An interim review of Probation Service IT by the Inspectorate of Probation echoed long-standing users' concerns about the service's integrated case management system, which led to threats of industrial action by staff in 2002.
The report found that arrangements for extracting data from the Probation Service's Crams case management system "are not straightforward for operational staff".
It said, "There has been only limited progress on a national case record and substantive developments - which are being pursued jointly with the Prison Service - are unlikely before the end of 2004."
However, the inspectors said substantial progress had been made in laying the foundations for future IT developments. The Probation Service's determination to follow appropriate project management procedures was singled out for praise. Good practice precluded "quick and dirty developments", the report said.
Between 1993 and 2000, the national Probation Service's information systems strategy had seven different programme directors, of whom only two had significant experience of managing IT projects.
Eithne Wallis, director general of the Probation Service, said, "We will take on the recommendations of the inspectorate's report to ensure that we make the best possible use of information technology."