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The impact of Covid-19 on probation

New report

04 August 2020
The impact of Covid-19 on probation

The Justice Select Committee has published a report on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the probation service and the measures established by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS).

The report praised the vital work of the probation service, particularly that of the front-line staff in adapting to the current climate by shifting from face-to-face to digital supervision and making doorstep visits to high-risk offenders. The Committee expressed concern, however, at the backlog of unpaid work and other sentence requirements that offenders have not been able to undertake.

The report found that the pandemic has exacerbated staffing issues, with 2,000 staff (20% of the total workforce) off work due to Covid-19 each day. It reported that it was unclear what measures were in place to support staff morale and wellbeing. The Committee also expressed concern at inconsistencies in practice that may be hindering staff safety and recommended that the MoJ and HMPPS set out what guidance has been issued to community rehabilitation companies and how they are monitoring the models being delivered.

The Committee also expressed concern at an apparent lack of additional measures to support those leaving prison to transition into the community in the current circumstances, when support services have mostly closed their offices. It welcomed the increase in the Subsistence Grant available to those prisoners released under the End of Custody Temporary Release Scheme and recommended the same increase be made to the Discharge Grant. The Committee also welcomed the measures established to find accommodation for those released from prison, including the seven Homeless Prevention Taskforces set up by the MoJ, and the securing of £8.5 million to support individuals at risk of homelessness.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the probation service at a time when it was already undergoing its second major restructuring programme in the past five years. The Committee is launching an inquiry into the latest proposed reforms, which are due to be in place by 2021.

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