A COST-CUTTING restructure of a Hampshire probation service has had a "profound effect" on the quality of work from staff.

HM Inspectorate of Probation conducted a part-inspection of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in March.

The CRC supervises nearly 3,000 low and medium-risk offenders; some are serving community sentences while others have left or are preparing to leave prison.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “In 2018-2019, Hampshire & Isle of Wight was the only one out of 21 CRCs to be rated ‘Good’.

“On our return, it was disappointing to find a sharp decline in the quality of work with individuals under probation supervision.

"We have concluded this is directly related to a shortfall in sufficiently trained and experienced probation staff.”

Owned by Purple Features, a consortium of private and third-sector businesses, senior leaders at CRC said that they went ahead with the restructure as the consortium had reduced income and needed to cut costs.

Senior leaders had failed to take sufficient account of the need for skilled staff and the time required to recruit and train new case managers.

Inspectors found there had been a 38 per cent reduction in the number of senior case managers since the previous inspection.

While the number of lower-grade case managers had risen significantly, 45 per cent were new to the service.

Inspectors found that new staff members had been assigned "complex cases" that were "beyond their experience", and that more established staff had "high workloads".

This was reported to "compromise their quality of work".

Management oversight was "stretched" and did not pay enough attention to potential risks of harm.

Mr Russell added: “After the last inspection, we warned that substantial changes to the workforce would put the quality of work at risk.

“It takes time for new probation staff to develop the knowledge, skills and experience to handle complex cases. The negative impact of the restructure on the service has been profound.”

Inspectors found a much-improved Through the Gate service for individuals preparing to leave prison and resettle in the community.

The CRC received additional funding from central government and this area of work was rated ‘Outstanding’.

The delivery of unpaid work schemes continued to be rated ‘Good’.

Melanie Pearce, Director of Operations at the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company, said: “We welcome the report and are pleased HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) recognise the excellent support we provide to people leaving prison and the good standard of our Community Payback delivery.

“The report correctly identifies well-documented resourcing pressures resulting from the Ministry of Justice’s original contracts with all of the UK’s CRCs. These funding issues meant we had to reduce costs.

“We launched a robust action plan in early 2019 and believe the training measures we already have in place have gone a long way to addressing the issues highlighted by the HMIP Report. Protecting the public is our priority and we are proud of the services we deliver.”