150% on the WMT.

Warwickshire and West Mercia:
Staff have submitted Foreseeability Notices to managers due to excessive workloads and concerns of Health and Safety risks to staff. Caseloads fluctuate between 135% - 145% on the WMT.

Risks:
The Probation Service has experienced staffing and workload crisis’ before. In the 2000’s there were two very prominent SFO’s: namely the: Sonnex case and Hanson and White. Both were subject to full reviews, and in both instances excessively high caseloads were found to be a significant factor in the failings in risk management which led to the commission of these offences and ultimately the death of their victims.

Napo is deeply concerned that we will see an increase in SFO’s which is a serious public protection issue. We are also concerned that this will lead to individuals being held accountable for something that is, in our view, an organisational failing. Under such circumstances Napo will do all it can to defend our members against ‘scapegoating.’

Recruitment & Retention:
The current Civil Service centric recruitment process for Probation Officers is flawed; especially for internal candidates who are being asked to use personality tests that take no account of an individual’s experience. As such, experienced Probation Service Officers who wish to progress to qualification are finding themselves in a dead end job with minimal chance of progression. Napo is aware that there are some internal candidates who whilst being successful in the application process, have had their start date for training postponed as staff shortages mean they cannot be released from their current roles. Many staff are now leaving due to the relentless pressure they find themselves under. Some are leaving shortly after qualifying, which is a waste of talent and public funds.

Staff Personal Testimonies:
“I am leaving the Service end of March after 21 years. I am passionate about what I do and there are aspects of my job that I love, but I cannot continue to look after myself in these circumstances any longer – it is detrimental to my physical health now and mental health – something that my employers pretend to care about and make a lot of noise about – whilst nothing changes on the ground. I have seen so many people leave including new qualified Staff as they just burn out rapidly and the support is not there, they cannot see it getting better.”

“Staffing is a serious concern & it’s always jam tomorrow with PQiP’s coming soon but they cannot be expected to hold the organisation together & don’t actually solve the problem. Firstly data collection & admin continue to dominate the case manager role . The duplication & lack of efficient systems is frustrating.

Also management of this Probation Service always take easy options with staffing & fail to make the tough calls about ensuring experienced & adequate staff are in the front line”

What Next?
Napo is fully aware that this situation cannot be resolved overnight. However, we strongly believe that senior leaders and the Secretary of State for Justice have so far failed to fully grasp the situation or developed a short, medium or long term strategy to ensure the service can run effectively going forward. Whilst a workload management strategy is currently being developed and negotiated, this includes a formal process that will allow staff with unreasonable workloads to “miss out” certain tasks to relieve their workloads. This is a damming indictment of where we are at in this ever growing crisis. Napo is demanding a full staffing review to be carried out and for regional vacancies to be identified and published alongside detailed strategy.

Probation staff have effectively run out of good will and are exhausted. The lack of a pay rise, despite their ongoing hard work has added further insult to injury. Probation needs real investment, not in gimmicks such as an expansion of electronic monitoring which has serious limitations in terms of actually reducing reoffending, but in a well-supported and decently paid workforce.

Questions you may wish to ask:
1. Whilst HMPPS is currently going through a large recruitment drive, what steps are being taken to address the issues of retention for probation, what are the short, medium and long term plans to alleviate workload pressures for existing staff and what are the target staffing numbers for each region?

2. Will the Minister direct the National Probation Service to enter into meaningful pay talks with all three probation Trade Unions and what assurances can he give to staff that he will ensure that there is a decent pay rise?

3. What assurances can the Minister give that public protection and rehabilitation will not be jeopardised as a result of the workloads and staffing crisis in probation?

4. Will the Minister take full responsibility for any serious further offences that occur as a result of dangerous workloads and severe staff shortages in probation and can he assure staff that they will not be blamed?

5. What financial investment will the probation service receive to improve recruitment and retention in the service and ensure that staff feel valued?

6. Will the Minister order a full staffing review to identify how many vacancies there are and in what regions?

Tania Bassett
Napo: National Official

BR02-22 
21st January 2022

Tuesday 4 July 2023

We Reap What We Sow

This blog recently:-

Some excellent comments and pointers on the blog over the last couple of days however, the thread began with an analysis of the history and future of the PSR, once the mainstay of probation practice.

*****
I think it was Jim himself who commented that nobody is interested, and sad to say, I think he has been proved right.

*****
Because most staff don't recall what a PSR was. Times have moved on, that old practice long on the block now.

*****
They removed PSR’s from generic probation officer roles a few years back so they can give generic POs more cases. Just like they removed all the longer term custody cases to give more cases to decreasing community POs. Then they change the guidelines anytime Courts don’t have enough POs, forcing generic POs to complete PSRs. Just as they’re constantly changing OMiC rules to squeeze more capacity out of community POs. Can’t have it both ways and evidence of bad management overall by probation senior management teams. Many POs have never done PSR’s and nobody has time to. No surprise nobody is interested.

*****
"Because most staff don't recall what a PSR was. Times have moved on that old practice long on the block now." The NOMS/NPS/HMPPS strategy writ large... impose policy & change, get shot of those who criticise/question, replace them with a compliant new workforce & voila... "we are where we are, it is what it is, time to look forwards, one HMPPS, etc, etc"

******
"Because most staff don't recall what a PSR was. Times have moved on that old practice long on the block now." Lots of old practices are now long gone, and that's why the service isn't fit for purpose anymore. Maybe those that applaud the stripping out of the old practices would do well to remember what's happening under their watch.

--oo00oo--

HMI Justin Russell today:-

Too many at risk of domestic abuse by people on probation, HM Inspectorate of Probation finds

HM Inspectorate of Probation has published a report inspecting the work undertaken and progress made, by the Probation Service, to reduce domestic abuse and protect victims. The Inspectorate last looked at this area of probation practice in 2018.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Very concerningly, despite some positive developments in policy, little appears to have improved in practice, and in some respects, things have deteriorated. This is unacceptable and is leaving far too many potential victims at risk of domestic abuse.”

The inspection found:
  • 30 per cent of people on probation are current or previous perpetrators of domestic abuse
  • only 28 per cent of the of people on probation had been sufficiently assessed for any risks of further domestic abuse
  • 45 per cent of our case sample should have had access to an intervention but had not.
Only 17 out of the 60 cases we looked at for this report had a sufficiently clear and thorough analysis of the risk of domestic abuse the person on probation might pose. We identified failures to analyse previous domestically abusive behaviours or patterns of behaviour. In some cases, there was a failure to recognise the offending as domestic abuse, mainly where the victim was a family member rather than an intimate partner.

Mr Russell continued: “Almost 75,000 people supervised by the Probation Service in or out of custody, have been identified as a current or former domestic abuse perpetrator, so it is essential that their risk is properly assessed and managed. Over the years, including in a number of very high-profile cases, we have flagged our concerns about the urgent need for the Probation Service to complete domestic abuse enquiries with the police before sentencing, or when undertaking initial risk assessments”.

“Sadly, we are still finding this is not happening in too many cases and even enquiries with local councils to ensure child safeguarding are not being completed. I have made many previous recommendations on how probation services should develop this practice, so it’s very disappointing not to see more improvement.”

A key finding of this report was that we found too many cases (45 per cent) where people on probation were assessed as needing an intervention related to domestic abuse – such as programmes to tackle abusive behaviour or attitudes and to encourage healthy relationships – but these weren’t being delivered. An additional issue is that there is insufficient national information and data about how many of these referrals are being made or completed, so the performance of these programmes cannot be evaluated.

Other factors included probation staff workloads. We found probation practitioners to be highly committed to improving this area of their service, but they have too many cases to manage to complete meaningful work. On too many occasions, we found contact with a person on probation at risk of further domestic violence was minimal and done via phone calls rather than by face-to-face meetings. However, where probation practitioners work with smaller caseloads, the quality of domestic abuse work is dramatically improved.

We also found that recent changes in legislation, such as the recognition of children affected by domestic abuse as victims in their own right, have not been incorporated into probation practice. And the sharing of information between services – probation, police and social services – was inconsistent at best.

Mr Russell concluded: “I had hoped that more progress would have been made to address the very serious need to improve probation practice around the risks of domestic abuse. Unfortunately, there has only been minimal positive change. I recognise that many in the Probation Service are doing all they can, with limited resource, to manage cases adequately, but there is a long way still to go. I call on HMPPS to take heed of our recommendations and address the vital improvements that are needed to assist services in their aims, to reduce the risk of further domestic abuse by people on probation for the protection of victims and potential victims.”

--oo00oo--

The full report can be found here. The following is from the Executive Summary:- 

Assessment and planning 

Many of our findings in this inspection mirror those in our recent core inspection programme. Too often, we found poor-quality risk assessments concerning domestic abuse that missed out on essential details or failed to provide a sufficient analysis of the case. Not enough use was made of information from other agencies or previous probation assessments, even though over half of our sample had been identified as being at risk of domestic abuse for more than four years. We concluded that only 28 per cent of assessments in our sample provided a sufficiently clear and thorough analysis of the risks of domestic abuse. While the volume of completions of the SARA has increased, they often lacked sufficient analysis to provide a meaningful assessment of the likelihood of further domestically abusive behaviour. Probation practitioners do not value the tool, and as it sits outside the primary offender assessment system (OASys) risk and needs assessment tool, it is not seen as a priority. Yet, the SARA is a key determining factor in access to domestic abuse interventions; if not completed accurately, it can lead to inappropriate intervention referrals. 

Pre-release work to address domestic abuse issues was only sufficient in half of the licence cases we inspected. In two-thirds of cases, there were appropriate licence conditions in place to manage the risks of domestic abuse. In almost three-quarters of cases where it was necessary, planning set out restrictions and measures to protect victims, such as restraining orders; however, constructive activities to address domestic abuse were included less often. Contingency planning was sufficient in less than half of the cases we inspected. Overall, we concluded that planning sufficiently addressed the risks of domestic abuse in only 37 per cent of cases. 

High-quality sentence management relies on effective information sharing with other agencies, such as the police and children’s social care services. Unfortunately, in too many cases where it was necessary, there had not been appropriate information sharing with other agencies involved in managing the risks of domestic abuse. Nevertheless, some probation areas have developed impressive arrangements with local forces, allowing them to receive daily information about incidents or arrests for people on their caseload, which allowed practitioners to make informed decisions about case management. 

Sentence and intervention delivery 

Some PDUs were experiencing significant staffing shortages; in one PDU, they had only half of the practitioner-grade staff they should have had. As a result, there were nationally agreed arrangements in place to manage resources, but these were having a negative impact on the quality of sentence management. For example, people on probation were seen too infrequently, and too many appointments offered no meaningful intervention to reduce the risks of further domestic abuse. Overall, we concluded that the implementation and delivery of sentences managed the risks of domestic abuse effectively in only 27 per cent of the cases we inspected. Too few enquiries had been made with children’s social care services and the police to inform sentence management, leading to gaps in the practitioner’s knowledge about the risks in the case. In cases where information had been gathered, it was not analysed or used sufficiently to inform case management. Many probation practitioners knew little about specialist domestic abuse services that could support them in their work. Reviews of cases often failed to address changes in factors linked to domestic abuse or make adjustments to ongoing work. In over half of the cases where it was necessary, information had not been gathered from other agencies to inform reviewing. Overall, we assessed that reviewing focused adequately on the risks of domestic abuse in only 23 per cent of cases. 

Notwithstanding our concerns about the general quality of practice concerning domestic abuse, we found some examples of impressive practice. Where specialist multidisciplinary teams were in place, this enabled practitioners to work collaboratively with police and other services. Practitioners in these teams demonstrated a better understanding of the complexity of domestic abuse. As they usually had smaller caseloads, they had the time to work more effectively with people on probation. Joint work with other specialist organisations, such as through the Drive project, also led to effective work to reduce domestic abuse. 

Practice around making disclosures about domestic abuse to new partners when a perpetrator started a new relationship varied significantly, and in some cases we assessed it to increase risks. Where decisions were not made as part of multi-agency meetings or through the domestic violence disclosure scheme (often called Clare’s Law), we found no evidence of a systematic approach to considering the risks around disclosures. The national guidance in place at the time was insufficient to support decisions or delivery adequately. Practitioners expressed a range of views about disclosure, with some stating clearly that they did not feel it was part of their role, and others telling us that they gave information routinely to new partners of perpetrators without consulting managers about the content of this information or how it could be shared safely. When probation staff made disclosures, we found little evidence that consideration had been given to the potential vulnerabilities of the person receiving the information, nor any effort to engage the services that might support them. 

Opportunities to support victims are sometimes missed through late referrals to the DASO service or failure to liaise with independent domestic violence advisers (IDVAs). The DASO service offers valuable support to victims and partners of people on probation completing BBR and other domestic abuse groupwork interventions. The guidance manuals for the service are being reviewed currently as they are significantly out of date, and this has resulted in variable delivery of the scheme across the country and a need for a more consistent approach to be put into place.