Monday, 26 March 2018

What the Inspectors Think

Last week Inside Government held their Offender Management Forum. I have no idea what went on, but here's a clue from their website:- 

An Interview with HMI Prisons Peter Clarke and HMI Probation Dame Glenys Stacey

We’re absolutely delighted to welcome not only HMI Prisons Peter Clarke but also HMI Probation Dame Glenys Stacey to our Offender Management 2018 forum! Ahead of their appearance at our event on 19th March, in this exclusive interview we asked them both about the government’s new integrated approach and the future of prisons and probation services…

What are the key benefits of integrated prison and probation services in reducing re-offending levels and prison usage?

HMI Prisons: It is widely accepted that family contact and support, sustainable accommodation on release from prison, and ongoing support from community based services are key factors in reducing the risk of re-offending. The process of ensuring that these factors are in place should start while prisoners are still serving their sentences. The earlier this can happen the better, but the quality of the outcomes delivered by integrated services is key. For instance, merely signposting a prisoner towards accommodation services is no substitute for actual help in securing accommodation. All too often we see the former rather than the latter.

What are prison and probation service priorities given the multiple challenges faced?

Of course, it is not for Chief Inspectors to set others’ priorities, but we can give a view.

HMI Prisons: From the perspective of HMI Prisons, the prison service needs to concentrate on achieving some basic operational objectives rather than focussing on organisational structures. Our view is that these fundamental issues will not be adequately addressed by structural change, but require determined, focussed leadership at all levels. The issues that are currently having a detrimental impact on the ability of prisons to deliver effective rehabilitation and resettlement are as follows:

When these basic issues are addressed, it will be possible to make meaningful progress towards building a rehabilitative culture.

HMI Probation: From the perspective of HMI probation, we encourage all probation providers to consider and work to the standards we expect. In recent months we have worked collaboratively with providers to develop those standards, and for us they represent a comprehensive statement of what good, effective probation services look like.

We know that this is easier said than done, especially when some probation providers are struggling to balance the books, and many are focused naturally and first and foremost on their contractual requirements. But the value chain for probation is clear enough: to deliver probation services well, providers need strong local partnerships, a good range of specialist services (Interventions) readily available, and good, effective relationships between individuals under supervision and their probation worker. By nurturing that value chain and applying the standards we have developed, probation providers are more likely to deliver effective probation services.

What impact do you think the devolution agenda will have on the future of prison and probation services?

HMI Prisons: Once the basic issues outlined above have been addressed it will be essential to determine the most appropriate structures to ensure that the changes are embedded and sustainable. The risk of taking an approach which believes that devolution will of itself deliver change is that the process of restructuring will absorb so much management focus and energy that the process will become introspective and less focused on the absolute need to address the basic requirements to deliver safe, decent and purposeful custody.

HMI Probation: that is a very interesting question. The answer rather depends on the government’s appetite for devolving responsibility and accountability for any aspect of probation service delivery to more localised authorities, such as city regions. I don’t see any immediate change on the horizon, but it could happen. Meanwhile, mayors are already working alongside probation providers and in some cases providing some funding for specific initiatives, for example in relation to women.

How do your organisations help drive improvement, and are you making a difference? If not then why not?

HMI Prisons: Unfortunately there has been a very clear trend over recent years for Inspectorate recommendations to be accepted by the prison service in greater numbers (as high as 85%), but to be implemented with ever decreasing regularity. Sometimes we have found as few as 14% of recommendations being implemented by prisons between inspections.

Sometimes there are issues that are beyond the control of local management that impact on the implementation of recommendations, but on many occasions it is the quality and focus of local leadership that is the key determinant of success or failure. The recent introduction of an ‘Urgent Notification’ protocol whereby the Secretary of State undertakes to respond with an action plan within 28 days when the Chief Inspector raises significant concerns about conditions at an establishment will, it is hoped, lead to improvements at the most concerning prisons.

More broadly, the prison service is undertaking to monitor more closely the implementation of Inspectorate recommendations. Time will tell how effective this will be.

HMI Probation: We know (from re-inspections) that an inspection and recommendations can drive improvement, but there is no guarantee. Inspectorates are not regulators; they do not have powers of sanction. To help drive improvement where it needed, and to be as effective as possible at that, HMI Probation is changing the way it inspects – moving to more regular (annual) inspections of whole CRCs and NPS divisions, looking at more cases so as to be confident in what we find, evaluating CRCs using the standards I mentioned earlier and – last but not least – rating each CRC and NPS division we inspect, using the Ofsted rating scale.

We know from the available research that ratings drive improvement in immature markets and where providers of services are delivering to a lower standard than expected, and so rating here seem very likely to drive improvement – even accepting the other pressures that probation providers face.


  1. Hmmm. "The Devolution Agenda". And a chicken and egg debate about which should come first: improvement work or devolution. Somewhere in MoJ PR department, an operative is chewing her expensive pencil and doodling "Rehabilitation: Revolution to Devolution", and when the soundbite is polished, it will be a policy.

    1. Devolving will make sod all improvement to anything if they same sorry shower stay in charge. Especially if the service is not reunified. Civil Service, Commercial owners, and craven managers

    2. Contract money plus £432m bung charging fees for some unpaid work AND being funded by the mayor?
      Great scam!

  2. Big fan of Dame Glenys, without her team's probation inspections I and others would have been just grumpy malcontents and dismissed as such. As ever her ability to remain distant from the fray is impressive. However, I did like her joke about research which evidences that inspections can drive forward immature markets. That made me chuckle.

    1. HMIP inspections have done nothing to improve or change the mess this government made of probation. Dame Glenys may as well stick to inspecting farms; plenty fences to sit on there!

    2. I'm a fan, Dame G and team have done a professional job within their remit and I dare say given political pressures with some courage and yes, diplomacy. I think the message has landed, must do better! The government will decide the model for Probation ultimately. I would caution against trying to mature the market in Rehabilitation, rather invest in public services and collaborative pragmatism between public, private and voluntary sectors.

  3. Everywhere you look in the CJS you see the word "rehabilitation" popping up everywhere. Police, prisons, probation, and all sorts other agencies push the word.
    I used to think I understood what it ment, but I'm not sure anymore. It's almost become just a buzz word to be used in a sales pitch or newspaper article and seems to have different meanings depending on the context its being used in.
    Maybe there needs to be a conversation about what the definition of "rehabilitation" really means.
    It seems to me that it no longer has anything to do with where the person ends up and their ability to lead a normal life, but all about completing the process and steps someone has put in place for them.
    The process seems the define rehabilitation rather then the end result. It's a bit like doing the washing with no soap powder, you've achieved doing your washing, but your cloths are still dirty at the end of the process.
    I think "rehabilitation" is a very over used and a very misundertood word in today's CJS.


    For fans of IT and all inclusive data sharing.

    1. Prisons ‘should access future case management system’

      Reform report urges extension of Common Platform to Prison Service to support offender rehabilitation efforts

      A new report on data and technology in the criminal justice system says the Government should extend the use of the Common Platform further than planned, making it available to prisons.

      'Crime and information', published by the think tank Reform, says the single case management system for the justice process, which is due to be implemented in 2019, would provide valuable information on offenders to prisons. This could be used in programmes for their rehabilitation.

      It would require clear rules on which data could be accessed by which service, but the report cites Stephen Mold, the police and crime commissioner for Northamptonshire, in arguing that the cultural barriers to sharing data are greater than the legal ones.

      A shift to using a single, cloud portal for storing information would be a major evolution, and access to data could be provided by ‘keys’ for different services based on information sharing agreements.

      As an example of what could be achieved, the report points to the Singapore Prison Service analysing data on risk patterns, taking in factors such as family issues and offenders’ attendance at counselling sessions, to tailor rehabilitation efforts. The platform could also support probation officers in their work.

      “A digital platform where the right people can securely access and share information at critical moments can integrate organisations and foster joint approaches to justice that support the user,” the report says. “As individuals move from police right through to probation, secure access to data can deliver the right services for users, enhance efficiencies and transform rehabilitation outcomes.”

      Another element of the report highlighted by Reform is that the Government is generally on the right track in seeing the opportunity to make policing and criminal justice more effective through new technology and data. This is the thinking behind the development of the Common Platform, and Home Office plans to provide police forces with more digital tools.

      In addition, there are “green shoots of best practice” in making better use of data that could be scaled up across England and Wales. The report points to Durham Constabulary using an intelligence tool to share information automatically, and South Wales and Gwent Police Forces using the I-Patrol app to capture video and audio evidence from crime scenes.

      It advocates the increased use of artificial intelligence in policing, and that forces make more use of digital channels in interacting with the public.

    2. Haven’t we been down this road already? It’s not necessary and it doesn’t work!

    3. A government IT project for tracking offenders in England and Wales through the criminal justice system was a "shambles", MPs have said.

      Officials in charge of the scheme - abandoned after costs trebled - lacked even a "minimum level of competence", the Public Accounts Committee found. It highlighted a "culture of over-optimism" and lack of "rigorous" scrutiny of the scheme. The Prison Service said it was working to ensure mistakes are not repeated.

      Plans for the £234m National Offender Management Information System system, known as C-NOMIS, began in 2004 with the aim of allowing the prison and probation services in England and Wales to follow offenders "end-to-end" through the criminal justice system. But by July 2007 the project was two years behind schedule and its estimated costs had increased to £690m. It was later abandoned.

      The committee's report finds that staff "grossly underestimated" the likely cost and neither ministers nor senior management at the Home Office, nor even the project board, were aware of problems until May 2007. Even now, the National Offender Management Service, which runs prisons and probation, has no idea what £161m spent before October 2007 was used for, it adds.

      The committee's chairman, Conservative MP Edward Leigh, said: "This committee has become inured to the dismal procession of government IT failures which have passed before us, but even we were surprised by the extent of the failure of C-NOMIS, the ambitious project to institute a single database to manage individual offenders through the prison and probation systems. There was not even a minimum level of competence in the planning and execution of this project. The result has been a three-year delay in the roll-out of the programme, envisaged separate databases for prisons and probation instead of the original one, each with different information about an offender, and a doubling of costs. This project has been a shambles."

      Its replacement, NOMIS, will instead use three separate databases and is not expected to be working fully until 2011.

      A Prison Service spokesman said: "The C-NOMIS project was stopped when it was recognised that it was going to be over-budget and late. Steps have been taken to ensure that the mistakes made are not repeated. The work done so far has not been lost but is being used as the basis of the revised NOMIS programme. This will support our commitment to ensuring that prison and probation service staff have improved access to the information they need to protect the public by managing offenders in custody and in the community. The prison element of the programme commenced roll out to public sector prisons on 22 May 2009 and is on schedule to complete in summer 2010."

    4. Getafix, as ever, makes great observations. This is a sentence from a local report of sentencing. Clearly there is NO understanding of the meaning of 'rehabilitation'. In addition to a specified period of suspended sentence the judge said "... X must also complete a group work course, a three-month night-time curfew and rehabilitation."

      Whether they were the judge's *actual* words or the reporter's interpretation is both unclear & irrelevant, its further evidence that so few people know or care about probation.

  4. Seems Mayor Sadiq Khan has spent some time with Gauke at La Ponderosa:

    "The membership of the Board will be fully determined once this MoU is agreed but will
    -Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime
    -MoJ Director General, Justice and Rehabilitation
    -MOPAC Chief Executive/Chief Finance Officer
    -Senior London Local Government Representative
    -London Councils Portfolio Holder for Crime and Public Protection"

    1. ... so the MoJ can hand probation to the Mayors office on a back-of-a-fag-packet agreement.

    2. Key commitments

      • In order to reduce reoffending, MoJ and MOPAC to explore the most viable options for giving London greater influence over probation services including:

      *full transparency (where legally and commercially possible) on performance information and resourcing relating to the CRC to enable agreement on priority areas for service improvement.

      *delivery of a joint review of probation services in London.

      *co-design of future arrangements for probation delivery in London, with the aim of introducing a more devolved commissioning model following completion of the current London CRC contract in 2022. This will include options for co-commissioning interventions and other services.

      *a new ‘Through the Gate Prison Pathfinder’ pilot to explore how improvements could be made to existing contractual and commissioning arrangements. This will include testing co-commissioning of ‘Through the Gate’ services within prison and the community, by MOPAC and the CRC.

      *to explore opportunities for better and more integrated ways of commissioning offender support services and interventions, in particular for NPS offenders.

      • MoJ, MOPAC and London Councils to work with prison governors and the CRC to explore how devolution can facilitate greater continuity between provision in prisons and provision in the community, including but not limited to:

      *Offender education: exploring options for linking adult education and skills training provision in the community with education provision in prisons

      *Offender health (including mental health): Exploring options for cocommissioning and further devolution of offender health services.

      • Greater transparency (where practical and commercially possible) relating to budgets, performance and financial information with regard to current contracts and commissioned services held by MOPAC and the MoJ, including probation and prison spend.

    3. How can privatised public services be devolved to local councils?
      The contracts are agreed, signed and held by central government. Local councils will have no influence on the terms of contracts or how they're delivered.
      The only thing councils can do is raise council tax to pay for the services, and not know exactly what they're paying for because everything is protected by corporate confidentiality.

  5. I can picture it now: Dame Glenys in a pair of pink marigolds - CRC in one hand, Brillo pad in the other, desperately trying to polish a turd.

    "We know from the available research that ratings drive improvement in immature markets and where providers of services are delivering to a lower standard than expected, and so rating here seem very likely to drive improvement – even accepting the other pressures that probation providers face."

    1. ... that would make Dame Glenys the ‘lipstick on the TR pig’!