Complaints about probation

Aim of this page

This page is intended to help you if you are having difficulties with probation. It provides information about how to complain if you’re not happy about the way you have been treated. For example, maybe you feel like your probation officer is not meeting what is expected of them, or maybe you have tried changing probation officers or transferring probation areas and have come up against unnecessary barriers.

It forms part of our information on probation.

Why is this important?

People working for the National Probation Service (NPS) or a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) will often make decisions or take actions which you may not agree with.

Although sometimes these will be necessary, there will also be occasions when members of staff fail to do something that they should do, make unjustified decisions or take inappropriate action.

If this happens, it’s important to know how you can make a complaint.

Background

In 2015, as part of the government’s ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ strategy, the 35 Probation Trusts in England and Wales were replaced with the National Probation Service (NPS) who are responsible for supervising high-risk individuals and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) supervising those people deemed to be low to medium risk of re-offending.

The 21 CRC’s are all private companies responsible for their own management and staff and as such, will have different policies and practices around dealing with complaints from service users.

Concerns have been raised recently about the number of CRC’s who do not provide ready access to their complaints procedures making it difficult for service users to know how to complain. An example of one CRC who do publish details is London CRC whose complaints leaflet can be found here.

Who can make a complaint?

To be considered, your complaint must relate to the conduct or competence of an employee or employees of the NPS or the CRC, or an agency employee or employees working for the NPS or the CRC, with respect to the delivery of probation services. This includes their actions and decisions or failures to act or decide.

They will consider your complaint if:

  • You are or have been under the supervision of the NPS or CRC
  • You have been or are about to be the subject of a report for use by a court.
  • You have suffered physical injury, distress, theft or damage to property as a result of the actions of an offender carrying out activities under probation supervision as part of a community order or a prison licence.
  • You are a victim of a person convicted of an offence who is under the supervision of the NPS or CRC
  • You are a parent, spouse or a live-in partner, brother, sister or child of a person, in the above categories, who has died.

They can’t look into something that is already being investigated by the police or subject to a decision of the courts, statutory tribunal, Parole Board, Crown Prosecution Service or the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Your complaint won’t normally be considered if it is about something that happened more than 12 months ago, or that you could have known about a year ago.

Who do I complain to?

In the first instance, you either complain to the NPS or to the CRC.

Details of NPS offices and contact details can be found in the Probation Directory: National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies. A map of the NPS divisions can be found here.

Complaining informally

Wherever possible, it’s always best to try to reach an amicable solution with the person involved and doing this face-to-face or over the telephone can work well. If this is difficult, ask to discuss it with a more senior member of staff.

It’s probably worth noting that it can be easier for staff to avoid dealing with a complaint that hasn’t been put in writing so don’t be surprised if you don’t get the response you’re looking for at this time.

You may still be able to have your complaint dealt with informally by either putting it in writing to the staff member involved or, their manager. If they feel you’re complaint is justified, the probation area/CRC will often prefer to deal with it at this stage.

Making a formal complaint

If you receive no response to your informal complaint or you’re not satisfied with it, you can make a formal complaint in writing.

  1. If you’re making a complaint about an NPS staff member, this should be signed by you and sent it to the probation area’s Deputy Director.
  2. If you are making a complaint about a CRC staff member, this should be addressed to the Chief Executive.

Within five working days of receiving your letter you should receive a response explaining how your complaint will be handled. He or she will give the date when you can expect the outcome.

The Deputy Director or Chief Executive will nominate a person to investigate. The complaint will be investigated and the outcome, with reasons, sent to you in writing within 25 days of the acknowledgement of the complaint.

Details of the Probation Standard Complaints Procedure (PI51/2014) can be found here.

What should you include in your complaint letter?

When making a complaint you should ensure that you explain very clearly what happened and why you are complaining, enclosing any evidence that you believe will add weight to your complaint. You may also wish to consider including some of the following:

  • Where and when did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was said and done?
  • Were there any witnesses to what happened, if so who?

If you are not satisfied with the outcome

If you are not happy with the response, you can appeal within 20 working days of receiving the outcome. You will need to write to the Probation Area’s Deputy Director or the Chief Executive of the CRC explaining why you want to appeal. Your letter should be acknowledged within five working days of receiving it.

The Deputy Director or Chief Executive will convene an appeal panel of at least 3 people to include senior staff who have not been involved in the subject of the complaint or the investigation. They may ask to meet you and the investigating officer to determine whether the original investigation was sufficient and reasonable. The outcome will be sent to you within 20 working days of receipt of the appeal. The panel will let you know if they need longer to make a decision.

If you have taken these steps and are still unsatisfied with the decision

You can write to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman within one month of your appeal decision if you have:

  • Been under the supervision of the National Probation Service.
  • Been housed in probation accommodation.
  • Had a report prepared about you for use by a court.

The PPO will respond to the complainant within 10 days, informing you of whether or not your complaint has been accepted. If a complaint is not accepted, an explanation as to why will be given.

If a complaint is accepted, it will be allocated to an investigator who will contact the complainant directly.

The investigator will first consider if there is a way of resolving the complaint without a full investigation. If so, the investigator will contact the complainant and the Area Probation Board to try to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement is not possible, a full investigation will be started.

The PPO aims to deal with any complaint within 12 weeks of starting the investigation.

If your complaint is not upheld, you will receive a letter with a detailed explanation of the findings of the investigation and the specific reasons why the PPO have not upheld the complaint.

If the complaint is upheld, the investigator will write to you, setting out the details, the findings and the conclusions. The PPO may also make certain recommendations to the Probation Area against whom the complaint was brought to help them ensure the problem does not occur again.

If the complaint warrants it, the PPO will write a full report. A draft copy of this report will be sent to you and to the Probation Area against whom the complaint was brought, to check that the details of the complaint are accurate. Once confirmed, a final copy of the report will be sent to both parties.

Personal experiences

The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Key sections include:

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • National Probation Service – The NPS is a statutory criminal justice service that supervises high-risk offenders released into the community
  • Prison and Probation Ombudsman – Carry out independent investigations into complaints about the National Probation Service, CRC’s and prisons.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on our probation section
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences on our online forum
  4. Share your personal stories by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord
This page was last fully reviewed and updated in July 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to advice@unlock.org.uk.

 

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  • dannii

    I have had a discussion for the first time to my partners probation officer just to ask some question that were not being answered to my partner I was spoken to like a child woth a bad tone of voice like im an idiot I was not listened to and also when I tried to come to a conclusion she tired to tell me that I was wrong about how she could contact my partner and she refused at first to compromise I asked if the call was recorded as she accused me of speaking to her with a rude tone of voice as to witch I wasn’t I was just merely asking some questions on his behalf I was treated spoken to like I was 2 years old and to this a compromise wasn’t placed Wat can I do

  • Debbie S – Unlock Helpline

    Hi Dannii
    I can certainly understand how frustrating this must have been for you and not the best way to deal with your enquiry. Due to issues around confidentiality, it may be that she would not be able to speak to you about something that involved your partner. However, she should have explained this to you. You could chose to make a complaint yourself about her attitude, although I’m not sure how successful this would be and may still leave your questions unanswered.

    If you and your partner feel that you have questions/issues that need addressing and these are not being dealt with, I would suggest that you put this in writing to the probation officer. You will have a clear record of what you have asked and when you have asked it. If you do not receive a response or you feel that the response is unsatisfactory, then you could go through the complaints procedure as detailed on this page.

    Hope this helps and good luck.

  • hayley johnson

    Hi my boyfriend comes out of prison soon and we are moving to Studley. This is just outside of redditch so this means because studley is not in the catchment area for him to go to probation once a week we have to go all the way to Leamington! Even when redditch is 2 mins away. Is there no way we could not go to the redditch one as it’s closer? Or is this just made up?

  • jackie Ravenscroft

    it is totally unacceptable for a probation officer to have any relationship with a client outside of the remit of proffesinal conduct.it is illegal the officer concerned would be lose their job and could face further action.if you have any worries contact the office concerned and ask to see a manager.hope this helps.

  • Ange Hofmann

    Bit of a difficult one this. My partner will be under a supervision order with probation until November of this year. However, whilst I go to work, my partner is now a stay at home dad. To cut a long story short, our tax credits were stopped as they have conjured up some ridiculous overpayment and because my partner is now a SAHD there would be no help with childcare anyway. I can’t afford to pay for any childcare, as with only my wage coming in things are tighter than the proverbial duck’s bottom. The problem here is that this being the situation and us being utterly on our own with our 2 year old son (my partner has no family within a 400 mile radius and I have no family within 30 miles (but that can’t help us with care anyway because they all work). As such, my partner has had to take our son to probation with him. Bearing in mind that probation is pretty much just a tick box exercise (his PO offers no help or advice in any matters and, in fact, speaks to us both like shit and makes things worse if anything) his PO is now saying that its against the rules for him to bring our son with him. Sadly, she just doesn’t seem to understand that there is no other option, other than my partner to leave a 2 year old unattended for 5 hours (bus journey to probation takes 2 hours each way). I’ve already complained once to the PO’s manager, who said it wasn’t a problem, but the PO just doesn’t seem to take any notice. I’ve made two further complaints to the PO’s manager who is now ignoring me. My partner is terrified that he’ll be recalled for only doing what he’s supposed to do (i.e. care for our child) because his PO keeps mentioning her “powers of recall”. Has anyone any idea as to what to do next? Should I keep trying with the PO’s manager or should I push it further up the chain and go over the manager’s head? Honestly, I don’t know why everything has to be such a bloody big drama with this woman, but I’m getting mighty fed up with it. . . . Any help would be most appreciated.

  • Debbie – Unlock

    Hi Ange

    I’m sure you’re partner isn’t the only one who finds it difficult to make probation appointments during ‘normal office hours’ and most probation offices address this by offering telephone supervision or late night ‘sign ins’

    You mentioned that you’ve made a complaint to the PO Manager, was this verbally or in writing? If you’ve not done so already, put something in writing to them (it’s much harder for them to ignore). If you still have no luck then push your complaint further up the management chain or contact the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman.

    You might want to post a comment on our online forum (forum@unlock.org.uk) as you may get some good advice from others who’ve been in a similar situation.

    Good luck

  • michael fletcher

    OK so me and my girlfriend got our own place moving from caerphilly to pontypridd. I tell my probation officer 2 weeks before the move. She says OK after the move give us a ring when your settled and we can transfer you. Brilliant. 3 weeks later I call in to give new address info, and to start transfer. I’ve been advised I missed an appointment which they wrote at old address. Court date issued for breach.

    Explain circumstances in court £185 fine.

    March 23rd. Transfer still not done. Called in 10 times since court, called pontypridd probation to let them know situation and spoke to duty manager in caerphilly. Nobody has denied me a transfer but I’ve received a letter for a panel meeting in my old probation office although the judge agreed to a transfer 3 months ago… Why do I get punished?

  • seank

    I have been shocked at how useless probation are. My licence conditions prevent me using any internet enabled device, except in a public place. Sky HD box, Smart tv, computers, routers, washing machine (it’s internet enabled for updates) and various other items.
    Probation say I can ignore those conditions, but refuse to write that permission down.
    I find going to see them is just a waste of time and money. They just ask me how I am and book the next appointment. What, exactly, is the point?
    I walk into the office and see my probation officer at her PC, on Facebook. Is that all she does all day? I think so. She says she documents everything I say in our meetings and puts it on the system, so I don’t tell her anything. Typical public sector waste of time and money.