So, despite rumours of a considerable effort having allegedly been put into 'polishing' the cases expected to be reviewed - "seeing beyond the CRC’s extraordinary preparations for our inspection" - this is what Dame Glenys reports about MTCNovo, the London CRC contractor:-
ForewordThis is our second inspection of probation services delivered by the London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). The first (in 2016) covered North London only.
In this pan-London inspection we found that, with the exception of effective unpaid work arrangements, the CRC does now have the basics in place, albeit later than originally envisaged in its contract. The CRC had acted on our 2016 recommendations. It had used them as a catalyst for change, and adopted a more conventional operating model. Londoners under probation supervision are now being seen, and seen sufficiently regularly in the main.
The organisation still relies too much for comfort on agency staff, and it is in the middle of a large-scale performance improvement project, with one in three professional staff affected at the outset. While maintaining this year’s focus on assessment and planning in each case, the CRC now needs to improve materially the extent to which it delivers its plans for each individual under probation supervision.
The CRC is now turning its attention to two other key tenets of good probation services: local strategic partnerships, and the range of specialist services (interventions) required to make a real difference to people’s lives and prospects. Critical relationships with local strategic partners suffered under the CRC’s previous operating model, but CRC leaders are taking the opportunity now to re-energise these essential networks. We were pleased to see the CRC’s working relationship with the National Probation Service beginning to improve, from a low base.
The consistent provision of specialist services is particularly difficult in our capital city, where the funding and other priorities of 32 individual boroughs and the Mayor’s office can differ. Even so, too many Londoners under the CRC’s supervision are not given the specialist services they need to make a difference to their lives and outlook. Things are set to improve: the CRC has well-developed plans to increase the range and quality of its rehabilitative services this year, and we hope to see not just plans but good provision, next time we inspect.
Individual caseloads have reduced when compared with those we saw in North London a year ago. We gauge that staff morale is better overall. And seeing beyond the CRC’s extraordinary preparations for our inspection, we are in no doubt that the quality of work has improved from a very low base, and is still improving. Public protection and rehabilitative work are still not good enough, but rehabilitative work is at least comparable in quality to the average in other CRCs we have inspected. That is not acceptable – as that average is itself unacceptable, in our view – but it is a notable improvement and achievement for this CRC and its staff. There is much more for this CRC to do, but it has made significant progress over the last year.
Dame Glenys Stacey
HM Chief Inspector of Probation
The quality of public protection work was variable and not of an acceptable standard overall. The CRC has made clear progress since 2016. The quality of work is improving but it is still not satisfactory. Senior managers acknowledge that they are still implementing effective risk management arrangements. Most assessments focused on the right things, but many of the issues identified were not reflected in plans. We noted improvements in responding to changing circumstances in relation to risk of harm, but plans were not always reviewed to reflect these changes or the individual’s progress. In too many cases, there was an inadequate response to public protection concerns, and too few included interventions focused on protecting those at risk of harm. Some staff were not confident in addressing aspects of public protection and not all were doing this work to a good enough standard. Despite management oversight taking place, staff did not produce quality work in too many cases. We noted the positive contribution to public protection work of contracted providers and partners, however.
The quality of work is not acceptable. We found significant improvements in several aspects of practice but, overall, services did not sufficiently support rehabilitation. Our inspection findings showed that the quality of work was close to the national average for those CRCs that we have inspected. Although that level of performance is not in itself acceptable, this is impressive progress in a short period of time. The improvements were in elements of core probation practice: producing assessments and plans, and seeing individuals under probation supervision. Most assessments of individuals were of sufficient quality, but they did not always feed into plans of work. Individuals were not involved sufficiently in planning or reviewing the work being done. A greater proportion of people were receiving specialist services (interventions) than in 2016, but this still fell short of being satisfactory.