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Probation services officer

You've got what it takes to give people a fresh start


The Probation Service works with over 230,000 people on probation serving community sentences and individuals who are pre or post-release from prison. Our role is to support their rehabilitation and protect the public.

It is not an easy job, can be challenging – and may involve working with people with complex needs – but it is a rewarding one with variety, training and the chance to turn people’s lives around.

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Things you need to know

About the job

Tackling the root cause of offending is never going to be without its challenges. But helping someone turn their life around is immensely rewarding.

As a probation services officer (PSO), you will undertake the full range of work with offenders on probation before and after sentence, and in the community. This could include:

  • assessing risks and organising interventions
  • supporting courts with sentencing decisions
  • managing offenders on probation throughout their conviction
  • writing and preparing reports

The PSO role is varied. Your area of focus might differ depending on the needs of the local probation team that you join:

PSO, Sentence management; You’ll be based at a probation office and will manage a caseload of people on probation that will report to you as part of their probation requirement. You’ll spend a lot of time in this role assessing and managing risk and organising interventions (for example making referrals to a drug agency to support with an addiction). You’ll also meet with the people on probation that you manage to ensure they are complying with the terms of their probation. There may be some evening work involved in this role, for example if you manage someone on probation who is in work and need to meet with them after they have finished work.

PSO, Court officer; You won’t hold your own caseload, but you will be in court every day supporting magistrates and judges with sentencing decisions, dealing with enquiries from benches or supporting rulings on those people on probation who might have breached the terms of their probation. You will need to quickly build a rapport with people on probation to understand their circumstances, be comfortable presenting in a public forum and willing to learn about some legal policies and processes. This role may involve occasional work at Saturday courts.

PSO, Victim liaison officer; You will work with victims rather than people on probation and support them with the justice process as offenders move through the system. You may have geographically dispersed caseloads, so you may need to travel within the Probation Service region you work in.

PSO, Programme facilitator; You’ll be based at a probation office. You won’t hold your own caseload but will deliver group sessions to people on probation. You will need to be confident about presenting to groups and managing dynamics between group members. You will undertake a full programme of training to enable you to carry out your duties. Some sessions could take place in the evening to accommodate those people on probation who work.

PSO, Pre release team; You will work within prisons rather than the community. You won’t hold your own caseload but will support sentence management staff by accessing services such as accommodation, employment, mental health treatment or substance misuse treatment to ensure that offenders are released from prison with these provisions and services ready for them in the community.

PSO, Personality disorder programme: You’ll be based at a probation office or prison. You won’t hold your own caseload but will support the sentence management staff by working with their personality disordered cases. You will need to complete tailored training to understand personality disorders and know how to engage with those who have them.

No matter what type of PSO role you undertake, you’ll:

  • do everything you can to help people turn their lives around and reduce the risks of reoffending
  • draw on the training you receive to assess and manage risks to keep the community safe

Once in post, there may be later opportunities to move between different types of PSO roles, depending on caseload and business need.

We want you, not your qualifications

The role requires certain skills and experience, but for us, your personal qualities are just as important. To help people change, you’ll need to be empathetic, patient and resilient.

What we’re looking for:

  • Experience of working with people who have social or personal difficulties
  • Worked or volunteered with non-profit organisations to help change lives
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Be confident and competent at producing clear, accurate reports to demanding deadlines
  • People who are enthusiastic and ready to learn

Minimum requirements:

  • GCSEs grade C or equivalent, or relevant work experience including sufficient writing skills
  • experience of working with challenging individuals – this could be time spent working in a paid or voluntary capacity with offenders or other individuals exhibiting challenging behaviours. This also include working with those whose lives are in crisis, either in or outside the criminal justice sector

However, there’s no formal requirements to any type of experience. Consideration of this experience is at the discretion of the hiring team.

As part of the Probation Service, you’ll be entitled to a range of Civil Service benefits:

  • an annual salary of £23,637 plus a London Weighting Allowance of £4,125.84 where this applies
  • 25 days’ annual leave, plus eight public holidays and service days, increasing to 30 days after 5 years’ service
  • flexible working
  • immediate access to an occupational pension scheme (Local Government Pension Scheme)
  • other Civil Service benefits

Supporting your growth

We’ll make sure you have the training you need to do your job well. We have dedicated learning and development to help you engage with people on probation in the best, most effective way. As a PSO, you’ll have many opportunities to develop in your role, to make it the first step in a successful career in the Probation Service.

In your first months, you’ll receive a blend of formal and work-based training. You’ll be supported by your team throughout, and you’ll be there for them in turn. But you’ll go beyond being collaborative: you’ll be flexible too, adapting to changes as they arise and working fast to resolve problems.

Year one training

  • A comprehensive induction, including the Gateway to Practice which is the first step on your learning journey.
  • The PSO learning and development programme which is a blended learning package designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge required for the role.
  • Mapped out learning and development.
  • Supervised and assessed practice.

Career development opportunities

  • Opportunity to join the PSO Progression pathway and undertake the Professional Qualification in Probation (PQiP) to become a fully qualified probation officer
  • Secondments across Ministry of Justice
  • Civil Service Fast Stream
  • Continuous professional development training

Please register your details on the Civil Service jobs website to receive email alerts of jobs in your area.

Application tips

Applying for any job can be difficult – and it’s easy to overlook certain aspects of what you’re doing. We’ve put together some tips to help you to make the most of the process:

  • Do your research. Find out about the Probation  Service and familiarise yourself with our work, purpose and structure
  • Watch our webinar to find out a bit more about the role
  • Read the job profile and pay particular attention to the job’s purpose and the skills needed. You’ll need to show how you match what we’re looking for, so be sure that the role fits your abilities
  • Tailor your answers to meet the specific requirements outlined in the job description, rather than cutting and pasting from another application
  • Think about how you can demonstrate, from your past experiences, that you have the qualities needed to become a PSO – such as overcoming particular problems,  collaborating with partner agencies, or meeting difficult deadlines
  • After you list your formal qualifications and experience, there is space for you to provide details of any other relevant training or experience you have had. Make sure you can explain why these will help you in your role as a PSO
  • Check and check again. Use a spell checker, get a friend to read your application and give yourself time to proof and edit your application. You don’t want to miss out because of a typo, or missing information
  • Plagiarised applications will not be progressed

We use a recruitment framework as part of the application process.

Pre-employment screening

Pre-employment screening is a series of checks we carry out to ensure we comply with current legislation and to help us make informed employment decisions.

If your application is successful, you will need to undergo HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Enhanced Level 2 vetting

Criminal record checks

All our roles are exempt from the Offender Rehabilitation Act, which means we check all spent and unspent convictions  during the vetting process.

You must declare any convictions, cautions and absolute or conditional discharges – regardless of how long ago they occurred. You’ll find more information here.

  • This should not deter you from applying, as we consider everyone on their individual merits before making an employment decision.
  • Having a conviction does not necessarily mean you cannot work for the Probation Service. However, failure to disclose information will halt your application as we expect a high level of integrity from our employees.
  • The Probation Service encourages applications from people with lived experience, as we believe they can make a positive difference to the outcomes of the people on probation we work with.

Nari’s story

I supervise offenders in the community – they may be on licence or on a community order. As a PSO in the offender management team, we deal with the root of the problem to change lives. We address the root problems in order to reduce risk of offending and we protect the victims.

A young person I used to supervise was spending time in the community, then went to prison, then was in the community and then went to prison again, like a revolving door. But a stage came when he re-offended and I recalled him back to prison, and I later met him one night when I was in one of the local hospitals. He came out of one of the booths and he said to me, “You recalled me back to prison, why did you do that?” and I explained that I had to, due to the serious nature of his offence, and that I apologise, but I was only doing my job.

“If you’re looking for a challenge, come to the Probation Service.”

Several years later, he came back to me with his wife and child, and he said that I had helped him. He came and thanked me, and he had changed his life. When I’m having a bad day, that’s the person I remember.

“At the end of the sentence when those areas of their lives have improved, which is shown by how there’s been no further reoffending, then I know that I’ve done my job and I feel absolutely brilliant about it.”

The best part of my role is that every day I help people, and I protect the community. It’s rehabilitating that person who’s walked through the door, knowing that I can help change their life. In return I know that I’m protecting victims and the society, and I know that at the end of their sentence, that person will become a good citizen of my community.

“I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t think I could change lives, and that makes me want to get up in the mornings.” Nari Probation Services Officer

Probation Service regions

Vacancies are determined by business need and are advertised accordingly. Our regions cover:

  • East Midlands
  • West Midlands
  • East of England
  • Greater Manchester
  • Kent, Surrey and Sussex
  • London
  • North East
  • North West
  • South Central
  • South West
  • Wales
  • Yorkshire and the Humber

Who we are

The Probation Service, as part of HMPPS, supervises high and medium risk people on probation in the community and in custody. We are here to protect the public, support victims and prevent re-offending wherever possible. We believe everyone deserves a second chance, and we help offenders make the most of theirs.

What we do

As well as assessing the risk that people on probation pose and advising courts to ensure effective sentencing, we work closely with different people and organisations. This includes job agencies, accommodation providers and a whole range of other service providers. Ultimately, our staff are the people who tackle the causes of crime, and rehabilitate offenders into the community safely. Our closest partnership is with people on probation, directly managing them in the community, as well as before and after release as they re-integrate into society.

We achieve our best results when we focus on the things that matter: making decisions based on evidence, improving and innovating, and sharpening our own skills and experience. By working fairly and inclusively, supporting our people to make the right decisions, and by taking accountability for our actions, we build trust. And we make a difference that lasts.

The bigger picture

The Probation Service is part of the HMPPS and is managed by the Ministry of Justice. They’re responsible for providing a transparent, effective and responsive justice system.

The Civil Service Code sets out the standards of behaviour expected of civil servants. We recruit by merit on the basis of fair and open competition, as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s recruitment principles.

The Ministry of Justice’s recruitment processes are underpinned by the principle of selection for appointment on merit, on the basis of fair and open competition as outlined in the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles.

If you have an enquiry you can contact the Civil Service Commission via their website.

If you feel your application has not been treated in accordance with the Civil Service Commission’s Recruitment Principles and you wish to make a complaint, you should contact the Ministry of Justice in the first instance. If you are not satisfied with the response you receive, you can contact the Civil Service Commission.

Our commitment to diversity and inclusion

We welcome and encourage applications from everyone. We strive for a workforce that is representative of our society and pride ourselves as being an employer of choice.

The ‘Making the Civil Service a great place to work for veterans’ initiative includes a guaranteed interview scheme to provide eligible HM armed forces service leavers an opportunity to secure a career in the Civil Service. If you are a service leaver, you can find out more from the Career Transition Partnership.

Read about how we champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Disability support 

As a Disability Confident employer, the Ministry of Justice and its agencies are committed to providing everyone with the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, talent and abilities, by making adjustments throughout all elements of the recruitment process and in the workplace.


The Ministry of Justice is committed to wellbeing in the workplace and offers flexible working, together with an Employee Assistance Programme offering confidential and free advice and support to colleagues.

For any queries on the application process, please contact our recruitment centre on 0345 241 5358 or by email to

People Stories

This job provides in-depth training and opportunities for professional development into other roles, as well as job variety, so every day is different for a probation services officer. But while their motivations for joining are diverse, our people have one shared passion: helping people get their lives back on track. Watch and read how they make that happen.

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