Kent, Surrey and Sussex region probation services rated as ‘Requires improvement’

Probation services in Kent, Surrey and Sussex (KSS) have received an overall regional rating of ‘Requires improvement’ by His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation.

This was the first regional inspection of the Inspectorate’s current programme, and while it revealed clear strengths in the area’s overall strategic arrangements, the quality of work delivered to manage people on probation was insufficient, with particularly poor and concerning results in the quality of court reports and public protection. In contrast, statutory victim work was delivered to a high standard.

Martin Jones, Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “Staffing in the region was in a fragile position. Despite improvements made to staffing numbers through proactive recruitment, significant gaps were still present – national recruitment limitations and insufficient salaries to cope with the cost of living in the region were hampering the region’s ability to resource the service appropriately. Levels of experience in the region were also limited, and deficits were found with national training, with this not preparing newly qualified probation staff adequately for their role post-qualification.”

The inspection also showed improvements were needed in the quality of work to assess and manage the risks that people on probation pose to the community. This was found to be particularly poor in implementation and delivery, where only 22 per cent of cases we inspected were judged sufficient to effectively support the safety of other people.

In contrast, statutory victim work in the region was very strong and rated ‘Outstanding’, with inspectors noting that, in reviewed cases, 100 per cent of victims were able to make relevant contributions prior to the release of perpetrators.

The region’s leadership team was also found to be resilient, innovative and responsive to the challenges faced; implementing additional roles to improve quality, delivering a consistent message around improving culture and persistent in addressing unacceptable behaviour appropriately and decisively.

Mr Jones added: “This region will be disappointed with the overall findings of this inspection, given the strengths in leadership and strong delivery in victim work. The current recruitment model is unlikely to address the issues it faces regarding resourcing, and a more localised and incentive-based approach is required. Achievements have been made by the region, but it continues to face challenges going forward. If the staffing difficulties can be addressed and there is a focus on the quality of casework and embedding learning, the region can progress on a continued positive trajectory.”


 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. KSS region is one of 11 probation regions in England, with a further region in Wales. Five Probation Delivery Units (PDUs) make up the region, consisting of: Brighton and East Sussex, West Sussex, East Kent, West Kent and Surrey.
  3. For this report, the Inspectorate conducted fieldwork in each PDU across KSS between 27 November 2023 and 26 January 2024. We reviewed 223 cases, of which 151 were subject to a community sentence and 72 were subject to release on licence.
  4. Staffing levels are at 90 per cent, which equates to 1,170 members of staff. Vacancy rates differ depending on roles, with the largest vacancies being at PO grade, which is currently 70 per cent of target staffing. Probation Services Officer (PSO) grade was staffed at 128 per cent as part of an approach to remedy resourcing issues in the region.
  5. The report is available at on 09 May 2024.
  6. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth justice and probation services across England and Wales. We report on the effectiveness of probation and youth justice service work with adults and children. We highlight good and poor practice, and use our data and information to encourage high-quality services. We are independent of government, and speak independently.
  7. 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.
  8. For media enquiries, please contact Louise Cordell, Head of Communications
    07523 805224 / (E-mail address)