HM Inspectorate of Probation has today (7 September 2023) published a report reinspecting the work undertaken and progress made, by the Probation Service, to promote race equality for people on probation and staff. The Inspectorate last looked at this area of practice in 2021. The findings from that report were “disappointing” and the inspectorate has revisited the topic to monitor whether their recommendations have led to improvements. Unfortunately, their overall conclusion is that “not enough progress has been made”.
Outgoing Chief Inspector Justin Russell summarises the (lack of) progress: “It’s clear that race equality – for people on probation and probation staff – remains a work in progress. While there is a commitment to improve the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people within this area of criminal justice, there is still some way to go to achieve proper equality of provision and opportunity”.
This reinspection found:
- still no national strategy that sets out expectations and plans for service delivery to minority ethnic people on probation
- little evidence that probation staff had spoken with people on probation about their ethnicity, culture, religion, and experiences of discrimination
- planning and delivery of probation services were worse for minority ethnic people on probation than for white people
- dissatisfaction remains for minority ethnic staff, but there has been progress.
On a more positive note, inspectors found no evidence of any disproportionality in the use of enforcement or breach of probation conditions, and most people on probation inspectors interviewed did not feel discriminated against.
You can see the key contextual facts and figures reproduced from the report below.
Minority ethnic people on probation
Inspectors found that there had been insufficient improvement overall in the experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic people on probation since the 2021 inspection. In the 50 cases inspected there was still little evidence that probation staff had spoken with minority ethnic people on probation about their ethnicity, culture, religion, and experiences of discrimination, or planned interventions that were responsive to these diversity factors. Data from our wider local probation inspection programme showed that assessment, planning, and implementation and delivery of these sentence plans were worse for minority ethnic people on probation than for white people, and fewer services were delivered for them.
However, some of those inspectors spoke to – including people who were new to the probation system – did say they felt heard by their probation officer, not discriminated against, and considered their relationship to be positive and effective.
Inspectors have recommended that practical training – such as sessions to improve cultural understanding and challenge discrimination – could be a solution to better and more effective practice. There is also potential to include people who have experienced probation supervision themselves to help shape training and guidance, and a need for probation services to provide culturally appropriate support services to improve rehabilitation.
Minority ethnic probation staff
The 2021 inspection raised concerns about how ethnic minority probation staff were being treated, and inspectors were hoping to see significant improvements in this area. Although a survey conducted for this inspection showed limited improvement in scores, the perceptions of ethnic minority staff remain mixed, and not as much progress has been made as had been hoped for,
Many staff still do not believe that probation leaders and managers understand the issues they face, and there is a tendency for people to be grouped together without recognition of their diverse backgrounds and experiences. Inspectors believe that leaders want to improve their support for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, and this has improved in some services, but are still finding that ambition is not backed by meaningful actions.
While progress is being made in minority ethnic staff progressing into management positions, a substantial minority of minority ethnic staff do not believe that the recruitment process is fair and equal.
The report makes eight recommendations, six of which are for HMPPS which should:
- develop a national race equality strategy for service delivery (repeated recommendation)
- develop learning programmes that enable probation staff to:
• understand discrimination and its impact
• provide culturally competent services
• reflect on their anti-discriminatory practice
• be confident in discussing racism and challenging discrimination
• eradicate bias in decision-making
• work effectively with interpreters (repeated recommendation)
- improve the quality of assessment and planning for minority ethnic people on probation and incorporate guidance on addressing culture, faith, and experiences of discrimination into any future assessment and planning tools
- provide materials for working with those convicted of racially motivated offences, supported with staff training, and consult with minority ethnic probation practitioners before allocating this type of case to them (repeated recommendation)
- improve engagement with minority ethnic staff and seek to achieve parity of satisfaction with white staff
- review formal and informal complaint and grievance procedures for staff, in consultation with minority ethnic staff, and make improvements to increase perceived fairness (repeated recommendation).