On Monday 3 June, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will be replacing our live phone line with a monitored answering service.

On Monday 3 June, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman will be replacing our live phone line with a monitored answering service.


What are we trying to achieve?


PPO assessors and investigators will serve our end users more efficiently by focussing time and energy on the actual assessment and investigation of complaints.


How will we do it?


We will replace our live phone line with an answering service, to be monitored daily.


Who will be affected by this?


  • New and existing complainants using our lo-call 0845 010 7938
  • Anyone contacting the PPO using our general enquiries 020 7633 4100


Why are we doing it?


Looking in detail at our complaints assessment function, we found out that:

  • a significant amount of assessor and investigator time is taken up dealing with calls from complainants, but very few of these serve to advance the investigation of the complaint in question.
  • Complainants can submit all the information relevant to the investigation of their complaint by voicemail or in writing, giving both assessors and investigators more time to handle both existing and new complaints.


Who will benefit and how?


  • Our end users (complainants) benefit because their complaints will be assessed and investigated more quickly than before, because investigators and assessors have more time to focus on their casework.
  • Improved timeliness and the elimination of the current complaints backlog will enhance both the credibility of the PPO with complainants, and confidence in the wider prisons and probation complaints processes.


Who may find the change difficult? What are we doing to help them?


  • Some disabled users who struggle to communicate in writing find it easier to communicate over the phone than in writing. Which is why we will continue to operate an answering machine which is monitored daily by the assessment team – complainants who are unable to communicate in writing will be able to leave a message and, where appropriate, we will contact them through the prison and arrange a call.
  • We are mindful of the challenges of lower literacy rates and the number of individuals with learning difficulties in prisons; we do not expect detailed letters of complaint; we always respond in Plain English; and, for correspondence from foreign nationals, we have quick and easy access to translation services.
  • A small number of end users call us when they are experiencing severe mental anguish and would like to talk to someone about it. The voice mail message will still signpost the Samaritans, and we will forward genuine concerns to the relevant safer custody teams. However, PPO staff, compassionate and professional as they are, are not resourced or specially trained to handle these types of calls.