Probation officers working from home puts public at risk, watchdog says 

Probation officers working from home puts public at risk because staff shortages make it ‘impossible’ to guarantee safety, watchdog says

  • Chief Inspector of Probation criticised remote working for probation officers 
  • Justin Russell said inexperienced recruits are failing to learn from senior staff
  • He warned working from home policies are ‘eroding teamwork’ in the sector 

Remote working by probation officers is harming efforts to keep the public safe from criminals released from jail, a watchdog has found.

The Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell, warned of the implications of working from home policies – and claimed it is ‘eroding teamwork’.

Mr Russell said the ability of inexperienced recruits to learn from senior staff was being seriously hampered by the practice.

The watchdog has raised major concerns over remote working in a series of inspection reports.

Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell, warned of the implications of working from home policies ¿ and claimed it is ¿eroding teamwork¿ among probation officers

Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell, warned of the implications of working from home policies – and claimed it is ‘eroding teamwork’ among probation officers

His repeated warnings came amid failures by the probation service in a series of high-profile cases such as murderers Jordan McSweeney and Damien Bendall. Both were wrongly classified as ‘medium risk’ rather than ‘high risk’.

On home-working, Mr Russell claimed in a report on the team covering part of Birmingham and Solihull that the ‘inexperienced’ workforce ‘has not been helped by home working reducing the opportunities for collaborative working’.

He added: ‘The professional knowledge of more experienced staff is not always available to new starters, and the teamwork ethos has been eroded.’

In a report on the Staffordshire and Stoke probation area, Mr Russell warned that hybrid working ‘may not be working’.

And in his annual report he said the practice meant ‘teams do not meet face to face often’.

He found that some probation officers worked from home for ‘the majority of the week’. But warned: ‘Our working assumption is that face-to-face delivery is preferential.’

Mr Russell said it was ‘impossible’ to guarantee the public is safe from freed criminals due to staff shortages.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: ‘Probation staff continue to meet offenders face to face and hybrid working has no impact on their ability to manage offenders.’

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