Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust 'improvements needed'

Concerns have been raised about the way offenders are managed in Devon and Cornwall following an inspection of the Probation Trust.

A report found the trust had worked well to protect the public and prevent reoffending but said further improvements needed to be made in assessment and planning.

It also said there was a lack of help for offenders with alcohol problems.

The inspection aims to assess if court sentences are delivered effectively.

It was the third of six inspections in which inspectors focus on the quality of work with violent offenders and whether this protects the public, reduces the likelihood of reoffending and provides a high quality service to courts and victims.

'Insufficient quality'

Liz Calderbank, chief inspector of probation, said the Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust - which works with about 4,000 offenders each year - had worked "effectively" with other agencies in delivering offending-related work.

But she added: "There remains a need for further improvements in risk of harm assessments and planning."

Inspectors said they were concerned to find that:

  • The quality of initial sentence plans was not always sufficient - some were not sufficiently informed by the assessments about an individual's likelihood of reoffending or risk of harm
  • Alcohol misuse was usually recognised in the initial assessment, but interventions to address the problem should have been provided in more cases
  • An initial risk of serious harm screening was missing or not completed sufficiently well in a number of cases
  • Too many risk management plans were either not completed or were completed to an insufficient quality

'Well managed'

Ms Calderbank praised the trust for using in-house research and quality assurance to provide useful information to help focus resources and improve performance.

Inspectors added they were "pleased to find" that:

  • Interventions were generally delivered according to the requirements of the sentence and in line with sentence plan objectives
  • In nearly all cases the offender manager took appropriate action in relation to non-compliance
  • In most instances constructive interventions encouraged and challenged individuals to take responsibility for their actions and focused on changes they needed to make to their behaviour
  • Overall, the risk of harm to victims was well managed and the safety of children and young people promoted

Jacquie Felix Mitchell, from the Probation Service in Devon, said: "Devon and Cornwall Probation Trust have worked well to protect the public and to prevent re-offending, that's one of our key aims, so that is an important message.

"The report found there are things that need to be improved and we are always looking at ways of improving things. It is always good to face these head on and say 'what else can we do better?'... to improve, for example the report, and that is not something we step aside from or take lightly."

Inspectors have made a number of recommendations to the trust to help it improve on their concerns.

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