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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Quality of private probation a concern for inspectors

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Probation Inspectors' 5th report into Transforming Rehabilitation reports some improvements but many persistent problems & concern over quality in private CRCs.

New probation system improving but many problems remain

Fifteen months after the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation, the National Probation ServiceTR5 cover and Community Rehabilitation Companies are now working better together, but some significant problems remain.

That is the verdict of Dame Glenys Stacey, new HM Chief Inspector of Probation, in the fifth and final report on the implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme published today (26 May 2016).

She identifies court work, staff training and morale and the new through-the-gate service as areas of particular concern.

Better co-operation

Although the inspectors summarise that the NPS and CRCs are working better together, this issue is not explored in any detail in the inspection report.

Court work

TR put an increased emphasis and dependency on the quality of court reporting, but inspectors found that the system is still not working well, in part due to the demands of speedy justice. Oral reports are increasingly common, but generally inferior to written ones, with assessments tending to be better for NPS cases where more time was given to gather information.

The inspectors found that checks around domestic abuse and child safeguarding were often either not done or not received. Where this information was missing at point of sentence, it was often not supplied at allocation or the start of supervision.

The Inspectors concluded that “checks are needed in all cases, to inform sentencing and enable CRCs to focus promptly and knowledgeably on the work needed to reduce reoffending”.

Inspectors also found that court staff were often not sufficiently aware of what CRCs can offer and therefore couldn’t advise the court appropriately in relation to rehabilitation activity requirements.

Morale

The Inspectors found “poor or patchy” morale still very much in evidence , mainly in some of the CRCs. Some staff expressed concern about their competence to undertake their roles, and training had not always been delivered in a timely way to equip them with the skills required to enable them to undertake new or changed roles.

Through-the-gate

TTG arrangements are clearly still not working in many areas; two thirds of offenders had not received enough help before release with their accommodation, employment or finances.

Accommodation and Employment, Training & Education

For this report, inspectors asked specific questions seeking to establish if sufficient progress had been achieved in relation to an offender’s accommodation and ETE issues. Disappointingly, they assessed that sufficient progress was made in relation to both in slightly less than a third of the cases.  Wiltshire’s performance in relation to improvements in accommodation (70%) and ETE (59%) was singled out as being much better than the norm.

Persistent problems

It is clear that there are a number of issues identified in previous TR inspections which remain problematic. This report does not make new recommendations, mainly because many of the existing ones have not yet been implemented. Of the 18 recommendations revisited by the inspectors in this report, only two have been fully resolved, part progress has been made on five and eleven remain areas of concern.

Conclusion

This is the last planned inspection on the implementation of TR, with the Inspectorate focusing on its new “quality and impact” inspections of local areas; the topics for forthcoming thematic inspections are not yet decided.

There is a slightly more direct tone to this last assessment of TR implementation, perhaps reflecting the new Chief Inspector’s hand. She sends a straightforward warning to CRCs in her foreword:

Community Rehabilitation Company leaders have been understandably focused on implementing substantial change. For some this has been at a cost to quality assurance and effective management oversight of the day-to-day. With the new arrangements increasingly embedded, we hope to see increased emphasis on the quality of work over the course of the year.

Combined with the risks to the TR programme identified by the National Audit Office in its recent (April 2016) report (see this series of posts), it is clear that the next 12 months will be a defining time for the new probation system.

 

If you’re a researcher interested in working for the Prison Inspectorate, check out this latest vacancy on my jobs board [Closing date 14 June 2016.]

 

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2 Responses

  1. Also v concerning are these two points:

    Page 6: We were told that responsible officers were discouraged from enforcing an order through the court because of financial penalties applied to the organisation

    Page 20

    2.34. One responsible officer told us that while they: “believed good enforcement leads to good compliance”, their organisation’s approach was to discourage enforcing orders or licences. Enforcement was the interface issue we heard about that was still seen as the most problematic some eighteen months after Transforming Rehabilitation. A number of responsible officers said that they had been told not to recommend ‘revoke and resentence’, because it would lead to a financial penalty for the CRC.

    Commercial considerations conflict with – and trump – proper enforcement, it seems.

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