Further improvements, but problems remain – an inspection of Transforming Rehabilitation

Fifteen months after the implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies are now working better together, but some significant problems remain. Advice given to courts is less reliable in some cases, and work to prepare prisoners on release needs a greater focus, said DameGlenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, as she published the fifth and final report on the implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

The report, Transforming Rehabilitation – Early Implementation 5 – relates to findings from inspections undertaken in October 2015 to February 2016. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were transferred from public to private ownership on 1 February 2015. HM Inspectorate of Probation has now begun a new inspection programme and will shortly be publishing a series of reports on the quality and impact of probation work, supplemented by thematic inspections.

During Early Implementation 5 inspections, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • written and oral reports provided to the courts by National Probation Service (NPS) staff to assist in sentencing and to guide those supervising individuals with a community sentence varied in quality and there were some gaps in information;
  • some staff preparing those reports had not received sufficient training and lacked confidence in completing the necessary assessments;
  • over two-thirds of offenders released from prison had not received enough help from the CRC pre-release in relation to accommodation, employment or finances; and
  • in some areas, a shortage of probation officers meant that CRC agency staff were allocated medium risk of harm cases for which they felt insufficiently trained.

However, inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • most offenders allocated to the NPS saw their responsible officer soon after sentence or release and offenders were generally allocated quickly to a CRC responsible officer;
  • in many NPS cases, work to reduce reoffending and the risk of harm to others was good;
  • NPS work with many high-risk offenders was good and included effective joint working with specialists, good use of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and an active contribution to child protection procedures; and
  • CRC arrangements to return an offender to court if in breach of their sentence or when an individual’s risk is increasing appeared to have improved.

In previous reports inspectors made a number of recommendations to drive improvements. Future inspections will continue to examine the areas covered by these earlier recommendations.

Dame Glenys Stacey said:

“To speed up justice, courts require probation advice quickly, and often without the time for a written report. With a fault line between the NPS and CRCs under the new probation arrangements, reporting has become less reliable, and yet CRCs as well as courts are reliant on good reports to guide their work. We found the NPS working well overall, but this is a real weakness. We know that NPS want to improve performance here, and we urge those involved to focus particularly on the difficult job of getting together quickly the information they need from others to produce effective oral reports.

“CRCs have important new responsibilities preparing prisoners for release and promoting their rehabilitation, and yet this is not being given sufficient priority in some areas at the moment. Instead CRC staff are often heads down and focused on more immediate contract requirements. While we appreciate that constant pressure, we do expect managers to focus on the quality of work done, most particularly for prisoners set for release. Without sufficient preparation, those released are more likely to offend again and so find themselves back inside.”

Click here to read the report