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.

How we work with people on probation

HM Inspectorate of Probation offers people on probation the chance to take part in our inspections via a range of surveys and interviews. When we visit a probation area, we will send out a survey to everyone on probation in that area inviting views on the quality of supervision and support being given by probation staff and offering follow-up interviews to people interested in telling us more.

If you are on probation and are selected for interview, we will ask you about your probation service – what’s good? What’s not so good? – to help us find out what improvements are needed. All feedback is completely anonymous. To help with these interviews we employ staff who have been in prison and on probation in the past, so they have been through the system themselves. Further information about how we work with people on probation can be found in our service user engagement strategy.

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.

What we do

We inspect probation and youth offending 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:

Learn more about our work

On probation? What you need to know if you are selected for an interview…

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.


People on probation play a key role in our inspections. If you are on probation, you are the person who knows how your probation service is performing and whether you are getting the right support to move away from further offending. The more we work with people on probation, as part of our inspections, the more we can help to improve probation services.

– Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell

Frequently asked questions

Q – How do you select people on probation to interview?

As part of our inspection, we will contact you by text message and ask you complete a short survey asking for your views about being supervised. The text survey includes an option for those completing it to request a follow-up telephone interview and/or to be considered for inclusion in a focus group during the inspection. Completion of the survey is voluntary.

Q – What if I am not selected and want to give my opinion?

We are currently working on more ways for you to give your opinion, and this is something we will be talking to people on probation about to gather your views. In the meantime, you can speak to your supervisor.

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 – How will the interview take place?

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we are currently conducting interviews by phone or online surveys. Once it is safe to do so, we will look at meeting face to face. We aim to provide a range of opportunities to ensure that people on probation have their say.

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.