Understanding the impact of inspection on probation
This report outlines the findings from a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust funded study on the impact of inspection on probation, written by Dr Jake Phillips
This report presents the findings from the first ever empirical study of inspection in the field of probation. The research was carried out in 2019/2020 by Dr Jake Phillips. The overall response to inspection was positive although there were some important areas of challenge. The report outlines these difficulties and makes some recommendations on how the governance and regulation of probation services might be changed to improve the service that is delivered to people under probation supervision. The main findings of the research are:
Inspection places a burden on practitioners and organisations. Practitioners talked about the anxiety that a looming inspection created and how management teams created additional pressures which were hard to cope with on top of already high workloads. Staff responsible for managing the inspection and with leadership positions talked about the amount of time the process of inspection took up. However, the case interviews that practitioners take part in were seen as incredibly valuable exercises which gave staff the opportunity to reflect on their practice and receive positive feedback and validation for their work.
Although providers said that the findings and conclusions from inspections were often accurate they sometimes find it difficult to implement recommendations due to reports failing to take context into account. Negative reports have a serious impact on staff morale, especially for CRCs and there was concern about the impact of negative findings on a provider’s reputation.
External stakeholders value the work of the Inspectorate. The Inspectorate is seen to generate highly valid and meaningful data which stakeholders can use in their own roles. This can include pushing for policy reform or holding government to account from different perspectives.
The regulatory landscape in probation is complex with an array of actors working to hold providers to account. When compared to other forms of regulation such as audit or contract management the Inspectorate was perceived positively due to its methodological approach as well as the way it reflects the values of probation itself.
There are some areas for development, such as more engagement with service users. While recognising that the Inspectorate has made a concerted effort to do this in the last two years participants all felt that more needs to be done to increase that trust between the inspectorate and service users.