Online learning maintains probation service divide, says NAPO Chair

Online learning is preserving the gulf between staff that came from the National Probation Service and those from private CRCs the London Assembly has heard.

There is a gulf between staff who work for the National Probation Service and those from private sector Community Rehabilitation Companies, according to the chair of National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO).

She said that since the reunification of the Probation Service the fact that learning and development offered to staff is still being delivered online means the gulf between the two staff cohorts remains. 

This means NPS staff are allocated higher risk case work and those who transferred from CRCs are not.

Speaking to the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee she said: “I know a lot of people use the language of a ‘merger’. But it wasnt a merger. The CRCs’ contracts were ending and they ceased to exist and the staff that were doing that work were transferred into the National Probation Service. 

“What actually hapenend was that those staff were transplanted into an organisation that worked very differently. There’s clearly going to be a period of adjustment.” 

She pointed to the transformation coinciding with Covid as well as staffing issues on both sides also adding to difficulties. “We’re still not seeing a level of operation in the probation service that would be expected”, she added, 

“A lot of the learning and development that has been offered to staff, both the staff transferring and the existing staff is online,” she added. 

“It’s not delivered in a way that we would recognise as best practice - especially given the drive to bring people into the workplace together so that more experienced and less experienced staff can learn from one another. 

“Sitting behind your computer watching a video and then doing an online test at the end of it doesn’t really give the best [opportunities]. 

“For that reason, there still remains an inconsistency in how cases are allocated. Staff from the former National Probation Service are consistently allocated higher risk and more complex cases than staff who transferred from the CRCs because those staff still need more learning and development to take on those more complex cases.” 

She said that the feedback from members has been that the learning is “poor” “boring” and “frustrating”. 

Throughout the meeting, there was general support for the reunification model as well as continued concern over workloads.