We often think of a probation officer, as just being one type of job. One that is working with offenders after they have served their sentence, or as part of their probation sentence. However this is not the case. In the UK a probation officer can find themselves with a variety of different roles depending which career path they choose. You could be working with adults, or take one of the many youth offending jobs and make a vital difference to a young person’s life when they need it most.
Firstly, there is the National Probation Service (NPS). This is part of Her Majesty’s prison and probation service. Their role is largely considered to be the monitoring of high-risk offenders released into the community. Medium and low-risk offenders are dealt with by a number of different private security firms based in the UK. This role is the type most typically associated to the term probation worker. Responsibilities would include managing these offenders daily, carrying out risk assessments, making recommendations, making sure they are sticking to terms of their probation etc.
If you find yourself working for the NPS, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be fulfilling this kind of role. As you are also dealing with offenders and their families pre sentencing and during their time in jail. In many ways this role is more of a supportive one. You are making sure that offenders are able to rationally and healthily come to the terms of their sentencing. Making sure friends and families have the necessary support during this period of sentencing and incarceration. This could include arranging family support when the primary carer or financial supporter is sentenced. You may also have to visit offenders while they’re in prison, making sure that they are coping with this drastic change in environment, preparing them for their probation period/integration back into society etc.
One of the main differences between working for the NPS and private firms that deal with less risky offenders is the length of time you’ll be spending with individual offenders. As the high-risk offenders, are ones that need the most interaction and management from probation officers. This doesn’t mean you will be working less hours at a private firm. It is simply the case of one being depth of service needed and the other being a case of quantity of service needed. It doesn’t matter which of these two areas you end up working in. Liaising with the police clearly and regularly is a necessity to ensure probation of offenders are being followed.