Leadership Development

The PCA believes:

  • The future success of Probation Trusts will be underpinned by effective management and leadership
  • High quality development opportunities should be provided for Probation leaders to enable them to carry out their current roles and prepare them for the challenges of commissioning, competition and payment by results


Probation Trusts have over time demonstrated the quality and flexibility of their leaders. The Probation Service nationally was the first public sector organisation to achieve the British Quality Foundation Gold award, whilst Trust status was only granted after a rigorous assessment procedure which tested the capability of managers in local areas.

Nonetheless, Probation Trusts are facing new challenges which require the development of enhanced leadership and management skills.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills has recently published a summary of the evidence for the value of investing in leadership and management development (July 2012). The research undertaken shows that:

  • Ineffective management is estimated to be costing UK businesses over £19 billion per year in lost working hours
  • Only 1 in 5 UK managers are qualified
  • Nearly three quarters of organisations in England reported a deficit of management and leadership skills in 2012.

The report notes that best practice management development can result in a 23% increase in organisational performance and can significantly improve levels of employee engagement.

Whilst the report concentrates upon UK businesses the key findings are equally relevant to Probation Trusts, because they are facing for the first time significant challenges from competition and a payment by results orientation from government, as it seeks improvements in reoffending rates within increasing financial constraints. Major structural reform and a changing role for Probation Trusts could follow from the Probation Review. Even without these structural changes reductions in public sector expenditure require Trusts to deliver better for less.


Attention needs to be given to ensure that all managers can acquire knowledge and skill in key competences such as:

  • Effective leadership
  • Strategy and planning
  • People management
  • Budgeting and financial planning
  • Business risk management
  • Fostering innovation and creativity
  • Partnership working
  • Commissioning and contracting

Probation middle managers will require more specific operational knowledge informed by the Offender Engagement Project, whilst for corporate managers and senior management teams there will be a greater emphasis on acquiring up to date business development and commissioning skills.

There is no specific professional standard for leadership and management capability in Probation, so Trusts have invested differentially in their managers, using a range of training providers and qualification routes. However, the majority of Trusts have achieved external recognition through awards such as Investors in People and Recognised for Excellence or through accredited training and qualifications for their managers, demonstrating their commitment to individual and organisational development.

The federal nature of governance in Probation, whereby Trusts as arms length bodies are not directly managed by a central body, can represent an obstacle to the development of a recognised programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and succession planning. However, the latter has been addressed at one level by the creation of a leadership programme for senior managers who have the potential to progress to Chief Executive roles, but this addresses the development needs of only a small group.

Whilst future scenarios of competition and structural change are a significant challenge, they also open up more opportunities for leadership development to be organised on a cross sector basis, involving both local and national strategic partners.

Planned approach

The PCA will work collaboratively with the Probation Association and NOMS to:

  • Advocate the importance of investment in leadership development
  • Provide advice to Trusts about the provision of leadership and management development, including maintaining up-to-date knowledge about appropriate development opportunities, trainers and programmes.
  • Build a range of learning opportunities that can be accredited as Continuing Professional Development
  • Develop new provision where this will add value to what Trusts themselves may run in-house.
  • Take an overview of and support succession planning from a national perspective
  • Support Trusts in implementing the change programme arising from the Probation Review

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