‘Community Service helping offenders to make a positive contribution to the community’: Report

An inspection of the Community Service schemes operated by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) has recognised the positive contribution they are making to the community.

The findings of the inspection published today (10 March 2010) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI), found the work being undertaken by offenders participating in the schemes was socially useful and of benefit to community.
“Inspectors found that Community Service offered several acknowledged benefits. Reconviction rates were found to be comparatively low in comparison with other disposals and its use avoided putting additional pressure on the prison system,” said Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
“In addition, the beneficiaries of the unpaid work- which could range from local charities and church groups to community development organisations, resource centres and individuals who were unable to undertake or pay for the work themselves - were generally satisfied with the work undertaken,” he said.
Dr Maguire said that Inspectors had found there were no evident concerns about public safety or undue risks associated with the community services schemes. In addition, practice was shown to be consistent between both urban and rural areas.
“This inspection found the PBNI’s Community Services schemes were well managed against the Northern Ireland Standards and Service Requirements which are used to assess practice standards,” added the Chief Inspector.
In an effort to further strengthen PBNI’s management of Community Service schemes, Dr Maguire revealed CJI Inspectors had made 15 recommendations aimed at improving the effectiveness of the schemes.
“We have urged the PBNI to develop an action plan to improve the number of offenders commencing work within its 10-day target of when a community service Order is made. 
“This action plan should also seek to improve the average number of hours worked by offenders and the number of individuals fully complying with their Order,” he said.
The Chief Inspector concluded by noting that the PBNI were already aware of these recommendations and the others made by the Inspectorate in its report and was working to address the issues raised.