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Probation Service

Volume 498: debated on Thursday 29 October 2009

The indicative budget for 2010-11, communicated to probation chiefs in February 2009 was £844 million, compared with a budget of £894 million in 2009-10. This would have been a 5.6 per cent. reduction year-on-year.

In the light of strong representations I have received from the probation service and from the probation unions, and my particular concern about employment prospects for recently qualified probation officers, I can announce today that the confirmed 2010-11 allocation will be £870 million, £26 million more than the original indicative budget. This equates to a reduction of 2.68 per cent. year-on-year. This is consistent with the savings expected across the public service.

In this economic climate the probation service along with all public services has to achieve efficiency savings. Probation boards and trusts have been required to review their structures, overheads, support services and efficiency levels. This funding will enable probation boards/trusts to review their staffing plans for 2010-11 which will benefit both the September 2009 graduates and the 305 trainee probation officers due to graduate in September 2010.

The additional funding will be targeted to increase confidence in community penalties and divert low risk offenders from short term custody. Directors of offender management will be required to negotiate specific service improvements with individual boards/trusts which will be incorporated in SLAs contracts for 2010-11 to ensure that this additional funding is targeted on front line delivery. Detailed work will be undertaken by directors of offender management with areas/trusts to agree additional service delivery requirements and finalise individual allocations.

The total case load of offenders being supervised by the probation service rose by 53 per cent. between 31 December 1997 and 31 December 2008 (from 159,200 to 243,400). This compares to an overall rise in the probation service budget of 70 per cent. in real terms between 1997 and 2007.

The total offender case load has remained stable in recent years. At 31 December 2007 there were 242,700 offenders being supervised, compared to 243,400 at 31 December 2008 and 244,300 at 31 March 2009.

The overriding priority for the probation service is public protection which will not be put at risk. Probation areas are looking to make any required savings through back office and management rationalisation and improvements in efficiency and processes, protecting front line delivery.