A service which supervises thousands of convicted criminals across South Yorkshire has been criticised in a number of key areas by Government inspectors.
HM Inspectorate of Probation gave South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company an overall rating of ‘Requires Improvement’.
Inspectors said the Sheffield-based service had “weak case supervision, with some inadequate aspects and a lack of qualified probation staff.”
However, they also concluded that the Sodexo-owned CRC has an “outstanding leadership team which was driving improvements.”
HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: “Unpaid work delivery in this CRC is good, but urgent improvements are needed to the rest of its work, and in probation supervision overall.
“There have been too many changes of practitioners for individuals under supervision, and those practitioners have also experienced changes in line managers.
“That needs to stop now, so far as possible, and leaders must concentrate on improving the skills base, and with it the quality of work delivered.”
The inspection was carried out in November and December last year when the organisation was managing 3,812 ‘low or medium risk’ individuals.
Those under their supervision have been convicted of crimes such as shoplifting, harassment or motoring offences and are tasked with completing a number of programmes such as unpaid community work.
The report found the rate of re-offending to be comparatively high but Dame Glenys noted that “senior leaders are working with partner agencies on a laudable initiative to prioritise resources to those who are most frequently arrested.”
It added that more accredited programmes are needed, along with improvements to accommodation and employment prospects.
Inspectors identified inexperienced staff as a problem in case supervision work and the number of qualified probation officers had fallen considerably since Sodexo took ownership in 2015.
Dame Glenys praised the organisation for “putting substantial effort into quality management” but added: “At present, the skills gaps are reflected in the poor quality of assessment and planning work with individuals.”
The report noted that weak assessments, leading to poor planning, “often resulted in insufficient attention being given to the likelihood of individuals posing a risk of harm to others.”
But inspectors also highlighted how the CRC is “making significant changes to its operating model.”
This includes making sure individuals are no longer subject to telephone-only supervision, and leaders have taken action to “improve the important work of assessing each individual.”
In a statement, the South Yorkshire CRC said: “We were pleased the report recognises we are training staff to achieve the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) and found an outstanding leadership who were driving improvements and putting substantial effort into quality management.
"We have already put actions plan in place to address the issues raised in the report, to ensure protecting the public remains our priority.
"We will be responding to the inspector in full on the recommendations made."