Warning over domestic abuse rise
Abusive offenders' violent behaviour is escalating in the wake of budget cuts and a shortage of courses, probation staff have warned.
The probation union Napo said the availability of domestic violence courses was under threat from 20% budget cuts, leading to them only being available for the most high-risk offenders.
A third of probation teams polled said there was evidence of an "escalation of violent behaviour" when offenders were denied a scheme after being assessed as medium or low risk. Shorter unaccredited courses were also being used instead, Napo said.
The union's survey of staff in 82 probation teams across England and Wales in 2011/12 showed delays of between two and 12 months in more than 70% of the teams before offenders could start programmes.
Almost a third of the teams were also rationing schemes to only those offenders who pose a very high risk, the figures showed. And more than half reported using shorter, alternative courses, most of which were unaccredited.
Harry Fletcher, Napo's assistant general secretary, warned domestic violence was "set to reach even higher unacceptable levels" if current trends continue. The courses, which cost less than £6,300 compared with a £45,000 prison place, can help reduce reoffending by up to a third, Napo said.
He said that while the Government was committed to tackling violence against women, "the reality on the ground is that the political commitment does not translate into fact".
However a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokeswoman said: "Public safety is a key priority for Noms (the National Offender Management Service).
"Probation areas and prisons are delivering a significant number of domestic violence programmes. In addition, Noms is currently piloting a new domestic abuse programme, rolling out nationally this year."
The MoJ added that probation trusts were "responsible for handling their own budget, distributing resources effectively and fulfilling a range of responsibilities in their area".