Domestic abuse and child protection concerns at probation service

A Merseyside probation service has been criticised for failing to prevent domestic abuse and for apparent child safeguarding issues, a report has said.

Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Centre (CRC) was deemed by inspectors to have done "insufficient work to identify and manage the potential risk of harm" posed by former prisoners and those serving community sentences.

HM Inspectorate of Probation said that in a third of cases that it reviewed involved domestic abuse and in one quarter of cases it had concerns over child safeguarding.

Merseyside Community Rehabilitation Centre.(Pic Andrew Teebay).

Concerns were also raised about a lack of resources at Merseyside CRC and how cases were allocated to staff, with inspectors concluding that staff "did not always take into account the level or risk of harm that individuals can pose."

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Alarmingly, 40% of staff interviewed said that they were not allocated cases that matched their skills, experience and training.

Merseyside CRC said that it welcomed the report and that protecting the public was its priority.

The probation service is responsible for managing over 6,200 low to medium risk offenders in Liverpool, Knowsley, St Helens, Sefton and Wirral.

While it was praised for its supporting prisoners leaving prison, Merseyside CRC was rated as 'requires improvement', following its latest inspection in January and February.

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Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: "We last inspected Merseyside CRC in June 2018. It is disappointing that the overall rating has stayed the same.

"This CRC has strong leadership, committed to improvement which has made considerable efforts to follow up recommendations from our previous inspection. The deliver of unpaid work and Through the Gate support for those leaving prison have both improved.

"However, the overall quality of probation supervision has declined since our last inspection, particularly in relation to safety. We were also concerned by the CRC's lean resourcing and the way it allocates some cases."

“Probation services must strike a balance between supporting rehabilitation and protecting the public. In too many of the inspected cases, there was insufficient work to identify and manage the potential risk of harm.

“Probation staff should work closely with agencies such as the police and children’s social care services to consider all the available data and glean intelligence.

“They should consider the individual’s previous offending history, as well as the latest offence that has led to their supervision. Deeper analysis will give a more rounded picture of the potential risks and help to protect victims.”

In response to the report, Merseyside CRC said that they have implemented measures to improve practice in areas identified and that it had developed "a robust action plan" to make further improvements.

John Quick, Director of Operations, at Merseyside CRC said: "We welcome the report and are pleased HM Inspectorate of Probation recognise we are 'on the right track'.

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"We have implemented a series of measures to improve practice where issues have been identified. Protecting the public is our priority, and the report highlights our senior leaders and staff are committed and motivated to reduce re-offending and improve the quality of service delivery, despite well-documented resourcing pressures from the Ministry of Justice's original contracts with CRCs.

"We've developed a robust action plan to further improve our practice. We are also very pleased to see the success of our Community Payback and Through the Gate services reflected in the report."