Struggling south west probation service starting to move in right direction

A probation service in the South West of England ‘requires improvement’ but is starting to make progress under new management, according to inspectors.

HM Inspectorate of Probation conducted a routine inspection of the organisation formerly known as Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire Community Rehabilitation Company. The Inspectorate looked at 10 aspects of their work and has given the organisation an overall rating of ‘Requires improvement’.

The inspection came just a few months after the organisation’s previous owners went into administration. The new owners – Seetec, a private limited company – now run probation services in this region as well as in Devon, Dorset and Cornwall; Kent, Surrey and Sussex; and Wales.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “In the months before the takeover, there was a significant lack of investment in the organisation. This affected staff at every level and their ability to deliver effective probation services.

“There were too few staff and, according to their own system, 15 per cent of them had dangerously high workloads. In some instances, staff were managing an average of 70 cases – this is too high.”

The organisation supervises more than 6,000 low and medium-risk offenders across the region. Around a third are preparing to leave or have left prison, while others are serving community or suspended sentences.

Inspectors found the quality of work with people under probation supervision fell below expectations. They analysed a sample of cases taken from before the takeover and rated the planning, implementation and review of those cases as ‘Inadequate’ – the lowest possible rating. Some of this work was among the worst that inspectors had seen anywhere in the country.

Mr Russell said: “Staff did not always pay sufficient attention to managing risks and keeping other people safe. We would have liked to have seen stronger links with other agencies, such as the police and social services, particularly in cases that involved domestic abuse and child protection.

“Urgent action is needed to ensure staff understand the importance of public protection work. Managers need to ensure staff are suitably trained to deliver this work and there is appropriate oversight.”

Work to support people leaving prison – known as ‘Through the Gate’ – was rated ‘Good’. The team has expanded since April and includes staff based at HMP Bristol, HMP Portland, HMP Guys Marsh and HMP Leyhill. Inspectors found the majority of individuals had resettlement plans that captured their strengths, needs, and factors that would help them to move away from committing further offences.

Mr Russell concluded: “At the time of the inspection, much of the legacy of the former owners was still in place. The new owners are pursuing the right actions. They have undertaken a root and branch review of services, started to invest in both staff and infrastructure, and introduced a greater emphasis on quality assurance. Initial indications are positive, and changes are being implemented with enthusiasm by leaders.

“We have made four recommendations that set out how the organisation needs to improve. This, together with the transition plan that is already in place, will enable the organisation to achieve substantial improvements over the coming months.”


Notes to editor

  1. The report is available at on Thursday 26 September 2019 00.01.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  3. The organisation’s full name is the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire probation services managed by Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company.
  4. Working Links previously owned three CRCs: Wales; Dorset, Devon and Cornwall; and Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire. Working Links went into administration in February 2019 and Seetec took over these three CRCs.
  5. Fieldwork for this inspection took place in May and June 2019 and included cases and working practices that took place under the previous owners.
  6. The CRC supervised 6,539 individuals as at the end of December 2018.
  7. For media enquiries, please contact Head of Communications Catherine Chan on 07889 405930 or (E-mail address)