The inspectors call
The first three weeks of 2016 have seen a number of very critical reports from HM Inspectorate of Probation.
The inspectors found major concerns about the implementation of the new Transforming Rehabilitation probation system with information sharing between the National Probation Service and the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies a persistent problem.
They were also very critical about the failure of most CRCs to integrate unpaid work into the broader supervision of offenders and found that failures to comply with orders were being poorly dealt with (although they did find many examples of high quality work too).
On 19 January 2016, the inspectors published their report on the transitions of young offenders into the adult probation world. In Transition Arrangements: a follow-up inspection, inspectors were again not reticent in their criticisms:
Overall, this reinspection found there had not been sufficient improvement in the quality of work undertaken during the transfer of cases from youth to adult services. Transitions were not always well organised, well recorded or smooth.
The inspectors did recognise that they had found examples of effective practice which they hoped would be more widely followed.
The inspection was based on visits to six probation areas and interviews with strategic and operational staff from three organisations, Youth Offending Teams, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service. Inspectors conducted interviews relating to 50 cases using a specifically designed case assessment tool. The split of the probation service into the NPS and 21 CRCs has complicated the transition process:
Inspectors found that:
- in the community, some young people were not identified as eligible for transfer and, in those cases which were identified, transfer was often undertaken as a purely procedural task;
- young people were not as informed or involved as they should have been;
- there was insufficient timely sharing of information between youth and adult services to enable sentence plans to be delivered without interruption; and
- in custody, insufficient forward planning and communication led to an interruption in sentence planning and delivery of interventions after young people had transferred to an over-18 young offender institution or prison.
Dispiritingly, inspectors reiterated exactly the same eight recommendations to the Youth Justice Board, Youth Offending Team Management Boards, the National Offender Management Service, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies that they had made in the original thematic inspection in 2012, since none had been properly acted upon.
YOTs, the NPS and CRCs were urged to ensure that:
- the effectiveness of local arrangements for the transfer of young people from youth based to adult based services, and retention of young adults in youth based services, is monitored and kept under review
- sentence plans in Youth Offending Teams and the young person’s secure estate take account of future transfer to adult services where appropriate, and plans in Probation Trusts and the adult custodial estate take account of information from youth based services, to ensure that outstanding interventions are implemented
- decisions to transfer young people to adult services or to retain young adults in youth based services are recorded in the case record and take into account the views of young people and what work needs to be undertaken to meet the aims of the sentence, to address likelihood of reoffending and risk of harm to others, and to manage vulnerability
- young people are thoroughly prepared for transfer to adult services
- notifications of transfer, and all essential advance information, are sent to Probation Trusts and adult establishments in sufficient time to ensure continuity of delivery of interventions
- all intervention providers (including health and education, training and employment providers) are informed of transfers to Probation Trusts and adult establishments in advance and involved appropriately in case transfer meetings to ensure continuity of delivery
- parents/carers are involved, where appropriate, in discussions about transfer and in case transfer meetings where it is likely to aid the young person’s progress and engagement
- staff in youth based and adult based services receive sufficient information and training about the work of each other’s services to enable them to prepare young people for transfer to adult services and to work effectively with transferred cases.
The lead inspector Alan MacDonald did not mince his words in his conclusion:
The transfer from the youth to adult world is a challenging time for any individual, including those involved in the criminal justice system. Failure to plan a smooth and effective transfer places a barrier to compliance and rehabilitation in young people’s lives.
We found some examples of effective practice. However, the majority of cases had not been identified as possible transfer cases. There was no consistency across the areas we inspected. In many cases there was little or no preparation, a failure to use existing information and a lack of planning. Young people entered the adult service unprepared and uninformed of the expectations they faced. We believe that young people are less likely to reoffend if they receive well-planned, uninterrupted supervision moving from Youth Offending Teams to adult probation providers.”
For further information on TR, check out my free resource pack.