Independent consultant Russell Webster identified five recurrent qualities inherent in Ingeus' working culture which contributed significantly to the positive outcomes across all the different operational areas. In a series of short blog posts, Mr Webster provides a more detailed look at each of these golden threads and explains why they are so important to Ingeus. This week, in the second post in the series, he examines flexibility and creativity.
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. The work of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) was tightly defined in Ministry of Justice contracts with financial penalties for not achieving a long list of specific outputs. Ahead of the evaluations, I had an assumption that this rigorous central contract management would mean that opportunities to be creative would be limited. Refreshingly, that proved not to be the case.
A common theme that I discovered in all the evaluations was that Ingeus and its staff were willing to do things differently. A couple of key examples come to mind.
The first one was Ingeus’ Through-The-Gate service where the organisation adopted a markedly different approach from most of the other CRC providers. Rather than contract the service out, Ingeus directly employed all the staff itself. By having all resettlement staff as part of one team, all of whom were radio trained and key-holders, the organisation was able to develop a proactive, “can-do” culture. Resettlement staff generally worked on the prison wings, engaging with prisoners daily and forging positive working relationships with many prison officers. The fact that all staff worked for Ingeus brought several advantages with shared understanding of roles and flexibility in work patterns and allocations with individual workers shifting role to cover vacancies in key areas such as housing advice. It is no surprise that the performance of the Through-The-Gate services in both CRCs was rated “outstanding” by probation inspectors.
The second example that comes to mind was Ingeus’ decision to appoint a dedicated arts specialist worker within the resettlement team at HMP Leicester despite the lack of a funding stream for this post. The result of this appointment was that many local arts charities started work engaging people in prison in a wide range of creative arts, which then spun off into work with people on probation in the community. In addition to a wide range of one-off events, Ingeus, in partnership with De Montfort University and HMP Leicester, developed probably the world’s first prison arts festival. “Talent Unlocked” ran successfully over three years before being converted into an eight-week programme of arts-based broadcasts reaching 50 different prisons. The quality of this work was acknowledged nationally with the arts specialist worker, Simon Bland, receiving two prestigious awards for his pivotal role in establishing the festival.
Ingeus’ investment in the arts provided a disproportionate return on investment. Participation in the arts has been pivotal for hundreds of people in contact with the criminal justice system in terms of their emotional wellbeing, unearthing and development of talent, increased self-confidence, and feelings of self-worth; boosting their chances of living productive and fulfilling crime-free lives.
Ingeus continues to invest in this approach, creating a dedicated arts role within its delivery of Commissioned Resettlement Services (CRS) and actively seeking partnerships with community arts providers to enhance the lives of the men and women it works with.
Next week Russell looks at the third golden thread – the way in which Ingeus values lived experience.