Soaring probation workloads put the public at risk, warn unions

Crippling workloads will lead to a catastrophic breakdown of the service if the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) does not intervene.

30 Jun 2023| News

Napo, UNISON and GMB, which represent staff working in the probation service in England and Wales, say crippling workloads will lead to a catastrophic breakdown of the service if the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) does not intervene.  

Probation workers are responsible for monitoring people on probation in the community. 

But a recent restructure and staff shortages are making it extremely difficult to keep tabs on some of the UK’s most dangerous individuals, say the unions.

Employees are buckling under the pressure and many workers are quitting, leaving newly qualified and less experienced staff to take the reins.   

Unions fear overstretched staff are being scapegoated for the effects of an under-resourced service, prompting yet more staff to seek employment elsewhere.  

Calls for immediate government intervention have gone unheeded, say unions. This has led to the launch of today’s campaign aimed at reducing workload. 

The three unions are hopeful that the campaign, Operation Protect, will raise wider awareness of the issue and the threat posed to the public.

Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: 

“It would be all too easy for this much-needed campaign to be seen as a negative move from the probation unionsBut among the key objectives is a call to senior leaders in probation and His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to play their part by reaching an agreed workload reduction and management strategy with unions. This will allow the service to start to recover from the incessant and damaging changes it has gone through for more than a decade. 

Probation can and must do better with the right levels of investment, but our members need to see that this government is taking their concerns seriously.” 

UNISON national officer for police and justice Ben Priestley said: 

“Probation staff are determined to keep the public safe and rehabilitate those on probation. But overwhelming workloads and staffing shortages have created a dangerous situation, which the government must address.” 

GMB national officer George Georgiou said:

“The probation service has seen 10 years of underfunding and increasing workloads for all its staff. This campaign seeks to address the working conditions for our members who are being made unwell through high workloads. It will also protect staff, the communities they serve and their profession.” 

The joint union workloads campaign was launched on Monday 26th June at the MoJ.