Early implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation - a mixed picture says Chief Inspector

Changes to probation services under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme had exposed and created a number of challenges in information-sharing, IT and processes that needed close attention, said Paul McDowell, Chief Inspector of Probation. He added that the speed of its implementation had in itself caused operational problems, and the changes had also exposed some pre-existing flaws. Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published a report on the early implementation of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

The report, Transforming Rehabilitation – Early Implementation: an Independent Inspection setting out the Operational Impacts, Challenges and Necessary Actions by HM Inspectorate of Probation relates to findings from inspections undertaken between April and September 2014. In particular, inspectors looked at the newly created interface between the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

Prior to June 2014, probation services in England and Wales were delivered by 35 Probation Trusts working under the direction of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) introduced a programme, Transforming Rehabilitation, to change the way those services were delivered. A newly created National Probation Service was set up to focus on work with high risk of serious harm offenders and providing advice to courts on sentencing. Most other work with low and medium risk of serious harm offenders is now delivered by Community Rehabilitation Companies. The NPS came into existence on 1 June 2014. The CRCs were also set up at that point as companies in public ownership. Staff who had previously been employed by probation trusts were assigned to the two new organisations and all existing cases were allocated to the two organisations as well.

Overall, inspectors found that, as in any business, splitting one organisation into two separate organisations had created process, communication and information-sharing challenges that did not previously exist. Many of those issues will remain a challenge for some time to come and need close attention. A number of the findings relate to issues that already existed before 1 June 2014 and the process of implementing change had exposed existing shortfalls in systems, processes, practice quality, consistency, leadership and management. Those probation areas that had been struggling to deliver a quality service prior to TR are now finding it hardest to adapt and cope with the challenges brought by the reforms.

Inspectors were also concerned to find that:

  • there remain significant challenges in getting the court end processes working as they should;
  • the lack of staff in some areas of the NPS was having a detrimental impact on the delivery of some of the services being provided;
  • the relationships between the two new organisations in each area varied in terms of the extent they worked together to resolve communication issues;
  • IT continues to provide a predictable challenge and the complexities of a number of new tasks and the lack of integration of IT systems was frustrating;
  • the matching of staff resources to the workload has been challenging and there were significant gaps, especially in courts, in the early weeks; and
  • often when staff have looked to their senior leaders for reassurance, support and guidance during this period of change, this has been lacking, and the nature of communication and staff engagement from the top to the bottom needs urgent attention.

However, Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • the assignment of cases to the new organisations had been achieved in good time for the 1 June 2014 go live date in the vast majority of cases, despite concerns raised about support from the MoJ;
  • the quality of reports provided by the NPS to courts supported sentencing proposals appropriately; and
  • credit should go to staff in CRCs and the NPS for the efforts they have put into implementing new processes.

In order to drive improvements, inspectors made over 60 recommendations.

Paul McDowell said:

“The speed of this implementation has in itself caused operational problems that could have been avoided or mitigated. We sometimes found that new processes were being communicated by email to staff for implementation the next day, with little or no time for training or instruction. It is important to recognise the impact that this has had on staff morale, and potentially on the efficiency of the service they were providing. Further process development needs to be handled more efficiently, with each step anticipated, planned and communicated in a timely way.

“This report highlights the complexity of the challenges for probation, the operational impact of the Transforming Rehabilitation changes to date, and progress made in addressing them during early implementation. It also exposes the reality of the inconsistency in application of the changes and the shortfalls in quality of service provision, some of which already existed prior to implementation of Transforming Rehabilitation. The evidence points to a mixed picture on the ground.

“There is no doubt at all that there remains more to do. There is now an urgent need for operations and processes to reach a ‘steady state’ in order for managers and staff to be able to think, plan and deliver effectively. What happens in this next period is crucial to ensuring the longer-term development of quality and innovation in Probation that the public expects.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. A copy of this report can be found on HM Inspectorate of Probation’s website at https://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation/inspections/trearlyimplementation/ from 15 December 2014.
  2. HMI Probation is an independent inspectorate, sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, and reporting directly to the Secretary of State on the effectiveness of work with adults, children and young people who have offended, aimed at reducing reoffending and protecting the public. Further information about the work of HMI Probation is at http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation.

Please contact Jane Parsons in HMI Probation Press Office on 020 3681 2775 or 07880 787452 if you would like more information.