Napo, has warned senior civil servants that their plans to disband the specialist sex offender units in probation will pose a significant risk to the public.
Divisional sex offender units are teams of highly experienced probation staff who deliver Horizon, an offending behaviour programme designed for those who commit sexual offences and to reduce their risk of harm and re-offending. Under His Majesties Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS) proposed policy, these expert teams of practitioners will be disbanded and all staff, irrelevant of experience, will be expected to deliver all probation programmes to all clients. There is also a push by the employer to reduce the pay band of staff working in the programmes teams, further undermining the skills and pay of dedicated professionals.
Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary said: “These proposals will not only see highly skilled staff being effectively down banded in a move that seeks to undermine the complex work our members deliver, but disbanding the specialist sex offender unit will make risk management and risk reduction much more difficult. Napo believe that these proposals will pose a risk of harm to the public.”
The probation service is currently in a staffing and workloads crisis. All three probation unions have launched Operation Protect, a workloads campaign across probation to push the employer to take action.
Ian Lawrence went on to say: “Our members are in a state of burn out. They have been carrying workloads well above what is sustainable. The biggest cause of sickness absence is stress and mental health. The sex offender unit play a vital part in supporting case mangers with working with sex offenders especially the new staff with little or no experience. Disbanding them at this point, with no alternative in place will have widely felt ramifications right across the service.”
Since the probation service was reunified in June 2021, the probation service has been in a constant state of restructure and change adding further stress to an already burnt-out workforce. Napo along with other key stakeholders are calling on the Minister to pause all changes and allow the service time to breath.
Ian Lawrence said: “Staff are exhausted from dangerously high workloads, chronic staff shortages and the constant reorganisation. They need time to breath and go back to getting the basics right if we are to have a fully functioning and effective probation service like we did before the ill thought through privatisation. The relentless remodelling by civil servants with no probation background will ultimately undermine public protection and risk management”.