‘Promising and passionate’ Cheshire West probation service ‘Requires improvement’

The probation service, or Probation Delivery Unit (PDU*), in Cheshire West has been rated as ‘Requires improvement’ following an inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation.

This inspection was one of two carried out in the Probation Service – North West region recently. The other is Blackburn with Darwen PDU, which also received a rating of ‘Requires improvement’ (also published on 01 June 2023).

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Despite the rating of ‘Requires improvement’ Cheshire West is a promising and passionate probation service. Some very good work is being done in Cheshire West thanks to strong partnerships and a wide range of services available to people on probation to prevent reoffending. However, work to manage the risk of harm they may pose to local communities wasn’t of the quality required to keep people safe. I hope the service will be able to build on what they have already achieved and use this inspection as a springboard to reach the high standards they have set for themselves.”

There are few vacancies at Cheshire West PDU, a strong leadership team, and positive morale among all staff. Probation practitioners are professionally curious about each person they supervise – something which the Inspectorate is keen to see as common practice. Also, a decision by the head of service to use some available funding, to improve what they can offer to people on probation, has been successful in helping those with mental health and neurodiversity needs, and people with alcohol and drug dependency.

The management of those serving court sentences needs to improve, which includes people who pose a higher risk of harm to the public. Not enough is being done to deliver sentence requirements and safeguard the community. We found much of this was due to the high number of inexperienced, newly qualified staff, and have called on the service to have more robust plans in place to support and train new recruits. This is a large part of the work of any probation service, and accounts for much of the ‘Requires improvement’ rating.

Mr Russell continued: “It’s positive that Cheshire West PDU has attracted local people to a career in probation. They now need to provide high-quality training for each recruit and ensure managers have the capacity to support their development. This will take time, but they have a vision of how to do this and have demonstrated their commitment to succeed.”

Cheshire West PDU and the North West regional service received ten recommendations from this inspection, including that they ensure staff have sufficient knowledge, skills and resources to work effectively with people on probation from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.


Notes to editor

  1. *Probation Delivery Units (PDUs) replaced Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS), which merged into a unified Probation Service in June 2021.
  2. This probation service sits within the Probation Service – North West region.
  3. This report is available at justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation on 01 June 2023 00.01.
  4. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  5. The Inspectorate uses a four-point scale: ‘Outstanding’, ‘Good’, ‘Requires improvement’ and ‘Inadequate’. The Inspectorate rates specific aspects of each service and also gives an overall rating.
  6. Fieldwork for this inspection took place in March 2023
  7. For media enquiries, please contact media@hmiprobation.gov.uk (E-mail address)