A View from the Bridge

AuthorRon Wilbourne,Howard Thomas
Publication Date01 Dec 1985
View from the Bridge
Howard Thomas and Ron Wilbourne
Nottinghamshire Probation Service
Home Office guidelines suggest that probation staff seconded to
Young Offender establishments should act as a bridge between
the institution and outside social work agencies. The authors
attempt to provide that link, based on a study of SERs on 683
juveniles entering Whatton Detention Centre and discharged
during 1984. They conclude that a major re-examination of both
SER practice and dual agency responsibility for juveniles is
Recommendations in Reports
particularly those which do not contam a
looked at all reports to see how many failed
commumty-based option, come under some form
to suggest or offer a community-based disposal
of internal examination and review? Whilst
(i e. recommended or implied custody or gave a
appreciating that this may challenge the much
ml recommendation) 23 % (157 reports) fell m
hallowed notion of probation officer or social
category, thus challenging the often assumed view
worker autonomy, we believe the figures
that professional social workers, as a breed, write
graphically demonstrate that such a position should
social enquiry reports in a manner aimed always
not be held on to at the possible expense of more
at stemming the flow of juveniles into custody On
juveniles being received into custody.
the positive side, however, the 1984 figures show
definite shift from the situation pertaining m 1983
Single Agency?
when the percentage of reports where there was
Bearing in mind the differences in
community based recommendation put before
recommendation patterns between the two
the Courts stood at 34.3 %
agencies, is the time now ripe to move away from
On scanmng differences m recommendation
the situation of two agencies being involved m
patterns between local Authority and Probation
dealing with juveniles who offend and to shift to
Areas, we noted that all reports from two social
a single agency approach? By and large a split
services departments (Rochdale and Sheffield)
organizational responsibility for any age or social
contained a community-backed recommendation
needs group requires a substantial amount of effort
and learnt that as a matter of departmental policy
to be spent on co-ordination, effective joint
both authorities, pre-court monitoring systems
momtormg, etc and, with the dual agency
existed to promote such proposals for courts We
approach, the possibility of people falling through
assume that report writers m
other areas are left
the hole m
the middle is very real. In areas where
to form their own individual judgements as to their
local authority and probation boundaries coincide,
recommendations Probation Areas varied from
the likelihood that probation officers and social
90% of their reports containing community-
workers always liaise and check out facilities and
backed recommendations to 53 %.
to ensure wherever possible a
Bearing m
mind the very considerable increase
commumty based recommendation is relatively
in the proportionate use of custody for juveniles
over the years, which even now shows little
The advantages m
abandomng the dual agency
abatement (see recent Home Office figures post the
approach and placing the responsibility on to a
Criminal Justice Act which show that there has
single agency would, m our view, be that:
been an msigmficant drop m the number of
There would be one responsible and

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