04 October 2021 – Tackling violence against women and girls

The Sarah Everard case has once again brought into sharp focus the issue of violence against women and girls and how it should be tackled. Though the spotlight recently has been on the police, our inspections have also shown that probation service performance can leave a lot to be desired.

Earlier this year we submitted evidence to a Home Office consultation on violence against women and girls (PDF, 161 kB) summarising what we’ve found in recent years including through thematic report on inspections of CRC work with domestic abuse perpetrators, published in 2018, and the thematic report on NPS supervision of sexual offenders (2019). In both areas we raised significant concerns, finding that for domestic abuse perpetrators CRCs were “nowhere near effective enough in this critical area of work” and that planning for release of sex offenders was also “nowhere near good enough”. We’ve also found issues in our local probation inspections, with a particular weakness around the domestic abuse checks we expect probation to make with the police about every case at both the pre-sentence stage and at the start of supervision. On average we found that these weren’t happening in over one-third of the cases we inspected and in over 60 per cent in some of the worst performing regions. Given that domestic abuse is a concern in more than four out of 10 of the cases we inspect and that sexual offending was a feature of almost a quarter of the NPS cases we inspected from 2018-2020, it’s crucial that the probation service get this area of its work right.

On a more positive note, September has brought the return of onsite inspections for our YOT inspection team, with our lead inspectors able to visit Wakefield, Plymouth and Hillingdon YOTs in person over the past couple of weeks. Thanks to all of them for accommodating our teams – I know they have really appreciated the chance to meet managers and staff in real life again.

We’ve now published seven YOT reports undertaken since we restarted our local youth inspections in April this year, of which two (Brighton and North Tyneside), we have rated as ‘Outstanding’ – congratulations to them. Well done, as well, to Blackpool YOT, which has showed an impressive improvement since we rated it as ‘Inadequate’ in 2018. Despite the challenges of Covid-19, we found a well organised and motivated staff and leadership team, delivering good quality work across all areas, which is a credit to those involved.

Our probation inspection team are also looking forward to returning to on-site inspection in Gwent PDU at the beginning of November, as we launch our new inspection methodology for the unified probation service with an inspection of two PDUs in Wales. In the interests of transparency we’ve published our detailed probation inspection guidance manuals that our inspectors will be working to in every inspection on our website, including the ‘ratings characteristics’ which explain the differences between our ratings of ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’ for those aspects of organisational delivery (like staffing or services) that we will be rating in each local. We’ve also clarified the relationship between our individual case assessment scores and our ratings of local leadership. So, for example, to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ on leadership, a PDU will now we required to be rated as ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’ on all five of the standards we will be applying to the quality of its casework with individual people on probation.

Meanwhile, work on a range of national thematic inspections continues across with Inspectorate. Fieldwork was recently completed on a review of electronic monitoring and probation and has just started on a joint study of girls in custody with HM Inspectorate of Prisons. And we are looking forward to publishing an important thematic on support and supervision of black and mixed heritage boys by youth offending services later this month.

As our contribution to Black History Month, we’re also hosting an event on Friday 08 October, at 9.30am, on the role and history of black probation staff, including a chance to hear from Conroy Grizzle – a founding member and former Chair of the Association of Black Probation Officers. HMPPS and MoJ staff can book a ticket on Eventbrite.