Probation service told to listen to local voices

22 Feb 01
The probation service must balance conflicting local and national demands on its resources if it is to improve its services, according to the Audit Commission.

23 February 2001

In a report published on February 21, it says the probation service in England and Wales must come to terms with these twin pressures by identifying demands from key national and local stakeholders.

The service should also make sure staff and trade unions are 'on board' using effective two-way communication, according to the report, which was published in advance of changes to the probation service's structure and operating environment.

Andrew Foster, Controller of the Audit Commission, said: 'The probation service has a key role to play within the criminal justice system, supervising nearly 20,000 people each year.

'If the reorganisation of the service is to succeed, then boards must balance local and national expectations and make sure that improvement programmes are challenging but delivering.'

In accordance with Home Office recommendations, the probation service will be reorganised into 42 local boards, rather than the current 52 local committees, on April 2. A national directorate accountable to ministers will also be set up. The moves are aimed at making the service more accountable, cost-effective and responsive to technological change.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Prison Officers, said: 'It will be difficult to balance the conflicting demands of local and national needs but they are achievable in time.

'The NAPO supports the government changes and the setting up of a national directorate – it's important that employees, managers and staff work together to ensure its success.'


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