New report highlights probation system challenges

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Our latest briefing, on the challenges faced by the probation system and on the importance of robust, independent inspection, is out today.

Enable and Ensure: The role of inspection in probation, by former assistant chief probation inspector Joe Kuipers, argues that the situation facing the probation system is of deep concern.

The private 'Community Rehabilitation Companies' are, in general, not producing good quality work. The promised improvements in resettlement support for prisoners have not been delivered. There are few signs that the situation might improve in the future.

Meanwhile, neither government ministers, nor the probation inspectorate, seem ready to acknowledge that the fractured and disjointed system created by the 'Transforming Rehabilitation' changes in 2015 might itself be part of the problem. As Joe Kuipers asks, 'how bad does a transformation have to get before those with power and influence actually advise that the plug needs to be pulled'.

The briefing also offers a number of critical reflections and responses to the the Probation Inspectorate Consultation on standards and ratings for inspecting probation services, which was launched on 8 November.

Effective inspection is essential, he argues, to 'enable improvement and to ensure that what a service is expected to achieve is indeed being achieved'. Setting the bar too low risks offering an overly generous picture of a service facing systemic problems. With the Ministry of Justice wishing to reduce its own oversight function, the role of independent and robust probation inspection is that much more important.

Inspection also has a political dimension. The proposal, highlighted in this briefing, to conduct separate inspections of the National Probation Service and the private probation companies could risk consolidating the fractured and disjointed service that many consider to be at the heart of the current problems with probation.

Speaking today, our Director, Richard Garside, said:

With the House of Commons Justice Committee about to embark on an Inquiry into the state of probation, I am delighted that the Centre is publishing this important briefing at a time that the currently unsatisfactory probation arrangements are facing much needed scrutiny.