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Effective probation supervision
HMI Probation effective practice guide on case supervision.

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Adult case supervision

As part of its effective practice guide series, HMI Probation has just published new guidance on the effective case supervision of adults, designed to support busy professionals to supervise service users effectively and safely. In his foreword, Chief Inspector Justin Russell says:

The capacity to be reflective, learn from experience and look for ways to improve are key qualities of good probation practitioners. This guide shares examples found by our inspectors that illustrate what good practice against our standards and key questions looks like. We want to shine a light on practice that engages the individual, supports them to change their behaviour so there is a reduced likelihood of further crime, and shows how the risk of harm to others can be reduced and managed.

The guide is in the form of a digital handbook organised in short modules and aimed at practitioners managing statutory cases in the probation system. The modules describe the features of effective practice in assessment, planning, implementation and delivery of interventions, and reviewing — the core areas which inspectors review when examining practice at a local level.

The guide can be used for a range of purposes including evidence-based self-assessment, practice development and quality assurance. It can also be used as part of a service’s preparation for inspection, for action-planning after inspection or for general learning and training. Services can benchmark their own practice against inspection expectations using both HM Inspectorate of Probation’s published standards and this effective practice guide.

There are four key sections to the guide:

  1. Case supervision overview
  2. Engagement in case supervision
  3. Desistance in case supervision and
  4. Keeping people safe

Case supervision

The guide sets out how a probation practitioner can build an influential relationship that can balance care with control to support desistance and prevent further victims of crime. The guide acknowledges that in probation work there has always been a degree of tension between caring for individuals who have broken the law and controlling and reducing their criminal behaviour. The imbalance of power can be perceived as oppressive and demotivating for the individual under supervision. A skilful practitioner whose response is authentic and who is able to express clear values honestly can enable the service user to view the supervision as legitimate and increase their motivation and participation in the process of change. This is sometimes referred to as procedural justice. Research indicates that people are most likely to be engaged with and accepting of the outcomes of a process if they believe it to be both fair and legitimate. In addition, a plan is more likely to address service users’ needs where they are engaged as ‘active collaborators’.

This section includes guidance on what effective supervision looks like, risk, need & responsivity and applying the RNR principles.


Engagement in case supervision

This section aims to support practitioners in their work to engage with and encourage engagement from service users. It includes the key evidence on engagement, inspectors’ expectations and the views of ex-service users before going on to look at four key practice areas:

  1. Assessing for engagement
  2. Planning for engagement
  3. Implementation and delivery of engagement
  4. Reviewing for engagement

Desistance in case supervision

This section aims to support practitioners in their work to support service users to move away from offending and to live crime-free lives. It is structured in the same way as the previous section: starting with evidence, expectations and the views of ex-service users before providing content on assessment, planning, delivery and review.

Keeping people safe in case supervision

The final section follows the same structure as the two previous ones but divides practice into according to levels of risk. It also includes a number of case examples to inform best practice.

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