Public Protection work must improve
A probation service in the East Midlands must improve the quality of its work to better protect the public, according to an inspection report published today.
HM Inspectorate of Probation inspected the Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland Community Rehabilitation Company (DLNR CRC) last autumn. Inspectors looked at 10 aspects of the CRC’s work and gave an overall ‘Requires improvement’ rating.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said:
“We last inspected DLNR CRC in September 2018. Despite the action taken by senior leaders, the overall rating has not changed and this is disappointing.
In particular, we are concerned by the quality of the CRC’s public protection work. The weak attention to safeguarding concerns and the lack of coordination with other agencies is this CRC’s Achilles’ heel. The CRC should improve the coordination of risk management with organisations such as the police and children’s social services to identify and manage potential risks of harm, and better protect the public.”
DLNR CRC supervises more than 8,400 low and medium-risk offenders across the four counties. These individuals are serving community sentences or preparing to leave or have left prison.
At the time of the inspection, frontline probation staff were responsible for an average of 58 cases each.
Inspectors noted a “deterioration” in the management of cases compared to the previous inspection.
Mr Russell said:
“Probation staff assess, plan, deliver and review activity with individuals under supervision. This activity needs to strike the right balance between rehabilitation and public protection.
In the inspected cases, we found the management of risk of harm was not good enough at every stage. We have, therefore, rated all four aspects of case supervision ‘Inadequate’ – our lowest possible grade.
Following the 2018 inspection, we recommended the CRC improve its case management practices. Little progress has been made over the past year.”
Inspectors did note the CRC has some strengths.
Individuals can access a comprehensive range of services to support them to move away from offending and to lead crime-free lives. Examples include projects in Derby and Leicester to improve access to accommodation.
DLNR CRC also trains and supports individuals to become peer mentors, helping others to lead crime-free lives. Inspectors found this activity “impressive and innovative”.
The strongest area of performance is the Through the Gate service, which supports people as they prepare to leave prison and resettle in the community. The CRC received additional funding from central government in 2019, which has increased staff numbers working in this area and helped to set up initiatives to improve access to accommodation. As a result, the Inspectorate rated the Through the Gate service ‘Outstanding’.
DLNR CRC is owned by the Reducing Reoffending Partnership, which comprises one private company and two charities. The partnership also owns neighbouring Staffordshire and West Midlands Community Rehabilitation Company.
The National Probation Service will take over the management of all offenders in the community in England and Wales from next year. Planning has started with the Reducing Reoffending Partnership on the transition and inspectors noted the positive relationship between the two organisations.
Inspectors organised their key findings under three main headings: organisational delivery; case supervision and unpaid work & through-the-gate.
Inspectors found a clear vision in place in Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Rutland CRC to reduce reoffending and support individuals towards a crime-free life. However, they also found within the operating model, a disconnect between the customer service centre and frontline services, which impairs key elements of service delivery. Influential factors linked to reoffending and risk management go unaddressed in too many instances. Action taken to address the recommendation from the previous inspection to provide high-quality case management which protects the public was not evidenced within the casework we inspected. Key strengths of the organisation are as follows:
- The leaders work effectively with strategic partners to improve services.
- A number of individuals under supervision have opportunities to train and become peer mentors and contribute to service delivery.
- A comprehensive range of services and interventions are available, to address the reasons why people offend.
- Barriers to engagement are addressed and people under supervision are made to feel welcome at the CRC offices.
The main areas for improvement are as follows:
- The operating model contributes to poor communication and decision-making between administrators and frontline services.
- The learning and development capability within the CRC has diminished and is insufficient to meet the needs of staff.
- The reoffending analysis tool is not exploited well to support the CRC’s strategic needs analysis.
- Access to ICT systems are not made routinely available to unpaid work supervisors.
Inspectors were extremely critical about the core probation task of supervising offenders. Fewer than half the LDNRCRC cases inspected were of an acceptable standard.
Key strengths of case supervision are as follows:
- Planning appointments for individuals take good account of competing priorities, such as employment.
- Responsible officers can access a wide range of services to address reoffending.
- Responsible officers give good attention to enforcement processes and work effectively to re-engage individuals who do not comply.
- Review work supports compliance and the CRC’s ambition to recognise achievements on a service user’s journey towards a crime-free life.
Areas of case supervision requiring improvement are as follows:
- Allocation of cases does not take sufficient account of documentation relating to previous offending and assessment work included in pre-sentence reports.
- Factors related to offending are not reliably followed by analysis and the action required to address them.
- Management oversight of casework focuses on the completion of processes, within sufficient attention given to the action required to address risk of harm indicators.
- Other key agencies are not sufficiently involved in the development and delivery of risk management planning work.
- Responsible officers do not review work and take action reliably when presented with information relating to changes in risk of harm.
Unpaid work and through-the-gate
- Unpaid work supervisors and managers have positive, long-standing relationships with local beneficiaries.
- Induction arrangements are well planned and peer mentors may contribute to improve engagement and motivation.
- Good attention is given to health and safety in the delivery of unpaid work.
- The CRC seeks to ensure that unpaid work orders are completed within 12 months.
- Unpaid work supervisors lack access to the case management system,n-Delius, and the CRC email, which can impair communication.
- Education, training and employment (ETE) opportunities are not availableto provide up to 20 per cent of unpaid work hours for relevant cases.
- There is a lack of bespoke unpaid work opportunities for women.
Key strengths of Through the Gate are:
- Good working relationships are in place between resettlement staff and key partner agencies and providers, which contribute to collaboration and effective communication.
- Community support workers can meet individuals at the point of release and support them to access services in the community.
- Imaginative approaches are used to improve access to suitable accommodation on release.
- The Through the Gate teams provide resilience by working flexibly to support delivery across the resettlement prisons.
- Resettlement staff in the prisons have good access to the prison and community case management systems.
Areas for improvement of Through the Gate services are:
- Resettlement staff are completing resettlement plans when they are unclear about the assessed level of risk of harm, completed by prison staff, in too many instances.
- Responsible officers require support to organise their work, so they can visit prisons and consolidate learning from their training to improve their understanding of resettlement work.
The Probation Inspectorate works on a four-band rating system: excellent, good, requires improvement and poor. It is very disappointing to see that the performance of DLNRCRC has dropped substantially over the last year, scoring two points fewer in my unofficial probation league table.