The Chief Inspector of Probation, Paul McDowell, has released an independent report assessing the early stages of the government’s reform to probation services, with highly worrying and critical findings. McDowell’s report notes that changes have led to ‘a number of challenges in information-sharing, IT and processes’, and that the speed of the reforms have caused ‘operational problems’.
The reforms, which we have blogged about previously, involve splitting the probation service in two, with a public sector National Probation Service (NPS) managing high-risk offenders, and the remaining 70% of the service in the process of being privatised, and to manage low-medium risk offenders. Both the splitting of the service and the privatisation have received a large amount of criticism.
The manner in which the reforms have been carried out has also received criticism and concerns have been raised, not least by the staff working on the frontline of probation services (see our Prezi to find out more). These findings by the Probation Inspector add further weight to a long ream of criticism.
Among the findings in the Probation Inspector’s report are that new processes were being communicated by email to staff for implementation the next day with ‘little or no time for training or instruction’.
Probation inspectors noted that credit should go to staff for the effort they have put into areas such as report quality and case assignment in a challenging situation, yet were concerned to find that:
- there remain significant challenges in getting the court end processes working as they should;
- the lack of staff in some areas of the NPS was having a detrimental impact on the delivery of some of the services being provided;
- the relationships between the two new organisations in each area varied in terms of the extent they worked together to resolve communication issues;
- IT continues to provide a predictable challenge and the complexities of a number of new tasks and the lack of integration of IT systems was frustrating;
- the matching of staff resources to the workload has been challenging and there were significant gaps, especially in courts, in the early weeks; and
- often when staff have looked to their senior leaders for reassurance, support and guidance during this period of change, this has been lacking, and the nature of communication and staff engagement from the top to the bottom needs urgent attention.
To read the report, please see HM Inspectorate of Probation (2014) Transforming Rehabilitation – Early Implementation: an Independent Inspection setting out the Operational Impacts, Challenges and Necessary Actions