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Complaints about probation

Aim of this page

This page is intended to help you if you are having difficulties with probation. It provides information about how to complain if you’re not happy about the way you have been treated. For example, maybe you feel like your probation officer is not meeting what is expected of them, or maybe you have tried changing probation officers or transferring probation areas and have come up against unnecessary barriers.

Why is this important?

People working for the National Probation Service (NPS) or a Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) will often make decisions or take actions which you may not agree with.

Although sometimes these will be necessary, there will also be occasions when members of staff fail to do something that they should do, make unjustified decisions or take inappropriate action.

If this happens, it’s important to know how you can make a complaint.


In 2015, as part of the government’s ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ strategy, the 35 Probation Trusts in England and Wales were replaced with the National Probation Service (NPS) who are responsible for supervising high-risk individuals and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) supervising those people deemed to be low to medium risk of re-offending.

The 21 CRC’s are all private companies responsible for their own management and staff and as such, will have different policies and practices around dealing with complaints from service users.

Concerns have been raised recently about the number of CRC’s who do not provide ready access to their complaints procedures making it difficult for service users to know how to complain. An example of one CRC who do publish details is London CRC whose complaints leaflet can be found here.

Who can make a complaint?

To be considered, your complaint must relate to the conduct or competence of an employee or employees of the NPS or the CRC, or an agency employee or employees working for the NPS or the CRC, with respect to the delivery of probation services. This includes their actions and decisions or failures to act or decide.

They will consider your complaint if:

  • You are or have been under the supervision of the NPS or CRC
  • You have been or are about to be the subject of a report for use by a court.
  • You have suffered physical injury, distress, theft or damage to property as a result of the actions of an offender carrying out activities under probation supervision as part of a community order or a prison licence.
  • You are a victim of a person convicted of an offence who is under the supervision of the NPS or CRC
  • You are a parent, spouse or a live-in partner, brother, sister or child of a person, in the above categories, who has died.

They can’t look into something that is already being investigated by the police or subject to a decision of the courts, statutory tribunal, Parole Board, Crown Prosecution Service or the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

Your complaint won’t normally be considered if it is about something that happened more than 12 months ago, or that you could have known about a year ago.

Who do I complain to?

In the first instance, you either complain to the NPS or to the CRC.

Details of NPS offices and contact details can be found in the Probation Directory: National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies. A map of the NPS divisions can be found here.

Complaining informally

Wherever possible, it’s always best to try to reach an amicable solution with the person involved and doing this face-to-face or over the telephone can work well. If this is difficult, ask to discuss it with a more senior member of staff.

It’s probably worth noting that it can be easier for staff to avoid dealing with a complaint that hasn’t been put in writing so don’t be surprised if you don’t get the response you’re looking for at this time.

You may still be able to have your complaint dealt with informally by either putting it in writing to the staff member involved or, their manager. If they feel you’re complaint is justified, the probation area/CRC will often prefer to deal with it at this stage.

Making a formal complaint

If you receive no response to your informal complaint or you’re not satisfied with it, you can make a formal complaint in writing.

  1. If you’re making a complaint about an NPS staff member, this should be signed by you and sent it to the probation area’s Deputy Director.
  2. If you are making a complaint about a CRC staff member, this should be addressed to the Chief Executive.

Within five working days of receiving your letter you should receive a response explaining how your complaint will be handled. He or she will give the date when you can expect the outcome.

The Deputy Director or Chief Executive will nominate a person to investigate. The complaint will be investigated and the outcome, with reasons, sent to you in writing within 25 days of the acknowledgement of the complaint.

Details of the Probation Standard Complaints Procedure (PI51/2014) can be found here.

What should you include in your complaint letter?

When making a complaint you should ensure that you explain very clearly what happened and why you are complaining, enclosing any evidence that you believe will add weight to your complaint. You may also wish to consider including some of the following:

  • Where and when did it happen?
  • Who was involved?
  • What was said and done?
  • Were there any witnesses to what happened, if so who?

If you are not satisfied with the outcome

If you are not happy with the response, you can appeal within 20 working days of receiving the outcome. You will need to write to the Probation Area’s Deputy Director or the Chief Executive of the CRC explaining why you want to appeal. Your letter should be acknowledged within five working days of receiving it.

The Deputy Director or Chief Executive will convene an appeal panel of at least 3 people to include senior staff who have not been involved in the subject of the complaint or the investigation. They may ask to meet you and the investigating officer to determine whether the original investigation was sufficient and reasonable. The outcome will be sent to you within 20 working days of receipt of the appeal. The panel will let you know if they need longer to make a decision.

If you have taken these steps and are still unsatisfied with the decision

You can write to the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman within one month of your appeal decision if you have:

  • Been under the supervision of the National Probation Service.
  • Been housed in probation accommodation.
  • Had a report prepared about you for use by a court.

The PPO will respond to the complainant within 10 days, informing you of whether or not your complaint has been accepted. If a complaint is not accepted, an explanation as to why will be given.

If a complaint is accepted, it will be allocated to an investigator who will contact the complainant directly.

The investigator will first consider if there is a way of resolving the complaint without a full investigation. If so, the investigator will contact the complainant and the Area Probation Board to try to negotiate a settlement. If a settlement is not possible, a full investigation will be started.

The PPO aims to deal with any complaint within 12 weeks of starting the investigation.

If your complaint is not upheld, you will receive a letter with a detailed explanation of the findings of the investigation and the specific reasons why the PPO have not upheld the complaint.

If the complaint is upheld, the investigator will write to you, setting out the details, the findings and the conclusions. The PPO may also make certain recommendations to the Probation Area against whom the complaint was brought to help them ensure the problem does not occur again.

If the complaint warrants it, the PPO will write a full report. A draft copy of this report will be sent to you and to the Probation Area against whom the complaint was brought, to check that the details of the complaint are accurate. Once confirmed, a final copy of the report will be sent to both parties.

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum.

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • National Probation Service – The NPS is a statutory criminal justice service that supervises high-risk offenders released into the community
  • Prison and Probation Ombudsman – Carry out independent investigations into complaints about the National Probation Service, CRC’s and prisons.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information can be found on our probation section
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this page (below)
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences on our online forum

This page was last fully reviewed and updated in July 2017. If you’ve spotted something that needs updating, please let us know by emailing the details to



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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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