The Probation Service

Our approach for inspecting the Probation Service involves three aspects:

Regional review

The purpose of the regional review is to analyse the functions of the region and to identify the regional enablers and barriers to a Probation Delivery Unit (PDU) meeting our inspection standards.

PDU organisational delivery (domain one)
In this domain we focus on leadership, people, services, information and facilities. Before we inspect the PDU, we look at any submitted evidence, identifying any gaps or areas that need clarification. When conduct the fieldwork, we hold meetings and focus groups where further evidence can be gathered, allowing us to triangulate evidence and information.

PDU case supervision (domain two)
Before we conduct the fieldwork, we identify a cohort of cases using specific criteria. When on site we look at those selected cases and assess the quality of practice. In relevant cases, we also look at the quality of the pre-sentence report, pre-release work by the community offender manager, and statutory victim contact.

Youth Offending Services

Our approach to inspecting youth offending services consists of three domains also.

Organisational delivery (domain one)

We look at how the service is run and led, strategically. We look at workloads and staffing levels and whether there are arrangements for learning and development. Inspectors will look at any partnerships and services there may be and whether the right information is available and facilities are in place to support staff.

Court disposals (domain two)

Inspectors look at the assessment, planning, implementation and delivery and the reviewing processes being delivered to children and young people.

Out-of-court disposals (domain three)

Inspectors look at the assessment, planning, and implementation and delivery being delivered to children and young people, and also at the overarching policy and provision for out-of-court work.


Inspectors look at the policy and provision for resettlement work, illustrated by inspecting a small number of cases.

Thematic Inspections

A thematic inspection looks at a specific area of work. Unlike our probation and youth offending inspections, where we may only visit one service, in a thematic we will visit several services to look at the same theme.

Some thematic work focuses just on probation work, some of it solely on youth offending work, and some on both.

Sometimes we do this with only our inspectors, but sometimes, we do this jointly with other inspectorates or criminal justice organisations. The latter comes under the remit of the Criminal Justice Joint Inspection (CJJI) programme. We have worked closely with the other Criminal Justice Inspectorates to produce Joint Inspection Programmes each year since 2007. You can view the joint business plans on the CJJI website.

These are the factors we consider when we select topics for thematic inspections:

  1. Potential impact of our findings
  2. Significant changes to policy, service delivery or caseloads
  3. Risks to public protection
  4. Findings from other inspections
  5. Intelligence received from any source
  6. Time elapsed since last inspection
  7. Estimated resource requirements
  8. Ministerial and other key stakeholder interests

Other inspection work

Prison Offender Management inspection (POMI)

These inspections are led by HM Inspectorate of Prisons. As part of their prison inspection programme we will send one of our inspectors to report on the offender management within the prison.

You can view HM Inspectorate of Prisons reports on their website:

Joint targeted area inspection (JTAI)

The JTAI programme is led by Ofsted. Inspectors assess how local authorities, the police, health, probation and youth offending services are working together in an area to identify, support and protect vulnerable children and young people.

You can view the JTAI reports on the Ofsted website here: