29 February 2024 – A farewell from our interim Chief Inspector, Sue McAllister

After five months as interim Chief Inspector of Probation, tomorrow I will step down and hand over the reins to the new Chief, Martin Jones. On this, my last working day, it is inevitable that I have a period of reflection and look back at what we have done during my tenure. The five months have flown, and I have learned much from my colleagues and from the many people with whom we work. This has been a great opportunity to experience the scrutiny of inspection from a new perspective. I am grateful for the opportunity, and I will miss the challenge, but mainly I will miss the people who do this important work with integrity and empathy but, also, with the rigour that is so important. 

Since 01 October, when I started, we have published seven youth inspection reports, two adult inspection reports and three thematic inspection reports as well as contributing to joint inspections with other inspectorates. We have also published two Effective Practice Guides, a Research & Analysis Bulletin, four Academic Insights Papers and four videos of reflections from our research. 

In our inspections, and the subsequent reports, we have been critical of practice that fell below acceptable standards, whilst recognising the complex operating environment in which probation practitioners work every day. But our role is to do more than just shine a light on what is not going well, and we have also identified good practice so that our reports are fair and balanced and so that effective practice can be shared and strengthened. The size and nature of the challenges facing probation are well understood and I hope that our work, whilst inevitably feeling like another pressure on a busy team of people trying to do their best, can be part of the solution. 

The independence of HM Inspectorate of Probation is crucial to the credibility and transparency of our work. Equally important is that we are relevant and that we understand how inspection can support improvement and that we can work collaboratively and contribute our unique insight to the challenging agenda faced by those delivering supervision and protecting the public. In my short time as Chief Inspector, I have tried to articulate that position and I hope I have done that so that we understand the operational reality whilst continuing to inspect with rigour, and report honestly and supportively. 

And finally, a thank you to everyone who has been so generous to me with their time, knowledge and support, both within, and beyond, HM Inspectorate of Probation. I wish you the very best in your future work and I will watch with interest as the plans I have seen, and been a small part of, continue and thrive.