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Sector Information

The UK justice sector works to create and maintain a safe, just and stable society. The purpose of the sector is to reduce crime and re-offending, promote confidence in the criminal justice system, protect people and contribute to the reduction and fear of crime, and support the administration of justice. The sector employs around 600,000 employees in the UK across a range of organisations operating with different remits.

The over-arching purpose of the justice system is to:

  • Reduce crime and re-offending
  • Promote confidence in the Criminal Justice System
  • Protect people and contribute to the reduction and fear of crime
  • Support the administration of Justice

The justice sector employs around 600,000 people, approximately 2% of the UK workforce, and is responsible for just over 5% of public spending annually. It is made up of several sub-sectors according to their main functions. The largest sub-sector is policing and law enforcement, which incorporates more than half of the total workforce in the sector. Community justice, custodial care and fire and rescue services employ between 12-13% of the total sector workforce each. Court and tribunal services, prosecution services and forensic science each represent between 1-4% of the workforce. Some of these employers also include members of the children and young people’s workforce.

Source: Skills for Justice LMI March 2010 and Employment and Skills within the UK Justice Sector 2010


Sector organisations

The majority of the workforce is employed by large employers: 83% of the employees in the sector in Great Britain work in organisations with 50 or more staff.

Most of the employers in the largest sub-sector, policing and law enforcement, are police forces employing over 200 people, and the pattern is similar in the custodial care sub-sector. Community justice services are provided by a small number of large employers, such as local probation services and also by a large number of small, mainly third sector, organisations in establishments with less than 10 workers.

Most of the workforce is employed by the public sector, but private sector employers are also significant and are increasing in some sub-sectors. Private sector employment is most widespread in the custodial care sub-sector (at least a quarter of the UK workforce) and in the forensic science sub-sector (approximately a third).

Third sector employers are most prevalent in community justice, but their presence is also significant in the Children and Young People’s workforce and custodial care. In England, 78% of voluntary sector organisations undertake more than one area of activity, and for 25% this includes criminal justice activities. In Wales, it is estimated that 5% of third sector organisations are part of the justice sector, and that 1% work in community justice. In Northern Ireland, the proportion of voluntary and community sector organisations with areas of activity the justice sector is nearly 24%.

Source: Employment and Skills within the UK Justice Sector 2010

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Employment and future employment

Between 2002-2008, total employment in the sector grew by 34%, which is much greater than the growth in many other sectors. The overwhelming majority of the workforce consists of employees on a permanent contract (98%), and the majority work in full-time jobs (86%). Employment in the sector is considered fairly stable.

Workforce projections for 2010-2020, forecast a modest decrease of just under 6% in total employment in the UK justice sector. The fall is expected to be the lowest in justice and judicial activities, and highest in fire service activities. At the same time, the proportion of female employees is projected to increase slightly in all three activity areas; 2.7% in public security and law and order activities, such as policing. The proportion of the total justice workforce expected to retire or leave the sector between 2010-2020 is 30.4%, creating a replacement demand of approximately 141,000 workers (which is considered to be a conservative estimate). Among UK countries the decrease in sector employment is forecast to be the highest in England at -6.1% and the smallest in Scotland at -3.5%.

The majority of employers in the sector are large public sector employers (83% of the employees in the sector in Great Britain work in organisations with 50 or more staff). Compared with the early 1990s, service providers in the sector have become more diverse. There is significant private sector involvement (for example, in the provision of custodial services), and third sector involvement has also greatly increased (for example, in supporting victims, survivors and witnesses of crime as well as providing services to offenders and their families).

The sector also has a large volunteer workforce with an estimated figure of tens of thousands. In 2007, an estimated 27% of voluntary organisations (around 4,700 organisations) in England included criminal justice activities. The majority of the volunteer workforce is represented in the community justice, police and law enforcement and custodial care sub-sectors.

Source: Employment and Skills within the UK Justice Sector 2010 and Working Futures 2007-2017

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Drivers of change

The main drivers of current and future skills needs of the sector are primarily determined by the domestic policy agenda and the internal trends of the UK public sector. This is due to the specific position of the justice sector and the central role of the state in justice functions. This makes factors, such as legislation and the regulatory powers of the state, part of the justice sector, and also means that many of the wider societal, economic and technological drivers are translated to the sector through government policies and priorities.

Research undertaken for Skills for Justice towards the end of 2009 identified a range of new and on-going influential drivers of change in the following broad categories:

  • Policy and legislative changes – emerging policy proposals on crime and justice, the skills system, public spending (including public sector employment and pay), as well as a possible increase of local democratic accountability and control in performance management mechanisms in some areas of the justice sector or the devolution of policing and justice to the Northern Ireland Assembly as part of the new government.
  • Economic circumstances the most important of which is an anticipated budget freeze or reductions for many justice sector employers in the coming years, as well as a possible increase in acquisitive crime (e.g. Burglary and theft) in those areas most severely affected by the recent recession.
  • Social and demographic trends such as an aging workforce and service user groups (including victims, witnesses and offenders), and the continuing need to engage with young people. Also, a range of diverse issues, such as the prevalence of people with mental health problems in the justice system and on-going concerns about radicalisation and terrorism
  • Inter-agency working is an on-going priority within the sector, which means closer integration in a variety of ways. Information and data sharing and sharing of knowledge and experience, as well as the smooth co-operation between public, private and third sector providers will be priority.
  • Other organisational and technological issues, such as the workforce modernisation agenda underway in the public sector, its potential industrial relations implications, as well as preparation for the implementation of the Equality Bill, and the on-going need to adopt existing and improving technologies.
  • Environmental concerns and change will impact and place demands directly upon the capacity of fire and rescue services to respond to emergencies, but also in terms of sustainable targets set for the public sector.

Source: Employment and Skills within the UK Justice Sector 2010

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