Helen Rinaldi, HM Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation, explains how her team has been developing a less prescriptive approach to inspection to reflect the reality of service delivery in a post-Transforming Rehabilitation world.
At HMI Probation we have invested a great deal of time and effort over the past year in reviewing the way in which we inspect both adult probation and youth justice services.
With the huge changes associated with the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, it was timely, and indeed essential, for us to re-evaluate the way we conduct inspection in the new delivery environment.
Given the level of change in the adult probation world, we have deliberately chosen to prioritise developing a new inspection regime for this arena first, but we recognise that, in order to maximise the benefits arising from this review, we need to bring improvements in our inspection practice to the youth justice world too.
So as to allow the new organisations delivering probation services time to settle down and become established, our core adult inspection programme over the past year – the Early Work programme – has taken more of a thematic approach, reporting periodically on a ‘batch’ of inspections, rather than specifically commenting on the performance of individual NPS divisions or CRCs.
By the time we finish our Early Work inspections in February 2016, we will have visited all of the 21 CRCs and the 7 NPS divisions over the lifespan of this programme. We will produce an overarching aggregate report on the whole programme in the early summer.
In developing our fresh approach to inspection, we want to put the service user ‘centre stage’ and to provide a greater focus on how services have had an impact on the individual, and, in turn, on the public. We will focus on what has been achieved with individuals and the extent to which the work of probation practitioners (and others linked to individual cases) has made a difference to what has been achieved.
We hope to get to the heart of whether probation services are effective through examining both the quality of practice and the impact of what has been delivered.
Quality + Impact = Effectiveness is the simple equation for this.
Within our Quality & Impact inspection reports, we will comment on whether:
- Reoffending is reduced
- The public is protected from harm
- Individuals abide by their sentence.
In order to comment on these aspects, we will consider four practice themes; service user engagement, assessment and planning, delivering interventions and reviewing progress. We will also look at leadership, management and partnership working, and evaluate the positive impact achieved in relation to each element.
As with previous programmes, we will examine a number of ‘practice inspection’ cases during the first of two inspection fieldwork weeks. As before, this will involve an interview with the responsible officer, but one which is much more discursive given the emphasis on outcomes achieved, rather than on adherence to standards or process.
In every case where we can, we will also speak to the service user to gain their unique perspective on progress made. In the second fieldwork week, we will then explore the themes emerging from these practice cases, selecting a small number for greater scrutiny via more in-depth ‘case reviews’. All this means that inspection activity will be more flexible, although we will be operating to a published framework which is now available on our website.
Since the implementation of TR, there is now much more scope for those providing services to decide upon the details of service delivery. On that basis, it was vital to ensure our new framework was less prescriptive than previously.
We will no longer dictate the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of service delivery; but rather we will explore whether the services being provided are contributing to positive change for individuals.
We will address the questions: are we convinced that the probation work that is being done should achieve a positive impact, and what indicators are there, so far, of progress towards individual desistance?
Through this inspection, by identifying what we have called ‘enablers’, we will promote effective practice in England and Wales. We will also make recommendations to address ‘barriers’ to effectiveness.
Although fieldwork for the adult inspections will be undertaken by HMI Probation alone (rather than jointly with other inspectorates), inspections in England have the underpinning support of inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Ofsted and HMI Constabulary (HMIC). When inspecting in Wales there will be similar support from HMIC, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), Estyn and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW). For youth justice inspections, we believe that a multi-inspectorate approach will be necessary, given the multi-disciplinary nature of YOT work.
We recognise the value that deploying ‘local assessors’ (from the inspected body) has given in previous programmes, and as the Q&I programme becomes established, we will continue to explore the possibilities for their inclusion in Q&I. We will be consulting on how best to do this over the coming months.
As we move towards implementation, our plans for introducing our new Quality & Impact inspection programme have gathered pace. We have now piloted the new methodology twice (in West Yorkshire in June 2015 and in Devon & Cornwall in September 2015), taking a PCC area as the discrete geographical ‘unit’ of inspection, so that reports have relevance for local people.
The new approach has gone down well with individual offender managers, who gave feedback along the following lines:
“The inspection was very fair”.
“The experience was….not intimidating in any way. There was less emphasis on process and more on offender engagement than in previous inspections”.
We are now poised to conduct a final ‘dress rehearsal’ in Bedfordshire (BeNCH CRC and Southeast & Eastern NPS) in February and March 2016, before implementing the new programme from April 2016. We are very grateful to those pilot sites whose feedback has helped enormously in the development of the new programme.
We will also be turning our attention to developing new youth justice inspection methods over the coming months against the ‘backdrop’ of the ongoing Youth Justice Review and hope to introduce the Q&I approach to youth justice inspections from October 2016.
All of the above makes for a very exciting period within HMI Probation. We recognise just how challenging the new environment is for probation practitioners and managers alike, and we are keen to play our part in helping to promote positive outcomes for those coming into contact with probation services, regardless of which organisation is responsible for delivering these. We believe that the new approach to inspection will contribute to the overall improvement of services.
If readers want more information about the new approach, please see our website in the first instance, or get in touch with us at HMIP.email@example.com