A collaborative approach to probation practice
Service user involvement is so much more than ‘bid candy’ – it is a valuable tool in unlocking answers to the challenging question of what works.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) recently published their research on service user involvement in probation practice. The report highlights the benefits and enablers of service user involvement. It also raises HMIP’s concerns about this valuable work getting lost when probation services undergo more change in 2021.
At the time of Transforming Rehabilitation, many bidders said they were actively examining ways service users could have a say in the “how”, “what”, “where” and “when” of probation practice.
At Seetec, we brought in User Voice at the beginning of our contract for Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (KSS CRC) to work with us to improve the quality of our service, through the creation of service user councils and surgeries.
To the experienced practitioner, it will come as no surprise that rehabilitation is most effective when practice falls on fertile ground. By listening to and acting on service user feedback, it creates the right conditions for there to be meaningful engagement. And through community rehabilitation companies, we’ve had the opportunity to hear from service users more than ever before.
For example, at KSS CRC, service users have provided their views on Seetec's delivery model, the locations of delivery sites and specific services for women. They also involve User Voice council members in the recruitment process of senior managers within the community rehabilitation company. And KSS CRC even employs ex-service users as case support workers – a recommendation made by the service user council. This role is helping to prevent reoffending - winning the service a national award and, more recently, European recognition.
HMIP also singles out KSS CRC in their report for praise, after service user involvement has improved the delivery of unpaid work. They said: “Most impressive is that individuals previously subject to unpaid work now make up 14% of the supervisor workforce, an approach that reflects the community rehabilitation company’s commitment to rehabilitation.”
Continuing meaningful service user involvement
So, let’s make sure we do not cast aside the impressive improvements probation services have made over the last four years when things change.
HMPPS and the Ministry of Justice has a Service User Advisory Group to regularly receive reports from probation providers on service user involvement. When they frame the contracts and performance indicators for the reformed service, let’s hope officials will continue to recognise the valuable contribution service user involvement makes.
Learning from best practice, they can make sure they go beyond fine-sounding sentiments to uncover real actions to drive this agenda forward.