Letter: Probation service: gesture politics, reoffending, the welfare r ole

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The Independent Online
Sir, Very many will view the Government's alleged proposals for the future of the Probation Service with alarm and disbelief in the light of its widespread credibility in dealing with offenders. However, the Probation Service does not only deal wi th those who have broken the law.

Through its specialist Family Court Welfare Service, more than 37,000 court reports were prepared in 1993 in cases of familial disputes over the future for children, usually following divorce or separation. This was in addition to the many thousands of disputes between parents that were resolved by Family Court welfare officers intervening before damaging litigation was commenced.

The courts, parents and children have the right to demand the very highest standards for this work. It demands a professional social work base, continuing training, and the development of expertise over a lengthy period of time.

The Family Court Welfare Service could not, therefore, draw its recruits from those who may have no formal social work training, no ability to mediate, and who would, under the proposals you report, be employed for the purpose of imposing community sentences.

Yours faithfully, ALAN SEALEY Chairman The Association of Family Court Welfare Officers Cirencester, Gloucestershire 17 January

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