The latest report from HM Probation Inspectorate has just been published and in somewhat under-stated language confirms that the omnishambles is indeed progressing nicely and there's nothing to worry about:-
Assisting sentence and the assignment of cases
Communication between the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Companies was improving. There appeared to be better liaison concerning the flow of information relating to pre-sentence work. Several of the Local Delivery Units inspected had established effective systems to check whether cases were known to a Community Rehabilitation Company before sentence. There was, however, little discussion between the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies over appropriate proposals for reports. Further, there were still too many cases without a sufficient Risk of Serious Harm screening, and where necessary a full analysis of the risk of serious harm, in place before allocation.
A Risk of Serious Recidivism score had been calculated in almost all cases. Based on the information on the case management system, the case was with the right organisation. Further investigation of Risk of Serious Recidivism scores, however, showed that a number were inaccurate, when compared with our inspector’s calculation, and that a few cases were being allocated incorrectly. Some had misinterpreted the guidance and either ignored relevant information or placed it in the wrong section of the tool. This led to some cases being allocated to the Community Rehabilitation Companies when they should have been with the National Probation Service. There were no quality assurance processes in place to improve the completion of the Risk of Serious Recidivism tool.
The Case Allocation System had been completed in less than two-thirds of cases. Where it was done, it was completed on time and we also saw an improvement in the quality of the information it contained, with fewer sections marked ‘not known’. The timescale for completing the Case Allocation System, however, was often too short for external agencies such as children’s services or police domestic abuse units to return information.
Due to the demands to see offenders quickly, there was a shift towards group induction, particularly within the Community Rehabilitation Companies. This was unpopular with a number of offender managers who felt that individual inductions resulted in better engagement. We found no evidence, however, to suggest that individual induction was more effective than group induction.
Early Work in the Community Rehabilitation Companies
Most cases were assigned to an identified offender manager within one working day of sentence. Fewer than half of the cases we inspected, however, had their first appointments with their offender managers within five working days of sentence. Full information on new cases was often not available at, or immediately following, allocation. In many instances this information followed on after the case had gone to a Community Rehabilitation Company.
The Offender Assessment System likelihood of reoffending assessment was sufficient in just over half of cases. Sentence plans were not always completed in good time and did not always address the factors relating to offending, or wider diversity issues and barriers to engagement.
Many of the offenders supervised by a Community Rehabilitation Company had committed violent offences, or had been involved in domestic abuse. There were concerns about protecting children in a number of cases. Only two-thirds of Risk of Serious Harm screenings and half of full risk of harm analyses were sufficient. An effective risk management plan was in place in fewer than half of all relevant cases. Failure to assess accurately the risk of harm and then implement a plan to reduce it can lead to a focus on inappropriate work and to an increase in the harm an offender may pose.
Early Work in the National Probation Service
Almost all sampled cases were allocated within one working day and seen by their offender managers within two working days. Diversity issues and barriers to engagement were identified in the majority of cases; however, plans to address these issues were only developed in two-thirds of relevant cases. Most cases had a sufficient assessment of the likelihood of reoffending but timeliness was an issue. Sentence plans were sufficient in two-thirds of cases and where completed generally did contain appropriate objectives.
Most cases had a Risk of Serious Harm screening in place but some staff had taken too long to complete them. Full risk of harm assessments were sufficient in just over half of the cases we inspected. Assessments did not always draw on all available sources of information and the analysis of the risk to children was not good enough in too many cases. Poor quality assessments led almost inevitably to poor quality risk management plans, less than two-thirds of which were sufficient. Where there were concerns over the safety of children, we found that the use of Child Protection procedures by National Probation Service staff needed to improve. Management oversight had not been effective enough to address these shortfalls.
The frequency and type of contact was good in most cases, and in the majority interventions had been delivered as planned. Where offenders failed to comply we saw a robust response and appropriate use of the enforcement process. More home visits should have been made, however, where offenders posed a risk of serious harm to the public and in Child Protection cases.
Overall, the enforcement process was variable, with some Local Delivery Units still experiencing high rejection rates for breach packs. Many had been returned for spelling and grammatical errors or to question proposals. The best examples were found in Local Delivery Units that had established good quality assurance processes and positive relationships between Community Rehabilitation Company staff and National Probation Service prosecution staff, making swift enforcement more likely.
Swift enforcement is more likely to secure engagement with planned work and future compliance. To breach a case, the Community Rehabilitation Companies must produce a breach pack and pass the case to the National Probation Service for prosecution. There are a number of timescales which have to be met and these should be recorded clearly on nDelius. Recording was not clear in half of the breach cases we inspected and this made it difficult to determine if the required timescales had been met.
The small number of licence cases in the sample were enforced correctly by the Community Rehabilitation Companies and all the recalls we saw were appropriate.
The process of escalating cases to the National Probation Service in the event of an increase in an offender’s risk of serious harm was improving. Staff confidence had grown and there was a greater investment in the value of the process in most of the Local Delivery Units we visited. Almost all the cases we saw had a clear and justifiable reason for starting the escalation procedure.
In some Local Delivery Units the process was described by staff and managers as working well and quite clearly it was; however, that was not the case in all Local Delivery Units with some staff highly critical of their local processes which, in our view, operated much more effectively in some places, than in others.