March 17, 2021

Promoting The Evidence Base For High-Quality Probation Services

Dr Robin Moore
Head of Research
HM Inspectorate of Probation

An effective probation service values knowledge and the ability to use knowledge.

Effective organisations are based upon the intelligence to transform information into ideas… The research into "What Works" offers probation services the opportunity to use information to improve effectiveness. This requires evaluation, research and a commitment to evidence-based practice.’

Chapman and Hough (1998)

The statement above is taken from Evidence Based Practice: A Guide to Effective Practice, which was produced on behalf of HM Inspectorate of Probation just before the turn of the century. While recognising that there had been significant advances in probation research, it was acknowledged that there remained much to learn.

HM Inspectorate of Probation Research Team

For the last five years, I have headed up the Research Team within the Inspectorate. Our primary goal is to continue developing and promoting the evidence base for high-quality probation services. We undertake and commission various research projects, and have been publishing Research & Analysis Bulletins and Academic Insights papers at regular intervals. These research findings are used to help develop our inspection programmes, guidance and effective practice products.

*Please note that the group photo was taken before COVID19 social distancing rules were implemented.

A new evidence resource

As part of our commitment to reviewing, developing and promoting the evidence base for high-quality probation services, we have now launched an area on our website summarising key research findings. There are sections covering high-level models and principles, organisational delivery, the supervision of service users, and specific areas of delivery.

We have designed this evidence resource to be concise, accessible and user friendly, promoting a research/evidence-based culture and an appetite to embrace and learn from research findings. Within the Inspectorate, we start with the principle that probation work should be evidence based or else evidence led. It is a strategic aim of government that probation services should reduce reoffending, while also taking all reasonable steps to keep the public safe. In our view, this is most likely if probation practice is aligned to the evidence base, and if the evidence base grows over time.

Looking ahead

Over the coming months, further sections will be added to the website on specific types of delivery and specific sub-groups. We will then continue to make updates when required to reflect the latest research evidence. In our inspections of probation services, we will continue to assess adherence to the evidence base, its development through evaluation, and how well the learning is communicated.

We are interested in all research which has the potential to develop the evidence base and help drive improvement where it is required. If you would like to highlight or discuss a completed project or research proposal, please contact us at

Like what you've read? Help spread the word!