Inspectors call for Probation Board for Northern Ireland to further improve existing risk management

An independent inspection of probation practice in Northern Ireland published today (10 December 2020) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has recommended the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) take steps to improve how it manages the risks presented by men and women under probation supervision to others in the community.
“Inspectors were concerned to find staff morale within the PBNI was poor with many staff describing an organisational culture in which they did not feel valued, trusted or supported by senior leaders despite the time and effort made to keep the PBNI staff group engaged.

“We have recommended the PBNI should develop an action plan within the next six months to address the issues raised of culture and trust within the organisation,” she said.

The Chief Inspector said that despite the issues identified during the inspection, the report also highlighted the PBNI’s willingness to innovate, change how it delivered its services and engage with people who were completing Probation Orders or other probation programmes.

She acknowledged the PBNI had undertaken additional work in support of the design of Enhanced Combination Orders, problem solving justice initiatives and projects designed to support and prevent young men at risk of becoming involved or further involved, in paramilitary and other criminal behaviour.

“This work has been carried out a time of austerity, financial uncertainty and challenge when even the safety of some PBNI staff had been at risk.  These positive developments are very welcome, but the successful leadership, management and delivery of pilot projects should not be at the expense of consistently maintaining quality core services,” said Ms Durkin.

The inspection report also recommends that the Department of Justice reviews the PBNI’s governance arrangements including the size of its management board.

In conclusion the Chief Inspector said: “One of the PBNI’s organisational values is recognising people’s capacity to change.  This is as true for the organisation as it is for its service users. 

“The recommendations in this report aim to support the PBNI to deliver better services and better protection and outcomes, especially around risk management, for the benefit of us all including people who are under probation supervision.

“The PBNI have already taken action on the report recommendations and I am confident the PBNI can and will continue its journey, demonstrating its ability to change and grow. I look forward to reviewing progress against the inspection recommendations when Inspectors return to carry out a follow-up review as part of future inspection work” said Ms Durkin.