I heard on the news earlier this week - or was it late last week? (I've been busy)- that probation officers are failing to keep tabs on their charges. As a result, many offenders on probation have fallen back into criminality. This is, of course, not really news - just a convenient way for the probation service to put forward more demands for more resources and more money - but hey, with 24 hour rolling news channels they have to fill their programmes with some sort of baloney.
There were two main reasons given for why probation officers are unable to make the necessary commitments to the people they are supposed to be probationing (yes, I know it's a made up word). First of all, the amount of time spent filling in forms and administration on computers in the office. This seems incredible to me. The point of computers is that they are supposed to remove the drudgery of form filling and speed things up.
The second reason is the amount of time probation officers spend travelling to their various "clients". Presumably, when they get there they then proceed to fill in forms which they then take back to the office and transpose onto the computer system - in other words, doubling the amount of effort.
Here is my solution. Either get rid of the computer system and just file the notes/forms completed during the visit as they did BC (before computers) - it seemed to work OK before computer systems were installed so I don't see why that can't work now. Alternatively, don't bother visiting the probationers - make them come to you! Send them an appointment card and a bus pass and tell them to be at the probation office at the appointed time or they will be in breach of their probation conditions - then, while they are there, fill in the bloody computer forms while they are with you!
Problem solved. No new resources needed and millions of pounds saved in car expense reimbursement.