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Probation Service

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 11 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment his Department has made of the effectiveness of the probation facilities in Hertfordshire; and if he will make a statement. (21089)

Details of the performance of the 42 probation areas in England and Wales against targets set for the National Probation Service for 2005-06 may be found in the National Probation Service performance report issue 20 which is posted on the NPS website at: http://www.probation.homeoffice. gov.uk/output/page34.asp.

Issue 20 showed Hertfordshire as the worst performing area in the weighted scorecard, which ranks probation areas according to their performance across the range of key indicators. The greatest areas of concern are with performance in relation to the two key targets on OASys risk assessments on (a) high risk offenders and (b) prolific and other priority offenders (PPOs). Performance on both these targets was 14 per cent. in 2005-06. The target for both high risk and PPOs is 90 per cent.

Hertfordshire’s performance on the enforcement target is the worst of all the probation areas at 80 per cent. The target is 90 per cent. and the aggregate of all areas in England and Wales was 91 per cent. Hertfordshire achieved 77 per cent. on compliance against a target of 85 per cent. and an England and Wales average of 81 per cent. Against a target of 645 completions of unpaid work orders, Hertfordshire achieved 464 (72 per cent.). 49 per cent. of victims were contacted within the timescale required by national standards—the target is 85 per cent. and nationally the NPS is achieving 93 per cent. The remaining key performance indicators are at or around target with the exception of basic skills awards where double the awards target was achieved in 2005-06.

HM Inspectorate of Probation, as an independent inspectorate reporting to Ministers on the work of the National Probation Service, published an inspection report on Hertfordshire probation area in March 2004 under its effective supervision inspection programme. This showed poor performance, particularly in the assessment and supervision of offenders who posed a high risk of harm to others, and that the area needed to make significant improvements in its overall operation.

In view of the results of this inspection, HM Inspectorate of Probation undertook a follow-up inspection of Hertfordshire which was published in January 2005. This indicated considerable signs of improvement, but that further work was needed to improve the quality of effective supervision, and particularly of the management of risk of harm.

All HMI Probation reports are published, and copies are in the Library of the House.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on how many occasions (a) he and (b) his officials have met trade union representatives to discuss improvements to the probation service in the last 12 months. (82685)

[holding answer 5 July 2006]: The information is as follows:

(a) Junior Home Office Ministers have met frequently with the unions, both formally and informally, over this period and these discussions have included improvements in the service.

(b) My officials have met union representatives on a regular basis throughout the last twelve months in a wide range of contexts and improvement to the probation service has been discussed on many occasions.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many people recruited by the Probation Service in the last 12 months have no formal qualifications. (82686)

[holding answer 5 July 2006]: The Home Office does not collect information centrally on what, if any, qualifications are held by staff recruited to the Probation Service, and we cannot therefore provide a response to this question.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he uses consultants to advise on the work of the Probation Service. (82687)

[holding answer 5 July 2006]: The National Probation Directorate employs from time to time a number of consultants or consultancy firms to provide specialist support over a wide range of probation work.