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Probation Officers

Volume 535: debated on Tuesday 8 November 2011

We have already taken steps such as reducing the number of targets and revising national standards to increase the time spent face to face with offenders. The Ministry is taking forward the offender engagement programme of work further to cut red tape and give probation officers back their professional discretion.

In July, the Justice Committee found that, under the previous Government, just 25% of probation service staff time was spent with offenders. I welcome the fact that, in Cambridgeshire, that figure has improved to more than 60%, but I urge the Government to take further steps, given that that has a crucial role in tackling reoffending.

I am delighted to hear of that excellent performance in Cambridgeshire. That is evidence of the good practice now flowing from freeing probation officers from the highly prescriptive target setting and performance management that led to that 24% figure. That is what happens when 60 pages of national standards are reduced to three, and professionals are supported with decent guidance and allowed to get on with doing the job to the best of their ability in the public interest.

Ministers have already acknowledged that probation officers will have to spend more time monitoring dangerous offenders on licence in the community as a result of introducing the new extended determinate sentence. What estimates has the Minister made of the additional costs of this extra supervision?

It will be some time before prisoners are being released from the sentence framework that we have just introduced, because those sentences apply to people who receive sentences of more than six years’ imprisonment, and the extended sentences will be many years ahead, so we have not yet done a detailed assessment.