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Probation Officers Use Pen And Paper After IT Systems Failure

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New £250 million IT project unable to cope with demand from 3,000-strong workforce

The National Association of Probation Officers has said that it was “extraordinary” that an IT system failure left over half of London’s probation staff without access to their computers.

Employees of the London Probation Trust have had no access to emails or documents since 12 December after a new IT system was unable to cope with demand.

Pen and paper

The new £250 million IT system for the probation service in England and Wales was designed to provide easier access to staff’s emails and the details and criminal suspects, but did not have the capacity to handle the simultaneous use of the trust’s 3,000 strong workforce.

Contingency measures have since been implemented that limit the use of the system to just 1,250 staff at any one time with shifts prioritised in two hour allocations. However this has forced many employees to create documents using pen and paper and without access to email or the ability to download documents.

“We can confirm the Ministry of Justice-provided IT system used by the London Probation Trust is experiencing performance difficulties. These are being addresses urgently by the IT provider,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice told The Times. “There have been difficulties elsewhere. These have been and continue to be addressed robustly.”

IT Justice

This is not the first IT debacle to affect the justice system. The National Audit Office had previously critcised the management of a project to consolidate prison service databases, claiming that delays and bad decision making had seen costs spiral out of control.

The absence of a proper contingency is alarming given the fact that government IT projects cost the British taxpayer £16bn a year, which critics argue is wasteful and that schemes fail to keep up the advances made in technology. Indeed, the previous Labour government’s delayed, above-budget and cancelled IT projects cost the country an estimated £26 billion.

Despite the government being criticised for failing to set targets or measurements of success for its IT schemes, earlier this week the National Audit Office gave guarded praise to the government’s progress in implementing its new ICT strategy, but warned there was much to do if the aims of consolidation and cost-cutting were to be achieved.