NORTH WEST NPS – Rated ‘Good’ but struggling with significant staff shortages

Inspectors found that senior leaders of the North West division of the National Probation Service (NPS) had a clear vision and strategy for high-quality services, but not enough staff to deliver them.

Staff shortages have been seen in a number of NPS inspections by HM Inspectorate of Probation. During the inspection of the North West division in October 2018, there was a 20% shortfall in the number of probation officers, around 140 posts. These probation officers are the frontline staff responsible for managing individuals who pose a high or very high risk of harm to others.

Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said staff shortages were a long-standing problem, resulting in an “undue reliance” on more costly agency workers. “Recruitment is centrally managed by the NPS. Local leaders are doing what they can to ameliorate the problem, but professional staff workloads are high. Despite these difficulties we found the quality of work was generally good.” The division was rated as ‘Good’, the second highest HMI Probation rating.

However, some aspects of practice needed attention. “Reviews of risk of harm were not always completed when circumstances change, and in some cases appropriate contingency plans needed to be set out,” Dame Glenys said, adding: “Domestic abuse and safeguarding checks were not always undertaken when required to inform court reports and allocation.”

The division’s approach to encouraging victims to take part in the NPS’s victim contact scheme was assessed as outstanding, the highest rating, with personal contact with victims followed up to ensure that victims could make an informed choice on whether to participate in the scheme. The scheme is for victims of a violent or sexual crime where the offender has been jailed for at least 12 months or detained under the Mental Health Act.

The North West division of the NPS covers the Manchester and Merseyside urban areas and stretches into sparsely-populated Cumbria. The provision of specialist services – interventions designed to reduce the risk of reoffending – varied according to geographical location.

Buildings in the division also varied in their quality, with long waits for repairs or maintenance in some areas. Dame Glenys said: “Staff should not have to work in vermin-infested premises, in my view. And oddly, probation staff who work in some courts in this division are not allowed to use the same facilities as other civil servants who work there, despite being an integral part of the service delivered to the court.”

Overall, Dame Glenys said:

“The division is delivering a good overall standard of service, despite being under strain, and I hope that our findings and recommendations help the division to improve further. We note that staff shortages and poor facilities have featured in each of our recent NPS inspections, and our recommendations also reflect these wider concerns.”

The report is available at www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Justin Russell announced as candidate for next Chief Inspector of Probation

The Secretary of State for Justice, Rt Hon. David Gauke MP, confirmed today that his candidate to be the next Chief Inspector of Probation is Justin Russell – currently Director General responsible for No Deal EU exit planning at the Ministry of Justice.

Justin has been selected following a rigorous assessment process conducted in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments. A panel of four, including two external interviewers, assessed all the candidates and put forward to the Secretary of State those who passed the high bar for consideration for this role.

The Secretary of State has invited the Justice Select Committee to hold a pre-appointment hearing. Pre-appointment scrutiny is an important part of the appointment process for some of the most significant public appointments made by Ministers. It is designed to provide an added level of scrutiny to the appointment process.

Pre-appointment hearings are held in public and allow a Select Committee to take evidence before a candidate is appointed. Ministers consider the Committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with the appointment.

The current Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, has agreed to continue in the post until 31 May, when, subject to the pre-appointment hearing, Justin Russell is expected to take over the role.  He will resign from the Ministry of Justice and from the Civil Service before taking up post.

HM Inspectorate of Probation

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation leads HM Inspectorate of Probation, which is the independent source of fair comment for ministers and the public on the effectiveness of the work of probation and youth offending services.HM Inspectorate of Probation produces and publishes reports on individual probation service areas as well as on thematic topics such as the way probation works with sex offenders, or the role and effectiveness of Approved Premises. The Chief Inspector also publishes an annual report. More information on HM Inspectorate of Probation can be found here: www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Biography

Justin Russell has spent over thirty years working on a wide range of criminal justice issues as a researcher, policy maker and major programme leader and has a long-standing interest and involvement in probation and youth justice policy. This has included working as a Policy Special Adviser to Home Secretaries John Reid and Jack Straw and in the No10 Policy Unit, as well as heading up the Home Office’s Violent Crime Unit from 2008 to 2012, where he led the production of the 2009 and 2011 Violence Against Women and Girls strategies and the Tackling Knives and Ending Gang and Youth Violence Programmes. Until recently, he was Director General for Justice Analysis and Offender Policy at the Ministry of Justice where he led the prison, probation and youth justice reform programmes. He has also worked for the Audit Commission and Mental Health Foundation and was a non-executive Director of Turning Point from 2005 to 2011.

Notes

Pre-appointment hearings involve select committees taking evidence from the preferred candidate for certain public appointments before they are confirmed. Following the public hearings, committees usually publish a report setting out their views on the candidate’s suitability for the post.

Pre-appointment hearings are non-binding but Ministers will consider the committee’s views before deciding whether to proceed with an appointment.

All appointments are made on merit.

Approved premises need more effective focus on drug testing and managing the risks of substance abuse, says Ombudsman

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 15.21.09

Approved Premise (APs), home to people released from prison or on bail or court orders, need more effective drug testing practices and better staff guidance to identify and address the risks associated with substance misuse, and support individuals, according to a report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).

Overdoses of opiate and other drugs, including alcohol, by people released from prison remain a significant risk, the PPO ‘Learning Lessons’ bulletin found. People are at a higher risk of overdose if they slip back into drug and alcohol use after periods of abstinence or detoxification.

The bulletin – Approved Premises – substance misusebased on findings from deaths in APs investigated by the PPO also raised significant concerns about New Psychoactive Substances (NPS). These range from stimulants to hallucinogens and are commonly seen in prisons and the community as synthetic cannabinoids, known by names such as Spice and Mamba.

Elizabeth Moody, the acting Ombudsman, said: “The rise of New Psychoactive Substance use in the prison estate is well documented and is widely recognised, in the words of the previous Ombudsman, as a “game-changer”. However, it is clear from our investigations that the implications of NPS for the AP estate have not yet been fully understood or addressed by the National Probation Service (which is responsible for APs).”

The PPO examined 29 of their investigations into AP deaths that were drug-related, or where there was a history of substance misuse. The bulletin expressed concern that testing for NPS in APs “appears to lag behind that in prisons and does not draw on the experience of prisons”. One case study in the bulletin discloses that AP staff were unable to test a man despite their concern he had taken NPS.

The PPO found some good practice in the management and care for those who misuse drugs and alcohol. However, Elizabeth Moody added, “we also see cases with too little focus on the risk of relapse and overdose.”

Some of the PPO investigations identified deficiencies in information sharing and in welfare checks. The bulletin made a number of recommendations relating to:

  • Ensuring a good flow of information between stakeholders, which is critical, particularly for managing substance misuse where there is a clear requirement for effective multi-disciplinary working. PPO investigations found this did not always happen.
  • Checks on the welfare of AP residents – another important way to ensure the risks associated with substance abuse are well managed. PPO investigations found checks were not always carried out effectively.
  • An overarching need for the National Probation Service to improve the AP manual to give staff better guidance on NPS use, information sharing and making welfare checks.

Elizabeth Moody said:

“We know offenders can be at heightened risk of death following their release into the community. I hope this bulletin will help AP staff apply the learning from our investigations to improve the ways they identify, monitor and address the risk factors associated with substance misuse.”

The bulletin is available here – https://www.ppo.gov.uk/?p=10336

North London Probation Services – Unacceptable Service Putting Public At Risk Say Inspectors

LondonCRC

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.

CRC and Through The Gate: “Delivery is poor and little to commend.”

Changes ahead concept in word cloug on white background

The report reflects the findings of HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons. Under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, all prisoners sentenced to 12 months or less are now subject to 12 month’s supervision by probation services on release. This means that an extra 50,000 extra people are now supervised, an increase of around 25%. Reoffending rates are highest for those serving short prison sentences. Many have long records of convictions, complex needs and a history of not engaging with public services.

Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are now responsible for Through the Gate provision, helping prisoners to prepare for release and resettle in the community. This includes helping prisoners to find accommodation, employment or training, treatment for substance misuse and help with managing their finances. Through the Gate services had been in place for almost a year at the time of the inspection.

Inspectors found that overall, services were poor and there was little to commend. Too many prisoners reached their release date without their immediate resettlement needs having been met or even recognised. None of the prisoners in their sample (86 cases) had been helped into employment by Through the Gate services; too many prisoners were released without accommodation and not enough help was given to prisoners to resolve debts.

Some of the new services proposed in the bids for contracts had not been implemented and there was little evidence of the anticipated creativity or innovation in the new services being delivered by the CRCs.

Basic custody screenings, completed at the start of the sentence by prison staff interviewing prisoners, weren’t detailed enough to form the basis of planning for resettlement, and plans completed shortly afterwards by CRC staff did not robustly address the most urgent resettlement needs.

The risk of harm to others from prisoners was not always recognised, which meant victims were not always protected, particularly in cases of domestic abuse. The level of communication between staff in prisons and the community was poor and there was very little continuity between services in prison and the community. There were also concerning rates of reoffending and recall to prison, although the picture was more positive for women in the 24 cases sampled.

Among the reasons for this were that CRCs were not incentivised under their contracting arrangements to give this resettlement priority. Payment was triggered by completing tasks, rather than anything more meaningful. The work is difficult and requires partnership working with others locally, and relies on the effective early screening of prisoners.

Key recommendations made by inspectors include the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service reviewing the contractual requirements so that CRCs have greater incentives to develop resettlement services for prisoners. Inspectors also recommend that the National Offender Management Service promotes closer working between CRCs, prison staff and NPS responsible officers to improve the continuity of resettlement support and aid effective public protection.

HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said, on behalf of both inspectorates:

“There were great hopes for Through the Gate and there is still the potential for change that government and others wish to see. But turning prisoners’ lives around is difficult, and success in individual cases is not guaranteed, even when everything possible is done, particular for those with mental illness or addictions. There is far more chance of success if those involved are determined and incentivised to do the best possible job and systems are designed to support them.”

Read the report http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with individual adults, children and young people who offend, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public.
3. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons is an independent inspectorate, inspecting places of detention to report on conditions and treatment, and promote positive outcomes for those detained and the public.
4. For further information please contact Jane Parsons at HMI Probation & HMI Prisons press office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452.

Good relationship with key worker pivotal in turning young people away from crime

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 00.21.39One positive and sustained relationship with a youth worker can make all the difference in helping young people leave crime behind, said Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation. Today she published a report on the effectiveness of practice in Youth Offending Teams (YOTS), looking at the main themes which desistance research has identified as being important in supporting children and young people’s routes away from offending.

The report, Desistance and young people, relates to findings from interviews undertaken with young people who had not reoffended for 12 months after the end of their community or custodial sentence and with those who had, to see what they thought worked or did not work for them. Interviews were also undertaken with parents/carers and key workers and case records were checked. In recent years, YOT workloads have reduced, as has their funding and often their continuity of staff. Those changes as well as the relative lack of youth research may have affected how far YOTs have applied themselves to youth desistance. Inspectors found some case managers had an excellent grounding and understanding of desistance theory, but most staff were unclear about how key approaches could be applied.

Inspectors were concerned to find that in some cases, case managers were ambivalent about reparation work and felt that children were sometimes slotted into existing projects that case managers thought unlikely to prove effective. Some case managers reported spending too much time getting young people into unpaid work, with enforcement action if they didn’t complete it. Many of those young people persisting in crime had found unpaid work ineffective in promoting desistance despite the effort and cost involved in making it happen. On the other hand, those young people who desisted from crime had much more positive experiences of unpaid work.

Inspectors were pleased to find that YOT workers generally worked hard at building relationships. Those young people who were successful in turning away from crime laid great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker.

The Youth Justice Board and youth offending services have continued the national implementation of the AssetPlus assessment and planning framework which will help YOTs to personalise desistance support for young people and all youth offending service staff are due to complete training which includes desistance theory.

Dame Glenys Stacey said:

“The Ministry of Justice is considering whether the way youth justice works at the moment is fit for purpose, and is looking at how to prevent youth crime and how to rehabilitate young people who have committed crimes. The review’s interim report in February 2016 highlighted the importance of improving educational outcomes for children and young people who have offended and we agree – YOTs need to give this greater emphasis.

“But there are other factors YOTs would do well to focus on – which include stimulating a child’s motivation to change, addressing substance misuse and helping them to become part of a community. This inspection has highlighted some critical lessons to be learned if desistance theory is to become fully embedded in youth offending service.

“Most notably – and I think this does take the research forwards a little – those successful in desisting from crime laid great store on a trusting, open and collaborative relationship with a YOT worker or other professional, seeing it as the biggest factor in their achievement.”

A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation.

Little or no progress at all in moving young offenders to adult probation services say Inspectors

Young-offendersjLittle progress has been made in improving the preparation and planning for young people to move from youth offending services to adult probation services and this can affect their rehabilitation, said Alan MacDonald, Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation.

Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published the report of an inspection of transition arrangements.

Today’s report, Transition Arrangements: a follow-up inspection, sought to establish how far the recommendations from a 2012 joint report, Transitions: An inspection of the transitions arrangements from youth to adult services in the criminal justice system had been implemented and whether practice had improved. HMI Probation inspectors visited six areas and spoke to staff from Youth Offending Teams, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service, conducting 50 interviews. Despite some examples of effective practice, inspectors noted an overall lack of progress by various local and national bodies in implementing its recommendations.

There are various different orders and sentences which can be imposed on a young person. Some, such as referral orders, reparation orders or detention and training orders, do not get transferred to the adult world when a person reaches the age of 18. Some youth rehabilitation orders can be transferred once specific requirements have been completed, and other orders should be transferred, as well as long-term custodial sentences.

Inspectors found that:

  • in the community, some young people were not identified as eligible for transfer and, in those cases which were identified, transfer was often undertaken as a purely procedural task;
  • young people were not as informed or involved as they should have been;
  • there was insufficient timely sharing of information between youth and adult services to enable sentence plans to be delivered without interruption; and
  • in custody, insufficient forward planning and communication led to an interruption in sentence planning and delivery of interventions after young people had transferred to an over-18 young offender institution or prison.

Inspectors made eight recommendations in the 2012 report. This report recommends to the Youth Justice Board, Youth Offending Team Management Boards, the National Offender Management Service, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies that those original recommendations are followed.

Alan MacDonald said:

“The transfer from the youth to adult world is a challenging time for any individual, including those involved in the criminal justice system. Failure to plan a smooth and effective transfer places a barrier to compliance and rehabilitation in young people’s lives.

“We found some examples of effective practice. However, the majority of cases had not been identified as possible transfer cases. There was no consistency across the areas we inspected. In many cases there was little or no preparation, a failure to use existing information and a lack of planning. Young people entered the adult service unprepared and uninformed of the expectations they faced. We believe that young people are less likely to reoffend if they receive well-planned, uninterrupted supervision moving from Youth Offending Teams to adult probation providers.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website from 19 January at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

HM Inspectorate of Probation reports on early implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation – transitional issues remain‏

probationAdult probation services under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme had seen some improvements but more needed to be done, said Paul Wilson, Chief Inspector of Probation. Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published a fourth report on the early implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

The report, Transforming Rehabilitation – Early Implementation 4: an Independent Inspection of the Arrangements for Offender Supervision by HM Inspectorate of Probation, relates to findings from inspections undertaken in July and August 2015. Inspectors focused on work undertaken at the point of sentence and allocation by the National Probation Service (NPS), work undertaken by the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the NPS to manage offenders, and the interfaces between the two organisations. This included work with those released on licence.

The NPS and CRCs came into existence on 1 June 2014 as part of the Ministry of Justice Transforming Rehabilitation programme. This was the first step in a series of changes designed to open up the probation market to new providers, reduce reoffending rates and allow the NPS to focus on managing high risk of harm offenders, those eligible under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements and foreign national offenders subject to deportation. All court work is delivered by the NPS. CRCs are not involved in preparing reports for court. They manage cases presenting low and medium risk of serious harm and deliver interventions on low, medium and some high risk cases. CRCs were transferred from public to private ownership on 1 February 2015.

Given the scale of the changes involved, it is not surprising that many of the recommendations from earlier reports still apply. Nevertheless, inspectors were pleased to find that some progress had been made in the following areas:

  • the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) had issued national guidance which removed the requirement to complete fully the Case Allocation System process for those cases where the allocation to the NPS is mandatory;
  • the NPS was putting a robust and timely risk management plan in place for all high risk of serious harm cases;
  • the NPS was ensuring that there was a sufficient full initial assessment of the risks medium- and high-risk offenders posed, particularly to children;
  • the NPS was undertaking home visits where appropriate, to manage medium- and high-risk offenders; and
  • CRCs were providing appointments with an offender manager as part of group or duty inductions.

Many of the challenges identified in earlier inspections remain and some of the recommendations made in previous reports are still relevant. In particular:

  • NOMS should explore the possibility of allowing joint access to the nDelius record for a short period after transfer so that incoming information can be handled efficiently;
  • the NPS and CRCs must ensure that relevant information held by either party is shared efficiently at the court hearing stage;
  • the NPS should establish a quality assurance system to improve the accuracy of the completion of the Risk of Serious Recidivism tool;
  • if it is not possible at the time of allocation to gather all the necessary relevant information from partner agencies, NPS staff should clearly indicate on the Case Allocation System what steps have been taken to gather that information and what is required to complete the full analysis;
  • CRCs should improve the quality of full risk of harm assessments;
  • CRCs should ensure they have effective management oversight structures in place for cases where there are concerns over the level of risk of harm; and
  • CRC managers must ensure that offenders engage with their assigned officer at the earliest opportunity.

In order to drive improvements, inspectors made further recommendations, including: the NPS and CRCs should ensure that in all relevant cases sufficient progress is made to reduce those factors making the offender more likely to reoffend; the NPS should improve the availability of information provided by other agencies to ensure as much of the Case Allocation System can be completed prior to allocation of the case; and CRCs should ensure that in all cases where required there is a sufficient review of the risk of harm assessment and management plan.

Paul Wilson said:

“Our primary focus continues to be on the systems and processes which underpin the quality of service and impact on rehabilitation. This is intentional. No-one should underestimate the importance of systems which are the foundation of the operating models of the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and govern the flows of work between them.

“We have not yet reported on the implementation of Through the Gate resettlement services to short-term prisoners, a key element of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. With sufficient cases now in the system, progress will be reported early in 2016. Early scoping work suggests that implementation of some schemes in prisons and in the community has been slow and it is not yet clear how the delivery models planned by all CRCs will meet complex resettlement needs. The present rather disjointed provision is a long way from the seamless Through the Gate service so essential to the challenge of reducing high reoffending rates for this group.

“To date I have published reports which draw attention to serious transitional issues. I am clear the transitional period should end early in 2016 and that the NPS and CRCs should then be fully held to account for their work. To this end the inspection regime will change markedly in April 2016. Our new Quality & Impact inspections will focus on the effectiveness of the new probation organisations in reducing offending, protecting the public and ensuring individuals abide by the sentence of the court.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation from 15 January 2016.
  2. HMI Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with adults, children and young people who have offended, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public. Further information about the work of HMI Probation is at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation.
  3. Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.

QUALITY OF THE DELIVERY OF UNPAID WORK VARIES SIGNIFICANTLY, INSPECTORS FIND

paybackAlthough some unpaid work was well managed and well delivered, much of it was simply not good enough, and its potential to rehabilitate was not always exploited, said Paul Wilson, Chief Inspector of Probation. Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published a report on unpaid work, the most frequently imposed requirement of a community sentence.

 

The report, A Thematic Inspection of the Delivery of Unpaid Work by HM Inspectorate of Probation relates to findings from inspections undertaken between June and July 2015. In 2014, 70,171 unpaid work requirements were made, making it a requirement of slightly more than half of all community sentences. In comparison, in 2014 there were 91,313 receptions into custody. In addition to the sheer number of requirements made, unpaid work also facilitates the greatest length of time that an offender is likely to be in close contact with a member of probation staff. It therefore creates a significant opportunity to engage positively with an offender over a lengthy period. This time should be used to contribute towards helping to reduce reoffending, as well as delivering punishment.

 

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

 

  • most areas were able to meet the requirement to offer all offenders seven hours of unpaid work per week, although where they were eligible for intensive unpaid work (if offenders were unemployed), this was rarely fully available;
  • work of a very high standard was being done on some sites in most areas;
  • where high quality tools and equipment were used, offenders were more likely to say that they had learned new skills;
  • overall the types of work being undertaken seemed appropriate and offenders were correctly credited with the hours that they were under supervision; and
  • despite the fact that few offender managers had discussed how unpaid work could assist them in leading better lives, a significant proportion of offenders were determined to view their sentence positively and desist from future offending.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

 

  • although two-thirds of the sample had their first work appointment arranged within two weeks of sentence, nearly one-fifth had not been arranged within the first three weeks, which was unacceptably high;
  • although half of the areas inspected offered some offenders the opportunity to use a portion of their hours to achieve relevant education or training with further education providers, few offenders were using any of their hours in this way;
  • ensuring that the correct number of offenders attended the muster points was problematic in nearly all areas, as not all offenders scheduled to attend would turn up. However, scheduling more offenders to attend than could be managed could mean managers having to find a way of allowing them to work or ‘stand them down’;
  • there was very little consideration by offender managers of how unpaid work could contribute to the broader aims of probation intervention, notably that of desisting from crime; and
  • where offenders failed to attend, in too many cases, there was insufficient evidence to justify the decision that an absence was acceptable.

 

In order to drive improvements, inspectors made fifteen recommendations. These included a recommendation that Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) should redouble their efforts to minimise the frequency that offenders are turned away from work when they have reported on time, and should increase the proportion of offenders that have their first work session within 14 days of sentence. Both CRCs and the NPS should ensure that they create a sentence plan that describes the objectives of the unpaid work which match the circumstances of the offender.

 

Paul Wilson said:

 

“We judged that the overall quality of the delivery of unpaid work varied significantly. Although we found some high quality management and delivery, much of it was simply not good enough, lacking in focus on the basic requirement to deliver and enforce the sentence of the court. Whether this situation was inherited from Probation Trusts or is of more recent origin, this report should signal the need for urgent remedial action.

“At a time when government policy prioritises work to reduce rates of reoffending, this report raises important strategic and policy questions about the rehabilitative potential of unpaid work. It appeared in most cases that unpaid work was simply viewed as a punishment that was being administered by a separate group of probation staff. We felt this was a wasted opportunity.”

 

A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation from 12 January 2016.

Probation Chief Resigns – but what took so long?

Paul McDowell
Paul McDowell

The Chief Inspector of Probation has resigned from his post over fears his wife’s job could create a conflict of interest.

Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling today announced that Paul McDowell is standing down.

It comes after it emerged that Mr McDowell’s wife Janine is the deputy managing director of private justice company Sodexo, which won contracts to run probation services in England and Wales.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Mr Grayling said: “I wish to inform the House that Mr Paul McDowell has tendered his resignation from his post as Chief Inspector of Probation.

“As I discussed with the Justice Select Committee on 2nd December and covered in subsequent correspondence with the committee chair, an issue arose about a potential perceived conflict of interest for Mr McDowell given his wife’s employment with Sodexo, and their role as a provider of probation services.

“I have considered carefully all of the potential mechanisms and systems that could be introduced and used to manage any actual or perceived conflict of interest.

“However, Mr McDowell has decided that, in the circumstances, he will resign.

“Throughout this process Mr McDowell has acted with utter transparency and professionalism.”

Mr Grayling praised Mr McDowell’s “assured leadership and the grounded independence” in his work.

He stressed that vetting processes were properly followed when Mr McDowell was appointed in November 2013.

The minister added: “I regret that circumstances have changed and are now such that we have reached this position.

“At time of his appointment, Mr McDowell’s position was fully reasonable and the appropriate pre-appointment processes in place at that time were properly followed.”

He said the justice select committee will be involved in the appointment of a permanent successor.

A spokeswoman for Napo, the trade union and professional association of probation staff, said: “It is a shame that he had to go, but his position was clearly no longer tenable.

“We thought he was very good but, given that his wife had financial interests with Sodexo, he could no longer remain in his post – it is something that could not be maintained in the new private sector partnership.”

Announcing his resignation from his £135,000-a-year job, Mr McDowell said: “I have today resigned from my position as HM Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales.

“It is imperative that any inspectorate is independent and seen to be so.

“Although we have measures in place to manage any conflicts of interest, and I would always carry out my duties without fear or favour, it is clear that a perception of conflict around my post remains. It is therefore right that I resign.

“It has been a privilege to lead the skilled and professional team at the inspectorate and I am proud of the significant progress we have made in developing our new inspection method.

“Its specific focus on testing the impact of probation services and promoting effective practice is critical to public protection at a time of great change in the criminal justice system.”

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan has previously called for the circumstances surrounding Mr McDowell’s appointment to be investigated.

He said: “Chris Grayling is stumbling from one crisis to another. Not content with sacking the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Chief Inspector of Probation has now resigned over conflicts of interest the Justice Secretary was fully aware of at the time he appointed him. A chief inspector needs to be able to do the job without fear or favour, without any hint of bias, perceived or otherwise.

“Time and again, Labour has warned the Government that Mr McDowell’s position as Chief Inspector of Probation appeared compromised through links to private companies picking up one-third of the privatised Probation Service.

“It is shocking that Mr McDowell’s departure has been delayed until the day after private companies take over the running of probation.

“When probation is undergoing the biggest upheaval in its history and dedicated staff are demoralised because of the Government’s reckless privatisation, this is the time when a strong, independent chief inspector is needed the most as the guardian of the public’s safety.

“The Justice Secretary needs to urgently explain his role in this fiasco and how these multi-billion contracts will be inspected and supervised without a chief inspector.”

Towards the end of last year it publicly emerged that Mr McDowell’s wife holds a senior post at private contractor Sodexo.

Mr McDowell has said he declared the potential conflict of interest when he applied for the job at the end of 2013.

However, members of the Justice Select Committee have said they were not told of Mrs McDowell’s leading role at the organisation when they endorsed her husband for the job.

Sodexo won the contracts to supervise tens of thousands of offenders in six out of the 21 new probation areas created by the Government’s privatisation of the service.

Sodexo took over the contracts on Sunday in partnership with the crime reduction charity Nacro, of which Mr McDowell used to be chief executive.

Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales asked why it had taken so long.

Mr Leech said: “I have known Paul McDowell for 20 years, when he was a senior prison governor and beyond and his integrity has never been in doubt.

“What on earth took him so long to see that his position was untenable and risked damaging the independence of the Inspectorate – his integrity is untarnished but I’m afraid his judgement has been damaged by this unneccessary and inexplicable delay.”