LETTER ; An effective service

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From Ms Jenny Lamb, JP, and others

Sir: We write, as chairmen of probation committees responsible for probation services in the South West of England, to express concern about Government proposals which we fear will erode the professionalism of the Probation Service. We are the employers of probation staff and, as importantly, we are also magistrates. We therefore see at first hand and on a day-to- day basis in courts the Probation Service at work. This places us in a better position than either Government ministers or civil servants to recognise how vital it is that the professional skills probation officers possess should not be depleted in the way proposed.

Prior to embarking on this proposal to detach probation officers' training from higher education, the Home Office, without consultation with us as employers, embarked on a review of recruitment and training. What is remarkable about the Home Office's review is that it gives probation officer training such a good bill of health. Indeed, the review team retained independent consultants, the Industrial Society, whose conclusions were "that the present arrangements are a very effective form of qualifying training in comparison with other professions".

Because of the damage the Government proposals are likely to do to the Probation Service and the wastefulness of discarding arrangements about which its own review team consultants speak so highly, we hope all those who share our concern about these proposals will make representations to the Government.

Yours faithfully,

JENNY LAMP, JP, Chairman, Somerset Probation Committee; PETER TOWNSEND, JP, Chairman, Avon Probation Committee; JEAN REDFEARN, JP, Chairman, Cornwall Probation Committee; GILLIAN ANDERSON, JP, Chairman, Devon Probation Committee; MAUREEN SIMESTER, JP, Chairman, Dorset Probation Committee; SUSAN HARDY, JP, Chairman, Gloucestershire Probation Committee; ANNE CLEVERLEY, JP, Chairman, Wiltshire Probation Committee

Association of Chief Officers of Probation, South West Region

Taunton, Somerset

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