As the Deputy is aware, the Probation Service is the lead agency in the assessment and management of offenders in our communities. It has a national remit with services delivered locally by staff located across the country.
The Probation Service notes that vacancies in community service can arise from time to time due to retirements. I am informed by the Probation Service that it attempts to fill these retirement vacancies as they arise.
I am further informed by the Probation Service that it has in recent years been responding to increased needs in relation to community service associated with changes in legislation, in particular the Fines Payment and Recovery Act 2014, and increases in some areas of referrals from Courts and the Community Return Programme. The Probation Service indicates that this increase in demand has been addressed in a number of ways, including by offering additional days of work to existing part time staff.
I can confirm however that the Probation Service was given sanction in 2018 (over a two year period) to recruit additional community service supervisors, to meet demands anticipated from operation of the Fines, Payment and Recovery Act 2014.
I have requested the Probation Service to provide confirmation of the total current number of vacancies for community service supervisors and I will write directly to the Deputy when I receive that information.
I would note that the Probation Service currently employs 52 Community Service Supervisors nationwide. Additional staff have been recruited on a rolling basis. A number of public competitions have been held in 2019 to recruit for key locations nationwide. I am informed that some successful candidates have completed the recruitment process and have taken up their new positions; while others are expected in the coming weeks. I will write directly to the Deputy when I receive additional information on the matter raised.