Diversity and Equality

The Probation Chiefs Association (PCA) provides a professional voice on Probation matters and seeks to influence policy, decision makers and the public towards a more knowledgeable and balanced approach to crime and offenders. The Probation Service is uniquely placed to do this in relation to improving outcomes and advancing equality within employment and service delivery and the summary below sets out the PCA’s position on these important areas of work.


The PCA has a commitment to improving equality outcomes within employment and service delivery and strives to achieve high standards and drive up professional practice by:

  • Sharing good practice on equality and diversity by actively  networking, maximising partnerships and working collaboratively with the women and equalities group and the equality and diversity leads from across all Probation Trusts.
  • Supporting Trusts in meeting their responsibilities under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Contributing to the development and dissemination of National Probation data to seek to examine and address identified disproportionalities in key aspects of service delivery.
  • Providing practice leadership in relation to hate crime and actively engaging in the development of a national strategy for dealing with hate crime.
  • Encouraging proactive and effective engagement of service users from different backgrounds to ensure that services are fair, accessible, responsive and appropriate for all those who use them and as a means of raising and exploring new approaches.
  • Engaging constructively with the Probation Staff Associations and contributing to the NOMS review of the relationships between the associations and NOMS in terms of their activities contribution, funding and Governance.
  • Engaging with policy makers and practitioners to inform decision making and enable links to be made with academic research.

BACKGROUND

Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 came into force on 5 April 2011. It required individual trusts to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations.  The requirement to pay due regard  relates to the 8 protected characteristics set out in section 149 namely race, sex, disability, sexual orientation, religion and belief, age, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity.  The need to eliminate discrimination also includes marriage and civil partnership. 

Legal compliance matters but equality is also critical for moral, ethical and business reasons.  Trust employees are the most important and valued asset and key to efficient and effective service delivery. Equality of opportunity and fairness need be central principles in all matters affecting employees and service delivery.

Offenders who have been unfairly treated are less likely to engage positively on offending behaviour work and are more likely to develop attitudes that lead to reoffending.  Unfairness therefore has wide ranging consequences in terms of performance and public protection. 

The Equality Act – The offender population includes a greater proportion of people from a number of minority and historically disadvantaged groups.  On 10 September 2011, the specific duties set out in the regulations required public bodies to publish relevant, proportionate information demonstrating compliance with the Equality duties and to set themselves one or more equality objectives.  It is critical in these duties that monitoring data is collected, analysed, commented on and published to identify disproportionality and to re-dress the balance of inequality within employment practice and service delivery.  

Data & Information – A priority within NOMS and across the trusts is to develop a suite of offender based equality management information reports drawn from existing OASYs and IAPS and from newly established offender data systems such as N DELIUS.  The quality of data from efficient information systems will be key to establishing reliable benchmarks and an evidence base for performance and improvement.  Accurate, good quality information which is both relevant and reliable will provide the basis to improve service delivery and reduce crime and the fear of crime.

Hate Crime – On 13 September 2012, the Home office published statistics on hate crimes recorded by the police in England and Wales for the first time.  In 2011-12 43,748 hate crimes were recorded by the police, of which:

35,816 (82%) were race hate crimes
4252 (10%) were sexual orientation hate crimes
1744 (4%) were disability hate crimes
1624 (4%) were religion hate crimes
315 (1%) were transgender hate crimes

Research suggests that hate crime is hugely under reported.  Some victims maybe reluctant to come forward, for example, for fear of attracting further abuse or because they don’t believe the authorities will take them seriously.  Hate crime is particularly pernicious and strikes through the heart of communities.  It requires a partnership approach to tackle its devastating effects.

The findings and recommendations of the Macpherson report there have been significant advances in understanding the impact of inequality following the murder of Stephen Lawrence and more recently the Mubarek report, after the death of Zahid Mubarek while in custody raised the need to tackle institutional racism.  Macpherson defined institutional racism as:  the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture or ethnic origin.  It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereo typing which disadvantage minority ethnic people.        

The Equality Human rights commission (EHRC) published “Hidden in Plain Sight” in September 2011, setting out the findings of its enquiry into disability related harassment.  The report made recommendations for government departments and their agencies based on the enquiries findings, including a number of recommendations concerning the Criminal Justice System. 

Other key drivers in highlighting inequality within the Criminal Justice System as a whole were the “Valuing People Now” review, and Lord Bradley’s review.  Both reviews recognised that offenders with learning disabilities do not have the same opportunities as others, because their individual support needs are not known, and reasonable adjustments are not put into place.  Lord Bradley’s review highlighted some examples of good practice but also clear areas for development.  The report recommended a more unified approach from all relevant agencies to assist in the early identification of offenders with learning difficulties, to conduct appropriate assessments, and to enable appropriate diversion and sentencing.

Another key driver in highlighting inequality was the Corston report. In March 2007, Baroness Corston published her report into Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System.  The Baroness highlighted how women offenders have different criminogenic needs to men hence making them more vulnerable to men.  To ensure the women offenders were provided with equitable services, the Corston Report made 43 recommendations for improving the approaches, services and interventions for women in the Criminal Justice System and women at risk of offending.

Sharing and increasing understanding of research and community based desistance models that can reduce the risk of reoffending for those with protected characteristics is both important and necessary.  The population is aging and trends are shifting so there is a need to be sure that offender management processes can accommodate and exploit issues of identity and diversity.   Desistance is an inherently individualised and subjective process and a one size fits all process run the risk of fitting no one.  

Service users actively and collectively shaping practice can reduce reoffending and achieve a range of wider society benefits.  When offenders are involved in a deeper level of engagement this not only improves the sharing of information and different perspectives but also requires a degree of sharing of power and influence.  In order for such activities to be effective it will require the development of new infrastructures and policy change. 

Attitudes may be changing and reforms are underway but it will be years before the Criminal Justice System fully reflects the diversity of British society.  More has to be done to provide a system of justice that is fair to all.

WAY FORWARD

It is important that all Probation Trusts share knowledge, expertise and work closely with a plurality of partners to ensure that employment practices and services are fair, accessible, responsive and appropriate for all those who use them.    

Working together to analyse data and information gained from monitoring processes and consultation activity will help better inform priorities and future practice in probation Trusts.

Better Collaborative working and a shift away from the one size fits all approach will contribute to improved equality outcomes, social inclusion and longer term change.

The PCA endorses the view that probation trusts are best placed to develop responsive and bespoke interventions and to act as both commissioner and provider of services for offenders – this should be outcome focused, informed via  desistance research and a productive dialogue with policy makers, practitioners and all key stakeholders.

Nick Hall

Portfolio Lead for Equality & Diversity

Contact lead