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Getting ready for change in the Probation Service

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Over the lifetime of its current strategy the Probation Service has been working to develop a new approach to practice and its work with service users. The role of the Service is to preserve the safety of communities and the general public by supporting offenders to no longer engage in criminal activity and by ensuring that court orders are implemented. The majority of Probation Officers are qualified in social work, and they use their professional skills to build relationships with their clients, assess them, and provide them with support to leave crime behind. All of this work helps to reduce risk and make our communities safer.

A new approach to practice

A key objective of the Probation Service is to establish and implement a structured, evidence informed offender supervision framework, addressing all elements of the service user’s probation journey and ultimately improving their outcomes. This is a significant change initiative, as the Service operates in 30 different locations across the country. The work of the Service involves a strong multiagency element, and the needs of service users are complex. Following an initial phase of research and development of the Framework, the Probation Service contracted CES to do a readiness assessment to support its wider implementation across the organisation. This assessment explored aspects of staff readiness, stakeholder engagement, leadership, resources, and governance, all of which are critical to successful implementation of large-scale change.

What we did

The CES team developed a questionnaire, conducted interviews and facilitated focus group sessions to gather views from staff and teams about what they needed to implement the framework. CES developed a communications strategy which drew from implementation science to build on learning from communicating change in large, complex organisations. We completed a resource mapping exercise, and all of the work was undertaken together with a Project Steering Group from the Probation Service. The challenges of Covid-19 and remote working arrangements required both the Steering Group and the CES team to move the work online quickly. Recommendations from the readiness assessment will be used to inform the next phase of implementation.

For more information about implementation readiness, check out the Normalisation Process Theory Toolkit.