People on probation

Welcome to our people on probation page – here you will find useful information about what we do and about how people on probation can work with us and make a difference.

A person on probation is:

  • someone serving a sentence in the community
  • someone released from prison on licence or parole.

Giving people on probation a greater voice

HM Inspectorate of Probation has appointed User Voice to work with us to ensure people on probation have a greater say in our inspections. The contract started on 01 February 2022 and runs for three years.

Last year, probation services across England and Wales were unified into a single service and put back into the public sector. The Inspectorate has started inspecting the new Probation Service, and User Voice will seek the views of people on probation in each area to inform our findings and recommendations.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “We think it is important that people on probation should have the opportunity to tell us what does and doesn’t work for them in terms of their supervision. I’m very pleased to be announcing this new partnership with User Voice and we look forward to working with them to ensure the views of people on probation are at the centre of all of our local inspections.”

Mark Johnson, CEO of User Voice said “User Voice was set up specifically to drive lived experience to the centre of the system, and this opportunity is the culmination of our vision to work closely with the Inspectorate.

“This partnership will ensure the independent user-led voice is heard and remains at the heart of the work of both User Voice and the Inspectorate. Our model of user-led research conducted by peer researchers will ensure engagement is measurable and make sure that service user voices are heard and included in affecting change that will benefit not just the person on probation but the probation service as a whole.”

User Voice are working to capture the voice of people on probation, they want to hear your story. As part of this process you might receive a text message from HM Inspectorate of Probation with a link to complete a survey about your probation experience and also offering you the opportunity to talk to someone from User Voice. For more information visit the User Voice website.

On probation? We want to hear your voice

We think it is important to give a voice to those who are supervised by the services we inspect.

We know that taking part in our inspections can have a positive impact on the lives of people on probation, from wellbeing, recovery to future ambitions – which for some people has even resulted in finding paid work within a probation service.

We are committed to:

  • providing meaningful opportunities for involvement
  • consulting with people on probation
  • making engagement with people on probation accessible.

What we do

We inspect probation and youth justice services. Our inspections look at the work of the services to find out if they are doing their work well. We do this by interviewing their staff, checking their records, and speaking to people on probation.

We then publish a report which explains what we have found. When we find examples of good and poor work, we mention that in our report. If poor work has been found, we make recommendations in the report, so the service knows what it must do to improve.

More than just inspections

We also take a closer look at certain areas of work, for example, racial equality, mental health or how probation deals with drugs and alcohol. We call this a thematic inspection.

These reports include feedback from people on probation. Hearing personal experiences about these issues help us understand what needs to be done to make improvements.

We use independent organisations like EP:IC (Empowering People: Inspiring Change), KeyRing Living Support Networks, Penal Reform Solutions, Revolving Doors and User Voice to do these interviews for us, so that the interviews can be done by people who themselves have lived experience of the criminal justice system.

We have published their findings alongside our reports on:

David and Justine are lived experience consultants who have worked with us in interviewing people on probation:

“Being someone with lived experience, I have witnessed the struggles that others have gone through within the criminal justice system. Being given the opportunity to work alongside the Inspectorate team made me feel valued and understood, it was an honour to hear the journeys of those I interviewed. I could share their story to hopefully make improvements for other people who might come into contact with the criminal justice system.” – David

“I feel privileged to have provided a platform for participants to share their experience of mental health within the criminal justice system. It was important to show the highs and lows of mental health, highlighting those areas that need more work, but also those who are doing great work.” – Justine

Mental health has a small voice. It was fantastic, I was finally heard and understood. I hope I have made a difference.

It was great being heard and not judged.


– People on probation who have previously worked with us.

Learn more about our work

Frequently asked questions

Q – Who are User Voice?

User Voice are a charity set up and run by people who have been in prison and on probation. They are independent and service user led. For more information visit the User Voice website.

Q – How do you select people to be interviewed?

As part of the inspection, we will send you a text message with a link to an online survey asking your views about being supervised. Your responses will go directly to User Voice. You will also be offered the opportunity to contact User Voice on a freephone number to speak to a member of the User Voice Engagement Team. User Voice Engagement Team members will also be out at probation offices and other sites where we are inspecting and be offering different ways for you to give your feedback. It is important to us that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard.

Q – If I say something negative about the way I am supervised, will I get in trouble?

No, all feedback is completely anonymous, and you will never be identified. We want you to be as honest as possible.

Q – Will I be paid for my time?

No, but your input is incredibly valuable to us, and could help us make recommendations that might lead to improving the services that both you and other people who are on probation use.

Q – Will I be identified in the published reports?

No, we never give real names of people on probation in our reports.

Q – What questions will I be asked?

Some example questions you may be asked:

  • Have you been able to access the services you need to make positive changes to your life?
  • Have you been able to access these services in a reasonable time?
  • Have you been able to access these services in your local area or are you having to travel a long way?
  • Are you able to access services relevant to your personal needs (for example: age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality etc)?
  • When needed, have you been able to have conversations in private with your probation officer?
  • Do you feel safe accessing probation services?
Q – How can I make a complaint about the way I have been supervised?

We are unable to deal with individual complaints from people on probation. If you wish to make a complaint, this website provides helpful information on what you need to do.

Helpful information from other organisations

If you need support and advice with other aspects of your life, the following organisations may be helpful:

  • Unlock is a charity that offer online self-help information on a wide range of issues that criminal convictions can affect, including disclosing to employers, criminal record checks, buying insurance, housing and travel abroad.
  • Peer Volunteers provides information on volunteering opportunities for people with lived experience of the criminal justice system, drug and alcohol use, homelessness or multiple needs.  It also offers guidance to organisations on working with people with lived experience.
  • Nacro is a national social justice charity with more than 50 years’ experience of changing lives, building stronger communities and reducing crime. They offer advice on housing, education, offer support, and speak out for and with disadvantaged young people and adults.
  • Mind provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
  • Samaritans is a registered charity aimed at providing emotional support to anyone in emotional distress, struggling to cope, or at risk of suicide.
  • NHS Live Well Advice, tips and tools to help you make the best choices about your health and wellbeing.
  • Citizens Advice specialises in confidential information and advice to assist people with legal, debt, consumer, housing and other problems in the United Kingdom.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous provides help and support for anyone with alcohol problems.
  • Narcotics Anonymous offer support for anyone who wants to stop using drugs.
  • Gamblers Anonymous offer support groups for people who want to stop gambling.

Learn more about how we work with people on probation

Our service user engagement strategy for 2019-2022 details how we will involve service users and/or ex-service users in developing our methodology, in our inspections, and in our organisation as employees.

Read our service user engagement strategy

Karen Kendall, our Participation Lead was asked to write a blog about her role for the Peer Volunteers website. Karen was proud to talk about the importance of her role in ensuring that people on probation have an opportunity to be heard.