#NQ7: Working Links slammed by the Inspectorate for service delivery in Gloucestershire

Despite heroic efforts by staff, the service in Gloucestershire CRC was nowhere near the standard expected, Dame Glenys Stacey said after her most recent inspection.

The inspection looked at the quality of probation work carried out by the CRC and the NPS and assessed the effectiveness of work undertaken locally with people who have committed crimes. Clients being supervised by the NPS were being “managed well” but the situation for those under the responsibility of the CRC was entirely different.

Overall, the work of the CRC in Gloucestershire was poor. The Inspectorate criticised Working Links for not implementing the plans set out in its original contract bid for continuity of support for people during their supervision. Instead, cases were being transferred between case managers too often and the complex allocation models which had not been fully implemented were causing confusion for staff.

Dame Glenys’s report also found that the high caseloads were unreasonable. Managers and staff are working hard, but sickness absence levels are high, and the quality of work is poor overall – because staff are over-burdened and not given the professional support expected. As a result, the public are more at risk than necessary, and those wanting to turn their lives around may be denied the chance to do so.

Dame Glenys said: “The National Probation Service was performing reasonably well, and the public can be reassured that those people who pose a higher risk are generally being supervised to an acceptable standard in Gloucestershire, although more could be done to reduce the risk that individuals reoffend.

“The picture was much more troubling at the Community Rehabilitation Company, where there have been drastic staff cuts to try and balance the books.  Those remaining are under mounting pressure and carrying unacceptable workloads that prevent them doing a good job.

“This CRC’s work is so far below par that its owner and government need to work together urgently to improve matters, so that those under supervision and the general public receive the service they rightly expect, and the staff that remain can do the job they so wish to do.”

Inspectors made recommendations which included: the CRC reducing individual caseloads to manageable levels; ensuring managers are allocated responsibilities which are reasonable and achievable so that they can support frontline staff; and improving unpaid work arrangements. The NPS should develop a clear strategy to deliver rehabilitation activity requirements effectively and ensure that work to protect the public and manage risk of harm is reviewed appropriately in all cases.

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