Probation service for Dorset rated ‘Inadequate’

The probation service, or Probation Delivery Unit (PDU*), in Dorset has been rated as ‘Inadequate’ following an inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation.

This is the second published PDU inspection we have completed in the Probation Service – South West region. The other is Somerset PDU, which received a rating of ‘Requires improvement’.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Unfortunately, Dorset probation service faces a number of significant challenges, and these have led to a rating of ‘Inadequate’. Despite committed and dedicated staff, there are clear issues with the service’s ability to support people on probation and protect the public, not least too few probation officers to manage their cases.

“We have made a number of recommendations which we hope will assist the service in making the necessary improvements that are needed. This is not for Dorset PDU alone to solve, so I also call on the Probation Service – South West region and HMPPS to provide support, including the recruitment of new staff.”

Our main concern was the staffing levels of Dorset PDU, who have been without a permanent, full-time head of service for two years. Despite a full complement of middle managers, at the time of our inspection they had a 45 per cent vacancy rate for qualified probation officers. This meant that the workloads of current staff were unmanageable, and so the service was unable to deliver the high quality of supervision to people on probation we expect. For example, a significant number of people on probation were not completing their required programmes – such as unpaid work orders – in a reasonable time or before their sentence had ended.

More positively, we were pleased to see that Dorset probation service has positive working relationships and information-sharing with police and child safeguarding teams. This means they have access to vital information to protect children and victims of domestic violence to properly manage the risk a person on probation may pose. The next step will be to ensure this information is utilised fully, including that all cases are reviewed for any risk of serious harm to a victim or potential victim.

This inspection made 13 recommendations: eight for Dorset PDU and the rest for the South West regional service and HMPPS.


Notes to editor

  1. *Probation Delivery Units (PDUs) replaced Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS), which merged into a unified Probation Service in June 2021.
  2. This probation service sits within the Probation Service – South West region.
  3. This report is available at on 10 August 2023 00.01.
  4. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  5. The Inspectorate uses a four-point scale: ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’. The Inspectorate rates specific aspects of each service and also gives an overall rating.
  6. Fieldwork for this inspection took place in May 2023
  7. For media enquiries, please contact (E-mail address)