Written Answers. - Staffing Probation Service.

Frances Fitzgerald

Question:

86 Ms F. Fitzgerald asked the Minister for Justice her views on the document entitled The Probation and Welfare Service in Ireland, produced by the Probation and Welfare Branch of IMPACT; and her views on whether the deficit in staffing in the probation service in the decade since the Whitaker Report has gotten worse rather than better. [2442/94]

The document provided by IMPACT entitledThe Probation and Welfare Service in Ireland: Confronting Crime, Serving the Community, Working with Offenders deals with the main aspects of the work of the Probation and Welfare Service. It draws attention to the important role of the Probation and Welfare Officer in a range of community-based and institution-based activities.

In my Department's policy document theManagement of OffendersA Five Year Plan there are a number of measures aimed at utilising to the greatest possible extent the Probation and Welfare Service and addressing the issues raised by IMPACT. These measures include the introduction of the concept of Positive Sentence Management which will facilitate a move to planned and programmed releases, where justified and earned, under the supervision of the Probation and Welfare Service. Another is the development of more community sanctions and measures at the court stage. Other measures incorporated in the Five Year Plan include:—

—the development of community based Probation and Welfare facilities to manage offenders on release from custody before the expiry of sentences.

—the development of a formalised aftercare service.

—the provision of an enhanced Probation and Welfare Service to offenders while in custody.
These services are designed to have a positive effect in leading those in custody towards a constructive crime-free life in the community on release.
In the Law and Order Package which I announced last December, I secured Government approval for the employment of 50 additional staff in the Probation and Welfare Service over the period 1994 to 1997 for the above purposes. The number of Probation and Welfare Officers currently employed by my Department is 184 and a further 16 are in the process of being recruited. Additional staff will be recruited over the next two years to bring the total number of Probation and Welfare Officer posts up to 237. This represents a significant increase in the number of posts since 1985 when the Whitaker report was being prepared and the approved staffing level was 169.
The views put forward by IMPACT in the document entitledThe Probation and Welfare Service in Ireland, Confronting Crime, Serving the Community, Working with Offenders will, of course, be taken into account in the implementation of my Department's Five Year Plan for the Management of Offenders.