Hampshire probation standards 'at risk' after staff cuts
A probation service is no longer effective after reducing its number of qualified staff, a watchdog has said.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) has been rated "good" in a report by HM Inspectorate of Probation.
However the report said "sweeping changes" to staffing, linked to "financial pressures", had put the quality of the service "at risk".
Purple Futures, which runs the CRC, said it "refuted" the claim.
The "good" ranking is the best ever achieved by a CRC since the ratings system was introduced in 2018.
The Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, praised the organisation's "strong leadership".
However, she said the CRC had seconded almost a quarter of its probation officers to another organisation, leaving staffing levels "precariously low".
She said: "The quality of its work is at risk... as the owners have decided to reduce the professionally qualified proportion of its workforce and there have been delays in recruiting new, less experienced staff.
"In my opinion, the CRC no longer has the quantity and calibre of staff to deliver an effective service."
The Inspectorate said the staffing changes, which were made at the same time as the inspection in January, were connected to "financial pressures".
In 2018, the government announced that all CRCs in England and Wales would end their contracts two years early, after several made "very substantial losses".
Purple Futures is part of a consortium led by public service provider Interserve.
A spokesman said: "We refute the claim that recent changes to the service could put that at risk.
"We currently have just five vacancies and are actively recruiting to fill this gap.
"The changes made to our staffing model were implemented because we firmly believe they will deliver a better service to offenders [and] in part due to the financial pressures faced by all of the country's CRCs."