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Kent, Surrey and Sussex private probation performing poorly
Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC is delivering innovative work with offenders but still rated as "requiring improvement" by probation inspectors.

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Innovative work with offenders but...

Kent, Surrey & Sussex Rehabilitation Company, which is run by Seetec and supervises approximately 8,600 low and medium-risk offenders,  was assessed by probation inspectors as ‘Requiring improvement’, the second lowest rating,  in a new inspection report published today (19 June 2019). 

HM Inspectorate of Probation were positive about many aspects of the CRC and found that it offers an “impressive” range of education, training and employment opportunities for people under probation supervision.

The CRC runs in-house training courses so individuals can gain qualifications in subjects such as construction and food hygiene. Staff arrange regular job fairs and a third of attendees were offered roles at a recent event. The CRC has also teamed up with the Police and Crime Commissioner in Surrey to improve housing provision for offenders.

Staff at the CRC have also developed a new programme for perpetrators of stalking and harassment – the first of its kind in England and Wales. Staff work with individuals on a one-to-one basis over 10 sessions to explore why they offended and to equip them with the tools they need to avoid further crimes. The programme uses similar techniques to a pilot in New York, which successfully diverted offenders away from this type of behaviour.

New Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said:

“Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC helps people who have offended to gain new skills, get into work and find suitable accommodation. This type of practical assistance makes a major difference to these individuals’ lives and supports their efforts to move away from further offending.”

Although inspectors praised Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC’s commitment to innovation and strong leadership, they did have concerns about the quality of some case supervision and its ‘Through the Gate’ work with offenders leaving prison. There is a widespread shortage of qualified probation officers and the CRC has found it particularly difficult to recruit and retain staff because of its proximity to London. The CRC has decided to tackle the problem by leading the development of a new apprenticeship scheme to offer people a different route into the sector. If the scheme is successful, it could be rolled out nationally.

Mr Russell said:

“There is much to commend in this CRC, including its impressive leadership, strong staff satisfaction scores and very positive reputation among partners and stakeholders. However, as with other CRCs we have inspected, these have not fed through into their work with individuals under probation supervision. So, for example, while a comprehensive range of services is potentially available, it was disappointing to see these were not being delivered in the inspected cases.
The CRC also needs to improve the way they assess individuals and the potential risk that they pose. At the moment, they are failing to take sufficient account of information from partners, such as the police or children’s social services, or of past violent behaviour. We recommend the CRC strengthens this area of work to keep actual and potential victims safe.”

Key findings

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

Organisational delivery

  • Senior leaders provide outstanding leadership with the experience of those under supervision at the heart of strategic decision-making and operational delivery.
  • There is a suitable staffing model, and impressive arrangements for learning, development and staff engagement are resulting in a committed workforce that is working hard to deliver against the organisation’s vision and values.
  • Although a comprehensive range of services is potentially on offer, disappointingly, we did not see enough evidence of rehabilitative interventions being delivered in the cases we inspected. There is exceptional
    stakeholder engagement aimed at improving access to services for those under supervision.
  • The organisation’s capacity to provide research and information is impressive, and a new estates strategy is now fully implemented. Although information and communications technology (ICT) arrangements are adequate, there is room for improvement..

Case supervision

As is the case in most CRCs, the primary probation task of case supervision was not up to standard:

  • Work to engage individuals in the assessment process is good and there is also a sufficient focus on factors relating to offending and desistance. However, risk of harm assessments need to improve as only half the cases
    we inspected focused sufficiently on keeping people safe.
  • Planning practice is not sufficient and although there is some encouraging work relating to reducing reoffending, less than half of plans inspected adequately prioritise the risk of harm.
  • We found some good practice aimed at engaging individuals in their sentence but very limited intervention delivered to reduce reoffending and keep people safe. In only half of inspected cases was there effective delivery of services to support desistance.
  • There was some use of review to engage and motivate individuals subject to supervision but there was insufficient liaison with other agencies to assess and manage the risk of harm. Less than half of cases met a sufficient standard in relation to reviewing risk of harm.

Unpaid work

There has been significant activity to improve unpaid work in the last couple of years and delivery is now strong across Kent, Surrey and Sussex.

Through the gate

Plans are usually in place, and efforts are being made, to support people in their resettlement; however, coordination and communication efforts are not working well, owing to poor information sharing.Resettlement plans are generally completed and sufficient, but in the current resourcing model staff are struggling to deliver and coordinate activity to individuals in preparation for their release.

Conclusion

The Probation Inspectorate works on a four-band rating system: excellent, good, requires improvement and poor. This is the sixteenth inspection of a CRC under the new rating system; one area was rated “good”, one “inadequate” and fourteen areas including Kent, Surrey & Sussex have been rated in the second to lowest band: “requiring improvement”. A glance at my unofficial probation league table below shows that KSSCRC is one of the better performing private probation companies.

As readers know, the probation service is currently being re-designed again and the current 21 CRCs will be replaced by 11 Innovative Partners, responsible for delivering unpaid work and accredited programmes, but no longer offender management . It appears that Seetec is doing a sufficiently competent job on unpaid work to consider bidding for one of the new contracts. We shall wait and see when the MoJ procurement competition opens later this year.

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