HL Deb 04 November 2003 vol 654 cc98-9WA
Lord Bradshaw

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What measures they are taking to correct the shortage of staff in the Probation Service. [HL4748]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal)

The National Probation Service (NPS) consists of 42 local probation boards which experience a range of staff vacancies. Typically for the last period of available figures (1 April 2003 to 30 June 2003), vacancies for the National Probation Service as a whole were 5.9 per cent, but rising to 9.9 per cent in the south-east of England. The leaving rate for the same period is 11.6 per cent.

The National Probation Directorate (NPD) and the NPS, as part of the delivery plan for the service's people management strategy, are working on a wide range of initiatives to aid recruitment and retention of staff in the service.

These include:

Introduction of a new system of pay and conditions of service for NPS staff at all levels. Key elements of this modernised system are proposals to improve the package of pay and related benefits both to attract recruits and to improve retention. Measures such as high cost area allowances are being considered.

Policies on flexible working, job-sharing and alternative types of leave.

Examination of the effect of housing costs on recruitment and retention, and working alongside the National Health Service in identifying sources of affordable housing.

The service also has an active qualifying training programme for new officers. This year's intake was just over 1,000 new trainee probation officers and in two years they will provide a substantial group of newly qualified probation officers.