Manchester probation struggling to implement new model

Inspectors report on Greater Manchester

The two organisations providing probation services in Greater Manchester were working well in some respects, but needed to do more to reduce reoffending. The Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) also needed to do more to protect the public

That is the overall verdict of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation in an inspection report published earlier today (16 February 2017).

Overall findings

Overall, inspectors found the quality of the Cheshire and Greater Manchester’s CRC’s work was mixed. The CRC (owned by Purple Futures) is applying the same innovative way of working in each of the five CRCs it owns, based on solid research into what makes people turn away from crime. Despite this, leaders were finding it hard to embed in practice. Public protection work was not good enough because policies and procedures, though commendable, were not being applied consistently enough by frontline staff to protect actual or potential victims from the risk of harm.

Sickness absence rates were high in the CRC and individual caseloads had been large in the months before the inspection. This led to cases moving from one Responsible Officer to another, making it difficult to keep hold of the meaningful relationships so central to good rehabilitative work and reducing reoffending. Extra staff had recently been recruited, which should improve the quality of work and staff morale.

The CRC was delivering impressive services for women, supported by additional funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner.

In common with other regions, the NPS had experienced less change and was more settled. Staff morale was relatively high and good core work to protect the public was carried out, though there was more to do on delivering rehabilitation work consistently.

Inspectors made recommendations which included the NPS accessing the range of accredited and non-accredited programmes and services on offer from the CRC to reduce reoffending, and the CRC providing all staff, and especially new staff, with regular supervision and training. The CRC should also improve the effectiveness of the management of unpaid work.

More detailed findings are set out below.

Findings — CRC

The main inspectors’ findings of the work of the CRC were:

  • The CRC had not made a sufficient contribution to protecting those at risk of harm. Public protection policies and procedures were robust but they were not being applied consistently, and so the impact of the work to protect actual and potential victims was limited.
  • The CRC was not sufficiently effective in delivering interventions to reduce reoffending. Progress in the delivery of interventions to support desistance had been made in too few of the cases. The quality of the work and its impact was not consistent. Assessments had largely been carried out well but planning for work to support desistance was weaker.
  • The CRC was generally effective in supporting service users to abide by their sentence. The frequency, quality, enforcement and the number of appointments offered was generally good and consequently, service users usually complied.

The graphic below combines performance for both NPS and CRC:

Findings — NPS

The main inspectors’ findings of the work of the NPS were:

  • The NPS had made an effective contribution to protecting those at risk of harm. The quality of the work delivered was generally good, with most victims protected. Public protection policies and procedures were strong and were generally being applied appropriately.
  • The quality of work to reduce reoffending was generally acceptable but with room for improvement. Assessments and plans were good and the quality of one-to-one work was strong in some parts of Greater Manchester.
  • The NPS was not consistently accessing substance misuse services and protective factors had not always been properly considered and formal reviewing of progress was inconsistent.
  • Interventions to support desistance were not delivered consistently across all the identified areas of need.
  • The quality of work to support service users to abide by their sentence was generally good with examples of very good motivational work to engage service users in complying with their sentences.

Findings — Co-ordination between NPS and CRC

Overall levels of co-operation and co-ordination between both probation agencies appeared to be strong at a strategic level but considerably less so between operational staff:

  • Working relationships between the two organisations at senior management level in public protection work were strong but communication needed to be more effective.
  • However, the relationship between CRC responsible officers and NPS enforcement officers was at times difficult. Information contained in breach papers from the CRC and the NPS had often been poorly prepared and had to be returned.
  • The senior management teams in the CRC and NPS were committed to partnership activities to support desistance work.
  • The CRC is eager to develop the ‘rate card’ offer to the NPS and to enhance provision to support desistance (a national issue apparently now being addressed on Liz Truss’ instructions with NPS very strongly encouraged to take up CRC services).
  • Women’s services were a clear strength. The CRC was resourcing women’s services effectively across Greater Manchester with the assistance of the Police and Crime Commissioner.
  • The co-location of CRC and NPS staff in Integrated Offender Management teams was a significant strength. Staff were working collectively and learning from one another.

Conclusion

Overall then, inspectors have found once again that the CRC were performing much less satisfactorily than its NPS counterpart. Once again, I am bound to conclude that this is perhaps inevitable given new ownership and additional responsibilities of supervising short term prisoners on release in particular. The inspectors are obviously hopeful that the innovative approach of Purple Futures will bear fruit in the future but current practice is clearly lagging some way behind aspirations.

As usual, I leave the last work to Chief Probation Inspector Dame Glenys Stacey:

Both the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company worked well with offenders to help them keep to the terms of their sentences. Both organisations were keen to improve where necessary and to help those being supervised to turn their lives around and reduce reoffending in Greater Manchester.

The Westminster government is soon to devolve significant powers, including over criminal justice, to Greater Manchester. Both organisations were working in anticipation of this, and were well placed to respond, having already built up strong local partnerships.

Click here to see my infographic summarising findings from first seven inspections of new public/private probation system.

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