Probation services in the north of London had deteriorated and work by the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) responsible for managing low and medium-risk offenders was poor. People were more at risk as a result, and this was unacceptable, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Today she published the report of a recent inspection of probation work in the north of London.
The inspection looked at the quality and impact of probation work carried out by the CRC and National Probation Service (NPS) and assessed the effectiveness of work undertaken locally with people who have offended.
Delivering probation services in London is challenging. Around 17% of all those under probation supervision nationally live in the capital. Probation services in London have long struggled with high workloads. Inspectors last inspected London probation services in 2014, when services did not compare well with others in England and Wales, but the basics of probation were being delivered sufficiently well in most cases.
This more recent inspection found that the quality of the work of the CRC was poor. There was some good practice by individual officers and managers but generally, practice was well below standard and poorer than any other area inspected this year. A combination of unmanageable caseloads, inexperienced officers, extremely poor oversight and a lack of senior management focus and control meant some offenders were not seen for weeks or months, and some were lost in the system altogether.
The CRC’s operating model has led to noticeable disparities in individual workloads and other operational difficulties. The simple lack of management attention to whether offenders were attending and being challenged appropriately about the reasons for their offending was the most striking finding of the inspection and not acceptable.
The National Probation Service was delivering services better, but with plenty of room for improvement. The quality of work was mixed, but inspectors were pleased to find that, overall, public protection work was satisfactory. The CRC and the NPS were working reasonably well together although the delivery of court services was not entirely without problems.
Inspectors made recommendations which included the CRC making every effort to reduce caseloads to manageable levels and setting clear priorities for casework, providing all staff with supervision and support and ensuring all departments prioritise the operational delivery to service users.
Dame Glenys Stacey said:
“Delivering probation services in London is never an easy task, but services have deteriorated of late, largely due to the poor performance of the London Community Rehabilitation Company. Services are now well below what people rightly expect, and the city is more at risk as a result. We expect the company to make every effort now to deliver the inviolable requirements – the basics of probation – consistently well, and as quickly as possible. We welcome work begun during our inspection to begin to bring about much needed improvements, and will be back in 2017 to check on progress.”
The report is available at justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation from 15 December 2016.