September 10, 2021

Delivering Quality Interventions in Probation: The Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR)

Jason Morris & Laura Baverstock
Senior Policy Managers
Probation Reform, HMPPS

Jason Morris and Laura Baverstock work as Senior Policy Managers within the Service Design Team in the Probation Reform Programme (PRP). In this blog, they explain the work that has been underway to uphold key commitments to increasing the availability of quality RAR interventions in Probation; make best use of evidence and evaluation; and, preserve Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) innovation with a collaborative approach to service design.

On 26th June 2021, 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were renationalised and unified with the National Probation Service (NPS) to form a new Probation Service for England and Wales. Since then, the Probation Reform Programme (PRP) has continued its work to implement probation’s Target Operating Model (TOM). The TOM provides a blueprint of how the new Probation Service will operate. As part of this effort, we’ve been working to equip Probation Practitioners and Regional Interventions Teams with quality interventions that enable the delivery of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements (RARs).

The Rehabilitation Activity Requirement

RARs form part of a Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order to set the amount and type of rehabilitation activity for people on probation. They were introduced in the Offender Rehabilitation Act (2014), as a distinct sentencing option to the ‘programme requirement’ (fulfilled through Accredited Programme completion, as defined in section 202 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003).  Prior to reunification hundreds of identifiable RAR interventions were available across the CRCs alongside many other bespoke interventions. Over recent years, room for improvement has been identified in the delivery of RARs both from the academic community and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP).

The TOM sets out how the Probation Service will deliver RARs. A large amount of RAR activity will be commissioned from partner organisations through “Commissioned Rehabilitative Services”. The main vehicle for Probation Service-delivered RARs will be in the form of Structured Interventions and Probation Practitioner Toolkits (also referred to below simply as "toolkits"). Structured Interventions provide a set of exercises delivered primarily to groups by interventions facilitators in a set sequence. Toolkits are comprised of similar material delivered by the Probation Practitioner on a one-to-one basis as part of supervision.

The following animated video was developed and shared with probation intervention teams in the lead up to probation unification, and helps to explain this:

Our task now is to ensure that the TOM is fully implemented to ensure consistency in the availability and quality of Structured Interventions and toolkits. This will improve confidence amongst stakeholders (including the courts) around how the Probation Service delivers RARs.

Approved Suites: Structured Interventions and Probation Practitioner Toolkits

The national Effective Interventions Panel (EIP) played a key role in the lead up to reunification, by enabling RAR interventions to be appraised against seven core principles set out by the Correctional Services Accreditation Advice Panel (principles that are distinct from those required for Accredited Programmes).

The Seven Principles used within the EIP to assess Structured Interventions and toolkits are as follows:

  1. Alignment with an evidence base
  2. Credible rationale for how, why and for whom the intervention will work
  3. A structure that allows replication
  4. A selection process that targets the intervention appropriately
  5. To equip people with useful skills and ensure that no one will be disadvantaged or harmed
  6. Quality assurance to ensure it is delivered as designed.
  7. A commitment to research and evaluation

The EIP is made up of experts from across HMPPS and its partners. Panel sessions involve a democratic scoring process, which results in recommendations and conclusions that are fed back to developers.

HMPPS Contract Management and the PRP Service Design Team identified interventions from CRC rate cards to continue as Structured Interventions in the unified Probation Service “post contract”. In addition, the EIP sat eight times between October 2020 and January 2021 to appraise 45 Structured Interventions. A total of 37 were ear marked for incorporation into an Approved Suite of Structured Interventions that would come into effect by April 2022.

The EIP also sat 10 times to appraise Probation Practitioner Toolkits between April and May 2021. During these toolkit EIP sessions, a total of 24 sets of materials were appraised and seven toolkits were provisionally approved for inclusion in an 'Approved Suite of Probation Practitioner Toolkits'.

EIP decisions were then ratified through a further governance process which approved development work to finalise the approved suites of toolkits and Structured Interventions. The overarching ambition for Probation Practitioner Toolkits was to create greater alignment across the suite to increase their potential to work as wraparound support for other interventions. In addition, several overlapping EIP-approved Structured Interventions were identified for amalgamation into single offers via workgroups comprised of staff from Regional Interventions Teams. A total of 12 Structured Interventions would account for all Structured Intervention delivery from April 2022 onwards.  

The Structured Intervention workgroups offer a key opportunity to refine innovation in a stepwise fashion to:

- fully adhere to EIP principles

- build on CRC innovation

- involve people on probation as co-creators

- integrate sentence management support through alignment with toolkits

Clinical and strategic oversight for Structured Interventions and toolkits will continue to be provided by the national EIP process. This governance will help establish toolkits as the vehicle for RAR delivery within the role of the Probation Practitioner; a step that aims to help put the supervisory relationship back at the heart of probation work. Furthermore, continued EIP governance will help us to work towards greater content alignment between supervision and in-house interventions (such as Structured Interventions and Accredited Programmes). This has the potential to enable interventions to combine more holistically, making the experience of probation more cohesive for people accessing a range of probation services.

Acknowledgements to Ruth Johnson and Mark Farmer for their contributions to this article

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