Equal partnerships

9 Nov 2022
In the fourth blog in the series from Russell Webster, he examines the way in which the organisation builds and cherishes partnerships with a wide range of organisations.

Working in partnership

The series of evaluations I undertook examined interventions which Ingeus delivered as the lead organisation in the Reducing Reoffending Partnership (RRP) which operated in the East and West Midlands between 2015 and 2021.

I found one defining characteristic of Ingeus’s work across different areas of operation was the way the organisation worked with others. The evaluations looked at many different delivery areas, both in prison and in the community, but one recurrent theme was Ingeus’s belief that working with other providers strengthened the service offered to end users. Where Ingeus differed from most Community Rehabilitation Companies was its approach to partnerships.

Rather than an approach characterised “as supply chain management”, in essence a form of subcontracting, Ingeus worked to build ongoing relationships. I found that the organisational culture was one of working together in real partnerships, valuing partners as equals, incorporating others’ ideas in service design, and investing and supporting those organisations in the long term. In selecting partners, Ingeus always prioritised organisations with an existing local base who shared a real commitment to the work and a belief in the value of lived experience. Partner organisations were not abandoned at the end of the contract but encouraged to continue to collaborate with Ingeus in new pieces of work. Below I share several examples of robust and effective partnerships which I encountered across my evaluations.

The organisation’s employment, training and employment work was predicated on dozens of partnerships with a very wide range of organisations (public, private and voluntary and community sector) as well as working relationships with many employers and education and training providers. This approach meant that people in prison and on probation were offered the widest possible career opportunities.

In designing its services, Ingeus focuses on the best provider to do the job in the local area. By way of example, in establishing its Finance, Benefit and Debts services for people in prison, the organisation knew that it had in-house expertise to deliver those services in the East Midlands but took a different approach in the West Midlands, building on local expertise within Birmingham Settlement, one of the city’s oldest charities, which had been a long-term partner of previous iterations of the probation service.

The organisation was careful to always put service delivery first. One example of this was the work done in partnership with HMP Stafford which had very limited resettlement services. An interview conducted by the evaluator with the governor at HMP Stafford revealed that Ingeus was happy to develop a different model to meet the prison’s resettlement needs, seconding existing specialist accommodation staff into Ingeus to ensure continued funding and investing in a range of services which fitted the specialist needs of the prisoners served by that establishment.

Ingeus was also creative in finding the best partner for a piece of work. In my evaluation of the organisation’s work around domestic abuse, I found that Ingeus felt it needed expert input to update its in-house intervention for lower risk perpetrators of domestic abuse. After discussions with different experts, Ingeus realised that the most productive approach was the unusual one of partnering with Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) to develop a new programme for this target group in collaboration with staff and service users from one of Ingeus’ own Community Rehabilitation Companies. The resulting intervention, named Spectrum, had a substantially higher completion rate than the programme it was developed to replace, and graduates of the pilot groups said that they were less likely to be violent towards their partner or use abusive language on completion.

I found that this belief in the value of partnerships meant that many of Ingeus’s service designs were characterised by innovation and the energy of different organisations coming together for a common purpose.

Recommended Articles