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Cumb Lancs CRC 19 FI
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Cumbria/Lancs private probation performing poorly

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Cumbria & Lancashire CRC latest to be rated "requiring improvement" by probation inspectors.

All areas of work unsatisfactory

Cumbria and Lancashire Community Rehabilitation Company, which is run by Sodexo and supervises more than 5,500 low and medium-risk offenders,  was assessed by probation inspectors as ‘Requiring improvement’, the second lowest rating,  in a new inspection report published today (30 May 2019). 

Inspectors found good leaders at the CRC and clear policies, procedures, strategy and purpose are in place. Probation staff were interviewed during the inspection and were overwhelmingly positive about their roles. They described a culture of improvement and valued learning and development.

The CRC runs a good suite of accredited programmes to support people to turn away from crime. Some of these are used well with perpetrators of domestic abuse and those who need to develop better relationships with their partner, ex-partner and children.

Despite these positive findings, inspectors found the overall quality of probation supervision was not nearly good enough. This is particularly disappointing; since when inspectors looked at parts of the CRC’s work in 2017, they found work was of a good standard overall and some practices were exemplary.

Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: 

Cumbria and Lancashire CRC is not delivering effective probation supervision. Our inspection found poor practices that frequently failed to tackle offending or protect the public. We expect probation professionals to assess each case and tailor supervision to the individual. Here, we found staff failed to assess cases properly and missed opportunities to lay solid foundations for the work that follows. Key information, such as a clear explanation of how and why offending took place, was frequently missing. Worryingly, there is a lack of information from other agencies such as children’s social care.

Greater attention should have been paid to protecting actual and potential victims. This was particularly concerning in cases that involved domestic abuse or safeguarding concerns for children and adults. Where a member of staff should have conducted a home visit to assess and manage potential risks, we found only a third had been completed.

Inspectors found the CRC struggled to manage complex cases. The national shortage of probation officers, including in the North West, means the CRC has insufficient numbers of qualified staff. Inspectors concluded: 

We found sizeable numbers of staff were often out of their depth, holding cases that required more skills and experience than they possessed.

While some of the CRC’s premises are of a high standard, others were described by staff as “not fit for purpose”. Despite this, staff worked hard to engage with people under their supervision.

Dame Glenys concluded: 

We have made seven recommendations to improve the quality of work at Cumbria and Lancashire CRC. There is much to do. Leaders need to make better efforts to deliver the improvements that must now follow.

Key findings

Inspectors organised their key findings under three main headings: organisational delivery; case supervision and unpaid work & through-the-gate.

Organisational delivery

  • The CRC is well led and has a clear strategy of working with its partners to deliver, supported by flexible ways of working.
  • There is a serious shortage of qualified staff to handle higher risk of harm cases. Management oversight is insufficient to support staff.
  •  Services are available but not used consistently to tackle offending, and the communication of information between the different partner organisations delivering interventions is not robust.
  • The CRC’s facilities and systems can sometimes hamper the delivery of high quality work. Leaders are not clear about the quality of work undertaken, and may not see what is required to drive improvement.

Case supervision

As is the case in most CRCs, the primary probation task of case supervision was not up to standard:

  • Assessment is very weak, particularly in relation to keeping other people safe. Less than half of the relevant inspected cases included a sufficient assessment to support public protection.
  • Plans are in place for most people but there are too few which protect the public sufficiently. Of the cases inspected where a risk of harm to others was evident, only 41 per cent had a sufficient risk management plan.
  • Structured interventions are infrequently used.
  •  Arrangements to exchange information with partners are not robust: important information is being neglected.
  • Review work is improving but there are serious shortcomings in the review of risk management plans.

Unpaid work

The scheme is suffering from very weak assessment of need. Of the cases inspected, less than one-quarter had been assessed sufficiently. More needs to be done to offer individuals opportunities for personal development.

Through the gate

Plans are usually in place, and efforts are being made, to support people in their resettlement; however, coordination and communication efforts are not working well, owing to poor information sharing.

Conclusion

The Probation Inspectorate works on a four-band rating system: excellent, good, requires improvement and poor. This is the fifteenth inspection of a CRC under the new rating system; one area was rated “good”, one “inadequate” and thirteen areas including Cumbria & Lancashire have been rated in the second to lowest band: “requiring improvement”. A glance at my unofficial league table of probation performance below shows that Cumbria & Lancashire must have been perilously close to being classified in the bottom band.

It is particularly disappointing to see this CRC rated so poorly when the Cumbria area was rated much more positively just two years ago.

This week the MoJ has been holding consultation events aimed at designing the next version of Transforming Rehabilitation. Judging by this inspection report, that new model cannot come quickly enough.

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One Response

  1. I am apalled at Cumbria CRC. Had a relationship with my responsible officer and have been silenced since with no support offered.

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