Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Inspectorate To Change Direction

Yesterday I notice Russell Webster discussed the new corporate plan for the Probation Inspectorate and in particular a change of direction. Here's the gist, but minus the graphics:-  

What are the probation inspectors up to?

Mapping a new direction
I summarise and share a lot of information on this blog — the latest policy announcements, research, examples of effective practice and innovation — but I draw the line at corporate reports. This is because, on the whole, they are both inward facing and dull as ditch water.

But the new HM Inspectorate of Probation corporate plan for 2017-2020 has proved an exception. Mercifully short and surprisingly jargon-free and easy to read, it sets out an important new direction for HMI Probation.

Rating probation services
As regular readers know, HMI Probation has become an increasingly important institution in the aftermath of the government’s partial privatisation of the probation service via its Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) project. The inspectorate has conducted a dozen inspections of public and private probation (National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Company) based on Police/Police and Crime Commissioner areas — almost all of which have found the CRCs in particular to be performing poorly. Many in the probation world have been pleased that the Chief Inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, has been prepared to be blunt in her criticisms; stating that supervision by telephone is not acceptable and that new through-the-gate arrangements are having “no impact”.

The greater prominence of the Inspectorate has led to some criticism of its approach; the main ones being:
  • The inspection process is too slow — there is too long a gap between inspections of the same area, especially at a time when the pace of change post-TR is rapid.
  • The number of cases on which inspections are based is rather low allowing questions to be raised about the robustness and reliability of inspectors’ judgments.
  • The process of inspection can be draining on NPS and CRC resources, particularly the latter where the same CRC may be inspected several times since it can comprise as many as four PCC areas.
The corporate plan addresses all of these issues and maps out a clear forward direction:
  • HMIP is developing a national framework for probation standards and will work with commissioners, providers,probation professionals, service users to agree quality indicators that will flesh out what good probation practice looks like.
  • HMIP will inspect all probation services annually and inspect CRCs and NPS divisions separately.
  • Critically, HMIP will introducing a rating system and grade probation areas to make them more directly comparable (in the same way as the CQC grades care homes and Ofsted assesses schools). Expect a rating system of the Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement, Inadequate type.
  • HMIP will include probation work done in prison as part of its area inspections.
  • HMIP will reduce the burden on providers by using data and information available from providers and HMPPS, so that as far as possible, providers are only asked for information once.
Promoting quality
Hearteningly, the purpose of this overhaul is to encourage the delivery of good quality services and the Inspectorate has been talking to the Ministry of Justice to work out how gaining a decent rating from HMI Probation can be incentivised. Presumably these discussions were part of the probation review which I understood to have been more or less ready for publication when the general election got in the way (as it did quite fundamentally for prison reform).

The corporate plan makes it clear that HMIP has secured the extra resources needed for this expansion of its role and that it will be developing standards and new inspection methodologies this year, ready to implement its new approach in Spring 2018.

I have to declare that I am slightly more than an interested bystander as I am a member of the HMI Probation Advisory Group, but I am very heartened by the new approach which, in my opinion, will hold up local probation services to a more rigorous scrutiny and, hopefully, drive many of them to improve current poor practice.

As the corporate plan says, the goal of the new approach is that probation services improve as a result of HMIP inspections.

Russell Webster


I've spotted a couple of responses already. From this seen on Facebook, some are deeply sceptical:-

All this looks so positive, BUT
"HMIP will reduce the burden on providers by using data and information available from providers and HMPPS, so that as far as possible, providers are only asked for information once."
so the danger is that the plan is to "incentivise" providers to hit the performance targets, and inspectors will not visit and talk to staff. So the only difference is to not talk to staff.

See that the way you see it. In addition, there really is only one measure of good practice which is the kind of practice that reduces amount and seriousness of reoffending. Where does that get a mention? I fear that the inspectors are sold on the same performance measures which help to prevent us probation staff from getting down to the actual work required to reduce reoffending. Investing money and time in the inspectorate without also investing in probation itself could mean that the inspectorate ends up existing for its own sake alone, whatever the stated intention. I am sceptical.

It is absolutely crucial that inspections don't become reduced to harvesting the performance figures. Crucial.

But on Twitter, clearly Joe Kuipers sees things differently:-

"This is good, exactly what I introduced in @HMIProbation. Must also have tailored follow up. Need above the line + below the line judgements"



    1. Probation Officer5 July 2017 at 13:59

      Thanks for blaming it on us Ian!! It's not about "mistakes", the problem is that the government has cut probation to the bone so there are not enough staff/resources to supervise offenders. And private companies running probation are instructing staff not to see offenders frequently.

      "Ian Lawrence of Napo, the probation officers' union, said thousands of staff had been laid off since the shake-up, meaning staff were increasingly supervising offenders remotely.

      He said: 'The situation is going to get worse and it is going to put even more people at risk. If offenders are not being seen, or not as frequently, and the level of supervision is not what it should be, then mistakes will occur.
      'There are people on the streets who are not being properly supervised, which means they are a real and present danger to the public.'"

    2. I read it and was dismayed at lawrences lack of knowledge noit just the jobs we do but he is not able to get any sensible message across. It could be he said lots and this is all they quoted from him. However had he just said this is a government grayling led deliberate destruction of award winning service. This government have put people at risk by selling off the professional and able staff to unemployment. The governmanent under the last 4 years have taken criminal justice reforms and thrown them in the bin. Instead he thinks he is being clever and lets us all down. How do we get rid of the pathetic leadership in NAPO.

    3. Stop blaming its the Tories not Ian despite his efforts and ours its the bloody government liars.