A statement from HM Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell:

In line with government guidance, HM Inspectorate of Probation suspended all face-to-face inspection activity on 23 March 2020. At the time, the Inspectorate was part-way through a number of inspections. We are arranging with these organisations to complete these inspections remotely if possible and we will publish the reports in due course.

Our core local inspections typically involve visiting each inspected service for up to three weeks, conducting face-to-face interviews and running focus groups. It is clearly not the right time to pursue this type of activity.

We recognise that the return to normal business for probation services may take many months. The current contingency arrangements have had a major impact on the volumes of new cases coming into local probation services and the way that the existing caseload is being managed. With this in mind, I have decided that we will not restart our usual core local probation inspections until the beginning of 2021.

However, it is important that the Inspectorate continues to fulfil its function of scrutinising the quality of youth offending and probation services.

To this end, the Inspectorate will conduct a number of thematic inspections over the remainder of this calendar year. These will examine how probation services and youth offending services have coped during this period (under Exceptional Delivery Model arrangements); how well probation services implement their recovery plans and how well-prepared probation services are to transition to a new, unified offender management model in 2021. Until we judge that it is safe to undertake face-to-face interviews, we expect to conduct the fieldwork for these inspections remotely using video conferencing technology for interviews and focus groups.

In addition, we will use these same remote inspection techniques to inspect a number of small Youth Offending Teams between August and October of this year. We will draw our case samples from work that was completed before the Covid lockdown was implemented in March, to minimise the impact of emergency delivery arrangements on the work we are inspecting.

These have been exceptionally challenging times for those staffing youth justice and probation services and I pay tribute to them for the work they have done to keep these essential services going. Like them, we look forward to a time when business may return to something more like normality, but in the meantime, we recognise that the imperative must be to keep everyone – staff, inspectors and service users – safe.