Developing probation staff competency for working with high risk of harm offenders with personality disorder: An evaluation of the Pathways Project


Jake Shaw, The Bracton Centre, Bracton Lane, Off Leyton Cross Road, Dartford, DA2 7AF. Email:



A model of psychologically informed offender management for high risk of harm offenders with personality disorder (PD) was piloted, in which NHS psychologists worked alongside London probation staff.


The aim of the study was to evaluate the initiatives taken to develop probation staff's capability to work effectively with the group of offenders.


Self-report measures assessing competency for working with PD and team climate were administered to the probation staff (N = 150) at baseline and at 1 year follow-up. At follow-up, qualitative data was also collected from a subset of Public Protection Unit staff (N = 17), evaluating their experience of the project.


The probation staff significantly improved across a range of generic and forensic PD-related competencies. The largest improvements were found in the Public Protection Unit, which received the highest level of support. There was also a significant improvement in one facet of team climate (team vision). The qualitative findings suggested that the primary areas of skills development were in the participants' understanding of PD and their capacity to identify PD and to develop treatment and management pathways.


The results provide evidence for the effectiveness of the project model that supports its implementation on a broader scale. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.