Service upgraded to "good" from "requires improvement"
Probation Inspectors have praised a South Yorkshire service for making positive progress over the past year in a report published today.
HM Inspectorate of Probation conducted a routine inspection of South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in November and December. Inspectors looked at 10 aspects of the CRC’s work and have awarded an overall ‘Good’ rating.
Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said:
“South Yorkshire CRC is much improved since our last inspection in 2019. As such, we have moved their overall rating up from ‘Requires improvement’ to ‘Good’.
The senior leadership team is committed to providing high-quality tailored services that support individuals to turn away from crime. The CRC has a service user council and listens to the experiences and views of the people they supervise.
Leaders also empower staff to bring about positive lasting change in the lives of those under probation supervision.
Since our last inspection, there has been considerable investment in staffing and staff development. This has led to probation staff managing fewer cases on average, which has led to improvements in the quality of casework.”
South Yorkshire CRC – which is owned by Sodexo Justice Services – supervises 3,600 low and medium-risk offenders. Some are preparing to leave or have left prison, while others are serving community sentences.
Inspectors found a marked improvement in the quality of Through the Gate services, which support people as they prepare to leave prison. The Ministry of Justice has provided additional funding and this has led to some “impressive” work in the region.
Inspectors found positive efforts to help people resettle in the community. Staff helped individuals to secure accommodation and employment, and to access substance misuse and mental health support as needed.
The Inspectorate noted the CRC offers a comprehensive range of services to help individuals move away from further offending. Mr Russell said:
“South Yorkshire CRC has a comprehensive picture of its service users and their collective needs. They use this information to identify and develop activities that support rehabilitation.
We were encouraged to see the type and number of activities has increased since our last visit, and that the CRC draws on research and effective practice.
However, we would like to see a greater number of service users completing these interventions.”
Inspectors also noted some other areas that require development.
Mr Russell said:
“Although there have been encouraging improvements since our previous inspection to the way the CRC identifies and manages potential risks of harm, we would still like to see further progress.
When it is safe to do so, staff should conduct more home visits where appropriate, so they can have a deeper understanding of the service user’s home life and ascertain who has regular contact with the service user.
This professional curiosity is vital. Probation staff must pay consistent attention to potential risks to ensure the safety of potential victims and the wider public.”
Inspectors organised their key findings under three main headings: organisational delivery; case supervision and unpaid work & through-the-gate.
Inspectors’ main findings on this domain were positive. Key strengths of the organisation are as follows:
Key strengths of the organisation are as follows:
- Senior leaders are both impressive and effective.
- There is a commitment to make sure that work delivered to support desistance is evidence-based and can be evaluated.
- Investment in developing staff is excellent.
- Relationships with supply chain providers are exceptionally good.
- Management information is used effectively to drive improvement.
The main areas for improvement are as follows:
- Management oversight is not yet consistently effective.
- The Doncaster office is overcrowded.
- Not enough short duration programmes are completed.
- Relationships with sentencers at a strategic level are difficult.
Inspectors gave a critical verdict about the core probation task of supervising offenders, rating 3 out of 4 assessed domains as “requiring improvement”:
Key strengths of case supervision are as follows:
- Assessments identified offending-related factors.
- Plans set out how work to support desistance and keep other people safe from harm will be delivered within agreed timescales.
- Work to re-engage individuals following enforcement decisions is strong.
- Risk of harm classifications are accurate in the majority of cases.
Areas of case supervision requiring improvement include:
- Insufficient services delivered to address factors linked to offending in too many cases, despite the availability of a range of short duration programmes.
- Service users are not always meaningfully involved in reviewing their progress while under supervision.
- Risk of harm work has improved, but is still not managed comprehensively, and contingency planning is particularly weak.
Unpaid work and through-the-gate
Key strengths of unpaid work are:
- Assessments consider the diversity and personal needs of individuals, and work allocated is suitable.
- Risks to the public and potential victims are identified and managed appropriately.
- Arrangements for unpaid work positively encourage the service user’s engagement and compliance with their order.
- Unpaid work staff communicate effectively with responsible officers.
An area for improvement for unpaid work is:
- Recording of risk of harm codes is not always complete.
Through the gate
Key strengths of Through the Gate work are:
- Plans are completed promptly with effective engagement of the individual due for release.
- Risk of harm issues are recognised and managed appropriately in most cases.
- The resettlement services provided deal with the most critical needs of the individual in most cases.
- There is good communication with responsible officers.
- Handover to community services on release is effective and supports resettlement.
The Probation Inspectorate works on a four-band rating system: excellent, good, requires improvement and poor. South Yorkshire must be commended for making such significant improvements to performance and becoming just the fourth Community Rehabilitation Company to be rated as good.
As you can see below, this new assessment sees SYCRC shooting up my unofficial probation league table.
I still feel it is important to draw attention to the fact that even those CRCs now being rated as “good” tend to perform most poorly in the key tasks relating to case supervision.