Inside our National Probation Service
Ilena Philippides Rees
“I like working which is what keeps me in the job. I like working with my offenders, I like spending time with them, trying to help them, trying to help them understand who they are, what they are, how they are. I like my job but I don’t like my organisation. I think that is a very common thing, the organisation has lost way.”
Antounette Fiska, a National Probation officer (NPS) in Birmingham, England has been a part of the National Probation service for 30 years this year. Since the service split in 2014, she has discussed the effects on the efficiency of the service, and morale.
Existing staff had been split between CRCs and NPS. 70% of probation work had been outsourced to private companies, the community rehabilitation companies (CRC) which deals with low and medium risk offenders. The rest remains in the public sector- supervision of the most dangerous offenders.
When asked about the split, Antounette said: “It was absolutely horrible. We all go letters saying your NPS or you’re in CRC, so they arrived at a weekend so everyone was ringing round their mates asking what they got because we didn’t know. I got NPS and the lady that used to sit next to me got CRC, it just seemed random. It was totally outrageous. It caused a lot of division and upset. It was extremely uncomfortable and didn’t make much sense of who got what and why or how. It was to do with the caseloads on the day. Some people felt so bad that a lot of them left. They keep trying to recruit because were understaffed from it still but the process of training is so special, and they’re trying to do training quickly, putting graduates in a lot of pressure. Instead of doing the training, a lot leave.”
Understaffing since the service split has been a massive issue. Caseloads are hitting an all-time high. Before the split, people had around 40 cases, not all being high risk. Now, Antounette’s case load is 57 high risk cases, people who need extra attention and rehabilitation. She said: “We are definitely understaffed. At the moment, I’m running at 122% capacity, that’s 122% over what they think I should have. They’re still giving me more cases.” There are more processes, more paperwork, on top of a more intense workload.
As a probation officer, you have to manage offenders in order to protect the public and reduce the incidence of reoffending. You have to work with offenders in courts, in the community and in custody to make communities safer.
It’s understandable that workers feel it’s becoming more difficult to do their jobs justice.
There’s a basic principle when being a probation officer of working and engaging with people who are troubled. Antounette said: “It is proven that the only thing that works is the relationship between the individual and the worker. If you have a good rapport, then that’s the singularly most important...