In the fifth post in the series, independent consultant, Russell Webster, examines the way in which Ingeus backs its service delivery with real investment.
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 previous four posts in this series have looked at different qualities and principles which enabled Ingeus to deliver high quality work, but none of that work would have been possible without the organisation being prepared to put its money where its mouth is. Quite simply, the organisation was committed to make a series of substantial long-term financial investments to support service delivery.
I found several examples of this willingness to invest across the different areas of work I evaluated, and I share just two of these examples below.
Investing in housing
An interesting example of Ingeus’s willingness to invest time and energy into improving services for people on probation was the STAR accommodation project, a rather unique example of supported housing which comprises the top two floors of the probation office in Derby. Ingeus staff were aware of an acute lack of appropriate supported housing for people in prison being released back to the city and local managers knew that the landlord of the building had re-developed the top floors of their office building into high quality flats which he intended to rent to private tenants. Ingeus managers embarked on a concerted eighteen-month campaign to develop this accommodation to help meet the need for released prisoners by building a multi-agency partnership between the Ingeus operated Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC), the National Probation Service (which agreed to fund two bedspaces), YMCA Derbyshire and Derby Homes.
The lack of offender accommodation has been a pernicious obstacle to people’s desistance journeys for many years, but hitherto most probation providers had thought the problem could only be solved via central Ministry of Justice funding or local councils prioritising the needs of offenders. While both these approaches are important, Ingeus stepped up and led a partnership which created more local capacity for prison leavers.
Investing in people
Another investment decision which supported Ingeus work across all its different interventions was the development of a strategic approach to promoting Trauma-Informed Practice (TIP). In addition to commissioning TIP training for all its staff, Ingeus developed a range of approaches to support both staff and people on probation affected by trauma. The organisation also developed a blueprint for trauma-informed environments and undertook a comprehensive review of all its communications with service users.
As a result of this review, Ingeus transformed the language in its existing communications with its authoritative, occasionally confrontative tone to more welcoming and motivating content. This process was applied to all letters sent to people on probation and included a change in the decoration of all reception areas. When these areas were reviewed from a trauma-informed perspective, it became clear that all the information on posters and signs was negative and proscriptive which combined to create a rather hostile and forbidding environment. All posters were reviewed, and all material re-written to reflect a more welcoming approach.
In addition, all reception staff attended the trauma-informed training and were encouraged to be actively welcoming. Ingeus’ decision to employ people with lived experience as site hosts and ask peer mentors to circulate in reception areas to greet service users had substantial impact in changing the CRC environments from impersonal and hostile to welcoming and enabling. This in turn improved people’s engagement with probation supervision.
The organisation also took the significant decision to invest in clinical supervision for all team members. This provides staff with expert input to discuss how best to help service users build resilience and to build their own resilience given the levels of trauma they regular experience through their work.
This decision to invest many tens of thousands of pounds in trauma-informed work not only improved service delivery across the board but helped create a reputation across the sector that Ingeus was a good place to work; that it was an organisation which valued both its staff and the people it was delivering a service to. The work continues with a group of TIP champions continuing to meet every other month to support all teams within Ingeus to continue working in a trauma-informed way.