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Skills and Training in British Probation: A Tale of Neglect and Possible Revival


in the training of probation officers in Britain
has been inconsistent, variable, and even
haphazard. (The following comments apply
mainly to England and Wales: Scotland has no
separate Probation Service and uses Criminal
Justice Social Workers instead.) Like most welfare services in Britain, the Probation Service
enjoyed a period of major expansion and
professionalization during the third quarter
of the twentieth century, and people seeking appointment as probation officers had
to receive appropriate training, either on the
small courses run by the Home Office (the
responsible government department at that
time) or, increasingly, in the rapidly-expanding
university social work courses. The Home
Office courses were specifically for probation; the university courses were increasingly
wedded to the idea of social work as a generic
profession, and offered probation as a minority
option with varying degrees of specialization.
By way of illustration, one of the authors
of this article was sponsored by the Home
Office at the beginning of the 1970s to train as
a probation officer on a university social work
course, in which the main elements of specialization were practical placements in probation
teams and 10 lectures on criminology. He
joined the course expecting to receive at the
end of it a Home Office Letter of Recognition,
but by the time the end came two years later
the social work profession had succeeded in
introducing a new generic qualification, the
Certificate of Qualification in Social Work,
and rather to his surprise he was awarded
one of these instead. In Scotland the process
of unification went further and the separate
Probation Service ceased to exist: Criminal
Justice Social Workers there train on social
work courses with specialist input. In England
and Wales the unification process helped to
fuel decades of debate about genericism versus
specialism, practical training versus academic
knowledge (sometimes presented as a choice
between teaching social work or teaching
about social work), and whether the Probation
Service should be seen as part of the criminal
justice system or part of the Welfare State (of
course it was both all along).

Categories Law, Social science
Keywords After Care Service, Community Sentences, Needs, Probation, Rehabilitation
Author Pamela Ugwudike, Peter Raynor
Date published 2013
Document type Report
Organisation Jersey Probation and After-Care Service
IRR Code IRR/JPACS/2013.43834
File Type pdf