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The interventions landscape for probation
Probation inspectorate overview of the current difficulties with intervention delivery post-unification.

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Delivery, challenges & opportunities

His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has recently (28 March 2024) published a new research bulletin: The interventions landscape for probation services: delivery, challenges, and opportunities. The bulletin examines the probation interventions landscape, providing an overview of how well the post-unification landscape is operating for those on the frontline, and considering good practices and areas for improvement.

This analysis comes at a timely moment; it shines a light on the many current difficulties besetting the probation service immediately prior to the re-commissioning of many interventions.


The intervention landscape is now more varied than it used to be a decade ago with a number of less intensive interventions alongside the long-established accredited programmes. At least some of the impetus behind the development of structured interventions and practitioner toolkits has been the long-running problems with staffing and the capacity to run sufficient accredited programmes in a timely manner. In addition, of course, the Probation Service now commissions a number of specialist services from third parties via the Commissioned Rehabilitative Services (CRS) framework. I have reproduced the helpful infographic from the bulletin showing the current interventions landscape below.


A usual, this is a rigorous piece of work by the inspectorate with the bulletins findings based on inspections covering 32 PDUs, interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and a survey of 234 probation professionals. 


Research evidence supports the use of various interventions for people on probation, and HMIP’s analysis of matched inspection and outcomes data reinforces the evidence base, clearly demonstrating the potential for high-quality implementation and delivery to reduce reoffending and support desistance.

However, around half of the cases in recent inspections did not receive sufficient, or sufficient quality, interventions or services, with some notably lower levels of sufficiency for specific needs. Gaps in provision were highlighted by the research participants in relation to specific needs, particularly accessing suitable housing, and in relation to specific subgroups, especially services for ethnic minorities.

The headline findings for the different types of intervention were:

  • accredited programmes were viewed positively but there were concerns about waiting lists and the ability to access the programmes in a timely manner
  • practitioners had lacked the time to build their understanding of structured interventions and toolkits, and there had been insufficient training regarding their use and delivery
  • the CRS Refer and Monitor system was criticised by both probation staff and provider workers for requiring data entry duplication, being overly bureaucratic, and failing to provide either side with sufficient information to monitor progress safely and effectively.


The inspectorate draws on the the findings in this bulletin – including positive examples of innovation in local joint commissioning – to set out a number of recommendations (which it diplomatically calls “considerations”)  for improving the interventions provided to people on probation:

  • empowering local probation leaders to engage with local services and communities and match the interventions offer to the needs of the local probation caseload
  • learning from recent commissioning experiences, breaking down barriers to smaller local organisations applying for and securing funding, and paying attention to developments in other sectors, e.g. alliance commissioning and contracting
  • improving links with Creating Future Opportunities, making full use of the multi-agency activity hubs
  • focusing on maximising transparency to increase understanding, assist with informed debate, manage expectations, build trust and confidence, and support the further development of current and new interventions
  • committing to evaluation and learning, enabling interventions and delivery to be improved over time, maximising positive outcomes for individuals and wider society
  • reviewing the priority areas for CSAAP consideration, including core practice skills (signalling that, at its core, probation is a relational, collaborative, and person-centred service), and avoiding any unnecessary intervention hierarchies
  • building the knowledge and skills of staff, developing their confidence in navigating the interventions available for people on probation and in providing the necessary support to complement specific interventions, helping to maximise engagement and impact.


The Bulletin ends with two important points. Firstly, the importance of balancing the effectiveness of proven interventions with the need to tailor work to meet the needs of individuals, not least in regards to ethnicity, gender and other inclusivity issues.

Secondly, the Inspectorate puts its finger on the current main challenge for the probation service:

“Unmanageable workloads have led probation professionals to retreat into risk management at the expense of generative rehabilitative work. This is self-defeating as the best way to reduce risk of harm is to tackle offending-related needs and build upon strengths through evidence-informed and evidence-based interventions.”

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