“Some excellent work”
National Probation Service staff and those from the Community Rehabilitation Company should be commended for working well together and providing a high quality service over a period of change.
That is the view of Chief Probation Inspector Glenys Stacey on probation work in York and North Yorkshire, the subject of a Quality and Impact inspection published last week (26 August 2016). It’s not my intention to blog on every Probation Inspectorate local Q&I inspection but this is only the second area inspection post the probation changes brought in by Transforming Rehabilitation (the first inspection of Durham expressed serious concerns about the work of the Community Rehabilitation Company) and many people are eager to have an objective view on the quality of work being undertaken.
The probation inspectorate inspects on a Police/PCC area basis, the CRC inspected in this report covers Humberside, Lincolnshire as well as North Yorkshire and is operated by Purple Futures, essentially an Interserve company.
Findings – National Probation Service
As in many areas, court work was found to be hampered by poor IT and there was a concern about a lack of timely information from children’s social services. The standard of pre-sentence reports was “a little disappointing” and there were delays in starting accredited programmes for some users.
However, the inspectors found many more positive findings:
- Staff had undertaken some excellent work to address offending behaviour, with responsible officers establishing an appropriate balance between managing risk of harm and addressing offence-related needs.
- Work intended to reduce offending was reviewed frequently and in response to changes. Diversity needs were clearly understood and responded to, resulting in work being tailored to need.
- Staff had developed good working relationships with partner agencies and specialist workers, being able to draw on additional support to help manage the most difficult and complex cases.
- Work to assess and address risk of harm was appropriately targeted, and effectively reviewed, leading to adaptations of work, breach and recall when needed. Staff paid appropriate attention to child safeguarding.
- Service users understood the risks they posed and were clear about what needed to change to demonstrate how their risk had reduced.
Findings – CRC
Inspectors reported that reviews of work happened infrequently, and management oversight was lacking; they also found that staff were less attentive to work designed to reduce the risk of harm to actual and potential victims, than to other aspects of their work. However, again, inspectors found much more to praise:
Staff worked well with individual service users to assess offending-related needs, and then established good relationships from which offending behaviour work could progress. As a result, we saw achievements being made in relation to offenders’ thinking and behaviour; they responded well to the approaches taken and gained increased understanding of the triggers to their offending.
- Responsible officers worked in a flexible way, providing service users with access to suitable programmes and services.
- The CRC had a clear strategic objective to manage risk of harm. Responsible officers understood the full range of risk of harm issues that they encountered.
- Progress had been made in most cases, supported by effective working relationships between responsible officers and service users; concerted efforts to engage people had resulted in very good levels of compliance.
Findings – co-ordination
The inspectors have found that co-ordination between the NPS and CRC has been poor in many areas. However, relationships in York & North Yorkshire were found to be particularly positive and effective:
- The CRC and the NPS were co-located with a good relationship that resulted in the provision of services to meet local needs.
- The effective communication and shared values between the CRC and NPS supported collaborative work between the two organisations, including some sharing of resources and joint negotiation with the local authority to provide suitable provision to meet the needs of offenders.
- Where risks escalated, both probation organisations adopted a collaborative and pragmatic approach to the problem, working to the principles of responding to the risks first, then deciding on which formal processes they should follow.
The one exception to this was around court reports where the quality of the initial information provided by NPS court staff to the CRC was not good enough in some cases and resulted in the CRC having to undertake fresh and detailed assessments of potentially harmful behaviour when they were allocated a case.
The Chief Inspector concluded:
This is the second of our new Quality & Impact inspections. I’m pleased to say we found some really good work going on in York and North Yorkshire. Despite the significant changes involved in Transforming Rehabilitation, it was “business as usual” for the CRC and NPS, with less of the discord that we’ve seen elsewhere. There was a real sense of innovation across both organisations and both took their responsibility to protect the public seriously. Positive relationships between the NPS and CRC meant staff could focus on providing the best service they could for offenders and the community.