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National Probation Service for England and Wales: Secondment

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 1 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) whether any people seconded from the Probation Service to (a) the National Offender Management Service and (b) regional offender management services have been (i) offered permanent posts within the Director of Offender Management Structure (DOMS) and (ii) allocated to join a surplus employees' group; (283044)

(2) what his policy is on the secondment of Probation Service staff to the Prison Service;

(3) under what circumstances a prison establishment can opt out of arrangements to second Probation Service staff to prisons;

(4) what the average length of a Probation Service secondment to a prison was in the latest period for which figures are available;

(5) from which budget the salaries of Probation Service staff seconded to work in prisons in England and Wales are drawn;

(6) whether he plans to review the deployment of Probation Service staff to prisons in England and Wales.

Within the Ministry of Justice, prison and probation services in England and Wales have been brought together under the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), an executive agency. It is the agency's responsibility to ensure that the two services operate together to provide the most effective outcomes for offender management, to reduce crime and improve public protection. Each region now has its own Director of Offender Management (DOM), responsible for the operation of both services, and it has been an essential component of the restructuring arrangements that probation service staff continue to operate in prison establishments and to be seconded to NOMS headquarters (including to DOMS' offices).

In particular, throughout the regional restructuring, there has been a clear recognition of the benefits in bringing together skills, competencies and experience from all parts of the new agency. Probation staff were selected for the posts generated by the restructure through established secondment arrangements. It is not possible for probation staff to apply for permanent positions in the civil service other than through open competition where the post is advertised externally. Probation staff are employees of probation areas and secondment arrangements ensure that an appropriate level of integration takes place.

Probation staff work in prisons in the public and private sector under service level agreements (SLA) between the governor or director of each establishment and the chief officer of the local probation area. It is ultimately for the Director of Offender Management to commission the level of service that he or she considers to be appropriate within the region and to determine budget allocation. The budget for probation services provided within prisons is part of the prisons overall budget and the amount is designated by the governor of the prison.

Information on the average length of deployment for probation staff to prison establishments is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost. In respect of NOMS HQ, the current requirement of the Civil Service Commission is for secondments to be limited to a maximum of two years. This is currently being reviewed as the future structures with NOMS are developed.