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Budget 2003 - Huge boost for probation service

Budget 2003 - Huge boost for probation service

The number of probation officers is to jump by 22 percent, and probation service training budgets are to be boosted by nearly 80 percent, Acting Corrections Minister Margaret Wilson announced today.

“It is vital for public safety that New Zealand has an effective Probation Service. Events over recent months have indicated that the service is under considerable pressure. Accordingly we are increasing the number of probation officers by 22% over the next three years.”

Currently there are 500 probation officers nationwide. This number will increase by 110 in the next three years as a result of the new Budget 2003 funding. Sixty of these positions will be filled in the first year with another 40 in the second year and 10 in the third year.

“The resources in the first year will help meet increased volumes and demand pressures that have occurred since the new Sentencing and Parole Acts were introduced last year. The extra resources in the second and third years will help to improve the quality of sentence management, particularly of high-risk offenders.”

As well as increasing the number of probation officers there is also to be a greater focus on training. Margaret Wilson announced the Probation Service’s training budget is to increase by 79% in each of the next two years.

“This will enable the Service to improve the capability of its managers, focus on training and development for existing staff and ensure new staff are well equipped for the job. There will be a concentrated effort over these two years to address a number of areas of training. From 2005/06 there will be a permanent increase in the training budget of 49% over this year’s budget.”

Overall the Probation Service budget will increase by an extra $8.0 million in operating funding in 2003/4, rising to $11.3 million in the following year.

“This represents a 9.8% increase to the overall Probation Service budget for 2003/4, rising to 13.8% from 2004/05.”

Public Service Association (PSA) National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said the PSA was very pleased that the Government had recognised the serious resourcing problems within the Probation Service, and was taking measures to address these.

“The extra probation officers will alleviate the pressures under which our members have been working for some years. We also welcome the government’s announcement of additional support to ensure managers and staff are well trained.

“Without adequate resources and sufficient qualified and trained staff it is impossible for our probation officers to successfully carry out what can be a very difficult job.”

Richard Wagstaff said the PSA had made strenuous efforts in the past to engage with Government and management in seeking solutions to the problems and would be looking to continue that engagement.

Budget 2003 also contains $1 million a year for the next three years in increased funding for the parole board and an extra $400,000 a year for the Corrections Department’s psychological service, in order to manage higher volumes.

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