H IOW CRC FI 19
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

First private probation service rated good, but…

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email
Probation inspectors rate Hampshire & IOW CRC as good but raise concerns about sweeping staff changes and high caseloads.

Probation Inspectors have given Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) an overall ‘Good’ rating in an inspection report published today (8 may 2019). The CRC – which supervises low and medium risk offenders – is the first organisation of its kind to attain the second-highest grade.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: 

Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC has the essentials in place to deliver a good probation service that supports people to move away from further offending and protects the public. It is laudable to see the CRC has evidence-based plans and is working with leading academics in the field to improve their work still further.

Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC is one of five probation services run by the Purple Futures consortium, which is led by Interserve. The CRC supervises nearly 4,000 low and medium-risk offenders; some are preparing to leave or have left prison, while others are serving community sentences.

Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Probation found senior leaders were “skilled, knowledgeable and energetic” and the CRC’s management of information and facilities was “outstanding”.

The CRC’s work with people under supervision was of mixed quality. Initial work to assess individuals’ circumstances and to plan activity to improve these was judged to be good. Inspectors found the delivery and reviewing of planned work to be less effective. Staff also need to improve their work to understand and manage the potential risk of harm to members of the public.

Inspectors found Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC’s unpaid work scheme was well-established and of a very good standard. The experienced team arranged and supervised placements effectively and kept a firm focus on rehabilitation.

Through the Gate services require improvement to help individuals settle back into the community successfully. Inspectors noted more could be done to support individuals in 40 per cent of inspected cases. Too often, there was no record of work by staff in prison to help inmates prepare for release.

Inspectors added a note of caution following its inspection. The CRC has introduced sweeping changes to its staffing, including seconding almost a quarter of its probation officers to the National Probation Service. Efforts to recruit new members of staff at a lower grade have also proved difficult. It is likely that the new starters will not be fully in place until autumn 2019. In the meantime, probation staff are managing around 70 cases each.

Dame Glenys said: 

The quality of its work is at risk, however, as the owners have decided to reduce the professionally qualified proportion of its workforce and there have been delays in recruiting new, less experienced staff. In my opinion, the CRC no longer has the quantity and calibre of staff to deliver an effective service. Regrettably, the ability of the CRC to sustain the quality of its work is being put at risk because of the financial pressures that this and other CRCs are experiencing.

Key findings

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

Organisational delivery

  • Leadership is purposeful, engages well with local partners and works within awell-established governance structure. It is supported by a strong group ofmiddle managers.
  • Staffing levels have been reduced to an unsustainably small number in January 2019. This did not influence the quality of cases we inspected. The strategy of introducing a greater proportion of lower-grade case managers may prove disruptive to both the performance and quality of work being delivered. Managers, when challenged, believe that they have the quality systems in place to mitigate this.
  • There is a good range of services being delivered, and some innovation in the suite of interventions, both available and planned.
  • The CRC occupies user-friendly, accessible premises. Methods of work aresupported by a good standard of mobile technology. There is a high standard of research and evaluation work being undertaken across the Interserve/Purple Futures family of CRCs.

Case Supervision

  • Assessment and planning work is delivered to a good standard overall, with cases managed by probation officer-qualified senior case managers being consistently of sufficient quality.
  • Implementation and delivery of the sentence of the court requires improvement, particularly in maintaining a focus on reducing the risk of serious harm.
  • We found review processes to be lacking in many respects, with too little evidence of case managers monitoring and managing individual changes in circumstances and retaining a focus on risk of harm issues.

Unpaid work

Unpaid work is delivered to a good standard in Hampshire and Isle of Wight CRC, with a wide range of placements being available to allow meaningful sentence delivery, responding, in most cases, to individual circumstances.

Through the Gate

There is a well-established Through the Gate scheme, operating in HM Prisons Winchester and Coldingley. Although requiring improvement in the range of resettlement work and coordination of effort between prison-based and community-based staff, the scheme has the capacity to deliver well.

Conclusion

This is the fourteenth inspection of a CRC under the Probation Inspectorate’s new four-band rating system. Although, it is a relief and pleasure to finally find a CRC rated as “good”; it is disappointing that we must dilute that assessment in two ways.

Firstly, as HMIP points out, big staffing changes mean the CRC is unlikely to continue performing to a satisfactory standard.

Secondly, even though the overall verdict was good, Hampshire & Isle of Wight CRC was still rated as “requiring improvement” (two) or “inadequate” (one) in three of the six areas of practice assessed.

I have been compiling an unofficial league table of probation performance based on the inspectorate’s ratings. The table has been updated today (see below) and shows Hampshire & IOW CRC as by far the best performing CRC to date. 

Share on twitter
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on print
Share on email

2 thoughts on “First private probation service rated good, but…”

  1. This is very interesting, Russell. The issue about staff shortages bears our my experience of severely overstretched staff. However, the claim that this did not impede effectiveness is a moot point.

    I was being supervised by Hampsher & IoW CRC in 2017 after a custodial sentence for a ‘white collar’crime. The supervision was, at best, superficial, and very much at arms length. I was told at my first meeting that I would need to provide regular evidence of improved financial management at all subsequent meetings (which became increasingly infrequent), but it was never mentioned again, despite me preparing a spreadsheet of income and expenditure for my next meeting. After that, I thought ‘s*d it.’ Meetings were often cancelled at short notice (almost always earlier that day, which is very frustrating when they were scheduled in as part of a pressured diary) and, after hearing nothing more for nearly a month, it was usually down to me to jog my supervisor’s memory and make another appointment. Several times, I saw another probation supervisor who knew nothing about my case. Meetings mostly consisted of asking how I was, whether I had any problems (if I had, I honestly don’t know what interventions would have been available to support rehabilitation), and setting the date for the next meeting. All done and dusted in around 10 minutes. Classic box-ticking. I frequently travelled outside the UK for work purposes, without any problems at passport control, and never bothered asking for permission because I was told it would take at least three weeks to clear each trip – and often these had to be arranged at short notice. I attended one probation interview prior to a journey to St Pancras with a Eurostar ticket in my jacket pocket! I recently received the paperwork confirming completion of the supervision period more than 12 months after the completion date.

    I may be a rare exception, and there may have been a ‘hands-off’ approach to me because I had a secure job, posed no obvious public risk, had a fairly stable lifestyle, and didn’t given my probation supervisor any hassles. But I hate to think what the consequences would have been for someone with pronounced rehabilitative needs. If my situation is typical, little wonder recall and re-offending is so high.

    Like all inspections, the concern is with the overall picture. But the exceptions often highlight where the points of weakness can be found.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience. As you say, inspections try to get an overall picture of typical performance but I’m always very keen to hear of real first-hand experiences – from service users or staff.

      Best Wishes

      Russell

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Transforming Rehabilitation Resource Pack

Keep up with all the latest developments by clicking on the image above.