Written evidence from Revolving Doors Agency

  1. Revolving Doors is a national charity that has been working for over 25 years to change systems and improve services for people in the revolving door of personal crisis and crime.  People in the revolving door are characterised by repeat low-level, nonviolent offences, such as theft and minor drug offences, linked to multiple underlying problems, including mental ill health, problematic substance use, homelessness, and domestic abuse. Their health, care and offending-related needs go hand in hand with persistent poverty, long-term unemployment, trauma, experience of racism and discrimination, and social exclusion.
  2. We bring independent research, policy expertise and lived experience together to support effective solutions to end the revolving door. We work with policymakers, commissioners, local decision-makers, and frontline professionals to share evidence, demonstrate effective solutions, and change policy,
  3. Our response has been informed by research conducted with people who have lived experience of the revolving door and probation services. We worked with 100 people with lived experience to gather the evidence summarise below. All the quotes provided are directly from people with lived experience of probation supervision and the revolving door. Details below:

39 forum members from South East, West Midlands and North West attended multiple sessions to initiate our ‘lived experience inquiry into probation reform’. This innovative approach is intended to provide clear recommendations from our forum members on how to improve probation, based solely on the lived experience of those who have been under supervision. 

30 interviewees with recent experience of probation, 14 were first time offenders and 16 were repeat offenders. Based across England, including: Norfolk, Manchester, Chesterfield, Peterborough, London, Leicester, Sheffield, Bradford, Dudley, Ipswich, Plymouth, Cornwall, Liverpool, West Midlands, Nottinghamshire, Cheshire, Preston, and Kent.

 

31 people attended four focus groups. Two focus groups focussed on the experiences of remote supervision, the other two focussed on the experiences of Black and/or Muslim men under probation supervision. Based in North West, West Midlands, East of England, and London

 

Response to inquiry questions

 

Question 3: What are your views on the new model of probation?

  1. The new model of probation represents an improvement on the widely scrutinised and criticised Transforming Rehabilitation reforms that brought about the current system. On presenting the Target Operating Model (TOM) to our lived experience forums many were impressed by the ambition, but also sceptical about the extent to which change would be achieved.

 

  1. The people with lived experience that we engaged with were clear that there is much that needs to improve in probation services. It is worth noting that almost everyone we spoke to was clear about the vital role that probation can play in supporting rehabilitation, recovery, and resettlement. We heard several examples of excellent probation practitioners who had turned peoples lives around. However, there were practices that meant the probation service fell short of meeting the expectations and needs of many that we spoke to.  

 

  1. The consistency of feedback between the forums, interviews and focus groups was striking. The experiences of those who had been through the system multiple times appeared to mirror those who were experiencing it for the first time. Suggesting that people in probation services experienced many of the same failing over the years, and not just within recent history.  The feedback reflected the need for a ‘back to basics’ revision of how probation properly assess and support the people under their supervision

 

  1. The ways in which people with lived experience wanted to see the system improve chime with many of the stated ambitions of the reform programme, but they also call for additional changes. These primarily relate to changes in the workforce, processes, basic support and greater consistency. These are summarised below.

 

Lived experience analysis summary

Theme

Summary of ideas

Workforce

  • Inclusion of lived experience in recruitment and training
  • Development of a matching process/service between probation practitioners to service users
  • More transparent feedback processes, and the ability to change probation officers where relationships beak down
  • Greater consistency of responsible officer (and better handover processes where officers change).

Sentence planning & review

  • Increasing meeting length
  • Providing choice and flexibility in the meeting location and the format (face-to-face or remote)
  • Better joint assessment and sentence planning, including regular reviews
  • Improved communication methods, with greater use of technology and more multiple methods.

Rehabilitative support

  • An increased focus on practical support that addresses needs (especially in relation to housing and homelessness)
  • Increased community engagement – accessing other public/community services
  • Improved resettlement planning – especially the first day of release and out of area releases
  • Peer support services, focussed on increasing engagement, compliance and access to relevant support services.

Prison resettlement

  • Provide support earlier, starting the process at reception and planning resettlement well before release
  • Become more flexible in requirements on 1st day of release.

Pre-sentence reports

  • Increasing the time allowed for PSRs to improve their quality
  • Better and more consistent involvement of the service user in the development of PSRs.

Equalities

  • Specialist services that can meet the distinct needs of women
  • Pro-actively tackle racism and discrimination (overt or unconscious) within the workforce
  • Understanding and recognising the impact of racism upon service users
  • Better cultural competence training for staff
  • Better links with local community-based specialist support services that are targeted at people with protected characteristics 
  • More diverse staff that better reflect the people under supervision (protected characteristics and lived experience).

 

Q5: The new model aims to strengthen integration between prisons and probation by integrating through-the-gate roles, processes and products with sentence management. What is your view on this? Do you anticipate any gaps/challenges?

  1. Our respondents viewed probation as a vital support service. They recognized the role that probation has in providing, or supporting them to access, help with issues such as housing., employment, mental health, or substance misuse. Especially on release from custody.

 

  1. However, in most instances our respondents thought that probation was unable to offer the right support to help with their rehabilitation. They described responsible officers who were unable to effectively advocate for them with local services, such as housing. They also felt that officers did not have sufficient knowledge about what local services were available or how to refer to those services. Our respondents often only needed to be pointed in the right direction, or to be provid3ed with practical support to access those services, for example for their officer to complete a referral form, but in many instances this support was not provided.

 

“Left prison homeless, lived in car for three years and was willing to change – probation just ticked me off and sent me on my way”

  1. If probation is going to improve through-the-gate services, then it will need to focus on more contact prior to release and provide practical support, which for many of those we spoke to, seemed in short supply. It is worth noting that many of the people we spoke to had served multiple short sentences, so the experiences of people serving longer sentences may differ. However, very few experienced meaningful engagement or support prior to release, with a significant number being released homeless.

 

  1. The importance of the first day of release from release, as a transition back into the community, was hard to underestimate. Everyone we spoke to talked about how difficult it was, both practically (issues like housing) and emotionally (when thinking about seeing their family or children again). What people most wanted was practical need-focused support, or emotional support. They wanted this support to be in place before leaving prison.

 

I suffered from extreme anxiety when released these things are not taken into account – not asked ‘how are you feeling

  1. Unfortunately, almost all our forum members recalled how unhelpful they found their first meeting with probation after being released from prison. Their frustration stemmed from how bureaucratic the meeting seemed, and how little practical support they received. One forum member said they “just wanted to get out of there”, rather than engage with the probation officer on that first day of release. For those that did not need immediate support, they wondered why the meeting could not be held in the days before release, or within 72 hours of release, rather than on the day of release. Having it on the day of release seemed counter-productive to most.

 

“It’s just a number, it’s just like turning up. If you don’t come, you go back to prison. That’s it”.

  1. Almost all participants agreed that you are unlikely to engage with probation on day one of release. Mainly because the interaction seemed so bureaucratic. If it had been more supportive then that may have changed the dynamic. The suggestion was that the user journey should be changed so that your first visit to probation is primarily focused on needs. This would not exclude conversations about compliance – but the focus should be on rehabilitation. 

 

Being a mother wasn’t taken into account. I had no support. I had to work this out, really hard to adjust. Going to see my son, no one asked how I felt. I was really anxious, wanted to get off my head I was so frightened… I would have liked him to have acknowledged that’”

  1. Participants expressed their reluctance to provide information to probation staff at this first meeting. They expressed that it often set the wrong tone and eroded trust almost immediately. The questions asked by probation staff were often in stark contrast to their concerns, such as seeing family or their children. It was also felt too late to be arranging issues like housing or healthcare at this meeting, and that this should all be done prior to release.

 

“First day out of prison is the worst day, full of fear, no accommodation and so on and so on, family problems, no food and you have to got to go probation and they haven’t got all the answers”

  1. In many cases our respondents asked whether the timing of the meeting could be jointly agreed. This would enable the first meeting to be the most effective and positive it can be, whilst some needed hands on support within those first few days, others felt they needed the time to reconnect with family.

 

  1. Finally, a number of forum members stressed that they had wanted to move to a different area on release from prison, but that this had not been allowed. Some wanted to be released to a different area to be closer to family members, and others simply to escape former social circles that would prevent effective rehabilitation

 

“They need to enable people to make a new start, I had to come out of Brixton to make a new start, to escape my criminality, there is no way it would have worked for me there.”

  1. Our respondents felt that this was a bureaucratic issue, as to whether someone could be moved from one area to another. This was deeply frustrating for them as they saw it as integral to their ability to rehabilitate and resettle without re-offending.  It was suggested that policies relating to re-location be re-assessed to see whether they are genuinely in the interests of either public protection or rehabilitation.

worst is being place in an area you do not want to be – this is not a good area for me. You turn left you see someone you want to avoid… why place someone where there is negative emotion, negative energy”

 

Question 7: How will the National Probation Service ensure that it maintains the innovation and best practice achieved during the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms?

  1. Lived experience members raised concerns about a regression in advances made by some CRCs in relation to involving people with lived experience as volunteers, peer supporters, or even staff. There was a feeling amongst almost all of our engagement that one of the most key ways to increase engagement, compliance and effective rehabilitation was to provide some form of peer support; most often through a combination of volunteering, paid roles and career progression routes into the service. However, there was a feeling that reform often derails good initiatives, and this is what many experienced during Transforming Rehabilitation. Some areas have now developed similar schemes and those involved in them were afraid they might fall by the wayside.

 

  1. In the short term these approaches should be carefully documented and transitioned. Furthermore, the NPS should develop a system-wide approach to the involvement of people with lived experience in the workforce, either through volunteering or paid roles. This could mirror the development of a national peer support model developed by Revolving Doors Agency and NHS Health and Justice in relation to Liaison and Diversion services. We believe this type of approach is missing from the current TOM.

 

  1. A number of women we spoke to mentioned the positive impact of women’s services where they had been commissioned from specialist providers (women-only services). However, these were not universal and the difference in experience for women who did not have access to this support was significant; they often commented on how they would like similar services in their area. 

 

Question 15: Does the new model address workload issues, e.g. high caseloads, recruitment/retention?

  1. We recognise that the probation reforms are attempting to lower caseloads and increase retention, however, the impact of achieving or failing in this aim can not be underestimated. The consistency of probation officer was often highlighted as key to a successful probation service. Consistency enabled people to develop trust and relationships with their probation officer, and to be able to open up to talk about difficult issues.

“On a 12 month order I had four probation officers and not at any one time did I find out that my probation officer changed… I found out at the probation office that the officer had changed”.

  1. Most of our respondents felt that they had too many different probation officers during their time under supervision, in one instance someone had 12 responsible officers over 3 years. We commonly heard that people had 3 or more different officers per year. This made it challenging to build positive relationships that supported their rehabilitation, as these took time to develop. Additionally, our respondents were disappointed that they often found out that their probation officer had changed when attending appointments, and that they didn’t have the opportunity to have a last appointment with their officer.

 

I was never told about changes, nothing was communicated’. Previously I had been getting support with housing and employment, this went ‘out the window’ with the next probation worker. The new officer didn’t pick up on notes from the previous worker.”

  1. Whilst many felt that they had a positive relationship with their original officer, when people met their new officer, the experience was usually poor, with multiple reports of having “to go over old ground”, which was often triggering, re-traumatizing, and largely frustrating. Our respondents could not understand why they were having to re-explain their situation, and many reported that their progress to date was left unaddressed. This was also thought to be an inefficient way to manage the sentence – whereby people felt like they were treading old ground.    Our respondents all pointed to high caseloads as one of the main reasons that probation practitioners could not provide them with the support they needed.

 

“My probation officer, it’s a calling to her, she has too many on her caseload but she goes further and beyond.”

  1. Almost everyone we spoke to was frustrated about how their meetings with probation officers only lasted 15 minutes or less. In some instances, people said it felt like probation officers thought they were “doing them a favour by keeping meetings short. Many expressed their frustration at not being able to get any meaningful support in that time, and that the limited they had with their officer meant that the relationship turned into a bureaucratic one, ticking boxes and checking compliance, rather than helping them to deal with their often complex needs including addiction, mental ill-health, unemployment or benefits, inappropriate accommodation or homelessness.

 

“One person might only need 15 minutes another person might need an hour… Going above and beyond comes with empathy and should be the normal. Some people won’t do things because it’s not in their job remit”

  1. As our respondents knew their meetings with officers were likely to be so short, they recounted how they purposefully withheld information about key areas of need, or issues that were troubling them, because they did not think those issues could be dealt with in the allocated time. They described how they often actively chose not to engage as a result.

 

“You’re getting something out of probation not just going there as a punishment. You need time [to talk]”.

 

Question 16: What progress has been made towards probation being recognised as a “skilled profession”?

  1. The quality of probation practitioners was central to the assessment (positive or negative) of probation services by those who had been under supervision. What HMPPS and the reform programme need to carefully consider is, what skills do probation staff need to possess to be considered effective by those who are under its supervision.

 

  1. Where people had a good experience, they described their responsible officer as “going above and beyond”. When probed as to what that meant, people recalled responsible officers that had showed empathy and compassion, conducted regular phone calls between meetings, successfully advocated for services such as housing or employment, and linked them with local support services to either address needs or simply to provide link people with their local community (hobbies and other activities). 

 

“My last experience was, this woman showed me a lot of compassion, she really, really, helped me. I’ve not experienced that before. My first impressions of her were that she was going to be hard work…. She went out of her way to help with my recovery and journey. She gave me things to do, she’d give me bus passes to go to AA(?) meetings, I’d never experienced that before. I’d look forward to seeing her. We’d talk about life and the areas of trouble I had. She kept me occupied, learning to use a computer. Even when I went into detox she sent me cards and was phoning me every couple of days. She got the ball rolling to get me into detox and then get my own accommodation – she realised that the hostel I was in before wasn’t a good place to be.” 

  1. In many instances the difference between a positive and negative experience was described as the difference between someone who showed empathy and compassion, as opposed to someone who was there to tick a box. In too many instances we heard people describe their interactions with probation officers as a “hi and bye” system; this phrase repeatedly came up in forums, interviews and focus groups. Many described the average length of a meeting with their responsible officer as being 5 minutes or less, which was not sufficient to address practical support issues. It is quite probable that high case loads made this approach inevitable, and people were cognisant of that, with many stating that they knew how busy and over-worked their probation officers were.

 

“The last probation officer, only had him for about 6 weeks. I got more out of him than anyone else. He gave me a phone number out of hours and said I could call him in. Really interested in me, and my journey. Phoned me out of hours. It made me feel good, he cared, had compassion”.

  1. The forum members felt their relationship with their responsible officer was integral to their engagement with the Probation service, they suggested that recruitment and training process could be adapted to assess for, and train people to, behave in a “more empathetic and compassionate” way. For many this was as much about recruiting the right people, as it was about training them to do the job in a more empathetic and trauma-informed way. They suggested that lived experience could be built into the recruitment process to provide a separate assessment as to whether candidates had the skills and aptitude to work with people who have complex needs.

 

“It should be trauma informed, their reactions to you increases trauma”

  1. In terms of ongoing training, forum members expressed a strong interest in relaying both their positive and negative experiences of probation directly with new recruits to help them understand how they can build better relationships with their clients. For staff that have been in post for longer, it was suggested that those with lived experience could play a role in refresher training and to support staff to reflect on their practices.

 

“Lived experience people should be more involved, probation really needs us guys in there, outdated, it doesn’t work, something really needs to change”

  1. A significant number suggested that people with lived experience be recruited to work in the probation service, and that this could radically change the culture of the organisation. Potentially through the creation of a recruitment target for those that have been through the system that pushed change in recruitment processes and campaigns. In addition, it was felt that probation officers should be supported to disclose their own offending history and experience if that was considered useful and appropriately risk assessed, in order to increase engagement. We were told that probation practitioners are currently barred from disclosing their own lived experience of the justice system.

 

“Good probation officers, they see the value of good lived experience. If you’re going in cold you just want out of there, you’re not going to build a relationship, and nothing is going to get done…You go in, bump your head and get out. You want it to be as painless as possible”. [Peer support] Might even just change their way of thinking, it will just change the way they work. It will increase the empathy.”

  1. Respondents felt that peer support would have likely helped them to engage with probation at an earlier stage and possibly supported earlier desistance from crime. Additionally, a number of respondents expressed that it wasn’t until they talked to someone who had the same life experience as their own, who had turned their life around, that they started to think about their own issues and needs. 

 

  1. Forum members also considered the idea of a matching-approach or service, that linked service users to the right probation officers to enhance the likelihood of engagement. Forum members told us that the right ‘match’ with a probation practitioner often turned into a life-changing experience that was integral to the success of their rehabilitation. But many felt stuck working with people with whom they could not connect, or with officers where the relationship had broken down which made their rehabilitation much more challenging.

 

“People don’t get on sometimes’. People with lived experience could help mediate this relationship. Big advocate for lived experience in probation. Some form of assessment to make the match work is needed.”

 

  1. There was a strong feeling that people with lived experience could act as a useful buffer between service users and their prospective probation officers, and that those with lived experience could play an important role in supporting a new matching process. This was particularly raised in relation to prison release, but it could equally apply to community sentences.

 

Question 18: What lessons have been learnt from this period of Exceptional Delivery, that should be taken forward into the new model of probation delivery?

  1. The Exceptional Delivery Model (EDM), developed to continue supervision during lockdown restrictions and to maintain social distancing, has gathered mixed feedback from the people we spoke to. It is worth noting that the evidence we collected will not include feedback from those who are digitally excluded; having no access to the technology to participate in remote calls (voice or video). If any model is to be proposed because of this EDM then further evidence gathering of the feedback from those least able to engage must be prioritised. Below we summarised the main points raised by our focus groups.

 

Lived experience of EDM – remote supervision (summary of focus groups)

Theme

Summary

Remote contact is potentially useful

  • Everybody felt that it should be an option.
  • Many appreciated the flexibility it offered.
  • It has been a help for some during lockdown, especially in relation to managing wellbeing, loneliness and mental health.
  • It is financially less burdensome, especially for those who must travel long distances to probation appointments.
  • It may be more difficult to develop new relationships.
  • Issues of privacy in a family or share home might cause issues, and the presence of domestic abuse will likely undermine the usefulness of remote supervision. 

The quality of support matters

  • Where there is a lack of practical support people are disinclined to engage with probation services in terms of their rehabilitation and recovery.
  • People wanted more time with, and more practical support from probation.
  • 15-minute meetings were viewed as ‘tick-box’ and therefore unhelpful. This may contribute to the dislike of face-to-face meetings.
  • The high turnover of responsible officers (noted by many) had a negative impact on relationships.

Give people a choice

  • Everyone wanted a choice in the contact methods used, and that these should be individually tailored and agreed.
  • There was a mix of feedback in relation to face-to-face, audio-only, video and doorstep visits.
  • Women were very critical of ‘Interview booths’ in CRCs.
  • Women wanted a women-only space and often found probation offices traumatising places to visit.

Access to technology is not a given

  • Everyone had access to the technology to assist with remote supervision.
  • Almost no one had experienced video calls.
  • Not everyone will have access to the right technology.

 

  1. The existing relationships with probation officers was a complex picture that ranged from poor to excellent, and in some cases people were indifferent. When these relationships were good remote supervision generally worked well, when they were not then remote supervision caused issues. We heard a number of instances where people changed probation officers during lockdown, which appears to have been particularly difficult and caused issues in terms of losing relationships, communication breakdown and in some instances with warnings issued for breach or an increase in the frequency of contact.   In some instances we heard people describe changes in probation officers as real set-backs, with one participant stating that he felt his probation officer “was trying to deal with me like I’m fresh out of prison, I’ve had no incidents for 3 years”, which was thought very damaging to the overall relationship with probation.

 

“I think I’d have preferred a phone call instead of just a text message - I’ve lost that rapport, I know if I had any issues I could call her any time - basically I’ve not spoken to anyone since March. It would be nice to just have a call. The texts just happened and that was it - I’ll text you on this date at this time. So perhaps a telephone call would be better for me, cause, I will be on probation for quite a long time, the next two or three years, so I do need that relationship. It’s prevented me slightly from having a relationship, hopefully I can get on telephone calls and build that back up. Fortunately, I’ve got no needs, I’m in employment - so maybe that’s how she sees it, I’m not a problem, but I was only released a year or two from prison.”

“…when I started to get to know my probation officer was when it changed. And I do feel like I could ring her if I needed but with just having text message I feel like I’ve lost that rapport, I feel the relationship is actually going down whereas perhaps by telephone or skype or something would be better with me.”

  1. Where relationships with probation tended to be more strained was when it came to practical support. For those with fewer support needs remote supervision was thought to be adequate, but for others it felt like a ‘tick-box’ exercise that did not focus on meeting their needs.

 

“From my point of view yeah, it’s just a tick-box situation even now when I have my appointments on the phone it’s ‘how are you [tick], ok [tick], your next appointment will be [tick] - never asking me how I’m getting on with job hunting or anything like that, I’ve had to divulge it all myself.”

 

  1. Practice needs to be carefully managers. There were some examples where the participants felt that the probation officer’s use of technology went too far. This included the use of GPS location submissions via google maps to prove their location, and using the camera on their phone during calls to show their probation officer their surroundings. In one instance this related to proof of location, however, it did not seem to be the case that this was part of their order or licence conditions.

 

“I think mine’s got a lot more personal because we’re not in the office, she’s more relaxed, and in the office there’s a booth so there might be people around so I think it’s working really well… it’s not got that authority, has it. Just a little more relaxed on the phone.”

 

  1. It was notable that many women referenced women’s centres or other agencies they were engaged with as contributing quite significantly to their feeling supported. Especially in terms of being supported in a women-only space and being dealt with in a way that “wasn’t just about the criminal aspect”. The women reported a mixed experience with probation. Some were content with remote supervision, others wanted more face-to-face contact, and others wanted more contact but in women-only spaces (especially when people had recently been released from prison or where a male responsible officer or key worker might trigger trauma. However, in many cases the women reported a desire to have more support from probation, especially in terms of accessing other support services. Some felt that they had not received any support, mainly because they were perceived to be ‘low-risk’.

“I think it’d be brilliant to have only appointments in women’s only spaces, it’s so overwhelming being released, it’s a massive relief but you’ve got all these lads here having cigarettes, shouting, you’re in such a controlled environment and it’s so strange. I’d have liked an appointment in a women’s centre where they can give you a cup of coffee and sit down with you, instead it was just the duty probation officer who gave me an appointment, there were no other women, it was just overwhelming.”

  1. One of the women commented of the probation office (use of booths) that she could overhear sensitive conversations and was aware that other people could hear her too. At home she has felt more able to show emotions more and talk a lot freer. She also reported that she could cover more issues and more personal things concerning her children or partner, and that this has improved her relationship with the probation officer.

 

  1. Most of the men were fairly content with remote contact, although when they were more engaged, that was when they were more likely to want a mix of remote and face-to-face support. Some felt that the introduction of more remote supervision, especially for simple check-ins, was simply a ‘sign of the times’ and that probation should have been taking a much more mixed method approach to contacting them.

 

“Times are moving on, these people [probation] are left behind… A suggestion that came from a CRC council meeting [user voice council] was can we do meetings like this, over the phone, we floated it and they said no… you have to remember the time we’re going through, if Covid weren’t here we wouldn’t be doing this.’

 

  1. It was clear that many had struggled to cope, or had to find new coping mechanisms, for lockdown. For some, the ability to speak to a probation officer was welcome and was often described as just nice to have someone to talk to. Others raised issues of trauma, stating that lockdown felt like being back in prison – something which resonated with several participants.

 

“I was losing my marbles trapped in here and it was nice to just chat to someone on the phone, it really, really helped me to be honest.”

 

  1. It was clear that some had struggled with mental health and/or substance misuse issue, which had been made worse by lockdown. Clearly probation is viewed as a potential route to support, and for some it is, but for others that does not seem to be the case.

 

It [lockdown] hasn’t affected me, but through Covid I got signed off work. I’m unwell… I’ve just been like, living like a prisoner in your own home. I just surround myself with everything I need. I’m accessing services. Boredom drove me to relapse, but it’s only cannabis.

“It’s helped me, I do suffer with poor mental health and we’ve been able to talk about things I wouldn’t have talked about in the office, I’d have just smiled through it and I’ve been a bit more authentic.”

“It would’ve helped if each of our POs had just contacted us out of common courtesy when the lockdown was announced to see if we needed any help and support and if not, signpost us to where we could get that support.”

 

Question 19: Are there any other areas relating to the Probation Reform Programme that you would like to brief the Committee on, that are not already covered by the Terms of Reference above? (If yes, please provide information)

  1. We recommend the committee request a summary of the extent to which the probation reform programme has co-produced its approach with current or former service users. It is our opinion that much more could be done to inform the development of the detail of the offender management model in court, community and prison resettlement. In addition, we believe that the workforce strategy could benefit considerably by working alongside people with lived experience to co-produce recruitment and training practices, as well as approaches to peer support models. It is our belief that the level of involvement of people with lived experience in this crucial design process has been too small, but that if implemented now it could still have a significant and beneficial impact on the design of future probation services. 

 

  1. We recommend the committee look in more depth at the extent to which the probation reform programme is designing services and the workforce in ways that meet the diverse needs of people with protected characteristics. The government’s female offender strategy offers significant advice on how that should be achieved for women. But there is less guidance for how the design should meet the needs of people from different communities, address racism or discrimination. Or how services will be adapted for people with Learning Disabilities or Difficulties, those with Autism, those with physical disabilities, or those people from specific faith communities. These approaches need clear national steer from HMPPS to guide the NPS, even if implementation and monitoring will be required at the regional level. There are multiple organisations that provide specialist advice in these areas and we recommend that the HMPPS probation programme actively involve them in design decisions.

 

 

 


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Lived experience inquiry – Probation Services

Discover Phase – Interim report for Ministry of Justice and HMPPS

June 2020

 

 

  1. Introduction

Revolving Doors Agency has developed a ‘lived experience inquiry model’ to explore how we can improve probation services. Our aim is to improve existing services, and where possible develop new approaches, that will improve outcomes and ultimately reduce re-offending.

Revolving Doors defines severe disadvantage as people that experience repeat contact with the Criminal Justice System, mental ill-health, substance misuse, homelessness, associated trauma, poverty, and discrimination. This inquiry is co-produced with our forum membership, all of whom have lived experience of the revolving door.

This document summarises our initial findings from the first phase of the inquiry, the ‘discover phase’, based solely on feedback from people with lived experience of the criminal justice system.

The aim of sharing this interim report with the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS is twofold:

 

  1. Inquiry process

We are utilising the Design Council’s double diamond approach for our inquiry.  This allows us to separate the inquiry into four stages. Phase one allows us to discover issues and good practice. Phase two will focus on choosing what we want to develop further. Phase three will develop practical change that will improve probation services. Phase four will be deliver that change.  

We are still in phase one of the inquiry, and we are seeking to collaborate closely with Ministry of Justice and HMPPS for the remainder of our inquiry so that we can improve the depth of the inquiry and ensure that the inquiry can have positive real-world impact on current probation services, with a particular focus on those being developed by the Probation Reform Programme within HMPPS and the role of Regional Probation Directors in shaping future services. 

 

 

  1. Recommendations

3.1   Create an inquiry advisory group with representatives from HMPPS, MoJ, HMI Probation, Revolving Doors Agency and representatives from our forum. This group will be a critical friend to the inquiry and help steer its direction. Secretariat and chair would be provided by Revolving Doors.

3.2  Explore the ability to test the interim findings of this inquiry by hosting a number of focus groups and interviews with probation practitioners.

 

  1. Summary of the inquiry findings to date

Note that the table below is an interim summary based on discussions with people who have been (or are) probation service users (30 interviews and four forums run by Revolving Doors - see methodology below in section 5).

Discover phase analysis

Broad theme

Summary of ideas

Workforce

  • Inclusion of lived experience in recruitment and training
  • Development of a matching process/service between probation practitioners to service users
  • More transparent feedback processes
  • Greater consistency of responsible officer (and better handover processes).

Sentence planning & review

  • Increasing meeting length (and flexibility of meeting location/format)
  • Joint assessment and sentence planning
  • Improved communication methods.

Rehabilitative support

  • An increased focus on practical support that addresses needs (especially in relation to housing and homelessness)
  • Increased community engagement – accessing other public/community services
  • Improved resettlement planning – especially the first day of release and out of area releases
  • Peer support services, focus on increasing engagement and compliance.

Pre-sentence reports

  • Increasing the time allowed for PSRs to improve their quality
  • Better involvement of the service user in the development of PSRs.
  1. Methodology and sample size

We held three virtual lived experience inquiry forum sessions, with a total of 39 forum members in attendance, throughout June 2020 in London, Manchester and Birmingham. At these bespoke inquiry forum sessions, we asked people with lived experience one question: What would you change to improve probation services for people in the revolving door?

We also conducted 30 interviews between April-June 2020 (telephone/video) to ask the following question: What has your experience been like with the probation service? These interviews included a range of criminal justice experience, from first time defendants to more prolific offenders.

We also include evidence from a prior lived experience forum run by the HMPPS Probation Reform Programme on the design of future probation services, which was held in Birmingham on 20th February 2020.

In total, we engaged 69 people with lived experience of probation for this first phase of the inquiry

39 forum members

30 interviewees

 

 

  1. Findings

Below we have summarized the themes that emerged from the inquiry so far. This first phase of the inquiry (our ‘discovery’ phase) aims to ‘create choices’, so that we have a clear set of areas that could be developed by the inquiry. This will allow us to ‘make choices’ about what to focus on in phase two of the inquiry (our ‘define’ phase).

It is worth noting that almost everyone was clear about the vital role that probation can play in supporting rehabilitation, recovery, and resettlement. We heard several examples of excellent probation practitioners who had turned peoples lives around. However, there were practices that meant the probation service fell short of meeting the expectations and needs of the people we spoke to.  

The consistency of feedback between the forums and the interviews was striking. The experiences of those who had been through the system multiple times appeared to mirror those who were experiencing it for the first time.

 

6.1  Probation practitioner – recruitment and training

The quality of probation practitioners was central to the assessment (positive or negative) of probation services.

 

Where people had a good experience, they described their responsible officer as “going above and beyond”. When probed as to what that meant, people recalled responsible officers that had showed empathy and compassion, conducted regular phone calls between meetings, successfully advocated for services such as housing or employment, and linked them with local support services to either address needs or simply to provide link people with their local community (hobbies and other activities). 

 

“My last experience was, this woman showed me a lot of compassion, she really, really, helped me. I’ve not experienced that before. My first impressions of her were that she was going to be hard work…. She went out of her way to help with my recovery and journey. She gave me things to do, she’d give me bus passes to go to AA(?) meetings, I’d never experienced that before. I’d look forward to seeing her. We’d talk about life and the areas of trouble I had. She kept me occupied, learning to use a computer. Even when I went into detox she sent me cards and was phoning me every couple of days. She got the ball rolling to get me into detox and then get my own accommodation – she realised that the hostel I was in before wasn’t a good place to be.” 

 

In many instances the difference between a positive and negative experience was described as the difference between someone who showed empathy and compassion, as opposed to someone who was there to tick a box. In too many instances we heard people describe their interactions with probation officers as a “hi and bye” system (this is a direct quote from two forum members and one interviewee). Many described the average length of a meeting with their responsible officer as being 5 minutes or less, which was not sufficient to address practical support issues.

 

“The last probation officer, only had him for about 6 weeks. I got more out of him than anyone else. He gave me a phone number out of hours and said I could call him in. Really interested in me, and my journey. Phoned me out of hours. It made me feel good, he cared, compassion”.

 

The forum members felt their relationship with their responsible officer was integral to their engagement with the Probation service, they suggested that recruitment and training process could be adapted to assess for, and train people to, behave in a “more empathetic and compassionate” way. For many this was as much about recruiting the right people, as it was about training them to do the job in a more empathetic and trauma-informed way. They suggested that lived experience could be built into the recruitment process to provide a separate assessment as to whether candidates had the skills and aptitude to work with people who have complex needs.

 

“It should be trauma informed, their reactions to you increases trauma”

 

In terms of ongoing training, forum members expressed a strong interest in relaying both their positive and negative experiences of probation directly with new recruits to help them understand how they can build better relationships with their clients. For staff that have been in post for longer, it was suggested that those with lived experience could play a role in refresher training and to support staff to reflect on their practices.

 

“Lived experience people should be more involved, probation really needs us guys in there, outdated, it doesn’t work, something really needs to change”

 

A significant number suggested that people with lived experience be recruited to work in the probation service. Potentially through the creation of a recruitment target for those that have been through the system that pushed change in recruitment processes and campaigns. In addition, it was felt that probation officers should be supported to disclose their own offending history and experience if that was considered useful and appropriately risk assessed, in order to increase engagement. We were told that probation practitioners are currently barred from disclosing their own lived experience of the justice system.

 

6.2  Matching probation practitioners to their service user

Forum members also considered the idea of a matching-approach or service, that linked service users to the right probation officers to enhance the likelihood of engagement. Forum members told us that the right ‘match’ with a probation practitioner often turned into a life-changing experience that was integral to the success of their rehabilitation. But many felt stuck working with people with whom they could not connect, or with officers where the relationship had broken down which made their rehabilitation much more challenging.

 

“People don’t get on sometimes’. People with lived experience could help mediate this relationship. Big advocate for lived experience in probation. Some form of assessment to make the match work is needed.”

There was a strong feeling that people with lived experience could act as a useful ‘buffer’ between service users and their prospective probation officers, and that those with lived experience could play an important role in supporting a new matching process. This was particularly raised in relation to prison release, but it could equally apply to community sentences.

 

6.3  Feedback processes

It was suggested by our respondents that the performance of probation practitioners should be opened to more transparent feedback. Our respondents wanted to both praise good practice and constructively provide feedback about poor practice, to help ensure that a consistently excellent service was delivered. Our respondents do not currently feel able to provide that feedback on their experience, and so an anonymous feedback mechanism could help with service improvement through constructive feedback.

 

In addition, it was felt that when relationships had broken down, that there was little consideration given as to whether people could change probation officer. We heard instances of relationships that had broken down, but where the service user was told they could not change probation officer. Although there may be operational reasons as to why that is the case, when we know that good working relationships are at the heart of a successful probation service, then it seems unproductive to maintain professional relationships that had become, for whatever reason, irreparably damaged.

 

Our forum members considered whether this process could be reviewed.

 

6.4  Consistency of probation officer

The consistency of probation officer was often highlighted as key to a successful probation service, Consistency enabled people to develop trust and relationships with their probation officer, and to be able to open up to talk about difficult issues.

On a 12 month order I had four probation officers and not at any one time did I find out that my probation officer changed… I found out at the probation office that the officer had changed”.

 

Most of our respondents felt that they had too many different probation officers during their time under supervision, in one instance someone had 12 responsible officers over 3 years. We commonly heard that people had 3 or more different officers per year. This made it challenging to build positive relationships that supported their rehabilitation, as these took time to develop. Additionally, our respondents were disappointed that they often found out that their probation officer had changed when attending appointments, and that they didn’t have the opportunity to have a last appointment with their officer.

 

I was never told about changes, nothing was communicated’. Previously I had been getting support with housing and employment, this went ‘out the window’ with the next probation worker. The new officer didn’t pick up on notes from the previous worker.”

 

Whilst many felt that they had a positive relationship with their original officer, when people met their new officer, the experience was usually poor, with multiple reports of having “to go over old ground”, which was often triggering, re-traumatizing, and largely frustrating. Our respondents could not understand why they were having to re-explain their situation, and many reported that their progress to date was left unaddressed. This was also thought to be an inefficient way to manage the sentence – whereby people felt like they were treading old ground.    

 

 

6.5  Caseloads & meeting length

Our respondents all pointed to high caseloads as one of the main reasons that probation practitioners could not provide them with the support they needed.

 

“My probation officer, it’s a calling to her, she has too many on her caseload but she goes further and beyond.”

 

Almost everyone we spoke to was frustrated about how their meetings with probation officers only lasted 5 minutes or less. In some instances, people said it felt like probation officers thought they were ‘doing them a favour’ by keeping meetings short. But many expressed their frustration at not being able to get any meaningful support in that time, and that the limited they had with their officer meant that the dynamic turned into a bureaucratic one, ticking boxes and checking compliance, rather than helping them to deal with their  complex needs including addiction, mental ill-health, unemployment or benefits, inappropriate accommodation or homelessness.

 

“One person might only need 15 minutes another person might need an hour’. ‘Going above and beyond comes with empathy and should be the normal. Some people won’t do things because it’s not in their job remit”

 

As our respondents knew their meetings were officers were likely to be so short, they recounted how they purposefully withheld information about key areas of need, or issues that were troubling them, because they did not think those issues could be dealt with in the allocated time. They described how they often actively chose not to engage as a result.

 

“You’re getting something out of probation not just going there as a punishment. You need time [to talk]”.

 

Some people we spoke to also had experience of remote supervision, because of Covid-19. Where people had a direct line to their probation officer this was felt to be extremely helpful. They could often arrange appointments for a time that better suited their work or childcare and were given the flexibility to miss a call and get back in touch at a time they were in a better frame of mind to engage. They felt unable to do this at face-to-face appointment as they were worried about breaching their licence conditions. In some instances, telephone contact may play a critical role in increasing engagement in the future as it provides greater flexibility. However, we did hear a few experiences of  respondents being stuck on hold, being unable to reach their probation officer, and one example of someone who had not had any contact from their probation officer since lockdown (over 2 months of no contact), which was concerning.

 

We also heard from some NPS service users that they particularly appreciated the doorstep visits they were given as they felt they had longer and more productive meetings in this more comfortable setting.

 

 

 

6.6  Joint assessment and sentence planning

Probation has a critical role in doing a robust assessment and developing a sentence plan that reflects needs and risks. Many of our respondents told us that one of the challenges they faced in their rehabilitation was struggling to understand the underlying issues that caused them to offend. One person told us that they were in and out of prison for 17 years without knowing that they were suffering from mental ill-health, and thus without access to medical help that could support their rehabilitation. They had undergone multiple assessments, yet it remained un-identified for such a long time.

 

The provision of a more in-depth needs assessments could both better identify unresolved needs that prevent effective rehabilitation and also develop more appropriate service responses to resolving these needs, and thus in turn supporting rehabilitation. Respondents told us that the critical issue was whether they trusted their responsible officer enough to tell them what was going on in their lives. Often, they did not. This highlights the need to revamp the assessment process and consider a different approach, possibly one that has a more equal emphasis on needs and strengths in comparison to risks.

 

“I’m still dealt with and treated like a criminal, haven’t committed an offence for seven years…  on paper it looks exaggerated’ ‘sound horrendous, swearing when arrested, they look at the previous, you’re always judge… care about where they are going not what they’ve done”

 

Our respondents wanted to work with probation to co-create their sentence plan, thinking together about the support they needed. However, currently many experience assessment and sentence planning as a one-way process that is often focused on their risks, rather than their needs, and structured around attending activities (likely referring to accredited programmes or unpaid work). The alternative would be to jointly design and agree a plan that built in flexibility for changes in circumstances (such as accommodation or employment). The plan should address risks, but it could also focus on core needs, and have some elements of aspirations and hopes that might make the interaction less formulaic. 

 

“change the criteria, making progress is reintegrating into the community not just turning up”.

 

People wanted a plan that they worked on together – “not just focused on breach and negatives” and that “Plans should build self-confidence and self-esteem”. They felt this would increase their buy-in and likely increase engagement. Some people also wanted to see more transparency in relation to the information held about them, describing that they wanted to “access everything promised to you and written about you”. In some instances we understand that information will not be able to be divulged, but it was felt that both parties should set out plans together and jointly agree them and be as transparent as possible if probation services are to develop trusting relationships.

 

6.7   Communications

When we heard examples of good probation practice it was often linked to regular calls, officers giving out mobile numbers to reach them on, checking in regularly, and offering support out of hours and signposting to other activities and services that were not part of the sentence plan or licence conditions. Regular telephone conversations were seen as very useful, but only when used in combination with in-person meetings to help develop a good relationship and create regular communication. Our respondents also felt that home visits and meeting in community setting was helpful, once relationships with their officer were more well established

 

“A lot of face to face contact might be offered in a unique, or community setting rather than the business as usual in the probation office… Maybe once a month in the probation office and maybe the rest in the community, that’s more inviting. Might be more informal, if we could go and get a coffee, it might make a relationship rather than the service user and professional.”

 

Poor communication and ‘customer service’ was often at the heart of dissatisfaction with probation. This included examples of finding out your probation officer had changed when attending for a meeting, or receiving a letter stipulating that recall proceedings were being enacted for breach, despite attending all appointments and without the responsible officer being aware of the letter being sent (presumably from an admin hub/an admin error). Many of our respondents voiced their frustration at trying to pro-actively contact probation offices, with phones often going unanswered.

 

“I got letters that I had breached when I had attended. I did get an explanation, but I think it was a bit of a cop out. It came from another office. I was really worried about it. I never got an answer when I called the probation office. I had to travel to the probation office because no one was answering the phone.”

 

A downside of telephone contact was a practical concern that our respondents often could not afford the data to access voicemails, “Understand, people don’t always have credit”. As an alternative. text messages were often preferred. Others also stressed that people in crisis, especially in relation to physical health issues, may be able to tell probation officers they are doing great on phone but, as one forum member stated,  “face to face you would see the reality”.

 

We would want to explore the different ways of communication in different settings, especially in response to emergency delivery models that had to be implemented during Covid-19.

 

6.8   Delivering practical and needs-led support

Our respondents viewed probation as a vital support service. They recognized the role that probation has in providing, or supporting them to access, help with issues such as housing., employment, mental health, or substance misuse.

 

However, in most instances our respondents thought that probation was unable to offer the right support to help with their rehabilitation. They described responsible officers who were unable to effectively advocate for them with local services, such as housing. They also felt that officers did not have sufficient knowledge about what local services were available or how to refer to those services. Our respondents often only needed to be pointed in the right direction, or to be provid3ed with practical support to access those services, for example for their officer to complete a referral form, but in many instances this support was not provided.

 

“Left prison homeless, lived in car for three years and was willing to change – probation just ticked me off and sent me on my way”

 

 

6.9   Community engagement

In addition to the needs-led services mentioned above, we heard from multiple respondents about the importance of being linked in to community-based (and/or led) services that could provide them with skills, or simply a different kind of social interaction, to support their rehabilitation. In many instances people wanted to find ways to change their social life and their habits. Often this was outside of traditional ‘offender-behavior’ services, and related to accessing new social circles through local community activities such as hobbies or sports.

When attempting to engage in such positive activities, many respondents found that their probation officers were unaware of what sort of services they might be able to engage in. To support service users to engage in these positive activities, our respondents felt that probation officers should be more aware of community services or activities people could engage in.

 

6.10                        Peer support

“I would say I was alright however I was feeling, that barrier needs to be put down. I never knew how to connect…You see probation just to sign something. I looked at them as authority figures, so I continued to what I had always done… never had a connection with those people’

We heard examples of where peer support could provide additional support in probation settings; paid and volunteer peer support roles to improve engagement, prison resettlement support, recruiting people with lived experience into the probation workforce.  It was felt that a peer support worker could help build trust by mediating between the client and the service.

              “People with lived experience could be the buffer between the probation officer”  

Respondents felt that peer support would have likely helped them to engage with probation at an earlier stage and possibly supported earlier desistance from crime. Additionally, a number of respondents expressed that it wasn’t until they talked to someone who had the same life experience as their own, who had turned their life around, that they started to think about their own issues and needs. 

“Peer support would help the language and dynamics of probationIt would bring more understanding and empathy to service

Some felt that what the probation service needed was a culture shift – away from a bureaucratic service into one that helped teams to see the compassion and empathy needed to genuinely engage someone in the act of changing their life. Peer support workers were thought to be a vital part of the system if that culture change was to be achieved.

“Good probation officers, they see the value of good lived experience. If you’re going in cold you just want out of there, you’re not going to build a relationship, and nothing is going to get doneYou go in, bump your head and get out. You want it to be as painless as possible”. [Peer support] Might even just change their way of thinking, it will just change the way they work. It will increase the empathy.”

 

6.11                       Prison release (first day)

 

The importance of the first day of release from release, as a transition back into the community, was hard to underestimate. Everyone we spoke to talked about how difficult it was, both practically (issues like housing) and emotionally (when thinking about seeing their family or children again). What people most wanted was practical need-focused support, or emotional support. However, they wanted these things to be in place before leaving prison.

 

I suffered from extreme anxiety when released these things are not taken into account – not asked ‘how are you feeling

 

Unfortunately, almost all our forum members recalled how unhelpful they found their first meeting with probation after being released from prison. Their frustration stemmed from how bureaucratic the meeting seemed, and how little practical support they received. In addition many said they ‘just wanted to get out of there’, rather than engage with the probation officer. For those that did not need immediate support, they wondered why the meeting could not be held in the days before release, or within 72 hours of release, rather than on the day of release. Having it on the day of release seemed counter-productive to most.

 

“It’s just a number, it’s just like turning up. If you don’t come, you go back to prison. That’s it”.

 

Almost all participants agreed that you are unlikely to engage with probation on day one of release. Mainly because the interaction seemed so bureaucratic. If it had been more supportive then that may have changed the dynamic. The suggestion was that the user journey should be changed so that your first visit to probation is primarily focused on needs. This would not exclude conversations about compliance – but the focus should be on rehabilitation. 

 

Being a mother wasn’t taken into account. I had no support. I had to work this out, really hard to adjust. Going to see my son, no one asked how I felt. I was really anxious, wanted to get off my head I was so frightened… I would have liked him to have acknowledged that’”

 

People expressed their reluctance to provide information to probation staff at this first meeting. They expressed that it often set the wrong tone and eroded trust almost immediately. The questions asked by probation staff were often in contrast to their concerns, such as seeing family or their children. It was also felt too late to be arranging issues like housing or healthcare at this meeting, and that this should all be done prior to release.

 

“First day out of prison is the worst day, full of fear, no accommodation and so on and so on, family problems, no food and you have to got to go probation and they haven’t got all the answers”

 

In many cases our respondents asked whether the timing of the meeting could be jointly agreed. This would enable the first meeting to be the most effective and positive it can be, whilst some needed hands on support within those first few days, others felt they needed the time to reconnect with family.

 

6.12                        Out of area release

A number of forum members stressed that they had wanted to move to a different area on release from prison, but that this had not been allowed. Some wanted to be released to a different area to be closer to family members, and others simply to escape former social circles that would prevent effective rehabilitation

 

“They need to enable people to make a new start, I had to come out of Brixton to make a new start, to escape my criminality, there is no way it would have worked for me there.”

 

Our respondents felt that this was a bureaucratic issue, as to whether someone could be moved from one area to another. This was deeply frustrating for them as they saw it as integral to their ability to rehabilitate and resettle without re-offending. 

 

worst is being place in an area you do not want to be – this is not a good area for me. You turn left you see someone you want to avoid… why place someone where there is negative emotion, negative energy

 

It was suggested that policies relating to re-location be re-assessed to see whether they are genuinely in the interests of the service user.

 

6.13                        Pre-sentence reports

Many respondents raised that information provided to the courts was out of date, and in some extreme cases, related to a previous offence.

 

Our respondents shared examples of where pre-sentence reports felt rushed or did not reflect the circumstances of the offence. People felt that probation staff were letting them down by not taking more time to do more rigorous pre-sentence reports.

 

 

 

             


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Lived experience inquiry – Probation Services

Exceptional Delivery Model (EDM) – remote supervision

July 2020

 

  1. Introduction

This document summarises the views presented by two focus groups with people who have lived experience of being under probation supervision during lockdown, and therefore have experience of the EDM and remote supervision. The focus groups were convened online by Revolving Doors Agency and took place during July 2020.

 

  1. Methodology and sample size

We held two virtual focus groups, with a total of 14 attendees. The first focus group was all male, the second all female. Both sessions were asked similar questions about their experiences of remote supervision, with some additions for the women’s forum, which are listed in annex A. The breakdown of characteristics of all 14 attendees can be found in annex B.

 

  1. Summary of the feedback

Broad theme

Summary

Remote contact is potentially useful

  • Everybody felt that it should be an option.
  • Many appreciated the flexibility it offered.
  • It has been a help for some during lockdown, especially in relation to managing wellbeing, loneliness and mental health.
  • It is financially less burdensome, especially for those who must travel long distances to probation appointments.
  • It may be more difficult to develop new relationships.
  • Issues of privacy in a family or share home might cause issues, and the presence of domestic abuse will likely undermine the usefulness of remote supervision. 

The quality of support matters

  • Where there is a lack of practical support people are disinclined to engage with probation services in terms of their rehabilitation and recovery.
  • People wanted more time with, and more practical support from probation.
  • 15-minute meetings were viewed as ‘tick-box’ and therefore unhelpful. This may contribute to the dislike of face-to-face meetings.
  • The high turnover of responsible officers (noted by many) had a negative impact on relationships.

Give people a choice

  • Everyone wanted a choice in the contact methods used, and that these should be individually tailored and agreed.
  • There was a mix of feedback in relation to face-to-face, audio-only, video and doorstep visits.
  • Women were very critical of ‘Interview booths’ in CRCs.
  • Women wanted a women-only space and often found probation offices traumatising places to visit.

Access to technology is not a given

  • Everyone had access to the technology to assist with remote supervision.
  • Almost no one had experienced video calls.
  • Not everyone will have access to the right technology.

 

  1. Findings

Below we have summarized the themes that emerged from the focus groups. Feedback has been collated under questions asked. Where questions or feedback related specifically to women we have highlighted those in yellow. All the quotes provided are direct from focus group participants.

 

10.1                       Remote contact

10.1.1    How often are you contacted by your probation officer? Is that more or less than before lockdown?

There were a range of ways in which people were contacted (calls, video, doorstep). Mostly every week or fortnightly. For the majority, the frequency of meetings had stayed the same.

In some instances, doorstep visits were conducted on the phone, with the probation officer in their car, and the service user at the window. This was not possible for those who lived in flats, who had to come downstairs.

For a minority meeting times were unpredictable. One participant explained that his usual probation officer was off work for most of the lockdown and covered by a new one. He has been doing phone calls but the officer expected him to be in the house 9-5, he received a warning for not being home for a call although he is not on curfew and was working. In this instance a pattern for meetings during lockdown did not appear to be set. Was on an office meeting every 6 weeks before lockdown and now getting weekly calls. His original probation officer is back now and knows his work pattern.

 

For women this was slightly different, with feedback that contact was generally once a month, but for the majority that represented the same frequency as before lockdown. This lower frequency may be indicative of lower assessments of risk.

 

One woman commented that she feels she’s lost the personal touch with probation due to lockdown. Although she knew that she could contact her responsible officer, she had only received text messages. Before lockdown she had meetings once a month, for 15mins in office. Her responsible officer changed in March and now she’s only getting texts and feels she has lost rapport.

 

 

10.1.2    What methods have been used to check-in with your probation officer? (e.g. text, audio, video, doorstep?

Focus Group 1 (Men)

 

Focus Group 2 (Women)

 

Text messages

2

Text messages

2

Phone call (just Audio)

4

Phone call (just Audio)

6

Call with video

2

Call with video

0

Doorstep (outside your house)

4

Doorstep (outside your house)

0

Other (ask to explain):

1

Other (ask to explain):

3

 

The ‘other’ in focus group 1 was someone who had not been contacted by their probation officer since lockdown. After discussing and contacting their probation officer it became apparent that probation did not have his new telephone number, in addition the probation officer had changed since the introduction of the EDM. He told us that he had not received any written correspondence either. 

 

The ‘other’ in focus group 2 relate to (a) two people who received letters that were automated and specified face-to-face appointment times which they were told to ignore by their responsible officers, and (b)related to unscheduled phone calls which appeared to be random (missed calls were sometimes followed up on 4 to 5 days later).

 

“After the phone call it knocks me off a bit, sometimes I’ll miss the call and leave a voicemail and then she’ll ring back 4 or 5 days later. It’s just getting that call and realising ‘oh, it’s that’ throws me off.”

 

It is also worth noting that there were no people under NPS supervision amongst the women we engaged which explains why no doorstep visits were undertaken.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10.1.3    Do you have the right equipment (phone / smart phone) to be able to engage remotely?

Focus Group 1 (Men)

 

Focus Group 2 (Women)

 

Yes

7

Yes

7

No

0

No

0

 

It is worth noting that all participants partook in the focus groups by using electronic devices which could connect to the internet and had cameras. This likely indicates that they would not have any issues, but it is not representative of all service users. Indeed it is likely that many would not have stable access to a phone or other ‘smart’ digital devices. 

 

10.1.4    Where would you normally meet your probation officer?

This question was asked to assess whether women engaged with probation officers at women’s centres or other women-only spaces prior to lockdown.

Most women met their probation officers at the CRC office. Two noted the use of a women’s centre with positive feedback, and another noted the use of a community centre, which she described as being in “a rough area” which made her feel unsafe.

 

“I go to the women’s centre and I think it’s absolutely wonderful, I haven’t used the facilities there but there’s some great things on offer. And the women from there have rang me as well to see if there’s anything I need - I haven’t, but maybe someone new to an area or, it’d be brilliant. There’s lots there, you can have a coffee, a hot meal, join classes if you want.”

 

In the main the conversation focused on how short pre-existing meetings were (7-15 minutes), how that was not long enough to do meaningful work, and also that some had to take up to two busses and walk for 20 minutes to attend the meeting. In addition, how these meetings could sometimes be very impersonal.

 

“I’d have liked my meetings to be longer and purposeful, you know, ‘next month we’re looking at getting you into work’ instead of this ‘hi how are you, any offending, no, tick the box, see you next month’.”

 

One woman noted that the simple use of text messages had changed the relationship.

“I’ve lost that personal touch since it’s just been texts. I suppose I could ring her but I’ve had no connection. I’d just got a new officer I’d met a few times and for women you want that connection - I felt like we were just starting to build up that trust and then that rapport’s been lost.”

 

 

 

 

10.1.5    Has remote contact been financially easier or more difficult?

In the main people did not feel that it made a significant difference financially. The majority had no issue with the cost of phone calls or equipment as probation officers called them, meaning that it did not affect their data plans or cost them money.

Hasn’t affected me at all – they call me

 

Some lived relatively close to their probation office in which case it made little to no difference in terms of costs incurred to travel to the probation office. For the majority this was more of an issue, when prompted some explained that attending probation offices could be financially difficult. In particular people mentioned either having to take busses or taxis, and that an inability to get reimbursed, or to receive travel tickets/vouchers, did affect them financially and made attending probation appointments more difficult.    

 

“I think it’s better with the phone calls, every week I’d have to buy a day saver, you had to live a certain mileage to get a refund”

 

“I used to take a taxi every time, every time I used to spend quite a bit of money, but now it’s OK it’s easier the phone call. I didn’t claim any money”

 

“When I was in the hostels I used to have to take two busses, but it was always we haven’t got any [bus tickets], always said they didn’t have them. Then she said I’ll write it down and she sent me one bus ticket to the hostel I lived in. I got one bus ticket, but otherwise I had to pay to get there.”

 

When I was first in probation, it used to be that they would give you the full cost. They only give you £2 refunds maximum. If you’re going out of your way, they should pay for it, not everyone has got the money to be travelling about.”

 

For all the women in focus group 2 remote supervision has been financially easier. In all cases it had reduced expenditure on journeys into probation offices (sometimes very long). Only one participant had to call their probation officer, but they claimed that it was covered in their minutes (although she was not offered reimbursement).

 

“I’d be happy to keep it this way.”

 

 

10.2                       Relationship with probation officers

10.2.1    What is your relationship with your Probation Officer(s)? Did you know them well before moving to remote?

The existing relationships with probation officers was a complex picture that ranged from poor to excellent, and in some cases people were indifferent.

 

We heard a number of instances where people changed probation officers during lockdown, which appears to have been particularly difficult and caused issues in terms of losing relationships, communication breakdown and in some instances with warnings issued for breach or an increase in the frequency of contact.   In some instances we heard people describe changes in probation officers as real set-backs, with one participant stating that he felt his probation officer “was trying to deal with me like I’m fresh out of prison, I’ve had no incidents for 3 years”, which was thought very damaging to the overall relationship with probation.

 

“Current probation officer is good, he’s a really cool guy, but the previous one used to be very strict, so bad, no I’m not complaining at all.”

 

“I have done 9 and a half year as IPP, I have settled with one [probation officer], no issues, I managed to get down to medium risk, a little thing happened, changed probation officer… this next one was trying to mess me about. She has tried to come on some little sneaky thing. Anyone who’s IPP know that a couple of warnings will send you straight back to prison. I am trying to get my life back on track. My old probation officer has come back. It takes one bad probation officer to mess up your whole structure.”

 

Especially in the women’s focus group there were some participants that had very positive relationships with their probation officer and noted that they felt they were “there for them”, slightly more so than the men we spoke to. However, in a similar sense to the men, it was felt that relationships were made more difficult by a lack of time allocated for meetings, and frequent changes in their responsible officer. Others attempted to keep their probation officers at arms length.

 

“I’ve got a fantastic relationship with my probation - and when she rings we go through how are you - but then we just have a chat, and I don’t really see many people, I live away from family, so I really enjoy it, we’re not quite friends.”

 

“…when I started to get to know my probation officer was when it changed. And I do feel like I could ring her if I needed but with just having text message I feel like I’ve lost that rapport, I feel the relationship is actually going down whereas perhaps by telephone or skype or something would be better with me.”

 

Some felt that their relationship with their probation officer was of lesser concern if they were doing well, or managing their recovery. Although in some instances people felt like they got less support if this was the case, it did not mean that they felt unable to ask for help if needed.

 

“If I’m straightforward, no problems with anything, it’s just straight in and out, but she does know the personal problems I have and she is really good with that.”

 

Where relationships with probation tended to be more strained was when it came to practical support. For those with fewer support needs it was felt to be adequate. But for others it felt like a ‘tick-box’ exercise that did not focus on offering support.

 

“From my point of view yeah, it’s just a tick-box situation even now when I have my appointments on the phone it’s ‘how are you [tick], ok [tick], your next appointment will be [tick] - never asking me how I’m getting on with job hunting or anything like that, I’ve had to divulge it all myself.”

 

 

10.2.2    How has your relationship with your Probation Officer changed over these last few months?

In most cases relationships had stayed largely the same. Where people had a good relationship with their probation officer, that continued, where it was poor the same was true. The only instances where that changed were when people had seen a recent change in pronation officer (or a temporary change due to staff absences). In almost all cases where probation officers had changed there was a negative outcome.

 

“She is nice but she’s nosey… it’s like she don’t trust me. She want to see my Mum when I say I’m at my Mum’s… She goes too deep in depth into my personal life… She does give me help when I need it.”

 

“When I get a phone call, after that I have to send a mapping location of where I am. I have to go on google maps and pin-point my location.”

 

There were some examples where the participants felt that the probation officer’s use of technology went too far. This included the use of GPS location submissions via google maps to prove their location, and using the camera on their phone during calls to show their probation officer their surroundings. In one instance this related to proof of location, however, it did not seem to be the case that this was part of their order or licence conditions.

 

For most of the women they felt that the relationship had mostly stayed the same. They all felt that the relationship was important. In a few cases improved slightly due to the more informal nature of the contact, that had in some ways taken down a barrier, or as one participant said “there’s no clipboard in the way”.

 

“I think mine’s got a lot more personal because we’re not in the office, she’s more relaxed, and in the office there’s a booth so there might be people around so I think it’s working really well… it’s not got that authority, has it. Just a little more relaxed on the phone.”

 

For a minority the relationship had become worse, but this was mostly where the woman had only been receiving text messages rather than phone calls.

 

“I think I’d have preferred a phone call instead of just a text message - I’ve lost that rapport, I know if I had any issues I could call her any time - basically I’ve not spoken to anyone since March. It would be nice to just have a call. The texts just happened and that was it - I’ll text you on this date at this time. So perhaps a telephone call would be better for me, cause, I will be on probation for quite a long time, the next two or three years, so I do need that relationship. It’s prevented me slightly from having a relationship, hopefully I can get on telephone calls and build that back up. Fortunately, I’ve got no needs, I’m in employment - so maybe that’s how she sees it, I’m not a problem, but I was only released a year or two from prison.”

 

It is notable that many referenced women’s centres or other agencies they were engaged with as contributing quite significantly to their feeling supported. Especially in terms of being supported in a women-only space and being dealt with in a way that “wasn’t just about the criminal aspect”.

 

“I’ve had no experience with non-probation services at all. When I was released I went into the main probation office and it was quite scary to be honest, I’d been in prison quite a long time and being in this place with all these lads around, I burst out crying, and then I’ve met my probation officer in the women’s centre and I’ve not had any other services. It’s not enough really.”

 

10.2.3    If building a relationship with your probation officer is important to you, has remote supervision helped or prevented that?

Generally no, people did not think that remote supervision had either helped or prevented a good relationship with their probation officers. There were some complaints that prior to lockdown people had been told they could not contact them via telephone and now they could, which did confuse some people. There was no evidence to suggest that the EDM had increased engagement or built better relationships, but there was also limited evidence to the contrary.

 

In general people did feel that having a good relationship helped them get through probation, but it was articulated as something that had to be a “two-way street”, and it was clear that there were instances where people who felt their probation office did not support them, and in those instances they employed a number of tactics to either change their probation officer, or actively disengaged with them. 

 

“Respect is a two-way street and if someone isn’t responding you jog ‘em on. I’ve only had one probation officer who wasn’t suitable and I got rid of her really quickly, I just made it so she didn’t want to work with me. Normally takes me a week or two to get rid of one”

 

“It’s only us that recognize the change that we’ve made. That’s frustrating when you’re doing your ting and it’s not recognised.”

 

The women reported a mixed experience with probation. Some were content with remote supervision, others wanted more face-to-face contact, and others wanted more contact but in women-only spaces (especially when people had recently been released from prison or where a male responsible officer or key worker might trigger trauma. However, in many cases the women reported a desire to have more support from probation, especially in terms of accessing other support services. Some felt that they had not received any support, mainly because they were perceived to be ‘low-risk’.

 

“I think it’d be brilliant to have only appointments in women’s only spaces, it’s so overwhelming being released, it’s a massive relief but you’ve got all these lads here having cigarettes, shouting, you’re in such a controlled environment and it’s so strange. I’d have liked an appointment in a women’s centre where they can give you a cup of coffee and sit down with you, instead it was just the duty probation officer who gave me an appointment, there were no other women, it was just overwhelming.”

 

10.3                       Experience of remote contact

10.3.1      How did you find engaging on the phone / remotely vs. in the office?

 

Most of the men were fairly content with remote contact, although when they were more engaged, that was when they were more likely to want a mix of remote and face-to-face support. Some felt that the introduction of more remote supervision, especially for simple check-ins, was simply a ‘sign of the times’ and that probation should have been taking a much more mixed method approach to contacting them.

“Times are moving on, these people [probation] are left behind… A suggestion that came from a CRC council meeting [user voice council] was can we do meetings like this, over the phone, we floated it and they said no… you have to remember the time we’re going through, if Covid weren’t here we wouldn’t be doing this.’

 

“As long as I know what time you call, th n I can work around that. Don’t make on sense making people miss appointments. The doorstep thing, I can’t be doing that no more. I’d rather go into the office than stand outside in the rain. In the future I would participate if it was over the phone.”

 

“Prefer the phone calls to going in for five minutes and getting your ear chewed off”.

 

“Rather than a breach for not turning up, do it on the phone”

 

One of the women commented of the probation office (use of booths) that she could overhear sensitive conversations and was aware that other people could hear her too. At home she has felt more able to show emotions more and talk a lot freer. She also reported that she could cover more issues and more personal things concerning her children or partner, and that this has improved her relationship with the probation officer.

 

One of the women in the focus group expressed frustration at simply receiving text messages (not something experienced by any of the men), saying that she felt the relationship had lost any personal touch and that she would prefer phone calls or video. She would also prefer this to travelling to the office as that cost her money and time.

 

“…in light of what’s going on across the world with this Covid situation, it’d help if - I mean we’re doing this over Zoom, I know there’s other video platforms, that this is something probation should be using - FaceTime or something, instead of coming into the office, they should book a time that works for you and they’re responsible for booking that time and making that call. Obviously not everyone has a laptop or computer but everyone has a phone.”

 

In many instances, for the women, the issues relating to face-to-face meetings, such as mixed gender spaces, short meetings, long commutes and the use of booths seemed to have turned many off the idea of face-to-face in probation offices.

 

10.3.2      Do you prefer video or just audio?

 

What method of contact do you prefer?

Focus Group 1 (Men)

 

Focus Group 2 (Women)

 

Video calls

1

Video calls

5

Audio-only calls

3

Audio-only calls

1

Both

1

Both

0

 

For many the use of audio only phone calls were preferred, but the over-riding sense was that there should be a degree of choice. Some participants were clearly uncomfortable with video calls and the use of GPS locations via google maps which they saw as an intrusion. Others made the important point that people may not have the technology to allow video calling. However, the over-riding feedback was that it should be a choice.

 

“You have to understand that not many people have video call phones. So some people may not be able to do it.”

 

“It’s like spying on us… it’s like you’re still in prison. Literally, they set you up to fail.”

 

The women were more likely to prefer video calls than the men were, although no women had video calls. In the main everyone felt that the option about where and how to meet should be a choice. 

 

10.3.3      Have you had more informal meetings with your probation officer? (e.g. relied on texting instead of speaking)

 

For the men text messaging was largely used to remind people of appointments and not as a more informal method of communication. We did not hear a lot of them say they had received more informal contact as a result of the EDM.

 

The women had some more frequent experience of text messaging, but again largely not used to encourage more informal communication.

 

10.3.4      Can you have private conversations with your probation officer?

 

Not all participants had a private space to take calls from probation officers. With some needing to go outside to gain some privacy.

“I’ve had a few calls where I’ve been in company and I’ve had to walk out to the garden and take a call, but mostly it’s been ok.”

One male participant with children expressed that it could be difficult to get privacy, but that their probation officer had made arrangements to do calls later in the day when the children were not present.

“No issues, it can be a problem but if you’ve got someone who’s sensitive – my guy understands it’s difficult and there’s times you don’t want to speak about something with kids around.”

 

Interestingly some men did not feel like their appointment in probation offices were particularly private, mentioning video cameras in the interview rooms as contributing to a feeling that they were being monitored.

“Unless the calls are being recorded or she’s got someone else in the room with her… to be honest I’m not really arsed. In the office they’ve got cameras in the rooms, I’d asked if they’ve got audio on and they assured me no, so if that’s true I don’t think they’re recording the phone.”

 

One male participant raised the concern as to how the probation officer actually knows who they are talking to. Clearly making the case that the system could be open to abuse.

 

All the women stated they could speak openly with their probation officer. However, it was often difficult to find a private space to talk with children and partners in the house. One participant said that she set the times with her probation officer which allowed her to find the a time and a place that worked.

 

“I tend to just quickly dart to another room if I see it’s her ringing - I don’t mind speaking about stuff in front of my partner, but my two kids I’d rather not. I do still have to speak quietly because I don’t have the thickest walls.”

 

10.3.5      Would you like to have more face to face contact or continue remotely with your probation officer?

 

There was support for remote supervision and many were content to continue with engaging remotely. However, when questioned it was clear that there were mixed views. Some people who were content with remote contact were also those that did not feel probation services were there to support their rehabilitation. Others who though that probation services did help were more inclined to have a mixed model, with some face-to-face work included. There was some consensus that if you wanted to change, were invested in recovery, or had multiple needs the required attention then you were likely to need more intensive support. Others may simply want to get through their supervision order and may be satisfied with a more ‘hands-off’ approach.

“I guess it depends on the type of people, what they want to get out of probation – if you just want to get it over with then yeah, phone will be fine, but if you’ve got issues you want to work through, like some people see their probation like a counsellor, and they’d want to see them in person.”

 

“It should be about rehabilitation, it depends. Face to face of course makes a little bit more impact.”

 

One participant was clear that it took the observation of a hand injury (sustained in a fight) for the probation officer to tackle the issue of anger management. When queried, they were unsure whether that same injury would have been spotted or whether the issue would have been addressed in the same way.

 

“I got into a couple of little run ins, and it was because I had scuffs and a broken hand… they referred me to an anger management course… Maybe if I’d never gone in they’d not seen me… For me, I’d found it really useful. It’s a guy that’s been through the same stuff. He gives you coping mechanisms – very useful because I’ve used some of them”

 

Most of the group would prefer phone contact after lockdown. Most would prefer phone to video. One person was happy with either, saying he understood why the officer wants to use video to check on your location. After a discussion on whether video would become obligatory – some people felt uneasy about that and thought it should be a choice, with one participant stating, ‘What if you’re not feeling well, you don’t want to see anyone and then you’re forced to go on a video call? It should be a choice’.

 

 

All the women wanted to keep remote supervision. They argued it allowed for greater flexibility in their day, especially if they were working. They thought it cut down on travel time. It was also thought to be more confidential than CRC office booths, because they did not feel like someone would overhear their conversations. No one would like to go back to only face-to-face support, and many felt like remote supervision was more efficient. This feeling may have been exacerbated by a feeling that they had no choice as to where they could meet their probation officer.

 

“I think remote contact is a really good idea, even if it were video like we’re on - you know you’re always rushing, there might be traffic, I always have a late meeting because I’m in work, but for me, you’re relaxed in your own home and not worried about people overhearing your conversation. So I’d prefer it, over video or something.”

 

“I think when you come out of prison you do need that face to face and that sit down to get the rapport going. I felt that anyway.”

 

 

10.3.6      Are there any other issues you have with remote contact?

 

There were requests to focus on the quality of the interaction rather than the method. The over-riding feedback was that people wanted interactions to be useful if they needed help, but perhaps a lot more expedited and less frequent if they were largely doing fine. In addition, people wanted to change probation officer less frequently, especially when they had developed a good relationship, or be allowed to change if that relationship had broken down.

 

Issues around domestic abuse were raised by the women. Most were confident that they could talk to their probation officer about issues, but there was a concern about whether probation services were always catching issues early enough. One participant had a cellmate who returned to an abusive partner on release from prison, they were attacked by their partner and died from a traumatic head injury. If was felt that probation should have been aware of this issue. Her friend was in prison for defending herself against that same partner.

 

The group also reflected that if they were with an abusive partner then they might not have had the privacy to talk to probation.

 

“I wouldn’t have been able to have that private time to talk to probation if I were with my ex-partner. But I know my ex-partner has to have all of his probation appointments at his home in case he’s got another partner, for their safety I suppose. But I wouldn’t have been able to speak to them if I were still in that situation.”

 

 

10.4                       Impact on your wellbeing

Has remote supervision been helpful or harmful to your mental health and wellbeing?

 

It was clear that many had struggled to cope, or had to find new coping mechanisms, for lockdown. For some, the ability to speak to a probation officer was welcome and was often described as just nice to have someone to talk to. Others raised issues of trauma, stating that lockdown felt like being back in prison – something which resonated with several participants.

 

It was clear that some had struggled with mental health or substance misuse issue, which had been made worse by lockdown. Clearly probation is viewed as a potential route to support, and for some it is, but for others that does not seem to be the case.

 

“I was losing my marbles trapped in here and it was nice to just chat to someone on the phone, it really, really helped me to be honest.”

 

“It’s nice to have a talk you know, I’ve gone from every 2 weeks to a weekly phone call and it wasn’t too bad to have a 15 minute chat – they’re in the same situation as you are, you know?”

 

It [lockdown] hasn’t affected me, but through Covid I got signed off work. I’m unwell… I’ve just been like, living like a prisoner in your own home. I just surround myself with everything I need. I’m accessing services. Boredom drove me to relapse, but it’s only cannabis.

 

[on not having any contact] – “I’ve just been chilling, there’s not much I can do if I’m not getting a phone call, not getting a letter. It’s not like I can go knock on the door of the office… it’s like I’ve had a three month holiday”

 

“It did affect me a bit at the start, but I’ve been doing better. With the help of Zoom and everything I finished my [anger management] course, and I’m getting on with things”

“I don’t think it’s improved it or been a deterrent to wellbeing, it’s the same tick-box exercise whenever I’m contacted and that’s it.”

 

“It’s helped me, I do suffer with poor mental health and we’ve been able to talk about things I wouldn’t have talked about in the office, I’d have just smiled through it and I’ve been a bit more authentic.”

 

“It would’ve helped if each of our POs had just contacted us out of common courtesy when the lockdown was announced to see if we needed any help and support and if not, signpost us to where we could get that support.”

 

 

September 2020

 

 

Annex A – focus group questions

 

The question highlighted in yellow was only asked at the women’s focus group, the purpose of this was to assess whether the women normally accessed a women’s center, or similar, to meet their probation officer.

  1. Remote contact

1.1  How often are you contacted by your probation officer? Is that more or less than before lockdown?

1.2  What methods have been used to check-in with your probation officer? (e.g. text, audio, video, doorstep)

1.3  Do you have the right equipment (phone / smart phone) to be able to engage remotely?

1.4  Where would you normally meet your probation officer?

1.5  Has remote contact been financially easier or more difficult?

 

  1. Relationship with probation officers

2.1  What is your relationship with your Probation Officer(s)? Did you know them well before moving to remote?

2.2  How has your relationship with your Probation Officer changed over these last few months?

2.3  If building a relationship with your probation officer is important to you, has remote supervision helped or prevented that?

 

  1. Experience of remote contact

3.1   How did you find engaging on the phone / remotely vs. in the office?

3.2   Do you prefer video or just audio?

3.3   Have you had more informal meetings with your probation officer? (e.g. relied on texting instead of speaking)

3.4   Can you have private conversations with your probation officer?

3.5   Would you like to have more face to face contact or continue remotely with your probation officer?

3.6   Are there any other issues you have with remote contact?

 

  1. Impact on your wellbeing

4.1  Has remote supervision been helpful or harmful to your mental health and wellbeing?

 

 


 

Annex B – participants information

Focus group (male)

Location

North West

North West

West Midlands

West Midlands

North West

West Midlands

West Midlands

Which CRC/NPS?

CRC

NPS

NPS

CRC

NPS

NPS

CRC

Type of offence(s)

Possession of blade

Violence & posesssion of firearms

Robbery

Theft

Driving while  banned

Violence

Breach of restraining order

Last sentence length

2 years -  suspended sentence

5 years & 3 months

IPP

Unknown

1 year

IPP

4 months

Gender

Male

Male

Male

Male

Male

Male

Male

Marital status

Single

Single

Single

Single

Married

Single

Single

Year of birth

1988

1966

1981

1989

1979

1978

1992

Physical disability?

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

If so, what?

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Learning disability?

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

Nationality

British

Ethnicity

White and Black Caribbean

White British

Black British

Black British Caribbean

Black African

Black Caribbean

White British

Sexual orientation

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Bisexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Religion or belief

Spiritual

Christian

No religion

No religion

Christian

Muslim

No religion

Caring responsibilities?

No

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

No

Substance misuse issues

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

No

Yes

Mental health issues

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

 

Focus group (female)

Location

North West

West Midlands

West Midlands

West Midlands

East of England

West Midlands

London

Which CRC/NPS?

CRC

CRC

CRC

CRC

CRC

CRC

CRC

Type of offence(s)

Theft & fraud

Fraud

Theft

Fraud

Fraud

Fraud

Theft

Last sentence length

10 months

10 1/2 years

28 months

5 years

8 years

2 years suspended

2 years

Gender

Female

Female

Female

Female

Female

Female

Female

Marital status

Separated

Divorced

Married

Widowed

Married

Married

Single

DOB

1977

1972

1968

1957

1971

1964

1990

Physical disability?

No

No

Yes

No

No

No

No

If so, what?

N/A

N/A

Cancer, fibromyalgia

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

Learning disability?

No

No

No

No

No

Dyscalculia

No

Nationality

British

Ethnicity

White British

White British

White British

White British

White and Black Caribbean

Afro Caribbean

White British

Sexual orientation

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Heterosexual

Religion or belief

Catholic

Christian

Catholic

C of E

C of E

Christian

Christian

Caring responsibilities?

No

Yes

No

Yes

No

No

Yes

Substance misuse issues

No

No

No

No

Historic mis-use of alcohol to cope with trauma

Historic alcoholism - in recovery

Historic alcoholism

Mental health issues

No

Anxiety

Depression and anxiety

No

Anxiety, depression and PTSD

Depression

No