Tag Archives: Probation Works

Photo of A Probation Officer interviewing someone under supervision during Covid 19

Probation Adapting Practice To Deliver Services To Keep People Safe

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland has been adapting its practice during COVID-19 to ensure that it is able to deliver essential services and continue its work rehabilitating and resettling people into communities.

Director of Operations Hugh Hamill said:

“Throughout Northern Ireland probation has streamlined our offices into six operational hubs where high risk individuals under supervision can be seen on a face to face basis and other staff are working remotely with service users using new tools and technology.”

“We know that domestic abuse is an area of concern during the pandemic when so many families are social distancing at home.  Recorded crime shows a rise in reported incidents during the pandemic. We have therefore put in place additional safeguards to manage domestic abuse perpetrators and those with a history of domestic abuse.  We are maintaining our normal face-to-face contact with those who present as a significant risk of serious harm.  We are continuing to deliver programmes and interventions to perpetrators and our partner support workers continue to work with partners and ex-partners.   We have increased liaison with partner organisations including the police and social services.”

He added: “We have also introduced a new screening tool, which all probation officers must use to identify concerns in any case in respect of domestic violence or child protection. This tool will flag up any concerns in a case at the earliest stage and enable us to put measures in to keep people safer.”

Director of Rehabilitation Dr Geraldine O’Hare commented: “Those with mental health and addictions are likely to be more vulnerable during this period. Over 70% of people on probation’s caseload have a substance misuse problem and over 60% have a mental illness. With this in mind PBNI psychologists are carrying out assessments by telephone and video call.  Indeed assessments have increased significantly during this period.

“We have also enhanced  our award winning mobile phone app ‘Changing Lives’ which can be downloaded free and has a range of resources including a self-assessment tool and alcohol diary to help people manage their mental health and addictions. Probation officers are working with many service users remotely using the app”.

“PBNI provide a direct service to victims of crime who have registered with the victim information scheme. Importantly during this period work has increased. Indeed because a number of prisoners have been released early the work of the victims unit has increased. Victims unit staff who are probation officers are on hand to provide information on the type of sentence individuals are on, and the progress they are making. The system for referrals has now moved to an online system and staff are speaking directly to victims using the phone or video calls”.

Dr O’Hare continued: “Probation prides itself in our work within communities and many of our staff are currently working to help out in local community projects like foodbanks.  The people we work with have many vulnerabilities and often rely on support from local community groups.”

“Much of probation’s work is about providing an individualised service to people to tackle the causes of crime and prevent reoffending.  We have been innovative in adapting our practice to these new circumstances. Our aim is changing lives for safer communities and this work continues throughout the pandemic.”

A packed Long Gallery for the Probation Board for Northern Ireland Justice Conference which took place on 27 September 2019, opened by Paul Frew MLA

Probation Board Working with Partners to Improve Outcomes for Communities

The role of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland is to lead in the reduction of re-offending by tackling the root causes of offending and rehabilitating people.   In order to do this effectively Probation aims to work with a range of partners across the justice system, wider government and the community and voluntary sectors.

Probation are now seeking the public and stakeholder views to help us shape the future of probation services in NI through a public consultation. We want to hear from communities and stakeholders about the services that are being delivered and what more we can do together to reduce re-offending and the number of victims of crime.

The Probation Board event had a discussion panel of Permanent Secretaries from Justice, Education, Health and Communities. David Sterling, Head of the Civil Service, was also on the panel.

As part of this consultation senior partners were brought together in a seminar on 27 September to look at how we can work collaboratively to improve outcomes in communities.

Speakers at the seminar included David Sterling, Head of the Civil Service, Simon Byrne, Chief Constable and Phil Bowen, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation.

David Sterling, Head of the Civil Service; Dale Ashford QFSM, Probation Board Chair; Cheryl Lamont, Probation Chief Executive; Simon Byrne, PSNI Chief Constable and Phil Bowen, Director of the Centre for Justice Innovation.

Chair of Probation Dale Ashford commented: “This truly unique opportunity for justice organisations like Probation brought together leaders from across NI to look at how we can be innovative and collaborative to reduce re-offending and reduce the number of victims.  Tackling the root causes of offending behaviour necessitates collaboration with a range of agencies and organisations including Departments of Education, Communities and Health.  This seminar provided us with an opportunity to take stock of what we are doing and look at new ways of working to make communities safer. “

Chief Executive of Probation Cheryl Lamont added: “There are a range of socio-economic factors which have been shown to have an impact on re-offending, including poverty and social deprivation, homelessness, and a lack of educational attainment and employment opportunities.   Indeed 76% of people under probation supervision have an alcohol or drug related problem.  Likewise, there are high numbers of people assessed as having mental health issues.

We know that the issues of addictions cannot be tackled by justice agencies alone. Health and education have a key role to play. We therefore brought together leaders from Education, Health, Justice and Communities together to consolidate and build more networks and partnership and at a strategic level look at how PBNI and others in justice can effectively work to enhance wellbeing across communities.”



 9.30am               Registration/ Tea and Coffee

10:00am             Welcome from Paul Frew MLA

10:05am             Introduction from Probation Board Chair Dale Ashford

10:15am             1st Key Note Speaker Head of Civil Service David Sterling

10.35am             Panel Discussion with Permanent Secretaries and 1st key note speaker – Collaborative Work to Achieve Better Outcomes

11.35am             Cheryl Lamont, Probation Chief Executive – Probation’s Role in problem solving to achieve better outcomes

11.50pm             2nd Key Note Speaker Simon Byrne, PSNI Chief Constable

12.00pm             3rd Key Note Speaker Phil Bowen, Director of Centre for Justice Innovation

12:30 pm            Close

Conference booklet of speakers