Domestic abuse victims & children at risk from ‘unacceptably poor’ probation service

A probation service’s work with offenders remains “unacceptably poor” with concerns raised over failures to check the risks posed to domestic abuse victims and children, inspectors said.

The “greatest deficiencies” in the Norfolk and Suffolk Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) lie in its work to manage the risk of harm to others, in cases where the safeguarding of children or domestic abuse is a concern, the chief inspector of probation Justin Russell (pictured) said.

He added: “Rapid improvement is essential to ensure that vulnerable people are protected.”

Several improvements had been made since the last inspection, but Mr Russell said: “It was disappointing, therefore, to find the quality of case management remains unacceptably poor.”

The organisation, run by private company Sodexo Justice Services, supervises more than 3,000 low and medium-risk offenders, including those preparing to leave prison, others who have already been released and those serving community or suspended sentences.

Overall, the service was rated as requiring improvement after an inspection in May.

In more than half of the inspected cases, insufficient action was taken to identify and manage the risks that an individual could pose to others, the report said.

Inspectors felt staff should have contacted the police about domestic abuse concerns, but in many cases, they failed to do so.

The report said it was “of great concern” that assessments and analysis of the risks of harm offenders could pose to others had only been carried out in a minority of cases (45%).

Inspectors described assessments as inadequate, adding: “There were important gaps in obtaining information from police and children’s social care in circumstances where domestic abuse and safeguarding were an issue.”

In some of the cases, the assessed level of risk was incorrect and key information had been left out.

The report said: “This is concerning and raises issues regarding the level of management competence.”

In one instance, paperwork did not mention how an offender had a history of violence against police officers and a former partner in front of their child, as well as threatening others with weapons including an axe while drunk and had previously been assessed as “posing a high risk of causing serious harm”.

In 73% of community sentence cases, inquiries had not been made to police domestic abuse units, even for a number of cases where there was clearly a current or previous history of domestic abuse, inspectors found.

Children’s services had not been contacted in 47% of relevant community sentence cases beforehand.

“Failure to make timely inquiries potentially exposes people to unnecessary risks,” the report said.

But the service’s approach to arranging and making sure offenders carried out their unpaid work as part of their sentence was classed as outstanding.

Among the recommendations, the CRC was told to improve the quality of assessments and reviews, “ensuring that checks are made of children’s social care and police domestic abuse units in all relevant cases, and that assessments draw on all relevant sources of information” and prioritise staff training.

A Norfolk and Suffolk CRC spokesman said: “We had already introduced robust new action plans to address the issues raised in the report prior to the inspection, such as the quality, consistency and depth of our case supervision, with these new plans ensuring protecting the public remains our priority.”

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