Study supports 'vulnerable' Probation Service

Research from LJMU is making a significant material difference to the rehabilitation of one of the UK’s most vulnerable public services – probation.

With prison populations at a record high and more offenders leaving prison early, pressure is intense on professionals charged with their rehabilitation and management in the community.

Yet the service is understaffed, underfunded and suffering from ‘change fatigue’ after being split, ‘privatised’ and swiftly recentralised all in less than a decade.

Dr Matthews Millings, of LJMU’s School of Justice Studies, heads up a three-year ESRC project Rehabilitating Probation to capture the experiences and consequences of change and share learnings and best practice with those at the sharp end.

His work with colleagues from the Universities of Southampton, Sheffield and Nottingham was recently cited in the House of Lords where the Justice and Home Affairs Committee produced a landmark report: Cutting Crime: Better Community Sentences.

Dr Millings, a reader in criminal justice said: “Our research is helping explore the challenges for probation practitioners in seeking to build new organizational identities and is feeding into teams and departments within the Ministry of Justice that is enabling them to make sense of how the new structures are settling in.”

Matthew’s team, which includes Professor Lol Burke and Elly Surridge (LJMU), are interviewing staff at all levels, regional directors, criminal justice partners/stakeholders, and senior policymakers within the Ministry of Justice. They are also doing work with people with lived experience of probation.

One of the strengths of the project is they feed back their findings into the organisation, running workshops and presenting to staff groups and fora, including the recent HMPPS Probation Leaders Event in Manchester where the team shared emerging findings to 280 Probation and Prison Leaders from across England and Wales.

Feedback from the event showed more than 90% said they would draw on the research in developing their policy and practice, and 95% found the research helped them make sense of changing cultural values within the service. 

Publications from the project have, in order, been published in the Probation Journal, The British Journal of Criminology and Criminology and Criminal Justice to date.



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