Humberside, Lincs & North Yorks private probation still failing

jewel inspection
Probation inspectors' verdict on HYNYCRC: At the time of the inspection, staffing levels were too low. Workloads, sickness rates and vacancies for frontline staff were too high.

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CRC still rated as "requiring improvement"

A probation service that covers Lincolnshire and parts of Yorkshire continues to require improvement and must step up its public protection work, according to inspectors in a report published today.

HM Inspectorate of Probation conducted a routine inspection of Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in January. Inspectors looked at 10 aspects of the CRC’s work and gave an overall rating of ‘Requires improvement’ – the same mark as last year.

The CRC – which is run by the Purple Futures consortium of private and third-sector businesses – supervises more than 5,000 low and medium-risk offenders. Some individuals are preparing to leave or have left prison, while others are serving community sentences.  

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: 

It is disappointing that, despite the best efforts of leaders and staff, the CRC’s overall rating has stayed the same.
Probation services play a crucial role in keeping the public safe. The CRC must pay consistent attention to the management of risk of harm, which was satisfactory in less than half the cases we inspected. Staff need to identify and analyse potential risks, and ensure these risks are managed and reviewed regularly.

Inspectors looked at a sample of cases and found “a lack of an inquisitive approach around victims and children”. Domestic abuse and child safeguarding checks were not always undertaken or followed up in a timely way.

Home visits can provide an insight into the day-to-day lives of individuals under probation supervision. Inspectors found that in cases where a home visit was recommended, only a quarter took place.

Inspectors noted the CRC had improved its relationships with police and children’s social services recently. This should lead to more effective information-sharing that will help to protect domestic abuse victims and children.

Mr Russell said:

At the time of the inspection, staffing levels were too low. Workloads, sickness rates and vacancies for frontline staff were too high. In some cases, work was being allocated to individuals who felt they did not have the appropriate training and experience.
This mismatch in resources frustrated the ability of managers and staff to deliver high-quality services.

Inspectors did find a number of strengths, including an excellent leadership team and motivated staff.

More services are now available to help individuals move away from further offending. This includes a successful pilot for an alcohol abstinence tagging programme and integrated services for women in Hull.

While staff training has improved since the last inspection, the impact was yet to be seen in the inspected cases. The Inspectorate has recommended the CRC improves staff training by allowing junior staff to work towards a vocational qualification in probation practice.

Inspectors found the CRC’s strongest performing area was its work with people as they prepare to leave the five prisons in the region. The Ministry of Justice has provided additional funding for Through the Gate services, which has boosted the CRC’s efforts to support individuals as they resettle in the community. Inspectors rated this area of work as ‘Outstanding’ – the highest possible mark.

Key findings

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

Organisational delivery

Inspectors’ main findings on this domain were reasonably positive.

Key strengths of the organisation are as follows:

  • A values-driven leadership team with a vision focused on quality.
  • Motivated staff who work hard for service users.
  • Strong relationships with key strategic partners, including police and crime commissioners.
  • Provision of accessible services through a network of local community-based reporting hubs.

The main areas for improvement are as follows:

  • The vision and strategy to deliver a high-quality service need to be put into practice.
  • The learning and development needs of staff are not well met.
  • Available services are not used sufficiently to meet the identified needs and risks of service users.
  • There is too long a delay in providing ICT equipment to new and returning staff.

Case supervision

Inspectors gave a critical verdict about the core probation task of supervising offenders, rating all 4 assessed domains as “inadequate”:

Key strengths of case supervision are as follows:

  • Planning considered the service user’s diversity and personal circumstances and how these may impact on engagement.
  • Good efforts were made to enable service users to complete their sentence, including re-engaging with individuals when this was needed.
  • A good completion rate for written reviews to record progress towards desistance.

Areas of case supervision requiring improvement include:

  • Assessment did not adequately identify and analyse the risk of harm to others or analyse specific concerns and risks to actual and potential victims.
  • Planning did not set out effective contingency arrangements for as many service users as necessary, to manage the identified risks to keeping other people safe.

Unpaid work and through-the-gate

Key strengths of unpaid work are: 

  • Unpaid work supervisors demonstrate commitment to helping service users to turn their lives around.
  • Service users are provided with clear information on the rules of unpaid work.
  • Unpaid work is personalised and takes good account of service users’ diversity and personal circumstances.
  • Much unpaid work begins promptly and happens regularly.

Areas for improvement for unpaid work are:

  • Not enough unpaid work offers service users the opportunity to develop employment-related skills.
  • Not all unpaid work projects were experienced as useful and rewarding.

Through the gate

Key strengths of Through the Gate work are:

  • Almost all service users were meaningfully involved in planning their resettlement.
  • Nearly all resettlement plans took enough account of service users’ diversity and personal circumstances.
  • Resettlement activity took good account of risk of harm factors.
  • Service users’ resettlement needs were well catered for, particularly in relation to personal and financial needs.

Areas of improvement for Through the Gate work are:

  • Delivery of resettlement services to some service users with other complex needs.

Conclusion

The Probation Inspectorate works on a four-band rating system: excellent, good, requires improvement and poor. It is disappointing to report that unlike its neighbour South Yorkshire which inspectors recently found had made such significant improvements to its performance that its rating was upgraded, Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire CRC is still rated as “requiring improvement” and scores exactly the same as it did in its last inspectiong – 14 points out of a maximum possible of 36 in my unofficial probation league table below.

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