Offender supervision in London’s probation service ‘needs to be much better’

A probation service which supervises almost 29,000 offenders must improve, according to inspectors who found that work relating to keeping people safe “needs to be much better”.

HM Inspectorate of Probation carried out a routine inspection of London Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), which supervises 28,819 low and medium-risk offenders across the capital.

Inspectors looked at 10 aspects of the CRC’s work and rated performance against half of these as “good”, half as “requiring improvement”, and gave an overall rating of “requires improvement”.

Justin Russell, Chief Inspector of Probation, said the service delivered by London CRC has continued to improve since the last inspection, with “considerable efforts made”, adding that leadership is strong and the staff spoken to were motivated and positive in spite of high caseloads.

But in relation to case supervision, the Inspectorate’s report said: “Work relating to risk of harm and keeping people safe across assessment, planning, implementation and reviewing needs to be much better.

“In the latter three areas, less than half of the cases inspected were satisfactory. There is not enough attention given to protecting actual and potential victims in the delivery of interventions. This applied to 52% of the inspected cases.”

Mr Russell (pictured) wrote in the report that the overall rating for London CRC was “close to ‘good'”, but said it was brought down by the quality of some case supervision.

“Although work to support individuals from re-offending has improved, work to manage the risk of harm to others is not yet good enough.

“This was of concern across all aspects of case supervision, particularly in planning, implementation and reviewing,” he said.

He added: “We found a good range of services available to support people with basic needs and to tackle their offending behaviour, but it is disappointing to find that these services are not being delivered consistently in the inspected cases.”

Inspectors found that staff were not paying enough attention to information from partners, such as the police or children’s social care services, or of past aggressive behaviour.

The Inspectorate also found recruiting and retaining good quality staff continues to be an issue in the capital.

Workloads are high, with more than 77% of interviewed staff saying they managed more than 55 cases.

The report said the CRC has put in place new tools to reduce the administrative burden on probation officers.

Inspectors found leaders had put an “impressive” HR strategy in place and fewer staff had left the organisation over the past nine months.

Around one in four probation staff are agency workers, and the CRC is in the process of converting some of these roles into permanent positions.

The Inspectorate is calling for further action to improve office accommodation and ensure staff stay safe while carrying out their duties.

Inspectors made six recommendations with the aim of improving London CRC’s performance.

London CRC is owned by MTC, which is made up of private and third-sector partners.

MTC director of probation at London and Thames Valley CRCs, Gabriel Amahwe, said: “Today’s report recognises the hard work, commitment and professionalism of MTC and the London CRC in turning around a service that for many years prior to the probation reforms fell short of the standards the public rightly expects.

“Our investment in the service, people and technology since we took over responsibility for the Community Rehabilitation Company in 2014 is paying off.

“We have significantly upgraded the services we deliver and these will continue to improve in the months ahead.”

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