Peterborough probation services told they require improvement

Probation services in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire have been told they require improvement following an official inspection.

Friday, 3rd May 2019, 7:00 am
Picture: Ian Nicholson/PA Wire

The findings come from HM Inspectorate of Probation, the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales. Inspectors were impressed by the commitment of staff at all levels in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Community Rehabilitation Company (BeNCH CRC), but nevertheless they said ‘the probation work done here is not of the right standard.’ Inspectors found some areas of work requiring improvement, and rated some other areas of work as inadequate – the lowest available rating.

As a result, the Inspectorate has given BeNCH CRC an overall rating of ‘Requires improvement’.

BeNCH CRC is one of six probation services managed by Sodexo, a multinational private company. The CRC supervises more than 7,000 low and medium-risk offenders across the four counties. Individuals are either in prison or have been released, or are serving community sentences.

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HM Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said: “BeNCH CRC’s greatest asset is its workforce. It has a strong leadership team, and staff are committed and motivated to support people to turn away from crime.”

Over the last year, the CRC has worked hard to fill vacancies and cut down on agency staff. At the same time, it is supporting staff to gain professional qualifications.

Dame Glenys said: “Unfortunately, our inspection found the management of cases is poor. In particular, domestic abuse and child safeguarding issues were not always investigated or recorded properly. Probation services should prioritise both rehabilitation and public safety, so BeNCH CRC needs to give this matter their urgent attention.”

Inspectors looked at a sample of cases and concluded staff need to do more to protect actual and potential victims.

The inspection also found that some meetings with individuals under probation supervision took place in open booths in the CRC’s offices. The Inspectorate has previously raised concerns about the impact of this on work to support rehabilitation and public protection.

The CRC’s work to support people leaving prison – known as ‘Through the Gate’ – was found to be inadequate. Resettlement plans did not always fully consider the individual’s personal circumstances or manage the potential risk of harm to other people. In more than half of inspected cases, there was poor communication between staff working in prison and in the community.

Dame Glenys said: “The quality of Through the Gate work falls short of expectation in so many respects. It needs to improve, from start to finish.

“Individuals need support when they leave prison: a roof over their heads, help to write CVs and find employment, and specialist support for issues such as mental health or substance misuse. These things matter to individuals and can help or hinder their prospects of moving away from further offending.”

BeNCH CRC has started to put a substantial programme in place to improve the standard of its work. The programme was not fully up and running at the time of inspection, but the move has been welcomed.

Dame Glenys added: “The CRC has put a foundation in place to raise the quality of its work and it has drawn up improvement plans to support this ambition. I hope this report and its recommendations help BeNCH CRC to further improve its services across the four counties.”