Developing a new approach to probation inspection

Recent years have seen significant changes in the delivery of probation services. And yet reducing reoffending, protecting the public and ensuring that people who have offended serve the sentence of the court remain enduring aims of probation. As an independent inspectorate, our role is to provide authoritative and objective assurance about the work of providers and, critically, to drive improvement where it is needed.

In order to play a full and effective role in the oversight of probation services, from April 2018 HMI Probation will inspect each Community Rehabilitation Company and each division of the National Probation Service on an annual basis. Each inspection will result in the organisation being given a rating.

Our inspections will be based on a set of standards that are clear and unambiguous; that are not unduly restrictive and leave scope for innovation; that apply to all providers; and that are supported by an evidence base. All providers need to know what represents good quality work, and what is expected, so that they can deliver consistently well. Crucially, what is expected and what is delivered needs to be meaningful, of good quality and most likely to lead to good outcomes for individuals, victims, communities and wider society.

Developing these standards and the methodology that supports them is a major piece of work for the inspectorate, so we are taking time to consider carefully the overall impact of our plans. We have already begun discussion with stakeholders across the criminal justice sector, and we plan to do more work in this area throughout the rest of 2017.

During the summer we held a total of eleven workshops with colleagues from the National Probation Service (that supervises those categorised as high risk) and the twenty-one private probation companies that supervise others. The private companies – Community Rehabilitation Companies – provide services under contract from the Ministry of Justice. Representatives from the contract oversight teams in the Ministry of Justice attended our workshops, as we are sensitive to the risk of overlapping requirements and want to guard against it.

Following these workshops we have drafted inspection standards for case inspection, and have circulated these to those involved in the workshops and to their managers. You can see these standards by clicking the following link:

Probation standards (Sept 17 domain 2 for circulation) (PDF, 460 kB)

In addition to these standards, we are drawing up standards for inspection of organisational delivery. These will focus on the effectiveness of governance, leadership, management and the supporting infrastructure and processes.

In November and December we will consult formally on our proposed full standards framework and our plans for inspection. At the end of this consultation we will publish our finalised intentions for future inspection. In the interim, if you have any specific queries in relation to this work, please email them to (E-mail address).


And what about youth inspection?…

We are developing underpinning standards for our inspections of Youth Offending Teams as well, and will say more about those once our proposed standards are settled.