'Urgent action' needed at probation firm BeNCH CRC

Probation officer and offender (actors) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption BenCH supervises people on community service, as well as prison inmates and offenders released from prison

A probation company that did not properly investigate all domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues must do more to protect victims, a report has said.

Inspectors visited Beds, Northants, Cambs and Herts Community Rehabilitation Company (BeNCH CRC) and rated some services as inadequate.

Urgent action to improve was needed, the Inspectorate of Probation said.

BeNCH CRC has a "substantial" improvement plan in place, it added.

The service, which was given an overall rating of "requires improvement", supervises more than 7,000 low-risk and medium-risk offenders who are either in prison, or have been released or are serving community sentences.

The chief inspector of probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, praised BeNCH's workforce, with staff "motivated to support people to turn away from crime."

'Falls short'

Case management was found to be poor, however, and a sample of cases revealed staff needed to do more to protect actual and potential victims.

"In particular, domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues were not always investigated or recorded properly," said Dame Glenys.

"Probation services should prioritise both rehabilitation and public safety, so BeNCH CRC needs to give this matter their urgent attention."

Image caption Dame Glenys Stacey, pictured in March, said the service's support for former prisoners needed to improve "from start to finish"

Meetings with people on probation took place in open booths in the CRC's offices, despite the inspectorate's previous concerns.

The CRC's work to support people leaving prison, known as Through the Gate, was found to be inadequate for not fully considering personal circumstances or managing potential risks to other people.

Dame Glenys said: "The quality of Through the Gate work falls short of expectation in so many respects. It needs to improve, from start to finish."

The inspectorate said BeNCH CRC, one of six probation services run by Sodexo, had started to put a substantial programme in place to improve the standard of its work.

BeNCH has been approached for comment.