‘Unprecedented’ staff turnover in challenging year for Probation service

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THE Island’s Probation Service has struggled with an ‘unprecedented’ level of staff turnover in another ‘challenging’ year, with all areas operating at 20% below full capacity for most of 2022.

Chief probation officer Mike Cutland said they were also referring more people to food banks than before, with Islanders reporting ‘real concerns about the cost of living’.

In the latest Jersey Probation and After-Care Service annual report, Mr Cutland said they were ‘pleased’ to have been able to assist food banks through the Positive Steps programme, with young people voluntarily restocking shelves, meeting volunteers and becoming ‘more aware about poverty in Jersey’. The programme aims to give Islanders under 18 opportunities to make reparations to the community and learn new skills. Those taking part are either ordered to do so by the Youth Court, or agree to attend during their probation order.

Commenting on staffing issues, Mr Cutland said: ‘The last year has been another challenging one in terms of the high staff turnover caused mainly through retirement.’

In the report, he said the past year ‘has seen an unprecedented level of staff changes’.

But he added: ‘The loss of valued and experienced colleagues has been partly offset by the skill, energy and innovation of new colleagues.’

It has become increasingly difficult to recruit staff, Mr Cutland said, with a shortage of probation officers and social workers in Jersey. Feedback from potential UK applicants has identified the high cost of living in the Island as a barrier.

Recruitment issues and sick leave meant all areas of the service had been at 20% below full capacity for the majority of the year, while difficulties employing weekend supervisors also disrupted some operational work, according to the report.

Mr Cutland said their strategy was to develop and train colleagues from Jersey but the service found itself ‘currently in transition due to the loss of several senior practitioners’.

He added: ‘Recruitment will remain a challenge and we are committed to training local people to take up roles in the service wherever possible.’

But Mr Cutland said the team retained a ‘high morale’, highlighting their ‘commitment and professionalism’ and praising new staff, and the ‘excellent progress’ of trainees.

As well as referring more people to food banks, Mr Cutland said the service had noticed ‘what appears to be increasing difficulties facing clients’.

‘Emotional problems have featured highly as a contributory factor in offending, and this has been reflected in the rising number of emotional coping skills sessions we have delivered. These problems are also likely to impact relationships and our delivery of the domestic abuse programme has also increased – referrals are accepted from outside the criminal justice system to promote non-abusive relationships in the Island,’ he said.

Last year, the service prepared 413 reports for the criminal courts, while the Jersey Family Court Advisory Service prepared 129 reports for the family courts – its highest figure to date.

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