Another intensive and highly absorbing week, which included attendance at two high profile conferences where academics, practitioners, service users, politicians, inspectors and Napo provided a critique of the current situation in probation and what could be done to start dealing with the myriad problems that everyone, except Ministers and Michael Spurr, acknowledge are urgent and immediate.
The Westminster Legal Policy Forum has built a reputation for providing timely opportunities for debate about the issues that are prevalent within the Criminal Justice System and who have regularly invited Napo to contribute to their events.
On Tuesday, I was part of a panel of speakers who offered views on the current state of operations, prison reform, the funding mechanism and ways to improve transparency. Each of us had a five minute opportunity to set out our stall before a lively and testing Q&A session before a very knowledgeable audience.
HMIP launch consultation on reporting reforms
Dame Glenys has had a pretty busy time of it of late as well, with an appearance at the same Westminster Forum where she set out a number of areas in her keynote address which, in her view, require serious attention to arrest the malaise that her Inspectorate has identified in the majority of its reports.
I hope to be able to publish her thoughtful speech in full once the Forum has checked accuracy against delivery with their guests but in essence Dame Glenys said:
- Operating models matter; and a greater focus needs to be shown by CRCs to their effectiveness in light of HMIP reports
- Relationships between clients and practitioners are absolutely key. These are not being helped by constant changes to the supervising officer.
- ICT connectivity between the NPS and CRCs is still fundamentally flawed.
- Skilled professionally qualified staff are needed in the NPS and CRCs and private providers need to be incentivised to fully appreciate this.
- A greater focus on Risk needs to be shown as her Inspectorates investigations reveal some worrying gaps in practice
Finally and somewhat intriguingly, Dame Glenys talked about the possibility of a ‘Guiding Coalition’ to provide some quality advice and leadership to try and get to grips with the many issues that have been identified by HMIP and other commentators.
New reporting standards
Additionally, we heard that HMI probation has launched a public consultation document covering its proposals for reforms to the methods of inspection to be used for probation and the Youth Justice sector.
We will be analysing the reforms with a view to qualified support, given that we told the TUC in September that simply mimicking ‘Ofsted style’ measures will not cut it for probation because of the obvious complexities around individual interventions and public safety among other things.
More on this another time, but meanwhile here is what Napo had to say back in October about the emerging ideas around the reforms to reporting. CLICK HERE
Here is the link to the HMIP launch of the consultation process
Parole Board marks its 50th Anniversary
The day before I was at a huge gathering to celebrate 50 years of the parole board which featured a fascinating history lesson from Michael Spurr on the exponential rise in the prison population since 1967 which the uninitiated might have thought he was celebrating.
More seriously I was able to ask a simple of question of Michael about the one key step he wants to take to deal with the problems in the probation service which is being seen as a bit of a shambles.
Michael did not look best pleased, and refuted the notion (whilst admitting things were not working as well as they should). We had a brief but entirely polite discussion afterwards where we acknowledged each other’s opinions even if we as usual agreed to disagree about their validity.
Finally two more links. The first one contains an enlightening speech by Parole Board Chair Nick Hardwick covering the achievements of the Board and the contribution of its members over half a century. It also offered a compelling pointer to the need to reduce the IPP backlog and start treating people in a way that gives them a real chance of making a contribution to society. The second is the speech from Lord Chancellor, David Lidington, during which there are several mentions of the Probation Service (in marked contrast to some of his recent performances). It seems to suggest that four months on, he has some idea of what our members actually do.