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Probation Service: Recruitment and Retention in Oxfordshire

Volume 644: debated on Tuesday 10 July 2018

13. What recent assessment his Department has made of trends in recruitment and retention rates for the probation service in Oxfordshire. (906359)

We have a series of challenges in relation to retention in Oxfordshire, some of which will be familiar to the hon. Lady. They are partly about the fact that people can get jobs in London, with London weighting, and they are partly to do with general problems around employment. We are, however, addressing them through a new recruitment campaign that is much more locally targeted, and I am pleased to say that we have managed to increase the number of applications from 500 to 5,000.

I thank the Minister for his well-prepared answer, but the fact is that the probation service in Oxfordshire is at breaking point. That is also to do with sky-rocketing workloads, the high cost of living and paltry pay rises since 2009. One officer told me that they are being forced to cut corners and feel they

“can no longer actively reduce reoffending or keep the public safe.”

How can we guarantee that these measures will actually work? Is it not time to consider a housing allowance?

We have been in discussion with the Treasury, and we got clearance this week to begin discussions with the unions on the question of pay. Of course pay matters, but we have also learned real lessons about recruitment. As I say, ensuring that we are not simply doing national recruitment campaigns but are specifically targeting Oxford markets and working in the relevant universities is really beginning to get results. We are filling places much more rapidly, and by the spring of next year, we should be fully staffed.

The hon. Member for Battersea (Marsha De Cordova) should worry not, because I am very much hoping to get to her question. She is not in isolation—she is the leader of a group—so I am not going to muck up the group by calling her now, but I am beavering away to get to Question 17.